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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 320-340
 Header Item Disability Allowance Appeals
 Header Item Carer's Allowance Appeals
 Header Item Job Assist Scheme
 Header Item Social Insurance Payments
 Header Item Jobseeker's Allowance Eligibility
 Header Item Ministerial Appointments
 Header Item Carer's Allowance Applications
 Header Item Family Income Supplement Appeals
 Header Item One-Parent Family Payment Applications
 Header Item Farm Assist Scheme Data
 Header Item Disability Allowance Appeals
 Header Item European Council Meetings
 Header Item Widow's Pension Applications
 Header Item Carer's Allowance Appeals
 Header Item Farm Assist Scheme Appeals

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 787 No. 3

First Page Previous Page Page of 96 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 320-340

Disability Allowance Appeals

 320. 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 be made on an appeal for disability allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [56337/12]

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 22nd May 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 06th   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.

Carer's Allowance Appeals

 321. 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 a decision to refuse 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. [56338/12]

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.

Job Assist Scheme

 322. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton in view of an announcement in Budget 2013 regarding extra jobbridge places, if further applications for internships will be accepted under the educational sector; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [56351/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton JobBridge, the National Internship Scheme was launched on 1s July 2011. It provides internship opportunities of either 6 or 9 months for unemployed individuals on the Live Register, in organisations in the private, public and community voluntary sectors

  The Scheme has made significant progress to-date. Over 13,000 interns have commenced placements on the scheme to-date including a significant number in the Education sector.

  The increase in JobBridge places announced in the budget is not earmarked for any particular sector and all eligible organisations will be able to advertise for and select interns in line with the standard JobBridge procedures.

  In the case of internships within the education sector there was no overall limit placed on the number of internships per se, rather the Department set a cut-off date for applications aligned with the academic year given that the minimum duration of an internship is six months and the maximum duration is nine months.

  In this regard the deadline for applications for 9 month internships in the education sector was 14th September 2012 and 7th   December 2012 for 6 month internships. This is in line with the ending of the academic year in June 2013. This has been clearly advertised on the Home Page of the JobBridge website since August of this year. As such, every effort was made to provide reasonable notice of this arrangement.

  It is proposed to repeat this procedure in 2013; host organisations, within the education sector, may submit applications up to December 2013 for placements for the academic year 2013/14.

  It is important to note that an independent evaluation of the Scheme is currently being finalised by Indecon International Economic Consultants and is anticipated that a final report will be published in the coming weeks. The Department will consider the report and may amend the terms and conditions of the scheme to take account of recommendations contained therein. Any such amendments to the scheme will be notified via the website.

  Questions Nos. 323 to 325, inclusive, withdrawn.

Social Insurance Payments

 326. Deputy Róisín Shortall Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if it is the case that Class B, C and D PRSI contributions have retained their PRSI allowance despite budgetary changes to other classes; if so the basis for this; and the revenue that would accrue if the allowance were abolished for all employees.  [56377/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The Employee’s PRSI free allowance of €127 per week (for those paying PRSI Class A, E and H) and €26 per week (for those paying PRSI Class B, C, and D) will be abolished with effect from 1 January 2013. The abolition of the allowance for all classes of contributors ensures equity of treatment of employees across all sectors of the economy.

The abolition of the PRSI free allowance for all classes of contributors will increase income to the Social Insurance Fund by an additional €265m in 2013 and €289m in a full year.

Jobseeker's Allowance Eligibility

 327. 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 policy that exists within her Department when assessing the eligibility of a reserve fire fighter for jobseeker's benefit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [56401/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Social welfare legislation provides that a person must satisfy the conditions of being available for and genuinely seeking work in order to be entitled to jobseeker’s benefit. Any person who fails to satisfy these conditions is not entitled to a jobseeker’s benefit payment.

Part-time fire-fighters are entitled to a jobseeker’s benefit payment in respect of days that they are engaged in fire-fighting or training. They are, however, required to satisfy the statutory conditions for the receipt of a jobseeker’s payment of being available for and genuinely seeking work. In this respect, Deciding Officers do not treat them differently to any other jobseeker’s benefit claimant.

The requirement that retained fire-fighters reside and work within a 1.5 mile radius and within a 5 minute response time of the fire station of their brigade may, subject to the circumstances of an individual case, unreasonably restrict the location where s/he can accept work and limit his/her prospects of obtaining work. It is a matter for Deciding Officers to make a decision based on the circumstances of each case.

