Rural Social Scheme Applications

Questions (391)

Paul Connaughton

Question:

391. Deputy Paul J. Connaughton asked the Minister for Social Protection her future plans for rural social schemes in view of the positive impact they are having on many rural communities; her views on whether there is scope for further places on these schemes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8090/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The purpose of the rural social scheme (RSS) is to provide income support for farmers and fisherpersons who have an entitlement to specified social welfare payments. Persons are engaged for 19½ hours per week to provide certain services of benefit to rural communities. The scheme currently provides work opportunities for around 2,600 participants and 130 supervisory staff. I have no plans to increase the number of places available on this scheme. The funds allocated for 2013 amount to €45m, which should enable the scheme to continue as in previous years but does not allow for the recruitment of additional participants above the numbers stated above. The Department of Social Protection has recently published a review of employment support schemes which, together with the outcome of the focused policy assessment of the RSS which the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has indicated it intends to conduct this year, will inform future policy developments of the scheme.

Student Support Schemes Issues

Questions (392)

Joe McHugh

Question:

392. Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Social Protection the supports that are available to Irish students who completed leaving certificate examinations in 2012 and who are studying a course (details supplied) at the Northwest Regional College in Derry City. [8100/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The Department operates a range of employment support measures designed to encourage and support social welfare recipients of working age to reduce their dependency on welfare payments. Amongst the supports available is the back to education allowance scheme (BTEA) and the part time education option (PTEO). These supports may be available to persons on qualifying social welfare payments.

One of the conditions for receipt of BTEA is that a person in receipt of a jobseekers payment, under the age of 21 years of age, must be out of formal education for at least two years. BTEA is essentially a social welfare replacement income which is paid in lieu of the relevant social welfare payment that qualifies the applicant for participation in the scheme.

However, if a person wishes to pursue a part time education course they may be able to do so while retaining their jobseekers payment under PTEO of the back to education programme. They must apply at their local social welfare office and verify that participation on the course does not reduce their availability for work.

The person in question is not in receipt of a social welfare payment or has never received a social welfare payment in their own right. The Department of Social Protection does not offer specific income supports for students outside of the Back to Education programme.

Jobseeker's Allowance Eligibility

Questions (393)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

393. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the current weekly entitlement in respect of basic payment in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; when it is expected their application for jobseeker's allowance will be determined; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8108/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The jobseeker’s allowance claim for the person concerned was awarded on the 30th January 2013 at a weekly rate of €188.00. The basic supplementary welfare allowance which was being paid pending award of jobseeker’s allowance has been closed.

Illness Benefit Appeals

Questions (394)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

394. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection further to Parliamentary Question No. 130 of 22 November 2012, the current position in respect of entitlement to illness benefit in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 6 whose employer and general practitioner have previously deemed them unfit for work; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8109/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

Payment of illness benefit, to the person concerned, was disallowed by a Deciding Officer following an examination by a Medical Assessor of the Department who expressed the opinion that he was capable of work.

An appeal was registered on 13th November 2012 and the Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that, in accordance with statutory requirements, the Department was asked for the documentation in the case and the Deciding Officer’s comments on the grounds of the appeal. In that context an examination by another Medical Assessor will be carried out on 18th February 2013.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Ministerial Appointments

Questions (395, 396, 398)

Shane Ross

Question:

395. Deputy Shane Ross asked the Minister for Social Protection the details of all appointments made by her to all State agencies, commercial bodies and all other appointments made by her since taking office, including the State owned banks and the judiciary. [8125/13]

View answer

Shane Ross

Question:

396. Deputy Shane Ross asked the Minister for Social Protection the details of the qualifications of all the appointees made by her to all State agencies, commercial bodies and all other appointments made by her since taking office including the State owned banks and judiciary for the appointments they have accepted; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8143/13]

View answer

Shane Ross

Question:

398. Deputy Shane Ross asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of appointees and the percentage of appointments made by her to all State agencies, commercial bodies and all other appointments made by her since taking office including the State owned banks and the Judiciary that were subject to a public applications process. [8161/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 395, 396 and 398 together.

