Press Release | Clear Message for Minister Varadkar and Budget 2017 – New NUIG report into what works for lone parents

 Press Release

Clear Message for Minister Varadkar and Budget 2017 –

How to Support Lone Parents Out of Poverty and into Employment.

New NUIG report into what works for lone parents and activation backs up what One Family has been saying for years.

(Dublin, Thursday 29 September 2016) One Family – Ireland’s organisation for people parenting alone, sharing parenting, and separating – today calls on Minister Varadkar to implement the recommendations outlined in research commissioned by his report to support lone parents into employment. This long-awaited important research, to which One Family contributed several years ago, was released this week by NUIG on their website. Lone Parents and Activation, What Works and Why: A Review of the International Evidence in the Irish Context, commissioned by the Department of Social Protection, co-authored by Dr Michelle Millar and Dr Rosemary Crosse of the UNESCO Child & Family Research Centre in NUI Galway, is key to understanding what steps Government must take to create real opportunity for lone parents currently in receipt of welfare payments who wish to work and/or return to education to do so.

Karen Kiernan, One Family CEO, states, “The failure of the reform of the One-Parent Family Payment, now clearly evident, means that Government must address its errors in practical and realistic measures to support lone parents in Budget 2017. In a week which has seen Minister Varadkar deny the reality of tens of thousands of poor families whose incomes have been cut in recent years, a media focus on the failure of Ireland’s childcare system, and much discussion in the lead-up to Budget 2017, a report into what lone parents need to support them into employment is finally released. It should have prefaced all of these policy changes. The report was delayed, has received little dissemination, and apparently no commentary or response by the Department. Again we, and society, must ask why lone parents and children are those who are consistently punished unfairly?”

Valerie Maher, One Family Policy & Programmes Manager comments, “This Government needs to take an unblinkered look at the myriad of evidence from real parents with real children across Ireland. Although it was commissioned several years too late – following a series of cuts across successive budgets to one-parent families, and activation measures which seemed only to try to force lone parents into non-existing employment using non-existent childcare – its findings are essential to create polices that work. Existing ‘reform’ measures were enacted to save money and without the necessary supports in place. In other EU jurisdictions, for example Britain, this kind of research was conducted before reforms were made, childcare provision is far higher, Job Centre staff was trained by Gingerbread to work more effectively with lone parents and Government invested in training programmes for parents.”

In order for Minister Vardakar to fulfil his personal commitment to lift 100,000 children out of poverty by 2020, he must now take action based on this research. Budget 2017 must urgently address child poverty, and invest in services and targeted income supports so that one-parent families can create the futures their children deserve.

Lone Parents and Activation, What Works and Why: A Review of the International Evidence in the Irish Context,

can be read/downloaded at:

One Family’s Pre-Budget Submission 2017 can be downloaded at


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

Available for Interview

Valerie Maher, Policy & Programmes Manager, One Family

Karen Kiernan, CEO, One Family



Statement | Our Response to Minister Varadkar’s Comments on OFP Reform Today


One Family’s Response to Minister Varadkar’s Comments on Reform of the One-Parent Family Payment on RTÉ Radio 1 on 26th September 2016

Today Minister Varadkar, in an interview on Morning Ireland (RTÉ Radio 1), discussed the changes to the One-Parent Family Payment (OFP). The Minister was adamant that there were no cuts made to the payment by the last Government, but rather to the conditionality of the payment. While this may be technically correct, it does not acknowledge the fact that a result of the reform is significant cuts to income for many one-parent families. Both the reform of the OFP and its implementation have been plagued by poor planning and communication, and a lack of joined up thinking on the part of the Department; impacts have included the creation of unnecessary fear and worry, and reduced income for many already vulnerable families. Lone parents already in work and in receipt of Family Income Supplement saw an immediate 40% reduction in their payments as a direct result of the reform. Government policy has not worked. Government has failed these families.

Minister Varadkar also outlined measures being put in place to reduce unemployment figures in line with the most advanced European economies. However, these economies invariably provide state-subsidised, affordable, accessible childcare to support parents to enter work. Ireland must follow suit if it wants to match the employment rate of other European countries. The immense cost of childcare in Ireland was acknowledged during the interview by the Minister who stated that “one of the biggest things” this Government could do is to reduce the cost of childcare. Yet despite this acknowledgment of the lack of affordable, accessible childcare currently available and how immense a barrier this is for parents to work, the Minister was emphatic that no reversal of the reform will be implemented. One Family contends that continuing to enforce the reform with a flawed childcare system in place is senseless.

The Minister further stated that the key to making work pay is to promote not just any job but getting a better quality job. One Family agrees that an investment in education and training supports is imperative in order to achieve this but this is just one essential step that must be taken, and it must be taken now. As outlined in our previous response to Minister Varadkar and in our Pre-Budget Submission there are a number of other steps that the Department could take to remove current educational barriers impacting on one-parent families.

The reform of the One-Parent Family Payment has failed, as evidenced by the already low-income families who have become poorer owing to its impacts. It is disappointing that the Minister, like his predecessor Joan Burton TD, continues to fail to acknowledge this; that Government policies and services that would address the major barriers faced by lone parents trying to access employment and/or education have yet to be proposed or implemented; and that lone parents and their children – 59% (almost three in five families) of whom experience enforced deprivation (SILC 2014) – are suffering the impacts of an intrinsically flawed Government approach.

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