‘You’re not a single parent, you’re a double parent’ – Carly’s story

Posted 21 March 2024

Two years ago, single mum Carly spoke at Gingerbread’s Single Parents Day event at the Houses of Parliament. Today, she looks back at what’s changed for her and the wider single-parent community since then. 

Two years ago we were coming out of the pandemic and into the cost-of-living crisis and I talked about the challenges I was facing as a single parent with a child in nursery. My son is now nearly six and has started school.

Over the last two years, it has become increasingly hard for me to live off one income. But it is equally hard to increase your income with the pressure and responsibilities of childcare as a one parent household, not to mention the challenging costs of childcare. It is so difficult not to feel trapped as a single parent because of this. 

 It was announced in the Spring Budget that there are finally going to be changes to the threshold for child benefit which was a relief for me. Despite being on a decent salary, it is just not enough to cover the ever-increasing costs particularly in London, my home.  

 The fact that, until recently, my child benefit was going to be stopped despite only being on one income and despite relying on every last penny in that £24 a week, demonstrates how unfair it can be for single parents and the lack of commitment there is from our Government to support us. 

 Not a lot has changed in the last few years, particularly the cost-of-living crisis, increasing bills and costs, and the general lack of support from our Government on this. We have also seen our Government continue to attack and make life harder for single parents through changes to the benefit system, making it potentially even harder with the introduction of the 30 hour rule. 

 I know Gingerbread have done a lot of campaigning around this which we are grateful for, but my view is they shouldn’t have had to. Policies like this so obviously disproportionately impact single parents – there shouldn’t be a need for campaigns to change and stop them.  

Where is the support from our Government and services? Why are they are continuing to make it impossible for us? Why does it still feel like nobody cares?

 Single parents just want to raise their kids, go to work if they can and be able to afford to live, to eat and have a stable home. These really are basic wants that we should be able to expect and deserve to have like everyone else. 

 The last time I spoke two years ago, I ended with a quote from Helen Thorn.  

 ‘’Somebody once said to me you’re not a single parent. You’re a double parent and that really f*@!ing changed the narrative.’’  

 It’s my favourite quote about single parenting and I think it’s so important that we start to change that narrative, and to acknowledge the realities of single parenting. Sadly, it still stands today that everything is double and yet we end up with half. 

 Systems like Universal Credit and the Child Maintenance Service, childcare settings, schools, and employers need to start basing their decisions and policies on the fact that we are doing double but with half the finances, time, and opportunities. Ultimately, this is what causes the real struggles and inequalities for single parents.