Lone parents facing “drastic” income shortfalls

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New report finds even those working full time on average pay cannot achieve a decent living standard.

4th September 2019 by Gavin Stuart 0 Comments

Lone parents on “reasonable” pay cannot reach a minimum acceptable living standard even if they work full-time hours, according to a new report.

Research for the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) found “drastic and growing” income shortfalls for working lone parents, whether they earn the national living wage of £8.21 an hour or have median earnings of £12.78 an hour. 

CPAG says these shortfalls have been created by the UK government’s social security policies, such as benefits freezes and cuts to tax credits, which leave single-parent families falling below a living standard that the public considers acceptable.

Stagnant wages and steep rises in the costs of essentials such as food, energy and transport also contributed to lone parents being significantly worse-off than they were even seven years ago.

CPAG’s The Cost of a Child report 2019 found that the overall cost of a child up to age 18 years was £185,000 for lone parents, after rent and childcare was taken into account. This is a rise of 19% since 2012.

In comparison, the cost for couples has risen by just 5.5% over the same period, to £151,000.

Lone parents working full time for the national living wage (NLW) are 21% (£80 a week) short of what they need – after paying for rent, childcare and council tax  -  a gap that has more than doubled from 10% since 2012.

For those working half-time for the NLW, the income gap has jumped from 12% to 24% since 2012, and is now £92 a week.

Even lone parents working full time on median earnings are unable to reach a decent minimum living standard, falling £60 a week short.

John Dickie, director of CPAG in Scotland, said: “Lone parents have taken particularly big losses following cuts to universal credit and tax credits and the freeze on family benefits - such that a decent, no-frills living standard is out of reach even on a reasonable wage. That’s a divisive economy, not one which works for everyone.”

Mr Dickie welcomed the Scottish Government’s announcement of a weekly £10 Scottish Child Payment for children in lower income families, but said further action was needed at a UK level to ease the financial strain on lone parent households.

“The UK government must as a matter of utmost urgency commit to restoring the value of family benefits for working and non-working households and make sure that they once again rise with inflation,” he added.

“After years of social security cuts, families on the so-called National Living Wage can’t achieve a decent minimum living standard, even if they work full time – and lone parents are suffering the most. For them, trying to reach a decent minimum living standard is like chasing a moving target.”