Ukrainians to be means-tested for medical cards after a year

Ukrainians whose medical cards are due for annual review soon are set to get a three-month extension.
Ukrainians to be means-tested for medical cards after a year

HSE Medical Card

Ukrainians are to be means-tested for their medical cards after one year of living in Ireland, the Irish Examiner has learned.

Currently, all Ukrainians fleeing war are automatically entitled to a medical card on their arrival here.

The Cabinet committee on Ukraine, which is due to meet later today, will hear that the Department of Health is to draw up plans that will see Ukrainians subject to the same standard means assessment as everyone else.

The move comes after a Government decision last October where all departments were asked to ensure that the provision of supports and services were equitable and consistent.

However, Ukrainians whose medical cards are due for annual review soon are set to get a three-month extension.

Pictured is Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly. Photograph: Leah Farrell /
Pictured is Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly. Photograph: Leah Farrell /

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has insisted on a three-month deferral to ensure adequate communication with the Ukrainian community.

It is also envisaged that Ukrainian people will continue to maintain existing eligibility for a medical card pending transition to and completion of a standard means assessment process over the coming months.

All incoming Ukrainian arrivals will continue to have access to a medical card for their first year in Ireland.

After that, they will be subject to the same standard means assessment as anyone else living in the country.

The HSE has advised that the circumstances of some Ukrainian people have changed since their arrival and that some are now in employment.

And the HSE has advised that pre-existing Irish residents may not receive a medical card in the same circumstances.

In circumstances where an applicant is over the income limit for a medical card, they are then assessed for a GP visit card, which entitles the applicant to GP visits without charge.

It comes as the Irish Examiner reported that over 1,200 asylum seekers will have to leave hotels by mid-April as the State faces a significant shortfall in accommodation.

Papers submitted for the cabinet committee on Ukraine today will state that a priority needs to be given to accommodate women and children.

Minister for Children Roderic O'Gorman.
Minister for Children Roderic O'Gorman.

A total of 1,228 beds will be lost from the system due to hotels providing shelter to international protection (IP) applicants deciding not to renew their contracts. This combined with the estimated numbers expected to arrive here in the coming weeks will result in a shortage, Integration Minister Roderic O’Gorman is expected to tell colleagues.

Currently, there are 432 refugees who have not been offered State accommodation with some believed to be sleeping on the streets.

Around 85 Ukrainians and 29 IP applicants are arriving in Ireland every day.

The Irish Examiner also understands that the State is facing up to 87 legal challenges by those seeking asylum here but were not provided with accommodation.

The transit hub at Citywest also remains closed to new arrivals and it is currently “oversubscribed.” The papers also state how it has become challenging for contractors working at a site at Columb Barracks in Mullingar, Co Westmeath where “pod-style” accommodation is to be constructed to provide for around 400 beds.

There is ongoing and sustained verbal abuse of workers and residents, documents outline.

In recent days, a bus carrying asylum seekers was blocked from entering the site used to house asylum seekers in tents until the rapid build homes are due to be erected in eight weeks.

'Capacity issues'

Education Minister Norma Foley is expected to warn colleagues that there are now significant capacity pressures on schools around the country and preparations will need to be put in place ahead of the next academic year.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will also provide an update on the efforts to locate more accommodation across the country.

A considerable number of properties have been identified under a refurbishment scheme and the meeting will be told that 1,195 bed spaces are under construction or awaiting the arrival of contractors. However, there are no timelines for the delivery of these beds.

Meanwhile, 679 properties have been allocated since November under a scheme ran through local authorities that will take offers of houses, apartments or holiday homes for temporary accommodation. A total of 2,229 Ukrainians have been housed under this scheme.

It’s also understood Fianna Fáil TDs last night raised concerns at its parliamentary party meeting about arranging accommodation for IP applicants and hit out at the Department of Integration for the delay of payments to suppliers.

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