European Court of Justice Rulings

Questions (104)

Willie O'Dea

Question:

104. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason she has not yet acted on the Waterford Crystal decision in the Court of Justice of the European Union; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24108/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

I am not in a position to comment on individual schemes. However, I can advise that this case is due to be heard in Court in October 2014. As this matter remains before the courts it would not be appropriate that I comment further on the issues you have raised or any specific aspects of the case at this time.

Rural Social Scheme Assessment

Question No. 106 answered with Question No. 88.

Questions (105)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

105. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Social Protection her policy regarding the rural social scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24109/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

As the Deputy is aware, the rural social scheme (RSS) provides income support for low income 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 Department has engaged 35 local development companies and Údarás na Gaeltachta to deliver the scheme. 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 week ending 6th June, 2,562 participants and 130 supervisors were 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 Government policies. A Focused Policy Assessment on the Scheme was carried out by the Department of Public Expenditure and the results were published in recent months. The Assessment highlights the difficulty in assessing the impact and benefits from the Scheme and that it is generally out of line with current Government policy, which is focused on having greater targeting of labour market activation and on the integration of income support schemes with activation. The Assessment also concluded that while there are social inclusion aspects to the RSS, these are not clearly defined and an improved activation component would be beneficial.

The Department is examining the conclusions made in the Assessment, together with the recommendations contained in the Review of Employment Support Schemes which was published by the Department in early 2013. This is with a view to determining the measures that need to be implemented to improve the delivery and focus of the RSS, whilst ensuring the continued support for the provision of services across rural areas.

Question No. 106 answered with Question No. 88.

Social Welfare Offices

Questions (107)

Willie O'Dea

Question:

107. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection the tendering arrangements that have been put in place for the renting of offices for social welfare branch offices; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24159/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

Opportunities to provide Branch Office services on behalf of the Department are advertised in the National and Local Press. Following inspection of proposed premises and interview by Departmental officials, the successful candidate is offered an appointment as Branch Manager on a contract for services basis. The contract is awarded subject to the provision of adequate accommodation and staffing. An all-inclusive payment is made in respect of Branch Offices where the average claimload is below 500 per week. Remuneration in respect of an office with an average claim load in excess of that number comprises three elements i.e. a Basic Salary, Tiered Services Allowance and Variable Costs Allowance. The Services Allowance is payable subject to the maintenance by Branch Managers of an adequate standard of accommodation and is intended to cover all operational costs.

National Internship Scheme Data

Questions (108, 310)

Willie O'Dea

Question:

108. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of companies and State agencies who have utilised JobBridge since its foundation; if she is satisfied that the internship programme is not creating displacement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24107/14]

View answer

Mick Wallace

Question:

310. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Social Protection the State agencies under his remit that have used and/or are currently using the JobBridge scheme; the number of JobBridge placements in State agencies in 2013; if any State agency takes on interns who do not receive any payment during their internship; the names of these agencies; and the total number of unpaid internships in State agencies in 2013; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23686/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 108 and 310 together.

Table 1 contains details of those State agencies that have participated in JobBridge since it commenced on 1 July, 2011. Table 2 contains details of JobBridge internships that commenced in 2013 with State agencies. Internships other than JobBridge internships in State agencies fall outside the remit of the Minister for Social Protection. As of 3 June, 2014, 13,433 host organisations had participated in JobBridge since it was launched on 1 July, 2011. Of those, 1,378 host organisations were in the Public Sector. While the independent evaluation of JobBridge undertaken by Indecon International Economic Consultants and launched by the Taoiseach and I on 1 May, 2013, found that there is a higher rate of progression into employment among participants who completed their internships in private sector organisations, at 54.8%, compared to 41.2% among participants who undertook their internship in a public sector organisation and 43% within the community and voluntary sector, it was also found that, in every sector, JobBridge internships are providing effective and high quality real-workplace experience to break the cycle where the unemployed, even those with good vocational or academic qualifications have difficulty securing employment without demonstrable work experience.

The exceptional rates of progression into employment among interns in the public sector, where a recruitment moratorium limits possibility of progression into employment with the host organisation, make it clear that the benefits gained by interns in public and voluntary sector host organisations significantly improve their employability and facilitate them in gaining employment either with their host organisation or with another employer.

