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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 669-692
 Header Item Rent Supplement Scheme
 Header Item Social Welfare Schemes
 Header Item Public Services Card
 Header Item Ministerial Responsibilities
 Header Item Community Employment Schemes Operation
 Header Item Public Services Card
 Header Item Family Income Supplement Eligibility
 Header Item Disability Allowance Payments
 Header Item State Pension (Contributory) Eligibility
 Header Item Public Services Card
 Header Item Maternity Benefit
 Header Item Youth Guarantee
 Header Item National Internship Scheme
 Header Item State Pension (Non-Contributory) Appeals
 Header Item Community Employment Schemes Operation
 Header Item Respite Care Grant Eligibility
 Header Item Community Employment Schemes Eligibility
 Header Item Domiciliary Care Allowance Applications
 Header Item Rural Social Scheme Administration
 Header Item Maternity Leave
 Header Item Disability Allowance Applications

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 960 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 95 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 669-692

Rent Supplement Scheme

 669. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty if an investigation will be carried out into a case (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42721/17]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty Under the legislative provisions governing the award of rent supplement, the Department’s relationship is with the tenant; the tenant makes the application for rent supplement and payment is made to the tenant. Rent supplement is specifically for the benefit of tenants to assist them with their accommodation needs. There is no direct relationship between the landlord and the Department in the administration of the scheme.

Separate to these arrangements is the contract between the tenant and landlord under a tenancy agreement. This is personal to them and is subject to the legislative framework provided under the Residential Tenancies Acts. In the event of non-compliance with a tenancy contract, a complaint may be made to the Residential Tenancies Board, RTB, by either the landlord or the tenant. The RTB may make a Determination Order arising from any such complaint, with enforcement proceedings available through the Courts. This Department has no role in this debt recovery process.

The case in question has been examined on several occasions in response to enquiries from the landlord. He has been made aware of the Department’s position in relation to this case. A further full examination of the case will be undertaken and a response will be provided directly to the Deputy.

I trust that this clarifies the matter for the Deputy..

Social Welfare Schemes

 670. Deputy Bríd Smith Information on Bríd Smith Zoom on Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty if the waiting time is set in legislation or a statutory instrument to qualify for the community employment scheme, Tús or back-to-education allowance (details supplied); and if so, the legislation or statutory instrument that references same.  [42749/17]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty As the schemes referred to by the Deputy are not statutory schemes, their terms and conditions are not set out in legislation. These administrative schemes are governed by the operating guidelines which are updated by my Department from time to time. Guidelines covering the rules of each scheme are available at: www.welfare.ie.

  I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Public Services Card

 671. Deputy John Brassil Information on John Brassil Zoom on John Brassil asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty if a provision has been made in the application process for the public services card for a parent or guardian to sign on behalf of a person with severe disabilities who cannot physically sign or mark the form themselves; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42751/17]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty The Public Services Card, PSC, has been introduced to enable individuals to gain access to public services more efficiently and with a minimum of duplication of effort, while at the same time preserving their privacy to the maximum extent possible. The PSC is designed to replace other cards within the public sector, such as the free travel pass and the social services card of this Department, and to make it easier for providers of public services to verify the identity of customers. A PSC is currently issued following a registration process, which involves the verification of identity data already held by the Department and the capture of an individual’s photograph and signature. The signature is captured electronically via a signature pad.

Where a person with a disability attends for a SAFE registration, and it is not possible to capture a signature for that person, the officer processing the registration makes a diagonal line on the signature pad. This line, and not a signature, appears on the PSC.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy..

Ministerial Responsibilities

 672. Deputy Billy Kelleher Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty the powers she has delegated to the Ministers of State in her Department; the date on which such delegation was made; if there were changes in powers delegated relative to the situation in place prior to 14 June 2017; if so, the details of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42779/17]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty The Government’s authority to delegate powers and duties to Ministers of State is contained in section 2 of the Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) (No. 2) Act 1977.

