Domiciliary Care Allowance Appeals

Questions (108)

John McGuinness

Question:

108. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for domiciliary care allowance under appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; if she will expedite a response. [14279/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the appeal from the person concerned was referred to an Appeals Officer who has decided to hold an oral hearing in this case on 11 April 2014. The person concerned has been notified of the arrangements for the 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.

Carer's Allowance Appeals

Questions (109)

Eric J. Byrne

Question:

109. Deputy Eric Byrne asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will be taken on an appeal for carer's allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12; if this matter will be dealt with as urgently as possible; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14293/14]

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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 registered in that office on 10 February 2014. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. When these have been received from the Department, the case in question 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 appeal 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 Welfare Benefits

Questions Nos. 111 to 113, inclusive, withdrawn.

Questions (110)

Dara Calleary

Question:

110. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Social Protection if a new allowance will be introduced for older persons to meet mobile phone costs due to the abolition of the telephone allowance; her views on the fact that older persons are forced to spend excessive amounts of money telephoning social protection offices which deal with services for the elderly that have 1890 phone numbers and are excluded from mobile phone contracts; if she will consider taking steps to ensure that core social protection offices offer a contact phone number that is either local or national; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14294/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The overall concern of the Government in recent budgets has been to protect the primary weekly social welfare rates. Maintaining the rate of the State pension and other core payments is critical in protecting people from poverty. To allow us to protect these core payments, we have had to look very carefully at other additional payments. The telephone allowance was abolished from 1 January 2014. I have no plans to introduce a new allowance to replace it.

I am keenly aware of the impact on the Department’s clients and particularly those who are living alone. In Budget 2014, I was able to maintain the rate of the living alone allowance at €7.70 per week. While the decision to abolish the telephone allowance was a difficult one, it allowed the Government to fully maintain the other elements of the household benefits package, such as the free electricity/gas allowance and the free television licence. These are very valuable supports for clients. We have also maintained the value of the fuel allowance and free travel.

The monthly allowances under the household benefits package are a contribution towards the cost of services; they are not intended to meet those costs in full. The telephone allowance was introduced at a time when telephones were expensive and uncommon, and a landline service was the only option available to the client. The market has changed enormously since the introduction of the allowance, with several companies providing a range of services and rates with bundled services including television, telephone, broadband and pay-as-you-go mobiles.

The Department currently provides both a landline and a lo-call option for customers for the main scheme areas. In addition the website also alerts the public to the fact that lo-call numbers can attract different tariffs depending on the operator of the phone service. The Department is currently reviewing the use of lo-call telephone services which may not be available on certain telephone plans, with a view to improving access for the public. The review is at an early stage.

Questions Nos. 111 to 113, inclusive, withdrawn.

Farm Assist Scheme Eligibility

Questions (114)

Michael Ring

Question:

114. Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a farm assist claim in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [14322/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The farm assist file for the person concerned has been forwarded to a Deciding Officer for decision. A decision will be made shortly and he will be notified of the outcome.