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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 138-152
 Header Item National Internship Scheme Data
 Header Item Invalidity Pension Appeals
 Header Item Back to Education Allowance Payments
 Header Item Disability Allowance Appeals
 Header Item Invalidity Pension Appeals
 Header Item Community Work Initiatives
 Header Item Youth Guarantee
 Header Item Partial Capacity Benefit Scheme Appeals
 Header Item State Pension (Non-Contributory) Appeals
 Header Item Jobseeker's Benefit Appeals
 Header Item Local Employment Service Issues
 Header Item State Pension (Contributory) Eligibility
 Header Item Child Benefit Eligibility

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. 138-152

National Internship Scheme Data

 138. 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 the reason a JobBridge internship was terminated after two weeks in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [43183/13]

 163. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the number of persons taking part in the JobBridge scheme and the cost of same to the Exchequer.  [43452/13]

 171. Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy Information on Marcella Corcoran Kennedy Zoom on Marcella Corcoran Kennedy asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the maximum number of internships allowed under the JobBridge scheme by one company or employer; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43521/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I propose to take Questions Nos. 138, 163 and 171 together.

At 10 October, 2013, there were 5,918 individuals on JobBridge internships, a total of 21,842 internship placements since the scheme commenced, and there were 2,948 internship opportunities advertised on the JobBridge website. The total cost to the Exchequer of the top-up allowances paid to-date is €23 million.

Those companies with up to 10 full time employees (employed for 30 hours or more per week, i.e., on payroll and subject to PAYE and PRSI) are permitted to take on 1 intern, those with 11 to 20 such employees are permitted to take on up to 3 interns, those with 21 to 30 such employees are permitted to take on up to 4 interns and those with more than 30 employees are permitted to take on interns equivalent to 20% of their workforce up to a maximum of 200 interns, whichever is the smaller. This operates on a rolling basis subject to adherence to the terms and conditions of the scheme.

JobBridge delivers valuable internship opportunities for jobseekers and independent research has demonstrated it is an effective and efficient scheme. The independent evaluation, by Indecon Economic Consultants, demonstrated that 61% of interns who completed their placements subsequently progressed to paid employment. The 61% progression rate for JobBridge is among the best in Europe, where progression rates for similar internship schemes average just 34%.

The Indecon evaluation clearly demonstrates that JobBridge is delivering for thousands of jobseekers by providing them with valuable opportunities to gain relevant work experience, knowledge and skills in a workplace environment.

In order to be eligible to participate in the scheme a person must be in receipt of certain social welfare payments or signing for credits. The person referred to by the Deputy was in receipt of Farm Assist, which is not an eligible payment for participation on JobBridge. However, due to a technical error the person was incorrectly categorised as being eligible for JobBridge and commenced an internship on 23 September, 2013. When the error was discovered the internship was finished on 4 October, 2013. The €50 top up which was also paid for the two week period will not be recouped by the Department.

Invalidity Pension Appeals

 139. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the position regarding an invalidity pension appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry. [43208/13]

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.

Back to Education Allowance Payments

 140. 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 if her attention has been drawn to the fact that some persons who have been offered third level courses are unable to accept them because of problems transitioning from receiving social welfare payments to back to education allowance; the cost impact this has on third level institutions; if she has proposed any solution to help assist these persons take up courses while their claims are processed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42019/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton A person wishing to pursue a course of study under the back to education allowance scheme will have to satisfy a number of conditions such as being a certain age, in receipt of a prescribed social welfare payment for a specified time period, pursuing a full time course of study leading to a recognised qualification in a recognised college and progressing in the level of education held by the client with reference to the National Framework of Qualifications among others.

The back to education allowance is essentially a social welfare replacement income which is paid in lieu of the relevant social welfare payment that qualifies the applicant for participation in the scheme. A person transfers from their primary payment to the back to education allowance.

Due to the nature of the scheme the majority of applications are made in August and September in advance of the commencement of the new academic year. Local offices prioritise these claims to ensure that all applications are processed as quickly as possible and in time for the commencement of the academic year. However, a number of people delay sending in their applications and supporting documentation. In those cases it is not possible to guarantee that a decision will be given before commencement of the relevant course. All possible steps are being taken to ensure that applications are dealt with as speedily as possible.

  Question No. 141 answered with Question No. 129.

Disability Allowance Appeals

 142. 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 when a person (details below) in County Carlow will receive a decision on their appeal for disability allowance; and if she will expedite the matter. [43237/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the appeal from the person concerned was referred to an Appeals Officer who has decided to convene an oral hearing in this case.

