UNICEF publishes Report Card 11

One Family is attending Taking Action to Fight Child Poverty and to Promote Child Well-being, a two-day conference in Dublin organised by Eurochild, European Anti-Poverty Network Ireland, UNICEF and Children’s Rights Alliance as part of Ireland’s Presidency of the EU.

Yesterday UNICEF published Report Card 11 naming Ireland as the 10th best developed country in the world for children to grow up, ahead of both the UK and the US. This report, launched by Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Frances Fitzgerald, is the culmination of research spanning ten years (2001-2010) and also shows a decade of steady progress for the nation’s children.

“However, this report card does not show the on-the-ground reality of austerity policies and practices which stem from Budget 2012 which are hitting the poorest families hardest,” said Stuart Duffin, Director of Policy and Programmes at One Family.

“Those at the top had the boom but it’s those at the bottom being made to suffer the bust and this particularly is the case for those parenting alone. We need to build and invest in the jobs, housing and childcare that will stimulate the economy and meet the needs of all families.

“If we don’t it will be shocking and dangerous in public policy terms, and also a catastrophe for the childhoods and life chances of so many of our children.”

At the conference, One Family has presented Investing in Children – Breaking the Cycle of Disadvantage. Our 10 Solutions for Smarter Futures campaign sets out pointers for government to alleviate the impact of persistent and consistent poverty for those parenting alone. Learn more about 10 Solutions here.

The time for One Family’s ‘Ten Solutions Smarter Futures’ is now

Almost half of the State’s children are living in households in receipt of social welfare, the Oireachtas Social Protection Committee was told yesterday.

Ita Mangan, Chairwoman of the group that recommended a two-tier child benefit system, warned that this is “worrying” and also told the committee that one in five children in the Republic of Ireland lived in a home where income was less than €20,000 a year. Labour TD Brendan Ryan noted that the lack of affordable childcare was a “major barrier” to single parents working.

One Family’s ongoing campaign Ten Solutions Smarter Futures clearly outlines why the current welfare system needs to be reformed. It is time for a system which lifts people out of poverty and treats everyone with dignity and respect. Responding to Ms Mangan’s evidence to the committee Stuart Duffin, Director of Policy & Programmes for One Family, highlights the benefits of  Ten Solutions Smarter Futures  and encourages TDs and Senators to agree its execution.

“Against a background of inaccurate and discriminatory media stories which too often demonise lone parents, the system increasingly focuses on blaming individuals for being out of work,” Mr Duffin said.

“Overall, welfare reform has resulted in gaps in provision, especially for those in precarious situations such as those parenting alone. Reforms are based on the assumption that those on welfare should move into employment, regardless of the existence, quality or sustainability of jobs. They assume that benefit recipients lack the motivation to work. Significant moral and ethical questions exist over the ability of large multi-national private employment agencies to profit financially when disadvantaged people find themselves jobs.

“Meanwhile the real barriers to employment such as lack of childcare, employer discrimination, below poverty level wages and the lack of jobs are not tackled effectively. Many lone parents are required to engage in work seeking activities, education and training despite inadequate childcare provision in some areas.”

Mr Duffin concludes: “The real challenge is to make childcare affordable for those at the bottom end, so that there are strong incentives for those parenting alone parents to continue or engage in employment and/or education. That would do much more to help reduce child poverty, and it would help our economic our recovery too.”

The current system is expensive to administer. It is time to stop tinkering with the system and make some fundamental changes which can be achieved through an area-based whole of government outcomes-focused tactic to reduce child poverty. Current policies and practice do little to address the inequalities that place lone parents in precarious labour market situations. There is an acute and urgent need for policies that:

1.         Guarantee flexibilities within JA,

2.         Prevent in-work poverty and create adequate incomes to ensure that no child experiences poverty,

3.         Support job retention,

4.         Guarantee affordable, flexible and high-quality childcare.

The families facing the hardest struggle, particularly those parenting alone, do not have the spending power businesses need to get back to growth and create new jobs. It would be far better for family welfare and business growth if families were at the frontline of economic stimulus. Countries that took this approach when the economic crisis started have recovered much more strongly.

Read more about One Family’s Ten Solutions Smarter Futures campaign here.

One Family reacts to new UK childcare provisions

Budget 2013 has been delivered in the UK today. Responding to the UK government’s announcement that up to 85% of childcare costs for some low-income families eligible for Universal Credit (UC) will be covered from April 2016, Stuart Duffin, One Family’s Director of Policy & Programmes, said:

“UK government is recognising the high costs of childcare in the UK which acts as a significant deterrent for all families who want to get back to work or work longer hours. But this scheme would do very little to help the families that need it most, or to reduce child poverty.

