CLÁR Programme

Questions (744)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

744. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development when successful applications under 2019 CLÁR funding will be announced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30030/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

The CLÁR programme provides funding for small scale infrastructural projects in disadvantaged rural areas that have experienced significant levels of de-population. Since I relaunched the programme in 2016, more than 1,200 projects have been approved funding of over €25 million.

I launched the 2019 CLÁR programme on 28th  February last. Applications were invited under three separate measures: 

Measure 1:  Support for "School and Community Safety Measures",

Measure 2:  Support for "Play Areas and Multi-Use Games Areas", and 

Measure 3:  Funding for "Community Wellbeing Support" . 

Community Wellbeing Support covers the provision of equipment and vehicles for voluntary first-response organisations, as well as the provision of specialist vehicles to bring people to cancer-care centres and other community-care services.  The measure will also provide funding for sensory gardens. 

The closing date for applications under the 2019 CLÁR programme was the 30th April.  Almost 500 proposals were received by my Department. My officials are currently finalising the assessment of these applications and I hope to be in a position to announce successful projects shortly.

Household Benefits Scheme

Questions (745)

James Lawless

Question:

745. Deputy James Lawless asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to introduce a free television licence or reduction in the licence fee for legally blind persons; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29305/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

The free television licence is received as part of the household benefits package (HHB) which also comprises the electricity or gas allowance.  The package is generally available to people living in the State, aged 66 years or over who are in receipt of a social welfare type payment or who satisfy a means test.  The package is also available to carers and people with disabilities under the age of 66 who are in receipt of certain welfare type payments.  Widows and widowers aged from 60 to 65 whose late spouses had been in receipt of the household benefits package retain that entitlement.  My Department will spend approximately €248 million this year on the household benefits package for over 446,000 customers.

Disability related payments that are qualifying payments for HHB include:

- Invalidity Pension

- Disability Allowance

- Blind Person's Pension

- Incapacity Supplement or Workmen's Compensation, with Disablement Pension, for at least 12 months

- a Social Security Invalidity Pension/Benefit (from a foreign Social Security Agency) or equivalent payment for at least 12 months, from a country covered by EC Regulations, or from a country with which Ireland has a Bilateral Social Security Agreement

- Disability Living Allowance with Severe Disablement Allowance (from the United Kingdom) for at least 12 months.

My Department pays a bulk payment to the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment for the free television licence element of the HHB package.  Customers entitled to this element of the HHB package do not receive a cash payment.

Any decision to expand entitlement for receipt of HHB to include people with disabilities who are not in receipt of a qualifying payment from my Department or to introduce a scheme that will provide payment to persons with a disability to pay their TV licence would have to be considered in the context of overall budgetary negotiations.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance Scheme Data

Questions (746)

David Cullinane

Question:

746. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of children attending secondary school eligible for the back to school clothing and footwear payment in 2018 and to date in 2019; the overall cost of the back to school clothing and footwear payment for such children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29881/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

The back to school clothing and footwear allowance (BSCFA) scheme provides a once-off payment to eligible families to assist with the costs of clothing and footwear when children start or return to school each autumn.  The Government has provided €56.3m for the scheme in 2019 which operates from June to September.

The payment rates for the 2019 scheme are €150 for eligible children aged 4 to 11 years and €275 for children aged over 12 years and attending secondary school. The 2019 scheme opened on 1 June. 110,000 customers (200,000 children) were awarded the allowance automatically from a matching exercise on the Department's computer systems and did not have to make an application.  These customers will receive a letter during the month of June and will be paid €40.5m this week.

Customers wishing to apply for the allowance who did not receive an award letter by the end of June will need to submit an application. Applications can be made online or applications can be downloaded from www.welfare.ie since 24 June.  Application forms are also be available since 24 June in all department Intreo Centres and Citizens Information centres, or by texting Form BTSCFA followed by name and address to 51909 or by e-mailing BSCFA@welfare.ie.

The number of children aged 12 or over who received the allowance in 2018 was 112,000 at a cost of €28m. The number in this age group who have received the allowance in 2019 so far is 89,000 at a cost of €24.5m.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Partial Capacity Benefit Scheme Data

Questions (747)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

747. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when a decision will be made on a partial capacity benefit application by a person (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29145/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

Partial Capacity Benefit allows a person who has been in receipt of Illness Benefit for six months or Invalidity Pension and who may not have full capacity for work, to return to employment and continue to receive a partial or full payment from the Department.  

