There was a tense silence in the room when the video clip of lone parents telling their stories of struggle and hardship ended. The voices in the clip, played during the launch of the St Vincent de Paul’s Pre Budget Submission, clearly expressed the rage, despair and hopelessness of lone parents who find themselves with reduced incomes or who cannot afford the cost of the childcare they need in order to work. All this because of the reforms made to the One Parent Family Payment.
The rawness of anger and sadness in the clip jarred with the mannerly atmosphere created by the policy makers, journalists and interested stakeholders present at the launch. And so it should. Because this is the reality of SVP members who willingly enter that place of hurt, disappointment, hardship and anxiety and do what they can to help people through their problems.
In our Pre Budget Submission SVP highlighted the lack of policy coherence which is causing problems for vulnerable families. It simply does not make sense that while one arm of Government, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, is trying to create an innovative approach to solving the early years, childcare and afterschool care challenges, that the Department of Social Protection actively causes more hardship and stress for some families by its activation policy for lone parents.
There are serious challenges facing the early years, childcare and after school care sector. Long term funding is needed for Ireland to establish a sustainable State subsidised funding model. Investment must increase, and be sustained, in the sector to achieve this.
Budget 2017 must continue the work began last year to begin to upgrade the sector. The promised single subsidised childcare scheme must be delivered next year, along with quality measures which secure better outcomes for children, The evidence is clear on the enduring and long term returns, for both society and the economy, when this sector is invested in.
Providing our young, and school age children, with access to high quality care and education will equip them to both benefit from their brief years of childhood and acquire life skills which will enhance their life chances.