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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 216-25
 Header Item Domiciliary Care Allowance Appeals
 Header Item Personal Public Service Numbers
 Header Item Rent Supplement Scheme Payments
 Header Item Farm Assist Scheme Appeals
 Header Item State Pension Reform
 Header Item Household Benefits
 Header Item Social Welfare Benefits Eligibility

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 802 No. 1

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Written Answers Nos. 216-25

Domiciliary Care Allowance Appeals

 216. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton with regard to an application for domiciliary care which was received by her Department on 10 May 2012, refused and subsequently went for appeal in February 2013 (details supplied) in County Donegal, if it is appropriate that this application will now take a possible 41 weeks if it goes to an oral hearing and in view of the fact that further new information was received by the appeals office last week with regard to this young person's condition; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [21348/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer, having fully considered all the evidence, disallowed the appeal of the person concerned by way of summary decision. Under Social Welfare legislation, the decision of the Appeals Officer is final and conclusive and may only be reviewed by the Appeals Officer in the light of new evidence or new facts.

Following the submission of additional evidence the Appeals Officer has agreed to hold an oral hearing in this case which will be scheduled for the last week of May. The person concerned will be notified shortly of the arrangements for the 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.

Personal Public Service Numbers

 217. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the reason the delays in the issuing of PPS numbers, which is now taking between ten and 12 weeks, causing enormous problems for staff in new employment who are paying emergency tax forcing them in some incidences to have to leave their employment and the measures she proposes to deal with this backlog.  [21353/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The Personal Public Service Number (PPS Number) is the individual’s unique reference number for all dealings with Government Departments and public bodies.

A PPS Number is automatically issued in the case of children born in Ireland. In other cases PPS Numbers are issued following a controlled allocation procedure which takes approximately 20 minutes and involves personal attendance at one of the Department's PPS Number allocation centres, the completion of a written application form, the submission of appropriate identity documents and the proving of identity.

In circumstances where a person is not resident in the State, but requires a PPS Number, s/he, or someone acting on his or her behalf, must apply by post to the Department submitting the required documentation. The Department processes some 17,000 of these applications annually. Due to an increase in the numbers of such requests received, there is at present a seven to eight week backlog in allocating PPS Numbers for such applications. Staff resources have been temporarily re-assigned to this work in order to reduce this.

The vast majority of such requests are for reasons such as probate or property purchase. However some requests are from individuals who are employed outside of the State by an Irish employer and require a PPS Number in that context. Where these requests are identified, they are given priority by the Department. In all cases, once it becomes apparent that a person will require the allocation of a PPS Number, I would urge that the application be submitted immediately, rather than waiting until the last minute, in order to ensure that it will be available when required.

Rent Supplement Scheme Payments

 218. 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 in view of the non-payment of rent supplement to a landlord by a rent supplement recipient, the procedures, if any, in place whereby a landlord may recoup rent supplement owed to him or whereby the Department may recoup unpaid rent supplement from the rent supplement recipient; the action, if any, the Department may take on notification by a landlord that they have not been receiving payment from the rent supplement recipient; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21354/13]

 219. 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 in view of the non-payment of rent supplement to a landlord by a rent supplement recipient, if her attention has been drawn to the number of cases where rent supplement is not passed on to the landlord; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21355/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I propose to take Questions Nos. 218 and 219 together.

The overall aim is to provide short term assistance, and not to act as an alternative to the other social housing schemes operated by the Exchequer. There are currently approximately 86,000 rent supplement recipients for which the Government has provided €403 million for 2013.

Under the legislative provisions governing rent supplement, the Department’s relationship is with the tenant; the tenant makes the application for rent supplement and payment is made to the tenant. Rent supplement is specifically for the benefit of tenants to assist them with their accommodation needs. There is no direct relationship between the landlord and the Department in the administration of the scheme. However, social welfare legislation provides for the payment of a rent supplement payment to a nominated payee such as a landlord on behalf of the tenant. This arrangement is entered at the tenant’s request and subject to the consent of the Department. The department official dealing with the request will take into account all the relevant circumstances of the particular case and the tenant’s preference will be accommodated where possible.

It is open to the landlord to bring to the attention of the Department any instance where they suspect that a tenant is receiving rent supplement and is not paying their rent. Where the Department becomes aware that a person is not using rent supplement to meet the accommodation costs, payment of the supplement is suspended and the matter investigated. Where a landlord has a grievance in relation to the non-payment of rent by a tenant, s/he may apply to the Private Residential Tenancies Board to have the dispute resolved through the Board’s dispute resolution process. Statistics are not maintained on the numbers of cases where it is reported that rent supplement has not been passed on to landlords.

Farm Assist Scheme Appeals

 220. Deputy John O'Mahony Information on John O'Mahony Zoom on John O'Mahony asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive a decision on their appeal for farm assist; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21357/13]

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 registered in that office on 23rd April 2013. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. When received, the appeal in question will be referred in 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 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.

  Question No. 221 withdrawn.

State Pension Reform

 222. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she has any plans to compel employers to maintain the employment of citizens beyond the age of 65, should they choose to do so, in view of the fact that pension entitlements to this group have been outlawed by her Department.  [21381/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The recently published OECD report on the Review of the Irish Pension System confirms that reforms are necessary if we are to continue to put pension provision on a sustainable footing given the changes in demographics, the deficit in the Social Insurance Fund, and the difficult fiscal situation.

