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Thursday, 3 Dec 2020

Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions

Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment

Questions (1)

Claire Kerrane


1. Deputy Claire Kerrane asked the Minister for Social Protection the way in which her Department is monitoring the requirement for persons who qualify for the pandemic unemployment payment, PUP, to be genuinely seeking work; the way in which persons are expected to meet this requirement; if there are plans for PUP recipients to engage with job activation measures; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40412/20]

View answer

Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Social)

How is the Department monitoring the new requirement that those in receipt of the pandemic unemployment payment and those applying for it must be genuinely seeking work? How are people expected to meet this requirement? Are there plans for recipients to engage with job activation now or in the new year?

I thank the Deputy for raising this issue. In common with other jobseeker payments, such as jobseeker's benefit and allowance, the fundamental condition for receipt of the pandemic unemployment payment, PUP, is that the person is available to work but cannot do so because suitable work is not available to them. Persons claiming the PUP will have been in employment immediately before claiming the benefit. This is seen as initial evidence satisfying the genuinely seeking work requirement. Once people are in payment, we operate on the basis that the PUP is a payment to support them until they return to work in their pervious occupation or sector. We do not, at this time, require people to look for alternative employment.

For example, it is reasonable that workers who remain temporarily laid off in sectors that have not reopened or have only partially reopened, such as hospitality, arts and entertainment, due to Covid-19 restrictions are afforded the time and opportunity for their workplace to reopen. Having said that, it is also reasonable to expect workers in receipt of the PUP to take up the offer of returning to their work when their workplace reopens. Where workers do not, without reasonable cause, take up the opportunity to return to their work it is appropriate to ask whether they are genuinely unemployed and seeking work and, if not, to review their payment. It is for this reason the genuinely seeking work condition is incorporated into the statutory basis for the scheme. I can advise that no claims have been disallowed to date on the genuinely seeking work condition.

It is likely that even as the economy reopens, some sectors will not return to the levels of employment seen before the pandemic. We know that the longer a person is unemployed the harder it becomes for them to find new employment. Accordingly, it is important that the State provides all the supports and assistance it can to help people who may find that the job they held before the pandemic is not returning. To this end, in the new year the Department plans to commence engaging with PUP recipients to offer them access to a case worker and to provide them with information on the range of education, training, and employment supports that can help them to find new employment.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

As the Deputy is aware, we have already modified the conditions for accessing employment and education schemes to grant access to PUP recipients. Depending on the numbers who may remain on the PUP in the new year, the process of engagement will be implemented on a phased basis. All engagement with PUP recipients will be on a voluntary basis. I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

I appreciate the jobseeker requirement but there is a big difference between being available to work and genuinely actively seeking work. While the Minister has said the rule is there, and a number of us sought to remove it through an amendment in August and July when the legislation was going through, at present the Department does not require PUP recipients to be genuinely seeking work. What is the purpose of putting in the rule in the first place? It is a rule but it is not being enforced so I do not really see why the rule is there in the first place.

We have to remember these are workers who have lost their jobs. They are not unemployed for no reason. In fact, some of them are not unemployed at all as they are just waiting for their workplaces to reopen. As the Minister said, some will do so and, unfortunately, some will not. With regard to offering access, will the Minister give a bit more detail on what she means with regard to offering access to job activation schemes? Will people begin to be referred in the new year? When exactly does the Minister plan to begin this and how does she see it working?

I thank the Deputy. It is important to say we are offering to people who want to take up the offer training and measures to help them get back to work or retrain to go to a new job and they can take it up on a voluntary basis. Some people may want to look at new careers and it is important that we give them all the support we can to help them to get back to work in due course. It is fair to say that not a single claim has been stopped for the reason that a person is not genuinely seeking work. The reason the clause is there is that if people are offered their jobs back, but choose to remain on the pandemic unemployment payment, it would be reasonable for the Department to ask whether they are genuinely seeking work. If the jobs are available and they choose not to take them up it is a fair question. For those sectors that are not open, it is fully understandable and they are not expected to go back.

