Social Welfare (Payment Order) (Amendment) Bill 2018: First Stage

I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to provide for the extension of the powers of the Maintenance Recovery Unit of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, to make a District Court application for a Payment Order, in respect of jobseekers transitional payment to one parent families, thus enabling the State to recoup, from a ‘liable relative', a contribution towards the cost of providing said payment.

I seek leave to introduce this Bill-----

(Interruptions).

Could we please have a little order in the House while someone is speaking?

I seek leave to introduce this Bill, which is fairly short and simple. The purpose of the Bill is to extend the powers of the maintenance and recovery unit of the Department of Employment Affairs-----

(Interruptions).

I am sorry, Deputy. We cannot have meetings on the steps.

Including the Taoiseach.

That applies to all Members. There is a Member in possession on his feet.

I will start again. The purpose of the Bill is to extend the powers of the maintenance and recovery unit of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection to make a District Court application for a payment order in respect of single parents who have been moved on to jobseeker's transitional payment thus enabling the State to recoup from a liable relative a contribution towards the cost of providing that payment. The rationale behind the Bill is that under current legislation, once the child turns seven and a parent moves from a one-parent family payment to jobseeker's transitional payment, the legislative power of the maintenance recovery unit to issue payment orders and have them enforced by the District Court if necessary ceases. This Bill addresses this issue and extends the scope of the liable relatives' provision to jobseeker's transitional payment recipients. At present, while the maintenance recovery unit cannot pursue an absent parent once the child turns seven and the primary care giver, which in the majority of cases is the mother, moves from one-parent family payment to jobseeker's transitional payment, there is nevertheless still an onus on mothers to seek maintenance. SPARK, the lone parents' organisation, has been told by many women signing on that they were told if they did not have proof of seeking maintenance by their next sign-on date, their payment would be terminated. This is deeply unfair and unjust.

While the Bill will not address all the issues regarding maintenance, it will nevertheless address a gap in the legislation. It may go some way towards assisting lone parents, who are one of the household groups most exposed to poverty and social exclusion. The reforms to the one-parent family payment in 2012 had a detrimental effect on lone parents and increased the likelihood of their being at risk of poverty. It also created a gap in the relevant legislation which I am now seeking to address by bringing forward this Bill. The latest SILC data shows that 24.6% of lone parents are in consistent poverty; 40.2% of lone-parent households are at risk of poverty; and 50.1% of lone-parent households are experiencing deprivation. It is therefore essential that we do all we can to assist single parents and address any anomalies in legislation that are hindering rather than helping them to move out of poverty and social exclusion.

Is the Bill opposed?

Question put and agreed to.

Since this is a Private Members' Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time.

I move: "That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."

Question put and agreed to.