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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 105 - 127
 Header Item Domiciliary Care Allowance Applications
 Header Item Family Income Supplement Applications
 Header Item Family Income Supplement Eligibility
 Header Item Mortgage Arrears Rate
 Header Item Disability Allowance Appeals
 Header Item Departmental Contracts
 Header Item Respite Care Services
 Header Item National Internship Scheme Numbers
 Header Item Back to Education Allowance Payments
 Header Item Invalidity Pension Appeals
 Header Item Respite Care Services
 Header Item Community Employment Schemes Places
 Header Item Mortgage Interest Supplement Appeals
 Header Item Jobseeker's Benefit Applications
 Header Item Invalidity Pension Appeals
 Header Item Respite Care Services
 Header Item Social Welfare Appeals Status
 Header Item Invalidity Pension Appeals

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 786 No. 2

First Page Previous Page Page of 90 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 105 - 127

Domiciliary Care Allowance Applications

 106. 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 if a decision has been made on a review of a domiciliary care allowance application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [55722/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Applications for domiciliary care allowance (DCA) were received from the person concerned in respect of two children on the 17th August 2012. These applications were referred to one of the Department’s Medical Assessors who found that the children were not medically eligible for DCA. Letters issued on the 3rd October 2012 refusing the allowance. The person concerned subsequently lodged an appeal against the decision to disallow her applications.

As part of the appeal process, the files have been forwarded to another of the Department’s Medical Assessors for further consideration, including a review of any new information supplied. Upon receipt of the Medical Assessor’s opinion, the case will be further examined and will be forwarded for consideration by the appeals office, if necessary.

Family Income Supplement Applications

 107. Deputy Sean Fleming Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the reason for the delay in processing family income supplement applications in relation to claims that were lodged up to the end of October 2012 and the situation regarding processing claims lodged since that time; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [55730/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The Department is committed to providing a quality service to all its customers. This includes ensuring that applications are processed and that decisions on entitlement are made as quickly as possible.

FIS claims, both new and renewal, received on or after the 5th November 2012 are currently being processed on receipt.

An in-depth business process improvement (BPI) project has recently been completed for the FIS scheme. This project focused on optimising output, improving customer service and the elimination of backlogs. Part of the project was a detailed examination of workloads and a full assessment of existing capacity within the area and what capacity is needed in order to process the volumes of claims, both new and renewal, being received on a weekly basis.

The outcome of this review is a detailed plan outlining the process required to manage both the continuous weekly intake and backlog claims clearance. This plan sees the current weekly new claim and renewal intake processed by one team, while the backlog is ring-fenced and a focused team assigned to this work with a clear plan for its elimination.

This team including additional temporary resources has been identified and is already assigned and working on the backlog claims. In order to reduce the time it will take to eliminate the backlog, some claims are being processed outside of Longford Social Welfare Services Office. This team is fully focussed on the elimination of the backlog of claims in the shortest possible timeframe, concentrating in the first instance on those claims which were previously in payment but where payment has expired and continuing on to first-time new claims. Within those categories, those waiting the longest will be processed first.

It is expected that the backlog will be fully eliminated by the end of March 2013. Claims which are approved by the backlog team will be backdated to the date of claim or the date of expiry of the previous claim, as appropriate, and all arrears due will be paid.

  Question No. 108 withdrawn.

Family Income Supplement Eligibility

 109. Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton further to Parliamentary Question No. 369 of 27 November 2012, regarding the report she is reviewing from the advisory group on tax and social welfare regarding cost-effective solutions as to how employment incentives can be implemented and better poverty outcomes achieved; if she will release the report to Dáil Éireann for consideration; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [55755/12]

 111. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she has held discussions with the Revenue Commissioners with the aim of taxing certain benefits paid to high earners; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [55775/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I propose to take Questions Nos. 109 and 111 together.

In line with a commitment in the Programme for Government, I established an Advisory Group on Tax and Social Welfare last year, which has been asked to recommend cost-effective solutions as to how employment incentives can be improved and better poverty outcomes achieved, particularly child poverty outcomes. The Advisory Group prioritised the area of family and child income supports and has completed its work on this area. The Group has presented its report on this issue to me and I intend to publish this in the New Year.

Achieving a better design of the overall system of child income supports raises complex issues about the effectiveness and efficiency of the full range of income supports currently provided to families and their children. The issues involved in this area are quite complex and further consideration, informed by the Advisory Group’s Report will be required in deciding how reform in this area might be progressed. Issues of taxation are primarily a matter for my colleague the Minister for Finance. While I have had discussions with the Revenue Commissioners about the operational implications of certain issues related to the interaction of the tax and social welfare system, the taxing of certain benefits paid to high earners would primarily be a policy matter for consideration with my cabinet colleagues.

