Constitutional Change Needed to Respect all Families

Maeve Malone, 11, and May McCann, 7, celebrate International Day of the Family on 15 May 2008. Marking the day, One Family called for change to the definition of the family under the Irish Constitution to provide equal respect and value for all families in Ireland.

  • On International Day of the Family One Family calls for equal respect and value for One-parent Families under the Irish Constitution
  • Half a Million people in Ireland live in a one-parent family
  • 1 in 6 families in Ireland is a one-parent family
A leading national support organisation for one-parent families, One Family, is calling for equal respect and value for one-parent families under the Irish Constitution.  The call is being made to coincide with One Family’s celebration of International Day of the Family which takes place today (Thursday 15th May 2008).  The International Day of the Family is a UN initiative reflecting the need to respect the rights and values of all families throughout the world.  According to One Family the definition of a family as laid down in the Irish Constitution “is no longer valid in today’s society” and is completely “out of touch with reality” as it is defined traditionally through judicial interpretation to mean the family based on marriage.  This One Family says “excludes nearly half a million people in Ireland who are part of one-parent families.”
Facts about One-Parent Families
  • In Ireland 1 in 8 people live in a one-parent family. (Census 2006)
  • 1 in 6 families are a one-parent family. (Census 2006)
  • 1 in 5 children live in a one-parent family. (Census 2006)
  • 18% of all families or 190,000 families in Ireland today are one-parent families. (Census 2006)
  • 14% of one-parent families are headed up by fathers. (Census 2006)
  • One-parent families are at greater risk of poverty than most other families. You are 4 times more likely to live in poverty if you live in a one-parent family (EU-SILC 2006)
Karen Kiernan, Director, One Family said “It is extremely important to recognise one-parent families for the strong family units they are and we are calling on the Government to change the Irish Constitution to reflect this.  In Ireland, married families are given the highest respect and value in the Constitution often at the expense of lone-parents and families who can be vulnerable in areas such as poverty, skills and family supports.
It is imperative that the Irish Constitution gives equal respect and value to families where people are parenting alone or sharing parenting. It’s about equality for all families and particularly all children.  International Day of the Family gives us an opportunity to reflect on this and to celebrate and appreciate diversity in family life.”
One Family has being in existence for 36 years and provides a range of services for one-parent families in Ireland. Services include parenting and skills training, counselling and parent mentoring and a wide range of information supports.
For further information please contact
Catherine Joyce, Communications Manager 01 664 0125/ 086 343 2542
Karen Kiernan, Director, 01 662 9212/ 086 8509191
Editor’s Note: The International Day of the Family was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assemby in its resolution 47/237 of 20 September 1993.  The annual observance of the International Day of the Family reflects the importance that the international community attaches to families as basic units of society as well as its concerns regarding the plight of millions of families around the world.


Lone Parents & Work:
One Family report highlights need to tackle personal barriers faced by lone Parents

Martin Cullen T.D., Minister for Social and Family Affairs, launched One Family’s Strategy 2007-2009 and New Future Project Report on 8 April 2008. One Family’s New Futures Project is an integrated model of support for lone parents, dealing particularly with the personal barriers that exist for lone parents in progressing from welfare dependency to employment.
Karen Kiernan, Director, One Family: “Lone parents often face a number of hidden barriers when moving from social welfare to education or employment. In addition to external barriers such as lack of childcare and reductions in essential benefits such as rent supplement, many lone parents experience a lack of confidence and belief in their abilities which makes going into the labour market a daunting task.”
Funded by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform as part of the Equality for Women Measure, One Family’s New Futures project succeeded in helping the lone parents involved to build their confidence and self-esteem. It also gave them hope; many parents indicated that after the programme they had greater clarity on how to really achieve their aims and ambitions and a greater belief in their ability to build a positive future for themselves and their family. Ms. Kiernan notes: “What really emerged from the pilot programmes was the extreme importance of dealing with the breadth of barriers that lone parents face in moving from welfare to work. The parents felt that they were better able to engage with skills training once they had overcome personal challenges. We believe that if Government’s activation plans are to really succeed, all of the challenges facing lone parents will need to be addressed, including ensuring that staff in the relevant state services are fully aware of the complexity and diversity of needs of lone parent clients.”
One Family will continue to develop the New Futures programme under its Strategy 2007- 2009. The Strategy also governs the expansion of One Family’s comprehensive services for one-parent families. Karen Kiernan stated: “Under our Strategy 2007-2009, we will continue to develop our wrap-around service model, providing a one-stop shop for lone parents, supporting them in both their personal and professional development as well as harnessing this learning to achieve real and effective changes in government policies that affect the lives of one-parent families.”
For further information please contact
Catherine Joyce, Communications Manager 01 664 0125/ 086 343 2542
Karen Kiernan, Director, 01 662 9212/ 086 8509191

