I watched J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, on a recent interview with Jon Stewart. She talked about her days as a struggling single mother on welfare in England, and how government services saved her from abject poverty — and enabled her to create the book series that made her one of the most famous, and richest writers in the world. This experience, she said, is the reason she has chosen to remain in England and pay high taxes: because she feels an obligation to give back.
I was blown away by her statement. Here, in America, the majority of our richest citizens feel entitled to scheme their way into paying as little taxes as possible. Greed and the it’s-all-about-me-and-my-type philosophy have decimated this country. We need more people like J.K. Rowling who admit that they have more than enough and believe it is their civic duty to help those who don’t.
One of the ways Rowling gives back is through her participation in Gingerbread, a U.K.-based charity serving single parents. Rowling has been Gingerbread’s President and supporter since 2000. Besides providing practical assistance for single parents, Gingerbread also offers a support network to ease the isolation common to those running one-parent households.
I asked a Gingerbread representative to write a guest post for me and she graciously agreed. Read below to learn more about this remarkable organization. Someday, I hope, we will have something like it in this country. And if anyone has any ideas about how to make that happen, please contact me!
There are 2 million single parents in the UK, bringing up 3 million children. One in every four households in Britain is now headed by a single parent. Despite this, single parents and their children continue to face higher levels of poverty, disadvantage and discrimination – in fact, kids raised in single parent families in the UK are twice as likely to grow up in poverty as kids raised in a family where the parents are still together.
Here in the UK at the charity Gingerbread, we think single parents do a brilliant job, and often under very tough circumstances. Gingerbread is the national charity for single parent families – our strapline reads ‘single parents, equal families’ and that’s what we believe in. We’ve been working with single parent families in England and Wales for almost 100 years now, providing expert advice, practical support and campaigning on the issues that matter. We also offer training to help single parents who want to return to the workplace.
When you’re raising your family alone, getting the right advice for your situation can be crucial. The Gingerbread Single Parent Helpline is staffed by expert advisers all trained to give practical support and information on the issues affecting single parent families, such as separation and contact between children and their other parent, or housing options and financial support. Our website is also packed with information, factsheets, tools and webchats designed to make finding the facts for your family that little bit more straightforward.
But it’s not all about the practical side. Single parents often tell us that one of the aspects of bringing up their children on their own that they find most challenging is the sense of loneliness and isolation – particularly if they don’t have family close by. We know how important it is to have the help and support of a community of like-minded people – and that’s why more than 40,000 single parents in the UK have chosen to become part of our community as a Gingerbread member.
Our members receive a monthly online newsletter packed full of updates and special offers, access to our lively online forums where single mums and dads come to chat, and the opportunity to join or start a local Gingerbread group where they can meet and make friends with families like theirs – all for free. And being part of Gingerbread also means being part of a force of single parents who want to make their voices heard on the issues affecting them.
We campaign for fair and equal treatment for single parent families – influencing governments, changing laws and challenging stigma and stereotype to show the true diversity of family life in the UK today. Right now, we’re campaigning to make sure single parents can find, keep and progress in a decent job that allows them to balance their responsibilities at home with their career goals and earn enough to support their children. When one in five single parent families is living in poverty despite working full-time hours, it’s clear some real changes are needed. So we want the UK government and employers to take action and Make it work for single parents.
Anyone can find themselves bringing up children on their own – no matter their age, background or circumstances. At Gingerbread, we’re here for all single parents and their children to help make things a little easier.