Single parents express concern over treatment in some supermarkets

Some single parents are turning their backs on large supermarkets after suffering uncomfortable in-store experiences

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6 May 2020 | 0

A number of single parents have been vocal about receiving what they deem unfair treatment while grocery shopping with their children in recent weeks.

Social distancing policies are in full swing in stores across the nation. In an effort to slow the spread of the virus, some stores are refusing entry to children or limiting shoppers to one person per trolley. But for many parents, this is simply not feasible.

Despite claims from supermarkets that there are no policies in place forbidding small family units from shopping together, some single parents feel they have been disproportionately targeted by supermarket staff.

Last week, Twitter user Jessica Bowes, took to the platform to express upset after being denied entry to a Dunnes Stores outlet. “Just home from #dunnesstores Left in tears, empty handed, feel like throwing up,” wrote Bowes. “I was stopped with my kids while the manager was called to ask if we could come in. My colleague walked straight past with her husband and 2 kids while I waited. #Discrimination of OPFs has to STOP.”

Bowes has since been in contact with Dunnes Stores head office, who were “very helpful” and are currently looking into the incident.

Sadly, Bowes’ story was not an isolated case.  Single mum, Claire Beakhurst, felt she was being “penalised” after being told to leave her six-year-old daughter, Ellie, at the door of a supermarket.

Beakhurst said: “We were in one of the local shops and I was asked to leave with Ellie and I said to your man, ‘I’m a single mother.’ He said, “Well you should have rang before you came in.” I was really upset. That was the first time I really felt like I was being penalised for being a single mother.”

Since the incident occurred, Beakhurst has not gone to a big supermarket to do her shopping.

Mary Hobbs, a widow with four children, said she feels uncomfortable when she brings her children grocery shopping. “It is so embarrassing going in with double buggies,” said Hobbs. “You want the ground to open up. I have tried to get delivery slots but they are all booked up for weeks.

“I know how serious Covid-19 is and it is not like I want to bring young children grocery shopping,” she added. “Last week we went to a supermarket and we were stopped by the security man. He was very nice but he said ‘it is only person per trolley.’ I told him my husband was dead and my eldest was too young to look after three small children.

“He spoke to the manager and they let us in, but it was like I had been kicked in the stomach. I felt like crying. Nobody wants to be shopping with small children at the moment.”

Like Beakhurst, Hobbs now gets the bulk of her groceries from small local shops instead of large supermarkets.

In a letter to The Irish Times, representatives from organisations that support children and families warned that a blanket ban on children accessing supermarkets could exacerbate food poverty or potentially lead to child protection and welfare issues.

The representatives suggested that retailers should examine alternatives to ensure parents and children can shop safely where necessary. This could include prioritising online delivery services for frontline workers and lone parents or allocating designated shopping times for parents who must bring children with them.

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