Social Welfare Benefits Eligibility

Questions (294, 306)

Nicky McFadden

Question:

294. Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for Social Protection the current supports available to self-employed business people who have been forced to close their businesses; if better supports will be made available to assist the self-employed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11514/13]

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Bernard Durkan

Question:

306. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the extent to which she continues to review the position in respect of entitlements to means tested social welfare payments for the self-employed which will take into account the economic circumstances of families that find themselves in situations of social and economic distress; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11631/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 294 and 306 together.

Self-employed persons are liable for PRSI at the Class S rate of 4% which entitles them to access long-term benefits such as State pension (contributory) and widow's, widower's or surviving civil partner's pension (contributory). Ordinary employees who have access to the full range of social insurance benefits pay Class A PRSI at the rate of 4%. In addition, their employers make a PRSI contribution of 10.75% in respect of their employees, resulting in the payment of a combined 14.75% rate per employee under full-rate PRSI Class A. (For employees earning less than €356 per week, the rate of employer’s PRSI is 4.25%).

In 2011 I established the Advisory Group on Tax and Social Welfare to meet the commitment made in the Programme for Government. The Advisory Group is charged with, inter alia, examining and reporting on issues involved in providing social insurance cover for self-employed persons in order to establish whether or not such cover is technically feasible and financially sustainable. The Advisory Group’s overall method of working is based on producing modular reports on the priority areas identified in the Terms of Reference. Where possible, the aim is to provide recommendations that can be acted upon in time for the annual budget, estimates and legislative cycle and to allow the Government to best address its commitments under the EU-IMF Programme of Financial Support. The Group has been considering the issue of social insurance coverage for the self-employed and will submit its report once its examination of the various questions has been completed.

The third Actuarial Review of the Social Insurance Fund, as at 31 December 2010, was completed by consultants KPMG in June 2012 and laid before each House of the Oireachtas on 24 August 2012. The Review covers a 55 year period from 2011–2066 and builds on the findings of the 2000 and 2005 Actuarial Reviews of the Fund. The report of the Actuarial Review found that the effective annual rate of contribution, or the required contribution as a percentage of salary, needed to provide the core full-rate State pension (contributory), which is the benefit currently available to self-employed contributors, is approximately 15%. This compares favourably with the 4% rate currently paid by the self-employed. Therefore in terms of the pension entitlements, the report concludes that the self-employed achieve very good value for money in terms of the PRSI contributions paid.

The Review also addressed the long-term cost implications to the Social Insurance Fund (SIF) and the break-even contributions rates required to provide invalidity pensions to the self-employed and to provide jobseeker’s benefit for self-employed workers. The Review found that an incremental increase in contribution rates from approximately 15% to 16% would be required if jobseeker’s benefit in addition to core State pension (contributory) is provided. The average contribution rate required for the core State pension (contributory) plus jobseeker’s benefit and the invalidity pension is estimated to be in the region of 17.3%.

Any proposals to revise the social insurance system for self-employed persons by extending social insurance entitlements will have to be considered in a budgetary context, taking account of the finding of the Actuarial Review that the self-employed achieve very good value for money compared with the employed – when the comparison includes both employer and employee contributions in respect of the employed person.

Self-employed workers whose businesses fail or suffer from reduced demand or who do not have constant or continuous employment, may access social welfare support by establishing entitlement to assistance-based payments such as jobseeker’s allowance and disability allowance. In the case of jobseeker’s allowance they can apply for the means-tested jobseeker’s allowance if their business ceases or if they are on low income as a result of a downturn in demand for their services. In general, their means will take account of the level of earnings in the last twelve months in determining their expected income for the following year and, in the current climate, account is taken of the downward trend in the economy. As in the case of a non-self-employed claimant for jobseeker’s allowance or disability allowance, the means of husband/wife, civil partner or co-habitant will be taken into account in deciding on entitlement to a payment.

Job Assist Scheme Eligibility

Questions (295)

Peter Mathews

Question:

295. Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Social Protection the schemes in place to support unemployed persons in upskilling or obtaining positions in the workplace; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11596/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

In the first instance, the Government’s primary strategy to tackle unemployment is to create the environment for a strong economic recovery by promoting competitiveness and productivity. Economic recovery will underpin jobs growth.

In addition to promoting economic recovery, the Government recognises the need for interim measures to support the unemployed and keep jobseekers close to the labour market. These actions range across a number of Departments and Agencies. Given the scale of the unemployment crisis, the key objective of labour market policy is to keep those on the Live Register close to the labour market and prevent the drift into long-term unemployment. Persons from the Live Register availing of activation measures will get an opportunity to engage in employment, training and work experience and so be in a position to avail of employment opportunities as the economy improves. As such, the policy objective is to prioritise scarce resources on those on the Live Register so as to increase their chances of leaving it thereby ensuring a reduction in Exchequer costs over time

In this context, the major elements of this Department’s response are set out in the Pathways to Work policy which is aimed at ensuring that as many as possible of the job vacancies that are created are filled by people from the Live Register, with a particular focus on those who are long term unemployed or at risk of long-term unemployment.

