Supporting One Parent Families During and After the COVID-19 Crisis: Joint NGO Submission to the Special Committee on COVID-19 Response

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Children’s Rights Alliance
Dress for Success Dublin
FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres)
Focus Ireland
National Women’s Council
One Family
Society of St Vincent de Paul
SPARK (Single Parents Acting for the Rights of our Kids)
Barnardos, Children’s Rights Alliance, Dress for Success Dublin, FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres), Focus Ireland, National Women’s Council, One Family, Society of St Vincent de Paul, SPARK (Single Parents Acting for the Rights of our Kids) & Treoir (2020). Supporting One Parent Families During and After the COVID-19 Crisis: Joint NGO Submission to the Special Committee on COVID-19 Response.
As a group of organisations working with children and families and some of the most vulnerable groups in Irish Society, we are making this submission to the Special Committee on COVID-19 Response to ensure the needs of lone parents and their children are central to our country’s response to the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. One parent families are disproportionately impacted by many social issues and unfortunately the consequences of COVID-19 are no different. The necessary restrictions to limit the spread of the virus have added huge additional pressures to one parent families as they navigate the practicalities of self-isolation, increased food and energy bills from being at home more, childcare closures, familial conflict due to access issues and home schooling. With 86% of lone parents being women, the impact of the crisis is also a significant gender equality issue. The circumstances of one parent families prior to the pandemic have made them particularly vulnerable during this incredibly challenging time. Lone parents were already struggling with the impact of years of cuts to public services and social security. Compared to other households with children, lone parent households are more likely to: • live in consistent poverty and enforced deprivation; • be in low paying insecure jobs; • be working and living below the poverty line; • experience homelessness and housing insecurity; • be in debt and have low or no savings; • be distressed borrowers or have long term mortgage arrears • be at risk of energy poverty and • rely on paid childcare. At the outset of the crisis we collectively engaged with Government Ministers, relevant Departments and Regulators to ensure one parent families were considered in the response to the pandemic. As a result, a number of welcome measures were introduced to mitigate the worst financial and social impacts on lone parents and their children. These measures included the continuation of core family income supports for those who had lost their job or were on reduced hours, the provision of special arrangements for parents no longer in receipt of child maintenance who were also in receipt of a payment from the Department of Social Protection, a moratorium on energy disconnections including extra protections for Pre-Pay customers, the continuation of the school meals programme during the pandemic and holidays and the extension of the Fuel Allowance period. However, as the economy reopens, we are concerned that gaps in supports still remain and many lone parents will be put at risk of long-term unemployment if schools and childcare services are unable to fully reopen or if parents have to leave work to care for their children if they are required to self-isolate or are ill due to COVID-19. At this critical juncture, every effort should be made to ensure parents have an adequate income while out of paid work and that their links to the labour market are maintained. This submission includes a number of key measures that can be taken now to prevent a rise in unemployment among lone parents, a deepening of child poverty and gender inequality, and a rise in family homelessness.