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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 498-512
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment
 Header Item Social Welfare Rates
 Header Item Social Welfare Rates
 Header Item Carer's Allowance
 Header Item Living Wage
 Header Item Carer's Allowance
 Header Item Carer's Allowance
 Header Item Carer's Allowance
 Header Item Carer's Support Grant
 Header Item Carer's Benefit
 Header Item Domiciliary Care Allowance
 Header Item Pension Provisions

Tuesday, 6 October 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 998 No. 5
Unrevised

First Page Previous Page Page of 120 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 498-512

Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment

 498. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the number of persons in receipt of the various rates of pandemic unemployment payments, including the sectors in which the recipients previously worked; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28176/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the table.

  Table 1: PUP recipients by rate payable week ending 3rd October 2020

 
Sector €203 €250 €300
A Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing 720 488 1,555
B Mining and Quarrying 26 17 137
C Manufacturing 1,783 1,501 8,484
D Electricity, Gas, Steam and Air Conditioning Supply 38 29 145
E Water Supply; Sewerage, Waste Management and Remediation activities 85 68 524
F Construction 2,580 2,199 12,134
G Wholesale and Retail Trade; Repair of Motor Vehicles and Motorcycles 6,873 6,399 17,678
H Transport and Storage 1,226 1,225 5,450
I Accommodation and Food service activities 11,485 10,705 29,650
J Information and Communication activities 1,211 834 4,048
K Financial and Insurance activities 1,343 877 3,250
L Real Estate activities 743 605 1,992
M Professional, Scientific and Technical activities 1,969 1,513 7,789
N Administrative and Support service activities 4,326 3,684 15,101
O Public Administration and Defense; Compulsory Social Security 1,303 754 2,257
P Education 2,554 1,803 5,037
Q Human Health and Social Work activities 2,063 1,684 4,225
R Arts, Entertainment and Recreation 1,989 1,275 3,077
S Other service activities 2,213 1,838 4,069
T Activities of Households as Employers 573 343 932
U Activities of Extra-territorial Organizations and Bodies 2 0 4
Unclassified or Unknown 3,725 1,052 1,917
Total 48,794 38,893 129,455

Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment

 499. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the cost of paying all those in receipt of the pandemic unemployment payment a rate of €350 until the end of April 2021; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28177/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The cost of Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) up to April 2021 will depend on the ongoing suppression of the Covid-19 virus.

  The Government has already decided to extend the PUP scheme to early April 2021 at an estimated total cost of €5.1 billion.

  The additional estimated cost of paying all people in receipt of the pandemic unemployment payment a rate of €350 until April 2021 would be in excess of €600m.

Social Welfare Rates

 500. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the full-year cost of increasing all social welfare payments to €350 per week; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28178/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The estimated full year cost of increasing all weekly social welfare payments to €350 per week is €10.0 billion.

  It should be noted that these costings are subject to change in the context of emerging trends and associated revision of the estimated numbers of recipients.

  It should also be noted that these costings include proportionate increases for qualified adults and for those on reduced rates of payment, where relevant.

Social Welfare Rates

 501. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the full-year cost of increasing all social welfare payments to €300 per week; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28179/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The estimated full year cost of increasing all weekly social welfare payments to €300 per week is €6.1 billion.

  It should be noted that these costings are subject to change in the context of emerging trends and associated revision of the estimated numbers of recipients.

  It should also be noted that these costings include proportionate increases for qualified adults and for those on reduced rates of payment, where relevant.

Carer's Allowance

 502. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the estimated full-year cost of granting a €1,000 bonus to all recipients of the carer's allowance. [28184/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The estimated cost of paying a once-off bonus of €1,000 to all recipients of Carer's Allowance is €85.6 million, based on the estimated number of recipients in 2020. This estimate is subject to change in the context of emerging trends and associated revision of the estimated numbers of recipients.

