School Staff

Questions (483, 484)

Gary Gannon

Question:

483. Deputy Gary Gannon asked the Minister for Education if teacher allocations for September 2021 will maintain the Covid-19 allocation from September 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7442/21]

View answer

Gary Gannon

Question:

484. Deputy Gary Gannon asked the Minister for Education if consideration will be given to an increase in guidance allocation for September 2021 to reflect the significant work needed to support young people due to the extensive impact of Covid-19; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7443/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 483 and 484 together.

All schools are required to have in place a school COVID-19 Response Plan which contains the key measures for infection prevention control in schools. Public Health have re-iterated that these measures are effective in minimising the risk of transmission of Covid-19 in schools and that there is currently no change required to these measures. Schools have been supported by a funding package of over €400m to put in place and maintain these key measures on an ongoing basis as we continue to live with Covid-19. Work is currently underway in relation to the teacher allocation process for the 2021/22 academic year and the continuation of the Covid-19 supports in line with public health advice will be considered as work progresses in this area.

Special Educational Needs Staff

Questions (485)

Gary Gannon

Question:

485. Deputy Gary Gannon asked the Minister for Education the model for SNA allocations for 2020-2021; if the model reflects the extensive impact of Covid-19 on students; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7444/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) continues to accept applications by schools for exception reviews of Special Needs Assistant (SNA) allocations and each application will continue to be assessed on a case by case basis.

A core recommendation of the NCSE Review of the SNA scheme concerned a change in the way that SNAs are allocated to mainstream classes in both primary and post primary schools and called for the greater proportion of SNAs in these classes to be allocated on the basis of an educational profile of each school before the commencement of the school year in a similar manner to the allocation of special education teachers (SETs).

The front loaded allocation model is intended to ensure that SNA posts are in schools and available immediately to students upon their arrival, reducing delays in accessing support. It eliminates the need for individual applications and professional assessments in order to access resources and facilitates schools allocating the available resources to those with greatest need.

It had been planned that the front loaded model of allocation for SNAs would be rolled out to all schools from the commencement of the 2020/21 school year.

However, due to the disruption caused by Covid-19 and the closure of school buildings in March 2020. It was decided that the introduction of the model would be deferred. This will allow time for the necessary planning and training for schools.

As an interim step, SNA allocations were frozen at their current levels for 2020/21 with provision for additionality where necessary. Department Circular 30/2020 sets out the arrangements for SNA allocations for the 2020/21 school year.

Schools were advised in the first instance to review and reprioritise deployment of all SNAs within mainstream settings and allocate resources on the basis that those with the greatest level of need receive the greatest level of support.

Providing access to SNA support continues to be based on primary care needs as outlined in DE Circular 0030/2014. SNA allocations for special classes and special schools are not affected by this arrangement.

Where schools consider their SNA allocation to be inadequate to meet current needs, a school can seek a review by making an application to the NCSE.

Special Educational Needs Staff

Questions (486)

Gary Gannon

Question:

486. Deputy Gary Gannon asked the Minister for Education if the model for SNA allocations for 2020-2021 impacts the way SNAs are currently allocated to special classes and special schools. [7445/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) continues to accept applications by schools for exceptional reviews of Special Needs Assistant (SNA) allocations and each application will continue to be assessed on a case by case basis.

A core recommendation of the NCSE Review of the SNA scheme concerned a change in the way that SNAs are allocated to mainstream classes in both primary and post primary schools and called for the greater proportion of SNAs in these classes to be allocated on the basis of an educational profile of each school before the commencement of the school year in a similar manner to the allocation of special education teachers (SETs).

The front loaded allocation model is intended to ensure that SNA posts are in schools and available immediately to students upon their arrival, reducing delays in accessing support. It eliminates the need for individual applications and professional assessments in order to access resources and facilitates schools allocating the available resources to those with greatest need.

It had been planned that the front loaded model of allocation for SNAs would be rolled out to all schools from the commencement of the 2020/21 school year.

However, due to the disruption caused by Covid-19 and the closure of school buildings in March 2020. It was decided that the introduction of the model would be deferred. This will allow time for the necessary planning and training for schools.

As an interim step, SNA allocations were frozen at their current levels for 2020/21 with provision for additionality where necessary. Department Circular 30/2020 sets out the arrangements for SNA allocations for the 2020/21 school year.

