Community Employment Schemes Eligibility

Questions (139)

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

139. Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Social Protection the steps a person has to take to be included in a community employment scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35629/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

A person interested in participating on a Community Employment Scheme should contact their local DSP Employment Services/Intreo Office which is the sole access and referral point for entry onto Community Employment. An Employment Services Officer will then ensure the referral of eligible and suitable clients to Community Employment schemes. The criteria for participating on the Community Employment Programme are based on age and length of time in receipt of various qualifying social welfare payments. The qualifying social welfare payments include:

- Jobseekers Benefit;

- Jobseekers Allowance;

- One Parent Family Payment;

- Widows/Widowers Contributory Pension;

- Widows/Widowers Non-Contributory Pension;

- Deserted Wife's Benefit; and

- Farm Assist.

The Community Employment Programme has two options:

- Part-Time Integration Option (PTI);

- Part-Time Job Option (PTJ).

In general, the Part-time Integration Option is for people of 25 years or over who are receiving social welfare payments for 1 year or more, and people of 18 years or over in receipt of disability-related payments. The Part-time Job Option is for people who are 35 years or over and in receipt of social welfare payments for 3 years or longer. Specific groups such as travellers and refugees aged 18 or over are eligible for both options. In addition, certain eligibility requirements are waived for participants referred for drugs rehabilitation training.

Eligibility to participate on the Community Employment Programme is linked to those in receipt of an Irish social welfare payment. Those persons not meeting the criteria under the Part-time Integration or Part-time Job Options, or who are signing for credits, or are receiving social welfare benefits from a different country, are not eligible to participate on Community Employment.

In addition to the above criteria it is important to note that time spent on Tús, Rural Social Scheme, Springboard, JobBridge or Back to Education Allowance (BTEA) will not count towards the qualifying period for eligibility to CE. The only exceptions to this rule are if the BTEA was being received for second-level education purposes. Tús participants who have completed 52 weeks on that programme can progress onto CE for a maximum of one year where it is considered appropriate within the context of an agreed progression plan mediated by Intreo/DSP Employment Services.

Jobseeker's Allowance Eligibility

Questions (140)

Denis Naughten

Question:

140. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Social Protection if compensation paid by the State to child victims of abuse is assessed as means for jobseeker's allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35659/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

Social welfare legislation provides for the disregard of certain compensation awards when assessing the means of a person for social assistance purpose, including jobseeker’s allowance. The compensation awards disregarded include awards made by the Residential Institutions Redress Board.

Invalidity Pension Applications

Question No. 143 withdrawn.

Questions (141, 142)

Denis Naughten

Question:

141. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Social Protection if she can explain the way, when under the medical protocols on the Department's website, under the prognosis for fibromyalgia, it states: "Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition. Although symptoms may vary in intensity, the condition is unlikely to completely resolve", a decision can be made to refuse invalidity pension on medical grounds to a person who submitted correspondence from a consultant stating he or she suffers from profound fibromyalgia; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35661/13]

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Denis Naughten

Question:

142. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Social Protection the basis on which a person who has submitted correspondence from a consultant stating that he or she suffers from profound fibromyalgia has been refused invalidity pension on medical grounds; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35673/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 141 and 142 together.

Medical Assessors are all fully qualified medical practitioners with several years of experience in a variety of medical fields. The majority of Medical Assessors have additional postgraduate specialist qualifications. All are registered with the Irish Medical Council (IMC).

They are employed by the DSP to provide independent, impartial medical opinions regarding the medical eligibility of customers to the DSP’s various illness-related schemes, for the guidance of the Deciding Officers in the scheme areas.

Their opinions are based on international evidence-based medical guidelines and protocols and informed by clinical experience and clinical judgement, recognising the bio-psycho-social model of disability.

Various relevant factors are considered in performing their assessments, including those involving a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, including:

1. The customer’s impairment i.e. the illness or accident. What symptoms they currently have. What investigations, treatments (medical or surgical), they have received and what the prognosis of the condition is.

2. The customer’s account as to how they consider themselves to be adversely affected by their condition with special emphasis on how it affects their ability to cope with the Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) and work related activities. Consideration is also given to any restriction in social participation. This information is gained directly from the customer in an in-person assessment or via a questionnaire issued to the customer for a desk assessment.

3. All additional medical evidence is considered e.g. medical reports completed by the customer’s GP, any specialist reports, results of investigations, X-rays, CT and MRI scans, and blood tests etc.

4. Any co-morbidity which might exist, in addition to their primary condition, is also taken into consideration.

5. The customer’s vocational and educational experience is also taken into consideration.

Question No. 143 withdrawn.

