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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 136-152
 Header Item Departmental Functions
 Header Item Trade Agreements
 Header Item National Internship Scheme Numbers
 Header Item Social Insurance Payments
 Header Item Domiciliary Care Allowance Applications
 Header Item Disability Allowance Appeals
 Header Item Money Advice and Budgeting Service Issues
 Header Item Invalidity Pension Appeals
 Header Item Invalidity Pension Appeals
 Header Item Disability Allowance Applications
 Header Item Jobseeker's Benefit Applications
 Header Item Social Welfare Code Review
 Header Item Child Benefit Payments
 Header Item Invalidity Pension Appeals

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 787 No. 5

First Page Previous Page Page of 76 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 136-152

Departmental Functions

 136. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the management structure of his Department; the specific responsibilities of the Secretary General, of each assistant secretary; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [57525/12]

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The administrative head of my Department is the Secretary General, who is principally responsible for the implementation of Government policy insofar as it relates to responsibilities relating to jobs, enterprise and innovation. He is also responsible for overseeing the functions and outputs of the various offices within my Department’s remit. He also has overall responsibility for effective management of my Department’s finances and people resources.

  My Department is organised into five Divisions, each headed at senior management level by an Assistant Secretary. Each Assistant Secretary has responsibility for implementation of policy relating to specific functional areas set out as follows.

-Competitiveness and Jobs, which drives the Competitiveness and Jobs Agenda.

-Innovation and Investment which works to promote a competitive, productive enterprise environment which attracts foreign investment, supports indigenous enterprise and encourages export-led growth.

-Commerce, Consumer and Competition which is concerned with delivering an environment for business in which competitiveness, dynamism and productivity flourishes and in which there is consumer and investor confidence.

-Labour Affairs which works to establish and protect employment rights and to provide the policy, legislative and institutional framework within which good industrial relations prosper.

-Corporate Services and EU Affairs and Trade Policy. The mission of Corporate Services is to further the development of staff, support structures and systems to assist the Department in achieving its objectives and in implementing a programme of continuous improvement; the mission of EU Affairs and Trade Policy Division is to define, coordinate and develops our position on EU policy matters and our relationship with EU Institutions. It is responsible for the identification, formulation and development of Ireland’s international trade policies.

  The Secretary General and five Assistant Secretaries along with the CEO of Forfás form the Department’s Management Board. The role of the Board is to ensure that the Department is managed as a corporate entity. Decisions on key policy, strategic and management issues are taken collectively by the Board before implementation or submission for consideration at a political level.

Trade Agreements

 137. Deputy Brendan Smith Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the discussions he has had to date with the EU Trade Commissioner de Gucht in relation to the EU-Canadian trade negotiations; if he has outlined the need to protect the European beef market in view of the importance of the beef sector to the economy here; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [57703/12]

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton A free trade agreement between the EU and Canada will bring about important economic benefits for both economies and will create additional export opportunities for our entrepreneurs and those doing business with Canada.

Canada is a priority market for Enterprise Ireland’s (EI) exporting clients and the agency provides an extensive range of supports to help them win more business there. To promote Irish exporters’ drive into the Canadian market and to further develop its potential for our entrepreneurs, I led an important EI trade mission there in early November. During that mission I met with the Canadian Finance Minister, Mr. Jim Flaherty, and raised with him the EU-Canada Free Trade Agreement including its possible impact on the agriculture sector.

Last year Canada bought €1.742 billion from us in goods and services (€1.1 billion in services and €627 million in goods). It is notable that last year our services exports to Canada increased a significant 88%. Already in the first 10 months of the year our merchandise exports to Canada are up by a very significant 24% to €639 million. Last year total trade between Canada and Ireland was €2.2 billion. This clearly shows the importance of trade with Canada to the Irish economy.

Consequently, a trade agreement with Canada will boost trade with one of our closest trading partners and with an economy with whom we also have very close historic and personal connections. Furthermore, a new generation trade agreement with Canada will help stimulate Ireland’s trade potential across the Atlantic and into the United States, with positive impacts on employment and economic growth across the economy.

