Local Employment Service

Questions (332)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

332. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Social Protection her views on the case of a person (details supplied) who has been denied funding to train as a security guard because they have no promise of work and as a result cannot apply for work because they have not got the qualification; and if this regulation contradicts the stated policy to encourage persons into training and back to work. [5212/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

Approval of technical employment support grants (TESG) are decided on a case by case basis and paid following agreement by the customer of a personal progression plan with their local employment service mediator. The training sought under the TESG must improve their employment prospects. The coordinator of the Local Employment Service in Dun Laoghaire will contact the person concerned in order to review his application in the context of his personal progression plan.

Disability Allowance Appeals

Questions (333)

Tom Fleming

Question:

333. Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will expedite a disability allowance appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5216/14]

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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 referred to an Appeals Officer on 9 January 2014, 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 in relation to social welfare entitlements.

Social Insurance Payments

Questions (334)

Ann Phelan

Question:

334. Deputy Ann Phelan asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding the changes to PRSI, in particular employers' PRSI, which has now reverted to 8.5% from 4.25%; if this will have a negative impact on employers who have staff that are either on low pay or work less than 39 hours per week; if this will now add substantial costs to employers in wages; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5228/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

Employer PRSI is payable on earnings at the rate of 10.75% in respect of weekly earnings in excess of €356 and at 8.5% on weekly earnings of €356 or less. As part of the 2011 Jobs Initiative, the Minister for Finance announced the halving of the 8.5% rate of employer PRSI to 4.25%, as a means of helping job creation and improving labour cost competitiveness, particularly in the tourism and other employment-rich areas of the economy. The measure was implemented on a 2½ year time limited basis to apply from 1 July 2011 until 31 December 2013. The 4.25% employer PRSI rate reverted to the original 8.5% rate from 1 January 2014.

The reversion of the employer rate to 8.5% is provided for in legislation; it has already been built into the PRSI income base for 2014 and subsequent years. Retaining the 4.25% rate of employer PRSI in 2014 would reduce the expected PRSI yield to the Social Insurance Fund by €195 million in a full year. It is not possible to verify the impact of this measure in isolation on employers who have staff on low pay or work less than 39 hours per week, as employment is affected by a number of factors including the economic environment. In this context the Forfas report on “Costs of Doing Business in Ireland 2012”, highlights the fact that Irish employer social insurance contributions are low when compared with other OECD countries.

Data Protection

Questions (335)

Willie O'Dea

Question:

335. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will respond to recent criticisms of her Department by the Data Protection Commissioner when he stated that he is entirely unsatisfied with her Department's handling of citizens' personal data; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5229/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

My Department takes its responsibilities in relation to data protection and protecting the data of its clients very seriously. Every effort is made to ensure that personal customer data is used solely for business purposes and that it is not compromised in any way. My Department has data protection and information security policies, standards, procedures and guidelines in place governing the use of its computer systems and customer data. These are communicated on an ongoing basis to the staff of the Department and high standards are expected in relation to the handling and processing of personal client information.

The policies, procedures and guidelines are kept under constant review and are updated as appropriate. Staff members are regularly reminded of their obligations under data protection and information security policies and of the penalties that are applicable in respect of any breach of these policies. Data protection obligations are also covered on induction programmes for new staff members and on management development programmes and in presentations given by the Department’s Business Information and Internal Control Support Units.

I cannot accept the point made by the Data Protection Commissioner that the cases that are under investigation by his office, and which appear to have informed the view expressed by him, can be used to make a sweeping generalisation that the Department’s staff as a whole are lax in dealing with client data. Using such a very small number of cases to make a sweeping generalisation implying that my Department’s staff are, or may be lax, is grossly unfair on all of our staff and management in all of the Department’s offices. I agree however that even one data breach by staff in the Department is one too many.

Records of data accesses by staff are kept and are subject to audit. All cases of suspected data breaches are investigated by my Department. Breaches that are discovered by my Department’s own auditing and monitoring systems, or brought to the Department’s attention by third parties, are thoroughly investigated and appropriate action is taken. Where a data protection breach has been substantiated by an internal investigation, appropriate sanctions are applied in all cases in accordance with the Civil Service Disciplinary Code. Sanctions applied reflect the severity of the breach and have included dismissal, financial penalties such as the loss of increments, removal of access to the Department’s systems and loss of entitlement to enter promotional competitions.

When issues arise requiring investigation a cross disciplinary team consisting of staff from the Department’s Business Information and Security Unit, the Internal Control Support Unit, Internal Audit and Information System Division work together to establish facts and report on matters. This substantial resource allocation is part of my Department’s commitment to ensuring that high levels of data protection governance are in place. My Department is constantly reviewing and updating its procedures in relation to data protection and will continue to do so. It will continue to cooperate fully, as it has done to date, with the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner on all matters relating to data protection.

