Public call to give one-parent families an equal chance for economic well-being in Budget 2014

Press Release

(Dublin, Friday 19 July) Today One Family, Ireland’s leading organisation for one-parent families, calls on members of the public to email and connect with their local TDs to demand the implementation of One Family’s “10 Solutions for Smarter Futures,” a series of ten no-nonsense, low or no-cost actions that government must implement to better the lives of the adults and children in one-parent families who continue to experience the highest rates of poverty in Ireland. 2014 is the 20th anniversary of Family Day as proclaimed by the UN – the Irish Government should reflect this by giving one-parent families an equal chance.

There are over 215,000 one-parent families in Ireland today and over half a million people living in one-parent families. One Family calls on each of these families, and everyone who knows a member of a one-parent family, to join in the campaign by emailing their local TD to ensure that all of Ireland’s families can enjoy a higher quality of life.

One Family Director of Policy and Programmes, Stuart Duffin, commented: “The 10 Solutions are all about delivering some of the supports needed to enable lone parents to have Smarter Futures out of poverty, off social assistance and into quality sustainable jobs.  These solutions may not require a lot of money but they do require public services and policy makers to think and behave creatively in order to deliver more appropriate and effective services for their customers and constituents.”

10 Solutions for Smarter Futures is part of One Family’s Strategy 2013-2015, launched last month on the 28th.  These solutions are focused on improving the well-being of Ireland’s one parent families, and they are changes that will benefit everyone. Just over 87,000 people are in receipt of the One-Parent Family Payment (OFP).  Mr. Duffin explains: “The new Jobseekers Allowance payment, which responds to our call for Flexibilities, is designed to allow former recipients of OFP whose youngest child is under 14 years of age to avail  of Minister Burton’s activation services to return to work, education or training. The implementation of 10 Solutions for Smarter Futures would make a real difference for lone parents as they move into the workplace, education and/or training as the solutions fully recognise the particular difficulties that can be faced by those parenting alone such as lack of child care and long-term absence from the labour market.”

Mr. Duffin commented further: “To help some of the poorest children in Ireland have a better life, please champion and advocate for 10 Solutions.

One Family’s Number 1 solution is:

Flexibilities: allow lone parents who are moving to Jobseeker’s Allowance to seek only part-time work during the school term in order to assist lone parents who have a child with a disability or lack of access to childcare or are coping with a bereavement or separation.

Others include: solution 5 – Responsive Learning; solution 6 – Progression Opportunities; solution 10 – Poverty and Parent Proofing.

Members of the public are invited to visit www.onefamily.ie to learn more about 10 Solutions for Smarter Futures and to add their voices to the campaign by availing of the facility there to email their TDs. For additional information, they may also email: solut10ns@onefamily.ie.

Notes for Editors:

  • 1 in 4 families with children in Ireland is a one-parent family
  • Over half a million people live in one-parent families in Ireland
  • Almost 1 in 5 children (18.3%) live in a one-parent family (Census 2011)
  • There are over 215,000 one-parent families in Ireland today (25.8% of all families with children; Census 2011)
  • 87,586 of those are currently receiving the One-Parent Family Payment.
  • Those living in lone parent households continue to experience the highest rates of deprivation with almost 56% of individuals from these households experiencing one or more forms of deprivation (EU-SILC 2011).
  • The full 10 Solutions for Smarter Futures document is available to read here.
  • Twitter #10Solutions

 

About One Family

One Family was founded in 1972 and is Ireland’s leading organisation for one-parent families offering support, information and services to all members of all one-parent families, to those experiencing an unplanned pregnancy and to those working with one-parent families. Children are at the centre of One Family’s work and the organisation helps all the adults in their lives, including mums, dads, grandparents, step-parents, new partners and other siblings, offering a holistic model of specialist family support services. These services include the lo-call askonefamily national helpline on 1890 622 212, counselling, and provision of training courses for parents and for professionals. One Family also promotes Family Day, an annual celebration of the diversity of families in Ireland today, with almost 10,000 people attending events this year on 19 May (www.familyday.ie). For further information, visit www.onefamily.ie.

