Disability Allowance

Questions (482)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

482. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if a person (details supplied) can qualify for a disability allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8184/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

I confirm that my Department received an application for disability allowance (DA) from the person concerned on 12 February 2021.

The processing time for individual Disability Allowance (DA) claims will vary in accordance with their relative complexity in terms of the three main qualifying criteria, the person’s circumstances and the information they provide in support of their claim. By their nature individual DA claims are complex – the Deciding Officers must consider the applicants’ medical condition and its impact on their ability to work, the applicants’ means and the applicants’ residency situation. In a significant number of cases additional information is required in order to make a decision. Because of this complexity, these claims by their very nature take time to complete and require substantial attention to ensure a full decision.

Once a decision is made on the application, the person concerned will be notified of the outcome.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Carer's Allowance

Questions (483)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

483. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the progress to date in the determination of an application for a carer’s allowance in the case of a person (details supplied); if all documentation has been received; when the application will be concluded with a view to granting of payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8185/21]

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 27 June 2019.

The person concerned did not provide such certificates, documents information or evidence that was requested. A decision was made to disallow as means could not be determined.

The person concerned was notified on 6 February 2020 of this decision, the reason for it and of her right of review and appeal.

A review was requested on 2 July 2020. As the requested documents were still not provided the decision remained unchanged. The person concerned was notified on 7 July 2020 of this decision, the reason for it and of her right of review and appeal.

The person concerned requested an additional review. Consequently, further information regarding the business accounts belonging to the spouse of the person concerned was issued on 6 November 2020.

While the Department did receive a response on 27 November 2020, this did not contain the requested information. The information request re-issued on 1 December 2020. To date no reply has been received.

The outcome of this review accordingly was that the decision of 6 February 2020 remained unchanged. The person concerned was notified on 5 January 2021 of the decision and of her right to appeal.

I hope this clarifies the position for the Deputy.

Carer's Allowance

Questions (484)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

484. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if a part carer’s allowance will be approved in the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8186/21]

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 7 January 2021.

Additional information in relation to the person’s application was requested by a Deciding Officer (DO) on 12 January 2021.

Once the information is received, the application will be processed without delay and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

I hope this clarifies the position for the Deputy.

Fuel Allowance

Questions (485)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

485. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the progress to date in the determination of eligibility for fuel allowance in the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8187/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The person concerned is currently in receipt of Illness Benefit at a rate of €203 per week.

Illness Benefit is classed as a short term scheme and is not a qualifying payment for fuel allowance.

Under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme a heat supplement may be awarded in cases where a person has exceptional essential heating costs due to ill health or infirmity and who cannot provide for such costs from within his or her own recourses. If the person concerned wishes to apply for a heat supplement they should contact the Community Welfare Officer at their local Intreo Office.

I hope this clarifies the position for the Deputy.

Fuel Allowance

Questions (486)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

486. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the progress to date in the determination of an application for fuel allowance in the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8188/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The main eligibility conditions that apply to the fuel allowance scheme are that a person must be in receipt of a qualifying payment, must satisfy a means test and must either be living alone or with other qualifying persons. The fuel allowance means test is linked to the maximum rate of State pension (contributory). The applicant and their spouse can have a combined weekly household income of €100 above the maximum rates for State pension (contributory) and Increase for qualified adult and still be eligible for a fuel allowance.

The person concerned applied for this allowance on 16 October 20. Since it is a means-tested payment, information regarding their household means was requested on 29 October 2020. The requested information has not been provided to date, and as a result the application cannot be processed.

When the person concerned provides the information required for the means assessment, eligibility for fuel allowance can be determined and they will be notified of the outcome of their fuel allowance application.

I hope this clarifies the position for the Deputy.

Social Welfare Appeals

Questions (487)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

487. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the status of an appeal for a carer’s allowance in the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8189/21]

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 Carer’s Allowance (CA) from the person concerned on 10 June 2020.

On foot of a social welfare inspectors (SWI) report, a Deciding Officer (DO) decided that although the person concerned was providing a certain amount of care, the level involved did not amount to full-time care. It was determined the full-time care and attention criteria was not satisfied and the application for CA was disallowed. The person concerned was notified on 9 October 2020 of this decision, the reason for it and of her right of review and appeal.

