a SEPARATED father was wrongly treated as a single person for the purpose of considering his application for State-funded rent allowance, the High Court ruled.
The unemployed man from Dublin won an order requiring that the Department of Social Protection reconsider its refusal to grant him an adequate supplement to allow him rent a home large enough to accommodate himself and his four children.
The man has joint custody of the children under a separation agreement with his ex-wife who lives in the west of Ireland.
He challenged decisions that he is entitled only to the €475 monthly rent supplement payment made to single persons.
He had sought €900 to cover rent of a house to accommodate himself and regular visits from his children and give effect to the wish, supported by his ex-wife, of his oldest child, aged 16, to live with him.
Ms Justice Marie Baker ruled that reconsideration of his application must be in accordance with her findings.
They include the fact that a degree of support and dependency does exist between the father and children due to the joint custody arrangements, his provision for them via a capitalised payment under the separation agreement and the fact the mother lived in another town.
Given the joint custody arrangements, the children cannot be viewed as living primarily with one parent, or having one "primary" carer, as the deciding officer had found, she said.
The actual needs of the children are more complex, have been assessed by their parents as involving joint custody, and cannot be met in one location only, she said.
She found the Department deciding officer applied the wrong legal test by assessing only the father's accommodation needs without having any regard to the complexity of his family relationships, needs of the children and the "intrinsic interconnectedness" of those needs with those of their father.
The children live with their mother, who is working, and her new partner.
Until his separation in 2011, the man cared for the children full-time at home. He returned to Dublin in early 2012 to try and find work and live 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.
Ms Justice Baker said in not having regard to the actual dependence between the man and his children, the officer incorrectly interpreted the relevant legislation so as to exclude the children from the category of "qualified" children in the rent application.
It was arguable the needs of the children may include their accommodation needs when they visit their father in Dublin and his argument he needed accommodation for their overnight, weekend and holiday visits was a "real" one, she said.