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Welfare cuts impacting Ukrainian mothers and elderly done under Govt's guise of 'equality'

Government ministers say it is not about encouraging people to go home, but the Ukrainian embassy says it will do just that.

THE GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCED sweeping changes yesterday that an estimated 27,000 Ukrainian living in serviced state accommodation are going to have their payments cut in 12-weeks time

When reporters posed the question yesterday as to whether this announcement had anything to do with the upcoming European and local elections taking place in less than a month, a government spokesperson replied no. 

Is this being done as a deterrent so more people won’t come over to Ireland? No, they said.

The spokesman for the government also insisted that the cuts were “not an attempt” to send Ukrainians home.

However, senior figures in government privately admit making conditions here less attractive is all part of the plan and just one of the so-called levers being used to deal with the migration crisis the government is facing.  

Following the announcement, the Ukrainian embassy said it is particularly concerned about how the changes will impact elderly people, mothers with small children and those with special needs, who are the very people living in the serviced state-accommodation.

The embassy warned that a change in social protection entitlements could force them back to Ukraine.

Such suggestions have been batted away, with the government spokesperson telling reporters this week that it is actually about equality. 

It is about balancing and the equality of the level of payments, they told the media. 

Again, they denied that this was about moving people on. They pointed out that state accommodation is not being withdrawn.

When suggested that reducing someone’s means to live, through payment cuts, could colour a person’s thinking about whether they should remain in Ireland or return to Ukraine, the spokesperson said they couldn’t say what anyone else was going to do.

Moving people on 

The question about whether this was being imposed to get people to move on was put to Finance Minister Michael McGrath today on RTE’s Morning Ireland.

He said the government is not saying that people should move on, but when asked if he knew how many people may well go back home because of these changes, he said: 

“That’s very difficult to estimate.”

He went on to state that many will.

The minister also acknowledged that when government made changes to social welfare payments previously there was “a significant reduction” in the number of Ukrainians coming to Ireland. 

So, it is not unreasonable to state that the government are well aware that the reduction of social welfare payments will bring about change, namely by encouraging people to return home and also discouraging people from travelling here in the first place. 

Some in government said they didn’t agree with the picture being painted that the new migration measures announced by government this week is about targeting Ukrainians, stating that it is about making the entire immigration system more sustainable and equitable. 

Under the banner of ‘equality’

With entitlements for international protection applicants also now under review, with indications that they too are to be cut after a review is delivered in six weeks time, it is fair to say that a race to the bottom under the banner of ‘equality’ is indeed a new one being put forward by this government. 

“This is a necessary change to ensure the system is sustainable and to ensure that everybody is treated fairly and consistently. And that’s why this change has been made,” McGrath said today. 

While he said this is being approached in a humane and compassionate manner, the minister said there is now a situation where the supports for people who came from the very same place but on a different date is different, stating that there is an inconsistency there that had to be addressed.

No one in government seems to acknowledge that this is an inconsistency in policy that they themselves created earlier this year by making certain benefits dependent on the date someone arrived to Ireland from Ukraine.

Taoiseach Simon Harris has said government is looking at “all levers” when it comes to migration. One of those levers is cutting welfare supports for Ukrainians, it would seem. 

The green jersey the government put on when coming to the aid of refugees from Ukraine is quietly being put back in the closet.

Now, it is all about ‘Team Ireland’, as Harris puts it, a team focused on scooping up tents from the paths and cutting entitlements both for Ukrainians and international protection applicants.

But, didn’t you hear, it’s all being done in the name of equality. 

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