Big Issue Vendor

Single parent families struggling for cash under broken system

Families reported having to choose between putting food on the table and paying their rent

Single parents can’t afford acceptable living standards for them and their children even if they work full time.

The Child Poverty Action Group has revealed an income crisis for single parent families driven by the benefits freeze, the Universal Credit rollout, stagnant wages and a rise in the cost of essentials like food, transport, fuel and council tax.

In the Loughborough University report, The Cost of a Child in 2019, experts estimated that the cost of taking care of a child up until the age of 18 is £185,000 for single parents, up 19 per cent since 2012.

Lone parents with young children who are not in employment fall 40% (£158 per week) short of this figure, while even those working full time for the national living wage fall 21 per cent short (£80 per week).

Even single parents earning the median wage of £12.78 per hour have 16% less than they need, compared to 6 per cent in 2012.

Professor Donald Hirsch, author of the report, said that families under greater pressure – like those with more children to support or those who get fewer hours at work – are suffering disproportionately.

He added: “This is the opposite of the principle that people with the broadest shoulders should take on more of the burden of austerity. A lot of work needs to be done to restore a social security system designed to protect the worst off.”

Meanwhile chief executive of CPAG Alison Garnham called on Boris Johnson’s government to raise child benefit rates, which haven’t seen an increase since 2015, to boost living standards.

“Our new Prime Minister wants to unite the country. Will he then commit to restoring the value of family benefits for working and non-working households to make sure that they once again rise with inflation?

“That would begin to close the income gaps that austerity caused – and is still causing – to the families least able to withstand them.”