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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 642-659
 Header Item Jobseeker's Benefit Appeals
 Header Item Carer's Allowance Applications
 Header Item Carer's Allowance Applications
 Header Item Social Welfare Benefits Applications
 Header Item Community Employment Schemes Funding
 Header Item Carer's Allowance Applications
 Header Item Jobseeker's Allowance Appeals
 Header Item Jobseeker's Benefit Applications
 Header Item Carer's Allowance Applications
 Header Item Disability Allowance Appeals
 Header Item Taxi Regulations
 Header Item Departmental Staff Data
 Header Item Carer's Benefit Eligibility
 Header Item Disability Allowance Appeals
 Header Item Departmental Bodies
 Header Item Departmental Bodies Expenditure

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 774 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 162 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 642-659

Jobseeker's Benefit Appeals

 642. Deputy Paul J. Connaughton Information on Paul Connaughton Zoom on Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if an appeal submitted by a person (details supplied) in County Galway in relation to a decision to refuse jobseeker's benefit has been received and when a decision will issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37185/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned together with the relevant Departmental papers and the comments of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal were received in that office on 27th July 2012. The appeal in this case will be referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral hearing. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Carer's Allowance Applications

 643. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if and when an application for carer's allowance will be granted in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37187/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I confirm that the department is in receipt of an application for carer’s allowance from the person in question. The medical assessment has been completed and the application is awaiting examination by a deciding officer for a means assessment and a full decision. The application will be processed as quickly as possible and when a decision is made the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

  Question No. 644 answered with Question No. 638.

Carer's Allowance Applications

 645. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton when a decision will issue on a carer's allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37192/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I confirm that the department is in receipt of an application for carer’s allowance from the person in question. The application is currently with a deciding officer for a means assessment and a full decision. The application will be processed as quickly as possible and when a decision is made the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

Social Welfare Benefits Applications

 646. Deputy John Halligan Information on John Halligan Zoom on John Halligan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will give a firm commitment that there will be no cuts to basic social welfare rates in the next budget; if she will give a further commitment that there will be no cuts by stealth, through changing eligibility rules and cutting secondary benefits; if she is seeking views specifically from such groups as the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and the Money Advice and Budgeting Service on the potential effect of cuts to the social welfare rate; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [37195/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The Government is committed to tackling Ireland’s economic crisis in a way that is fair, balanced, and which recognises the need for social solidarity. The appropriate level of overall expenditure by my Department, including expenditure on weekly and other payments, will be considered in the context of Budget 2013 and subsequent Budgets. Sustainable public finances are a pre-requisite for future economic stability and growth, as well as being a pre-requisite for maintaining and developing our social protection system. The Government’s priority is to secure economic recovery, promote growth and employment. To this end, the State must pursue a determined deficit reduction strategy. Accordingly, there will be an on-going requirement to curtail expenditure in 2013 and in later years.

  There are, therefore, considerable challenges ahead including the need to protect, as far as possible, the key income supports and services operated by my Department. These services and supports impact in some way on the lives of almost every single person in the State. The scope and scale of this expenditure plays a key role in the wider economy and helps to partially offset the effect of the downturn. There is no question of introducing changes by stealth. If the Government decides to change eligibility rules or make other changes to achieve savings, any such measures will be announced in the Budget and will be debated in this House.

Looking ahead to the preparations for Budget 2013, I will appear before the Joint Committee on Education and Social Protection on the 26th of September next to discuss Budget 2013. The input of the Committee in this regard will be valuable in informing the Budget and Estimates process for 2013 and I look forward to this engagement with the Committee members. I will be holding a pre-Budget forum on 12th October of this year, to which I have invited thirty five groups, including the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. I will listen carefully to their submissions in relation to the next Budget. In addition, I will take into account the views of the MABS, which operates under the aegis of the Citizen’s Information Board, an agency of my Department.

Community Employment Schemes Funding

 647. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will consider revising the requirement for community employment schemes to open a new bank account on a yearly basis and to allow a roll-over of existing accounts as would be the case in normal business, as the added cost is a drain on the already reduced materials grant; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [37198/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The requirement for a new bank account for each project year  is to be phased out at the next renewal date for existing projects. This policy change was notified to DSP Divisional Managers as part of the CE Financial Review released in July.

