Under legislation introduced 25 years ago cohabiting unmarried couples are to be treated the same as married couples when it comes to social welfare payments. Previously treated as independent individuals in terms of social welfare payments, unmarried couples who are living together will now be assessed in the same way as a married couple.

The government is to cut social welfare payments to cohabiting unmarried couples bringing their payments in line with the rates paid to married couples. Minister for Social Welfare, Michael Woods, explains the workings of the new legislation.

The Supreme Court in a judgement given in May 1989, held that it was unconstitutional to treat a married couple living together less favourably than an unmarried (cohabiting) couple. This judgement was given effect by treating cohabiting couples in the same way as married couples for social welfare purposes. 

A RTÉ News report by Joe Little broadcast on 19 May, 1989.