One Family, Ireland’s organisation for people parenting alone, sharing parenting, and separating, has voiced its concern that child maintenance is to be assessed as parental income under the Affordable Childcare Scheme. According to the organisation, if child maintenance is assessed as child income rather than parental income it could significantly reduce the impact of poverty on lone parents.
Karen Kiernan, CEO of One Family responding to comments made by representatives of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA) at a seminar on the Childcare Support Bill organised by the Children’s Rights Alliance said, “One Family has serious concerns about this issue and we have written to Minister Zappone and the members of the Committee on Children and Youth Affairs and asked them to make the appropriate change.”
There is a clear rationale for the Affordable Childcare Scheme to exclude child maintenance as income; currently a number of income sources are excluded from income assessment for state supports such as the Working Family Payment.
Ms. Kiernan added, “I can understand why the Department have chosen this provision. They believe that by including it would prevent a poverty trap but there is no indication that excluding child maintenance from assessment would form a poverty trap. These payments do not vary for recipients when they leave or enter employment, so the exclusion of this income source would not serve as a disincentive to enter or increase employment.”
The payment of child maintenance varies significantly based on the vagaries of the relationship with the maintenance payer. Feedback from the One Family national helpline and from frontline staff in the District Court in Dublin indicate that a significant majority of court-ordered maintenance orders are not complied with fully or at all. It is also extremely likely that non-court-ordered arrangements are also not fully adhered to in many cases. This can cause significant difficulty and stress to the family in receipt of the payments as their social welfare payment may have been reduced, their rent supplement may have been reduced and they be left at short notice without a full income in any given week.
The issue of child maintenance and the negative impacts of non-payment on vulnerable children and their parents has become an issue of great political interest with bills being introduced both by Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein in recent months. The non-payment of maintenance is regarded by a Government agency Cosc as domestic abuse and should be taken very seriously. This relatively simple assessment change would protect vulnerable children and help towards lifting 100,000 children from poverty by 2020.
#AffordableChildcare and #EndChildPoverty.