Woman takes legal challenge over her Covid-19 PUP being stopped

Vilma Cekanaviciute, who lived in Ireland for 18 years, was stranded in Lithuania during first lockdown

 

A Lithuanian national who has lived here for the last 18 years has brought a High Court challenge after her Covid-19 pandemic unemployment payment (PUP) was stopped when she was stranded in Lithuania and could not get back to Ireland during the first lockdown.

Vilma Cekanaviciute had gone to Lithuania for a two-week break in March but, when the lockdown was imposed, her return flight was cancelled and she was unable to return to Ireland until July.

She has sued in an effort to have her Covid-19 PUP restored and backdated.

Hers is the first of a number of similar type complaints over the PUP which may come before the court in the next few months.

Mr Justice Garrett Simons on Monday granted Ms Cekanaviciute leave to bring the judicial review proceedings against the Minister for Social Protection.

On March 8th, Ms Cekanaviciute had travelled to Lithuania with her two-year-old daughter for two weeks. As she is in receipt of a one-parent family payment, she informed the Department of Social Welfare of her travel plans.

While in Lithuania, it is claimed the Covid-19 pandemic escalated significantly across Europe.

On March 20th, she was informed her flight back to Ireland for March 27th was cancelled. She was unable to return to Ireland until July 4th on one of the first flights to Dublin.

Ms Cekanaviciute had applied for PUP at the start of April and received it until mid-May when it was stopped.

At issue in the case is whether physical presence in Ireland was a precondition to be in receipt of the Covid-19 payment. Ms Cekanaviciute contends it was not and stresses she has been resident here for 18 years.

The fact she was physically outside the State having been stranded abroad by a global pandemic has no bearing on whether she was resident in or currently living in Ireland, she claims.

Ms Cekanaviciute, Waterville, Blanchardstown, Dublin, is, in judicial review proceedings, seeking an order quashing the decision on May 12th, 2020 to stop her PUP on the basis she was not resident in Ireland or had left the State.

She claims a June 2020 refusal to reinstate and backdate her payment, and a determination she was not resident in Ireland and not eligible for the payment, was unlawful, irrational and not supported by facts. She also wants an order compelling the Minister to determine her application for the reinstatement and back payment.

In an affidavit, she said, when she travelled to Lithuania, had she known she would not be able to get a flight back to Dublin, she would never have gone. It was never published she could not leave the country and she thought she was operating within the rules at all times, she said.

She thought the Minister’s review of the Covid-19 payments being stopped would have resolved the situation as she considered what happened to her to be “clearly unfair”. She did not fully understand the reasons why the payment had been stopped, she added.