Social Welfare Benefits Applications

Questions (120)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

120. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection if a decision has been made on an application for a hearing aid grant in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42545/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

As the question relates to a separated spouse it is not possible to provide a full answer for date protection reasons as this would involve giving information in relation to one person to another.

In general, a separated spouse does not qualify as a dependent spouse and cannot claim on her husband's record.

Family Income Supplement Eligibility

Questions (121)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

121. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social Protection the rules that apply to the family income supplement scheme in respect of fathers who do not have full custody of their children but who financially contribute to their children's upkeep and who live with them for agreed periods but not full time; and the statutory basis for these rules. [42557/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The family income supplement (FIS) provides an income support for employees with families on low earnings who otherwise might be at risk of financial poverty. It also preserves the incentive to remain in employment in circumstances where the employee might only be marginally better off than if he or she were unemployed and claiming social welfare.

Expenditure on FIS for 2012 was of the order of €224 million in respect of some 32,000 families. The estimated expenditure for 2013 is expected to be €229 million.

To qualify for payment of FIS, a person must be engaged in full-time insurable employment which is expected to last for at least 3 months and be working for a minimum of 38 hours per fortnight or 19 hours per week. Furthermore, the average family income must be below a specified amount which varies according to the number of qualified children in the family.

The applicant must also be living with or supporting his/her spouse and at least one qualified child. In the case of parents who are separated, a parent who is wholly or mainly maintaining a former spouse can qualify for FIS. This is provided for in Section 227 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act, 2005, which sets out the definition of the family for this payment. Section 230 (2) of the 2005 Act provides that only one FIS payment can be made in respect of any family and that a person included in one particular family for any period for FIS purposes shall not be regarded as a member of any other family during that period. Section 231 of the 2005 Act provides that FIS shall be payable to the member of the family who is engaged in remunerative full-time employment as an employee or, where there are two members of the family engaged in full-time employment as an employee, to the member whose assessed weekly income forms the greater part of the weekly family income. Therefore, current provisions do not allow for FIS payments to be divided between parents.

Where a question arises in determining the residence of a child for FIS purposes, an investigation of specific circumstances may be carried out.

If the Deputy wishes to have a particular case considered in further detail, she can arrange to have the details brought to the attention of my Department for consideration.

Child Benefit Eligibility

Questions (122, 123)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

122. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social Protection the rules that apply to the child benefit scheme in respect of fathers who do not have full custody of their children but who financially contribute to their children's upkeep and who live with them for agreed periods but not full time; and the statutory basis for these rules. [42558/13]

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Róisín Shortall

Question:

123. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social Protection if it is the case that where custody and living arrangements in respect of a child are approximately evenly distributed between the parents of a child that child benefit is paid in these circumstances only to the mother; the statutory basis for these arrangements; and if she will outline the circumstances where the benefit may be split among the parents. [42559/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 122 and 123 together.

Child benefit is a universal monthly payment made to the parents/guardians of children that assists families with the cost associated with raising children. Child benefit is paid to around 606,000 families in respect of some 1.15 million children with an estimated expenditure of around €1.9 billion in 2013.

The needs of the children are the priority consideration in the payment of child benefit. Under Section 220 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act, 2005, child benefit is payable to the person with whom a qualified child normally resides and the child will not be regarded as normally residing with more than one person. Regulations governing normal residence for child benefit purposes are contained in S.I. 142/2007 (Article 159) and they provide inter alia for the following:

(1) In the event that a qualified child is resident with both mother and father, he or she will be regarded as normally residing with the mother or step-mother;

(2) If mother and father are resident in separate households, the qualified child shall be regarded as normally residing with the person with whom he or she resides for the majority of the time.

In practice, child benefit is paid to the child’s mother in all cases except where the parents are separated and the father has responsibility for the full-time care of the child for more than 50% of the time.

The regulations governing the scheme does not provide for the splitting of the payment between parties in cases of shared residency arrangements for the child.

