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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 126-132
 Header Item Carer's Allowance Appeals
 Header Item Social Welfare Appeals Data
 Header Item Departmental Consultations
 Header Item Rental Accommodation Scheme Payments
 Header Item One-Parent Family Payment Application Numbers
 Header Item Turf Cutting Compensation Scheme Payments
 Header Item Departmental Reports

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 806 No. 2

First Page Previous Page Page of 95 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 126-132

Carer's Allowance Appeals

 126. 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 a carer's allowance appeal will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28333/13]

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 27th   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.

Social Welfare Appeals Data

 127. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the number of appeals adjudicated upon by the Social Welfare Appeals Office and the average waiting time for an appeal in respect of applications for rent supplement in the years 2011, 2012 and to date in 2013. [28347/13]

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 statistics are not maintained in the format requested by the Deputy. The average processing times are maintained for the overall scheme type, not for the issue(s) under appeal i.e. in this case rent supplement.

  The number of rent supplement appeals decided by Appeals Officers, and the number and average processing times for all supplementary welfare allowance appeals for years 2011 to date in 2013 are given in the attached tables.

  Prior to October 2011, supplementary welfare allowance appeals were submitted directly to appeals officers of the Health Services Executive (HSE) and appellants had a final right of appeal to the Chief Appeals Officer following appeal to the HSE appeals officer. Since the transfer of Community Welfare Services to my Department in October 2011 supplementary welfare allowance appeals are made directly to the Chief Appeals Officer.

  Table 1: Outcome of Rent Supplement Appeals 2011 – 2013

Rent Supplement Appeals 2011 – 2013 (to 31/5/2013) - - - -
Year Allowed Partially Allowed Disallowed Total
* 2011 128 29 468 625
2012 473 88 1,562 2,123
2013 ( to 31/5/2013) 225 41 546 812
* Since the transfer of Community Welfare Services to the Department in October 2011 supplementary welfare allowance appeals are made directly to the Chief Appeals Officer.

Table 2: Outcome of All Supplementary Welfare Allowance Appeals 2011 – 2013
Supplementary Welfare Allowance Appeals 2011 – 2013 (to 31/5/2013) - - - -
Year Allowed Partially Allowed Disallowed Total
* 2011 307 68 1,126 1,501
2012 1,017 142 3,105 4,264
2013 ( to 31/5/2013) 410 65 1,123 1,598


Table 3:Processing Times for Supplementary Welfare Allowance Appeals 2011 – 2013
Appeals processing times for Supplementary Welfare Allowance appeals

2011 – 2013 (to 31/5/2013)
- -
Year Average processing times (weeks)

Summary Decisions
Average processing times (weeks)

Oral Hearings
* 2011 6.3 17.6
2012 17.6 22.9
January 2013 16.5 33.3
February 2013 17.0 27.4
March 2013 17.5 21.7
April 2013 18.2 21.5
May 2013 17.1 24.7

Departmental Consultations

 128. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will report on her Department's consultations with the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government on the plans contained in the programme for Government to move the payment of rent supplement to a housing assistance payment which would be administered by local authorities.  [28348/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The purpose of the rent supplement scheme is to provide short-term support to eligible people living in private rented accommodation whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source. Currently, there are approximately 86,000 rent supplement recipients for which the Government has provided over €403 million for 2013.

The Government has approved in principle to transfer responsibility for the provision of rental assistance to persons with a long term housing need from this Department to housing authorities using a new Housing Assistance Payment (HAP).

Reporting and policy matters in relation to HAP, including the necessary legislative requirements to facilitate its implementation, are a matter for the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government (DECLG). However, officials in this Department are working closely with those in DECLG to assist with the necessary work required to initiate HAP including the business planning process, examining the possibilities for providing for direct deduction from social welfare payments, assisting with the economic assessment and supporting the piloting of HAP.

In December 2012, this Department’s household budgeting scheme was amended to provide for the mandatory deduction of local authority rents. This is a major stepping stone in facilitating the transfer to local authorities. The purpose of this measure is to help local authorities address their concerns regarding the build-up of rental arrears and assist with the implementation of HAP. To further strengthen their position, DECLG have indicated that they will review tenancy agreements to make it a provision of such agreements that tenants must sign up for the household budgeting facility.

Rental Accommodation Scheme Payments

 129. Deputy Mattie McGrath Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if her attention has been drawn to the fact that her decision to cut rent allowance rates throughout the country will directly result in homelessness, especially for single persons and couples with one child; the basis on which her decision was made to cut the rate in south Tipperary, where a very strong private rental market exists and where it is simply not possible for those listed above to find suitable accommodation at the newly reduced rates; if her Department discussed the new rates with local rent officers who are experiencing first-hand the difficulties in trying to implement such rates; how she expects a single person in south Tipperary to source accommodation with €12 per week less; if she will reverse this decision and carry out a real review of how lower rates will directly lead to homelessness; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [28353/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The purpose of the rent supplement scheme is to provide short-term income support to eligible people living in private rented accommodation whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source. There are approximately 86,000 recipients of rent supplement for which the Government has provided over €403 million in 2013.

  I recently announced my intention to implement revised rent limits under the rent supplement scheme which will come into force on Monday 17 June 2013 and will be in place until 31 December 2014.

  The new rent limits have been determined following an extensive review of the private rental market. This review has been based on the most up-to-date market data available. This review continues the previous rent limit reviews’ emphasis, to ensure that value for money is achieved while at the same time ensuring that people on rent supplement are not priced out of the market for private rented accommodation. The Department currently funds approximately 30% of the private rented sector so it is essential that the rent limits are kept under review.

