Press release: Cross-party MPs urge government to end ‘young parent penalty’ in Universal Credit



Senior cross-party MPs including Liberal Democrat work and pensions spokesperson Wendy Chamberlain, the SNP’s David Linden and Labour MP Stella Creasy have urged the UK Government to reinstate support for young single parents which was removed under Universal Credit. 

A letter on the issue, sent on 10 June to secretary of state for work and pensions Therese Coffey, has been signed by 60 MPs from nine political parties across the four nations, alongside over 100 signatories representing leading charities and academic experts in poverty.

Under the ‘legacy’ system, which includes Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support and Employment Support Allowance, under 25s who are single parents are paid the adult rate of benefits. This was scrapped under Universal Credit, so that all under 25s are paid the lower standard allowance, regardless of whether they are parents.

Supporters of the call to reverse the policy include Child Poverty Action Group, Save the Children UK, Barnardos, Gingerbread, Turn2Us, and One Parent Families Scotland (OPFS). OPFS launched a campaign to reverse the policy earlier this year, which sparked the interest of the MPs who are now raising the issue with the government.

The letter says that the change to the benefits system has left young single parent families up to 20% worse off per month. The signatories argue that “there is no reason to treat single parent families differently based on age” and that “the current welfare system makes it harder for younger single parents to access the appropriate level of support”.

The letter adds: “Whether under or over 25, single parents have a high percentage of their household income taken up by caring for a child as they are both the sole breadwinner and carer for their family. The Government’s decision not to extend this support can only therefore be seen as a Young Parent Penalty.”

Leading the charge to push the government to reinstate the adult rate of benefits for young single parents is Wendy Chamberlain MP, chief whip for the Liberal Democrats.

Wendy Chamberlain commented: “Being a young parent is incredibly challenging, even more so if you are single. This was historically recognised through the provision of additional welfare support for single parents under the age of 25.

“It seems ludicrous that this hasn’t been maintained under Universal Credit and that the Government has failed to give satisfactory answers about why.”

All Liberal Democrat MPs have signed the letter, while other signatories include 31 SNP MPs, 10 Labour MPs, Green MP Caroline Lucas, Plaid Cymru spokesperson for housing, communities and local government Ben Lake, DUP MP Carla Lockhart, and Alliance MP Stephen Farry.

Speaking in support of the campaign, Labour MP Stella Creasy said: “Becoming a parent at a young age can be challenging for anyone, but finding that the benefits system penalises you for this makes giving your child the best start in life even more complicated.  

“The young parent penalty in Universal credit must be addressed to ensure every family at any age gets the help and support they need to thrive.”

SNP spokesperson for work and pensions David Linden MP commented: “It is vital that young parents are treated the same as any other single parent family.

“I am supporting the One Parent Families Scotland campaign to end the Young Parent Penalty and ensure that the 175,000 single parents under the age of 25 are able to access the support they need. Now more than ever, as we recover from a pandemic, families across Scotland should be adequately supported.”

Learn more

Find out more about the campaign to End the Young Parent Penalty launched by One Parent Families Scotland.

Read the letter to the UK Government and the full list of signatories.

This comes amid calls from charities and MPs to keep the uplift of £20 per week to Universal Credit, which is due to end in October, and to extend it to legacy benefits.

According to analysis from Citizens Advice Scotland, which is among the signatories of the letter, single people under 25 are going to lose the greatest proportion of their current support when the uplift is removed.

A range of leading women’s organisations are also among those urging the government to address the inequality for young single parents in Universal Credit, given that over 90% of single parents are women.

Signatories to the letter include the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, Young Women’s Trust, Women’s Aid in England, Scotland and Wales, Refuge, the UK, Northern Irish and Scottish Women’s Budget Groups, and the Women’s Equality Network (WEN) Wales.