Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Questions (125)

Catherine Murphy


125. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the provision made under the social welfare code for those who volunteered with APSO towards pension entitlements; the relationship of his Department with APSO; the years provided for; if a review is planned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32754/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Overseas volunteering was previously within the remit of the Agency for Personal Service Overseas (APSO). In 2004 the functions of APSO were integrated into the then Department of Foreign Affairs.

Individuals who volunteered overseas via APSO for a minimum period of six consecutive months may be in a position to avail of certain social welfare provisions under the Volunteer Development Worker Scheme (VDWS) or and the Public Service Pension Scheme for Volunteer Development Workers (PSPS). These two schemes are administered by Comhlámh, the Association of Returned Volunteers and Development Workers.

The Public Service Pension Scheme for Volunteer Development Workers (PSPS) was introduced in 1995 by the Department of Finance. It allows public servants, in defined circumstances, to have their pension contributions paid while volunteering overseas while on an authorised leave of absence or career break from the public service. The period of service must be for a minimum of six consecutive months and up to a maximum of two years. This scheme applies to overseas service undertaken after 1 January 1995 on a placement which was co-funded by Irish Aid, that is to say the development cooperation programme managed by my Department. Where the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is satisfied from evidence provided that a qualifying assignment was undertaken since 1995, it retrospectively covers the superannuation costs involved. Such costs are calculated by the parent Department of the volunteering public servant and are forwarded through Comhlámh, the Association of Returned Volunteers and Development Workers, to DFAT.

The Volunteer Development Worker Scheme (VDWS) permits volunteer workers, in certain circumstances, to qualify for credited social welfare contributions in respect of a period of up to 5 years working as a volunteer in a developing country from April 1983. Comhlámh also administers VDWS, on behalf of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection.

The Government Departments responsible for the two schemes (the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform) have advised that there are no plans to review these schemes.