Illness Benefit Applications

Ceisteanna (473)

John McGuinness

Ceist:

473. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if a request for a full review of the benefit paid to a person (details supplied) from 2009 to 2011 will be expedited; if full benefit will continue to be paid to them during the appeal process; and the way in which a matter such as this can be pursued seven years later in view of the circumstances of the case and the fact that the local welfare office approved their working arrangements. [40619/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Correspondence issued to the customer in question on 28th June 2018 in response to a request for a review of an earlier decision. This correspondence outlined the detailed historical circumstances of the customer's Illness Benefit claim, advised them of the review decision and their associated right to appeal.

I understand that an appeal request was lodged with the Department's Appeals Office on 30th July 2018. That review is ongoing.

The customer in question is currently in receipt of an Illness Benefit payment.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Jobseeker's Allowance Eligibility

Ceisteanna (474)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

474. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the correct level of jobseeker's allowance payable in the case of a person (details supplied); if all eligible supports in this instance are being offered to the person; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40625/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The person concerned is currently in receipt of a One Parent Family Payment which will terminate on 10/10/18 as she no longer fulfils the eligibility criteria for this payment support.

The person concerned attended Edenderry Intreo Centre on 4/10/18 to submit an application for a Jobseeker's Allowance. A letter was issued on 8/10/18 confirming that a Jobseeker Allowance payment at the full single rate has been awarded.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Back to Education Allowance Applications

Ceisteanna (475)

Willie O'Dea

Ceist:

475. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason a back to education allowance application by a person (details supplied) has been refused; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40635/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The person concerned is currently in receipt of Illness Benefit (credits only) since 01 November 2017. He was in receipt of Supplementary Welfare Allowance (SWA) from 7 November 2017 until 12 September 2018. His SWA claim was suspended on 12 September as he commenced full time education and accordingly not entitled to SWA.

The person concerned did not make an application to participate on the Back to Education Allowance Scheme. However, for Illness Benefit customers to qualify for BTEA they must be in receipt of Illness Benefit / Illness Benefit (credits only) for a period of at least two years. The person concerned has been on Illness Benefit for less than 1 year.

The customer attended the CWS Clinic on 4 October 2018 where he submitted a letter from Limerick Institute of Technology confirming that he had withdrawn from the course. The suspension on his SWA payment has been lifted and backdated to 13 September 2018.

Literacy Programmes

Ceisteanna (476)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

476. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the involvement of her Department in tackling adult literacy; if a financial allocation is provided for same; if so, the way in which it is utilised; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40681/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

My Department is committed to the provision of information to all of its customers in clear and easy to access formats, which adhere to the guidelines outlined by the National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA).  I fully recognise the barrier that literacy difficulties can cause for individuals who are trying to gain an understanding of and access to services and supports available.  Therefore, we have recently awarded a one year contract to NALA for the provision of plain English writing, editing and training services to the Department.  The estimated value of the contract is €100,000 (excluding VAT). Information on the range of schemes and services is published in plain English and we also provide information in alternative formats such as an Interpreters service, Braille and audio.  A Sign Language Interpreter is also available where necessary.

The Intreo Centres assist individuals with their employment and income support services needs, and also provides a personalised service via my Department's Case Officers, including referrals to literacy courses locally in the Education and Training Boards (ETBs) which are free of charge.  These courses are usually part-time and the customer remains on their social welfare payment.

My Departments aim in relation to work schemes such as Community Employment (CE) is to enhance the employability of disadvantaged and unemployed people, by providing work experience and training opportunities for them within their communities.  Participants on CE, work to their own individual learning plan, setting personal learning and progression goals at a level that suits their aptitude and capacity. This is decided between the scheme CE supervisor and the participant. Facilitating further education including literacy skills, has the benefit of ensuring that participants take the initial steps in educational progression and, in time, achieve further qualifications and employment.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Pension Provisions

Ceisteanna (477)

Willie O'Dea

Ceist:

477. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if it is still her plan to issue payments under the new calculation method for the contributory pension in the first quarter of 2019; the legislative steps that still need to be taken to ensure that this comes into effect on schedule; if all persons potentially affected by this have been contacted; the number that have been contacted to date; the number outstanding that remain to be contacted; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40726/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

On 23 January last, the Government agreed to my proposal that will allow pensioners affected by the 2012 changes in rate bands to have their pension entitlement calculated on a Total Contributions basis, including provision for up to 20 years of home caring in the calculation of that entitlement.

