Policy | Back to School Clothing & Footwear Allowance Increase Welcomed

One Family welcomes the 25% increase in the Back to School Clothing & Footwear Allowance (BTSCFA) for children announced by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar yesterday as outgoing Minister for Social Protection.

One Family called for an increase in the Allowance as part of our joint NGO Submission on Child Poverty and in our 2017 Pre- Budget Submission. This increase will make a difference to one-parent families on low incomes who struggle to meet high back to school costs for their children. We hope that the incoming Taoiseach will continue to take affirmative steps in ensuring that government meets its target to lift over 100,000 children out of consistent poverty by 2020.

Information about the Allowance, including how to apply, is available here on the Citizen’s Information website. It is now open for 2017 with a closing date for applications of 30 September 2017.

Policy | Submission on Actions to Achieve Child Poverty Reduction Target

One Family welcomes the launch of a document on child poverty that puts forward real solutions to Government to end child poverty in all its forms. Developed under the auspices of the National Advisory Council on Children and Young People by a subgroup of members including One Family, it offers recommendations that can help Government to meet their commitment to lift 97,000 children out of poverty by 2020.

Recent statistics from the Survey on Income and Living Conditions (SILC 2015) showed that children living in one-parent families had the highest consistent poverty rate at 26.2%, an increase from 25% in 2014. This is compared to a consistent poverty rate of 7.7% for two-parent households. This means that children living in these households are almost four times more likely to be experiencing consistent poverty on a daily basis.

Consistent poverty means that children are living in households with incomes below €229 per week and experiencing deprivation such as not being able to replace worn shoes and going without heating through lack of money.

This paper recommends changes across a range of State services including health, education, social protection and family services.

From its outset, the National Advisory Council on Children and Young People has identified child poverty as the single biggest concern that impacts across all aspects of children’s lives, denies them their rights, and limits their life chances in many ways. In October 2015, a child poverty subgroup was established under the auspices of the Advisory Council under Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures. The subgroup comprises both statutory and non-governmental (NGO) representatives, including One Family, and was co-convened by the Department of Social Protection and the Children’s Rights Alliance.

The NGO representatives on this subgroup – Barnardos, the Children’s Rights Alliance, the National Youth Council of Ireland, One Family and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul – have developed this paper to inform the whole of Government approach to tackling the number of children in consistent poverty.

While the Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures Policy Framework includes an ambitious target to reduce the incidence of child poverty by 2020, the reality is that the situation is getting worse, not better.  Therefore, the Advisory Council believes that there is a need for both statutory and non-statutory bodies to redouble their efforts towards the reversal of this negative trend.  This new paper will contribute to this aim.

You can read the paper here.

Policy | United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)

The United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is an international human rights treaty which is often described as a bill of rights for women.

CEDAW sets out what governments must do to improve the situation of women living in the country, including addressing gender stereotyping and violence against women, promotion of gender equality in public life and protection of women’s rights to education, health and employment.

By ratifying CEDAW in 1985, Ireland agreed to take concrete steps to end gender-based discrimination and improve the situation of all women living here.

Ireland’s record under the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) was examined at a hearing in Geneva on 15 February 2017. Ireland was last before the Committee in 2005. The CEDAW Committee published its Concluding Observations on Ireland on March 6th.

Key observations and recommendations by the Committee which impact on people parenting alone, sharing parenting, or separating include the establishment of a statutory maintenance authority, improved access to services for victims of domestic violence, amendment of current abortion legislation and examining the impact of austerity on disadvantaged women:

  • Amend article 41.2 of the Constitution in order to remove the stereotypical language on the role of women in the home.
  • Amend the Eighth Amendment which impedes the introduction of amendments to current legislation governing access to abortion.
  • Repeal the Regulation of Information Act of 1995 in order to ensure free access to sexual and reproductive health information and education; and that healthcare providers, physicians and pregnancy counsellors do not operate under a constant fear that their services may be subject to criminal investigation and prosecution.
  • Ensure the provision of post-abortion health-care services for women irrespective of whether they have undergone an illegal or legal abortion.
  • Conduct prompt, independent and thorough investigations, in line with international human rights standards, into all allegations of abuse in Magdalene laundries, children’s institutions, Mother and Baby homes, and symphysiotomy.
  • Intensify existing efforts to combat gender-based violence against women, including domestic violence, by ensuring that prosecutors and the police are properly trained to identify, investigate and prosecute cases of gender-based violence, including domestic violence, particularly targeting Traveller, Roma and migrant women and girls.
  • Increase funding for civil legal aid services, review the financial eligibility criteria and end the requirement for victims of domestic violence to make financial contributions for civil legal aid.
  • Intensify its efforts to guarantee equal opportunities for women in the labour market and create more opportunities for women to gain access to full-time employment.
  • Address the impact of austerity measures on social benefits for women, particularly disadvantaged women.
  • Undertake research on the economic consequences of divorce on both spouses, with specific attention to the differences in spouses’ earning potential and human capital, particularly focusing on whether judges take these factors into account in their decisions.
  • Consider establishing a statutory maintenance authority and prescribing amounts for child maintenance in order to reduce the burden of women to litigate for child maintenance orders.

