One Family’s Election Manifesto 2020

One Family’s Election Manifesto 2020

Families living in makeshift accommodation and children going without a warm meal shouldn’t happen in Ireland. It’s not who we are. But every night thousands of children and families go without these basic needs, caught in a broken system that pulls them under. It doesn’t have to be this way. Poverty and homelessness are not inevitable. They are symptoms of a broken system.

One-parent families now make up over a quarter of all families in Ireland. Yet many are struggling to stay afloat against a rising tide of poverty. These families are three and a half times as likely to be at risk of poverty as two-parent households (CSO – SILC 2018).  In our Election Manifesto we give our Top Four Election Priorities click here for a copy of the manifesto:

  • End Child Poverty: Meet and expand on the current target to lift 100,000 children out of poverty by 2020. Develop another target and commit to a strong implementation system with high level political support. Ensure adequate income levels for all families and households through independent benchmarking of income supports.
  • Reform Family Law & Court Welfare Service: Build on family law reforms and commit to developing a comprehensive public Court Welfare Service including a statutory Child Maintenance Service. Ireland is decades behind our European neighbours and must ensure the safety of children and parents in family law proceedings.
  • Protect All Families in Ireland: Commit to a referendum to update Article 41.3 of the Constitution to extend rights and protection to all families.
  • End Homelessness: Ireland has a national crisis of homelessness which disproportionately affects one-parent families. Commit to prioritising the building of social housing for families and ensuring that children do not spend longer than 6 months in emergency accommodation.

[1] List of research at One Family Budget 2020 submission. https://onefamily.ie/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Budget-2020_One-Family-Pre-Budget-Submission-2020.pdf

Analysis of the Survey on Income and Living Conditions (SILC) 2018 results (released November 2019)

The latest Survey on Income and Living Conditions (SILC) report published on 28 November 2019 shows that lone parent families continue to be the poorest families with children in this State. They endure the highest rates of all types of poverty for families (‘at risk’, ‘deprivation’ and ‘consistent’ poverty).

While One Family welcomes the drop in rates since last year, the ‘at risk’ and ‘consistent’ poverty rate drops are not statistically significant and continue to keep one-parent families trapped in poverty.

Numerous Government and independently commissioned reports have identified the issues and offered similar conclusions – lone parents need targeted supports to help them and their children out of poverty.  While we welcome measures in Budget 2020 that offered supports to working lone parents more needs to be done.

Creating a child-centred response to poverty, which includes full recognition of diverse family forms, will stop the extreme inequality between different types of families in Irish society, as we outline in our Pre-Budget submission 2020.

At risk of poverty rates for lone parents

  • In 2018, households with one adult and children aged under 18 have the highest at risk of poverty rate at 33.5%. This rate is 9.9% for households with two adults with 1-3 children aged under 18. Lone parents are three and a half times as likely to be at risk of poverty as two-parent households.

Definition of At Risk of Poverty: Households with incomes below 60% of the national median income of €264 per week / €13, 723 per annum are at risk of poverty.

Deprivation rates for lone parents

  • In 2018, households with one adult and children aged under 18 had the highest deprivation rate at 42.7%. This rate is 14.3% for households with two adults with 1-3 children aged under 18. Lone parent families are almost three as likely to be living in enforced deprivation as two-parent families.
  • People in lone parent households continue to have the lowest disposable income out of all households with children in the State.

Lone parents continue to struggle to meet living costs for themselves and their children every day. Housing, food, heating and clothing costs continue to put lone-parents under considerable stress, with the costs of schooling adding to this burden. Ireland is not a poor country and government needs to introduce targeted supports for one-parent families. Government commitments through the Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures strategy to lift 100,000 children out of poverty by 2020 must be met if these trends are to be reversed in a stable and consistent manner.

Definition of Deprivation: Households that are systematically financially marginalised from availing of the goods and services considered the norm for most people in society are considered to be enduring ‘deprivation’.   Deprivation is the inability to afford at least two of the eleven basic deprivation indicators outlined below. Furthermore, experiencing two or more of these indicators, for example, going without a substantial meal for  24 hours and being cold because it is too expensive to heat a home, creates ‘enforced deprivation’ for many lone-parent households.

  1. Two pairs of strong shoes
  2. A warm waterproof overcoat
  3. Buy new (not second-hand) clothes
  4. Eat meal with meat, chicken, fish (or vegetarian equivalent) every second day
  5. Have a roast joint or its equivalent once a week
  6. Had to go without heating during the last year through lack of money
  7. Keep the home adequately warm
  8. Buy presents for family or friends at least once a year
  9. Replace any worn out furniture
  10. Have family or friends for a drink or meal once a month
  11. Have a morning, afternoon or evening out in the last fortnight for entertainment

Consistent poverty rates for lone parents

  • In 2018, households with one adult with children aged under 18 continue to have the highest consistent poverty rate at 19.2%. This rate is 5.0% for households with two adults with 1-3 children aged under 18. Lone parents are almost four times as likely to be living in consistent poverty as two-parent households.

Definition of Consistent Poverty:  Households living with incomes below 60% of the national median income of €240 per week, and experiencing deprivation based on the 11 deprivation indicators outlined above, are living in consistent poverty.

