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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 513-527
 Header Item Community Employment Schemes
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment
 Header Item Community Employment Schemes
 Header Item Carer's Benefit
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment
 Header Item Back to Work Enterprise Allowance Scheme
 Header Item State Pension (Contributory)
 Header Item State Pension (Non-Contributory)
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment
 Header Item Pension Provisions
 Header Item Social Welfare Eligibility
 Header Item EU Directives

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. 513-527

Community Employment Schemes

 513. Deputy Brian Stanley Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the position regarding community employment participants that are over 55 years of age; the maximum number of years they can be on the scheme; and the variation that may apply to those that entered community employment under the part-time jobs opportunity. [28268/20]

 516. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the position with regard to the combined community employment procedures manual 2016 which states that persons over 55 years of age may stay employed on a community employment scheme for up to six years. [28316/20]

 517. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the position regarding a statement currently on the Citizens' Information website which states that persons employed on a scheme prior to July 2017 can stay on the previously existing eligibility rules. [28317/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys I propose to take Questions Nos. 513, 516 and 517 together.

The Community Employment (CE) Scheme is an active labour market programme designed to provide eligible long-term unemployed people and other disadvantaged persons with an opportunity to engage in useful work within their communities on a temporary, fixed term basis. A number of new conditions were introduced to the CE Scheme in July 2017 to further support progression to employment, broaden CE access to a wider range of people and to standardise the conditions relating to the length of time a CE participant can remain on a CE scheme. In general CE placements for new entrants aged between 21 and 55 years are for one year. CE participants who are working towards a Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) major award can seek to extend their participation on CE by up to two years to enable them to reach the required standard of qualification. CE participants aged 55 years or older can remain on CE for three years and do not have to work towards a QQI major award. In either scenario, a maximum of three consecutive year’s participation is permissible. A person may re-qualify for CE after a 12 month break once they satisfy the qualifying conditions. An overall lifetime limit of six years applies to all CE participants (seven years for those on a disability payment). Prior to 2017, there were two available options for participating on CE. Both options commenced with one year of participation with the possibility of either one or two more years, depending on the option taken. Both options were subject to qualification criteria and neither required the CE participant to undertake any training resulting in the achievement of a major award.

In 2017 the new conditions and qualifying criteria were introduced and a saver clause was provided for the existing clients: ‘Participants who commenced on CE prior to 3rd July 2017 will be entitled to remain under their existing CE eligibility rules, where this is to their advantage. If it is more advantageous to the person, the current criteria can be applied.’

In response to the query relating to the Part Time Job option, the saver clause that was introduced allowed participants who commenced under that option to continue on CE for a maximum of 3 consecutive years with or without working towards a QQI major award, whichever was more advantageous.

The 2017 saver clause does not allow those affected to continue to participate on CE for six years consecutively. The same continuous limitation of three years continues to apply to all CE participants both pre and post 2017. Participation on CE was never intended to be long-term and the maximum continued participation on CE is three years.

In response to the query on the statement on the Citizens Information website which relates to the saver clause, the saver clause allowed existing CE participants to remain on CE for up to a maximum of three consecutive years subject to certain conditions. In response to the query relating to the 2016 Community Employment Procedures Manual, which states that an overall lifetime limit of six years applies to CE participants between 55 and up to the State Pension age, this was the position in 2016 and it remains the position today. However, since 2017 the six year life time limit has been extended to all CE participants.

Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment

 514. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard J. Durkan Zoom on Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the entitlement to the Covid-19 payment in the case a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28275/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys If a person is advised to medically self-isolate they can apply for Illness Benefit for COVID-19 absences.

  To receive the enhanced payment, a person must be:

  - self-isolating on the instruction of a doctor or the HSE due to being a probable source of infection or diagnosed with COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and

  - absent from work and confined to their home or a medical facility

  An Illness Benefit claim form must be submitted (online or by post) and a Certificate of Incapacity for Work must be provided by the person’s GP or relevant HSE documentation provided.

  According to records of my Department, the person concerned made an application for Illness Benefit on 2/9/2020. A letter issued to the person concerned on 14/9/2020 requesting medical evidence in support of her application. No evidence was received so the claim was withdrawn.

  If the required medical evidence is submitted by the person concerned, her application will be processed and she will be advised of the outcome.

  I trust this clarifies the matter.

Community Employment Schemes

 515. Deputy Mattie McGrath Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the position in relation to the implementation of the Labour Court recommendation that community employment supervisors should be entitled to a pension or gratuity; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28303/20]

 524. Deputy Paul McAuliffe Information on Paul  McAuliffe Zoom on Paul  McAuliffe asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys her views regarding the implementation of the Labour Court recommendation that community employment supervisors should be entitled to a pension or gratuity; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28565/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys I propose to take Questions Nos. 515 and 524 together.

