Question No. 2480 answered with Question No. 2427.

Carer's Allowance Eligibility

Ceisteanna (2481)

John McGuinness

Ceist:

2481. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if a person (details supplied) is in receipt of her full entitlements. [33273/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Carer's allowance (CA) is a means-tested social assistance payment made to a person who is habitually resident in the State and providing full-time care and attention to a person who has such a disability that they require that level of care.

The person concerned is in receipt of the maximum amount of CA payable to a person caring for one child.

In addition she receives an increase for two qualified children as well as a domiciliary care allowance, which is a monthly payment for a child aged under 16 with a severe disability, who requires ongoing care and attention, substantially over and above the care and attention usually required by a child of the same age. It is not means tested.

The person concerned is also in receipt of child benefit for two qualified children. Each of these payments is at the maximum rate.

Entitlements to other payments are dependent on a person’s circumstances. If she feels that she may have an entitlement to another payment issued by my department, she should contact the information officer in her local Intreo office.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

State Pension (Contributory)

Ceisteanna (2482)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

2482. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason that 4% of State pension contributory claims were not awarded within processing time standards, according to the public service performance report 2017. [33278/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Having achieved a target of ninety six per cent as indicated by the Deputy in the Public Service Performance Report 2017, demonstrates that my Department has in fact exceeded its target of ninety per cent of claims processed by date of entitlement, currently the applicant’s 66th birthday. The target of ninety per cent of widow’s, widower's or surviving civil partner's contributory pension claims processed within 6 weeks has also been exceeded for 2017.

My Department is committed to ensuring that claims are processed as expeditiously as possible. Processing times vary across schemes, depending on the differing qualification criteria. Delays can arise if additional information is required from either claimants or from other sources such as previous employers or from social security authorities in other jurisdictions. In the case of claimants who have been self-employed, clarification may be required in relation to their records and there may be outstanding PRSI liabilities.

As part of the Department’s programme of service delivery modernisation, a range of initiatives aimed at streamlining the processing of claims, supported by modern technology, have been implemented in recent years. Operational processes, procedures and the organisation of work are continually reviewed to ensure that processing capability is maximised. In addition, the staffing needs of the Department are regularly reviewed, having regard to workloads and the competing demands arising, to ensure that the best use is made of available resources.

I want to assure the Deputy that prompt processing of claims is an ongoing priority for my Department. Each scheme area is continuously monitored and processing procedures reviewed to ensure that claims are decided as quickly as possible when all necessary information is to hand.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

State Pension (Non-Contributory)

Ceisteanna (2483)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

2483. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason that 39% of State pension non-contributory claims were not awarded within processing time standards, according to the public service performance report 2017. [33279/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

My Department is committed to ensuring that claims for its pension schemes are processed as expeditiously as possible. However, claims for means-tested payments, in particular, given their nature can require more detailed investigation and interaction with the applicant, thereby lengthening the decision making process. State pension non-contributory (SPNC) is a means tested pension with increasing complexity attached to the processing of applications. These challenges can arise from the background and age of claimants, their possible multiple sources of income and savings which can also include stocks, shares and other assets. In addition, where claimants are born outside of Ireland delays can occur while necessary supporting documentation for the pension application is being sourced either directly from the claimant or social security organisations in other jurisdictions.

The SPNC scheme area has a performance target of 75% of new claims to be awarded within 12 weeks of receipt. I am pleased to advise the Deputy that in June 2018, the average time to award was 11 weeks, compared to 13 weeks in June 2017 and 69% of claims were awarded within the target timeframe. I wish to assure the Deputy that prompt processing of claims remains a priority for me and that processing times are kept under constant review.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Child Benefit Waiting Times

Ceisteanna (2484)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

2484. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason that 20% of child benefit claims were not awarded within processing time standards, according to the public service performance report 2017. [33280/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

I wish to assure the Deputy that there has been no undue delay in the processing of child benefit claims during the past year. Claim statistics for 2017 show that new claims (32,100) took an average of 3 weeks to award. Child benefit is a monthly payment with entitlement beginning in the month after birth; therefore most claims are processed before the first payment is due.

The administrative process for new child benefit claims has been improved in recent years to automate the issuing of an online application form or a partially completed paper application form once the birth is registered. Most claims are processed within 3 weeks from when the completed claim is received in the Department but a small number require further information to establish entitlement and these add to the average processing time. During 2017, the average number of claims on hand was 1,560 and with 627 claims processed each week, this represents an average of 2.5 weeks processing work at any given time.

