Written Answers. - Disabled People's Benefits.

Mary Harney

Question:

74 Miss Harney asked the Minister for Health the plans, if any, he has to guarantee that people with disabilities participating in integrated employment will maintain their secondary benefits; the discussions, if any, he has had in respect of this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8483/96]

Mary Harney

Question:

75 Miss Harney asked the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to the fact that concerns regarding the maintenance of secondary benefits for people with disabilities is a significant factor inhibiting their ability to take up employment opportunities; the discussions, if any, he has had in respect of this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8484/96]

, Limerick East): I propose to take Questions Nos. 74 and 75 together.

I am concerned to ensure that the operation of the benefits system does not act as a disincentive to people with a disability to participate in the labour market. In the light of the retention of secondary benefits by participants under Department of Social Welfare employment opportunity schemes, my Department is raising this issue with the Department of Social Welfare in relation to the two employment schemes for which it has responsibility.

The Pilot Programme for the Employment of People with Disabilities in viable business enterprises was launched in 1994 and is being administered by the National Rehabilitation Board.

Payment of allowances is discontinued for people employed under this scheme as they are in receipt of a wage but have retained their secondary benefits for the duration of the programme. This scheme will terminate at the end of 1996 and the interdepartmental monitoring committee for this programme is now making arrangements to carry out a full evaluation of the programme and its future. Entitlement to secondary benefits will be assessed in the context of this evaluation.

The employment support scheme (ESS) which provides employment opportunities for people with more severe disabilities is also administered by the NRB. People employed under the ESS may retain their secondary benefits for up to one year. My Department is in regular contact with the NRB and overall the ESS has been very successful.