My Department spent over €500 million on the one-parent family payment (OFP) scheme in 2018. The scheme currently supports over 39,000 recipients and almost 73,000 children.
The OFP scheme has played an important role in providing income support to lone parents since its introduction in 1997.
Research shows that being at work reduces the at-risk-of-poverty rate for lone parents by three-quarters, compared to those who do not work. This highlights that the best way to tackle poverty among lone parents is to assist them into employment. Access to activation supports is vital to achieve this objective and it is therefore imperative that my Department continues to engage with lone parents to assist them into employment.
The lack of conditionality on the OFP payment, which was unique in Europe, coupled with its very long duration, has, over time, contributed to long-term social welfare dependency and associated poverty among many lone parents and their children. The reforms to the OFP scheme were introduced to address this issue. The reforms provide enhanced access to the Department’s Intreo service to lone parents once their youngest child turns 7 years of age. Access to the Department’s range of education and employment support services is essential to facilitate lone parents to progress into sustainable employment and financial independence.
Budget 2019 contained a number of measures to support lone parents, including working lone parents. There was an increase in the weekly rates of payment for OFP. The income disregard for one-parent family payment and jobseeker’s transition payment recipients will increase to €150 per week with effect from the week commencing 25/03/19 (the highest income disregard level to date). The weekly rates of the Increase for Qualified Children (IQC) in 2019 will also increase the same week by €2.20 per week (from €31.80 to €34) for children under 12, and by €5.20 per week (from €31.80 to €37) for children aged 12 and over. This measure will benefit over 370,000 children and will help to tackle child poverty.
Any change to the OFP as mentioned by the Deputy would have to be considered in the overall budgetary context.