“The plans announced are extraordinarily complicated, inadequately tailored and too far in the distance to provide comfort for families struggling right now. The new scheme is weighted heavily in favour of those on high incomes. With the UK economy still stagnant and child poverty rising, low income families need stronger work incentives now, not in three years’ time after the next general election in the UK.

“Accessing affordable childcare is a gateway to starting work for many parents and in particular those parenting alone. Restricting higher levels of childcare support under the Universal Credit to parents only when they are already in work reinforces the barriers in the crucial period of transition into work that universal credit sought to break down, so the danger is that only a smaller number of low-income families will actually benefit from this proposal.”

If Ministers Burton and Fitzgerald are following this One Family would recommend direct social investment in the provision of childcare, free at the point of demand. If the Irish government is not taking that option, we promote that other approaches should at least be tailored to low income families, and in particular to those parenting alone, rather than using the bulk of resources for wealthier families as is happening in the UK.

State of the Nation’s Children Report published today

The State of the Nation’s Children Report: Ireland 2012 has been published this afternoon; the fourth report in a biannual series. Frances Fitzgerald TD, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, launched the report which shows that the number of children in Ireland has increased by 13.4% since 2002. The Minister said it pointed to the need for a greater focus on vulnerable children, further investment in early-childhood services and improving the affordability and accessibility of childcare.

Other findings include:

  • Ireland now has the highest proportion of children in the EU – in 2011, there were 1,148,687 children in Ireland, accounting for 25% of the population and the number of children in Ireland increased by 13.4% between 2002 and 2011.
  • Significant decrease in number of babies born to teenage girls – a decrease of 36% between 2007 and 2011.
  • The number of children in lone-parent households is up 10.2%.

“This growth of the birth rate further underlines how urgently the economic value of childcare as a component of economic growth and social investment must be recognised,” responds Stuart Duffin, One Family’s Director of Policy & Programmes. “Social investment in childcare is now fundamental to growth. By placing childcare in the context of education it will have greater potential to reduce child poverty and benefit children and families.”

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has identified publicly supported childcare and early childhood education as critical to a nation’s wealth and citizen well-being. Countries with the healthiest families and sustained economic development are also most likely to view a licensed childcare system as an essential part of the public infrastructure supporting the economy, according to County of Wellington Childcare Services, New Zealand (November 2012).

The World Bank supports such action as an investment in human capital that prioritises the development of less costly preventative interventions for young children who are vulnerable to developmental delay, rather than more costly remedial action for older children and adults (www.worldbank.org) and states that “well conceived early childhood development programmes are a cost effective means of strengthening society.”

As we see births rise in Ireland, we must tailor supports for those families which may be disadvantaged or have life-chances restricted because services such as affordable and accessible child care are not in place for all. This is a specific fulcrum for those currently parenting alone or who may parent alone in the future, as Government strategy channels lone parents to take up work as the key means of getting them out from poverty.

Report on Child and Family Income Support published

The Report on Child and Family Income Support by the Advisory Group on Tax and Social Welfare was published yesterday and has caused considerable concern for parents across Ireland. The report, however, is an advisory report submitted to Government for consideration; Government has not agreed it. No decisions have been made on this and no timeline or plan on operationalisation has been put in place.

One Family will continue to advocate that Family Income Supplement (FIS) be changed from a ‘threshold’ benefit to one that tapers. Thresholds create poverty traps which are discriminatory and should be moved away from as part of a progressive social protection framework.

It was stated yesterday at the report launch that the computer systems of the Department of Social Protection and the Department of Revenue ‘talk to each other’ now and that they can identify 87% of claimants. This would make paying FIS as a taper and through the wage packet a good and efficient option.

Included in our pre-budget submission for 2012 was our recommendation to restructure Child Benefit to ensure that it is tailored to those most in need.

Click here to read the press release issued at the launch of the report, and here to download the report.

Below are links to some of the media coverage in response to the report:

The Irish Times | ‘No decision’ made on child benefit

Irish Examiner | Burton wants social welfare system that encourages people to work

TheJournal.ie | It’s easy for ministers on high salaries to ignore the importance of child benefit

The Irish Times |  Prospect emerges of cutting child poverty while saving public funds

Survey on Income and Living Conditions 2011 finds lone parent households are most deprived

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) has released the Survey on Income and Living Conditions (SILC) in Ireland for 2011, a household survey covering a broad range of issues in relation to income and living conditions.

