Having a Baby

Maternity Benefit is a payment for women on maternity leave from work and who have paid a certain amount of PRSI (Pay Related Social Insurance). You need to apply for the payment 6 weeks before you intend to go on maternity leave (12 weeks if you are self-employed). The amount of money paid to you each week will depend on your earnings. If you are already on certain social welfare payments then you will receive half-rate Maternity Benefit. Maternity Benefit is paid directly to you on a weekly basis into your bank or building society account. Some employers will continue to pay an employee, in full, while she is on maternity leave and require her to remit any social welfare payment to them. You should check your contract of employment to see what applies to you. Maternity Benefit is a tax-free payment. If you consider that you have been wrongly refused Maternity Benefit, or you are unhappy about a decision of a Social Welfare Deciding Officer about your entitlements, you have the option of appealing this Social Welfare decision.

Leaving certification

All employees must have their leave certified by their employer. However, if your contract of employment ends within 16 weeks of your expected date of confinement and you satisfy the PRSI contribution conditions, benefit will be payable from the day after the date on your P45.

Length of time Maternity Benefit is paid

From 1 March 2007, Maternity Benefit is paid for 26 weeks. At least 2 weeks and not more than 16 weeks leave must be taken before the end of the week in which your baby is due.

If your baby is born later than expected and you have less than 4 weeks maternity leave left, you may be entitled to extend your maternity leave to ensure that you have a full 4 weeks off following the week of the birth. In these circumstances Maternity Benefit will continue to be paid to you until the baby is four weeks old. You need to notify the Maternity Benefit Section of the Department of Social and Family Affairs by sending them a letter from your GP stating the date on which your baby was born. From 1 March 2007, you can take a further 16 weeks unpaid Maternity Leave, this period is not covered by Maternity Benefit.

Premature births

If your baby is born prematurely (i.e. before your maternity leave is due to begin), you should send a letter from your doctor confirming that the baby was born prematurely and the date the baby was born to the Maternity Benefit section of the Department of Social and Family Affairs.

Hospitalisation of babies

If your baby is in hospital and you have been receiving Maternity Benefit for at least 14 weeks you may postpone payment of your remaining 12 weeks (from 1 March 2007) Maternity Benefit for up to 6 months. To postpone payment of your Maternity Benefit you need to apply in writing to the Maternity Benefit Section in the Department of Social and Family Affairs. When your baby is discharged from hospital you must notify the Maternity Benefit Section in writing and payment of your remaining 12 weeks Maternity Benefit will continue within seven days.

Support services for children

Children in Ireland are dependants of their parents and have the same entitlement to health services as their parents. This means that if your parents have a medical card, you are included as a dependant on that card and are entitled to the same range of services as your parents. At the same time, there is a range of support services for children and certain services are provided free of charge for children even if their parents do not have a medical card. These services are generally provided as part of maternity and infant welfare services, health services for preschool children and school health services. Children are also entitled to vaccination and immunisation services free of charge.

Children’s hospitals

Children may be treated in public or private hospitals on the same basis as adults. There are a number of specialist children’s hospitals. Entitlement to hospital services is the same in these hospitals as in public and voluntary hospitals generally. These hospitals provide in-patient services, out-patient services, day care, accident and emergency services and specialist services for children.

If children are admitted to hospital for treatment of defects discovered at child and school health examinations, they do not have to pay the usual in-patient public hospital charges. There is no one age at which a child ceases to be a child for the purposes of health services but 16 is the more usual cut-off point.

Medical cards and young people over 16

If you are over 16 years of age and are a student or are financially dependent on your parents, you are entitled to medical card services if they possess a medical card. This means that you will be included on their medical card if you live at home and you will get your own card if you live away from home. In the medical card means test, there is an allowance for children aged over 16. This allowance is doubled if the child is in third-level education and is not getting a grant. This arrangement applies to young people up to the age of 25.

Recipients of Disability Allowance

People who are receiving the Disability Allowance get a medical card in their own right. Young people may qualify for this allowance from the age of 16.

Foster children

Children who are fostered all have individual medical cards. This is the case regardless of the entitlements of their foster parents.

Prescribed drugs and medicines

Children may be regarded as dependants up to age 18 (or 23 if in full-time education) for the purposes of the prescribed drugs and medicines maximum family spending. Children of any age who are mentally or physically disabled to such an extent that it is not reasonably possible for them to maintain themselves fully and who are living at home may also be regarded as dependants for the prescribed drugs and medicines arrangements.

Private health insurance

Children may be charged reduced premiums on their parents’ private health insurance arrangements up to age 18 (or 21 if in full time education).

Consent to medical treatment

In general, children over the age of 16 may themselves give consent to surgical procedures. It is the practice to get parental consent to medical procedures for children under that age even though it is not entirely clear that parents have the ultimate decision. In a recent court case, the Supreme Court ruled that only in exceptional circumstances would the court intervene to make an order that was contrary to the decision of parents regarding procedures for their children.

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