Treoir Calls on the Government to Progress the Surviving Cohabiting Couple’s Bill
WEDNESDAY JULY 13TH 2023
“In 2023, cohabiting couples should be treated fairly and equally to married couples” Damien Peelo, CEO of Treoir has stated.
John O’Meara and his children resume their case at 11 am in the Supreme Court today against the Department of Social Protection on the grounds that his family is being discriminated against based on marital status. John and his partner, Michelle Batey, lived together for 20 years, had 3 children together, and a joint mortgage.
“They were committed to each other and their children. As Justice Heslin said in the High Court case “Nor is it in dispute that the applicants…part of a loving family in the sense in which the term “family” is generally understood in our society.” he said.
However, when Michelle tragically passed away in 2021, John O’Meara found out that he was not entitled to the Widow’s Pension.
The Widow/Widower’s / Surviving Civil Partner’s Pension is a weekly payment after the death of a partner. One of the partners must have made enough PRSI (Pay Related Social Insurance) contributions to avail of this pension that is not means tested. The payment also has a qualified child increase for each child the couple had together.
Despite both Mr. O’Meara and Ms. Batey both having made the necessary contributions, Mr. O’Meara was not eligible for this pension simply because they were not married.
“This case is about the recognition of our family as a family unit,” Mr. O’Meara said.
“In Treoir, we know there are many more families than people realize in this situation. In 2016, there were 75,000 cohabiting couples with children, and we know that number will continue to rise. This policy makes the death of a loved one infinitely more stressful and complicated to deal with.”
Another parent in this situation is Maria Doyle. Maria and her partner, Alan Keely, had two children together before he suddenly passed away in 2021. It has been two years since her partner passed but unfortunately, Maria was forced to give up her job shortly after he died. Maria worked in Dunnes Stores and regularly had to work evenings and weekends.
“As an ‘unskilled’ worker who doesn’t work a 9-5 schedule, there is no affordable childcare available to me. My entire paycheck would be spent on childcare. This policy is discriminatory and hypocritical.” Ms. Doyle said.
“This policy is unfair for several reasons. Firstly, if either partner had applied for Jobseekers or Carer’s Benefit, they would have been jointly assessed, the same as a married couple. However, in relation to the Widow/Widower’s Pension, this was not allowed for cohabiting couples which seems like a double standard” Mr. Peelo stated.
“Secondly, both John and Michelle had made the necessary contributions for this payment already.”
“Thirdly, this policy is discriminating against children based on their parent’s marital status, which they have no control over. We already have criteria for assessing co-habiting couples and families for housing needs, taxation, other social welfare payments, and the redress scheme” Mr. Peelo said.
“Families applying for this grant have already suffered a huge amount and the government should be providing these families and children with the appropriate support. We were encouraged to see that the government announced a referendum on article 41 on the definition of the family which is out of step with current Irish family life.”
“Nonetheless, there are families suffering now and have been for too long without their family being fully recognized by the state. The government needs to progress the Surviving Cohabitant’s Bill” Mr. Peelo stated.
For press interviews from Treoir or the parents mentioned in this release, please contact Sinéad Murray, Communications, Membership, and Information Officer firstname.lastname@example.org / 085 850 4710.
Treoir is a membership organisation made up of 26 different organisations around Ireland. See the complete list here: https://www.treoir.ie/about/membership/members-agencies/