Child benefit section also extended 66,305 claims where a child reached 16 years of age and had a continuing entitlement, with an average processing time of 1 week. The Department also added 33,885 children to existing claims, again with an average 1 week to award.

I trust that clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Aviation Industry

Ceisteanna (2485)

Imelda Munster

Ceist:

2485. Deputy Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if her attention has been drawn to the possible restructuring of an airline (details supplied) at Dublin Airport; if her attention has been further drawn to the fact that the airline is planning to make up to 11 workers redundant and allow a ground handler take over the duties; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33310/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

In accordance with the Protection of Employment Act 1977 to 2014, this company notified me on 20th June 2018, of 5 potential redundancies likely to arise in the company, as a result of a global restructuring of the company, due to financial losses and a changing service model.

The main purpose of the Act is to ensure that appropriate consultation takes place between the employer and employees and that both parties engage to avoid or lessen the number of redundancies where possible. The Act provides that, where employers are planning collective redundancies, they are obliged to supply the employees’ representatives with specific information regarding the proposed redundancies and to consult with those representatives at least 30 days before the first dismissal takes place. From the documentation supplied to me, I understand that the employer met with the employees and explained the reasons for the restructuring. Employee representatives made suggestions to avoid job losses and the employer endeavoured to examine whether these were feasible.

Under Irish legislation there is no compulsion on an employer to recognise or negotiate with a Trade Union. Section 2(1) of the Act defines "employees' representatives" as a trade union, staff association or excepted body with which it has been the practice of the employer to conduct collective bargaining negotiations, or, in the absence of these, a person or persons chosen (under an arrangement put in place by the employer) by employees affected or likely to be affected by the proposed collective redundancies, from amongst their number to represent them in negotiations with the employer. The employer appears to have met its statutory obligations in this regard.

Ireland has a comprehensive body of employment rights, equality and industrial relations legislation, in respect of which the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) is mandated to secure compliance. The Workplace Relations Customer Service Section provides information in relation to the rights and obligations under the relevant legislation. Any persons with questions or complaints regarding their rights under employment legislation should contact WRC which can be contacted at Lo-call: 1890 80 80 90. The website www.workplacerelations.ie also provides extensive information on employment rights.

Disability Allowance Applications

Ceisteanna (2486)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

2486. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if an application for disability allowance by a person (details supplied) will be expedited. [33343/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The person concerned submitted an application for disability allowance (DA) on 22 March 2018. Their application, based upon all the evidence submitted, was refused on medical grounds as it was not found that this gentleman was substantially restricted in taking up employment.

The person concerned was notified in writing of this decision on 4 July 2018 and was also notified of their right to request a review of this decision or to appeal it to the independent Social Welfare Appeals Office (SWAO). No request for an appeal or review has been received.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Disability Allowance Applications

Ceisteanna (2487)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

2487. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if an application for disability allowance by a person (details supplied) will be expedited. [33344/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The person concerned submitted an application for disability allowance (DA) on 22 March 2018. Their application, based upon all the evidence submitted, was refused on medical grounds as it was not found that this gentleman was substantially restricted in taking up employment.

The person concerned was notified in writing of this decision on 6 July 2018 and was also notified of their right to request a review of this decision or to appeal it to the independent Social Welfare Appeals Office (SWAO). No request for an appeal or review has been received.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the deputy.

State Pensions Reform

Ceisteanna (2488, 2489, 2490, 2491)

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

2488. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the estimated cost of the proposed setting-up of the total contributions approach scheme in the social welfare services office in Sligo; the estimated timeframe for the project; the spend for the entire project; the cost under headings (details supplied) in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33369/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

2489. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of claims expected to be reviewed in the context of the proposed setting-up of the total contributions approach scheme; the quantum of staff allocated for the scheme by full-time staff and grade; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33370/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

2490. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the quantum of resources that will be allocated to communicating with customers of her Department, that is, telephone, email and post, in terms of the move to the total contributions approach; the resources that will be allocated to the setting-up of the areas, that is, computer instalment and set-up of user accounts for the operation of the system; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33371/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

2491. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if consideration has been given and account taken of the additional workloads for service officers in the context of the total contributions approach project; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33372/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 2488 to 2491, inclusive, together.

