One Parent Family Tax Credit
Treoir is hugely concerned that the One Parent Family Tax Credit which was available to both lone parents who are sharing the care of their child(ren) has been abolished and replaced by the Single Person Child Carer Tax Credit which will be available to the main carer only. Treoir and a number of other agencies lobbied very hard, without success, to have the decision overturned. The only concession achieved is that if the main carer is not working she/he may assign the Single Person Child Carer Tax Credit to the other parent, provided that parent has the child in their care for at least 100 days per year. We believe, for unmarried families who have no history of a shared family life, the requirement to have care of the child for 100 days is excessive, particularly when a young child is involved. Indeed it may not always be in the interest of the child and it may not be possible for a variety of reasons. We believe families should be trusted to make their own arrangements which are in the interest of their children.
Treoir also believes that where the mother (primary carer) marries someone other than the father of her child and is therefore no longer a single parent, but the father continues to share the parenting of his child, it should be possible for him to avail of the SPCCTC in full if he is still a lone parent.
This change will result in unmarried and separated parents and their children being significantly worse off financially and the measure goes against the policy of promoting co-parenting.
Family Relationships and Children Bill 2013
The Department of Justice and Equality recently published, November 2013, a briefing note on its proposed Family Relationships and Children Bill 2013. This bill intends to consolidate and modernise current family laws and creates a legal structure to address diverse parenting structures. Among other issues, the Bill intends to:
- grant automatic guardianship rights to a non-marital father where he has been cohabiting with the child’s mother for at least a year before the child’s birth
- allow civil partners, step-parents, those co-habiting with the biological or adoptive parent and those acting in loco parentis for a specified period to apply for guardianship of a child
- establish that the best interest of the child is the paramount consideration of the court in making orders
- put penalties in place where a parent refuses to comply with access and maintenance orders
Childcare for CE participants
From 1 January 2014 any current or new CE participants will be eligible to apply for subsidised childcare under the Childcare Education and Training Support Programme (CETS ). Childcare places will be allocated to children over the age of 1 and under 5 years of age but not to children participating in the free pre-school year programme. Parents will have to make a contribution of €15 per week. CE Sponsors can provide information about the CETS programme and will have a list of Childcare Providers participating in the programme. Childcare places will be provided where they are available.
For more information contact your local Intreo Office/Employment Office or your CE sponsor.
Maintenance of Children – Amendment
Following the enactment of the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2011 changes were made to the Family Law (Maintenance of Spouses and Children) Act 1976. It is no longer the case that only six months arrears can be applied for where a parent has fallen behind in payments. Payment of arrears will be at the discretion of the judge.
This information is not reflected in Treoir’s current Maintenance of Children Information Leaflet. However, we have updated our website and the online version of the leaflet to reflect the change.
For further information see; Part 8, Sec. 31 of the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2011
Unmarried father found to be discriminated against
The Equality Tribunal recently found that the Department of Social Protection’s Community Welfare Service had discriminated against an unmarried separated father of two who moved from his home in UK to Ireland to be near his children. His request for a rent supplement payment for a one-parent family with two children was rejected as his ex-partner received a similar allowance for the same children, despite the fact that they stayed with him on a regular basis. He was awarded the maximum payment of €6,348 under the legislation, as he was discriminated against on grounds of gender, civil status, and family status. The tribunal also ordered the Department of Social Protection to carry out a review of its policies and procedures on rent supplement payments, particularly in relation to how separated and unmarried fathers are treated. Read Decision in full here
Courts and Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2013
Family law cases have always been held in private (in-camera) to protect the privacy of the individuals involved and in particular children. However, following the enactment of this Act certain people are now allowed to attend family court sittings in order to produce and publish reports. The parties to the case may not be identified. Treoir welcomes this change as it will provide more comprehensive information about what actually happens in family law cases which will inform our clients. The court will also have the power to make an order refusing press attendance or publication of information. In using these powers the court must consider the views of any of the parties involved and of any child able to express such views. Read the Act here.
Growing up in a One-Parent Family: The Influence of Family Structure on Child Outcomes
This study, funded by the Family Support Agency and launched in December, makes very interesting reading and should be of particular interest to policy makers. The following are among the findings:
- The majority of never-married lone-mothers and cohabiting mothers are younger and come from impoverished backgrounds with lower levels of educational attainment. The limited educational and work opportunities afforded to these young women impacts on child development and points to a cycle of deprivation.
- The major finding of the current study, as it relates to policy, is that once socio-economic background differences are taken into account, the association between negative child out comes and living in a one-parent or cohabiting family is substantially reduced.
- The apparent benefits to marriage as they relate to child development appear not related to marriage per se but to the background characteristics of those who marry.
- The implication is that family structure does not have a major direct influence on child out comes. A move towards a welfare system – which supports families on the basis of low educational attainment, poor employment prospects and low levels of income rather than the residential status of the parent – is one implication of this research.
