Question No. 31 answered with Question No. 17.

Carer's Allowance Applications

Question No. 33 answered with Question No. 7.

Questions (32)

Joe Carey

Question:

32. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason the file of a person (details supplied) has not yet been received from the carer's allowance section two months later; when it is expected that the carer's allowance section will forward the file; the length of time it will then take for a decision on the appeal once the file is received; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22785/19]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

Carer's Allowance (CA) is a means-tested payment, made to a person who is habitually resident in the State and providing full-time care and attention to a child or an adult who has such a disability that they require that level of care. 

Full-time care and attention is defined as requiring from another person, continual supervision and frequent assistance throughout the day in connection with normal bodily functions or continuous supervision in order to avoid danger to him or herself and likely to require that level of care for at least twelve months.

An application for CA was received from the person concerned from the person concerned on 10 August 2018.

The evidence submitted in support of this application was examined and the deciding officer decided that the evidence did not indicate that the requirement for full-time care was satisfied.

The person concerned was notified on 1 November 2018 of this decision, the reasons for it and of his right of review and appeal.

A review of this decision was requested on 14 November 2018, a deciding officer re-examined the evidence, including that submitted to support this review.

The outcome of this review was that the decision remained unchanged.  The person concerned was notified of this outcome on 18 January 2019. 

My Department were notified on 20 February 2019 that the person concerned had appealed this decision to the Social Welfare Appeals Office (SWAO).  On foot of this a deciding officer re-examined all the evidence, including that submitted in support of this appeal.

As a result the application was awarded to the person concerned on 10 May 2019, first payment issued to his nominated bank account on 16 May 2019. 

Arrears of allowance due from 16 August 2018 to 15 May 2019 have also issued.

The person concerned was notified on 10 May 2019 of this decision, the reason for it and of his right of review and appeal.

Question No. 33 answered with Question No. 7.

School Meals Programme

Questions (34)

Pat Deering

Question:

34. Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of the hot school meals scheme pilot project; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23046/19]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

The school meals programme provides funding towards the provision of food to some 1,580 schools and organisations benefitting 250,000 children at a total cost of €57.6 million in 2019 representing an increase of €3.6 million over the previous year.  The objective of the scheme is to provide regular, nutritious food to children who are unable, due to lack of good quality food, to take full advantage of the education provided to them. 

As part of Budget 2019, it was announced that my Department would commence a pilot scheme from September 2019, providing Hot School Meals in 36 primary schools for an estimated 7,200 children at a cost of €1m for 2019 and €2.5m in 2020. 

All 3,239 primary schools have been issued with an invitation to submit an expression of interest to participate in the pilot. 

Schools that are interested in participating in the pilot are in the process of identifying a supplier capable of supplying, preparing and delivering hot meals in line with HACCP and food safety regulations in compliance with the Healthy Ireland nutrition standards for school meals.  Expressions of interest will be accepted from schools up to the closing date: Wednesday 12 June 2019.

Schools will be selected having regard to geographical spread, numbers enrolled, range of suppliers and the overall budget available for the pilot in 2019 and 2020 (€1m and €2.5 respectively).  All expressions of interest received will be considered and 36 schools will be selected to participate in the pilot.  All schools who submit an expression of interest to participate in the pilot will be contacted by the end of June 2019. 

Social Welfare Benefits Waiting Times

Questions (35)

James Browne

Question:

35. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to address the delays in processing reviews for social welfare payments, including carer's allowance, disability allowance and domiciliary care allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22786/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

My Department is committed to providing a quality service to all its customers.  This includes ensuring that reviews are processed and that decisions on entitlement are made as quickly as possible.

In general, reviews of entitlement to social welfare schemes with a number of complex qualifying conditions can take longer to process.  Requests for review of a decision can include additional information or evidence not originally submitted for consideration.  This may involve a review of documentation relating to habitual residence, means information or medical evidence before a decision can be made.

