Conservative party risk ‘demonising’ single parents with benefits cuts, warns children’s commissioner

Children’s commissioner Anne Longfield says government going back to an 'outdated viewpoint' regarding single-parent families: Rex
Children’s commissioner Anne Longfield says government going back to an 'outdated viewpoint' regarding single-parent families: Rex

The children’s commissioner has warned that the government risks “demonising” single parents after new figures suggested hundred of thousands of them will be worse off under universal credit.

Nearly half of children from single-parent families live in poverty across the UK, compared to around a quarter of those raised by two parents.

This chasm has grown wider in recent years, with poverty rates for single-parent children rising about twice as much than those from two-parent families within five years.

Children’s commissioner Anne Longfield said single parents had been “disproportionately affected” by universal credit, which rolls different benefits into a single monthly payment, as well as broader welfare reforms.

“There is a great risk here that the government looks like it’s going back to an outdated viewpoint ... which is demonising both single parents but also families claiming benefit, and working mothers,” she told The Times.

The warning comes after The Independent reported that the number of single mothers that were homeless had increased by nearly 50 per cent in the last eight years.

Housing charity Shelter said they were “deeply concerned” about the rising number of single parents being tipped into homelessness.

Experts have warned that a combination of factors are conspiring to make life harder for single parents, about 90 per cent of whom are women.

Government figures show that over 70 per cent of the households that have had their housing benefit capped are single-parent families, while the Institute for Fiscal Studies has calculated that out-of-work lone parents have lost over £3,000 every year since 2015.

A report by the Resolution Foundation set to be published next week predicts that while 400,000 single parents will be better off under universal credit, 600,000 will lose out.

The foundation said the government must make serious changes to the system, which otherwise risks trapping lone parents in low-paid work with short hours.

The cumulative effect of these policies amounts to an effective war on single parents, according to chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, Alison Garnham, akin to past Conservative policies that have targeted this demographic.

“The anti-lone parent rhetoric has gone but policies are doing the job alone,” she said.

Education secretary Damian Hinds said the solution to helping such people out of poverty is boosting the economy.

“If you ask Tory MPs what brought you into politics it is to help people and try to spread opportunity, he said, while noting that “you can’t magic money out of thin air”, he said.

Responding to the criticism of the current universal credit system, a spokesperson from the Department for Work and Pensions said: "Universal credit is a modern benefit based on the sound principles that work should always pay and those who need support receive it.

"It replaces an out-of-date, complex benefits system which often trapped people in unemployment."

They noted that improvements had already been made to universal credit, and an additional £4.5bn had been announced in the Budget to support more people as they transfer to the system.

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