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Statement | Response to Indecon Report on One Parent Family Payment Reform

One Family Response to the Report ‘Indecon Independent Review of the Amendments to the One-parent Family Payment since January 2012’

A long-awaited report, prepared by Indecon Research Economists on behalf of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, was released late this afternoon. It is regrettable this this important report has been made available on the evening before Budget 2018 is scheduled to be announced, as it warrants attention that it may not now receive.

Our initial analysis of the 141-page report highlights that:

  • While the Exchequer saves €45m net, lone parents and their children are poorer as a result of the recent reform of the One Parent Family Payment (OFP).
  • It is an in-depth report yet no recommendations and only short conclusions are offered.
  • Can any report guarantee accuracy if some of the survey questions from which the data is drawn provided only positive response options?
  • Where is the recognition of the parenting responsibilities of lone parents? One Family is shocked that childcare appears to be mentioned only twice.
  • Where too is the recognition of the impacts of the fear, stress, and uncertainty placed on lone parents and their children as a result of this reform; and the lack of clarity in its communication and implementation? 43% of parents reported that their family wellbeing decreased due to the reform and 40% said their children’s wellbeing decreased.
  • There is no indication that the marginal increases in employment will have any longevity given the precarious and low paid nature of these employments, and 53% of survey respondents stated that the OFP reforms resulted in being financially worse off. Only 20% noted an improvement.
  • 63% of the respondents in full-time employment stated that they cannot afford 3+ items on the deprivation list, meaning that they are most definitely experiencing deprivation daily, and in-work poverty.
  • There is no acknowledgment that lone parents in education and in receipt of OFP or Job Seekers Transition Payment (JST) and rent support cannot avail of the SUSI maintenance grant.

The report acknowledges that “a potential concern is that many of those who lost OFP remain unemployed or in low paid or part-time employment” and that “a key challenge for policymakers is to assist lone parents to become more integrated into the Irish labour market.”

One Family’s Pre-Budget Submission includes recommendations that would enable Government to achieve this. The failure of the reform of the OFP means that it is essential that Minister Doherty engage with these recommendations.

They include:

  • Full restoration of the Income Disregard.
  • Allow BTEA and SUSI maintenance to be payable together, targeting those most distant from the labour market.
  • Increased CDAQCI for older children and poorer families.
  • Target employability supports for lone parents.
  • It is also essential that, as we have consistently called for, the Department’s Case Officers receive training to support lone parents appropriately and in recognition of their lived realities.

One Family’s Pre-Budget Submission can be read here.

The Indecon report can be read here.

Statement | Our Response to Minister Varadkar’s Comments on OFP Reform Today

Statement

One Family’s Response to Minister Varadkar’s Comments on Reform of the One-Parent Family Payment on RTÉ Radio 1 on 26th September 2016

Today Minister Varadkar, in an interview on Morning Ireland (RTÉ Radio 1), discussed the changes to the One-Parent Family Payment (OFP). The Minister was adamant that there were no cuts made to the payment by the last Government, but rather to the conditionality of the payment. While this may be technically correct, it does not acknowledge the fact that a result of the reform is significant cuts to income for many one-parent families. Both the reform of the OFP and its implementation have been plagued by poor planning and communication, and a lack of joined up thinking on the part of the Department; impacts have included the creation of unnecessary fear and worry, and reduced income for many already vulnerable families. Lone parents already in work and in receipt of Family Income Supplement saw an immediate 40% reduction in their payments as a direct result of the reform. Government policy has not worked. Government has failed these families.

Minister Varadkar also outlined measures being put in place to reduce unemployment figures in line with the most advanced European economies. However, these economies invariably provide state-subsidised, affordable, accessible childcare to support parents to enter work. Ireland must follow suit if it wants to match the employment rate of other European countries. The immense cost of childcare in Ireland was acknowledged during the interview by the Minister who stated that “one of the biggest things” this Government could do is to reduce the cost of childcare. Yet despite this acknowledgment of the lack of affordable, accessible childcare currently available and how immense a barrier this is for parents to work, the Minister was emphatic that no reversal of the reform will be implemented. One Family contends that continuing to enforce the reform with a flawed childcare system in place is senseless.

The Minister further stated that the key to making work pay is to promote not just any job but getting a better quality job. One Family agrees that an investment in education and training supports is imperative in order to achieve this but this is just one essential step that must be taken, and it must be taken now. As outlined in our previous response to Minister Varadkar and in our Pre-Budget Submission there are a number of other steps that the Department could take to remove current educational barriers impacting on one-parent families.