The personal rate of Partial Capacity Benefit payment is based on the assessment of a person's restriction on capacity for work i.e. moderate, severe or profound, where either 50%, 75%, or 100% of a person's payment is maintained.

The Partial Capacity Benefit claim from the person concerned has been processed and she has been assessed as having a moderate restriction on her capacity for work. A letter issued to her on the 2nd July 2019 giving full details of this decision.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Carer's Allowance Data

Questions (748)

Peter Burke

Question:

748. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of a review for carer's allowance for a person (details supplied). [29147/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

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

Means are any income belonging to the carer and their spouse, civil partner, or cohabitant, property, (except their own home) or an asset that could bring in money or provide them with an income, for example occupational pensions, or pensions or benefits from another country.

The person concerned is in receipt of a reduced rate of CA due to her spouse’s income. 

On 13 December 2018 she requested a re-assessment of her CA entitlement.

Additional information in relation to the person’s means was requested by a deciding officer on 2 July 2019.

Once the information is received the application will be processed without delay and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Carer's Allowance Appeals

Questions (749)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

749. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when a decision on an application for carer's allowance will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29166/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer, having fully considered all of the available evidence, decided to disallow the appeal of the person concerned by way of a summary decision on 28 March 2019.  Under Social Welfare legislation, the decision of an Appeals Officer is final and conclusive and may only be reviewed by an Appeals Officer in the light of new evidence or new facts, or where there has been a change of circumstances which has come to notice since the date of the Appeals Officer's original decision. 

I am advised that the person concerned has submitted additional evidence and that the Appeals Officer is reviewing their case.  The person concerned will be advised when the review of their appeal has been finalised.

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.

Social Welfare Appeals Status

Questions (750)

Tom Neville

Question:

750. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of an appeal by a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29179/19]

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 29th May 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.

Personal Public Service Numbers Data

Questions (751)

Joan Collins

Question:

751. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of the 70 plus PPS numbers provided by an organisation (details supplied) in relation to an issue that has been raised of workers being blacklisted. [29185/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

Scope Section of my Department undertakes investigations on foot of requests from a variety of sources, for example employees, employers or Social Welfare Inspectors.  These investigations cover a variety of situations, for example, modified classes of PRSI for civil and public servants, family employments or insurability of Directors.

As a number of applications have been made to Scope Section for determinations in relation to the employment status of workers / former workers in the TV / film industry, it would not be appropriate for me to comment on the likely outcome of these cases.  Files have been allocated to Social Welfare Inspectors to commence preliminary investigations.

If anyone has a query about their insurability for PRSI purposes, they should contact Scope with details.  I encourage other workers with concerns to contact Scope with details of their cases (dates of employment, employer’s name, PPSN etc).  Scope’s contact details are:

Scope Section

Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection

Gandon House

Amiens Street

Dublin 1

Email: Scope@welfare.ie

Phone: 01 6732585

Where an individual believes they are being deprived of employment rights applicable to employees they may refer a complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) where the matter can be dealt with by way of mediation or adjudication leading to a decision that is enforceable through the District Court.  Complaints can be made on a single online complaint form available at the WRC’s website www.workplacerelations.ie or on lo-call 1890 80 80 90.

The Workplace Relations Commission and the Labour Court, which operate under the aegis of the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, also hear cases involving industrial relations disputes.  Industrial Relations policy matters fall under the responsibility of the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Working Family Payment Data

Questions (752)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

752. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if the decision to reduce a working family payment will be reviewed in the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29194/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

Working Family Payment (WFP) is an in-work payment which provides additional financial support to employees on low earnings with children.  In order to qualify for WFP a person must have at least 1 qualified child.  In calculating entitlement to WFP no allowances can be made for personal, family, or household expenditure. The governing social welfare legislation provides that, once  WFP is awarded the rate remains the same for a 52 week period  while a person continues to satisfy the employment condition regardless of changes in circumstances or  income or expenditure.  There are only 2 exceptions to this rule as follows which permit a review of the WFP rate during the award period: 

An additional child. 

or

In the case of a WFP recipient who is also receiving a One Parent Family Payment (OPF) where this payment is terminated on account of their youngest child reaching the relevant age threshold during the WFP award period.    

In accordance with the governing legislation "a qualified child" for WFP is defined as a child who is under 18 years of age  or over 18 years and under 22 years who is attending full-time certified day education and who normally resides with the applicant. The governing legislation further provides that a child who attains the age of 22 years during an academic year is also regarded as a qualified child for WFP while in full-time education for the duration of that academic year.

