Expedited decision in social welfare case avoids destitution

We are pleased to report a recent success on a social welfare matter, where we compelled an expedited decision from the Social Welfare Appeals Office. This was on the basis that our client would face destitution if the appeal was not prioritised and a decision issued. We relied on our client’s right to an effective remedy and highlighted the breach of her fundamental rights in making her destitute, if she was not afforded an expedited appeal.

The case involved a refusal of job-seeker’s allowance and a refusal of supplementary welfare allowance. The allowances were refused on the basis that our client did not satisfy the habitual residence condition (HRC). Our client is a non-national, married to an Irish national, with a one year Stamp 4 on that basis. Unfortunately the relationship broke down and our client sought to access her social welfare entitlements while she looked for employment. She was however refused both job seeker’s allowance and supplementary welfare allowance on the basis that she had not made out Ireland to be her centre of interest for the purposes of the habitual residence condition.

The case was referred to us by an established advice service and their groundwork on the case made it clear that our client would be successful at overcoming the refusal on HRC on appeal. The advice service submitted extensive supporting documentation with the appeal notice. These documents showed our client’s range of links to Ireland and the absence of links or connection with her home country. Despite the strong prospects of success, without any payments while the appeal was pending, our client faced destitution. She was unable to maintain rent payments and was relying on a minimal weekly maintenance payment to cover her basic living costs. She had begun limiting her food intake as she did not have sufficient funds to buy everything she needed.

We therefore sought to compel the Social Welfare Appeals Office to expedite the appeals and issue a decision in a matter of days rather than the usual months. We wrote to the Chief Appeals Officer highlighting our client’s right to an effective remedy in circumstances where she has been refused a social welfare entitlement. We referred to Article 13 of the European Convention on Human Rights which states:

“everyone whose rights and freedoms as set forth in this Convention are violated shall have an effective remedy before a national authority notwithstanding that the violation has been committed by persons acting in an official capacity”.

We argued that a remedy is only effective if it is available, sufficient and effective both in law and in practice. We further argued that any remedy must also have regard to the individual circumstances of each case. On this basis, we contended that the Appeals Office should prioritise and expedite our client’s appeal, in light of her imminent destitution and grave circumstances. Fortunately, shortly after we made these submissions the appeal was determined in our client’s favour and she is now in receipt of back payments and ongoing payments.

 

 

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