According to the charity Gingerbread, single-parent families are struggling, with up to one in three children with a working single parent living in poverty. This is not a surprise. We know that low pay, job insecurity and welfare cuts hit the vulnerable the hardest. We also know that single parents – especially single mothers – are go-to scapegoats whenever the going gets tough.
After all, so the narrative goes, single parenthood isn’t a normal way of raising children. Its remains something in-between a mortal sin and an unfortunate accident. We can’t make it too comfortable, otherwise others might be wanting to have a go, and if that means some children suffer, well, that’s just all for the common good.
What is happening right now is a direct result of our current Government’s policies on welfare and employment. Bland statements about work being “the best route out of poverty”, which ignore both the value of unpaid work and the harm of zero-hours contracts and low-paid, inflexible roles, mask a drive to sever basic social ties.
It’s immediate, but it’s also longstanding, rooted in age-old beliefs about class, work and gender. Children’s immediate welfare and long-term futures are being sacrificed to right-wing ideologies regarding social superiority, the value of caring and the role of women.