Parental Leave

Question No. 503 answered with Question No. 491.

Questions (502)

Patricia Ryan

Question:

502. Deputy Patricia Ryan asked the Minister for Social Protection when paid parental leave will be extended by three weeks; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6813/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

Parent’s Leave and Benefit will be extended from 2 weeks for each parent to 5 weeks as announced in Budget 2021. This extension will be made available retrospectively to parents in respect of children born or adopted on or after 1st November 2019. The period during which this leave can be taken will be extended from 12 to 24 months so it can be taken up to a child's second birthday or within two years following adoption.

In December 2020, Government approved the drafting of a Parent’s Leave and Benefit (Amendment) Bill, to provide for these statutory amendments. The Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth has responsibility for parents leave policy and is leading on this legislation.

Changes are also required to my Department's systems to administer this extension, including the provision of retrospective entitlement, which are well advanced. My Department will be in a position to process and issue benefit payments, to include backdated payment of benefit if appropriate, in respect of Parents Leave taken from the date of enactment of the necessary legislation.

I trust this clarifies the position for the Deputy.

Question No. 503 answered with Question No. 491.

Disability Allowance

Question No. 505 answered with Question No. 491.

Questions (504)

Michael Creed

Question:

504. Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Social Protection when it is expected a decision will be made on a disability allowance review for a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [6840/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The person concerned submitted an application for disability allowance (DA) on 18 August 2020. Their application, based upon all the evidence submitted, was refused on medical grounds as it was not found that he was substantially restricted in taking up employment. He was also refused on failing to supply information which was required in order to assess his entitlement. The person concerned was notified in writing of this decision on 29 September 2020.

The requested information was submitted along with further medical evidence and a review of this decision was carried out. The original decision regarding the medical condition was upheld and the person concerned was notified in writing on 12 January 2021. He was also advised of his right to appeal this decision to the independent social welfare appeals office.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Question No. 505 answered with Question No. 491.

Carer's Allowance

Questions (506)

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

506. Deputy Kieran O'Donnell asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will address a matter regarding the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6934/21]

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.

I confirm that my department received an application for CA from the person concerned on 26 November 2020.

The application was referred to a local social welfare inspector (SWI) on 30 November 2020.

It is a condition for receipt of CA that every claimant furnish such certificates, documents, information and evidence as may be required for the purposes of deciding the claim. The person concerned failed to provide information that was required to determine if her means were below the statutory limit. Consequently, it was decided the person concerned was not entitled to CA.

It is a further condition for CA that the person being cared for must have such disability that they require full-time care.

The evidence submitted in support of this application was examined and the Deciding Officer (DO) decided this evidence did not indicate that requirement for full-time care was satisfied.

The person concerned was notified on 7 January 2021 of these decisions, the reasons for them and of her right of review and appeal.

A review was requested on 4 February 2021 with further medical evidence and care diary provided.

Once the review is complete the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

I hope this clarifies the position for the Deputy.

Public Services Card

Questions (507)

Cormac Devlin

Question:

507. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will consider consolidating the legislation with regard to the public services card into one single Act that would strengthen the legal basis for the card and provide a dedicated legal pathway for use across various Departments and agencies; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6953/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

It is important to distinguish between a process of legislative consolidation and the enacting of new legislation to modify or supplement existing law.

Legislative consolidation is the process provided for when it is desired to consolidate all existing statute law on a particular subject matter from two or more existing Acts of the Oireachtas, into one replacement Act of the Oireachtas.

The Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005, as amended, already contains the provisions which are the legal basis for the Public Services Card.

Accordingly if it were thought necessary to modify or supplement existing law relating to the Public Services Card this would need to be undertaken by way of new or amending legislation: not by means of a Consolidation Bill.

However, I am satisfied that the provisions contained in the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005, as amended, provide a strong legal basis for the Public Services Card and its use across the various public bodies set out in Schedule 5 of that Act and there are no plans to amend these provisions.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment

Questions (508)

Aindrias Moynihan

Question:

508. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of pandemic unemployment payment, PUP, claimants who have turned 66 years of age while in receipt of the payment and thus became ineligible to continue receiving the payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6960/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) is payable to people between the ages of 18 and 66 which is consistent with other social protection schemes payable to people of working age who have lost their employment. In total, since the payment began, 1,785 people were in receipt of PUP until the week of their 66th birthday.

