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Project information

Expert advice for single parents who need it most

Our free helpline answers about 9,000 calls a year from single parents but 9,000 more go unanswered, so it's vital that the most vulnerable get through. Webchat will answer simple advice needs quickly and efficiently, freeing up expert helpline advisors to support parents with complex queries.

January 2019 - June 2019

Charity information: Gingerbread, the charity for single parent families

Gingerbread, the charity for single parent families logo
  • Need


    Becoming a single parent can be a time of huge anxiety and challenges: money, housing, work, childcare and contact arrangements, to say nothing of the emotional upheaval of becoming sole carer and sole breadwinner for your children. It can also be incredibly isolating. Our helpline provides free expert advice on the challenges that single parent face. We can’t answer every call, so we need to make sure that callers with the most complex advice needs get through to a specialist advisor.


    We will introduce webchat as an initial assessment tool to guide single parents to tailored information for their advice needs. 67% of callers to our helpline look online first, but still pick up the phone because they can’t find what they need or aren’t sure how the information applies to them. By engaging parents earlier in webchat, we can find those callers who really need to speak to an advisor and direct those with less complex needs to tailored online information.

  • Aims

    Aim 1

    To make sure more single parents with complex advice needs can get through to our helpline advisors


    » Introduce webchat to our advice service to filter out parents with more complex needs and direct them to our helpline

    What success will look like

    We will evaluate the effectiveness of filtering enquires and hope to see an increase in the proportion of complex, high-need callers getting through to the helpline.

    Aim 2

    To use webchat efficiently to direct less complex advice queries to tailored online information


    » Planning and mapping user journeys through existing content on the website
    » Training staff on webchat in guiding people through our information

    What success will look like

    We will assess caller satisfaction with webchat directed advice and hope to record an increase in complex cases supported via the helpline.

  • Impact


    The project will increase the efficiency of our service and deal with more enquiries more quickly, and increase the proportion of high-need, complex cases that get through to the helpline. It will help us reach new audiences of single parents who may not engage with our telephone service, such as single dads and younger single parents. We will measure project impact through monitoring numbers of calls and enquiries successfully answered, plus regular surveys and interactions with service users.


    There is a risk of not meeting helpline demand, as existing staff will need to be trained to deliver across a new channel of service delivery. We will seek advice from the helplines partnership on digital delivery. The partnership can also offer bespoke training. We are recruiting sessional staff to give us capacity and more flexible resourcing to implement the webchat service.


    Donors will receive three reports on the project:

    1. During the project, we will report initial findings and changes to our plans
    2. At the end of the project to highlight key successes and learning
    3. 6 months after the project completion to report on longer-term successes and future plans

  • Budget

    Budget - Project Cost: £20,000

    Loading graph....
      Amount Heading Description
      £7,500 Frontline delivery costs Delivery of the webchat trial as well as follow-up sessions and practice
      £3,000 Management and administration Supervision and delivery of training, planning, testing, evaluation, reporting and development
      £500 Technology costs Set up of the webchat devices
      £1,000 Training for staff Training for advice workers
      £2,500 Evaluation Evaluating the webchat and the impact it has on single parents
      £3,500 User testing & implementation Upfront costs for user testing. Back end functionality set up. Planning and delivering marketing
      £2,000 Overheads Overheads and support costs for the project
  • Background


    As our project will be online, we will have a national reach. The work for the project will take place in our head office in London; user testing will be conducted on the phone or in person where possible with a demographically representative sample of single parents. We hope this project will also help reach new audiences of single parents who may not engage with our telephone service, such as single dads and younger single parents.


    Single parents do a fantastic job but we know it can be tough, with many facing issues surrounding separation, arranging childcare or sorting out work. This project will benefit single parents with the most urgent, complex needs (welfare benefits, housing, debt etc.), as we will be able to filter out these parents and direct them to a helpline advisor where their complex needs can be dealt with. Single parents with less complex needs will also benefit from tailored online information.

  • Why Us?

    Why Us?

    Gingerbread is the only national charity dedicated to working for and with single parent families. With 100 years of experience, we are trusted to listen to them and deliver what they need. More than 800,000 people access our website each year. Our Freephone helpline has been established for over 20 years, delivering a trusted, confidential advice service to single parents. We have the experience and expertise to increase our impact through a new digital channel.

    Read more about the Charity running this project.


    Rose Stone, Head Of Advice And Peer Support

    Rose will oversee delivery of the project

    Olivia Smith, Comms And Digital Manager

    Olivia will conduct user testing, technical implementation of the webchat, and advise on technical delivery

    Gingerbread’S Helpline Advisers

    This team will deliver expert advice to parents via our webchat function

    Hannah Woods, Head Of Learning And Evaluation

    Hannah will oversee the evaluation of the webchat implementation and assess its impact

"The advice line was essential. It’s a lifeline. I didn't have someone to talk to, to tell me 'you will get rejected [by the CSA], but carry on. [...] For me, your advice line led me to gaining £11,000. You just don't know the ripple effect that your donation could have on somebody's life."

Victoria, single parent