Lone parents who lost work should continue to get PUP, report says
Many families already experience high rates of poverty and have lost access to childcare provided by relatives
Food poverty has emerged as in issue in the pandemic with families who may ordinarily have benefitted from the school meals programme struggling. File photograph: Alan Betson
Lone parents who lost work due to Covid-19 but cannot take a job because of lack of childcare should continue to get the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP), a report published on Friday says.
The submission to the Oireachtas Covid Committee, Supporting One-Parent Families During and After the Covid Crisis, says many of these families already experience high rates of poverty and many have lost access to childcare provided by relatives.
“Lone parents were already struggling with the impact of years of cuts to public services and social security,” say the 10 NGOs behind the report, including One Family, Spark, Barnardos, Focus Ireland and the Society of St Vincent de Paul.
Lone parents are vulnerable to enforced hunger, fuel poverty, the digital divide, homelessness, loneliness and mental health difficulties, the report says. It calls for “urgent attention” to be paid to how policy decisions impact such families as the pandemic continues.
“The burden placed on lone parents’ mental health by home-schooling, caring full-time for children, meal preparation, managing the logistical stresses of shopping with children while working or pursuing education from home, all in isolation from key support relationships, cannot be overstated,” it says.
A condition that those receiving the PUP must “genuinely seek work” could “unfairly penalise parents who are not in a position to return to work because they cannot access childcare”, say the NGOs. This is particularly the case where lone parents relied on older relatives, who may be shielding.
Non-payment of child maintenance was reported by many parents from early in the pandemic.
The reports calls on Government to “move with urgency on the development of statutory maintenance processes to ensure women and their children at risk of abuse and poverty can be safe and secure”.
Food poverty emerged as a big issue. “Families who may ordinarily have benefitted from the school meals programme were struggling to keep food in the press.”
Educational concerns arose where children were in “overcrowded, unsuitable or unsafe accommodation” and about the so-called digital divide’s impact on poorer households.
Measures to protect against energy poverty, including a moratorium on disconnections, ended on June 29th.