Young mums in the UK are skipping meals to make sure their children are fed. A survey of 300 mothers under 25 reveals that over half are struggling financially in Tory Britain.
Food bank usage is at a record high. Vulnerable mothers are using baby banks too, unable to afford essentials for their newborns. Almost half of single parent families live in relative poverty. And research has repeatedly shown that women are hit hardest by austerity. Analysis published in 2016 shows that women bore 86% of the impact of benefit cuts and tax hikes since 2010.
Young mums are no different. Research commissioned by the Young Women’s Trust found that 46% of young mothers are regularly skipping meals to feed their children. A quarter said they had used a food bank.
The barriers young mothers face in finding and keeping employment contribute to this. Young Women’s Trust previously released a report [pdf] analysing young mothers’ experiences in society. A quarter reported discrimination in the workplace when they became pregnant. Nearly 40% had been asked how motherhood would impact their ability to work in a job interview. One in four left a job because they couldn’t afford childcare.
Difficulties with employment soon lead to financial problems. 61% of young mothers in the survey said they were only just managing financially. One in ten described themselves as “extremely worried” about money.
Something has to give
Anna (not her real name), a 23-year-old mum, was referred to a Trussell Trust food bank with her young son after an operation left her out of work longer than anticipated. Statutory Sick Pay was a drop in money compared to her usual wage. She says:
I’ve really struggled to pay bills, rent and feed myself and my young son. Something had to give.
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Thankfully for Anna, the food bank was able to offer support to keep her afloat. For many other young mothers, when something has to give, they are left with nothing.
Legacy of austerity
The Young Women’s Trust spoke to young mothers in focus groups to identify solutions to this problem. They overwhelmingly wanted cheaper local childcare, jobs with flexible or part-time hours, and a change in the attitudes employers have towards pregnant women. Essentially, they need support to find and keep work that they aren’t getting.
Under-25s are also not entitled to national living wage. If they are not in work, they receive a lower rate of benefits. Most of the young mothers that the Young Women’s Trust spoke to worked in low-paid industries like care and cleaning. With wages already low and fragile, it is easy for things to go wrong.
When they do go wrong, it is clear that young women are turning to drastic measures to make sure their children eat – even if they themselves do not. And as is the case across the board, it is food banks that are stepping in to offer support when it is needed, not the government. This is the tragic legacy of Conservative austerity.
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