Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.

Frances Fitzgerald

Question:

792 Ms Fitzgerald asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs the current approach to claimants receiving one parent family allowance regarding maintenance from the other parent; and his views on whether adequate supports and information are available to those attempting to get maintenance. [20515/00]

Social welfare income support through one-parent family payment, OFP, acts as a safety net for families who have failed to obtain adequate, or indeed any, maintenance, from their spouse or the other parent of their child. However, those claiming must satisfy my Department that they have made reasonable efforts to obtain such maintenance. This obligation has existed since the inception of social welfare support schemes for lone parents.

In separated cases, it is a condition that an OFP claimant must make efforts to seek maintenance before the claim is awarded. In unmarried cases, efforts to seek maintenance is not a qualifying condition but unmarried OFP recipients are expected to make efforts to seek child mainten ance from the other parent after the OFP claim is awarded. There is no cost involved in initiating a maintenance summons through the relevant District Court clerk.
The liability to maintain family provisions of the Social Welfare Acts were introduced in 1990, and are intended to operate in parallel to the "efforts" requirements for OFP claimants. Where a claimant had no success in securing adequate maintenance and requires social welfare income support as a result, my Department can take action to recover from the liable relative some or all of the social welfare payments issued to the lone parent family concerned.
With regard to supports and information available to lone parents attempting to obtain maintenance, help is available in a wide range of number of ways e.g. using a comprehensive information guide published by the Department and available in Information Offices nationwide; by contacting the one-parent family payment section of the Department directly; by contacting any social welfare local office; through a number of national and local voluntary bodies which provide advice to lone parents on maintenance issues.
In addition, the Family Mediation Service offers free advice to couples in separation situations. The money advice and budgeting service is available to offer advice and help to any person in financial difficulty arising from separation or other causes. Guidance is also available from the free legal advice centres and the Legal Aid Board.
Overall, I am satisfied that lone parents who need information have a good range of sources and supports available to them.