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We provide expert advice, practical support and campaign for single parents

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Paying the price: Single parents in the age of austerity

At Gingerbread, we know single parents do a fantastic job. We also know the recession and changes to taxes, benefits and public services are making life more and more difficult for many single parent families. While some claim ‘we’re all in this together’, there are growing concerns that single parent families are bearing the brunt of these changes.

With funding from Trust for London and the Barrow Cadbury Trust, Gingerbread is undertaking a three-year research project to look at how single parent families are faring during the ‘age of austerity’. You can read more about our project aims and research methods on our About the project page. 

Paying the Price: still 'just about managing'?

Our latest report looks at single parents’ finances, focusing on what has helped and hindered single parents in finding financial security.

Find out more: download the executive summary and full report (PDFs).

The report found single parents affected by three main issues:
  • Risk of debt: Most single parents are struggling, with many forced to borrow to make ends meet
  • Work isn’t enough: Working single parents struggling as much as those out of work
  • Uncertain future: Worsening economic conditions and harsh welfare cuts mean single parents are increasingly vulnerable.
Gingerbread is concerned the government believes the current welfare strategy is working, backed by record highs in single parent employment. Yet our findings show these positive signs mask the persistent financial insecurity faced by many single parents.

In the short-term, we urge the government to:
  • Ensure universal credit is fit for purpose
  • Improve childcare support for low-income families
  • End benefit cuts/suspension to 'incentivise' work.
In the longer term, we would like the government to ensure benefits keep pace with living costs, do more to invest in debt prevention and re-think wider welfare reforms.

Quick round up

Download a round up of our findings from:

Related research

Tailor-made? (March 2013) makes recommendations to counter single parents’ invisibility within this system.

Singled out? (February 2013) reveals that young and disabled single parents could lose hundreds, even thousands, of pounds a year under Universal Credit.

Struggling to make ends meet (November 2012) shows that current plans will fail to make work pay for some single parent families.

Unintended consequences (September 2012) shows how the structure of universal credit undermines the coalition commitment to support low income workers through raising the personal tax allowance threshold.


If you have any questions about this research, please contact Sumi Rabindrakumar