Treatment Benefit Scheme Data

Ceisteanna (92)

Alan Farrell

Ceist:

92. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of persons that availed of aural benefit through the treatment benefit scheme since its extension to the self-employed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8100/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Qualification for treatment benefit (TB), which includes dental, optical and medical appliances (hearing aids), is based on the person having paid the required number of PRSI contributions since starting employment and also having the required number of contributions or credits in the relevant tax year.  The number of contributions required to qualify varies with age.

Eligibility was extended to the self-employed in March 2017, dependent spouse/partners of qualified persons can also qualify for the benefit.

It is estimated that 2.5m people currently pay or have paid the relevant PRSI classes (A,E,H,P and S), that can qualify them and their dependent spouse for TB.

The number of aural benefit applications processed from 1st April 2017 to 31st Dec 2018 was 23,563.  Statistics of the uptake by the self-employed are only available from January 2018, in the 11 months to November 2018, of the 12,992 hearing aid applications processed, 3,656 (28%) were from self-employed contributors.

Carer's Allowance Data

Ceisteanna (93)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

93. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of applications for carer’s allowance that were refused on application, referred to appeal and granted or rejected on appeal, respectively, in each of the past 12 months; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8096/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The information requested by the Deputy in respect of Carer's Allowance is detailed in the following tabular statement.

2018

Rejected Applications

Appeals Received 

Appeals Finalised

Allowed By Appeals Officers

Partially Allowed by Appeals Officers

Revised Decisions By Deciding Officers

Appeals Disallowed by Appeals Officers 

Withdrawn

Jan

760

291

260

93

15

35

114

3

Feb

708

205

229

89

15

47

74

4

Mar

586

213

232

94

11

33

85

9

Apr

731

179

188

77

7

27

59

18

May

1017

249

215

87

8

32

82

6

Jun

680

271

214

90

9

25

83

7

Jul

704

325

265

87

17

63

93

5

Aug

670

231

154

61

7

23

51

12

Sep

724

214

156

67

10

12

60

7

Oct

1068

296

355

113

24

99

115

4

Nov

1074

303

260

120

10

25

104

1

Dec

569

125

182

69

11

19

69

14

2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jan

1035

345

188

58

12

33

80

5

State Pension (Contributory)

Ceisteanna (94)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

94. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if all pensioners affected by the reduced rates of entitlement in budget 2012 have now been contacted; the number contacted to date; the number requested to produce further information; the number whose weekly payments will be adjusted and arrears paid; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7655/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Since late September 2018, my Department has been examining the social insurance records of pensioners born on or after 01 September 1946 who have a reduced rate State pension contributory entitlement.  Where possible, my Department will use the information already held to assist in the reviews. In some cases, additional information is required from pensioners about unexplained gaps in their social insurance record to progress their review.

My Department has issued information letters to circa 79,000 pensioners who had been awarded State pension contributory prior to 31 December 2018 which explained the review process. 

The information letter also explained that not all pensioners included in the review would be required to provide additional information to my Department in order for their review to be processed.

Last month requests for additional information were issued.  These requests included details on how to provide the required information using the Department’s online services and also provided a dedicated telephone number to call if people had difficulty using the online application.  Details of those who called have been recorded so that paper applications can be issued to them towards the end of February. 

From last week, review outcomes letters have began issuing to pensioners.  Increased payments, where applicable, will begin to be made this week.  These increased payments will include arrears of pension from 30 March 2018 or the pensioner's 66th birthday if later.  As there are many contributing factors to determining if a pensioners rate will increase, it will not be possible to say how many pensioners will benefit until the information requests have been returned and all reviews have been completed.

It should be noted thar regardless of when a person’s review is processed, if they are due an increase their weekly rate will be adjusted without delay and arrears paid, backdated to 30 March 2018, or the person’s 66th birthday if later.  If they are not due an increase they will remain on their existing rate.  No one will be worse of as a result of this review.   

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Public Services Card

Ceisteanna (95)

John Brady

Ceist:

95. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of the publication of the report by the Data Protection Commissioner into the public services card; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7995/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) initiated an investigation to assess the legal basis for the processing of data in connection with the Public Services Card (PSC) and other related matters.  The DPC provided a draft report on the PSC to my Department in late August 2018.  The draft report requested further information and clarifications on a broad range of areas.  The DPC asked that we not disclose the draft report to any other party and we have respected that request.

The Department provided a comprehensive response to the DPC’s draft report on 30th November 2018 and we now await the Commissioner's response.  

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

State Pension (Contributory)

Question No. 97 answered with Question No. 66.

