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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 123 - 137
 Header Item State Pension (Non-Contributory) Applications
 Header Item Disability Allowance Appeals
 Header Item Domiciliary Care Allowance Appeals
 Header Item Domiciliary Care Allowance Appeals
 Header Item Community Welfare Services
 Header Item Community Employment Schemes Eligibility
 Header Item General Register Office
 Header Item Disability Allowance Appeals
 Header Item National Internship Scheme Administration
 Header Item Social Welfare Fraud Data
 Header Item One-Parent Family Payment Appeals
 Header Item Community Employment Schemes Review
 Header Item Disability Allowance Appeals

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 817 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 89 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 123 - 137

State Pension (Non-Contributory) Applications

 123. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the progress to date in respect of an application for non-contributory State pension in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43052/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton State pension (non-contributory) is a means-tested scheme. In this specific instance, the person concerned had means exceeding the statutory limit and the person was informed of this decision.   If the person is not satisfied with the decision, they appeal it to the Appeals Office.

Disability Allowance Appeals

 124. 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 if a decision has been made on an appeal of a disability allowance application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43061/13]

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 3 October 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 in relation to social welfare entitlements.

Domiciliary Care Allowance Appeals

 125. Deputy Anthony Lawlor Information on Anthony Lawlor Zoom on Anthony Lawlor asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the average processing time for domiciliary care allowance appeal applications; the reason there is such a backlog with cases; her plans to deal with this backlog; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [43078/13]

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 the current average time taken to process domiciliary care allowance appeals decided by summary decision is 29.1 weeks and 36.1 weeks for those requiring an oral hearing.

There has been a rapid and sustained increase in the number of appeals received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office since 2009 which has placed extraordinary pressure on the office. Up to 2009, the average number of appeals received was 15,000 per annum whereas in 2012, the office received 35,484 appeals. In order to manage this increasing workload, significant resources and efforts have been put into reducing backlogs and improving appeals processing times for appellants, including the assignment of 15 additional Appeals Officers, in addition to 10 former Community Welfare Service Appeals Officers who joined the appeals office in 2011, bringing the total number of serving Appeals Officers to 41; reviewing and improving business processes; and implementing a new operating model within the appeals office.

In addition, a major programme of process redesign and modernisation is currently underway in the Department in relation to many of its scheme areas, aimed at reducing backlogs and reducing the time taken by the Department to respond to requests from the appeals office for submissions in relation to appeals.

These measures have led to improvements in processing times and a significant increase in the number of appeals finalised from 17,787 in 2009 to 32,558 in 2012. The Chief Appeals Officer expects to finalise 6,000 more cases in 2013 than in 2012. Good progress is also now being made in reducing the number of appeals on hand from 20,414 at 1 January 2013 to 16,624 at 7 October 2013.

The average waiting time for appeals peaked in 2011 when the average time for an oral hearing was 52.5 weeks and for a summary decision was 25.1 weeks. In 2012 these times improved by 10.3 weeks when the average time for an oral hearing dropped to 39.5 weeks while the time for a summary decision increased slightly to 27.8 weeks. This improvement has continued with the average processing time up to September 2013 reducing to 35.2 weeks for an oral hearing and 26.7 weeks for a summary decision.

These processing times are calculated from the registration date of the appeal to the date of its finalisation. They include all activities during this period including time spent awaiting any clarification from the appellant, time in the Department for comments by the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal put forward by the appellant, and any further investigation, examination or assessment by the Department’s Inspectors and Medical Assessors that is deemed necessary. A considerable period of time is added to the process when an oral hearing is required because of the logistics involved in this process. While this process carries an inherent delay in terms of finalising an appeal, it also crystalises the flexibility and accessibility of the appeals system.

By its nature and because it is a quasi-judicial function, the processing of appeals takes time and reflects the fact that, by definition, the appeal process cannot be a quick one.

Domiciliary Care Allowance Appeals

 126. Deputy Anthony Lawlor Information on Anthony Lawlor Zoom on Anthony Lawlor asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton when a decision on a domiciliary care allowance appeal will issue in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare. [43079/13]

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 17 September 2013. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. When these have been received from the Department, the case in question will be referred 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 appeal 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 in relation to social welfare entitlements.

Community Welfare Services

 127. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the rationale behind the closure of 12 community welfare clinics in County Donegal; if she will review the decision; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43086/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The Department is currently examining the operation of all services across its remit, including the Community Welfare Service. It is doing this in the context of the Pathways to Work commitments and the development of Intreo services nationally. The Pathways to Work Programme includes the provision of opportunities, support and assistance to unemployed people by intensifying the Department’s level of engagement with them, in particular, those who are, or become long-term unemployed. The new Intreo service offers practical, tailored employment services and supports for jobseekers and this new service model is currently being rolled out across the country.