I am satisfied that there is minimal displacement created by JobBridge on foot of the independent evaluation. Host organisations are required to give an undertaking that there is no displacement of existing employees when advertising an internship opportunity. Where displacement is alleged it is dealt with vigorously by the Department.

In order to protect the intern and to ensure the integrity of JobBridge, a variety of control measures and criteria are in place to prevent displacement of an existing position and to ensure appropriate training and development and that appropriate mentoring and support is provided to the intern. In addition to the initial vetting of advertisements and the requirement for the host organisation to participate in monthly compliance reporting, the Department has conducted over 6,400 onsite monitoring visits, either randomised visits/inspections with host organisations or for the investigation of complaints received from interns or concerned individuals. The Department treats such complaints very seriously.

Table 1 - State Agencies that have participated in JobBridge

STATE AGENCY

Adoption Authority of Ireland

An Bord Altranais

An Chomhairle Leabharlanna / The Library Council

An Garda Síochána

Athlone Town Council

Ballina Town Council

Ballyfermot Citizens Information Service

Ballymun Whitehall Area Partnership

Bord Bia

Bord Gáis Networks

Bord na Mona Plc

Bord Scannán na hÉireann / Irish Film Board

Border Regional Authority

Border, Midland and Western Regional Assembly

Bray Town Council

Broadcasting Authority of Ireland

Canal Communities Partnership

Carlow County Council

Carlow County Enterprise Board

Castlebar Town Council

Cavan and Monaghan ETB

Cavan Local Authorities

Central Bank of Ireland

Central Statistics Office

Chester Beatty Library

Child and Family Agency Louth

Citizens Information Board

City of Cork VEC

City of Dublin Education and Training Board

City of Limerick VEC

City of Waterford VEC

Clare County Council

Clare County Enterprise Board

Co Cavan VEC

Co Cork VEC

Co Monaghan MABS

Co. Waterford VEC

Co. Wicklow VEC

Coillte

Commission for Aviation Regulation

Commission for Energy Regulation

Competition Authority

Cork City Coroners Office

Cork City Council

Cork City Enterprise Board Ltd.

Cork County Council

Cork Opera House

County Dublin VEC

County Kildare Leader Partnership

County Tipperary Joint Libraries Committee

Courts Service

Crafts Council of Ireland

Defence Forces

Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine

Department of Arts, Heritage & the Gaeltacht

Department of Defence - Newbridge

Department of Education & Skills

Department of Finance

Department of Health

Department of Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation

Department of Justice & Equality

Department of Public Expenditure & Reform

Department of Social Protection

Department of the Taoiseach

Department of Transport, Tourism & Sport

Dept of Environment, Community & Local Government

Dept. of Communications, Energy & Natural Resources

Donegal County Council

Donegal County Enterprise Board

Drogheda Port Company

Dublin Airport Authority

Dublin Bus

Dublin City Council - Woodquay

Dublin Institute of Technology

Dublin Tourism

Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council

Dún Laoghaire VEC

Dundalk Institute of Technology

Dungarvan Town Council

Dungarvan VTOS

Enterprise Ireland

Environmental Protection Agency

Equality Authority

Equality Tribunal

ESB (Head Office)

Fáilte Ireland

Family Support Agency

Fingal County Council

Food Safety Authority of Ireland

Forfás

Galway City Council

Galway County & City Enterprise Board

Galway County Council

Health Service Executive

Health and Safety Authority

Heritage Council

Human Rights Commission

IDA Ireland

Personal Injuries Assessment Board

Inland Fisheries Ireland

Irish Aviation Authority

Irish Medicines Board

Irish Museum of Modern Art

Irish Sports Council

Irish Water Safety

Kerry County Council

Kerry Education and Training Board

Kildare County Council

Kildare County Enterprise Board Ltd

Kilkenny County Enterprise Board

Laois and Offaly Education and Training Board

Laois County Council

Laois County Enterprise Board Limited

Léargas

Legal Aid Board

Leitrim County Council

Limerick City Adult Education Service

Limerick City Council

Limerick City Enterprise Board

Limerick County Council

Limerick County Enterprise Board

Limerick Social Services Council Ltd

Local Government Management Agency

Longford County Council

Louth & Meath Education & Training Board

Louth County Council

Louth Leader Partnership

Marine Institute

Mayo County Council

Mayo, Sligo and Leitrim ETB

Meath County Council

Medical Council

Midland Regional Authority

Monaghan County Council

Muintearas

National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA)

