Around 30 per cent of single parents were furloughed during the pandemic. Image: Pexels
Rishi Sunak’s Spring Budget “completely ignored the reality faced by single parent families,” campaigners have said.
The chancellor did not announce an increase of universal credit in line with inflation, which reached 6.2 per cent in February – double the currently proposed increase of 3.1 per cent.
With three-quarters of single parents entitled to universal credit, campaigners have called Sunak “out of touch” with reality.
Dr Mary-Ann Stephenson, director of the Women’s Budget Group, said that single parents, 90 per cent of whom are women, are “not well-positioned to cope” with the cost of living crisis.
Along with rising food and rent costs, households are going to be hit with skyrocketing energy bills next month as well as a council tax hike.
“Prior to the pandemic, we know that 84 per cent of lone parents reported having savings of less than £1,500 and were particularly hit by the pandemic with a third in financial difficulty and 11 per cent in problem debt,” Stephenson said.
“Single parents are also more likely to be reliant on social security for all or part of their income, yet there was nothing in the statement to boost benefits, despite inflation hitting a 30-year high.”
Victoria Benson, chief executive of the charity Gingerbread, agreed. “Seventy-five per cent of single parents are entitled to support through universal credit, as their income simply doesn’t cover basic living costs,” she said, calling on the government to not only increase universal credit in line with inflation, but to provide a cash payment to help people on low incomes.
Marion Davis, head of policy at Scottish single parents charity One Parent Families Scotland (OPFS) called the real terms cuts to benefits “scandalous”.
“Parents are already cutting back on food and essentials, with our helpline taking calls from parents surviving on toast,” she said. “No parent should be left making decisions to starve themselves so they can feed their children.”
New research from Gingerbread, carried out by Savanta ComRes, showed that 29 per cent of the UK’s 2 million single parents have had to cut back or go without food and meals for themselves, compared with 15 per cent of UK adults.
More than a third of single parents (36 per cent) have had to cut back or go without heating, compared with 21 per cent of UK adults.
This is something Labour’s Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves mentioned in her reaction to Sunak’s statement.
“Ordinary families, disabled people and pensioners are facing really difficult choices, [such as] mums skipping meals so that their children don’t, families struggling to buy new school shoes and uniforms for their children,” she said.
Additionally, the increase to the national insurance threshold to £12,570 “will do little to help” single parents, Stephenson said.
She said: “Many single parents are low-earners because they are trying to also balance caring responsibilities – the increase to the national insurance threshold will do little to help them.”
Meanwhile, the £500 million increase to the Household Support Fund, which is provided to local authorities to help low-income families with food, energy and water bills, along with the fuel duty reduction and removal of VAT on energy efficient infrastructure “won’t touch the sides for single parents who are already going without food and fuel just to get by,” Benson said.
“It’s clear that further price hikes, without additional financial support, will push more single parent families into debt or poverty,” she said. “This means more children will experience disadvantage and hunger while their parents bear the ongoing burden of soaring costs.”
Benson added: “It’s obvious that things are going to get much worse for people who are already struggling and despite Sunak’s commitment to helping families, his Spring Statement means more single parents and their children will simply be left behind.”
The Big Issue has contact the Department for Work and Pensions for a comment.
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