S.P.A.R.K. is a diverse group of single parents living in Ireland who have united together to protect our children from the radical policy changes introduced in Budget 2012. We are here to raise awareness of the many challenges one-parent families currently face and to identify the essential supports needed to allow us equal participation in society. We assert the rights of our children to be treated equally and demand acknowledgement and recognition of our family status. We actively challenge stereotyping of our familes. We oppose any economic, social, legal or political policies that have a detrimental effect on our children or on us as single parents. We seek equality for children regardless of their family circumstances.
On Saturday February 18th, single parents met at 2pm at Garden of Remembrance to protest against the recent cuts that discriminated against one-parent families. This is the untold story of budget 2012, the harshness and severity of the multiple cuts to single parents will inflict poverty to thousands of children across Ireland. It is the story the government wanted to be kept quite. Single parents will make sure their story and voices are heard. The government assumed this sector was an easy target, and it was not politically damaging to hit them. They did not expect them to organise and campaign, but the severity of the cuts has created a huge reaction by single parents all over the country. This is only the beginning of the campaign by SPARK, and we will continue to fight until these cuts and barriers are reversed.
Single mother Louise Bayliss who spoke at press launch and presented SPARK presentation to the Dail said: '' As a mother I will fight tooth and nail to protect my children. The government have underestimated the power behind a mothers love.''
SPARK thank OPEN, One Family, and Treoir for their assistance and support of our campaign. We also thank Richard Boyd Barrett TD who has from the start helped us launch our campaign, and has been a great support. Senator Jillian Von Turnhout has been a great voice of support, and has stood up for our children, and organised the AV presentation in the Dail to highlight the injustice of these cuts. We are also very grateful of the support given by Aengus O'Snodaigh TD and also Mick Wallace TD. We are a broad campaign, and are open to anyone who wishes to support us. The most important and best thing about our campaign, is that it has been and is organised by single parents themselves. We are growing in numbers and support and will fight this unjustice and discrimination until the end.
Richard Boyd Barrett TD said: "I think its brilliant single parents themselves are beginning to get organized and forming a coalition to fight against what were really disgraceful cuts that were inflicted on them in the budget. We have a lot of talk from the government about protecting the most vulnerable but what they did in the budget was attack the most vulnerable groups, the elderly, the young and single parents who are a group that suffer disproportionately from poverty. What’s really disgraceful about those cuts is that the government are talking about getting people into work, but these cuts will block single parents most of whom do work and want to work from getting back into work whether with CE Schemes or elsewhere. I think they are absolutely right to get organized and to get on the streets and put real pressure on the government to reverse these disgraceful cuts. It is just wrong to hit the disadvantaged, poor and the vulnerable in order to pay off bankers and bondholders and I hope their campaign will be part of a wider campaign against austerity."
Paul Hansard SIPTU community organizer said: "We are joining with SPARK to challenge the recent budget cuts to the single parents’ allowance, and the type of cuts made affecting single parent families. I think it’s disgraceful. There are 2100 people who work in community childcare employment delivering childcare, and without these people there is no community childcare. The affects of the recent budget are that people on single parent allowance will no longer be able to access CE places, and this will affect community childcare places all over the country and the delivery of childcare will be at risk. We are hearing anecdotal evidence, and supervisors are telling us that people aren’t making themselves available to replace people who are leaving the CE, and there is no new people coming to take on places, particularly in childcare. This will have a disastrous affect on childcare. They are telling us within six months we will have a serious undermining affect on community childcare, and it may not have a future. How does that leave people, particularly single parents accessing work if they have no community childcare?"
Ailbhe Smyth from OPEN said: "In OPEN were obviously extremely concerned about the impact of these cuts and the changes in the budget, because there is absolutely no doubt about it when you do the rhythmtics, lone parents are particularly harshly affected, both as experiencing the general run of cuts, and the also in relation to the cuts and changes that affect them directly as lone parents. When you run through the whole list, it’s really extremely worrying indeed, and there is no doubt the government is building a recipe for poverty of lone parents, and in particular of exuberated child poverty which is already a huge problem in this country. There is absolutely no doubt what so ever that will worsen. I think these cuts and changes are quite discriminatory against single parents."
Stuart Duffin from One Family said: "I think it’s important to recognize that community employment in particular for lone parents was about building skills and delivering services in communities that needed them. I am the chair of the community sector employers forum, and as employers were concerned about the issues that are surrounding the cuts to community employment, and the stymieing of chances for lone parents to develop skills and training to build up their particular skills. We need to see that the community sector is part of the solution in the economy, not part of the problem. We need to really focus on that. The community sectors employ approximately about 100,000 people, and of that we have 23,000 community employment places throughout Ireland. That is 23,000 training and employment training skills and development programmes around. Its harping people to build their own skills, and it is also helping communities to build their capacity. One of our major concerns is that many projects rely on community employment and many projects rely on lone parents. If community employment becomes a disincentive for lone parents many of those projects could close. For instance we were recruiting last week for childcare assistants, and out of the six we interviewed three withdrew. Three withdrew because they were lone parents and it would actually cost them to take up the post. These are major concerns if you have got the closures of crèches and community crèches throughout Ireland. It is actually counter intuitive and counter productive to the whole activation agenda, because where are we going to get childcare?"
Aengus O’Snodaigh TD said: "The government targeted one parent families in this budget, who is next in their sights? Everyone who values a fairer society has to stand together and shout stop. If the recent cuts are not reversed many one parent families will be left destitute in the poverty trap created by a Labour/FG government."
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