The person concerned was in receipt of WFP for 4 qualified children and their claim was renewed on 20 December 2018 for the period 03 January 2019 to 01 January 2020 at the appropriate rate for 3 qualified children.  However their eldest child  was no longer deemed to be a qualified child for WFP at the time of renewal as they had reached the age of 22 years on 05 September 2018 in advance of their relevant academic year which commenced on 17 September 2018. 

Following an unsuccessful appeal to the independent Social Welfare Appeals Office (SWAO) the Department's decision of 20 December 2018 was upheld and the person  concerned was notified of the appeal outcome on 17 June 2019.

An Appeals Officer's decision is normally final and conclusive in the absence of any new facts or evidence.  However it may be subject to review by the Chief Appeals Officer where it is considered that the decision was incorrect because of an error relating to the law or facts.

In order to request a review of the Appeals Officer's decision the person concerned should enclose new facts or evidence to the SWAO or if seeking a review by the Chief Appeals Officer they must specify clearly the grounds for their review request.

However the legislation also provides that a customer retains the right to request a review of any WFP decision and that this right is not time limited. Accordingly the person concerned may forward their request for a review of the Department's decision of 20 December 2018 to Working Family Payment Renewals,  Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, St. Oliver Plunkett Road, Letterkenny, Co Donegal, stating clearly the grounds for their review request. It should be noted that the subject of their disallowed appeal cannot be reviewed by the Department.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

JobPath Data

Questions (753)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

753. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if a person can opt out of the JobPath scheme in cases in which the client has found and secured employment outside of the JobPath programme such as in a case (details supplied); if JobPath providers are not rewarded financially in instances in which a person secures employment arising from their own endeavours; the amount paid to Seetec and Turas Nua since 1 January 2019 to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29220/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

As the Deputy will be aware JobPath is a case management service that provides employment counselling and advice to long-term unemployed jobseekers with a view to improving their prospects of securing sustained employment.  It complements the case management services provided directly by the Department's own staff via Intreo and via other contracted providers such as the Local Employment Service.

Client participation on JobPath is for one year and is mandatory for all clients selected by the Department.  

As in this case, long-term jobseekers that may have left the live register to go into employment for less than a year are still considered to be long-term if they reopen their claim within that period and are eligible for selection for activation services including JobPath.

Should a client secure and start employment during their time with the service, the service provider is contractually obliged  to offer each client  “In-Employment” support and this can be tailored to suit an individual’s requirements.  This support is offered for up to twelve months while an individual is in employment.  A person is not under any obligation to avail of this support or to provide employment or employer details to the JobPath provider but, if they wish to do so all information will be treated confidentially.

JobPath is not a placement service and there are no barriers to the way by which jobseekers can source employment.  The service is provided to help and support clients to identify and pursue suitable job opportunities themselves with the help of a Personal Adviser. Support can range from CV preparation, to assisting with job applications, to, in some cases, financial assistance for clothing or transport costs at interview stage or in the first days of employment. 

I am advised that my Department has responded to this client’s correspondence through the Department’s Complaints Process on the 1 July 2019.

The person was referred on 11 May 2019 and agreed a Personal Progression Plan on 23 May 2019.  Until a client has started employment and as long as they are still in receipt of a Jobseeker’s Allowance payment, they are obliged to engage with the JobPath service and attend their activation appointments.

My Department has advised Turas Nua of the client's request that contact ceases once he has started in employment.

Within the terms of the JobPath contract, a JobPath provider may submit a fee for any client who gains employment of over 30 hours per week and maintains it.  Payments are made at intervals of thirteen (13), twenty-six (26), thirty-nine (39) and fifty-two weeks (52).

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Social Welfare Schemes Data

Questions (754)

Michael McGrath

Question:

754. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the social protection schemes or measures that have sunset clauses; the annual cost of these measures; the dates in which these measures are set to expire; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29242/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

I am advised that the Social Welfare (Consolidated Claims, Payments and Control) (Amendment) (No. 10) (Assessment of Means) Regulations 2019 and the Social Welfare (Consolidated Supplementary Welfare Allowance) (Amendment) (No. 5) (Assessment of Means) Regulations 2019 are due to cease to have effect on 31 December 2019.

These Regulations provide that, for the purposes of certain means-tested schemes operated by my Department, the net cash value of meals, accommodation and related services provided by the Department of Justice and Equality will continue to be taken into account in the assessment of means of those who have been granted refugee status, subsidiary protection or leave to remain, or who have refugee status on arrival under UN resettlement programmes.  There is no cost to the Department associated with the operation of the Regulations.

