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Poverty in Ireland
Facts about Poverty
What is poverty?
How many people are poor in Ireland today?
Who is poor in Ireland today?
Children and poverty
Lone parent families and poverty
Homelessness and poverty
Measuring Poverty
Statistics on Poverty
Information for Students
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One-Parent Families and Poverty


Who are Lone Parents?

A lone parent is someone raising children on their own, whether they are a single parent, separated, divorced or widowed. 86% of lone parents are women. Census 2006 recorded 189,213 lone parent families in Ireland: 18% of all families are now one-parent families.


Lone Parents and Poverty

Lone parents are more likely than any other social group to be living in poverty. Data from the EU Survey on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC), conducted by the Central Statistics Office, shows that in 2009, 16.6% of lone parents were living in consistent poverty, compared to 5.5% of the population as a whole.

Among the reasons why lone parents are more likely to be poor are:

  • Lower levels of educational attainment: 47% of lone parents under 35 have Junior Cert level education only
  • The "poverty trap" which makes it financially difficult to move from welfare to work
  • Low-paid employment: lone parents who work are more likely to be in low-paid jobs, partly as a result of lack of qualifications and partly because of the difficulty in accessing affordable childcare.

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Social Welfare and Employment

In 2009, 90,484 people were in receipt of One Parent Family Payment (OPFP) from the Department of Social Protection. Of these, 56.1% were claiming for one child. Lone parents under 20 accounted for 1.7% of recipients. 97.88% of OPFP recipients were women.

60% of those receiving OPFP are in employment. Of these, most women work part-time, while most male lone parents work full-time. Lone parents often experience difficulty in accessing work, education and training opportunities because of a lack of good quality affordable childcare and after-school care. This means that job choices are often limited and low-paid.

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Approximately 38% of people on local authority housing lists are lone parents. In 2005, according to the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government's Assessment of Housing Need, 16,795 lone parents were on the housing list. Difficulty in accessing secure and well-paid employment means that many lone parents are unable to afford to buy a home and many may not qualify for affordable housing schemes, leaving them reliant on local authority housing.

The 2006 Census records 19,452 lone parent families who live in multi-family households (ie they do not have their own accommodation) - many of these are lone parents who live with their own parents or siblings.

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Getting out of Poverty

There are many barriers that prevent or hinder lone parents getting out of poverty. These include:

  • Insufficient access to affordable childcare to allow them to avail of the education and training opportunities that would improve their chances of securing better-paid jobs
  • The financial cost of the transition from social welfare dependency into employment, particularly the loss of secondary benefits such as the medical card and rent supplement
  • Lack of family-friendly work arrangements

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Further Information

Our website: the Poverty in Ireland section has comprehensive information on poverty and social exclusion in Ireland.

Our publications: go to our online publications catalogue where you can search for publications by subject.

Our library: our library has an extensive collection of resources on lone parents, families and social policy.

Other websites: go to our links page for listings of other sources of information on poverty and social exclusion.


Other Organisations

Specialist organisations working with lone parents include:

OPEN (One Parent Exchange & Network):

Treoir (National Federation of Services for Unmarried Parents and their Children):

One Family:

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