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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 131-146
 Header Item Disability Allowance Applications
 Header Item Disability Allowance Applications
 Header Item Disability Allowance Eligibility
 Header Item Departmental Expenditure
 Header Item Departmental Contracts
 Header Item Community Employment Schemes Operation
 Header Item Domiciliary Care Allowance Appeals
 Header Item State Pension (Contributory) Eligibility
 Header Item Carer's Allowance Applications
 Header Item Carer's Allowance Eligibility
 Header Item Departmental Staff Promotions
 Header Item Insurance Costs
 Header Item Vehicle Registration
 Header Item Flood Risk Insurance Cover
 Header Item Disability Allowance Applications

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 903 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 79 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 131-146

Disability Allowance Applications

 131. Deputy Pat Rabbitte Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she is aware that the participants who enter the 12-month residential programme for men with addiction problems, and who are homeless, in Tallaght in Dublin 24 are mostly in receipt of a jobseeker's allowance, which is terminated after 14 weeks when they are entitled to a supplementary welfare allowance, and that they are then ineligible to go on to community employment schemes, SOLAS training courses, education courses and Tús programmes, in respect of which continuous entitlement to a jobseeker's allowance is required; if she will authorise the local office to extend the entitlement to a jobseeker's allowance for six months to facilitate participants returning to work and education; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2279/16]

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton A person in receipt of a jobseeker's payment who is participating in a rehabilitation programme for an addiction, on a residential basis in a HSE approved treatment centre, may be permitted to retain their jobseeker’s payment for up to 14 weeks. These programmes support the customer in building their capacity to return to employment in the future.

Customers are advised, at the outset, that these arrangements are intended to cater for a short term stay only e.g. up to 14 weeks to facilitate them in their treatment.

Should a person remain in a residential treatment programme beyond 14 weeks they are advised to apply for a payment more suited to their circumstances, for example, Supplementary Welfare Allowance.

All schemes, employment programmes, training and education courses have particular qualifying conditions and a customer's eligibility for them is examined on an individual basis.

Disability Allowance Applications

 132. Deputy Tom Fleming Information on Tom Fleming Zoom on Tom Fleming asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will expedite an application by a person (details supplied) in County Kerry under the disability allowance scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2284/16]

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The application for disability allowance (DA), based upon the evidence submitted, was refused on medical grounds and the person in question was notified in writing of this decision on 14 January 2016. The person was also notified of his right to a review of this decision or to appeal it to the independent Social Welfare Appeals Office.

Disability Allowance Eligibility

 133. Deputy Willie Penrose Information on Willie Penrose Zoom on Willie Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the precise basis upon which a case of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath under the disability allowance scheme has been reviewed and the circumstances thereof; if she will give cognisance to the considerable outlay and expenditure incurred by this; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2292/16]

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Disability allowance (DA) is a means tested scheme. Any income, with some specified exceptions, belonging to the person and/or his or her spouse/partner/co-habitant is assessable as means for DA purposes. Full details of the means assessment rules for DA can be found on www.welfare.ie.

Following a routine review of entitlement, it was established that the financial circumstances of the person in question had changed, which resulted in a reduced entitlement. There is no discretion allowed to deciding officers in the assessment of means as the relevant rules and regulations are laid down in social welfare legislation.

Departmental Expenditure

 134. Deputy Thomas Pringle Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the amount Seetec Employment and Skills Ireland has been paid for its work under the JobPath scheme; how many persons it has assisted; her views on whether this represents value for money; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2315/16]

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton JobPath is a new approach to employment activation to support long-term unemployed people and those most at risk of becoming long-term unemployed to secure and sustain paid employment. Two companies, Turas Nua and Seetec, have been contracted by the Department to deliver JobPath services. At the end of 2015 some 3,000 jobseekers had been referred to Seetec. It is not intended to publish the individual payments to the JobPath companies as these are commercially sensitive and to do so would place the State at a disadvantage both in terms of the contracts now in place and any future procurement that may be undertaken. JobPath is a payment by results model and all initial costs are borne by the companies. JobPath is so structured that the companies will not be able to fully recover their costs until they place sufficient numbers of jobseekers into sustainable jobs. The companies have a year to work with each jobseeker in order to secure employment. Participants on JobPath receive intensive individual support to help them address barriers to employment and to find jobs. Each person is assigned a personal advisor who assesses their skills, experience, challenges and work goals and agrees a personal progression plan that includes a schedule of activities, actions and job focused targets. Participants are provided with a range of development supports and may also be referred for further education and training opportunities. If placed into a job the companies will continue to provide in-work support to the client for at least three months and up to twelve months while the client remains in employment.

