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.

Policy | Update from the Policy Desk

The One Family Policy Service has been focussed on the Budget 2018 announcement in recent weeks. On 10 October the Minister for Finance, Pascal Donohoe outlined a summary of budgetary measures to be implemented during 2018. You can read a summary of the key changes to social welfare entitlements here. The Budget goes a small way towards supporting lone parents and their children, but more is needed to ensure they are supported into education and work, while acknowledging the hard work they are doing raising their children alone. We were particularly disappointed that there were no meaningful provisions in the Budget to improve access to education for lone parents. Education is the key to lifting lone parent families out of long term poverty and deprivation. Read our post Budget press release here.

We responded to the release of a report by Indecon Economic Consultants commissioned by Government to examine the impact of austerity measures on one-parent families –  ‘Indecon Independent Review of the Amendments to the One-parent Family Payment since January 2012’. There were a number of very concerning findings arising from the report including 43% of parents reporting that their family wellbeing decreased due to the reform and 40% reporting their children’s wellbeing decreased. 63% of the respondents in full-time employment also stated that they cannot afford 3+ items on the deprivation list, meaning that they are most definitely experiencing deprivation daily and in-work poverty. Currently we see parents in precarious, low paid employment and this is not a victory for Government policy, or a signpost to continue unchanged in this direction, as more children in more one-parent families are living in consistent poverty. You can read our full response to this report here.

One Family want to ensure that the Census is inclusive of all family types and reflects the diversity of families in Ireland so we made a submission to the Central Statistics Office on the content of the questionnaire for the 2021 Census.

We attended a conference marking the five year anniversary of the Children’s Referendum on 10 November 2012 which aimed to strengthen children’s rights in the Irish Constitution. Our CEO, Karen Kiernan, highlighted the importance of constitutional protection for all children and not just for children who live in married families.

The results of the Quarterly National Household Survey for Households & Family Units were released by the Central Statistics Office on 19 October.  The results revealed the most recent employment statistics for lone parents. While there have been some marginal increases in employment for lone parents, One Family remain concerned about the quality and sustainability of this employment, particularly in light of the findings arising from the Indecon review. You can read our full summary and analysis of the employment figures here.

Job Vacancy – Social Policy Analyst

One Family is recruiting for an experienced Social Policy Analyst to deliver a Practice to Policy response in line with our Strategic Plan 2016-2018. One Family is at the forefront of policy and research on issues relevant to one-parent families, those sharing parenting and families in transition; and associated areas including education, housing, poverty, family law, employment and others. We are regularly invited to participate in and contribute to expert panels at home and internationally.

Please read the full job description here: Social Policy Analyst November 2017

Application Procedure: 

A cover letter and CV addressing the required competencies should be emailed to Karen Kiernan, CEO, One Family at info@onefamily.ie.

Your application should be marked clearly One Family Social Policy Analyst 

Closing date for applications is 5pm on Thursday 30 November 2017. First and second round interviews will be held on Tuesday 5 December and Friday 8 December 2017 respectively.

 

Policy | Most Recent Employment Figures from CSO

The Quarterly National Household Survey released today by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) reveals the most recent employment statistics for the period April-June (Q2) 2017. One Family has analysed the findings in relation to people who are parenting alone.

  • In Q2 2017, the employment rate of lone parents (aged 15-64) was 58.5% (up 2.1% from 56.4%). This compares with 73.9 % (up 0.9% from 73.0%) for the adult members of couples without children and 76% (up 3.9% from 72.1%) for the adult members of couples with children.
  • The employment rate of lone parents (aged 15-64) whose youngest child was aged 0 to 5 years was 46.8% (up 0.8% from 46.0%) in Q2 2017 compared to 59.8 % (up 2.6% from 57.2%) where the youngest child was aged 6 to 11, and 65.6% (up 9.2% from 56.4%) where the youngest child was aged 12 to 17. This indicates that, as children get older, the prohibitive costs of childcare are reduced and lone parents are more likely to engage in work.
  • There were 6,400 (down 1,400 from 7,500) lone parents classified as long-term unemployed in Q2 2017, compared to 22,400 (down 12,000 from 34,400) adult members of couples with children classified as long-term unemployed in the same period.
  • On average, 55.3% (up 1.2% from 54.1%) of lone parents were participating in the labour market in Q2 2017. The participation rate of males in couples with children was 87.1% (down  0.7% from 87.8%) while the corresponding participation rate for females was 64.2% (down 0.2% from 64.4%). This dispels the myth that lone parents are not engaging in, and seeking, work outside the home.

One Family remains acutely concerned about the numbers of lone parents in precarious and low-paid employment, particularly since the reform of the One-Parent Family Payment that has pushed many lone parents into employment that has kept them and their children living in poverty.

