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 Header Item Written Answers Nos 1-120
 Header Item National Internship Scheme Eligibility
 Header Item Social Welfare Overpayments
 Header Item Farm Assist Scheme Eligibility
 Header Item Youth Unemployment Measures
 Header Item National Internship Scheme Administration
 Header Item Rent Supplement Scheme Administration
 Header Item Social Welfare Benefits Eligibility

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 828 No. 1

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Written Answers Nos 1-120

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies as received on the day from the Departments [unrevised].

  Questions Nos. 1 to 31, inclusive, answered orally.

  Questions Nos. 32 to 104, inclusive, resubmitted.

  Questions Nos. 105 to 113, inclusive, answered orally.

National Internship Scheme Eligibility

 114. Deputy Charlie McConalogue Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the reason behind the requirement that people on the Youthreach programme must finish that programme and sign on so that they are in receipt of a jobseeker's payment before they can take part in the JobBridge internship programme, in view of the fact that a young person coming off a Youthreach programme, and aged under 24 years, can only receive a maximum of €100 on jobseeker's allowance, and a further entitlement of €50 on the JobBridge scheme, giving a maximum payment of €150 a week which is less than the payment they currently receive under Youthreach; her views on whether these barriers prevent Youthreach participants from seeking internships and improving their employment prospects; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [3675/14]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton JobBridge is a voluntary scheme to assist jobseekers in seeking work. It is available to individuals who are currently in receipt of one of Jobseeker’s Allowance/Jobseeker’s Benefit/One Parent Family Payment/Disability Allowance payments or who are signing on for credits for at least 3 of the last 6 months (78 Days). Time spent on a range of activation measures, including the Youthreach programme, may count towards eligibility to participate on JobBridge provided that an individual has completed the programme in full.

It is particularly important that individuals complete relevant programmes and interventions before seeking to participate in another activation measure. This is important both for the individual themselves and for ensuring value for money for the Exchequer.

The weekly €50 top up is an additional payment made in recognition of the efforts and expenses of interns. It is paid on top of the standard jobseeker payment. I do not believe that there is any basis for discriminating in the amount paid to a young person who has just completed a Youthreach programme as compared to that of any other young person, for example a young person who has just completed another education or training programme.

Given the much higher rates of progression into employment among former JobBridge interns compared with the general rate of exit into employment from the live register, I do not believe that those undertaking the Youthreach programme will be discouraged from participating in JobBridge, once they have completed their programme.

Social Welfare Overpayments

 115. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will take steps to limit the period within which her Department can demand the repayment of overpayments, in cases excluding fraud, to bring it into line with the period people can claim tax relief for expenditures operated by the Revenue Commissioners, which is generally four years; and if she will provide a breakdown of the number of persons who have been asked to commence paying back an overpayment that ceased more than four years prior to the demand that it be repaid.  [3521/14]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I do not consider that the comparison with the time limits for claiming tax relief from the Revenue Commissioners is appropriate to the recovery of social welfare overpayments. Furthermore, it is important to point out that the Revenue Commissioners are not restricted by a time limit in terms of collecting tax liabilities. In addition, the Department, unlike the Revenue Commissioners, does not apply interest or penalties on the amounts owing.

Overpayment recoveries amounted to over €53m in 2012; this is the latest year that figures are available. The Department reports on overpayments and recoveries to the C&AG and the PAC who are both keen that overpayment recoveries should increase above current levels.

People who have incurred an overpayment from the Department have a liability under law to refund the amounts involved. They have received monies to which they were not entitled and the Department’s policy is that an overpayment will remain on the customer’s records until fully recovered.

Most social welfare customers fully declare their means and circumstances and, therefore, do not receive more than their entitlements. However, where customers fail to declare fully their means or circumstances, they may receive payments to which they are not entitled and this can result in an overpayment.

Until the introduction of recent legislation, the Department was limited in its capacity to recover overpayments and largely relied on the overpaid persons themselves agreeing to make repayments. Consequently, overpayments often remained outstanding for a long period of time which was very unsatisfactory from the Department’s point of view. The recent legislative changes will significantly enhance the Department’s ability to pursue overpayments from persons who are not making genuine efforts to repay their debts.

The Department does not maintain records of the number of overpayment recovery letters that are issued to customers as this is an ongoing process involving a range of scheme areas and local offices.

The Department’s policy is to ensure that every effort is made to prevent overpayments, but if they occur, they are regarded as a debt to the Exchequer and every effort must be made to recover the amounts due.

