Sinn Féin spokesperson for Social Protection Claire Kerrane TD has welcomed the publication of the report by the Child Maintenance Review Group which was established in 2020.
Welcoming it’s publication, having repeatedly asked Minister Humphreys to publish the report which she received in April, Teachta Kerrane said:
“I welcome the publication of this report by Minister Humphreys. We have been raising ongoing issues around child maintenance and the need for it to be reformed for years now as have organisations representing one parent families.
“The Group have concluded that child maintenance is in need of immediate and radical reform. This is exactly the urgency we have been seeking on this issue from Government.
“The Child Maintenance Review Group have been crystal clear in the first two areas of concern – where child maintenance payments are made, they should be disregarded in their entirety from all means testing for social welfare payments and that the requirement to seek maintenance as a condition to receive both the One Parent Family Payment and Jobseekers Transition be removed. These are two requests I have made repeatedly to Minister Humphreys and she needs to act on these two recommendations immediately.
“The Review Group also question the merits, including value for money of the Liable Relative Unit within the Department of Social Protection and conclude that the provisions around Liable Relatives should be discontinued. Again, using the figures of the amount of money the Unit has recouped, we have repeatedly criticised this and this is another welcome recommendation from the Group.
“I am disappointed that agreement could not be reached among the Group to seek the establishment of a State Child Maintenance Agency however, this was the wish of the majority of the Group and this is significant given their detailed examination of the issue, including international practices.
“The idea of leaving child maintenance in the Courts system to me makes no sense. It ignores the reality that Lone Parents are not comfortable with this setting and crucially, it has not worked.
“I also note the Group’s interest in the model in place in the North where a Child Maintenance Service exists, this is the model Sinn Féin have advocated for over many years and I recognise that the Group did acknowledge our policy in their report.
“Minister Humphreys has the perfect opportunity in the Social Welfare Bill coming before the House next week to amend the legislation in line with the recommendations of the Group around removal of means-testing of child maintenance and requiring Lone Parents prove they have sought it in order to receive social welfare supports.
“I am also calling on Minister Humphreys to examine our proposal on the establishment of a Child Maintenance Service which I initially put together in 2018 and have re-published again this year for a third time.
“There is much emphasis in this report on the levels of poverty and deprivation experienced by One parent families, this is not news so now we need to see action once and for all. It is beyond time the State actively support one parent families.”