My Department is currently examining the position of these workers vis-à-vis the jobseeker’s schemes and the unusual circumstances of retained fire brigade personnel. As part of this process officials in my Department are also in discussions with their counterparts from the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government concerning this issue. Deliberations in relation to the position of these workers are on-going and final decisions have not been made with regard to potential changes to existing arrangements.

Ministerial Appointments

 328. 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 Special Advisors or Press Advisors she has appointed within her Department; the names of the advisors; the date of their appointment and the total salary and remuneration package in each case.  [56407/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The details sought by the Deputy in respect of the Special Advisers and Press Advisers appointed in my Department are show as follows:

Name Position held Date appointed Annual salary
Edward Brophy Special Adviser 29th July 2011 €127,796
Paul O’Brien Press Adviser 17th December 2012 €80,051

Carer's Allowance Applications

 329. 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 the progress to date in the determination of an application for carer's allowance in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [56410/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I confirm that the department received an application for carer’s allowance from the person in question on the 14th of September 2011. This application was refused on the ground that the carer in question was not medically eligible for carer’s allowance. A letter issued on the 4th   of July 2012 refusing the allowance. The person concerned appealed this decision and the file has been submitted to the Social Welfare Appeals Office for determination.

   Question No. 330 withdrawn.

Family Income Supplement Appeals

 331. Deputy Pat Breen Information on Pat Breen Zoom on Pat Breen asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton when a decision on a family income supplement appeal will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [56455/12]

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 17th 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. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 05th   November 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.

One-Parent Family Payment Applications

 332. 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 supports available in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9. [56468/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The person concerned has been in receipt of one parent family payment since 15th January 2009. She was also in receipt of rent supplement in respect of her previous address from June 2010 until September 2012. She has since made another application for rent supplement on 10th   October 2012 which is awaiting decision as she has yet to provide requested documentation. The person concerned should contact her Social Welfare Local Office or Citizens’ Information Centre to discuss any other possible entitlements.

Farm Assist Scheme Data

 333. Deputy Andrew Doyle Information on Andrew Doyle Zoom on Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if a review has been undertaken of the farm assist scheme on the effectiveness of its stated goal to reduce poverty among farmers, by her Department in co-operation with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; if there are any targets for the scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [56506/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Support for farmers on low incomes is available through the farm assist scheme. This means-tested payment is similar to the jobseeker’s allowance scheme, on which it is based. Farm assist was introduced in 1999 to replace ‘Smallholders Unemployment Assistance’ for low income farmers, without the requirement to be available for and genuinely seeking work.

In Budget 2013 two measures were announced, for implementation in April 2013, which will bring the farm assist scheme into closer alignment with the jobseeker’s allowance scheme treatment of self-employed persons by: increasing the amount of means from self-employment which is assessed against the claim from 85% to 100%; and discontinuing the means testing disregards for child dependants of claimants.

A full review of the scheme has not been carried out and there are no specific targets associated with the scheme. However, the scheme adheres to the mission statement of the Department of Social Protection – ‘to promote active participation in society through the provision of income supports, employment services and other supports’.

Additionally, as part of the social welfare system generally, the scheme acts to support the objectives, and associated targets, set out in the National Action Plan for Social Inclusion 2007 - 2016.

Disability Allowance Appeals

 334. Deputy Tom Fleming Information on Tom Fleming Zoom on Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton when a decision will issue on a disability allowance appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [56539/12]

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 22nd May 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 06th   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.

European Council Meetings

 335. Deputy Simon Harris Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the formations of the EU Councils of Ministers on which she sits; the number of meetings of that Council held from 9 March 2011 to date in 2012; the number of those meetings she attended; the number attended by a Minister of State; the number attended by an Irish official; and if she will provide the names of those who attended in tabular form. [56553/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton During the period in question there were a total of ten meetings, including four informal meetings of the Council for Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs (EPSCO) which is the relevant Council formation for the Department of Social Protection.

It is the practice for the Employment and Social Affairs items to be taken on one day of this two day meeting, and Health and Consumer Affairs to be taken separately on the other. In relation to the former, the subject matter covers topics which span the interests of a number of Irish government departments – Social Protection; Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation; Justice, Equality and Law Reform; and Education and Skills. Representation at the Council is decided on the basis of the items to be discussed, and it is often the case that Ministerial attendance from this Department is not considered necessary.

During the period in question, I attended, along with Department Officials, five meetings of the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council. A further two meetings were attended by Department Officials.

