Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Questions (294)

Michael Healy-Rae


294. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if a decision on an application for an invalidity pension by a person (details supplied) will be overturned; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4941/18]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

The Government is committed to encouraging self-employment and entrepreneurship and this includes improving the level of PRSI based benefits available to self-employed people while ensuring the sustainability of the social insurance fund.

Self-employed contributors have been eligible for the invalidity pension from December 2017. For the first time, this has given the self-employed access to the safety net of State income supports if they become permanently incapable of work as a result of an illness or disability without having to go through a means test. When deciding to extend access to this benefit to the self-employed, Government wanted to ensure that it was on a similar basis to that of those in employment. This is a real advance in the level of cover available to the self-employed.

Invalidity pension (IP) is a payment for people who are permanently incapable of work because of illness or incapacity and who satisfy the pay related social insurance (PRSI) contribution conditions. To qualify for IP a claimant must, inter alia, have at least 260 (5 years) paid PRSI contributions since entering social insurance and 48 contributions paid or credited in the last or second last complete contribution year before the date of their claim. Only PRSI classes A, E, H or S contributions are reckonable for IP purposes. Class S contributions are those paid by self-employed people.

Voluntary contributions paid by formerly self-employed people are not reckonable for IP; they are reckonable for State Pension Contributory, Guardian’s Contributory Payment and Widow’s, Widower’s and Surviving Civil Partner’s Contributory Pension.

A person who applied for Invalidity Pension in 2017 must have the required 260 paid PRSI contributions and also have 48 paid or credited class A, E, H, or S contributions in either 2015 or 2016 to meet the contribution conditions of the scheme. This is a legislative requirement and contributions outside of the reference period cannot be assessed for the purposes of establishing the required 48 paid or credited contributions.

The Department received a claim for IP for the gentleman concerned on the 29 December 2017. He was refused IP on the grounds that the contribution conditions for the scheme are not satisfied. Specifically, he does not have any qualifying contributions paid or credited in the reckonable years 2015 & 2016. He was notified on the 12 January 2018 of this decision, the reason for it and of his right of review and appeal.

On foot of your representation a review of the decision of 12 January 2018 has been completed and it has been decided that there is no change to the original decision. The gentleman concerned was notified on 29 January 2018 of the outcome of the review and of his right to appeal the decision to the independent Social Welfare Appeals Office within 21 days.

In line with the original objective of this measure, any proposed changes to the current scheme conditions would have to be considered for other social insurance contributors including employed contributors. Therefore, any changes on the lines proposed would be expected to have significant financial implications and any decision to improve these provisions would be a matter for Government to consider in the context of the Budget.

I hope this clarifies the issue for the Deputy.