Statement | One Family’s Response to Minister Varadkar’s Statement on Lone Parents and Educational Supports


One Family’s Response to Minister Varadkar’s Statement on Lone Parents and Educational Supports

One Family is disappointed to read Minister Varadkar’s statement of 17 August 2016 in relation to lone parents accessing education.  While the Minister has correctly outlined a number of supports currently available to people parenting alone, the statement fails to recognise some of the major barriers faced by lone parents trying to access education which have recently been discussed in the media.

  • As highlighted in One Family’s Pre-Budget Submission those in receipt of Rent Supplement should be permitted to engage in full-time education. This would remove a number of structural barriers which currently prevent these parents from accessing education. Currently the only option available to those dependent on Rent Supplement is to apply for Back to Education Allowance (BTEA). Ability to stay in education should not be linked to housing tenure.
  • The BTEA and the SUSI maintenance grant should be payable together to lone parents who are undertaking an educational or training course. The current system provides no additional income to meet the costs of childcare, course materials and travel costs.
  • We also recommend that the Department extend Jobseeker’s Transition Payment (JST) to those who are engaging in education, regardless of the age of their youngest child (up to a limit of 18).

We agree with the Minister that inaccurate information is a cause for concern. One Family have continually called for more clarity and information to be made available by the Department of Social Protection (DSP) to lone parents who are being transitioned off the One-Parent Family Payment (OFP) when their youngest child reaches seven years old. It is imperative that all available options open to parents are explored and explained clearly when a parent is required to change their primary social welfare payment. The OFP reform has been rife with implementation issues and the people suffering from this insufficient planning are lone parents who are already struggling financially and their children. We are aware of a number of cases through our askonefamily helpline where parents have been misinformed as to their entitlements and options.

The DSP have consistently promoted Family Income Supplement (FIS) and the short-term Back to Work Family Dividend (BTWFD) as the best option for lone parents who are working a minimum of nineteen hours when they lose their entitlement to OFP. However, due to the complex nature of our social welfare and educational systems, this may not be the best option for every parent, particularly if they wish to access education at a later stage and require financial supports such as the Back to Education Allowance (BTEA) in order to do so. While there may be a temporary financial gain to moving from OFP to FIS and BTWFD, if a lone parent has future intentions to enhance their skills and employability through further education or training, it may be a viable option to remain on JST as this is a qualifying payment for access to BTEA.

The emphasis on work and FIS often forces lone parents to maintain employment in low-wage jobs with unpredictable work to support their families, rather than receiving training or education to obtain higher-paying jobs that could lift them out of poverty in the longer term.

Minister Varadkar also outlines the option to work part-time while studying. Given that there are no financial supports available for part-time study at third level, the Minister is effectively suggesting that a lone parent should work part-time while attending full-time education, and also juggling their full-time parenting responsibilities in the absence of affordable childcare to support this option. This statement shows a lack of understanding and awareness of the issues being discussed here.

The suggestion by the Minister that broadening access to BTEA is “wide open to abuse” is in our view a derogatory observation which implies that social welfare recipients are attempting to use social supports in a dishonest fashion; an implication that our clients often tell us they experience in their local social welfare offices. We strongly recommend that the DSP adopt an innovative and supportive stance to removing the barriers impacting the vulnerable families that they aim to support rather than over-focussing on the possibility of fraud. These barriers facing poor families are multidimensional, interconnected and complex. Government actions must take them into account and ensure access to affordable, secure housing and to affordable childcare, and finally address our society’s long history of employment and educational discrimination.

Karen Kiernan

CEO, One Family


Press Release | Lone Parents Thwarted by Systemic Barriers to Accessing Education

Press Release

Lone Parents Thwarted by Systemic Barriers to Accessing Education

Improving access to education and employment for parents will lead to ending child poverty.

(Dublin, Monday 8 August 2016) One Family – Ireland’s organisation for people parenting alone, sharing parenting, and separating – again calls on Government to remove the systemic barriers to education and employment that people parenting alone are thwarted by. Lone parents must be offered an equal chance to progress their and their children’s futures.

