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File image of Minister of State James Browne, who said 'final options are being decided'. Leah Farrell

Cabinet to decide this week on social welfare and accommodation changes for Ukrainian refugees

Social welfare changes for Ukrainian refugees could see weekly welfare rates cut from €220 to €38.80.

CABINET WILL THIS week decide on accommodation and social welfare changes for Ukrainian refugees that could see weekly welfare rates cut from €220 to €38.80.

Asylum seekers in Ireland receive €38.80 per week per adult, and €29.80 per child, to cover essential items such as toiletries, clothes, and local travel.  

This figure was recently increased by €75 per week for asylum seekers who could not be offered accommodation by the International Protection Office after the service ran out of supply.

However, Ukrainian refugees have been receiving substantially more, at €220.

It is also understood that State-provided accommodation for new arrivals from Ukraine is set to be limited to just 90 days before they must find an alternative.

When asked on RTÉ’s The Week in Politics if social welfare and accommodation changes are forthcoming, Fianna Fáil Minister of State James Browne confirmed that this is “expected to be decided by Cabinet this week”.

Coalition leaders are due to meet tomorrow and the legislative changes would take effect in the new year.

“The final options are being decided and it will be brought to Cabinet around the accommodation piece and the funding piece,” said Browne.

Browne also said that Ireland needs to “move from an emergency situation” to a “medium-term approach”.

He told RTÉ: “What we did was, in an emergency situation put those emergency supports in for Ukrainians that were coming to Ireland.

“We’ve seen changes in the European Union now as well. We need to move from an emergency situation to probably a more medium-term approach.”

Brown added: “What we’re seeing now is a significant increase in secondary movements of people who are already based elsewhere in the European Union, coming to Ireland because the supports we’re providing have now moved out of kilter with the rest of the European Union, so it’s about finding that balance.”

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar recently said it “makes sense” to align supports offered in Ireland to those offered elsewhere in the EU “because of the issue of secondary movements”.

Speaking at the end of October, Varadkar said: “Other countries have lower rates and other countries limit the time for which they offer any social welfare support.

“In Ireland it’s indefinite – that’s not the case in a lot of European countries.”

Varadkar added: “It is not going to be a case of just working out whatever the EU average is – we have a higher cost of living for example than other countries and other countries pay welfare rates differently to refugees depending on whether or not they’re provided accommodation.

“In Ireland we provide accommodation to people who come to Ireland from Ukraine and also full social welfare. That doesn’t happen for Irish people, in general, and wouldn’t be the norm in other European countries.”

When asked if Sinn Féin will support the measures set to go before Cabinet this week, TD Mairéad Farrell told The Week in Politics: “We’ll have to see what comes out on Tuesday”.

However, she added that it is the “right time to take a look at those supports” and to “amend them as appropriate”.

She added that “we need to be very careful in relation to the accommodation side of things”.

“We do have a housing crisis,” said Farrell, “and we need to make sure that it’s not driving up rental prices even further.”

Meanwhile, Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae called for a “harmonisation of social supports”.

Also speaking on RTÉ’s The Week in Politics, Healy-Rae said: “We want harmonisation of the social supports because it shouldn’t be the case that if you go to Ireland, you will get a better deal or a better package than if you go to some other part of Europe and that is the way we are present.

“We want a harmonisation of supports so that Ireland will not be any better, but would only be the same.”

Fianna Fáil’s James Brown also noted that Ireland has “international obligations and we are an international country”.

“Look at the United Kingdom,” said Brown, “they left the European Union to close their borders and now they have never seen as much immigration into their country, so that type of approach doesn’t work.

“They need safe pathways for people to emigrate and get support.”

Mairéad Farrell also remarked that there “needs to be sufficient services”.

“We need to look at rural settings and make sure that we increase services, whether it be GP services, whether it be certain areas that don’t even have schools, whether it be housing and that’s where people are generally coming from when they talk to me about it (immigration).”