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Many one parent families struggle to cover the basics of food, housing and energy costs

Saint Vincent de Paul has published a study on lone parents.
Sep 23rd 2014, 8:49 AM 6,531 72

MANY ONE PARENT families aren’t able to meet basic living costs according to a new study published by St Vincent de Paul.

The study “It’s the hardest job in the world” found one parent families struggle to cover the basics of food, housing and energy costs.

The President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, spoke at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul event, he warned that ”values such as greed, self-interest, the insatiable pursuit of material gratifications and unrestrained competition…have become widely endorsed.”

He said this and “the placing of the market as the centre of public policy for all human needs … have sweeping repercussions on policy making, media representations and, more generally, contemporary public discourse on what constitutes ‘prosperity’ and the good life.

The risk, as I see it, is that if we do not tackle the assumptions that have inflicted such deep injuries on our moral imaginations, we will end up going back to ‘business as usual’.

He added that, “as many of those advocating acquiescent fortitude on ‘the road to recovery’ would like us to do. There are signs already – on the housing market, on the credit markets – that such a return to ‘business as usual’ may be underway.”

unnamed (63) Source: Colm Mahady/Fennells

The study shows that the social welfare, health, housing, childcare and education systems are not responding adequately to the needs of some of the most vulnerable families in Ireland. It states:

The impact of austerity and the cuts to social welfare and supports for education, employment and training have made some very difficult and challenging situations even worse.

The report also found that lone parents were worried about taking up employment, education or training in fear of losing supports such as the medical card or social welfare payment or being unable to afford the necessary childcare.

The cost of education and lack of suitable employment opportunities or education and training courses locally were additional barriers.

SVP Head of Social Justice and Policy, John-Mark McCafferty said “The positive impact on personal well-being and sense of purpose for those who were engaged in education, training or voluntary work cannot be overstated.”

unnamed (62) Source: Colm Mahady/Fennells

Mental Health

The study also found that loneliness and isolation impact negatively on the mental health and well being of many lone parents and their children. McCafferty said:

“The sadness and stresses caused by life events including bereavement, relationship breakdown and children’s illnesses are magnified by having to manage these situations on a low income and with limited resources. There is a tendency to focus on day-to-day survival rather than making plans for the medium to long term.

“Despite this many demonstrated strong resilience and coping strategies in the face of significant adversity.”

The importance of family relationships also came out strongly in the study. As did the importance of strong and positive relationships with children and the rewarding experience of being a parent. McCafferty added that:

All the participants were hopeful that their children would do well in school and be successful and happy in their lives.

President Higgins added that, “Our citizens are anxious for a vision of where we are heading to as a society. Too many of them live in a unabated stress, dealing with financial circumstances that curtail their horizon and constrict them to a regime that is one of survival.

Speaking about Saint Vincent de Paul, he said,

Day after day, you seek out the forgotten; You listen to the voices of the voiceless; you support those who have to cope with unemployment, indebtedness, a relationship breakdown, a disability, or loneliness, and sometimes several of these plights at once.

“Your knowledge can very productively inform, not just our collective discourse, but also the policies aimed at tackling poverty.”

Read: Galway senator responds to criticism after branding SVP donations to gay rights groups “unwise”>

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Cliodhna Russell

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