Question No. 98 answered with Question No. 60.

Question No. 99 answered with Question No. 89.

Question No. 100 answered with Question No. 78.

Ceisteanna (96)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

96. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of her plans to re-examine the situation that relates to women who were in the workforce and left in earlier years for family duties not being in a position to receive the full State pension (contributory) when they reach retirement age; and her further plans to address the situation. [8043/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

As announced in January 2018 pensioners born on or after the 1st September 1946, affected by the 2012 changes in rate bands, will have their state pension (contributory) entitlement calculated under an interim 'Total Contributions Approach' (TCA).  The announced changes also provide for up to 20 years of home caring periods in the pension entitlement calculation, for those who took time out of the workplace for parenting or caring duties.

As the required legislative and system changes are now in place, I am pleased to let the Deputy know that the first reviews have been processed this week.  Where an increase is awarded, the rate of payment will be adjusted without delay and backdated to 30 March 2018 or the person's 66th birthday if later.

Where a pension rate does not increase as a result of this review, the person will continue to receive their existing rate of payment.  No one will be worse off as a result of this review.  

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 2018 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.  All Oireachtas members were invited to a detailed briefing in Leinster House by my officials shortly afterwards.  The consultation was open for over 3 months and the Department received almost 300 responses from individuals and organisations.  Those submissions outlined the views of respondents on a number of issues, including the number of years required for a full pension, as intended as part of the consultation process.

I have recently been provided with an analysis of the views submitted in the consultation.  I intend bring a proposal to Government shortly, setting out the details of the scheme.  When the Government has agreed the approach to be taken, I will initiate the work required to introduce this reform, including the necessary legislation and systems development. 

People will be informed of the details of the scheme as soon as possible, following the Government decision.

Question No. 97 answered with Question No. 66.
Question No. 98 answered with Question No. 60.
Question No. 99 answered with Question No. 89.
Question No. 100 answered with Question No. 78.

Treatment Benefit Scheme Data

Ceisteanna (101)

Joe Carey

Ceist:

101. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of persons that availed of dental benefit through the treatment benefit scheme nationally and in County Clare since its extension to the self-employed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8098/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Qualification for treatment benefit (TB), which includes dental, optical and medical appliances (hearing aids), is based on the person having paid the required number of PRSI contributions since starting employment and also having the required number of contributions or credits in the relevant tax year. The number of contributions required to qualify varies with age.

Eligibility was extended to the  self-employed in March 2017, dependent spouse/partners of qualified persons can also qualify for the benefit.

It is estimated that 2.5m people currently pay or have paid the relevant PRSI classes (A,E,H,P and S), that can qualify them and their dependent spouse for TB.

The number of dental benefit applications processed from 1st April 2017 to 31st Dec 2018 was 1,142,347.  Statistics of the uptake by the self-employed are only available from January 2018, in the 11 months to November 2018, of the 740,337 dental benefit applications processed, 117,777 (16%) were from self-employed contributors.

In the same January to November 2018 period, 2965 dental benefit applications from self-employed contributors in County Clare were processed.

Carer's Allowance Delays

Question No. 103 answered with Question No. 86.

Question No. 104 answered with Question No. 78.

Ceisteanna (102)

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

102. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the steps being taken to fast-track applications for payment of a carer's allowance to new applicants in view of the fact that the need for the payment for those applying is immediate while the process for receiving access can be lengthy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8112/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

My Department is committed to providing a quality service to all its customers.  This includes ensuring that applications are processed as quickly as possible.

Where any scheme area experiences delays, all possible steps are taken to improve processing times.  This includes the assignment of additional resources, where available, and the review of business processes, to ensure the efficient processing of applications.

In general, social welfare schemes with a number of complex qualifying conditions can take longer to process.

To qualify for carer's allowance, the carer must show that they are habitually resident in the State, that they are providing full-time care and attention to a person who requires this level of care and that their means are less than the statutory limit.

In January 2019 the average waiting time for a decision on new CA application was 16 weeks.  The re-assignment of staff to claims processing from within the CA area and from other areas of the Longford Centralised Schemes Office has improved average processing times and has led to a decrease of 33% in claims on hand since end-September.

I expect that processing times will continue to improve in the coming weeks as a result.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Question No. 103 answered with Question No. 86.
Question No. 104 answered with Question No. 78.

Telephone Support Allowance

Ceisteanna (105)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

105. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if the operation of the telephone allowance will be reviewed in view of the fact that pensioners in need of the allowance who are not living alone cannot access it; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8004/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The Telephone Support Allowance (TSA) is a weekly payment of €2.50.  Approximately 129,000 customers are in receipt of the TSA payment.  The estimated full year cost of the scheme is over €16 million. 