Schools were advised in the first instance to review and reprioritise deployment of all SNAs within mainstream settings and allocate resources on the basis that those with the greatest level of need receive the greatest level of support.

Providing access to SNA support continues to be based on primary care needs as outlined in DE Circular 0030/2014. SNA allocations for special classes and special schools are not affected by this arrangement.

Where schools consider their SNA allocation to be inadequate to meet current needs, a school can seek a review by making an application to the NCSE.

Dental Services

Questions (487)

Cormac Devlin

Question:

487. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Social Protection the overall funding package allocated in Budget 2021 to the oral hygiene and dental sector for PRSI patients; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6946/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The dental benefit operated by the department is demand led, with the Department providing for an annual oral examination and cleaning for all qualified PRSI contributors and their dependent spouses who opt to avail of such services.

An allocation of €57.16m has been assigned for the dental benefit scheme in 2021.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Public Services Card

Questions (488)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

488. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Social Protection when the online application process for public services cards will be operational; when appointments for same will resume; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6380/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

To date my Department has issued over 4.5 million Public Services Cards (PSCs).

At the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, my Department temporarily suspended PSC appointments and the online system used to manage those appointments. This decision was taken in order to comply with HSE and World Health Organisation guidelines and help protect the health and well-being of our customers and staff. Decisions regarding the reinstatement of these services have been made with regard to the importance of ensuring the continuing safety of customers and staff.

PSC appointments are currently suspended due to the prevailing Level 5 restrictions, but appointments are available for urgent cases in circumstances where the customer has no alternative means of accessing public services other than by acquiring a PSC. Any person urgently requiring a PSC should contact their local Intreo Centre.

Public Services Cards issued up to November 2018 expire after seven years. Cards issued since then are valid for ten years.

In June 2020, my Department introduced the facility to issue a new card, valid for a further three year period, to customers whose cards had expired. Customers can avail of this service by telephoning the free travel or PSC helpdesk areas of my Department or their local Intreo Centre, where my staff will be happy to assist them.

My Department is also developing an online PSC renewal service. It is expected that this service will be available in April 2021.

It is important to note that an expired PSC can be used to collect a social welfare payment at the post office, to avail of free travel, and to set up a verified MyGovID account which can be used to access online services provided by many public sector bodies.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Bord na Móna

Questions (489)

Denis Naughten

Question:

489. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Social Protection her views on the issues of concern raised by a person (details supplied) with regard to Bord na Móna seasonal workers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6400/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment is a statutory support which is available to people who have lost their employment as a direct consequence of Covid-19.

If an employee loses their job for reasons which are not related to Covid-19, they can avail of support under the Jobseeker's Benefit or Jobseeker's Allowances schemes. Jobseeker's Benefit is a social insurance scheme based on an individual’s PRSI record and Jobseeker's Allowance is a social assistance scheme which is subject to a means test.

I trust that this clarifies the position in so far as entitlement to social protection benefits is concerned.

Employment Support Services

Questions (490)

Seán Canney

Question:

490. Deputy Seán Canney asked the Minister for Social Protection if her Department will facilitate Tús operators by providing a bigger pool of eligible candidates in order that Tús operators can fill all the vacancies on Tús schemes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6446/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

Tús is a targeted activation measure specifically designed and delivered to those jobseekers who are on the live register and have been unemployed for twelve months or more. Eligible jobseekers can commence on Tús following their random selection and referral by the Department to the Implementing Bodies (IBs) who deliver Tús or by self-referral for eligible jobseekers actively seeking to avail of these employment opportunities.

The number of jobseekers that can be referred from the random selection process is determined by the number of jobseekers on the live register that satisfy the Tús scheme qualifying criteria. In addition to those candidates identified by the Department, up to 30% of all available Tús placements may be filled by self-referral.

The number of eligible jobseekers that have been referred to the IBs over the past year has been impacted by the challenges presented during the Covid-19 emergency and the public health restrictions introduced. Throughout these public health restrictions, my Department has continued to provide funding for Tús participants and IBs, ensuring the ongoing provision of the valuable services delivered by projects. The Department has also extended participant contracts for those individuals who would have been due to finish on Tús schemes during the Level-5 restricted periods.

The latest Tús contract extension date is 26th March 2021 and the cessation of participants' contracts after that date, will be undertaken on a coordinated and phased basis over the period of a number of months.

