Social Insurance Fund Data

Ceisteanna (2500)

John Brady

Ceist:

2500. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the estimated amount of revenue which could be raised if Ireland's rate of employer PRSI contributions was raised in line with the EU average with Hungary, Belgium and France; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33453/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The information requested by the Deputy is contained in the following table.

-

Employer

Social Insurance Rate

Yield from Increase of 8.6% Lower Employer Rate €m

Yield from Increase of 10.85% Higher Employer Rate €m

Total

€m

Hungary

21%

520.8

7,224.8

7,745.6

Belgium

27.5%

793.8

11,851.5

12,645.3

France

45%

1,528.8

24,308.0

26,133.8

EU Average

20%

478.8

6,513.0

6,991.8

It should be noted that the headline rates of social security and how social security systems across Europe operate are not directly comparable. For example, in Europe many elements of employer and employee contributions have monthly ceilings on those contribution rates, ceilings which do not exist in the Irish system. Another example of a difference across the various social security schemes in Europe occurs in France, where a flat-rate contribution of €1.50 per hour for companies with less than 20 employees is payable to the social security system in respect of overtime. Across Europe social security contributions finance a range of contingencies which, in Ireland, are financed through the general taxation system. For example, in Belgium, social security contributions contribute to the cost of long-term care.

These estimates are based on PRSI Class A contributors. They use the latest available data and reflects macro-economic indicators for 2019. It should be noted that these estimates do not take into account any possible changes in employer behaviour arising from changing rates of contribution.

Social Welfare Benefits Data

Ceisteanna (2501, 2502)

John Brady

Ceist:

2501. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of persons aged 66 years of age and over who received assistance through the exceptional needs payment and urgent needs payment in 2016, 2017 and to date in 2018; the payment rate made to these persons; and the total spend in this regard. [33454/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

John Brady

Ceist:

2502. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of persons aged 66 years of age and over who receive and have received the supplementary welfare allowance in 2016, 2017 and to date in 2018; the amount awarded; and the total spend in this regard. [33455/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 2501 and 2502 together.

The supplementary welfare allowance (SWA) scheme provides assistance to eligible people in the State whose means are insufficient to meet their needs and those of their dependants. The main purpose of the scheme is to provide immediate and flexible assistance for those in need who do not qualify for payment under other State schemes. Basic SWA can also be paid to persons who are awaiting the outcome of an application for a primary social welfare payment. There are currently some 16,400 persons in receipt of a weekly basic SWA payment. The Government has provided over €103 million for basic SWA payments in 2018.

Under the SWA scheme, the Department may make a single exceptional needs payment (ENP) to help meet essential, once-off expenditure which a person could not reasonably be expected to meet out of their weekly income. An urgent needs payment (UNP) is a once-off payment made to persons who may not normally qualify for SWA but who have an urgent need which they cannot meet from their own resources or an alternative is not available at that time. The Government has provided over €36 million for these payments in 2018.

The ENP scheme is demand led and provides assistance to those with exceptional needs, 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. There is no automatic entitlement to a payment or pre-determined amounts under the scheme. Over 103,500 ENPs issued during 2017 at a provisional cost of €38.1 million.

Details of the numbers of persons aged 66 years and over who were in receipt of a basic SWA payment at the end of 2016, 2017 and end-June 2018, and the personal rate payable, are contained in Table 1. Expenditure figures in relation to basic SWA claims for persons aged 66 years and over are not available.

Details of the number of ENPs/UNPs paid to persons aged 66 years and over in 2016, 2017 and to end-June 2018, and the expenditure on these payments, are contained in Table 2.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Table 1: Number of Recipients of Basic Supplementary Welfare Allowances, aged 66 years and over, and Payment Rates.

-

Number of Basic SWA Recipients aged 66 years and over

Maximum Weekly Personal Rate of Payment

2016 (at end Dec)

292

€186

2017 (at end Dec)

303

€191

2018 (to end June)

399

€196

Table 2: ENPs paid to persons aged 66 years and over.

