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Single Parent Index: Best places to live in the UK as a lone-parent

Starting a family is often considered to be one of life’s greatest joys. But, for any parent, that’s not to say that it comes without its challenges…

From sleepless nights to the added financial pressures, alongside career breaks and skyrocketing childcare costs, it’s not difficult to see why some couples struggle to make their relationship work through the everyday stresses of parenting.

In fact, single parent families are on the rise, with the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reporting that there were as many as 2.9 million lone-parent families in the UK in 2022, accounting for 15% of all families in total.

While more families are making the decision to parent alone, divorce rates in England and Wales actually reached their lowest level in 50 years, according to ONS data from 2022, with factors like the cost-of-living crisis playing a huge role here and couples holding off due to the financial challenges that legal separation can bring.

In this day and age, no parent who makes the decision to raise a child alone should be punished financially for it. Being family law specialists, we therefore wanted to take some of the stress out of the decision-making and ensure all single parents in the UK have the right information available to them when it comes to finding the best areas for raising a child.

Through our Single Parent Index, we’ve collected data on a range of factors and ranked them out of 173. Off the back of this we’ve been able to identify the best locations to live as a single parent, as well as the most affordable locations. We selected the data based on factors that play a significant role in the quality of life and general wellbeing for both the child and parent. This included; average house price, salary, council tax rate, proportion of Ofsted rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ schools and nurseries, cost of electricity, crime rate and amount of public green space.

Top places to live as a single parent

1. Bishop’s Castle, Shropshire – Score 138/173

According to our research, the best place to live in the UK as a single parent is Bishop’s Castle, south west of Shropshire close to the Welsh border. This historical market town dates back to the mediaeval period and was built on a hill, surrounded by miles of unspoiled countryside.

Based on our ranking factors for the study, Bishop’s Castle ranked most highly in total, earning a score of 138 out of 173. In particular, the average house price for this town scored well against the other locations, coming in the top five at fourth place with £285,400. As well as being an affordable area for single parents looking to buy, the average salary for Bishop’s Castle ranked second-highest in the list at a generous £40,259 – meaning that the budget for a single-income household will stretch that bit further.

From walking the Shropshire Hills, exploring the famous castle or testing out kayaking on the River Severn, this area is packed full of history and adventure for family-fun. If mooching around unique boutiques and trying out locally grown produce is more your ideal Saturday, there’s something for everyone, at any age here, explaining why this town in particular has scored so highly in our index.

2. Wooler, Northumberland – Score 125/173

Photo Credit: Dave Lawrie, Flickr

Moving up north, the second best place for single-parents to raise children is Wooler. Considered to be a walkers paradise, this hidden gem sits on the edge of Northumberland’s spectacular National Park. For this reason, it’s hardly surprising that it’s ranked the highest for green space against the other locations in this list, with a total of 18,782 m2 of public green space per person.

This tiny, stone-built market town is home to a bustling High Street with a collection of traditional shops, pubs and cafes, along with churches and buildings that date back to the 17-1800s. Speaking of buildings, the average house price in Wooler is a mere £191,000, making it the most affordable location for house prices in our study.

While Wooler offers that ‘middle-of-nowhere feeling’, it still provides that market town buzz which many young families – especially single-parents – will value. Although having access to green space brings many health and wellbeing benefits, as does building strong connections with the local community.

3. Rutland – Score 120/173

Following in a very close third place with a total ranking score of 120 is Rutland, which borders Leicestershire in the East Midlands and is commonly known as being England’s smallest county. It contains many villages and the historic market towns of Oakham and Uppingham.

Rutland is celebrated for its beautiful countryside and rural landscapes, including the Rutland Water nature reserve. Aside from its rolling green hills and idyllic villages, this area is also known for its tight-knit community and excellent local schools.

In line with its reputation, this area scored seventh highest for education in our index ranking, with as many as 13 ‘Good’ or ’Outstanding’ Ofsted rated schools and nurseries, which is a green flag for any single-parents who are interested in settling down in this area.

