Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Ceisteanna (214, 215, 216)

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

264 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the status of the renewal of family income supplement for a person (details supplied) in County Wexford; when a decision will be made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17794/07]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Family)

Family Income Supplement is designed to provide income support for employees on low earnings with children and thereby preserve the incentive to remain in employment in circumstances where the employee might only be marginally better off than if s/he were claiming other Social Welfare payments. My Department received an application for Family Income Supplement from the person concerned on 19 April 2007. It was necessary for her application to be referred to a Social Welfare Inspector for investigation of her employment. The information required to complete the investigation has now been received from her employer, and the Inspector is completing his report. The application will be referred shortly for decision which will be communicated to the person concerned.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

265 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if a person (details supplied) in County Cork is entitled to the back to education scheme. [17823/07]

Amharc ar fhreagra

The back to education allowance (BTEA) is a second chance education opportunities scheme designed to encourage and facilitate people on certain social welfare payments to improve their skills and qualifications and, therefore, their prospects of returning to the active work force. It is designed to assist people on long-term social welfare payments and is not intended for the general population. To qualify for participation an applicant must be in receipt of a relevant social welfare payment and must be at least 21 years of age before commencing an approved course of study. The person concerned is not in receipt of a qualifying payment and will not qualify for participation in the BTEA scheme. The requirement to be in receipt of a relevant social welfare payment for a minimum period has always been a feature of the BTEA scheme and this eligibility criteria is considered necessary to ensure that limited resources are directed at those most in need.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

266 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will review the qualifying criteria for the fuel allowance with a view to including people in receipt of a small occupational pension as eligible applicants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17843/07]

Amharc ar fhreagra

The aim of the national fuel scheme is to assist householders on long-term social welfare or health service executive payments with meeting the cost of their additional heating needs during the winter season. Fuel allowances are paid for 29 weeks from end-September to mid-April and are not intended to meet the full cost of heating. Some 274,000 people benefited from the fuel allowance in 2006 at an estimated annual cost of €125.1million. As a consequence of the increase in rate and the increase in the income threshold for eligibility as announced in the recent Budget, annual expenditure on the scheme in 2007 will increase by an estimated €36.4 million. The total annual cost in 2007 is estimated at €161.5 million. Eligibility to the fuel allowance scheme is subject to means and other conditions. The main conditions that apply to the fuel allowance scheme are that a person must be in receipt of a qualifying payment, must satisfy a means test and must either be living alone or with a qualifying dependant. People who already qualify for means-tested pensions or allowances such as old age (non-contributory) pension, long-term unemployment assistance or one-parent family payment do not have to undergo a further means test to qualify for fuel allowance. Most people who receive fuel allowances qualify because they satisfy the relevant means test for their primary weekly payment. However, from 29 September 2006 people in receipt of the State Pension can have earnings of up to €100 per week from insurable employment and still maintain their entitlement to fuel allowance.

In the case of contributory pensions such as State pension (contributory), State pension (transition) and invalidity pensions which are not means tested, earnings from insurable employment and/or occupational pensions are normally regarded as means for the purpose of determining an individual's entitlement to a fuel allowance. A person may have a combined household income of up to €100 per week, or savings/investments of up to €58,000, over and above the maximum rate of State pension (contributory) and still qualify for fuel allowance. Any changes in the means rules for the scheme, would have cost implications and would have to be considered in the context of the budget and in the light of the resources available for improvements in social welfare generally. In addition to the fuel allowance, some 340,000 pensioner and other households qualify for electricity or gas allowances through the household benefits package, payable towards their heating, light and cooking costs throughout the year, at an overall cost of €117 million in 2006.