Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.

Willie Penrose

Question:

250 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the steps she will take to ensure that where a person is on invalidity pension and their spouse is on carer's allowance caring for the person, and they are in receipt of mortgage supplement, the said mortgage supplement will be maintained at current levels when subsequent pension or carer's allowance increases are given; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22029/02]

Mortgage interest supplements under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme are normally calculated to ensure that a person, after payment of mortgage interest, has an income equal to the rate of supplementary welfare allowance appropriate to his or her family circumstances, less a minimum contribution which applicants are required to pay from their own resources, currently €7.62. A person whose income exceeds the basic supplementary welfare allowance rate, such as a person on a higher social welfare payment, is required to contribute the difference, in addition to the €7.62 minimum contribution to his or her mortgage interest. A consequence of this rule is that, if a basic social welfare payment increases by more than the rate of increase in supplementary welfare allowance, the amount of mortgage interest supplement in payment to the person is reduced by the difference in the two increases.

In budget 2001, however, a new income disregard in respect of pension recipients aged 65 or over was introduced. The amount of income disregarded was £5, €6.35, and this amount was increased in budget 2002 to €10 and €20, respectively. This ensures that, for the people concerned, when increases in pension rates were greater than increases in supplementary welfare allowance, there was no reduction in mortgage interest supplement payments. Any extension of this approach to cover other categories of recipient would be a matter for consideration in a budgetary context.