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 Header Item Social Welfare Benefits (Continued)
 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 977-995
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment
 Header Item Disability Allowance
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
 Header Item Supplementary Welfare Allowance
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment
 Header Item Legislative Measures
 Header Item Carer's Allowance
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 993 No. 5

First Page Previous Page Page of 170 Next Page Last Page

  1 o’clock

Written Answers Nos. 977-995

Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment

 977. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty if the pandemic unemployment payment will be extended to a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7788/20]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty I am advised that as the person concerned was not in employment on or after 6th March 2020 and does not meet the criteria for receipt of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment. However, the person concerned continues to receive a Jobseekers Allowance payment.

  It is open to the person concerned may contact their local Community Welfare Officer with a view to making an application for Supplementary Welfare Allowance if they are experiencing financial difficulty in relation to meeting their outgoings.

  I trust that this clarifies the position.

Disability Allowance

 978. Deputy James Browne Information on James Browne Zoom on James Browne asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty if she will review the terms governing the disability allowance to allow the recipient's pensions to be treated the same as income; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7797/20]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty Social welfare legislation provides that, for social assistance schemes such as Disability Allowance, income and capital (such as savings, investments and property other than the family home) belonging to the claimant and his or her partner, where applicable, is assessable for means assessment purposes.

For Disability Allowance, income from all sources, such as from an occupational pension or social welfare pensions from another country are taken into account in the means test. The purpose of this is to maintain the policy of ensuring that social welfare expenditure is targeted to those who need it most.

The assessment of means can vary from scheme to scheme depending on the nature and purpose of the scheme. Sometimes a certain amount of income, or income from particular sources, is not taken into account for a particular scheme. This is known as an income disregard.

There is an earnings disregard in place for recipients of Disability Allowance which allows them to earn up to €120 per week and retain their full payment, while only half of earnings between €120 and €350 are assessed in the means test. This aims to achieve a balance between ensuring resources are targeted towards those with the greatest need while supporting people to take up employment opportunities.

In addition, Disability Allowance is unique in the social welfare system as the first €50,000 of capital (e.g. savings, shares, property) is disregarded in the capital means test. This compares to €20,000 for most other social assistance schemes.

Any changes to the disregards or the income thresholds of social welfare schemes would have cost implications and would have to be considered in the overall policy and budgetary context.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

 979. Deputy Cathal Crowe Information on Cathal Crowe Zoom on Cathal Crowe asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty the entitlements students that had signed contracts for summer internships which have now been cancelled have in terms of social welfare payments; and her plans to assist students in summer 2020 that are out of work due to the Covid-19 pandemic. [7803/20]

 987. Deputy Matt Carthy Information on Matt Carthy Zoom on Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty if she will provide for a financial support package to a cohort of persons (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7932/20]

 996. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan Information on Aindrias Moynihan Zoom on Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty the options open for persons registered and studying with an online course, for example, in a college (details supplied) in which they are being classed as full-time students by her Department but are available to work and have been advised that there is no option for making a social welfare payment available to them; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7997/20]

 1000. Deputy Catherine Connolly Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty if a specific emergency social protection payment will be introduced for international students that are not eligible for the pandemic unemployment payment and do not have a PPSN or are not able to find work in view of the fact that the exceptional needs payment does not adequately address the precarious situation they are in; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8039/20]

 1016. Deputy Holly Cairns Information on Holly Cairns Zoom on Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty her views on enabling full-time students that cannot get usual part-time or seasonal employment due to Covid-19 temporary access to the jobseeker's allowance or a comparable allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8213/20]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty I propose to take Questions Nos. 979, 987, 996, 1000 and 1016 together.

The COVID 19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment was introduced in March 2020 as a time-limited emergency measure to meet the surge in unemployment which resulted from the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic. The conditions for receipt of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment are that a person must be of working age between 18 and up to 66 years old, have been in employment immediately before 13th March and have lost their income from employment. A student who satisfies these conditions, including an international student, is eligible for this payment.

