Household Benefits Scheme

Ceisteanna (277)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

277. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the policy on possible restoration of the subsidy for phone usage for those on State pensions in view of the previous commitment to restore same; if it will be fully restored to couples in the future; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3514/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The household benefits package (HHB) comprises the electricity or gas allowance, and the free television licence.  My Department will spend approximately €248 million this year on HHB for over 443,000 customers.

The package is generally available to people living in the State aged 66 years or over who are in receipt of a social welfare type payment or who satisfy a means test.  The package is also available to some people under the age of 66 who are in receipt of certain welfare type payments. 

In Budget 2014, the decision was made to abolish the telephone allowance element of the HHB package. The savings arising from the initial reduction and subsequent discontinuance of the telephone allowance meant that my Department was able to retain the other valuable elements of the household benefits package such as the electricity and gas allowance and the television licence.

In Budget 2018 I announced a new scheme called the Telephone Support Allowance (TSA). The primary objective of the TSA payment is to allow the most vulnerable people access to personal alarms or phones for security by providing a contribution towards the cost. People in receipt of qualifying Social Protection payments and also in receipt of the living alone increase and fuel allowance automatically qualify for the TSA.

Unlike the previous telephone allowance element of the Household benefits package, the TSA does not require that a person have a telephone, or subscribe to any utility company, in order to receive payment, and I am not convinced that the introduction of a payment with such a criterion is the most effective way of using additional resources to support older people.  Instead, the approach taken by the Government has been to increase general payments to all pensioners, and enhance additional targeted supports for those pensioners most at risk of poverty.

The criteria for the TSA are framed in order to direct the limited resources available to my Department in as targeted a manner as possible.  Fuel Allowance is a means tested payment and these criteria will ensure that the TSA payment goes to those most at risk of social isolation.

Any decision to extend the TSA scheme to all pensioners regardless of their means or personal circumstances or to reinstate the telephone allowance element of the household benefits package would have significant budget implications and would have to be considered in the context of overall budgetary negotiations.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Disability Allowance Data

Ceisteanna (278)

Maurice Quinlivan

Ceist:

278. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of disability allowance applications received in 2018; the number refused and appealed, respectively to the social welfare appeals office; the number overturned by the appeals office; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3524/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The number of disability allowance (DA) applications received, allowed and disallowed or withdrawn in 2018 is set out in the table below.

DA Scheme

 Year

 DA Received

 *DA Award

 DA Disallowed

 DA Withdrawn

 2018

 23,080

 17,205*

 12,682

 1,130

(*)Please note that the statistics in relation to awarded cases include cases in the disallowed category which were subsequently awarded following a review or a successful appeal. 

The table show the number of DA appeals received and allowed or partially allowed by the Social Welfare Appeals Office (SWAO) in 2018.

Outcome of DA appeals received and allowed by SWAO

Year 

**DA Appeals received 

 DA Appeals allowed by SWAO

DA Appeals partially allowed by SWAO 

 2018

 5,200**

 3,112

 99

(**)Please note that the statistics in relation to appeals received include both received and re-opened appeal cases less cancelled appeals. 

Invalidity Pension Data

Ceisteanna (279)

Maurice Quinlivan

Ceist:

279. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of invalidity pension applications received in 2018; the number refused and appealed, respectively to the social welfare appeals office; the number overturned by the appeals office; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3525/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The table shows the number of invalidity pension claims received, disallowed, appealed and overturned by the appeals office (AO) for period requested.

 Period

 Received

 Disallowed

 Appealed

 Overturned by AO

 2018

 10,967

 4,601

 1,387

 466 (458 allowed, 8 partially allowed)

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Carer's Allowance Data

Ceisteanna (280)

Maurice Quinlivan

Ceist:

280. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of carer's allowance applications received in 2018; the number refused and appealed, respectively to the social welfare appeals office; the number overturned by the appeals office; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3526/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

During 2018 my Department received 20,122 claims in respect of carer's allowance, it rejected 9,291 claims which did not satisfy the eligibility criteria.

The figures provided for appeals which had a favourable outcome for the appellant relate to appeals which were either allowed in full or in part by an Appeals Officer, or which were resolved by way of a revised decision in favour of the appellant by a Deciding Officer/Designated Person are detailed in the attached tabular statement.  

