There was growing criticism today over Government plans to cut social welfare payments including lone parents' benefit and unemployment payments.
The cutback in the lone parents' benefit follows the reduction by €8 in this year's Budget -- down from €204 to €196.
The payment is made up of a flat rate of €196 for the parent and an extra amount of €29.80 for each additional child.
After a review of the One-Parent Family Payment, Social Protection Minister Eamon O Cuiv is cutting the payment. The current benefit is paid to the lone parent until their children are 18, or 22 if in full-time education.
But for new claimants, from April 2011, the payment will be made until the youngest child in the family reaches 13.
For existing lone parents, there will be a phasing out period over six years to allow them to access education and training, to prepare them for their return to work.
Fine Gael TD Olwyn Enright said the most vulnerable in society would "once again feel that have been harshly targeted".
"The decision to cut the One Parent Family Payment is harsh and, damningly for the Government, is not backed up by a clear plan.
"The Minister states that he is in favour of activation but the question therefore arises as to where does he want to activate these people?
"The Minister's reduction of the One Parent Family Payment from 18 to 13 is without any plan to actually facilitate this group into education and employment," she said.
The payment will continue to be made until the youngest child reaches 18 in 2011 and 2012. From then on, the age limit for receipt of payment will be reduced over the following four years until it reaches 13.
The changes were included in the Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2010, published yesterday.
The Social Welfare Bill proposes to penalise unemployed people who refuse jobs or decline to take up suitable training.
If enacted, the law would cut payments by a quarter to those who turned down training course, while those refusing job offers would have their entire dole payment ended.
Fine Gael said it was a cynical political move by Fianna Fail to release the information so late on a Friday.