There are a number of schemes/programmes available that are focussed on work experience. The most relevant for young people are JobBridge (the National Internship Scheme), and its predecessor the Work Placement Programme. Some 5,800 people are currently participating on these schemes. The total number of starters on JobBridge during 2012 was 9,575. The findings of the interim evaluation of JobBridge, The National Internship Scheme by Indecon International Economic Consultants (published – 5th October 2012) found that 61% of finishers secured employment within five months of completing their internship. These progression rates compare favourably with European averages in this area and represent very significant progress in a short period of time.

The JobsPlus incentive scheme will encourage employers to recruit long-term unemployed people. The new incentive will be payable monthly in arrears, over a 2-year period. There will be 2 levels of incentive: €7,500 for recruits unemployed for more than 12 but less than 24 months and €10,000 for recruits unemployed for more than 24 months. This new incentive will replace the Revenue Job Assist and the Employer PRSI Incentive schemes.

In addition, the Department also manages a number of schemes providing temporary employment for the long-term unemployed on works and services of value to the community. There are currently 26,000 people participating on Community Employment and Tús. As part of Budget 2013, the Government approved 10,000 new places across CE, TÚS, JobBridge and a new social employment scheme with the Local Authorities.

In terms of up-skilling, the Back to Education Allowance scheme run by my Department provides income maintenance, along with a contribution to education costs, for unemployed people returning to further or higher education. Over 25,800 people participated in the BTEA in the last academic year. Some 61% of recipients pursued third level courses while 39% pursued courses described as being at second level. A majority of the second-level courses are Post Leaving Cert (PLC courses) undertaken in the further education sector. Just under 6% of the second-level option group (or 2% of all BTEA participants) were pursuing courses at or below Leaving Certificate level.

Up-skilling options are also available under TESG (Technical Employment Support Grant) and TATS (Technical Assistance and Training scheme). There were just under 17,000 beneficiaries of TATS/TESG in 2011. Both TESG and TATS are designed to allow DSP to offer flexible additional help (in the form of access to training, advice, or support for the purchase of certain goods and services) to a number of categories of unemployed people. TESG support can be for purchase of training (where this cannot be provided by a state provider within a reasonable time) or for certain other expenditures such as purchase of tools, travel costs to job interviews. Training, with limited exceptions, must be on certified courses. TATs is more focused on jobseekers with an interest in self-employment, and can assist with the purchase of training/education/mentoring, equipment, advertising, and public liability insurance.

Two further up-skilling options available are the Part-time Education Option (PTEO) and Education Training and Development Option (ET&D). Both PTEO and ET&D are designed to facilitate jobseekers who wish to engage in part time day, evening or weekend courses or more intensive short duration courses of education and training while retaining their jobseeker’s payments.

The PTEO allows participants to attend part-time day/evening or weekend courses of education or training and retain their jobseeker’s payment while an entitlement exists provided that they continue to satisfy the conditions of being available for and genuinely seeking employment on an on-going basis. Payment is made at the same rate as the primary payment and no maximisation of payments occurs. The ET&D allows participants to attend certain courses of education, training or development of short duration and retain their jobseeker’s payment while an entitlement exists. Participants are exempt from engaging in job search but must be available for employment should an opportunity arise.

Disability Activation Projects

Questions (296)

Seán Kyne

Question:

296. Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will report on the progress of the 14 disability activation projects in operation in the BMW region; if she would confirm the locations of the projects; and if there are plans to extend this initiative in view of the benefits which accrue in helping persons with a disability back into the workforce. [11612/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The projects to which the deputy refers constitute the Disability Activation (DACT) project which is co-funded by my Department and the European Social Fund, at a cost of over €7 million to April 2015. The projects are in their initial stages of development at present and given that they will run until April, 2015, it is too early to report on their progress. However, I am confident that the fourteen projects involved will provide practical insights into how best to engage with people with disabilities and with employers in order to enhance the employment prospects of people with disabilities, and feed into policy considerations in this area.

For information, the four themes of the Disability Activation project are:

- Strand 1 - improving access to employment;

- Strand 2 - progression for young people with disabilities

- Strand 3 -progression for people with an acquired disability

- Strand 4 -innovative engagement with employers

Four of the selected projects are broad-based and will have an impact across the entire BMW region. The other ten projects are centred in counties Galway, Sligo, Roscommon (2), Cavan/Monaghan, Monaghan/Cavan/Louth, Louth, Galway/ Mayo/ Roscommon, Donegal, and Laois/Offaly/ Westmeath respectively.

