Addressing the Challenge for Single Parents in Social Housing
Scale of the challenge
There are almost 90,000 single parents in Wales and yet they are an invisible group, often isolated due to issues of accessibility, poverty and the stigma related to being a lone parent in society. From my experience of being a single parent, I understand the challenges of loneliness and isolation, the demands of having to manage everything- or thinking that I have to.
Single parents are twice as likely to live in poverty than coupled parents and are more likely to experience loneliness, isolation and stigma. In March 2018, 59,915 single parents were claiming job seekers allowance. As a consequence of exposure to these negative factors, single parents are at a higher risk of developing mental health problems  and research has consistently shown that single mothers have roughly three times the prevalence of depressive episodes compared with other groups. Whilst there is some support in Wales for people with diagnosed mental health problems, much of the current provision overlooks the need to provide childcare, or weekend support, which is a major barrier for single parents to access this provision. Single parents emphasise that they are often reluctant to ask for help because they are worried about being judged as ‘bad parents’ (SPW, 2018)
Single parent perceptions in social housing
When engaging with single parent tenants from across Wales, there was a consistent theme that there needs to be single parent specific groups as “you just understand each other when it’s another single parent”. Many emphasised that they felt extremely lonely and, in some cases, that their housing provider had not been honest about the state of the property they would move into. This was generally linked to there being no flooring in their property and they felt it put their children at risk. Some of which have been in the property over a year and are still unable to afford flooring. One mother mentioned that she had been “pulling tacking pins up off the stairs and repairing the wood on them, filling holes in every room, sanding and repairing gaps to stop the creatures coming through high skirting and leaving trails all around our belongings and newly painted walls” another stated “Its so horrible (not having flooring) it makes you feel like you can’t provide for them…I was so upset..and I came from a woman’s refuge so I had nothing left of our home, I didn’t know there wouldn’t be flooring, I was horrified”.
You may be asking yourself; why is this any different to anyone else moving into social housing? Well the difference is; we do it alone. There is no one to lean on, no one to contribute to finances, no one to tell you that ‘it will all be ok’. These types of adverse experiences put single parents at risk of developing mental health problems (The Lonely Society, MHF, 2010).
Social housing providers are in a unique position and have an important role to play in developing services to support single parents. As well as providing them with networks to minimise loneliness and isolation and in turn improve mental health (University of Bath, 2012). To enable them to provide this support, single parents have made recommendations.
Recommendations from Single Parents to Social Housing Providers
For people who are new in the area with no relatives or friends nearby, there should be meet and greet groups
Community activities where you can meet the locals and they can see that single parents aren’t always how they are portrayed in the media. People will feel familiar and safer
Garden grass should be mowed before you move in for safety reasons (needles and glass)
Either provide flooring or provide vouchers towards flooring and fitting, preferably flooring in the property before moving in to make the move less daunting and so it feels like I home.
When holding an event or gathering, have a separate room for children with childcare providers. Parents then get a break but they know they can go and see their child as and when they choose. Just covering childcare fees leads to the challenge of finding childcare.
Internet provided or part funded so that people can work from home when children are in bed if they are too young to get childcare hours.
The housing provider could offer ‘work hut’ (a small shed in the garden that has internet connection and lighting) so that parents could be more enthusiastic about their job prospects. Parents would be more willing to do research, start a business from home, go self-employed or hold workshops there for others in their communities so they can share their skills.
A handy man scheme could be implemented for practical help such as moving heavy items, putting things in the loft etc.
If you are moving into the area, it would be helpful for the housing provider to offer information about groups and what local nurseries and schools are putting in place.
Make the application process easier and provide a case worker so you can develop a comfortable relationship. When you come away from domestic abuse, you need to feel like you can trust someone. Especially when it’s a brand new area.
 Stats for Wales, 2018
 University of Bath, 2012
 The Lonely Society, MHF, 2010