Water Conservation Grant Applications

Ceisteanna (287)

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

287. Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of a water conservation grant for persons (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7608/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Statutory Instrument 434 of 2015 provided for the extension of the deadline for the submission of a completed application for the Water Conservation Grant to the Department of Social Protection from 8th October 2015 to 22nd October 2015.

An application was made in respect of the details provided for the first named person and property using the online application system available at that time. This payment was made to that person’s nominated account on 30th September 2015. However, there is no record of an application having been made in respect of the details provided for the second named person prior to the deadline of 22nd October 2015. With regard to WPRN and account numbers, these details were provided by Irish Water to each householder when they registered with it. Irish Water should be able to give these details again to the persons concerned on request.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Data Protection

Ceisteanna (288)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

288. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the way in which the public services card data is collected, stored and processed; if the card will be compliant with the general data protection regulation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7612/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Section 263 of the Social Welfare Consolidation, Act (as amended) provides that:

(a) the following information is inscribed on the Public Services Card (PSC): forename, surname, Personal Public Service (PPS) Number, photograph, signature, card issue number and expiry date; and

(b) the following information is encoded on the chip of the PSC: forename, surname, date of birth, place of birth, sex, nationality, former surnames (if any), mother’s former surnames (if any), photograph, signature, issue number of the PSC, and expiry date of the PSC.

The above data (apart from the issue number and expiry date of the PSC) is part of the Public Service Identity (PSI) dataset as set out in section 262 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 (as amended).

Section 262 also sets out how the sharing and use of the PSI data is restricted to public service bodies specified in law or their agents. Designation as a specified body requires primary legislation and as such can only be done by an Act of the Oireachtas.

The full PSI dataset consists of the surname; forename; date of birth; place of birth; sex; all former surnames (if any); all former surnames (if any) of his or her mother; address; nationality; date of death; certificate of death, where relevant; where required, a photograph of the person, except where the person is deceased; where required, the person’s signature, except where the person is deceased; any other information as may be required for authentication purposes that is uniquely linked to or is capable of identifying that person; and any other information that may be prescribed which, in the opinion of the Minister, is relevant to and necessary for the allocation of a personal public service number.

Section 262 provides that PSI data can only be used by a specified body for authenticating the identity of an individual with whom it has a transaction and in performing its public functions insofar as those functions relate to the person concerned. In addition, where a specified body collects any element of PSI data from a person, that information shall also be collected for the purpose of maintaining the person’s public service identity. The Data Protection Acts as amended, Subsection 1 c iii of Section 2A, also provide for personal data to be processed on condition that “the processing is necessary for the performance of a function of the Government or a Minister of the Government”.

Given its wide range of schemes, services and payments, the Department collects and holds large volumes of personal data on customers and is very aware of the need to have adequate data protection policies, procedures and structures in place in line with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The Department has established a GDPR implementation team which is undertaking a major programme of work to ensure compliance with the GDPR. This implementation programme is overseen by the Department’s Data Management Programme Board. Additionally, specific GDPR training and awareness is being provided by the GDPR implementation team and a specialist external training company to staff and senior managers across the Department.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Social Insurance Rates

Ceisteanna (289)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

289. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the estimated cost to the Exchequer and the Social Insurance Fund in a full year if all PRSI benefits available to employed persons on class A PRSI were extended to the self-employed without a change of the rates currently charged. [7616/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Self-employed workers who earn €5,000 or more in a contribution year, are liable for PRSI at the Class S rate of 4%, subject to a minimum annual payment of €500. This provides them with access to the following benefits: State pension (contributory) and widow’s, widower’s or surviving civil partner’s pension (contributory), guardian’s payment (contributory), maternity benefit, adoptive benefit, paternity benefit and treatment benefit (from March 2017). Entitlement to invalidity pension was extended to the self-employed from 1st December 2017.

This compares favourably with employees who, in general, are liable to the Class A rate of 4%. In addition their employers are liable to PRSI at the rate of 8.6% on weekly earnings up to and including €376 or at the rate of 10.85% where weekly earnings exceed €376. Accordingly the combined rate of PRSI rate paid in respect of Class A employees is 12.6% or 14.85%, depending on the level of weekly earnings. These Class A employees are entitled to the full range of social insurance benefits.

