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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 91-101
 Header Item Beef Sector
 Header Item Civil Registration
 Header Item Departmental Investigations
 Header Item Services for People with Disabilities
 Header Item Guardian's Payment Applications
 Header Item Departmental Staff Remuneration
 Header Item State Pension (Contributory) Eligibility
 Header Item Exceptional Needs Payment Applications
 Header Item Departmental Staff Data

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 801 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 68 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 91-101

Beef Sector

 91. Deputy Brendan Smith Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton if he will outline the proposals he has tabled to protect the beef sector within the European Union in the event of a EU-US trade agreement being formalised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19678/13]

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The report of the EU-US High Level Working Group on Jobs and Growth was published on 11 February this year. The Group recommended significantly closer trade relations between the two economies of the EU and the US. It reported on the opportunities for mutually beneficial job creation, economic growth and international competitiveness that would follow from a comprehensive EU – US trade and investment agreement. These opportunities are truly significant, leading to an increase in EU GDP of up to 0.5% for an ambitious and comprehensive final agreement.

The proposed Trade and Investment Partnership Agreement between the EU and the U.S. promises significant opportunities to better integrate the transatlantic marketplace and deliver improved market access opportunities for our exporters. As an open economy that already has extensive trade and investment links with the US, these trade benefits will deliver important benefits for the Irish economy. At this stage, it is the mandate to be given to the Commission that is under consideration at EU level, negotiations on a trade agreement have not commenced. Consequently it is not possible to quantify either the extent of any US requests for access to the EU market and the necessary trade off involved in respect of market access in the agriculture sector more broadly or the beef segment in particular.

The High Level Working Group recommended the phasing out of substantially all tariffs for all but the most sensitive tariffs. I have supported my colleague the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine is recognising the beef sector as a sensitive sector of importance for Ireland. As I have done previously in other trade negotiations, I will continue to look for the most advantageous outcome from this trade and investment agreement with the US that promotes our vital economic interests, and that includes the special interests of the beef sector.

Civil Registration

 92. Deputy Seán Kenny Information on Seán Kenny Zoom on Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the qualifications for the registration of a death (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19527/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I understand that the Registrar General has no knowledge of this specific case. The provisions for the registration of a death are set out in Part 5 of the Civil Registration Act 2004. Under these provisions, where a death occurs, a registered medical practitioner must provide a relative of the deceased with a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death; the relative then brings the certificate to a registrar, provides the registrar with any additional particulars required to register the death and then signs the entry in the register of deaths. Where no Medical Certificate can be obtained, or where a death occurs in certain circumstances, the matter is referred to a Coroner, who will, following necessary enquiries, arrange for the registration of the death.

  The provisions for the registration of births and stillbirths are set out in Part 3 of the Act. The registration of stillbirths is a voluntary option for parents and the stillbirth may be registered provided that the child, at birth, weighed not less than 500 grammes or had a gestational age of not less than 24 weeks and showed no sign of life. Qualifications such as weight and gestational age apply only in the case of stillbirths and do not apply in the registration of births or infant deaths. The person (details supplied) should contact their local registrar (contact details available via www.hse.ie) who will be able to assist with information pertaining to the registration of births, deaths and stillbirths, as applicable in this particular case.

Departmental Investigations

 93. Deputy Finian McGrath Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton her views on a lone parent allowance (details supplied). [19547/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The information that the Deputy has provided is insufficient for the Department to identify the particular case to which he refers. It is open to the Deputy at any stage to provide further more detailed information to enable my Department to examine more specifically the issues raised in order to determine what action, if any, is warranted in the particular circumstances. It is important, in the interests of all concerned, that any alleged impropriety on the part of any staff member is brought to our attention with sufficient detail to enable the matter to be fully investigated.

The Department provides both a dedicated phone number and a facility on the Department’s website for this purpose. Persons are asked to provide as much detail as possible about the case they are reporting and they can do so anonymously.

All anonymous or confidential reports are examined and, where relevant, are referred to the relevant sections for follow-up action. In relation to alleged fraudulent behaviour by a customer, while a payment is not suspended or stopped solely on the basis of an anonymous report, it may “trigger” the instigation of a review of a customer’s entitlement. A Social Welfare Inspector may then deem it appropriate to carry out a full review of the circumstances and means of the customer in order to determine on-going entitlement to the relevant payment. The Inspector will then submit their report to a Deciding Officer for decision regarding on-going entitlement to the social welfare payment. The Deciding Officer’s decision will be based on the full facts and circumstances of the case, including the report of the review by the Inspector.

It is the view of my Department that this process provides a clear mechanism for investigating allegations of fraud without prejudice to the customer. In any case where the customer is not satisfied with the decision of a Deciding Officer, it is open to them to lodge an appeal with the Social Welfare Appeals Office within twenty one days.

The Civil Service Code of Standards and Behaviour sets out a clear framework within which civil servants must work and outlines the principles which should govern the behaviour of civil servants and the values which the Civil Service espouses. Where a member of staff of my Department is alleged to have breached the Civil Service Code of Standards and Behaviour; Departmental policies; or engaged in inappropriate behaviour; the matter is dealt with in accordance with the provisions of the Civil Service Disciplinary Code.

