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Michael Philbin was a doting father of two daughters. So, when he started working for local charity Edinburgh Lone Fathers Project (run by One Parent Families Scotland) he brought lots of first hand knowledge and empathy about how important fathers are to children. At that job, Michael became as well loved by the families he helped, as he was by his local community in Broxburn, where he had lived most of his life. As a keen walker who volunteered at his local boxing club, his friends and colleagues were stunned when he passed away suddenly from an unknown cardiac issue on New Years Day, 2017.
11 of those people – his oldest friends from Broxburn, recently honoured Michael’s memory by walking the West Highland Way from Milngavie to Fort William. In the planning for the hike, they thought it would be a nice gesture to raise money for his old project and set an ambitious target of £1000. 96 miles and a lot of blisters later, Hike for Mike raised over £5000!
Satwat Rehman, Director OPFS said:
“Mike was a much valued and loved by his friends, family and those he supported and worked with at OPFS. Mike’s loss is still felt by us all. We are extremely grateful by the fundraising efforts of Mike’s friends in the ‘Hike for Mike’ and are looking forward to the celebration event. The donations will go in memory of Mike towards helping OPFS support the project that meant so much to him.
Please join former colleagues, families Michael helped, friends and his own family to celebrate this incredible achievement on Saturday October 6th 1:00 – 3:00 at Bridge 8 Project (Calder Crescent , EH11 FNE, https://www.facebook.com/bridge8hub/). A cheque presentation will take place, along with canoeing activities for children on the canal, face painting, and scavenger hunts.
In Scotland, 1 in 4 families are headed by a single parent – 170,000 single parents with over 281,000 children. By 2021 single parents, the majority women, will lose 20% of their income due to UK welfare reform – around £5,250 a
year. The predicted increase in the child poverty rate for children in lone-parent households to over 62% can only be described as catastrophic and highlights the need for policies targeted at single parent families.
Policies on child poverty cut across both Westminster & Holyrood governments policy agendas. Westminster policies removing the safety net of social security, along with low wages, and increasing housing costs have adversely
affected the lives of millions of children and families. A key cause has been the 2015 freeze on benefits and tax credits for working families. In addition, the cuts to the Universal Credit Work Allowance have intensified this. Restoring the Work Allowance to its original level would allow working families to keep more of what they earn. The universal credit roll out should be paused and be reformed. We need a social security system that is linked to financial need, removes artificial limits such as the 2-child policy and benefit cap as well as the punitive sanction regime.
The Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017 places a duty on the Scottish Government to eradicate child poverty by 2030.
They have identified 3 key drivers of poverty: income from employment; costs of living and income from social
security & benefits in kind. They have also recognised single parents as a key priority group and have highlighted that 37% of children of lone parents in poverty live with a parent in work. A range of new initiatives are under way including: intensive employment support for parents; after school care policy; a new financial health check service and a new Income Supplement. We would like to see employability programmes tailored to meet the particular challenges facing single parents and increasing child benefit by just £5 a week for every child could lift 30,000 children out of poverty in Scotland.
For single parents, childcare is crucial to help make work possible and to take up training and education. As both the main carer and main earner, single parents can’t ‘shift-parent’ in the same way couple parents do in order to manage childcare and school pick-ups and drop-offs.
Through our various services OPFS enables single parents to believe in themselves; access flexible childcare,
enter paid employment, training or education, and take up new opportunities helping to reduce poverty. In 2017 /18 OPFS gave active support to 7,291 families and their children. With the predicted poverty rate increasing so dramatically our service is more important now than ever before.
This article features in the Third Force News magazine, September 18 edition.
OPFS Family Support Services appeals for “cosy clothes” for single-parent families in Dundee.
The effort comes as the city continues to face major issues with child poverty.
Ann McKenzie, deputy director of the OPFS, said: “The weather is getting colder and many families do not have the means to buy warm clothing for their children or themselves.
“OPFS Family Support Services is launching a campaign to try to provide families in need, experiencing the impact of low incomes and poverty, with warm clothing, bedding and footwear for the colder months ahead.
“We are looking for donations of coats, sturdy shoes and boots, hats, gloves and scarves for children and adults. We are also looking for cosy baby and children’s blankets.
