One-Parent Family Payment: Motion

I move:

That Seanad Éireann, noting that:

- from July 2015, lone parents with children aged seven years and older will no longer be entitled to the one-parent family payment; and

- in 2012, the Minister for Social Protection pledged to only proceed with the measures to reduce the upper age limit to seven years in the event that she got a credible and bankable commitment on the delivery of a system of safe, affordable and accessible childcare, similar to what is found in the Scandinavian countries, by the time of budget 2013;

acknowledging that:

- no credible and bankable commitment on the delivery of a system of safe, affordable and accessible childcare, similar to what is found in the Scandinavian countries was forthcoming in budget 2013, budget 2014 or budget 2015;

recognising that:

- the effects of the changes on working lone parents and those in education are devastating;

- a lone parent working 20 hours per week on minimum wage with one child will have lost a total of €108 per week when all the one-parent payment reforms introduced by the Government have been implemented;

- those lone parents who cannot obtain enough hours to qualify for family supports will be in an even worse situation;

- the cuts to the one-parent family payment will force low-income single parents to give up paid work and rely on welfare as they will not be able to work and pay for childcare on low wages; and

- to force low-income lone-parent families to choose between poverty by living on welfare alone and in-work poverty by doing low-wage part-time work with minimal State support is both anti-care and anti-family; and

accepting that:

- the changes show scant regard for the recent research showing that levels of poverty and deprivation in one-parent families in Ireland have risen significantly since the recession;

- the survey of income and living conditions data for 2013 shows that 23 per cent of one-parent families with dependent children live in consistent poverty, almost three times as many as in the general population;

- there was an increase of 32% in the consistent poverty rate for such families from 2012 to 2013;

- as almost two thirds of the poorest children in Ireland already live in one-parent families, cuts to the one-parent family payment will further impoverish the most vulnerable children in the State;

- the changes are a direct attack on poorer mothers and on the welfare of children as 98% of those on the one-parent family payment are women; and

- the changes are being introduced without any assessment of their social impact;

calls for the Government to:

- reverse the cuts to the one-parent family payment that came into effect this month; and

- heed the advice of the report on the single working age payment proposal agreed to by the Joint Committee on Jobs, Social Protection and Education in March 2012, which recommended that no reform of social welfare policy should take place until childcare and other family supports are fully in place.

I welcome the return of the Minister of State, Deputy Kevin Humphreys, to the House. There is a real sense of deja vu. When the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Joan Burton, first introduced the relevant legislation we opposed it and we are opposing it now. The storm clouds that have gathered since the proposal was first introduced have now generated a gale force right across the country that has resulted in several demonstrations outside the House not just by representatives of a lobby group but lone parents themselves who would have to face the reality of losing significant sums of money from 1 July 2015. That has now come to pass. Already the e-mails telling us about the financial reality that is facing lone parents as a result of this proposal are tumbling out to Members .

The motion states: "from July 2015, lone parents with children aged seven years and older will no longer be entitled to the one-parent family payment". One of the key statements made by the Minister when she introduced the legislation has come back to haunt her. I wonder if she has reflected on whether she would have said she would only proceed with the measures to reduce the upper age limit to seven years in the event that she got a credible and bankable commitment on the delivery of a system of safe, affordable and accessible child care, similar to what is found in the Scandinavian countries by the time of the 2013 budget. No credible and bankable commitment on the delivery of a system of safe, affordable and accessible child care has been forthcoming not only in budget 2013, budget 2014 and budget 2015 but it does not look that a credible Scandinavian model of child care will be available.

An interesting aspect of the debate since 2013 is that the focus has not just been on the financial ramifications of the proposal since 1 July but that cost and access to child care have moved centre stage. What comes up time and again in e-mails and in street demonstration is the problem facing lone parents in providing care for the children. The statistics show that 60% of lone parents have one child but some have two or three mouths to feed. Those who are fortunate enough to be working, even if they work for the minimum 19 hours a week, find that when the cap on the rent supplement is factored in, they are really struggling. Part of the problem for this cohort relates to the excessive cost of child care. They are struggling to put food on the table.

As a result of the implementation of the withdrawal of the one-parent family payment from lone parents with children aged seven and older on 1 July, many will have to reconsider whether to continue to work the 19 hours or more. The Minister acknowledges that working the 19 or 20 hours a week is a pathway to work, that the lone parent will get more hours at work, and that the numbers affected are relatively low. I know the figures that have been bandied around that the overall figure of those affected was down to 10,000. I heard another figure that 4,000 lone parents were supposed to be affected. Even if the figure is 4,000, it is 4,000 too many. It is a penny pinching measure. For the level of fury it has generated among those who are affected, and the extent of the savings that will result, it does not seem to me to be worth the candle. I know the Minister of State will put forward the argument the Minister has put forward from day one that this is about getting people out of the poverty trap and that it will move them to engage in further education and in upskilling, which will lead to more jobs.

I am involved with a committee of the British-Irish body which is dealing with a report on youth unemployment. Youth unemployment is a variable figure and can include people up to 30 years of age. A recent survey published by employers showed they thought more of a person with work experience rather than academic qualifications. I am not for one moment dismissing the notion that people should not go into further education and that they should not upskill but it is not the panacea, that is, if one pursues further education, one will get a job. That is not what is happening on the ground.

What is at issue is that people who have been relying on a certain amount of money at a period critical to the development of their child or children will no longer will get that money. I believe this change has been devastating. A lone parent with one child working 20 hours a week on the minimum wage will have lost a total of €108 per week when all the reforms introduced by the Government have been implemented. Lone parents who cannot obtain enough hours to qualify for family supports will be in an even worse situations. The cuts to the one-parent family payment will force lone parents to give up paid work and rely on welfare as they will not be able to work and pay for child care on low wages.

This goes back to the original point I made, which is that the argument has now moved on from being simply about economics and money to being about the cost of child care and the dilemma that is facing people in the category we are discussing. They are going to have to decide whether to stay in low-paid jobs with small numbers of hours each week, all the while trying to figure out how their children are going to survive, or to come out of the employment cohort and stay at home to look after their children. Basically, this proposal is forcing low-income lone-parent families to choose between welfare poverty caused by living on welfare alone and work poverty caused by doing low-wage part-time work with minimal State support. We believe that is anti-care and anti-family.

I do not want to sound totally negative about this. I hope that when the Minister of State replies to this debate, he will offer some hope to people in the category we are talking about. While it is obvious that there will be no row-back on this decision, I suggest that one way of dealing with the problems caused by it would be to address the challenges of child care costs and access to properly funded child care. The Minister of State is aware that the one year of free child care that is currently provided is proving insufficient. I know the Government has been signalling its intention to extend the scheme. When the Minister, Deputy Fitzgerald, was in the Department of Children and Youth Affairs she said that a second year would be provided, but that has not materialised yet. I hope it will be considered in the budgetary framework. There is certainly a need in this area. I understand perfectly that this is a challenge for the Government in the context of budgetary considerations.

If I leave the Minister of State with any message, it is that the child care issue needs to be addressed. If that is done, the impact of this issue on the people we are discussing might be minimised. I know that various figures are being bandied around. I spoke to someone recently who said that between 4,000 and 5,000 people could be affected. Others have said that the correct figure is closer to 10,000. Regardless of the accurate figure, it is clear that this involves a significant group of people in this country. If one knows just one lone parent who has suddenly found the ground being taken from under him or her financially, one's heart will go out to him or her and one will ask why this is being done to someone who has no other options. I fully understand that one size does not fit all. Every case is different. There are some people who might not be capable of getting involved in further education, or who might not have the inclination to do so. There are others who might have to attach a certain priority to their children and therefore cannot move out of the particular lifestyle they have, in terms of the amount of work they have or the contract they are working under. All of those factors have to be taken into account. That is why I am saying that if the Government is not going to row back on its decision, the least it should do is try to address the child care issue.

I ask Senator Thomas Byrne to second the motion.

I was not expecting that, but I am happy to second the motion on this important issue, which has been the subject of a great deal of public debate in recent weeks and is causing severe anxiety, stress and worry among those who are affected by it. It is a fact that those who comprise one-parent families - mothers or fathers and their children - are generally among the poorest people in society. We can all talk about the most vulnerable people in society, but if we look at this from an economic perspective we will see that many of the most vulnerable people in society are members of one-parent families. That is the reality of it.

The Minister of State has given many reasons that sound good to explain why this scheme has been changed. The Tánaiste, Deputy Joan Burton, originally promised that Scandinavian-style child care would be available when the lone-parent limit was reduced to seven years of age. In fact, that was supposed to happen much earlier than now. It is absolutely outrageous that this has not happened. It was not a pre-election promise, or a case of "isn’t that what you tend to do during an election?"; it was a commitment made by a Minister of the Government as part of a solemn statement in Dáil Éireann. The reality is that there has been no credible commitment on the delivery of safe, affordable and accessible child care similar to that provided in Scandinavian countries, as promised by the Tánaiste. As a result of her toing and froing and breaking of promises, a political party that has been set up today is talking about promising the delivery of a Scandinavian social democratic model at the next election. A member of the Government of this country has already made a commitment to that effect in our Parliament. Can one not rely on the statements of Ministers in Parliament? It is no good saying that the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs has not followed it up.

It is outrageous that the Government amendment refers to "increased investment in childcare programmes". The child care needs of one-parent and two-parent families is still a huge matter of political debate in this country. It is not an issue that is in any way decided or finalised. We are still trying to work out what is best and most affordable for families. Three years ago, the current Tánaiste had worked it out. She knew that she wanted Scandinavian child care to be brought in for one-parent families. Of course, it is necessary. The effect of the Government's decision to put these new arrangements in place in the absence of proper child care provision will be absolutely devastating for lone parents who are working and in education. The Labour Party often states it is the party of work and seems to pride itself on that. I suggest that as a corollary to that, it has a suspicion or distaste for welfare. It might refer to "welfare dependency" but it is talking about what many people simply refer to as the welfare they need to prevent themselves from falling into poverty. It is not right to force people to do something that will cause them to be financially short and leave their family lives in tatters. We cannot do that because we are talking about the most vulnerable people in society. That phrase gets bandied about all the time, but I put it to the House - I am sure people will agree - that this debate is about the most vulnerable people in society.

The Tánaiste and the Department have shown scant regard for research showing that levels of poverty and deprivation in one-parent families have increased significantly since the start of the recession. The 2013 survey of income and living conditions shows that almost a quarter of one-parent families with dependent children live in consistent poverty. That level is over three times as high as the level among the general population. That is what we are talking about. There was an increase of almost one third in the consistent poverty rate within such families from 2012 to 2013. Almost two thirds of the poorest children in Ireland live in one-parent households. The cuts in this payment that are being proposed and implemented by the Minister - they have already been brought in - will further impoverish the most vulnerable children in the State.

This is a direct attack on the poorest of the poor and it has to be said that it is another attack on women. This Department has had a very bad record on women in recent years. I remind the House that the contributory pension for people who do not have the full set of stamps was cut massively. Although this applied on paper to both men and women, in practice it was mainly an attack on women because almost all of those who are short of stamps are women who left the workforce during their careers to have children. I have given two key examples of policies implemented by this Department that have particularly attacked women by singling them out for treatment in the name of reform. That is wrong. There has been no assessment of the social impact of these changes. I am pleased to see that our motion has been signed by a number of Independent Senators because that does not often happen with party motions. The motion calls on the Government to "reverse the cuts to the one-parent family payment" and to "heed the advice of the Report on the Single Working Age Payment Proposal agreed by the Joint Committee on Jobs, Social Protection and Education in March 2012, which recommended that no reform of social welfare policy should take place until child care and other family supports are fully in place".

The Minister went much further than that when she made her commitment about Scandinavian-type child care.

I move amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after "Seanad Éireann:" and substitute the following:

recognises that:

- the one-parent family payment scheme as previously constituted has not worked effectively to lift lone parent families out of poverty: instead it operated in some cases as a welfare dependency trap, often until the youngest child of the lone parent was 18 or 22 years;

- despite significant levels of investment in the one-parent family payment, lone parents have always been more at risk of consistent poverty when compared to the population as a whole - even in 2004, during the height of the economic boom lone parents were more than four-and-a-half times more at risk of consistent poverty than the population as a whole - survey of income and living conditions data;

- in 2003, reforms to the scheme were recommended by the OECD to provide greater support in getting lone parents back into education, training or jobs at an earlier stage;

- the previous Government started implementing these recommendations in early 2011 by reducing the age threshold of the youngest child to 14 years but did not introduce any supporting activation measures to accompany this change;

- the Government is now in the process of introducing the necessary support measures to facilitate lone parents in getting back into the workforce and to reform the scheme in order that welfare payments to lone parents whose youngest child is over seven years are no longer based on relationship status and these measures include:

- support from the local Intreo offices;

- easier access to family income supplement and the back to work family dividend;

- activation measures into education and training; and

- increased investment in childcare programmes;

- in June 2013, in recognition of the difficulties that many lone parents continue to have with childcare, the Government introduced the jobseeker's transitional payment in order that any lone parent whose youngest child is under 14 years is not required to seek work but will get support in accessing education and training; - even during the economic boom, Ireland’s rate of lone parent employment was substantially below the OECD average of over 70% and it continues to remain substantially below this level; and

- the aim of the reforms is to provide lone parents with better opportunities to get out of poverty by securing employment and financial independence;

recognises the Government’s commitment to:

- maintain core social welfare weekly rates of payment;

- enhance lone parents’ access to the range of education, training and employment supports and services in order to develop their skill sets with the aim of securing employment and financial independence;

- support lone parents to make the transition from the one-parent family payment onto another social welfare payment;

- support low income families in employment through family income supplement which supports over 50,000 families and more than 100,000 children at a cost of €350 million in 2015; and

- acknowledges the increases in child benefit, the partial restoration of the Christmas bonus the Government introduced in budget 2015 and also the retention of the one-parent family payment weekly income disregard at €90;

welcomes the steps the Government have taken to ease the transition of affected lone parents from the one-parent family payment, including:

- introducing a new payment, the jobseeker's transitional payment, after budget 2013, which ensures that no lone parent whose youngest child is under 14 years of age is required to work;

- providing for activation for lone parents on the jobseeker's transitional payment into education and training, while their children are under 14 years, to prepare them for labour market participation;

- the reforms, including the jobseeker's transitional payment, compare very favourably with the current threshold of years years of age, which applies in other jurisdictions such as the United Kingdom;

- the automatic reviews and increases of family income supplement for affected lone parents, following their transition from the one-parent family payment;

- the introduction of the back to work family dividend for all lone parents who transition off the one-parent family payment into employment, which allows them to retain their child proportion of their social welfare payment, which is worth approximately €1,550 per child in the first year and half that amount in the second year;

- the approximate 750 information sessions held by the Department of Social Protection around the country since February, where almost 25,000 lone parents were advised on the best options available to them;

- the Government’s annual investment of €260 million in high quality, accessible and affordable childcare for parents, benefiting over 100,000 children: this is delivered through a range of childcare programmes for children, including the free preschool year and as a range of supports provided for low income parents, that is, community child care subvention programme, child care education and training support programme, after-school child care programme and community employment child care, CEC, programme, the latter two of which were introduced in budget 2013 and budget 2014, respectively;

- the establishment of an interdepartmental group to carry out an economic and cost benefit analysis of policies and future options for increasing the supply, accessibility and affordability of quality child care;

- the decision to allow lone parents in receipt of half rate carer’s allowance to retain their one-parent family payment until their youngest child is 16 years of age;

- allowing lone parents who were, prior to the reform, undertaking an education course and who were in receipt of a SUSI maintenance grant to maintain both their one-parent family payment and the SUSI maintenance grant until they have completed their course of study;

- disregarding SUSI maintenance grants under the jobseeker's transitional payment means test for all lone parents who are undertaking an education course; and

- the fact that a lone parent affected by these reforms and in receipt of rent supplement may have their personal contribution re-assessed on foot of the reforms, which may result in a reduction in their weekly contribution towards their rent;

welcomes the research the Department of Social Protection is sponsoring into an active inclusion approach to lone parents which is examining best practice and innovative approaches to assisting lone parents to improve their well-being;

recognises that, on foot of the reforms, approximately 1,650 lone parents are now claiming family income supplement for the first time and combined with the back to work family dividend are now financially better off than they had been on the one-parent family payment;

recognises that, after the reform, lone parents with children who are aged seven years or older and in employment continue to receive substantial support from the Department of Social Protection, for example:

- a lone parent with one child who has no work will receive a jobseeker’s payment of almost €218 per week;

- if they work 19 hours at the national minimum wage they will receive, on top of their wages, €235 per week between family income supplement and the back to work family dividend, a total family income of €400 per week, which is a gain of €182 per week;

- this individual is in approximately the fifth income decile;

- a lone parent with three children and no work on a jobseeker’s payment will receive almost €278 per week from the Department;

- if they work 19 hours at the national minimum wage, they will receive, on top of their wages, €413 per week between family income supplement and the back to work family dividend, a total family income of €578 per week, almost a €300 gain; and

notes that the Government looks forward to examining the various supports available to all families with children, including single parent families, in the next budget.

Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire. The Government has a plan to make work pay. We cannot allow a recovering economy to bypass thousands of families who are locked into jobless households. Jobless households with children are at particular risk of perpetuating a cycle of inter-generational poverty.

The purpose of the phased one-parent family payment scheme is to reduce long-term social welfare dependency. The positive impact of this incentive has been evident from the increase in new FIS, familty income supplement, applications from lone parents who were affected by the reforms in both July 2013 and July 2014. This indicates that many transitioning lone parents have increased their hours of employment in order to claim family income supplement.

Despite significant levels of investment, in excess of €1 billion per annum from 2008 to 2012, the scheme has not been successful in preventing lone parents from being significantly more at risk of consistent poverty compared to the population as a whole. In 2004, lone parents had a risk of consistent poverty that was more than four and a half times that of the general population. Prior to the reforms to the one-parent family payment scheme, lone parents could have been on the scheme until their youngest child turned 18 years of age, or 22 years of age if they were in full-time education. The non-conditional nature of the payment, coupled with its very long duration, consigned many lone parents and their children to long-term welfare dependency. Ireland's supports for lone parents have been out of line with international norms, where there has been a movement away from long-term and non-conditional support towards a more active and supportive approach. In New Zealand, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, the equivalent lone parent supports cease when the youngest child reaches the age of five years.

The reforms are aimed at increasing social inclusion and reducing poverty and long-term welfare dependency. A number of issues that arose during the reform process have been resolved. The Government has addressed the carer's allowance issues by ensuring that a lone parent caring for his or her child continues on the current arrangements. It has ensured those who have returned to education can continue to access their Student Universal Support Ireland, SUSI, maintenance grant while retaining their underlying payment. The Labour Market Council has been requested to engage with employers to make them aware of the reforms and, where possible, to ask them to offer extra hours that work for lone parents and recognise their situation. We recognise the sacrifice and contribution that lone parents make in raising their children. The State provides one-parent family income support until the youngest child reaches seven years of age. The jobseeker's transition payment has been introduced to support lone parents with children over the age of seven years until their 14th birthday.

With regard to the changes to the one-parent family payment, it is anticipated that approximately 30,200 one-parent family payment recipients will transition from that scheme from the beginning of this month. Of these, approximately 20,000 lone parents will experience no income changes or will gain after the transition. The gain for individuals will be in the range of €10 to €150 per week, depending on their level of earnings and the number of children they have. The remaining 10,000 lone parents who are in employment, based on their current circumstances, will have an incentive to increase the number of hours they work. Of that 10,000, approximately 6,000 lone parents will have an immediate incentive to increase their number of work hours to 19 to claim the family income supplement and the back to work family dividend. These individuals will then be financially better off than in their current position. Many parents in this situation may be able to increase their hours to 19, which is four hours per day, given that their youngest child will be at school.

An example of the gain is that a lone parent with one child who increases her level of work from 15 to 20 hours per week at the national minimum wage and claims family income supplement for the first time will gain almost €38 per week. She will also be entitled to claim the back to work family dividend for each additional child, increasing her income by a further €30 per week per child. That is a total of €68 per week where the lone parent has one child.

I welcome the Minister of State back to the House. I support the motion.

Exactly three months ago we debated this issue in the House when my Independent colleagues, Senators Jillian van Turnhout, Mary Ann O'Brien and Fiach Mac Conghail, and I raised it. More importantly, lone parents and their representative organisations have protested vehemently against the implementation of these cuts without the provision of child care support, but their voices and ours have fallen on deaf ears. This is what I find most difficult to understand. Why are the citizens whose lives are directly impacted by this policy not listened to?

