Thursday, 21 January 2021

Questions (229)

Thomas Pringle


229. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason a surviving cohabitating partner who is the biological parent to a child and children with a deceased partner is unable to be awarded a widowed or surviving civil partner grant; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3270/21]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The widowed or surviving civil partner grant is a once-off payment of €8,000 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 not payable to surviving cohabiting partners who have not entered into marriage or a civil partnership with the person they were cohabiting 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 cohabiting couples.

The legal context governing relationships such as marriage is regulated by the Minister for Justice. 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 also raise significant issues about criteria if it were to be based upon cohabitation.

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 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 his/her weekly income, which may include help with bereavement expenses.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.