Pensions Reform

Questions (297)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

297. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social Protection her estimate of the saving to the State that will arise in 2014 from the raising of the pension age to 66 years and the abolition of the State pension transition; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11618/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

Social structures in Ireland are changing rapidly and social supports need to change to accommodate this. The decision to increase State pension age was taken in the context of changing demographics and the fact that people are living longer and healthier lives. The standardisation of State pension age to age 66 is one of the measures planned which aims to improve the sustainability of the Irish pension system. As provided for in legislation, State pension age will further increase to age 67 in 2021 and to 68 in 2028. These changes were provided for in the Social Welfare and Pensions Act, 2011. Estimates at that time indicated that the gross estimated savings in 2014 were expected to be in the region of €30 million with a full year savings in 2015 of approximately €60 million. These savings take into account claimants who would instead receive various other social welfare payments, including jobseeker benefits.

Pension Provisions

Questions (298)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

298. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of persons in receipt of the State pension transition in each year for the past ten years. [11619/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

In 2006 age related pensions were replaced by State Pensions, with significant administrative alterations to several weekly payment types which had up to that point provided for people aged 65 and over. These changes, implemented in stages following the introduction of the State Pensions, have resulted in substantial migrations of recipients between scheme types, with accompanying changes in expenditure on these schemes. The most significant transfers of recipients were those involving State Pension (Contributory), formerly known as Old Age Pension (Contributory), and State Pension (Transition), formerly known as Retirement Pension.

The number of recipients of retirement pension and state pension transition at end December of each year 2003 to 2012 are included in the tabular statement below.

Number of Recipients of State Pension Transition, 2003 to 2012.

Year

Number of Recipients

Retirement Pension

Number of Recipients

State Pension Transition

2003

86,509

-

2004

88,870

-

2005

91,047

-

2006

91,086

-

2007

-

5,851

2008

-

7,242

2009

-

8,378

2010

-

10,206

2011

-

12,110

2012

-

14,372

Social Welfare Payments Waiting Times

Questions (299)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

299. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of payments administered by her Department which are subject to a means test of medical qualification; the number of applications in both categories approved in the first instance in each of the past three years to date; the number referred to appeal, the average length of time taken to process such appeals including an indication of the longest and shortest waiting periods; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11624/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The information requested by the Deputy in respect of the payments administered by my Department which are subject to a means test and/or medical qualification has been collated up to the end of January 2013 and is contained in the following tabular statement A.

With respect to the information requested in relation to the number of appeals received and the appeals processing times I am informed by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that these statistics have been collated up to the end of February and the available information is contained in the following tabular statement B.

By its nature and because it is a quasi-judicial process, the processing of appeals takes time. While every effort is made to deal with appeals as fast as possible this cannot be at the expense of fairness of due process.

Table A: Means/Medical Qualification Tested Claims Registered and Awarded in the first instance 2010 to January 2013

Scheme

Means/

Medical

Qualifications

Tested

Claims

Registered

Means/

Medical

Qualifications

 Tested

Claims

Registered

Means/

Medical

Qualifications

Tested

Claims

Registered

Means/

Medical

Qualifications

Tested

Claims

Registered

Means/

Medical

Qualifications

Tested

Claims

Awarded

Means/

Medical

Qualifications

Tested

Claims

Awarded

Means/

Medical

Qualifications

Tested

Claims

Awarded

Means/

Medical

Qualifications Tested

Claims

Awarded

-

2010

2011

2012

January 2013

2010

2011

2012

January 2013

Jobseeker's Allowance

263,942

239,667

225,262

20,177

191,144

174,491

167,623

14,907

One-Parent Family Payment -

SWLO

17,325

16,943

14,330

1,232

12,127

12,178

10,293

920

One-Parent Family Payment -

HQ

N/a

2,175

1,055

44

N/a

1,841

858

47

State Pension

Non-Contributory

9,835

7,344

9,035

913

7,191

5,730

7,243

548

Blind Person Pension

219

208

198

11

117

106

96

7

Guardian Payment

(Non Contributory)

176

173

172

13

106

117

95

6

Widow, Widower's 

or Surviving

Civil Partner’s

Non-Contributory Pension

792

556

428

34

533

377

287

8

Domiciliary Care Allowance

5,529

5,191

4,079

270

3,103

2,686

1,586

52

Supplementary Welfare Allowance

578,035

643,526

453,833

26,011

193,014

292,641

253,652

9,414

Family Income Supplement (New)

22,472

23,453

20,341

1,168

14,328

13,631

13,264

1,318

Family Income Supplement (Renew)

