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

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Our history

Gingerbread has a fascinating history - here are some snapshots from our past.

The National Council for the Unmarried Mother and her Child (and for the Widowed or Deserted Mother in Need) is founded by Lettice Fisher. The charity has two founding goals: to reform the Bastardy Acts and Affiliation Orders Acts laws which discriminate against illegitimate children, and to provide alternative accommodation to the workhouse for mothers and babies. These twin pillars of work – political campaigning and providing support – are still at the heart of what we do.

The  Council establishes a Case Committee, to help with individual enquiries from single parents and offer practical advice and assistance.

The workhouse as an institution is finally abolished and there is a shift in the way unmarried mothers receive financial support – they are now entitled to benefits from government and are not fully dependent on charity. The Council plays an important campaigning role in both of these achievements.

In a response to changing employment and education patterns in post-war Britain, Lettice Fisher’s memorial fund is used to finance education schemes and training programmes to help single parents find a place in the new economy.

Tessa Fothergill, a mother in London whose marriage breaks down, finds being a lone parent such a struggle that she sets up a self-help group. A Sunday Times feature about her encourages hundreds of other single parents to get in touch, and Gingerbread, the new charity, is born.

The Finer Report into the needs of one parent families – called by the Observer ‘one of the major social documents of the century’ is published. Many of its 230 recommendations for improvements to single parents’ lives are proposed by the National Council for One Parent Families, as the National Council for the Unmarried Mother and her Child renamed itself in 1970.

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher talks about single girls getting pregnant to jump the housing queues. Against a background of growing hostility to single parent families, the organisation continues to make important strides in tackling poverty and improving access to benefits and jobs.

The Family Law Reform Act, at last implementing the Finer Report proposals and repealing the Bastardy Acts and Affiliation Orders Acts, sees the first founding goal of the Council achieved.

The National Council for One Parent Families and Gingerbread merge, creating an organisation with a powerful mix of campaigning experts, highly respected support services, and extensive grassroots reach among single parents.

The merged organisation relaunches as Gingerbread. And as the political, economic and social climate around single parents hardens, a new episode in campaigning life begins...