IBs are advised to continue with their recruitment activities where there are active Tús placements available, and where it is safe to do so.

Once the current public health restrictions are lifted and the country returns to normal business operations there will be a renewed emphasis on the identification, selection and referral of eligible jobseekers to Tús to fill vacancies. The filling of vacancies will be prioritized. .

I am fully committed to Tús and recognise the work undertaken by Tús projects in the delivery of valuable services to local communities throughout the country.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Questions (491, 503, 505)

Cathal Crowe

Question:

491. Deputy Cathal Crowe asked the Minister for Social Protection if an increased pandemic unemployment payment system will be considered for wedding industry specialists to help support ongoing expenses and costs. [6492/21]

View answer

Patricia Ryan

Question:

503. Deputy Patricia Ryan asked the Minister for Social Protection if the pandemic unemployment payment will be extended beyond March 2021; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6814/21]

View answer

Holly Cairns

Question:

505. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Social Protection her views on extending the pandemic unemployment payment scheme beyond 31 March 2021 due to the ongoing economic effects of the pandemic; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6906/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 491, 503 and 505 together.

The Government will continue to keep all aspects of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) under review and future decisions will be informed by the trajectory of the pandemic and the evolving public health situation.

Government intervention through the introduction of the PUP and other targeted supports has provided key financial assistance to employees and businesses who have been impacted by Covid-19. Since last March over 820,000 people have benefited from the PUP and the total expenditure is approximately €5.6 billion. These figures reflect the unprecedented impact of Covid-19 on our economy and society and demonstrate also the Government's commitment to continue to provide effective targeted supports.

The rates of PUP are aligned with prior average earnings which provides a fair and targeted approach to those who have lost their employment as a consequence of Covid-19. It would not be appropriate to introduce different rates of payment for a specific sector or industry.

I hope that clarifies the position at this time.

Social Welfare Payments Administration

Questions (492)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

492. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if emergency supplementary welfare needs payment will issue to a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6516/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

According to the records of my Department, the person concerned made an application for an Exceptional Needs Payment (ENP) on 20/11/2020. This claim was disallowed on the basis that the person concerned failed to establish a need for assistance as her bank statement reflects lodgements being made by her former partner.

A decision letter dated 07/12/2020 issued to the person concerned advising her of the outcome of her application and affording her the option of seeking a review of the designated officer’s decision. My officials have advised that a request for a review has not been received from the person concerned.

If the circumstances of the person concerned have changed since her last ENP application it is open to her to submit a new application by contacting her local Community Welfare Officer at (087) 2950536 or by email at KildareCWS@welfare.ie.

The person concerned currently has 2 appeals with the independent Social Welfare Appeals Office for Supplementary Welfare Allowance and Disability Allowance claims which were disallowed on 18/09/2020 and 09/11/2020 respectively.

I trust this clarifies the matter.

Disability Allowance

Questions (493)

Marc MacSharry

Question:

493. Deputy Marc MacSharry asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) in County Sligo will receive a decision on their application for a disability allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6523/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The person concerned has been awarded disability allowance with effect from 9 December 2020. The first payment will be made by her chosen payment method on 17 February 2021.

Arrears of payment due will issue as soon as possible once any necessary adjustment is calculated and applied in respect of any overlapping payments (if applicable).

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment

Questions (494)

James Lawless

Question:

494. Deputy James Lawless asked the Minister for Social Protection if the case of a person (details supplied) will be examined in relation to the pandemic unemployment payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6636/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) is a statutory scheme payable to people aged between 18 and 66 years of age who have lost their employment as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is consistent with other social protection schemes payable to people of working age who have lost their employment.

People aged 66 years and over are eligible to apply for State pension (contributory) or the means-tested State pension (non-contributory). A person in receipt of State pension (contributory) can retain this pension and their employment income.

People aged 66 and over may also be entitled to a range of ancillary supports which include the fuel allowance, living alone allowance, telephone support allowance, free travel and household benefits package which comprises the free TV licence and electricity or gas allowance.

According to the records of my Department the person concerned is currently in receipt of a State Pension (Contributory) of €57.60 per week and has Free Travel with effect from his 66th Birthday

It is open to the person concerned to contact the Community Welfare Service in the Maynooth to seek assistance under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance Scheme if he is experiencing financial difficulties. This service is available by phone at (01) 6106143 or by email at cwsmaynoothleixlip@welfare.ie.

