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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 307-324
 Header Item National Internship Scheme Placements
 Header Item Proposed Legislation
 Header Item Community Employment Schemes Eligibility
 Header Item Invalidity Pension Appeals
 Header Item Jobseeker's Allowance Applications
 Header Item Jobseeker's Allowance Payments
 Header Item Social Welfare Fraud
 Header Item Social Welfare Fraud
 Header Item Social Welfare Benefits Eligibility
 Header Item Social Welfare Code Issues
 Header Item National Internship Scheme Numbers
 Header Item Social Welfare Benefits Numbers
 Header Item Departmental Working Groups
 Header Item Social Welfare Benefits Applications
 Header Item Jobseeker's Benefit Appeals
 Header Item Social Insurance Issues
 Header Item Invalidity Pension Appeals

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 797 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 80 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 307-324

National Internship Scheme Placements

 307. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if any provision exists for a person whose internship under JobBridge has ceased, due to the failure of the employer to offer the training agreed, to be treated as a new applicant for the scheme (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [13714/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I wish to advise that the Department has stringent measures in place to regularly monitor internships and to investigate alleged abuse of the Scheme. The Department takes very seriously any allegations of failure to comply with the conditions of the Scheme. It is open to any individual to alert the Department to potential abuse of the Scheme but it is important that they do so in a way that allows the Department to identify the individual intern and host organisation in question. Clear and simple complaints procedures are in place and well-publicised. I can assure the Deputy that all complaints notified to the Department are investigated.

I am unable to address the specific case that the Deputy raises without further information. If the Deputy can identify the individual and the host organisation to my office I will have the matter fully investigated.

Proposed Legislation

 308. 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 her views on a submission (details supplied) regarding transgender rights; when legislation will be prepared in regard to its content; if there is a time limit on the decision of the High Court when it made its decision in regard to this matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13731/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The Gender Recognition Advisory Group (GRAG) was established in 2010 to advise the Government on the legislation required to give legal recognition to the acquired gender of transgender persons. The Report of the Group, which recommends a scheme for the legal recognition of transgender persons, was approved by the Government on 12 July 2011, and was subsequently published on 14 July 2011.

Since the publication of the Report, the Department has been working on developing draft Heads of a Gender Recognition Bill. In this context, it has engaged in discussions with the relevant medical health professionals and with representatives from interested NGOs.

Given the legal complexities involved in relation to some of the GRAG recommendations relating to the marital and civil partnership status of individuals, in March 2012 my Department sought advice from the Office of the Attorney General, which in turn sought the legal opinion of external counsel on these issues.

The formal opinion of the Attorney General was received in the Department in December 2012 and is currently under consideration by officials in my Department with a view to progressing the draft Heads of the Bill.

In addition, discussions are taking place with the Department of Justice and Equality in relation to potential changes to legislation under its remit which may be contained in the draft Heads of the Bill.

Given the sensitive and complex nature of the issues involved, it is my intention to ask the Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Social Protection and Education to discuss the provisional draft Heads of Bill once they are completed. It is therefore not possible to be definitive at this stage about when I will be in a position to introduce legislation to give legal recognition to the acquired gender of transgender persons. When the Oireachtas Committee has discussed the provisional draft Heads of Bill I will be in a better position to give a timeframe for the introduction of the legislation.

There was no reference to a time frame or a time limit in the High Court judgment with regard for the implementation of the court’s findings.

Community Employment Schemes Eligibility

 309. Deputy Áine Collins Information on Áine Collins Zoom on Áine Collins asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the reason a person (details supplied) who is unemployed and has signed for credits for over 12 months cannot avail of any schemes.  [13799/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The purpose of Tús is to focus on those people who are long-term unemployed. For this reason, eligibility is at present confined to those on the Live Register for 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.

  Eligible persons are being identified by the Department by applying the following conditions:

- A person must be unemployed and in receipt of a jobseeker’s payment for at least 12 months,

- Currently be in receipt of jobseeker’s allowance, and

- Be fully unemployed.

  The criteria for participating on the community employment (CE) programme are similarly based on age and length of time in receipt of specified social welfare payments.

  Persons signing for credits are not eligible for participation on Tús or CE. They do, however, have access to the National Internship Scheme, subject to meeting the criteria for that scheme.

