Social Welfare Appeal G0128: One Parent Family Payment / Habitual Residence Condition.

Title of Payment: One Parent Family Payment

Date of Final Decision: 31 May 2020

Keywords: Habitual Residence Condition, Right to Reside, Permission to Remain and Conditions, One Parent Family Payment, Section 318 Review.

Organisation who represented the Claimant: Irish Human Rights & Equality Commission

Casebase no: G0128

Case Summary:

The applicant was a single mother of two children, who arrived in Ireland in 2013. She applied for refugee status and was granted permission-to-remain (Stamp 4) in the State in 2019, having resided in Ireland throughout. The applicant was originally enrolled in a course, but due to lack of funds and no access to the One Parent Scheme, was forced to leave the course. Her application for the One Parent Scheme was rejected in 2020.

The Appeal Officer’s decision to refuse a social welfare One-Parent Family Payment was under Section 246 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005. This decision to refuse the applicant’s payment was made on the grounds that she had failed to satisfy the habitual-residence condition, as her presence in the State was not in accordance with her permission-to-remain.

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. Under 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’s permission-to-remain was noted as being subject to certain conditions, which included:

  •  You will make every effort to gain employment and not be a burden on the State.

At the time of the application for payment, the applicant was not working.

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.  In her submission, the applicant argued that the appeals officer “materially erred in fact” in finding that the conditions attached to the woman’s permission-to-remain prohibited her from accessing social welfare.

As the applicant was not working at the time she applied for the One-Parent Family Payment, the Chief Appeals Officer relied on the permission-to-remain condition that states applicants must make “every effort to gain employment, set up a business or pursue a profession, and not to be a burden on the State”.

The applicant subsequently obtained employment as a cleaner. The initial refusal decision relied on the permission-to-remain condition that she makes an effort to gain employment and the appeals officer was unaware the applicant became employed Maintaining that it is lawful to consider compliance with permission-to-remain conditions when assessing the habitual residence condition requirement, the Chief Appeals Officer overturned the refusal decision following a review of all the facts, considering the woman’s compliance with the permission-to-remain and the new information submitted in respect of her recent employment status.

Thematic Note G0119: Illness Benefit

Title of Payment: Illness Benefit

Date of Final Decision: SWAO Annual Reports 2009-2020

Keywords: Illness Benefit; Disability; Incapable of work; PRSI Contributions

Casebase no: G0119

Summary of the relevant law:

Illness benefit is a weekly payment that can be made to an individual who:

a) is incapable of work due to illness;

b) is under 66 years old; and

c) has made the required PRSI contributions (see below).

Under Section 40 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 (as amended), illness benefit can be paid for any “day of incapacity for work” which forms part of a “period of interruption of employment”. In this context:

  • a “day of incapacity for work” means a day for which the individual is certified as unable to work (or to look for work) due to illness; and
  • a “period of interruption of employment” means any 3 days (whether consecutive or not) within 6 consecutive days.

Neither weekends nor paid holiday leave are taken into account when counting “days of incapacity for work” or a “period of interruption of employment”.

Section 41 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 (as amended) provides that, to be entitled to illness benefit, generally an individual must have:

a) at least 104 PRSI contributions paid since they first started working; and

b) either:

c) 39 weeks of PRSI contributions paid or credited in the relevant tax year, of which 13 must be paid; or

d) 26 weeks of PRSI contributions paid in each of the relevant tax year and the previous tax year.

 

These rules are adjusted in certain circumstances, e.g. where an individual is already in receipt of certain other benefits immediately before applying for illness benefit.

For these purposes, the relevant tax year is the second-last complete tax year before the year in which a claim for illness benefit is made. E.g. where claim is made in 2022, the relevant tax year is 2020.

Social security contributions paid in certain other EEA member states or the UK can be counted for the purposes of qualifying for illness benefit, provided however that the last social security contributions were paid in Ireland. Periods of employment in certain other EEA member states of the UK can also be taken into account.

Key grounds of appeals by appellants: 

The majority of the appeals are in relation to medical eligibility for Illness Benefit, i.e. that the individual is incapable of work due to illness. In the majority of these appeals, the appellant had been examined at least once by a Medical Assessor appointed by the Department of Social Protection but disagreed with their medical assessment. The various grounds for disagreement include: (1) that the medical assessment only focused on physical impairment and not on mental health issues (regardless of whether these mental health issues were separate, related or resultant); (2) that further medical evidence contradicts the medical assessment; (3) that the medical assessment failed to  take into account the severity of the medical condition; or (4) that the appellant’s condition is changeable and was not at its worst on the day when the medical assessment was carried out.

There have only been two appeals where the appellant challenged the requirement to have a certain number of PRSI contributions. In both of these cases, the SWAO rejected the appeals on the basis that the PRSI contributions are a statutory requirement and that it cannot be waived.

Observations on appeal outcomes: 

As an overall observation, appellants are generally successful where they provide plenty of evidence to demonstrate that they are incapable of work. The evidence does not necessarily need to be medical or specifically related to their work duties – the SWAO also takes into account the impact that the illness has on the appellant’s daily life and routine tasks, e.g. ability to look after oneself and to do recreational activities.

While this evidence can be anecdotal and provided personally by the appellant, appellants are generally more successful where they provide letters of evidence from their GP and/or other medical practitioners. Where the GP has a long term relationship with the appellant and is familiar with their medical history, the letter from the GP can sometimes even take precedence over the medical opinion from the Medical Assessor that is appointed by the Department of Social Protection. For example, in one appeal, the SWAO disregarded a medical assessment which was carried out on a day in which the appellant coincidentally wasn’t in much pain. It can also be helpful to provide copies of scans and medical tests.

