Tairgim go léifear anois an Bille an dara h-uair.
Is é príomh-chuspóir an Bhille údarás reachtach a fháil i gcomhair na méadaithe ó'n gcéad lá de Shamhain seo chugainn i níochaíochtaí Chúnaimh Shóisialaigh a fógraíodh sa Cháinaisnéis, agus i gcomhair moltaí chun feabhsú na scéimeanna Árachais Ó thosach Eanáir seo chugainn a luadh freisin sa Cháinaisnéis. Ina theannta sin ta roinnt feabhsanna eile ins an mBille ar chúnamh sóisialach, árachas sóisialach agus ar an scéim árachais fliuch-aimsire.
Forálann an Bille go méadófar ar na rátaí uilig pinsean sean-aoise agus daille neamh-ranníocach atá ann do réir 2/6d i naghaidh na seachtaine; is iad na rátaí nua 35/-, 30/-, 25/-, 20/-15/- agus 10/- i naghaidh na seachtaine, do réir rang acmhainne an phinsinéara.
Gheobhaidh faighteóir cúnaimh dífhostaíochta méadú do réir 2/6d i naghaidh na seachtaine i n-a leith féin, agus méadú breise do réir 2/6d i naghaidh na seachtaine i leith cleithiúnaí aosaithe. Ciallaíonn seo gurab iad na huas-rátaí seachtainiúla cúnaimh dífhostaíochta i limistéar uirbeach 26/6d i leith fir singil agus 47/6d i leith fir pósta, agus i limistéar tuaithe 20/6d i leith fir singil agus 39/6d i leith fir pósta.
Gheobhaidh baintreach atá ag fáil pinsin neamh-ranníocaigh méadú 2/6d i naghaidh na seachtaine, i dtreo's go mbeidh uas-ráta pinsin baintrí neamhranníochaigh do réir 33/6 i naghaidh na seachtaine.
Ina theannta seo tá feabhsanna dá ndéanamh maidir le liúntais faoi na hAchtanna Liúntas Leanaí. Tá liúntas nua do réir 10/- i naghaidh na míosa dá thabhairt isteach do'n chéad nó do leanbh aonair cáilithe i gclainn agus tá an liúntas atá ann do'n triú agus do gach leanbh cáilithe eile dá méadú faoi 4/6d i naghaidh na míosa. Gheobhaidh duine le triúr leanbh liúntais míosúla de 52/- i n-ionad 37/6d faoi láthair agus gheobhaidh duine le cúigear leanbh liútais do réir 105/- i n-ionad 81/6d.
Is iad seo na méadaithe a éiríonn de bhárr moltaí na cáinaisnéise ar an dtaobh cúnaimh shóisialaigh.
Ina theannta sin, tá feabhsanna eile dá ndéanamh maidir le cúnamh sóisialach. Tá ráta nua pinsin sean-aoise neamhranníocaigh dá bhunú do réir 5/i naghaidh na seachtaine chomh maith le leathnú ar an dteorainn bliantúil acmhainne ó £130 15s go £143 15s. Ligfidh seo do roinnt daoine cáiliú chun pinsin gur leo díreach a nacmhainn faoi láthair le n-a n-eisiamh. Maidir le pinsean neamhranníocach baintrí soláthraítear íocaíocht liúntais a íoctar le leanaí mar chuid de na pinsin sin do leanaí áirithe a thosnaíonn ar chónaí go rialta leis an mbaintrigh i ndiaidh bás a céile agus nach bhfuil an liúntas iníoctha leo faoi láthair. Táthar dá mholadh freisin go nathrófar an chaoi i n-a n-áirmhítear luach bliantúil caipitil ag breithniú acmhainn baintrí nó linbh le haghaidh forálacha pinsin neamhranníocaigh baintrí nó dílleachta. Do réir na caoi níos leithne atáthar chun a chur i bhfeidhm ní áirmheofar an chéad £100 de chaipiteal baintrí, ní áirmheofar £100 eile i leith gach aon linbh cáilithe atá i n-a chónaí go rialta léi, agus glacfar le luach bliantúil de 5% i leith na coda eile de.