Farm Assist Scheme Eligibility

 116. Deputy Charlie McConalogue Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will consider reversing the changes she made to farm assist, with respect to income disregards, in view of the fact that it has had a serious negative affect on the income levels of struggling farming families; the reason she refuses to carry out an analysis to assess the impact the changes have made on those families; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [3676/14]

 375. Deputy Charlie McConalogue Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will consider carrying out an impact analysis, within the farming community, that the changes to farm assist have made on the income levels and farming life of struggling farming families; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [53123/13]

 376. Deputy Charlie McConalogue Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will carry out an analysis on the impact her Department's changes in farm assist, regarding income disregards, have had on farmers; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [53124/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I propose to take Questions Nos. 116, 375 and 376 together.

There were just over 10,300 recipients of farm assist at end December last and nearly €99.5 million was spent on the scheme in 2013. The farm assist scheme is based on jobseeker’s allowance. It was introduced in 1999 to replace ‘Smallholders Unemployment Assistance’ for low income farmers. Farm assist recipients retain all the advantages of the jobseeker’s allowance scheme such as retention of secondary benefits and access to activation programmes.

Recent changes to the scheme have brought it into closer alignment with the jobseeker’s allowance scheme’s treatment of self-employed persons.

Farm assist is a flexible payment and any farmer experiencing lower levels of income or cash-flow issues can ask his/her local social welfare / Intreo office to review the level of means applying to their claim.

The assessment of means for the purpose of qualifying for farm assist is designed to reflect the actual net income from farming. Income and expenditure figures for the preceding year are generally used as an indicator of the expected position in the following year. However, account is taken of any exceptional circumstances so as to ensure that the assessment accurately reflects the current situation.

As part of the normal budget process, all potential budget measures, including any changes to the farm assist scheme are assessed in terms of the impact they would have if introduced. Since the introduction of the changes to the farm assist scheme over recent budgets, no formal analysis of the impact of these changes has been carried out. However, the scheme, including the recent changes, is kept under ongoing review by my officials. Last year I met with representatives from the Irish Farmers Association to discuss a number of issues including the farm assist scheme. There are no plans to change the current scheme criteria.

Youth Unemployment Measures

 117. Deputy Simon Harris Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if the issue of youth unemployment falls within the remit of a Cabinet sub-committee; the Departments and Ministries under which that responsibility for addressing youth unemployment falls; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [2195/14]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The issue of youth unemployment falls within the remit of the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Labour Market Issues chaired by the Taoiseach.

As I have just pointed out in response to an earlier question the Government strategy to address unemployment is to create the environment for a strong economic recovery by promoting competitiveness and productivity and to implement measures to keep jobseekers, including young jobseekers, close to the labour market and to this end, youth unemployment is being specifically targeted through our Youth Guarantee initiative.

The Department of Social Protection (DSP) has been identified as the lead co-ordinating Department for tackling youth unemployment and for the implementation of the youth guarantee, and as the central point for communication with the European Commission in relation to the youth guarantee in Ireland. The Department has responsibility for the Public Employment Service, activation of the unemployed and the payment of social welfare payments to jobseekers. These three services were previously provided by separate agencies but are now integrated within the Department and are provided under the service name – Intreo.

The main departments working alongside DSP in tackling unemployment are:-

- the Department of Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation (DJEI), responsible for overall employment policy through the Action Plan for Jobs, to provide jobs for all, including young people, including through the promotion of entrepreneurship ; As part of the Youth Guarantee DJEI will allocate €2.5m from the Micro-finance Ireland fund to youth entrepreneurship activities;

- the Department of Education & Skills (DES), and its relevant agencies including SOLAS and the Higher Education Authority. DES has statutory responsibility for the funding, provision, and content of education and training programmes;. DES also has responsibility for EU funding for youth guarantee initiatives through the European Social Fund (ESF) and the Youth Employment Initiative. Also as part of the Youth Guarantee DES will reserve 2,000 places on the Momentum programme for young people;

- the Department of Children & Youth Affairs (DCYA), responsible for state policy and provision on youth work services, and for securing good educational and welfare outcomes for young people through the National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB);

- the Department of Public Expenditure & Reform (DPER), responsible for overseeing exchequer funding and ensuring that Youth Guarantee-related programmes will be thoroughly evaluated and will provide value for money.

