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Dublin: 8 °C Thursday 9 April, 2020

Bill on the way to fix child maintenance anomaly and ensure parents pay up

Limerick TD Willie O’Dea plans to crack down on parents who fail to support their child.

Fianna Fail's Willie O'Dea
Fianna Fail's Willie O'Dea
Image: Sam Boal

FIANNA FÁIL HAS plans to introduce a Bill to clamp down on absent parents getting away with not paying maintenance after the child turns seven years old.

Limerick TD Willie O’Dea’s new Bill, which will be published today, aims to correct an anomaly in the law which occurred when changes were introduced in 2012.

The change ensured that a parent transitioned from the One-Parent Family Payment (OFP) to Jobseeker Transition Payment when the youngest child reached the age seven.

However, the legislation in relation to relatives liable to pay child maintenance was not updated to reflect this.

The legislation currently only covers those on the OFP as liable to pay.

The reforms under O’Dea’s new Bill should ensure the Department of Social Protection has a legal right to demand that liable relatives contribute when a parent is in receipt of the Jobseekers Transition.

The Fianna Fáil spokesperson for social protection has highlighted the issue of the unintended consequences of the legislation that cut the age limit for receipt of lone parent payments from 14 to seven.

O’Dea previously asked Minister Regina Doherty what plans she had to amend the legislation.

“It makes no sense that the maintenance recovery division can operate up to a child’s seventh birthday and that once the child reaches the age of seven years, the parent is more or less on his or her own.

“At the same time, the ex-partner will have received a letter from the Department stating he or she is no longer liable to pay maintenance. By any standard, that is undesirable,” he said.

He argued that having a national maintenance agency would be “very relevant” in the context of the Department of Social Protection.

“We are talking about a mechanism to compel people to discharge their responsibilities, which responsibilities have resulted in the department paying out money. We are asking the people in question to make a contribution,” he added.

“If there is an effective national agency recovering money from those people, the Department will have more money to redirect to other areas, such as that relating to disabilities,” concluded O’Dea.

Read: The busiest day in the Dáil bar was the day Leo became Taoiseach>

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