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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 205-219
 Header Item Regional Aid
 Header Item Back to Education Allowance
 Header Item Working Family Payment
 Header Item State Pensions
 Header Item Farm Relief Scheme
 Header Item Social Welfare Payments Administration
 Header Item Invalidity Pension
 Header Item Carer's Allowance
 Header Item JobPath Programme
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment
 Header Item Community Employment Schemes
 Header Item State Pension (Contributory)
 Header Item State Pensions
 Header Item Departmental Reports
 Header Item Jobseeker's Allowance

Thursday, 15 October 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 999 No. 4
Unrevised

First Page Previous Page Page of 58 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 205-219

Regional Aid

 205. Deputy Louise O'Reilly Information on Louise O'Reilly Zoom on Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the value of regional aid granted under the regional aid guidelines granted by her Department or agencies under the remit of her Department in each of the past seven years; the value by county or lowest possible NUTS level over the period; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30895/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley The EU Regional Aid Guidelines (RAGS) provide for enhanced rates of State Aid in the least economically developed areas of each Member State. The 2014-2020 Regional Aid Guidelines entered into force on 01 July 2014.

  I can confirm to the Deputy that my Department has not received any such EU Regional Aid in the past seven years.

Back to Education Allowance

 206. Deputy Sorca Clarke Information on Sorca Clarke Zoom on Sorca Clarke asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the reason a person (details supplied) cannot avail of the back to education scheme. [30643/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The guidelines governing eligibility for the Back-to-Education Allowance (BTEA) require that the allowance should only be approved where the course of study involved would lead to a higher qualification on the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) than that already held by the customer.

  I am advised that as the person concerned has already completed a Level 7 NFQ course and is now applying for Back to Education to pursue a Level 5 NFQ course, she does not satisfy that condition.   

  It was for this reason that the application of the person concerned was refused and she was informed of this decision in writing.

Working Family Payment

 207. Deputy Sorca Clarke Information on Sorca Clarke Zoom on Sorca Clarke asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the number of persons employed by the Departments of Foreign Affairs and Defence that are in receipt of the working family payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30647/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys Working Family Payment (WFP) is an in-work supplementary payment that provides additional income support to employees on low earnings with qualified children. WFP is designed to prevent in-work poverty for low paid employees with child dependents and to offer a financial incentive to pursue employment. The number of WFP customers who are employed by the Departments of Defence and Foreign Affairs are as follows:

Department Number of Recipients
Defence 102
Foreign Affairs 26


  Please note that the above figures refer to the number of personnel from the relevant Department that are in receipt of WFP as of week ending 09 October 2020. These figures may change slightly from week to week.

  I hope this clarifies the position for the Deputy.

State Pensions

 208. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the status of the removal of the age of 67 years for receipt of payment from the Social Welfare and Pensions Act. [30652/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The Programme for Government “Our Shared Future” sets out how the planned increase in the State pension age next year will be deferred and it will remain at 66 years pending the report of the Commission on Pensions. This will require amendment to primary legislation and the Government will bring the necessary legislation before the Oireachtas later this year.

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.

The Government is acutely conscious of the need to consider the sustainability of the State’s finances. However, this is not the only consideration when thinking of the State pension age. The State Pension is the bedrock of the pension system in Ireland. It is extremely effective at ensuring that our pensioners do not experience poverty. This Government is committed to ensuring that this remains the case.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Farm Relief Scheme

 209. Deputy Alan Kelly Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys her plans to extend farm relief for farmers over 66 years of age in view of the fact that the pension age will increase to 67 in January 2021; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30656/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The Programme for Government “Our Shared Future” sets out how the planned increase in the State pension age next year will be deferred and it will remain at 66 years pending the report of the Commission on Pensions. The Government announced, as part of Budget 2021 that this will require amendment to primary legislation and the Government will bring the necessary legislation before the Oireachtas later this year.

The public policy and social issues in relation to funding a sustainable and adequate State pension system are complex. Therefore the Government is establishing a Commission on Pensions to examine a range of issues including contributions, calculation methods, sustainability, eligibility and intergenerational fairness.

Once it has concluded its deliberations, the Commission will report to Government by June of next year. In the meantime, pending its report and decisions taken on its recommendations, the Government has clearly stated that the State Pension Age will remain at 66 years.