On 14 June 2017, Deputy Finian McGrath was reappointed Minister of State at the Department of Social Protection, the Department of Justice and Equality and the Department of Health with special responsibility for disability issues. The delegation of Minister of State McGrath’s statutory functions in relation to my Department was effected by way of the Social Protection (Delegation of Ministerial Functions) Order 2017 (S.I. 321 of 2017), which was signed by an Taoiseach on 18 July 2017.

On 20 June 2017, Deputy Pat Breen was appointed Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise and Innovation, the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, the Department of the Taoiseach, and the Department of Justice and Equality with special responsibility for trade, employment, business, EU digital single market and data protection. The preparation of a delegation order for Minister of State Breen is currently being considered. .

Community Employment Schemes Operation

 673. Deputy James Browne Information on James Browne Zoom on James Browne asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty when a review of the participation of older persons on community employment schemes will be completed; and if the review will be published. [42804/17]

 674. Deputy James Browne Information on James Browne Zoom on James Browne asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty her plans to introduce changes to the criteria related to the community employment scheme, particularly related to the two-year limit on a person’s assignment to the scheme.  [42805/17]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty I propose to take Questions Nos. 673 and 674 together.

Following the publication of my Department’s report, "An Analysis of the Community Employment Programme", earlier in the year, the Government approved a number of changes to the terms and conditions around participation on CE. The main purpose of these changes is to broaden the availability of CE to a greater number of people on the live register, to standardise eligibility and other conditions regarding the length of time a person can participate on the programme and to promote progression outcomes.

The changes, which have been in effect since 3 July 2017, have seen the general qualifying age for CE, for those on the live register, reduced from 25 to 21 years of age. It will also now be easier for previous participants who have exhausted their CE entitlement to requalify, as participation prior to the year 2007 will be disregarded. While participants between 21 and 55 years of age can avail of one year on the programme, this can be extended on approval by the Department by up to two more years, if they are working toward a major award/industry recognised equivalent to support their progression to employment. CE participants aged 55 and over can now avail of up to three consecutive years on a scheme. An overall lifetime limit of six years will apply to CE participants (seven years if on a disability payment). A person may re-qualify for CE after 12 months of being in receipt of a qualifying social welfare payment, provided he or she has not reached the six-year limit.

Further changes, which will be progressed over the coming months, include the roll-out of the, "two strand approach", of activation and social inclusion in terms of how CE places are categorised.

In addition, a review of the participation of older people on schemes is being undertaken, and I expect that this will be completed in the coming weeks. The question of publication will be considered once the review is completed.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy. .

Public Services Card

 675. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty the position regarding the public services card in the context of persons that have undergone or are undergoing gender transitioning; the way in which the card complies with the Gender Recognition Act 2015, in order that all of a person's historical personal details are protected from being accessed by officials processing a transaction using the card, from officials in the process of issuing a card and other authorised bodies that can demand the card; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42811/17]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty The Public Services Card, PSC, has been introduced to enable individuals to gain access to public services more efficiently and with a minimum of duplication of effort, while at the same time preserving their privacy to the maximum extent possible. A PSC is currently issued following a registration process which involves the capture of an individual’s photograph and signature and the verification of identity data already held by the Department. This registration process is known as SAFE.

The PSC is designed to replace other cards within the public sector, such as the free travel pass and the social services card of my Department, and to make it easier for providers of public services to verify the identity of customers.

The following information is inscribed on the card: Forename, Surname, PPS Number, Photograph, Signature, Card issue number, and Expiry date. The following information is encoded on the chip: Forename, Surname, PPS Number, Date of birth, Sex, Mother’s birth surname, Place of birth, Birth surname, Nationality, Photograph, Signature, Card issue number, and Expiry date.

Applications for Gender Recognition Certificates are processed in a single area of the Department. Only a small number of specifically trained officers process these applications. Only these officers can access an individual’s historical data after a Gender Recognition Certificate has been issued. System checks are in place to ensure that no other officers in the Department can access this data.

