Making sense: Navigating the advice and information needs of non-English speaking single parents

By Anna Pietrowski of Gingerbread - single parents, equal families

Gingerbread is the national charity for single parents families. We provide expert advice, practical support and campaign for single parents. We also work with practitioners supporting single parents.
Single parents often face difficult situations that require the organisations working with them to relay complex advice and information. For single parents who are non-English speakers or who have English as a second language, getting the right support during key periods – such as looking for work or sorting out housing – can be even more important. 
That’s something we at Gingerbread know from our expert Single Parent Helpline. We offer an interpreting service for non-English speaking callers, to enable them to get practical advice on the often overwhelming issues they need to deal with, particularly if they’ve just recently become a single parent.  We are also able to offer Voluntary & Community Sector organisations 1 years free subscription to our Online Information Library which has information for practitioners to support their single parent clients through sometimes tricky policies and pieces of legislation.
Take claiming benefits or tax credits. The system’s complex enough for those of us who are fluent in English. For parents with more limited English language capabilities, or those who are new to the UK and our various support systems, it can be a mine-field. From making sense of the jargon to knowing when, where and how to apply for financial support, many will find it difficult to do on their own. 
And of course, different rules apply for single parents claiming many benefits. One such example is the special rules built into jobseeker’s allowance which allow single parents to limit their ability to look for work in order to help them balance employment and family life. Here at Gingerbread, we hear far too often from single parents that these rules have not been properly explained to them by the jobcentre. For a single parent struggling to make sense of employment support in a language that’s not familiar, it’s all too possible for key information to get missed.  
As well as giving advice, information and support directly to single parents, Gingerbread works closely with practitioners who support single parents, providing training and resources to help them increase their knowledge and skills. 
Gingerbread Online Information Library is a one-stop electronic resource is designed to help professionals working with single parents provide up to date advice and information to their clients. For organisations working with single parents with limited understanding on English, having all the information you need, tailored for single parents and broken down by topic can be particularly helpful.
Written in Plain English and structured in easy-to-navigate chapters, topics covered include:
  • Splitting up
  • Child maintenance
  • Education and training
  • Help moving into work
  • Childcare
  • Money for pregnant teenagers and young parents
  • The benefit cap
  • Tax credits
  • Debt and money management
Thanks to funding received from HMRC Gingerbread is able to offer one year’s free subscriptions to the Online Information Library to a limited number of voluntary and community sector organisations. If your organisation works with single parents who don’t speak English or have English as a second language, your application could be prioritised. 
To find out more and apply for a year’s free subscription click here
You can also call the Gingerbread Single Parent Helpline free on 0808 802 0925.