According to gingerbread.org.uk, 50% of children in a single parent family are being brought up in a state poverty, as opposed to 25% in two parent households. I suppose it is to be expected: one parent equals one income.
There does seem to be a lot of support available from charities and various government schemes, however, finding out what's available to you isn't always that easy. I've looked at some of the issues surrounding child poverty in the UK and whether help is on-hand.
I asked my youngest sibling, who is a single parent on benefits, what her biggest expense is, she informed me that it's gas and electricity because she's on a pre-paid meter. Would you believe that people on meters are actually charged more? Unfortunately, the poorest often pay the most for their utilities:
- You can refuse to have a meter installed; if you're struggling to pay your bills give your provider a call and work out a payment scheme. They may try to persuade you to go on a meter, but avoid it like the plague!
- Ask your provider if they offer discounts to customers on Income Support. According to Gingerbread, some companies discount up to 15% off so it is well worth asking. In fact make it a habit to ask all of your service providers for discounts, you may be pleasantly surprised.
- In an attempt to regain some credibility, certain utility companies are offering free activity vouchers. British Gas is offering 'free swim passes' for families, and other energy companies are following suit; take a look at your utility provider's website to see what's on offer.
Working parents may be able to save over £1,000 a year on childcare using special PRE-TAX vouchers. It's a scheme run via your employer and entails you for-going £1,000 of your gross (pre-tax) income, which amounts to around £700 take-home after NI and Tax. In return you get £1,000 of childcare vouchers, leaving you £300 better off. Basic rate tax payers are entitled to pay up £243 of childcare with vouchers each month, so if there are two working parents that can amount to £486 per month paid in vouchers. It's a huge saving over a year.
Child maintenance is, on average, 20% of the absent parent's salary, so if you are working things out amicably you have this benchmark to work towards. It is your responsibility to procure your child's maintenance; if your ex-partner refuses to pay then Income Support will not redress this for you. You will need to go retain the services of the Child Support Agency and that can take at least six weeks to before you see any money.
Training and Qualifications
There are a number of charities providing free or subsidised training and education courses for those wishing to better their chances of securing employment. Many charities also provide free childcare whilst you attend. One such organisation is Onespace.org.uk, they've helped plenty of single parents back into work; take a look at the inspiring testimonials on their website.
If you are really struggling to make ends meet you can contact a local charity, such as Barnardo's, who are committed to helping children in poverty. They organise support workers who make home visits and advise on how to better manage finances, help steer you back into employment and offer support for those struggling emotionally. There is a legion of ways in which support workers can offer a helping hand - ways you may have never even considered.