Reform of the One-Parent payment


Sir, – It is ironic that just four days after Veronica Scanlan from the Department of Social Protection wrote in The Irish Times (Letters,June 25th) defending the disastrous reforms of the One-Parent Family Payment, the editorial reports that the Tánaiste is now looking at rethinking the reforms as they are not working (“Supports for families with children to be examined before budget”, June 29th).

One Family along with many other organisations and parents have been explaining what would have been required to make the reforms work for the past number of years, but the necessary investments have not been made.

This week 30,000 parents will no longer receive the One-Parent Family Payment as their youngest child is seven-years-old. For approximately 11,000 of those who are working part-time they will lose income pushing them farther away from the labour market and deeper into poverty.

The Government’s mantra is that if parents can reach the magic 19 hours per week of work they qualify for Family Income Supplement. That may be possible for some parents, but the presumption by Ms Scanlan that “for most [this] should be possible given their children will be at school” shows how completely out of touch she and the Department of Social Protection is; not just with parents but with the limited employment opportunities.

We are already aware through our national helpline of the many parents who are finding this impossible and some have had to give up their jobs completely.

Ms Scanlan’s comparison of our social welfare system to that in other countries such as UK, the Netherlands and New Zealand omits the fact that affordable childcare is much more common in these jurisdictions and that each invested significantly in services to parents when the welfare systems were changed.

International comparisons of income supports combined with services to our poorest people always show us lacking and our overall investment in childcare is minimal compared to our neighbours.

It is not too late to change the current approach by government to support parents on social welfare into sustainable employment and out of poverty. But political leadership, significant investment into services and a coordinated approach across government departments is required to make it a success. Anything less will condemn even more children and families to ongoing poverty. – Yours, etc, KAREN KIERNAN CEO, One Family, 2 Lower Pembroke St, Dublin 2.