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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 647-669
 Header Item Carer's Allowance Appeals
 Header Item Carer's Allowance Appeals
 Header Item Social Welfare Appeals Status
 Header Item Social Welfare Eligibility
 Header Item Illness Benefit Applications
 Header Item Pension Provisions
 Header Item Departmental Schemes
 Header Item Rent Supplement Scheme Eligibility
 Header Item Community Employment Schemes Eligibility
 Header Item Departmental Correspondence
 Header Item Departmental Correspondence
 Header Item Jobseeker's Benefit Applications
 Header Item Advocacy Services
 Header Item Supplementary Welfare Allowance Applications
 Header Item Jobseeker's Allowance Appeals
 Header Item Disability Allowance Appeals
 Header Item Domiciliary Care Allowance Applications

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 799 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 109 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 647-669

Carer's Allowance Appeals

 647. Deputy Pat Breen Information on Pat Breen Zoom on Pat Breen asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the position regarding a carer's allowance appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17034/13]

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 27th   March 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 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.

  Question No. 648 withdrawn.

Carer's Allowance Appeals

 649. Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy Information on Marcella Corcoran Kennedy Zoom on Marcella Corcoran Kennedy asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton when a decision on a carer's allowance appeal will be processed in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17047/13]

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.

Social Welfare Appeals Status

 650. Deputy Dan Neville Information on Dan Neville Zoom on Dan Neville asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the position regarding a respite care grant in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17048/13]

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 a 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 file has been requested to be returned to the Social Welfare Appeals Office. On receipt of this file, the Appeals Officer reviewed the case. The Appeals Officer upheld his original decision and the person concerned was notified in writing on 9th   April 2013 of this outcome.

  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 Eligibility

 651. 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 the payments available to students who are unable to work due to full time college sanctioned unpaid internship placements; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17059/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Social welfare legislation provides that a person must satisfy the conditions of being available for and genuinely seeking work in order to be entitled to jobseeker’s benefit or jobseeker’s allowance. Any person who fails to satisfy these conditions is not entitled to a jobseeker’s payment.

A student undergoing a full-time course of study, instruction or training is disqualified for receiving jobseekers allowance or benefit. This disqualification also extends to the holiday periods, including the summer holidays. The disqualification for receipt of jobseeker’s benefit or allowance does not apply in the case of mature students during the period between two academic years. During this period a mature student can apply for jobseeker’s benefit or allowance, subject to satisfying the standard qualifying conditions, including that of being available for full-time work.

There are no plans to change these aspects of the jobseeker’s schemes.

It may be noted that JobBridge, the national internship scheme was established to provide people with valuable work experience. The aim of the national internship scheme is to assist in breaking the cycle where jobseekers are unable to get a job without experience, either as new entrants to the labour market after education or training or as unemployed workers wishing to learn new skills. The scheme also gives people a real opportunity to gain valuable experience to bridge the gap between study and the beginning of their working lives.

Illness Benefit Applications

 652. 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 outcome of the most recent medical examination in respect of determination of eligibilty for illness benefit in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17065/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The person concerned made a claim for illness benefit from 13 March 2012. According to Departmental records this customer does not have 13 reckonable PRSI contributions paid in the years 2008 to 2012. This is a necessary condition that a claimant must satisfy in order to qualify for payment of illness benefit. The Department subsequently wrote to this customer on 23 May 2012 requesting evidence of any additional PRSI contributions that may have been paid in the relevant years. No reply or evidence of additional reckonable PRSI contributions has been received. As a result, the person concerned currently has an open illness benefit claim for the purposes of awarding credited contributions only and no illness benefit payment is being made. The person concerned was found medical eligible for illness benefit at a medical examination on 31 December 2012.

Pension Provisions

 653. Deputy Joanna Tuffy Information on Joanna Tuffy Zoom on Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the date on which she expects to introduce legislation that will implement changes to defined benefit pension to help ensure the protection of members' benefits; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17069/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton As you are aware, there are significant structural and affordability problems with DB schemes due to a range of factors such as an underestimation of longevity, poor investment decisions and the impact of the downturn in financial markets.

