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 Header Item Written Answers Nos 374-395
 Header Item Rent Supplement Scheme Eligibility
 Header Item FÁS Training Programmes
 Header Item Jobseeker's Allowance Payments
 Header Item Back to Education Allowance Eligibility
 Header Item Fuel Allowance Applications
 Header Item Social Welfare Appeals Status
 Header Item Social Welfare Appeals Status
 Header Item Carer's Allowance Eligibility
 Header Item Back to Education Allowance Eligibility
 Header Item Disability Allowance Appeals
 Header Item Carer's Benefit Appeals
 Header Item Child Benefit Eligibility
 Header Item Carer's Allowance Applications
 Header Item Family Income Supplement Eligibility
 Header Item Farm Assist Scheme Applications
 Header Item Carer's Allowance Applications
 Header Item Invalidity Pension Eligibility

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 782 No. 3

First Page Previous Page Page of 86 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos 374-395

Rent Supplement Scheme Eligibility

 374. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if her attention has been drawn to incidents of landlords seeking payments from tenants in excess of the rent supplement thresholds, if she believes such practices are wide-spread, the action she is taking; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [49770/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The purpose of the rent supplement scheme is to provide short-term support to eligible people living in private rented accommodation whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source. The overall aim is to provide short term assistance, and not to act as an alternative to the other social housing schemes operated by the Exchequer. There are currently approximately 89,000 rent supplement recipients for which the Government has provided €436 million for 2012.

Rent supplement is calculated to ensure that the person, after payment of rent, has an income equal to the basic supplementary welfare allowance rate, less a specified weekly minimum contribution which recipients are required to pay from their own resources.

The “top up” payments referred to fall into two specific categories. Where a person has an additional income above the rate of supplementary welfare allowance they are, in certain circumstances, allowed to top up their rent as they will still have sufficient income to meet their basic needs after paying their rent.

The second type of top up payment can occur where the application to the Department declares a rent lower than that actually being charged by the landlord. There has been no evidence presented to the Department showing widespread or systemic ‘false declarations’ of rent supplement through the use of illegal top-ups.

Any instance of false declarations should be reported to the relevant Department representatives who have specific legislative powers to deal with such offences.

FÁS Training Programmes

 375. 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 if unemployed persons who have taken up FÁS training courses are excluded from consideration for Tús supervisor positions within 12 months of completing the course.  [49780/12]

 392. 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 if there has been a review of the Tús scheme at the end of its first year in operation; the insight into the workings of the scheme the review offered; if she will consider increasing the length of time participants will stay on the scheme; and if the selection criteria will take some cognisance of the skills required versus the qualification of the available participants, that some paring or matching be carried out.  [50002/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I propose to take Questions Nos. 375 and 392 together.

Tús, the community work placement initiative, came into operation in the middle of 2011. To date 6,617 people have completed or are currently on work placements. This figure includes supervisory/team leader positions. As a new initiative, Tús continues to be monitored and developed and to date has proven to be effective in meeting its objective. I have no proposals to alter the arrangements in place either for the selection of participants, the duration of their engagement or the eligibility requirements relating to the recruitment to supervisory or team leader position.

I consider the engagement of 12-months to be adequate to meet the objectives of the initiative and to provide these work placement opportunities to as many of those on the live register. It is essential that we ensure that as many unemployed people as possible are able to benefit from this initiative and this would not be facilitated by extending the duration of existing placements.

Tús is being delivered through the network of local development companies and Údarás na Gaeltachta (Implementing Bodies) and participants are identified by the Department using a random selection process. As directed by my Department, the Implementing Body must conduct an assessment of each participant’s skills, work experience, level of education and needs. Following profiling and interview, the Implementing Body identifies the type of work placement most suited to the participant’s skills and needs and matches the participant to the available positions offered by the community, voluntary and not-for-profit sector locally. The Implementing Body must ensure that the activity builds on the individual’s capabilities and has the potential to move the participant towards employment. Given the limitations of the placement providers, it is not always possible to get a suitable work placement match.

Eligibility for both participants and supervisory/team leader positions on Tús is confined to those on the Live Register for at least 12 months and in receipt of jobseeker’s allowance. These provisions are to ensure a targeted approach to those currently affected by long-term unemployment. I consider the approach reasonable given the current employment environment.

Jobseeker's Allowance Payments

 376. Deputy Joan Collins Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if her attention has been drawn to the problems encountered by persons on jobseeker's allowance benefit who fill in casual workers weekly employment information forms; particularly as it relates to cash flow issues being paid fortnightly or monthly and weekly by social welfare [49787/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Casual/part-time workers in receipt of a jobseeker payment receive payment on a weekly basis and this is based on the number of days which the customer has certified as unemployed in the previous week. The Department has no control over the payment frequencies used by employers to make payment of wages.