A number of elements have to be put in place to facilitate the implementation of the rate band changes 2012. Legislation has to be enacted to enable implementation of these arrangements and an information technology system has to be developed and tested. My Department is currently working on these and both at a very advanced stage. In addition, my Department is currently finalising procedures and recruiting and assigning staff to process reviews of pensions.

It is estimated that 53,000 pensioners are affected by the rate band changes. However, over 76,000 pensioners (including 9,000 pensioners resident outside the State) will have their applications re-assessed under the TCA12, as there are people unaffected by the rate band changes who will be allowed benefit from the new scheme (notably, many with a yearly average of 40-47, who currently qualify for a 98% rate pension, but who may now qualify for a full rate pension).

My Department will be writing to impacted customers over the next two months to explain to them what is happening and how the process of review will work. It is still planned to commence these reviews before the end of this year, with the first payments being made in the first quarter of 2019, backdated, where relevant, to the end of March 2018, or later where a person attained their 66th birthday since that date.

It is not necessary for people to contact the Department on this matter. Once the legislation is enacted and the systems and processes are ready, my Department will then write again to the people impacted and provide them with the opportunity to have their pension calculation reviewed.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Carer's Allowance Review

Ceisteanna (478)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

478. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason her Department will not accept a form 11 self-assessment from the Revenue Commissioners in respect of a carer's allowance review for a person ( details supplied) in County Donegal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40739/18]

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 child or an adult who has such a disability that as a result they require that level of care.

Once claims are in payment, the Department periodically reviews them to ensure that there is continued entitlement.

In this case the means of the person concerned are being reviewed.

Means are any income belonging to the carer and their spouse, civil partner, or cohabitant, property, (except their own home) or an asset that could bring in money or provide them with an income, for example occupational pensions, or pensions or benefits from another country.

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.

As the person concerned failed to satisfy to an officer of my Department as to the expenses incurred, authenticated profit and loss accounts were requested. To date the person concerned has not furnished these accounts.

The Revenue Form 11 is used for determining tax liability and is not suitable for the purpose of establishing means in respect of a social welfare payment.

The review is on-going and once complete, the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Illness Benefit Payments

Ceisteanna (479)

John Brassil

Ceist:

479. Deputy John Brassil asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of payments in respect of illness benefit recipients; the number of outstanding payments since the change to claim forms was introduced; if she is satisfied with the level of engagement and information provided to recipients during this process; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40746/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

In August 2018, my Department introduced a new claim form and medical certificate to replace the previous forms used for certification of the Department’s Illness and Injury Benefit schemes. This change is part of a programme of modernisation in the Department.

Some GPs have continued to use the old forms after this changeover date. In order to facilitate the continued payment of Illness and Injury Benefits to our customers, the Department has, to date, continued to accept the old forms. While their continued use has caused delays to our processing times, my Department is doing everything possible to ensure that customers are paid as quickly as possible.

In this context, the Deputy should note that additional resources have been assigned to the Illness Benefit Unit to help clear any backlogs. There is currently a 2 day delay to claims received on old forms. There is no backlog in payments in respect of claims and certificates received in the new format.

The Department has a contract with GPs on the DEASP panel in respect of medical certification for illness and injury benefit and wrote to just under 3,500 contracting GPs in July 2018, setting out the changes involved and will continue to communicate with all panel holders as the new process beds in.

In addition, the Department consulted with the Irish Medical Organization (IMO) - a longstanding representative body with a broad range of GPs in its membership. The Department will continue to consult with the IMO under our Framework Agreement on a range of issues including e-certification, closed certification and changes to forms. The IMO is the body that is recognised as holding the representative rights for GPs.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Disability Allowance Appeals

Ceisteanna (480)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

480. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if a disability allowance review will be expedited for a person (details supplied). [40749/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Based on the evidence supplied in support of this person’s application, her application for disability allowance (DA) was disallowed on the grounds that the medical qualifying condition was not satisfied. The person in question was notified in writing of this decision on 08 August 2018.

