This chapter focuses on lone parents, a group that, it argues, has represented a challenge for policy makers in the UK for three decades or so. It notes that under New Labour, the ‘lone parent problem’ is constructed primarily as one of benefit dependency and poverty, and the policy response is to get more lone parents into paid work through a mix of encouragement and compulsion. It demonstrates that the latter has intensified overtime, with the point at which lone parents’ receipt of out-of-work benefits becomes conditional on seeking work shifting from when their youngest child turns 16 (the situation prior to 2008), to when their youngest child turns seven (the situation at October 2010). It observes that the construction of lone parents as a social threat was a dominant perspective under the Thatcher and Major Conservative administrations, and it suggests that under the influence of The Centre for Social Justice and its problemisation of family breakdown in particular, this perspective is at risk of re-emerging.
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