Sinn Féin spokesperson on Social Protection Claire Kerrane TD has today introduced a Bill to remove the current cliff edge experienced by Lone Parents when their youngest child turns seven.
Once a child turns seven, the lone parent no longer qualifies for the One Parent Family Payment and instead moves onto a Jobseekers Transition Payment.
While eligibility for both payments includes the lone parent proving he/she has sought maintenance from the non-custodial parent, the non-custodial parent is only pursued by the Department for a contribution to the One Parent Family Payment.
Speaking on introducing the Bill, Teachta Kerrane said:
“Current social welfare payments for Lone Parents are not designed to support lone parent families, to prevent poverty or to encourage the payment of child maintenance from the non-custodial parent.
“While there is an onus on the Lone Parent to prove they have sought maintenance in order to qualify for both the One Parent Family Payment and Jobseekers Transition, both are treated very differently.
“We have a disturbing situation where the Department of Social Protection pursue non-custodial parents, not to benefit or financially support their child, but to recoup their own costs. They only do this for the One Parent Family Payment and so, once a child turns seven, the obligation on the non-custodial parent to contribute ends.
“Once a child turns seven, the non-custodial parent receives a letter from the Department of Social Protection to say that they are no longer liable to contribute to the child.
“As a result, there is huge drop in the number of lone parents receiving child maintenance payments once the Liable Relative Clause runs out. To make matters worse, lone parents are required to pursue child maintenance by themselves in order to receive the Jobseekers Transitional Payment – this means many lone parents face a cliff-edge regarding the payments they receive.
“We are proposing that the Liable Parent Clause be extended to include children beyond the age of seven. If passed, this will see non-custodial parents continuing to make a contribution beyond their child turning seven.
“We have also seen, from research and consultation with organisations representing lone parents, that continued child maintenance payments results in higher visitation and longer-term contact with non-custodial parents.
“While we ultimately need an established Child Maintenance Service, these proposed changes will provide some much-needed support for lone parents and their families in the meantime.”