I did not attend the remaining three meetings, and no officials from the Department travelled to these meetings. However, Ministers and officials from other Departments, and officials from the Permanent Representation (including the attaché from the Department of Social Protection), would have attended these meetings.

Widow's Pension Applications

 336. 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 if a person (details supplied) in County Laois is in receipt of the correct widow's non-contributory pension in view of the fact that the income is less than the means established by the Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [56569/12]

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 received in that office on 02nd November 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 29th   November 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. 337 withdrawn.

Carer's Allowance Appeals

 338. 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 when a decision on a carer's allowance appeal will issue from the appeals office in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [56581/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I confirm that the department received an application for carer’s allowance from the person in question on the 23rd of January 2012. The person concerned was refused carer’s allowance on the grounds that the care recipient is not so disabled as to require full time care and attention as prescribed in regulations. She was notified of this decision, the reasons for it and of her right of review or appeal. Additional medical evidence was received and forwarded to the Department’s medical assessor for consideration. However, this information did not alter the opinion of the medical assessor and the decision remained unchanged. The person concerned appealed this decision to the Social Welfare Appeals Office and submitted further medical evidence in support of the appeal. This information has been forwarded to the medical assessor for further consideration. If the outcome remains unchanged a submission will be prepared and her file and papers will be forwarded to the Social Welfare Appeals Office for determination.

Farm Assist Scheme Appeals

 339. Deputy Tom Fleming Information on Tom Fleming Zoom on Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the measures she has taken to address the unacceptable waiting lists for farm assist appeals, the timeframe to process these appeals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [56584/12]

 340. Deputy Tom Fleming Information on Tom Fleming Zoom on Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the measures she taken to address the unacceptable waiting lists for invalidity pension appeals; the timeframe to process these appeals; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [56585/12]

 343. Deputy Tom Fleming Information on Tom Fleming Zoom on Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the measures she taken to address the unacceptable waiting lists for domiciliary care allowance appeals; the timeframe to process these appeals; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [56588/12]

 347. Deputy Tom Fleming Information on Tom Fleming Zoom on Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the measures she has taken to address the unacceptable waiting lists for carer's allowance appeals; the timescale to process these appeals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [56600/12]

 348. Deputy Tom Fleming Information on Tom Fleming Zoom on Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the measures she has taken to address the unacceptable waiting lists for disability allowance appeals; the timescale to process these appeals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [56601/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I propose to take Questions Nos. 339, 340, 343, 347 and 348 together.

  The current average processing times for appeals in relation to Farm Assist, Domiciliary Care Allowance, Carer’s Allowance, Disability Allowance and Invalidity Pension are provided in the attached table.

  Appeals processing times are calculated from the registration date of the appeal to the date of its finalisation and include all activities during this period including time spent in the Department for comments by the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal put forward by the appellant and any further investigation, examination or assessment by the Department’s Inspectors and Medical Assessors that is deemed necessary. A considerable period of time is added to the process when an oral hearing is required because of the logistics involved in this process.

  There was a rapid and sustained increase in the number of appeals from 2009 to date which has placed extraordinary pressure on the SWAO. Significant resources and efforts have been put into reducing backlogs and improving processing times for appellants, including the assignment of 15 additional Appeals Officers, retraining retired experienced officers for 18 months ending December 2011, improving business processes and implementing a new operating model.

  As a result of these measures, there has been significant increase in the number of appeals finalised from an average of 13,500 in 2009 to 34,027 in 2011 and the processing times reduced by an overall 10.2 weeks in the nine months of this year. Further improvement is needed and in that regard,

  - The Chief Appeals Officer expects to finalise 6,000 more cases in 2013 than in 2012;

  - There is a major programme of process redesign and modernisation currently underway in relation to many scheme areas which will reduce backlogs and will also reduce the time taken for the Department to respond to requests from the SWAO for submissions in relation to appeals;

  - It is planned to recruit 8 additional Medical Assessors in 2013.

  All these measures together will reduce the waiting time for appellants.

  However, by its nature and because it is a quasi-judicial process, the processing of appeals takes time even at the best of times and reflects the fact that while every effort is made to deal with appeals as fast as possible this cannot be at the expense of fairness of due process.

Table – Average processing for appeals at 30th November 2012

 
Average processing times (weeks)

Summary Decisions
Average processing

times (weeks)

Oral Hearings
Farm Assist
23.6
44.7
Domiciliary Care Allowance
31.9
41.5
Carers Allowance
33.2
42.7
Disability Allowance
33.6
40.6
Invalidity Pension
77.5
99.0


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