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Nuera Network, finding a partner for your very first time about to start a date may be stressful. Clipping is a handy way to collect and organize the most important slides from a presentation. Number of marriages and divorces, England and Wales The gap between the number of people marrying than divorcing is now wider than at any time since 1992.
Tina Haux (University of Kent) and Adam Whitworth (University of Sheffield) There are just under two million single parents caring for around 3 million children in the UK today. Here is Alice, a care worker in her car in England surrounded by family from all over the world, even though you can't see them. The definition of family has changed in recent years, now co-parenting is rewriting it completely. Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of Grandparents Plus discusses research undertaken with Age UK looking at the crucial role grandparents are playing in bringing up the UK's children and in supporting working parents. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) says the number of same-sex couples living together in the UK increased by almost a third since last year. A British couple are to become parents of two sets of twin babies carried by two Indian surrogate women they have never met.
The most recent figures from the Office for National Statistics show that 130,473 couples divorced across the UK in 2013 – down almost three per cent in a year. The overall divorce rate fell to 9.8 per 1,000 married men or women, the lowest level since 1975 - the year after a major liberalisation of divorce law in the wake of the sexual revolution came into force. That has coincided with a recent rise in the number of couples choosing to tie the knot over the last few years – partially reversing the decades long trend of declining marriage and rising divorce.
But it follows a much bigger shift towards couples living together unmarried as a result of a transformation of social attitudes. Recent figures showed the number of families headed by cohabiting couples up by 30 per cent in a decade and more than doubling since the mid-1990s. Strikingly, the latest divorce figures also offer further evidence that younger couples who do marry are now less likely to divorce than their parents’ generation. The ONS said that while an estimated 42 per cent of marriages now end in divorce, there is evidence that the proportion is decreasing “for the most recent cohorts” – meaning couples who married since 2000. The figures show, for example, that couples are increasingly likely to survive the so-called “seven year itch”. Only eight years earlier the proportion of couples who had divorced by their eighth wedding anniversary was 20 per cent.
Harry Benson, Research Director at the Marriage Foundation, said: “Yet another fall in divorce rates is both hugely encouraging and hugely worrying. James Brown, a family lawyer at JMW Solicitors, said: “We have seen a significant portion of couples who marry doing so after a period of cohabitation. Levels of child poverty, particularly of single parent and large families, did decline substantially during the 2000s as a result of a buoyant economy and rising levels of single parent employment combined with Labour’s investment in child-related benefits, tax credits and childcare subsidies. Despite this backdrop of increasing single parent employment rates, the Labour government decided in 2008 to introduce the controversial policy of Lone Parent Obligations (LPOs) for a mixture of paternalistic, economic and electoral reasons. Despite the initial controversy and criticism, such as the lack of affordable childcare and concerns regarding employment retention, of the reform, the subsequent roll-out has attracted relatively little political attention and has been rapidly implemented, rapidly accepted across the political parties, and rapidly learned to be tolerated (though not without critique) by key lobby groups and single parents themselves. Since the LPOs were introduced in 2008 the single parent employment rate has increased from 58 per cent then to around 60 per cent in 2013 – not to be sniffed at during an economic downturn but hardly comparable to the 13 percentage point increase between 1997 and 2008 before the LPOs were introduced.
Since the financial crisis of 2008, the ensuing recessions and sluggish economic performance have intensified pre-existing problems in the UK economy that have always hindered single parents’ aspirations to seek work and escape poverty.
As well as high childcare and housing costs, UK parents also face ongoing problems of childcare quality and childcare availability, particularly for those seeking flexible childcare arrangements (e.g. Not that single parents are alone amongst these groups of course: one is six working adults are poor in the UK today, around half of poor workers are doing 40 or more hours of paid work per week, and around 70 per cent of starts on Jobseeker’s Allowance are repeat starts from those who have left the benefit previously but fallen back onto it (see also here).
Requiring lone parents with school-aged children to combine caring for their children with being in paid employment is clearly here to stay. Once in paid work the LPOs have offered nothing to help single parents to overcome the enduring challenges of escaping poverty and sustaining their employment. Figure 2 shows this visually in a simple cartogram of English local authorities using 2011 data in which local authorities are sized according to the size of their single parent population and shaded according to their percentage of single parents receiving Jobseeker’s Allowance.