Among the rules to qualify for the PUP is that people are genuinely seeking work but that is only being enforced if people are offered their jobs back and they do not take them up, which I could not imagine anybody doing anyway. These are workers and some of them have never been on social welfare in their lives. The rule on genuinely seeking work as part of the initial criteria will only be enforced if people are offered their jobs back and do not take them. I do not think this has been made clear and I do not see the purpose in the first instance of having it as a requirement to get the payment in the first place. It is there as a rule.

Offering people training and courses in the new year is welcome but there are people who cannot get on courses or training now. I have given the Minister the example of somebody trying to get on the vocational training opportunities scheme. The person has 147 out of the 156 qualifying period days so is missing only a very small number but cannot get it. Somebody else on the pandemic unemployment payment cannot get a course with the ETB because the person does not have the required qualifying period. We are making it difficult for people to take up courses when it should be very flexible.

I thank the Deputy. What we are doing is helping people to get back to work and we are giving them all the supports. In the July stimulus package, there was considerable investment in back to education and back to training, apprenticeships and measures to help people to get back to work.

If there are specific issues, I am happy to look at them. The purpose is to allow people to reskill and upskill. We are working with people all of the time and we are going to write out to people in January. This is all being done on a voluntary basis. We are going to explain to them that a range of supports are available and it is up to people to engage. If they do not want to engage, they can stay on the pandemic unemployment payment until such time as it ceases.

Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment

Questions (2)

Mick Barry


2. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister for Social Protection if the continuation of the pandemic unemployment payment will be guaranteed until the end of the pandemic; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40071/20]

View answer

Oral answers (7 contributions) (Question to Social)

I ask the Minister if the continuation of the pandemic unemployment payment will be guaranteed until the end of the pandemic.

Payment of the pandemic unemployment payment, or PUP, as it is known, has proved to be an extremely effective tool in responding to the economic impact of Covid-19 and in cushioning hundreds of thousands of individuals and families from sudden income shocks. Expenditure on the scheme has amounted to over €4.3 billion since its introduction in March. The scheme will remain in place until the end of March 2021 and, just last week, I announced that I had secured Government approval to keep the scheme open for new applicants until this date, rather than it closing at the end of the year. This extension provides certainty to people, including those in the retail and hospitality sectors, that they will be able to re-apply for PUP early in the new year if that is required.

I take this opportunity to highlight two other recent positive changes to the payment. First, since the move to level 5 restrictions, the €350 rate of PUP has been reintroduced for individuals who had prior average weekly earnings of €400 or more. Approximately 158,150, or 45% of the total in receipt of the support, are now receiving this rate of payment. Second, in budget 2021, we provided with immediate effect that self-employed PUP recipients can earn up to €480 over a rolling four-week period and retain entitlement to PUP. The €480 limit is based on gross income, before tax and PRSI, minus expenses.

The Government will keep the position regarding PUP under review and any future decisions will be informed by the trajectory of the pandemic and the evolving public health situation.

I want to ask the Minister about her plans to tax the pandemic unemployment payment. The recipients of the payment are victims of the Covid crisis; they are workers who lost their jobs in the Covid crisis. Many of these workers did not just lose their job, but their incomes fell off a cliff. There are people who would have had incomes of €600, €700 and €800 a week that were reduced to €350. That was the money which paid the rent and put the food on the table. Now, the Minister and the Government are planning to tax it. This is another real blow to those workers and their families. We are talking about hundreds of thousands of people. I ask the Minister to give the House a justification for taxing these workers, the victims of the crisis, and dealing them another blow. Can that be justified?

The issue of tax is a matter for the Department of Finance. We all know that if we earn over a certain amount of money, we are all liable to pay tax. As I understand it, that is the rule across the board.

It is important to say we have paid out a considerable amount of money to support people through the pandemic unemployment payment. This week, we issued €130 million in arrears to 286,000 people. The Deputy will be aware that when the payment was brought in last March, some payments were not made because there was missing information and so on. We worked with those people and we got them into payments and it just took some time to get the arrears sorted. Those arrears have been paid this week. Next week, we are going to pay out a record €389 million on the Christmas bonus and over 311,000 people on the PUP will receive that bonus. Normally, people would have to be 15 months on a social welfare payment, such as a jobseeker’s payment, to get the Christmas payments. However, in acknowledgement of the very difficult year people have had, we have agreed that if they are on the pandemic unemployment payment or a jobseeker’s payment for more than four months in total from last March until October, or perhaps November, but if they are on it for four months since then-----

Excuse me. The Minister is over time. I do not wish to interrupt but I am trying to ensure that every Deputy gets in.

