Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.

Noel Ahern


136 Mr. N. Ahern asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs the payments made to asylum seekers in the past few years, including details of individual entitlements and level of supplementary emergency assistance in total or on average including and excluding housing; and if he will engage in a public information campaign in relation to services, facilities and entitlements being made in order to dispel the urban myths going around about payments being made to them. [10352/00]

The income maintenance needs of asylum seekers are met for the most part by health boards who administer the supplementary welfare allowance – SWA – system on behalf of the Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs. The SWA scheme provides entitlement to any person in the State whose means are insufficient to meet their needs. Payment is made in accordance with the relevant legislation as long as the person is resident in the State. Payments to asylum seekers are made on the same basis as payments to other recipients.

Where a person has access to some resources either in cash or in kind this is taken into account in determining entitlement to SWA. This occurs in the case of asylum seekers who are being provided with full board accommodation. Where a person in full board accommodation receives all meals and has access to other facilities such as laundry and leisure areas the recommended weekly allowance is £15 per adult and £7.50 per child. Furthermore, as is the case with all persons who are resident in the State where there are other reasonable expenses, exceptional needs payments – ENP – will be made by the health board.

Asylum seekers who have not been provided with full board accommodation and who have no other means qualify for the full standard rate of weekly SWA. This amounts to £72 per week for a single adult, £115.20 per week for a couple and £13.20 per week for a dependent child. Asylum seekers who live in private rented accommodation qualify for rent supplement on the same basis as other recipients. For example, a single person living in Dublin can receive up to £64 per week towards rent, while a family can receive up to £155 per week, depending on the number of people in the family.
The total cost of these payments to asylum seekers was £35 million in 1999. This comprised of £23 million in basic weekly payments, £10.5 million in rent supplements and approximately £1.5 million in exceptional needs payments. The amount of exceptional needs payments made in individual cases varies according to the needs of the people concerned but typically could amount to £100 where clothing and footwear were needed. Total expenditure was £12 million in 1997 and £22 million in 1998. It is not possible to provide more detailed statistics for earlier years as payments were not fully computerised.
Since 1998 some 2021 asylum seekers have been awarded child benefit in respect of 3,276 children. No separate details were kept of asylum seekers claims prior to 1998. The monthly rate of child benefit is £34.50 for the first and second child increasing to £46 for third and subsequent children. In addition a small number of asylum seekers are in receipt of one parent family payment at the weekly rate of £88.70 for an adult and one dependant child. The payment is increased by £15.20 for the second and any subsequent child dependant.
The Deputy will appreciate that overall co-ordination in relation to services for asylum seekers is the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. However, my Department is in regular contact with the media and Non-Governmental Organisations – NGOs – concerning the entitlements of asylum seekers under the various schemes of my Department.