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Press Release | Budget 2018 will be a Litmus Test of Taoiseach’s Commitment to Lift 100,000 Children Out of Poverty

Press Release

Budget 2018 will be a litmus test of Taoiseach’s commitment to lift 100,000 children out of poverty

Dublin, 21st July 2017 Leading NGOs in Ireland have joined voices ahead of the annual Pre-Budget Forum taking place on Friday the 21st July to call on the Government to ensure Budget 2018 includes key provisions to tackle child poverty. Barnardos, Children’s Rights Alliance, National Youth Council of Ireland, One Family and the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul are deeply concerned that one in nine children remain in consistent poverty and believe not enough is being done to remedy this.

“We welcome that An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar has made a clear public commitment that lifting 100,000 children out of consistent poverty will be a priority for him. This Government target provides a clear goal to work towards and to track progress against. Budget 2018 presents an ideal opportunity for An Taoiseach to demonstrate his commitment to children.” said Tanya Ward, Chief Executive, Children’s Rights Alliance.

The group has compiled a report outlining a clear roadmap of practical solutions that would make a real positive difference in children’s lives. The group believe a combination of adequate income supports and investment in quality public services is central to reducing child poverty.

Karen Kiernan, CEO, One Family said “It is particularly important to understand where the poorest children in Ireland live and to provide targeted supports. Children living in one-parent families are 3.5 times more likely to be poor than children in two parent families, and these are families who have been hit hard by Budget cuts and reforms in recent years.”

Government investment in quality early years services makes good sense. Yet Ireland continues to seriously lag behind internationally in levels of investment.

Tanya Ward, CEO, Children’s Rights Alliance said “Poverty can destroy a child’s life. Making childcare affordable is a route out of poverty because it helps children to learn and supports parents to work. Budget 2018 must invest in childcare so families can better afford it, services can improve in quality, and every child can reach their potential – not be stuck in a poverty trap.”

Succeeding in education unlocks children’s potential and enables them to escape poverty. However, participation in the education system comes at cost that pushes many families into debt.

June Tinsley, Head of Advocacy, Barnardos said “Access to free primary education is a right for all children and it can be realised for as little as €103m per annum, just €185 per pupil. This would cover the costs of books, classroom resources, remove transport fees and voluntary contributions and raise the capitation rates back to 2010 levels.”

The housing crisis continues to escalate with nearly 2,800 homeless children, as well as those living in insecure, overcrowded and unsuitable accommodation.

Hazel O’Byrne, Head of Social Justice and Policy, St. Vincent de Paul commented “Access to secure, long-term accommodation is the solution for these families and that can best be provided through increased investment to build and acquire additional social housing.  Until this is available, flexibility to increase the rates of HAP and Rent Supplement can help to prevent further families becoming homeless.”

Having a long term approach to investing in services rather than annual Budgetary cycles will prove more beneficial in building a more sustainable equitable society for our children.

Mary Cunningham, Director of the National Youth Council of Ireland said “Progress on reducing child poverty rates requires long-term and strategic investment in services and supports. Increased investment in Budget 2018 in services, such the School Meals Programme and Youth Work, is crucial. Investment in these services will make a real difference in the lives of children and young people in the long-term.”

It is essential Budget 2018 shows clear political commitment and investment in implementing Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures and specifically actions that will reduce child poverty. Condemning 139,000 children to grow up in poverty is not a legacy to be proud of.

ENDS

Notes to Editor:
Link to NGO Submission on Actions to Achieve Child Poverty Target (November 2016)

Consistent poverty: proportion of people from those with an income below a certain threshold (less than 60% of median income / €230 per week), who are deprived of two or more goods or services considered essential for a basic standard of living (e.g. a warm waterproof overcoat, an adequately warm home) .

Contact:
Barnardos: June Tinsley, Head of Advocacy:  087 9955076
Children’s Rights Alliance: Tanya Ward, CEO: 087 6531069
National Youth Council of Ireland: Mary Cunningham, Director: 087 2385977
One Family: Karen Kiernan, CEO, 086 8509191
Society of Saint Vincent de Paul: Hazel O’Byrne, Head of Social Justice and Policy: 085 8010308

Hands

Pilot Child Contact Centre Evaluation and Key Learnings Documents

One Family launches the Evaluation of the Child Contact Centre pilot services and our Key Learnings document containing Policy Recommendations for Policy Makers today, Friday 28 March in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin Castle at 9.30am. Speakers include the Hon Mr Justice Michael White of the High Court and Chair of the Courts Family Law Committee; Dr Stephanie Holt of the School of Social Work and Social Policy, Trinity College Dublin; and One Family CEO Karen Kiernan.

