Jobcentre Plus.

Thousands of single parents are effectively being locked out of the employment market due to the extortionate cost of providing childcare for their children, according to a leading UK charity.

An analysis by the national charity Gingerbread, who provide advice and practical support to single parents, found that half of single parents in London have been forced to borrow money to pay childcare costs in the last two years.

Around 4,500 single parents in London will miss out on the government’s 30 hours of free childcare provision, at a time when 24,000 single parents in the Capital will be expected to look for work under the threat of having their benefits sanctioned.

Unemployed single parents have to factor in the high cost of childcare when planning to return to work, while those already in work are often left with little choice but to reduce their hours to provide care for their children.

Gingerbread is calling on London Mayoral candidates to endorse Upfront: A childcare deposit guarantee, which they say would help more single parents to afford childcare for their children ahead of their first pay cheque.

According to Gingerbread, many single parents struggle to find the money for the initial upfront cost of childcare, often a month’s fees in advance, when they haven’t yet received their first pay cheque.

The charity says a five percentage point rise in single parent employment would generate £436m a year for the Treasury, through reducing the amount spent on benefits and tax credits.

photo credit: Emery Co Photo via photopin cc
photo credit: Emery Co Photo via photopin cc

Gingerbread Chief Executive Fiona Weir said: “The guarantee would be an important step towards supporting London’s single parents, who account for one in three families in the capital.

“On average, single parents in London spend roughly half their income after housing costs on a nursery place for a child.

“And for parents of pre-school children, the situation is even more challenging, with little affordable support in place. This, coupled with the tightening-up of eligibility criteria around the 30 hours of free childcare for parents of three and four-year-olds, means significant barriers need to be overcome.

“Making childcare affordable is therefore essential for supporting more single parents back into the jobs market and ensuring that it pays to work. Not least because work is still deemed to be the best route out of poverty.

“Our analysis shows that supporting single parents into work not only benefits families, but also the Exchequer. A five percentage-point increase in single parents’ employment rate could generate £436m-a-year as a result of increased tax revenue and reduced benefits.

“This scheme would also provide a much-needed leg-up for the thousands of pre-school parents working in London.

“So we’re calling on Mayoral candidates to support Gingerbread’s plan and plug a gap that’s currently not being addressed by any level of government or agency.”

It was revealed earlier this week that government plans to rollout tax-free childcare, first promised in 2013, will be delayed for a second time.

Jenny Chapman, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Childcare and Children, said: “Hidden in the small print of George Osborne’s Budget of failure is another nasty surprise for thousands of hard pressed working parents.

“Due to Ministerial bungling their tax free childcare scheme has been delayed by a further six months. Parents will have been waiting over four years for this help by the time it finally comes in in Autumn 2017.”

“Ministers need to get a grip and sort out their childcare plans so that working parents can get the help they need.”