Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.

Micheál Martin


533 Mr. Martin asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he will award arrears of old age contributory pension to a person (details supplied) in County Dublin. [16204/96]

The person concerned had been in receipt of a widow's contributory pension since 1965. She applied for an old age contributory pension on 15 March 1988, although she was 66 years of age in March 1979. This pension was awarded with effect from 11 December 1987, three months prior to the date of claim receipt, which was the maximum period of backdating allowed under legislation at that time.

Recent further review of her case has shown that the person concerned had written to the UK Department of Social Security, DSS, in 1985 to see if she had any entitlement to a UK pension. The DSS in turn wrote to this Department in August 1985 to check her Irish social insurance situation.
Under EU Regulations, a claim to pension in the UK may be treated as a claim to pension in Ireland. On this basis, the Department is now in a position to backdate her entitlement to old age contributory pension to 1 February 1985, six months prior to the first contact with the Department by the UK Department of Social Security on 1 August 1985. Arrangements have been made to issue a pension arrears payment of £199.90 to the person concerned within the next week. This represents the difference between the rate of old age contributory pension and widow's contributory pension paid for the period 1 February 1985 and 10 December 1987.

Tony Gregory


534 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Social Welfare if supplementary welfare assistance will be granted to families who are moved temporarily from their homes while their homes are being refurbished, towards the cost of replacement of floor coverings, carpets and others on returning to the newly refurbished house as this cost is causing hardship in areas like Cherry Orchard, Dublin 10. [16237/96]

The category of payment to which the Deputy refers can be classified as an exceptional needs payment, ENP. The purpose of ENPs is to help prevent hardship by providing for essential, once-off, exceptional expenditure, which applicants could not reasonably be expected to meet out of their weekly income. There is not an automatic or statutory right of entitlement to an ENP. Furthermore, the legislation does not allow me to prescribe either the circumstances, or the nature of the need, in respect of which a payment may be made. ENPs are payable at the discretion of the health board taking into account the requirements of the legislation and all the relevant circumstances of the case.

In the interest of equity and transparency, my Department undertook to publish all guidance relating to the SWA scheme.
The guidelines on ENPS were published in October 1995. In so far as it is possible, these guidelines are intended to ensure equitable treatment for all applicants and consistency in discretionary decision making both within and between the health boards. If a claimant is dissatisfied with the decision of the board, he has the right to appeal. Copies of the guidelines can be obtained from SWA Section, AMD, Store Street, Dublin 1.
A small number of applications for ENPs have been made by residents in the Cherry Orchard area as a result of the refurbishments to which the Deputy refers. To date, one ENP has been granted.

Seamus Kirk


535 Mr. Kirk asked the Minister for Social Welfare if his attention has been drawn to the anxiety of parents and relatives of both physically and mentally handicapped people who will have their disabled person's maintenance allowance changed to disability allowance from the end of October 1996; if he will reconsider the proposed method of payment in certain cases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16256/96]

John Browne


539 Mr. Browne (Wexford) asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he will have arrangements made to have pension type books issued to recipients of a disabled person's maintenance allowance when this scheme comes under the control of his Department. [16441/96]

Mary Wallace


557 Miss M. Wallace asked the Minister for Social Welfare the action, if any, he intends to take due to the inaccessibility of many post offices to people with disabilities in receipt of a disability allowance and the impracticality of requesting them to travel to collect their allowance. [16890/96]

It is proposed to take Questions Nos. 535, 539 and 557 together.

The administration of the disabled person's maintenance allowance scheme will transfer from the health boards to this Department on 2 October 1996 and will be renamed disability allowance. Payment will be made by personalised payable order books cashable at post offices. A person may appoint an agent to cash the payment on their behalf if they are unable to do so.

A letter issued to all current recipients of disabled person's maintenance allowance on 18 September to remind them of the transfer and of their post office of payment. Payable order books will be available in the post offices from 25 September for collection and the first payment date is 2 October.

The present arrangements for payments of disabled person's maintenance allowance vary as between health boards. In some cases payment is by cheque, in other cases by payable orders at post offices. The pensions payment system, which will be used for payment of disabled person's maintenance allowance, is based on the use of payable orders. I am conscious that, where people were previously on another system of payments, the change may cause some initial difficulties. However each recipient of disabled person's maintenance allowance has been offered the opportunity to change their nominated post office of payment and many have done so. They also have the facility to appoint somebody to collect their payment on their behalf.

I accept, however, the need for alternative methods of payment to be made available and arrangements to do so will be put in place as soon as practicable after the transfer of the scheme has been finalised and the new arrangements are working satisfactorily.