Child Benefit Eligibility

Questions (358)

Dara Calleary

Question:

358. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will consider reinstating the child benefit payment to all full-time students up to 21 years of age; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30119/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

Child benefit is a universal payment that assists parents with the cost of raising children and it contributes towards alleviating child poverty. The estimated expenditure on child benefit in 2013 is around €1.9 billion and it is currently paid to around 613,000 families in respect of some 1.17 million children. The Government is conscious that child benefit, as a universal payment, can be an important source of income for all families, especially during a time of recession and high unemployment.

Child benefit is paid monthly in respect of all children up to the age of 16 years and in respect of children over 16 years of age up to their 18th birthday who are in full time education or have a disability. The current age limit was set under Budget 2009 when the upper age limit that applied then was reduced from 19 years to 18 years with effect from 2010.

There are currently no plans for extending the upper age limit for child benefit. In any event, any plans to change the upper age limit could only be decided in a budgetary context.

For families on low incomes there are a number of provisions to social welfare schemes which support children in full-time education until the age of 22. These include:

- Qualified child increases to primary social welfare payments in receipt of either:

(a) A long-term social welfare payment, or

(b) A short-term social welfare payment including such payments as jobseeker’s benefit and assistance, illness benefit and supplementary welfare allowance.

- The family income supplement (FIS) scheme to low paid employees with families. This supplement is paid where a family’s weekly income is below a specified amount for the family size, and is calculated at 60% of the difference between the net family income (i.e. gross pay less tax, PRSI, USC, superannuation) and the relevant income limit.

- The back to school clothing and footwear allowance, which provides a one-off payment to eligible families to assist with the extra costs when children start school each autumn.

On a more general level, the report of the Advisory Group on Tax and Social Welfare on family and child income supports makes important recommendations as to how child benefit could be maintained as a universal payment while reforming the current system of child and family income supports through a two-tier payment so as to better target those who need these supports most while minimising work disincentives. Given a range of complex issues involved with this proposal, including fiscal, operational and legal considerations, as well as the implications for reforms in terms of child poverty and employment incentive outcomes, the Government has made no decision at this time on the core recommendations of the report. It is the Government's intention that the report will now contribute to the broader policy debate on this important issue for families and their children.

Illness Benefit Appeals

Questions (359)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

359. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the progress made to date in respect of an appeal for illness benefit in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30126/13]

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 30th May 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.

Disability Allowance Appeals

Question No. 361 withdrawn.

Questions (360)

Finian McGrath

Question:

360. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection if the deciding officers in appeal cases have experience or training in disability issues. [30129/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office is independently responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements. The role and function of the office is to provide and deliver an independent, accessible and fair appeals service in a prompt and courteous manner. Appeals Officers are statutorily appointed by the Minister for Social Protection to act as administrative tribunals and are required to exercise their functions in a quasi-judicial manner.

An Appeals Officer must decide, taking account of all of the evidence presented, including medical evidence, on the impact of a person’s illness/disability; on his/her capability for work; on whether a person is substantially restricted within the meaning of the Social Welfare Acts from taking up full time employment; on whether a person requires full time care and attention; or, in the case of Domiciliary Care Allowance, on whether the child being cared for requires significantly more care than other children of the same age.

Training is provided on an on-going basis to Appeals Officers on a broad range of issues of relevance to their role. In this context, case conferences are held regularly, which allow the salient features of particular cases to be presented and discussed by Appeals Officers. In addition, Appeals Officer conferences, which are convened twice yearly, provide an opportunity to consider broader issues with a view to ensuring consistency in the manner in which appeals are determined.

Question No. 361 withdrawn.

Invalidity Pension Appeals

Questions (362)

Peter Mathews

Question:

362. Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will issue on an appeal for invalidity pension in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 16; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30171/13]

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 3rd April 2013. 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. When these are received, 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.

Social Insurance Rates

Questions (363)

Michael Creed

Question:

363. Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Social Protection if a facility of tracking the switch over of direct employees in the construction sector to C2 operators, if she is satisfied that all C2 operators are compliant with the regulations and that the increased number is not a reflection on the reluctance of employers to pay the appropriate PRSI contributions for their employees; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30220/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The class of PRSI payable by an individual is determined by the terms and conditions of the employment in which they are engaged. Generally an individual is classified for PRSI purposes as either an employee or self-employed. When determining whether an individual is employed or self-employed, consideration is given to the Code of Practice for Determining the Employment or Self-employment Status of Individuals.

