HC Deb 12 November 2001 vol 374 cc566-7
15. Paul Goggins (Wythenshawe and Sale, East)

What employment targets he has set in relation to lone parents. [11695]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Malcolm Wicks)

The new deal for lone parents has already helped more than 100,000 lone parents move into work. This is just one of a range of polices that we have introduced to help raise the employment levels of lone parents to our target of 70 per cent.—in line with those found elsewhere in Europe and the United States— by the end of the decade. Already we are making progress. In recent years, the lone parents employment rate has increased from 45 per cent. to 51 per cent.

Paul Goggins

Both sides of the House welcome the fact that through the new deal and other initiatives, the Government are increasing the employment rate for lone parents at almost three times the overall national rate of increase. Given that the lack of affordable child care remains a significant barrier for many lone parents who want to move into work, is the Minister confident that there will be sufficient child care places to meet the ambitious 70 per cent. target by 2010?

Malcolm Wicks

Yes, I am confident. Taking account of turnover—the fact that we always lose some child care places every year—we have added more than 200,000 to the stock of child care places available, and some 418,000 children are benefiting. In addition, through the working families tax credit and the child care tax credit, we are making child care affordable. That is a crucial part of our policy of enabling lone mothers to escape poverty by getting back into the labour market.

Kevin Brennan (Cardiff, West)

Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the best ways to increase employment among lone parents is to ensure that job shares are widely available in the labour market? Has he any plans to provide incentives for employers to offer more job shares?

Malcolm Wicks

A number of employers, aware of the need for flexibility in the labour market and the need for many parents to work part time rather than full time at a certain stage in their lives, are attracted by the idea of job shares. I would certainly encourage that. Among other things, we need to ensure that work is family friendly, and job shares are one way ahead—although not necessarily in all jobs, I am bound to add.