Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Ceisteanna (18, 19)

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

38 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social Protection if he will introduce an exemption for applicants for carers benefits payments from the habitual residence condition and instead apply that condition only to the person being cared for (details supplied) and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43770/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

69 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if he will review the habitual residency clause with particular reference to carers who return here to care for relatives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43828/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Family)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 38 and 69 together.

The requirement to be habitually resident in Ireland was introduced as a qualifying condition for certain social assistance schemes and child benefit with effect from 1st May 2004. A person who does not satisfy the habitual residence condition is not eligible for specified social welfare payments, regardless of citizenship, nationality, immigration status or any other factor. The purpose of this condition is to safeguard the social welfare system from abuse by restricting access for people who are not economically active and who have little or no established connection with Ireland.

Fewer than 1.5% of applications for carers allowance are refused on habitual residence grounds.

Given the continuing rise in applications for carer's allowance there could be significant cost implications in any change to the qualifying criteria. A proposal along the lines of that suggested by Deputy Ó Caoláin, to transfer the habitual residency requirement from the carer to the person being cared for, has previously been examined in the Department. While such a change could be of benefit to the small number of applicants who are refused on the grounds of HRC, it would have significant administrative, financial and legal implications. For example, it would be necessary to establish the means of a person whose centre of interest, spouse/partner, family and property are abroad, which could be difficult if not impossible. It would transfer the burden of proving habitual residency onto the person being cared for which could lead to situations in which carers might not be eligible for carers allowance if the person for whom they care has recently arrived in Ireland; this might include elderly persons returning to be cared for by their adult children.

In the light of these potential problems, I have no plans to change the current arrangements.