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How single parent families (don’t) cope during the pandemic

Single parent families in Europe have been one of those most hit by the COVID pandemic, especially in relation to financial stability and work-life balance. There are 9.2 million single parents in the EU, caring for one or more children who are being constantly overlooked. This podcast (in German) puts the spotlight on their struggles and needs during the pandemic. The German Association of Single Mothers and Fathers (COFACE member) together with a single mother talk about the often difficult situation of single parents, about aid measures and about unfair conditions, which in times of Corona have an even stronger impact.

When the lockdown was enforced in Hamburg, where the single mother in the podcast lives, being home alone with her son first felt like a holiday. However, as the weeks passed by entertaining her son by herself became more and more challenging. Additionally, the closure of her son’s kindergarten made working almost impossible. How are single parents meant to work and care full- time? There is a failure in thinking here. Satisfying the needs of your child and at the same time your own and your work’s is not feasible, says Miriam Hoheisel from the association. This is why the association has since the start of the pandemic advocated for emergency care services to also consider children from single parent families.

The pandemic also meant for the single mother to lose out on a lot of business as she is a freelance photographer. Aid measures from the government came into force in Germany, same as in many other European countries, however, they did and do not always reach the families who need it and single parent families need it more often than others as they are the ones already living in or close to poverty.

The received the financial support, however exceptions which accompanied the new measures meant that she only got a very limited amount which did not begin to cover the costs she had. For example, she had to share the so-called child bonus of 300 Euro with the father although the son spent the full lockdown with her, being the one spending additional money on him and his needs. A compensation which she was entitled to only came into force 2 weeks after the lockdown was already implemented and she already lost work or could not work due to caring for her son.

Many other single parents had similar experience and financial insecurity and instability increased dramatically. Worrying about finances and lack of work-life balance undoubtedly had an extreme impact on the mental health of the parent. It is a double burden when you are alone caring for a child and your social network disappears over night from which one got support and had exchanges says the single mother.

Single parent families need more awareness, adequate public services and more appreciation from the other parent and the government. It might not look like it for some but single parents are system-relevant and must not be left alone to fall into poverty. This is why the German association advocates for secure basic benefits for children, no matter from which family they come from. COFACE Families Europe works equally hard on the so-called Child Guarantee, to ensure no child is left behind. You can read more here about the recent event in Berlin.

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