Many one parent families unable to meet basic living costs

22/09/2014

Despite their best efforts at budgeting most one parent families being helped by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVP) are unable to meet their basic living costs according to a new study.

The exploratory research study entitled “It’s the hardest job in the world” found that these families struggle to cover the basics of food, housing and energy costs. But also that large unexpected or once off costs which cannot be met from weekly income are especially problematic.

“The sadness and stresses caused by life events including bereavement, relationship breakdown and children’s illnesses are magnified by having to manage these situations on a low income and with limited resources.  There is a tendency to focus on day-to-day survival rather than making plans for the medium to long term.” according to John-Mark McCafferty SVP Head of Social Justice and Policy.

The study also found that loneliness and isolation impact negatively on the mental health and well being of many lone parents and their children.  “Despite this many demonstrated strong resilience and coping strategies in the face of significant adversity,” said John-Mark McCafferty

The importance of family relationships also came out strongly in the study. As did the importance of strong and positive relationships with children and the rewarding experience of being a parent.  “All the participants were hopeful that their children would do well in school and be successful and happy in their lives.” said Mr. McCafferty.

Barriers for the many lone parents to take up employment, education or training were fear of losing supports such as the medical card or social welfare payment or being unable to afford the necessary childcare. The cost of education and lack of suitable employment opportunities or education and training courses locally were additional barriers. “The positive impact on personal well-being and sense of purpose for those who were engaged in education, training or voluntary work cannot be overstated, said John-Mark McCafferty.

The study concludes that the social welfare, health, housing, childcare and education systems are not responding adequately to the needs of some of the most vulnerable families in Ireland. “The impact of austerity and the cuts to social welfare and supports for education, employment and training have made some very difficult and challenging situations even worse.” it concludes.

In its Pre-Budget Submission for 2015, published earlier this year, SVP urged Government to:

  • reverse both the reductions in the earnings disregard for the One Parent Family Payment and the removal of full medical card entitlement from those returning to employment
  • Protect and enhance Family Income Supplement (FIS) - a vital financial support for one parent families where the parent works over 19 hours per week. “In relation to FIS we welcome the recent announcement of a proposed payment of €30 per child for parents returning to work.” said Mr. McCafferty.
  • ensure sufficient early childhood education services, childcare and after-school places to facilitate lone parents to participate in learning, training and employment.

This study has further key recommendations around education, health, education and childcare.

The full report is available here

 

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