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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 142-151
 Header Item Domiciliary Care Allowance Data
 Header Item National Internship Scheme Administration
 Header Item Community Employment Schemes Eligibility
 Header Item Social Welfare Appeals Status
 Header Item Services for People with Disabilities
 Header Item Pension Provisions
 Header Item Social Welfare Code
 Header Item Rent Supplement Scheme Payments
 Header Item Disability Allowance Appeals

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 830 No. 3

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Written Answers Nos. 142-151

Domiciliary Care Allowance Data

 142. 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 applications for domiciliary care allowance received by her Department in 2012 and 2013; if she will provide a breakdown of the applications approved and refused; and the number of these applications which are pending. [7288/14]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton In 2012 a total of 4,339 Domiciliary Care Allowance (DCA) applications were received by the Department. There were 4,680 applications fully processed in 2012, with 2,204 allowed by a deciding officer with a further 874 allowed and 29 partially allowed by the Appeals Office.

  In 2013 a total of 4,829 Domiciliary Care Allowance (DCA) applications were received by the Department. There were 4,404 applications fully processed in 2013, with 2,244 allowed by a deciding officer with a further 783 allowed and 23 partially allowed on appeal.

  At 31 Dec 2013 there were 694 applications pending decision.

National Internship Scheme Administration

 143. 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 the position regarding the JobBridge scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7297/14]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton JobBridge is focused on providing unemployed people with high quality real workplace experience. JobBridge is a voluntary scheme where interns choose the internship best suited to their needs. Potential interns cover the spectrum of needs, qualifications and experiences. Therefore, it is necessary that JobBridge provides real opportunities with real potential employers across that spectrum of qualifications and experiences, including the lower skilled and inexperienced as well as graduates. It is important to highlight that individuals at all skill and educational levels have an equal right to this activation measure.

The Department has a number of controls in place to prevent abuse of the scheme. Over 4,400 monitoring visits have been conducted to date, 98% of which were found to be satisfactory. There are also limits placed on the number of internships that can be offered by any one organisation related to the number of staff employed by the company and there are restrictions on the repeat or sequential use of internships.

A total of 35 companies have been disqualified from participating in the scheme due to breaches of the terms and conditions. However, it is worth highlighting that over 11,600 companies have participated in the scheme across all sectors and the overwhelming majority of companies are providing quality internships for jobseekers.

On average, a JobBridge internship costs the Exchequer €238 per week, inclusive of the €50 top-up. However, the independent evaluation has shown that the scheme has been good value for money through high rates of progression into employment.

Community Employment Schemes Eligibility

 144. Deputy Willie O'Dea Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if her attention has been drawn to the fact that as a result of the Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2012, a welfare recipient with a dependent adult and dependent children who takes up a community employment scheme will lose most of the €20 increase in payment as they are subject to 4% PRSI on all income; if she realises that this creates a particular and undesirable barrier for unemployed parents who wish to return to work and training; the actions she will take to address this issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [7299/14]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Participants in certain employment schemes, including community employment schemes (CE), receive a weekly payment which is equal to the social welfare payment appropriate to their family size, plus a top up of €20, subject to a minimum payment of €208 per week. This income is treated in the same manner as earnings from employment for PRSI purposes and accordingly is subject to Class A PRSI. Therefore participants on CE schemes, similar to other private sector employees who pay Class A, can establish entitlement to the full range of short term benefits including jobseeker’s benefit, illness benefit, and maternity benefit and to long term benefits including State pension (contributory).

In Budget 2013 the weekly PRSI-free allowance of €127 was abolished for all Class A contributors. This measure had no impact on Class A contributors who do not pay PRSI where their earnings are less than €352 per week. For those earning in excess of €352 per week and paying PRSI at 4%, this increased the weekly PRSI charge by €5.08. This affected all Class A contributors who were paying 4% PRSI on their earnings. It also affected participants on CE schemes whose income is treated as earnings for PRSI, in the same manner as it impacted the earnings of employees.