I recently published the findings from a civic forum I held in Leinster House in April, attended by more than 30 lone parents. I am privileged to have met and engaged with these self-advocate lone parents who gave of their time, energy and ideas for this transparent, inclusive and dynamic process. It resulted in recommendations for progressive changes which were presented in an outcome report from the civic forum. A couple of them - Lynn Ruane, from the Students' Union at Trinity College Dublin, and Stuart Duffin, from One Family - are in the Visitors Gallery and I welcome them. I provided a copy of the report to the Tánaiste and I will be delighted to provide a copy to any of my colleagues who are interested. The message of the report is clear. Lone parents wish to reduce long-term social welfare dependency, on which they are in agreement with the Government. They wish to balance their ambitions to learn, earn and care and to achieve financial independence and well-being for themselves and their children.

However, it must be recognised that demanding that lone parents achieve financial independence and lift themselves out of poverty through employment alone, when it is often of a precarious and low-paid nature, is a lot to ask. The Government appears to assume that lone parents are poor because of the one-parent family payment. This is not the case. Lone parents are poor despite the payment. In an economy where two-income households are the norm, a one-parent-led household will always be in a disadvantaged position financially. Effectively, it is trying to compete with the greater earning potential of two-parent families. While two-parent households have, between them, 48 hours to manage care, paid work, family responsibilities and rest, lone parents have 24 hours for the same. The assumption that paid employment alone will lift lone parents out of poverty is incorrect and must be reviewed. However, through education, high-quality employment and affordable and accessible child care and income supports, this can be achieved. I welcome, as do lone parents, the provision of access to Intreo's education, training and employment services to allow lone parents to develop skills and qualifications that will assist them in securing high-quality employment. I also welcome the recent change to the policy to allow access to the SUSI maintenance grant for those in receipt of the jobseeker's transitional allowance. However, I am still concerned about access to higher education for lone parents whose youngest child is 14 years old or above. They will only be able to access the back to education allowance, and I have concerns about the suitability of that scheme in providing a sufficient level of support for lone parents and their teenage children to realistically allow them to undertake a course in education. I know from my experience of working in parts of Tallaght that providing access to and sustaining courses in higher education contributes significantly to lifting people out of poverty.

I would be interested to receive an update on the research referred to by the Tánaiste when we tabled our motion a number of months ago which was sponsored by the Department of Social Protection and carried out by Dr. Michelle Millar.

The aim is to identify the best practice in how to assist lone parents in improving their access to education and employment. It would be great to get an update on the research.

I would like to hear if the Department is planning on conducting a review on the outcomes for the women who are leaving the one-family payment scheme for jobseeker schemes. As their status as lone parents will not be evident in our social welfare system anymore, I hope we will have a mechanism of tracking these families in order to review the impact of the reform. This was suggested by the National Women's Council recently.

Based on my experience of working with self-advocates, I recognise that it is essential that the one-parent family policies are informed by the experiences of lone parents and that they are included in the policy-making process. That is not a lot to ask. Hence, I have called for the establishment of a special working group with a predominance of lone parents, their representatives and leading policy experts in this field to review the recent changes to one-parent family policies and make recommendations for budget 2016. These matters should be treated as a priority. Also, the working group could consider the constructive suggestions to improve the jobseeker's transitional allowance scheme as has been advocated by the organisation called One Family.

The working group could consider lowering the hour threshold for family income supplement for lone parents to accommodate the needs of those parenting alone, especially in the absence of legislation to protect low hour workers as proposed by the Civic Forum.

I thank the Minister of State for coming to the House to take this motion. Its tabling has given us an opportunity to debate the issue of the reform of the lone parents payment, a debate which needs to take place. As many of us have called for this debate in the past few weeks, it is time that the matter is discussed in detail.

My opinion on this matter has been well documented and aired in the past week or two. It is a well known fact that I have, with a number of my colleagues, had a private meeting with the Minister to raise some concerns about the reform, to highlight the impact the initiative is having on lone parents and to put some proposals to her. I have also been vocal about this matter at parliamentary party meetings.

I fully support reform, as do many of the people in this Chamber, but I have a difficulty with anyone losing income in the name of reform. As I said before, and will say again, nobody should be worse off working than on social welfare. The reason I strongly support reform is because I have worked in politics for the past 25 years. During my time I have worked with many lone parents. I have dealt with many people who lose the lone parents payment, sometimes after 22 years and even longer, depending on the number of children they have had. I encountered women who felt bewildered and intimidated by the process of applying for the jobseeker's allowance. I refer to the fact that people suddenly had to comply with the rules for the jobseeker's allowance and be actively seeking employment. Under the scheme of jobseeker's transitional allowance, lone parents do not have to satisfy the availability for work clause until such time as their youngest child reaches 14 years of age. They can, if they so wish, engage with the Department and avail of the services in the Intreo office, the local employment service and the Jobs Club. They can then be ready, when their youngest child reaches the age of 14 or earlier, if they choose to enter the labour market.

I appreciate the fact the Minister said in 2013 that changes would not go ahead unless there were adequate child care provisions. Since that statement she has made a number of changes to the scheme. The jobseeker's transitional payment has been introduced which does not necessitate the requirement to be available for work. The back to work family dividend has been introduced. There has also been a concession whereby lone parents can work up to five days a week without it affecting them, like those in receipt of the jobseeker's allowance. However, I am 100% convinced that even if we had state-of-the-art child care facilities in this country, we would still have this debate today because nobody likes to lose income. If nobody was losing income, we would not be here today and everybody would welcome the reform.

Politicians love it but it will be old news by the time they get it cut.

I read the motion carefully and disagree with some of the issues outlined. I refer to the statistics from the survey of income and living conditions for 2013. The motion stated that the survey stated that 23% of one-parent families with dependent children live in consistent poverty which is almost three times as many as in the general population. The Government cited the same report but claimed lone parents were two and half times more at risk of consistent poverty than the rest of the population. However, if one goes back to 2004 - the height of the boom - they were more than four and a half times more at risk of consistent poverty than the population as a whole. These details speak for themselves and prove this did not work at the height of the boom.

In regard to the paragraph seeking a reversal of the cuts, is Fianna Fáil proposing to reverse all of the changes that were made in respect of lone parents? These are the same proposals that Fianna Fáil's then Minister, Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív, signed off on prior to the general election. Is Fianna Fáil seeking to reverse the cuts its Government made to the rates of payment to lone parents? Is Fianna Fáil seeking to reverse its decision to abolish the Christmas bonus? Is it just asking for the changes that have happened this month to be reversed? What about the people who have changed over to the jobseeker's scheme in the past two years? Perhaps some Senator from Fianna Fáil can address this matter. I ask that party to state what it proposes to do if it is in government after the next general election.

In 2004 the personal rate for the lone parents' payment was €134.80. When we entered government, it was €188 - a difference of €46.80 per week. Senator Thomas Byrne said this could not be done to vulnerable people, but the Fianna Fáil Government obviously seemed to think that it could be done.

I wish to refer to the loss of €108 for a lone payment on the minimum wage and working 20 hours. I have made some calculations based on the details given in the motion. For a person who works 20 hours earning the minimum wage, under the newer arrangements, he or she will receive family income supplement amounting to €200 per week, have an income of €173 and will also receive the back to work family dividend of €29.80 which amounts to a little over €400. Under the arrangement for lone parents that was in place, that person would receive €444 which means there is a loss of over €40. The financial loss is still too high and nobody should lose €40, but the loss is not €108.

I have received written confirmation that customers who move from the one-parent family payment to the jobseeker's transitional payment or jobseeker's allowance will retain an entitlement to a fuel allowance. That is another thing which we were told was not going to happen.

As I have said, I fully support reform. However, we must find a mechanism that ensures nobody loses money in the name of reform. I know the argument can be made that lone parents have found themselves in the same position for years, since the introduction of the one-parent family payment, when their youngest child reached the age of 22 years or earlier if they were not in full-time education.

I had a meeting with the Minister of State, the Minister and officials. I raised concerns and put forward proposals that may help avoid or at least reduce income reductions for lone parents on low wages, in particular. I want to ensure no lone parent on jobseeker's transitional allowance, who chooses to return to education, would lose entitlement to the SUSI maintenance grant. This matter has been dealt with since I raised it and I thank the Minister of State for sorting the matter out.

I want the JobsPlus extended to lone parents in receipt of the jobseeker's transitional allowance. I would like a payment akin to JobsPlus introduced, such as an employers' support package, which will target the employment of lone parents but provide flexi-hours. I would like such criteria applied to employers in terms of this payment. I want an increase in the disregard for people in receipt of jobseeker's transitional allowance. I want the back to work family dividend scheme extended to people who work fewer than 19 hours. I also seek an impact report on welfare allowances, especially covering the period of the past two years since these arrangements were introduced. Lone parents are being encouraged to retrain or upskill and I would like courses to work around school hours because a start time of 9 a.m. and finish time of 4 p.m. is not an option for lone parents.

I fully support the concept that the only way out of consistent poverty is through work. I am also aware consultation has taken place with stakeholders and of the establishment of the Labour Market Council by the Minister, which is supportive of reform.

There has been a significant level of investment, which amounted to in excess of €1 billion per annum from 2008 to 2012. Such investment has not proved successful in preventing lone parents from being significantly more at risk of consistent poverty compared with the population as a whole. Therefore, reform must take place. We must bring lone parents to a better place. I hope, in the long term, that reform of the scheme will eliminate long-term welfare dependency experienced by some parents. I hope that the Government will put in place services that will lone parents to become financially independent.

While I appreciate that it is highly likely we will lose this motion tonight, I ask all concerned not to go back to where we were but to move forward in a constructive manner.

Also, I ask that the Minister would review the matter with a view to helping those who have been negatively affected by a loss of income following these changes.

Can I ask the Acting Chairman how many Members are required for a quorum?

It is a bit much that a party would propose a Private Members' motion and its members would not be here to debate it. They should be present for the debate on their own Private Members' motion.

Notice taken that 12 Members were not present; House counted and 12 Members being present,

I express my sympathy to the Minister of State for being stuck in the shooting gallery for this, and to the people on the other side. I sat in my office and listened to limp speeches being read out with an utter lack of conviction.

