Lone parents are at a greater risk of poverty than the population at large but at the same time those on social welfare risk losing payments if they choose to officially co-habit with or marry a partner, according to Mayo Fine Gael TD, Michael Ring.
As a member of the Oireachtas Committee on Social Protection Dep Ring noted that in order to hold on to social welfare, people are deciding against forming a family unit or are opting to live together unofficially to avoid losing payments.
“The committee has identified this issue as having a serious economic and societal impact on Irish life,” he said. “There are 190,000 one-parent families in Ireland today (18 per cent of all families ), one in five children live in one parent families while research indicates that you are 4.5 times more likely to live in poverty if you live in a one-parent family.”
In a report this week the committee has put forward proposals to tackle the issue as folllows:
• Individualise social welfare payments, creating a household social welfare payment equally split between spouses.
• Establish a maximum loss of benefit rate. This would limit the loss in income as a result of marriage/co-habitation to a fixed percentage of previous income.
• In the absence of a maximum loss of benefit rate, a thorough review of entitlement to rent supplement needs to be conducted.
• Replace the One Parent Family Allowance with a time limited Parental Allowance for all low income families.
• Introduce a ‘wasted tax credit’ for lower income married couples. This would mean a cash payment for people who do not earn enough to gain from a tax credit.
“In calling for change, we believe our priorities should be to protect children and ensure that people do not lose out if they decide to co-habit or marry,” Dep Ring said. “Should people wish to form a stable family unit they must not be unduly financially punished.
“I believe that the recommendations contained in our report provide a clear directional path from which to move forward on this sensitive issue.”
The report was compiled following consultation with financial journalist Colm Rapple and with meetings with the organisations OPEN, One Family, and Treoir.
The report will be forwarded to the Minister for Social Protection for his consideration. A full copy is available at www.oireachtas.ie