Almost half of UK children from single-parent households are living below the poverty live, according to damning new research from the national charity Gingerbread.
Research by the charity found that, since 2013, 46% of children from single-parent households live in relative poverty, with 41% of single-parent families earning less than 60% of the UK average.
Gingerbread warns the worrying situation is set to worsen in the next few years, with estimates from the Institute for Fiscal Studies forecasting that poverty rates among single-parent households will almost double by 2020.
The charity says moving into work still offers the best hope for single-parents to escape the poverty trap. But analysis also shows that 32% of children whose single parent works part-time are in poverty, falling to 20% of children whose single-parent works full-time.
Gingerbread says insecure and low-paid work makes single-parents particularly susceptible to poverty. A shortage in flexible employment opportunities, coupled with high childcare and housing costs, means single-parents and their children are often left in a “perilous” position.
Gingerbread chief executive Fiona Weir said: “It is shameful that in a country as wealthy as Britain, almost half of children in single parent households live below the poverty line.
“While the government rightly focuses its attention on the long-awaited Life Chances Strategy, the concern is that not enough is being done for thousands of families.
“Single parent families don’t just need lifting out of poverty, they need measures in place to stop that figure doubling over the next four years.
“Work continues to offer the best route out of poverty, a lack of flexible jobs, coupled with high childcare and housing costs, mean that single parents are left are in an increasingly perilous position. And it is children that will bear the brunt of that.”
30-year-old Thea, a single-parent from Haringey, works full-time as an account manager but is still on the brink of slipping into poverty.
Thea said: “I earn £1,800-a-month but have to pay out more than £1,100 on childcare, as well as £900 on rent.
“People like me are even worse off than people who don’t have jobs. We don’t even have any free time to spend with our children, do household chores, prepare food, etc.
“The only reason I find any time at all with my son is because I’m super-organised and fulfil all of my work and home responsibilities.
“Time is something that’s very valuable to me in terms of quality of life, and single parents working full-time don’t have any. If you compare me to a single parent who does not work at all, I have the same amount of money as them, which is zero.
“You are left in a culture that you can’t afford.”
Gingerbread welcomed “positive signs” that the Government’s new ‘Life Chances Strategy’ “will be comprehensive and help tackle underlying causes of poverty as well as some of the implications”, but warned this could be put at risk “from the politics of the EU referendum”.
“The Life Chances Strategy is very much at risk from the politics of the EU referendum”, Fiona Weir said.
“However, ‘Brexit’ or ‘Remain’ will be of little significance to the families on the brink of poverty if the government’s strategy fails to recognise income.
“This is harder with child poverty targets having been scrapped and welfare reforms starting to bite.”