25,638

27,761

29,589

1,816

22,101

23,787

28,118

4,144

Carer's Allowance

18,212

17,758

15,493

818

8,769

7,465

9,880

1,829

Carer’s Benefit

2,080

2,060

1788

140

1,965

1,941

2,021

157

Disability Allowance

21,409

24,264

25,887

1,579

8,306

9,246

10,400

844

Disablement

1,652

1,775

1,436

85

1,293

1,310

1,384

58

Invalidity Pension

8,774

14,621

11,510

831

3,597

2,657

6,352

864

Illness Benefit

289,962

296,730

286,534

29,932

249,166

259,008

245,319

25,913

Interim Illness Benefit/

Occupational

Injury Benefit

15,157

14,177

13,641

1,160

12,289

11,616

10,927

1,077

Respite Care Grant

6,420

6,574

5,854

98

5,486

4,965

4,575

208

Treatment Benefit*

229,928

473,123

453,236

40,392

217,854

447,908

430,778

38,337

*Figures for 2010 are for May to December ONLY as due to industrial action data returns were not given in months January to April

Table B - Means /Medical Qualification Tested Appeals Received and Processing Times 2010 to February 2013

Scheme

Means /Medical Qualification Tested

Appeals Received 2010 to Feb. 2013

Means /Medical Qualification Tested

Appeals Received 2010 to Feb. 2013

Means /Medical Qual-

ification

Tested

Appeals Received 2010 to Feb. 2013

Means /Medical Qual-

ification Tested

Appeals Received 2010 to Feb. 2013

Means Tested/Medical Quali-

fication Tested Appeals Processing Times 2010 to February 2013

Means Tested/Medical Quali-

fication Tested Appeals Processing Times 2010 to February 2013

Means Tested/Medical Quali-

fication Tested Appeals Processing Times 2010 to February 2013

Means Tested/Medical Qualification Tested Appeals Processing Times 2010 to February 2013

Means Tested/Medical Qualification Tested Appeals Processing Times 2010 to February 2013

Means Tested/

Medical Qualification Tested Appeals Processing Times 2010

to February 2013

Means

Tested/

Medical

Qual-

ification

Tested

Appeals Processing

Times

2010 to

February

2013

Means

Tested/

Medical

Qualification

Tested

Appeals

Processing

Times 2010

to

February

2013

-

2010

2011

2012

January/

February

2013

2010

2010

2011

2011

2012

2012

January/

February

2013

January/

February

2013

-

-

-

-

-

Summary Decision

(Weeks)

Oral Hearing

(Weeks)

Summary Decision

(Weeks)

Oral Hearing

(Weeks)

Summary Decision

(Weeks)

Oral Hearing

(Weeks)

Summary Decision

(Weeks)

Oral

Hearing

(Weeks)

Jobseekers Allowance –

Payments Appeals

5,503

3,399

3,049

441

23.6

43.0

23.8

47.9

24.4

34.4

21.3

30.0

Jobseekers Allowance –

Means Appeals

4,050

3,465

3,240

532

22.2

46.9

18.0

54.8

22.8

38.2

21.8

34.2

Jobseekers Allowance –

Farm / Fish Assist

244

220

271

41

23.2

50.7

20.9

57.9

23.4

44.9

22.5

34.2

Jobseekers Allowance –

Pre-retirement Allowance

2

1

0

0

-

-

-

-

54.6

-

-

-

One-Parent Family Payment

1,105

1,054

938

96

30.2

49.4

24.3

57.5

29.4

44.6

36.0

42.8

State Pension Non-Contributory

356

317

231

47

26.5

49.9

20.6

54.6

27.7

51.1

36.0

41.1

Widow, Widower's  or

Surviving Civil Partner’s

Non-Contributory Pension

12

29

39

5

31.9

54.6

18.1

53.1

30.9

39.1

25.5

41.4

Guardian’s Payment

(Non-Contributory)

6

13

14

1

24.3

42.2

23.9

59.0

32.0

58.8

-

45.5

Blind Person’s Pension

14

21

27

3

19.8

39.4

20.4

69.8

24.4

34.7

30.6

-

Table C

Scheme

Means /Medical Qualification Tested Appeals Received 2010 to Feb. 2013

Means /Medical Qualification Tested Appeals Received 2010 to Feb. 2013

Means /Medical Qualification Tested Appeals Received 2010 to Feb. 2013

Means /Medical Qualification Tested Appeals Received 2010 to Feb. 2013

Means Tested/Medical Qualification Tested Appeals Processing Times 2010 to February 2013

Means Tested/Medical Qualification Tested Appeals Processing Times 2010 to February 2013

Means Tested/Medical Qualification Tested Appeals Processing Times 2010 to February 2013

Means Tested/Medical Qualification Tested Appeals Processing Times 2010 to February 2013

Means Tested/Medical Qualification Tested Appeals Processing Times 2010 to February 2013

Means Tested/Medical Qualification Tested Appeals Processing Times 2010 to February 2013

Means Tested/Medical Qualification Tested Appeals Processing Times 2010 to February 2013

Means Tested/Medical Qualification Tested Appeals Processing Times 2010 to February 2013

-

2010

2011

2012

January/

February 2013

2010

2010

2011

2011

2012

2012

January/

February 2013

January/

February 2013

-

-

-

-

-

Summary

Decision

(Weeks)

Oral Hearing

(Weeks)