How Poverty Traps:

Time plays a role in poverty. We know that the longer any lone-parent family is exposed to an ‘at risk of poverty’ category, the more likely they are to start experiencing enforced deprivation. These two types of poverty combined then force lone parent families into ‘consistent poverty’.  Consistent poverty is living in a poverty trap, where the daily and weekly living is nearly always living ‘on the back foot’, never able to plan head, participate in social life easily, and are usually always in some type of debt. (See EAPN for further poverty analyses: https://www.eapn.ie/poverty/understanding-poverty/)

Read our Press Release on the SILC results:

One Family Pre-Budget Submission calls for evidence based targeted supports rather than blanket increase in social welfare

Minister Doherty must resist attempts to give blanket social welfare increases and instead use research to focus increases on the most vulnerable groups

[Dublin 20 July] One Family, Ireland’s organisation for people parenting alone, sharing parenting and separating has today said Budget 2019 must focus on evidence based targeted supports rather than blanket increases to social welfare. The charity’s comments came at the launch of its Pre-Budget Submission ahead of the Pre-Budget Forum in Dublin Castle.

Karen Kiernan One Family CEO said, “Budget 2019 must focus on targeted ‘evidence based’ increases to social welfare and we call on Minister Doherty to resist attempts to give blanket increases to all social welfare recipients. The Minister should use the realms of research that clearly show children living in one-parent families are consistently more likely to be poor than children in two parent families to target supports to one-parent families.”

Consistent research has shown that children in one-parent families are most at risk of poverty, Government must now act to support these vulnerable families. One Family’s Pre-Budget Submission includes recommendations that would enable Government to provide targeted supports to children living in poverty.

They include:

  • Full restoration of the Income Disregard for One-parent Family Payment and Jobseekers Transition. Increase earnings disregard to €161.40. In 2011, before the 2012 cuts were introduced, the earnings disregard equated to 16.9 hours of National Minimum Wage employment. A disregard of €161.40 would restore these hours and payment levels.
  • Standardise the child maintenance process and provide support for those parenting alone who are pursuing child maintenance. Do not leave this process solely to the parent with care responsibilities.
  • Raise the base rate of the Qualified Child Increase (QCI) from €31.80 to €35.00 per week for one-parent families most at risk of poverty and raise the QCI for children over the age of 12 to €37.80 per week, in recognition of the higher costs faced by families with older children.

One Family’s Pre-Budget Submission can be viewed here.

About One Family
One Family is Ireland’s 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 662212, counselling, and provision of training courses for parents and for professionals. One Family also promotes Family Day every May, an annual celebration of the diversity of families in Ireland today.

Further Information

Karen Kiernan, One Family, CEO  | t: 01 662 9212 / 086 850 9191.

Noel Sweeney, Communications & Events Manager | t: 01 662 9212

Moving from Welfare to Work:  Low Work Intensity Households and the Quality of Supportive Services 

Report by the National Economic and Social Council of Ireland (NESC) – Launch and Seminar.

The report is co-authored by One Family Board Chair, Dr Anne Marie McGauran, and Dr Helen Johnston, both working in the NESC and can be downloaded here.

FINDINGS:

In Ireland the percentage of people living in households where no-one is working, or have a marginal attachment to the labour force, is higher than in most other EU countries. These households are diverse: unemployed people, lone parents, people with an illness or disability and ethnic minorities. ‘Low work intensity’ households experience much higher poverty rates and have a long-lasting negative impact on the children growing up in them. There are significant costs to the State.

The Report came to three overall conclusions:

1 – There is a need to develop a stronger focus on the household, by continuing to expand activation supports to adult dependents, people with a disability, and carers who wish to enter employment. A seminar speaker, Herwig Immervol, also supported this finding by suggesting that households, rather than individuals, need to be considered, as a whole, in activation measures. (link below)

2 – Stronger links are needed between employment services and employers, and between all services in order to support jobless households. Resources for this co-ordination need to be provided.

3 – Increase intensity of support to ensure effective outcomes particularly for those most distant from the labour market: lone parents, people with illness/disability, and those with literacy difficulties, poor English, no work experience or contacts, a history of addiction or time in prison. Supporting this finding the seminar speaker Deborah Rice also found that well-trained caseworkers who can develop good relations with clients and have some autonomy contribute to positive outcomes (link below).

The report also examined welfare and employment services and found that, though generally supportive, there is a lack of trust between service users and Intreo, where people can feel they have no choice in relation to activation/training options offered.

The programme for the full seminar can be accessed here.

Social Inclusion Forum 2018

On May 10th, 2018, One Family attended the annual Social Inclusion Forum (SIF) in the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.  The theme of the Forum was Social Inclusion in a Changing Environment. 

The SIF was established by Government, and convened by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP), as part of the national structures to monitor and evaluate Ireland’s National Action Plan for Social Inclusion (NAPinclusion).

This event was the principal forum for wide public consultation and discussion on social inclusion. It provides an opportunity for engagement between officials, community and voluntary organisations, and most importantly, people experiencing poverty in relation to policy.

