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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 239-262
 Header Item Departmental Schemes
 Header Item Unemployment Data
 Header Item Departmental Expenditure
 Header Item Citizens Information Services
 Header Item Unemployment Data
 Header Item Carer's Support Grant
 Header Item Carer's Allowance Appeals
 Header Item Family Income Supplement Appeals
 Header Item Disability Allowance Appeals
 Header Item Carer's Allowance Appeals
 Header Item Carer's Allowance Applications
 Header Item Fuel Allowance Data
 Header Item Fuel Allowance Data
 Header Item Public Services Card Provision
 Header Item Farm Assist Scheme Eligibility
 Header Item Jobseeker's Benefit Eligibility
 Header Item Social Welfare Appeals
 Header Item One-Parent Family Payment Payments
 Header Item Exceptional Needs Payments
 Header Item Social Welfare Appeals Status
 Header Item Jobseeker's Allowance Eligibility
 Header Item Carer's Allowance Payments
 Header Item Job Initiatives
 Header Item Jobseeker's Allowance Eligibility

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 944 No. 2

First Page Previous Page Page of 84 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 239-262

Departmental Schemes

 239. Deputy Willie O'Dea Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the programmes or schemes under his Department's remit which assist or support persons to retrain or reskill at third level institutions or equivalent; the cost of each of these schemes, in tabular form; the number of participants in each scheme; if there is an age limit for applying for such schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15163/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) grant payable by the Department of Education and Skills represents the primary support for persons pursuing Post Leaving Certificate Courses (PLCs) and higher education undergraduate courses.

My Department administers the Back to Education Allowance (BTEA) scheme which is an educational opportunities scheme for persons in receipt of certain social welfare payments wishing to pursue second or third-level courses of education subject to meeting the qualifying conditions. It is intended to assist those who are distant from the labour market to acquire the necessary education to improve their chances of becoming independent of the social welfare system.

The BTEA scheme is aligned with the student support schemes under the Department of Education and Skills. In the case of jobseekers, this allows recipients to participate in a course of education while unemployed and continue to receive an income support.

In general, an applicant must be at least 21 years of age before the start date of an approved course of study. The BTEA can be approved for a jobseeker aged at least 18 but under 21 years old provideD that they have been out of formal education for at least two years prior to the commencement of the proposed course of study.

Expenditure on the BTEA scheme in 2016 was just over €114m and, at the end of December 2016, there were over 14,300 participants on the scheme.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Unemployment Data

 240. Deputy Willie O'Dea Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the supports or incentives in place to encourage employers to hire persons who are long-term unemployed, that is, for more than one year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15164/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar JobsPlus provides a direct monthly financial incentive to employers who recruit people who are longterm on the live register and those transitioning into employment. It provides employers with two levels of payment - €7,500 or €10,000 over two years, paid in monthly instalments, provided the employment is maintained. The rate of payment depends on the length of time the person has been on the Live Register. The €7,500 rate is paid to employers who recruit people who have been unemployed for more than one year. The €10,000 rate is paid to employers who recruit people who have been unemployed for more than two years.

The incentive is open to all eligible employers in the private, community and voluntary sectors, including those who are self-employed. It is available to all employers filling new positions or vacancies that arise as a consequence of natural turnover. Employers can find out more information and register for JobsPlus on the website www.jobsplus.ie.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Departmental Expenditure

 241. Deputy Michael McGrath Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the cost of insurance under different insurance headings such as public liability, buildings cover, employer liability and so on for his Department and each body under its aegis; the name of the insurance provider for each year since 2010, in tabular form; the number of current outstanding insurance claims against his Department or the body under its aegis; the estimated cost of those claims if available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15186/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar My Department does not take out insurance policies but pays out compensation where necessary. Accordingly, there are no insurance claims against my Department. In cases where a person takes a personal injury claim against the Department, this is handled by the State Claims Agency.

  The Pensions Authority, Pensions Ombudsman, Pensions Council and Social Welfare Tribunal have no insurance costs. The Citizens Information Board has no outstanding insurance claims and has provided the following information on insurance costs, in tabular format, for the period in question.

