Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Questions (804)

Bríd Smith


804. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the estimated amount it would cost to reduce working family payment qualification criteria of 19 hours to 15 hours a week. [29757/19]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

The Working Family Payment (WFP) is an in-work support which provides an income top-up for employees on low earnings with children. WFP is designed to prevent in-work poverty for low paid workers with child dependants and to offer a financial incentive to take-up employment.  The estimated expenditure on WFP in 2018 is approximately €430 million and as of May 2019 it is currently paid to almost 53,000 families in respect of approximately 119,000 children.

For low income workers with less than the minimum hours of employment for WFP and working on a casual basis (that is, up to and including 3 days per week) the Jobseeker’s Allowance (JA) scheme provides in-work income support through daily disregards and tapered withdrawal of payments. 

Apart from the jobseeker schemes if a person cannot meet the 19 hours WFP threshold or if their hours vary significantly from week to week, the Department offers a number of other schemes which can provide income support that can be combined with earnings from employment, subject to each individual’s circumstances.  These include One-Parent Family Payment (OFP) and the Jobseeker’s Transitional Payment (JST), and the Part-Time Job Incentive (PTJI) scheme

Further reducing the “hours worked” requirement would have potentially significant expenditure implications which are difficult to quantify. The number of families working between 15-18 hours and are earning below the relevant WFP thresholds is currently unknown.  Therefore, I am advised that my Department has no way of accurately estimating the cost of reducing the numbers of hours worked required to access WFP from 19 to 15 hours.

It is crucially important that WFP does not inadvertently subsidise unsustainably low earnings or encourage employers to offer minimal hours of employment.  The longer term goal of WFP, as an incentive to take up and remain in work, could be compromised if the nature of the work taken up is not sustainable.

I trust that this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.