Yorkshire single parents 'hit hard' by coronavirus lockdown

There are169, 774 lone parent families with dependents in Yorkshire. Picture: SHUTTERSTOCKThere are169, 774 lone parent families with dependents in Yorkshire. Picture: SHUTTERSTOCK
There are169, 774 lone parent families with dependents in Yorkshire. Picture: SHUTTERSTOCK | other
Thousands of single parents across Yorkshire will be “hit hard” and in desperate need of help by the coronavirus lockdown, charities have warned.

With schools closed, homes in lockdown and job insecurity rife, experts say more support is needed for the 1.8m lone parents in the UK. In Yorkshire alone, there are 169, 774 one-parent families with dependent age children.

Charity Gingerbread, which helps single mothers and fathers across England and Wales, said they have seen an influx of calls from anxious parents in response to the outbreak.

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Chief executive, Victoria Benson said: “Our helplines for the local groups have been overwhelmed with single parents asking, what do they do, as well as practical questions about isolation and lots of financial issues, as well as lots of issues about maintenance and issues with the non-resident parent.”

Chantal Nogbou with children twins Neveah and Isla, and sons Kenzo and Noah. Picture: Chantal NogbouChantal Nogbou with children twins Neveah and Isla, and sons Kenzo and Noah. Picture: Chantal Nogbou
Chantal Nogbou with children twins Neveah and Isla, and sons Kenzo and Noah. Picture: Chantal Nogbou | ugc

And with schools across the country now closed indefinitely, Ms Benson said she was very concerned that single parents will have to juggle multiple roles within households.

She added: “We’re all expected to look after our children from home but most single parents can’t work from home. Even if you are paid to work from home, how can you work from home and do your job and look after your children at the same time?”

Mother-of-four Chantal Nogbou,41, from Leeds, said financial concerns were her biggest worry after she was forced to stop work as an acupuncturist. Now at home with eight-year-old twins Neveah and Isla, and son Kenzo, 14, she is looking into establishing online consultations as a way to keep her family running.

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“It’s hard because if I were in a couple, then we’d probably have two wages to fall back on. We keep hearing that the support for self-employed will come, but it is a worry not knowing what is going to happen.

Laura Jackson with children Jack and Evie. Picture: Laura JacksonLaura Jackson with children Jack and Evie. Picture: Laura Jackson
Laura Jackson with children Jack and Evie. Picture: Laura Jackson | ugc

“But beside the financial worries, another impact for me is the emotional one,” she said. “I don’t have anyone in the house to talk about my concerns. While I could video call friends, it’s not the same as having someone here face-to-face.”

Practically, the lockdown restrictions are also concerning. Her eldest son is staying with a friend, but she will have to leave the twins with her younger son in order to do the food shop. Right now, she says, the children are being resilient. In preparing for lockdown, the family bought a new greenhouse and plants, and she is using this as a basis for learning while the schools are shut.

“It is hard to motivate my 14 year old, as there is a lot out there for younger children, but not much for high school kids. But I’ll do what I can at home to keep them all learning,” Ms Nogbou said.

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Juggling work commitments is the main concern for mother -of-two Laura Jackson, 32, from Selby.

Gingerbread chief executive, Victoria Benson. Picture: GingerbreadGingerbread chief executive, Victoria Benson. Picture: Gingerbread
Gingerbread chief executive, Victoria Benson. Picture: Gingerbread | other

She works part-time in accounts while bringing up Jack, two, and Evie, four, alone. While the last week has been busy, trying to sort out IT equipment to enable her to work from home, she says it “suddenly dawned on her” that it was going to be just her and the children when she attempted to do some work only for her wifi to fail.

“I thought I was doing really well, but then I realised we were only a few days in,” she said. “There was excitement at first from the children at being at home, but now Evie has realised that she will miss her friends. Luckily, at their age, they adapt really quickly.”

The Government has pledged to support the most vulnerable households. Despite an initial period of confusion, the Government has clarified that children under 18 with separated parents can continue to visit both parents throughout the lockdown.

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Last week Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a raft of measures to support businesses and low income families, including an increase to the Universal Credit standard allowance and Working Tax Credits.

He said: “Together these measures will benefit over four million of our most vulnerable households.”

However, charities have warned that a lack of support could further push cash-strapped families into poverty.

“Our local government needs to consider what action they can take to support this already very vulnerable group of parents,” Charlene Brooks, chief executive of the charity Parenting NI, said.

“There is an urgent need to look at how more financial and emotional support could be provided during this crisis to avoid families being pushed into poverty.”