My Department is committed to providing a professional, efficient and courteous service to all its customers and regularly provides information in formats such as Braille and Audio or to customers using assistive technology. We also provide Sign Language interpretations and translation services to meet customer needs. The Department can also discuss other options including visiting a customer in person where these accommodations do not meet their needs.
This lady is currently in receipt of Blind Pension (BP). As BP is a means tested payment, entitlement is reviewed from time to time and in this case the applicant was selected for review in 2018. Correspondence from the Department associated with this review has issued in braille and other formats as requested by the applicant. Towards the end of 2018 a Social Welfare Inspector attempted to meet with the applicant in an effort to progress the review and I am aware that an official from the Blind Pension Section is liaising directly with the applicant at present in relation to that review.
Initially when this lady made contact with disability allowance (DA), she was offered the option to have the form completed with a Social Welfare Inspector (SWI). SWIs regularly confirm applications for Social Welfare and clearly advise the client of the purpose of documents they are asked to sign such as declarations on claim forms etc.
On 10 January 2018, my department received an electronic document via email applying for DA. This has been accepted as an application by this lady for this scheme. She is unwilling to complete the medical portion of the application and has requested that my department should use medical information supplied in support of her BP application in 1983. This medical evidence has been requested from Blind Pension Section and will be referred to one of the Department's Medical Assessors for their opinion as to her eligibility for DA.
A SWI has been requested to contact this lady to clarify some aspects of her DA claim and may then progress both the ongoing BP review and the DA entitlement. On completion of the necessary investigations on all aspects of her claim a decision will be made and she will be notified directly of the outcome.
It should be noted there are a number of differences between DA and BP. The schemes are independent of each other and the qualifying criteria are different for each scheme.
BP is a means-tested payment for blind and visually impaired people between the ages of 18 and 66 who are habitually resident in Ireland. To qualify for the BP a person must supply an eye test from an ophthalmic surgeon to verify his / her visual impairment.
Disability Allowance (DA) is a means tested payment for people with a specified disability who are aged 16 or over and under the age of 66. The applicant must be suffering from an injury, disease, congenital deformity or physical or mental illness or defect, which has lasted for one year or is expected to last for one year and as a result of which they are substantially restricted in undertaking work which would otherwise be suitable having regard to the person’s age, experience and qualifications.
There are also a number of significant differences between the means test for BP and DA such as in the assessment of capital, spousal earnings and the income disregards that apply.
I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.