National Concert Hall

National Gallery of Ireland

National Museum of Ireland

North & East Kerry Development

North Cork Adult Education Services

North Cork Enterprise Board

North Tipperary County Council

North Tipperary Leader Partnership

Offaly County Council

Office of Public Works

Office of the Attorney General

Office Of the Chief State Solicitor

Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General

Office of the Ombudsman

Office of the Pensions Ombudsman

Office of the Secretary General to the President

Oireachtas Library & Research Service

Port of Waterford

Private Residential Tenancies Board

Radio Telefís Éireann

Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland

Revenue

Roscommon County Council

Roscommon County Enterprise Board Ltd

Science Foundation Ireland

Sligo County Council

South Cork Enterprise Board

South Dublin County Council

South Tipperary County Council

South-East Regional Authority

Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland

Teagasc

TG4

State Laboratory

Tipperary North County Enterprise Board Ltd.

Tipperary SR County Enterprise Board Ltd

Tourism Ireland

Valuation Office

Waterford City Council

Waterford County Council

Waterways Ireland

Western Development Commission

Westmeath County Council

Westmeath County Enterprise Board Ltd

Wexford Arts Centre

Wexford Local Authorities

Wicklow County Council

Wicklow County Enterprise Board

Table 2 - JobBridge Internships that commenced in 2013 with State Agencies

-

Completed Early

Completed

Full

Ongoing

Total

An Garda Síochána

1

1

2

Athlone Town Council

1

1

Ballina Town Council

2

1

1

4

Ballymun Whitehall Area Partnership

1

1

Bord Bia

2

1

3

Canal Communities Partnership

1

1

Carlow County Council

6

8

8

22

Castlebar Town Council

2

2

Cavan and Monaghan ETB

3

1

4

Cavan County Council

8

8

5

21

Central Bank of Ireland

1

1

Chester Beatty Library

1

1

1

3

Citizens Information Board

1

1

Clare County Council

4

2

1

7

Co Monaghan MABS

1

1

Co. Waterford VEC

1

1

Coillte

1

1

Commission for Energy Regulation

1

1

Cork City Coroners Office

1

1

Cork City Council

3

10

4

17

Cork County Council

23

24

5

52

Cork Opera House

1

1

2

County Dublin VEC

1

1

County Tipperary Joint Libraries Committee

1

1

Courts Service

2

1

3

Crafts Council of Ireland

9

15

27

51

Defence Forces

6

2

8

Department of Agriculture & Food

2

3

5

Department of Arts, Heritage & the Gaeltacht

3

2

5

Department of Education & Skills

1

2

3

Department of Finance

1

1

Department of Health

1

1

Department of Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation

4

3

7

Department of Justice & Law Reform

8

3

4

15

Department of Public Expenditure & Reform

4

3

3

10

Department of Social Protection

2

2

4

Department of the Taoiseach

2

2

Dept of Environment, Community & Local Government

1

2

3

Dept. of Communications, Energy & Natural Resources

8

1

2

11

Donegal County Council

8

15

5

28

Dublin Airport Authority

1

1

Dublin City Council

5

10

2

17

Dublin Institute of Technology

3

3

6

Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council

4

4

1

9

Dun Laoghaire VEC

1

1

Dundalk Institute of Technology

6

5

3

14

Dungarvan VTOS

1

1

Enterprise Ireland

6

3

2

11

Environmental Protection Agency

13

8

2

23

ESB

26

14

7

47

Failte Ireland

8

6

1

15

Fingal County Council

3

1

12

16

Galway City Council

1

1

Galway County Council

5

13

8

26

Grangegorman Development Agency

1

1

Health Service Executive

38

36

17

91

IDA Ireland

6

8

4

18

Personal Injuries Assessment Board

1

1

Inland Fisheries Ireland

1

1

Irish Medicines Board

1

1

Irish Museum of Modern Art

1

3

4

Irish Sports Council

4

4

Kerry County Council

1

10

1

12

Kerry Education and Training Board

1

5

6

Kildare County Council

1

1

Kildare County Enterprise Board Ltd

1

1

Laois and Offaly Education and Training Board

2

2

Laois County Council

2

1

1

4

Legal Aid Board

2

6

2

10

Leitrim County Council

4

3

3

10

Limerick City Council

7

6

8

21

Limerick County Council

2

2

Limerick Social Services Council Ltd

1

1

Local Government Management Agency

1

1

Louth & Meath Education & Training Board

1

1

Louth County Council

1

1

2

Louth Leader Partnership

1

1

2

Marine Institute

10

9

3

22

Mayo County Council

6

17

6

29

Mayo, Sligo and Leitrim ETB

3

1

4

Muintearas

1

1

2

National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA)

