asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he will now adjust Irish social welfare pensions to recipients of British pensions in view of the drop in the value of sterling.
Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.
The rates of non-contributory pensions payable to persons who are in receipt of British pensions are reviewed annually when these pensions are increased. These increases usually take place each November and the currency exchange rate used in making any adjustments is that supplied by the EEC for social security purposes for the final quarter of the year.
More frequent reassessments to reflect every variation in foreign exchange rates would not be feasible. However, because an assessment stands for a year pensioners may benefit as well as lose from fluctuations in exchange rates. The existing procedures for the annual means assessments, therefore, do take account, as far as practicable, of fluctuations in exchange rates and do ensure that overall there is no loss to the pensioners as a result of these fluctuations.
What rate of exchange is used when converting from the £ sterling to the IR£?
To give three recent examples: for the quarter ending December 1980 the exchange rate for 1981 was 1.0; for the quarter ending December 1981 for the year 1982 it was 1.253 and for the quarter ending December 1982 for 1983, which is the current rate, it was 1.242 or 1.248 to be exact.
I take it that the exchange rate for this year will be 1.242. The exchange rate at present of .9 gives the value of the £ sterling at IR£1.12. There was traditional emigration to Britain in my constituency. Consequently, people are in receipt of pensions from Britain.
A question, Deputy, please.
Is the Minister deducting 1.242 from every £1 which he receives from the UK while recipients are only in receipt of £1.12 when they change their cheques?
The Deputy must ask a question.
I am sure the Ceann Comhairle's constituents have the same problem.
The Deputy must ask a question.
Is the Minister prepared to reduce this to 1.12 or if not is he prepared to adjust the supplementary pension?
I readily accept the point made by the Deputy. By the end of December the value of sterling was 1.15 and it was 1.13 at the end of January. During that period we were using the EEC rate which was supplied to us three months ahead of December. We have been using a rate of 1.24. With the method we used, which is a year end currency exchange rate, there are built-in safeguards which have a certain evening out effect. If we were to employ any other method such as quarterly or half-yearly reassessment, the administration in my Department would have to neglect other areas, for example, new pension claims and work done in insurability cases. We have a conversion once per annum and pensioners get the benefit.
A final supplementary.
We have reached only four questions in 20 minutes and that is ridiculous.
This is of vital importance to the people in my constituency. Does the Minister realise that this is February and that if we use this rate until December people in receipt of these pensions will be less well off? Is the Minister more worried about the administration costs in his Department than he is about the less well-off sections in Donegal?
I am trying to be helpful to the Deputy. If he would supply me with some sample cases I would be prepared to have a look at the system to see if a better method could be devised. For example, we might use the currency exchange rates supplied by the Central Bank in January or use the figures supplied by the EEC for each quarter for all reinvestigations or new investigations. I would be pleased to discuss the matter with the Deputy.
I appreciate that and I will give the Minister some examples.
asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he considers the present maximum rate of unemployment assistance for single persons to be adequate for subsistence; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The current rates of unemployment assistance were fixed in April 1982. The question of whether these rates are adequate to meet essential needs will depend on the particular circumstances of individual recipients which, of course, vary from one case to another. The social welfare code recognises that the payments under its various schemes may not meet essential needs in all cases and provides for special payments under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme in such circumstances. Accordingly, persons receiving unemployment assistance, and indeed other social welfare payments, whose needs are not met by those payments may apply in addition for supplementary welfare allowance. Examples of circumstances which would give rise to such an additional payment would be a high rent liability or special heating needs. It is fully appreciated that such payments are very limited in effect.
asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he will consider the extension of the free travel pass concession to persons who accompany those who have cards, are handicapped and cannot travel alone; and if he will grant a free travel pass to a person (details supplied) in County Wexford.
The daughter of the person referred to by the Deputy in the question has had a free travel pass since 1977 as a recipient of disabled person's maintenance allowance. Her mother, however, cannot qualify for free travel until she reaches pension age of 66.
Under the existing scheme all persons entitled to free travel may have their spouses travel free only when accompanying them. If persons other than spouses were allowed to travel free with the persons mentioned by the Deputy substantial extra costs, estimated at some £4.5 million, would be involved.
The cost of the scheme in 1983 is estimated at £19.5 million and additional funds are not available that would enable the scheme to be extended in the manner suggested.
asked the Minister for Social Welfare if and when he proposes to grant free travel facilities to all EEC invalidity pensioners as is the case in other EEC member states.
In relation to the first part of the question, I do not propose to extend the free travel scheme in the manner suggested by the Deputy. As regards the second part of the question, the information available to my Department is that the free travel scheme in this country is unique and no other similar State-sponsored scheme operates in other member states of the EEC.
Does the Minister realise that there are many Irish people who are in receipt of EEC invalidity pensions and that many of them are caught in this position? There are two cases in Wexford alone. Could we have another look to see what the cost might be of including them in our own scheme?
