Thursday, 30 May 2013

Questions (135)

Finian McGrath


135. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding the back to work allowance and the taxi industry. [26339/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The Back to Work Enterprise Allowance (BTWEA) encourages unemployed people and those receiving other social welfare payments to develop a business while allowing them to retain a reducing proportion of their qualifying social welfare payment, and possibly secondary benefits, over two years -100% of existing social welfare entitlement in the first year and 75% in the second year. In general a person must be 12 months on a qualifying social welfare payment to qualify.

An eligible person wishing to commence a business as a Taxi Driver may apply and will be subject to the eligibility criteria for BTWEA as will any individual who applies for the scheme. A qualifying business must be approved in advance by an Integrated Development Company (IDC) or a Case Officer of the Department. It must be deemed genuine and viable, and not displace an existing business. In assessing viability, cognisance is taken of the demand for, and supply of, the particular product or service at local level.

Detailed breakdown by occupation or the nature of the self-employment of recipients on this scheme is not readily available from records held centrally. While a specific cost benefit analysis has not been completed, the scheme as with all similar activation schemes, are monitored on an on-going basis. A review of employment support schemes including the BTWEA was published by the Department in January 2013. The review process was supplemented and enhanced by a stakeholder forum on all review recommendations which the Department found very useful as it now moves to the implementation phase.

In relation to Action 1 the Department has an extensive legal structure to support the sharing of data for the purpose of controlling the entitlement and payment of benefits. In recent years the National Transport Authority have supplied data to this Department information on active taxi/ hackney licences issued which is used to identify any taxi and hackney licence holders who are in receipt of social welfare payments. Relevant cases are reviewed to determine if they have declared the fact that they are licence holders, and whether they are using the licence or have income from the licence that may impact on their payment. In instances where they are not using the licence efforts are made to determine who is driving the vehicle. The investigations have resulted in a number of social welfare payments being disallowed or suspended. However the vast majority of people were receiving the entitlement due to them.

In addition to enhance information exchange online access has been granted to a number of nominated individuals within DSP which allows data to be viewed via the online National Transport Authority register. The information requested by the Deputy in relation to PRSI class is not currently collated by my Department.