1

1

2

National Cancer Control Programme

2

4

6

National Cancer Screening Service

3

1

4

National Concert Hall

1

1

National Gallery of Ireland

1

1

National Museum of Ireland

3

1

4

North & East Kerry Development

4

2

1

7

North Cork Enterprise Board

1

1

North Tipperary County Council

6

8

5

19

North Tipperary LEADER Partnership

1

1

2

Offaly County Council

1

5

1

7

Office of Public Works

10

10

4

24

Office Of The Chief State Solicitor

2

1

3

Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General

1

1

Office of the Ombudsman

2

2

Office of the Pensions Ombudsman

2

1

3

Oireachtas Library & Research Service

3

3

Port of Waterford

1

1

2

Pre-Hospital Emergency Care Council

1

1

Radio Telefis Eireann

1

1

2

Revenue Commissioners

2

4

6

Roscommon County Council

2

3

5

Sligo County Council

8

10

5

23

South Dublin County Council

2

2

4

South Tipperary County Council

1

5

2

8

Southern & Eastern Regional Assembly

1

2

3

Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland

5

1

1

7

Teagasc

32

32

10

74

TG4

1

1

2

The Douglas Hyde Gallery

1

1

Waterford City Council

3

5

4

12

Waterford County Council

10

9

3

22

Western Development Commission

1

1

Westmeath County Council

1

1

2

Westmeath County Enterprise Board Ltd

1

1

Wexford Arts Centre

1

1

Wexford Local Authorities

6

7

3

16

Wicklow County Council

1

1

Totals

386

414

234

1034

Social Welfare Appeals Waiting Times

Questions (109)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

109. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the extent to which her Department continues to monitor the time taken to process appeals for various means tested payments or claims based on a medical entitlement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24226/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The processing times for appeals, which I will make available to the house, are kept under review in the Social Welfare Appeals Office and I am kept apprised of the situation by the Chief Appeals Officer. I am satisfied that significant progress has been made in addressing the Appeals backlog. 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 processing time for an oral hearing dropped to 39.5 weeks and the time for a summary decision increased slightly to 27.8 weeks. Further improvements were achieved in 2013, when the average appeal processing time reduced to 33.9 weeks for an oral hearing and 25.8 weeks for a summary decision, and to date in 2014. As at 31 May 2014, the time taken to process an appeal requiring an oral hearing reduced to 29.9 weeks and 22.5 weeks for a summary decision. The following table provides a breakdown by scheme of appeal processing times for all scheme types for 2012, 2013 and to the end of May 2014.

Appeals processing times by scheme

Scheme

Total weeks 2012

Total weeks 2013

Total weeks (1st January to 31 May 2014)

Adoptive Benefit

51.2

34.2

25.2

Blind Pension

26.5

15.8

31.3

Carers Allowance

33.8

28.5

20.8

Carers Benefit

24.0

18.7

24.1

Child Benefit

52.4

33.1

24.2

Disability Allowance

33.3

31.0

25.9

Illness Benefit

39.2

40.7

47.7

Domiciliary Care Allowance

32.2

38.1

22.3

Deserted Wives Benefit

49.4

25.7

64.7

Deserted Wives Allowance

32.0

62.2

41.8

Farm Assist

31.1

9.6

29.4

Bereavement Grant

24.2

26.6

13.3

Family Income Supplement

23.5

20.7

27.4

Invalidity Pension

37.1

28.8

30.5

Liable Relatives

56.2

39.3

18.1

One Parent Family Payment

36.3

45.8

36.5

Maternity Benefit

32.8

33.4

24.7

State Pension (Con)

48.9

28.9

31.6

State Pension (Non-Con)

37.9

35.1

28.3

State Pension (Transition)

35.3

29.9

52.5

Occupational Injury Benefit

36.5

28.3

52.9

Occupational Injury Benefit (Medical)

103.5

35.0

44.1

Disablement Pension

39.4

155.9

29.8

Incapacity Supplement

45.2

41.0

28.6

Guardian's Payment (Con)

