Monday 20 November 2017

Woman in direct provision challenges social welfare laws under which she is being refused child benefit

The Four Courts
The Four Courts

A WOMAN who has spent nine years in the direct provision system for refugees is, along with her young Irish-citizen child, challenging the constitutionality of social welfare laws under which she is being refused child benefit.

The child's father is Irish but has had no involvement with either mother or child and the woman contends the child benefit should be payable to her, Mr Justice Seamus Noonan was told in the High Court today.

The woman, from an African country, has applied for subsidiary protection and for a right of residence here on the basis she is the mother of an Irish citizen child, now aged two.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission are being put on notice of the proceedings which have potential implications for others in similar positions to the woman.

Aoife Gillespie BL, for the mother and child, said, because the mother has no express right as of now to reside in the State, she has been informed she is not entitled to child benefit.

The mother is habitually resident here having lived here for nine years but disputed provisions of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 mean she cannot be regarded as habitually resident for the purposes of child benefit payments, counsel said.

The mother and child are living in direct provision accommodation and the woman is prohibited by law from working in the State or from receiving social welfare payments, she said.

This child was entitled to child benefit as she is "part of the Irish nation" with the right to be afforded the same benefits as other Irish children, counsel argued.

Mr Justice Noonan said he considered this was an appropriate case for judicial review and he granted leave to bring proceedings challenging those provisions of the 2005 Act under which the Department of Social Protection has refused to pay child benefit.

Among various grounds of challenge, it is alleged the refusal of child benefit amounts to discrimination and breaches the personal and family rights of both mother and daughter under the Constitution and European Convention on Human Rights.

The case comes back before the court in April.

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