In addition to physical illness, the SWAO also takes into account an appellant’s mental illness. There is only one case in the Annual Reports where an appellant has been successful in arguing that they were incapable of work due to mental illness alone, in Case 2018/11. . Similar to physical illness, the mental illness must render the appellant incapable of work – generally, moderate mental health issues, general stress or an inability to cope with the demands of a busy job are not considered to render an individual incapable of work for the purposes of Illness Benefit. That said, the SWAO does take mental illness into account where it arises in conjunction with physical illness. For example, the SWAO has considered appellants to be incapable of work for the purposes of Illness Benefit where they had mental illness at the same time as their physical illness and also where they had mental health issues after/as a result of their physical illness.

In order to prove that an appellant is currently incapable of work for the purposes of Illness Benefit, the SWAO pays particular attention to medical treatments received and to be received.

  • In order to be successful, it is generally necessary for an appellant to provide evidence of current medical treatments, for example medication that they are currently taking, doctors that they are seeing regularly, etc. This can demonstrate that the appellant is currently incapable of work. That said, claims for Illness Benefit may be rejected where the medical treatments are so effective that the appellant is actually capable of work as a result.
  • It can also be persuasive for an appellant to provide evidence of upcoming medical appointments and/or treatments. This can support the argument that the appellant is likely to be incapable of work for some time. In this regard, it would appear to be necessary for these appointments and/or treatment to already be scheduled. For example, the SWAO has rejected an appeal in which it was argued that an appellant might need surgery at some point in the future.
  • It is not always necessary that the current medical treatments are specifically related to the original illness. For example, it can be persuasive that the appellant is taking medication for mental health issues that were triggered by the original illness.
  • While evidence of past medical treatments can provide context to a claim for Illness Benefit, it is less persuasive. For example, in one appeal, the appellant was relying on the fact that she had epilepsy, but this was disregarded by the SWAO given that she had been seizure free for 30 years.

Ultimately, the key question is whether the appellant is incapable of work. The SWAO appears to determine the question of whether an individual is incapable of work objectively. The SWAO considers whether the appellant is capable of any kind of work, and not necessarily the type of work that the appellant used to do. The SWAO does not take into account the appellant’s work experience or age etc. For example, Illness Benefit is often refused where the appellant is capable of lighter, more sedentary work.

Please note that the recent decision by the Supreme Court in the Sobhy case (Sobhy v. the Chief Appeals officer, Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Ireland, and the Attorney General (2021) S:AP:IE:2021:000025). In this case, the Supreme Court held that an immigrant without the right to work, despite meeting the other criteria, including PRSI contributions, does not have the right to access maternity benefits. This may have implications for other social insurance payments.

Thematic Note G0120: Disability Allowance

Title of Payment: Illness Benefit

Date of Final Decision: SWAO Annual Reports 2009-2020

Keywords: Illness Benefit; Disability; Incapable of work; PRSI Contributions

Casebase no: G0119

Summary of the relevant law:

Illness benefit is a weekly payment that can be made to an individual who:

a) is incapable of work due to illness;

b) is under 66 years old; and

c) has made the required PRSI contributions (see below).

Under Section 40 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 (as amended), illness benefit can be paid for any “day of incapacity for work” which forms part of a “period of interruption of employment”. In this context:

  • a “day of incapacity for work” means a day for which the individual is certified as unable to work (or to look for work) due to illness; and
  • a “period of interruption of employment” means any 3 days (whether consecutive or not) within 6 consecutive days.

Neither weekends nor paid holiday leave are taken into account when counting “days of incapacity for work” or a “period of interruption of employment”.

Section 41 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 (as amended) provides that, to be entitled to illness benefit, generally an individual must have:

a) at least 104 PRSI contributions paid since they first started working; and

b) either:

c) 39 weeks of PRSI contributions paid or credited in the relevant tax year, of which 13 must be paid; or

d) 26 weeks of PRSI contributions paid in each of the relevant tax year and the previous tax year.

 

These rules are adjusted in certain circumstances, e.g. where an individual is already in receipt of certain other benefits immediately before applying for illness benefit.

For these purposes, the relevant tax year is the second-last complete tax year before the year in which a claim for illness benefit is made. E.g. where claim is made in 2022, the relevant tax year is 2020.

Social security contributions paid in certain other EEA member states or the UK can be counted for the purposes of qualifying for illness benefit, provided however that the last social security contributions were paid in Ireland. Periods of employment in certain other EEA member states of the UK can also be taken into account.

Key grounds of appeals by appellants: 

The majority of the appeals are in relation to medical eligibility for Illness Benefit, i.e. that the individual is incapable of work due to illness. In the majority of these appeals, the appellant had been examined at least once by a Medical Assessor appointed by the Department of Social Protection but disagreed with their medical assessment. The various grounds for disagreement include: (1) that the medical assessment only focused on physical impairment and not on mental health issues (regardless of whether these mental health issues were separate, related or resultant); (2) that further medical evidence contradicts the medical assessment; (3) that the medical assessment failed to  take into account the severity of the medical condition; or (4) that the appellant’s condition is changeable and was not at its worst on the day when the medical assessment was carried out.

There have only been two appeals where the appellant challenged the requirement to have a certain number of PRSI contributions. In both of these cases, the SWAO rejected the appeals on the basis that the PRSI contributions are a statutory requirement and that it cannot be waived.

