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Wednesday, 10 Mar 2021

Written Answers Nos. 557-581

Education Schemes

Questions (557)

Gary Gannon

Question:

557. Deputy Gary Gannon asked the Minister for Education the status of the free school books scheme which was piloted in September 2020; when a review of the pilot scheme can be expected; and if she is committed to extending the scheme in the future. [13542/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

My Department provides a book grant to all recognised primary and post primary schools within the Free Education Scheme in order to provide assistance for books including Book Rental Schemes. Under this scheme, the Department provided funding of €17.1 million in 2020 to all of these schools.

School book rental schemes have an important role to play in reducing the cost of school books for parents and in order to support the establishment of book rental schemes my Department provided €15.7 million seed capital in 2014, 2015 and 2016 to primary schools. Circa. 96% of primary schools and 68% of post-primary schools operate a book rental scheme.

It is a matter for the Board of Management of each individual school to decide on its own policy in relation to the use of book grant funding in the school but they are expected to adopt a cost-conscious approach to the selection of books for use in their classes. The current arrangement relies on the local knowledge of the school in order to ensure a fair allocation of funds to those most in need.

Additional funding of €1million provided under Budget 2020 was allocated to 102 Primary DEIS schools for a new pilot programme for the 2020/21 school year. The aim of this pilot is to provide free school books for students in the schools involved, and to support these schools in eliminating the cost of school books for parents. It will run for the period of one year and its effectiveness and impact will be monitored and evaluated before any decision is made as regards its possible extension or continuation. Under Circular 46/2013, DEIS schools receive a book grant of €21 per student. This pilot provided an additional €64 per student to increase the overall book grant rate to €85 per student enrolled in the school. This additional funding issued to schools in May 2020.

Education Policy

Questions (558)

Gary Gannon

Question:

558. Deputy Gary Gannon asked the Minister for Education the number of schools the pilot workshops plan to recruit further to her statement of 3 March 2021 in order to pilot workshops on well-being and resilience including trauma in order to inform approaches for school leaders in primary and post-primary schools; the way in which schools will be selected; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13544/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) service of my Department is developing a range of workshops on the promotion of wellbeing and resilience in schools which includes trauma informed approaches. The approaches outlined in the workshops are based on research findings, on the experience of experts in their fields and on the experience of practicing psychologists working in schools. The workshops will be available to build the capability of school staff in both primary and post-primary settings, including for school leaders, teachers and SNAs. Work is underway to identify schools for inclusion in a pilot of the workshops while being cognisance of prioritising teacher contact time in schools. In selecting schools, a mix of DEIS, non DEIS and urban and rural schools will be included.

Following the pilot a national roll-out is planned during the next academic year.

School Transport

Questions (559)

Michael Ring

Question:

559. Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Education if school transport will be provided to two siblings (details supplied) in County Mayo in view of the fact that this family applied and paid on time for school transport. [13551/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

School Transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department of Education. In the current school year over 113,100 children, including over 14,500 children with special educational needs, are transported on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country at a cost of over €224.7m in 2020.

The purpose of my Department's School Transport Scheme is, having regard to available resources, to support the transport to and from school of children who reside remote from their nearest school.

Bus Éireann has confirmed that the children to whom the Deputy refers are eligible for School Transport. Payment details for this family were submitted on 7th September 2020 and as such were submitted late. Late applicants and/or families who pay late are not guaranteed a seat and will only be allocated a seat if capacity is available once seats are allocated to those families who applied and paid on time for transport services for the 2020/2021 school year. In addition, payments or submission of medical card details for Post-Primary seats completed or made after 4th August 2020 will be only considered when 50% capacity, required by Covid19 public health guidelines, is achieved on each route.

However, Bus Éireann has confirmed that due to additional capacity created arising from social distancing being implemented on a school transport service, tickets will issue to the family to whom the Deputy refers. Bus Éireann will be in contact with the family in this regard.

Departmental Advertising

Questions (560)

Paul Kehoe

Question:

560. Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Education the amount spent across her Department on advertising in relation to Covid-19 by month and by media outlet (details supplied) from 1 March 2020 to 1 March 2021. [13556/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The Department's spending on advertising in relation to Covid-19 for the period 1 March 2020 to 1 March 2021 is outlined in the attached spreadsheet.

