Saturday 21 October 2017

I'm not interested in taking women away from children to earn minimum wage - Regina Doherty defends reforms

Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty welcomed the news. Photo: Tom Burke
Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty welcomed the news. Photo: Tom Burke

Kathy Armstrong

Controversial reforms to the One-Parents Family Payment have helped parents to obtain "decent" employment and improve their families' welfare, Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty has claimed.

Until four years ago some lone parents were eligible for the OFP until their youngest child turned 18 but under the changes most people were switched to other supports, such as the Jobseeker's Allowance and to retain these payments they had to show they were looking for work or engaged in education or training.

A new report has shown that lone parents' earnings were cut by 42pc from  €147 per week under the OFP to €90 weekly in 2015.

Ms Doherty defended the reforms and claimed that it is beneficial in the long term.

Speaking on Morning Ireland on RTE Radio One, she said: "The single payment cuts during the years 2010 and 2013, 2014 genuinely did have an impact but we're reversing this now and we're taking the edges off.

"We are increasing our weekly payments and we're increasing child dependency payments, we're subsiding childcare.

"There are some social elements, positive elements that these changes have, out of a detailed survey of 33,000 lone parents, the majority said that employment had helped them to make more money and had helped them gain new skills, to improve their confidence, make new friends, improve their overall wellbeing, and most importantly to me they were able to improve the overall wellbeing of their children.

"That's what this strategy is about, that is what this whole government approach is about - education for parents who are welfare dependent, improving the outcomes for children and providing employment.

"I'm not interested in taking women away from their children so they can earn minimum wage, we want to have decent employment.

"It's the right policy and it is going in the right direction."

She also claimed that once austerity measures are gradually eased, people will start to feel the benefits.

She said: "It (The OFP reforms) encourages, through the assistance of my department, to work with women who had never had any assistance before by the state to improve their welfare and well being, to improve the outcome of their lives and the lives of their children.

"You'll see success when we can unravel the simultaneous financial cuts that were imposed, unwrap those schemes, which were across the board as you were aware because of the IMF.

"When I manage to unravel those cuts you will see the benefits to individuals who employment is helping them make more money, give them confidence, help them make new friends, get them out of the house.

"The most important thing to me is that the  education bursary introduced by Richard Bruton a number of months ago allows these woman to not just go and work in minimum wage job, to get decent work but to have a bright future."

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While we are expecting a balanced budget for the first time in a decade, Ms Doherty has said everyone will benefit.

She said: "This is so we can see that the Republic of Opportunity that Leo Varadkar talks about so often is going to reach every single community in every single county...

"I think that the growth in our economy should spread to every sector in our society, that means by leaving nobody behind, if that means everyone only get a little bit and I have fulfilled my obligations to the people who voted for me then I will be happy."

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