What single parents need from the Spring Budget  

Posted 22 February 2024


The Chancellor’s Spring Budget is just over a week away. Gingerbread are asking for some key changes to improve the lives of the UK’s 1.8 million single-parent households, many of whom are struggling financially.  

The Spring Budget will be announced on 6 March. It’s an opportunity for the Chancellor to update Parliament and the public on the state of the UK economy since the Autumn Statement in November. He’ll also announce any further economic plans for 2024-25 and beyond.  

Gingerbread are calling on the Chancellor to: 

  • Revise the High-Income Child Benefit Charge
  • Extend the Household Support Fund
  • Ensure the sufficiency of Universal Credit
  • Ensure access to childcare funding
  • Deliver on commitments to increase free childcare places

Revise the High-Income Child Benefit Charge 

The current Child Benefit rules mean that a dual-income household earning a combined annual income of just under £100,000 (up to £49,999 each) will receive full Child Benefit. In contrast, a single-income household earning £50,000 would begin having to repay the benefit, and those earning £60,000 would lose their eligibility entirely.

At its core, this structure is deeply unfair and disadvantages single-income households – including single-parent households. We’ve produced a joint briefing with Martin Lewis and the MoneySavingExpert team, which we’ve sent to a number of MPs, and the Chancellor. We’re urging that this unfairness be redressed. 

Read more about the HICBC – briefing from Gingerbread and Martin Lewis

Household Support Fund 

No family should have to choose between heating their home or feeding their children in the UK in 2024. But 44% of children in single-parent families are in poverty, and many are faced with this dilemma. When someone is facing hardship they need to be able to turn to their local authority for help. The Household Support Fund (HSF) has enabled many to do so, with 26 million grants given to households struggling to afford the essentials. 

The clock is now ticking – current funding for the HSF ends on 31 March. Not extending it beyond this point will leave a major gap in support which neither local government, nor the voluntary sector will be able to fill. 

Together with more than 120 other organisations, Gingerbread has joined Barnados’ call for the Chancellor to urgently extend the Household Support Fund. 

Ensure the sufficiency of Universal Credit  

We were pleased to see an increase in Universal Credit (UC) in the Autumn Statement. But despite this, UC is still insufficient in meeting soaring living costs. We believe further increases are needed.

The basic rate of Universal Credit has eroded over time and its value is now at its lowest ever level as a proportion of average earnings. 

New analysis shows that this rate falls short of what’s needed to afford essentials.  This is particularly concerning for single parents. The cost of childcare has increased by over 50% in the past decade, and this takes up a larger proportion of their household budgets. 

What’s more, sanctions, the benefit cap and the ‘two-child limit’ mean that a great proportion of single parents see their payments reduced even further.  We’re urging the Chancellor to scrap the two-child limit on benefit policy, and the punitive Universal Credit Sanctions regime. 

Ensure access to childcare funding

We welcomed commitments in last year’s Spring Statement to reform childcare element of Universal Credit. The changes should mean that eligible parents can access a fund from their local Jobcentre to pay for the upfront costs of childcare. However, we’re very concerned that this fund isn’t being made available to all eligible parents. Working with Citizen’s Advice, we’ve found that parents don’t always receive the right information, and are denied access to the fund as a result.  

We want the Government to take action. They need to ensure that Jobcentres make this fund available as standard, or put in a new mechanism so that these payments can be made automatically through UC to eligible parents.

Read more about the childcare element of UC and the Flexible Support Fund – briefing from Gingerbread and Citizens Advice

Deliver on previous commitments to increase free childcare

Last year’s Spring Statement pledged to Increase entitlements for free childcare for working parents. However, in the last year, there have been real concerns that a lack of investment will mean the early years education sector simply can’t deliver what the government has pledged. The Chancellor should use the Spring Statement to ensure the adequacy of funding to deliver on these entitlements. We also urge the government to amend eligibility so that parents studying or training can access the childcare entitlements.