Nearly half of young mothers regularly skip meals because they struggle to feed their children, a survey has found.
Polling of more than 300 mums found that 46 per cent of mothers aged under 25 in the UK refrain from eating at proper meals in order to ensure their children are fed, while 61 per cent said they were only just managing financially.
The survey, commissioned last month by the Young Women’s Trust to poll young mothers about finances, employment, social networks, stigma, childcare and employment support, also found that 27 per cent of mothers aged 16-24 were using food banks or had used them in the past.
Nearly one in five (19 per cent) meanwhile felt lonely all of the time, with more than a quarter (26 per cent) leaving the house just once a week or less.
Young mums who are in work often struggle too as they get less government support under the age of 25 and are more likely to be on low pay, particularly as they are not entitled to the national living wage. The problem is also exacerbated by the fact that most of the jobs the young women had done were were in low-paid areas like care, cleaning and clerical work.
One 23-year-old mother who has received support from the Young Women’s Trust was referred to a Trussell Trust food bank this winter to provide for her young son, after a longer than expected recovery time from a back operation meant she couldn’t get back to her job as soon as she had hoped.
“I was working but have been off for a couple of months after a back operation,” said the woman.
“Due to the long recovery I ended up on Statutory Sick Pay, and the drop in money coming in compared to my normal wage has meant I’ve really struggled to pay bills, rent and feed myself and my young son. Something had to give.
“The food bank has been a real lifeline and I’m very grateful for all the support and help the lovely volunteers have given me, but I never imagined I’d need their help.”
The survey also shed light on the difficulties young mothers were facing with finding or maintaining employment while also caring for their children.
A quarter of the young women polled had experienced discrimination when their employer found out they were pregnant, while 39 per cent had been questioned in an interview about how being a mother affects their ability to work and 26 per cent had left a job because they couldn’t afford childcare.
Nearly one in four (73 per cent) of the young mothers had meanwhile experienced rudeness or unpleasant behaviour towards them when with their children in public, while 68 per cent had felt unwelcome in a parent and toddler group.
More than half (53 per cent) of the women felt they were judged badly for claiming benefits, with 36 per cent saying they often feel judged negatively by friends and family for going to work.
In light of the findings, Young Women’s Trust chief executive Dr Carole Easton OBE said: “Young Women’s Trust has found that young mothers are clearly committed to their children’s upbringing but often face huge challenges in their everyday lives. A shocking number are having to skip meals or turn to food banks in order to feed their children.
“Young mums are telling us they want to work and become financially independent but they face huge barriers like discrimination from employers, a lack of available and affordable childcare, a lack of flexible working opportunities and inconsistent support from Jobcentre Plus. On top of that, they are entitled to less government support and lower wages because of their age.
“Young Women’s Trust’s report recommends access to affordable childcare, better support for young women at job centres and advertising jobs on a flexible, part-time or job share basis by default.
“Giving young mothers the support they need to get jobs will not only help them to become financially independent but will benefit businesses and the economy too.”
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