What will a Conservative government mean for single parents?

God only knows.

Although they have made some of the right noises – signing up for Gingerbread’s ‘Let’s Lose the Labels’ campaign for instance – I’m not convinced. The married couples’ tax allowance for example – I know, I know, it’s about ‘the message not the money’, but seriously, that’s WORSE. What kind of message are they trying to give exactly? Basically ‘we like married people more, so there.’

As the votes roll in I can’t help but feel a growing sense of dread. I have spent pretty much all of my adult life under a Labour government and quite frankly I’m scared. I’m all for ‘change’ – only last week I rearranged all the furniture in my kitchen – I’m just not mad keen on the kind of change that disempowers women and discriminates against the already marginalised sections of society. Call me old-fashioned, but there you go.

As much as Cameron would like us to believe he is a thoroughly modern man, we all know where his priorities lie. How long then before the blue team round me up, along with all the other single-parent-benefit-scrounging-scum to be flogged in the street and made to think about what we’ve done?

My vote is now cast at least, along with that of several of my friends who, after my lectures on electoral reform and the suffragettes, wouldn’t dare abstain. My friend Nicky text me this morning: “I’ve been to vote! But mainly only cos I’m scared of you. x” Well that’s as good a reason as any in my book.

I dressed politically for my trip to the polling station in my yellow t-shirt and yellow cardigan. I don’t own a pair a yellow trousers – probably wise – so I was relying, not for the first time, on my breasts doing the talking.

(I feel I should point out here that my political leanings are based on a proper interest in politics, not just defined by what happens to be on top of the clean washing pile, or by my penchant for Lib Dem politicians.)

And now it’s wait and see time. I’m looking forward to seeing the much talked about ITV and BBC swingometers in action, although I don’t hold out much hope for my lasting the night. This may be one of the most exciting elections in decades, but I’d go as far as to make one prediction at least – that I will fall asleep on the sofa about five minutes before the first result comes in. And I don’t need a fancy swingometer to tell me that.

Photo credit: some fool Matt

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33 Comments

  1. dianestafford
    6 May, 2010 / 5:52 pm

    Ha ha, love the “breasts do the talking” bit, great article Jo.

    As a single mum myself with no intention of changing my status any time soon, diddy David Cameron lost my vote when he pledged to value ‘Married’ peeps more highly than single mums!

    Like you say it’s the message!

    I had a postal vote so didn’t have a what to wear at the polling station dilemma, just a dithering ‘pen in hand’, and after watching an Interview with Professor David Harvey, I now have thoughts of turning into a marxist!!

    Off to catch up on the latest political angst.

    Have fun
    Diane

    • 7 May, 2010 / 4:17 pm

      Well, Cameron did say he wanted to ‘reward people who took responsibility’ or some such tosh. We’re all doomed! *lack of sleep lending dramatic air to self today*

      • tinkster7 mea
        11 May, 2010 / 10:44 pm

        what he means is if life has thrown you some **** deal with it!

  2. Juliet
    6 May, 2010 / 6:24 pm

    This was brilliant. Totally summed up how I feel. Do you think it will be cool to be marginalised?

    • 7 May, 2010 / 4:16 pm

      Definitely! I secretly quite like being discriminated against – it makes me feel like I need to rise to the challenge!

  3. 6 May, 2010 / 8:09 pm

    I feel exactly the same!! I’m not sure that I can ever bring myself to vote Conservative….well at least not until I win the lottery and have enough money to not worry about being a single parent!! Fingers crossed it goes our way tonight!!!

    • 7 May, 2010 / 4:15 pm

      I don’t think my I could actually physically vote Tory. I think my hand would just reject the pencil.

    • tinkster7
      11 May, 2010 / 9:58 pm

      lol i will never be able to vote conservs or libs now either now they have joined! but really im now so scared being a single mum wanting to work and being able to be able to be a role model for my son is not going to be easy and yes until i win the lottery where being rich i can get richer, for now im working class (poor) so i will get poorer! hope this makes sense cause after hearing the devastating news i have had to have a wine or two!