“We are very much focused on the needs of single parents and their children, and through our work with families have recognised that there is a need for giving them access to warmer clothing during the winter.
“We ran a very successful campaign last year and are repeating this for 2018.”
Ann said that the charity concentrates on attempting to alleviate poverty in single-parent families.
She said: “There is considerable deprivation and childhood poverty in the city, and our evidence shows that single-parent families in particular have a much greater chance of being in poverty.
“We work to respond to this need and we are very lucky that there are many people who are keen to provide us with donations.”
A report published earlier this year described Dundee’s childhood poverty blight as the city’s “greatest shame”.
The report, by the End Child Poverty Coalition, showed the city has one of the worst rates of child poverty in Scotland, with more than 8,000 – or 28% – of children growing up below the poverty line.
Donations can be handed in to Families House, 20 Grampian Gardens, Monday–Friday, from 9am–4pm, or to the group’s community flat at 14 St Boswells Terrace on Thursdays from 10am-2pm.
Ann added: “We may also be able to make arrangements to pick things up from Dundee House in the town centre.”
See original article on Evening Telegraph.
OPFS is seeking your views on potential changes to the law covering parental ‘responsibilities and rights’ and ‘contact and residence’ relating to children when parents are no longer together. Scottish Government have issued a consultation document and we want to know what single parents think about some of the key questions to help inform our submission.
The full consultation on the review of ‘Part 1 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995’ can be found here. The following briefing gives some background information to the survey questions and OPFS initial views.
What some of the language used means:
- What is a single parent?
Generally speaking, public policy defines single parents as single adult heads of a household who are responsible for at least one dependent child, who normally lives with them.
The law in Scotland sets out what parents must do for their children (responsibilities) and the rights that parents have in relation to their children. There are certain things that parents are expected to do for their children while they are growing up. These are known as ‘parental responsibilities’. Along with this, there are certain things that parents are allowed to do to bring up their children. These are known as ‘parental rights’.
What are Parental Responsibilities and Rights for?
Parents have the responsibility to:
- Safeguard and promote their child’s health, development and welfare
- Give their child direction and guidance suited to his or her stage of development
- Keep up their personal relationship and contact with their child – even they do not normally live with him or her.
- Act as their child’s legal representative.
In as far as it’s practical and in the best interests of the child parents with these responsibilities also have rights so that they can carry out their responsibilities.
Who has Parental Responsibilities and Rights?
All mothers have these responsibilities and rights – only a court order can take any of them away. A father also has these responsibilities and rights, but only if:
- He was married to the child’s mother at the time of their child’s conception or at any time after that or
- He and the mother jointly registered their child’s birth on or after 4 May 2006 or
- He has made and registered, together with the mother, a Parental Responsibilities and Parental Rights Agreement (PRPRA) or
- He has been given them by a court order.
- Residence & Contact Orders
- A residence order regulates the arrangements made about where the child lives. This could include arrangements that the child should reside at different times with each of his or her parents and not just with one parent all of the time. It may also include residence with other people.
- Contact orders set down the arrangements which should ensure the child has contact with people with whom he or she is not living.An order limiting or amending a parent’s right to maintain personal relations and contact with a child will only be made by the court if it is ‘ in the child’s best interests’. Residence and contact orders last until the child is sixteen.
Alternative Dispute Resolution is a means of settling any disputes outside the court-room. It is not meant to replace the courts and it is not a substitute for legal advice, however it can sometimes have advantages over going to court.
A birth must be registered within 21 days by the Registrar. The mother of a child always has parental responsibilities and rights in relation to the child, unless a court has removed them. Jointly registering the birth of a child has legal implications – a child’s parents are both given parental responsibilities and rights if they register the child’s birth together and both of their names appear on the child’s birth certificate.
- ‘Best Interests’ of the child
Legislation recognises the right of children and young people to be consulted about decisions in their lives and for those views to be considered in decision-making. This involves a set of key principles including:
- The child’s welfare should be paramount in all decisions.
- Children should have the opportunity to express views and have their views considered in decisions which affect them.