Covid 19 Advertising

Food Poverty

Questions (561)

Louise O'Reilly

Question:

561. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Social Protection if she has read the research paper by a union (details supplied) which explores inequality and deprivation in Ireland. [13523/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

I can confirm to the Deputy that I have read the report in full.

The report in question, ‘Hungry bellies are not equal to full bellies: exploring inequality and deprivation in Ireland ’, published by Unite Ireland, considers recent commentary on income inequality, as well as exploring the difference between income inequality and economic inequality. It notes recent research on the topic, and reflects the experience of a number of voluntary groups working with people experiencing poverty and deprivation. This is a interesting report in the context of the work my Department is undertaking to address social inclusion under the Roadmap for Social Inclusion 2020-2025.

This Roadmap for Social Inclusion which was published in January 2020, is the Government's strategy to address poverty and social inclusion in Ireland. It sets out the Government’s ambition to reduce consistent poverty to 2% or less by 2025 and to make Ireland one of the most socially inclusive states in the EU. The aim of the Roadmap is to achieve this ambitious target by delivering 66 commitments across Government Departments. In the context of the ‘Hungry bellies’ report, it is important to note that the Roadmap looks beyond income as the only measure of addressing exclusion or inequality. The Programme for Government includes a commitment for the implementation of the Roadmap. As Minister of State with responsibility for social inclusion, I am the Chair of the Social Inclusion Roadmap Steering Group, which oversees the implementation of the Roadmap across Government and monitors its progress. This group met for the first time in November 2020 and is due to meet again on 30th March.

The Roadmap contains a range of targets based on data collected as part of the annual Survey on Income and Living Conditions (SILC), the official source of data on household and equivalised disposable income in Ireland, undertaken by the CSO. It provides a number of key national poverty indicators, including the ‘at risk of poverty rate’, the ‘consistent poverty rate’ and the ‘enforced deprivation rate’. The ‘Hungry Bellies ’ report refers to the most recent Survey on Income and Living Conditions (SILC) data from 2019 which was published in late 2020. This data reflects income and living conditions in Ireland in 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic. The SILC data for 2020, which will reflect the impact of Covid-19, is unlikely to be available until Q4 2021.

The 2019 SILC data showed that basic deprivation (which measures the percentage of the population experiencing enforced deprivation) had increased from 15.1% in 2018 to 17.8% in 2019. However the At-Risk-of-Poverty rate, which measures the percentage of the population experiencing relative income poverty, had fallen from 14.0% to 12.8% in the same period. The consistent poverty rate, which measures the percentage of the population who are both at risk of poverty and experiencing deprivation, decreased slightly to 5.5% in 2019, from the 2018 rate of 5.6%. Information on the Survey on Income and Living Conditions is available at:

https://www.cso.ie/en/statistics/socialconditions/surveyonincomeandlivingconditionssilc/

It is reasonable to expect that the 2020 SILC data will reflect the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions on household incomes. However this impact is likely to be lessened to some degree by the introduction by Government of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment and the Employee Wage Subsidy Scheme. Research by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), as part of their Budget Perspectives series in 2020, highlighted the importance of the social protection system for supporting those on low-incomes in general and the role of pandemic supports in ‘cushioning’ the impact of the unemployment shock related to the pandemic, with the drop in income resulting from pandemic-related unemployment softened by the pandemic income supports.

In addition, Budget 2021 included a range of targeted social welfare measures to assist low income families and households, including an increase in the weekly fuel allowance rate; increases to the qualified child rates for children under and over 12 years of age; an increase in the living alone allowance as well as increases to the weekly income threshold for the Working Family Payment and to the income disregard for the Disability Allowance. These measures will contribute to the ongoing support to low income households provided by the social protection system.

I thank the Deputy for her question and hope this clarifies the matter.

Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment

Questions (562)

Claire Kerrane

Question:

562. Deputy Claire Kerrane asked the Minister for Social Protection if flexibility can be afforded to freelance and short-term workers with regard to eligibility for the pandemic unemployment payment in recognition of the disruptive financial impact of Covid-19 on employees on short-term annual contracts who are often not covered by the payment eligibility criteria; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12551/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) is available to employees and self-employed persons who have lost employment as a direct consequence of COVID-19. To date expenditure on the PUP scheme is over €6.2 billion.

