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Social Welfare Bill 2012: Committee Stage (Resumed) and Remaining Stages (Continued)

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 786 No. 3

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton] If the person being cared for lives with the carer and is an adult, he or she is entitled to disability payments amounting to approximately €11,000 per year. The total package, therefore, for a disabled adult being cared for by a spouse is worth €24,370 per year. Deputy Murphy and I would both like to make that payment higher, but the worst reduction in payments to such people was made by Fianna Fáil when it cut the allowance for a disabled adult being cared for by a spouse by €16 per week over the course of a number of budgets. It also took over €16 per week from carers over the course of a number of budgets. That is the cut that cut the deepest for those families comprising a lone parent caring for a child or an adult caring for a disabled person.

Deputy Joan Collins: Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins This is outrageous.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Let me say, with regard to-----

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea Chairman, on a point of order-----

Acting Chairman (Deputy Bernard J. Durkan): Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan Deputy O'Dea, on a point of order.

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea We have yet to discuss issues such as the respite care grant and various cuts that will affect people, particularly those currently outside the gate. I ask that the Minister stop filibustering and let us get on with a proper discussion-----

Acting Chairman (Deputy Bernard J. Durkan): Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan Sorry, Deputy-----

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton These are the facts, Deputy-----

Acting Chairman (Deputy Bernard J. Durkan): Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan That is not a point of order.

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea The Minister is talking down the clock.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Bernard J. Durkan): Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan That is not a point of order, as the Deputy well knows.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy The Minister is not addressing the issue raised.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Bernard J. Durkan): Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan Please allow the Minister to speak without interruption.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The facts are very important-----

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy On a point of order, please.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Bernard J. Durkan): Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan There is no point of order.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton -----for the people who are outside the House.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy On a point of order, please.

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Deputy Murphy wishes to make a point of order.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Bernard J. Durkan): Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan I am sorry, Deputy Murphy, but you had your opportunity to-----

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy The Minister is not answering the point I raised.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Bernard J. Durkan): Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan I am sorry, but that is not a point of order.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy It is a point of order. She is not speaking about the issue raised.

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Deputy Murphy made a valid point and the Minister is not addressing it.

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea She is filibustering.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Bernard J. Durkan): Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan It is not a point of order, and the Deputy is interrupting.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy The Minister is not speaking on the amendment. She is not dealing with the issue that was raised.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Bernard J. Durkan): Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan I ask Deputy Murphy to resume her seat. That is not a point of order. The Deputy had an opportunity to speak on the amendment and has spoken. I ask her to allow the Minister to conclude.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy The Minister is not addressing the amendment.

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh She is not speaking on the amendment. Does the Acting Chairman even know which amendment we are dealing with?

Acting Chairman (Deputy Bernard J. Durkan): Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan Excuse me, Deputies, please. We are dealing with the Minister's amendment.

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh That is what we are supposed to be dealing with, but the Minister is not addressing the issue.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy She is not dealing with the issue.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Bernard J. Durkan): Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan I ask Deputy Murphy to resume her seat and allow the Minister to conclude.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy There should be no favouritism in this House.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton On the amendment, we are talking about lone parents and the fact that we are reforming the one-parent family system to bring it into line with the best such systems that operate in other European countries. I took a particular category of lone parent - namely, a lone parent looking after a child with a disability - and pointed out, reasonably, that such a person is not, as the Deputy was suggesting, required to go out and find work. The fact that the person is a carer is fully recognised by the staff in every social welfare office of the Department of Social Protection.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy That is not the point I made and the Minister knows it.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Regarding lone parents whose children are growing up and are in school, reforms are being introduced, and I am glad - if I understood her correctly - that Deputy Murphy is supportive of this. We are providing lone parents with the options of returning to education or training, gaining work experience and getting back to work.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy What about child care?

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I am aware that Deputy Murphy knows of and cares about many parents who are parenting on their own. The best outlook for such parents and for their children, whom they love and care for so much, will come from our assistance in getting them back into the labour force or into training and education, which will open up a life of opportunity for themselves and their children.

We have one of the highest rates of direct payments for parents and children in Europe. These figures are verifiable. Our risk of poverty is reduced by almost 50% more than even the richest of European countries because our level of transfers and payments is so high. I know that Deputy Murphy and many other Deputies would like to increase them.

Deputy Joan Collins: Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins We just do not want them to be cut.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton We should think about putting more of the resources into services. That is why, for instance, in this budget I am increasing funding for the provision of hot school meals and for the special initiatives for children in disadvantaged areas. Deputy Murphy, to some extent, is not looking at the question of how to ensure we have a strong social welfare system that is not simply strong in terms of income transfers. All of the European statistics show that it is exceptionally strong in that regard and even rich European countries do not, in many cases, have the level of transfers that we have. Instead, what they have is a much more active social welfare system that encourages people back to work.

I said already that we have ten offices now operating the new system of social welfare. These are not pilots but are the first wave of the transformation of the Department of Social Protection from being a passive Department that simply pays money to people who unfortunately have lost their jobs or who, for other reasons, are getting a social welfare income, to an active Department that not only pays people an income but also enters into a contract with them - a contract between the individual and the Department on behalf of our citizens and taxpayers - that the Department will give the individual and his or her family their entitlements in the form of income supports but will also oblige the person, particularly as his or her children grow up and attend school, to get back into education and training and back to work. That combination is a win for the family and a win for Irish society and taxpayers.

There are approximately 96,000 lone-parent families in Ireland. Think of all of the talent and energy that could be harnessed by my Department by helping those families get back into education and work and back to financial independence. Deputies know that the families and individuals who get back into employment and regain their financial independence are the winners. If one talks to women in their 50s or 60s who have been parenting on their own they will say that getting a good job was the best step they took. If, however, a woman in her twenties or early thirties who is looking after a baby on her own delays taking that step for a long time and delays updating her education, training and qualifications for ten or 20 years, it is quite hard for her to make up the gap in terms of getting a reasonable job and becoming financially independent. I make no apologies for saying that this is a reform-----

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy What about child care?

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton This is a reform of the social welfare system about which I feel passionate because I went to school with people who, for various reasons, had to rely on social welfare for their income. The best help for somebody in his or her early twenties or thirties who is dependent on a State payment is for the State to assist him or her to become financially independent. I know from private conversations I have had with Deputy Murphy that she shares that vision. That is what we want-----

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy A guarantee of affordable child care - that is all I want.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton We want people of working age to be able-----

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy The problem is child care.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Bernard J. Durkan): Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan Allow the Minister to conclude, please.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton In the-----

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea Allow the Minister to conclude - to conclude, Chairman. That is the important bit.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Bernard J. Durkan): Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan I will deal with that, Deputy O'Dea.

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea The Minister must conclude.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Bernard J. Durkan): Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan Sorry, Deputy; I will deal with that.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton That is why I have made provision in the budget for 10,000 extra activation places, consisting of 3,000 on JobBridge, 2,500 on Tús, 3,000 in the local authorities and 2,000 in CE schemes.


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