They requested a review of the decision by a deciding officer (DO) and submitted additional medical evidence for consideration on 14 August 2018. This is being examined and when a decision is made she will be notified directly of the outcome.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Supplementary Welfare Allowance Eligibility

Ceisteanna (481)

Tom Neville

Ceist:

481. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason a person (details supplied) who has been working full-time here since 2016 has not been considered habitually resident in respect of their supplementary welfare application; if this decision will be reviewed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40772/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The customer made an application for Supplementary Welfare Allowance on 21 August 2018. The claim was disallowed as the customer was not habitually resident. A decision issued to the customer on 20 August 2018.

The applicant has requested an appeal which has been referred to an Appeals Office who will make a decision 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 on social welfare entitlements.

Under Social Welfare legislation, decisions in relation to all aspects of claims are made by statutorily appointed Deciding Officers.

Each assistance claim receives a determination in relation to the Habitual Residence Condition in its own right and a decision is based on application of the legislation and guidelines to the particular individual circumstances of each case.

The determination of a person’s habitual residence is made in accordance with five factors which are set out in legislation, as follows:

(a) the length and continuity of residence in the State or in any other particular country;

(b) the length and purpose of any absence from the State;

(c) the nature and pattern of the person’s employment;

(d) the person’s main centre of interest, and

(e) the future intentions of the person concerned as they appear from all the circumstances.

These five factors have been derived from European Court of Justice case law, and are generally sufficient to enable the deciding officer to determine whether a person’s present circumstances in Ireland indicate a temporary visit or habitual residence.

One-Parent Family Payment Eligibility

Ceisteanna (482)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

482. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the financial savings made in each of the years 2015 to 2017 as a direct result of the introduction of changes to the eligibility and income thresholds for the one-parent family payments introduced in 2015; and the estimated saving for 2018. [40795/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The OFP scheme has played an important role in providing income support to lone parents since its introduction in 1997. However, in the past, this income support for lone parents was passive in nature, and involved limited engagement by the State employment services with OFP recipients.

Research has shown that being at work reduces the at-risk-of-poverty rate for lone parents by three-quarters, compared to those who do not work. This highlights that the best way to tackle poverty among lone parents is to assist them into employment. Access to activation supports is vital to achieve this objective and it is therefore imperative that my Department continues to engage with lone parents to assist them into employment.

The non-conditionality nature of the OFP payment, which was unique in Europe, coupled with its very long duration, has, over time, contributed to long-term social welfare dependency, and associated poverty, among many lone parents and their children. The reforms to the OFP scheme were introduced to address this issue. The reforms provide enhanced access to the Department’s Intreo service to lone parents once their youngest child turns 7 years of age. Access to the Department’s range of education and employment support services is essential to facilitate lone parents to progress into sustainable employment and financial independence.

The policy reforms implemented I believe, are in the best interests of both lone parents and their children, and of our aims to reduce child poverty.

The following table reflects the number of recipients and the expenditure on One-Parent Family Payment (OFP) from 2015 to 2017.

Year

No. of recipients on the scheme (year-end)

Weekly Personal Rate

Weekly Dependant Child Rate

Weekly Income Disregard

Expenditure on the scheme €m

2015

41,468

€188.00

€29.80

€90

€670.0

2016

40,317

€188.00

€29.80

€90

€500.7

2017

39,310

€193.00

€29.80

€110

€502.0

My Department will be spending an estimated €502 million on the OFP scheme in 2018. The OFP scheme currently supports over 39,000 recipients and almost 73,000 children.

The Department’s level of expenditure on OFP is directly related to the number of claimants on the scheme (and the number of child dependants), so as the OFP numbers reduced due the reforms, the OFP expenditure reduced as well. However, many of those exiting the OFP scheme transferred to other social welfare schemes, such as Jobseeker’s Transitional payment, Jobseeker’s Allowance, Working Family Payment or Back to Work Family Dividend, so the expenditure on these schemes increased.

