Farm Assist Scheme Applications

Ceisteanna (626)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

626. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of an application for farm assist by a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5496/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The person concerned attended Killarney Intreo Centre on 22/1/19 and was interviewed by a Social Welfare Inspector regarding his Jobseekers Allowance application, as it is a means tested scheme. During the course of this interview he was informed of the option of applying for Farm Assist and was issued the relevant form for this scheme.

He was contacted today and was advised that he may have an entitlement to Jobseekers Benefit payment. However he has decided he is withdrawing his Jobseekers application in favour of Farm Assist.

His Farm Assist application is currently with a Social Welfare Inspector and he has been issued an appointment with a Social Welfare Inspector for 5/2/19.

I trust that this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

I trust this clarifies the matter.

State Pension (Contributory)

Ceisteanna (627)

John Brady

Ceist:

627. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if persons who received offers for a review of State pension (contributory) payments can provide the necessary information in writing rather than online; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5499/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Since the end of September 2018, my Department has been examining the social insurance records of pensioners born on or after 1 September 1946 who were awarded state pension (contributory) on reduced post Budget 2012 rate bands. Information letters were issued to these pensioners explaining that my Department will contact them again to either inform them about the outcome of their review or to request further information in order to complete their review. All of the claims involved will be individually examined. Due to the numbers involved, the process will take a number of months to complete.

Where possible, my Department will use information already held to assist in these reviews. Additional information is being requested from pensioners in relation to unexplained gaps in their social insurance record, if required to complete their review. These information requests also explain how to access my Department’s on-line service to provide the relevant information. This is the quickest and easiest way for them to provide the required information.

The information request letter also bears a dedicated telephone number to support and assist those involved in the review. Details of those outlining difficulty with using the online application are recorded and a paper application will be issued to them when they become available at the end of February.

It is expected that the first review outcomes will be notified during Quarter 1 2019. Regardless of when a review is completed, where a pensioner qualifies for an increase, their rate of payment will be adjusted without delay together with arrears backdated to March 2018, or their 66th birthday if later. Where a pensioner does not qualify for an increase, they will continue to receive their existing rate of payment. No personal pension entitlement rates will be reduced as a result of this review.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

State Pension (Contributory)

Ceisteanna (628)

John Brady

Ceist:

628. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of the review being undertaken under the new total contributions approach model for those affected by changes to the State pension (contributory) from 2012; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5500/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Since the end of September 2018, my Department has been examining the social insurance records of pensioners born on or after 1 September 1946 who were awarded state pension (contributory) on reduced post Budget 2012 rate bands. Information letters were issued to these pensioners explaining that my Department will contact them again to either inform them about the outcome of their review or to request further information in order to complete their review. All of the claims involved will be individually examined. Due to the numbers involved, the process will take a number of months to complete.

Where possible, my Department will use information already held to assist in these reviews. Additional information is being requested from pensioners in relation to unexplained gaps in their social insurance record, if required to complete their review. These information requests also explain how to access my Department’s on-line service to provide the relevant information. This is the quickest and easiest way for them to provide the required information.

The information request letter also bears a dedicated telephone number to support and assist those involved in the review. Details of those outlining difficulty with using the online application are recorded and a paper application will be issued to them when they become available at the end of February.

It is expected that the first review outcomes will be notified during Quarter 1 2019. Regardless of when a review is completed, where a pensioner qualifies for an increase, their rate of payment will be adjusted without delay together with arrears backdated to March 2018, or their 66th birthday if later. Where a pensioner does not qualify for an increase, they will continue to receive their existing rate of payment. No personal pension entitlement rates will be reduced as a result of this review.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Working Family Payment Applications

Ceisteanna (629)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

629. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when a decision will be made on a working family payment application by a person (details supplied); the reason for the delay in same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5531/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Working Family Payment (WFP) is a weekly in-work payment which provides additional income support to employees on low earnings with children.

An application for WFP was received from the person concerned on 21 January 2019.

The Department wrote to the applicant on 31 January 2019 to request further details.

On receipt of the requested details, the application will be processed without delay and they will be notified of the decision.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy

Back to Work Family Dividend Scheme

Ceisteanna (630)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

630. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when an application for a back to work family dividend by a person (details supplied) will be processed; when payment will issue; the reason for the delay in same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5532/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

A claim for Back to Work Family Dividend was made by the person in question on 10 January, 2019. This claim was awarded on 29 January, 2019 effective from 10 January, 2019.

The Back to Work Family Dividend claim has now been suspended as the spouse of the person in question has been awarded a Jobseeker's Allowance payment. The person in question no longer has an entitlement to a Back to Work Family Dividend payment while his spouse is in receipt of Jobseeker's Allowance.

