Home > Uncategorized > Burton(Labour) Hits Lone Parents-Breaks Childcare Promise-Hits Women Taking Time out of the Workforce To Rear Children

Burton(Labour) Hits Lone Parents-Breaks Childcare Promise-Hits Women Taking Time out of the Workforce To Rear Children

sign the petition to urgently tackle child poverty in lone parent families

https://my.uplift.ie/petitions/target-child-poverty-in-lone-parent-families

Minister Frances Fitzgerald has just told the Dail  that the cost of restoring the Burton cut to pensions would be 300 million. Burton took 300 million per year from pensioners, mostly from women!

MICHAEL CLIFFORD: Women’s pensions were easy targets

IRISH EXAMINER           Saturday, October 14, 2017

The problem affects women who took time out of the workforce to raise children, but it lso a product of the marriage ban, writes Michael Clifford

A LUCKY phonecall to Sean O’Rourke and suddenly a buried scandal is excavated. So it went last Wednesday, when the RTÉ presenter was hosting a post-budget programme with Finance Minister Paschal Donohue.

The call highlighted a scandal that suggests this is no country for old women. But it also provided a glaring example of how some people have borne a hugely disproportionate cost to get the country back on its feet.

Eamon Tynan is a pensioner from Longford. He told O’Rourke and Donohue that changes to pension entitlements have been costing his wife €35 a week since 2012. This was a result of measures brought in by then-minister for social protection, Joan Burton.

This is “a huge issue for women retiring now, in their 60s”, Mr Tynan said.

He is correct. The changes are affecting between 32,000 and 47,000 women. This is having a serious impact on the standards of living of these women when they should be relaxing.

The problem affects women who took time out of the workforce to raise children, but it is also a product of the marriage ban that used to exist in the public service. Younger readers might not believe it, but, once upon a not-long-ago, women in the public service had to leave their jobs when they married and were expected to work exclusively in the home.

Having then paid a price for Old Ireland’s ways, many of them are now bearing the cost of how things are done in New Ireland.

Mr Donohue, in a little spin of which his boss, Mr Varadkar, would have been proud, deflected the question onto the marriage ban itself. It was “bonkers and unbelievable”, he said.

As for the pension anomaly, he was apologetic, but it’s not a priority for the Government. It would cost “hundreds of millions” to rectify in one budget, and “any changes to this system are complex and potential impacts need to be properly thought through and costed”, he said.

This is unvarnished spin. The women in question had their money taken from them, because the government of the day saw them as easy targets, when money had to be found somewhere. Mr Donohue must be aware of this, but he couldn’t admit it, because he was a junior minister in that government and his boss, Mr Varadkar, was a senior figure.

The issue is concerned with contributions to the social insurance fund, which goes towards a contributory pension. Prior to 2012, the constraints of the marriage ban — which ended in 1973 — were recognised in calculating contributions.

However, the National Pensions Framework, published in 2010, suggested that it would be fairer to calculate the average number of weeks in a working life in assessing contributions to the pension. This system is more suited to an economy where people, and young mothers in particular, take time out of their own volition.

Crucially, the framework document recognised the historic position of women and that the new system would “see a reduction in the levels at which pensions are paid. Accordingly, the Government has decided that implementation of this measure will not take place until 2020”. Delaying the implementation would greatly reduce the number of women affected. Few could argue that this approach was fair and reasonable.

Roll on the clock two years, to 2012, and a new government is in situ, trying desperately to clean up the mess left by Fianna Fáil.

Money had to be found from somewhere. And, in keeping with the approach of that government, it was accessed in areas of least resistance. A disparate group of late middle-aged and elderly women were recognised in Government Buildings as a perfect target.

Hence the pension framework recommendation was implemented eight years earlier than proposed.

The impact was immediate. For somebody who retired on August 31, 2012, with an average of 21 annual PRSI payments through their working lives — which would not be atypical for women affected by the marriage ban or a working hiatus — the pension to which they would be entitled was €225. The same person retiring a day later, and who had an average of 29 annual contributions, got only €196.

On Thursday, in the Dáil, Joan Burton defended the introduction of the changes in 2012 by saying that the system had to be saved at a time of austerity.

This might well have been the case, but why were the women in question targeted? Was it calculated to be politically expedient? Was it to circumvent the Labour Party’s promise to maintain basic social welfare rates?

The impact on the women was obvious. Groups like Age Action and the National Women’s Council of Ireland have been campaigning to have something done. This column highlighted the matter in August 2014, at a time when the worst of the recession was behind us.

The last line in that column read: “If there is to be any social justice at all applying to the forthcoming budget, this matter needs to be addressed in a comprehensive manner”.

It wasn’t that year, nor has it been since. The current minister, Frances Fitzgerald, said, on Thursday, that reversing the changes would cost €60m next year and a further €10m annually. So what? If doing so is the socially just option, surely that is reason enough to set aside the money.

The issue is whether or not these women were done an injustice and the answer should be obvious.

The only reason the Government might decline to correct the anomaly is that it would be more electorally advantageous to use the money elsewhere.

The manner in which this issue has been resurrected also speaks volumes. Mr Tynan’s call to RTÉ was lucky in its timing. The post-budget analysis often throws up issues, but this year there was little for the opposition or media to chew on. Then, along comes this question addressed to the minister on live radio and suddenly everybody is sitting up and taking notice.

Why did it have to come to that? Is it because priority in the political culture is given to those with the power and money to shout loudest?

Things have moved on in the last three years. The economy has recovered; there is more money to go around. Some have emerged from the recession as big winners. There remains, however, scant recognition that certain sections of society paid a hugely disproportionate price to keep the ship of state afloat through the worst of the economic storms.

The women who had their pensions targeted simply because they were regarded as a point of least resistance are surely entitled to some restitution now.

The forthcoming social welfare bill would be the perfect place to make a start.

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Women Losing Out on Pensions

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe has admitted it is “bonkers and unbelievable” that women are losing out on pension payments due to a recent(Joan Burton 2012) change in the rule

THE GUILTY ONES–Joan Burton, Frances Fitzgerald,  Ivana Bacik. . . . . Will K. Zappone insist on government repealing the measure?

Charlie Weston, Irish Independent, October 12 2017 2:30 AM

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe has admitted it is “bonkers and unbelievable” that women are losing out on pension payments due to a recent(Joan Burton 2012) change in the rules.

Thousands of women are getting smaller pensions because they left the workforce before 1994 to care for children.

Others are taking a pensions hit because they once had a summer job or worked part time for a while.

It is estimated that 23,000 females have been hit with lower payments due to changes to State pension eligibility rules in 2012.

Changes made by then social protection minister Joan Burton in the previous government make it more difficult to qualify for a full pension.

Retired women are losing more than €1,500 a year on average, according to calculations by advocacy group Age Action.

The rule change also means that the women affected will not get the full €5 increase in the State pension announced in the Budget and due from the end of March.

Mr Donohoe admitted it was wrong that women were being affected in this way.

He was reacting to a caller to the ‘Today with Sean O’Rourke’ show, whose wife is losing money due to the change.

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Eamon Tynan, a pensioner from Co Longford, said the situation was costing her €35 a week in her pension payments.

His wife had a summer job in the 1960s when she was a secondary school student before joining the civil service.

As a result, “her contributions are now averaged out and divided by 50”, he said.

The problem was a “huge issue for women retiring around now in their 60s”, Mr Tynan said.

The minister responded that it was “bonkers and unbelievable” that women who worked and obeyed the law by paying pension contributions were now getting lower pensions.

“I think it is wrong the way they were treated. It was wrong then and it is wrong now,” he said.

Mr Donohoe said: “It just seems incredible that we live in a country that required women to leave their jobs and what we are living with now is the consequences of that.

“The advice I have available to me is that if we were to look to try to rectify this issue in one move in a single Budget, it would cost hundreds of millions of euro for me to do,” he added.

“Over the next few years, we are going to try to move to a pension system, which takes into account the entirety of people’s contributions. We’re aiming to do that for around 2021.” The Department of Social Protection said it estimated it would cost €60m next year to revert to the previous system. In 2012, the then government changed the eligibility criteria for the contributory State pension.

It moved to an “averaging rule” to calculate the number of contributions made by a worker.

Those entitled to a full pension were unaffected, but large numbers of those who would have been in line for smaller pensions lost out.

Suffering

Under the old system, if you had an average of 20 contributions a year, you would be entitled to full State pension.

But the changes introduced in 2012 meant someone with 20 contributions a year got €35 less a week in pension.

Justin Moran, of Age Action, said that the failure to respond to the plight of tens of thousands of pensioners suffering because of the 2012 cuts was one of the biggest disappointments in the Budget.

y favourite song is Mr Brightside’ – Minister for Finance got candid during post-Budget Facebook live

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“These changes have punished pensioners who took time out of the workforce to raise children and to care for their loved ones. Many have lost more than a €1,000 a year because of this.

“It’s also important to remember that not every pensioner is going to get the €5 announced on Tuesday.”

National Women’s Council director Orla O’Connor said she was disappointed the issue was not addressed in this week’s Budget.

WHITE: Poverty rates of lone parents show our historical disregard for children

“Ironically, during the last Government, it was Labour’s Joan Burton who moved to abolish the OPFP for mothers of children over seven years, though in the UK a similar move was watered down when it was “discovered” that you couldn’t do a day’s work inside school hours.

Neither country does well by single parents or their kids. Whether you put this down to Protestantism, Catholicism or the ruthless husbandry of property which built the British Empire is your choice.

What’s certain is that we will never answer the question of the single parent by banning the Angelus. Or continuing to pretend that the parenting of a defenceless child is not a job which requires payment.

The British state, in the UK and Ireland, had done little more than exterminate ‘unwanted’ babies, writes Victoria White.

SINCE the news came about of the “significant” human remains in Tuam we’ve had 13 days of mindless commentary and dire journalism — the main thrust of which is the Catholic Church murdered babies in their hundreds and stashed them in the sewerage system because their mothers had “sinned”.

Mention of the Protestant Bethany Home, which had the same death rate, causes the needle to lift momentarily before it dives back into its well-worn groove: The awful, awful Catholic Church. This was “our own little Holocaust”, to quote the Irish Mirror.

RTÉ’s The Late Debate presenter Cormac Ó hEadhra asked the panel on successive nights if the site should be “sealed off as a crime scene”.

The Irish Times ran a major article on “Irish scandals” as if these are different from scandals of other nationalities.

Oh yes, we’re different! UCD history professor, Diarmuid Ferriter told Claire Byrne Live when the story broke that we had, at the foundation of the State, an obsession with purity which he has called “unique”.

I’m only a poor hackette, not a university professor, but I think we should have a squint at other countries, starting with the country across the water which shares our language and much of our culture.

Donning my journalist’s flak jacket, I did an internet search. That wasn’t the end of it, either. I took a book out from the library and I bought another. I read them. Two whole books.

And I can confirm that the death rate for “illegitimate” babies in Ireland in 1939 was more than twice that of the UK (193 per 1,000 as opposed to 90 per 1,000). Which was terrible.

We were a far poorer country than the UK was then. The overall infant mortality rate in the UK was 54.6 per 1,000 in the 1930s whereas ours fluctuated around 74 per 1,000.

In the UK, the organisation involved in the war effort massively improved infant mortality which was tumbling by 1945 whereas ours spiked to 83 per 1,000.

Our mother and baby homes were similar to those in the UK in many ways but they were much worse than UK ones for infant mortality in the mid-century.

The biggest difference between the countries was surely the National Insurance Maternity Benefit, brought in in the UK (from 1911) and National Assistance (from 1948) which mostly paid the cost of the care. In Ireland the homes were largely self-supporting.

In both jurisdictions mother and baby homes were regarded as a step forward because they allowed mothers and babies to stay together.

Before mother and baby homes, unwed mothers in the UK whose families would not help them had two options: the workhouses, where in 1920 nearly 3,000 unwed mothers were held, or the lunatic asylums.

The UK National Council for the Unmarried Mother and her Child, a forerunner of Gingerbread, promoted mother and baby homes, which were mainly run by the religious organisations such as the Church of England, the Catholic Church and the Salvation Army.

By 1958 there were still four times as many charitably-run mother and baby homes than state ones in the UK, and one in five younger unwed mothers availed of them.

“Charitably-run” is a loose term in this case.

The Salvation Army’s homes were said to be the most penitential, with the women wearing uniforms, working in laundries or doing “exquisite embroidery”, even in the 1950s.

However some Catholic and Church of England homes were, in the words of researchers Pat Thane and Tanya Evans, “comparable.” Some were gentle and liberal, including Catholic ones.

“Charitable” organisations such as Barnardos and the Salvation Army sent thousands of “unwanted” babies abroad from the UK for adoption or hard labour just as they were from Ireland, and this trade continued from the UK until the late 1960s. Barnardos sent 24,000 to Canada between 1880 and 1914 alone.

But the truth was that the British state, in the UK and Ireland, had done little more than exterminate “unwanted” babies until the churches and voluntary agencies stepped in.

In Ireland this outrage was compounded by the determination of the State that the few kids who survived should be Protestant. Joseph Robins details in The Lost Children how in the 19th century children who had been “boarded out” were ripped away from their adoptive family homes after a few years and brought back to the workhouses for fear they’d become Catholics.

You can’t really blame the churches for the treatment of babies born out of wedlock. The reason the tradition of care for “illegitimate” babies began was that Christianity believed every child had a soul and so churches became the respository for babies which would previously have been abandoned on the side of the road.

This is where the expression being thrown “on the parish” comes from. And parishioners resented the cost. Robins gives an account of parishes secretly moving babies to other parishes in the middle of the night. It has always come down to money.

Who would support babies, if not their fathers? This is a question which has still not been fully answered, either here or in the UK, as the poverty rates for lone parents show.

A partial answer is the One Parent Family Payment, the forerunner of which was an allowance for unmarried mothers achieved by Labour’s Frank Cluskey when in coalition with Fine Gael in 1973.

While in the early part of the century the difference between the UK and Ireland can be summarised as “30 years”, we converged more and more quickly as the century moved on. On the question of a special payment for single parents, we moved ahead of the UK, which only conceded a special Child Benefit payment to single parents in 1977: 50p.

Lone parents in Ireland have not faced the political lash they have had in the UK, where Conservative MP John Redwood, suggested in 1997 that single mothers should give their children up for adoption to preserve “family values”.

Ironically, during the last Government, it was Labour’s Joan Burton who moved to abolish the OPFP for mothers of children over seven years, though in the UK a similar move was watered down when it was “discovered” that you couldn’t do a day’s work inside school hours.

Neither country does well by single parents or their kids. Whether you put this down to Protestantism, Catholicism or the ruthless husbandry of property which built the British Empire is your choice.

What’s certain is that we will never answer the question of the single parent by banning the Angelus.

Or continuing to pretend that the parenting of a defenceless child is not a job which requires payment.

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BURTON CUTS INCREASED POVERTY AMONG LONE PARENTS

Consistent Poverty Rate Has risen to 26.2%  for Lone Parent Families-Central Statistics Office-EU SILC 2015 Report published 2017

In 2012,Katherine Zappone, Now Minister for Children, withdrew opposition to changes in Seanad after Speech by  IVANA BACIK (LABOUR) SUPPORTING BURTON


FURTHER ATTACKS ON LONE PARENTS IN BREACH OF UN CONVENTION ON RIGHTS OF WOMEN-LOUISE BAYLISS TO ADDRESS UN COMMITTEE TO-DAY

From Samantha Dunne  Solidarity For All One Parent Families

https://www.facebook.com/groups/SolidarityforallOPF/permalink/1340188049337051/

Ireland ratified the UN convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women (CEDAW) in 1985. Since then Ireland has rated poorly in addressing discrimination against women, and hasn’t been brought ahead of CEDAW on over ten years.
Austerity measures have worsened the lives of many women, lone parents in particular. Reforms in 2012 targeted one parent families by limiting the time lone parents can be in receipt of one parent family benefit. These reforms actually meant that government departments do not view a lone parent as a lone parent once their youngest child turns just seven years old. The reforms basically meant two things: working lone parents lost 17-18% of their weekly income, and non custodial parents no longer had to pay child maintenance in the eyes of the Department of Social Protection. These reforms have had a detrimental impact of OPF’s and our children. The latest SILC figures indicate that children in OPF’s are almost 4 times more likely to live in consistent poverty than children in two parent families.
The housing crisis has had a disproportionate impact on OPF’S over two parent families. 70% of families who presented as homeless last year were OPF’S. This is a direct result of the cessation of social housing since the mid-1980s. Many Lone parents and their children are subject to the precarious private rental market to meet their housing needs. Many will be lucky yo find accommodation with landlords who accept social welfare and local authority housing supports. If they do secure tenancies these rentals are very insecure due to inherent lack of rent controls in Ireland. There existing many barriers to employment, education and training for lone parents; yet DSP are pushing lone parents into the workplace without appropriate supports in place. The new single affordable childcare scheme will make childcare for many lone parents more expensive than the supports that are in place at the moment which are only available for very few recipients anyway. Since 87% of lone parents are mothers these reforms, barriers, and the cessation of social housing go directly against CEDAW. Our spokesperson Louise Bayliss will address the UN committee later today to voice our concerns regarding Ireland’s refusal to implement policies which will lift OPF’S out of poverty and deprivation.
https://www.facebook.com/groups/SolidarityforallOPF/permalink/1340188049337051/

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CIRCULAR FROM LOUISE BAYLISS-SPARK (Single Parents Acting for the Rights of Kids)

In 2012, when Minister Burton first announced reforms to lone parents, many advocates predicted that without the necessary supports,  it would lead to increases in poverty among lone parents.

Last week, the CSO released the EU SILC 2015 report (http://bit.ly/2jV6MG9). Unfortunately, the statistics clearly show that the policy has failed.  Consistent poverty rate rose to 26.2% for  lone parent families. It is positive that consistent poverty dropped significantly for 2 parent families with 3 or less children to 7.7%, but this is only exacerbating the inequality of children based on their family status. It is unacceptable that a child is 340% more likely to live in poverty based purely on their family status. It is time that there is a targeted approach to child poverty in lone parent families and that this inequality is addressed.

We believe that Minister Zappone ultimately has responsibility for all children and we are therefore asking her to establish an urgent  interdepartmental task force to address this national crisis. SPARK (Single Parents Acting for the Rights of Kids) would appreciate if you could sign the petition below and share with your networks. We would also appreciate if any list member has any advice or suggestions to achieve positive change that you email us at sparkirelandcampaign@gmail.com

https://my.uplift.ie/petitions/target-child-poverty-in-lone-parent-families

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Seanad Motion Calling On Burton to Reconsider the JULY 2, 2015 Measures on Lone Parents Withdrawn by Senator Katherine Zappone following opposition from  Senator Ivana Bacik( Labour) and Speech by Minister Burton(Labour) !

“I have decided that I will not push this to a vote.”–Senator Zappone (further down)

Read full Seanad Debate Below

INCOME CUTS FOR LONE PARENTS

From July 2nd, 2015, lone parents working more than 19 hours a week would lose the one-parent family payment when their youngest child turned seven years of age. Up to 32,000 families will be affected by this measure and, in many cases, their incomes will be slashed by up to €80 per week. In addition, lone parents whose youngest child exceeds 7 years of age will be forced to take up “job activation measures” including jobridge outside the home on pain of having their Job Seeker Transition Payment reduced. When Minister Burton was introducing this measure she promised that it would not be implemented until “Scandinavian Style Childcare” was in place. Now she has broken that promise and the measures are set to be implemented in two months time on July 2, 2015

Government Amendment deleting the call to reconsider the July 2 implementation of lone parent cuts included:

“Seanad Eireann – recognises the Government’s commitment to: – maintain core social welfare weekly rates of payment; – tackle long term social welfare dependency by ending the expectation that lone parents will remain outside of the labour force indefinitely; – enhance lone parents’ access to the range of education, training and employment supports and services in order to develop their skills set with the aim of securing employment and financial independence”

Full Seanad Debate  April 15, 2015 One-Parent Family Supports:

Motion An Cathaoirleach:   I welcome the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Joan Burton, to the House.

