Benefit reforms 'will hit single working mothers' warns Save The Children

Woman with girl The charity says the cost of childcare is one issue

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Single working mothers in Wales will be hardest hit by reforms to the benefits system, a charity has claimed.

Save the Children said more than 50,000 single working mothers could lose as much as £3,500 a year under the UK government's new universal credit, pushing some below the breadline.

The report also claimed second earners will be affected.

A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions said the charity was "wrong" and being "disingenuous".

Save the Children said mothers on low incomes will be "forced" to make ends meet by either working longer hours or by getting into debt.

The charity also claimed the changes made it "less attractive" for parents to move off benefits and in to work because of poor childcare support available.

James Pritchard, head of Wales for Save the Children, said the reforms must be re-examined.

CASE STUDY

Mother-of-three Geraldine Henderson, from Rhymney, Caerphilly, and her partner, who works full time, claim working tax credit and child tax credit to "boost" their income.

She said: "We've already noticed cuts in these so any further cuts would impact on everything. I've already cut back on food costs by sacrificing things we like either by buying cheaper brands or even trying to shop around.

"Up until now I have been a stay-at-home mum. This is a very rewarding and worthwhile job and I wanted to be a part of my children's lives growing up.

"There was not enough childcare provision in the area to make me want to go to work and leave my kids. Child minders can also be very costly, especially if you are on a low income.

"We would only be around £10 to £30 better off after paying for childcare than if I wasn't working, which is not much of an incentive.

"But I am at the moment setting up my own online craft business to earn some extra money to meet with the rising bills and so that I can work from home and also juggle my hours around the school run and childcare.

"It's a real concern that the UK government is planning to cut the support provided for some families, especially with the price of food, clothes, leisure activities, travel still rising.

"It's just not right that mothers and children are being hit worst."

Source: Save The Children

"In trying to reform the benefit system the government is in danger of condemning a whole generation of Welsh children to a life of poverty," he said.

"There is no doubt that the new universal credit will help lots of families, but our research has shown that mums working to keep their heads above water are its big blind spot.

'Better off'

"A mum on £370 a week simply can't afford to lose £70, as our projections suggest they will."

He said there should be more help for working mothers.

But the government said the charity was "wrong to assert that lone parents will lose as a result of the introduction of universal credit".

The DWP said: "The truth is, 600,000 lone parents will be better off under a system which will incentivise work and make work pay."

'Unrealistic examples'

By the time universal credit is fully implemented, the government expects 900,000 people to be lifted out of poverty and accused the charity of not using real examples.

"Save the Children estimate that 150,000 lone parents working 16 hours or more a week will be pushed deeper into poverty. This appears to be based on an assumption that as these lone parents are currently in poverty they will be automatically worse off under universal credit," they said.

"This assumption fails to take into account the fact that other circumstances, for example, the number of children they have or housing costs, may mean that some lone parents will see no difference in the level of their award or will be better off under universal credit.

"Save the Children are being disingenuous because they are cherry-picking unrealistic examples to demonstrate where families could lose."

The government said to lose £68 the lone parent would have to have three children under school age, use childcare for 40 hours a week and be claiming both tax credits and housing benefit.

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