FLAC welcomes European anti-racism body’s call on welfare decisions and Travellers
3 March 2016
Legal rights organisation FLAC today backed a call by the European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) for the Social Welfare Appeals Office to publish the results of social welfare appeals and for all Traveller discrimination complaints to be heard by the new Workplace Relations Commission.
ECRI is a Council of Europe body that monitors racism and the treatment of ethnic minorities in all 47 European countries. In 2013, it published a report on Ireland calling on the Government as a priority to publish decisions of the Social Welfare Appeals Office in relation to the Habitual Residence Condition. The condition is used to prevent social welfare payments to groups, including asylum seekers, based on ties to Ireland.
In its freshly published conclusions on how Ireland is implementing its recommendations, ECRI says that although publishing decisions on welfare appeals is necessary to ensure foreseeability of application of the condition, only “a very low number of new appeal cases” had been published so far meaning its recommendation had been only partially implemented. It calls on the Irish authorities to rethink their policy on this issue.
FLAC has repeatedly raised the question of publishing social welfare appeals decisions as standard, but the Appeals Office currently publishes only 20 or 30 selected decisions per year in its annual report. FLAC Legal & Policy Officer Ciaran Finlay said today: “All significant decisions should be published in order to ensure consistency of decision-making and so that claimants and their advisors can know the basis on which decisions are made. It’s worth noting that the United Nation’s Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights also emphasised the need for consistency and transparency in social welfare appeals decisions during Ireland’s review last year.”
ECRI had also called for complaints of discrimination in the supply of goods and services to be heard by an independent body outside of the court system. Its latest comment notes the establishment of Ireland’s new Workplace Relations Commission but that the exclusion from the new body of Traveller complaints concerning discrimination by pubs and hotels means ECRI’s recommendation on this matter had also only been partially implemented. FLAC said that complaints of discrimination by licensed premises should be dealt with by the same independent, specialised body as all other complaints of discrimination.
One of the key parts of ECRI’s third priority recommendation has been overtaken by the passing of the International Protection Act in December last.
- FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) is a human rights organisation which exists to promote equal access to justice for all. FLAC is an NGO that relies on a combination of statutory funding, contributions from the legal professions and donations from individuals and grant-making foundations to support its work.
- FLAC offers basic legal information through its telephone information line (1890 350 250) and free legal advice through its network of 80 volunteer legal advice centres – more at www.flac.ie/help/. It also campaigns on a range of issues including consumer credit, personal debt, fairness in social welfare law, public interest law and civil legal aid.
- ECRI (http://www.coe.int/ecri) is a human rights body of the Council of Europe, composed of independent experts. It monitors problems of racism, discrimination on grounds of ethnic origin, colour, citizenship, religion and language (racial discrimination), as well as xenophobia, anti-Semitism and intolerance, prepares reports and issues recommendations to member States. In Ireland, ECRI's expert member is Michael Farrell, former FLAC Senior Solicitor.
- ECRI’s conclusions on the implementation of its recommendations can be viewed in full at http://www.coe.int/t/dghl/monitoring/ecri/country-by-country/ireland/IRL-IFU-IV-2016-004-ENG.pdf.
- In 2012 FLAC published a legal analysis and recommendations for reform of the Irish social welfare appeals system. Called 'Not Fair Enough', it is available to download at http://www.flac.ie/publications/not-fair-enough/.
- FLAC also published a guide to the Habitual Residence Condition in 2013, which is available at http://www.flac.ie/publications/guide-habitual-residence-condition/.