Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.

Jim Higgins


455 Mr. Higgins (Mayo) asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs the reason for the delay in a final decision in a widow's non-contributory pension appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [7416/01]

The person concerned was in receipt of widows non-contributory pension at the reduced weekly rate of £69.50. Following a review of her entitlement, her means, derived from a British retirement pension and income from the letting of a holding, were found to have increased. Her basic rate of payment was reduced accordingly to £57.50 per week. In addition to her basic rate of pension, the person concerned is also in receipt of a living alone allowance of £6.00 per week and a fuel allowance of £5 per week.

The person's appeal against this decision to the social welfare appeals office was considered by an appeals officer who requested that further inquiries be made in the matter. These have now been completed. Following examination of all the evidence, the appeals officer has decided that the means have been properly and accurately assessed in accordance with legislation and has disallowed the appeal. The person concerned has been notified of the outcome. Under social welfare legislation decisions in relation to claims must be made by deciding officers and appeals officers. These officers are statutorily appointed and I have no role in regard to making such decisions.

John McGuinness


456 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs if his Department will arrange a compensation package of benefits for those who will have to sign on short-term due to the foot and mouth scare resulting in particular in the suspension of the marts and the short-term lay off of employees; if the circumstances of each case can be examined in order that as little hardship as possible is caused; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7465/01]

Employees who are laid off due to the foot and mouth scare may qualify for unemployment assistance – UA – or unemployment benefit – UB – subject to the conditions for receipt of UA-UB being satisfied. Each case is decided on its own merits within the framework of the legislation. A full-time worker who is laid off due to a cessation of work would normally satisfy the conditions of being available for full-time work and genuinely seeking work.

Consequently, s/he would qualify for an unemployment payment subject to satisfying the contribution conditions for UB, or the means test for UA.

Persons whose self-employment has ceased due to the foot and mouth alert may also qualify for unemployment assistance for the duration of the lay off. As this payment is subject to a means test, income from all sources is taken into account in the assessment.
In addition, the supplementary welfare allowance – SWA – scheme, provides entitlement to any person in the State whose means are insufficient to meet their needs. In the event that a person does not qualify for an unemployment payment or is awaiting a decision on his claim, he or she can apply for SWA at their local health centre and the community welfare officer will assess them on the basis of their present circumstances and immediate needs. A weekly addition may also be paid to a person who is receiving a basic allowance, or some other social welfare or health board payment, if his/her means are insufficient to meet their needs and they have specific weekly expenses, for example, rent-mortgage interest, special heating needs, dietary or other expenses. The Deputy will also be aware that the farm assist scheme provides income support for farmers on low incomes. It is open to any farmer adversely affected by the foot and mouth scare to avail of the supports provided under this scheme or, if applicable, to seek a review of his-her current entitlements under farm assist. These schemes are designed to provide income support to low-income families in a wide range of circumstances including those resulting from the present foot and mouth scare.