Invalidity Pension Appeals

Ceisteanna (241)

Patrick Nulty

Ceist:

241. Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15 will have their appeal for invalidity pension heard; if an oral hearing will be granted; the reason for the delay; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11724/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 28 February 2014. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. When these papers have been received from the Department, the appeal in question will be referred to an Appeals Officer who will consider whether the appeal can be determined by means of a summary decision based on the documentary evidence presented or, whether an oral hearing is required. The Appeals Officer will be advised that the person concerned has requested an oral hearing.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Budget 2014

Question No. 244 withdrawn

Ceisteanna (243)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

243. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection the measures she intends to introduce to realise the €2.1 million spending cut in exceptional needs payments announced in Budget 2014. [11741/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

Under the supplementary welfare allowance (SWA) scheme, the Department may make a single exceptional needs payment (ENP) to help meet essential, once-off and unforeseen expenditure which a person could not reasonably be expected to meet out of their weekly income. The Government has provided €31.3 million for the scheme in 2014. There is no automatic entitlement to a payment. ENPs are payable at the discretion of the officers administering the scheme taking into account the requirements of the legislation and all the relevant circumstances of the case in order to ensure that the payments target those most in need of assistance. Reductions announced as part of Budget 2014 will be achieved by on-going review of recommended payment rates under the ENP scheme to ensure consistency with regard to payment levels on a national basis.

Question No. 244 withdrawn.

Carer's Allowance Applications

Ceisteanna (245)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

245. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will expedite a carer's allowance application in respect of a person (details supplied). [11785/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

I confirm that the Department received an application for carer’s allowance from the person in question on the 28th August 2013. The person concerned was refused carers allowance on the grounds that the care recipient is not so disabled as to require full-time care and attention as prescribed in regulations. He was notified of this decision on the 28th of November 2013, the reasons for it and of his right of review or appeal. The person in question requested a review of this decision and submitted additional medical evidence in support of the application. This additional evidence is being reviewed and the application is with a deciding officer for a decision. Once processed, the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

Social Welfare Fraud Investigations

Ceisteanna (246)

Terence Flanagan

Ceist:

246. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of benefit fraud inspectors working in her Department her plans to employ more inspectors; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11786/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

The control process is an integral part of the day-to-day operations of the Department and all staff involved in the administration of the various social welfare schemes are acutely aware of the need to implement appropriate controls at every stage of the process. The exclusive function of the Department’s Special Investigation Unit, SIU, is to investigate and report on fraud and abuse of social welfare schemes. It involves a broad range of management, liaison, enforcement, investigative and intelligence gathering duties and operates at the high or more organised end of social welfare fraud and abuse. The Unit carries out a wide range of control activities and projects and it also works closely with Revenue staff in Joint Investigation Units, with staff from the National Employment Rights Authority, the Gardaí and other compliance and enforcement agencies.

There are currently 91 staff in the SIU. In addition, 5 others are seconded to the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) and 2 are in the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB). The secondment of 20 members of the Garda Síochána to the Department to assist the SIU with fraud investigation work has been agreed by myself, my colleague Alan Shatter T.D., Minister of Justice and the Garda Commissioner. This proposal is being progressed at present and I expect the officers to be seconded to the Department over the coming months. Other inspectors of the Department are also actively involved in control investigations as part of their day to day activities.

Social Welfare Fraud Investigations

Question No. 252 withdrawn

Ceisteanna (247, 248, 249, 250, 251)

Terence Flanagan

Ceist:

247. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will confirm the approximate timeframe after a suspected case of benefit fraud is reported to her Department that the matter is investigated by her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11787/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Terence Flanagan

Ceist:

248. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will confirm of those suspected benefit fraud cases that have been referred to her Department by members of the public that have resulted in a prosecution or a person's benefit being cut, the percentage which consisted of jobseeker's allowance claims, disability allowance claims, one-parent family claims, and carer's allowance claims; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11788/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Terence Flanagan

Ceist:

249. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of investigations that are pending following reports from the public of suspected benefit fraud cases to her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11794/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Terence Flanagan

Ceist:

250. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of cases of suspected benefit fraud reported to her Department by members of the public that have resulted in a claimant's benefit being cut and a prosecution for benefit fraud; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11795/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Terence Flanagan

Ceist:

251. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of cases of suspected benefit fraud that were reported to her Department in the past three years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11796/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 247 to 251, inclusive, together.