Where a customer requests a review of a decision, every effort is made to ensure that this request is processed as quickly as possible.  Where any scheme area experiences delays, all possible steps are taken to improve processing times.  This includes the assignment of additional resources, where available, and the review of business processes, to ensure the efficient processing of reviews of social welfare payments.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

JobPath Programme

Questions (36)

John Brady

Question:

36. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if she has had an engagement with JobPath providers in relation to extending referrals beyond 2019; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23005/19]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

The JobPath employment service commenced in 2015 and, under the terms of the contracts signed with the providers will run for at least six years.  This includes a period of at least four years of client referrals to the end of 2019, and a run off period of at least two years.  The contract includes an option to extend the term of referrals for a period of up to two years beyond the end of 2019.  

The process of procuring contracted public employment services for 2020 and beyond is in its early stages of development and my officials are working to design a procurement model that will balance the need for value for money for taxpayers with the importance of preserving high-quality employment advisory services.  As part of this process the ongoing requirements of the public employment service including the period for client referrals under the JobPath programme are currently being considered.

To date no decisions have been taken in this regard and I have not had any engagement with JobPath providers in relation to extending referrals beyond 2019.  However, my Department is currently considering how best to continue to provide a high quality public employment service that meets the needs of all jobseekers, while looking to provide employment services to those most distant from the labour market and to people who have not previously availed of these services.

Parental Leave

Questions (37)

Tom Neville

Question:

37. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of the new parental leave scheme due to commence in November 2019; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23043/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

In Budget 2019, I announced the introduction of a new social insurance based parental benefit scheme to take effect this November.

The new scheme will provide two weeks paid leave to both parents, including those who adopt a child, who are employees or self-employed and who take parental leave from their employment to care for their child.  The scheme will support parents during the first year of the child's life, in line with the Programme for Government commitment, and allows parents more flexibility in achieving and managing a work life balance.  This new support will be available to parents in respect of children born on or after the date of its implementation in November.

The legislation for paid parental leave and benefit will be provided for in a Parental Leave and Benefit Bill 2019 sponsored by the Department of Justice and Equality, which has overall responsibility for parental leave policy.  On 16 April, Government approved the priority drafting of this legislation.  Officials in my Department are working with the Department of Justice and Equality to progress this work.  Arrangements are also underway in my Department to advance the necessary administrative and technical requirements to be in a position to accept applications from November.

I trust this clarifies the matter.

State Pension (Contributory)

Questions (38)

Joan Collins

Question:

38. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason a person (details supplied) does not meet the qualifying criteria for a full rate of pension. [22791/19]

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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.

In May 2019, the person concerned submitted an application for HomeCaring periods.  My Department has requested further information in order to make a determination on the person's eligibility for HomeCaring period(s).  Following receipt of the requested information, a pension review outcome will issue to the person concerned in writing. 

Where a pensioner qualifies for an increase, their weekly rate will be adjusted without delay and they will receive arrears backdated to 30 March 2018, or their 66th birthday if later.  Where pension rates do not increase as a result of this review, the person will continue to be paid at their existing rate. 

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy. 

Youth Unemployment Data

Question No. 40 answered with Question No. 17.

Questions (39)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

39. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her views on youth unemployment figures remaining in double digits despite a number of initiatives and schemes to support young persons in training and employment; if she is considering new measures or schemes for 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22788/19]

View answer
Question No. 40 answered with Question No. 17.

Pension Provisions

Question No. 42 answered with Question No. 28.

Questions (41)

Bríd Smith

Question:

41. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to ensure representative organisations of retired workers can have access to forums that will decide or discuss their pension entitlements and benefits; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20566/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

Scheme trustees have duties and responsibilities under the Pension Act 1990, as amended, under trust law and under other relevant legislation.  The duties of pension scheme trustees include administering the scheme in accordance with the law and the terms of the trust deed and scheme rules as well as ensuring compliance with the requirements that apply to these schemes.  Trustees must act in the best financial interests of all scheme members, whether active, deferred or retired, and must serve all beneficiaries of the scheme impartially.  If there is a conflict of interest then a person's duty as a trustee must take precedence over interests.

