Tuesday, 19 October 2004

Questions (252, 253, 254, 255, 256, 257)

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

393 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason a person (details supplied) in County Louth was refused mortgage interest supplement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25079/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Family)

Subject to certain conditions, the supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which is administered on behalf of my Department by the health boards, provides for the payment of a weekly or monthly supplement in respect of mortgage interest to eligible people in the State whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation needs.

One of the conditions for receipt of mortgage interest supplement is that the applicant must have been in a position to meet the mortgage repayments when he or she entered into the loan agreement originally.

The North Eastern Health Board was contacted regarding this case and has advised that the person concerned did not satisfy the board that she was in a position originally to meet the repayments. Her application was refused accordingly. The board has no record of an appeal from the person concerned.

Michael Ring

Question:

394 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be awarded the fuel allowance. [25087/04]

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Free fuel allowance is payable to persons on certain long-term social welfare or health board payments who live alone or with other social welfare recipients and where they are unable to provide for their own heating needs.

There is no record of a free fuel application for the household concerned. While carer's allowance, which the person concerned is receiving, is not a qualifying payment for receipt of free fuel allowance, the care recipient may have an entitlement to the allowance based on his old age pension entitlement. An application form has been forwarded to him for completion. His entitlement to the allowance will be further examined on receipt of this application.

Billy Timmins

Question:

395 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position with regard to a person who will qualify for a contributory old age pension (details supplied) in the near future; if, in view of the fact that it is usually a six day week for social welfare, this person can sign for the three days; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25127/04]

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Social welfare legislation provides that all unemployed persons must satisfy the conditions of being available for full-time employment and genuinely seeking work to be entitled to an unemployment payment. A person who fails to satisfy these conditions on an ongoing basis is not entitled to an unemployment payment.

The amount of unemployment benefit payable for any day of unemployment, Monday to Saturday, for casual and part-time workers, is one sixth of the weekly rate. However, in the case of a systematic short-time worker, the amount of unemployment benefit payable for any day of unemployment is one fifth of the weekly rate. In addition, the number of days worked and the number of days of unemployment paid cannot exceed five in any working week.

Social welfare legislation provides that a person is regarded as being engaged in systematic short-time working where his or her full-time working week is reduced by his or her employer due to a downturn in business and where there is a clear repetitive pattern of employment each week. The number of days of benefit payable each week to a systematic short-time worker is limited to ensure that the total number of days paid and the number of days worked do not exceed five. Unemployment benefit and assistance are payable up to age 66.

If the Deputy supplies details of the case in question I will have the matter examined.

Michael Ring

Question:

396 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason the unemployment assistance appeal by a person (details supplied) in County Mayo was disallowed considering that letters have been submitted to prove that this person is actively seeking employment but just cannot work; and the reason their payment stopped when they are genuinely seeking work. [25157/04]

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A deciding officer disallowed the unemployment assistance claim of the person concerned and an appeals officer upheld this decision. A letter outlining the grounds of the appeals officer's decision was issued to her on 2 September 2004. An appeals officer's decision is final in the absence of new facts or fresh evidence.

The person concerned made a repeat application for unemployment assistance on 8 October 2004. However, the application form was incomplete. The person concerned has been contacted and on receipt of the completed application her case will be re-examined. When a decision is made, she will be notified of the outcome.

Under social welfare legislation, decisions on 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.

Michael Ring

Question:

397 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the estimated cost of extending the Christmas bonus payment to all persons in receipt of short-term payments which include short-term unemployment payments, disability, maternity benefit, carer’s benefit; family income, supplement and supplementary welfare allowance; and the number of persons currently receiving these short-term payments. [25158/04]

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As the Deputy will be aware, the Christmas bonus will again be paid this year to all recipients of long-term social welfare payments, at a rate equivalent to 100% of the person's normal weekly payment, subject to a minimum payment of €30. The measure will cost an estimated €127.4 million in 2004 and will benefit some 1.2 million persons comprising 816,000 recipients and 386,000 dependants.

The estimated cost of extending the Christmas bonus to all persons in receipt of short-term payments, including short-term unemployment payments, disability, maternity benefit, carer's benefit, family income supplement and supplementary welfare allowance, is €28.3 million. The number of persons receiving these short-term payments is 196,000.

Seán Crowe

Question:

398 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if the case of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin will be investigated. [25169/04]

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Subject to certain conditions, the supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which is administered on behalf of my Department by the health boards, provides for the payment of a weekly or monthly supplement in respect of rent to eligible people in the State whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation needs and who do not have accommodation available from any other source.

The South Western Area Health Board was contacted regarding this case and has advised that the person concerned made an application for rent supplement in October 2003 following her move from local authority accommodation in Athlone. Her application was refused in accordance with the legislation governing the payment of rent supplement which stipulates that a supplement is not payable to a person who has vacated accommodation provided by a local authority unless the board is satisfied that there is reasonable cause for so doing.

The person concerned appealed this decision to the health board appeals officer and my Department's chief appeals officer. On both occasions the appeals officers determined that the reasons put forward for her move from existing local authority housing did not represent reasonable cause. Her appeals were disallowed.

The person concerned recently made further inquires regarding entitlement to rent supplement. She was again informed that she does not satisfy the conditions for receipt of rent supplement. As happened at the time of her original application in October 2003, she was advised that she should contact her local authority with regard to her housing needs.