The correct treatment of individuals for tax and PRSI purposes, particularly in the construction industry, is an issue which is closely monitored by officials from both the Office of the Revenue Commissioners and my Department.

In conjunction with Revenue, my Department undertakes site visits and inspections in the construction sector through assurance checks and outdoor operations, including inspections and direct investigations. In this regard Joint Investigation Units (JIUs) have been established between my Department and Revenue. These units play a key role in targeting particular types of activity and workers in the employed sectors, including construction. Work carried out by the JIUs includes monitoring and compliance activity associated with sectors where tax compliance and social welfare fraud and abuse are common, but also to ensure that persons are appropriately classified in respect of PRSI.

Social Insurance Rates

Questions (364)

Michael Creed

Question:

364. Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Social Protection the regulations governing payment of voluntary PRSI contributions post self-employment where self-employment has terminated due to illness or disability; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30223/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

Persons who cease to be covered by compulsory social insurance, including those who were previously self-employed, may opt to protect their existing long-term social insurance pension entitlements by becoming insured on a voluntary basis and paying voluntary contributions. Payment of voluntary contributions does not provide social insurance cover for short term benefits such as illness benefit.

Persons who wish to become a voluntary contributor must satisfy certain contribution conditions and must apply to become a voluntary contributor within 12 months after the end of the contribution year in which they were last compulsorily insured.

Those who were previously self-employed where that self-employment has terminated due to illness or disability may access social welfare support by establishing entitlement to assistance-based payments such as disability allowance, subject to satisfying the qualifying conditions for the scheme. In general, their means will take account of the level of earnings in the past 12 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 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 Initiatives

Questions (365)

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

365. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans to allow jobseekers selected and approved to take part in a Tús programme to work within a school environment where assistance could be offered especially in sports coaching; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30278/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

Tús is a community work placement initiative aimed at providing up to 7,500 short-term, quality work opportunities for those who are unemployed for more than a year. The initiative is being delivered through the network of local development companies and Údarás na Gaeltachta in Gaeltacht areas – referred to as Implementing Bodies (IBs). Implementing Bodies play the lead role in identifying organisations to provide placement opportunities.

In general, all types of work delivered by and in the community and voluntary sectors can be considered eligible, including assistance with recreational opportunities for adults/young people including coaching and training, once it does not displace existing employment or other public or private sector employment. Organisations wishing to offer work placements or want certain works to be undertaken can contact the local development company in the county in which they are situated setting out the work to be undertaken, the skills required and the length of time it is anticipated to execute the works. The local development company is well placed to make an assessment of eligibility and work quality within the rules and conditions governing the operation of Tús.

Jobseeker's Benefit Eligibility

Questions (366)

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

366. Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Social Protection if she is considering waiving the requirement to be available to work in respect of jobseeker's benefit for persons who are obliged to retire at the age of 65 but who are not entitled to the State pension until the age of 66; if she is considering increasing the payment; and if she is considering an alternative method of payment (details supplied). [30283/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The Social Welfare and Pensions Act, 2011 provides that state pension age will be increased gradually to 68 years. This will begin in 2014 with the abolition of the state pension (transition) thereby standardising State pension age for all at 66 years. The State pension age will be further increased to 67 years in 2021 and to 68 years in 2028. These changes apply to all fully insured employees.

The main social welfare payment available to those who leave employment before pension age is jobseeker’s benefit. It is a fundamental condition of this scheme that a recipient must be available for and genuinely seeking full-time work. Persons who qualify for a jobseeker’s benefit who are aged between 65 and 66 years are generally entitled to receive payment up to the date on which they reach pensionable age (66 years).

Jobseeker’s benefit is paid weekly in arrears generally by way of Postal Draft collected in a post office. Any changes to rates of jobseeker’s benefit would be for Government to consider in a budgetary context.

It should be noted that until the 1970s, the standard age for receipt of State pension was 70 years of age. Increasing longevity and significant improvements in health status mean that people can work longer to support themselves in retirement. Raising State pension age and the abolition of the State pension (transition) is a necessary step in ensuring the sustainability of pensions into the future. The recently published OECD report on the Review of the Irish Pension System confirms that reforms are necessary if we are to continue to put pension provision on a sustainable footing given the changes in demographics, the deficit in the Social Insurance Fund, and the difficult fiscal situation.

