Ireland and the European Committee on Social Rights

ESCThere has been much focus on the role of the European Court of Human Rights over the last number of days (see, here and here). A less well known body, the European Committee on Social Rights, is responsible for assessing Ireland’s compliance with the European Social Charter (Revised). The European Social Charter protects a number of social and economic rights, such as employment rights, right to health care, social security, an adequate standard of living etc. Ireland has freely accepted to abide by a large number of obligations (but not all) under the European Social Charter. As my summary of the Committee’s conclusions below show, this report is somewhat of a mixed bag. It is important to note that the  Committee on Social Rights examined Ireland’s compliance with the European Social Charter from 2008 to 2011, so a number of important issues that arose since 2011 are not considered, including the attacks on youth right to full rate unemployment benefit/assistance; maternity benefit cuts; the cumulative impact of successive regressive budgets on those who are already poor and marginalised. In addition, it was somewhat disappointing that the Committee did not mention or consider the social and economic rights of asylum seekers (as it has done in collective complaints).

The European Committee on Social Rights has released its Conclusions on Ireland for 2013 on a number of different rights protected by the European Social Charter, including:

Ireland and the European Committee on Social Rights

Reception Conditions for Asylum Seekers in Ireland: The Need for a Legislative Basis

Some 12 years after the introduction of the direct provision system for asylum seekers in Ireland, there is an urgent need for this system to be placed on a legislative basis. Asylum seekers are prohibited from working in Ireland and, since 2009, have no access whatsoever to the general social welfare system. Instead, asylum seekers are provided with accommodation on a bed and board basis, and given an allowance of €19.10 per week per adult and €9.60 per week per child. I have previously discussed issues relating to direct provision on this blog, including value for money, housing and human rights, children in the direct provision system, separated children in Ireland, women in the direct provision system.

Direct provision was introduced in April 2000 due to the perceived pull factor access to the mainstream welfare system was supposedly having on the numbers claiming asylum in Ireland. (My article on the direct provision system provides further background to the introduction of this system). The purported legal basis for the introduction of the system of direct provision was the system of supplementary welfare allowance, whereby the needs of asylum seekers were to be met in kind, through the provision of bed, board and a small allowance. It was not until 2003 that legislation was introduced to prevent asylum seekers from receiving rent allowance.[1] The habitual residence condition was introduced shortly afterwards, which restricted access to welfare payments for those who were not habitually resident in Ireland.

From freedom of information documents that I have received from the Department of Social Protection Continue reading “Reception Conditions for Asylum Seekers in Ireland: The Need for a Legislative Basis”

Reception Conditions for Asylum Seekers in Ireland: The Need for a Legislative Basis

SCS on Children's Rights: Children in the Direct Provision System

Much has been written on the wholly inappropriate care arrangements for separated children in Ireland (see here, here, here, here and here). This research has found gross inadequacies in the separated child protection system; however the Irish government, in light of the Ryan Report, has committed itself to ensuring that separated children are treated on par with other children in the care system. This post seeks to examine the responses of the Irish state to those children who live with parent(s) or guardian(s) within the direct provision system, with a particular focus on rights of the child. As of May 2010, there were 2,034 children living in direct provision accommodation. From the May 2010 statistics provided by the Reception and Integration Agency, it is likely that many of these children have spent a considerable period of time within the direct provision system. With their parents prohibited from working, there is an enforced reliance on the direct provision system which I have previously argued signifies a move towards a more controlling and less rights based social security system. Children within direct provision will be accommodated with their parents in a single room. Where the child is part of a one-parent family, the accommodation may be shared with another one-parent family. Breakfasts, school lunches and dinners are provided to the children, the child may never have witnessed their parents preparing food. School friends may be denied access to the direct provision centre, so opportunities for play and social interaction is severely lessened. The location of the direct provision accommodation, usually away and apart from the host community, means that a child’s interaction with the local community is minimised.  In terms of social welfare entitlement, the child’s parent will receive €9.60 per week in addition to the €19.60 which each parent will receive. Supplementary welfare allowance, a residual and discretionary welfare payment, will be paid by the Health Services Executive to cover the cost of school uniforms, books and in some instances school trips. In general, parents will not be able to claim child benefit for their children, and the recent Social Welfare and Pensions (No.2) Act 2010 now states that asylum seekers cannot be considered to be habitually resident, and therefore legislatively prohibited from receiving child benefit. So what then are the international laws and standards which apply to such children? Continue reading “SCS on Children's Rights: Children in the Direct Provision System”

SCS on Children's Rights: Children in the Direct Provision System

Kenny on Carson & Ors. v The United Kingdom

We are delighted to welcome this guest contribution from Jo Kenny, Legal Officer at the Public Interest Law Alliance (PILA), a project of the Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC). You can learn more about Jo on our guest contributors page.

On 16th March 2010 the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights delivered its judgment in Carson & Ors. –v- the United Kingdom (Application No.42184/05). This is the end of Mrs Carson’s long road in challenging UK state pension policy.

Mrs Carson emigrated to South Africa and subsequently retired there. She had previously worked in the UK and made full contributions to the UK state pension. Indeed she continued to make such contributions on leaving. However when her state pension came into payment, it was not index-linked – it was frozen and would not be uprated to reflect the effect of inflation. The UK does not index-link state pensions paid in South Africa. The question for the Grand Chamber was whether this policy unlawfully discriminated against Mrs Carson on the basis of her place of residence, in breach of Article 14 in conjunction with Article 1 Protocol 1. Continue reading “Kenny on Carson & Ors. v The United Kingdom”

Kenny on Carson & Ors. v The United Kingdom