Observations on appeal outcomes: 

As an overall observation, appellants are generally successful where they provide plenty of evidence to demonstrate that they are incapable of work. The evidence does not necessarily need to be medical or specifically related to their work duties – the SWAO also takes into account the impact that the illness has on the appellant’s daily life and routine tasks, e.g. ability to look after oneself and to do recreational activities.

While this evidence can be anecdotal and provided personally by the appellant, appellants are generally more successful where they provide letters of evidence from their GP and/or other medical practitioners. Where the GP has a long term relationship with the appellant and is familiar with their medical history, the letter from the GP can sometimes even take precedence over the medical opinion from the Medical Assessor that is appointed by the Department of Social Protection. For example, in one appeal, the SWAO disregarded a medical assessment which was carried out on a day in which the appellant coincidentally wasn’t in much pain. It can also be helpful to provide copies of scans and medical tests.

In addition to physical illness, the SWAO also takes into account an appellant’s mental illness. There is only one case in the Annual Reports where an appellant has been successful in arguing that they were incapable of work due to mental illness alone, in Case 2018/11. . Similar to physical illness, the mental illness must render the appellant incapable of work – generally, moderate mental health issues, general stress or an inability to cope with the demands of a busy job are not considered to render an individual incapable of work for the purposes of Illness Benefit. That said, the SWAO does take mental illness into account where it arises in conjunction with physical illness. For example, the SWAO has considered appellants to be incapable of work for the purposes of Illness Benefit where they had mental illness at the same time as their physical illness and also where they had mental health issues after/as a result of their physical illness.

In order to prove that an appellant is currently incapable of work for the purposes of Illness Benefit, the SWAO pays particular attention to medical treatments received and to be received.

  • In order to be successful, it is generally necessary for an appellant to provide evidence of current medical treatments, for example medication that they are currently taking, doctors that they are seeing regularly, etc. This can demonstrate that the appellant is currently incapable of work. That said, claims for Illness Benefit may be rejected where the medical treatments are so effective that the appellant is actually capable of work as a result.
  • It can also be persuasive for an appellant to provide evidence of upcoming medical appointments and/or treatments. This can support the argument that the appellant is likely to be incapable of work for some time. In this regard, it would appear to be necessary for these appointments and/or treatment to already be scheduled. For example, the SWAO has rejected an appeal in which it was argued that an appellant might need surgery at some point in the future.
  • It is not always necessary that the current medical treatments are specifically related to the original illness. For example, it can be persuasive that the appellant is taking medication for mental health issues that were triggered by the original illness.
  • While evidence of past medical treatments can provide context to a claim for Illness Benefit, it is less persuasive. For example, in one appeal, the appellant was relying on the fact that she had epilepsy, but this was disregarded by the SWAO given that she had been seizure free for 30 years.

Ultimately, the key question is whether the appellant is incapable of work. The SWAO appears to determine the question of whether an individual is incapable of work objectively. The SWAO considers whether the appellant is capable of any kind of work, and not necessarily the type of work that the appellant used to do. The SWAO does not take into account the appellant’s work experience or age etc. For example, Illness Benefit is often refused where the appellant is capable of lighter, more sedentary work.

Please note that the recent decision by the Supreme Court in the Sobhy case (Sobhy v. the Chief Appeals officer, Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Ireland, and the Attorney General (2021) S:AP:IE:2021:000025). In this case, the Supreme Court held that an immigrant without the right to work, despite meeting the other criteria, including PRSI contributions, does not have the right to access maternity benefits. This may have implications for other social insurance payments.

Thematic Note G0121: Partial Capacity Benefit

Title of Payment: Illness Benefit

Date of Final Decision: SWAO Annual Reports 2009-2020

Keywords: Illness Benefit; Disability; Incapable of work; PRSI Contributions

Casebase no: G0119

Summary of the relevant law:

Illness benefit is a weekly payment that can be made to an individual who:

a) is incapable of work due to illness;

b) is under 66 years old; and

c) has made the required PRSI contributions (see below).

Under Section 40 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 (as amended), illness benefit can be paid for any “day of incapacity for work” which forms part of a “period of interruption of employment”. In this context:

  • a “day of incapacity for work” means a day for which the individual is certified as unable to work (or to look for work) due to illness; and
  • a “period of interruption of employment” means any 3 days (whether consecutive or not) within 6 consecutive days.

Neither weekends nor paid holiday leave are taken into account when counting “days of incapacity for work” or a “period of interruption of employment”.

Section 41 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 (as amended) provides that, to be entitled to illness benefit, generally an individual must have:

a) at least 104 PRSI contributions paid since they first started working; and

b) either:

c) 39 weeks of PRSI contributions paid or credited in the relevant tax year, of which 13 must be paid; or

d) 26 weeks of PRSI contributions paid in each of the relevant tax year and the previous tax year.

 

These rules are adjusted in certain circumstances, e.g. where an individual is already in receipt of certain other benefits immediately before applying for illness benefit.

For these purposes, the relevant tax year is the second-last complete tax year before the year in which a claim for illness benefit is made. E.g. where claim is made in 2022, the relevant tax year is 2020.

Social security contributions paid in certain other EEA member states or the UK can be counted for the purposes of qualifying for illness benefit, provided however that the last social security contributions were paid in Ireland. Periods of employment in certain other EEA member states of the UK can also be taken into account.