-

Number of Payments

Expenditure

2016

6,135

€3.2 m

2017

6,655

€3.4 m

2018 (to end June)

3,065

€1.8 m

Social Welfare Benefits Eligibility

Ceisteanna (2503)

Maurice Quinlivan

Ceist:

2503. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to include surviving partners under the widowed and surviving civil partner grant who were not legally married but cohabitating and who have dependent children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33461/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The Widowed or Surviving Civil Partner Grant is a once-off payment to widows, widowers or surviving civil partners with dependent children.

This grant is available to widows, widowers or surviving civil partners who have one or more dependent children living with them at the time of death; or a widow or surviving civil partner whose child is born within 10 months of the date of death of her spouse or civil partner.

In order to qualify for the grant, a person must satisfy certain social insurance conditions and be a widow, widower or (since 1 January 2011) a surviving civil partner, and not be in a cohabiting relationship. The contributions must have been paid on one of the spouse/civil partners’ social insurance records and all must have been made before the death of the spouse/civil partner.

The legal context governing relationships such as marriage is broader than the social protection system. Where that context changes, the social welfare code is examined for appropriate changes, e.g., the scheme was introduced for widows on 1st January 1936; it was extended to widowers on 28th October 1994 in light of gender equality issues that had not been considered in the 1930s; and extended to surviving civil partners from 1st January 2011 following the introduction of civil partnership.

Entering into a marriage or civil partnership is a legal act, which confers both rights and obligations on both parties, which do not exist in a legal sense between co-habiting couples. Widows, widowers and surviving civil partners, who become bereaved, therefore, in addition to their personal loss, also lose someone who had legal duties towards them. In some cases those legal duties were, in part, financial in nature, and the social welfare code recognises that potential loss by providing a pension to them, subject to certain conditions.

The supplementary welfare allowance (SWA) scheme provides assistance to eligible people in the State whose means are insufficient to meet their needs and those of their dependants. Under the SWA scheme, the Department of Social Protection 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 from their weekly income, which may include help with funeral and burial expenses. The Government has provided €31.5 million for exceptional and urgent needs payments in 2017.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Carer's Allowance Applications

Ceisteanna (2504)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

2504. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the progress to date in the determination of an application for a carer's allowance in the case of persons (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33481/18]

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 who is providing full-time care and attention to a person who has such a disability that they require that level of care.

Full-time care and attention is defined as requiring from another person, continual supervision and frequent assistance throughout the day in connection with normal bodily functions or continuous supervision in order to avoid danger to him or herself and likely to require that level of care for at least twelve months.

I confirm that my department received an application for CA from the person concerned on 5 October 2016.

It is a condition for receipt of CA that every claimant shall furnish such certificates, documents, information and evidence as may be required for the purposes of deciding the claim and attends at such office or place as an officer may direct.

The deciding officer examined the evidence submitted in support of this application. On 21 November 2017 he requested further information in relation to the means of the person concerned.

The deciding officer decided that the evidence submitted with the application did not indicate that the requirement for full-time care was satisfied and he could not establish the means of the person concerned based on the information provided.

The person concerned was notified on 22 December 2016 of this decision, the reasons for it and of his right of review and appeal.

On 29 December 2016, documents were supplied which initiated a review of this decision, the outcome of which was that the original decision was confirmed.

On 28 February 2017 further documents were supplied and another review sought, the outcome of this review was that the evidence supplied does not indicate that the requirement for full-time care was satisfied.

The person concerned was notified of the outcome of this review on 3 April 2017 and of his right of appeal.

My Department informs me that to date they have not received any notification that the person concerned wishes to appeal this decision to the Social Welfare Appeals Office (SWAO) and that there is no fresh application for CA.

If the person concerned wishes to make an application, he should complete and return the application form (CR1) that I have arranged to issue to them.

