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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 36 - 44
 Header Item Redundancy Payments
 Header Item Gender Recognition
 Header Item Anti-Poverty Strategy
 Header Item Redundancy Payments
 Header Item Community Employment Schemes Places
 Header Item Social Welfare Offices
 Header Item Jobseeker's Allowance Eligibility
 Header Item Exceptional Needs Payments

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 800 No. 4

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Written Answers Nos. 36 - 44

Redundancy Payments

 36. 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 further to Parliamentary Question No. 110 of 5 March 2013, in which she stated that a person must be employed for 104 weeks before they have a reasonable attachment to employment in order to receive a redundancy payment, her plans regarding a potential reduction in this criteria; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18833/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The purpose of the redundancy payments scheme is to compensate workers, under the Redundancy Payments Acts, for the loss of their jobs by reason of redundancy. Under the scheme, an eligible employee is entitled to two weeks’ pay for every year of service, plus a bonus week, subject to a gross weekly salary ceiling of €600. It is the employer’s responsibility to pay statutory redundancy payments in the first instance. Where an employer can prove to the satisfaction of the Department that it is unable to pay statutory redundancy to its eligible employees the Department will make lump sum payments directly to those employees. Such payments raise a debt against the employer which the Department seeks to recover. Lump sum payments made by the Department are paid from the Social Insurance Fund.

In order to be eligible for a statutory redundancy payment, an employee must: be in employment which is insurable under the Social Welfare Acts; be over the age of 16; and have been made redundant as a result of a genuine redundancy situation meaning that the job no longer exists and he/she is not replaced. In addition, the employee must have at least 104 weeks continuous service, with the employer who is making the statutory redundancy payment. This ensures that the employee has had a reasonable attachment to that employer. I have no plans to change this requirement.

Gender Recognition

 37. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the date on which she will introduce gender recognition legislation. [18834/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The Gender Recognition Advisory Group (GRAG) was established in 2010 to advise the Government on the legislation required to give legal recognition to

the acquired gender of transgender persons. The Group engaged in a public consultation exercise which provided organisations and individuals with the

opportunity to contribute their comments and proposals.

The Report of the Group, which recommended a scheme for the legal recognition of transgender persons, was approved by the Government on 12 July 2011, and was subsequently published on 14 July 2011. Since the publication of the Report, the Department has been working on developing draft Heads of a Gender Recognition Bill. In this context, it has engaged in discussions with the relevant medical health professionals and with representatives from interested NGOs. Given the legal complexities involved in relation to some of the GRAG recommendations relating to the marital and civil partnership status of individuals, in March 2012 the Department sought advice from the Office of the Attorney General, which in turn sought the legal opinion of external counsel on these issues.

The formal opinion of the Attorney General was received in December 2012 and is currently under consideration by officials in this Department with a view to progressing the draft Heads of the Bill. There are a range of complex and sensitive issues involved in this proposed legislation to give legal recognition to the acquired gender of transgender persons. I have requested the Oireachtas Committee on Education and Social Protection to consider the provisional draft Heads of Bill once they are completed. I feel that the committee can make a very positive contribution to the preparation of the legislation and I hope that my officials’ appearance before the committee can be scheduled before the summer. I believe this approach should greatly assist the drafting of the legislation and its progress through the Oireachtas. When the Oireachtas committee has discussed the provisional draft heads of Bill I will be in a better position to give a timeframe for the introduction of the legislation.

Anti-Poverty Strategy

 38. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will provide an update on the implementation of the National Action Plan for Social Inclusion 2007-2016; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18847/13]

 40. Deputy John Browne Information on John Browne Zoom on John Browne asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the progress that has been made on the Programme for Government objective of eliminating poverty; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18964/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I propose to take Questions Nos. 38 and 40 together.

The National Action Plan for Social Inclusion 2007-2016 (NAPinclusion) identifies a wide range of targeted actions and interventions to achieve the overall objective of reducing consistent poverty. The Department published its third periodic report on progress in implementing NAPinclusion for the two year period 2009-2010 in July 2012 and is in the process of completing a further progress update for January 2011 to December 2012. The Department also convened the Social Inclusion Forum in March 2013 so as to enable us to get the views of all stakeholders on progress with the NAPinclusion. A report on the Forum will be completed in due course. The Department published its third periodic report on progress in implementing NAPinclusion for the two year period 2009-2010 in July 2012 and is in the process of completing a further progress update for January 2011 to December 2012. The Department also convened the Social Inclusion Forum in March 2013 so as to enable us to get the views of all stakeholders on progress with the NAPinclusion. A report on the Forum will be completed in due course.

Following a comprehensive review in 2012, the Government revised the national social target for poverty reduction. The revised target is to reduce consistent poverty to 4 per cent by 2016 (interim target) and to 2 per cent or less by 2020, from the 2010 baseline rate of 6.2 per cent. Ireland’s revised contribution to the EU poverty target is to lift a minimum of 200,000 people out of the population in ‘combined poverty’ between 2012 and 2020. In addition, the Government has agreed to set new sub-targets for children and jobless households and to strengthen the implementation of the target through annual monitoring and social impact assessment.

The Department recently published, for the first time, a “Social Inclusion Monitor” using the latest data from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) to report on progress towards the national social target for poverty reduction. In 2011, the consistent poverty rate was 6.9 per cent, which according to the CSO ‘is not a statistically significant change on the 2010 figure of 6.3 per cent’. The consistent poverty trend in the first year of monitoring the new target reflects the severity of the economic crisis but also demonstrates the effectiveness of policy given the strong performance of social transfers in protecting those on the lowest incomes. In 2011, social transfers (excluding pensions) reduced the at-risk-of poverty rate from 40 per cent to 16 per cent, representing a poverty reduction effect of 60 per cent (rising to 68 per cent if pensions are included).