      • 12 May, 2010 / 3:58 pm

        It makes complete sense – being a working single mum is a massive challenge, time wise and financially – the very best of luck to you! xx

  4. 6 May, 2010 / 8:28 pm

    As a working single mum I too am scared, under the Conservatives Tax Credits are to be axed and that will mean I cant afford to work!!! And your right, why the hell are married couples entitled to more when many of them earn duel incomes and have no kids! Actually the more I have looked around on blogs, facebook and twitter today, most people have voted yellow or red, so either the blues have lost support towards the end, or their supporters are just keeping quiet!!! Fingers crossed eh! xx

    • 7 May, 2010 / 4:14 pm

      Fingers not crossed hard enough by the looks of it. I think we’d better start stashing our tax credits under the matress…

      • tinkster7
        11 May, 2010 / 10:06 pm

        lol stash the tax credits!! cameron looking all smug not having to worry about putting petrol in his car to get him to work for the week!!

      • LAW
        12 May, 2010 / 3:16 pm

        All you people not wishing to be ‘stereotyped’ as single parents, do not stereotype Tories as a party for the posh / ‘upper class’. Oldest stereotype in the book. They are only considering abolishing tax credits for those earning over £50,000 per annum. Fair enough most would say, they shouldn’t need finanical assistance. Obviously this party is on the side of the rich, eh? And as for the general single parent situation, fair enough many still support themselves as much as they can and put back into the system at least by working part time, but too many girls / women know how to work the system. Leave school, get pregnant, get a council house with rent and council tax paid (with the opportunity to then buy this at a later date and reduced cost – and deposit free) and multiple other benefits and financial assistance. People working full time on minimum wage or just above are worse off. Myself included. And i will probably never afford to buy a house with such hefty deposits required, even with first time buyer schemes. A member of my partner’s family gets her rent and council tax paid, some funding for internet and other ‘none essentials’ and then gets over £100 a week in benefits. Almost £500 month cash on top of free housing. After my rent and council tax is paid, i do not have that amount left. After food, tv license, phone, electricity etc i am left with pretty much nothing. She, on the other hand, fairly regularly goes out and buys new things. And a number of her acquaintances work upto 16 hours a week, which doesn’t affect their benefits, and are then a further 60 odd pounds a week better off. Others work more than this but do not declare it. The system is unfair. The amount of people I am aware of that milk the system, put nothing back into it and are better off for it than hard working people on low wage is sickening. Something needs to change.

        • 12 May, 2010 / 3:56 pm

          Thanks for your comment.

          Aside from the single parent stuff, you are of course right. I have been as guilty as anybody of making sweeping generalisations, imagining every Tory voter to be sitting in their 4x4s, quaffing Pimms and comparing school fees. You are right to draw me up on that – I shouldn’t criticise others for doing just what I was doing. And actually, I quite agree with the tax credit changes – I even question things like universal child benefit. I guess people, me included, just find it hard to see how a party in which (for example) over half the MPs are privately educated can really represent the British public. I will keep an open mind though and await with interest the result of the new Con-Lib coalition.

  5. 8 May, 2010 / 9:48 am

    On election night a single childless Tweeting Tory accused me of raising unsuccessful unhappy children, weakening society and being “too busy to help” my neighbours (a scourge on that “Big Society” then). My crime? Apparently I am all these things by sole virtue of the fact that me and my partner are not married.

    But it’s OK, cos she didn’t mean to offend me. She’s entitled to her opinion after all .

    • 8 May, 2010 / 5:39 pm

      I had some cracking comments when I wrote a feature recently about being a single mum for a national paper – ‘Congratulations on emotionally scarring your children for life’ was a personal favourite!

  6. Jenna
    8 May, 2010 / 1:36 pm

    Maybe every person who works is sick of single mums being financially better off…for no apparent reason! I realise some single mums have become single parents due to being widowed, bad relationships etc.. but if I had a pound for every single mum that had openly admitted that they were single parents due to the financial benefits they receive – I’d be a millionaire! I think the majority of single mums has ruined it for the genuine single mums…. but regardless, I purposely did not vote Labour in the hope that single mum benefits will soon disapear… looks like the majority of Britain feels this way too – given the election results

    • 8 May, 2010 / 5:37 pm

      Thanks for your comments Jenna – you’re right that there are a lot of misconceptions and negative feelings around single parents, yet the actual facts surprise a lot of people – the average single mum is 36 years old and the majority are working and have previously been married. I’d love it if it were true that single parents were financially well off but unfortunately a life on benefits is far from comfortable! I am a single working mum and even working full time find it hard sometimes to make ends meet – nowhere near as hard though as the brief period I spent claiming income support and housing benefit.