Only on receipt of a fully completed application form can his entitlement to carer’s allowance be determined.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Social Welfare Benefits Data

Ceisteanna (2505, 2510, 2511, 2512)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

2505. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the estimated cost of introducing a cost of disability payment of €20 per week to persons with disabilities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33492/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

2510. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the estimated full year cost of increasing all basic social protection payments by €5, €7 and €10, respectively; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33501/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

2511. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the estimated full year cost of increasing the living alone allowance by €2, €3 and €5, respectively; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33502/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

2512. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the estimated full year cost of increasing the fuel allowance by €7 and €10, respectively, and extending it by a further four weeks; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33503/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 2505 and 2510 to 2512, inclusive, together.

The accurate costing of introducing a “cost of disability” payment would require clear definitions of qualifying conditions and research into the prevalence of these conditions leading to estimates of the numbers of persons who would potentially qualify. It is likely that it would also require significant administrative spending in establishing the information technology and other systems that would be required to administer such a payment.

One indication of the scale of potential additional programme spending would be to estimate the additional annual cost of increasing the main social protection payments that are targeted at long-term illness and disability conditions. These include invalidity pension (for adults with sufficient social insurance contributions) and disability allowance (for persons aged 16-66) and those in receipt of domiciliary care allowance (paid in respect of children under 16 years). It is estimated that the annual cost of increasing these three payments by the equivalent of €20 per week would be approximately €220 million.

The estimated full year cost in 2019 of increasing all primary weekly social assistance and social insurance payments by €5, €7 and €10 is €347.6 million, €486.9 million and €695.6 million respectively. These costs include proportionate increases for qualified adults and for those on reduced rates of payment, where relevant.

The estimated full year cost in 2019 of increasing the living alone allowance by €2, €3, and €5 is €21.85 million, €32.8 million and €54.6 million respectively.

The estimated full year cost of increasing the weekly rate of fuel allowance by €7 and €10 for the duration of the fuel season is €72.1 million and €102.95 million respectively. The cost of extending the duration of the fuel season by four weeks, from 27 weeks to 31 weeks, is €34.3 million.

It should be noted that these costings are subject to change in the context of emerging trends and associated revision of the estimated numbers of recipients for 2019.

Social Welfare Benefits Data

Ceisteanna (2506)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

2506. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the estimated cost of increasing the Christmas bonus to 100%; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33493/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Last December, an 85% Bonus was paid to some 1.2 million long-term social welfare recipients, including pensioners, people with disabilities, carers, lone parents and the long-term unemployed, at a cost of €218.6 million. The cost of a 100% Bonus is estimated at circa €257 million in 2018.

As was the case in recent years where a Bonus was subsequently paid (2014 to 2017 inclusive), there is no provision in the 2018 Revised Estimates for the payment (at any rate) of a Christmas Bonus in 2018. Any decision taken regarding the payment of a Bonus in 2018 will have to be consistent with the legal requirements set out in the domestic Fiscal Responsibility Acts 2012 and 2013 and the targets set for Ireland by the EU Stability and Growth Pact.

Social Welfare Benefits Data

Ceisteanna (2507)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

2507. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the estimated cost of increasing the income disregard for the one parent family payment and jobseeker's transitional payment to €146.50 per week; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33494/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Based on the current customers income on one parent family payments and jobseekers transition the estimated cost of increasing the income disregard for the one-parent family payment and jobseeker's transitional payment from €130.00 to €146.50 per week is in the region of €5.5 to €6 million per year.

Rent Supplement Scheme Data

Ceisteanna (2508)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

2508. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of recipients of rent supplement in 2016, 2017 and to date in 2018; the expenditure on the payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33495/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Rent supplement plays a vital role in housing families and individuals, with the scheme supporting approximately 29,000 recipients for which the Government has provided €180 million for in 2018.

End of year statistics for rent supplement recipients and expenditure for the years 2016 to 2017 and for the six months ending June 2018 are set out in the tabular statement.

