Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.

Noel Dempsey

Ceist:

24 Mr. Dempsey asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he will change the rules in relation to disability benefit to make allowance for people who have to obtain ongoing medical treatment for cancer in order that they do not have to lose three days' disability benefit each week of treatment. [16346/95]

The provision where by disability benefit is not payable in respect of the first three days of illness is intended to avoid a situation of workers claiming benefit in respect of unnecessarily frequent short absences from work. This measure also operates to reduce the overlap between statutory and occupational sick pay schemes.

While this measure is seen to act effectively in relation to both the control and administration of the disability benefit scheme I am concerned that its effects can be harsh in cases such as that referred to by the Deputy. Consequently, I am reviewing the arrangements in question.

Michael McDowell

Ceist:

25 Mr. M. McDowell asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he has been successful in eliminating all substitute payments through supplementary welfare allowance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16769/95]

Robert Molloy

Ceist:

30 Mr. Molloy asked the Minister for Social Welfare the number of people forced to claim supplementary welfare allowance while awaiting unemployment benefit in each of the years from 1990 to 1995. [16770/95]

Liz O'Donnell

Ceist:

37 Ms O'Donnell asked the Minister for Social Welfare the number of people forced to claim supplementary welfare allowance while awaiting unemployment assistance in each of the years from 1990 to 1995. [16781/95]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 25, 30 and 37 together.

Section 171 of the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act, 1993 provides that every person in the State whose means are insufficient to meet his needs, or the needs of his dependants, is entitled to payment under the supplementary welfare allowance (SWA) scheme. Substitute or interim payments are not paid automatically. Such payments are only awarded where a person has no means to meet their immediate needs pending payment from another source, for example, where they are awaiting determination of an application for a social welfare or health board payment.

Detailed information on the numbers of cases in which interim payments were made pending unemployment assistance or unemployment benefit prior to 1994 is not available. This type of information was provided for in 1994 following the introduction of a new computer system for the collection of data relating to the SWA scheme. Information for 1994 and 1995 is set out in the following tabular statement. The Deputies will note, however, that as a result of a number of procedures adopted such as desk interviews of certain of the Department's customers, computerisation etc., there has been a reduction in the number of interim payments made. The Deputies will note in particular that in the Eastern Health Board area, as a result of a specific agreement between the health board and the Department of Social Welfare, the number of interim payments in that area has been halved since October 1992.

There will always be a need for interim payments particularly in cases such as deserted wives who have no income but who must have been deserted for at least three months before a social welfare payment is awarded. Other circumstances in which interim payments may be made include where a social welfare book has been returned due to a change in circumstances, for example the death of a dependant, and it is not possible to reissue in time for the next payment date.
Any interim payment which is awarded pending the determination or payment of a social welfare or health board payment is fully recoverable from the arrears once the other payment is awarded.
Interim payments under the SWA scheme pending payment of UA/UB

Year

Number of cases where SWA paid pending UA/B payments

Number of cases where SWA paid pending UA/B appeals

Total

1994

38,675

5,769

44,444

1995

24,022

2,868

26,890

Notes: Figures for 1995 are to 31 July 1995. Separate information is not recorded in respect of UA and UB payments.
The number of cases where an interim payment was made does not necessarily correspond to the number of people who received SWA interim payments. There may be an element of double counting e.g. where a person made more than one claim for UA or UB in a year and claimed an interim payment pending determination of each claim. Payment of an interim payment will be counted as a separate case on each occasion.