Interim report – The Invisible Family: The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on single parents living in London

Published on 6 May 2022

Gingerbread today published the interim research findings for ‘The Invisible Family: The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on single parents living in London’ report. The Covid-19 pandemic exposed, exacerbated, and solidified deeply entrenched health and socio-economic inequalities, leaving many individuals and groups even more vulnerable now than they were before the pandemic began. Single parents are no exception, and the report shows how the last two years have presented particular challenges for single parents living in London – especially around employment, childcare, and mental health.

To track the impact of policy change and to gain a better understanding of how single parent experiences evolved throughout the pandemic, Gingerbread interviewed 32 single parents across London in November 2020 and February 2022.

As uncovered through Gingerbread’s nationally focussed research over the same period, single parents collectively feel that they are an afterthought in policy making and government decisions. Or, as one of our interviewees succinctly put it, “we are the invisible family”.

The report identifies the following themes which we will explore further with stakeholders to develop London focused policy recommendations as part of a final report, due for publication later in the summer:

  • Employment
  • Childcare
  • Family wellbeing and mental health


Gingerbread interviewed 15 single parents in November 2020 and 27 in February 2022.  Interviewees came from 18 different London boroughs, and included 7 single fathers, parents from a range of ethnic groups, as well as disabled parents and parents of disabled children. Our sample reflects the diversity in working experiences for single parents amid the Covid-19 pandemic, and the single parents we spoke with had a range of qualifications, sector experience, childcare requirements, working patterns (such as flexible working and home working) and key worker status.

This longitudinal approach allowed Gingerbread to capture a snapshot of the lived experiences of single parents at various times during the pandemic, and it enabled us to explore the impact over time between reactive policy and those for whom it is introduced to help.

To map the scale of the impact of the pandemic on single parents, this research combines the qualitative research with a quantitative analysis of the government’s Labour Force Survey comparing the experiences of single and couple parents, both in London and nationally, from the quarter before the start of the pandemic (October-December 2019) to the final quarter of 2021(October-December).

Questions for further exploration


  • How can employment support be better tailored and extended to single parents in London who are out of work?
  • What ways can single parents who need to retrain as a result of the pandemic be better supported through local opportunities, for example the Mayor’s Academies Programme?
  • What more can and should be done to ensure employers in London are able to offer supportive and flexible employment to allow single parents to stay in and progress at work while balancing their unique caring responsibilities?
  • How can employment support providers, statutory services (e.g., jobcentres), local government and employers be engaged more to encourage flexible working and more opportunities within boroughs which could particularly benefit single parents?


  • Other than the DWP setting a higher London-based cap for the UC childcare element, what other measures could be put in place to better support single parents on a low in come in London meet the relatively higher costs of childcare in the city?
  • What more could be done to build on and expand the GLA’s childcare deposit scheme, to support single parents with higher incomes but little savings to afford the initial upfront costs of childcare?

Mental Health and Wellbeing

  • The particular mental health effects of the pandemic on single parents have been acute but are not widely recognised. What can be done to ensure that single parents in London are able to access tailored mental health support sooner?
  • What measures would particularly support children in single parent families in London, who have struggled with their mental health?