Invalidity Pension Appeals

 310. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan Information on Patrick O'Donovan Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the position regarding an appeal for invalidity pension in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; when a decision will issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13801/13]

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 28th   February 2013. 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. When received, the appeal in question will be referred in 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.

Jobseeker's Allowance Applications

 311. Deputy Peter Mathews Information on Peter Mathews Zoom on Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton when a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12 will receive jobseeker's allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13805/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The person concerned made a claim to jobseeker’s assistance on 14th December 2012. It was not possible to make a decision on his application based on the information received, and, accordingly, he was requested to provide additional documentation in support of his claim. Upon receipt of this documentation his claim will be processed.

Jobseeker's Allowance Payments

 312. 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 total amount of jobseeker's allowance issued to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare in respect of their recent claim which is now closed; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [13833/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The person concerned was paid a total of €100 on his recent jobseeker’s allowance claim. Arrears were withheld as he failed to attend the social welfare local office to explain why he did not collect a number of basic supplementary welfare payments while awaiting a decision on his jobseeker’s allowance.   

Social Welfare Fraud

 313. Deputy Alan Farrell Information on Alan Farrell Zoom on Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the number of social welfare inspectors carrying out investigations in each region in 2010, 2011 and 2012; if she will outline the resources allocated to the inspection of welfare fraud in 2010, 2011 and 2012; the number of fraudulent claims that have been identified per inspector during each of these years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13751/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Control is an integral part of the day-to-day operations of the Department and all staff involved in the administration of the various social welfare schemes are acutely aware of the need to implement appropriate controls at every stage of the process.

  Control staffing resources have remained fairly constant over the period 2010 – 2012 and, currently, there are in the region of 650 staff whose work includes control activities. This figure includes approximately 400 Social Welfare and Special Investigation Unit Inspectors and the remainder of the staff are based in the Local Offices and Scheme Headquarters or other control units.

  One of the major changes that has occurred over the period referred to by the Deputy arises from the transfer of some 1,700 Community Welfare Service (CWS) and FÁS staff to the Department. A more integrated approach to fraud control can, therefore, now be realised as a single customer view for control purposes is possible. The staff numbers above do not include the CWS or FÁS staff whose work would also include a control dimension.

  Each major headquarter scheme section has a dedicated control unit which initiates, undertakes and co-ordinates all control activities within their respective areas. While some 'desk review' work is carried out at these units, the detailed investigations are sent to Inspectors, including the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) to carry out.

  The SIU carry out a wide range of control activities and projects which include reviewing means-tested claims and entitlements, investigating fraud and abuse and carrying out employer inspections. The Unit also works jointly with Revenue staff in Joint Investigation Units and other inter-agency work is undertaken with NERA, Customs and the Gardaí.   

  In addition, it is worth noting that:

- Activation and Control Teams operate at local level. They provide a focal point for the management and co-ordination of all the activities and resources in relation to the control of schemes at local level. They augment general control activity with particular approaches based on local knowledge and circumstances; and   

- Medical Assessors carry out medical review examinations and desk reviews/assessments of medical reports in order to provide a second medical opinion for the guidance of Deciding and Appeals Officers on all medical aspects of the illness schemes.

  The table below illustrates the level of control activity and control related reviews that were recorded by the Department from 2010 to 2012:

- Control Reviews
2010 929,383
2011 982,580
2012 1,196,180


  Control reviews are proactive reviews on claims in payment. It is important to stress that not all of these will have been carried out by Inspectors. As outlined above, control activity is carried out in a number of ways by different staff and teams.

  Finally, it should be noted that Social Welfare Inspectors are appointed under the Social Welfare Acts to investigate and report on claims and to carry out inspections at employer premises to ensure that there is compliance with the PRSI scheme. An Inspector’s report is then used to inform the Deciding Officer, who is also appointed under the Social Welfare Acts to make decisions on claims based on all the facts and evidence available. Therefore, the breakdown of the number of fraudulent claims that have been identified per inspector during each of these years is not available.

Social Welfare Fraud

 314. Deputy Alan Farrell Information on Alan Farrell Zoom on Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will outline the State agencies that provide information or assistance to her Department in the investigation of social welfare fraud; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13752/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The Department exchanges information with other Government Departments and agencies for the purpose of the control of schemes. My Department has an extensive legal structure to support the sharing of data for the purpose of controlling the entitlement and payment of benefits. These provisions are contained in section 261 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act, 2005.

