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Social Welfare Benefits.

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 4 July 2006

Tuesday, 4 July 2006

Ceisteanna (415, 416, 417)

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

426 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of persons who are eligible for the family income supplement but are not availing of the scheme; the number of persons who have availed of the scheme in each year for the past three years; his views on concerns that many people who are due the payment are not getting it due to a lack of information; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26205/06]

Amharc ar fhreagra

David Stanton

Ceist:

433 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the estimate of the percentage of those entitled to the family income supplement who claim the payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26618/06]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Family)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 426 and 433 together.

The Family Income Supplement is designed to provide cash support for employees on low earnings with families. This preserves the incentive to remain in employment in circumstances where the employee might only be marginally better off than if he or she were claiming other social welfare payments.

Currently in the region of 18,500 families, with more than 35,000 children, benefit directly from FIS weekly payments. Families can get payments of between EUR20 and EUR400 a week, depending on their income and the size of their family. The average weekly payment in June was EUR105. Expenditure on FIS in 2005 was EUR72.2million. The information requested by the deputy with regard to recipients over the last three years is contained in the tabular statement following.

The most recent estimate provided by the ESRI was in relation to the year 2000 and suggests that the take-up rate for Family Income Supplement is less than 30 per cent on a caseload basis. Higher entitlements are more likely to be taken up, so the take-up rate on an expenditure basis is closer to 40 per cent.

Improvements to the family income supplement scheme, including the new increased income limits announced in Budget 2006, mean that it is now easier for families to qualify under the scheme. FIS is a key component of a programme of improvements targeted specifically at child poverty.

The provision of information is an essential element in the effective delivery of social welfare schemes and services. The underlying objective of my Department's information policy is to ensure that all citizens are made aware of their entitlements and other supports and are kept informed of changes and improvements to schemes and services as they occur.

To ensure that families are made aware of these improvements, my Department undertook a nationwide awareness campaign to promote and encourage a greatly increased take up of the Family Income Supplement (FIS) scheme for working families on low incomes. This extensive week-long campaign included advertising on TV, on national and local radio and in the national and regional press. A nation-wide poster campaign was also undertaken.

During the media campaign, my Department provided a LoCall helpline for the public to answer their enquiries regarding eligibility under the improved scheme. The helpline responded to over 2,800 calls.

In addition, the scheme was promoted through the Department's network of Local Offices and by Comhairle, the national information support agency, through Citizen Information Centres and their Citizens Information Phone service. Information was also made available through the Department's website.

My Department has been working closely with the Revenue Commissioners to ensure that families on low incomes are made aware of the availability of FIS. Improvements in the scheme were outlined in an information leaflet distributed by the Revenue Commissioners with the 2006 Tax Credit certificates to all PAYE taxpayers. My Department will continue to work with Revenue on other initiatives to ensure that people are made aware of their entitlements in a timely manner.

Every effort is being made to ensure that families eligible for FIS are encouraged to apply for the scheme, and every opportunity is taken by my Department to promote the benefits of the scheme. I am confident that improvements to the FIS scheme will contribute towards targeting resources to low income households.

Table: Number of Recipients of Family Income Supplement

Year end December

Recipients (Families)

Children

2005

17,448

33,956

2004

14,727

29,991

2003

12,317

26,409

2002

12,043

26,531

2001

11,880

26,426

2000

13,181

31,274

Damien English

Ceist:

427 Mr. English asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his plans to introduce a scheme whereby social welfare recipients can receive a rebate against the cost of private waste collection services; the potential cost of such a scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26280/06]

Amharc ar fhreagra

The setting of waste management charges and the introduction of waivers or rebates in respect of waste charges is, as stated by my colleague the Minister for Environment, Heritage and Local Government, a matter for each local authority.

The introduction of a national social welfare scheme to address the issue could be complex given the wide range of charging regimes and cost structures that exist in respect of waste management throughout the State. Any system put in place to assist people who rely on private domestic waste collection would have to be sensitive to the different local arrangements.

It is extremely difficult to estimate the cost of a rebate system in respect of waste disposal charges for social welfare recipients. Charges vary across local authorities and some local authorities already operate waiver schemes. However, based on an average charge of EUR 6 per week, it is tentatively estimated that to introduce a rebate scheme for all social welfare recipients would cost of the order of EUR 90 million per annum in respect of people not already covered by a waiver. I have asked my Department to keep this issue under review.

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