Written answers

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Department of Social Protection

One-Parent Family Payments

Photo of Colm KeaveneyColm Keaveney (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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204. To ask the Minister for Social Protection the number of persons in County Galway who were in receipt of a one-parent family payment in each month from January to June of 2015; the number of persons who will see a reduction in their total social welfare payments following the recent changes introduced the one-parent family payment in June 2015 if there is no change in their work circumstances; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28620/15]

Photo of Colm KeaveneyColm Keaveney (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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205. To ask the Minister for Social Protection in view of her stated belief that the recent changes introduced by her Department to the one-parent family payment will lead to an increase in participation by lone parents in paid employment, the current level of participation and what she expects this to rise to by 31 January 2016; if there should be a decrease in participation rates, if she will conclude that these reforms have been a failure, and reverse them accordingly; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28621/15]

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 204 and 205 together.

The information that the Deputy has requested in relation to the number of persons in County Galway who were in receipt of the one-parent family payment (OFP) during each month from January to June, 2015, and in relation to the number of recipients who were impacted by the recent reforms to the OFP scheme, is currently not available in the Department.

Despite the fact that extensive funding has been committed by the Department to lone parent payments since the 1970s, lone parents remain confined to social welfare dependency and are more at-risk-of-poverty than the population as a whole. The best route out of social welfare dependency and poverty is through paid employment. Research shows that being at work reduces the at-risk-of-poverty rate of lone parents by three-quarters when compared to not being at work.

The purpose of the recently implemented OFP scheme reforms is to maximise the opportunities for lone parents to enter into and increase employment by providing them with enhanced access to the wide range of education, training, and employment supports that make up the Department’s Intreo services. These supports include the recently introduced Back to Work Family Dividend (BTWFD), which provides a significant incentive for families with children to move into employment, as recently reported by the ESRI.

At present, the level of employment among lone parents stands at 45%. Although it is too early to anticipate what the levels of participation by lone parents in paid employment will be in the months and years ahead, access to the Department’s Intreo services is imperative for transitioning lone parents in order to ensure that their prospects of securing employment and financial independence are further improved.

Any reversal of the OFP scheme reforms would delay the critical interaction between lone parents and the Department’s Intreo services and would potentially increase the barriers they face to entering employment in the future. I therefore have no plans to reverse these reforms. Instead, my priority is to ensure that we, as a society, arrive at a situation where lone parents can avail of the same opportunities to access employment, education, and training as everyone else in order to attain their full potential.

However, I look forward to examining the various supports that are available to all families with children, including lone parent families, in the next Budget. In particular, I will look at the scope for improvements in the child benefit payment as well as in other supports for families that are engaged in both full-time and part-time employment.

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