Officials in my Department are engaging with counterparts in the Department of Justice and Equality to assist that Department with the introduction of new arrangements which are expected to be in place by the end of the year. 

Otherwise, there are currently no schemes or measures operated by my Department where a sunset clause is in effect.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Carer's Allowance Eligibility

Questions (755)

Tom Neville

Question:

755. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of a carer's allowance application by a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29247/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

Carer's benefit (CARB) is a PRSI based payment, made to a person who is providing full-time care and attention to a child or an adult who has such a disability that as a result they require that level of care.

It is payable for a maximum of 104 weeks for each person being cared for. This may be claimed as a single continuous period or in any number of separate periods up to a total of 104 weeks. While a person is receiving benefit for a set period and will have used less than 104 weeks at the end of that period, they can seek to have their current period of entitlement extended on request.  As part of the request they must submit evidence to show that they will be remaining out of employment during the extended period, except where the regulations otherwise allow.

They may also need to submit evidence to show that their care recipient will require full-time care and attention for the duration of the expended period. CARB was awarded for a period 5 July 2018 to 3 July 2019. Upon expiry of the claim on 3 July 2019 the person concerned made a further application to extend her period of benefit. CARB was awarded for an extended period 22 August 2019 to 19 August 2019. The person concerned was notified on 4 July 2019 of this decision, the reason for it and of her right of review and appeal.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Defined Benefit Pension Schemes

Questions (756)

Michael McGrath

Question:

756. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to protect workers who are members of defined benefit schemes in which the scheme is solvent and the company is highly profitable; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29258/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

Defined Benefit (DB) schemes are voluntary tri-partite arrangements between employers, employees (or their representatives) and trustees.  Responsibility rests with all the parties for ensuring that the scheme is properly managed and funded to meet the promised level of benefits. Almost all Irish defined benefit pension schemes have a rule that allows the employer to cease contributions, usually after a notice period. 

As the Deputy will be aware, the General Scheme of the Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2017 (now the Social Welfare, Pensions and Civil Registration Bill 2017) was published in May 2017 and contained a number of key measures relating to DB pension schemes.  It is intended that these measures will act to support existing provisions in the Pensions Act by providing for further protection for scheme members’ benefits and enhancing employer responsibilities for their schemes.

In July 2018, Government approval was obtained to draft additional provisions to be included in the Bill at Committee Stage including provisions relating to defined benefit schemes.

In developing these provisions, it is essential to take account of the current pension landscape in Ireland so that a balanced, proportionate approach is developed and that unintended negative consequences do not arise.

The provisions of this Bill will introduce a new regime into the Pensions Act 1990 which, amongst other things, will ensure that an employer cannot “walk away” at short notice from the pension scheme it is supporting by providing for a 12-month notification period, and will enable the Pensions Authority to make a funding obligation direction specifying payments to be made by a sponsoring employer to the pension scheme where no agreement is reached, within a specified time period, to resolve a funding deficit.

The defined benefit pension provisions are very technical and involve complex policy issues.  In order to achieve a resilient solution it has been necessary to consult in detail with other Government Departments and obtain numerous legal advices from the Office of the Attorney General on various aspects of the provisions.  When outstanding matters have been resolved and amendments approved by Government, an early date for Committee Stage will be requested.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

State Pension (Contributory) Data

Questions (757)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

757. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the progress to date in the determination of an application for an increase to an adult dependant allowance in the case of a person (details supplied); when the application will be concluded; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29259/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

The increase for a qualified adult, payable with the state pension (contributory), is a means-tested payment, based on the means of the qualified adult, solely or jointly held.  An increase has been awarded to the person concerned with effect from 7 March 2019, at the maximum weekly rate for a qualified adult under 66 with nil assessable means.  

Written notification of this decision issued to both the person concerned and their qualified adult on 2 July 2019.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

State Pension (Contributory) Eligibility

Questions (758)

Declan Breathnach

Question:

758. Deputy Declan Breathnach asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if self-employed persons such as farmers will be entitled to the maximum pension rate under the changes in the new total contributions approach, TCS, planned for post-2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29261/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

The introduction of a Total Contributions Approach (TCA) to establishing the level of entitlement for all new state pension contributory claims was signalled by the then Government in the National Pensions Framework in 2010.  At that time it set a target date of 2020 for the implementation of TCA.  More recently, the Roadmap for Pensions Reform 2018-2023 targeted implementation of the TCA from Q3 of 2020.  This is subject to the necessary legislation being enacted and supporting structures being in place.   

