Date last updated: 3 April 2020
Coronavirus Information for Single Parents
We know many single parent families are worried about the impact of the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, on their families. This page collects together information that is especially helpful to single parents.
You can also read:
- our coronavirus FAQs page for answers to common questions.
- the latest government guidance.
- the latest NHS advice.
For practical advice, you can contact our expert advisers on our Single Parent Helpline. Our helpline will continue to operate as normal and information on the opening hours is available here. Please understand we are receiving a lot of calls so it may take a long time to connect you.
Please bear in mind that Gingerbread cannot provide medical advice. If you need medical advice you can:
- Read more about the symptoms of coronavirus and how to avoid it on the NHS website.
- If you are worried you have symptoms you can use the NHS 111 online service to seek help and further advice.
- To protect yourself and others, do not go to a GP, pharmacy or hospital if you have coronavirus symptoms.
Staying at home
Everyone must stay at home to help stop the spread of coronavirus.
This includes people of all ages – even if you do not have any symptoms or other health conditions.
You can only leave your home:
- to shop for basic essentials
- to take your children to their other parent’s home
- to do one form of exercise a day, such as a run, walk or cycle, alone or with other people you live with
- for a medical need, for example to go to a pharmacy
- to travel to and from work (when absolutely necessary)
Young Minds has advice on how talk to your children about the coronavirus.
While you must now stay at home, government guidelines say that you are allowed to move children between their parents’ homes. This means that your children may spend time with you and their other parent in a similar arrangement to how they did before.
However, according to the Family Court, this doesn’t mean that children must be moved between homes. You should discuss the situation with your children’s other parent and use your own judgement to decide what is safest for your family.
If you agree a new arrangement with the other parent, both of you should keep a record of it. This could be written down, a text message, or an email.
If you decide that it is best for your children not to go to see their other parent, the courts would expect you to make alternative arrangements for staying in contact, such telephone, Skype, Face-time or other online contact.
You should not move children between your home and the other parent’s home if:
- Someone living at either home is in the most at risk group (sometimes called ‘shielded’), for example if they have a serious medical condition.
- Someone living at either home has coronavirus symptoms.
Child Law Advice has more detailed legal advice relating to child contact arrangements in the current situation (scroll down to ‘Family Law FAQs’).
Most children are now not going to school and are expected to stay home.
Schools will remain open to help teach and look after small numbers of children. You can still take your children to school if:
- you’re a ‘key worker’ – which means your job keeps an important service running, like the NHS, police or food deliveries. Read the full list.
- your child is considered vulnerable, for example they are disabled, are a young carer, have a social worker, or have an Education, Health and Care Plan.
Speak to your employer if you need to take time off work to look after your children. Read more about taking time off work to look after a dependant on GOV.UK.
Going to work
The UK is now on lockdown, meaning that you will not be going to work unles you’re a ‘key worker’ – which means your job keeps an important service running, like the NHS, police or food deliveries. Read the full list.
You can discuss your options for working from home with your employer and they should support you in this.
- You can refer to employer guidance for more information.
- Working Families have advice on your working rights during the coronavirus pandemic.
If you’re off work
The government is planning to pay 80% of wages for employees who aren’t able to work, up to a total of £2,500 a month. We will update this section with more information as it becomes available.
If you need to take time off to look after your children
Speak to your employer if you need to take time off work to look after your children. Read more about taking time off work to arrange emergency care for your children on GOV.UK.
If you’re off because someone is sick
If you’re staying at home because you have coronavirus symptoms, you’ll be considered unfit for work. You’ll also be considered unfit for work if you’re staying at home, or ‘self-isolating’, because you’ve been in contact with someone with coronavirus.
If you’re not sick but have been told to self-isolate and can’t work from home, you should still get your contractual sick pay from your employer, on top of SSP.
If you’re not eligible for sick pay
Please contact our helpline for more advice on this.
If you’re self-employed
You can’t get statutory sick pay if you’re self-employed.
If you’re already claiming benefits, you might be able to claim more money to make up for the shortfall.
If you are self-employed and are concerned about paying your tax due to coronavirus, you can call HMRC’s helpline for help and advice on 0800 0159 559.
