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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 320-332
 Header Item Back to Education Allowance Appeals
 Header Item State Bodies Data
 Header Item Invalidity Pension Payments
 Header Item Illness Benefit Payments
 Header Item Ministerial Dialogue
 Header Item State Pension (Contributory)
 Header Item Gender Recognition
 Header Item Social Welfare Appeals Status
 Header Item State Pensions
 Header Item Social Welfare Benefits
 Header Item Carer's Benefit Applications
 Header Item Disability Allowance Appeals
 Header Item Disability Allowance Applications

Thursday, 4 April 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 981 No. 5

First Page Previous Page Page of 66 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 320-332

Back to Education Allowance Appeals

 320. Deputy Bríd Smith Information on Bríd Smith Zoom on Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty when a response will issue in the case of a back to education allowance for a person (details supplied). [15691/19]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty This case has been reviewed by the Intreo Centre concerned and they have confirmed that the qualification referred to in this case, a Professional Masters in Adult and Community Education, is not one of the courses covered under the BTEA as it is not a pre-requisite for employment in adult education services. Further to this, according to Department information, it does not serve as an alternative to the Professional Masters in Education required to qualify for a general teaching role. On foot of this review I understand from my Department that the decision to disallow the back to education application for the person concerned has been upheld.

I trust this clarifies the position for the Deputy.

State Bodies Data

 321. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty the number and percentage of women on each State board under the remit of her Department on 8 March 2016 and 8 March 2019, respectively; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15707/19]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty The statutory bodies with boards operating under the aegis of my Department are the Citizens Information Board, the Pensions Authority, the Pensions Council, the Low Pay Commission and the Social Welfare Tribunal.

  The following table sets out the number and percentage of women on each of the above bodies on both dates in question:

State Board Number and percentage of women on 8 March 2016   Number and percentage of women on 8 March 2019  
 

Number


Percentage (%)


Number


Percentage (%)
Citizens Information Board

4 50%* 8 53%
Pensions Authority

2 66% 1 33%
Pensions Council

6 50% 5 50%**
Low Pay Commission

4 44% 4 44%
Social Welfare Tribunal

2 40% 2 40%
   * The full complement of the CIB is 15 members. On this date they were carrying 7 vacancies.

   ** The Pensions Council have two vacancies at the current time.

Invalidity Pension Payments

 322. Deputy Tom Neville Information on Tom Neville Zoom on Tom Neville asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty if all arrears have issued in the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15752/19]

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Finian McGrath): Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath The gentleman referred to was awarded invalidity pension with effect from 15 November 2018 and his first payment issued to his nominated bank account on 21 February 2019.  Arrears due from 15 November 2018 to 20 February 2019,  less any overlapping social welfare payment, issued to the gentleman concerned on 21 March 2019.

  I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Illness Benefit Payments

 323. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty the reason a person (details supplied) is not receiving one full payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15758/19]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty The person concerned is currently in receipt of Illness Benefit at a rate of €277 per week. She is currently paid up to date and is medically certified as unfit for work until the 30 June 2019.

  Prior to the most recent medical certificate which certifies her as unfit for work until the 30 June, the person concerned had been submitting medical certificates covering periods of 8 days which gave rise to instances where she received two part payments in a week.

  Under the closed certification model introduced in March, general practitioners can give a medical certificate to cover the full period the person is expected to be unfit for work.  Such a certificate facilitates a payment to be made to the person each week over the period of certification without the need for the person to attend her general practitioner to obtain a medical certificate each week. 

  An official from the Department contacted the person concerned and explained the situation to her.

   I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.  

Ministerial Dialogue

 324. Deputy John Brady Information on John Brady Zoom on John Brady asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty the status of her engagements with stakeholders as committed to in the Social Welfare, Pensions and Civil Registration Act 2018 in relation to adequacy of social welfare payments; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15759/19]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty The Deputy will be aware that the issue of benchmarking and indexation of social welfare rates is not new.  For example, previous studies were conducted by the Commission on Social Welfare in 1986 and the Social Welfare Benchmarking and Indexation Group in 2001. 

The Roadmap for Pensions Reform, published last year, commits the Government to examine and develop proposals to set a formal benchmark target of 34% of average earnings for the state pension (contributory) and to institute a process whereby future changes in pension rates of payment are explicitly linked to changes in consumer prices and average wages. 

