I propose to take Questions Nos. 347 and 358 together.
Partial Capacity Benefit (PCB) is a social welfare scheme which allows a person to return to work or self-employment (if they have reduced capacity to work) and continue to receive a payment from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP).
A person in receipt of Invalidity Pension or Illness Benefit for a minimum of six months who wishes to return to work may qualify for PCB if their capacity for work is reduced by their medical condition.
It is important to note 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 the PCB scheme, with an underlying entitlement to Invalidity Pension, 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.
The PCB scheme extends the welfare system by explicitly recognising and responding to the reality that some people with disabilities will have a capacity to engage in open market employment while continuing to receive some income support from the State. The objective of the scheme is to support such people to return to the workplace without fear of loss of their disability related social welfare benefits.
The majority of Springboard+ courses are open to employed, unemployed and returners who meet the eligibility criteria at the time of course commencement. Eligibility for springboard+ is the responsibility for the Higher Education Authority and my colleague the Minister for Education and Skills.
The Back to Education Allowance scheme (BTEA) is an educational opportunities scheme for customers in receipt of certain social welfare payments wishing to pursue second or third level courses of education, subject to meeting the qualifying conditions. The BTEA aims to assist those who are distant from the labour market to acquire the necessary education to improve their chances at attaining employment.
Any change to the qualifying conditions for the various schemes operated by the Department would have to be considered within the annual budgetary context.