Senator Katherine Zappone:   I move: That Seanad Éireann: – notes that 1 in 4 families with children in Ireland is a one-parent family, that over half a million people live in one-parent families (Census 2011) and that over 30 per cent of the Irish population experienced two or more types of enforced deprivation, compared to 63.2 per cent of those in lone parent households (SILC 2013); – further notes that Budget 2012 restricted eligibility for the One-Parent Family Payment (OFP) to those parenting alone whose youngest child is aged seven, and initiated phased reductions of income disregards for lone parents to equal those of jobseekers allowances, albeit we welcome the Government decision in November, 2014 to halt the final €30 cut; – acknowledges the Minister for Social Protection’s decision to establish the Jobseeker’s Transition Allowance Scheme for lone parents with children aged between 7 and 14; – regrets that accessible, affordable, quality childcare to accompany policy changes has not been delivered, though acknowledges the €14 million investment in after-school care; – notes with concern that almost 40,000 lone parents are expected to transition from OFP with 30,200 transitioning on 2nd July, 2015 (just as school holidays cause childcare costs to increase), and how this change will impact negatively on thousands of working lone parents who will be financially worse off; and – welcomes the Minister for Social Protection’s recent announcements that people in receipt of OFP will maintain eligibility for the half-rate Carer’s Allowance and that she commits to resolving anomalies for those taking up Jobseeker’s Transition and accessing SUSI maintenance supports; and calls on the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection to: – acknowledge that changes in labour market policies regarding lone parents are resulting in unintended consequences, such as lone parents giving up work or full-time education, and agree to immediately review recent policy changes in light of this; – resolve with immediate effect all remaining administrative and policy anomalies concerning the roll out of Jobseekers Transition including access to Carers Allowance, Back to Education Allowance and self-employed or enterprise supports and to ensure no working lone parents with children over 14 are financially worse off after transitioning to Jobseeker’s Allowance; – honour previous commitments and implement a ‘system of safe, affordable and accessible childcare’ to accompany the changes to OFP; and – engage in a comprehensive review of the policy decision to compel lone parents to work full time and to examine whether this policy is consistent with a child’s right to parenting and consistent with equality of family status. I welcome the Tánaiste to the House. It is timely to debate these issues now as the Government puts the final touches on its much-anticipated spring statement and when all people, especially those whose boat has not yet lifted with the upward swell of the economy, await their chance for prosperity, well-being and equal participation in building a new Ireland. I have proposed this motion along with my Independent colleagues because we believe the changes in one-parent family policies have not been effective in achieving the stated objective of encouraging single parents into job activation and education. Equally significant, we believe the underlying rationale for the policy changes is not correct. The rationale is that single parents should be compelled to work full-time once their youngest child reaches the age of 14. The State does not compel two-parent families to do so. Before I lay out our case, I must acknowledge the Tánaiste’s commitment to social welfare reform and getting the reform right. That is why our motion welcomes and notes a number of her decisions to amend the policies announced since 2011, and also the leadership and extensive work of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education and Social Protection to support these positive amendments. I acknowledge also the ambition and commitment of single parents themselves to reach for higher education and employment that pays while balancing their parental responsibilities of care. They are actively dismantling the stereotype of long-term welfare dependency. That is why I held a civic forum with many of them in Leinster House yesterday and why we concentrated on proposing positive recommendations for change, some of which I will mention this evening, and all of which will be compiled into a report that we will submit to the Government and joint committee for consideration. I appreciate the expert assistance of Dr. Mary Murphy in this regard, in addition to the assistance of the advocates for one-parent families, some of whom are with us this evening, including One Family, the National Women’s Council of Ireland, the Union of Students in Ireland, SPARK and Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union. While public policies in the 1990s supported a mother worker regime where part-time work was facilitated alongside parental caring responsibilities, as exemplified by the higher income disregards that supported child care costs, the latest changes from the mid-2000s are such that single parent policy shifted towards an adult worker regime in which the adult is expected to work full-time with care, in theory, provided by a public service or purchased in the marketplace. The ideal should instead be a carer-earner model – with appropriate incentives and support for higher education – that facilitates an adequate level of labour market participation while also accommodating care choices. This is unlikely to be facilitated by a system that privileges or insists on full-time employment.  We think that this is unlikely to be facilitated by a system that privileges or insists on full-time employment. Government policies are rooted in the assumption that the way out of poverty is a job. We say that the way out of poverty for one-parent families is education and a job that can balance caring responsibilities. Let us consider some of the evidence that we have to date, subsequent to the changes in one-parent family policies. In 2013 the survey in living conditions cited that the consistent poverty rate for the Irish population was 8.2% but that the rate was 23% for one-parent families. It also recorded that over 30% of the population experienced two or more types of enforced deprivation but that 63% of those living in one-parent households experienced deprivation. Senator van Turnhout will speak on the impact that such poverty and deprivation has had on the children of one-parent families. With regard to employment, Department of Social Protection figures for 2011 show that 49% of recipients of the one-parent family payment were in employment. This decreased in 2013 to 36%. It increased again in 2014 and 2015 but at the end of January 2015 45% of recipients were in employment, which is still under the 49% figure. There are a number of reasons for the fluctuations, the main one being of course the economic crisis which affected everyone, including single parents in employment. Many single parents lost employment, but another key factor is what happened at the beginning of 2012. Previously, recipients of the one-parent family payment could participate on a community employment scheme, receive their one-parent family payment and also get a payment of the community employment allowance. As the Tánaiste knows, this was stopped. A direct result of this was significant decline in the number of single parents in community employment. The Tánaiste is also aware of the various calculations that have been put forward indicating that, when 30,200 single parents transition on 2 July 2015, just as school holidays cause child care costs to increase, this change will impact negatively on thousands of working parents who will be financially worse off. The Department of Social Protection estimates that two-thirds will transfer to the jobseeker’s transition allowance and our motion has welcomed the establishment of this scheme as a better option than jobseeker’s allowance. However, the jobseeker’s transition allowance has a lower income disregard than the one-parent family payment and hence, for example, a worker earning €200 will lose €29 a week after the transition. Those parents who have no child under 14 years will transfer onto the jobseeker’s allowance and there are concerns that many of them will have to give up their part-time employment due to the jobseeker’s allowance conditionality requirements. Those single parents who are in paid employment of sufficient hours to qualify for the in-work benefit FIS as a top-up to their one-parent family payment will transfer to the FIS scheme exclusively, which will provide a lower level of income support than they currently receive, even with the back-to-work family dividend payment. There is also great concern regarding lone parents’ access to education, especially for those whose youngest child is over 14 and those who wish to pursue education goals in the future. We have welcomed that the Government has revised its policy regarding lone parents currently in full-time education and whose youngest child is under 14. One-parent family payment recipients in full-time education can remain on the payment until their course is completed but this arrangement is for recipients coming off one-parent family payment up to 2 July 2015 only. Those who exit one-parent family payment after this date will have to opt for the jobseeker’s transition allowance or the back-to-education allowance. If one qualifies for jobseeker’s transition allowance, one will be eligible to receive the SUSI maintenance grant, which is crucial for child support. However, a parent whose youngest child is 14 years or above will be treated the same as if he or she had no dependants and will only be able to access the back-to-education allowance without any maintenance support for child care and travel. As was pointed out yesterday in our civic forum, it is considerably less costly to the Exchequer to support single parents through higher level education than it is to support them on welfare for the entirety of their lives. For these reasons, and others allied to them, the motion calls for a comprehensive review of the policy decision to compel single parents to work full-time and asks if this policy is consistent with a child’s right to parenting and is consistent with the equality of family status. Some of the positive recommendations coming from the civic forum include the following. Single parents in or wishing to access full-time education and those in part-time employment should be able to access one-parent family payment support until their youngest child is 18. The State should recognise that all citizens under 18 years of age are children and thus still dependent on parental support. If lone parents are already in employment or education, they do not need the removal of the payment to activate them. Further, how is it that one parent in a two-parent household can be classified as a dependant, in our social welfare policy, yet a child between the ages of 14 and 18 in a one-parent household is not recognised as a dependant? Another recommendation is that if the State insists on a transition to jobseeker status after the youngest child reaches seven, we should bring back the higher levels of income disregards for those on jobseeker’s transition allowance, by way of supporting the caring responsibilities of lone parents, given there does not yet exist adequate public locally-based child care services that do school collections from their child’s school. There are many more recommendations, including the need for quality part-time options, such as work, training and education, to be recognised. It is not easy for single parents to negotiate increases in part-time hours within a context of mini-jobs, zero contract hours and the idea of bundling slivers of time. It would be helpful if the Organisation of Working Time Act was amended from a 15-hour minimum threshold to a 20-hour minimum threshold. We think these are better ways for single parents to reduce long-term social welfare dependency, to balance their ambitions to learn, earn and care, and eventually to achieve financial independence and well-being for themselves and their children. This is why we call on the Government to engage in a comprehensive review. Senator Jillian van Turnhout:   I welcome the Tánaiste. It is with pride that I second the motion. The result of inadequate income for many one-parent families is food poverty, fuel poverty, over-indebtedness, difficulty with education-related costs, cutting out extra-curricular activities and children’s hobbies, living in poor quality housing, risk of homelessness, and homelessness. The latest SILC data for 2013 revealed that in lone parent households, the at-risk-of-poverty rate was 31.7%, the deprivation rate was 63.2% and the consistent poverty rate was 23%. The particular and distinct vulnerability of this group is further shown by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul which has confirmed that one-parent families constitute one of the major groups to which it provides services. The financial assistance the Society of St. Vincent de Paul provides is connected with their low and inadequate incomes, particularly those in receipt of one-parent family payment. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul has advised that despite incredibly careful budgeting, there simply is not enough money in the house, and they find they need a payment to buy food or meet the costs of school, energy and housing. Parents who work part-time find that their pay is low and unlikely to rise significantly as they often have low educational levels because of the situation they are in. Child care is an issue in terms of cost of child care and the salaries for those working in child care because all too often jobs that are considered to be women’s work get lower rates of pay. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul also supports both two and one-parent homeless families that are in emergency hotel accommodation, in the majority of cases because of the major shortage in social housing or having been pushed out of the unregulated monopolistic private rental sector where market rate far exceeds rent supplement caps and where the housing assistance payment is only available from selected housing authorities. That is an issue that differs around the country. Society of St. Vincent de Paul volunteers report that their members are finding that the move from one-parent family payment to the jobseeker’s transition allowance is causing them considerable uncertainty and fear, particularly among those who have received the letter from the Department. This is something I found repeatedly as I talked to groups in preparation for this debate. The proposed changes regarding the one-parent family payment have also caused considerable stress, upset and confusion with Doras Buí, a community-development organisation centre that provides high quality supports and services to one-parent families living in the Coolock area of Dublin. That organisation outlined some of its concerns. Obviously a major cause of concern is the provision of adequate, quality and affordable child care in that area. It claims that the provision of the after-school subvention scheme is not adequate. First, not all private child care providers have taken up this scheme and many parents are unable to find a provider to collect their child from their school. It is great to say that one has the scheme in one place and the child somewhere else, but how is the child supposed to get to the scheme?  Second, the subsidised scheme only lasts for 52 weeks. What are parents to do after the first year of the scheme finishes? The Department has advised parents to contact their child care committee after this time. Many parents have expressed concerns regarding their current working arrangements and qualifying conditions for jobseeker’s allowance. Some are working ten to 15 hours per week, broken down to two to three hours per day for five days, in order to fit around child care arrangements. While working these hours, they do not qualify for jobseeker’s allowance because they work for more than three days per week. Many parents and their employers are not in a position to increase working hours to at least 19 hours, which would allow parents to be eligible for FIS and the back to work dividend. Another example has been clearly illustrated by the Dunnes Stores workers who work 15 hours per week. We see the precarious position they have been put in. A person may be called in to work thinking they might have five hours, and organise child care on that basis, only to go in to find out they have one hour of work. Due to the current housing crisis and the lack of social housing, many lone parents are in receipt of rent supplement. Under the conditions of rent allowance a recipient cannot work more than 30 hours per week, so we are moving up the scale. If they do, they lose their rent supplement, so parents are left with a choice between working full time and keeping their home. While there are child care education and training support programmes available for parents who are studying a FETAC level 5 course to help towards the cost of further education, there is no such funding for parents who want to go to degree level. This is limiting their education choices, which in turn limits their ability to gain full-time well paid employment. I will end by mentioning a lone parent involved in Doras Buí who asked me to share her story with the House. Her name is Leanne and she is a single mother of one. She says: The new changes in the One Parent Family Payment will really affect me in a bad way. My son turns 7 years old on the 14th of July, so this will affect me immediately. My son has been diagnosed with ADHD and Oppositional Defiant Disorder and takes daily medication. I attend monthly and sometimes weekly appointments in the Mater CAMHS hospital. I am currently working part time and I face a drop of 70/80 euro a week, basically between 280/320 a month. This is a huge stress on a lone parent like me, trying to better myself for my son by getting out and working part time and this strain is unbelievable. I attend counselling over these stresses. I cannot work full time as I don’t have a minder for my child and with these changes I won’t be able to afford one any time soon. This really illustrates how a number of factors that I have tried to demonstrate come together and compound this downward spiral at a time when we should be supporting and lifting up lone parents and giving them the opportunities we say we wish to give them. I cannot see the evidence of investment in child care and after-school care. There has been investment, but there are no guidelines, no clear structures and no regulations, so the reality is that when people try to access services, be they housing or employment, all these obstacles are in the way. We really need to tackle this issue to lift lone parents and their children out of poverty. Senator Terry Brennan:   I move amendment No. 2: To delete all the words after “Seanad Éireann” and substitute the following: – acknowledges that despite significant levels of investment, including an estimated €607 million in 2015, the One-Parent Family Payment scheme has not been successful in preventing lone parents from being significantly more at risk of consistent poverty than the population as a whole; – recognises that in 2004, during the height of the economic boom lone parents were more than four-and-a-half times more at risk of consistent poverty than the population as a whole. (SILC data); – recognises that Ireland’s supports for lone parents need to be updated in order to provide for greater levels of opportunity for lone parents and for their children; – acknowledges that the very long duration, potentially 18-22 years, can engender long term social welfare dependency and associated poverty and social exclusion amongst lone parents and their families; and – welcomes the Government’s decision to retain the One-Parent Family Payment income disregards at €90 per week; – recognises the Government’s commitment to: – maintain core social welfare weekly rates of payment; – tackle long term social welfare dependency by ending the expectation that lone parents will remain outside of the labour force indefinitely; – enhance lone parents’ access to the range of education, training and employment supports and services in order to develop their skills set with the aim of securing employment and financial independence; and – support lone parents to make the transition from the One-Parent Family Payment onto another social welfare payment; – welcomes the steps the Government have taken to ease the transition of affected lone parents from the One-Parent Family Payment, including: – the introduction of the Jobseeker’s Allowance transitional arrangement, which allows lone parents whose youngest child is aged 7-13 to balance their caring responsibilities by exempting them from having to be available for and genuinely seeking full time employment; – the creation for the first time the opportunity for lone parents to have access to a Case Officer on a one to one basis in order to agree their own personal development plan; – the automatic reviews and increases of Family Income Supplement for affected lone parents, following their transition from the One-Parent Family Payment; – the introduction of the Back to Work Family Dividend for all lone parents who transition off OFP into employment and which allows them to retain their child proportion of their social welfare payment; – the introduction of the After School Childcare scheme and the Community Employment Childcare Scheme to build on the existing 25,000 subsidised childcare places, which the State provides to low income parents in order to facilitate their transition into employment; – the establishment of an interdepartmental group to carry out an economic and cost benefit analysis of policies and future options for increasing the supply, accessibility and affordability of quality child care; – the proposal to allow lone parents in receipt of half rate Carer’s Allowance to retain their One-Parent Family Payment until their youngest child is 16 years of age; – the facility to allow lone parents who are currently undertaking an education course and are in receipt of a SUSI maintenance grant to maintain both their One-Parent Family Payment and the SUSI maintenance grant until they have completed their course of study; – the proposed extension to the Jobseeker’s Allowance transitional arrangement, which will allow all lone parents who have a child aged 7-13 to access the special arrangements of the transitional arrangement and not just former recipients of the One-Parent Family Payment; and – welcomes the research the Department of Social Protection is sponsoring into an active inclusion approach to lone parents, which is examining best practice and innovative approaches to assisting lone parents improve their well-being.” Despite huge investment in the one-parent family payment scheme, it has not been successful in preventing lone parents from being far more at risk of consistent poverty than the general population. Since the scheme was introduced in 1997 until the end of 2010, recipient numbers have increased by half and annual expenditure has increased by over €750 million. The total figure was in excess of €1 billion per year from 2008 to 2012. Throwing money at the problem clearly has not worked. As far back as 2004, lone parents were more than four and a half times more at risk of consistent poverty compared to the population as a whole. This was when the economy was booming and the previous Government showered every problem with available cash. Before the changes, lone parents could have been on the scheme until their youngest child turned 18 or 22 if they were in full-time education. Those criteria are also very much outside the norm internationally. What does this say? It says that the State is happy for someone to be on welfare until their child is an adult. That is not the way to ease poverty and help families. Additionally, the State pays one of the highest rates of child benefit in the developed world, yet it has one of the highest rates of child poverty in the developed world. All the evidence at home and internationally points to employment as the solution to poverty and exclusion. I believe this is the only solution. In its most recent report on employment and social developments in Europe, the European Commission indicated that there is a strong link between poverty and social exclusion on the one hand and the labour market on the other hand. It presents evidence that countries with high employment rates display lower rates of poverty or exclusion. When I say “employment”, I do not mean any old job. I mean employment that enables someone to earn a living. Employment does not automatically lead to the eradication of poverty. The quality of the employment and the active engagement of the person with the job market throughout a lifetime are essential. There must also be personalised approaches and counselling to ensure that people take up high-quality and sustainable jobs. Public investment in job creation is vital and has been at the core of this Government’s jobs strategy, particularly in sustainable, high-quality jobs. In order to address poverty, these jobs need to be accessible to people experiencing poverty. I, like Senators Zappone and van Turnhout, worry wholeheartedly about the levels of poverty and deprivation experienced by one-parent families in Ireland. I agree that their levels of poverty are much higher than the incidence in the general population. I also fully support Senator Zappone in her views on the child care element of the issue, which were very practical. I sincerely hope that there will be moves in the forthcoming budget to address this. I also agree with Senator Zappone that it is unacceptable that we still have such levels of poverty and deprivation in this day and age. I would also point out that none of these things are new. We have been living with the same situation for generations. The approach we are discussing is an attempt to address that. I do not get a sense from the Senator’s contribution that she has a principled objection to work activation measures or a move from a system that discourages welfare dependency. However, I think the Senator is right to point out that some people have genuinely held worries about what might be called the possible unintentional consequences of the changes to the scheme. In that light, I think it would be appropriate to review the scheme’s operation after a given period to test its effectiveness. Senator Terry Leyden:   I thank Senators Katherine Zappone, Jillian van Turnhout, Mary Ann O’Brien and Fiach Mac Conghail for tabling this motion. The ability of Senators to work together and put forward a proposal in the House to which the Tánaiste has listened proves how useful the Seanad is. Fianna Fáil is happy to support the motion.  This week marks the third anniversary of the promise made by the Tánaiste, Deputy Burton, not to proceed with these one-parent family payment cuts unless appropriate child care supports were in place. This is a commitment the Tánaiste has failed to honour and the consequences of her ill-thought-out policy continue to have devastating effects on one-parent families. The cuts imposed by the Tánaiste have led to huge financial losses for working lone parents and have increased the obstacles to lone parents seeking access to third level education. The cumulative effect of these changes is now clear. A lone parent working 20 hours per week on a minimum wage has lost €108 per week as a result of these so-called reforms, and in the absence of child care, work will no longer pay for many parents. These weekly losses are made up of a loss of €28 due to a reduction in income disregard, a loss of €50 in 2015 on cessation of one-parent family allowance and an additional loss of €30 in 2017 when the back-to-work family dividend will end. There has been a drop in the number of lone parents in paid employment and a drop in the number of applications to the Central Applications Office by lone parents. Moreover, while the European Union survey on income and living conditions, EU-SILC, report of 2013 showed there was no significant increase in consistent poverty in the general population, which increased from 7.7% to 8.2%, there was a shocking 32% increase in consistent poverty among one-parent families, the rate of which increased from 17.4% to 23% and is almost three times higher than that of the general population. I look forward to the Tánaiste’s response to this motion because the Senators have put forward a well worked out and researched document. On looking through it and on foot of the advice I have received from the Fianna Fáil research office, which has considered the points put forward by the Senators and has found nothing in the motion with which it can disagree, Fianna Fáil’s response is we have considered and fully support the motion. I revert to and reiterate the point on the proposed major reform of this House, about which I have strong reservations. This is because the concerns Members have expressed and which the Tánaiste represents could not be represented by a well-off representative in New York who might be elected to this House. Such representatives would not have the interest, the concern or the effect the Members present have. This is a small second House of Parliament and it strikes me that while one seeks more representations from different outlets and outlooks, this time the Government appointed a wide range of people, who have been joined by Senator Craughwell after the by-election. Therefore, there is a broad range of views in this House and that is why this motion is particularly appropriate and important. It is something Deputy Burton should act on as Tánaiste and as leader of the Labour Party, which places her in an onerous position as someone who retained the Ministry of Social Protection. This was a brave decision on her part as it would have been easier for the Tánaiste to have taken on another portfolio that might have been easier to manage. This is a difficult portfolio. I believe it is the second highest spending Department in the State, and it is extremely important to the most deprived people in society. If one looks back on Fianna Fáil’s last time in government, it put funds into child care and into crèche developments throughout Ireland, which incidentally has never been recognised. In addition, Fianna Fáil also gave the first full free preschool year. I hope the Tánaiste will be able to bring about a second preschool year and that such a proposal might appear in the next manifestos. It was a great support to and help for families that they could have one free year of preschool facilities. Moreover, the buildings that were constructed and provided throughout the countryside are really top-class buildings of quality. When one analyses the position put forward by the Senators, the Tánaiste will see that any effect it will have on a low income base is devastating. My daughter is a councillor who is working with parents who are under terrible pressure at present. They are trying to hold on to their houses, to local authority houses, and are trying to rear a family. They are finding it very difficult to get child care, which has become out of the price range of anyone who seeks to return to work. In most cases, such people do not receive income that is adequate to pay for a child in child care. These are all areas in which, as Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection, the Tánaiste can consider the individual effect this measure has. She can ask whether this has a major effect on the recipients. As it has, the Tánaiste has a duty and responsibility to examine the situation and tell her Government colleagues that this is not acceptable. She should do this in her extremely influential position as Tánaiste, that is, supporting and being part of the Government as Deputy Prime Minister, as well as the Minister with responsibility for this sensitive portfolio. I must state she has done her utmost in that Department, in so far as possible, in trying to protect the rates of allowances in difficult circumstances. The elderly have been affected badly by the removal of free services that were in place, such as free telephones and painful decisions were made. I note they were more painful for those who actually were deprived of those services. While the Tánaiste retained the free travel system, which is appreciated, other facilities have been withdrawn from people, which is not welcome. The Tánaiste should consider this motion to ascertain whether she can agree to defer this measure. I do not believe it is a question of voting and, if possible, this motion should not be put to a vote. The proposal should be examined by the Tánaiste. While the Government more or less has the numbers in this House, perhaps that is not true in this case and the Tánaiste may find that this motion will be approved. All 14 Fianna Fáil Members are supporting this motion 100%, as will other Members. Perhaps it would be advisable to review the Government amendment to this proposal and to revert to Members with concrete proposals to alleviate the concerns expressed. Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton):   At the outset, I thank Senators Zappone, van Turnhout, Mary Ann O’Brien and Mac Conghail for raising this important issue. The one-parent family payment scheme has played an important role in providing income support to lone parents since its introduction in its present form in 1997. The period from 1997 to 2010 saw the number of recipients increase by 50% and the annual expenditure increase by approximately 330% or €770 million. However, despite significant levels of investment, in which the State spent in excess of €1 billion per annum for a five-year period from 2008 to 2012 and notwithstanding the good points on which everyone agrees, the scheme has consistently failed to prevent lone parents being significantly more at risk of consistent poverty than the population as a whole. This means the outcomes for lone parents and in particular for their children are significantly worse than for other people in the population. According to the most recent survey on income and living conditions, 23% of lone parents are at risk of consistent poverty. This is 2.5 times greater than the population as a whole and this figure is simply not acceptable. This is not a new phenomenon, however, and it has been a feature of the scheme since its inception. In 2004, at the height of the boom, lone parents were more than 4.5 times at risk of consistent poverty than the population as a whole. We cannot afford to keep doing the same things and expect a different outcome. Previous to the reforms to the scheme, Ireland was on its own in how we supported lone parents. Lone parents could have been on the one-parent family payment scheme until their youngest child turned 18, or 22 if they were in full-time education. Other countries have moved away from providing long-duration income support towards a shorter, more active engagement approach with more support. For example, in New Zealand, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the North of Ireland, the equivalent supports for lone parents cease when the youngest child reaches the age of five.   I acknowledge and commend the many lone parents who have engaged in employment in order to improve the outcomes for their families. However, as somebody who works extensively with lone parents and organisations dealing with lone parents, I constantly meet lone parents, particularly women, who may have left education, training and work until they were in their late 40s or early 50s and then found, as has been described eloquently by Senators Zappone and van Turnhout, that they could not get well paid employment. That is the crux of the matter. If one does not get into education, training and work experience, followed by employment, before one’s late 40s or 50s, it is very difficult to do so subsequently. So many say to me that they only wish they had gone back to school and got training and qualifications at a much earlier stage in their life. On that important fact, there is considerable agreement on both sides of this House. Not all lone parents were in a position to get back into employment. Many have been in receipt of one-parent family payment for 18 or 22 years – maybe another ten years if they have two or three children with more than a ten-year gap between them – without ever working or engaging in education or training. This represents a significant portion of anyone’s working life, and in many instances it creates a welfare trap for those who are just as bright, industrious and hardworking, and, indeed, intelligent, as anyone else in the country. They deserve the best of opportunities in getting into education, training and well paid employment. Since I became involved in this area, which was 20 years ago, that has always been my approach. I have seen the impact on those who have not been able to be involved in education, training and bettering their life opportunities. It meant that lone parents in that situation were so distant from the labour force that they found it impossible to secure well paid employment when their payments ceased as their children went into adulthood. By not proactively engaging with lone parents, the State, in effect, is consigning these individuals and their families to a life of welfare dependency and putting them at an increased risk of poverty. Put simply, the one-parent family payment in its previous guise has to a certain extent failed lone parents and their families. It has provided income support to lone-parent families, but it also has ensured that some of these families are more likely to suffer from consistent poverty than the population as a whole. That is why we had to change our approach to supporting lone parents. As Tánaiste and Labour Party leader, I have always believed that the best protection against poverty is secure and fairly paid work, and there is no doubt that the road to that is through education, training and work experience. The Labour Party in government is focused on providing opportunities for all people. We need to provide for greater levels of opportunity for lone parents and their children. We need to have a more active engagement to offer them the supports and services they need so that they can secure economic independence and build a better future for their families. The genesis of the current reforms to the one-parent family payment was contained in the 2006 report “Proposals for Supporting Lone Parents”. This report recommended that a time limit for receipt of the payment should be put in place. The report also advocated that lone parents should be engaged with in a systematic manner in terms of facilitating their movement to education, training and employment supports. This is the critical issue. If one leaves doing that until late in people’s lives, it is difficult for them to achieve their goals. The reforms reduce the age of the youngest child for receipt of one-parent family payment on a phased basis over a long phasing. The final phase will see the age of the youngest child at which payment ceases being reduced to seven years for all recipients from 2 July 2015 onwards. It is expected that approximately 30,000 lone parents will transition from the one-parent family payment on that date. This is in addition to 16,000 lone parents who have already made the transition since the reforms commenced in 2013. The aim of these reforms is to reduce long-term welfare dependency by providing lone parents with enhanced access to the Department’s range of education, training and employment supports, and to further assist in the provision of appropriate supports to lone parents. The Department is sponsoring research by Dr. Michelle Millar whose aim is to identify best practice in how to assist lone parents in improving their access to education and employment to ensure they have greater levels of opportunity for themselves and their families. To ease the transition of lone parents from the one-parent family payment, I have introduced a wide range of measures. These measures, depending on the individual circumstances of the lone parent, aim to extend his or her eligibility to the one-parent family payment, remove conditionality, improve the financial incentive to take up employment or offer increased support for lone parents to engage in education and training. Lone parents who are recently bereaved are exempted from the reform. These reforms do not affect lone parents who are carers, but such lone parents, if they have any time, are free to become involved in the education and training and any other scheme that may be of interest to them. In order to help lone parents with young children who are affected by this reform, I introduced the jobseeker’s allowance transitional arrangement. Under this arrangement, lone parents whose youngest child is between seven and 13 years of age are exempt from the requirements of being available for and genuinely seeking full-time employment. This means that no lone parent with a youngest child under 14 years of age will be required to take up employment in order to receive income support from the Department. That is their choice in accordance with how they wish to arrange their affairs. There is no compulsion whatsoever involved. What is on offer is a series of opportunities that lone parents, as they see fit, may wish to take up. All of the lone parent customers will have access to the new Intreo service. They will have for the first time the opportunity to access a case officer on a one-to-one basis in order to agree their own personal development plan. This will enhance their access, whether to education, training or employment. We will be giving those lone parents all the support we can to achieve their ambitions and goals. Individuals on the jobseeker’s allowance transitional arrangement can move into employment, including, if they wish, part-time employment, but this is not a prerequisite for payment. The transitional arrangement thereby allows such lone parents to balance their caring responsibilities and significantly reduces their requirement for child care. For lone parents who are already in employment and in receipt of family income supplement, FIS, we have for the first time introduced automatic increases in their family income supplement entitlement – Senators will be aware that many lone parents will receive significant increases. This ensures that their income will increase to partially compensate them when they transition from the one-parent family payment. To further encourage lone parents to take up employment or to increase their hours of employment, departmental staff are actively promoting the family income supplement scheme as the best financial option available to lone parents. Departmental staff are actively promoting the family income supplement scheme as the best financial option available to lone parents. Lone parents who can increase the number of hours they can work to 19 hours per week will be significantly better off than if only in receipt of the one-parent family payment. On foot of the age reforms over the past two years, the evidence shows more lone parents than expected increased their working hours and claimed FIS for the first time. I expect this trend to continue with this year’s reforms. To further assist, I have asked the Labour Market Council to specifically examine the issue of how employers nationwide can assist lone parents in increasing their hours of work to enable them to qualify for the FIS payment. In addition to the FIS, lone parents who transition off welfare and into employment are eligible for the new back-to-work family dividend payment which is also contained in the Social Welfare Bill 2015. This payment allows lone parents and jobseekers to retain their child proportion, roughly €30 per week per child, of their social welfare payment when they move into employment. As the dividend has no impact on a family’s FIS entitlement, it offers an additional and significant incentive for lone parents who are moving into a greater level of work of €30 per child per week for the first year and half of this for the second year. The Government is committed to improving the provision of child care, including the supports available for lone parents. We have introduced the after school child care scheme and the community employment child care scheme, both of which offer heavily subsidised child care places and aim to assist lone parents to access either a community employment place or to take up employment. Both these schemes build on the existing 25,000 subsidised child care places which the State provides to low income parents in order to facilitate their movement into employment. This is a significant and vital investment and the Government is keen to build on the existing supports. For this reason, my colleague, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Reilly, has established an interdepartmental group to carry out an economic and cost benefit analysis of policies and future options for increasing the supply, accessibility and affordability of quality child care. My Department is involved in, and represented on, this group. My officials are feeding the group’s deliberations on the child care requirements of lone parents and jobseekers to enable them take up employment opportunities. I am pleased to say that in accordance with the aim of the reforms, any recipient of the one-parent family payment who is already undertaking an education course and is in receipt of a SUSI maintenance grant will be allowed to retain the one-parent family payment until completion of the course of education. In addition, there are no restrictions on a recipient of jobseeker’s allowance transitional arrangement to undertake a full-time education course and such person will also be able to receive a SUSI maintenance during that time. The reforms of the one-parent family payment are essential to the creation of a new, more active engagement process for lone parents. I know from meeting constantly with people who have moved into education and training that the transition towards paid employment, combined with family income supplement or other income supports, offers serious job and career prospects to lone parents as their children grow up. The feedback to the Department in relation to the changes has been extremely positive, particularly from the parents who have taken up the opportunities, starting in most cases with education and training over a prolonged period. I thank Senators for raising this issue, particularly those who spoke on the motion. We all share a common vision and ambition in that we want to see people supported by a strong and good social welfare system. Ireland’s social welfare system is among the best in Europe. For example, our rates are hugely in excess of the rates in the North of Ireland and in almost every other country of the European Union. Notwithstanding the economic difficulties of this country, we have been able to maintain that. However, as I said, we must continue to work to assist and make available the talents, intelligence and desire of lone parents to be involved in work, to start their own businesses and have good careers that will assist themselves and their children to financial independence. I know there are some people for whom this may not be an immediate objective. For example, approximately 20,000 lone parents are not involved in education or employment. By choice, they are involved in the full time care of their children. I want to stress that there is no change of any kind to their payment. As stated by Senator Zappone, the key and road to positive developments is education and training, which is precisely the Department’s desire for lone parents. The reason we have contacted lone parents is to give them the opportunity to engage with departmental officials in regard to the building of a career plan, which if it is not possible for them to undertake this year can be undertaken in three or four years’ time. There is too much talent there and it must not be left in a kind of poverty and welfare trap, which is what this debate is about. I again thank those who contributed. Senator Marie Moloney:   I welcome the Minister and thank the Taoiseach’s nominees for bringing forward this motion on an important issue that needs to be fully discussed. We are all well aware that the one-parent family payment scheme has played an important role in providing income support to parents who are parenting alone. However, even with this support lone parents still tend to experience high rates of consistent poverty, which makes it evident that the one-parent family payment only is not sufficient to lift people out of poverty. Throughout the Celtic tiger period lone parents still suffered a high rate of poverty. As stated by the Minister, the figure in this regard was four and half times that of the population as a whole. I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Kevin Humphreys, back to the House. None of us would argue with the fact that the best route out of poverty and social exclusion is through employment and education. There is no doubt but that education is the key to well paid employment, which is the reason when I spoke earlier today, I raised with the Minister of State, Deputy Humphreys, the introduction of back-to-education transitional arrangements in conjunction with the jobseeker’s allowance transitional arrangement for those wishing to return to education. As I outlined earlier today, a lone parent in receipt of the one-parent family payment who chooses to return to education is eligible for a third level registration and maintenance grant. However, if such person transfers to the back-to-education allowance he or she while eligible for a grant in respect of the registration fee is not eligible for a maintenance grant, which would be essential to their continuing in education. I am delighted to note from the Minister’s speech that this matter has been addressed and there is no restriction on people on the jobseeker’s transitional arrangement accessing a full third level grant to cover registration and maintenance fees. It is true that rearing children on one’s own is far more difficult than rearing children with a partner or husband. Even in situations where there are two parents involved it is a constant struggle to provide child care, with often one parent working while the other cares for the children. In some cases, one parent goes out to work when the other comes home so that at all stages there is somebody in the family home to care for the children. This is an impossibility for those parenting alone, be such person a single parent, separated parent, a widow or a widower. The perception of some people is that a lone parent is a young girl who became pregnant and was left to bring up a child on her own. This is not always the case. In many cases, couples are happily married only for something to go wrong and the marriage breaks down, leaving one parent to rear the children on his or her own. In other cases, a parent dies and again the other parent has to rear the children on his or her own.  