National Internship Scheme Administration

 118. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will introduce a new advance filtering system to prevent potentially odious positions from gaining access to JobBridge; and if she will review and report on the effectiveness of existing provisions in this regard. [3525/14]

 129. Deputy Mick Wallace Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if it is acceptable for companies using the JobBridge scheme to request a PhD as the minimum educational requirement to be held by applicants; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3673/14]

 131. Deputy Thomas Pringle Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she has any concerns that companies requiring interns under the JobBridge scheme to have PhDs in a particular field may be using such highly qualified persons to displace staff or to avoid job creation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3672/14]

 137. Deputy Joe Higgins Information on Joe Higgins Zoom on Joe Higgins asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will consider prohibiting the use of the JobBridge scheme for posts aimed at PhD holders; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3590/14]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I propose to take Questions Nos. 118, 129, 131 and 137 together.

Following the independent evaluation of JobBridge, the Department is examining a range of measures to make the scheme more effective. I am satisfied that the current robust vetting procedures carried out by the National Contact Centre of the Department are operating effectively to filter out internships that do not meet the rigorous requirements of the scheme criteria.

JobBridge is giving opportunities to jobseekers across the spectrum of qualifications. Given the numbers of unemployed jobseekers holding graduate and post-graduate qualifications, it is obviously necessary that JobBridge is in a position to offer them an internship that reflects their abilities, aspirations and qualifications. In this regard a previous criticism directed at the Department was that the terms of its jobseeker payments prevented jobseekers, including graduate jobseekers, from taking up internship opportunities as a route into employment. JobBridge addresses this issue and I am satisfied that it is appropriate that it so do.

Rent Supplement Scheme Administration

 119. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the total number of rent supplement supported tenancies that were reviewed downwards as per reductions in rent supplement maximum limits per county in 2011, 2012 and 2013; the value and percentage of rent per family reduced at each review stage; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [3679/14]

 121. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton further to Parliamentary Question No. 11 of 28 November 2013, in relation to the national rent allowance caps, the results of her monitoring of rent levels; her views on whether the current rent allowance caps are sufficient to ensure that accommodation needs of those in need are met; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3682/14]

 124. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she has recorded a reduction in the number of applications for rent supplement; her views on whether upward price pressures has resulted in families increasingly struggling to find homes available in the current property market that adhere to the rent supplement limits or below them; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that such a trend is excluding those dependent on social welfare from securing a family home; if updated statistics on the composition of the homeless lists have been provided to her to assist in the formulation of policy in this area; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [3680/14]

 130. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the extent to which she is aware of the increasing level of hardship and threat of homelessness arising from the ongoing increase in the cost of private rented accommodation; the current maximum rent support available to those families on local authority housing lists who are dependent on private rental sector with support from her Department; if her attention has been drawn to the ongoing withdrawal of the private rental sector from this end of the market and the likelihood of a serious level of homelessness increasing on a daily basis, which, in turn, will lead to widespread and severe hardship; if any initiatives will be taken to address this issue which arises from the failure of her predecessors to invest in the public housing sector in view of the existence of circa 100,000 families on the various local authority housing lists throughout the country with particular reference to Dublin and the surrounding counties; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [3670/14]

 136. Deputy Mick Wallace Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the analysis that has been carried out by her Department to determine if reductions in rent supplement have resulted in an increase in homelessness; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3674/14]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I propose to take Questions Nos. 119, 121, 124, 130 and 136 together.

  There are currently approximately 80,000 rent supplement recipients for which the Department has provided over €344 million for 2014. Almost 30,000 of these recipients are in the Dublin area,

  The purpose of rent supplement is to provide short-term support to eligible people living in private rented accommodation, whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source. The overall aim is to provide short-term assistance, and not to act as an alternative to the other social housing schemes operated by the Exchequer.

  Revised rent limits under the rent supplement scheme have been implemented with effect from Monday 17 June 2013 and will be in place until 31 December 2014. The new rent limits were determined following an extensive review of the private rental market based on the most up-to-date data available. The purpose of the rent limit review is to ensure availability of accommodation for rent supplement tenancies and not to provide rent supplement tenants with access to all housing in all areas while ensuring that maximum value for money for tenants and the taxpayer is achieved.

  There have been increases in the maximum rent limits in Dublin and Galway while there have been some reductions across a number of rural counties reflecting the conditions in the rental markets in those counties. Separate to the county limits, higher rent limits have been provided for in North Kildare and Bray areas. Statistics are not available in relation to the tenancies that were reviewed downwards as a result of reductions in rent supplement maximum limits. However, the attached tabular statement provides details of the changes in maximum rent limits for each county that came into effect following the rent reviews of January 2012 and June 2013. The current maximum rent limits for each county is also provided. Special provisions are made in exceptional circumstances including, for example, people with disabilities in specially adapted accommodation or homeless persons.

  There has been a reduction in the number of recipients of rent supplement by almost 8,000 from December 2012 to the current date. Statistics are not maintained on the number of applications received for rent supplement.

