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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 149-157
 Header Item Family Income Supplement Appeals
 Header Item National Internship Scheme Administration
 Header Item Carer's Allowance Numbers
 Header Item Disability Allowance Numbers
 Header Item Social Welfare Benefits Eligibility
 Header Item Employment Support Schemes
 Header Item Supplementary Welfare Allowance Expenditure
 Header Item Social Welfare Appeals Status

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 799 No. 2

First Page Previous Page Page of 91 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 149-157

Family Income Supplement Appeals

 149. Deputy Gerry Adams Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the procedures in place for dealing with applicants-claimants of family income supplement, who find themselves faced with a change in circumstances, financial or otherwise, subsequent to the annual review which is carried out; if she will clarify the procedures in place for claimants who wish to appeal a decision made to reduce payments based on annual review information, which may not accurately reflect the applicant's actual and current circumstances; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [17945/13]

 150. Deputy Gerry Adams Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the number of family income supplement applicants who, following an annual review, are now in receipt of a reduced payment; if she will clarify if a change in an applicant's financial circumstances is considered in assessing or adjusting payment levels throughout the year; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [17946/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I propose to take Questions Nos. 149 and 150 together.

The Family Income Supplement (FIS) payment is designed to provide cash income for employees with families who are on low earnings

An integral part of the FIS scheme is that once the level of payment is determined, it continues to be payable at that rate for a period of 52 weeks, provided that the person remains in full-time employment. The rate of payment may be increased if an additional child is born in the course of the 52 weeks. On the other hand, the rate of payment will not change if there is an increase or decrease in the recipient’s earnings. A key advantage of this approach, which is unique to the FIS scheme, is that claimants can be certain that they will receive a guaranteed level of income support throughout the period. This certainty is important to the success of the scheme as it provides a real incentive to workers with families to avail of employment opportunities.

However, once the 52 week period has expired, customers are invited to re-apply. If at that stage they continue to satisfy the basic qualifying conditions their up-to-date family income will be assessed for FIS purposes and a change in rate will be approved if appropriate.

For renewal claims processed in the last 6 months of 2012, 43% had a reduction in rate following renewal, 50% had an increase in rate following renewal and 7% remained at the same rate for a further 52 weeks.

Customers have the right to appeal any decision made on their FIS entitlement, if they are dissatisfied with it, to the independent Social Welfare Appeals Office (SWAO).

National Internship Scheme Administration

 151. Deputy Timmy Dooley Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton her plans to continue the JobBridge scheme after June 2013; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [17951/13]

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. As at 11th April, 2013, 16,326 internships have commenced with 5,944 participants on an internship and 2,410 internship opportunities advertised on www.jobbridge.ie as of that date.

In the context of Budget 2013, the Government increased the number of JobBridge places from 6,000 to 8,500. Accordingly, the previous closing date for applications for internships of 30th June, 2013, has been removed. This information has been conveyed on the JobBridge website www.jobbridge.ie.

  The recent interim independent evaluation of the Scheme conducted by Indecon 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 into employment exceeds that of similar schemes across Europe, suggesting that JobBridge is an appropriate labour market intervention.

Carer's Allowance Numbers

 152. Deputy Billy Timmins Information on Billy Timmins Zoom on Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the position in relation to the number of persons in receipt of disability payments, disability allowance, disability benefit, invalidity pension, who are also in receipt of a carer's allowance for caring for someone; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17978/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The information requested by the Deputy is collated annually for inclusion in the Statistical Information on Social Services report which is laid before the Dáil when published. I am informed that at the end of December 2012 there were 23,377 recipients of half rate carer’s allowance who were also in receipt of a primary Social Welfare payment. Of this 6,234 persons were in receipt of either a primary illness or disability payment or were a qualified adult dependent on an illness or disability payment. I have attached a tabular statement detailing the breakdown of the 6,234 recipients by illness or disability payment for the Deputy’s information.

  Half rate carer's allowance recipients in receipt of an illness or disability payment at 31 December 2012.