 The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions in relation to social welfare entitlements. 

 There are a number of reasons why a decision which was refused at first instance might be successful on appeal and it is not necessarily the case that the first decision was incorrect. It is often the case that new evidence is provided with an appeal and that, as a result, the original decision may be revised by the Deciding Officer or Designated Person.  This was the case in 31.5% of all favourable appeal outcomes in 2018.

Where the decision was not revised by the Department in light of the appeal contentions, further evidence is often provided by the appellant as the appeal process proceeds and in addition, the Appeals Officer may gain insights when they meet the appellant in person at oral hearing which may influence the outcome of the appeal.

Tabular statement

Appeal Receipts and Outcome of Carer’s Allowance Appeals Finalised in 2018

 

Appeal Receipts

Appeals

Finalised

Allowed By   Appeals Officers

Partially Allowed   by Appeals Officers

Revised Decisions   By Deciding Officers

Appeals   Disallowed by Appeals Officers

Withdrawn

2018

2,902

2,710

1,047

144

440

989

90

Domiciliary Care Allowance Data

Ceisteanna (281)

Maurice Quinlivan

Ceist:

281. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of domiciliary care allowance applications received in 2018; the number refused and appealed, respectively to the social welfare appeals office; the number overturned by the appeals office; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3527/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The number of applications for domiciliary care allowance (DCA) has more than doubled since 2012 when 4,079 applications were received.  In 2018, a total of 8,609 applications were received representing a 5% increase on the 2017 figure.  

The number of initial applications disallowed by a Deciding Officer in 2018 was 2,225.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office finalised 1,589 DCA cases in 2018.  Of these, 957 were decided by an Appeals Officer, 590 were reviewed and revised by a Deciding Officer in DCA section, while a further 42 cases were either cancelled or withdrawn.  Of the 957 cases decided by an Appeals Officer, a total of 686 were allowed and a further 13 partially allowed.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy. 

Social Welfare Appeals Waiting Times

Ceisteanna (282)

Maurice Quinlivan

Ceist:

282. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the wait time for each individual claim section for the forwarding of the file of an applicant to the social welfare appeals office; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3528/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The table attached provides the appeal processing times for schemes in 2018 broken down by weeks spent in the Social Welfare Appeals Office, the Department and with the appellant.

The time taken to process an appeal reflects all aspects of the appeal process including the time spent in the Department reviewing the decision in light of the appeal contentions and/or preparing the appeal submission. 

The time spent in the Department will include cases that the Department has referred back to customers for more information/clarification (rather than awaiting action in the Department).

The Department continues to work with the Social Welfare Appeals Office to reduce time in submitting appeal files and DO submissions.

Tabular statement

Appeals Processing Times by Scheme  01 January 2018 – 31 December  2018

Scheme

SWAO

 

(weeks)

Department of Employment Affairs and Social   Protection

(weeks)

Appellant

 

(weeks)

Totals

Blind Person’s Pension

13.4

11.0

0.7

25.0

Carer’s Allowance

13.2

10.4

0.6

24.2

Carer’s Benefit

12.0

8.9

0.2

21.1

Child Benefit

17.8

13.3

0.4

31.5

Disability Allowance

11.4

5.1

0.5

16.9

Illness Benefit

15.6

9.4

0.6

25.6

Partial Capacity Benefit

15.6

9.8

1.1

26.5

Domiciliary Care Allowance

11.7

15.3

0.4

27.5

Deserted Wife’s Allowance **

18.9

51.7

-

70.6

Deserted Wife’s Benefit

31.9

17.0

-

48.9

Farm Assist

28.6

18.9

0.3

47.8

Bereavement Grant

34.2

1.9

-

36.1

Death Benefit (Pension)

28.3

3.2

-

31.5

Working Family Payment *

16.8

12.8

0.1

29.6

Invalidity Pension

11.7

12.1

0.3

24.2

Liable Relatives

21.2

11.9

-

33.1

Maternity Benefit

17.8

4.4

0.3

22.5

Paternity Benefit

21.1

6.7

-

27.9

One Parent Family Payment

19.0

11.7

0.2

30.9

State Pension (Contributory)

17.9

19.4

0.4

37.7

State Pension (Non-Contributory)

