I thank the Ceann Comhairle's office for allowing me this opportunity and I thank the Minister of State for coming to the House to respond. This issue relates to a question tabled on 13 January last and, prior to that, in July of last year as well. It relates to the circumstances of a case in which it was determined that a person in County Kildare did not qualify for an exceptional needs payment following the death of a spouse. The death was preceded by a long family illness, which was obviously a terminal illness. Given that both spouses were in receipt of invalidity or disability payments, they had no other income for a long time. After a protracted illness, of course the family finances were already at a stretch. It was thought that an exceptional needs payment would be appropriate. This is the payment that is now deemed to be available to people who previously would have been able to apply for a funeral or bereavement grant. The application was refused on the basis that the funeral bill had already been paid. Indeed it had, because the person concerned was keen to ensure that she paid the bill. The person made an appeal to other family members, all of whom had their own commitments, in order to discharge the bill. It is expected that the person who paid the bill will have to repay the family members. That is understandable because they gave her help at a critical time. I am asking that this be done and that this case be looked at again in a new light. I know the Department of Social Protection is an excellent Department; I have had experience of it myself. Generally speaking, in 99% of cases, those involved do a thorough investigation and come to a conclusion that is in keeping with the facts. However, I am unsure in this case because not only was the application refused but a subsequent review of the case was undertaken and it was intimated to the applicant that the Department wanted to interview people who had paid or offered a short-term loan facility to pay the bill. I am uncertain about the welfare service. In fact, it was indicated that the Department would seek to ascertain where those involved got their money in the first place and whether they were in receipt of a welfare payment. I was disappointed to learn that because that is not the way the system is supposed to work.
I have no wish to delay the debate this evening. This is an exceptional needs case. I believe that the person is absolutely genuine and has done everything right. The person could easily have not paid the bill and left it sitting there, as many people do, unfortunately. However, she is a very conscientious lady. She paid her bill and would not leave it as a blot on her husband's name by allowing the bill to remain unpaid. Will the Minister of State please examine the matter to see what can be done as a matter of some urgency? This lady is out of pocket to the extent of the amount of money in question since last July.