Employment Support Services

Questions (1285)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Question:

1285. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans for community employment schemes and the local employment services; the efforts she will make to safeguard same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13529/19]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

Community employment (CE) is the largest employment programme administered by my Department. It aims to enhance employability and mobility by providing work experience and training opportunities for unemployed persons within their own communities. In addition, it helps long-term unemployed people to re-enter the active workforce by breaking their experience of unemployment through a return to work routine.

Deputies on all sides of the House are fully aware of the positive benefits derived from schemes like CE. Communities benefit from the skills and talents of participants and, in addition, participants are provided with the opportunity to improve existing skills, or develop new skills, while performing valuable work in their local communities.

Furthermore, many CE schemes provide vital community services across the country, all of which are well embedded in these communities.

I am fully committed to the future of this programme and will continue to support and improve the programme for the benefit of the participants and the valuable contribution it makes to local communities. In that regard, the Government has agreed to establish an Interdepartmental Group (IDG) to explore the most appropriate organisational arrangements for activation and social inclusion CE placements.

As the Deputies are aware, following the review of the CE scheme in 2015, a decision was taken to adopt a two strand approach for all CE placements and they were categorised as either a training/activation strand or a social inclusion strand. It is my strong view that local services which are supported by these social inclusion placements must be safeguarded into the future. This scheme will continue to be subject to continuous improvement and reviewed on a regular basis.

The Department values the local services provided by bodies such as the Local Employment Service (LES) very highly and will continue to depend on local service providers to supplement and complement its own direct service provision into the future. However, it is a legal requirement that these services be procured in an open process and that appropriate governance arrangements are in place. Accordingly my Department commissioned Indecon to complete an independent, evidence–based evaluation of the effectiveness and efficiency and of the governance of the LES and Job Clubs. The report was published in January 2019 and will help inform both the Department and the LES as to how to ensure compliance with legal procurement requirements. My Department and I have been engaging with key stakeholders throughout this process and will, of course, continue to do so.

Illness Benefit Payments

Questions (1286)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Question:

1286. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if she is satisfied that all issues relating to illness benefit are now resolved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13530/19]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

Payment issues had arisen in relation to the Illness Benefit scheme last year when my Department transferred administration of the scheme from an old legacy IT payment system to its core business IT platform which is already managing many of the Department’s other scheme payments.

Since then, my Department has been working hard to resolve these issues and to ensure that claims are processed and paid promptly. Good progress has been made in this regard, with payment levels maintained at the expected norm for the past number of months.

Currently, people who are due a payment, and whose certificates and claims are in order, receive their payment promptly. In stating this, it is important to note that there are always instances where people's payments are legitimately stopped, paused, or delayed for a variety of reasons including the late submission of medical certificates.

In addition, the telephone call handling performance has been addressed and is now back to normal levels.

I trust this clarifies matters for the Deputy.

Community Employment Schemes Supervisors

Questions (1287)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Question:

1287. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the way in which she plans to avert further strike action by community employment supervisors and assistant supervisors; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13531/19]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

First, I wish to acknowledge the valuable and dedicated service that Community Employment (CE) sponsor organisations provide in running CE Schemes all over the country. CE supervisors, as employees of these organisations, are an integral part of that good work. We simply could not sustain a lot of our local community services without their work and it is, of course, a concern to me that the Supervisors felt compelled to take industrial action on the 18th February 2019.

As the Deputy is aware the industrial action relates to a claim by CE supervisors and assistant supervisors who have been seeking, through their union representatives, the allocation of Exchequer funding to implement a 2008 Labour Court recommendation relating to the provision of a pension scheme.

It is important to emphasise the fact that CE scheme supervisors are employees of private companies in the community and voluntary sector that receive public funding. They are not employees of my Department or public servants, and as such were not subject to pay reductions, pension contributions or the Pension-related Deduction (PRD) under the provisions of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (FEMPI) which only applied to public servants.

The State is not responsible for funding pension arrangements for employees of private companies, even where the companies in question are reliant on State funding. Pension arrangements are a matter to be agreed between employees and their employers. All employers, including CE sponsoring organisations, are legally obliged to offer access to at least one Standard Personal Retirement Savings Account (PRSA) under the Pension (Amendment) Act 2002.

The issue was examined by a Community Sector High Level Forum, chaired by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. A number of Departments including my own Department were represented on this group, as were the unions and Pobal.

