Soaring inflation spells summer struggles for single parent families

Posted 21 June 2023

Food costs are soaring, according to statistics released by the Government today. Food inflation was at 18.4% in May 2023, with the biggest price rises for family staples such as eggs, cooking sauces and frozen potatoes. [1]

As the cost-of-living crisis continues to bite, Gingerbread is calling on the Government to introduce urgent policy changes to better support single parents and their children. 40% of single-parent families are already experiencing moderate or severe food insecurity[2]. Action is needed urgently to ensure that yet more parents don’t fall into poverty and can feed their families this summer.[3]

Despite falling prices for motor fuel and a reduction in heating costs during the summer months, the economic picture still looks bleak for single-parent families. Interest rates are continuing to surge, leaving many feeling “stuck living in a world (I) can’t afford to be in.” [4] The warmer weather has eased the ‘heat or eat’ dilemma, but increasing food costs mean a significant number of single parents are facing an ‘eat’ dilemma, having to feed their children before themselves.

Too many single parents are skipping meals

‘We’re increasingly concerned about single parents’ ability to cope,’ says Gingerbread Chief Executive Victoria Benson.  ‘Although single parents are resourceful and adept at changing their shopping habits to make ends meet, we know that too many are regularly skipping meals and are relying on foodbanks.  49% of single parents have told us that they are cutting back on or going without food to cope with the cost-of-living crisis – the physical and psychological impacts of this on families are significant.’

Pressure on single parents’ budgets is likely to increase with the summer holidays fast approaching. ‘The school holidays can present an extra challenge: parents need to feed and entertain their children throughout the holiday period, so their costs are much higher with no matching increase in income,’ adds Victoria.

With soaring food costs, almost 70% of households are either “extremely” or “very worried” about food and drink inflation according to Kantar.[5] It remains the second-biggest concern behind rising energy bills. The picture is even bleaker for single-parent families, with 88% of single parents telling us they’re worried about their ability to pay for household essentials. One in five single parents already rely on credit to cover household essentials, with the average single parent owing around £2000 – this is no small amount when the median income for single parents is £15,000.

Single parents need urgent support

Single parents are in an economically precarious position, with a typical savings pot 20 times smaller than the UK average and, as mentioned above, a typical median income of around £15K per year. Many will feel the repercussions of the cost-of-living crisis long after it ends and remain trapped in a debt cycle. Meanwhile the social security system in this country is no longer providing a safety net for those in need. 

Gingerbread is calling on the Government to mitigate the dire situation for single parents, by urgently reviewing Universal Credit levels, and also at the same time providing an uplift similar to the amount given during the pandemic (our research shows the need is greater now than it was during Covid). Removing both the two-child limit and the benefit cap would greatly benefit single parents, as would support for flexible employment and affordable, accessible childcare which enables them to work.

Please join us in writing to your MP asking them to:

  • Meet with Gingerbread to find out more about the challenges that single parents face and the policy that can improve their lives. Meetings can be scheduled in their constituency, in Parliament or at Autumn’s Party Conferences by emailing
  • Support Gingerbread’s calls to scrap the two-child limit for child benefits which pushes many single parent families with more than two children into poverty.
  • Support Gingerbread’s calls to review the benefit cap – three quarters of those affected by the cap are single parent households. The amount of social security available does not lift families out of poverty and needs to be urgently reviewed
  • Support Gingerbread’s calls to urgently review the level of benefits provided so that they reflect the actual costs of living in the country today.

[1] Consumer price inflation, UK – Office for National Statistics

[2] Living-Standards-Outlook-2023.pdf (

[3] Households below average income: an analysis of the income distribution FYE 1995 to FYE 2021 – GOV.UK (

[4] Gingerbread survey shows ‘cost-of-living crisis’ is forcing single parent families to go hungry to make ends meet | Gingerbread

[5] Inflation forces supermarkets to up £1 items to £1.25, data shows | Inflation | The Guardian