I welcome the fact a general move has been made towards helping lone parents through activation because while on the OPFP, they do not receive the help and support someone who is unemployed gets, that is, incentives and encouragement to take up employment. Many lone parents have returned to work through necessity to have a higher income coming into the house but it was never through being encouraged by the Department or through any activation measures supplied or supported by the Department. I am glad the Minister is recognising the needs of lone parents and the Department is offering them the same service available to others in receipt of unemployment payments. All the new arrangements being put in place to transfer lone parents to the jobseeker’s allowance and, for the first time, to devise a personal development plan with the Intreo office are welcome. These will be of great benefit to those who are unemployed. However, some of those who are currently employed will, unfortunately, by hit financially, as the disregard will no longer be in place, which means they will have a lower income. We should examine ways to help this cohort of lone parents in order that they will not be worse off financially. They activated themselves and found work and then balanced work and family life. It is important that lone parents in receipt of FIS and who may not be due for renewal of their payment until perhaps December this year or early next year be reviewed with immediate effect following the changes with a view to increasing their FIS payment due to loss of income. The transition to jobseeker’s allowance has been taking place over the past year or two years and many lone parents have transitioned. Will the Minister clarify whether there is a follow up on maintenance once they transfer? Over the past number of weeks while we debated the Child and Family Relationships Bill in the House, much emphasis was placed on the fact that it is better to have two parents to raise a child, that is, a mother and a father. However, I have heard no mention of the other parent during this debate, which could be either the father or the mother, otherwise known as the liable relative, although this is predominantly the father. I received figures from the CSO which highlight that 87% of lone parents are mothers. Time after time in discussions I have with the public, the issue of the father comes up and his responsibility to his child or, in most cases, his lack of responsibility. It is easy for a man to walk away from his responsibility and leave the woman holding the baby. I acknowledge a percentage of men are exceptionally good and they are greatly involved in their children’s upbringing and financially support them but, unfortunately, they are in a minority. Will the Minister clarify if having transferred to the jobseeker’s transitional arrangement that the Department will pursue the liable relative for maintenance, as the other parent has a duty of care to his or her child or children both physically and financially? The underlying factor in lone parents remaining in the poverty trap is the lack of accessibility to affordable child care. Child care costs are so high that it is not an option for these parents. Lone parents who work are more likely to be in low paid jobs, partly as a result of a lack of qualifications and partly because of the difficulty in accessing affordable child care. We need to give more than just a social welfare payment to them. We should put in place supports to help them to get out of the poverty trap. For the past four years while we have been in government, funding has been a major issue for us in trying to do everything we would like to do. The provision of child care has been one of the victims of the recession but, as the economy improves, we must seriously consider this issue not just for lone parents but also for those who we all now recognise as the squeezed middle. People are struggling to pay for child care, with some even giving up work because it is cheaper. I welcome the €14 million in funding the Minister has provided for the after school child care scheme. Unfortunately, there was a low uptake but the only place this care can be provided for those living in rural Ireland is in local schools because it is impossible for a parent to get from town to the school and take the child to the after school care provider before returning to work. An incentive should be in place for employers to operate a programme similar to JobsPlus, which would be centred on lone parents. It would revolve around school hours for lone parents. Family-friendly work arrangements are difficult to come by and I commend Marks & Spencer on the programme it runs, which accommodate lone parents to work flexible hours. If more companies did this, it would be fantastic. We need concrete, workable plans, which would make it easier for lone parents to join the workforce in order that they can avail of a better quality of life and move from welfare dependency. Senator Gerard P. Craughwell:   I came to the House to support my two colleagues and I had no intention whatsoever of speaking. I am trying to remain as calm as I can because the OPFP is nothing more than a great big stick with which to beat lone parents and make them crawl for the miserable shillings they get. Have the officials who wrote the Minister’s script ever known a day’s poverty in their lives? Do they honestly believe that somebody wants to sit at home as a single parent with no opportunity to work? The officials want these people to do 19 hours work a week. Will they do this in Dunnes Stores or somewhere else where they will be exploited to the last? If the Department wants to provide financial incentives for people to take up work, a State-funded crèche should be set up in every town and village where their child can be looked after. I recently became a grandfather and I heard my son and daughter-in-law talking about the cost of child care. It will cost them thousands of euro every month and they both work. Where will a single parent find that money? As an educator, I have heard references to personal development plans for years with the belief being that if a personal development plan is put in place everything will be fine. I agree wholeheartedly that education is the way out of poverty. I ought to know because I returned to education when I was 35 years old. However, I had a wife who stayed at home and looked after my family. She was ignored by me for the best part of four years because I spent my time studying. I used to go home for a nap in the evening and wake up late to study into the middle of the night. I know that education pays but I watched as a teacher lone parent after lone parent taking up PLC courses and having to withdraw because of family commitments. I am saddened by this, particularly when crèches are closed or their funding is cut. If we are serious about providing educational opportunities – and I believe the Minister of State is – then we must open crèches in every college and further education centre. We must provide child care facilities to enable people to attain educational qualifications. The new president of TCD’s students’ union is in second chance education and she is an inspiration to us all. Flexible education must be provided. I recall visiting a centre in Finglas some years ago where the same syllabus was run three times a day and arrangements were made to enable lone parents to do the course at different times of the day. That worked and such arrangements need to be incentivised in order that those who want to return to education can do so. Let us stop talking about work. Young lone parents probably lack educational qualifications and skills to secure decent, well paid work and, therefore, we should concentrate a little more on education and training to enable them to return to the workforce and earn a salary that will make it possible for them to look after their children. It cuts me to the quick to hear people talking about lone parents starting up businesses. Where are they to find the few shillings to do this? I watched a lone parent on television the other night who had been left stuck for €180,000 after her husband took off. Where will she get money? The Minister of State is a good guy and the Department does a good job overall but let us not try to put a positive spin on the OPFP and the incentives that go with it. It is about forcing lone parents to find a goddamned job and to stop living off the State.  That is the undercurrent that underpins this. When we start talking about incentivising people with children as young as seven to go out and find work, I cannot say a whole lot more about it. I just find the whole thing totally depressing. I am sorry I did not take the time to write a really meaningful speech on this but it breaks my heart, really and truly. Senator Jim D’Arcy:   I welcome this discussion on lone parents and note that one in four families with children in Ireland is a lone-parent family, including my own, I might add. I know what it is like to try to raise children on one’s own. Lone parents need and are entitled to every possible support. The vast majority of lone parents whom I deal with continually do an excellent job in child rearing, often in very difficult circumstances. I got an e-mail today from somebody who was giving out to me, anticipating that I was going to vote for marriage equality, which I am, and saying that the family with the father and the mother is the best family in the world, there is no family that comes near it and it is the one to go for. I know most two-parent families with the father and the mother are great families but a lot happened in dark Ireland in the 1950s and around that time in some of these supposedly wonderful families. My youngest daughter was in “Juno and the Paycock” the other night, where she was playing Mrs. Tancred. In the last lines of that play, the wee girl asks her mother, Juno, what the child will do without a dad. Juno replies, “It’ll have what’s far better- it’ll have two mothers”. That might be a good thing for the coming referendum. We recognise that despite significant levels of investment, including an estimated €607 million in 2015, the one-parent family scheme has not been successful in preventing lone parents from being significantly more at risk of poverty than the population as a whole. Support for lone parents needs to be updated in order to provide greater levels of opportunity for them and their children. Things are not perfect but nothing can be taken in isolation. The shocking economic circumstances of recent years have meant that while social transfers were maintained at 2007 levels, despite adjustments in other areas, it was not possible to add as much value as wished. Now the situation is improving, with the efforts of the Government and the people, and more jobs are being created, things are coming back on the right track and we can begin to look forward. I hear talk of a second free child care year, which I would welcome very much. The Government has taken several steps to ease the transition of affected lone parents from one-parent family payment, including the introduction of the jobseeker’s allowance transitional payment, creating for the first time the opportunity for lone parents to have access to a case officer on a one-to-one basis to agree their own personal development plan. The personal development plans for children in schools have had a major and positive effect on the education of children. They have stopped them from being isolated in the classroom and have given them a focus and a way forward. My daughter is not working in Dunnes Stores but she is working in Mace and she is very happy with her 20 to 25 hours. She gets enough to do her. If she handed up a wee bit more, I would be even happier. I keep telling her to hand it all up and she will get it all back, like my mother used to tell me, but it does not work these days. We have to look at new ways in education. The Acting Chairman knows one of the CEOs of the new education and training boards, Mr. Martin O’Brien, who is amazing at coming forward with flexible forms of education. I am sure that is the same in most of the ETBs. I recognise the great work the Government is doing and has done in difficult circumstances and the moves forward we have made. There is work to be done and that work should focus on enhancing not just the economic status but also the self-esteem of lone parents, particularly young lone parents. I quite often deal with young lone parents in regard to housing and other issues. We must value them as people and give them a way forward. I urge the Minister and the Government to continue to enhance their work in that regard. Acting Chairman (Senator Diarmuid Wilson):   Before I call our next speaker, I welcome Deputy Frank Feighan and his guests to the Visitors Gallery. I hope it is not a case of Deputy Feighan looking for his old seat back in this House. The Deputy is very welcome. Senator David Cullinane:   I would warmly welcome as many Fine Gael Deputies back into the Seanad as possible, Acting Chairman. Senator Jim D’Arcy:   Senator Cullinane will not be here. Senator David Cullinane:   I welcome the Minister and welcome the opportunity to have this debate. It is not often I disagree with Senator D’Arcy and it is not often I criticise him in this House, but I have to say I found his remarks in regard to the Dunnes Stores workers to be quite flippant. The reality is that those workers are at the moment being exploited by an employer and there are many people on low-hours contracts who do not want to be on them and who should be working full-time. I do not think we should be flippant about it. It is not just the Dunnes Stores workers. There are many workers in the hospitality sector, the tourism sector and in other sectors, such as administration and child care, who work for low pay. It is interesting that the majority of those who are working in low-paid jobs are women. We see from the EUROSTAT figures and its report, from the OECD report, from the TASC report and from all of the reports which look at low pay that the majority of those workers are women. It is difficult to congratulate this Government on anything it has done for lone parents. What we have seen from this Government since it came into office have been cruel and savage cuts to the most vulnerable in society, in particular lone parents but also their children. It is also impossible not to be cynical about its crude and dysfunctional so-called activation measures which brutally compel lone parents to seek employment. Budget after budget, from the moment this Government took office, it has targeted lone-parent families.  I sat in this Chamber when the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Burton, talked about changes to lone parent payments whereby the payment would cease when the child was aged over seven years. I was here when she said she would not follow through on the proposal unless there was serious investment in child care to provide proper, affordable and accessible child care for all citizens. She went ahead anyway, although we have had nothing like the investment in child care that we need. Child care is the most significant barrier for many lone parents, particularly women but some men also. Although it is one of the most serious issues, the Government has done little to deal with it. The Minister disallowed lone parents on community employment schemes from retaining a partial payment from the one-parent family scheme. She eliminated the half-rate payments lone parents had been able to receive on certain social insurance schemes. She abolished the six-month transitional OPF payment and ended the disregard for income in respect of home help, which was work in which many lone parents engaged. She cut the earnings disregard for lone parents in low-paid employment from €146.50 to €90. Lone parents were also hit by her cuts to the fuel allowance, the hike in the contribution towards rent supplement, and cuts to the back to school clothing and footwear allowance and child benefit. Almost all the secondary benefit cuts the Government has made have primarily hit women and lone parents. In budget after budget and cut after cut, those who had the least to give and had nothing to do with causing the economic crisis were hit. Lone parents are a very good example of this. The Tánaiste has continued to reduce the cut-off age for the OPF payment scheme and intends dropping it to just seven years in July. The reduction in the cut-off age to seven years will see almost 12,000 lone parents suffer a financial loss of up to €86 per week, which is a huge amount of money for lone parents, which they cannot afford to lose. Some 6,400 lone parents will lose up to €36.50 per week, 4,500 lone parents will lose up to €57 per week and 800 lone parents who are also carers will lose a staggering €86 per week. The only lone parents who will suffer an immediate financial loss from the move are those who are already in work. Although the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection is aware of all this, she continues to pretend that the reason for her crusade against lone parents is that she wants them to move into work. This is a very crude way for the Minister to go about it. Although many lone parents would love to be able to work and want to get back into employment, the jobs are not there. They are the very people who go into low-paid jobs. There is a huge amount of in-work poverty and many poverty traps, about which we spoke earlier today. When they return to work, they lose many of the benefits and social security supports they had, and it does not pay. There was a time when getting a job was the best route out of poverty. However, a recent OECD report showed that 20% of workers in the State are in low-paid jobs, and 14% of workers, mainly women, suffer from multiple deprivation and in-work poverty. These are staggering figures. Senator Jim D’Arcy talked about looking forward, and we hear from the Government about economic recovery. We should celebrate economic recovery, which we all want. We want as much wealth as possible. There is no quarrel about it. The quarrel is about what we do with the money when we have it. In the previous budget, the Government cut the top rate of tax by 1% for those who needed it least, while doing precious little for those who have borne the brunt of savage cut after cut. This is the unfairness many people see in the Government’s policy choices. Although it gives nobody any pleasure to criticise the Government, it is very difficult to commend the Government or say anything good about what it has done for lone parents when the reality is the opposite. Lone parents have been targeted and penalised, and have suffered and borne the brunt of cut after cut by the Government. If we are to have a recovery and celebrate it, and if the Government wants people to feel the effects of it, we could target lone parents, lift them out of poverty and put in place measures that deal with the reality of their lives. I suggest the Government do this in the next budget as a priority. Senator Ivana Bacik:   I welcome the Minister and commend Senators Zappone, van Turnhout and the others who have proposed the motion and given us the opportunity to debate this important issue. I commend the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Burton, on the reform measures she has introduced. I second the amendment to the motion, if that is necessary. Senator Moloney, who has a long track record of working on the issue, has already spoken on behalf of the Labour Party group in the House. The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education and Social Protection, under the chairmanship of Deputy Tuffy, has done a great deal of work on the issue. Given that there has been much empty rhetoric in the House, I will make three key points on which we can all agree. First, it is important to acknowledge the diversity of lone parents. They are not a homogenous group and it is important that we do not stigmatise or stereotype lone parents by referring to all lone parents as poverty-stricken or stuck for a few shillings. Census figures tell us that more than 200,000 family units with children are headed by lone parents, comprising over 18% of family units and 25% of family units with children. As of January 2015, there are 69,773 recipients of the lone family payment. According to the data available, 42% of lone parents are at work, and this is the principal economic status of lone parents. It is important to point out that there is a very broad diversity of lone parents and that we should not stereotype or stigmatise them in any way. Everybody who has spoken agrees that the current system of payment is not working. The system was introduced in 1997 to replace what had previously been the unmarried mothers’ allowance. The unmarried mothers’ allowance was very progressive when it was originally introduced to bring single mothers out of the poverty trap, enable them to rear children alone and replace the appalling situation for lone parents which involved mother and baby homes, women being forced to give babies up for adoption, women travelling to England to have babies there and the dreadful stigmatising of lone parents that took place right up until the 1980s. The genesis of the lone parent allowance has been very progressive. However, everybody acknowledges that the current one-parent family payment has not succeeded in bringing single-parent families out of the poverty trap. Everybody has pointed out that unacceptable levels of poverty remain among lone-parent families. Even during the height of the economic boom, lone-parent families were at much more risk of consistent poverty than the population as a whole, and we must acknowledge this. Reform was necessary, and was recommended in the 2006 report on proposals for supporting lone parents, five years before the Government took office. The report recommended a time limit for receipt of payments and that lone parents should be engaged with in a systematic manner to facilitate movement to education, training and employment. We can all agree on my third point, which is, as Senator Moloney put it so succinctly, that the best way out of poverty and social exclusion is through education and employment and that keeping people out of the labour force and away from employment opportunities for long periods of time is no more than a welfare and poverty trap. The aim of these reforms is to reduce long-term welfare dependency for lone-parent families by ending the expectation that lone parents will remain outside the workforce for ten or more years. This is very important for all of us. We are all conscious, from our personal and family experience, of the vital importance of education and employment opportunities in order to enable people to escape poverty and welfare traps. It is difficult to listen to Sinn Féin’s views on the issue given that the party is in government in Northern Ireland and that similar reforms were introduced across the UK some time ago. Income support for lone parents in the UK ceases when the youngest child reaches the age of five. There has been a general move across Europe away from long-term and unconditional support towards more active engagement and work activation measures of the sort that have been introduced here. We must all agree with it in principle. I cannot see how anybody could support the current system without some measure of reform.  We know the reforms began to be introduced on a phased basis before the Government took office. I pay tribute to the Minister and the Oireachtas committee for seeking to ensure the reforms were impacted in a way that was positive and did not lead to income loss. Two issues have been raised and there is a critique of the reforms. The first is access to child care and the Government has put a very significant amount of money in place to ensure there is support for child care programmes but there is not sufficient affordability and accessibility of child care. I speak as a parent of young children and a user of child care services. I know the cost of child care and it is a major issue the Government must do more on. I am hopeful the Government will do more on this during the year to come. The other issue raised was the minority of lone parents affected by the loss of income in July because they are already on the family income supplement and have reached the cut-off age for the one parent family payment. Deputy Joanna Tuffy has engaged with this issue through the committee she chairs and has pointed out that all those transitioning to the jobseeker’s transitional allowance, who are working fewer than 19 hours, are in the group about whom there should be most concern and with whom there should be the greatest engagement. Deputy Tuffy pointed out on that lone parents currently on the one parent family payment can improve their access to income if working hours are increased to 19 hours. Deputy Tuffy has provided an example of a lone parent of three children who, if she increased her hours from 15 hours to 19 and moved from the jobseeker’s transitional payment to the family income supplement and the back to work dividend, she would be better off by up to €200 per week. It is important there is engagement with those most affected. The reforms brought forward envisage extensive engagement, increased opportunity to engage with education, training and employment supports and services and aim to develop the skill set of lone parents with the aim of securing access to employment in the first place. Others have pointed out the need for access to education and training in the first place, which is also very important. The role of employers is very important and Senator Moloney referred to providing incentives for employers to provide school hours employment. The level of school hours employment, of 20 hours, covers the time when children above seven years are in school and this is the kind of employment we are looking at. Marks & Spencer’s does this and it is also possible in the Civil Service. We must examine ways of doing this. We should also provide for crèches in workplaces. Trinity College Dublin is a good example of a workplace that has provided a crèche for a long time and others paid tribute to the incoming president of Trinity College Dublin student union, Lynn Ruane, who is returning to education. Across third level, we see a strong commitment to provide child care facilities but it must be supported further and more strongly by the Government. Senator Cáit Keane:   This is a most important subject because, when speaking about lone parents, we are speaking about children as well. I welcome some lone parents and some children to the Gallery. Bringing in children shows that child care is important. It is amazing that reforms meant to do such good have raised such public debate and fear among lone parents. When putting in place reform, it is important to spell out why it is being done. According to the media, it is all about cutting money from lone parents. The benefits of what this is supposed to do, what it hopefully will do, are not being enunciated. I hope the debate today will ensure the Minister of State gets what needs to be done, clarified and changed. The aims of the reform were to provide the necessary support to help lone parents gain the necessary training, education and employment and to develop their skills. Any lone parent has no objection to that objective because that is what people want for themselves. If their children are gone back to school and are not babies, most lone parents I know would love to go back to training and education and to be helped to do so. That is the objective of this. Perhaps the wrong message is going out. The reform should also reduce long-term social welfare dependency. No parent wants to be that way but the current system helps them to be that way and to be unemployed and on long-term payments for so long. The figures show that this is not working. The current system is not working for parents and they are the most important element, as are the children. Significant investment has been put in, including €1 billion per year from 2008 but has failed to prevent lone parents from being in consistent poverty. We saw the poverty rating two weeks ago, with lone parents working out much worse than anyone else. This particularly applies to women and 87% of lone parents are women. That is a debate that another Senator raised. In 2004, lone parents were four and a half times more at risk of consistent poverty compared to the population as a whole. They must be helped out of poverty. We must help everyone out of poverty but lone parents in particular because they are vulnerable and the children are vulnerable. Looking at examples from across the globe, we see New Zealand, the Netherlands and United Kingdom, where the equivalent of lone parent support ceases when the youngest child is aged five. There is an important caveat, which is child care. I hope the Minister of State, the Tánaiste, Deputy Joan Burton, and the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy James Reilly, are listening. I have spoken about child care ad infinitum. Some 20 years ago, when I was on South Dublin County Council, I set up the first crèche in a local authority in Ireland. If we do not have child care, we will not facilitate people going back to work. The crèche was subsidised to get people, particularly women, into work and it was the first in Ireland. There are now a few of them. If there is not someone to mind their children, people cannot go back to work. We cannot put the cart before the horse and must provide for child care. Every Department must row in behind the idea and get child care in order. There are subsidies in place and I am sure the Minister of State will say that, with this reform, comes extended child care benefits for people on the family income supplement and the back to education allowance. We must acknowledge that the Tánaiste, Deputy Joan Burton, has done this and more subsidised places and funding are available. The family income supplement is reviewed annually and the Department recently amended the regulations allowing family income supplement to increase automatically to offset the loss from the one parent family payment. Until I researched further, I did not realise that because it was not stated often. Parents thinking about transitioning from one scheme to the other and considering going back to education should have this made more clear to them. Parents are hearing that they will be worse off by a certain amount, regardless of the fact that 20,000 lone parents will experience no change and some will experience an increase. One example, which Senator Bacik referred to, is a person with three children earning €20 an hour. By increasing the number of hours worked from 15 to 19 and moving from the one parent family payment to the back to education allowance, the person will be better off by €185 per week. That is by increasing part-time employment by four hours and the child of seven years is in school so the parent does not need child care. The parent will be home from work at the time the child is home from school. We must examine the cohort of families with children who must be held to go back to work if they want to. No one will be forced and that is an important point. With regard to child care, parents in the home should be facilitated to make a choice.  I know the Minister, Deputy Reilly, is working on the question of whether the best place for children under one year of age is in child care or with their parents at home. The whole thing has to work together for the benefit of the everyone. As it stands, it is not working for anybody. It is not working for lone parents at all and they are the most important people. Money is being put into this area. The current state of poverty of lone parents means they need to be helped. That is our objective and I hope we will achieve it. I hope that by working with the Tánaiste and the Minister, Deputy Reilly, we can ensure a better system of child care is in place by the end of this year to help lone parents and everybody else who is facing this dilemma. The back to education scheme is also important. As another Senator said, education is the most important thing for lone parents. Senator Katherine Zappone:   This has been a very good debate. I thank the Tánaiste for her passionate and systematic outline of what she is doing and why she is doing it. I am also grateful to the Senators who spoke during the debate. We have demonstrated our common passion and respect for single parents. It is great to hear that coming from the Seanad. We accept that the reforms initiated by the Government are based on passion and respect for single parents. Our criticisms of some of those policies and our recommendations for change are also based on that. We do not think the Government has got it right yet. It has moved back from some of the changes it initiated. We think the Government needs to move back from more of them. Government Senators, in particular, put forward views during the debate about some of the things the Government is doing, but unfortunately those things do not really bridge the gaps we have identified. They are not putting food on the table or fuel in the tank. They are not ensuring quality child care is accessible. We will continue to argue that more needs to be done, particularly with regard to raising the rationale that underlies much of the policy. Many of us spoke about the importance of education and employment in terms of enabling people to get out of poverty. We mentioned the failure to provide for the child care that needs to be in place in order to support that. We will continue to say there is a need not only for education and jobs, but also for an acknowledgement that parental responsibility of care in a one-parent family is equivalent to that in a two-parent family. We do not believe lone parents should be compelled to go into full-time work after their youngest child has reached the age of 14, particularly in the absence of adequate and affordable quality child care supports. This is an example of where current Government policy is neither sufficient nor acceptable. I suppose we question some of the policies that are currently in place and have not been changed. While we acknowledge the decision to establish the jobseeker’s allowance transition payment in recognition of the care duties of those parenting alone whose children are between the ages of seven and 13, we believe the care duties of those parenting alone whose children are aged 14 and over are not recognised. This means the need and ability of each parent to balance care and work or education, and his or her freedom to make appropriate parenting choices, particularly in one-parent families, is not properly recognised. It is for that reason that we believe there is no equality of family status in this regard. We accept that the jobseeker’s allowance transition payment has been introduced, but it is important to remember that the income disregard which was put in place within that structure to facilitate additional child care costs is still lower than that which applies under the one-parent family payment. Some families will lose income as a result. We have based many of our arguments on the figures that we have drawn from our research. Those figures suggest that the lone parents who are losing out financially as a result of the way these changes are operating do not represent a small minority. This is affecting more than a small minority, particularly because we still do not have enough affordable and accessible child care arrangements for the parents of one-parent families. We accept and welcome that provision has been made for access to Intreo and to personal case officers, but we do not think there is any justification for cutting the income of working lone parents to pay for this. They already constitute the poorest group. There is less of a financial incentive for a lone parent to work because of child care costs. The only people who can avail of the back to work family dividend are those who can get their employers to agree to guaranteed contracts. Many lone parents work in the retail industry and are therefore caught in a trap of lower hours. We have already spoken about after-school places. Many speakers indicated that while they welcome the establishment of such initiatives, there has been poor take-up in some cases because they were not designed around parents’ needs. I would like to speak about the issue of education with specific reference to parents staying in full-time higher education. While there has been a move back from some of the changes that were made, it should be noted that those single parents who moved to the back to education allowance, as distinct from the jobseeker’s allowance transition payment, will not get a maintenance grant. We are concerned that access to education, especially higher education, for lone parents in the future may not be guaranteed for one-parent families. An active inclusion approach is welcome. We are welcoming that. However, we think that a failure to recognise adequately the responsibility of care for one-parent families is continuing to underlie all of the Government’s policies. It is being recognised in words, but not necessarily in terms of the actions that are required to acknowledge the caring responsibility of one-parent families. That is not happening yet. For example, we do not understand why it has been decided that 14 is the appropriate age at which payment transition should happen. We have heard the argument that the more time a single parent spends in part-time work, the less time it might take him or her to move out of poverty. We do not feel that the other side of our responsibility to one-parent families, in relation to their care, has been sufficiently acknowledged. I have reviewed the Government amendment carefully but I have not seen any statement that there will be any kind of review of policies. Our motion concluded by calling on the Government to “engage in a comprehensive review” in light of the concerns we have. I note and welcome the reference in the Tánaiste’s speech to two reviews that will be going on. The first review, to be carried out by Dr. Michelle Millar, will identify best practice in how to assist lone parents to improve their access to education and employment – we believe housing should also be included in this context – to ensure they have greater opportunities for their families. It seems that a second review will stem from her request to the Labour Market Council to specifically examine how employers can assist lone parents to increase their hours, thereby enabling them to qualify for family income supplement. My colleague with whom I have consulted and I share the hope that these two significant reviews will include a questioning of some of the fundamental assumptions which, as we have tried to point out, have been underlying the policies that have been adopted to date. Indeed, some of the changes brought about by this Government may to a certain extent have represented an acceptance of the incorrectness of those assumptions. I have decided that I will not push this to a vote. I assume the Government will agree that we can feed into those reviews and into the work of the joint committee, which has been mentioned by Senator Bacik and which I acknowledged in my earlier remarks, some of the more extensive recommendations that have come from working with lone parents and their families, particularly at the civic forum. This has been a fine debate. I am grateful and delighted to hear that there is a commitment to common respect for one-parent families, particularly single parents who have ambitions to earn, care and learn. As I said at the outset, this is necessary to enable them to participate in, and find their place in, the building of the Ireland that all the rest of us hope to have an opportunity to build. Amendment agreed to. Motion, as amended, agreed to.

