Friday, 6 September 2019

Questions (1808, 1809, 1810)

Seán Fleming

Question:

1808. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the proactive measures in place to ensure that there is not a build-up of debt owed to her Department by persons who are in receipt of a social welfare payment but who may not have a full entitlement to the payment in view of the fact that her Department regularly contacts persons regarding overpayments that have occurred over a period of years as a result of possible undeclared income; if there can be a more timely exchange of information between the Revenue Commissioners and her Department to ensure these matters are picked up earlier to prevent large debts building up and the consequent issue of the person having to deal with the overpayments; if there is a protocol in place for the earlier exchange of information between the two organisations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35174/19]

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Seán Fleming

Question:

1809. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the breakdown of debts owed to her Department of over €10,000; the number and amount due in respect of each scheme category; the proactive measures in place to prevent the build-up of such debts in respect of schemes in which the highest overpayments tend to arise; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35175/19]

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Seán Fleming

Question:

1810. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the details of the debt owed in respect of debts of over €10,000 for each scheme; the years in which the debt arose; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35176/19]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1808 to 1810, inclusive, together.

Overpayments of social welfare assistance and benefit payments arise as a consequence of decisions made under the relevant sections of the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act, 2005 (as amended). Where an overpayment is raised, the Department is obligated to make every effort to recover sums overpaid.

At the end of July 2019, the Department had almost 11,700 individual customer debts valued at over €10,000, with a total outstanding value of €326.6 million. A breakdown of the debts by scheme and by year raised are set out in tables 1 and 2 respectively below.

My Department has a number of measures in place to detect non-compliance in claims at the earliest possible opportunity, thereby preventing the build-up of large debts by customers of the Department. These measures include:

- reviewing claims on an annual basis across all social welfare schemes and programmes to ensure continued eligibility of customers. Claims are reviewed using a risk-based approach, in addition to random sample checks and specialist investigations. Reviews looking at the medical conditionality underpinning certain schemes are also undertaken;

- verification and validation of information provided by customers in support of an application for payment, including the requirement for original documentation and cross-checking with information already held by my Department and other public bodies;

- data-matching with other Government Departments and public bodies to identify non-compliant claims;

- the use of predictive modelling to detect non-compliant cases and improve non-compliance processes and controls; and

- conducting control surveys of various schemes on an annual basis to identify the risks and address any weaknesses within schemes.

As outlined above, for the past number of years, for control purposes, my Department has been actively engaged in data-matching with other Government Departments and public bodies. The aim of this work is to detect non-compliance as quickly as possible, thereby minimising the build-up of debts to my Department. To this end, there is an extensive legal structure to support the sharing of data for the purpose of controlling the entitlement and payment of benefits.

Notifications received by my Department from the Revenue Commissioners when persons commence employment form one element of this data matching. This information is used to identify, at the earlier opportunity, customers who may be claiming payments from my Department beyond their period of entitlement.

In previous years, these notifications depended on the periodic returns by employers to Revenue. Since the advent of real-time Revenue data earlier this year, this data is now received in a much timelier manner which allows for potential overpayments to be identified and stopped much more quickly.

The legislative provisions that allow for the specific sharing of data with other bodies are contained in section 261 of the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act, 2006. In exercising these functions, the Department also operates in accordance with the relevant data protection legislation.

A Data Sharing Agreement is in place between my Department and Revenue to govern the transfer of data between the two organisations, in strict accordance with GDPR.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

TABLE 1 - As at end July 2019 - Outstanding customer debts valued over €10,000 - by Scheme

Scheme Overpaid

Number of cases

Value Outstanding

Jobseeker's Allowance

3,093

€84,235,228

One Parent Family Payment

2,798

€71,382,792

Disability Allowance

1,056

€32,375,471

State Pension Non-Contributory

1,035

€40,697,930

Carer's Allowance

789

€22,252,247

State Pension Contributory

432

€12,246,413

Child Benefit

378

€6,557,206

Invalidity Pension

299

€8,186,648

Illness Benefit

298

€6,704,620

Widow(er)'s Pension Contributory

241

€8,327,958

Basic Supplement Welfare

213

€4,567,234

Rent Supplement

167

€3,821,148

Deserted Wife's Benefit

143

€6,316,791

Farm Assist

126

€4,044,291

Family Income Supplement

119

€2,468,202

Widow's Non Contributory Pension

75

€1,997,425

Jobseeker's Benefit

73

€1,120,563

Pre-retirement Allowance

51

€1,093,618

Back To Work Scheme

47

€794,618

Deserted Wife's Allowance

37

€1,491,901

Blind Person's Pension

34

€1,353,537

State Pension Transition

30

€661,073

Back To Work Enterprise Allowance

30

€629,750

Mortgage Interest Supplement

23

€420,410

Disablement Benefit

20

€581,398

Guardian's Payment (Contributory)

15

€540,960

Rent Allowance

15

€504,214

Guardian's Payment (Non-Contributory)

13

€337,349

Domiciliary Care

10

€154,722

Carer's Benefit

8

€147,461

Third Level Option

5

€108,821

Second Level Option

5

€82,463

Rural Social Scheme

3

€63,737

Part-time Job Incentive

3

€57,998

Diet Supplement

2

€21,148

Death Benefit

1

€112,229

Adoptive Parent Benefit

1

€28,299

Jobs Initiative Scheme

1

€14,738

Magdalen Commission Scheme

1

€14,620

National Internship

1

€12,784

Respite Care

1

€10,925

Partial Capacity Benefit

1

€10,678

Total

11,693

€326,551,618

TABLE 2 - As at end July 2019 - Outstanding customer debts valued over €10,000 - by Year Debt Raised

Year debt raised

Number of cases

Value Outstanding

1984

3

€48,809

1985

2

€28,486

1986

13

€211,670

1987

12

€229,984

1988

26

€449,808

1989

38

€686,644

1990

41

€786,039

1991

36

€680,593

1992

56

€941,465

1993

38

€675,425

1994

74

€1,401,837

1995

82

€1,575,432

1996

94

€1,727,136

1997

117

€2,258,786

1998

108

€2,185,115

1999

129

€2,603,489

2000

121

€2,441,710

2001

119

€2,429,091

2002

100

€2,126,999

2003

290

€5,151,392

2004

626

€11,115,702

2005

406

€9,074,535

2006

314

€6,743,532

2007

248

€5,825,459

2008

288

€6,911,593

2009

414

€11,554,519

2010

518

€13,842,217

2011

618

€16,580,118

2012

649

€19,985,154

2013

910

€27,918,697

2014

824

€23,616,400

2015

848

€27,115,424

2016

770

€25,016,531

2017

982

€31,662,761

2018

1,030

€35,482,957

2019

749

€25,466,111

Total

11,693

€326,551,618