Mother went homeless to get on housing list, ex-partner claims

Woman denies exaggerating son’s medical condition to seek extra maintenance

Dublin District Family Court:  Child and Family Agency tells judge in  access application of nine-month waiting list for such reports. Photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins

Dublin District Family Court: Child and Family Agency tells judge in access application of nine-month waiting list for such reports. Photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins

 

A father has claimed his former partner deliberately made herself and their son homeless, so that she could get on a local authority housing waiting list. He also said she exaggerated their son’s medical condition to ensure he got a special needs assistant. He told Judge Aeneas McCarthy, at the Dublin District Family Court on Tuesday, that his ex-partner could live with her mother.

“This is a whole social welfare thing, to get on the social housing list,” he said.

The woman had applied to court for an increase in child maintenance, currently €37.50 a week, and for changes to access so that her son could take swimming lessons to improve his mobility. He had a physical condition, hypomobility, that caused him to fall over, the mother said.

She told Judge McCarthy a lot had changed in her life since the maintenance order was made in 2014; she had become homeless, had spent two months in a hotel with her son and was now in emergency accommodation with a housing association.

She handed in a letter from the association. She had lost her job, she said, having initially gone on sick leave due to stress. She was now on a community employment scheme and hoped to go to college to study counselling. She said she had lived with her mother for a time, but it was not feasible to live there any more as her father was seriously ill. She had a social welfare payment of €270 a week, she said, and was in arrears in the emergency accommodation.

She said she had asked her former partner to bring their son for a haircut because she could not afford it, but he refused. She said she had to get a loan to buy a car because of the distance between the homeless accommodation and her son’s school and to take him to physiotherapy for his medical condition. “You never help me,” she said.

Under cross-examination from her ex-partner’s barrister, the mother, who had no legal representation, became upset and denied exaggerating her son’s medical condition. “Do you honestly think I’d make my son out sicker than he is?” she said.

She provided the court with a letter from a physiotherapist who said the boy needed to be kept active “for example through swimming or football”. She admitted she missed two appointments for her son’s physiotherapy and said it was due to homeless issues.

Giving evidence, the father said his son, to whom he had access at weekends and one day a week, was very active and did numerous activities and did not need to be taken swimming. “The child doesn’t fall over,” he said. “His health is 100 per cent.”

He told the court he had spoken to the physiotherapist, who said she supplied the letter to the mother as part of an application for a special needs assistant. He said she had not recommended swimming, but given it as an example of exercise.

He claimed the mother had been earning too much money to get on the housing waiting list, so she went “out sick”. He also said he worked full-time, but had to pay maintenance for his daughter by another woman, and could not afford to pay any more. He supplied payslips to the judge. “I suppose your overtime isn’t on that,” the mother said.

Judge McCarthy said he wanted to see a P60, which would indicate overtime as well as wages for a year. He also asked for vouched outgoings and bank statements from the father and a statement of means from the mother. He adjourned the case to June.

Access application

In a separate case, the judge said if a report, to be supplied by the Child and Family Agency in an access application, was not supplied by the next court date, he wanted someone from the agency before him to explain why. The report had been ordered by a judge, but in a letter to the court, the agency said there was a nine-month waiting list for such reports.

The father involved had not had access to his three children “for a very long time”, pending the production of the report, the court heard. The case was adjourned to May.