CHARITIES and MPs condemning a decision to give young parents less financial support because of their age have accused the UK Government of “defending the indefensible”.

Their criticism comes after the government dismissed concerns raised in a letter with more than 100 signatories representing charities, trade unions and academics and 60 cross-party MPs that young parents and their children, particularly in single-parent families, were being pushed into poverty because of age-based inequality.

Young parents used to be paid the same rate of benefits as over-25s, but that changed under Universal Credit so they now receive a lower rate.

A report last month from the Child Poverty Action Group, which was among the organisations to sign the letter, estimated that single parents are £65 worse off per month as a result, while parent couples are £100 worse off per month.

The research also found that paying young parents the adult rate would lift 10,000 children out of poverty.

Charity One Parent Families Scotland is leading a campaign to reverse the policy. It says the impact on young single parent families is

“devastating”, throwing many families they work with “into crisis and needing to turn to food banks”.

A letter from the UK minister for welfare delivery Will Quince in response to the campaign said: “The Government considers that, where possible, it is in the best interests of children to be in working households.

“The lower rates for younger claimants who are under the age of 25 reflects the fact they are more likely to live in someone else’s household and have lower earnings expectations.

“This is intended to maintain the incentive for younger people to find work which has been aided by the Department for Work and Pensions’s £2 billion Kickstart scheme – already creating thousands of high-quality jobs for young people.

“Universal Credit pays up to 85% of childcare costs, compared to 70% in legacy benefits, and can be claimed up to a month before starting a job.”

The chief executive of One Parent Families Scotland, Satwat Rehman, said: “The UK Government’s response to the serious concerns of charities supporting women, children and families, and those trapped in poverty around the UK, is simply not good enough.

“The Government says under-25s are more likely to live in someone else’s household, but this woefully misunderstands the reality of young parents’ lives.

“Around two-thirds of under-25s claiming Housing Benefit themselves – and therefore living independently – are parents with young children, and nearly three-quarters of young people claiming Housing Benefit are women, precisely because young women are more likely to have dependent children. In our many years of supporting young parents, overwhelmingly young women, we could count on one hand the number who were living with their parents.

“The decision to start paying all young people a lower rate of benefits, regardless of whether they have children, flies in the face of the evidence that young families have the same costs as any other family.

“We would urge the Government not to defend the indefensible, but to look at the facts.”

SNP work and pensions spokesperson David Linden MP said: “It is clear that the Young Parent Penalty continues to impact thousands of single parents across Scotland.

“Support is urgently required for young lone-parent families who are suffering under the contradictory and confusing rules of the Department for Work and Pensions. The British Government must do the right thing and end the Young Parent Penalty.”