Carer's Allowance Applications

 648. Deputy Colm Keaveney Information on Colm Keaveney Zoom on Colm Keaveney asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton when a person (details supplied) in County Galway may expect to receive a decision on their entitlement to carer's allowance. [37201/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I confirm that the department is in receipt of an application for carer’s allowance from the person in question. The medical assessment has been completed and the application is awaiting examination by a deciding officer for a means assessment and a full decision. The application will be processed as quickly as possible and when a decision is made the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

Jobseeker's Allowance Appeals

 649. Deputy Peter Mathews Information on Peter Mathews Zoom on Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the position regarding a job seeker's allowance appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin South; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37202/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned together with the relevant Departmental papers and the comments of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal were received in that office on 3rd August 2012. The appeal in this case will be referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral hearing. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Jobseeker's Benefit Applications

 650. Deputy Finian McGrath Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the entitlements available for low-paid part-time staff who work 20 hours per week (details supplied).  [37205/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The jobseeker's benefit and jobseeker’s allowance schemes provide income support for people who have lost work and are unable to find alternative employment. It is a fundamental qualifying condition for these benefits that a person must be available for full-time work. A person is entitled to jobseeker’s benefit or jobseeker’s allowance where, inter alia, they are fully unemployed for at least 3 days in any period of 6 consecutive days (Sundays are currently excluded from this calculation).

It is recognised that a changing labour market has resulted in a move away from the more traditional work patterns, with a consequent increase in the number of atypical workers. In acknowledgement of this trend, the Department conducted a ‘Review of the Application of the Unemployment Benefit and Assistance Schemes Conditions to Workers who are not employed on a full-time basis’ in 2006, which examined the application of the jobseekers benefit and allowance scheme conditions to workers who are employed on a part-time, casual or systematic short-time basis.

The review made a number of recommendations which are currently under consideration by a Departmental working group. These considerations are complex and are taking place in the context of other social welfare reforms, the current economic situation, and the considerable administrative and IT change that implementing proposals based on these recommendations would require.

Carer's Allowance Applications

 651. Deputy Michelle Mulherin Information on Michelle Mulherin Zoom on Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the position regarding a carer's allowance application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; if it will be expedited due to financial hardship; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [37210/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I confirm that the department is in receipt of an application for carer’s allowance from the person in question. The medical assessment has been completed and the application is awaiting examination by a deciding officer for a means assessment and a full decision. The application will be processed as quickly as possible and when a decision is made the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome. In the meantime, if the person’s means are insufficient to meet his needs he may apply for supplementary welfare allowance from his local community welfare officer.

Disability Allowance Appeals

 652. Deputy Michelle Mulherin Information on Michelle Mulherin Zoom on Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the position regarding an application for disability allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; if the application will be expedited due to financial hardship; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37213/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The person concerned applied for disability allowance on 30 March 2011. Medical evidence supplied with his claim was referred to one of the department’s medical assessors who was of the opinion, based on the information supplied, that he was not medically suitable for disability allowance. The deciding officer accepted this opinion. The deciding officer decided, furthermore, that the person concerned has weekly means in excess of the statutory limit allowable for disability allowance purposes. The claim was refused and the person was notified in writing of this decision.

He subsequently appealed this decision to the Social Welfare Appeal Office. The appeals officer decided that, while the person was medically suitable for disability allowance, his weekly means were in excess of the statutory limits allowable and the appeal was disallowed. The person was notified in writing of this decision on 16 July 2012. An appeals officer’s decision is final and conclusive in the absence of any fresh facts or evidence.

Taxi Regulations

 653. Deputy Derek Nolan Information on Derek Nolan Zoom on Derek Nolan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she has ever operated a scheme that provided lump sums to taxi drivers towards the purchase of licences or the operation of taxi business; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37220/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The Department does not operate a scheme that provides lump sums towards the set up of taxi businesses or the purchase of taxi licences. The Deputy may wish to note that the Department operates a number of schemes which are designed to encourage people who are dependent on certain social welfare payments to pursue self employment opportunities. These opportunities can include the setting up of a taxi business.

  The back to work enterprise allowance (BTWEA) allows a person who has been unemployed for over 12 months to retain a reducing proportion of their qualifying social welfare payment over two years on entering employment or self-employment. The short term enterprise allowance (STEA) allows a person who qualifies for jobseekers’ benefit payment to retain this payment for the duration of their job seekers entitlement if they take up a self-employment opportunity. For both schemes the applicant must set up business for the purpose of self-employment. The business venture has to be approved by one of the local development companies or one of this Department’s job facilitators.  The business venture must be deemed to be viable and sustainable and must not involve displacement of existing business in the same industry or sector. In assessing viability, cognisance is taken of the demand for, and supply of, the particular service at local level.

  Those approved under either back to work schemes may also avail of additional financial support from the technical assistance and training scheme (TATS). Under this scheme a person may qualify for a grant up to a maximum of €1,000 to offset the cost of certain start-up expenses such as training in the areas of business start-up, bookkeeping and accounts, taxation, preparation of business plans, marketing, public liability insurance, literacy and computer training or assistance with the purchase of small items of equipment and tools.

  Question No. 654 withdrawn.

