Date last updated: 27 October 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.
The UK is divided into 3 different COVID alert levels, depending on where you live. These are sometimes called ‘tiers’ and are divided into ‘medium’, high’, and ‘very high’. In addition to following the national guidance, you should also follow the additional rules for whatever tier you are in. You can read these rules on gov.uk’s COVID alert page.
You can check your local tier on gov.uk. All you have to do is put in your postcode.
The advice on this page applies to all tiers unless otherwise stated. How tiers affect some aspects of single parent life, such as contact arrangements, are currently unclear but we are working to find answers for you.
You don’t have to stay at home anymore but it is important to be careful when you leave your home to stay safe and minimize the spread of coronavirus.
When you do leave your home, you should follow the government guidance on staying safe outside your home. This includes:
- Maintain social distancing, which means you should stay 2 metres (3 steps) away from other people.
- Wear a face mask. You must wear a face mask when on public transport, and when in shops and supermarkets. It is also advisable to wear a mask when outside your home generally.
- Wash your hands regularly while you are out and make sure to wash your hands again as soon as you return home.
- Avoid unnecessary travel. Consider if you have to make trips outside your home or if you could reduce them. If you can work from home, it is advisable to do so.
- Avoid crowds and large groups. You should only be socialising in groups of up to two households (including your support bubble) indoors and outdoors or up to six people from different households when outdoors.
In England, as a single parent you can expand your household to include one other household of any size. These are being called ‘support bubbles’.
Being in a support bubble means you can spend time with people from the other household in your bubble as if they were you own. This means you can:
- Spend time with them indoors
- Be less than 2 metres apart
- Stay overnight at their home
Read more about the rules on social bubbles on gov.uk.
Choosing who is in your bubble
Once you have chosen another household to be part of your bubble you shouldn’t change it, so take some time to consider your choice carefully.
You may wish to make a social bubble with the household of your child’s other parent to make life easier. However, you can exercise your own judgement about whether this is safe and you are not obligated to be part of another person’s bubble if you don’t want to be.
While bubbles only allow contact with a limited number of people, there is still a risk of infection, and the risk gets higher the more people are in your bubble. Good hygiene remains important even for those in the same bubble: keep washing your hands regularly and sneezing into a tissue.
If someone in your support bubble has coronavirus symptoms, everyone in your support bubble should stay home.
You should not form a social bubble if you are at high risk from coronavirus (shielded).
Young Minds has advice on how talk to your children about the coronavirus.
While you should stay at home as much as possible, you are allowed to move children between their parents’ homes. You could also include your child’s other parent in your ‘social bubble’ if you want to make things easier (see above).
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 as 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 has coronavirus symptoms. We also don’t recommend moving children between homes if anyone living at either home is in the higher risk group (sometimes called ‘shielded’), as this might put them at risk.
Child Law Advice has more detailed legal advice relating to child contact arrangements in the current situation (scroll down to ‘Family Law FAQs’).
Problems with Contact Arrangements
It is currently unclear how local COVID alert levels, or ‘tiers’, affect contact arrangements, especially if two parents live in areas that are in different tiers. We are working to clarify this issue.
If you are having problems agreeing child arrangements with the other parent of your children, you could try mediation to resolve the problem. National Family Mediation now offers family mediation via video conference, and has introduced a new consultation service to help with co-parenting arrangements during the crisis.
If you use a contact centre for contact arrangements for your children, there may be changes in how the centre operates as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak. Further information can be found on the National Association of Child Contact Centres (NACCC) website.
All school-age children are expected to return to school in the autumn term this September. This includes those with special educational needs and disabilities, or who have been shielding during the pandemic.
Attendance will be mandatory again from the beginning of the autumn term and you could be fined if your children do not attend school from that time forward.
The only exceptions are:
- children who are self-isolating due to coronavirus symptoms, or close contact with someone who has had symptoms
- some children under the care of a specialist health professional
Children who have been shielding, because they or someone in their household are extremely vulnerable, will be expected to go to school in September. This is because people will no longer be advised to shield from 1 August 2020.
We have heard from single parents that some schools have different responses to cases of COVID-19 among their students. This can be for a number of reasons and the best thing to do is to talk to the school directly if you have concerns.
