Returning Irish denied welfare

Returning Irish emigrants are increasingly being refused vital social welfare payments because of tightening residency requirements.

Figures obtained by Fine Gael through parliamentary questions showed a significant increase in the number of Irish people being refused access to payments such as carer’s allowance and jobseeker’s benefit over the past two years because of a failure to satisfy residency requirements.

Irish citizens refused social welfare payments for failing to satisfy the habitual residency condition totalled 738 last year, 985 in 2008, 373 in 2007 and 480 in 2006.

The condition was introduced in 2004 as the Dublin government opened the labour market to workers from new European Union states.

It was intended to safeguard the social welfare system from abuse by restricting access for people who are not economically active, or who had little or no connection with the country.

Fine Gael social protection spokesman Michael Ring said Irish people were being unfairly denied state support as a result of a “crude cost-saving measure”.

“Irish people returning to live in Ireland on a permanent basis should have no difficulty in claiming State support. But the reality is very different with growing numbers of Irish people being refused essential State supports.

“Irish nationals, some of whom left as recently as 18 months ago, are feeling totally abandoned by the State because of what appears to be an increasingly strict interpretation of the habitual residence condition.

“This includes people returning to Ireland to care for sick or elderly loved ones, even though they are saving the State large sums of money by providing voluntary care,” the Mayo TD said.

“The dramatic increase in refusals seen in recent years raises serious questions about the treatment of the thousands of Irish people who have been forced to leave the country in the last few years, but who may wish to return to home to their families in the near future,” he added.

Last month, the chief executive of the Carers’ Association, Enda Egan, raised concerns about Irish people returning from abroad to care for elderly relatives being refused carer’s allowance.

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