Lone parent jobseeking requirements negatively affect mental health

Photo of mother and young child

Mandatory employment requirements adversely impact the mental health of lone parents, according to new research from the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit (SPHSU). The paper by Dr Vittal Katikireddi, Dr Oarabile Molaodi, Dr Marcia Gibson, Ruth Dundas and Dr Peter Craig "Effects of restrictions to Income Support on health of lone mothers in the UK: a natural experiment study" was published in The Lancet Public Health on 03 July 2018.

In the UK, lone parents must seek work as a condition of receiving welfare benefits once their youngest child reaches a specified age. Since 2008, the lower age limit at which these ‘Lone Parent Obligations’ (LPO) apply has been reduced in steps. The researchers compared lone mothers newly exposed to LPO when the age limit was reduced to seven and then to five years, with lone mothers who remained unexposed or who were continuously exposed.

The study found mental health worsened more among lone mothers affected by the changes in the child age cut-off.

Dr Peter Craig, Senior Research Fellow at the SPHSU, said:

Our results suggest that requiring lone parents with school age children to seek work as a condition of receiving welfare benefits may adversely affect their mental health. More and more lone parents have been subject to the job seeking requirements in recent years, so the possibility of adverse effects on health should be taken seriously.

Further research should focus on the longer term effects of mandatory employment requirements, and whether the health of children in lone parent families is also affected.

The research appeared in the Herald, Press and Journal, Evening Times and other media.

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First published: 14 March 2018

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