Tipperary father critical of Department of Social Protection rules

A Tipperary father has claimed that the children of unmarried couples are not given the same rights as those of married couples.

The father of 3 was told that he was not entitled to any welfare benefits upon the death of his long term partner, because they were not married.

The case was highlighted in the Dáil last week of Johnny O’Meara from Toomevara.

His partner Michelle sadly passed away from Covid in January this year having also battled breast cancer.

When Johnny went to look to help financially, he was told that nothing was available to him because the couple were not married.

The matter was raised in the Dáil by Deputy Alan Kelly.

“There’s a huge gap in our Social Protection system. If a couple is co-habiting the Department of Social Protection will assess both of them on their means when carrying out a means test for social assistance payments like job seekers or carers allowance but it doesn’t provide any eligibility for social protection payments when one of them dies.”

“That can’t continue – what comfort can the state give to my neighbour Johnny O’Meara and his family and indeed many families like his.”

Speaking on Tipp Today this morning, Johnny – who is self-employed – told Fran that he was shocked that nothing was available to him.

He also spoke about the unfairness with having to choose between his livelihood and his family in an effort to get some level of support.

“I thought maybe there would be something available but basically I’ve been told that you have to be either married, in a civil partnership or divorced to qualify for a widows pension.”

“I’m self-employed – I need to get back to work. I have to try to juggle both things together now again.”

“When I went to the Department of Social Welfare I realised the only payment available to me is a form of job seekers allowance. I’m going to have to go back to work – I’m not going to pass a means test. I’m a plant hire contractor – I have assets that if I can’t go back to work I’ll have to sell and if I sell my assets I won’t pass a means test and my business will be gone.

“We gave years trying to build this up – I started this myself. You lose your partner, you’re family is changed and you find that you’re going to lose your livelihood.”

In his reply, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar agreed that the situation was unfair and would look at ways of amending the law without a referendum