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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 122-130
 Header Item Ministerial Travel
 Header Item Jobseeker's Allowance Appeals
 Header Item One-Parent Family Payment Applications
 Header Item Homeless Persons Supports
 Header Item Mortgage Resolution Processes
 Header Item Departmental Expenditure
 Header Item International Agreements

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 800 No. 4

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Written Answers Nos. 122-130

Ministerial Travel

 122. Deputy Jerry Buttimer Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will report on her visit to Chicago; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18695/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The St Patrick’s Day period offers an unparalleled opportunity to showcase Ireland abroad, promote our political and economic interests, and demonstrate our strengths as a location for trade and investment. As part of the Government’s St Patrick’s Day “Promote Ireland” programme, I travelled to Milwaukee and Chicago to meet with political, business and civic leaders and organisations and undertook a wide-ranging series of engagements.  In Milwaukee on Thursday March 14, among other engagements, I met with the Mayor of Milwaukee, Mr Tom Barrett; members of the Milwaukee Irish Fest, which promotes and celebrates Irish culture; and the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation, which educates and mentors owners of small and micro-businesses in Wisconsin, with a specific focus on women, minorities and those on low-incomes. In the same vein, I met with BizStarts Milwaukee, an organisation which seeks to nurture and connect entrepreneurs and foster new businesses. I also met with Dr Anthony Pennington Cross, Professor of Finance at Marquette University, to discuss the issue of distressed mortgages.

  In Chicago, from Friday March 15 to Monday March 18 inclusive, I met with the Mayor of Chicago, Mr Rahm Emanuel, attended the St Patrick’s Day Mass in St Patrick’s Old Cathedral, and attended the Chicago St Patrick’s Day Parade. I also attended events hosted by the Irish American Partnership, the Celtic Legal Society of Chicago, and the Irish Fellowship Club of Chicago. I met with groups seeking reform of the US immigration system, namely the Chicago Celts for Immigration Reform and the Chicago Irish Immigrant Support Organisation, to update them on the Government’s continuing work in this area.

  I visited the Irish American Heritage Centre and Gaelic Park, and met with members of the Southside Irish community. I met with the Educare Early Schooling Programme and After School Matters organisation to discuss childcare and child welfare issues. I also met with members of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, and took the opportunity to brief the members on economic progress being made in Ireland, and hear from them on the US economic outlook. Finally, I met with a number of members of the media during the course of my visit, including the editorial board of the Chicago Tribune, to discuss the Government’s progress in returning Ireland to economic stability.

Jobseeker's Allowance Appeals

 123. 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 if she will review a jobseeker's allowance granted to a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19176/13]

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 referred to an Appeals Officer on 1 March 2013, 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.

One-Parent Family Payment Applications

 124. 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 an application for social welfare in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19177/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The person concerned applied for One-Parent Family Payment on 11 April 2013. The application is currently with a Social Welfare Inspector for investigation and she will be notified of the outcome as soon as possible.

Homeless Persons Supports

 125. 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 action is being taken by her Department to provide assistance to young persons who are homeless to ensure they do not become trapped in emergency accommodation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19184/13]

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. More generally, the Deputy may wish to note that my Department’s role with regard to persons who are homeless is mainly income maintenance. Under the social welfare system, homeless people have entitlements to the full range of social welfare schemes, including supplementary welfare allowance and associated supplements, subject to the normal qualifying conditions.

Mortgage Resolution Processes

 126. Deputy Willie O'Dea Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will consider widening the pool of reference related to social welfare recipients in mortgage arrears to include experienced financial brokers and not solely accountants as currently proposed by her; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19194/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The Mortgage Arrears Information and Advice Service was established to provide a comprehensive and coordinated approach to assist people in mortgage distress. The approach differentiates between mortgage information and mortgage advice. The first two elements involve the enhancement of the website www.keepingyourhome.ie and the establishment of a Mortgage Arrears Information Helpline within the Citizens Information Board both of which focus on the provision of comprehensive mortgage arrears information in particular to people in arrears or pre-arrears. The third element of the service is the provision of independent financial advice to mortgage holders who are being presented with long term mortgage resolution proposals by their lenders. This advice is provided by a panel of accountants drawn from members of the main accountancy institutes in Ireland who have agreed to participate and support this independent service. This panel is available on a county by county basis on the website www.keepingyourhome.ie.