The Deputies will appreciate that it is too early to draw firm conclusions on the extent to which poverty can be reduced over the coming years. However, the Government expects that effective and targeted policies across all Government programmes and Department - coupled with improvement in the underlying economy and labour and boosted by the commitment of the social partners and civil society - will yield future dividends on reaching the national social target for poverty reduction in the years up to 2020.

Redundancy Payments

 39. 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 the date on which her Department’s website will reinstate the practice of showing a statistical breakdown of redundancy figures based on industry, county and gender. [18832/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton At present, the Department is not in a position to provide a breakdown of the redundancy statistics by county, sector or gender. Work on the reporting facility of the redundancy payments system is ongoing. It is hoped that it will be possible to provide these types of data in the near future but I am not in a position to specify a date for this to happen. The Department will communicate with the Deputy when these are available. Information on the overall number of redundancy applications received by the Department is available on the Department’s website www.welfare.ie.

  Question No. 40 answered with Question No. 38.

Community Employment Schemes Places

 41. Deputy Martin Ferris Information on Martin Ferris Zoom on Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will provide details on the operation of the proposed local authority community employment scheme; if she will provide the timetable for its roll out; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18839/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The Government, as part of the Budget package for 2013, announced a number of initiatives focused on providing work opportunities for those currently unemployed. One element of this package is the development of a new initiative with local authorities to provide 3,000 work opportunities in 2013. This is in line with the commitments set out in the Action Plan for Jobs and Pathways to Work. Details of the design of the initiative and the nature of work to be undertaken in each local authority area is advancing with a number of local authorities likely to be able to being the roll-out of the scheme in the coming weeks. The range of work to be undertaken and consultation with local stakeholders, including staff representatives of the local authority, is primarily a matter for each local authority.

Social Welfare Offices

 42. Deputy Derek Keating Information on Derek Keating Zoom on Derek Keating asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will outline her discussions in relation to the Office of Public Works and the advancing of her commitment to open a social welfare office in the Lucan area of County Dublin; if her attention has been drawn to the recent visit by the Minister of State at the Department of Finance with responsibility for the Office of Public Works to a location in Lucan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18698/13]

 53. Deputy Derek Keating Information on Derek Keating Zoom on Derek Keating asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton her plans to develop a one stop shop for social welfare recipients in the Clondalkin, Palmerstown and Lucan areas of County Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18699/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I propose to take Questions Nos. 42 and 53 together.

  The Department is committed to providing new Intreo Centres in these areas. The Office of Public Works (OPW) is responsible for providing the Department with its office accommodation requirements and my officials currently meet with officials of that office on a fortnightly basis to discuss progress on delivery across the country. I understand, in this regard, that a possible property solution has been identified for Clondalkin and is currently under negotiation.

  In the week beginning 11 March 2013, the OPW placed advertisements in national newspapers seeking expressions of interest from landlords and developers in providing suitable accommodation that could serve the Lucan- Adamstown area. However, no responses were received. The OPW continues to explore all options including engaging with other bodies in order to provide a satisfactory solution. I am not aware of any visit by the Minister of State at the Department of Finance with responsibility for the OPW to a location in Lucan.

Jobseeker's Allowance Eligibility

 43. Deputy Thomas Pringle Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton with regards to young homeless persons on the half rate social welfare payment who are trapped in emergency accommodation if she will consider proposals that will allow these young persons to access a full payment in order that they may find secure accommodation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18806/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The €100 rate of jobseeker’s allowance was introduced for claimants aged under 20 in April 2009, and this rate was applied to claimants aged up to 21 from December 2009. A rate of €144 applies to claimants aged 22-24. The measures encourage young jobseekers to improve their skills and remain active in the labour market in order to avoid the risk of becoming long-term unemployed and will help them to progress into sustainable employment on a long-term basis. Where a person is in receipt of a rate of jobseeker's allowance described above and he or she participates in a course of education, training, Community Employment, Rural Social Scheme or Tús, a higher rate of €160 applies. I understand that the Deputy has been contacted with regard to these measures by Focus Ireland. My officials are in contact with Focus Ireland in relation to their concerns. While the primary issue in this regard is a housing issue rather than one of income support, my Department will continue to engage with Focus Ireland and to seek a viable solution.

Exceptional Needs Payments

 44. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the average payment made under the exceptional needs payment scheme during each of the first three months of 2013. [18825/13]

 52. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will provide figures for the amount of money allocated to community welfare officers for emergency payments of utility bills such as gas, electricity, heating oil and so on in each year for the past three years; her views on any increases in demands upon CWOs for such emergency payments; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18697/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I propose to take Questions Nos. 44 and 52 together.

 Under the supplementary welfare allowance (SWA) scheme, the Department may make a single exceptional needs payment (ENP) to help meet essential, once-off 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. ENPs 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. There is no automatic entitlement to a payment or predetermined amounts under the different categories of ENPs.

  The average ENP payment made during each of the first three months of 2013 is outlined in the attached tabular statement. Statistics on ENP expenditure in respect of utility bills and heating costs for the years 2010 to 2012 show a reduction in the amounts paid, details of which are also provided.

Average ENPs 2013:

Month January February March
Average ENP Amount €265 €263 €268


ENPs for Utility and Heating payments 2010 – 2012:
Category 2010 2011 2012
ESB €2.0m €2.0m €1.8m
GAS €0.9m €0.6m €0.4m
HEATING €1.5m €1.3m €1.1m


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