Qualitative research has long critiqued a simplistic association between youth parenting and poor outcomes. Despite this, the UK youth parenting policy continues to view young parents through a narrow deficit lens, focused on assumed risk rather than structural inequalities. The paper brings together the direct accounts of young parents’ experiences, with ethnographic observation of practice, to argue that discrimination is the critical issue associated with being a young parent. This is then set within a wider critique of the policy framework which, it is argued, perpetuates and normalises negative ideas about young parents prevalent in political, societal and cultural processes. An integrative theoretical approach is used to highlight how a deficit lens at a policy level upholds, rather than undermines, young parents’ intersectional experiences of discrimination and has ethical implications for practitioners working with them. The paper calls for a reorientation of policy which addresses and disrupts discrimination.