Campaign to end young parent penalty in Scotland

A cut in support for young single parents based on their age is “unfair and unjustified”, charities have warned as they called on government to rethink Universal Credit policy.

Olivia and her daughter support the 'end the young parent penalty' campaign

One Parent Families Scotland (OPFS) said single parents under the age of 25 are being pushed into poverty, as they face a drop of around 20 per cent in income under Universal Credit

OPFS has joined forces with more than 30 Scottish and UK-wide charities to campaign for a reversal in government policy, after the body has seen an increase in lone parents struggling to make ends meet when they move to Universal Credit.

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Before Universal Credit was introduced, there was a specific exemption for single parents to the lower rate of benefits for adults under 25.

But the exemption has been removed leaving young single parents moving onto the new benefit up to £66.13 worse off each month,

OPFS has demanded the government restore this exemption as it launched the ‘end the young parent penalty’ campaign on Mother’s Day to highlight inequality faced by mums.

More than ninety per cent of lone parents are women and the majority are in employment.

The new campaign is supported by leading charities, including Barnardos Scotland, Save the Children UK and Zero Tolerance.

Chief executive Satwat Rehman said: “Denying young single parents the same level of social security penalises children based on their parent’s age and pushes young families into poverty. We think this is unfair, unjustified and needs to be reversed as a matter of urgency.

“Children in single parent families are already twice as likely to be living in poverty than other children – the Young Parent Penalty removes support from those who need it most.

“We’re urging the government to take action so that no mother is left struggling to make ends meet for her child based on an arbitrary and unjust inequality in the social security system.”

Olivia, a 22-year-old mother said: “I don’t understand how someone over 25 gets more for being in the same situation that I am in.

"Even though they’ve put the money up on Universal Credit during the pandemic, it’s not going to help when the money gets cut again. Even just now I’m struggling with Universal Credit.”

A spokesperson for the Women’s Budget Group UK said: “Single mums face a magnified struggle to combine paid work with caring responsibilities and the consequence is that single parents are one of the groups more likely to live in poverty.

"This lays bare the inadequacy of the UK’s childcare system and the social security safety net. Single parents under 25 face the same costs to raise a family as older parents and it is not right that they should be disadvantaged under Universal Credit.”

A UK Government spokesperson said:

“We are committed to supporting those most in need, including young single parents, which is why we’re spending hundreds of billions to safeguard jobs, boosting welfare support by billions, raising the living wage and providing funding for Discretionary Housing Payments.

“We are increasing the number of Work Coaches to ensure that everyone who needs it, including single parents, will have access to one-on-one tailored support and we have protected formal childcare arrangements eligibility for parents using our 30 hours free childcare offer.”

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