Tuesday, 27 January 2004

Questions (909, 910, 911, 912, 913)

Pat Rabbitte


1030 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the modification or alteration to any of the changes subsequently agreed in respect of her announcement of 13 November 2003 of changes to a range of social welfare schemes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [1720/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Family)

Expenditure on various social welfare payments is reviewed on an ongoing basis by my Department to ensure that the schemes continue to meet their objectives.

The measures as announced in November 2003 are being implemented. They are reflected in the Abridged Estimates Volume for 2004 and are designed to ensure that social welfare spending is better focused and that the available resources are used to benefit those most in need. For the most part the measures will not affect existing claimants but will apply to new claimants from various dates in 2004.

Mary Upton


1031 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if a person (details supplied) in Dublin 10 is entitled to a free travel pass. [1776/04]

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To qualify for a free travel pass, a person under age 66 must be in receipt of a qualifying social welfare or similar payment. The person concerned is under age 66 and is receiving deserted wife's benefit and disability benefit from the Department. As neither of these benefits are qualifying payments for free travel scheme purposes, she is not entitled to a travel pass under the scheme.

Richard Bruton


1032 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason she has introduced new arrangements during 2003 regarding the deduction of accrued holiday pay from persons who are on temporary lay-off from their job; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [1803/04]

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Social welfare legislation provides for the payment of unemployment benefit in respect of days of unemployment. Any day on which a person either receives or has an entitlement to holiday pay is not regarded as a day of unemployment and a person has no entitlement to unemployment benefit in respect of that day.

With the exception of people in school-related employment, people in seasonal, term or limited contract employment who claimed unemployment benefit up to 2003 had to supply details of all holiday pay entitlements due during each temporary lay-off period. Negotiations between the Department of Education and Science and the teacher unions on the implementation of the provisions of the Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act 2001 were concluded last year. This Act provides for additional holiday pay in certain cases. Following the conclusion of these negotiations, the provisions in relation to the treatment of accrued holiday pay for unemployment benefit purposes generally were extended to people in school-related employment. These provisions are that unemployment benefit is not paid in respect of any day for which there is an entitlement to holiday pay. The new procedures are designed to ensure that all persons on temporary lay-off from their employment were treated in a similar manner.

Bernard Allen


1033 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if participants in community employment schemes are entitled to retain their secondary benefits when they go back on unemployment assistance. [1809/04]

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Following the extension of class A PRSI to community employment, CE, workers in 1996, the position is that they are treated in the same way as other class A workers insofar as social insurance entitlements are concerned.

CE workers who are unemployed following completion of a CE scheme may qualify or re-qualify for unemployment benefit instead of long-term unemployment assistance by virtue of having paid class A PRSI contributions. Secondary benefits are not payable with unemployment benefit.

If a person is entitled to unemployment benefit she or he may opt to claim unemployment assistance, including secondary benefits, if it is more advantageous to do so and provided she/he satisfies a means test.

Bernard J. Durkan


1034 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs what constitutes full-time care and attention in the course of a seven day week regarding an application for the carer's allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [1952/04]

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One of the principal conditions for receipt of the allowance is that full-time care and attention is required and being provided by the carer. Under the legislative provisions full-time care and attention means that the care recipient must be so disabled as to require continuous supervision and frequent assistance throughout the day in connection with their normal personal needs. In addition, the care recipient must be so disabled as to be likely to require this care for at least 12 months.

My Department takes the view that full-time care and attention does not necessarily mean 24 hours in each day. Full-time care and attention can be considered to apply where there is an ongoing and daily commitment by the carer, and which also generally results in the carer not being able to support himself or herself through normal full-time employment.

Carer's allowance applications are assessed on an individual basis having regard to the medical and other related evidence supplied by the applicant. However, as the objectives of the carer's allowance scheme are designed for full-time carers, part-time carers and carers of persons in residential care do not fall within the scheme objectives.

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.