I trust that this clarifies the position at this time.

Social Welfare Payments Administration

 210. Deputy Mick Barry Information on Mick Barry Zoom on Mick Barry asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the policy regarding welfare payments for persons with no fixed abode; if claimants are permitted to use An Post’s address point as an address; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30668/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys My Department is aware of the Address Point service offered by An Post, which provides a free personal address and mail collection service for persons with no fixed abode.

  In relation to welfare payments, the An Post Address Point service can be used as a method of postal contact for a customer, but not as proof of address.

  I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Invalidity Pension

 211. 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 if the criteria for invalidity pension payments will be examined; and if the introduction of a measure that will allow recipients of invalidity pension to work up to ten hours per week while in receipt of the full payment will be examined (details supplied). [30690/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys Invalidity Pension is a pension paid to people who are permanently incapable of work because of illness. To qualify for an award of Invalidity Pension a claimant must satisfy both PRSI contribution and medical conditions.

  Where a person in receipt of Invalidity Pension wishes to return to work, they may apply for Partial Capacity Benefit. The Partial Capacity Benefit scheme extends the welfare system by explicitly recognising and responding to the reality that some people with disabilities will have a capacity to engage in open market employment while continuing to receive some income support from the State. The objective of the scheme is to support such people to return to the workplace without fear of loss of their disability-related social welfare benefits.

  If awarded, Partial Capacity Benefit will allow them to continue to receive, in addition to their earnings from employment, a percentage of their illness benefit or invalidity pension payment while working. After the medical assessment, if a person's disability is rated as moderate, severe or profound their previous payment continues at 50%, 75% or 100% per cent, respectively.

  Since 13 February 2012, Partial Capacity Benefit replaced the previous arrangements where people on Illness Benefit or Invalidity Pension could get permission to work part-time (known as an "exemption") for rehabilitative or therapeutic purposes and keep their full social welfare payment. In this context it is important to note however, in relation to Partial Capacity Benefit that:

  - there is no requirement that a person must undertake work that is of a ‘rehabilitative or therapeutic’ nature (and therefore the question of an exemption no longer applies);

  - Partial Capacity Benefit is voluntary;

  - Partial Capacity Benefit allows people to continue to receive a percentage of their Illness Benefit or Invalidity Pension payment while working;

  - there is no restriction on the number of hours worked;

  - there is no restriction on earnings;

  - a person who participates on the Partial Capacity Benefit scheme may return to an Illness Benefit or Invalidity Pension payment if, for example, the employment ceases or if the person cannot continue to work.

  - a person on Partial Capacity Benefit, with an underlying entitlement to Invalidity Pension, will retain their Free Travel Pass for a period of five years that is for five years while in employment.

  The medical conditionality for Disability Allowance is that the person is substantially restricted in undertaking work that would otherwise be suitable for a person of that person’s age, experience and qualifications. An income disregard is in place to encourage people on Disability Allowance to take up employment if possible.

  There are no plans to introduce a measure to allow recipients of Invalidity Pension to work up to 10 hours per week while in receipt of the full payment. To do so would invalidate the underlying criterion for Invalidity Pension that the person is permanently incapable of work and would also undermine the Partial Capacity Benefit scheme.

  I trust that this clarifies the matter.

Carer's Allowance

 212. 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 if an oral hearing can be facilitated in the case of a person (details supplied) in respect of a carer's allowance appeal overpayment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30709/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys Carer's allowance (CA) is a means-tested social assistance payment made to a person who is habitually resident in the State and who is providing full-time care and attention to a child or an adult who has such a disability that as a result they require that level of care.

The person concerned was in receipt of CA for one care recipient only. This payment was in place from 22 May 2014 until it was stopped on 13 February 2019.

A review of entitlement to CA was instigated on 13 July 2018, and documentation in respect of evaluating means was requested by Department officials. Although some documentation was received not all of the documentation requested was supplied by the person concerned.

Following this, on 17 October 2018, the person concerned was notified that her entitlement to CA from 22 May 2014 was being reconsidered. Another notification issued to the person concerned on 13th November 2018. On both occasions she was informed that, should a Deciding Officer (DO) decide that she was not entitled to CA during that period or that she was entitled to lower rates than was paid, she would be liable to refund any monies paid to which she was not entitled. The person concerned was offered the opportunity to furnish any statement or evidence she felt was appropriate to the matter.