Love-in with Katherine Zappone and Eamonn Ryan on Marian’s D4 Dinner Party To-day,17/04/2016

I’ve just listened back to Marian’s D4 Dinner Party on RTE (Sunday with Marian). It is worse than I thought!
Listen back to it on RTE    17/04/2016

The guests were Katherine Zappone TD, Eamonn Ryan TD, Superintendent O’Brien (Interpol), Julie O’Neill , former GS of A Government Department, Dr Mac an Bháird, Business and Finance, DCU.
The combination of Marian’s prejudices and the composition of the panel made the programme grossly unbalanced.
The questions to the politicians were in the nature of a “love-in”
Unbelievably Eamonn Ryan was never asked to account for his 4 years as a minister with collective responsibility for cabinet decisions in the diastrous FF-Green government (2007-2011). He was not even introduced as a former Minister but as leader of the Green Party!
Zappone was not asked why she withdrew her Bill to stop disadvantageous changes to lone parents benefits in the Seanad last year and abandoned them to the tender mercies of Joan Burton who proceeded to bring in the changes. She was allowed to say she was “passionately committed to equality” without question or challenge.
O’Bren was a bit at sea on the politics
Mac an Bhaird pointed to the fact that there was a danger in “auction” politics as the state faced uncertain times.
O’Neill pointed to the merits of a “rainbow government” as we had with John Bruton, Dick Spring and Proinsias De Rossa.
As I said earlier: Marian displayed her usual “objectivity”.
“A-a-Are we just going to make the same mistakes again! Paschal Donoghue said he was being asked to open the cheque book to solve the Luas dispute.” The clear underlying assumption was that the bust was caused by paying people too much and spending too much on public services. Not a word about the greedy Irish and international rich who poured money into property inflation and who were protected by government, opposition, The Central Bank, the ESRI, the ECB, IBEC, IFA, The ICTU and the entire Irish elite except Prof Morgan Kelly . But the new agenda of the elite must be served! Keep down pay and public spending! Beware of auction politics! Not a word about the fact that the financial assets of the super-rich are now 40 billion above peak boom level(2006)? And not a penny wealth tax is being paid on it while people are paying tax on their homes and double tax on their domestic water supply.
Neither Eamonn nor Katherine or the others demurred from Marian’s basic assumption.
This is full blown propaganda of the rich paid for by licence fees.
How the poorest 90% exist never impinged!!!!

Eamonn and Katherine were big on DAIL REFORM. There was no mention of the only political reform which would make any difference-the right of constituents to recall TDs between elections! The only effect of the Dáil reforms they advocate (some of which have merit) will be to prolong discussion but the outcomes for the general citizenry will be the same.

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Stagg, Labour whip, Voted for Lone Parent Cuts Twice But Admits They Were a “Bad Decision”!!!!

From Irish Times to-day July 9,2015

In the email (to a constituent), Mr Stagg said he voted in favour of the changes in 2012 because he believed that promised improvements in the child care system would be put in place. He acknowledged that they had not materialised.

He also voted with the Government in last week’s private members motion, tabled by the Opposition after a July 2nd deadline which saw 30,000 people being transferred from lone parents’ allowance to theory forms of social welfare.

The email from Mr Stagg states there have been angry exchanges in parliamentary party meetings over the issue.

“I simply fail to see how cutting the income of the very ones who are making a real effort to improve the lot of their families and themselves helps in some way to get out of the poverty trap. It clearly has the opposite effect.