There is some flexibility under PUP which provides that a self-employed person can take up limited employment and retain PUP, whereby they can earn up to €960 over a previous 8 week period. Where a self-employed person exceeds this threshold, they may apply for the Part-Time Job Incentive for the self- employed scheme which enables a person who has been in receipt of the PUP to engage in self-employment for up to 24 hours per week and receive a personal weekly rate of payment of €128.60.

Where a person does not qualify for PUP and is unemployed for 4 days in 7 consecutive days, they may be eligible for a jobseeker payment.

If the Deputy has a specific case, she should forward the details to the Department to determine the appropriate support that may be available to them.

I trust that this clarifies the position for the Deputy.

Gender Recognition

Questions (563)

Colm Burke

Question:

563. Deputy Colm Burke asked the Minister for Social Protection if consideration will be given to revising the current procedure in which transgender persons who wish to have their names changed and recognised in organisations, for example, the National Driver Licence Service, are require to enrol their deed poll to do so, thus allowing for this information to become accessible to the public and subsequently disclosing their gender identity and also potentially putting the transgender person at risk of harassment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12558/21]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The report of the group established to review the 2015 Gender Recognition Act advised that the process of changing a person’s name after they receive a gender recognition certificate should be made less difficult and suggested that a gender recognition certificate could act as a legal change of name as well as a legal change of gender. The previous Government had developed legislative proposals to address this issue and these have been carried forward to the new Programme for Government.

Work commenced in relation to advancing the legislative process for these measures at the start of 2020 but due to the dissolution of the last Dáil, the election and subsequent government-formation process, the completion of the transfer of functions process, as well as the focus on responding to the public health crisis, this work was paused.

Since then, the ongoing devotion of resources within the Department to the public health crisis and associated matters has meant that it has not yet been possible to further progress this work. However, the matter will be kept under review and the measures remain as part of the Programme for Government. In the meantime, the Department is examining the possibility of administratively removing the requirement for a Deed Poll to have been completed to receive a Public Services Card where a gender recognition certificate has already been issued.

Local Employment Service

Questions (564)

Claire Kerrane

Question:

564. Deputy Claire Kerrane asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding the tendering process for the local employment services scheme; the stage the process is at; the timeline on the roll-out of this model; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12565/21]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

As the Deputy will be aware, contracts for the existing employment services have been renewed until end-2021.

My Department is currently finalising a new model of employment services in some areas of the State where there are currently no local employment services. The provision of these new employment services will assist in ensuring that we are in a position to support those who have lost their employment arising from the economic impacts of Covid-19.

This is to be followed by the roll-out of new models of employment services across the State, to be in place for January 2022 when current contracts for existing employment services expire.

These new models of employment services will be in line with EU procurement guidelines and current legal advice and will be procured though open competitive procurement processes.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Disability Allowance

Questions (565)

Claire Kerrane

Question:

565. Deputy Claire Kerrane asked the Minister for Social Protection if flexibility is allowed regarding scholarships awarded to students in receipt of the disability allowance as in the case of a person (detail supplied); the details of the supports available to students with disabilities to ensure their receipt of social protection payments is not penalised as a result of being awarded funding for research and study-related costs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12567/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

I thank the Deputy for raising this matter.

I spoke directly to the person referred to last week as soon as her case was brought to my attention.

I have asked my officials to bring forward the necessary legislative changes required to remedy this situation as a matter of urgency and, once drafted, I intend to sign regulations to this effect in the coming days.

Social Welfare Appeals

Questions (566)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

566. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection the status of a carer’s allowance appeal by a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12639/21]

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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 24 October 2019.

On foot of a social welfare inspectors (SWI) report the 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 and the application was disallowed.

The person concerned was notified on 31 January 2020 of this decision, the reason for it and of his right of review and appeal.

The person concerned appealed this decision to the Social Welfare Appeals Office (SWAO). A submission in support of the decision was forwarded to the SWAO on 13 March 2020.

My Department was notified on 26 February 2021 that the appeal had been partially allowed. Consequently, CA was awarded to the person concerned on 01 March 2021 with effect from 20 February 2020. The first payment issued to his nominated bank account on 04 March 2021.

Arrears for the period 20 February 2020 to 03 March 2021 issued to the person concerned on 04 March 2020.

The person concerned was notified of the outcome on 01 March 2021.