Mortgage Arrears Rate

 110. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton further to her announcement on 6 September 2012 when she launched a scheme giving certain mortgage borrowers access to a consultation with an accountant worth up to €250, if she will confirm the number of borrowers who have to date partaken in this scheme.  [55774/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The Mortgage Arrears Information and Advice Service was established to provide the necessary supports to assist people in mortgage distress. The approach differentiates between mortgage information and mortgage advice. The first two elements involve the enhancement of the website www.keepingyourhome.ie and the establishment of a Mortgage Arrears Information Helpline within the Citizens Information Board (CIB), both of which focus on the provision of comprehensive mortgage arrears information in particular to people in arrears or pre-arrears.

  The third element of the service is the provision of independent financial advice to mortgage holders who are being presented with long term mortgage resolution proposals by their lenders. This advice will be provided by a panel of accountants drawn from members of the main accountancy institutes in Ireland who have agreed to participate and support this independent service.

  When a lender is proposing longer-term mortgage resolutions, the lender will advise the borrower to obtain independent financial advice on the proposed arrangement and, if the borrower wishes to avail of this option, that the lender will pay €250 to an accountant of the borrower’s choosing for the provision of this advice. The independent financial advice will be available to all mortgage holders in respect of a mortgage secured on a primary residence who have been offered longterm forbearance options by their lenders.

An operating protocol for the provision of this advice has been agreed between the main accountancy bodies and the Irish Banking Federation. To date, some 2,700 accountants have confirmed to their accounting body that they wish to be part of the panel and their details are listed on a county by county basis on the website www.keepingyourhome.ie.

  The Central Bank of Ireland is engaging with lenders on the reporting requirements in relation to this new service and statistical details on the number of borrowers who have availed of the financial advice service should be available in early 2013.

  Question No. 111 answered with Question No. 109.

Disability Allowance Appeals

 112. Deputy Sandra McLellan Information on Sandra McLellan Zoom on Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will expedite an appeal that was lodged last February in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [55812/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The person concerned applied for disability allowance on 3 June 2011. The medical evidence supplied with her claim was referred to one of the department’s medical assessors who was of the opinion, based on the information supplied, that the person was not medically suitable for disability allowance. The deciding officer accepted this opinion and the claim was refused and the person was notified in writing of this decision on 27 September 2011.

The person submitted further medical evidence which was referred to a second medical assessor who was also of the opinion that the person was not medically suitable for disability allowance. The deciding officer accepted this opinion and there was no change to the decision to refuse disability allowance.

The person appealed this decision to the Social Welfare Appeals Office and submitted further medical evidence in support of the appeal. As part of the appeals process, the department referred all the medical evidence received including the evidence received by the Appeals office to a third medical assessor for review. When the deciding officer receives the opinion of the medical assessor a decision will be made and the appeal will be referred, if necessary, to the Social Welfare Appeals Office for determination.

Departmental Contracts

 113. Deputy Damien English Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will provide details of each service in her Department that is currently outsourced; the company that provides such services and the total cost for these services; the other services which may be outsourced in the future that are currently being run in her Department; and the names of the companies, fees paid and nature of service for all contracts awarded from her Department excluding legal, accounting, PR or building refurbishment related services since March 2011. [55835/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton It is not possible to provide the information sought by the Deputy in the time available. The details requested are currently being compiled and a response will be issued directly to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Respite Care Services

 114. 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 if she will stop the cut to the respite care grant as it is affecting the marginalised such as families with a member with a disability.  [55836/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The Government had to make very difficult decisions in the course of Budget 2013. In order to protect core weekly payments which people receive such as pensions, disability and carer’s allowance we had to look very carefully at other additional payments such as the respite care grant.

The respite care grant is paid to approximately 70,000 people each year, with some 5,000 people in receipt of more than one grant as they care for more than one person. 52,000 people are in receipt of the carer’s allowance and 26,000 in receipt of the domiciliary care allowance (DCA). There are also 1,300 in receipt of carer’s benefit. They receive the respite care grant automatically in June. Persons who are in receipt of both DCA and carer’s allowance receive one respite payment. 5,000 carers not in receipt of a carer’s payment receive the grant.

