Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Questions (378)

Róisín Shortall


378. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social Protection if her attention has been drawn to the impact of recent legislative changes affecting recipients of one-parent family payment as in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9 who stands to lose their one-parent family payment which will leave them with a low paid part-time job that is below the basic rate of social welfare meaning their only option will be to give up their employment and sign on for jobseeker's allowance; if there is any mechanism in her Department to review the impact of what are ostensibly activation measures that in fact have the opposite effect and result in the withdrawal of persons from the workforce and make them even more dependent on welfare; if she will instruct her Department to examine all possible ways in which the person may be able to retain their employment and receive income support from her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30667/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

As a result of the reforms to the one-parent family payment (OFP) scheme, once an OFP recipient's youngest child reaches the relevant threshold age, they will no longer be entitled to the OFP payment. Should they still have an income support need, they will be required to apply for another social welfare income support payment from my Department. In order to qualify for another social welfare payment they must first meet the conditionality associated with that payment. It is worth noting that lone parents have always had to make the transition from OFP to another social welfare payment, as entitlement to OFP has always been based on the age of their youngest child.

For lone parents who will lose their entitlement to the OFP payment from 4 July, 2013 and who have a youngest child aged 14 years or over, as is the case with the client in question, a number of alternative options to the OFP payment are available. These customers can apply for the jobseeker’s allowance (JA), with the full conditionality of that scheme applied. This includes satisfying the scheme rule whereby JA is payable only where a person is fully unemployed for four out of any seven days. In situations where the working patterns of these customers do not conform to this rule, other options are offered. They may be able to re-organise their current hours of employment to satisfy the JA scheme conditionality or secure an increase in their working hours in order to qualify for the family income supplement (FIS) – which requires individuals to work a minimum of 19 hours per week.

If they are unable to meet either the JA or FIS scheme rules, and if they continue to have an income support need, they may have recourse to the supplementary welfare allowance (SWA), which, subject to satisfying a means test, is paid at €2 lower than the basic rate of the OFP payment (€186 per week compared to €188 per week - respectively) but which has the same additional increases for each qualified child (€29.80 per week per child).

My Department is in contact with customers whose OFP payment is due to end to advise them of their options and I understand that this has included the person referred to in the Deputy's question.

The current reforms to the OFP scheme are essential to achieve the necessary progressive outcomes for lone parents and their children – who are over-represented, compared to other social groups, in terms of poverty risk. These reforms aim to provide the necessary supports to lone parents to help them to escape poverty and social exclusion, participate in education and training, develop their skills set, enter the workforce or broaden their existing working commitments and, ultimately, attain financial independence and social well-being for both themselves and their families.