Key grounds of appeals by appellants: 

The majority of the appeals are in relation to medical eligibility for Illness Benefit, i.e. that the individual is incapable of work due to illness. In the majority of these appeals, the appellant had been examined at least once by a Medical Assessor appointed by the Department of Social Protection but disagreed with their medical assessment. The various grounds for disagreement include: (1) that the medical assessment only focused on physical impairment and not on mental health issues (regardless of whether these mental health issues were separate, related or resultant); (2) that further medical evidence contradicts the medical assessment; (3) that the medical assessment failed to  take into account the severity of the medical condition; or (4) that the appellant’s condition is changeable and was not at its worst on the day when the medical assessment was carried out.

There have only been two appeals where the appellant challenged the requirement to have a certain number of PRSI contributions. In both of these cases, the SWAO rejected the appeals on the basis that the PRSI contributions are a statutory requirement and that it cannot be waived.

Observations on appeal outcomes: 

As an overall observation, appellants are generally successful where they provide plenty of evidence to demonstrate that they are incapable of work. The evidence does not necessarily need to be medical or specifically related to their work duties – the SWAO also takes into account the impact that the illness has on the appellant’s daily life and routine tasks, e.g. ability to look after oneself and to do recreational activities.

While this evidence can be anecdotal and provided personally by the appellant, appellants are generally more successful where they provide letters of evidence from their GP and/or other medical practitioners. Where the GP has a long term relationship with the appellant and is familiar with their medical history, the letter from the GP can sometimes even take precedence over the medical opinion from the Medical Assessor that is appointed by the Department of Social Protection. For example, in one appeal, the SWAO disregarded a medical assessment which was carried out on a day in which the appellant coincidentally wasn’t in much pain. It can also be helpful to provide copies of scans and medical tests.

In addition to physical illness, the SWAO also takes into account an appellant’s mental illness. There is only one case in the Annual Reports where an appellant has been successful in arguing that they were incapable of work due to mental illness alone, in Case 2018/11. . Similar to physical illness, the mental illness must render the appellant incapable of work – generally, moderate mental health issues, general stress or an inability to cope with the demands of a busy job are not considered to render an individual incapable of work for the purposes of Illness Benefit. That said, the SWAO does take mental illness into account where it arises in conjunction with physical illness. For example, the SWAO has considered appellants to be incapable of work for the purposes of Illness Benefit where they had mental illness at the same time as their physical illness and also where they had mental health issues after/as a result of their physical illness.

In order to prove that an appellant is currently incapable of work for the purposes of Illness Benefit, the SWAO pays particular attention to medical treatments received and to be received.

  • In order to be successful, it is generally necessary for an appellant to provide evidence of current medical treatments, for example medication that they are currently taking, doctors that they are seeing regularly, etc. This can demonstrate that the appellant is currently incapable of work. That said, claims for Illness Benefit may be rejected where the medical treatments are so effective that the appellant is actually capable of work as a result.
  • It can also be persuasive for an appellant to provide evidence of upcoming medical appointments and/or treatments. This can support the argument that the appellant is likely to be incapable of work for some time. In this regard, it would appear to be necessary for these appointments and/or treatment to already be scheduled. For example, the SWAO has rejected an appeal in which it was argued that an appellant might need surgery at some point in the future.
  • It is not always necessary that the current medical treatments are specifically related to the original illness. For example, it can be persuasive that the appellant is taking medication for mental health issues that were triggered by the original illness.
  • While evidence of past medical treatments can provide context to a claim for Illness Benefit, it is less persuasive. For example, in one appeal, the appellant was relying on the fact that she had epilepsy, but this was disregarded by the SWAO given that she had been seizure free for 30 years.

Ultimately, the key question is whether the appellant is incapable of work. The SWAO appears to determine the question of whether an individual is incapable of work objectively. The SWAO considers whether the appellant is capable of any kind of work, and not necessarily the type of work that the appellant used to do. The SWAO does not take into account the appellant’s work experience or age etc. For example, Illness Benefit is often refused where the appellant is capable of lighter, more sedentary work.

Please note that the recent decision by the Supreme Court in the Sobhy case (Sobhy v. the Chief Appeals officer, Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Ireland, and the Attorney General (2021) S:AP:IE:2021:000025). In this case, the Supreme Court held that an immigrant without the right to work, despite meeting the other criteria, including PRSI contributions, does not have the right to access maternity benefits. This may have implications for other social insurance payments.

Thematic Note G0118: Invalidity Pension

Title of Payment: Illness Benefit

Date of Final Decision: SWAO Annual Reports 2009-2020

Keywords: Illness Benefit; Disability; Incapable of work; PRSI Contributions

Casebase no: G0119

Summary of the relevant law:

Illness benefit is a weekly payment that can be made to an individual who:

a) is incapable of work due to illness;

b) is under 66 years old; and

c) has made the required PRSI contributions (see below).

Under Section 40 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 (as amended), illness benefit can be paid for any “day of incapacity for work” which forms part of a “period of interruption of employment”. In this context:

  • a “day of incapacity for work” means a day for which the individual is certified as unable to work (or to look for work) due to illness; and
  • a “period of interruption of employment” means any 3 days (whether consecutive or not) within 6 consecutive days.

Neither weekends nor paid holiday leave are taken into account when counting “days of incapacity for work” or a “period of interruption of employment”.

Section 41 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 (as amended) provides that, to be entitled to illness benefit, generally an individual must have:

a) at least 104 PRSI contributions paid since they first started working; and

b) either:

c) 39 weeks of PRSI contributions paid or credited in the relevant tax year, of which 13 must be paid; or

d) 26 weeks of PRSI contributions paid in each of the relevant tax year and the previous tax year.

 

These rules are adjusted in certain circumstances, e.g. where an individual is already in receipt of certain other benefits immediately before applying for illness benefit.