The theme for this year’s Forum focussed on how national social inclusion and development issues interact with the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals[1]

The Forum ran a number of Workshops

  1. Tools for Change: How Does the Public Sector Duty Relate to Poverty and Social Inclusion Policies?
  2. Strengthening the Voice of the Social Inclusion Forum: What Role Should the Social Inclusion Forum Play in the New National Action Plan for Social Inclusion?
  3. Equality Proofing Public Expenditure: Lessons for Poverty Proofing
  4. Childcare Policies: Supporting Participation and Early Childhood Development
  5. Community Work at Local Level: Its Contribution to Understanding and Responding to Poverty and Social Exclusion

One Family participated in the “Tools For Change” workshop  which looked at the Irish Human Rights and Equality Act 2014 (IHREC). In this Act, in Section 42 (Public Sector Equality and Human Rights Duty[2])  , all public bodies in Ireland have a legal responsibility to promote equality, prevent discrimination and protect the human rights of their employees, customers, service users and everyone affected by their policies and plans.  The discussion and debate during the workshop opened up issues relevant to lone parent families.

One Family pointed out that this legal duty in the public sector needs to be fully implemented and enforced. It would support the rights of both public sector workers themselves and clients engaging with public services. In particular, there is a need to ensure that proper training and support for staff in human rights and equality issues is not carried out in a vacuum. Pilot programmes with IHREC which have actively included front-line workers and clients in detailed consultations in the public services show great enhancement of those services. They make the work-service provision environment better for all.  One Family has repeatedly called for training, information and support for Intreo case-workers in order to understand the realities of lone parent families, to be fully knowledgeable about all services and supports available. Without an whole-of-government, fully integrated wraparound supports and services, lone parents will continue to experience routs to education and work as an obstacle course.

The Forum closed with a robust session on how the UN Sustainable Development Goals intersect with our national social inclusion and poverty reduction targets and strategies. Participants spoke strongly against using any measures or interventions which would re-prioritise already established anti-poverty goals, targets or strategies. Participants rejected measures which do not align explicitly with those already established. Lowering or moving poverty-reduction targets caused by political decisions during the recession, for example the cuts of Budget 2012, are not a coherent strategy. If the cuts born so heavily by lone parents from the 2012 Budget onwards  were made by reason of a ‘recession’, by the same token, increases should be made in 2018 in a rising economy. Throughout the day the lives and realities of lone parent families, along with other disadvantaged groups, were raised consistently from various quarters.[3]

 

[1] https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/

[2] https://www.ihrec.ie/our-work/public-sector-duty/

[3] https://www.welfare.ie/en/downloads/SIF2018Brochure.pdf

Presentation to Joint Committee on Education & Skills Barriers to Education Facing Vulnerable Groups: Lone Parents

  1. One Family

One Family was founded in 1972 as Cherish and provides support, information and services to people parenting alone, those sharing parenting of their children, those going through separation; as well as to people experiencing an unplanned or crisis pregnancy. One Family believes in an Ireland where every family is cherished equally, and enjoys the social, financial and legal equality to create their own positive future. Full information on One Family can be found at www.onefamily.ie.

  1. Introduction

One Family works towards the full inclusion and integration of one parent families into the fabric of Irish society. Parenting alone, and sharing parenting in new complex and blended family forms, is an increasing and emergent social reality. Many parents will parent alone through the course of their lives, either temporarily or permanently. The traditional ‘breadwinner’ model of family life has given rise to most of our social and economic infrastructure and tends to ignore or evade the multiple, on-going demands of lone parenting. The first requirement, therefore, in removing barriers to economic and social inclusion is recognition and acceptance of the realities of diverse and fluctuating forms of family life.

Lone parents are a group who experience multiple disadvantage in Irish society and access to education is part of that. One Family welcomes the opportunity to submit to the Joint Committee on Education & Skills and appreciates your interest in this important issue.

    3. Data and Research

3.1  Demographics: one in five children in Ireland live in a one-parent family while one in four families are headed by a lone parent. There were approximately 218,817 lone parents in Ireland in 2016[1] which is an increase of over 3,500 families since 2011. Almost 90,000 were single; a further 50,496 were widowed, while the remaining 68,378 were separated or divorced. The number of divorced people in Ireland nationally has increased from 87,770 in 2011 to 103,895 in 2016. The vast majority (86.4%) of one-parent families are headed by mothers but many families share parenting of their children. Overall, recent Census data[2] shows there is a steady increase in diverse families in Ireland and this is replicated throughout Europe.

3.2       Lone Parent’s access to Wealth:

TASC’s The Distribution of Wealth in Ireland[3] report indicates that one-parent families are:

  • less likely to own their own home and face significant barriers to owning property;
  • have savings of €300 on average, which is less than 10% of others;
  • have an average net wealth of €30,600 compared to an average figure of €218,700 for all households.

 

3.3       Employment Rates:

Available employment figures[4] indicate that the employment rate of lone parents (aged 15-64) is 58.5%, dispelling any myth that people parenting alone are not working.

The employment rate of lone parents is directly linked to the age of their youngest child, as follows:

  • Youngest child aged 0- 5 years, employment rate is 46.8%
  • Youngest child aged 6–11 years, employment rate is 59.8%
  • Youngest child aged 12-17 years, employment rate is 65.6%.

Therefore as children get older parents are more available for work, this is directly linked to the childcare needs of children.

3.4    Education Participation:

Lone parent participation in education has decreased by approximately 20% between 2011 and 2016[5]. The reasons for this trend can be complex and varied, but One Family consistently hear from parents that barriers to accessing education are significant.

A parent’s availability for education may also be inferred from their availability for employment as above. Both situations share many similarities in that the time and work needed to balance parenting and study/work need to be managed.

3.5   Children’s Well-Being:

It is well recognised that the educational levels of parents have direct impact on the lives of their children with the educational level of a mother in particular having a direct impact on the well-being of her child/ren[6].