A review of this decision was requested. Following this review the decision remained unchanged. The person concerned was notified of this decision, the reason for it and of her right of appeal.

The person concerned appealed this decision to the Social Welfare Appeals Office (SWAO). As a result of an Appeals Officer’s (AO) decision, CA was awarded with effect from 11 June 2020. The person concerned was notified of this decision on 20 January 2021.

The first payment issued to her nominated bank account on 21 January 2021. Arrears for the period 11 June 2020 to 20 January 2021 issued to the person concerned on 11 February 2021.

I hope this clarifies the position for the Deputy.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Questions (488)

Cathal Crowe

Question:

488. Deputy Cathal Crowe asked the Minister for Social Protection if additional state aid will be provided to employees of companies (details supplied) at Shannon Airport. [8198/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) is a statutory scheme introduced by Government to support those who have lost their employment as a direct consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic. To date expenditure on PUP is over €5.8 billion which demonstrates the Government's commitment to provide targeted supports.

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

Individuals have the option of applying for a jobseeker’s payment depending on their circumstances. The maximum weekly personal rate is €203 and increased allowances are paid for qualifying adults and children.

There are also additional targeted supports available from my Department for individuals who are experiencing financial difficulties under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance Scheme which includes Exceptional and Urgent Needs Payments.

I trust that this clarifies the position at this time.

Pension Provisions

Questions (489)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

489. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Social Protection the measures taken for an applicant to be eligible for the transitional payment before a State pension. [8213/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

Benefit Payment for 65 Year Olds is a payment for people aged 65 who have ceased employment or self-employment and who satisfy the pay-related social insurance (PRSI) contribution conditions.

To qualify, a customer must have paid at least 104 PRSI insurable employment contributions at Class A , H or P

OR

have paid at least 156 PRSI self-employment contributions at Class S

AND

have paid at least 39 PRSI contributions at Class A, H or P or have credited contributions in the governing contribution year.

The Governing Contribution Year is the second last complete tax year; for example, for a claim in 2021 the second last complete tax year is 2019.

A self-employed customer must have paid at least 156 PRSI self-employment contributions at Class S

OR

have paid at least 104 PRSI insurable employment contributions at Class A or H

AND

have paid 52 PRSI self-employment contributions at Class S in the governing contribution year.

Benefit Payment for 65 Year Olds may be paid from the date of a person's 65th birthday until the date of their 66th birthday as long as they continue to satisfy the conditions for this payment.

The quickest way to apply for the Benefit Payment for 65 Year Olds is by making an application through www. MyWelfare.ie. Alternatively, a person may request a paper application form by sending an email to forms@welfare.ie. and a form will be posted to them. If an applicant requires further support or information about this payment they can contact my Department's Income Support Helpline on 1890 800 024.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Child Benefit

Questions (490)

James Lawless

Question:

490. Deputy James Lawless asked the Minister for Social Protection if she plans to extend child benefit to cover the period in which the child remains in full-time education even in cases in which the child is over 18 years of age; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8303/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

Child benefit is a monthly payment made to families with children in respect of all qualified children up to the age of 16 years. The payment continues to be paid until their 18th birthday in respect of children who are in full-time education or who have a disability. Child benefit is currently paid, as of end-December 2021, to over 633,000 families in respect of over 1.2 million children with an estimated expenditure of more than €2 billion in 2019.

Families on low incomes may be able to avail of a number of social welfare schemes that support children in full-time education until the age of 22, including:

- Increase for a Qualified Child (IQCs) with primary social welfare payments;

- the Working Family Payment for low-paid employees with children;

- the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance

These schemes provide targeted assistance that is directly linked to household income and thereby support low-income families with older children participating in full-time education.

As part of Budget 2021, I increased the rates for a qualified child aged under 12 by €2 to €38 per week, and for qualified children aged 12 or older by €5 to €45 per week. These increases came into effect in January. This was in recognition of the higher costs associated with older children.

Extending Child Benefit in respect of full time students in second level education who are over 18 years of age would have significant cost implications and would have to be considered in an overall budgetary context.

