This week I was parachuted back to an old Joanne I use to know. A Joanne I now quietly weep for and wonder how she coped. I am sad to find out that lots of other Joanne's exist today feeling how I did back in the 1990s. Here's why I'm supporting the #YESCHILDEQUALITYJUNE10 campaign.
THE PAST REVISITS
This week I was contacted by a former work colleague and friend from my teenage days. When we knew each other I was a 'lone parent' and I washed dishes in a 5-star hotel to allow me go to back to school to re-start my two year studies for my Leaving Certificate. I was 17 years old. My daughter Sophie was six months old. Sophie's Dad was killed in a road traffic accident when she was six months old. But we helped each other along. She's now just short of her 20th birthday.
Ann contacted me, now herself acting as Super Mam and raising her child on her own, and asked me if I would support the SPARK (single parents fight back) campaign to help stop imminent cuts to the Department of Social Affairs One Parent Family Allowance (OPFA). This email brought me way back to when I was in that minority grouping in Ireland.
You wouldn't believe that 20 years ago in Ireland, that stigma was vociferous. It seems that the discriminatory policies of successive Irish governments haven't changed one bit since the 1990's. In this short video I share my 'lone parent' story, which reminds me of the fear, loneliness and absolute isolation I felt in this country. Without my own inner strength, self-belief and bitter determination to unwrangle from the vicious circle and stigma of being a teenager mom and a lone parent, I certainly would not be where I am today - alive, independent, educated, still living and realising my professional dreams.
MAKING WAVES IN LIFE
In life there are those who make waves and those who get drowned in the vicious currents of life. I've battled in that sea for many years on my own but I didn't want to go down. I wanted to live to see through and realise my own potential. Luckily for me I was strong enough to get ashore and realise my ambition of getting a third level education and as luck would have it I also met my now husband as my post-graduate education was ending. Now we are making waves together as a family and for me, the preciousness of that is my new driving force. It probably drives me a bit too much if I'm honest, but I feel so lucky to have got through those very dark days, many of them on my own.
The real financial impact will be felt by parents working part-time as the change to Job Seekers doesn't allow for them to work and keep their social welfare payment. For those who work 19 hours plus the Family Income Supplement will only be 60% of the payment they lose. A lot of the cuts are very detailed and for some hard to grasp. So to give an example campaigners, keep it simple, by using a lone parent working 20 hours on minimum wage, who will be down 108 euro a week and this does not include other cuts such as child benefit or rent. I hear the nay-sayers right now, but please don't judge or name-call or look your nose down - stop for one second and consider the impact on the child and the children involved.
THE LIVES BEHIND THE STATISTICS
Every Child Matters was the mantra for the Children's Referendum yet the lone parent reforms Tanaiste Joan Burton has introduced are causing loses of income, losses of part time jobs, drop out rates increased out of courses and stress, deprivation and increased homelessness to lone parent families across the country. 11,000 are already affected since 2012, the facts and statistics and CSO figures show increased poverty in the harsh light of reality. The remaining 32,000 are affected by July 2nd and we are hearing further stories of hardship as this progresses. These reforms are wrong and must be paused till affordable, accessible quality childcare is available as Tanaiste promised in 2012.
Value all our children, they did not cause marriage breakdowns, they are not to blame for absent parents or the death of a spouse, or unplanned pregnancy in a country without access to terminations etc. 60% of lone parents worked part time, many have only 1 child and most are aged 35-45 so the myths are not based on facts but untrue stereotypes (less than 5% are teenagers). Support our children! We want to earn, we want to learn but childcare is vital in order to do this as a sole parent.
LEND YOUR SUPPORT, VOICE AND SOCIAL MEDIA LOVE
So I am publicly supporting the SPARK #YESCHILDEQUALITYJUNE10 campaign. The group are holding a public peaceful protest at Dáil Éireann on Wednesday 10th June. If you can go along and show your support please do. I will be in Donegal that day, so in lieu of my presence I am sending this vitual support and will be driving the hashtag on the day. If you can't physically be there either, you can lend your support virtually too. So please add your voice to the campaign. You don't have to be a single Super Mam or Super Dad raising a child or children on your own to support it. You just need to understand that single parents don't choose it, and children must not suffer because of 'LIFE HAPPENING.' Use the hashtag on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Make your own video and the group will post it on their YouTube channel and social share it.
No parent walking alone should feel less supported or important. No child of a parent walking the parenting path on their own, should feel deprived or suffer poverty. Life happens to all of us and it is when life happens that we need support the most. And sometimes, often, we are too afraid to ask. Please support #YESCHILDEQUALITYJUNE10.
I'm very blessed to now be part of a family of four. xx