Dramatic spike in child poverty for working single parent families

Posted 16 March 2017

Gingerbread’s response to shocking new child poverty figures, with nearly half of children in single parents families in poverty

Nearly a half (47 per cent) of children in single parent families now live in poverty, new government data shows. This means there are around 140,000 more single parent children in poverty on the previous year.[1]

There has been a huge surge in the risk of poverty for children whose single parents work full time. As a result, a third of children with a working single parent (either full or part time) are now in poverty [2], raising questions over the frequent claim by the government that “work is the best route out of poverty” – most recently made today by Work and Pensions Secretary, Damian Green. [3]

Rosie Ferguson, Chief Executive of Gingerbread, commented:

“Today’s new figures show that child poverty is being allowed to fester rather than being tackled head on. That nearly half of all children in a single parent family are now in poverty is a shocking statistic. That’s 140,000 more children in poverty in single parent families over the course of just one year.

“But perhaps most damning of all is the impression that it is government action – rather than merely inaction – that is actively driving down the life chances of single parents and their children. The huge spike in the number of children in poverty whose single parents are in full time work strongly suggests that the government policy of forcing people into inflexible and low paid jobs is deeply counterproductive.

“Instead we need quality flexible opportunities that work for families, and a fair benefits system that supports them. How many more children must be resigned to poverty before the government accepts this?”

As a priority, Gingerbread is calling for the government to reverse cuts to Universal Credit work allowance and to bring forward promised spending on childcare support for low income families. [4]


[1] DWP (2017) Households below average income, 1994/95-2015/16. In 2015/16, 47 per cent of children in single parent families lived in relative poverty, compared with 44 per cent in 2014/15.

[2] 29 per cent of children where their single parent works full-time lived in relative poverty in 2015/16, compared with 19 per cent in 2014/15. 33 per cent of children with a working single parent lived in poverty in 2015/16 compared with 28 per cent in 2014/15.

[3] DWP press release, 16 March 2017.

[4] The work allowance is the amount a working claimant of universal credit can claim before their benefit is withdrawn. This will mean the average working single parent will lose £800 a year by 2020. The government also promised an increase in childcare support for low income families, from 70 to 85 per cent of childcare costs – but only under universal credit. As universal credit will only be fully rolled out in 2022, single parents left on tax credits will be left struggling – this is promised funding that can help families now by being rolled out to families on tax credits.

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