I hope this clarifies the position for the Deputy.

Social Welfare Appeals

Questions (567)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

567. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection the status of a disability allowance appeal by a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12640/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered with that office on 29 January 2021. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received on 15 February 2021.

The appeal was referred on 26 February 2021 to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral hearing. Hearings are currently being conducted online or by telephone. Due to the current level of Covid-19 restrictions in-person oral appeal hearings have been suspended.

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 Appeals

Questions (568)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

568. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection the status of a disability allowance appeal for a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12641/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered with that office on 9 February 2021. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. The papers were received on 22 February 2021.

The appeal was referred on 1 March 2021 to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral hearing. Hearings are currently being conducted online or by telephone. Due to the current level of Covid-19 restrictions in-person oral appeal hearings have been suspended.

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 Appeals

Questions (569)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

569. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection if the withdrawal of a disability allowance from a person (details supplied) will be examined; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12642/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 20 October 2020. 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. Those papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 25 November 2020 and the case was assigned to an Appeals Officer on 3 December 2020.

The Appeals Officer made a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented and the appeal was disallowed by decision dated 25 January 2021.

I am informed that the person concerned contacted the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 11 February 2021 requesting a review of the appeal decision under section 317 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 and subsequently provided new medical evidence on 17 February 2021. The file was requested back from the Department and returned to the Appeals Officer for review on 23 February 2021. The person concerned will be advised of the result of this review in the near future.

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.

Disability Allowance

Questions (570)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

570. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection the status of a disability allowance application by a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12643/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

I confirm that an application from the person concerned for disability allowance (DA) was received by the Department on 19 November 2020.

The application has been referred to a Social Welfare Inspector (SWI) for a report on the person’s means and circumstances. On 2 February 2021 the person concerned was asked to supply further documentation which was required by the SWI in order to complete her assessment. To date this further documenration has not been received.

Once the SWI has submitted his/her report to DA section, a decision will be made on the application and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Social Welfare Appeals

Questions (571)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

571. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection the status of a disability allowance appeal for a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12644/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered with that office on 11 December 2020. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. The papers were received on 20 January 2021.

The appeal was referred on 28 January 2021 to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral hearing. Hearings are currently being conducted online or by telephone. Due to the current level of Covid-19 restrictions in-person oral appeal hearings have been suspended.

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.

Disability Allowance

Questions (572)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

572. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will be made on a disability allowance for a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12645/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The person concerned has been awarded disability allowance (DA) with effect from 18 November 2020. A letter issued to him on 10 February 2021 informing him of this decision.

The first payment was made by his chosen payment method on 17 February 2021. Arrears of payment due were calculated and issued to the person concerned on 10 February 2021

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Social Welfare Benefits

Questions (573)

Thomas Pringle

Question:

573. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Social Protection the supports available for those forced to take time off work due to illness; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12667/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The Department provides a suite of income supports for those who are unable to work due to an illness or disability. It is important to note that entitlement to these supports 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. The only exception to this is the enhanced illness benefit payment in respect of Covid-19.

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 is payable for one year (312 days excluding Sundays) in respect of people with a minimum of 104 contributions and for two years (624 days excluding Sundays) for people with a minimum of 260 contributions, subject to meeting the other medical and contribution eligibility criteria for the scheme, as set out in legislation.

A person who is not eligible for Illness Benefit or whose Illness Benefit expires and who is unable to work may be eligible for other payments depending on their circumstances:

- Invalidity Pension is a weekly payment to people who cannot work because of a long-term illness or disability, who are likely to be permanently incapable of work and who satisfy the PRSI conditions.

- Disability Allowance is a means tested payment for people who have a disability that is expected to last for a year or more.

- Supplementary Welfare Allowance is available to people who are ill, who do not qualify for other payments and who have insufficient means to meet their needs.

A person may requalify for Illness Benefit if they return to work and pay a minimum of 13 reckonable PRSI contributions. (All other qualifying conditions must also be satisfied.)

The rate of Illness Benefit payment is based on a person's weekly earnings in the governing contribution year. There are four rates of payment up to a maximum of €203. Increases can be paid in respect of a qualified adult or qualified children.