I have had a very large volume of mail about this issue and a huge number of people telling me that they were my constituents, that they voted for me and so on. It is utter rubbish. None of them did, but I am used to that and it actually does not matter. I do not have a geographical constituency. I do not care whether people are constituents or not; it does not bother me. I am interested in the issues. I thought it might be useful, rather than going on with a lot of old rhetoric, to read one or two of the communications I have received because they put a human face on the situation. The first one is from a woman who states:

Wednesday is a big day for me as you are voting on my daughter & my future. Being a lone parent has completed life for me, my daughter has been the missing piece of my life up to nearly 5 years ago. When I called into my local social welfare office after I had my daughter asking what supports are there for being a lone parent and self employed, I was told 'we never have had a lone parent in our area that is self employed'. So there was no box for me.

The way the self-employed are cut off from support is another issue. We are talking about somebody who creates a business and employs many people, but when the business goes wallop, all the employees are looked after and the person who took the initiative does not. That is an issue Government should examine. She further stated:

These cuts to lone parents are going to affect me in two years time when I will be down €55 a week.

Where is the child care promised by Minister Burton?

That is a very important question because when the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, Deputy Joan Burton, introduced this idea originally, she said she would not implement it until there was a Scandinavian-type child care system. Everybody knows there is no such thing. In its absence, it is insupportable that the Government should attack and impose cuts on the most vulnerable and the weakest members of society. Another communication states: "For me personally, as a working lp [lone parent], these cuts have cost me €140pw..." How many of us would like to be slapped with a cut of €140 a week if we were lone parents trying to put food on the table, educate children and so on? It is disastrous. It continues:

...or approx. €5,600 p.a. calculated on 40 weeks employment. I could now, work for my p.t wage or be €30p.w better off on jobseekers allowance, therefore, I have had to leave my job.

There is an achievement for the Government: somebody who wants to work and has been put out of a job by this measure. It continues:

I suffer from a prolapsed disc and chronic pain and was told by sw [social welfare] and a labour td that a disability payment would be an option. I do not want this. I chose to work. But now I receive more money from the state than before the cuts and I have also been taken out of the tax system. And I am not the only one.

I do not know what has happened to the Labour Party but it looks to me as though some kind of suicidal virus has got into it, if it is introducing this kind of measure in the run-up to a general election. The next communication states:

I am 37 and have one son who is 9. I have worked since I was 16. I have been working part time since my son was born 9 years ago. My job is a Customer Service Agent in Dublin City Council. I have a mortgage on a house I bought 12 years ago. If these cuts go ahead I wont be able to pay my mortgage or keep food on the table.

This is the kind of situation people are facing. It continues:

These cuts are only affecting the working lone parents. How are these cuts suppose to get lone parents back to work when its the working lone parents who are only being penalised?

I cannot take on any more hours because the child care is not there and even if it were then my wages would be entirely paying someone else to raise my child.

That is a potent argument. The last communication states:

I work part time in a local secondary girls school with 700+ students. I am a cleaner and work 2.5 hrs a day and this work can be very physical. As I employed by the B.O.M. [board of management] there is a limited budget for cleaning staff so an increase of hours is not a possibility. Therefore we are let go in June and re employed in August.

There is a period in the summer, therefore, when she is not employed. It further states:

Financially, this can be quite difficult but I know I can look forward to a wage in August. This also affords me the opportunity to be here to care for and supervise my 14 year old daughter during the summer months. How lucky am I?

I receive a reduced rate of [allowance] of €175 p.w.

My wages after tax is €179 p.w.Total €354. These cuts have decimated my income by €142 pw. I will now receive €217 p.w. Jsa.

Next week we will be asked to renew our contracts. I cannot do that. In fact I rang my employer last week to explain my situation and I cried for 3 hrs after that call.

That is a genuine letter.

I will give some facts. First, the 2006 report on which these changes are based show that the average time people spend on lone parent allowance is 5.6 years, with just over 7% of beneficiaries remaining on the payment for more than 15 years. Of those, many may be carers, working or in education. That lone parents are languishing in welfare dependency in any great number is a myth. Second, every single Government report identifies child care as the structural barrier that needs to be addressed, in addition to reforming the one parent family allowance. This is reiterated by TASC, the ESRI, the OECD, One Family, Barnardos and so on. Few countries give children such long school holidays. That has to be paid for.

I will conclude by referring to the Mac Mathúna case, No. 105 of 1997. The Supreme Court specifically said that it was proper for the Government to tailor specific elements of the tax and welfare rules in recognition of the specific barriers that lone parents face compared to two-parent families. The income disregard was introduced with this case in mind, but the specific reduced income disregard is now removed for lone parents with children over seven. The income disregard was designed to facilitate the paying of costs associated with working. The advantage gained through the Mac Mathúna case is being lost, and recognition of specific lone parents' needs is practically gone. I have many more facts, but I rest my case.

I welcome the Minister of State and this debate. There has been much debate and complaint about this issue in recent weeks and months and it is good to have the Minister of State present to hear from him on the issue.

It is clear that this particular welfare reform has caused much disquiet and distress to families and it is difficult not to be struck by some of the examples given by Senators David Norris and Marie Moloney. It is the Government's intention through this legislation to make work pay, but I agree with Senator Marie Moloney that to make work pay we should ensure people are not affected so seriously. One hundred and fifty euro a week appears to be a huge deduction for somebody to withstand, especially if he or she ha to feed a child or children.

However, it is quite simply the case that we cannot allow our economy, with its nascent recovery, to allow a cycle of long-term unemployment in families to continue.

It is lone parents who pay.

It is very unhelpful when the Senator consistently interrupts when a person is trying to express-----

I only interrupted once. That is not constant.

The Senator interrupts everybody. It is very off-putting.

This is the most off-putting thing I have seen. The cuts to lone parents are quite off-putting.

If Senator David Norris had been listening to me rather than talking, he would have heard that I agree with what he said. He is still not listening to me; he just wants to speak when he has something to say.

These households, especially those with children, are at particular risk of ending up in cycles of poverty with generations of a family out of employment. This reform is intended to minimise this. I would like to hear the Minister of State give some explanation as to how the reform is useful in response to the examples given by other Senators.

On the face of it, the purpose of the scheme is quite clear, and the intention is to see a reduction in long-term social welfare dependency. Previous reforms have been successful in this respect. The number of family income supplement applications from lone parents affected by the reforms in 2013 and 2014 tends to highlight that many lone parents have increased their hours of employment to claim family income supplement, which indicates the policy has worked, to be fair to the Government. When it comes to this payment, the facts are quite stark. They show the policy might need changes and I look forward to hearing from the Minister on what will be proposed.

It is anticipated that approximately 30,000 people previously benefited from the payment. Of these, two thirds will experience zero income changes or gain after the measure is introduced, and these gains can be up to €150 per week. It is important to point out the other side of the argument. Obviously, the very difficult situations people endure must be highlighted and are more important. Breaking it down further, the remaining one third of the beneficiaries of the payment, approximately 10,000 lone parents, are in employment and based on their current circumstances will have an incentive to increase the number of hours worked. Of this cohort, approximately 6,000 lone parents will have an immediate incentive to increase the numbers of hours worked to 19 to claim family income supplement and the back to work family dividend. These individuals will then be more financially better off than their current position, but this is dependent on them actually getting 19 hours of work. Many of the parents in this situation may be able to increase their hours given that their youngest child may well be in school at that stage. I acknowledge there is a presumption and that some of this cohort will not be able to increase their hours of work.

There are multiple scenarios where a lone parent would be better off under these reforms. Senator Terry Brennan mentioned that a lone parent with one child who increases his or her level of work from 15 hours to 20 hours per week and claims family income supplement for the first time will gain almost €38 per week if he or she is on the minimum wage. He or she would also be entitled to claim the back to work family dividend for each additional child, increasing income by a further €30 per week per child. This is an improvement and must be pointed out. In addition, a number of child care supports are available and, if required, individuals can avail of the subsidised child care supports provided by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. It subsidises approximately 25,000 child care places, with many for low-income parents. This includes the after-school child care scheme, which provides up to 500 subsidised child care places for children of primary school age.

We need to commit to ensuring the provision of a better child care model in the forthcoming budget. This is something the Government intends to work to continue to improve. As such, while I appreciate where the motion comes from, I do believe some of the reforms have been worthwhile and it is already the intention of the Government to continue to improve the child care component to match the welfare system. I agree with Senator Marie Moloney and I look forward to hearing from the Minister of State, in particular regarding the Senator's queries.

Like others, I am delighted to have an opportunity to raise this issue. My colleague, Senator Mary White, has been pivotal in raising the matter on the Order of Business day after day in the Chamber. She set up a campaign and championed the issue, and she will contribute to the debate in a few moments.

I have listened to the Government try to defend this during the debate, and to be honest there is no defence. Whatever way it is dressed up, one really cannot defend child poverty. The EU survey of living and living conditions report of 2012 showed that in Ireland 30.5% of the general population suffered two or more forms of deprivation but this rose to 63.2% in the case of lone parents and their children. The consistent poverty rate is higher among lone parents than among the general populous. This fact has been raised by many State organisations and many research organisations in the State.

The changes introduced from a public policy point of view hit the weakest hardest. In 2014, the budget for the back to school allowance for clothes and shoes for primary school children aged between four and 11 was slashed from €150 to €100, which was a 33% cut. This is from a budget of approximately €45 million in the Department of Social Protection. The overall budget in the Department is more than €20 billion. Why are we targeting those people who are most vulnerable, such as young children and lone parents?

This is not something new. Poverty among children is not something that happened overnight on the Government's watch. I do not want to make a political point. In 2008, approximately 6.8% of children were living in consistent poverty but today approximately 11.7% of children live in consistent poverty. This is almost double the 2008 figure and this is under the Government's watch. This represents approximately 140,000 children living in consistent poverty in Ireland.

Many of them come from lone parent families. This represents approximately the population of the five seat constituency in Donegal. In the Republic, the number of children living in consistent poverty is the same as the population of the constituency of Donegal. This is a shame. I am not throwing political snowballs across the room, but all of us collectively need to stamp it out. One way of doing this is to ensure that particularly those most in danger of child poverty, those children growing up in lone parent families, are protected by the State. It has an obligation as guardian of those children and supporter of lone parent families to support this family dynamic and unit. Unfortunately, the cut to this payment from a public policy perspective does not do this. It is wrong.