“I will continue to press for a reversal of this bad decision,” he states.

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Call for Reversal of Lone Parent Cuts by Newton International Fellow

UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, This Week, Condemned Irish Government for Failing to Protect the Vulnerable

Dr Clara Fischer ,Newton International Fellow at the LSE Gender Institute in Irish Times, Friday July 3

This week, lone parents were subject to the last of a series of cuts to welfare payments that supplemented their part-time, low-paid employment. Introduced by the Minister for Social Protection since Budget 2012, the policy of switching off One-Parent Family Payment for lone parents with children aged seven was originally decided on mid-crisis and in the context of a wider policy approach that prescribed austerity as a means of redressing Ireland’s economic woes.

More recently, the Government has proclaimed a tentative recovery, calling into question the need for cuts that have already had a detrimental effect on lone-parent families. Poverty in these households has increased since the adoption of these particular measures, with 63 per cent living in deprivation and many at risk of homelessness or in emergency accommodation, given the cumulative pressures of rent supplement limits.

The picture for lone-parent households is thus grim. Despite research consistently showing them to be the poorest of our society, and capturing record levels of poverty, the Government has persisted in pursuing cuts that exacerbate the situation.

A strong moral argument can therefore now be made for abandoning the position adopted during the economic crisis and for establishing a more appropriate response to lone parent “activation” that reflects the economic and social realities of today.

Objective

Such an argument could draw on the Government’s vision as outlined in the Programme for Government, where it adopts the elimination of poverty as an objective, and commits to “protecting the vulnerable and to burden-sharing on an equitable basis”. Sadly, data and research in recent years reflects the fact that equitable burden-sharing has not taken place, and “the vulnerable” have often borne the brunt of austerity measures.

This much was borne out again, ironically, just this week, by a report published by the UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, which noted that austerity measures had a particularly adverse effect on “disadvantaged and marginalised individuals and groups”, that such measures were “adopted without proper assessments of their impact on economic, social, and cultural rights”, and that “no review has been carried out of such measures in a comprehensive and human rights-based manner”.

In other words, despite the Government’s aim to protect “the vulnerable”, it has not undertaken the necessary impact assessments and policy review to actually ensure the protection of same, resulting in the disproportionate and adverse effects which research from a variety of bodies, including Tasc and the ESRI, has long shown.

Informed decisions

For human rights organisations and advocacy groups in Ireland, particularly for the equality budgeting campaign, the committee’s report merely corroborates what they have been arguing for years: the policy-making process in Ireland must involve impact assessments and equality-proofing, especially of the budget, to allow policymakers to arrive at properly informed decisions.

What the UN committee has called the Government out on is an approach to political decision-making that is not based on evidence; that does not involve maximising information and at least trying to predict likely consequences, particularly for marginalised groups; and that therefore – unsurprisingly – results in the inequitable treatment of such groups.

While other countries routinely use impact assessments and equality-proofing as part of the policy process and, importantly, before decisions are made, Ireland lags behind by refusing to introduce such measures – measures that would give teeth to empty promises of protecting “the vulnerable”.

The most recent cuts to lone parents highlight the fact it is now time for the introduction of equality-proofing and impact assessments, as the Government’s current approach does not work. Not only is the present stance on lone parents morally problematic, but it is having the opposite effect to that intended.

Although the cuts were ostensibly introduced to increase lone parents’ participation in the labour market, there are now fewer lone parents working than in 2012. This clearly is a policy failure, which can be traced directly to structural problems with the way in which policy is made in Ireland. With that said, it is still not too late for Government to reconsider, to undertake a review and to amend its stance accordingly.

More generally, Irish policy-makers who are serious about ensuring the equitable treatment of members of our society should heed the UN committee’s recommendation to introduce impact assessments as a matter of urgency.

Dr Clara Fischer is a Newton International Fellow at the LSE Gender Institute

Read Also in Irish Times

Fintan O’Toole: Poorest will be hardest hit by lone-parent cut

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Unite Calls for Suspension of Lone Parent Cuts    SIPTU?

Unite calls for suspension of lone parent cuts pending full review, consultation with advocacy groups         

Union warns low-paid workers will bear brunt of changes

Trade union Unite today (Monday June 29th) called on the Government to suspend the introduction of changes to the One Parent Family Payment scheduled to take effect this coming Thursday.  The union’s Ireland Secretary Jimmy Kelly said that the Department of Social Protection should now undertake a full review of the planned changes, including a comprehensive impact assessment and consultation with advocacy groups representing lone parents.

Commenting, Jimmy Kelly said:

“These savage cuts will affect around 30,000 lone parents, some of whom could face a weekly income loss of up to €140 per week at a time when 63% of lone parents are already suffering deprivation

“The impact on low-earning women workers will be particularly severe:  workers who, in an age of growing precarious employment, are simply unable to increase their hours and who – even if they could increase their hours – are unable to access affordable childcare.

“The inevitable result will be the creation of new poverty traps.

“I am calling on Social Protection Minister Joan Burton to take a step back, suspend the planned introduction of the changes on Thursday, and initiate a full review.  In addition to a comprehensive impact assessment, that review should include consultation with the various groups advocating for lone parents and children.

“Lone parents and low earners were among those who bore the brunt of the recession.  They should not now be asked to pay for the recovery”, Jimmy Kelly concluded.

ENDS

TIME TO RETHINK A BAD POLICY OF IMPOVERISHING LONE PARENTS–Director, Nevin Economic Research Institute

 Post by Dr Tom Healy

  http://www.nerinstitute.net/blog/2015/06/27/first-principle-do-no-harm/ // //

“There is time, still, to re-think a bad social policy of impoverishing lone parents that misses its target and causes collateral damage by way of higher poverty.  It is never too late to consider an alternative approach that includes serious level-investment in childcare, suitable vocational education with a strong social safety net to avoid poverty.”

FR Peter McVerry-The Department of Social Protection has become hard-hearted and even ruthless

-unnecessary hardship for thousands of lone parents and their children

Letter to irish Times

Sir, – The abolition of the one-parent family payment from July 1st for parents whose youngest child is over seven years of age, in an effort by the Department of Social Protection to save money, will cause unnecessary hardship for thousands of lone parents and their children, and should be abandoned. Many will face increased financial difficulties and some may be forced to give up their part-time employment and become fully dependent on social welfare.

However, this is only the latest in a number of policies by that department which have caused huge hardship. The reduction of the jobseeker allowance for those under 25 to €100 per week targeted a group of people who are not politically organised or active. The rationale for the measure was ostensibly to get young people off their couches, away from the television set and go out to look for work, a mindset which reflects the kind of policies advocated by the right wing of the Conservative Party in the UK. Recently, I met a young man who had been living in a long-term homeless hostel, for which he had to pay €50 per week as rent. Unable to survive on the other €50, he fell behind with his rent, was evicted and is now once more living on the streets.

I know many young people who are drug-free who are refused social welfare payments because they have no address, as they are unwilling to stay in hostels which are full of drugs.

Again, the department was quick to reduce the rent supplement for those in private rented accommodation when the recession began and rents were falling but has refused to increase it now that rents in urban areas are almost at their pre-recession level. This policy is directly responsible for hundreds of families and individuals being evicted into homelessness from their rented accommodation over the past 18 months.

My experience over the last few years is that, increasingly, the Department of Social Protection has become hard-hearted and even ruthless, to the dismay of some of its own staff.

In the pursuit of austerity, compassion has been abandoned. To a great extent, Ireland’s economic recovery has been built on the hardship imposed on people who are poor, homeless or otherwise vulnerable. – Yours, etc,

Fr PETER McVERRY, SJ

Jesuit Centre

for Faith and Justice,

Seamus Healy on Tippfm  To-day   10.05

PQ to Minister for Social Protection, Ms Joan Burton from Seamus Healy TD

Speaking in the Dáil on 18th April 2012, you said that you would only proceed with plans to reform the One Parent Family Payment by 2014/15 if you got a “credible and bankable commitment” by the time of  Budget 2013 that the Irish Government would put in place “a system of safe, affordable and accessible child care , similar to what is found in the Scandinavian countries to whose systems of social protection we aspire”.

In the light of the failure of the government through the Ministry for Children to put in place a system of safe, affordable and accessible child care in place, similar to what is found in the Scandinavian countries, will you withdraw the measures in relation to lone parents to be implemented on JULY 2, and in particular the reduction in the age of the youngest child to 7 years as the threshold above which the one parent family payment is not payable.—Seamus Healy TD  

Tánaiste Joan Burton TD reneges on promise to Lone Parents. Statement By Seamus Healy TD

Deputy Seamus Healy has called on Minister Alan Kelly TD and Minister Tom Hayes TD to insist that Tánaiste Joan Burton TD keeps her promise to withdraw changes for Lone Parents due on 2nd July next.

When Minister Burton first announced these changes’, she promised in April 2012 not to proceed with them unless affordable childcare had been introduced by Government
She said that the new rules would not be implemented unless there was a “system of safe affordable and accessible childcare in place, similar to what is found in the Scandinavian countries to whose systems of social protection we aspire”.
The Minister promised that she wouldonly proceed with the measures to reduce the upper age limit to seven years in the event that I get a credible and bankable commitment on the delivery of such a system of childcare by the time of this year’s budget. If this is not forthcoming, the measure will not proceed.” (April 2012).

The Tánaiste is now reneging on that promise.

From July 2, 2015 when the youngest child of a single parent reaches 7 years of age, the parent will be transferred from the One Parent Family Payment to Transition Job Seekers Allowance.

To be eligible for the Jobseekers Transition allowance  “you must participate in employment activation measures and you have to participate in any recommended course of education, training or employment programme. If you don’t participate you may be paid a lower amount of JST (a penalty rate).” If you cannot afford childcare, you will have to accept a lower “penalty rate” if you need to look after a 7 year old child.

In addition, from July 2nd lone parents working more than 19 hours a week would lose the one-parent family payment when their youngest child turned seven years of age. Up to 32,000 families will be affected by this measure and, in many cases, their incomes will be slashed by up to €80 per week. Seamus Healy TD  087-2802199

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SIPTU MUST NOW LEAVE LABOUR PARTY 

Joan Burton has refused to reverse next month’s ruthless cuts to single parent benefits-IrishMirror.

Thousands are to have their welfare payments slashed by up to €86, depending on circumstances

Thousands are to have their welfare payments slashed by up to €86, depending on circumstances.

Around 6,400 will lose up to €36.50 per week and 4,500 will miss out on €57 per week.

The proposals will see the maximum age that the One Parent Family Payment can be claimed dropped from 17 to just seven.

The Tanaiste met with lone parent groups at a private meeting in Dublin today.

Ms Burton confirmed the hated cuts will go ahead on July 2, but also revealed there may be “some good news in the Budget”.

The Government said the move is aimed at digging one-parents families out of welfare dependency.

They would be required to seek work or training as soon as their youngest child reaches the age of seven.

But cash-strapped parents fear the cuts will put families on the breadline by pushing single parents out of part-time jobs.

SPARK (Single Parents Acting for the Rights of our Kids) said most parents can already only afford to work part-time because of the hefty cost of childcare. Spokeswoman Louise Bayliss fumed: “It seems ironic that she is calling this an activation measure – yet it is only impacting on those who are already activated, ie working.

“Our problem is hundreds of lone parents will be forced to give up their jobs because we still have the issue of high costs of childcare.”

The latest CSO figures indicate two-thirds of lone parents live in poverty, even though half are working.

Last week, hundreds of parents staged protests outside Leinster House calling for a reversal of the hated cuts.

SIPTU MUST PUBLICLY CALL ON JOAN BURTON TO STOP CUTS TO LONE PARENTS DUE ON JULY 2

UNITE and MANDATE TRADE UNIONS HAVE ALREADY DONE SO

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BURTON TO MEET LONE PARENT GROUPS To-Day–SIPTU Jack O’Connor Must Phone Her NOW!!

Pressure mounts on Joan Burton over lone parent reform —-   Irish Times to-day

Government insists reforms will end poverty trap and improve access to education

Karen Kiernan of One Family: “This reform process is forcing lone parents who are already working part-time to give up their jobs because they no longer meet the eligibility criteria and because work does not pay, meaning even greater poverty.”

Tánaiste Joan Burton will today meet lone parent groups as pressure mounts on the Government to delay welfare reforms which will affect 30,000 lone parents from next month.

Under the changes, lone parents on welfare will be required to seek employment or training as soon as their youngest child reaches seven years of age.

The Government argues the move is aimed at enabling one-parent families move out of welfare dependency and access education and employment.

But lone parent groups say the reforms will end up penalising thousands of single parents working part-time and could force many to give up work.

Official figures indicate the majority of lone parents will experience no income changes or will gain after the changes come into effect on July 2nd next.

Eligibility

A key focus is on an estimated 4,000 lone parents who stand to lose out because they are currently working 19 hours or more and claiming the family income supplement.

Karen Kiernan of One Family, which is meeting Ms Burton today, has called on the Government to revisit the changes which, she says, may force many to quit work.

“This reform process is forcing lone parents who are already working part-time to give up their jobs because they no longer meet the eligibility criteria and because work does not pay, meaning even greater poverty,” she said.

Latest figures indicate that two-thirds of lone parent families live in deprivation and suffer the highest poverty rates, even though just over half are in the labour market.

Ms Kiernan said there has been a surge in calls to its helplines from parents in recent weeks who stand to lose out and say they are unable to get clarity on crucial issues from their local welfare offices.

“We know it is poverty and not family form that has the greatest impact on outcomes for children, yet this reform is doing little to remove the practical barriers lone parents face in returning to work and education, such as affordable, accessible childcare,” she said.

Dependency

Lone parent groups have been involved in a behind-the- scenes lobbying campaign, focusing on Labour Party backbenchers in particular, to persuade the Government to revisit the planned changes.

But well-placed Government sources say there is little prospect of changes as next month’s reforms are the final element of a process which began two years ago.

Ms Burton has argued that the existing welfare scheme has been unsuccessful in lifting lone parents out of poverty because it is passive in nature and has created a dependency on welfare.

Her officials say many lone parents who are working part-time and receiving welfare would actually benefit, if they increase their working hours to 19. This would entitle them to the family income supplement and the new back to work family dividend.

They acknowledge, however, that about 4,000 of those working more than 19 hours stand to suffer an income loss.

A spokesman for Ms Burton said lone parents could help avoid these losses by working more hours and availing of subsidised childcare supports.

The Department of Children currently subsidises approximately 25,000 childcare places, many for low income parents.

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WHY LABOUR PARTY WOMEN VOTED AGAINST MOTION TO STOP BURTON’s CRUEL CUTS For LONE PARENTS

JUDAS EXPLAINS ALL!// //

LW statement on ‘7 is too young’ campaign

15 June 2012


We have been asked to explain why we voted against a motion at the NWCI AGM which asks for the removal of section 4 of the Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2012. We would have liked to submit an amendment to the motion but our executive was unable to meet before the deadline for amendments. Below is Labour Women Chair Katherine Dunne’s speech opposing the motion at NWCI.
“I want to start by saying that seven is too young for any child to be left alone without the supervision of his or her parent or another responsible adult.
I commend Frances Byrne and OPEN for their campaign which has highlighted the reduction in age limit of the youngest child of families in receipt of the One-Parent Family Payment and the effect this could have on single parent families, the majority of whom are headed by women and 40% of whom are at risk of poverty.
OPEN’s campaign has rightly focused on the lack of affordable after-school childcare available to families in Ireland, the provision of which would allow more parents to work, as most have expressed a wish to do.
Indeed, an achievement of the campaign has been that when introducing the Social Welfare and Pensions Bill that contains the age reduction, the Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton made a commitment that the reforms will not go ahead unless provisions for adequate affordable and accessible childcare are included in the next budget.
I understand the wariness of campaigners towards such a promise, especially when the measure to reduce the payments is already in the Act. However it is precisely because of this – that the Act is going ahead but the Minister has made a commitment regarding its implementation – that I argue that the NWCI should concentrate on a campaign to hold the Minister and her Government colleagues to that commitment. Earlier we heard the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Frances Fitzgerald make similar commitments to working with Ministers Burton and Quinn on this issue.
I believe that working together with the Minister towards something on which we are all agreed in principle is more likely to succeed than calling for removal of the section of the Act that is already going ahead. I know that OPEN and the NWCI have expressed concerns regarding the practicality of introducing adequate childcare provisions in such a short timeframe. Of course the flipside to demanding the provisions is to hold the Minister to her promise NOT to proceed with the cuts if the provisions are not in place.
I believe we should support this approach as the NWCI does and should have a commitment to campaigning for the development of a quality childcare infrastructure in Ireland. Whilst Ireland spends relatively high amounts on social welfare it has a relatively low success rate at raising people out of poverty. This is a result of a lack of infrastructure and services that are more developed in other countries.
OPEN and the NWCI have stated that they do support welfare reform, once proper childcare provision is in place. I believe that this is in line with the commitment made by the Minister and that it is imperative that we hold her and her colleagues to this rather than fighting a battle we are unlikely to win.”

Lone Parents Call on Burton To Stop CUTS due on July 2- Irish Examiner

Social Protection Minister Joan Burton has been urged to hold back on cutting the main support payment to lone parents amid warnings that it could push many people into poverty.

Budget 2013 included measures included changes to the One-Parent Family Payment (OPFP) that were to be phased in over a period of time, described as activation measures to encourage more lone parents to access work or education.

However, while the changes to the criteria for eligibility have already seen thousands of lone parents affected, tens of thousands of others face losing the OPFP in July — including an estimated 4,000 who are already working.

One Family, which provides support for one-parent families, said that there was inadequate research at present into how the changes already implemented had affected people — and similarly, how the impending changes would impact on families from this July.

According to One Family, an estimated 36,348 people will be affected by the changes this July, a far higher figure than in the same month in 2014 and 2013.

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Karen Kiernan, CEO of One Family, said: “The transition of another 30,000 [people] off the OPFP has to be stopped and paused until the right supports are in place and research is done to see how it has impacted on those who have already transitioned. We think they are poorer [as a result].”

Some research is underway into international models of activation supports but One Family said plans for Scandinavian-style childcare supports had clearly not come into being.

Niall Egan of the Department of Social Protection recently told an Oireachtas Committee: “With regard to childcare, as I stated, the key measure to be addressed first is the jobseeker’s allowance transition payment. It largely negates the need for a lot of child care provision.”

He said someone with a young child can qualify for the Family Income Supplement (FIS) “and still not require child care provision because FIS involves 19 hours, which works out at just under four hours per day. Admittedly, this is not possible in all circumstances but it is possible for a lone parent with a child in school to match what is required”.

One Family said Jobseeker’s Transition Payment was not filling the gap for families losing the OPFP.

It said that while the system did need to be reformed, the changes were counter-productive, reiterating that “the real impact of these current reforms is that many thousands of parents will experience catastrophic reductions in their weekly income” and that “many will now be forced to give up their part-time jobs, due to a complex and unwieldy system”.

One Family gave a number of examples in which it said part-time workers would be most affected by the changes.

In one example, of an OFP recipient with a 15-year-old daughter and a 15-hour-a-week contract, she is ineligible for FIS because her contract does not state she works 19 hours or more a week, or 38 in a fortnight and, as her child is over 14, the woman will not qualify for Jobseeker’s Allowance Transition and so must meet the full conditionality of Jobseeker’s Allowance.

One Family said this would mean that, for those weeks when her work is spread over more than three days, she will no longer be eligible for any payment.

In another example, of a man on OFP and with a morning job while his two children are at secondary school, he also faces being moved to Jobseeker’s Allowance once his youngest child turns 14 and will not be eligible for FIS as he cannot increase his hours in his current job, but will also not meet the eligibility criteria for Jobseeker’s Allowance if he continues with his job.

“He will have to give up his current job and will be down €100 per week,” said One Family.

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‘It’s not about money, it’s about emotional support for kids’

“I don’t actually know, and that’s the truth of it,” says Karen, a mother of two from East Cork.

On paper, it doesn’t seem like much of one. For the past 14 years, she has been working part-time in a job she loves in Cork, clocking up 19 hours spread across two-and-a-half days, meaning on the other days she is at home for her two boys, who are both at primary school.

But the times are changing. Back in Budget 2013, Minister for Social Welfare Joan Burton announced phased changes to the parameters for the One-Parent Family Payment (OPFP). As those changes have come in, changing the eligibility thresholds, it has affected Karen’s financial situation.

Now, with the final changes due in July, Karen believes that she faces a choice: Give up work altogether to be there for the boys, or work full-time, slashing the amount of time when she, as the lone parent, will be available to them.

“Lone parents should be applauded and given as much support as possible,” she says. “It needs to come away from the Live Register and money and politics and come down to emotional support for children.”

In a letter to Ms Burton, Karen outlined how, while continuing in her job-share, in recent years the children’s allowance has been reduced and the OPFP has been reduced by €58.80 per week. This estimated overall loss of €74.30 a week was offset with the support of the Family Income Supplement (FIS), but she is still down €40 a week.

In July, Karen will no longer receive the OPFP, resulting in a further loss of €75 per week, and she will also no longer qualify for the €20 per week fuel allowance in winter, as one of the conditions of eligibility was to be in receipt of the OPFP.

If all this sounds confusing, it is, and other lone parents in different circumstances will be affected in different ways.

Karen recalls that when the changes to the OPFP were announced they were to be implemented along with a Scandinavian-style childcare system, which has not materialised.

She wrote to her local TDs but did not receive a adequate response, and she is hoping that some alterations can be made that will allow her to continue the way she is: working because she wants to work, and being at home as the one adult in the house for her children.

“The family home is the foundation of our society and we cannot underestimate the importance of at least one consistent parent within that home,” she wrote to Ms Burton.

She is still investing faith in something changing, and so is putting off her decision.

