Varadkar challenges report on single-parent families

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has challenged a report which shows that the number of working single-parent families living in poverty has doubled in five years.

The report from the Society of St Vincent de Paul found that in 2012 one in 11 working lone parents was living below the poverty line, however, that jumped to one in five in 2017.

Entitled Working, Parents and Struggling, the report analyses the employment conditions of one-parent families in Ireland.

The Fine Gael leader, however, said that statistics from the Central Statistics Office show that consistent poverty and deprivation among lone parents has reduced in the last four years.

He said: “I don’t think it (report) tells the full picture.

“It fell to 23.1% in 2014, a slight increase to 23.9% after that, 23.2% after that and 20.7% in 2017, so the figures we have are down on 2013.

“That demonstrates that the policies we have been implementing, helping people get back to work, improving welfare, reducing the cost of childcare, are working.”

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said the findings from St Vincent de Paul are an “indictment” of the Government’s record on poverty prevention.

She said: “The high cost of housing and childcare combined with low levels of income are making it impossible for families to make ends meet.

“(The report) finds that living standards of lone parents in this State are amongst the worst in Europe.

“That’s shocking Taoiseach. What’s most shocking is that the majority of one-parent families, the vast majority of whom are headed by women, are in work.

“These families are like others, they are people who get up at the crack of dawn and still struggle and fail to meet their and their families’ basic needs because of the cost of living crisis that leaves hundreds of thousand of people struggling.

“Low pay, especially in the context of soaring cost of living, is the real problem. Workers on low wages, in many cases in insecure employment, are being asked to find money to pay for extortionate rents and crushing childcare costs.”

Mr Varadkar defended the Government’s position saying it is helping lone parents to improve living conditions by creating jobs.

“The number of lone parents at work has increased, we are increasing welfare payments, and we are reducing cost of childcare,” he told the Dáil.

“We are increasing pay, minimum wage has increased and pay is being restored for people who are public servants.”

Ms McDonald replied: “It’s not unexpected but almost depressing that that’s the tone of your response because the measures you are taking are clearly not working.

“Many of the interventions that you cite are in effect subsidies really for low pay employment.”

- Press Association

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