The draining away of lone parents from higher education therefore is of particular concern. The CSO notes that “higher educational attainment levels are linked with lower unemployment rates. Those with primary education/no formal education were over four times more likely to be unemployed in Q2 2017 (14%) when compared with those who had a third level qualification (3%)”. [7]

International research similarly shows that despite the complex interactions between parental social, economic and educational positions and conditions, the educational levels of both parents are a significant influence on the life expectations and outcomes of their children. Education is a gateway to more sustainable, quality employment which lifts lone parents out of poverty in the longer term. Educational access enables engagement with society generally, to shared customs, beliefs and behaviours, to marketable skills and professions, and to political engagement. The children of lone parents are entitled to such supports through their parents’ access to mainstream social capital.[8]

3.6  Government Policy:

as far back as 2006, a Government Discussion Paper: Proposals for Supporting Lone Parents, put forward a number of actions to support lone parents. Among these recommendations there was an express objective to “Facilitate participation in employment /education and training in a positive and systematic way [9].

3.7   Maynooth University Research:

Twelve years later, in 2017 Maynooth University Independent Review to Identify the Supports and Barriers for Lone Parents in Accessing Higher Education and to Examine Measures to Increase Participation[10] arose from a commitment made in the 2016 Programme from Government.

One Family was consulted as part of this review process as a representative stakeholder group. The recommendations of the Review echo One Family’s recent Pre-Budget Submission[11].  The report notes especially that while lone parents have attracted considerable policy attention in welfare, and education and training, with regard to activation measures; much less specific attention has been paid to lone parents in higher education and suggests an urgent need to widen access for these families. The need to improve access to higher and tertiary education has also been highlighted by our colleagues in An Cosán in their recent campaign.[12]

The complexity of the current system of supports was also highlighted in the Review, including the inadequate dissemination of information, guidance and awareness-raising to lone parents regarding the ‘bundles’ of supports that are offered by different government departments and agencies.  The effectiveness of high-support guidance intervention on well-being, career efficacy and employability factors  has been shown in recent research on activation, giving rise to an urgent need to train Intreo case workers in the very complex set of opportunities and barriers facing lone parents .[13]

4  Barriers to Education for Lone Parents

4.1  Work Life Balance:

Balancing parenting responsibilities and managing finances with accessing education is a difficult task, especially so for lone parents, who often do so with half the resources and double the responsibility.

4.2  Lack of pathway to education:

there are well documented additional challenges for young parents who wish to stay in education as well as older parents who wish to return as mature students. There is no clear pathway of progression for parents who cannot readily move from second level to third level education.

4.3 Lack of income to access education:

the income supports that are in place in Ireland are overly complex to access and at insufficient levels to avoid poverty in many cases. One example is that the age of a child generates a barrier to support. Currently, if a child is over 14 yrs, transfer to BTEA is compulsory when a lone parent has moved onto Jobseekers Allowance. As a result of this forced transfer, access to a SUSI maintenance grant is denied to these parents.

4.4  Housing:

Ireland is experiencing a housing crisis with most homeless families being one-parent families. If a family is living in insecure housing they are very unlikely to be able to enter or maintain participation in education. Some financial housing supports are specifically unsupported in conjunction with some educational supports and so access to education depends on housing tenure. This is both unfair and illogical.

Such barriers often result from uneven and contradictory systems of support, such as the clash between being in receipt of Rental Support on the one hand, but excluded by virtue of receiving that support on the other – for example the SUSI grant.

4.5  Childcare:

the challenges for parents in accessing affordable, high quality childcare for their children is well documented. It is extremely difficult to access out of school care as well which may be required for educational participation.

4.6  Inclusion:

single mothers are the most socially isolated people in Ireland[14] and particular efforts must be made to recruit and maintain them in education.

 5. Recommendations to remove Educational Barriers for Lone Parents

Whilst the issue of barriers to education for parents is complex and some structural barriers such as homelessness and childcare require cross-departmental funding and exchequer investment to solve, other issues can be more directly addressed.

5.1  Income Supports:

Lone parents who have transferred to BTEA were particularly highlighted in Maynooth University’s Independent Review as the most economically vulnerable group among lone parent welfare recipients[15]. One Family recommends the following changes to income supports to ameliorate some barriers to education for lone parents:

  • The reinstatement of the student grant scheme (maintenance grant) for BTEA recipients would create a more equitable, less complicated and targeted approach for supporting lone parents in higher education.
  • The student grant scheme should be available for part-time and online education.
  • The rigidity of how SUSI classifies students as being dependent or independent causes difficulty for people parenting alone who access a different housing tenure and may lead to them losing their grant. Reassessment is only in very restricted circumstances.
  • We recommend that SUSI be available to parents engaging in education, regardless of the age of their youngest child (up to a limit of 18). There are several administrative options in how to achieve this. It is important that that once a lone parent is in receipt of One-Parent Family Payment/ Jobseeker’s Transition and the SUSI maintenance grant has begun that their payment continue until their course is completed.
  • In general, the SUSI grant should be reviewed and the levels increased. The maintenance portion of SUSI education grants only provides a contribution towards the costs of participating in education and ignores the reality of caring for children.
  • Additional funding for lone parents either in the form of cash transfers or in the form of universal scholarships for lone parents within Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) should be provided. The Department of Education’s 1916 Bursary Fund offered 200 bursaries for an overall target group of lone parents, first-time and mature student entrants, students with a disability, Travellers, Further Education Award holders, and ethnic minorities. Whilst this is a welcome start, this is actually a nominal and piecemeal response to the education needs of such a huge group of marginalised people, especially those of lone parents. Given that 25% of Irish families are one-parent families, 80 Bursaries set aside for lone parents appears as a gesture, rather than a systemic action towards genuine recognition and educational inclusion.

