The Social Welfare and Pensions Act, 2012, introduced several changes to the one-parent family payment (OFP) scheme – including the phased reduction of the age limit of the youngest child at which a recipient’s payment ceases. In July 2014, the age of the youngest child threshold is being reduced to 7 years of age for new entrants and from 2015 for existing recipients. Transitional arrangements will apply during the period between 2013 and 2015 – depending on the date that a recipient first claimed the OFP payment. By 2015, the maximum age limit of the youngest child will be 7 years for all OFP recipients.
In 2013, it is expected that up to 9,300 recipients will exit the OFP scheme – with up to 8,000 of these in July. These numbers reflect the maximum number of cases who may lose entitlement in 2013. Some of these customers may have continued entitlement to OFP, as the relevant saver clauses included in the legislation will apply. These include OFP recipients who are in receipt of domiciliary care allowance (DCA) in respect of one of their children as well as customers who are recently widowed. The Local Offices are reviewing all cases as appropriate.
The reforms to the OFP scheme are predicated on activation and on getting customers who may have experienced recurring poverty and social exclusion traps back into the workforce once their children have reached an appropriate age. They aim to provide the necessary supports to lone parents by assisting them participate in education and training, develop their skills set and ultimately, attain financial independence and social well-being for both themselves and their families by securing employment.
The majority of those who will lose their entitlement to the OFP payment on foot of the reductions to the age threshold of the youngest child are likely to fall into one of the following three categories:
i. Customers who are in receipt of the family income supplement (FIS) will transition to a re-rated FIS payment that will partly compensate for the loss of the OFP.
ii. Customers who are in receipt of a half-rate carer’s allowance payment will transition to a full-rate carer’s allowance payment that will partly compensate for the loss of the OFP.
iii. The majority of the remaining customers are expected to apply for the jobseeker’s allowance (JA). Of this group, customers whose youngest child is aged under 14 years can avail of the JA transition arrangement.
The JA transition arrangement is provided for in the Social Welfare and Pensions (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2013 and is a specific measure for lone parents transitioning from OFP to JA, whose youngest child is under 14 years of age. Customers who avail of this arrangement will be exempt from the JA conditionality that requires them to be available for, and genuinely seeking, full-time work. They will also be exempt from having to prove unemployment and be able to work part-time without restrictions and still receive the JA payment – subject to a means test.
The JA transition arrangement recognises the difficulty of parenting alone and will ease the transition of former OFP recipients with children of primary school age onto the JA scheme. Without it, it is likely that many former OFP recipients would not have qualified for the JA payment as their caring responsibilities may have prevented them from being available for, and genuinely seeking, full-time work. Significantly, the JA transition arrangement will still require that this group of customers fully engage with my Department’s full activation process. This is the same requirement that applies to all other jobseekers.
The availability of the JA transition payment to this group of customers reduces the need for child care support as parents in these circumstances can remain at home and take care of their children. However, if a lone parent in this situation does wish to avail of an employment opportunity, they are eligible to apply for the after-school child care subsidised scheme.
The after-school child care subsidised scheme will provide 6,000 subsidised after-school child care places for low-income families and social welfare income support payment recipients who enter employment and have children of primary school age. The pilot, which was introduced in seven designated Social Welfare Local Offices, commenced on 29 April, 2013, and will be rolled out nationally by September, 2013.
Lone parents who transition to the JA scheme will qualify for the full range of activation supports that are currently available to all jobseekers. This includes being able to access a wide range of education, training and employment programmes through my Department.