It is important to note that the revised rate of the respite care grant of €1,375 will still be more than what it was in 2006 when the rate was €1,200. The estimated expenditure on carers in 2012 is over €771 million: €509 million on carer’s allowance, €24 million on carer’s benefit, €135 million on the respite care grant and €103 million on domiciliary care allowance (DCA). This represents an increase of almost €20 million on expenditure in 2011. Carer’s also receive a free travel pass at an annual cost of €6 million and carers who reside with the care recipient are eligible for the household benefits package at an annual cost of approximately €30 million.

Carers receive significant income supports from my Department, among the highest rates of income support in Europe. A person getting certain qualifying payments and also providing full-time care and attention to another person can keep their main social welfare payment and get a half-rate carer’s allowance as well. The half-rate carer’s allowance was protected in Budget 2013.

The respite care grant is available to all full-time carers regardless of their means while the income disregard and means test for carers allowance is the most generous in the social welfare system. A couple under 66 with two children, earning a joint annual income of up to €35,400 can qualify for the maximum rate of carer’s allowance while a couple earning €59,300 will still qualify for the minimum rate. Carers are entitled to an extra half-rate carer’s allowance if they care for more than one person and a respite care grant for each care recipient.

I am aware the reduction in the respite care grant has implications for carers and their families; however, given the enormous pressures on the expenditure of my Department, I am not in a position to reverse this decision.

National Internship Scheme Numbers

 115. 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 the arrangements that apply in relation to persons working on the JobBridge scheme (details supplied) in County Galway in terms of maternity benefit as confusion appears to reign as to whether it is a matter for JobBridge or her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [55851/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The legal status of an intern is provided for in legislation.

  An intern is a person who is availing of an internship under the National Internship Scheme. They are not an employee of their respective Host Organisation as stated in Section 16 of the Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2011.

A person who is engaged by another person to carry out work or perform any duty or service pursuant to a placement under the National Internship Scheme shall, for the purposes of any enactment or rule of law (other than the Tax Acts and the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005), be deemed not to be an employee of the other person or to carry out such work or perform such duties pursuant to a contract of service.

  As such, an intern does not accrue an entitlement to maternity benefit during the period of their internship as they are not an employee of their respective Host Organisation and no PRSI contributions are made during this period.

  If an individual has any queries in respect of their specific entitlements to maternity benefit then they should contact the Maternity Benefits section in respect of same. In respect of this case, I wish to advise the Deputy that I have requested that the Maternity Benefits section to make contact with Ms Brien in respect of her specific entitlements.

Back to Education Allowance Payments

 116. 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 if the parents of a person who is in receipt of the back to education allowance and who lives at home will be automatically disqualified from the household benefit package.  [55856/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The household benefits package (HHB) includes free electricity or gas allowance, telephone allowance and free TV licence.

The package is available to all those aged 70 or over regardless of means and household composition and those in receipt of carer’s allowance who are living with the person they are caring for.

Those between 66 and 70 must be in receipt of a qualifying payment from the Department or satisfy a means test and live alone or only with certain exempted persons. Those aged under 66 must be in receipt of a qualifying payment and live alone or with exempted persons.

An exempted person includes dependent children under age 18 or under age 22 if in full-time education or a person who would qualify for the allowance in his or her own right.

Being in receipt of a back to education allowance will not automatically disqualify someone’s parents from receiving household benefits. Without knowing the full circumstances such as the age of the parents, the age of the person receiving the back to education allowance and any primary payment the person may be receiving, it is not possible to say if this couple would qualify for a household benefits package. If the Deputy has a particular case in mind, I will be happy to have the matter examined.

Invalidity Pension Appeals

 117. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan Information on Patrick O'Donovan Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the position regarding an invalidity pension appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [55879/12]

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 11th July 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 6th December 2012 and the 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.

  Question No. 118 withdrawn.

Respite Care Services

 119. Deputy Gerry Adams Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the number of recipients of the respite care grant in County Louth. [55890/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The respite care grant (RCG) is an annual payment made automatically to people in receipt of carer’s allowance, carer’s benefit, or domiciliary care allowance from my Department. Other people who are not in receipt of one of these payments, but who are providing full time care and attention can also apply for the grant via separate application. The RCG is paid automatically on the 1st Thursday in June of the year in question and is paid by a number of sections in my Department, via various computer platforms. As a result, not all of the information requested by the Deputy is available. Details of the number of carers, broken down by scheme are shown in the table. However, the information requested in relation to customers resident in individual counties is not available on a county basis.

