Question No. 319 withdrawn.

Registration of Births

Questions (320)

Terence Flanagan

Question:

320. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding original and adopted birth certificates (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24326/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

Both the register of births and the adopted children register are maintained in the General Register Office. An tArd-Chláiraitheoir also maintains an index to make traceable the connection between each entry in the adopted children register and the corresponding entry in the register of births. This index is strictly confidential and is maintained in line with the provisions of Section 86 of the Adoption Act, 2010. This means that staff engaged in the administration of the Public Services Card registration process do not have access to the adopted children register or the index providing the link. In the event that those staff are unable to locate a person's entry on the register of births, they ordinarily refer that person to their local registrar or the General Register Office.

EU Funding

Questions (321)

Seán Kenny

Question:

321. Deputy Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Social Protection the projects within her Department that were funded by the EU in 2013; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24333/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

In 2013 the Department had two schemes which are eligible for EU funding. These were:

(1) The Disability Activation Project, under which 14 separate projects are being co-funded with the European Social Fund. These projects, which will run until April 2015, are exploring a variety of routes towards ensuring that people in receipt of an illness or disability related income support payment are enabled to avail of progression, education and development opportunities within the world of work.

(2) EURES Job Mobility Initiatives aimed at providing information, advice and recruitment/placement services for the benefit of workers and employers as well as any citizen wishing to benefit from the principle of free movement of people within the EU.

Rent Supplement Scheme Applications

Questions Nos. 323 to 325, inclusive, withdrawn.

Questions (322)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

322. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the progress to date in determination of a new application for rent supplement in the case of persons (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24366/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

A request for further information was sent to the client concerned on 27 May 2014. When the outstanding information has been provided a decision will be made in full.

Questions Nos. 323 to 325, inclusive, withdrawn.

Rent Supplement Scheme Administration

Questions (326, 328, 347)

Terence Flanagan

Question:

326. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding rent allowance payment being made in advance (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24382/14]

View answer

Clare Daly

Question:

328. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection if there is currently a strict probity evaluation underway, based only on money values and not health criteria, of discretionary rent allowance decisions made in favour of disabled persons. [24393/14]

View answer

Bernard Durkan

Question:

347. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the extent to which restoration of rent supplement can be expedited in cases where the local authorities have not yet registered a housing need for the applicant; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24744/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 326, 328 and 347 together.

The purpose of the rent supplement scheme is to provide short-term income support to assist with reasonable accommodation costs of eligible people living in private rented accommodation who are unable to provide for their accommodation costs from their own resources. The overall aim is to provide short term assistance, and not to act as an alternative to the other social housing schemes operated by the Exchequer. There are currently approximately 76,000 rent supplement recipients for which the Government has provided over €344 million for 2014.

It is a condition of rent supplement that a person must have been residing in private rented accommodation, or accommodation for homeless persons or an institution (or any combination of these) for a period of 183 days within the preceding 12 months of the date of claim for rent supplement. A person may also qualify for rent supplement where an assessment of housing need has been carried out and the person is deemed by a housing authority to be eligible for and in need of social housing support.

In all other cases, a person who wishes to apply for rent supplement is referred, in the first instance, for an assessment of eligibility for social housing support by the housing authority. Only when the person has been assessed as being eligible for and in need of social housing support, does the person become eligible for consideration for rent supplement. The scheme also provides for an existing rent supplement recipient to make an application for an assessment of a housing need on being required by the officer administering the scheme.

The assessment of housing need is a matter for the housing authority and any concerns the Deputy may have regarding the timeliness of these assessments should be referred to the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government.

There is no evaluation underway of discretionary rent supplement decisions made in respect of disabled persons as referred to by the Deputy. Department officials operating the rent supplement scheme have discretionary powers to award a supplement at a higher level in exceptional cases where it appears that the circumstances of the case so warrant. Each case is examined individually and is decided on the basis of the situation presented.

