Minister keen to reverse Joan Burton’s social protection ‘cuts’

Regina Doherty says misogyny towards single mothers is ‘not diminishing fast enough’

Misogyny towards single mothers is ‘not diminishing fast enough’, Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty has said.  Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times.

Misogyny towards single mothers is ‘not diminishing fast enough’, Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty has said. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times.

 

Misogyny towards single mothers is “not diminishing fast enough”, Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty has said.

The Minister was responding to Senator Ged Nash (Labour) who described changes to the One Parent Family Payment (OFP) initiated in 2012 by his party colleague Joan Burton, as a “mistake”.

Under the changes lone parents in receipt of the OFP had to move off it once their youngest child turns seven to go onto Jobseekers Allowance (JA).

Following widespread protests the Jobseekers Transitional payment (JST) was introduced for those whose youngest was seven, until they were 14 - allowing them to work part-time.

An ESRI study published this month found lone parents disposable income fell as a result of the changes, while another in January found 21 per cent of lone parent families in consistent poverty compared with 6 per cent of families with two parents.

Speaking at the Oireachtas Committee on Social Protection, Mr Nash described his party’s policy as a “mistake... that didn’t ever achieve the stated ambitions that were outlined at the time”.

Ms Doherty said she anticipated all the changes introduced by Ms Burton, including changes to limits for lone parents’ income, would be reversed in the next few budgets. Ms Doherty’s Fine Gael party was the senior partner in a coalition government with Ms Burton’s Labour Party at the time of the cuts cited.

‘Stigma’

The Minister said she wanted to see an end to the “stigma...that’s associated particularly with mams who are raising children alone.

“It’s something I am particularly keen and conscious to address, not only as I continue to reverse the cuts that were made by your colleague Joan Burton - and I have every anticipation that we will continue to reverse those cuts until they are complete...but I am also absolutely adamant that the historic treatment and misogyny, that is diminishing but not fast enough in my opinion, will continue to need to be broken down,” she told Mr Nash.

Bríd Smith (Solidarity-People Before Profit) called on the Minister to extend payment of Child Benefit in respect of young people in poorer families until they finish their Leaving Certificate.

Currently the payment is made only until a young person is 18, even if they are still in secondary school.

Ms Doherty said Child Benefit was a universal payment, so to pay it for all young people until Leaving Certificate, would cost “tens of millions of euro” and would not target poorer families.

“We have too many children in consistent poverty. When I look disappointingly at the changes we made to last year’s budget, they only had an impact of bringing 0.3 per cent of children living in poverty out of poverty,” she said.

“That tells me we need billions of euros in direct transfers to bring the other 8.2 per cent of children in consistent poverty out of poverty.”