All recipients of Carer's Allowance, Carer's Benefit and Domiciliary Care Allowance are automatically entitled to the Carer's Support Grant, which is an annual payment of €1,700 for carers who look after people in need of full-time care and attention. The grant is also paid to others who are not in receipt of a social welfare payment but who are providing full time care and attention.

The grant is paid in a single annual lump sum, usually on the first Thursday in June. The grant is not means-tested and is not taxable. It is paid in respect of each care recipient.

Living Wage

 503. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the estimated full-year cost of moving all social welfare claimants, including pensioners, to a living wage. [28185/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys As the Deputy has clarified, this question relates to increasing the rates of all social welfare payments to meet the Minimum Essential Standard of Living (MESL).

The MESL is an assessment, developed by the Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice, of the minimum income needed to live and partake in the social and economic norms of everyday life for various household types.

The most recent report indicates that the welfare system already provides adequate supports for some household types (for example, families with young children in urban locations) but that there is an adequacy gap with respect to other households types, for example families with older children.

It should be noted that the MESL for welfare households assumes that households are eligible for a medical card and, as such, health and insurance costs are reduced accordingly. While the model assumes that pensioners have the Free Travel pass and the Household Benefits package, it does not assume this for working age people. Certain working age recipients of welfare payments qualify for Free Travel – recipients of Disability Allowance, Invalidity Pension, and Carer’s Allowance, for example.

Bringing weekly working age social welfare rates in line with the MESL would entail increasing the maximum personal rate to €250 and the Qualified Child Increase to €48.20 for children under 12 and €94.70 for children aged 12 and over. There would be no proportionate increase in the current rate for Qualified Adults in order to meet the MESL.

Bringing pension rates in line with the MESL would require an increase of €51.40 for pensioners living alone in rural areas. There would be no increase to the rate of payment for pensioner couples, or pensioners living alone in urban areas. While it is not possible at this time to provide an estimate for those living in rural areas only, the estimated cost of an increase for all pensioners in receipt of the Living Alone Allowance is included in the figure below.

The estimated cost of bringing working age and pension welfare payments to meet the Minimum Essential Standard of Living (MESL), as outlined above, is €2.9 billion. This costing is subject to change in the context of emerging trends and associated revision of the estimated numbers of recipients.

  Questions Nos. 504 and 505 answered with Question No. 492.

Carer's Allowance

 506. Deputy Matt Carthy Information on Matt Carthy Zoom on Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys her plans to commence the restoration of the carer’s allowance income disregard to ensure those on the average industrial income can qualify; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28236/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The main income supports for carers provided by my Department are Carer’s Allowance, Carer’s Benefit, Domiciliary Care Allowance and the Carer’s Support Grant. The estimated expenditure on Carer’s Allowance in 2020 is approximately €916 million. Combined spending on all these payments to carers in 2020 is expected to exceed €1.3 billion.

Carer's Allowance is a means tested payment made to people whose income falls below certain limits, and who are looking after certain people in need of full-time care and attention.

This allowance is part of the system of social assistance supports that provide payments based on an income need. The means test plays a critical role in determining whether or not an income need arises as a consequence of a particular contingency – such as disability, unemployment or caring. This ensures that the recipient has a verifiable income need and that resources are targeted to those who need them most.

Current disregards for Carer’s Allowance are €332.50 per week for a single person and €665 per week for a couple, making the means test for carers the least onerous within the social protection system.

In the case of a couple, a carer may retain a full-rate payment of €219.00 per week while having an annual income of €37,500 from employment, retain a payment of (just under half-rate) €109.00 per week while having an annual income from employment of €49,750, and retain the minimum payment of €4 per week while having an annual income of €61,000.

In the case of a single carer a similar scenario illustrates that a carer may retain a full-rate payment of €219.00 while having an annual income of just under €19,000, retain a payment of €109.00 per week (just under half-rate) while having an annual income of €25,400, or retain the minimum payment of €4 per week while having an annual income of €31,100.

The Department has made an estimate of the cost of increasing the weekly income disregards for Carer’s Allowance to €450 for a single person and to €900 for a couple using the ESRI SWITCH model. This analysis suggests that it would cost in the region of an additional €73 million per annum with net expenditure estimated in the order of €55 million per annum.

