Thursday, 4 March 2004

Questions (153, 154, 155, 156, 157)

Paul Kehoe

Question:

153 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when the missing rent supplement cheque for a person (details supplied) in County Carlow which was cashed by another party, will be issued; if this person will receive an apology for being wrongly accused of the incident; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7333/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Family)

The South Eastern Health Board was contacted in this case and has advised that the person concerned contacted the board on 26 January 2004 stating that she had not received her rent supplement cheque. My Department's accounts branch was contacted and advised that the cheque had been cashed in the main post office in Carlow on 22 January 2004. In the circumstances the board contacted the gardaí and requested that they investigate the matter.

The Deputy will appreciate that the health board has a duty to refer cases such as this to the gardaí so that the circumstances can be fully investigated and the appropriate follow-up action can be undertaken by the board and, if necessary, by the gardaí. The board is awaiting the outcome of the Garda investigation before determining whether or not a replacement cheque can be issued in this case. Obviously the question as to whether any apology may be warranted and, if so, by whom, will also depend on the outcome of the Garda investigation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

154 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the correct rent allowance payable in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7389/04]

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Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

155 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the correct rent allowance-FÁS payment payable in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7390/04]

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I propose to take Questions Nos. 154 and 155 together.

Supplementary welfare allowance is not normally payable to people in full-time employment. However, special arrangements have been in place for a number of years which allow people on approved schemes such as community employment to retain a portion of their rent for up to four years subject to a gross household income limit of €317.43 per week, the supplement being retained at 75% in year one, 50% in year two and 25% in years three and four.

As a participant in community employment a person may opt to be assessed in accordance with the tapered withdrawal system or under standard supplementary welfare allowance rules, whereby up to €50 per week is disregarded, and will be entitled to whichever option is more beneficial.

The South Western Area Health Board was contacted on behalf of the person concerned and has advised that the amount of supplement currently in payment was calculated on the basis of the tapered system outlined above. However, it has now come to light that the standard assessment is more beneficial in this particular case.

The board has further advised that the revised amount of rent supplement, and any arrears due, will be put into payment at the earliest opportunity.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

156 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason rent allowance has been reduced in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7392/04]

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Rent supplements are provided for under the terms of the supplementary welfare allowance scheme which is administered on behalf of my Department by the health boards.

In my reply to a question from the Deputy on 6 November 2003, I advised that rent supplement was paid up to October 2003 at the maximum rate applicable to a lone parent with one child and who had no maintenance payments. In fact, the person concerned had recently given birth to a second child and was in receipt of maintenance payments of €30 per week. At that time neither my Department nor the health board was aware that she had given birth to a second child. The South Western Area Health Board was contacted and a review of the amount of rent supplement in payment was carried out to take account of the additional child and the maintenance payments. As a consequence of this a slightly lower rate of rent supplement was put into payment from November 2003. This was based on her actual income at that time taking into account that she now had two children but was receiving one parent family payment for only one of these and repaying €20 per month of an overpayment incurred some years ago. My Department also undertook a review of her one-parent family payment in view of the change in her circumstances and the person was subsequently awarded the appropriate increased rate of one-parent family payment. The health board will contact the person concerned with a view to reviewing the amount of supplement payable in light of the fact that she is now in receipt of a higher rate of one-parent family payment.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

157 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when one parent family allowance will be restored to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7393/04]

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One-parent family payment was disallowed in this case on the grounds that the person concerned failed to fully disclose her means. There is a statutory obligation on all claimants to satisfy, and continue to satisfy, the conditions for entitlement to payment. The person concerned had income which was not consistent with her declared means and she has failed to explain the discrepancy to date. She was afforded the right of appeal, however, to date there is no record of her having written to the appeals office to appeal the decision.

Under social welfare legislation decisions in regard 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.