One Family Participating in EU Families and Societies Project

One Family is one of twenty experts and stakeholders from across Europe contributing to Families and Societies, a large-scale integrating project on the factors that define and shape what families will look like in the future, coordinated through Stockholm University. The projects runs until 31 January 2017. Questions being addressed include: Are existing social and family policies compatible with changes in family patterns?

The main objectives of the project are:

  • To investigate the diversity of family forms, relationships, and life courses in Europe.
  • To assess the compatibility of existing policies with family changes.
  • To contribute to evidence-based policy-making.

The overall conceptual framework is based on three key premises:

  • Family life courses are becoming more diverse.
  • The interdependency of lives matters.
  • Social contexts and policies matter.
If you would like to find out more, click here to visit the website.

One Family Welcomes 2014 as the 20th Anniversary of the UN Year of the Family

2014 is the 20th anniversary of the United Nations International Year of the Family. One Family has been working to mark this anniversary and marks the UN International Day of the Family every year here in Ireland.

One Family has signed up to the Declaration of the Civil Society on the occasion of the 20th Anniversary of the International Year of the Family.

We have developed links in relation to this anniversary and attended the Doha International Institute for Family Studies and Development (DIIFSD), The International Federation for Family Development (IFFD) and the Committee of the Regions of the European Union in cooperation with the Focal Point on the Family (UNDESA) European Expert Group Meeting ‘Confronting family poverty and social exclusion; ensuring work-family balance; advancing social integration and intergenerational solidarity’ as preparations for and observance of the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family in 2014, in Europe.

We also founded a campaigning coalition called All Families Matter and we are seeking a progressive review of the Constitution in relation to the family.

Proposed activities to mark 2014 as the 20th Anniversary of the UN International Year of the Family

We are calling on the Government to designate a national Family Day.

15 May is the annual UN International Day of the Family and One Family requests that Minister Fitzgerald designates the nearest Sunday as a national Family Day in Ireland. In much the same way as we mark Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, we would like Family Day to also be celebrated. Our annual Family Day Festival will be held on 18 May 2014 again in the Iveagh Gardens and we will be again promoting our call to ‘Celebrate your family – Celebrate all families’ through all the schools, community and voluntary groups in Ireland.

We believe that this cost-neutral designation will send a powerful message to all families that this country respects and celebrates the reality of their lives through this national Family Day.

We are seeking support to hold a seminar to mark a number of significant reforms in relation to family life in Ireland. In a relatively short space of time the legal and social landscape in relation to families will change. Reforms that we are aware of include:

–         The establishment of the Child & Family Agency

–         Reform of the Family Law Courts

–         Introduction of the Child & Family Relationships Bill

–         Commitment to a referendum on marriage equality in 2015

–         Social welfare reforms impacting on childcare, parenting responsibilities and family life.

2014 may provide an opportune time to reflect on these changes and to work towards a Constitutional reform of the definition of family which will inevitably be required at some stage. A conference or seminar will provide a forum for people to learn more about reforms and to look forward to a new vision of how our laws and policies can reflect the reality of the diversity of family life in Ireland today.

One Family also plans to highlight the year with a number of other smaller events which will be kicked off by a radio documentary on the founding of our organisation over 40 years ago which will be aired at 9am on Sunday 29 December on Today FM.

Convention on the Constitution Announces Topics for Review

The Convention on the Constitution has just announced that it has chosen Dáil Reform and Economic, Social and Cultural rights for discussion at their final two meetings in February 2014. It is noted that the Family is included as one of the other prominent topics throughout the process and that “it is likely that the Convention members will take the opportunity to make a recommendation early next year on how these issues might be addressed in the future.”

While we are disappointed at today’s announcement, we look forward to engaging with the Convention in the future.

You can read the Convention press release here.

For further information on the campaign All Families Matter, which calls for a review of the Family in our Constitution, click here.

Childcare Report Reveals Barriers for Parents Returning to Work

An economic report revealing that the cost of childcare in Ireland is creating a barrier for parents who want to return to work, commissioned by the Donegal County Childcare Committee and conducted by Indecon International Economic Consultancy Group, was launched today by Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Frances Fitzgerald.  The independent nationwide report, entitled Supporting Working Families – Releasing a Brake on Economic Growth, examines potential policy options to address the childcare obstacles that exist as a barrier to employment.

