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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Un seul parent rime avec pas d’argent

by Flora Beillouin

A single parent family means a lack of money

Translated Saturday 4 June 2011, by Mélanie Vogt and reviewed by Henry Crapo

A report presented yesterday at the Paris city council highlights the precarious situation of increasing numbers of single parent households. This is due to the lack of an adapted family policy.

It is no big news story. With one sole earner – if there is even someone earning at all – it is more difficult to raise children than with two earners. The news is more in the fact that the number of single parent households has exploded, which renders obsolete many national aid plans aimed towards a more “traditional” family situation. In Paris, where separations and family restructuring are commonplace, 28 % of households had a single parent in 2006, compared with 26 % in 1999. “It is a figure which is reaching 40 % or 45 % in some popular areas of the 18th and 20th arrondissements”, says Ian Brossat, president of the Communist party and elected member of the Left party at the Paris city council.

Brossat, responsible for presenting the report on the information mission on single-parent families in Paris, was therefore pleased with the decision of the council, which yesterday unanimously approved a series of measures to benefit these families. “It was high time to take them into account because they are feeling the full impact of growing precariousness. According to the CAF, 39 % of these families live on less than the low-wage market (1,100 € for two children), which is almost twice the figure seen in families described as ‘traditional’.” There is certainly over-exposure overall, and women are the first to pay the price for it, as 85 % take on sole responsibility for the children.

Overcoming the difficulties of childcare

Among the recommendations of this report, reforming the housing benefit given to single-parent families, established during the presidency of Jacques Chirac, is a cornerstone measure. The resources limit therefore rises from 1,600  to 1,800 € per month and the amount paid rises from 122  to 150 €. In addition to this, other proposals foresee acting on more concrete grounds, such as developing employability and plans for childcare; “Two problems which are often very interlinked,” according to Ian Brossat. For him, it is therefore about enabling the parent to overcome the difficulties of childcare in order to facilitate their access to employment. Many Parisian crèches and schools will experiment with extended timetables when term recommences. Open from 7 :20, they will provide a reception with breakfast, based on the model seen in some cities in Val-de-Marne. With the same aim, being a single parent should also become a criterion for obtaining crèche places. The children of the 18th arrondissement of Paris will discover the fun of “Pédibus”, a system of collecting children from school on foot, which is already underway in other cities in France.

Although Ian Brossat is pleased to see groups and communities playing an active role on the question of single parent families, he worries that the issue is still not part of a true national debate. “The government constantly weakens these families by pointing fingers at them, as we have again seen in the recent debate on school absenteeism. It would be more appropriate to update national aid plans such as those on family benefits, which were introduced in 1945 and benefit large families, despite the fact that two thirds of single-parent families have just one child.” The idea of awarding these benefits from the birth of the first child was in fact one of the promises made during Nicolas Sarkozy’s election campaign in 2007. But it has not been alluded to since.

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