For these purposes, the relevant tax year is the second-last complete tax year before the year in which a claim for illness benefit is made. E.g. where claim is made in 2022, the relevant tax year is 2020.

Social security contributions paid in certain other EEA member states or the UK can be counted for the purposes of qualifying for illness benefit, provided however that the last social security contributions were paid in Ireland. Periods of employment in certain other EEA member states of the UK can also be taken into account.

Key grounds of appeals by appellants: 

The majority of the appeals are in relation to medical eligibility for Illness Benefit, i.e. that the individual is incapable of work due to illness. In the majority of these appeals, the appellant had been examined at least once by a Medical Assessor appointed by the Department of Social Protection but disagreed with their medical assessment. The various grounds for disagreement include: (1) that the medical assessment only focused on physical impairment and not on mental health issues (regardless of whether these mental health issues were separate, related or resultant); (2) that further medical evidence contradicts the medical assessment; (3) that the medical assessment failed to  take into account the severity of the medical condition; or (4) that the appellant’s condition is changeable and was not at its worst on the day when the medical assessment was carried out.

There have only been two appeals where the appellant challenged the requirement to have a certain number of PRSI contributions. In both of these cases, the SWAO rejected the appeals on the basis that the PRSI contributions are a statutory requirement and that it cannot be waived.

Observations on appeal outcomes: 

As an overall observation, appellants are generally successful where they provide plenty of evidence to demonstrate that they are incapable of work. The evidence does not necessarily need to be medical or specifically related to their work duties – the SWAO also takes into account the impact that the illness has on the appellant’s daily life and routine tasks, e.g. ability to look after oneself and to do recreational activities.

While this evidence can be anecdotal and provided personally by the appellant, appellants are generally more successful where they provide letters of evidence from their GP and/or other medical practitioners. Where the GP has a long term relationship with the appellant and is familiar with their medical history, the letter from the GP can sometimes even take precedence over the medical opinion from the Medical Assessor that is appointed by the Department of Social Protection. For example, in one appeal, the SWAO disregarded a medical assessment which was carried out on a day in which the appellant coincidentally wasn’t in much pain. It can also be helpful to provide copies of scans and medical tests.

In addition to physical illness, the SWAO also takes into account an appellant’s mental illness. There is only one case in the Annual Reports where an appellant has been successful in arguing that they were incapable of work due to mental illness alone, in Case 2018/11. . Similar to physical illness, the mental illness must render the appellant incapable of work – generally, moderate mental health issues, general stress or an inability to cope with the demands of a busy job are not considered to render an individual incapable of work for the purposes of Illness Benefit. That said, the SWAO does take mental illness into account where it arises in conjunction with physical illness. For example, the SWAO has considered appellants to be incapable of work for the purposes of Illness Benefit where they had mental illness at the same time as their physical illness and also where they had mental health issues after/as a result of their physical illness.

In order to prove that an appellant is currently incapable of work for the purposes of Illness Benefit, the SWAO pays particular attention to medical treatments received and to be received.

  • In order to be successful, it is generally necessary for an appellant to provide evidence of current medical treatments, for example medication that they are currently taking, doctors that they are seeing regularly, etc. This can demonstrate that the appellant is currently incapable of work. That said, claims for Illness Benefit may be rejected where the medical treatments are so effective that the appellant is actually capable of work as a result.
  • It can also be persuasive for an appellant to provide evidence of upcoming medical appointments and/or treatments. This can support the argument that the appellant is likely to be incapable of work for some time. In this regard, it would appear to be necessary for these appointments and/or treatment to already be scheduled. For example, the SWAO has rejected an appeal in which it was argued that an appellant might need surgery at some point in the future.
  • It is not always necessary that the current medical treatments are specifically related to the original illness. For example, it can be persuasive that the appellant is taking medication for mental health issues that were triggered by the original illness.
  • While evidence of past medical treatments can provide context to a claim for Illness Benefit, it is less persuasive. For example, in one appeal, the appellant was relying on the fact that she had epilepsy, but this was disregarded by the SWAO given that she had been seizure free for 30 years.

Ultimately, the key question is whether the appellant is incapable of work. The SWAO appears to determine the question of whether an individual is incapable of work objectively. The SWAO considers whether the appellant is capable of any kind of work, and not necessarily the type of work that the appellant used to do. The SWAO does not take into account the appellant’s work experience or age etc. For example, Illness Benefit is often refused where the appellant is capable of lighter, more sedentary work.

Please note that the recent decision by the Supreme Court in the Sobhy case (Sobhy v. the Chief Appeals officer, Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Ireland, and the Attorney General (2021) S:AP:IE:2021:000025). In this case, the Supreme Court held that an immigrant without the right to work, despite meeting the other criteria, including PRSI contributions, does not have the right to access maternity benefits. This may have implications for other social insurance payments.

Thematic Note G0116: Right to Reside and Habitual Residence Condition

Theme: Right to Reside and Habitual Residence Condition

Period of Analysis: SWAO Annual Reports 2009-2020

Keywords: Habitual Residence Condition, Right to Reside

Casebase No. G0116

 

Summary of the relevant law:

The term “habitually resident” is not defined in Irish law. In practice it means that you have a proven close link to Ireland. The term also conveys permanence – that a person has been here for some time and intends to stay here for the foreseeable future.

The legislation providing for the habitual residence condition is contained in Section 246 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Action 2005 (as amended). However, Deciding Officers and Designated Persons must also have regard to S.I. No. 548/2015 – European Communities (Free Movement of Persons) Regulations 2015. , which deals with the right of residence for EU/EEA citizens and their families. Habitual residence in Ireland is a condition that you must satisfy for certain social welfare payments , for example Child Benefit. This condition took effect from 1 May 2004 and affects all applicants regardless of nationality.

