Sinn Féin Bill would put a stop to Lone Parents being forced into Court to seek maintenance – Claire Kerrane TD
Sinn Féin's Bill to extend the remit of the Department's Liable Relative's Unit will progress to Second Stage in the Dáil this evening.
Spokesperson for Social Protection, Claire Kerrane TD, brought forward the Bill which seeks to put an end to Lone Parents being forced into Court to seek maintenance in order to retain income supports.
Commenting on the Bill, Teachta Kerrane said:
“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 Jobseekers Transition 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 7, 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 they have sought maintenance to qualify for and continue to receive the Jobseekers Transition, which is payable until the youngest child turns fourteen.
“We have heard from Lone Parents, who tell us 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 Jobseekers 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 now-delayed Child Maintenance Review Group to report later this year.
“Minister Humphreys has tabled an amendment to kick the can down the road on this issue and delay the Bill by another six months. The same amendment her party put forward back when the Bill was last debated in 2018.
"While this Bill offers only a sticking plaster to Lone Parents, it is an important interim measure to take pressure off Lone Parents to go to court in order to retain their social welfare support.
“Sinn Féin have 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.
“I am calling for all TDs to back Sinn Féin’s Bill in the Dáil this evening and support Lone Parents and their families.”