End the Young Parent Penalty

Last updated: 15/06/2021

Do you think it’s right that single parents under 25 should get less financial support than parents over 25? We know it’s not, but this is what happens under Universal Credit. With your help, we can ask the government to act now to change this.

People under 25 are entitled to a lower allowance of benefits than people aged 25 and over, but before Universal Credit was introduced there was an exemption for single parents in recognition of the cost of caring for a child alone. Now, that exemption has been removed and children are paying the price. 

Young single parent families are up to £66.13 worse off per month under Universal Credit compared with the legacy system – a drop of 20%.

For parents already receiving benefits this means a drop in their family budget when they move to Universal Credit – often through no choice of their own, and with no warning that they will have less money to cover the costs of caring for their children.

We all want all children to have the best start in life – but this isn’t possible when there is inequality built into the safety net which is meant to be there to keep families afloat when times are hard. Denying young single parents the same level of social security penalises children on the basis of their parent’s age and pushes young families into poverty. 

We, and many parents we work with, think this is unfair, unjustified, and needs to be reversed as a matter of urgency.  

This is why we, and the organisations supporting our campaign, are calling on the UK Government to end the young parent penalty by reinstating the exemption for single parents under 25. 

If you agree, please support the campaign by  signing the petition, writing to your MP and sharing your messages of support on social media using the hashtag #EndtheYoungParentPenalty. 

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Letter to the government

On 10 June 2021 a cross-party letter was sent to the UK’s secretary of state for work and pensions Therese Coffey calling for the adult rate of benefits to be restored to single parents under 25 in Universal Credit, as part of the campaign to #EndtheYoungParentPenalty.

The letter gained over 100 signatures representing leading charities, trade unions and academics around the UK, as well as 60 MPs from nine political parties.

Read the letter and list of signatories in full here.


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Why should young single parents be exempt? 

Young single parents should have the same standard allowance as parents over 25, which was the case before Universal Credit. A study by the Social Security Advisory Committee shows that most young parents live independently from their parents. They have the same household costs as older parents.

All Single Parents have the challenge of being the sole breadwinner and carer for their children. However, young parents, because they receive less benefits, are unable to afford a basic standard of living sufficient to cover the cost of food, rent, and other essentials.

By removing this exemption, young single parent families have been put at greater risk of poverty.

  • Research from the Resolution Foundation in 2019 found that young single parents were most likely to lose out as a result of the switch to Universal Credit: 67 per cent of young single parents are expected to end up with less money. 
  • Analysis from Citizens Advice Scotland in 2021 found that the removal of the £20 uplift in Universal Credit would result in the biggest loss for single people under 25.  
  • Children in single parent families (92% of which are headed by women) are already twice as likely to be living in poverty than other children. For children whose parents are under 25, the inequality in social security makes the picture even starker.
  • One Parent Families Scotland’s local services have supported many young parents who have struggled financially as a result of the switch to Universal Credit. Most often, this affects parents who are claiming Income Support and have no choice when their child turns five to move on to Universal Credit.
  • Young single parents who were already receiving Jobseeker’s Allowance can also be forced to move to Universal Credit if, for example, they have to claim Housing Benefit for the first time. Again, this means they will face a loss through no choice of their own.  
  • In most cases, the young parents we work with have been given no warning that they will be receiving less money after the switch. Typically, they are only advised that they will be moved to Universal Credit about a week in advance. 
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Sign the petition

We’ve launched a petition urging the UK Government to reinstate the exemption for young single parents so that they receive the adult rate of Universal Credit and children in single parent families are not penalised on the basis of their parent’s age.

Help us send a strong message that the government needs to act to end the young parent penalty now.

 Sign here
I don’t think it’s right that just because of my age someone older than me that’s got a child the same age as my child is getting more help - we’ve both got a child, we’re both needing to buy the same things and do the same things. I didn’t know when I switched over that I was going to lose out on money. It was hard not only going from being paid every week to monthly but also getting less money.

- Shannon, single mum, aged 21, Lanarkshire

I don’t understand how someone over 25 gets more for being in the same situation that I am. I go to a group with One Parent Families Scotland and there were a few girls that were also under 25 and they were on Jobseeker’s and I was like ‘how are you getting more than me for being in the same situation?’ It doesn’t make sense at all.

- Olivia, single mum, aged 22, Glasgow

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Ask your MP to support the campaign

  1. Open an email to your MP by entering your postcode here:

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2. Download our template letter below. Personalise it with your own views and experiences as this is most likely to have an impact.

3. Copy it into the box and hit send!

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Campaign supporters

Organisations backing the campaign to End the Young Parent Penalty include:

Aberlour, the ALLIANCE (health and social care alliance Scotland), Amina - the Muslim Women's Resource Centre, Barnardos Scotland, British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), Centre for Excellence for Children's Care and Protection (CELCIS), Children 1st, Children in Northern Ireland, Children in Scotland, Child Poverty Action Group Scotland, Christians Against Poverty (CAP), Citadel Youth Centre, Citizens Advice Scotland, Close the Gap, Early Years Scotland, Engender, Fife Gingerbread, Flexible Childcare Services Scotland, Gingerbread, Glasgow Disability Alliance, Home-Start UK, Includem, Inclusion Scotland, Parenting Across Scotland, Parent Network Scotland, Poverty Alliance, Pregnant Then Screwed, Prymface, Save the Children UK, Scottish Out of School Care Network, Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) Women's Committee, Scottish Women's Aid, Scottish Women's Budget Group, Scottish Women's Convention, Scottish Young Greens, Sikh Sanjog, Shelter Scotland, Single Parent Rights, Single Parents Support, Single Parents Wellbeing, Surviving Economic Abuse, Together (Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights), Turn2Us, Who Cares? Scotland, Women's Aid Federation of England, Women's Budget Group, Women’s Equality Network (WEN) Wales, Young Women’s Movement - YWCA Scotland, Zero Tolerance, 6VT Edinburgh City Youth Cafe.

  Read statements of support for the campaign

If your organisation or group would like to sign up to support the campaign or you have other ideas on how to get involved, please get in touch to let us know at media@opfs.org.uk.