Childcare in the Balance: How Lone Parents Make Decisions about Work


Few lone parents can support their families from their own earnings while the majority of them have no paid work and rely on Income Support. As a result, they are much more likely than other families to suffer material hardship. Yet social policy initiatives to get more lone parents into work face the objection that the small amounts of childcare now available, and its cost, prohibit any real progress.

Is this true? What do lone parents themselves think about this problem? What is their experience? And what policies might work in the future?

This book provides a new and unique picture of how lone parents independently estimate, first, the advantages and disadvantages of remaining at home with their children, and second, the likely gains and losses of going out to work. It shows, in a detail previously unavailable, exactly how lone parents pick their way through these two equations - balancing hours against convenience, quality against cost, avoiding hardship against the quality of parenthood - to try to arrive at a decision to work or not.

This book resolves a major paradox in social policy, and should be read by everyone involved in the growing debate about families, work and benefits and the prevention of child poverty.