The issue of extending additional social insurance benefits to the self-employed paying Class S PRSI was considered in the Actuarial Review of the Social Insurance fund (SIF) as at 31 December, 2015, which I published on 18 October 2017. The Review, required by legislation, was carried out by independent consultants, KPMG. It examines the projected income and expenditure of the SIF over the course of the 55 year period from 2016 to 2071.

The Review found that the fund currently has a modest surplus of income over expenditure. In 2016 there was a surplus of €0.4 billion on expenditure of €8.8 billion and receipts of €9.2 billion. However, this will reduce and will return to a small shortfall in 2020. The annual shortfalls are projected to increase from 2021 onwards as the ageing of the population impacts. Projections indicate that, in the absence of further action to tackle the shortfall, the excess of expenditure over income of the fund will increase significantly over the medium to long term. The shortfall in expenditure over income is projected to increase from €0.2 billion in 2020 to €3.3 billion by 2030 and to €22.2 billion by 2071. It should be noted that as self-employed workers became eligible to apply for invalidity pension from December 2017, the cost of this introduction has been factored into the Actuarial Review.

As part of the Review the independent consultants were required to project the additional PRSI expenditure if invalidity pension and illness, jobseeker’s and carer’s benefits were extended to Class S self-employed workers and the PRSI contribution rates required to provide these benefits on a revenue neutral basis.

The Review found that the combined cost of introducing the invalidity, illness, jobseeker’s and carer’s benefits for class S contributions is estimated to be €118 million in 2018, rising steadily to €223 million in 2020. By 2025 the projected cost is €413 million and, over the period of the review the cost would rise to €1.3 billion in 2071.

It should be noted that the projected expenditure on jobseeker’s benefit assume the same incidence rate as prevail in the employed (PRSI Class A) population. The following table gives a breakdown of the costs of the individual benefits:

Projected costs of extending Invalidity Pension, Illness Benefit, Jobseekers Benefit, Carer’s Benefit (€m)

Year

Invalidity

Illness

Jobseeker’s

Carer’s

Total

2017

3

0

0

0

3

2018

30

40

45

2

118

2019

59

54

58

3

173

2020

87

72

60

4

223

2021

125

88

63

5

281

2022

152

94

67

5

317

2023

176

99

71

5

351

2024

198

104

75

6

382

2025

218

108

81

6

413

The Review indicates that, where these benefits are extended to the self-employed, the Class S rate of PRSI contribution would need to increase substantially in order to ensure that the benefits are delivered in a revenue neutral manner. It estimates that when expenditure on the additional benefits is considered over the entire projection period, PRSI rates would need to increase by 94% under a scenario of no subvention from the exchequer. This is equivalent to an increase of the Class S contribution rate from the current 4% rate to 7.8%.

This increased contribution is attributable to the costs of extending these additional benefits to PRSI Class S contributors. It does not take account of the value to PRSI Class S contributors of access to the range of existing benefits, and in particular State pension (contributory).

The consultants estimated that the typical cost of State pension (contributory) on its own is of the order of 10% to 15%, depending on other factors including rate of average earnings and date of commencing paying PRSI. Adding in the other benefits referenced the total Class S rate of contribution to ensure revenue neutrality would be of the order of 20% per annum.

The findings of the Review will play an important role in informing the overall debate on policy developments in relation to the Social Insurance Fund in the years ahead including the financial sustainability of the Fund given the expected demographic challenges and consideration of extending the scope of benefits for workers generally, including the self-employed.

Data Protection

Ceisteanna (290)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

290. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the preparedness of her Department in the context of the incoming general data protection regulation, GDPR, EU 2016/679; if staff in her Department have undertaken or been offered specific training and-or briefing on the GDPR; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7645/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into effect on the 25th May 2018. This is the one of most significant developments in European data protection law in over 30 years. The GDPR strengthens the rights of data subjects and will have many implications for my Department.

Accordingly, the Department has established a dedicated unit to prepare for the implementation of the GDPR and the work of this unit is overseen by a high level Data Management Programme Board.

The GDPR unit has a number of work streams to work through to ensure a smooth transition once the GDPR comes into effect. While my Department already has strict data protection guidelines, policies and procedures, all are being reviewed and updated to ensure that the processing of all personal data is GDPR compliant before 25 May. All data sharing arrangements are also being reviewed to ensure compliance with the Regulation.