Citizens Information Board Insurance Premiums

 2016/20172015/20162014/20152013/20142012/20132011/20122010/2011
Insurance providerIPB InsuranceIPB InsuranceIPB InsuranceIPB InsuranceIPB InsuranceIPB InsuranceIPB Insurance
Directors & officers16,43316,43316,43316,98416,43316,433n/a
Public Liability43,02036,16932,88129,47428,91928,36830,601
Employment Practices Liability44,97743,15544,41543,15543,05042,230n/a
Employers Liability23,20018,34417,47017,57615,16214,87316,044
Professional Indemnity28,57424,62224,62225,14617,22815,50517,862
Combined Property18,58616,89616,89616,89616,92116,57119,318
Engineering2,8252,6862,6862,2032,0662,0272,027
Motor Fleet2,9932,9932,1592,1592,1592,1182,884
Computer1,3531,3531,3531,3571,3531,3271,475
Travel Business Scheme132132132132131131258
Personal Accident Employees Scheme899818743676810810357
Personal Accident7,7647,058n/an/an/an/an/a
TOTAL190,754170,657159,791155,758144,232140,39490,826

Citizens Information Services

 242. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the reason it is intended to change the local structure of the citizens information services to a regional structure; the cost of this change; if it is intended to abolish the county and community based model run by local voluntary boards of management; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15190/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The Citizens Information Board (CIB), which has statutory responsibility for the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) and the Citizens Information Services (CIS), decided, on 15 February 2017, to restructure the governance arrangements of these services. The decision was communicated by the Board of CIB to all CIS and MABS Boards and to all staff on the same day. The CIB assures me that there will be no job losses, no closure of services, no change to service delivery locations and no change to the terms and conditions of serving staff during the lifetime of the restructuring programme. There will be no disruption to CIS and MABS services for those who use them.

The decision comes after a lengthy and extensive analysis of options and a detailed consultation period with all stakeholders on the need for a more streamlined governance model. The restructured governance arrangements are being implemented at local company board level only. The decision taken simply reduces the number of individual local CIS and MABS company boards from ninety three (93) to sixteen (16). A new regional board structure will be put in place which will comprise eight (8) CIS boards and eight (8) MABS boards. The valuable work carried out by the employees and volunteers working in CIS services and the employees of MABS services will continue as heretofore.

A more streamlined governance structure will result in a more targeted use of valuable staff resources, re-directed to increased front line service delivery, made possible by reduction in the current significant administrative burden associated with maintaining ninety three (93) individual companies nationwide. The changes will bring the CIS and MABS organisations more into line with modern public service governance guidelines and requirements where significant State funding is involved.

In 2017, CIB is set to receive State funding of €54 million, of which €15 million is allocated to CIS services (including €13.1 million to the 42 local Citizens Information Services, €1.2 million to Citizens Information Phone Services and, the balance, €0.7 million to central and other supports), and €24.6 million is allocated to the network of MABS services (including €15.4 million to the 51 local MABS, €0.3m to National Traveller MABS, €2.0 million to MABS National Development Company, €3.3 million to the MABS Dedicated Mortgage Arrears initiative, €3.5 million to the Abhaile service, and the remaining €0.1m to MABS central supports).

Following on from the decision of the Board, a Restructuring Implementation Group is being set up by CIB to examine all aspects of implementing the new sixteen (16) board model. This work will include examination of the establishment costs of the new structure and the potential for future savings derived from the reduction in the administrative burden associated with ninety three (93) individual local companies. Current costs are an aggregate of the costs incurred by each of the ninety three (93) local companies on items such as audit fees, professional fees (including legal services), payroll administration and board of director expenses. While cost is not the driver of the restructuring project, some efficiencies are likely to result from moving to a reduced sixteen (16) company model.

The aim of the project is to improve existing governance arrangements and optimise the benefits from operating a more modern, streamlined and customer focused service delivery model.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Unemployment Data

 243. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan Information on Maurice Quinlivan Zoom on Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the action he is taking to specifically assist the 79,700 long-term unemployed in the fourth quarter of 2016, representing over 54% of the total unemployed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14461/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Government policy to reduce unemployment is twofold. First, through policies set out in the Action Plan for Jobs, to create an environment in which business can succeed and create jobs; and second, through Pathways to Work to ensure that as many as possible of these new jobs and other vacancies that arise in our economy are filled by people taken from the Live Register.

To date, these policies have been effective in reducing unemployment and long-term unemployment in particular. The rate of long-term unemployment has fallen from a peak of 9.5% to 3.6% in Q4 2016. The actual number of people who were long-term unemployed in Q4 2016, at 79,700 as cited in the question, is also very substantially down from a peak of over 200,000 in early 2012. These figures can be expected to fall further this year in line with the forecast fall in overall unemployment.