A detailed scoping exercise was carried out with input from the Irish Government Economic and Evaluation Service (IGEES) on the potential costs of providing Exchequer support for the establishment of such a pension scheme for employees across the Community and Voluntary sector in Ireland. This exercise estimated a potential cost to the State of between €188 million per annum and €347m depending on the numbers involved, which is hard to establish. This excludes any provision for immediate ex-gratia lump sum payment of pension as sought, which could entail a further Exchequer cost of up to €318 million.

CE supervisors may qualify for the State Pension (Contributory) if they have accrued sufficient PRSI contributions. The State Pension (Contributory) is not means-tested. This pension has a maximum personal rate payable of €12,956.

Interdepartmental Working Groups

Questions (1288)

Mattie McGrath

Question:

1288. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the working groups currently established in her Department; the focus of their work; the membership composition of each; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13565/19]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

The information requested is currently being compiled within the Department and will be made available to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Illness Benefit Payments

Questions (1289)

Willie O'Dea

Question:

1289. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason the payments to a person (details supplied) have ceased; when they can expect to receive payments; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13604/19]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

The person concerned is currently in receipt of Illness Benefit at a rate of €198 per week.

He was previously in receipt of Basic Supplementary Welfare Allowance, but this payment ceased as his Illness Benefit claim was awarded.

The Illness Benefit claim from the person concerned has been paid up to the 15th March 2019, which is the date on his most recent medical certificate.

If the person concerned remains ill and unfit for work, a further medical certificate should be submitted to the Department as soon as possible in order for further payments to issue.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Labour Activation Programmes Data

Questions (1290)

James Browne

Question:

1290. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her views on whether the practice by Turas Nua of requesting companies declining jobseekers work to issue a letter with the person's personal public service number, PPSN, is compliant with data protection legislation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13607/19]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

My Department collects and holds large volumes of personal data and is very aware of the need to have adequate data protection policies, procedures and structures in place in line with current data protection legislation.

My Department’s contracts with the JobPath providers are in compliance with all relevant legislation and any information shared is contractually based and necessary to provide a service. All contracts in place are governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of Ireland and the courts of Ireland have exclusive jurisdiction over these contracts.

In addition, JobPath providers are contractually required to register with the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner as data processors and are legally bound to observe and adhere to data protection requirements.

The JobPath Providers are required to offer in-work support to the customer for up to twelve months while they remain in employment. This includes scheduled contact with the person as well as ad-hoc contact should they need immediate support or advice, this may be particularly important for those in temporary or part-time employment to provide the specific support needed to progress to more sustainable permanent employment.

The JobPath providers may contact employers as part of the in work support provided to JobPath customers who attain sustainable employment while with the JobPath service. In addition, contractors may, with the jobseekers consent, provide non-personal information to prospective employers or assist jobseekers in completing job application forms.

Personal data is not shared by the JobPath providers with employers or shared with other third parties. Sub-contractors engaged by the JobPath service providers for the purpose of delivering the JobPath service are also fully governed by the same contractual obligation as the main contractor.

A JobPath service customer is not under an obligation to provide employment or employer details to the JobPath provider but, if they wish to do so and avail of the in-employment support offered, all information will be treated confidentially.

My Department has regular meetings with both JobPath providers to ensure that they are fully aware of and are fulfilling their contractual obligations, including those concerned with data protection regulations. Both companies have undertaken regular independent audits of their data processes and procedures as part of these contractual obligations, in addition, the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner has conducted audits of each JobPath company. Employees of both companies, and their subcontractors, are subject to the same data protection laws as Departmental staff.

It is not appropriate, nor is it normal practice for Turas Nua to request that an employer provide a letter when declining a job applicant and Turas Nua have informed my Department that they are not aware of any incidence of this occurring. However, if the Deputy has details of a particular case , he should bring it to my Department's attention and my officials will investigate it further.

Disability Allowance Appeals

Questions (1291)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

1291. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of a review of a decision on a disability allowance application by a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13612/19]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

Based on the evidence supplied in support of this person’s application, their application for disability allowance (DA) was disallowed on the grounds that the medical qualifying condition was not satisfied. The person in question was notified in writing of this decision on 2 February 2019.

They requested a review of the decision by a deciding officer (DO) and submitted additional medical evidence for consideration on 18 February 2019.

When a decision is made on the additional medical evidence they will be notified directly of the outcome.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Jobseeker's Payments

Questions (1292)

John Brady

Question:

1292. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of sanctions applied to jobseekers' payments in each of the years 2009 to 2018 and to date in 2019, in tabular form. [13626/19]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

Penalty rates were introduced in 2011 as a means of encouraging jobseekers to engage with activation measures and to co-operate with efforts of the Department to assist them in securing employment. The Department is committed, under Pathways to Work, to incentivise the take-up of activation opportunities, including implementing sanctions for failure to engage.