Valerie Maher, One Family Policy & Progammes Manager comments “It is clear from the above observations that while positive actions taken by Government to date have been acknowledged, there is still a significant amount of work that needs to be undertaken to improve the lives of women. Policy and legislation will need to incorporate the above recommendations going forward in order to achieve positive benefits for women in Ireland.”

The full report is available on the UN website

Policy | Children in Direct Provision Share Equal Rights with All Children in Ireland

One Family welcomes the announcement by The Ombudsman for Children, Dr Niall Muldoon, that children in Direct Provision will now share equal rights with other children in Ireland, with equal access to the Ombudsman for Children’s Office which will enable the Office to make a constructive contribution to the overall welfare of children living in Direct Provision accommodation.

Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald has confirmed that legal issues have been clarified around the remit of the Ombudsman for Children’s Office to accept complaints about children in Direct Provision, according to the Ombudsman for Children’s Office.

Through One Family’s work with families living in Direct Provision, we are aware of the multiple difficulties they are facing. It is imperative that the voices of these children are heard and understood. We will continue to call for equality for all children living in Ireland.

Policy | UN to Examine Irish Government on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women

The Irish Government will be examined by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in Geneva tomorrow, 15 February 2017. Ireland’s compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women will be reviewed for the first time in 12 years. The Gender Equality Division of the Department of Justice and Equality oversees the preparation of Ireland’s periodic reports to CEDAW.

One Family supports the recommendations made to the Committee by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC), particularly in relation to the impact of austerity and low pay on women and the call for appropriate redress to be made available to women who suffered abuses within Magdalene Laundries and mother and baby homes. IHREC also highlighted the need for the State to  revise its legislation on abortion in line with international human rights standards.  IHREC’s recommendations can be read here.

One Family also supports the Equality Budgeting Campaign’s recommendations which highlight the impacts of the One-Parent Family Payment reforms, the disproportionate levels of poverty and deprivation experienced by women in lone parent households, the lack of a statutory child maintenance authority and the urgent need for equality and gender proofing in advance of budgetary and policy decisions. They can be read here.

Ireland last submitted its combined 4th and 5th Reports in 2003, on which it was examined in 2004. Ireland will be scrutinised  by the Committee on its compliance with UN standards on protecting women and girls from discrimination. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) was adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly and is “often described as an international bill of rights for women” (UN.org). Read more about CEDAW here.

 

Policy | Ireland’s First National Shared Parenting Survey: Results & Recommendations

SPResults_Cover Image_LRIn 2016, One Family devised and conducted Ireland’s first national Shared Parenting Survey in response to a lack of public debate and narrative around shared parenting in modern Ireland. Over one thousand women and men who share parenting, or who have attempted to, responded.

The results have been analysed, and we are pleased to now publish a report entitled Ireland’s First National Shared Parenting Survey: Results & Recommendations which can be read or downloaded by clicking on the image on the left.

Key findings include:

  • The majority of respondents whose child does not live with them most of time, spend time with their child on a weekly basis.
  • While almost 27% of respondents arranged this time amicably between them, for almost 51% it was agreed with difficulty, through mediation or court ordered.
  • 62% of respondents whose child lives with them most or all of the time stated that their child’s other parent contributes financially to their child’s costs; 38% stated that the other parent does not contribute financially.
  • Just over 50% of respondents stated that they do not make decisions jointly on issues that impact on their child(ren).
  • Over 34% of respondents have attended mediation.

One Family extends its sincere gratitude to each of the parents who took the time to share their personal experiences. This report draws directly from their survey responses and includes many of their comments. One Family believes that their honesty and openness will help to make Ireland a better place to share parenting in the future.

Policy | Submission to the Citizen’s Assembly on the 8th Amendment

OFOne Family has sent a submission to the Citizen’s Assembly on the 8th Amendment.

One Family believes that the presence of the 8th Amendment causes real harm to the women and families whom One Family supports. It leads to the greater likelihood of later and less safe abortion; of women self aborting with pills on their own in isolation; of poorer physical and mental health; of increased shame, stigma and stress.

