One in four: a profile of single parents in the UK

Published on 21 February 2018


This report profiles single parents today, to see how life has changed for the one in four families headed by a single parent in the UK.

While huge progress has been made over the past 100 years to improve the lives of single parent families, from the abolition of the workhouse in 1930 to the repeal of the Bastardy Acts in 1987, the report finds that many single parents are still locked out of a decent standard of living. Single parent employment rates are at a record high and still, a third of children with a working single parent today living in poverty.

As a priority, the report calls for the government to:

  • Create a supportive welfare system that recognises single parents’ needs
  • Encourage sustainable employment to make sure work pays and provides a genuine route out of poverty
  • Build a fairer child maintenance system, with better access and more effective arrangements.

Key findings

Among the key findings about single parents today:

  • Nearly seven in ten (68 per cent) single parents are now in work – two decades ago the majority of single parents were not in work
  • Until 2008, single parents were not required to work until their youngest child turned 16 – now they are required to work when their youngest child turns 3
  • Around one in ten working single parents surveyed had taken last resort steps to get by such as using payday lenders, ‘doorstep’ lenders and foodbanks.