Regina Doherty seeks to ‘unwind cuts’ made to lone parents

One-third of lone-parent families were ‘persistently deprived’ from 2004 to 2015

The gap between the poorest families and the wider population is larger in Ireland than in other comparable EU countries. Photograph:  Gareth Chaney Collins

The gap between the poorest families and the wider population is larger in Ireland than in other comparable EU countries. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty has said it is important that her Department “unwind cuts” made to lone parents during the recession.

Ms Doherty said while the economic recovery is “well embedded now”, there are still sections of society “that it hasn’t reached”.

The gap between the poorest families and the wider population is larger in Ireland than in other comparable EU countries, and grew faster during the recession, according to the latest Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) study.

It found that one-third of lone-parent families and one-quarter of families headed by a person with a disability were “persistently deprived” during the years 2004 to 2015. These rates are about 10 per cent higher than in 10 similar states.

Speaking at the launch of the ESRI study, Ms Doherty said a recent Indecon report indicated that “the policies we changed in the last number of years towards lone parents are and will work”.

“I’m sure they will have already worked in spades now if we hadn’t introduced the cuts that we introduced to lone parents in the last number of years. For me it’s exceptionally important that we unwind those cuts.”

Ms Doherty was referencing cuts made to the One Parent Family payment during the recession.

The Meath East TD said the Qualified Child payment which increased during the budget, was the first increase in eight years “and it certainly won’t be the last”.

Ms Doherty said the Government is “very cognisant” of the effects cuts have had to lone parents and promised to “redouble efforts” to help this group in society.

“The Department is now working on a new plan for social inclusion,” Ms Doherty said. “It is not a singular document but a whole of government approach that will aim to improve outcomes for all the vulnerable and marginalised among society.”

Ms Doherty said a number of policies are needed to tackle poverty and social inclusion

“We need to consider what are the best short term and indeed what are the best long term policies because this is not something that’s going to be eradicated in the coming months, I think it’s something that we’re always going to grapple with certain sections.”

Researchers measured material deprivation across three two-year periods between 2004 and 2015 and in 11 EU countries: Ireland, Britain, Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands, Austria, Belgium, France, Italy, Spain and Greece. Looking at levels over two-year periods allowed them to distinguish between groups experiencing spells of deprivation and those experiencing it persistently.

An estimated 130,000 children are in consistent poverty here, meaning they are in households reliant on less than 60 per cent of the average industrial wage, and they consistently do without two or more items, including an adequately heated home or a break away from home once a year.

Lead researcher Dorothy Watson said lone parents and working adults with a disability “really stand out” as the two groups with a higher risk of poverty and deprivation.

“We know that poverty and deprivation are of variable durations, some people are in that state for an extended period of time and some for a short period, having lost a job and then quickly moving on from that stage.

“The impact of being deprived is much more severe for those who have been in poverty for a long period.”