The proposal to cut off lone parent benefit for children over 13 years of age has been roundly condemned this week, with some describing the measure as anti-family.
Commenting on the publication of the new Social Welfare Bill containing the provision, Sinn Féin councillor Thérèse Ruane said it represents an attack on one-parent families, on women, and on families on low incomes and will push already struggling families further into poverty.
“There is no logic behind the proposal to cut the one parent payment when the youngest child reaches the age of 13,” she said. “Does the Government expect a child at the age of 13 to start bringing money into the household? Are we really heading back to the sixties and seventies when children left school to get jobs to support the family?”
She added that she was appalled at the suggestion to cut off the one parent family payment once the youngest child reaches the age of 13. “These proposals show that this Government has no moral conscience as it once again targets the most vulnerable in our communities. Single-parent families are four times more likely to live in poverty. Recent budgets have already cut the lone parent allowance and child benefit, and axed the Christmas bonus. Many lone parents are surviving on as little as €262.80 per week. The cost of sending children to school is going through the roof. They can't take any more,” she said.
Candy Murphy of One Family said the move would simply see lone parents moving from one welfare support to another.
“We see little evidence that the proposed changes will help move parents off social welfare and, in particular, into well paid work that will lift families out of poverty,” she said. “We are also concerned that a sub-group, identified through the research, of older parents with poor health and low education levels need a high level of support to progress to good jobs. We don’t believe these reforms will be able to deliver on this.”
“Singling out lone parents for cuts on the same day that €100 million is provided for the first part of a €875 million capital injection into the EBS tells us exactly who and what this Government stands for,” stated Sinn Fein councillor Rose Conway-Walsh. “The forthcoming Social Welfare Bill will affect almost 2,000 families in Mayo. I fail to understand how Minister Ó Cuív and his Government can decide to cut the one parent family payment when the youngest child reaches 13 without addressing the real barriers to moving away from welfare dependency. The number of lone parents dependent on this payment would be dramatically reduced by providing affordable childcare, adequate training and education programmes, proper public transport, particularly in rural areas, and ensuring employment opportunities.”
There were 4,419 lone parent households in Mayo in 1996, 84 per cent of whom were lone mothers and 16 per cent were lone fathers. This constitutes 10 per cent of all households in Mayo and 1,716 of those families are in receipt of one parent family payment.