End the Young Parent Penalty: Shannon's story
Last updated: 15/03/2021
Shannon is a 21-year-old single mum, based in Glasgow. Shannon shares her experience of transferring from the legacy benefits system to Universal Credit and how the Young Parent Penalty has impacted on her.
[The Job Centre] didn’t really say anything to me about it, it was just Marie at One Parent Families Scotland who said to me it’s coming up and you’re going to need to switch it. They didn’t get in contact with me about it, so I didn’t know when it was going to happen exactly. I think I’m on like £100 a month less, and it was such a weird time.
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. That doesn’t really make sense to me – we’ve both got a child, we’re both needing to buy the same things and we’ve both got to do the same things, so I don’t understand why there is a difference.
I think there should be that exception [for parents], especially because there was beforehand. I didn’t know when I switched over that I was going to lose out on money, so it was hard not only going from being paid every week to monthly but also getting less money. That’s hard to try and budget.
End the Young Parent Penalty
Parents under 25 are entitled to a lower amount of benefits than parents aged 25 and over.
People under 25 were already entitled to a lower rate before the introduction of Universal Credit, but there used to be an exemption for single parents in recognition of the cost of caring for a child alone. Now, that exemption has been removed.
Find out more about One Parent Families Scotland’s campaign to reinstate the exemption for young single parents and ensure that all children have the same level of support, regardless of their parents’ age.
You need to prepare for it as much as you can because it doesn’t seem like it’s going to be a big impact, but it really is. By the time you pay all your bills and stuff, you’ve not got a lot of money to live on. I get housing benefit which gets paid straight to the housing from Universal Credit, and I get paid just over £400 a month. That’s to pay for electricity, whatever my little boy needs, if he needs new clothes if he’s grown out of his stuff, food, WiFi and bills in general. By the time you do all, that you don’t have a lot left.
I definitely think the increase in Universal Credit [in response to the pandemic] is a good thing. This has been the first time I’ve not been having to borrow money at the end of the month to cover things like I do normally when I get paid. I’ve noticed a difference, in a good way, from the payment.
I think people really need to understand that no matter what way you go into [Universal Credit] you’re going to be in debt for a bit and you need to kind of learn to live with it. They always say get an advance payment out to pay your rent or whatever, so if you do that you need to pay that back and that’s a debt you’re going to take over with you when you change, or else you’d be in debt with your rent. It’s quite daunting.
Things like the Job Centre really set my anxiety off, just because they kind of have power over things that I don’t, with money and things like that. One Parent Families Scotland took me through the application step by step and if it wasn’t for them, I don’t know what I would have even done. I was so scared because I didn’t have a clue at all and the Job Centre hadn’t been in touch with me and I didn’t know how to go about the whole change to Universal Credit. I would have probably just woke up one day without any money if it wasn’t for One Parent Families Scotland.