    • 9 May, 2010 / 8:46 am

      Financially better off that who Jenna? I was financially secure as a single parent because I had a very well paid job and a private maintenance agreement with my ex-husband . I was able to work part-time and buy my own home, but I am very much the exception. Most single parents work and still struggle struggle financilaly whilst doing a damn fine job raising happy successful children. Most of the problem kids I know are from two-parent families, which is very different from saying most of the two-parent families I know have problem kids. Sadly that ludicrous reverse correlation seems to be applied to single parents without question.

    • 11 May, 2010 / 11:25 am

      The majority of people didn’t vote conservative. the majority of people voted either lib dem or labour I’m afraid.

      • 11 May, 2010 / 11:26 am

        Actually, I’m not afraid. I’m quite glad. I just intended that “I’m afraid” line to be a bit patronizing towards you Jenna.

        Glad I could clear that up

        • 11 May, 2010 / 8:27 pm

          Ha ha! Glad you could clear that up too :-)

    • tinkster7
      11 May, 2010 / 10:11 pm

      i dont think people should comment on single mums as a stereo type just dont say anything people who do like to comment have not got a clue!!

  7. myshittytwenties
    11 May, 2010 / 12:19 pm

    Oh Jenna, let’s hope you never find yourself in a tricky situation. When you’re a single Mum, people do tend to think you are pretty evil. Some of us want to work hard and make a living for ourselves and our kids though. Tax credits make this possible. If the Tories get in (God knows what is happening now?!) they will make it very difficult for lone parents to afford childcare and therefore go out to work, meaning thousands (or millions – as you appear to know millions) of single mums will fit perfectly into the mould people like you have created for us. I too wrote a piece for a national newspaper about single motherhood and got utterly vilified. My son’s father ran for the hills when he found out I was pregnant and has never looked back. I just had to deal with things as best as I could. My son is four, but incredibly mature for his age. I have chosen to be open with him from the beginning to avoid the issue of his father becoming a massive deal when he is at a pivotal age. I have managed to strike the balance between letting him know the truth and slating his father: He knows that his dad ran away because there was a baby in my tummy and it scared him, that he is silly because if he knew him, he would love him to bits and that simply some men are better at being fathers than others. He knows that he is lucky to have me and the rest of our family who all love him immensely. He is not ’emotionally scarred.’ He is also incredibly intelligent. A friend of a friend’s boyfriend punched her in the somach when she told him she wanted to keep their baby. She soldiered on through the pregnancy alone but he appeared at the birth and suddenly things are rosy and he is back on the scene – is this a good situation for anyone involved?

    People who bleat on from their ivory towers about children of single parents being future failures should stop to wonder how they would cope if one day everything in their rosy world turned black.

    • 11 May, 2010 / 8:29 pm

      Thank you so much for saying all the things I wanted to say!

      I get sick and tired of single mums getting all the stick. Fact is we are doing our best with a bad situation and are NOT personally responsible for all of society’s woes. It amazes me again and again that the absent parents are let off the hook while the ones who stay aronud to pick up the pieces are somehow the ones in the wrong.

      • Lenny
        12 May, 2010 / 4:12 pm

        Well said Jo. I too didn’t choose it and my x thinks that paying maintenance after a two year battle to get it he thinks he’s giving me the earth. It wouldn’t pay half my bills but he sees it as paying me not towards his children!!! So if that’s his opinion what hope do we have for people who listen to the stereotypes we are given.

        I am 41 now and have worked since I left school.

        I agree with you peoples perceptions are all wrong we are being tarred with tha same brush as the unemployed but the difference is that we are willing to work and do so but due to childcare issues can not work full time.

        Perceptions need to change

  8. Lenny
    11 May, 2010 / 7:41 pm

    Well I am a single parent to two lovely kids and I too was married and didn’t sign up to be a single parent. My children are well adjusted polite and lovely kids they are not asbo’s in waiting.