As the Deputy will be aware, Community Employment (CE) supervisors and assistant supervisors have been seeking for several years, through their union representatives, the allocation of Exchequer funding to implement a 2008 Labour Court recommendation relating to the provision of a pension scheme for CE supervisors who are employed by CE schemes.

CE sponsoring authorities are the legal employers of their CE supervisors, CE assistant supervisors and CE participants; the Department’s role continues to be that of CE funder.

This issue was examined by a Community Sector High Level Forum, chaired by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. A number of Departments, including my own Department, were represented on this group, as were the unions and Pobal.

As part of this process a detailed scoping exercise was carried out with input from the Irish Government Economic and Evaluation Service (IGEES) on the potential costs of providing Exchequer support for the establishment of such a pension scheme for employees across the Community and Voluntary sector in Ireland. This exercise estimated a potential cost to the State of between €188 million and €347 million per annum depending on the numbers involved. This excluded any provision for an immediate ex-gratia lump sum payment of pension as sought, which could entail a further Exchequer cost of up to €318 million.

In its findings, the High-level Group stated that while CE supervisors and assistant supervisors represented only a very small part of the wider community and voluntary sector, any explicit provision of State funding for such a scheme in respect of CE Supervisors could potentially give rise to claims for funding for employees of similar schemes in the broader sector. The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform stated that it had to have regard to the full potential Exchequer exposure associated with setting such a precedent.

At this point, I wish to acknowledge the valuable and dedicated service that CE supervisors provide in running CE schemes delivering local based community services while providing a valuable training and development opportunity to the long-term unemployed and to those often furthest removed from the labour market.

The current position is that officials from my Department, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Unions are in ongoing discussions on the matter. The funding of any potential pension provision for CE supervisors will ultimately be a matter for the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and will need to be considered in the wider economic and budgetary context in which any such scheme will need to operate.

  Questions Nos. 516 and 517 answered with Question No. 513.

Carer's Benefit

 518. Deputy Kieran O'Donnell Information on Kieran O'Donnell Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys further to Parliamentary Question No. 519 of 22 September 2020, if a review of the carer’s benefit application will be carried out in view of information provided (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28365/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys Carer's benefit (CARB) is a payment made to insured people who leave the workforce or reduce their working hours to care for a child or an adult in need of full-time care and attention.

My Department received an application for CARB from the person concerned on 12 August 2020. Under the provisions of the legislation a person claiming CARB must be in remunerative full time employment (for a minimum of 16 hours in the week or 32 hours in the fortnight) for eight weeks out of the previous 26 week period immediately prior to the first day on which a claim is made. There is no provision in legislation to waive this requirement.

The evidence submitted in support of this application was examined and the deciding officer decided that this evidence did not indicate that this requirement was satisfied. The person concerned was notified of this decision on 1st September 2020 and of her right of review and appeal.

The person concerned requested a review of this decision. The outcome of the review is that the original decision is confirmed. On 17 September 2020 the person concerned was notified of this outcome and of their right of appeal directly to the Social Welfare Appeals Office.

Due to a clerical error, this review letter did indicate the incorrect caree name. I can confirm that an amended letter has now issued to the person concerned.

The letter from the employer, referred to by the Deputy, suggests that the person concerned actually works 24 hours per week. It is important to understand that there is a distinction between “hours worked” and “remunerative hours of employment”. The employer has confirmed that the hours of remunerative employment of the person concerned are 11 hours per week and she is being paid in respect of those hours only. The legislation does not make provision for other unpaid hours that may be worked.

The person concerned has been advised to apply for Carer's Allowance which is not a contribution based scheme.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment

 519. Deputy Paul Kehoe Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the number of persons in County Wexford in receipt of the Covid-19 pandemic unemployment payment by age range (details supplied) in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28387/20]

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 below, and refers to recipients of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) for the week ending 03 October.

Age Recipients in Wexford
Under 20 166
20-24 795
25-29 460
30-34 508
35-39 589
40-44 590
45-49 558
50-54 534
55-59 456
60+ 471
Total 5,127

Back to Work Enterprise Allowance Scheme

 520. Deputy Louise O'Reilly Information on Louise O'Reilly Zoom on Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if payments to those on the back-to-work enterprise allowance scheme will be extended for the period in which those on the scheme were not allowed to trade during the lock down earlier in 2020. [28410/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The Back to Work Enterprise Allowance (BTWEA) scheme offers support for people who are long-term unemployed and who are interested in self-employment as a route to entering the labour market. The scheme plays a vital role in supporting the development of new enterprises for the long term unemployed. The BTWEA is payable to self-employed individuals for a 24 month period from the commencement of their new business.

All participants of the BTWEA will be in a position to receive their full period of entitlement of 24 months. This includes anyone who contacted my Department to temporarily suspend their allowance while their business closed. Where someone sought a suspension of their BTWEA, they can avail of the remainder of their 24 months on reopening their business.

I trust this clarifies the position.