5.2  Complexity of Supports:

the complicated nature of the current systems of supports can block access purely on a bureaucratic level. We recommend stronger dissemination of information, guidance, and awareness-raising regarding the ‘bundles’ of supports offered by different government departments and agencies to parents.

We also concur with Maynooth University’s recommendation that there is a persistent need for training and awareness for Intreo case-workers who operate frontline services and supports in the Department of Employment Affairs & Social Protection[16].

We are concerned that supports and payments from two government departments interact with each other in a negative way and we strongly recommend that the Department of Education & Science collaborates with the Department of Employment Affairs & Social Protection in order to ensure that parents can access education irrespective of their housing tenure.

5.3 Access Pathways:

Taking an education-first approach will result in improved employment rates for one-parent families in the longer term. Jobseeker’s Transition (JST) payment recipients are a distinct group with a specific set of needs. The time spent on JST is a unique opportunity to invest in a package of supports and services to ensure that these parents can access education or employment. Broadening access to JST will also allow parents with older children to enhance their employability through further education and training. These recommendations would remove a number of structural barriers which currently prevent lone parents from accessing education.

The provision of specialist bridging programmes such as One Family’s New Futures and New Steps for lone parents[17], which directly support progression, job-readiness, and incorporate wrap-around parenting and family support services, offer an example of a genuine way into heretofore exclusionary educational institutions.

5.4  Pro-Active Inclusion:

Lone parents are a considerable body of potential students who are systematically excluded, since the requirements for their participation are not being met. The profile and needs of this large student cohort should be  integrated explicitly into the ethos of each Higher Education Institutions (HEI). This needs to be visibly stated by colleges and universities, who have the responsibility of welcoming people who are parenting alone onto campuses. There is a need to provide lone parents with tutoring that generates both the technical skills and ‘cultural’ competencies required for higher educational engagement. Like other students, they need the tools to succeed.

While there are established Access to Higher Education programmes available across the networks of further education colleges, Institutes of Technology and Universities, there is a need to meet the specific needs of students, current and potential, who are lone parents.

5.5   Housing Tenure:

The ability to access and stay in education should not be linked to housing tenure, indeed education is a route out of homelessness into independence and security for lone parents. The following recommendations are critical for access to education for lone parents:

  • Allow those in receipt of Rent Supplement to engage in full time education. This would remove a number of structural barriers which currently prevent lone parents from accessing education.
  • Address the anomaly by which lone parents in receipt of Rent Supplement cannot receive their One-Parent Family Payment or Jobseeker’s Transition Payment and the SUSI maintenance grant on taking up an education or training course.
  • Ensure all lone parents in receipt of Back to Education Allowance can receive the SUSI maintenance grant to help meet the costs of accessing education.

5.6   Childcare:

The provision of affordable, accessible and quality childcare, including early years and out-of-school care are pre-requisites for lone parents’ ability to engage with work or education. Childcare costs in Ireland are the highest in the OECD for lone parents and the second highest for couples.[18] One Family makes the following recommendations:

  • Increase accessibility so that families in every county can access subsidised and affordable childcare, with particular emphasis on access to out-of-school care.
  • Reach the European average of investment in early years education and care so that labour market participation for parents, mothers and lone mothers, can be a reality and their children can benefit from high quality learning. Ireland ranks lowest among 28 EU countries for investment in pre-primary education. Ireland currently invests about 0.1% of GDP, considerably lower than the EU average of 0.8% [19]  Investment is required to address the poor infrastructure of childcare and the crisis in the lack of childcare workers.

Ends

[1] Census 2016 http://www.cso.ie/en/csolatestnews/presspages/2017/census2016summaryresults-part1/

[2] Census 2016 http://www.cso.ie/en/csolatestnews/pressreleases/2017pressreleases/pressstatementcensus2016resultsprofile4-householdsandfamilies/

[3] https://www.tasc.ie/download/pdf/the_distribution_of_wealth_in_ireland_final.pdf

[4] CSO QNHS Q2 2017. http://www.cso.ie/en/releasesandpublications/er/qnhs/quarterlynationalhouseholdsurveyquarter22017/

[5] Census 2016. http://www.cso.ie/en/census/

[6] Growing up in Ireland : DYNAMICS OF CHILD ECONOMIC VULNERABILITY AND SOCIO-EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT:  AN ANALYSIS OF THE FIRST TWO WAVES OF THE GROWING UP IN IRELAND STUDY https://www.esri.ie/pubs/BKMNEXT284.pdf

[7] http://www.cso.ie/en/releasesandpublications/er/eda/educationalattainmentthematicreport2017/Ibid.

