Severe Weather Events Response

Questions (260)

Paul Connaughton

Question:

260. Deputy Paul J. Connaughton asked the Minister for Social Protection the assistance available to old age pensioners who had their fuel sheds destroyed in a recent storm; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14788/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

A humanitarian assistance scheme was approved by Government in November 2009. The scheme, which is means tested, is available to assist people whose homes are damaged by severe weather and who are not in a position to meet costs for essential needs, household items and in some instances structural repair. The humanitarian assistance scheme covers damage to a person's home therefore assistance toward the replacement of fuel sheds would not generally be appropriate under this scheme. Assistance towards the cost of fuel destroyed as a result of the severe weather would be considered under the scheme. It is recommended that the persons involved contact their local Department of Social Protection representative administering the humanitarian assistance scheme to discuss their specific circumstances.

Free Travel Scheme Administration

Questions (261)

Dara Calleary

Question:

261. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Social Protection if holders of travel passes can book seats online and, if not, the reason for same; and her plans to allow them to do so in order to avail of online discounts to make seat bookings and so on. [14803/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The free travel scheme is currently available to all people living in the State aged 66 years or over, to carers and to customers aged under 66 who are in receipt of certain disability payments. The scheme permits customers to travel for free on most CIE public transport services, LUAS and a range of services offered by almost 90 private operators in various parts of the country. The intention of the scheme is that free travel customers can avail of spare capacity on transport services. This Department has an agreement with the companies in terms of compensation for the costs incurred on the basis of fares forgone. In order to participate in the scheme companies must be commercially viable in their own right. Therefore, the free travel scheme should not confer any real financial advantage on participating companies or displace fare paying customers.

I understand that Irish Rail currently allows free travel pass holders to reserve a seat online at a charge of €5.00 - €5.50. Customers are then given a reservation number which they present to the booking office along with their travel pass. However, it is ultimately at the discretion of companies participating in the free travel scheme if they wish to offer such services to free travel customers.

Social Welfare Payments Administration

Questions (262)

Michael McNamara

Question:

262. Deputy Michael McNamara asked the Minister for Social Protection how many letters were sent to social welfare recipients in 2014 offering them the possibility of having their payment lodged directly into a bank account or building society account; how many such letters issued in 2013; how such recipients were selected; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14805/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The Department does not compile statistics on the precise nature of letters issued to clients. Revised arrangements were announced as part of Budget 2014 to apply to older jobseeking clients. The measures provide for these clients to continue to avail of Departmental supports on a voluntary basis should they wish to return to work, training or education. In addition, provision is made for these clients to receive their payments directly into an account in a financial institution if they so wish. I understand that some 17,000 letters were issued to such clients between late 2013 to date. These letters, which were issued predominantly in 2014, are designed to ease the transition from working age to retirement. Some additional one hundred clients in receipt of rent supplement, who already receive their primary income support by EFT, were contacted advising them of the option to have the rent payment paid directly into an account. The Department does not maintain statistics on the total number of clients who took up this option.

Social Welfare Payments Administration

Questions (263)

Michael McNamara

Question:

263. Deputy Michael McNamara asked the Minister for Social Protection the statutory basis for the requirement to sign on at a social welfare office. [14806/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

For jobseeker's benefit, the requirement to prove unemployment is contained in Section 62(1)(b) of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005. The prescribed manner of proving unemployment is contained in Article 52 of Statutory Instrument 142 of 2007. For jobseeker's allowance, the requirement to prove unemployment is contained in Section 141(1)(b) of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005, for which the prescribed manner of proving unemployment is contained in Article 118 of SI 142 of 2007.

Signing may take the form of attending the office to sign a declaration, either electronically or in paper format, or it may require the completion of a docket containing the declaration for return to the office. The frequency of signing can vary for operational reasons or where the person is engaged in training, education or an internship etc.

