Supports needed for people living in single parent households
Posted on Friday, 9 June 2023
A new Report, 'In Transit', from One Family, conducted in conjunction with researchers from University College Cork and Trinity College Dublin examines the lived experiences of families in receipt of the Jobseeker’s Transitional Payment (JST).
The research was concerned with the "how JST is working ‘on the ground’" and aimed to document both the benefits and challenges relating to this relatively new payment in the Irish social welfare system. A key driver of this research is that "lone parent households are consistently over-represented in poverty statistics across all metrics (at risk of poverty, enforced deprivation and consistent poverty)".
The Report noted that for many of the participants in the research, moving from One-Parent Family Payment  to JST was difficult and came with a period of often intense uncertainty about what to expect from this new payment and also concerns about what was expected of them.
Many of the research participants were felt frustrated by the lack of training, educational and work opportunities that reflected their levels of education, existing skill levels and prior work experience.
The JST payment has at its core, the transition of caregivers in one-parent households into work. However, the biggest barrier faced was access to affordable, suitable childcare.
The research findings suggested that in many cases, the way in which "claimants were treated and received was inconsistent and likely to depend on the practice approach of the specific administrator".
Depending on individual circumstances, there are a number of potential financial ramifications for self-employment, for which there are no earning disregards, along with entitlement to Working Family Payment (WFP) which potentially allows low-income families to supplement their earnings.
Another hurdle faced was the transition onto standard Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) once the youngest child turns 14. This requires being available for and actively seeking work. However, yet again access to suitable and affordable childcare was an issue.
The Report noted that "One-parent families are not a generic group" and that the obligations and ramifications of the JST payment on individual families was sometimes difficult to understand.
Increased training for the Social protection staff who oversee the administration of JST "so that they can guide new entrants through their rights, entitlements, and responsibilities in an informed and helpful manner".
When transitioning into the payment, there is a need to be "fully appraised of precisely how the payment works and what is expected of them in a systematic and comprehensive fashion as a matter of course".
A more personalised approach to offering training, education and work opportunities which takes account of claimant interests and ambitions alongside existing skills and experience would be more beneficial. One such approach is One Family’s New Futures Employability programme funded by the EU and delivered in collaboration with the DSP in the North East. This is a programme which should be mainstreamed and accessible to all lone-parents nationally
There has to be access to appropriate school-age childcare, including for older children. This must be factored into any policy designed to encourage caregivers in one-parent households to transition into paid employment.
A supportive and encouraging approach to communication with claimants is suggested as being much more likely to produce desired outcomes.
The Working Family Payment should be made available to recipients of JST. Also, any earnings from self-employment should also be reconsidered and brought in line with how such earnings are treated under OFP by being subject to the same scale of means testing.
Caregivers in one-parent households should be allowed to continue on JST until their youngest child reaches the end of second level education if their circumstances are such that they wish to do so.
 One-Parent Family Payment is a payment for parents under 66 who are not cohabiting and whose youngest child is under 7. The payment ceases when the youngest child turns 7.