I propose to take Questions Nos. 205 and 208 to 212, inclusive, together.
The issue of family maintenance payments is first and foremost a private matter for the people concerned.
Where a one parent family payment (OFP) is awarded, the Department seeks to trace the other parent, referred to as the liable relative, in order to ascertain whether he or she is in a financial position to contribute towards the cost of the OFP.
The legislative basis for the implementation of the Liability to Maintain Family Provisions is set out in Part 12 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005, as amended. The methods of assessment of the liable relative’s ability to pay are specified in detail in Regulations (S.I. 571 of 2006, S.I. 142 of 2007 as amended).
In making a determination order, the Liable Relatives Unit will assess the financial position of each liable relative, based on the net weekly income after applicable allowances have been taken into account, as set out in the Regulations.
A liable relative is given the option to commence making payments to the OFP recipient or to the Department. Payments made directly to the OFP recipient are assessed as means and may have an impact on their weekly payment from the Department.
Where a liable relative fails to commence payments, the Department is empowered to apply to the District Court for an order directing that contributions be paid. The Department may also apply to the District Court to have an Attachment of Earnings Order made against a liable relative.
In 2018, the Department examined 8,244 cases. Some 1,039 liable relatives commenced making payments or made additional payments to the OFP recipient. In a further 65 cases, the liable relatives began paying the Department directly.
In 2019 to end August, the Department examined 9,834 cases. Some 1,001 liable relatives commenced making payments or made additional payments to the OFP recipient. In a further 69 cases, the liable relatives began paying the Department directly.
The amount collected directly by the Department from liable relatives as a result of work by the Liable Relatives Unit in 2018 was €269,949.
I am advised that it is not possible to disaggregate the running costs of the Liable Relatives Unit or to give the estimated costs involved in examining a case from the Department’s overall administration costs.
Any changes to the current arrangements would have to be considered in an overall policy and budgetary context.
I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.