Lone parents face income cuts as new welfare changes come into force
Government says reforms will bring Ireland into line with other countries
“The reforms also aim to bring Ireland’s support for lone parents in line with international provisions,” said a spokeswoman for Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton. Photograph: Frank Miller/ The Irish Times
Thousands of single parents are facing cuts in their income as a result of welfare changes which came into effect last week . More than 2,500 parents in receipt of the One-Parent Family payment have been moved off the benefit and on to the Jobseekers’ Allowance payment over recent days.
The changes are aimed at incentivising welfare recipients to enter the workforce or training, but parents’ groups say they will leave many vulnerable families trapped in poverty.
Both welfare payments are worth the same. However, recipients are able to earn up to €110 per week and retain their full welfare benefit under the One-Parent Family payment. The earnings disregard for the Jobseekers’ Allowance is much lower at €60. This means many lone parents who have been working part-time face cuts of €50 or more per week.
Loss of income
The Department of Social Protection confirmed yesterday that the welfare changes would lead to a loss of income for many single parents who were working part-time.
“The reforms also aim to bring Ireland’s support for lone parents in line with international provisions,” said a spokeswoman for Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton.
By July 2015 all lone parents in receipt of benefits will have moved to the Jobseekers’ Allowance if their youngest child is seven years of age or older.
Fianna Fáil Deputy Seán Fleming TD criticised the move which he said would drive single parents out of part-time work. “If there were jobs available it might make sense, but they’re not there.”
His concerns were shared by lone parent groups such as Open and Spark, who say the moves will plunge vulnerable families deeper into poverty.
“There is no upside to this,” said Frances Byrne of Open. “It will simply add to the burden on families and children. We have worried parents on the phone to us who stand to lose out.”
Spark’s Louis Bayliss also said parents had been promised by Ms Burton that these changes would only occur once a Scandinavian-type childcare system was in place. “All we’ve seen is the introduction of after-school places for 6,000 children, but there’s likely to be 60,000 or more children affected by these moves.”
However, One Family’s director of policy Stuart Duffin said the move made sense as long as there were sufficient supports in place to assist parents to enter the workforce. “The best way out of poverty is work, and work must pay. At the same time, we need to ensure that no one is further disadvantaged during this transition period.”