Scheme Recipients
Disability Allowance 1,168
Qualified Adult Disability Allowance 1,417
Disablement Benefit 2
Blind Pension 20
Qualified Adult Blind Pension 33
Illness Benefit 933
Qualified Adult Illness Benefit 324
Injury Benefit 11
Qualified Adult Injury Benefit 10
Invalidity Pension 1,069
Qualified Adult Invalidity Pension 1,239
Incapacity Benefit 3
Qualified Adult Incapacity Benefit 5
Total 6,234

Disability Allowance Numbers

 153. Deputy Billy Timmins Information on Billy Timmins Zoom on Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the position in relation to the number of persons who received disability payments for the years 2006 to 2012 and the breakdown by nationality for each year 2006 to 2012; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17979/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The information requested is not routinely collated by my Department. I have however attached a tabular statement detailing the number of recipients of disability payments at the 31st of December in each of the years 2006 to 2012. I will arrange to have the requested breakdown by nationality compiled, where available, and passed on to the Deputy for 2012 as soon as possible.

  Number of Recipients of Illness, Disability and Caring Payments by Payment Type, 2006 to 2012

2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
2011
2012
Disability Allowance
83,697
89,048
95,754
99,576
101,111
102,866
101,784
Blind Pension
1,476
1,474
1,472
1,467
1,485
1,496
1,456
Carer's Allowance
27,474
33,067
43,569
48,223
50,577
51,666
52,209
Illness Benefit
65,774
70,404
73,609
77,665
81,253
73,397
64,429
Injury Benefit
924
900
846
726
835
776
671
Interim Illness Benefit
338
440
525
318
374
327
363
Invalidity Pension
51,954
53,956
53,725
52,922
50,766
49,792
50,053
Partial Capacity Benefit*
N/a
N/a
N/a
N/a
N/a
0
733
Disablement Benefit
12,646
12,874
13,192
13,520
13,721
13,993
14,202
Carer's Benefit
1,647
2,080
2,249
1,917
1,642
1,637
1,638
*Scheme commenced 13 February 2012

Social Welfare Benefits Eligibility

 154. 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 if a person who is in receipt of a jobseeker's payment takes up full time employment is entitled to retain social welfare ancillary benefits for a period of time in order to assist with the transition into employment; and if she will consider further introducing a graduated system whereby such benefits would be gradually reduced as opposed to removing them altogether. [17980/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The Department of Social Protection currently operates a number of activation schemes to support people in getting back to work or back into education. Customers who were previously in receipt of fuel allowance and/or household benefits may retain these secondary benefits if they are taking part in programmes such as back to work enterprise allowance, rural social scheme, Tús, JobBridge, revenue job assist or community employment schemes.

However when customers takes up full time employment they would not be entitled to retain these secondary benefits as it would not be equitable to provide benefits for people returning to employment which were not available for those currently in employment.

Other benefits such as the local authority differential rent scheme and the medical card are not administered by the Department of Social Protection. However, in relation to the medical card it may be noted that entitlement is retained for three years if a persons is returning to full-time work having been in receipt of an unemployment payment or one parent family payment for at least 12 months.

Employment Support Schemes

 155. 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 if she will outline the range of supports available to assist jobseekers back into the workforce; her Department's projected budget on this area for 2013; and the way that this compares with 2012. [17982/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton In the first instance, the Government’s primary strategy to tackle unemployment is to create the environment for a strong economic recovery by promoting competitiveness and productivity. Economic recovery will underpin jobs growth.

  In addition to promoting economic recovery, the Government recognises the need for interim measures to support the unemployed and keep jobseekers close to the labour market. These actions range across a number of Departments and Agencies. Given the scale of the unemployment crisis, the key objective of labour market policy is to keep those on the Live Register close to the labour market and prevent the drift into long-term unemployment. Persons from the Live Register availing of activation measures will get an opportunity to engage in employment, training and work experience and so be in a position to avail of employment opportunities as the economy improves. As such, the policy objective is to prioritise scarce resources on those on the Live Register so as to increase their chances of leaving it thereby ensuring a reduction in Exchequer costs over time

  In this context, the major elements of this Department’s response are set out in the Pathways to Work policy which is aimed at ensuring that as many as possible of the job vacancies that are created are filled by people from the Live Register, with a particular focus on those who are long term unemployed or at risk of long-term unemployment.

