Good Outcomes for Lone Parents

The contribution from the Lone Parent team to wider society in recent years stems from their research into Irish Lone Parents and their families as policy experts and advocates. As social scientists in the UNESCO CFRC whose mission statement is to help create conditions for excellent policies, services and practices that improve the lives of children, youth and families through research, education and service development, it is their intention to continue to influence the policy process.  The lives of lone-parents and their children has been an area of study that they chose to engage in because of concern about the poverty levels this family form live in and because employment is not a straightforward solution to this problem, if it was, there wouldn’t be lone-parents in Ireland living in poverty.

Both Michelle and Rosemary's most recent research in this area investigated best practice and innovative approaches to the labour market activation of lone-parents in Ireland and internationally, with a focus on approaches with the potential to create good outcomes for lone-parents and their children in terms of achieving financial independence and social well-being. The evidence is then grounded in its application to the Irish context, giving due consideration to the profile of Irish lone-parents and the barriers to paid employment they experience, as well as the relevance and applicability of such approaches to Ireland. The research was carried out during significant policy change in relation to lone-parents which involved labour market activation of those lone-parents in receipt of social protection and culminated in their IRC funded report Lone Parents and Activation, What Works and Why: A Review of the International Evidence in the Irish Context. (Millar and Crosse, 2016). Our research caused policymakers to acknowledge that many lone-parents were financially worse off in paid employment as a result of activation policies. Furthermore, it has had an impact in ensuring policymakers monitor and report on the impact of the policy change on lone-parents. It has resulted in the acknowledgment by policymakers of the particular challenges faced by lone-parents in Ireland in their daily lives, and challenges faced in making the move from welfare to work. The research has changed the narrative around lone-parents in Ireland and has highlighted the continuation of a prevalent theme in social welfare policy in this area, that of the welfare trap. This research has been utilised by advocacy groups and NGOs to agitate for a change in policy towards lone-parents.

Engagement with and influencing policy-makers in relation to the lives of lone-parents and their children has been personally rewarding, as well as enriching the educational experience of our students, through the illustration of the impact of the work that social scientists do and the role that we play in both informing and influencing policy.