Free Travel Scheme

Questions (491)

Michael Lowry

Question:

491. Deputy Michael Lowry asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will investigate the provision of making free travel passes available to persons with epilepsy who are temporarily barred from driving for one year due to having a breakthrough seizure; if she will consider uncoupling the free travel pass from other qualifying payments to ensure that there is a direct application process for a free travel pass (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8328/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The Free Travel scheme provides free travel on the main public and private transport services for those eligible under the scheme. These include road, rail and ferry services provided by companies such as Bus Átha Cliath, Bus Éireann and Iarnród Éireann, as well as Luas and services provided by over 80 private transport operators. There are currently approx. 990,000 customers with direct eligibility. The estimated expenditure on free travel in 2021 is €95 million.

In general, access to a free travel pass for those aged under 66 is linked to a person being in receipt of certain primary Social Protection payments such as Disability Allowance, Invalidity Pension, Carer’s Allowance, Blind Pension and Partial Capacity Benefit.

Any possible extension to the eligibility criteria for free travel to include those who are not allowed to drive due to their epilepsy diagnosis regardless of whether they receive a qualifying payment would have significant implications for the free travel scheme. It would be expected that any such decision would immediately lead to calls for all people who had a disability and/or significant health issues to be eligible for a free travel pass.

If the Free Travel scheme was to be extended to all people who had a disability and/or significant health issues, regardless of whether they receive a qualifying payment, a medical assessment process would be required for all such applications, significantly changing the nature of the scheme and requiring additional administrative processes to be put in place in order to adjudicate eligibility. Significant extra funding would also be required and accordingly, it could only be considered in the context of overall budgetary negotiations.

Under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme, my Department may award a travel supplement, where the circumstances of the particular case so warrant. The supplement is intended to assist with ongoing or recurring travel costs that cannot be met from the client’s own resources and are deemed to be necessary. Every decision is based on consideration of the circumstances of the individual case, taking account of the nature and extent of the need and of the resources of the person concerned.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Social Welfare Payments Administration

Questions (492, 495)

Cormac Devlin

Question:

492. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will provide a report on the IT issue impacting the repayment of pandemic unemployment payment arrears owed by her Department; the volume and value of outstanding arrears by month from March 2020 to January 2021, in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8428/21]

View answer

John Brady

Question:

495. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of persons who have been affected by the technical issue within the IT system of her Department which has resulted in significant delays in the payment of arrears owed following a pandemic unemployment payment re-rate review; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8521/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 492 and 495 together.

As the Deputies are 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 the necessary IT 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 has progressed significantly in recent weeks and it is expected that payment will issue shortly. Preliminary analysis of currently awarded claims indicate that just under 39,000 individuals are due payment, with the vast majority of these cases relating to the period from 2 October to 5 November 2020.

I trust that this clarifies matters for the Deputies.

Invalidity Pension

Questions (493)

John McGuinness

Question:

493. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will provide the record of contributions made by a person (details supplied); and if they qualify for an invalidity pension based on their contributions and credits. [8435/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The Client Eligibility Services section of my Department is responsible for the maintenance of social insurance records for social insurance contributors.

I can advise the Deputy that at an officer in that section is investigating the matter he has raised and will liaise directly with the person concerned.

The officer has also contacted the Deputy's office to advise of the position.

I trust that this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Departmental Schemes

Question No. 495 answered with Question No. 492.

Questions (494)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

494. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Social Protection the status of an initiative (details supplied); when it will come into effect; the details of the scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8507/21]

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 early 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.

I can confirm that my Department will be in a position to process and issue payments 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. 495 answered with Question No. 492.

Exceptional Needs Payment

Questions (496)

John Lahart

Question:

496. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of applications and refusals from 2015 to date for an exceptional needs payment on the grounds of parents incurring additional costs as a result of having a child in hospital; the average timeframe for a decision on same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8533/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

Under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme, my Department may make a single exceptional needs payment (ENP) to help meet essential, once-off expenditure which a person could not reasonably be expected to meet out of their weekly income. The ENP scheme is demand led and payments are made at the discretion of the officers administering the scheme, taking into account the requirements of the legislation and all the relevant circumstances of the case in order to ensure that the payments target those most in need of assistance.

Statistics are maintained on the number of applications awarded under the ENP scheme, but it is not possible to identify payments made to parents to meet additional costs arising as a result of having a child in hospital.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Carer's Allowance

Questions (497)

Pauline Tully

Question:

497. Deputy Pauline Tully asked the Minister for Social Protection the additional cost of expanding the income disregard for carer’s allowance in order that those on an average industrial income qualify (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8549/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The main income supports for carers provided by my Department are Carer’s Allowance, Carer’s Benefit, Domiciliary Care Allowance and the Carer’s Support Grant. Combined spending on all these payments to carers in 2021 is expected to exceed €1.4 billion.