  The Pathways to Work approach involves more regular and on-going engagement with people who are unemployed through active case management and profiling. There were almost 130,000 referrals of unemployed welfare recipients to the employment service in 2012. Employment services are delivered through the Department’s own offices and through a number of Local Employment Services funded by the Department.

  My Department operates a number of programmes to support job seekers in moving towards employment. They range across a number of types of support:- work experience, temporary employment, self-employment, subsidised recruitment by employers, and financial support for unemployed people undertaking certain training and education courses.

In relation to work experience, some 5,900 people are currently participating on JobBridge (the National Internship Scheme). The total number of starters on JobBridge during 2012 was 9,575. The findings of the interim evaluation of JobBridge, by Indecon International Economic Consultants (published – 5th October 2012) found that 61% of finishers secured employment within five months of completing their internship. These progression rates compare favourably with European averages in this area and represent very significant progress in a short period of time.

  The Department also manages a number of schemes providing temporary employment for the long-term unemployed on works and services of value to the community. There are currently 26,000 people participating on Community Employment and Tús. In addition, the Department also has responsibility for the Rural Social Scheme (RSS) which is aimed at low-income farmers and fishermen/women. There were just under 3,000 participants on the scheme in 2012. As part of Budget 2013, the Government approved 10,000 new places across CE, TÚS, JobBridge and a new social employment scheme (Jobstart) with the Local Authorities.

  In relation to moving into self-employment, currently, almost 12,000 people are being supported under the Back to Work Allowance Enterprise Scheme (BTWEA) scheme and the Short-term Enterprise Allowance (STEA) scheme. BTWA is designed to encourage the long term unemployed to take up self-employment opportunities by allowing them to retain a reducing proportion of their social welfare payment plus secondary benefits over three years. STEA provides immediate support for someone in receipt of Jobseekers Benefit who wants to start a business.

  In relation to subsidised recruitment by employers, the Department supports persons with disabilities entering employment through the Wage Subsidy Scheme and the Supported Employment Programme. The Wage Subsidy Scheme provides financial incentives to employers, outside the public sector, to employ disabled people who work more than 20 hours per week. The Supported Employment Programme is an open labour market initiative providing disabled people with supports to help them access the open labour market. It is implemented on behalf of the Department by sponsor organisations that employ Job Coaches to provide a range of supports tailored to the individual needs of a jobseeker. The ultimate outcome is that the employee becomes independent of Job Coach support. Over 4,500 persons benefited from this scheme in 2012.

  In July of this year, the Government will launch The JobsPlus incentive scheme which will encourage employers to recruit long-term unemployed people. The new incentive will be payable monthly in arrears, over a 2-year period. There will be 2 levels of incentive: €7,500 for recruits unemployed for more than 12 but less than 24 months and €10,000 for recruits unemployed for more than 24 months. This new incentive will replace the Revenue Job Assist and the Employer PRSI Incentive schemes.

  In terms of financial support for those undertaking up-skilling, the Back to Education Allowance (BTEA) scheme run by my Department provides income maintenance for unemployed people returning to further or higher education. Almost 26,000 people participated in the BTEA in the last academic year. Some 61% of recipients pursued third level courses while 39% pursued courses described as being at second level. A majority of these second-level courses are Post Leaving Cert (PLC courses) undertaken in the further education sector.

  Two further up-skilling options available are the Part-time Education Option (PTEO) and Education Training and Development Option (ET&D). In each case, jobseekers who wish to engage in part time day, evening or weekend courses or more intensive short duration courses of education and training may do so while retaining their jobseeker’s payments.