The family unit is financially better off with his spouse claiming Jobseeker's Allowance.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Invalidity Pension Appeals

Ceisteanna (631)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

631. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if a decision has been made on the review of further medical evidence submitted in support of an invalidity pension application by a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5533/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Invalidity pension (IP) is a payment for people who are permanently incapable of work because of illness or incapacity and who satisfy the pay related social insurance (PRSI) contribution conditions.

The department received a claim for IP from this gentleman on 28 March 2018. This application was disallowed.

Further medical evidence was submitted in July 2018 and, following a review, it was decided that there was no change to the original decision.

The gentleman in question lodged an appeal of the decision to the independent Social Welfare Appeals Office (SWAO) and submitted additional medical evidence in support of his appeal.

Following a review of all the information available it was decided that there was no change to the original decision and a submission was prepared by the department and forwarded to the SWAO for determination on 03 December 2018. The additional medical evidence recently submitted in support of his application has been forwarded to the SWAO, who will be in touch with the gentleman in question directly in relation to the progress of his appeal.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Jobseeker's Allowance Payments

Ceisteanna (632)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

632. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when a decision will be made on an application by a person (details supplied); the reason for the delay in same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5544/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

A claim for Jobseeker’s Allowance by the person in question was registered in Roscommon Intreo Centre on 22 January, 2019. It was necessary to seek further information from the person in question and this information was received on 29 January. The Jobseeker’s Allowance claim has now been decided and a payment will be made on Thursday 7 February.

Claims are decided as soon as possible following receipt of application, however, where further information is required or if a case needs to be referred to a Social Welfare Inspector this may increase the processing time.

I trust this clarifies this matter for the Deputy.

Working Family Payment Applications

Ceisteanna (633)

Eamon Scanlon

Ceist:

633. Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of a working family payment application by a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5565/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Working Family Payment (WFP) is an in-work payment which provides additional income support to employees on low earnings with children. In order to qualify for WFP, the applicant or the applicant and their spouse, partner or cohabitant must be engaged in full-time remunerative employment as an employee for not less than 38 hours per fortnight.

An application for WFP was received from the person concerned on 26 November 2018.

Their application was disallowed on 29 January 2019 as they did not satisfy the condition of hours worked.

However, as the person concerned commenced new employment with effect from 01 January 2019, a new WFP application was issued to them on 29 January 2019 for completion.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Pension Provisions

Ceisteanna (634)

Eamon Scanlon

Ceist:

634. Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the rules governing self-employed persons and their PRSI record with regard to their pension entitlements; the way in which the gaps on the PRSI record of a person pre-1988 is treated for pension purposes in view of the fact that PRSI for the self-employed was only introduced in 1988; if their date of entry would be 6 April 1988 for pension purposes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5569/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Class S PRSI was introduced for the self-employed in 1988. Prior to 1988 the self-employed could maintain their social insurance record by paying Voluntary Contributions, once they had already been an employed contributor and met the qualifying conditions of the Voluntary Contributions scheme. Generally, Voluntary Contributions maintained entitlement to a limited range of pension payments, including the State pension (contributory). Under the Yearly Average system, where a person commenced paying Class S PRSI from 6th April 1988, their average can be calculated from that date.

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 the design of the full TCA to be introduced from 2020 on the 28th of May to which a wide variety of stakeholder groups were invited. A number of workshops were also held on the day to elicit views and feedback. This exercise included materials describing the extension of compulsory PRSI for self-employed in 1988 and sought views on how best to ensure that self-employed are not disadvantaged as a result of this reform.

One of the issues considered in this process was how best to ensure that self-employed contributors are not disadvantaged by the fact that Class S contributions were only introduced in 1988. I have recently been provided with an analysis of the views submitted in the consultation.

Once I have considered this analysis, I intend to bring a proposal to Government setting out the details of how I propose to implement TCA, including, how I intend to address the issue raised by the Deputy.

The Deputy should note that those with insufficient contributions to meet the requirements for a State pension (contributory), may qualify for a means tested State pension (non-contributory), the maximum personal rate for which is €232 (over 95% of the maximum rate of the contributory pension). This rate of payment does not include rent allowance, household benefits or fuel allowance. Alternatively, if their spouse is a State pensioner and they have significant household means, their most beneficial payment may be an Increase for a Qualified Adult, based on their personal means, and amounting up to 90% of a full contributory pension.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

State Pension (Contributory) Eligibility

Ceisteanna (635)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

635. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if the case of a person (details supplied) will be reviewed and expedited; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5597/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The person concerned is currently in receipt of an Illness Benefit payment and he can continue to receive this benefit provided he remains medically certified as unfit for work by his doctor and submits weekly certificates to that effect until he reaches 66 years of age.