The major problem does not arise in relation to the number of people involved. It is estimated that the number is between 100 and 150. The problem is that there is no free travel scheme operated by any other EEC member state. In Northern Ireland, for example, the Stormont administration subsidise the travel costs of senior citizens and in Britain certain local authorities provide subsidised or free travel for certain categories. These subsidies in Britain are funded by the ratepayers and they are confined to travel on services within the urban areas only. Most of the European railways operate only a commercial discount scheme. Our scheme is unique and it is not possible to give parity when we are the only country operating it.
One of the people who made representations to me has a French invalidity pension and is entitled to free travel while in France and in some other EEC countries, not all. I bow to the Minister if he feels this information is not correct. This woman has actually used the service abroad and is now living in her home town of Wexford and she finds she has not the same benefit on her pension here.
Did I hear the Deputy say that it was a military pension?
No, an invalidity pension.
The pensioner for the most part in the EEC area may enjoy discounted travel for one year and the amount of charge and the discount vary from country to country. Ours is the only country with free travel.
asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he will arrange for the immediate payment of unemployment benefit to a person (details supplied) in County Galway.
The unemployment benefit claim of the person concerned was disallowed from 8 September 1982 on the grounds that she did not satisfy the statutory condition of being available for work. She appealed against this decision and, following an oral hearing of her case on 13 October 1982, an appeals officer upheld the disallowance of her claim. She renewed her claim to unemployment benefit on 8 January 1983, and her case is at present under investigation.
asked the Minister for Social Welfare why a person (details supplied) in County Waterford who showed good cause for his non-attendance was disqualified from receiving disability benefit.
The person concerned, who had been in receipt of disability benefit since December 1979, was notified to attend on 3 August 1982 for examination by a medical referee. He failed to do so and did not submit medical evidence that he was unfit to attend. The deciding officer decided that his explanation for his failure to attend for examination, that he was away for the weekend, did not constitute good cause for his non-attendance and disallowed payment of benefit for six weeks.
The claimant appealed against the disallowance of benefit and another examination was arranged for 17 December 1982. He attended on this occasion and was found to be incapable of work by the medical referee. The previous decision to disallow payment of benefit for six weeks was revised in the light of the medical referee's report and arrears of benefit due, less the amount of supplementary welfare allowance advanced by the South-Eastern Health Board, were paid on 5 January 1983.
asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he will reconsider his decision on the non-granting of unemployment benefit to a person (details supplied) in County Galway.
The person concerned claimed unemployment assistance from 11 March 1982 to 12 October 1982. His claim was disallowed on the grounds that he was not genuinely seeking work or available for work as he was fully occupied working his parent's farm. However, if he considers that his circumstances have changed and that he is now available for and genuinely seeking work it is open to him to reapply for unemployment assistance at his local office.
asked the Minister for Social Welfare the reason a person (details supplied) in County Galway is not being paid pay-related social insurance benefit at the full rate; and if he will reconsider his decision in this case with a view to the payment of full benefit.
The person concerned claimed unemployment benefit from 30 July 1982 but as he did not satisfy the statutory contribution conditions during the relevant contribution period, 6 April 1980 to 5 April 1981, his claim was disallowed. However, he was paid unemployment assistance at the weekly rate of £8.80 being the maximum rate payable to him, £21.20 less means £12.40 derived from the national value of his holding and from capital. He has appealed against the amount of means assessed against him and his case has been referred to a social welfare officer for a factual assessment of his means before submitting his case to an appeals officer for determination.
A new benefit year commenced on 3 January 1983 and as he satisfied the contribution condition during the relevant contribution period 6 April 1981 to 5 April 1982, his unemployment benefit claim was allowed. He is accordingly entitled to the maximum flat rate unemployment benefit of £31.65 payable from 3 January 1983.
asked the Minister for Social Welfare the present position in regard to an application for a free electricity allowance from a person (details supplied) in County Galway.
Following receipt of the Deputy's question an exhaustive search was made in the records of my Department and in the ESB district office, Galway, and there is no trace of an application for a free electricity allowance from the person concerned. An application form was therefore issued to him on 21 December 1982 but to date this form has not been received in the Department or in the ESB district office. When the completed form has been returned to my Department his application will be dealt with and he will be notified of the outcome.
asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he will reconsider his decision in regard to the payment of unemployment benefit to a person (details supplied) in County Galway as he claims that he has been paid less than half the benefit due to him.
The person concerned was paid occupational injury benefit in respect of the period from 2 December 1981 to 10 February 1982 in connection with an incapacity resulting from an accident at work on 2 December 1981. Benefit was paid at the rate of £64.65 a week which included increases in respect of his wife and two qualified children.