37.1

64.9

20.5

Guardian's Payment (Non-Con)

39.2

27.5

19.6

Pre-Retirement Allowance

54.6

37.3

28.2

Jobseeker's Allowance (Means)

42.0

-

22.6

Jobseeker's Allowance

36.3

26.5

5.3

JA/JB Fraud Control (2 cases)

126.1

22.8

24.6

Jobseeker's Benefit

36.4

27.0

19.8

Respite Care Grant

28.0

24.6

61.8

Insurability of Employment

68.0

56.5

4.6

Supplementary Welfare Allowance

18.1

20.7

20.0

Treatment Benefits

24.3

27.7

20.8

Survivor's Pension (Con)

32.9

22.7

36.0

Survivor's Pension (Non-con)

26.0

43.1

34.1

Widows Parent Grant

23.2

26.3

22.6

All Appeals

33.1

29.0

25.1

Money Advice and Budgeting Service

Questions (110)

Joan Collins

Question:

110. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will reverse the decision to end the Lough payment scheme also known as MABSlink. [24200/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

There are a number of Money Advice and Budgeting Services (MABS) companies which have been assisting and supporting their clients with a facility to make direct deductions from their social welfare payments for bill paying purposes through historical arrangements put in place by Cork MABS and the Lough Credit Union, using the Household Budget facility operated by An Post. This arrangement is known as the Lough Payment Scheme or MABSlink. The purpose of the Household Budget facility is to facilitate deductions from social welfare payments for specified creditors. The Lough Payment Scheme catered for a variety of creditors, some outside those specified for the Household Budget facility. In order to regularise these arrangements, the local MABS companies which have clients currently availing of the Lough Payment Scheme are working with these clients to explore alternative arrangements for paying their bills. The Citizens Information Board, which has statutory responsibility for the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) is liaising with the local MABS companies concerned. Particular effort is being made to ensure that suitable alternative options are made available and that clients will be fully supported through the transition to the alternative arrangement. I am informed that the current arrangements will continue for the remaining clients on an administrative basis in the interim.

Homeless Accommodation Provision

Questions (111)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

111. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will review the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24231/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The Mid Leinster Rents Unit in the Department has contacted the Homeless Section in Wicklow County Council on behalf of the client concerned. The client has been previously advised that a higher rent limit may be considered once supporting medical documentation has been supplied. The client should forward relevant documentation to the Department to allow further consideration.

Employment Support Services

Questions (112)

Colm Keaveney

Question:

112. Deputy Colm Keaveney asked the Minister for Social Protection in view of the importance of increasing participation in employment for persons with a disability, if she will consider opening up all labour activation programmes to persons on some disability payments; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24111/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

This Government recognises the importance of increasing participation in employment for persons with a disability and is committed to removing any barriers that remain which prevent those persons with disabilities from participating activation programmes and employment.A wide range of activation programmes are available to persons with disabilities which cover both mainstream and specialised supports. In terms of mainstream provision, people with a disability can access all activation programmes – for example, SOLAS training courses, Community Employment schemes and JobBridge. For those previously receiving a social welfare payment, they will either retain that payment or move to a training allowance or temporary employment payment, depending on their individual circumstances.

In addition to access to its mainstream provision, Solas also funds customised training for people with disabilities provided by a range of Specialist Training Providers. The Department of Social Protection also provides a wide range of income and work-related supports specifically for people with disabilities. Work-related supports include:

- the EmployAbility service (formerly the Supported Employment Programme) which facilitates the integration of people with disabilities into paid employment in the open labour market; and

- a number of other supports specifically for employers (the Wage Subsidy Scheme - which pays an employer a subsidy for employing a person with a disability; the Work Equipment Adaptation Grant, the Employee Retention Grant, and the Disability Awareness Scheme).

In addition, the Department launched the Disability Activation Project (DACT) at the end of 2012. DACT is based in the Borders, Midland and Western (BMW) region and covers four specific strands associated with the employment of people with disabilities. DACT will provide invaluable guidance as to how best to further develop effective activation measures generally for people with disabilities into the future.

Furthermore, the Department also funds the WAM (Willing Able Mentoring) project, the objective of which is to bring graduates and employers together to promote access to the labour market for graduates with disabilities.

In short, the Department, in co-operation with the Department of Education and Skills, is committed to supporting people with disabilities to participate more fully in employment and to become more self-sufficient by providing supports that address barriers they may encounter in finding and sustaining work employment.