More broadly, however, all the policy activity and controversy around the LPOs risks distracting attention from more relevant issues around the nature of the UK labour market, the quantity, quality and flexibility of jobs available, the nature of activation policies, and the cost and availability of childcare.
Here is Alice, a care worker in her car in England surrounded by family from all over the world, even though you can’t see them. A participant in an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)-based study that I conducted from 2007-2010, Alice is representative of the other 59 migrant care workers I talked to about their lives, networks, social support systems, and uses of digital technologies.
As a footnote,  I’m not focusing on ICT platforms, functions or features or devices, like hand-helds  or wearable computers — as cool as the iwatch sounds with its one- and- a-half inch display, I’m a device and platform-agnostic and as Virginia Eubanks said: “I have bad news and good news. Last but not least I am not talking about instructional design for educational technology or even  MOOCS or edupunk to resist this–there is lots of research on this from Yrjo Engstrom (2011) who wants mobile learning to be like flash mobs or Anya Kamenetz focusing on DIY Universities (2011). It's supper-time in the Morgan household and three-year-old Zaide is pushing his food round his plate with a baby spoon. There is also despair at the sociology of it: the skewed role the internet plays in our lives these days. And then there's the practical: how the hell do you choose a parent on the internet and then make it work through all the years of middle-of-the-night temperatures, and school plays at inconvenient times, and pickups and dentist's appointments and discipline issues and the money and the education and, frankly, the stress?

She's signed to a few, including Modamily, which launched last year, one of an increasing number which also offer a special "concierge" service in which potential parents are matched up in much the same way as an upmarket dating agency: "I spent 15 years of humiliation with people turning me down while I was looking for a third co-parent because everyone thought I was weird," she says.
There are ways of getting it right, though, she says, and certainly one must stay away from what she calls the "wacodoodles" who jump straight in without putting in at least a year of hard work. These rules are reinforced by Ivan Fatovic, founder of Modamily, who says about 900 of the 5,000 people on his site are British, and two-thirds of those are women, the majority between 35 and 45. This rejection, incidentally, has just happened to Rachel, although she has four potential candidates in reserve.
For most of their years of trying, they had used DIY insemination, with Kam turning up when required. DGLS offers frequent and varied opportunities for LGBT singles to meet and socialize with one another. This means that roughly 25 per cent of families with dependent children are headed by a single parent (over 90 per cent of whom are lone mothers ). These mothers and fathers have relationships based on legal agreements and counselling rather than dates, romance and sex.
But few people talk of the many more times the treatment doesn't work, says Lisa Jardine, the departing chair of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority. In 2012, there were 69,000 same-sex couples living together outside of a civil partnership, whereas now there are 89,000. Experts say twiblings - or children born to separate surrogates but created from the same batch of embryos - are not uncommon in India. This means that roughly 25 per cent of families with dependent children are headed by a single parent (over 90 per cent of whom are lone mothers). Since 1997 the employment rate of single parents has increased gradually but dramatically by almost 15 percentage points to around 60% today. Until 2008, single parents were eligible to claim Income Support until their youngest child reached the age of 16 and whilst they were required to attend Work Focused Interviews at Jobcentres, they were not required to attend regular Jobcentre meetings oriented around an expectation to actively seek and accept paid work as is the case with the mainstream unemployed in the UK. To some extent, the LPOs bring the UK’s policy framework around single parenthood closer into line with other advanced economies and also, to some extent matches the wishes of the vast majority of single parent, nine out of ten lone parents not in work state that they would like to move into employment at some point. In terms of strategies to support single parent employment it is clear that other factors – job availability, childcare costs, health issues – look far more relevant than the LPOs. In particular, single parents continue to struggle to find jobs that are compatible with care responsibilities, that are secure or that offer decent wages.
But single parents are disproportionately vulnerable to these trends and overall remain at twice the risk of poverty than couple families (43 per cent for single parents compared with 22 per cent for couple families).