Although the person concerned furnished the Department with further information, not all documentation requested was supplied.

On 7 February 2019, a Deciding Officer reviewed all the available evidence and decided that the person concerned was no longer entitled to CA as she had failed to show that her means were not less than the statutory limit and had failed to supply documentation that was requested from her. In addition, it was decided that she was not entitled to CA from 1 December 2016 to 13 February 2019 for the same reasons.

As a result, it was further decided that she had been overpaid an amount of money which she is liable to refund to the Department.

The person concerned was notified on 7 February 2019 of this decision, the reason for it and of her right of review and appeal.

To date the person concerned has not requested an appeal of the decision dated 7 February 2019. It is therefore not possible to request an oral hearing from the Social Welfare Appeals Office (SWAO) on behalf of the person concerned.

The time-limit for submitting an appeal of the statutory decision is within 21 days of the decision date. While this time-limit has expired, the Chief Appeals Officer has discretion to accept late appeals where there may be valid reasons for a delay.

To request that a late appeal be accepted the person concerned should forward a completed appeal application form directly to the Social Welfare Appeals Office, including an explanation for the delay. There is further information about the late appeals application process available on the Social Welfare Appeals Office’s website at: www.socialwelfareappeals.ie/foi/appeals_procedures/.

I hope this clarifies the position for the Deputy.

JobPath Programme

 213. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the way in which JobPath is operating in the context of Covid-19 restrictions; the number of persons referred to the scheme since 1 March 2020 to date in October 2020, by service provider and location. [30745/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys Referrals to all activation services, including those provided by the JobPath providers, were suspended in March due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

  In parallel with the Intreo service, our contracted public employment services, including JobPath and the Local Employment Services, resumed activation for new referrals in June.

  My officials were in contact with the various contracted employment services to ensure they are aware of and adhering to the appropriate guidelines while engaging with referrals in the context of the public health crisis. My Department has continued to liaise with the JobPath providers throughout the pandemic and they are engaging with their clients by phone, email and other electronic means where possible. Contracted services will where appropriate facilitate face to face meetings in line with HSE guidelines should any client require it.

   It is vital to continue to engage with the long term unemployed and other cohorts to ensure they do not become further distant from the labour market. This is being undertaken with due regard to public health requirements.

  The number of clients engaged with each JobPath provider by county since 1 March 2020 to the end of September 2020 is:

Seetec  
County Clients commencing engagement with Jobpath Mar-Sep 2020 (YTD)
Cavan 306
Donegal 706
Dublin 2887
Galway 643
Kildare 154
Leitrim 162
Longford 215
Louth 571
Mayo 307
Meath 408
Monaghan 161
Offaly 215
Roscommon 117
Sligo 334
Westmeath 390
Seetec Total 7576
   
Turas Nua  
County Clients commencing engagement with Jobpath Mar-Sep 2020 (YTD)
Carlow 358
Clare 476
Cork 1255
Galway 22
Kerry 689
Kildare 417
Kilkenny 299
Laois 368
Leitrim 51
Limerick 661
Offaly 194
Tipperary 562
Waterford 590
Wexford 942
Wicklow 533
Turas Nua Total 7417
Grand Total 14993


  I trust this clarifies the matter for the deputy.

Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment

 214. Deputy Sean Sherlock Information on Sean Sherlock Zoom on Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if persons who lose their employment due to Covid-19 continue in educational placements with the Covid-19 pandemic unemployment payment. [30749/20]

 220. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys her plans to amend the law to allow persons who are on the pandemic unemployment payment and likely to be so for some time to retain their pandemic unemployment payments while attending a one-year post-leaving certificate or university course to improve their employability or to retrain; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30822/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys I propose to take Questions Nos. 214 and 220 together.

The Department’s Back to Education Allowance (BTEA) provides income support for jobseekers and certain others in receipt of social welfare payments who pursue full-time education courses at second or third level. The allowance enables qualifying applicants to improve their educational qualifications and their prospects of gaining employment.