Community Welfare Services

Question No. 114 answered with Question No. 89.

Questions (113)

Seán Kyne

Question:

113. Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Social Protection if the operation of community welfare services, following the reorganisation with a new focus on telephone services and home visits has been monitored and kept under review; if her Department has sought feedback; if any recommendations have arisen; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24122/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

A key objective of 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 the customer. 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. Overall, this has resulted in a rebalancing of 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. 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 including increased frequency of clinics and improved phone services. If a person is unable to travel to a clinic, for example due to illness, alternative arrangements are in place including arranging a visit to the client’s home if necessary. People claiming supports under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme generally only interact with the Department on an occasional basis, for example, when seeking an exceptional needs payment or in claiming additional supports such as rent supplement, which are usually reviewed once to twice yearly. Feedback from the community welfare service staff and interaction with customers in relation to the restructured service is positive and the service is providing benefits to customers including the removal of unnecessary travel to clinics through greater use of the phone system, meetings by appointment which has improved queuing times and increased availability of officers in particular locations to process and investigate applications.

The Department continuously reviews all areas of its business, to ensure that the best 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.

Question No. 114 answered with Question No. 89.

Social Welfare Fraud Data

Questions (115)

Denis Naughten

Question:

115. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Social Protection the steps she is taking to reduce the incidence of fraud overpayment in child benefit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24203/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

Child benefit is a universal monthly payment made to the parents/guardians for the support of their children. As at 31st May 2014, child benefit is in payment to around 614,122 families in respect of some 1.175 million children with an estimated expenditure of around €1.9 billion in 2014.Safeguarding the child benefit budget is a priority and in this regard the Department has taken a proactive approach to ensuring that it is only paid to eligible families. A policy of issuing eligibility certificates to parents commenced in 2008 and is still in operation. The control policy for the scheme was reviewed in 2010 to ensure that controls in place to prevent fraud and abuse continue to be effective and relevant. As a result of this review, additional enhanced and updated control measures have been devised and implemented. The Department carried out a Fraud and Error survey on child benefit in 2012 which confirmed the Department’s view that the child benefit scheme is a low risk scheme in terms of fraud and error. In addition, the percentage of savings arising from the eligibility reviews has been falling year on year proving the effectiveness of the control programme and indicating that the existing control policy is effective. Control savings in 2013 were some €77 million. An overpayment recovery policy is also actively implemented by child benefit section to ensure that any money claimed fraudulently is recovered. The child benefit control programme will continue to be kept under regular review to ensure that fraud across the customer base continues to be minimised.

Family Income Supplement Payments

Questions (116)

Denis Naughten

Question:

116. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Social Protection the steps she is taking to increase the uptake of family income supplement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24202/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

Family income supplement (FIS) is an employee incentive scheme for low-income working families, including one-parent families, aimed at supporting them through supplementing their income while they remain in work. There has been a steady growth both in the number of families supported by FIS over recent years and associated expenditure as set out in the table. Expenditure on the FIS scheme is estimated to be €281.7 million in 2014, up €20 million on 2013.

Year

Number in payment (approx.)

Expenditure (€ Millions)

2011

28,875

204.5

2012

32,310

223.6

2013

44,160

261.5 (provisional)

The Department avails of every opportunity in its engagement with employers and jobseekers to build awareness of the availability of FIS and how this payment may benefit potential employees with children. The increasing numbers of families in receipt of FIS is testament to the effectiveness of the Department’s information strategy for the scheme and the significant improvements in customer service and processing times for FIS customers.

The Departments web site www.welfare.ie has full information on the FIS scheme and provides typical family scenarios to aid understanding and provide comparisons. This information is also available in all the Department local offices, CICs and information offices.

In addition a series of road-shows have also been held around the country designed to inform employers about the wide range of employment support services provided by the Department, including FIS. Case Officers in each locality will specifically use FIS as an incentive to move people from the long-term Live Register to employment.

Furthermore, the Department launched a Benefit of Work ready reckoner in December last year. The ready reckoner gives an indication of the difference between a person’s potential in-work payment, including FIS, and current out-of-work payments.

The Department will shortly be launching a poster campaign in its Intreo centres and local offices to further promote FIS.

In conclusion, I am satisfied that the FIS scheme is being promoted and evidence shows that it is fulfilling its role in assisting employees to take up employment opportunities and to remain at work.