“I really have not given up hope of Joan Burton turning this around,” she says.

“I don’t want to think about the alternatives.”

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Seanad Motion Calling On Burton to Reconsider the JULY 2, 2015 Measures on Lone Parents Withdrawn by Senator Katherine Zappone following opposition from  Senator Ivana Bacik( Labour) and Speech by Minister Burton !

“I have decided that I will not push this to a vote.”–Senator Zappone (further down)

Read full Seanad Debate Below

INCOME CUTS FOR LONE PARENTS

From July 2nd lone parents working more than 19 hours a week would lose the one-parent family payment when their youngest child turned seven years of age. Up to 32,000 families will be affected by this measure and, in many cases, their incomes will be slashed by up to €80 per week. In addition, lone parents whose youngest child exceeds 7 years of age will be forced to take up “job activation measures” including jobridge outside the home on pain of having their Job Seeker Transition Payment reduced. When Minister Burton was introducing this measure she promised that it would not be implemented until “Scandinavian Style Childcare” was in place. Now she has broken that promise and the measures are set to be implemented in two months time on July 2, 2015

Government Motion deleting the call to reconsider the July 2 implementation included Seanad Eireann – recognises the Government’s commitment to: – maintain core social welfare weekly rates of payment; – tackle long term social welfare dependency by ending the expectation that lone parents will remain outside of the labour force indefinitely; – enhance lone parents’ access to the range of education, training and employment supports and services in order to develop their skills set with the aim of securing employment and financial independence

Full Seanad Debate  April 15, 2015 One-Parent Family Supports:

Motion An Cathaoirleach:   I welcome the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Joan Burton, to the House.

