Má tá seisear leanbh aige gheobhaidh sé méadú 20/- má's i limistéar uirbeach dó agus 22/- má's i limistéar tuaithe dó.
Gheobhaidh baintreach atá ag fáil pinsin neamhranníocaigh méadú 2/6d. i naghaidh na seachtaine, agus tá na liúntais do leanaí dá gcomhthromú leis na rátaí ranníocacha atá ann faoi láthair. Sa chás seo tá na rátaí reatha neamhranníocacha agus ranníocacha an-ghar dá chéile agus is é an méadú amháin ná 1/- i naghaidh na seachtaine i leith an dara leanbh.
Is iad seo na méadaithe a éiríonn de bhárr moltaí na Cáinaisnéise ar an dtaobh cúnaimh shóisialaigh.
I dteannta leis na feabhsanna seo tá socraithe dhá ráta nua pinsin sean-aoise neamhranníocaigh a bhunú do réir 12/6d. agus 7/6d. i naghaidh na seachtaine mar leigheas ar an gcruadtan a bhí ann do dhuine go raibh a acmhainn beagán thar an dteorainn £104 15s. i dtreo's ná fuair sé aon phinsean sean-aoise. Táthar ag súil le timpeall 3,000 pinsean nua faoi'n bhforáil seo.
Is í an teorainn acmhainne bhlian- túla faoi láthair chun cúnamh dífhostaíochta a fháil ná £100, gan baint le líon na clainne. I gcás fir le mnaoi céile agus ceathrar leanbh go raibh an méid uasta acmhainne aige, is é sin, 38/5d. i naghaidh na seachtaine, cháil- eódh sé chun íocaíocht 30/6d. i naghaidh na seachtaine nó 40/6d. dá mbeadh seisear leanbh ann, ach dá mbeadh a acmhainn fiú beagán thar an méid seo ní bhfaigheadh sé íocaí- ocht ar bith. Chun é sin a cheartú táthar chun córas nua teorainneacha a bhunú ag braith ar líon na gcleith- iúnaithe agus athrófar na teorainneacha seo uatha féin do réir na méadaithe ins na rátaí cúnaimh dífhostaíochta. Mar shampla, is í an teorainn nua acmhainne d'fhear go bhfuil bean chéile agus seisear leanbh aige ná £214 10s. i gcomparáid le £100 faoi láthair. Táthar ag súil go gcuirfidh an fhoráil seo timpeall 1,000 cás nua san áireamh go mór-mhór i limistéir tuaithe.
Faoi láthair is é an méid uasta acmhainne do bhaintrigh chun an phinsin is lú d'fháil ná £130 15s. i naghaidh na bliana gan baint leis an uimhir leanbh atá ann. In ionad na teorann uasta seo táthar chun scála teorainneacha malartach a bhunú a bhaineann díreach le líon na leanbh cáilithe sa chlainn. Beidh an pinsean is lú ar fáil anois do bhaintrigh le seisear leanbh nach mó a hacmhainn ná £234 15s. nó do bhaintrigh le dáréag leanbh nach mó ná £312 15s. a hacmhainn. Braithfidh ráta an phinsin ar a hacmhainn; cuir i gcás, baintreach le ceathrar leanbh agus acmhainn aici gan bheith níos mó ná £169 15s., gheobhaidh sí pinsean 21/-i naghaidh na seachtaine. Baintreach le seachtar leanbh agus acmhainn £143 15s. aici, gheobhaidh sí 46/- i naghaidh na seachtaine. Faoi'n teorainn uasta láithreach de £130 15s. ní bhfaighfí pinsean i gceachtar de'n dá chás seo. Táthar ag súil le go mbronnfar timpeall 400 pinsean nua faoi'n bhforáil seo.
