Date last updated: 28 May 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.
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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:
- 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.
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 covering. You must wear a face covering, such as a mask, when on public transport, and when in shops and supermarkets. Read more about proper use of face coverings.
- Wash your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds, especially when you get home after going out.
- 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.
- Limit contact with large groups. When seeing friends and family you do not live with you should not meet in large groups. The number of people who can meet in a group will depend on your local restrictions.
As a single parent you can form ‘support bubbles’ with other households. This means that you can effectively treat people from those households as if they live with you, meaning you can:
- Spend time with them indoors
- Be less than 2 metres apart
- Stay overnight at their home
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.
Read more about the rules on social bubbles on gov.uk.
If you have children under 14, you can also make a ‘childcare bubble‘ to allow friends or family to help you with childcare. Much like a support bubble, this allows children to be looked after by members of either household when their parents can’t look after them.
Note that childcare bubbles only apply to informal childcare, not paid childcare services.
How many bubbles can I have?
As a single parent you may form up to a total of 2 support bubbles and 1 childcare bubble, depending on your circumstances.
- If you don’t live with any other adults, you can form one support bubble with any household of your choice.
- You can also choose to have a second support bubble with your child’s other parent’s household.
- If you have children under 14, you can also form a childcare bubble.
To the best of our knowledge, the above still applies in full during national lockdown.
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.
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.
However, according to the Family Court guidance, 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.
It is important to communicate with the other parent about any concerns you have and changes you want to make to an existing arrangement. You can make changes to the arrangement if both parents agree, even when a court order is in place. 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 Family Court would expect you to make alternative arrangements for staying in contact, such as telephone or online contact.
If it’s not possible to come to arrangement, you can use your parental responsibility to make a decision that is in the best interests of the child (see Para 7 of the Family Court guidance). Before doing this we recommend reading this in-depth advice on contact arrangements from Rights of Women. You can also call our helpline for further advice.
Remember: 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 at increased risk to Covid-19.
On 25th March 2021 Gingerbread partnered with the Family Law Company to host a free webinar on “A legal Guide for single parents during COVID-19 pandemic”. The webinar offered specialist advice to help single parents navigate some of the key issues that have been affecting them during the COVID-19 pandemic. You can watch a recording of the webinar here and we hope to host more such webinars in the future.
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.
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. Be aware that this list has been expanded recently, so it is worth checking to see if your family would qualify.
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
For the foreseeable future, you should work from home if it’s possible to do so.
If you can’t work from home, 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
Taking time off to look after someone
If you cannot work because of caring responsibilities, such as looking after your children while schools are 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 April 2021.
Be aware that the list of definitions of vulnerable children and critical workers has been expanded recently, so it is worth checking to see if your family would qualify, as it may mean your child is still able to attend school.
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.
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.
For a time the government suspended face-to-face benefit appointments. Although these meetings are now being reintroduced, you should call your work coach to let them know if you’re concerned about attending an appointment.
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.
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 by reading HMRC’s statement here.
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.
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.
In some cases, bailiffs may not be able to enter your home due to local restrictions, but this is not certain.
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.
You can allow your landlord or a contractor to carry out repairs and inspections in your home unless either:
- you’re self isolating
- you live in a tier 2 or tier 3 lockdown area
In these situations, no one should come into your home unless it’s to fix a serious problem that puts you at direct risk of harm.
Topping up pre-pay energy meters
If you are self isolating and need to top up an energy prepayment meter you cq 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.
This scheme is planned to be in place until at least Christmas 2020.
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.
Despite the easing of restrictions in July, government advice is still that pregnant women should work from home where possible. For more information, see the advice from the Royal College of Obstretricians and Gynaecologists on working from home when pregnant.
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.
- Mind has has advice on looking after your wellbeing during the pandemic.
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 meeting in person 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