Two thirds of working single parents ‘face constant financial struggle’

Work is failing to provide the majority of working single parent families with the income they need, with two thirds saying finances are a constant struggle at best and one in 10 saying they are not coping financially, a new report from Gingerbread has found.

More than 2,000 single parents shared their experiences in an online survey and 23 took part in one to one interviews with the charity for the report, Paying the Price: The long road to recovery.

Research suggests single parents are almost twice as likely to be in low-paid jobs as other workers. The survey says one in five working single parent respondents had seen their income fall and one in four non-working single parents left their last paid job after redundancy, having their wage or hours cut of their temporary contract ending.

Single parents taking part in Gingerbread’s research reported taking on extra hours at work, working multiple jobs and having to take a gamble on temporary or zero-hours contracts as they attempt to mitigate wage cuts and the rising costs of family essentials.

– One in six of working single parents surveyed were juggling more than one job
– A quarter of working single parents surveyed had increased their working hours in the last two years due to financial necessity
– Even with these increases, 23 per cent of working single parents would still like to work more hours
– 12 per cent of working single parents said they had experienced a temporary or fixed term contract for the first time in the past two years; six per cent said they had experienced a ‘zero-hours’ contract for the first time in the same period.

Gingerbread chief executive Fiona Weir said: “Single parents are working incredibly hard to provide for their families, but all too often they are barely keeping up with the costs of the essentials for their families. There is little sign of an economic recovery for parents who have had to go without another meal and face the nagging, gnawing worry of bills marked ‘final warning’.

“Our report shows that for single parent families, work isn’t a golden ticket out of poverty, low-paid jobs aren’t a rite of passage and a recovering job market is still leaving many behind.”

Single parents trying to find work reported overwhelming pressure from the jobcentre in a job market where they felt disadvantaged, with few part-time or flexible jobs on offer for parents needing to juggle childcare with work. Fifty-six per cent of non-working single parents said that inflexible working hours stopped them from applying jobs all or most of the time.

Gingerbread chief executive Fiona Weir added: “Single parents are the sole earners for their family, so it’s absolutely vital that, when they go out to work, their job pays a decent wage and offers them stability. Without action from government and employers on in-work financial support, low-pay and job security, too many single parent families will remain trapped in poverty and left out of the recovery.”

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