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Spot checks Social welfare inspections not 'essential' during Level Five lockdown, group claims

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Ringing doorbell. (Stock)

Ringing doorbell. (Stock)

Ringing doorbell. (Stock)

The Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed (INOU) has called for an end to welfare inspectors visiting homes during the Level 5 lockdown. 

Despite a ban on all household visits, inspectors from the Department of Social Protection have continued to carry out spot checks on social welfare recipients.

While these visits are being carried out in a limited capacity, INOU spokesperson Bríd O’Brien warned that great care needed to be taken by inspectors.

And she questioned the logic of deeming such practices as “essential” during a six-week health crisis.

“Inspection has been part of the system for a very long time,” she told the Sunday World.

“But given the current health pandemic, I think great care needs to be taken if and when these inspections are carried out.

“In particular, when they are calling to people's homes, that should be in a very limited capacity.

"They also need to ensure that nobody in a household is vulnerable from a health perspective.

"And that if people are isolating or restricting their movements, that is taken in to account.

“In the current circumstances, the health pandemic throws up a separate set of challenges and that great care must be taken if these inspections are carried out.

“One of the questions they really need to ask themselves is are these inspections really essential?

"Considering that in some cases they are possibly calling into homes where people are vulnerable and whose health may be vulnerable.

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“Or who may have family members who are vulnerable. That needs to be kept in mind.

“It is something that needs to be asked if it is advisable, given the circumstances, to be doing this work at all.”

Currently inspectors for the Department are entitled to make inspections on social welfare recipients as they have been deemed "essential" by their governing body.

Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys confirmed that these visits have continued in a limited capacity despite the banning of all household visits by the Government.

"My department is considered to be an essential service and will continue to provide customers with access to its services, as appropriate, during the course of the current level 5 restrictions," she said.

"As part of my department's obligations to ensure proper delivery of its service and compliance with the various scheme conditions, Social Welfare Inspectors are required to carry out a range of inspections including desk-based assessments of customer claims, face-to-face interviews with customers, home visits, and audits of employers’ PRSI records.

"In accordance with level 5 restrictions, public health advice and in the interest of the health and safety of both customers and staff, the department will seek to fully meet its obligations while limiting, to the greatest possible extent, any face-to-face interviews with customers, including routine inspections, while the current restrictions apply."

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