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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 112-118
 Header Item Invalidity Pension Appeals
 Header Item Carer's Allowance Appeals
 Header Item Departmental Reports
 Header Item Household Benefits
 Header Item Social Welfare Overpayments
 Header Item After-School Support Services

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 806 No. 2

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Written Answers Nos. 112-118

  Question No. 112 withdrawn.

Invalidity Pension Appeals

 113. Deputy Pat Breen Information on Pat Breen Zoom on Pat Breen asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton when a decision on an invalidity pension appeal will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28135/13]

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 20th March 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.

Carer's Allowance Appeals

 114. 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 carer's allowance on appeal will be approved in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28140/13]

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 16th May 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.

Departmental Reports

 115. 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 set out the value for money reports and the focused policy assessments carried out within her Department since March 2011; the actions that have been taken to implement such reports; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [28180/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Following a Government decision to defer the selection of reviews pending the outcome of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform Comprehensive Review of Expenditure (CRE) there were no Value for Money (VFM) reviews carried out in 2011. Each Government Department, including the Department of Social Protection, instead prepared a Comprehensive Expenditure Report in respect of the Department and its associated agencies, to identify expenditure programme savings, scope for savings arising from efficiency and other reforms, proposals for reducing and/or merging of agencies and associated reductions in staff numbers. This review continues to inform the evaluation of every budgetary programme.

During 2012, a Review of the Employment Support Schemes was undertaken within the Department. The review examines the policies and programmes in place within the Department of Social Protection to address the particular difficulties that the labour market is currently experiencing and assess individual schemes against an agreed set of criteria.

Following publication of the Review in January 2013 I convened a stakeholder’s forum which brought together relevant experts, practitioners, policy makers and representative bodies to consider the review and offer suggestions and input to how future policy in this area should evolve.

In common with all VFM reviews, the recommendations and implementation are monitored by the Department’s Policy Committee.

While the Department is not at present carrying out any formal Value for Money reviews, the Advisory Group on Tax and Social Welfare is reviewing a number of priority areas. The group, which I established during 2011 in line with Programme for Government commitments, is focussing on the production of modular reports on the priority areas identified in the Group’s terms of reference. To date the Group has completed three modules of work: child and family income supports; proposals relating to disability allowance and domiciliary care allowance; extending Social Insurance coverage for the self-employed. The Group is currently progressing its final module of work on the issue of working age income supports and the interaction of the tax and social welfare systems. It is anticipated that this module will be completed by the end of 2013.

All schemes within my Department remain under constant review particularly in the budgetary context. A wide range of other policy reports have been undertaken by the Department since 2011, such as the recently published OECD review on long term pension policy in Ireland and the report on pension charges pension charges produced by the Department in conjunction with the Central Bank and the Pensions Board. My Department officials also support a number of Focussed Policy Assessments currently being carried out by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

All published policy reports are available on the Department’s website.

Household Benefits

 116. Deputy Jack Wall Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the reasons a person (details supplied) in County Kildare has not received their companion bus pass; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28203/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The person concerned was medically assessed by a Medical Assessor on 13th May, 2013. The medical opinion was conveyed to Household Benefits Section, Sligo and a decision letter was issued directly to the person concerned from Household Benefits Section on 14th May 2013 regarding the decision on her application.

Social Welfare Overpayments

 117. 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 has responsibility regarding the paying of a full-rate qualified allowance to a person in receipt of the jobseeker's allowance in respect of their spouse, who was in employment for a period of over three years, and whose P60s were returned each year to the Revenue Commissioners with the person's PPS number; the measures in place between her Department and the Revenue Commissioners over a number of years to ensure that persons were not making a claim in respect of a spouse whom the Government bodies were aware was in employment, notwithstanding the responsibility on the person not to make an overclaim; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [28208/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Every week, the Department pays nearly 1.5 million people a social welfare payment and, when qualified adults and children are included, almost 2.3 million people benefit from weekly payments from the Department.

The Department engages in data exchange and matching exercises with other Government Departments and public bodies, including the Revenue Commissioners, for control purposes. Data matching is an efficient and effective mechanism to target control related activity. It is an important preventative and detection control measure.

However, it is the customer’s responsibility to provide full and accurate information about their particular circumstances to support their claim and they must also inform the Department promptly if their circumstances change as this may affect their entitlements.

An overpayment is any social welfare assistance or benefit payment which the person who received the amount was not entitled to receive. Where overpayments occur, they are regarded as a debt to the Exchequer and every effort must be – and is - made to recover the amounts due.

Debt holders should be aware that a Departmental debt will remain on their records until it is fully recovered. This may result in a reduction of all future entitlements up to and including state pension.

After-School Support Services

 118. Deputy John Lyons Information on John Lyons Zoom on John Lyons asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if Ballymun will be included as a location in the next phase of the new after-school child care scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [28253/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The After-school Child Care Scheme commenced its first pilot phase on 29 April, 2013, with up to 500 places made available in seven designated Social Welfare Local / Intreo Offices located in King’s Inn Street in Dublin city centre, Finglas, Cork city, Dominic Street in Limerick city, Dundalk, Mullingar, and Tralee.This initial launch phase of the pilot scheme will allow the Department to review the effectiveness of the scheme criteria. This review will inform the scheme’s subsequent roll-out in July 2013 and for its nationwide roll-out in September, 2013. The Offices that will participate in the second pilot phase in July remain to be determined and will be announced in due course.


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