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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 13 Dec 1984

Vol. 354 No. 12

Written Answers. - Free Travel Scheme.


asked the Minister for Social Welfare the total number of people entitled to free travel facilities in 1983.

The estimated number of persons in receipt of free travel under the Department's scheme at 31 December 1983 was 390,000.


asked the Minister for Social Welfare the number of cases identified in 1983 where individuals drawing unemployment assistance or benefit were working at the same time.

A total of 1,434 cases were detected in 1983 where claimants to unemployment assistance or unemployment benefit were found to be working while signing for unemployment payments. In all of these cases action was taken to recover the amount of benefit or assistance overpaid to the claimant and where there was sufficient evidence to support prosecution, legal proceedings were instigated. A number of these cases have already been determined by the courts while more cases are pending.


asked the Minister for Social Welfare if a decision on the appeal submitted by a person (details supplied) in County Wexford in relation to her claim for disability benefit will be expedited.

Payment of disability benefit to the person concerned was disallowed from 10 May 1984, following examination by a medical referee who expressed the opinion that she was capable of work. She appealed against the disallowance and was examined on 28 June 1984 by a different medical referee who also considered her to be capable of work. Her case has been referred to an appeals officer who proposes to hold an oral hearing. She will be notified of the time and place of the hearing as soon as the arrangements have been made.


asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he proposes to examine the national fuel scheme and remove the anomalies that exist with the urban fuel scheme and if he will make a statement on the matter.


asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he will take action to clear up the anomaly which presently exists in regard to the administration of the free fuel scheme, by the corporation and county council in Dublin.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 244 and 245 together. The national fuel scheme which was introduced in 1980 was designed to provide on a uniform basis for all persons throughout the State who are unable to supply their heating needs from their own resources. The scheme covers mainly social welfare pensioners living alone or with dependants and payment under the scheme depends on a means test. Urban fuel schemes have existed since 1942 in certain cities and towns, including Dublin. Payment under these schemes is automatic for certain categories resident in the areas concerned. These schemes with their separate and more favourable qualifying conditions were retained when the national fuel scheme was introduced in 1980.

Rationalisation of the fuel schemes and their merging into one scheme would involve either the removal of entitlement to free fuel from certain categories who have entitlements under the urban fuel schemes or alternatively an extension of the categories at present eligible under the national scheme with a consequential considerable increase in expenditure. The merging of the schemes has considerable financial implications and is at present under consideration.


asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he is satisfied with the decision to disallow a young man (details supplied) living in County Kildare, unemployment assistance, and if he will give the reasons for disallowance.

The unemployment assistance claim of the person concerned was disallowed on the grounds that by failing to furnish details of his means he failed to show that his means did not exceed the statutory limit. He appealed against this decision and he was given a further opportunity to disclose his means. The appeals officer also decided that he failed to furnish details of his means, and he was informed accordingly. I am satisfied that the applicant was given a reasonable opportunity of co-operating in the investigation of his means and did not do so and that the decisions of the deciding officer and the appeals officer were made in accordance with the provisions of the Social Welfare Acts.


asked the Minister for Social Welfare if it has now become established departmental policy, that medical referees withdraw disability benefit on appeal from recipients who are awaiting orthopaedic surgery.

The examination by medical referees of claimants receiving disability benefit is an integral part of the continuing process of control in the administration of that scheme. In cases where claimants or their doctors state that they are awaiting specialist, operative or other procedures, the medical referee takes this into account before giving his opinion as to whether the person is capable of work in the meantime.

Where a medical referee finds a beneficiary capable of work it is normal practice to discontinue payment of benefit. If the person appeals against the decision to discontinue payment of benefit a further medical opinion is sought from a different medical referee. If the second medical referee is of the opinion that the person is incapable of work, benefit is restored from the date on which it was discontinued. Otherwise the case is submitted to an appeals officer for consideration and decision. Where, however, a claimant submits medical evidence of having entered hospital for any purpose whatever, while a case is under appeal, payment of benefit is restored for the period during which he remains in hospital.

In relation to the application of the foregoing arrangements cases awaiting orthopaedic surgery are not treated any differently to the generality of cases.