This amendment and subsequent legislation including the 1995 Information Act and the 2014 Protection of Life in Pregnancy Act has resulted in an extremely regulated environment for women who need to access abortion services, for those who provide crisis pregnancy counselling and for those providing medical and health care to pregnant women. These legislative measures do not support women’s health care and a client-centred approach.

Based on One Family’s 44 years of work with vulnerable women the focus is always on the well being and safety of the clients. This is severely compromised by the various laws in relation to abortion and the regulation of pregnant women in Ireland.

One Family strongly recommends that the 8th Amendment is removed from our Constitution, that abortion is decriminalised and that the provision of an abortion becomes solely a health matter between a woman and her doctor.

You can read the full submission here

Policy | Impacts of Budget 2012 Still Felt Today

Five years ago today, on Tuesday 5 December 2011, former Ministers Joan Burton and Brendan Howlin rose in the Dáil to read out Budget 2012. None of us could have anticipated just how horrendous it would be for poor one-parent families, and how long-reaching the impacts of the cuts announced. There was no evidence of social policy planning behind the ‘reforms’ and the consequences have been that thousands more children have lived in higher levels of poverty and thousands of parents have lost jobs and incomes. Children living in one parent family households are almost twice as likely to live in poverty than other children; 23% of children in a one-parent family experience deprivation (SILC 2014).

Along with other organisations, One Family has successfully worked over the past five years to have some of these cuts reversed, but much of it was too little too late by Government. We summarised the negative impacts of consecutive Budgets for one-parent families in this document.

We now need to continue to work together to build a brighter future for all the children in Ireland living in one-parent families.

 

 

 

Policy | One Family’s Single Affordable Childcare Scheme Submission

One Family welcomed the opportunity to contribute to the Public Consultation on the Single Affordable Childcare Scheme last week. The Policy Paper on the Development of a New Single Affordable Childcare Scheme is a comprehensive document and we wish to acknowledge the extensive work undertaken by the Department of Children & Youth Affairs in compiling this paper. However, we wanted to highlight some areas of concern on behalf of people parenting alone and sharing parenting.

The key points from our submission are:

  • One Family would recommend that both child maintenance and Family Income Supplement be included in the list of income that will be excluded from the income assessment.
  • The requirement that only legally enforceable maintenance agreements should be deductable from household income is totally unworkable and does not reflect the lived reality of shared parenting arrangements. There are a number of families who have come to an amicable agreement regarding child maintenance payments, without the need to attend the family courts.
  • Lone parents have been disproportionately impacted by the housing crisis, almost 70% of homeless families are one-parent families which clearly indicates that these families are struggling to meet their housing costs. Allowing housing costs, in full or part, to be deductible from assessable income, would give a more realistic picture of the disposable net income of parents applying for childcare subsidies.
  • We would suggest that an urban weighting could be applied for families living in larger urban areas. For example, these families could receive 15% more in subsidies than those in smaller towns or rural areas.
  • There is currently no childcare infrastructure in place for children aged between 12 and 15 years. Essentially this means that while parents with older children may qualify for subsidies under the scheme, in reality they will be unable to access suitable childcare places that would support them to enter education or work.
  • Allow afterschool providers to be included in the new proposed scheme.
  • We are concerned regarding the removal of capped weekly fees for parents which are currently available under the ASCC and CETS schemes. Affirmative steps need to be taken to prevent providers from increasing their fees and passing this on to low income families.

Our submission in full can be read here.

Policy | Families and Societies in Europe

screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-15-52-07One Family acts as a stakeholder within the Families and Societies project which aims to investigate the diversity of family forms and relationships in Europe, to assess the compatibility of existing policies with family changes, and to contribute to evidence-based policy-making. The final conference of the project was held last month in Brussels. It aimed to provide an overview of the main achievements of the project since it began in February 2013. Representatives of the European Commission, the European Economic and Social Committee, and forty stakeholder organisations attended. Rea Lavelle, our Social Policy Analyst, attended for One Family.

The topic of children’s life chances was addressed by Juho Härkönen, Fabrizio Bernardi and Gerda Neyer, who discussed the impact of changing family dynamics, especially with regard to parental separation, on children’s present and future well-being. Kees Waaldijk, leading researcher of the Laws and Families Database, made a presentation of the database which will be completed in December 2016, and which will include information on legal aspects of co-residential partnerships for families across Europe. The last topic, gender changes and implications, was addressed by Jan Van Bavel and Melinda Mills who talked about the interplay of gender role changes and new family patterns, and of trends and policy implications regarding childlessness and assisted reproductive technologies, respectively.

Stakeholders are an integral part of the project; providing a link between the research outputs and how they can be translated into family policies across Europe. At One Family, we use our knowledge and expertise from over four decades working with families to highlight policy implications and to suggest appropriate and workable policy responses.