Ciara Kenny

The Irish Times forum by and for Irish citizens living overseas,

Migrants to Britain unaware of welfare rights

Vulnerable Irish emigrants to Britain are at increased risk of becoming destitute because of a lack of awareness regarding entitlements to welfare support once they leave Ireland, according to a new report by Crosscare Migrant Project.

Tue, Aug 14, 2012, 08:52



VULNERABLE IRISH emigrants to Britain are at increased risk of becoming destitute because of a lack of awareness regarding entitlements to welfare support once they leave Ireland, according to a new report published yesterday.

Crosscare Migrant Project, an information and advocacy service for migrants run by the Dublin archdiocese, said emigrants who do not have prearranged employment or family connections in Britain are at a particular risk of falling into financial difficulty or homelessness.

A recent Crosscare survey of Irish emigrants queuing for Eurolines bus services from Busáras in Dublin to London or Leeds found they were not aware of their welfare rights in Britain.

Of the 321 people surveyed, one in five was emigrating or commuting to Britain for work.None of the 10 people interviewed in detail by Crosscare had researched their entitlements to social security or housing support in Britain prior to departure.

All 10 were male, six of whom were involved in construction. Nine were travelling alone.

“The UK is near, accessible and relatively cheap to get to, but these things that make it easy to move there can give people a false sense of security,” said Crosscare’s policy officer, Joe O’Brien.

“Single males with no family connections, prearranged employment or accommodation are the most vulnerable. It is difficult to predict what could happen to them. Some will find work, others will return home, but unfortunately there are a number who will get into trouble financially and won’t know where to turn for help.”

The Eurolines bus service is one of the cheapest ways people can travel between Ireland and Britain, and customers do not need a credit or debit card to buy a ticket as they would to book a seat on a flight.

It is the most common mode of transport used by vulnerable Crosscare clients.

Mr O’Brien said it was vital for every migrant to do their research in advance on what services they are entitled to before they leave Ireland.

“For virtually every welfare payment that is available to people here, there is a similar payment available in the UK that they can apply for,” he said.

People who have been receiving jobseeker’s benefit in Ireland for at least four weeks can also transfer it to another European country for up to 13 weeks while looking for work.

NGOs working with vulnerable Irish immigrants in the UK have told Crosscare that many people are arriving without adequate photo identification, delaying their application for a National Insurance Number which is necessary to receive welfare benefits.

“You can travel to the UK without photo ID and some of the people we would be working with wouldn’t even have a passport. They will not be able to access services there without it, so it is vital they know that and have all the necessary documentation prepared before they leave Ireland,” he said.

Crosscare is calling for a joint British-Irish government information campaign to educate emigrants about their rights before they depart.

“The EU have a strong remit to permit freedom of movement. Workers should be well-informed of their rights in terms of moving from one jurisdiction to another, and their social security entitlements,” said Mr O’Brien.

Under the Government’s Emigrant Support Programme, grants totalling €7.8 million were given to Irish community organisations across Britain in 2011 to provide information and support services to Irish emigrants.

A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said the delivery of such services to Irish emigrants in Britain will continue to be given priority in future support.

This article appears in the print edition of The Irish Times today. Read the full Crosscare report here.