It is important to note that people aged 66 years and over are provided for through the State Pension (contributory) or the means-tested State Pension (non-contributory). If a person does not qualify for the maximum rate of State Pension (contributory) they may qualify for an increased rate of State Pension (non-contributory), depending on their circumstances. People receiving the State Pension (non-contributory) may have the pension payment increased if their income has fallen.

People aged 66 and over may also be entitled to a range of ancillary supports which include free travel, fuel allowance, household benefits package for gas or electricity costs and living alone allowance.

Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment

Questions (509)

Aindrias Moynihan

Question:

509. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Social Protection her views on whether it is fair that recipients of the pandemic unemployment payment, PUP, are no longer eligible to receive the payment on turning 66 years of age in view of her stated opinion that there is no mandatory retirement age. [6971/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment is a statutory support which is available to support persons of working age - between 18 years and pensionable age, 66 years - who have lost their employment due to the pandemic and where they were not being paid by their employer. The age range provided for is consistent with other social protection schemes payable to people of working age.

People aged 66 years and over are provided for through the State Pension (contributory) or the means tested State Pension (non-contributory). A person aged over 66 who is in employment may retain their State Pension (contributory) and employment income.

If a person does not have the required number of contributions to receive the maximum rate of State Pension (contributory), they may qualify for an increased rate of State Pension (non-contributory), depending on their circumstances. People who receive the State Pension (non-contributory) who also have employment income may have their pension payment increased if they lose their employment income due to the pandemic or if their employment income is reduced.

People aged 66 and over may also be entitled to a range of ancillary supports which include free travel, fuel allowance, household benefits package for gas or electricity costs and living alone allowance. The fuel allowance and living alone allowance were both increased in Budget 2021 to €28.00 and €19.00 per week respectively.

It is also important to note that an employer who is availing of the Employer Wage Subsidy Scheme can claim the subsidy in respect of all PAYE workers on their payroll including employees aged over 66 years.

A person of any age who is in need of financial assistance may apply for support under the means test Supplementary Allowance scheme where Exceptional and Urgent Needs Payments can be paid.

I trust that this clarifies the position for you.

Community Employment Schemes

Questions (510)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

510. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social Protection further to Parliamentary Question No. 176 of 28 January 2021, the reason community employment schemes must notify her Department of their vacancies via weekly listings when these vacancies are already on the JobsIreland.ie website; if her Department actively monitors the website; the steps her Department takes to respond to vacancies on the website; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7086/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

Community Employment (CE) is an active labour market programme designed to provide eligible long-term unemployed people and other disadvantaged persons with an opportunity to engage in useful work within their communities on a temporary, fixed-term basis.

In relation to my response to the Parliamentary Question no 176 of the 28th January, 2021, it is worth clarifying that it is not compulsory for CE sponsoring authorities to notify the Department of their CE vacancies via weekly listings. However, it is an option available to the CE sponsoring authorities in this area. This is a local initiative which was put in place to assist CE sponsoring authorities who were having difficulty filling their existing CE vacancies.

It is an additional means for CE sponsoring authorities to promote their vacancies directly through the Department’s Case Officers. This initiative has been in place for a number of years.

JobsIreland.ie is the Department’s free online job advertising and recruitment service for job candidates and employers. All jobseekers and those seeking to change jobs or return to the workforce can access JobsIreland.ie services, regardless of whether they are in receipt of a social welfare payment or not. The free web portal supports jobseekers to complete a personal profile, search for jobs, get matched to jobs that suit their skills set and experience and apply for them online.

All CE scheme vacancies are advertised on JobsIreland.ie and jobseekers are advised that they can register their interest through the website by selecting the ‘Register your interest’ button or by contacting a Case Officer in their local Intreo Centre who will determine their eligibility for the CE scheme. The facility to register interest in CE schemes on the website was introduced in August 2020 in response to the Covid 19 pandemic and details of those who have registered interest are distributed daily to the relevant Intreo Centre for follow up by the Case Officer with the jobseeker.