Yet, we would argue that the current policy package for single parents built around the LPOs is both misguided and incomplete. Indeed, it is more likely that the LPOs may have harmed single parents in a way the package of policy  measures of the previous government would have largely avoided. London, for example, has a relatively large lone parent population (large areas) combined with relatively high rates of lone parents receiving Jobseeker’s Allowance (dark shading). The LPOs represent policy making done back-to-front: rather than tackle these issues and thus remove the need for the LPOs, policy makers have instead relied on LPOs rather than tackling these more fundamental problems.
Her research to date has focused on lone parenthood and welfare to work as well as parenting and child contact post separation. Her car, looking like a mobile office, sounded like a disco with different rings and vibrations as family called from abroad on the phone in the car door to ask favours and chat in tune with colleagues and supervisors who called and texted her on the phone in her hand to switch routes. When I drove around with her for a year to understand her paid care for the elderly, I discovered her unpaid care for family overseas.
Migrant workers and their away-families are often in the forefront of adoption out of necessity.
The various introduction websites, operating just like internet dating sites, are reporting rocketing numbers of users, with London coming within the top three cities after New York and Los Angeles. Many of us work too hard, meet too few people, leave it late to have a family in the conventional way, look for love online, and now, as a natural consequence, we are looking for a "co-parent" online, too. It's bad enough choosing an au pair on Gumtree, when, after weeks of tedious trawling and due diligence, your wonderful "pick" is more Miss Trunchbull than Mary Poppins.
She was at it years ago, long before it became a trend (Toronto comes fourth, San Francisco fifth.
She is currently writing a book, Family by Choice, for potential co-parents, in which she is explicit about safeguarding both personal safety (some men trawl the sites for sex) and any future "relationship" – all the more necessary given that a child will be involved.
A guy she met through the website – who has become such a good friend in the process that she's just spent Thanksgiving with him – has pulled out because the logistics weren't working. Always use artificial insemination and do so with a third party – either a GP or at a fertility clinic. Kam takes Zaide every other weekend, comes for dinner on a Wednesday, doesn't financially contribute to Zaide's life with his mothers but is responsible for saving for his education. It was an embarrassing palaver until they all got so used to the routine of it that they became blase. With virtually no limits on who can join, the group is made up of a wide variety of individuals with different backgrounds, personalities, interests, and values. Join now, RSVP to the events we have posted, and above all else find time to attend the eventsa€”because someone here wants to meet you! Modern medicine can achieve extraordinary feats in repairing and protecting the human body, from hip replacements to life-extending cancer treatments. The overall proportion of single parent families has been stable for the past two decades or so and single parenthood has become much more socially accepted in the UK, even if governments of different persuasions still tend to frame marriage as the preferred way to raise children (though around half of single parents had their children in marriage). Under LPOs, single parents’ care responsibilities were essentially relegated and single parents were redefined in policy terms as ‘citizen-workers’ rather than ‘citizen-carers’.

But whilst this particular policy may have converged, the UK context in which it operates continues to stand out from most other countries in terms of key economic and policy factors, most notably a lack of jobs, a chronic lack of care-compatible jobs, low wages, and expensive childcare. A key problem for single parents in recent years however has been the worsening in this critical background context at precisely the same time as the LPOs have rolled out. This is,  in significant part, because the types of jobs in the UK economy that have ‘care friendly’ hours tend to be concentrated in low paid sectors such as retail, catering, services and childcare and, in part, because childcare costs remain amongst the highest in Europe. As a consequence, even when succeeding to move off benefits and into work many single parents struggle to escape poverty and to retain those jobs, entering the expanding ranks of the working poor or those trapped in low pay-no pay cycles between poor quality jobs and unemployment benefits. Most single parents are certainly more engaged with the labour market as a result of the LPOs. Firstly, since the LPOs have compelled single parents into the labour market, the rate of single parent unemployment has also inevitably risen as not all of those formerly ‘inactive’ single parents have managed to find paid work.
What is interesting about Figure 2 is that it shows systematic spatial patterning of lone parent JSA rates across local authorities in a way that makes sense in terms of context (e.g.
Whilst the inevitable failure to transform single parent employment and poverty rates may be frustrating for policy makers, the chief losers in this reversal of evidence are single parents and their families whose aspirations around employment, income and well-being continue to be compromised.
