Thursday, 4 November 2004

Questions (148, 149, 150, 151, 152)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

145 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, further to Question No. 267 of 7 October 2004, the reason it transpires that arising from a budgetary increase in social welfare, the tenants’ rent support is reduced, thereby wiping out the increase a tenant received in budget 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27659/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Family)

Rent supplements are provided through the supplementary welfare allowance scheme which is administered by the health boards on behalf of my Department. The regulations governing rent supplements stipulate that, in addition to a minimum contribution, currently €13.00 per week, each recipient is required to contribute towards his or her rent any additional assessable means he or she has over and above the appropriate basic supplementary welfare allowance rate. In instances where there is a reduction in the level of household income a greater amount of rent supplement may be payable. Where the level of means in excess of the appropriate basic supplementary welfare allowance increases from any source, there is a corresponding reduction in the amount of rent supplement payable.

In the case identified by the Deputy in Question No. 267, the recent reduction in the amount of rent supplement payable to the person concerned is unrelated to the budget 2004 rate increases. She had been in receipt of a reduced rate of disability allowance and is now in receipt of full rate invalidity pension. This increase in the level of her household income necessitated a reduction in her rate of rent supplement.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

146 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the fact that recipients of free schemes may not be able to obtain free telephone rental allowance in certain circumstances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27660/04]

View answer

I understand that the Deputy is referring to persons who may be eligible to receive a telephone allowance from this Department but who have their telephone account with a service provider who is not participating in the scheme.

In October 2003, my predecessor introduced a change in the structure of the telephone allowance to make it a cash credit on bills and not attributable to any particular component of the bill. This change paved the way for eligible clients to switch from Eircom to another participating service provider if they so desired.

A new service, known as wholesale line rental, WLR, was launched by Eircom in August 2004. This enabled single billing for standing charges and calls by additional licensed operators. In practice, this means that these operators purchase WLR from Eircom wholesale on behalf of their customers. In these circumstances, where a customer is eligible for a telephone allowance, he will receive an integrated bill from the operator which will have the telephone allowance credited against it.

Esat BT, Smart Telecom and Access/Gaelic Telecom are now participating, through WLR, in the telephone allowance scheme. Four other companies have signalled their intention to join the scheme on completion of necessary development work and required testing. One has have opted not to participate in the telephone allowance scheme.

The decision whether to participate in the telephone allowance scheme rests entirely with the individual operators.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

147 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason for the reduction of dietary allowance in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare. [27692/04]

View answer

As stated in my previous reply to the Deputy on 14 October 2004, a review of the person's diet supplement was carried out in May 2004 during which it came to light that an incorrect amount of diet supplement was in payment. The amount of supplement was duly corrected and a revised supplement was awarded from June 2004.

Based on new information about the income of the person concerned, the health board is reviewing his supplement entitlements again now and will contact him shortly in this regard.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

148 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason a person (details supplied) in County Kildare has had their rent allowance reduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27694/04]

View answer

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

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, CE, retain a portion of their rent supplement on a tapered basis, subject to a gross household income limit of €317.43 per week and certain other conditions.

Participants in CE schemes may opt for assessment under this tapered withdrawal system or the standard supplementary welfare allowance means test, whichever is the more favourable to them.

Under standard assessment rules, rent supplements are calculated to ensure that an eligible person, after the payment of rent, has an income equal to the rate of supplementary welfare allowance appropriate to his or her family circumstances, less a minimum contribution, currently €13, which each recipient is required to pay from his or her own resources. Up to €50 per week of additional income from part-time employment is disregarded in the means test, with the aim of ensuring that a person is better off as a result of taking up such an opportunity. CE is regarded as part-time employment for these purposes. There are also earnings disregards applied to the one-parent family payment to the person concerned.

The South Western Area Health Board was contacted regarding this case and has advised that the amount of rent supplement in payment to June 2004 was based on the person's income from his one-parent family payment only. The board reviewed his entitlement when it became aware he was participating in a CE scheme and reduced his rent supplement in respect of July and August 2004.

The board has further advised that the person concerned was unsuccessful in appealing against the decision to reduce his rent supplement.

He was also requested to provide documentation confirming his continued participation in the CE scheme. To date, he has not provided the details sought and accordingly payment of his rent supplement has been suspended. His case will be fully examined on receipt of the requested information and if he has an entitlement to rent supplement, payment will be made at the appropriate level with immediate effect.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

149 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if rent allowance will be reviewed on foot of recent decision to refuse same in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27714/04]

View answer

The South Western Area Health Board was contacted regarding this case and has advised that the person concerned had been requested to provide clarification relating to the lease arrangements on his shared accommodation. He has now provided the clarification sought and consequently rent supplement is now being put in place.