The routes to lone parenthood are many: separation, divorce, desertion, death, imprisonment of a partner or an unplanned pregnancy. This research aims to develop an understanding of the statistical profile of lone parents in Co. Kildare, to consider those who provide services for lone parents in the county and to identify any gaps in service provision with a view to increasing understanding of, and capacity to respond to, the labour market needs of lone parents.
For the purposes of this research Lone Parents are defined as parents with dependant children who are divorced; separated; widowed; single; have partners in long-term institutional care i.e. hospital, prison; or women who are single and pregnant. There are 189,213 one-parent families in Ireland according to the 2006 Census data, which is 18% of all families in Ireland. The vast majority of one-parent families (86%), are headed by lone mothers, with just 14% headed by lone fathers. 58% of one-parent families have one child, 26% have two children and 10% have three children. There are 169,761 lone parent households in Ireland, 12% of all households. More than 10% (19,452) of the total number of one-parent families, live in multi-family households (for example, with the parents of the lone parent).
Lone parents with young families (with children aged under 15 years) are often identified as a subset of the population at greater risk of poverty. According to Combat Poverty, just 45% of lone parents work. Of those who do work, most women work part-time, while male lone parents usually work full-time. In order to work around their children’s needs, job choices are often limited and career advancement is poor. Lone parents often experience difficulty in accessing education or training because of a lack of good quality affordable childcare and after school care. The Department of Social & Family Affairs (DSFA, 2006) figures indicate that over 80,000 parents are in receipt of the One Parent Family Payment – 66% of all oneparent families.
According to the EU Survey on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC), lone parents are among those most at risk of poverty, with 36% of this group at risk of poverty in Ireland in 20041. Lone parents are typically likely to have left education at an early age, and they may also experience difficulties in relation to obtaining employment and housing. Members of lone parent households had the highest consistent poverty rate in 2004 (31.1%) (CSO, 2005). The available research suggests that persistent poverty can only be effectively addressed, and one-parent families achieve a good quality of life, if actions are taken that will have both short and long term effects on poverty levels (One Family, 2006).