Organisations working with lone parents have warned of the confusion and distress they say has been caused by forthcoming changes to the One Parent Family Payment (OPFP).
The Department of Social Protection has began issuing letters to 30,200 lone parents due to move off the welfare payment and on to either jobseeker's allowance (JA) or a special "transitional jobseeker's allowance" (TJA) for those whose youngest child is under 13. The letters invite recipients to information sessions about the changes.
These parents represent the last wave to come off the OPFP. Some 13,000 have already been taken off the payment since July 2013.
The department says the changes are necessary to activate lone parents away from the “passive” OPFP scheme and into the labour market.
Any parent in receipt of the payment whose youngest child is seven years or older will receive their last payment on June 25th.
The next week they will be moved to the TJA if their child is under 14 or straight on to JA if their child is 14 or over.
Those on JA must be available for work and actively looking for work. Those on TJA don’t have to be available for work but must engage with the department and be available for training and other activation measures.
The TJA offers some level of cushioning, allowing recipients to have their hours spread over more than three days a week.
Those who go straight on to JA, however, can work a maximum of three days a week before their entitlement is affected.
"We are very concerned about the fact that people on the TJA can only earn €60 per week without some of their losing social welfare payment," said Karen Kiernan, chief executive of One Family. "The government recently recognised the importance of the income disregard in keeping people connected with the labour market and maintained it at €90/week for One Parent Family Payment recipients.
“This will mean it is again harder for poor working parents to stay in employment and for those 30,000 parents being moved in July to stay working.
There is also confusion about what will happen to parents in third level education - about whether they can keep their grants if they are moved on to JA.
"There is no doubt there is a lot of confusion out there," said a spokeswoman for Treoir, a support organisation for lone parents.
“People are worried, scared, and some will lose money. We are encouraging people to engage and go to the information sessions.”