Written Answers. - Pension Provisions.

Dick Spring

Ceist:

390 Mr. Spring asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs if he will amend the regulations under which a person (details supplied) in County Kerry has been informed that this person is allowed to earn only an additional £30 per week as a home help without incurring a reduction in pension entitlement. [27864/01]

In assessing means for widow(er)'s (non-contributory) pension, account is taken of any cash income the person may have, for example, earnings from employment or self-employment, together with the value of any capital or property. In the case of income from employment as a home-help, the first £30 (38.09) of weekly earnings is disregarded. The original rationale for the disregard was to allow people to take up casual employment in the home help service without affecting their social welfare payment, at a time when the service did not come within the realm of conventional employment. Following the conclusion of Labour Court negotiations in June 2001, agreement was reached on a revised overall pay structure for home helps in return for a restructured and enhanced home help service. The agreement provided for the alignment of hourly home help pay rates with the pay rates of other non-nursing health service employees, the payment of travel expenses, premia payments for Saturday/Sunday working and full annual leave entitlement as set out in the part-time workers agreement in the health service.

The revised pay rates were awarded on a phased basis of 75% from 1 January 2000, 85% from 1 July 2000 and the full rate from 1 January 2001. Accordingly, home helps now have full employee status similar to all other health service employees. The Department of Finance has emphasised that during all stages of the negotiations, including the Labour Court, it was made absolutely clear that any concessions, currently enjoyed by home helps in the area of income tax and or social welfare would cease should the unions succeed in their pay claim. In this context, the current arrangements for home helps are being reviewed.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

391 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the fact that an insufficient amount of superannuation payment was deducted from the salary of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5; the reason this must be repaid by this person; if the back payment can be waived; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27458/01]

The person referred to in the Deputy's question is a staff member in the Department who, on 15 August 1984, opted to join the revised spouses and children's contributory pension scheme for established civil servants which was promulgated at the time by way of Department of Finance Circular 16/84. The person concerned was absent on a career break at the time she signed on for the scheme and the normal deduction of 1.5% of salary should have commenced upon her return to duty on 10 April 1989. It recently came to light that, inadvertently, deductions from the staff member's salary towards the scheme have not been made. Accordingly, an amount of £1,636.01 (2,077.30), i.e., 1.5% of various salary rates from 10 April 1989 to 8 November 2001, which should have been collected from the staff member's salary, remains outstanding. This actual amount £1,636.01 (2,077.30) may be paid by deduction from salary until recouped, or by deduction of the full amount from the staff member's lump sum entitlement at the time of retirement from the Civil Service. The staff member has been informed that it is possible to pay additional contributions by periodic deductions from salary in order to reduce the amount deductible from final superannuation awards. The scheme is contributory and all participating in it are required to pay appropriate contributions. Benefits for spouses and children are dependent on the members having paid such contributions. The scheme does not provide for the waiving of contributions.