Poverty for lone parent families here is above average across the EU
Lone parent families in Ireland suffer a rate of poverty which is above the EU average, it has emerged.
Statistics compiled by the Luxembourg-based EU statistical service, Eurostat, show that single parent households in Ireland suffered a 25pc rate of "severe material deprivation" - this compared with the EU's average of 19pc.
Severe material deprivation is defined as the enforced inability to pay for four out of nine essential items. These include paying rent, mortgage or utility bills.
The problematic state also includes being unable to eat meat regularly and to keep the home sufficiently warm. The statistics were revealed in reply to a Dáil query from Fianna Fáil welfare spokesman, Willie O'Dea.
Mr O'Dea said that he was not surprised that severe material deprivation for lone parent households in Ireland was above the EU average. He said the test did not set the bar especially high and he specifically blamed welfare changes introduced in July 2015.
"These figures reveal what many of us already know to be true. It is that lone parents in Ireland are experiencing significant levels of severe deprivation, which unfortunately, but not surprisingly is above the EU average," Mr O'Dea commented.
"Lone parent income supports have been subject to regressive reforms. This is clear not only from the statistics but also from speaking to lone parents themselves," he added.
The Limerick TD said these reforms had caused a significant deal of hardship for many lone parent households. "During the recent debate on the Social Welfare Bill I argued for and secured a commitment from Minister Varadkar that the changes introduced by the previous Government to the One Parent Family Payment would be reviewed in light of the appalling rates of poverty and social exclusion amongst lone parent households," Mr O'Dea added.
"The data speaks for itself and if the Government fails to take action on this issue they are consigning lone parents and their children to the margins of society and a life of poverty and social exclusion," he added.
In July 2015 the One Parent-Family Payment, which had covered dependent children up to 14 years of age, was changed by then-Social Protection Minister Joan Burton. Under the new regime, which covers a total of 35,000 single-parent families, children are only covered up to seven years of age.