NI: NI Tribunal finds new JSA residence rules contrary to EU law in some cases

NI: NI Tribunal finds new JSA residence rules contrary to EU law in some cases

A Social Security Tribunal has agreed that a new rule that people must be resident in the Common Travel Area for three months to access Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) is contrary to EU law in some cases.

Law Centre (NI) has represented a number of people from Northern Ireland this year who have had problems accessing JSA due to the rule, which was hastily brought in by the UK government when Romanian and Bulgarian nationals gained full accession rights.

The avowed aim was to restrict European migrants’ access to the benefit. In practice, the rule affects UK/Irish nationals and other European nationals alike.

A young UK/Irish national was referred to the Law Centre by her MLA’s constituency office. She had been employed in Northern Ireland from August 2007 up to 2011 before leaving employment to study for a degree, during which time she continued to live at home.

In January 2014, she travelled to another European country where she worked for four months. She returned to Northern Ireland in June and claimed JSA a week later. This was refused on the basis of the three-month requirement.

The Law Centre appealed the decision on a number of grounds:

  1. that she never stopped ‘living in’ the UK as her absence was temporary and this was always her home;
  2. that the requirement to be living in the UK for three months in order to be entitled to JSA was contrary to EU law where a person had exercised free movement rights and worked in another member state;
  3. that her time spent abroad should count towards satisfying the UK residence requirement to be living here for three months.
  4. The Tribunal had some difficulties with points 1 and 3 but accepted the Law Centre’s submissions in relation to point 2 and agreed that the client was habitually resident from her date of claim.The decision repesents the first time that a Tribunal has agreed that the rule is contrary to EU law in such cases.

    The Department is considering whether to appeal to the Social Security Commissioner.

    • Law Centre (NI) is keen to pursue such cases in order to establish entitlement for this category of persons. Advisers encountering similar cases are welcome to contact the Law Centre’s social security legal advice line, 028 9024 4401, 9.30am to 1pm, Monday to Friday.
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