Tax is a matter for the Department of Finance but the Minister sits at the Cabinet table, where a proposal came to tax a payment for which the Minister is responsible. She is the Minister for Social Protection. How are these workers being protected with the plans to tax them in the new year?

In fact, it is a retrospective tax because when it was introduced, on 13 March, it came in as an urgent needs payment. Urgent needs payments are explicitly exempt from tax under section 126 of the Taxes Consolidation Act. It is was only on 5 August that the PUP was put on a statutory basis. Yet, for the period between 13 March and 5 August, the PUP is to be taxed. This is retrospective taxation.

It is an extraordinary decision. As the Minister charged with protecting people in this vulnerable position, how did she allow that to go through at Cabinet level when the proposal came from the Department of Finance?

It has always been the case that if people earn over a certain income in any given tax year, they are liable for tax. That has always been the case and it is the case for the pandemic unemployment payment in the same way as for any other payment people receive.

We have supported people. We have processed 1.5 million claims since last March and we have issued 13 million payments to 800,000 people. That is the equivalent of processing seven years’ worth of jobseeker applications in eight months. The total spend on PUP to date is €4.3 billion. I think the Deputy will accept the Government has not been found wanting in supporting people through what has been an extremely difficult time for them. To go back to the Deputy’s initial question, I will be reviewing the pandemic unemployment payment in January.

JobPath Programme

Questions (3)

Claire Kerrane


3. Deputy Claire Kerrane asked the Minister for Social Protection if she has considered reducing the payment rates made to JobPath providers given the extension of the scheme for a further 12 months; if she will consider allowing those referred to JobPath to transfer to another job activation scheme especially if they have already completed JobPath once, to ensure that other schemes such as community employment do not suffer when it comes to filling places; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40413/20]

View answer

Oral answers (11 contributions) (Question to Social)

I want to ask about the continuation of the JobPath scheme for a further 12 months. This is the second time the scheme has been extended. Can the rates or fees paid to the companies be reduced, given they have now been given a further 12 months? Will the Minister consider allowing participants to move on to other schemes without having to remain with JobPath in consideration of the impact on other schemes, given so many are being referred to JobPath?

Research consistently indicates that the provision of personal case-managed employment services to jobseekers is an effective method of supporting jobseekers to secure and sustain employment, while reducing welfare costs and enhancing social value to a society. In October, I announced that my Department agreed an extension with both JobPath contractors, as well as extending the contracts of other contracted employment service providers - the local employment services and job clubs - into 2021. These extensions are required to ensure that our public employment service has the capacity to respond to the labour market fallout arising from the pandemic and can support those jobseekers who need help, support and advice. It is also to be borne in mind that referrals to contracted providers were suspended during the pandemic and this lost time and the delayed referrals now need to be made up.

The extension of the JobPath contracts provides value for money for the taxpayer.

The payment by results element of these contracts ensures that aside from a registration fee, the contractors only receive additional fees when an individual secures sustainable full-time employment lasting at least 13 weeks.

I am confident that delivering 12 months of employment service engagement for an average cost per client of €873 provides value for money and compares favourably with costs of other contracted public employment services. To put this cost into perspective, the JobPath providers must provide an engagement with every client once every 20 working days. Last year's review provided strong evidence of the benefits arising from JobPath, with individuals benefiting by 37% through increased employment outcomes and higher earnings compared with individuals who had not availed of the JobPath service.

People who are referred to one of my Department's contracted public employment services must complete this engagement with that provider for a period of 12 months or until they transition into employment.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

I should mention at this point that I have recently instructed my officials that no person should be referred to JobPath on more than two occasions. Practical steps are under way in my Department at present to implement this instruction.

JobPath is not an obstacle to filling community employment. Since June 2018, persons availing of the JobPath service may also participle on community employment, CE, or Tús schemes. This enables people engaging with JobPath to continue to receive the personalised employment counselling and job search support while availing of a Tús or CE placement, providing valuable occupational activity and work experience.

Jobseekers engaging with JobPath who opt to take up CE or Tús schemes are fully facilitated in respect of the scheduling of all meetings and activities. Community employment participants are not referred to JobPath for the duration of their placement on the scheme once the CE placement date precedes the JobPath referral.

