Half of young mums skip meals as they struggle to feed their children

Tuesday 28 March 2017

Half of young mums skip meals as they struggle to feed their children and a quarter have used a food bank, finds Young Women’s Trust 

YWTYoung Women’s Trust research has found that 46 per cent of mums aged under 25 in the UK regularly miss meals in order to provide for their children and more than a quarter have used a food bank due to financial struggles. 

Polling of more than 300 mums by Survation showed that money is tight, with 61 per cent saying they were only just managing financially. A third admitted to being worried about their financial situation, with one in ten being “extremely worried”. Often, the barriers young mothers face in finding work can put a strain on the family budget.

The findings build on a Young Women’s Trust report launched last week, which showed that many young mums face isolation, discrimination by employers, high childcare costs and a lack of flexible working opportunities – all of which can make finding or staying in work a struggle:

  • a quarter experienced discrimination when they told their employer they were pregnant;
  • almost forty per cent had been quizzed in a job interview about how being a mother would affect their ability to work;
  • one in five feels lonely all of the time and one in four leaves the house just once a week or less, leaving them with a lack of confidence and networks;
  • a quarter had had requests for flexible working related to their pregnancy or child turned down; and
  • one in four had left a job because they couldn’t afford childcare.

Young mums who took part in Young Women’s Trust focus groups said they hoped to get jobs and it was widely agreed that it felt good to earn your own money rather than take benefits. Many had already started planning their future careers and hoped to be more financially stable in the future.

When asked what would help them find work, young mums were largely in agreement about what was important:

  • cheaper childcare available in their area (79 per cent);
  • more jobs advertised with opportunities to work flexible hours (83 per cent);
  • more jobs advertised with part-time hours (81 per cent); and
  • employers’ attitudes towards pregnant women or mothers (eighty per cent). 

Young mothers 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. Focus group members spoke of how their incomes were under duress. Not only are under-25s not entitled to the national living wage but most of the jobs the young women had done were in low-paid areas like care, cleaning and clerical work. 

23 year old Anna* and her young son were referred to a Trussell Trust food bank this winter 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. 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.” 

Young Women’s Trust chief executive Dr Carole Easton OBE said of the findings: 

“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, including discrimination, isolation and financial difficulties. 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.”

Young Women’s Trust’s report, What matters to young mums?, was published last week and explores more of the challenges young mothers face.


Notes to editor

  1. Young Women’s Trust commissioned Survation to poll young mothers about finances, employment, social networks, stigma, childcare and employment support. The survey was conducted in February 2017 with a representative sample of 319 mothers aged 16 to 24 in the UK.
  2. The survey found that:
    1. 27 per cent were currently using food banks or had used them in the past;
    2. 46 per cent regularly missed meals in order to provide for their children
    3. 61 per cent were “only just managing financially”;
    4. when asked about the financial situation in their household on a scale of one to five, with five being “extremely worried”, 23 per cent gave a ranking of four and 11 per cent gave a ranking of five;
    5. 25 per cent had experienced discrimination when their employer found out they were pregnant;
    6. 39 per cent had been questioned in an interview about how being a mother affects their ability to work;
    7. 19 per cent felt lonely all of the time and 26 per cent left the house just once a week or less, with some leaving less than once a month;
    8. 26 per cent had left a job because they couldn’t afford childcare;
    9. 26 per cent had had requests for flexible working related to their pregnancy or child turned down;
    10. 73 per cent of the young mums polled had experienced rudeness or unpleasant behaviour towards them when with their children in public;
    11. 74 per cent had had their concerns about their children’s health dismissed by doctors and 79 per had been patronised by nurses, midwives or health visitors about parenting techniques, including breast-feeding;
    12. 68 per cent had felt unwelcome in a parent and toddler group;  and
    13. 36 per cent often felt judged negatively by friends and family for going to work, while 53 per cent felt they were judged badly for claiming benefits, showing it is hard to win.
    14. Young Women’s Trust released a report about the experiences and challenges young mothers face, What matters to young mums, on 23 March 2017. The report is available here: http://www.youngwomenstrust.org/young-mums
    15. *Names in the news release have been changed.
    16. For more information or to speak to a young mother, please contact Bex Bailey on 07963018281 or bex.bailey@youngwomenstrust.org.