The measure will save some money in the biggest spending Department in the State, but the money saved is a drop in the ocean in the overall amount of money being saved. A total of 15,000 parents had already been affected by the end of June and an additional 40,000 families have been affected since 2 July. This is absolutely and totally wrong. As has been stated, on 18 April 2012 the Tánaiste promised not to proceed with the legislation unless a credible affordable Scandinavian child care system was in place. Initially, the Department announced 6,000 places, which fell considerably short of the places needed. At a Department of Social Protection briefing in January, it was announced only 500 such child care places would be available.

That is far short of the Scandinavian child care system the Tánaiste was talking about back in 2012. In fact, Ireland has the worst child care system in the developed world. That is an outrage. We have to decide where we spend our money, how we spend our money and how we spend taxpayer's money. We have to decide whether we want to bring in policy decisions on spending that are going to bring about massive cuts to lone parent payments. I will give an example of the impact of the loss of the one-parent family allowance on a family unit of one parent and one child, with the parent earning the minimum wage of €8.65 per hour exclusive of previous losses due to cuts to the income disregard, for example. If the parent works 20 hours a week, they will receive a wage of €173; one-parent family allowance of €176.30; a family income supplement, FIS, payment of €94; and a fuel allowance of €10. Before the cuts in July this year, their take-home pay was around €453. That is now being cut by €50, or 11%, in July, down to €400. From July next year, it will go down by a further €15 to €387 and in July 2017 that will go down to €372, giving a cumulative total cut of €80. This is wrong. It is hitting children. We are going into 2016. Remember the words of the Proclamation: cherish all the children equally. Unfortunately, some children will have less of a chance to develop than others, given the State's intervention in slashing these payments.

Even at this late stage, I appeal to the Minister of State, Deputy Kevin Humphreys, to do something about this. It is not right. It is just wrong. The money can be found somewhere else. There is wastage and there are inefficiencies in the Department of Social Protection that could be addressed.

The Senator's time is up. I have a long list of speakers and want to include everybody in the debate.

I welcome the Minister of State. Unlike most Senators here today, I will not be talking about statistics or Scandinavian models, or whatever. I want to focus on one thing, which relates to what Senator Paschal Mooney said. I worked with lone parents as a community welfare officer for many a year and it is as simple as this. There is a lone parent, who has been getting the lone parent's allowance until last week. She might be working ten or 12 hours and might have that extra income. She could have €350 take-home pay per week, but she would be budgeting for that amount of money. Most likely because she had extra money on top of the lone parent's allowance, she could have a loan taken out, perhaps for education purposes, or perhaps a car loan. She could be taking out a loan to pay for a washing machine. Now that money is gone from her. This is the problem. Her budget is gone. That is the perspective we need to start looking at this from. I do not think that when the Minister, Deputy Joan Burton, initiated this two years ago she envisaged that people were going to lose money and it is acknowledged that many have gained money. Fianna Fáil is calling for the reversal of these changes, but that would mean the people who gained money would now lose money. That is not a good idea either. Some 4,000 or fewer people have suffered cuts to their money. I know the Department is working with each of them to figure out a way to improve their lot, but while somebody in Dublin might easily be able to get an extra couple of hours to get them over the 19-hour threshold, that is not the case down the country. If someone has 12 hours, that is it. There is no way an employer would be able to give them 19 hours so that they would benefit from the family income supplement.

That brings me to a suggestion. We should have a graduated FIS payment for people who have fewer than 19 hours, targeted at the lone parents, purely because of the cut they have suffered. It could be done very easily. Somebody who has 17 hours could be given 55% of the difference, rather than the 60% with family income supplement. It is something we should look at so that they do not lose out. The back-to-work family dividend should not only apply to people who have 19 hours. It should apply to anybody who is working and under the 19 hours. Those are two areas the Minister of State should look at seriously. I know, as does the Opposition, that even if this motion is passed today, it will not change anything.

The only thing that will change anything is us influencing the Minister of State and the Minister to look realistically at this suggestion. I do not want to lose the Whip in order that I will lose my power of trying to influence them.

The Senator has made a big impact so far.

There is a seat over here.

Senator Terry Leyden has said once before that he knows these motions are only aspirational. It will not achieve anything. What is achieved will be achieved by Government parties on this side of the House trying to influence the Minister of State. I will certainly be one of them.

Earlier this month, lone parents were subjected to the last of a series of cuts to welfare payments that were announced in 2012, with 30,000 lone parents with children over seven losing their one-parent family payment entirely, some of them losing up to €140 a week. I will start by correcting my colleague, Senator John Kelly, in saying that while some parents will lose nothing as a result of the changes, nobody is gaining from them. Let us be honest about this and let us be very clear on what is happening and what we are voting on this evening. Nobody is gaining as a result of this change and the loss for some families is up to €140 per week. For a lone parent who is already facing pressure at this time of year, trying to organise school uniforms, back-to-school costs and all of that, this is the worst possible time to be hit with these costs. I am sure all of us have had people contacting our offices who have been made homeless. I have heard from several lone parents from my area who are living in bed and breakfast accommodation and hostels and who have been there for months. As the Minister of State knows well, people are in temporary accommodation for six or nine months and Dublin City Council is saying that it is trying to get to them, but it cannot. It is shocking.

The cuts also have to be seen in the context of broader cost increases on families in the past few years and what has been happening to the most vulnerable families in our society. It is also ironic that these cuts are being implemented at what the Government tells us is a time of recovery. It tells us the recession is behind us and that we have nothing to worry about anymore while cuts like this are being implemented. It is also worth noting that the Government gave its rationale for these cuts in 2012 as wanting to help lone parents and lift them out of poverty. We have seen from the earlier cuts that were imposed since then that more lone parents have had their poverty levels increase. Some 63% live in deprivation as a result, so the consistent poverty rates among lone parents have increased since the Government set out to help them. What kind of help is that?

When we discussed these cuts back in 2012, I voted against them. I tabled an amendment that stated they would only be implemented if the child care provisions were in place. I said to the Tánaiste that I really hoped she would be the Minister to bring in Scandinavian-style child care in Ireland but that I was afraid it would not happen and was afraid of the consequences for families if it did not. At the time, the Government Senators told us their reason for supporting the changes was that they believed the Tánaiste's word. They said they would not vote for the changes only that she had given that commitment. When the facts change, the only rational thing to do is to change one's mind. It is very clear now that that child care has not been delivered, that consistent poverty rates among lone parents have increased, not decreased, as a result of earlier tranches of this policy, and that it must be stopped now. I was astonished at the time that Government Senators for whom I have a lot of respect supported these cuts, because I felt, particularly for some of the Labour Party members, that it would be a red line for them and that they would not stand over them, but I will be disgusted if they do so again today. This is an opportunity to stand up for the most vulnerable in our society and to do the right thing. I appreciate that it is difficult from a political point of view. People do not want to lose the Whip and do not want to find themselves outside their party, but sometimes in politics, one has to do the right thing and must take the consequences. I have been there in recent weeks.

The Senator is justifying her own position.

Sometimes one has to be able to live with oneself, to sleep at night, to look people in the eye, to answer that telephone call from a homeless lone parent and tell him or her one stood with him or her and that they were not just words of sympathy, but that one really stood with him or her and stood up for him or her when it counted.

We have an opportunity to do that today. It is not too late to reverse these cuts. If the Government comes back to us and is able to implement proper child care, I would be the first to support that. As Senator Katherine Zappone and others said, lone parents, as well as two parent families, want us to address the outrageous cost of child care.

Every parent wants to do the best for his or her family. I do not think there is any point in pushing people out into crappy jobs for two or three hours that pay very little and where people are losing money as a result of working. Work should carry a certain amount of dignity. When people get to a point where they can balance family and work, it is good for the self-esteem of parents to have a job or course that they enjoy and it is good from the point of view of children for them to see their parents earning money. We are not in such a position and all the cuts have done is force people out of work. Lone parents who worked very hard prior to this to get themselves back into education and training and get a job now have to quit their jobs because it has been made financially less attractive for them to work. I call on Members of both sides of the House to stand up, do the right thing and support the motion. The most vulnerable families in the State are relying on them to do so and I hope they will have the courage to do so.

I want to bring some reality to proceedings. I have been an elected representative for 22 years and have worked with lone parents since I was first elected. I employ three lone parents. People would want to tell the truth. There are anomalies and some systems do not work. I have had six representatives in my office over the past two weeks, of whom five have been better off since the changes. Their income has increased from €56 to €116. One is not better off and is short €42 a week, something I raised with the Minister of State today. I have a serious problem with people being left short.

I often wonder who thinks up these schemes, whereby jobseeker's allowance, family income supplement, the back to work family dividend and jobseeker's transitional payments are mixed. I would rather have a family where the income comes from work, family income supplement or whatever brought up to a decent living income, be it a one parent family with one or two children or a two parent family supported by family income supplement.

Every year, the Vincentians send us a breakdown of what a family income should be, and that is to where we should be trying to get. I can only refer to facts. I have seen the Government spiel about a one parent family with three children which, if all the right boxes are ticked, earns €578 a week. I do not deny that is a fact. An income of €578 a week equates to a gross income of €45,000 a year, something an employer needs to consider. I hired a woman last year who had been unemployed for 14 years and had a child. She was never happier than when she was back at work and I can honestly say she was the best employee I ever hired.

One cap does not fit all. There is an anomaly in the system, which Senator John Kelly identified. The rule on 15 to 19.5 hours per week needs to be tweaked. One may be able to work those hours in Dublin, Limerick or Shannon, but one will not get them in Ballydehob or Ballygobackwards to allow one to be eligible for family income supplement. Family income supplement should be used to bring a family's income up to a decent living income. I have no problem supporting such a policy.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill's contribution was interesting. Some 20,000 people will experience little or no change and, as I said, five of the six people I know received a large increase in their income. It is not right that a small percentage are losing while others are gaining at their expense. That is where the balance is wrong. I can never understand why, given all the expertise available in the Departments, somebody cannot do the sums correctly to determine what one parent with one child or two children needs to live on. We make things convoluted and confusing. The six people in my office did not have a bull's notion of what had happened. We helped them with the paperwork and applications, and five of them gained money which was positive.