Consultation is a very important part of the development and design of the new pension.  With this in mind, I launched a public consultation on the design of the TCA on the 28th of May 2018 to which a wide variety of stakeholder groups were invited.  A number of workshops were also held on the day to elicit views and feedback. 

Shortly afterwards, Oireachtas members were invited to a detailed briefing by my officials in Leinster House.  The consultation was open for over 3 months and the Department received almost 300 responses from individuals and organisations.  Those submissions outlined the views of respondents on the issues of most interest to them including how self-employed people and Class S PRSI contributions since 1988 could be treated.

Having carefully examined the outputs of the consultation process, my Department is now designing the scheme and I intend to shortly bring a proposal to Government setting out that design.  When the Government has agreed the approach to be taken, I will initiate the work required to introduce this reform. 

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Free Travel Scheme Data

Questions (759)

Bríd Smith

Question:

759. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the estimated cost of extending the free travel scheme to persons that are visually impaired or blind and are unable to obtain a driver licence (details supplied). [29277/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

The free travel scheme provides free travel on the main public and private transport services for those eligible under the scheme.  These include road, rail and ferry services provided by companies such as Bus Átha Cliath, Bus Éireann and Iarnród Éireann, as well as Luas and services provided by over 80 private transport operators.  There are currently approx. 948,000 customers with direct eligibility.  Following recent announcements in Budget 2019 the funding for the free travel scheme was increased by €5 million to a total of €95 million.

I am advised that my Department cannot providing an accurate projection of the cost of extending the free travel scheme to those unable to drive a vehicle on medical grounds or because they do not meet regulations set out by the Road Safety Authority. The extra cost to the free travel scheme is determined by the usage of the extra passes provided and not by the number of newly qualified people.

The objective of the free travel scheme is to assist older people and people with disabilities in remaining active within their community. Extending the eligibility of the free travel scheme to include all people who are deemed unsuitable to drive by the national licensing authority, regardless of whether they receive a payment from my department, would have to be considered in the overall budgetary context.

Under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme (SWA) the Department of  Employment Affairs and Social Protection may award a travel supplement in any case where the circumstances of the case so warrant.  The supplement is intended to assist with ongoing or recurring travel costs that cannot be met from the client’s own resources and are deemed to be necessary.  Every decision is based on consideration of the circumstances of the case, taking account of the nature and extent of the need and of the resources of the person concerned.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Disability Support Services

Questions (760)

Bríd Smith

Question:

760. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the estimated cost of extending the workplace adaptation grant to those that are blind and vision impaired for a second year on community employment schemes. [29278/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

My Department provides a range of grants and supports to assist both jobseekers with disabilities and employers to take appropriate measures to enable either a potential employee or existing employee with disabilities to obtain or retain employment.  These include the:

- Disability Awareness Support Scheme (DASS)

- Reasonable Accommodation Fund (RAF), which encompasses:-

- Employee Retention Grant

- Workplace Equipment / Adaptation Grant

- Personal Reader Grant

- Job Interview Interpreter Grant

 The purpose of the Workplace Equipment/Adaptation Grant (WEAG) is to increase the job opportunities for people with a disability by supporting any additional costs, related to the disability, incurred by private sector employers employing or retaining an employee with a disability or self-employed people with a disability.

The general principles of the scheme are that it:

- applies only to the additional costs of adapting workplace equipment or of the provision of equipment arising from the individual’s disability.  It should not be used to provide support usually provided by employers or supports required under legislation for employees who do not have a disability;

- is a contribution towards the cost of an adaptation or of equipment up to a current limit of €6,350.  It can also be used to upgrade adaptive equipment which may have been funded previously.  Application in excess of this sum will be considered on an individual basis up to a maximum of €9,523 if specialist training for the assistive technology is required;

- is not intended to meet the usual costs of setting up and running a business either for an employer or a self-employed person;

- will be treated as a grant; and

- may be used in part for training in the use of the grant-aided equipment.

 Those eligible for receipt include:-

- Any person with a disability who is about to take up employment with a private sector employer, change job as a result of re-deployment or promotion, or become self-employed, and who requires assistive technology or an adaptation to the workplace in order to undertake the duties required.

- Any person employed by a private sector employer who acquires a disability whilst in employment, whose employer is participating in the Employee Retention Grant Scheme (ERGS), and who requires assistive technology or an adaptation to the workplace in order to retain his/her employment.

