Written evidence submitted by Wahiba Erriadi, Suresh Renukappa, Subashini Suresh, Wala Abdalla, and Redouane Sarrakh, Faculty of Science and Engineering, University of Wolverhampton (COV0173)
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected our daily life brining unprecedented changes. This outbreak has shifted many families’ life mainly the ones with children. Balancing between working from home, being responsible for children’s care, and home-schooling, as well as doing the housework have been very difficult. In addition, the mental health and well-being of children are a priority to every single mother besides taking care of her own.
- No matter what the children age is, it was difficult to keep them at home most of the time. Government has advised parents to provide clear information about the situation and ensure that their children feel safe. Therefore, it was necessary to talk openly about what was happening to avoid any surprising reactions. Mothers have tried their best to keep their children busy and active at home, however, most of the children had responded to this situation in unusual ways. They were anxious, angry, and sometimes agitated causing their mothers many concerns and especially single mother employees because they cannot share their parenting responsibilities while working on their work.
- It is apparent that keeping children at home has reduced the transmission of COVID-19 spread nevertheless; this has increased women’s bearing burden of home-schooling and childcare responsibilities during the lockdown. Additionally, it can be difficult to find balance and feel productive when working from home with children. Consequently, single mothers either had to overstretch themselves when working from home or furloughed. According to the UCL Institute of Education and the Institute of Fiscal Studies, 47% of mothers have permanently lost their job or quit, and 14% furloughed. This situation is worst when single working mothers received no support from the government and left with no choice but to buy their children laptops and tablets, to access children online learning activities. In addition, a reliable internet connection is required for the children and single working mothers.
- Experts fear that COVID-19 pandemic may set women back decades. Women are losing jobs quicker and in greater numbers than the opposite gender because of the burden of the extra childcare and housework. Women have been fighting for gender equality for many years to create more gender-balanced world. Industries that have a very high female work force participation such as hospital, food production, and restaurants were discriminative toward some pregnant women pushing them to work during this crisis (UN WOMEN, 2020). However, COVID-19 crisis has affected single mothers by putting their career at stake.
- According to the Independent (2020), around 70% of the two million single parents living in the UK were in work before the COVID-19 crisis, but three out of ten single working parents were already living in poverty and 90% of single parents are women. Due to COVID-19 crisis, some single working mothers have either lost their job or had zero hour’s contracts leaving them with no income. In order to get help from the government, they needed to wait up to six weeks before their applications assessed and an extra ten days to receive the financial benefits. Having children at home during the lockdown has pushed single mothers to seek extra help for food and bills. This had caused them uncertainty and fears of leaving their children going hungry.
- Women in general and single mothers, in particular, were at risk coping with COVID-19 emergency. For instance, they had to take their young children with them while doing their necessary shopping, and since everyone was self-isolating, it was not possible for the single mothers to leave their children with relatives or friends. Thus, this made both mothers and young children more exposed to the virus. Furthermore, there have been reports of parents in the UK being turned away for bringing children along and abused by members of the public as they try to shop with their children. This awful behaviour from some supermarkets had showed no respect or consideration for pressurised parents and carers who had to bring their children with them for essential shopping (The Guardian, 2020).
- There is an urgent action required from businesses and government to tackle the issues faced by single working mothers. The government should use fast-tracked financial support, including an emergency fund to support both children and single mothers that can no longer work and are claiming universal credit. Also, encourage the local charities and communities to help single mothers with children in shopping for their necessities. Employers must ensure single working mothers to work different hours in order to suit their family’s needs.