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2 June 2010 Edition

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Lone parents are Dublin government's new target for 'savings'

By Joanne Spain and Áine Downes

When it seemed that the 26-County Government could sink no lower with its social and fiscal policies, (think children’s allowance and dole cuts, and bank bail-outs), once again they have proved us wrong.
The Social Welfare Bill 2010, published last week, proposes a number of draconian cuts to the social welfare budget.
Amongst these cuts is that to the One-Parent Family Payment, or Lone Parent’s Allowance. The proposal from Government is to cut off this allowance when the child reaches the age of 13. At the moment the cut-off age is 18 or 22 if the child is in full-time education.
The suggestion from Government is that they will be phasing this in over the next number of years.
There are an estimated 189,240 one-parent families in the state.
At the end of 2009 there were some 90,500 lone parents in receipt of the One-Parent Family Payment at an estimated cost to the state of €1,113 million.
Sinn Féin Vice President Mary Lou McDonald has accused the Government of pushing families further into poverty with the Bill.
“It is highly hypocritical of the Government to propose to cut social welfare rates for people refusing certain jobs or training courses when they are doing absolutely nothing to create jobs or training courses,” McDonald said.
“Of course, in this current climate nobody should be refusing work but we need to ensure that people are working to their ability and using the skills that they have been trained or taught to use. The Government knows there are no jobs out there and with this Bill they are pushing families further into poverty.”

No logic
McDonald said that there is no logic behind the proposal to cut the One Parent payment when the youngest child reaches the age of thirteen. “Does the Government expect a child at the age of thirteen to start bringing money into the household? Are we really heading back to the ‘60s and ‘70s when children left school to get jobs to support the family?”
Sinn Féin has highlighted several other problems the Bill will inflict on lone parents - particularly because of the lack of affordable childcare. This is a massive barrier for single parents returning to the workplace or full-time education. The pathetic ‘free’ childcare scheme announced in Budget ‘09 is little more than a joke and has made no real inroads into the provision of childcare in this state, but rather made it worse.
Without appropriate childcare it is more or less impossible for single parents with young children to take on a full-time job or course. The Government has clearly overlooked this impediment.
Last Saturday, the Sinn Féin National Women’s Department met to discuss impact of the Bill.
Speaking afterwards, Mayo Cllr. Rose Conway-Walsh said that “singling out lone parents for cuts on the same day that €100 million is provided for the first part of €875 million capital  injection into the EBS tells us exactly who and what this Government stands for.”
Cllr. Conway-Walsh continued, “It is ironic that 2010 is the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion and our Government is committed to spending €660,000 on a series of seminars and conferences as part of their National Programme, yet 17.8% of families parenting alone in Ireland are living in consistent poverty.
Donegal Councillor Cora Harvey has said that the Bill represents an attack on women and should be opposed. “As a woman I am appalled at the measures in this Bill. The major recipients of this allowance are women from disadvantaged communities who will suffer a huge reduction in their income should this measure go through.  Such a proposal shows the scant regard that this Government has for people on low incomes and women in particular.”
Harvey pointed out that already child benefit has been cut and the child care supplement has been abolished. “Furthermore the cost of sending children to school is through the roof and women in particular are finding it more difficult to make ends meet.”
The Sinn Féin Women’s Department will be launching a campaign over the coming weeks entitled ‘Don’t Single Out Parents’.
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