4= Melbourne, Derbyshire – Score 111/173

Photo Credit: Kevin Tebbutt, Flickr

Coming in as the joint fourth best place for single-parent families is the pretty market town in south Derbyshire, Melbourne. Bordering the National Forest, Melbourne has Georgian architecture, with more than 50 shops and plenty of heritage worth boasting about.

Aside from this town’s quaint look, bursting with independent shops and community spirit, Melbourne scored third out of all the locations we analysed for its low crime rate, with only 34 crimes reported per 1,000 people.

Living in a low crime rate area like this helps to reduce stress levels and anxiety – and even more so for single-parents who are likely to be living alone with a child – giving them the headspace to invest more attention towards their physical health and wellbeing instead.

4= Leeds, West Yorkshire – Score 111/173

With an identical total ranking to Melbourne, 87 miles north, the city of Leeds came joint fourth in our Single Parent Index.

More and more people are wanting to call this city ‘home’, with its dynamic urban experience, rich history and welcoming atmosphere.

This bustling metropolis competes with the likes of London when looking at amenities but offers a significantly reduced cost of living. Only ever a short drive away from green spaces and parks, this alone is just a small part of what makes Leeds so attractive to young families and solo-parents.

Diving into our data, for city living, house prices are extremely affordable here, ranking third in our list at an average of £270,000. Not only is housing competitive, as is the average salary (£38,294), which is the perfect combination for single parents looking to budget carefully without having to sacrifice all the activities this city has to offer for family fun.

Best 15 places to live as a single parent: 

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Most affordable places to live as a single parent

 

 

While our research has revealed the best places to live as a single parent based on a range of factors – from green space to crime rate – we’ve also taken a deep dive into affordability, giving each location a total score out of 106.

With the cost of living crisis and child care expenses on the rise, it’s never been such a financial challenge to raise a child – let alone on a single income. In fact, a study published in 2022 by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, revealed that almost half of children raised in lone parent households are living in relative poverty.

From Child Benefit and Free School Meals entitlements to council tax reductions, there are support systems in place for lone parents to access should they need. However, the area you choose to raise a child plays a huge role in your general living expenses and ability to set aside savings.

To help single income households with their basic right to be financially independent and self-sufficient during a time where finances have never been so stretched, we’ve narrowed down the most affordable places to live, having ranked each location based on the average house price, average salary, electricity rate and council tax.

Commenting on the research, Lauren Greenhalgh, consultant solicitor in the family law team at Richard Nelson LLP, said:

“Given the current economic climate, there’s never been a more challenging time to be a lone parent. Despite this, there are more than 2.9 million single parents in the UK therefore we wanted to conduct research to establish which areas of the UK would be best for lone parents to raise their children in.

“The transition to being a single parent can be a real challenge for many, with finances, personal confidence and sense of belonging all thrown into question. Exploring a new life in a different location can be daunting and full of challenges, so we wanted our research to offer some insight for those that find themselves in that position.”

Scoring highly again in our study, Leeds has been named as the most affordable place to live in the UK as a single parent. With a total score of 100 out of 106, this city in West Yorkshire ranked competitively for average house price (£270,000), as well as council tax payments at £1,142.01.

The next most affordable place for single parents to live is Bishop’s Castle in Shropshire, ranking second highest overall for average salary (£40,259), and in joint second place according to our study is Rutland, with a shared total score of 76.

12 most affordable places to live as a single parent:

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Moving further north for affordability is Wooler, a small town in Northumberland, taking fourth spot – where house prices are as low as £191,000. Sneaking into the top five is the former spa town, Ikley in West Yorkshire.

On the other end of the spectrum are the most expensive places to live. While the most affordable locations were generally more north of the country, the most expensive tend to be located down south according to our data.