When a lender is proposing a longer-term mortgage resolution, the lender advises the borrower to obtain independent financial advice on the proposed arrangement and that, if the borrower wishes to avail of this option, that the lender will pay €250 to an accountant of the borrower’s choosing for the provision of this advice. The advisory framework has commenced with practising accountants because they already operate within a regulatory regime which includes qualitative oversight by their regulating bodies and in these circumstances it was possible to establish the advisory framework for people with mortgage distress within a relatively short timeframe.

There is nothing to inhibit other financial intermediaries from continuing to give advice on mortgages as required by borrowers. The advisory framework is being monitored on an on-going basis and a full review of the service will be undertaken in June 2013. The review will be undertaken to ensure that it is meeting its objectives and will encompass all aspects of the service including if participation is extended to other interested parties, the criteria that would be required in terms of relevant qualifications, experience, independence, professional indemnity insurance, etc. All relevant stakeholders will have an opportunity to input to the review.

Departmental Expenditure

 127. Deputy Sean Fleming Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if any of her Department’s 2012 capital expenditure allocation was used for current expenditure purposes last year, the amount used for this purpose; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19221/13]

 128. Deputy Sean Fleming Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will provide the month by month profile for her Department's 2013 capital expendiuture; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19237/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I propose to take Questions Nos. 127 and 128 together.

  The Department of Social Protection’s capital allocation for 2012 was not used for current expenditure purposes in 2012. The table below details the monthly profile of the 2013 Capital Allocation for the Department of Social Protection. The total capital allocation provided for in the 2013 REV published last week is €10.5m. There is also provision in the REV for the carryover of €1.050m, which was unspent in 2012. It is proposed that €5m of this allocation will be used to cover the purchase of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) equipment, such as computer hardware and software, desktop and other infrastructural equipment. €5.1m of the allocation will be used to provide for the costs of new buildings and the refurbishment of other buildings. The carryover of €1.05m has also been assigned to this subhead. A major portion of this allocation will be used for the continued roll-out of the Intreo service. To date 12 offices are now providing the full Intreo service and it is expected that a total of 43 offices will be delivering the Intreo service by the end of 2013. The remainder of the allocation (€0.4m) has been allocated to the e-Government projects which have a public sector wide impact such as the continued roll-out of the Public Service Card.

The cumulative profile to the end of March 2013 was €697,400 of which €650,000 has been expended.

- 2013 Capital Allocation Capital Carryover
Jan 138,400  
Feb 210,000  
Mar 349,000  
Apr 320,000 1,050,000
May 1,307,000  
Jun 2,290,000  
Jul 402,500  
Aug 368,000  
Sep 2,085,000  
Oct 521,000  
Nov 535,000  
Dec 1,974,100  
Totals 10,500,000 1,050,000

  Question No. 129 withdrawn.

International Agreements

 130. 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 if there is a mutual tax/social welfare agreement between Ireland and Canada which would allow a returning emigrant to have a disability payment being paid to them in Ontario, Canada, to be paid in Ireland where they have family who can help support them with their disablement or if he will be entitled to an Irish social welfare payment if he returned home, having worked in Ireland until 1975 and is 61 years of age. [19298/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton A bilateral Social Security Agreement between Ireland and Canada came into force on 1 January 1992, (Statutory Instrument No. 317 of 1991). The main purpose of the Agreement is to protect the pension rights of people who have worked in Ireland and who have worked or resided in Canada. The pension payments covered in the act are, old age (contributory) pensions, retirement pensions, invalidity pensions, widows (contributory) pensions.

One of the provisions of this agreement is that certain payments payable by the authorities in one country, can be paid even if the person concerned lives in the other country. Without more information on the payment that this person is receiving in Canada, I cannot give a definite answer as to his entitlement to have it paid by the Canadian authorities if he moves to Ireland, but I can confirm that some disability payments can be made under this arrangement. In addition, if a person is not entitled to the payment of a benefit because he or she has not completed sufficient reckonable periods in Ireland alone, the bilateral agreement allows for the contributions from Canada to be combined with Irish contributions. The person's entitlement to benefit shall be determined on the basis of the totalised periods in accordance with the relevant statutory contribution conditions provided for under the legislation of Ireland.

Finally, if the person does not qualify under either of the above arrangements, if he returns to Ireland it would be open to him to apply for a non-contributory Disability Allowance, which is means tested and subject to the habitual residence condition (HRC). Each case is determined on its own merits, and I do not have sufficient information on the circumstances of the individual in question to give a view on whether he would qualify for Disability Allowance.


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