e’ve been spreading the good word from the Citizens Information Centre for a few years now, given that they’re here to right the wrongs of this Wicklow world.
Month by month, Martina and the gang have tackled all the social ills and pills that might ail ya.
Along the way, they’ve provided invaluable tips and information on how to overcome.
With 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017 and 2016 under wraps, it’s time to teach 2021 a thing or two about doing the rights thing…
Know Your Rights: Flight And Hotel Cancellation
I have booked my own flight and hotel online. If I have to cancel what will happen to my money?
If you have planned a holiday where you booked the flights and hotel individually, you do not have the same level of protection as with a package holiday.
Your rights to cancel your flight and accommodation will be set out in the terms and conditions of the contract.
Cancelling your flight
If you have to cancel your flight or decide not to fly, you may lose the money you paid if the flight has not been cancelled by the airline or if you have not booked it as part of a package holiday.
If you booked the flight yourself you have no automatic right to re-routing or a refund. However, if you have to cancel because of COVID-19, you should contact the airline. Some airlines may be willing to offer you other alternatives like a voucher or credit note, or allow you to rebook your flight for a later date.
Cancelling your accommodation
Check the terms and conditions carefully to see what your rights about cancellation and refund options. You should contact the booking site if you need to cancel. In general, if you booked with a booking website, your contract is with the hotel and not the booking website. You may need to go to the hotel directly to ask for a refund. If you have a non-refundable hotel booking, it may be difficult to get your money back if you have to cancel.
If you have taken out travel insurance to cover your holiday, check to see if flight and accommodation cancellations are covered. If you are not sure, contact your travel insurance provider directly to see if you can claim on your policy.
You can read more about travel during COVID-19 and your consumer rights on citizensinformation.ie.
Know Your Rights: Carer’s Support Grant
I care for my mother full time and I get Carer’s Allowance. Last year, I automatically got the Carer’s Support Grant in June – will I get it again this year?
The Carer’s Support Grant is an annual payment made to full-time carers. It is paid by the Department of Social Protection (DSP) usually on the first Thursday of June each year. The grant is €1,850 (an increase of €150 from last year).
People getting Carer’s Allowance, Carer’s Benefit or Domiciliary Care Allowance are paid the grant automatically. If you are getting one of these payments on the first Thursday in June, you automatically get the grant so you do not need to apply.
Full-time carers who are not getting one of these payments need to apply to the DSP. You must be:
Ordinarily resident in the State and caring on a full-time basis for at least six months (including the first Thursday in June)
Living with the person being cared for (or, if not, be contactable quickly by a direct system of communication, for example, telephone or alarm).
You won’t qualify if you are working, studying or training for more than 18.5 hours a week, getting a jobseeker’s payment or signing on for credits.
To apply, you need to fill out one application form (form CSG1) (pdf) for each person being cared for (a grant may be paid for each of them). You can get the form on gov.ie. For any given year, you can apply for the grant from April of that year until 31 December of the following year. So for 2021, you can apply up until December 2022.
You can read more about the Carer’s Support Grant on citizensinformation.ie
Know Your Rights: Frontier Worker Permit
I live in Ireland but travel to work in Northern Ireland every day. Do I have to apply for a Frontier Worker Permit to continue working there?
You are a cross border worker (also called a frontier worker). This is a person who lives in one country and works in another, returning to the country they live in at least once a week. For example, a person who lives in Ireland and travels to work in Northern Ireland is a cross border worker.
After Brexit, the UK introduced rules that affect EU citizens who work in Northern Ireland (and the rest of the UK). However, these rules do not apply to Irish citizens.
Irish and British citizens have the right to live and work in both Ireland and the UK because both countries are part of the Common Travel Area. Common Travel Area rights only apply to Irish and UK citizens, and not to citizens of other countries who live in Ireland or the UK. So, if you are an Irish citizen you do not need a Frontier Worker Permit.