At the end of January 2014 there were 1,896 CE participants earning over €352 per week and who pay PRSI. In the vast majority of cases, even taking account of the increased PRSI charge, the amount of the CE payment exceeded their underlying social welfare entitlement. There were only 31 cases where the CE recipient would have been better off financially if they retained their original social welfare payment, when compared with the CE payment.

Any proposal to re-introduce the PRSI-free allowance to address this issue would reduce income to the Social Insurance Fund and could only be considered in a Budgetary context.

Social Welfare Appeals Status

 145. Deputy Michelle Mulherin Information on Michelle Mulherin Zoom on Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the position regarding an appeal in respect of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7341/14]

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 03 February 2014. 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.

Services for People with Disabilities

 146. 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 if she will give an assurance that the Government will deliver on its commitments to persons with disabilities (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7350/14]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton People with disabilities are a priority for my Department which will spend €19 billion on social protection measures in 2014.

My Department has maintained this level of financial support for people with disabilities against a background where very significant reductions in the Department’s budget over successive years had to be imposed in order to comply with the national recovery programme. I would emphasise that core weekly social welfare payments for people with disabilities have been maintained for 2014.

I should also add that my Department, along with nine other Departments of state, is contributing to the National Disability Strategy Implementation Plan (2013 -2015) which was published in 2013 and which has the full backing of the Taoiseach and various Ministers through the Cabinet Committee on Social Policy.

  Question No. 147 withdrawn.

Pension Provisions

 148. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton in view of the Element Six Commercial Court decision delivered on 4 February 2014, if the Pensions Board guidance notes will now give formal recognition to compensation funds which are being proposed, as well as comments on the expected behaviour of employers and the relationship between a funding proposal and contract.  [7360/14]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Guidance notes issued by the Pensions Board must comply with and operate within the policies and principles set down in primary legislation. Guidance notes are kept under review and updated as required. Where it is considered necessary to extend the policy and principles then proposals would be brought forward to amend primary legislation.

The judgement in the Element Six case, as with other Court cases arising in relation to pension provision, will be considered in detail and any proposals for change to pension provision will be brought forward in that context.

Social Welfare Code

 149. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the reason the monthly docket system for casual workers is being replaced by a requirement for workers to submit their dockets to the local social welfare office on a weekly basis. [7361/14]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The Department is committed to ensuring that the correct payment issues to the appropriate person in a timely manner and in order to achieve this aim in relation to jobseeker payments it is necessary to administer two separate systems for those who are partially employed each week.

In the majority of cases, where a person is engaged in casual or part-time work the days worked each week can vary. Accordingly, in order to ensure that the correct weekly payment issues, customers are required to complete a form on a weekly basis setting out the days on which they worked and the days on which they were unemployed.

In circumstances where a person’s work pattern does not fluctuate from week to week, arrangements are in place for the above to be replaced by monthly certification. However, if the employment pattern subsequently varies, it is necessary for the customer to revert to weekly certification.

Rent Supplement Scheme Payments

 150. 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 reason rent support has not been paid for four months resulting in severe hardship and imminent eviction in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7391/14]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The rent supplement claim for the person concerned has now been approved and she has been sent notification of this decision. An arrears payment to cover the period from October to December 2013 inclusive has been issued to her, and her arrears payment for January will be included with her payment for February.

Disability Allowance Appeals

 151. 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 reason for disallowance of appeal in respect of disability allowance in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [7392/14]

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, decided to disallow the appeal of the person concerned by way of a summary decision. Under Social Welfare legislation, the decision of the Appeals Officer is final and conclusive and may only be reviewed by the Appeals Officer in the light of new evidence or new facts.

In light of the additional medical evidence submitted by the Deputy the Department has been requested to return the file to the Social Welfare Appeals Office. On receipt of this file, the Appeals Officer will review the case. The person concerned will be contacted when the review of his appeal has been finalised.

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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