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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 115-126
 Header Item Departmental Legal Costs
 Header Item Unemployment Data
 Header Item Departmental Expenditure
 Header Item Cumas Gaeilge sa Stát Seirbhís
 Header Item Intestate Estates
 Header Item Social Welfare Appeals
 Header Item Illness Benefit Payments
 Header Item Household Benefits Scheme
 Header Item Personal Public Service Numbers
 Header Item Labour Activation Measures
 Header Item Social Welfare Benefits
 Header Item Social Welfare Appeals

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 861 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 109 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 115-126

Departmental Legal Costs

 115. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny the amount of expenditure incurred by his Department on external legal advice in the years 2012, 2013 and to date in 2014. [46733/14]

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny My Department incurred no expenditure in 2012, 2013 and to date in 2014 on external legal advice.

Unemployment Data

 116. Deputy Derek Keating Information on Derek Keating Zoom on Derek Keating asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny the percentage of the labour force in Dublin mid-west that is officially unemployed in 2014 compared with each of the past ten years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46932/14]

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy Paul Kehoe): Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe The exact information requested by the Deputy is not available. The Quarterly National Household Survey (QNHS) is the official source of estimates of unemployment in the State. Estimates of unemployment are produced by NUTS3 Region. Due to methodology and sample size it is not possible to produce reliable estimates from the QNHS for Dublin mid-west. The latest figures available from the QNHS are for Quarter 3 of 2014.

  The table below shows the percentage of persons in the labour force classified as unemployed in the Dublin NUTS3 region in Q3 of each year from 2004 to 2014.

  Unemployment rate of persons aged 15 years and over in the Dublin NUTS3 region Q3 2004 - Q3 2014

Q3 04
Q3 05
Q3 06
Q3 07
Q3 08
Q3 09
Q3 10
Q3 11
Q3 12
Q3 13
Q3 14
Unemployment rate
4.3
4.6
4.6
4.7
6.6
11.2
12.0
13.4
12.9
10.5
10.2


  Source: Quarterly National Household Survey, Central Statistics Office.

Departmental Expenditure

 117. Deputy Brian Walsh Information on Brian Walsh Zoom on Brian Walsh asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny the facilities and privileges made available by his Department to former Taoisigh; and if he will provide a breakdown of the cost incurred in providing these since 2011 inclusive. [47159/14]

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny The breakdown of the costs incurred in providing administrative support to former Taoisigh since 2011 is provided in the table below.

Year
Details
Amount
2011
Secretarial Assistants
€ 265,250.90
 
Newspapers
€ 392.50
 
Mobile Phones
€ 6,184.41
 
ISDN Lines Home
€ 248.71
 
IT Equipment
€ 1,440.00
 
Removal of Waste
€ 231.54
2012
Secretarial Assistants
€ 85,810.98
 
Mobile Phones
€ 415.16
2013
Nil
Nil
2014
Nil
Nil


  Since March 2012, no administrative support has been made available by my Department to former Taoisigh.

Cumas Gaeilge sa Stát Seirbhís

 118. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív den Taoisigh Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny cén líon daoine atá ag obair ina Roinn faoi láthair atá inniúil ar a chuid nó a cuid oibre a dhéanamh trí Ghaeilge; cén céatadán den fhoireann atá i gceist; comparáid a dhéanamh idir na figiúirí sin agus na figiúirí céanna in 2004, 1994, 1984 agus 1974; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [47293/14]

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny Díríonn obair mo Roinne go príomha ar dhéileálacha leis an Rialtas agus le ranna agus gníomhaireachtaí eile rialtais. Mar thoradh air sin, ní thugaimid leibhéal mór éilimh faoi deara ón bpobal ar sheirbhísí i nGaeilge.

Thug roinnt comhaltaí foirne i mo Roinn le fios go bhfuil roinnt inniúlachta acu sa Ghaeilge agus tá siad inniúil go leor chun réimse seirbhísí a sholáthar i nGaeilge ar chéimeanna áirithe. As na comhaltaí seo, sannadh beirt oifigeach a bhfuil ardleibhéal inniúlachta acu chun seirbhísí a sholáthar don phobal i nGaeilge, agus is leor an líon oifigeach seo chun freastal ar an éileamh reatha.