Senator Katherine Zappone:   I move: That Seanad Éireann: – notes that 1 in 4 families with children in Ireland is a one-parent family, that over half a million people live in one-parent families (Census 2011) and that over 30 per cent of the Irish population experienced two or more types of enforced deprivation, compared to 63.2 per cent of those in lone parent households (SILC 2013); – further notes that Budget 2012 restricted eligibility for the One-Parent Family Payment (OFP) to those parenting alone whose youngest child is aged seven, and initiated phased reductions of income disregards for lone parents to equal those of jobseekers allowances, albeit we welcome the Government decision in November, 2014 to halt the final €30 cut; – acknowledges the Minister for Social Protection’s decision to establish the Jobseeker’s Transition Allowance Scheme for lone parents with children aged between 7 and 14; – regrets that accessible, affordable, quality childcare to accompany policy changes has not been delivered, though acknowledges the €14 million investment in after-school care; – notes with concern that almost 40,000 lone parents are expected to transition from OFP with 30,200 transitioning on 2nd July, 2015 (just as school holidays cause childcare costs to increase), and how this change will impact negatively on thousands of working lone parents who will be financially worse off; and – welcomes the Minister for Social Protection’s recent announcements that people in receipt of OFP will maintain eligibility for the half-rate Carer’s Allowance and that she commits to resolving anomalies for those taking up Jobseeker’s Transition and accessing SUSI maintenance supports; and calls on the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection to: – acknowledge that changes in labour market policies regarding lone parents are resulting in unintended consequences, such as lone parents giving up work or full-time education, and agree to immediately review recent policy changes in light of this; – resolve with immediate effect all remaining administrative and policy anomalies concerning the roll out of Jobseekers Transition including access to Carers Allowance, Back to Education Allowance and self-employed or enterprise supports and to ensure no working lone parents with children over 14 are financially worse off after transitioning to Jobseeker’s Allowance; – honour previous commitments and implement a ‘system of safe, affordable and accessible childcare’ to accompany the changes to OFP; and – engage in a comprehensive review of the policy decision to compel lone parents to work full time and to examine whether this policy is consistent with a child’s right to parenting and consistent with equality of family status. I welcome the Tánaiste to the House. It is timely to debate these issues now as the Government puts the final touches on its much-anticipated spring statement and when all people, especially those whose boat has not yet lifted with the upward swell of the economy, await their chance for prosperity, well-being and equal participation in building a new Ireland. I have proposed this motion along with my Independent colleagues because we believe the changes in one-parent family policies have not been effective in achieving the stated objective of encouraging single parents into job activation and education. Equally significant, we believe the underlying rationale for the policy changes is not correct. The rationale is that single parents should be compelled to work full-time once their youngest child reaches the age of 14. The State does not compel two-parent families to do so. Before I lay out our case, I must acknowledge the Tánaiste’s commitment to social welfare reform and getting the reform right. That is why our motion welcomes and notes a number of her decisions to amend the policies announced since 2011, and also the leadership and extensive work of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education and Social Protection to support these positive amendments. I acknowledge also the ambition and commitment of single parents themselves to reach for higher education and employment that pays while balancing their parental responsibilities of care. They are actively dismantling the stereotype of long-term welfare dependency. That is why I held a civic forum with many of them in Leinster House yesterday and why we concentrated on proposing positive recommendations for change, some of which I will mention this evening, and all of which will be compiled into a report that we will submit to the Government and joint committee for consideration. I appreciate the expert assistance of Dr. Mary Murphy in this regard, in addition to the assistance of the advocates for one-parent families, some of whom are with us this evening, including One Family, the National Women’s Council of Ireland, the Union of Students in Ireland, SPARK and Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union. While public policies in the 1990s supported a mother worker regime where part-time work was facilitated alongside parental caring responsibilities, as exemplified by the higher income disregards that supported child care costs, the latest changes from the mid-2000s are such that single parent policy shifted towards an adult worker regime in which the adult is expected to work full-time with care, in theory, provided by a public service or purchased in the marketplace. The ideal should instead be a carer-earner model – with appropriate incentives and support for higher education – that facilitates an adequate level of labour market participation while also accommodating care choices. This is unlikely to be facilitated by a system that privileges or insists on full-time employment.  We think that this is unlikely to be facilitated by a system that privileges or insists on full-time employment. Government policies are rooted in the assumption that the way out of poverty is a job. We say that the way out of poverty for one-parent families is education and a job that can balance caring responsibilities. Let us consider some of the evidence that we have to date, subsequent to the changes in one-parent family policies. In 2013 the survey in living conditions cited that the consistent poverty rate for the Irish population was 8.2% but that the rate was 23% for one-parent families. It also recorded that over 30% of the population experienced two or more types of enforced deprivation but that 63% of those living in one-parent households experienced deprivation. Senator van Turnhout will speak on the impact that such poverty and deprivation has had on the children of one-parent families. With regard to employment, Department of Social Protection figures for 2011 show that 49% of recipients of the one-parent family payment were in employment. This decreased in 2013 to 36%. It increased again in 2014 and 2015 but at the end of January 2015 45% of recipients were in employment, which is still under the 49% figure. There are a number of reasons for the fluctuations, the main one being of course the economic crisis which affected everyone, including single parents in employment. Many single parents lost employment, but another key factor is what happened at the beginning of 2012. Previously, recipients of the one-parent family payment could participate on a community employment scheme, receive their one-parent family payment and also get a payment of the community employment allowance. As the Tánaiste knows, this was stopped. A direct result of this was significant decline in the number of single parents in community employment. The Tánaiste is also aware of the various calculations that have been put forward indicating that, when 30,200 single parents transition on 2 July 2015, just as school holidays cause child care costs to increase, this change will impact negatively on thousands of working parents who will be financially worse off. The Department of Social Protection estimates that two-thirds will transfer to the jobseeker’s transition allowance and our motion has welcomed the establishment of this scheme as a better option than jobseeker’s allowance. However, the jobseeker’s transition allowance has a lower income disregard than the one-parent family payment and hence, for example, a worker earning €200 will lose €29 a week after the transition. Those parents who have no child under 14 years will transfer onto the jobseeker’s allowance and there are concerns that many of them will have to give up their part-time employment due to the jobseeker’s allowance conditionality requirements. Those single parents who are in paid employment of sufficient hours to qualify for the in-work benefit FIS as a top-up to their one-parent family payment will transfer to the FIS scheme exclusively, which will provide a lower level of income support than they currently receive, even with the back-to-work family dividend payment. There is also great concern regarding lone parents’ access to education, especially for those whose youngest child is over 14 and those who wish to pursue education goals in the future. We have welcomed that the Government has revised its policy regarding lone parents currently in full-time education and whose youngest child is under 14. One-parent family payment recipients in full-time education can remain on the payment until their course is completed but this arrangement is for recipients coming off one-parent family payment up to 2 July 2015 only. Those who exit one-parent family payment after this date will have to opt for the jobseeker’s transition allowance or the back-to-education allowance. If one qualifies for jobseeker’s transition allowance, one will be eligible to receive the SUSI maintenance grant, which is crucial for child support. However, a parent whose youngest child is 14 years or above will be treated the same as if he or she had no dependants and will only be able to access the back-to-education allowance without any maintenance support for child care and travel. As was pointed out yesterday in our civic forum, it is considerably less costly to the Exchequer to support single parents through higher level education than it is to support them on welfare for the entirety of their lives. For these reasons, and others allied to them, the motion calls for a comprehensive review of the policy decision to compel single parents to work full-time and asks if this policy is consistent with a child’s right to parenting and is consistent with the equality of family status. Some of the positive recommendations coming from the civic forum include the following. Single parents in or wishing to access full-time education and those in part-time employment should be able to access one-parent family payment support until their youngest child is 18. The State should recognise that all citizens under 18 years of age are children and thus still dependent on parental support. If lone parents are already in employment or education, they do not need the removal of the payment to activate them. Further, how is it that one parent in a two-parent household can be classified as a dependant, in our social welfare policy, yet a child between the ages of 14 and 18 in a one-parent household is not recognised as a dependant? Another recommendation is that if the State insists on a transition to jobseeker status after the youngest child reaches seven, we should bring back the higher levels of income disregards for those on jobseeker’s transition allowance, by way of supporting the caring responsibilities of lone parents, given there does not yet exist adequate public locally-based child care services that do school collections from their child’s school. There are many more recommendations, including the need for quality part-time options, such as work, training and education, to be recognised. It is not easy for single parents to negotiate increases in part-time hours within a context of mini-jobs, zero contract hours and the idea of bundling slivers of time. It would be helpful if the Organisation of Working Time Act was amended from a 15-hour minimum threshold to a 20-hour minimum threshold. We think these are better ways for single parents to reduce long-term social welfare dependency, to balance their ambitions to learn, earn and care, and eventually to achieve financial independence and well-being for themselves and their children. This is why we call on the Government to engage in a comprehensive review. Senator Jillian van Turnhout:   I welcome the Tánaiste. It is with pride that I second the motion. The result of inadequate income for many one-parent families is food poverty, fuel poverty, over-indebtedness, difficulty with education-related costs, cutting out extra-curricular activities and children’s hobbies, living in poor quality housing, risk of homelessness, and homelessness. The latest SILC data for 2013 revealed that in lone parent households, the at-risk-of-poverty rate was 31.7%, the deprivation rate was 63.2% and the consistent poverty rate was 23%. The particular and distinct vulnerability of this group is further shown by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul which has confirmed that one-parent families constitute one of the major groups to which it provides services. The financial assistance the Society of St. Vincent de Paul provides is connected with their low and inadequate incomes, particularly those in receipt of one-parent family payment. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul has advised that despite incredibly careful budgeting, there simply is not enough money in the house, and they find they need a payment to buy food or meet the costs of school, energy and housing. Parents who work part-time find that their pay is low and unlikely to rise significantly as they often have low educational levels because of the situation they are in. Child care is an issue in terms of cost of child care and the salaries for those working in child care because all too often jobs that are considered to be women’s work get lower rates of pay. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul also supports both two and one-parent homeless families that are in emergency hotel accommodation, in the majority of cases because of the major shortage in social housing or having been pushed out of the unregulated monopolistic private rental sector where market rate far exceeds rent supplement caps and where the housing assistance payment is only available from selected housing authorities. That is an issue that differs around the country. Society of St. Vincent de Paul volunteers report that their members are finding that the move from one-parent family payment to the jobseeker’s transition allowance is causing them considerable uncertainty and fear, particularly among those who have received the letter from the Department. This is something I found repeatedly as I talked to groups in preparation for this debate. The proposed changes regarding the one-parent family payment have also caused considerable stress, upset and confusion with Doras Buí, a community-development organisation centre that provides high quality supports and services to one-parent families living in the Coolock area of Dublin. That organisation outlined some of its concerns. Obviously a major cause of concern is the provision of adequate, quality and affordable child care in that area. It claims that the provision of the after-school subvention scheme is not adequate. First, not all private child care providers have taken up this scheme and many parents are unable to find a provider to collect their child from their school. It is great to say that one has the scheme in one place and the child somewhere else, but how is the child supposed to get to the scheme?  Second, the subsidised scheme only lasts for 52 weeks. What are parents to do after the first year of the scheme finishes? The Department has advised parents to contact their child care committee after this time. Many parents have expressed concerns regarding their current working arrangements and qualifying conditions for jobseeker’s allowance. Some are working ten to 15 hours per week, broken down to two to three hours per day for five days, in order to fit around child care arrangements. While working these hours, they do not qualify for jobseeker’s allowance because they work for more than three days per week. Many parents and their employers are not in a position to increase working hours to at least 19 hours, which would allow parents to be eligible for FIS and the back to work dividend. Another example has been clearly illustrated by the Dunnes Stores workers who work 15 hours per week. We see the precarious position they have been put in. A person may be called in to work thinking they might have five hours, and organise child care on that basis, only to go in to find out they have one hour of work. Due to the current housing crisis and the lack of social housing, many lone parents are in receipt of rent supplement. Under the conditions of rent allowance a recipient cannot work more than 30 hours per week, so we are moving up the scale. If they do, they lose their rent supplement, so parents are left with a choice between working full time and keeping their home. While there are child care education and training support programmes available for parents who are studying a FETAC level 5 course to help towards the cost of further education, there is no such funding for parents who want to go to degree level. This is limiting their education choices, which in turn limits their ability to gain full-time well paid employment. I will end by mentioning a lone parent involved in Doras Buí who asked me to share her story with the House. Her name is Leanne and she is a single mother of one. She says: The new changes in the One Parent Family Payment will really affect me in a bad way. My son turns 7 years old on the 14th of July, so this will affect me immediately. My son has been diagnosed with ADHD and Oppositional Defiant Disorder and takes daily medication. I attend monthly and sometimes weekly appointments in the Mater CAMHS hospital. I am currently working part time and I face a drop of 70/80 euro a week, basically between 280/320 a month. This is a huge stress on a lone parent like me, trying to better myself for my son by getting out and working part time and this strain is unbelievable. I attend counselling over these stresses. I cannot work full time as I don’t have a minder for my child and with these changes I won’t be able to afford one any time soon. This really illustrates how a number of factors that I have tried to demonstrate come together and compound this downward spiral at a time when we should be supporting and lifting up lone parents and giving them the opportunities we say we wish to give them. I cannot see the evidence of investment in child care and after-school care. There has been investment, but there are no guidelines, no clear structures and no regulations, so the reality is that when people try to access services, be they housing or employment, all these obstacles are in the way. We really need to tackle this issue to lift lone parents and their children out of poverty. Senator Terry Brennan:   I move amendment No. 2: To delete all the words after “Seanad Éireann” and substitute the following: – acknowledges that despite significant levels of investment, including an estimated €607 million in 2015, the One-Parent Family Payment scheme has not been successful in preventing lone parents from being significantly more at risk of consistent poverty than the population as a whole; – recognises that in 2004, during the height of the economic boom lone parents were more than four-and-a-half times more at risk of consistent poverty than the population as a whole. (SILC data); – recognises that Ireland’s supports for lone parents need to be updated in order to provide for greater levels of opportunity for lone parents and for their children; – acknowledges that the very long duration, potentially 18-22 years, can engender long term social welfare dependency and associated poverty and social exclusion amongst lone parents and their families; and – welcomes the Government’s decision to retain the One-Parent Family Payment income disregards at €90 per week; – recognises the Government’s commitment to: – maintain core social welfare weekly rates of payment; – tackle long term social welfare dependency by ending the expectation that lone parents will remain outside of the labour force indefinitely; – enhance lone parents’ access to the range of education, training and employment supports and services in order to develop their skills set with the aim of securing employment and financial independence; and – support lone parents to make the transition from the One-Parent Family Payment onto another social welfare payment; – welcomes the steps the Government have taken to ease the transition of affected lone parents from the One-Parent Family Payment, including: – the introduction of the Jobseeker’s Allowance transitional arrangement, which allows lone parents whose youngest child is aged 7-13 to balance their caring responsibilities by exempting them from having to be available for and genuinely seeking full time employment; – the creation for the first time the opportunity for lone parents to have access to a Case Officer on a one to one basis in order to agree their own personal development plan; – the automatic reviews and increases of Family Income Supplement for affected lone parents, following their transition from the One-Parent Family Payment; – the introduction of the Back to Work Family Dividend for all lone parents who transition off OFP into employment and which allows them to retain their child proportion of their social welfare payment; – the introduction of the After School Childcare scheme and the Community Employment Childcare Scheme to build on the existing 25,000 subsidised childcare places, which the State provides to low income parents in order to facilitate their transition into employment; – the establishment of an interdepartmental group to carry out an economic and cost benefit analysis of policies and future options for increasing the supply, accessibility and affordability of quality child care; – the proposal to allow lone parents in receipt of half rate Carer’s Allowance to retain their One-Parent Family Payment until their youngest child is 16 years of age; – the facility to allow lone parents who are currently undertaking an education course and are in receipt of a SUSI maintenance grant to maintain both their One-Parent Family Payment and the SUSI maintenance grant until they have completed their course of study; – the proposed extension to the Jobseeker’s Allowance transitional arrangement, which will allow all lone parents who have a child aged 7-13 to access the special arrangements of the transitional arrangement and not just former recipients of the One-Parent Family Payment; and – welcomes the research the Department of Social Protection is sponsoring into an active inclusion approach to lone parents, which is examining best practice and innovative approaches to assisting lone parents improve their well-being.” Despite huge investment in the one-parent family payment scheme, it has not been successful in preventing lone parents from being far more at risk of consistent poverty than the general population. Since the scheme was introduced in 1997 until the end of 2010, recipient numbers have increased by half and annual expenditure has increased by over €750 million. The total figure was in excess of €1 billion per year from 2008 to 2012. Throwing money at the problem clearly has not worked. As far back as 2004, lone parents were more than four and a half times more at risk of consistent poverty compared to the population as a whole. This was when the economy was booming and the previous Government showered every problem with available cash. Before the changes, lone parents could have been on the scheme until their youngest child turned 18 or 22 if they were in full-time education. Those criteria are also very much outside the norm internationally. What does this say? It says that the State is happy for someone to be on welfare until their child is an adult. That is not the way to ease poverty and help families. Additionally, the State pays one of the highest rates of child benefit in the developed world, yet it has one of the highest rates of child poverty in the developed world. All the evidence at home and internationally points to employment as the solution to poverty and exclusion. I believe this is the only solution. In its most recent report on employment and social developments in Europe, the European Commission indicated that there is a strong link between poverty and social exclusion on the one hand and the labour market on the other hand. It presents evidence that countries with high employment rates display lower rates of poverty or exclusion. When I say “employment”, I do not mean any old job. I mean employment that enables someone to earn a living. Employment does not automatically lead to the eradication of poverty. The quality of the employment and the active engagement of the person with the job market throughout a lifetime are essential. There must also be personalised approaches and counselling to ensure that people take up high-quality and sustainable jobs. Public investment in job creation is vital and has been at the core of this Government’s jobs strategy, particularly in sustainable, high-quality jobs. In order to address poverty, these jobs need to be accessible to people experiencing poverty. I, like Senators Zappone and van Turnhout, worry wholeheartedly about the levels of poverty and deprivation experienced by one-parent families in Ireland. I agree that their levels of poverty are much higher than the incidence in the general population. I also fully support Senator Zappone in her views on the child care element of the issue, which were very practical. I sincerely hope that there will be moves in the forthcoming budget to address this. I also agree with Senator Zappone that it is unacceptable that we still have such levels of poverty and deprivation in this day and age. I would also point out that none of these things are new. We have been living with the same situation for generations. The approach we are discussing is an attempt to address that. I do not get a sense from the Senator’s contribution that she has a principled objection to work activation measures or a move from a system that discourages welfare dependency. However, I think the Senator is right to point out that some people have genuinely held worries about what might be called the possible unintentional consequences of the changes to the scheme. In that light, I think it would be appropriate to review the scheme’s operation after a given period to test its effectiveness. Senator Terry Leyden:   I thank Senators Katherine Zappone, Jillian van Turnhout, Mary Ann O’Brien and Fiach Mac Conghail for tabling this motion. The ability of Senators to work together and put forward a proposal in the House to which the Tánaiste has listened proves how useful the Seanad is. Fianna Fáil is happy to support the motion.  This week marks the third anniversary of the promise made by the Tánaiste, Deputy Burton, not to proceed with these one-parent family payment cuts unless appropriate child care supports were in place. This is a commitment the Tánaiste has failed to honour and the consequences of her ill-thought-out policy continue to have devastating effects on one-parent families. The cuts imposed by the Tánaiste have led to huge financial losses for working lone parents and have increased the obstacles to lone parents seeking access to third level education. The cumulative effect of these changes is now clear. A lone parent working 20 hours per week on a minimum wage has lost €108 per week as a result of these so-called reforms, and in the absence of child care, work will no longer pay for many parents. These weekly losses are made up of a loss of €28 due to a reduction in income disregard, a loss of €50 in 2015 on cessation of one-parent family allowance and an additional loss of €30 in 2017 when the back-to-work family dividend will end. There has been a drop in the number of lone parents in paid employment and a drop in the number of applications to the Central Applications Office by lone parents. Moreover, while the European Union survey on income and living conditions, EU-SILC, report of 2013 showed there was no significant increase in consistent poverty in the general population, which increased from 7.7% to 8.2%, there was a shocking 32% increase in consistent poverty among one-parent families, the rate of which increased from 17.4% to 23% and is almost three times higher than that of the general population. I look forward to the Tánaiste’s response to this motion because the Senators have put forward a well worked out and researched document. On looking through it and on foot of the advice I have received from the Fianna Fáil research office, which has considered the points put forward by the Senators and has found nothing in the motion with which it can disagree, Fianna Fáil’s response is we have considered and fully support the motion. I revert to and reiterate the point on the proposed major reform of this House, about which I have strong reservations. This is because the concerns Members have expressed and which the Tánaiste represents could not be represented by a well-off representative in New York who might be elected to this House. Such representatives would not have the interest, the concern or the effect the Members present have. This is a small second House of Parliament and it strikes me that while one seeks more representations from different outlets and outlooks, this time the Government appointed a wide range of people, who have been joined by Senator Craughwell after the by-election. Therefore, there is a broad range of views in this House and that is why this motion is particularly appropriate and important. It is something Deputy Burton should act on as Tánaiste and as leader of the Labour Party, which places her in an onerous position as someone who retained the Ministry of Social Protection. This was a brave decision on her part as it would have been easier for the Tánaiste to have taken on another portfolio that might have been easier to manage. This is a difficult portfolio. I believe it is the second highest spending Department in the State, and it is extremely important to the most deprived people in society. If one looks back on Fianna Fáil’s last time in government, it put funds into child care and into crèche developments throughout Ireland, which incidentally has never been recognised. In addition, Fianna Fáil also gave the first full free preschool year. I hope the Tánaiste will be able to bring about a second preschool year and that such a proposal might appear in the next manifestos. It was a great support to and help for families that they could have one free year of preschool facilities. Moreover, the buildings that were constructed and provided throughout the countryside are really top-class buildings of quality. When one analyses the position put forward by the Senators, the Tánaiste will see that any effect it will have on a low income base is devastating. My daughter is a councillor who is working with parents who are under terrible pressure at present. They are trying to hold on to their houses, to local authority houses, and are trying to rear a family. They are finding it very difficult to get child care, which has become out of the price range of anyone who seeks to return to work. In most cases, such people do not receive income that is adequate to pay for a child in child care. These are all areas in which, as Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection, the Tánaiste can consider the individual effect this measure has. She can ask whether this has a major effect on the recipients. As it has, the Tánaiste has a duty and responsibility to examine the situation and tell her Government colleagues that this is not acceptable. She should do this in her extremely influential position as Tánaiste, that is, supporting and being part of the Government as Deputy Prime Minister, as well as the Minister with responsibility for this sensitive portfolio. I must state she has done her utmost in that Department, in so far as possible, in trying to protect the rates of allowances in difficult circumstances. The elderly have been affected badly by the removal of free services that were in place, such as free telephones and painful decisions were made. I note they were more painful for those who actually were deprived of those services. While the Tánaiste retained the free travel system, which is appreciated, other facilities have been withdrawn from people, which is not welcome. The Tánaiste should consider this motion to ascertain whether she can agree to defer this measure. I do not believe it is a question of voting and, if possible, this motion should not be put to a vote. The proposal should be examined by the Tánaiste. While the Government more or less has the numbers in this House, perhaps that is not true in this case and the Tánaiste may find that this motion will be approved. All 14 Fianna Fáil Members are supporting this motion 100%, as will other Members. Perhaps it would be advisable to review the Government amendment to this proposal and to revert to Members with concrete proposals to alleviate the concerns expressed. Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton):   At the outset, I thank Senators Zappone, van Turnhout, Mary Ann O’Brien and Mac Conghail for raising this important issue. The one-parent family payment scheme has played an important role in providing income support to lone parents since its introduction in its present form in 1997. The period from 1997 to 2010 saw the number of recipients increase by 50% and the annual expenditure increase by approximately 330% or €770 million. However, despite significant levels of investment, in which the State spent in excess of €1 billion per annum for a five-year period from 2008 to 2012 and notwithstanding the good points on which everyone agrees, the scheme has consistently failed to prevent lone parents being significantly more at risk of consistent poverty than the population as a whole. This means the outcomes for lone parents and in particular for their children are significantly worse than for other people in the population. According to the most recent survey on income and living conditions, 23% of lone parents are at risk of consistent poverty. This is 2.5 times greater than the population as a whole and this figure is simply not acceptable. This is not a new phenomenon, however, and it has been a feature of the scheme since its inception. In 2004, at the height of the boom, lone parents were more than 4.5 times at risk of consistent poverty than the population as a whole. We cannot afford to keep doing the same things and expect a different outcome. Previous to the reforms to the scheme, Ireland was on its own in how we supported lone parents. Lone parents could have been on the one-parent family payment scheme until their youngest child turned 18, or 22 if they were in full-time education. Other countries have moved away from providing long-duration income support towards a shorter, more active engagement approach with more support. For example, in New Zealand, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the North of Ireland, the equivalent supports for lone parents cease when the youngest child reaches the age of five.   I acknowledge and commend the many lone parents who have engaged in employment in order to improve the outcomes for their families. However, as somebody who works extensively with lone parents and organisations dealing with lone parents, I constantly meet lone parents, particularly women, who may have left education, training and work until they were in their late 40s or early 50s and then found, as has been described eloquently by Senators Zappone and van Turnhout, that they could not get well paid employment. That is the crux of the matter. If one does not get into education, training and work experience, followed by employment, before one’s late 40s or 50s, it is very difficult to do so subsequently. So many say to me that they only wish they had gone back to school and got training and qualifications at a much earlier stage in their life. On that important fact, there is considerable agreement on both sides of this House. Not all lone parents were in a position to get back into employment. Many have been in receipt of one-parent family payment for 18 or 22 years – maybe another ten years if they have two or three children with more than a ten-year gap between them – without ever working or engaging in education or training. This represents a significant portion of anyone’s working life, and in many instances it creates a welfare trap for those who are just as bright, industrious and hardworking, and, indeed, intelligent, as anyone else in the country. They deserve the best of opportunities in getting into education, training and well paid employment. Since I became involved in this area, which was 20 years ago, that has always been my approach. I have seen the impact on those who have not been able to be involved in education, training and bettering their life opportunities. It meant that lone parents in that situation were so distant from the labour force that they found it impossible to secure well paid employment when their payments ceased as their children went into adulthood. By not proactively engaging with lone parents, the State, in effect, is consigning these individuals and their families to a life of welfare dependency and putting them at an increased risk of poverty. Put simply, the one-parent family payment in its previous guise has to a certain extent failed lone parents and their families. It has provided income support to lone-parent families, but it also has ensured that some of these families are more likely to suffer from consistent poverty than the population as a whole. That is why we had to change our approach to supporting lone parents. As Tánaiste and Labour Party leader, I have always believed that the best protection against poverty is secure and fairly paid work, and there is no doubt that the road to that is through education, training and work experience. The Labour Party in government is focused on providing opportunities for all people. We need to provide for greater levels of opportunity for lone parents and their children. We need to have a more active engagement to offer them the supports and services they need so that they can secure economic independence and build a better future for their families. The genesis of the current reforms to the one-parent family payment was contained in the 2006 report “Proposals for Supporting Lone Parents”. This report recommended that a time limit for receipt of the payment should be put in place. The report also advocated that lone parents should be engaged with in a systematic manner in terms of facilitating their movement to education, training and employment supports. This is the critical issue. If one leaves doing that until late in people’s lives, it is difficult for them to achieve their goals. The reforms reduce the age of the youngest child for receipt of one-parent family payment on a phased basis over a long phasing. The final phase will see the age of the youngest child at which payment ceases being reduced to seven years for all recipients from 2 July 2015 onwards. It is expected that approximately 30,000 lone parents will transition from the one-parent family payment on that date. This is in addition to 16,000 lone parents who have already made the transition since the reforms commenced in 2013. The aim of these reforms is to reduce long-term welfare dependency by providing lone parents with enhanced access to the Department’s range of education, training and employment supports, and to further assist in the provision of appropriate supports to lone parents. The Department is sponsoring research by Dr. Michelle Millar whose aim is to identify best practice in how to assist lone parents in improving their access to education and employment to ensure they have greater levels of opportunity for themselves and their families. To ease the transition of lone parents from the one-parent family payment, I have introduced a wide range of measures. These measures, depending on the individual circumstances of the lone parent, aim to extend his or her eligibility to the one-parent family payment, remove conditionality, improve the financial incentive to take up employment or offer increased support for lone parents to engage in education and training. Lone parents who are recently bereaved are exempted from the reform. These reforms do not affect lone parents who are carers, but such lone parents, if they have any time, are free to become involved in the education and training and any other scheme that may be of interest to them. In order to help lone parents with young children who are affected by this reform, I introduced the jobseeker’s allowance transitional arrangement. Under this arrangement, lone parents whose youngest child is between seven and 13 years of age are exempt from the requirements of being available for and genuinely seeking full-time employment. This means that no lone parent with a youngest child under 14 years of age will be required to take up employment in order to receive income support from the Department. That is their choice in accordance with how they wish to arrange their affairs. There is no compulsion whatsoever involved. What is on offer is a series of opportunities that lone parents, as they see fit, may wish to take up. All of the lone parent customers will have access to the new Intreo service. They will have for the first time the opportunity to access a case officer on a one-to-one basis in order to agree their own personal development plan. This will enhance their access, whether to education, training or employment. We will be giving those lone parents all the support we can to achieve their ambitions and goals. Individuals on the jobseeker’s allowance transitional arrangement can move into employment, including, if they wish, part-time employment, but this is not a prerequisite for payment. The transitional arrangement thereby allows such lone parents to balance their caring responsibilities and significantly reduces their requirement for child care. For lone parents who are already in employment and in receipt of family income supplement, FIS, we have for the first time introduced automatic increases in their family income supplement entitlement – Senators will be aware that many lone parents will receive significant increases. This ensures that their income will increase to partially compensate them when they transition from the one-parent family payment. To further encourage lone parents to take up employment or to increase their hours of employment, departmental staff are actively promoting the family income supplement scheme as the best financial option available to lone parents. Departmental staff are actively promoting the family income supplement scheme as the best financial option available to lone parents. Lone parents who can increase the number of hours they can work to 19 hours per week will be significantly better off than if only in receipt of the one-parent family payment. On foot of the age reforms over the past two years, the evidence shows more lone parents than expected increased their working hours and claimed FIS for the first time. I expect this trend to continue with this year’s reforms. To further assist, I have asked the Labour Market Council to specifically examine the issue of how employers nationwide can assist lone parents in increasing their hours of work to enable them to qualify for the FIS payment. In addition to the FIS, lone parents who transition off welfare and into employment are eligible for the new back-to-work family dividend payment which is also contained in the Social Welfare Bill 2015. This payment allows lone parents and jobseekers to retain their child proportion, roughly €30 per week per child, of their social welfare payment when they move into employment. As the dividend has no impact on a family’s FIS entitlement, it offers an additional and significant incentive for lone parents who are moving into a greater level of work of €30 per child per week for the first year and half of this for the second year. The Government is committed to improving the provision of child care, including the supports available for lone parents. We have introduced the after school child care scheme and the community employment child care scheme, both of which offer heavily subsidised child care places and aim to assist lone parents to access either a community employment place or to take up employment. Both these schemes build on the existing 25,000 subsidised child care places which the State provides to low income parents in order to facilitate their movement into employment. This is a significant and vital investment and the Government is keen to build on the existing supports. For this reason, my colleague, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Reilly, has established an interdepartmental group to carry out an economic and cost benefit analysis of policies and future options for increasing the supply, accessibility and affordability of quality child care. My Department is involved in, and represented on, this group. My officials are feeding the group’s deliberations on the child care requirements of lone parents and jobseekers to enable them take up employment opportunities. I am pleased to say that in accordance with the aim of the reforms, any recipient of the one-parent family payment who is already undertaking an education course and is in receipt of a SUSI maintenance grant will be allowed to retain the one-parent family payment until completion of the course of education. In addition, there are no restrictions on a recipient of jobseeker’s allowance transitional arrangement to undertake a full-time education course and such person will also be able to receive a SUSI maintenance during that time. The reforms of the one-parent family payment are essential to the creation of a new, more active engagement process for lone parents. I know from meeting constantly with people who have moved into education and training that the transition towards paid employment, combined with family income supplement or other income supports, offers serious job and career prospects to lone parents as their children grow up. The feedback to the Department in relation to the changes has been extremely positive, particularly from the parents who have taken up the opportunities, starting in most cases with education and training over a prolonged period. I thank Senators for raising this issue, particularly those who spoke on the motion. We all share a common vision and ambition in that we want to see people supported by a strong and good social welfare system. Ireland’s social welfare system is among the best in Europe. For example, our rates are hugely in excess of the rates in the North of Ireland and in almost every other country of the European Union. Notwithstanding the economic difficulties of this country, we have been able to maintain that. However, as I said, we must continue to work to assist and make available the talents, intelligence and desire of lone parents to be involved in work, to start their own businesses and have good careers that will assist themselves and their children to financial independence. I know there are some people for whom this may not be an immediate objective. For example, approximately 20,000 lone parents are not involved in education or employment. By choice, they are involved in the full time care of their children. I want to stress that there is no change of any kind to their payment. As stated by Senator Zappone, the key and road to positive developments is education and training, which is precisely the Department’s desire for lone parents. The reason we have contacted lone parents is to give them the opportunity to engage with departmental officials in regard to the building of a career plan, which if it is not possible for them to undertake this year can be undertaken in three or four years’ time. There is too much talent there and it must not be left in a kind of poverty and welfare trap, which is what this debate is about. I again thank those who contributed. Senator Marie Moloney:   I welcome the Minister and thank the Taoiseach’s nominees for bringing forward this motion on an important issue that needs to be fully discussed. We are all well aware that the one-parent family payment scheme has played an important role in providing income support to parents who are parenting alone. However, even with this support lone parents still tend to experience high rates of consistent poverty, which makes it evident that the one-parent family payment only is not sufficient to lift people out of poverty. Throughout the Celtic tiger period lone parents still suffered a high rate of poverty. As stated by the Minister, the figure in this regard was four and half times that of the population as a whole. I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Kevin Humphreys, back to the House. None of us would argue with the fact that the best route out of poverty and social exclusion is through employment and education. There is no doubt but that education is the key to well paid employment, which is the reason when I spoke earlier today, I raised with the Minister of State, Deputy Humphreys, the introduction of back-to-education transitional arrangements in conjunction with the jobseeker’s allowance transitional arrangement for those wishing to return to education. As I outlined earlier today, a lone parent in receipt of the one-parent family payment who chooses to return to education is eligible for a third level registration and maintenance grant. However, if such person transfers to the back-to-education allowance he or she while eligible for a grant in respect of the registration fee is not eligible for a maintenance grant, which would be essential to their continuing in education. I am delighted to note from the Minister’s speech that this matter has been addressed and there is no restriction on people on the jobseeker’s transitional arrangement accessing a full third level grant to cover registration and maintenance fees. It is true that rearing children on one’s own is far more difficult than rearing children with a partner or husband. Even in situations where there are two parents involved it is a constant struggle to provide child care, with often one parent working while the other cares for the children. In some cases, one parent goes out to work when the other comes home so that at all stages there is somebody in the family home to care for the children. This is an impossibility for those parenting alone, be such person a single parent, separated parent, a widow or a widower. The perception of some people is that a lone parent is a young girl who became pregnant and was left to bring up a child on her own. This is not always the case. In many cases, couples are happily married only for something to go wrong and the marriage breaks down, leaving one parent to rear the children on his or her own. In other cases, a parent dies and again the other parent has to rear the children on his or her own.  