Cuireadh faoi mo bhráid go bhfuil faighteoirí cúnaimh dífhostaíochta agus sochair dífhostaíochta ann atá tar éis teacht cúcha féin as breoiteacht ach nach bhfuil in ann chuig a ngnáth- obair agus atá fonnmhar chun malairt oibre a fháil. Do réir an dlí mar atá sé, ní bhéadh siad-san i dteidiol cúnamh nó sochar dífhostaíochta a fháil le linn dóibh bheith ag glacadh cúrsa traenála agus tugtar ar mhórán díobh gan tabhairt faoi shaol iomlán oibre arís. Dá bharr san, táim chun forálacha áirithe de na hAchtanna Um Cúnamh Dífhostaíochta a mhaoladh i leith daoine atá ag glacadh le traenáil faoi eagraíochtaí ceadaithe. Ní áirmheofar liúntais seachtainiúla a gheofar i gcásanna mar sin. Déanfar forálacha de'n tsórt céadna i leith sochair dífhostaíochta trí na Riala- cháin a leasú agus ní bheidh gá le h-achtú.
Táthar freisin chun pá áirithe de chuid daoine atá faoi bhac a fhágaint as an áireamh nuair is toradh oibre i na dteaghlaigh féin é ar bhunabhar a sholáthríonn eagraíochtaí deontacha ceadaithe atá carthanach de chineál agus de chuspóir. Forálann an Bille seo go bhfágfar pá de'n tsort seo suas go £104 as an áireamh chun críocha cúnaimh dífhostaíochta, comh maith le £52 de bhreis ar an £52 a fhágtar as faoi lathair i leith pinsean neamh-ranníocach sean-aoise, daille agus baintrí.
Faoi láthair, muna bhfuil daichead is seacht mbliana agus sé mí slánaithe ag baintrigh neamhranníocach nuair a stopann an liúntas do'n leanbh deireannach cáilithe ó bheith iníoctha, stopann a pinsean pearsanta sé mhí in a dhiaidh sin. Táthar chun an aois cuige sin a laghdú ó 48 go 40. Meastar go mbainfidh timpeall 120 baintreach tairbhe as an leasú seo.
Is é costas bliantúil na méadaithe ar íocaíochtaí cúnaimh shóisialaigh a fógraíodh sa Cháinaisnéis agus a shol- áthruítear sa Bhille seo ná £1,226,000. Sa mhéid seo tá £783,000 i leith pinsean neamhranníocach sean-aoise agus daille, £285,000 i leith cúnaimh dífhostaíochta, agus £158,000 i leith pinsean neamhranníocach baintrí. Beidh an costas sa bhliain airgeadais seo cosúil le £825,000. Cosnóidh na forálacha i gcóir rátaí nua pinsean, agus an síniú is athrú dá réir ar teorainneacha acmhainne maidir le pinsin neamhranníocacha sean-aoise, daille agus baintrí, agus cúnamh dífhostaíochta, i nAilt 1, 4 agus 5, £138,000 breise i naghaidh na bliana, as a mbeidh £81,000 do phinsin sean-aoise agus daille, £35,000 do chúnamh difhosta- íochta, agus £22,000 do phinsin baintreach. Ní bhainfidh aon chaiteachas breise, táthar ag súil, leis na forálacha maidir le daoine míchumasacha ag glacadh le cúrsaí traenála athshlán- aithe. Táthar ag súil go gcosnóidh na forálacha chun pá áirithe de chuid daoine atá faoi bhac a fhágaint as an áireamh, i leith oibre a deintear sa teaghlach i gcomhair eagraíocht carthanach, timpeall £3,000 faoi láthair. Cosnóidh an leasú maidir leis an aois cáilithe chun baintreach áirithe neamh-ranníocach timpeall £10,000 i naghaidh na bliana, meastar. Mar sin, is é costas iomlán na moltaí seo atá taobh amuigh de'n Cháinaisnéis ná £151,000 nó £100,000 sa bhliain airgeadais seo. Is é costas iomlán na bhforálacha cúnaimh shóisialaigh sa Bhille mar sin, £925,000 sa bhliain reatha, nó £1,377,000 i mbliain iomlán.
Soláthruíonn an Bille méadú de 5/- i naghaidh na seachtaine ar na rátaí bunaidh pearsanta de shochar míchumais agus dífhostaíochta, liúntas máith- reachais, phinsean baintrí (ranníocach) liúntas dilleachta (ranníocach) agus pinsean sean-aoise (ranníocach). Solá- thruíonn sé freisin méadú de 5/- ar an liúntas do chleithiúnaí aosaithe, agus tá an ráta seachtainiúil speisialta sochair míchumais agus dífhostaíochta do mhná pósta agus do dhaoine faoi ocht mbliana déag d'aois á nárdú do réir 4/-. Táthar ag méadú ar liúntais do gach leanbh cáilithe do réir 3/-. Tos- nóidh na rátaí nua sa chéad sheachtain d'Eanáir, 1963.