It is worth pointing out that the decreases in the income disregard for OFP that occurred from 2012 to 2014 were unrelated to the reforms of the OFP scheme, and were due to budgetary considerations. The lower income disregards meant that more of the earned income was taken into consideration as means, thereby impacting the overall income received by OFP recipients engaged in employment. The Government has been incrementally increasing the income disregard for OFP since Budget 2017, and it is currently set at €130. I will of course consider further increases in the context of the forthcoming Budget.

Carer's Allowance Applications

Ceisteanna (483)

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

483. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when a decision in respect of an application for carer’s allowance by a person (details supplied) will be made; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40798/18]

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 child or an adult who has such a disability that as a result they require that level of care.

I confirm that my department received an application for CA from the person concerned on the 27 June 2018.

As the applicant has failed to answer a number of questions relating to her means or supplied supporting documentation, the matter was referred to a local social welfare inspector (SWI) on 3 October 2018 to assess the level of care being provided, assess means and confirm that all the conditions for receipt of carer’s allowance are satisfied.

Once the SWI has reported, a decision will be made and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Jobseeker's Payments

Ceisteanna (484)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

484. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection further to Parliamentary Question No. 235 of 27 September 2018, if a payment level in the case of a person (details supplied) will be re-examined in view of an error; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40842/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

A payment increase to a Jobseekers payment for a Qualified Child is usually paid in circumstances here a child up to 18 years of age lives with the client. However, if a customer has been in receipt of a Jobseeker’s Allowance payment for at least 156 days and their child/children is in full-time education, an increase for a Qualified Child (IQC) will be paid up to 22 years of age, or up to the end of the academic year in which the child reaches 22.

In this particular case, the person concerned has 2 dependent children less than 18 years of age for which they are in receipt of an additional payment for. However, if the person concerned has two other children who are in fulltime education, then there is no payment due for them as the person concerned has not been in receipt of Jobseekers Allowance for the qualifying conditions of 156 days. My Department will review the claim of the person concerned when it reaches 156 days duration in order to determine the eligibility of any additional children at that time. I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Illness Benefit Eligibility

Ceisteanna (485)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

485. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason a person (details supplied) is not receiving a regular weekly payment of illness benefit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40859/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

In recent weeks, the Department experienced some delays following the introduction of a new system for Illness Benefit. The change is part of a programme of modernisation in the Department which took effect from Monday 6th August. Some GPs have continued to use the old forms after this changeover date which the Department has, to date, continued to accept in the interest of paying our customers.

The claim from the person concerned has been processed and he is in receipt of his full entitlement under the Illness Benefit Scheme and any/all arrears owing to him have been issued.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Carer's Allowance Eligibility

Ceisteanna (486)

Michael Fitzmaurice

Ceist:

486. Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if foster carers that apply for the carer's allowance are means tested on the foster carer's allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40860/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Carer's allowance 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 child or an adult who has such a disability that as a result they require that level of care.

Foster care allowance is administered by Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, which falls under the remit of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. Social welfare legislation provides that foster care allowances paid by Tusla are not taken into account in assessing the means in respect of any weekly social assistance payments; therefore it is not assessable as means for carer’s allowance.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Fuel Allowance Expenditure

Ceisteanna (487)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

487. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the estimated full-year cost if the fuel allowance was increased by €2.50 per week; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40881/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The fuel allowance is a payment of €22.50 per week for 27 weeks (a total of €607.50 each year) from October to April, to over 368,000 low income households, at an estimated cost of €227 million in 2018.  The purpose of this payment is to assist these households with their energy costs.  The allowance represents a contribution towards the energy costs of a household.  It is not intended to meet those costs in full.  Only one allowance is paid per household.

My Department also pays an electricity or gas allowance under the house hold benefits scheme at an estimated cost of €182 million in 2018. 

The estimated full year cost of the measure proposed by the Deputy would be €25.23 million.

Any decision to increase the fuel allowance payment would have budgetary consequences and would have to be considered in the context of budget negotiations. 

