Social Welfare Code

Questions (120, 121)

Sandra McLellan

Question:

120. Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Social Protection her views on the forthcoming abolition of the transition State pension; the ramifications it will have for those who reach the age of 65 years during 2014 and who will consequently be forced to apply for jobseeker's benefit or allowance and the attendant fall in outcome which will come about as a result of same; if she has considered the potential impact in terms of poverty among the elderly; and her plans to reconsider this change in policy or otherwise to avoid a fall in income for the elderly. [44926/13]

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Sandra McLellan

Question:

121. Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Social Protection if her attention has been drawn to any implications of the forthcoming abolition of the transition State pension on the Equal Status Act, or any other equality legislation, in view of the fact that those who turn 65 during 2014 will be forced to apply for jobseeker's benefit or allowance, in spite of the fact that most contracts of employment state that the normal retirement age shall be 65, and that they are often unlikely to be in a position to affect this position. [44927/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 120 and 121 together.

Increasing State pension age and the abolition of the State pension (transition) are steps that have been taken to ensure the sustainability of pensions into the future. The decision to reform State pension was taken in the context of changing demographics and the fact that people are living longer and healthier lives. 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 standardising of State pension age for all at 66 years and the cessation of State pension (transition). The State pension age will then increase to 67 years in 2021 and to 68 years in 2028.

It should be noted that until the 1970s, the standard age for receipt of State pension was 70 years of age. This applied at a time when longevity was much lower and working patterns were more likely to be physically demanding. State pension (transition) was introduced in 1970 when it was known as the retirement pension and was designed to bridge the gap between the standard social welfare pension age, which at that time was 70 years of age, and retirement age. Over time, the age for State pension (contributory) was reduced to 66 years.

However, the Deputy may wish to note that a significant number of people coming on to State pension (transition) in 2012 did not come from work as many were already on other social welfare schemes. In December 2012 there were approximately 14,400 State pension (transition) claims in payment and of those, 12.5 per cent came from work with over 50 per cent coming from other social welfare schemes such as illness benefit, jobseekers benefit and assistance, invalidity and carers, indicating that significant numbers of people are leaving the workforce for a variety of reasons well in advance of State pension age.

In terms of social welfare supports available to those at age 65, all short term social welfare schemes are payable to age 66. The main social welfare payment available to those who leave employment before pension age is jobseeker's benefit. 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). Each application for any social welfare scheme is assessed on its own merit in terms of qualifying criteria and contribution history. Where a person fails to meet the qualifying conditions of an insurance based scheme, a means tested assistance payment may be available provided they satisfy the qualifying conditions including a means test. Further consideration is being given to the social welfare position of those exiting the workforce before pension age.

It should be noted there is no statutory compulsory retirement age for employees in Ireland. Responsibility for setting retirement age is a matter for the employer/employee relationship and the contract of employment. However, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has made rulings in a series of age-discrimination cases concerning Directive 2000/78/EC, which prohibit work-related discrimination on various grounds, including age. The CJEU has clarified that mandatory retirement ages may be set down by employers within the context of national law, whether by contract, custom and practice or other means, which must be objectively and reasonably justified by a legitimate social policy aim, with the means of achieving that aim being both appropriate and necessary. Consideration of these issues as they relate to enterprise and equality policy come within the respective remit of the Minster for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and the Minister for Justice and Equality.

An interdepartmental Working and Retirement Group was initiated to consider the cross departmental policy issues that will support longer working and thereby improve the sustainability and adequacy of pensions systems. The interdepartmental group, chaired by the Department of Social Protection, includes representatives from the Departments of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation; Justice and Equality; Public Expenditure and Reform; and the Pensions Board. Further engagement has also been undertaken with the Department of Education and Skills and the Department of Health and Children and work in this regard is ongoing.

Social Welfare Appeals Status

Questions (122)

Michael Creed

Question:

122. Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will confirm that a formal appeal has been received in connection with an entitlement to widower's pension and an alleged overpayment in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44938/13]

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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.