As the Deputy is aware, in January of this year, the Government announced the option for state pension (contributory ) recipients impacted by the 2012 Budget rates to avail of a review of their existing pension entitlement under a new total contributions approach, and where relevant, the option to apply for new HomeCaring credits.

At the time of the announcement, the estimated cost of the increased state pension (contributory) entitlements was estimated to be in the region of €40 million per annum. This cost increases as more pensions become awarded under existing arrangements at post Budget 2012 rates and fall to be reviewed at a future date. As of the end of June 2018, there are over 51,000 claimants who have been impacted by the rate band changes which took effect from September 2012. As pensions are awarded on a weekly basis, the final cost will not be clear for some time. It is dependent on the pension rate increases payable based on the take up of invitations to pensioners to have their entitlements reviewed under the alternative total contribution approach and the number who benefit from the new HomeCaring credits.

Considerable effort is required across a number of separate business areas of my Department to design and implement suitable systems, including ICT, and to prepare the necessary legislative provisions to underpin the increased entitlements, where due. Work on design of the system changes to administer the reviews, re-using where possible existing functionality, has already commenced. Funding of €504,000 has been secured to design and develop these systems in order to cater for the new HomeCaring Credits and the new pension total contributions approach calculation.

My Department has already appointed a full time team of three, based in our Sligo office to spearhead the implementation. It is expected that these staff will, at the appropriate time, need the assistance of around 100 additional staff, compromising primarily temporary clerical officers, in order to prepare the information material; issue the invitations to customers for review; carry out the requested state pension (contributory) re-calculations; examine and decide on HomeCaring credit qualification; assess subsequent pension rate impacts; issue notifications to pensioners of the outcome; and arrange for the rate adjustments and payment of arrears, where due.

The final design of the system and application solutions will determine the overall resource requirement and grade levels. A number of staff will be appointed in the Autumn to conduct some analysis of known insurance records and to help inform system development requirements. Any recruitment is subject to the normal sanction from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

The bulk of the administration work for this project will take place in the Sligo office, with a small team in our Buncrana office. Preparation works are already underway to provide for accommodation, computer and other technical supports necessary.

Once the necessary enabling legislation is in place, my Department will be in a position to immediately get review process underway.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Departmental Offices

Ceisteanna (2492)

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

2492. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans in conjunction with the OPW in relation to accommodation in terms of the total contributions approach project in Sligo; if tenders have been awarded to building contractors for the work on-site; the estimated date of completion; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33375/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The total contributions approach to the calculation of State Pensions Contributory is a priority project for my Department.

In conjunction with the OPW my Department has identified space in the Department’s offices at College Road in Sligo that can be made available for staff working on the project. Requests for tenders have issued from OPW in respect of the construction and mechanical & engineering works required to fit-out the space for this purpose.

Following evaluation of the tenders it is expected that OPW will be in a position to award contracts for the work and until then it is not possible to be definitive on a date of completion.

The current estimated completion date is late September 2018.

Departmental Staff Relocation

Ceisteanna (2493)

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

2493. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to transfer staff awaiting a position in Sligo to the social welfare services office to reduce the dependency on temporary staff; her further plans to fill all vacancies across social welfare services offices with permanent staff prior to the implementation of the project; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33376/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

There are no formal arrangements in place within the Department to facilitate requests for transfers to other locations except in the case of the Clerical Officer grade. Transfers between locations of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection are managed in accordance with protocols agreed between the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the relevant staff unions. The traditional method of filling posts is a mixture of recruitment and promotion in accordance with the formal sequences as determined centrally. In instances where there has been nobody available from the recruitment / promotion panels for a particular location we have considered the transfer lists at Executive Officer and Higher Executive Officer grades.

The Civil Service Renewal Plan contains an action to introduce formal mobility arrangements for all grades. Work is on-going at the moment to introduce the new arrangements for the CO & EO grades. The introduction of these new arrangements will introduce changes in how posts are to be filled. While the majority of posts will continue to be filled by recruitment and promotion, mobility - transfer will become part of the sequences to be followed when filling vacancies.

Temporary clerical staff are recruited to provide cover for permanent staff who are absent on maternity leave, long term sick leave, shorter working year scheme and other statutory leave. They are also recruited to clear backlogs and to assist in the roll-out of the Public Services Card project.

These temporary staff are appointed on a fixed-term or fixed purpose contract basis, neither of which carries entitlement to permanency. Once the purpose for which the person is recruited no longer exists the contract is terminated.