Departmental Contracts

 135. Deputy Thomas Pringle Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the organisations she uses for outsourcing departmental work, including the processing of applications, the value of the contracts in place and the tasks they carry out; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2316/16]

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The details requested are currently being compiled and a response will issue directly to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Community Employment Schemes Operation

 136. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton her proposals to deal with community employment schemes where their insurance per participant has increased six-fold in some instances; and if she is aware of this and the measures she will take to assist schemes and to ensure their sustainability. [2318/16]

Minister of State at the Department of Social Protection (Deputy Kevin Humphreys): Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys This Department has become aware in recent times of increases in insurance premiums for CE schemes. The main reasons cited for this is an increase in claims frequency over recent years by such schemes. The Department has been in consultation with the main insurers and brokers about the proposed increase and to seek to limit the incidence of future claims.

  The Department recommends that schemes seek alternative quotes to ensure they get value for money in the first instance. Insurance premiums costs are reimbursed from the CE materials budget for the scheme. Schemes are asked to be especially mindful of their obligations under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005.

  The Department is not in a position at present to allocate additional monies to the materials budget in 2016. While materials budgets are allocated on an annual basis, if there is a scheme experiencing particular difficulties, the sponsor should contact their local Intreo office in relation to this matter.

Domiciliary Care Allowance Appeals

 137. Deputy John Browne Information on John Browne Zoom on John Browne asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the status of an appeal of a decision refusing domiciliary care allowance to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5; and if she will reconsider this decision and grant the allowance in the circumstances. [2325/16]

Tánaiste and 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 7 December 2015. 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 these papers have been received from the Department, the case 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 appeal 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 in relation to social welfare entitlements.

State Pension (Contributory) Eligibility

 138. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if a person (details supplied) in County Kerry will be provided with credited contributions for the period the person was in receipt of a carer's allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2327/16]

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The person concerned applied for state pension (contributory) in February 2014. Their claim was disallowed as they did not satisfy the requirement to have a minimum of 520 paid full-rate Irish insurance contributions. Even if additional credited contributions were considered to be due for a period spent caring, the minimum paid contributions condition would remain unsatisfied.

The person’s entitlement to a state pension (contributory) under EU Regulations is also being examined. The United Kingdom’s Department for Work and Pensions has advised that it is awaiting confirmation of the person’s UK insurance record from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, taking into account documentary evidence submitted regarding additional contributions for the 1967-68 UK contribution year. On receipt by my Department of the revised UK social insurance record for the person concerned, their pension entitlement under EU Regulations will be reviewed and the person concerned will be notified of the outcome without delay.

Carer's Allowance Applications

 139. Deputy Sandra McLellan Information on Sandra McLellan Zoom on Sandra McLellan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton to expedite an application that was submitted by a person (details supplied) in County Cork in October 2015 under the carer's allowance scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2332/16]

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Carer’s allowance (CA) is in payment to the person concerned since 14 August 2014 in respect of one care recipient.

  The department received an application for CA for a 2nd care recipient from the person concerned on 12 October 2015. CA was awarded to the person concerned on 15 January 2016 and the first payment will issue to their nominated bank account on 21 January 2016 November 2015. Arrears of allowance due from 15 October 2015 to 20 January 2016 have also issued.

  The person concerned has been notified of the outcome.

Carer's Allowance Eligibility

 140. Deputy Willie Penrose Information on Willie Penrose Zoom on Willie Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath is entitled to the full rate of a carer’s allowance, given the person's recent application; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2334/16]

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The person concerned is in receipt of carer’s allowance (CA) at a reduced rate of payment from 17 April 2003.

