Monday 26 September 2016

Roma mum takes legal case over welfare benefits

Tim Healy

Published 16/07/2015 | 02:30

A mother-of-two claims the Department of Social Protection's refusal to pay her various welfare benefits, including child benefit, breaches EU law
A mother-of-two claims the Department of Social Protection's refusal to pay her various welfare benefits, including child benefit, breaches EU law

A mother-of-two claims the Department of Social Protection's refusal to pay her various welfare benefits, including child benefit, breaches EU law.

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In refusing the benefits, Ireland had applied a "right to reside" test, the High Court heard.

The European Commission has brought infringement proceedings against the UK over its application of that test, on which an opinion of the Advocate General of the Court of Justice of the EU is due in September, Ms Justice Iseult O'Malley was told.

The Department opposes the woman's case and says it was significant she had not, in her benefit applications, a right to reside here.

Several decisions of the Irish and European courts support the Department's application of the right-to-reside test, it argues. EU member states have considerable discretion relating to payment of social assistance, it is also argued.

Begging

The woman, a member of the Roma community, says she came here in 2008 "in an effort to escape the cycle of poverty and discrimination which I lived with in Romania and to create a better life for myself and my children".

She has survived to date by selling the 'Big Issue', begging and on charity food vouchers.

Her difficulties trying to survive in very difficult housing conditions were recognised by the HSE but, apart from some exceptional needs payments, she had received no welfare benefits.

Her family fled their home, "such as it was", in Waterford last year when "angry gangs" of up to 100 people protested outside, smashed windows and kicked in the front door, she said.

Her children, then attending primary and pre-school, were "terrified".

She applied for Supplementary Welfare Allowance, Jobseeker's Allowance and child benefit on various dates last year but was refused.

Derek Shorthall BL, for the woman, argued Ireland was not entitled to refuse benefits to the woman, an EU national, on foot of application of a test based on whether she has a right to reside in the State under the 2006 EC (Free Movement of Persons) Regulations.

In affidavits for the Department, it was stated the benefits were refused because the woman did not satisfy the habitual residence legal pre-condition for payment of such benefits.

The woman had not established she had a right to reside here under the relevant EC regulations, it said.

The case continues.

Irish Independent

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