The PSC contains the data held by the Department for an individual at the specific point in time at which the SAFE registration takes place. Where a person has obtained a Gender Recognition Certificate, the data on the Department’s systems visible to all officers, other than the very few mentioned previously, as well as the data on any PSC issued, reflects the new status of that person and does not refer in any way to his or her previous status or the fact that the person may have been issued with a Gender Recognition Certificate.

As part of the process of issuing a Gender Recognition Certificate, persons are advised that they may require a new PSC and are asked to contact the officer dealing with their application so that a new SAFE registration appointment may be made for them with a SAFE supervisor. This ensures that the registration is handled with the required sensitivity.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy..

Family Income Supplement Eligibility

 676. Deputy Paul Kehoe Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty if hours of work carried out under partial capacity benefit underlying the payment of invalidity pension can be used in conjunction with a spouse's hours of work to jointly meet the hours required for family income supplement entitlement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42816/17]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty Partial Capacity Benefit, PCB, is a social welfare scheme which allows a person to return to work or self-employment (if he or she has reduced capacity to work) and continue to receive a payment from the Department of Social Protection.

  If a person has been getting Illness Benefit, IB, for a minimum of six months or Invalidity Pension, INVP, and wishes to return to work, he or she may qualify for PCB if the person's capacity for work is reduced by a medical condition.

  The person may not work until he or she has received written approval to do so from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection. The person should also get the approval of a doctor before taking up employment.

  There is no restriction on earnings or number of hours one can work. A person can work in a self-employed capacity while getting PCB. He or she cannot get PCB and Family Income Supplement, FIS, together.

  Therefore, a couple applying for FIS in a joint capacity, where the hours of work are combined and where one of the claimants is in receipt of PCB, would not qualify for FIS.

  However, FIS Section would advise that if the couple was financially better off, that they claim FIS exclusively without PCB, or that the claimant not in receipt of PCB increases his or her hours in order to qualify. In that case, PCB would be regarded as assessable income for FIS purposes and the usual assessment would apply.

  I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy

Disability Allowance Payments

 677. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty the reason disability allowance for a person (details supplied) was not backdated to the actual date of application; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42820/17]

Minister of State at the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Finian McGrath): Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath I confirm that my Department received an application for disability allowance, DA, from this man on 3 July 2017. The claim was awarded with effect from 5 July 2017, the first pay date following receipt of the application.

  My Department has no record of a previous application for disability allowance from this man. If he, or an agent on his behalf, wishes to make an application for backdating prior to 5 July 2017, he or she may do so, in writing, clearly stating the grounds for the claim. The matter will then be considered by a deciding officer.

  I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Question No. 678 answered with Question No. 659.

State Pension (Contributory) Eligibility

 679. Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe Information on Kevin O'Keeffe Zoom on Kevin O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty if she will re-examine the situation whereby a female employee paying PRSI contributions remained out of work to rear children and now finds herself in a position where she will receive a reduced rate of contributory State Pension in view of the fact that no PRSI contributions were paid while she worked at home.  [42842/17]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty There are a number of pension schemes operated by my Department, and the most advantageous of these to a person will depend upon a number of factors, including his or her PRSI contribution record, means, and some other factors regarding personal circumstances.

The contributory State Pension is one such payment and is based on contributions made into the Social Insurance Fund, which finance that pension scheme on a pay-as-you-go basis. People who have made significant contributions into the Fund are more likely to receive their pensions under that scheme than under other pension schemes.

To ensure that individuals can maximise their entitlement to a contributory State Pension, all contributions, paid or credited, over their working life from when they first enter insurable employment until pension age are taken into account when assessing their entitlement and the level of that entitlement.

The homemaker's scheme makes qualification for a higher rate of contributory State Pension easier for those who take time out of the workforce for caring duties. The scheme, which was introduced and took effect for periods from 1994, allows up to 20 years spent caring for children under 12 years of age, or caring for incapacitated people over that age, to be disregarded when a person’s social insurance record is being averaged for pension purposes, subject to the standard qualifying conditions for contributory State Pension also being satisfied. This has the effect of increasing the yearly average of pensioners who qualify for that scheme, which is used to set the rate of his or her pension.

