Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.

Noel Ahern

Ceist:

276 Mr. N. Ahern asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs if he will clarify the situation in relation to the method of increases in the budgets of spring 1997 and December 1997; if he will clarify the situation in relation to those on reduced payments; if increases of £3 in the spring budget and £5 in the December budget are for those on the full social welfare rate only; and if he will outline the actual increases in relation to a person (details supplied) in County Wexford. [22848/97]

The 1997 budget, which was announced on 22 January 1997, provided for a £3 increase in the maximum weekly personal rates of all social welfare payments, with proportionate increases in reduced rate contributory payments.

The 1998 budget, which was announced on 3 December 1997, provided for an increase of £5 in the maxium weekly personal rates for all old age and related pensions, with proportionate increases for reduced rate contributory pensions. The 1998 budget also provides for an increase of £3 in the maximum weekly personal rates of all other social welfare payments, with proportionate increases for reduced rate contributory payments. The qualified audit allowance will be increased by 3 per cent in general.

To qualify for a non-contributory social assistance payment a person must satisfy a means test. Where a person does not have any means, the maximum rate of payment is paid. However, where there are means, the amount payable is the difference between the maximum rate of payment and the level of the person's weekly means. Accordingly, where the maximum weekly rate of a social assistance payment is increased by, say, £5, then all recipients of that payment will receive the £5 increase.

The person referred to by the Deputy is over the age of 66 and in receipt of a widow's (non-contributory) pension at a reduced rate because of means. Her pension will, therefore, be increased by £5 from the beginning of June 1998.

The increases provided for in the 1998 budget will benefit 890,000 social welfare recipients. Approximately 270,000 pensioners aged 66 and over will have their payments increased by £5 a week, with some 54,000 people on reduced rate contributory pensions receiving proportionate increases. Approximately 560,000 people under 66 years will have their payments increased by £3 a week, with some 6,000 people on reduced rate contributory payments receiving proportionate increases.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

277 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs the decision, if any, made on an appeal made four or five weeks ago for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [22853/97]

The person concerned was in receipt of unemployment assistance at the weekly rate of £74.70. Following a review of her entitlement, means of £56 a week were assessed, based on her husband's earnings, resulting in a reduction in the rate of unemployment assistance payable to £24.70 a week from 5 November, 1997.

The claimant appealed this decision on 7 November. The appeal will be considered by an appeals officer shortly and the claimant will be advised of the outcome as soon as possible.