Budget 2009 must not neglect Ireland’s most vulnerable families

One Family, the leading provider of specialist support services for one-parent families in Ireland, today 19 September 2008 launched its Pre-Budget Submission 2009. At a time when cutbacks are inevitable One Family calls on the Government to ensure that those already experiencing high levels of poverty and social exclusion are not asked to also carry the costs of the economic slowdown. The organisation highlighted the already rising levels of poverty experienced by one-parent families in Ireland with 33% of lone parent households living in poverty; a rate more than 4.5 times the national average.
Candy Murphy, Policy Manager, One Family today said: “Many lone parents contact us because they are having real difficulty making ends meet for their families. Often parents find that social welfare benefits are simply too low to keep their families out of poverty. Meanwhile many lone parents want to go back to work or education but cannot afford the childcare and other costs that go with that decision. They are left in a catch-22 position and it is the family that suffers.”
Ms Murphy continued: “The government has stated its desire to reduce poverty rates for lone parents and their children and to remove barriers to employment for this vulnerable group. We are today calling on the government to institute immediate changes in order to start to make this a reality in 2009.”
One Family’s Pre-Budget Submission 2009 calls on the Government to include measures that will raise the income of one-parent families, increase payments to children living in low income households and remove barriers to employment and education for lone parents.
Importantly in the light of ESRI expectations that the economy will return to a growth path in the not too distant future, One Family also calls on the government to adopt a longer term strategy aimed at  significantly reducing poverty rates among one-parent families. The aim of this strategy would be to reduce poverty rates among one-parent families to 2% by 2012. The key elements of this strategy are increased educational provision; reform of lone parent state reports in a manner that supports choice and opportunity; greater access to social housing; and provision of the medical card for children.
To compliment the work-related programme of reforms, One Family also calls for such a strategy to support better work-life balance initiatives that do not result in loss of income; to fund parenting supports; and to ensure better access to family supports.
One Family is particularly calling on the Government in Budget 2009 to:
  • Increase the One-Parent Family Payment (OFP) by €16 per week to €213.80
  • Increase the Qualified Child Allowance to €32 per week (from €24/week) and introduce significant increases 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 an increase in the earnings disregard for OFP to €500/week, an increase in the income limit for Family Income Supplement and introduce disregards for childcare costs in calculating eligibility to Rent Supplement as this is a significant poverty trap.
One Family Director Karen Kiernan said: “Lone parents and their children represent a group in our society which is experiencing very high levels of poverty and social exclusion. Particularly in a time of economic difficulty the state needs to ensure that this vulnerable group do not slip further into poverty. In addition urgent reform is needed to remove barriers and support lone parents who wish to enter, remain in and progress in employment.”
For further information please contact
Karen Kiernan, 01 662 9212/ 086 850 9191