Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.

10.

asked the Minister for Social Welfare whether any changes have been made during 1980 in respect of the first three waiting days for which an employee is eligible for either disability benefit or unemployment benefit.

Prior to 7 April 1980 the first three days of a claim to disability benefit or unemployment benefit were regarded as waiting days in respect of which benefit was not paid unless the claimant had been sick or unemployed within the preceding 13 weeks, in which circumstances payment was made from the first day of illness or unemployment.

As from 7 April the first three days of all claims to disability benefit are regarded as waiting days unless, while in receipt of unemployment benefit, the claimant became ill or, having been ill, suffers a relapse within three days of resuming work.

The provisions relating to waiting days for unemployment benefit purposes have not been changed.

Is the Minister aware that because of the change the situation now is that a person who was in receipt of benefit and becomes ill again within 13 weeks of resuming employment is deprived of the first three days payment is respect of the illness?

That change took place in April 1980. Heretofore a person who applied within 13 weeks would not lose the first three days. There was a major administrative problem, as the Deputy will appreciate, and we have a supplementary welfare allowance to cover any hardship that may arise from the fact that the three days are not covered.

Is the Minister not aware that supplementary welfare allowances will not be paid within the three-day period to which the Minister refers and that, because of the change which has been brought about by the Minister, people who have a relapse of their illness are being deprived unfairly of benefit in respect of the second three-day period? Surely the Minister must accept that the amount of money being saved by the State in comparison with the hardship being caused to the individual does not warrant this unfair change.

I do not think the question of the amount of money saved by the State as compared with the total amount of money paid out by the State in social welfare benefits arises. I was talking about the administrative cost of claiming three days here and there. If there is hardship people have their normal supplementary social welfare benefits.

Surely the administrative cost of excluding the second claim will be greater than heretofore. It has to be greater. Would the Minister undertake to bring this matter to the attention of the Minister with Cabinet responsibility, and will he undertake to notify the House as to the administrative costs involved in comparison with the amount of benefit of which the individual is being deprived? I do not believe this can be defended in any circumstances.

Deputy Horgan with a final supplementary.

Is the Minister aware that many people who will become entitled to various benefits from his Department and who are expecting a double week's payment at Christmas will not get it if their entitlement takes effect on or after 19 December? Is the Minister aware that his Department are excluding from the double week benefit at Christmas a number of people simply because they come in after 19 December, even if they come in on Christmas Day?

I am not so aware.

Is the Minister——

I called the final supplementary question. Question No. 11.

This matter is of great concern to a number of people who have been led up the garden path by the national understanding into believing that they would get a double week's payment and they will not get it unless they do something about it.

Will the Minister reply to Question No. 11?

A Cheann Comhairle——

I am sorry Deputy, I said the last was the final supplementary question. There have been numerous supplementaries on one question. We are getting on very slowly.

11.

asked the Minister for Social Welfare the basis on which the privilege of board and lodgings is assessed in computing the means of an applicant for unemployment assistance; and whether single persons can now qualify for unemployment assistance where they are being given board and lodgings by a relative.

The basis on which the value of board and lodgings is assessed for an applicant for unemployment assistance living with a relative is determined in accordance with section 13 of the Unemployment Assistance Act, 1933, and regulations made under that Act.

The legislation does not specify the method by which the value of board and lodging is to be calculated. Each case is decided on its own particular merit. The assessments have regard to the standard of living of the household and the circumstances of the applicant. For example, where the head of household is not in steady employment, generally no amounts are assessed on foot of board and lodgings afforded to a single person in that household. Where the head of household is in steady employment, the assessment is the proportion of the net family income which is estimated to be devoted to the upkeep of the single person.

Following a review of the operation of the scheme, certain improvements were made from 2 April 1980. As a result of these improvements the position now is that the assessment of board and lodgings of a single person does not normally exceed 12½ per cent of the net family income of the household in which he or she resides. It may, in fact, be considerably less particularly in the case of households with large numbers of dependants.

Accordingly a single person being provided with board and lodgings by a relative can qualify for unemployment assistance provided that the assessment of weekly means does not exceed the appropriate maximum weekly rate of unemployment assistance which now stands at £17 in urban or £16.45 in rural areas.

12.

asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he will introduce regulations to provide for the issue of individual pension books to all qualified old age pension recipients.

All old age pensioners living within the State are paid their pensions by means of pension order books payable at post offices of the pensioners' choice.

An increase of pension in respect of an adult dependant is an integral part of the pension and is payable to the pensioner. There are statutory provisions, however, to enable an adult dependant's increase to be paid separately by individual pension book if separate payment is requested and the circumstances indicate that separate payment is warranted.