Exceptional Needs Payments

Ceisteanna (339)

Martin Kenny

Ceist:

339. Deputy Martin Kenny asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason there is no contractual undertaker provided by her Department in County Leitrim; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44244/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Under the supplementary welfare allowance (SWA) scheme, my 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 ENP is a means tested payment payable at the discretion of the officers administering the scheme taking into account the requirements of the legislation and all the relevant circumstances of the case in order to ensure that the payments target those most in need of assistance.  

An application can be made under the ENP scheme for assistance with funeral and burial expenses where there is an inability to pay these costs, in part or in full, by the family of the deceased person without causing hardship.

As previously advised to the Deputy, the Department does not procure goods or services under the ENP scheme.  Payment of an ENP is made to the customer to meet a particular need but can be nominated to the supplier of goods or services with the permission of the customer.  The contractual relationship is, however, between the customer and the supplier, and not the Department. 

In May 2018 my Department issued updated guidance for staff specifically in relation to assistance with funeral and burial expenses, as well as a new application form which is available on www.welfare.ie. 

Any persons who consider that they have an entitlement to assistance with funeral expenses under the ENP scheme should contact my Department.  

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Illness Benefit Payments

Ceisteanna (340)

Willie O'Dea

Ceist:

340. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when a payment will issue for an application by a person (details supplied) for illness benefit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44262/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

My Department recently moved to a new IT system for Illness Benefit (IB) and this has impacted on payments to some IB customers.

The IB claim for the person concerned is paid up to date.  She is currently medically certified until 29th October 2018.  If she remains ill after that date, she should continue to send medical certs to the Department. 

 I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Community Employment Schemes Supervisors

Ceisteanna (341)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

341. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if she will address a matter (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44274/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

As the Deputy will be aware, CE scheme supervisors are employees of private companies in the community and voluntary sector that receive public funding. They are not employees of my Department or public servants, and as such were not subject to pay reductions under the provisions of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (FEMPI) which only applied to public servants.  

The issue of CE supervisor pensions is currently being examined by a Community Sector High Level Forum, chaired by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.  A number of Departments including my own Department are represented on this group, as are the unions and Pobal.

A detailed scoping exercise was carried out with input from the Irish Government Economic and Evaluation Service (IGEES) on the potential costs of providing Exchequer support for the establishment of such a pension scheme for employees across the Community and Voluntary sector in Ireland. The exercise clearly illustrated that this matter presents very significant issues for the Exchequer, with a potential cost to the State of €188 million per annum in respect of funding to enable an employer pension contribution in State funded Community and Voluntary organisations, excluding any provision for immediate ex-gratia lump sum payment of pension as sought, which could, depending on the size of the sector, entail a further Exchequer cost of up to €318 million.

I am very conscious that while the issue relates to Community Employment supervisors and assistant supervisors, such individuals comprise of just one small group within the wider Community and Voluntary sector. Any provision of State funding for such a scheme in respect of those employees could potentially give rise to claims for similar schemes on the part of those in the broader sector, thus crystallising the potential level of liability.  Any solution to this issue will require careful consideration, in particular the implications for scarce Exchequer resources. 

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Departmental Staff Data

Ceisteanna (342)

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

342. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of job activation officers assigned to each county in each of the years 2012 to 2017 and to date in 2018, in tabular form. [44300/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

My Department will be in touch with the Deputy directly to clarify precisely what information he requires.  The information may not be readily available and may take some time to compile.

Departmental Expenditure

Ceisteanna (343)

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

343. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her Department's spend on job activation measures by county in each of the years 2012 to 2017 and to date in 2018, in tabular form. [44301/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

My Department will be in touch with the Deputy directly to clarify precisely what information he requires.  The information may not be readily available and may take some time to compile.

Labour Activation Programmes Data

Ceisteanna (344, 345, 346)

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

344. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the amount paid to Seetec and Turas Nua to deliver the JobPath service in each of the years 2012 to 2017 and to date in 2018, in tabular form. [44302/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

345. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of persons by county who have taken up the JobPath service in each of the years 2012 to 2017 and to date in 2018, in tabular form. [44303/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

346. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of persons by county who have returned to claim social welfare payments having previously taken up the JobPath service in each of the years 2012 to 2017 and to date in 2018, in tabular form. [44304/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 344 to 346, inclusive, together.

The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP) provides a range of activation supports catering for long-term unemployed jobseekers and those most distant from the labour market to secure and sustain full-time paid employment. These supports include the JobPath service.  JobPath is an employment service, which helps long-term unemployed people to secure and sustain paid employment. The service was launched in 2015 on a ‘rolling basis’ with referral numbers gradually increasing over time. 

JobPath is a payment by results model and all set-up and day-to-day operational costs are borne by the companies. The companies are paid on the basis of performance and with the exception of the initial registration fee; payments are made only when a client has achieved sustained employment. The registration fee may be claimed once a jobseeker has developed a Personal Progression Plan (PPP). Job Sustainment Fees (JSF) are payable for each 13 week period of sustained employment, up to a maximum of 52 weeks (i.e. 4 payments).

It is not intended to publish the individual payments to the JobPath companies as these are commercially sensitive and to do so would place the State at a disadvantage both in terms of the contracts currently in place and in any future procurement that may be undertaken.