Download report here
A Guide to Children’s EU Rights in Ireland
This publication by the Children’s Rights Alliance aims to explain to children and those who work with children what EU rights they have. It explains who they should turn to if they feel their rights are being violated and how they can help get their voice heard. See www.childrensrights.ie
Civil Legal Aid
In September 2013 changes were made to the means test for qualifying for Civil Legal Aid. The changes were made following the passing of Civil Legal Aid Regulation 2013. The main changes are as follows:
- the minimum contribution towards legal advice has been increased from €10 to €30 and the minimum for legal aid from €50 to €130
- removal of financial contribution for people receiving legal services in proceedings with the HSE on child care
- the amount of disposable capital you may have and still qualify has been reduced from €320,000 to €100,000.
In order to qualify, you must have disposable income (gross income less PRSI and Universal Social Charge) of less than €18,000. Child Benefit is not taken into account when assessing income and certain deductions are allowed.
Link here for further detail
Civil Legal Aid – Waiting Times
There were 5,383 persons waiting to access legal services as of September 1st. Waiting times have increased significantly in recent years and the Legal Aid Board suggests that this is largely due to the economic downturn. Waiting times for a substantive appointment with a solicitor can be as much as 15 months. Many Legal Aid Centres are now operating a ‘triage’ pilot system which should result in an applicant accessing an initial appointment (45mins) with a solicitor within one month of application, before going on a waiting list.
The number of children born to unmarried parents and placed for adoption has fallen dramatically over recent decades, new figures show. In 1967, 97 per cent – or 1,493 – of children of unmarried parents in Ireland were placed for adoption. Last year that proportion had fallen to less than 1 per cent, or fewer than 50 children. These figures were contained in an address, by child law expert Dr. Geoffrey Shannon, to an international conference on European Family Law. Dr. Shannon said the recent referendum to strengthen children’s rights is likely to lead to an increase in domestic adoption. This is because the wording recognised the need for adoption as an option for some children in long-term foster care. “This is a welcome move for children and families seeking legal and permanent recognition, enhancement and strengthening of the family attachments that have grown between them through their years of shared family life” he said.
Perinatal Statistics 2012
The decline in births continued at 71,986 births in 2012 compared with 74,377 births in 2011. This represents a reduction of 3.2% since 2011 and 5.3% since the peak in 2009.
- At 15.6 per 1,000 population, Ireland reported the highest birth rate of any of the 27 EU countries.
- The average birth rate for the 27 EU countries is 10.4 per 1,000 population.
- Some 34% of births in 2012 were to single mothers and the average age was 28.8 years.
- Almost one quarter of births in 2012 were to mothers born outside Ireland which is unchanged since 2011. In 2004, the year this information was first collected, just 18% of births were to mothers born outside Ireland.
- Just 2% of women giving birth were aged under 20 years, with 30% of women giving birth aged 35 years or older
- For babies born to Irish mothers the exclusive breastfeeding rate is estimated at 40% compared with over 75% for babies born to mothers from Europe and America which report the highest breastfeeding rates.
The above are some of the main findings in the Perinatal Statistics Report 2012 by the ESRI.
Save the Children’s State of the World’s Mothers Report
This Report looks at countries that are succeeding and failing in saving the lives of mothers and their newborn babies. The annual Mothers’ Index uses the latest data on women’s health, children’s health, educational attainment, economic well-being and female political participation to rank 176 countries and show where mothers and children fare best and where they face the greatest hardships. The Report states that Ireland is 20th in a list of the best places to be a mother — falling behind other European countries such as Portugal, Slovenia, and Greece. In a list of 176 countries, Ireland comes ahead of Canada, the UK, and the US which come in at 22nd, 23rd, and 30th.
On a very positive note the risk of maternal death at childbirth in Ireland is one death in 8,100 compared with one in 4,600 in the UK, and one in 2,400 in the US. Read Report
Irish Centre for International Family Mediation
Relationship breakdown is traumatic for any family, but when a family consists of members of different nationalities, or the dispute reaches across borders, this can be even more difficult, in particular for the children. This Centre, which officially opened in May 2013, provides and promotes mediation in cases of international child abduction and other cross-border family disputes. They use a model of international family mediation which has been developed and is now practiced by members of the EU Network of International Family Mediators. For more information and contact details see www.internationalmediation.ie
Dolphin House Family Law Court Support and Referral Service – Dublin
This is a free and confidential drop in service for women who are experiencing abuse in a relationship. This can include emotional, physical, sexual or financial abuse. They can provide information about legal options, safety planning, explain how the court works and offer on-going support. This service is available if you are attending Dolphin House Family Law Court in Dublin. For more information contact Women’s Aid on 1800 341 900.
Social Transfers and Poverty Alleviation
The ESRI and the Department of Social Protection Report 2013 examines the impact of social transfers – including both State and occupational pensions, other social welfare payments and child benefit – in alleviating income poverty in Ireland. The report shows that the proportion of households’ income made up of social welfare payments increased by 50% between 2004 and 2011. The authors say the figures reinforce the importance of emphasising child poverty in the national social targets for poverty reduction. See report here
One Parent Holidays is a site that brings all the travel information for one parent families together, gives them a forum to share experiences, post advice, share holidays with other single parent families as a tour group, and find holidays that specifically cater to their needs.