Gheobhaidh fear árachaithe le mnaoi céile agus ceathrar leanaí cleithiún- acha méadú 22/- in aghaidh na seachtaine nuair is breoite nó difhostaithe dó agus méadú 28/- má tá seisear leanaí aige. Gheobhaidh baintreach atá ag fáil pinsin ranníocaigh agus ceathrar leanaí aici méadú 17/- i naghaidh na seachtaine agus méadú 23/- má tá seisear leanaí aici. Fear pósta atá ag fáil pinsin sean-aoise ranníocaigh, gheobhaidh sé méadú 10/- i naghaidh na seachtaine.
Tá rátaí nua ranníoca fostíochta soláthraithe sa Bhille. Is é an méadú is mó ná 1/6d. i naghaidh na seachtaine, nó 9d. an duine don fhostóir agus do'n duine áracaithe. Tá deontas faoi leith i gcás oibrí fireann talúntais nach níocfaidh ach 1/-, sé sin raol don fhostóir agus do'n oibrí faoi sheach.
Is écostas iomlán bliantúil na méadaithe ar shochar árachais, mar a meastar iad, ná £2,823,000 agus as sin soláthrófar dhá thrian trí na ranníoca méadaithe. Is é an costas a bheidh ann do'n Státchiste sa bhliain airgeadais atá anois ann ná £235,000.
Tá leasú beag amháin eile ar an dlí dá dhéanamh ar thaobh an árachais. Tá foráil ann faoi láthair faoina ais- íoctar an chuid de na ranníoca a bhaineann leis an bpinsean sean-aoise (ranníocach) d'íoc duine a ghlacann árachas i ndiaidh dó seasga blian a shlánú, agus tá an fhoráil seo á leathnú i bhfábhar duine nach raibh d'árachas aige sul ar shlánuigh sé seasga blian ach amháin chun críocha pinsean baintreach agus dilleachtaí.
B'fhéidir go mba chabhair é costas na moltaí seo do'n Státchiste d'achoim- riú. Is é costas na bhforálacha cúnaimh shóisialaigh ná £1,377,000 i mbliain iomlán agus £925,000 an bhliain seo. Is é costas na moltaí Árachais Shóisialaigh ná £941,000 i mbliain iomlán agus £235,000 sa bhliain reatha. Is é an costas iomlán do'n Státchiste, mar sin, ná £2,318,000 i mbliain iomlán agus £1,160,000 sa bhliain seo againn. De bhárr na bhforálacha seo go léir, beidh mar thairbhe ag faighteoirí íocaíochtaí leasa shóisialaigh £4,200,000 i mbliain iomlán.
The principal purpose of the Bill is to seek legislative authority for the rate increases as from 1st August next, in non-contributory old age, blind and widows' pensions and in unemployment assistance which were announced by the Minister for Finance in his Budget Financial Statement on 10th April last, and for proposals for the improvement of the contributory schemes to which a reference was also made in the Budget statement. Apart from these Budget matters, however, the Government proposes to make a number of further improvements in the Social Welfare codes, mainly on the Social Assistance side, and the opportunity has been taken to include these new proposals in the Bill.
It will, I think, simplify matters if I deal with the assistance and insurance schemes separately, since the Bill contains proposals affecting each of these broad divisions of the social welfare services and provides for different commencement dates. Under each of these two divisions, I shall first speak about the various proposals arising from the Budget and then go on to deal with what I may term the non-Budget proposals.
Taking the assistance side first then, the Bill, giving effect to the increases announced in the Budget, provides for raising all the existing rates of non-contributory old age and blind pensions by two shillings and sixpence per week; the new rates of these pensions will thus be 32/6d., 27/6d., 22/6d., and 17/6d. a week, according to the means category of the pensioner, as set out in Section 2, on which I shall have something further to say shortly.
