WORKING lone parents in Kildare are facing difficult financial circumstances, according to a new report from the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP), which highlighted factors such as housing and childcare costs alongside low incomes.
Having analysed data from a number of sources, the ‘Working, Parenting and Struggling’ report provides a picture of income, work and living conditions of one parent families, with SVP noting that the living standards of lone parents in Ireland are among the worst in Europe with the second-highest rates of income poverty, persistent poverty and severe deprivation.
The report reveals that lone parents in Ireland are nearly five times more likely to experience in-work poverty than other households with children, while 84% of lone parents were unable to meet unexpected expenses. It also revealed that almost 60% reported that they couldn’t access childcare services due to the cost, and the cost of housing is an important factor too – almost 18% were in arrears on rent repayments or their mortgage.
The charitable organisation has said that the findings reflect the experiences of its members who are meeting increasing numbers of working families who are struggling to make ends meet. They described lone parents as representing the largest group seeking its assistance, noting that the rate of in-work poverty more than doubled between 2012 and 2017.
According to the most up-to-date Kildare Census 2016 Profile, launched in June 2018, there are 4,795 lone parent families (with children under the age of 15) living in the county, which it said was the fifth highest in the state though this may have changed in the intervening time.
Kieran Stafford, SVP’s National President, explained that this year the organisation is marking its 175th anniversary in Ireland and, while Irish society has changed “beyond recognition”, many of the same issues around poverty remain.
“Many of the same issues of poverty; low paid, precarious work and poor quality housing persist for the people we assist,” he said. “Our members see the strain on working lone parents who are trying to combine spending time with their children and meeting their caring responsibilities with jobs which can be inflexible and insecure, and often do not provide a sufficient income to meet all of the household needs.”
Dr Tricia Keilthy, SVP’s Social Policy Development Officer and the author of the report, said that the country is failing to protect these parents and their children from the adverse effects of poverty, adding that lone parents face additional challenges as the primary earners and care-givers for their families.
A similar reaction has come from One Family – an organisation for single-parent families, people sharing parenting, or separating – which said that government inaction on childcare and housing means that for many one-parent families work doesn’t pay.
“Successive governments have pushed one-parent families off social welfare but have failed to put adequate supports such as income supports, accessible childcare or housing supports in place to make work pay,” said CEO Karen Kiernan. “This new report from SVP adds to the pile of Government-commissioned research and independent research all saying the same thing – the majority of lone-parents and their children are living way below the poverty line and forcing them off social welfare into low-paid precarious employment is not working.”