Sophie is a young mum of two who works for the NHS and is also a part time Masters student. Like other young mums Sophie has had a tough time balancing full time work, part time study, and looking after her children. Increased cuts by the government have made it even tougher for young mums to work and afford childcare.
‘Being a young mum is extremely tough, especially with all the cuts. Not getting housing benefit if you are under 21 is a huge cut to all the young mums. If it was me 6 years ago I don’t think I would have ever got out the house to work or to study. I didn’t get any benefit when she was born as I didn’t know what sort of benefit I could be entitled to and nobody was helping me in that sense. Sometimes I used to cut classes because I couldn’t afford to let my daughter go to the nanny. When I went to meet my local MP I asked him a question about young women and young mums he said I never thought of that group. What I wish that I was told when I was a young mum is that you can definitely do it. Whatever you put your mind too you can definitely do it.’
What is the government’s policy towards young mums?
There is some support for young mums in education. You may get a special support grant if you have a partner who’s also a student, and one or both of you are responsible for a child or young person under 20 years old who’s in full-time education below higher education level. The amount you get is the same as the maintenance grant or assembly learning grant, but it doesn’t reduce the amount of maintenance loan or loan for living costs you can borrow, and isn’t taken into account when calculating the means-tested benefits you’re entitled to.
Young mothers who are full time students are entitled to a childcare support grant of up to £155.24 a week for 1 child and up to £266.15 a week for 2 or more children. Full-time students with children could get up to £1,523 a year to help with their learning costs. This is called Parents’ Learning Allowance. This is not available for mums in part time study. Young mothers who are not in education can receive a child benefit of £20.70 per child per week, and additional £13.70 per week for any subsequent children.
The government has plans to cut benefits that will have a direct impact on young mums. Families with more than two children will no longer receive housing benefits or tax credits for their third child. This “two child policy” will be implemented in April 2017, and will leave many families worse off.
What is the issue with this approach?
Many young mothers have trouble dealing with cuts made by the government, such as cuts on housing benefits. In summer 2015, the Chancellor announced the removal of entitlement to housing benefits from young people aged 18-21. In addition, for some young mums, a lack of money for transport means they will be left isolated and lonely. A big issue is young mums who aren’t working, are working part-time, or working in low-income jobs; this group is most vulnerable. Young mothers also face stigma, and therefore a focus on the support for young mothers should be addressed and made central to policy making in order to respect their needs.