Where a person does not qualify for a full-rate contributory pension, he or she may qualify for an alternative payment. If the person's spouse has a contributory pension, her or she may qualify for an increase for a qualified adult, amounting up to 90% of a full-rate pension. Alternatively, the person may qualify for a means-tested non-contributory State pension, which amounts to up to 95% of the maximum contributory rate. The large majority of both of these payments are made at the maximum rate.

Work is under way to replace the yearly average system with a Total Contributions Approach, which it is hoped will replace the current one from 2020. Under this approach, the rate of pension paid will more closely reflect the total number of contributions made by people, not when they paid them. The position of homemakers is being carefully considered in developing this new system. Following publication of the current actuarial review of the Social Insurance Fund, a refined proposal will be developed. My Department will conduct a period of consultation with relevant stakeholders on possible approaches. Following that process, I will submit a proposal to Government seeking approval for the selected approach, and then proceed to introduce legislation to give effect to this reform.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy. .

Public Services Card

 680. Deputy Róisín Shortall Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty the position in respect of public services cards for those claiming a social welfare payment; the number of persons that have been refused payment as a result of not having a card; the payments concerned and the legal basis for such refusal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42850/17]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty In 2005, the Government approved a rules-based standard for establishing and authenticating an individual’s identity for the purposes of access to public services. This standard is known as the Standard Authentication Framework Environment, SAFE. A person who successfully completes a SAFE 2 registration process (i.e. verifies their identity to a substantial level of assurance) is issued with a Public Services Card, PSC.

  In the case of my Department’s own services, the legislation governing identity verification for existing claimants is set out in the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005, as amended, viz:

- Section 247C(1) of the Act provides that the Minister may require any person receiving a benefit to satisfy the Minister as to his or her identity;

- Section 247C(2) of the Act specifies the consequences of failure to satisfy the Minister in relation to identity as required, specifically that a person shall be disqualified from receiving a benefit; and

- Section 247C(3) of the Act specifies the manner in which the Minister may be so satisfied; in effect, this section describes the process for registering a person’s identity - this is the SAFE 2 Process.

  This legislation requires a person to satisfy the Minister as to his or her identity and allows disqualification from receipt of a benefit in the event that it is not done. It is not possible for a person to satisfy the Minister as to his or her identity without being SAFE 2 registered.

  My Department does not collect data on the number of individuals who currently, or who, at any point in time, have had a payment stopped by reason of failing to complete the SAFE 2 registration process. The Deputy will appreciate that this data is fluid in nature, e.g. a considerable number of customers who have a payment or entitlement suspended subsequently decide to complete the SAFE 2 process and have their payment or entitlement reinstated and backdated to the date of suspension. It should be noted that of the remainder, a considerable portion do not make any contact with the Department at all.

  The decision to stop a payment is never made lightly. However, where a customer does not satisfy the Minister in relation to identity, in accordance with the legislative requirements, a payment can be disqualified. In advance of any such disqualification, the Department makes every effort to engage with the customer to explain the legislative basis for the SAFE 2 registration process and the consequences of potential disqualification. Where a payment has been disqualified and the customer subsequently successfully completes the SAFE 2 registration process, his or her payment will be reinstated by my Department (assuming the customer continues to meet all qualifying criteria for that payment) from the date of compliance.

  I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Maternity Benefit

 681. Deputy Róisín Shortall Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty her plans to extend the creditable period beyond 16 weeks for those on unpaid maternity leave; the reason this limit exists; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42852/17]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty PRSI credited contributions (“credits”) are an integral part of the social insurance system. For the most part, they are linked to having an underlying entitlement to a social welfare payment while temporarily detached from the labour force or having entitlement to certain statutory periods of leave. The primary purpose of PRSI credits is to secure social welfare benefits and pensions of employees by covering gaps in insurance where they are not in a position to pay PRSI, such as during periods of unemployment or illness.

In the case of those on maternity leave, credits may be awarded for 26 weeks, during which an individual is on maternity leave and, subject to satisfying the PRSI contribution conditions, is entitled to receive maternity benefit. Credits may also be awarded in respect of the additional 16 weeks unpaid maternity leave which may be taken immediately after the end of the 26 weeks of paid maternity benefit.

