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If you’re blaming single parents for terrorism, you’re looking in the wrong place Blaming single parents for terrorism? You’re looking in the wrong place
(35 minutes later)
Every morning during termtime, two million single parents in the UK drop their children off at school or childcare. Many of them were trying to keep their toddler distracted while attempting other tasks – applying for a college place, for example, or attending a baby group in the local children’s centre.Every morning during termtime, two million single parents in the UK drop their children off at school or childcare. Many of them were trying to keep their toddler distracted while attempting other tasks – applying for a college place, for example, or attending a baby group in the local children’s centre.
All the single parents I’ve met since I started my role as chief executive at Gingerbread have consistently told me the same thing; that stability and wellbeing for their children is their number one priority when it comes to their decision-making. That’s why it’s so insulting to see the headline-grabbing comments of Paul Coleridge, founder of the Marriage Foundation. In lieu of promoting marriage, he seems more interested in demonising unmarried families. Hence his statement that an “epidemic of family breakdown is fuelling terrorism”.All the single parents I’ve met since I started my role as chief executive at Gingerbread have consistently told me the same thing; that stability and wellbeing for their children is their number one priority when it comes to their decision-making. That’s why it’s so insulting to see the headline-grabbing comments of Paul Coleridge, founder of the Marriage Foundation. In lieu of promoting marriage, he seems more interested in demonising unmarried families. Hence his statement that an “epidemic of family breakdown is fuelling terrorism”.
There’s no 'epidemic' – the proportion of families headed by a single parent has remained about the same for nearly 20 yearsThere’s no 'epidemic' – the proportion of families headed by a single parent has remained about the same for nearly 20 years
This would be concerning if it was true – after all, one in four families with the children in the UK are headed by single parents. But there’s no “epidemic” – the proportion of families headed by a single parent has remained about the same for nearly 20 years. There is also no credible evidence that being raised in a single-parent family is inherently harmful when it comes to the development of children. And while marriage is often a wonderful thing, all the available analysis suggests that in fact parental conflict (rather than parental separation) is the factor that is most likely to have a negative impact on children in the long run.This would be concerning if it was true – after all, one in four families with the children in the UK are headed by single parents. But there’s no “epidemic” – the proportion of families headed by a single parent has remained about the same for nearly 20 years. There is also no credible evidence that being raised in a single-parent family is inherently harmful when it comes to the development of children. And while marriage is often a wonderful thing, all the available analysis suggests that in fact parental conflict (rather than parental separation) is the factor that is most likely to have a negative impact on children in the long run.
Of course, there are challenges associated with raising children on your own. We know from both our research and the myriad calls we receive daily on our helpline that it can be difficult for single parents to juggle all the demands put on them. But it is poverty that is the actual problem here. Lack of money – rather than some inherent lack of stability – is what those concerned with the welfare of children should be focusing on.Of course, there are challenges associated with raising children on your own. We know from both our research and the myriad calls we receive daily on our helpline that it can be difficult for single parents to juggle all the demands put on them. But it is poverty that is the actual problem here. Lack of money – rather than some inherent lack of stability – is what those concerned with the welfare of children should be focusing on.
So rather than providing financial “incentives” to get and stay married – in other words providing additional support to those who are likely to need it the least – here are three policy areas the government should be addressing.So rather than providing financial “incentives” to get and stay married – in other words providing additional support to those who are likely to need it the least – here are three policy areas the government should be addressing.
A lack of flexible work and affordable childcareA lack of flexible work and affordable childcare
Two thirds of single parents are in work; and more would be if childcare was affordable and readily available. But even then, work in itself isn’t a financial cure-all. The largest increase in child poverty is seen in working single-parent families, with many single parents falling into the “just about managing” category. We need more flexible work opportunities at all levels, which can fit around parental responsibilities and provide opportunities to progress beyond low-paid roles.Two thirds of single parents are in work; and more would be if childcare was affordable and readily available. But even then, work in itself isn’t a financial cure-all. The largest increase in child poverty is seen in working single-parent families, with many single parents falling into the “just about managing” category. We need more flexible work opportunities at all levels, which can fit around parental responsibilities and provide opportunities to progress beyond low-paid roles.
Failure to collect child maintenanceFailure to collect child maintenance
While flexible work and childcare policies would benefit society as whole, a specific concern for single-parent families is that the majority of single parents don’t receive the child maintenance to which their children are entitled. There’s a staggering £4bn owed in maintenance since 1993 – most of which the government admits will probably never be collected. On top of that, the Child Maintenance Service is opaque, unhelpful, and riddled with loopholes.While flexible work and childcare policies would benefit society as whole, a specific concern for single-parent families is that the majority of single parents don’t receive the child maintenance to which their children are entitled. There’s a staggering £4bn owed in maintenance since 1993 – most of which the government admits will probably never be collected. On top of that, the Child Maintenance Service is opaque, unhelpful, and riddled with loopholes.
A punitive welfare systemA punitive welfare system
Single parents are disproportionately likely to be affected by the benefit cap, which arbitrarily limits the amount of government support non-working families can receive – even when living costs continue to rise. In June, the high court ruled that the benefit cap specifically discriminated against single parents with children under the age of two, a group which understandably struggles the most to get into work. The government has already announced that it will appeal the ruling. And it’s not just out-of-work families bearing the brunt; working single parents on low incomes have been targeted by the cut to the universal credit work allowance.Single parents are disproportionately likely to be affected by the benefit cap, which arbitrarily limits the amount of government support non-working families can receive – even when living costs continue to rise. In June, the high court ruled that the benefit cap specifically discriminated against single parents with children under the age of two, a group which understandably struggles the most to get into work. The government has already announced that it will appeal the ruling. And it’s not just out-of-work families bearing the brunt; working single parents on low incomes have been targeted by the cut to the universal credit work allowance.
In the context of all this, where single-parent families are bearing the brunt of austerity, rhetoric like that of the Marriage Foundation will only promote stigma, rather than solutions. Next year, Gingerbread will celebrate its centenary, marking a century of support for single parents. We look forward to a time when policies empower them – and where language that demonises them is resigned to the past.In the context of all this, where single-parent families are bearing the brunt of austerity, rhetoric like that of the Marriage Foundation will only promote stigma, rather than solutions. Next year, Gingerbread will celebrate its centenary, marking a century of support for single parents. We look forward to a time when policies empower them – and where language that demonises them is resigned to the past.