Over 177,000 young parents across England, aged 25 and under are struggling to cope financially, putting more children at risk of poverty, according to ‘The Next Chapter’ report released by UK charity, Action for Children today.
The report found that young parents earn significantly less than their non-parent peers, despite having the additional costs of raising children which is on average, £8,400 per year. It further shows that young parents have an average income of £14,820 compared to a UK national average of £26,300.[iii] Single parents who are 25 and under survive on as little as £14,300.
Over the course of 12 months, a young parent will earn £1,300 less than young people who do not have children. This is worrying given the negative impact of financial hardship on children’s physical and mental health.
Action for Children is specifically calling for:
- Care to Learn to be extended to all primary caregivers up to the age of 25 years
- work coaches in Job Centres to be trained to meet the specific needs of young parents to give them the best chance of finding suitable and well-paid employment
- the government to review its working-age benefits freeze in light of the impact on children and families.
Sir Tony Hawkhead, Chief executive of Action for Children, said: “There is very little up-to-date research that looks at the lives of teenage parents across the UK and even less so on the ‘forgotten ages’ between 20 – 25 years-old. With the growing expectation that parenthood comes later in life, young parents can come up against both negative attitudes and government policy that does not meet their needs. Our report focuses on the estimated 177,000 young parents across England who are not getting the necessary help to support themselves or their children.”
Research indicates on average it costs parents more than £8,400 per year to raise their first child and this is higher for single parents at more than £11,430.[iv] Previous research showed that over half of younger parents aged 19 to 24 are living in poverty.[v]
Action for Children commissioned the Institute of Policy Research at the University of Bath to undertake analysis of the Next Steps study (see note 2) to better understand the characteristics and life outcomes of young parents aged up to 25.
Today’s report shows that young parents in England are more likely to be working in low-skilled jobs, trapping them and their children in a cycle of poverty. This is partly because of their struggle with education as only 11% have been to university, compared to 45% of those without children. Earlier this month, the TUC revealed that 40% of low-paid young parents who ask for flexible working arrangements are ‘penalised’, receiving fewer hours, worse shifts and even losing their jobs.
The knock-on effect shows that young parents (59%) are significantly more likely to claim benefits due to limited work opportunities and child care restraints compared to 10% of non-parents. In addition, one third of young parents (33%) are in ‘skilled’ work, compared to over half (51%) of young people overall.
Sir Tony added: “Although the teenage pregnancy rate has reduced significantly over the last 20 years because of the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy, the story cannot stop there. Teenage mums and dads tend to come from disadvantaged backgrounds struggling with issues such as education, work, money, housing, poor mental health as well as the conflicting strains and joys a new baby can bring. Not only that, but our new research demonstrates that young parents between the ages of 20 and 25 struggle with similar difficulties, yet are eligible for less support.”
Sarah* (20) and her daughter Maisie (now 2) are helped by Action for Children’s Bristol Supporting Families. “After having Maisie things became difficult for me,” said Sarah. “I didn’t have a place of my own so I had to live at home with my mum, dad and four other siblings. Maisie and I shared a room with my youngest sister however, we’d always end up on the sofa as my sister had to get up early for school the next day.
“I felt intensely lonely living with the rest of my family and began suffering from anxiety and depression. I argued with my parents every day as I felt they were taking over and ignoring my wishes as a new parent. It wasn’t until my health visitor referred me to Action for Children that I felt my concerns were being listened to. From here, I grew in confidence as a mum and my family support worker helped me find a flat of my own so Maisie and I could start an independent life which has turned out to be far less chaotic. Our flat is very close by to my mum and dad which works as they offer childcare and our relationship is much better without us living in the family home.
“I now attend college when Maisie goes to nursery and work a few hours a week so we can continue to live independently.”
Sir Tony Hawkhead, added: “We are calling on the Government to urgently review the support available to young parents and support them through the complex challenges they face, giving them the best chance of finding well-paid employment. More effective support is needed if young parents and their children are to have the best possible start in life.”
[ii] The figure 177,000 is based on the most recent figures from the Office for National Statistics [https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/families/adhocs/007278numberofparentsaged25andunderregionsofenglandanduk2016] and findings from the Institute for Policy Research’s analysis of the Next Steps study [see our report for more information]
[iii] Office for National Statistics (2017) Earnings and working hours [Available from: https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/earningsandworkinghours]
[iv] Child Poverty Action Group (2017)The cost of a child in 2017 [Available from: http://www.cpag.org.uk/sites/default/files/TheCostofaChildin2017.pdf]
[v] New Policy Institute (2015) Poverty among young people in the UK [Available from: http://www.npi.org.uk/files/7114/2892/2456/Poverty_among_young_people_in_the_UK_FINAL.pdf]