Charities Express Fears Over Social Welfare Bill
Charities representing the rights of women, children and single parents have criticised government legislation being presented to the Dáil this evening which proposes to change the conditions under which parents qualify for the One-Parent Family Allowance.
The Social Welfare and Pensions Bill, which forms one of the last parts of the legislation giving effect to last December’s Budget, would see a gradual change in the age a parent’s eldest child must be under if the parent is to qualify for the allowance.
Single parents are currently eligible to receive the allowance when their youngest child is under the age of 14. The legislation proposes that this be lowered to 7 on a phased basis up to 2015 for new applicants, with single parents then being forced onto jobseekers’ allowance.
Barnardos, the National Women’s Council of Ireland and OPEN, the One Parent Exchange Network, say the legislation will worsen the levels of poverty that already exist in one-parent homes.
OPEN director Frances Byrne said there was a “huge fear” among lone parents that the plans would “make it increasingly difficult for parents to meet the costs of raising a family alone”.
“The majority of lone parents are already in work, or want to work,” she said, “but the ongoing lack of supports such as reliable and affordable childcare and afterschool care present impossible challenges that the Government cannot address by 2015.”
Introducing the legislation in the Dáil this evening, social protection minister Joan Burton conceded that a large proportion of lone parents were “still experiencing poverty, and were at much higher risk of poverty than other working-age adults.
“We believe that supporting parents in participating in the labour market, once their children have reached an appropriate age, will improve their own economic stituations and their social well-being as well as those of their families,” the minister said.
Burton said she recognised that many lone parents wished to enter the workforce, and said this would be addressed by plans to extend the JobBridge programme to lone parents.