I am asking the Minister if there is a clause in the contract between her Department and the JobPath providers, who have been given another 12-month period, that allows her to reduce the fees being paid to those companies. The Minister made a few points. She spoke about value for money. I will give her a brief example in that regard. More than 1,000 people have been referred to JobPath for a third time. Every time someone is referred, the companies get a payment of €311. The Minister mentioned a cost of €873 and she also said they are paid when they source employment for somebody. The initial referral fee is €311. That has been paid three times in respect of just one person. It is paid over and over again. That is a total of €1.2 million alone in referral fees for the more than 1,000 people who have been referred three times. Someone in contact with my constituency office yesterday had been referred for a third time. I do not see that being value for money.

I thank the Deputy. I confirm that we have changed the rules. I have instructed my officials that no person should be referred to JobPath on more than two occasions, and practical steps are under way in my Department to implement that instruction. JobPath provides advice to people. It helps them to look at how they can apply for jobs. It prepares them and tries to identify jobs that suit them. The contractors are obliged to engage and provide this employment assistance with each client at least once every 20 working days. Therefore, in situations where only a registration fee is paid to a contractor, they receive, on average, a payment of €311 for the provision of approximately 12 engagements with a client over the course of a year. That equates to a little under €6 per week for the provision of employment services.

Will the Minister confirm that the referral fee of €311 is paid twice if a person is referred to the scheme twice, that is, in the case of more than 33,000 people who have been referred to the scheme twice? If they are getting the referral fee twice for those same people, that is a cost of more than €10 million. I ask the Minister again if she believes that is value for money? Does she know how many of the 283,826 people who have been referred to JobPath are engaged with the scheme today? Also, the success rate so far for those sustaining employment for 12 months or more is approximately 7% of the total referred. Again, that is not value for money.

Will the Minister examine the impact JobPath is having on other schemes? There are community employment schemes that do so much work without which work in communities simply would not be done. They cannot find people to fill places on community employment schemes because there is a preference in the Minister's Department to refer jobseekers to JobPath only.

To be clear, the JobPath scheme has been reviewed on a number of occasions. The OECD review showed that, overall, those who participate in JobPath have better employment outcomes and earnings than those who are not supported by JobPath. The total cost of JobPath services to date is €247.7 million. That is since 2015. The total number of people engaged to date is more than 280,000, giving a total cost per client of €873, and delivering 12 months of employment services for that cost.

We are facing record unemployment because of the pandemic. There are almost 200,000 people on the live register and approximately 350,000 on the pandemic unemployment payment, PUP. We hope that many of those people will be able to return to their jobs when restrictions ease, but the sad reality is that not everybody will be able to go back to the job they were doing previously. I do not believe that now is the time to cut employment services of any kind.

Thank you, Minister.

I am sorry, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, but not one single question I asked has been answered.

There is no provision for the Deputy to come in again. I am very sorry.

I just want to make that point.

I am very sorry. I know the Deputy wants to but she cannot. Question No. 4 is in the name of Deputy Michael Lowry.

Carer's Support Grant

Questions (4)

Michael Lowry


4. Deputy Michael Lowry asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans to enhance financial supports for persons in receipt of the carer’s support grant in view of the ongoing Covid-19 situation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40462/20]

View answer

Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Social)

I ask the Minister, in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the plans, if any, she has to increase financial supports for people in receipt of the carer's support grant. Despite her genuine efforts in budget 2021, it is not the case that all additional costs associated with the pandemic are covered by current rates of pay.

I thank the Deputy for raising this issue. The main income supports to carers provided by my Department are carer’s allowance, carer’s benefit and the carer’s support grant. Combined spending on the above payments to carers in 2020 is expected to exceed €1.3 billion.

The carer’s support grant is an annual payment of €1,700 for each care recipient paid in a single lump sum with no requirement to satisfy a means test and it is not taxable. This is not available for any other group nor is there an equivalent payment for carers in any other country in Europe. The grant is paid automatically to people in receipt of carer’s allowance, carer’s benefit or domiciliary care allowance. Other people who are not in receipt of a social welfare payment but who are providing full-time care and attention are also eligible and can apply for a stand-alone grant.

