One parent family payments and lone parent family payments are the modern form of the deserted wives benefits and allowances and certain survivors benefits. One parent family payment is payable to a
- separated person,
- unmarried person
- spouse of a prisoner, not less than six months duration,
- surviving civil partner,
- party who is not living with a civil partner,
The person must be the parent or guardian step-parent, adoptive parent or legal guardian of at least one child who normally resides with him or her. He must be under pensionable age.
A person who is widowed and who remarries ceases to be qualified. A civil partner who enters a new civil partnership or marries is disqualified. A qualified person does not cease to be qualified where his marriage or civil partnership is dissolved, or a foreign dissolution is recognised in the State.
Persons are separated, where they lived separate and apart from their spouse, former civil partner etc. for a period of at least three months prior to the claim. They must continue to live apart. They must continue to make efforts as are required to obtain maintenance from a person who is liable.
Lone parents payment is not available where parents cohabit as man and wife. If the lone parent remarries or enters a cohabitant relationship the entitlement ceases.
Cohabitation is assessed by the Department of Social Welfare and depends on the number of factors ranging from relationship, shared household cost and responsibilities, physical living together, status of the relationship as represented to other.
A person is separated if he/ she and his/ her spouse have lived apart for at least three months and he or she continues to make efforts, appropriate efforts in the circumstances to obtain maintenance from a person liable to maintain him or her. In the case of an unmarried person he or she must make appropriate efforts to obtain maintenance. The concepts of separation are broadly similar to those that apply in respect of judicial separation.
After 1 January 2011, the criteria for living together as man and wife, has been substituted by a reference to the definition of a cohabitant under the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations in Cohabitants Act 2010. That Act defines a cohabitant as one of two of two adults, whether or not of the same sex, who live together as a couple in an intimate and committed relationship and who are not related to each other within the prohibited degrees of marriage or civil partnership.
Under the Act, regard is to be had to
- the basis on which the couple live together
- duration of their relationship,
- degree of financial dependence,
- degree and nature of financial arrangements between the adults including joint purchase of property
- whether or not there were one or more dependent children,
- whether one of the adults cares for and supports the children of the other,
- the degree to which the adults present themselves to others as a couple.
The child must normally reside with the parent concerned, and the parent must be the principal carer. Children as in institutions may be deemed to be qualifying for this purpose provided to parent provides for the child’s maintenance.
A person is not entitled to lone parents/ one-parent family payment, if he or she is absent from the State, imprisoned or in legal custody, or does not satisfy habitual residence requirements.
A child for the purpose of the payment, is a child who
- is ordinarily resident in the State,
- not detained in a children’s detention centre,
- who had not attained 14 years or is
- 14 and less than 16 years, in respect of whom the domiciliary care allowances payment is made.
The age is being reduced to 14 years progressively to 2016. See 2010 Act.
Where the surviving cohabiting spouse or civil partner has a child over 14, at the date of death, the payment is made until the child is 18 years or for two years whichever is less. Similarly, where the child is between the age of 12 and 14 years , it is payable for further two years.
A qualifying child, who normally resides with a parent, qualifying for the payment when the child is resident with that parent, or the parent is the main carer of the child.
Where the child is an institution, he or she is deemed normally resident with the parent where the parent contributes towards the cost of maintenance in the institution and the parent is a person with whom the child would be resident normally, if not resident in the institution. An institution in this context is a prison, place of detention, hospital, convalescent home, home for persons suffering from physical or mental disability, ancillary accommodation or similar establishments.
There are guidelines in relation to when the requirement to make appropriate efforts to obtain maintenance are satisfied. The requirement does not apply where the spouse receives Social Welfare Payments only, or where spouses’ income is too low to reasonably expect maintenance payments to be made. Generally, the spouse must make efforts to trace the person and if they find them, take steps to apply to court for maintenance and / or otherwise enforce it.
The lone parents payment is subject to an addition for each qualifying child.
The loan parents payment is means tested. Where the spouse earns up to a certain amount, the payment is still allowed. Between further bands, the payment is progressively withdrawn.
