Thematic Note G0122: One Parent Family Payment

Year: 2022

Type of Social Welfare: One-Parent Family Payment

Deciding Body: Social Welfare Appeals Office

Theme: One Parent Family Payment

Period of Analysis: SWAO Annual Reports 2009-2021  

Keywords: [ One Parent Family Payment; Means Test, Lone Parent, Appeal, Habitual Residence]

Casebase No. Case G0122

Summary of the relevant law: 

The One Parent Family Payment (OFP) is a payment for persons under the age of 66 years old who are bringing children up without the support of a partner. The criteria for assessing the receipt of OFP are outlined below.

To qualify for OFP a person must meet the following criteria:

  1. Aged under 66 years old;
  2. Be the parent, step parent, adoptive parent or legal guardian of a child/children;
  3. Their youngest child must be under the age of 7;

In certain instances, OFP will continue even after the youngest child turns seven. This occurs where the family is in receipt of;

  • Domiciliary Care Allowance (DCA);
    • If the individual claiming the OFP is in receipt of DCA for a child, they can also receive OFP until the child reaches the age of 16 or their entitlement to DCA ceases.
    • The individual will also get an Increase for a Qualified Child (IQC) for any other children in the family until they reach 18 (22 if in full-time education).
    • Blind Pension;
      • If the individual is in receipt of Blind Pension and also qualifies for OFP they are entitled to both payments (and any IQCs) until the child reaches the age of 16.
    • Carer’s Allowance;
      • If an individual in receipt of OFP is providing full-time care to one of their children or an adult, they are entitled to claim half-rate Carer’s Allowance alongside your OFP (and any IQC’s) until their youngest child turns 16.
    • Recent Bereavement.
      • If an individual applies for OFP on the basis that they are parenting alone following the death of their spouse, partner or civil partner, they will be entitled to OFP for 2 years following the date of death regardless of how old their youngest child is. The individual’s youngest child must be under the age of 18 in order to qualify for OFP in these circumstances.
  • Be the main carer of and live with the relevant child;
  • Must pass a means test;

To conduct a means test the Department of Social Protection will assess all sources of income which an individual applying for OFP is in receipt of. OFP will only be given to this person if their income is below a certain designated amount.

The income sources assessed in a means test are;

  • Cash Income

All cash income is taken into account for the means test bar;

  • Any payments made to an individual by the Department of Social Protection (except for Jobseeker’s Allowance);
    • Certain allowances from the HSE or the Department of Education;
    • Payments under certain scholarships or training allowances;
    • Approved by the Minister of Health;
    • Compensation awards provided for by the State.
    • Capital

All capital is taken into account for the means test bar;

  • Selling your home to move to more suitable accommodation while receiving State Pension, Disability Allowance or Blind Pension to the value of €190,500;
    • Sale of your home where an individual has significant maintenance costs – such as nursing home costs to the value of €190,500;
    • Maintenance

Only half of an individual’s income from maintenance will be assessed and deducted from your OFP.  The person in receipt of maintenance can offset their housing costs against their maintenance income to the value of €95.23 per week.

  • Income from Work

The first €165 of an individual’s gross weekly earnings is assessed for the purposes of a OFP means test. Half of the remainder of a person’s gross earnings per week is then  assessed. mSocial Insurance contributions, PRSI contributions or trade union subscriptions are not assessed.

  • Must live in Ireland and meet the habitual residence condition;
  • To satisfy the Habitual Residence Condition (HRC) you must:
    • Have the right to reside in the State AND
    • Show that you are habitually resident, having regard to all of your circumstances, including in particular the following which are set out in the legislation:
      • the length and continuity of your residence in Ireland or in any other particular country
      • the length and purpose of any absence from Ireland
      • the nature and pattern of your employment
      • your main centre of interest AND
      • your future intentions as they appear from all the circumstances
  • Must not be living with a spouse, civil partner or be cohabitating.

Additional Benefits

  1. A person who receives OFP is entitled to avail of the Household Budget Scheme.
  2. A person who receives OFP may also be entitled to additional benefits such as;
    1. Fuel Allowance;
    1. Working Family payment;
    1. Medical Card; and/or
    1. Rental assistance.

Key grounds of appeals by appellants: 

Where an individual believes they have been erroneously refused OFP or they are unhappy about a decision of a social welfare Deciding Officer they can appeal this decision to the Social Welfare Appeals Office.