  The Department undertakes a number of data matches with other Government Departments and agencies on a systematic basis, including the following:

- Revenue Commissioners;

- Irish Prison Service;

- Department of Education and Skills (Third Level Institutions);

- General Register Office (GRO);

- Commission on Taxi Regulation;

- Department of Work & Pensions UK;

- Health Services Executive; and

- Probate Office

  Other matches which have been undertaken include:

- Personal Injuries Assessment Board;

- Private Residential Tenancies Board;

- The Private Security Authority; and

-The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

  In addition, the Department’s Special Investigation Unit also conducts a wide range of control activities and projects to investigate social welfare fraud and abuse, some of which are carried out jointly with the Revenue Commissioner and with the National Employment and Rights Authority. This Unit also participates in operations with other agencies, including the Gardaí, Traffic Corps and the Taxi Regulator.

  Data matching with other Government Department and Agencies is viewed as an efficient and effective mechanism to target control related activity. It is an important preventative and detection control measure and the Department continues to explore new data sources in this context.

Social Welfare Benefits Eligibility

 315. Deputy Alan Farrell Information on Alan Farrell Zoom on Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will outline consequences for medical professionals who are found to be providing false information to her Department in relation to disability or illness benefit claims; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13753/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton GPs and Hospital Doctors who have successfully registered with the Department are authorised to issue medical certs to customers who present themselves as unfit for work. They also complete medical reports for customers for the various illness and disability related schemes, as required. In the case of Illness Benefit, the Department initially accepts the GP’s opinion regarding medical eligibility for the scheme. However, as part of the review process the Medical Assessors carry out desk assessments of medical evidence/reports supplied by the medical professional and where required, conduct in person assessments in order to provide a second medical opinion to that of the certifying doctor for the guidance of Deciding and Appeals Officers. The Medical Assessors employ evidence based medical protocols in completing their medical assessments of clients. These protocols provide comprehensive guidelines on a wide range of medical conditions/disorders. When conducting an assessment, the Medical Assessor does not dispute the existence of the certified cause of incapacity but rather s/he assesses the degree to which the loss of function in work-related activities resulting from the disease or injury affects the person’s ability to perform either their own job or alternative types of work. Therefore when a Medical Assessor presents a medical opinion that a customer is not eligible for a scheme, this does not necessarily mean that he is contradicting the medical report completed by the GP for the customer or that there is any suggestion of falsification of information by the GP.

Any instances of irregular certification that come to light pertaining to the issue of Social Welfare Medical Certificates or completion of medical reports are investigated by this Department. Following investigation, irregular certification action may have consequences which include the imposition of monetary penalties, termination of the Certifier’s agreement, or referral to the Medical Council or relevant body.

Social Welfare Code Issues

 316. Deputy Alan Farrell Information on Alan Farrell Zoom on Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if there is the requirement for a review of social welfare payments to families who are living in poverty to protect the misuse of payments for drug or alcohol abuse at the expense of children or spouses; if there is a method by which teachers and persons can report suspected misuse of payments to her Department for action to be taken; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13754/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The objective of the social protection system is to promote active participation in society through the provision of income supports, employment services and other services. It does this in order to attain better outcomes in tackling poverty for children and families, people of working age and older people.

  The Department does not control how benefits are actually spent. It is a matter for each individual customer to use their income support as they see fit having regard to their specific needs.

  If a claimant has a particular difficulty with drugs or alcohol it is open to the claimant or their adult dependant to apply for separate payments.

  Any person who becomes aware of suspected abuse or neglect should immediately report it to the HSE Children and Family Services’ Social Work Service.

National Internship Scheme Numbers

 317. Deputy Alan Farrell Information on Alan Farrell Zoom on Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if a review has taken place of the success of the JobBridge scheme since its introduction; the employment success rate for individuals who have completed their scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13756/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The JobBridge Scheme has made significant progress since it came into operation. 15,615 internships have commenced as at 14th March 2013 with 5,939 participants on an internship and 2,377 internship opportunities advertised on www.jobbridge.ie  as of that date.