Carer's Allowance is a means tested payment made to people whose income falls below certain limits, and who are looking after certain people in need of full-time care and attention.

At the end of December 2020, there were 88,906 people in receipt of Carer's Allowance. The estimated expenditure on Carer’s Allowance in 2021 is approximately €953 million.

This allowance is part of the system of social assistance supports that provide payments based on an income need. The means test plays a critical role in determining whether or not an income need arises as a consequence of a particular contingency – such as disability, unemployment or caring. This ensures that the recipient has a verifiable income need and that resources are targeted to those who need them most.

The means test for Carer's Allowance is one of the most generous in the social welfare system, most notably with regard to spouse’s earnings. The amount of weekly earnings disregarded is €332.50 per week for a single person and €665 per week for a couple. By comparison, the income disregard applied to Disability Allowance is €120 per week (as per Budget 2021 this will increase to €140 per week from June 2021). For Jobseeker's Allowance, it is €20 per day up to a maximum of €60, and the balance is assessed at 60%. For Jobseeker's Transitional Payment, the weekly income disregard is €165 with 50% of the balance assessed as means.

It is not possible to estimate the additional cost outlined by the Deputy, as there are too many variables, not least the number of people earning the average industrial income who would potentially also meet the criteria of providing full-time care and would become eligible if the disregard was increased and whether they would be assessed as a single person or a couple.

However, the Deputy should note that under the current means assessment there are scenarios where those in receipt of average weekly earnings of €811.58 (or annual income of €42,202.16), as outlined, would qualify for the payment of Carer's Allowance. For example in the case of a carer whose partner has weekly earnings of €811.58 they may qualify for a weekly payment of €174.00 (almost 80% of the full rate). If they have qualified children, the payment will be higher.

Changes to schemes are considered in an overall budgetary and policy context and from an evidence-based perspective. It should be noted that some 92% of the current recipients of Carer’s Allowance have no means or means of less than €7.60 per week and would not benefit by an increase in the disregard.

I can assure the Deputy that I am very much aware of the key role that family carers play in our society and I will continue to keep the range of supports available to carers under review. Any changes to scheme criteria, however, would have implications for overall spending and would need to be addressed in an overall budgetary context.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Social Welfare Payments Administration

Questions (498)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

498. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a social welfare payment for a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; the reason for the delay; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8551/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

Invalidity pension (IP) is a payment for people who are permanently incapable of work because of illness or incapacity and for no other reason and who satisfy the pay related social insurance (PRSI) contribution conditions.

The Department received a claim for IP for the person concerned on 8 January 2021. The claim was refused on the grounds that the medical conditions for the scheme were not satisfied. Notification of the decision issued to her on 11 February 2021 informing her of this decision, the reasons for it and of her right of review and appeal.

Supplementary Welfare Allowance (SWA) provides a basic weekly allowance to eligible people who have little or no income. Applicants must satisfy a number of qualifying conditions including a means test. The person concerned is advised to contact her local Community Welfare service regarding her SWA application.

I hope this clarifies the position for the Deputy.

Enterprise Support Services

Questions (499, 500)

Pauline Tully

Question:

499. Deputy Pauline Tully asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of applications that have been received for the enterprise support grant from businesses in County Cavan; the number that have been successful; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8554/21]

View answer

Pauline Tully

Question:

500. Deputy Pauline Tully asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of applications that have been received for the enterprise support grant from businesses in County Monaghan; the number that have been successful; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8555/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 499 and 500 together.

The Enterprise Support Grant (ESG) is available to eligible self-employed recipients who close their Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) and re-start their business. A once-off grant of up to €1,000, to assist with the costs associated with reopening, is available under this measure.

The information requested by the Deputy in relation to counties Cavan and Monaghan is set out in the table below.

Cavan

Monaghan

Total

Registered

155

78

233

Awarded

142

73

215

Fuel Allowance

Questions (501)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

501. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if eligibility for the fuel allowance will be reviewed in the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8637/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

In order to be eligible for fuel allowance, a person must be in receipt of a qualifying payment, satisfy a household means test and live alone or only with certain other qualified people. Under the means test, an applicant and members of his/her household may have a combined assessable income of up to €10 a week above the appropriate rate of State Pension Contributory, currently €248.30 and qualify for fuel allowance.

