The number of poverty-stricken single-parent families in Northern Ireland is at an all-time high, shock new statistics reveal today.
Indeed, the figures obtained by the Belfast Telegraph suggest that over 50,000 such families are finding themselves close to or on the breadline, due to among other things spiralling grocery costs.
Gingerbread NI, the organisation for lone parents, warns that with a 15% increase in staple food prices over the past 12 months, that figure is likely to get worse.
Charity director Marie Cavanagh confirmed that of the 92,000 one-parent families in the province, a staggering 70% (50,400) of them are believed to be living in poverty.
"It stands to reason that lone parent living on low or minimum incomes and only receiving 2€3% year-on-year increases in income will find it impossible to meet what is in some cases a 15% increase in the cost of staples such as bread, milk without plunging deeper into poverty," said Ms Cavanagh.
"This is likely to compound the issue of child poverty in Northern Ireland rather than contribute to its eradication by 2020, the target set by the Northern Ireland Assembly."
New research carried out by MySupermarket.co.uk, based on 24 staple products, shows that the price of an average shopping basket has risen by 15% at Asda, 10% at Sainsbury's and 8% at Tesco, over the last 12 months.
Many of the price increases are uniform across the three retail giants in Northern Ireland and apply to basic commodities making it impossible for shoppers to seek out better deals.
Ms Cavanagh said the disparity between the fast rising cost of food and the comparatively small increase in wages means a tenuous existence for those who are already struggling to make ends meet.
"If you look at the price of essential items, which have increased considerably over the last year, that is going to have a disproportionate impact on those low incomes," she said.
High levels of child poverty in the UK have been linked to the increasing number of children growing up in jobless households headed by a lone-parent (Hirsch, 2006).