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Lone parents obligations: an impact assessment

This research project has been completed. Please contact a team member for further information.


Unemployment rates, poverty and the welfare state are three of the biggest and most contentious issues facing policy makers today. There are around 1.9 million lone parents in the UK alone, caring for 2.5 million children. However, children of lone parents are more likely to live in poverty than children in a two-parent family. It is vitally important to aid governments around the world with comprehensive assessments, such as this study.

The Lone Parent Obligations (LPO) was introduced in November 2008 and, since then, lone parents have progressively lost eligibility to Income Support (IS) once their youngest child reaches a certain age (from 2012, this age reached five years old). Lone parents no longer eligible for IS have been able to claim other benefits, such as Jobseeker’s Allowance.

The impact assessment seeks to quantify the impact of LPO and, more specifically, further analyse the relationship between decreased eligibility to IS and increased employment rates.


The project uses DWP administrative data derived from the Work and Pensions Longitudinal Study, which also contains data on tax credits from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

The study measures "work" using information reported by lone parents about working hours when claiming tax credits. However, the administrative data used in the impact assessment does not provide a complete record of whether lone parents subsequently marry or live in a couple.

Project aims

The project aims to:

  • explore whether and how lone parent employment interventions provide an effective incentive to look for paid employment
  • quantify the impact of LPO through the provision of estimates detailing how many lone parents were moved off out-of-work benefits and into work as a result of LPO
  • explore whether loan parent employment interventions provide effective packages of support for workless lone parents to enable them to find, enter and sustain paid work

It is part of a comprehensive mixed-methods evaluation evaluation of Lone Parent Obligations, all commissioned by the DWP. Other projects in the evaluation include a series of qualitative studies, and two reports based on a national quantitative longitudinal survey of lone parents. All published reports are available on GOV.UK.

Team members

Dr Silvia Avram

Research Fellow - ISER - University of Essex

Professor Mike Brewer

Professor of Economics, Director of MiSoC - ISER - University of Essex

Dr Andrea Salvatori

Labour Economist - OECD

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Photo credit: Bruno Alexandre