The Survey on Income and Living Conditions (SILC) 2015 results released in January 2017 showed that 58% (almost three in five) of lone parent households with one or more children experienced enforced deprivation. This compares to 25% of the general population who experienced deprivation. People in lone parent households continue to have the lowest disposable income out of all households with children in the State.

The Indecon Independent Review of the Amendments to the One-parent Family Payment since January 2012, released last Monday, showed that 63% of the respondents in full-time employment stated that they cannot afford 3+ items on the deprivation list, meaning that they are most definitely experiencing deprivation daily, and in-work poverty.

Further Quarterly National Household Survey information from the CSO is available here.

Policy | Update from the Policy Desk

Valerie Maher, our Policy & Programmes Manager, writes about some of our recent policy work.

The One Family Policy Service has been focussed on pre Budget preparations over the past few weeks in advance of the Budget 2018 announcement tomorrow, Tuesday October 10th. We are anticipating the release of a report by Indecon Economic Consultants commissioned by Government to examine the impact of austerity measures on one-parent families which you can read more about in our recent press release.

We have written to a number of Government Ministers emphasising the need to take affirmative action in Budget 2018 to alleviate the disproportionate levels of poverty and deprivation being experienced by lone parents and calling on them 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 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.

One Family has also made a number of important policy submissions during September. We made a submission to the Courts Service on their Strategic Plan 2017-2020, highlighting the challenges facing families accessing the private family law courts. We also had the opportunity to make a submission to the Law Reform Commission on possible areas of law to be considered for inclusion in the new Programme of Law Reform. We specifically addressed the issue of child maintenance, including its underpinning legal framework, and the impact of the current system on separated parents and their children. Our key recommendation is to establish a statutory Child Maintenance Service in Ireland – you can read the submission in full here.

Finally, we have made an informal submission  to the Department of Justice & Equality in relation to the work they are undertaking to regulate the ‘Child’s Views’ Experts as outlined in the Children & Family Relationships Act 2015. One Family are acutely aware of the challenges facing families accessing the private family law courts and the need to ensure that accurate representations of the experiences and wishes of children are captured.

One Family sits on the National Advisory Council on Children and Young People which was set up to ensure the implementation of Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures: The National Policy Framework for Children and Young People 2014-2020.  The third annual report of the National Advisory Council was recently published. One Family have worked closely with both statutory and non-governmental (NGO) representatives, to ensure that child poverty targets remain at the forefront of Government policy and decision making. Our contributions to a joint NGO submission on reducing child poverty has resulted in an increase in income disregards for lone parents in receipt of One-Parent Family Payment and Jobseeker’s Transition and we will continue to work with Government to ensure they meet their commitment to lift over 100,000 children out of poverty by 2020.

Policy | Update from the Policy Desk

Valerie Maher, our Policy & Programmes Manager, writes about some of our recent policy work.

The Policy Service has been very busy over the summer. We attended the Social Inclusion Forum in June with a member of our volunteer Policy Panel who is parenting alone. The Forum encourages discussion on social inclusion issues between officials from Government Departments, Community and Voluntary Organisations and people experiencing poverty. In July, we developed our Pre-Budget Submission and attended the Pre-Budget Forum hosted by the Department of Social Protection.This year our submission is focussed on in-work supports, childcare, housing, child poverty, reforming our family law system and access to education.

One Family sits on the National Advisory Council on Children and Young People which was set up to ensure the implementation of Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures: The National Policy Framework for Children and Young People 2014-2020. From its outset, the Advisory Council identified child poverty as the single biggest concern that impacts on children’s lives. In October 2015, a child poverty subgroup was established comprised of both statutory and non-governmental (NGO) representatives, including One Family. In July this year we officially launched a document on child poverty that puts forward real solutions that can help Government to meet their commitment to lift over 100,000 children out of poverty by 2020 and we issued this press release. You can read more about the work of the Advisory Council in its latest ezine update.

This month, part of the Affordable Childcare Scheme commences. One Family has met with officials in the Department of Children & Youth Affairs (DCYA) to ensure that the new scheme specifically acknowledges the needs of families we work with and represent. We provide information about what childcare supports you may be able to access here, and the Department’s information site is here.

Our askonefamily helpline can also provide information on 1890 66 22 12 / 01 662 9212.

Policy | New Initiatives for Lone Parent Access to Higher Level Education

The Department of Education has today issued a review completed by academics at Maynooth University which sought to identify the barriers lone parents face in accessing higher level education. The review also examined the trends in participation and completion rates by lone parents in higher education and the range of measures that are currently available to support lone parents. One Family was consulted as part of this process as a representative stakeholder group.

