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Parents held back by poor pay and opportunities

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Working Families and Child Poverty Action Group call on the chancellor to act

Low- and middle-income parents are held back by inadequate pay, lack of affordable childcare and poor opportunities for progression, according to a survey by Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) and Working Families.

The survey of 1,017 British parents aged over 18 found that the majority (71%) of working parents want full-time jobs, but almost one third (32%) full- and part-time parents said they do not have enough work to support their family.

Additionally, more than two fifths (43%) of part-time workers want to work more hours but cannot. Parenting responsibilities were the most common reason given for this (65%), but the cost of childcare was also a barrier (61%).

When it came to what kind of work parents wanted to do, almost three quarters (74%) ranked job security as very important, including 36% who gave this the highest possible score of ‘extremely important.' Similarly, 74% cited pay as very important, including 34% who said it was extremely important. A sense of purpose was a top concern for 64%.

Alison Garnham, chief executive of Child Poverty Action Group, said that the findings show Britain’s parents want to work. “Parents are saying they want job security, decent pay and good promotion prospects but too often these elude them,” she said. “Pay is often low. Extra hours in a job aren’t always there. Childcare costs are sky-high. And too often parents looking to progress in work hit a brick wall. “

Chief executive of Working Families Sarah Jackson warned of “time poverty” preventing families from spending time together. “Almost half of the low paid parents in our survey say they don’t have enough money to support their families; and a third of parents we spoke to also say they do not have enough time to spend with them,” she said. “Clearly work is not a route out of poverty for many families, and can in fact impose a new form of time poverty which prevents families from thriving.

“What’s also clear is that working parents value both job security and work flexibility. We want to encourage employers to join us in thinking differently about work design and flexible hiring, so that they can find not just the right person for the job, but provide the right job for the person. So we can start making work work for everyone.”

The survey findings are published to coincide with the launch by CPAG and Working Families of Britain Works, a programme of work aiming to inform conversations between charities and UK employers to improve the working lives of low- and middle-income parents.

“We also need action from government,” added Garnham. “Nearly half of the parents we polled with a household income under £30,000 said they didn’t have enough to support their family. The return of inflation will stretch budgets further. The chancellor can help in this month’s Budget. A good first step would be to pause and fix universal credit and restore its ability to make work pay for families.”