State Pension (Non-Contributory)

Questions (337)

Paul McAuliffe

Question:

337. Deputy Paul McAuliffe asked the Minister for Social Protection the status of the case of a person (details supplied). [2265/21]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

State pension non-contributory is a means-tested payment for people aged 66 and over, habitually residing in the State, who do not qualify for a State pension contributory, or who only qualify for a reduced rate contributory pension based on their social insurance record. Social welfare legislation provides that the personal representative of a deceased person who, at any time, received a means-tested payment is obliged to give notice to the Department of their intention to distribute the deceased's estate and to provide a schedule of the assets of the estate. On examination of the schedule of assets, if it is found that not all of the deceased’s means had been disclosed, or if the values of previously assessed means had changed, the Department will seek to recover any monies overpaid from the estate.

The person concerned was a recipient of state pension non-contributory. A schedule of the assets of their estate was received in the Department on 25 November 2020. A Deciding Office has examined the case and has decided that there is no claim by the Department against the estate. A letter of clearance in respect of the estate issued to the person's legal representatives on 8 January 2021.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

State Pensions

Questions (338)

Eoin Ó Broin

Question:

338. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will introduce an electronic payment system for those claiming the contributory or non-contributory State pensions during Covid-19 to help reduce the risk of contracting the virus by removing their need to withdraw their pension weekly from their local post office. [2300/21]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

For the duration of the pandemic, alternative payment arrangements, such as the option to have one’s payment made directly into a current account by electronic fund transfer (EFT), are accommodated at the request of a customer to the Department. This allows for the payment to be paid directly into a current account in any financial institution, whether that be with An Post, a bank or a credit union.

Those in receipt of either contributory or non-contributory State Pension payments have the option of payment by EFT.

School Meals Programme

Questions (339)

Carol Nolan

Question:

339. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Social Protection if steps are being taken to ensure that children who relied on access to school meals can still avail of such supports during level 5 restrictions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2363/21]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The school meals programme provides funding towards the provision of food to some 1,557 schools and organisations benefitting 227,000 children. The objective of the programme is to provide regular, nutritious food to children who are unable, due to lack of good quality food, to take full advantage of the education provided to them. The programme is an important component of policies to encourage school attendance and extra educational achievement.

My Department confirmed that funding for the School Meals Programme will remain in place during the current period of school closures.

This mirrors the arrangements that were in place during the school closures in 2020, when the majority of schools in the School Meals Programme continued to provide food to children, largely through the home delivery of food parcels by suppliers.

The arrangements will not change from when schools closed previously: namely that the schools may continue to avail of the funding and they may continue to provide food consistent with normal funding terms and conditions. Schools must ensure that they continue to satisfy all public health guidelines.

I trust that this clarifies the position for the Deputy.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Question No. 341 answered with Question No. 332.

Questions (340)

Holly Cairns

Question:

340. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Social Protection if employees of her Department have received Covid-19 vaccines due to their role in the Department; if so, the rationale for same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2408/21]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

I wish to confirm that my Department's staff have not received the Covid-19 vaccine to-date. The Department will await advice from the HSE in due course regarding any provision of vaccines to staff, in accordance with the National COVID-19 Vaccination Plan.

Question No. 341 answered with Question No. 332.

Rent Supplement Scheme

Questions (342)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

342. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the progress to date in the determination of an application for rent supplement in the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2486/21]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

My officials have advised that the person concerned has been awarded a Rent Supplement payment with effect from 1/10/2020. A payment of €5,612.20 for the period 1/10/2020 to 16/01/2021 was available in the nominated bank account of the person concerned on 14/01/2021. A Rent Supplement entitlement of €350.76 will issue weekly thereafter.

I trust this clarifies the matter.

Social Welfare Benefits

Questions (343, 344)

Louise O'Reilly

Question:

343. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of comprehensive reviews of the welfare support claims of staff of a company (details supplied) currently being undertaken by her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2501/21]

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Louise O'Reilly

Question:

344. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Social Protection if a new review of the welfare support claims of the staff of a company (details supplied) is currently being undertaken by her Department. [2502/21]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 343 and 344 together.

A review team has been set up in my Department to review claims from employees of the company concerned for the period between March and end-August when the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme was in payment. The Department is reviewing 2,668 claims for a jobseeker's payment and is writing to the individual employees requesting that they contact their employer for the information that is required to complete the review. The employer is required to complete a UP38 form in respect of the employee, providing details for each day in the review period on whether the employee was employed/remunerated.

