chapter  9
18 Pages

Housing and young single parent families

BySuzanne Speak

This book is primarily concerned with the housing situation of young single people. However, in Britain, as in other European countries, there is an increasing number of young people who, although neither married nor cohabiting, are not thought of as single and often do not fit the criteria for single person’s housing: they are the country’s single young parents. Secondary analysis of the Survey of English Housing shows that 7 per cent of young women between the ages of 16 and 25 are single young mothers, with custody of and sole responsibility for their children. The number of single young fathers is tiny – much smaller than 1 per cent of men in that age group. The average age of single mothers in Britain is 25 years, but the group includes younger teenage mothers: around 4 per cent of young women aged 16-19 are lone parents. The increasing likelihood that young mothers will raise their children alone, rather than marrying or cohabiting with the father, leads to concern about single motherhood’s cost to the state in terms of social housing and benefits. The 1990s saw a number of memorable political comments about young single mothers; for example, John Redwood commented in 1995: ‘the assumption is that the illegitimate child is a passport to a council flat’ (Guardian 14.8.95). After a number of studies of young single parenthood, there still remains no evidence that young people do consider a child in this way (Burghes and Brown 1995; Clark 1989; Speak et al. 1995, 1997).