Changes to schemes are considered in an overall budgetary and policy context and from an evidence based perspective. Some 92% of the current recipients of Carer’s Allowance have no means or means of less than €7.60 per week and would not benefit by an increase in the disregard.

My Department also offers other, non-means-tested, supports to carers. The Carer’s Support Grant is not mean-tested and is available to all carers who meet the eligibility criteria. The payment is not dependent on a person receiving a weekly carer’s payment. This non-taxable grant of €1,700 is payable annually in June.

I can assure the Deputy that I am very much aware of the key role that family carers play in our society and I will continue to keep the range of supports available to carers under review. Any changes to scheme criteria, however, would have implications for overall spending and would need to be addressed in an overall budgetary context.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Carer's Allowance

 507. Deputy Matt Carthy Information on Matt Carthy Zoom on Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if the costs associated with caring can be deducted from reckonable income for carer’s allowance applicants; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28237/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The Government acknowledges the important role that family carers play and is fully committed to supporting carers in that role. This commitment is recognised in both the Programme for Government and the National Carers’ Strategy.

My Department provides income supports to carers such as Carer’s Allowance, Carer’s Benefit, Domiciliary Care Allowance and the Carer’s Support Grant. Combined spending on all these payments to family carers in 2020 is expected to exceed €1.3 billion.

Carer's Allowance is a means-tested payment for carers who, on a full-time basis, look after certain people in need of full-time care and attention, where the carer's income falls below certain limits. At the end of August 2020, there were 87,733 people in receipt of Carer's Allowance. The estimated expenditure in 2020 is approximately €916 million.

The means test conditionality for Carer's Allowance is consistent with the overall rules that apply to social assistance payments. The system of social assistance supports provides payments based on an income need, with the means test playing the critical role in determining whether or not an income need arises as a consequence of a particular contingency - be that illness, disability, unemployment or caring. The application of a means-test not only ensures that the recipient has an income need but also that scarce resources are targeted to those with the greatest need.

The deduction of further expenses from reckonable income in the means test for Carer's Allowance would effectively increase the current income disregards applied. It should be noted that the means test for Carer's Allowance is the most generous in the social welfare system, especially with regard to earnings disregards. In the case of a single person, €332.50 of gross weekly income is not taken into account (i.e. is disregarded). In the case of a person who is married, in a civil partnership or cohabiting, the first €665 of combined gross weekly income is disregarded. PRSI, travel costs, superannuation and union contributions from the weekly income from employment are deducted before the disregard is applied. This is in line with most social assistance payments. For a couple, the combined gross weekly balance is then halved to give the carer's weekly means.

A couple earning up to €37,500 per year can qualify for the maximum rate while a couple earning €49,750 can, due to the tapered withdrawal approach, retain a payment of just under half-rate. A single person may keep a full-rate payment while having an annual income of just under €19,000, and keep a payment of just under half-rate while having an annual income of €25,400.

The exclusion of other costs, as suggested by the Deputy, in the calculation of income could have significant budgetary implications and would give rise to inconsistencies in how means tests are applied across schemes. It would also significantly increase the complexity of the means assessment process.

Any changes to the means conditions for any of the schemes operated by the Department, including the Carer's Allowance, would need to be addressed in a budgetary context.

Carer's Allowance

 508. Deputy Matt Carthy Information on Matt Carthy Zoom on Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys her plans to increase the disregard allowable in the capital formula for carer’s allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28238/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The Department operates a range of means-tested social assistance payments. 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 scheme. 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 assessment of capital reflects the fact that there is an expectation that people with reasonable amounts of capital and property are in a position to use that capital, or to realise the value of property, to support themselves without having to rely solely on a means-tested welfare payment.

In this regard, for Carer's Allowance, the first €20,000 of capital is fully disregarded; the next €10,000 assessed at €1 per thousand, the next €10,000 is assessed at €2 per thousand, with the remainder assessed at €4 per thousand.

