Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.

Tony Gregory

Question:

764 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs the steps a person is required to take by his Department to trace a spouse whose whereabouts is not known in order to qualify for a one parent allowance. [20014/00]

One of the statutory qualifying conditions for receipt of one-parent family payment for separated people is that claimants must make, and continue to make, efforts appropriate to their particular circumstances to obtain maintenance from their spouses for themselves and their children. This would normally involve taking out a summons under family law against the spouse with a view to obtaining a court order for maintenance. Alternatively, participation in a structured mediation process is also accepted as meeting the efforts requirements.

The primary purpose of this requirement is to encourage separated couples, where possible, to resolve adequate maintenance directly without the need for reliance on state income support by the one-parent families concerned. It also acts as a mechanism to ascertain that the separation has actually resulted from marital breakdown, rather than for financial or employment reasons.

If claimants do not know the whereabouts of their spouses, they may be required to provide appropriate evidence that they have tried to trace their spouse, eg, through enquiries with the gardaí. In cases where it is believed that spouses are resident in Britain for example, claimants may be requested by the Department to ask the UK Department of Social Security to help trace their spouse with a view to serving a maintenance summons.

This condition is regarded as being satisfied if the claimant cannot trace the spouse and has made all reasonable efforts to do so.