Once approved, rent supplement is payable in arrears. However, under the supplementary welfare allowance (SWA) scheme, a payment for rent in advance can be made as a once off exceptional needs payment. There is no automatic entitlement to this payment and each application is determined by the officer administering the SWA scheme based on the particular circumstances of the case taking account of the nature and extent of the need. Such payments are confined to occurrences which are considered to be unexpected, unforeseen or exceptional. The detail of the specific case referred to by the Deputy should be forwarded to the Department for review.

Social Welfare Fraud Data

Question No. 328 answered with Question No. 326.

Questions (327)

Denis Naughten

Question:

327. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Social Protection the control savings made in 2013 under each payment scheme; the target set for control savings under each scheme; if she will outline the formula used to calculate the estimated control savings; if the same formula is used under each payment scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24389/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

Over the past number of years, fraud detection and control systems have been refined and enhanced and are subject to continuing review. A range of measures are employed by the Department to ensure that social welfare fraud and abuse is minimised and that its control activity is appropriately focused. Overall, this is resulting in less opportunity to commit fraud and less chance of claims being in payment at an incorrect rate through fraud or error.

Control savings arise as a result of control activity on claims in payment and from inspections of employers. They are not actual moneys recovered by the Department – rather they represent an estimate of the value of prevented future social welfare expenditure on claims that would have been incurred if investigative and control work had not been carried out. Actual monies are recovered when the Department assesses an overpayment in individual cases and subsequently recovers such debt.

Control savings do not include any cases of departmental or clerical error. In addition, they do not include any cases where the customer voluntarily told the Department of a change in their means or circumstances, which resulted in a change to their rate of payment. All of these control savings arise from proactive reviews on claims in payment.

Control savings are calculated by applying validated multipliers to the difference in the rate of payment before and after the control activity. Multipliers used in assessing control savings estimate the total future savings to the Department of a revocation or reduction resulting from a control action. The multiplier used is based on the average amount of time the person who ceases to claim will remain off the Department’s books. This time varies from scheme to scheme.

In general, long-term schemes have a multiplier of 136 weeks (termination cases) and short-term schemes have multipliers ranging from 32 to 52 weeks.

Validation exercises are undertaken to ensure control savings are recorded correctly. These involve an examination of the various control savings reported to ensure that savings are being compiled and calculated in the correct manner.

The overall savings target for 2013 was €710 million and the actual savings achieved was €632m.

-

2013 Target €m

2013 Achieved €m

Jobseekers

119

123

Illness (inc DCA)

122

66

Pensions (inc HHB)

157

140

OFP (inc WOPS)

165

146

Carers

15

20

Child Benefit

80

77

FIS

17

18

SWA

30

35

PAYE/PRSI

5

6

Total

710

632

This outcome demonstrates that the Department’s more intense control focus in recent years is having a positive impact on the level of fraud and error in the social welfare system.

In addition the new Compliance and Anti-Fraud Strategy 2014 – 2018 which I launched recently builds on the approach and progress made under the Fraud Initiative (2011 – 2013) and provides a strategic direction to tackling fraud and compliance risks in the years ahead.

Question No. 328 answered with Question No. 326.

Child Benefit Payments

Questions (329)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

329. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection if those persons in receipt of children's allowance receive payments into their bank accounts on the Saturday of bank holidays; the reason those in receipt of children's allowance can only access the payment on bank holiday weekends if they are with Bank of Ireland (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24408/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The entitlement date for child benefit is the first Tuesday of every month.

The Department of Social Protection makes child benefit payments to customers either through An Post or to a bank account nominated by the customer. In the case of payments to bank accounts, the Department sends payment instructions to Bank of Ireland on the Monday before the first Tuesday of a month. Bank of Ireland processes these payment instructions and makes payments to accounts held with Bank of Ireland. It also forwards payment instructions to the Euro area clearing and settlement service for payments to third party bank accounts.

In the case of bank holiday weekends, the Department brings forward the issue of a payment file to Bank of Ireland to the previous Friday in order to ensure payments are available on the following Tuesday. Bank of Ireland, as part of its internal processing, may make funds available to their customers’ accounts on the following day (Saturday) but the amount is not fully credited to their account until the due date of the first Tuesday of the month. Payments to accounts in third party banks are processed as normal through the clearing system with a payment date of the first Tuesday of the month. The practice by Bank of Ireland has no bearing on the Department in respect of earlier transfer of funds as the Department’s accounts are not debited until the Tuesday entitlement date.