To qualify for pay-related benefit with injury benefit, the claimant is required to have an underlying title to disability benefit. A minimum of 26 contribution weeks registered in the governing contribution year 1979-80 was required for entitlement to disability benefit. He had, however, a total of only 15 contribution weeks in the year, with the result that he did not qualify for disability benefit. In consequence he did not qualify for pay-related benefit. There is no trace in my Department of any recent claim to unemployment benefit from the person concerned.
Question No. 14 is for written reply.
asked the Minister for Social Welfare why a person (details supplied) in County Donegal is only entitled to an old age pension of £5.75 per week although he has no other income; and if he will have the matter rectified and also ensure that the arrears due to him are paid immediately.
For old age pensions purposes the means of one of a married couple are assessed at half their joint means. The wife of the person concerned is employed and he is assessed with half of her earnings together with half of his own earnings from self-employment. His means, so assessed, were in excess of the statutory limit for payment of a pension from 4 March 1982 when his application was received until April 1982 when the means limit was eased. An appeals officer has decided that he is entitled to pension at the reduced rate of £5.75 a week from 2 April 1982. This is the rate applicable to a person with one qualified child whose assessed means are between £40 and £42 weekly.
The person concerned has accordingly received his full entitlement.
I appreciate the existence of the regulations with regard to the assessment of joint means but I would be obliged if the Minister investigated the question of self-employment.
I have a figure here but, at the Deputy's request, I will investigate the matter again.
asked the Minister for Social Welfare the reason all unemployment benefit and redundancy payments have not been paid to a person (details supplied) in County Dublin despite numerous representations to his Department and despite a promise made in August 1982 that all arrears due from July 1981 would be paid; and if he will arrange for the immediate payment of all moneys due to him.
The person concerned claimed unemployment benefit in March 1982, but as he had no relevant insurance record he was not qualified for benefit. He was, however, qualified for unemployment assistance which he continued to receive at the weekly rate of £46.45 being the appropriate maximum rate of £57.95 less means of £11.50.
The question of his entitlement to redundancy payments is a matter for the redundancy payments section of the Department of Labour.
Action is being taken to secure payment of contributions due in respect of a previous employment. The contributions have not so far been paid but as soon as they are paid the entitlement of the person concerned to unemployment benefit will be determined instead of the unemployment assistance which he continues to receive.
Question Nos. 17 and 18 for written reply.
asked the Minister for Social Welfare the reason for the long delay in paying arrears in respect of an increase in unemployment assistance which are due to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry for the period from the date of entitlement to the date of payment of the actual rate of unemployment assistance at the full rate.
The means of the person concerned were reviewed with effect from 8 April 1982 and unemployment assistance became payable at the weekly rate of £25.20 being the maximum rate £25.45 less means £0.25 derived from the value of land.
However, he was in receipt of advances of supplementary welfare allowance pending the outcome of the review of his means and the amount of supplementary welfare allowance advanced to him had to be recouped to the health board out of the unemployment assistance to which he became entitled.
Accordingly unemployment assistance at the rate of £25.20 weekly in his case only became payable from 17 August 1982 and there are no arrears of unemployment assistance due to him.
Question Nos. 20, 21 and 22 for written reply.
asked the Minister for Social Welfare when unemployment benefit will be paid to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny.
The person concerned claimed unemployment benefit on 4 January 1983. However he has had no insurable employment here but stated that he was insurably employed in England. His claim is therefore being examined under the relevant EEC Regulations. Pending the outcome of his claim to unemployment benefit his entitlement to unemployment assistance is being investigated. In the meantime he has been advised that it is open to him to apply for supplementary welfare allowance to his local community welfare officer.
asked the Minister for Social Welfare when unemployment benefit at the full rate will be paid to a person (details supplied) in County Wexford.
The person concerned was paid injury benefit under the occupational injuries benefit scheme from 27 May 1981 to 24 November 1981 in respect of incapacity due to an accident at work on 27 May 1981. Injury benefit was paid for the maximum period of 26 weeks to 24 November 1981. He was then transferred to disability benefit and this was paid for a period of 12 months to 23 November 1982. His entitlement then ceased as he had less than 156 employment contributions paid since entry into insurance. He has however been allowed unemployability supplement, at the same rate as disability benefit with effect from the date on which entitlement to that benefit ceased and all arrears due from 26 November 1982 were issued on 4 February 1983. Pay-related benefit has also been paid.
asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he will arrange for disability benefit to be paid to a person (details supplied) in County Galway.
The person concerned claimed occupational injury benefit on 7 December 1982 in respect of an incapacity which he attributed to an accident at work on 11 November 1982.
Following investigation of the accident the claim was allowed and injury benefit at the maximum appropriate rate of £43.55 a week was paid in respect of the period from 11 November 1982 to 8 January 1983, after which date he was certified fit to resume work.