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Social Welfare Benefits.

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 11 November 2008

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Ceisteanna (43)

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

118 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the measures she will take in the next 12 months to increase the take-up of family income supplement. [39488/08]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Family)

The family income supplement scheme (FIS), which provides income support for employees on low earnings with families, is designed to preserve the incentive to move from welfare to (or 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.

Since its introduction concern has been expressed from a number of quarters that there is a low take-up under the scheme. It has not been possible to estimate from administrative sources the number of families who would be eligible but do not apply for their FIS entitlements. However, research undertaken by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) in 1997, which was based on the results of the Living in Ireland Survey 1994, suggested that fewer than one in three of potentially eligible claimants were actually in receipt of the payment at that time. Since those with a higher entitlement are more likely to avail of the scheme, the take-up in expenditure terms was estimated to be somewhat higher, at close to 40% of potential expenditure. Subsequent studies by the ESRI have arrived at similar estimates of take-up.

The Department undertook a nationwide awareness campaign in March 2006 to promote and encourage increased take up of the scheme for working families on low incomes. This extensive 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. In addition, the FIS income thresholds were refocused in 2006 and 2007 to concentrate additional resources on larger families, with, for example, increases ranging from €9 for a one child family to €111 for a family with 8 or more children provided in 2007.

These measures have resulted in a substantial increase in take-up under the scheme, up by almost 50% from 17,450 at the end of 2005 to 26,300 at the end of October, 2008.

Specifically in the next 12 months, the Department will continue to undertake a range of measures to ensure that people are made aware of possible entitlement to FIS. These include the provision of advice to all people who are awarded a one parent family payment or a back to work allowance. Information on FIS is also published on the Department's website and made available through the Citizen's Information Service. The recent Budget also provides for an increase in the income limits for FIS by €10 a week in respect of each child, giving increases ranging from €6 to €48 per week depending on family size, from January 2009. It is estimated that approximately 2,000 additional families will become eligible for a FIS payment following these increases in the income thresholds, bringing the total number of families benefiting from FIS to over 29,000.

Following on from further research undertaken by the ESRI, the Department undertook to determine the current level of take up of FIS among qualifying families and to ascertain the reasons underlying the failure to avail of this payment, where applicable; and carry out an analysis of the existing FIS customer base. This research is now nearing completion and will further guide the Department on the best ways of promoting FIS and encouraging take-up into the future.

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