Lone parent to lose up to €140 a week under welfare changes
Coalition says welfare changes will tackle poverty, but some will end up losing out
Michelle McFarland and her daughter Ashleigh. She is one of about 4,000 lone parents who stand to lose out under welfare changes. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times
Michelle McFarland says her part-time job as a cleaner in a secondary school is a lifeline.
“It’s difficult work. Cleaning up after hundreds of students isn’t easy. But it gives me breathing space.
“It gives you money to pay the bills and keep your head above water,” she says.
Michelle, however, is one of at least 4,000 lone parents who stands to lose out under welfare changes.
While the majority of the 30,000 lone parents affected will receive no change in income or may even stand to benefit, according to the Department of Social Protection, many who are working may end up losing out.
“I don’t get why I should be penalised. It’s not fair. It doesn’t make sense. When the changes come in, I’d be better off giving up work altogether,” says Michelle, who has a 14-year-old daughter.
At present she works 12½ hours a week.
Under the welfare reforms, she estimates she would lose up to €140 a week because of the changed rules relating to part-time work.
In all, Michelle estimates she would be €30 better off if she gave up her job and stayed on the jobseeker’s allowance.
If she was able to secure 19 or more hours work, she says she would be entitled to the family income supplement, which would improve her circumstances.
But finding work in her home town of Celbridge isn’t easy and she wants to hold on to the job she has.
“I’ve fallen through the cracks of these changes,” she says. “Maybe others will do better or no worse under them. But I’ll be worse off.”
The department says lone parents will have improved access to education, training and employment support programmes in order to assist them to develop their skills to secure sustainable employment.
Michelle, however, says she has been down this road and simply wants to continue working her current job.
“I’ve done everything I can to improve my skills. I’ve done community employment schemes, youth work on a voluntary basis . . .
“I’m working now. I don’t see why any welfare changes should mean a working mother is worse off . . . I don’t want to sit at home. I want to be a role model for my daughter.”