Any additional leave beyond the 16 weeks unpaid leave is at the discretion of the employer and is not covered by statutory leave arrangements for which credits can be awarded. The social welfare code does take account of periods spent caring for children on a full-time basis through the homemaker scheme. The homemaker’s scheme is designed to help homemakers and carers qualify for contributory State pension. Years spent caring on a full-time basis are disregarded when calculating the contributory State pension rate of payment..

Youth Guarantee

 682. Deputy Róisín Shortall Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty if she will report on her Department's response to the report from the European Court of Auditors which described the youth guarantee scheme as falling short of expectations; her views on the fact that youth unemployment rates remained over double the national average in March 2017; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42853/17]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty The report by the Court of Auditors relates to the overall implementation at the European Union level of the EU Recommendation on a Youth Guarantee, rather than making findings about individual Member States. The Court did, however, visit seven Member States, including Ireland, to assemble material for its assessment.

  The report concludes that the, “Member States visited had made progress in implementing the Youth Guarantee and some results had been achieved”, but that, “the current situation - more than three years after the adoption of the Council Recommendation - falls short of the initial expectations raised at the launch of the Youth Guarantee”.

  The European Commission, to which the Court’s report is directed in the first instance, has explicitly rejected this opinion of the Court. In its, “Reply of the Commission”, published with the Court’s report, the Commission:

“considers that the current results in Youth Guarantee implementation do not fall short of initial expectations. Whilst recognising that additional efforts are still needed to reach out to all young people, delivering quality and timely offers, the Commission underlines that the Youth Guarantee has led to positive results. In particular, as highlighted in the Commission Communication (COM/2016/646) ‘The Youth Guarantee and the Youth Employment Initiative three years on’, it has provided a strong impetus on structural reforms and policy innovation, areas which are outside of the scope of this report.”

  For its part, Ireland made clear, in the implementation plan published in response to the Recommendation, that, “the deeply ingrained problem of youth unemployment cannot be solved with the flick of a switch”, and that achieving substantial reductions in youth unemployment represented a medium-term goal of economic and labour market policy.

  At the time of the adoption of the implementation plan in December 2013, the seasonally adjusted rate of youth unemployment in Ireland was 25.6%, somewhat above the then EU average of 23.4%. Since then, youth unemployment here has been reduced to 14.8% in September 2017, significantly below the current EU figure of 18.9%.

  Both in absolute terms and relative to the situation elsewhere in the EU, the improvement in the youth labour market has exceeded expectations in the period since 2013. The most recent trends suggest that further significant reductions in youth unemployment can be expected in the period ahead.

National Internship Scheme

 683. Deputy Róisín Shortall Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty the position regarding the promised internship scheme to replace JobBridge; the expected commencement date of this scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42854/17]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty JobBridge was introduced in July 2011 in response to the sharp and dramatic increase in unemployment. A robust external evaluation of the scheme conducted by Indecon Economic Consultants in 2016 found that it is one of the most effective labour market programmes – increasing participants’ employment outcomes by 32%. It also found that while participants rated the scheme positively on 18 out of 20 aspects measured, most were dissatisfied with the level of payment and a sizable minority rated the scheme negatively on some aspects, for example the quality of training offered.

  Based on these findings, and taking account of the improvement in labour market conditions, Indecon recommended that JobBridge be discontinued and replaced with a new scheme. A copy of the full evaluation can be found at: http://www.welfare.ie/en/Pages/JobBridge-Evaluation.aspx.

  The Labour Market Council welcomed the report and noted the positive employment impact of the scheme. A majority of the Council similarly recommended that JobBridge be replaced.

  Having considered the evidence and the suggestions put forward by Indecon and the Labour Market Council, my predecessor as Minister for Social Protection announced his intention to replace JobBridge with a new work experience programme that would address criticisms of the scheme and would be better suited to the much-improved labour market.

JobBridge was closed to new applications from 27 October 2016 to allow for a period of consultation with key stakeholders on design principles for any proposed new work experience programme and to facilitate an orderly wind-down of the current scheme.   

