Lone Parents - Proposals for Supporting

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The Government is committed to tackling child poverty and has made this a key objective under Sustaining Progress, the National Action Plan against Poverty and Social Exclusion and the National Children’s Strategy.

This report by Government presents a review of the issues facing lone parents as research has identified children of lone parents as one of the major groups at risk of child poverty. The report sets out the supports, income and otherwise in place; and the barriers to achieving economic independence. It seeks to tackle the relatively high risk of poverty and social exclusion faced by many such families and their children. The objective is that the proposed reforms and recommendations in the report will form part of a co-ordinated strategy in addressing this problem. This report contains two strands of work by expert working groups that was conducted under the auspices of the Cabinet Committee on Social Inclusion, chaired by the Taoiseach. The first is a review of obstacles to employment for lone parents carried out by the Senior Officials Group on Social Inclusion, chaired by the Department of the Taoiseach. This is one of the key actions under the ‘Ending Child Poverty’ Initiative’ of the ‘Sustaining Progress’ Partnership Agreement.

The second is a review of income support arrangements for lone parents carried out within my own Department of Social and Family Affairs. As Minister for Social Affairs a key focus for me has been to ensure that the social welfare system meets the needs of all of our citizens in 21st century Ireland. It must be a system that not only delivers income support, which of course is crucial to those concerned, but also a system that provides supports and encouragement, incentives and activation measures appropriate to people’s needs and abilities to ensure that their personal potential and contribution to society is fulfilled. For this reason I am happy to present the proposals of Government contained in these reports which relate not only to income support, but to the entire system of welfare and its reform and co-ordination in supporting citizens.

The social welfare system is operating in an increasingly changing environment. Nowhere is this more clearly shown than in the changing nature of family structures and the role of men and women in society and in the changes that have taken place in the labour market. Family formation and structure has become more fluid, with people moving between different family forms – lone parenthood, cohabitation, marriage. No longer is the married couple, with a male breadwinner the norm in Irish society. The number of lone parent families has increased significantly and now constitutes almost 17% per cent of families in Ireland. The vast majority of lone parents are women. This rise, which is happening due to the rising number of births outside of marriage, now accounting for 1 in every 3 births in Ireland, and the increase in marital breakdown and breakdown of cohabiting relationships, is reflected in the increasing numbers claiming the One Parent Family Payment (OFP) from the Department of Social and Family Affairs. OFP numbers have risen from 59,000 in 1997, to some 80,000 people currently supported through the payment and other supports, such as rent allowance, at a total cost last year of over €800 million.

Last modified:02/01/2006