Summary Decision

(Weeks)

Oral Hearing

(Weeks)

Summary Decision

(Weeks)

Oral Hearing

(Weeks)

Summary Decision

(Weeks)

Oral Hearing

(Weeks)

Domiciliary Care Allowance

1,858

2,401

2,186

170

26.8

49.1

25.4

55.8

32.5

41.4

33.2

41.7

Supplementary Welfare Allowance

1,020

3,129

5,445

862

6.9

14.8

6.3

17.6

17.6

22.9

16.7

30.6

Family Income Supplement

227

258

301

47

21.4

29.0

19.9

31.8

22.8

31.2

28.2

53.1

Deserted Wives Allowance

0

4

1

0

-

-

-

-

24.5

39.5

-

-

Carer's Allowance

3,025

2,199

2,676

690

26.9

47.3

31.3

57.9

33.5

42.5

31.3

41.5

Carer's Benefit

182

160

183

24

21.6

44.2

21.8

59.4

27.3

35.3

27.1

27.8

Disability Allowance

4,840

5,472

6,223

929

30.8

51.1

27.4

55.6

34.2

40.6

37.8

43.4

Disablement Pension

342

263

409

63

27.4

51.9

48.0

59.7

35.7

46.0

39.7

41.0

Incapacity Supplement

15

6

21

1

-

30.7

-

48.3

14.2

48.8

-

66.8

Invalidity Pension

1,024

2,285

4,765

754

40.9

59.7

36.4

58.9

38.8

48.7

36.2

47.1

Illness Benefit

5,471

3,657

2,647

370

39.2

56.4

38.2

59.8

41.9

50.3

42.7

52.4

Partial Capacity Benefit

-

-

67

14

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Table D

Scheme

Means /Medical Qualification Tested Appeals Received 2010 to Feb. 2013

Means /Medical Qualification Tested Appeals Received 2010 to Feb. 2013

Means /Medical Qualification Tested Appeals Received 2010 to Feb. 2013

Means /Medical Qualification Tested Appeals Received 2010 to Feb. 2013

Means Tested/

Medical Qualification Tested Appeals Processing Times 2010 to February 2013

Means Tested/

Medical Qualification Tested Appeals Processing Times 2010 to February 2013

Means Tested/

Medical Qualification Tested Appeals Processing Times 2010 to February 2013

Means Tested/

Medical Qualification Tested Appeals Processing Times 2010 to February 2013

Means Tested/

Medical Qualification Tested Appeals Processing Times 2010 to February 2013

Means Tested/

Medical Qualification Tested Appeals Processing Times 2010 to February 2013

Means Tested/

Medical Qualification Tested Appeals Processing Times 2010 to February 2013

Means Tested/

Medical Qualification Tested Appeals Processing Times 2010 to February 2013

-

2010

2011

2012

January/

February 2013

2010

2010

2011

2011

2012

2012

January/

February 2013

January/

February 2013

-

-

-

-

-

Summary Decision

(Weeks)

Oral Hearing

(Weeks)

Summary Decision

(Weeks)

Oral Hearing

(Weeks)

Summary Decision

(Weeks)

Oral Hearing

(Weeks)

Summary Decision

(Weeks)

Oral Hearing

(Weeks)

Occupational Injuries Benefits

23

16

13

3

55.7

53.8

30.7

54.8

19.5

66.9

39.9

69.2

Occupational Injuries Benefits Medical

21

5

6

1

32.5

67.9

77.8

65.0

78.7

87.4

N/a

N/a

Respite Care Grant

162

303

278

59

30.5

49.1

23.4

60.8

28.5

37.3

29.8

41.1

Treatment Benefit

8

3

3

0

21.9

57.8

28.8

-

19.0

-

32.0

-

Job Assist Scheme Eligibility

Questions (300)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

300. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of schemes available to her Department to facilitate back to work including self-employment in each of the past four years to date; the extent of success under each heading to date; her future proposals in respect of recently announced schemes in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11625/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

Detail in respect of all schemes operated by my Department to support unemployed people back to work or to self-employment, training and education is set out in the recently published review of employment support schemes examines a range of programmes. This publication is available on the Department’s website on www.welfare.ie. This review is focused primarily on assessing the contribution certain programmes can make to the Department of Social Protection’s activation policy stance, which aims to ensure engagement with customers of working age, who are in receipt of specified social welfare payments/benefits, in order to support them and their families in progressing into employment and/or other appropriate progression. Details on expenditure and other information relating to the schemes is set out in the Review. Expenditure on certain schemes has significantly increased in the past six years, such as Back to Education Allowance (BTEA) which has increased almost three fold in that time.

