Coronavirus

Date last updated: 26 August 2021

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:

For practical advice, you can contact our expert advisers on our Single Parent Helpline, you can find information on the opening hours is available here. Please understand we are receive a very high number of calls, so it may take a long time to connect you. However if you stay on the line, we will get to you.

Please bear in mind that Gingerbread cannot provide medical advice. If you need medical advice you can:

Your children

Young Minds has advice on how talk to your children about the coronavirus.

You can also find a bunch of helpful articles for looking after yourself and your kids during lockdown on the Co-Parent Hub.

School

If your child is has to stay at home  and is normally eligible for free school meals, your child’s school should organise an alternative form of helping with meals. This help can come in one of 3 ways:

  • providing food parcels from the school catering team or food provider
  • providing vouchers for a local shop or supermarket
  • using the Department for Education’s national voucher scheme, which will reopen shortly

Additionally, you can find a list of definitions of vulnerable children and critical workers here on gov.uk.

Homeschooling

Schools are expected to deliver online learning for students not attending class. You should talk to your child’s school if you are unclear what they will provide and what they expect from you.

Many schools already pay for online resources, so also check which ones you can access, as these will follow the curriculum.

BBC Bitesize has lots of content divided into subject and age categories, with much new material added since March.

The BBC will also show curriculum content on TV every weekday from Monday, 11 January:

  • primary-school programming, including BBC Live Lessons and BBC Bitesize Daily, from 09:00 to 12:00 on CBBC
  • at least two hours of programming to support the GCSE curriculum on BBC Two
  • Episodes of Bitesize Daily will also be available on demand on iPlayer.

Some other resources you may find helpful are:

  • ParentKind has published a list of free online resources.
  • Another source of free resources is Oak National Academy, which is collated by teachers.
  • BrainPop – animated videos on topics in maths, science and English.
  • Tynker – coding lessons
  • Creative Bug – craft lessons, from knitting to jewellery-making, drawing and origami.
  • YouTube’s Free School – videos on subjects as diverse as the US constitution, coral reefs and the solar system

Going to work

If you’re not working from home, you can discuss your options for working from home with your employer and they should support you in this.

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

Taking time off to look after someone

If you cannot work because of caring responsibilities, such as looking after your children while their school is closed, you can ask your employer to put you on ‘furlough’. This is also known as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which allows for your employer to claim 80% of your wages from the government and then pay that money to you while you are not working.

See Working Families’ explanation of the furlough scheme for more details. The furlough scheme has currently been extended until September 2021.

Discussing furlough with your employer

It is important to note that you are not entitled to furlough, rather it is something you can ask your employer to claim. If your employer doesn’t wish to put you on furlough, try explaining the difficulties of your situation due to Covid-19 and emphasize that it will not cost them anything beyond the 5% contribution to national insurance contributions and employer pension contributions.

Not all employers are aware that the government guidance allows for furlough due to caring commitments, so it’s worth telling them that about your childcare problems and pointing them to the guidance section titled ‘If you have caring responsibilities ’ which states:

“You can be furloughed if caring responsibilities arising from Coronavirus (COVID-19) mean you are:

  • unable to work (including from home)
  • working reduced hours

Examples of caring responsibilities include caring for:

  • children who are at home as a result of school or childcare facilities closing
  • a vulnerable individual in your household

You should speak to your employer about whether they plan to place staff on furlough.”

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.

You’ll get statutory sick pay (SSP) if you’re usually entitled to it. If you’re not sure, you can check if you’re entitled to SSP here, or call our helpline.

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 have to take time off work and you don’t get paid while you’re off, you might be able to claim Universal Credit or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) to top up your income.

If you’re already claiming benefits, you might be able to claim more money to make up for the shortfall.

Benefits

New claims

If you are unable to work as a result of coronavirus, you may be able to claim Universal Credit. You can make a claim 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.

Universal credit cut

Universal credit is being reduced by £20-a-week, starting from the beginning of October. This is due to the government ending the ‘uplift’ to payments that all universal credit claimants have been receiving since April 2020 to help with costs during the pandemic.
If you receive universal credit you should prepare for this drop in your payments. For further advice on this please see our Managing money pages, or contact our free helpline for advice.

Money, rent, and food

Help If You’re Self-Isolating

If you live in England you might be able to get a payment of £500 if either:

  • you have been told to self-isolate because of coronavirus (COVID-19) and you cannot work from home
  • you’re the parent or guardian of a child who has been told to self-isolate and you need to take time off to look after them

This is known as the Test and Trace Support Scheme you can apply through your local council. This is sometimes also known as the self-isolation grant. Parents living in Wales should instead apply for the self-isolation support scheme.

To qualify for the Test and Trace Support Scheme, you must:

  • be employed or self-employed
  • have been told to self-isolate by the NHS or through the Test and Trace app.
  • have given NHS Test and Trace the information they’ve asked for, and have a Test and Trace account ID.

Additionally if you’re applying because your child needs to self-isolate, they must:

  • be 15 or under, or 25 or under if they have an Education, Health and Care plan (EHC)
  • live with you
  • normally be at school or in childcare
  • have been told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace or their school or childcare provider

You’ll need evidence that your child has been told to self-isolate, most likely in the form of a communication from their school, their childcare provider, or the NHS.

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 your child is has to stay at home during the national lockdown and is normally eligible for free school meals, your child’s school should organise an alternative form of helping with meals. This help can come in one of 3 ways:

  • providing food parcels from the school catering team or food provider
  • providing vouchers for a local shop or supermarket
  • using the Department for Education’s national voucher scheme, which will reopen shortly.

If you can’t pay your rent

While there was previously a ban on evictions for people who could not pay their rent, this is no longer the case. If you are in danger of eviction we recommend reading Shelter’s advice on evictions during coronavirus, as well as contacting Shelter as soon as possible.

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.

Notices for rent arrears are getting shorter

From 1 August until 30 September 2021 you can be given:

  • 2 months’ notice if you have less than 4 months’ arrears

  • 4 weeks’ notice if you owe 4 months’ rent or more

All section 21 notices must still give at least 4 months’ notice at the moment.

Find out what to do if you’re facing eviction because of rent arrears.

Topping up pre-pay energy meters

If you are self isolating and need to top up an energy prepayment meter you can self-refer to the NHS volunteer teams and someone will go and top up for them. Do this contact 0808 196 3382 or speak to  your energy supplier.

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.

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:

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.

Gingerbread groups

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.

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

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