[8] Erola, J et al, (2016),  Parental education, class and income over early life course and children’s achievement, Research in Social Stratification and Mobility. Volume 44, June 2016, Pages 33-43, Elsevier. Open Access:   https://ac.els-cdn.com/S0276562416300038/1-s2.0-S0276562416300038-main.pdf?_tid=d89fc2fa-c2f7-4188-bfbe-8134e6c06dbd&acdnat=1521208135_5a6f1b80f20cfd812e758e547662485c

[9] https://www.welfare.ie/en/pressoffice/pdf/pr200306.pdf

[10] https://www.education.ie/en/Publications/Education-Reports/supports-barriers-lone-parents-accessing-HEd.pdf

[11] https://onefamily.ie/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/One-Family_Pre-Budget-Submission-2018.pdf

[12]http://www.dhr.ie/tag/education/

[13]http://oireachtasdebates.oireachtas.ie/Debates%20Authoring/DebatesWebPack.nsf/committeetakes/SPJ2018012500002?opendocument#D00100

[14] Margret Fine-Davis, Attitudes to Family Formation in Ireland: Findings from the Nationwide Study, Dublin, Family Support Agency and Social Attitude and Policy Research Group, Trinity College, December, 2011

[15] Byrne, D., Murray, C. (2017) An Independent Review to Identify the Supports and Barriers for Lone Parents in Accessing Higher Education and to Examine Measures to Increase Participation. Maynooth University. DSP, DCYA, DES.  “https://www.education.ie/en/Publications/Education-Reports/supports-barriers-lone-parents-accessing-HEd.pdf

[16] Ibid (p.13)

[17] https://onefamily.ie/how-we-support-families/parenting-supports/for-parents/back-to-work-education/new-futures/

[18]  OECD, ‘Ireland Economic Survey of Ireland’, September 2015

[19] https://www.earlychildhoodireland.ie/latest-eu-report-highlights-irelands-embarrassing-track-record-investment-care-young-children/

Policy | Assessment Change Could Reduce the Impact of Poverty on Lone Parents

One Family, Ireland’s organisation for people parenting alone, sharing parenting, and separating, has voiced its concern that child maintenance is to be assessed as parental income under the Affordable Childcare Scheme. According to the organisation, if child maintenance is assessed as child income rather than parental income it could significantly reduce the impact of poverty on lone parents.

Karen Kiernan, CEO of One Family responding to comments made by representatives of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA) at a seminar on the Childcare Support Bill organised by the Children’s Rights Alliance said, “One Family has serious concerns about this issue and we have written to Minister Zappone and the members of the Committee on Children and Youth Affairs and asked them to make the appropriate change.”

There is a clear rationale for the Affordable Childcare Scheme to exclude child maintenance as income; currently a number of income sources are excluded from income assessment for state supports such as the Working Family Payment.

Ms. Kiernan added, “I can understand why the Department have chosen this provision. They believe that by including it would prevent a poverty trap but there is no indication that excluding child maintenance from assessment would form a poverty trap. These payments do not vary for recipients when they leave or enter employment, so the exclusion of this income source would not serve as a disincentive to enter or increase employment.”

The payment of child maintenance varies significantly based on the vagaries of the relationship with the maintenance payer. Feedback from the One Family national helpline and from frontline staff in the District Court in Dublin indicate that a significant majority of court-ordered maintenance orders are not complied with fully or at all. It is also extremely likely that non-court-ordered arrangements are also not fully adhered to in many cases. This can cause significant difficulty and stress to the family in receipt of the payments as their social welfare payment may have been reduced, their rent supplement may have been reduced and they be left at short notice without a full income in any given week.

The issue of child maintenance and the negative impacts of non-payment on vulnerable children and their parents has become an issue of great political interest with bills being introduced both by Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein in recent months. The non-payment of maintenance is regarded by a Government agency Cosc as domestic abuse and should be taken very seriously. This relatively simple assessment change would protect vulnerable children and help towards lifting 100,000 children from poverty by 2020.

#AffordableChildcare and #EndChildPoverty.

 

#AffordableChildcare  #EndChildPoverty

 

 

Policy | One Family Welcome Child Maintenance Proposal

One Family welcome the launch of Sinn Féin’s proposal paper on the establishment of a statutory Child Maintenance Service. This proposal is an important first step in clearly asserting that the payment of child maintenance is not a discretionary gift, but a legal requirement, and the responsibility of both parents.

It is the State’s responsibility to intervene and assert and protect these rights in a systematic and equitable way, whether lone parents are in receipt of financial state supports or not.

A summary of their proposal is as follows:

Context:

  • The proposal is child-poverty focused and highlights that the consistent poverty rate for children in lone parent families is 26.2%, according to SILC 2015 figures.
  • Lone parents face a number of challenges such as unemployment; underemployment and they are often in part-time, low paid precarious work.
  • They also have inadequate access to affordable and accessible childcare.
  • Lone parents face significant barriers in accessing education or full-time employment.
  • Changes to the One-parent Family Payment (OFP introduced in 2012 has exacerbated these issues and challenges.
  • UN CEDAW 2017 Recommendation to Ireland to “Consider establishing a statutory authority and prescribing amounts for child maintenance in order to reduce the burden on women of having to litigate to seek child maintenance orders”.
  • Child maintenance payments can play a pivotal role in reducing consistent poverty. In the UK there has been a 30% reduction in the poverty gap as a result of impact of compliant child maintenance payments.