The primary objective of the TSA is to allow the most vulnerable people at risk of isolation, including the elderly and those with disabilities, access to personal alarms or phones for security. 

The risk of social isolation is clearly higher for those living alone than those who live with other people, especially where they have limited personal resources.  Therefore the criteria for the allowance were framed in order to direct the limited resources available to my Department in as targeted a manner as possible.  To receive the allowance a customer of my department must be in receipt of a qualifying payment and also in receipt of the Living Alone Allowance and the Fuel Allowance.  

People who live alone would be considered among those most at risk of social exclusion, and this payment, along with the Living Alone Allowance, are also in part recognition of the greater challenges facing some of those living alone, in avoiding poverty.  The deprivation rate of couples over 65 is less than half that recorded among those over that age who live alone, and while there are people living alone who have significant personal resources, this allowance is only paid to those who satisfy the means test of Fuel Allowance.

While the schemes operated by my Department are constantly reviewed, any decision to extend the scheme to people who are not in receipt of the Living Alone Allowance would have to be considered in the context of overall budgetary negotiations.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Pension Provisions

Question No. 107 answered with Question No. 88.

Question No. 108 answered with Question No. 80.

Ceisteanna (106)

John Brady

Ceist:

106. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if she will consider allowing social welfare supports for widows to be awarded in cases in which the surviving partner was not married to the deceased but shared children and-or had cohabited for a significant amount of time; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7993/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The Widows/Widowers/ Surviving Civil Partners Contributory Pension (WCP)  is paid to the husband, wife or civil partner of a deceased person, and is a weekly pension, available to those who satisfy the necessary PRSI contribution conditions, either on their own record or on that of the deceased spouse, subject to certain criteria. 

The legal context governing relationships such as marriage is regulated by the Minister for Justice and Equality.  Entering into a marriage or civil partnership is a legal act, which confers both rights and obligations on both parties that do not exist in law between co-habiting couples.  Widows, widowers and surviving civil partners, on becoming bereaved, therefore, lose someone who had legal duties towards them, and the social welfare code may recognise this by providing a pension to them, subject to certain conditions.

It was for these reasons that the social welfare supports for widows and widowers were extended to surviving civil partners from 1 January 2011, when the provisions of the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010 came into force.

Aside from the wider legal issues regarding the status of marriage and civil partnerships, which is a much broader policy area than its implications under the remit of my department, extending the current provisions to people who have not undertaken equivalent legal obligations would carry significant costs, and would also raise significant issues about criteria if it were to be based upon co-habitation. 

Any possible changes to eligibility for social welfare supports for widows to be awarded in cases in which the surviving partner was not married to the deceased but shared children would have to be considered in the overall budgetary context.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Question No. 107 answered with Question No. 88.
Question No. 108 answered with Question No. 80.

Unemployment Benefits Data

Question No. 110 answered with Question No. 1.

Ceisteanna (109)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

109. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Taoiseach the number of persons in receipt of a long-term unemployment payment as a percentage of the workforce. [8442/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

The exact information requested by the Deputy is not available.

The Labour Force Survey (LFS) is the official source of estimates of labour force (ILO) in the State. This survey replaced the Quarterly National Household Survey (QNHS) from Q3 2017. The most recent LFS figures available are for Q4 2018.

In Q4 2018, the number of persons aged 15-74 years in the labour force was 2,398,800, of which 50,100 persons aged 15-74 years were classified as long-term (one year and over) unemployed. The long-term unemployment rate for persons aged 15-74 for Q4 2018 was 2.1%.

The LFS does not record the number of persons in receipt of a long-term jobseekers payment.

The Live Register is compiled from returns made to the Central Statistics Office by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP). It comprises persons under 65 years of age in the following classes:

All Claimants for Jobseeker’s Benefit (JB) excluding systematic short-time workers

Applicants for Jobseeker’s Allowance (JA) excluding smallholders/farm assists and other self-employed persons

Other registrants including applicants for credited Social Welfare contributions but excluding those directly involved in an industrial dispute.

The most recent Live Register figures available are for January 2019.

In January 2019, there were 199,627 persons under 65 years of age on the Live Register, of whom 79,010 were on the Live Register continuously for one year or more.

The Live Register is not designed to measure unemployment. It includes part-time workers (those who work up to three days per week), seasonal and casual workers entitled to Jobseekers Benefit or Allowance. Unemployment is measured by the Labour Force Survey.

Question No. 110 answered with Question No. 1.