In addition to the expressions of interest retrieved from JobsIreland.ie, Department Case Officers can also match CE related information from the website against potential CE candidates to identify potential opportunities. Department Case Officers also use the system to review current CE vacancies with their clients to ascertain potential CE placements that are in line with an individual's employment goals; CE referrals are arranged if potential matches are identified.

I am fully committed to the future of this programme and will continue to support and improve the programme for the benefit of the CE participants and the valuable contribution being made to local communities.

Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment

Questions (511)

Cormac Devlin

Question:

511. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Social Protection if her attention has been drawn to the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will review the matter. [7112/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

According to the information supplied to my Department by Revenue, earnings in 2019 for the person concerned amount to €20,751 with 52 Class S PRSI contributions giving average weekly earnings of €399.06.

In line with Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) scheme guidelines the correct weekly rate of payment for a person within the earnings band of €300-€399.99 is €300 per week.

My officials have reviewed the PUP claim for the person concerned and advised that the correct rate of payment has been applied based on the information available to my Department.

If the person concerned feels that these earnings are inaccurate, it is open to him to supply documentation to support this. However, it is important to note that my Department will only accept earnings which have been notified to Revenue and have been subject to PRSI.

Requests for a review of earnings should be emailed to PUPearningscheck@welfare.ie and all supporting documentation included. Alternatively, the person concerned can write to PUP Rerate Requests, DSP, Intreo Centre, Cork Road, Waterford including all supporting documentation.

The case will then be reviewed and any necessary follow up action taken.

I trust this clarifies the matter.

Community Employment Schemes

Questions (512)

Eoin Ó Broin

Question:

512. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Social Protection if an extension of employment on a community employment scheme will be facilitated for a person (details supplied) given continued occupational focus would be greatly beneficial to the person. [7166/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

In general CE placements for new entrants aged between 21 and 55 years are for one year. CE participants who are working towards a Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) major award can seek to extend their participation on CE by up to two years to enable them to reach the required standard of qualification. CE participants aged 55 years or older can remain on CE for three years and do not have to work towards a QQI major award.

In either scenario, a maximum of three consecutive years (four if the participant has moved to CE from a disability payment) participation is permitted. A person may re-qualify for CE after a 12-month break once they satisfy the qualifying conditions. An overall lifetime limit of six years applies to all CE participants (seven years for those participants that have moved to CE from a disability payment).

The person concerned was due to complete her time on CE on 05/02/2021 having had the benefit of participation on CE for a period of four years. However, due to COVID-19 level 5 restrictions she was granted a further extension to 26/03/2021. As she has reached the limit of her current eligible time on the programme, no further participation can be granted at the present time.

During her time on CE, the person concerned received relevant work experience in the area of youth work and has completed QQI certification in Group Work, Theory & Facilitation Skills, Youth Work, Working with Young People, Games with Young People, Introduction to Community Development and First Aid Response.

In advance of leaving the Community Employment project, the CE Supervisor will help the person concerned to prepare an exit plan to assist her return to the labour market.

On finishing CE, the person concerned may avail of my Department's Activation service who will work with her to ensure that the benefits of the experience and training she received during her time on CE are maximised. A Case Officer will assess her skills, experience, challenges and work goals and assist her in finding suitable and sustainable employment. This process will also help identify potential employment opportunities and offer support to her in overcoming any barriers to employment.

The priority for my Department is to ensure that all employment and activation programmes have the best outcomes for participants. CE will continue to be made available to support those who are long term unemployed and furthest removed from the labour market, while maintaining the role of CE as an active labour market programme.

I am fully committed to the future of this programme and will continue to support and improve the programme for the benefit of the CE participants and the valuable contribution being made to local communities through the provision of services.

I trust this clarifies the matter.

Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment

Questions (513, 516)

Claire Kerrane

Question:

513. Deputy Claire Kerrane asked the Minister for Social Protection if pandemic unemployment payment, PUP, rates for self-employed earners are determined by gross average weekly income or by net of business-related costs, including capital allowances; if self-employed recipients of the payment are subjected to an additional layer of deduction on their gross income prior to taxation as a result of this process; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7170/21]

View answer

Claire Kerrane

Question:

516. Deputy Claire Kerrane asked the Minister for Social Protection if 2020 income rates can be used to determine rates of pandemic unemployment payment, PUP, for self-employed persons as they are with PAYE recipients provided a self-employed recipient has provided all required information to be assessed by the Revenue Commissioners; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7191/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 513 and 516 together.

The Pandemic Unemployment Payment was introduced as an emergency measure to provide an income support to those who had lost their employment as a result of Covid. In order to ensure that the scheme was simple and accessible for the unprecedented number of applicants, a flat payment rate was introduced. This rate was the equivalent of the rate for a two-person household.

From 26 June 2020, the Pandemic Unemployment Payment moved to 2 rates of payment; a 3 rate structure is in place since 17 September; and a 4 rate structure is in place since 16 October. These changes more closely link the rate of payment to the amount that individuals previously earned and make the scheme more targeted and fair. In determining the rate payable, the objective was to ensure that recent earnings were taken into account.

The rate of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment for a self-employed person is calculated by reference to their reckonable income in either 2018 or 2019, whichever is the greater. Details of reckonable income are supplied to the Department by the Revenue Commissioners, and are supplied net of business related costs, including capital allowances. When submitting returns to the Revenue Commissioners, self-employed persons can offset business related costs against gross trading income, with the resulting assessment to tax and PRSI based on the net profit accruing to the individual.

My Department uses 2019 and 2020 (to end September) earnings data in respect of employees as this information is readily available from the Revenue Commissioners. In contrast, 2018 and 2019 are the last two years for which complete information is available in respect of the reckonable income of self-employed persons, and it is for this reason that different reference periods are in use. There are no plans to change these reference periods at this time.

I hope that this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Blind Person's Pension

Questions (514)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

514. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection if the blind pension is means tested (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7175/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

Blind Pension is a means tested payment paid to blind people and certain people with low vision, aged 18 and up to the age of 66 who are habitually resident in the State.

Blind Pension is one of a range of means-tested social assistance payments. Social welfare legislation provides that the means test takes account of the income and assets of the person (and spouse/partner, if applicable) applying for the relevant scheme. The means assessment reflects the fact that there is an expectation that people with reasonable amounts of income or capital are in a position to use these resources to support themselves so that social welfare expenditure can be directed towards those who need it most.

Any changes to means assessments for schemes, including the Blind Pension, can only be considered within an overall budgetary context.

I trust that this clarifies the matter for the Deputy

Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment

Question No. 516 answered with Question No. 513.

Questions (515)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

515. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection further to Parliamentary Question No. 598 of 13 January 2021, if a pandemic unemployment payment, PUP, overpayment assessed in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry will be re-examined; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7190/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The person concerned is not due arrears for the week from 02/10/20 to 08/10/20 as he was overpaid for the week 24/07/20 to 30/07/20. His PUP payment of €203 for the week from 24/07/20 to 30/07/20 was paid into his bank account on 04/08/2020.

Regarding his overpayment, he returned to work on 26/07/20. In normal circumstances the customer would have been entitled to PUP for the week 24/07/20 to 30/07/20 . However, he made a Jobseekers Allowance claim effective from 27/07/20 as he had returned to work as a part-time casual worker. On 07/08/2020 he was paid Jobseekers Allowance of €247.30 for the period from 27/07/2020 to 11/08/2020.

He was not entitled to PUP for the week 24/07/20 to 30/07/20 as he was claiming Jobseekers Allowance for part of this week.

I hope this clarifies the position for the Deputy.

Question No. 516 answered with Question No. 513.

Carer's Allowance

Questions (517)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

517. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Social Protection if a review will be expedited in the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7259/21]

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.

An application for CA was received from the person concerned on 4 September 2020.