Despite the substantial extra financial demands due to the Covid-19 crisis, I announced that the carer’s support grant would continue to be paid to carers this year at an estimated cost of more than €237 million. At the end of October, 115,845 carers had received the carer's support grant in respect of 128,610 care recipients. Applications for the 2020 grant can be submitted up until 31 December. Furthermore, as part of budget 2021, I announced an increase of €150 to this grant, bringing it from €1,700 to €1,850.

Any further improvements or additions to these supports can only be considered in a budgetary context, taking account of other pressures in social protection and other Departments and in the light of available financial resources. I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Family Carers Ireland is asking for the payment of the carer's support grant to be made in two instalments - €925 in the first instalment paid this month and the second one as normal in June 2021. As part of just transition measures, carer's allowance should be included as a qualifying payment for the fuel allowance. Family carers incur significantly higher and unavoidable energy bills due to their caring responsibilities and are among those most at risk of fuel poverty. Carers are also asking for clarification regarding the Government's previous commitment to expanding income limits for carer's allowance to ensure that those on the average industrial income would qualify.

The Minister is aware that disability services are curtailed or completely withdrawn since March and that respite care is virtually non-existent. Many healthcare staff have been redeployed to contact tracing. Against that background, carers feel that their future looks bleak. Family Carers Ireland look to the Minister and is appealing to her to ease the burden of pressure on carers.

The Deputy will understand that one of the key roles of my Department is that of income support. We are charged with identifying where a person has an income support need and providing that income support. Carer's benefit is a non-means-tested payment for up to two years. It is available to people who meet the specified social insurance contribution requirements. In addition, a person can continue to work for up to 18.5 hours per week and still receive a carer's payment. That was increased in the 2020 budget.

The system of social assistance supports provides payments based on an income need, with the means test playing the critical role in determining whether an income need arises as a consequence of a particular contingency, be that illness, disability, unemployment or caring.

The means test for these schemes ensures that resources are directed to those most in need. I acknowledge the significant role that family carers play in Irish society. I am fully committed to supporting them through the range of supports and services in my Department. It is important to say that the Department of Social Protection provides the income support and the Department of Health also has a role in the matter.

I agree the provision of family care at home is desirable for many reasons. It is also the preference of most people in need of care. This level of care comes at a cost. Many carers dedicate their lives to providing love, care and attention to those in need. This quality care enables people to remain in their own homes. Carers often provide this service at great personal sacrifice. They should not have to carry the burden of additional financial costs during this time. Family carers appreciate the €19 million secured through the increase in the annual carer support grant but unfortunately this vital cohort of workers reports that budget 2021 has not improved their net financial position. Budget 2021 was not about putting money in people's pockets but rather covering the additional outlay during the Covid pandemic. Family carers are now financially worse off as a result of the mounting pressures placed on them during the pandemic. Existing carer schemes are not broad enough to ensure that all family carers experiencing hardship are protected and provided for.

It is important to say that if those people who are caring and working lost their job due to the pandemic, they are entitled to get other payments such as the pandemic unemployment payment or the enhanced illness benefit if they are off sick. I know that many carers have sought the abolition of the means test. Removing the means test for carer's allowance would in effect create a new universal social protection scheme for those meeting the scheme's basic caring condition. Based on the total number of carers identified as part of census 2016, it has been estimated that a universal carer's payment could cost in excess of €1.2 billion per annum more than current spending. Increased expenditure on this scale would fundamentally change the nature of financial support and clearly reduce the scope to fund other critical schemes and services. I recognise that some carers carry a substantial responsibility and there is no doubt that it takes over their lives but this is something that has to be discussed with the Department of Health too.

Disability Allowance

Questions (5)

Thomas Pringle


5. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will report on the proposed introduction of a cost of disability payment; the studies undertaken in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39844/20]

View answer

Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Social)

Today is International Day of People with Disabilities. When Covid hit earlier this year, hundreds of thousands of people were temporarily out of work and were provided with the pandemic unemployment payment of €350 per week. It was the first time that the Government kind of admitted that people cannot really live on €203 per week. Shockingly, the maximum rate for disability allowance is €203. For a number of years, advocacy groups for persons with disabilities have been telling us about the extra cost associated with having a disability. They have called for a €20 cost of disability payment to be provided. When might this be introduced?

