Yesterday’s announcements on energy prices and the rising cost of living will be deeply worrying for the UK’s 1.8 million single parent families, many of whom have already faced a sustained squeeze on their finances due to the impacts of the pandemic.
The energy price cap announcement from energy regulator, Ofgem, will mean electricity and heating bills are likely to rise by an average of £693 per year for households across the UK. This bleak news was followed by a package of measures announced by the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, designed to limit the impact of rising costs on households. This includes a £200 repayable discount on energy bills in the Autumn, a £150 Council Tax rebate for some households and additional funding towards the local authority administered Household Support Fund for lower income households.
However, these measures are unlikely to scratch the surface of the financial iceberg due to hit many single parents from April. Analysis from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation show single parent households will soon expect to pay 22% of their household income, after housing costs, on energy bills. Additionally, estimates from the New Economics Foundation also warn that single parent households will be among the hardest hit family types, expecting to see their bills rise 56% faster than the average.
Responding to the announcement, Victoria Benson, CEO of Gingerbread the national charity for single parent families said:
“These are desperate times for single parents. Having already cut back in other areas of their household budgets, many are now faced with a devastating choice between feeding their families or heating their homes.
The measures announced by the Chancellor simply do not go far enough in protecting the most vulnerable families. Despite the majority of single parents already working all the hours that they can, many are still forced to rely on benefits to make ends meet. This is not about luxuries and It’s simply not right that hard-working single parents cannot afford to put food on the table or keep their children warm at home.”
Gingerbread is calling on the Government to act urgently to ensure more single parents and their children do not fall further into poverty. With 75% of single parents in receipt of Universal Credit, and this number likely to rise, giving families urgent additional income through the benefits system could be the best route to supporting the households that will be most impacted by rising energy bills and other essential costs. In addition, the Government must urgently consider increasing benefits, including Universal Credit, by 6% in April to align with the projected rate of inflation, instead of the current 3.1% expected increase.