Single parents are “paying the price” for cruel Tory welfare policies, pushing them ever further into debt and making it increasingly difficult to make ends meet, according to a damning new report from the Gingerbread charity.
The charity, who support single mums and dads to help them meet their family’s needs, warns that despite record employment levels, harsh welfare reforms and high living costs mean single parents are struggling to get by and avoid serious debt problems.
In their latest report, Gingerbread say Government plans to accelerate the roll-out of its flagship Universal Credit scheme, without first listening to growing concerns from charities and others, risks leaving single parents and their families with severe financial problems.
The report found 71% of single parents found it difficult to managing finances and a third (34%) were in debt, with the average debt over £10,000.
Gingerbread’s report also found that around half of single parents run out of money before the end of each month.
“I’m at my lowest ebb… The money for food goes down and down every week.” – Emma
Universal Credit wraps a number of existing social security benefits and tax credits into one single monthly payment, in a bid to simplify the welfare system.
But charities, campaigners, and opposition parties say plans to accelerate it’s roll-out from five to fifty areas per month from October is “a disaster waiting to happen”.
Delays built into the system mean claimants have to wait at least six weeks before receiving their first payment, with some waiting much longer, meaning many families are likely to build up debts (including rent arrears) and struggle to put food on the table – becoming dependent on food banks and high-interest doorstep loans.
Advance payments are available for those who find it difficult to cope, but only around 1 in 10 claimants are aware of this support. Advance Payments must be repaid in a relatively short space of time and are limited in value, simply pushing financial difficulties further down the road. There is no guarantee that a request for help will be granted.
“It’s just survival at the moment really.” – Reena
Gingerbread are calling on the Government to:
- Reverse cuts to the universal credit work allowance to maximise work incentives and minimise in-work poverty, with cuts for single parents to be reversed as a priority
- Reduce the delay for a first universal credit payment
- Assess the quality of jobcentre provision – particularly work coaches and claimant commitments – to ensure single parents’ needs are recognised
- Make the promised extra £300 million childcare support under universal credit (to increase support from 70 to 85 per cent of costs) available to the many families still on tax credits.
Sumi Rabindrakumar, the report’s author, said: “These findings should be a wake-up call. The government believes that its welfare reforms have helped, not hindered, single parents to provide for their families – but Gingerbread’s research proves that this is simply not true.
“Families have been pushed to the brink. The government has a choice – to end universal credit payment delays as a matter of priority, or risk even greater numbers of families being pushed into debt.”
More on Universal Credit:
- Universal Credit roll-out a ‘ticking timebomb’, say private landlords
- Universal Credit roll-out is ‘a disaster waiting to happen’, says Citizens Advice
- Almost 90% of Universal Credit tenants are in rent arrears, warns Council
- DWP data proves Universal Credit is in ‘total disarray’, say Labour
- Universal credit a train wreck that must be stopped, Lib Dems say
- MPs urge government to delay universal credit rollout
- DWP should declare a ‘Christmas truce’ on Universal Credit roll-out
- Revealed: universal credit sends rent arrears soaring