However, if you are an EU citizen who was a cross border worker before 1 January 2021, you must apply for a Frontier Worker Permit to continue working there after 30 June 2021. You can apply for the permit online. There is no charge for a Frontier Worker Permit.
If you became a cross border worker after 31 December 2020, you are not eligible for the Frontier Worker Permit. You must apply for permission to work in the UK as part of the UK’s Points Based Immigration System.
EU citizens who live in Northern Ireland and work in Ireland do not need to apply for permission to work in Ireland. You must apply for UK residence through the EU Settlement Scheme (if you were living in the UK before the end of 2020) or the Points Based Immigration Scheme (if you have moved there since the beginning of 2021).
You can find out more about cross border workers on citizensinformation.ie.
Know Your Rights: Patient Advocacy Service
I was in hospital recently and I was not happy with my experience there. When I complained to the nurse in charge I wasn’t satisfied with the response. How can I take my complaint further?
The Health Service Executive (HSE) has a complaints system, called Your service your say, that you can use to make a complaint about your experience of a service provided by the HSE or on behalf of the HSE.
If you want to make a complaint about a public hospital to the HSE, you can get support from the Patient Advocacy Service to help you make your complaint.
The Patient Advocacy Service is fully independent of the HSE. It is a free and confidential service that can provide you with information to support you to make a formal complaint about an experience you have had in a public acute hospital.
The Patient Advocacy Service provides support by phone helpline, on 0818 293003, and on its website, patientadvocacyservice.ie. You can also email email@example.com.
The service can explain how to make a formal complaint, including what you should include in your complaint and how to write it.
If there is a delay with the processing of the complaint or if you are not satisfied with the outcome, the Patient Advocacy Service can give you information about your options.
If you have a question about the Patient Advocacy Service, but you are not looking for information or support in relation to the care you have experienced, you can submit a contact form on its website.
What has changed in the law on drinking outdoors?
The law on drinking outdoors was recently changed to clarify that pubs and restaurants can serve alcohol to customers who are seated in ‘designated areas’ outside the premises.
Pubs and restaurants have been unable to open for indoor service due to COVID-19 restrictions. Local authorities have permitted outdoor seating in designated outdoor areas, but, previously, it was illegal to serve alcohol in those areas.
There has been no change to the laws about drinking outside in public places that are not ‘designated areas’ of a licensed premises. Drinking outdoors is not prohibited in general, but local authorities have bye-laws that don’t allow drinking in some or all public places.
If you are drinking in public and behaving in a way that could cause worry for safety, the Gardaí can confiscate your alcohol. They can also confiscate alcohol if it is being drunk by a person under 18, or if they have cause to believe that it will be consumed by a person under 18.
It is an offence to consume alcohol bought in a closed container (like a bottle or can) within 100 metres of the off-licence where it was sold. The law does not forbid a pub from delivering drinks to people’s homes, or stop customers from bringing drinks home.
It is also an offence to be so drunk in a public place that you could reasonably be assumed to be a danger to yourself or to anyone around you.
Know Your Rights: Surveillance In The Workplace
I am working from home during COVID-19. Should my employer have a policy on internet and email usage and what activities are they allowed to monitor when I am working from home?
You have a right to privacy in the workplace. However, your right to privacy is balanced against your employer’s rights to run their business and protect their company.
Your employer should give you their policy on email and internet use in the workplace, including the use of social media. This is known as an Acceptable Usage Policy (AUP).
When you work from home (also called remote working), your employer should follow the same rules in relation to monitoring your work. This should include telling you:
Who is monitoring you
What they are monitoring
How they are monitoring you
When they are monitoring you
Your employer should tell you if they are using employee surveillance software, for example, to track your mouse and keyboard activity, your use of email, social media, files and applications, and so on. This may be contained in a policy provided by the employer.
Monitoring must be necessary, legitimate and proportionate
If your employer wants to monitor your internet use or emails, it must be necessary, legitimate and proportionate.