In 2016 the Government launched a comprehensive Strategy to Combat Energy Poverty following extensive public consultation.  This Strategy is spearheaded by the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment.  It sets out the Government’s commitment to protecting vulnerable households from energy poverty through a combination of supports, investment in schemes to improve energy efficiency, and energy efficiency awareness initiatives.  One of the best ways to tackle fuel poverty in the long term is to improve the energy efficiency of the dwelling through proper building and household insulation.  The Warmer Homes Scheme, administered by Sustainable Energy Authority Ireland, is designed to do that. 

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Pension Provisions

Ceisteanna (488)

James Lawless

Ceist:

488. Deputy James Lawless asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to review the policy which excludes Irish citizens from building up class A contributions while working in the European Patent Office despite other Irish citizens in other European institutions being able to do so; her further plans to extend this allowance to the European Patent Office; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40904/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The issues raised by the Deputy relate to a ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union in the Gardella case (Case C-233/12). This is a complicated ruling and its implications are being considered by the various Member States.

The position remains as set out in the reply provided in response to your previous question. The complexity of the Court of Justice ruling on the impact of employments with an international organisation when calculating entitlement to social security old age pensions, requires extensive examination.

I understand that this case, which has implications for all Member States was discussed at the most recent meeting of the Administrative Commission For The Co-ordination of Social Security Systems in Brussels on 4th October 2018. The discussion was on the practical issues concerning the implementation of the Gardella ruling.

It is not possible at this stage to determine the outcome of the ongoing discussions. As previously indicated I will be in contact with the Deputy on resolution of this matter.

Jobseeker's Payments

Ceisteanna (489)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

489. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of sanctions and-or penalties applied to the benefits of jobseekers applied in each of the years 2010 to 2017 and to date in 2018, in tabular form. [40936/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Penalty rates were introduced in 2011 as a means of encouraging jobseekers to engage with activation measures and to co-operate with efforts of the Department to assist them in securing employment. The Department is committed, under Pathways to Work, to incentivise the take-up of activation opportunities, including implementing sanctions for failure to engage.

The legislation underpinning the application of penalty rates is provided for in the Social Welfare Act. Penalty rates can only be applied in specific circumstances and the decision to impose a penalty can only be made by a Deciding Officer of the Department. If dissatisfied with that decision it is open to the Jobseeker to appeal the decision to the Social Welfare Appeals Office.

Details of the numbers of penalty rates applied in the specific years and up to 9th September 2018 are listed in the table.

Year

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018 to date

Total:

PR

-

359

1,519

3,395

5,325

6,743

10,867

16,451

11,169

55,828

Jobseeker's Payments

Ceisteanna (490)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

490. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of sanctions and-or penalties applied to jobseekers on foot of information supplied by JobPath providers since the commencement of the JobPath programme by year in tabular form. [40937/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

As the Deputy will be aware, JobPath is a service that supports people who are long-term unemployed to obtain and sustain paid employment. The service was launched in 2015 on a ‘rolling basis’ with referral numbers gradually increasing over time.

JobPath providers do not apply or recommend the application of a penalty rate of payment. They simply advise the Department if a jobseeker is failing to attend activation meetings without good cause. The application of penalty rates is entirely a matter for my Department and officials involved will take all relevant factors into account.

The process for sanctioning clients who do not engage with the JobPath activation process is exactly the same as the process for clients who fail to engage with the Department’s other activation services provided by Intreo Centres, Local Employment Services and Job Clubs.

Reduced rates are only applied where a job seeker fails to engage as requested, and following at least two warnings, with the Department’s employment services.

Between July 2015 and July 2018 179,000 jobseekers had commenced their engagement period with the service.

Up to the end of July 2018, 12,181 jobseekers had a penalty rate applied to their payment at some point during their engagement period with the JobPath service. The estimated breakdown per year is set out in the following table.

Jobseekers Engaged with JobPath By Year

Year

Number of Jobseekers Engaged with JobPath to have a penalty Rate applied.

2015

63

2016

1215

2017

5222

2018

5681

I trust this clarifies matters for the Deputy.