Ensuring that lone parents have a better set of working opportunities is seen as a crucial way of improving the economy and preventing the poverty cycle continuing. New labour has focussed its policies on improving the opportunities for lone parents and their children with mixed results. The impact of these policies on the lone parents themselves as well as the economy in general is the focus of this dissertation proposal.
Introduction and Focus of the Study
New Labour has taken it upon itself to focus on issues relating to lone parents in ensuring that single parents have opportunities available to them to prevent them from experiencing a life of poverty. These policies are broadly categorised as the New Deal for lone parents and offer a variety of different opportunities for equality for lone parents, in such a way that encourages a strong work ethic, without necessarily impacting on the care needs of the children involved (Smith et al 2008).
Despite the concerted effort which has been put towards ensuring that lone parents have a better deal and greater opportunities, there are still questions being raised about whether or not the New Deal has been successful and whether there are any specific avenues of the policies which could be improved, in the future. This topic area is perceived to be particularly relevant, currently, as the country is attempting to recover from difficult economic times. Yet, there are increasing numbers of lone parents who are already creating a structure whereby these individuals can become economically effective within our society and this is a crucial step forward for any political party (Lakey et al 2002).
Problem Statement and Research Objectives
The overall aim of the research is to establish what impacts the New Labour policies have had on single parents and, more specifically, on their children. In order to ensure sufficient focus in this analysis, three themes will be looked at, specifically.Firstly, the paper will consider the impact that the New Labour policies have had on job opportunities. In this context, there is an accepted recognition that the New Labour policies are focused on ensuring that lone parents have the opportunity to enter into paid employment. As such, identifying whether the new policies have had a positive or a negative impact on job opportunities will be fundamental in establishing the overall impact that the policies have had on quality-of-life, in general (Knight et al 2006). These findings will then be taken forward to look at the impact which the policies have had on the income of single parents, taking into account income from both paid employment and benefits, in order to ascertain the total income of single parents, suggesting that those presented with greater job opportunities will find themselves with an increased income (Knight et al 2006). Finally, the research will look at the impact that the lone parent policies have had on both the availability and the quality of childcare for single parents. This is arguably a particularly crucial aspect of the impact on the policies when it comes to a lone parent who wants to become engaged with employment as the success will largely depend largely on the framework to provide quality and trusted childcare.
Given the potential importance of ensuring employment opportunity for lone parents, it is unsurprising that there has been a relatively large amount of research into the various impacts of the policies, with a focus being placed on the New Deal for Lone Parents (NDLP). Essentially, the NDLP aims to provide additional childcare places as a fundamental means of encouraging more lone parents back to work. Based on this the underlying approach taken by New Labour has been to make the process of employment easier, rather than necessarily forcing an individual into employment. By recognising that the lack of childcare is a particular barrier for lone parents looking to enter into employment this has been a real focus for the policies established (Hosain et al 2007). By looking at previous literature this typically aims to identify why lone parents typically do not find themselves in permanent employment. As noted by Rowlinson and McKay, in 1998, lone parents are under increased pressure, when it comes to balancing work and family life and this is therefore at the heart of any employment agenda (Hamiltonm 2002).
One of the areas of literature which is deemed to be important in this regard is that which looks at how society views lone parents and how this can then be changed in order to create value within the workplace. As identified by Joshi and Verropoulou, in 2000, there has been a typical social pigeonholing of single-parents as being those incapable of maintaining a strong work ethic. However, these social perceptions are being questioned in more detail, as an increasing number of lone parents are emerging who are, in fact, strong players in the working environment, therefore, enabling others to do the same is a crucial aspect of the New Labour Policies.
Finally, literature in the area of NDLP which is a large and voluntary programme offered to lone parents across the United Kingdom will be looked at. The aim of this agenda was to create a situation whereby single parents are able to improve their own living standards through a number of opportunities to undertake paid work. This voluntary programme offers real possibilities when it comes to analysing the root cause of unemployment, in the first place, and also identifies how parents can be best supported in achieving their aims, rather than being forced into behaving in a certain way which is unlikely to reap long-term benefits (UK Department for Work and Pension, 2002).
By looking at the secondary research available in these three key areas, in line with the three themes identified in the Aims and Objectives, a discussion can be had, from both a social and political perspective, to really understand what it is that drives lone parenthood and whether or not the policies established by New Labour are truly supporting the agenda of increasing opportunities and underlying wealth for lone parents.
The research will be based on secondary sources, due to the wide variety of data that is currently available in relation to New Labour policies and how they have operated from a practical point of view (Crisp and Del Roy 2008). Whilst undertaking primary research in the form of questionnaires and interviews would potentially be possible, there are concerns that the number of respondents who would be needed in order to gain meaningful results would be substantial and beyond the scope of this research, meaning that it would be prudent to rely on existing secondary research that is already being tested for reliability.
Structure of Dissertation
The dissertation will be structured as follows:Introduction, aims, objectives, research approach and methodology Literature Review Analysis and Discussion Recommendations for future policy development Summary and Conclusions
Initial references which have been identified as relevant within the three key themes are listed below. These references will be extended as the research progresses.
Crisp, R. & Del Roy, F. (2008). A comparative review of workfare programmes in the United States, Canada and Australia, RR 533. London: DWP.
Hamilton, G (2002) Moving People from Welfare to Work: Lessons from the National Evaluation of Welfare-to-Work Strategies, New York: MDRC
Hosain, M., Breen, E., Great Britain. Department for, W., Pensions, & Consulting, G. H. K. (2007). New Deal Plus for Lone Parents qualitative evaluation, RR 426. London: DWP.
Josh, H. and Verropoulu, G. (2000) Maternal Employment and Child Outcomes: Analysis of Two Birth Cohort Studies, London: The Smith Institute
Knight, G., Speckesser, S., Smith, J., Dolton, P., and Azevedo, J. P. (2006) Lone Parents Work Focused Interviews/New Deal for Lone Parents: combined evaluation and further net impacts, RR 368. London: DWP.
Lakey,J., Parry, J., Barnes, H., Taylor, R. (2002). New Deal for Lone Parents: a qualitative evaluation of the in-work training grant pilot (IWTG), WAE 119. London: DWP.
Rowlinson, K and McKay, S. (1998) The Growth of Lone Parenthood, London: Policy Studies Unit.
Smith, F., Barker, J., Wainwright, E., Marandet, E., & Buckingham, S. (2008). A new deal for lone parentsTraining lone parents for work in West London. Area, 40(2), 237-244.
UK Department for Work and Pensions. 2002. “Lone Parent Brief.” Unpublished Manuscript, Sheffield.