I will try my best to answer as many of those questions as I can. I ask members to get back to me if I leave any of their questions out. My colleague, Ms Kellaghan, will respond to the questions that were asked about family income supplement.
I will begin by answering the Chairman's question about the reform of the one-parent family payment. The change in income of each individual person who is working and is already in receipt of family income supplement will be based on family sizes and on the amount of earnings they will have. In the case mentioned by the Chairman, it is possible that a person with two children who was receiving a one-parent family payment of €100 will be better off. It is very hard for us to determine the extent of that. We know that most people who are in receipt of family income supplement and the one-parent family payment have fewer than two children. The average number of children among lone parents is approximately 1.8. That is what we are looking at. We know there will be small income losses for some people. Other people will have greater income losses. The smaller the family size, the smaller their earnings. It is a question of the way family income supplement compensates them for it. It is hard to give Senator Moloney and Deputy Harrington a definitive answer in terms of how much people will lose. Some people will gain. We can categorically state that people who are working already, are not claiming family income supplement and are in receipt of the one-parent family payment will be better off if they can claim family income supplement when they lose their entitlement to the one-parent family payment. It does not matter as long as they work the 19 hours.
The Chairman referred to last year. This year is different. The situation is actually better this year compared to last year, when we did not have the back to work family dividend. In the case the Chairman highlighted, we did not have the €30 for each of the two children. We did not have that extra €60 to give to the lone parent who made the transition from the one-parent family payment. This July, more people will be financially better off than they would have been if they had made the transition last year. There will still be income losses.
I would like to pick up on Senator Craughwell's comment about lone parents needing "to desert their children".
What I need to say in this context is that the original reform in the 2013 legislation was that, at age seven years, eligibility for one-parent family payment would stop and they would be subject to qualifying for another social welfare payment. At the time, we expected most people to make the transition onto jobseeker's payment. Committee members are aware of the key criteria for eligibility for jobseeker's allowance or jobseeker's benefit payments, which is that a person is available for, and genuinely seeking, full-time work. In that context, if the original reform had been implemented, lone parents would have been expected to be available for and genuinely seeking work with, in the particular case highlighted, children of seven or eight years at home. We changed that and the Minister introduced the jobseeker's transition arrangement. As Senator Moloney said, this exempts lone parents for a seven year period, until the youngest child turns 14 years, from the two criteria of the jobseeker's scheme. People are not required to be available for, and genuinely seeking, work. The reform is aimed at engaging with lone parents for the first time ever. We do not have a record of engaging with lone parents and, since the inception of the one-parent family payment in the mid-90s, it was just income support. We never offered them education, training or personalised support in any way other than basic income payment. The information sessions are telling people to come in and talk to us and we will tell them the best option for them based on their individual circumstances. The aim is not to force lone parents into employment but to provide them with the assistance over the seven-year period of getting them ready for employment. This may involve identifying that they need an education or training course, community employment or, if they are already employment ready and want to work, helping them to make the bridge. It is the first time we are doing it in the Department and it is a key change.
If a lone parent does not want to work and the youngest child is under 14 years, they will not be forced. We will not require them but we will ask them to come in and engage with us so they can meet a case officer and get a personalised development plan so that we can help them prepare for the time when the child turns 14 years of age. Then, they will be treated like any other jobseeker and the criteria of genuinely seeking and being available for work will apply.
Senator Moloney mentioned a point about the back to work family dividend. The back to work family dividend is on top of the family income supplement and has no impact on the family income supplement. It is an additional top-up incentive for a family in employment or making the transition into employment. This is a key element of it and provides an additional buffer in the first two years of moving from welfare to employment. Senator Moloney asked us to clarify whether anyone in receipt of the family income supplement will receive the back to work family dividend if, in the circumstances of reforms to the one-parent family payment, they are no longer entitled to the one-parent family payment. If they claim the family income supplement or are in receipt of it, they will be entitled to apply and they will receive the back to work family dividend.
While legislation was passed and enacted last week, we have taken applications for the dividend from 5 January. We received just short of 1,000 applications that we are ready to process. We will process them over the coming weeks. They may not all be eligible but we will have significant numbers in receipt of the back to work family dividend very quickly, which is positive. Also, 5,200 lone parents will be affected by the reforms I mentioned if they are already in receipt of the family income supplement. In the letters sent out last month, they were told that this is the back to work family dividend and that they would receive an application form to fill in. At information sessions, we are actively promoting family income supplement. Based on what happened over the past two July periods, we expect an increase in new claimants from lone parents for the family income supplement and all individuals will, if they make the transition from the one-parent family payment onto the family income supplement, receive the back to work family dividend.
Senator O'Donnell asked about what we mean by marginal. Perhaps the term is wrong. Some families, based on their size and levels of earnings, may be marginal but there are also cases where they can be substantially better off on the family income supplement. It is difficult to give set figures. In a recent television documentary involving the Chairman, an individual who was a lone parent was going to be better off by €200 after working an extra four hours. It is a combination of family size but there are cases where the gains are smaller. It depends on family size and it would be more marginal in the case of a one child family. They would not receive €30 for each of the three children. Family income supplement is designed to support low-income families and the thresholds are based on family size starting at €506 up to €1,298. It is a broad range; there can be marginal differences but also significant ones.
The Senator asked how many lone parents are engaged in the information seminars. We have asked lone parents to come out and engage with us. Most of the sessions have concluded because we ran them since the end of January or February. We have a high completion rate of application forms processed for the jobseeker's transition rate. This is about 75% of what we deem the eligible cohort. The Intreo offices have invited every lone parent by letter and if they do not attend these information sessions they are guaranteed to get a second letter. If the Intreo office has capacity and if the person does not attend, the office will phone the person and make every effort, depending on resources, to encourage the lone parent to come in. It is in the interests of the lone parents to come in to ensure there is another payment after 2 July. We are in the process of following up on as many of those lone parents as we can but we already have a substantial number of them processed and ready to go.
The 5,200 family income supplement recipients are virtually all done and that will be seamless based on the past two years. The difference will occur when they apply for the back to work family dividend and this is done through the Intreo office. My colleague, Ms Catherine Kellaghan, will answer questions on the family income supplement.