In relation to Carer's Allowance, as the first €332.50 of gross weekly income for single people and the first €665 for couples is fully disregarded, and combined with a general disregard of €7.60 per week, 92% of the approximately 87,000 Carer's Allowance recipients have no means assessed.

Any proposals to change the capital means assessment for means-tested social assistance schemes would have to be considered in the overall budgetary context.

Carer's Support Grant

 509. Deputy Matt Carthy Information on Matt Carthy Zoom on Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if the carer’s support grant will be increased; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28239/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The Government acknowledges the crucial role that family carers play and is fully committed to supporting carers in that role. This commitment is recognised in both the Programme for Government and the National Carers’ Strategy.

The main income supports to carers provided by my Department are Carer’s Allowance, Carer’s Benefit, Domiciliary Care Allowance and the Carer’s Support Grant. Combined spending on all these payments to family carers in 2020 is expected to exceed €1.3 billion.

The Carer’s Support Grant is an annual payment of €1,700 a year for each care recipient and is paid in a single lump sum with no requirement to satisfy a means test. The Carer’s Support Grant is payable on the first Thursday in June each year. This is not available for any other group and nor is there an equivalent payment for carers in any other country in Europe. The Grant is paid automatically to people in receipt of Carer’s Allowance, Carer’s Benefit or Domiciliary Care Allowance. Other people who are not in receipt of a social welfare payment but who are providing full time care and attention are also eligible and can apply for a ‘standalone’ grant.

Notwithstanding the substantial extra financial demands due to the COVID-19 crisis, I confirmed, on 4 June, that the Carer’s Support Grant would continue to be paid to carers this year at an estimated cost of over €237 million. At the end of June 2020, almost 127,000 grants were paid to carers receiving the Carer’s Allowance, Carer’s Benefit or Domiciliary Care Allowance and to other full-time carers who are not receiving any of these payments. Applications for the 2020 grant can be submitted up until 31 December 2021, and it is expected that further applications will be received before the closing date.

There have been calls from carers groups to increase the rate of the Carer’s Support Grant from €1,700 to €2,000. My Department has costed this proposal and the estimated additional full year cost of increasing the Carer's Support Grant from €1,700 to €2,000 is €41.9 million.

I can assure the Deputy that I will continue to keep the range of supports provided by my Department under review. However, any changes to the current supports provided by this Department would have implications for overall spending and would need to be addressed in an overall budgetary context.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Carer's Benefit

 510. Deputy Matt Carthy Information on Matt Carthy Zoom on Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys her plans to extend eligibility for carer’s benefit to include those who are self-employed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28240/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys Self-employed workers who earn €5,000 or more in a contribution year are liable to pay social insurance contributions at the class S rate of 4%, subject to a minimum annual payment of €500. Such contributors are currently covered for a wide range of social insurance benefits including State pension (contributory), widow's, widower's or surviving civil partner's pension (contributory), guardian’s payment (contributory), maternity, adoptive and paternity benefits, treatment benefits, invalidity pension, partial capacity benefit if in receipt of invalidity pension, jobseeker’s benefit (self-employed) and parent’s benefit.

The issue of extending additional social insurance benefits to self-employed persons paying class S social insurance contributions was considered in the Actuarial Review of the Social Insurance Fund, conducted by independent consultants, which was published in October 2017.

The Review indicates that if access to certain additional benefits, including carer's benefit, was extended to self-employed contributors, the class S rate of social insurance contribution would have to increase by 94% in order to ensure that the additional benefits are delivered in a revenue neutral manner. This rate of increase would bring the current class S contribution rate of 4% to 7.8% to cover access to the additional benefits only and does not take account of the value of the existing benefits to such contributors.

Any proposal to extend social insurance entitlements to self-employed contributors would have to be considered in a budgetary context, taking account of the current economic circumstances and with a view to the sustainability of the Social Insurance Fund.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Domiciliary Care Allowance

 511. Deputy Matt Carthy Information on Matt Carthy Zoom on Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if eligibility for domiciliary care allowance will be extended to children residing in hospitals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28241/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys Domiciliary Care Allowance (DCA) is a payment made in respect of a child with a severe disability who requires additional care and attention. It is payable to the person providing for the child's care while they are resident with that person for at least 5 days each week.