I welcome the fact a general move has been made towards helping lone parents through activation because while on the OPFP, they do not receive the help and support someone who is unemployed gets, that is, incentives and encouragement to take up employment. Many lone parents have returned to work through necessity to have a higher income coming into the house but it was never through being encouraged by the Department or through any activation measures supplied or supported by the Department. I am glad the Minister is recognising the needs of lone parents and the Department is offering them the same service available to others in receipt of unemployment payments. All the new arrangements being put in place to transfer lone parents to the jobseeker’s allowance and, for the first time, to devise a personal development plan with the Intreo office are welcome. These will be of great benefit to those who are unemployed. However, some of those who are currently employed will, unfortunately, by hit financially, as the disregard will no longer be in place, which means they will have a lower income. We should examine ways to help this cohort of lone parents in order that they will not be worse off financially. They activated themselves and found work and then balanced work and family life. It is important that lone parents in receipt of FIS and who may not be due for renewal of their payment until perhaps December this year or early next year be reviewed with immediate effect following the changes with a view to increasing their FIS payment due to loss of income. The transition to jobseeker’s allowance has been taking place over the past year or two years and many lone parents have transitioned. Will the Minister clarify whether there is a follow up on maintenance once they transfer? Over the past number of weeks while we debated the Child and Family Relationships Bill in the House, much emphasis was placed on the fact that it is better to have two parents to raise a child, that is, a mother and a father. However, I have heard no mention of the other parent during this debate, which could be either the father or the mother, otherwise known as the liable relative, although this is predominantly the father. I received figures from the CSO which highlight that 87% of lone parents are mothers. Time after time in discussions I have with the public, the issue of the father comes up and his responsibility to his child or, in most cases, his lack of responsibility. It is easy for a man to walk away from his responsibility and leave the woman holding the baby. I acknowledge a percentage of men are exceptionally good and they are greatly involved in their children’s upbringing and financially support them but, unfortunately, they are in a minority. Will the Minister clarify if having transferred to the jobseeker’s transitional arrangement that the Department will pursue the liable relative for maintenance, as the other parent has a duty of care to his or her child or children both physically and financially? The underlying factor in lone parents remaining in the poverty trap is the lack of accessibility to affordable child care. Child care costs are so high that it is not an option for these parents. Lone parents who work are more likely to be in low paid jobs, partly as a result of a lack of qualifications and partly because of the difficulty in accessing affordable child care. We need to give more than just a social welfare payment to them. We should put in place supports to help them to get out of the poverty trap. For the past four years while we have been in government, funding has been a major issue for us in trying to do everything we would like to do. The provision of child care has been one of the victims of the recession but, as the economy improves, we must seriously consider this issue not just for lone parents but also for those who we all now recognise as the squeezed middle. People are struggling to pay for child care, with some even giving up work because it is cheaper. I welcome the €14 million in funding the Minister has provided for the after school child care scheme. Unfortunately, there was a low uptake but the only place this care can be provided for those living in rural Ireland is in local schools because it is impossible for a parent to get from town to the school and take the child to the after school care provider before returning to work. An incentive should be in place for employers to operate a programme similar to JobsPlus, which would be centred on lone parents. It would revolve around school hours for lone parents. Family-friendly work arrangements are difficult to come by and I commend Marks & Spencer on the programme it runs, which accommodate lone parents to work flexible hours. If more companies did this, it would be fantastic. We need concrete, workable plans, which would make it easier for lone parents to join the workforce in order that they can avail of a better quality of life and move from welfare dependency. Senator Gerard P. Craughwell:   I came to the House to support my two colleagues and I had no intention whatsoever of speaking. I am trying to remain as calm as I can because the OPFP is nothing more than a great big stick with which to beat lone parents and make them crawl for the miserable shillings they get. Have the officials who wrote the Minister’s script ever known a day’s poverty in their lives? Do they honestly believe that somebody wants to sit at home as a single parent with no opportunity to work? The officials want these people to do 19 hours work a week. Will they do this in Dunnes Stores or somewhere else where they will be exploited to the last? If the Department wants to provide financial incentives for people to take up work, a State-funded crèche should be set up in every town and village where their child can be looked after. I recently became a grandfather and I heard my son and daughter-in-law talking about the cost of child care. It will cost them thousands of euro every month and they both work. Where will a single parent find that money? As an educator, I have heard references to personal development plans for years with the belief being that if a personal development plan is put in place everything will be fine. I agree wholeheartedly that education is the way out of poverty. I ought to know because I returned to education when I was 35 years old. However, I had a wife who stayed at home and looked after my family. She was ignored by me for the best part of four years because I spent my time studying. I used to go home for a nap in the evening and wake up late to study into the middle of the night. I know that education pays but I watched as a teacher lone parent after lone parent taking up PLC courses and having to withdraw because of family commitments. I am saddened by this, particularly when crèches are closed or their funding is cut. If we are serious about providing educational opportunities – and I believe the Minister of State is – then we must open crèches in every college and further education centre. We must provide child care facilities to enable people to attain educational qualifications. The new president of TCD’s students’ union is in second chance education and she is an inspiration to us all. Flexible education must be provided. I recall visiting a centre in Finglas some years ago where the same syllabus was run three times a day and arrangements were made to enable lone parents to do the course at different times of the day. That worked and such arrangements need to be incentivised in order that those who want to return to education can do so. Let us stop talking about work. Young lone parents probably lack educational qualifications and skills to secure decent, well paid work and, therefore, we should concentrate a little more on education and training to enable them to return to the workforce and earn a salary that will make it possible for them to look after their children. It cuts me to the quick to hear people talking about lone parents starting up businesses. Where are they to find the few shillings to do this? I watched a lone parent on television the other night who had been left stuck for €180,000 after her husband took off. Where will she get money? The Minister of State is a good guy and the Department does a good job overall but let us not try to put a positive spin on the OPFP and the incentives that go with it. It is about forcing lone parents to find a goddamned job and to stop living off the State.  That is the undercurrent that underpins this. When we start talking about incentivising people with children as young as seven to go out and find work, I cannot say a whole lot more about it. I just find the whole thing totally depressing. I am sorry I did not take the time to write a really meaningful speech on this but it breaks my heart, really and truly. Senator Jim D’Arcy:   I welcome this discussion on lone parents and note that one in four families with children in Ireland is a lone-parent family, including my own, I might add. I know what it is like to try to raise children on one’s own. Lone parents need and are entitled to every possible support. The vast majority of lone parents whom I deal with continually do an excellent job in child rearing, often in very difficult circumstances. I got an e-mail today from somebody who was giving out to me, anticipating that I was going to vote for marriage equality, which I am, and saying that the family with the father and the mother is the best family in the world, there is no family that comes near it and it is the one to go for. I know most two-parent families with the father and the mother are great families but a lot happened in dark Ireland in the 1950s and around that time in some of these supposedly wonderful families. My youngest daughter was in “Juno and the Paycock” the other night, where she was playing Mrs. Tancred. In the last lines of that play, the wee girl asks her mother, Juno, what the child will do without a dad. Juno replies, “It’ll have what’s far better- it’ll have two mothers”. That might be a good thing for the coming referendum. We recognise that despite significant levels of investment, including an estimated €607 million in 2015, the one-parent family scheme has not been successful in preventing lone parents from being significantly more at risk of poverty than the population as a whole. Support for lone parents needs to be updated in order to provide greater levels of opportunity for them and their children. Things are not perfect but nothing can be taken in isolation. The shocking economic circumstances of recent years have meant that while social transfers were maintained at 2007 levels, despite adjustments in other areas, it was not possible to add as much value as wished. Now the situation is improving, with the efforts of the Government and the people, and more jobs are being created, things are coming back on the right track and we can begin to look forward. I hear talk of a second free child care year, which I would welcome very much. The Government has taken several steps to ease the transition of affected lone parents from one-parent family payment, including the introduction of the jobseeker’s allowance transitional payment, creating for the first time the opportunity for lone parents to have access to a case officer on a one-to-one basis to agree their own personal development plan. The personal development plans for children in schools have had a major and positive effect on the education of children. They have stopped them from being isolated in the classroom and have given them a focus and a way forward. My daughter is not working in Dunnes Stores but she is working in Mace and she is very happy with her 20 to 25 hours. She gets enough to do her. If she handed up a wee bit more, I would be even happier. I keep telling her to hand it all up and she will get it all back, like my mother used to tell me, but it does not work these days. We have to look at new ways in education. The Acting Chairman knows one of the CEOs of the new education and training boards, Mr. Martin O’Brien, who is amazing at coming forward with flexible forms of education. I am sure that is the same in most of the ETBs. I recognise the great work the Government is doing and has done in difficult circumstances and the moves forward we have made. There is work to be done and that work should focus on enhancing not just the economic status but also the self-esteem of lone parents, particularly young lone parents. I quite often deal with young lone parents in regard to housing and other issues. We must value them as people and give them a way forward. I urge the Minister and the Government to continue to enhance their work in that regard. Acting Chairman (Senator Diarmuid Wilson):   Before I call our next speaker, I welcome Deputy Frank Feighan and his guests to the Visitors Gallery. I hope it is not a case of Deputy Feighan looking for his old seat back in this House. The Deputy is very welcome. Senator David Cullinane:   I would warmly welcome as many Fine Gael Deputies back into the Seanad as possible, Acting Chairman. Senator Jim D’Arcy:   Senator Cullinane will not be here. Senator David Cullinane:   I welcome the Minister and welcome the opportunity to have this debate. It is not often I disagree with Senator D’Arcy and it is not often I criticise him in this House, but I have to say I found his remarks in regard to the Dunnes Stores workers to be quite flippant. The reality is that those workers are at the moment being exploited by an employer and there are many people on low-hours contracts who do not want to be on them and who should be working full-time. I do not think we should be flippant about it. It is not just the Dunnes Stores workers. There are many workers in the hospitality sector, the tourism sector and in other sectors, such as administration and child care, who work for low pay. It is interesting that the majority of those who are working in low-paid jobs are women. We see from the EUROSTAT figures and its report, from the OECD report, from the TASC report and from all of the reports which look at low pay that the majority of those workers are women. It is difficult to congratulate this Government on anything it has done for lone parents. What we have seen from this Government since it came into office have been cruel and savage cuts to the most vulnerable in society, in particular lone parents but also their children. It is also impossible not to be cynical about its crude and dysfunctional so-called activation measures which brutally compel lone parents to seek employment. Budget after budget, from the moment this Government took office, it has targeted lone-parent families.  I sat in this Chamber when the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Burton, talked about changes to lone parent payments whereby the payment would cease when the child was aged over seven years. I was here when she said she would not follow through on the proposal unless there was serious investment in child care to provide proper, affordable and accessible child care for all citizens. She went ahead anyway, although we have had nothing like the investment in child care that we need. Child care is the most significant barrier for many lone parents, particularly women but some men also. Although it is one of the most serious issues, the Government has done little to deal with it. The Minister disallowed lone parents on community employment schemes from retaining a partial payment from the one-parent family scheme. She eliminated the half-rate payments lone parents had been able to receive on certain social insurance schemes. She abolished the six-month transitional OPF payment and ended the disregard for income in respect of home help, which was work in which many lone parents engaged. She cut the earnings disregard for lone parents in low-paid employment from €146.50 to €90. Lone parents were also hit by her cuts to the fuel allowance, the hike in the contribution towards rent supplement, and cuts to the back to school clothing and footwear allowance and child benefit. Almost all the secondary benefit cuts the Government has made have primarily hit women and lone parents. In budget after budget and cut after cut, those who had the least to give and had nothing to do with causing the economic crisis were hit. Lone parents are a very good example of this. The Tánaiste has continued to reduce the cut-off age for the OPF payment scheme and intends dropping it to just seven years in July. The reduction in the cut-off age to seven years will see almost 12,000 lone parents suffer a financial loss of up to €86 per week, which is a huge amount of money for lone parents, which they cannot afford to lose. Some 6,400 lone parents will lose up to €36.50 per week, 4,500 lone parents will lose up to €57 per week and 800 lone parents who are also carers will lose a staggering €86 per week. The only lone parents who will suffer an immediate financial loss from the move are those who are already in work. Although the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection is aware of all this, she continues to pretend that the reason for her crusade against lone parents is that she wants them to move into work. This is a very crude way for the Minister to go about it. Although many lone parents would love to be able to work and want to get back into employment, the jobs are not there. They are the very people who go into low-paid jobs. There is a huge amount of in-work poverty and many poverty traps, about which we spoke earlier today. When they return to work, they lose many of the benefits and social security supports they had, and it does not pay. There was a time when getting a job was the best route out of poverty. However, a recent OECD report showed that 20% of workers in the State are in low-paid jobs, and 14% of workers, mainly women, suffer from multiple deprivation and in-work poverty. These are staggering figures. Senator Jim D’Arcy talked about looking forward, and we hear from the Government about economic recovery. We should celebrate economic recovery, which we all want. We want as much wealth as possible. There is no quarrel about it. The quarrel is about what we do with the money when we have it. In the previous budget, the Government cut the top rate of tax by 1% for those who needed it least, while doing precious little for those who have borne the brunt of savage cut after cut. This is the unfairness many people see in the Government’s policy choices. Although it gives nobody any pleasure to criticise the Government, it is very difficult to commend the Government or say anything good about what it has done for lone parents when the reality is the opposite. Lone parents have been targeted and penalised, and have suffered and borne the brunt of cut after cut by the Government. If we are to have a recovery and celebrate it, and if the Government wants people to feel the effects of it, we could target lone parents, lift them out of poverty and put in place measures that deal with the reality of their lives. I suggest the Government do this in the next budget as a priority. Senator Ivana Bacik:   I welcome the Minister and commend Senators Zappone, van Turnhout and the others who have proposed the motion and given us the opportunity to debate this important issue. I commend the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Burton, on the reform measures she has introduced. I second the amendment to the motion, if that is necessary. Senator Moloney, who has a long track record of working on the issue, has already spoken on behalf of the Labour Party group in the House. The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education and Social Protection, under the chairmanship of Deputy Tuffy, has done a great deal of work on the issue. Given that there has been much empty rhetoric in the House, I will make three key points on which we can all agree. First, it is important to acknowledge the diversity of lone parents. They are not a homogenous group and it is important that we do not stigmatise or stereotype lone parents by referring to all lone parents as poverty-stricken or stuck for a few shillings. Census figures tell us that more than 200,000 family units with children are headed by lone parents, comprising over 18% of family units and 25% of family units with children. As of January 2015, there are 69,773 recipients of the lone family payment. According to the data available, 42% of lone parents are at work, and this is the principal economic status of lone parents. It is important to point out that there is a very broad diversity of lone parents and that we should not stereotype or stigmatise them in any way. Everybody who has spoken agrees that the current system of payment is not working. The system was introduced in 1997 to replace what had previously been the unmarried mothers’ allowance. The unmarried mothers’ allowance was very progressive when it was originally introduced to bring single mothers out of the poverty trap, enable them to rear children alone and replace the appalling situation for lone parents which involved mother and baby homes, women being forced to give babies up for adoption, women travelling to England to have babies there and the dreadful stigmatising of lone parents that took place right up until the 1980s. The genesis of the lone parent allowance has been very progressive. However, everybody acknowledges that the current one-parent family payment has not succeeded in bringing single-parent families out of the poverty trap. Everybody has pointed out that unacceptable levels of poverty remain among lone-parent families. Even during the height of the economic boom, lone-parent families were at much more risk of consistent poverty than the population as a whole, and we must acknowledge this. Reform was necessary, and was recommended in the 2006 report on proposals for supporting lone parents, five years before the Government took office. The report recommended a time limit for receipt of payments and that lone parents should be engaged with in a systematic manner to facilitate movement to education, training and employment. We can all agree on my third point, which is, as Senator Moloney put it so succinctly, that the best way out of poverty and social exclusion is through education and employment and that keeping people out of the labour force and away from employment opportunities for long periods of time is no more than a welfare and poverty trap. The aim of these reforms is to reduce long-term welfare dependency for lone-parent families by ending the expectation that lone parents will remain outside the workforce for ten or more years. This is very important for all of us. We are all conscious, from our personal and family experience, of the vital importance of education and employment opportunities in order to enable people to escape poverty and welfare traps. It is difficult to listen to Sinn Féin’s views on the issue given that the party is in government in Northern Ireland and that similar reforms were introduced across the UK some time ago. Income support for lone parents in the UK ceases when the youngest child reaches the age of five. There has been a general move across Europe away from long-term and unconditional support towards more active engagement and work activation measures of the sort that have been introduced here. We must all agree with it in principle. I cannot see how anybody could support the current system without some measure of reform.  We know the reforms began to be introduced on a phased basis before the Government took office. I pay tribute to the Minister and the Oireachtas committee for seeking to ensure the reforms were impacted in a way that was positive and did not lead to income loss. Two issues have been raised and there is a critique of the reforms. The first is access to child care and the Government has put a very significant amount of money in place to ensure there is support for child care programmes but there is not sufficient affordability and accessibility of child care. I speak as a parent of young children and a user of child care services. I know the cost of child care and it is a major issue the Government must do more on. I am hopeful the Government will do more on this during the year to come. The other issue raised was the minority of lone parents affected by the loss of income in July because they are already on the family income supplement and have reached the cut-off age for the one parent family payment. Deputy Joanna Tuffy has engaged with this issue through the committee she chairs and has pointed out that all those transitioning to the jobseeker’s transitional allowance, who are working fewer than 19 hours, are in the group about whom there should be most concern and with whom there should be the greatest engagement. Deputy Tuffy pointed out on that lone parents currently on the one parent family payment can improve their access to income if working hours are increased to 19 hours. Deputy Tuffy has provided an example of a lone parent of three children who, if she increased her hours from 15 hours to 19 and moved from the jobseeker’s transitional payment to the family income supplement and the back to work dividend, she would be better off by up to €200 per week. It is important there is engagement with those most affected. The reforms brought forward envisage extensive engagement, increased opportunity to engage with education, training and employment supports and services and aim to develop the skill set of lone parents with the aim of securing access to employment in the first place. Others have pointed out the need for access to education and training in the first place, which is also very important. The role of employers is very important and Senator Moloney referred to providing incentives for employers to provide school hours employment. The level of school hours employment, of 20 hours, covers the time when children above seven years are in school and this is the kind of employment we are looking at. Marks & Spencer’s does this and it is also possible in the Civil Service. We must examine ways of doing this. We should also provide for crèches in workplaces. Trinity College Dublin is a good example of a workplace that has provided a crèche for a long time and others paid tribute to the incoming president of Trinity College Dublin student union, Lynn Ruane, who is returning to education. Across third level, we see a strong commitment to provide child care facilities but it must be supported further and more strongly by the Government. Senator Cáit Keane:   This is a most important subject because, when speaking about lone parents, we are speaking about children as well. I welcome some lone parents and some children to the Gallery. Bringing in children shows that child care is important. It is amazing that reforms meant to do such good have raised such public debate and fear among lone parents. When putting in place reform, it is important to spell out why it is being done. According to the media, it is all about cutting money from lone parents. The benefits of what this is supposed to do, what it hopefully will do, are not being enunciated. I hope the debate today will ensure the Minister of State gets what needs to be done, clarified and changed. The aims of the reform were to provide the necessary support to help lone parents gain the necessary training, education and employment and to develop their skills. Any lone parent has no objection to that objective because that is what people want for themselves. If their children are gone back to school and are not babies, most lone parents I know would love to go back to training and education and to be helped to do so. That is the objective of this. Perhaps the wrong message is going out. The reform should also reduce long-term social welfare dependency. No parent wants to be that way but the current system helps them to be that way and to be unemployed and on long-term payments for so long. The figures show that this is not working. The current system is not working for parents and they are the most important element, as are the children. Significant investment has been put in, including €1 billion per year from 2008 but has failed to prevent lone parents from being in consistent poverty. We saw the poverty rating two weeks ago, with lone parents working out much worse than anyone else. This particularly applies to women and 87% of lone parents are women. That is a debate that another Senator raised. In 2004, lone parents were four and a half times more at risk of consistent poverty compared to the population as a whole. They must be helped out of poverty. We must help everyone out of poverty but lone parents in particular because they are vulnerable and the children are vulnerable. Looking at examples from across the globe, we see New Zealand, the Netherlands and United Kingdom, where the equivalent of lone parent support ceases when the youngest child is aged five. There is an important caveat, which is child care. I hope the Minister of State, the Tánaiste, Deputy Joan Burton, and the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy James Reilly, are listening. I have spoken about child care ad infinitum. Some 20 years ago, when I was on South Dublin County Council, I set up the first crèche in a local authority in Ireland. If we do not have child care, we will not facilitate people going back to work. The crèche was subsidised to get people, particularly women, into work and it was the first in Ireland. There are now a few of them. If there is not someone to mind their children, people cannot go back to work. We cannot put the cart before the horse and must provide for child care. Every Department must row in behind the idea and get child care in order. There are subsidies in place and I am sure the Minister of State will say that, with this reform, comes extended child care benefits for people on the family income supplement and the back to education allowance. We must acknowledge that the Tánaiste, Deputy Joan Burton, has done this and more subsidised places and funding are available. The family income supplement is reviewed annually and the Department recently amended the regulations allowing family income supplement to increase automatically to offset the loss from the one parent family payment. Until I researched further, I did not realise that because it was not stated often. Parents thinking about transitioning from one scheme to the other and considering going back to education should have this made more clear to them. Parents are hearing that they will be worse off by a certain amount, regardless of the fact that 20,000 lone parents will experience no change and some will experience an increase. One example, which Senator Bacik referred to, is a person with three children earning €20 an hour. By increasing the number of hours worked from 15 to 19 and moving from the one parent family payment to the back to education allowance, the person will be better off by €185 per week. That is by increasing part-time employment by four hours and the child of seven years is in school so the parent does not need child care. The parent will be home from work at the time the child is home from school. We must examine the cohort of families with children who must be held to go back to work if they want to. No one will be forced and that is an important point. With regard to child care, parents in the home should be facilitated to make a choice.  I know the Minister, Deputy Reilly, is working on the question of whether the best place for children under one year of age is in child care or with their parents at home. The whole thing has to work together for the benefit of the everyone. As it stands, it is not working for anybody. It is not working for lone parents at all and they are the most important people. Money is being put into this area. The current state of poverty of lone parents means they need to be helped. That is our objective and I hope we will achieve it. I hope that by working with the Tánaiste and the Minister, Deputy Reilly, we can ensure a better system of child care is in place by the end of this year to help lone parents and everybody else who is facing this dilemma. The back to education scheme is also important. As another Senator said, education is the most important thing for lone parents. Senator Katherine Zappone:   This has been a very good debate. I thank the Tánaiste for her passionate and systematic outline of what she is doing and why she is doing it. I am also grateful to the Senators who spoke during the debate. We have demonstrated our common passion and respect for single parents. It is great to hear that coming from the Seanad. We accept that the reforms initiated by the Government are based on passion and respect for single parents. Our criticisms of some of those policies and our recommendations for change are also based on that. We do not think the Government has got it right yet. It has moved back from some of the changes it initiated. We think the Government needs to move back from more of them. Government Senators, in particular, put forward views during the debate about some of the things the Government is doing, but unfortunately those things do not really bridge the gaps we have identified. They are not putting food on the table or fuel in the tank. They are not ensuring quality child care is accessible. We will continue to argue that more needs to be done, particularly with regard to raising the rationale that underlies much of the policy. Many of us spoke about the importance of education and employment in terms of enabling people to get out of poverty. We mentioned the failure to provide for the child care that needs to be in place in order to support that. We will continue to say there is a need not only for education and jobs, but also for an acknowledgement that parental responsibility of care in a one-parent family is equivalent to that in a two-parent family. We do not believe lone parents should be compelled to go into full-time work after their youngest child has reached the age of 14, particularly in the absence of adequate and affordable quality child care supports. This is an example of where current Government policy is neither sufficient nor acceptable. I suppose we question some of the policies that are currently in place and have not been changed. While we acknowledge the decision to establish the jobseeker’s allowance transition payment in recognition of the care duties of those parenting alone whose children are between the ages of seven and 13, we believe the care duties of those parenting alone whose children are aged 14 and over are not recognised. This means the need and ability of each parent to balance care and work or education, and his or her freedom to make appropriate parenting choices, particularly in one-parent families, is not properly recognised. It is for that reason that we believe there is no equality of family status in this regard. We accept that the jobseeker’s allowance transition payment has been introduced, but it is important to remember that the income disregard which was put in place within that structure to facilitate additional child care costs is still lower than that which applies under the one-parent family payment. Some families will lose income as a result. We have based many of our arguments on the figures that we have drawn from our research. Those figures suggest that the lone parents who are losing out financially as a result of the way these changes are operating do not represent a small minority. This is affecting more than a small minority, particularly because we still do not have enough affordable and accessible child care arrangements for the parents of one-parent families. We accept and welcome that provision has been made for access to Intreo and to personal case officers, but we do not think there is any justification for cutting the income of working lone parents to pay for this. They already constitute the poorest group. There is less of a financial incentive for a lone parent to work because of child care costs. The only people who can avail of the back to work family dividend are those who can get their employers to agree to guaranteed contracts. Many lone parents work in the retail industry and are therefore caught in a trap of lower hours. We have already spoken about after-school places. Many speakers indicated that while they welcome the establishment of such initiatives, there has been poor take-up in some cases because they were not designed around parents’ needs. I would like to speak about the issue of education with specific reference to parents staying in full-time higher education. While there has been a move back from some of the changes that were made, it should be noted that those single parents who moved to the back to education allowance, as distinct from the jobseeker’s allowance transition payment, will not get a maintenance grant. We are concerned that access to education, especially higher education, for lone parents in the future may not be guaranteed for one-parent families. An active inclusion approach is welcome. We are welcoming that. However, we think that a failure to recognise adequately the responsibility of care for one-parent families is continuing to underlie all of the Government’s policies. It is being recognised in words, but not necessarily in terms of the actions that are required to acknowledge the caring responsibility of one-parent families. That is not happening yet. For example, we do not understand why it has been decided that 14 is the appropriate age at which payment transition should happen. We have heard the argument that the more time a single parent spends in part-time work, the less time it might take him or her to move out of poverty. We do not feel that the other side of our responsibility to one-parent families, in relation to their care, has been sufficiently acknowledged. I have reviewed the Government amendment carefully but I have not seen any statement that there will be any kind of review of policies. Our motion concluded by calling on the Government to “engage in a comprehensive review” in light of the concerns we have. I note and welcome the reference in the Tánaiste’s speech to two reviews that will be going on. The first review, to be carried out by Dr. Michelle Millar, will identify best practice in how to assist lone parents to improve their access to education and employment – we believe housing should also be included in this context – to ensure they have greater opportunities for their families. It seems that a second review will stem from her request to the Labour Market Council to specifically examine how employers can assist lone parents to increase their hours, thereby enabling them to qualify for family income supplement. My colleague with whom I have consulted and I share the hope that these two significant reviews will include a questioning of some of the fundamental assumptions which, as we have tried to point out, have been underlying the policies that have been adopted to date. Indeed, some of the changes brought about by this Government may to a certain extent have represented an acceptance of the incorrectness of those assumptions. I have decided that I will not push this to a vote. I assume the Government will agree that we can feed into those reviews and into the work of the joint committee, which has been mentioned by Senator Bacik and which I acknowledged in my earlier remarks, some of the more extensive recommendations that have come from working with lone parents and their families, particularly at the civic forum. This has been a fine debate. I am grateful and delighted to hear that there is a commitment to common respect for one-parent families, particularly single parents who have ambitions to earn, care and learn. As I said at the outset, this is necessary to enable them to participate in, and find their place in, the building of the Ireland that all the rest of us hope to have an opportunity to build. Amendment agreed to. Motion, as amended, agreed to.

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