High rate of poverty in lone-parent families

'Among the worst in Europe'
  • Deborah Condon

Ireland is failing to meet the needs of lone parents and their children, a major new report has found.

According to the report by the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP), the living standards of lone parents in Ireland are ‘among the worst in Europe' and these families are not being protected from the adverse effects of poverty.

The report is based on an analysis of data from the European Survey of Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC) in 2017, which includes information on living conditions, poverty and accessibility of services in European countries.

It found that among 15 EU countries assessed, lone parents in Ireland had the second highest rate of income poverty, persistent poverty and severe deprivation.

It noted that in Europe, one-parent families are, on average, three times more likely than two-parent families to experience deprivation. However in Ireland, this risk is five times higher.

The report also noted that in 2017, the vast majority (84%) of lone parents in Ireland were unable to meet unexpected expenses - the highest rate in the entire EU. An example of such expenses included having to deal with the unexpected cost of replacing a broken cooker or car.

Furthermore, 30% of lone parents in Ireland were having great difficulties making ends meet, compared to an EU-15 average of 19%.

The employment rate of lone parents in Ireland was the lowest in 15 EU countries, at 58%, and high childcare costs were a major reason for this. Lone parents with children over the age of 12 had an employment rate of 66%, while those with younger children or three or more children tended to have lower employment rates.

"The analysis indicates that the main drivers of high levels of deprivation among these families in Ireland is a combination of low income and a high cost of living. Almost 60% of lone parents could not access childcare services for financial reasons - the second highest rate among all EU-15 countries - and three times higher than two-parent families," the report stated.

Lone parents also struggled with housing costs, with 18% in arrears on their rent/mortgage compared to 8% of other households with children.

"These findings confirm the experience of SVP members who are meeting more and more working families struggling to make ends meet. They are seeing the strain on working lone parents who are trying to combine spending time with their children and fulfilling 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 need," the report said.

It makes a number of recommendations, including:
-Benchmarking the national minimum wage and social welfare to the cost of a minimum essential standard of living, so that everyone can access an adequate income.
-Making a significant investment in the childcare sector so that state subsidies are set at a level that will deliver accessible quality care for children, reduce the financial burden on parents and improve pay and conditions for staff.

The report, Working, Parenting and Struggling?, can be viewed here


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