The Applicant moved to Ireland from her country of origin in September 2018 with her four children. She was separated from her husband and father of the children. Her applications for Supplementary Welfare Allowance (‘SWA’) and Child Benefit were refused in November 2018. At the time of the said applications, the Applicant had a right to reside in the State pursuant to a Stamp 4 permit and had previously reside in the State for a short period in 2003.
The Child Benefit and SWA applications were both refused on the basis that she had failed to satisfy the habitual residence condition, as required by section 246 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 (the ‘Act of 2005’). While she was found to have a right to reside in Ireland, the Community Welfare Officer was not satisfied that it had been established that she was habitually resident in Ireland.
Section 246 of the 2005 Act provides that it is a requirement for those applying for SWA and Child Benefit to be habitually resident in the State. Per section 246(4), a deciding officer or a designated person when determining whether a person is habitually resident in the State shall take into consideration all the circumstances of the case including, in particular, the following:
(a) the length and continuity of residence in the State or in any other particular country,
(b) the length and purpose of any absence from the State,
(c) the nature and pattern of the person’s employment,
(d) the person’s main centre of interest, and
(e) the future intentions of the person concerned as they appear from all the circumstances.
The Applicant appealed the refusal and submitted evidence to the effect that she had left her country with the intention of settling in Ireland permanently, including evidence that she had travelled on a one-way ticket and that she had sold all her belongings and closed her bank account. This evidence notwithstanding, the refusal decision was upheld by an Appeals Officer in May 2019 on the basis that the Applicant had not secured employment or childcare.
The Applicant sought a further review before the Chief Appeals Officer, who under section 318 of the Act of 2005 may revise any decision of an Appeals Officer where it appears that the decision was erroneous by reason of some mistake having been made in relation to the law or the facts.
Meanwhile, in July 2019, the Applicant applied for One Parent Family Payment. In September 2019 she was found to be habitually resident for the purposes of receiving the One Parent Family Payment, with the award backdated.
In her appeal to the Chief Appeals Officer, the Applicant submitted that the Appeals Officer had had sufficient evidence to conclude that she was habitually resident in the State, that it had been tacitly accepted that she had a settled intention to remain in Ireland, and that this evidence had been disregarded. It was also noted that the Applicant had been found to be habitually resident for the purposes of the One Parent Family Payment in September 2019, and it was submitted that the adverse finding in relation to her Child Benefit and SWA application was contrary to the Department of Social Welfare’s policy on consistency in decision-making on the basis that had been no significant change of circumstances in her case since that negative decision was taken.
In December 2019, the Chief Appeals Officer found that the Appeals Officer gave disproportionate weight to the challenges the Applicant faced in relation to childcare and housing inasmuch as it related to her stated intention to remain in Ireland. She found that the Appeals Officer did not duly consider the other factors which supported the claim. She also noted the finding of habitual residence in relation to the Applicant’s application for One Parent Family Payment. For these reasons, the Applicant’s appeal was allowed and the decision of the Appeals Officer was revised.