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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 324-343
 Header Item Dietary Allowance
 Header Item Jobseeker's Allowance Applications
 Header Item Jobseeker's Allowance Payments
 Header Item Sick Pay Eligibility
 Header Item Invalidity Pension Payments
 Header Item Jobseeker's Benefit Appeals
 Header Item Rent Supplement Scheme Payments
 Header Item Pension Provisions
 Header Item Social Welfare Appeals Status
 Header Item Mortgage Interest Supplement Payments
 Header Item Fuel Allowance Eligibility
 Header Item Disability Allowance Eligibility
 Header Item Community Employment Schemes Eligibility
 Header Item Mortgage Interest Supplement Eligibility
 Header Item National Internship Scheme Placements
 Header Item Free Travel Scheme Administration

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 797 No. 3

First Page Previous Page Page of 90 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 324-343

Dietary Allowance

 324. 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 current eligibility for dietary allowance in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [14931/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton There is no current application from the person concerned for a dietary allowance registered with this department. A previous application for a dietary allowance was refused and the decision upheld on 16 November 2012. The person concerned can make an application for an exceptional needs payment and any such application will be considered based on his circumstances.

Jobseeker's Allowance Applications

 325. 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 when an application for jobseeker's allowance will be finalised in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [14932/13]

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 oral hearing of the appeal of the person concerned took place on 20th March 2013 and the Appeals Officer is now considering the appeal in the light of all the evidence submitted, including that adduced at the hearing. The person concerned will be notified of the Appeals Officer decision when the appeal has been determined.

   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 Payments

 326. 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 reason jobseeker's allowance has ceased in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14943/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The person concerned was in receipt of Jobseeker's Benefit until 3 November 2012 when the entitlement expired.

Sick Pay Eligibility

 327. Deputy Patrick Nulty Information on Patrick Nulty Zoom on Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if sick pay is available to participants of community employment schemes if they take ill for a day or two while on a scheme and provide a doctor’s letter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14978/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The Community Employment (CE) Operating Guidelines allow the grant aiding of participant wages by the Department to the CE Sponsor organisation/employer for up to 56 working hours of medically certified sick leave (the hourly equivalent of 7 full days). Only when that 56 hour threshold has been exhausted is grant aid for wages suspended for any further certified sick leave by that participant during the 52 weeks of their CE contract.

Parallel to the above is the provision of illness benefit which is available to any employee who is medically certified unfit for work for 4 or more consecutive days (the first three days of illness are always unpaid on this benefit). CE participants will not receive any illness benefit for any day they are in receipt of CE allowances while medically certified unfit for work, but if they are no longer receiving CE allowances due to exceeding the 56 hour limit, then illness benefit will be payable for any qualifying days sick.

Invalidity Pension Payments

 328. 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, like other State pensions, invalidity pensions are paid for six weeks after the person receiving payment dies.  [14979/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The social welfare system already provides for continued payment of invalidity pension for 6 weeks after the death of an invalidity pensioner where the deceased claimant was in receipt of an increase for a qualified adult, for a surviving spouse/civil partner/cohabitant.

Jobseeker's Benefit Appeals

 329. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will review and accept an appeal of a decision to offer a reduced level of payment of jobseeker's allowance in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [15067/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The person concerned can request a review of the case with the local office if there is a change in circumstances.

Rent Supplement Scheme Payments

 330. Deputy Patrick Nulty Information on Patrick Nulty Zoom on Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the basis on which her Department is claiming that there are adequate suitable accommodations within the €825 maximum rent limit, for a couple or a one parent family with two children seeking rent supplement in the Dublin 15 area; if she will provide details of any evidence to back up this claim; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15076/13]

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 87,000 rent supplement recipients for which the Government has provided €403 million for 2013. As the Department funds a significant proportion of private sector rented accommodation it is essential that State supports for rents are kept under review. The purpose of the rent limit review was to ensure availability of accommodation for rent supplement tenancies and not to provide rent supplement tenants with access to all housing in all areas.

The maximum rent limits came into force on 1 January 2012 and are in place until June 2013. These limits were set after an analysis of the most up to date market data available. For all counties, major urban population centres were tested as part of the rents review to ensure that rent supplement applicants can access temporary housing arrangements whilst seeking employment opportunities. The emphasis of the rent limit review was to ensure that maximum value for money for tenants and the taxpayer was achieved whilst at the same time ensuring that people on rent supplement are not priced out of the market. Approximately 56,600 rent supplement claims have been awarded since January 2012, showing that accommodation can be secured within the revised limits.

