Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Lone Parents to Work

The DWP has released a report, Realising potential: A vision for personalised conditionality and support by Professor Paul Gregg a Bristol University academic today. Reforms abroad have created strong links between increased support and an increased requirement for individuals to take up the support provided. It is said this is particulary true in the Scandinavian countries. A vision is set out for a single regime, where virtually everyone claiming benefits and not in work should be looking for or engaging in activity to help them move towards employment. Lone parents with youngest children aged one to seven should be expected to improve their employment prospects as a condition of benefits. Research has found children may gain from their parents being in work (Millar & Ridge, 2001) but it has also shown that there are limits to the benefits to be gained from working. For example, the report says evidence suggests that parental employment may not be beneficial for the development of children under 12 to 18 months old.

This seems short sighted when there are international concerns about very young children being in childcare. There has been a big increase in the number of children and young people with mental health problems in the UK since 1980 and this has been is across the board affecting children from intact families as well as those from separated families. Some of this might be due to awareness and more recognition of the problems but this doesn't explain all the increase. There is a high probability mental health problems are associated with childhood attachments and a recent study in a Scandinavian country, Sweden, found insecure attachments in 40% of children as opposed to 25% reported in the UK.

Internationally recognized expert in the field of child development and family studies and Professor of Psychology at the University of London, Jay Belsky, argues having a full-time parental presence at home is what’s best for very young children in his paper Developmental Risks (Still) Associated with Early Child Care. Socialbaby.com quotes Sir Richard Bowlby, son of John Bowlby who first outlined the theory of attachment, about the importance of attachment theory for understanding childcare provision here. And The Sydney Morning Herald reports why psychologist, Steve Biddulph, suggests that at least during the first two years of life, brain development unfolds at its optimum with one-to-one care.

Why when there is this type of evidence recommend lone parents should be looking for work before children are at least two or three years old, and anyway where will the jobs come from?


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