Under the Budget increases in rates of unemployment assistance, all recipients will get an increase of 2/6d. a week also in respect of themselves, and they will, in addition, get the same extra amount for an adult dependant. Furthermore, if the recipient has dependent children, the Bill provides for the increases necessary to implement the Budget promise that, as a special measure, the child dependant allowances under the assistance schemes would be raised to the level of those payable in respect of child dependants under the contributory schemes. In relation to Unemployment Assistance, this means that the weekly allowance for the first child is being increased from 8/- in urban areas and from 7/- in rural areas to 10/- in all areas, that the allowance for the second child is being increased from 7/- in urban areas and 6/- in rural areas to 10/- in all areas, and that the allowance for the third and subsequent children is being increased from 2/6d. to 5/- in all areas. Accordingly, a man who is on Unemployment Assistance and who has a wife and four dependent children will get an extra 15/- a week as from next month if he lives in an urban area, while a man with a similar family in a rural area will get an increase of 17/-. A man with a wife and six children will receive a total increase of 20/- a week if he lives in an urban area or 22/- if he lives in a rural area. The table of new rates is set out in Section 3 of the Bill.
As regards widows' non-contributory pensions, the personal rate is being increased by 2/6d. and the weekly allowance for the second qualified child is being raised by 1/- to 10/-, in accordance with the Budget proposals. The allowances in respect of other qualified children of non-contributory widows are already equal to the contributory rate. A non-contributory widow pensioner with two or more qualified children, therefore, will receive a weekly increase of 3/6d. in her pension. These provisions are included in Section 4, on which I shall also have more to say later.
Apart from the increases in present rates which I have outlined, the Bill, as I have already indicated, proposes to make other substantial concessions on the assistance side. Sections 2, 4 and 5, for example, provide for the extension and alteration in favour of recipients of the means limits for old age, blind and widows' non-contributory pensions and for unemployment assistance to complement the successive increases made in the rates of payment in recent years, including the grant, in 1960, of an allowance for each dependent child of widow pensioners and of recipients of unemployment assistance instead of for the first two such children only.
In the case of non-contributory old age and blind pensions, two additional rates of pension, that is to say, 12/6d. and 7/6d., are being introduced. These entail a corresponding extension of the means scale from the existing upper limit of £104 15s. a year — at which the present minimum pension of 15/- is payable — to a new limit of £130 15s. a year. At present, a person with means just under £104 15s. gets a pension of 15/- per week, which is being raised to 17/6d. in this Bill, while a person with means just over £104 15s. gets nothing. Obviously this can lead to cases of hardship and this Bill provides that in future a person with means between £104 15s. and £117 15s. will get a pension of 12/6d. per week while a person with means between £117 15s. and £130 15s. will get a pension of 7/6d. per week. The number of new pensions at 12/6d. and 7/6d. a week which will arise under this provision is expected to be about 3,000. This important improvement is embodied in Section 2, which also provides for the Budget increase of 2/6d. in existing pension rates.
As regards unemployment assistance, the present yearly means limit is a fixed sum of £100, that is, 38/5d. a week, irrespective of the size of the family of the applicant. Owing to the successive increases made in the rates of unemployment assistance in recent years, and the extension since 1960 of the allowance for a dependent child to all dependent children of the recipient instead of the first two only, the fixed means limit gives rise to inequality in the treatment under the scheme of certain family men with means — particularly in the rural areas. For example, in a rural area, a man with a wife and two child dependants who has the maximum means of 38/5d. a week from a small farm is just inside the scheme, and would qualify from next month for 20/6d. a week unemployment assistance on the basis of the increased rates provided for in Section 3 of this Bill. The amount payable would become 30/6d. if there were four children and 40/6d. if there were six children, and would rise further by 5/- for each other child after the sixth. If, however, the means in any of these sample cases were even slightly over the limit of 38/5d. a week the person would be outside the scope of the scheme altogether as it now stands and would not be entitled to any payment so that in certain circumstances a very slight increase in means could result in a considerable drop in income by the complete loss of unemployment assistance.