Job Creation

Questions (301)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

301. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the extent to which the skills available from personnel on the live register are likely to be co-ordinated and utilised in the context of unemployment release or employment generating schemes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11626/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

As the Deputy will be aware, the ‘Pathways to Work’ policy commits to the provision of more regular and on-going engagement and greater targeting of activation places and job opportunities for those who are unemployed. It also aims to increase engagement and incentivise employers to provide more jobs for people who are unemployed. One of the most significant elements of the Pathways to Work approach is the profiling of the Department’s clients to inform the approach taken to activation, and in particular to target those who are most likely to become long-term unemployed and to provide appropriate interventions at the earliest possible stage. Profiling of new claimants is now operational in all DSP offices; e.g. 53,800 new claimants were profiled to the end of 2012.

Further information about the Department’s clients is captured in follow up one-to-one meetings and in group engagement sessions with the Department. All of the information gathered about a client can be used to connect a client of the Department to the activation measures that will best suit their circumstances, including access to one of the Department’s schemes or assistance in getting a job.

The Department is also committed to increasing and enhancing its direct engagement with employers at local level and as part of the development of Intreo. A dedicated Employer Engagement Unit has been established and an Employer Engagement Manager is available in each region to support and advise employers at each stage of the employment process including the advertisement of opportunities and sourcing potential candidates from the Live Register. During Autumn 2012, a series of employer briefings were held nationwide to provide employers with practical advice and assistance on the full range of employment and financial supports available from the Department. Partly arising from feedback received at these briefings, the Department has developed a new recruitment incentive to encourage employers to recruit employees from the live register. This new incentive “Jobs Plus” was announced as part of the Action Plan for Jobs and will be launched for availability in July 2013.

Rent Supplement Scheme Administration

Questions (302)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

302. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if, in view of the record breaking number of applicants currently on local authority housing waiting lists, the rent support for whom is the responsibility of her Department in lieu of local authority housing, the extent to which she is aware of the substantial variation in rents charged for privately rented housing accommodation throughout the country; the extent to which the currently applied ceiling in respect of which her Department is prepared to offer rent support being substantially short of what enables applicants to source accommodation; if she will urgently review the issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11627/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The purpose of the rent supplement scheme is to provide short-term income support to eligible people living in private rented accommodation whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source. The overall aim is to provide short term assistance, and not to act as an alternative to the other social housing schemes operated by the Exchequer. There are approximately 87,000 recipients of rent supplement for which the Government has provided over €403 million in 2013.

It is essential that State support for rents are kept under review and do not distort the wider rental market in a way that could increase rent prices for others, such as low paid workers and students. Approximately 48,700 rent supplement claims were awarded during 2012, showing that accommodation can be secured within the current limits. Department officials dealing with rent supplement tenants continue to ensure that their accommodation needs are met. The Department will continue to monitor rent levels throughout the country. The next review of rent limits will be undertaken before June 2013 and any changes to the existing limits will be considered as part of this review.

The Government has two initiatives to deal with long term reliance on rent supplement, the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS) which has been in operation since 2005 and the new Housing Assistance Payment which will be piloted later this year. These initiatives will reduce the numbers of persons who are in receipt of long term rent supplement and will return the rent supplement scheme to its original purpose, that of a short term income support for those who have become temporarily unemployed. Under the RAS, at the end of January 2013, local authorities have transferred approximately 43,500 households from rent supplement to local authority sponsored housing solutions.

Rent Supplement Scheme Application Numbers

Questions (303)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

303. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the total number of applicants currently in receipt of rent support and mortgage interest relief in each of the past four years to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11628/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

There are currently approximately 87,000 recipients in receipt of rent supplement and over 14,000 in receipt of mortgage interest supplement for which the Government has provided over €445 million in 2013. I set out below a tabular statement showing the number of recipients of rent supplement and mortgage interest supplement from 2009 to date.

Rent Supplement and Mortgage Interest Supplement Recipients from 2009

Year

Rent Supplement -Number of Recipients

Mortgage Interest Supplement – Number of Recipients

2009

93,030

15,101

2010

97,260

17,974

2011

96,803

18,988

2012

87,684

14,597

2013

86,870

14,127

Social Welfare Overpayments

Questions (304)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

304. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the steps she continues to take to ensure against the occurrence of overpayments which result in recovery and consequent hardship with particular reference to cases where the overpayment was not as a result of an oversight or negligence on the part of the applicant; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11629/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

Ensuring that the right person is paid the right amount of money at the right time is an integral part of the day-to-day work of the Department. It is the Department’s policy that every effort is made to prevent overpayments but, where they occur, they should be regarded as a debt to the Exchequer and every effort must be made to recover the amounts through all available means. Those clients who are aware that they are being - or have been - overpaid by my Department should contact their local social welfare office immediately. An overpayment recovery plan, acceptable both to the customer and to the Department, will then be agreed. The general approach is that the recovery amount proposed will be the maximum repayment that the debtor can afford in order to recover the overpayment as quickly as possible.

My Department is fully committed to recovering 100% of overpayments. Debt holders should be aware that a departmental debt will remain on their records until fully recovered and will result in a reduction of all future entitlements up to and including state pension. Following the death of a customer who owes a debt, the Department will have a claim on any estate remaining.

