First of all, no, this is not about being a solo parent when the spouse is working overseas. And, generally, this law only covers those with an income level equal to or below the poverty line. Plus, the law covers only the following solo parents:
a) A woman who gives birth as a result of rape and other crimes against chastity, even without the offender’s final conviction, provided she keeps and raises the child;
b) Parent left alone with parental responsibility due to death of spouse;
c) Parent left alone with parental responsibility while the spouse is detained or is serving sentence for a criminal conviction for at least 1 year;
d) Parent left alone with parental responsibility due to physical and/or mental incapacity of spouse as certified by a public medical practitioner;
e) Parent left alone with parental responsibility due to legal separation or de facto separation from spouse for at least 1 year, as long as he/she is entrusted with the custody of the children;
f) Parent left alone with parental responsibility due to declaration of nullity or annulment of marriage as decreed by a court or by a church as long as he/she is entrusted with the custody of the children;
g) Parent left alone with parental responsibility due to abandonment of spouse for at least 1 year;
h) Unmarried parent who has preferred to keep and rear her/his child/children instead of having others care for them or give them up to a welfare institution;
i) Any other person who solely provides parental care and support to a child/children, provided he/she is duly licensed by the DSWD as a foster parent or is a court-appointed legal guardian;
j) Any family member who assumes the responsibility of head of family as a result of the death, abandonment, disappearance or prolonged absence of the parents or solo parent. This family member includes any relative by consanguinity up to the 4th civil degree. This includes the uncle/aunt, grandfather/grandmother, nephew/niece and cousin.
By the way, “children” refer only to those (1) living with and (2) dependent upon the solo parent for support (3) who are unmarried, (4) unemployed and (5) not more than 18 years of age, or even over 18 years but are incapable of self-support because of mental and/or physical defect/disability.
Criteria for Support
As is common with great ideas, bureaucrats mess them up. This law is no exception as it does not grant assistance to all solo parents but only to those whose income is equal to or falls below the poverty threshold as set by the NEDA. Plus, your income still has to be assessed by your local DSWD who is required to make a Social Case Study Report for each applicant. The law also requires certification from your barangay captain that you are a resident of the barangay.
The end result of the bureaucratic marathon is the issuance of a Solo Parent Identification Card that proves one’s eligibility to avail of the law’s benefits. Of course, the bureaucracy won’t let you get the last laugh because the card is valid only for 1 year and renewal is subject to another assessment.
However, though you might not qualify for assistance (for not being poor), any solo parent whose income is above the poverty threshold should be able to enjoy the labor-friendly benefits mentioned later below.
The law provides for a “Comprehensive Package of Social Development and Welfare Services” to be developed by the DSWD, DOH, DECS, CHED, TESDA, DOLE, NHA and DILG, in coordination with local government units (LGU) and a nongovernmental organizations with proven track record in providing services for solo parents. This could be a classic case of too many chickens spoiling the broth. And probably another classic case of a well-intentioned law lacking serious implementation. We are yet unaware of the implementation of such a package.
Anyway, this Comprehensive Package is set to initially include:
1) Livelihood development services including trainings on livelihood skills, basic business management, value orientation and the provision of seed capital or job placement.
2) Counseling services which include individual, peer group or family counseling (meant to focus on the resolution of personal relationship and role conflicts).
3) Parent effectiveness services including the provision and expansion of knowledge and skills of the solo parent on early childhood development, behavior management, health care, rights and duties of parents and children.
4) Critical incidence stress debriefing which includes preventive stress management strategy designed to assist solo parents in coping with crisis situations and cases of abuse.
5) Special projects for individuals in need of protection which include temporary shelter, counseling, legal assistance, medical care, self-concept or ego-building, crisis management and spiritual enrichment.
It’s important to remember that you need your Solo Parent Identification Card before you can avail of these provisions. Anyway, it should be good (and maybe surprising) to know that solo parents get parental leave benefit in addition to leave privileges under existing laws. Parental leave shall be not more than 7 working days every year and granted upon service of at least 1 year. However, the 7-day leave is non-cumulative. Neither is it convertible to cash unless specifically agreed upon previously. If there is an existing or similar benefit under a company policy or CBA, the 7-day parental leave shall be credited as such and if said benefit is greater than the 7-day parental leave, the greater benefit shall prevail. Emergency or contingency leave shall not be credited as such parental leave.
The law also allows the solo parent to have a flexible work schedule. At least apparently since the applicable provision is another example of bureaucratic muddle: “The employer shall provide for a flexible working schedule for solo parents: Provided, That the same shall not affect individual and company productivity: Provided, further, That any employer may request exemption from the above requirements from the DOLE on certain meritorious grounds.” Plus, for those in government service, flexible working hours are subject to the agency head’s discretion. Just when you think you were being give flexi-time, they slowly take it back.
At least this provision against discrimination is more clear: “No employer shall discriminate against any solo parent employee with respect to terms and conditions of employment on account of his/her status.”
The DECS, CHED and TESDA are required to provide the following benefits and privileges:
1) Scholarship programs for qualified solo parents and their children in institutions of basic, tertiary and technical/skills education; and
2) Non-formal education programs appropriate for solo parents and their children.
You will need to go to these agencies to learn more about these benefits and privileges and their respective requirements.
The NHA is required to make available housing units to solo parents, or may refer them to other housing projects, giving liberal terms of payment in accordance with housing law provisions prioritizing applicants below the poverty line as declared by the NEDA. So, again, income is a key factor. And, again, you will need to go to the NHA to learn more about this benefit and the requirements therefor.
The DOH is tasked to develop a comprehensive health care program for solo parents and their children. The program shall be implemented by the DOH through their retained hospitals and medical centers and the LGUs through their provincial/district/city/municipal hospitals and rural health units (RHUs).
And there you have it – the government’s way of not leaving you hanging like a yo-yo in case you have plans of going solo (with apologies to Wham!).