More than 5,000 lone parents are to lose their One-Parent Family payment from today as changes to eligibility criteria announced two years ago come into effect.
Under the new rules, introduced as part of the Budget in 2012, the welfare payment will only be paid to parents whose youngest child is age 7 or younger. The age limit has been reduced year on year from 14 in 2011.
The move will affect an estimated 9,000 families this year and 60,000 by July 2015, when children under the age of 7 will lose their eligibility.
The gross earnings limit to qualify for the full payment was already reduced earlier this year from ?110 to ?90 a week. This is to be cut to ?60 by 2016.
The changes are designed to incentivise welfare recipients to enter work or training, but organisations representing lone parents say they will drive low-income families deeper into poverty.
The Department of Social Protection has said recipients affected by the changes can transfer to either Jobseekers payment, Carer?s Allowance or Family Income Supplement payment to supplement any losses incurred.
However, the parents group Spark (Single Parents Acting for the Rights of Kids) said these options ?all represent a huge financial loss?.
?We totally reject Minister [for Social Protection Joan] Burton?s claims that this is to improve outcomes for our families,? the group said in a statement.
The group drew attention to Ms Burton?s promise in April 2012 that the measure would not proceed unless there was a ?system of safe affordable and accessible child care in place, similar to what is found in the Scandinavian countries to whose systems of social protection we aspire?.
Spark claims the 800 after school childcare places provided for low income families under the subsidised After School Child Care scheme is ?nowhere near the requirement needed to assist the 60,000 effected families?, and has called on the Minister to ?explain how she can proceed with these cuts to working lone parents, while ignoring her promise to provide an affordable childcare system?.
?There has been no additional training or employment supports being provided for lone parents, there is no childcare so we can avail of jobs bridge and we are actively hampered by our exclusion to the Jobs plus grant available to other job seekers,? they said.
?Without an affordable childcare system in place, many working lone parents will not be able to sustain these financial losses and will be forced out of the workforce.?