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The International Protection Office in Dublin
Social Protection

Sinn Féin says plans to means test asylum seekers should go further and include medical cards

The current rate is €38.80 per week for an adult and €29.80 per week for a child.


THE EXPENSES ALLOWANCE given to international protection applicants in Ireland is to be means tested from next month, according to updated Government guidance.

The payment known as the Daily Expenses Allowance – which is paid on a weekly basis – is currently set at a rate of €38.80 per week for an adult and €29.80 per week for a child.

New details published by the government indicate the allowance will soon be means tested instead of paid at a single rate but it has not yet clarified the value of the new rates.

“An income assessment is being introduced for the Daily Expenses Allowance with effect from June 2024, for persons 18 years or over,” the government website states.

“For claims involving couples or families, the Daily Expenses Allowance payment of the person who has income may be reduced or withdrawn. This will not impact on any payment in respect of other family members,” it says.

“Income includes pay from employment, self-employment and social welfare payments. The Daily Expenses Allowance payment will cease where a person has income of more than €125 per week for a combined total of 12 weeks or more.”

Ireland first introduced the allowance at a time when it did not permit International Protection applicants to work.

Applicants living in Direct Provision centres were provided accommodation and food – though some centres were found to be unsafe – and relied on the allowance for other expenses, such as school materials for children.

The rules have since changed to allow International Protection applicants to work but they must first apply for permission. They can only seek permission to work if they have not received a decision on their application to stay in Ireland after five months.

After applying for permission to work, they need to wait for approval. The current processing time for those applications is 150 days.

That means an asylum seeker could be in Ireland for around ten months before they are legally allowed to work and earn an income other than the Daily Expenses Allowance.

Sinn Féin say include medical cards

Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on social protection, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire said the move is a “logical step” but added that it should go further by also means testing medical cards. 

Ó Laoghaire said it does not make sense that people who arrive in Ireland under the temporary protection directive are not means-tested for their medical cards for a full year.

He said tens of thousands of people apply every year for medical cards but are denied because they failed a means test.

“People who are here from Ukraine earning a wage should not have automatic access to a medical card, particularly when medical card holders can pay a lower rate of USC.

“If they qualify under a means test, then of course they should be entitled to it. There should be equal treatment. But a means test should apply to people arriving under the temporary directive and to those seeking international protection in the same way it applies to everyone else,” he said.

Ó Laoghaire said Sinn Féin’s position is that means test for medical cards should take place within two to three months of a person’s arrival.

With reporting from Jane Matthews

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