We need to tweak the system because it is wrong. I have no notion of voting against the Government and I am a member of the parliamentary party, but there is something fundamentally wrong when any group, in this case one parent families, are targeted. I sent two women to the Minister of State's office yesterday because I thought there was something wrong if they were losing money. It would never be my intention for any family to lose money in a budget change like this.

This is only a motion, but it would be wrong of me to say we should not revisit this issue. We need to seek out the individuals affected. We have their PPS numbers and I would like the Minister of State to address the issue I raised with him today. We should ensure family incomes are improved rather than diluted.

I welcome the Minister of State. I commend the authors of the motion. I hope it is passed and there is a good chance it will. That should not necessarily mean that nothing happens because we are one House of the Oireachtas and that should mean something to the Government. If one House states it will not support cuts, surely that should be a wake-up call for the Government if democracy is to mean anything. I do not accept what Senator John Kelly said, namely, that the Seanad has voted in favour of a motion and nothing should change. That would be a sad day for democracy.

The last speaker was incredible, in terms of how out of touch he is with reality and how the cuts will impact on many families. We see this sort of Thatcherite nonsense time after time, when Governments bring forward measures like this and point to extreme examples such as where a family with three children is living on €578 a week. That is very much the exception, if such families exist at all.

On a point of order, I said if it ticked all the right boxes.

The Senator had his say and this is my opportunity to have my say.

Whatever he says will be horseshit, to be quite honest.

He can call it what he likes, but I am dealing with-----

That is what it is.

I am dealing with reality.

That is out of order, Senator Mulcahy.

As am I, every single day of the week.

I am dealing with reality, which is the large number of people who contacted me and the meetings I attended with lone parents who are losing, rather than gaining, money. For any Senator on the Government side to say five out of the six people who contacted him will gain money is incorrect. The majority of women in receipt of lone parent's allowance will lose money because of the measures the Government introduced. It is women in work who will suffer the most.

This is ideological. We see the same with the Tories in Britain. We heard the mantra from a Government Senator that this is about making work pay. It is about cutting money and supports for women who are in work. The women who will lose out are those in work. We have heard examples of those who will receive less in their pay packets. One Labour Party Senator agreed and gave examples of women who will be down €140 a week, which is a significant amount of money. That is the reality that will impact on many lone parents because of the changes being introduced.

The reason the Tánaiste said in this Chamber and in the Dáil in 2012, I understand, that she would not introduce these measures unless Scandinavian, as she put it, or universal child care was available, was because she recognised at the time that if she proceeded with these changes in the absence of child care, it would be a disaster. Women would not have the money to pay for child care and it would not be in place for them. She accepted that at the time, but has now proceeded with the changes and will continue with the cuts.

The Government cannot defend these cuts. How can work pay when 20% of the workers in the State are on low pay? Many of the workers we are discussing are on low hour contracts, even some of those who want to work extra hours, and the Government has done precious little about it. They may work in the retail sector on low hour contracts and want more hours, but they cannot get them.

Therefore, it is illogical for the Government to state this cut is about encouraging women to work more and about ending a dependency that some lone parents may have on welfare. These are some of the arguments cited by the Fine Gael side also. It is absolute nonsense. This is a cut and that is all it is. It is meant to save money. It is an ideologically driven move by the Government, supported mainly by Fine Gael. It is, as other Senators have said, amazing the Labour Party is supporting these changes. If the Minister of State was standing where I am and his party was in opposition - it was in opposition, it railed against everything the previous Government did, it was often right and it stood on the same side as Sinn Féin, Independents and others when it opposed many of the changes introduced by the previous Government - and if a Fianna Fáil Government tried to introduce these changes, he would not support it. Therefore, why would he do it in government and why would he expect me or anybody else on this side to support him? He knows this is wrong. The Labour Party people know it is wrong. Deputy Emmet Stagg in the Lower House wrote to one of his constituents saying it was wrong but yet voted differently. Many Labour Party Senators say they do not like a lot of this but they do not want to lose the Whip because they would lose their influence. Labour Party Senators have no influence in government and that has been proved time and again in this Chamber when they voted for all the Fine Gael budgets and all the cuts. It is again supporting Fine Gael on this cut.

Sometimes the medicine has to be doled out. We are the people, along with members of the Labour Party, who must look the people affected by this cut in the eye and say we made the arguments but again the Government did not listen. It has pressed ahead with changes which it knows are unfair and which we and the Minister of State know will drive more women into poverty. There are more people in poverty in the State than when the Government came into office. Report after report shows that and this cut will deepen child poverty. For that, the Government should be ashamed of itself. It has done it over and again with many of the measures it has introduced and here it goes again. I wholeheartedly support the motion. I hope it is passed and that the Government comes to its senses and reverses a cut which will drive more people into poverty.

I welcome the Minister of State. I am disappointed the Minister, Deputy Joan Burton, is not present. I feel deceived by the Minister. I voted for this cut when I was on that side of the House on the basis that she said she would not introduce this change to reduce the age for the one-parent family payment from 14 years to seven until, to quote her famous phrase, there was a Scandinavian child care model in place. Today, we learn that the European Union welcomes our efforts to reform the lone parent family payment but again it highlights the structural barrier of child care. The Minister of State is hanging himself out to dry.

I find the lone parent cut very difficult because I am always struck with admiration when lone parents come to see me. It is always the mother who comes to see me. They come to talk about the challenges to stay in education and continue to rear their child and generally it is to do a master's degree. I am struck by the mothers who rear their children and manage alone. The key word for me in all of this is "alone". When I had younger children I was grateful for the fact that I had a partner, a husband, to help me rear the children because, truly, it is tough work. I can only imagine what it is like rushing home from a few hours of work, worried about traffic, collecting a child and having to manage alone for the evening. Around 5 p.m. is a really tough time with young children so it is nice to have an extra pair of hands. Why are we singling out lone parents? Some 98% of them are mothers and there are children involved. They are our future. These are the people in whom we should be investing. Senator David Norris told some stories. The following is what a mother said to me:

I will be watching the Seanad vote on lone parent cuts tomorrow. Due to my job and salary being halved because of reforms which have disadvantaged me and my daughter I can hardly believe that the Labour Party who were voted in by people like me, because of their equality policies, do not get the huge disadvantages being created in a failure to recognise at any level that lone parents have issues which sometimes mitigate against employment. If you believe that my losing my work and salary and being directly casualised is of advantage to my daughter, then the feminism that the Labour Party purported to support is a lie and not worth my time.

That is what I question. The Labour Party is not pro-woman, pro-child or pro-family. I will not even speak about the fact that I have not got an answer from the Leader or the Minister about the 17 pregnant and homeless women in Dublin, whom I mentioned here last week. I have tried to get coverage for them. Who cares? It does seem as if any anybody really cares. Children, women and family must matter. They are the bedrock on which we build the society in which we are going to create some stability.

According to the Department of Social Protection, 11,000 parents, not 4,000, immediately lost income after the changes to the one-parent family payment were introduced. Many will not be able to increase their hours to qualify for family supports and many will lose their jobs. Those taking up work will be poorer than they would have been under the 2012 rules. Each Government report identified that child care is a structural barrier that needs to be addressed in addition to reforming the one-parent family payment. I welcome reform if it is met with supportive measures. This is reiterated by Task, the ESRI, the OECD, One Family and Barnardos. Blaming the one parent families is something I have a great difficult with. As Senator David Norris said, the average time on one-parent family payment is 5.6 years, with just over 7% on it for more than 15 years, which I agree is a long time, but many of these are carers or in education. That lone parents are languishing in welfare dependency in great numbers appears to be a myth. There are contradictions. I want to say something which I am sure it will be very controversial.

The Senator has one minute remaining.

I need about one minute. Every parent, every mother, has a father, a partner. There are two things the Minister, Deputy Joan Burton, should have done. She should have come in with a proper child care system to allow parents go back to education and to allow them to work. She has not done this. The other question is, why are we not pursuing the father? When one creates, one should be able to take responsibility for it. Whoever procreates should contribute. I have family members and friends who have gone through this. They have been in and out of courts trying to get the dual responsibility of the father to pay up for his children. If it fails in the courts, let us have direct payments from social welfare or from salaries. That is a policy I want to see implemented. What type of society are we propagating that we are making victims of our children? We are making pariahs of our women. It is wrong. Let whoever creates contribute. I would like to hear the Minister of State's response.

I will take the liberty of reading a letter from The Irish Times of 26 June from Fr. Peter McVerry. I am appalled. My siblings and I were reared in a Labour Party family but my father and mother, if alive today, could not identify with what is going on in the Labour Party. The trappings of power has gone to the head of all the elected Members. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. There is a lack of compassion because the trappings of power are so pleasurable and sensuous.

I read a letter from Fr. Peter McVerry:

The abolition of the one-parent family payment from 1 July for parents whose youngest child is over seven years of age in an effort by the Department of Social Protection to save money will cause unnecessary hardship for thousands of lone parents and their children and should be abandoned.

Fr. Peter McVerry knows more about poverty and inequality than anyone else in this country. He calls for this measure to be abandoned. He says that many lone parent families will face increased financial difficulties and some may be forced to give up their part-time employment and become fully dependent on social welfare. When I spoke on this before, I made the point that the women in the House are all ambitious and have pleasant lifestyles with good jobs and partners to support and help them with their children. As Senator Fidelma Healy-Eames has so eloquently said, it is hard to think of anything more difficult than a single mother or lone parent who is working and who must also head home to mind the children. I do not understand how the Minister, Deputy Joan Burton, is so cold. I really do not. The power has gone to her head; I am not afraid to say it.

Fr. McVerry goes on to say that this is only the latest of a number of policies from the Department of Social Protection which has caused huge hardship and he refers to another serious cut; the reduction in the jobseeker's allowance for those under €25 to €100 per week. That targeted a group of people who are not politically organised or active. The rationale for the measure was, ostensibly, to get young people off their couches, away from the television set and out to look for work. It is a mindset that reflects the policies advocated by the right wings of the conservative parties in the United Kingdom. Fr. McVerry also stated that he met a young man who had been living in a long-term homeless hostel for which he had to pay €50 per week. Unable to survive on the other €50, he fell behind with his rent, was evicted and is once more living on the streets. He says he knows many young people who are drug free but are refused social welfare payments because they have no address due to an unwillingness to stay in hostels which are full of drugs.