Analysis of a leading property website shows that for Dublin there are properties available within the maximum rent limits for rent supplement recipients. Over 32,500 persons in receipt of rent supplement reside in Dublin. Based on current analysis, there is accommodation available within the Fingal rent limits for both two and three bedroom properties. The number of rental properties available in Dublin 15 is somewhat lower than the numbers available in the rest of Fingal and therefore impacts on the number of accommodation units available for rent supplement.

Officials in the Department continue to examine the impact of the rent limits on those who claim rent supplement and continue to ensure that accommodation needs for recipients can be met. The next review of rent limits is being undertaken before June 2013 and any changes to the existing limits will be considered as part of this process.

Pension Provisions

 331. Deputy Regina Doherty Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the State pension provisions that are in place for returning religious missionaries upon their return here for retirement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15096/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton It is a fundamental principle of the social insurance system that those qualifying for benefits must satisfy a range of contribution and other conditions. The State contributory pension is a valuable benefit and the conditions are designed to ensure that those qualifying have had a sufficient and on-going attachment to the social insurance system.   

  In the case of State contributory pension, this involves commencing payment of contributions 10 years before pension age, payment of a minimum number of contributions at an appropriate rate and reaching a minimum average annual contribution rate.

  Religious missionaries outside Ireland do not pay PRSI into the Irish social insurance system but can pay voluntary contributions. If they fulfil the eligibility criteria they may qualify for a State pension contributory.

  For those who do not qualify for the State contributory pension, they can apply for the State pension non-contributory pension scheme.   To qualify for State pension (non-contributory) a person must satisfy the habitual residence condition, live in the State while getting this pension, be aged 66 or over, have a valid personal public service number, and satisfy a means test.

  In relation to the habitual residency clause, missionaries who have chosen to resettle in Ireland will be considered to have their main centre of interest in Ireland thereby satisfying the habitual residency clause.

  A person will, of course, have to be present in Ireland at the time of making an application for the payments concerned and continue to reside in Ireland while in receipt of such payment.

Social Welfare Appeals Status

 332. 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 a decision has been made on an appeal in respect of a person (details provided) in County Kerry on an assessment of a person's restriction of capacity to work for partial capacity benefit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15097/13]

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 disallowed the appeal of the person concerned by way of summary decision. 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.

Mortgage Interest Supplement Payments

 333. Deputy Tom Hayes Information on Tom Hayes Zoom on Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will provide clarification as to whether mortgage interest supplement is given the same consideration under the supplementary welfare scheme when a claimant is participating in a Tús programme.  [15127/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Mortgage interest supplement provides short-term income support to eligible people who are unable to meet their mortgage interest repayments in respect of a house which is their sole place of residence. There are approximately 14,000 mortgage interest supplement recipients for which the Government has provided €42 million for in 2013. Mortgage interest supplement is normally calculated to ensure that a person, after the payment of his or her mortgage interest, has an income equal to the rate of supplementary welfare allowance (SWA) appropriate to their family circumstances, less a minimum contribution which recipients are required to pay from their own resources. The weekly minimum contribution is €30 for single adult households and €35 for coupled households. Many recipients pay more than this amount because recipients are also required, subject to income disregards, to contribute any additional assessable means that they have over and above the appropriate basic SWA rate towards their accommodation costs.

The mortgage interest assessment provides for a gradual withdrawal of payment as hours of employment or earnings increase. Those availing of part-time employment and/or training opportunities can continue to receive mortgage interest supplement subject to their satisfying the standard means assessment rules. Where a person has additional income in excess of the standard weekly rate of SWA, the first €75 of such additional income together with 25% of any additional income above €75 is disregarded for means assessment purposes.

Mortgage interest supplement claimants participating on a TÚS work placement scheme are treated in the same way as any other person engaged in part-time employment and any additional income arising from participation on the work placement is subject to the additional income disregard.

The means test ensures that those returning to part-time work or participating in training schemes are better off as a result of taking up such opportunities.

Fuel Allowance Eligibility

 334. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty if a person claiming fuel allowance from the UK will also be entitled to claim the Irish fuel allowance payment. [15143/13]

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The United Kingdom winter fuel payment is an annual tax-free payment made to eligible people to help towards their winter heating costs. It is a lump sum and in most cases is paid automatically, but some people need to claim. The total amount of winter fuel payment can vary from £100 - £300 sterling having regard to age and household composition. Most payments are made between mid- November and December in a given year.

The European Court of Justice has recently ruled that pensioners living outside the UK receiving the state pension must be paid the winter fuel payment.

My Department pays a fuel allowance of €20 per week to qualified households who are in receipt of long-term social welfare or HSE payments and who are unable to provide for their own heating needs. The allowance represents a contribution towards a person's normal heating expenses. It is not intended to meet those costs in full. The fuel allowance season runs for 26 weeks from October to April each year.

