Question No. 294 withdrawn.

Carer's Allowance Eligibility

Questions (295)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

295. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the progress to date in determination of a review of entitlement to carer's allowance in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15191/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

A child under 16 years is deemed medically eligible for carer's allowance when domiciliary care allowance is in payment for that child. Once the child reaches 16 years of age and entitlement to domiciliary care allowance ceases, a review of the continuing entitlement to carer's allowance is undertaken as medical eligibility is no longer automatically satisfied and must be confirmed. This resulted in a review in this case. Following that review carer's allowance in respect of one care recipient was stopped on 26th March 2014 as it was decided that the medical criteria were no longer satisfied.

The person in question submitted additional medical evidence in support of their application which was received on the 11th March 2014. This supplementary information has been forwarded to the Department's medical assessor for consideration. Once the review is completed in this case the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

Social Welfare Appeals Waiting Times

Questions (296)

Dara Calleary

Question:

296. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Social Protection the steps she is taking to address the current average waiting time of eight to 12 months for processing social welfare appeals; if she has any plans to increase the number of appeals officers within the Social Welfare Appeals Office; her views on whether the current waiting period is leaving many persons with uncertainty surrounding their own personal situation and their sources of financial support; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15208/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The workload of the appeals office has increased dramatically in recent years. Up to 2009 the average number of appeals received was 15,000 per annum, whereas in 2012 the number of appeals received peaked at 35,484, reducing to 32,777 appeals in 2013. This has placed considerable pressure on the office.

Significant effort and resources have been devoted to reforming the appeals process to manage this increased workload, reduce backlogs and improve appeals processing times for appellants, while, at the same time, recognising the need to ensure that quality and fairness are not compromised. An additional 15 Appeals Officers have been assigned to the office over the past three years, in addition to 10 former Community Welfare Service Appeals Officers who joined the appeals office in 2011, bringing the total number to 41. In addition, a new operating model has been introduced in the appeals office. A major programme of process redesign and modernisation is also under way in the Department in relation to many of its scheme areas, aimed at reducing backlogs and reducing the time taken by the Department to respond to requests from the appeals office for submissions in relation to appeals.

These measures have achieved significant improvements. The number of appeals cases processed in 2013 increased by 18%, to over 38,400. The average processing time for appeals peaked in 2011 when the average time for an oral hearing was 52.5 weeks and for a summary decision was 25.1 weeks. In 2012 the average time for an oral hearing dropped to 39.5 weeks and the time for a summary decision increased slightly to 27.8 weeks. This overall improvement has continued in 2013 with the processing time reducing to 33.9 weeks for an oral hearing and 25.8 weeks for a summary decision.

In addition to the improvements in processing times mentioned above, these measures have also led to a significant increase in the number of appeals finalised in the appeals office from 17,787 in 2009 to 38,421 in 2013. An additional 5,863 appeals were finalised in 2013 compared to 2012. Good progress also continues to be made in reducing the number of appeals on hands from 20,414 at 1 January 2013 to 13,993 at 31 March 2014.

Appeal processing times are calculated from the registration date of the appeal to the date of its finalisation. They include all activities during this period including time spent awaiting any clarification from the appellant, time in the Department for comments by the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal put forward by the appellant, and any further investigation, examination or assessment by the Department's Inspectors and Medical Assessors that is deemed necessary. A considerable period of time is added to the process when an oral hearing is required because of the logistics involved in this process. While I accept that this process carries an inherent delay in terms of finalising an appeal, it also crystalises the flexibility and accessibility of the appeals system.

By its nature and because it is a quasi-judicial function, the processing of appeals takes time and reflects the fact that, by definition, the appeal process cannot be a quick one. However, where an appellant's means are insufficient to meet their needs pending the determination of their appeal, it is open to them to apply for a means-tested Supplementary Allowance payment. 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 (297)

Finian McGrath

Question:

297. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding carer's allowance and jobseeker's allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15234/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

I confirm that the Department received an application for carer's allowance from the person in question on the 2nd November 2012. The person in question was refused carers allowance on the grounds that she was not providing full time care and attention as required and she was attending a course for more than 15 hours per week.