- Any person with a disability who is employed by a private sector employer, whose condition deteriorates so that he/she requires new assistive technology or a further adaptation to the workplace in order to retain his/her employment.

The Community Employment (CE) scheme provides part-time employment and training opportunities in local communities for people in receipt of a long term Social Welfare payment as a stepping stone back to employment.  It is important to note that community employment, does not, nor is it intended to, provide full-time sustainable employment.  As CE projects are funded by the exchequer, participation on a CE scheme is not currently considered as private sector employment for the purpose of eligibility for WEAG.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Social Welfare Benefits Data

Questions (761)

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

761. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if the Christmas bonus will be available in 2019. [29279/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

The Christmas Bonus payment is made to long-term social welfare recipients, such as pensioners, carers, people with disabilities, lone parents and long-term unemployed people who rely wholly or mainly on their social welfare payments for financial support.

As is the case every year, the payment of a Christmas Bonus is a discretionary decision made by Government in the context of the annual Budget process and available resources.  A decision to pay the bonus this year will be made when announcing the 2020 Budget in October and must be consistent with the legal requirements set out in the Fiscal Responsibility Acts 2012 and 2013, and within the context of achieving targets set for Ireland by the EU rules. 

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Invalidity Pension Applications Data

Questions (762)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

762. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of an invalidity pension, IP, application by a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29304/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

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.

The department received a claim for IP for the gentleman concerned on 17 September 2018.  The claim was refused on the grounds that the medical conditions for the scheme were not satisfied. He was notified on 14 February 2019 of this decision, the reasons for it and of his right of review and appeal.  He requested an appeal of this decision and submitted further medical evidence in support of his request.  Following a review of all the information available the deciding officer is satisfied that the medical conditions for the scheme are satisfied.

The gentleman referred to has been awarded invalidity pension with effect from 20 September 2018.  Payment will issue to his nominated bank account on 18 July 2019.  Any arrears due from 20 September 2018 to 17 July 2019 (less any overlapping social welfare payment) will issue as soon as possible.  The gentleman in question was notified of this decision on 03 July 2019.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Pensions Legislation

Questions (763)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

763. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to ensure that the next social welfare Bill permits the full work record of a person to be evaluated in terms of social insurance for payment of jobseeker's benefit when he or she reachs 65 years of age and during the 66th year until he or she qualifies for the State pension at 66 years of age; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29316/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

The Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2011 provided that State pension age will increase to age 67 in 2021 and age 68 in 2028.  The purpose of these changes is to make the pension system more sustainable in the context of increasing life expectancy.  This has significant implications for future cost of State pension provision which is increasing by approximately €1 billion every 4 to 5 years.

Jobseeker’s payments are currently paid to eligible jobseekers aged 18 to 66 years subject to the person satisfying the general scheme conditions.  Social Welfare legislation states that jobseeker payments may be made until the person reaches pensionable age.  In this regard, the duration of jobseeker's payments will naturally adjust in line with increases in state pension age.

Jobseekers Benefit is normally paid for 9 months (234 days) for people with 260 or more PRSI contributions paid and for 6 months (156 days) for people with fewer than 260 PRSI contributions paid.  Arrangements are in place to provide that jobseekers whose benefit expires in their 65th year can generally continue to be paid benefit up until pensionable age provided they satisfy the necessary contribution conditions. 

I am also introducing a new jobseekers benefit for the self-employed later this year which I announced as part of Budget 2019.  The Social Welfare Bill 2019 will provide for the necessary legislation required to introduce this new scheme which is progressing through the Houses of the Oireachtas.  Once enacted, this scheme will also provide for the alignment of payment in line with increases in state pension age.

There is no statutory retirement age in the State, and the age at which employees retire is a matter for the contract of employment between them and their employers.  While such a contract may have been entered into with a retirement age of 65, in the context of previous State pension arrangements, there is no legal impediment to the employer and employee agreeing to increase the employment duration, if both parties agree to do so.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Pensions Data

Questions (764)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

764. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the estimated cost of awarding full State pension entitlements to each cohort of citizens when they reach 65 years of age; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29317/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

In 2019, it is estimated that this Department will spend over €8 billion on pension payments. The cost includes payments to over 650,000 pensioners and qualified adults who are aged 66 and over as well as pensions paid to those who are under 66 years of age (such as widows and qualified adults under the age of 66).

