Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Questions (459)

Dara Calleary


459. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Social Protection the average processing time for the processing of a claim for payment of wages to participants on a community employment scheme by a sponsor to her Department; if there are departmental guidelines in place for a target processing time for these claims; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that there are some schemes that have to use their own resources to pay wages owed to participants owing to delays in processing claims; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31817/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The payment of wage grants to Community Employment (CE) Sponsors is done on a 4-week basis (called a cycle). There are 13 cycles in a 52-week CE project year. Community Employment (CE) Sponsors are required to pay the participants (employees) on a weekly basis (current week). At the end of each 4-week cycle, the Sponsor can claim a grant from the Department towards the cost of wages paid over the previous four weeks. Wage grants are therefore paid in arrears and only on receipt of the correctly completed claim forms.

To assist Sponsors with cash flow prior to the start-up date of the CE project, voluntary sector Sponsors can claim an Initial Grant equivalent to eight weeks advance of employee wages. Public Sector Sponsors can claim an advance equivalent to four weeks wages. This once-off advance is intended to ease any cashflow difficulties that may otherwise be encountered in the first weeks of the project and can be used to cover participant wages, Supervisor wages, materials or training expenses. The advance payment will be recouped or "clawed-back" by DSP in instalments over the remainder of the project (Cycles 3 to 12).

After each cycle, the wage claim is sent in the form of an Application for Wages and Supervision (AWS), signed by the Sponsor to the DSP Officer with responsibility for the project. The Officer signs off electronically on the AWS sheet via the Community Service Management System (CSM) and sends it for approval via the CSM to the local DSP Manager. Once approved by the Manager, it is automatically processed for payment by the Department’s Accounts Section. Claims received on a Wednesday to Tuesday are paid on the next Wednesday, so the delay can be as little as 1 working day for payment to issue (electronically) and is usually no more than 5 working days. Delays may occur if the AWS claim is incomplete or incorrect on submission.

The 13th (final) cycle is held for payment pending the receipt of the audited accounts/final reconciliation for the project to date, as per the CE Operating Procedures. If there are delays in furnishing satisfactory audited accounts by the Sponsor, this can delay the final payment until the matter is resolved. In emergencies, the Department does have flexibility where a Sponsor is having major financial difficulties to facilitate a wage claim payment.