A range of both administrative and legislative measures have been put in place since 2008 to assist trustees and employers respond to the impact that the downturn in financial market has had on the funding of defined benefit pension schemes. Following a review of the defined benefit model which was completed in 2011, I introduced a requirement for defined benefit pension schemes to hold a risk reserve which was designed to protect the interest of scheme members against future volatility in financial markets. I also introduced a range of options which will assist trustees of schemes in meeting this requirement. In view of current funding difficulties experienced by many defined benefit schemes, schemes will have until the end of 2023 to satisfy this requirement.

You will appreciate that the issue of how the assets of a pension scheme are distributed on the wind-up of a pension scheme is a complex and sensitive issue and one which requires careful consideration before any change is made to the current provisions. In this regard, my officials have completed a detailed review of these provisions which involved engagement with stakeholder representatives and with external consultants who provided valuable assistance in reviewing this issue.

The outcome of this review is being considered at present.

  Question No. 654 withdrawn.

Departmental Schemes

 655. Deputy Eric Byrne Information on Eric J. Byrne Zoom on Eric J. Byrne asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will instruct officials in her Department to enter negotiations with an organisation (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17081/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The person concerned was originally a participant on the Job Initiative scheme sponsored by KWCD Partnership and, in 2004, she became directly employed by the Partnership where she provided administrative support to the scheme. This Job Initiative scheme is now sponsored by Dublin 12 Congress Centre and it is funded by this Department. The Department agreed to grant to the person concerned from the scheme’s Administration and Training Grant until the completion of the then current contract which ended on June 1st 2012. The sponsors of the scheme were advised that the grant aid would cease on this date. All contracts for schemes are appraised on an annual basis and any contract and the terms contained within only have a maximum duration of one annual year.

Upon renewal, the current scheme contract was given approval for 49 workers who would be supported by funding for two full-time team leaders. The current ratios are in keeping with the recommended ratio of team leaders to workers which also includes the provision of administration. It is not possible to provide funding for additional administrative support.

The sponsors were informed of the decision prior to the cessation of funding and they have been corresponded with on a number of occasions regarding this matter. Accordingly, a meeting would not provide any further clarification and would serve no useful purpose.

Rent Supplement Scheme Eligibility

 656. 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 extent to which rent supplement is available in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17083/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton There is, at present, no rent supplement application in respect of the person concerned. If he wishes to apply for rent supplement, he can complete an application form and return it to the Rents Unit, PO Box 11758 Dublin 24.

Community Employment Schemes Eligibility

 657. Deputy Pat Breen Information on Pat Breen Zoom on Pat Breen asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be facilitated on a community employment scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17094/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The Rural Social Scheme provides income support for farmers and those engaged in fishing who have an entitlement to specified social welfare payments. Participants are engaged for 19½ hours per week to provide certain services of benefit to rural communities. The scheme currently provides work opportunities for around 2,600 participants and 130 supervisory staff.

  To qualify for participation, an individual must be actively farming and   in receipt of either farm assist, jobseekers allowance, jobseekers benefit (if previously on CE or RSS within the last 12 months), disability allowance, one-parent family payment, widow/er’s pension (contributory or non-contributory), or be under 66 and have an increase for a qualified adult paid on his/her spouse’s old-age non-contributory pension.

  The Department’s records indicate that the individual concerned does not currently fall into any of the above categories. If, on completion of his CE engagement, he becomes eligible for jobseekers benefit and provided he is actively farming and has access to a valid herd number, he should contact his local implementing body to establish whether there are any vacancies on the RSS in County Clare. The relevant implementing body is Clare Local Development Company – tel: 065 6866800.

