From the TUC

Failed again: How cuts are mounting up against single parents

04 Dec 2012, by Guest in Society & Welfare

Over the last week we’ve seen a barrage of new reports published which collectively show what we’ve been seeing at Gingerbread for some time – many families are being pushed to breaking point by the squeeze from austerity measures, and none more so than single parent families.

The latest research from the TUC shows that single parents will be particularly hard hit by forthcoming cuts to public services – with working single parents losing the equivalent of just over 18% of their household income in services lost up to 2017/2018, and single parents not in work losing the equivalent of almost 33% of their income. Additional research showed that single parent families would also be hardest hit overall by a benefit freeze if the Chancellor goes ahead with this, as widely predicted, in his autumn statement.

The government’s generic response, somewhat inevitably, is that people should go out to work to earn their own income rather than enjoying a “lifestyle on benefits” – a distressingly stigmatising phrase used both by Employment Minister Lord Freud and the Chancellor George Osborne in recent weeks. Lord Freud’s comments triggered howls of protest from single parents via our website and social media:

“To assume that single parents on benefits live an easy life is such an insult. I am sure that I speak for every single parent, male and female, who currently finds themselves unemployed when I say that they would love nothing more than to gain employment in order to make a better life for themselves and their children. There needs to be less of the finger-pointing and less of the stereotyping.”

“The majority of single parents work. The benefits these parents receive are purely to boost low incomes and only just allow them to scrape by. There is nothing extra to pay for treats or holidays. Single parents are also often excluded socially as well as being society’s scapegoat. Would you choose this as your life?”

Meanwhile, the much-vaunted commitment to make every hour of work pay under universal credit looks set to remain a distant ambition for some, with recent Gingerbread research highlighting that some single parents – particularly those with high childcare or housing costs – may lose out if they are on low to medium wages and seeking to work over part-time hours. And that’s assuming they can get a job at all; last week’s Work Programme statistics showed all too clearly that one of the government’s biggest problems is providing the right support to get people into work in the first place (and the jobs to go with it).

On the eve of the autumn statement, where does this leave us? Fearful that the government will go ahead with further welfare cuts – risking “a tragedy for millions” as warned by a coalition of over 50 charities, unions and academics. And if it does, very concerned for what this will mean for hundreds of thousands of families who could be facing a bleak Christmas indeed.

GUEST POST: Caroline Davey is Director of Policy, Advice & Communications at Gingerbread, the national charity which provides advice and practical support for single parents and campaigns to improve the lives of all single parent families. Prior to joining Gingerbread Caroline was Deputy Director of Communications, Policy and Campaigns at Shelter.

One Response to Failed again: How cuts are mounting up against single parents

  1. John
    Dec 5th 2012, 12:50 am

    Another very concerning Touchstone article, this time from Caroline Davey. (As indeed was the Richard Exell article last night on Disabled People & the Cuts ).

    These few words in one of the paragraphs from Ms Caroline sum it up: …………… ´´highlighting that some single parents – particularly those with high childcare or housing costs – may lose out if they are on low to medium wages and seeking to work over part-time hours. And that’s assuming they can get a job at all. ……….´´

    I am writing this as a layperson, but why cannot this purely conservative government for once think outside their (right wing) box of the social consequences of their actions on the welfare of the single parents & children – which of course cannot be easily (if at all) measured on the bottom line!

    How do we compare with Northern Europe & Scandinavia on this major issue?

    Finally, & just for information, an organization called Schumacher North (based in Leeds) will possibly be talking about developing their responses to this government’s austerity measures in the new year. There website address is: http://www.schumacher-north.co.uk/

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