The number of applications received by the Social Welfare Appeals Office (SWAO) has doubled since 2007. A recent annual report explains that appeals regarding jobseeker’s claims have continued to increase, and its Director states that “it is significant” that the workload has shifted from claims where means was the issue to claims about other conditionalities “in particular the habitual residence condition” (the HRC).
This reflects the experience at our legal service, where social protection has surpassed naturalisation as the most common visit reason for our clients. Most of the cases with which we assist people arise from the misapplication by Social Welfare and Community Welfare officers of the HRC.
Other human rights organisations have expressed concern about this trend; the Free Legal Aid Centre (FLAC) has published a very useful Guide to the Habitual Residence Condition, and it made a submission to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Social Protection, in which it expressed its concern regarding the “inconsistencies and unfairness caused by the HRC.”
Nasc’s legal clinics contributed to the “Person or Number? – Issues faced by Immigrants Accessing Social Protection” report, which was launched in February 2012. At the launch of the report the Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton committed to implementing the recommendation to form a consultative forum with NGOs. Two meetings of the forum which consists of representatives from five NGOs (including Nasc) and senior officials from the Department of Social Protection were held in 2012.
In 2013, Nasc continued to work with the Department of Social protection to remove barriers to social protection for immigrants. The Migrant Consultative Forum (MCF), established following the launch of the Nasc, Crosscare and Doras Luimni publication, Person or Number? met three times in 2013 with a huge amount of work ongoing throughout the year. Nasc have had the opportunity to input on new operational guidelines as well as the Customer Charter and Customer Action Plan which we hope will improve customer service and will lead to a greater awareness for those accessing social welfare of their rights.
Nasc continues to push for the implementation of the recommendations contained in the report and were delighted that 2013 saw the Department of Social Protection marking, for the first time, the UN Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in March.
Related Links and Resources
- Person or Number? Issues faced by immigrants accessing Social Protection
- FLAC Not Fair Enough Report (October 2012)
- Nasc: Non-EU workers kept off of housing list, Irish Examiner, 6 December 2011
- Department of Social Protection Guidelines for Deciding Officers on the determination of Habitual Residence (June 2011)
- Joint Oireachtas Committee Debate on Habitual Residence Condition (October 2010)
- FLAC Guide to the Habitual Residence Condition (downloadable .pdf file)