As Deputy Broughan is aware, the Labour Party is the party of work. While we want to have a strong social welfare system, we also want people of working age to be able to go to work, be financially independent and enjoy satisfying employment, careers and lives of financial independence. That is the Labour Party's position.
Before I introduced the reforms, the one-parent family payment was a well-meaning and passive scheme with limited engagement by the State with recipients. Unfortunately for many lone parents, most of whom are women, this has meant long-term social welfare dependency, associated poverty and social exclusion for them and their families.
The scheme was introduced by Frank Cluskey, albeit with Brendan Corish's strong support. As Deputy Broughan will be aware, people could receive the payment for 18 years without once being asked how they were, what they were doing or whether anything could be done to help them. The critical issue is that most people want to get out to work when family life permits.
Social transfers have provided an extremely important buffer in reducing poverty for all welfare recipients, including lone parents. It is estimated that expenditure on the scheme, which has almost 70,000 recipients, will be €607 million in 2015. Lone parents remain at particular risk of poverty, which is not new as they have traditionally experienced higher rates of poverty than other groups.
By contrast, the poverty rates for people in work are much lower. That is why I believe the reforms we have been introducing are needed. I want to support lone parents to develop their skills and, ultimately, secure well-paid employment, whether full time or part time.
I have also made significant changes to the arrangements in place for affected customers as they transition. They include the introduction of the jobseeker’s allowance transitional arrangement which gives lone parents with young children the flexibility they need to work part time or engage in full-time education and provides access to subsidised child care through the afterschool child care scheme, the community employment child care programme and the extension this week of the one-parent family payment to all lone parents providing full-time care until their youngest child reaches 16 years of age. Some 11,000 people have made the transition in the past three years and we have seen people see a significant improvement in their incomes through part-time work, plus family income supplement. Now we are adding the back to work family dividend of €30 per week per child.