Social Welfare Benefits Applications

Questions (123)

Tony McLoughlin

Question:

123. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason the mother of a young boy (details supplied) suffering from autism spectrum disorder in County Leitrim has been refused carer's benefit and domiciliary care allowance despite extensive medical evidence from a number of experts regarding the 24 hour care that this child requires; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44989/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

An application for domiciliary care allowance was received from the person concerned on the 12th August 2013. This application was referred to one of the Department's Medical Assessors who considered that the child was not medically eligible for the allowance. A letter issued on the 13th September 2013 advising her of the decision. She subsequently requested a review of this decision and supplied additional information on her child's condition. Her application along with the additional information provided, was reviewed by a second Medical Assessor who found the child to be medically eligible for the allowance. The person concerned was notified of the revised decision to award the allowance on the 18th October 2013 and payment will issue to her shortly.

An application for carer's benefit was received from the person concerned on 22 August 2013. This application was refused on the grounds that the care recipient was not so disabled as to require full time care and attention as prescribed in regulations. The person concerned was notified of this decision on 11 September 2013. The person concerned subsequently submitted further medical evidence for review. Her application along with the additional information provided, was reviewed by a second Medical Assessor who found the care recipient to be medically eligible for the benefit. Confirmation of carers leave dates was requested from the person concerned on 15 October 2013. On receipt of this information a decision will be made on the application.

Household Benefits Scheme

Questions (124)

Tom Fleming

Question:

124. Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will clarify the position in respect of the withdrawal of the telephone allowance and the extreme implications it will have for old age pensioners and persons living alone in rural isolated areas, whose alarm and security systems are connected to the land line; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44996/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

My overall concern in this Budget has been to protect the primary social welfare rates. To allow us to protect these core payments, we have had to look very carefully at other additional payments such as the household benefits package, including the telephone allowance. While we have cut the telephone allowance, there have been no cuts to the electricity/gas allowance, free travel, the free television licence, the fuel allowance or the living alone increase.

The cost of the telephone allowance scheme has risen each year and the number of eligible customers has increased very significantly. In 2007 there were some 316,000 people receiving the telephone allowance, today there are almost 400,000, an increase of 24%. Each year almost 10,000 extra customers become eligible for the allowance because of the increased number of pension recipients. The telephone allowance was introduced at a time when telephone services were more expensive and fewer people had telephones. In recent years the nature of the telephone market has been transformed with deregulation, mobile services and bundled services including television, broadband and telephone. There is a wide variety of deals and great competition now available.

The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government has responsibility for the Seniors Alert Scheme which provides grant support for the supply of equipment such as personal alarms, smoke detectors and security lighting to enable older people without sufficient means to continue to live securely in their homes. The grant assistance is made available through community and voluntary groups registered with the Department and the equipment supplied under the scheme remains the property of the community group. The budget allocation for 2013 was €2.35 million. While the equipment currently provided requires the use of a landline, there are other companies in the market providing similar services based on mobile technology.

Finally, if any person is in particular difficulty, an application may be made for an exceptional needs payments (ENP) under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme, to help meet an essential, once-off cost which an applicant is unable to meet out of his or her own resources. There is no automatic entitlement to this payment. Each application is determined based on the particular circumstances of the case.

Invalidity Pension Appeals

Questions (125)

Seán Fleming

Question:

125. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Social Protection when invalidity pension will be granted in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Laois; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45002/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 5 July 2013. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought from the Department of Social Protection. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 21 October 2013 and the case will be referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on 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 in relation to social welfare entitlements.

Jobseeker's Allowance Appeals

Questions (126)

Andrew Doyle

Question:

126. Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a jobseeker's assistance appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45011/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an Appeals Officer, having considered all of the evidence presented, has decided to disallow the appeal of the person concerned by way of a summary decision. The person concerned has been notified of the Appeals Officer's decision.

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.