I trust that this clarifies the position at this time.

Social Welfare Appeals

Questions (495)

Darren O'Rourke

Question:

495. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of social welfare appeals that were lodged in 2019 and 2020, by type of appeal per scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6671/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions in relation to social welfare entitlements.

All claim decisions taken by the Department’s Deciding Officers and Designated Persons are appealable to the Chief Appeals Officer. In any year about 85% of all claims are awarded by the Department and just 1% are appealed.

The attached table sets out the number of appeals that were registered in 2019 and 2020 by scheme.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Appeals received 2019 to 2020

2019

2020

PENSIONS

State Pension (Non-Contributory)

386

350

State Pension (Contributory)

457

345

State Pension (Transition)

-

-

Widow’s, Widower’s Pension (Contributory)

38

46

Death Benefit

1

2

Bereavement Grant

1

-

TOTAL PENSIONS

883

743

WORKING AGE INCOME & EMPLOYMENT SUPPORTS

Jobseeker's Allowance - Payments

1,445

1,250

Jobseeker’s Transitional

75

83

Jobseeker’ Benefit -Self Employed

3

75

Jobseeker's Allowance - Means

1,188

1,256

Pandemic Unemployment Payment

-

275

One Parent Family Payment

302

272

Widow’s, Widower’s Pension (Non-Contributory)

17

9

Deserted Wife's Allowance

-

1

Supplementary Welfare Allowance

888

1,052

Farm Assist

111

76

Pre-Retirement Allowance

-

-

Jobseeker's Benefit

671

759

Deserted Wife's Benefit

6

7

Maternity Benefit

38

74

Paternity Benefit

8

32

Parent's Benefit

-

3

Adoptive Benefit

-

-

Homemaker’s

-

-

Treatment Benefits

2

5

Partial Capacity Benefit

131

72

TOTAL WORKING AGE - INCOME & EMPLOYMENT SUPPORTS

4,885

5,301

ILLNESS, DISABILITY AND CARERS

Disability Allowance

6,242

6,661

Blind Pension

15

9

Carer's Allowance

3,006

3,630

Domiciliary Care Allowance

1,656

1,690

Carer’s Support Grant

165

201

Illness Benefit

916

984

Injury Benefit

53

83

Invalidity Pension

1,874

2,206

Disablement Benefit

278

169

Incapacity Supplement

1

5

Medical Care

7

6

Carer's Benefit

244

331

TOTAL - ILLNESS, DISABILITY AND CARERS

14,457

15,975

2019

2020

PENSIONS

State Pension (Non-Contributory)

386

350

State Pension (Contributory)

457

345

State Pension (Transition)

-

-

Widow’s, Widower’s Pension (Contributory)

38

46

Death Benefit

1

2

Bereavement Grant

1

-

TOTAL PENSIONS

883

743

WORKING AGE INCOME & EMPLOYMENT SUPPORTS

Jobseeker's Allowance - Payments

1,445

1,250

Jobseeker’s Transitional

75

83

Jobseeker’ Benefit -Self Employed

3

75

Jobseeker's Allowance - Means

1,188

1,256

Pandemic Unemployment Payment

-

275

One Parent Family Payment

302

272

Widow’s, Widower’s Pension (Non-Contributory)

17

9

Deserted Wife's Allowance

-

1

Supplementary Welfare Allowance

888

1,052

Farm Assist

111

76

Pre-Retirement Allowance

-

-

Jobseeker's Benefit

671

759

Deserted Wife's Benefit

6

7

Maternity Benefit

38

74

Paternity Benefit

8

32

Parent's Benefit

-

3

Adoptive Benefit

-

-

Homemaker’s

-

-

Treatment Benefits

2

5

Partial Capacity Benefit

131

72

TOTAL WORKING AGE - INCOME & EMPLOYMENT SUPPORTS

4,885

5,301

ILLNESS, DISABILITY AND CARERS

Disability Allowance

6,242

6,661

Blind Pension

15

9

Carer's Allowance

3,006

3,630

Domiciliary Care Allowance

1,656

1,690

Carer’s Support Grant

165

201

Illness Benefit

916

984

Injury Benefit

53

83

Invalidity Pension

1,874

2,206

Disablement Benefit

278

169

Incapacity Supplement

1

5

Medical Care

7

6

Carer's Benefit

244

331

TOTAL - ILLNESS, DISABILITY AND CARERS

14,457

15,975

Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment

Questions (496)

Pádraig O'Sullivan

Question:

496. Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Social Protection if consideration will be given to extending pandemic unemployment payment eligibility to persons who are off work to care for an elderly or sick relative during the Covid-19 pandemic; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6688/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The COVID 19 pandemic unemployment payment (PUP) is a statutory scheme paid to people who have lost employment as a consequence of Covid-19 and are not being paid by their employer. PUP is not payable where a person leaves work to care for an elderly or sick relative.