It was decided on the 27th January 2021 that the person concerned did not qualify for fuel allowance as her weekly means, derived from a private pension, were in excess of the weekly income threshold. The person was notified in writing of this decision and advised if there were any changes in their circumstances to submit a new application.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Social Welfare Appeals

Questions (502)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

502. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the progress to date in the determination of an appeal in the case of a person (details supplied); if the situation will be reviewed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8649/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that two appeals (for supplementary welfare allowance and for disability allowance) were registered in that office on 29 September 2020 and 26 November 2020 respectively. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought from the Department of Social Protection. The papers in respect of the supplementary welfare allowance appeal were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 29 October 2020 and referred to an Appeals Officer on 9 December 2020. The papers in respect of the disability allowance appeal were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 11 January 2021 and referred to an Appeals Officer on 21 January 2021.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the appeal cases are now being finalised and the person concerned will be notified of the Appeals Officer’s decisions imminently.

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.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Social Welfare Eligibility

Questions (503, 504)

Dara Calleary

Question:

503. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will consider extending the eligibility criteria for the fuel allowance and the living alone allowance to recipients of a public service pension; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8661/21]

View answer

Dara Calleary

Question:

504. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will consider extending the eligibility criteria for the fuel allowance and the living alone allowance to recipients of public service pension in circumstances (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8662/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 503 and 504 together.

The Fuel Allowance is a payment of €28.00 per week for 28 weeks (a total of €784 each year) from October to April, to an average of 372,000 low income households, at an estimated cost of €300 million in 2021. The purpose of this payment is to assist these households with their energy costs. The allowance represents a contribution towards the energy costs of a household. It is not intended to meet those costs in full. Only one allowance is paid per household.

My Department also pays an electricity or gas allowance under the Household Benefits scheme at an estimated cost of €195 million in 2021. This is paid at a rate of €35 per month, 12 months of the year.

The criteria for fuel allowance are framed in order to direct the limited resources available to my Department in as targeted a manner as possible. A Public Service pension is not a qualifying payment for fuel allowance. Qualifying payments for those aged 66 or over include State Pension (Contributory or Non-Contributory), Widow's, Widower's or Surviving Civil Partner’s Pension (Contributory), Deserted Wives Benefit, Incapacity Supplement under the Disablement Pension Scheme, Death Benefit Pension under Occupational Injuries Benefit Scheme as well as certain social security payments from a country covered by EU Regulations or a country with which Ireland has a Bilateral Social Security Agreement. All other qualifying conditions must also be satisfied to receive the payment.

The Living Alone Increase is a €19 increase in the weekly rate of payment of certain Irish social protection payments, awarded where the recipient is living alone. For those aged 66 or over, payments include State Pension (Contributory), State Pension (Non-contributory) , Widow’s, Widower’s or Surviving Civil Partner’s (Contributory) Pension, Widow's/Widower's Pension under the Occupational Injuries Benefit Scheme, Incapacity Supplement under the Occupational Injuries Benefit Scheme and Deserted Wife's Benefit. It is not a stand-alone payment. There are no circumstances where the living alone increase can be paid to people who are not in receipt of a qualifying payment from my Department.

Any decision to allow former Public Servants who are not in receipt of a qualifying payment to receive the fuel allowance or the living alone increase would have budgetary consequences and would have to be considered in the context of budget negotiations.

The Government values the role of carers very much and it is for this reason that they receive significant income supports from the Department. Carer’s Benefit is a payment made to insured people who may be required to leave the workforce or reduce their working hours to care for a person(s) in need of full time care. It is payable for a period of 2 years (104 weeks) for each care recipient and may be claimed over separate periods up to a total of 2 years (104 weeks). Carer’s Allowance is a means tested payment to people on low incomes who are caring full-time for a person who needs support because of age, disability or illness.

In addition to Carer’s Allowance, carers receive further support in the form of free travel and household benefits (for those who live with the person for whom they care) and the annual Carer's Support Grant in respect of each person for whom they care for. S/he can also receive an extra half-rate Carer’s Allowance if s/he cares for more than one person.

