Editorial: Extend lifelines for solo parents

Editorial: Extend lifelines for solo parents
Editorial Cartoon by John Montecillo

Solo parents have come a long way from the past when society viewed them with askance, reserving disapproval, pity or doubt for women and men raising their children without the traditional co-parent.

Recognizing the vulnerability of solo parents, the State created necessary legal and institutional mechanisms to support them.

Last April 20, the third Saturday of April 2024, was observed as “National Solo Parents Day,” in keeping with Republic Act (RA) 11861, also known as the “Expanded Solo Parents Welfare Act of 2022.”

RA 11861 also designated the third week of April as “Solo Parents Week.”

Last Saturday, reports focused on the privileges extended by local government units (LGUs) across the nation to solo parents, such as the free rides offered to parents without partners at the Mass Rapid Transit Line 2 (MRT-2) and the Light Rail Transit Line 2 (LRT-2) in Metro Manila.

It is essential for the approximately 15 million single parents in the country to register with the government to avail of their benefits under RA 11861.

RA 11861 provides parents who have no partners with a regular monthly stipend of P1,000 and coverage under the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PHIC) for minimum wage earners.

Regardless of the status of employment, a solo parent is granted by law with seven days of paid parental leave.

The law also entitles the country’s solo parents—95 percent of whom are women—to discounts on baby milk, diapers, medications, and immunization treatments for children under the age of six years of age.

However, legislators and LGUs must also be sensitive to the national profile of solo parents in the country and use this evidence to propose and implement the expansion of benefits covered by RA 11861.

More than 14 million or 95 percent of the 15 million single parents in the country are women, as recently studied by the Department of Health (DOH) and the University of the Philippines National Institutes of Health (NIH).

A complex intersection of social factors, such as gender, creates for women multiple burdens at home, in the workplace, and in the community.

Women’s vulnerability extends to their dependents: biological children and elderly parents.

Providing solo parents with better access to social benefits, such as training and livelihood opportunities and security of tenure, extends also to the welfare of their dependents.

Abandoning women, especially solo parents, and their children and extended families creates more than ripples of effects for society.

Neglected and forsaken children and minors will continue in the next generations a toxic legacy of trauma brought about by dysfunctional relationships and social estrangement.

In 2024, the Department of Social Welfare and Development is piloting the Strengthening Opportunities for Lone Parents (Solo) program, which provides single-breadwinner families access to psychosocial interventions that address their need for emotional support and alternative care arrangements for minors and other dependents, like aging parents.

According to a Feb. 23 article posted on the official website of the Public Information Agency (PIA), Program Solo has been rolled out in Lapu-Lapu City in Cebu, with pilot-testing targeted for Anda, Pangasinan and Panabo City, Davao del Norte.

Prioritized for Program Solo are solo parents who meet specific criteria, such as supporting two to three children below the age of 22 years.

If these work, alternative care arrangements are tremendous boosts for solo parents who are forced to take on multiple work to cope with the costs of supporting dependents. The dream is for reduced work weeks to enable solo parents to spend quality time with children and elderly parents.

The genuine lifeline for solo parents is for all stakeholders to end the stigma of discrimination against solo parents, offering understanding and support for many of the most vulnerable in our midst.

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