Three Options for a Child Maintenance Service Model:

  1. Parental Arrangements – Parents willing to negotiate can avail of advice, support and information in agreeing amount. This option is not available in cases of domestic violence.
  2. Direct Pay – Situations where non-custodial parent is willing but agreement cannot be reached. This allows the Child Maintenance Service to calculate an appropriate amount. Once agreed, the payment is then made directly between both parents.
  3. Collect & Transfer – This will occur where the non-custodial parent refuses to engage. The Child Maintenance Service will calculate, collect and make payment. This should be an automatic option in case of domestic violence.

Other Key Points:

  • The service should be free at the point of access.
  • 20% penalty where collect & transfer is needed in order to incentivise payments.
  • Strong enforcement powers which will allow them to take monies directly from all forms of earnings.
  • Fully supported information & advice service established to be accessible to all lone parents.
  • Strong links with Revenue to assist access to property details as well as income.
  • Domestic violence training for all Child Maintenance Service staff.
  • Fast track options should be available.
  • In order to decrease poverty – child maintenance should not be calculated as means with regard to any state supports.
  • In the UK the service costs €230 million per annum for 2 million lone parents.

One Family Response

Children living in one-parent families are living in the most socially and financially deprived homes in Ireland. Lone parents have the highest rates of consistent poverty, the lowest disposable income and the highest rates of deprivation. The government has made clear commitments to reduce child poverty and the formation of a Child Maintenance Service provides a clear opportunity for the government to increase household income for lone parents.

Current mechanisms available to parents to seek maintenance orders, and their subsequent enforcement, rest with those who are seeking the payment, placing an excessive burden on them. Parents must utilise the family law courts to legally seek and enforce these requests. Many parents find the court process daunting and overwhelming and require, often costly, legal advice in order to fully utilise the family courts system effectively. There is also inconsistency and a lack of transparency regarding how the courts decide how much maintenance should be paid by the non-resident parent. State intervention is needed to better support these families.

Some countries, mostly Nordic (Denmark, Norway, Finland, Sweden) and some Central European states (Germany), operate systems of guaranteed maintenance which involves state departments making provisions to ensure children actually receive maintenance consistently even where non-custodial parents are unwilling to pay. Countries such as the United Kingdom, Ireland and United States view child maintenance as a financial obligation on liable relatives governed by family law placing the burden on custodial parents in seeking maintenance arrangements. The affect of these two aforementioned approaches to maintenance governance and provision mean very different outcomes for one-parent families.  Children have better outcomes in those countries where a guaranteed state mechanism is in place for the payment of child maintenance.

Policy | Lone Parents Still Have the Highest Rate of Consistent Poverty – SILC Report

The Survey on Income and Living Conditions (SILC) 2016 results released in December 2017 showed:

Deprivation rates for lone parents

Lone parents are still struggling to meet the costs of living for themselves and their children. This includes the basics such as housing, food, heating and clothes. This is unacceptable and should not be normalised. Ireland is not a poor country and government need to carefully consider the allocation of resources to ensure the most vulnerable are protected. There has been a minimal decrease in consistent poverty rates and  more needs to be done to honour government commitments on child poverty.

Households that are excluded and marginalised from consuming goods and services which are considered the norm for other people in society, due to an inability to afford them, are considered to be deprived.  The identification of the marginalised or deprived is currently achieved on the basis of a set of eleven basic deprivation indicators. Deprivation is the inability to afford at least two of thesebasic necessities, such as going 24 hours without a substantial meal or being cold because parents are unable to afford to heat the home.Individuals who experience two or more of the eleven listed items are considered to be experiencing enforced deprivation.

  1. Two pairs of strong shoes
  2. A warm waterproof overcoat
  3. Buy new (not second-hand) clothes
  4. Eat meal with meat, chicken, fish (or vegetarian equivalent) every second day
  5. Have a roast joint or its equivalent once a week
  6. Had to go without heating during the last year through lack of money
  7. Keep the home adequately warm
  8. Buy presents for family or friends at least once a year
  9. Replace any worn out furniture
  10. Have family or friends for a drink or meal once a month
  11. Have a morning, afternoon or evening out in the last fortnight for entertainment
  • Those living in households with one adult and one or more children aged under 18 had the highest deprivation rate in 2016 at 50.1%.
  • Those living in lone parent households continue to experience the highest rates of deprivation with over half of individuals from these households experiencing one or more forms of enforced deprivation. This compares to 21% of the general population who experienced deprivation- meaning lone parents are 2.5 times as likely to be experiencing deprivation than the rest of the population.
  • People in lone parent households continue to have the lowest disposable income out of all households with children in the State.

Consistent poverty rates for lone parents

Consistent poverty means that children are living in households with incomes below 60% of the national median incomeof €237.45 per week and experiencing deprivation based on the agreed 11 deprivation indicators.

  • Individuals living in households where there was one adult and one or more children aged under 18 had the highest consistent poverty rate at 24.6%- a small decrease of 1.6% from 2015.This is compared to a consistent poverty rate of 6.4% for two-parent households. This means that lone parents are four times as likely to be living in consistent poverty compared to two-parent households.

At risk of poverty rates for lone parents

At risk of poverty means that lone parents and their children are living in households with incomes below 60% of the national median income of €237.45 per week

  • The ‘at risk of poverty’ rate for households with one adult and one or more children aged under 18 was 40.2% in 2016- an increase of 4% since 2015.
  • 40.2% of lone parent households are at risk of poverty. This is compared to an at risk of poverty rate of 12% for two-parent households. This means that lone parents are almost 3.5 times as likely to be at risk of poverty compared to households with two parents.

