A policy introduced by former minister for protection Joan Burton of compelling lone parents to look for work could make families poorer, a Government-commissioned report has found.
The report, from the Unesco Child and Family Research Centre at NUI Galway, says the controversial change introduced in 2012 could be having a "perverse effect of encouraging welfare dependency and reducing household income". It says any "unintended consequences of this policy" of trapping these families in greater poverty "should be rectified to ensure being in work leads these families to being better off".
The report, Lone Parents and Activation, What Works and Why, includes a review of international experience of activating lone parents – helping them get back to work – as well as interviews with stakeholders, such as lone-parent groups.
Since 2012, thousands of lone parents have been moved off the One Parent Family Payment – on which they do not have to seek work – when their youngest child reaches seven. Those whose youngest is between seven and 14 move onto Jobseeker’s Transitional payment and engage in training, while those whose youngest is 14 or over must move onto Jobseeker’s Allowance and seek work.
Many lone parents, particularly those who had been working part-time and earning less than €90 per week – the amount a parent could earn without their one-parent payment being affected – say their income has fallen as a result of moving to Jobseeker’s Allowance. Groups say childcare is too expensive and inadequate to allow many to seek work, while no account is taken of difficulties of parents of disabled children, those in rural areas without transport or those with little education.