From the outset of Covid-19, many employers will have taken the initiative, in line with requests from the Government, to be as flexible as possible where employees have caring responsibilities.

There is a range of flexible options that may be available to a person in this particular situation including working from home, altering shifts so that they can co-ordinate caring between themselves and partners or another person. Employers may also allow employees to rearrange holidays or take paid time off that can be worked back at a later time.

Where it is not possible to make appropriate compassionate leave arrangements, employees may be able to avail of some statutory entitlements including force majeure leave, carer's leave together with carer's benefit or carer's allowance.

Any person who is experiencing financial hardship may be eligible for other financial supports under the means tested Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme including an Exceptional or Urgent Needs Payment.

I trust that this clarifies the position.

Disability Allowance

Questions (497)

Mark Ward

Question:

497. Deputy Mark Ward asked the Minister for Social Protection the provisions in place for persons that are suffering from mental health issues which are affecting their ability to work (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6713/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

Disability allowance (DA) is payment for persons between the ages of 16 and 66 with a disability which is expected to last at least one year, and who by reason of that disability, are substantially restricted in undertaking work suitable to their age, qualifications and experience. Applicants must also satisfy a means test and be habitually resident in the State.

Entitlement to DA is not contingent on the nature of the illness or disability itself but on the extent to which a person’s capacity to work is restricted by illness or disability.

In all cases a deciding officer makes a decision in line with the provisions specified in the relevant social welfare legislation and with reference to the supporting medical evidence supplied by the applicant.

The Department administers the Illness Benefit scheme to those customers who cannot work because they are sick or ill. Customers must be covered by the appropriate class of social insurance (PRSI), satisfy the PRSI conditions and provide a Certificate of Incapacity for Work from a medical practitioner. Illness Benefit can be paid for up to two years, depending on the person meeting the requirements in relation to eligibility and ongoing medical certification. Again, entitlement to Illness Benefit is not contingent on the nature of the illness/disability but on the extent to which a particular illness or disability impairs or restricts a person’s capacity to work.

A person who does not satisfy the eligibility for Disability Allowance or Illness Benefit and who is unable to work may apply for Supplementary Welfare Allowance (SWA). An application for a SWA payment should be made through the Community Welfare Service at the local Intreo Centre.

Social Welfare Payments Waiting Times

Questions (498)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

498. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Social Protection the waiting times for the processing of applications for carer’s allowance and carer's benefit; the number of applications waiting at present per county in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6717/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

My Department is committed to providing a quality service to all its customers, ensuring that applications are processed and that decisions on entitlement are made as quickly as possible.

There are no delays in processing claims once the necessary information is provided. In January 2021 the average number of weeks to award new Carer's Allowance applications was 5 weeks and 4 weeks for new Carer's Benefit applications.

Significant improvements have been achieved in reducing the average time to process claims. In 2020 the average number of weeks to award a new Carer's Allowance claim was 7 weeks and 5 weeks for Carer's Benefit, reduced from 14 weeks for Carer's Allowance and 12 weeks for Carer's Benefit in 2019.

Claim processing is kept under active review. The target for the Carer's Allowance scheme is to process 75% of claims in 11 weeks. The average processing time for Carer's Allowance at the end of January 2021 was 5 weeks and 95% of claims were processed within 11 weeks.

The current number of applications pending for these schemes are as follows.

