Local spotlight: changing lives and challenging poverty with Edinburgh single parents
One Parent Families Scotland (OPFS) Edinburgh has been supporting single parent families for 75 years and is now the only service exclusively working with single parents in the capital.
In a city where over one in four (27%) of families is headed by a single parent, and where one in five children are living in poverty – a figure which has only risen over the last few years – we believe tailored support aimed at single parent families is more important than ever. And as one of the hardest hit groups by the economic and social impacts of the pandemic, support for single parents is only going to become more vital.
Through mental health and wellbeing groups, family activities, employability and digital support, and practical advice and information, our Edinburgh service helps families to reach their potential.
- single parent, Edinburgh
A mum OPFS has supported speaks about her experience using our services during the Covid-19 pandemic:
Why is supporting single parent families different?
- It is well understood that single parent families across Scotland are at a higher risk of poverty than other families – as of 2019/20, two in five children in single parent households were living in poverty.
- Structural barriers such as limited access and information to affordable and flexible childcare, as well as limited quality flexible working options, make it harder for single parents to get into employment or to progress in their jobs.
- But for many of the single parents we work with in Edinburgh, the most challenging aspect of raising children on their own is feeling isolated and without significant support. Not because it is hard work (though it is), but because that isolation contributes to low self-esteem, poor confidence and contributes to anxiety and depression.
- There is still stigma associated with being a single parent, which only exacerbates these feelings. Bodies such as the Economic and Social Research Council acknowledge this impact, alongside 74% of parents asked in our 2014 survey who told us they had experienced negative attitudes or stigma in the past two years. This is what makes the experience of single parents fundamentally different to families with two adults in the household.
- Given that 92% of single (resident) parents are women, we know that these issues are part of a bigger picture of gender inequality.
- single parent, Edinburgh
Support for parents
Find out more about our Edinburgh service and how to get in touch if you or someone you know or work with needs support.
Read the story of Edinburgh single mum Anita, who was supported through our employability programmes and wellbeing groups.
Read Stephen’s story, a single dad who came to the OPFS Edinburgh dads’ group after social work recommended he reach out for some support.
How is OPFS Edinburgh responding to these needs?
At OPFS, we prioritise connecting single parents with each other as a means of reducing isolation at the same time as providing other forms of support. The increased confidence and motivation that comes from this mode of delivery better enables parents to take on the bigger barriers they face.
Over the past year, OPFS Edinburgh has supported over 200 families, through:
- Over 100 online groups and activities, including:
- Mental Health and Wellbeing groups that focus on self-care and parents understanding their own stories.
- Family Support that gets children and parents out doing free activities each weekend (when most services do not operate), including groups specifically for dads and children.
- Employability and Digital Skills support to help parents gain the skills to effectively look and prepare for work or education.
- 304 direct and indirect grants provided to single parents, totalling £21, 269.
- 108 computers and WiFi connections, and ongoing digital courses and one-to-one support.
- And over 2000 calls and video calls to support families individually. This includes advice and information on issues tailored to the experiences of single parents, including benefits, child contact, separating, and money issues.
- Through our work with dads and children where the father is the resident parent, we have supported fathers through advocacy with other services, parenting skills, practical advice and signposting. For many of these families, foster care has been a consideration, but through this early intervention many children have been able to remain in the care of their parent.
- single parent, Edinburgh
How can you help?
To help One Parent Families Scotland’s local services in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Dundee and Falkirk to keep supporting single parents and their children, you can become a regular donor or make a one-off contribution.
With more support, we could reach more families.
We believe passionately that the city needs more services tailored to the needs of single parents, and One Parent Families Scotland Edinburgh is ideally placed to deliver this support. From our years of experience of working with single parents and their children, we have listened and adapted services to respond to what families tell us they need and what works.
The Edinburgh Poverty Commission’s report ‘A Just Capital,’ published in September last year, recognises that single parents are at a particular risk of living in poverty. Most powerfully, the report acknowledges: “To end poverty in the city, the pre-condition and the single biggest transformation Edinburgh could achieve would be to make the experience of seeking help less painful, more humane, and more compassionate.”
At its core, this is the ethos of One Parent Families Scotland Edinburgh, and it’s what parents who come to our services tell us makes such a difference to them. Without recognising the unique needs of one quarter of the city’s families, we will fail in achieving the aims of the Poverty Commission and we will not create the ‘Just Capital’ we are striving for.