New job-seeking requirements placed on parents of young children under Universal Credit risk pushing single-parent families into poverty, a report warns.
A study by campaign group Gingerbread suggested that 165,000 single parents of pre-school aged children are at increased risk of going into poverty and debt because of new conditions being placed on them.
The group said that for the first time under Universal Credit, parents with children aged three and four are required to look for work or risk having their benefits sanctioned.
Gingerbread said single parents of pre-school aged children are being asked to achieve the "impossible", with the risk of financial sanctions hanging over them if they cannot find work.
"With limited part-time and flexible work opportunities and a lack of suitable, affordable childcare, single parents will struggle to find work that also allows them to care for their pre-school aged children," said the report.
Gingerbread's director of policy Dalia Ben-Galim said: "While discussions of Universal Credit have focused on the important and detrimental delays in payments and waiting times, there are other crucial changes that have slipped under the radar.
"Our research shows that single parents of three and four-year-old children are being put in an impossible bind by Universal Credit conditions - forced to seek work when suitable roles aren't available, and placed at risk of having their benefits sanctioned, which could push them and their children further into poverty and debt.
"Single parents and their young children should not be punished for the lack of affordable childcare and flexible work."
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: "The best way to help families improve their lives is by supporting parents into employment, something ignored by this report.
"There are record numbers of lone parents in work and Universal Credit supports this, offering parents unprecedented personalised support including paying up to 85% of childcare costs back.
"No parent is sanctioned when they have genuinely not been able to secure childcare."
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