Changes to One-Parent Family Payment causing "confusion and stress"

The Government was accused of adding to the pain of 9,000 struggling one-parent families by cutting a state benefit payment.

Changes to One-Parent Family Payment causing "confusion and stress"

Changes to the eligibility criteria for the One-Parent Family Payment were announced two years ago but only came into force yesterday.

The Department of Social protection said the changes, which affect more than 9,000 recipients, was designed to help them out of the “poverty trap” and back into the workplace.

But support group One Family said the necessary resources had not been provided to compensate for the loss of the payment and would exacerbate hardships already experienced by many households.

Changes to the criteria for the payment include the age of the claimant’s children and when they first began receiving the One-Parent Family Payment.

Some of those coming off the payment will instead received Jobseeker’s Allowance, while others may receive an increased Family Income Supplement payment or Carer’s Allowance payment, depending on their circumstances.

Implementation of the changes comes ahead of today’s traditional pre-budget forum in Dublin, at which campaign and support groups get to present their ideas to Social Protection Minister Joan Burton.

Stuart Duffin, a director of policy and programmes at the One Family group, said some working lone parents now face a “barbaric” income reduction of up to €200 per month, with the departmental changes causing “great confusion and stress”.

He said: “One-parent families are consistently those most at risk of or living in poverty in Ireland. Now is the time for some real vision and ambition in tackling the root causes of family poverty by investing in lone parents and making work pay.”

One Family wants the next budget to reform the income disregard into a tax credit paid into pay packets, the delivery of free part-time education, and investment in the economic benefits of out-of-school childcare and recreations.

The organisation said some 58% of lone parents are working, often in low-paid, part-time employment.

As of December 2011, 92,326 people were receiving the One-Parent Family Payment, but the department had stressed the need for it to be reformed to incentivise people to get into the workplace.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Karen Kiernan of One Family said if adequate services were not put in place, it could mean some working single parents having to give up work and struggling to make ends meet.

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