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SVP report finds greater poverty among lone parents

By Ann Marie Foley - 06 March, 2019

“This report shows Ireland has a long way to go in creating pathways to sustainable, decent and family friendly employment which will address the growing issue of in-work poverty among lone parents” – Dr Tricia Keilthy, SVP.

In 2017 almost half (45 per cent) of lone parents attributed their money problems to housing costs, with almost 18 per cent in arrears on mortgage or rent payments. The rate of arrears for other households with children was 8 per cent in 2017.

This is according to a new report from the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP), which reveals that poverty among lone parents who are working has doubled. Housing and childcare costs combined with low income are to blame for this.

“This year SVP is marking the 175th anniversary of our foundation in Ireland. Irish society has changed beyond recognition since the first SVP members began their work in Dublin in 1844. However, many of the same issues of poverty – low paid, precarious work and poor quality housing – persist for the people we assist,” said Kieran Stafford, National President, SVP.

Titled Working, Parenting and Struggling, the report refers to Census 2016 figures showing that there are more than 218,000 one parent families in Ireland, representing 1 in 4 of all families with children. Almost 90,000 are single, 50,496 are widowed, and the remaining 68,378 are separated or divorced.

The report found that in 2012 every 1 in 11 working lone parents was living below the poverty line, but by 2017 this increased to 1 in 5. SVP stated that the report reflects the experience of its members, who are meeting more and more working families struggling to make ends meet.

SVP Social Policy Development Officer and author of the report Dr Tricia Keilthy said that high housing and childcare costs and low incomes “significantly reduce the standard of living of working lone parents, who face additional challenges as both the primary earner and primary care-giver for their families. They also create additional barriers to employment for those who want to take up a job or increase their working hours.”

The report analyses data from the European Survey of Income and Living Conditions, the Labour Force Survey and the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection to build a comprehensive picture of the income, work and living conditions of one parent families in Ireland.

Other findings of the report are that:

– Lone parents in Ireland are almost 5 times more likely to experience in-work poverty than other households with children (20.8 per cent compared with 4.2 per cent).

– 84 per cent of lone parents in Ireland were unable to meet unexpected expenses – compared with an EU-15 average of 58 per cent.

– In 2017 over half (58 per cent) of lone parents were working. However, this increases to 66 per cent for those with children over 12, indicating that when childcare needs are reduced more lone parents can work.

– Almost 60 per cent of lone parents reported that they could not access childcare services due to cost – the second highest rate in EU-15 countries just after Spain.

– Employment rates are 3 times higher among lone parents with third level education but 1 in 5 lone parents reported that they couldn’t access formal education for financial reasons.

Dr Keilthy concluded by welcoming Budget 2019’s Affordable Childcare Scheme and stating that: “this report shows Ireland has a long way to go in creating pathways to sustainable, decent and family friendly employment which will address the growing issue of in-work poverty among lone parents.”

She expressed the hope that the planned National Action Plan for Social Inclusion (2019–2025) will include “ambitious targets for reducing poverty among one parent families, which are linked to supporting actions across Government particularly in the areas of housing, childcare and employment.”

For full report see: www.svp.ie/workingparents.

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