Budget Will do Nothing for Poverty in One-Parent Families

One Family sought real increases in social welfare to reduce poverty and to provide better services and innovative programmes for one-parent families in today’s Budget (5 December). Recent CSO figures revealed that the consistent poverty rate for one-parent families increased from 27% in 2005 to 32.5% in 2006 making one-parent families 4.5 times more likely to live in poverty than other family types. Budget 2008 provided a real opportunity to address the serious increase in poverty among this vulnerable group and yet Government have failed to respond with adequate increases in supports for one-parent families.
Candy Murphy, Policy Manager, One Family, this evening said: “What one-parent families got was a lot less than what is needed. The Government successfully dampened expectations but it did nothing to prioritise areas such as child & family poverty despite commitments given.”
Ms. Murphy continued, “One Family is extremely disappointed by the €2 per week increase in the Qualified Child Allowance and the €20 increase in the Back to School Footwear and Clothing Allowance. These increases do not reflect the Government’s commitment to tackle child poverty. An increase of €100 per annum in the Early Childcare Payment will do nothing to help those parenting alone to cope with increasing food and other costs. The increases seen in Budget 2008 are insufficient to deal with the serious issues facing one-parent families in Ireland.”

Childcare Subvention Scheme: One Family Welcomes Minister’s Response to Call for Review


One Family, the leading provider of specialist support services for one-parent families in Ireland welcomes Minister for Children Brendan Smith’s announcement of changes to the proposed Childcare Subvention Scheme today (7 November).
Candy Murphy, Policy Manager, One Family said: “We are very pleased with the Minister’s response to One Family’s concerns that the proposed new Scheme would only provide subsidised childcare for those on social welfare and at a much reduced rate for those eligible for FIS. We very much welcome Mr. Smith’s introduction of an income threshold as the basis for assessing eligibility for the Scheme and for supporting parents on low incomes.”
However, One Family remains uncertain that the needs of lone parents will be adequately met by the Scheme, particularly for lone parents transitioning from social welfare to employment. One Family today asked Minister Smith to ensure  that the chosen income level actually makes work pay for one-parent families  encouraged the Minister to develop Ireland’s childcare policy in a way that ensures that transition periods do not create situations where parents are worse off financially than they were on social welfare.
One Family continues to work closely with the relevant Government departments to ensure that government policies aimed at encouraging lone parents to enter and progress within the labour market will have a positive effect on the lives of those parents and their families.
For further information please contact:
Catherine Joyce, Communications Manager 01 664 0125/ 086 343 2542
Candy Murphy, Policy Manager, 01 662 9212/ 087 293 3180

Childcare Subvention Scheme: Lone Parents Trapped Again

One Family, the leading provider of specialist support services for one-parent families in Ireland today (6 November) added its voice to the concerns being expressed from many quarters on the Government’s plan to introduce the Childcare Subvention Scheme.

Candy Murphy, Policy Manager, One Family said: “The Childcare Subvention Scheme contradicts Government’s proposed changes to the social welfare system, which focus on getting people back to education and employment. The Subvention Scheme will create the opposite situation; where parents on social welfare will be less likely to move into work for fear of losing income and being left with unmanageable childcare costs.”
Ms. Murphy continued: “This Scheme will exacerbate the challenges for lone parents trying to move away from social welfare and access meaningful and sustainable employment. Research shows that one-parent families face very significant difficulties in making the transition from social welfare to work, including rising childcare costs.  Government’s plans to assist parents in overcoming these difficulties are wholly undermined by the proposed Scheme, which needs to be seriously rethought. One Family calls on the Government to support lone parents in the transition from social welfare to work and not to create further barriers for such families.”
One Family provides a range of services to one-parent families including courses assisting parents back into education and employment.
For further information please contact:
Catherine Joyce, Communications Manager 01 664 0125/ 086 343 2542
Candy Murphy, Policy Manager, 01 662 9212/ 087 293 3180


One Family, the leading provider of specialist support services for one-parent families in Ireland, today (18 October 2007) launched its Pre-Budget Submission 2008.

