Opportunity or Threat? Reforms for One-parent Families Must Provide Real Opportunities and Choices
One-parent family organisation One Family (formerly Cherish) welcomed the decision by the Minister to engage in a process of consultation around the proposals launched today to support one-parent and other low-income families.
One Family believes it is crucial that the proposed reforms offer realistic choices for families. According to the report, one-parent families dependent on social welfare will not receive any payment increases under the proposed new Parental Allowance. In fact, the income disregard level currently in place will decrease slightly. Therefore, those dependent on the payment with children up to the age of seven are likely to continue to be caught in a vicious cycle of poverty.
The preferred option in the report is then the complete removal of the proposed Parental Allowance after the youngest child reaches the age of seven. After that, those parenting alone who are not accessing employment, education or training will be moved on to unemployment assistance. One Family Policy and Campaigns Manager Candy Murphy said that ‘we are particularly concerned that the reforms may create a situation where one-parent families are likely to then face a difficult choice of continuing in poverty or returning to work on a full-time basis, regardless of their ongoing caring responsibilities.’
One Family believes that the reforms will only benefit one-parent families if there is a coordinated strategy and real cooperation between departments and state agencies. In particular, FÁS and the Department for Education must review their provision so that skills-based courses, educational qualifications and financial supports are provided on a more flexible basis, allowing for greater take up by one-parent families.
Commenting on the reforms, One Family Director Karen Kiernan said ‘it has been shown that employment is one of the main routes out of poverty, however, any efforts to support solo parents into employment must recognise that 60 per cent of those on the current payment are already working but are trapped in low-skilled, low-paid, part-time employment. Helping one-parent families to move out of poverty requires a range of supports and related funding that will help these families to take up sustainable employment. Such supports include access to affordable, quality childcare, skills-based education and training, and the removal of social welfare poverty traps. Unfortunately, the report provides little detail on how the issue of affordable childcare for low-income families will be effectively addressed.’
For further information contact:
Ruth Coleman 01 662 9212/086 174 2315 or Candy Murphy 01 662 9212/0872933180
NOTES TO EDITORS:
* 60 per cent of recipients of the One Parent Family Payment were in employment, more than half of whom were earning less than €150 per week.
* 47 per cent of those on the payment have below Leaving Certificate qualifications.
* 50 per cent of those on the payment have children under 8 years of age.
* 60 per cent of those on the payment have only one child.