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Time not right for Single Working Age Payment, says Oireachtas committee

Although the committee on jobs, social protection and education approves of the principle of the payment.

THE INTRODUCTION OF a Single Working Age Payment should be delayed, according to a new report by the Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Social Protection and Education.

The proposal to merge all working age social assistance schemes into one payment was raised by Minister Joan Burton and examined by the committee.

While the committee approves of such a payment, it has recommended that it should not be introduced yet because the necessary supports are not in place.

In the absence of sufficient quality jobs and activation opportunities, the report found that any implementation of the payment would merely serve to “cut the incomes of vulnerable groups who are already recognised to be at higher risk of poverty”.

Written by Aengus Ó Snodaigh, the report urges the Minister to maintain the value of the existing benefits.

Ó Snodaigh said, “In theory, a single payment has many benefits where the necessary supports and services are in place.

The merging of all working age social assistance schemes into a single payment may be considered the greatest single change to the Irish social welfare system since the foundation of the State. Therefore, the Committee feels that it should be deferred until sufficient job opportunities exist and adequate supports are in place, especially for single parents and people with disabilities.

The report also recommends that carers should not be included in any single payment scheme. As a suggestion for a part-solution in the shorter term, the committee said a reformed Family Income Supplement, as an in-work benefit, could be considered.

The committee added that any programme of social welfare reform must be driven by an “explicit anti-poverty and gender equality objective”.

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