Reflection on UNESCO Child and Family Research conference, June 2024

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Two of our Senior Project Specialists, Dr Alison Montgomery and Anne Eustace, participated in the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre 11th Biennial International Conference at Galway University on 13th June 2024. The theme of the conference was ‘Promoting equality through family support’ and attendees were drawn from the policy, practice and academic sectors as well as including service users.

Alison and Anne shared findings emerging from two separate but interrelated research projects which explored different forms of support for lone parent families, completed by CES in 2023.  

  1. Solus/Parenting Focus Northern Ireland research (funded by abrdn Financial Fairness Trust) examined the financial hardships experienced by lone parents in Northern Ireland, the impact on them and their families, and the types of support which parents and other stakeholders proposed would be most effective.
  2. Beachaire/Community Foundation Ireland (CFI) funded research which explored the power of community education in Ireland to support lone parents to fulfil their potential in education, employment and society.

Alison and Anne presented the CES research at a parallel session with the theme of ‘Promoting Inclusion for One Parent Families’. They were joined by Dr Meabh Savage (Southeast Technological University (SETU)) and Daniel Hoey and Laurie O’ Donnell (Focus Ireland) who presented their research on related themes of co-production in research and policy development, nurturing capital, and supportive interventions for lone parents experiencing homelessness.

Elizabeth Canavan (Assistant Secretary General, Department of the Taoiseach), Alison, Dr Meabh Savage (SETU), Anne, Laurie O’ Donnell (Research Officer, Focus Ireland) and Daniel Hoey (Research Manager, Focus Ireland).

The use of inclusive research methodologies to capture the experiences of lone parents was notable across the conference presentations. The Solus and Beachaire research used participatory, qualitative research methods to amplify the voices of over 400 lone parents, through surveys, focus groups, interviews, case studies and personal scenarios and portraying their lived experience of challenging times. The voice of lone parents was present at the conference, and it was powerful to hear the stories of mothers being supported to work through and overcome significant life challenges including homelessness, domestic violence and loss.

The CES research resonated with the conference themes of equality, diversity and the value of family support, particularly as a measure to combat child poverty. The messages around the importance of meaningful collaboration, intersectionality and family support as a shared responsibility across government and society, echoed findings and recommendations emerging from our research.  

The vulnerabilities of lone parents were highlighted with rich discussions about the importance of a coordinated, community-based and cross-sectional approach supported by clear policy frameworks, effective interventions and appropriate investment.  

Reflections from the Child Poverty and Wellbeing Programme Office in the Department of the Taoiseach affirmed the importance of good leadership and collaboration across government departments and agencies to enable a collective and coherent response to the needs of families and an interconnected model for implementing family support.  

Thank you to the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre for careful and successful organising of the conference which presented a wonderful opportunity for networking and reflection on current research to advance the power of family support in Ireland.

You can read more about the Solus/Parenting Focus research here

You can read more about the Beachaire / CFI research here

The conference keynote presentations are now available from the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre website here

Highlights video can be viewed here

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