I am satisfied, and the Government have agreed with me, that this kind of anomaly should now be rectified. To rectify it, the introduction of a new self-adjusting means limit, which would make special allowance for each child dependant of an applicant and would automatically move upward in line with increases granted from time to time in the rates of unemployment assistance, is provided for in Section 5. On the basis of the increased rates provided for in Section 3, the effect of Section 5 would be to qualify a number of persons with families, who are at present outside the scope of unemployment assistance by reason of their means, for weekly rates of assistance ranging downward from 40/6d. for a six-child family in a rural area, and downward from 48/6d. for a similar family in an urban area, with an extra 5/- a week in each case for each child after the sixth. The new yearly means limit for a six-child family in both urban and rural areas would be £214 10s. 0d. — as against £100 at present — and the rate of assistance payable would depend on the means of the applicant within that new limit; if the means were, say, 60/- a week, the rate of payment would be 19/6d. in a rural area and 27/6d. in an urban area, as against nil in both areas at present. The number of new beneficiaries under the proposal would, it is thought, be in the region of 1,000, the great majority of whom would be rural residents.
An extension of the means limit is also proposed in regard to widows' non-contributory pensions. The increases announced in the Budget and provided for in this Bill will allow widows with yearly means at the present permissible limit of £130 15s. to qualify for minimum pensions, from 12/- in the case of a widow with two children by additions of 5/- per child up to, say, 62/- in the case of a widow with twelve children. A widow with means just above the present limit of £130 15s., no matter how many children she may have, does not now qualify for any pension. To remedy this situation, Section 4, as well as providing for the Budget increases, proposes to modify further the existing table of means and pension rates to provide a table in which the present overriding means limit of £130 15s. would be replaced by a scale of variable means limits related directly to the number of qualified children in the family. The proposed new scale proceeds in £13 steps from £130 15s. upwards. Under it, a new minimum pension of 6/- per week will be payable to a widow with no children, whose yearly means do not exceed £130 15s.; to a widow with six children whose yearly means do not exceed £234 15s.; and to a widow with twelve children whose yearly means do not exceed £312 15s. The rate of the new pension will, of course, be higher than 6/- where the means of the widow are less than the new means limit appropriate to the size of her family. For example, a widow with four dependent children and means not in excess of, say, £169 15s. a year, that is 65/6d. a week, will get a pension of at least 21/- a week as against nothing at present. If she has seven dependent children, she could have means of £143 15s. a year, that is 55/3d. a week, and still get a pension of 46/- a week — as against nothing now — thus giving her a total weekly income of just over £5 a week. The number of widows who would become entitled to non-contributory pensions under these important concessions would, it is estimated, be about 400.
I now come to a group of four amendments affecting the assistance services which I am sure will meet with the approval of Deputies of all shades of opinion in the House. Two of these, in Section 6 and part of Section 7, are intended to facilitate and encourage the rehabilitation of certain handicapped persons for employment. It has been represented to me that there are recipients of unemployment assistance or unemployment benefit, who, having, for example, recovered from an illness such as tuberculosis, are not fit to resume their normal occupation and are anxious to find an alternative. These persons can be rehabilitated and trained for some other occupation suitable to their diminished capacity but the law as it stands would operate to prevent them from continuing to receive unemployment assistance or unemployment benefit during a training course. They are therefore deterred from the effort we would all be glad to see them make to get back to a full working life and a more comfortable livelihood than can be provided by unemployment assistance or unemployment benefit interspersed, perhaps, with spells of casual employment. I accordingly propose to remove this deterrent, in so far as unemployment assistance is concerned, by relaxing certain provisions of the Unemployment Assistance Acts in favour of such persons while they are undergoing training with any organisation approved of by the Minister for Health for the purposes of the provision of such training.
Section 6 of the Bill will enable persons receiving approved rehabilitation training to be regarded as unemployed, available for and genuinely seeking work. These, of course, are prior conditions for anybody seeking payment of unemployment assistance, apart from their means position. I am satisfied that a very strong case exists for relaxing the qualification tests for unemployment assistance in this manner, and it is my intention to make a similar concession in relation to unemployment benefit; the latter can, however, be achieved by the amendment of existing regulations and legislation will not be required. An amendment associated with Section 6 is included in Section 7. Where trainees receive weekly allowances from the training organisation, such allowances would, unless we specifically provide otherwise, be reckonable as means so that the amount of unemployment assistance payable during training could be reduced considerably, or even cease altogether, in such cases with the result that the concession provided in the previous section would be rendered largely ineffective. It is proposed, therefore, that any such training allowances should be excluded altogether in the calculation of means for unemployment assistance purposes and Section 7 includes provision accordingly.
