JK Rowling: Single Mums 'Face Stigmatisation'
JK Rowling has revealed she felt stigmatised as a single mother on benefits when she was writing her first Harry Potter novel.
The multimillionaire author declared she was prouder of her time bringing up her daughter on her own than any of her other achievements as she attacked the "skivers versus strivers" attitude.
She called on the Government to end its focus on austerity and work instead to improve job prospects for single parents.
Rowling argued affordable childcare, better training and pay, and more flexible hours would all help parents back into employment and stop them relying on the state.
The author, now 48, lived off state handouts in the 90s when her first marriage fell apart shortly after the birth of her first child.
She is renowned for writing the bestselling Harry Potter novels in cafes around Edinburgh, reputedly on napkins because she could not afford paper.
Before she became one of the most famous writers in the world, she worked at a local church for £15 a week and survived on state handouts.
Writing for the Gingerbread advice and support group for single mothers, of which she is president, Rowling told how she felt her self-esteem "slowly evaporating".
"It was slowly dawning on me that I was now defined, in the eyes of many, by something I had never chosen. I was a Single Parent and a Single Parent On Benefits to boot," she said.
"Patronage was almost has hard to bear as stigmatisation. I remember the woman who visited the church one day when I was working there who kept referring to me, in my hearing, as The Unmarried Mother."
Rowling, who said the "Single Parent Tag" followed her when she became famous, added that the constant bombardment with words like "scrounger" has a deeply corrosive effect.
"I find the language of 'skivers versus strivers' particularly offensive when it comes to single parents, who are already working around the clock to care for their children," she said.
"Such rhetoric drains confidence and self-esteem from those who desperately want, as I did, to get back into the job market."
She continued: "The Government mantra that work is the best route out of poverty is ringing increasingly hollow, with nearly one in three children whose single parent works part-time still growing up in poverty.
"Rather than focusing on ever more 'austerity measures', it's investment in single parent employment that will allow single parents to work their own way out of poverty and secure real savings from the welfare bill.
"Nothing outlandish: affordable childcare , decent training, employers embracing flexible hours and a long, hard look at low pay."
She called on ministers to act to help parents and children "whose ambition and potential must not be allowed to dissipate in poverty".
Rowling remarried in 2001 and now has three children.
She has amassed an estimated fortune of more than £560m and is currently working on a screen play for a spin-off film based on a minor character from the Harry Potter books.