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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 139 - 150
 Header Item Illness Benefit Applications
 Header Item Social Welfare Code
 Header Item Domiciliary Care Allowance Applications
 Header Item Jobseeker's Allowance Payments
 Header Item Diet Supplement Payments
 Header Item Pension Provisions
 Header Item Family Income Supplement Payments
 Header Item Carer's Allowance Appeals
 Header Item Domiciliary Care Allowance Applications
 Header Item Social Welfare Appeals

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 861 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 109 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 139 - 150

Illness Benefit Applications

 139. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the position regarding a benefit in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46980/14]

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton To qualify for illness benefit certain statutory PRSI insurance contribution conditions must be satisfied. One of these requires that the claimant have at least 104 reckonable contributions paid since entry into insurance. The person concerned has only 4 contributions paid. Illness Benefit could not, therefore, be paid to him. He is, however, receiving Supplementary Welfare at the maximum weekly rate of €186.00.

Social Welfare Code

 140. Deputy Ruth Coppinger Information on  Zoom on  asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will amend social welfare regulations to address the anomaly where a married couple (details supplied) in receipt of carer's allowance and jobseeker's allowance have income earned on a once-off basis as a polling clerk deducted from their welfare payments; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46989/14]

Minister of State at the Department of Social Protection (Deputy Kevin Humphreys): Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys The means of the person concerned have been reassessed and found to be correct in accordance with current legislation governing jobseekers allowance.

  Question No. 141 answered with Question No. 121.

Domiciliary Care Allowance Applications

 142. Deputy Charlie McConalogue Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton when a decision will be made on a domiciliary care allowance application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47027/14]

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The person concerned applied for domiciliary care allowance in respect of two children. The first application was received on 5 September 2014. The application was not allowed as the child was not considered to satisfy the qualifying conditions for the allowance. A letter issued on 3 December 2014 advising of the decision.

An application for the second child was received on 15 September 2014. The person concerned was notified on 4 December 2014 that this application was successful and that the allowance has been awarded from 1 October 2014.

In the case of the application which was refused on medical grounds the applicant may submit additional information and/or ask for the decision to be reviewed or they may appeal the decision directly to the Social Welfare Appeals Office within twenty one day

Jobseeker's Allowance Payments

 143. Deputy Dan Neville Information on Dan Neville Zoom on Dan Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the position regarding jobseeker's backdated payment in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47053/14]

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The person concerned made an application for jobseeker’s allowance on 3 July 2014 and was scheduled for an appointment on 15 July 2014. He attended this appointment and was given a form UP12 confirming his next signing day as 12 August 2014. He signed the copy of the UP12 confirming that he acknowledged his signing day.

  His application was disallowed on 9 September 2014 by a Deciding Officer as it was deemed that he was not Genuinely Seeking Work (GSW). His claim was subsequently closed as he had failed to sign on his stated signing day of 12 August 2014.

  The person concerned made a repeat claim on 2 October 2014 and this was accepted pending the outcome of the appeal and he was informed that no decision would be made on his new application until the appeal was decided.

  The appeal was allowed by the Appeals office and the claim was awarded from 2 October 2014. The previous claim was closed as “not signed” and as there were no effective signatures, the claim was awarded from the date that he made his new claim.

  The Person concerned made no request for backdating of his claim when he made his repeat claim.

Diet Supplement Payments

 144. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will provide the standing of the independent appeals officer decision where in August 2014 they decided to overturn the previous decision in favour of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare in respect of their dietary allowance; when it is expected that the allowance will be restored in line with that decision; the reason it has not already been restored; the action being taken to ensure the payment is made forthwith including arrears; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47062/14]

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Further to previous PQ 44094-14 relating to this client and to contact with officials from my Department the appeal decision was implemented in full.

I am advised that the appeal was implemented on the understanding that the client provide further information to the Department that remained outstanding. At that time the diet supplement of €56.00 per month was reinstated and paid on 30 July, 2014 and arrears of €1,288.00 were paid on 28 August, 2014. Despite further requests, the information required was not provided and the claim was subsequently suspended. Once the information requested is provided to the Department the claim will be reconsidered.

Pension Provisions

 145. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton her views on the most recent LCP Ireland pensions accounting briefing (details supplied) which estimated the current deficit in the 29 largest defined benefit pension schemes to have more than doubled in one year to €8.5 billion; if her Department had performed a risk analysis of the State's potential exposure if the scenario continues to deteriorate; the measures she is proposing to address this matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44336/14]

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I am aware of the funding difficulties facing many defined benefit pension scheme in recent years.

The Pensions Act sets out the funding level which the trustees of a defined benefit pension scheme are required to maintain. This requirement is often referred to as the funding standard. This standard provides a benchmark against which the “health “of a scheme can be tested. Where a scheme fails to meet this requirement the trustees of the scheme are required to submit a funding proposal to the Pensions Authority setting out how it is proposed to restore scheme funding.