My Department is currently considering options to implement this commitment, by examining previous studies on benchmarking and indexation, international experience and examination of a range of potential benchmarks and indices.  It is worthy of note  that the current rates of payment already closely mirror the benchmark levels proposed in previous reports including those proposed by the Social Welfare Benchmarking and Indexation Group 2001 which is usually relied on by advocacy and other groups.

In terms of the wider application of indexation of social welfare payments generally, Section 19 of the Social Welfare, Pensions and Civil Registration Act 2018 provides that I, as Minister, will arrange to “consult with stakeholders on examining ways in which social welfare rates are increased with the aim of ensuring adequacy for all recipients and shall do so in quarter 1 of 2019”.

In this context my Department met with numerous interested stakeholders during quarter 1 2019 to solicit views on how the adoption of a benchmark, and a system of indexation, might work for social welfare rates more generally.   The feedback from this consultation is currently being considered and will help to inform the development of our approach to benchmarking/indexation.

In addition I expect that the issue will be considered at my Department's Pre-Budget Forum in July.  The Pre-Budget Forum includes representatives from the  Community and Voluntary Sector, ICTU and IBEC among others.  I would also welcome views from all political parties who are interested in this area and submissions should be made to my office. 

Any change to the current process of setting social welfare rates of payment would require Government approval and would have to be considered in the overall policy and budgetary context.  This would include taking account of stakeholder views, as well as considerations of cost, work incentives, poverty alleviation, policy alignment and the administration of any proposed system.

State Pension (Contributory)

 325. Deputy Willie Penrose Information on Willie Penrose Zoom on Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty if a person (details supplied) is entitled to a review of their pension payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15761/19]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty Since late September 2018, my Department has been examining the social insurance records of approximately 90,000 pensioners, born on or after 1 September 1946, who have a reduced rate State pension contributory entitlement based on post Budget 2012 rate-bands.  These payments are being reviewed under a new Total Contributions Approach (TCA) pension calculation which includes provision for HomeCaring periods.

Where possible, my Department will use information already held to assist in these reviews.  Additional information will be requested in writing from pensioners in relation to unexplained gaps in their social insurance record where required to complete their review.  

An examination of the person's social insurance record has found some unexplained gaps in their social insurance record.  A request for information about time spend out of the workforce for parenting or caring reasons has been sent to the person concerned.  Included in the letter are details of how to return the required information using the Department’s online services.  This is the quickest and easiest way to provide the information required to complete the person's review.  The letter also provides a dedicated telephone number for assistance submitting the online application, or to request a paper form if the person has difficulties submitting their application online.

On receipt of the requested information, the person’s state pension (contributory) pension rate will be reviewed and they will be informed of the outcome in writing.  If an increase is due, it will be backdated to 30 March 2018.  If no increase is due following the review, the person will continue to receive their existing rate of payment.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Gender Recognition

 326. Deputy Mattie McGrath Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty the details of the 92 written submissions that emerged from the public consultation of the Gender Recognition Review group the report of which was published in June 2018; if the written submissions were from persons or organisations; the details of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15773/19]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty A central  part of the review of the Gender Recognition Act 2015 was a consultation process that sought to have the broadest  possible level of input in relation to the operation of the Act since its commencement. A public call for submissions was announced in early January 2018 with a closing date for receipt of submissions of  5 February 2018.  

  The responses received were from a mix of private individuals, members of the Oireachtas, individual professionals, advocacy groups, and other organisations.

  Full details of the written submissions are available on the Department's website at the following link: http://www.welfare.ie/en/Pages/Review-of-the-Gender-Recognition-Act-2015.aspx

Social Welfare Appeals Status

 327. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty when a decision in respect of an appeal will issue in the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15778/19]

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Finian McGrath): Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath I confirm that the department was notified by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that the appeal for the person in question was successful.

  Her case is currently with a deciding officer to implement the appeals officer’s decision and the person concerned will be notified in writing as soon as possible.

  I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

State Pensions

 328. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty if proposals (details supplied) will be considered for 2020 for contributory pension requirements; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15810/19]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty The State pension (contributory) is a PRSI-based pension, financed by contributions made by current workers and their employers, and paid to pensioners, at a rate based upon their PRSI record when working.  Those with few or no PRSI contributions paid over the years may alternatively qualify for the State pension (non-contributory), which is a means-tested pension, financed by the Exchequer, and paid at up to 95% the maximum rate of the State pension (contributory).  There are significant disregards in the household means test for the State pension (non-contributory), and about 70% of those in receipt of it are paid at the maximum rate.  Alternatively, if their spouse has a contributory pension, they may qualify for an increase for a qualified adult (based on their own means), amounting up to 90% of a full rate State pension (contributory).  The most advantageous payment for a pensioner will depend upon their individual circumstances.

