Wednesday 21 March 2018

Joan Burton deflects lone parent jibe that she's making families 'poorer to make them richer'

Labour leader Joan Burton
Labour leader Joan Burton

David Kearns

Tánaiste Joan Burton has deflected claims that changes to the lone-parent allowance are intended to push lone parent families into work.

In a heated exchange on RTE Radio, the labour leader was forced to defend the highly divisive changes which has seen support cut off for anyone whose child is over seven-years-old.

“We have a system, within social welfare with respect to lone parents, where if people stay for the 18-22 years that the ordinary scheme envisioned, we had an outcome which meant something like 40pc of families on lone parent payments only, had a 23pc chance of falling into poverty,” she told Today with Sean O’Rourke.

Read More: Tánaiste to enforce lone parent changes despite childcare fears

“If people get work, 19 hours/family income supplement, this risk goes down to  ten pc.

“In this country, neither is an acceptable level of poverty risk but you can’t argue with the figures. These changes will make a positive difference.”

Pushed by the host that the Government was trying to “make people richer by making them poorer”, deputy Burton said her changes would benefit lone parents by removing their reliance on welfare, adding that the new policies still compared favourably with other nations.

“I admit that the system is incredible complex, and we’re trying to make it simpler, but what we’re doing is putting a lot of extra resources into it.

“At the moment we spend over a billion Euro a year on payments of different kinds to lone parents. If can actually get these lone parents to work around 19 hours a week, they will be fair better off. No one can dispute that fact because the figures back this up.”

Read More: The perils of putting theory into practice as an election looms

Ms Burton rejected claims from a number of texts into the show that she was trying to "ingrain work ethics" into said she had “very deliberately ensured” the age threshold for the One-Parent Family Payment ceased at the age of seven because it was “higher than the age in the UK, the Netherlands and other parts of Europe where they have a better-developed childcare systems.”

She added that about two-thirds of the lone parents, or some 20,000 families, would have no loss of income or may even gain as a result of changes to the system.

While the remaining 10,000 families would the chance to take up more work opportunities.

"We’re going to help [these] people get the extra hours," she added.

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