Lack of process for homeless people seeking Jobseekers Allowance ‘unlawful’
Posted on 18th February 2020 at 22:46
Court of Appeal finds in favour of woman and others with ‘transient accommodation arrangements’
The Minister for Social Protection acted unlawfully in not having any appropriate process in place for determining a Jobseekers Allowance application by a homeless woman and others with “transient accommodation arrangements”, the Court of Appeal has found.
The declaration, made on Tuesday, relates to when the woman applied for the allowance in 2016 but, in its recent judgment on her case, the COA noted it had heard “nothing” on behalf of the Minister to address the “simple” question of where a homeless person will apply for the allowance in the future.
The three judge COA last month granted an appeal by the woman, who held onto her part-time job after becoming homeless, over being refused the allowance for several months in 2016 because she could not give an address in the relevant social welfare catchment area. The court ruled the refusal was outside the power of the Minister.
The woman, an EU citizen who came here from Latvia nine years ago, was earning between €60-180 weekly in 2016 as a sales assistant in a Dublin shop and was also entitled to access social welfare payments because of her low earnings.
After becoming homeless in early 2016, she resorted to “couch surfing” with friends in Dublin and other locations, used hostels other nights when she had money to do so and slept rough in Dublin Airport and two rail stations.
The COA had rejected arguments the case had become moot or pointless because some €2,450 arrears of the allowance were later paid to her.
Mr Justice Robert Haughton, giving the court’s judgment, said it would make declarations to ensure “all possible support” to homeless persons who have entitlements and because the woman might again find herself homeless and seeking the allowance in the future.
It declared on Tuesday, by virtue of a letter dated September 14th, 2016 from Clondalkin Intreo Centre to the woman’s solicitor, Eileen McCabe, that the Minister acted outside her powers in requiring the woman, in applying for the allowance, to provide evidence she was currently residing in a particular Intreo catchment area.
It also declared that, on the date of that letter, the Minister acted unlawfully in failing to have in place, or publicise, any appropriate process for inviting, making, receiving and determining applications for the allowance for a person with transient accommodation arrangements such as the woman.
She had appealed after losing High Court proceedings over not being paid the allowance between April and September 2016. She got the allowance in January 2017, with payments back-dated to April 2016.
In November 2015, she moved to shared accommodation in Clondalkin and applied to have her allowance processed by the department’s Intreo office there.
She had to leave her Clondalkin accommodation in February 2016 because she could not afford the rent and claimed the Clondalkin office told her in May 2016 it could not deal with her case because she was homeless and she should contact the department’s homeless unit, which told her it did not process applications for the allowance.
In July 2016, when she looked for housing assistance, Dublin City Council referred her to South Dublin County Council which referred her back to Dublin City Council which then put her in emergency accommodation.
Due to “open drug use” and incidents of violence, she left that to stay with friends and, if she had enough money, in hostels or elsewhere.
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