The Department of Social Protection receives reports of possible fraud from members of the public in relation to the operation of its schemes. A dedicated phone number and a facility on the Department’s website is available for this purpose. It should be borne in mind that while there is often a perception of fraud, when a case is examined the individual may, in fact, be doing something that is allowed under the rules of the particular payment that they are receiving. For example, a person can work and receive a One-Parent Family Payment, provided their earnings are within the limits and the Department is aware of the situation.

All anonymous or confidential reports are examined and, where relevant, are referred to scheme areas or inspectors for follow-up action. While a payment is not suspended or stopped on the basis of an anonymous report, the report may, however, “trigger” a review of a customer’s entitlement. Anonymous reports are not available to Deciding Officers when they are making their decisions on cases. The Deciding Officer’s decision must be based on the full facts and circumstances of the case and, as a result, statistics are not available on the outcome of anonymous reports. The following are the number of anonymous reports received in the Department’s Control Division in the period 2011 to 2013:

-

2011

2012

2013

Total

16,917

28,022

24,720

There were 22,420 reports processed in 2013. A report of suspected fraud was referred to the relevant area for examination in 15,431 of these cases and 6,989 other cases were not referred for various reasons such as, not possible to process due to lack of information, no claim being in payment or the information reported had no impact on entitlement.

The following is the scheme breakdown of the reports referred to scheme areas for further investigation:

Scheme Breakdown

No.

Jobseekers cases (include JA & JB)

6,196

SWA

3,177

One-Parent Family cases (include WOPS)

3,892

Illness

2,151

Child Benefit

462

Other

3,462

Total

19,340

The total scheme breakdown is more than the 15,431 cases referred as some clients may be in receipt of more than one payment.

As outlined above, anonymous reports are used to “trigger” or instigate investigations but they do not form any part of the evidence and are not taken into account when the review of the customer’s payment is being decided. Therefore, detailed statistics of the timeframe taken to investigate anonymous reports, the number of investigations pending or the outcomes of anonymous reports are unavailable. Furthermore, anonymous or confidential reports of abuse do not form any part of the evidence when a case is being considered for prosecution.

Question No. 252 withdrawn.

Departmental Legal Costs

Ceisteanna (253)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

253. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will set out in tabular form, by reference each named firm, the amount paid out in respect of legal fees during 2013 by her Department to law firms in or outside the State for services rendered to it; if she will provide in a similar format the amount paid out in respect of legal fees during 2013 by State bodies including commercial or non-commercial and regulatory bodies established by or under her Department, to law firms in or outside the State for services rendered to it; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11877/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

The Department made no payments to law firms in respect of legal fees for services rendered to it in 2013. The Department’s legal advisers are the Office of the Chief State Solicitor and the Office of the Attorney General. The statutory bodies operating under the aegis of the Department of Social Protection are the Citizens Information Board, the Pensions Board, the Pensions Ombudsman and the Social Welfare Tribunal. Payments to law firms by these statutory bodies for services rendered to them in 2013 is set out in the following tables.

The Pensions Ombudsman:

Law Firm

Amount - €

Matheson Solicitors

60,764

Eversheds

47,546

LK Shields

13,413

Paul Anthony McDermott BL

12,977

Nolan Farrell & Goff Solicitors

7,059

Arthur Cox Solicitors

4,167

Alan DP Brady BL

1,230

Total:

147,156

The Pensions Board:

Law Firm

Amount - €

Matheson Ormsby Prentice

18,276

A&L Goodbody

16,759

Mark Lyman

11,193

Michael Delaney

11,132

O’Donnell Sweeney

9,277

Remy Farrell

1,353

Mairéad McKenna

2,030

David Humphries

1,230

Total:

71,250

Citizens Information Board:

Law Firm

Amount - €

Mason Hayes Curran

78,485

There were no legal fees paid in respect of the Social Welfare Tribunal in 2013.

