Scraping and Saving

Published on 10 May 2019


Gingerbread’s survey of the financial circumstances, attitudes and experiences of more than 1,000 single parents highlights the challenges that many face in building their financial resilience. Precarious financial circumstances, along with the lack of a financial buffer or the resources to create one, all contribute to the low levels of financial satisfaction that many single parents feel. Yet, despite this negative picture, single parents exhibit high levels of financial awareness and engagement.

Key findings

  • Many single parents are worried and dissatisfied: Almost half (46%) worry “a great deal” about their financial circumstances. Single parents have low levels of financial satisfaction. The average satisfaction level recorded was 3.6 out of 10, compared to an average of 6.6 among a recent survey of UK adults.
  • Few single parents have a financial buffer or the resources to create one: Almost six in ten (59%) rarely or never save money, while around half view keeping up with their bills and credit commitments as at least a ‘constant struggle’. Large proportions cannot afford essential items without making cut-backs elsewhere; only 50% can keep their homes warm in winter without making cut-backs, while this as the case for 12% in relation to a week’s annual holiday).
  • Yet single parents have high levels of financial awareness and engagement: 71% know how much money they have to the nearest £50; compared with 56% of a recent survey of UK adults of working age. Over half (54%) check their current accounts daily and a third (34%) at least once a week.

The continued roll out of Universal Credit (UC) (with 90% of single parents likely to receive the combined benefit once roll-out is complete) is likely to amplify some of these trends – by exacerbating the precarious financial situations in which many single parents find themselves.

Other evidence suggests the waiting period, payment time and new job-seeking conditions for parents with children aged 3 and 4 are causing significant financial and emotional stress for many single parent families. Among those respondents to our survey already in receipt of Universal Credit, 57% had benefit re-payments to make, compared with 31% of single parents overall – suggesting the roll-out of Universal Credit will also make this a more pervasive issue across the board.