asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he is aware that a person (name supplied) whose entitlement to widow's pension ceased in September, 1971, has not had her claim for an old age pension dealt with so far; and in view of the grave hardship caused, if he will state the reason for this and when payment will be made.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Old Age Pension Claim.
A claim to non-contributory old age pension received from this claimant on 9th December, 1971, was investigated by the social welfare officer who forwarded it to the local old age pension committee on 12th January, 1972. The committee have been asked to expedite the matter and in the meantime a pension order book at the rate of £4.40 per week as recommended by the officer has been issued.
Is the Minister aware that the widow's pension ceased in September, 1971, and that the social welfare officer called in December regarding the old age pension—the file having been sent to him on the 16th December—but no money has been received yet? Would the Minister not agree that when a person satisfied the conditions for a widow's pension she could be deemed to qualify for an old age pension, pending investigation? I wonder if any Member of this House or any civil servant would like to be left for six months without any allowance?
I should like to point out to the Deputy that a widow does not necessarily qualify for an old age pension.
At least widows are entitled to have their cases investigated.
There are local committees.
The Minister knows that they do not have authority.
I would seriously suggest to the Minister that he should abolish old age pension committees because, as far as I am concerned, they are merely rubber stamps.
That is a separate matter.
Can the Minister state when the applicant mentioned in this question can expect to get some money?
As I pointed out in my reply, the lady has been issued with a book. She will not lose a penny. With regard to old age pension committees, while they are not relevant to this question I should like to say that they are voluntary committees and they do very good work. If we want to have some kind of buffer between the bureaucrats—and we are sometimes accused of having bureaucrats— and the public, I think that this is one example where we should have this kind of buffer.
The Minister knows that the committees have no authority. They may make recommendations but an officer of the Minister's Department can appeal against any decisions or recommendations made. What the officer does is always right.
Can the Minister state when the book was issued?
We cannot spend all afternoon discussing this question.
I am not sure when it was sent out.
Would the Minister not agree that when a person applies for an old age pension and is recommended for it by the local medical officer, a book should be issued to him immediately instead of waiting for two or three months before the matter is considered by the local committee?
I have already told Deputies that we are not going to discuss this matter any further. I am calling the next question.
Can the Minister give no indication when the book was sent out?
The Deputy can tell her that the book was sent out after his question was put down and he will get all the credit.
That is beside the point. I am not playing politics in this matter. The Minister does not care about old people.
Question No. 13 postponed.