An analysis of the effects of intervention strategies on the experiences of lone parents
True to its manifesto pledge, New Labour arrived in power in 1997 pledging to fundamentally reform the U.K. welfare system. Premised upon the notion of too many rights and too few responsibilities, New Labour sought about restructuring both the benefits system itself, and perhaps more importantly, the underlying assumption of what benefits entail. In so doing it was hoped, the "something for nothing culture" may be challenged and cycles of dependency broken. Manifest in the generic New Deal programme, groups within society seen as having particular difficulty finding work were to be offered advice and support in finding work, education or training, and were to be bound to accept such offers under threat of sanction. One group seen as having these difficulties were lone parents and in October 1997 the New Deal for Lone Parents (NDLP) was launched. The flagging of NDLP however assumes an economic rationality on the part of lone parents in that if more money is available through work, lone parents will make a rational decision and indeed go to work. However, as suggested elsewhere (Evason and Robinson 1998), lone parents remain sceptical over such initiatives, often putting parenting preferences over and above the opportunity to access employment. This research therefore examines what those preferences may be and what are the latent influences that may persuade or dissuade lone parents to leave the home for paid employment. The thesis further describes some of the consequences of those decisions. Qualitative and qualitative evidence is provided that demonstrates lone parent's decisions are taken that reflect interpretations of socially prescribed norms and values and that to presume an economic rationality drives this group is to underestimate the complexities of the situation they may be in. This thesis concludes that such interventions can work for some, but for many the choice to stay at home is often reflective of the style of parenting the lone parents and society considers most appropriate.