    Table 1 - Respite Care Grant Number of Carers (2012)

Year Carer’s Allowance Carer’s Benefit Domiciliary Care Allowance Standalone RCG
2012 37,853 (to June 2012) 1,210 (to date) 24,245 (to June 2012) 4,149 (to date)

Community Employment Schemes Places

 120. Deputy Gerry Adams Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton how the additional 2,000 community employment schemes announced in budget 2013 will be allocated.  [55891/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The allocation of all these places will be in line with the overall Government strategy set out in Pathways to Work. The objective will be to ensure an equitable of places to where they are most needed taking account of the overall capacity of local sponsors to provide quality places to those on the live register.

The allocation will also take account of the necessity to secure value for money through the implementation of priorities and recommendations set out in the CE Financial Review published by my Department in October 2012.

Mortgage Interest Supplement Appeals

 121. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan Information on Patrick O'Donovan Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the reason a person (details supplied) in County Limerick was refused an oral hearing on their application for mortgage interest supplement; if her Department took all of the family's circumstances into consideration when arriving at a decision; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [55900/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer having fully considered all the available evidence disallowed the appeal of the person concerned by way of summary decision. The person concerned was notified of the Appeals Officer’s decision on 28th August 2012.

  The legislation provides that where an Appeals Officer is of the opinion that a case is of such a nature that it can properly be determined without a hearing, he or she may determine the appeal summarily. This course of action was taken in this case as, in the opinion of the Appeals Officer, an oral hearing was not warranted.

  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

 122. Deputy Martin Heydon Information on Martin Heydon Zoom on Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if, in view of the recently announced reduction in jobseeker's benefit to nine months, she will consider a corresponding reduction in the eligibility period for entry to community employment scheme from 12 months to 9 months to allow all those on the live register equal access to such an important scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [55909/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Community Employment (CE) is an active labour market programme designed to provide eligible long-term unemployed people and other disadvantaged persons (including those with a disability) with an opportunity to engage in useful work within their communities on a temporary, fixed term basis. CE helps long-term unemployed people to re-enter the active workforce by breaking their experience of unemployment through a return to a work routine and to assist them to enhance/develop both their technical and personal skills.

My Department is currently reviewing the impact of this change on the eligibility of those on Jobs Benefit (JB) to access Community Employment. However, in the meantime, it should be noted that persons with 9 months Jobseekers Benefit and 3 months on another qualifying payment (i.e. JA, OPFA, etc.) are still eligible to participate on Community Employment.

In addition to Community Employment, there are a number of training and work experience opportunities available to clients in receipt of JB. JB clients should contact their local DSP Employment Service/Intreo office or the DSP website for further details.

Invalidity Pension Appeals

 123. 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 invalidity pension appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [55922/12]

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 2nd October 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. When received, the appeal in question will be referred in 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.

Respite Care Services

 124. Deputy Michael Lowry Information on Michael Lowry Zoom on Michael Lowry asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the number of persons in County Tipperary in receipt of the respite care grant for the years 2010, 2011 and 2012 respectively. [55926/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The respite care grant (RCG) is an annual payment made automatically to people in receipt of carer’s allowance, carer’s benefit, or domiciliary care allowance from my Department. Other people who are not in receipt of one of these payments, but who are providing full time care and attention can also apply for the grant via separate application. The RCG is paid automatically on the 1st Thursday in June of the years in question and is paid by a number of sections in my Department, via various computer platforms. As a result, not all of the information requested by the Deputy is available. Details of the number of carers, broken down by scheme are shown in the table below. However, the information requested in relation to customers resident in individual counties is not available on a county basis.

Table 1 - Respite Care Grant Number of Carers (2010 to date)   

Year Carer’s Allowance Carer’s Benefit Domiciliary Care Allowance Standalone RCG
2010 38,260 1,697 23,110 5,184
2011 39,601 1,223 23,710 4,629
2012 37,853 (to June 2012) 1,210 (to date) 24,245 (to June 2012) 4,149 (to date)

Social Welfare Appeals Status

 125. Deputy Peadar Tóibín Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the timeframe for the processing of an appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath and the reason for the delay to date. [55933/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer having fully considered all the available evidence allowed the appeal of the person concerned by way of summary decision. The person concerned was notified of the Appeals Officer’s decision on 11th December 2012.

  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.

Invalidity Pension Appeals

 126. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan Information on Patrick O'Donovan Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the position regarding an appeal for invalidity pension in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [55941/12]

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 referred to an Appeals Officer on 28th November 2012, 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.

  Question No. 127 withdrawn


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