Single parents could hold key to marginal seats

Posted 16 April 2015

New analysis from Gingerbread shows the impact single parents could have in nearly 100 marginal seats.

The fate of 96 of the 100 most marginal seats in England and Wales could be decided by single parents, new analysis from Gingerbread has found [1].

Single parents have headed one in four families in the UK for the last decade [2] but this is the first time that their potential voting power has been matched against majorities in marginal constituency seats. In 96 of the 100 most marginal constituencies in England and Wales, the number of single parents outweighs the majority with which the seat was last won.

The data is being released as part of Gingerbread’s General Election 2015: Single Parents Decide campaign which aims to raise the voices of the UK’s two million single parents.

Polling commissioned by the charity has found that 6 in 10 parents think politicians have little to no understanding of how to help them access affordable childcare, balance work and family life, or bring in a decent income [3]. These are all issues single parents identified as priorities ahead of the election [4].

Gingerbread Chief Executive Fiona Weir said: “Politicians of all parties cannot afford to ignore the voting power of single parents at this election. Close to 9 in 10 of the single parents we polled earlier this year said they were likely to vote and our analysis shows the impact they could have, particularly in marginal seats.

“Parents say that politicians don’t understand some of the most important issues they face, but this election is single parents’ opportunity to let candidates know what would make life better for their families.” [5]

Single parents are concerned about balancing work and caring responsibilities, while being able to provide for their families. Research from Gingerbread has found that many single parents are struggling financially, under pressure from falling incomes and the rising costs of childcare and other essentials [6].

Single parent families have told Gingerbread they want to see the next government:

  • Bring forward plans to cover 85% of childcare costs through Universal Credit and ensure all eligible parents receive this support; increase the cap for eligible childcare costs to reflect the real costs.
  • Scrap child maintenance charges.
  • Take action to help single parents keep more of the money they make, increasing the amount single parents are allowed to earn before universal credit is reduced (the disregard).
  • Encourage more flexible working, leading the way through ensuring more flexi arrangements are built into public and contracted out services, and letting people negotiate flexible working arrangements from the point of job offer.

Single parents can write to their local parliamentary candidates from Gingerbread’s website. For more on the campaign go to


Notes to editors
[1] Gingerbread is identifying a marginal seat as a constituency held by one party with a small majority, in this case we are using the BBC definition of marginal seats as those with majorities or 10 per cent or less. Marginal seats data published by the BBC on 24 February 2014, and updated by Gingerbread to reflect results from 2014 by-elections in Rochester and Strood, Heywood and Middleton, Clacton and Newark. 100 most marginal seats in England and Wales, taken from this data and ordered by smallest majority percentage, including only those from England and Wales.
Single parent numbers: 2011 census -1 per cent to allow for single parents under 18. 1.4% of single parents were aged 16-19 in 2012 (Gingerbread analysis of Labour Force Survey data (April-June 2012)).
Constituencies in Scotland and Northern Ireland not included because up to date census data is not available. View the data in our online spreadsheet or download as a PDF.
[2] Single parents head one in four families with dependent children. Families and households 2014, Office for National Statistics, 2015
[3] Figures from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 4,936 adults, of which 1015 have children under 18 and 287 identify as single parents. Fieldwork was undertaken between 10th – 16th February 2015.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
YouGov poll of British adults, of which 1015 have children under 18. 60 per cent of parents feel that politicians have little to no understanding of how to help families like theirs bring in a decent income. 59 cent of parents feel that politicians have little to no understanding of how to help families like theirs with access to affordable childcare. 55 per cent of parents feel that politicians have little to no understanding of how to help families like theirs to balance work and family life.
[4] Over the last year Gingerbread has worked extensively with single parents to determine the issues that matter to them the most. This has included survey work with Gingerbread members, focus groups and You Gov polling.
[5] YouGov poll. 87% of single parents said they were likely to vote. 287 single parents polled as part of a survey of 4936 GB adults.  Sample size not representative of single parents overall.
[6] 71 per cent of single parents surveyed by Gingerbread in 2014 said that their finances were a constant struggle at best. Paying the Price: The long road to recovery.
Single parents have been among the hardest hit by cuts to benefits (LSE/CASE Were we really all in it together? The distributional effects of the UK Coalition government’s tax-benefit policy changes, 2014).

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