Pensioner begins court action over refusal of special payment for winter coat

A decision by the Minister for Social Protection not to sanction a special payment so a pensioner can buy a winter coat has sparked a High Court challenge.

The case is the first of what is expected to be several High challenges against the refusal of the Minister for Social Protection to make an Exceptional Needs Payment. (ENP)

The singe payment ENP is designed to meet an exceptional need and are normally made to those in receipt of social welfare.

They are used for items such as special clothing for those with an illness, bedding, cooking utensils for those moving into a new home, or to visit a relative in hospital.

There is no automatic entitlement to the payments which are payable at the discretion of the Department’s representatives.

At the High Court today lawyers acting for pensioner Martin Finn, who has a number of medical complaints, including asthma, arthritis, and heart problems claim a refusal by the Minister to grant him a ENP was fundamentally flawed.

He made an application so he could pay for a winter jacket as the cold weather exacerbates his medical condition, but on September 17th last his request was refused by the Minister.

Feichin McDonagh SC for Mr Finn said his client was informed by the Minister "the principal consideration in determining if an ENP should issue" is that the need to be met must be "exceptional and unforeseen."

Counsel said the requirement that the need must be both exceptional and unforeseen, as opposed to just exceptional, was a "new policy" by the Minister for which there is no statutory basis.

Mr Finn, Counsel said had applied for and received an exceptional payment in the past.

Counsel said that while this case was brought over the refusal to make a payment in regards to an overcoat, there was a "wider issue".

It is claimed the ENP scheme is being improperly applied by the Minister on a nationwide basis and potentially affects thousands of applications a year.

There are approximately 8000 successful applications for ENP per month, although figures for unsuccessful applications are not kept by the Minister.

A number of other people are in a similar situation to Mr Finn, counsel said.

Mr Finn’s case could be the first of several challenges over similar refusals to come before the courts, counsel added.

In his action against the Minister Mr Finn from Ballybough Court, Ballybough Dublin 3 seeks an order quashing the Minister’s refusal to grant him the ENP.

He also seeks a declaration that the Minister has fettered her discretion in the manner Section 201 of the 2005 Social Welfare Act is operated.

Permission to bring the challenge was granted on an ex-parte basis by Mr Justice Seamus Noonan.

The case will come back before the court in December.


Most Read in Ireland