Departmental Staff Data

 655. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton in respect of a person (details supplied), if she regards this person as having been permanent staff who took up a temporary position to fill critical vacancies at the time and as part of the Croke Park agreement and in accordance with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform circular 8/2010, if the person is entitled to a placement within a 45 km radius of their address now that their post has been deemed surplus and placed on the resource panel; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [37222/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The person in question is not a member of staff in the Department of Social Protection.

Carer's Benefit Eligibility

 656. Deputy Jack Wall Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the position regarding an application for carer's allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [37225/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I confirm that the department is in receipt of an application for carer’s allowance from the person in question. The medical assessment has been completed and the application is awaiting examination by a deciding officer for a means assessment and a full decision. The application will be processed as quickly as possible and when a decision is made the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

Disability Allowance Appeals

 657. Deputy Jack Wall Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the position regarding an appeal against the decision to refuse an application for disability allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37228/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 24th March 2012. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 23rd April 2012 and the case has been referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral hearing. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Departmental Bodies

 658. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the number of agencies, authorities, boards, committees, working groups, tribunals, council services, task forces, agencies or other quangos set up by her Department since February 2011; the number abolished since then; the extra cost of quangos which were established; the savings from the abolition of quangos; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [37251/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I appointed a Steering Group on the National Internship Scheme in May 2011 to advise me on the implementation of the scheme. The Steering Group is comprised of representatives from the private, public and voluntary sectors. No direct costs have been incurred.

I established an Advisory Group on Tax and Social Welfare in June 2011 in line with a commitment in the Programme for Government. Members of the Group have expertise in economic and social policy as well as other relevant areas and include a mix of experience and expertise from within and outside the public sector. Direct costs to date are €23,400.

An Interdepartmental Project Board for the contracting of External Employment Services was set up this summer. No direct costs have been incurred to date.

A working group was set up in July 2012 to review the Domiciliary Care Allowance scheme and is due to report by year end. The group has representatives from other Government Departments and from Non-Government Organisations representing parents of children with disabilities. No direct costs have been incurred to date.

A working group was established in August 2012 to examine section 48 of the Pensions Act. This deals with the priority order of the distribution of assets in a scheme wind up. The group comprises of representatives from the Department and the Pensions Board with assistance being provided by the pensions industry consultancy, Mercer. The only costs are the costs of the consultancy which are €15,000 plus VAT.

The above five groups established since I came into office in March 2011 are still in place as the work they are doing is valuable and pertinent to the particular areas and issues with which they are concerned. In addition, a working group on Pension Charges to gather information on the level and distribution of pension charges and expenses across all occupational pension types was established in July 2011. The group comprised of representatives from the Department, the Pensions Board and the Central Bank. The work of this group is largely complete. Consultancy costs are €50,000 plus VAT.

Departmental Bodies Expenditure

 659. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the estimated cost of each quango in her Department; the amount expected to be saved from the mergers of quangos in her Department; the basis for this figure; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37267/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The three statutory bodies operating under the aegis of the Department are the Social Welfare Tribunal, the Citizens Information Board (CIB) and the Pensions Board. In addition, the Office of the Pensions Ombudsman comes under the remit of the Department but it does not have a Board.

The Social Welfare Tribunal deals with cases where entitlement to jobseeker’s benefit or assistance is refused due to an involvement in a trade dispute. The Tribunal consists of a Chairman and four ordinary members and does not have a day to day operating function. Members do not receive an annual salary, instead they are paid fees for attending hearings or meetings, they also qualify for Travel and Subsistence expenses if appropriate. Additional expenditure may arise in respect of room hire for Hearings/Meetings. Referrals to the tribunal are very infrequent and no such referrals have occurred for almost two years. For that reason, there was no expenditure in relation to the Social Welfare Tribunal in 2011 and there has been no expenditure in 2012 to date. There are no plans to merge the Social Welfare Tribunal with any other state body.

The total Budget allocation to the CIB for 2012 is €46.843m. The CIB was assigned responsibility for the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) with effect from July 2009. There are no plans to merge that combined service with any other.

My Department provides an annual grant to the Pensions Board specifically to fund a public awareness campaign, the National Pensions Awareness Campaign. The grant for 2012 was €400,000. The Department provides no other funding to the Board, as it meets its administration costs from fees collected from occupational pension schemes and personal retirement savings accounts (PRSAs). There is no Exchequer funding involved for the day to day running of the Pensions Board.

The Office of the Pensions Ombudsman is independent in its function and comes under the remit of my Department. The 2012 Estimate for Pensions Ombudsman is €1.025m.

In terms of rationalisation, the integration of the regulatory functions of the Pensions Board with the Financial Regulator and the merging of the Pensions Ombudsman with the Financial Services Ombudsman are the subject of a critical review under the Public Service Reform Programme. A Steering Group has been established to carry out the reviews with a report expected by year end.


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