Single parents in Scotland want to see free childcare expanded to allow them to work and study, a new report has found.
The charity One Parent Families Scotland (OPFS) is also calling for an end to stereotypes in the media which lead to single parents still “suffering stigma”.
Four in ten children in one-parent families are poorSatwat Rehman, OPFS
A consultation published by the group makes the case for working age benefits and Job Centre Plus to be devolved to Scotland.
It comes ahead of a reception in the Scottish Parliament tonight and sets out ten issues facing lone parents including negative attitudes, welfare reform and employment.
There are currently about 170,000 lone parents living in Scotland.
Satwat Rehman, director of OPFS, said: “Our consultations with single parents have revealed that although all parents want the best for their children, many are struggling to provide this when confronted by policies which appear to fly in the face of children’s best interests. Because of the additional barriers they face, single parents are more at risk of being in poverty.
“Over four in ten children in one-parent families are poor, compared to just over two in ten of children in couple families. We hope our ten priorities will be taken seriously by policy-makers with the aim of making life better for the 291,000 children currently living in one-parent families.”
The organisation is asking for an expansion of free childcare from the current level of about three hours a day for three and four-year-olds.
Nicola Sturgeon has previously said she wants to move to a system of full-time free childcare to get a generation of Scottish mothers back into the workplace.
On welfare reform, OPFS would like to see an end to sanctions and the “approach of pushing lone parents into work”.
It is calling for work-age benefits and Job Centre Plus devolved to Scotland and wants to see benefits and tax credits set at a level which means one-parent families are not left in poverty.
Fiona McLeod, acting minister for children and young people, said: “It is unacceptable that any child in Scotland grows up in poverty and the Scottish Government is committed to tackling the root causes of poverty through early intervention, maximising incomes and promoting life chances.”
She said the government has already extended free childcare and that the introduction of free school meals in primary one to three will benefit an extra 135,000 pupils.
Cara Hilton, Labour’s spokeswoman for children and young people, said austerity cuts have meant rising living costs, cuts to tax credits and child benefit.
“We are seeing many more vulnerable single-parent families being driven towards poverty,” Ms Hilton said.