Job Initiatives

Questions (367, 376)

Dara Calleary

Question:

367. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason that participants on JobBridge employed by a school in a non-educational capacity, in this specific case in a caretaker role, must give up their placement on 30 June despite there being a continuing role for them in the summer, and are subsequently deemed ineligible for another JobBridge placement because the placement was cut short; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30328/13]

View answer

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

376. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social Protection if it is the case that interns on the JobBridge scheme at Cavan Institute, County Cavan, have been informed that they will be unable to work during the months of July and August; the reason for same; if she will immediately reverse the decision; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30630/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 367 and 376 together.

The Department takes the view that internships in the Education Sector are a special case where interns, who under the terms of the scheme are entitled to receive a high quality real workplace experience, are at risk of missing out on that high quality internship experience during academic holidays. I accept that there may be some circumstances where an education sector internship experience would not be affected by the academic holidays.

However, it would not be feasible to review and examine all placements advertised within the education sector on a case by case basis. Therefore, a clear and transparent operational decision was made that all such placements must coincide with the academic year. Deadlines have been introduced, before which and after which education sector internships will not be approved.

These deadlines have been clearly advertised on the home page of the JobBridge website since August 2012. All affected Host Organisations have been written to by the Department and have been requested to further remind their interns of the closing date for these internships.

The Department works with stakeholders to make JobBridge as easy to administer as possible but the first concern has to be for interns, to ensure that they are not idle or deprived of the high quality real workplace internship experience that they deserve and that is in the interests of the taxpayer as well as the jobseeker in maximizing their future employment opportunities.

The Department will however review the position in respect of the internships referred to by the Deputy.

Topical Issue Debate

Questions (368)

Micheál Martin

Question:

368. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of Dáil Topical Issue debates submitted to her Department following selection by the Ceann Comhairle since March 2011; the number of topical issues taken directly by her; the number of topical issues taken by a junior Minister in her Department; the number of issues taken by a Minister not from her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30347/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

Since March 2011 to date, approximately 1,000 Topical Debates were selected for answer by the Ceann Comhairle across all Government Departments. 358 Topical Debates have been tabled to this Department. Of those Topical Debates, 80 were selected for answer by the Ceann Comhairle and I took 22 debates in the Dáil.

There is no Minister of State at the Department of Social Protection. As a result, when I am not in a position to take a Topical Debate in the Dáil, Ministers from other Departments do so on my behalf.

Disability Allowance Appeals

Questions (369)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

369. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Social Protection her views on whether it is appropriate that a person (details supplied) in County Donegal whose long-term disability payment was stopped by her Department in September 2012 and subsequently appealed is still awaiting a decision on their case; when the person is likely to receive a decision; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30379/13]

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 16th May 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.

Invalidity Pension Applications

Question No. 371 withdrawn.

Questions (370)

Patrick Nulty

Question:

370. Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Social Protection if an application for invalidity pension will be expedited in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; the reason for the delay; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30472/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

Invalidity Pension is a payment for people who are permanently incapable of work because of illness or incapacity and who satisfy the contribution conditions. The person in question had their case examined by a medical assessor of the department who expressed the opinion that they were not permanently incapable of work. Accordingly, their Invalidity Pension application was refused. They were notified of this decision on 5th June 2013 and of their right to seek a review of this decision or to lodge an appeal with the social welfare appeals office.

Question No. 371 withdrawn.

Ministerial Transport

Questions (372)

Niall Collins

Question:

372. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Social Protection the total cost of Ministerial transport in her Department in 2010, 2011, 2012 and to date 2013; the number of drivers employed in each year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30559/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

On taking office, this Government reformed the transport arrangement for Ministers which has radically reduced the cost of travel. The Government decision involved confining the use of State cars from 1 May 2011 to the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence. As a result, the average cost of providing transport has been reduced by 65% - from an average cost of €280,000 per minister in 2010 to a current annual estimate of €100,000 per annum.

The previous practice whereby all Ministers were provided with State cars and Garda drivers fell within the remit of the Department of Justice and in this regard details of the costs involved in respect of 2010 and the first four months of 2011 would be a matter for my colleague the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence.

