Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Questions (1391, 1505)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

1391. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to address perceived discriminatory measures (details supplied) under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20085/19]

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Catherine Connolly

Question:

1505. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to remove the barriers associated with the partial capacity benefit scheme and allow persons on invalidity pensions to participate in employment for rehabilitative or therapeutic purposes for up to 20 hours per week as permitted under pre-2013 exemption arrangements without the need to transfer to partial capacity benefit in view of ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the recent changes to the rules on disability allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20084/19]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1391 and 1505 together.

Invalidity Pension (IP) is a pension paid to people who are permanently incapable of work because of illness. It is based on a claimant's social insurance contributions and is not means tested.

To qualify for an award of IP a claimant must satisfy both PRSI contribution and medical conditions.  IP is for people who are permanently incapable of work and is generally paid to pension age.

To qualify for IP a person must have an incapacity for work of such a nature that the likelihood is that the claimant will be incapable of work for life, or an incapacity which has existed for 12 months prior to the date of claim, and where the Deciding Officer or an Appeals Officer is satisfied that the claimant is likely to be unable to work for 1 year from the date of claim.

As the OECD, for example, have previously noted ‘too many people leave the labour market permanently due to health problems or disability and too few people with reduced work capacity manage to remain in employment’.  In this context, persons with partially reduced capacity need in work income supports to obtain/sustain employment. The Partial Capacity Benefit (PCB) scheme seeks to address this objective, an objective which is underpinned by evidence that remaining in the workforce, at some level, also encourages social integration and raises living standards.  Given this, where a person in receipt of IP wishes to return to work they may apply for Partial Capacity Benefit (PCB).

Since 13 February 2012, Partial Capacity Benefit replaced the previous exemption arrangements where people on Illness Benefit or Invalidity Pension could get permission to work part-time (known as an exemption) for rehabilitative or therapeutic purposes and keep their full social welfare payment.

It is important to note however, in relation to PCB that:

- participation  is voluntary

- there is no requirement that a person must undertake work that is of a ‘rehabilitative or therapeutic’ nature (no exemption needs to be sought from DEASP)

- there is no restriction on the number of hours worked

- there is no restriction on earnings

- a person who participates on the PCB scheme may return to an Illness Benefit or Invalidity Pension payment if, for example, the employment ceases or if the person cannot continue to work

- a person on PCB, with an underlying entitlement to IP, will retain their Free Travel Pass for a period of five years.

- PCB allows people to continue to receive a percentage of their Illness Benefit or Invalidity Pension payment while working. The personal rate of payment of PCB is based on a medical assessment of a person’s restriction, regarding their capacity for work, whether the person was in receipt of Illness Benefit or Invalidity Pension and their current rate of payment.  After the medical assessment, if a person's disability is rated as moderate, severe or profound their previous payment continues at 50%, 75% or 100% per cent, respectively.

Given the above, it is not intended to change the Invalidity Pension payment to remove the income support available through the Partial Capacity Benefit where persons wish to enter or return to employment.