These new figures show that lone parent households are the most deprived, with 56% classified as deprived. According to the survey, 232,000 children are at risk of poverty, which represents 18.8% of all children in Ireland, a slight increase from 18.4% in the previous year. One in seven of those at risk of poverty has a job, according to the statistics, and over half (50.7%) of the population would be at risk without social welfare payments.

Responding to the findings, Stuart Duffin, One Family’s Director of Policy & Programmes, said: “The urgent problems today are the growing number of families making the difficult choice between heating and eating, or getting sucked into the spiral of rent arrears, pay day loans and debt. A central focus on family incomes has to remain, alongside a step change in government strategy on living wages, affordable housing and affordable childcare so that more families can balance their budgets and give their children decent life chances.”

Stuart Duffin further commented: “One Family hopes that Ministers will now take a robust evidence informed approach to policy and start providing income security and making work pay for those families and children in most need.”

Read the CSO press release here. Further analysis by The Irish Times can be found here: Quarter of population classified as deprived | Unravelling the facts, and myths, of Irish inequality | Record numbers in poverty, CSO



One Family’s Stuart Duffin on RTE calling for Child Benefit reform

Listen back to Stuart Duffin, One Family Welfare to Work Manager, speaking out on RTE 1’s Drivetime yesterday, calling for reform of the Child Benefit system.

He is at 01:57:00:00 towards the end of the show, here is the link


One Family,Ten Solutions – cost neutral solutions to help lone parents back into work & education

Stuart Duffin, One Family, Welfare to Work Manager, was at the 66th Labour Party Conference in Galway over the weekend promoting One Family’s course of   action in response to Budget 2012.  All 750 copies of the paper, One Family – Ten Solutions – Smarter Futures were taken and read. One Family is advocating cost neutral administrative and management approaches which would facilitate those parenting alone back into work and education. There is overwhelming support for our stance on flexibilites; that is, that lone parents who transition to Jobseeker’s Allowance should not be required to be available for fulltime work but rather for 15 hours per week during school hours. This should mitigate many of the child protection concerns and parental caring responsibilities that have arisen around 7 year olds being left on their own. A series of flexibilities or exemptions are required as per the UK and many other countries to allow for a lack of childcare, lack of transport, a child with a disability, separation, bereavement, etc, This is a first step in a journey to ensure that lone parents and in particular children in lone parent families do not suffer disproportionally in the current economic climate.

See the full document here Ten Solutions

For more information on flexibilities for lone parents who are in receipt of Jobseeker’s Allowance.

Look here

Here is some relevant Census 2011 data on Lone Parents in Ireland:

1 in 8 people in Ireland live in a one-parent family,  567,311 persons out of a general population of 4,588,252.

1 in 4 (25.8%) families with children in Ireland is a one-parent family, 215,315 lone parent families out of 834,266 families with children.

Over half a million people live in one-parent families in Ireland, 567,311 persons

13.5 per cent of one-parent families are headed by a father, 29,031 lone fathers as opposed to 186,284 lone mothers.

1 in 5 (21.7%) children live in a one-parent family,351,996 children in one-parent families, out of a national total of 1,625,975 children

Budget 2012 main social welfare changes and rates

Budget update – here are the main social welfare changes and rates of payment from the Dept of Social Protection. Thanks for all the comments and suggestions to get involved in a campaign. We’ll post more about that and our response to the cuts soon too. http://www.welfare.ie/EN/Topics/Budget/bud12/Documents/budfact12.pdf

One Family responds to Bishop’s comment

One Family Director Karen Kiernan was responding this morning on WLR and yesterday on Today FM’s ‘Last Word’, Newstalk and Spin 103.8 to a piece in the Irish Independent where Bishop of Elphin Christopher Jones said “the greatest good” would “come ultimately from the family in marriage” and that many children from broken homes are born “losers”.  Karen was also speaking up for one-parent families after some media reports unfairly scapegoated single parents as being somehow responsible for the London riots.

Karen said, ‘The language used in some of these articles can be really hurtful to people who are doing a great job, often under difficult circumstances, parenting alone or sharing parenting. It can also be really hurtful to their children. We obviously don’t agree. Children do best in families where they are loved and supported – that can be a family with one parent or a family where there are two, or even three, parents involved in the child’s life. The real issue in all of this is the need for family support. Children do well in families where parents are in a position to parent well, be they married or not. That’s what makes the difference.’