Disabled single parents
Date last updated: 22 April 2021
Help for disabled single parents
Single parents are more likely to have a disability than other people in the UK. Around 1 in 4 (27%) single parent households has a disabled adult, compared with around a fifth (21%) of couple parent households in the UK. This page looks at support available to you if you are a single parent who is disabled.
We use the social model of disability, which acknowledges that people are disabled by barriers in society, not by their impairment or difference. For more information on this, we recommend Scope’s website and Mind’s page on disability.
Parenting as a disabled person
As rewarding as being a single parent can be, it is also often difficult, and having a disability can create additional challenges that you need support with. Like any parent, these challenges will vary depending on your personal circumstances, and many disabled parents come up with innovative solutions to problems they face. However some disabled single parents say they often feel isolated or overwhelmed. It is important to seek out support that you need and to realise you are not alone. There are many other disabled single parents out there going through something similar.
There are many charities out there which provide specialist advice, care, and support for particular forms of disability. It is well worth seeing what these charities have to offer to you. If they provide a meetup group or online community it can be invaluable to talk with other people who have similar experiences to yourself, especially to fellow parents. You can also talk with other single parents on Gingerbread’s online forum or by joining one of our local groups.
You can also contact the Gingerbread helpline to receive signposting to local services which you might find helpful. Deaf and speech impaired callers can access the Gingerbread helpline via the NGT Text relay service. Text users can prefix their call with 18002.
As rewarding as being a parent can be, there are some times which are really difficult. If you feel that you are struggling or unhappy it is better to ask for help sooner rather than a later. Our page on Looking After Your Wellbeing has links to many different organisations and services that can help you, depending on what you are dealing with.
When things are getting on top of you, talking to someone you trust can really help. Friends or family may not realise the full extent of how you are feeling, and opening up can be the first step in getting help from them. If you don’t have family and friends that you can talk to, or you would prefer to speak to someone outside of your family and friends, try social networks such as a community of people with a similar disability, or a parenting community such as Gingerbread’s online forums, Netmums, or Dad.info.
If you suffer from anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues, the Mind Infoline offers a range of advice and helpful support. You can also talk to your GP.
You might want to share your experiences and get support from friends or other single parents. Joining a group like a Gingerbread friendship group or chatting to other single parents in our online forums can be helpful and supportive.
Scope’s blog also has many stories written by disabled parents, which you may find helpful or inspiring.
Benefits for People who have an illness or disability
You may already be claiming a benefit because of illness or disability, such as Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or Personal Independence Payment (PIP). You can read more information on these benefits on our page ‘If you have a disability or a health issue’.
‘New Style’ ESA
If you are unable to work due to illness or disability, and have paid enough National Insurance Contributions you may be able to make a new claim contributory or ‘new style’ ESA, if you are not entitled to statutory sick pay from your employer. You may also be able to claim additional means-tested benefits including income-related ESA, Housing Benefit , and Council Tax Reduction.
If you are not entitled to contributory ESA and are making a new claim for a benefit because you have limited capability for work, you may need to claim the new benefit known as Universal Credit. Universal Credit has generally replaced new claims for income-related ESA, although there are certain circumstances when it’s still possible to make a new claim for income-related ESA. If you are currently claiming income-related ESA it is likely that you will be moved over to Universal Credit at some point in the next few years. You can read more about this in our Universal Credit section, and the Money Advice Service’s guide to Universal Credit for disabled people.
You can get advice on your benefit options and other practical information about being a single parent by calling our free helpline.
Work Capability Assessments
When you make a claim for contributory ESA or Universal Credit on the grounds of limited capability for work due to illness or disability, you may be asked to attend a Work Capability Assessment to assess how your health condition affects your ability to work.
You will be assessed as being in one of the following categories:
- you are fit for work
- you have limited capability for work – which means that although you may be unable to work now, you can prepare to work at some time in the future
- you have limited capability for work and work-related activity – which means that you won’t be asked to look for work or prepare for work.
