Sunday 17 December 2017

Single parents to lose benefits for over-13s

Aine Kerr Political Correspondent

LONE parents are set to lose their single-parent allowance once their child reaches the age of 13.

However, Social and Family Affairs Minister Mary Hanafin yesterday insisted any changes to the One-Parent Family Payment will be phased in over a number of years.

The allowance is currently paid until a child reaches the age of 18, or 22 if they are in full-time education.

There are currently 189,240 one-parent families in the country, 87,840 of whom obtain the special allowance.

"The duration of the payment is not in the best interest of the recipient, their children or society," Ms Hanafin said.

But she stressed she was "not at all in a hurry" to revise the age limits down to 13.

Providing the payment until children are 22 years of age militates against lone parents having stable relationships, marrying or taking full-time jobs, the minister has argued.

Shortening the period of payment would bring Ireland into line with other countries such as the UK, Canada and Australia where the cut-off point is between six and eight years.

"I think seven or eight is far too young," Ms Hanafin said.

"I'm not suggesting teenagers don't need support as well but at least they're in school until 4pm. . . there's much better opportunities for the mother to get employment."

A final decision will have to be made by the Cabinet but Ms Hanafin will steer her ministerial colleagues towards cutting the rate to 13 years.

A spokesman for the minister last night said it could be a "number of years" before the measure was implemented.

Frances Byrne of OPEN, which represents one-parent families, said parents needed lots of time to adjust.

"The issue is whether the system is ready and clearly the system isn't ready at the moment," she said.

"For example, the best courses in FAS, the ones that guarantee you a job when we didn't have a recession are the ones that start at 8.30am. . . even if you want to be a hairdresser."

Some 51pc of single mothers claim the father has never made any financial contribution towards their child's upbringing, according to research undertaken last year.

By the end of December, there were 15,100 people in receipt of Mortgage Interest Supplement -- a four-fold increase since the end of 2007.

Irish Independent

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