The maximum rates of Carer's Allowance for those aged under 66, at €219 (€257 for carers aged 66 or over) where one person is being cared for, and €328.50 (€385.50 for carers aged 66 or over) where there are two or more carees, is significantly higher than that for most schemes administered by my Department.

The means test for Carer's Allowance has been significantly eased over the years, and is now one of the most generous means tests in the social welfare system, most notably with regard to spouse’s earnings. At present the means test for Carer’s Allowance allows for an income disregard of €332.50 per week for a single person and €665 for a couple. In the case of a single carer, that person may retain a full-rate payment of €219.00 while having an annual income of just under €19,000, or retain a payment of €109.00 per week (just under half rate) while having an annual income of €25,400, or retain the minimum payment of €4 per week while having an annual income of €31,100.

Under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme, exceptional needs payments may be made to help meet an essential, once-off cost which customers are unable to meet from their own resources, and this may include exceptional heating costs. Decisions on such payments are made on a case-by-case basis.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Social Welfare Eligibility

Questions (505)

James Lawless

Question:

505. Deputy James Lawless asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will examine the eligibility of a person (details supplied) to an interim payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8671/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

Benefit Payment for 65 Year Olds is a payment for people aged 65 who have ceased employment or self-employment and who satisfy the pay-related social insurance (PRSI) contribution conditions.

To qualify, a customer must have paid at least 104 PRSI insurable employment contributions at Class A , H or P

OR

have paid at least 156 PRSI self-employment contributions at Class S

AND

have paid at least 39 PRSI contributions at Class A, H or P or have credited contributions in the governing contribution year.

The Governing Contribution Year is the second last complete tax year; for example, for a claim in 2021 the second last complete tax year in 2019.

A self-employed customer must have paid at least 156 PRSI self-employment contributions at Class S

OR

have paid at least 104 PRSI insurable employment contributions at Class A or H

AND

have paid 52 PRSI self-employment contributions at Class S in the governing contribution year.

The Benefit Payment for 65 Year Olds may be paid from the date of a person's 65th birthday until the date of their 66th birthday as long as they continue to satisfy the conditions for this payment.

It does not appear as if the person concerned qualifies under the PRSI conditions but I would suggest that she lodge an application and a formal decision will be given to her.

The quickest way to apply for the Benefit Payment for 65 Year Olds is by making an application through www. MyWelfare.ie . Alternatively, a person may request a paper application form by sending an email to forms@welfare.ie. and a form will be posted to them. If an applicant requires further support or information about this payment they can contact my Department's Income Support Helpline on 1890 800 024.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

State Pensions

Questions (506)

Patricia Ryan

Question:

506. Deputy Patricia Ryan asked the Minister for Social Protection if a person (details supplied) will be assisted to obtain a State pension payment; if they are entitled to any other payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8702/21]

View answer

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. For the purposes of the means-test, at the outset and at any review intervals during the lifetime of the claim, a claimant must provide, on request, full and up to date details of any income(s), assets, savings and investments they may hold.

The person concerned had been in receipt of a State Pension (non-contributory) which, in the course of a review of entitlement, was terminated from 7 February 2020, due to their non-disclosure of means to an Inspector of the Department and later to a Deciding Officer.

A re-application for pension was received from the person concerned on 26 August 2020. The case was referred to an Inspector to investigate the means of the person concerned. As additional financial information, requested on a number of occasions by the Inspector, was not provided, it was not possible to assess the person’s weekly means. The Deciding Officer was therefore unable to establish if an entitlement to state pension non-contributory existed and the person's re-application was disallowed. On 6 January 2021, the person concerned was notified in writing of the reasons for this decision.

Further information was received from the person concerned on 18 January 2021 which was forwarded to the Inspector for consideration. Based on the information provided, the Inspector was still unable to undertake a complete means assessment. This was explained to the person concerned in a letter on 1 February 2021.

The Deputy's Parliamentary Question will be taken as a request for a further review of this case. The Deciding Officer will arrange for the Department's Inspector to contact the person concerned again in relation to the outstanding information. On receipt of the Inspector’s report, the Deciding Officer will make a decision on the State Pension (non-contributory) entitlement of the person concerned and will notify them of the outcome without delay.

In the interim, should the person concerned be suffering from financial difficulty they are advised to contact their local Community Welfare Service, which may be in a position to provide them with financial assistance.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.