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    FIS publishes guide to elders’ lunch clubs

    Friday, September 12th, 2008

    The Federation of Irish Societies in Britain has published the “FIS Guide to Setting Up an Elders’ Lunch Club”. It looks like a great resource for groups interested in enhancing the lives of elders. The handbook notes the benefits of a lunch club are extensive:

    A lunch club, not only allows organisations to improve their relations with elders but also provides an excellent social networking opportunity (for some elders, isolation is a stark reality within their lives) as well as offering an access point for various community services, i.e. Health, Benefits, etc.

    It’s a really comprehensive guide, covering organisational issues, finding premises, training volunteers and staff, nutrition and menus, promotion, record keeping, finances, and suggested meals.

    See the Guide on the FIS website.

    State checking on pensioners abroad

    Wednesday, March 5th, 2008

    The Department of Social and Family Affairs is contacting 8,000 pensioners abroad to ensure they are still alive, the Irish Times reports today.

    There are 35,000 people living outside of Ireland who receive the contributory pension, according to the paper; the contributory pension is made to eligible people 66 or over who have paid social insurance PSRI contributions. The pension amounts to €223 per week, with more if the recipient has an adult dependent.

    There are a total of 237,000 recipients of this pension, with 14% of them living abroad. Most of those recipients abroad live in the UK, the US, and Canada. As these countries do not automatically alert Irish authorities when an Irish citizen dies, the Department is concerned that welfare payments may be made to people who have died. Officials are contacting 8,000 recipients they feel may have passed away or who no longer have an adult dependent.

    One thousand circulars were distributed last month, for the first phase of the “life certification project”. If there is no response within a period of time, the payments will be stopped; they will be reinstated, however, if someone is taken off the list but is still alive.

    Read the full story (registration required).

    Over 1600 Irish refused benefits under HRC

    Monday, November 19th, 2007

    There were 1,629 Irish citizens and returning emigrants that have been refused welfare benefits under the habitual residency condition, according to a report by Carl O’Brien in today’s Irish Times.

    Emigrant Advice staff member Joe O’Brien says that the situtaion is detrimental to those intending to return:

    “It’s something that needs to be tackled immediately because it’s unacceptable that returning Irish emigrants should be refused the safety and the protection of the welfare system on their return.

    “The restrictions are unfair because they don’t take into account how long a person may have lived her prior to the welfare rules changing. As a result, we’ve asked the department to make alterations to the application of the habitual residency condition.”

    The report says the Department of Social and Family Affairs said 90% of returning emigrants have their applications accepted. Emigrant Advice says they know of a number of returning emigrants and missionaries who have been refused social assistance.

    “Irish Prisoners Abroad” published by DFA

    Monday, August 13th, 2007

    A report highlighting the status of Irish prisoners abroad has been written by Chris Flood for the Department of Foreign Affairs.

    According to “Irish Prisoners Abroad”, there are about 800 Irish prisoners abroad, although Mr Flood recognises that this estimate is likely to be on the low side, as not all prisoners are known to consular officials.  Prisoners serving time away from their home countries can be disadvantaged for a variety of reasons, and, the report notes, “their plight sometimes evokes little sympathy among some sections of the wider community in Ireland”. However, the Irish government has obligations as a result of international law to ensure the consular rights of prisoners.

    The report makes a series of recommendations aimed at ensuring prisoner welfare abroad. These include:

    • Recognise a need to ensure best international practice
    • Establish a new unit within the DFA dedicated to the consular needs of prisoners
    • Establish a register of Irish prisoners abroad.
    • Ensure that every prisoner have a right to a consular visit at least once a year.
    • Embassies should pursue the automatic notification of consular staff.
    • The policy dimension of NGOs such as the Irish Commission for Prisoners Overseas should be funded.
    • Prisoners should receive an information pack that would include the details of ICPO.

    In launching the publication, the Minister said,

    “Of course, if Irish people commit crimes abroad, they must face the consequences of their actions before the local criminal justice system. However, we have a responsibility to ensure that our people are not discriminated against as foreign prisoners, and that any concerns they may have regarding their safety or treatment, are brought to the attention of the relevant authorities within the local prison system or the civilian authorities where necessary?.

    The Minister pledged to examine the report to see how the Government might improve on current services.

    Mr Ahern also announced a grant of €218,000 to the Irish Commission for Prisoners Overseas, paying tribute to the organisation’s work: “The ICPO is a valued partner in the provision of consular assistance to Irish citizens imprisoned abroad and compliments the work of our diplomatic missions”.

    New moves on free travel for older emigrants?

    Wednesday, July 11th, 2007

    Older emigrants living in Britain may soon be getting access to free travel in Ireland, according to a report in the Irish Post. The newspaper reports that leading politicians have promised that the issue is being prioritised to be addressed when the Irish Government reconvenes after the summer holidays.

    Emigrant advocates have been campaigning on this issue for years, and while there appears to be much goodwill toward the idea among politicians, there have been difficulties in implementing a plan.  Last year, then-Minister Seamus Brennan attempted to introduce a provision that would have allowed for free travel for those abroad who were receiving an Irish pension; the EU Commission rejected the proposal as discriminatory. Currently residents of the island of Ireland are entitled to the free travel scheme once they reach 66.  

    Most campaigners want to see free travel introduced for all Irish nationals who have reached pension age. The newspaper quotes a Department for Social and Family Affairs spokesperson:

    “The Government will examine the introduction of free travel for Irish citizens of pension age, particularly those resident in Britain, when visiting Ireland and press the European Commission to examine a similar EU-wide scheme.”

     The paper notes the free travel campaign is backed by the Green Party, a coalition government party, and the opposition Labour Party.

     The issue was one of those that loomed largest at the Irish Pensioners Consultation and Conference Day recently organised by the Irish Elderly Advice Service at the London Irish Centre.

    Read the full reports on the Irish Post website:

    Returning Irish being refused benefits

    Wednesday, July 4th, 2007

    The issue of emigrants are being refused benefits under the Habitual Residence Condition needs to be addressed says Éan member agency Emigrant Advice in today’s Irish Times.

    The paper reports that Brian Flynn, director of the Social Welfare Appeals Office, “said appeals officers were concerned at ‘the deteriorating standards of decision-making and poor quality of file presentation’ by Department of Social and Family Affairs and HSE staff dealing with cases coming before them on appeal”. Mr Flynn made the comments at the launch of his 2006 annual report.

    Joe O’Brien of Emigrant Advice said that his agency saw returning emigrants being refused social welfare payments. “Between May 2004 and April 2006, 880 Irish people were refused a payment because they were not classified as habitually resident in Ireland. We see returning Irish emigrants being refused payments because of this rule. ”

    Journalist Alison Healy adds that O’Brien “referred to one case where a returned emigrant was refused social welfare, then granted a pyament on appeal but then refused when he went to collect it.”

    See the full story in the Irish Times (subscription required)

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