Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

177 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he will amend the free travel scheme to enable a spouse to avail of free travel unaccompanied if the pensioner is indisposed or hospitalised.

Ivan Yates

Question:

192 Mr. Yates asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he proposes to alter the guidelines for free travel arrangements whereby such passes can be interchangeable between spouses and are not dependent on one being accompanied for eligibility; and if he will make a statement on the matter including the likely cost of such a change.

I proposed to take Questions Nos. 177 and 192 together.

The free travel scheme applies to all residents of the State aged 66 years or over and to certain categories of disabled persons under 66 years. The scheme also applies to spouses under age 66 for journeys on which they accompany the qualified person.

The free travel scheme is being extended to enable a companion travel free with certain recipients of disabled person's maintenance allowance who due to infirmity may not be in a position to fully avail of their personal entitlement. The detailed arrangements for the introduction of this extension are currently being put in place and the concession will be available to recipients shortly.

The issue of free travel passes, for particular purposes, to spouses in their own right or the issue of interchangeable free travel passes would constitute major extensions of the free travel scheme. It is not possible to give a precise estimate of the cost of extending free travel to spouses of recipients. However, the cost of such an extension would be significant and could only be considered in a budgetary context.

In cases of need, health boards may make arrangements for provision of transport facilities for patients. Under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme health boards may, in exceptional circumstances, also assist with the travelling expenses of spouses.

Austin Deasy

Question:

178 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Social Welfare the reason for the delay in the claim for an old age non-contributory pension for a person (details supplied) in County Waterford; and when a decision will be made in this regard.

The person concerned applied for an old age non-contributory pension in November 1989.

Initially, the applicant failed to make himself available for interview. When he was eventually interviewed by the social welfare officer in May 1990, he failed to supply details of his income, including details of his wife's earnings and a life assurance policy. In the circumstances, a deciding officer decided on 11 July 1990 that the person was not entitled to a pension on the grounds that means were not fully disclosed.

The person appealed this decision and the case was referred to an appeals officer for determination. The appeals officer referred the case for further investigation to allow the person concerned to produce the necessary evidence to decide on entitlement.

Due to a delay in obtaining the required information from the claimant, the investigation has been only recently completed. As soon as the appeals officer makes his determination, the person concerned will be informed of the outcome.

Austin Deasy

Question:

179 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Social Welfare the reason for the withdrawal of occupational injuries benefit in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Waterford having regard to the fact that she is still under hospital care and has been deemed unfit for work by her doctor; and if payment will be restored.

Occupational injury benefit is payable for a maximum period of 26 weeks after which a person is entitled to claim disability benefit if she continues to be incapable of work and forwards weekly medical evidence of incapacity to my Department.

The person concerned was in receipt of occupational injury benefit from 26 February 1990 to 24 August 1990 i.e. 26 weeks. Disability benefit was payable to her from 25 August 1990.

Payment of disability benefit was disallowed from 7 September 1990 following examination by a medical referee who expressed the opinion that she was capable of work.

She appealed against the disallowance and arrangements are being made to have her examined by a different medical referee at an early date. Her entitlement to further payment of disability benefit will be reviewed in the light of the medical referee's report following this examination.

Austin Deasy

Question:

180 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Social Welfare the reason for the disallowance of disability benefit to a person (details supplied) in County Waterford having regard to the fact that he has been certified unfit for work by his doctor; and if payment will be restored.

The person concerned was paid disability benefit to 31 August 1990 after which date payment was disallowed following an examination by a medical referee who expressed the opinion that he was capable of work.

He appealed against the disallowance and arrangements were made to have him examined by a different medical referee. However, before this examination could take place he submitted a final certificate which indicated that he was fit to resume work from 9 October 1990.

The social welfare appeals office will contact the person concerned in respect of his appeal for the period from 1 September 1990 to 8 October 1990.

Bernard Allen

Question:

181 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he will introduce a scheme whereby the free electricity allowance scheme will be extended to persons aged over 80 who did not have the allowance previously and who are now debarred from applying as either sons or daughters are living with them.