Necessary: Your employer must be sure that monitoring is necessary. They should consider less intrusive ways of supervising you before deciding on monitoring. For example, blocking websites would be less intrusive – and generally more acceptable – than monitoring your internet search history.
Legitimate: The monitoring should have a legal basis. For example, to make sure employees are not using the internet to download pornography, or to disclose confidential company information to people outside the organisation.
Proportionate: Your employer’s monitoring must be proportionate to the risk of the perceived threat. Proportionality means it must be fair, measured and reasonable in terms of its objectives. Monitoring all of your emails to make sure you are not passing on confidential information about the company would not be proportionate. However, monitoring your emails using an automated system to scan for viruses would probably be considered proportionate.
Read more about surveillance in the workplace here.
Know Your Rights: Free Cancer Screening Programmes
Do I need to register for the free cancer screening programmes and when do I become eligible?
The National Cancer Screening Service provides free screening programmes to help find or prevent different types of cancer. If you have any specific concerns or symptoms you should visit your GP (family doctor).
Cancer screening services are continuing during COVID-19.
BowelScreen is a national screening programme to find signs of bowel cancer at an early stage, where there are no symptoms. The programme provides free bowel screening for men and women aged between 60 and 69 every two years.
If you are aged between 60 and 69 years and haven’t received an invitation for bowel screening, call Freephone 1800 45 45 55 to check if you’re on the register. If you are not on the register, you can add your details over the phone. You can also register for BowelScreen online here.
CervicalCheck is a national screening programme to prevent cervical cancer. Women and people with a cervix can get a free cervical screening test if they are aged between 25 and 65.
If you are on the CervicalCheck register, you’ll get a letter when your test is due. The letter will invite you to make an appointment with a registered GP, doctor or clinic.
You do not need to wait for a letter to book an appointment if:
You missed your last cervical screening test
Your next test is due
You also do not need to be on the register to have a free screening test. If your test is due, you can book a test with a GP or nurse who is registered with CervicalCheck. You can find one in your area by visiting cervicalcheck.ie or by calling Freephone 1800 45 45 55.
BreastCheck is a national screening programme to help find breast cancer at an early stage. The programme offers all women between the ages of 50 and 69 a mammogram (an x-ray of the breast) free of charge every 2 years.
If you have not received an invitation for an appointment, check if you are registered by visiting breastcheck.ie or by calling Freephone 1800 45 45 55. If you are not registered, you can register online.
Know Your Rights: Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance
I am getting the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment. I have one child starting school in September. Can I qualify for the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance?
Yes, you can. To qualify for this payment which helps with back to school costs, you must be getting a social welfare payment or taking part in a training, employment or adult education scheme. People getting the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment, the Working Family Payment or the Back to Work Family Dividend can qualify. Your application will be means-tested and your total family income must be below a certain level for your family size.
Your children must be aged between 4 and 22 on 30 September 2021. If they are aged between 18 and 22 they must be in full-time second-level education in a recognised school or college in the autumn of 2021. In general, you must be getting an Increase for a Qualified Child with your payment.
The Allowance is €150 for children aged between 4 and 11 and €275 for children aged between 12 and 22. It is paid automatically to many families. This means that they do not have to apply for the payment. If you qualify automatically, you will get a letter before 21 June 2021 to let you know.
You need to apply online for the BTSCFA, if you do not get a letter confirming your payment. If any of your children are aged 18 or over, you must apply for the BTSCFA for them and show evidence that they are in second-level education (even if automatic payments have issued for other children in your family).
From 21 June 2021, you can apply for BTSCFA online through MyWelfare.ie. You must have a Public Services Card and a verified MyGovID account to apply online. If you have difficulties applying online, you can contact the BSCFA section on 071 91 93318 or 0818 11 11 13. The closing date for applications is 30 September 2021.
Read more about the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance and you can read detailed guidelines on gov.ie.
Know Your Rights: EU Digital COVID Certificate (DCC)
What is the EU Digital COVID Certificate (DCC)?