Table 1: The total cost by year to Sept 2018.

Please note the Service did not come into operation until July 2015, so no payments were made to Seetec or Turas Nua  in the years 2012-2014.

Year 

 Amount Paid

 2015

 €1.2m

 2016

 €25.2m

 2017

 €57.4m

 2018

 €58.9m

State Pension (Contributory)

Ceisteanna (347)

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

347. Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when a system (details supplied) will be implemented; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44340/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The Government intends to introduce a Total Contributions Approach (TCA) to establishing the level of entitlement for all new state pension contributory claims from 2020 onwards (TCA2020). I launched a public consultation on this proposal earlier this year in May, which closed last month.  The consultation sought input on a range of relevant factors which included the amount of contributions needed for a full rate contributory state pension, the amount of credited contributions a person could avail of, the provision of Homecaring periods and whether there would be a "phase-in period" for the changes.

Following examination and consideration of the submissions to the consultation, my officials will prepare proposals for the design of the new approach for consideration by the Government in due course.

In the interim, on 23 January last, this Government agreed to a 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 a new home caring credit.

My Department will be writing to the pensioners concerned shortly, to let them know how the process of review will work.  There is no need for pensioners, or anyone on their behalf, to contact my Department about this.  Once the necessary enabling legislation (contained in the Budget Bill) is enacted and the required systems and processes are ready, my Department will again make direct contact with the pensioners concerned about their individual reviews.

The Deputy should note that for those who do not qualify for the State Pension (contributory) (SPC), because they have paid few or no contributions into the Social Insurance Fund, there are other state pension payments available.  Notably, they may qualify for the State Pension (non-contributory) which is a means-tested payment (based on their share of household means) with a maximum payment of 95% of the SPC.  If their spouse has a contributory pension, they may qualify for an increase for a qualified adult (based on their own means), amounting up to 90% of a full rate SPC pension.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Illness Benefit Payments

Ceisteanna (348)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

348. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when an illness benefit payment will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44345/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The Department administers the Illness Benefit (IB) scheme to those customers who cannot work because they are ill provided they are covered by the appropriate class of social insurance (PRSI) and satisfy the PRSI conditions.

The person concerned does not satisfy the PRSI conditions for the award of an IB payment. A decision letter will issue to him today.

 I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Departmental Staff Data

Ceisteanna (349)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

349. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the breakdown of staff in her Department by grade. [44354/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The following table provides the breakdown of staff in my Department by grade as at the end of September 2018. The Full Time Equivalent (FTE) and staff count are provided.

Grade 

FTE

People

 Secretary General

 1.00

 Deputy Secretary

 1.00

 Assistant Secretary

 10.00

10 

 Principal Officer

 85.50

89 

 Assistant Principal

 281.38

286 

 Administrative Officer

 24.55

25 

 Higher Executive Officer

 1496.07

1566 

 Executive Officer

 1435.38

1511 

 Clerical Officer

 2510.04

2713 

 Services Officer

 147.04

152 

 Temporary Clerical Officer

496.00 

496

 Total Staff

6487.96

6850

Telephone Call Charges

Ceisteanna (350)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

350. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the contact telephone numbers for her Department that are premium rate numbers; the reason freephone numbers are not used exclusively for her Department in view of the fact that many who are in contact are on limited incomes; her views on whether the use of premium rate or lo-call numbers will result in higher charges for those who do not have access to a landline; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44437/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

My Department has several measures in place aimed at reducing the potential cost for telephone callers. This includes the provision of a “Freephone” service for callers to the Homeless Women, Families and New Communities, and Homeless Men’s Units.  A dedicated team handles high volumes of calls to these services.   Another measure is the use of “LoCall” numbers, operated through the “1890” platform.  These numbers, facilitate customers making contact with the appropriate section in my Department at a low cost to the caller, when calling from a landline number.  “1890” is just one of a group of non-geographic numbers (NGNs) which are used by a wide variety of service providers in Ireland.  The original intention underpinning the use of this facility by my Department was to enable customers to make national calls for the equivalent cost of a local call.

The telecommunications landscape in Ireland has changed significantly since then and I am aware that these numbers were introduced at a time when landlines predominated.  As such, I am also aware that "1890" numbers do not always result in a cost saving.  In fact, in some cases, calls to NGNs such as the “1890” numbers can cost significantly more, as these numbers are non-geographic and often not included in “bundles” of call minutes to landlines.  

The Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) is currently undertaking a review of five different classes of NGNs, including “1890” numbers at present.  While not yet complete, ComReg has proposed a number of measures aimed at addressing a range of issues, including that of call costs, and has published a response to its latest round of consultations with a range of interested parties.

My Department is currently in the process of reviewing the use of NGNs as part of a wider review of its telephone policy and is considering the possible and likely implications of ComReg’s recent publications on this topic.

In the meantime, and mindful of the cost of "LoCall" numbers for some customers, my Department endeavours to ensure that where “LoCall” numbers are listed on the Department’s website, a landline number is always listed first, ahead of the available “LoCall” number.  Furthermore, where “LoCall” numbers are listed on the website, they are accompanied by a notification advising customers that rates charged may vary among different service providers.  Customers concerned about call charges can also request a call back, which staff of my Department will facilitate.