Back to Education Allowance Eligibility

 377. Deputy John Lyons Information on John Lyons Zoom on John Lyons asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if consideration will be given to offering back to education allowance to those taking part-time courses of study. [49801/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The back to education allowance (BTEA) is a second chance education opportunities scheme that enables those in receipt of certain social welfare payments to continue to receive a payment while pursuing an approved full-time education course that leads to a higher qualification than that already held. It is my intention to retain the requirement to be attending a full time course of study on a full time basis for BTEA.

A person wishing to pursue a part time education course, such as a Springboard course, may apply under the part-time education option (PTEO) of the back to education programme. PTEO allows them retain their jobseekers payment while an entitlement exists while pursuing a part-time course. They must apply at their local social welfare office and verify that participation on the course does not reduce their availability for work. In the case of jobseekers benefit, participation on a course does not grant any extension to the normal period for which jobseekers benefit is paid.

Fuel Allowance Applications

 378. Deputy Arthur Spring Information on Arthur Spring Zoom on Arthur Spring asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton her views on whether the fuel allowance payment should be restructured to allow for a sliding scale rather than a flat cut-off point, to prevent situations arising whereby a person who receives an income which is even less than €1 over the threshold misses out on the whole of the €520 payment.  [49812/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton My Department will spend almost €215 million in 2012 on the fuel allowance scheme benefitting some 400,000 people. The cost of this scheme has increased by over 160% since 2005 when 265,000 people were in receipt at a cost of €82 million. The current fuel season commenced in October this year and will run for 26 weeks until April 2013. The fuel allowance assists pensioners and householders on long-term social welfare payments with meeting the cost of their heating needs during the winter season. The allowance represents a contribution towards a person's normal heating expenses. It is not intended to meet those costs in full. In order to qualify for fuel allowance a person must be in receipt of a qualifying payment, satisfy a means test and be living alone or only with certain excepted people. The purpose of these qualifying conditions is to ascertain the ability of applicant households to meet their normal heating requirements out of their own resources and to ensure the maximum amount of support is targeted at those most in need of assistance. The nature of a means test means that there will always be a cut-off point above which a person will not qualify. I am satisfied that the current criteria for the scheme ensure that the resources are targeted at those who need them most. I have no plans at this time to restructure it in the manner proposed.

Social Welfare Appeals Status

 379. Deputy John McGuinness Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton when benefit will be approved in respect of a person (details supplied); if she will expedite the matter. [49875/12]

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, including that adduced at oral hearing on 25 October 2012, allowed the appeal of the person concerned. The person concerned has been notified of the Appeals Officer 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.

Social Welfare Appeals Status

 380. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the number of reviews that have been carried out by the chief appeals officer each year since 2005.  [49923/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Section 318 of the Social Welfare Act provides that the Chief Appeals Officer may, following review, revise any decision of an appeals officer where it appears to her that the decision was erroneous by reason of some mistake having been made in relation to the law or the facts. Where a section 318 review is sought, the case will be examined the Chief Appeals Officer. In many cases, particularly where it appears there is additional evidence, the Chief Appeals Officer may remit the case to the appeals officer in question for his views and any appropriate action. In some cases, the decision may be revised by the appeals officer. In other cases, the Chief Appeals Officer may take the view that there are grounds to set up an oral hearing. There are no statistics in relation to these cases. In relation to cases reviewed by the Chief Appeals Officer in which she issued a determination, a total of 48 determinations have been made since 2010 comprising 13 in 2010, 20 in 2011 and 15 to date in 2012. Statistics in relation to such reviews are not held for the years prior to 2010.

Carer's Allowance Eligibility

 381. 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 carer's allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [49931/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton This application was received on 26th April 2012. Further medical evidence was submitted on 23rd October 2012. Once this evidence has been assessed by a medical assessor and a deciding officer has carried out all the necessary investigations, a decision will issue directly to the person in question.

Back to Education Allowance Eligibility

 382. Deputy Seamus Healy Information on Seamus Healy Zoom on Seamus Healy asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will ensure that persons in receipt of back to education allowances are not cut off due to the fact that they cannot be permanently registered with their third level colleges because of the delays in approving grant applications; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [49935/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The back to education allowance (BTEA) is a second chance education opportunities scheme that enables those in receipt of certain social welfare payments to continue to receive a payment while pursuing an approved full-time education course that leads to a higher qualification than that already held.

While provisional approval for BTEA may issue to an applicant, in order to award and put a BTEA claim into payment, certain information must be provided by the applicant. This includes written confirmation from the relevant institute of education that the applicant has registered as a full-time day student pursuing a full time course of study. This confirmation should also include details of the course of study as outlined in their application and the start and finish date of the course in the current academic year. Offices of the Department dealing with BTEA claims are aware of delays in approving student grant applications and are taking this into account in dealing with BTEA applications.

  Question No. 383 answered with Question No. 110.

  Question No. 384 withdrawn.