Employment Support Services

Questions (336)

Terence Flanagan

Question:

336. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding employment opportunities in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 13; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5233/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

Under the European Employment Service, EURES, the Department of Social Protection is obliged to inform jobseekers in Ireland of job opportunities in the wider European labour market which may be of interest to them. From time to time the Department assists non-EU/EEA countries with filling vacancies (normally Canada, Australia and the USA) if requested by the Government or Public Employment Service of that country. The rationale for providing such assistance is threefold. First we work with these authorities on a reciprocal basis which is important not just in the area of employment services (we have used their services on occasion in the past for recruitment purposes) but also in maintaining and building links that are useful in foreign trade and foreign direct investment. Second the work opportunities available in those countries may be of interest to Irish jobseekers and we have a responsibility to jobseekers to make them aware of such opportunities particularly where the opportunities are also being offered to jobseekers in other jurisdictions such as Northern Ireland and Great Britain. Third, to the extent that any Irish jobseeker is considering working overseas, the involvement of State/national Governments and public employment services in those countries, including the supports they provide, offers some reassurance to the jobseeker as to the nature of the employment on offer.

Finally it is important to note that any overseas employment opportunities brought to the attention of jobseekers by the Department are offered on a voluntary basis; it is entirely a matter for the jobseeker as to whether or not they wish to express an interest in, apply for or take up an offer of any such employment. The social welfare entitlement of a jobseeker who does not wish to avail of any such overseas opportunities will not be affected. This position is made clear in the communication issued to jobseekers.

One-Parent Family Payment Appeals

Question No. 338 withdrawn.

Questions (337)

Michael Ring

Question:

337. Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an appeal for one-parent family allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5240/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer, having fully considered all of the available evidence, has decided to allow the appeal of the person concerned by way of a summary decision. The person concerned was notified of the Appeals Officer’s decision on 31 January 2014. 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.

Question No. 338 withdrawn.

Supplementary Welfare Allowance Applications

Question No. 340 withdrawn.

Question No. 341 answered with Question No. 302.

Questions (339)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

339. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if an adult dependent allowance is being granted in respect of State pension contributory payment in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5280/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

There is no record of an application from the person concerned for an increase for a qualified adult. An application form has been posted to the address of the person concerned and, if he wishes to apply, he should return the completed form to State Pension Contributory Section, Social Welfare Services, College Road, Sligo.

Question No. 340 withdrawn.
Question No. 341 answered with Question No. 302.

Social Welfare Fraud Data

Questions (342)

Paudie Coffey

Question:

342. Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of cases of suspected fraud that have been reported to her Department; the amount of payments that have been suspended or ceased; the number of prosecutions as a result of these reports in the years 2010 to 2013, inclusive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5374/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

My Department receives reports of possible fraud from members of the public in relation to the operation of its schemes and provides both a dedicated phone number and a facility on the Department’s website for this purpose. All anonymous or confidential reports are examined and, where relevant, are referred to the Departments’ sections and/or to Inspectors for follow-up action. A payment is not suspended or stopped solely on the basis of an anonymous report however the report may “trigger” the instigation of a review of a customer’s entitlement. The following are the number of anonymous reports received in the Department’s Control Division in the period:

-

2011

2012

2013

Total

16,142

28,022

24,720

Detailed statistics on outcomes from these reports are unavailable because anonymous or confidential reports of abuse are used merely to “trigger” or instigate investigations, but are not taken into account when the review of the customer’s payment is being decided.

Carer's Allowance Appeals

Questions (343)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

343. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the progress to date in determination of an appeal for carer's allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5386/14]

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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 referred to an Appeals Officer on 23 January 2014 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 in relation to social welfare entitlements.

Invalidity Pension Appeals

Question No. 345 withdrawn.

Questions (344)

Pat Deering

Question:

344. Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) in County Carlow will receive a decision on their invalidity appeal; and if she will expedite a response. [5389/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer, having fully considered all of the available evidence, 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.

Question No. 345 withdrawn.

Information and Communications Technology

Question No. 347 withdrawn.

Questions (346)

John Deasy

Question:

346. Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Social Protection the apps her Department or attached agencies have been involved in developing for smartphones and other multimedia devices in the past three years; the cost and the software developer employed in each case. [5465/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

My Department is currently carrying out some exploratory work in relation to the development of Apps to be deployed in the future. At present the only App which has been deployed by my Department in the past three years is as follows:

App

Developer

Cost (excluding VAT)

FÁS Jobseeker App

Monsoon Consulting Ltd

€ 11,485

This app was originally developed by FÁS. My Department assumed responsibility for it on the transfer of the FÁS Employment Services to my Department in January 2012. The details provided refer to a contract placed for the further development and updating of the app as a result of a competitive tender process in 2013. Information is currently being gathered in relation to apps developed in agencies under the control of the Department. This information will be sent to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

Question No. 347 withdrawn.

