Skip to main content
Bookmark and Share

Lone Parents


Lone parents play a vital role in Scottish society as parents, carers and contributors to their local community and economy.

·          It is estimated that there are over 163,000 lone parents with 295,000 children in Scotland.

·          Nine out of ten lone parents are women.

·          The median age for a lone parent is 36; only 2% of lone mothers are teenagers.

·          59% of lone parents are in work.

·          Lone parent families make up 52% of families living in the poorest 10% of areas in Scotland. In Scotland's least deprived areas they make up 9%.

·          Between 2010 and 2035, the number of households in Scotland containing one adult with children is projected to rise by 51% from 166,000 to 250,000.

Barriers Faced

Each lone parent faces different challenges depending on their own circumstances but in the main they often share the same constraint of being the "breadwinner" and carer for their children. In moving towards and into employment, lone parents often encounter a number of barriers: 

  • Availability, flexibility and cost of childcare.
  • Low self confidence.
  • Isolation and lack of social networks.
  • Low skills and education levels.
  • Impact of the benefits trap - particularly if moving into low paid and temporary employment.

Policies and Interventions

Policy respects that fact that some parents will choose to stay at home and look after their children during their vital childhood years. This is a positive choice and one in which lone parents should be supported. However, it is also important that lone parents plan and prepare for future employment - particularly given the change in UK policies affecting lone parents. For example from early 2012 out of work lone parents whose youngest child is 5 years old are required to move to Job Seekers Allowance (JSA). One Parent Families Scotland has produced a series of factsheets with up to date information relating to lone parent employment, education, welfare, childcare, housing and wider supports and eligibility. 

At the Scotland level, meeting the needs of women and increasing the available level of funded early learning and childcare provision are key actions within Working for Growth. Supporting lone parents towards and into sustained employment will also contribute to the following poverty and child poverty strategies:

  • Achieving Our Potential - the Scottish Government's framework to tackle income inequality and disadvantage. 
  • Child Poverty Strategy - which aims to reduce the levels of child poverty by reducing income poverty and material deprivation; and improve children's wellbeing and life chances with the ultimate aim of being to break inter-generational cycles of poverty, inequality and deprivation.
  • Early Years Framework - which highlights the importance of investment in early years and the need to coordinate all agencies involved.

To help support lone parents towards and into employment, good practice suggests the need to:

  • Tailor services to individual family circumstances.
  • Spend time building up confidence and dealing with personal issues.
  • Enable access to good quality, flexible and affordable childcare.
  • Work with wider services to provide support around welfare and benefits entitlements, back-to-work financial calculations, housing and childcare provision. 
  • Encourage employers to adopt more family friendly working practices - e.g. term time contracts, partnerships with childcare providers, maximising use of technology to enable remote working. 


Useful Links