You can read more about the work capability assessment at Disability Rights UK.
Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
If you need help with everyday tasks or getting around, and are between the ages of 16 and 65, you may qualify for Personal independence payment (PIP). This is not a means-tested benefit, meaning it isn’t affected by your income or savings. Instead it is assessed based on your ability to carry out everyday tasks and your mobility. You can read more about this in Scope’s guide to PIP.
If you have a disability, you have the right to ask for a social care needs assessment to examine your health and social care needs. This assessment should also cover the support you need to carry out your responsibilities as a parent.
This can include getting help with:
- home care help for things like cleaning and shopping
- disability equipment and adaptations to your home
- day care for your child
- help with parenting, such as parenting classes
To prepare for your assessment it can be helpful to make a list of the kind of support you need, for example getting help with getting your child ready for school, getting specialised equipment like adapted pushchairs, or making changes to your home which would make life easier for you.
If you need help preparing for your assessment, you can contact your GP or other NHS service, the Citizens Advice Bureau, or a charity specialising in your disability.
If your assessment determines that you are entitled to help from social services, you may choose to receive this in the form of direct payments. This means that you can organise and pay for your own care and support, instead of having them provided by a local authority. This includes arranging help from a professional carer or personal assistant.
You may also be able to access volunteer support, for example Home Start provides 2 hours of volunteer help a week for families with young children.
You may be able to apply for a grant to help you with independent living. The Disability Grants website can help you find these based on where you live in the UK. You can also use the grants search tool on our website.
Under the Equality Act 2010, it is illegal for your employer or others to discriminate against you on a number of criteria, including being disabled or unwell. You also cannot be discriminated against for having parenting needs.
Under the act, employers, as well as others such as schools and service providers, must make reasonable adjustments to help you. These can include:
- flexible working hours
- providing special equipment or extra assistance to help you
- making websites and other information available in a way that is accessible to you
- wheelchair access
- providing designated car parking spaces
- making adjustments so that you can access a venue
Flexible working involves asking your employer to change or reduce your working hours so that they fit better with your parenting needs, such as childcare commitments, or attending appointments related to your disability. Any employee who has been working for the same employer for 26 weeks or more can ask for these changes. You can read more about this on our flexible working page and on the Working Families website.
Single parents and disabled parents can find it difficult to discuss their parenting needs with their employer, worrying that they will be treated differently. However, you have the same rights as any other parent and your employer has to take your request under consideration and make reasonable adjustments.
Discrimination is divided into four broad types under the Equality Act 2010 – click below to find out more about each type. You can find out more about disability discrimination from Citizen’s Advice or Disability Rights UK.
Indirect discrimination is when a workplace policy or practice is applied to everyone, but leaves a particular group at a disadvantage because of their needs.
For example, if an employer offered an incentive to employees who are able to drive, even though driving was not a requirement of the job, that would be indirect discrimination against people who cannot obtain a driving licence due to a mental health condition.
Direct discrimination is when an employer treats you differently and worse than someone else because of who you are. There are numerous protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010, including having disability.
An example of direct discrimination would be if two employees worked in the same position but one was paid less than the other, and the only difference was that the person being paid less had a disability.
Harassment is a form of illegal discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.
It is defined as any unwanted or unwelcome behaviour which is meant to or has the effect of either:
- violating your dignity, or
- creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.
This behaviour could include jokes, physical behaviour, gestures, written words, verbal abuse, or threats.
Find out more about what you can do about harassment from Citizen’s Advice.
Victimisation is when you are badly treated because you have complained about discrimination or tried to help someone suffering from discrimination. Victimisation is illegal under the Equality Act 2010 and it is possible to take legal action if you are subject to victimisation.
You can find out more about workplace discrimination from Citizen’s Advice.
Scope are the disability equality charity in England and Wales. They provide a wealth of information and emotional support for disabled people.Visit Scope
Disability Rights UK
Disability Rights UK works for equal participation of disabled people. They are run by and for people with lived experience of disability or health conditions.Visit Disability Rights UK