The strategic initiative of returning rent supplement to its original purpose, that of a short-term income support, facilitated by the introduction of the HAP scheme has been the main driver in rent supplement’s base decline. There are currently over 38,000 HAP tenancies in place of which c 9,900 (c.26%) are transfers from rent supplement.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Tabular Statement:

Rent Supplement: Recipient Numbers & Expenditure 2016 to June 2018

Year

Total Expenditure €000

Total Recipients

2016

275,294

48,041

2017

231,221 (1)

34,378

6 Months to June 2018

94,442

28,978

(1) Provisional Outturn

Social Welfare Benefits Data

Questions Nos. 2510 to 2512, inclusive, answered with Question No. 2505.

Ceisteanna (2509)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

2509. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of persons in receipt of the State pension who were and are also in receipt of a housing support payment in each of the years 2016, 2017 and to date in 2018; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33496/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

My Department administers the Rent Supplement scheme under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme. The combined numbers of state pension (contributory) and state pension (non-contributory) recipients in receipt of Rent Supplement for 2016, 2017 and to end - June 2018 are shown in the following table.

Rent Supplement recipients in receipt of state pension (contributory) & state pension (non-contributory)

Year

Total Rent Supplement recipients in receipt of SPC & SPNC

2016

1,576

2017

1,389

End-June 2018

1,291

Statistics regarding recipients of Rental Accommodation Scheme and Housing Assistance Payment who were, and are, in receipt of state pension (contributory) and (non-contributory) are not maintained by my Department. Queries regarding these payments are a matter for the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Questions Nos. 2510 to 2512, inclusive, answered with Question No. 2505.

Domiciliary Care Allowance Applications

Ceisteanna (2513)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

2513. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason an application by a person (details supplied) took so long to process; the further reason it was refused; the options available to the person based on circumstances; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33554/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

An application for domiciliary care allowance (DCA) was received from this lady on the 26 April 2017. The application was examined by one of the departments medical assessors and a decision was then made by a deciding officer. The application was not allowed as it was considered that the qualifying conditions for the payment had not been met in this case. This decision along with the reasons for the disallowance of DCA was communicated to her in writing on the 18 September 2017. The right to request a review of the decision and/or to appeal the decision directly to the independent Social Welfare Appeals Office (SWAO) was also outlined.

A review of the decision was requested on the 6th October 2017 and an appeal to the SWAO was registered on the 17 October 2017. Notification that a revision of the decision was not considered to be warranted issued to this lady in December 2017 and the case was forwarded to the SWAO in January 2018 for their consideration of the appeal. The SWAO advised her on 3 July 2018.

As the decision, review and appeal process has been completed in this case, this application has been finalised. However, it is open to this lady to re-apply in the future if she feels that circumstances have changed and that her child meets the qualification conditions.

While the outcome would have been the same, the Department regrets that this claim too longer than normal to process, due to the backlog on DCA claim processing experienced over the second half of 2017. I wish to assure the Deputy that this situation has been rectified and that DCA claims are now processed within an average of 10 week.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Disability Support Services Funding

Ceisteanna (2514)

Maurice Quinlivan

Ceist:

2514. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the 2017 and 2018 budget for the WALK providing equal employment routes programme, PEER; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33606/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The Providing Equal Employment Routes (PEER) project is run by the Walkinstown Association for People with an Intellectual Disability (WALK Ltd). The project provides for customised supports for its participants to access employment. The target group is young people with disabilities aged 16 – 24.

The project was originally one of 14 disability activation projects that were jointly funded by the European Social Fund (ESF) and the exchequer between 2012 and April 2015. After the ending of ESF funding, as provided for in EU regulations, the WALK PEER project obtained additional funding from both a private sector organisation and the HSE.

Research work by the National Disability Authority and others demonstrated that there is a need for supports to be put in place for young people with disabilities during the transition period from education and other services into the world of work. Arising from these findings, the Ability programme was developed.

The ‘Ability’ programme is a new pre-activation programme for young people with disabilities. The projects to be funded under this programme will provide supports and assistance for young people with disabilities aged between 15 to 29 years old during the ‘transition’ period, from education and other services into the world of work. The programme is being co-funded by the Exchequer and the EU (under the European Social Fund, as part of the ESF Programme for Employability, Inclusion and Learning 2014-2020).