It should be noted that while 10 years paid contributions is the minimum requirement needed to qualify for the contributory state pension, this does not qualify someone for the maximum rate.  The rate of payment is decided using either the Yearly Average (YA) method, or the Total Contributions Approach (TCA).  With both methods, the large majority of those with only 10 years’ worth of contributions would not be eligible for the full state pension.

The farm assist scheme was introduced in 1999 to provide income support for low income farmers.  It replaced the former smallholders’ unemployment assistance payment.  In line with the then existing arrangements for unemployment assistance (including smallholders) and pre-retirement allowance, the income of farm assist recipients was exempt from class S PRSI for self-employed workers, and so they did not have to pay into the Social Insurance Fund at that time.  Recipients of farm assist who had previously paid class S social insurance had the option of paying voluntary contributions to maintain their social insurance record, including their entitlement to State pension contributory, provided they satisfied the qualifying conditions.

PRSI credited contributions (credits) are only awarded to former employees, to cover gaps in social insurance where they are not in a position to pay PRSI such as during periods of unemployment, illness, etc.  Self-employed workers, whether farmers or self-employed in other sectors, do not qualify for credits.

The design of the new Total Contributions Approach to determining the rate of contributory pension to be paid for new pensioners from 2020, including the level of paid contributions required and the availability or otherwise of credits, has not been finalised.  In any event, as at present, where a person does not qualify for a maximum rate of the State pension (contributory), the existing alternatives set out above will continue to be available.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy. 

Social Welfare Benefits

 329. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty if she will address a matter (details supplied) regarding budget increases. [15863/19]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty On Budget Day, I announced a  general increase in the weekly rates of payment, building on similar increases introduced in Budget 2017 and Budget 2018.  A €5 increase in the weekly rates of payment for all social welfare recipients was announced, with proportionate increases for qualified adults and those on reduced rates of payment.

On Budget Day the Department advised that this general increase would come into effect on the week beginning 25 March 2019. This means increases for payments due on Friday of that week were applied on Friday 29 March in line with payment due dates.

Carer's Benefit Applications

 330. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty the status of an application for a carer's benefit by a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15978/19]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty Carer's benefit (CARB) is a payment made to insured people who leave the workforce to care for a child or an adult in need of full-time care and attention. An increased payment can be made where full-time care is being provided to two people.                 

  An application for CARB was received from the person concerned on 23 October 2018.

  While the Department accepts that the care recipient in this case requires full-time care and attention, the evidence submitted in support of this application fails to show that the level of care and attention provided by the person concerned is full-time.  Accordingly, her application was disallowed.

  The person concerned was notified on 28 January 2019 of this decision, the reason for it and of her right of review and appeal.

  A review of this decision was sought on 4 February 2019.  The outcome of the review was that the original decision remained unchanged. The person concerned was notified of the outcome on 6 February 2019.

  The person concerned requested a further review of her claim.

  Additional information was requested from her on 29 March 2019 in order to establish her hours of employment which impact on whether she can be considered to be providing full-time care and attention. 

  Once this information is received, the review will be further examined and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

  I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Disability Allowance Appeals

 331. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty if eligibility for disability allowance in the case of a person (details supplied) will be reviewed; and if he will make a statement on the matter [16000/19]

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Finian McGrath): Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath I confirm that the above named person was in receipt of disability allowance (DA) from my Department.

  On 27 February 2019 this gentleman was advised that his DA claim had been terminated and he was also notified of his right to seek a review of this decision or appeal directly to the Social Welfare Appeals Office. To date there has been no request for an appeal or review.

  The person in question can apply to the Community Welfare Officer for the means tested Supplementary Welfare Allowance (SWA) if he is in need of financial assistance.

  I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.  

Disability Allowance Applications

 332. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty if a person (details supplied) will be offered disability allowance until their health has improved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16002/19]

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Finian McGrath): Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath Disability Allowance is a weekly allowance paid to people with a specified disability who are aged over 16 and under 66. The disability must be expected to last for at least one year and the allowance is subject to a medical assessment, a means test and a habitual residency test.

  A decision as to whether or not a person is eligible to receive a DA payment can only be considered on receipt of a completed application form for that payment.

  To date no application for DA has been received from the person concerned.

  I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.


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