Independent councillor June Murphy has claimed the decision of the Government to ask for an independent review of the One Parent Family Payment (OFP) is five years too late.
Cllr Murphy, who was once in receipt of OFP, said she was insulted and angry after receiving a questionnaire in the post from the Department of Social Protection asking how the changes to the OFP affected lone parents and their families.
“I got mad when I read it because it is too little too late. They needed to conduct the survey before they made the cuts five years ago when people were already on the threshold of poverty.
TRYING TO PROVIDE
“I remember not eating so I could provide for my son, not being able to heat my house, worrying about how I would be able to afford a new school uniform and books, and panicking when it came to Christmas time. Only for the support of my family, I don’t know what we would have done and people are still living like that today. Any cuts that were made should be reinstated,” said Cllr Murphy.
In 2012, the then Social Protection Minister Joan Burton, introduced the Social Welfare and Pensions Act, which included a number of significant changes. At the time, OFP was payable for any child up to age 18, or up to the age of 22 for those in full-time education. After the changes, OFP was no longer payable, in most cases, once the parent’s youngest child reached 12. And that age ceiling was progressively lowered, to 10 years by 2013, and seven years by 2015.
After being contacted by The Avondhu about the recent survey, a spokesperson for the Department of Social Protection said, “The Government asked for an Independent review of the One Parent Family Payment (OFP) changes that took place since January 2012. The most significant change introduced was the gradual reduction of the age threshold for the youngest child in order to qualify for OFP. During the period 2013-2015, the age was reduced on a phased basis to 7 years of age. This means that in the majority of cases a lone parent must have a youngest child under 7 years of age in order to qualify for OFP. The Jobseeker’s Transitional Payment is available to lone parents whose youngest child is aged between 7 and 13 years of age. Lone parents can also avail of a range of other social welfare supports.”
“Will this survey actually help the people receiving OFP? I don’t think it will,” said Cllr Murphy.
The survey is being issued to lone parents who transitioned from the OFP to other social welfare supports because their youngest child had reached the threshold age. As a result, most of the survey participants are no longer receiving OFP and may now have transitioned back to work or receiving other social welfare supports.
According to the Department of Social Protection, the purpose of the survey is to inform the Department how the changes affected lone parents and their families in order that this can feed into the review of these changes. The survey is completely voluntary and the individuals who received the questionnaire do not have to complete the survey, if they so wish.