Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.

Tony Gregory

Ceist:

537 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he will review the decision to refuse a back-to-school clothing allowance to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7 who is currently in receipt of an orphan's allowance. [16403/96]

The back to school clothing and footwear allowance scheme, which is administered on behalf of my Department by the health boards, is designed to assist certain recipients of social welfare and health board payments with the cost of children's school uniforms and footwear. Certain people on low incomes who are in receipt of family income supplement may also qualify for assistance.

In order to qualify for the allowance, the applicant must be in receipt of a qualifying payment and must satisfy a means test. The means test takes account of any income over and above the appropriate rate of survivor's (widow's and widower's) contributory pension plus £5 where the guardian is single, and contributory old age pension plus £5 where the guardian is one of a couple. Where the income of a household exceeds these limits, the back to school clothing and footwear allowance is not payable.

This year the back to school clothing and footwear allowance is paid on an age related basis. The rates of allowance payable have been increased by £3. This means that under the 1996 scheme, an allowance of £43 is payable in respect of children from two to 11 years of age and an allowance of £58 is payable in respect of qualified children from 12 to 21 years of age. I have extended the scheme to recipients of unemployability supplement who satisfy the means assessment.

Orphan's pension is not considered to be a qualifying payment under the terms of the back to school clothing and footwear scheme. The orphan's pension, which is a basic social welfare payment, is payable to the guardian and is intended to cover the child's cost of living, including food and clothing. Eligible applicants will receive either a contributory or non-contributory orphan's pension of up to £42.60 per week.

In comparison, the allowance paid in respect of dependent children with other social welfare or health board payments is either £13.20 of £15.20 per week. The higher rate of orphan's pension, as compared with the child dependant allowance rate, means that the guardian receives an additional income of up to £1,528 per annum in respect of the orphaned child.
With reference to the specific case mentioned by the Deputy, the orphan's guardians are in receipt of an orphan's pension. In addition, they are both in employment and their earnings substantially exceed the limit for their family size for the back to school clothing and footwear allowance.
Some 280,000 pupils will benefit under the scheme this year at a cost of approximately £13.8 million. The scheme opens for applications in all health boards from June each year. This is to allow adequate time to process the large number of applications.

Tony Gregory

Ceist:

540 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he will review the decision to refuse a widow's pension to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9 whose second marriage was annulled after three weeks. [16461/96]

A widow's contributory pension may be paid on the basis of the insurance record either of the widow or of her late husband. Where a widow remarries, her widow's pension entitlement ceases. Should she become a widow a second time, title to pension is based on either her own social insurance, or that of her second husband, at the time.

The person concerned was in receipt of a widow's contributory pension until she remarried abroad by civil registration ceremony in 1971. This marriage broke up after a short period and she returned to Ireland and married again in 1972 in an Irish church ceremony. When her partner of that church marriage died in 1990 it was decided that she was not entitled to a widow's pension as their marriage could not be recognised by the State for legal or pension purposes, and as her legal husband was apparently still alive. She appealed this but the independent social welfare appeals officer confirmed the decision.

She was awarded a lone parent's allowance in 1990. However, her entitlement to that allowance ceased on 19 September 1996, as she no longer has qualified dependent children residing with her. Arrangements have been made to pay her a deserted wife's allowance of £6.50 per week instead, with effect from 26 September 1996. This reduced rate takes account of a separate local authority pension she is receiving as well. She will also receive a fuel allowance of £8 a week from mid-October to mid-April.
In her particular marital circumstances, there is no legal basis on which the person concerned can be reconsidered for a widow's contributory pension.

Noel Ahern

Ceist:

541 Mr. N. Ahern asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he will reconsider an application from a person (details supplied) for a free telephone rental allowance in view of the fact that she is a widow living alone. [16492/96]

The person concerned is 62 years old and in receipt of a widow's contributory pension and free electricity allowance.

One of the qualifying conditions for entitlement to a free telephone rental allowance for a widow aged between 60 and 65 is that her late husband must have been in receipt of this allowance prior to his death. This condition, introduced in 1994, is intended to provide continuity of existing free scheme entitlements for a widow or widower under pension age following the death of their pensioner spouse.

Since her late husband was not in receipt of a free telephone rental allowance, the person concerned is not entitled to this allowance at present. She will qualify for the allowance in her own right when she reaches 66 years of age and should apply nearer that time so that the allowance may be applied to her telephone account.