84% increase in calls to lone parents’ helpline during lockdown

Press release: 1 June 2020

A specialist helpline for one-parent families has recorded an 84% increase in calls when compared with the same period last year as parents struggle with life in lockdown. The askonefamily helpline run by charity, One Family, provides support for people parenting alone, sharing parenting and those separating. The increase comes as parents seek support on new and challenging issues that have arisen since restrictions began such as access to shops, access/contact arrangements for separated parents, payment of child maintenance, guardianship issues, queries on their social welfare payments and money worries following loss of employment due to Covid19.

One Family CEO Karen Kiernan said, “All our services have been extremely busy as demand from parents increased due to the lockdown. As soon as restrictions were announced, we moved all our parenting and counselling services to telephone and online. We rolled out new services such as parent & toddler groups and coffee mornings via Zoom to combat social isolation and provide practical support to parents. In response to demand, we also introduced specialist slots on our expanded helpline from our parenting, early years and play therapy staff to answer questions on changes to children’s behaviour and other parenting issues arising during lockdown.”

Helpline manager Sarah Devilly said, “We’re hearing more distress on calls as parents try to cope with an extended period of balancing childcare with work and/or managing a loss of income and changed family routines and reduced contact with other family members. Calls to the askonefamily helpline tend to vary greatly with some short focused calls as parents seek and find the information they need, while others can last up to an hour as parents seek listening support and an opportunity to talk about their particular problems.”

Karen Kiernan added, “The issues that are coming up on the helpline are reflected in results of a recent survey we did, with 42% of parents concerned about access issues during lockdown and 65% worried about what happens to their child if they were to get sick. We have been working to address these issues with guidance on how to manage access/contact arrangements in your family [link] and guidance on planning to look after your child if you were to get sick [link].

“We’ve also being working behind the scenes and in the media to raise awareness of the issue of children being banned in shops, with some success as responsible retailers adapted their policies and the Taoiseach’s office called for retailers to adopt a common sense approach [link]. Though there are still problems for some families as some retailers ignore advice from Government to protect vulnerable families.”

One Family want to assure parents that we are here to help and the askonefamily helpline is open to answer questions visit www.onefamily.ie

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askonefamily helpline:
Telephone: lo-call: 1890 662 9212or from a mobile 01-662 9212
Email: info@onefamily.ie
Social Media: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

For Editors:
One Family was founded in 1972 as Cherish and is Ireland’s national organisation for one-parent families and people sharing parenting or separating, offering support, information and services to all members of all one-parent families, to those sharing parenting, to those experiencing an unplanned pregnancy and to professionals working with one-parent families. Children are at the centre of One Family’s work and the organisation helps all the adults in their lives, including mums, dads, grandparents, step-parents, new partners and other siblings, offering a holistic model of specialist family support services.
These services include the lo-call askonefamily national helpline on 1890 66 22 12, counselling, and provision of training courses for parents and for professionals. For further information, visit www.onefamily.ie. The askonefamily helpline can be contacted on lo-call 1890 66 22 12 or 01-6629212.

All One Family’s services are open though operating with some restrictions during Covid-19 click here for a list of services

For further information visit: www.onefamily.ie

Available for Interview
Karen Kiernan, CEO | t: 086 850 9191

Further Information/Scheduling
Noel Sweeney, Communications and Events Manager | t: 085 7241294

Statement | One Family and Retailers during Covid-19

One Family welcomes plan to expand family law cases – warns reform must continue post-COVID in the new Government

[9 May 2020] One Family – Ireland’s organisation for people parenting alone, sharing parenting and separating, today, welcomed the announcement that the District court is working to hear more cases during the COVID crisis specifically in relation to access and child maintenance issues.

One Family CEO Karen Kiernan said, “Our askonefamily helpline has been inundated with calls in recent weeks from concerned and conflicted parents in relation to access visits and child maintenance payments in particular. We are very pleased to note the Courts Service and the President of the District Court listen to our concerns on these issues and commit to hearing access and maintenance issues as urgent.”

Ms. Kiernan added, “As courts and parents adapt to remote and scheduled hearings during this crisis we are calling on the next Government to continue this reform process and ensure that the draft Family Law Courts legislation is included in the next Programme for Government. Significant work has been completed on this legislation and it is critical to providing the basis for vital reforms of the family law system in Ireland which is decades behind our neighbours.”

“We calling on all parties and to include Reform of Family Law and the establishment of a statutory child maintenance agency in the programme for Government as outlined in One Family Election Manifesto.”

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For Editors:

One Family was founded in 1972 as Cherish and is Ireland’s national organisation for one-parent families and people sharing parenting or separating, offering support, information and services to all members of all one-parent families, to those sharing parenting, to those experiencing an unplanned pregnancy and to professionals working with one-parent families. Children are at the centre of One Family’s work and the organisation helps all the adults in their lives, including mums, dads, grandparents, step-parents, new partners and other siblings, offering a holistic model of specialist family support services.

