Vital for single parents to access learning

26 June 2014

NIACE has responded to a report detailing how government investment in further education will benefit single parents and the state. Making the Grade was published by Gingerbread, the organisation that provides support and advice to single parents.

Carol Taylor, NIACE Deputy Chief Executive, said:

“This excellent report from Gingerbread highlights the issues facing single parents, their level of skills and the support they get to access learning. It helpfully links the findings to clear economic outcomes, showing the probable returns to the economy on enabling single parents to improve their skills and move into sustainable employment. NIACE has long campaigned for access for everyone, particularly those most disadvantaged, to the learning they need and want, in a way that is flexible and supportive. We know that learning changes lives – not just giving access to employment, but developing a sense of the learning family.

“Family learning is ideally placed to contribute to the changes Gingerbread calls for. The economy and society will benefit from single parents being part of a highly-motivated workforce, who want to earn their own money, reduce their reliance on benefits and be a positive role model for their children. All these outcomes have a deeply rooted association with family learning provision and this is reflected in research carried out about the experiences and progression of those who access courses.”

The report from Gingerbread recommends the following actions for government:

  • Adopt an “invest to save” model in the adult skills budget and provide fully-funded opportunities for single parents to attain their first Level 3 qualification, prior to their return to the labour market and for those already in work.
  • Jobcentre Plus and Work Programme providers must undertake early assessment of the need for skills training; this should include the need for intermediate vocational training, not just basic skills and employability.
  • Recalibrate the Jobcentre Plus performance management and accountability framework to include sustainable job outcomes rather than relying on benefit off-flows to measure performance.
  • Increase investment in universal credit to improve the work incentives for single parents to genuinely make work pay as they seek to increase their hours and earnings.
  • Jobcentre Plus and Work Programme providers should guarantee that single parents who have started their first Level 3 qualification will be allowed to complete their course.
  • Jobcentre Plus and Work Programme providers should guarantee to fully fund childcare costs for single parents undertaking their first Level 3 qualification.