You hear it all too often; …..these lone-parents should be doing more to support their families like re-training if finding work is proving difficult in their specific field.  Or the low-skilled jobs aren’t covering even the basics in life.  

 retraining career, student parent

So how easy is it really to re-train or return to university for single parents?

I can tell you first hand; difficult, frustrating and at times humiliating.  I have had some great experiences at university.  I have passed my first year, made some friends I am so grateful for, but more importantly, gained a new confidence in my own abilities.  Whilst there are positives and negatives generally in all we do, I think a more seamless and combined service from the universities, councils and benefit services would take a lot of unnecessary stress off the very lone-parents they are encouraging.

Most lone-parents rely heavily on Student Finance and benefits to attend university and the processes and hoops you are forced to jump through can cause undue stress, panic and depression.  I have spoken with many lone-parent students who have all said they aren’t even sure if they can continue with their studies now, as it’s become a question of not having enough money to put food on the table, or a choice of bathing their children - or heating the home for their children.  

Without a better/quicker system for assessing finances for lone-parents, I can see more and more of them dropping out (already with student debt but no degree) as no-one - whilst trying to improve their future - needs this much stress dumped at their door, or distraction from the course they are on. 

I am now asking myself as an already qualified careers advisor, would I encourage another single parent to return to education?  No, sadly I wouldn’t.  I’d advise against it entirely because I have never been so close to poverty (as one can in this country anyway), as I am today and it seems the odds of us making it through the course are stacked against us.

How can we penalise people for doing what is best for themselves and their families, so as to ensure that they don’t need to be reliant on benefits again in the future?  Surely that makes no sense to anyone?