The Pathways to Work 2016-2020 strategy continues to prioritise actions for the long-term unemployed. This includes the roll-out of the payment-by-results services of JobPath to engage more systematically with the long-term unemployed; providing targeted wage subsidies under JobsPlus; and through reserved places for long-term unemployed jobseekers on employment and training programmes.

The JobPath service procured by my department provides additional resources to enable it to provide a high quality, case-managed employment support service for people who are long-term unemployed and those most at risk of becoming long-term unemployed. The aim is to assist participants in finding sustainable full-time paid employment by providing intensive individual support and assistance.

I am confident these measures, and continuing economic recovery, will support further reductions in long-term unemployment and add to the substantial improvements that have already been seen over the last few years.

Carer's Support Grant

 244. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the status of an appeal in respect of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15256/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The appeal of the person concerned against the decision to refuse her claim for Carer’s Support Grant was successful. An amount of €1,700, in respect of the 2016 Carer’s Support Grant, was lodged to her nominated bank account on Thursday, 23 March 2017.##

Carer's Allowance Appeals

 245. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the reason for the delay in issuing a date for a carer's allowance oral hearing appeal for a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15282/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the appeals from the person concerned was referred to an Appeals Officer who has decided to hold an oral hearing in this case on 11 April 2017. The person concerned has been notified of the arrangements for the 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.

  I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Family Income Supplement Appeals

 246. Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice Information on Michael Fitzmaurice Zoom on Michael Fitzmaurice asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar when a decision will be made regarding an appeal for family income supplement submitted in October 2016 by a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15292/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar In order to qualify for Family Income Supplement (FIS) a person must be engaged in full-time remunerative employment as an employee for at least 38 hours per fortnight (19 hours per week).

  Following an application for FIS on 10 March, 2016, from the person concerned, a file was sent to a Social Welfare Inspector (SWI) on 11 May, 2016, for further investigation, but from the information received from SWI on 28 October, 2016 the person concerned was deemed not to be engaged in full time remunerative employment as an employee.

  The application for (FIS) was disallowed on 3 November, 2016 on the grounds that they were not working the required hours.

  The person concerned then registered an appeal on 14 November, 2016 which was received in the FIS section on 17 November, 2016. The client then made a new FIS application on 15 November, 2016 as they provided new information in relation to their employment which they commenced on 17 May, 2016. In order to validate these employments, the new application was forwarded to SWI for investigation on 15 November, 2016 and that investigation is still ongoing.

  FIS Section is satisfied that the clients second FIS application supersedes their first application as we await the outcome of the SWI investigation before making a decision on their claim.

  FIS Section has made contact with the SWI in this case to see if this investigation can be completed and on receipt of this report the claim will be processed promptly.

  I trust this clarifies the matter for Deputy.

Disability Allowance Appeals

 247. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the reason arrears have yet to be issued to a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15298/17]

Minister of State at the Department of Social Protection (Deputy Finian McGrath): Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath On foot of a review by the Ombudsman Office, the application for disability allowance was backdated to 31 March 2010. Notification of this decision issued to the person concerned on 20 March 2017 and all disability allowance arrears issued to the person in question on that date.

  I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Carer's Allowance Appeals

 248. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the reason for the delay in issuing a date for a carer's allowance oral hearing appeal to a person (details supplied); if consideration will be given to the fact that the person is under financial pressure and requires the oral hearing as a matter of urgency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15303/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 12 January 2017. 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 have been received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 14 March 2017 and the case will be referred within the next week 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.

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.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Carer's Allowance Applications

 249. Deputy Tom Neville Information on Tom Neville Zoom on Tom Neville asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the status of a carer's allowance application in respect of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15314/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar An application for carer's allowance (CA) was received from the person concerned on 24 January 2017.

  The application was awarded to the person concerned on 23 March 2017 and the first payment issued to their nominated post office on 30 March 2017.

  Arrears of allowance due from 27 January 2017 to 29 March 2017 have also issued.

  The person concerned was notified on 23 March 2017 of this decision, the reason for it and of her right of review and appeal.