Minister for Social Protection, Leo Varadkar, and Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone, have promised to address the serious issue of child poverty which disproportionally affects children living in one-parent families, and committed to lifting 97,000 children out of consistent poverty. It is by supporting parents in one-parent families to access and remain in education and employment that this can be achieved.  Again, One Family calls for Budget 2017 to urgently address these barriers and to acknowledge the realities for those who parent alone.

Karen Kiernan, One Family CEO, comments: “For years, we’ve been asking Government, ‘Where’s the education and childcare for lone parents for sustainable jobs?’  Research shows that it is not family form which impacts most on children’s outcomes, but poverty and the education level of parents. Enabling and encouraging access to education, for those parents who clearly wish to increase their qualifications, is where Government could be making a real difference. The main barriers facing a lone parent in accessing or returning to education include the lack of financial supports; that someone’s housing tenure is a factor, as Back To Education Allowance (BTEA) and the SUSI maintenance grant are not payable together so that those in private rented accommodation are at a disadvantage; and that there is no childcare support for those going into third level education.”

Government has committed to commission an independent examination to identify the supports and barriers to accessing higher education for lone parents and to examine measures to increase participation, and One Family will contribute to this report.

Karen continues: “This is an important report, though what we will need to see is action. Government must show that it is resourcing one-parent families rather than penalising them. An unnecessarily complex system contributes to these systemic barriers still being in place. Yet Government stated that reform of the One Parent Family Payment and introduction of the Job Seekers’ Transition were ‘to give lone parents seven years to get into education and then into work.’  Where are the opportunities? Where are the supports? Where are the Out-of -School childcare services to support parents, whatever age their children are?”

One Family reiterates its call to Government to enact the recommendations of its Pre-Budget Submission, with an immediate focus on provision of affordable and accessible quality local childcare.  Every parent should have an equal opportunity to create a better future for his or her children.

Lone parents who would like support on accessing education can call askonefamily on 1890 66 22 12 / 01 662 9212. Lone parents who would like to share their perspective on accessing education which One Family can include in its contribution to the commissioned Government report, can email

One Family’s Pre-Budget Submission 2017 can be read/downloaded here.



  • 1 in 8 people in Ireland live in a one-parent family (Census 2011)
  • 1 in 4 families with children in Ireland is a one-parent family (Census 2011)
  • Over half a million people live in one-parent families in Ireland (Census 2011)
  • 5% of one-parent families are headed by a father (Census 2011)
  • 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)

About One Family

One Family was founded in 1972 as Cherish and is Ireland’s leading organisation for one-parent families and people sharing parenting, or separating, offering support, information and services to all members of all one-parent families, to those sharing parenting, to those experiencing an unplanned pregnancy and to professionals 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 66 22 12, counselling, and provision of training courses for parents and for professionals. One Family also promotes Family Day and presents the Family Day Festival every May, an annual celebration of the diversity of families in Ireland today ( For further information, visit

Further Information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Shirley Chance, Director of Communications | t: 01 662 9212 or 087 414 8511
Jane Farrell, Communications & Marketing Officer | t: 01 662 9096 or 087 623 0166


Training | Enrolment Now Open for Options Courses

Options Slider 500x230We are happy to announce that enrolment is now open for the Options part-time programmes run by One Family in co-operation with Ballsbridge College of Further Education.

Options programmes are free of charge and specifically designed for those parenting alone or sharing parenting. If you are looking to get back into the workplace and/or further education after a gap, or for the first time, Options are for you. Three Options programmes are enrolling now in Communications, IT Skills, and Nursing Theory & Practice.

Dates: Starts Wednesday, 21 September 2016 and runs until May 2017.
Hours: Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10am to 1pm.
Location: Dublin 2

Communications (Minor Award – Level 5)
IT Skills (Minor Award – Level 4)
Nursing Theory & Practice (Minor Award – Level 5)

For more information and to book your place, click here.