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welfare cuts

Ukrainians in hotels paying for hot meals won't have to do so if payments are reduced

The Ukraine Civil Society Forum says some 13,000 children could be pushed into poverty.

UKRAINIANS WHO ARE staying in hotels or guest houses where they currently pay €10 per day for daily meals will not have to do so if their social welfare payment is reduced, The Journal understands. 

The Government this week decided that beneficiaries of Temporary Protection in state-provided serviced accommodation should receive the same level of payment regardless of when they arrived.

The change will kick in in 12 weeks time. 

The Ukraine Civil Society Forum, a coalition of civil society groups including the Irish Refugee Council and the Immigrant Council of Ireland, criticised the move and are calling for urgent clarification on how the changes will operate.

In addition, the UNHCR has also said it is concerned at the scale of the proposed reductions in social protection benefits, calling it a “drastic cut”. 

It said some of those affected by the welfare payment reductions may be unable to work or to sustain themselves and depend on ongoing support from the government.

“Care should be taken to ensure that these vulnerable groups are protected from any reductions that would have an adverse impact on them,” said the UNHCR.

Meanwhile, the civic forum group said the social welfare cuts that will affect Ukrainian refugees living in serviced state accommodation will consign some 13,000 children to poverty. 

Hot meal charge

The changes will affect Ukrainians primarily staying in hotel and B&B accommodation and other serviced accommodation where people are provided with a bed, hot meals and utilities. 

The targeted reduction in social support means a payment of €232 per week will fall to €38.50 a week for an adult and €29.80 for a child for those in this accommodation. 

Emma Lane Spollen of the Ukraine Civil Society Forum has raised concerns about those in serviced accommodation who currently pay their accommodation provider €70/week per adult and €35/week per child for food. 

She highlights that the reduced payment will not cover the costs of hot meals on a weekly basis.

Ukrainians began being charged for food in hotels and guesthouses early last year. 

“In the name of equality, fairness and sustainability we should not consign 13,000 children to poverty,” said the coalition group.

The forum questioned if the government will have to renegotiate the 900 contracts with accommodation providers in terms of who will cover food costs. The Journal understands that contracts will not be reopened for negotiation, but how accommodation owners receive the payment could be changed.

Vacuum of information 

“As a forum of 106 organisations across Ireland, who respond and support refugees every day. The lack of information on how this policy change will be implemented makes our jobs immeasurably more difficult and creates a vacuum that misinformation will thrive and anxiety and stress within this community will be greater,” the group said in a statement. 

“The Government has a commitment to reduce child poverty. In the name of equality, fairness and sustainability we should not consign 13,000 children to poverty,” they added. 

In response to questions from The Journal about whether Ukrainians in state accommodation who currently pay for their daily meals will have to continue to do so with their reduced payments, the Department of Integrations said Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys and Minister for Integration Roderic O’Gorman will “liaise on the operational arrangements to give effect to this change, with an estimated 12 week lead-in time to allow details to be finalised and notice to be provided to the people affected”.

“Presently, there is a contribution towards meals in full board properties, which is paid to the provider by those beneficiaries of temporary protection (BOTPs) resident there, whether they are in employment or in receipt of other payments,” the statement said. 

The department did not clarify how such meal payments will be paid in the future under the new rules, but simply stated that more information regarding the implementation of the decision will be made available in due course.

State will pay, say government sources 

However, government sources have told The Journal that it is not the intention of government that Ukrainians in hotels currently paying the €10 per day for daily meals will have to do so if their payment is reduced to €38.50.

It is understood that the State will pay for the meals in those circumstances. Due to the number of contracts the government has with hoteliers, the 12 week lead in time will be used to work out such details, it is believed. 

Earlier this week, Finance Minister Michael McGrath said people in “exceptional circumstances” will have a way to appeal the cuts, such as mothers unable to work.

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