  Every effort will be made to hear the case as quickly as possible and the appellant will be informed when arrangements for the oral hearing have been made.

  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.

Invalidity Pension Appeals

 143. 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. [43250/13]

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 4 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 Work Initiatives

 144. Deputy Terence Flanagan Information on Terence Flanagan Zoom on Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton her plans to introduce a Tús training budget so that persons may expand their skills to progress in the labour market while taking part in the scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43257/13]

 154. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will seek to secure on behalf of child care sector Tús programme participants the opportunity to remain on Tús until they achieve level 5 certification or to proceed to community employment, regardless of age; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [38769/13]

 164. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the number of persons taking part in the Tús scheme and the cost of same to the Exchequer. [43453/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I propose to take Questions Nos. 144, 154 and 164 together.

The purpose of Tús is to maintain the work readiness of those on the live register for a period of at least 12 months by providing quality placement opportunities and other supports to help people back to the labour market and work. The primary programme for unemployed people and those seeking to return to work from other social protection payment schemes is community employment. I do not consider it good value for money to have multiple schemes pursuing the same objectives which is why Tús does not offer same training and development opportunities as community employment. The 12-month duration on Tús is designed to ensure that the benefits are offered to the greatest number of those eligible. There are no circumstances under which a person’s term on Tús can be extended nor I am persuaded that such a development is warranted. The Deputies will wish to note that the Department will implement a number of innovations to Tús and community employment to provide for greater development opportunities for participants across the programmes and where suitable progression opportunities are identified. The level of funding provided for Tús in 2013 is just over €96m which has enabled the allocation of 7,500 nationally plus supervisory positions with local development companies. As of 4 October, 6,783 participants plus 371 supervisory staff were on the payroll. Just over 13,000 people have been engaged on Tús since it commenced operations in July 2011.

Youth Guarantee

 145. Deputy Terence Flanagan Information on Terence Flanagan Zoom on Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton her plans to roll out the youth guarantee scheme in local communities where unemployment is exceptionally high; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43264/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton An implementation plan for national delivery of a Youth Guarantee commencing from 2014 onwards will be drawn up by the end of this year. This will be done on a balanced basis, taking into account youth unemployment levels in the various rural and urban regions across the country. A pilot scheme is being rolled out in Ballymun which will inform the national roll-out of the youth guarantee in local communities with high youth unemployment levels.

Partial Capacity Benefit Scheme Appeals

 146. Deputy Michael McNamara Information on Michael McNamara Zoom on Michael McNamara asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will receive a decision on an appeal on partial capacity benefit; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [43268/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Partial capacity benefit was awarded to the person concerned following an assessment by a Medical Assessor of the Department who expressed the opinion that the restriction on his capacity for work should be assessed as moderate.

An appeal was registered in this case on 20 June 2013 and the Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that, in accordance with statutory requirements, the Department has been asked to provide the documentation in the case and the Deciding Officer’s comments on the grounds of the appeal. In that context, an assessment by another Medical Assessor will be carried out. 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.

State Pension (Non-Contributory) Appeals

 147. 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 for a non contributory State pension payment in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43280/13]

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 of the available evidence, has decided to disallow the appeal of the person concerned by way of a summary decision. The person concerned has been notified of the Appeals Officer’s decision.

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.

  Question No. 148 answered with Question No. 129.

Jobseeker's Benefit Appeals

 149. Deputy Emmet Stagg Information on Emmet Stagg Zoom on Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the reason for the delay in determining an appeal against refusal of jobseeker's benefit in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and when the appeal will be dealt with. [43305/13]

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.

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.

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.

Local Employment Service Issues

 150. 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 procedures that are taken by local employment services offices when determining waiting lists for training courses; if she will outline the timeframe in which waiting lists for each course are updated; if persons on a waiting list for 12 months or more are communicated with regularly to determine if they are still interested in enrolling on the same course; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [43309/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Waiting lists for training courses are managed by the relevant training providers. Clients are referred to training providers by the Local Employment Service (LES) as well as the Department’s own employment services. Regular contact is maintained with clients during the activation process so that issues, such as prolonged waiting lists for courses, can be identified and addressed. This could include the sourcing of alternative training arrangements where possible.