These services include the lo-call askonefamily national helpline on 1890 66 22 12, counselling, and provision of training courses for parents and for professionals. For further information, visit www.onefamily.ie. The askonefamily helpline can be contacted on lo-call 1890 66 22 12 or 01-6629212.

All One Family’s services are open though operating with some restrictions during Covid-19 click here for a list of services

One Family’s Election Manifesto here.

For further information visit: www.onefamily.ie 

Available for Interview

Karen Kiernan, CEO | t: 086 850 9191

Further Information/Scheduling

Noel Sweeney, Communications and Events Manager | t: 085 7241294

Policy update

We hope you and your family are keeping safe and well. Over the week we have been busy on a number of different policy areas that are important to the families we represent.

Access: We have updated our guidance [link] on how to manage access issues several times following regulations on the issue from government, statements from the Minister for Justice and the President of the District Court as well as guidelines from the Law Society. The advice is clear for parents who are able to negotiate and come to new agreements if required; but for those who cannot reach agreement even with professional inputs then courts in general have not been hearing access cases. We will continue to raise this as an issue with the Courts Service as they start to provide some cases remotely using ICT.

Shopping with children: Following a lot of behind the scenes advocacy work and individual parents and organisations raising awareness of the issue in the media, we are delighted to hear the issue of children being banned in shops being addressed in the daily briefing from the Taoiseach’s office [link]. If anybody out there is still having problems please do let One Family know and we will intervene on your behalf with Retail Ireland or with the relevant shop.

Social welfare/income supports: We know that with so many job losses, people parenting alone who frequently work part-time in low paid employment have been hit hard. We have worked hard to have all your queries clarified with the Dept of Employment Affairs and Social Protection and we now know that people in receipt of the OFP, JST and JSA who were working and were laid off as a result of COVID are entitled to apply for the COVID Pandemic Unemployment Payment [link].

Also just a reminder that you can find the form to designate someone else to collect your payment from the post office here [link] and the form to request your payment is paid into a bank account instead of collected from the post office is here [link].

Practical Supports: We have agreement at a national level that people in one-parent families who need help with shopping or any other practical issues will be helped through the local authority helplines and the Community Call volunteer systems [link] they may be able to get shopping for you if you cannot get out or perhaps give you hard copies of forms that you need. Any problems let us know.

Child Maintenance: We have been working with the Dept of Employment Affairs and Social Protection on the process that people should use if child maintenance ends. They have said that parents should let them know in writing about the loss you have and they will reissue your payment to the correct amount for 12 weeks and then the issue will be reviewed [link to DEASP statement]. If it is court-ordered maintenance you may also wish to apply for a hearing on the matter although this may be delayed. However we are also raising the importance of hearing maintenance enforcement cases as well with the Court Service. [link to media coverage on the issue]

Domestic Violence: We know that the difficulties around access and contact visits in families where there is domestic abuse can continue or be increased now with new arrangements and flexibilities required due to travel restrictions. We want to remind everyone that District Courts are taking applications in relation to domestic abuse; Women’s Aid have a new helpline to support people in court cases [link] and there is a government campaign called Still Here to support victims [link].

Access to ICT: We know that many families are struggling with not enough data as free wifi is now unavailable in public places and children and parents are trying to learn from home. The telecomm companies have agreed a number of measures to ensure customers stay connected [link]. There is also work ongoing between organisations and government around sourcing laptops and tablets for families who need them [link].

If you need support or help the askonefamily helpline can be contacted Monday – Friday on 01-662 9212 email: info@onefamily.ie or on social media.

One-Parent Families and Covid-19

We have been all learning how to live in the new regime brought about by COVID-19.  There is new information emerging every day and we are working to review this and bring you as much relevant information as possible. Please keep an eye on our Facebook and Twitter accounts for regular updates.

Based on calls to our askonefamily helpline and feedback from parents through our services these are the issues we believe are the most important to you right now:

  1. One Family Services: We have moved all our services to phone and online support for existing service users so your regular service provider should have been in touch already or will be shortly. Our national askonefamily helpline  (01-662 9212, 1890 662 212 and email support@onefamily.ie) is still operating and we are working to extend the hours available so we can support as many people as possible. We are still taking new referrals for services either through the helpline or perhaps from another professional you are working with. We will keep updating our website and social media accounts with any service changes. Click here for services available.
  2. Social welfare and income supports: We have been working with other organisations to ask the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection to think about lone parents and to protect their incomes as much as possible. The Department listened in relation to lodging social welfare payments into banks, the continuation of the Working Family Payment, flexibility re Supplementary Welfare Allowance and Illness Benefit moving online. We are still talking with them about how parents who have stopped receiving child maintenance can have their full payment reinstated quickly and whether those on Job Seeker’s Transition payment can receive the COVID Pandemic Unemployment Payment. If there are other issues specific to people living in one-parent families that we have not yet asked about please remind us and we will do our best.
  3. How to manage access well: The area of access/contact visits during Covid-19 is of major concern to many parents and children out there and with each new set of guidelines new problems are emerging. We have updated our guidance on this and the Law Society and the Courts Service have also both issued statements on how to manage this. If you need to think this through with someone then get in touch with our askonefamily helpline (01-662 9212) or the Family Mediation Service.
  4. Getting in the shopping: We know that it has been disappointing to see children spoken about so negatively and even being barred from some retail outlets. Whilst this is upsetting for all families it is making life extremely difficult for many people parenting alone as they must bring their children everywhere with them in order to keep them safe. We are now capturing information about those shops that are facilitating children and sharing them on Twitter and we have asked for the slots that were allocated for older people to now be made available for families. From 30 March, all local authorities will have dedicated phonelines and email addresses that vulnerable people and those who are ‘cocooning’ can contact if they need help. Please click here to see numbers available so far and please contact your local authorities to see what local supports are available. We’ll keep this page updated as services become available.
  5. Preparing to get sick: One of the biggest worries many parents are facing right now is considering who will mind their children should they get sick. This is something lots of people are worried about and working on. We are working on a guide to help you to prepare for this situation and we will share it as soon as it’s ready. Along with other organisations we are calling on Tusla to be resourced to plan for this so the best interest of your child can be front and centre in whatever may happen. Again if you want to think this through with our staff on our askonefamily helpline then just get in touch and we will do our best to support you through whatever difficult decisions or conversations you may need to have.
  6. Putting children first: we have been working with colleagues on the Advisory Council on Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures  to advise the Minister for Children & Youth Affairs as well as other government departments on what needs to happen during this crisis to protect and support children and young people. We are finding a huge willingness from policy makers to make the right decisions at this time of crisis and we will continue to work with them in the coming weeks as other issues come up for families. If your family are experiencing specific difficulties during this COVID crisis please let us know and we will do our best to put forward the issue and solutions to government.
  7. Education and Tech: We know that for many people it is practically impossible to keep up with school work or use the internet well without a computer and access to broadband. These things are expensive but essential when we are all asked to stay at home and communicate with each other and the world through online platforms. Along with colleagues in the Children’s Rights Alliance we are calling on the government, tech and communications companies to make sure children and young people can access the equipment and broadband they need to stay connected with the world. If you have ideas or you can help please let us know by e-mailing: comms@onefamily.ie
  8. Parenting and Isolation: we all know parenting alone and sharing parenting can be challenging under normal circumstances, but right now many of you out there are experiencing very high levels of anxiety, practical difficulties and possibly a lower than usual level of patience! All our team are at the end of the phone to support you and we have extended our hours so we can provide more call backs at times that suit you. Please see button below for a list of services.

Finally we want to reassure you, while you may be social distancing you are not alone, we are here with you and this crisis will end.

 

Local Covid-19 Supports

Single Parents Day

Tomorrow March 21 is #SingleParentsDay

This year, One Family is joining with Gingerbread, One Parent Families Scotland and Parenting NI to celebrate one-parent families across social media.

We’d love your help in spreading the word and sharing the message that single parents are valued and invaluable.
Single parent families make up 25% of all families in Ireland but sadly we hear from parents that stigma and judgemental attitudes around one parent families is still an issue.

This is why we’re excited to use Single Parents Day 2020 as a chance to turn that message around and tell people about the amazing achievements that single parents accomplish for themselves and their families every day.

If you’d like to get involved, you can:
• Share this information with your networks.
• Use the #CelebrateSingleParents and #SingleParentsDay hashtags.
• Follow @OPFS, @Gingerbread, @parentingNI and @1familyireland, and keep an eye on the hashtags on the day so you can join the conversation and help raise the profile of single parents and #SingleParentsDay.

One Parent Families Scotland have developed some great resources to take part: https://bit.ly/3a8ssbM

Covid-19 service restrictions

Following the restrictions announced by Government yesterday,  we have put restrictions on some of our services to make sure everyone stays as safe as possible as our absolute priority is the safety and protection of parents, their families and the wider community.

All our group-based programmes, Early Years Services and Child Therapy services are closed for the moment. If you are due in to see us in the next two weeks, we will be in touch with you individually to discuss arrangements.

If you would like to continue attending for a 1:1 service then that option is open to you although we will check with you to see if you have any risk factors. We will also offer support services by phone where possible.

Please feel free to get in touch with us with any queries on our askonefamily helpline on 1890662212 or 016629212 or support@onefamily.ie.

Stay safe and take good care.