The legislation underpinning the application of penalty rates is provided for in the Social Welfare Act. Penalty rates can only be applied in specific circumstances and the decision to impose a penalty can only be made by a Deciding Officer of the Department. If dissatisfied with that decision it is open to the Jobseeker to appeal the decision to the Social Welfare Appeals Office.

Details of the numbers of penalty rates applied since their introduction and up to 15 March 2019 are listed below.

Year

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019 to date

Total

PR

359

1,519

3,395

5,325

6,743

10,867

16,451

16,022

3,013

63,694

Departmental Offices

Questions (1293)

Eamon Ryan

Question:

1293. Deputy Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if the Finglas and Ballymun social work offices are to be relocated to a premises on the North Circular Road; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13665/19]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

The offices that the Deputy is referring to are social work offices and do not come under the remit of this Department. The office in Finglas is a health centre and comes under the remit of the Department of Health while the office in Ballymun is a Tusla office and comes under the remit of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. The Deputy may wish to redirect this question to my colleagues the Minister for Health and the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs.

Public Services Card

Questions (1294)

Peter Fitzpatrick

Question:

1294. Deputy Peter Fitzpatrick asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to introduce proof of disability allowance on the public services card (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13671/19]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

The purpose of the Public Services Card (PSC) is to enable individuals to gain access to public services more efficiently while, at the same time, preserving their privacy to the maximum extent possible. The PSC is designed to replace other cards within the public sector - such as the free travel pass and the social services card of this Department - and to make it easier for providers of pubic services to verify the identity of customers.

A growing number of public services that require proof of identity are being underpinned by the PSC and this number is expected to grow into the future.

While I acknowledge the difficult issues raised by the Deputy in the case he has raised, my Department does not currently have plans to introduce proof of Disability Allowance on the PSC.

I hope this clarifies the position for the Deputy.

State Pension (Contributory) Data

Questions (1295)

Robert Troy

Question:

1295. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if an increased contributory State pension will be awarded to a person (details supplied) who has recently submitted a review for homemakers. [13672/19]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

Since late September 2018, my Department has been examining the social insurance records of approximately 90,000 pensioners, born on or after 1 September 1946, who have a reduced rate State pension contributory entitlement based on post Budget 2012 rate-bands. These payments are being reviewed under a new Total Contributions Approach (TCA) to pension calculation which includes provision for homecaring periods.

The person concerned has been reviewed using information already held by the Department. A review outcome has issued to the person concerned, outlining details of their increase in payment. Arrears of payment backdated 30 March 2018 will issue shortly.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Disability Allowance Payments

Questions (1296)

Willie O'Dea

Question:

1296. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when arrears will issue in respect ofa disability allowance application by a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13673/19]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

The person concerned has been awarded disability allowance with effect from 28 November 2018. The first payment was made by his chosen payment method on 6 March 2019.

Arrears of payment due have been calculated taking account of overlapping payments and have issued to the person concerned on 19 March 2019.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Disability Allowance Applications

Questions (1297)

Robert Troy

Question:

1297. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if a disability allowance claim by a person (details supplied) will be backdated to the date of the person's 16th birthday. [13688/19]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

I confirm that my department received an application for disability allowance (DA) from the person concerned on 21 December 2018. They were deemed to be eligible for disability allowance from the date of receipt of the application.

If the person concerned wishes to make an application for backdating she may do so, in writing, clearly stating the grounds for not having made the application at the earlier date or prior to December 2018 and the matter will be considered by a deciding officer.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Community Employment Schemes Eligibility

Questions (1298)

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

1298. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if a person (details supplied) on a community employment scheme who will exhaust his or her six-year entitlement on that scheme in 2019 can leave the community employment system when he or she exhausts those six years, sign on and subsequently find a place on a new community employment scheme under the service support stream; if he or she will have to find a place under the service support stream before exhausting his or her six-year entitlement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13692/19]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

Under the Service Support Stream (SSS) participants aged 62 years and over who meet the Community Employment (CE) eligibility requirements may remain continuously on CE up to the State Pension age. The places available under this stream are subject to limitation.

In the case referred to by the Deputy, I understand the person has left her current CE placement due to ill health. She is however eligible to participate on CE for a further 30 weeks and will be transferring to a new CE scheme on 1 April 2019 to complete this term. Once she commences on the new scheme, it is open to her to apply for a place under the SSS.