The first principle above is known as the ‘paramountcy principle’ and means that all decisions made should be in the ‘best interests’ of the child.
Background to OPFS Survey Questions
Questions 1 & 2. Please confirm what local authority you live in, and if you are a single parent.
Question 3. What steps should be taken to help ensure that children continue to have relationships with family members, other than parents, who are important to them when their parents are separated?
Context: When parents of a child split up or where children are cared for out with
the family home, children should be able to maintain relationships with family members, other than the parents themselves, who are important to them. It is argued that family law in Scotland should reflect the changing nature of families and recognise that families come in all forms, and that a child’s welfare is supported when they are helped to maintain relationships that are important to them.
Question 4. Should the law take for granted that children benefit from contact with their grandparents?
Context: Grandparents can provide a significant support role for families particularly in relation to children who experience parental separation. However, OPFS believes this should be balanced with a focus on the child and the paramountcy of their best interests, along with taking account of their views. There is also the issue of a parent being denied contact and the grandparents being allowed contact and how to ensure that the grandparents don’t facilitate access to the parent.
Question 5. How should contact orders be enforced?
Context: Presently, if a person believes a contact order is broken they can go back to court and either seek a variation of the contact order or seek to hold the person breaching the contact order in contempt of court. The penalties are:
- The max penalty which may be imposed for contempt of court by the Court of Session is two years’ imprisonment or an unlimited fine or both.
- The max penalty which may be imposed for contempt of court by the sheriff court is three months’ imprisonment or a fine or both.
Research suggests that issues of non-compliance were very low – reported as generally being 5% or less of family actions or court business. The consultation document suggests the following options:
- no change to existing procedure.
- alternative sanctions. (eg unpaid work, attending a parenting class or compensation).
- making a breach of a contact order a criminal offence with penalties including non-custodial sentences and unpaid work.
- Other options
OPFS believes it is inappropriate to jail someone for failing to obey a contact order. Another option would be to seek mediation for enforcement of contact orders.
Question 6. Should DNA testing be compulsory to determine who the parent is where there is a dispute regarding this?
Context: A person can apply to the courts for a declarator of parentage or non-parentage. A person with a declarator of parentage may then use that to seek Parental Responsibilities and Rights.
The proposal in this consultation is that if the mother refused to consent to DNA testing of the child in a parentage or non-parentage case, the court would be empowered to require DNA tests if in line with the best interests of the child. It is, however, arguable that this would amount to a breach of the child’s rights in terms of Article 8 of European Convention on Human Rights, aside from the terms of Articles 7 and 8 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Question 7. Should the term ‘parental rights’ be removed from the law?
Context: This question is asking whether it makes sense to focus on parental responsibilities or retain the current focus on rights and responsibilities. In favour of removal is that parental responsibilities would then become centre stage and therefore the best interests of the child would be given priority in the decision-making process. On the other hand, removing the term parental rights may negatively impact on parents, for instance, when dealing with social work services. OPFS believes there should be more emphasis on parents exercising rights on behalf of their children.
Question 8. Should the terms ‘contact’ and ‘residence’ be replaced by a new term such as ‘child’s order’?
Context: Currently the terms ‘contact’ and ‘residence’ are used in court orders. OPFS feels to change to ‘child’s order’ could cause confusion as the context and terms are understood. A child’s order is not 100% clear.
Question 9. Should a step parent’s parental responsibilities and rights (PRRs) agreement be established to avoid the courts becoming involved?
Context: Scottish Government are seeking views on whether to introduce a step parents parental responsibilities and rights agreement so that step parents could obtain PRRs without having to go to court. If established in Scotland, it could be registered and there would be a fee charged for registering an agreement. There are a number of pros and cons of establishing a PRRs agreement for step parents.
Arguments in favour are:
- A PRRs agreement for step parents could reduce the number of court
cases where step parents are seeking PRRs; and
- A PRRs agreement for step parents could also enhance the role of the step parent and acknowledge that they might play an important role in the life of the child.
Arguments against are:
- The proposal may not take full account of the views of the child on whether the step parent should have PRRs.
