Gingerbread (charity)

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Gingerbread is a registered charity supporting single parent families in England and Wales. Founded in 1918, the charity supports single parent families by providing advice, online information, support groups and training.[1] 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.

In addition to these direct services, the charity works to improve the livelihood of single parents through advocacy and policy work, particularly relating to the charity's core areas of employment and skills, families and relationships, living standards and poverty, and welfare.[2]

J. K. Rowling, formerly a single parent herself, is the charity’s President.[3]


1918-1970: The National Council for the Unmarried Mother and her Child[edit]

The charity was 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.[3]

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.[3]

1970-2007: The National Council for One Parent Families[edit]

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.[4]

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.

1970-2007: Gingerbread[edit]

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.[5] 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.[6]

The name 'Gingerbread' came about after Fothergill saw a cafe called 'Golden Age Gingerbread' and liked the name.[5]

2007–2017: Merger[edit]

The National Council for One Parent Families and Gingerbread merged in 2007, and relaunched under the name Gingerbread in 2009. Head offices for Gingerbread were set up in Kentish Town, London, with satellite offices in Cardiff, Rhyl, Manchester and Accrington.

2018: Centenary[edit]

In 2018, the charity turned 100 years old (tracing its history back to The National Council for the Unmarried Mother and her Child).[7] As part of the centenary, the charity released a report looking at single parent families in the UK today.[8] The report found that while great progress has been made for single parents (with employment rates at a record high), there are still many challenges to overcome as a third of children with a working single parents live in poverty in the UK.[8]

The charity describes its vision as ‘a society in which single parent families are valued and treated equally and fairly.’[9]


Helpline Gingerbread runs a Freephone helpline (0808 802 0925) offering advice and information for single parents.[10] 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.[11]

Local groups Some Gingerbread members run local groups offering peer support for other single parents and their families.[12]

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.[13] 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.[14]

Lobbying and campaigns[edit]

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.[15]

Gingerbread has campaigned against negative stereotyping of single parent families. Their ‘Let’s lose the labels’[16] and ‘Single parents: you’re brilliant’[17] campaigns both challenged stigma against single parents.

Recently, Gingerbread has campaigned against government proposals to charge parents to use the Child Support Agency, and against cuts to Legal Aid proposed by the Welfare Reform Bill.

People associated with the charity[edit]

  • Lettice Fisher – founder of the National Council for the Unmarried Mother and her Child
  • Sybil Neville-Rolfe - one of the establishing members 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 and Gingerbread ambassador
  • Lisa Aziz – news presenter and Gingerbread ambassador
  • Martina Cole – author and Gingerbread ambassador
  • Tracey Edwards MBE – sailor and Gingerbread ambassador
  • Kate Fawkes – TV executive producer (Bob the Builder) and Gingerbread ambassador
  • Neil Pearson – actor and Gingerbread ambassador
  • Laila Rouass – actress and Gingerbread ambassador
  • Arabella Weir – actress, comedian, writer and Gingerbread ambassador



The records of Gingerbread are held at The Women's Library at the Library of the London School of Economics, ref 5GNB


  1. ^ "About Gingerbread - Gingerbread". Gingerbread. Retrieved 2018-04-23.
  2. ^ "Policy & campaigns - Gingerbread". Gingerbread. Retrieved 2018-04-23.
  3. ^ a b c Our history,
  4. ^ The Glasgow Herald - Google News Archive Search
  5. ^ a b 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.
  6. ^'NA1282'&dsqCmd=Show.tcl
  7. ^ "Our History - Gingerbread". Gingerbread. Retrieved 2018-04-23.
  8. ^ a b "One in four: a profile of single parents in the UK - Gingerbread". Gingerbread. Retrieved 2018-04-23.
  9. ^ Gingerbread - About us - Gingerbread | single parent charity | single parent families | about Gingerbread | charity description
  10. ^ Gingerbread Single Parent Helpline,
  11. ^ Community,
  12. ^[full citation needed]
  13. ^ Advice and information,
  14. ^ Training,
  15. ^ Policy and campaigns,
  16. ^ Let's Lose the Labels, YouTube video (GingerbreadUK)
  17. ^[full citation needed]
  18. ^ Our supporters,

External links[edit]