Letter calling on the UK Government to #EndtheYoungParentPenalty

Last updated: 20/02/2023

On 10 June 2021 a cross-party letter was sent to 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 One Parent Families Scotland’s campaign to #EndtheYoungParentPenalty.

There is no reason to treat single parent families differently based on age. 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.

- letter to Therese Coffey, with over 100+ civil society signatories alongside 60 MPs from nine parties

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The letter

Dear Secretary of State,

Re: End the Young Parent Penalty

There are 1.8 million single parents in the UK – around 90% of whom are women. Nearly half of all children in lone-parent families in the UK are living in poverty.

The last year of lockdown has been very difficult for many people across the country – and will have had a disproportionate impact on single parent families. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s Poverty 2020/21 report finds that lone parents, “are more reliant on local jobs, and are more likely to have struggled with childcare during lockdown”.

It is therefore vital that necessary support is put in place for lone parent families.

However, the current welfare system makes it harder for younger single parents to access the appropriate level of support. There are almost 175,000 single parents under 25 across the UK.

Prior to the introduction of Universal Credit in 2013, single parents under 25 were able to claim social security benefits at the rate available for all people aged 25 and over. Under the ‘legacy system’ (Jobseekers’ Allowance, Income Support and Employment Support Allowance,) single parents under 25 are exempted from the lower rate of support in recognition of the cost of caring for a child alone.

However, under Universal Credit, this support was scrapped – and young single parent families are only able to claim the lower standard allowance available to single people under 25 without children. As Universal Credit is being phased in, many young single parents lose the higher rate of income when they have a change of circumstances and have to move to Universal Credit – most often because their youngest child reaches 5 years and they can no longer claim Income Support.

The result is that young single parent families are up to £66.13 worse off per month under Universal Credit than with the legacy system – a drop of 20%. There is no reason to treat single parent families differently based on age. 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.

We, the undersigned, urge you to End the Young Parent Penalty and extend the allowance to claimants of Universal Credit.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

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The signatories


SallyAnn Kelly, CEO, Aberlour 

Linda Tuthill, CEO, The Action Group

Alison Wilson, Financial Advocacy Officer, Amina Muslim Women’s Resource Centre

Beth Cadger, National Co-Coordinator, Article 12 in Scotland

Jim Whiston, Director, Ayrshire Housing 

Javed Khan, Chief Executive, Barnardos

Rhiannon Clapperton, Director of Policy, Campaigns and Communications, Become 

Lisa Watch, Director of Policy, Campaigns and Communications, Become 

Ian McLean, Chief Executive, Bridgewater Housing Association

Katherine O’Brien, Associate Director, British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS)

Dawn Kane, Welfare Rights Officer, Calvay Housing Association

David Graham, National Director, The Care Leavers Association

Kate Wareham, Director: Young People and Families, Catch22

Claire Burns, Director (Acting), Centre for Excellence for Children’s Care and Protection (CELCIS)

Alison Garnham, Chief Executive, Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG)

Mary Glasgow, Chief Executive, Children 1st

Kathy Evans, CEO Children England  

Ellen Finlay, Policy Officer, Children in Northern Ireland

Amy Woodhouse, Joint Acting Chief Executive, Children in Scotland

Paula Stringer, CEO, Christians Against Poverty

Willy Barr, Manager, Citadel Youth Centre

Derek Mitchell, CEO, Citizens Advice Scotland

Anna Ritchie Allan, Executive Director, Close the Gap

Annie Gunner Logan, Director, Coalition of Care and Support Providers Scotland (CCPS)

Carolyn Sawers, Acting CEO, Corra Foundation

Ewan Aitken, Chief Executive, Cyrenians

Anton Babey, CEO, Drive Forward Foundation

Megan Davies, Head of Political Engagement, Drive Forward Foundation

Robert Murray, Housing Services Manager, Dunbritton Housing Association Ltd

Jane Brumpton, CEO, Early Years Scotland 

Andy Young, Chief Executive, East Kilbride Housing Association

Dot Horne, Director, Edinburgh City Youth Cafe 

Emma Ritch, Executive Director, Engender 

Dr Wanda Wyporska, Executive Director, The Equality Trust

Professor Nancy Loucks, Chief Executive, Families Outside 

Cathy Ashley, Chief Executive, Family Rights Group

Andrew Forsey, National Director, Feeding Britain

Laura Millar, Strategic Manager, Fife Gingerbread

Susan McGhee, Chief Executive, Flexible Childcare Services Scotland

Victoria Benson, CEO, Gingerbread

David Bookbinder, Director, Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations

Tressa Burke, CEO, Glasgow Disability Alliance

Emma Cormack, Chief Executive Officer, The Health Agency

Professor Ian Welsh OBE, Chief Executive, Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland (the ALLIANCE)

Morag Bisset, Welfare Rights Officer, Hillhead Housing Association 

Christine Carlin, Director, Home-Start 

Martin Dorchester, CEO, Includem

Iain Smith, National and Local Policy Manager, Inclusion Scotland 

Sabine Goodwin, Coordinator, Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN)

Rachel Statham, Senior Research Fellow, IPPR Scotland

Lesley-Anne Junner, Director of Finance & Corporate Services, Linstone Housing

Joanne Smith, Chair, Maternal Mental Health Scotland

Alan Markey, Chair, National Association of Welfare Rights Advisers (NAWRA)

Craig Samuel, Scotland Representative, National Association of Welfare Rights Advisers (NAWRA)

Joanna Barrett, Head of Policy (Nations), National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) Scotland

Alexandra Brennan, Coordinator, Northern Ireland Women’s Budget Group (NIWBG)

Satwat Rehman, Chief Executive, One Parent Families Scotland

Jamie Livingstone, Head of Oxfam Scotland 

Clare Simpson, Manager, Parenting Across Scotland

Jackie Tolland, CEO, Parent Network Scotland

Peter Kelly, The Poverty Alliance

Joeli Brearley, Founder and CEO, Pregnant Then Screwed  

Melody Douglas, Chief Executive, Rees Foundation

Ruth Davison, CEO, Refuge

Claire Telfer, Head of Scotland, Save the Children UK

Becca Lyon, Head of Campaigns (UK Poverty), Save the Children UK 

Charlie McMillan, Chief Executive, Scottish Commission for People with Learning Disabilities (SCLD)

Rhona Willder, Development Manager, Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance

Irene Audain MBE, Chief Executive, Scottish Out of School Care Network

Pamela Graham, (Interim) CEO, Scottish Throughcare and Aftercare Forum (Staf)

Eireann McAuley, Equality and Policy Officer, Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC)

Brenda Carson, Chair of the STUC Women’s Committee and GMB Convener

Fiona Steele, Vice Chair of the STUC Women’s Committee and deputy general secretary of Aegeis the Union

Marsha Scott, CEO, Scottish Women’s Aid 

Sara Cowan, Coordinator, Scottish Women’s Budget Group

Agnes Tolmie, Chair, Scottish Women’s Convention

Rich Grahame, CEO, Settle  

Alison Watson, Director, Shelter Scotland 

Trishna Singh OBE, Director, Sikh Sanjog

Ruth Talbot, Founder, Single Parent Rights

Dr Nicola Sharp-Jeffs OBE, Chief Executive, Surviving Economic Abuse

Juliet Harris, Director, Together (Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights)

Thomas Lawson, Chief Executive, Turn2us

Dr Mary-Ann Stephenson, Director, UK Women’s Budget Group

Dr. Anastacia Ryan, Founder of Umbrella Lane

Alicia Toal, Chief Executive, Voice of Young People in Care

Sara Kirkpatrick, CEO, Welsh Women’s Aid

Louise Hunter, Chief Executive, Who Cares? Scotland

Farah Nazeer, Chief Executive, Women’s Aid Federation of England

Catherine Fookes, Director, Women’s Equality Network (WEN) Wales

Dr Patrycja Kupiec, Director, YWCA Scotland – The Young Women’s Movement

Mark Gale, Policy and Campaigns Manager, Young Women’s Trust

Joanna Zawadzka, Campaigns and Engagement Officer, Zero Tolerance

Rachel Adamson, Co-Director, Zero Tolerance

Anela AnwarChief Executive, Z2K (Zacchaeus 2000 Trust)


