Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Questions (262, 263, 264)

Michael Ring

Question:

335 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be approved and granted disability allowance. [18641/08]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Family)

Disability allowance is a weekly allowance paid to people with a disability who are aged between 16 and 66 years. The disability must be expected to last for at least one year and the allowance is subject to both a medical examination and a means test.

The person concerned applied for Disability Allowance on the 17 April 2008. The Medical Assessor determined that an examination would be necessary in order to establish the person's medical suitability to the disability allowance criteria. The person concerned will be notified directly of the time and place fixed for this examination.

In addition a Social Welfare Inspector in the person's area has been asked to arrange an interview with him in order to establish his weekly means. Upon receipt of the reports from the Social Welfare Inspector and Medical Assessor, a decision will be made on the person's application for Disability Allowance. The person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

336 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position in respect of a social welfare payment in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18669/08]

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The Health Service Executive has advised that the person concerned is in direct provision accommodation provided by the Reception and Integration Agency of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. People in direct provision are not regarded as being habitually resident in the state and are not entitled to any social welfare payment which is subject to the habitual residence condition.

Question No. 337 answered with Question No. 324.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

338 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if it is intended to incentivise motherhood as is the case in a number of other European countries with particular regard to the falling birth rate throughout Europe; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18672/08]

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My Department provides a range of supports to parenting. Child Benefit and Maternity Benefit are the most direct financial provisions within the remit of my Department in this regard.

Child Benefit, a universal payment, is paid in respect of children up to the age of 16 years — and it continues to be paid in respect of children up to the age of 19 years who are either in full-time education or who have a physical or mental disability.

Maternity Benefit is an income maintenance payment awarded by this Department to eligible women for a 26-week period on foot of a confinement. Entitlement to this benefit for employees is contingent on entitlement to statutory Maternity Leave — which is the responsibility of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. Maternity Leave legislation also provides an option for a woman to take an additional 16-week period of Maternity Leave that does not attract a benefit payment.

The Government has demonstrated its commitment to supporting parenthood through the significant enhancements made to the child benefit scheme in recent years — with increases of 266% for the monthly higher rate and of 300% for the monthly lower rate since 2001. This compares with consumer price index growth of 43.4% over the same period.

In addition, the introduction of a €1,000 per annum Early Child care Supplement in 2006 in respect of all children up to the age of 6 years has increased the overall level of child income support to all qualifying families — and proportionately more in the case of low-income families. This supplement was increased to €1,100 in Budget 2008.

Likewise, Maternity Benefit rates have increased substantially from some €219 in 2001 to €280 currently. Furthermore, the duration for Maternity Benefit has been extended from 18 to 26 weeks in recent years. The period of weeks that must be taken before the baby is due has been reduced from 4 to 2 weeks and the final 4 weeks can be postponed in the event of the child being hospitalised.

It should be noted that the Programme for Government contains the following commitment in relation to ‘Giving Parents More Time with Their Children': Over the next five years we will:

Increase paid maternity leave by five weeks and make all leave after the first 26 weeks available to either parent.

Work with the social partners to promote the greater availability of family-friendly work practices.

Examine the possibility of introducing paternity benefit.

Examine the possibility of shared parental leave.

Progression of this commitment is a matter for the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform in the first instance.