Government welfare to work policy “threatens the life chances of a generation of children.”
One of Scotland‘s most respected family charities has accused the Westminster Conservative government‘s benefit conditionality policy of “closing down the life chances of a generation of children.” One Parent Families Scotland commissioned research which they say shows for many parents the stress and anxiety caused by the benefit conditionality regime, and the fear of being sanctioned, is resulting in worsening health, especially mental health, with resulting negative impacts on children. The report “Single Parent Families, Benefit Conditionality and Wellbeing – Necessary, Just, Effective?” gathers the experiences of single parents who live with the threat of sanctions on a daily basis and how it impacts on their family well-being.
Satwat Rehman, Director of One Parent Families Scotland, said today:
“The impact of Westminster benefit conditionality on single parents in Scotland gives OPFS very serious cause for concern. Our staff have dealt with hundreds of single parents whose lives have been turned up-side down by the threat of sanctions and for some by a reduction in their benefit, resulting in having to visit a foodbank to survive. There is already a large body of evidence about the negative impacts of benefit cuts. But there is less focus on the long term impacts of living with the wider conditionality regime and the threat of destitution. We commissioned this research to capture the voices of single parents. It shows that rather than moving towards a society where single parents and children can flourish, we are seeing the results of a policy which only serves to exacerbate child poverty and inequality and closes down the life chances of a generation of children. “
The report shows:
- OPFS is seeing increasing numbers of single parents who are suffering from anxiety and depression associated with the fear of being sanctioned.
- Conditionality is forcing parents to make decisions which they feel are not in the best interests of themselves or their children
- Conditionality and the associated stigma represents a fundamental failure to take the best interests of the child into account contrary to both the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, Scottish children’s rights legislation as well as wider Scottish Government policy such as Getting It Right for Every Child.
- Single parents say Jobcentre Plus staff are failing to take into account their need to balance their parental responsibilities with requirements to look for paid work.
One Parent Families Scotland says the Westminster government should introduce a duty on Job Centre staff to show they have considered the impact on child well-being of any decision they require a parent to fulfil and to show they have considered the impact on child well-being of any sanction they decide to impose. They argue for the introduction of an early warning system, linked in with the independent advice sector, so that parents know they may be sanctioned and why.
Satwat Rehman believes DWP should pilot alternatives to financial sanctions and the current conditionality regime.
“The Conservative government’s policy extending parent conditionality, means single parents are now expected to prepare for work from when their youngest child turns two, and to look for work when their youngest child turns three. This will cause even more fear among single mothers and result in increased loss of benefit and dependency on foodbanks and even greater child poverty.”