Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

70 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Welfare when a single woman's allowance will be paid to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Since November 1992 the single woman's allowance has been integrated with the pre-retirement allowance scheme. The person concerned applied for an allowance in May 1993.

The claimant was interviewed by a local officer of my Department on 17 June 1993. She has been requested to furnish certain information on the capital she received from the sale of her farm. She has given an undertaking to supply this information. As soon as these details are provided, her entitlement to pre-retirement allowance will be decided and she will be notified of the outcome without delay.

Bernard Allen

Question:

71 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Social Welfare the reason a person (details supplied) in County Cork is not in receipt of supplementary welfare allowance from the Southern Health Board; and if he will give the evidence for the reasons for rejection of his application.

Under the provisions of the Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme the determinations of applications for assistance is a matter for each Health Board.

It is understood from the Southern Health Board, which is responsible for the administration of the scheme in the Cork area, that the board is awaiting certain documentation from the person concerned in relation to his application for Supplementary Welfare Allowance. The board has advised that the applicant's entitlement will be examined on receipt of the relevant information.

Bernard Allen

Question:

72 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Social Welfare when an old age noncontributory pension will be paid to a person (details supplied) in County Cork.

The person concerned will reach pension age on 20 July 1993. She applied for an old age non-contritutory pension on 11 June 1993 and was visited by the local social welfare inspector on 22 June 1993. Certain routine inquiries have to be made in this case. As soon as the inquiries have been completed her entitlement to pension will be decided and she will be notified of the outcome without delay.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

73 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he will review the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12; and if he will ensure that the equal treatment mortgage allowance and weekly alleviation allowance are fully restored with the old age pension.

As part of arrangements made in 1986 for implementing EC Directive 79/7 on equal treatment between men and women in matters of social security, the then Government put in place a number of temporary alleviating payments. The purpose of these payments was to reduce the impact of losses arising where a spouse no longer qualified as an adult dependant. These alleviating payments were made from November 1986, initially for a period of one year.

During 1987, the then Government decided to continue the alleviating payments beyond the 12 month period set by the previous Government but to phase out the payments over a period of time. Phasing out began in 1988 with the payments being gradually reduced each year.

However, arising from subsequent decisions of the European Court of Justice, it emerged that the alleviating payments, which offset the effects of the equal treatment legislation, were themselves in conflict with the principle of equal treatment and could not be continued.

The temporary alleviating payments and special equal treatment payments in respect of mortgage payments were discontinued with effect from 30 July 1992, coinciding with the date of implementation of the budgetary increases in social welfare payments generally.

The person concerned ceased at that time to receive these alleviating payments in addition to his retirement pension. I regret that it is not possible to restore these extra payments to him.
My Department has made arrangements over the past year to pay back money to women who were adversely affected by scheme differentials prior to the introduction of equal treatment. Under these arrangements, the wife of the person concerned was paid her full arrears entitlements of £148 in October 1992. This sum represented the additional amount of disability benefit due to her for the period from December 1984 to August 1985.

Brendan Kenneally

Question:

74 Mr. Kenneally asked the Minister for Social Welfare whether a spouse would be entitled to the carer's allowance in a case where the person being cared for is in receipt of a health board superannuated pension, is under 65 years of age and had to retire from work due to ill health; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

The Carer's Allowance, which I introduced in November 1990, provides a direct payment to carers on a means tested basis. The scheme was originally directed at people on low incomes who were providing full-time care and attention to elderly or incapacitated social welfare pensioners.

In July 1991, the allowance was extended to people providing care for recipients of disabled person's maintenance allowance from the health boards or recipients of an equivalent social security payment from another EC country or a country which has a bilateral social security agreement with Ireland.

Any further extension of the scheme to include categories such as recipients of occupational pensions, who do not qualify for a social welfare payment would have significant cost implications and could only be considered in a budgetary context.

Richard Bruton

Question:

75 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he would consider amending the rules for unemployment payments to persons taking a casual day's work to provide that only if the earnings exceed a threshold of £15 per day; will persons lose their unemployment payment in respect of that day.

Social Welfare legislation requires that an unemployed person must prove unemployment by signing the live register of the unemployed. A person who works for any day as an employee and receives a wage for that day would not be able to satisfy the requirement of being unemployed. This requirement to be unemployed has been a central feature of the unemployment schemes since their inception. I am satisfied that this is a necessary feature and should continue.

Since 1992 earnings from insurable employment have been assessed as means for Unemployment Assistance purposes. However, with a view to encouraging unemployed people to take up part time or casual employment an amount of income is disregarded in assessing means. The disregard was initially fixed at an amount equal to the daily rate of assistance plus an additional amount of £10.00 per week.

In the light of representations made to me that that level of disregard did not provide a sufficient incentive for claimants to return to the workforce I announced in the budget earlier this year an increase in the disregard which now stands at the daily rate of assistance plus an additional amount of £15.00 for each day worked.

This is a substantial improvement. A single person working three days per week can earn up to £73.60 without any means assessment and a married claimant with three children working three days per week can earn up to £109.50.

The question of further improvements in the disregard of earnings would be a matter for consideration in the budgetary context.

Richard Bruton

Question:

76 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Social Welfare the reason, if any, the clothing allowance paid by community welfare officers is not paid to persons on long term unemployment assistance whose weekly payments are no greater than that paid to those on supplementary welfare.

Under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance Scheme, Health Boards are empowered to make a single payment to meet an exceptional need to persons who are in receipt of a social welfare or health board payment. There is no standard clothing scheme operated by health boards, however, a board may help with the cost of clothing where it is considered necessary.

The information furnished is not sufficient to investigate the matter, however, if the Deputy has a particular case in mind, with which there are difficulties, I will be glad to have it examined.

Richard Bruton

Question:

77 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Social Welfare the reason, if any, persons within the Programme for Economic and Social Progress partnership areas are experiencing difficulties in receiving their entitlement to mortgage/rent supplement from community welfare officers even though the Government has given a commitment that the long term unemployed returning to work are entitled to retain secondary benefit in these areas.

All participants in the Programme for Economic and Social Progress area partnership initiative are entitled to retain their secondary benefits, such as rent or mortgage supplements, for a period of twelve months. Participants who take up self-employment receive an allowance equivalent to their social welfare payment for this period in addition to their secondary benefits.

All applications must be approved by the local area partnerships. The participant must reside in theProgramme for Economic and Social Progress partnership area and must have been unemployed for at least one year before participating in the programme.
I am not aware of any problems in relation to the payment of secondary benefits to those who meet these conditions; however, if the Deputy has a particular case in mind, with which there are difficulties, I will be glad to have the matter investigated.