  The Department continues to monitor trends in the private rental market to determine the impact on rent supplement recipients. The fact that approximately 80,000 people are currently in receipt of rent supplement shows that a significant number of landlords are accommodating applicants of the scheme and that rent supplement recipients are able to access accommodation within the current limits. Department officials dealing with rent supplement tenants continue to make every effort to ensure that their accommodation needs are met and that the residence is reasonably suited to their residential and other needs.

  Policy and analysis in relation to social housing provision and homelessness are a matter for my colleague the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government. However this Department has a role in providing income support to persons who are homeless and is represented on the National Homelessness Consultative Committee. Under the social welfare system, homeless people have entitlements to the full range of social welfare schemes, including supplementary welfare allowance and associated supplements, subject to the normal qualifying conditions.

  The Department, through its work in the Homeless Persons Unit and the Asylum Seekers & New Communities Unit, also works closely with local authorities and other stakeholders to facilitate homeless persons to access private rented accommodation. This ensures that where possible, people are diverted away from homeless services and towards community-based supports.

  The Department’s strategic policy direction is to return rent supplement to its original purpose of a short-term income support. In July 2013 the Government approved the introduction of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP). Under HAP, responsibility for recipients of rent supplement with a long-term housing need will transfer from the Department of Social Protection to local authorities using HAP. Officials in the Department of Social protection are working with those in the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government, who are leading the project, in developing proposals to give effect to this transfer. It is intended that the scheme will be piloted in early 2014 in Limerick local authority with further roll out to selected authorities during the year.   

  Table 1: Change in maximum rent limits from June 2010 to January 2012

County:Single SharedCouple SharedSingleCoupleCouple/

One Parent Family - 1 Child
Couple/

One Parent Family - 2 Children
Couple/

One Parent Family - 3 Children
Dublin - Fingal(€100)(€60)(€54)(€120)(€155)(€175)(€150)
Dublin - Not Fingal(€90)(€30)(€54)(€100)(€55)(€125)(€150)
CARLOW(€30)(€50)(€118)(€50)(€50)(€75)(€70)
CAVAN(€35)(€10)(€43)(€50)(€50)(€70)(€60)
CLARE(€30)(€50)(€57)(€70)(€100)(€125)(€150)
CORK(€25)(€10)(€18)(€35)(€5)(€50)(€50)
DONEGAL(€40)(€40)(€53)(€105)(€110)(€100)(€60)
GALWAY(€25)(€10)(€18)(€10)(€20)(€50)(€35)
KERRY(€45)(€20)(€42)(€110)(€30)(€90)(€50)
KILDARE(€50)(€35)(€85)(€100)(€60)(€125)(€110)
KILKENNY(€60)(€70)(€78)(€90)(€60)(€75)(€75)
LAOIS(€35)(€10)(€17)(€85)(€70)(€85)(€60)
LEITRIM(€15)(€5)(€68)(€65)(€50)(€75)(€100)
LIMERICK(€35)(€20)(€56)(€70)(€105)(€75)(€50)
LONGFORD(€35)(€25)(€45)(€25)(€60)(€60)(€70)
LOUTH(€55)(€6)(€78)(€99)(€25)(€85)(€50)
MAYO(€25)(€10)(€60)(€55)(€100)(€125)(€110)
MEATH(€60)(€5)(€78)(€100)(€100)(€90)(€75)
MONAGHAN(€15)(€10)(€68)(€40)(€20)(€40)(€25)
OFFALY(€20)(€20)(€62)(€85)(€50)(€50)(€25)
ROSCOMMON(€15)€0(€70)(€50)(€50)(€70)(€40)
SLIGO(€25)(€20)(€67)(€60)(€20)(€10)(€50)
TIPPERARY NTH(€65)(€65)(€62)(€75)(€140)(€140)(€130)
TIPPERARY STH(€55)(€35)(€98)(€30)(€30)(€105)(€100)
WATERFORD(€40)(€30)(€78)(€70)(€50)(€110)(€70)
WESTMEATH(€30)(€50)(€17)(€30)(€50)(€70)(€70)
WEXFORD(€30)(€50)(€78)(€90)(€60)(€85)(€70)
WICKLOW(€75)(€35)(€89)(€185)(€225)(€230)(€170)


  Note: Figures in brackets show a reduction in the rent limit for the category.