At a time when purse strings are tightening, One Family called on the Government to remember its commitments in the Programme for Government to provide supports for families, for parents and for children in both accessing the world of education and work and in enjoying family life. Many one-parent families continue to struggle against the increased costs of living under the Celtic Tiger without reaping its rewards, often unable to access quality education and employment options because of childcare and housing shortages.

Candy Murphy, Policy Manager, One Family today said: “Many lone parents fall into a poverty trap where they are unable to take up meaningful employment opportunities because they cannot support their families on their wages as costs increase at the same time as social welfare supports are cut back. Many lone parents call us because they want to go back to education or work but can’t afford the childcare and other costs that go with that decision.”
Ms Murphy continued: “The Programme for Government 2007 recognises that effective state supports must contain three elements: adequate income, accessible and relevant services and innovatory measures to reflect changing realities. We are today calling on the Government to live up to those promises and to support one-parent families in ways that can make a real and positive difference to their lives.”
One Family’s Pre-Budget Submission 2008 calls on the Government to include measures that will raise the income of one parent families, support lone parents to participate effectively in the labour market and improve services to one-parent families, particularly in relation to childcare, education and training as well as health and housing. The Submission also asks Government to work with NGOs such as One Family to develop new, innovative and relevant services for families, particularly in relation to accessing meaningful work, after-school care, parenting and family support.
One Family is particularly calling on the Government to:
  • Raise the One-Parent Family Payment by €20 per week and to increase the financial support going into low-income families through increases in the Qualified Child Allowance and in the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance;
  • Provide real supports for lone parents wishing to increase their involvement in the labour market including the provision of after-school care, grant aid for part-time educational qualifications, a Back to Work fund and guaranteed access to education, training and childcare;
  • Provide new and targeted services to one-parent and co-parenting families. Such services should include the establishment of child and family contact centres and parenting supports.
Ms Murphy said: “The most important thing is that Government looks at ways to support the most vulnerable families in our society and to support them at all stages, especially when they are in a period of crisis or transition. Many of the current and future citizens and workers of Ireland are members of a one-parent family. The Government needs to invest in their future and support them in reaching their full potential.”
For further information please contact
Catherine Joyce, Communications Manager 01 664 0125/ 086 343 2542
Candy Murphy, Policy Manager, 01 662 9212/ 087 293 3180

Lone Parents – Is Employment an Option?

One Family, the leading provider of specialist support services for one-parent families in Ireland, launched a major survey of lone parents and employment on 2 October 2007 .

The survey, funded by Combat Poverty Agency and supported by the Department of Social and Family Affairs, is the largest survey of One-Parent Family Payment recipients to be carried out. The survey aims to identify the real issues affecting lone parents in accessing employment and sustaining meaningful careers.. The findings of this research will  be used to inform the Government’s plans for reforming state support for lone parents.
Candy Murphy, Policy Manager with One Family said: “It’s crucial that we properly examine the reality on the ground for lone parents in order to inform government policy. Lone parents at present experience serious obstacles in accessing quality education and employment and are often caught in  poverty traps. It is vital that the State supports lone parents in a way that can help them overcome obstacles rather than perpetuate existing problems.”
As Candy Murphy said: “ This survey represents a real opportunity for lone parents on social welfare to influence government policy in areas that seriously affect their lives, particularly in relation to breaking down the barriers that currently prevent many lone parents accessing meaningful employment and moving out of poverty. We would ask all 8,000 lone parents that receive the questionnaire to complete it and return it to One Family. We also want to emphasise that all responses will be treated in the strictest confidence”
One Family believes that the research currently being conducted will highlight the areas of support needed and the real challenges facing lone parents. “It is important that lone parents’ voices are heard in the consultation process before decisions affecting their families’ lives are made at a national level. We know that this research will provide a further insight into the experience of lone parenthood and an opportunity for decision makers to hear what lone parents have to say”, Ms. Murphy said.
For further information please contact
Catherine Joyce, Communications Manager 01 664 0125/ 086 343 2542

Quality of Family Relationships Wins in G Case

One Family, the national organisation representing one-parent families in Ireland, welcomed the High Court’s judgement on the Mr G case on 11 September 2007.
Karen Kiernan, Director, One Family said: “While the judgement is complex and needs to be considered carefully, the tone of it is that the quality of the relationship between father and child is what matters.”
Ms. Kiernan continued: “For many years One Family has been calling on the Government to recognise that it is the quality of the relationships between parents and children that matters rather than legal structures. Today’s judgement has vindicated this view and once again has demonstrated how Ireland’s Constitution is out of step with both international legislation and the reality of family life.”