Having observed the Minister of State over the years, I note that he is a genuine human being. He must plead with the Tánaiste on the cruelty of it. I was just at a meeting of the Taoiseach's committee on the commemoration of 1916. We will shortly commemorate and revere the people who died for their country. They were willing to put their lives down. As such, will the Minister of State for God's sake ask that woman to reverse what she is trying to do? She is destroying the Labour Party as far as I am concerned.

I wish to share my time with Senator James Heffernan.

I welcome the Minister of State. I have listened very carefully to the debate. Senators across the House are either calling for us to reverse or, at the very least, pause this cut. That is what I am hearing and I hope the Minister of State is hearing similar. When the Government took office, I supported a number of cuts that had to be made because we had to cut our cloth to our measure, but this is one cut that was flawed from the very start. With colleagues such as Senator Katherine Zappone, I opposed it. This was one that went too far and which did not have a clear policy basis. We have had time to review and fix it, but that has not happened. Senator Katherine Zappone and I have organised several debates in the House on the issue but we have not sorted it out. Many of the issues people have raised in the House yet again today have been raised before. I commend and support my colleagues Senator Katherine Zappone and Avero; Power in everything they said. I totally agree.

The difficulty I have is as follows. The Government has established an interdepartmental group on child care and everyone agrees that there is a need to invest in child care. We have to remember the context. When we were making these cuts, we were lectured that to improve outcomes for children, we had to invest in services. Last year's budget was our first opportunity to begin, but we increased child benefit by €5 without actually investing in child care and the services everyone says we need. Nevertheless, another increase of €5 in child benefit has been mooted again. I really do not see it. We were lectured about the importance of investment in child care, but the Government, which holds the cards, and the Tánaiste, in particular, took the decision to say "No, let us increase child benefit by €5". The reality is that those who have the wealth will not necessarily notice the €5 increase while that sum will not stretch very far for those who do not. We really need to invest the money where it will make a difference.

My vote this evening will be in solidarity with lone parents and their children. I have issues with both the motion and the amendment and I could debate that, but it is the clear principle on which we are voting here this evening that my vote will be for.

I thank Senator Jillian van Turnhout for sharing time with me. I see a great deal of Labour Party bashing going on today.

It is not bashing.

Yes there is and there is a bit of politicking going on also, Mary.

Excuse me. How dare you speak like that?

You are a novice and talking like that.

There is politicking going on. Certainly, it has been a dreadful decision by the Labour Party, which many of its members have recognised. Former colleagues of mine have told me of fraught Labour Parliamentary Party meetings and I just cannot fathom where the party thought it was going with this. There was a wave of goodwill after the marriage equality referendum, but then this was lashed out.

I studied in Finland, a country with a similar population size and demographics to our own. I visited Copenhagen. It would not require a massive change in the way we think through child care to implement the child care system that is operating in the Scandinavian countries. It does not take a massive leap of faith to get our act together to do that. The idea of increasing, as Senator Jillian van Turnhout said, child benefit by €5 for everyone is insane. I have always said the universal child benefit payment was wrong. The reason I left the Labour Party was over cuts to child benefit because it was a promise that was made but was not kept. This is another thing that is a promise and it is what people are missing. The Tánaiste promised that these cuts would not be implemented until the safeguard of a Scandinavian child care system was in place. That has not materialised. Instead, we see the handy option of going back to give everyone an extra fiver and all will be safe and well. That is not the case. It is ridiculous that we still have families in this country that can save up their children's allowance to go on a skiing holiday at Christmas while other families are struggling to put food on their tables and to bring children to school. It is just not right.

Connolly, 1916 and cherishing all of the children of the nation equally will be quoted back to the Labour Party ad nauseam in the run up to the commemoration. This cut does not go anyway towards treating children equally. In fairness to the Minister of State, he is a fair man and has been fair in my interactions with him. He knows about the social welfare system and about what works and what does not. This is a retrograde step and something that needs to be looked at. I hear other Government Senators saying it is a motion and will not go anywhere, but it will be symbolic if this House sends a loud and clear message that we want to see a reversal of a cut with which we do not agree and wish the Government to rethink. There have been some suggestions about how it can be thrashed out and rethought. Perhaps that is where the Government needs to go with it and where the Department needs to go; back to the drawing board to sort out child care. The €5 increase in children's allowance does not make sense. I could go on, but I am out of time.

I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Kevin Humphreys, for being patient. I would like to begin my contribution to this debate by referring to a section of the website of the Department of Social Protection on which a number of ready reckoners are set out. I am sure the Minister of State is aware that four of the seven examples given on the website show lone parents losing money as a result of these changes. My contribution is based on the words of a lone parent living in the country who wrote to me. She made the point that many small-business employers simply do not want to sign family income supplement forms or formalise anything. They want nothing to do with Departments. If a lone parent in a vulnerable position who is looking for work gets a job for a couple of hours a week, he or she will have to try to get the relevant forms signed. The Minister of State knows the way the system in this country works as well as I do. It is unfortunate that he is in the firing line this evening because he is one of the few Ministers or Ministers of State in this place who would go out of their way to help people.

Lone parents are one of the few minority groups that society forgets. They are predominantly women who act as both mother and father to the future of our nation. Since 2012, these people have been particularly targeted for regressive cuts to allowances and social welfare payments. The impact of this is severe. I believe it will have dire consequences for society. These parents, who should be viewed as champions, stand to lose vast amounts of income because they work. This loss in income will result in them being financially unable to provide for their children. It is the children who will suffer. Extracurricular activities will be sacrificed and spending on essential clothing will be reduced. The few rare treats that these children get, like a day out or a trip to the cinema, will become a thing of the past.

Children need social skills. These cuts will see children become socially isolated. Their self-esteem and confidence will suffer. This will have further social impacts for the State as the children of one-parent families mature and realise that the State views them as less than the children of two-parent families. They will see the State punish their parents for working. They will become latchkey kids as a result of this measure. They will see themselves stigmatised, which is most worrying. Stigma should have no place in today's society. The cuts in one-parent family payments have inadvertently caused stigma. They have brought us back to the days when the child of a single woman was considered in a certain way. I will not use the word because there are children in the Visitors Gallery. I doubt that this was the Tánaiste's intention when she made these decisions, but it has become the outcome.

Everything I have said so far is a reflection of the views of a single parent who has written to me about her own personal circumstances. Like every Senator who has spoken on both sides of the House, I am concerned about this issue. Like others, I have received countless e-mails from people who will lose up to €142 per week. It is simply not good enough. The single parent who wrote to me referred to another payment and said that if these cuts are not reversed, lone parents will be in even worse financial circumstances two years from now. The back to work family dividend will have expired and they will no longer be eligible for jobseekers' transitional payments. Therefore, she argues, these people will stand to lose a minimum of a further €90 a week. The woman who wrote to me also pointed out that the €60 offset is not available unless one is working three days a week. If one is working just one day a week, the offset does not apply and one gets just €20.

As I have said, the website of the Department of Social Protection shows the problem with the lone parents' payments that are coming on stream. The European Anti-Poverty Network Ireland has issued a position paper on activation as it applies to lone parents. I do not think I will have time to go through each of the ten recommendations in the position paper, but I will mention some of them. According to the network, the Government should:

...pause and review the rollout of the reform of the OFP so that the underlying problems can be addressed. Reform should only progress if it can be properly resourced so it can be successful for one-parent families.

As the Minister of State has been here for two hours, I will hand him a copy of the other nine recommendations that are set out in the position paper. I ask him to address them back to me through his office so that I can go back to the parent who gave them to me. I thank him for his time. I sincerely hope that when he walks out of here today, he will have lost a vote and will have to tell his senior colleague, the Tánaiste, that she needs to wake up because the country is screaming that this has failed. The Government needs to back out of this flop now before it damages families.

I support the Government amendment. I thank everyone for their contributions. I was present for the entire discussion. The Senators who have remained in the Chamber are probably familiar with my record in this House. I come in, I listen and I try to work on the basis of any viable and good ideas I hear. It is very rarely that I take offence in either House, but I have to say I took grave offence from the comments of Senator Mary White because I do not come from a privileged background. The Labour Party is not a populist party. We have had to come in and fix this country twice after it was crashed and burned by the party she represents and for which she intends to stand as a candidate at the next general election. I believe her comments were more about the next general election than about what she actually believes. I will debate that issue with the Senator at another stage. I was particularly saddened by the tone of her remarks. As she know, I rarely respond to remarks in this House.

There is no doubt that this country has gone through an incredibly tough and painful period. The people have toughed it out through the very worst of times. The reality is that we protected the most vulnerable people when the public finances were at their most vulnerable. Our system of social transfer, as welfare payments are known, is the single most effective in the European Union when it comes to preventing poverty. We can stack up report after report. People have mentioned reports. Senator Jillian van Turnhout is not here, but I would like her to be aware that in budget 2015, the Government correctly increased child benefit and partially restored the Christmas bonus. It is a fact that in January this year, we retained the weekly income disregard of €90 under the one-parent family payment. That is the Government's record.

This is a reforming Government. The reform of the one-parent family payment scheme, which has been under way for three years, is vitally important because over time it will greatly help to reduce poverty among lone-parent families. The Government has reformed the one-parent family payment because for too long, the previous systems failed lone parents. Since the scheme was created in 1997, lone parents have been more at risk of poverty than the population as a whole. According to the most recent data from the CSO, which comes from its 2013 survey of incomes and living standards, some 23% of lone-parent families are at risk of consistent poverty. This is 2.5 times the level among the population as a whole. It is simply not acceptable. In 2004, at the height of the greatest economic boom this country has experienced, some 30% of lone parents were at risk of consistent poverty. To put it another way, they were 4.5 times more likely to be at risk than the population as a whole. Incredibly, this figure had increased by 2006 to the extent that lone parents were five times more likely to be at risk than the population as a whole.

The easiest thing to do in politics is nothing. Senator Paschal Mooney spoke about "the level of fury" and matters like that. In the past, Fianna Fáil sometimes responded to fury by trying to be populist. I would like to think the Government is prepared to take decisions that are unpopular in the short term in order to do the right thing. I do not think these decisions will be unpopular in the long term. The Government is not prepared to tolerate certain outcomes without looking at how they can be improved for lone parents and their families. Before these reforms, Ireland was alone internationally in its system of supporting lone parents. Lone parents were able to stay in the one-parent family payment scheme until their youngest child turned 18 years, or 22 if he or she was in full-time education. According to a 2003 report published by the OECD, Babes and Bosses - Reconciling Work and Family Life, the one-parent family payment scheme needed to be reformed to reduce the expectation that lone parents would be in receipt of this payment for the long term. Other countries have moved away from providing income supports for such long durations and towards a shorter and more engaged approach that is designed to support lone parents as they make the transition into employment.