The evidence was examined by a Deciding Officer (DO) and the application in relation to the first care recipient was awarded on 12 November 2020.

An information request issued to on 12 November 2020 requesting a letter from the hospital to confirm date of discharge for the second care recipient. As no response was received the person’s application was disallowed on 7 December 2020.

A request for review of this decision was received on 12 January 2021 along with the information previously requested .

On review CA has been awarded with effect from 17 September 2020, the first Thursday after the second care recipient was discharged. The first payment will issue on 11 February 2021. Arrears due will also issue.

The person concerned was notified on 5 February 2021 of this outcome and of his right of review and appeal.

I hope this clarifies the position for the Deputy.

Invalidity Pension

Questions (518)

Michael Creed

Question:

518. Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will issue on an invalidity pension application by a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [7304/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The person concerned has been awarded invalidity pension with effect from 17 December 2020. Payment will issue to her nominated bank account on 11 February 2021. The person concerned was notified of this decision on 08 February 2021.

I hope this clarifies the position for the Deputy.

Social Welfare Payments Administration

Questions (519)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

519. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection when a social welfare payment will be reinstated in the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7312/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

Payment of a Jobseeker’s Allowance (JA) payment in the case of the person concerned ceased on 23/12/2020 and is presently suspended pending the provision of a current Irish Residence Permit (IRP) formerly known as a GNIB card. This permit is required to verify continued entitlement to JA.

The person concerned applied for a Supplementary Welfare Allowance payment on 13/01/2021, this claim is also pending the provision of a current IRP.

On 01/02/2021 the person concerned submitted to my Department written confirmation from the Immigration Office that she does not currently have permission to reside in the State. On the same date, my officials requested written confirmation from the person concerned that she has applied for a new passport through the relevant embassy together with 3 months up-to-date bank statements for all financial accounts held by her.

Whilst receipt of this documentation is pending, the person concerned is being paid a weekly Exceptional Needs Payment (ENP) since 08/01/2021 at a rate in line with her previous JA payment. This ENP will continue to be considered on a weekly basis.

I trust this clarifies the matter.

Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment

Questions (520)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

520. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Social Protection if all recipients of the pandemic unemployment payment, PUP, will receive full PRSI contributions for the duration of their time receiving the payment; the details of the way PRSI contributions will be measured for recipients of the payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7313/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The Social Welfare (Covid-19) (Amendment) Act 2020 makes provision for the attribution of social insurance contributions, for a period that may be prescribed, for employed contributors who are beneficiaries of certain Covid-19 income supports including the pandemic unemployment payment. Such contributors will have social insurance contributions attributed to them at the same value as they were paying while employed immediately before going on the payment.

Self-employed workers in receipt of the pandemic unemployment payment and who are seeking to maintain their business can have an income of up to €960 over an eight-week period and retain their full payment. A self-employed worker whose income is €5,000 or more in a contribution year, is liable to pay a social insurance contribution at the class S rate of 4% on such income, subject to a minimum annual payment of €500. Where the social insurance liability is paid in full in respect to a contribution year, 52 contribution weeks at the self-employed social insurance class are regarded as having been paid for that contribution year.

The above mentioned Act also makes provision for the Minister for Social Protection, with the consent of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, to make regulations, having considered certain matters set out in the Act including the potential impact of Covid-19 on the entitlements of employed and self-employed contributors and the manner in which social insurance contributions are paid by employed and self-employed contributors, to apply the attribution of contributions measure to persons specified in those regulations.

A self-employed contributor has nine months following the end of the contribution year, or from the day in the contribution year in which he or she ceases to be such a contributor, to remit and pay his or her social insurance liability for that contribution year. For example, self-employed contributors have until September 2021 to pay their social insurance contribution in respect of the 2020 contribution year.

Once data on the social insurance returns made by self-employed workers in respect of 2020 are available later this year or early in 2022, I and my colleague, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, will be in a position to consider the factors set out in the Act and decide if regulations are necessary to protect the social insurance entitlements of certain self-employed workers who were in receipt of the pandemic unemployment payment and who were not in a position to discharge their social insurance liability for 2020.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.