The statutory bodies operating under the aegis of the Department of Social Protection are the Citizens Information Board, the Pensions Board, the Pensions Ombudsman (which does not have a board) and the Social Welfare Tribunal.

Citizens Information Board

I have made three appointments to the Citizens Information Board since coming into office. Mr Eugene Mc Erlean was appointed with effect from 7 September 2011 in line with the procedures for appointment to State Boards and bodies agreed by Government in May 2011.

The appointment was cognisant of his experience in the areas of finance, money management and debt settlement services and in legal matters.

The other two appointments did not require public advertisement as one was the Department’s representative to the Board, Ms Fiona Ward who was first appointed on 1 November 2011, and the other was the CIB’s staff representative to the Board, Mr David Stratton who was appointed on 5 November 2012, as provided for the in the governing legislation - the Comhairle Act 2000, as amended by the Citizens Information Act 2007.

Of the 15 members on the Board of CIB, my appointments represent 20% of the total membership.

Arrangements are being made to seek public expressions of interest in two existing board vacancies which will also be filled in accordance with the procedures for appointment to State boards and bodies agreed by Government in May 2011.

Pensions Board

No appointments have been made by me to the Pensions Board since I took office.

The Public Service Reform Programme provides for a critical review of the integration of the regulatory functions of the Pensions Board with the Financial Regulator and the merging of the Pensions Ombudsman with the Financial Services Ombudsman. The Critical Review Group, established to carry out the review, is finalising a draft report with recommendations.

Social Welfare Tribunal

The Board of the Social Welfare Tribunal is appointed for a three year term. It consists of a Chairperson and four ordinary members, two of whom are nominated by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) and two by the Irish Business Employer Confederation (IBEC).

There have been 6 appointments to the board since I took office. One of the ICTU members of the Tribunal resigned in 2011 and on their nomination, a replacement member was appointed from 24th October 2011. All appointments were due for renewal on 4th October 2012. Four members of the previous board and one new person, nominated by IBEC, were appointed to the new board effective from the 5th October 2012.

Legislation provides that the four ordinary members of the Tribunal are appointed by the Minister on the recommendation of the two relevant bodies, ICTU and IBEC. Both bodies forwarded their nominations and were duly approved and appointed by me. The Chairperson is sourced by the Department of Social Protection by way of a recommendation from the Labour Court with regard to a particular candidate’s suitability. The Chairperson, who was re-appointed in 2012, has held the position since 2003. He is a former Rights Commissioner with extensive experience in dispute resolution and has been proven to hold all of the qualifications, skills and competencies necessary for the position.

The revised Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies does not apply to the Social Welfare Tribunal due to its structure and purpose.

Disability Allowance Eligibility

Question No. 398 answered with Question No. 395.

Questions (397)

Noel Harrington

Question:

397. Deputy Noel Harrington asked the Minister for Social Protection the services available to young self employed persons in their early 50s who are diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease and who are no longer able to work; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8146/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

My Department provides a number of income supports for people with disabilities.

In the case of a self-employed person who is no longer able to work due to illness, he or she can apply for disability allowance. For the deputy’s information, the qualifying conditions for disability allowance are that the person must:

- be substantially restricted in undertaking suitable employment arising from a medical assessment or examination of the person’s disability;

- be aged between 16 and under 66;

- satisfy a means test;

- be habitually resident in the State.

Question No. 398 answered with Question No. 395.

Disability Allowance Eligibility

Questions (399)

Pat Deering

Question:

399. Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) will have their disability allowance granted and if she will expedite the matter. [8168/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The person concerned applied for disability allowance on 29 March 2012. The application based upon the evidence submitted, was refused on medical grounds and the person was notified in writing of this decision on 4 July 2012.

The person submitted further medical evidence in support of his claim and a review of his application is underway. Once a decision is made on this review, the person in question will be notified of the outcome.

Question No. 400 withdrawn.

