Separated father of four challenges State over rent supplement

Man claims breach of rights as he can’t afford house in which his children can stay

Ms Justice Marie Baker: asked to determine whether the man’s being treated as a single person for rent supplement purposes amounts to a breach of his family rights under the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights. Photograph: Collins.

Ms Justice Marie Baker: asked to determine whether the man’s being treated as a single person for rent supplement purposes amounts to a breach of his family rights under the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights. Photograph: Collins.

 

A separated father who has open and overnight access to his four children has brought a High Court constitutional challenge to the refusal to grant him adequate rent supplement to allow him rent a home large enough to accommodate them.

In a case with implications for the entitlements of one-parent families in similar circumstances, the Dublin man, currently unemployed, argues he should not be treated as a single person in his rent supplement application.

His children live with their mother, who is working, and her new partner in the family home in another city. For a number of years until his separation in 2011, the man cared for the children full-time at home while their mother worked.

He returned to Dublin in early 2012 to try and find work and lives with his parents. While he and his children have been deemed eligible for social housing, he has been told he will be on a waiting list for five years.

Challenge He is challenging a decision by a deciding officer, upheld by an appeals officer, that he is entitled only to the €475 monthly rent supplement payment made to single persons. He wants €900 to cover rent of a house which could accommodate himself and regular visits from his children and also give effect to the wish, supported by his ex-wife, of his oldest child, aged 16, to live with him.

Ms Justice Marie Baker has been .

If the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 precludes children of a separated father being considered qualified children in his application for housing support if they already have accommodation with their mother, then those provisions are unconstitutional, it is claimed.

The proceedings are against the Minister for Social Protection, the Chief Appeals Officer and the State. The man is represented by the Northside Community Law Centre.

Outlining the case, Dervla Browne SC with Siobhán Phelan, for the man, said he was not arguing he was entitled to a particular amount of rent supplement but rather challenging the decision to treat him as a single person for the purposes of assessing rent supplement. He was also challenging the refusal of the Chief Appeals Officer to review his case.

Affidavit In an affidavit the man said, while his family facilitates some visits to him by his children, he is very concerned, due to not having suitable accommodation, that he cannot respond to their obvious need to spend more time with him.

Since he moved to Dublin, he has been unable to have reasonable access to his children, and the refusal of adequate rent supplement had severely impacted on his family unit and is affecting the emotional wellbeing of himself and his children, he said.

The last time he saw them was a month ago when they came to Dublin for three nights, and he and they stayed with his brother for two nights and one night with his sister.

Cormac Corrigan SC, for the respondents, said a core issue in the case was whether there was an entitlement to refuse the man the level of rent supplement sought by him. Another issue was whether he was entitled to “a” rent supplement for a property.

The man’s children are not parties to the case and he may only seek to ascribe rights to himself, counsel added.

The case continues.