Tackling child poverty: second year progress report - annex C

Annex C: child poverty among lone parent families.

Costs of living

Housing costs

Lone parent households spent 21% of their net household income on housing costs, significantly higher than the average amount spent by all households with children in Scotland (10%)[16]

I often can’t afford to heat the house and I can’t afford my rent payments to my landlord.

Other costs of living

Lone parent households have required fuel costs at 8% of their net household income after housing costs. This is slightly higher than the required costs for all households with children in Scotland (6%).[17]

One adult households with children in the UK spent 12.9% of their household income on food, compared to 10.4% of all households with children in the UK.[18]

A report by The Food Foundation in 2018 estimated that 48% of all UK households with children, and 60% of lone parent families, do not spend enough on food to meet the recommendations for a healthy diet as set out in the Eatwell Guide.[19]

In 2017/2018, a quarter (25%) of single parents (mostly single mothers) reported that they had been worried they would run out of food in the previous 12 months due to a lack of resources. Over three-quarters of these (21% of all single parents) went on to say that they had eaten less than they should, and around half of them (13% of all single parents) said they had actually run out of food due to a lack of resources.[20]

I’m often short of money weekly, meaning I don't eat properly so the kids can. In the winter I often sit in the dark at night or go to bed early so there is enough on the power card for the next day.

I often don’t eat properly – often one meal a day.

Savings and assets

Lone parent households are less likely to have savings: 59.6% have no savings, compared to 34.6% of all households with children.[21] Lone parent households are the household type that is most likely to be financially vulnerable. In 2016-2018, 73% of lone parent households did not have enough savings to cover basic living costs for three months, compared to 40% of working-age couples with children.[22]

Proportion of households that are financially vulnerable by household type, Scotland 2016-2018 [23]
Proportion of households that are financially vulnerable by household type in Scotland 2016-18

Lone parent families are also, on average, the least wealthy household type in Scotland. In 2016-2018, lone parent families had a median household wealth of £35,300, compared to a national average of £233,400 and the average wealth of working-age couples with children (£254,300).[24]

it is impossible to save for any emergencies that may occur, like a boiler breakdown or school uniform needing replacing...


Lone parent households are more likely to be in unmanageable debt (9.1%), compared to two-parent households (3.1%).[25] Many lone parents find themselves in debt as a consequence of needing pay for necessities like food, clothing and housing because their income, from low wages or fewer hours, does not meet their basic living costs.

The percentage of lone parent households accessing high cost credit (21%) is higher than for low income households (14.7%) or all households with children (14.2%).[26]

I’ve no savings or leeway in my weekly budget, so I have no choice but to buy things on credit, even though it’s more expense I can’t afford, and I’ll be more in debt. I have had to use ‘buy now, pay later’ credit to buy a fridge. I just could not afford to pay for that outright. A lot of my furniture like the washing machine and couches I’ve had to get out of catalogues over the years. I can’t afford to pay hundreds of pounds outright. I tend to get them on buy now, pay later and then that’s where I get in a mess, because it when it comes time to pay for them, I don’t have the money.

Internet access

In 2018, 96% of lone parent households had home internet access, compared to 99% of two parent households and 87% of all households.[27] However, One Parent Families Scotland report that many of the lone parents it interacts with say that they lack IT equipment needed to access online services and information. This has been a particular issue during the COVID-19 lockdown, with many parents worrying about their children falling behind in their schoolwork because of lack of access to laptops or broadband for studying.

I use the internet when I can for job-seeking, and for claiming her benefits. I don’t use it for shopping or comparing prices. I do worry about supporting my children with their education, so much is online. I’ve been using a lot of our budget on top-up credit to allow my daughters to access home-schooling resources. We only have one phone between the three of us, and I have to limit the time that they are online because I can’t afford any more.


Email: sjsu@gov.scot

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