The abolition of State pension transition and the standardisation of the pension age at 66 from 2014 is part of a series of measures aimed at improving the sustainability of pensions in the future. Growing numbers of people want to work or may need to work beyond the State pension age as people are living longer. The abolition of State pension transition removes the retirement condition which acts as an incentive to leave the workforce and has been widely criticised as a barrier to older people remaining in employment. Recipients of State pension contributory can continue to work.

Existing legislation provides that, social welfare supports, such as job seekers benefits, will continue to be available to those who meet the qualifying conditions of the schemes available. Furthermore, the legislation also provides that for those whose job seekers benefit expires in their 65th year, the payment will continue to be paid up until the age of 66 when State pension becomes payable for those who satisfy the qualifying conditions.

There is no statutory compulsory retirement age for employees in Ireland. In relation to the employment relationship, responsibility for setting retirement age is a matter for the employer/employee relationship and the contract of employment. The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has made rulings in a series of age-discrimination cases concerning Directive 2000/78/EC, which prohibit work-related discrimination on various grounds, including age. The CJEU has clarified that mandatory retirement ages may be set down by employers within the context of national law, whether by contract, custom and practice or other means, which must be objectively and reasonably justified by a legitimate social policy aim, with the means of achieving that aim being both appropriate and necessary. Enterprise policy and equality issues come within the respective remit of my colleagues, the Minster for Jobs Enterprise and Innovation and the Minister for Justice and Equality.

An interdepartmental Working and Retirement Group was initiated to consider the cross departmental policy issues arising that may support longer working and thereby improve the sustainability and adequacy of pensions systems. The interdepartmental group, established in August 2012, is chaired by the Department of Social Protection, and includes representatives from the Department of Social Protection, the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, the Department of Justice and Equality, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Pensions Board. Further engagement has also been undertaken with the Department of Education and Skills and the Department of Health and Children.

The issues under consideration are the broad range of issues impacting on the labour market participation of older workers; enterprise issues, employment and equality law issues; proposals regarding deferral of the state pension, and consideration of occupational pension issues. It is expected that the Group will prepare preliminary proposals detailing measures which may encourage participation and retention in the labour market of older workers and present proposals to Government in the near future.

Household Benefits

 223. Deputy Róisín Shortall Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she has examined the possibility of seeking a reduction in the total cost to her Department of the free television licence scheme due to the bulk-buy nature of her Department's purchase of licences on behalf of social protection clients and the fact that there are less collection, enforcement, and administrative costs involved.  [21397/13]

 224. Deputy Róisín Shortall Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if her Department is currently reimbursed in circumstances where her Department discovers an overpayment which includes the overpayment of a free television licence; and will set out the arrangements in place to recoup the costs of such licences.  [21398/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I propose to take Questions Nos. 223 and 224 together.

There are currently 408,626 customers in receipt of the free television licence as part of the household benefits package at year end 2012, with an expenditure of €57,184,565. Payments to the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (DCENR) in respect of the TV Licence have been capped at 2010 levels of expenditure as announced in the National Recovery Programme 2011-2014. Up to the time of the imposition of the cap on expenditure under this heading, payments were made on a monthly basis using an agreed formula based on a percentage of the Department’s customer base. This took into account the savings to RTE and An Post on costs of administration, enforcement and collection of the licence fees for this cohort of customers.

The customer base has grown from 394,030 in 2010 to its current level of 408,626. To maintain the cap on expenditure, this Department is currently making fixed monthly payments, in line with that paid in 2010, to DCENR despite the increased number of customers qualifying for the scheme. This measure does not impact, however, on customers’ individual entitlement to the scheme. The entitlement to a free television licence commences only after the expiry of a customer’s current licence subject to satisfying the qualifying conditions. The licence when granted is in respect of a full calendar year and therefore no refund would be due for part of a year. Customers receive their free licence directly from the Department and their entitlement remains valid for as long as they continue to receive the household benefits package. This arrangement reduces further the administration costs for my Department, DCENR, An Post and RTE as customers previously had to renew their licences annually through the Post Office network.

Social Welfare Benefits Eligibility

 225. 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 indicate the legislation that governs the invitation of a social welfare recipient to an interview under caution; the wording (details supplied) prescribed in law; the effort made to advise the recipient of their rights when being interviewed under caution; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [21399/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Chapter 3 of the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act 2005 provides for the appointment and duties of Social Welfare Inspectors (SWIs) and, in general terms, requires SWIs to investigate and report to the Minister on, inter alia, any question arising in relation to a claim for a benefit under the Act. In appropriate cases, social welfare recipients may be invited to attend an interview with a SWI to that end. The wording used by the Department when inviting a person to attend an interview under caution is not prescribed in law.

When the person attends for interview under caution they are advised at the outset that the notes of the interview will be recorded. The person is also advised that they may leave or terminate the interview at any time, and that they will be asked questions about their entitlement to social welfare payments they have received or are in receipt of. They are also advised that they are not obliged to say anything unless they wish to do so, but that whatever they say will be taken down in writing and may be given in evidence.


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