If you need advice on this, you can call our free Single Parent Helpline to discuss the situation.
Staying home with 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 look after a dependant on GOV.UK.
Going to work
For the foreseeable future, workers should continue to work from home rather than their normal physical workplace, wherever possible.
All workers who cannot work from home should travel to work if their workplace is open. The only exceptions to this are those workplaces such as hospitality and nonessential retail which the Government is requiring to remain closed.
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.
- You can refer to government advice on working safely during the coronavirus.
If you do have to go to work, try to avoid using public transport where possible, and try travelling at different times to avoid rush hour. All workers who cannot work from home should travel to work if their workplace is open. The only exceptions to this are those workplaces such as hospitality and nonessential retail which the Government is requiring to remain closed.
If you’re off work
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.
Paid childcare, such as nannies and childminders, can take place as long as the workers are able to meet the public health principles for the new “COVID-19 Secure” guidelines.
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
If you are not eligible to receive sick pay you can apply for Universal Credit and/or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). See below for more information and please contact our helpline for more advice on this.
If you’re self-employed
The government has announced support for self-employed people based on 80% of profits up a maximum of £2500 per month. This is called the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Self-employment Income Support Scheme.
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, may be able to defer Self Assessment income tax payments due in July 2020 and VAT payments due from 20 March 2020 until 30 June 2020. Some self-employed people will be eligible for the Business Interruption Loan Scheme and there are also grants for businesses that pay little or no business rates.
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.
People making new claims for Universal Credit will no longer need to call the Department as part of the process. Instead you will receive a call if any information needs to be checked or discussed.
HMRC has announced that they will not require parents to register their child’s birth in order to claim Child Benefit during the coronavirus pandemic. Parents of new-born children are encouraged to claim Child Benefit as soon as possible.
Find out more byreading HMRC’s statement here.
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.
Free school meals
For children in Year 3 and above, there is a national voucher scheme to ensure that pupils eligible for free school meals get a meal each day. Where it’s not possible to provide meals for collection or delivery, schools can now issue a weekly shopping voucher worth £15 for each eligible child. Contact your child’s school for information about this.
Schools do not provide vouchers for children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2. However, you can receive vouchers for these children if you are claiming benefits. To do this you should apply for free school meals on the gov.uk website. Schools should still be accepting applications through this system.
Problems with school meal vouchers
We have had reports from single parents highlighting some difficulties they have experienced with accessing the national voucher scheme. The Department for Education, who are responsible for delivering the scheme, has produced a FAQ about the voucher scheme.
Key points from this FAQ are:
- Many schools have also chosen to provide their own local schemes through their existing food suppliers or other arrangements such as vouchers from local shops. Check with your child’s school about this.
- Particularly in the case of vulnerable children, schools might prefer to deliver food parcels in some way because then they can check in on these families. Schools and social workers know who those children are and they should be in contact with them already.
- Schools can order in batches for their families, they do not have to order each week.
School Meal Scams
Please be aware of an email scam claiming to provide free school meals. Do not respond to any emails claiming to provide free school meals, only use the links provided here or contact your child’s school. You can read more about the scam here.
If you can’t pay your rent
The government has announced a ban on evictions. All court action for eviction is on hold until 20th September 2020, meaning if you rent your home you cannot be forced out of your home during this time. This has been extended from the previous date of 23rd August.
During this time:
- bailiffs won’t evict you
- landlords can’t get an eviction order
The notice periods for eviction has also been extended to 6 months’ notice in most cases. The only exceptions to this will be in serious situations such as those involving tenants committing domestic abuse or anti-social behaviour.
If you are having problems with your rent we recommend explaining 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 free helpline.
If you are worried about losing your home, you should contact Shelter as soon as possible.
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.
- Every Mind Matters by the NHS has advice on looking after you and your family’s wellbeing during the coronavirus situation.
- 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. You can book a 20 minute chat on Skype, FaceTime or on the telephone.
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.
Find other coronavirus information
Single Parents Emergency Appeal
It’s tough being a single parent. The impacts of COVID-19 make it even harder than usual. Gingerbread is needed now more than ever. Visit our Just Giving page and donate today to support our #SingleParentsEmergency appeal.Single Parents Emergency Appeal