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Social Welfare Benefits.

Dáil Éireann Debate, Wednesday - 27 April 2005

Wednesday, 27 April 2005

Questions (177, 178, 179, 180)

John McGuinness

Question:

207 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the cost in 2005 of raising the disability allowance to the level of the contributory old age pension. [13617/05]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Family)

The full year cost of increasing the disability allowance to the level of the contributory old age pension in 2005 would be of the order of €136 million. Further increases will be examined in the context of budget 2006.

John McGuinness

Question:

208 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will consider raising the old age contributory pension to 34% of average industrial earnings; and the cost of such a measure in 2005. [13618/05]

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The 34% rate derives from the national pensions policy initiative published by the Pensions Board in 1998. The board proposed a rate of 34% of gross average industrial earnings for contributory pensions based on average earnings for the previous year. On that basis, the current rate of pension is equivalent to almost 32%.

The rate of old age pension has increased substantially since this Government took office. The programme for Government contains a commitment to increase the basic state pension to €200 by 2007 and further progress will be made in the 2006-07 period. The maximum rate of contributory old age pension now stands at €179.30. The cost of increasing the personal rate of old age contributory and retirement pensions to 34% of average industrial earnings in 2005 is estimated to be €108 million.

John McGuinness

Question:

209 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his plans for extending the respite care grant; if he will consider extending it to all carers; the likely cost of such an initiative; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13619/05]

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John McGuinness

Question:

211 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will consider modifying the special welfare code in order that those already receiving other benefits and allowances be able to claim the carer’s allowance at a half rate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13622/05]

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I propose to take Questions Nos. 209 and 211 together.

The primary objective of the social welfare system is to provide income support and, as a general rule, only one weekly social welfare payment is payable to an individual. This ensures that resources are not used to make two income support payments to any one person. Of course, persons qualifying for two social welfare payments always receive the higher payment to which they are entitled. Any changes would involve additional expenditure which could only be considered in a budgetary context.

A number of improvements for carers were announced in the last budget which will benefit existing recipients of carer's payments and will extend supports to carers who have not previously been eligible for carer's payments.

Provision was made in budget 2005 for the extension of the respite care grant to all carers who are providing full-time care to a person who needs such care from June 2005. The extension will include carers who are providing full-time care and who are in receipt of a social welfare payment — for example, widow's pensions, old age pensions, one parent family payment, disability benefit and invalidity pension — and those who are not currently receiving a weekly social welfare payment from my Department. The amount of the grant will increase from €835 to €1,000, also in June 2005.

Provision has also been made to pay a grant in respect of each care recipient. This will benefit those who provide care for three or more people. It is estimated that the improvements in the conditions applying to the respite care grant will result in an additional 9,200 full-time carers receiving the grant for the first time giving an estimated total of almost 33,000 full-time carers receiving the respite care grant of €1,000 in June this year. The cost of these improvements in the respite care grant will be over €13.5 million.

The grant will be payable from 2 June. From early May, application forms and information leaflets will be available throughout my Department's network of local offices and will also be available from citizens' information centres. They may also be requested by phone from my Department freephone help line 1800 690 590 from 27 April 2005 to 11 May 2005 or by downloading them from my Department's website, www.welfare.ie.

An extensive publicity campaign is planned to start this week and will include advertisements in both provincial and national newspapers as well as posters in various centres and offices. Officials of my Department have already briefed representatives of carers' organisations about the scheme. These organisations will in turn be providing information to their members.

My Department is setting up a special section to deal with this scheme. Arrangements are being put in place to ensure applications are processed efficiently and in a timely manner. As part of these arrangements a post office box number will be assigned to the scheme for easy processing of applications.

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