Child maintenance review moves to public consultation

Child maintenance review moves to public consultation

Heather Humphreys

Ministers have launched a public consultation on the current treatment of child maintenance payments and the obligations of liable relatives within the social protection system.

The six-week consultation launched by Social Protection Minister Heather Humphreys yesterday will also seek view on whether a specific Child Maintenance Agency should be established.

The consultation responses will inform the work of the Child Maintenance Review Group, chaired by Judge Catherine Murphy, formerly of the Circuit Court, which is due to report later this year.

Ms Humphreys said: “The child maintenance system is a complex one that affects thousands of families across the country.

“I am very pleased that the review of child maintenance arrangements is underway and to announce today the call for submissions under the public consultation process.

“This process is an opportunity for stakeholders, whether they are individuals or groups, to provide information, experiences and different perspectives on the areas under consideration.

“Stakeholder submissions are a vital source of information which will help to inform the review and the recommendations which the group will present to me later this year.”

Under existing legislation, parents and certain categories of guardian or people acting in the place of parents, who may be liable under the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015, are obliged to maintain their children, even in cases where the family unit has broken down.

Child maintenance arrangements can be agreed directly between the parties themselves, or with the assistance of their solicitors, private mediators or supports such as the Family Mediation Service, the Legal Aid Board, or ultimately can be determined through the courts.

It is a condition of the One-Parent Family Payment (OFP) and Jobseeker’s Transition (JST) schemes that applicants must make efforts to seek maintenance from the other parent.

In addition, where a One-Parent Family Payment is awarded, the Department of Social Protection seeks to engage with the other parent or liable relative in order to ascertain whether they are in a financial position to contribute towards the cost of the One Parent-Family Payment.

These issues are being considered by the Child Maintenance Review Group along with an examination of the case for the establishment of a state Child Maintenance Agency.

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