Lone parents and social protection

Sir, – Further to Fintan O'Toole's column on reforms to the one parent family payment ("Poorest will be hardest hit by lone-parent cut", Opinion & Analysis, June 25th), the scheme is being changed to maximise the opportunities for lone parents to enter into and increase employment.

The Government’s priority is to ensure that lone parents have the same opportunities to access employment, training and education as others in society.

Despite committing extensive funding to lone parent payments since the 1970s, lone parents remain the most at risk of poverty, with their children as a result at a high risk of poverty. Research shows that being at work reduces the at risk of poverty rate for lone parents by three-quarters compared to those who do not work.

Up to the time of these reforms, the one parent family payment scheme was passive in nature.

As a result, a lone parent could be in receipt of one parent family payment until their child turned 18, or 22 if in full-time education. Such long-term welfare dependency has been shown to engender, rather than reduce, child poverty.

Under the changes, entitlement to one parent family payment will cease when a parent’s youngest child turns seven. This compares with five years in other countries, such as the UK, the Netherlands and New Zealand.

The correct number of parents who will see their entitlement to One Parent Family Payment end next month is 30,000.

However, all will move to another welfare payment, and two in three will suffer no income loss or actually gain from this transition.

The only significant – and positive – change is that they will receive the full range of employment supports from the Department of Social Protection and one-to-one assistance from case officers.

Of the remainder, the majority will stand to gain financially if they can increase the number of hours they work each week to 19 – which for most should be possible given their children will be at school.

Should they increase their hours to 19, they will qualify for two additional welfare payments – family income supplement and the back to work family dividend – which aim to assist families to return to, or stay in, employment and build a better financial future for themselves over time. – Yours, etc,

VERONICA SCANLAN,

Department of

Social Protection,

Dublin 2.