Key findings include:

  • Annual Cost of Fulltime Childcare for Two-Child Family is €16,500
  • Barriers to employment as a result of childcare costs are severe among lower income groups, with 56% prevented from looking for a job
  • 26% of parents were prevented from returning to work or training because of childcare arrangements
  • Ireland has second highest childcare costs in OECD as a percentage of average wages

One Family attended the launch today with our Director of Policy & Programmes, Stuart Duffin, responding:

 “Finally a report that asserts childcare is a fundamental of economic policy and a service which underpins community economic development and growth. Access to quality childcare has major impacts on child poverty and on families’ quality of life more generally. We need to aim to encourage debate about the correct level of support childcare and how it is funded through a whole of government  social investment.”

Government is charged to commit to protecting childcare spaces in both the short and long term, for families in transition and particularly for those parenting alone. For low-income parents, lack of access to quality and affordable childcare is a fundamental challenge to participation in the labour market[i]. Any loss of funding puts at risk the availability of community based care for children where families need it.  Consequently, parents’ ability to work is jeopardised which subsequently makes vulnerable the entire childcare system and ultimately the economy as a whole. In the short term, enabling investment through tax credits and incentives must be committed to providing mechanisms and means to keep crèches intact. In the longer term, we must work together to secure the integrity and sustainability of the childcare system.

A clear pathway needs to be agreed on how to go to a tax based system from the current arrangement of FIS CETS and CCS  as we see hard pressed working families struggling with childcare cost. Therefore we need to support access to good quality childcare through in-work supports. Currently, the danger is that the employment subsidy part of FIS (the income disregard) acts as a perverse incentive for lone parents and makes the cost of childcare unreachable.

Lone parents transitioning from social assistance to waged work should not be penalised and should gain financial benefit from this move. The “work incentives” currently in place as well as the continuing erosion of income disregards do not support parents entering the labour market[ii].

Government must initiate and commit to supports for low-income families to ensure they receive (tax) credits and assistance aimed at improving incomes, for example the Family Income Supplement. In-work assistance initiatives and supports improve the incomes of low-income families (and in particular those parenting alone). They are vital tools in engineering financial independence and mitigate the impact of increasing costs of taking up employment. Government must ensure that it pays to work: the cornerstone of the Government’s welfare to work strategy and future practice.

Currently, the tax and benefit system is unfair and traps people in poverty and unemployment. It is not possible to reform the system as it currently stands. It may be possible to reduce some of the worst aspects by tinkering with starting rates of tax and benefit tapers, but the inherent inequality in the way that tax-payers and benefits recipients are treated will remain. Policy-makers and politicians must take this opportunity to consider a total reconfiguring of the tax and benefits system. Without this, it is impossible to imagine that any changes will do more than transform an awful system into a bad one.


[i] EuroChild, (2012), Overall assessment of the SPC advisory report to the EC on “Tackling and preventing child poverty, promoting child well-being” & suggestions for future actions

[ii] ESRI,(2012), Budget Perspectives, Tax, Welfare and Work Incentives

 

Ten Points of Interest from the Children and Family Relationships Bill

The heads of the Children and Family Relationships Bill are likely to be published next month by Minister for Justice Alan Shatter.  The Children and Family Relationships Bill 2013 is intended to create a legal structure to underpin diverse parenting situations and provide legal clarity on parental rights and duties in diverse family forms. We have summarised ten points of interest from the Bill below:

  1. The Bill is a legal framework for family law issues such as guardianship, custody, access and the raising of children in the diverse family forms that are part of today’s society. These families may be made up of married families, co-habiting and civilly partnered couples as well as extended family members, such as grandparents, who may be caring for children.  It also reflects the recent provision made in the Children’s Referendum in 2012 for constitutional change
  2. There is a need for improved supports for the courts in matters of family law and childcare cases in order to ensure that orders, made in the best interests of children, are complied with.
  3. It is intended to increase the number of non-marital fathers who are automatically legal guardians by providing that a non-marital father is a guardian of his child if he has been co-habiting with the child’s mother for at least a year before the child’s birth, and in situations where the cohabitation ends less than 10 months before the birth (if the relationship ends)
  4. It is intended that others in a parenting role with the child may apply for guardianship, be they civil partners, step-parents, those living with the biological or adoptive parents as well as those acting in loco parentis for a time.  This is in instances where the child does not have more than two guardians.
  5. It is intended to establish that the best interests of the child is paramount in considering decisions on custody, access and guardianship.
  6. It is intended that provisions will be put in place to support parenting with penalties for parents who do not meet access or maintenance orders
  7. Guidance will be given to the court as to what constitutes the best interest of the child, including needs and views of the child, history of upbringing and care as well as having regard to any family/domestic violence and its impact on the safety of the child and other family members.
  8. Access will be simplified, removing the two stage process that currently exists for a person other than a parent seeking access to a child.
  9. Children aged over 12 must be consulted in relation to applications for guardianship, custody and access
  10. There are also proposals to look at making parent-related orders work, when a parent or guardian does not comply with court orders on custody or access to the child.