The top place for single parents to avoid when it comes to saving money is Wadhurst, a market town in East Sussex. Praised for its schools, transport links and stunning scenery, it’s not surprising to find that this sought-after town is such an expensive place to settle down.

The average cost of a house in Wadhurst is a whopping £630,000 – the fifth most expensive in the list – meanwhile the average salary for this area is under £30K (£29,3000) – and with house prices so high in comparison, budgeting for a single-income household might become challenging overtime.

Not too far away in West Sussex is the village of Lindfield, taking second spot for unaffordability. With an ancient mediaeval High Street lined with lime trees, you’ll be looking to set aside £549,700 on average to purchase a house in this desirable area. Meanwhile the average income is just £25,083, making it the second lowest salary in our list.

12 most expensive places to live as a single parent:

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A vision of pastel perfection, Alresford in Hampshire is next in our ranking table. This Georgian town is bursting with colour-washed houses, riverside walks and specialist shops, but is the third least affordable place to live as a single parent.

Next up for single parents to avoid is Wheathampstead, located in Hertfordshire; house prices here are set at a shocking average of £718,000 – making them the most expensive in our total list of locations. Taking fifth place for unaffordability is the town Reigate in Surrey, around 19 miles south of central London.

Safest places to live

As part of our analysis, we took a deep dive into neighbourhood safety, using crimerate.co.uk to rank the crime rate per 1,000 people for each location in our list.

The safety of your child is often the top priority for any parent, but feeling safe as an adult who lives separately from a partner is just as important. Not only do you want to feel confident raising your child in an area where they can walk to school alone at an appropriate age or play out with their friends, but you yourself will want to feel a sense of connection to your local community and be able to return home with minimum anxiety.

According to our research into crime rate levels, the safest place to live in the UK as a single parent is Lindfield in West Sussex, with a mere 18 crimes reported by 1,000 people. In second place for safety is Wadhurst in East Sussex, with only 33 crimes reported; closely followed by Melbourne in Derbyshire with a total of 34 crimes.

12 places with the lowest crime rate

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In fourth place for having the lowest reported crime rate is Wheathampstead in Hertfordshire and Bishop’s Castle, Shropshire, took fifth best spot overall.

Greenest places to live 

Public green space per person is another key ranking factor we analysed in our study to help identify the top locations for single parents to live. While there are many other important decisions to factor in when it comes to pinpointing where to raise a child, access to public green space shouldn’t be overlooked.

Experiencing outdoor space, especially natural space, during childhood and adolescence brings many physical and mental health benefits. For instance, a run around in the park can significantly improve a child’s ability to concentrate and even green views out of school windows have been reported to correlate with improved academic performance.

On top of this, children who grow up in greener neighbourhoods are often less depressed, have lower stress levels and are generally healthier and happier as a result.

According to our research, Wooler in Northumberland is the greenest place to live with an impressive 18,782 square metres (m2) per person. Located beside the rugged Cheviot Hills with its plunging valleys and trickling streams, one thing you are not short of in this rural hub is breathtaking scenery to explore.

Built on a hill and surrounded by countryside, the second greenest location in our study is Bishop’s Castle in Shropshire, with 4,278 m2 of public green space per person. In third is Tarporley in Cheshire; known as being one of the county’s most attractive villages, its green space is worth celebrating too with 922 m2 per person.

12 places with the most green space

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Taking fourth place for access to green space is Alresford in Hampshire and Aylsham, the traditional unspoilt market town beside the River Bure in Norfolk ranks fifth.

Methodology

Locations were selected based on their inclusion in the Sunday Times Best Places to Live guide. Where data points couldn’t be collected for a specific area, locations were removed.

The remaining locations were ranked on the following factors; average house price, salary, council tax rate, proportion of Ofsted rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ schools and nurseries, cost of electricity, crime rate and amount of public green space. From this, each location was given a total score out of 173.

A breakdown of the sources we used for each data point can be found below:

information

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