Where a student was due to take up an internship or seasonal work but was not actually in employment they would not be eligible to receive the COVID-19 pandemic unemployment payment. It would be impossible to construct a scheme based on claims of potential or prospective but unrealised employment, particularly in an environment where the economy was operating at full-employment with many unfilled vacancies prior to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Where a student is experiencing financial hardship they can apply for financial support under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme. In order to access this support, a Personal Public Services Number (PPSN) is required. The Department has temporarily postponed the SAFE registration process, carried out in local offices of the Department, in respect of people applying for a Personal Public Services Number (PPSN). This decision was taken in order to comply with guidelines in respect of social distancing. As a result of the postponement of the SAFE process, an email and postal service has now been introduced. Detailed information on this service is available on www.gov.ie.

I trust this clarifies the matter.

  Question No. 980 answered with Question No. 947.

Supplementary Welfare Allowance

 981. Deputy Michael McGrath Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty if a weekly court ordered maintenance payment received by a person from a former spouse is regarded as means for the purposes of the supplementary welfare allowance scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7817/20]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty The supplementary welfare allowance (SWA) scheme is the safety net within the overall social welfare system in that it provides assistance to eligible people in the State whose means are insufficient to meet their needs and those of their dependants.

  The means test for the Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme requires that all types of household income, include maintenance payments, must be taken into account in determining a person's entitlement under the scheme.

  I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

  Question No. 982 answered with Question No. 916.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

 983. Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú Information on Ruairí Ó Murchú Zoom on Ruairí Ó Murchú asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty the social protection assistance available to a person (details supplied) who lives in Northern Ireland but runs a business in Dundalk, County Louth and does not qualify for TWSS; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7895/20]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty EU social security co-ordination rules are set out in Regulation (EC) No. 883/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on the co-ordination of social security systems (and the associated implementing Regulation 987/2009). The Regulations define a frontier worker as meaning “any person pursuing an activity as an employed or self-employed person in a Member State and who resides in another Member State to which he returns as a rule daily or at least once a week”.

The general rules relating to Unemployment Benefit entitlements for frontier workers (both employed and self-employed contributors) are set out in Article 65 of the Regulation. Article 65 provides that wholly unemployed frontier workers are entitled to receive Unemployment Benefits from the Member State of residence, while partially or intermittently unemployed frontier workers are entitled to receive Unemployment Benefits from the Member State of employment.

Article 65a, to which the Deputy referred in the details supplied, provides for a derogation from the rules set out in Article 65 in the case of wholly unemployed frontier workers where there is no Unemployment Benefit cover for self-employed persons in the Member State of residence.

I have been advised that the person referred to by the Deputy has made a claim for jobseeker’s benefit (self-employed) and that this has been awarded and is due to go into payment this Thursday (27 May).

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

  Question No. 984 answered with Question No. 926.

Covid-19 Pandemic

 985. 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 of social protection offices which have been closed and sanitised due to the presentation of Covid-19 positive applicants at public desks applying for the Covid 19 enhanced illness benefit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7904/20]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty No offices have been closed because a customer claiming to have COVID19 has presented in the office.

  The Department has a specific protocol for cleaning based on Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) guidance.

  Where a customer or a member of staff presents with symptoms the area in which they spent time, such as a desk, public counter or toilet will be closed off until it can be cleaned.

  The HPSC has issued a guidance document, which sets out the required cleaning standards following confirmation of a case in the workplace. This is adhered to by our cleaning service.

  There are two levels of cleaning being used:

  Level 1 Daily Sanitisation Cleaning (Prevention) – This is a cleaning service with a focus on sanitisation touch points and communal areas. It is carried out by our onsite cleaning team.

  Level 2 One-off preventative deep clean – This is a cleaning service with a focus on deep sanitisation of surfaces and touch points with increased levels of chemicals and PPE. It is carried out by specialist deep cleaning team (by prior arrangement).

  A deeper clean (referred to as level 2) will be used where there have been confirmed cases of COVID-19 or persons who meet the criteria for testing within an office during the last 72 hours.

  Question No. 986 answered with Question No. 907.

  Question No. 987 answered with Question No. 979.

Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment

 988. Deputy Matt Carthy Information on Matt Carthy Zoom on Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty when arrears payments relating to the pandemic unemployment payment will be made to applicants; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7933/20]

 995. Deputy Réada Cronin Information on Réada Cronin Zoom on Réada Cronin asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty when backdated pandemic unemployment payments will issue for the weeks while persons were waiting while her Department was dealing with the backlog resulting in applicants receiving no payment (details supplied) [7979/20]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty I propose to take Questions Nos. 988 and 995 together.