Sums received by way of maintenance are means, subject to allowance for housing. When maintenance payments are received they may be required to be paid to the Department of Social Protection to reimburse the lone parents payments made.
Spouses are obliged to maintain each other depending on financial circumstances. Parents are obliged to maintain their children under 18 or over 18 and under 22 in full time education.
Where spouses or parent are obliged to maintain a family member, the Department of Social Protection may pursue that person in respect to payments made to their dependents. Applications may be made by the Department of Social Protection to the District Court directing repayment.
Spouses are required to take steps to secure maintenance from liable persons. The obligations to pursue liable persons are continuing obligations. The steps requires that maintenance be pursued and agreed in context of matrimonial proceedings, or that application is made to the District Clerk to issue a maintenance summons. Efforts are to be made to trace a spouse through a Garda Síochána, if necessary.
It may not be required where the spouse is violent and there is a risk from further contact. It is not required where the income of the spouse is too low reasonably to expect maintenance or the spouse who would be liable is himself or herself in receipt of social welfare payments.
In order to incentivise single parents to take up employment recipients may earn gross earnings either from employment or self employment up to €146.50 before the payment is affected and earn up to €425.00 before it is fully withdrawn. The limit may be exceeded for a period and a part of the payment retained for up to six months, transitional.
Maintenance received for the child or the claimant, are means for the purpose of the test. Housing costs of up to €95.23 per week may be offset against maintenance and half the balance is assessed as means. Housing cost refer to rent or loans for the purpose of paying a mortgage on the property.
The 2010 Act provides for changes to the One-Parent Family Payment to reduce, from April 2011, the qualifying age for receipt of payment to when the youngest child reaches the age of 13.
The 2010 Act provides for the reduction, from April 2011, of the qualifying age for receipt of One-Parent Family Payment to when the youngest child reaches age 13
The 2011 Act makes a number of amendments to the one-parent family payment to clarify the operation of the revised qualifying criteria for that payment following the introduction of the restriction on entitlement for families where the youngest child reaches 14 years. These changes ensure that the general qualification criteria will apply to cases where one-parent family payment is retained for limited periods under transitional measures and in cases of recent bereavements. They also ensures that payment can continue up to 16 years where the youngest child is receiving Domiciliary Care Allowance.
The 2011 Act clarifies that the Domiciliary Care Allowance is not assessable as means for Supplementary Welfare Allowance purposes.
The 2011 Act provided for the discontinuance, with effect from January 2012, of the transitional measures which enable the One-Parent Family Payment (OPFP) to continue to be paid for a period of up to 6 months where a claimant’s weekly earnings exceed €425,provided that person has been receiving OPFP for at least a year.
Existing OPFP recipients who are benefitting from these transitional measures at the beginning of January 2012 continued to receive the transitional payment for the unexpired balance of the 6 months period.
The 2013 Act provided for changes to the Jobseeker’s Benefit and Jobseeker’s Allowance schemes to exempt persons who are working as retained fire-fighters from certain conditions applying to those schemes, due to the nature of that employment. It provided for amendments to the Jobseeker’s Allowance scheme to cater for the transition of persons to that scheme who no longer qualify for One-Parent Family Payment due to their youngest child reaching specified age thresholds.
Former recipients of One-Parent Family Payment were exempt from a number of the conditions applying to the Jobseeker’s Allowance scheme for a transitional period up until their youngest child reaches 14 years of age. People who qualify for Jobseeker’s Allowance during this transitional period will be subject to the normal activation processes and will be required to engage proactively with such processes in order to retain their payment.
The 2018 Act provided for an increase in the earnings disregard for One-parent Family Payment from €130 to €150 per week.
The 2019 Act updates the Act to set out the payments which may not be paid concurrently with the Working Family Payment.
The 2020 Act removed the earnings limit on One-Parent Family Payment. Formerly , when a lone parent’s earnings exceed €425 per week, they lost entitlement to One-Parent Family Payment. The purpose of the Budget 2021 measure was to incentivise lone parents to engage in employment or to increase their working