Dáil Éireann - Volume 632 - 01 March, 2007

Written Answers. - Social Welfare Code.

Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his views on the recommendation of the Law Reform Commission that same sex cohabitants should be treated in the same way as opposite sex cohabitants for social welfare payments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7899/07]

  Mr. Brennan: Two important pieces of work have recently been completed regarding different types of partner relationships and how they should be treated and recognised in Irish society. The first report an ‘Options Paper, presented by the Working Group on Domestic Partnership’ to the Tanaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, focuses on different types of cohabiting relationships, both same and opposite sex, and presents a range of options with regard to giving legal recognition to these relationships. Officials from my Department contributed to the work of this Group.

The second report — the ‘Report of the Law Reform Commission on the Rights and Duties of Cohabitants’ — makes substantial recommendations for reform of the law concerning cohabitants including both opposite sex or same sex couples who live together.

These reports come at a time of wide public debate on the question of according legal status to cohabitants generally, and same sex couples in particular, and will contribute to the informed debate on these important topics.

[1641] In addition, my own Department is currently carrying out a technical review of the entire social welfare code to examine its compatibility with the Equal Status Act, 2000 (as amended). The review will examine the schemes and services provided for both in social welfare legislation and the administrative schemes operated by the Department. It will identify any instances of direct or indirect discrimination, on any of the nine grounds under the Act, including: gender, sexual orientation, marital status and family status that are not justified by a legitimate social policy objective or where the means of achieving that objective are either unnecessary or inappropriate.

This work, together with the reports I have referred to, will contribute to informed planning and policy making to ensure that the social welfare system reflects the needs and expectations of citizens and is equitable in meeting those needs.