I welcome the Minister to the House. A Minister of State from his Department was here the other day and I asked two questions about this legislation. They are very important points and I was not quite satisfied when I reflected on his contribution. I want to raise these two issues now. They relate to section 45 and the anomaly with a 16 year old and an 18 year old. I asked then what will happen to a domiciliary care allowance, DCA, recipient's entitlement to a medical card once that person turns 16 years of age. We know the story. People are not automatically entitled to it at 16. They go and must apply for a medical card. It is not always automatic and it might not happen. There were previous papers, in fairness, and I give credit to the research done by the Oireachtas Library and Research Service. It did a very comprehensive digest on this Bill. It raises a number of questions and highlights the following:
Once a child turns 16 years however, their entitlement to a DCA payment ends. At this point the recipient is permitted to apply for Disability Allowance instead. Unlike the Domiciliary Care Allowance payment, Disability Allowance is a means tested payment. However, there is no automatic entitlement to a medical card for recipients of Disability Allowance. Former DCA recipients will not be permitted to retain their automatic entitlement to a medical card.
Former domiciliary care allowance recipients will not be permitted to retain their automatic entitlement to a medical card. That is the first point.
I then went on to ask what bearing this Bill might have on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. As part of this process, a review group was set up and it reported on the domiciliary care allowance scheme in 2012. The group produced a number of background papers on the matter. It expressed concern, made a number of strong recommendations and reached a consensus that it should be pushed up from 16, as it currently stands, to 18 years of age. The group found that this anomaly, inherent in the system, may lead to some ambiguity and confusion going forward.
I do not want to go on because I have made my point. It is a matter of serious concern and these benefits need to travel with the illness and the condition rather than with the person, the status of his or her parents or the family income. There is an anomaly there and I really just wanted to flag it. I am well aware of the Minister's serious commitment in this area. What is the Government's intention here? It could be argued it is a social protection measure or issue and that it is a matter for that Minister, Deputy Varadkar. Either way, I would appreciate it if some institution of government could address this anomaly. I look forward to hearing the Minister's considered views on this matter.