  The person concerned has requested a review and submitted additional evidence in support of this review. The review is currently being processed and once completed, the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

  Question No. 141 withdrawn.

Departmental Staff Promotions

 142. Deputy Sean Fleming Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton under the Civil Service reform programme, the number of clerical officers who have been promoted to higher executive officer and the number of executive officers who have been promoted to assistant principal officer in her Department through internal competitions after the significant change in eligibility rules; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [2582/16]

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The last internal competitions which were run for promotion to the Higher Executive Officer and Assistant Principal Officer grades within the Department of Social Protection had a closing date of September 2013. This pre-dated the changes in eligibility rules referred to, which were introduced in January 2014.

Insurance Costs

 143. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan if he will liaise with the Irish Insurance Federation to ascertain why returning emigrants with clean driving licences and a history of driving abroad in countries such as Australia, the United States of America and Canada are being charged exorbitant amounts for their premia; if he will prioritise dealing with this injustice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1670/16]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan As Minister for Finance, I am responsible for the development of the legal framework governing financial regulation. Neither I, nor the Central Bank of Ireland, may interfere in the provision or pricing of insurance products. The EU framework for insurance expressly prohibits Member States from adopting rules which require insurance companies to obtain prior approval of the pricing, or terms and conditions of an insurance product.  

The provision of insurance cover and the price at which it is offered, including the granting of no claims discounts, is a commercial matter for insurance companies and is based on an assessment of the risks they are willing to accept and adequate provisioning to meet those risks.  These are considered by insurance companies on a case by case basis.  Variations in the costs and risks of providing motor insurance cover can vary between different countries.

Insurance Ireland, which represents the insurance industry in Ireland, has informed me that motor insurers use a combination of rating factors in making their individual decisions on whether to offer cover and what terms to apply. Factors include those such as the age of the driver, the type of car, the claims record, driving experience, the number of drivers, how the car is used, etc.

Insurance Ireland has also informed me that, in general terms, where there has been no motor insurance in an individual's name and there is a gap of cover of two years or more since their last insurance, a no claims discount is deemed invalid. However, it further states that if the individual can produce confirmation that they have been continually insured and are claim-free in their own name while they were abroad this would be taken into consideration.

Insurance Ireland operates a free Insurance Information Service for those who have queries, complaints or difficulties in relation to obtaining insurance. In the event that a person is unable to obtain a quotation for motor insurance or feels that the premium proposed or the terms are so excessive that it amounts to a refusal to give them motor insurance, they should contact Insurance Ireland, 5 Harbourmaster Place, IFSC, Dublin 1, Telephone +353 1 6761820, quoting the Declined Cases Agreement.

Vehicle Registration

 144. Deputy Barry Cowen Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan the costs of extending the vehicle registration tax rebate for electric vehicles until 2017 and until 2020. [2124/16]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan Section 62 of the Finance Act 2014 provided for an extension of the reliefs from Vehicle Registration Tax (VRT) available for electric vehicles, hybrid electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles till 31 December 2016. The cost of the VRT rebate for electric vehicles in 2015 was €2 million.  As the cost of extending the rebate until 2017 and 2020 will rely on a number of factors such as levels registrations of electric vehicles and the Open Market Selling Price (OMSP) of those vehicles during that period, it is not possible to accurately calculate the cost requested.

Flood Risk Insurance Cover

 145. Deputy Michael McCarthy Information on Michael McCarthy Zoom on Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan his views on correspondence (details supplied) regarding flood insurance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1862/16]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan I am aware of the difficulties that the absence of flood insurance cover can cause to householders and businesses. However, the provision of insurance cover and the price at which it is offered is a commercial matter for insurance companies and is based on an assessment of the risks they are willing to accept and adequate provisioning to meet those risks. In my role as Minister for Finance, I have responsibility for the development of the legal framework governing financial regulation.  Neither I, nor the Central Bank of Ireland, can interfere in the provision or pricing of insurance products or have the power to direct insurance companies to provide flood cover to specific individuals.