With all social welfare payments in Ireland, you must satisfy the rules for each scheme to qualify.

Your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant and any dependent children you have are not required to satisfy the habitual residence condition in their own right. So if you apply for a social welfare payment only you, the applicant, has to satisfy the habitual residence condition.

Proving you are habitually resident relies heavily on fact. If you have lived in Ireland all your life, you will probably have no difficulty showing that you satisfy the factors which indicate habitual residence.

To satisfy the Habitual Residence Condition (HRC) you must:

Have the right to reside in the State AND

Show that you are habitually resident, having regard to all of your circumstances, including in particular the following which are set out in the legislation:

  • the length and continuity of your residence in Ireland or in any other particular country
  • the length and purpose of any absence from Ireland
  • the nature and pattern of your employment
  • your main centre of interest AND
  • your future intentions as they appear from all the circumstances

These are sometimes called the “five factors”.

Who has the right to reside?

People who have a right to reside include:

  • Irish nationals have a right of residence in Ireland;
  • UK nationals coming in from the Common Travel Area (CTA) also have a right to reside here under the CTA agreement;
  • EEA nationals who are employed or self-employed in Ireland have a right to reside;[1]
  • non-EEA nationals who have a residency or work permit to legally reside and work in the State, provided that there are no restrictions attached to that residency or work permit.

Permission to reside will generally be evidenced by an appropriate immigration stamp in the person’s passport, a letter of authorisation or a Certificate of Registration issued by the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB), that is a GNIB card.

Key grounds of appeals by appellants:

The majority of the appeals are brought on the basis that the deciding/appeals officer erred in applying the correct legislation and/or legal grounds and erred in finding that the conditions of HRC were not met.

Observations on appeal outcomes:

Given that the majority of the appeals are brought on the basis that the deciding officer / appeals officer erred in finding that the criteria for ‘habitual resident’ was not been met, the appeals reported below focus principally on how the conditions of ‘habitually resident’ must be met and the application of the correct legislation.

In accordance with Section 246 of the 2005 Act establishing habitual residence is a two stage process which firstly requires that the person has a right to reside in the State. If it is established that the person has a right to reside, an assessment of their situation under 5 factors is carried out to determine their centre of interest and future intentions.

The reports below suggest that appellants are usually unsuccessful where they cannot establish a right to reside or on the basis of fact that they don’t fall under other factors to allow them to exercise this right. They further show that the majority of decisions may fall on the factual matrix of the particular case and the particular circumstances relevant to the person at issue.

[1] Regarding the right to reside of EU workers, see Casebase Report G0113 and Georgeta Voican v. Chief Appeals Officer, Social Welfare Appeals Office, Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Ireland and the Attorney General [2019] No.748 J.R

Social Welfare Appeal G0113

Title of Payment: Disability Allowance

Date of Final Decision: 29 May 2020

Keywords: Disability Allowance; EU Citizenship Directive; Right to Reside; Dependant; Family Member; Habitual Residence Condition

Organisation who represented the Claimant: KOD Lyons

Casebase No. G0113

 

Case Summary

 This case concerned judicial review proceedings brought following a decision of a Chief Appeals Officer refusing an application for disability allowance – Georgeta Voican v. Chief Appeals Officer, Social Welfare Appeals Office, Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Ireland and the Attorney General [2019] No.748 J.R.

The applicant was a Romanian national, Ms. Voican, who had been living in Ireland since 2017.  Ms. Voican lived with her daughter, a dual Irish and Romanian citizen.  Ms. Voican had the right to live in Ireland under the EU Citizenship Directive (the “Directive”) as she was a dependant relative of an EU worker (her daughter).  Ms. Voican applied for disability allowance and her application was refused on the basis that her right to reside in the State was predicated on her continued dependence upon her daughter.  This decision was subsequently upheld on appeal and Ms. Voican brought judicial review proceedings before the High Court.

The State argued that Ms. Voican had established her right to reside in Ireland on the basis of her dependence on her daughter.  Further, the State argued that this dependence needed to be continuing in order for this right of residence to continue.  The State sought to make the case that if Ms. Voican received disability allowance, she would no longer be dependent upon her daughter and as a result she would no longer fulfil the requirements of the Directive.  The State noted that the domestic legislation provided that the right of residence afforded to EU citizens under the Directive was conditional on the relevant person not becoming an “unreasonable burden on the social assistance system of the State” and contended that Ms. Voican being granted disability allowance would represent such a burden.

Ms. Voican argued that the European Communities (Free Movement of Persons) Regulations 2015[1] (the “Domestic Regulations”), which transposed the Directive into Irish law, were inconsistent with the Directive on the basis that it did not impose a condition that a family member of a migrant worker be self-sufficient.  As such, Ms. Voican argued that the domestic regulations were an unlawful transposition of the Directive.  Ms. Voican also argued that the refusal of her claim for disability allowance was inconsistent with the equal treatment imperatives under the Irish Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights as the decision to refuse her claim for disability allowance discriminates against her on the basis of her nationality.

The Court rejected the State’s arguments and quashed the decision of the Chief Appeals Officer to refuse Ms. Voican’s claim for disability allowance.

