SOCIAL PROTECTION MINISTER Joan Burton has ruled-out introducing restrictions on welfare payments for unemployed inward migrants similar to those recently introduced by the British government.
In answer to a a parliamentary question from a Fine Gael backbencher this week, the Minister said she is satisfied that the current set up is deterring any “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,” she said.
Fine Gael’s Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister about the British government’s recently-announced ban on EU migrants receiving out-of-work benefits for the first three months of residence in the UK and restrictions on claiming jobseeker’s allowance for more than six months, unless they have made efforts to find a job or have a reasonable prospect of employment.
Last month, British government ministers also indicated that jobless migrants would be banned from claiming housing benefit later this year in a crackdown that is popular among voters in the UK, but has been criticised in some quarters.
Burton, a Labour minister, pointed out that under the Residence Directive, all EU member states already have the right to refuse welfare payments to certain migrants for the first three months of residence, but said the free movement of workers is a “fundamental right” that should be “facilitated and encouraged”.
“Access to social assistance payments in Ireland is subject to the habitual residence condition,” she explained. “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.”