The person concerned appealed this decision and the case was submitted to the Social Welfare Appeals office for determination. An Appeals Officer, having fully considered all of the available evidence, disallowed the appeal of the person concerned. The person concerned was notified of the Appeals Officer's decision on 20th September 2013 and was provided at that time with a detailed explanation of the basis for the Appeals Officer's decision to disallow the appeal. Under Social Welfare legislation, the decision of an Appeals Officer is final and conclusive and may only be reviewed in the light of additional evidence or new facts.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office recalled the file on the 4th March 2014.

The person in question is currently in receipt of jobseekers allowance from 6th August 2013.

Departmental Contracts

Questions (298)

Willie O'Dea

Question:

298. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection if her attention has been drawn to G4S's security operations in Israel; if she has any concerns regarding the company's activities in Israel; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that G4S has submitted a bid for the JobPath contract; if she will outline the criteria for this contract; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15275/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The Department is currently in the process of evaluating tenders for the provision of employment services under the JobPath initiative. This is a confidential process and is being conducted in accordance with EU and national public procurement rules. No information in relation to any tenders will be released during the evaluation process which is expected to take a number of weeks. In order to respect the evaluation process I have not sought, nor have I received, any information regarding the tenders. The criteria for the award of contracts are set out in the tender documents which are available on the Department's website www.welfare.ie.

Disability Allowance Appeals

Questions (299)

Michael Creed

Question:

299. Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will be made on a disability allowance appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15276/14]

View answer

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 13th January 2014. 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 25th February 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.

Invalidity Pension Appeals

Question No. 301 withdrawn.

Questions (300)

Michael Creed

Question:

300. Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an invalidity pension appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15277/14]

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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 including that adduced at the oral hearing, has decided to allow the appeal of the person concerned. The person concerned was notified of the Appeals Officer's decision on 27th 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.

Question No. 301 withdrawn.

Pension Provisions

Questions (302)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

302. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection her views on correspondence (details supplied) regarding a Teagasc pension. [15283/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

This is not a matter for my Department. My colleague, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine has advised that under the Agriculture (Research, Training and Advice) Act, 1988, Teagasc has statutory responsibility for the provision of education, advisory and research services to the agriculture sector. Teagasc operate as a separate non-commercial state agency with their own management structure and governing Authority. All matters relating to the re allocation of resources, including all matters relating to staff are operational matters for Teagasc.

Disability Allowance Eligibility

Questions (303)

Denis Naughten

Question:

303. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Social Protection the basis on which a person (details supplied) in County Leitrim did not meet the substantial disability and-or restriction criteria; if she will provide a copy of the medical assessor's report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15319/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The person concerned applied for disability allowance (DA) on 2 September 2013. In order to satisfy the medical conditions for receipt of DA an applicant must be suffering from a specified disability, illness or injury which is expected to last for at least 12 months and be substantially restricted in obtaining employment suitable to a person of the same age, experience and qualifications. Disability allowance applications are medically assessed by fully qualified and experienced registered medical practitioners employed by the Department as medical assessors (MAs). These assessments are carried out by summary review of the medical and other relevant evidence submitted by the applicant and his/her doctor(s) in support of the application. An opinion on medical eligibility is provided by a medical assessor to a deciding officer based upon the medical assessor's assessment of the severity and expected duration of the medical condition(s) of the applicant.

The assessment is made in accordance with the Department's evidence-based medical guidelines and protocols, which are available for viewing on the Department's website www.welfare.ie.

In relation to the specific case concerned a medical assessor, having examined the evidence submitted, acknowledged that there was a level of restriction but was of the opinion that the person was not substantially restricted in accordance with the statutory conditionality.

The deciding officer accepted the opinion of the medical assessor and the person's application was refused on medical grounds. I understand the person has since appealed this decision to the Social Welfare Appeals Office.