For further information on the Bill, take a look at the following link to the Department of Justice website:

The Children and Family Relationships Bill 2013

A Mother’s Story | Losing the One Parent Family Tax Credit

Dearbhla * wrote to One Family about the Budget 2014 announcement of the abolition of the One Parent Family Tax Credit.

Dearbhla (39) is a separated wife whose marriage broke down in 2005 after twelve years. She and her husband (49) agreed to separate on good terms and always put their son (now aged 13) first, and continue to do so. Dearbhla’s ex-husband has always voluntarily paid maintenance to support his son and they still have a mortgage on the family home.

In her own words:

“My ex-husband has a full time job and he works hard. I work part-time. I felt sick to the pit of my stomach when I listened to the budget and realised what the removal of the One Parent Family Tax Credit would do to us. My ex-husband is ill and is suffering from stress from work/financial pressure. He has said several times recently that he believes we would be better off financially if he was no longer here. His father died at sixty years of age due to a stroke, and the doctor has warned him he is heading the same way if he does not stop worrying and get his stress under control. I am genuinely concerned this will push him over the edge.

After maintenance he has to pay for rent, electricity, gas, food, etc. I have the mortgage, electricity, gas, food, school costs etc. At the moment he has no TV licence as he can’t get the money together to pay for it. He dresses himself from charity shops. This is a man who is working a full week’s work to end up with so little.

I am not in arrears in my mortgage as the one thing I fear more than anything is losing the home I have made for myself and my son. I will go without food etc. to ensure my son is fed and well looked after, and my bills are paid.   We do not drink or smoke, and as for socialising, I cannot remember the last time I went out. The last holiday I had was in 2004.

We have nothing left to give.

When I say nothing, I mean nothing. I am pleading with the government to not let this huge cut to our family go through and to try to understand the extra costs a separated couple endures. We are simply honest, decent people who have always tried to do the right thing.”

One Family is extremely concerned by the Budget 2014 announcement of the replacement of the One Parent Family Tax Credit with a Single Person Child Carer Tax Credit. To read more and to download a pro-forma letter that you can adapt to send to your TDs about this issue, please click here.

The group Irish Parents for Equality are calling for signatures to a petition which can be found here.

* No details have been changed apart from the name of the mother

Abolition of the One Parent Family Tax Credit

One Family is extremely concerned by the Budget 2014 announcement of the replacement of the One Parent Family Tax Credit with a Single Person Child Carer Tax Credit as it causes a significant number of problems and possibly unintended outcomes.

The financial impact of abolition of the One Parent Tax Credit for the non-resident parent, as verified by Revenue, is:

Annual wage Difference in tax take per week
€13,500 (minimum wage x 30 hours) No change
€20,000 €13
€30,000 €10
€40,000 €48
€60,000 €47

The Revenue Commissioners estimates that for 2013, 76,800 income earners utilise some or all of the One-Parent Family Tax Credit. The gender breakdown is estimated as follows:

Female    51,224

Male       25,573

Total:    76,797

One Family has written to all Ministers, TDs and Senators to voice these concerns and urges everyone to write to their Representatives as soon as possible to do the same.

A proforma letter with suggested text that individuals can change as required is available to download here: One Parent Family Tax Credit_Letter to Representatives

A list of TDs and Senators including their contact details is available here.

One Family representatives have also participated in a number of press, radio and television interviews on the issue. You can read the press releases issued by One Family below:

17.10.2013 | Attack on Parents Sharing Parenting After Separation is Unjust, Unfair and Underhand

15.10.2013 | Budget 2014 is Anti-family and Anti-parent

Analysis of Department of Social Protection’s Reporting of Control Savings

In April 2013, One Family carried out an analysis of the Department of Social Protection’s (DSP) Reporting of  ‘Control Savings’. Control Savings is the internal performance indicator on the effectiveness of the Department of Social Protection’s (DSP) control measures. We found that there is enough evidence to be concerned that the Department’s guidelines are not applied consistently across regions and that the predetermined multipliers used to generate estimated future savings do not accurately reflect return rates to welfare schemes.

