Lone-parent groups urge reversal of change in payments

About 29,400 people moving out of scheme to alternative social welfare payments

The Department of Social Protection said that from July 2nd, a lone parent whose youngest child is seven years of age or older would “transition” from the one-parent family scheme onto another social welfare payment.  File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

The Department of Social Protection said that from July 2nd, a lone parent whose youngest child is seven years of age or older would “transition” from the one-parent family scheme onto another social welfare payment. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

Lone parents’ groups and others have called on the Government to reverse a change in policy on the ‘one-parent family’ payment, claiming many will be worse off and even driven into poverty due to the measures.

The One-Parent Family Payment (OFP) reforms were introduced in the Social Welfare and Pensions Act, 2012 and have been phased in since July 2013.

The final phase came into force on Thursday.

The Department of Social Protection said that from July 2nd, a lone parent whose youngest child is seven years of age or older, would “transition” from the one-parent family scheme onto another social welfare payment.

Alternative payments

About 29,400 people would move out of the scheme to alternative social welfare payments. The department said the purpose of the reforms was to “reduce poverty and social exclusion and long-term welfare dependency among lone parents and to ensure that they have improved access to a range of education, training, and employment support programmes in order to assist them in developing their skills and, also, in securing sustainable employment and financial independence”.

The “overwhelming majority” of lone parents who would move out of the scheme would “suffer no income loss or may actually gain as they transition onto other supports”, it said.

The Department said it had received about 1,700 new applications for the Family Income Supplement and the Back to Work Family Dividend from people due to transition from the One Parent Family Payment.

“These customers will now be better off financially than prior to the reform.”

Many parents took to social media on Wednesday and Thursday claiming they had been left without any welfare payment this week due to the changes.

Lone parents told a press conference in Dublin they would be in some cases worse off because they would not be in a position to secure 19 hours or more work per week, the number required to allow them access the new payments.

Louise Bayliss of the group Spark, which is campaigning against the policy change, said her group had calculated that since 2012 a minimum-wage worker working 20 hours per week would have lost €108 per week.

Women affected

There were many people who would not be able to access the family income supplement because they were stuck on 15 hours’ work per week. The vast majority of those affected by the changes were women, the event heard.

The National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) and Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald were among those who called on Thursday for a reversal of the new measures until adequate childcare was put in place.

The Department said it would prioritise any affected lone parents who incurred a loss and arrange for case officers to engage with them individually “to inform them of the full range of work, education, training and childcare options available to them and to assist them towards increasing their hours of employment”.