My Department provides an annual grant to the Safe Home programme to publish a monthly newsletter to our emigrants in Britain keeping them up to date on all available social services in Ireland. I have also increased the funding available for emigrant advice and information from €127,000 to €427,000 in 2003. The "Returning to Ireland" booklet published in partnership with the voluntary agency Emigrant Advice is one such initiative. This increased funding is in line with the recommendations of the task force on emigration policy published in 2002 and has gone into direct information services to our emigrants.
The new measures which the Government has decided to put in place will restrict access to certain social welfare payments by introducing a habitual residence test which will act as an additional condition to be satisfied by a person claiming a social assistance payment or child benefit. A person will have to establish a degree of permanence to be considered habitually resident in the State. The term "habitual residence" is well known in other jurisdictions and in EU legislation and has been clarified in EU court judgments. It is intended to convey a degree of permanence in the person's residence. Clearly the duration and continuity of their residence would be important factors and also their intentions.
The factors, as set down by EU case law, to be considered in determining whether a person satisfies the habitual residence test would include: length and continuity of residence; employment prospects; reasons for coming to Ireland; future intentions; centre of interest, for example, family, home, connections. People who have resided in the common travel area, that is, the United Kingdom, Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, will be regarded as habitually resident for the purpose of the new test.
With regard to Irish emigrants returning from abroad, it is expected that the vast majority will be able to prove habitual residence without difficulty because of, for example, their strong family ties with this country, previous residence in the State and so forth. It is quite possible that in other cases people in this situation will qualify for social insurance based entitlements, for example, contributory pensions, if they have been working in another EU member state or in a country with which Ireland has a bilateral social security agreement.