asked the Minister for Finance if he is aware that grievous hardship is caused many deserving persons by the refusal to consider their application for the old age pension on the grounds that the maintenance afforded by their friends is assessed at a value which precludes them from receiving the pension, and if he will take steps to have the methods of administrating the Old Age Pension Acts investigated with a view to mitigating the hardship thus inflicted.
ORAL ANSWERS. - ADMINISTRATION OF OLD AGE PENSION ACTS.
asked the Minister for Finance if he is aware that it is the practice of Excise officials in considering old age pension claims to assess at a valuation the maintenance of penniless citizens who are dependent entirely upon the charity of their relatives or friends, and whether he will instruct such officials that such maintenance in future should not be taken into consideration in the case of old age pension claims.
Under Section 2 (1) (d) of the Old Age Pensions Act, 1911, account must be taken in calculating the means of any person for old age pension purposes of "the yearly value of any benefit or privilege enjoyed by that person." Where, therefore, a claimant or pensioner is in receipt of free maintenance or partially-free maintenance the value thereof must, under the law, be included in the assessment of the means.
Is the Minister aware that the relatives of many of these poor people have to help to support fairly large families, and I am afraid pension officers do not take that into account?
It is the duty of the pension officer to take into account, in estimating the value of maintenance, the number of persons that have to be maintained on the holding and the general value of that holding.
Does the Minister's statement amount to this, that the pension officer takes charity into account?
I have stated what the law is, and always has been, on the subject: "the yearly value of any benefit or privilege enjoyed by that person."
Does that yearly value represent a standard value, or does it vary in each particular case?
It varies in each particular case.
It seems to me that in many cases it is altogether excessive.
asked the Minister for Finance if he is aware that during the past month two claims came before the Waterford Old Age Pension Committee which had been rejected by the Pension Officer on the ground that the free maintenance offered by their friends was assessed at a value which precluded them from receiving the old age pension, and if the Committee, knowing the circumstances of the claimants, recommended them for a pension, and if on appeal to the Local Government Department the Pension Officer's decision was upheld, and if this method of administration is the settled practice of his Department.
From the particulars given the claims referred to cannot be identified as having been received on appeal. As regards the concluding portion of the Question I would refer the Deputy to the provisions of Section 2 (1) (d) of the Old Age Pensions Act, 1911, in accordance with which the yearly value of any benefit or privilege enjoyed by a person must be taken into account in calculating his means for the purposes of the Old Age Pensions Acts.
If appeals are made, will the Minister consider them sympathetically?
All appeals are sympathetically considered.
Especially where charity is taken into account in the assessment, is that sympathetic treatment?
The law is very definite, and neither a pensions officer nor a Minister can go outside the law in dealing with it.
In case a son loses his employment for a considerable period, is it not unfair that the parent's pension should be curtailed for that time? I have a case of that kind before me.
I would want to see the particular case.