In budget 2019, it was announced that research would be commissioned into the cost of disability as a first step in reaching an in-depth understanding of this complex issue. While the issue has been considered before by Departments, and research has been undertaken in the past on the cost of disability in Ireland, many of the conceptual issues remain unresolved and the empirical analysis is based on data from the 1990s. It is hoped that this current research, when complete, will inform policy direction in relation to the provision of adequate supports to meet the needs of people with disabilities from a whole-of-government perspective.

My Department commissioned Indecon International Consultants to carry out this research and work is currently under way. The research is looking at three main items. It examines the conceptual underpinnings of a cost of disability. It analyses what a reasonable estimate of a cost of disability in varying circumstances would be for people living in Ireland. It examines the implications for public policy and service delivery. The research will provide quantitative estimates of the cost of disability using a number of approaches, including consultation with stakeholders, an international review, and data analysis of the household budget survey and the survey on income and living conditions. Additionally, a survey of 33,000 people with disabilities closed in November and results are now being collated. This is important work which I understand is progressing well and I look forward to receiving the completed report very shortly. The total cost of the report is some €300,000.

In the spirit of "Nothing about us without us", last Friday, I released a survey called It's Your Day, Your Say, to ask persons with disabilities what they would like to say to Ministers. As one can imagine, there were some heartbreaking and awe-inspiring responses. One young woman wrote to me about the disability allowance of €203 a week and how insufficient it is. Another respondent asked how public and private employers are measured on their employment of those with disability issues. Another person said to please let them get jobs and proper education. A further respondent said that a person with a chronic illness will lose his or her medical card if he or she chooses to take a full-time job. This means that it is often too much of a risk for that person to work in case his or her health deteriorates and he or she cannot afford the necessary treatments. These comments raise important and pertinent points regarding opportunities to work and study, and parallel issues regarding transport and infrastructure. Will the report address these issues and will that be included in the report?

The Indecon report will look at all the issues that have been raised and I hope and expect that it will address them. My Department is doing much to help people with disabilities. This year alone, we spent more than €4.7 billion across various payments, such as disability allowance, invalidity pension, carer's allowance, partial capacity benefit and blind pension, and that is to name but a few. We are supporting more and more people through these schemes. In 2010, there were 101,000 people on disability allowance. Today, there are almost 147,000 people. That is nearly a 50% increase in the number of people receiving disability allowance since 2010. We expect to spend €1.8 billion on disability allowance this year alone. That will give the Deputy some idea of the Government's commitment to support people with disabilities. It is a similar story when one looks at the number of people receiving carer's allowance. In 2010, 50,000 people were receiving it and now 84,000 people receive it.

There is no doubt that the number of people in receipt of these payments has increased but that is because the number of people with disabilities has unfortunately increased. In 2018, the at risk of poverty rate for people with disabilities in Ireland was nearly 10% higher than the European average of 36.9%. Some 46.9%, almost half, of people on disability allowance were at risk of poverty in Ireland. That is a shocking figure. This compares with 14% of the general population. In 2018, the at risk of poverty rate of people not at work due to disability or illness was almost 48% and Covid will no doubt have a devastating impact on that. Why are the most vulnerable left at the margins? There is an opportunity to bring in the €20 per week cost of disability payment. It is a small amount but would make a significant difference to those people and show them that they are actually valued by our State, which is important. When does the Minister expect the report to be published and when will it be acted on?

As I said, Indecon is working on the report at the minute and I expect it to come to me shortly. We will have to look at the report and we will act on the recommendations in it. The priority and the focus of the Department of Social Protection is to ensure that there is an income safety net for people so that they do not fall below the income safety net. As I said to Deputy Lowry on the issue of the grant, the Department of Health and the HSE also have a significant role to play.

I know from my engagement with the Minister of State with responsibility for disability, Deputy Rabbitte, that she is fully committed to helping and supporting people and she is doing a great deal of work in her own Department to improve the outcomes and the conditions for people living with disabilities, and she is very passionate about that.

The Deputy mentioned opportunities for people to get back to work. We have the employability service that helps people with disabilities to get into the workforce and we will continue to support that. We need to focus on that to ensure that people have that opportunity to get into the workplace.