State Pension (Contributory) Eligibility

 151. Deputy Paul J. Connaughton Information on Paul Connaughton Zoom on Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the current contributory pension allocates full contributory pension to persons who pay full contributions for ten years, yet fails to allocate a full pension to persons who have paid contributions for almost 30 years but whose contributions are spread out over a long period of years; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the current system penalises hard-working people, especially those who started working and contributing in their teenage years; her plans to introduce a system whereby persons are paid on a pro rata basis and those with almost 30 years contributions would receive a full pension, which they have contributed to over many decades; if this matter is currently being examined; if there are plans afoot to change the current unfair situation; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [43310/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The State pension is a very valuable asset and it is important, that those who receive it have made a significant contribution towards it during a working life as the State needs to ensure that it can continue to sustain pension payments in the future.

I understand the Deputy is referring to the current averaging system used in calculating State pension. One of the key factors when pension assessment is being made is the date of entry into insurance and it is from this point that the averaging is calculated.

The average contributions test is used in calculating pension entitlement and has been in existence since 1961 when contributory pensions were first introduced. The system was designed with a view to ensuring that people could qualify for contributory pensions from the outset rather than waiting for contributions to build up, and to suit a system where social insurance coverage was limited and people could move in and out of coverage as a result of the nature of their employment and/or their earnings.

There can be circumstances where a person with a shorter contribution history could receive a higher pension and this is why it is planned to introduce a ‘total contributions approach’ where pension payment made will more closely reflect contributions made over a working life. This will remove the current anomaly whereby some people qualify for higher pension payments even though they have fewer contributions (but a higher average) than others who do not qualify, or qualify for a lower pension, due to the average contributions test.

In introducing such a system, it is considered appropriate to have regard to the potential that people now have to accumulate contributions as a result of the comprehensive nature of social insurance coverage which has been in place for 20 years, and the growth in the labour force over that period. Accordingly, a total contributions requirement of 30 years contributions for a maximum pension will be introduced. The proposed date for its introduction is 2020, but I am keeping this date under review.

The rate band changes for State pension, introduced in September 2012 goes somewhat towards this measure of reform where pension paid more closely reflects contributions made over a working life.

The OECD Review of the Irish Pension System which was published in April 2013 also endorsed the move to a total rather than an average contributions test to determine entitlement to a State pension.

Child Benefit Eligibility

 152. 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 her reasons for not accepting Deputy Denis Naughten's innovative proposal on linking child benefit payments to school attendance; if she acknowledges that such a system would help reduce the incidence of early school leaving, school absenteeism, child benefit fraud and would eliminate overseas payments; the savings her Department estimates would be achieved from such a system; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [43416/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Child benefit is a universal monthly payment that assists all families with in the many costs associated with raising children up to the age of 18 years. Child benefit is paid to around 606,000 families in respect of some 1.15 million children with an estimated expenditure of around €1.9 billion. Child benefit is a highly valued income support by families, and is especially important during a time of recession and unemployment.

It is a statutory requirement that a child attends school up to 16 years of age. Consequently, all recipients of child benefit are already legally required to attend school up to this age. There is a national monitoring system for statutory school attendance via the National Educational Welfare Board under the auspices of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. For children over 16 years and less than 18 years, the continuation of child benefit is dependent on the children attending school for these two years. The Department of Social Protection issues a confirmation letter to parents with children at age 16 and at age 17, which must be signed by their school for each of these years. I am satisfied that the requirement for school attendance for children in receipt of child benefit is already a feature of both education and social protection policy. If the Deputy has concerns about early school leaving and school absenteeism, he should direct these to the competent authorities, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and the National Education Welfare Board.

My Department has taken a proactive approach to ensure that child benefit is only paid to eligible families. In 2008 the Department commenced issuing continuing eligibility certificates to parents. The control policy for the child benefit scheme was reviewed in 2010 to ensure that controls on fraud and abuse of the scheme continue to be effective and relevant. As a result of this review, enhanced and updated control measures have been devised. The total savings from child benefit control activity was €48.5 million in 2008, €89 million in 2009, €106 million in 2010, €85 million in 2011 and €83 million in 2012. The reduction in the level of savings achieved is due to the effectiveness of the control programme in recent years. This is also reflected in the savings achieved so far in 2013, which amount to just under €54 million.

The Deputy should note that child benefit payment is classified as a family benefit under EU regulations. A key principle of the coordination system is that persons moving to different Member States are subject to the same obligations and enjoy the same benefits as the nationals of those Member States. Therefore, EU nationals who come to work in Ireland, and who pay Irish social insurance contributions, are entitled to receive child benefit in respect of their children, even if the children reside in another EU Member State.


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