The Court ordered the Chief Appeals Officer to reconsider Ms. Voican’s claim which was to be carried out within 6 weeks of the perfection of the High Court Order.  The Court made its decision based solely on interpretation of the Directive and did not need to consider Ms. Voican’s additional argument in relation to the principles of equal treatment contained in the Irish Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights.  The Court’s reasoning largely turned on the definition of “family member” under Article 2(2)(d) of the Directive and whether this article required that “ongoing and continuing dependency”.

Key Conclusions

There is no self-sufficiency requirement under the Directive in respect of a dependent family member of a migrant worker who is lawfully resident in the State for a period of more than three months to reside in an EU Member State.  Under the Directive the person claiming social assistance has an entitlement to equal treatment in their own right.

[1] S.I. 548 of 2015

Social Welfare Appeal G0112

Title of Payment: One Parent Family Payment

Date of Final Decision: 5 August 2020

Keywords: One Parent Family Payment; Means Test; Mortgage Repayments; Adequacy of Reasons; Arbitrariness; Equal Treatment of Similar Applicants; Precedent Decisions; Legislative Interpretation; Judicial Review; Regulation 142; Regulation 143.

Organisation who represented the Claimant: Citizens Information

Casebase No. G0112

 Case Summary:

This case is that of Deirdre Brennan v Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection [2018] No.76 J.R. It was heard with the case of Margaret Bracken v. Minister of Employment Affairs and Social Protection [2018] No.165 J.R (2020 IEHC 394). Casebase Report No. G0111 details the latter decision.

The case concerns a challenge to the decision by the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (the “Respondent”), when assessing the means of Ms Brennan (the “Applicant”) for the purposes of determining the amount of her One Parent Family Payment, to use the full value of monthly mortgage repayments made by her ex-partner.

The applicant was a nurse, working as a homemaker, who lived with her two young children in the home she had jointly bought with her ex-partner.  Her ex-partner met the mortgage payments (€1161.36 / month).

The Applicant applied for a One Parent Family Payment.  On 2 February 2015 the Deciding Officer determined that the full mortgage repayments being made by the Applicant’s ex-husband should be taken into account in assessing the means of the applicant.  On review, this decision was upheld.  (This meant that the applicant was entitled to receive a One Parent Family Payment of €190 / week.)

The Applicant appealed the Deciding Officer’s Decision to the Social Welfare Appeals Office.  In her appeal, she relied on a previous decision of the Chief Appeals Officer dated 31 July 2015 (the “Precedent Decision”).  The Precedent Decision concerned a similar applicant in whose case only 50% of the mortgage repayment was taken into account when assessing her means.  The Precedent Decision included the statement that “given the joint ownership of the property and liability of both parties to discharge the debts/bills on the property it is reasonable that half the mortgage and associated payments should be disregarded.”  The Applicant maintained that, as her house was in joint names, her ex-partner derived a benefit from the mortgage payments, and so only half of the payments should be used in the assessment.

On 26 July 2017 the Social Welfare Appeals Officer dismissed the applicant’s appeal.  Notwithstanding the Precedent Decision, the Social Welfare Appeals Officer considered that: “In this case the legislation … provides for the assessment of housing costs paid by the liable relative.  I have sympathy with the arguments put forward …  However, in my view the legislation does not allow the payments being made to be qualified in such a way as to discount from the means assessment the benefit which the ex-partner derives from those payments.  In the circumstances the full value of the mortgage payments being made must be used in assessing the appellant’s means.”

The Applicant appealed the dismissal of her appeal to the Chief Appeals Officer.  On 7 November 2017 the Chief Appeal Officer dismissed this appeal.  The Chief Appeals Officer stated: “While previous decisions do not create precedents the appeals office endeavours to be consistent in its decision making. Having reviewed the decision that I am now referred to I am of the view that while I gave the benefit of a more favourable calculation in that particular case there was in fact no precise rule which allowed for that more favourable treatment.  While that decision was made by me in good faith I do not consider that in the absence of a specific rule in the governing legislation permitting the application of a more favourable calculation it would be appropriate for me to apply the same consideration in Ms. Brennan’s case”. 

The applicant applied to the High Court for judicial review of the Chief Appeal Officer’s decision.  The issue for the High Court was “one of statutory construction and the proper interpretation of the phrase “the net cash value to the (applicant) of her annual housing costs actually incurred and paid by a liable relative insofar as the cash value exceeds €4,952 per annum” and whether the decision of the respondent taken on review was taken within the proper meaning of Regulation 142 of the 2007 Regulations”.

The High Court dismissed the judicial appeal, finding that the Respondent had correctly interpreted the statute.

Key conclusions:

When assessing an applicant’s means for the purpose of calculating a One Parent Family Payment, the Department for Employment Affairs and Social Protection is entitled to take into account mortgage repayments made by a liable relative.  Legislation provides for a portion of the mortgage repayments to be disregarded (at the relevant time, €4952) and the the remainder halved.  However, the legislation does not provide, as the applicant contended, that only half the mortgage repayments should be used in the assessment of means on the basis that the liable relative making the repayments is a joint owner and therefore deriving a benefit from making the repayments.

Social Welfare Appeal G0111

Title of Payment: Disability Allowance

Date of Final Decision: 2020

Keywords: Disability Allowance; Means Test; Non-Cash Benefit; Mortgage Repayments; Legislative Interpretation; Equal Treatment of Similar Applicants; Precedent Decisions; Judicial Review; Regulation 142; Regulation 143

Organisation who represented the Claimant: Citizen’s Information

Casebase No. G0111

Case Summary:

This case is that of Margaret Bracken v. Minister of Employment Affairs and Social Protection [2018] No.165 J.R (2020 IEHC 394). It was heard with the case of Deirdre Brennan v Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection [2018] No.76 J.R. Casebase Report No. G0112 details the latter decision.

