Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Questions (622)

Louise O'Reilly

Question:

622. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason a spouse does not receive a widowed parent grant after the death of their partner in circumstances (details supplied). [21427/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

Firstly may I take this opportunity to extend my condolences to the person concerned and his family on their recent bereavement.

The widowed or surviving civil partner grant is a once-off payment of €6000 and is available to widows, widowers or surviving civil partners who have one or more dependent children living with them at the date of death, or a widow or surviving civil partner whose child is born within 10 months of the date of death of her spouse or civil partner. The applicant must also qualify for certain Social Protection payments.

The widowed or surviving civil partner grant is different in nature to many payments, including the widowed or surviving civil partner’s pension, as it is a once off grant, paid at the time of a bereavement, and does not contribute to the ongoing costs of raising a child, beyond the immediate period of the bereavement.

The reason a spouse does not receive a widowed or surviving civil partner grant in the circumstances outlined by the Deputy is that the person has not entered into marriage or a civil partnership with the person they were co-habiting with. Entering into a marriage or civil partnership is a legal act, which confers both rights and obligations on both parties that do not exist in law between co-habiting couples. 

The legal context governing relationships such as marriage is regulated by the Minister for Justice and Equality. Aside from the wider legal issues regarding the status of marriage and civil partnerships, which is a much broader policy area than its implications under the remit of my department, extending the current provisions to people who have not undertaken equivalent legal obligations would carry significant costs, and would also raise significant issues about criteria if it were to be based upon co-habitation.

Therefore any decision to extend the qualifying criteria for the widowed or surviving civil partner grant would have to be considered in the context of overall budgetary negotiations, as well as legal issues that may arise.

Under the supplementary allowance scheme, the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection may make a single exceptional needs payment (ENP) to help meet essential, once-off expenditure which a person could not reasonably be expected to meet from their weekly income, which may include help with bereavement expenses.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.