On the 12th May 2008 , Fawcett Society, together with the union Unite and Oxfam, launched the Keeping Mum campaign which exposed the links between women’s poverty and child poverty.

As part of this campaign Fawcett obtained previously unpublished statistics which revealed the extent to which child poverty is caused by the gender income gap and the lack of opportunities for mothers in the labour market.

The figures showed that:

  • Four out of ten (39%) of children in poverty are in single mother households
  • A further three out of ten (29%) are in households where the father works full-time, but the mother is on low income or no income [1]
  • In addition, the statistics demonstrate that being a lone mother doubles your risk of moving into poverty [1]

 From the moment they conceive a child, women face immediate financial penalties:

  •  Mothers are at greater risk of poverty in the UK than in any other western European country [2]
  • 30,000 women every year lose their jobs as a result of becoming pregnant [3]
  • After having a child, many more women move into low-paid and insecure work as cleaners, carers, temps and homeworkers, which does not keep them above the poverty line

 The Fawcett Society called on the government to tackle mother’s poverty by:

  •  Banning the dismissal of pregnant women
  • Increasing maternity and paternity entitlements to the same level as the minimum wage
  • Introducing measures to encourage fathers to be more involved in children’s upbringing
  • Making gender pay audits compulsory for all organisations
  • Increasing the number of hours mothers can work without losing their benefits from four to sixteen

 As part of this campaign members of the public were encouraged to sign an E-postcard to the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown asking him to make tackling mothers’ poverty a priority.  This was signed by over 300 activists, and an associated Facebook group had 190 members.

Impact

  • Influenced the agenda of the new Child Poverty Unit and worked closely with ministers to lobby for strong measures on equal pay in the forthcoming Equalities Bill
  • Achieved policy change on the extension of the right to request flexible working
  • Responded to a number of government consultations and wrote a briefing setting out the project’s evidence base and policy recommendations
  • Formed strong alliances with key campaign partners and co-ordinated high-profile joint lobbying work

You can find the report here: Keeping Mum

You can find a press release with more information on the campaign here: Final Press Release

More information can be found in this briefing: Keeping Mum Briefing

Since running this campaign the Fawcett Society has continued to campagin on behalf of mothers and pregnant women:

Alliance Against Pregnancy Discrimination in the Workplace - this is a 2013 analysis of the discrimination of pregnant women that was produced by the Alliance Against Pregnancy Discrimination (Citizen's Advice Bureau, Fawcett, Gingerbread, Leigh Day and Co, Maternity Action, Working Families)

Women’s Financial Assets and Debts report - this is a 2011 analysis on the differences between women’s and men’s financial assets and debts with evidence broken down by age, income and ethnicity 

Single Mothers: Singled Out - this is a 2011 study of the impact of tax and benefit changes on women


[1] Data obtained by request to the Department for Work and Pensions, https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-work-pensions
[2] Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Iacovou, M. and Aassve, A., Youth poverty in Europe, 2007  http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download;jsessionid=0E463EAA7AC3354FF01E3CA3D2BB899F?doi=10.1.1.500.5063&rep=rep1&type=pdf
[3]Equal Opportunities Commission, Greater expectations: EOC’s investigation into pregnancy discrimination, 2005, http://www.eoc.org.uk/