Gingerbread is expecting calls to its helpline to peak this New Year as single parents - already disproportionately hard-hit by cuts - start to face post-Christmas bills. After a year of rising food and fuel prices many are down to the bone and want ways to protect their families from the recession's worst effects.
Getting connected - the single parent's guide to getting the most out of the internet has tips on everything - from where to find the best bargains, to using online banking to pay the bills. It's the product of a partnership between RBS and Gingerbread which started in 2009 as part of the bank's MoneySense financial education programme.
Launching the guide today, Gingerbread Chief Executive Fiona Weir said:
"Calls to our helpline will surge this New Year as worried single parents struggle to cope with January's bills. This month's VAT rise will make it tougher still, with families estimated to lose hundreds of pounds a year as result of the hike (1). We have developed the Getting Connected guide so that more single parents can use the internet to try to stay on top of their finances and save wherever they can. The full guide is packed with enough advice to turn even a complete novice into a savvy surfer."
Money worries account for around half of all the problems raised in calls to Gingerbread's free Single Parent Helpline (0808 802 0925). By making the most of what's available online, single parents can save vital pounds. Here are Gingerbread's top five tips for getting connected:
- If you don't have a computer at home, head down to your library, where it's often available for free
- Do your weekly shop online from most supermarkets - you'll find all the special offers (and avoid impulse buys!)
- Fancy a good read without splashing out? Sites like readitswapit.co.uk are a great way to treat yourself for free
- If you want to expand your mind without the tuition fees, bbc.co.uk/learning is packed with short online courses
- Create a simple budget planner to stick to on sites like RBS moneysense
RBS Community Investment Manager, Jennifer Coleman said:
"We are delighted to continue our partnership with Gingerbread, with new evidence showing that those who live in the poorest homes are two-and-a-half times more likely not to have home internet than those who live in the wealthiest homes (2). We hope this guide will help encourage single parents to gain more access and confidence to use the internet. Our own RBS MoneySense website is a perfect example of a website parents can start to access online to help them budget, track, save and manage their money in the New Year. The Gingerbread website now also features video top tips from single parents which are great for other single parents to gain inspiration."
Find the guide, and a great new online film, at gingerbread.org.uk.
For help managing your money, go to RBS Moneysense
Notes to Editors:
- Research by accountants Deloitte for the Times newspaper estimates the mean average UK household on a combined income of £25,000 will pay an extra £150 per year as a result of the hike while families with a combined total income of £70,000 will pay an extra £561 per year. The Times 4th January 2011. A BBC report (June 2010) estimates that in 2012 - 13 the increase will cost those on an annual income of £16,600 an extra £200 per year while those on £49,500 will lose between £800 and £900, with the average income group losing just over £300
- (2) Research by leading digital education charity, the E-Learning Foundation, which reports that a million UK children lack access to computers, BBC News online 28 Dec 2010
Although child-related costs are the same for single parents as for other parents, single mums and dads are often on tighter budgets than other families. 31% of single parents have a usual gross weekly household income of £200 or less (General Household Survey 2007).
Only two in five single parents receive any child maintenance from their child's non-resident parent. In a survey 38% of single parents said money always or often runs out before the end of the month or week in comparison to 19% of couple-families (Families with children in Britain: Findings from the 2008 Families and Children Study (FACS) by Natalie Maplethorpe, Jenny Chanfreau, Dan Philo and Clare Tait.
Gingerbread is the charity which works nationally and locally, for and with single parent families, to improve their lives. We achieve change by championing their voices and needs and providing support services.
The charity runs a Single Parent Helpline and advice service on 0808 802 0925 (free to mobile networks) and publishes a range of free publications on every aspect of single parent family life, including benefits and tax, child maintenance, housing and employment. Gingerbread also runs a membership scheme and several return-to-work projects for single parents, working with private, public and other voluntary sector organisations to deliver these.