Departmental Correspondence

 658. 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 annual spend in her Department for sending correspondence to applicants and recipients of any social welfare payment, to include the cost of postage, printing, paper and envelopes in this figure; her plans to introduce this by electronic means of communicating when email addresses are provided; if this has been reviewed by her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17143/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The information requested by the Deputy is set out in respect of 2012 in tabular form below

Item Expenditure 2012 (€) Note
Postage 11.044m Includes cost of posting cheque payments
Envelopes 0.419m Includes envelopes for cheque payments
Printing/paper 1.006m Not including cheque stationery


  As a general strategy my Department favours the introduction of electronic channels to replace paper when communicating with customers where this is feasible and appropriate.

  In determining the appropriate channel to communicate with customers, recognition must be taken of our customer profile, the nature of the communication and the security of the channel. Despite high levels of internet penetration in Ireland, studies indicate that the number of older people who do not use the internet for personal transactions is high. A significant number of our customers fall into this category and the Department adopts the general approach of interacting with these customers through more traditional and secure communication channels. The nature of some of my Department’s communications also means that email is not always suitable (e.g. cheque payments or control activity).

  My Department uses electronic communications through its website and through individual communication; for example, it uses SMS texting to correspond with some customers. The range of electronic forms and information available to customers via our website (www.welfare.ie  ) has also been increasing. As ICT options are further developed internally and externally, my Department will use electronic communications as much as possible and will keep the issue under review.

Departmental Correspondence

 659. 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 are means by which her Department can introduce an email only policy, with appropriate exceptions, when corresponding in writing to members of the Oireachtas in order to save the cost of postage, paper, printing and envelopes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17144/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The Department of Social Protection provides a range of contact channels for all its customers including members of the Oireachtas.

The practice within the Department is to reply to queries and requests for information by the same channel through which they were received, where appropriate. Where a written request for information is received from an Oireachtas member, the response issues in writing, either by post or email, depending on the initial request.

To facilitate the speedy resolution of queries and requests for information from Oireachtas members, the Department has provided lists of designated contact telephone numbers and email addresses for various business areas and these are used by members on a regular basis.

The Department takes a pro-active approach to communicating information on legislative and other changes to Oireachtas members. In 2012, this involved emailing members with information on, for example, changes to the State pension scheme and arrangements in respect of Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance. This approach will continue to be followed for other information campaigns undertaken by the Department.

As part of its commitment to minimising costs, the Department of Social Protection is continually reviewing its information and service delivery model. The Department also has a duty of care to its customers to safeguard their personal information, as provided for under the Data Protection Acts. Any future initiatives involving the electronic transfer of customer information will be considered in the context of the security and reliability of the means of transfer, email or otherwise.

  Question No. 660 withdrawn.

Jobseeker's Benefit Applications

 661. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the reason a person (details supplied) in County Dublin who finished an apprenticeship and went straight into college whilst in part-time employment with HMV, is not entitled to any form of welfare benefit since his employment ceased. [17162/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton According to the Department’s records there is no recent application from the person concerned for a jobseekers payment. It is open to the person concerned to make an application for such a payment at his local social welfare office.

Advocacy Services

 662. 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 when she intends to introduce the Personal Advocacy Service as provided for in the Citizens Information Act 2007; the role she envisages for such advocacy services; the reason this service has not yet been established; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17175/13]

 663. 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 measures she intends to introduce in the area of advocacy supports for persons with disabilities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17176/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I propose to take Questions Nos. 662 and 663 together.

The Citizens Information Board (CIB) is the statutory body responsible for supporting the provision of information, advice (including money and budgeting advice) and advocacy services to members of the public on a wide range of public and social services.

One of the functions of the CIB, as defined in the Comhairle Act 2000 and the Citizens Information Act, 2007, is to support the provision of, or directly provide, advocacy services to individuals, in particular those with a disability to assist them in identifying and understanding their needs and options and in securing their entitlements to social services.

The Citizens Information Board delivers on its remit through the provision of advocacy services for the public in general and for people with disabilities in particular. This process has involved building advocacy capacity and skills in Citizens Information Services to deliver advocacy to all citizens including those with a disability who are able to access mainstream services.