Following representations from WALK Ltd it was decided to provide funding on an interim basis from the Department for the project, pending the introduction of the Ability programme. This for example saw funding being put in place to a maximum of some €75k in 2018 over two three month periods.

Pobal have been contracted by DEASP to manage the Ability programme including the application and evaluation process for the proposals received: the Ability programme attracted 59 applications. A detailed and independent assessment process was undertaken by Pobal of the applications. Pobal awarded scores for all applications based on a weighted marking system, as below:

- Meeting the programme/ measure priorities (40%)

- Need for the proposal (20%)

- Capacity of the organisation (20%)

- Value for money (20%)

Only projects receiving a score of 60 or above were deemed by Pobal to be of sufficiently high standard to be recommended for funding. On this basis, Pobal recommended 27 projects as being suitable for funding; this represents some 46% of the proposals received.

On the 1st of June this year, the outcomes of the above process were announced. Two applications under the ‘WALK’ umbrella for funding were successful. These were: WALK Ltd and Walkinstown Green Social Enterprise Limited, the latter company is wholly owned by the former. These projects will receive combined funding of more than €1,070,000 over the course of the Ability programme, which includes over €430,000 for Walkinstown Green Social Enterprises Limited and more than €640,000 for its parent organisation, Walkinstown Association for People with an Intellectual Disability Limited.

I hope this clarifies the issue for the Deputy.

Disability Activation Projects

Ceisteanna (2515)

Maurice Quinlivan

Ceist:

2515. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the budget allocation for the wage subsidy scheme in 2018; the number of persons availing of the scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33607/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The objective of the wage subsidy scheme (WSS) is to increase the likelihood of people with disabilities participating in the open labour market by making available a subsidy to private sector employers. The scheme operates by allowing employers to claim a subsidy, subject to certain conditions, against the cost of a ‘shortfall’ in productivity which may arise were a jobseeker (who has a disability) is employed. The scheme, depending on the number of persons with a disability employed, also provides for ‘top up’ payments to be made to employers: to cover, for example, additional supervisory or management costs and/or the cost of employing an employment assistance officer to support the particular staff within the company.

The subsidy is demand-led, in 2017 some €20.8 million was paid to private sector employers under the scheme, while year to May ‘18 some €9 million has been paid. There are currently circa 2,600 persons whose employer is receiving a wage subsidy under the scheme.

I hope this clarifies the issue for the deputy.

One-Parent Family Payment Eligibility

Ceisteanna (2516)

Eoin Ó Broin

Ceist:

2516. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection further to Parliamentary Question No. 530 of 20 February 2018, if she will request her departmental officials to examine the issue of foster parents accessing the one parent family payment in advance of budget 2019 with a view to amending the legislation to include single foster parents in the list of eligible households for the purposes of claiming the payment. [33629/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

As stated in my response to Parliamentary Question No. 530 in this matter, to be a qualified parent for the purposes of the one-parent family payment the applicant must be legally defined as either the parent or guardian of the relevant child. A foster carer is not the legal parent or guardian of the foster child and as such is not a qualified parent in this context.

The provision of fostering services, and the appropriate supports, including financial supports, that are required by either the foster carers or the foster child is a matter for Tusla (the Child and Family Agency). A specific weekly payment is payable to foster carers by Tusla. Any changes to eligibility for the qualified parent for the purposes of determining eligibility for one-parent family payment would have to be considered in the overall budgetary context.

Poverty Data

Ceisteanna (2517)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

2517. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if she will address a matter (details supplied) regarding poverty among persons with disabilities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33638/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The latest CSO Survey on Income and Living Conditions (SILC) results for 2016 shows that people in households headed by a person whose principal economic status is not at work due to illness or disability continue to experience higher at risk and consistent poverty rates than the general population. The survey also shows that social transfers play a very significant role in reducing poverty and that Ireland continues to be among the best performing EU countries in reducing poverty and inequality through spending on social protection. In 2018, expenditure on illness, disability and carers payments will amount to over €3.9 billion or almost one fifth of the total Departmental spend.

