Scottish Government urged to help young families facing “bleak” poverty rates
The Scottish Government has been urged to offer young parents more financial support as a new report highlights the depth of inequality facing young families.
A report by the government on child poverty in families with a mother aged under 25 reveals staggering rates of hardship. 55% of children with young mums live in relative poverty and 49% live in absolute poverty – more than double the rate for all children in Scotland.
Young parents get less support in benefits from the UK Government because of their age, a policy which was introduced with Universal Credit in 2013.
As a result, young couple parent households are around £100 worse off per month when they move onto Universal Credit from the old benefits system, while single parents are £65 worse off.
Charities One Parent Families Scotland and Child Poverty Action Group have campaigned for the reversal of the UK policy, branded the ‘young parent penalty’, and say it is now vital for the Scottish Government to mitigate it through the Scottish Child Payment.
One Parent Families Scotland Chief Executive Satwat Rehman said: “The Scottish Government’s new analysis of the causes of poverty in families with young mums shines a light on the challenges faced by many young families. Inequality in wages and social security, as well as barriers to education and employment, stigma, poor mental health, are all rightly highlighted as factors driving poverty.
“We know from our work with young parents that daily struggles over meeting living costs can make parenting harder and can have long-term effects on the wellbeing of both children and parents. This report and the bleak statistics within it should act as a rallying cry to all levels of government.
“We want to see the Westminster Government reverse the unjust young parent penalty to reflect the costs of raising a child and equalise the equal National Living Wage for those under 23.
“In the meantime, we are calling on the Scottish Government to act urgently to mitigate this inequality and address the dire situation facing young families by providing a ‘top up’ through the Scottish Child Payment to all households impacted by the young parent penalty. At a minimum, this payment should bring young parent families’ support through social security in line with that provided to parents aged 25 and over.
“Children in poverty can’t afford to wait.”
One Parent Families Scotland supported the Scottish Government’s research into young families by enabling young mums from its local services in Glasgow and Lanarkshire to share their experiences.
The charity has also recommended that the Scottish Government: support the development of a national programme of tailored employability support for young mothers including further and higher education; expand access to flexible, affordable childcare to help young mums access education and job opportunities; ensure the public transport system works for young mums; and invest further in social housing and strengthen housing rights.
Ed Pybus of Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland said: “It is not right but not surprising that young parents are more likely to be in poverty.
“The social security system penalises them and they face lower wages and greater barriers to employment. That’s why the UK Government must immediately end the under 25 penalty in universal credit by paying parents under 25 the same rate as other working age adults.
“In the meantime, the Scottish government could also do more to tackle the immediate hardship young families face.
“We urge Holyrood ministers to explore how they can use their social security powers to mitigate the under 25 penalty, and to do more ensure young parents have the childcare they need to access the education and job opportunities available to them.”
Emma*, a young mum from North Lanarkshire who took part in the research commented: “Once all my bills are paid, I find it hard to afford food and I make sure my child gets food first and I get whatever is left.
“My child is young, and a huge amount of money goes on baby milk as it’s so expensive and runs out really quickly, but he needs to have it. An extra £66 per month would take the baby milk money worry away.”
Another contributor to the research, Marnie, aged 19 with a 2-year-old son said: “The main challenge just now is paying bills that are getting more expensive.
“Gas and Leckie bills are so high I’m choosing to keep the lights on and buying less food. Obviously, I’m feeding the wee man, but I’m eating less and that’s not right!” *A pseudonym has been used for this parent as she wished to remain anonymous.