One Parent Families Scotland and Child Poverty Action Group urge Scottish Government to act
The Scottish Government has been urged to offer younger parents more financial support as a new report highlights the depth of inequality facing young families.
A study on child poverty in families with a mother aged under 25 reveals staggering rates of hardship.
The report, commissioned by the Scottish Government, found that 54% 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.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We agree that Universal Credit should be paid at the same amount no matter the age of the person applying. This would help many people and families who are facing hardship due to this age discrimination that the UK government has introduced.
“This is in contrast to the significant support the Scottish Government is supplying to all low income parents.
“By the end of 2022, the Scottish Government’s package of five family payments will be worth over £10,000 for eligible families on the lowest incomes by the time their first child turns six – and £9,700 for subsequent children.
"This includes the Scottish Child Payment which we doubled to £20 per child per week in April and will increase again to £25 when we extend it to under 16s by the end of the year – a 150% rise.”