His entitlement to State Pension (contributory) is due to commence from the 19th February 2019 and his first payment is due on the 15th February 2019.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Small and Medium Enterprises Supports

Ceisteanna (636)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

636. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to provide for a merchants' incentive scheme as part of the new digital strategy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5599/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

My officials have made contact with the Deputy's office and on discussion it would appear this question is appropriate to my colleague Minister Heather Humphreys T.D. in the Department of Business , Enterprise and Innovation.

Fuel Allowance Payments

Ceisteanna (637)

Eamon Scanlon

Ceist:

637. Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of a fuel allowance application by a person (details supplied). [5691/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The lady in question is in receipt of invalidity pension and has been assessed as eligible for fuel allowance with effect from 08 November 2018. She was notified on 31 January 2019 of this decision.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Supplementary Welfare Allowance Data

Ceisteanna (638)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

638. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the amount expended in each year since and including 2008 on exceptional needs payments under the supplementary welfare scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5739/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Under the supplementary welfare allowance (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) may be 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 where an alternative is not available at that time.

In total €38.8 million has been provided for ENPs and UNPs in 2019. The following tabular statement shows the expenditure on ENPs and UNPs each year since 2008.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Expenditure on ENPs and UNPs, 2008-2018

Year

Expenditure

2008

€82.3m

2009

€75.2m

2010

€69.4m

2011

€62.6m

2012

€52.7m

2013

€35.7m

2014

€30.1m

2015

€31.0m

2016

€32.2m

2017

€38.1m

2018

€42.3m*

* Provisional outturn

Pension Provisions

Ceisteanna (639)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

639. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if it is planned under the new total contributions approach model for calculating contributory pensions to give credits to persons for the purposes of qualifying for a pension under this method of calculation to farmers who were in receipt of farm assist payment prior to 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5745/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

At the outset, it should be noted that credited contributions do not assist a person in qualifying for a pension, in the way that paid contributions do. They may, however, improve the rate of payment for which a pensioner qualifies.

The farm assist scheme was introduced in 1999 to provide income support for low income farmers. It replaced the former smallholders’ unemployment assistance payment. In line with the then existing arrangements for unemployment assistance (including smallholders) and pre-retirement allowance, the income of farm assist recipients was exempt from class S PRSI for self-employed workers. Recipients of farm assist who had previously paid class S social insurance had the option of paying voluntary contributions to maintain their social insurance record, including their entitlement to State pension contributory, provided they satisfied the qualifying conditions.

PRSI credited contributions (credits) are only awarded to former employees, to cover gaps in social insurance where they are not in a position to pay PRSI such as during periods of unemployment, illness, etc. Self-employed workers, whether farmers or self-employed in other sectors, do not qualify for credits.

While the design of the Total Contributions Approach to determining the rate of contributory pension to be paid for new pensioners from 2020 has not been finalised, it is not expected to include the introduction of a new class of credits for self-employed workers.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

State Pension (Contributory) Data

Ceisteanna (640)

Aindrias Moynihan

Ceist:

640. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of persons who did their post-2012 contributory pension reviews online; the number who commenced an online review but did not complete the process; the number who requested paper forms for review; the completion rate for paper reviews; the number who did not respond to review correspondence in County Cork and nationally in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5751/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Since the end of September 2018, my Department has been examining the social insurance records of pensioners born on or after 1 September 1946 who were awarded state pension (contributory) on reduced post Budget 2012 rate bands. Due to the numbers involved, the process will take a number of months to complete.

Where possible, my Department will use information already held to assist in these reviews. Over recent weeks, requests for additional information are being sent to pensioners about unexplained gaps in their social insurance record, where this information is required to complete their review. These information requests also explain how to access my Department’s online service to provide the relevant information. The information request letter also bears a dedicated telephone number to support and assist those involved in the review and allow customers who have difficulty with using the online application request a paper application which will be issued to them when they become available at the end of February

As information request have only recently started to issue to customers it is too early to provide the detailed statistics the Deputy requested at this time .

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

State Pension (Contributory)

Ceisteanna (641)

Aindrias Moynihan

Ceist:

641. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when paper review forms will be available for persons who are having their post-2012 contributory pension reviewed. [5752/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Since the end of September 2018, my Department has been examining the social insurance records of pensioners born on or after 1 September 1946 who were awarded state pension (contributory) on reduced post Budget 2012 rate bands. Information letters were issued to these pensioners explaining that my Department will contact them again to either inform them about the outcome of their review or to request further information in order to complete their review. All of the claims involved will be individually examined. Due to the numbers involved, the process will take a number of months to complete.