   The consultation process is completed, and I have considered options on how best to proceed having regard to the overall policy and Budgetary context.

  As Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, my focus is to ensure that resources are targeted at good outcomes from an employment perspective and have regard to the very considerable improvement in the labour market in recent years.

  In that respect, I want to target resources at people who face particular challenges getting into or re-entering work, such as young people without any experience and older people who have been unemployed for a long time.

State Pension (Non-Contributory) Appeals

 684. Deputy Tom Neville Information on Tom Neville Zoom on Tom Neville asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty if back payments due to a person (details supplied) will be made; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42862/17]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty A request for a review of non-contributory State Pension was received from the person concerned on 27 February 2017. A Deciding Officer reviewed the case and awarded an increase in the person’s pension to the maximum weekly rate payable, with effect from 11 August 2017.

  I have asked my officials to review the decision in this case as a matter of urgency and to contact the person concerned directly to discuss this matter further.

  I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.   

Community Employment Schemes Operation

 685. Deputy Pat Buckley Information on Pat Buckley Zoom on Pat Buckley asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty her plans to allow persons with mental health problems who wish to stay indefinitely on community employment schemes with the support of their health care providers to do so; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [42874/17]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty Community Employment, CE, is an active labour market programme whose aim is to enhance the employability and mobility of disadvantaged and unemployed persons by providing work experience and training opportunities for them within their communities. It helps participants to re-enter the active workforce by breaking their experience of unemployment through a return to work routine.

All CE participants are subject to a participation limit. This limit is based on CE participation since 2007 and is six years in total. Persons qualifying for CE via a disability-related payment can qualify for one further year - in other words seven years in total since 2007. These limits are necessary to ensure places are available to other eligible social welfare recipients. The Deputy will appreciate that if a person was eligible for one year on CE but was retained for three, this would deny two more eligible persons the opportunity of a year’s placement on CE.

Overall, the aim of CE is to progress unemployed and other disadvantaged persons into full-time sustainable employment and/or further education and training.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy. .

Respite Care Grant Eligibility

 686. Deputy Róisín Shortall Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty if she will reform the respite care grant to include those who are obliged by economic necessity to work outside the home in excess of 15 hours; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42877/17]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty It is a condition for receipt of carer’s benefit and carer’s allowance and the carer’s support grant, that the carer must be providing full-time care and attention to a person who requires it because of a specified illness or disability. This condition is moderated by legislation allowing the carer to work or engage in training outside the home for an aggregate total of 15 hours per week. During this period of employment or education or training, adequate provision must be made for the care of the relevant person.

These provisions achieve a reasonable balance between meeting the primary legislative requirement for providing full-time care for the care recipient and addressing the needs of the carers to engage in employment or education, thereby reducing any risk of social isolation experienced by carers..

Community Employment Schemes Eligibility

 687. Deputy Gino Kenny Information on Gino Kenny Zoom on Gino Kenny asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty the terms and conditions regarding eligibility for community employment; if people can be removed from the scheme while on maternity leave as a result of their spouses commencing employment during their leave (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [42948/17]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty Community Employment, CE, schemes are designed to provide eligible long-term unemployed and other disadvantaged people with an opportunity to engage in part-time work and training within their communities on a temporary, fixed-term basis.

CE scheme participants are obliged to notify their employer immediately of any change in their family circumstances. This change could relate directly to scheme participants or it could be that the circumstances of their adult dependants have changed (e.g. they lose employment; receive or stop receiving a social welfare payment in their own right or are absent from the State, etc.).

Most changes are straightforward and simply require the addition or cessation of the relevant dependant allowance. However, where the family income changes, the new rate of payment must be calculated to reflect what people would be entitled to under their original social welfare payment arrangements. In order to remain eligible to participate in CE, people must continue to fulfil the qualifying conditions of their underlying social welfare payment.

If the Deputy provides my office with the details of the particular case, I will have the matter examined.

I trust that clarifies the matters for the Deputy..