The reform of the One-Parent Family Payment has failed, as evidenced by the already low-income families who have become poorer owing to its impacts. It is disappointing that the Minister, like his predecessor Joan Burton TD, continues to fail to acknowledge this; that Government policies and services that would address the major barriers faced by lone parents trying to access employment and/or education have yet to be proposed or implemented; and that lone parents and their children – 59% (almost three in five families) of whom experience enforced deprivation (SILC 2014) – are suffering the impacts of an intrinsically flawed Government approach.

Press Release | One Family Demands Reform of the One-Parent Family Payment Stops Immediately

One Family demands Reform of the One-Parent Family Payment stops immediately before more poor children are harmed

(Dublin, Tuesday 9 June 2015) One Family – Ireland’s organisation for people parenting alone, sharing parenting and separating demands an immediate stop, review and reversal of this current reform.

Stuart Duffin, One Family, Director of Policy and Programmes, comments: “The current reform of the One Parent Family Payment (OFP) is failing our families. This means that Ireland’s most vulnerable parents and children will experience even greater poverty.

This reform is being phased in with the stated aim of enabling lone parents in receipt of the OFP to move from social welfare into education and employment.”

“To date almost 15,000 parents have been moved from OFP when their youngest child reached the age of at least 7 years old; with almost another 30,000 parents scheduled to be transitioned to other payments – primarily the newly introduced Job Seeker’s Transitional Allowance (JSTA) or Job Seeker’s Allowance (JSA) – in July 2015. Currently, 65,000 people are in receipt of the One Parent Family Payment. However, those who are being hit hardest are those already in part-time employment and many are being forced to give up their jobs. It is incomprehensible how a system of reform purported to enable people parenting alone to return to employment or education is most adversely affecting those who are already in the process of doing so.”

 Stuart further comments: “CSO figures released in January 2015 reveal the shocking extent of child poverty in Ireland. The number of children living in consistent poverty – meaning they are living both at risk of poverty and experiencing deprivation – has risen to nearly 12 per cent and clearly shows that those living in households with one adult and one or more children had the highest deprivation rate in 2013 at 63.2% and the highest consistent poverty rate at 23%. This is shameful. It reduces children’s life chances.

Government needs to admit that its current policies and new reform measures where lone parents are being moved from the One-Parent Family Payment to Job Seekers payments are just not working. Current policies mean that the barriers to lone parents returning to employment or education are leading to an increasing dependence on social welfare over time. Government must to listen and act, as its choices condemn one-parent families and their children to persistent poverty.

/Ends

For further information about our in depth analysis http://www.onefamily.ie/policy-campaigns/one-family-campaigns/one-parent-family-payment-reform-child-poverty/; http://www.onefamily.ie/media-publications/one-family-stories-case-studies/ and our solution focused recommendations.

About One Family | One Family was founded in 1972 as Cherish and is Ireland’s leading organisation for one-parent families and people sharing parenting or separating, offering support, information and services to all members of all one-parent families, to those sharing parenting, to those experiencing an unplanned pregnancy and to professionals working with one-parent families. Children are at the centre of One Family’s work and the organisation helps all the adults in their lives, including mums, dads, grandparents, step-parents, new partners and other siblings, offering a holistic model of specialist family support services. These services include the lo-call askonefamily national helpline on 1890 66 22 12, counselling, and provision of training courses for parents and for professionals.

Available for Interview:

Stuart Duffin, Director Policy and Programmes | t: 01 662 9212 or 0870622023

Dad and child's hands

Press Release | Stop Catastrophic Cut of One-Parent Family Payment Now

Press Release

Stop Catastrophic Cut of One-Parent Family Payment Now

Child and family poverty for one-parent families is increasing under so-called reforms

(Dublin, Monday 4 May 2015) One Family – Ireland’s organisation for people parenting alone, sharing parenting and separating – demands again that Government stop the current reform of the One-Parent Family Payment which is being phased in combined with a series of disastrous cuts and few of the supports required. The reform is failing. This failure means that people who parent alone and their children suffer the highest rates of poverty in Ireland today. Fewer parents are now in the workforce and it is becoming more difficult to access education; exactly the opposite of stated government policy. The reform is currently impacting on 55,000 parents in receipt of the One-Parent Family Payment (OFP) as they are moved to different payments; mainly to the newly introduced Job Seekers Transitional Allowance (JSTA) when their youngest child reaches the age of 7 or to Job Seekers Allowance (JSA).

Karen Kiernan, One Family CEO, responds: “Calls to our askonefamily helpline have increased by almost 50% in the past 15 months.  Half of the families in emergency accommodation are one-parent families. We hear from parents who themselves do not eat dinner every day so their children can eat well. Fewer lone parents in receipt of the OFP are working now (36% in 2014 compared to 60% in 2012) and many parents have had to give up their part-time jobs as they no longer meet new eligibility criteria. Work does not pay. This is a failure for one-parent families, and for all of society.”