Carer's Allowance Appeals

Questions (144)

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

144. Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Social Protection when a determination will be made in an appeal for a carer's allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35806/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that there is no record of any appeal by the person concerned having been received by that office. 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 in relation to social welfare entitlements.

Pension Provisions

Questions (145)

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

145. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Social Protection when she expects a report back from the Pensions Board following the requirement of pension schemes to submit funding proposals by 30 June 2013; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35835/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The process of submitting a funding proposal requires that trustees arrange for an actuary to carry out a valuation of the DB pension scheme's liabilities and assets at regular intervals and submit an actuarial valuation certificate to the Pensions Board outlining the funding position of the scheme. The date of each scheme valuation must be not later than 3 years after the last date of the previous valuation for that scheme.

If the actuary certifies that the scheme has insufficient assets to satisfy the Funding Standard, the schemes trustees must ensure that a funding proposal is forwarded to The Pensions Board with the actuarial funding certificate. The funding proposal must outline measures which ensure that the scheme could reasonably be expected to satisfy the Funding Standard by 2023 (in line with changes made in the Social Welfare and Pensions Act, 2012). Following approval of the funding proposals, schemes report to the Pensions Board on their compliance with the funding proposal on an annual basis.

The suspension of the Funding Standard in 2008 meant that trustees were not required to submit funding proposals, however some schemes continued to comply during this time. Therefore, not all schemes had to submit funding proposals by the 30th June deadline, depending on the last date of valuation, and some schemes may already have funding proposals in place and approved by the Pensions Board to deal with their deficits. With the reinstatement of the Funding Standard, approximately 300 schemes were due to send in funding proposals by the 30th June 2013. 212 of these schemes did not submit funding proposals.

The Pensions Board has, by now, formally written to the schemes that have not submitted funding proposals to ascertain their particular circumstances. The Board will decide what steps to take scheme by scheme on a measured basis and taking account of the individual scheme circumstances.

The reason for the delay in trustees responding will become clearer as the Pensions Board engages with schemes individually. The Funding Standard had been suspended since 2008 with the date extended on a number of occasions, and trustees need to adjust to the fact that the regulatory structure has been reinstated. A number of schemes have already confirmed to the Board that submission of their funding standard is imminent. There also appeared to be an unfounded expectation that the date would be extended again and this contributed to the number that missed the deadline.

Following engagement by the Pensions Board and once pension schemes have submitted their funding proposals, it will then be possible within the coming months for the Board to provide a more accurate indication of the level of under-funding in DB pension schemes. It will also allow for the impact of the many measures already introduced to assist DB schemes to be assessed, including the potential benefits to schemes of the use of sovereign annuities/bonds.

Pension Provisions

Questions (146)

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

146. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans to enforce the minimum funding standard on the ESB's defined benefit pension scheme. [35836/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

Pensions legislation provides for the supervision and regulation of defined benefit occupational pension schemes and, in that context, requires schemes to meet the commitments they have made to their members. This method by which this is regulated is set out in the Funding Standard, the operation of which is supervised by the Pensions Board.

Section 52 of the 1990 Pensions Act provides that, by way of Regulation, certain defined benefit pension schemes may be exempt from the requirement to comply with the Funding Standard on the basis that “some or all of the benefits under specified schemes or categories of schemes are, or may be, paid in whole or in part out of moneys provided from the Central Fund or moneys provided by the Oireachtas”.

EU Directive 2003/41/EC on the activities and supervision of institutions for occupational retirement provision (the IORPS Directive) provides that a Member State may choose to exempt a funded defined benefit pension scheme from the application of a national funding standard only if the scheme is “made under statute, pursuant to legislation, and is guaranteed by a public authority”. Essentially, in order to exclude a scheme from the requirements of the Funding Standard, the payment of scheme benefits must be guaranteed by the State.

The State does not guarantee or accept any liability for the funded schemes of the commercial State companies.

In this regard, a case has been made by the ESB Pensions Governance Forum to the relevant Government departments seeking exclusion from the requirements of the Funding Standard. This case is being examined at present.

Departmental Staff Rehiring

Questions (147)

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

147. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of retired civil or public servants who have been retained by her Department since January 2013 on a short-term contract or consultancy basis where normal abatement rules do not apply. [35850/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The Department has not retained any retired civil or public servants on short term contracts without applying the normal abatement rules. Following an open competition, the Pensions Board, which is under the aegis of my Department, in November 2011 and January 2012, employed two people on 3 year temporary contracts who were previously employed by An Garda Síochána and who are in receipt of Garda pensions. Abatement of pension does not apply in respect of retired members of An Garda Síochána who subsequently take up public sector employment.