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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 119-125
 Header Item Disability Allowance Appeals
 Header Item Carer's Allowance Appeals
 Header Item Invalidity Pension Appeals
 Header Item Social Welfare Appeals Data
 Header Item After-School Support Services
 Header Item Rent Supplement Scheme Payments

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 806 No. 2

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Written Answers Nos. 119-125

Disability Allowance Appeals

 119. 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 an application for a disability allowance now under appeal will be expedited and approved in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; if supplementary welfare will be approved for this person; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28261/13]

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 13th 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.

  If the person concerned's means are insufficient to meet their needs, they should contact the Community Welfare Service regarding their entitlement to Supplementary Welfare Allowance.

  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.

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton   Question No. 120 withdrawn.

Carer's Allowance Appeals

 121. 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 expedite a response to an application for carer's allowance which is now under appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow.  [28266/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Carer’s allowance was stopped on 24th October 2012 in respect of the person in question as, following a review, it was decided that the medical criteria were no longer satisfied.

In order for a child under 16 years to be deemed eligible for carer's allowance, domiciliary care allowance must be in payment for that child. In those circumstances, the child is deemed to be automatically medically eligible for carer’s allowance. Once the child reaches 16 years and is no longer entitled to domiciliary care allowance, a review of the continuing entitlement to carer’s allowance is carried out.

The person in question requested a review of this decision and submitted additional medical evidence in support of the application on the 2nd of November 2012 and again on the 5th of February 2013. However, on both occasions the additional information did not alter the opinion of the medical assessor and the decision remained unchanged. She was notified of the outcomes of these reviews, and the reasons for them, on the 19th of December 2012 and 1st of May 2013.

If the person in question is not satisfied with the decision to stop her carer’s allowance, she may submit an appeal to the independent Social Welfare Appeals Office. To date there is no record of an appeal against this decision from the person in question.

Invalidity Pension Appeals

 122. Deputy Tom Fleming Information on Tom Fleming Zoom on Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will examine an invalidity pension appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28272/13]

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 10th June 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.

Social Welfare Appeals Data

 123. 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 the number of applicants awaiting payment following successful appeals to the independent Social Welfare Appeals Office; if she will provide an indication of the number of such applications per payment; and the measures her Department is taking to ensure that this backlog is dealt with in view of the fact that the majority of applicants who have already waited up to 12 months for a decision on their appeal are now being forced to wait months for further assessments to be carried out.  [28309/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton My Department aims to process and pay as appropriate all successful appeals returned by the Social Welfare Appeals Office (SWAO). In general, across schemes, there is no issue with implementing successful appeals.

However, in the disability allowance and invalidity pension scheme areas, temporary delays are currently being experienced by successful appellants. These delays are arising due to the large number of backlogged new claims that have been processed over the last year, resulting in high levels of appeals. There are approximately 1,000 cases across the two schemes, awaiting payment at present following successful appeals. Additional staff resources have been assigned to clear these appeals and it is envisaged that all cases will be actioned within the next 4 weeks.

After-School Support Services

 124. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will clarify, for those who come off lone-parent allowance early and therefore cannot avail of jobseeker's transition payments due to employment but still struggle with the costs of child care, the reason they cannot avail of the pilot after-school child care supports which are part of the jobseeker's transition; the reason more child care supports are not in place for lone parents who are already engaging in labour activation but are living with existing family requirements, such as increased child care costs during the summer months; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [28312/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The reforms to the one-parent family payment (OFP) scheme aim to provide the necessary supports to lone parents to help them to escape poverty and social exclusion. I believe that supporting lone parents to participate in education, training, and the workforce, once their children have reached an appropriate age, will improve both their own and their families' economic and social circumstances.As a result of these reforms, once an OFP recipient’s youngest child reaches the relevant age threshold, they will no longer be entitled to the OFP payment. These changes will be gradually phased in during the period between July 2013 and 2015. Once a customer is no longer entitled to the OFP payment and if they still have an income support need, they can apply for another social welfare payment. Individuals working 19 hours or more each week may be entitled to apply for FIS or to have their existing FIS claim re-rated as appropriate. It is expected, however, that the majority of individuals will apply for the jobseeker’s allowance (JA) scheme.

Some of these former OFP recipients will still have caring responsibilities for young children and, as such, may not be able to meet all of the conditionality provisions that apply to the JA scheme – which requires all JA recipients to be available for, and genuinely seeking, full-time work.

That is why I have in the Social Welfare and Pensions (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2013, included legislative provisions to introduce transitional arrangements into the JA scheme. These arrangements will assist former OFP customers who’s youngest child is under 14, make the transition to JA. These customers will be exempt from the JA conditionality that requires them to be available for, and genuinely seeking, full-time work, until their youngest child reaches the age of 14 years. In addition, these individuals will not have to satisfy the JA rule, which requires an individual to be unemployed for at least 4 out of any 7 consecutive days. This means that lone parents under the JA transitional arrangements will be able to work a few hours each day subject to them satisfying the JA means test.

The legislative amendments I am proposing to the JA scheme take account of the caring responsibilities of lone parents with young children. They also enable lone parents with young children who are working part-time – for example, mornings only – to remain in work and to receive income and activation supports as appropriate.

The availability of these JA transitional arrangements to lone parents reduces the need for childcare support. However, if a lone parent in this situation wishes to avail of an employment opportunity or engage on a Community Employment scheme, they are eligible to apply for the Subsidised After-school Child Care scheme. This scheme is available to JA customers who were former OFP recipients, who avail of an employment opportunity and who have children of primary school age (i.e. 4 to 13 years). The scheme is designed to provide subsidised afterschool childcare during the school term and full time childcare provision during school holidays.

In addition to this scheme there are other child care supports available from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (D/CYA). The Community Childcare Subvention (CCS) programme, funds some 1,000 community-based non-profit child care facilities nationwide to enable them to charge reduced child care fees to disadvantaged and low-income families who avail of their services. The Childcare Education and Training Support (CETS) scheme provides subsidised childcare places for parents who engage in eligible education and training programmes.

Rent Supplement Scheme Payments

 125. Deputy Finian McGrath Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the position regarding rent allowance in respect of a person (details supplied). [28327/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The person concerned is in receipt of Rent Supplement of €970 per month. However, the rent currently being paid exceeds the maximum amount for which a supplement is payable and the person has been advised on a number of occasions to seek a reduction in rent from the landlord, to a level that comes within the statutory maximum limit. In order to allow the person additional time to seek a reduction in rent or to seek alternative accommodation that falls within the rental limit applicable to the family circumstances, it was decided to continue payment of the rent supplement for a further period. The period allowed is to the end of July 2013, in consideration of the fact that the person’s children are undertaking exams.

New maximum rent limits were recently announced and the person concerned may now seek a voluntary reduction from the landlord or seek new accommodation within the new appropriate maximum rent limit of €1000.


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