The recommendations of the Report echo One Family’s recent Pre-Budget Submission. Lone parents need additional supports that recognise their parenting responsibilities in order to access educational opportunities.

A summary of the key findings from the report is below:

  • Lone parents have attracted considerable policy attention in welfare and education and training, but much less specific attention has been paid to lone parents in higher education and seeking to widen access for these families.
  • Key areas of social policy which are impacting on access to education include One Parent Family Payment (OFP) reform, housing, and childcare policy.
  • Some lone parents are likely to experience considerable challenges in meeting the costs of attending college, paying rent, raising a family, working, and paying for childcare. These financial constraints are likely to influence decision-making around attending higher education either on a part-time or full-time basis.
  • While the maintenance portion of SUSI education grants only provides a contribution towards the costs of participating in education, because lone parents have higher living costs than school leavers, the efficacy of the student grant is limited further.
  • The complexity of the current system of supports was also highlighted in the report, 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. Intreo case workers also require more training and awareness in this area.

Based on these findings the following recommendations have been made to Government to increase lone parents’ participation in education at third level:

  • The maintenance grant contribution by SUSI must be reviewed and increased for all students, and particularly for lone parents.
  • Lone parents who have transferred to BTEA were highlighted as the most economically vulnerable group among lone parent welfare recipients. The re-instatement of the student grant scheme – maintenance grant – for this group would create a more equitable, less complicated and targeted approach for supporting lone parents in higher education.
  • Meeting the needs of lone parents should be part of the ethos of each Higher Education Institutions (HEI). This needs to be very explicitly stated by colleges and universities who have the responsibility of welcoming lone parents into its campus and giving them the tools and supports to succeed.
  • Provide additional funding for lone parents either in the form of cash transfers or in the form of universal scholarships for lone parents within HEIs
  • Measures introduced under the proposed Affordable Childcare Scheme should be articulated in a clear and meaningful way to lone parents, HEIs, lone parent representative groups and Intreo case workers. It is also important that all lone parents, irrespective of welfare entitlements, or if they are studying part-time or full-time have access to supported childcare.

The full report  ‘An Independent Review to Identify the Supports and Barriers for Lone Parents in Accessing Higher Education and to Examine Measures to Increase Participation’  is available here.

Following publication of the report, the Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton, TD, and the Minister of State for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, TD, have announced €16.5m for new initiatives to widen access to higher education over the next three years, and declared a focus on helping lone parents to access higher level education.

The initiatives, according to the Department of Education and Skills, are:

  • Funding bursaries worth €5,000 for 600 students coming from non-traditional backgrounds into college, with support for at least 120 socio-economically disadvantaged lone parents. This will be a €6m regional call over three years.
  • Funding for support programmes to help 2,000 students, of which 200 will be lone parents, from non-traditional backgrounds enter college and successfully complete their course. This will be a €7.5m regional call over three years.
  • A further €3m over three years in increased funding for the hardship supports to help students, with lone parents being prioritised.
  • The groups being targeted include: entrants from under-represented socio-economic groups and communities; entrants with disabilities; mature entrants; members of the Irish Traveller community; students entering on the basis of a further education award; part-time flexible learners; as well as socio-economically disadvantaged lone parents and ethnic minorities.

While these initiatives are to be welcomed, we call on Government to take further action on the recommendations contained in this comprehensive Report and in our Pre-Budget Submission, and to ensure that appropriate budgetary decisions are made in the coming weeks to support these measures.

Policy | One Family’s Budget 2018 Recommendations

Ahead of the annual Pre-Budget Forum taking place today, One Family joined with Barnardos, Children’s Rights Alliance, National Youth Council of Ireland and the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul to call on Government to ensure Budget 2018 includes key provisions to tackle child poverty as we are deeply concerned that one in nine children in Ireland remain in consistent poverty. We believe not enough is being done to remedy this. You can read our jointly issued press release here.

One Family’s Pre-Budget Submission 2018 targets child poverty as, according to SILC (2008-2015), children in one-parent households are almost four times more likely to live in consistent poverty than those in two-parent households. Our Submission also focuses on in-work supports to make work pay. Reforms of the One-Parent family Payment (OFP) have resulted in only marginal increases in employment rates for some one-parent families, a reduction in employment for those children over 12, and higher rates and child poverty and deprivation in these families. The other areas we focus on are:

  • Housing & Homelessness,
  • Access to Education & Training,
  • Early Years, Out-of-School and Afterschool Childcare, and
  • Family Law Courts Reform.

You can read our Pre-Budget Submission 2018, which includes our analysis and recommendations, on this link.

#EndChildPoverty

#MakeWorkPay

#Budget2018