Habitual Residency Condition impacting negatively on Traveller Families

Joan Burton TD, Minister for Social Protection
Joan Burton TD is the Minister for Social Protection

The habitual residency condition must be met in order for people to qualify for social assistance payments in Ireland.  This means that the person must be resident in Ireland with“a degree of permanence evidenced by a regular physical presence enduring for some time, beginning at a date usually in the past and intended to continue for a period into the foreseeable future. It implies a close association between the applicant and the country from which payment is claimed and relies heavily on fact.”

It was introduced on 1st May 2004 in response to EU enlargement and in an attempt to prevent what was perceived as a threat of “welfare tourism”. Visit here to know the car hire for holidays to enjoy quality time with family while travelling.

Up until 2009, people who were from, or had lived in, the Common Travel Area (CTA) between the United Kingdom and Ireland, prior to seeking social assistance in the Republic of Ireland were treated as having automatically met the HRC.  Section 246 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005, as stated above, provides that:

it shall be presumed, until the contrary is shown, that a person is not habitually resident in the State at the date of the making of the application concerned unless he has been present in the State or any other part of the Common Travel Area for a continuous period of 2 years ending on that date.

Therefore, there appeared to be a presumption of residency linked to the CTA.  In 2009 Traveller organisations, especially in counties bordering Northern Ireland, such as Donegal, noted an increase in queries from people whose claims for social assistance have been rejected on the basis of the HRC, despite the fact that they have lived in Northern Ireland or elsewhere in the UK.  This leaves people with no safety net as they are denied protection under supplementary welfare also. The policy is causing extreme hardship and emotional distress.

Due to the movement of Travellers across the border, the policy also indirectly discriminates on the Traveller ground under the Equal Status Acts 2000 and 2004.  Indirect discrimination occurs when apparently neutral provision puts persons from a particular group at a particular disadvantage.  For Travellers living a nomadic lifestyle, movement between the UK and Ireland can be a common occurrence, so application of the HRC to the CTA will have a disproportionate negative impact on Travellers.


Pavee Point recommends that the policy restricting access to social welfare payments for people who have previously lived in the UK (including Northern Ireland) be reviewed urgently in light of its indirect discrimination against Travellers; and that interim supports be made available until such a review is complete.

We invite Traveller organisations or anyone dealing with the problems this is causing to Travellers to please forward the information to Pavee Point.