Domiciliary Care Allowance Applications

 688. Deputy Willie O'Dea Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty when a decision will be made on an application by a person (details supplied) for domiciliary care; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42952/17]

Minister of State at the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Finian McGrath): Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath The Department is currently experiencing delays in the processing of Domiciliary Care Allowance, DCA, claims due to an increase in claim volumes and the need for more detailed decisions to be provided following a High Court ruling. Corrective actions have been taken, including assigning additional deciding officers to the scheme. As a result, average processing times have reduced over recent weeks and at present it is taking on average 17 weeks to finalise an application.

Applications are processed in date of receipt order, having regard to the complexity of each individual case. An application for DCA was received in respect of this child on 19 September 2017. While it is not possible to provide an exact date on when a particular application will be finalised, the applications currently being finalised were received in May 2017. This application will be considered by a Deciding Officer, and the decision will be notified as soon as possible.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy..

Rural Social Scheme Administration

 689. Deputy Anne Rabbitte Information on Anne Rabbitte Zoom on Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty if, in cases in which rural developments have not taken up their full allocation of places, whether they can be transferred to companies that are looking for additional persons (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [42961/17]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty The purpose of the rural social scheme, RSS, is to provide income support to farmers and fishermen and women who have an entitlement to specified social welfare payments. As the Deputy is aware, in recognition of the crucial work undertaken in rural communities under the RSS and as part of the social welfare budget package for 2017, an additional 500 places were made available with effect from 1 February 2017, increasing the overall number of places on RSS from 2,600 to 3,100.

The additional places were allocated taking into account a number of factors, including the number of places already allocated, the demand for new places in particular areas, work opportunities available in local areas and the numbers of farmers and fishermen/women in receipt of income support.

While the overall responsibility for the operation of the RSS rests with the Department, it is implemented at a local level by 35 Local Development Companies and Údarás na Gaeltachta in the Gaeltacht areas (known as the Implementing Bodies, IB). Accordingly, the relevant IB has responsibility for the day-to-day operation of each scheme, including the recruitment of eligible participants.

At this point, all of the IBs have plans in place to fully utilise the places available to them and, therefore, there are no plans at present for the re-distribution of unfilled places. However, my Department will keep the position under review.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy..

Maternity Leave

 690. Deputy John Curran Information on John Curran Zoom on John Curran asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty the details of the recent Government announcement to extend maternity leave to mothers who have a premature baby; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [42984/17]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty Maternity Benefit is a payment made for 26 weeks to employed and self-employed pregnant women who satisfy certain pay-related social insurance, PRSI, contribution conditions in order to avoid the need for them to work pre- and post-delivery of their babies.

The rate of payment was increased to €235 per week from March 2017. In 2017, it is estimated that my Department will spend approximately €266 million on maternity benefit, in respect of an average of 22,000 recipients per week.

New arrangements, which take effect for premature babies born on or after Sunday, 1 October, will increase the duration of maternity leave and the associated maternity benefit to be paid in cases where a baby is born prematurely.

Under the new arrangements, a mother who qualifies for maternity benefit will be entitled to an additional period of paid maternity leave, in addition to her current entitlement of 26 weeks, where her baby is born prematurely. The additional period to be added will be the number of weeks from the baby’s actual date of birth up to two weeks before the expected date of confinement, at which point the current entitlement to 26 weeks leave and benefit would normally begin. The additional period will commence at the end of the standard 26-week period of paid maternity leave..

Question No. 691 answered with Question No. 659.

Disability Allowance Applications

 692. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty the status of a disability allowance application by a person (details supplied); when it is expected the application will be concluded; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42224/17]

Minister of State at the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Finian McGrath): Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath I can confirm that my Department is in receipt of an application for disability allowance, DA, from this lady. The application was referred by a deciding officer, DO, to a social welfare investigative officer, SWI, for a report on this lady’s means and circumstances. The SWI met with her on 8 September 2017 and a further meeting is scheduled for 6 October 2017. Once the SWI has submitted his/her report to the DO, a decision will be made on the application and she will be notified directly of the outcome.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy..


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