Throughout the negotiations I have consistently emphasised to the EU Commission Ireland’s primary objectives in any trade agreement with Canada. These include both offers and requests to Canada in the agriculture sector and especially the beef sector, as well as other important aspects of the talks such as intellectual property, investment, services and public procurement.

I will continue to look for an agreement that is comprehensive and balanced and one that delivers real trade and economic potential for our economy. In this context I recognise the need to minimise the impact of trade liberalisation and market opening on sensitive areas of the economy and will continue to express our concerns that any agreement respects our broad trade interests and especially those of the agriculture sector.

My officials met with the EU Commission as recently as this week to again emphasise the importance of an EU Canada agreement in stimulating growth and our reservations about any possible impact on the agriculture sector.

National Internship Scheme Numbers

 138. 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 her plans to extend the internship programme for current participants from nine months to 18 months; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57576/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton JobBridge, the National Internship Scheme, provides internship opportunities of either 6 or 9 months for unemployed individuals in organisations in the private, public and community voluntary sectors and at present is limited to individuals who are in receipt of certain social welfare payments (Jobseekers Allowance/Jobseekers Benefit/One Parent Family Payment/Disability Allowance) or are signing on for credits for at least 3 of the last 6 months (78 Days).

The JobBridge Scheme has made significant progress to-date since it came into operation on the 1st July 2011. 13,049 internships have commenced to date with 5,612 participants currently on an internship as at 13th December 2012 and over 2,235 opportunities presently advertised on www.JobBridge.ie. The interim evaluation of JobBridge by Indecon International Economic Consultants (published – 5th October 2012) states that 52.3% of JobBridge finishers progressed into employment with either their host organisation or another employer since finishing their internship. These progression rates compare favourably with European averages in this area.

Given that, in the past, some labour market programmes have been seen as having insignificant or even negative impacts on employment probabilities, this suggests JobBridge is an appropriate labour market intervention. Further information on outcomes will be ascertained as a result of the ongoing formal evaluation of JobBridge. It is anticipated that the final Report will be available in the coming weeks. This evaluation will assess the design, delivery and impact of the JobBridge Scheme, it will provide details of the nature of the work experience of the participants; a measurement of the relevance of that experience to the labour market, analysis of age categories and further findings concerning progression into employment. It will also present recommendations on how the Scheme might be improved. It is at this stage that further consideration will be given to amending the terms and conditions of the Scheme including any potential extensions to the duration of an internship. Any such amendments to the scheme will be notified via the website.

Social Insurance Payments

 139. Deputy Michael McGrath Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the estimated number of workers here who will be affected in 2013 by the removal of the weekly PRSI allowance from full rate and modified rate PRSI contributions. [57620/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Where an employee’s weekly earnings exceed €352 per week, he or she is liable to pay PRSI at 4% on all income over the weekly PRSI Free Allowance of €127. For civil and public sector employees paying modified rate contributions (Classes B, C and D), and who pay PRSI at 0.9%, the weekly PRSI-free allowance is €26. With effect from 1 January 2013, these weekly PRSI free Allowances are being abolished.

This estimated number of workers affected by this measure is as follows:

-1,247,560 private sector employments, and

-73,835 civil and public sector employments.

This measure will have no impact on an estimated 574,830 employments with weekly earnings not exceeding €352 as no PRSI is payable.

  Questions Nos. 140 and 141 withdrawn.

Domiciliary Care Allowance Applications

 142. Deputy Dan Neville Information on Dan Neville Zoom on Dan Neville asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the position regarding a domiciliary care application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick [57402/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton An application for domiciliary care allowance (DCA) was received on the 30th November 2012. This application has been forwarded to one of the Department’s Medical Assessors for their medical opinion. Upon receipt of this opinion, a decision will issue to the customer. It can take up to eight weeks to process an application for DCA.