Is é costas bliantúil na méadaithe ar íocaíochtaí chúnaimh shoisialaigh a fógraíodh sa cháinaisnéis agus na bhfeabhsanna eile maidir le h-íocaíochtaí cúnaimh shóisialaigh a soláthraítear sa Bhille ná £4,000,000. Sa mhéid seo tá £761,000 i leith pinsean neamhranníocach sean-aoise agus daille, £181,000 i leith cúnaimh dífhostaíochta, £178,000 i léith pinsean neamhranníocach baintreach agus £2,880,000 i leith liúntais leanaí, le na n-áirmhítear £1,857,000 i leith liúntas nua do'n chéad leanbh nó do leanbh aonair. Toisc go dtiocfaidh na forálacha seo i bhfeidhm ón lú Samhain seo chugainn is é an costas a éireoidh sa bhliain airgeadais láithreach ná £1,688,000.
Ar an dtaobh árachais soláthruíonn an Bille méadú de 5/- i naghaidh na seachtaine ar na rátaí bunaidh pearsanta de shochar míochumais agus dífhostaíochta, liúntas máithreachais, phinsean baintrí (ranníochach) agus phinsean sean-aoise (ranníocach), agus tá an ráta seachtainiúil speisialta sochair míchumais agus dífhostaíochta do mhná pósta agus do dhaoine faoí ocht mbliana déag d'aois á árdú do réir 4/-.
Soláthraítear freisin méadaithe ar na liúntais atá iníoctha leis na sochair sin i leith cleithiúnaí aosaithe. Tosnóidh na rátaí nua sa chéad sheachtain d'Eanáir, 1964.
Gheobhaidh fear árachaithe le mnaoi céile méadú 10/- i naghaidh na seachtaine nuair is breoite nó dífhostaithe dó agus gheobhaidh baintreach atá ag fáil pinsin ranníocaigh méadú 5/- i naghaidh na seachtaine. Fear pósta atá ag fáil Pinsin Seanaoise Ranníocaigh le liúntas dá mhnaoi céile gheobhaidh sé méadú 7/6d i naghaidh na seachtaine.
Tá rátaí nua ranníoca fostaíochta soláthraithe sa Bhille. Is é an méadú is mó ná 1/4d i naghaidh na seachtaine, nó 8d an duine don fhostóir agus do'n duine áracaithe.
Is é costas iomlán bliantúil na méadaithe ar shochar árachais, mar a meastar iad, ná £2,379,000 i dtreo's gurab é £23,689,000 an caithteachas iomlán bliantúil as an gCiste Leasa Shóisialaigh agus as sin soláthrófar cuid níos lú ná dhá thrian trí na ranníoca méadaithe agus as foinsí ilghnéitheacha eile. Is é an costas a bheidh ann do'n Státchiste sa bhliain airgeadais atá anois ann ná timpeall £250,000.
Seachas na méadaithe ar rátaí tá roinnt leasaithe eile ar an dlí dá dhéanamh ar thaobh an árachais, mar atá, sainmhíniú nua ar "sheirbhís tighis" dá thabhairt isteach agus múinteoiri i gColáistí Traenála Eolaíocht Teaghlaigh dá gcur ar aon bhonn le múinteorí eile i gcúrsaí árachais. Maidir leis an scéim pinsean ranníocadh sean-aoise soláthraítear go mbeidh teideal uathoibritheach ag baintrigh pinsinéara sean-aoise (ranníocadh) do phinsean baintrí (ranníocach) i n-ionad sochair faoi leith a bhí inoctha cheana do réir ráta níba lú agus a bhí gan liúntais dá leanaí má b'ann dóibh. Táthar freisin le rialacháin a dhéanamh chun go mbeifear i n-ann méadú i leith cleithiúnaí aosaithe ar phinsean sean-aoise (ranníocadh) a íoc direach leis an gcleithiúnaí i gcásanna áirithe. Táthar freisin chun a sholáthar go mbeifear i n-ann liúntas linbh i gcás pinsin baintrí (ranníocach) a íoc i leith linbh, garlinbh, leaslinbh nó linbh altrainne baintrí nó a céile a bhíonn i n-a chónaí go rialta leis an mbaintrigh i ndiaidh bás a céile. Dhein mé tagairt cheana d'fhoráil cosúil leis seo maidir le pinsean baintrí neamhranníocach.