    People look at the tag and not the individuals. I work part time but 23 years prior to the last two years worked full time. Tax credits is about the only thing that is keeping me and my kids afloat so they are going to stop these payments that’s ok my house will be repossesed after years of battling to keep it. Then I and thousands of others will be forced to turn to our local councils and become even bigger drains on out country. Have they even thought their policies thro?

    • 11 May, 2010 / 8:33 pm

      You’re so right.

      It’s so easy to focus on the ‘economic crisis’ that I think people forget about things like the tax credits – the whole tax credit system was an amazing acheivement for Labour and it has made a massive difference to thousands and thousands of families working hard to support themselves. It has made a huge difference to me for sure.

      If they scrape the tax credits it will just force single parents out of work and onto benefits surely?

  9. Chris Bacon
    11 May, 2010 / 9:46 pm

    Im all up for single parents getting all the support they need, esspecailly ones who still wish to work etc. The sad state of affairs is for most they are better off not working, and for some still, having more kids increases their “income”. This is what I believe needs to be stopped. I did not vote for the Tory’s, however it will be interesting to see what is going to happen here. What angers me the most is I am a single male, I have to pay all my own rent, bills, dentist care,educational costs if I wish to further what I already have etc. I do not get one penny back for what I pay in, yet I see and know of many single parents who are out every friday and saturday on the town drinking, buying clothes for them selves, infact well over half of it actually goes on anything but the kids, all this with money that I have had taken from me (tax). This is what I believe needs to stop. I do hope that the honest single parents do not suffer do to the ones who like to milk the system, however I am glad it was not Labour who got in this time.

    • 12 May, 2010 / 3:51 pm

      Thanks for your comment.

      It’s an interesting misconception that the majority of single mums don’t work – they actually do. I too pay all my rent, bills, dentists etc, only I support three people on my one person’s wage. I can see it must be frustrating from an outside position, imagining the life of a single aprent to be all jolly council housing and nights out, but that’s really not the reality. I have to take issue too with the comment you make about paying your taxes etc and ‘not getting one penny back for what you pay in’. Sure, you may not at the moment actually get cash in your hand but do you not use the NHS? Would you not call the fire brigade if your house was on fire? Would you not claim sick pay if for some reason you were unable to work? What you get back isn’t just about cash in your pocket.

  10. Lenny
    11 May, 2010 / 10:13 pm

    Yes I agree that you do see sum single parents out on a weekend but you also have to recognise that being a single parent alone can be very stressful being responsible for their children 24/7. I am lucky if I go out once every six months lol but my children are involved in a few clubs some paid one free. For I do think
    it is all about them as they are the future generation. I think it is all of the people on the dole sho need to be tackled. if you are fortunate to receive benefits and don’t work if there are two parnters or if childcare was provided I strongly believe that they should be forced to do some compulsary work working alongside teams clearing rivers, assisting the aged or any other kind of suitable tasks depending in their abilities / qualifications.

    Thus giving them some kind of pride and if they have to work for their benefits maybe it might give them the push to work for a wage.

    • 12 May, 2010 / 4:00 pm

      You’re right about the stress – I think being the only parent on hand to make decisions, having to take all the responsibility for making the right choices for your family, is hugely stressful. For me, not having someone just to bounce ideas around with, someone to back me up and reassure me or guide me in my parenting choices is one of the toughest bits.

  11. 2 August, 2010 / 11:26 pm

    I too am rather tired of seeing single mums getting tarred with the same brush as it were. I know that there are one’s who do work the system to their advantage but many of us did not sign up to be lone parents in the first place and it is true that us lone mums get all the flack when we are left behind to pick up the pieces and plod on with life.

    I have been desperately seeking employment for a long time and doing courses and voluntary work to help my chances of getting back to work. I would give anything to have a job that fits in with being a lone parent but so far its all been to no avail and is very distressing and soul destroying but still i soldier on.

    So if this government can do anything to help the genuine single mums who do want to work then i am all for it as hate being stuck in this rut and sometimes don’t know how i find the strength to go on with it all.

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