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Single parents singled out in welfare reform

11 February 2013

More than a quarter of a million (265,000) young or disabled single parents will have support dramatically cut under universal credit reforms to be debated by MPs on Monday, according to new analysis by Gingerbread and The Children’s Society.

The report ‘Single parents and Universal Credit: singled out?’ reveals that young and disabled single parents could lose hundreds, or even thousands, of pounds a year under universal credit – unless the government makes urgent changes to its plans.  In total 900,000 single parent families will lose out under universal credit.

At present, single parents are exempt from rules that provide people under the age of 25 a lower rate of support. Universal credit reforms will remove this exemption, resulting in 240,000 young parents losing around £780 a year. The government’s own figures show that the changes to support for all parents under-25 will result in 100,000 more children being pushed into poverty.

A further 25,000 disabled single parents will also lose out with the abolition of the severe disability premium. Severely disabled single parents – many of whom rely on their children to provide care for them – could lose more than £3,000 a year; equivalent to a fifth of their household income after housing costs.

The losses for young and disabled single parents will come at a time when families are already struggling to cope with rising living costs, cuts to public services and reduction in help with childcare and housing costs, the report by Gingerbread and The Children’s Society says.

Single parent families are already almost twice as likely to live in poverty. A lack of flexible working and affordable childcare means many are struggling to find stable work that pays. The charities are concerned the changes to welfare support will only make these barriers harder to overcome.

Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society said: “Millions of single mums and dads already face extra hurdles to providing the best for their children. The idea that those children deserve less support because their mum or dad is 24 rather than 25 years old is simply absurd. The needs of children don’t change because of their parents’ age.

“Lots of children living with a single parent who has a disability already have it tough. Many families will rely on the support the state provides just to get by. We shouldn’t be punishing these families, especially at a time when support services are being cut and costs of childcare and housing are rising.”

Fiona Weir, Gingerbread Chief Executive said: “The government’s refusal to recognise that a single parent under 25 has the same financial needs as a single parent over 25 will only serve to hurt the children in affected families.  Universal credit should deliver support to those who need it the most, but instead the government is pushing ahead with plans which will hit some of our most vulnerable families hardest. 

“The loss of this support would have a terrible impact on families who are already struggling.  The government must overturn plans which threaten to push a further 100,000 children into poverty and ensure that these families get the support they need.”

Universal credit regulations will be debated in Committee on Monday 11 February in the House of Commons before being debated in the House of Lords on Wednesday 13 February.


Notes to editors 

• The full briefing, Single parents and Universal Credit: singled out?, is available on request from either press office

• The Children’s Society wants to create a society where children and young people are valued, respected and happy. We are committed to helping vulnerable and disadvantaged young people, including children in care and young runaways. We give a voice to disabled children, help young refugees to rebuild their lives and provide relief for young carers. Through our campaigns and research, we seek to influence policy and perceptions so that young people have a better chance in life.

• Gingerbread is the charity which works nationally and locally, for and with single parent families, to improve their lives. We achieve change by championing their voices and needs and providing support services.

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