- A PRRs agreement for step parents could mean both parents as well as a step parent having PRRs which may not be in the best interests of the child;
- We would need to define exactly who would be regarded as “step parents” for the purpose of being eligible to complete and register an agreement; and
- A step parent can already apply to the court to obtain PRRs.
OPFS believes there needs to be some safeguards as this could be used to acquire power over a mother in domestic abuse cases. There is also the need to consider on a case by case basis whether it is in the best interests of the child – safeguards in place via the courts.
Question 10. Should all fathers be granted parental rights and responsibilities (PRR’s)?
Context: Scottish Government are seeking views on whether all fathers should automatically have PRRs in the same way as mothers without having to go through a court process. Currently all fathers are not automatically granted parental rights and responsibilities and must apply to the courts.
At present, OPFS is comfortable with the current position. It is evident who the mother is, but it is not clear in the same way who the father is. The people who have rights over children needs to be considered in relation to the best interests of the child. The rights of children mean that contact and PRRs are different. The decision on PRR should be made based on what is in the best interests of the child.
Question 11. Should the law allowing a father to be given PRRs by jointly registering a birth with the mother be backdated to before 2006?
This consultation asks whether the provision that fathers can obtain PRRs by jointly registering the birth should be backdated to before the year when it became law – 2006. PRRs apply generally until the child obtains the age of 16. Therefore, from 2022 [i.e.16 years from 2006] there will no longer be any fathers who did not receive PRRs by jointly registering the birth.
Question 12. Should joint birth registration be compulsory (both parents named on the birth certificate)?
Context: Since 2006 an unmarried father can obtain parental rights and responsibilities by registering their name on birth certificate along with the mother. Making this compulsory would reduce the need for fathers to apply to the courts for their name to be put on the birth certificate.
However, this is potentially unworkable, compulsory joint birth registration assumes that the father is known which is not always the case and could lead those involved in domestic violence or sexual assault being given access to parental responsibilities and rights to the disadvantage of both mother and child. The proposal may also be a barrier to registration, which is a child’s right under UNCRC.
Question 13. Should it be taken for granted in law that a child benefits from both parents being involved in their life?
Context: Scottish Government are seeking views on whether to legislate that in contact and residence cases courts should presume that a child benefits from both parents being involved in their life.
However, there will be cases where a child does not benefit from both parents being involved in their life. In addition, any presumption in favour of shared parenting might cut across the key principle that the court shall regard the welfare of the child concerned as its paramount consideration. OPFS takes the view that the focus on the child and the paramountcy of their best interests, along with taking account of their views should be maintained without the introduction of any legal presumptions.
14a. Should the Scottish Government do more to encourage schools to involve non-resident parents (for example, parents who are separated or divorced) in education decisions?
Scottish Government are seeking views on how best to ensure that non-resident parents are kept informed by schools. In particular, they are seeking comments on pupil enrolment and annual updates to schools about information on pupils. OPFS is supportive of this where it is in the best interests of the child. Legislation needs to reflect the impact this can have in domestic abuse cases and education staff need to be aware of this.
14b. Should the Scottish Government do more to encourage health practitioners to share information with non-resident parents if it is in the child’s best interests?
Scottish Government are seeking views on how best to ensure that non-resident parents are kept informed by health boards and GP surgeries. OPFS is supportive of this where it is in the best interests of the child. Legislation needs to reflect the impact this can have in domestic abuse cases and education staff need to be aware of this.
14c Are there any other areas in which Scottish Government could do more to encourage involvement / share information with non-resident parents?
This question provides the opportunity to add in further comments around information given to non-resident parents and their participation in matters relating to their children.
Question 15. Should the Scottish Government act to try and stop children being put under pressure by one parent to reject the other parent?
Context: Scottish Government are seeking views on what action, if any, they should take to prevent ‘children being put under pressure by one parent to reject the other parent’. We note that the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland has highlighted that “Parental Alienation Syndrome” has been robustly discredited and it should not play any part in court proceedings. See more.
We feel the question would have been better put as “Is there anything that could be done to make it easier for children to be able to maintain appropriate relationships with both parents?” We are all subject to external influences, including from family members. Children are no different. However, a parent may appear to be turning a child against another parent, but they are actually trying to protect the child. An example could be in cases where there are allegations of domestic abuse. OPFS considers that rather than legislation in this area, the resources would be far better spent on parental support and education.