The government has postponed all face-to-face appointments at the jobcentre until at least 19 June 2020.
This means you don’t have to go to:
- interviews if you’re starting a claim for JSA, ESA or Universal Credit
- medical assessments for ESA, Universal Credit or PIP
- appointments with your work coach
Instead you will be expected to interact with the jobcentre online and by phone.
You can apply for Universal Credit online. Please contact our helpline for more advice before making a Universal Credit claim, as this will effect benefits you are already receiving, such as child tax credit.
Money, rent, and food
If you don’t have enough food
If you do not have enough food, you may be able to get help from a food bank. Food banks provide a minimum of three days’ emergency food and support to people in crisis.
If you can’t pay your rent
The government has announced a ban on evictions – your landlord can’t start court action for at least 3 months.
You should explain the situation to your landlord straight away – they might give you more time to pay. You still need to pay your rent. If you’ve fallen behind with your rent you should start dealing with rent arrears. See our managing money and debt pages for more information, or call our helpline.
According to government guidance for landlords and tenants, your landlord should carry out household repairs which are essential to protecting your physical and mental health.
Examples of this include:
- a leaking roof
- a broken boiler
- a plumbing issue that affects your shower, bath, or toilet
- a broken fridge or washing machine
- repairing or installing equipment a disabled person relies on.
If someone visits your home to make a repair, you should respect the social distancing measures during and stay in separate rooms during the repair work.
Repairs which aren’t urgent should be postponed until social distancing measures come to an end.
Topping up pre-pay energy meters
The Government and energy suppliers have agreed to new emergency measures to help prepayment customers unable to top up during the pandemic, including posting cards loaded with emergency credit to those who are self-isolating, adding discretionary credit to your meter, and allowing you to nominate someone to top up for you.
Read more on moneysavingexpert about this.
If you are pregnant
If you’re pregnant and worried about coronavirus, you can get advice about coronavirus and pregnancy from the Royal College of Obstretricians and Gynaecologists.
Government guidance is that pregnant women should work from home. Your employer should help you to work from home wherever practical. You should show your employer the government guidance and discuss what action needs to be taken.
If you have to stay home, you may be able to top up your income with Statutory Maternity Pay, Maternity Allowance, or Universal Credit. You can find out more about these on our Money During Maternity page, or call our helpline for advice.
Looking after your mental health
This can be a very stressful time and it is important to take care of your mental health as well as your physical health.
At times of stress, we work better in company and with support. Try and keep in touch with your friends and family, by telephone, email or social media, or contact a helpline for emotional support.
At the same time, try to limit how much you watch the news or go on social media as this can be stressful and cause a lot of anxiety.
At times like these, it can be easy to fall into unhealthy patterns of behaviour which in turn can make you feel worse. It will help to stay as active as you can. There are simple things you can do to that may help, such as:
- Try easy exercises you can do at home. You can find a list of these on the NHS website.
- Spend time doing things you enjoy – this might include reading, cooking, other indoor hobbies or listening to/watching favourite radio or TV programmes.
- Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals and drink plenty of water.
- Keep your windows open to let in fresh air, get some natural sunlight if you can, or get outside into the garden. You can also go for a walk outdoors if you stay more than 2 metres from others.
Here are some helpful sources of advice for help with your wellbeing:
- You can read general advice on the mental health section of our website.
- The BBC has advice on how to protect your mental health during this time.
- Cognita has a list of things to do to look after your wellbeing while schools are closed,
The Help Hub is a group of qualified therapists who are giving their time freely to help people in your situation. If you would like a 20 minute chat on Skype, FaceTime or on the telephone, you will be able to book a session with The Help Hub from 23rd March onward.
You should contact your group coordinator for updates, but it is reasonable to assume that most, if not all, Gingerbread groups will not be having meet ups for the foreseeable future.
Many Gingerbread coordinators are encouraging communication through WhatsApp and Facebook as an alternative way for single parents to stay in touch with each other. Please be aware that our group coordinators are volunteers and that they are being inundated with messages, so please be understanding if they aren’t able to respond to you right away.
You can also talk with other single parents online on the Gingerbread forum.