  Table 2: Change in maximum rent limits from January 2012 to June 2013

County:Single SharedCouple SharedSingleCoupleCouple/One Parent Family - 1 ChildCouple/One Parent Family - 2 ChildrenCouple/One Parent Family - 3 Children
Dublin - Fingal€50€20€45€50€75€75€50
Dublin - Not Fingal€50€30€45€50€75€50€50
Carlow  €25(€17)(€30)(€15) 
Cavan     (€15)(€17)
Clare  (€30)(€30)(€50)(€25) 
Cork(€10)(€10)€35  €10 
Donegal(€20) (€15)(€25)(€40)(€50)(€50)
Galway€50€50€25 €20€25€25
Kerry    (€20)(€30)(€60)
Kildare(€20)€10€33 (€40)(€25)(€40)
Kilkenny     (€10) 
Laois  (€50)(€50)(€30)(€25)(€20)
Leitrim       
Limerick(€20) (€15)(€30) (€25)(€50)
Longford  (€10)(€25)(€15)(€50)(€80)
Louth(€15)(€30) (€30)(€25)(€25)(€50)
Mayo  (€15)(€10)(€17)(€10) 
Meath   (€30) (€10)(€25)
Monaghan    (€80)(€67)(€75)
Offaly  €15 (€50)(€65)(€75)
Roscommon€25€25   (€20)(€55)
Sligo  €60    
Tipperary North €20€25€25€75  
Tipperary South   (€25)(€40)(€40)(€25)
Waterford(€10)(€10)(€15)(€10)(€25)(€40)(€65)
Westmeath   (€20)   
Wexford€20€20(€15)(€40)(€40)(€25)(€15)
Wicklow  (€15)(€75)(€25)(€60)(€115)
        
North Kildare  €100€75€60€75€60
Bray  €70€55€125€125€150


  Note: Figures in brackets show a reduction in the rent limit for the category. Other denotes an increase

Table 3 – Maximum rent limits from June 2013

County:Single SharedCouple SharedSingleCoupleCouple/One Parent Family - 1 ChildCouple/One Parent Family - 2 ChildrenCouple/One Parent Family - 3 Children
Dublin - Fingal300350520700850900950
Dublin - Not Fingal3504005207509509751,000
Carlow230250375433520560590
Cavan160190325350400415433
Clare190210320350400450500
Cork250270485575700725750
Donegal175200300325350400450
Galway280300475540700725750
Kerry190220365390500520540
Kildare250300433500650700750
Kilkenny200230390430540565590
Laois200230340350450480520
Leitrim175195300325350375400
Limerick200240375400500550600
Longford160175290300325340350
Louth215250390400550575600
Mayo195215375390433465500
Meath200260390420550600650
Monaghan180190300350400433450
Offaly200220360400450475500
Roscommon200220300325400410425
Sligo195220400425520540550
Tipperary195220370400485500525
Waterford220240375390475500525
Westmeath190210390400500520530
Wexford250270375390500540575
Wicklow240290425450600610625
North Kildare270290500575750800850
Bray2753005206808509251,000

Social Welfare Benefits Eligibility

 120. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan Information on Patrick O'Donovan Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton in view of the recent announcement by the British Prime Minister to introduce changes to UK welfare rules for inward migrants into the UK, if she has examined the proposals; her plans to introduce changes to rules governing the payments of benefits; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3517/14]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton As I informed the Deputy on 10 December 2013, the free movement of workers and other citizens of the Union is a fundamental right granted by the EU Treaties and one which can bring benefits, economic and otherwise, to the individual and to the EU as a whole. Accordingly, it is something to be facilitated and encouraged. However, we must also ensure that the right of free movement is used for the right motives and is not abused through unjustified claiming of benefits.

The UK recently announced a series of measures in relation to the welfare entitlements of EU migrants. These include a ban on EU migrants receiving out-of-work benefits for the first three months of residence and restrictions on the claiming of jobseeker's allowance for more than six months, unless a person can prove that they have made serious efforts to secure employment and that they have a genuine prospect of securing work. In relation to the former, under the EU Residence Directive, all Member States already have the right to refuse support under their social assistance systems to certain migrants for the first 3 months of residence.

Access to social assistance payments in Ireland is subject to the habitual residence condition. Accordingly, those receiving such payments are deemed to have established their centre of interest in Ireland and to have significant contacts with the country. As well as satisfying habitual residence conditions a person claiming jobseeker’s allowance must, inter alia, be available for and genuinely seeking full-time employment. Any person who does not satisfy these conditions will not receive a jobseeker’s allowance payment.

I am satisfied that the provisions of the Irish welfare system, and EU regulations in this area, are being used to the fullest extent possible to deter unjustifiable claiming of benefits in this country. I am not proposing any change in practice here at present but I will continue to monitor developments here and in the UK and other countries, with a view to establishing potential implications and learning for this jurisdiction.


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