Residence requirement for the exercise of the right to child benefit

In its decision in the case of X and Others v. Ireland (application nos. 23851/20 and 24360/20, 22.06.2023) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been no violation of Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) of the European Convention on Human Rights taken in conjunction with Article 1 of Protocol no. 1 (protection of property).

The case concerns the rule that the payment of child benefit in Ireland can only be made to claimants who are lawfully resident in the State.

The Court stated that if not for the condition of entitlement about which the applicant mothers complained, they would have had a right to the benefit in question. Article 14 taken with Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 was therefore applicable.

The Court reiterated that in assessing discrimination under Article 14, it was important to compare applicants with individuals in a similar situation, and highlighted the detailed assessment of the Supreme Court in relation to the issues of comparability. It also referred to the essentially national character of social-security systems, it being accepted at the international level that States can limit entitlement to residents, and States were furthermore able to control entry onto their territory. In Ireland, child benefit was available to all categories of resident.

It went on to find that the applicants’ situations at the time they had first applied for child benefit meant that they had not been in a comparable situation to people who had already had residency in Ireland. Neither X nor Y had had a status equivalent to residence at the relevant time. The Court therefore found that, in the circumstances of this case, no difference of treatment arose. The claim of discrimination in relation to eligibility for child benefit was therefore rejected, the Court concluding that there had been no violation of Article 14.

Reference from the official website of the European Court of Human Rights