Social Welfare Benefits

Question No. 433 withdrawn.

Questions (432)

Seán Fleming

Question:

432. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will consider putting arrangements in place for financial supports regarding the social welfare system for persons who need gluten-free bread that they require for medical purposes in view of the fact that there is a tax rebate available to people on high incomes and there should be similar or equal benefits to persons on low incomes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22801/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

Diet supplement, administered under the supplementary welfare allowance (SWA) scheme, is payable to qualifying persons who have been prescribed a special diet as a result of a specified medical condition.

Following the outcome of a review of the costs of healthy eating and specialised diets by the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute commissioned by the Department during 2013, the scheme has been closed to new applicants from 1 February 2014. Payment of the supplement will continue to be made to the existing recipients for as long as they continue to be entitled to the payment.

The research showed that the average costs across all of the retail outlets of the diets supplemented under the scheme can be met from within one third of the minimum personal rate of social welfare payment, i.e. the SWA rate of €186 per week. Accordingly, I decided to discontinue the scheme on the basis of this evidence. I have no plans to reverse this decision.

In cases of hardship that may present, officials have the legislative power to award a payment under the SWA scheme in cases of exceptional need. It is open to any individual with a tax liability, including those who may also be in receipt of a social welfare payment, to apply to their local tax office for tax relief on the cost of gluten-free food.

Question No. 433 withdrawn.

Invalidity Pension Appeals

Questions (434)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

434. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the progress to date in respect of appeal for invalidity pension in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22818/14]

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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 20th March 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 28th April 2014 and the case 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 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

Questions (435)

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

435. Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Social Protection if an appeal of invalidity pension will be allowed in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22823/14]

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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 01st May 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 19th May 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.

Social Welfare Benefits

Questions (436)

Dan Neville

Question:

436. Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a cut in social welfare in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [22831/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The person concerned failed to attend activation meetings and a penalty rate was applied to his claim. Following further non-attendances at planned meetings his payment was suspended.

During this period he was also requested to provide proof of address on several occasions. This was not provided and his claim is now closed.

One-Parent Family Payment Appeals

Questions (437)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

437. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding lone parent and family income supplement in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22866/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that a one parent family payment appeal from the person concerned was referred to an Appeals Officer who has decided to convene an oral hearing in this case.

Every effort will be made to hear the case as quickly as possible and the appellant will be informed when arrangements for the oral hearing have been made.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised that there is no record of any family income supplement appeal having been received from the person concerned.

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

Questions (438)

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

438. Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will consider introducing measures to eliminate or reduce the delays in receiving payment from her Department by persons who work on a seasonal or occasional basis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22883/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

I am not aware of any undue delays in processing claims for jobseeker's payments. For claims processed in April, the average time to award a claim was 1 week for Jobseeker’s Benefit and 2 weeks for Jobseeker’s Allowance.

Where a person states that they have found work, it is normal practice for a jobseeker claim to be closed. However, in cases where the customer informs the Department in advance that they are taking up a short period of temporary work or training (up to 8 weeks), arrangements are now in place to simplify the process of returning to the live register at the end of this period.

In these cases, instead of closing the claim, payment is suspended temporarily for the duration of the work or training course. When the person signs on again after the period of work or training, the claim can be reactivated without delay and payment restored.

Exceptional Needs Payment Applications

Questions (439)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

439. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if an exceptional needs payment will be facilitated in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22894/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

According to the records of the department there is no application for an exceptional needs payment for the person concerned. It is open to her to make an application for such payment in her local office.

Back to Education Allowance Eligibility

Questions (440, 455)

Andrew Doyle

Question:

440. Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Social Protection if a person currently studying for a primary degree and in receipt of back to education allowance and who intends to progress to master's level, may retain back to education allowance at master's level or if there is another allowance available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22901/14]

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Andrew Doyle

Question:

455. Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Social Protection if a person studying for a primary degree and in receipt of back to education allowance and who intends to progress to master's level may retain back to education allowance at master's level; if the person may work on a part-time basis should a job opportunity present itself; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23139/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 440 and 455 together.

Post-graduate courses that lead to a higher diploma in any discipline are eligible for support under the back to education allowance scheme (BTEA). Other than the professional masters in education, to which eligibility has been extended for the forthcoming academic year following the introduction of number of improvements to the scheme, no other post-graduate study at masters level is supported. The Deputy may wish to note that there are no circumstances whereby a person who already holds a post-graduate qualification will be considered eligible for the BTEA to pursue another course of study.

With respect to BTEA and work, a person supported by the scheme may engage in part-time work while on BTEA without affecting their personal rate of payment. This is provided that such part-time work does not interfere with their college attendance.

This Department does not offer specific supports for students pursuing third level qualifications outside of the back to education programme. The principal support towards full-time courses, in financial terms, is provided for under the student grant scheme administered by the Department of Education and Skills.

Community Employment Schemes Funding

Questions (441)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

441. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a request by a community organisation (details supplied) regarding a proposed project requiring 15 additional community employment places. [22910/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

Moatview Fairfield Development Association recently submitted an application for additional places on their Community Employment project. The application indicates that the additional Community Employment participants would be employed managing Darndale Park.

