Standing up for single parent families
Single parent families face unique challenges, but their needs are rarely taken into account in Westminster. Our APPG will ensure their voices are heard, writes Rupa Huq
For years politicians have made great play of how their policies follow a ‘family friendly’ agenda, but families come in many forms in the post-traditional twenty-first century; extended families, reconstituted families and, most numerically significant, single parent families. Indeed, according to figures from the charity Gingerbread, single parents head up 50% of all families in some parliamentary constituencies. But they are often invisible in family policy formulation. It’s no wonder single parents often feel marginalised in our culture and politics.
It was to right this wrong that the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Single Parent Families was formed last year. It already has a healthy membership of nearly 50 MPs. Some are single parents themselves, others were raised by single parents, but most are simply taking an interest in the issue given the prevalence of a single parent family set-up in many constituencies in the UK.
Although there are APPGs on families, children and employment – as well as curry, cider archery and brass bands – there had never been one established considering the situation of single parents. The membership has brought together people across party divides, from the Tory male rights advocate Philip Davies to Rosie Duffield, the surprise winner of Canterbury for Labour and single mum. At our first event in March this year, Robert Peston spoke movingly on his experience as a single parent after the death of his wife.
Gingerbread – who have been supporting this invisible community for 100 years now – found that at the time of the 2015 general election, the number of single parents was larger than the parliamentary majority in 96 of the 100 most marginal constituencies in England and Wales.
Despite this, their voices and needs are rarely taken into account throughout the policy making process. Our APPG hopes to change this, and aims to ensure that the impact of political decisions on single parent families is given serious consideration.
Single parents face unique challenges; they are more likely than any other to be in poverty, regardless of whether or not they are in work. Gaining employment and educational opportunities is harder and advancing in work or in education remains more challenging for those with caring responsibilities.
Right across the political spectrum, work needs to be done with charities, trade unions, academics, businesses and politicians to take into account the interests of single parents in policy-making, and to raise awareness of single parents in communities. We will be working with dad’s groups too, and the Iain Duncan-Smith founded think-tank The Centre for Social Justice are also on board.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission recently found that the child poverty rate for children in lone parent households in Britain is forecast to increase from slightly over 37% to over 62% by 2021, with this increase being directly attributable to the government’s austerity programme.
This is an absolutely staggering statistic and demonstrates the need for single parents to be fully represented in Parliament. This situation is only expected to become worse as the impact of the two-child limit restricting financial support through tax credits and universal credit are felt particularly hard in single parent families.
The stigma faced by single parent families 100 years ago may have lessened, but much work remains to be done. At all levels we all need to commit to consider the effect of top down actions on all types of families — because every family counts.
Rupa Huq is Labour MP for Ealing Central and Acton and chair of the APPG on Single Parent Families
The APPG on Single Parent Families and Gingerbread will celebrate the charity’s 100th Birthday on Monday 25th June at 7pm in Committee Room 17, House of Commons. All are welcome.