Nearly half of children in single parent families live in poverty, latest research reveals.
Gingerbread, a charity that supports single parent families, published its ‘One in Four’ report on Wednesday, which shows that unsustainable work and poverty are two of the biggest issues facing the UK’s 1.7 million single parent families.
Single parent employment rates are at a record high, the report shows, with 47% of children in single parent families living in poverty.
The report reveals that in the past 20 years, single parents and their children have faced nearly twice the risk of poverty compared to couple parents.
Gingerbread believes that the situation is set to worsen with 63% of children in single parent families likely to be in poverty by 2021.
One in four families in the UK today is headed by a single parent.
The report found that single parents are more likely than the average employee to be trapped in low paid work, with the pressure to take any job available leading to more insecure work.
More than 40,000 single parents are employed on zero-hours contracts - a figure that has increased tenfold in the past ten years.
Rosie Ferguson, Gingerbread’s chief executive, said: “The findings of this report illustrate how single parents’ aspirations can be thwarted by circumstances outside their control.
“The majority of single parents work but many are still locked out of the secure, flexible employment opportunities they need in order to provide for their children.
“Low-paid and insecure jobs, as well as the lack of affordable childcare, mean that some single parents struggle to put food on the table for their children.
“The government must work with jobcentres, employers and childcare providers to ensure that work genuinely provides a route out of poverty.
“We need to strengthen the system of support for single parents to provide a decent standard of living for them and their children.”
Research also found that there had been a 58% rise in the number of self-employed single parents in the past decade – with nearly 60,000 more single parents now self-employed compared to 2007.
Some single parents have been encouraged into unsustainable self-employment by jobcentre advisers in a bid to get them into work, the report found.
Until 2008, single parents were not required to work until their youngest child turned 16, now they are required to work when their youngest child turns three.
The report found that about one in ten working single parents surveyed had taken last resort steps to get by such as using payday lenders, ‘doorstep’ lenders and foodbanks.
Ferguson added: “It’s not right that we still live in a society where children of single parents face twice the risk of poverty compared to those from couple families.
“Gingerbread will continue to support single parents and celebrate their many contributions to the UK today. We need others to commit to real change too. We want to see single parents valued and given the same opportunities as any other family. The tide is turning, but there is much more to do.”
Gingerbread is calling on the government to suspend job-seeking conditions for single parents with pre-school aged children and single parents in training in order to avoid pushing single parents into unsustainable work.
Other Gingerbread recommendations:
- Tailor jobcentre support for single parents and invest in higher levels of training and education
- Work with employers to embed a genuinely family-friendly labour market, including improving the availability of good quality part-time and flexible jobs
- Expand promised childcare support to target assistance on low income families effectively, including widening access to the 30 hours’ free childcare to single parents in education/training and in variable-hours work, and supporting parents with the upfront cost of childcare.