Back to Education Allowance Eligibility

Questions (401)

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

401. Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will review the decision to disallow back to education allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8198/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

I have had the decision in this case reviewed and the position is as follows:

To qualify for back to education allowance a person must have been in receipt of jobseekers benefit for at least 9 months prior to the commencement of the first year of their course. The person concerned was in receipt of jobseeker’s benefit from 08th March 2011 to 31st August 2011 and from 22nd May 2012 to 21st November 2012. The payment period immediately prior to the commencement of the course was not of sufficient duration for the person concerned to meet the qualifying criteria for back to education allowance. In addition, as there was a gap of more than 26 weeks between both payment periods they cannot be treated as continuous, and as such cannot be aggregated to meet the qualifying criteria.

Farm Assist Scheme Appeals

Questions (402)

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

402. Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a farm assist appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; if the appeal will be expedited; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8202/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 21st November 2012. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 24th January 2013 and the case will be referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral hearing.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Carer's Allowance Application Numbers

Questions (403)

Finian McGrath

Question:

403. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for carer's allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Sligo. [8206/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

I confirm that the department received an application for carer’s allowance from the person in question on the 4th December 2012. The application is currently with a social welfare investigative officer for assessment of the level of care being provided and confirmation that all the conditions for receipt of carer’s allowance are satisfied. Once the investigative officer has completed and submitted the report a deciding officer will make a full decision. The application will be processed as quickly as possible and when a decision is made the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

Home Help Service Eligibility

Questions (404)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

404. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding the exemption of home help income earned from the Health Service Executive prior to Budget 2012; if a person was assessed for a social welfare payment prior to Budget 2012 and if their HSE home help income was included in this assessment are they eligible to apply for arrears; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8217/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

As part of Budget 2012, the Government decided that, with effect from January 2012, income from employment by the HSE or a body funded by the Health Service Executive (HSE) as a home help would be assessed, for means testing purposes, in the same way as income from any other type of employment, where this was not already the case.

The new arrangements replaced a range of means testing arrangements which had been applied to income as a home help on a non-statutory basis in relation to certain schemes. These administrative arrangements were initially introduced to encourage persons to take up employment as a home help at a time when the remuneration from such employment was low. This is no longer the case as the status and salary levels were formalised in 2000. As the salary scale is now well ahead of the national minimum wage, there was no longer a basis for this special treatment. The change advanced the objective of treating all income in the same way for means testing purposes with no special arrangements depending on the type of employment.

Since January 2012, persons working as a home help benefit from the standard earnings disregards and tapering arrangements which apply to the assessment of earnings. These vary across schemes and the current arrangements are now outlined in the case of one parent family payment, jobseeker’s allowance and disability allowance:

- One-parent family payment: the first €110 is disregarded in full and amounts between €110 and €425 are assessed at 50%.

- Jobseeker’s allowance: the first €20 per day, subject to a maximum of €60 per week, is disregarded in full and 60% of the balance assessed.

- Disability allowance: the first €120 per week of earnings from a rehabilitative nature is disregarded, any balance between €120 per week and €350 per week is assessed at 50% and any remaining balance is assessed in full.

Where the spouse/partner of a jobseeker’s or disability allowance recipient is in employment the first €20 per day of his or her earnings, subject to a maximum of €60 per week, is disregarded in full and 60% of the balance assessed.

The arrangements which applied in relation to the assessment of home help earnings prior to January 2012 varied across schemes. For example, the treatment of the earnings of a qualified adult as a home help varied in the case of disability allowance and jobseeker’s allowance; it was disregarded in full in the case of disability allowance and assessed in the same way as all other earnings in the case of jobseeker’s allowance.

Disability allowance was introduced in 1996 and replaced the Disabled Person's Maintenance Allowance (DPMA) which had been administered by the Health Boards. In the case of the latter scheme, earnings arising from the employment of a claimant’s spouse/partner as a home help were disregarded if full. These arrangements were continued in the Department of Social Protection, on a non-statutory administrative basis until the change outlined above was introduced in January 2012.

If a person feels that the assessment procedures outlined above were not correctly applied to their claim before or after January 2012, they may request their local social welfare office to review their claim. If it is established that their means were incorrectly assessed, any arrears due to them will be paid.

