Question No. 277 withdrawn.

Social Welfare Payments Administration

Questions (278)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

278. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection her views on correspondence (details supplied) regarding direct electronic transfers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15023/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The Government approved and published a Payment Strategy for the modernisation of welfare payments in December last year. The Strategy sets out a roadmap payment developments over the coming years. It followed a root and branch examination of the Department's payment processes and approaches, reflecting changing consumer preferences and the need to deliver greater economies and efficiencies to the Department and the economy at large. The Strategy aims to remove the limits that cash payments impose on our clients in terms of making onward financial transactions and availing of discounted prices online while also continuing to serve those who are more vulnerable in our society.

The Strategy is aligned to the objectives of the National Payments Plan, which highlighted the criticality of moving to electronic payments in reducing the very high levels of cash usage in the Irish economy with its consequential impacts on costs and competitiveness.

I am very conscious of the important role of the post office around the country, not only in respect of social welfare payments but also the extent to which it is now a one stop shop where people can pay bills and undertake a number of other financial and banking transactions and services. The Government has stated its commitment to maintaining the post office network in the Programme for Government and Minister Rabbitte has made a number of statements recently in the Dáil referring to this. At a recent presentation to a Dáil committee, An Post spoke of its plans to grow their existing levels of services in the light of emerging market pressures which extend beyond the delivery of welfare payments.

For my part, I was happy to support the post office services with the signing of a new contract last December following an EU-wide procurement competition. The contract will be worth in excess of €50 million to An Post this year. The Department will continue to accommodate its clients in exercising their choice of electronic payments where this is possible in the interests of economy, efficiency and national competitiveness.

Disability Allowance Applications Waiting Times

Questions (279)

Simon Harris

Question:

279. Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of disability allowance applications waiting to be processed by her Department; the average length of time it takes to process new disability allowance applications and reviews of additional medical evidence; her views on whether this length of time is fair and equitable; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15025/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

Processing time for individual disability allowance claims can vary depending on the complexity of the claimant's circumstances and the information they provide. Approximately 430 new applications for disability allowance are received each week and are actioned immediately. At present, the average number of weeks to make a decision on a new disability allowance application is just over 11 weeks.

There are approximately 4,100 new applications for disability allowance awaiting decision – down from over 6,800 cases this time last year and continuing to reduce. Of this 4,100, approximately 1,400 have been actioned and are awaiting further information from the claimant or a report from a social welfare investigator before a decision can be made.

The Department is committed to delivering the best possible service to its customers. Operational processes and procedures and the organisation of work are continually reviewed in all areas of the Department, including disability allowance section, to ensure that claims are processed and decided in the most efficient and expeditious way possible, having regard to the eligibility conditions that apply to each scheme.

There are approximately 540 applications awaiting review of a decision to disallow a new application. Approximately 525 of these have sent in additional medical evidence which is waiting to be assessed by a medical assessor prior to the deciding officer review.

People who have urgent income support needs and are awaiting a decision on their application may apply for a means tested supplementary welfare allowance from their local community welfare service.

Pension Provisions

Questions Nos. 281 to 283, inclusive, withdrawn.

Questions (280)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

280. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will provide an update on exchanges between her Department and the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation with regard to facilitating collective representation for former employees or deferred members affected by pension changes or funding crises; the nature of the plans being considered; if it is likely to involve primary legislation; and the expected timeframe for any changes. [15028/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

I have written to my colleague the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation on this matter. Since then my officials have met with officials from the Department of Jobs Enterprise and Innovation to consider the issues arising.

I expect that this engagement will continue with a view to bringing forward proposals for consideration as soon as possible.

Questions Nos. 281 to 283, inclusive, withdrawn.

Death Certificates

Questions (284)

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

284. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Social Protection if a family can obtain a death certificate prior to an inquest where an interim death certificate is not sufficient (details supplied). [15056/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The procedures for the registration of a death following an inquest or post-mortem examination are set out in section 41 of the Civil Registration Act, 2004.

Where a death has been referred to a coroner, it is not possible for another qualified informant to register the death until the coroner's enquiries have been finalised. When the coroner's enquiries have concluded, a coroner's certificate will be given to the relevant registrar who will register the death.

There are no circumstances where a death certificate may be issued before registration has taken place.

Carer's Allowance Appeals

Questions Nos. 286 to 288, inclusive, withdrawn.

Questions (285)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

285. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding carer's allowance in respect of persons (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15081/14]

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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 19th August 2013. The case was referred to an Appeals Officer who examined the file and noted that, although the carer's allowance of the person concerned had been suspended pending investigation, no formal decision to disallow her carer's allowance had been given by a Deciding Officer of the Department. As a formal disallowance decision is required before an appeal can proceed, the file was returned by the Appeals Officer to the Department on 15th January 2014 for clarification in relation to the Deciding Officer's decision.

I understand from the Department that a formal disallowance letter has recently issued to the person concerned and that the file is being referred back to the Appeals Officer. If, having examined the Deciding Officer's decision, the person concerned wishes to add any additional facts or evidence in support of her appeal she should forward this to the Deciding Officer who will arrange for it to be brought to the attention of the Appeals Officer as a matter of urgency.

The Appeals Officer may 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.

Questions Nos. 286 to 288, inclusive, withdrawn.

Free Travel Scheme Administration

Questions (289, 290)

Anne Ferris

Question:

289. Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for Social Protection if her Department discussed with the National Transport Authority what will happen to bus passes on Dublin Bus routes 17, 17a, 18, 75, 76, 76a, 102, 104, 33a, 33b, 45a, 59, 63, 111, 114, 161, 184, 185, 220, 236, 238, 239 and 270 once these are put out for tender under a public service contract; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15166/14]

View answer

Anne Ferris

Question:

290. Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will confirm she will not cut the Department's budget for bus passes on Dublin Bus routes 17, 17a, 18, 75, 76, 76a, 102, 104, 33a, 33b, 45a, 59, 63, 111, 114, 161, 184, 185, 220, 236, 238, 239 and 270 once these 23 routes move to a contract under public service obligation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15167/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 289 and 290 together.

The current free travel scheme provides free travel on the main public and private transport services for those eligible under the scheme. These include road, rail and ferry services provided by companies such as Bus Átha Cliath, Bus Éireann and Iarnród Éireann, as well as Luas and services provided by almost 90 private transport operators. There are currently over 780,000 people in receipt of free travel.

Funding for the free travel scheme was frozen by the previous Government as outlined in the National Recovery Plan 2011-2014. During this period it has not been possible to accept additional routes or providers within the scheme. The Department is in contact with the National Transport Authority in relation to any issues arising.

Given the increasing number of recipients and the funding pressures, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport and I established a working group with representatives from the two Departments, as well as the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the National Transport Authority to review the free travel scheme. The purpose of this review is to examine and report on the current operation and future development of the free travel scheme. The work of this group is expected to conclude shortly.

Invalidity Pension Appeals

Question No. 292 withdrawn.

Questions (291)

John O'Mahony

Question:

291. Deputy John O'Mahony asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive a decision on an invalidity pension appeal; the reason for the delay in same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15177/14]

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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 19th 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.

Question No. 292 withdrawn.

Disability Allowance Applications

Questions (293)

John O'Mahony

Question:

293. Deputy John O'Mahony asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive a decision on an application for disability allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15185/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

An application for disability allowance was received from the person concerned on 4 November 2013. In order to determine the weekly means of the person concerned his application was forwarded to a social welfare investigator. I understand the investigator will be in contact with the person within the next seven to ten working days. A decision on the person's entitlement to disability allowance will be given on receipt of the social welfare investigator's report and the person will be notified directly of the outcome.