A range of measures were put in place by the Government to support children and families, including lone parents, in Budget 2020. These include:
- Payment of a 100% Christmas Bonus in December 2019 to recipients of a long-term Social Welfare payment, including One-Parent Family Payment.
- Extension of the Hot School Meals scheme from September 2020 to 35,000 additional schoolchildren.
- €3 increase for qualified child dependants aged 12 and over in all weekly payments.
- €2 increase for qualified child dependants up to age 12 in all weekly payments.
- Increase in the Working Family Payment threshold by €10 per week for families with 1, 2 or 3 children, benefitting some 55,000 families, at a cost of €19 million from January 2020.
- Increases in the earnings disregard for working lone parents receiving One-Parent Family Payment or Jobseeker’s Transition Payment by €15 to €165 per week from January 2020, benefitting some 16,900 families.
The Family Law Acts place a legal obligation on parents to maintain their children. In cases where the family unit has broken down these obligations continue to apply. Relevant maintenance payments can be arranged either directly between the parties themselves, or with the assistance of supports from the Department of Justice and Equality, such as the Family Mediation Service and the Legal Aid Board, or ultimately through the Courts.
As part of Budget 2020, €150,000 was allocated to my Department to examine international best practice in relation to maintenance payments by liable relatives and on how Ireland can achieve better outcomes in a proactive manner for families. This allocation will be used to support a judge-led group which will provide recommendations as to how to make concrete and practical improvements in this complex area.
Preparatory work for the establishment of the judge-led group is underway and I expect that it will be in place early in the new year.