The Government is, quite rightly, getting a lot of flak for how it is handling the issue of charging for domestic water: too little consultation and listening, and way too much indecision and policy reversal. However, today the Minister for Social Protection made a positive policy reversal that has not received a huge amount of public attention – that of retaining the current €90 per week earnings disregard for parents receiving One Parent Family Payment (OPFP), which under Budget 2015 was due to reduce to €75 (it was initially €146.50 but has been reduced under successive Budgets).
SVP, and other advocates for families, advised the Department of Social Protection that further reducing the earnings disregard would only disincentivise employment for people parenting alone, while at the same time further increasing child and family poverty. A previous SVP blog (insert hyperlink to blog) queried the common sense, never mind the economic and policy sense, of reducing a support that encouraged employment participation and lifted families out of poverty. It seems that SVP has been listened to, and we welcome today’s announcement from the Tánaiste.
Providing financial support for parents in receipt of OPFP means that they can make that jump into employment knowing that there is a safety net for them. It enables parents to combine work and welfare by working more hours whilst still retaining a level of OPFP (the amount of payment they get depends on their weekly means). Why would we, as a society, not afford people undertaking lone and shared parenting the opportunity to combine social and economic participation with caring for their children? Isn’t this what we desire for all families?
One parent families are not single people households: They have child caring responsibilities that are not always shared. By their nature they tend to lack the possibility of two salaries. They often have to be the sole earner and the sole child carer. Of course, it must be acknowledged that some one-income, two-parent families also find it hard to make ends meet. SVP meets many of these families also in its work.
Today’s policy reversal will not cost a fortune relative to some areas of public expenditure. One Family suggest that keeping the €90 level will cost €8.3m in 2015 and approximately €15m in 2016. Indeed, supporting one parent families’ economic participation and well-being most likely benefits us all – it’s a win-win situation.
Now that the Government has recognised the need to support one parent families to enter and remain in employment whilst also undertaking that challenging but rewarding parenting role, SVP recommends that the Government provide:
- the conditions for the development of high quality employment that pays;
- access to part-time education and training that leads to quality employment; and
- increased numbers of quality childcare places for parents in work and training.
It makes sense to continue the policy reversal of a €90 income disregard for the OPFP. Indeed, future Budgets could consider increasing the income disregard to make up for the ground lost under austerity.