One Parent Families Scotland – Single Mothers and Poverty Post Covid-19

Case study

Single Mothers and Poverty Post Covid-19

(Credit: Amara Eno)

One Parent Families Scotland provides a range of support for families, services in local communities and a unique national, specialist information and advice service. OPFS campaigns with parents to make their voices heard, to change the systems, policies and attitudes that cause poverty. In 2021 OPFS supported over 17,000 single parents, children, and young people.

We admire single parents across Scotland, our co-producers and experts, who continually inspire us as they face extreme daily challenges, putting the needs of their children first. Our vision is of a Scotland in which single mothers and their children are valued and treated equally and fairly.

Almost 40% of children in Scotland who live in poverty reside with a single parent, usually their mother. Gender is a key issue as to why such a high percentage of single mothers and their children live in poverty. Being both sole carer and income provider is a difficult balancing act for single mothers because of the lack of flexible, affordable, high quality childcare and out of school care as well as the lack of secure, well paid, family-friendly employment. So to eliminate child poverty we need to tackle single mother poverty.

COVID-19 has exacerbated the injustices already felt by low-income single mothers. The sectors where many single mothers are employed – such as retail, care and cleaning – have been hit by job losses, along with a decrease in availability of new roles. Single mothers are often trapped into poverty by a combination of factors:

  • Escalating cost of childcare and its lack of flexibility,
  • Increasing costs of living (particularly housing, fuel & food),
  • A lack of quality, flexible and family friendly job roles,
  • A UK social security system which is not fit for purpose.

COVID-19 has made it even more critical that government at all levels should recognise the diversity of families, including ‘single parent proofing’, when implementing policy and designing services in response to the Covid19 crisis.

Janey, from Maryhill, sums up what many single mothers tell us:

“I think some politicians are so out of touch with how hard up single parents are – rising costs in everyday life all adds up with no increase in wages/cuts to Universal Credit feels like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. This impacts on the social and mental wellbeing of my family. Sometimes I feel – how can I go on, what’s the point?”

A ‘single parent-proofed’ initiative is a family proofed initiative. Single Mothers face specific challenges in keeping their head above water through these times of extreme difficulty. If we listen to and involve parents, then their direct experience highlights new issues and new connections. They are the experts.

The challenges and problems that single parent families confront when trying to escape poverty, retain a work-life balance and sustain employment, illuminate many of the difficulties faced by all low income families. Policies and practices that enable a single mother to provide and care for their children will also have beneficial effects for two parent families.

(Credit: Amara Eno)

OPFS always welcome volunteers and we have benefited from the skills of single parents, students and people passionate about supporting our vision. Just email if you want to discuss. If you are a single parent you can tell us your story and have it published on our website single parent stories. 

The coming years will be challenging as more single parent families are pushed into poverty. You can donate to our children’s hardship appeal where every penny goes to help with basics such as heating, food, children’s clothing and connectivity.

You can find out more about OPFS through a range of multi-channel options:

One Parent Families Scotland

Changing Lives, Challenging Poverty

2 York Place, Edinburgh EH1 3EP

Tel: 0131 556 3899