Disability Allowance Appeals

 385. Deputy Noel Coonan Information on Noel Coonan Zoom on Noel Coonan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the position regarding a disability allowance appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; when she expects a decision to be reached; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [49947/12]

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 evidence, disallowed the appeal of the person concerned by way of summary decision. Under Social Welfare legislation, the decision of the Appeals Officer is final and conclusive and may only be reviewed by the Appeals Officer in the light of new evidence or new facts. Following the submission of additional evidence the Appeals Officer has agreed to review the case. The person concerned will be contacted when the review of her appeal has been finalised. 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 Benefit Appeals

 386. Deputy John O'Mahony Information on John O'Mahony Zoom on John O'Mahony asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive a decision on their appeal for carer's benefit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [49966/12]

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 5th November 2012. 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 received, 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.

Child Benefit Eligibility

 387. Deputy Martin Ferris Information on Martin Ferris Zoom on Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if he will state which parent is entitled to child benefit in a situation where the parents have joint custody of the child; and the basis on which the decision is made. [49968/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Child benefit is a universal payment made to the parents/guardians of children. As provided for in social welfare legislation, payment is normally made to the mother or step-mother of the qualified child. Where the child does not live with their mother or step-mother, but lives with their father or step-father, payment may be made to them. In cases where the parents have joint custody of the child, the legislation provides that payment is made to the mother.

Carer's Allowance Applications

 388. 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 position regarding an application for carer's allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [49983/12]

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 27th March 2012. The application is with a deciding officer for a decision. Once processed, the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

  Question No. 389 withdrawn.

Family Income Supplement Eligibility

 390. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the position regarding family income supplement in respect of separated parents who have joint custody of children (details supplied). [49995/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The family income supplement scheme (FIS), which provides income support for employees on low earnings with families, is designed to preserve the incentive to take up or remain in employment in circumstances where the employee might only be marginally better off than if he or she were claiming other social welfare payments.

To qualify for payment of FIS, a person must be engaged in full-time insurable employment which is expected to last for at least 3 months and be working for a minimum of 38 hours per fortnight and the family income must be below a specified amount which varies according to the number of qualified children in the family. FIS is payable to the parent who is working or where both parents are working, to the parent with the higher employment income.

In the case of parents who are separated, a parent who is wholly or mainly maintaining a former spouse and child(ren) can qualify for FIS. However, only one FIS payment can be made in respect of any family. Furthermore, a person included in one particular family for any period for FIS purposes shall not be regarded as a member of any other family during that period. Current provisions do not therefore allow for FIS payment to be divided between parents and I have no immediate plans to amend the legislation in this regard.

Where a question arises in determining the residence of a child for FIS purposes, an investigation of specific circumstances may be carried out and if the Deputy wishes to have a particular case considered, he can arrange to have it brought to the attention of my Department for consideration.

Farm Assist Scheme Applications

 391. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the position regarding assessment for the farm assist scheme (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [49996/12]

 394. 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 calculate maintenance payments by the provider as an outgoing when assessing a persons means for a social welfare payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50012/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I propose to take Questions Nos. 391 and 394 together.

The question of how maintenance payments are treated arises in the case of social welfare claims made by the person receiving the maintenance payment and also in the case of social welfare claims made by the person making the maintenance payment. In the first case, where a social welfare claimant is in receipt of maintenance payments from a spouse/partner, housing costs incurred by the social welfare claimant (e.g. rent or mortgage payments and/or home improvement loan) up to a maximum of €95.23 per week may be offset against the maintenance payment, with half the balance of the maintenance being assessed as means. These arrangements ensure that there is always an incentive to receive a maintenance payment.

In the second case, where a social welfare claimant is paying maintenance to another person, whether on a voluntary basis or on foot of a Court order, their means for social welfare purposes are their means before they meet any obligations they may have to pay maintenance i.e. no account is taken of such payments in assessing the means of the maintenance payer. Thus, for example, in the event of the payer having income from employment or self-employment, the income from these sources is assessed without regard to any maintenance paid to another person. If maintenance payments were taken into account, any reduction in these means as a consequence of maintenance payments to another person would, in effect, result in the welfare system subsidizing or possibly fully meeting these payments.

Where a person has maintenance obligations on foot of a Court order and they find that they can no longer afford to meet those obligations, for example because their circumstances have changed, it is open to that person to seek to have the Court review the order in light of their changed income position.

  Question No. 392 answered with Question No. 375.

Carer's Allowance Applications

 393. Deputy Michael Creed Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton when an application for carer's allowance was received in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; when a decision may be expected; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50004/12]

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 22/12/11. The medical assessment has been completed. The application is currently with a social welfare investigative officer for confirmation that all the conditions for receipt of carer’s allowance are satisfied. Once the investigative officer has completed and submitted the report a deciding officer will make a full decision. The application will be processed as quickly as possible and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

  Question No. 394 answered with Question No. 391.

Invalidity Pension Eligibility

 395. Deputy Michael McNamara Information on Michael McNamara Zoom on Michael McNamara asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the reasons a person (details supplied) has had invalidity pension terminated; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [50017/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The person concerned was disallowed invalidity pension following an assessment by a Medical Assessor who expressed the opinion that she was medically unsuitable for payment.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal was registered in that office on 4th 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 25th September 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.


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