The services were run on a pilot basis in two locations in north and south Dublin between 2011 and 2013 by One Family and Barnardos in a partnership arrangement, offering a range of assessment, contact and family support services to high-conflict families who were frequently in legal disputes in relation to contact arrangements for their children. These Child Contact Centres provided a safe, neutral, child-centered environment for children to spend time with the parent/s they do not live with. Common challenges for families included domestic abuse, poor mental health and addiction.

The following documents were launched and can be read/downloaded below:

One Family_Child Contact Centre_Key Learnings March 2014 – PDF

Child Contact Centre Executive Summary December 2013 – PDF

Child Contact Centre Evaluation December 2013 – PDF

You can also read our Press Release, issued on Thursday 27 March 2014:

Courts Need Professionally Conducted Assessments to Ensure Child Safety

Our Response to Draft Heads of Children and Family Relationships Bill: Submission on the Children and Family Relationships Bill 2014 to the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality can be read here: Children and Family Relationships Bill 2014 – Response to Draft Heads.

Gavel

Courts Need Professionally Conducted Assessments to Ensure Child Safety

Press Release

Courts Need Professionally Conducted Assessments to Ensure Child Safety

Child Contact Centre Pilot Services Evaluation Launched by One Family

(Dublin, Thursday 27 March 2014) One Family – Ireland’s leading organisation for one-parent families – launches the Evaluation of the Child Contact Centre pilot services and its Policy Recommendations for Policy Makers document on Friday 28 March in Dublin Castle. Speakers include the Hon Mr Justice Michael White of the High Court and Chair of the Courts Family Law Committee; Dr Stephanie Holt of the School of Social Work and Social Policy, Trinity College Dublin; and One Family CEO Karen Kiernan.

Child Contact Centre services were run on a pilot basis in two locations in north and south Dublin between 2011 and 2013 by One Family and Barnardos in a partnership arrangement. The service offered a range of assessment, contact and family support services to high-conflict families who were frequently in legal disputes in relation to contact arrangements for their children providing a safe, neutral, child-centered environment for children to spend time with the parent/s they do not live with. Common challenges for families included domestic abuse, poor mental health and addiction.

Families ranged across socio-economic backgrounds and the services were mainly used constructively by courts. Referrals to the service were from the courts (35%), self-referrals (29%) and the HSE/Social Workers (22%). 40% of families had a HSE Social Worker. Currently children may be court-ordered into unsafe contact/access situations due to inadequate information available to court.

An evaluation of the service was conducted by Candy Murphy of CMAdvice and Dr Stephanie Holt of the School of Social Work & Social Policy, Trinity College Dublin based on data for the period October 2011 to April 2013. Dr Stephanie Holt, Director of Teaching and Learning at Trinity’s School of Social Work and Social Policy comments: “For approximately 10-30% of separated families, the process by which contact is agreed is problematic and potentially dangerous. Some parents (both perpetrators and victims of domestic violence) may not see that domestic abuse impacts negatively on their ability to parent well or that such abuse may negatively impact their children. The service worked closely with all parties providing a safe place for the voice of the child to be heard and a core focus on the child’s best interest. With child-centred therapeutic support even young children were able to articulate what they wanted in terms of contact.”

Karen Kiernan, One Family CEO, in responding to the Evaluation, summarises One Family’s recommendations to policy makers: “The courts need access to professionally conducted family assessments in order to make child-centred decisions that will be safe and enforceable. This will save court time and ensure that children do not experience unsafe court-ordered contact visits. Child Contact Centre services offering supervised, supported and handover contact, in conjunction with family supports including counselling, parent mentoring and child therapy, must be part of the ancillary court services contained in the Children & Family Relationships Bill. Effective cross departmental and interagency working is essential involving the Department of Justice and Equality including the Courts Service, the Probation Service, the Legal Aid Board, the Family Mediation Service and COSC; and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs including the Child and Family Agency which now has responsibility for child protection and welfare.”

