asked the Minister for Labour his Department's position and attitude to people who have gone into the enterprise allowance scheme whose projects have failed within 12 months, who have no option but to return to unemployment assistance and who are now being pressured for the repayment of the money made available to them under the enterprise allowance scheme; and if he will make a statement on this situation.
Ceisteanna-Questions. Oral Answers. - Enterprise Allowance Scheme.
My Department are fully supportive of persons setting up in business and there is no question of penalising a person because of business failure. In some instances, however, persons whose projects have failed have received money under the enterprise allowance scheme to which they were not entitled. They have, for example, drawn social welfare payments without informing my Department in advance for the purpose of stopping payments under the enterprise allowance scheme. Overpayments made under the enterprise allowance scheme must be recovered if the means of the person concerned permit this.
I should point out that the recipients of lump sum payments under the scheme are required to sign an undertaking that, if their projects close down within 52 weeks of commencement, they will refund the Department the overpayment made. Where people are unable to make a refund they will receive sympathetic consideration. Where, however, they do not co-operate in efforts to assess their capacity to repay the question of a refund is pursued, if necessary to the extent of court action.
Without going into individual circumstances, may I take it, if people take a risk under the scheme and something goes wrong, and they then agree to refund the money over a period, that is taken into account by the officials?
They are required to give an undertaking that if they receive the lump sum payment and if the project goes out of business within 52 weeks they will make repayment. Where they co-operate with the Department, sympathetic consideration is given. I am sure the Deputy will appreciate that cases have to be treated on an individual basis.
With regard to the people who capitalise the sum under the scheme, will the Minister state what number, if any, default? I understand that last year the statistics were quite high with regard to this matter. Has the Minister any statistics or information to give in this respect?
Some 468 persons dropped out of the scheme.
What is the total figure?
I do not have that figure but I can let the Deputy have that information.