Given the continuing economic recovery throughout 2017 and the measures introduced in Budgets 2016, 2017 and 2018, it is reasonable to expect future poverty statistics to show improvements. I will continue to work with my Government colleagues to ensure that the economic recovery is experienced in all regions and by all families, households and individuals.

The Government’s strategy for addressing poverty and social exclusion is set out in the National Action Plan for Social Inclusion. The action plan identifies a wide range of targeted actions and interventions to achieve the overall objective of reducing consistent poverty. The Department is reviewing the plan and it is the intention that the revised plan will be published in autumn 2018.

It is recognised that one of the best routes out of poverty and social exclusion is through taking up paid employment in line with a person’s capacity. The Government is committed to increasing the employment opportunities for people with a disability. The Comprehensive Employment Strategy for people with disabilities adopts a cross-government approach that brings together various measures, to be taken by different Departments and State agencies, in a concerted effort to address the barriers and challenges that impact on the employment of people with disabilities. The aim of the strategy is to increase the numbers of people at work, and the proportion of people with disabilities in a job. I can assure the Deputy that a reduction in measured poverty rates for people with a disability is a key priority of the Government. We will continue to keep the range of supports under review as well as implement the comprehensive employment strategy in order to secure better income and employment outcomes for people with disabilities.

The question of how to address issues around the cost of disability (also raised in the details supplied) raises cross-departmental concerns and I will together with my Government colleagues consider how to progress this in the context of overall consideration around the budget process.

An increase in the weekly personal rate of Disability Allowance (DA) by €20 (as suggested in the details supplied) is estimated to cost around €159 million per annum, and a €20 increase in the weekly personal rates of DA, Invalidity Pension and Blind Pension would cost around €228 million. Such a proposed increase in spending would have to be considered in an overall budgetary context.

I hope that this answers the Deputy’s question.

Carer's Allowance Delays

Ceisteanna (2518)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

2518. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the waiting times for processing carer's allowance and carer's benefit applications; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33647/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

My Department is committed to providing a quality service to all its customers. This includes ensuring that applications are processed and that decisions on entitlement are made as quickly as possible.

Carer's Allowance (CA) is a means-tested payment, made to a person who is habitually resident in the State and providing full-time care and attention to a child or an adult who has such a disability that they require that level of care. An increased payment can be made where full-time care is being provided to two people.

Carer's benefit (CARB) is a payment made to insured people who leave the workforce to care for a child or an adult in need of full-time care and attention.

At the end of June 2018 the average waiting time for new CA application was 16 weeks while it was 11 weeks for a new CARB application.

Before a decision can be made on entitlement CA, evidence must be provided to establish whether the person being cared for has such a disability that they require full-time care and attention, whether the carer is providing full-time care and attention, whether the carer is habitually resident in the State and, finally, whether the carer satisfies the means test.

To qualify for CARB a person has to show that they have the required level of PRSI contributions, that they have left full-time employment, that they are providing full-time care and attention and that the person being cared for has such a disability that they require full-time care and attention.

In general, social welfare schemes with a number of complex qualifying conditions can take longer to process. This is compounded if the documentary evidence provided at initial application stage is incomplete or insufficient; this is sometimes the case with carer’s applications.

The Department recently launched a re-designed carer’s allowance application form. The new form includes a Care Report section which has been arrived at through consultation between officials and medical assessors of my Department and representatives and members of Family Carers Ireland.

It is expected that the new form will allow carers to provide more information on the type and level of care they provide, with an aim to providing Deciding Officers with the information they need to expedite decisions on entitlement.

The CARB form is currently being re-designed in a similar way.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Public Health Policy

Ceisteanna (2519)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

2519. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her views in relation to issues (details supplied) regarding loneliness here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33686/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The issue of loneliness affects people in different ways, regardless of their age or where they live, with root causes that are unique to each individual. The allocation of responsibility to combat loneliness to a specific Minister and Government Department and the allocation of funding to address the issue are matters for the Cabinet as a whole to consider. The matters raised in the question are not therefore directly related to my Department’s responsibilities.