Intestate Estates

 119. Deputy Michael Colreavy Information on Michael Colreavy Zoom on Michael Colreavy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the arrangements that are in place to meet the funeral-burial costs of a person who dies intestate and who does not have any family members with the means to meet the costs involved. [46749/14]

Minister of State at the Department of Social Protection (Deputy Kevin Humphreys): Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys Under the supplementary welfare allowance (SWA) scheme, the Department may make a single exceptional needs payment (ENP) to help meet essential, once-off and unforeseen expenditure which a person could not reasonably be expected to meet out of their weekly income. The Government has provided €31.3 million for the ENP scheme in 2014.

An application can be made under the ENP scheme for assistance with funeral and burial expenses. An ENP is a means tested payment payable at the discretion of the officers administering the scheme taking into account the requirements of the legislation and all the relevant circumstances of the applicant and that of the deceased person including any savings, property, insurance policies, etc. The Department official will also consider if a bereavement payment is available from any other source including former employer, credit union or trade union.

Any persons who consider that they have an entitlement to an ENP under the SWA scheme on behalf of the deceased or to any of the range of supports available following bereavement should contact the Department.

Social Welfare Appeals

 120. Deputy Brian Walsh Information on Brian Walsh Zoom on Brian Walsh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if a means test in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Galway will be reviewed to take account of taxation and other expenses not included in the assessment. [46759/14]

Tánaiste and 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, concluded that the assessment of the person’s concerned means was correct and that all appropriate allowances prescribed in social welfare legislation had been applied. The Appeals Officer consequently 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.

Illness Benefit Payments

 121. Deputy Sandra McLellan Information on Sandra McLellan Zoom on Sandra McLellan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will include persons (details supplied) who are on illness benefit long term in the social welfare Christmas bonus payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46790/14]

 141. Deputy Róisín Shortall Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will extend the Christmas bonus to persons who are currently in receipt of long-term illness benefit under the pre-2008 rules; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47022/14]

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton It is proposed to take Question Nos. 121 and 141 together.

The Christmas bonus was paid last week to over 1.2 million long-term social welfare recipients at a cost of circa €65 million.

The Bonus was introduced in 1980 and was paid annually (at varying rates) until it was abolished in 2009. I was pleased to be in the position to partially restore the bonus this year. A 25% bonus (subject to a minimum payment of €20) was paid to the beneficiaries of all schemes to which the bonus previously applied. It should be noted that Illness Benefit recipients were never eligible for the bonus in the past and this condition continues to apply this year.

It should be noted that persons who are permanently incapable of work may be entitled to the PRSI contribution based Invalidity Pension, subject to satisfying the relevant conditions. Persons who are substantially restricted in undertaking suitable employment due to medical reasons may be entitled to the means tested Disability Allowance, subject to satisfying the relevant conditions. Recipients of the latter payments are eligible for the Christmas Bonus, as well as additional benefits including Free Travel and the Household Benefits package.

Household Benefits Scheme

 122. Deputy Paul Murphy Information on  Zoom on  asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if, after moving from jobseeker's benefit or jobseeker's allowance to a carer's allowance, a person becomes ineligible for the telephone and fuel allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46854/14]

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton A person moving from long-term jobseeker’s allowance to carer’s allowance would not be eligible for fuel allowance, as carer’s allowance is not a qualifying payment.

However, a person in receipt of carer’s allowance may become eligible for the household benefits package, which is not available for people in receipt of jobseeker’s allowance. The package includes a gas/electricity allowance of €35 per month and a free television licence which is normally €160 per year. In addition, people in receipt of carer’s allowance are entitled to free travel, and the annual respite care grant of €1,375. The telephone allowance was discontinued in Budget 2014.

Approximately 415,000 customers receive the fuel allowance of €20 per week for 26 weeks from October to April, at an estimated cost of €208 million in 2014. The electricity or gas allowance of €35 per month is also paid to 415,000 customers at an estimated cost of €230 million in 2014.

Under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme, exceptional needs payments may be made to help meet an essential, once-off cost which customers are unable to meet out of their own resources; this may include exceptional heating costs. There is also a special heating supplement, paid to assist people with special heating needs because of ill health or infirmity. The provision for exceptional needs payments in 2014 is €31.3 million, with an additional €9.8 million for supplements.

It is recognised in the Government’s Energy Affordability Strategy that the best way to tackle fuel poverty in the long term is to improve the energy efficiency of the dwelling. The Better Energy Warmer Homes scheme, administered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, delivers a range of energy efficiency measures to low income households vulnerable to energy poverty. Measures available include draught proofing, attic insulation, lagging jackets for hot water tanks, low energy light bulbs and cavity wall insulation, and are free of charge to the customer.

