Many single parents have been forced into debt due to the pandemic - and are going without food

Wednesday, 10th February 2021, 4:12 pm
Updated Wednesday, 10th February 2021, 4:13 pm
Many single parents have been forced into debt due to the pandemic - and are going without food (Photo: Shutterstock)

Single parents are the UK group most likely to be living with problem debt, with those working full-time the most heavily impacted, due to childcare costs, according to new research.

Increased costs and loss of work due to the Covid pandemic have driven many single parents into “persistent poverty”, according to a new report, which found that a quarter of single parents working full-time had to use credit to pay for childcare.

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Going without food

Experts say that, while single parents generally shield their children from the worst impacts of poverty as much as possible, this typically means they have suffered further hardship themselves.

Around two thirds of single parents have been forced to go without food as a result of debt and poverty, while one in five had had to cut back on food for their children.

The report, put together by single parent charity Gingerbread and the debt charity StepChange, adds to a growing body of research which shows that the least wealthy in society have generally been hit hardest by the pandemic, and are in need of greater government support.

Just under half of single parents reported taking on more debt during the pandemic, with the average debt increasing by more than £600 per single parent household.

A lack of homeschooling equipment and increased childcare costs have contributed to debt and poverty, as well as high fixed costs and economic abuse.

The report also found that 19 per cent of single parents had to use a food bank as a result of problem debt, while 68 per cent of those with problem debt reported suffering with depression.

What can be done to help?

Gingerbread and StepChange point to a number of potential solutions to the issue of problem debt, particularly among single parents.

These include maintaining the £20 per week Universal Credit uplift and extending it to legacy benefits, removing the benefit cap and greater enforcement on child support payment.

The charities also recommend more support for low income families looking to save, and the creation of a Minimum Income Commission.

Victoria Benson, Chief Executive of Gingerbread said: “Without these crucial changes single parents and their children will continue to experience poverty and to suffer the disadvantage this brings.”

“Before the pandemic around 70 per cent of single parents were in work but this didn’t protect them or their children from poverty. It’s shocking that in 2021 so many are forced to go hungry in order to repay debts built up as their income doesn’t even cover basic living costs.”