Pension Provisions

Questions (123)

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

123. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will reconsider the position (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20952/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The PRSI contributions are taken into consideration for pension purposes as part of the State Pension.

Farm Assist Scheme Applications

Questions (124)

Denis Naughten

Question:

124. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will outline the instruction circular, if any which has been issued by her Department to officials dealing with reviews/applications under the farm assist scheme in view of the impact of the current fodder crisis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21003/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The farm assist scheme is based on jobseeker’s allowance. It was introduced in 1999 to replace ‘Smallholders Unemployment Assistance’ for low income farmers, without the requirement to be available for and genuinely seeking work. Farm assist recipients retain all the advantages of the jobseeker’s allowance scheme such as retention of secondary benefits and access to activation programmes. Budget changes over the last two years have brought the more beneficial treatment of farm assist claimants relevant to the treatment of other self-employed persons who would be claiming jobseeker’s allowance to an end. This ensures greater consistency in the treatment of self-employed person in both farm assist and jobseeker’s allowance. The headline rates of farm assist are being maintained so farm families with the lowest income will be least affected by these changes. Farm assist remains a flexible payment and any farmer experiencing lower levels of income or cash-flow issues, due for example to bad weather, can ask his local social welfare office to review the level of means applying to his claim. In this context no circular has issued in relation to current reviews or applications.

It may also be noted that the assessment of means for the purpose of qualifying for farm assist is designed to reflect the actual net income. It also looks at gross income, less any expenses necessarily incurred, from farming. Income and expenditure figures for the preceding year are generally used as an indicator of the expected position in the following year. However, account is taken of any exceptional circumstances so as to ensure that the assessment accurately reflects the current situation.

Social Welfare Benefits Waiting Times

Questions (125)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

125. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will provide in tabular form the current waiting times per social welfare payment for the processing of applications by her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21013/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The average number of weeks to award claims from the date of application is the main statistic collated by my Department to measure waiting times for the processing of applications for Social Welfare payments. I have attached for the Deputy’s information a tabular statement detailing the average number of weeks to award claims, where available, for schemes under the auspices of my Department for claims processed in March 2013. There have been significant reductions in backlogs in the past year for family income supplement, carer’s allowance, disability allowance and invalidity pension which will feed into processing times for these schemes in the coming months.

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Average Time to awards claims for Social Welfare Payments Claims processed in March 2013

Scheme

Average Number of Weeks to Award Claim

Jobseekers Benefit

2

Jobseekers Allowance

4

One-Parent Family Payment

13

State Pension Contributory (Domestic)

4

State Pension Transition (Domestic)

6

Widow’s, Widower's or Surviving Civil Partner’s Contributory Pension

2

State Pension Non-Contributory

14

Widow’s, Widower's or Surviving Civil Partner’s Non-Contributory Pension

6

Household Benefits

2

Free Travel

2

Domiciliary Care Allowance

7

Supplementary Welfare Allowance

1

Bereavement Grant - Sligo

1

Child Benefit (Domestic & Formerly Resident Abroad)

3

Child Benefit (EU Regulation)

31

Family Income Supplement (New Claims)

14

Family Income Supplement (Renewals)

11

Carer's Allowance

34

Disability Allowance

23

Invalidity Pension

60

Bereavement Grant - Longford

3

Illness Benefit

1

Social Welfare Appeals Waiting Times

Questions (126)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

126. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will provide in tabular form the current waiting times per social welfare payment for the processing of appeals by her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21014/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The current average processing times for appeals of social welfare payments are set out in the following table.

These processing times are calculated from the registration date of an appeal to the date of its finalisation. They include all activities during this period, including time spent in the Department for comment by the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal put forward by the appellant, and any further investigation, examination or assessment by the Department’s Inspectors and Medical Assessors that is deemed necessary. A considerable period of time is added to the process when an oral hearing is required because of the logistics involved in this process. Generally the vast majority of cases fall within average processing times but extenuating factors, which are often outside of the control of the Social Welfare Appeals Office, can cause greater delays in some cases.

Processing times of all appeal types reduced by 10.3 weeks overall in 2012 with respect to 2011, with time for an oral hearing time down by 13 weeks and the time for summary decision up by 2.7 weeks.

Because of its quasi-judicial nature, the processing of appeals takes time and reflects the fact that, by definition, the appeal process cannot be a quick one.