Karen further responds: “The stated aim of this reform process is to enable OFP recipients to access employment or education and move out of poverty, but this is not happening. The Survey on Income and Living Conditions (SILC) 2013 results show that one-parent family households have the highest deprivation rate at over 63% and the highest consistent poverty rate at 23%. Combined with the cuts which have hit one-parent families since 2011 and without supports such as accessible childcare/out of school care yet in place, the real results of this reform are less lone parents working and more poverty for vulnerable families.”

Stuart Duffin, One Family Director of Policy & Programmes, adds: “A reform process that was meant to lift one-parent families out of poverty is clearly failing. A measure of the success of this process hinges on the engagement of parents with their local social welfare/INTREO offices, which is non-optional and threatens penalties for non-engagement. Yet we consistently hear from parents of the lack of adequate guidance and information available to them, along with some attitudes which they find distressing. Parents are being asked to put their trust in a system that has penalised, judged and targeted them for years; and on top of this, a system which now seems to remove their parenting status when their child reaches 7 years of age.  Local office case workers must be named persons with expertise to provide guidance and support, and readily available to parents being moved to JSTA and JSA, if an engagement process is to make a real difference for one-parent families.”

Stuart continues: “Department of Social Protection staff needs to stop thinking of one-parent families as a homogenous group. Parents with degrees have reported being advised to do cookery courses or basic computer skills courses; while those more distant from education cannot access the supports they need to start their learning journey. The reform process is resulting in fewer parents being able to enter or stay in education, or to up-skill. This ‘one size fits all’ approach is doing little to enable parents to progress so that they can create better futures for their families. Government must pause this reform process immediately, review it, and – if it cannot be appropriately resourced so that it can be successful for one-parent families – reverse it completely.”

NOTES FOR EDITORS

Previous cuts that have targeted One-Parent Family Payment recipients since budget 2011 include:

  • Budget 2013
  1. Back to School Clothing & Footwear Allowance (BTSCFA): Reduced from €250 to €200 for children aged 12+, and from €150 down to €100 for 4-11 year olds.
  2. Cost of Education Allowance (paid with Back to Education Allowance, BTEA) cut completely from €300 down to €0 for all new and existing BTEA recipients.
  • Budget 2012
  1. BTSCFA, from €305 reduced to €250 for 12+, and from €200 down to €150 for 4-11 yr olds; age eligibility also increased from 2 to 4 year olds in 2012.
  2. Ongoing cuts to OFP include Income Disregard cut from €146.50 down to €90.
  3. The half rate transition payment of OFP was cut for those who were going into work and stopping payment.
  4. OFP recipients lost access to half rate payment for Illness Benefit and Jobseeker’s Benefit, where applicable.
  5. Fuel Allowance was reduced from 32 weeks to 26 weeks.
  6. Cost of Education Allowance (for BTEA recipients) reduced from €500 to €300.
  7. CE Scheme participants, many of whom were lone parents, had their training and materials grant cut from €1,500 to €500; and new CE participants from 2012 could not get ‘double’ payment, just €20 extra allowance.
  • Budget 2011
  1. Cuts included the main rate of social welfare payments reduced from €196 down to €188.
  2. Child Benefit was reduced by €10 for 1st and 2nd child / €150 to €140; 3rd child / €187 to €167; 4th and subsequent child / reduced to €177.
  3. Christmas Bonus was discontinued (half-rate partial reinstatement for some last year).

/Ends.

About One Family

One Family was founded in 1972 as Cherish and is Ireland’s leading organisation for one-parent families and people sharing parenting or separating, offering support, information and services to all members of all one-parent families, to those sharing parenting, to those experiencing an unplanned pregnancy and to professionals working with one-parent families. Children are at the centre of One Family’s work and the organisation helps all the adults in their lives, including mums, dads, grandparents, step-parents, new partners and other siblings, offering a holistic model of specialist family support services. These services include the lo-call askonefamily national helpline on 1890 66 22 12, counselling, and provision of training courses for parents and for professionals. One Family also promotes Family Day and presents the Family Day Festival every May, an annual celebration of the diversity of families in Ireland today (www.familyday.ie). For further information, visit www.onefamily.ie.

Available for Interview

Karen Kiernan, CEO | t: 01 662 9212 or 086 850 9191

Stuart Duffin, Director of Policy & Programmes | t: 01 662 9212 or 087 062 2023

Further Information/Scheduling

Shirley Chance, Director of Communications | t: 01 662 9212 or 087 414 8511