The main objective of Community Employment is to enable long-term unemployed people to re-enter the labour market through the provision of training and work experience on a fixed-term basis.

The application from Moatview Fairfield Development Association details the benefits for the local community but gives no information in relation to training and development of participants or how it will improve their prospects of gaining employment.

On this basis, it is not proposed to sanction the additional CE numbers requested by Moatview Fairfield Development Association and officials from the Department have advised the Association accordingly.

Community Welfare Services

Questions (442)

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

442. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Social Protection the rationale behind moving the community welfare officers and the services they provide from the town of Bruff to Kilmallock in County Limerick; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22911/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

One of the primary aims in the transfer of the Community Welfare Service (CWS) from the Health Service Executive to the Department on 1st October 2011 was to provide a streamlined and consistent service to customers. As part of this process and to support the Department’s activation commitments under the Pathways to Work Programme and the development of Intreo services nationally, it has been necessary to review the administration of all its services across its remit including the CWS.

The Pathways to Work Programme represents a significant reform in the social welfare system and highlighted the need for the Department to focus its resources on the provision of opportunities, supports and assistance to people on the live register by intensifying the Department’s level of engagement with people who are unemployed and in particular those who are, or become, long term unemployed. The new Intreo service offers practical, tailored employment services and supports for jobseekers, a model which is currently being rolled out across the country. It is in this context that the Department took a decision to rebalance resources across the Department’s range of activities including the relocation of some staff to main centres, primarily Intreo offices, which will provide a full range of services, including the CWS and these will, in general, be available in one location.

In the instance where the community welfare service has been re-structured, alternative arrangements have been put in place to ensure that customers are provided with on-going access to the supports provided by the service. All affected customers have been written to advising them of the dedicated email addresses and phone lines that have been set up allowing in many cases, for customer queries to be processed without having to attend a clinic. In addition, customers have also been advised of the new postal addresses of the Intreo offices and the clinic opening hours. In the event that a face to face meeting is still necessary, but the customer is unable to travel to the public clinic, for example due to illness, an officer will arrange a visit to the customer’s home.

The Department is continuously reviewing the staffing needs for all areas of its business, to ensure that the best possible use is made of available resources with a view to providing an efficient service to those who rely on the schemes operated by the Department and that the services provided are reconstituted, where necessary, to meet the changing needs of Irish society.

Pension Provisions

Question No. 444 withdrawn

Questions (443)

Clare Daly

Question:

443. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection further to Parliamentary Question No. 111 of 3 April 2014, if he will ensure that the question asked in relation to the scope afforded to trustees to recognise differences within the pensioner group or deferred group in relation to the new guidance issued by the pensions authority, regarding applying cuts rather than representation rights, that is that a scale of protection to recognise length of service, age, duration and varying contributions made, is included to protect members with long pensionable service and contributions. [22918/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The provisions in the Pensions Act do take the length of service accrued in a pension scheme into account when calculating pension entitlement. For example, consider two members of a scheme, one with 30 years’ service completed and one with 15 years’ service completed. Assume the pension formula is 1/60th of pensionable salary per year of service, both have the same pensionable salary of €30,000 and both are aged 55. The accrued pension of the first member is 30/60ths of €30,000, which is €15,000. The accrued pension of the second member is half this amount, which is €7,500.

Guidance in relation to the assumptions used in the calculation of the value of pension right is reviewed and updated on a regular basis.

Question No. 444 withdrawn

Invalidity Pension Applications

Questions (445)

Willie Penrose

Question:

445. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for invalidity pension in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22944/14]

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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 02nd April 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 22nd April 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.

Jobseeker's Allowance Appeals

Questions (446)

Michael McCarthy

Question:

446. Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Social Protection if the decision to refuse jobseeker's allowance will be reviewed in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22978/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned together with the relevant Departmental papers were received by that office on 16th May 2014 and that the case 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 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.

Disability Allowance Payments

Questions (447)

Dan Neville

Question:

447. Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason a reduced rate of disability allowance is being paid in respect of a person (details supplied). [22981/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The person concerned is in receipt of a reduced rate disability allowance. The means assessed against him are derived from a pension his spouse receives. There are no disregards allowable for private pensions in the calculation of means for disability allowance.

If a person’s spouse or partner is in insurable employment, means are calculated as follows; gross earnings less employee PRSI, Union and pension contributions, which are divided by 52 to get weekly means. €20.00 per day worked up to a max of €60 is disregarded and 60%. of the balance is assessed.

Child Benefit Payments

Questions (448)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

448. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if arrears of child benefit will be paid in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23006/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

Child benefit is paid up to and including the month of a child’s 16th birthday and continues to the month of the 18th birthday, provided the child is in full-time education. In order for payment to continue after the age of 16, it is necessary for the school to certify that the child is in full-time education and will be until the age of 18.

In the case of the person concerned, a completed application form was received and child benefit was awarded to July 2013, the month of the 18th birthday. Child benefit is not paid after the month of the 18th birthday even if the child remains in full-time education.

Social Welfare Benefits

Questions (449)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

449. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the financial assistance available to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23015/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The community welfare officer has contacted the person concerned by phone and has issued the necessary application forms. As soon as the completed forms and supporting documentation are received a decision will be made on his entitlement to payment.