Disability Allowance Appeals

 143. 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 the reason a file in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Donegal was requested by the appeals office in August 2012 regarding an appeal for disability allowance has still not been sent from her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57417/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The person concerned applied for disability allowance on 8 November 2011. The application, based upon the evidence provided, was refused on the ground that the person in question was not medically suitable for disability allowance. The person was notified in writing of this decision on 14 March 2012. The person subsequently submitted further medical evidence for review. However, upon review, it was decided that there was no grounds to revise the original decision to refuse disability allowance. The person was notified of this on 17 July 2012.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office advised the department on 24 August 2012 that the person had appealed this decision and had submitted additional medical evidence in support of the appeal. This new medical evidence, along with all the evidence previously furnished, was referred to a medical assessor and is awaiting examination. It is normal procedure for this process to be completed in advance of a submission being prepared for the Social Welfare Appeals Office. Once the medical opinion is received from the medical assessor, a deciding officer will re-examine the case. If the decision to refuse is confirmed all necessary papers will be referred to the Social Welfare Appeals Office for determination.

Money Advice and Budgeting Service Issues

 144. 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 if she will urgently proceed with opening the proposed Money Advice and Budgeting Service office in Killarney to provide reasonable access on a geographical basis to all of County Kerry to facilitate the growing demand for the Money Advice and Budgeting Service in County Kerry, which currently is being serviced by Tralee Money Advice and Budgeting Service office which is inundated with increased numbers availing of the essential services and assistance it provides. [57456/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The Money Advice & Budgeting Service (MABS), under the aegis of the Citizens Information Board, has an office in Tralee, which serves all of County Kerry. MABS outreach services are also currently provided in Killarney and Listowel.

Plans to open a shared office for MABS, National Advocacy Service and the Citizens Information Services in Killarney town are at an advanced stage of development and it is anticipated that the services will be fully operational in early February 2013.

Invalidity Pension Appeals

 145. 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 position regarding the review of an appeal for invalidity pension in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Laois; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57468/12]

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 13th September 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 12th 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.

Invalidity Pension Appeals

 146. Deputy Ciarán Lynch Information on Ciaran Lynch Zoom on Ciaran Lynch asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton when a determination will be made in regard to an appeal for an invalidity pension in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57470/12]

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 9th 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.

Disability Allowance Applications

 147. Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will expedite 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. [57472/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton An application for disability allowance was received from the person concerned on the 26 October 2012. The application is with a deciding officer for examination and decision. Once decided, the person will be notified directly of the outcome.

Jobseeker's Benefit Applications

 148. 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 her reform plans would make allowances for a situation (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57494/12]

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 regard social welfare regulations provide that every claimant shall furnish such certificates, documents, information and evidence as may be required by an officer of the Minister, for the purposes of deciding the claim and in any particular class of case, shall, for the purposes of making any such claim, attend at such office or place as an officer of the Minister may direct. There are no plans to alter these specific provisions.

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.

  Question No. 149 withdrawn.

Social Welfare Code Review

 150. Deputy Pat Deering Information on Patrick Deering Zoom on Patrick Deering asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the problems that would be encountered in means testing all social welfare payments; the steps she is taking to overcome these problems and when we may expect a means tested system of payments. [57519/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I understand that the Deputy is referring to the extension of means testing to all social welfare payments, including social insurance benefits and pensions. The primary component of the Irish system of social protection is a social insurance system whereby entitlement to contingency-based benefits is secured largely on the basis of earnings related paid contributions to the Social Insurance Fund (SIF). There is also a subsidiary system of social assistance for those who do not qualify for social insurance payments whereby entitlement for broadly similar contingency-based payments is made on the basis of an assessment of the person’s means.

Similar systems exist across the EU, usually with highly comprehensive benefits that are often pay-related. Social insurance systems are generally based on the ‘contributory principle’ (contributions are directly linked to benefits) and the ‘solidarity principle’ (low earners ‘do better’ on an actuarial basis from their contributions), and these two fundamental principles have different weighting across national insurance systems.