Earlier this year I announced an extension of the free schemes which will allow persons over 80 years of age who are entitled to free electricity allowance, free television licence or free natural or bottled gas allowance to retain their entitlement when a person comes to live with them.

Extending these allowances to persons over 80 who never had the allowances would have serious financial implications for these schemes and would have to be considered in a budgetary context.

John O'Leary

Question:

182 Mr. O'Leary asked the Minister for Social Welfare the reason for the delay in deciding the unemployment assistance appeal of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Following investigation, the unemployment assistance claim of the person concerned was disallowed with effect from 4 July 1990 on the grounds that his means, assessed at £9,550 per annum, exceed the statutory limit which is £7,020 per annum in his case, for receipt of a qualification certificate. The means are derived from the net yearly value of his holding.

He appealed the disallowance and his file was referred to the social welfare officer for clarification of certain contentions he had raised in support of his appeal. On 28 September 1990, an appeals officer confirmed the means assessed against him.

On 11 October 1990 the person concerned completed a fresh application for a qualification certificate. This application is being investigated at present. When a decision is given on the application he will be informed without delay.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

183 Mr. Flanagan asked the Minister for Social Welfare when a decision will be made on the widow's pension appeal of a person (details supplied) in County Laois.

The person concerned is entitled to a widow's non-contributory pension at the rate of £35 per week. This decision has been upheld by an appeals officer following a reinvestigation of the person's means. Thirty-five pounds per week is the appropriate rate payable to a person with weekly means of £22.42.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

184 Mr. Flanagan asked the Minister for Social Welfare when a decision will be made on the old age pension claim of a person (details supplied) in County Offaly whose case has been ongoing for a number of years and who is in severe financial difficulties at present.

The person concerned applied for old age non-contributory pension in mid-November 1989.

His claim was investigated by a social welfare officer who requested details of means and other circumstances, including information on proceeds from the sale of property. A deciding officer considered that the applicant failed to give comprehensive and satisfactory details of his means. In the circumstances his application for pension was rejected on the grounds that means were not fully disclosed.

The person concerned appealed this decision and his case was referred to the social welfare officer for re-investigation. He was given several opportunities to comply with requests for further information by the social welfare officer, but failed to do so.

It was determined by an appeals officer on 27 August 1990 that the person concerned was not entitled to pension as he failed to establish that he fulfilled the statutory condition as to means. The appeals officer's decision is final and conclusive and can only be reviewed in the light of new facts or fresh evidence.

John Ellis

Question:

185 Mr. Ellis asked the Minister for Social Welfare if an old age pension will now be paid to a person (details supplied) in County Leitrim.

The initial claim to pension of the person concerned had been refused in 1989 as his means, derived from a holding and capital, exceeded the statutory limit. He was deemed to be in beneficial occupation of the holding as its transfer to one of his sons was not accepted for pension purposes. His son was working in the USA at the time.

The person concerned re-applied for pension on 28 May 1990 on the grounds that his son was now working the holding. On investigation by the social welfare officer, it was found that the claimant was the only person working the holding. His son was never present. Investigations are continuing to clarify this matter. When all relevant information has been obtained from the person concerned a decision on entitlement will be made and the person will be notified.

John Ellis

Question:

186 Mr. Ellis asked the Minister for Social Welfare if his Department will arrange for the payment of an old age pension to a person (details supplied) in County Leitrim.

The person concerned is currently in receipt of a reduced rate non-contributory old age pension of £27 per week. This is the rate appropriate to a person over 80 years of age with weekly means of £34.55, derived from capital and a holding.

The person concerned requested a reassessment of his means following the transfer of his holding to his son and the distribution of a large part of his capital to various members of his family. Documentary evidence of the disposal of the capital is awaited. On receipt of this, the case will be referred to a deciding officer for decision and the person will be notified of the outcome as soon as possible.