Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

441 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason, if a person is in receipt of social welfare, their spouse can earn a maximum of ?112 over four days, as this is non-profitable in rural areas as they have to travel long distances; the reason this has not been reduced to two working days or double the amount of money over four days, in the interests of equity; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10615/03]

To qualify for a social assistance payment, a person must satisfy, in addition to a number of other conditions, the legislative requirements as to means.

A person in receipt of unemployment assistance or pre-retirement allowance, whose spouse-partner is insurably employed, is assessed with the spouse-partner's earnings, which are calculated on a net basis, i.e. less income tax, PRSI, superannuation, trade union dues and health insurance premiums, with a further disregard for certain expenses.

The additional sum disregarded to take account of expenses associated with employment, is calculated depending on the number of days the spouse-partner works each week, as follows: working three days or less per week –€38.09, plus travel expenses, where appropriate; working four or more days per week – a standard rate of €88.88. The arrangement for someone working four or more days recognises the extra travel expenses a person may incur when working over a greater number of days per week.

Michael Ring

Question:

442 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason out of date information is still available on her Department's website in relation to the back to education allowance; and when the website will be properly updated with details of the changes in this allowance. [10658/03]

It is understood that the Deputy's Question refers to an out-of-date advertisement for the back to education allowance which was still on the Department's website after the conditions for receipt of that allowance had changed. The advertisement in question was removed from the website in the last month. All information relating to the back to education allowance on the website is accurate and up-to-date, since then.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

443 Mr. O'Shea asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs her proposals to allow people working for one hour per day at the minimum wage for five days per week to qualify for unemployment assistance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10664/03]

To qualify for an unemployment payment a person must be unemployed for at least three days in six consecutive days excluding Sunday. Where a person is employed on any part of a day she or he is not considered to be unemployed on that day. A person who works up to three days per week may, subject to overall earnings, qualify for the full weekly rate of unemployment assistance with a percentage of earnings deducted for each day worked.

Where a person is employed over four or more days but for less than 30 hours per week and has insufficient means to meet his or her needs, supplementary welfare allowance, SWA, may be payable subject to overall household income. In the circumstances outlined by the Deputy, the person would be earning €31.75 per week –€6.35 x 5. From the information available and assuming he or she is single with no dependants and has no other means, the amount of SWA payable would be €93.05. However, the precise circumstances of each individual case would have to be considered.

Entitlement to unemployment payments has always been based on a requirement of a minimum number of days unemployment in a specified period and any change in that regard would have fundamental consequences for the schemes. There are no plans at present for any changes to this qualifying condition.

John McGuinness

Question:

444 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason the carer's allowance was refused in the case of a person (details supplied) in Kilkenny in view of the fact that the person they were caring for (details supplied) had been previously cared for by a person (details supplied); if the reason for refusal, that the medical condition is not met in this case, will be examined to explain the reason the person cared for qualified medically up to now; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the first and second persons were simply following her Department's advice in making the application; and if the application will be reviewed. [10752/03]

The principal conditions for receipt of carer's allowance are that full-time care and attention is required and being provided and that the means test which applies is satisfied. Where a person does not wish to continue to receive carer's allowance and another person applies for the allowance for the same care recipient, a fresh application is required to determine whether the eligibility conditions are still met.

A carer's allowance was paid in respect of the care recipient concerned up until June 2002. At that stage the carer opted to transfer to another social welfare payment. An application for carer's allowance was subsequently made by the person concerned in respect of the same care recipient. This application was refused, as the chief medical adviser of my Department expressed an opinion that the care recipient was no longer in need of full time care and attention. The person concerned was notified of this decision, the reasons for it and of his right of appeal.

This decision was appealed to the social welfare appeals office. Additional medical evidence was provided in support of this appeal and this was also reviewed by the chief medical adviser. An oral hearing was held on 19 March 2003. The appeals officer upheld the decision and disallowed the appeal. Notification to this effect issued on 26 March 2003. An appeals officer's decision is final and conclusive and can only be reviewed in the light of new facts or fresh evidence.

Under social welfare legislation decisions in relation to claims are made by deciding officers and appeals officers. These officers are statutorily appointed and I have no role in regard to making such decisions.