Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.

84.

asked the Minister for Social Welfare the amounts payable to (1) a widower in receipt of a non-contributory pension with three dependent children and (2) a widower in receipt of unemployment assistance with three dependent children; the estimated number of widowers involved; and the estimated cost of equalisation.

The information requested by the Deputy is as follows:

A widow aged under 66 years in receipt of a non-contributory widows pension with three dependent children receives a maximum weekly rate of £85.70.

A widower in receipt of unemployment assistance (long term urban rate) with three dependent children receives a maximum weekly rate of £70.80. An additional £28 could be payable where the widower is maintaining a person over 16 years of age who is looking after one or more of his children and who is normally resident with him.

Details of the number of widowers in receipt of unemployment assistance with dependent children are not available. According to the 1987 labour force survey there were 4,800 widowed/ separated men who were unemployed. Assuming that all of these are in receipt of unemployment benefit/assistance or analogous payments the cost of paying a widow's non-contributory rate of pension to them would be of the order of £4 million in a full year. The cost in respect of widowers only is not available.

The cost of granting pensions to widowers on the same basis as they are currently made available to widows would be of the order of £26 million per annum.

85.

asked the Minister for Social Welfare whether a person (details supplied) in County Galway is a deserving case for the payment of a free fuel allowance in light of his circumstances; and if he will extend the free fuel scheme to cover smallholders who are in needy circumstances.

The person concerned is in receipt of unemployment assistance as a smallholder and, as such, he does not come within the categories of recipients to which the national fuel scheme applies. If, however, his family have exceptional heating needs by reason of ill health or infirmity within his family or if there are other exceptional circumstances, it is open to him to apply to his local health board for assistance under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme.

The question of extending the coverage of the national fuel scheme to other categories of social welfare recipients would have to be decided in the light of all the priorities which exist and the scarcity of resources. Any such extension would have to be considered in a budgetary context.