A range of legislative measures have been put in place in recent years to help employers and the trustees of schemes to secure the sustainability of those schemes. One of these measures is a requirement on pension schemes to maintain an additional level of funding in the form of a risk reserve to protect the interest of scheme members against future volatility in financial markets. This requirement will come into effect from 2016.

As pensions accounting figures are based on volatile corporate bond yields, the resulting figures are volatile from year to year. This is especially true of accounting deficit or surplus figures. It has been the case, since 2000-2003, and in particular since the 2008 financial crisis, that many DB schemes are struggling financially.

As a result of the measures put in place in recent years, almost all defined benefits pension schemes are either meeting the funding standard or are on a recovery plan with the objective of meeting the funding standard. These measures have been put in place not only with the objective of removing or minimising State exposure, but with ensuring that schemes meet their objective of paying benefits to members.

It is possible that the State would be exposed to the risk of financial loss under conditions of double insolvency, i.e., where a sponsoring employer and an associated underfunded defined benefit scheme goes into windup. The changes made to the Pensions Act in 2013 addressed this situation specifically and carefully in a manner designed to support such schemes, particularly the pensioner members, without placing an enormous burden on the taxpayer.

Due to the 2013 legislation which placed boundaries on the situation, the exposure to the State is now considered relatively modest and is expected to diminish as more and more schemes improve their funding position and meet the funding standard.

My officials have taken steps to ensure that pensions scheme financial data is submitted to the Pensions Authority more regularly than previously, enabling my Department to closely monitor the situation on an ongoing basis.

Family Income Supplement Payments

 146. Deputy Sean Fleming Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if a person who is claiming family income supplement where their circumstances have changed substantially may make changes to their claim within the 12 month period; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47099/14]

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The family income supplement (FIS) is an in-work support which provides an income top-up for employees on low earnings with children. FIS is designed to prevent child and family poverty and to offer a financial incentive to take-up employment as compared to social welfare payments. Expenditure on FIS for 2014 is estimated to be of the order of €280 million and it is currently paid to some 49,000 families in respect of almost 109,000 children.

An integral part of the FIS scheme is that once the level of payment is determined, it continues to be payable at that rate for a period of 52 weeks, provided that the person remains in full-time employment. However, in the following two circumstances, the weekly rate of FIS can be revised during the year:

- If a claimant starts to care for an additional child in the course of the 52 weeks.

- If a claimant was getting a one-parent family payment and this payment was stopped because their youngest child reached the relevant age limit, then the FIS rate can be reassessed to take account of the loss of their one-parent family payment.

The rate of payment will not change if there is an increase or decrease in the recipient’s earnings. A key advantage of this approach, which is unique to the FIS scheme, is that claimants can be certain that they will receive a guaranteed level of income support throughout the period. This certainty is important to the success of the scheme as it provides a real incentive to workers with families to avail of employment opportunities. For those who experience a reduction in their income over the course of the year, the rate of payment will be reassessed at the end of the 52 weeks upon renewal of a FIS claim. This aspect of the FIS scheme is also important in minimising the administrative effort associated with the operation of this scheme and helps to speed up processing times for claims for FIS, which could otherwise be subject to delays due to frequent reviews.

I have no plans to change the existing arrangements.

  Question No. 147 withdrawn.

Carer's Allowance Appeals

 148. Deputy John McGuinness Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if an appeal will be expedited for a carer's allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47126/14]

Tánaiste and 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 11 November 2014. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. When these papers have been received from the Department, the appeal in question 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.

Domiciliary Care Allowance Applications

 149. Deputy Charlie McConalogue Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the position regarding a review of a domiciliary care allowance application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Donegal. [47128/14]

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton An application for domiciliary care allowance (DCA) was received from the person concerned on the 27th June 2014. This application was referred to one of the Department’s Medical Assessors who did not consider that the child met the medical criteria for the allowance. A letter issued on the 18th September 2014 outlining the decision of the deciding officer to refuse the allowance.

A review of this decision was requested on 7th October 2014 and additional information on this child’s condition/care needs has been supplied. The application together with the new information supplied will now be examined by another medical assessor. Once their opinion is received the application will be re-examined by a deciding officer and a revised decision will be made if warranted. The person concerned will be notified of the outcome of this review as soon as it is completed.

Social Welfare Appeals

 150. Deputy Timmy Dooley Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton when a person (details supplied) in County Clare who lodged an appeal 12 months ago will receive an outcome to their case; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47141/14]

Tánaiste and 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 evidence has allowed the appeal of the person concerned. The person concerned has been notified of the decision.

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.


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