Overall, this will result in some re-balancing of resources across the Departments range of activities – payment processing, control and activation and the relocation of some staff to main centres where a full range of services will be available in one location.

Accordingly, a decision has been taken to rationalise some Community Welfare Service clinics with effect from 30 September 2013. A number of clinics have been closed in Co. Donegal and the clients who had been attending these clinics will be facilitated by attending other clinics. Posters advertising these changes are being widely displayed and include a phone number where a customer can contact the Community Welfare Service in the event that s/he is unable to travel to the alternative clinic or, if required, a member of staff may arrange to visit the clients’ home.

Community Employment Schemes Eligibility

 128. 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 the position regarding a community employment scheme in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8.  [43097/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton To meet the eligibility criteria for the community employment (CE) scheme, participants are required to have been unemployed and in receipt of a social welfare payment for a 12 month consecutive period from this Department. The person concerned was in receipt of jobseeker’s benefit from October 2012 until July 2013 when her entitlement expired as she had reached the maximum number of days permissible under that scheme. She then applied for jobseeker’s assistance but did not qualify for this scheme as her means were deemed to be in excess of the allowable limits. She is not currently in receipt of any other social welfare payment, and therefore does not meet the 12 month eligibility criteria necessary to be considered for a place on the CE scheme.

The services of the Local Employment Service are available to provide information to the person concerned on other employment and training opportunities, including dedicated supports and programmes for people with disabilities, which are available locally for those persons exiting, or ineligible for, the CE scheme.

General Register Office

 129. Deputy Derek Keating Information on Derek Keating Zoom on Derek Keating asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if the Minister, who is responsible for the General Register Office, will provide a new facility equal to the current one at the Irish Life Centre Dublin in the interest of providing family historians from both home and abroad with a new facility.  [43102/13]

 141. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton her views on the possible adverse impact on genealogical tourism from the recent move of the Public Records Office to new premises at Werburgh Street, Dublin 8; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38511/13]

 148. Deputy Derek Nolan Information on Derek Nolan Zoom on Derek Nolan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will provide a new facility equal to the current one at the Irish Life Centre in Dublin in the interests of providing family historians from both home and abroad with a new facility; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [43289/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I propose to take Questions Nos. 129, 141 and 148 together.

  The research rooms of the General Register Office (GRO) relocated from Irish Life Mall, Abbey Street, Dublin 1 to Werburgh Street, Dublin 2 on Monday 30 September 2013.

  The Office of Public Works (OPW) has responsibility for the acquisition and maintenance of office accommodation for the Department of Social Protection. Matters of leasing and individual rents are managed by that Office.

The lease on the accommodation in Irish Life Mall ended on 31 August 2013. As part of a cost saving, lease rationalisation programme the OPW decided not to renew the lease.

  Officials from OPW, the GRO and the Department identified the building at Werburgh Street as a suitable venue for the relocation of the research rooms. The accommodation is approximately equal in size to the office in Irish Life Mall and has been redecorated to make it suitable as a research room.

  Appropriate signage has been erected over the gate at the entrance to the building and the OPW is seeking planning permission to erect on-street signage directing customers to the rooms.

  Customers seeking access to records for genealogical purposes can expect the same high level of service at the new facilities in Werburgh Street.

  It is not foreseen that the move will have any adverse effect on genealogical tourism.

Disability Allowance Appeals

 130. Deputy Michael Creed Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the position regarding a claim for disability allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43116/13]

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 14 August 2013. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. When these have been received from the Department, the case in question will be referred 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 appeal 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 in relation to social welfare entitlements.

National Internship Scheme Administration

 131. 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 if she will provide the names of companies or employers that have been blacklisted from the JobBridge scheme and the reason for same.  [43118/13]

 132. 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 if she will provide the names of the members of the JobBridge steering committee and details of their professional background.  [43119/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I propose to take Questions Nos. 131 and 132 together.

  The Department takes the view that there is an overriding public interest in having the identity of host organisations who have been excluded from participation in JobBridge kept confidential on the following basis:

  Pursuant to s. 20 (1) of the Freedom of Information Acts (1997-2003), the documents disclosing the identity of the host organisations contain matter relating to the deliberative processes of the Department (including opinions, advice, recommendations, and the results of consultations considered for the purpose of those processes).

  Pursuant to s. 21 (1)(a) of the these Acts, the documents disclosing the identity of the host organisations could reasonably be expected to prejudice the effectiveness of investigations and enquiries of the procedures or methods employed for the conduct thereof.