In addition to the payments listed above, a temporary enhanced Illness Benefit payment was introduced in March 2020 in respect of Covid-19. Its purpose is to encourage people to not go to work due to financial constraint when they should be in isolation. The rate of the enhanced Illness Benefit payment for Covid-19 is €350 per week, with additional payments possible in respect of a qualified adult and qualified children. The payment is made for a defined maximum period for each of the two situations listed. The measures were designed to ensure that, where a registered medical practitioner or a HSE medical officer of health diagnoses a person with COVID-19 or identifies him or her as a probable source of infection of COVID-19, the person concerned can comply with medical advice to isolate.

I trust this clarifies the matter.

Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment

Questions (574)

Thomas Pringle

Question:

574. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Social Protection if self-employment earnings for 2020 will be taken into account when assessing the rate of Covid-19 pandemic unemployment payment entitlement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12668/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

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. Detail of reckonable income is provided to the Department by the Revenue Commissioners.

The 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. There are no plans to change these reference periods at this time.

I hope that this clarifies the position for the Deputy at this time.

Social Welfare Rates

Questions (575)

Darren O'Rourke

Question:

575. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for Social Protection the estimated cost of increasing the telephone support allowance by €1, €2.50, €4 and €5, respectively, in tabular form. [12723/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The Telephone Support Allowance (TSA) is a weekly payment of €2.50. Approximately 135,500 customers are in receipt of the TSA payment. The full year cost of the scheme is estimated at €18 million.

The primary objective of the TSA is to allow the most vulnerable people at risk of isolation, including the elderly and those with disabilities, access to personal alarms or phones for security. Therefore, the criteria for the allowance were framed in order to direct the limited resources available to my Department in as targeted a manner as possible.

To receive the allowance a customer of my Department must be in receipt of a qualifying payment and also in receipt of both the Living Alone Allowance and the Fuel Allowance.

Based on a projected average of 136,000 recipients of TSA in 2021, the estimated cost of increasing the weekly rate of TSA by €1, €2.50, €4 or €5 per week would be as follows:-

Proposed Weekly Increase

Resulting Weekly Rate

Annual Budget Required

€1

€3.50

€24.752M

€2.50

€5

€35.36M

€4

€6.50

€45.968M

€5

€7.50

€53.04M

Any decision to increase the weekly rate of TSA would have budget implications and would have to be considered in the context of overall budgetary negotiations.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Jobseeker's Payments

Questions (576)

Darren O'Rourke

Question:

576. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for Social Protection the estimated full-year cost of increasing the earnings disregard for the jobseeker's transitional payment by €5, €10 and €15, respectively, in tabular form. [12724/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The estimated full year cost of increasing the earnings disregard for the Jobseeker’s Transitional Payment by €5, €10, €15, respectively is set out in tabular form below:

-

Estimated additional Annual Cost @ €170 disregard

€664,000

Estimated additional Annual Cost @ €175 disregard

€1.33 million

Estimated additional Annual Cost @ €180 disregard

€2 million

The above costings are based on the number of recipients who were working and earning in excess of €165 per week on the Jobseeker’s Transitional Payment as of January 2021.

The costings do not take into account potential behavioural changes, or the inflow of new entrants, which may arise from the introduction of higher income disregards. There would be additional costs on foot of these two factors, which are not possible to calculate and have not been factored into the above costings.

Jobseeker's Payments

Questions (577)

Eoin Ó Broin

Question:

577. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of persons receiving a jobseeker’s allowance; the number of persons in receipt of jobseeker’s for more than 390 days; the number of persons currently receiving the fuel allowance who qualified due to being in receipt of jobseeker’s allowance; and the number of persons receiving a working family payment. [12758/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The data requested by the Deputy is set out in the table below

Figures as at 28/02/2021

Number of Recipients

Jobseekers Allowance

140,368

Jobseekers Allowance (Claim duration > 390 days)

90,480

Jobseekers Allowance + Fuel Allowance

31,394

Working Family Payment

46,688

Back to Work Enterprise Allowance Scheme

Questions (578, 581)

Robert Troy

Question:

578. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will consider extending the back-to-work enterprise schemes for an additional 12 months, given the impact restrictions have had on participants. [12761/21]

View answer

Niall Collins

Question:

581. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Social Protection if an extension will be allowed to the back to work scheme due to Covid-19 (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12854/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 578 and 581 together.