The EU Digital COVID Certificate (previously called the Digital Green Certificate) will help citizens move freely and safely within the EU during the COVID-19 pandemic. The DCC is for EU citizens, residents and their families and non-EU citizens who are legally staying or residing in the EU.
It will be proof that you have either:
Been vaccinated against COVID-19
Received a negative test result
Recovered from COVID-19
Being vaccinated will not be a pre-condition to travel.
WHAT INFORMATION WILL BE INCLUDED ON THE DCC?
The certificate will only contain necessary key information including:
Your date of birth
The date of issue
Relevant information about your vaccine or test or recovery
A unique identifier number
The DCC will be free and available in both digital and paper formats. The certificate has a QR code to avoid fraud.
Individual member states will decide how the DCC will be used as part of national public health measures. If you are travelling abroad you should always check the entry requirements before you travel.
The system will be used throughout the EU and will also be open to Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Iceland. You can check the European Centre of Disease Control’s map (EU traffic lights system) before you travel abroad.
You can read more about the EU Digital COVID Certificate (DCC) on citizensinformation.ie.
Know Your Rights: Basic Bank Account
I am on a low income and I need to open a bank account. Some banks offer free accounts to people who are a certain age or lodge a certain amount of money but I don’t qualify. Is there another option?
You can open a type of account called a basic bank account.
A basic bank account is a current account that has no maintenance fees or charges for everyday banking for at least one year.
To get a basic bank account you must:
Not have another payment or current account with a bank in Ireland
Be legally resident in the EU
Be over 18 years of age (for most banks)
Provide proof of identity and address and meet the bank’s criteria for opening an account
A basic bank account comes with a debit card. You can also set up direct debits and standing orders and register for online banking.
There are no charges for day-to-day banking, but there may still be charges for things like replacing your debit card, bank drafts, international services and missed payments. You should discuss this with the bank before opening your account.
You cannot get a cheque book or an overdraft with a basic account.
At the end of your first year with a basic bank account, your bank will review your account. If the total amount lodged into the account within the year is less than the national minimum wage, you will continue to get fee-free banking for a limited time.
If you go over this limit, or if you have had a basic account for a total of 5 years, the account will be converted to a normal current account and you will pay fees and charges.
If you want to open a basic bank account, you should contact one of the main banks to find out how to apply.
You can find more information about managing your money and opening a bank account on the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) website mabs.ie.
Know Your Rights: Springboard+
I’m unemployed and I want to return to work. Are there free courses I can take to develop my skills so that I am more employable?
Springboard+ provides free higher education courses for people who are unemployed (or were self-employed) and those looking to return to the workforce.
Courses are offered in different areas including information and communications technology (ICT), medical technologies, cybersecurity, sustainable energy and financial services.
The courses range from certificate to master’s degree level – levels 6 to 9 on the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ). Most of the courses are part-time and last for one year or less, but there are some full-time courses.
You can access a free Springboard+ course, if you are getting a qualifying social welfare payment such as Jobseeker’s Allowance, Jobseeker’s Benefit or the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP). You can get a full list of qualifying payments for Springboard+ on citizensinformation.ie.
If you are not getting a qualifying social welfare payment, you will have to meet the residency criteria for Springboard+.
You can also apply for a Springboard+ course if:
You are a qualified adult of working age (under 66) on someone else’s social welfare payment
You are signing for social insurance credits
You are on an Employment support scheme such as Community Employment or TUS
To apply for a Springboard+ course, you choose the course(s) you are interested in on springboardcourses.ie and apply online, following the instructions on the website. You can apply to up to 10 courses, but you can only take one course.
If you are getting a social welfare payment, you should notify your Intreo Centre or local Social Welfare Branch Office and check what further steps (if any) you need to take.
If Springboard+ doesn’t meet your needs, there are several other ways to go back to education.
Know Your Rights: Littering
I regularly walk near my home and I’ve recently noticed a lot of rubbish on the paths. Is there anything I can do about it?
Littering in an open or public place is an offence. Your local authority is responsible for keeping public places under their control, clear of litter. If you notice illegal dumping, you should report it to your local authority, or call the 24-hour National Environmental Complaints Line on 1850 365 121. The local authority will investigate your complaint and take action if necessary. If the local authority can find out who owns the rubbish, the owner can be prosecuted, even if they haven’t been caught in the act of dumping.
Local authority litter wardens and Gardaí can impose penalties for littering. People who litter can get an on-the-spot fine of €150, or if convicted they can get a maximum fine of €4,000.
If you own or are responsible for somewhere that is open to the public, it is your responsibility to keep it litter-free. This includes public parks, bus and train stations and school campuses. If you are a dog owner and do not remove your dog’s waste from public places and dispose of it properly, you can be prosecuted in the District Court.
You should contact your local authority to get more information on anti-littering campaigns or projects in your area.
Know Your Rights: Inheritance Rights of Cohabiting Couples
My partner and I have two young children together. We live together but we are not married and haven’t got around to making our wills. If something happened to one of us, would we automatically be entitled to each other’s estate?I
t is important for you and your partner to discuss the matter of inheritance sooner rather than later. Because you are not married, neither of you is automatically entitled to inherit anything from the other. If your partner dies without a will, you have no right to any share of their estate no matter how long you have been together. So, for example, if you live with your partner but they own the house, you could be left in very difficult circumstances if they were to die unexpectedly.
If you own items jointly, these automatically pass to you and are not part of your partner’s estate. However, you might need to pay Capital Acquisitions Tax if the inheritance is above a certain threshold or value.
If your partner has not made a will or has not provided for you, you may be able to apply to the courts to provide for you from your partner’s estate. This is known as the redress scheme for cohabiting couples. If you get redress by a court under this scheme, you may be exempt from paying Capital Acquisition Tax.
However, making a will can ensure that proper arrangements are made for you and your dependants and that any property is distributed in the way you both wish, subject to certain rights of spouses and children. Tax planning advice can help reduce or minimise the amount of tax your partner or family must pay. A solicitor can help you draft a will or you can draft one yourself.
You can read more about inheritance rights of cohabiting couples on citizensinformation.ie.
Know Your Rights: Applying For A Student Grant
I’m doing my Leaving Certificate this year and plan to go to college in the autumn. How do I apply for a student grant?
Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) awards higher and further education grants to people living in Ireland.
You complete an application form online to apply to SUSI. You must have an online account with SUSI before you can make your application. SUSI accepts grant applications for the 2021-2022 academic year from 22 April 2021.
You can use SUSI’s eligibility reckoner to see whether you meet the criteria for student grant funding. These include:
You must be an Irish, UK, EU, EEA or Swiss national. You may also be considered for a grant if you have refugee status, subsidiary protection or leave to remain in Ireland.
You must have been ordinarily resident in Ireland for three of the last five years.
Your family’s means must be under the specified threshold for the previous tax year (2020). If you or your family have had a change of circumstances during the tax year, your changed circumstances may be taken into account.
You must be attending a course that is approved for a student grant. You can see the list of approved institutions and courses on SUSI’s website.
If you are refused a grant or are approved a grant at a rate that you don’t think applies to your situation, you can appeal the decision in writing to SUSI. You must appeal within 30 days of getting your decision.
If you are living in direct provision or are in the international protection system, you can apply for support under the Student Support Scheme for Asylum Seekers.
You can read more about the Student Grant Scheme on citizensinformation.ie.
Know Your Rights: Emergency Medical Card
What is an emergency medical card and how do I apply for one?
An emergency medical card is a medical card that you can get without a means test in certain emergency situations.
You can get an emergency medical card if you:
Have a terminal illness and have been told you have 24 months or less to live
Are getting end-of-life treatment
Need urgent ongoing care and urgently need a medical card