Dáil Éireann - Volume 490 - 29 April, 1998
Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.
Mr. Wall Mr. Wall
20. Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs the number of people claiming lone parent's allowance; if he will continue the current system of means testing; if he proposes to put structures in place to ensure further education and child-care; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10103/98]
Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern) Dermot Ahern
Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): There are currently 60,845 lone parents in receipt of one parent family payment.
Entitlement to one parent family payment is based on the household income of the lone parent and under the means test, the first £6,000 of a lone parent's annual earnings are disregarded from the assessment, while only half of any earnings between £6,000 and £12,000 are assessed. The purpose of applying such an earnings disregard is to facilitate and support lone parents in making the transition to employment. Given that it has only been in operation since the introduction of the one parent family payment in January 1997, I do not propose making any changes to the means test for one parent family payment at present. However, my Department will continue to keep the situation under review.
In relation to further education, lone parents over 21 years of age and in receipt of the one parent family payment for at least six months are eligible for my Department's back to education allowance where they wish to pursue approved full-time second level or third level education courses. This new allowance which replaced the former second level allowance and third level allowance is paid at a standard rate equivalent to the maximum rate of the one parent family payment in the case of lone parents, is payable for the full duration of the course, including all holiday periods, and is not means tested so that lone parents may work without affecting their payment. In addition to the weekly payment, an annual cost of education allowance is payable  which from September next is being increased to £150. Lone parents are also eligible for the vocational training opportunities scheme which is administered by the Department of Education and Science through vocational education committees around the country.
Child-care is an issue for all parents and is currently being examined by an expert group chaired by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. This group's report will be of assistance to the Government in formulating future policy in this area, as will the report of the Commission on the Family which I received today.
Dáil Éireann 490 Written Answers. Social Welfare Benefits.