The Back to Work Enterprise Allowance (BTWEA) scheme offers support for people who are long-term unemployed and who are interested in self-employment as a route to entering the labour market. The scheme plays a vital role in supporting the development of new enterprises for the long-term unemployed and is payable for a 24 month period from the commencement of their new business.

All participants of the BTWEA will receive their full period of entitlement of 24 months and, therefore, will not lose out on the support. This includes anyone who contacted the Department to suspend their allowance while their business closed during Covid related restrictions. Where someone suspended their BTWEA, they can avail of the remainder of their 24 months on reopening their business. There are no plans to provide for an extension of this period.

Individuals whose BTWEA entitlement is expiring in August may be entitled to support under the Jobseekers schemes depending on their circumstances at that time.

Details on all the supports available for self-employed individuals is available on www.gov.ie

I trust this clarifies the position for the Deputies.

Domiciliary Care Allowance

Questions (579)

Joe Flaherty

Question:

579. Deputy Joe Flaherty asked the Minister for Social Protection the steps that have been taken to revise the age thresholds for the domiciliary care allowance (details supplied). [12782/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The Make Work Pay report was published in April 2017 following a commitment in the Comprehensive Employment Strategy for people with disabilities 2015 -2024, and was undertaken in order to better identify how people with disabilities could be supported to achieve their employment ambitions.

The report made two recommendations (numbers 9 and 10) that addressed significant issues around the design of the main income supports schemes and the provision of employment services. These related to a proposed reconfiguration of Disability Allowance, from the current starting age of 16 to 18 years, and the introduction of an early engagement approach for young people with disabilities - to provide the necessary employment supports at the earliest opportunity, to assist young jobseekers to enter or return to employment.

To fulfil a commitment made at the time of the report, a wide-ranging national consultation exercise was conducted with persons with disabilities, their families and representative groups in relation to these recommendations.

Outcomes from stakeholder submissions, four regional consultation events (held in Dublin, Cork, Sligo and Limerick), and responses to two online questionnaires were compiled. There were some 3,300 responses to the survey on the recommendation relating to DA and a further 2,150 responses relating to the early engagement proposal.

These outcomes were then further considered by a key stakeholder focus group: this group comprises of persons with experience of disability issues, who also helped the Department with the design of the national consultation process.

A report on the outcome of the consultation exercise is currently being finalised and will then be published simultaneously in the following formats:

- a Plain English format, with appendices detailing the full consultation processes undertaken.

- a stand-alone plain English version of the executive summary

- a stand-alone easy to read version of the executive summary.

- ISL videos

While this process is ongoing there has been no change in the conditionality or the age threshold applying to the domiciliary care allowance (DCA) scheme. The DCA scheme remains payable to age 16, where the child fulfils the eligibility conditions.

I trust that this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Social Welfare Payments Administration

Question No. 581 answered with Question No. 578.

Questions (580)

Claire Kerrane

Question:

580. Deputy Claire Kerrane asked the Minister for Social Protection if her Department utilises a bank (details supplied) for making social welfare payments to recipients; her views on whether making payments through a bank which has no physical branches could have an impact on recipients; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12794/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

My Department, like every other Government Department and Office, is required to move its banking operations to Danske Bank on foot of a Government decision to tender for an “All of Government” Banking Service in 2017.

The Government’s objective then was to identify the most economically advantageous arrangement for the provision of an efficient, streamlined, cost-effective banking structure for all Government Departments and Offices. The solution also had to provide the maximum degree of integration with the new Financial Management Shared Service project. Following a tender process, Danske Bank was awarded the contract in June 2018.

The Department of Social Protection uses commercial banks to make payments directly into a beneficiary’s account by electronic fund transfer (EFT), to issue cheque payments, to receive money by direct debit and standing order, and to lodge money received as either cheque or cash. The Department’s non-banking services consist of cash payments at post offices and this is unaffected by the change of banking provider.

To date, the Department of Social Protection’s banking migration project teams have successfully moved 99.2% of EFT payments and 89.9% of cheque payments to Danske Bank. Direct debits and standing orders have also been moved while cash lodgements are scheduled to migrate to Danske Bank over the next few weeks.

As Danske Bank does not have any branches, it has entered into an agreement with An Post to provide it with a network of outlets covering all of the State.

Question No. 581 answered with Question No. 578.
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