Since the 1990s OECD nations have witnessed a rapid expansion in the use of conditionality within welfare to work programmes in the shift towards ‘activating’ welfare regimes. This trend raises a number of interrelated normative and empirical questions which we crystallise in the dimensions of necessity, justice and effectiveness. Lone parents in the UK make an instructive case study within which to assess these issues given that they have experienced wholesale change in the work expectations and demands placed upon them since the late 1990s. This article traces the evolution and justificatory ‘policy stories’ behind these reforms as well as evidence around their employment, income and well-being outcomes for lone parents. It concludes that it is extremely difficult to reconcile the research evidence with the persistent and strengthening policy claims of both New Labour and Coalition governments that current welfare to work conditionality for lone parents is necessary, just or effective.
- lone parents
- welfare to work programmes