Social Welfare Payments Administration

Questions (264)

Michael McNamara

Question:

264. Deputy Michael McNamara asked the Minister for Social Protection when she plans to announce a tendering process for social welfare payments by electronic funds transfers. [14807/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The processing of electronic fund transfers (EFTs) is currently carried out through the Department's primary bankers with no plans in the short term to go to the market to advertise a new procurement for these services. The Deputy may be interested to note that a request for information (RFI) was issued in January this year with a view to seeking information on potential approaches to electronic payment solutions and associated business processes and to inform any future public procurement of an electronic payment solution which may arise to supplement existing EFT and cash payment arrangements. The responses to the RFI are currently being analysed and the information gleaned from this exercise will then be used to draw conclusions on the future procurement proposals for an ePayment solution if required.

Illness Benefit Eligibility

Questions (265)

Billy Kelleher

Question:

265. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Social Protection if cyclical vomiting syndrome is or will be considered as a qualifying illness for social welfare payments for both sufferers and carers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14817/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

Cyclical vomiting syndrome is accepted as a certifiable medical condition. Eligibility to illness and carer's schemes are determined by its severity and expected duration. When applying for illness benefit, medical certification is provided by the customer's GP. For many other schemes, a medical assessment is made after careful review of submitted medical evidence, in accordance with the Department's evidence based medical protocols and guidelines.

Invalidity Pension Appeals

Questions (266)

Jack Wall

Question:

266. Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an invalidity pension appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14820/14]

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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 13 January 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.

Carer's Allowance Appeals

Questions (267)

Pat Breen

Question:

267. Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision on a carer's allowance appeal will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14825/14]

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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 1 October 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 24 March 2014 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.

Money Advice and Budgeting Service Funding

Question No. 269 withdrawn.

Questions (268)

James Bannon

Question:

268. Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Social Protection the funding provided for the Money Advice and Budgeting Service for the years 2011, 2012 and 2013 on a county basis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14829/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS), under the aegis of the Citizens Information Board, provides a high quality personal service to assist people who are over-indebted and need help and advice in coping with debt problems, in particular those on low incomes and people living on social welfare payments. The Money Advice and Budgeting Service is made up of a network of 53 companies, which includes 51 local companies and 2 national companies MABS National Development Limited and National Traveller MABS. There are some 277 money advice staff employed across the MABS network.

In 2014, the Citizens Information Board has been allocated a budget of approximately €46.0 million of which some €18.6 million has been assigned to MABS to include the 51 local companies and the 2 national companies. Funding to MABS local companies on a county by county basis from 2011 to 2013 is set out as follows.

Funding Provided by MABS by County

2011

2012

2013

Carlow

353,993

367,700

396,527

Cavan

272,486

284,058

284,058

Clare

235,979

297,153

287,369

Cork

1,315,931

1,336,385

1,415,036

Donegal

641,026

664,182

698,335

Dublin

4,583,426

4,657,998

4,700,257

Galway

762,655

758,048

805,626

Kerry

479,990

452,080

517,021

Kildare

485,091

490,498

490,497

Kilkenny

264,853

294,750

290,263

Laois

191,286

222,516

220,609

Leitrim

213,084

218,274

218,183

Limerick

398,188

398,098

331,749

Longford

176,936

191,889

214,175

Louth

387,333

442,193

456,751

Mayo

478,010

534,030

577,020

Meath

300,672

322,218

299,857

Monaghan

264,045

270,062

270,062

Offaly

244,981

226,430

287,280

Roscommon

200,384

197,196

244,003

Sligo

230,681

256,389

303,507

Tipperary

592,108

662,495

651,810

Waterford

629,482

653,780

819,378

Westmeath

373,125

385,463

371,211

Wexford

302,326

340,526

331,707

Wicklow

600,725

606,246

609,659

Question No. 269 withdrawn.

Carer's Allowance Appeals

Questions (270)

Tom Fleming

Question:

270. Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will expedite a carer's allowance overpayment appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14923/14]

View answer

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 including that adduced at the oral hearing, has decided to disallow the appeal of the person concerned. The person concerned was notified of the Appeals Officer's decision in writing on 28 March 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.

