This is an empirically driven study that explores the experiences of lone parents in relation to their employment prospects in the Carlow area. The lone parents who participated in the research are a group of young adults who possess a range of educational qualifications and professional experience. All the lone parents participating in this research had either completed compulsory education, possess good work experience, or professional skills. However, their comparatively limited level of formal qualifications and work experience is a potential barrier, at least to their choice of employment.
They are very keen to enter the labour market in order to achieve a more financially independent and rewarding lifestyle for themselves and their children A series of interviews, questionnaire surveys, and focus groups were undertaken with key stakeholders. Analysis of the results suggests that the lone parents who participated in the research relied on state benefits for their income and in most cases received relatively little additional support either financially or through child care arrangements. These issues are clearly the major barriers to a return to the labour market for this group of young mothers. However a number of other potential barriers exist for these young people who all wish to return to the full-time employment (with one exception who wishes to work part-time). Other barriers to a return to the labour market for the lone parents who participated in the research include
- Increasing periods of time spent away from an ever changing labour market may undermine their marketability to employers in the Carlow area over time.
- The lone parents awareness of relevant opportunities was limited. This was addressed to some extent by programmes such as Moving On. (See Pg15 para.2)
- A number of lone parents do not possess relevant mobility either as a result of not being able to drive or not having access to a car. This limits their marketability for some types of work as well as limiting their ability to travel to work, or work in locations which are not easily accessible by public transport.
- The experience of lone parenthood appears to have impacted negatively in a range of ways. In particular the financial limitations associated with living on state benefits has contributed to high levels of stress and low levels of selfesteem.
- This has lead to increasing feelings of helplessness and isolation. These feelings are likely to become more sustained the longer they remain outside the labour market which increases the risk of long term social exclusion from mainstream society.
A number of workable recommendations which are designed to identify appropriate strategies to support lone parents in progression towards employment are articulated in Section 8. These recommendations have been informed by a detailed analysis of good practice support models which have been successfully implemented for other marginalized groups in Ireland, the UK, Europe and the USA.