The emergency Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment has been introduced as a time-limited emergency measure so that payments can be made as quickly as possible to the large number of people who have become fully unemployed due to the pandemic.

  During the month of March, my Department received and processed jobseeker claims equivalent in number to a three year claim-load. These applications were processed as quickly as possible, with almost 59,000 people paid in the first week of the scheme, 283,000 people paid in the following week, and over 507,000 people in the third week of the scheme. To date, over 4.9 million payments have issued to just over 670,000 individuals at a cost of over €1.7 Billion.

  Currently, the Department is focused on processing and managing payments to ensure that they continue to be made to all who qualify for them. The work involved in doing this is complex, with people joining and leaving the scheme each week, along with management of overlaps between the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment and the Revenue Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme.

  The Department is aware that many people are due some arrears and that each person’s case is unique. This means that each person’s application may need to be individually reviewed .

  I can assure the Deputy that all cases will be examined and where arrears arise they will be processed and claimants will be notified.

  I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment

 989. Deputy Claire Kerrane Information on Claire Kerrane Zoom on Claire Kerrane asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty if persons in receipt of the pandemic unemployment payment should sign on for credits to ensure that they do not lose out during time out of work; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7939/20]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty The COVID 19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment was introduced in March 2020 as a time-limited emergency measure to meet the surge in unemployment which resulted from the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic.

  The issue of social insurance contributions for employees who qualify for receipt of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment is currently being considered and any necessary legislation will be brought forward.

  I trust that this clarifies the matter.

  Question No. 990 answered with Question No. 947.

Legislative Measures

 991. Deputy Willie O'Dea Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty the legislation under the remit of her Department that is due to expire or lapse in the next three months and needs to be renewed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7944/20]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty A. The Health (Preservation and Protection and other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Act 2020 (Continuation of Part 2) Order 2020 (S.I. No.155 of 2020) http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/eli/2020/si/155/made/en/print provides that the amendments effected by Part 2 of the Health (Preservation and Protection and other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Act 2020 (No. 1 of 2020) will continue until 19th June 2020.

  In conjunction with the above Order, the following Regulations also cease to have effect as follows:

1. The Social Welfare (Increase for Qualified Adult) Regulations 2020   (S.I. No. 96 of 2020) http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/eli/2020/si/96/made/en/print which provided for an additional increase in payments for qualified adults cease to have effect, in so far as they relate to jobseeker’s allowance on 17th June 2020, in so far as they relate to jobseeker’s benefit and jobseeker’s benefit (self-employed) on 18th June 2020, and in so far as they relate to illness benefit on 22nd June 2020.

2. The Social Welfare (Consolidated Claims, Payments and Control) (Amendment) (No. 4) (Illness Benefit payments arising from COVID-19) Regulations 2020   (S.I. No 97 of 2020) http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/eli/2020/si/97/made/en/print which provided for special arrangements for the payment of illness benefit to those who are diagnosed with Covid-19 by a medical practitioner or who are certified by a medical practitioner to be a probable source of infection of Covid-19 cease to have effect on 19th June 2020.

3. The Social Welfare (Consolidated Claims, Payments and Control) (Amendment) (No. 5) (Emergency Measures in the Public Interest-Jobseeker’s Allowance) Regulations 2020   (S.I. No. 163 of 2020) http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/eli/2020/si/163/made/en/print which provided for suspension of the rule whereby jobseeker’s allowance is paid only from the fourth day of unemployment cease to have effect on 19th June 2020.

4. The Social Welfare (Consolidated Claims, Payments and Control) (Amendment) (No. 6) (Emergency Measures in the Public Interest-Jobseeker’s Benefit) Regulations 2020   (S.I. No. 164 of 2020) http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/eli/2020/si/164/made/en/print which provided for suspension of the rule whereby jobseeker’s benefit is paid only from the fourth day of unemployment cease to have effect on 19th June 2020.