 

Available for Interview

Stuart Duffin, Director of Policy & Programmes | t: 01 662 9212 or 087 062 2023

 

Further Information/Scheduling

Shirley Chance, Director of Communications | t: 01 662 9212 or 087 414 8511

 

One Family attends pre-budget workshop today, our key messages tracked

One Family and the National One Parent Network attended the pre-budget workshop today – a much better interactive approach than previous years. One Family’s key messages and all of our ten solutions in our campaign 10 Solutions for Smarter Futures can be tracked in the Minister’s Department’s thinking about Budget 2014.

Work must pay; therefore in-work supports for those parenting alone must be delivered including:

  • the reform of FIS;
  • affordable, accessible and quality childcare;
  • tailored supports for families so that the most disadvantaged are supported;
  • outcome-based budgets which enforce departments to deliver joined-up thinking for the whole of Government prioritised. That helps to make public resources last, and aids decision makers in prioritising public and social investments that align with the services and supports that people, families and communities have told Government they need to achieve economic independence.

The Department of Social Protection’s budget is a key mechanism in delivering social investment.  Our recommendations are aimed at ensuring that better supports are provided for families. Helping people to better participate in and benefit from inclusion in the economy and community will both encourage economic activity over the short term and provide a strong foundation for longer-term economic growth.

One Family looks forward to working with the government and other stakeholders in this transformation of Ireland’s antiquated social assistance system. As the transformation begins, it is crucial that existing programmes and allowances be kept in place. New supports and programmes must be fully implemented before cuts or reductions in current benefits are made. Incomes for people on social assistance are so marginal that every Euro counts, and every Euro is spent in the local economy which contributes to sustained local economic development.

Annual Review 2012 and Strategy 2013-2015

We are pleased to launch our Annual Review 2012 and Strategy 2013-2015, which may be read and/or downloaded by clicking on the links below:

One Family Annual Review 2012

One Family Strategy 2013-2015

Update on JAT following briefing at Dept of Social Protection

One Family attended a briefing this evening at the Department of Social Protection to learn about the new scheme announced today that will be available to lone parents:  Jobseekers’ Allowance – Transition.

The scheme removes the requirement to be looking and available for full-time employment, but has particular conditionalities that must be met. The Department will be sending letters out to those who were previously expected to move onto Jobseekers’ Allowance in the first week of July. Local offices will not have full details of the JAT until next week.

To read additional information from One Family, including Q&A, please click here.

Anyone who has any questions regarding the upcoming transition, please call the askonefamily lo-call helpline on 1890 662 212.

 

One Family Delegate at Leuven Conference on Social Investment Package

One Family’s Director of Policy & Programmes, Stuart Duffin, is attending the Conference on the Social Investment Package today and tomorrow at the Leuven Institute for Ireland in Europe, Belgium. A framework for policy reforms to enhance social protection, invest in people’s skills and capabilities, and support people as required throughout their lives is outlined in the package which was adopted by the European Commission on 2 February this year as part of the response to the fiscal and economic crisis.

Stuart, along with a handful of other non-governmental delegates from Ireland, represents One Family as one of the ‘actors’ in social investment, potentially affording the organisation a level of influence into how the Social Investment Package will be implemented in Ireland.

The Package will be presented to a target audience of Member States officials, elected representatives, civil society, social partners, the private sector and others during the Conference, leading to proposals for future joint actions in support of its implementation. Three key thematic elements of the package – investment, innovation and involvement – will serve as focus;

  • Investment: The Social Investment Package and its relevance to EU social policies in the future
  • Innovation: Why we need to foster Social Innovation and how we can put it into practice in the social economy and involving NGOs
  • Involvement: What vision of a social Europe do young Europeans want to see?

Speakers include José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission; Herman van Rompuy, President of the European Council; László Andor, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion; and Joan Burton, Irish Minister for Social Protection.

To read and/or download a briefing about the Social Investment Package written by Stuart Duffin, please click here: One Family_Social Investment Package Briefing_April 2013.

Further information about the Social Investment Package is available here.

UNICEF publishes Report Card 11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1.         Guarantee flexibilities within JA,

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

3.         Support job retention,

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

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

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

One Family reacts to new UK childcare provisions

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

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

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

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

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

State of the Nation’s Children Report published today

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

Other findings include:

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

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

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

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

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

Report on Child and Family Income Support published

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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