The implications of this ECJ judgment are currently being examined, in particular the implications for eligibility for the fuel allowance in Ireland which is paid on the basis that an applicant is unable to provide for his or her own heating needs..

Disability Allowance Eligibility

 335. 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 file will be sent from his Department to the appeals office to ascertain eligibility for disability allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15147/13]

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 12th October 2012. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 19th   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.

Community Employment Schemes Eligibility

 336. Deputy Michael Lowry Information on Michael Lowry Zoom on Michael Lowry asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will confirm the criteria for eligibility for Tús positions and Tús supervisor posts; the reason the Tús scheme and Tús supervisor positions are closed to those on FÁS schemes; if her attention has been drawn to the the hardship and distress caused as a result; if she will consider opening this scheme and supervisor posts to those whose FÁS scheme is nearing completion; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15152/13]

 339. Deputy Jim Daly Information on Jim Daly Zoom on Jim Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the reason a person currently on a community employment scheme will not qualify to be considered for a job such as a Tús supervisor; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15178/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I propose to take Questions Nos. 336 and 339 together.

Tús is the community work placement initiative introduced during 2011. The allocation of additional resources in 2013 will provide for 7,500 placements nationally. The initiative is delivered by local development companies and Údarás na Gaeltachta. Eligibility for supervisory/team leader positions on Tús is restricted on those on the live register for 12 months or longer and in receipt of jobseeker’s allowance. The criteria are designed to ensure that the opportunities available focus on those that have limited work opportunities. The current selection process has proved effective in recruiting people with the necessary skill set to undertake the tasks associated with the positions.

Mortgage Interest Supplement Eligibility

 337. 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 options available to a person who needs mortgage interest supplement, but has been unable to honour a twelve month interest only payment with the bank on the grounds of inability to pay. [15158/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Mortgage interest supplement provides short-term income support to eligible people who are unable to meet their mortgage interest repayments in respect of a house which is their sole place of residence. There are approximately 14,000 mortgage interest supplement recipients for which the Government has provided €42 million for in 2013. To ensure that those who are in mortgage difficulty engage with their lender under the Mortgage Arrears Resolution Process (MARP) and avail of its forbearance arrangements, from June 2012 the mortgage interest supplement is not payable until applicants have agreed with their lender and complied with an alternative payment arrangement for a cumulative period of not less than 12 months. This process acknowledges that it is in the interest of both the lender and the borrower to address financial difficulties as speedily and effectively as circumstances allow.

A person unable to meet their commitments under the MARP process is advised to contact their lender to review their repayment arrangement.

National Internship Scheme Placements

 338. Deputy Simon Harris Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the reason a school (details supplied) in County Wicklow that applied to participate in the JobBridge scheme was refused entry to the scheme and the action that can be taken to ensure that this school can avail of administrative support through this scheme.  [15170/13]

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

  I wish to advise the Deputy that the deadline for applications for 9 month internships in the education sector was 14th September 2012 and for 6 month internships the deadline was 7th December 2012. These closing dates were chosen to ensure that interns could complete their internship prior to the summer holiday period. All internships in schools must finish by the 28th June 2013, consistent with the approach taken for the 2011/12 academic year. This decision was clearly advertised on the home page of the JobBridge website and every effort was made to provide reasonable notice of this arrangement to potential education sector host organisations. In line with this decision, education sector host organisations may submit applications from August to December 2013 for placements for the academic year 2013/14.

Question No. 339 answered with Question No. 336.

Free Travel Scheme Administration

 340. Deputy Seán Kyne Information on Seán Kyne Zoom on Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton her plans to review the basis on which payments are made to public transport providers participating in the free travel scheme; and if consideration will be given to introducing a leap card or similar technology to an enhanced public services card which would more accurately measure usage and journeys taken and consequently maximise the taxpayer investment in this important scheme. [15226/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The public services card which will replace the existing free travel pass will be introduced by the end of this year. This card will incorporate an integrated ticketing chip for services which have been enabled with smart card reading devices. The introduction of this card will provide my Department with more accurate information on transport services where integrated ticketing is supported, starting in the Dublin area. The results of this initial roll-out will inform the future development of this technology on a national level.

The free travel scheme is currently being reviewed by an inter-departmental working group chaired by my Department with officials from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the National Transport Authority.

The purpose of this review is to examine and report on the current operation and future development of the free travel scheme including how the scheme is funded. The work of the group is expected to conclude this year.

  Questions Nos. 341 to 343, inclusive, answered with Question No. 308.


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