In the context of the Fraud Initiative 2011 – 2013, the Department is reviewing its overall approach to debt recovery. Effective debt recovery is seen as an integral part of the deterrent to fraudulent claiming. In this regard, section 13 of the Social Welfare Act, 2012, allows for a deduction of up to 15% from a person’s weekly personal rate to be deducted for the purposes of recovering an overpayment. It is not the Department’s intention to make deductions that are likely to visit hardship on beneficiaries. The new provisions preserve a minimum entitlement of up to 85% of a beneficiary’s personal payment in all cases of overpayment, leaving increases for dependants intact. It is envisaged that this measure, along with a range of other options that are currently being considered by the Department, will serve to minimise overpayments in the future, as well as increasing the rate of recoveries where overpayments arise.

Community Employment Schemes Places

Question No. 306 answered with Question No. 294.

Questions (305)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

305. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the extent she expects to continue to be in a position to provide the necessary resources to retain the maximum number of places on CE or related schemes throughout County Kildare having particular regard to the ongoing success of the programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11630/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The Department is continuing its commitment to getting people back to work as set out in the Programme for Government and the Pathways to Work documents. Following my announcement at budget time, the number of Community Employment and Tús programmes are being expanded in 2013 by 2,000 and 2,500 places respectively on a national basis and it is likely schemes in Kildare will apply for some of those additional places. These places will be filled throughout 2013.

Question No. 306 answered with Question No. 294.

Youth Unemployment Measures

Questions (307)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

307. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the extent to which she expects to be in a position to address the employment issue of the long-term youth unemployed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11632/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

Young people, typically, suffer disproportionately from job losses in recessions as they tend to have entered employment more recently, are more likely to hold temporary contracts and to be employed in cyclically sensitive industries than older workers. There were 68,000 young unemployed, on average, in 2012, made up of 18,500 aged 15-19 and 49,500 aged 20-24. Overall, the under-25 age group had an unemployment rate of 30% (40% for 15-19 year-olds and 28% for 20-24 year-olds). This compares to an unemployment rate of 13.5% for prime age workers (ages 25–54). Of particular concern is the continued increase in the share of youth unemployed who are out of work for more than one year. They now account for two out of five all youth unemployed. In this context, it is a welcome development that the official labour market figures published by the CSO last week indicated that the number of young unemployed at the end of 2012, at 59,000, showed a reduction of almost 9,000 on the same time a year earlier. It is to be hoped that this is the beginning of a sustained downward movement in youth unemployment as the economy recovers.

The Government’s primary strategy to tackle youth unemployment is to create the environment for a strong economic recovery by promoting competitiveness and productivity. Economic recovery will underpin jobs growth. Past experience suggests that youth unemployment, which tends to rise relatively rapidly in a downturn, can be expected to fall relatively rapidly during the recovery.

In addition to promoting economic recovery, the Government recognises the need for interim measures to support the young unemployed and keep young jobseekers close to the labour market. There are five main approaches being taken to tackle youth unemployment: education, training, job search assistance/guidance, work experience, and encouraging job creation. These actions range across a number of Departments and Agencies.

Looking specifically at my Department, the Back to Education Allowance scheme run by my Department provides income maintenance for unemployed people returning to further or higher education. Over 6,500 young people participated in the BTEA in the last academic year. The qualifying period for BTEA is 3 months on the live register for second-level courses and 9 months on the live register for third-level courses.

In terms of job-search assistance, some 25,500 young people registered with Employment Services in 2012, representing 36% of all registrants. Registering with Employment Services gives job-seekers access to guidance interviews, job search assistance, and training courses, as well as self-service job-seeking options.

Under the National Employment Action Plan (EAP) persons between the ages of 18 and 65 years who are approaching 3 months on the Live Register are identified by the Department of Social Protection and referred to Employment Services for interview with the aim of assisting them to enter/re-enter the labour market. In 2012, there were some 33,000 referrals of under 25s to the EAP, affecting approximately 26,000 individual jobseekers (those who do not attend initially are referred again). Of those referred, 68% of clients had signed off the Live Register by the end of the year.

The Pathways to Work initiative has specific targets for increasing the number of people who are long-term unemployed moving into employment and reducing the average length of time spent on the Live Register. As two out of five young unemployed are long-term unemployed, these targets are pertinent to young people.

There are a number of schemes/programmes available that are focussed on work experience. The most relevant for young people are JobBridge (the National Internship Scheme), and its predecessor the Work Placement Programme. Over 1,500 young people are currently participating on these schemes. The total number of placements of young people on JobBridge during 2012 was 2,700.

Long-term unemployed youth will also benefit from the JobsPlus initiative which is designed to encourage employers to recruit long-term unemployed people. Under this scheme the State will pay €1 of every €4 it costs the employer to recruit a person off the Live Register. This new incentive will replace the Revenue Job Assist and the Employer PRSI Incentive schemes.