Entitlement to a casual jobseeker's or short-time work support payment for any day during the review period depends, among other things, on whether or not a person received remuneration from their employer, including TWSS, for that day. Each case needs to be examined individually to determine if the remuneration paid by the company concerned was in respect of a complete period or only specific days within a period. This will determine if a person may be entitled to a casual jobseeker's payment in respect of the days on which a person did not work and were not remunerated.

My Department has continued to engage with the company and has also made an arrangement with the company that, if my Department asks its employees for particular information, the company is aware of what is required and will immediately supply it to the employee via email.

Unfortunately, because of the volume and complexity of claims involved and the need to go back to individuals, the process will take some time.

My staff are committed to keep processing these claims until a decision is reached on each one and is working to complete the reviews as quickly as possible. A response will issue to each individual applicant advising them of the decision on their claim. The letter will also provide details of the Appeals process if a person is dissatisfied with the decision and wants to seek a review by the Social Welfare Appeals Office.

It should be noted that all of the cases under review are currently in payment and, as only the March to August period when TWSS was in operation is under review, current payments should not be affected.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Social Welfare Benefits

Questions (345)

Seán Crowe

Question:

345. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason for the reinstatement of physically signing on for social protection payments such as pensions at a time of such high transmission rates of Covid-19; her views on whether this presents an unnecessarily high risk particularly to older claimants; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2510/21]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

Signing for a cash payments in post offices is performed by means of an electronic signing pad.

Disabling the signature pads was one of a number of temporary measures introduced in March 2020 to assist in reducing the spread of Covid-19.

In agreement with my Department, An Post introduced fixed hand sanitiser units in all post offices and reactivated the signing pads in the post office network. This allows customers to sanitise their hands both before and after using the electronic signing pad.

Other measures to help reduce the transmission of Covid-19 have been introduced by An Post with the co-operation of my Department. The period of time in which cash payments have to be collected at post offices has been extended. This is to facilitate those who are in a position to collect a number of payments together on a less frequent basis. For State Pensions, that period is 90 days. In addition, more flexibility has been introduced to the rules around nominating an agent to collect social welfare payments at a post office on someone else’s behalf.

Also, for the duration of the pandemic, alternative payment arrangements, such as the option to have one’s payment made directly into a current account by electronic fund transfer (EFT), are accommodated at the request of a customer to the Department. This allows for the payment to be made directly into a current account in any financial institution, whether that be with An Post, a bank or a credit union.

Disability Allowance

Questions (346)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

346. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection the status of a disability allowance appeal by a person (details supplied); and when they can expect a decision on their case. [2539/21]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

Following a review of the entitlement of the person concerned, disability allowance (DA) was disallowed with effect from 3 April 2019 as she was deemed to have means in excess of the statutory limit for her circumstances. The person concerned was notified in writing of this decision on 29 March 2019 and was also notified of their right to request a review of this decision or to appeal it to the independent Social Welfare Appeals Office (SWAO).

A review of the decision was requested and was carried out on 2 July 2019. The original decision remained unchanged and the person concerned was notified in writing.

An appeal was lodged with the independent SWAO. On 4 October 2019 the SWAO notified the Department that the original decision was upheld and the appeal was disallowed. The person concerned was notified directly by the SWAO regarding their appeal.

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.

To qualify for IP a claimant must, inter-alia, have at least 260 (5 years) paid PRSI contributions since entering social insurance and 48 contributions paid or credited in the last or second last complete contribution year before the relevant date of their claim. Only PRSI classes A, E, H or S contributions are reckonable for IP purposes.

A claim for IP was received from the person concerned on 3 December 2020. Her claim was disallowed on the grounds that the contribution conditions for the scheme were not satisfied. Specifically, she does not have the required 260 contributions paid since she entered social insurance. She was notified on 5 January 2021 of this decision, the reason for it and of her right of review and appeal.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the deputy.

Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment

Questions (347)

Niall Collins

Question:

347. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) will receive arrears of the pandemic unemployment payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2568/21]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The person concerned will receive arrears of €9,253 on 26th January 2021, in respect of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment. The arrears will be credited to his nominated bank account.

I trust this clarifies the position.

