Pregnancy Guide
NHS Choices

Lone parents

If you're bringing up a child on your own, don't be afraid to ask for help from friends and family. You may also find that other single parents are a good source of support.

Finding support as a lone parent

You could:

  • accept help from relatives and friends willing to lend a hand for time out, babysitting and school runs
  • suggest a "swap" arrangement with another parent, so you take it in turns to look after each other's children
  • suggest a regular evening's babysitting by a trusted relative or friend
  • ask friends and relatives if they'd be happy to have your child stay overnight sometimes

If you don't know people locally, ask your health visitor what local groups are available in your area or contact Gingerbread, a charity for one-parent families that can put you in touch with other parents in a similar situation and give you much needed support.

Co-parenting when you live apart

If you'd hoped to bring up your child as a couple, you may be feeling angry and hurt.

But as a lone parent, it's important to hide those feelings from your child and let them build their own relationship with their other parent.

It's usually better for children to see both parents regularly, even if you start new relationships. Of course this doesn't apply if your ex-partner is violent or abusive towards you or your child.

At first, you may find your child behaves badly when they come home after a visit. Playing up is one way they may let you know they're upset or confused about the situation.

Unless you think something bad may be happening on access visits, the best way to deal with this is to be reassuring and calm. In the end, your child will learn to look forward to visits and coming home.

You'll almost certainly need to talk about your own feelings. Try to find another adult to talk to.

Gingerbread has more advice on making arrangements for your children.

Benefits and child maintenance for single parents

Gingerbread offers free information packs for lone parents. They can also give you independent advice about benefits, housing and child maintenance problems.

Child Maintenance Options is a free service that helps separated parents come to an agreement about child maintenance arrangements.

If you can't reach an agreement with the other parent about child maintenance arrangements, the government runs a statutory Child Maintenance Service that can arrange child maintenance on your behalf.

The Child Maintenance Service can collect maintenance payments from the paying parent and pass them on to the receiving parent.

It can also help you find the other parent if you don't know where they live, and help sort out any disagreements about parentage.

If you want to use the Child Maintenance Service, you'll need to contact them first. You can call them on 0800 988 0988.

Single parents with a disabled child

Looking after a disabled child on your own can be exhausting and isolating, but lone parent carers can get support and financial help.

Try to include your child's other parent in their care, if possible. If your child needs any aids or adaptations around the home, you may be able to get a grant to help with the costs.

The Early Support Programme supports families and carers of disabled children. Through the programme you and your child will be allocated a key worker who can help you find the support you need. To find out more about the Early Support Programme, speak to your local authority.

A social worker or an adviser from the Citizens Advice Bureau will also be able to provide details of groups that offer grants.

As a lone parent of a disabled child, there is a range of financial help that you may be entitled to, including Child Maintenance, Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and Income Support. For further details, you can use GOV.UK's Benefits Adviser service.

If you are working and have a child aged 16 or under, or they are aged under 18 and you are claiming PIP, you have the right to ask your employer for flexible working.

For more advice and support you can call the Gingerbread helpline on 0808 802 0925 or Contact a Family on 0808 808 3555.

Further information for single parents


Last Updated: 28/11/2017 14:45:11