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Rapid rise in single parent debt problems

April 4, 2016

The number of single parents approaching StepChange Debt Charity for help has doubled over the last four years and they are now the fastest growing group among its clients, new figures reveal. The charity says that although just one in 14 UK households is headed by single parents, they now represent one in five of its clients.

Over 60,000 single parents approached the charity for debt advice last year. The charity’s figures show that single parents are more likely to be on lower incomes, in part time work and live in rented accommodation. Previous research by the charity has highlighted how low incomes and insecure work are increasingly leaving people vulnerable to debt, and such problems appear particularly acute for single parents.

In total, single parents contacting the charity had £600 million of debt in 2015, an average of over £10,000 each.

Single parents hugely over-represented

Single parents are hugely over-represented among StepChange Debt Charity clients compared to the national population. They now represent 19.6% of the charity’s clients, but just 7% of UK households. The charity says this is the fourth increase in as many years, from 15.3% in 2011, and that single parents are the only type of household that is increasing as a proportion of it clients every year.

Rented accommodation and a lack of full time work

Single parents are more likely to be in rented accommodation than other StepChange Debt Charity clients (86% vs. 75% overall). They are also the most likely to be employed part time (33%) and the least likely to work full time (12%). This is much lower than national figures, where 54% work full time and 20% work part time.

Single parents have tighter budgets

StepChange Debt Charity figures also show that single parents have tighter budgets than any other group. After paying their bills and expenses, the average single parent was left with an average of just £27 to put towards their debts, while the average StepChange Debt Charity client has double that amount at £55.  to put towards their debts, while the average StepChange Debt Charity client has double that amount at £55.

Single parents much more likely to have catalogue and home credit debt

Single parents are significantly more likely to be struggling with high cost credit taken out with catalogues and doorstep lenders. Compared to the average StepChange Debt Charity client, they are 33% more likely to have catalogue debt and 42% more likely to have home credit. These types of borrowing can compound someone’s financial vulnerability as they can be long term and expensive commitments, which act as an even further drain on budgets that are already very tight.

Mike O’Connor, Chief Executive of StepChange Debt Charity, said:

“With the pressures of bringing in enough money and raising children alone, single parents can face a daily battle to get by. If they are unable to build up rainy day savings, it leaves them vulnerable to even small income shocks or unexpected bills and this can have severe consequences.

“We need better safety nets for when people hit problems so they don’t have to resort to credit to cope and put themselves at risk of falling into problem debt. The Government’s announcement of support for low income groups to save is a welcome move, but the job remains far from done.”

Notes to editors:

  1. These statistics are from 307,053 clients of StepChange Debt Charity, of whom 19.6% are single parents
  2. 30,383 single parents came to StepChange Debt Charity in 2012. In 2015, that number reached 60,254.
  3. They owed £628,163,980 – an average of £10,438 each

Contact the StepChange news team on:

Tel: 0207 391 4598

Mobile: 07985 404 153

Email: press@stepchange.org

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