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The cost of raising a child


Lisa is a university lecturer and a keen kayaker in her early 50s. She’s also a single mum to two teenage daughters – Lila and Eliza. Lila is in the final year of her A-levels and Eliza is in the first year of her GCSEs. Both daughters are very academic – Lila wants to be a doctor and Eliza a vet.

With the cost-of-living crisis showing no signs of lessening its grip, despite earning over £50,000 a year, Lisa is finding she has less and less disposable income at the end of the month. With the cost of her daughters’ continuing education and her own retirement on her mind, she is finding money is becoming a constant source of worry. After giving up work, she was planning to throw her kayak in the back of her campervan and explore Europe. But she’s becoming increasingly concerned that those retirement plans will have to be seriously curtailed.

Why it’s more expensive being a single parent

Lisa is one of 2.9 million single parents in the UK, with a quarter of all families in this position. And research shows it’s more expensive raising a child alone. Figures from the Child Poverty Action Group, the cost of a child report, reveals that in 2023, the full cost (including housing and childcare) of raising a child in the UK was £166,000 for a couple and an eye-watering £220,000 for a single parent. Single parents pay more because fixed costs like transport are shared between fewer people, so a higher proportion of those costs are attributable to the child.

As a result, single parents like Lisa are being disproportionately affected by the cost-of-living crisis. A report from the charity Gingerbread found the financial situation of two in three single parents in the UK is worse than it was a year ago, with one in five using credit to pay for household essentials and a similar number turning to food banks.

The same report revealed one in three single parents have seen the amount of debt they have increased over the past year, with almost half of those finding themselves more than £1,000 deeper in debt. In total, 76% of all single parents are in debt and half of those owe more than £2,000.

So what financial support is there for single parents?

If you’re a single parent, it’s worth using a benefits calculator to check you’re claiming all the financial support you’re entitled to. There’s a calculator on the Gingerbread website or you can use the government one.

Depending on your situation, the benefits and financial support you may be able to claim include:

  • Child benefit
  • Council tax reduction
  • Universal credit
  • Widowed parent's allowance
  • 15-30 hours of free childcare
  • Tax-free childcare
  • Healthy start vouchers
  • NHS low-income scheme
  • Free school meals

Why single parents should get financial advice

If you’re a single parent, it makes sense to get financial advice regardless of your age or income. Whether you’re approaching retirement like Lisa or you’re at the start of your career, speaking to a professional can be vital in ensuring you make the most of every penny and avoid costly mistakes. Expert advice is useful for everyone but arguably more so if you’re a single parent with children who are financially dependent on you.

A financial adviser has the experience and market knowledge to assess your situation accurately and provide recommendations for suitable products and services. So, if you’re a single parent and you’d like advice on any money-related matters, we’d be delighted to help.

Approved by The Openwork Partnership on 03/06/2024

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