  1. Cohabitating

Since 2012 there have been four appeals raised in relation to whether or not the person claiming OFP is actually cohabitating with another person.

As stated above, a person who is in a relationship and living with that person is not eligible for the OFP instead they must be widowed, separated, divorced, unmarried, have dissolved a civil partnership or be a prisoner’s spouse or civil partner. Likewise, they must not be cohabitating or living with a person they are in a relationship with.

In the case of cohabitation, appeals arise where a person portends that they are not in a relationship and living with the relevant person. As in case 2016/318/36 the burden is on the Department is in this instance to establish that it is appropriate to withdraw that payment. In assessing cohabitation, as in case 2016/08 “no single criterion” will necessarily support or disprove a decision.

The burden of proof to prove cohabitation was set at being “highly probable“.

  • Assessment of Means

Four appeals have been made arguing the Assessment of Means test since 2012. A person who has been assessed as having means in excess of €217.80 per week is not entitled to OFP. The individual claiming OFP may avail of certain exemptions to their assessed means.

As per case 2016/318/36 this point will ultimately be decided on whether or not the person claiming OFP has been able to show that their means does not exceed the statutory qualifying limit and this test seems to be applied quite strictly compared to other grounds of appeal which arise.

  • Child not in parent’s care

The person who is claiming OFP must reside with their qualified child on a full-time basis. A child who is in a detention facility, foster care system or share joint equal custody with the child/children’s other parent does not qualify. If an individual’s child is put into foster care or detained for any period of time the person must notify the DSP and cease OFP until they become the main carer that resides with the child again.

In Case 2017/10 however, an individual’s child was taken into foster care for a number of months during which time she continued to receive OFP. During this time she continued to have daily contact, to keep a house ready for the child and to pay for much of her child’s upkeep. While on appeal, it was determined that she did not have any right to the OFP as she was not living with the child for which she was receiving the payment it was held that in these circumstances it would be unjust to charge her overpayment.

  • Habitual Residence Condition: See Thematic Note on Right to Reside and Habitual Residence Condition (Thematic Note G0116)
  • Backdating: See Thematic Notes on Backdating Claims (Thematic Note G0114)

Observations on appeal outcomes: 

Where a decision to refuse or withdraw OFP is being appealed, the Appeals Officer tends to look at the situation of the person as a whole rather than at any isolated criteria when making a decision.

For example, lifestyle evidence was of relevance in determining cohabitation. This includes shared household duties and finances. Similarly, when an appeal is based on habitual residence, the Appeals Officer considers the entirety of the individuals experience and lifestyle, which may prove habitual residence on balance. Future intentions seem to be a key factor in any decision taken by the Appeal Officer in relation to habitual residence.

In the case of a Section 318 review again all elements of the person’s life is taken into account and an evidence based approach was used.

Relevant Case Studies of the SWAO Annual Reports 2009-2020 

A. 2009  
B.  2010  
 2011/01 One Parent Family Payment – summary decisionQuestion at issue: Habitual Residence Condition
 2011/07 One Parent Family Payment – summary decisionQuestion at issue: Habitual Residence Condition
 2011/08 One Parent Family Payment & Supplementary Welfare Allowance – oral hearingQuestion at issue: Habitual Residence Condition
 2012/15 One Parent Family Payment – oral hearingQuestion at issue: Eligibility (cohabitation)
 2015/06 One Parent Family Payment – oral hearingQuestion at issue: Cohabitation
 2016/08 One-Parent Family Payment – oral hearingQuestion at issue: Cohabitation
 2016/09 One-Parent Family Payment – oral hearingQuestion at issue: Assessment of means
 2016/318/36 One-Parent Family Payment – Section 318 reviewQuestion at issue: Means and cohabitation
 2017/09 One-Parent Family Payment – oral hearingQuestion at issue: Eligibility (cohabitation and means)
 2017/10 One-Parent Family Payment –  oral hearingQuestion at issue: Overpayment / Child in care
 2018/06 One Parent Family Payment – oral hearingQuestion at issue: Eligibility (means)
 2019/07 One-Parent Family Payment – oral hearingQuestion at issue: Backdating
1.2020/05 One-Parent Family Payment – summary decisionQuestion at issue: Backdating
2.2020/06 One-Parent Family Payment – summary decisionQuestion at issue: Eligibility (cohabitation)
 2021/07 One-Parent Family Payment – summary decisionQuestion at issue: Date of award; backdating