Soláthraíonn an Bille freisin mionathraithe sa scéim fliuch-aimsire. An chéad cheann díobh seo ligfidh sé do dhaoine a bhfuil 18 mbliana slánuithe, acu (i n-ionad 21 mar atá) bheith mar oibrithe oilte nó neamh-oilte agus faoi na rátaí níos aoirde sochair agus ranníoca is cuí do'n dá aicme sin. Faoi'n dara athrú acu seo beidh sochar fliuch-aimsire iníoctha i leith leath-uaire breise nuair a bhíonn leath-uair breise san áireamh i stad oibre a leanann ar feadh lae iomláin oibre. Ní bhaineann aon chostas do'n státchiste leis na hathraithe seo ach cosnóidh siad timpeall £2,000 i naghaidh na bliana do'n Chiste Arachais Fliuch-Aimsire a bhunaítear ar ranníoca na bhfostóirí is na n-oibrithe agus as a níoctar costas uilig na scéime ach amháin costas a riaracháin.
Taobh amuigh de na hathraithe sin tá mé chun méadú ar na rátaí sochair agus ranníoc fliuch-aimsire trí bhíthin rialacháin.
B'fhéidir go mba chabhair é costas na moltaí seo do'n Státchiste d'achoimriú. Is é costas na bhforálacha Cúnaimh Shóisialaigh ná £4,000,000 i bliain iomlán agus £1,688,000 an bhliain seo. Is é costas na moltaí árachais shóisialaigh ná £661,000 i bliain iomlán agus £250,000 sa bhliain reatha. Is é an costas iomlán do'n Státchiste mar sin, ná £4,661,000 i mbliain iomlán agus £1,938,000 sa bhliain seo againn. De bhárr na bhforálacha seo go léir beidh mar thairbhe ag faighteoirí íocaíochtaí Leasa Shóisialaigh £6,380,000 i mbliain iomlán.
Deputies will, no doubt, recall the increases in the rates of non-contributory old age, blind and widows' pensions, children's allowances and unemployment assistance announced by the Minister for Finance in his Budget Statement on 23rd April last, as also the increases in rates of social insurance benefits foreshadowed in that statement. This Bill is primarily concerned with giving legislative effect to these increases. In addition, some further improvements in the social assistance and insurance codes and in the Intermittent Unemployment Insurance (Wet-Time) Scheme are proposed.
For the convenience of Deputies, I will deal first with the social assistance increases and improvements. The increases proposed in the rates of non-contributory old age, blind and widows' pensions and unemployment assistance are 2/6d. a week.
The new rates of non-contributory old age and blind pensions will be 35/-, 30/-, 25/-, 20/-, 15/-, and 10/-, according to the means of the pensioner as set out in the table to Section 2. I shall have something further to say about this table later.
A recipient of unemployment assistance will get an increase of 2/6d. a week in respect of himself and a similar increase for an adult dependant, if he has one. A married man with a dependent wife but no dependent children will, therefore, receive a maximum rate of unemployment assistance of 47/6d. a week in an urban area, and of 39/6d. in a rural area.
The proposed new personal rates of widow's non-contributory pension are shown in the table in Section 4. I shall have more to say later on regarding these pensions.
An important change is proposed in the children's allowances scheme. At present children's allowances are payable to a person who has two or more qualified children normally residing with him. Payment of an allowance at the rate of 10/- a month in respect of the first child in a household is now proposed. This will result not only in payment being made for the first child in each of the existing families in receipt of allowances—some 225,000 in all—but will bring within the scope of the children's allowances scheme an estimated 84,000 one-child families who are not at present receiving allowances. In addition an increase from 22/- a month to 26/6d. a month in the rate of payment for the third and each subsequent qualified child in a household is proposed. The effect of these increased payments can, perhaps, best be illustrated by a few examples—the monthly allowance for a family of three children for instance will go up from £1 17s. 6d. to £2 12s. while for a family of five, the new rate will be £5 5s. as against £4 1s. 6d.