  I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Fuel Allowance Data

 250. Deputy John Brassil Information on John Brassil Zoom on John Brassil asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar his plans to review the means test for fuel allowance to take into account the gross income of persons in receipt of private pensions rather than the net income (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15328/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The fuel allowance is a payment of €22.50 per week for 26 weeks from October to April, to 378,000 low income households to assist them with their energy costs. The allowance represents a contribution towards the energy costs of a household. It is not intended to meet those costs in full. Only one allowance is paid per household.

My Department also pays an electricity or gas allowance as part of the household benefits package to approximately 425,000 customers, at an estimated cost of €232 million in 2017. Applicants for household benefits aged 70 or over do not have to satisfy a means test.

The criteria for Fuel Allowance are framed in order to direct the limited resources available to my Department in as targeted a manner as possible. People who are in receipt of a qualifying contributory payment must also satisfy a means test. All non-contributory recipients are accepted as satisfying the means-test.

A fuel applicant and members of his/her household may have a combined assessable income of up to €100.00 a week above the appropriate rate of State Pension Contributory and qualify for a payment. This ensures that the fuel allowance payment goes to those who are more vulnerable to fuel poverty including those reliant on social protection payments for longer periods and who are unlikely to have additional resources of their own. The €100 a week means limit is significantly higher than the weekly fuel allowance rate of €22.50 and also the combined weekly total of household benefits and fuel allowance added together (€33.65). It might be remembered that more than half of our pensioners are solely dependent upon the State pension, and so a person who has additional pension income above €100, is not among the more disadvantaged people that Fuel Allowance is targeted at.

The Guidelines for the Fuel Allowance Scheme are kept under review. However, any decision to change the means test for fuel allowance to make it more generous to people in receipt of a private pension would have cost implications, and would have to be considered in the context of overall budgetary negotiations.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Fuel Allowance Data

 251. Deputy Willie O'Dea Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the estimated full-year cost of extending the fuel allowance to those persons in receipt of illness benefit; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [15346/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The fuel allowance is a payment of €22.50 per week for 26 weeks from October to April, to 378,000 low income households to assist them with their energy costs. The allowance represents a contribution towards the energy costs of a household. It is not intended to meet those costs in full. Only one allowance is paid per household.

The fuel allowance is a means tested payment, targeted at those who are more vulnerable to energy poverty, including those reliant on social protection payments for longer periods and who are unlikely to have additional resources of their own. As short-term payments such as illness benefits are not means tested payments, they do not qualify for the fuel allowance.

A person who has been in receipt of illness benefit for at least 12 months and who most likely will be incapable of work for at least another 12 months, or who may be permanently incapable of work, may apply for invalidity pension which is a qualifying payment for fuel allowance and the household benefits package.

The information sought by the Deputy on the estimated cost of extending the fuel allowance scheme to illness benefit recipients is not readily available to my Department as there are a number of qualifying conditions for receipt of fuel allowance. In addition to being in receipt of a qualifying payment a person must live alone or only with certain excepted people and also be unable to meet the costs of heating their home. This information, required to assess eligibility, is not collected from Illness Benefit claimants, and so it is not possible to say what percentage of them would qualify for fuel allowance if eligibility was extended. Any decision to so extend the eligibility criteria for fuel allowance would have to be considered in the context of overall budgetary negotiations.

Under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme a recipient of a social welfare or health service executive payment who has exceptional essential heating costs due to ill health or infirmity and who cannot provide for such costs from within his or her own resources may qualify for a heating supplement. There is no standard rate for a heating supplement. Each case is examined on its merits and the Community Welfare Officer determines the amount to be paid taking account of the level of the expenses in question and the ability of the applicant to contribute towards his or her exceptional heating costs.

The best way to tackle fuel poverty in the long term is to improve the energy efficiency of the dwelling. My Department works closely with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment on these issues and in moving forward the actions agreed in the Energy Affordability Strategy. In that regard, the Better Energy Homes scheme provides support towards the installation of attic and wall insulation, and heating system upgrades.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Public Services Card Provision

 252. Deputy Thomas Byrne Information on Thomas Byrne Zoom on Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the provision there is for a stateless person lawfully resident here to apply for a public services card in view of the fact they are unable to produce any passport or information as to nationality due to the fact they are stateless. [15353/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The legislation governing the issuance of a Public Services Card is contained in the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005, as amended.

