Tánaiste to enforce lone parent changes despite childcare fears
Tánaiste Joan Burton has insisted she will press ahead with changes to the lone parent allowance despite accepting that childcare issues remain a serious problem in Ireland.
From next Thursday parents of children aged seven and older will no longer be entitled to the one-parent family payment.
Ms Burton defended the changes which come into force for over 30,000 families and insisted the move was not a cut.
The changes have been met by opposition from a number of groups including One Family which said that it would not work without childcare and after school services.
Ms Burton said she had set up a "significant number of supports" for families but acknowledged childcare remains a serious issue.
"I also want to stress as well that really I have put into place a seven-year transition period and one of the reasons I did that is I would be very anxious to see childcare in general improved in this country.
"I'm conscious as a society and a country we've a long way to go to get the kind of childcare system that I would like to see," she told the Irish Independent.
The Labour leader said funding had been provided to the Department of Children for the provision of after school care services. She added that the changes would result in more single parents returning to work.
However, One Family said it has seen a surge in calls from worried parents who have worked out that they are set to lose between €30 and €140 under the plans.
Speaking about the claims from One Family, Ms Burton said her department would look at these cases if given the details.
"But the key thing we're doing is that over the next period we will be calling in and inviting in to their local Intreo office any lone parent who has queries, we'll work with them, we'll work with their employers, if they give us the permission to do that, to seek to help them actually get back to work," she added.
Meanwhile Ms Burton said the country could face "significant risks" if the Labour Party does not have a strong presence in the next government.
While Labour is facing a huge challenge at the next election, she said she remained optimistic about the return of sitting Labour TDs. Ms Burton said it was difficult to envisage how the Government would have operated fairly in terms of the difficult decisions that had to be made without the presence of Labour.
"It is the Labour Party which has held the line in terms of having fairness, in terms of protecting the basic rates of social welfare, in terms of insisting, given our demographics, on investment in new schools, in terms of addressing other deficiencies in our infrastructure," she said.
She said it would be difficult to look at a post-election government without a strong Labour presence warning there might be "significant risks not just to economic growth but also to fairness in society and to addressing key social problems" without the party.
She refused to accept the party was facing a significant drop in TDs saying: "I'm an optimist and I believe that we have a very good story to tell".