The report shows an 8% reduction in deprivation rate for lone parents but 4% increase in numbers at risk of poverty. The longer a lone parent stays in the at risk of poverty category the more likely they are to start experiencing enforced deprivation. These two combined mean they will then be living in consistent poverty so an increase in lone parents at risk of poverty is worrying and these families need support now to prevent this from happening.

 Further Information

  • The types of deprivation most commonly experienced by those at risk of poverty were an inability to replace worn out furniture(41.2%), afford a morning/afternoon/evening out (36.0%) and have family/friends over for a meal/drink (32.3%).
  • The types of deprivation most commonly experienced by those living in consistent poverty were an inability to replace worn out furniture(71.7%), afford a morning/afternoon/evening out (63.9%) and have family/friends over for a meal/drink (60.7%).
  • Under half of those living in consistent poverty (48.1%) reported going without heating at some stage in the last 12 months.
  • Indecon- the SILC data reinforces Indecon data- lone parents are living in poverty since the OFP reforms.
  • ESRI- the SILC data supports recent ESRI research which showed that lone parents were the group most affected by poverty and deprivation, and the group with the highest risk of deprivation.

Read the full release from CSO here.

Read One Family’s recommendations here

Policy | Lone Parents Most Affected by Consistent Poverty, New ESRI Report Shows

One Family responds to a new ESRI report which was published today that forms part of the research programme for the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection: Poverty Transitions in Ireland: An Analysis of the Central Statistics Office (CSO) Longitudinal Survey on Income and Living Conditions (SILC), 2004-2015.

The report uses Irish SILC data from 2004-2015 to examine poverty and deprivation transitions among various social risk groups – groups experiencing an increased risk of poverty due to non-class personal or family factors. The social risk groups included in the analysis are lone parents, people with a disability, young adults, children, working-age adults, and older adults (ESRI, 2017).

 

Summary of key results:

  • Lone parents emerge in all the analyses as the group most affected by poverty and deprivation, and the group with the highest risk of deprivation both at a point in time and cross-sectionally. The levels were significantly higher for never-married lone parents (63% for ‘any deprivation’) than for formerly married lone parents (45%).
  • There was a significantly higher rate of both any deprivation (68% vs. 47%) and persistent deprivation (41% vs. 28%) for children of never-married lone parents than for those of formerly married lone parents. This is in keeping with expectations and findings from other research that formerly married lone parents tend to be a more advantaged group in terms of personal resources such as education (Nolan and Watson, 1999).
  • The children of never married lone parents have significantly higher rates than the lone parents themselves, reflecting the higher deprivation rates in larger families of this type.
  • The recession had a greater impact on vulnerable groups such as lone parents because of the barriers they face in labour market participation; their capacity to remain in employment is reduced. Lone parents also have a lower employment rate to begin with and austerity measures disproportionately affect them. Lone parents tend to be more reliant on public services, especially health and housing. Any reduction in services, including increases in waiting periods, disproportionately affects lone parents and is evident in the higher risk of deprivation and poverty.
  • The rate of persistent deprivation was highest for lone parent and their children across this time, with working-age adults affected by disability (and any of their children) the next highest group.

Poverty is understood in terms of having a reduced access to material resources to the extent that the person cannot participate in generally valued activities or have an adequate standard of living. Income poverty and basic deprivation are the two core indicators of poverty in Ireland. Income poverty is a relative measure and involves living in a household with disposable income, after adjusting for household size and composition, below 60 per cent of the median.

Basic deprivation involves being unable to afford certain basic goods and services, such as adequate food, clothing, heating for the home and basic social participation, such as having an evening out or getting together for a meal or drink with family or friends. It is also a relative measure in that it seeks to capture people’s exclusion from access to the goods and services that people usually have in the society.

Implications for Policy

  • It does not make sense to speak of ‘poor’ or ‘deprived’ people as if they are a static group. Instead, income poverty and deprivation are consequences of low market power or barriers to market access which must be addressed by policy.
  • There is clearly a lag between the improvement in the economy based on indicators such as the employment rate, and improvements for those affected by poverty and deprivation. Part of this lag is undoubtedly due to factors such as the erosion of resources and accumulation of debt over the recession. It is also evident, however, that the rate of persistent deprivation is still very high for the most vulnerable groups (lone parent families and those affected by disability) in the recovery period up to 2015. This suggests a need for special supports for these groups to enable them to take advantage of the benefits of economic recovery.
  • Lone parenthood and family size are very important in accounting for the higher deprivation rate of children than of adults. Policies that benefit these families will be most effective in narrowing the income poverty gap between children and adults.

One Family continues to emphasise the need to take affirmative action to alleviate the disproportionate levels of poverty and deprivation being experienced by lone parents. We again call on Government to carefully consider the recommendations contained in our Pre-Budget Submission and a number of other key reports published over the past 12 months including the Indecon Independent Review of the Amendments to the One-parent Family Payment since January 2012, the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Social Protection report in June on The Position of Lone Parents in Ireland; Maynooth University’s research on the barriers to education for lone parents published in August; and Lone Parents and Activation, What Works and Why: A Review of the International Evidence in the Irish Context, commissioned by the Department of Social Protection and conducted by Dr Michelle Millar and Dr Rosemary Crosse of the UNESCO Child & Family Research Centre in NUI Galway, published last September.

Our most vulnerable families should not have to wait for action any longer.

The ESRI report can be read/downloaded here.