The Back to Education Scheme has been extended as part of the July Stimulus in response to Covid-19 so that people can avail of higher education and training initiatives to secure new employment opportunities as the economy recovers. Ordinarily a person must be in receipt of a qualifying social welfare payment for a minimum period before being eligible to apply for the Back to Education Allowance when pursuing training or education. The qualifying period has been waived for people who have been in receipt of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment. This ensures that those who have lost their employment during the pandemic have immediate access to a range of educational options.

To avail of continued financial support while pursuing a full-time course, a person in receipt of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment should apply for a jobseeker payment. The Back to Education Allowance is payable at the jobseekers rate, currently €203 for the weekly maximum personal rate and increased allowances may be paid for qualifying adults and child dependents.

Where an individual in receipt of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment wishes to pursue part-time study, they can continue to receive the Pandemic Unemployment Payment while they continue to satisfy the conditions of that payment.

Any person seeking to return to education should engage with their local Intreo Centre to assess their options.

I trust this clarifies the matter.

Community Employment Schemes

 215. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if a community employment scheme will be extended for a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30750/20]

Minister of State at the Department of Rural and Community Development (Deputy Joe O'Brien): Information on Joe O'Brien Zoom on Joe O'Brien I can confirm that the person concerned has had his request reviewed and approval has been granted for one further year on the CE scheme.

State Pension (Contributory)

 216. Deputy Sean Sherlock Information on Sean Sherlock Zoom on Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if she will address matters raised in correspondence (details supplied). [30766/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The person concerned applied for State pension (contributory) (SPC) on 30 June 2020.

State pension (contributory) was awarded at €32.30 per week, backdated six months from date of application to 30 December 2019, in line with social welfare legislation. The person was notified in writing of this decision on 6 July 2020 and arrears due were paid.

Since April 2012 payment of certain claims (including SPC) after due date, are only permitted for a period of six months. Backdating of a late claim beyond six months may be considered in circumstances where the delay in making a claim arose, as the result of either incorrect information having been supplied by my Department or the claimant’s inability to make a claim due to serious incapacity or infirmity. If the person concerned considers that either of these two circumstances can be applied to them, then they should forward documentary evidence to my Department and their case will be reviewed and they will be notified of the outcome in writing.

I hope this clarifies the position for the Deputy.

State Pensions

 217. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the date on which the increase of the State pension to 67 years of age will be removed from the Social Welfare and Pensions Act; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30792/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The Programme for Government “Our Shared Future” sets out how the planned increase in the State pension age next year will be deferred and it will remain at 66 years pending the report of the Commission on Pensions. The Government confirmed on Tuesday as part of its Budget measures that the required amendment to primary legislation (the Social Welfare Consolidation Act (2005)) will be brought before the Oireachtas later this year for enactment in advance of the 1st January 2021. The Government has set aside a provision of €221 million in 2021 to support this measure.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Departmental Reports

 218. Deputy Claire Kerrane Information on Claire Kerrane Zoom on Claire Kerrane asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if she has received the report carried out by external consultants to review all current contracted public employment services; when the report will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30801/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys In December 2019, after a competitive procurement, my Department engaged with external consultants to review all contracted public employment services. Progress on this review was slowed, but not stopped, by Covid 19 restrictions and the finalised report was submitted to my officials in August. The report was examined by my officials and formally submitted to me in recent days for consideration.

I look forward to considering the review's proposals in the context of ensuring that our public employment services continue to be fit for purpose into the future and provide the necessary supports and services to assist people as they progress towards employment.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Jobseeker's Allowance

 219. Deputy Ged Nash Information on Ged Nash Zoom on Ged Nash asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the date on which a decision will be made on an application made by workers of a company (details supplied) for casual docket jobseekers while they were in receipt of temporary wage subsidy scheme support; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30819/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys A person’s entitlement to a jobseeker’s payment for claims made prior to 1st September, where employees may have been in receipt of the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme, will depend on meeting the eligibility conditions, including satisfying the Department with regard to days of unemployment and days of remuneration by their employer.   

  My Department has engaged with the employer concerned and a process is currently being agreed so that any outstanding information required to finalise decisions on social welfare entitlements will be provided by the company to their employees as quickly as possible. Applications are assessed on an individual basis and the Department will notify each individual of the outcome of its decision.

  I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.


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