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Changes in payments for lone parents, Consultation on 2011 savings

The Minister for Social Protection, Eamon O Cuiv, announced in the Dail that he would be introducing changes to the One Parent Family Payment in the forthcoming Social welfare (miscellaneous provisions) Bill, 2010 (Dail Eireann, Debates, 25th May 2010, 109-110). Its current duration, he said, was not in the best interests of the recipients, children or society, so the new Bill would end payment when the youngest child reached 13, with a phasing out period for existing recipients to enable them to access education and training so as to return to the labour market. These changes would bring Ireland more into line with international provision, away from long-term passive income support to better outcomes in tackling child poverty by combining strategies facilitating access to employment, enabling services and income support.
In the Senate, Joe O’Toole (independent, National University), described as ‘sickening’ the decision of the government to target lone parents, especially at a time when the government was bailing out the banks (David Norris: ‘Hear, hear’). Joe O’Toole asked who was advising the government to rip off lone parents? ‘Who does the sums and picks the easy targets?’ It was an absolute disaster, he said (Seanad Eireann, 2nd June 2010, 91).
The measures were later challenged by Caoimhghin O Caolain (SF, Cavan Monaghan), who described them as ‘atrocious’ (Dail Eireann, Debates, 1st June 2010, 34). The Taoiseach, replying, reminded him that a paper had been presented in 2006 and there would be a six-year phasing out of the payment. New applicants affected would be parents of new born babies and would not be affected until 2024 when the child was 13, so to suggest that the Bill meant imminent change was not correct. It was about trying to work with those who represented lone parents in the area to assist them, reduce dependency and try to provide more options to return to the labour market.
Questioned by Olwyn Enright (FG, Laois Offaly) about further proposed spending cuts in his department, the Minister for Social Protection Eamon O Cuiv confirmed that his department was identifying options for savings in 2011 (Dail Eireann, Debates, 25th May 2010, 10-12). He was engaged in an intensive round of consultations with a range of welfare representative organizations and was listening carefully to their views. At this stage, there were no specific proposals for exact savings. Asked which categories did he consider to be the most vulnerable, the minister said he was looking at all the data and would take into account such issues as consistent poverty. Later that week, he would meet with a broad cross-section of voluntary groups dealing with the elderly, lone parents, the unemployed and so on.
> General description of supports for lone parents: Dail Eireann, Debates, 18th May 2010, 460-2
> One Parent Family Allowance appeals and outcomes: Dail Eireann, Debates, 25th May 2010, 284-5
> Ages of recipients; savings anticipated year by year 2011-2017 as a result of changes: Dail Eireann, Debates, 3rd June 2010, 745