In common with the increases in other social assistance payments, it is proposed that the new and increased children's allowances should come into operation on 1st November next.
As I have mentioned, some other improvements on the Social Assistance side are also proposed. The first of these relates to non-contributory old age and blind pensions and is, in fact, dealt with in Section 2 of the Bill. The increase of 2/6d. in each rate of pension would result in a new minimum pension rate of 10/-, which would be payable where the yearly means of the pensioner exceeded £117 15s. but did not exceed £130 15s. A person whose means exceeded that amount would get no pension.
Deputies will remember that prior to the increase of 2/6d. a week given last year the minimum rate of non-contributory old age pension was 15/and the increase would have resulted in a new minimum rate of old age pension of 17/6d. a week, payable in cases where the means of the recipient exceeded £78 10s. but did not exceed £104 15s. a year. As the weekly rates of old age pension vary, according to the means of the pensioner, by steps of 5/-, it was then decided to add two new steps by introducing two new rates of pension of 12/6d. and 7/6d. where the means did not exceed £117 15s. and £130 15s. respectively. This year it has been decided to add a further step by introducing a rate of pension of 5/- weekly to be payable where the yearly means exceed £130 15s. but do not exceed £143 15s. The new step is included in the Table in Section 2 and it is estimated that about 250 persons will benefit.
A second improvement concerns widows with non-contributory pensions who receive allowances as part of pension in respect of children. At present such an allowance may be paid only in respect of a child who normally resides with a widow and who resided with her or her husband immediately before he died or who, being a child or step-child of the husband, became normally resident with the widow after his death. It is now proposed that this allowance should also be paid in respect of a grand-child of the widow or her late husband, a child or step-child of the widow or a child who is adopted by the widow after her husband's death— the basic qualification still being that the child is normally resident with the widow within the meaning of the rules made for that purpose under the Children's Allowances Acts. It is estimated that this concession will cover some 300 children and cost approximately £8,000 in a full year. A similar concession in relation to widows in receipt of Contributory Pensions is also proposed.
A further improvement proposed is to introduce a more liberal method of calculating the value of capital or property invested or capable of investment for means purposes in the case of applicants for non-contributory widows' or orphans' pension. At present the yearly value of such capital or property is calculated by ignoring the first £25, taking 5 per cent. of the next £375 and 10 per cent. of any excess over £400. This method of assessment has remained unchanged since the scheme of non-contributory widows' or orphans' pensions was first introduced in 1935, and the same method has applied in relation to non-contributory old age pensions since 1919.
While this method may be justified in its application to old age pensions where a return commensurate with the assessment may be obtained by surrendering the capital for an annuity at age 70, it does seem too severe in its application to the average widow, especially those with children. I feel sure the House will agree that some concession should be granted to widows in this respect in order to assist them in making the serious economic adjustment with which the great majority of them are normally faced on the death of the husband and particularly to enable them to provide the education for their children which the latter might have expected to receive if their father had lived.
It is therefore proposed that for widows' and orphans' pensions purposes the amount of capital not liable to a percentage assessment should be increased from £25 to £100 in all cases, that a further sum of £100 should be excluded for each qualified child normally residing with a widow, and that any remaining balance should be assessed at 5 per cent. The revised method of assessment would allow a widow with no qualified child to qualify for a pension at minimum rate if her sole means consist of capital to the value of £2,715 as against £1,520 at present, while a widow with two qualified children may qualify for a pension at minimum rate if she has capital amounting to £3,955 as against £2,040 at present. The number of widows who would benefit by this concession is estimated at about 800 at the cost of some £20,000, a year.