Personal Public Service Numbers

 123. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if her attention has been drawn to a supermarket chain (details supplied) seeking job applicants to supply personal public service numbers before being allowed to submit a job application; if this practice is lawful; if it is authorised or condoned by her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46874/14]

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton A Personal Public Service (PPS) number is a reference number established for specific public service purposes by legislation.

My Department is committed to protecting and facilitating the use of the PPS Number in accordance with the law. The legislation governing the use of the PPS Number is contained in the Social Welfare Consolidation Act, 2005 (as amended). Under social welfare legislation, only bodies specified in statute or their agents can use the PPS Number. It is an offence for any person or body to request or hold a record of a PPS Number unless they are permitted by law to do so.

There is no basis for a prospective employer to capture a candidate's PPS Number at the application stage. An employer should only seek a PPS Number if the person is successful at recruitment stage and is actually taking up employment with the organisation. At that point an employer requires the PPS Number of the employee for Revenue purposes. When it comes to the attention of my department that an employer is inappropriately requesting PPS numbers my Department contacts the organisation in question informing the organisation that they are not permitted to request the PPS Number at the job application stage and informing them to take the action necessary (including the destruction of the PPS Numbers collected) to remedy the situation. They are also requested to advise my Department when this has been done. If no response is received, the organisation is contacted again. The experience of my Department to date has been that implementing the procedure outlined above has resulted in full compliance. As a result, my Department has no record of any organisation not becoming fully compliant once the issue has been highlighted to them.

In relation to the particular case referred to by the Deputy, my Department has both written to and telephoned the organisation in question in recent days informing it that it is not permitted to request the PPS Number at the job application stage, informing it to take the action necessary (including the destruction of the PPS Numbers collected) to remedy the situation, and requesting it to advise my Department when this has been done. I wish to assure the Deputy that, as in all such cases, the matter will be pursued vigorously to ensure compliance.

Labour Activation Measures

 124. Deputy Tom Fleming Information on Tom Fleming Zoom on Tom Fleming asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will provide details regarding a company (details supplied) in their provision of job placements; if she will provide in tabular form the numbers of long-term unemployment in each of the designated counties; the progress that been made in employment opportunities to date in 2014 by the company; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46875/14]

Minister of State at the Department of Social Protection (Deputy Kevin Humphreys): Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys Following a procurement process conducted in accordance with EU and Irish procurement rules, the company in question was selected as one of the preferred tenderers for the provision of employment services under the JobPath programme. JobPath is a new programme of employment activation aimed specifically at the long-term unemployed (over 12 months) and those most distant from the labour market. The Department is currently in the process of finalising contracts for JobPath. It is expected that the programme will commence in mid-2015.

Social Welfare Benefits

 125. Deputy Eric Byrne Information on Eric J. Byrne Zoom on Eric J. Byrne asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will provide a breakdown of recipients by scheme in tabular form who have received the Christmas bonus in Dublin 8, 10 and 12; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46877/14]

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Information relating to a claimant’s address is not currently coded to the geographical location of the address nor to the Postal District code. As such it is not possible to provide a breakdown of recipients by scheme, who have received the Christmas bonus in Dublin 8, 10 and 12.

Social Welfare Appeals

 126. Deputy Sean Fleming Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will make arrangements whereby the Social Welfare Appeals Office will deal with appeals regarding the recovery of overpayments especially where the member of the public is not satisfied that the approach being taking by the Department and that the Department's code of conduct is not independent of the Department and this matter should be able to be dealt with by the independent Social Welfare Appeals Office and while this is not the case it may cause severe difficulties for persons; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46891/14]

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton When a revised decision on a person’s social welfare entitlement is made, the Deciding Officer has regard to the full facts of the case. Where it is decided that there is a retrospective reduction in the claimant’s entitlement, an overpayment is assessed.

When a revised decision has been made, the claimant is notified and given the right to appeal the decision within 21 days. The person is also entitled to seek an internal review of the decision by another Deciding Officer at this time. Once the right of appeal has been exercised (or not), the Department will then consider the recovery of the overpayment. At this point, the overpayment becomes a debt owed to the Department. A person’s debt may be comprised of one overpayment or a number of overpayments.

When seeking to recover a debt by deduction from ongoing entitlements, the Department does not propose making any deductions that would likely visit hardship on beneficiaries. The Department will allow the person to put forward any circumstances that s/he feels may be relevant to the rate of recovery proposed.


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