Government parties tonight voted to delay legislation brought forward by Sinn Féin spokesperson on Social Protection, Claire Kerrane TD, which seeks to put an end to lone parents being forced into court to seek maintenance in order to retain income supports.
The bill, initially introduced by Fianna Fáil in the previous Dáil, seeks to extend the remit of the Department’s Liable Relatives Unit.
Speaking following the vote, Teachta Kerrane said:
“It is disappointing that the government tonight voted to continue forcing lone parents into courtrooms to seek maintenance in order to retain their social welfare supports.
“They have voted to kick the can down the road on this issue and delay a second reading of the bill by six months. This is the same amendment Fine Gael put forward back when the bill was last debated in the Dáil in 2018.
“It is incredible that Fianna Fáil have voted to delay consideration of the legislation further, considering they introduced the bill in the last Dáil.
“This bill would have simply extended the powers of the Department’s Liable Relatives Unit to allow them to continue seeking maintenance from the non-custodial parent for the duration of payment of Jobseekers Transition, which many Lone Parents move onto after the One Parent Family Payment ceases when the youngest child turns seven.
“Extending the legislation is a simple measure that would remove the threat of lone parent families facing a cliff-edge where the Department pulls away once the One Parent Family Payment ceases.
“We have heard from lone parents, who tell us they are being put under pressure to go to court to seek maintenance in order to continue receiving what may be their only weekly income.
“However, rather than assist lone parents and their families, we will now have to await the already-delayed Child Maintenance Review Group to report later this year.
“While the recommendations of the Review Group are important and will hopefully include the establishment of a statutory Child Maintenance Service, something Sinn Féin has repeatedly called for, the government could have stepped in in the interim to put an end to lone parents being forced into court to seek maintenance. This would have taken that pressure off them.
“Sinn Féin has repeatedly brought forward proposals for a statutory Child Maintenance Service, similar to that which is in place in the North.
“Tonight, this government has demonstrated yet again that they do not intend to provide the assistance that lone parents and their families desperately need.”