The yearly cost of the proposed increases in social assistance payments and the improvements in social assistance schemes is estimated at £4,000,000. This sum is made up of £761,000 in respect of non-contributory old age and blind pensions, £181,000 in respect of unemployment assistance, £178,000 in respect of children's non-contributory widows' pensions and £2,880,000 in respect of children's allowances, including £1,857,000 in respect of the new allowance for the first child. In the current financial year, the cost will be in the region of £1,688,000 since the increases take effect from the beginning of November next.
We now come to the provisions of the Bill relating to social insurance schemes. In his Budget statement, the Minister for Finance announced that it was proposed to introduce increases in benefits under the social insurance schemes from the commencement of the contribution year in January next. Section 15 of the Bill provides for an increase of 5/- weekly in the basic personal rates of disability and unemployment benefit, maternity allowance, widows' (contributory) pension and old age (contributory) pension and for an increase of 4/- a week in the special weekly rate of disability and unemployment benefit for married women and persons under 18 years.
Provision is also made for increases in the allowances payable with these benefits in respect of adult dependants. The increased rates of disability and unemployment benefit and maternity allowance and of the associated dependants' allowances will come into effect on the 6th January, 1964. The new rates of widows' (contributory) pension and old age (contributory) pension and the allowances payable with them, will come into effect on 3rd January, 1964, the first normal payday in the New Year. Under the new rates an insured man who is married will receive an additional 10/- a week when ill or unemployed, while a widow in receipt of widow's (contributory) pension will receive an increase of 5/- a week. A married old age (contributory) pensioner will receive an additional 7/6d. a week.
I need hardly say that these increased rates of benefit will result in a heavy increase in expenditure from the Social Insurance Fund and an increase in rates of contribution by employers and insured persons is, therefore, unavoidable. New rates of employment contributions are provided for in Section 14. The maximum increase is 1/4d. per week, or 8d. each for employer and insured person, in the case of those contributions which count for all benefits. Contributions which give title to limited benefits are being increased by an amount related to the cost of the increases in those benefits only. A table comparing existing and new contribution rates is included in the Explanatory Memorandum circulated with the Bill.
It is estimated that the increased contributions by employers and workers will increase the income of the Social Insurance Fund by £1,718,000 a year which will bring the overall annual income of the Fund from contributions, interest on investments, and other miscellaneous sources, to approximately £15,046,000. The annual cost of the increases and improvements in social insurance benefits provided in this Bill is estimated at £2,379,000 bringing the total yearly expenditure from the Social Insurance Fund including administration to £23,689,000. The excess of expenditure over income which will be borne by the State amounts to about £8,643,000 in a full year and represents about 36.5 per cent, or somewhat more than one-third, of the total income of the Fund.
I may say here that the views of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and of the Federated Union of Employers on the proposals to increase insurance benefits and contributions were obtained and duly considered. In this connection, however, I would like to stress that the increased rates of benefit proposed are the most favourable that can be provided on the basis of the proposed increases in contribution rates and within the existing framework of the Social Insurance Scheme which, as Deputies are aware, is financed on the basis of roughly equal contributions by employers, insured persons and the State.
The opportunity is also being availed of in the Bill to clarify the law and effect some improvements in relation to social insurance. A reduced rate of employment contributions which does not reckon for unemployment benefit purposes is paid in respect of females employed in domestic service. The term "domestic service" was originally defined in the Social Welfare Act, 1952, to exclude service of a domestic nature rendered otherwise than in relation to an employer's household and place of residence, and this was intended to confine the expression to domestic service given in the home. However, difficulties of interpretation have since arisen and provision is made in Section 7 to ensure that domestic service rendered mainly in relation to the students in a boarding school or college is not to be regarded as domestic service for insurance purposes. It is necessary also to bring the position in regard to insurability of pensionable teachers in Domestic Science Training Colleges into line with that of pensionable national, secondary and vocational teachers generally.
Pensionable teachers in domestic science training colleges are at present compulsorily insurable for all benefits and contributions at the full rate are payable in respect of them. However, as they are pensionable their position is no different to that of pensionable teachers in National, Secondary or Vocational Schools, for whom contributions at a reduced rate which reckon only for widows' and orphans' pensions purposes are paid. Section 9 of the Bill therefore makes provision which will enable such teachers to be treated for insurance purposes in the same manner as other teachers.
