Sinn Féin spokesperson on Social Protection, Claire Kerrane TD, has called for the establishment of a statutory Child Maintenance Service.
Her comments follow confirmation from Minister Humphreys that her Department will stop pursuing non-custodial parents for a contribution towards the One-Parent Family Payment.
Speaking today, Teachta Kerrane said:
“I welcome that the Minister has accepted that the Department’s existing approach to Liable Relatives was not working as it was inefficient in obtaining contributions from non-custodial parents, however ending this policy alone will not meet families’ needs. We now need to see the establishment of a statutory Child Maintenance Service in its place.
“This is something that Sinn Féin have been calling for over many years and I have brought forward proposals on repeatedly. The system is already in place in the North of Ireland.
“The service takes the responsibility for pursuit of child maintenance off the shoulders of lone parents and importantly, out of the courts.
“A child maintenance service would remove the adversarial court approach. It would also ensure that the child is central to the decision on child maintenance to be paid and that it has the necessary enforcement powers to actually ensure it is paid.
“The model I have proposed draws on our extensive work on this issue, and echoes calls from leading lone parent organisations, such as SPARK and One Family Ireland.
“We want to take child maintenance out of the courts and instead, see a statutory agency step in when it comes to the arrangement, calculation and payment of child maintenance rather than leaving it up to the lone parent alone.
“We know that child maintenance, where paid can play a key role in reducing child poverty, this is one reason why having a robust system in place is so important.
“The Minister must consider our proposals carefully and make sure that families are given the support that they need. It is not enough to end the existing flawed approach, without putting an alternative in place.
“While, unfortunately, the Child Maintenance Review Group did not reach a consensus on the establishment of a Child Maintenance Service, a majority of the Group deemed it worthy. The Minister cannot just leave it at that.
“Once and for all, we need to support lone parent families in seeking maintenance and receiving it.”