N18S2PicFirstly, a declaration. I am a part-time parent. Whatever social welfare assistance I received from the State in supporting my child has already been taken away from me since the abolition of the One Parent Family Tax Credit in the 2014 Budget.
So I want to be 100 per cent clear on this: what follows has nothing to do with me since I and other separated/divorced fathers are longer relevant to this discussion in the eyes of the Government.
As of Friday last, over 30,000 lone parents of children aged seven and over – lone mothers in the overwhelming majority of instances – lost their One Parent Family Payment (OPFP).
This inexcusable and utterly regressive step has been instigated by Labour leader, Tánaiste and Social Protection Minister, Joan Burton.
Quite how a woman, let alone a leader of a party that has traditionally branded itself as the standard bearer for ordinary workers and our most vulnerable, can stand over such a decision escapes me.
It’s quite the potential epitaph ahead of an election in which Labour, if we can rely upon a succession of opinion polls, are set for an almighty kicking, with Ms Burton’s own seat in Dublin West far from secure.
And if the Tánaiste does lose her seat, surely ending her top level political career in the process, this despicable cut may well prove to be the proverbial nail in the coffin.
Over the past few months, Tramore-based lone parent Andrea Galgey has commendably done her bit in highlighting what last Friday’s cut means for 30,000 fellow mothers.
On more than one occasion on radio, both locally and nationally, she has had to reply to text message contributions from listeners who lazily presume that all lone mothers are either not working or are not interested in working. Guess what, lone mothers are taxpayers too.
Maintaining one’s dignity amidst a haze of ignorance is no mean feat, but Andrea has done that and more power to her.
Describing June 25th as ‘D-Day for lone parents,’ Andrea, who is part of the National One Parent Family Network, stated: “As of last Friday, I am no longer seen as a lone parent in the Government’s eyes. I am no longer seen as a family unit who is bringing up the future generation. I am no longer seen as a mother. I no longer have the supports that were put in place to help lone parents to help with the costs of childcare when working or studying.”
Andrea continued: “Instead, I am now reduced to being a mere number in a sea of numbers: a worker paying taxes, nothing more. And all because of an arbitrary age that was chosen – the age of my youngest child.
“With the help of the OPFP I was able to afford childcare when I went back to work. I was able to afford childcare when I was at college. Now that support is gone…
“I will still be subject to vilification and discrimination because of assumptions (made) about my life and how I ended up becoming a lone parent. My choices as a mother of maintaining a work-life balance have been taken from me because it’s assumed I don’t work. My children will suffer from this as I will suffer financial losses.”
It would take one hell of a cogent argument for someone to persuade me that raising a child, largely on one’s own, is a long-term lifestyle plan.
It would take a miracle of oratory for someone to convince me that a mother would volunteer to raise a child on her own, that she would pay absolutely no attention whatsoever to developing a career and in so doing, strive towards self-betterment and personal growth.
Our children will not be under our roofs forever. The time will come when they will, as we did before them, set out into the wider world to make their own careers and lives for themselves.
But until that time comes, responsible, loving parents will want to do everything they can to raise and support their sons and daughters as best they can. And part of that means providing for them. And providing for them as best we can generally entails securing and sustaining employment. So why make things more difficult for lone mothers? Where is the logic in such a move?
According to the National One Parent Family Network (citing CSO figures), back in 2011, when the OPFP was reformed, 63 per cent of lone mothers were working, in comparison to 58 per cent of married mothers. “Since these changes, that figure has dropped to 30 per cent,” read a statement they issued on Thursday last.
The network claims that Joan Burton’s reforms were based on the assumption that “lone parents are at home raising children and doing nothing all day”.
Now doing nothing all day might suit a small fraction among us, but have you tried an idle, unchallenging and therefore surely unrewarding life? Work not only brings cash into one’s bank account, but it also adds value to our daily existence. It is, in general, good for us.
The greatest obstacle facing single mothers in career terms and, indeed, many working married couples when it comes to both maintaining work, is affordable childcare. That nut remains to be cracked.
So why then has a Labour minister, and let’s not forget the backing of her Fine Gael colleagues in Government for that matter, signed off on a measure which can only make life tougher for over 30,000 lone mothers?
The curve in this ‘Banana Republic’ of ours just got a little more pronounced.