County

Carer's Allowance Pending Claims

County

Carer's Benefit Pending Claims

CARLOW

6

DUBLIN

49

CAVAN

17

CORK

33

CLARE

21

GALWAY

13

CORK

124

TIPPERARY

12

DONEGAL

51

KERRY

11

DUBLIN

249

REMAINING COUNTIES

90

GALWAY

63

TOTAL

208

KERRY

38

KILDARE

39

KILKENNY

19

LAOIS

15

LEITRIM

13

LIMERICK

49

LONGFORD

14

LOUTH

41

MAYO

34

MEATH

35

MONAGHAN

12

OFFALY

24

ROSCOMMON

25

SLIGO

17

TIPPERARY

40

WATERFORD

32

WESTMEATH

19

WEXFORD

56

WICKLOW

36

TOTAL

1089

Carer's Allowance

Questions (499)

Pádraig O'Sullivan

Question:

499. Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Social Protection if persons that are in receipt of carer’s allowance and had to increase their work hours above 18.5 hours as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic will not be penalised (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6740/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

Carer's allowance (CA) is a means-tested social assistance payment made to a person who is habitually resident in the State and who is providing full-time care and attention to a child or an adult who has such a disability that as a result they require that level of care. The full-time care and attention requirement and the 18.5 hour limitation are contained in the legislative provisions of the Carer’s Allowance scheme.

Any Carer engaged in employment (training and education) outside the home must show that the person they are caring for has adequate care while they are working. Where a carer has commenced employment or increased the hours they are working the onus is on the carer to notify the Department of the change in their circumstances.

I can confirm that the person concerned is in receipt of CA in respect of her daughter since 20 September 2012.

It came to my Department’s attention on 14 January 2021 that the person concerned commenced employment. Following this a review of her claim was initiated.

A letter issued to the person concerned on 22 January 2021 requesting up to date payslips from her employer. Once the information is received a decision will be made and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

My Department is aware that the current crisis may result in some healthcare workers on the front line working above their normal hours in the short term. I want to assure the Deputy that such instances will be looked at on a case by case basis, taking account of the individual's circumstances..

I hope this clarifies the position for the Deputy.

Illness Benefit

Questions (500)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

500. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection the options available in the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6787/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

Illness Benefit is paid for a maximum of two years or 624 payable days. The person concerned was in receipt of an Illness Benefit payment from the 22nd December 2018 to the 25th December 2020, at which point his entitlement to an Illness Benefit payment exhausted.

A letter issued to the person concerned on the 26th September 2020 informing him that his entitlement to Illness Benefit was due to expire, and giving him details of other schemes which may be appropriate to his situation.

The person concerned should continue to supply medical certificates for the duration of the period in which he is incapable of work in order to receive PRSI credited contributions.

If the person concerned is permanently incapable of work or will be incapable of work for at least a further 12 months, it is open for him to apply for the long term illness scheme Invalidity Pension.

If the person concerned is in urgent need of financial assistance, it is open for him to apply for assistance under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme at his local Intreo Office.

I hope this clarifies the position for the Deputy.

Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment

Questions (501)

Patricia Ryan

Question:

501. Deputy Patricia Ryan asked the Minister for Social Protection if her attention has been drawn to an information technology glitch delaying pandemic unemployment payment arrears payments; the number of persons awaiting arrears; the average payment due; when the backlog will be cleared; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6810/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

As the Deputy is aware, the rate of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment is linked to a person's previous average weekly earnings. Last November, I secured Government approval to extend the 2020 earnings reference period for employees to September 2020. This change, which is effective from 2 October, meant that people who only commenced employment after February 2020 but were laid-off in October due to increased restrictions can have their payment rate fixed by reference to their earnings in the period March to September 2020.

As a result of extending the reference period to the end of September 2020, some 37,430 receiving PUP on 17 November received an increase in their rate of payment.

It is expected that a significant number of those who benefitted from the extended reference period will be due arrears, either to the 2 October or the date of commencement of their claim for the Pandemic Unemployment Payment, whichever is the later.

During the months of November and December, a number of very significant IT changes were in progress in relation to the Pandemic Unemployment Payment. These included the finalisation of the general arrears project involving 286,000 additional payments on 1 December, payment of the Christmas Bonus on 8 December to just over 283,000 recipients of the PUP, and advance payments over the Christmas period. My Department has also been focused on responding to the increased numbers of people applying for the Pandemic Unemployment Payment, with an increase of over 200,000 claims in payment since the start of this year. Against that background, and in order to ensure continuity of service delivery, it was not possible to introduce further changes to allow for processing of any re-rate arrears which may have arisen.

The necessary IT development work to ensure processing of any of these arrears is currently underway, and is a priority for my Department. It is expected that payment will issue in the coming weeks. It is not possible to provide an estimate of the average payment due until the necessary development work is concluded.

I hope that this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.