Emma Lunn: Single people are not second-class households
As the Government promises to help families, people living alone seem to be forgotten
Sunday 01 July 2012
Another day, another press release about how financial problems are pushing "families" to breaking point or another Government statement promising to help "hard-working families".
It depicts parents jabbing away at a calculator, frantically trying to make it all add up, struggling this, juggling that, heroically plodding off to work to keep the country afloat. If you dare live alone you don't get a mention.
Why is this? Do the powers-that-be or the companies churning out surveys actually think that somehow paying a mortgage and bills all on your own is somehow cheaper than splitting the very same costs with someone else? Or that single people don't pay tax? Or read newspapers?
Perhaps if you're not part of a "hard-working family" you must be the hard-working families' nemesis: the benefits scrounger, unemployed or unemployable, making no contribution to society or the economy?
This is rarely the case, of course. The fact is, according to the Office of National Statistics, around a third of households in the UK comprise a single person. The trend is set to rise too. Single-person households are projected to increase by 163,000 a year – from 6.8 million in 2006 to 10.9 million in 2031 – and singleton households could outnumber any other kind by 2031, according to the Government Office for Science.
Far from being a sign of romantic failure, it's many people's choice to live alone. Owning your own home as an individual surely stops you falling into the trap of being stuck in joint ownership with someone you no longer love or even like much?
Not all organisations ignore single people though. Comparison website Confused.com recently did a report on the "rise of singledom" in the UK. It came up with some terrible acronyms: FLAPers (financially liberated and positively single) and MOSHing (multiple occupant shared home). Awful jargon aside, the point of the report was to call for financial products to reflect various living situations. For example, life insurance that can be bought jointly with friends if they own a property together, or a legal right to a friend's possessions in the event of their death.
I can't see any of this happening any time soon. However, it would be a start if politicians and the like at least started recognising singletons as fully-fledged contributing citizens.
Credit card charges
It all looked promising last December. Back then, the Government announced it would ban excessive card fees by the end of 2012. This would mean goodbye to airlines charging £6 per person per flight for the privilege of paying by credit card. But, speaking this week, Treasury minister, Mark Hoban, wouldn't confirm the Government will stick to its pledge.
Meanwhile, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), which upheld a super complaint by consumer watchdog Which? on card surcharges in June last year, is yet to take any action against companies that hide card fees in the small print.
While the Government and OFT stall, consumers are still paying the price. Airlines, in particular, are continuing to impose heavy fees with one, Monarch, even upping its fees in the past six months. Even the DVLA, a government agency, is charging £2.50 if a customer pays by credit card. It's particularly galling when drivers have no choice about who they buy their tax disc from.
Promises count for nothing. What we need is action.
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