Parents need clarity on schools more than ‘support bubbles’, says charity boss

Single parents need clarity on schools and childcare during lockdown more than they need “support bubbles”, a charity boss has said.

Chief executive of single parents’ charity Gingerbread, Victoria Benson, said the new allowance for single parents to treat another household as their own will help parents emotionally, but most are much more concerned about their finances.

Boris Johnson announced on Wednesday that from Saturday single adult households in England will be able to form a “support bubble” with another household.

This will allow adults living alone or single parents living with children under the age of 18 to team up with another house during lockdown.

But Ms Benson said a long-term solution to childcare was needed to help single parents return to work.

She said: “The question a lot of single parents are asking is what to do if their employer wants them back but they can’t afford childcare.

“Now that more sectors are opening, a lot of people are very scared that they’re going to be made redundant.

“Many small employers can’t afford to keep furloughing employees – it’s a really difficult position.

“What single parents really need is childcare, and for schools to be opened so they can go back to work.”

Ms Benson, who is herself a single parent of an autistic son who needs her care, added: “Because you are the only person looking after your children the anxiety about what will happen if you become ill is high.

“My son is over 18, so I don’t fall within the exemption (to form a ‘support bubble’).

“It’s very isolating being a single parent on your own, you can’t share the burden with anyone. It’s relentless.”

Professor Linda Bauld, Professor of Public Health at the University of Edinburgh, said she supports the introduction of support bubbles “not only for intimacy but to reduce loneliness”.

She added that the development is “consistent with recent research” into the spread of coronavirus.

“The ‘support bubble’ announcement today is a very British way of saying that intimacy matters,” she said.

“It acknowledges the toll that lockdown has taken on the private lives of tens of thousands of couples who live apart.

“In recent weeks, the easing of restrictions has been welcome, but social distancing guidelines have meant that people can see their partner outside but not reunite in the way they would wish.

“This new advice acknowledges that it is difficult and unsustainable for partners to remain physically separate.”

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