The effect of these two amendments, taken together, will thus be that persons undergoing approved training courses will be treated as unemployed and available for work and entitled to receive unemployment assistance as if they had not undertaken the courses, the amount of any training allowance which they may receive being disregarded as means. Apart altogether from the primary humanitarian motive for these concessions, the House will readily see that unemployment assistance or unemployment benefit paid in such circumstances, as well as, in many cases, being expediture of an immediately productive kind during training, can be an investment likely to result eventually in greater gain to the community, since it will afford to the persons in question the chance of being able to take up regular employment again after training instead of having to depend on unemployment assistance for, possibly, all the balance of their potential working lives.
Two other amendments of the law are proposed in the Bill with the object of aiding efforts by voluntary bodies to assist certain handicapped persons to restore their morale through useful work. These amendments provide for disregarding, within limits, certain earnings of such persons in assessing means for unemployment assistance and for non-contributory old age and widow's pension purposes. The earnings in question are those arising from work done in their own homes by persons affected in one way or another by physical or mental handicap on materials provided by organisations operating schemes which are charitable in character and purpose.
Representations have been made to me on behalf of one such organisation — a Co-operative Guild founded a few years ago in Dublin by a religious Order — that the application of the means test is discouraging or preventing the kind of person they are interested in from participating in such work because the people are afraid of losing their social assistance payments. The work is in itself useful and rewarding — consisting as it does of the making of toys, leather work, sewing, knitting and fancy goods — and those concerned with the scheme have good reason to believe that it has a profound and beneficial psychological effect on the morale of the persons participating. I am satisfied, and I am confident of the support of Deputies of all Parties in this, that a relaxation of the means tests is justified in the case of persons participating in schemes of this kind and that it is desirable that the praiseworthy social service being undertaken by voluntary charitable organisations providing such work should be facilitated.
Accordingly, Section 7 also proposes the disregard of earnings of this kind of up to £104 a year for unemployment assistance purposes. Because non-contributory old age and widow pensioners can already have means of approximately £1 a week, apart from any other special disregards applicable, without affecting title to full pension, Section 14, which deals with non-contributory old age and widows' pensions, limits the additional disregard now proposed under those schemes to £52 a year, as against £104 for unemployment assistance. My information in relation to the Guild I mentioned is that the average earnings of the participants are appreciably less than £2 a week. The people affected by the proposed amendments will, therefore, in many cases, have their full earnings from such a source disregarded. I may add that it is intended to put persons in receipt of social insurance benefits on the same footing in relation to work of this kind; this can be done by amendment of existing Regulations. In order to control the application of these concessions it is proposed to limit them to persons participating in schemes which, in the opinion of the Minister for Social Welfare, are charitable in character and purpose and it is, perhaps, well that I should say now that the concessions will be granted only where I am satisfied as to the deserving character and trustworthiness of the voluntary organisation concerned.
The remaining amendment relating to the assistance services is contained in Section 8, which provides for altering the statutory provision relating to the cessation of the pension of the non-contributory widow where she is under 48 years of age when the last child for whom an allowance in addition to pension is payable ceases to be a qualified child. At present, if a non-contributory widow has not attained the age of forty-seven years and six months when the allowance in respect of her last qualified child ceases to be payable for any reason, her personal pension ceases six months afterwards. It is proposed that the age requirement for the purpose of this provision should be reduced from 48 to 40 years.
The age requirement of 48 years was fixed by the Social Welfare Act, 1948, and my Department's experience of the operation of this provision since then has shown that hardship was inflicted on the widow who was over 40 years of age but who had not attained 48 years of age when her last qualified child reached 16 years. I have no doubt that I shall find general agreement that a widow who, up to the age of forty, has to look after young children, should not, thereafter, be deprived of pension. At that age, her chances of re-entering any sort of remunerative employment in a highly competitive labour market are not good. If she is able to obtain employment which will leave her in no need of assistance from the State the means scale will come into play to disqualify her or to reduce her pension as may be appropriate to the case. Section 8 provides, therefore, that where a non-contributory widow, who has been receiving allowances for children, has reached the age of thirty-nine years and six months when her last child ceases to be eligible, her pension will continue, provided she remains otherwise qualified. It is estimated that about 120 widows will benefit from this amendment.