Read or download the analysis here: One Family Analysis_DSP Control Savings Research_April 2013.

One Family’s findings:

  1. The multiplier used to calculate potential savings by the Department is 4 1/4 times higher than that used to calculate potential savings in Jobseekers Allowance.
  2. Consequently reported levels of OPFP fraud have been inflated.
  3. This highlights a significant error with the Department’s predetermined multipliers Office of the (Comptroller & Auditor General. (2011), op cit., pp 471-472).

One Family’s Reaction to Rental Assistance Reforms

It has been confirmed by the Minister of State for Housing and Planning, Jan O’Sullivan TD, that the responsibility for the payment of rent allowance is to be handed over to local authorities as a pilot in seven areas around the country including Limerick Joint Authority (previously Limerick City and County Councils) and one in Dublin from January 2014.

One Family has reacted today to how the Department of Social Protection (DSP) and local authorities are placed to tackle the significant challenge of implementing the reforms to rental assistance and these changes transferring both the assessment and payments to local authorities.

Stuart Duffin, our Director of Policy & Programmes, commented:  “Working to manage the introduction of the rental assistance reforms will be the challenge, not the change in who pays. Their full impact is currently uncertain and depends on how households and the housing market react, locally as well as nationally. DSP and all local authorities have a crucial role to play in anticipating and addressing adverse consequences for claimants and the administration. Some challenges cannot perhaps be planned for: where the interaction of local authority funding constraints, the social housing stock, rental market conditions and the local economy produces extreme impacts. As issues emerge, the Department will need to be capable of a flexible response, well-coordinated with other sources of support for families.”

The Department is actively preparing for the implementation of these housing supports reforms and One Family calls on it to use available data to assess the impact of the reforms on current entitlements. We ask if these reforms will result in households receiving lower assistance, particularly in areas of high rent such as Dublin, and how will this impact on an already landlord-driven rental market?

Ten questions to be resolved are:

  1. What are the new local housing allowance restrictions and guidelines?
  2. Will this impact on all claimants immediately?
  3. Is there any additional help to support those who are hardest hit and is there a discretionary payments fund?
  4. Is this intended to help all  those who may  lose out  financially?
  5. What happens to existing  customers?
  6.  Are there changes planned  for direct payments of local rental allowance to  landlords?
  7. What is the financial impact  of this change?
  8.  How will local housing  allowances be  implemented in the future?
  9. Will direct payments to landlords be allowed in the social rented sector?
  10. How will housing costs be calculated ?

The Government must intend the reforms to improve the system. However, reforms could also lead to hardship or an increased risk of homelessness. How tenants and landlords will respond is highly uncertain at the moment and the Department must commission independent research to evaluate the impact of the reforms during and after implementation.

The Department needs to be actively working with all local authorities to identify the extent to which the reforms will increase the administrative burden on the authorities. It clearly has further ground to cover. Many people know very little about the changes, and the extent to which those affected have been informed varies according to where they live.

Private rented sector households know little or nothing about the changes that would affect them.

The Department has put in place transitional support through increased funding for discretionary housing payments. It needs to work with other departments and local authorities to monitor emerging issues and manage risks for both private and social tenants.

Ten Days for Ten Solutions

With just ten days remaining until Budget 2014 on Tuesday 15 October, we are inviting everyone to support 10 Solutions. No Cuts. by taking one simple action on each of these ten days.

10 Solutions for Smarter Futures is our response to the harsh cuts aimed at lone parents in Budget 2012. These are changes that will benefit everyone, not just those on low incomes, as 10 Solutions for Smarter Futures is a series of ten no-nonsense, low or no-cost actions that Government can deliver to make life better for everyone.

How can you support the 10 Solutions campaign?

There are a number of things you can do.  These include:

1. Email your local TDs – use our pre-populated email facility. It takes less than two minutes on this link.
2. Join and share the ‘10 Solutions. No Cuts.’ event on Facebook. You can also change your profile pic to a 10 Solutions pic (available here).
3. Share on Twitter via @1FamilyIreland and #10Solutions.
4. Ask your colleagues and contacts, family and friends to support the campaign for 10 Solutions by taking the actions above too.

Read more about 10 Solutions here.