Gingerbread is a registered charity (England and Wales) which provides advice, support and campaigns for single parent families. Following a merger with One Parent Families in 2007 it was briefly known as "One Parent Families|Gingerbread" before relaunching as Gingerbread in January 2009.
1918-1970: The National Council for the Unmarried Mother and her Child
The charity was originally founded in 1918 as The National Council for the Unmarried Mother and her Child (and for the Widowed or deserted Mother in Need) by Lettice Fisher. The charity had two goals: to reform the Bastardy Acts and Affiliation Order Acts laws which discriminated against illegitimate children, and to provide alternative accommodation to the workhouse for mothers and babies.
Throughout the first half of the twentieth century, the charity worked to provide practical advice and assistance to single parents, and to campaign for single parents’ rights. In response to changing employment and education patterns in post-war Britain, the charity set up finance education schemes and training programmes to help single parents find a place in the new economy.
In 1970, the charity renamed itself as the National Council for One Parent Families and would use this name up until its merger with Gingerbread in 2007.
1970-2007: The National Council for One Parent Families
Working under a new name, the National Council for One Parent families continued to support and advocate on behalf of single parents. In 1974, the Finer Report on the needs of one parent families was published. Many of its 230 recommendations for improving the lives of single parent families were proposed by the National Council for One Parent Families.
In 1979 the organisation jointly produced a report with the Community Development Trust. Among other things, the report called for the abolition of the age of consent because the law at that time did not take into account consenting sexual relationships between young people, which resulted in pregnancies being hidden.
In 1987, the Family Law Reform Act passed, through which the Bastardy Acts and Affiliation Orders Acts are repealed, after extensive pressure for the National Council for One Parent Families.
After the breakdown of her marriage, Tessa Fothergill, a mother from London struggling with economic difficulties as a single parent, set up a local self-help group for others in a similar position. Fothergill was featured in the Sunday Times, and the response from other single parents resulted in the creation of Gingerbread as a grassroots organisation providing community-level support for single parents. The name 'Gingerbread' came about after Fothergill saw a cafe called 'Golden Age Gingerbread' and liked the name.
The National Council for One Parent Families and Gingerbread merged in 2007, and relaunched under the name Gingerbread in 2009. Head offices for Gingerbread are in Kentish Town, London, with satellite offices in Cardiff, Rhyl, Manchester and Accrington.
The charity describes its vision as ‘a society in which single parent families are valued and treated equally and fairly.’
Helpline Gingerbread runs a Freephone helpline (0808 802 0925) offering advice and information for single parents. The helpline is staffed by advisers who are trained to give guidance on practical matters to do with money, benefits, employment issues and family law.
Membership Single parents can become members of Gingerbread for free, most signing up via the Gingerbread website. Members can use the protected online forums, receive a monthly e-newsletter and get access to discounts and special offers.
Local groups Some Gingerbread members run local groups offering peer support for other single parents and their families.
Online advice and information Gingerbread offers comprehensive advice and information for single parents on its website, as well as a number of interactive advice tools and an online community for members. The advice covers areas including child maintenance, tax credits and steps to take when a relationship ends. In October 2011 a mobile version of the website was launched.
Training Gingerbread offers training, employability and confidence-building programmes for single parents. It runs schemes in partnership with Marks & Spencer (Marks and Start) to help single parents return to the workplace.
Lobbying and campaigns
Gingerbread’s policy and research team works with elected representatives and other policy makers to influence policy and practice on issues relating to single parents.
Gingerbread has campaigned against negative stereotyping of single parent families. Their ‘Let’s lose the labels’ and ‘Single parents: you’re brilliant’ campaigns both challenged stigma against single parents.
- Lettice Fisher – founder of the National Council for the Unmarried Mother and her Child
- Tessa Fothergill (Raga Woods) – founder of Gingerbread (1970)
- J. K. Rowling – President of Gingerbread
- John Amaechi – Basketball player, Gingerbread ambassador
- Martina Cole – Author, Gingerbread ambassador
- Laila Rouass – Actress, Gingerbread ambassador
- Lisa Aziz – News presenter, Gingerbread ambassador
- Tracey Edwards MBE – Sailor, Gingerbread ambassador
- Kate Fawkes – TV Executive Producer (Bob the Builder), Gingerbread ambassador
- Neil Pearson – Actor, Gingerbread ambassador
- Arabella Weir – Actress, comedian and writer, Gingerbread ambassador
- Our history, Gingerbread.org.uk.
- The Glasgow Herald - Google News Archive Search
- Sandra Barwick (30 July 1993) "The perfect 20th-century Bohemian: Raga Woods has whirled with dervishes, networked with travellers and married a Zen monk.", The Independent.
- Gingerbread - About us - Gingerbread | single parent charity | single parent families | about Gingerbread | charity description
- Gingerbread Single Parent Helpline, Gingerbread.org.uk.
- Community, Gingerbread.org.uk.
- http://www.gingerbread.org.uk/content.aspx?CategoryID=438[broken citation]
- Advice and information, Gingerbread.org.uk.
- Training, Gingerbread.org.uk.
- Policy and campaigns, Gingerbread.org.uk.
- Let's Lose the Labels, YouTube video (GingerbreadUK)
- http://www.gingerbread.org.uk/content.aspx?CategoryID=488[broken citation]
- Our supporters, Gingerbread.org.uk.
- Official website
- The Women's Library at the Library of the London School of Economics, which holds the organisation's extensive archive and publications
- National Council for One Parent Families, Registered Charity no. 230750 at the Charity Commission