Single Parent Action Network
Empowering – Connecting – Campaigning

Latest news

Latest news

Over the past three years Jason Edwards, SPAN's Father Worker, has been helping dads as part of the Fathers Project (funded by The Henry Smith Charity)

. The entire project was evaluated recently. Read the report here.

What some of the fathers have said
“This project is really a life saver for people like me.”
“This is a great service. It honestly saved my life.”
“Jason has helped me a lot and put me on the right track. He really knows how to listen and help me. Best voluntary organisation I have come across.”

Watch Jason on YouTube

The team at SPAN are very sad to announce the death of our finance manager. Cathy Stanbrook, who started work at SPAN in the early 1990s and has been vital to our work ever since, died suddenly in October aged 64.

Cathy, a single parent herself, was famous for managing our finances “to the penny”, sticking with SPAN through thick and thin and taking no nonsense from anyone, be they bank managers, colleagues, trustees or funders.

Colleagues and friends remember her strong support through difficult times, her wild parties and her feisty character. She leaves behind a daughter, but she was considered to be “a mother to many”.

Would you believe this is a salad?! And not at some fancy five star hotel, but at Feed Bristol, a community growing project in the Stapleton area of the city.

Staff and clients of SPAN's Strengthening Families service took advantage of the sun to see how healthy, attractive, home-made food can be available to everyone.

Find out more about the project or look at the facebook page.

Stop private firms such as Concentrix Corporation treating single parents like criminals and make them abide by HMRC "Your Charter" code of practice. 

This is the text of the petition, live on If you feel as strongly as we do about this problem please join us and sign the petition!

Concentrix Corporation, a private firm working on behalf of HMRC, has recently contacted thousands of single parents questioning their entitlement to Tax Credits. In their letters, they imply that the recipients are guilty of having a partner living with them and are therefore not entitled to Tax Credits. Parents are then expected to provide (often at very short notice and with no prior warning) a range of documents to prove their status.

Many parents have never been made aware that it is necessary for them to keep items such as childcare receipts. Nevertheless, parents who have been unable to produce such documentation find themselves with their tax credit claims frozen for up to 3 months.

We are extremely concerned that this practice is distressing vulnerable families and causing panic and anxiety for people who are managing to hold together a family on a very low income. We also fear that the parents who are most distressed by these vexatious requests are often already suffering from stress and mental health issues. Many of the requests sent to single parents claim ‘evidence’ of wrong doing, even when such evidence was wholly absent. They include the case of a widow who had been living on her own, since the death of her husband in 2004.

Calls to Concentrix helpline ring through unanswered for unreasonably long periods. We understand that when callers do get through, they are not given clear answers about the required documentation.The letters are regarded by recipients as punitive and threatening in tone. They imply that the receiver is not eligible for Tax Credits. The language used, the short timescale demands for information and the inability of Concentrix’ staff to handle phone calls in an efficient way are causing distress and anxiety to vulnerable people.

On behalf of our website users, we invite you to respond to the following in the context of HMRC ‘Your Charter’ guidelines. These clearly explain what levels of service and propriety can be expected from this government authority and its agents:

1) Please explain Concentrix’ choice of language which implies wrongdoing and causes unnecessary fear and anxiety? (see Guidelines 1,3 and 4).

2) Please explain the long waiting times and lack of clear information from Concentrix’ telephone operatives? (see Guidelines 2 and 5).

3) What action has been taken to address similar, publicly recorded concerns (already raised) for other activities undertaken by Concentrix on behalf of HMRC? (see ‘How to Complain’ and ‘What HMRC will do’).

We look forward to sharing your response with the thousands of single parent readers of our website and Facebook pages.

Single Parent Action Network and is an organisation dedicated to empowering, informing and connecting single parents.

Keep in touch with this petition on and

Bristol arts group Creative Drop took over our cafe for a day and transformed it with painting and crafts! Read more here. The Cafe at Silai will be run by new chef Mark this year and we plan to open 5 days a week, from 9am. If you have ideas of what you'd like to see in our cafe, fill out our questionnaire.creative-drop-2014

SPAN Director Tove Samzelius has taken up a new post in her native Sweden, working for Save the Children.

During her time at SPAN, Tove filled a number of posts including a spell as interim CEO in 2013 when SPAN's founder Sue Cohen left the organisation. Tove showed much dedication to her colleagues, the organisation and all our service users, and Save The Children gains such a passionate person. We all wish her and her family great things for the future.

Good Luck Tove xx

This week is National Work Life Balance Week. To show our committment to a healthy and flexible balance between work and home life, the staff at SPAN UK pledged to leave work on time today. In recognition of our efforts, the Go Home On Time day organisers awarded us a prize!

See our pledges here.

Annie Oliver, SPAN’s Parent Support Manager, recently spoke on Radio Bristol about how parenting continues long after children leave home. With the recession hitting hard, parents sometimes feel guilty that they’re unable to help their adult children financially. She said, “I don’t think the guilt’s helpful... sometimes just being there to talk or to have a hug; that can alleviate the stress.”

She gave examples of parents and grandparents giving their time and sharing their skills with DIY, gardening, childcare etc. “Children, whatever their age, just need to know that their parents are there for them.”


You can listen to the interview here: (available til 13th Aug):



SPAN, together with a number of other high profile charities, had a letter to the editor published in The Times on 24 July 2014. Together we raise our concerns about the impact of benefit sanctions on families and the fairness of decisions being made.

The letter reads:

Sir. We are pleased the government has accepted the recommendations in the Independent review of jobseeker’s allowance sanctions. However, now we must tackle the rapid increase in people being sanctioned; the impact of sanctions on claimants and their families; their effectiveness in getting people to work; and the fairness and consistency of their application.

It is clear that the sanctions regime does not work; not for the government, not for the labour market, and not for claimants. The system is unfair and, in many cases, counterproductive.

The review’s remit was to limited. The government had indicated that a broader review would be ordered, and we urge Ian Duncan Smith to act.

Geraldine Blake, Community Links

Alison Garnham, CPAG

Denise Hatton, YMCA England

Rick Henderson, Homeless Link

Joanna Kennedy, Zachareus 2000 Trust

Leslie Morphy, Crisis

Robert Pitts, SPAN

Helen Robinson, The Salvation Army

Howard Sinclair, St Mungo’s Broadway

Fiona Weir, Gingerbread

SPAN is looking for new trustees with experience in the following areas:



Business skills (and connections)


 If you have the skills and the passion to really make a difference then we would love to hear from you.   Your commitment will be to attend trustee board meetings usually held in Bristol (where child care can be provided) on a Saturday.

Meetings are held four times a year and generally last for a maximum of five hours.

SPAN has ambitious plans for the future and would love you to be a part of it.

To find out more, please contact:

Robert on 0117 9514231 or e mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.