Written Answers. - Disability Benefit.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

238 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health the plans, if any, he has to bring eligibility for disabled person's maintenance allowance into line with guidelines on health grounds for qualification for sick or disability benefits operated by the Department of Social Welfare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1170/94]

Disabled person's maintenance allowance (DPMA) is the primary income support scheme operated by my Department for people who, because of their disability, cannot work and are not in a position to maintain themselves in the community. The regulations governing medical eligibility for disabled persons maintenance allowance specify that the applicant must be suffering from a "specified disability" which prevents him/her from undertaking work which would normally be suited to a person of his/her age, experience and qualifications. The term "specified disability" means an injury, disease, congenital deformity or physical or mental illness or defect which, in the opinion of a medical officer of the health board authorised by that board to examine or to have examined persons applying for or in receipt of a maintenance allowance, has continued or may reasonably be expected to continue for at least one year from its onset.

The Department of Social Welfare is responsible for the administration of the disability benefit scheme. Disability benefit is normally a short term payment made to insured persons who are unfit to work due to an illness. To qualify for this benefit a person must be under 66 years of age, be unfit to work due to an illness and satisfy the PRSI contribution conditions. A person claiming disability benefit has to submit a completed first medical certificate claim form signed by their doctor to their local social welfare office and weekly medical certificates from their doctor thereafter while they are ill.

The Deputy will appreciate that these two schemes serve quite different purposes and I have no plans to change the medical criteria for eligibility for disabled person's maintenance allowance.