Household Benefits Scheme

Questions (117)

Emmet Stagg

Question:

117. Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Social Protection if her attention has been drawn to the fact that where a spouse or partner is permanently resident in a nursing home and in receipt of the fair deal that the partner or spouse remaining at home is denied the benefits of the household benefits package and free fuel allowances as the income the partner or spouse in the nursing home continues to be included in the household budget; if she will make the changes necessary to remove this anomaly from the social welfare code; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24114/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

Some 410,000 customers have received the fuel allowance of €20 per week for 26 weeks from October to April, at an estimated cost of €208 million in 2014. The allowance is subject to a means test. The household benefits package is also paid to 410,000 customers at an estimated cost of €230 million in 2014. This allowance is subject to a means test for those aged under 70. If a person is one of a couple and is not separated then the Department will assess them as a couple in the fuel allowance or household benefits means test. The means tests are based on income and do not take account of expenditure. There is no disregard available for nursing home fees. In general the income limits for the schemes are higher for couples with the highest income limit available to couples aged over 66 years of age.

I would like to thank the Deputy for raising this issue. All our schemes are kept under review and I will keep this issue under consideration. The biggest single block of expenditure in the Department is expenditure on pensions which will amount to €6.5 billion, or 33% of overall expenditure which was provided for in the Estimate for 2014. The focus of the Department is on maintaining the rate of the State pension and other core payments which is critical in relation to protecting people from poverty.

Farm Assist Scheme Eligibility

Questions (118)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

118. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Social Protection her policy regarding the farm assist scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24110/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

Farm Assist is a means-tested income support scheme for farmers. To qualify for Farm Assist, a person must be a farmer, farming land in the State, aged between 18 and 66 and satisfy a means test. There were just over 10,300 recipients of farm assist at end December last and nearly €99.5 million was spent on the scheme in 2013. The farm assist scheme is based on jobseeker’s allowance and 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. Recent changes to the scheme have brought it into closer alignment with the jobseeker’s allowance scheme’s treatment of self-employed persons.

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.

The scheme, including the recent changes, is kept under ongoing review. Last year I met with representatives from the Irish Farmers Association to discuss a number of issues including the farm assist scheme.

Social Welfare Code

Questions (119)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

119. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Social Protection in respect of Members' inquiry lines, when a Deputy puts a query into a social welfare section for example on carer's allowance and repeatedly checks for an update to the query with the consent of the constituent, do regulations stipulate that a decision on a case can no longer be given to the Deputy directly or to his or her staff until her Department has written to the constituent; if this is the case, when was this regulation brought into effect; and if so, the way a Deputy's office can continue to represent a constituent on their behalf in relation to social welfare queries; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24124/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

In relation to the T.D. enquiry lines there are no regulations in place which stipulate that decisions on a case, once made, cannot be given to a Deputy directly or to his/her staff until her Department has written out to the customer themselves. When a Deputy or their staff makes an enquiry on a case they will receive the most up-to-date information on the status of the claim so that they can update the constituent directly. The Department strives at all times to ensure that all queries from Deputies, are dealt with efficiently and promptly.

Employment Support Services

Question No. 121 answered with Question No. 94.

Questions (120)

Colm Keaveney

Question:

120. Deputy Colm Keaveney asked the Minister for Social Protection the initiatives her Department has undertaken since April 2011 to increase the participation in employment of persons with a disability; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24112/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The Department provides a wide range of income and work related supports for people with disabilities. Work related supports include the EmployAbility service (formerly the Supported Employment Programme) which facilitates the integration of people with disabilities into paid employment in the open labour market; and a number of other supports specifically for employers (the Wage Subsidy Scheme - which pays an employer a subsidy for employing a person with a disability – the Work Equipment Adaptation Grant, the Employee Retention Grant, and the Disability Awareness Scheme).

The most significant additional initiative that the Department has undertaken to increase the participation in employment of people with a disability in the period since April 2011 is the Disability Activation Project (DACT) which I launched at the end of 2012. The DACT Project is jointly funded by the European Social Fund and the Department of Social Protection and is providing funding in excess of €7 million to some fourteen different projects in the Borders, Midlands and Western (BMW) region. These projects will run until end-April 2015 and cover four specific strands associated with the employment of people with disabilities: improving access to employment; progression programmes for young people with a disability; support for progression and retention of people with an acquired disability; and innovative employer initiatives. By way of illustration, the projects being supported include:

- a project which is developing individualised occupational therapy programmes to enable people affected by arthritis to overcome the barriers they face in accessing, remaining in or returning to work;

- a project which is developing an interagency response to meet the needs of young people with learning disabilities;

- a project which aims to significantly broaden the number of employers who employ people with disabilities by increasing awareness of the capabilities, skills and competencies to be found among people with disabilities as well as highlighting the supports available to employers in this area.