In the case of the person concerned, payment was available to her on the first Tuesday of the month, as normal.

One-Parent Family Payment Appeals

Questions (330)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

330. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will postpone the cessation of a one-parent family payment in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9, pending the outcome of the review of their application for domiciliary care allowance. [24440/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The person concerned is currently in receipt of one parent family payment (OPFP) from this Department in respect of herself and her two children. Due to changes in Social Welfare legislation her entitlement to this payment will cease on 3 July 2014, as on that date she will not have a child under the requisite age which in this case is seven years.

Where a person is in receipt of domiciliary care allowance (DCA) for any child in the family, OPFP may continue up to the 16th birthday of the child in respect of whom DCA remains in payment. In the case of the person concerned her child is not currently in receipt of DCA, although she has appealed against the decision to disallow her claim. Should her appeal be successful her entitlement to OPFP will be immediately reviewed. There is no provision in legislation for a postponement to the cessation of a person’s claim while awaiting the outcome of an Appeal.

Disability Allowance Appeals

Questions (331)

Michael Ring

Question:

331. Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a disability allowance appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [24489/14]

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 convene an oral hearing in this case.

No date has been arranged for the hearing as yet but it is envisaged that a hearing will be listed before the end of June. The appellant will be notified of the date and time as soon as possible.

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 Fraud Investigations

Questions (332)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

332. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Social Protection if there is a forum of social protection authorities from this jurisdiction and from Northern Ireland examining the issue of persons who are employed in either jurisdiction but who are also availing of social protection payments; and if she will provide an overview of the work completed by this forum to date. [24501/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

As part of its approach to the prevention and detection of social welfare fraud, the Department has formed alliances and developed mutual assistance agreements with a range of enforcement and compliance agencies.

In the context of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, there is a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between our Governments concerning matters of mutual interest in the areas of fraud in the respective social security systems. Under the MOU, there are formal structures between the three relevant Departments which exercise oversight on issues of mutual co-operation – the UK Department of Work & Pensions (DWP), the Northern Ireland Social Security Agency (NISSA) of the Department for Social Development and this Department.

The Cross-Border Operational Forum operates under this MOU and comprises senior investigators from the relevant Departments. The Forum’s remit is to liaise at an operational level, under the aegis of the MOU, and to ensure that measures are in place to ensure effective co-operation, prevention and detection of fraud.

At an operational level, there is ongoing co-operation in both jurisdictions to assist the investigation of cross-jurisdictional fraud. Case-by-case information exchanges and data-matching takes places between the Department and the NISSA Northern Ireland and the UK DWP on cases where social welfare fraud or abuse is occurring.

In addition, there is an active and ongoing relationship between the Department’s SIU officers and their counterparts in the Fraud Investigation Service in Northern Ireland and Serious and Organised Fraud Branch in the UK DWP.

These measures are in place to ensure co-operation and mutual assistance in dealing with instances of social welfare fraud.

Black Economy

Questions (333)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

333. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Social Protection the work carried out by joint investigation units established between her Department and the Revenue Commissioners in targeting shadow or hidden economic activity and those working in certain sectors, particularly construction, in the years 2013 and to date in 2014. [24502/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

In conjunction with the Revenue Commissioners, the Department has identified the risk inherent in shadow economy activity as being a key issue to be tackled. This priority to target shadow economy activity is further reinforced in the Department’s recently published Compliance and Anti-Fraud Strategy 2014 – 2018. A sectoral approach is being undertaken with projects and operations focused on high risk and particular sectors. At operational level, this is achieved through the Department and Revenue’s Joint Investigation Units.

