Child Poverty In Single Parent Families – A Crisis That Can Be Prevented
In Scotland, 1 in 4 families are headed by a single parent – 170,000 single parents with over 281,000 children. By 2021 single parents, the majority women, will lose 20% of their income due to UK welfare reform – around £5,250 a
year. The predicted increase in the child poverty rate for children in lone-parent households to over 62% can only be described as catastrophic and highlights the need for policies targeted at single parent families.
Policies on child poverty cut across both Westminster & Holyrood governments policy agendas. Westminster policies removing the safety net of social security, along with low wages, and increasing housing costs have adversely
affected the lives of millions of children and families. A key cause has been the 2015 freeze on benefits and tax credits for working families. In addition, the cuts to the Universal Credit Work Allowance have intensified this. Restoring the Work Allowance to its original level would allow working families to keep more of what they earn. The universal credit roll out should be paused and be reformed. We need a social security system that is linked to financial need, removes artificial limits such as the 2-child policy and benefit cap as well as the punitive sanction regime.
The Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017 places a duty on the Scottish Government to eradicate child poverty by 2030.
They have identified 3 key drivers of poverty: income from employment; costs of living and income from social
security & benefits in kind. They have also recognised single parents as a key priority group and have highlighted that 37% of children of lone parents in poverty live with a parent in work. A range of new initiatives are under way including: intensive employment support for parents; after school care policy; a new financial health check service and a new Income Supplement. We would like to see employability programmes tailored to meet the particular challenges facing single parents and increasing child benefit by just £5 a week for every child could lift 30,000 children out of poverty in Scotland.
For single parents, childcare is crucial to help make work possible and to take up training and education. As both the main carer and main earner, single parents can’t ‘shift-parent’ in the same way couple parents do in order to manage childcare and school pick-ups and drop-offs.
Through our various services OPFS enables single parents to believe in themselves; access flexible childcare,
enter paid employment, training or education, and take up new opportunities helping to reduce poverty. In 2017 /18 OPFS gave active support to 7,291 families and their children. With the predicted poverty rate increasing so dramatically our service is more important now than ever before.
This article features in the Third Force News magazine, September 18 edition.