According to the CSO’s Population and Labour Force Projections for 2018, and taking account of various assumptions, the number of people aged 65 and over resident in Ireland is estimated to range between 664,634 and 666,680. The cost of providing a pension payment of €248.30 for all people aged 65 and over would then range between €8.5 billion and €8.65 billion.

It should be noted that this does not include the cost of increasing pension payments to pensioners living abroad who are entitled to a contributory pension and those under 66 who currently receive a pensions payment.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

JobPath Data

Questions (765)

John Brady

Question:

765. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if a matter will be addressed regarding the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29318/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

JobPath is an employment activation service that supports people who are long-term unemployed, including those working part-time and those at risk of becoming long-term unemployed, to secure and sustain full-time paid employment.  All jobseekers over one year on the Live Register are eligible for selection for the JobPath service and clients are chosen by means of a random selection process.

Customers referred to JobPath who are also working part-time will have all activities including meetings with their personal advisor scheduled around their work commitments and the JobPath contractors are required to be flexible in the provision of the service in that respect. 

The customer in question had completed a year with the JobPath service last November.  In the intervening period of six months they had not found sustainable full-time employment, and had not been selected for any other activation support service, and therefore became eligible for reselection for JobPath in May.

Seetec have stated that an error was made when scheduling an initial appointment after the client had informed the service provider of their work days.  A complaint was submitted directly to the service provider by the customer.  Seetec immediately acknowledged the error and apologised to the person concerned and also gave an undertaking to schedule appointment for days on which the individual was not working.

This matter has now been rectified and appointments will only be scheduled for days on which the client is not working.  The incorrect appointment and follow on letter have been removed from the client’s record.

JobPath provides an intensive personal service which focuses on the skills and the experience of the individual.  As this client is already in part-time employment the focus will be to secure sustainable full time employment. 

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Social Welfare Benefits Eligibility

Questions (766)

James Lawless

Question:

766. Deputy James Lawless asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason there is a different means test for the disability pension as opposed to the blind pension; and if this will change. [29327/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

The social protection system includes a variety of social assistance payments with different rules in relation to means testing, reflecting the different contingencies under which payments are made.

The blind pension is a means-tested payment paid to blind and visually impaired people. It is unique in the social protection system as it is a payment provided to people with a specific physical impairment.  As such, it contains different eligibility and means criteria to disability allowance.  Unlike disability allowance, recipients of blind pension may also qualify for a range of other primary schemes such as jobseeker’s benefit, illness benefit, and one-parent family payment.  Persons in receipt of the blind pension may also have an entitlement to blind welfare allowance from the HSE which is disregarded for the blind pension means test.

The capital means test for disability allowance is also unique in the social protection system, in that it disregards €50,000 of capital completely, compared to €20,000 for most other social assistance schemes including blind pension.  84% of blind pension recipients with means from capital have means of less than €20,000 and this is therefore completely disregarded. A further 13% (about 65 people) have capital means between €20,000 and €50,000.

Subject to meeting the qualifying conditions, a person with significant visual impairment on blind pension may, instead, apply for disability allowance.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Carer's Allowance Applications

Questions (767)

Seán Haughey

Question:

767. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if a carers allowance will be granted to a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29331/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

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

An increased payment can be made where full-time care is being provided to two people.

An application for CA was received from the person concerned on 30 August 2018 in respect to two care recipients.

It is a condition for receipt of CA is that the person being cared for must have such a disability that as a result they require full-time care and attention.  

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

The applications were refused on the grounds that the person concerned was already in receipt of two social welfare payments from by department at a higher rate of payment. The person concerned was in receipt of Blind Pension and a One Parent Family Payment (OPFP).

The application in relation to her son was also refused on the grounds that the evidence did not indicate that the requirement for full-time care was satisfied in relation to him.

The person concerned was notified of these decisions on 28 February 2019, the reasons for them and of her right of review and appeal.

Following termination of her OPFP the person concerned requested a review of her claims.

The outcome of the review is that on examining the evidence submitted in support of her application in respect of her son, the deciding officer decided that this evidence did not indicate that the requirement for full-time care was satisfied in respect of him.

CA was awarded to the person concerned with effect from 9 May 2019 in respect of her daughter. The first payment will issue to her nominated post office on 11 July 2019. 

Arrears for the period 9 May 2019 to 10 July 2019 will also issue shortly.