18.6

11.7

0.8

31.1

Occupational Injury Benefit

23.3

7.6

0.4

31.3

Disablement Pension

19.9

12.1

0.2

32.2

Medical Care

12.8

4.7

-

17.5

Guardian's Payment (Contributory)

22.8

5.4

0.4

28.6

Guardian's Payment (Non-Contributory)

16.8

6.5

-

23.3

Jobseeker's Allowance (Means)

19.1

14.0

0.3

33.4

Jobseeker's Allowance (Payments)

16.8

9.9

0.3

27.0

BTW Family Dividend

12.6

12.1

-

24.7

Jobseeker's Transitional

17.1

6.6

-

23.7

Recoverable Benefits & Assistance

12.5

6.3

-

18.8

Pre-retirement Allowance

39.8

7.1

-

47.0

Jobseeker's Benefit

15.7

7.4

-

23.2

Carer’s Support Grant

14.6

10.1

0.2

25.0

Treatment Benefit

0.1

4.5

3.4

7.8

Incapacity Supplement

22.7

11.5

-

34.2

Insurability of Employment

41.2

12.5

0.7

54.4

Supplementary Welfare  Allowance

11.1

16.7

0.3

28.1

Widow/Widower’s Pension (Contributory)

18.5

9.4

0.5

28.5

Widow/Widower’s Pension (Non-Contributory)

16.7

5.7

0.2

22.6

Widowed Parent Grant

20.1

14.3

-

34.5

All Appeals

15.1

9.6

0.4

25.1

* Previously called Family Income Supplement   

** Deserted Wife’s Allowance - involved one very protracted case only.

Social Welfare Appeals Status

Ceisteanna (283)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

283. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if an appeal by a person (details supplied) can be expedited; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3568/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 9 January 2019.  It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought.  When these papers have been received from the Department, the case in question will be referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral appeal hearing.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions in relation to social welfare entitlements.

 I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Dental Services Provision

Ceisteanna (284)

Pat Deering

Ceist:

284. Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when a person (details supplied) will be eligible under PRSI to have a realignment of false teeth. [3569/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The scheme provides for a contribution towards the cost of a scale and polish or periodontal treatment, in addition to the free annual examination.

If the person concerned is the holder of a Medical Card, they should contact their local HSE office which will advise on entitlements under the HSE scheme.  

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy. 

Carer's Allowance Appeals

Ceisteanna (285)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

285. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if the appeals process in the case of a person (details supplied) can be expedited with a view to ensuring that they have adequate support to care for a dependant child; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3570/19]

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.

It is a condition for receipt of CA that the means of the person concerned must be less than the statutory limit.

Means are any income of 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.

During the course of a review a deciding officer determined that the means of the person concerned exceeded the statutory limit for CA.

The person concerned was notified on 15 June 2018 of this decision, the reason for it and of their right of review and appeal.

The person concerned has appealed this decision to the Social Welfare Appeals Office (SWAO).  

The first step in the appeals process is a review of the original decision by a Deciding Officer. That review is now complete and the person concerned will be notified shortly regarding the outcome.

A submission in support of the decision is been finalised and will be submitted with the file to the SWAO for their determination shortly.

In the meantime, if the means of the person concerned are insufficient to meet their needs, they should apply for a means-tested supplementary welfare allowance from their local community welfare service.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Brexit Issues

Ceisteanna (286)

Lisa Chambers

Ceist:

286. Deputy Lisa Chambers asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of meetings she has attended since the beginning of September 2018 with her officials to discuss and prepare for Brexit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3596/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

My key area of interest is the impact of Brexit on the current reciprocal arrangements for social insurance schemes, social assistance schemes and child benefit between Ireland and the UK, including Northern Ireland.    Last April I met with the then UK Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, the Right Honourable Esther McVey.  We agreed on our objective in ensuring that the reciprocity of social welfare rights and entitlements, which currently exist for Irish and UK citizens moving within Ireland and between Ireland and Britain under the Common Travel Area, are safeguarded and maintained.  

In addition to specific meetings on the topic, Brexit, including its implications and my Department's contingency and preparedness plans are the subject of regular contacts with my officials.    I have weekly meetings with the Secretary General of my Department, at which Brexit has been discussed.   Brexit is also a standing item on the agenda for the Department's Management Board meetings and also features on a regular basis at Ministerial-Management Board meetings.