Single-parent families are close to my heart, as well as my working head.

My mum is a single parent and I can only describe her as heroic.

I’m a parent myself now, and when I look back I can’t quite understand how my mum did it.

Even with the support of a partner and my mum, like many parents, I often find parenting as challenging as it is joyful.

I must have been very hard for my mum; not just dealing with all the times when I didn’t make life any easier, but with the biting prejudice and judgment around us. I know these things hurt and really gnawed at my mum’s self-belief, despite her unflinching grit and determination.

Despite all the demands on her, I always knew she was there for me.

I have always talked to my mum about everything, (she’s very patient!), and whilst I would be the first to admit that my father’s decision to walk away and the ongoing impression I had that I was a bit disposable took its toll, my mum, and a devoted grandparent, went to extreme lengths to counter this.

Today, when I talk about my work at a charity committed to promoting healthy, dependable relationships that support families, in all their forms, to thrive, I bring all those experiences to the table.

I was over-joyed when three years ago I saw over 40 Members of Parliament from all the main parties establish the All Party Parliamentary Group for Single Parent Families, chaired by Rupa Huq, on #SingleParentDay.

Attitudes are changing, and not before time.

But there is still a long way to go.

Single parents’ charity Gingerbread points out that prior to Covid-19 single parent employment was at a record high. Improved support with childcare costs through working tax credits, the expansion of childcare provision and changes to benefit rules meant that the majority of single parents were now in work.

Yet, when Fastn recently polled 3,000 employees about their experiences of family and work, it found that for the 2.9 million lone-parent families - 14.9 per cent of families in the UK in 2019 – the workplace is a source of problems as well as income.

While 1 in 11 respondents to the Fastn survey experienced being single parents, only 29 per cent – fewer than one in three - agreed that their employers offered a living wage and secure contracts recognising family commitments.

Single parent employees clearly want better – 75 per cent said that an employer’s track record on supporting families to thrive would be important to them in deciding to accept a new job. This compares to 69 per cent of all respondents.

More than four in five (82 per cent) said that finding an employer that recognised family constraints on travelling and meetings outside normal hours would be important when looking for a new job.

What these statistics do not tell us are the experiences of single parents who want a job but have been kept out or pushed out of the workplace by a lack of employer support for their particular family commitments. Nor do they speak to the experiences of under-employed single parents – more than one in five (22 per cent) according to Gingerbread - who would work longer hours if employers were more supportive of their families.

There are many days when I feel that in my more ‘traditional’ 2.4 family, I am much more flawed, less resilient, less patient than my mum. As Gingerbread and others have demonstrated well, it is way too simplistic to conflate family stability with family form.

Such over-simplification obscures more purposeful discussion and action on children’s healthy development and how we support the well-being of all parents. Great parents come in all shapes and sizes. Commitment and responsibility are key to laying down the neural networks that support each of us in creating healthy, dependable relationships that help us thrive from childhood to adulthood.

Three years on from the first #SingleParentDay we have much to celebrate and a continuing need to commit ourselves anew to recognising that families - of all types – really matter.

By Catherine Hine
Chief Executive, Fastn