Gingerbread briefing on Covid-19 and the impact for Single Parent Families

The Covid-19 virus offers a particular challenge for single parents and their children as they rely on one income and are without the support of another adult in the household to balance childcare arrangements. Nationwide measures to limit the spread of the virus will put huge pressures on single parents when faced with the practicalities of self-isolation and school and childcare closure.

Urgent action is needed to better protect single parents and their children during the Covid-19 crisis. Gingerbread is calling on government, employers and businesses to provide extra help and support for single parents and their children at this challenging time.

We are calling for the following measures:

Government job retention scheme and furlough


The job retention scheme must not expose single parents to greater job insecurity in the longer term

Over the last week the government have announced that employees who are unable to work because they have caring responsibilities resulting from coronavirus (COVID-19) can be furloughed. This will include single parents who need to look after their children. At Gingerbread we know that many single parents who are working from home will find it challenging to also care and potentially home school their children. Whilst we welcome this announcement we want to make sure that the best interests of single parents are protected through the scheme and it does not in the longer run expose them to greater job insecurity. We are working with key organisations to monitor the scheme and the subsequent treatment of single parents.

Whilst we broadly welcome the furloughing scheme we think that there are other ways that single parents might maintain their job and look after their children. We would encourage employers to think of flexibilities for single parents including a short term reduction in work load or support for parents to work their hours as flexibly as possible. In addition the government might also want to look at other ways to support single parents including making up the salary of those who cannot work their full-hours whilst they are home-working during the crisis.

Last updated: 16 April 2020. Back to top


Social security – Universal Credit and Legacy Benefits


Lift child benefit by £10 per week per child and suspend the benefit cap

Gingerbread supports the campaign led by CPAG and others in the voluntary sector to lift child benefit by £10 per child per week to help ease the financial pressure that families are facing during the COVID-19 crisis.  However, we also need this increase to go hand in hand with the suspension of the benefit cap.  The benefit cap includes child benefit and so without its suspension the most disadvantaged single parents and their children will not receive any extra money.

The benefit cap has a disproportionate impact on single parents and their children – 72% of households currently impacted by the benefit cap are headed by a single parent and most will find it impossible to move into work or move into cheaper accommodation during the crisis.  Gingerbread has led the call for the benefit cap to be suspended for a minimum of three months and support Shelter’s campaign to suspend the benefit cap in the longer term.

Last updated: 16 April 2020.


Increase the benefit level for those on legacy benefits

Gingerbread is pleased that our call to government to halt job seeking requirements for single parents has been heard.  From 30 March all job seeking requirements as part of benefit claims has been halted for a period of three months. We also called for a more generous level of Universal Credit (UC).  The government have listened and the standard allowance has increased by a £1,000 a year (£80 a month). We support others in calling for the same increase in benefit level for those on legacy benefits. 

Last updated: 6 April 2020.


End the five week wait for Universal Credit

There has been an enormous increase in the number of people who have started a claim for universal credit with more than a million new claimants since the lockdown.  At Gingerbread we will be keeping a close eye on the increasing numbers of single parents who transfer to universal credit and their experience of receiving their first payments.  At Gingerbread we are part of a coalition of charities pushing for the five week wait to be abolished and in addition we are are pressing for a faster process for single parents to receive their first payment of universal credit.

Last updated: 16 April 2020. Back to top.


Child Maintenance


The government should step in to fill the shortfall for any CMS arrangements during the crisis

It is a child’s right to be supported by both parents – this is particularly important during times of crisis when single parents’ finances become even more stretched. We recognise that COVID-19 will have a negative impact on both parents’ finances. For the parent with care, they are already facing the possibility of losing 20% of their income, whilst also having to come up with the extra costs associated with looking after children not attending school. It is crucial that these parents are not hit with a ‘triple penalty’ by having the maintenance payments they rely on to make ends meet taken away from them. Gingerbread is calling on the government to step in during this period to fill the shortfall for any Child Maintenance Service (CMS) arrangements where the resident parent is not receiving maintenance to ensure this doesn’t happen. 

Last updated: 6 April 2020. Back to top.


Guidance from businesses on changes that affect single parent families


Supermarket sole shopper guidance should consider single parents who need to take their children to the shops with them

An increasing number of supermarkets have introduced guidance that just one adult is permitted to shop for a household. Gingerbread has heard from single parents who are concerned that this presents a practical difficulty as they parent and care on their own and need to shop with their children. Supermarkets have said that this is guidance and not a stated restriction for single parents.  As a precaution we have contacted the supermarkets concerned to be mindful that 1:4 families are headed by a single parent and that as such they may need to take their child/children when they shop.  We are asking that their guidance needs to reflect the circumstances of these families and this must be communicated to their store managers.

Last updated: 6 April 2020. Back to top.


Free School Meals


Single parents with children who are entitled to free school meals should be given cash to ensure the most flexibility

Single parents who are entitled to free school meals are being offered alternatives during the Covid-19 crisis. Some parents are receiving supermarket shop vouchers, whilst others are receiving food parcels and a number are receiving a cash amount. At Gingerbread we think that the most flexibility for single parents and their children will be to give them the cash amount so that they can have the the opportunity to buy food in a range of supermarkets and other food outlets and to enable others to shop on their behalf.

Last updated: 6 April 2020. Back to top.


Employers can play a vital role


Employers should allow single parents some flexibility in how they work during this time

With schools and childcare closures in effect across the country for the majority of students. Employers can play a valuable role in keeping single parents in employment during the Covid-19 crisis.    Gingerbread are calling on employers to support single parents whose children might attend schools or childcare centre that are forced to close. Allowing single parents some flexibility in how they do their hours, including opportunities to work from home would be really valuable. Making single parents aware of any support that your organisation offers could be make a real difference at this time.

Last updated: 20 March 2020. Back to top.


Financial support for those who cannot work


Statutory sick pay and support with rent

We are calling for those that lose their job or face a cut in hours to be given emergency financial support including access to Statutory Sick Pay and help with paying their rent.

Last updated: 20 March 2020


Fast track universal credit applications to protect the most vulnerable children

Those single parents who can no longer work and move over to universal credit should be fast tracked for financial support including an emergency fund to support their children and to protect them from homelessness.

Last updated: 20 March 2020. Back to top.


Local authority support


Support through local authorities should target single parents and their children

Money given to local authorities to help those affected by the Covid-19 virus should target support to single parents and their children.

Last updated: 20 March 2020. Back to top.


About single parent households

Single parent households are:

  • Twice as likely as coupled households to live in poverty;
  • More likely than coupled households to be in a low paying insecure job including on a zero or a low hours contract;
  • More likely than couple parents to have to rely on the safety net of social security including the +775,000 single parent households who have transferred onto universal credit;
  • More likely than coupled households to live in a private rented sector home; and
  • More likely than couples to have to rely on formal childcare.

Within this context Gingerbread is calling on the government, employers and businesses to take urgent action to better protect the income of single parent households and provide adequate support for single parents and their children.

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