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One-Parent Families

Volume 932: debated on Friday 20 May 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many one-parent families there are in total, including widowed, divorced, separated, and unmarried; and how many children they contain.

I would refer my hon. Friend to my reply to the hon. Member for Wallasey (Mrs. Chalker) today.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will make

Numbers of one parent families in receipt of
Supplementary benefit (a)Family Income Supplement (b)Widowed Mother's Allowance (c)
1976N. AN. A34197

a) Supplementary benefit: the figures for fatherless families include some in receipt of a national insurance widow's benefit, namely 22,000 in 1971, 21,000 in 1972, 20,000 in 1973, 14,000 in 1974 and 9,000 in 1975. The figures relate to a day in December or November of each year. Figures for 1976 are not yet available.

( b) Family income supplement (FIS): the figures relate to the end of December for each year.

a statement about the numbers of one-parent families indicating numbers of men and women heads of household by cause of single parenthood, their take up of benefits and the changes that have occurred over the last five years.

, pursuant to his reply [Official Report, 29th March 1977; Vol. 929, c. 124], gave the following information:The estimates and analyses of the numbers of one-parent families and children in the Finer Committee's Report on One-Parent Families (Cmnd. 5629, July 1974) remain the most comprehensive source of information. The hon. Member will be aware that some tentative figures relating to 1973 were given in the replies to her on 13th February and 18th March 1976, and in my hon. Friend's reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, Southwest (Mrs. Wise) on 7th July 1976. It is not, however, possible to make reliable estimates of year to year changes, though it is evident that there has been some increase in overall numbers since 1971—chiefly because of increased marital breakdown as indicated by the trend in divorce statistics.Some information going back to 1971 is available about the broad numbers of one-parent families receiving supplementary benefit, family income supplement and widowed mother's allowance and this is set out in the following table:—(

c) Widowed mother's allowance: the figures include widows overseas as well as those in Great Britain and relate to December for 1971 and to November for each other year.

Estimates of the take-up of supplementary benefit by one-parent families are available from 1973 as follows:

197382 per cent
197490 per cent
197587 per cent

These estimates are derived from a DHSS analysis of the incomes and other information recorded in the Family Expenditure Survey and are subject to sampling error. The estimates of numbers of one-parent families apparently eligible for, but not receiving supplementary benefit, are of the order of 30,000 in 1974 and 40,000 in 1975 and are subject to very considerable sampling error.

About three-quarters of all eligible families were receiving FIS in 1975. Separate estimates of the take-up by one-parent families are not available.

In the case of widowed mother's allowance, there is evidence to suggest take-up approaching 100 per cent. This also applied to family allowances, which were replaced by child benefit in April 1977.

The child interim benefit in payment from April 1976 to April 1977 was being received by about 200,000 lone parents


Thousands and percentages

Family Resources

Below supplementary benefit level and normally not receiving it

Normally on supplementary benefit (2)

Above supplementary benefit level but within 20 per cent. of it






Persons Thousands (3)

Families under pension age:
Married couples with children130570120550200920
Single persons with children50(4)15026076020(4)80
Married couples no children601207013060130
Single persons no children260260340340130130
Married couples140280280560400810
Families over pension age:
Single persons4504701,3701,370690690
All families1,0901,8402,4303,7101,5002,750 Percentage(5)
Families under pension age:
Married couples with children222234
Single persons with children78404144
Married couples no children111111
Single persons no children445522
Married couples7713131919
Families over pension age:
Single persons111134331717
All families4310765

Source: DHSS analysis of FES data.

1. Families are included in this table if the head is either normally receiving supplementary benefit or if the family's net income less net housing costs less work expenses is less than 120 per cent. of their supplementary benefit

at the end of December 1976. Take-up was estimated to be about 80 per cent.:—[Vol. 905, c. 415; Vol. 907, c. 627–8; Vol. 910, c. 610].