Incorporate single parents as a protected characteristic in the Equality Act 2010
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The experience of the single parent includes being passed over for promotion, discriminated against in child benefit rules, and judged as a bad parent for not meeting the standards of a family with twice the resources. Throughout this pandemic single parents have continued to be a forgotten group.
The announcement of support bubbles specifically for single parents highlights that the government are aware we are a unique group with unique policy needs, however it does not go far enough.
There are 2.9 million single parents in the UK, 90% are female and almost 70% of us are working outside the home. Despite this, almost two-thirds of children in single parent families are living in poverty according to the charity Gingerbread.
The unequal treatment of single parents has been allowed to continue because we aren't seen as a group that are unfairly treated and as such we aren't protected from the discrimination many of us face daily.
The Equality Act 2010 provides a legal framework to protect individual rights and ensure people are treated equally. It lists nine groups – known as protected characteristics – which are afforded this legal protection. The absence of single parents from these protected characteristics means we will forever fall through the cracks.
Single parents must be enshrined as a protected group in the Equality Act 2010 to ensure these unequal impacts don't keep repeating and repeating - lockdown or no lockdown. Only once single parents are a recognised group in law, will we be actively considered by policymakers, and not merely remembered as an afterthought.
We call on the government to update the protected characteristics in the Equality Act 2010 to include single parents and reflect modern Britain, by:
1. Adding single parents as a tenth protected characteristic to those enshrined in the Equality Act 2010
2. Expanding the current "married and civil partnership" characteristic to "marital and civil partnership status"
3. Expanding the "pregnancy and maternity" characteristic to include "pregnancy, maternity and parental responsibility"
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