herald

Friday 15 December 2017

Parents live apart for extra welfare cash

UNMARRIED parents are choosing to live separate lives so that they can get the greatest benefit from social welfare payments and tax breaks.

A cross-party group responsible for examining social and family policy has claimed that lone parents are happy to live away from their partners because it opens the door to extra benefits.

Around 88,000 people are in receipt of a One Parent Family Allowance but the Oireachtas Committee on Social Protection has now called for more stringent laws to govern the payment. It is mostly paid to single or widowed mothers.

The Committee would like to see it replaced by a new parental payment that would be subject to a tougher means test giving the greatest benefit to children living in poverty.

They say that the money should be used to target families in greater need regardless of whether the parents are co-habiting or not.

According to the group, this would remove the financial incentive for parents to live apart and help promote a culture of "family formation".

The One-Parent Family Payment is not payable if a couple has joint equal custody of a child or children, or if the parent has earnings of more than €425 per week.

Fianna Fail TD Thomas Byrne said they hope to build a system focused on "protecting and encouraging family life".

"There are serious disadvantages in the social welfare system to family life," he said.

However, a Fine Gael member has warned against accusing parents of "deliberating living apart" for financial gain.

"We have to be absolutely certain that we do not punish people who might already be in a difficult or vulnerable position," Bernard Durkan said.

The suggestion is not based on research or studies, but TDs and senators claim there is plenty of anecdotal evidence.

kdoyle@herald.ie

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