  The Department has completed a full review of rental costs throughout the country using data received from the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB) of actual rental tenancies registered with them, including that in South Tipperary. The Department also used publicly available data sources including the Central Statistics Office rental indices, the Daft.ie Rental Report and leading websites advertising rental properties to ascertain both the market trends and the current asking prices for rental of one, two and three-bedroom properties.

  The Department engaged with a number of stakeholders as part of the review process, including staff with responsibility for the administration of the rent supplement scheme.

  In relation to the new maximum rent limits for South Tipperary I regret there was an error in the rates quoted in the list circulated to Oireachtas members. The correct limits for South Tipperary are set out in the attached table. There is no change to the single rate.

  Department officials administering the scheme will continue to ensure that the accommodation needs of rent supplement recipients are met. The necessary regulations to give effect to the revised limits will be finalised within the coming week, and the full report of the Rent Limit Review will be published at that time.

South Tipperary Maximum Rent Limits from 17 June 2013

County: Single Shared Couple Shared Single Couple Couple/One Parent Family - 1 Child Couple/One Parent Family - 2 Children Couple/One Parent Family - 3 Children
South Tipperary €195 €220 €370 €400 €485 €500 €525

One-Parent Family Payment Application Numbers

 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 her plans to address the needs of those in receipt of the one-parent family payment who will be affected by the changeover to the transition payment, who are working as little as an hour a day for five days; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that if these recipients change over to jobseeker's payments they will lose income and many will be left with no option but to give up employment; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [28391/13]

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. Should former OFP recipients still have an income support need they will be required to apply for another social welfare payment. It is expected that the majority of individuals in these circumstances will apply for jobseeker’s allowance (JA). They may also apply for the family income supplement (FIS) if they are working at least 19 hours per week.

The Social Welfare and Pensions (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2013 contains legislative provisions to introduce transitional arrangements into the JA scheme to assist former OFP recipients whose 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.

Former OFP recipients who have a youngest child aged 14 years or over can apply for the JA payment, with the full conditionality of that scheme applied. This includes satisfying the scheme rule whereby JA is payable only where a person is fully unemployed for 4 out of any 7 days. In situations where the working patterns of former OFP recipients do not conform to this rule a number of options are available to the customer.

They may be able to reorganise their current hours of employment to satisfy JA scheme conditionality or secure an increase in their hours in order to qualify for FIS. If they are unable to meet either JA or FIS scheme rules and they have an income need, they may have recourse to Supplementary Welfare Allowance (SWA).

Persons due to exit the OFP scheme in the coming period are being engaged with at local level by Social Welfare Local / Intreo Offices. During these engagements the options available to a former OFP recipient who works across a number of days per week can be discussed.

Turf Cutting Compensation Scheme Payments

 131. Deputy Pat Breen Information on Pat Breen Zoom on Pat Breen asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan further to Parliamentary Question No. 707 of 16 April 2013, when payment of bog compensation will issue to persons (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28134/13]

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Jimmy Deenihan): Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan As outlined in my replies to previous questions from the Deputy on this matter, the individuals referred to in the Deputy’s Question sold their interest in land in a raised bog special area of conservation under the voluntary bog purchase scheme, administered by my Department. An incentive bonus of €5,400, available under the scheme, was also paid to the applicants at the time of purchase, on the condition that they were selling all plots of bog land in their possession and registered or unregistered turbary rights within a designated area.

  The individuals have applied for compensation under the cessation of turf cutting compensation scheme. The qualifying criteria for this scheme are that:

- The claimant must have a legal interest in one of the 53 raised bog special areas of conservation – ownership or turbary right;

- The claimant must have been the owner or entitled to exercise turbary rights on the land in question on 25 May 2010;

- The turbary on the site must not be exhausted;

- The claimant must have been cutting turf on the land in question during the relevant five year period; and

- No turf cutting or associated activity is ongoing on the property.

  From the application submitted to my Department, it appears that the applicants purchased additional land within the raised bog special area of conservation in 2012. Therefore, they do not appear to have had a legal interest in the site through ownership or a turbary right on 25 May 2010.

  My Department has recently written to the applicants setting out its decision on their application.

Departmental Reports

 132. Deputy Sean Fleming Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan if he will set out the value for money reports and the focused policy assessments carried out within his Department since March 2011; the actions that have been taken to implement such reports; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [28168/13]

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Jimmy Deenihan): Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan As the Deputy is aware, the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht was established on 2 June, 2011 following substantial Departmental configurations. Shortly thereafter, all areas of my Department’s expenditure were subject to a root and branch analysis as part of a Comprehensive Expenditure Review. There followed a consultation process culminating in the approval by Government last year of a new Public Spending Code. The new Code revised and strengthened arrangements in relation to the Value for Money and Policy Review Initiative and introduced a new concept of Focused Policy Assessments. New Value for Money (VFM) Reviews were then selected.

A VFM Review of the Arts Council was approved by the Government as part of a wide-ranging programme of VFM reviews across Departments. My Department has engaged with the Arts Council and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in that regard. A new Evaluation Unit has now been established in my Department and preliminary work in scoping the review is well advanced. Draft Terms of Reference and the composition of the Steering Committee are currently being finalised by the Department.

The question of undertaking a Focused Policy Assessment during 2013 is currently being examined.


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