State Pension (Contributory)

 521. Deputy John McGuinness Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if a State (contributory) pension will be approved for a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28499/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The person concerned reached pension age on 22 June 2020 and applied for their State pension (contributory) on 24 July 2020. They were awarded the maximum rate of pension with effect from their 66th birthday. They were notified in writing of this decision and arrears due on 14 August 2020.

  I hope this clarifies the position for the Deputy.

State Pension (Non-Contributory)

 522. Deputy John McGuinness Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if a means test relative to a claim for a State (non-contributory) pension for a person (details supplied) will be reassessed. [28500/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys State pension non-contributory is a means-tested payment for people aged 66 and over, habitually residing in the State, who do not qualify for a state pension contributory, or who only qualify for a reduced rate contributory pension based on their social insurance record.

For the purposes of the means-test, it is necessary at the outset for applicants to provide full details of any income(s), assets, savings and investments they hold. Following the award of pension, a reporting obligation continues to apply whereby the pension recipient (and, where relevant, their qualified adult dependant, personal representative or agent) must notify the Department in a timely manner of any change in their circumstances that may impact on their pension entitlement.

The person concerned had been in receipt of state pension non-contributory since 30 March 2012. Following notification to the Department that their spouse had commenced employment, the person’s pension entitlement was reviewed in June 2020 on the basis of the couple’s changed financial circumstances. The Deciding Officer stopped the person’s state pension non-contributory entitlement with effect from 16 July 2020 for the reason that their (individualised) increased means exceeded the applicable weekly statutory limit of €262.50.

The person concerned was notified of this revised decision on 22 June 2020, together with the reason for the decision and their right, if dissatisfied with the decision, to request a review, or to appeal the decision to the independent Social Welfare Appeals Office.

To date, there is no record of an appeal being received from the person concerned. This Parliamentary Question will be taken as a request for review. A Deciding Office will review the person’s entitlement to state pension non-contributory and they will be notified of the outcome in writing.

I hope this clarifies the position for the Deputy.

Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment

 523. Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan Information on Pádraig O'Sullivan Zoom on Pádraig O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys when persons that had pandemic unemployment payment claims that were not paid will receive their backdated arrears; if she can provide a timeline for same; if this timeline will be communicated to the public via the Department website; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28517/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys Since the introduction of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment scheme in March, approximately 750,000 people have applied for payment and in some cases, they have done so on a number of occasions as they moved in and out of employment. Consequently, there are over 1 million applications to be examined to determine if arrears are due.

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.

My Department is keenly aware that many people are due some arrears and that every case will be different. In order to address an issue of this scale, the Department is currently developing an automated process, which will examine each case and look at their overall entitlement to payment and match this against their payment history. The work involved is complex as the Pandemic Unemployment Payment system itself evolved from a manual applications system to one where applications were submitted online and paid over two different payment platforms (one from March to July and the second from July to date).

Given the complexity attached to the project, it will take some time yet to complete the necessary development work to review all cases and to determine to what extent, if any, arrears are due to individuals. I can assure the Deputy that this is a priority for the Department and it is hoped to make payments before end of the year .

I hope that this clarifies matters for the Deputy.

  Question No. 524 answered with Question No. 515.

Pension Provisions

 525. Deputy Cormac Devlin Information on Cormac Devlin Zoom on Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the status of the pension increase due to workers (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28578/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The Deputy will appreciate that I am unable to comment or intervene on issues relating to a particular pension scheme.

My Department has no role in setting the level of pension increases received by members of occupational pension schemes. Pension increases are entirely a matter for the scheme trustees and the sponsoring employer. Matters directly related to former Eircom, Telecom Éireann, and P&T groups come under the remit of the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment.

Trustees of occupational pension schemes have duties and responsibilities under the Pensions Act 1990, as amended, under trust law and under other relevant legislation. The duties of pension scheme trustees include administering a scheme in accordance with the law and the terms of the trust deed and rules as well as ensuring compliance with the requirements that apply to these schemes. Trustees must act in the best financial interests of the scheme members, whether active, deferred or retired, and must serve all beneficiaries of the scheme impartially. If there is a conflict of interest then a person’s duty as a trustee must take precedence over other interests.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Social Welfare Eligibility

 526. Deputy Michael McNamara Information on Michael McNamara Zoom on Michael McNamara asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the status of an application for a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28597/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The person in question is in receipt of invalidity pension. An application for the national fuel scheme (fuel allowance) was received from him on 04 September 2020 and he has been assessed as eligible for fuel allowance. The fuel season commences 01 October 2020 for the 2020/21 fuel season. He was notified on 29 September 2020 of this decision.

  I hope this clarifies the position for the Deputy.

EU Directives

 527. Deputy Catherine Connolly Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the cost to her Department to date of all fines paid by Ireland for non-transposition of EU directives into Irish law; the breakdown, by directive of the lump sum cost and the daily cost of each fine; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28617/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys There are no costs to my Department to date for fines for non-transposition of EU Directives into Irish law.

  I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.


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