Single mothers will be hit harder than any other group by the coalition Government's programme of benefit cuts and tax rises, losing an average 8.5% of their income after tax by 2015, according to a report released today.

Cuts to public services will also hit lone parents harder than other households, costing them the equivalent of 18.5% of their net income - more than double the impact on couples with children.

Key Points

  • Single mothers hit hardest by benefit cuts and tax rises
  • Report predicts lone mothers to lose 8.5% of net income by 2015
  • Calls for Government to review welfare, employment and childcare policy

Gender equality charity the Fawcett Society say that the Government was expecting some of the least well-off to act as "shock absorbers" for the rest of society by taking the brunt of the cuts.

The society's report - entitled Single Mothers: Singled Out - draws on analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) of the impact of changes announced in George Osborne's emergency budget in June 2010, last autumn's Comprehensive Spending Review and the March Budget.

It found that by 2015 the average single mother will have lost the equivalent of more than one month's income a year due to changes including reductions on housing benefit, the restriction of maternity grants to the first child, a three-year freeze on child benefit and a cut in the childcare element of the working tax credit.

Lone mothers will lose around 8.5% of their net income, compared to 7.5% for single fathers, 6.5% for couples with children, and about 2.5% for couples without children, the report stated.

Fawcett's acting chief executive Anna Bird says: "Women are bearing the brunt of cuts. Single women, on average, are set to lose a greater proportion of their income than other households, such as single men or couple households.

"In part this is because women are typically poorer than men, but it is also because women make up the vast majority of lone parents - and it is this group that are set to lose most under the reforms.

"Some of the least well-off in our society are being forced to act as shock absorbers for the cuts, with women - in particular single mothers - faring worse."

Calls for the Government to review policy

The Fawcett Society last year failed in a bid to trigger a judicial review of the legality of the Government's economic policies on the grounds they did not comply with the duty to have regard to their impact on equality.

During that case, the Treasury argued it was not possible to make a meaningful assessment of the different impact of cuts on men and women.

But Bird says the IFS analysis "puts paid to the idea that the Government can't anticipate or predict the impact of its fiscal policies on different demographic groups".

"Had the Treasury been doing this research in the first place, single mothers might now not be facing a situation where they can't afford childcare and so can't work, and where some of the poorest women in our society are right now getting poorer."

She adds: "A year on from the coalition Government's first budget, we call on the Chancellor to adopt this analysis in future budgets to allow for fairer and more transparent decision-making.

"The Government should also review welfare, employment and childcare policy so that lone mothers do not shoulder more than their fair share of cuts."