I propose to take Questions Nos. 94 and 109 together.
The reforms to the one-parent family payment (OFP) scheme aim to prevent long-term dependence on social welfare support and, while recognising parental choice with regard to the care of children, include an expectation of participation in education, training, and employment by lone parents. The reformed scheme brings Ireland’s support for lone parents in line with international provisions – where there is a general movement away from long-term and passive income support.
The changes to the OFP scheme have placed a firm focus within my Department on the supports that lone parents require, in particular after-school child care, in order to assist them to make their transition into employment. The joint child care initiative that Minister Fitzgerald and I announced as part of Budget 2013 will provide approximately 6,000 additional after-school child care places for low-income families who gain employment and who have children of primary school age. Officials from my Department, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (D/CYA), and the Department of Education and Skills (D/ES) are presently working out the exact parameters of the scheme, which will be launched on a phased basis during 2013, commencing with a pilot in April 2013.
The availability of these new child care places is a positive measure for lone parents and builds on my pledge to work to address the child care needs of lone parents as part of the reforms of the OFP scheme. The D/CYA estimates that the cost of Scandinavian style universal after-school child care provision in Ireland would be in the region of €1 billion per annum. Given the current fiscal constraints, this level of funding is not available. The new scheme will build on the existing supports provided by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (D/CYA) in the child care sector.