If the Deputy wishes to have a particular case considered in further detail by the Department, I will arrange this if she sends me the details.

School Meals Programme

Questions (124)

Nicky McFadden

Question:

124. Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of schools nationally operating the school meals programme; the number of those schools that are in counties Longford and Westmeath; the way the school meals programme is administered; if it will be extended in order to ensure children receive the necessary nutrition; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42610/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The school meals programme provides funding towards the provision of food services for disadvantaged children through two schemes. The first is the statutory urban school meals scheme, operated by local authorities and part-financed by the Department. The second is the school meals local projects schemes through which funding is provided directly to participating schools and local and voluntary community groups who run their own school meals projects. The Government has allocated an additional €2 million for the school meals programme in 2013, providing a total allocation of €37 million.

A total of some 1,000 schools/organisations received funding under the school meals local projects for the school year 2012/13. Of these, 15 were based in county Longford and 20 in county Westmeath. In addition, approximately 305 schools participated in the urban school meals scheme operated by local authorities, none of which were located in counties Longford and Westmeath. The Department is currently processing applications from schools participating in the scheme for the current school year.

The scheme operates on a school year basis and all schools must apply for funding on an annual basis. Maximum rates of payment apply, based on a rate per child per day, depending on the type of meal being provided. Details of the various options available under the scheme and the maximum rates of payment per child are shown in the tabular statement.

Priority for funding under the school meals local projects is given to schools which are part of the Department of Education and Skills’ initiative for disadvantaged schools, ‘Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools’ (DEIS).

Funding under the scheme is for food costs only, subject to certain conditions. All food must be of suitable quality and nutritional value, and prepared and consumed in an appropriate environment. The type and range of meals provided, as well as the method and logistics of supplying the meals, are decided by the individual local groups and schools that operate the projects. Responsibility for all aspects of the day-to-day operation of the scheme lies with the school/organisation.

The additional €2 million allocated to the school meals programme budget for 2013 is being used to extend the school meals local projects scheme to DEIS and special schools. The Department contacted approximately 170 schools requesting expressions of interest in participating in the scheme for the current school year. Expressions of interest in joining the scheme were received from approximately 90 schools. To date, applications from an additional 32 schools, 1 of which is located in Co Westmeath, have been processed and further applications will be processed as schools establish their food clubs.

Any further extension to the school meals programme can only be considered in a budgetary context.

Various food options and maximum payment per child:

Meals

Cost

-

Breakfast/Snack

€0.60

Cereal, Toast, Scone, Fruit, Yogurt, Milk, Juice-2 Items must be provided

Lunch

€1.40

Filled Sandwich/Roll or Soup & Roll or

Salad Plate, plus 2 other items (eg Milk, Juice, Fruit, Yogurt)

Dinner

€1.90

Meat, Potatoes & Vegetables or Chicken

Curry or Spaghetti Bolognaise, plus a drink (Milk, Juice, Water)

Social Welfare Appeals Status

Questions (125)

Eric J. Byrne

Question:

125. Deputy Eric Byrne asked the Minister for Social Protection further to Parliamentary Question No. 182 of 2 October 2013, when a decision will be made regarding the appeal; if this appeal will be expedited; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42628/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned together with the relevant Departmental papers were received by that office on 09 September 2013 and that 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.

In order to be fair to all appellants, appeals are dealt with in strict chronological order.

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.

Social Welfare Appeals Status

Questions (126)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

126. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will issue on an appeal the habitual entitled in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Donegal. [42629/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the appeal in this case relates to a refusal of disability allowance on medical grounds. I understand that an oral hearing was held on 12 August 2013 and that in the course of the hearing the Appeals Officer requested the person concerned to provide reports from his GP, Orthopaedic Surgeon and Psychiatrist. As soon as the requested medical information is received, the Appeals Officer will complete his consideration of the appeal.

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.