  Section 263(1) states –

  “The Minister may, subject to subsection (1C), issue a card (in this Act referred to as a ‘public services card’) to a person in such form as the Minister considers fit for the purposes of carrying out a transaction.”

  Section 263(1C) states –

“The Minister shall not issue a public services card to a person unless the Minister is satisfied as to the identity of the person to whom such card is to be issued."

  Section 263B states –

  “(1) For the purposes of satisfying himself or herself as to the identity of a person in respect of whom a personal public service number is to be allocated and issued under section 262, or in respect of whom a public services card is to be issued under section 263, the Minister may, without prejudice to any other method of authenticating the identity of that person, request that person—

  (a) to attend at an office of the Minister or such other place as the Minister may designate as appropriate,

  (b) to provide to the Minister, at that office or other designated place, such information and to produce any document to the Minister as the Minister may reasonably require for the purposes of authenticating the identity of that person,

  (c) to allow a photograph or other record of an image of that person to be taken, at that office or other designated place, in electronic form, for the purposes of the authentication, by the Minister, at any time, of the identity of that person, and

  (d) to provide, at that office or other designated place, a sample of his or her signature in electronic form for the purposes of the authentication, by the Minister, at any time, of the identity of that person.”

  When authenticating the identity of a person who is not from the Common Travel Area but is an EEA national the document required is a current valid National Identity card, where issued by their State. Where such a document is not issued by that State, a current valid passport is required. The document required for non-EEA nationals is a current valid passport.

  Where a person does not have the required documents, they are asked to provide whatever documents they do have, and a decision is made based on those.

  It is important to remember that a person may only be issued a Public Services Card where there is a high level of assurance as to his or her identity.

  I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Farm Assist Scheme Eligibility

 253. Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he will consider allowing mortgage payments as an income disregard when assessing means for eligibility for farm assist; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15362/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The Department operates a range of means tested social assistance payments, including farm assist. Social welfare legislation provides that the means test takes account of the income and assets of the person (and spouse/partner, if applicable) applying for the relevant payment. Income and assets include income from employment, self-employment, occupational pensions, maintenance payments as well as property owned (other than the family home) and capital such as savings, shares and other investments.

  The value of a claimant’s family home is not assessable for means assessment purposes. Disregarding payments on the home as well as the value of the home itself would therefore represent a ‘double credit’ and is not a step that I am currently considering.

  It should be noted that where there is an outstanding mortgage on a second property, the second property is assessed at the current market value of the property less any mortgage owed. The balance is then assessed as capital.

  The capital assessment method involves disregarding an initial amount of capital (€20,000 for most social assistance schemes such as jobseeker’s allowance, farm assist and the state pension non-contributory), and applying an increasing notional weekly value for amounts in excess of the disregarded amount, as outlined as follows.

  Table: Social Welfare Capital Means Assessment (excluding Supplementary Welfare Allowance and Disability Allowance)

AMOUNT OF CAPITALWEEKLY MEANS ASSESSED
Up to €20,000Nil
€20,000 - €30,000€1 per each €1,000
€30,000 - €40,000€2 per each €1,000
Over €40,000€4 per each €1,000


  The weekly entitlement of the person is the maximum weekly rate of payment for the person less the means calculated. As the outstanding value of any mortgage is netted off against the market value of the asset no account is taken of mortgage payments. In this regard it is worth noting that if mortgage payments were taken into account, the people who would benefit would be those who had income or assets of varying levels and, accordingly, these recipients would be treated more favourably than recipients who had fewer or no personal resources.

  As a result of the improvements to the Farm Assist means arrangements announced in Budget 2017, it should be noted that 70% of farm income is now assessed as means, down from 100% (which is equivalent to a 30% income disregard). Also, an additional annual means disregard of €254 for each of the first two children and €381 for the third and subsequent children now applies, benefiting farm families. All existing farm assist recipients currently assessed with means will have their payments adjusted to take into account the changes in Budget 2017.

  Farm Assist recipients have also benefited from the €5 per week increase in the weekly rates of payment paid since 15 March, and the 85% Christmas Bonus paid December last. Furthermore, Farm Assist recipients are eligible to avail of the 500 additional places on the Rural Social Scheme announced in Budget 2017.

  I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Jobseeker's Benefit Eligibility

 254. Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the status of the review of part-time and seasonal workers entitlements to jobseeker's benefit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15363/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I gave a commitment at Dáil report stage of the Social Welfare Bill 2016 that I would ask my officials to examine the issue of jobseeker’s benefit and the treatment of part-time and seasonal workers, including those categorised as having subsidiary employment.