Dr Hayley Bennett, Lecturer in Social Policy, University of Edinburgh

Professor Jonathan Bradshaw, University of York

Dr Eldin Fahmy, Senior Lecturer in Social Policy, School for Policy Studies, University of Bristol

Professor Peter Fleming CBE, Centre for Academic Child Health, University of Bristol

Professor David Gordon, University of Bristol

Dr Rita Griffiths, Research Fellow at the Institute for Policy Research, University of Bath

Dr Mark R. Hayllar, retired Associate Professor, City University of Hong Kong

Stewart Lansley, Visiting Fellow, University of Bristol

Professor the Baroness Ruth Lister, Member of the House of Lords

Professor John H. McKendrick, Scottish Poverty and Inequality Research Unit, Glasgow Caledonian University

Dr Angela O’Hagan, WISE Centre for Economic Justice

Professor Emeritus Adrian Sinfield of Social Policy, University of Edinburgh

Professor Morag Treanor, I-SPHERE, Heriot-Watt University

Dr Sarah Weakley, social security and poverty researcher at the University of Glasgow

Marsha Wood, Research Assistant at the Institute for Policy Research, University of Bath

Members of Parliament




Wendy Chamberlain

Liberal Democrats

North East Fife

Munira Wilson

Liberal Democrats


Ed Davey

Liberal Democrats

Kingston & Surbiton

Daisy Cooper

Liberal Democrats

St Albans

Christine Jardine

Liberal Democrats

Edinburgh West

Layla Moran

Liberal Democrats

Oxford West and Abingdon

Tim Farron

Liberal Democrats

Westmorland and Lonsdale

Alistair Carmichael

Liberal Democrats

Orkney and Shetland

Wera Hobhouse

Liberal Democrats


Sarah Olney

Liberal Democrats

Richmond Park

Jamie Stone

Liberal Democrats

Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross

David Linden


Glasgow East

Stephen Farry


North Down

Stella Creasy



Stewart McDonald


Glasgow South

Ben Lake

Plaid Cymru


Alan Brown


Kilmarnock and Loudoun

Drew Hendry


Inverness, Nain, Badenoch and Strathspey

Alyn Smith



Owen Thompson



Christopher Stephens


Glasgow South West

Anne McLaughlin


Glasgow North East

Alison Thewliss


Glasgow Central

Mhairi Black


Paisley and Renfrewshire

Kirsty Blackman


Aberdeen North

Dr Philippa Whitford


Central Ayrshire

Richard Thomson



Patrick Grady


Glasgow North

Bell Ribeiro-Addy



Allan Dorans


Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock

Amy Callaghan


East Dunbartonshire

Carla Lockhart


Upper Bann

Martyn Day


Linlithgow & East Falkirk Constituency

Hannah Bardell



Neale Hanvey


Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath

Claudia Webbe


Leicester East

Douglas Chapman


Dunfermline and West Fife

Marion Fellows


Motherwell and Wishaw

Mr Martin Docherty-Hughes


West Dunbartonshire

Clive Lewis


Norwich South

Angela Crawley


Lanark and Hamilton East

Mohammad Yasin



Steven Bonnar


Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill

Caroline Lucas


Brighton, Pavilion

Patricia Gibson


North Ayrshire and Arran

Claire Hanna


Belfast South

Tommy Sheppard


Edinburgh East

George Howarth



Paula Barker


Liverpool Wavertree

Kevin Brennan


Cardiff West

Chris Law


Dundee West

Kim Johnson


Liverpool Riverside

Colum Eastwood



John Nicolson


Ochil and South Perthshire

Kirsten Oswald


East Renfrewshire

Stuart McDonald


Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch

Ian Byrne 


Liverpool West Derby  

Diedre Brock


Edinburgh North and Leith

John McDonnell  


Hayes and Harlington  


Angus MacNeil  


Na h-Eileanan an Iar  

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The campaign

Find out more about the Young Parent Penalty and our campaign to end it here.

Read Olivia’s story of losing out when she was moved from Jobseeker’s Allowance to Universal Credit.

Read Shannon’s story of how she struggled after being moved from Income Support to Universal Credit.

See our list of original campaign supporters and their statements on why ending the young parent penalty is so important.