B. Section 29 of the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Act 2020 (No. 2 of 2020), which provides for an emergency period during which section 12 of the Redundancy Payments Act 1967   shall not have effect, ends on 31st May 2020, unless the emergency period is extended by Government Order. Extending the emergency period for the purposes of this section of the Redundancy Act is under consideration by Government.

C. Part 9 (sections 30-33) of the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Act 2020 (No. 2 of 2020) provided for amendments to the Civil Registration Act 2004   to allow for the modified operation of certain aspects of the civil registration system, if required, for a limited period ending on 31st May 2020, unless extended by Government Order. Extending the period during which a birth or death can be registered remotely is being considered.

Carer's Allowance

 992. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty the reason a carer's allowance appeal lodged by a person (details supplied) within 21 days of a decision of a review request is not being accepted; her plans to change the law to ensure that the Appeals Office must accept an appeal within 21 days of the final decision after a review has been turned down; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7945/20]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty I am advised that application for carer's allowance by the person concerned was disallowed by a Deciding Officer of the Department on 30 April 2019. The person concerned sought a review of the decision on 30 May 2019 and was informed by the Department on 10 September 2019 that the decision was not being revised. He again sought a review on 1 October 2019 and was again informed by the Department on 6 January 2020 that the decision was not being revised.

I am further advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that notice of appeal was received from the person concerned on 30 January 2020. In the normal course, an appeal against the decision of a Deciding Officer must be made within 21 days of a decision being notified. Under social welfare legislation a “decision” which is not revised or altered on review is not itself a "decision" or a "revised decision" and is not capable of being appealed. In effect, I am advised that the only decision that exists is the original decision of the Deciding Officer and the time limit of 21 days for submitting an appeal runs from the date of that decision. Appeals received outside of this time limit may be accepted at the discretion of the Chief Appeals Officer but in view of the length of time which had elapsed since the person concerned was notified of the Department's decision of 30 April 2019 the person concerned was advised that an appeal could not be accepted at that late stage.

However, it is my understanding that, after further consideration of the particular circumstances of this case, the Chief Appeals Officer has decided to accept this late appeal. The person concerned will now be notified of this outcome.

Any changes to the legislation relating to the time period within which the Social Welfare Appeals Office may accept an appeal would have to be considered in the overall policy context.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment

 993. Deputy Sean Sherlock Information on Sean Sherlock Zoom on Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty if the status of being on maternity leave prior to being put on lay-off from employment renders a worker ineligible for receipt of the pandemic unemployment payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7946/20]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty The COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment is available to support persons aged between 18 and 66 years old who have lost their employment due to the downturn in economic activity caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and where they are not being paid by their employer. In order to qualify for the payment a person must have been in employment immediately prior to 13th March.

People currently on maternity leave should remain on that leave until such time as they are due to return to employment. If that employment is no longer available as a consequence of the pandemic, the women concerned are eligible for the Pandemic Unemployment Payment from the date when they were due to return to their employment after their maternity leave.

I trust this clarifies the position.

Covid-19 Pandemic

 994. Deputy Darren O'Rourke Information on Darren O'Rourke Zoom on Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty the protections in place to ensure the health and safety and terms and conditions of employment of construction workers returning to work during the Covid-19 period; if the protections are equally available to agency workers and subcontractors; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7970/20]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty The Terms of Employment (Information) Act 1994 provides that an employer must provide their employee with a written statement of the particulars of the employee’s terms of employment. It also provides that an employer must notify the employee of any changes in the particulars given in the statement. The Act provides a right of complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission where an employer fails to comply with either of the above.

While an employer may renegotiate the terms and conditions of the contract of employment with an employee, they may not reduce any term of condition to a level lower than statutory entitlement. It is best practice that any such renegotiation should be undertaken in consultation with the affected employee, and taking a longterm view of the employment relationship.

The Sectoral Employment Order (Construction Sector) 2019 came into effect on 1 October 2019. This sets the statutory minimum rates of pay and other conditions (sick pay and pension entitlements) for persons employed in the construction sector.

Under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005, employers have a duty to ensure the health and safety of their employees in the workplace. Both of these legislative instruments come within the remit of my colleague, Heather Humphreys, Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

  Question No. 995 answered with Question No. 988.


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