In New Zealand, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, for example, the equivalent support for lone parents ceases when the youngest child reaches five years of age. More recently, OECD research shows that single mothers in Ireland have one of the lowest employment rates in the OECD. Less than 48% of single mothers in Ireland worked in 2011 compared to the OECD average of nearly two thirds. Forthcoming research by the OECD will show that this disparity continues with only 51% of single parents in Ireland in employment in 2014 compared to an EU-15 average of 69%. In Ireland's case, these numbers have been remarkably stable over time, at 50% in 2002, 51% in 2007 and 51% in 2014, which clearly indicates that the gap was apparent before the crisis and points to a structural problem.

It should be recognised that Ireland has the highest lone parent penalty in the OECD. On average, single parent households in OECD countries have a disposable income equivalent to two thirds of that of a household with children and more than one adult. Ireland is the only country where single parent households have less than half the disposable income of households with children and more than one adult. This is the principal reason single parents are consistently more at risk of poverty in Ireland than the population as a whole. However, we know from the research that being at work reduces the risk of poverty rate for lone parents by three quarters. That is why there had to be a change in our approach to supporting lone parents.

The Government is committed to improving the provision of child care, including the supports that are available to lone parents. We have introduced schemes that offer heavily subsidised child care places to assist lone parents to take up community employment placements or jobs. Both of the schemes build on an annual investment of €260 million to provide high quality child care which benefits approximately 100,000 children.

I am anxious to respond to the points that were made in the debate. In response to Senator Paschal Mooney, the Tánaiste has said she will examine, in the context of the budget for 2016, the various supports available to all families with children, including single parents who are in full-time and part-time employment. The Senator asked me to address that directly. Regarding the Scandinavian child care system, the reforms were announced in budget 2012. I have listened to the debate on this in the House previously, and Senator Marie Moloney referred to this in her contribution. The reforms announced in 2012 are very different from the reforms implemented last month. The original reforms required lone parents, whose youngest child was seven years of age, to be actively seeking employment. This has changed and now only applies at 14 years of age due to the introduction of the jobseeker's transitional payment. That gives parents the advantage of being able to engage with the Intreo centres and the different possibilities of support in education.

Senator Katherine Zappone asked about the research of Dr. Michelle Millar. That research is continuing and is due to be finalised by the end of the month. As part of the research, Dr. Millar has undertaken an extensive consultation process, including meeting with lone parents' representative groups. We hope the research will be completed by the end of the month and I am sure the Tánaiste will share that information with the Senator as soon as she has it.

Senator David Norris raised the issue of access of self-employed lone parents to one-parent family and jobseeker payments. I will address that with him at a later stage. On child care, there are 100,000 State subsidised child care places supported by the Department and 25% of these are supported for low income parents.

Senators raised a number of other matters. The back to work family dividend is linked to people who exit core social welfare payments, that is, jobless or lone parent payments, and they are not required to be in receipt of family income supplement. Senators have quoted a number of figures but the early indications of the number of people who are gaining - we only have early indications and I do not accept the 4,000 figure for those who are losing - are that 1,650 will have an increase in income. There is a change in that way.

Senator Fidelma Healy Eames brought up the issue of the father. I was in the House when the Children and Family Relationships Bill was debated. The Senator will recall that it is now required that the father's name be put on the birth certificate. That is the beginning of recognising that there is a father and partner involved.

I hope I have addressed the vast majority of the points raised. It has been a full and informative debate and I have taken several notes. Senator Marie Moloney asked about access for lone parents to the JobsPlus scheme. Some of that has been addressed by the Tánaiste. The best way to move out of poverty is through employment and to break down the barriers. That is what the Tánaiste has been doing.

Again, I thank Senators for their contributions. There is a great deal more work to be done in helping lone parents to get back into the workforce and to move out of poverty and I will be doing that work for the remainder of my time in office. I am not concerned about re-election. We must concentrate on doing the right thing, not be populist and not respond to the fury of Fianna Fáil when it is expressed at times. In many ways, that is what got us into this situation. Twice in my lifetime the country has crashed and burned and the Labour Party has had to step in and rebuild it.

I thank the Minister of State for his candid comments. It occurred to me during the debate, although I am not sure it has occurred to the Minister of State or Members on the Government side, that all sides outside the Government and all shades of opinion in this House have opposed the Government's proposal. All of them support the Fianna Fáil motion. That is a powerful statement. I am not saying that all non-Government Members will support it but all shades of opinion have expressed opposition to this proposal in one form or another. I have the height of respect for the Labour Party spokesperson and I am sometimes in awe of her breadth of knowledge of social welfare, which would sometimes redden the face of a Minister, although not the Minister of State present.

That is correct.

She is very knowledgeable.

She continues to champion the cause. The main theme of her contribution was reform of social welfare and that nobody on social welfare should lose money. That is essentially the core of this motion.

I must take issue with the Minister because ultimately this is a political Chamber and it is nothing personal but I am not standing here and hoping that by defeating the Government, it will be kudos to Fianna Fáil. I support this motion because I believe it is the right thing to do. That is the reason. It is also the reason the other Members made their contributions. They think what the Government is doing on this issue is wrong. It is a wrong decision. There was a rather interesting montage on the screen when I was listening to Senator James Heffernan, a former Labour Party Member who put his money where his mouth is, which we respect. However, in the frame of the screen image one could see a young child nestling in the arms of her mother. I presume it was her mother; I did not look around but just looked at the picture. Why should that child be an innocent victim of a Government policy that is essentially inhuman and is affecting people's right to be able to live a proper life?

I wish to refer to the other element of my contribution because the Minister only mentioned it briefly in his comprehensive reply. The key to this might not necessarily be about rolling back all that the Government has done; the key to it might be to examine the child care issue.

Child care is the single most expensive element, particularly for lone parents, even taking account of the free year of early childhood care and education, as that provision ceases at the end of school term and those parents then have to provide sustenance, protection and care for their child or children. The issue of child care was raised in all the e-mails we received, to many of which various contributors referred. We read in those about the amount of money it costs those parents to live and that they have to factor in rent supplement, mortgage repayments in some cases, the cost of food and the cost of child care. However, we would all accept that the cost of child care is excessive.

I made a plea in this respect in my earlier remarks - I make it again now - namely, that I have every hope in the Labour Party, and I have no difficulty with the compassion that party, traditionally, has shown towards the most vulnerable in society, and I would see myself, traditionally, as being on the left of my party. Many of its policies, and we were in government with it previously, have worked successfully. There is a meeting of minds in that regard. I have no monopoly on compassion. I understand the budgetary priorities and constraints that are imposed on the Government as a result of the crash make life very difficult in terms of making decisions, particularly in social welfare areas. However, I believe there is a way out and, admittedly, the Government will want to hold the line, as it has been doing on existing social welfare payments, but it would be worthwhile for it, with whatever resources are available, to examine if the cost of child care could be addressed.

A statement was made by a Limerick academic at a conference in the past day or two, which was reported in the newspapers, to the effect that the cost of child care is the single most difficult obstacle for people and that one of the reasons it is so costly is that 80% of the income received in the sector goes on wages which leaves only 20% to cover overheads and other costs. At the same time there are people working in the child care sector who are living on very poor wages. Ultimately, there must be some way the Government can come up with all the necessary resources, with some formula, to address the cost of child care, targeted at lone parents and those vulnerable people at the lower end of the income bracket. It must do something about that issue. This is seen as an unfair financial imposition on a very vulnerable sector of society and that is the reason it has prompted the response the Minister of State has heard here.

Amendment put:
The Seanad divided: Tá, 23; Níl, 24.

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Coghlan, Eamonn.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Comiskey, Michael.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • D'Arcy, Jim.
  • Gilroy, John.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Henry, Imelda.
  • Higgins, Lorraine.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Kelly, John.
  • Landy, Denis.
  • Moloney, Marie.
  • Moran, Mary.
  • Mulcahy, Tony.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • Whelan, John.


  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Craughwell, Gerard P.
  • Crown, John.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • Heffernan, James.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Norris, David.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Brien, Mary Ann.
  • O'Donnell, Marie-Louise.
  • O'Donovan, Denis.
  • Power, Averil.
  • Reilly, Kathryn.
  • van Turnhout, Jillian.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • White, Mary M.
  • Zappone, Katherine.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Paul Coghlan and Aideen Hayden; Níl, Senators Thomas Byrne and Paschal Mooney.
Amendment declared lost.

Is the motion agreed to?

Why is the Senator calling a vote? There is to be no vote on this question.

A vote has been called.

For the benefit of the House, I had to request guidance on this issue. I was the one who called the vote and I am proceeding with it.

Question put: "That the motion be agreed to."
The Seanad divided: Tá, 24; Níl, 23.

  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Craughwell, Gerard P.
  • Crown, John.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • Heffernan, James.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Norris, David.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Brien, Mary Ann.
  • O'Donnell, Marie-Louise.
  • O'Donovan, Denis.
  • Power, Averil.
  • Reilly, Kathryn.
  • van Turnhout, Jillian.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • White, Mary M.
  • Zappone, Katherine.


  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Coghlan, Eamonn.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Comiskey, Michael.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • D'Arcy, Jim.
  • Gilroy, John.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Henry, Imelda.
  • Higgins, Lorraine.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Kelly, John.
  • Landy, Denis.
  • Moloney, Marie.
  • Moran, Mary.
  • Mulcahy, Tony.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • Whelan, John.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Thomas Byrne and Paschal Mooney; Níl, Senators Paul Coghlan and Aideen Hayden.
Question declared carried.

I urge the Government to call a general election. Today's result requires the Dáil and the Seanad to fall. Therefore, we need a general election. I say no more delays.

The Senator needs one like a hole in the head.


Senator Terry Leyden should be careful what he wishes for.

As we are beating the Government, come on.

Senator Terry Leyden would get a big shock if an election was to happen.

He might have one sooner than he wished for.