One-Parent Family Payment Reforms Update On Changes May 2015
Procedures have been agreed to ensure that all One-parent Family Payment (OFP) recipients who are participating in training or education when their entitlement to the OFP payment ends will be able to complete their course with income support, subject to normal scheme conditions.
For OFP recipients who are currently in education and, who were scheduled to exit OFP up to an including 2 July 2015, they can remain on OFP until their course finishes and then transition to either Jobseeker’s Allowance or Jobseeker’s Allowance transitional arrangement as appropriate. In some cases progression to a new course will be considered as part of this arrangement and so customers should discuss their options with their local Intreo Centre/Social Welfare Office.
Customers who are undertaking courses that are eligible for a SUSI maintenance grant from the Department of Education and Skills (D/ES) can retain this grant until they complete their current course, subject to the normal D/ES conditions for the grant. The maintenance grant will continue to be dis-regarded for means on OFP.
After 2 July 2015 the age for receipt of OFP will be 7 years and so the majority of customers will transition to the JA transitional arrangement when their OFP ends. For customers who are mid-course from 2 July 2015 onwards this allows them up to 7 years to complete their course of education. The JA transitional arrangement has always allowed customers to study full-time and receive a SUSI grant. The maintenance grant will now be dis-regarded when calculating means for these customers. This also applies to customers who commence a course of study on the JA transitional arrangement.
Where a customer commences a course while on the JA transitional arrangement, they will be advised that if they have not completed the course by the time their youngest child reaches 14 years, they will need to transfer to the Back to Education Allowance to complete the course and the SUSI grant will no longer be payable. It is therefore in the best interest of these customers to commence their studies early while on the JA transitional arrangement where they have 7 years to complete the course
OFP recipients are also eligible to avail of courses provided by SOLAS or the Education and Training Boards. Where entitlement to the OFP payment ceases, and the person is undertaking such training, they can finish their course and their payment will continue. It may be transferred to the D/ES for payment depending on their situation. OFP recipients on an employment programme (e.g. JobBridge) can also complete the programme and their payment will continue. This arrangement has been in place since 2013 and will continue to apply for all customers in this situation up to and after 2 July 2015.
OFP's in Receipt of a half-rate Carers Allowance
When introducing the OFP scheme age change reforms in 2012, a special provision was included in the legislation for OFP recipients who are claiming the Domiciliary Care Allowance (DCA) on behalf of a disabled child. In these circumstances, the OFP payment is extended beyond the maximum age limit of the scheme and paid until the child for whom the DCA is in payment reaches the age of 16 years. This special provision ensures that OFP recipients who care for a disabled child will continue to receive income support until that child reaches the age of 16 years and can apply for the Disability Allowance (DA) in their own right. This cohort of lone parents, who are also in receipt of the half-rate Carer’s Allowance (CA) payment, will not be affected by the OFP changes on 2 July, 2015.
However, there are currently some OFP recipients who are in receipt of a half-rate CA payment and who are caring for another person other than their own child. These customers were scheduled to transition from the OFP scheme to a full-rate CA payment on 2 July, 2015. However, an amendment to the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act, 2005, has been enacted to allow customers who are in receipt of both the OFP and half-rate CA payments to retain their OFP payment until their youngest child is aged 16 years, or until they lose entitlement to either their OFP or CA payment.
Lone parents who were previously in receipt of both the OFP and half-rate CA payments, and who were subsequently affected by the OFP age change reforms, are now eligible to re-apply for both payments.
This provision also covers new entrants to the OFP scheme, whose youngest child is aged between 7 and 15 years inclusive, on foot of them qualifying for a CA payment.
The amendment ensures that all lone parents who provide care and who are in receipt of the half-rate CA payment will be treated in the same manner. All lone parents, whether they care for one of their children or for an adult (such as a parent or a sibling), will qualify for both the OFP and the half-rate CA payments, provided that their youngest child is aged under 16 years.
OFP's in Receipt of Blind Persons
The Blind Pension (BP) is currently payable concurrently with OFP. Customers in receipt of OFP and BP can therefore receive both full payments. Up to now customers in this situation affected by the OFP age reforms would lose their full OFP payment and retain their Blind Pension. This would result in a significant loss for these customers. On that basis there has been a Government decision to exempt these customers in the same manner as customers who are caring and in receipt of a CA payment are exempted. This exemption will be reflected in legislation in the Social Welfare Budget Bill later this year but takes effect from now. In effect OFP recipients who are also in receipt of a Blind Pension can retain their OFP until their youngest child is 16 years of age subject to all other conditions of the BP and OFP schemes being met.This provision also covers new entrants to the OFP scheme, whose youngest child is aged between 7 and 15 years inclusive, on foot of them qualifying for a BP payment.
Expansion of Jobseeker's Allowance transitional arrangement to new entrants
When introduced, the JA transitional arrangement required eligible lone parents to have been in receipt of the OFP payment within the previous three years in order to avail of this arrangement.
On 3 July, 2014, the maximum age limit of the youngest child for eligibility for the OFP payment was reduced, for the first time, to 7 years for new entrants. This effectively meant that, should an individual become a lone parent for the first time (i.e. a ‘new’ lone parent) when their youngest child is aged between 7 years and 13 years, and they have never previously been in receipt of the OFP payment, they would not be eligible for the JA transitional arrangement. Should they claim the JA payment instead, they would be subjected to the full requirements of the JA scheme and, as such, would be required to be available for, and genuinely seeking, full-time employment.
An amendment to the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act, 2005 has been enacted to ensure that lone parents whose youngest child is aged between 7 and 13 years inclusive, and who require a jobseeker’s payment, are treated in the same manner, irrespective of whether or not they were previously in receipt of the OFP payment.
This amendment also offers the support of the JA transitional arrangement to an individual who is in an unsafe or violent domestic situation and who, as a result of this, first becomes a lone parent when their youngest child is aged between 7 and 13 years. Access to the JA transitional arrangement can be a critical support in these situations.
This approach extends this tapered support to ‘new’ lone parents, in the same manner as is currently available to former OFP recipients, by providing them with access to the JA transitional arrangement. By tapering the supports, it acknowledges that these customers have young children and are parenting alone, while also enforcing the Department’s policy goal that they will not remain outside the labour market indefinitely. Both of these cohorts of lone parents are in the same position, face the same challenges, and will therefore benefit from the same level of tapered supports.
Jobseeker’s and OFP Policy Section
7 May 2015.
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