That report is currently being undertaken with the intention of presenting it to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Social Protection for its consideration shortly. The timeframe is ambitious but I am committed to producing the report as quickly as possible so that it can inform Budget 2018 discussions.

Social Welfare Appeals

 255. Deputy Pat Breen Information on Pat Breen Zoom on Pat Breen asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the status of an application for a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15396/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was 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 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.

  I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

One-Parent Family Payment Payments

 256. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if a one-parent family payment or alternative payment will be restored in the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15406/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The person concerned withdrew her one parent family claim on 1/3/17 and was advised by an officer of the Department that her partner could apply to have her and her dependent child added as dependants to his disability allowance payment. At present the person concerned has no applications pending for any payment.

  I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Exceptional Needs Payments

 257. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar when an exceptional needs payment will issue in the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15407/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar According to the records of this department, no recent application for an exceptional needs payment has been made by the person concerned. It is open to the person concerned to make an application to the local community welfare service and in this regard an application form has been sent today.

  I hope this clarifies the matter for the deputy.

Social Welfare Appeals Status

 258. Deputy Mattie McGrath Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar when a decision will be issued on a social protection appeal by a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15436/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that following an oral hearing of the appeal of the person concerned, the Appeals Officer is now considering the appeal in the light of all of the evidence submitted, including that adduced at the oral hearing. The person concerned will be notified of the Appeals Officer’s decision within the next week.

  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.

  I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Jobseeker's Allowance Eligibility

 259. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the relevance of details in respect of their medical condition and costs associated therewith as requested in the case of a person (details supplied) regarding the determination of their entitlement to jobseeker's allowance under investigation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15437/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The person concerned was requested to provide proof that she attended a medical consultation in her homeland as well as a letter from her GP confirming fitness to work. This is a requirement for receipt of jobseeker’s allowance payment. The associated medical costs were not questioned. The person concerned was requested to provide proof of how the trip to her homeland was paid for. This is a fair and reasonable request as the person concerned was in receipt of a means tested payment.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Carer's Allowance Payments

 260. Deputy Michael Ring Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if a carer’s allowance rate of payment will be increased from half rate to full rate for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [15449/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Carer's Allowance (CA) is a social assistance payment made to persons who are providing full-time care and attention to a relevant person/persons and whose income falls below certain limits.

  When a person is in receipt of a social welfare payment (other than jobseeker payments or supplementary welfare allowance) and also qualifies for CA, it is paid at half the normal rate.

  The person concerned is in receipt of half rate CA since 24 November 2016 because she is also in receipt of Illness Benefit. Once the Illness Benefit ceases and as long as she in not in receipt of another social welfare payment, her CA will be increased to full rate.

  I hope this clarified the matter for the Deputy.

Job Initiatives

 261. Deputy Niall Collins Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the criteria regarding the length of time that eligible participants can remain in the community employment, Tús and rural social schemes. [15481/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Programmes such as Community Employment, (CE), Tús and Rural Social Scheme (RSS) are designed to provide eligible long-term unemployed and other disadvantaged people with an opportunity to engage in part-time work and training within their communities on a temporary, fixed-term basis.

The pattern of participation on the CE programme is dependent on the individual circumstance of each person and the length of time s/he has been in receipt of a CE-qualifying social welfare payment. In general, a person must be 12 months or more in receipt of a qualifying social welfare payment to be eligible for 1 year on CE. If a person is 3 years or more in receipt of a qualifying social welfare payment, and over 35 years, they are eligible for 3 consecutive year’s participation on CE.

In addition, lifetime participation on CE by an individual is currently limited to 3 years for persons under 55 years of age and 6 years for persons of 55 years of age up to State Pension age (inclusive of any time spent on CE while under 55).

Eligible persons who were in receipt of a CE-qualifying disability-linked social welfare payment will be eligible for one additional year on CE over the standard maximum participation caps, i.e. 4 years maximum time on CE for those under 55 years of age and 7 years maximum time for those between 55 years of age and State Pension age.

Eligible CE participants aged 62 or over are permitted to exceed the standard limits of participation detailed above.

