Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 27 Nov 1996

Vol. 472 No. 2

Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.

Seamus Kirk


71 Mr. Kirk asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he will review the situation where child dependant payments are discontinued for children of short-term social welfare recipients when the children are in full-time education after the age of 18 years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18993/96]

Brendan Kenneally


84 Mr. Kenneally asked the Minister for Social Welfare the reason a person on unemployment benefit cannot claim for a dependant beyond the age of 18 years of age in full-time education, whereas a person on long-term unemployment assistance can claim for a dependant over the age of 18 years in full-time education; the steps, if any, he will take to address this anomaly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21942/96]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 71 and 84 together.

Child dependent allowances are payable in respect of all children up to the age of 18 years. Where a claimant is in receipt of a long-term social welfare payment, child dependant allowances are payable where children are in full-time education up to the age of 22 years, or up to the end of the academic year after the 22nd birthday. This is in recognition of the fact that families with children on long-term payments face a higher risk of poverty.
In this year's budget I continued the policy direction which I initiated last year with regard to financial support for children. Following on from the increases given last year, child benefit was increased by £2 per child per month from September. This has brought the monthly payment to £29 for the first two children and to £34 for the third and subsequent children. Taking the last two years together, a 45 per cent increase has been provided in respect of the first two children and a 36 per cent increase for other children.
Child benefit remains one of our most effective means of tackling poverty, as it channels resources directly to families most in need. It is of particular importance to families on low incomes as it is not taxable, is not withdrawn when an unemployed parent takes up employment and is not assessed as means for other secondary benefits such as differential rents, medical cards, etc. Therefore, it cannot act as a disincentive to taking up employment or improving wages.
I will be considering further improvements in the system of child income support in the context of formulating proposals for next year's budget. In this regard, I will be taking account of the findings of the Expert Working Group on the Integration of the Tax and Social Welfare Systems in relation to the provision of child income support, which are contained in the recently published final report.

Seán Doherty


73 Mr. Doherty asked the Minister for Social Welfare the services available from his Department to families with disabilities; and the improvements, if any, he proposes to make to such services. [22286/96]

The primary services available from my Department to people with disabilities, and their families, are invalidity pension, disability allowance, occupational injuries scheme and the carer's allowance. Invalidity pension is available to people suffering from a long-term illness or incapacity.

The disability allowance scheme replaced the disabled person's maintenance allowance formerly administered through the health boards. Responsibility for this area was transferred to my Department in October 1996 and the new disability allowance included a number of improvements which broadened the scope of the scheme. The means test arrangements were amended to increase both the amount of capital and a spouse's earnings which can be disregarded when assessing entitlement to this allowance. Other improvements included extending the period of payment for people admitted to hospitals and a continuation of child dependant payments up to age 22 for those who remain in full-time education.
The carer's allowance provides a weekly payment to people looking after an elderly or incapacitated relative on a full-time basis. Improvements to this scheme in 1996 included an 8 per cent increase in payment rates, increasing the amount of the spouse's earnings disregard to £150 per week and abolition of the clawback rule for rent and mortgage supplements. The occupational injuries scheme provides a payment to people who are injured in the course of their work or contract an occupational disease.
People with disabilities who satisfy the statutory conditions may also qualify for additional benefits such as free electricity or gas allowances, free TV licence and telephone rental and also free travel, including a compansion pass for public transport where necessary.
Further improvements in social welfare schemes, including services for people with disabilities, are a matter for consideration in the context of the annual budget.