In his article of June 7th, "Overlooked welfare system key to avoiding rise in inequality" (Business Opinion & Analysis), John FitzGerald refers to the "emergence of a targeted approach and earlier intervention" in Government policies regarding those who are or may become long-term unemployed.
The reality is that policies to reform the social welfare system – in an apparent attempt to negate or reduce risk of income inequality – are not working, particularly in respect to recent reform of the one-parent family payment. Rates of child poverty and homelessness, notably for one-parent families, continue to rise.
In 1973, after much hard lobbying work, One Family – then called Cherish – celebrated the introduction of the unmarried mother's allowance, as the one-parent family payment was then called.
It is unacceptable that Government policy today still does not, however, recognise the realities for a parent bringing up his or her child alone. An extremely limited investment in services such as housing and childcare is evidence of this failing.
Low-income families are forced into a constant battle against rising costs, meaning that they are prohibited from progression.
In addition to low levels of education, as highlighted by your columnist, it is these structural barriers that most impact on parents being able to take up employment, or opportunities to return to education.
Such barriers are, of course, also challenging for two-parent families working on average salaries; they are immense obstacles to overcome for a lone parent working on a low income, or wishing to access employment, without the necessary supports and services in place.
While the rates of social transfers and benefits in Ireland are higher than in Britain, analysis by the OECD actually shows that when combined with investment in services, Britain and most other OECD countries transfer more than Ireland. In-work supports are vital but are not yet in place here. What is required is long-term investment in services to truly combat the inequality and poverty experienced by so many children and families in Ireland. – Yours, etc,
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