These units are configured to ensure that an inter-agency approach and co-operation takes place jointly to combat hidden economy activity and detect social welfare fraud. They play a key role in targeting particular types of shadow economy activity in the employed sectors. Some the sectors where inspections and operations have been undertaken in 2013/2014 included:

- The transport sector;

- Cash businesses;

- Contract cleaning;

- The construction sector and especially construction projects where public procurement is involved and once off builds. In particular, very explicit focus is being given to projects under the Education Capital Programme; and

- Fast food, catering sector and hospitality sectors.

In addition, where intelligence or reliable reports are received about persons engaged in concurrent working and claiming benefits and non-payment of tax, reviews of eligibility are immediately undertaken.

These joint control programmes are regularly reviewed and are adjusted to concentrate on the areas of greatest risk, based on operational experience and credible information received from industry and business sectors.

Jobseeker's Allowance Payments

Questions (334)

James Bannon

Question:

334. Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans to approve an application for jobseeker's in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Longford; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24504/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The person concerned is in receipt of jobseekers allowance since 6 January, 2010. Based on the information available the person concerned is in receipt of the correct rate of payment. If his circumstances have changed he should contact Longford Intreo Centre and his entitlement can be reviewed.

Job Initiatives

Questions (335)

Finian McGrath

Question:

335. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection her views on a matter (details supplied) regarding the Gateway scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24524/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

Gateway has been established to provide short-term, quality work opportunities with local authorities for those who are long-term unemployed. A key feature of the initiative is that selection is primarily undertaken by random processes conducted at local level by the Department of Social Protection. Gateway is part of a suite of interventions the Department funds that are designed to meet the priorities established by the Government in Pathways to Work.

Although all Local Authorities have been advised to be flexible with regard to placements and, where possible, to seek to ensure persons are placed within their local area, a customer in receipt of jobseeker’s payment is required to take up reasonable offers of work or training in order to retain entitlement to that payment. The opportunities offered under Gateway fall within that condition. If a reasonable opportunity of work, a work placement or training is refused without good reason, a suspension may be applied to a customer’s social welfare payment in the first instance.

Pensions Legislation

Questions (336, 337)

Stephen Donnelly

Question:

336. Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for Social Protection if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the Pensions Board has advised it is not qualified to determine whether an Act of the Oireachtas establishing a pension scheme has been complied with and that, as it is limited to the Pensions Act, it does not have the power to ensure the trustees carry out the duties imposed on them by that Act (details supplied); the actions she proposes taking to provide the Pensions Board with the competence necessary to fulfil its statutory obligation under the Pensions Act to ensure that trustees carry out the duties imposed on them by all law including the Pensions Act and to enable it to meet its key objective of providing authoritative guidance aimed at achieving voluntary compliance with the Pensions Act and other relevant legislation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24530/14]

View answer

Stephen Donnelly

Question:

337. Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for Social Protection if her attention has been drawn to the fact that her Department supports the conclusion by the Pensions Board that a complaint of failure by the trustees to comply with the law, trust deed and rules when amending the benefit structure of active members of a pension scheme does not fall within the board's remit and the accusation by the board chairperson that the complainant made very serious allegations against a number of parties including the board (details supplied); if she will provide information on the criteria used and reasons for deciding the complaint falls outside the board's remit as well as details of and justification for the very serious allegations the chairperson has accused the complainant of making; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24531/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 336 and 337 together.

The Deputy will appreciate that it would not be appropriate for me to comment on issues arising in a particular pension scheme.

Pension schemes in Ireland are generally established under trust law and are therefore governed by the trust deed and rules of the scheme. In this context, the trustees of the scheme must comply with the rules of the scheme and under trust law are required to act in the best interest of all scheme members.

In addition to the requirement imposed on the trustees of a pension scheme under trust deed, the trustees of a pension scheme are required to comply with the provisions in the Pensions Act. The Pensions Authority is responsible for the monitoring and supervision of the provisions in the Pensions Act. This responsibility does not extend to the supervision of the trust deed or scheme rules. Remedies exist within trust law for any breach of the trust deed.

I am aware that the Pensions Regulator has reviewed the matter the Deputy has raised and, in addition, senior officials in my department have separately reviewed this matter and have indicated that the matter does not come within the competence of Pensions Authority.