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No home for Christmas?

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No home for Christmas?


Mother of four refused social welfare, forced to take refuge in a caravan

Edwin McGreal


A mother and her four children are this week being forced to move into a caravan after being let down by the Irish social welfare system.
With the days getting colder and Christmas fast approaching, the Mayo woman has been forced to move out of rented accommodation she can no longer afford and take refuge in a friend’s caravan, where she continues to wait for financial support from the Department of Social Welfare.
The woman, who does not want to be named, has been described by Connacht/Ulster MEP Jim Higgins as ‘as genuine a case’ as he’s come across in terms of meriting social welfare. She applied for a Lone Parent’s Allowance several months ago when her employment ceased but was refused. Her appeal against that decision is still pending.
More recently, she applied for a Supplementary Welfare payment, as she had no source of income, save what her family could spare. That application – made ten weeks ago – was also refused, and the appeal is, said Higgins, ‘gathering dust’ on an office floor in Dublin due to a ‘crazy’ decision to move appeals from this area from Galway to Dublin. The Supplementary Welfare Payment is a provision people can apply for to tie them over while their initial Social Welfare application is processed.

Struggling
Jim Higgins, who is helping the woman with her appeal, explained that she was denied the Lone Parent’s Allowance and the Supplementary Welfare payment because of a belief that she had been co-habitating, something Jim Higgins argues is ‘definitely not’ the case.
“A mother of four is really struggling here,” Mr Higgins told The Mayo News. “She has no money, that’s the long and the short of it. She’s separated for some time and recently had to apply for a Lone Parent’s Allowance.
“She had been renting, but now cannot afford to pay the rent, so she has had to move out this week and a friend of hers is accommodating her in a caravan now. Coming up to Christmas and having a mother and four children in a caravan with the weather getting colder by the day is a terrible situation.”
While Higgins has expressed his dismay about the rejection of the woman’s Lone Parent’s Allowance application, he is particularly angry at how difficult it has proved to have the appeal heard into the woman’s Supplementary Welfare Payment refusal. He said that the appeals process was faster before it was centralised in a recent move that has resulted in delays.
“If an application was unsuccessful, any appeal would go to Galway and would be dealt with relatively quickly. Now, if an appeal is made, it has to be sent up to Dublin,” explained Mr Higgins.
“This particular lady is waiting over ten weeks for a Supplementary Welfare Payment. She has been waiting and waiting and waiting, and she came to my office this week in absolute desperation.
“My secretary rang Dublin to see what the story was. The girl there said they had piles of appeals sitting in the corner, and that they couldn’t do anything with an appeal until the information was put onto the system, which wasn’t going to happen quickly by the sound of it.
“What are they to do if they have a tsunami of files from around the country? Clearly a contingency plan hasn’t been formulated to deal with it,” he said.
He also questioned the wisdom of taking such decisions away from an area where officials ‘would have a feel for the local situation’ and sending appeals to ‘anonymous people in Dublin’.
“I’m sure there are a lot more genuine cases in those bundles of files gathering dust in Dublin,” he added.
Jim Higgins confirmed he had written to party colleague Minister for Health James Reilly criticising the new system for Supplementary Welfare Payment appeals and also the decision to centralise all Medical Card applications in Dublin.