Employment Rights

Questions (405)

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

405. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Social Protection following the recently published Migrant Rights Centre Ireland Report December 2012 Part of the Family, which illustrates the way the unregulated au pair system is being used to facilitate cheap childcare and that leaves au pairs without basic protections, her plans to address the issue of au pairs here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8223/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The Department of Social Protection does not have responsibility for the matter raised by the Deputy. As advised by my colleague, Richard Bruton, T.D., Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, in response to Parliamentary Question 6485/13, the National Employments Rights Authority (NERA) investigates complaints in relation to breaches of employment law. Any complaints received by NERA in relation to au pairs would first be examined using the “Code of Practice for Determining the Employment or Self-Employment Status of Individuals” in order to determine whether or not the person is in fact an employee.

If the person is determined to be an employee, they enjoy the full protection of Irish Employment Law and the NERA inspection and enforcement procedures operate in the normal way. A Code of Practice for Protecting Persons Employed in Other People’s Homes (S.I. No. 239 of 2007) is in place and can be accessed on NERA’s website. Where people have concerns that employees may be exploited, or may be receiving less than their statutory entitlement, the matter should be reported to NERA for investigation.

Section 20 of the Protection of Employees (Part-Time) Work Act 2001 provides that all employee protection legislation applies to a person, irrespective of his or her nationality or place of residence, who has entered into a legal contract of employment that provides for him or her being employed in the State or who works in the State under a legal contract of employment. Therefore, once it is clear that a person is working under such a contract of employment in another person’s home, on a full-time or part-time basis, that person has the same protection under law as all other employees.

Employments in the State under a contract of service or apprenticeship, written or oral, may be insurable for social insurance purposes. A person aged over 16 years and under pensionable age (currently 66 years) may be regarded as an employed contributor for social insurance purposes and, subject to payment of the appropriate PRSI contributions and satisfying the other qualifying conditions, may qualify for the full range of long and short- term social insurance benefits. For Class A employees, PRSI at the rate of 4% is payable based on their weekly earnings. In addition, employers are required to pay PRSI at the rate of 10.75% in respect of their employees.

In addition, as Minister Burton advised, the Department of Justice and Equality operates the student visa scheme and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs have responsibility for childcare matters. Accordingly, any issues in regard to these matters should be addressed to those Departments.

Domiciliary Care Allowance Applications

Questions (406)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

406. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Social Protection the current waiting times for the processing of domicilary care allowance applications; if she will provide in tabular form, for the past five years, the number of claims awarded on first application; the number of claims refused; and the number of claims received; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8235/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

Currently, the average time to process an application for Domiciliary Care Allowance (DCA) from receipt to decision is approximately 8 weeks. The Department has been accepting new claims for DCA since 1st April 2009. Statistics relating to the allowance for the period prior to April 2009 are a matter for the HSE, the previous administrators of the scheme. The number of applicants for DCA that were received, awarded and refused from April 2009 to December 2012 is set out in the table below.

Domiciliary Care Allowance applications – 2009 to 2012

-

Applications received

Applications  processed in year

Applications allowed*

Applications disallowed

2009 (from 1st April)

3,389

2,823

1,220 (43%)

1,603

2010

5,457

5,333

2,576 (48%)

2,757

2011

5,525

5,396

2502 (46%)

2,894

2012

4,339

4,680

 2204 (47%)

2,476

*including on review following receipt of additional information

Domiciliary Care Allowance Appeals

Questions (407)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

407. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will provide in tabular form for the past five years the number of domiciliary care allowance appeals submitted to her Department; the number of these refused; and the number granted. [8236/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The number of domiciliary care allowance (DCA) appeals submitted to the Social Welfare Appeals of Office and outcome of appeals processed from 2009 to 2012, is given in the Table below.

Prior to April 2009 the domiciliary care allowance scheme was administered by the Health Services Executive (HSE). Fresh applications for DCA were accepted by my Department from April 2009, claims of existing recipients of DCA were transferred from HSE to my Department in September 2009.

