Lone parents, welfare reform and wellbeing

Adam’s doctoral thesis, completed in 2007, used qualitative interviews with working lone parents in England to examine the spillovers between paid work and care time at home. The research was grounded within the competing theoretical perspectives of New Labour’s social exclusion paradigm and the feminist ethic of care which each emphasize alternative hypotheses, assumptions, values and policy levers in terms of lone parent employment and well-being. The research involved a mixed methods approach including analysis of the UK Time Use Survey and semi-structured interviews to explore their experiences of work-family reconciliation, in particular the balance between the activities of work and care and the resources of cash and time.

Since completion of his PhD research the UK has seen significant welfare reform such that all lone parents with oldest children above five are now expected to be in paid work. Whilst the principle of supporting lone parents into work is widely welcomed there remains significant criticism and concern over these reforms from lone parent organizations, child poverty groups and the government’s own advisory committees alike. In particular, a series of key issues and problems remain, including the high cost of childcare, the acute shortage of flexible job vacancies, uncertainties over the quality and consistency of support and advice via Jobcentre Plus and Work Programme providers, and the weak normative and empirical base for conditionality.

In this context Adam is working on a series of related research projects around the impacts of the welfare reforms on lone parents employment outcomes, the impacts in turn of any such of conditionality-driven employment transitions on the wellbeing of lone parents and their children, and the validity of the Coalition (and previous New Labour) justifications for enhanced conditionality.

Lone parents

Related publications

  • Whitworth, A. and Griggs, J. (2013) Lone Parents and Welfare-to-work Conditionality: Necessary, Just, Effective?, Ethics and Social Welfare, 7:2, 124-140.
    doi:10.1080/17496535.2013.779001
  • Whitworth, A. (2013) Single parents’ experiences of employment support from Jobcentre Plus and the Work Programme, Full Report. Gingerbread, London.
    Main Report Executive Summary
  • Whitworth, A. (2012, in press). Lone Parents and Welfare-to-Work in England: A Spatial Analysis of Outcomes and Drivers. Social Policy and Administration.
    doi:10.1111/j.1467-9515.2012.00868.x
  • Whitworth, A. (2007). Work, care and social inclusion: lone motherhood under New Labour. DPhil thesis, University of Oxford