Parting Shot: Fiona Weir of Gingerbread

The outgoing chief executive is amazed that the organisation is still the only national charity for single parents

Fiona Weir
Fiona Weir

I became chief executive of the charity for single parents just after it merged with One Parent Families, which was just prior to the 2008 recession. We launched an instantly obsolescent three-year funding strategy the day Lehman Brothers collapsed, so we realised that, with nearly half of single-parent families in poverty, we faced years of rising service demand in a tougher funding climate.

It still amazes me that there is only one fully national charity for nearly two million single parents in England and Wales. The one in three who visited our website last year will testify to their distinctive identity and needs.

I am immensely proud that, thanks to Gingerbread, two single parents get a job every working week: work services contracting is tough for medium-sized specialist charities. Today, 100 Gingerbread groups enable single parents to support each other, and our national helpline deals with ever more challenging calls.

But it is the campaigning I feel most proud and anxious about, in a climate where too many charities self-censor for fear of losing funding or access. Hundreds of thousands of single parents have benefited from campaigning by Gingerbread and anti-poverty charities: funding for childcare, reduced child maintenance charges and the U-turn on tax credits - significant sums of money for barely managing families. Charities bring to ministers, MPs and civil servants insights and evidence of policy impact on the ground, paid for from our precious unrestricted funds. In an era when the political process is increasingly out of touch, the last thing government should do is discourage charities from speaking out.

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