One Family submission on the review of the Student Grant Scheme – SUSI (Student Universal Support Ireland)

One Family have made a submission to the  review of the Student Grant Scheme – SUSI (Student Universal Support Ireland).  To read the submission including One Family’s recommendations for changes to the SUSI grant to improve access and administration of the scheme for one-parent families click here.

One Family submission to the Family Justice Oversight Group Consultation

One Family, today, made a submission today to the Family Justice Oversight Group Consultation in  the Department of Justice in relation to Family Law Reform. To read the submission please click here.

 

Submissions on Parent’s Leave and Benefit

One Family this week made two submission to the Joint Committee on Children, Disability, Equality and Integration in relation to the General Scheme of the Parent’s Leave and Benefit (Amendment) Bill.

The first submission was on behalf of One Family, that submission can be read here and the second was a joint submission with other NGOs (Barnardos , Children’s Rights Alliance , FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) , Focus Ireland , National Women’s Council , One Family , Society of St Vincent de Paul , SPARK and Treoir) as part of the National One-Parent Family Alliance, that submission can be read here.

A third of one-parent families surveyed have been pushed onto social welfare because of a lack of childcare

Childcare survey

As the economy re-opens and people are called back to work, we are asking parents to complete a quick two-minute survey about their childcare concerns and whether they think it will impact their income/job security.

To fill out this anonymous survey click here:

We are looking to quantify parents’ concerns as part of the #ChildcarePreventsHomelessness campaign with Focus Ireland, Children’s Right Alliance, Barnardos Ireland, Treoir, FLAC, Dress for Success and the National Women’s Council of Ireland.

Lone Parents at Increased Risk of Poverty

A report from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs states that lone parents are at increased risk of poverty. The report draws from existing data and literature to provide an understanding of what we know about the situation of children living in poverty. It also identifies the main risk factors for experiencing child poverty that can be used to inform future policy developments. A summary of the key findings in relation to one-parent families is outlined below.

Key Findings

  • In 2018, 26.7 per cent of children are at risk of living at or below the 70% poverty line, 15.8 per cent of children are at risk of living at or below the 60% poverty line and 7.4 per cent of children are at risk of living in deep poverty – at or below the 50% poverty line.
  • Children living in households headed by a lone parent have substantially higher levels of poverty than children living in other family structures.
  • Level of education and employment status play a significant role, and studies have shown that lone parents are less likely to hold higher education degrees and also experience higher levels of unemployment. This has a compounding effect that puts lone parents and their children at greater risk of experiencing poverty and deprivation.
  • Access to childcare services also plays a role, as households with children that do not make use of childcare services show higher than average rates of child poverty compared to households with children that use childcare.
  • Lone parent households are four times as likely to experience income poverty than coupled households.
  • Lone parent households are five times as likely to experience material deprivation and consistent poverty.
  • Lone parent households are more likely to experience financial exclusion. They are less likely to hold a bank account or have savings and have limited access to low-cost sources of credit.
  • The ‘Growing up in Ireland’ study found that levels of economic vulnerability were highest among lone parent families (and higher again for those with two or more children), primary caregivers under the age of 25 when the study child was born, and among primary caregivers with low levels of education.

As we can see, living in a household headed by a lone parent clearly influences the likelihood of a child experiencing poverty, particularly where the parent also has a lower level of education or a lack of reliable employment. This should not be the case, and these dynamics require more attention in the Irish context in terms of both policy and research.

Policy and Service Implications

While poverty among children has shown modest improvement since 2011, the current level of child poverty in society is unacceptable.

Some policy implications outlined in the report include:

  • Specific policy actions are urgently required to address child poverty and the variation in poverty risk across age-groups of children in Ireland. The findings presented here suggest that policy measures that were taken to reduce child poverty among very young children (0-5) were successful. This same commitment needs to be extended to all age groups of children and across all domains of children’s lives.
  • While socio-economic status and the employment situation of families has attracted considerable attention in policy and research circles, greater attention must be paid in the Irish context to how child poverty impacts one-parent families and how it operates along migration, minority ethnic, or racial lines.
  • The employment situation of the household and the education level of the parent or caregiver continue to be strong indicators of child poverty. There is need for policy development in the areas of labour market activation, and in-work benefits to determine their effectiveness in reducing child poverty. Research cautions that a work-first approach that seeks to alleviate poverty by moving people off welfare and into work as quickly as possible ignores the critical role that high-quality education and training play in achieving self-sufficiency, especially for the most vulnerable populations. Thus, room for educational development and training opportunities is essential in any welfare to work strategy.
  • There is a clear need to enhance access to affordable all-day childcare, particularly for low-income families.
  • It is well established that several policy mechanisms are required to produce a reduction in child poverty, involving policy that spans a range of Government Departments. A multidimensional approach to the reduction of child poverty will require continuing emphasis on a cross-departmental approach among departments that support public policies for families and children

The full report, Income, Poverty and Deprivation among Children – A Statistical Baseline Analysis, can be found here: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/a1580-income-poverty-and-deprivation-among-children-a-statistical-baseline-analysis-july-2020/

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.