Policy update

We hope you and your family are keeping safe and well. Over the week we have been busy on a number of different policy areas that are important to the families we represent.

Access: We have updated our guidance [link] on how to manage access issues several times following regulations on the issue from government, statements from the Minister for Justice and the President of the District Court as well as guidelines from the Law Society. The advice is clear for parents who are able to negotiate and come to new agreements if required; but for those who cannot reach agreement even with professional inputs then courts in general have not been hearing access cases. We will continue to raise this as an issue with the Courts Service as they start to provide some cases remotely using ICT.

Shopping with children: Following a lot of behind the scenes advocacy work and individual parents and organisations raising awareness of the issue in the media, we are delighted to hear the issue of children being banned in shops being addressed in the daily briefing from the Taoiseach’s office [link]. If anybody out there is still having problems please do let One Family know and we will intervene on your behalf with Retail Ireland or with the relevant shop.

Social welfare/income supports: We know that with so many job losses, people parenting alone who frequently work part-time in low paid employment have been hit hard. We have worked hard to have all your queries clarified with the Dept of Employment Affairs and Social Protection and we now know that people in receipt of the OFP, JST and JSA who were working and were laid off as a result of COVID are entitled to apply for the COVID Pandemic Unemployment Payment [link].

Also just a reminder that you can find the form to designate someone else to collect your payment from the post office here [link] and the form to request your payment is paid into a bank account instead of collected from the post office is here [link].

Practical Supports: We have agreement at a national level that people in one-parent families who need help with shopping or any other practical issues will be helped through the local authority helplines and the Community Call volunteer systems [link] they may be able to get shopping for you if you cannot get out or perhaps give you hard copies of forms that you need. Any problems let us know.

Child Maintenance: We have been working with the Dept of Employment Affairs and Social Protection on the process that people should use if child maintenance ends. They have said that parents should let them know in writing about the loss you have and they will reissue your payment to the correct amount for 12 weeks and then the issue will be reviewed [link to DEASP statement]. If it is court-ordered maintenance you may also wish to apply for a hearing on the matter although this may be delayed. However we are also raising the importance of hearing maintenance enforcement cases as well with the Court Service. [link to media coverage on the issue]

Domestic Violence: We know that the difficulties around access and contact visits in families where there is domestic abuse can continue or be increased now with new arrangements and flexibilities required due to travel restrictions. We want to remind everyone that District Courts are taking applications in relation to domestic abuse; Women’s Aid have a new helpline to support people in court cases [link] and there is a government campaign called Still Here to support victims [link].

Access to ICT: We know that many families are struggling with not enough data as free wifi is now unavailable in public places and children and parents are trying to learn from home. The telecomm companies have agreed a number of measures to ensure customers stay connected [link]. There is also work ongoing between organisations and government around sourcing laptops and tablets for families who need them [link].

If you need support or help the askonefamily helpline can be contacted Monday – Friday on 01-662 9212 email: info@onefamily.ie or on social media.