Question 16. Should the Scottish Government do more to encourage Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) in family cases?
Context: Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) refers to ways of resolving dispute between parents such as:
- Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings.
- Better signposting and guidance.
Going to court to resolve family disputes can be stressful, expensive and time consuming. ADR is useful for cases that don’t reach court and don’t involve domestic abuse.
Question 17. We welcome your comments about anything regarding Family Law consultation and issues raised in this survey.
Questions 18 – 22. Some basic questions about you.
Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP, The Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People, met single parents today who have been involved in using their own personal experience of the UK benefits system to help make sure the new Scottish system is based on dignity and respect.
The ‘Best Start Grant’ is one of the first benefits to be delivered by the new Scottish Social Security Agency and Scottish Government staff have worked closely with parent service users to develop this new service.
Best Start Grants are payments to help low income parents. The Pregnancy and Baby Grant will be available before Christmas 2018 – a one-off £600 grant for the birth of a first child with £300 payments for 2nd and subsequent children. This will be followed by 2 further payments at key transition points in the early years by Summer 2019.
Satwat Rehman, Director of OPFS who met Shirley-Anne Somerville today said:
“OPFS has been very happy to reach out to women who have young children to involve them in supporting the development of the Best Start Grant. Scotland’s new social security system must be based on dignity, fairness and respect and involving parents who have great expertise through their own personal experience is a great start.”
Scottish Government staff set up sessions where users were able to try out the new application form (both online and in paper form), give feedback on the process and help the agency learn about their needs.
Ms Somerville, who is responsible for delivering Scotland’s first devolved social security system, said:
Ms Somerville said: “I was really pleased to visit OPFS and meet some of the parents who’ve been instrumental in shaping the Best Start Pregnancy and Baby Grant. With their help, we’ve created a benefit that will pay more money to more children than the UK Government’s current Sure Start Maternity Grant and we will pay it six months ahead of schedule.”
“We will continue to work with parents and families with experience of the current system to make sure our new Social Security system treats them with dignity, fairness and respect.”
From 19 September 2018 universal credit arrives in some parts of Glasgow. This will only affect you If you need to make a new claim for benefits or have a change in your circumstances.
Please note this is only for families with 1 or 2 children at the moment.
A change of circumstances could include your child turning 5. If you are worried about a change in your household and how it might affect your payments call the Lone Parent Helpline on 0808 801 0323.
The jobcentres affected this month are:
- Govan – 19th September
- Laurieston – 26th September
- Newlands – 26th September
The rest of Glasgow will become a full service area between October and December 2018. Existing benefit claimants will be moved over (migrated) to UC from 2019 onwards.
See the table below for the dates where you live. If your area isn’t on the table you are already in a full universal credit area.
If you have any questions about universal credit please call the Lone Parent Helpline on 0808 801 0323, or see our universal credit factsheet for more details.
|September 2018||Argyll and Bute
Glasgow (part) Govan, Laurieston & Newlands
|October 2018||Aberdeen City
Glasgow (part) Partick & Springburn
|November 2018||City of Edinburgh|
|December 2018||Glasgow City: Castlemilk, Drumchapel & Shettleston|
See our Universal Credit updates to help you with changes to your benefits.
OPFS replied to the Scottish Parliament’s Social Security Committee inquiry into social security and in-work poverty. The Committee’s focus is on the potential impact of Universal Credit on in-work poverty and indications of increasing needs in working households.
Single parents will, on average, be financially worse off when in receipt of Universal Credit – whether working or not. Some single parents already receiving Universal Credit are facing forced evictions and are struggling to afford the essentials needed to bring up children. For example, under Universal Credit:
- Single parents will lose around £1,300 (7.6 per cent) annually by 2020;
- The cut to the Universal Credit work allowance means the average working single parent will lose £800 a year – some will lose over £2,000 compared to current benefits;
- More single parents will be at risk of unfair sanctions – single parents with preschool children will now be expected to seek work regardless of the local availability of childcare or flexible work.