Services for Dads: More Reforms Needed to Reflect Growing Family Diversity

Martin Cullen T.D., Minister for Social and Family Affairs launched the One Family Annual Report 2006 on 5 September 2007. The publication of One Family’s report is timely in relation to the upcoming judgement by the High Court on the Mr. G case.
Speaking at the launch, Karen Kiernan, Director One Family said: “The G case and a number of other recent cases highlight the need for the Constitution, Irish law and services to reflect the diverse family forms living in Ireland today. It is no longer acceptable for the rights and responsibilities of parents and children to be largely determined by whether they live in a traditional married family or not.”
One Family is the leading provider of specialist support services to one-parent families in Ireland and is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year. The organisation has long been concerned at the lack of support services for families going through transitions and the huge lack of provision for children in family law processes. Karen Kiernan added: “There is also a lack of services for families after they have been through a separation or divorce and find themselves in lone or shared parenting situations.”
One Family has developed a range of services for all members of one-parent families, including Parent Mentoring and Adult Guidance services. These services provide individual and group support for lone parents, both men and women parenting alone, sharing parenting or who are seeking access to their children. Ms. Kiernan commented: “Fathers often face their own unique set of challenges in parenting alone, which may differ from the experiences of mothers. This can include difficulties building relationships with their children if they don’t have primary care or regular access. It is important that fathers are aware of the supports available to them from One Family. Our individualised Parent Mentoring and Counselling services can be particularly helpful to fathers in strengthening their relationships with their children and we encourage fathers to access these services”.
Addressing the need for support services for all members of one-parent families in post-divorce or separation situations, One Family, assisted by the Family Support Agency, is currently carrying out research into Child & Family Contact Centres in Ireland. This research aims to inform Government of the needs of families around shared parenting. Karen Kiernan said: “Government need to take into account that families in modern Ireland are frequently in transition and require specialist supports to enable all parents to provide the best life for their children. One Family will be calling for support to pilot and mainstream Child & Family Contact services in Ireland once our research is complete”.
One Family’s Annual Report 2006 highlights the need for greater resources to support specialist services for one-parent families. The report showed a 10% increase on the uptake of the organisation’s services in 2006, with nearly 6,500 one-parent families and professionals accessing information and support.
For further information please contact
Catherine Joyce, Communications Manager, 664 0125/ 086 343 2542
Karen Kiernan, Director, 662 9212/ 086 850 9191

One Family Response to Sunday Tribune Article

The Sunday Tribine published One Family’s letter responding to the comments of Mr. Brian Mooney in an article that appeared on 26 August 2007. The following letter was published on 2 September

Lone parents need support, not criticism From Karen Kiernan

ON BEHALF of our thousands of clients and members, One Family would like to express its surprise and disappointment at an article in last week’s Sunday Tribune. In this article Brian Mooney, described as former president of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors, expresses a number of views on what are described as single parent families. He expresses unsubstantiated and very disturbing opinions that ‘lone mothers’ are emotionally abusing their teenage sons and causing their daughters to self-harm.

Would Mr Mooney’s position not be better used to call for support for families facing parenting challenges and for proper research on the impact of changing family realities on children in Ireland?
We are also concerned that the Sunday Tribune would publish such views without allowing for any balancing views to be expressed. The result of such irresponsible journalism is to increase the stresses experienced by many lone parents who are doing their best and to perpetuate a negative and erroneous image of one-parent families in Ireland today.
We were disappointed that Mr Mooney went on to promulgate similar views in a piece on Today with Pat Kenny on Wednesday 29 August rather than to use this second interview to provide a more balanced view.
In over 35 years of working with one-parent families we have always found that parents strive above all else to do what is best for their children. Such families need support and respect not criticism and condemnation, a view one would expect to be endorsed by an experienced guidance counsellor.
Karen Kiernan, Director, One Family, Cherish House, 2 Lower Pembroke, St Dublin 2.