  Pursuant to s. 27 (1)(b) of these Acts, the identity of the host organizations in question is information whole disclosure could reasonably be expected to result in a material financial loss or prejudice the competitive position of the host organisations in the conduct of their business.

  Pursuant to s. 28 (1) of the these Acts, the identity of the host organisations in question is personal information.

  The members of the JobBridge National Steering Committee are:

  Myself, Minister for Social Protection,

  Mr. Martin Murphy (Chair), Managing Director, Hewlett Packard Ireland

  Ms. Anna Doody, Director of Corporate Communications, Hewlett Packard Ireland

  Mr. Sean O’Driscoll, Chief Executive and Chairman, Glen Dimplex

  Mr. James Doorley, Deputy Director, National Youth Council of Ireland

  Ms. Siobhan O’Dowd, Project Manager, Accenture

  Three Officers of the Department of Social Protection

  Two Officers of the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation

  An Officer of the Department of Education and Skills

  Two advisors to the Minister for Social Protection

  Question No. 133 withdrawn.

Social Welfare Fraud Data

 134. Deputy Pat Deering Information on Patrick Deering Zoom on Patrick Deering asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the number of personnel employed in fraud investigation in her Department; the number at the same time in 2010; and the amount of money that has been generated from January to September 2013 as a result of these investigations and for the same period in 2010 on a county basis.  [43153/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The exclusive function of the Department’s Special Investigation Unit (SIU) is to investigate and report on fraud and abuse of social welfare schemes.  The SIU was reconfigured as a national unit in February 2010 and the current structure ensures a national and strategic response to high risk sectors and social welfare schemes where fraud and abuse is prevalent.   The Unit ensures that an integrated approach to prevention and detection of social welfare abuse is taken, in conjunction with other areas of the Department involved in control work. The SIU carries out a wide range of control activities and projects. It also works jointly with Revenue staff in the Joint Investigation Unit and other inter-agency work is undertaken with NERA, Customs and the Gardaí.    The staffing levels in the Unit have remained unchanged since 2010, with 91 people currently assigned to posts in the SIU. The Department is, however, currently looking at ways to increase the resources in the Unit.   

  Furthermore, it should be noted that the control process is an integral part of the day-to-day operations of the Department and all staff involved in the administration of the various social welfare schemes are acutely aware of the need to implement appropriate controls at every stage of the process.

  The Department’s control work is measured in terms of control savings. Control savings are used as a performance indicator for year-on-year activities and are an estimate of the value of the various control activities across the schemes in payment. They refer to future expenditure that would have been incurred but for this activity. Without this control work, social welfare expenditure would over time increase by this amount. Control savings do not include any cases of departmental or clerical error or any cases where the customer voluntarily told the Department of their means or circumstances, which resulted in a change to their rate of payment.

  Control savings recorded by SIU from January to September 2013 are €53.3m while, during the same period in 2010, control savings amounted to €34.8m. These savings are not recorded on a county basis.

One-Parent Family Payment Appeals

 135. 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 when a decision will issue on an appeal for one-parent family payment in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry.  [43168/13]

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 10 October 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 in relation to social welfare entitlements.

Community Employment Schemes Review

 136. Deputy Ciara Conway Information on Ciara Conway Zoom on Ciara Conway asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton her plans for the future of the community services programme; if funding to the programme is to be continued or extended; her plans to include new projects in the scheme; if so, when new applications will be sought and considered; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [43171/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The community services programme (CSP) co-funds the services delivered by around 425 community based not-for-profit enterprises across the State. Some €45.4 million has been allocated to the programme for 2013, which will support 2,800 people in full and part time employment. CSP funding is primarily intended to contribute to the wages costs of the service provider expressed as a fixed annual contribution towards the costs of employing full time equivalent workers, and in some cases, a contribution towards the cost of employing a manager.

In general, service providers are engaged under a three year contracting arrangement until 31 December 2013. Access to the programme is by way of open call for proposals, the last in 2008, or by expression of interest from existing services providers where they consider the programme has a role in supporting or developing their operations. Due to resource constraints, there are limited opportunities for new proposals to be considered with funds being concentrated on supporting the employment potential of existing contract holders.

I have no immediate proposals to alter the operation of the programme.

Disability Allowance Appeals

 137. 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 appeal for disability allowance will be expedited in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny. [43182/13]

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 4 September 2013. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought from the Department of Social Protection. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 7 October 2013 and the case will be referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral hearing.

In order to be fair to all appellants appeals are dealt with in strict chronological order.

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 in relation to social welfare entitlements.


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