Child Benefit Eligibility

Ceisteanna (2494)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

2494. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the eligibility for child benefit payment in the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33428/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Child benefit is payable in respect of children that remain in full-time education, or are incapable of self-support on medical grounds, up to and including the month of their 18th birthday.

The person concerned has received a child benefit payment for their child up to December 2017, the month of the child’s 18th birthday; therefore, no further payment is due in respect of this child.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Disability Allowance Applications

Ceisteanna (2495)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

2495. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the progress to date in the determination of an application for disability allowance in the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33431/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

I confirm that my department received an application for disability allowance from this lady on 10 July 2018. On completion of the necessary investigations on all aspects of the claim a decision will be made and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

The processing time for individual disability allowance claims may vary in accordance with their relative complexity in terms of the three main qualifying criteria, the person’s circumstances and the information they provide in support of their claim.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Social Welfare Benefits

Ceisteanna (2496, 2497)

John Brady

Ceist:

2496. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the estimated full-year cost of increasing the earnings disregard for the one-parent family payment and jobseeker's transition payment to €161 per week, assuming an increase in the age limit from seven to 14 years. [33448/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

John Brady

Ceist:

2497. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the estimated full year cost of increasing the age limit of the one parent family payment to 14 years of age assuming an increase in the payment of €5. [33449/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 2496 and 2497 together.

The full year cost of increasing the earnings disregard and increasing the age limit of the One-Parent Family Payment (OFP) would be very difficult to estimate with any great accuracy.

There are a number of significant barriers to undertaking such an exercise. Firstly, an increase in the age limits could result in a cohort of lone parents that are currently not in receipt of a social welfare payment becoming eligible and therefore moving onto a social welfare payment. As members of this cohort are not currently in receipt of a social welfare payment it would be difficult to for the Department to estimate the numbers involved.

Secondly, some customers could seek to move from alternative payments such as Jobseekers Allowance (JA), the Jobseeker’s Transitional Payment (JST) and the Back to Work Family Dividend (BTWFD) back to the OFP. Again, it would be difficult for the Department to estimate the magnitude of this flow between schemes with any degree of accuracy.

Thirdly, such changes would also increase the incidence of dual payments of OFP and the Working Family Payment (WFP). It is not possible to predict the impact on payments as a result of the interaction between both schemes without having detailed knowledge of individuals’ working patterns and the degree to which these might change.

Finally, given the uncertainties mentioned above, it would be difficult to assess the potential costs of an increase in the earnings disregard.

These factors are critical to providing a reliable costing. The Department is therefore not in a position to provide the costing requested.

Jobseeker's Allowance

Ceisteanna (2498)

John Brady

Ceist:

2498. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the estimated full year cost of increasing the age related jobseeker's payment rates for 18 to 25 year olds to the top rate of €198. [33450/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The estimated full year cost of increasing the age related reduced rates of jobseeker’s allowance for 18 to 25 year olds to the maximum weekly rate of €198 is €80.85 million in 2019. It should be noted that this cost includes increasing the qualified adult rate of those on the €107.70 weekly rate to the maximum weekly qualified adult rate of €131.40.

It should be noted that this cost is subject to change in the context of emerging trends and associated revision of the estimated numbers of recipients for 2019.

Working Family Payment Data

Ceisteanna (2499)

John Brady

Ceist:

2499. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the average payment rate made to those in receipt of the working family payment. [33451/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The Working Family Payment (WFP) is an in-work support, which provides an income top-up for employees on low earnings with children. WFP is designed to prevent in-work poverty for low paid workers with child dependants and to offer a financial incentive to take-up employment. There are currently over 56,000 families with 126,031 children in receipt of WFP. The estimated spend on WFP this year is approximately €431 million.

The average WFP payment per family varies depending on the number of children in the family, the level of hourly earnings, the number of hours worked and the level of other welfare payments, if any, in the household. The average weekly payment across all families is currently estimated at €136.05 per week.

Average rates of WFP based on family size are set out in the following table.

Table: Average WFP payments per family size

Family Size

Recipients

Average WFP Payment

1 Child

17,866

€102.41

2 Children

18,670

€126.20

3 Children

11,959

€151.31

4 Children

5,550

€184.72

5 Children

1,751

€241.11

6 Children

507

€319.65

7 Children

166

€370.17

8 Children

66

€445.29