Seanad debates

Tuesday, 13 February 2024

Social Welfare and Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2023: Second Stage


1:00 pm

Photo of Heather HumphreysHeather Humphreys (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

The current equivalence with Irish citizens in terms of accessing social welfare benefits will be removed for those beneficiaries of temporary protection who are resident in designated accommodation centres, while still meeting the standard set out in the directive.

Section 10 amends the International Protection Act 2015 to provide that beneficiaries of temporary protection with a valid permission under the directive to reside in the State will be entitled to the same social welfare benefits as Irish citizens, other than when that person is resident in a designated accommodation centre. Beneficiaries of temporary protection who are resident in a designated accommodation centre will instead receive a weekly payment to cover incidental expenses. As I mentioned, this will be €38.80 in line with the daily expenses allowance paid to people in direct provision. This payment will be administered by the Department of Social Protection on behalf of the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth.

Section 10 also provides for the definition of a “designated accommodation centre” as a premises so designated by the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth. The section also provides that where the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth is satisfied that a premises is suitable, he or she may designate it as such in writing. As soon as practicable after such a designation has been made, it should be published on a Government website.

I wish to advise Senators that I intend to bring forward an amendment on Committee Stage relating to the child benefit scheme. In budget 2024, the Government decided to extend the payment of child benefit to 18-year-olds who are in full-time education. This was one of my key priorities in the budget. With many children now starting primary school at five years old, together with the increase in pupils doing transition year, there has been an increase in the number of 18-year-olds who are still in secondary education. I believe the extension of child benefit to 18-year-olds who are in full-time education is a long-term change for the better and will support families across Ireland into the future. This is a significant change to the child benefit scheme. It requires technical and operational changes before implementation. We had originally provided that the change would take effect from 1 September this year. However, I am very pleased we will now be able to bring this important change in from May and I received approval from Government this morning to fast-track this measure. This change to the effective date requires a change to primary legislation and that is the amendment I intend to bring forward on Committee Stage.

The provisions of this Bill with respect to child maintenance and the liable relative provisions will have a positive impact on the lives of lone parents and their children. In addition to having a positive outcome in terms of poverty levels, the changes to the social welfare system will also remove aspects of the system which have been a cause of concern or anxiety to lone parents accessing our payments. These are very positive measures which modernise our system and make it more straightforward and less stressful for people to access and navigate.

The changes we are making with respect to the supports being provided to newly arrived beneficiaries of temporary protection resident in designated centres will ensure the sustainability of the system in the long term and will bring us in line with other EU countries. This will allow us to continue to welcome and support beneficiaries for as long as they continue to come here, something we all want to do.

I look forward to hearing Senators' contributions and I thank the Acting Chairperson for his indulgence.


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