  The recent interim independent evaluation of the Scheme conducted by Indecon Independent Economic Consultants found that 61% of individuals who have participated in JobBridge have progressed into employment within five months of completing their internship placements. This high level of progression suggests JobBridge is an appropriate labour market intervention which has achieved very significant progress in a short period of time

  The final evaluation report is currently being compiled by Indecon and it is anticipated that it will be published in the coming weeks. It will include further information on progression outcomes and include recommendations on how the terms and conditions of the Scheme might be improved or expanded to improve these outcomes still further.

Social Welfare Benefits Numbers

 318. Deputy Alan Farrell Information on Alan Farrell Zoom on Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will advise of the success of the partial capacity benefit scheme; the number of persons who have accessed the benefit; the number of persons who have returned to the workplace as a result; the savings it has made to the Exchequer since its establishment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13757/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Partial capacity benefit (PCB), which I introduced in February 2012, provides an opportunity for people with disabilities, to avail of employment opportunities while continuing to receive an income support payment from the Department.

The scheme is designed to facilitate greater levels of participation by people with disabilities in the open labour market – to date nearly 1,100 people have been awarded PCB - and I am satisfied that as the scheme continues to develop, it will make a positive contribution to the personal wellbeing of those participating, while the Exchequer will also benefit through the payment of income tax and social insurance.

I can assure the Deputy that the Department will continue to keep the scheme under review.

Departmental Working Groups

 319. 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 the number of meetings of the Interdepartmental Working and Retirement Group that have taken place since February 2011; and the agenda for each of those meetings. [13878/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton This interdepartmental Working and Retirement Group was initiated to consider cross departmental policy issues that may support longer working and thereby improve the sustainability and adequacy of pensions systems.

The sustainability of the pension system is a particular concern because of the demographic challenges Ireland faces, the associated increases in pension and other age related costs, and the deterioration in the public finances. The population share of those aged 65 and over is expected to more than double between now and 2051, from 11% to approximately 23% in 2050. In contrast, the working age to pensioner ratio is projected to decline gradually from 5.3 /1 to 2.1/1.

This has obvious and significant implications in relation to the future costs of State pension provision. The fundamental principle involved here is that people need to participate in the workforce for longer and they need to contribute more towards their pensions if they are to achieve the income they expect or would like to have in retirement.

The interdepartmental group, which was established in August 2012 is chaired by the Department of Social Protection, includes representatives from the Department of Social Protection, the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, the Department of Justice and Equality, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Pensions Board. Further engagement has also been undertaken with the Department of Education and Skills and the Department of Health and Children.

The group has met on four occasions which included a ‘Forum on Working and Retirement’ held in Croke Park on 12th Dec last. The purpose of this forum was to obtain views from representative bodies and stakeholders and identify the wide ranging issues linked to working and retirement prior to the development of any possible policy proposals. Attendees included employer and employee representative groups, older people’s representative groups, representatives from the pensions industry, academic commenters and representatives from the legal profession.

The agenda for the group’s meetings has included consideration of the broad range of issues impacting on the labour market participation of older workers; enterprise issues, employment and equality law issues; and proposals regarding deferral of the state pension and consideration of occupational pension issues.

It is expected that the Group will prepare preliminary proposals detailing measures which may encourage participation and retention in the labour market of older workers and present proposals to Government in the near future.

Social Welfare Benefits Applications

 320. 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 the reason an application for a diet supplement in respect of a child (details supplied) in Dublin 9 was refused: if she will have this application reviewed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13880/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton There is a range of prescribed diets for persons with a medical condition. The person concerned does not qualify for a diet supplement payment for her child because diabetes is not covered on the list of prescribed diets that qualify for a diet supplement.

Jobseeker's Benefit Appeals

 321. Deputy Willie O'Dea Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton when a decision will issue on an appeal for jobseeker's benefit in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13918/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that a Jobseeker’s Allowance appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 28th January 2013. 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 4th March 2013 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.

Social Insurance Issues

 322. 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 if she will set out the full extent of PAYE and or self employed contributions paid and-or credited in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [13921/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton A statement of the contributions paid and credited, as shown in the records of my Department, has issued to the person concerned.

Invalidity Pension Appeals

 323. 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 position regarding an appeal for invalidity pension in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; when the appeal will be concluded; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13909/13]

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 31st January 2013, 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.

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton   Questions Nos. 324 and 325 withdrawn.


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