Key Statistics

  • Referrals to the service were from the courts (35%), self-referrals (29%) and the HSE/Social Workers (22%). 40% of families had a HSE Social Worker.
  • The average age of parents was 33 years old and 79% of parents were unmarried.
  • There was an average of two children per family and 66% of the children were aged 8 or younger.
  • 72% of families had been in or were in court proceedings with 58% of families having Access Orders in place.
  • 77% of children had either never lived with their non-resident parent or not lived with them for over a year.
  • At the time of the referral, 61% of children had no contact with their non-resident parent.
  • 59% of families in the service were assessed as having a current risk of child abuse and 50% of families had a current risk of domestic violence.
  • 23 Child Protection Notifications were sent by the service to the HSE in respect of 38 children.
  • The service offered children and parents 455 contact opportunities of which 333 (73%) were taken up.
  • The service offered a total of 502 counselling and parent-mentoring sessions of which 387 (77%) were taken up.

Further Information

Child Contact Centre: Key Learnings – One Family

Read/download here.

Final Evaluation of the Barnardos/One Family Pilot Child Contact Centre – CMAdvice Ltd

Read/download at here.

Executive Summary of the Barnardos/One Family Pilot Child Contact Centre – CMAdvice Ltd

Read/download here.

About One Family

One Family was founded in 1972 as Cherish 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 the Family Day Festival in Dublin’s Iveagh Gardens. This annual celebration of the diversity of families in Ireland takes place on Sunday 18 May 2014 (www.familyday.ie). For further information, visit www.onefamily.ie.

Available for Interview

Karen Kiernan, CEO, One Family

Dr Stephanie Holt, School of Social Work and Social Policy, Trinity

For Interview Scheduling/Further Information

Shirley Chance, Director of Communications | t: 01 662 9212 or 087 414 8511 | schance@onefamily.ie

Child Contact Centre

Launch of Child Contact Centre Pilot Services Evaluation and Recommendations

Child Contact Centre services were run on a pilot basis in two locations in north and south Dublin between 2011 and 2013 by Barnardos and One Family in a partnership arrangement. The service offered a range of assessment, contact and family support services to high-conflict families who were frequently in legal disputes in relation to contact arrangements for their children.

‘A Child Contact Centre is a safe, friendly and neutral place where children can spend time with the parent/s they do not live with. It is a child centred environment which allows the child to form or develop a relationship with the parent at their own pace and in their own way, usually through play and child centred activities.’

The services to families that the Child Contact Centre provided included:

  • Assessment to identify whether contact is in the best interests of the child and if so what supports the child and family require including risk assessment.
  • Preparation for contact the child and for both parents.
  • Supervised contact, supported contact and handover contact services.
  • Family supports for parents including individual parent mentoring, mediated parenting plans and counselling.
  • Family supports for children including play therapy and art therapy.
  • Regular reviews with inputs from the child wherever possible and from both parents.
  • Pre and post-contact family supports as required.
  • Information on and referral to other services as required.
  • Court reports as appropriate.

On Friday 28 March, One Family will launch the Evaluation of the Child Contact Centre Pilot Services and our Policy Recommendations in Response to the Evaluation from 9.30am to 11am in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin Castle. Speakers include: The Hon. Mr. Justice Michael White of the High Court and Chair of the Courts Family Law Committee; Dr. Stephanie Holt of the School of Social Work & Social Policy, Trinity College Dublin; and Karen Kiernan, CEO of One Family.

All are welcome to attend but as a limited number of places are available, RSVP is essential. If you wish to attend, please RSVP by email to onefamily@onefamily.ie or call 01 662 9212 by Wednesday 26 March.

Child Contact Centre

Children and Family Relationships Bill is a Good First Step but We Have Concerns

Press Release

Children & Family Relationships Bill provides first steps to a modern Family Law system in Ireland –

but One Family warns that family law courts need the resources to do their job properly for all children

(Dublin, Thursday 30 January 2014) One Family – Ireland’s leading organisation for one-parent families in Ireland today welcomes the publication of the Heads of the Children & Family Relationships Bill 2014 by Minister Alan Shatter. As an organisation that has campaigned for over 40 years for legal recognition and support for the wide diversity of families that children live in, we believe this Bill is a good first step that is long overdue.

Karen Kiernan, One Family CEO explains: “This Bill when enacted will provide a higher level of legal security for some of the diverse one-parent families that children live in. We are particularly pleased to see that people who have caring responsibility for children such as step-parents will be able to apply for guardianship, that it will be easier for extended family members such as grandparents to gain contact with their grandchildren and that more non-marital fathers will become guardians automatically of their children.”

However, One Family has some serious concerns about how aspects of the Bill can really be implemented given the serious resource restrictions that exist, and the lack of consistency and specialist knowledge that can characterise some family law proceedings and the requirement to hear children’s voices.