Labour Activation Projects

Question No. 255 withdrawn

Ceisteanna (254)

Willie O'Dea

Ceist:

254. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason her Department invited unemployed persons to a conference in Liffey Valley and then cancelled the event; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11923/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

An Education and Training Options Fair opened in the Clarion Hotel Liffey Valley at 12 noon on Thursday 27 February and was due to run until 7.00 p.m. Such Fairs are among the regular events which the Department organises throughout the country to help jobseekers return to work, training and education, and are a key component of the Department’s strategy to reduce unemployment, which, as recent figures from the Central Statistics Office illustrate, is falling steadily.

Some 34 education and training providers had stands to showcase the courses they provide free of charge to jobseekers. A total of 30,000 invitations were issued to jobseekers, 11,000 of which were letters and the remainder were texts. Based on previous attendance rates at similar Department of Social Protection events, some 5,000 customers were expected to attend over the course of the day.

However, it was decided before lunchtime to close the event due to the unexpectedly high numbers attending in the first hour and the consequent traffic difficulties this was causing in the area. The Department is now conducting a review of the arrangements put in place for the Fair, with a view to ensuring there is no repeat of the problems at future such events. Of the invitation letters issued in advance of the Fair, 1,000 stated that if the customer did not attend, it could be taken into account at a later stage. However, in light of the situation which arose these customers will not be affected in any way.

Question No. 255 withdrawn.

Community Employment Schemes Funding

Ceisteanna (256)

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

256. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection her views on correspondence (details supplied) regarding a family resource centre in Dublin 8; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11933/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

The issue raised by the Family Resource Centre Community Development Project in St. Michael’s Estate, Inchicore, relates to the Community Lynks Special Drugs Community Employment (CE) scheme which is funded by the Department. The Operating Procedures for CE schemes outline the required ratios of supervision to number of participants; 1 to 25 participants on mainstream CE projects. Where the number of participants exceeds 25, an assistant supervisory post can be approved. However CE schemes involved in the drug rehabilitation strand have a lower participant to supervisor ratio due to the different nature of the clients participating on those schemes. The standard ratio is 7 drugs rehabilitation-referred participants and 2 mainstream participants to 1 supervisory post for dedicated drugs rehabilitation schemes. This adjusted ratio was agreed, in consultation with statutory, community and voluntary sector representatives, under the nine special conditions to support the delivery of drug rehabilitation places on CE.

Departmental officials met with representatives from the Community Lynks Special Drugs CE scheme on Thursday 27 February 2014 to discuss matters in relation to a particular situation that has arisen in the scheme; a six month contract for a temporary supervisory post was a due for completion on Friday 7 March 2014. However, this has been extended for one month to facilitate the scheme with regard to maintaining a sufficient number of participants to warrant this post. The matter will then be reviewed.

Departmental officials also confirmed to the Community Lynks CE scheme representatives that there will be no change in the numbers of places on the scheme at 40 approved places; the scheme currently has 36 participants. The scheme has been asked to review the intake of participants to ensure the sustainability of take-up of places on to the scheme. Furthermore, officials have advised the scheme that approval for additional places will be sanctioned if the sponsors show a demand for such places.

Jobseeker's Allowance Appeals

Question No. 258 withdrawn

Ceisteanna (257)

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

257. Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason a person (details supplied) in County Limerick was refused jobseeker's allowance when written evidence was submitted that they were actively seeking work in the jobs market; when a decision will be made. [11947/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

The person concerned was disallowed Jobseeker's Allowance by a Deciding Officer of the Department who was not satisfied that he was genuinely seeking employment based on the evidence presented in support of his application. The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 4 March 2013. The case will be referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral hearing. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions in relation to social welfare entitlements.

Question No. 258 withdrawn.

Carer's Allowance Applications

Ceisteanna (259)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

259. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the progress made to date in determination of an application for carer's allowance in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11958/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

I confirm that the Department received an application for carer’s allowance from the person in question on the 13th February 2014. Once processed, the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.