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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 196-205
 Header Item Household Benefits
 Header Item Social Insurance Issues
 Header Item Carer's Allowance Applications
 Header Item Rural Social Scheme Eligibility
 Header Item Widow's Pension Applications
 Header Item Disability Allowance Applications
 Header Item Pension Provisions
 Header Item Invalidity Pension Appeals
 Header Item Disability Allowance Eligibility

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 802 No. 1

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Written Answers Nos. 196-205

Household Benefits

 196. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton her view on the new Electric Ireland policy being implemented in September 2013; the way this will effect saved electrical units; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21233/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton  In 2013, my Department will spend an estimated €284 million on the household benefits scheme, providing some 410,000 customers with a package worth almost €700 per year.

The structure of the electricity and gas allowance was changed from a unit based allowance to a cash credit which is currently €35 per month. This rate is aligned to the best average market rate currently available. The changed structure of the allowance is designed to encourage customers to achieve better savings through greater mobility between energy suppliers who can best meet their individual energy needs.

The new arrangement represents a significant improvement in the options available for customers. Customers who do not use their full entitlement each month will be able to carry forward that unused cash credit and draw it down as they wish; this includes customers who wish to switch to a different supplier. Prior to these changes, customers with Electric Ireland could not carry forward their unused credits if they switched to a new supplier; this acted as an impediment to customers achieving the best value for their particular energy needs. Under the new arrangement, customers with Electric Ireland who build up cash credits will have those credits refunded if they switch to a different company.

As regards the old non-cash units, a number of customers have unused units which they have carried over from 2012. These customers may use these unused units up to the end of September, 2013. My Department has contacted customers in this regard.

Social Insurance Issues

 197. Deputy David Stanton Information on David Stanton Zoom on David Stanton asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the position of working proprietary directors and PRSI; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21414/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton  The determination of the employment status and therefore the PRSI Class applicable to working directors has been the subject of challenges, court judgments and legal advices. As a result, the Department is examining the matters that determine the insurability status of working directors, having regard to these judgments and advices. In the meantime decisions have been suspended.

I would hope that I would be in a position to bring forward proposals to address this complex area shortly.

Carer's Allowance Applications

 198. Deputy John McGuinness Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will review an application for carer's allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow; and if she will expedite a positive reply. [21085/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I confirm that the department received an application for carer’s allowance from the person in question on the 12th of October 2012. The person concerned was refused carers allowance on the 4th of April 2013 on the grounds that the care recipient is not so disabled as to require full time care and attention as prescribed in regulations. He was notified of this decision and the reason for it.

  The person in question requested a review of this decision and submitted additional medical evidence in support of the application. This supplementary information has been forwarded to the Department’s medical assessor for consideration. Once the review is completed in this case the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

Rural Social Scheme Eligibility

 199. 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 if a person (details supplied) in County Limerick will be considered for employment under the rural social scheme; if they meet the qualifying criteria; and if he will issue an application form for same to the person. [21111/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The purpose of the rural social scheme is to provide income support for farmers and those engaged in fishing who have an entitlement to specified social welfare payments. Participants are engaged for 19½ hours per week to provide certain services of benefit to rural communities. To qualify for participation in the RSS, an individual must be actively farming, have a valid herd number and be in receipt of one of a number of specified social welfare payments. It is up to the person concerned to determine whether they satisfy the eligibility criteria, which are available in full on www.welfare.ie  .    

  While overall responsibility for the RSS rests with the Department of Social Protection, responsibility for its day-to-day operations, including dealing with applications for participation and providing advice on eligibility, rest with 34 local development companies and Údarás na Gaeltachta which is responsible for delivery in Gaeltacht areas, collectively referred to as Implementing Bodies.   The person concerned is advised to contact the relevant impending body, West Limerick Resources Limited, St Mary's Road, Newcastle West Telephone 069 62222 and email info@wlr.ie   who will be able to advise on RSS vacancies and on matters relating to eligibility.

Widow's Pension Applications

 200. 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 when an application for a non-contributory widows pension will be approved in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Laois; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [21140/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton  The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that following an oral hearing of the case in question, the Appeals Officer has referred the case back to a Social Welfare Inspector for further investigation and clarification on certain issues. On receipt of the inspector’s response, the case will be further considered by the Appeals Officer.

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.

  Question No. 201 withdrawn.

Disability Allowance Applications

 202. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan Information on Patrick O'Donovan Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton when a decision will be made on an application for disability allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo.  [21149/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton  I can confirm that an application for disability allowance (DA) was received from the person concerned on 21 May 2012. The application was referred to a social welfare investigator (SWI) for a means investigation. DA, has contacted the SWI to expedite the case. A decision on the person’s entitlement to disability allowance will be made on receipt of the social welfare investigator’s report and the person will be notified directly of the outcome.

Pension Provisions

 203. Deputy Tom Hayes Information on Tom Hayes Zoom on Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will confirm that her Department accepts no liability regarding the Labour Court recommendations, LCR19293, regarding the provisions of pension benefits of supervisors and assistant supervisors in contract with her Department for the operation of community employment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21151/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton  The Labour Court recommended in July 2008 that an agreed pension scheme should be introduced for community employment (CE) scheme supervisors and assistant supervisors, and that such a scheme should be adequately funded by FÁS. Notwithstanding the positions of the Department in rejecting that liability for these costs falls to be met from public funds, this matter has been the subject of discussions between the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, my Department, and the unions representing CE supervisors. In the event that funding was required from FÁS, the implementation of the claim is not considered sustainable in light of the current and ongoing fiscal environment and the requirement to contain and reduce public expenditure. The costs of the introduction of any scheme are likely to be of the order of €3m per annum with retrospective costs of the order of at least €30m.

The Deputy should note that FÁS, under which CE operated at that time, was not the employer of CE supervisors and such employees are not public servants. Neither was FÁS a party to the Labour Court dispute on this matter. Responsibility for CE transferred from FÁS to the Department of Social Protection in January 2012. The Department does not accept it has any liability in respect of this matter. The responsibilities of the sponsoring organisations and the individuals concerned must also be recognised when considering pension provision arrangements.

Invalidity Pension Appeals

 204. 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 if she will approve and expedite an invalidity pension appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21156/13]

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 30th April 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.

Disability Allowance Eligibility

 205. Deputy Arthur Spring Information on Arthur Spring Zoom on Arthur Spring asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the maximum duration a recipient of disability allowance may remain outside the State in order to remain entitled to their payment. [21158/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton  There is no specific legislative provision for disability allowance to be paid to persons living outside the State.

There have been some instances where, in exceptional circumstances, disability allowance has been paid to persons for periods where they were undergoing medical treatment outside the State. In addition, if a person leaves the country a short period, e.g. up to 3 weeks in any 12 month period, disability allowance may be paid when the person returns to the State depending on the individual circumstances of the case.


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