Services for People with Disabilities

 94. Deputy Michael McGrath Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will ensure that an accessible transport service will continue to be available to persons with mobility impairments in Cork city arising from the expiration of the contract between Cork Accessible Transport Limited and POBAL in June 2013; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19593/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Access to transport services for persons with mobility impairments is primarily as matter for the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sports and the Health Services Executive. In a number of instances nationally, my Department, through the Community Services Programme has been able to support the provision of services by community companies. Cork Accessible Transport Limited has provided services to people with mobility impairment for a number of years and has been supported under the Community Services Programme, now funded and operated under the aegis of my Department. I have recently become aware that the company plans to terminate the provision of services in Cork City from the middle of 2013. Should another community based organisation come forward to provide this service, my Department will be happy to work with them and the other agencies mentioned to support the operations.

Guardian's Payment Applications

 95. 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 eligibility for guardian's payment will be reviewed in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19489/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The position remains unchanged since my reply to Question Number 620 on 16 April 2013. The Guardian’s Payment was awarded to the person concerned in June 2008 as the qualifying conditions for the payment were satisfied. Following a review of the payment, the Deciding Officer found that the conditions for receipt of Guardians payment were no longer being met, as the child concerned no longer meets the definition of “orphan” under current legislation. Consequently, the Guardians payment was disallowed from 22 February 2013. The Deciding Officer will review the additional material provided and will advise the person concerned as soon as possible of the outcome of that review. The person concerned has been advised of their right to appeal the decision of the Deciding Officer to the independent Social Welfare Appeals Office.

  Question No. 96 withdrawn.

Departmental Staff Remuneration

 97. Deputy Finian McGrath Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will provide in tabular form the number of civil and public servants under the remit of his Department who earn more than €500,000, between €400,000 and €500,000, €300,000 and €400,000, €250,000 and €300,000, €200,000 and €250,000, €150,000 and €200,000, €100,000 and €150,000, €80,000 and €100,000, €60,000 and €80,000, €40,000 and €60,000, €30,000 and €40,000 and less than €30,000. [19503/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I provided the information requested by the Deputy in reply to his previous question on the matter. Question No. 387 was answered on 23rd April 2013.

State Pension (Contributory) Eligibility

 98. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will outline the pension rights for a person who started work in 1967 and will be 66 years old in July 207, with the new changes introduced will they only receive €207 per week due to the pension being calculated on 50 years' working life; her views on whether the average number of years required to work to receive a full pension is 40 throughout Europe, this person currently has more than 1,600 contributions here but because it is calculated on 50 years they lose a lot of money; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19504/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton In order to qualify for a State pension contributory, a person must satisfy a number of qualifying conditions which include; commencing insurable employment at least 10 years before pension age, payment of a minimum of 520 qualifying contributions and achieving a yearly average of at least 10 qualifying contributions, paid or credited, over their working life.

Qualification for a pension is calculated on an averaging system based on the PRSI contributions paid over a working life. The individual’s yearly average number of contributions determines the amount of pension paid. This is generally calculated from the date on which paid employment commenced to pension age, therefore it is varies depending on each individual’s working life. Time taken out of the paid workforce may result in gaps in contribution records, which may result in a lower rate of pension being paid.

The average contributions test has been in existence since 1961 and was designed with a view to ensuring that people could move in and out of PRSI coverage. A move away from the averaging system to a total contributions system is planned. This will mean that the total number of years contributions paid will be considered when assessing entitlement to a pension. The level of pension paid will then be directly proportionate to the number of social insurance contributions made by a person over his or her working life. The proposed change is supported in the OECD Review of the Irish Pension System launched on the 22 April 2013.

The State pension is a very valuable asset and it is important, for sustainability reasons that those who receive it have made a significant contribution towards it during a working life.

Exceptional Needs Payment Applications

 99. 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. 152 of 18 April 2013, if she will review the decision to refuse exceptional needs payment in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19505/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The person concerned submitted an application for an exceptional needs payment on the 08 April 2013 which was refused. It is open to the person concerned to seek a review of this decision from the relevant supplementary welfare allowance review officer.

Departmental Staff Data

 100. Deputy Noel Harrington Information on Noel Harrington Zoom on Noel Harrington asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the number of medical assessors at present in the Department; if there are plans to increase this number to alleviate the backlog of medically based reviews and appeals that the Department is experiencing; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19509/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton There are currently 23 Medical Assessors employed in my Department, including the Chief Medical Adviser and the Deputy Chief Medical Adviser. All of the staff in question serve on a full time basis. As an exception to the current moratorium in the civil and public service, my Department received sanction from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to hold a competition to appoint Medical Assessors, with a view to filling critical vacancies that had arisen following the retirement of a number of serving Medical Assessors.

A public competition, administered on behalf of my Department by the Public Appointments Service (PAS) was held in 2012. Fourteen people were placed on the panel that was established following completion of the competitive process. There are four remaining candidates on this panel and my Department has continued to liaise with the Public Appointments Service with a view to appointing the four remaining candidates at the earliest opportunity.

The Department is committed to ensuring that all claims are examined as expeditiously as possible and the appointment of additional Medical Assessors will help to enable my Department to deliver a quality service to our customers.

  Question No. 101 withdrawn.


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