  BTEA and PTEO have been used as a means of facilitating the participation of unemployed job seekers in a range of special programmes implemented by the Department of Education and Skills over the last few years under the Labour Market Activation Fund, Springboard, and Momentum. The last of these, Momentum, is currently being rolled out and will support the provision of free education and training projects to allow 6,500 long-term unemployed to gain skills and to access work opportunities in identified growing sectors

  Up-skilling options are also supported by my Department under TESG (Technical Employment Support Grant) and TATS (Technical Assistance and Training scheme). There were just under 17,000 beneficiaries of TATS/TESG in 2011. Both TESG and TATS are designed to allow DSP to offer flexible additional help (in the form of access to training, advice, or support for the purchase of certain goods and services) to a number of categories of unemployed people. TESG support can be for purchase of training (where this cannot be provided by a state provider within a reasonable time) or for certain other expenditures such as purchase of tools, travel costs to job interviews. Training, with limited exceptions, must be on certified courses. TATs is more focused on jobseekers with an interest in self-employment, and can assist with the purchase of training/education/mentoring, equipment, advertising, and public liability insurance.

  The Department’s budget for employment support schemes for 2012 and 2013 is set out in the table below. The total budget for employment support schemes is set to increase by €102.4m (10.7%) to €1,056.3m in 2013.

Expenditure Breakdown of Employment Support Schemes 2012 Provisional Outturn 2013 Estimates Change Change
- €'000 €'000 €'000 %
         
Community Employment Programme 330,399 351,550 21,151 6.4%
Rural Social Scheme 45,242 45,000 -242 -0.5%
TUS - Community Work Placement 67,055 96,200 29,145 43.5%
Job Initiative 25,794 25,100 -694 -2.7%
Jobstart 0 15,740 15,740 n.a.
Community Services Programme 45,391 46,060 669 1.5%
Back to Work Allowance (BTWEA & STEA) 127,156 126,400 -756 -0.6%
National Internship Scheme - JobBridge 54,739 81,760 27,021 49.4%
Back to Education Allowance 199,565 189,300 -10,265 -5.1%
Local Employment Services (including Job Clubs) 23,573 25,100 1,527 6.5%
TESG\TATS 7,807 10,500 2,693 34.5%
Wage Subsidy Scheme 10,566 10,850 284 2.7%
Supported Employment programme 8,104 8,840 736 9.1%
Miscellaneous Other Employment supports 8,591 23,950 15,359 178.8%
Total Working Age - Employment Supports 953,983 1,056,350 102,367 10.73%

Supplementary Welfare Allowance Expenditure

 156. Deputy Terence Flanagan Information on Terence Flanagan Zoom on Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the background to the decision to cut grants for religious ceremonies such as first communion and confirmation costs; if these grants will be reinstated in the future to help the poorest in society; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17996/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Under the supplementary welfare allowance (SWA) scheme, the Department may make a single exceptional needs payment (ENP) to help meet essential, once-off, exceptional and unforeseen expenditure which a person could not reasonably be expected to meet out of their weekly income. The Government has provided €47.6 million for the scheme in 2013.

There is no automatic entitlement to a payment, or no predetermined amounts under the different categories for ENPs. Such payments are payable at the discretion of the officers administering the scheme taking into account the requirements of the legislation and all the relevant circumstances of the case in order to ensure that the payments target those most in need of assistance.

A review of the guidelines on ENPs was carried out by a Departmental working group made up of community welfare service staff. One of the recommendations emanating from this review was to address the different approaches taken, in different areas, in relation to the payment of ENPs in respect of religious ceremonies, mainly communions and confirmations, and to ensure that the SWA scheme is responding to financial need and not to occasions.

For 2013, the Department has recommended that payment of the allowance specifically in respect of religious ceremonies will cease. Applications can continue to be made under the scheme for assistance with child clothing. Over 570 claims - at a cost of approximately €56,000 - have been paid under the child clothing category during 2013 to date. I have no plans to reverse this decision as this measure ensures that the ENP scheme will continue to respond to specific need and not to the occasion.

This recommendation does not affect the discretion available to officers administering the scheme in issuing an ENP to assist an individual or household in a particular hardship situation which may arise. Persons who consider that they have an entitlement to an ENP under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme should contact the local officials administering the scheme.

Social Welfare Appeals Status

 157. 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 a social protection appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17997/13]

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 13th February 2013. 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.


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