Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Questions (365)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

365. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Social Protection if he will set out in tabular form for 2011 and 2012 and analysed by social protection headings, the amounts paid by her Department to citizens whilst they were incarcerated in Irish and foreign prisons. [18576/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

In general a person that is detained in prison is disqualified for payment throughout the period of detention subject to a small number of limited exemptions. In order to ensure that payments do not continue when a person is imprisoned data matching between the Irish Prison Service (IPS) and this Department is undertaken. The Department began in 2005 by obtaining the prison data on a twice yearly basis. Since July 2011, the data is obtained on a weekly basis and is matched against the Department's systems, in accordance with data matching regulations.

Since receiving prison data on a weekly basis, any social welfare claims in payment are stopped as soon as possible after the person is imprisoned. In this manner, overpayments are minimised and the opportunity to continue to receive a payment while in prison is virtually eliminated. If an overpayment has occurred, it is assessed for the period that the person was not entitled to the payment and the recovery of the overpayment is followed up by the Department. The following tables provide details of the number of overpayments raised as a result of a person being in prison. A breakdown of these cases between Irish or foreign prisons is not available.

Year

Number of overpayments raised

Average amount of overpayment

2010

324

€4,500

2011

614

€3,400

2012

Not available

Not available

2010 In Prison OPs by Scheme

Disability Allowance

195

€1,215,749

Jobseekers Allowance

86

€124,566

State Pension Contributory

3

€36,261

Other

40

€92,671

2011 In Prison OPs by Scheme

Disability Allowance

310

€1,443,385

Jobseekers Allowance

235

€289,410

Widow(er)'s Contributory Pension

8

€229,115

The Department is not in a position to publicly comment on overpayments recorded in 2012 as these figures form part of the statutory accounts of the Department and are subject to audit by the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General. The increase in the number of overpayments raised due to imprisonment reflects the fact that the Department is now capturing this information from the IPS in a timely manner and acting on it by raising overpayments in all relevant cases. The opportunity to commit this type of fraud has been virtually eliminated and the chances of being caught and required to repay any monies received has been substantially improved under the new system of weekly data matching with the IPS.