Dáil Éireann - Volume 681 - 30 April, 2009

Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.

Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the community welfare service are in some cases requiring fathers who are paying maintenance to go back to the courts to have their maintenance payments reduced before they assess their need under supplementary welfare allowance provisions. [16980/09]

  Deputy Mary Hanafin: The purpose of the supplementary welfare allowance scheme is to provide assistance to an eligible person whose means are insufficient to meet his/her basic needs and those of his/her dependants. Support available under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme includes a basic weekly allowance, supplements in respect of rent, mortgage interest, diet or heating and exceptional/urgent needs payments.

An individual making an application for supplementary welfare allowance who has recently become unemployed may have maintenance liabilities which they would have been in a position to meet while in employment. If the level of maintenance payments is now such that an individual finds they have inadequate funds with which to meet their basic needs the most appropriate course of action would be for the individual to seek to renegotiate their maintenance liabilities to take account of their current financial circumstances.

Where maintenance orders have been made through the courts, either parent can at a later date apply to the court for the issue of a summons against the other party for the purpose of obtaining a ‘Variation Order’ to have the amount of maintenance varied. Information and advice on free legal aid for the purpose of applying to the court for a maintenance order or a variation of a maintenance order or responding to a maintenance summons can be obtained by contacting the local Citizen’s Information Centre or nearest law centre.

In instances where welfare support is provided to single parents in the form of one-parent family payment, the other parent (liable relative) is legally required to contribute to the cost of this payment. Liable relatives who earn less than €18,000 per annum or whose main source of income is a social welfare payment are not deemed by the Department to be in a financial position to meet weekly maintenance payments and accordingly are not assessed with a maintenance liability.

Where welfare support is provided to single parents in the form of one-parent family payment and/or under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme and the amount of maintenance in payment has been reduced by court order or for any other reason, it is open to that person to contact the Department or the relevant Community Welfare Officer to seek a reassessment of their entitlements to take account of the change in their financial circumstances.