Domiciliary Care Allowance Appeals 2009 -2012

Year

Appeals

Lodged

Appeals Allowed

Appeals

Partly

Allowed

Revised DO

Decision

Appeals Disallowed

2009

836

6

0

47

5

2010

1,858

221

14

584

417

2011

2,401

798

37

424

1,109

2012

2,186

874

29

625

906

The figures in relation the outcome of appeals are in respect of the actual appeals processed in the period specified and do not, necessarily, relate to the appeals received in the same period.

Community Welfare Services

Questions (408)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

408. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Social Protection the criteria used by her Department to determine the level of demand for community welfare clinics in County Donegal in view of the fact that the exact numbers of persons who have accessed each community welfare clinic in County Donegal is not available; if she will provide a breakdown of the staff employed in the Community Welfare Service in County Donegal, differentiating between those responsible for making payments and those with supervisory or administrative roles, over the past five years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8237/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The Department has restructured a number of Community Welfare Service (CWS) clinics across the country, including in County Donegal, with the aim of providing an efficient service to all customers.

Some smaller clinics have been closed or will close where the level of demand for a service was low. Where a closure has occurred or is planned, an increased level of service has been made available to the customers from these areas at alternative locations in the general vicinity and the provision of an enhanced service to the public by providing a better service at the remaining clinics within the areas.

There are currently nineteen Officers (former CWOs) in Donegal operating from thirty four different locations throughout the area. These officers are responsible for assessing claims, providing control functionality, making payments and providing information on Departmental schemes as required, in addition to performing supervisory and administrative roles in their respective offices where clerical support is in place.

Although figures are not available on the exact number of persons who have accessed each community welfare clinic in County Donegal in recent years, an examination of the Department’s payments system undertaken in September 2011 showed that almost 4,300 individuals in Donegal were in receipt of a payment under the supplementary welfare allowance (SWA) scheme. By November 2012, the number of SWA recipients in Donegal had reduced by approximately 21% to 3,400 individuals.

It is also worth noting that the Department has reduced the level of demand on the CWS service in recent years by centralising the administration of the Back to School Clothing and Footwear (BSCFA) scheme within the Department. In addition, CWS staff are no longer involved in the administration of Medical Cards.

Tabular Statement 1 below shows the number of staff under each specific grade who perform CWS functions. Since the integration of the CWS into the Department, the roles and/or functions of certain individuals will have changed.

Tabular Statement 1

Year

Superintendent CWS/AP

Assistant (Grade 7)

Former CWO

Clerical

Total

2008

1

1

24

5

31

2009

1

1

24

5

31

2010

1

1

24

5

31

2011

1

1

22

5

29

2012

1

1

20

5

27

2013

2 * (see note)

1

19

5

27

* Note – These 2 Superintendent CWS/APs also have responsibility for functions other than CWS functions

Invalidity Pension Appeals

Question No. 410 withdrawn.

Questions (409)

Jack Wall

Question:

409. Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an invalidity pension appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8243/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was referred to an Appeals Officer on 31st January 2013, who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral hearing.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Question No. 410 withdrawn.

Social Welfare Appeals Delays

Questions (411)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

411. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision on a social welfare appeal will issue in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 22. [8269/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was referred to an Appeals Officer on 06th February 2013, who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral hearing.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Social Welfare Appeals Delays

Questions (412)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

412. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision in respect of an appeal is likely to made in the case of a person (details supplied); if he will confirm if the file has been sent to the social welfare appeals officer; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8271/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 17th October 2012. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 06th February 2013 and the case will be referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral hearing.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Invalidity Pension Appeals

Questions (413)

Pat Deering

Question:

413. Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) in County Carlow will receive a decision on an appeal for invalidity as it has been assigned to an Appeals Officer for final decision and if she will expedite a reply. [8278/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the appeal from the person concerned was referred to an Appeals Officer who proposes to hold an oral hearing in this case. Every effort will be made to hear the case as quickly as possible and the appellant will be informed when arrangements have been made.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.