Jobseeker's Allowance Eligibility

Question No. 272 withdrawn.

Questions (271)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

271. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the basis on which it was decided that a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7 is not habitually resident in the State; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14941/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The person concerned does not satisfy the Habitual Residence Condition for receiving jobseeker's allowance as she does not yet have refugee status in the State. Consequently she does not have a work permit and is therefore unavailable for employment.

Question No. 272 withdrawn.

Jobseeker's Allowance Appeals

Questions (273)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

273. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an oral hearing for jobseeker's appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14954/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an oral hearing of the appeal of the person concerned took place on 11 February 2014 and that the Appeals Officer is now considering the appeal in the light of all the evidence submitted, including that adduced at the oral hearing. The person concerned will be notified of the Appeals Officer's decision within the next two weeks. 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.

State Pension (Contributory) Eligibility

Questions (274)

Stephen Donnelly

Question:

274. Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for Social Protection regarding the State contributory pension, if a person who has worked for 50 years from 1964 to 2014, who has paid 2,253 contributions plus taxes is entitled to €225.80; if a person who worked for 30 years from 1979 to 2009, who has paid 1,434 contributions plus taxes is entitled to €230.30; if a person who worked for ten years from 2004 to 2014, who has paid 520 contributions plus taxes is entitled to €230.30; her views on whether it is fair that a person who makes fewer than 25% of the number of contributions of another could be paid more per week; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14957/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The State pension is a very valuable benefit and is the bedrock of the Irish pension system. Therefore, it is important to ensure that those qualifying have made a sustained contribution to the Social Insurance Fund over their working lives and the reform measures introduced to date go somewhat toward that goal.

Currently a person's date of entry into insurance is taken as the date used for averaging purposes. To qualify for a state pension a person must:

- have entered insurance before the age of 66;

- have at least 520 paid contributions; and

- satisfy a yearly average (a yearly average of 48 contributions paid and/or credited is required for a full rate pension).

An increase for a qualified adult, which is means tested, may be made in respect of an adult dependant who does not qualify for a pension in their own right, or who qualifies for a lower rate of pension due to gaps in his/her insurance. The means tested non-contributory pension may be available to an individual who meets the qualifying criteria.

The yearly average test has been in existence since 1961 when contributory pensions were first introduced. The system was designed to ensure that people could qualify for contributory pensions immediately rather than waiting for contributions to build up and to suit a system where social insurance coverage was less comprehensive and people could move in and out of coverage as a result of the nature of their employment and/or earnings. Social insurance is now long established and is comprehensive in terms of the workforce covered.

It is planned to move to a total contributions approach to determine pension eligibility in the future. This would entail a situation where the total number of contributions paid over a working life will closely reflect the rate of payment received. For example, 30 years contributions (1,560) could qualify a person for maximum State pension (contributory). A person would accumulate 1/30th of a pension for each year of contributions up to a maximum of 30/30ths inclusive of a certain number of credits.

Question No. 275 withdrawn.

One-Parent Family Payment Eligibility

Questions (276)

Pádraig MacLochlainn

Question:

276. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Social Protection if it is correct procedure for a separated person who lives in alternative accommodation and has the family home, which is in negative equity and rented out, to have the rent which is paid directly to the mortgage company assessed as means when applying for one-parent family allowance. [14984/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

Where a person moves out of what was their family home to reside elsewhere, the estimated capital value of what was the family home, less outstanding mortgage, is assessed as it is no longer considered to be the person's principal private residence. Where the outstanding mortgage is higher than the estimated market value of the property, no capital means are assessed. In these circumstances, rental income would not be assessed. If the Deputy's question refers to an individual customer, he can forward the details to me and I will have the case examined. Alternatively, the person should enquire at their Social Welfare Intreo Centre or Local Office.