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Social Welfare Bill 2012: Committee Stage (Resumed) and Remaining Stages (Continued)

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 786 No. 3

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton] When we discussed CE schemes this time last year the Deputies opposite all claimed they would close down and the supervisors would lose their jobs. We are in fact increasing the number of places. I accept these changes have to be worked through and I respect the right of Deputies to examine them minutely but they will open up opportunities for people, particularly lone parents, to become financially independent.

  Amendment put and declared carried.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Bernard J. Durkan): Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan Amendments Nos. 4 and 5 are out of order as they involve a potential charge on the Exchequer.

  Amendments Nos. 4 and 5 not moved.

  Section 1, as amended, agreed to.

SECTION 2

Acting Chairman (Deputy Bernard J. Durkan): Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan Amendments Nos. 6 and 11 are related and may be discussed together.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I move amendment No. 6:

In page 3, between lines 26 and 27, to insert the following:
“ “Act of 2012” means the Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2012;”.

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Agreed.

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea We agree to it.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton These amendments are consequential on the insertion of a new section 14 providing for the deferral of the dates on which the age reductions for one-parent family payments will take effect. Under the provisions of the Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2012-----

Deputy Joan Collins: Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins On a point of order, we already discussed this.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Bernard J. Durkan): Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan The amendment is in the name of the Minister, who has the right to move it and speak to it.

Deputy Joan Collins: Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins She moved the amendment yesterday. That is what we were discussing.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Bernard J. Durkan): Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan Please refrain.

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea This is shameful.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Bernard J. Durkan): Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan The Deputies' turn will come when we get to their amendments.

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea We will not get our turn because the Minister is filibustering.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Bernard J. Durkan): Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan The purpose of tabling an amendment is to have an opportunity to speak. Almost two hours were wasted this morning in chicanery -----

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I know.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Bernard J. Durkan): Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan ----- that could have been used to debate this Bill.

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh On a point of order -----

Acting Chairman (Deputy Bernard J. Durkan): Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan It is not a point of order. The Minister is in possession.

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh On a point of order, the Acting Chair made a comment regarding the use of time in this House. That is not his role. If he was sitting in the benches opposite it would be appropriate but as Chair he is supposed to chair the proceedings not comment on the use of time and legitimate calls for votes.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Bernard J. Durkan): Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan The Deputy's role as he now sees it is not what he thinks it is either. The Minister is in possession and having moved her amendment she is entitled to speak to it. If the Deputy wishes to put down more amendments -----

Deputy Joan Collins: Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins She spoke on the amendment last night.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Bernard J. Durkan): Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan Sorry, I am dealing with the situation as it was presented to me.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I am doing what the Cathaoirleach has asked me to do. I hope Deputies appreciate that. Under the provisions of the Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2012, the qualifying age of the youngest child for the purpose of entitlement to one-parent family payments is due to decrease from 12 to ten years with effect from the beginning of January 2013 and from ten to seven years with effect from January 2014. The new section 14 provides for a deferral of these dates to the beginning of July 2013 and July 2014, respectively. Amendments Nos. 6 and 11 provide for a common reference in the new section 14 to the Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2012, which is referred as the Act of 2012 for the purpose of this Bill.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy I do not even want an answer from the Minister.

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Do not give her the opportunity.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Bernard J. Durkan): Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan The Deputy has a right to speak to the amendment. There are no preconditions, however.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy Why is the Chair stopping me?

Acting Chairman (Deputy Bernard J. Durkan): Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan I have encouraged her to respond to the Minister.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy I spoke on this subject last night. The Minister opened the debate this morning by claiming that we are confusing matters. She is confusing matters. This is precisely the issue I addressed last night. Will child care places be made available for all those who are forced onto jobseeker's benefit when their youngest children turn 12 after 3 May 2012? I do not want a response. I merely want to make the point that we discussed this issue last night and this morning. I am not going to continue speaking because I do not want to wind down the clock but if the Minister is serious about this she will not commence it until there is a space for every child who requires one. There is no point in making a space for a parent on a job activation scheme unless there is also a child care place for the child.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I have engaged in intensive work with the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs over the past year so that the State could provide additional child care places. This is why I was happy to announce an additional 6,000 after-school places. Ireland is starting from a low base in regard to child care. All of us recognise that our child benefits and lone parent payments are among the highest in Europe. However, in most other countries in Europe, including 90 miles to the north, lone parents do not retain that status exclusively once their children attend school. This is to give the parents the opportunity to get involved in education, training and community work, which will assist them and their families to become financially independent. The best social welfare systems provide income support, particularly when the children have not yet started school full-time, while also giving tremendous support to help people return to education, training and, ultimately, employment and financial independence. That is the purpose of the changes to the lone parent payments.

These changes have been welcomed. Last night Deputy Ó Snodaigh, like most of the other Deputies who spoke in the debate, welcomed the extension of time and the additional child care places. I think this is an important initiative and I hope the House will support it as a progressive development which will open new horizons for people who are parenting alone. Even though we have been discussing painful reductions in this budget, our lone parent and childhood supports are among the highest in Europe. Successive Governments have devoted 37% of their budgets to social welfare. That has resulted in a reduction of the at risk of poverty rate of 60%, which is twice the average of almost every other European country, including some particularly wealthy ones. I commend the amendment to the House.

  Amendment put and declared carried.


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