This case concerned an application to quash the respondent’s (the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection’s) decision to take into account the applicant’s ex-partner’s mortgage repayments on the house in which the applicant resides when assessing the applicant’s means in the context of her application for disability allowance.

The applicant resides in a house which is in the sole name of her ex-partner, and on which her ex-partner pays a mortgage repayment in the amount of €647 each month. The applicant lives in the house with her son, who is also the child of her ex-partner. She pays no rent and her residency is not the subject of a tenancy agreement.

The applicant was granted disability allowance in August 2017, but in determining her means as part of this application, the respondent took into account the monthly mortgage repayment made by the applicant’s ex-partner. The applicant appealed this decision to the Social Welfare Appeals Office and in doing so relied in part on a previous decision of the Chief Appeals Officer in 2015, in which an applicant in similar circumstances had only 50% of the relevant mortgage repayment taken into account (the “Precedent Decision”). The Social Welfare Appeals Office refused the appeal in November 2017, which decision the applicant then sought to have reviewed by the Chief Appeals Officer. The Chief Appeals Officer subsequently refused to revise the decision of the Social Welfare Appeals Office, by way of a written decision issued on 21 December 2017. The applicant then sought to judicially review this refusal in the High Court.

Before the High Court, the applicant argued that she was not challenging the legislation but instead the respondent’s interpretation of the legislation, which she said was irrational and arbitrary. She argued that the respondent failed to treat similar applicants equally and this is demonstrative of a fixed and inflexible policy. Additionally, no adequate interpretation was provided by the respondent in relation to the difference between ‘housing costs’ and ‘net cash value’. The core issue was the proper interpretation of the phrase “the net cash value to the (applicant) of her annual housing costs actually incurred and paid by a liable relative insofar as the cash value exceeds €4,952 per annum” contained in Regulation 142 of the 2007 Regulations, and monthly mortgage payments do not come within the meaning of non-cash benefit.

The respondent argued that the statutory provisions allow both cash income and any non-cash benefits which a claimant may reasonably be expected to receive during the year, whether as contributions to the expenses of the household or otherwise to be taken into account. Non-cash benefits include the net cash value to the relevant claimant of his or her annual housing costs actually incurred and paid by a liable relative. Mortgage repayments do come within the meaning of non-cash benefit.

The Court’s decision focused on the question of statutory interpretation and ultimately found that giving the contentious words their ordinary meaning, the respondent had correctly interpreted the legislation and mortgage repayments come within the definition of housing costs and the meaning of non-cash benefits. The Court further found that adequate and understandable reasons had been provided by the Respondent.

The Court therefore refused the applicant’s application to quash the respondent’s decision.

Key conclusions:

Mortgage repayments come within definition of ‘housing costs’ and within the meaning of a non-cash benefit, and will be taken into account when determining a claimant’s means.

Social Welfare Appeal G0110

This is one of two judgments delivered by the Supreme Court in the case of Petecel concerning the refusal of an application for Disability Allowance under the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005. This particular judgment deals with the substantive issue of the legal classification of Disability Allowance, as opposed to the appellant’s entitlement to seek judicial review. The procedural issue is addressed in the earlier judgment and is detailed in Casebase Report No. G0109.

The appellant was Catalin Petecel, a Romanian national who lawfully lived and worked in Ireland from 2008-11. He was diagnosed with MS (multiple sclerosis) in 2011 and travelled to Romania for treatment. He returned to the State briefly from February to April 2012 but otherwise has remained in Romania ever since. While there, his condition deteriorated to the point that he was physically unresponsive and being cared for full-time by his mother.

In 2016, Mr. Petecel applied through his legal guardian for Disability Allowance pursuant to section 210(1) of the 2005 Act. The deciding officer refused his application on the basis that he was not resident in the State. The appellant’s solicitors sought a review of that decision pursuant to section 301 submitting that Mr. Petecel was still habitually resident in the State, as his absences were for the purpose of receiving medical care. Furthermore, it was argued that Disability Allowance was a “sickness benefit” for the purpose of Article 3(1)(a) of EU Regulation 883/2004 and therefore “exportable”. The request for a revision was refused by a second deciding officer on 9th June 2017.

Mr. Petecel sought to challenge the said refusal by way of judicial review seeking to quash the relevant decisions and obtain additional declaratory relief. The appellant grounded his leave application on two points. First, he submitted that the deciding officer had erred in finding the appellant was not habitually resident in Ireland. Second, he contended that the State had incorrectly categorised Disability Benefit as a non-exportable “special non-contributory benefit” and sought a preliminary reference to the Court of Justice of the European Union on that basis. 

When the matter came before the Supreme Court, and having determined the procedural issue, O’Malley J. invited the parties to make further written submissions on the classification issue. She was particularly interested in two issues, namely the “rehabilitative work” aspect of the earnings disregard that applied in the means test for Disability Allowance and the relevant disqualification criteria. O’Malley J. was of the view that there were elements of sections 210 and 212 of the 2005 Act that possibly indicated there may have been a medical purpose to the overall conditions of eligibility attached to Disability Allowance at the time of Mr. Petecel’s claim and sought supplemental submissions on that basis. The Supreme Court concluded that Disability Allowance was a form of social assistance payment properly classified as a non-exportable “special non-contributory cash payment” within the meaning of Article 70(2) of Regulation 883/2004. The payment was not linked to any medical purpose. Accordingly, Mr. Petecel was not entitled to Disability Allowance and his appeal was dismissed.