The last thing I ever wanted to do was to become dependent on social welfare. But things happen. I had to quit my job a few months ago because I needed to be with my daughter who had several health problems, so money was already scarce, then my estranged husband decided to cut the maintenance in half and I was left penniless.
As any mother would do, I got into protection mode and did everything possible to get some kind of income. While looking for jobs, I also signed on for social welfare in the hope it would keep me going.
Ireland has an extremely outdated signing-on system., the endless paperwork, the old fashioned standing in line, the grumpy people in the social welfare office, it was all very unpleasant to experience, but I took it on and went through it, because I had no choice.
Nothing, however had prepared me for the meeting with the social welfare inspector.
Of course, I do understand why an inspection could be necessary, especially since I noticed that in the social welfare office and the community office every document you produce is considered to be fake, and everything you say is considered a lie, even my birth certificate was looked at with suspicion. ( I had to point out to the lady in the SWO that ‘September’ in Dutch means ‘September’ in English. I keep forgetting that Anglophones find understanding other languages very difficult).
I went to the appointment with the inspector as instructed on a Monday at 12. I was a bit taken aback by the office doors that each had a lock and an entry code. What was going on?
The man, blond with little piercing blue eyes, let me into his office, as always I smiled and said hello. He didn’t smile back.
He took my file and looked through it, then he said ‘So are you going back home?’ I looked puzzled. He repeated ‘why don’t you go back home to your family?’. I then realised that by ‘home’ he meant Belgium.
I looked at him in disbelief. I said ‘I’ve been living here for 18 years, my children are Irish, why on earth would I go back to Belgium?’
Then he said ‘So I guess you’re not then’. ‘Because you are going to get money off the state here’ he shouted out loud with a menacing look on his face.
I was bewildered, from then on I knew this was not just a talk about what happened and about the steps I should take, etc. this was an interrogation. I had to keep telling myself I was in Ireland, land of the thousand welcomes. I have borne children here, I have paid taxes, I pay taxes every time I buy something, I pay road tax, I delivered very intelligent and talented children to this country, I organised charity events for Action Breast Cancer , I am a cultural ambassador for the Irish In Europe Association, promoting Irish businesses in Brussels, I did workshops with teenagers from disadvantaged backgrounds, I fundraised money for the local school, brought choirs to small churches in the country side and many more things. but here was a guy telling me I am taking money off the state and telling me I should go ‘home’.
That meeting lasted around an hour. I was treated like a criminal all the way through, everything I said was either ridiculed or sneered at.
I could only think of one thing. What if I was black? What has this guy been saying to other people?
I did not sleep that night, I was completely traumatised. I made a complaint, we’ll see what happens.
I thought about the movies I saw, the books I read about the Magdalen sisters and the industrial schools, Angela’s Ashes and the way poor people were treated in the old days. It was always just fiction, but now I had experienced it myself, it is still happening.
I used to work in the employment office in Brussels, I met people like me, I also worked in prison for six years as a nurse. Never in my entire life have I treated anyone with such disrespect. I am totally disgusted.
I am in bad luck and working hard to get out of it. I am not taking social welfare because in the end I am not yet reaching the (very low) threshold for job seekers allowance, and the thought of ever having to see this man again, makes me sick. I think I’d rather go ‘home’ indeed.
If you’ve had a similar experience, please feel free to share it here. Maybe we can do something about it.
photo credit: Neil. Moralee I have seen the terror, I have seen the marks via photopin (license)
photo credit: deadmanjones DDR Museum via photopin (license)
photo credit: Olivier Anh 2016-05-01-img_4876.f via photopin (license)
16 thoughts on “My Horrible Experience of Meeting a Social Welfare Inspector in Ireland.”
I have been reduced to tears so many times with community welfare officers and social welfare officers. They shout at you, ridicule you, treat you like a criminal and I am Irish! It is so degrading I am so sorry this has happened to you, I can’t imagine how someone who is black would be treated. I’ve had social welfare inspectors show up to my house unexpected, look in all the rooms and bully me in my own home. It’s awful and I never complained because it is up to their discretion to say yes or no to a payment you need to eat, to provide shelter. It is a disgrace!
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Yes, I have had a few comments on my Facebook page saying exactly the same. People are scared to complain because they are in bad need of money, and the inspectors are well aware of that. I am ‘lucky’ enough to have struck a deal with my ex so I get maintenance which is just too much to get an allowance. This means I don’t need to be worried. I am going as far as I can with this.
You have no business claiming handouts in a foreign country. Be you Irish abroad or an immigrant in Ireland.
Way too many foreign moochers here. For example, only 38% of Africans in Ireland work.
Time to cut off all welfare payouts to foreigners. We are not a global soup kitchen.
PS your children aren’t Irish. The Irish people are a distinct ethnic group indigenous to this island. If I move to China and have kids there, they’re not Chinese.
Dear James, It seems to me you would have been a lover of the Arian race too, here the Irish race. But, I must disappoint you. My children’s great grandparents on their father’s side are Mary Brennan and John O’Shaughnessy from Tipperary. Yes, more Irish than you theought huh? Yes, soiled by the Flemish and Welsh genes, I admit.
Any child born on Irish soil is Irish, whether you like it or not. If you don’t mind, I’d like to share your comment on Facebook, so my African friends or Irish friends from African origin can tell you where they work. (yes, the ALL work, unlike many of their Irish neighbours). Let’s not start this nonsense. My parents’ home is now occupied by an Irish family, their children are Belgian.
My sons have the most Irish accent imaginable, they feel Irish in every sense, (sometimes to my disapointment) especially dring the world-cup.
OK, So I will then really have to claim back the following sums of money I raised for Irish cancer sufferers, Irish schools, etc: in total something like €25, 000. If you make sure I get that back, I won’t need the social welfare.
The majority of Africans in Ireland are unemployed. Of course the welfare officers are going to be annoyed. Human nature. Time to cut moochers off.
Did you just see the numbers or were you intrested in the cause? Did you read this sentence in the same report, btw?” Ethnic Minority EU individuals are four times more likely to report experiencing discrimination while looking for work than White Irish nationals.”
Hey I’m a journalist very interested in this. Can you please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org thanks!
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Thanks, I just sent you an email
I’m sorry for your rotten experience – unfortunately you are not alone. I have shared this article on FB – this should be publicised more. These people have huge powers under section 250 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005. Unfortunately there is no requirement in the legislation to treat people with a modicum of humanity. There is a Customer Charter which is toothless as it can’t be enforced. It’s good you don’t have to rely on them while so many people do. Thanks for writing this.
Absolutely shocking. I hope you find a decent income soon!
Thank you very much for your kind comment. It is a struggle, but I keep fighting
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I wonder what this man would do if he were ever made redundant – and had to face people just like himself. Be treated like he treats people. Where I’m concerned, he’s in sheltered employment. Possibly been doing the same job for the past 30 years and dead bored, and making people’s lives hell is his only entertainment. I hope you get to deal with much kinder people soon, they do exist – I’ve seen them. Where in Ireland are you?
I am in West-cork. The inspector was in Bandon
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Hi Roos, such treatment to you. Sorry to learn of your terrible experiences. Did anything ever become of your experience. Would like to make contact. William.
Hi William, You can email me on email@example.com