Measures were introduced in 2015 to facilitate engagement between the trustees of a pension scheme and groups representing the interests of pensioner and deferred scheme members. 

Changes to guidance issued by the Pensions Authority require the trustees of a pension scheme to notify groups representing the interest of scheme members of proposals by the trustees of a defined benefit pension scheme to issue a direction under section 50 of the Pensions Act to restructure scheme benefits.  This affords the representative group an opportunity to make a submission to the trustees of a pension scheme in relation to proposals to restructure scheme benefits.  These changes facilitate engagement between groups representing the interests of pensioner and deferred scheme members and the Pension Authority and the trustees of a pension scheme.  

Groups representing the interests of pensioners and deferred scheme members have a right to appeal a section 50 direction by the Pensions Authority to the High Court on a point of law.

Current legislation does not specifically provide that member trustees must include at least one or more members from each scheme membership cohort, namely, active, deferred and pensioners, it does provide an opportunity for membership from each cohort and such members may avail of the opportunity to become scheme trustees or nominate others to act on their behalf.

The Pensions Authority is the regulatory body charged with the supervision of pension schemes and has the necessary powers under statute to investigate the conduct of a pension scheme should it become aware that a scheme is not in compliance with the provisions of the Pensions Act.  Where a pension scheme member is of the view that the scheme is not in compliance with legislative requirements he or she may make a formal complaint to the Pensions Authority.

Any questions relating to access to the State's industrial relations machinery is a matter for the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Question No. 42 answered with Question No. 28.

Paternity Benefit

Questions (43)

Tom Neville

Question:

43. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of persons that availed of paternity benefit both nationally and in County Limerick since its introduction in September 2016; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23044/19]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

The following tabular statement presents the average number of Paternity Benefit recipients, nationwide and for County Limerick, in each of the periods 2016 (October - December), 2017, 2018, and 2019 (January - April).  

I note that the share of Paternity Benefit recipients in County Limerick - about 4% of the national total - is what would be expected given that County Limerick accounts for just over 4% of Ireland's population. 

As Paternity Benefit is payable for two weeks only, the nationwide total of Paternity Benefit claims awarded in a given year is also provided in order to give a fuller picture of the number of fathers availing of the scheme. 

Paternity Benefit

 Year 

Average Recipients (State) 

Average Recipients (Limerick) 

Total Claims Awarded (State)

 2016 (Oct-Dec)

296

10

5,013 

 2017

529

21

26,559 

 2018

 645

20

24,080 

 2019 (Jan-Apr)

646

26

6,954 

Back to Education Allowance

Questions (44)

Bríd Smith

Question:

44. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if she will address a matter regarding issues arising with the back to education allowance in relation to adult education (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23042/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

The back to education allowance scheme (BTEA), operated by my Department, provides people with a second chance education that will improve their prospects of securing employment.  It enables eligible people to pursue approved education courses and to continue to receive income support for the duration of a course of study, subject to meeting certain conditions.  There are currently 8,570 students supported through BTEA.

The BTEA is not intended to provide a basis for a long-duration participation in extended education and it mirrors the approach to general education grants such as the Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI).  

This approach is informed by research evidence. Evidence from econometric studies shows that the 'lock-in' effect of long duration return to education programmes can exceed the 'progression effect' and reduce employment prospects.

In limited cases, post-graduate courses can be supported via BTEA, in particular in circumstances where a postgraduate qualification is a pre-requisite to take up employment.  For example, BTEA can be approved where the jobseeker intends to undertake studies leading to a Higher Diploma (H.Dip) in any discipline, the Professional Masters in Education or a Masters degree based solely on life experience where the applicant holds no other third level qualification. 

The Professional Masters in Adult and Community Education is not one of the courses covered under the BTEA as it is not a pre-requisite for employment in adult education services nor, according to our information, does it serve as an alternative to the Professional Masters in Education required for a general teaching role.

If there is a particular case that the Deputy has a concern about, then my officials would be happy to examine it.  

I trust this clarifies the position for the Deputy.