Single mothers on welfare feel 'bullied' by inspectors

Single mothers on welfare feel 'bullied' by inspectors

Single mums claiming social welfare are often made to feel "intimidated and bullied" by inspectors.

Single mothers claiming social welfare are often made to feel "intimidated and bullied" by inspectors.

The Irish Examiner spoke to a number of women who say unannounced visits to their homes while on lone-parent payments made them feel "worthless". 

They claim they were told that if they entered a relationship they would lose the payment, and said inspectors would visit their homes unannounced, opening wardrobes looking for men's clothes, and questioning them about cars parked outside.

Niamh, from Cork, told the Irish Examiner: "It was degrading. One fella used to park outside my house before the school run and follow me to the school, and in the evening if I went out to get coal or anything he'd be there too. I was so scared. I was out in the country on my own with three kids."

Laurielee from Dublin said social welfare inspectors made her feel "small".

"One day two women from social welfare came barging into the house; they checked the garden shed, the kitchen drawers, behind the sofa," she said. 

"They went into the baby's room, asked how I paid for the cot and pram, how I paid for her clothes. They went into my room and told me to leave. 

"They opened my underwear drawer. They went through it with a fine-tooth comb.

"They have that badge and they think they can do anything, belittling people," she said. 

Roman Shorthall, a former legal executive with a specialty in social welfare, has worked on dozens of cases involving lone-parents.

"The main stories we're hearing are that inspectors come in looking for men's clothes, looking around for evidence, men's runners for example," he said.

"We'd often heard cases where inspectors might sit outside people's houses and I've dealt with cases where they might say: 'We saw your ex-partner visiting the house, why was he was there?' or why a certain car was outside, basically fishing for information."

Louise Bayliss of Single Parents Acting For Rights of Kids said: "It's still a major issue. Although some said their experiences were respectful and ok, the majority of others say it was really appalling."

A spokesperson for the Department of Social Protection, when these individual complaints were put to them, said: "If there are specific examples, we would ask that these be brought to the department’s attention."

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