A six year maximum participation limit on the scheme has been introduced for new participants in the Rural Social Scheme (RSS) commencing on or after 1st February, 2017. The six years can be continuous, provided the participant remains eligible for the underlying social welfare payment. The Deputy should note that existing RSS participants will remain on the scheme as long as they continue to satisfy the eligibility conditions of the scheme.

All Tús placements are limited to 12 months duration.

The current eligibility rules and maximum durations allowed for participants are quite varied in terms of the underlying age, duration and other terms and conditions that apply across the employment programmes. This makes it very difficult for potential participants to understand and also for the overall administration of the schemes. I intend in the coming weeks to publish some changes to the participation terms and conditions to make them easier to navigate and manage.

My Department will be also consulting with the various stakeholders about the changes in the coming weeks.

I trust that clarifies the matters for the Deputy.

Jobseeker's Allowance Eligibility

 262. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the basis on which assessment of means and entitlement to jobseeker's allowance is affected by any property such as a ten or 15 acre plot; the entitlement to FIS or to jobseeker's or neither in such circumstances, having particular regard to the extent to which farmers have an eligibility for jobseeker's allowance, FIS or an equivalent payment. [15496/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar In assessing means for social assistance payments such as jobseeker’s allowance, account is taken of the income and the value of property, including capital, of the claimant and their spouse/partner. Social welfare legislation provides that the yearly value of property (including capital) owned but not personally used or enjoyed is assessable for means testing purposes. However, it does not include property such as the family home a person is personally using or enjoying i.e. residing in or a premises or a farm of land used by the claimant in carrying out a business.

  In the case of jobseeker’s allowance, where the property is not being used to carry on a business or is not being farmed, the current market value of the property or land is established (having regard to local property prices) as well as the amount of any outstanding mortgages, if any. The balance (market value less outstanding mortgage) is assessed as capital by reference to a notional formula.

  The capital assessment method involves disregarding an initial amount of capital (€20,000 for most social assistance schemes such as jobseeker’s allowance and the state pension non-contributory), and applying an increasing notional weekly value for amounts in excess of the disregarded amount, as outlined as follows. This approach reflects the policy of ensuring that those with property and capital of modest amounts receive the most available support, while those with larger amounts of capital contribute, at least partially, towards meeting their needs.

  Table: Social Welfare Capital Means Assessment (excluding Supplementary Welfare Allowance and Disability Allowance)

AMOUNT OF CAPITALWEEKLY MEANS ASSESSED
Up to €20,000Nil
€20,000 - €30,000€1 per each €1,000
€30,000 - €40,000€2 per each €1,000
Over €40,000€4 per each €1,000


  The Family Income Supplement (FIS) scheme is a weekly tax-free payment to employees with children. The payment is designed to preserve the financial incentive to take-up or remain in employment in circumstances where the employee might be marginally better off in employment than on social welfare payments. To qualify for payment of FIS, a person must be engaged in insurable employment which is expected to last for at least three months and be working for a minimum of 38 hours per fortnight or 19 hours per week. In this regard, unless a farmer (or his or her spouse/partner) met these qualifying criteria, he or she would not qualify for a FIS payment. It should be noted that capital is not assessable for FIS income limits purposes. Accordingly, if there was an income generated from the land, this would be assessed for FIS, but the value of capital itself, including land, is not assessable in the FIS scheme.

  The most relevant scheme for farmers is my Department’s farm assist scheme. In Budget 2017, I was happy to announce the total reversal of cuts to Farm Assist, a programme which helps more than 8,000 farm families. The farm assist scheme supplements mostly small farms on poor agricultural land. Recipients retain the advantages of the jobseeker’s allowance scheme such as the retention of secondary benefits and access to activation programmes.

  As part of Budget 2017, I announced improvements to the means testing arrangements of the Farm Assist scheme. Since 8 of March 2017, 70% of farm income is now assessed as means for farm assist recipients, down from 100%. This is equivalent to a 30% income disregard. Furthermore, an additional annual means disregard of €254 for each of the first two children and €381 for the third and subsequent children now applies for farm families.

  All existing farm assist recipients currently assessed with means will have their payments adjusted to take into account the changes in Budget 2017.   

  As also announced in Budget 2017, Jobseeker’s Allowance and Farm Assist recipients have also benefitted from the €5 per week increase in the weekly rates of payment. In addition, farm assist recipients and long-term jobseeker’s allowance recipients benefitted from the 85% Christmas Bonus paid December last.


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