Instantly the adults round the table – his "tummy mummy" Sabrina Morgan, his "mum" Kirsty Slack and his daddy, Kam Wong – jump up to help.
This is based on the idea that a child conceived not out of love or traditional togetherness, but out of the so-called "selfishness" of two otherwise unconnected parents, is somehow born into moral bankruptcy and therefore doomed. Wouldn't the risk of hitching up with a psycho or Mr or Ms Weird, or a person who turns out – later on – to have a vile temper or a lousy romantic partner be less attractive than simply getting pregnant and going it alone?
The site, which provides questionnaires and profiling as well as comprehensive advice, is growing at such a rate that Fatovic needs more staff, something I hear repeatedly from the founders of other co-parenting sites. She doesn't blame him (he wouldn't move from Las Vegas and decided, with his partner, to go with a surrogate instead), but she was invested in it, and backing him has now delayed her intention of becoming pregnant by January: "My clock is ticking and I feel like I'm racing. The three are constantly in touch and admit that because of the six-year delay, by the time Zaide arrived they were already best friends. But by 2009, when their first attempt at IVF was successful, Sabrina, Kirsty and Kam had the beginnings of their new and unusual family.
More than anything else, we value members with a sincere desire to make this group a part of their social life. But more accurately, the group is made up of people who take the time to attend events; in other words, the people who have made the group their own by being a part of it.
Instead, the bigger focus for policy makers in recent decades has not been the status of single parenthood per se but, rather, perceived problems with the levels of employment and (especially child) poverty amongst single parent households. The practical implication of this change has been the gradual transfer between 2008 and 2012 of most out-of-work single parents with a youngest child aged 5 or older from Income Support to Jobseeker’s Allowance (the UK’s main out of work benefit for the unemployed) for which continued eligibility requires them to attend regular Jobcentre meetings, actively seek work and move into paid work wherever possible. This context hinders the pro-employment and anti-poverty aspirations of single parents and policy-makers alike and leaves the LPOs open to serious critique in terms of their effectiveness, their necessity, their limits and their equity for single parents today. Hence, although paid work represents the central poverty-alleviation instrument of all political parties, 30 per cent of single parents working part-time and 20 per cent of those working full-time remain poor.
This is a concern for many reasons but not least due to evidence that choice matters to well-being such that the voluntarily inactive on average show higher levels of well-being than the involuntarily unemployed, even if both groups remain outside of paid work. His research focuses on the spatial analysis of social policies relating to employment activation, work and well-being, and single parents. Co-parenting is not only about the gay community wanting to experience parenthood: heterosexual men and women are also signing up to websites, mostly as a result of feeling that time is running out and that parenthood with a "co-parent" rather than a real "love" who may never materialise is better than no parenthood at all. However, if one looks only at single parents with children aged 12 or older then their employment rate is very similar to coupled mothers. Once in work UK single parents continue to face among the highest childcare costs in the OECD even after childcare subsidies for the lowest paid in particular.
At an aggregate level, the LPOs do not seem key to explaining increases in single parent employment rates since the late 1990s, increases with took place largely prior to their introduction in 2008.
Yet LPOs ignore this evidence and instead force single parents through these barriers alone and against their wishes rather than supporting single parents over them and with their consent.
So while Sabrina and Kirsty met in the conventional way, Kam and Sabrina – Zaide's biological parents – went on to the internet to find each other with the sole intention of having a child. The world has moved on since she had her 22-year-old son with a male friend (natural insemination in that case) and her four-year-old daughter whom she co-parents with one of her son's godparents (artificial insemination).
Figure 1 shows how only Swiss parents face higher childcare costs than the UK, with mean childcare costs consuming just over a quarter of net family income in the UK assuming a couple household where both parents work full-time on average wages.
At an individual level, the vast majority of single parents want to work and need support rather than compulsion to make this happen. There are clear risks that the well-being of single parents and their children will be harmed in doing so.
It is utterly astonishing watching them, not because they are all gay and all devoted to their son – nothing new in that – but because they met on the internet in order to create him. Jobcentres are struggling to cope with the increased volume of claimants, specialist single parent employment advisers are thin on the ground, sanctions create financial and emotional hardship for single parent families but are variably understood and enforced, and single parents farther from the labour market continually cite inadequate employment support.

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