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To ask the Minister for Social Protection the reason she is proceeding with plans to transfer lone parents to the new jobseeker's transition payment in view of the fact that the safe, affordable and accessible childcare system similar to that found in Scandinavian countries is not yet in place; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

 - Mick Wallace.

For ORAL answer on Wednesday, 29th May, 2013.

REPLY

As part of the forthcoming Social Welfare and Pensions Bill, 2013, I am introducing reforms to the Jobseeker’s Allowance (JA) scheme to ease the transition of former recipients of the one-parent family payment (OFP) scheme with young children to the JA scheme.

These reforms will create a transitional arrangement specifically for former OFP recipients with children under 14 years of age who are awarded a JA payment. This arrangement will operate for a transitional period and give these individuals an exemption from the JA conditionality that requires them to be available for, and genuinely seeking, full-time work. This transitional period is required as lone parents with young children have caring responsibilities which may have prevented them from being available for, and genuinely seeking, full-time work.

This arrangement will enable lone parents to work part time, provided they satisfy the JA means test, and will therefore offer them the continued security of income support from my Department. Lone parents on JA under this arrangement will also be able to access the new afterschool child care scheme, which provides subsidised afterschool childcare if they secure employment or engage on a CE scheme.

The aim of introducing these OFP reforms and creating this arrangement is to improve outcomes for lone parents. As a result of these measures lone parents will now be able to access the Department’s activation supports and services. As part of this process, all lone parents on JA will be profiled, have a group engagement, and be encouraged to develop a personal development plan in conjunction with their case officer.  This personal development plan will identify suitable education, training, and employment programmes that will enable them to improve their skills set and increase their prospects of securing employment.

The exemptions from the full JA conditionality will remain in place until the lone parent’s youngest child reaches the age of 14 years.  At this point, should the customer continue to claim the JA payment, he or she will be subjected to the full JA conditionality.

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