Where possible, my Department will use information already held to assist in these reviews. Additional information is being requested in writing from pensioners in relation to unexplained gaps in their social insurance record, if required to complete their review. These information requests also explain how to access my Department’s on-line service to provide the relevant information.

The letter issuing contains a phone number the pensioner can call if they are unable to complete the online form. Their contact details will be taken and a paper application form would issue to them when paper forms become available towards the end of February 2019. When the form is returned, the person’s state pension (contributory) pension will be reviewed and they will be informed of the outcome in writing.

It is expected that the first review outcomes will be notified during Quarter 1 2019. Regardless of when a review is completed, where a pensioner qualifies for an increase, the increase will be paid with their next due payment, together with arrears backdated to March 2018, or their 66th birthday if later. If a pensioner does not qualify for an increase, they will continue to receive their existing rate of payment. No personal pension entitlement rates will be reduced as a result of this review.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Environmental Policy

Ceisteanna (642)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

642. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the policy on protecting green spaces, including allotments and community gardens, in city areas in view of the benefits of such to general health and well-being and specifically mental health outcomes for inner city residents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4964/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Policy objectives in relation to specific land uses, including green spaces, allotments and community gardens, are a matter for local planning authorities as part of the City/County Development Plan and Local Area Plan processes. Part I of the First Schedule of the Planning Act 2000, as amended, provides for the reservation of land for use and cultivation as allotments and regulating, promoting, facilitating or controlling the provision of land for that use.

City and County Development Plans set out a strategic framework for the proper planning and sustainable development of the administrative area of the local authority and must be consistent with longer term planning and sustainable development aims, including those set out in the National Planning Framework (NPF).

The NPF sets out an ambitious high-level national vision for Ireland for 2040, and provides the planning framework and principles to manage future population and economic growth over the next 20 years. A key principle of the NPF prioritises the compact growth of our villages, towns and urban areas. Securing compact and sustainable urban growth means focusing on reusing previously developed ‘brownfield’ land, building up infill sites and either reusing or redeveloping existing sites and buildings, in well serviced urban locations, particularly those served by good public transport and supporting services, including employment opportunities.

The NPF provides a policy framework for more compact urban growth rather than car dependent sprawl, while also providing safeguards that protect the environment, promote healthy communities and lifestyle choices. One of the principal benefits of more compact urban development is that it will enhance public health by encouraging and facilitating more active lifestyles by creating a more walkable and cycling friendly urban environment. It will continue to be a matter for local planning authorities to balance all of these factors in relation to specific areas and sites.

Electoral Reform

Ceisteanna (643)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

643. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans to facilitate the holding of elections and referendums at the weekend to facilitate young persons returning home to vote; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5190/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Electoral law allows for the taking of a poll at an election or referendum on any day of the week. In deciding on a particular day, a wide range of considerations are taken into account and ultimately there are advantages and disadvantages attaching to any day chosen. The flexibility in the legislation allows all relevant factors to be taken into account at any given time in setting the polling day and I have no plans to amend the legislation to change these arrangements.

Electoral law also provides for postal voting for certain categories of voters including full-time students registered at their home who are living elsewhere while attending an educational institution in the State.

Chimney Sweeps Regulation

Ceisteanna (644)

Lisa Chambers

Ceist:

644. Deputy Lisa Chambers asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans to regulate the practice of chimney sweeps and to encourage and ensure households carry out regular cleaning of stoves and chimneys in line with guidelines. [5468/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Fire services attended 2,520 fires involving chimneys/ flues/ soot/ hot ashes in 2016, 2,731 such fires in 2015 and 2,668 such fires in 2014. This underlines the need for campaigns aimed at reducing the prevalence of this type of fire and the advice which fire services promote each year.

My Department works with local authority fire services and issues advice on fire safety, and recommends that chimneys are cleaned regularly - at least annually, and more frequently for wood or turf burning stoves. My Department has no function in regulating the provision of services such as chimney sweeping but recommends that stoves, boilers and other heat producing appliances and the flues associated with them are serviced regularly by competent persons. Installation of carbon monoxide alarms is also recommended, and this is a requirement under Building Regulations when new stoves are installed. Installation of stoves should be carried out by a competent installer and in line with the requirements of Technical Guidance Document J (Heat Producing Appliances) - Building Regulations to include proper construction of hearth and flue, adequate ventilation, and to enable regular cleaning of flues.