Personal Public Service Numbers

Questions (348)

Michael Collins

Question:

348. Deputy Michael Collins asked the Minister for Social Protection if an application for PPS numbers by persons (details supplied) will be expedited; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2569/21]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

I can confirm that my Department has allocated Personal Public Service Numbers (PPSNs) to the individuals referred to by the Deputy. Letters issued on 14th January 2021 with details of their PPSNs.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

State Pension (Contributory)

Questions (349)

Seán Canney

Question:

349. Deputy Seán Canney asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will consider changing the calculation used for State pension (contributory) in relation to home caring periods in order that it is the same as the non-homecaring periods yearly average calculation, which would result in increased pension payment for former carers many of whom received little or no payment for their valuable work. [2583/21]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The Programme for Government “Our Shared Future” includes a commitment to examine options for a pension solution for carers, the majority of whom are women, particularly those of incapacitated children, in recognition of the enormous value of the work carried out by them. This Government acknowledges the important role that carers play and is fully committed to supporting them in that role.

As the Deputy is aware, the public policy and social issues in relation to funding a sustainable and adequate State pension system are complex. As a consequence, the Programme for Government also committed to establishing a Commission on Pensions to examine a range of issues including sustainability, eligibility, contributions and calculation methods. The Terms of Reference for this Commission includes consideration of how people who have provided long-term care for incapacitated dependents can be accommodated within the State pension system. The Commission has been established, has already commenced work and is scheduled to report to me on its work, findings, options and recommendations by 30th June 2021. The Government has committed to taking action having regard to the recommendations of the Commission within six months of the recommendations being made.

The State pension system already gives significant recognition to those whose work history includes an extended period of time outside the paid workplace, often to raise families or in a full-time caring role, through the award of credits and/or the application of the Homemaker’s Scheme (Yearly Average method for payment calculation) and/or the application of HomeCaring Periods (Aggregated Calculation Method). Details of these are -

- Credits – PRSI Credits are awarded to recipients of Carer’s Allowance (and Carer’s Benefit) where they have an underlying entitlement to credits. Credits are also awarded to workers who take unpaid Carer’s Leave from work.

- Homemaker’s Scheme - The scheme, which was introduced with effect from 1994, is designed to help homemakers and carers qualify for State Pension (Contributory). The Scheme, which allows periods caring for children or people with a caring need to be disregarded (from 1994), can have the effect of increasing the Yearly Average.

- HomeCaring Periods – This Scheme makes it easier for a home carer to qualify for a higher rate of State Pension (Contributory). HomeCaring Periods can only be used under the Aggregated Calculation Method (also known as Interim TCA or T12) of pension calculation. HomeCaring Periods may be awarded for each week not already covered by a paid or credited social insurance contribution.

The Homemaker's Scheme and HomeCaring Periods cannot be used together to calculate State Pension (Contribution) entitlement.

Since April 2019 all new State (Contributory) Pension applications are assessed under all possible rate calculation methods, including the Yearly Average and Aggregated Contribution Method, with the most beneficial rate paid to the pensioner. The elements which make up each method are set out in legislation. To allow pensioners choose the elements in how their pension is calculated would likely incur very significant costs which could further undermine the sustainability of the State Pension system. The cost of paying the State Pension is already increasing by approximately €1 billion every 2.5 years or so, due to demographic pressures alone. It is also estimated that my Department will spend over €8.8 billion on State Pensions in 2021.

It should be noted that if a person does not satisfy the conditionality to qualify for State Pension (Contributory), they may qualify for the means-tested State Pension (Non-Contributory), the maximum rate of which is over 95% that of the maximum rate of the State Pension (Contributory). Alternatively, if their spouse is a State pensioner and they have significant household means, their most beneficial payment may be an Increase for a Qualified Adult, based on their personal means, and amounting to up to 90% of a full contributory pension.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Social Welfare Benefits

Questions (350)

Paul McAuliffe

Question:

350. Deputy Paul McAuliffe asked the Minister for Social Protection the social welfare supports available in the case of a person (details supplied). [2685/21]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

In the first instance there is an onus on employers to adhere to the relevant Public health guidelines and protocols to protect their employees and prevent the spread of the covid-19 virus.

Standard Illness Benefit payment may be payable subject to normal certification and eligibility criteria to a person with a serious health condition, where a medical practitioner provides a Certificate of Incapacity for Work that a person is incapable of work due to the medical condition. This may be paid for an extended period, depending on the person’s continued eligibility. This benefit is paid at a maximum weekly personal rate of €203. Increases may also be paid for qualifying adults and children.

The Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme, which is a means tested payment, is available to any person who is in need of financial support.

I hope that this clarifies the position at this time.