Supports for families with children to be examined before budget, Dáil told

Joan Burton rejects Opposition criticism of changes to lone-parent allowance

Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton said she would examine the supports available to all families with children in advance of the October budget. This would include single-parent families.

“In particular, I want to look at the scope for further improvements in child benefit as well as other supports for families in full-time or part-time employment.’’

She said reform of the one-parent family payment was to maximise opportunities for lone parents to enter into employment and increase their income. “My priority is to ensure that as a society we arrive at a situation in which lone parents have the same opportunities as everyone else to access employment, training and education.’’

Ms Burton said despite the commitment of extensive funding to lone-parent payments since the 1970s, they remained most at risk of poverty and their children were at high risk of poverty.

Lone parents

“Research shows that being at work reduces the at-risk-of-poverty rate for lone parents by three-quarters compared to those who do not work.’’

Fianna Fáil spokesman Willie O'Dea said the Minister had given a specific and solemn commitment to the Dáil she would not introduce the change until there was a Scandinavian-type childcare system in this country.

Ms Burton said she had introduced a seven-year transition from the age of seven to 14 years, during which lone parents were given opportunities to become involved in education and training.

She said there was no obligation on lone parents to be actively seeking work, which was the basic requirement for jobseeker’s allowance.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett claimed the Minister had reduced incentives and benefits for lone parents who were working.

Michael O'Regan

Michael O'Regan

Michael O’Regan is a former parliamentary correspondent of The Irish Times