Government policy in relation to flooding is focused on the development of a sustainable, planned and risk-based approach to dealing with flooding problems, with a view to addressing the increased availability of flood insurance. To achieve this aim, there is a focus on prioritising spending on flood relief measures, development and implementation of plans by the Office of Public Works (OPW) to implement flood relief schemes. This strategy is complemented by a Memorandum of Understanding between the OPW and Insurance Ireland which provides for the transfer by the OPW of data in relation to completed flood defence schemes to the insurance industry, which should provide a basis for the increased provision of flood insurance in areas where works have been completed. 

The OPW has advised me that Durrus in Co. Cork is an Area of Further Assessment (AFA) under the Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management project, and has therefore been the subject of detailed assessment and modelling, leading to the production of draft flood maps. These draft maps were the subject of local Public Consultation Days throughout the country and a statutory public consultation process which concluded on 23rd December 2015. It has clearly been stated that the draft flood maps were published for consultation purposes only and use of the maps for any other purposes is not permitted.  Specifically, Insurance Ireland has been informed that these maps cannot be relied upon to inform insurance premiums, policies or excesses. All comments/responses received during the public consultation process will be considered before the flood maps are finalised. The OPW has further advised me that for Sruth Mhuileann, the draft maps indicate that part of this development is an area of low flood probability, i.e. a 0.1% Annual Exceedance Probability (AEP) or a 1,000 year return period, while the remainder of the development is not a flood risk. The preferred design standard that flood risk options are to address is typically the 1% AEP or 100 year return period, and flood risk management options are not designed to manage more extreme flood risks than this.

The current flooding crisis has raised issues in relation to insurance and flooding. The Taoiseach and some other of my colleagues in Government met the insurance industry on Tuesday 12th January 2016 to discuss the industry's role in providing flood insurance and to obtain the industry's views on flood insurance issues such as those outlined in the correspondence supplied by the Deputy. The Taoiseach has asked the insurance industry to revert back within two weeks following further consideration of their approach to the provision of insurance in areas where demountable defences are in place, along with details on the availability of insurance in areas with flood defences.

In addition, my officials are undertaking detailed research on alternative options with the potential to ensure greater availability of flood insurance. This will be in the form of a comparative analysis of the different approaches to flood insurance in other countries.

Disability Allowance Applications

 146. Deputy Michael McGrath Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan if the National Asset Management Agency will allow individual potential home buyers an opportunity to purchase units it is selling rather than disposing of them to investors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1883/16]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan The Deputy will be aware that NAMA does not own residential property and therefore it not itself in a position to sell such property. Rather NAMA has acquired loans and its role is that of a lender with claims over security for its loans, like a bank, rather than a property owner or lessor.  The sale of properties securing NAMA's loans is managed directly by the property owners or, where the property is the subject of enforcement, by the appointed receiver/administrator.

  NAMA debtors and receivers, who do control residential property, offer such property for open market sale and, in the majority of cases, potential homebuyers may bid for individual residential units. These are advertised in the normal way in newspapers and estate agent websites throughout the country. A selling agent, who advertises a property on behalf of a debtor, would not generally refer to specific properties as being affiliated to the secured lender. This is no different in the sale of property securing NAMA's loans than it would be for the sale of properties securing a bank's loans.

  The NAMA website (www.nama.ie) includes a list of residential properties to which receivers have been appointed and which are either for sale or are likely to be offered for sale through receivers in the near future.  The NAMA website does not include properties being sold by NAMA debtors or their agents, as to do so would identify such debtors as NAMA debtors.  NAMA is legally precluded from identifying its debtors under the NAMA Act 2009.  As explained, these properties are openly marketed by the debtor or appointed receiver, rather than NAMA, and are open to bids from individual buyers in the majority of cases.

  In certain cases, NAMA debtors and receivers have offered residential units for sale as part of multi-unit sales transactions where this was the most efficient means of managing and completing transactions. However, in such cases, the units concerned are usually occupied by tenants under letting agreements and the option of sale by individual unit may not necessarily be available.  A tenant's statutory rights are unaffected by any such sale.  As the Deputy will be aware, the decision on sales strategy is made based on the maximisation of value in all instances.


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