  DCA can be paid, for a period not exceeding 13 weeks in any 12 months, if the child is admitted to hospital on a full-time basis for medical or other treatment.

  If a child is resident in an institution (including a hospital) for part of each week, DCA can be paid at 50% of the normal rate if the child resides with the qualified person between 2 and 4 days each week.

  Any amendment to the qualifying conditions of the scheme would have cost implications and could only be considered in a wider Budgetary context.

  I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Pension Provisions

 512. Deputy Matt Carthy Information on Matt Carthy Zoom on Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if she will provide a report on proposals to enact a pension for family carers in recognition of their invaluable contribution to society; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28242/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The Programme for Government “Our Shared Future” includes a commitment to examine options for a pension solution for carers, the majority of whom are women, particularly those of incapacitated children, in recognition of the enormous value of the work carried out by them. This Government acknowledges the important role that carers play and is fully committed to supporting them in that role. Officials in my Department will be examining the policy options for reforming the state pension system both in this area and,more generally, in relation to considerations around a Total Contributions Approach.

As the Deputy is aware, the public policy and social issues in relation to funding a sustainable and adequate State pension system are complex. As a consequence, the Programme for Government commits to establishing a Commission on Pensions to examine a range of issues including sustainability, eligibility, contributions and calculation methods. The Terms of Reference for the Commission on Pensions are currently being developed and options for its membership are being considered. Proposals will be brought to Government in that regard as soon as possible. Once it has concluded its deliberations, the Commission will report to Government by June of next year.

In the meantime, the current situation is that through the award of credited contributions, normally known as credits, the social insurance system gives significant recognition to time spent caring in terms of qualifying for the State Pension (Contributory). Credits protect social insurance entitlements by bridging gaps in an employee’s social insurance record where they are not in a position to pay PRSI, such as during periods spent caring. In combination with paid PRSI contributions, credits assist employees in qualifying for short-term schemes and enhance the level of benefit for long-term schemes. Credits are awarded to recipients of Carer’s Allowance (and Carer’s Benefit) where they have an underlying entitlement to credits. Credits are also awarded to workers who take unpaid Carer’s Leave from work.

In addition, all carers, including those who do not qualify for a payment or for credits, may qualify for the Homemaker scheme. The scheme, which was introduced with effect from 1994, is designed to help homemakers and carers qualify for State Pension (Contributory). Years spent caring on a full-time basis are disregarded when calculating the State Pension (Contributory) rate of payment when the rate of pension is calculated using the Yearly Average method.

When the Interim Total Contributions Approach (also known as T12) was introduced in 2018, it included provision for the HomeCaring Periods Scheme which fundamentally changed the entitlement of many who spent time out of the workforce caring for others. It acknowledged, for the first time, home caring periods prior to 1994 and provides for up to 20 years of home caring periods to be considered. Those who have a 40 year record of paid and credited social insurance contributions, subject to a maximum of 20 years of credits / homecaring periods, qualify for a maximum contributory pension where they satisfy the other qualifying conditions for the scheme. Arising from this initiative, the Department reviewed over 94,000 cases resulting in over 38,000 receiving an increased pension payment.

Since April 2019 all new State (Contributory) Pension applications are assessed under all possible rate calculation methods, including the Yearly Average and Interim Total Contributions Approach, with the most beneficial rate paid to the pensioner.

It should be noted that if a person does not satisfy those conditions, they may qualify for the means-tested State Pension (Non-Contributory), the maximum rate of which is over 95% that of the maximum rate of the State Pension (Contributory). Alternatively, if their spouse is a State pensioner and they have significant household means, their most beneficial payment may be an Increase for a Qualified Adult, based on their personal means, and amounting to up to 90% of a full contributory pension.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.


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