Press: Single Parents – Tackling Their Top 10 Priorities
Press Release: 01 June 2015
Following consultations with hundreds of single parents from across Scotland, One Parent Families Scotland has identified 10 issues including negative attitudes, childcare, welfare reform, and employment as key to improving the lives of Scotland’s 170,000 single parents on a daily basis. OPFS has been campaigning for and supporting single parents for over 70 years.
Some of the single parents involved will give voice to their concerns at a Scottish Parliament reception being held tomorrow (2 June) hosted by Christina McKelvie MSP.
OPFS is asking for an expansion of free childcare to allow parents to work and study which will benefit all children. On welfare reform, the organisation would like to see an end to sanctions and the approach of pushing lone parents into work; it believes single parents should be able to make real choices around training, education or sustainable employment. It would also like to see work-age benefits and Job Centre Plus devolved to Scotland. OPFS is asking for benefits and tax credits to be set at a level so that one parent families are not left in poverty and can lead a dignified life. The charity supports the Living Wage and wants to see more flexible family friendly working which takes school hours into consideration. It is also continuing to challenge stereotypes in the media which lead to single parents still suffering stigma.
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.”
Fiona McLeod, Acting Minister for Children & 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. Our Child Poverty Strategy is designed to reduce the levels of poverty amongst households with children and to break inter-generational cycles of poverty, inequality and deprivation. We welcome One Parent Families Scotland’s involvement in the child poverty advisory group and the First Minister will be appointing a Poverty Advisor soon.
“Last year we extended funded childcare to 16 hours per week for all three and four year olds and are also extending this to the 27 per cent most disadvantaged two year olds. We have set out our ambitions to go even further and provide 30 funded hours per week. This will help parents return to work or training and will give children the best start in life. Our free school meals policy for all children in primary 1-3 will benefit an extra 135,000 pupils across Scotland and will save families at least £330 a year for each eligible child. We also encourage every organisation to ensure all staff receive a fair level of pay. Our approach to Fair Work recognises the importance of fair pay as part of wider promotion of fairness and participation in workplaces. Our commitment to supporting the Living Wage is a key part of this.”
Cara Hilton, shadow Minister for Children & Young People, said:
“One Parent Families Scotland are doing a fantastic job in addressing the biggest challenges facing single parents here in Scotland and I welcome the launch of their programme for change.
“Every child should be given the best possible start in life. However, against a backdrop of rising living costs, cuts to tax credits and child benefit, Tory austerity measures and ever spiralling childcare costs, we are seeing many more vulnerable single parent families being driven towards poverty. Action is needed now to deliver improved family friendly working and flexible childcare in order to tackle this and give parents and children every opportunity to succeed in life.
“One Parent Families Scotland’s approach to offering encouragement and support is valuable in achieving that too and this event gives those families who may feel helpless both a voice and a platform to bring their very real experiences and concerns to the forefront of the political agenda.”
Gina from Glasgow is a single parent with three children. Her experience with the Work Programme has been far from successful. She was placed in a job with a call centre and was threatened with sanctions if she did not take up the job even though the hours didn’t fit with her childcare. After two weeks this job turned out to be unsuitable as it required her to be self-employed. The second job she was placed in was unable to pay her the full amount she was owed for her four weeks work, pushing her into significant debt and rent arrears and putting her under severe stress for which she has been signed off by her doctor.
Sean from Edinburgh has one son, aged 9. He had problems getting custody of his son for which he had to go to court and was also in dispute with the Social Work department who seemed to be biased against him as a father. He joined a fathers’ group run by OPFS which has supported him through the practical challenges of being a single dad and provided a good social outlet. Sean says: “I have made many friends within the group and have built my confidence and parenting skills. Through discussions with other dads I have learned the different approaches to parenting and dealing with situations that arise. I have also learned that I am not alone and that many of us face similar situations and challenges.”
Notes to Editors
- OPFS’s 10 Policy Priorities are available on the OPFS website.
- OPFS offers a free telephone helpline and information service to single parents. It also runs community based projects in Aberdeenshire, Dundee, Edinburgh, Falkirk, Glasgow and North & South Lanarkshire. These include flexible childcare services, lone fathers support, teen parent services, supporting parents return to work, family support and advice for parents and their children.
- Website: www.opfs.org.uk
- There are 170,000 single parents in Scotland, looking after 291,000 children – one in four families.
- The average (median) age of single parents is 38.
- 65% are in work and the overwhelming majority of the rest want to work.
- Fewer than 2% are teenagers.
- The majority have just one child.
- There are increasing numbers of lone fathers – currently 8%.
For further information please contact:
Marion Davis, Policy & Research Advisor
Tel: 07794 226484
Sarah Barclay, PR Consultant
Tel: 07849 425661