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New residence rules for benefit entitlement cause hardship for young people back from placements abroad

The Law Centre has dealt with several cases recently where British and Irish citizens have fallen foul of a new requirement that a claimant must have been living in the Common Travel Area (UK and Ireland) for three months prior to a claim to Jobseeker’s Allowance.

The unforeseen consequences of a rushed-through piece of legislation

This new rule was rushed through just as the restrictions on access to labour market for citizensof Romaniaand Bulgaria were lifted. 

At the time, there was little understanding that returning nationals were also going to be affected but many have been.

The rule has caused a lot of hardship and is being interpreted in a very narrow way, affecting young people who went abroad to gain work experience.

Case study

A young man was referred to the Law Centre by Cookstown CAB. He had been told he would have to wait for three months before reapplying for JSA when he came back from a short placement abroad.

He had always lived in Northern Ireland where he had worked and studied. In 2013 he became unemployed and claimed JSA but used that time to improve his skills through part-time work and an internship. He stopped claiming JSA to take up a three-month placement in Italy on an EU scheme working in the hospitality industry in exchange for food, lodging, flights and 100 euros a month.

The Law Centre argued that during his period of temporary absence he was still technically living in Northern Ireland. He had kept his possessions at his parents’ house, kept his car and bank accounts at that address and clearly intended to return.  

Because he had both British and Irish nationality, we also pointed out that, in accordance with EU Treaty rights he exercised his right to free movement as an Irish citizen.  An appeal tribunal agreed with the Law Centre's argument.

Correction: an earlier version of this article mentioned that the young man had been paid arrears of JSA. We have been told that JSA has not been paid and that the Social Security Agency has requested the tribunal's statement of reasons with a view to appealing to the Social Security Commissioner.

Timeline of changes to residence rules 

This rule is one of a number of changes to residence requirements introduced in the last year. 

A Law Centre briefing explains the changes. You can read it here.

The residence rules are complex and anyone who may be affected by them is advised to consult an independent advice centre, Citizen’s Advice Bureau or, in complex cases, the Law Centre’s advice line. 

Advice line

Our social security legal advice unit is always happy to help in such cases and other benefit entitlement cases referred by members. Advice line: 028 9024 4401 or 028 7126 2433, Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 1pm.

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