Kiernan continues: “We are very concerned about the lack of family assessments available to judges in family law courts which can be essential when upholding the principle of ‘a child’s best interest’. We have seen that it is extremely difficult to make nuanced and life-changing decisions without full, impartial information on what is going on in a family. A robust court welfare system will need to be put in place that can assess issues such as child protection, domestic violence, parental capacity so that judges can make informed, reasoned decisions. Such a system could also effectively hear the voice of children of all ages. The current Heads indicates that the costs of such reports, counselling, mediation or parenting courses as ordered by court will be borne by the parents involved and this is not realistic for many families.

It is time that a standardised, holistic, family-centred approach is taken to family law in Ireland where the starting point has to be the child and their family rather than the traditions of the legal system. The Bill is well-intentioned but will need an implementation plan with an attached budget to really make a difference.”

Part of what Minister Shatter is working to resolve is in relation to parenting orders and plans that are not adhered to. One Family offers a range of specialist counselling and parenting supports to people going through separation, sharing parenting of their children as well as those who parent alone. One Family also ran the two pilot Child Contact Centres over the past three years in partnership with Barnardos – a service that is now closed due to lack of government funding.

Karen Kiernan further explains: “Whilst much of this Bill is an excellent improvement on what was there, there is a big miss in relation to Child Contact Centres which are not mentioned. They have been proven to be needed and effective in reducing the dangers for children in high conflict families, in ensuring parenting orders work and in supporting families to move on to self-arranged contact. No Government department has been willing to continue funding them and they are not provided for in the Heads of Bill as a necessary service for courts.”

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 the Family Day Festival, an annual celebration of the diversity of families in Ireland today, with 10,000 people attending in 2013 (www.familyday.ie). For further information, visit www.onefamily.ie.

Available for Interview

Karen Kiernan, CEO | t: 01 662 9212 or 086 850 9191

Further Information/Scheduling

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

Our New Contact Centre gets loads of press coverage

We got loads of press coverage for the launch of our new Child Contact Centre service which is great. Here is One Family Director Karen Kiernan on The Last Word with Matt Cooper explaining all about it at 15 minutes into the clip. http://media.todayfm.com/listenback/98/monday/1/popup

Ger Kelly, Childcare & Parenting Co-ordinator One Family, Karen Kiernan, Director One Family, Minister Frances Fitzgerald, Francis Chance, Assistant Director of Children’s Services, Barnardos and Robert Dunne, Project Leader for Barnardos at Quarryvale Family Resource Centre

Barnardos and One Family launch Contact Service for Children and Separated Parents

Press Release

Barnardos and One Family launch much needed

Service for Children and Separated Parents in Ireland

Dublin, 2 April 2012A new service for children whose parents are separated and who are unable to agree safe and appropriate arrangements for contact was launched today by Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald, TD. The first-of-its kind in Ireland, the Child Contact Centre service provided by Barnardos, Ireland’s leading independent children’s charity, and One Family, Ireland’s leading organisation for one-parent families, is operating on a two year pilot in three locations in Dublin: Ballymun, Clondalkin and Tallaght.

A Child Contact Centre is a safe, friendly and neutral place where children can spend time with the parent(s) they do not live with. The aim of the service is to enable children, where possible, to grow up enjoying a positive relationship with both of their parents, even when they don’t live together. Specialist contact centres for children and families involved in marriage and relationship breakdown are common in many countries throughout Europe including Northern Ireland.

The Barnardos & One Family Child Contact Centre service provides a range of contact options including, supervised contact – where contact is supervised for one family at a time; supported contact – where contact is provided for a number of families at the same time, and handover contact – where an arrangement is agreed for one parent to bring their child to the contact centre to be collected by the other parent, without the parents needing to meet. Parents are offered additional family supports like counselling and a key worker to assist them in addressing the issues that led to them to needing to use a Child Contact Centre service, so that they can move on to self-arranged contact over time.

Karen Kiernan, Director of One Family explained, ‘The need for the service was identified in research carried out by One Family (Supporting Child Contact: the Need for Child Contact Centres in Ireland – Family Support Agency, 2010) which clearly identified a significant level of unmet need in relation to children of separated parents. The report shows that based on international provision, Ireland could require 37 such centres throughout the country.’

‘During the course of that research we consulted parents, legal professionals and family support workers and there is overwhelming support for such services. They are particularly vital in situations where there are high levels of conflict between parents, where a parent has had little previous contact with his or her children, or where there are concerns over the safety of the child,’ continued Ms Kiernan.