Table: Appeals processing times by scheme January - March 2013 – Summary and Oral

Scheme

Average processing times (weeks)

Summary Decisions

Average processing

times (weeks)

Oral Hearings

Blind Pension

26.5

-

Carers Allowance

30.7

39.5

Carers Benefit

26.0

29.0

Child Benefit

31.0

47.4

Disability Allowance

37.3

42.7

Illness Benefit

42.1

48.1

Domiciliary Care

31.9

39.2

Deserted Wives Benefit

34.0

38.6

Farm Assist

23.2

31.5

Bereavement Grant

32.8

-

Family Income Supplement

29.4

44.0

Invalidity Pension

34.0

46.5

Liable Relatives

32.8

42.9

One Parent Family Payment

32.7

38.8

Maternity Benefit

30.8

51.4

Partial Capacity Benefit

20.7

-

State Pension (Contributory)

25.6

34.3

State Pension (Non-Cont)

31.9

45.9

State Pension (Transition)

21.7

39.6

Occupational Injury Benefit

39.9

59.4

Disablement Pension

35.5

39.7

Incapacity Supplement

-

42.1

Guardian's Payment (Con)

20.0

36.1

Guardian's Payment (Non-con)

45.5

46.6

Jobseeker's Allowance (Means)

22.0

33.8

Jobseeker's Allowance

21.5

28.5

Jobseeker's Benefit

23.7

31.8

UAUBFC

-

14.2

Respite Care Grant

26.8

32.4

Insurability of Employment

23.1

59.4

Supplementary Welfare Allowance

16.8

28.0

Treatment Benefits

32.0

-

Survivor's Pension (Con)

30.8

40.6

Survivor's Pension (Non-Con)

37.5

41.4

Widows Parent Grant

34.2

-

All Appeals

28.2

38.6

Social Welfare Appeals Waiting Times

Questions (127)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

127. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will provide in tabular form the current waiting times per social welfare payment for the processing of reviews by her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21015/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

Where a claim is in payment, reviews can be initiated by the customer where there has been a change in their circumstances, by a relevant official of the Department where it appears warranted, or as part of the on-going control of schemes to ensure that the conditions of the scheme continue to be satisfied.

As qualifying criteria for schemes differ greatly, the nature and type of a claim review can also take many different forms and may include, for instance, a medical assessment, a review of means or a general review of the claim by a deciding officer.

Reviews may necessitate some or all of the following: a home visit by a social welfare inspector, attendance for a medical examination, other attendance at an office of the Department or a request to the customer for further documentation.

In view of the above it is not possible to provide the detailed information requested by the Deputy. However, if he wishes to furnish more detail as to a specific scheme or review I would be happy to respond.

Disability Allowance Applications Waiting Times

Questions (128)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

128. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Social Protection if her Department is currently reviewing disability applications from July 2012; the reasons for the backlog; the attempts made by her Department to clear this backlog; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21016/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The earliest new applications for disability allowance which are awaiting action by a deciding officer was received in August 2012. Those applications have, however, been medically assessed at this point.

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.

The general practice is that claims are decided in date of receipt order. However in some instances priority is given to certain claims, for example, claims received from 16 year olds who parents/guardians had been in receipt of domiciliary care allowance or in cases where claimants are very ill.

The processing time for individual claims can vary depending on the complexity of the claimant’s circumstances and the information they provide in support. In many cases, further information is required in order to make a decision for example a medical assessment, information from the claimant or applicant themselves or a report from a social welfare inspector.

Following the completion of a major service delivery modernisation programme disability allowance has recently untaken a business process improvement initiative aimed at eliminating the backlog and improving customer service. A plan has recently been put in place to ensure that new claims being received are dealt with promptly and to eliminate the current backlog. Additional temporary staff is being assigned to the disability allowance area to ensure that the backlog is eliminated as soon as possible. The target is to have the current backlog of disability allowance applications actioned by the end of quarter 2 2013.

Social Wefare Appeals Process

Questions (129)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

129. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Social Protection if it is the policy of her Department that children are prohibited from accompanying their parents to an oral hearing for a Department care allowance application appeal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21017/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

While there is no policy prohibiting children from attending an oral appeal hearing, Article 18 of the Social Welfare (Appeals) Regulations S.I. No. 108 of 1998 provides that the procedure at hearing is a matter for the Appeals Officer to determine.

European Court of Justice Rulings

Questions (130)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

130. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social Protection the action she will take in view of the recent ruling in favour of former Waterford Crystal pension members; her plans to introduce new legislation in relation to the protection of workers pensions when a solvent company ignores its defined benefit pension liabilities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21050/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The ruling by the European Court of Justice was in response to a reference by the High Court seeking clarification of the interpretation of European law emanating from EU Directive 2008/94EC on the protection of employees in the event of the insolvency of their employer.

The application of this Directive relates to situations of a double insolvency, that is where both the pension scheme and the employer are insolvent.

Following the ECJ ruling, the matter will now revert to the High Court for consideration. Given this matter remains before the courts it would not be appropriate that I comment further on any specific aspects of the case at this time.

Jobseeker's Allowance Applications

Questions (131)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

131. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the extent to which reference has been made to liabilities such as arrears of mortgage, arrears of income tax and lack of income have been taken into account in the determination of means in respect of jobseeker's allowance in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; if she will arrange for review of the decision andor appeal with oral hearing; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21059/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The person concerned is in receipt of a jobseeker’s allowance payment. The means assessment is subject to the legislative provisions of that scheme. It is open to the person concerned to appeal the decision and request an oral hearing to the Social Welfare Appeals Office. If there are any changes in his circumstances he can request a review of his means at his local office.