A Trussell Trust foodbank. Photo credit: Newfrontiers via photopin cc

Almost half of young mothers in the UK are skipping meals so they can afford to feed their hungry children, while more than a quarter have had to use a food bank, a shocking new survey reveals today.

A survey of more than 300 mums by Survation, on behalf of the Young Women’s Trust, found that 46 per cent of mums aged under 25 in the UK regularly miss meals in order to provide for their children, with 61 per cent saying they were struggling to cope financially.

Anna, 23, spoke about how she was referred to a food bank, after a back operation meant she couldn’t return to work as soon as she had hoped.

“I was working but have been off for a couple of months after a back operation”, she said.

“Due to the long recovery I ended up on Statutory Sick Pay, and the drop in money coming in compared to my normal wage has meant I’ve really struggled to pay bills, rent and feed myself and my young son. Something had to give.

“The food bank has been a real lifeline and I’m very grateful for all the support and help the lovely volunteers have given me, but I never imagined I’d need their help.”

The nationwide food bank charity Trussell Trust provided 519,342 three-day emergency food parcels between April and September 2016, compared to 506,369 during the same period the previous year. 188,584 of these went to children.

One in ten surveyed by the Young Women’s Trust admitted to be “extremely worried” about their financial situation, with many of those questioned in earlier research by the Trust citing the many obstacles they face in finding work and how this can place a severe strain on family budgets.

According to that earlier research, young mums face isolation, discrimination by employers, high childcare costs and a lack of flexible working opportunities.

One in four young mums claim they’ve been discriminated against after informing their employer that they were pregnant, and almost forty per cent have been quizzed in job interviews about how being a mother would affect their ability to work.

A quarter had requests for flexible working turned down by employers, and one in four have been forced to leave a job because they couldn’t afford spiralling childcare costs.

When asked what would help them to find jobs, 79 per cent said cheaper childcare, 83 per cent said more opportunities for flexible working, and 8 per cent said more support from employers for women who are pregnant.

Young mothers are denied equivalent support from government experienced by many older workers and are more likely to be in low-paid jobs. For example, under-25s are not entitled to the new ‘national living wage‘, which is rising to £7.50 an hour from April this year (2017) for working people aged over 25.

Young Women’s Trust chief executive Dr Carole Easton OBE said: “Young Women’s Trust has found that young mothers are clearly committed to their children’s upbringing but often face huge challenges in their everyday lives, including discrimination, isolation and financial difficulties.

“A shocking number are having to skip meals or turn to food banks in order to feed their children.

“Young mums are telling us they want to work and become financially independent but they face huge barriers like discrimination from employers, a lack of available and affordable childcare, a lack of flexible working opportunities and inconsistent support from Jobcentre Plus.

“On top of that, they are entitled to less government support and lower wages because of their age.

“Young Women’s Trust’s report recommends access to affordable childcare, better support for young women at job centres and advertising jobs on a flexible, part-time or job share basis by default.

“Giving young mothers the support they need to get jobs will not only help them to become financially independent but will benefit businesses and the economy too.”