Disability Allowance Eligibility

Questions (1299)

Robert Troy

Question:

1299. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if a disability allowance will be awarded to a person (details supplied). [13705/19]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

The person concerned submitted an application for disability allowance (DA) on 14 December 2018. Their application, based upon all the evidence submitted, was disallowed on medical grounds as it was found that they were not substantially restricted in taking up employment.

The person concerned was notified in writing of this decision on 25 February 2019 and was also notified of their right to request a review of this decision or to appeal it to the independent Social Welfare Appeals Office (SWAO). No request for an appeal or review has been received.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the deputy.

Child Benefit Eligibility

Questions (1300)

Martin Ferris

Question:

1300. Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason child benefit was not paid to a person (details supplied) for the past three months before they turned 18 years of age; and if the payment will now be made as they are now on a full-time course. [13712/19]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

Child benefit is only paid after the age of 16 if the child is still at school/college. It is paid to the end of the academic year, unless the child is continuing in education at the start of the next term – in effect, payment ends in June unless schooling is continued in September and the child is still under 18.

Child benefit stops in all circumstances when the child turns 18.

In this instance, it appears that the child concerned did not return to school in September. Based on the information available to the Department, he has now commenced an apprenticeship, but this would not make him eligible for child benefit arrears, as the apprenticeship only began in March 2019, when he was already 19, beyond the age at which child benefit is payable.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Social Welfare Appeals Delays

Questions (1301)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

1301. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason a person (details supplied) has not received a reply to an appeal; and when a decision will issue. [13733/19]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was referred on 7th March 2019 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 Employment Affairs and Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions in relation to social welfare entitlements.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

State Pension (Contributory)

Questions (1302)

Robert Troy

Question:

1302. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if an increase to the contributory pension will be awarded to a person (details supplied) as part of the review by her Department. [13738/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

Since late September 2018, my Department has been examining the social insurance records of approximately 90,000 pensioners, born on or after 1 September 1946, who have a reduced rate State pension contributory entitlement based on post Budget 2012 rate-bands. These payments are being reviewed under a new Total Contributions Approach (TCA) to pension calculation which includes provision for homecaring periods.

My Department has written to pensioners in Quarter 4 2018 to explain the review process to them. That letter also informed pensioners that wherever possible the Department would use information already held to complete their review and where additional information was required, it would be requested in writing. In January 2019, almost 24,000 requests for additional information were issued.

The person concerned has been reviewed using information already held by the Department. A review outcome has issued to the person concerned, outlining details of their increase in payment. Arrears of payment backdated 30 March 2018 will issue shortly.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Community Employment Schemes Eligibility

Questions (1303)

Pat Deering

Question:

1303. Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if a participant in a community employment scheme (details supplied) can be considered for an extension of working time in view of the fact that there is no one to fill the position when the person leaves the scheme. [13754/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

The aim of the Community Employment (CE) programme is to enhance the employability of disadvantaged and unemployed people by providing work experience and training opportunities for them within their communities. The programme helps break the cycle of unemployment and improves a person’s chances of returning to the labour market.

The individual referred to in the Deputy’s question commenced on CE on 7th March 2016 and completed their term of 3 years on the scheme on 1st March 2019. During this period they successfully completed a variety of training, the purpose of which was to enhance the opportunities open to them to secure fulltime sustainable employment. In particular they attained a Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) major award in horticulture which provides the individual with a comprehensive and applied set of horticultural skills for employment in plant nurseries, garden centres, landscape companies, golf clubs, parks and a range of related areas.

My Department’s activation service now needs to work with this individual to ensure that the benefits of the experience and training that they received during their time on CE are maximised. The individual has started with Jobpath where they will receive one-to-one, intensive and regular engagement with a personal adviser who will assess their skills, experience, challenges and work goals and assist them in finding full-time sustainable employment. This process will also help identify potential employment opportunities and offer support to the individual in overcoming any barriers to employment.

I have asked my officials to review the progress of the individual having regarding to the ongoing activation services being provided in this case.

I trust that this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Disability Allowance Appeals

Questions (1304)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

1304. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason a person (details supplied) has not received a reply to an appeal; and when a decision will issue. [13759/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was referred on 7th March 2019 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 Employment Affairs and Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions in relation to social welfare entitlements.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Carer's Support Grant

Questions (1305)

Robert Troy

Question:

1305. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if a carer's support grant will issue to a person (details supplied). [13770/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

The Carer's Support Grant is an annual payment paid by my Department to full time carers.

A decision has been made to award the Grant to the person concerned and the amount of €1,700 will be lodged to the bank account nominated by him on Thursday 28th March 2019.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.