Sinn Féin spokesperson on Social Protection, Claire Kerrane TD, has today received agreement from the Committee on Social Protection to progress her legislation to support one-parent families.
The Social Welfare (Payment Order) (Amendment) Bill 2021 will now progress to pre-legislative scrutiny at committee.
Teachta Kerrane said:
“I welcome and thank my committee colleagues for agreeing to progress my legislation to the next stage in the legislative process.
“Currently, lone parents have to prove they have sought child maintenance in order to continue receiving lone parent supports, the One Parent Family Payment and the Jobseeker’s Transitional payment.
“Yet, due to the limitations of the existing legislation, the Department of Social Protection can only step in to seek maintenance from the non-custodial parent for the duration of the One Parent Family Payment, which ceases once a child turns seven.
“Once a child turns seven, not only do the Department of Social Protection no longer assist with seeking maintenance from the non-custodial parent, but they write to the non-custodial parent to inform them that they are no longer obliged to contribute.
“This means that many lone parents are being unfairly forced into court in order to prove that they have sought maintenance to qualify for, and continue to receive, the Jobseeker’s Transition, which is payable until the youngest child turns 14.
“We have heard from lone parents, who tell us that they are put under pressure to do this in order to continue receiving important social welfare supports for their families, sometimes their only weekly income.
“We want to extend this legislation to allow the Department’s Liable Relative Unit to continue seeking maintenance from the non-custodial parent for the duration of payment of Jobseeker’s Transition.
“This would remove the threat of lone-parent families facing a cliff-edge where the Department pulls away once the One Parent Family Payment ceases.
“Extending this assistance to lone parents is crucial and cannot wait for the publication of the Child Maintenance Review Group report, which we may not now see until next year.
“While this Bill offers only a sticking plaster to lone parents, it is an important interim measure to stop them having to go to court in order to retain their social welfare support.
“Sinn Féin has repeatedly brought forward proposals for a centralised statutory Child Maintenance Service, similar to that which is in place in the North.
“We need a statutory Child Maintenance Service, but in the meantime this government needs to stop forcing lone parents into courtrooms to seek maintenance.”