The person concerned was notified on 5 July 2019 of these revised decisions, the reason for them and of her right of review and appeal.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

State Pension (Contributory) Eligibility

Questions (768)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

768. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to grant credits to self-employed persons who were in full-time self-employment before self-employed pay related social insurance, PRSI, was introduced for the purposes of assessing them under the new total contributions approach to assessing State pensions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29338/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

The introduction of a Total Contributions Approach (TCA) to establishing the level of entitlement for all new state pension contributory claims was signalled by the then Government in the National Pensions Framework in 2010.  At that time it set a target date of 2020 for the implementation of TCA.  More recently, the Roadmap for Pensions Reform 2018-2023 targeted implementation of the TCA from Q3 of 2020.  This is subject to the necessary legislation being enacted and supporting structures being in place.

Consultation is a very important part of the development and design of the new pension.  With this in mind, I launched a public consultation on the design of the TCA on the 28th of May 2018 to which a wide variety of stakeholder groups were invited.  A number of workshops were also held on the day to elicit views and feedback.

Shortly afterwards, Oireachtas members were invited to a detailed briefing by my officials in Leinster House.  The consultation was open for over 3 months and the Department received almost 300 responses from individuals and organisations.  Those submissions outlined the views of respondents on the issues of most interest to them including in particular how self-employed people and Class S PRSI contributions since 1988 could be treated.

Having carefully examined the outputs of the consultation process, my Department is now designing the scheme and I intend to shortly bring a proposal to Government setting out that design.  When the Government has agreed the approach to be taken, I will initiate the work required to introduce this reform. 

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Carer's Support Grant

Questions (769)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

769. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when a carer's support grant will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29342/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

The Carer’s Support Grant is an annual payment made by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection to full-time carers.

The person concerned was paid the 2018 grant earlier this year. A short questionnaire was sent to her for completion in April in order to assess her eligibility for the 2019 grant. However, the completed questionnaire has not been returned by her.

The questionnaire was reissued to the person concerned on the 3rd of July and a decision will issue to her on receipt of the completed questionnaire.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Treatment Benefit Scheme Data

Questions (770)

Peter Burke

Question:

770. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of self-employed persons who have availed of the extension of the treatment benefit scheme to the self-employed by county, in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29345/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

The number of treatment benefit claims made in respect of self-employed contributors in 2018 and 2019 (to date) is outlined in the following tables, categorised under the Dental, Optical and M&S (hearing aids) schemes. Treatment benefits have been available to self-employed contributors since March 2017. Statistics are not available for the 2017 year as the claims received in that year were processed on the old system and not coded separately to claims from employed contributors.

Self-employed TB claims 2018

 -

Dental

M&S

Optical

Carlow

1399

52

990

Cavan

2139

75

1266

Clare

3204

116

2178

Cork

19079

521

10140

Donegal

4358

99

2089

Dublin

27056

903

19692

Galway

7524

197

3944

Kerry

5561

179

3254

Kildare

4707

178

3386

Kilkenny

3099

113

1883

Laois

1713

73

1038

Leitrim

1120

34

558

Limerick

5259

144

2636

Longford

1417

25

691

Louth

2455

90

1762

Mayo

4508

144

2465

Meath

4507

164

3070

Monaghan

1301

72

1216

Offaly

1861

66

1307

Outside RoI

3318

110

1955

Roscommon

1660

59

1125

Sligo

1800

58

1148

Tipperary

5194

150

3438

Waterford

3749

104

1782

Westmeath

2549

85

1531

Wexford

4115

156

2280

Wicklow

4162

152

2535

Sum:

128814

4119

79359                                   Total: 212,292

 

Self-employed TB claims 2019 to end June.

 -

Dental

M&S

Optical

Carlow

872

26

498

Cavan

1372

43

562

Clare

1989

68

1250

Cork

11225

230

5129

Donegal

2749

56

998

Dublin

16944

472

9356

Galway

4758

105

1987

Kerry

3459

67

1663

Kildare

2757

80

1769

Kilkenny

1787

58

904

Laois

953

36

501

Leitrim

714

15

247

Limerick

3163

75

1315

Longford

835

20

318

Louth

1554

42

815

Mayo

2826

72

1169

Meath

2829

98

1476

Monaghan

878

34

547

Offaly

1161

21

674

Outside RoI

2129

67

1205

Roscommon

1004

20

500

Sligo

1052

31

560

Tipperary

3046

89

1763

Waterford

2405

43

863

Westmeath

1493

49

705

Wexford

2468

76

1223

Wicklow

2514

68

1250

Sum:

78936

2061

39247                      Total: 120,244