The establishment of a Personal Advocacy Service was deferred by the previous Government in 2008 due to budgetary constraints. An evaluation report on the community and voluntary sector advocacy programme in 2009 set out a suggested new structure for the roll out of advocacy services and recommended the establishment of a single service to provide improved advocacy services to people who need them, regardless of location, disability type or level of vulnerability.

Following on from this report, the National Advocacy Service was established under the Citizens Information Board in January 2011, to provide an independent, confidential and free, representative advocacy service to vulnerable people with disabilities who cannot self- advocate, while supporting others to use mainstream services. The budget assigned to the National Advocacy Service in 2013 is €3.8m

During 2011 the service was established across the country. The service is managed by five Citizens Information Services in Dublin (Clondalkin), Westmeath, Offaly, Waterford and Leitrim and staffed by five managers, 35 advocates (full-time equivalents) and five administrators.

The aim of the National Advisory Service is to ensure that the voices of people with disabilities are heard and their rights safeguarded. The Service has a particular remit for people with disabilities who cannot self-refer, who are isolated in the community, or living in residential institutions.

The National Advocacy Service has been in operation for almost two years and a review of all aspects of the service is currently underway. The review will be completed this year and I will then consider this is further detail.

  Question No. 664 withdrawn.

Supplementary Welfare Allowance Applications

 665. Deputy Pat Breen Information on Pat Breen Zoom on Pat Breen asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the reason a person (details supplied) in County Clare has not been facilitated; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17190/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The person concerned applied for Supplementary Welfare Allowance (SWA) on 21 March 2013. The Department requested him to submit a valuation of his additional property in order to assess his entitlement to SWA as this is a means-tested payment. As this information is still outstanding, a determination of entitlement cannot be established.

  Question No. 666 withdrawn.

Jobseeker's Allowance Appeals

 667. 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 further to Parliamentary Question No. 329 of 26 March 2013, wherein information was sought regarding acceptance of a review or appeal of a decision to offer reduced level of job seekers allowance in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare, if in such cases and in his case, the totality of his liabilities was considered; the nature and extent of the consideration; if the decision arising merits an appeal; if an appeal would be accepted; if cognisance will be taken of the extreme difficulty presenting arising from the decision in respect of reduced payment and the welfare of the applicant and his family; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17201/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The jobseeker’s allowance claim of the person concerned was reviewed in March 2013 in accordance with the provisions of the scheme. The review did not result in a change in the entitlement of the person concerned. It is open to the person concerned to appeal the decision to the Social Welfare Appeals Office.

Disability Allowance Appeals

 668. Deputy Sandra McLellan Information on Sandra McLellan Zoom on Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will expedite an appeal for disability allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17220/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the disability allowance claim of the person concerned was disallowed following an assessment by a Medical Assessor who expressed the opinion that he was medically unsuitable for the allowance. An appeal was registered on 25th   March 2013 and in accordance with the statutory procedures the relevant department papers and the comments of the Deciding Officer on the matter raised in the appeal have been sought. In that context, an assessment by another Medical Assessor will be carried out.

  The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social and Family Affairs and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Domiciliary Care Allowance Applications

 669. Deputy Ciarán Lynch Information on Ciaran Lynch Zoom on Ciaran Lynch asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton when a determination will be made in an application for domiciliary care allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17228/13]

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 11th December 2012. This application was referred to one of the Department’s Medical Assessors who considered that the child was not medically eligible for DCA. A letter issued on the 18th February 2013 outlining the decision to refuse the allowance. The person concerned subsequently lodged an appeal against this decision.

As part of the appeal process, the case has been forwarded to another of the Department’s Medical Assessors for further consideration, including a review of any new information supplied. Upon receipt of the Medical Assessor’s opinion, the case will be further examined and allowed or forwarded for consideration by the Appeals Office.


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