Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.

Jack Wall

Question:

124 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs if he will report on the work of the interdepartmental group on supplementary welfare allowance needs assessment; and when the Dáil may expect a final report. [20455/00]

In May this year, I set up a working group with representatives from relevant Departments to examine issues related to the assessment of need for supplementary welfare allowance purposes. The working group is made up of representatives from my Department, which chairs the group, and the Departments of Finance, Justice, Equality and Law Reform, and the Environment and Local Government, as well as a representative appointed by the chief executive officers of the health boards.

The group invited submissions from 30 interested parties, including asylum seeker and homeless support groups, the health boards and unions representing community welfare staff. In all, 15 of those invited have made submissions.

Following consideration of these submissions, a preliminary draft report has been produced and is currently being reviewed by members of the group. It is intended that the group will submit their final report to me shortly.

Nora Owen

Question:

125 Mrs. Owen asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs the number of people in receipt of the living alone allowance during 2000; the cost of the living alone allowance in 1998, 1999 and to date in 2000; the plans he has to make changes to the eligibility levels for claiming living alone allowance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20109/00]

The living alone allowance is an additional payment, of £6.00 per week, to people aged 66 years or over who are in receipt of certain social welfare type payments and who reside alone.

At the end of September 2000 there were 111,283 pensioners receiving the allowance. The cost of the scheme for the years 1998 and 1999 was £33.6 million and £34.4 million respectively. The scheme has cost £26 million so far this year with the cost for the full year estimated at £34.7 million.

There are no plans at present to change or expand the eligibility conditions for the living alone allowance.

In the review of our Action Programme for the Millennium the Government has reaffirmed its commitment to caring for our older people by advancing the goal of bringing the old age, contributory, pension to £100 and by extending the £100 commitment to all social welfare old age pensioners by 2002. I have concentrated on improving the personal pension rates of our older people as I believe this to be the most effective and equitable way of ensuring that their position is improved.