The total cost of ministerial transport in my Department for 2011, 2012 and 2013 is outlined in the following table.

Year

Total Cost

2011

€32,790.95

2012

€70,514.69

2013 (to date)

€38,976.00

Total

€142,281.64

The cost includes mileage for the use of my own car for official business and remuneration for two civilian drivers.

Departmental Expenditure

Questions (373)

Niall Collins

Question:

373. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Social Protection the total costs of photography incurred by her Department in 2011, 2012 and to date 2013 in tabular form per event. [30575/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The information requested by Deputy Collins is provided in the following table, together with details for the years 2009 and 2010.

Date

Event

Cost €

30.01.2009

Opening of new Social Welfare Office in Ballymun

858.98

29.10.2009

Bilateral Social Security Agreement with Japan

524.58

30.10.2009

Opening of Social Welfare Office in Kings Inn’s Street, Dublin

502.40

2009 Total

1,885.96

05.02.2010

Irish Programme for EU Year for combatting poverty and social exclusion

780.75

04.03.2010

Provision for new Auto Enrolment Pension Scheme

811.00

23.04.2010

Promotion of EU Year for Combatting Poverty & Social Exclusion

621.34

22.06.2010

Launch of Employer Job PRSI Incentive Scheme

578.98

2010 Total

2,792.07

29.07.2011

Launch of JobBridge

1,035.16

16.08.2011

Departmental Summer School, Maynooth

950.00

07.11.2011

Mortgage Arrears Seminar

254.10

09.11.2011

Social Inclusion Forum

547.50

21.11.2011

Social Inclusion Projects, Smithfield and Camden Street

326.70

2011 Total

3,113.46

Date

Event

Cost €

13.02.2012

Launch of ‘Partial Capacity’ and ‘EmployAbility’

338.25

23.02.2012

Launch of Pathways to Work

536.28

27.04.2012

Opening of Community Campus in Phibblestown

280.44

06.09.2012

Launch of Mortgage Information Helpline

258.30

13.09.2012

Launch of Good Practice Guide for Breakfast Clubs

184.50

17.09.2012

Presentation of Report of the Actuarial Review of the Social Insurance Fund

184.50

15.10.2012

Launch of Intreo, Sligo

300.00

19.10.2012

Employer Briefing in Limerick

233.70

26.10.2012

Employer Briefing in Galway

125.00

01.11.2012

Employer Briefing in Cork

227.00

16.11.2012

Employer Briefing in Dublin

258.30

2012 Total

2,926.27

Date

Event

Cost €

22.03.2013

Launch of Intreo in Tallaght

323.48

16.04.2013

Launch of JobBridge Arts in Killarney

338.25

19.04.2013

Briefing for Employers in Blanchardstown

Launch of Intreo in Blanchardstown

851.25

01.05.2013

Publication of Indecon Report on JobBridge

589.79

02.05.2013

EU Presidency Conference, Leuven

707.25

10.05.2013

Kilkenny Local Office

123.00

2013 Total to date

2,933.02

Departmental Expenditure

Questions (374)

Niall Collins

Question:

374. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Social Protection the details and costs of any newspaper supplements her Department has been involved with in 2011, 2012 and to date in 2013. [30591/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The Department of Social Protection has not been involved with any newspaper supplements during the specified years.

Departmental Expenditure

Question No. 376 answered with Question No. 367.

Questions (375)

John Lyons

Question:

375. Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Social Protection the cases in which her Department covers the cost of the translation of documents from other languages; the amount the practice will cost her Department in 2013 and has cost her Department in the past five years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30612/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

In order to help customers in their dealings with the Department, translation services are provided to and from all languages, on request. This includes the provision of translation services to and from Irish in line with the requirements of the Official Languages Act, 2003.

Overall, translations from more than 50 languages were provided by the Department last year.

The majority of translations funded by the Department, relates to supporting documentation required for processing customer claims such as birth, marriage or death certificates, medical reports and statements relating to customers' circumstances.

To mid June 2013, some €190,000 has been expended on translation services. Expenditure over the previous five years is outlined in the table below.

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

€0.329m

€0.287

€0.350m

€0.384m

€0.336m

Question No. 376 answered with Question No. 367.