Social Welfare Benefits Eligibility

Questions (348, 349, 350, 351)

Noel Harrington

Question:

348. Deputy Noel Harrington asked the Minister for Social Protection further to Parliamentary Question No. 412 of 15 January 2014, the date on which the present formula for the assessment of means regarding capital, property and investments for social welfare applicants was first introduced; if any amendments have been made to that formula since then; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5497/14]

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Noel Harrington

Question:

349. Deputy Noel Harrington asked the Minister for Social Protection further to Parliamentary Question No. 412 of 15 January 2014, the basis and principles that were used in calculating the present formula for the assessment of means regarding capital, property and investments for social welfare applicants; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5498/14]

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Noel Harrington

Question:

350. Deputy Noel Harrington asked the Minister for Social Protection further to Parliamentary Question No. 412 of 15 January 2014, if she will consider amending the present formula for the assessment of means regarding capital, property and investments for social welfare applicants to allow for a person to disregard the first €250,000 of property where a person is living somewhere else because of a previous job or family commitments; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5499/14]

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Noel Harrington

Question:

351. Deputy Noel Harrington asked the Minister for Social Protection further to Parliamentary Question No. 412 of 15 January 2014, if she will consider amending the present formula for the assessment of means regarding capital, property and investments for social welfare applicants to allow for a person to disregard the first €250,000 of property where a person is constructing a house but it is not yet habitable; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5500/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 348 to 351, inclusive, together.

In assessing means for social assistance payments, account is taken of the income and the value of property, including capital, of the claimant and their spouse / partner. Social welfare legislation provides that the yearly value of property (including capital) owned but not personally used or enjoyed is assessable for means testing purposes. Such property includes all monies held in financial institutions or otherwise, the market value of shares as well as houses and premises owned by a claimant which may or may not be put to commercial use. However, it does not include property such as the family home a person is personally using or enjoying i.e. residing in or, for example, a premises used by the claimant in carrying out a business.

The current market value of the relevant property is established (having regard to local property prices) as well as the amount of any outstanding mortgages on that property. The balance (market value less outstanding mortgage) is assessed by reference to a notional formula.

The current assessment method, involving a disregard of an initial amount of capital and an increasing notional weekly value for amounts in excess of the disregarded amount, came into effect in October 2000 for most welfare schemes. The assessment formula is not designed to mirror potential interest or annuity rates available to investors or potential rental income from a property and no account is taken of any such income in the overall means assessment. The formula introduced in 2000 continued and enhanced the policy of ensuring that those with property and capital of modest amounts of capital receive the greater share of available support while those with larger amounts of are in a position to avail of it to contribute, at least partially, towards meeting their needs.

This property/capital formula also applies where a person has other types of property (including capital such as monies held in financial institutions or otherwise or the market value of shares). The assessment formula for most schemes, including jobseeker’s allowance and one-parent family payment, was last updated in 2005 – see table below - and included an increase in the initial amount disregarded from €12,697 to €20,000.

AMOUNT OF CAPITAL

WEEKLY MEANS ASSESSED

Up to €20,000

Nil

€20,000 - €30,000

€1 per each €1,000

€30,000 - €40,000

€2 per each €1,000

Over €40,000

€4 per each €1,000

For the purposes of the State pension non-contributory and carer’s allowance the amounts above are doubled in the case of a couple. From 2007, the amount disregarded in the case of disability allowance is €50,000, up from €20,000, and in the case of supplementary welfare allowance is €5,000, up from €520.

Where a person has moved out of a property and is no longer personally using or enjoying that property i.e. not residing in same on a full time or part-time basis, the value of the property is assessed as described above. Where a property is under construction, account is taken of the value, if any, of the particular. building. In such cases, the value may be negligible and would need to be examined on a case by case basis. Any changes to the current assessment arrangements would have to be considered in a Budgetary context.

Rent Supplement Scheme Applications

Questions (352)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

352. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the progress to date in the determination of application for rent support in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5506/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The rent supplement entitlement of the person concerned was temporarily suspended because of the cessation of her primary payment (one parent family payment). As a supplementary welfare allowance has now been awarded, the rent supplement has been reinstated accordingly.

Social Welfare Overpayments

Questions (353)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

353. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will detail the alleged overpayment of €6,365.60 to a person (details supplied) with dates and amounts of overpayments; if she will further detail records of the reason the person was not entitled to the payment made to them and any and all correspondence to the person regarding this overpayment. [5524/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

An overpayment of jobseeker’s allowance for the period 01 April 1988 to 20 November 1990 was determined in the case of the person concerned as it was deemed that he was not available for or genuinely seeking work during this period. The overpayment was recorded on 06 August 1991 and totalled €6365.60. During the period 29 November 1991 to 2 February 1993 ten cash refunds were made by the person concerned to off-set this overpayment. The Intreo office in Dun Laoghaire is reviewing the files of the person concerned in relation this overpayment and he will be advised of the outcome of this review as soon as possible.

Jobseeker's Allowance Payments

Questions (354)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

354. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will address an issue in respect of a person (details supplied) who is receiving a €100 per week jobseeker's allowance payment but has become homeless because they cannot access private rented accommodation even with rent supplement on such a low income; and if it is possible to increase their weekly payment so that they can exit homeless services. [5525/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The person concerned is currently in receipt of jobseeker’s allowance at the rate of €100.00 per week. This is the maximum rate payable for a person of his circumstances. According to the records of this Department the person concerned has not recently submitted an application for a rent supplement. It is open to him to submit such an application to his local community welfare service.