Gingerbread (charity) - History


1918-1970: The National Council for the Unmarried Mother and her Child The charity now known as Gingerbread 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In 1987, the Family Law Reform Act passed, through which the Bastardy Acts and Affiliation Orders Acts are repealed, after extensive pressure for the National Council for One Parent Families.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: Tessa Fothergill and Gingerbread 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.

2007-present 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.’

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