The research provides an insight into the lives of some of the most vulnerable families in Ireland at a time when the income supports and services on which they rely have been severely reduced. The families who took part in this research were feeling the brunt of previous cutbacks and were fearful about further cuts to income supports and services occurring in the near future. The effects of prolonged austerity on family life, relationships, mental health and well-being are outlined in the report, as well as the negative impact on hopes, plans and ambitions for the future. Having to rely on a charity to make ends meet and for help with the most basic of necessities had taken its toll on many of the research participants.
This research was undertaken so that we can improve our home visitation work with families, and so that we can be sure that our social justice work reflects the needs of the families we are helping.
In terms of our social justice work, we will campaign to try and ensure that flexible, quality and affordable childcare is available for all parents and children; we will continue to campaign for a reversal in the cuts to the One Parent Family Payment and to make sure that supports for families in low paid employment are protected and improved and we will seek to ensure that the right kind of education and training opportunities are open to parents who are in a position to take them up.
The findings of this research suggest that a level of need can remain hidden even from SVP members who are carrying out visits and who may have an ongoing relationship with a family. The research also demonstrates that having to resort to help from a charity to make ends meet can be a very negative experience, no matter how sensitively the help is delivered.
We owe a debt of gratitude to the parents who took part in the research and shared their experiences of parenting alone on a low income and being helped by the SVP. Without their honesty, openness and generosity this research would not have been possible. We in SVP now have the responsibility to ensure that this research influences and changes the way we work and is used to develop better social policy for low income families in Ireland.