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Labour Ministry: there is no need to regulate community interview procedure for homeless persons

The HFHR has received the response to the petition regarding the rules of conducting community interviews with homeless persons. Regrettably, the Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Policy failed to address the problem of inconsistent interpretation of the notion of “the place of stay”, the problematic issue which had been raised in the petition.

In June 2016, the HFHR sent a petition to Prime Minister Beata Szydło, notifying the problems related to community interviews conducted with homeless persons. The petition was drafted after the HFHR received information that some homeless persons are deprived of social security benefits because of they cannot be reached for a community interview at a designated location. A community interview is a legal requirement for the award of such benefits. The problem is a consequence of the obvious fact that in general homeless persons do not have a place of residence or any other address at which a social worker may visit a given person and talk to them.

The Prime Minister has communicated the petition to the Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Policy. The Ministry issued a notice that described how the petition was handled, stating that “there are no grounds for adopting a special procedure for community interviews conducted with homeless persons. The law currently in force enables a community interview to be conducted at a homeless person’s place of stay.”

The HFHR argued in the petition that the key problem was the ambiguous meaning of the notion of the “place of stay” used in legal provisions. Some social assistance centres interpret this expression as the basis for requiring a correspondence address from a homeless person whereas many homeless persons are unable to satisfy this requirement. Unfortunately, the Ministry failed to address this issue.

The Ministry’s response may thus be understood as the approval of the situation in which homeless persons without a residence address are deprived of social security benefits because of the absence of a community interview. “A refusal to conduct a community interview and award benefits threatens basic human rights – the right to protection of the life and health of persons in the crisis of homelessness”, emphasised Adam Ploszka, a member of the HFHR’s legal team.

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