Francis Chance, Assistant Director of Children’s Services at Barnardos said, ‘The service responds to a need for families who, up until now, have been largely invisible, experiencing a high level of pain, hurt and distress. Family Law courts and judges have had very limited choices as to where to refer parents and children who are having difficulties managing contact. The Child Contact Centres fill that vacuum.”

‘Unfortunately many children have to walk an emotional tightrope while the most significant adults in their lives are deeply entrenched in conflict. By supporting families to manage contact, we are relieving children of a heavy burden, one they often carry on their own. In many cases it can be difficult for the parents to shift their focus away from their relationship to that of their child’s needs. Our focus is the best interests of the children and we look to align the parents as partners working on behalf of their child’s needs. The service brings huge benefit to the parents too, enabling both parents to develop a positive relationship with their child and giving them the peace of mind to know that their child is safe and supported during their contact with the parent they do not live with. Without the provision of specialist supports for separated parents and their children, there is a risk that more children will lose touch with the parent with whom they do not live, most often their father,’ Mr Chance continued.

The Barnardos & One Family Child Contact Centre pilot service is now fully operational in Ballymun, Clondalkin and Tallaght, with significant demand for the service from families, many of whom are involved in court proceedings. Since opening its doors, the service is actively supporting 28 families to create opportunities to have quality time together, some of whom having been out of one another’s lives for many years.

Parents participating in the service have said about their children:

He is much more settled and has developed a good understanding of having two homes and does not see his mum and dad fighting anymore.”

I think the staff take good care of the children and parents too.  They are very interested in the children’s needs and try to make the time with the parents very enjoyable for all concerned.”

I am delighted, my son is a year and a half now and this is the most time I have spent with him getting to know his buzz…” (after first visit)

Speaking at the launch, Frances Fitzgerald, TD said, “As Minister for Children & Youth Affairs, my ultimate goal to seek to achieve the very best for Ireland’s children. Positive interaction between parents and children is pivotal to help achieve this. The contact centre pilot project is an excellent example of what can be achieved when we work together in the best interests of children and families, especially those in difficult or crisis situations.”

”I wish congratulate all involved in getting this project off the ground including One Family and Barnardos, the HSE, the Family Support Agency, Ballymun Regeneration and my own Department of Children and Youth Affairs”

The pilot of the Barnardos & One Family Child Contact Centre service is supported by a team of 28 volunteers who have been trained to assist in the provision of supported contact. The service is funded by: The Department of Children and Youth Affairs, The Family Support Agency, The Health Service Executive and Ballymun Regeneration.

Ms Kiernan concluded, ‘We very much appreciate the co-operation and support we are receiving from Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald, her Department and our other funders. We look forward to rolling out of this much needed service throughout the country, in the future.’

Anyone can make a referral to the service by contacting Barnardos & One Family Child Contact Centre at childcontact@onefamily.ie or on 01 4032085/89/80 on Tuesdays from 9.30am – 1pm.

Mr. Chance concluded, “It has been an intensely positive and rewarding experience for the children involved and their parents. We look forward to discussing our interim evaluation findings with our funders later this year.”

The service is also available to children who are living in the care of the Health Service Executive and who need support to have contact with their parent(s).

ENDS

For further information or to arrange an interview with a spokesperson:

  • Contact Hilary Fennell, One Family – 087 2359515
  • Contact Irene Lawlor, Barnardos – 086 3980441

Note to Editors:

For more information on the Child Contact Centres see http://www.onefamily.ie/families/parenting-supports/child-contact-centres/ or www.barnardos.ie/

Summary of Supporting Child Contact: the Need for Child Contact Centres in Ireland – Family Support Agency, 2010) available here http://www.onefamily.ie/professionals/policy-research/research-reports/

About Barnardos

Barnardos supports children whose well-being is under threat, by working with them, their families and communities and campaigning for the rights of children. Barnardos was established in Ireland in 1962 and is Ireland’s leading independent children’s charity.

About One Family

One Family has been providing specialist family support services to people parenting alone and sharing parenting for 40 years.  Services include parenting and skills training, counselling, parent mentoring and national information supports.

 

 

Barnardos and One Family launch Child Contact Centres

Barnardos and One Family are working together to develop a new service called a Child Contact Centre, which is a safe, friendly and neutral place where children can spend time with the parent/s they do not live with. We are now taking referrals for parents who want to use our new centres in Clondalkin and Ballymun. Referrals can come from families or professionals, but the child must live in the catchment area. For more information please see the documents below or for an initial referral contact 01 4032085 childcontact@barnardos.ie

Child Contact Centre Leaflet

Referral Form

Guidelines for Referrers

Supplementary Referral Information Form