Lone parent families

In Glasgow, four out of ten families with children are lone parent families, according to the 2011 Census. This is the highest local authority rate in Scotland, equivalent to 26,454 households, with this figure expected to rise over the next 25 years.  

Many lone parents face a range of inequalities: they are six times more likely to contain no earner when compared with couples; more likely to experience underemployment and in-work poverty; and, have average earnings that are one third of the earnings of couples with children. Equally, lone parent mothers tend to have worse health than couple mothers, and lone parents, as a group, are much more likely to report domestic violence when compared with couples.

Less than half of all lone parents in Glasgow are in paid work, of which two out of three are in part-time work. With the majority of lone parents in the city not in paid work, changes to Income Support (IS) eligibility lie behind an increasing number moving on to Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) when their youngest child is five years old. Once on JSA, they must seek work, or face tougher penalties under a new sanctions regime. 

Responding to these welfare changes, in 2012 we held initial meetings with One Parent Families Scotland (OPFS).  Over the last four years, alliances and networks have been developed with NHS, local authority and housing partners, as well as academic links with Edinburgh Napier University to explore the impacts of the UK government’s welfare changes on lone parents with young children.

To date, the main outputs from this ongoing work have been:

  • A wide-ranging literature review and a detailed research report that captured the views of lone parents moving into work as part of these changes.  
  • GCPH briefing paper that summarised the findings from the literature review and research report.
  • A partnership seminar event, blogs commenting on the research and challenging media perception of lone parents and a powerful short film that captures the voice of one of the parents.
  • The establishment of the Glasgow Lone Parent Development Project which is hosted by OPFS and supported by NHS, council and housing partners. The project aims to improve the way in which the city’s services ‘serve’ single parents and to increase collaboration across relevant public, voluntary and private sector providers.   

An issue highlighted by the research is the impact of stigma and negative attitudes towards lone parents. As a lot of media coverage relating to single parents focuses on the struggles and negatives, the OPFS have launched a social media campaign celebrating the diversity, and positive aspects of being a single parenthood. Find out more about the #ProudSingleParents campaign.

In Glasgow, 1-in-3 children still experience poverty, with seven of the ten Scottish council wards most affected by the UK government’s welfare reforms located in the city.  Therefore, we will continue to share the learning from this work to support further planning and delivery of services across important areas that have an impact on lone parents, such as childcare provision, employment support and partnership work.

Related topic: Money and work