As well as the immediate positive outcomes which are being generated for those people participating, the outcomes of all of the projects will also provide valuable guidance as to how best to further develop effective activation measures generally for people with disabilities into the future.

I should mention also that the Department funds the WAM (Willing Able Mentoring) project, the objective of which is to bring graduates and employers together to promote access to the labour market for graduates with disabilities.

The Department is deeply committed to supporting people with disabilities to participate more fully in society and to become more self-sufficient by providing supports that address barriers they may encounter in finding work and at work.

Question No. 121 answered with Question No. 94.

Civil Registration Legislation

Question No. 123 answered with Question No. 86.

Questions (122)

Seán Kyne

Question:

122. Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding the Civil Registration Bill 2014; when this Bill will be introduced; and if, in view of the regrettable delays at amending the law regarding the issuance of death certificates of Irish persons who die while abroad, the Bill will have sufficient retrospective applicability. [24123/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The Bill is currently being drafted by the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel to the Government. Drafting is at an advanced stage and it is my intention to seek Cabinet approval for the publication of the Bill in the coming weeks.The legislation will provide for the development of a mechanism to record the deaths of Irish persons normally resident in the State who die while on short-term absences from the State. When a person dies abroad the death is registered by the authorities in that country, from which a certified copy of the death registration is obtainable. In general, only deaths which occur within the State can be registered here although there are some exceptions, such as the death of a person on board an Irish aircraft, the death of a member of the security forces serving outside the State or where a death occurs in a country which does not have a system in place to register deaths. I realise that it is very important for families to have the death of their loved one abroad recorded in Ireland. In this regard, the Department has examined options for providing a mechanism that deals with these cases in a way that addresses the concerns of families while ensuring the validity of the current registration process. An important part of this proposal is that there will be retrospective applicability.

Question No. 123 answered with Question No. 86.

Employment Support Services

Questions (124)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

124. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will provide an update on the JobPath tender process; her views on whether the privatisation of social protection services proposed gives rise to a danger of supports focusing on those amongst the long-term unemployed that are easiest to place at the expense of those with more intensive support needs also known as parking and creaming which has been the experience in Britain where a similar model to JobPath has already been unsuccessfully tested; and if she will consider halting the tender process even at this late stage in view of objections [24121/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

JobPath is a new programme of employment activation aimed specifically at the long-term unemployed and those most distant from the labour market with the primary objective of assisting such persons to gain sustainable employment. The Department is currently in the process of evaluating tenders for the provision of the service.The allocation of additional resources to the activation of long term unemployed people was the focus of an updated “Pathways to Work” policy statement published in July 2013 (PTW 2013). Having examined various resourcing and contracting options, and taking note of recommendations by the OECD among others, it was decided to procure additional capacity from providers with expertise and experience in the provision of employment supports or related services. This additional capacity will augment the Department’s own activation capacity as well as that already delivered under contract. Currently the Department has some 50 contracts in place for the provision of Local Employment Services and Job Clubs in 75 locations around the country. It is important to note that JobPath is not intended to be a substitute or replacement for any of the services currently offered by the Department either directly or via LES and JobsClubs; rather it will provide an additional element of support to enable people who are long-term unemployed and those most distant from the labour market to enter/re-enter employment or progress towards employment.

In designing JobPath the Department has taken on board experiences in various jurisdictions with regard to such contracting, as well as its own experience from its current contracted provision. In order to mitigate the potential for “creaming and parking” JobPath has been designed so that the Department controls the referral process, higher payments are made for those who are more difficult to place into sustainable employment and poor performance by contractors can result in financial penalties. In addition, unlike the position in UK, contractors must, subject to financial penalty, guarantee every JobPath participant a baseline level of service irrespective of the degree of difficulty in placing them into sustainable employment. JobPath has therefore been designed with a focus on regular and on-going engagement with individual Jobseekers to ensure all clients while on JobPath receive an appropriate service.