In the December Budget, funding was secured for an additional 10,000 places this year across a range of programmes -- including JobBridge, TÚS and Community Employment. About a quarter of these places are expected to be taken up by unemployed young people.

Finally the European Commission has proposed a Council Recommendation on a European-wide approach to a “youth guarantee”. The Council Recommendation -- which received political agreement from EU employment ministers last week -- recommends that each Member State should ensure that young people receive a quality offer of employment or of continued education, an apprenticeship or traineeship within four months of becoming unemployed. The Recommendation will also need to be adopted formally by the Council at a later stage in Ireland's Presidency -- most likely in May.

While Member States are encouraged to implement the Recommendation as soon as possible, it is recognised that implementation will need to be more gradual in countries with higher levels of youth unemployment and particularly severe budgetary problems. In advance of the anticipated adoption of the Recommendation, the government will review the current range of youth employment and training policies in Ireland to assess what measures will need to be taken to commence the gradual implementation of the guarantee. This will include the identification of what would be the appropriate timescale for implementation in Ireland's current employment and budgetary circumstances.

Funding for measures needed to implement the guarantee – as is the case with existing programmes – will come largely from countries' own budgetary resources, supplemented by EU funding such as the European Social Fund (ESF) and the Youth Employment Initiative which has been included in the Multiannual Financial Framework for the EU agreed recently by the Council, and will provide €6 billion for youth employment measures across the 27 Member States over the seven-year period 2014-2020.

Disability Allowance Application Numbers

Questions (308)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

308. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will indicate the total number of applications for disability allowance currently on hand, the likely timescale within which it is expected that a decision will be made; the degree if any to which she can speed up the processing of such cases; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11633/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

There are approximately 6,800 applications for disability allowance awaiting decision of which some 5,000 are new applications. The average number of weeks to award a disability allowance application is currently approximately 17 weeks. A recent analysis of the applications pending decision indicated that approximately 60% of them had been waiting for a decision for 12 weeks or fewer. Great improvements in the processing of these claims has already taken place over the past few months.

With regard to the processing of disability allowance claims generally, following completion of a major service delivery modernisation project for the scheme, a plan is being put in place to ensure adequate capacity to deal with day-to-day intake of new claims along with a programme to eliminate the backlog. Temporary staff has been assigned to the disability allowance area to assist in reducing the backlog. The target is to have the backlog of disability allowance applications actioned by the end of quarter 2 2013.

Invalidity Pension Application Numbers

Questions (309)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

309. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will indicate the total number of applications for invalidity pension currently on hand; the likely timescale within which it is expected that a decision will be made; the degree, if any, to which she can speed up the processing of such cases; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11634/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

As at the end of February 2013 there are 2,593 Invalidity Pension (IP) claims registered, actioned and awaiting information to finalise a decision. This includes approximately 800 cases which are being investigated under EU regulations or bi-lateral agreements. These cases are more complex and take longer to decide. A targeted plan was put in place to clear the backlog, which is steadily decreasing - from 7,007 at end May 2012 to 4,561 at end of October 2012 and to 2,593 at the end of February 2013. Approximately 220 new invalidity pension claims are received in the Department each week. These are examined on receipt and a decision is completed where all information is available. If a medical assessment and/or further information is required, it is requested without delay. Once all the necessary information is received, the claim is processed. Where a claim is disallowed and the customer requests a review of the decision or appeals the decision to the Social Welfare Appeals Office, this requires an additional amount of time to finalise.

Domiciliary Care Allowance Application Numbers

Questions (310)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

310. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will indicate the total number of applications for domiciliary care allowance currently on hand; the likely timescale within which it is expected that a decision will be made; the degree, if any, to which she can speed up the processing of such cases; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11635/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

There are currently 706 new domiciliary care allowance (DCA) applications awaiting decision. This equates to approximately 7 weeks intake of applications. New applications for DCA are being decided within the Department’s 8 week processing target for this scheme.

Departmental Expenditure

Questions (311)

Jim Daly

Question:

311. Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection the total social welfare bill for the years 2007-2012 inclusive in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11647/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The expenditure of the Department over the period 2007 to 2012, inclusive, is contained in a table:

-

2007 Outturn

2008 Outturn

2009 Outturn

2010 Outturn

2011 Outturn

2012 Provisional Outturn

-

€000

€000

€000

€000

€000

€000

TOTAL DSP EXPENDITURE ON SCHEMES, SERVICES & ADMINISTRATION

15,450,987

17,764,724

20,480,777

20,799,501

20,921,204

20,727,631

The range of functions carried out by the Department increased in 2010 with the transfer of responsibility for the Rural Social Scheme and Community Services programme from the former Department of Community Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. The scope of functions increased further from 2011 with the transfer of responsibility for the Community Employment Programmes and Employment Services formerly managed by FÁS.