The GDPR unit is finalising a training and awareness programme through which over 6,500 staff will be advised of the key impacts of the GDPR. The awareness programme has already commenced with an initial article on GDPR last October for the Data Protection Awareness Week which issued to all staff.

More recently, a series of GDPR briefing sessions has been given to more than 600 staff and a series of business level meetings took place with some of the major processors of personal data. These will continue over the coming weeks and months. In addition, my Department is committed to delivering GDPR training to all staff in advance of the 25 May implementation date.

Exceptional Needs Payment Appeals

Ceisteanna (291)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

291. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if eligibility for an exceptional needs payment in the case of a person (details supplied) will be reviewed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7743/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Determinations made by Designated Persons in relation to claims made under Section 201 of the Social Welfare (Consolidation Act) 2005, i.e. Exceptional Needs Payments can be reviewed by a SWA Reviewing Officer under Section 323 of that Act.

As the Deputy has requested that a review be conducted, the relevant review officer has been notified of your request and they will now commence the review process. Once the review has been completed, the outcome of the review will be communicated to the person concerned and the Deputy.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Exceptional Needs Payment Appeals

Ceisteanna (292)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

292. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if eligibility for an exceptional needs payment in the case of a person (details supplied) will be reviewed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7761/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Determinations made by Designated Persons in relation to claims made under Section 201 of the Social Welfare (Consolidation Act) 2005, i.e. Exceptional Needs Payments can be reviewed by a SWA Reviewing Officer under Section 323 of that Act.

As the Deputy has requested that a review be conducted, the relevant review officer has been notified of your request and they will now commence the review process. Once the review has been completed, the outcome of the review will be communicated to the person concerned and the Deputy.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

State Pension (Contributory) Eligibility

Ceisteanna (293)

Seán Fleming

Ceist:

293. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if a person (details supplied) who was on the transition pension prior to the changes being introduced in respect of eligibility for the State contributory pension in 2013 can obtain the rate that was effective at the time the person went on the transition pension; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7763/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Prior to reaching age 66, the person concerned was in receipt of a mixed insurance pro rata state pension (transition), based on a combination of full-rate and modified contributions. The person concerned is currently in receipt of state pension (contributory) with effect from 19 April 2013, their 66th birthday.

According to the records of my Department, the person concerned has a social insurance record of 1,152 reckonable paid and credited contributions. They are in receipt of a reduced state pension (contributory) at the correct rate based on an assessed yearly average of 23 contributions, covering the period from October 1963 to end-December 2012 inclusive.

The person concerned received their correct rate of mixed insurance pro rata state pension (transition) and is currently in receipt of their correct rate of state pension (contributory) based on their contribution history held by my Department.

If the person concerned considers they have additional contributions that have not been recorded, it is open to them to forward documentary evidence of any missing periods of employment to my Department and their pension entitlement will be reviewed. I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Pension Provisions

Ceisteanna (294)

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

294. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if the home care credits in the total contributions approach to be adopted in 2020 will be allocated in the same way that unemployment credits are, that is, in the same contribution year a person can have a mix of paid contributions and home care credits; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7769/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

On 23 January, the Government agreed to a proposal that will allow pensioners affected by the 2012 changes in rate bands to have their pension entitlement calculated by a new “Total Contributions Approach” (TCA) which will include up to 20 years of a new HomeCaring credit. Unlike the current Homemakers scheme, this credit will apply to periods both before and after 1994. This approach is expected to significantly benefit many people, particularly women, whose work history includes an extended period of time outside the paid workplace, while raising families or in a caring role. It will make it easier for such pensioners to qualify for a higher rate of the State Pension (contributory). The TCA will ensure that the totality of a person’s social insurance contributions - as opposed to the timing of them - determines a final pension outcome, and it also acknowledges, for the first time, the contribution made by home-carers in the period before 1994.

The TCA model proposed for post-2020 pensioners has yet to be decided upon, as the Government proposal will not be finalised until after a public consultation later this year. There are a number of factors, not just the number of years required for a full pension, which influence outcomes, and I will consider very carefully the priorities identified by stakeholders in that consultation process.

Accordingly, the policy regarding Home-Caring credits has also not been finalised. However, it is my intention that it will be possible for Home-Caring credits to be allocated in the same year as paid contributions, where appropriate.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.