One parent families continue to be the group most at risk of poverty in Ireland today. Prior to the pandemic, CSO figures revealed that 17% of one parent families lived in consistent poverty, 45% were experiencing enforced deprivation and almost 80% were unable to afford an unexpected expense.
The COVID-19 pandemic added a new layer of financial stress to the lives of many lone parents as they navigated the practicalities of self-isolation, job losses, increased food and energy bills from being at home more, childcare closures, and the cost of digital devices for home schooling. Now the cost-of-living crisis is impacting one parent families.
There has been a significant increase in the diversity of family life in Ireland with one-in-four families with children headed by one parent. However, when public policy is blind to the needs of one parent families or is directly or indirectly discriminatory it can have wide ranging consequences for families and they can face barriers to accessing supports and services when they need them. One of the main criticisms to the cuts and changes to the One Parent Family Payment (OFP), which were carried out from 2014 onwards, was that they were designed and implemented ignoring the additional practical and financial challenges of parenting alone. The decision to abolish the features of the OFP which support lone parents to take up part time employment without providing access to affordable childcare was detrimental.
The National One Parent Family Alliance was established in 2020 in response to the unequal impact the COVID-19 pandemic was having on one parent families and a shared concern about the high levels of poverty experienced by lone parents and their children. It is comprised of a range of stakeholder organisations including Barnardos, Children’s Rights Alliance and Treoir. In July of this year, this Alliance drafted a list of priorities for Budget 2023.
However, in response to last week’s budget announcement, One Family, Ireland’s national organisation for people parenting alone, sharing parenting and separating has said it is deeply concerned that Budget 2023 will leave many one-parent families even poorer in the future. Budget 2023 contains several welcome measures such as free primary school books and a reduction in childcare fees, but these are not enough to help families struggling to keep their heads above water.
Niamh Kelly, One Family Policy Manager said, “We are really concerned about next year and what families will face as prices rise. Budget should have been an opportunity to protect families most in need instead we have a short-sighted Budget which will leave the poorest children in the state even poorer. Let’s be clear the increase of €12 for core social welfare payment and €2 additional payment for children will do nothing to mitigate against poverty in 2023. This is far from what we believe is necessary. Yet again we have another Budget that fails to target one-parent families.”
Karen Kiernan, CEO of One Family said, “We are also shocked and disappointed to see no move on the establishment of an independent Child Maintenance agency, we call on Minister Humphreys to publish the report of the Murphy Review on Child Maintenance straight away. We welcome the positive moves on childcare fees which is a good step towards a publicly funded childcare system but targeted supports are urgently needed for one-parent families who are struggling against a tide of rising costs. This Budget should have been a lifeline instead it’s a rock.”
Last month, new guidelines for one-parent families and public bodies were launched by Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC), Sinéad Gibney. The guidelines were developed by One Family, Ireland’s national organisation for people parenting alone, sharing parenting and separating and are based on the voices and experiences of rights holders who participated in the research.
Speaking at the launch, IHREC Chief Commissioner, Sinéad Gibney said, “The guidelines launched today will give parents guidance on their rights and importantly, will give public sector organisations a framework for protecting the human rights of one-parent families. Public sector organisations have an obligation to abide by the Public Sector Equality and Human Rights Duty and ensure discrimination, if it does occur, is addressed promptly and transparently. One parent families deserve to be treated with respect and equality. These guidelines give parents a clear roadmap to address their concerns if they feel they have been discriminated against.”
The One Family Guidelines can be accessed here: