Social Welfare Benefits Expenditure

Questions (129)

Michael McNamara

Question:

129. Deputy Michael McNamara asked the Minister for Social Protection if a saving would accrue to her Department if all jobseeking clients received their payments through electronic fund transfers and if she will outline the scale of any such saving. [18378/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

Last year, the Government approved the Department’s Payment Strategy for the modernisation of welfare payments. The Strategy sets out a roadmap for payment developments over the coming years. The Strategy aims to facilitate greater use of electronic payments and 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 Department is very conscious of the need to ensure that fraud controls are not diminished when implementing change. In achieving an electronic payments environment, the Department will ensure its payment delivery approaches complement and enhance its scheme and payment control functions. In this regard, the Department proposes to adopt a risk-based approach to all payments, including those made to jobseekers, in progressively converting to electronic payments. The rollout and migration of electronic payments will be based on appropriate assessment of risk for the client cohorts involved. It will build on existing control attributes and security. The Department will seek to reassess and evaluate the associated risks and ensure that both preventative point of entry controls and detection systems are modified to securely accommodate the Payment Strategy. This approach will also be used to identify and combat any trends that are emerging in the financial services sector generally and in instances of fraudulent applications or unusual trends in payments.

The Deputy may wish to note that the Department does not intend migrating higher risk clients to an electronic payment until appropriate and robust measures are defined and fully implemented to mitigate any potential for increased risk of fraud within an electronic payments environment. The Department is actively considering possibilities in this regard.

Given the above considerations, the figure requested by the Deputy is not available.

Public Services Card Provision

Question No. 131 withdrawn.

Questions (130)

Seán Kenny

Question:

130. Deputy Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason there is a delay of over five months in issuing the new public services card and free travel to qualified persons. [18385/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The Department of Social Protection has developed, in conjunction with a number of other Government Departments, a rules based standard for establishing and authenticating an individual’s identity for the purposes of access to public services.

This programme of work, which is known as Standard Authentication Framework Environment, or SAFE for short, also provided for the introduction of a Public Services Card (PSC) to enable individual’s to gain access to public services more efficiently and with a minimum of duplication of effort, while at the same time preserving their privacy to the maximum extent possible.

The PSC is designed to replace other cards within the public sector such as the social services card of the Department and the free travel pass, and to make it easy for providers of public services to verify the identity of customers.

The Free Travel variant of the PSC became available in December 2013, and in anticipation of this, the Department began in August to register people over 66 years of age who have an entitlement to free travel. Since its launch in December over 140,000 Free Travel variants of the PSC have issued.

The current turnaround time from completion of registration to card issue is up to 5 working days. Since the Free Travel variant became available in December 2013, the Department is not aware of any individual who has completed the registration process and has experienced a five month delay in being issued with a card.

I understand that the Department has requested details of any such case that the Deputy may be aware of.

Question No. 131 withdrawn.

Supplementary Welfare Allowance Eligibility

Questions (132)

Jack Wall

Question:

132. Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection if there is any assistance available to a person in receipt of social welfare to assist with the purchase of school equipment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18400/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

Under the supplementary welfare allowance (SWA) scheme, the Department may make a single exceptional needs payment (ENP) to help meet essential, once-off and unforeseen expenditure which a person could not reasonably be expected to meet out of their weekly income. The Government has provided €31.3 million for the ENP scheme in 2014.

There is no automatic entitlement to a payment. ENP’s are payable at the discretion of the officers administering the scheme taking into account the requirements of the legislation and all the relevant circumstances of the case in order to ensure that the payments target those most in need of assistance.

The ENP scheme is not intended to cover circumstances where responsibility for the payment or the expenditure rests with another Government Department or Agency such as assistance towards educational equipment. Responsibility for the provision of the necessary educational equipment is a matter for the Department of Education and Skills.

One-Parent Family Payment Applications

Questions (133)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

133. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the correct level of one-parent family allowance in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18424/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

There is no record of an application for a one parent family payment currently registered with this Department for the person concerned. It is open to her to call to her local office in Maynooth to submit such an application.

Rent Supplement Scheme Payments

Questions (134)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

134. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the correct level of rent support in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18425/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The maximum rent support limit for the Leixlip area is €850 less a personal contribution based on means. As the client has secured a reduction in rent, her rent supplement entitlement is now €611.35. This entitlement is based on her current circumstances and monthly rent payable.

Rural Social Scheme Administration

Questions (135)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

135. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Social Protection if she has considered the document entitled Focus Policy Assessment of the Rural Social Scheme; if she will amend the scheme as a result; the proposed changes to the scheme; her views on whether the scheme is an activation measure or a work for income support scheme for small farmers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18441/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The rural social scheme (RSS) provides income support for farmers and those engaged in fishing who have an entitlement to specified social welfare payments. Participants are engaged for 19½ hours per week to provide certain services of benefit to rural communities.

The scheme currently provides work opportunities for 2,600 participants and 130 supervisory staff. The funds allocated for 2014 amount to €45m. This level of funding will allow the scheme to continue along the same lines in 2014 as in previous years but does not allow for the recruitment above the numbers stated above. As of the week ending 11 April, there were 2562 participants and 130 supervisors engaged on the RSS.

As with all schemes, the Department is required to ensure that the RSS remains effective, provides value for money and is in line with other policies being developed and delivered. The recommendations made in the Focused Policy Assessment will be carefully examined by the Department of Social protection to determine the improvements, if any, that should be made to the RSS and to consider if the scope of the scheme should be orientated more towards the activation needs of the jobseekers.

Supplementary Welfare Allowance Appeals

Questions (136)

Michael Ring

Question:

136. Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will issue on a supplementary welfare allowance appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [18443/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The supplementary welfare allowance file for the person concerned has been forwarded to a Reviewing Officer for decision. A decision will be made shortly and she will be notified of the outcome.

Departmental Offices

Questions (137)

Michael McGrath

Question:

137. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans for Intreo offices in Cork city and county; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18486/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The delivery of over 60 one-stop-shop Intreo offices is a major property project for the Office of Public Works (OPW) which is responsible for the provision of the Department’s property requirements, including refurbishment and fit out works.

The Intreo project requires the acquisition and development of some new properties and the re-modelling and refurbishment of others. All of this also entails the re-accommodation of staff including the transfer and set-up of IT, furniture and other utilities across multiple locations.

A total of 44 Intreo offices, including Cobh, have now been opened. The Department is working closely with the OPW on the rollout of the service to the remaining 16 existing local offices. It is expected that these offices, including Cork city and Carrigaline will be delivering the full Intreo service by the end of 2014.