Pilot Child Contact Centre Evaluation and Key Learnings Documents

One Family launches the Evaluation of the Child Contact Centre pilot services and our Key Learnings document containing Policy Recommendations for Policy Makers today, Friday 28 March in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin Castle at 9.30am. Speakers include the Hon Mr Justice Michael White of the High Court and Chair of the Courts Family Law Committee; Dr Stephanie Holt of the School of Social Work and Social Policy, Trinity College Dublin; and One Family CEO Karen Kiernan.

The services were run on a pilot basis in two locations in north and south Dublin between 2011 and 2013 by One Family and Barnardos in a partnership arrangement, offering a range of assessment, contact and family support services to high-conflict families who were frequently in legal disputes in relation to contact arrangements for their children. These Child Contact Centres provided a safe, neutral, child-centered environment for children to spend time with the parent/s they do not live with. Common challenges for families included domestic abuse, poor mental health and addiction.

The following documents were launched and can be read/downloaded below:

One Family_Child Contact Centre_Key Learnings March 2014 – PDF

Child Contact Centre Executive Summary December 2013 – PDF

Child Contact Centre Evaluation December 2013 – PDF

You can also read our Press Release, issued on Thursday 27 March 2014:

Courts Need Professionally Conducted Assessments to Ensure Child Safety

Our Response to Draft Heads of Children and Family Relationships Bill: Submission on the Children and Family Relationships Bill 2014 to the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality can be read here: Children and Family Relationships Bill 2014 – Response to Draft Heads.

Launch of Child Contact Centre Pilot Services Evaluation and Recommendations

Child Contact Centre services were run on a pilot basis in two locations in north and south Dublin between 2011 and 2013 by Barnardos and One Family in a partnership arrangement. The service offered a range of assessment, contact and family support services to high-conflict families who were frequently in legal disputes in relation to contact arrangements for their children.

‘A Child Contact Centre is a safe, friendly and neutral place where children can spend time with the parent/s they do not live with. It is a child centred environment which allows the child to form or develop a relationship with the parent at their own pace and in their own way, usually through play and child centred activities.’

The services to families that the Child Contact Centre provided included:

  • Assessment to identify whether contact is in the best interests of the child and if so what supports the child and family require including risk assessment.
  • Preparation for contact the child and for both parents.
  • Supervised contact, supported contact and handover contact services.
  • Family supports for parents including individual parent mentoring, mediated parenting plans and counselling.
  • Family supports for children including play therapy and art therapy.
  • Regular reviews with inputs from the child wherever possible and from both parents.
  • Pre and post-contact family supports as required.
  • Information on and referral to other services as required.
  • Court reports as appropriate.

On Friday 28 March, One Family will launch the Evaluation of the Child Contact Centre Pilot Services and our Policy Recommendations in Response to the Evaluation from 9.30am to 11am in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin Castle. Speakers include: The Hon. Mr. Justice Michael White of the High Court and Chair of the Courts Family Law Committee; Dr. Stephanie Holt of the School of Social Work & Social Policy, Trinity College Dublin; and Karen Kiernan, CEO of One Family.

All are welcome to attend but as a limited number of places are available, RSVP is essential. If you wish to attend, please RSVP by email to onefamily@onefamily.ie or call 01 662 9212 by Wednesday 26 March.

Child Contact Centre

Survey on Income Disregards

Would you like to contribute to our Budget 2015 submission? It’s easy – simply take our anonymous 3 question survey. Each short monthly survey has a focus on a different budget submission topic.

This month’s survey is on changes to the One-Parent Family Payment (OFP) and income disregards introduced on 2nd January 2014.

Take the survey and know that your voice is heard.

If you would like to view the results of previous surveys, they are available here.

Families and Societies Stakeholder Seminar

The future of our families. What policies can do for children in vulnerable situations.

On 28th January 2014, leading experts from research, policy, and NGOs met in Brussels to discuss the most recent evidence on children in vulnerable situations and the potential scope of policy interventions. Stuart Duffin, our Director of Policy and Programmes,  was a panelist.

A poor socioeconomic background and family disruptions, such as parent separation, may have an impact on the life-chances of children. But so far, empirical evidence is quite scarce. In two workshops, prominent experts discussed their most recent findings. For example, what role does divorce play for the cognitive abilities and school performance of children? Can institutionalised childcare and public custody compensate disadvantages due to difficult living conditions? Is there a difference between immigrant and native youths? And are there country-specific patterns which policy makers have to take into regard?

The workshops were organised by the Population Europe Secretariat (hosted by the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research) and FamiliesAndSocieties, in cooperation with Oxford Population Centre | European University Institute | International Federation for Family Development | European Economic and Social Committee.

Stuart Duffin states: ‘‘There is no evidence to suggest that, although increasingly more commonplace, separation is an easy transition for children and parents. Partnership separation is not a single event. It is a complex process that unfolds over time and requires a series of reorganisations and adjustments. How children cope with parental separation is affected by developmental stage, temperament, cognitive capacities, and personal resilience.”

He continues: “Our experience of working with those parenting alone and those sharing parenting demonstrates that many children are resilient and can learn to manage the challenges and stress parental separation creates. Therefore, separation-specific interventions that build and restore competence can reduce reliance on social and legal systems. Preventive interventions that educate and support parents are an important component of successful family transition when they are introduced early in the process. Focused intervention plans, with clearly articulated goals reflecting children’s and families’ unique qualities, are recommended as a means of fostering resilience.”

Population Europe is the network of 29 leading demographic research centres and 150 eminent researchers in Europe. As a collaborative network it provides comprehensive knowledge, information and insights into fundamental demographic trends and diverging population developments. This expertise is key to understanding the political, social and economic developments of Europe in the 21st century.The Population Europe Event has received funding from the European Union’s Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion under grant agreement n° VS/2012/0168 for the project Population Europe 2.0. FamiliesAndSocieties is the European think-tank in the field of family policy research. It brings together 25 universities and research institutes in 15 European countries and three transnational civil society organisations. It aims to investigate the diversity of family forms, relationships and life courses in Europe, to assess the compatibility of existing policies with these changes and to contribute to evidence-based policy-making.The FamiliesAndSocieties Workshop has received funding from the European Union´s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement n° 320116 for the research project Families And Societies.


Join our Budget 2015 Panel

Let your voice be heard! One Family is seeking willing participants to engage with our Budget 2015 Panel. The Budget Panel will consist of ten lone parents and/or parents sharing parenting who will collaborate with One Family throughout 2014.

Panel members will be encouraged to contribute their own lived experience and personal circumstances in order to enhance and parent proof One Family’s 2015 budget submission. We welcome expressions of interest from parents in a variety of circumstance, such as those in education or employment, in receipt of government supports, never married, separated, divorced etc. Ideally, they will be willing to engage with media and training will be provided. The panelists will work with us to produce a budget submission which reflects the lived reality for lone parents in Ireland.

Persons interested in taking part should:

  • Wish to articulate their opinions and be comfortable discussing core budget issues (housing, childcare etc.)
  • Currently live in Ireland – we hope to hear from people from both urban and rural areas
  • Be able to commit to a minimum of three hours per month (a mixture of phone and online engagement with occasional meetings) on a volunteer basis

Existing One Family Members are encouraged to participate though it is not not essential for a panelist to be a Member.

If you are interested in being a One Family Budget 2015 Panelist, please click here to email Valerie Maher for further information by midday on Friday 24th January 2014.

UPDATE: 31st January 2014 – The Budget Panel is now filled and we look forward to collaborating with its members throughout the year.

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