OPFS believes employment should provide a decent standard of living, offer pathways to progress and allow parents to balance work and home life. However, as we know over 68% of single parents enter the three lowest paid occupation groups and are more likely to be in low-paid work.
The predicted increase in child poverty for children in single parent households to over 62% will be exacerbated by the roll out of Universal Credit. We believe parents should be able to make their own decisions about how best to blend work with family life rather than be persuaded into work, under threat of a cut to benefit, that doesn’t meet their family’s needs. Access to training, education and qualifications is crucial for single parents to improve employment and pay prospects.
The Westminster government must live up to its promise to always ‘make work pay’, to protect families from in-work poverty. Work incentives under universal credit should be improved and conditions to look for work eased. Employers and governments should work together to encourage family friendly employment and progression in work across pay grades and sectors. Lastly childcare which is affordable, flexible, high-quality and responsive to parents’ needs is vital to enable single parents to make genuine choices on work and care.
Scotland’s new public service to make first social security payments
Carers will receive the first payments of the new Carer’s Allowance Supplement from mid-September, back-dated to April.
This new benefit will be paid twice a year by Social Security Scotland, the first major new public service to be created since devolution.
Eligible carers will get a supplementary payment of £221, equivalent of an extra £8.50 per week, an increase of 13% on Carer’s Allowance from the Department of Work and Pensions.
Cabinet Secretary for Social Security, Shirley-Anne Somerville, said:
“Making these payments will represent a historic moment, launching a new public service that will deliver a social security system that treats people with dignity, fairness and respect.”
“We recognise the important contribution carers make, and we believe the current total paid out to them is not enough. This supplementary payment allows us to get more money in the pockets of carers in Scotland as quickly as possible.
“We have always made clear we believe that Carer’s Allowance should be the same rate as Jobseeker’s Allowance. Having new powers over social security means we can make this a reality and this additional payment is in recognition of the important contribution carers make to society.”
The Carer’s Allowance Supplement is worth more than £30 million a year and will benefit more than 75,000 carers.
Carers will receive letters from Social Security Scotland from week beginning 10 September so that they know in advance to expect a payment.
Carer’s Allowance Supplement will be paid to carers who were in receipt of Carer’s Allowance from the DWP on the qualifying date of Monday 16 April.
The qualifying date is required by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to provide the details of those in receipt of Carer’s Allowance so that Social Security Scotland can make the payment.
To ensure the safe and secure delivery of these payments, they will be phased, with the vast majority of payments being made in September, and a small number of more complex payments made into early October.
This first payment is backdated to April 2018.
Carers are not required to do anything to receive this payment as, if eligible, it will happen automatically and be paid using the same method that people get their Carer’s Allowance from the DWP.
Social Security Scotland will go live as a public service as soon as it begins to process these payments.
At this point, further information on how to contact Social Security Scotland and Carer’s Allowance Supplement eligibility and payments will be available at mygov.scot. This information will also be included along with notification letters.
The DWP will continue to deliver Carer’s Allowance using existing eligibility.
Dundee Family Support Services
We have just launched an exciting brand-new service aimed at providing support to families with babies up to the age of one year old, developed by one of our most experienced Family Support Workers. The ‘Baby Blether Club’ aims to provide facilities where parents can interact with their baby’s socially and meet other parents. This club is open to all parents with young babies.
Our Baby Blether Club runs every Monday morning from 9.30am to 11.30am from our friendly and relaxed community flat at 14 St Boswells Terrace, St Mary’s. There will be a weekly programme of activities and the offer of taster sessions. These will include:
- Baby weigh in scales to help you monitor your babies weight;
- Opportunities to join in baby massage sessions with our qualified practitioner;
- Access to information and advice about family issues such as feeding, establishing routines, sleeping, play to help your baby develop and more;
- Opportunities to join in some play activities to support your baby’s development e.g. baby rhyme time & Bookbug;
- Access to free baby clothing and other bits and bobs when available;
- Opportunities to meet and chat to other parents like yourself in a relaxed environment;
- Support and advice around managing financially and budgeting for baby;
- We will also be inviting other professionals in to discuss baby related topics.
Contact Audrey Millar on 01382 501972 or email@example.com to find out more.
No booking required. Drop in any time when we are open.