Carer's Allowance Appeals

Questions (304)

Eric J. Byrne

Question:

304. Deputy Eric Byrne asked the Minister for Social Protection further to Parliamentary Question No. 109 of 26 March 2014, when the appeal decision will be made; the length of time this process will take; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15329/14]

View answer

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 10th 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.

It is not possible to ascertain when this decision will be reached or the length of time that this process will take.

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.

Mortgage Interest Supplement Scheme Eligibility

Questions (305)

Gerry Adams

Question:

305. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Social Protection her views on whether it is acceptable that her Department has continuously failed to make a decision on the application made in 2009 by a person (details supplied) for mortgage interest supplement; if she will instruct her Department to provide a decision in this case; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15341/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The person concerned made an application for Mortgage Interest Supplement in 2009. The application was disallowed on 06 November 2012 as the person concerned failed to provide information in support of this application. Following an Appeals Office decision in relation to Jobseekers Allowance, the application for Mortgage Interest Supplement was reviewed and subsequently disallowed on 12 March 2014. Notification of these decisions issued to the person concerned on these dates. The person concerned has been advised of his right to appeal these decisions. No appeal of either decision has yet been received.

Farm Assist Scheme Data

Questions (306)

Michael McCarthy

Question:

306. Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Social Protection if she has carried out an analysis on the impact of changes to the farm assist scheme; if she will consider reviewing the changes in view of the serious negative affect this has had on the income levels of already struggling farming families, the local economy and the agriculture sector as a whole; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15355/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

There were just over 10,300 recipients of farm assist at the end of December 2013 and nearly €99.5 million was spent on the scheme in 2013. The farm assist scheme is based on jobseeker's allowance. It was introduced in 1999 to replace 'Smallholders Unemployment Assistance' for low income farmers. Farm assist recipients retain all the advantages of the jobseeker's allowance scheme such as retention of secondary benefits and access to activation programmes.

The assessment of means for the purpose of qualifying for farm assist is designed to reflect the actual net income from farming. Income and expenditure figures for the preceding year are generally used as an indicator of the expected position in the following year. However, account is taken of any exceptional circumstances so as to ensure that the assessment accurately reflects the current situation.

Changes under Budgets 2012 and 2013 have brought farm assist into closer alignment with the treatment of self-employed persons under jobseeker's allowance and the scheme is kept under ongoing review by my officials. It may be noted that the changes related to the assessment of means under the scheme – rates of farm assist have been maintained so there has been no change in the level of support being given to farm families with the lowest incomes.

My officials are in regular contact with the Irish Farmers Association with regard to issues arising in relation to the farm assist scheme. At present there are no plans to change the current scheme criteria.

Carer's Allowance Appeals

Questions (307)

Pat Breen

Question:

307. 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. [15365/14]

View answer

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 11th 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.

Jobseeker's Allowance Payments

Questions (308)

Dan Neville

Question:

308. Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding jobseeker's payments in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [15367/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The person concerned commenced part time employment on 19 February 2014. Casual Jobseeker's Allowance has now been awarded and all payments due have issued.

Domiciliary Care Allowance Review

Question No. 310 withdrawn.

Questions (309)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

309. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will provide an update on the implementation of the recommendations of the working group that reviewed the DCA scheme; and the further changes she anticipates making to the scheme. [15370/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The review of the Domiciliary Care Allowance scheme (DCA), which was published in April 2013, makes a number of recommendations in relation to the operation of the scheme.

An implementation group, comprising officials from the Department of Social Protection, other relevant Departments/relevant bodies and parent/representative groups was established to action the administrative recommendations in the report. Some of these recommendations required changes to be made to the Department's IT systems. This work, along with work on the remaining administrative changes recommended has been completed. It is intended to have the administrative recommendations contained in the report implemented in April 2014.

The Department plans to recommence eligibility reviews during quarter 2 of 2014. Work on planning and scheduling reviews has been undertaken in conjunction with the implementation group and is well advanced at present.

The policy recommendations contained in the report are a matter for Government.

Question No. 310 withdrawn.