The Irish social insurance system is now relatively comprehensive following the extension of coverage over the period 1988 to 1995 to the self-employed, part-time workers and new civil and public servants. In addition, arrangements were put in place to disregard, for pension purposes, periods spent caring or homemaking.

In general, the social insurance system maintains a relationship between labour force status, earnings from work, contributions made and, finally, entitlement to benefits in the event of certain specified contingencies (such as illness, unemployment or old age). People who pay social insurance do so on the basis that they are building up entitlements which are not subject to a means test in the event of their making a claim, for example because of unemployment, illness or retirement. In that respect, social insurance operates in the same manner as other types of insurance, such as home insurance or motor insurance. I consider that an adequately funded social insurance system is an essential pillar of social protection in Ireland and should remain so in light of its social and administrative benefits.

In addition, there are a range of other payments made on a non-means tested basis, such as child benefit, household benefits package and the respite care grant. Budget 2013 did not extend means testing to any of these payments.

Any consideration of means testing all payments made by the Department would have to have regard to a wide range of factors including the significant administrative resources which would be required, the impact it would have on willingness to pay social insurance and the impacts on poverty and existing occupational pension arrangements for employees which in many cases are integrated with the pensions available from the social insurance system.

Child Benefit Payments

 151. 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 she will address the anomaly whereby both parents who have legal joint custody of children are not entitled to an equal proportion of child related benefits and that the means testing process, which sees maintenance payments considered an income for the recipient, would consider it an outgoing for the provider; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57550/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The Department of Social Protection administers a wide range of payments through which it provides supports to families including those with children. I understand that the main payments in regard to this question include child benefit and qualified child increases to primary social welfare payments.

Child benefit is a universal payment made in respect of the care of children. Reflecting changes to the payment and its precursor (the children’s allowance payment) in the 1970s and 1980s, social welfare legislation provides that the payment is normally made to the mother or step-mother of the qualified child where the child lives with both parents. Similarly, where the child lives with their father but not their mother, payment may be made to the father.

Qualified child increases (QCIs) are paid as supplements to weekly social welfare benefit and assistance payments to reflect the need for greater incomes among benefit-dependent households with dependent children. Therefore, QCI payments do not of themselves constitute a specific social welfare scheme and entitlement to the appropriate primary adult payment must be established in the first instance. To qualify for payment of a QCI, the child in respect of whom the increase is claimed must be considered to be normally resident with the person who is claiming the primary payment. In cases where the parents of a child are living apart, the child is considered normally resident with whom s/he is living. Where the child is resident part of the time with each parent the child is generally considered to be normally resident with the parent with whom the child resides most of the time.

From this it can be seen that the main principle underlying payment arrangements is that of where the normal residence of the child is, rather than formal arrangements around custody. Decisions around the well-being of the children is the priority consideration in the operation of the current payment arrangements and this is reflected in the fact that payment is given to a person with whom the child is normally resident rather than on the basis of formal custody arrangements. Therefore these schemes do not provide for the splitting of the payment between parties in joint custody cases.

If the Deputy wishes to have a particular case considered in further detail and whether an anomalous situation exists, he can arrange to have the details brought to the attention of my Department for consideration.

Invalidity Pension Appeals

 152. Deputy James Bannon Information on James Bannon Zoom on James Bannon asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will provide an update on an appeal for invalidity pension in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Longford; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57565/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The person concerned is currently in receipt of illness benefit from this Department. Invalidity pension is a payment for people who are permanently incapable of work because of illness or incapacity and who satisfy the contribution conditions.

This department received a claim for invalidity pension for the person concerned on 7 November 2011. The claim was refused by a deciding officer on the ground that the person in question was not deemed to be permanently incapable of work. The applicant was notified of this decision and the reason for it on 15 November 2012.

The person concerned subsequently submitted further medical evidence in support of her claim. This evidence has been forwarded to a different medical assessor for evaluation and a decision will issue to the person concerned once the review is completed.


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