Some improvements are being effected in the old age (contributory) pension scheme. In the first place, the existing provision for contrinuation of payment of adult dependant's allowance to former adult dependants of deceased old age (contributory) pensioners is being replaced by provision that a widow of an old age (contributory) pensioner will automatically qualify for a widow's (contributory) pension of 42/6d. a week, which is higher than the allowance of 37/6d. otherwise payable, and which will be increased by additions for her children under age 16, if any. Over 300 widows who continue to receive an allowance as former dependants of old age (contributory) pensioners will benefit by this concession. The allowance as a former adult dependant will continue to be payable to widowers of deceased female old age (contributory) pensioners but the rate will correspond with the rate of widow's contributory pension. The Bill also includes a provision whereby regulations may be made under which the allowance for a wife or dependent husband as part of old age (contributory) pension may be paid direct to the dependant in certain cases. Under existing law the pension, including the allowance, must be paid in full to the pensioner. This can result in hardship or serious inconvenience where the husband and wife, due to circumstances outside their control, live at different addresses, for example, where both are in need of nursing and are taken in by different relations, or where the husband fails in his obligation to maintain his wife. In this connection I might mention that if the wife is over age 70 she is disqualified for receiving a non-contributory old age pension as a result of her husband's entitlement to a dependant's allowance in respect of her as an addition to his contributory old age pension.
Finally, in relation to social insurance, provision is made in Section 12 to enable payment of an allowance for a child as part of widow's (contributory) pension to be made for a child, grandchild, stepchild or adopted child of the widow or her husband who comes to live with the widow after her husband's death. It is estimated that this concession will result in payment for some 500 children and will cost about £16,000 a year. I have already mentioned the similar concession made in relation to non-contributory widow's pension in Section 4.
Turning now to the wet-time insurance scheme, Deputies will recall that this is a scheme of insurance which provides for payment of benefit to workers in the building, civil engineering and painting trades, when wages are lost due to stoppages of work caused by bad weather. The scheme is financed wholly by contributions from workers and their employers. Following discussions with representatives of the workers and employers it has been decided to increase the rates of contribution and benefit and this is being done by regulation. Two further changes in the scheme, which require legislation are included in this Bill. There are three classes of insured persons covered by the scheme—skilled workers, unskilled workers and young persons, and skilled and unskilled workers pay higher contributions and receive higher rates of benefit than young persons. At present a person may not be regarded as a skilled or unskilled worker until the beginning of the insurance year following that in which he attains the age of twenty-one. It is now proposed to reduce this age to eighteen, having regard to conditions generally in the building industry and the fact that the adult rate of contribution under the Social Insurance Scheme is payable from the age of sixteen. Again, wet-time insurance benefit is at present not payable for periods of less than an hour included in any period of a stoppage of work. Arising out of the introduction of the five-day week in the Dublin area, an 8½ hour day is in operation in that area from mid-January to mid-November and for the remainder of the year a 7½ hour day is worked for five days together with 5 hours on Saturday. To meet this situation, it is proposed to pay wet-time insurance benefit in respect of a fraction of an hour, which is not less than half an hour, where the working day contains such a fraction of an hour and the stoppage of work extends over the full working day. The rate of payment will be half the appropriate hourly rate.
In conclusion, it may be helpful to summarise the cost to the Exchequer of the various proposals which I have outlined. In relation to social assistance the total costs are estimated to amount to £4,000,000 in a full year and to £1,688,000 in the current financial year. The cost to the Exchequer of the social insurance proposals is £661,000 in a full year and £250,000 in the current year. The overall cost to the Exchequer will therefore be £4,661,000 in a full year and £1,938,000 in the present year.
As a result of all the proposals in this Bill recipients of social welfare payments will benefit to the extent of approximately £6,380,000 in a full year.
I have much pleasure in recommending this measure to Dáil Éireann and I would ask for expenditious and favourable consideration for it in order that sufficient time may be available in which to complete the necessary administrative arrangements.