Child Benefit Eligibility

Ceisteanna (864)

John Brady

Ceist:

864. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the estimated full-year cost of extending child benefit to those aged 18 and 19 years of age in 2020. [23308/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Child Benefit is a monthly payment made to families with children in respect of all qualified children up to the age of 16 years. The payment continues to be paid in respect of children up to the age of 18 years where they are in full-time education or have a disability. Child Benefit is currently paid to almost 632,000 families in respect of nearly 1.2 million children, with an estimated expenditure of more than €2 billion in 2018.

We have previously estimated the annual cost of extending child benefit to include 18 and 19 year olds in full-time secondary education. Based on Department of Education and Skills figures for leaving certificate June 2019, the cost of this measure alone would be in the region of €80 million.

It is not possible to give the full-year estimated cost of extending child benefit to all those who are aged 18 and 19 years of age because of the open ended nature of the question. The Deputy’s question, which seems to include all people aged 18 and 19 years, and does not limit it to those in full-time education, would therefore give rise to costs substantially in excess of, and multiples of, this figure.

Given the universality of Child Benefit, extending entitlement to parents of people who are aged 18 and 19 years would not be a targeted approach. The adoption of such a proposal would have significant cost implications and would have to be considered in an overall budgetary context.

Families on low incomes may be able to avail of a number of social welfare schemes that support children in full-time education until the age of 22, including:

- Increase for a Qualified Child (IQCs) with primary social welfare payments;

- the Working Family Payment for low-paid employees with children;

- the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance.

These schemes provide targeted assistance that is directly linked to household income and thereby support low-income families with older children participating in full-time education.

Child Benefit Eligibility

Ceisteanna (865)

Michael Moynihan

Ceist:

865. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to allow child benefit to be paid in respect of children up to 22 years of age who continue in full-time education; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23317/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Child Benefit is a monthly payment made to families with children in respect of all qualified children up to the age of 16 years. The payment continues to be paid in respect of children up to the age of 18 years where they are in full-time education or have a disability. Child Benefit is currently paid to almost 632,000 families in respect of nearly 1.2 million children, with an estimated expenditure of more than €2 billion in 2018.

Given the universality of Child Benefit, extending entitlement to parents of full-time students in second level education who are over 18 years of age would not be a targeted approach. The adoption of such a proposal would have significant cost implications and would have to be considered in an overall budgetary context.

Families on low incomes may be able to avail of a number of social welfare schemes that support children in full-time education until the age of 22, including:

- Increase for a Qualified Child (IQCs) with primary social welfare payments;

- the Working Family Payment for low-paid employees with children;

- the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance.

These schemes provide targeted assistance that is directly linked to household income and thereby support low-income families with older children participating in full-time education.

Household Benefits Scheme

Ceisteanna (866, 867)

James Browne

Ceist:

866. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the position on the reintroduction of the household benefits package to recipients of carer's allowance who do not live with the people for whom they care; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23322/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

867. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if she is considering the reintroduction of the household benefits package for carers who do not live with the people for whom they care, which was abolished in 2012 for new carers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23357/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 866 and 867 together.

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 446,000 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.

Since 1 April 2012, new applicants in receipt of Carer's Allowance who are not living with the person for whom they provide care do not have an automatic entitlement to the household benefits package. Carers who live with the person they are caring for still have an entitlement of their own to the household benefits package and do not have to satisfy the household composition criteria.

The Government values the role of carers very much and it is for this reason that they receive significant income supports from the Department.  In addition to carer’s allowance, carers receive additional support in the form of free travel and household benefits (for those who live with the person for whom they care) and the annual carer's support grant (€1,700) in respect of each person for whom they care.  Where a person is in receipt of certain qualifying social welfare payments, and also providing full-time care and attention to another person, they can keep their primary social welfare payment and also get the half-rate carer's allowance.

It should be noted that carer's payments are made at a higher level than other working-age income maintenance payments made by my Department.  The weekly rate for Carer's Allowance is €219 where one person is being cared for, and €328.50 where it is two or more, compared to €203 for most other income maintenance payments to those below pension age.  The means test for Carer's Allowance is also significantly more generous than those applying to other schemes.

Any decision to change the qualifying criteria for HHB would have budgetary consequences and would have to be considered in the context of budget negotiations.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputies.

Invalidity Pension Applications

Ceisteanna (868)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

868. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the progress to date in the determination of an application for invalidity pension in the case of a person (details supplied); when the application will be brought to a conclusion; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23368/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The department received a claim for invalidity pension for the lady referred to on 26 February 2019. She has been awarded invalidity pension with effect from 28 February 2019. Payment will issue to her nominated post office on 20 June 2019. Any arrears due from 28 February 2019 to 19 June 2019 (less any overlapping social welfare payment) will issue as soon as possible. The lady in question was notified of this decision on 31 May 2019.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Statutory Retirement Age

Ceisteanna (869)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

869. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the provisions in place for persons who are obliged to retire at 65 years of age but will not be eligible to receive a pension until 67 years of age. [23392/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

It is well known that people are living for much longer.  As a result of this demographic change, the number of State pension recipients is increasing year on year.  This has significant implications for the future costs of State pension provision which, arising from these demographic changes alone, are currently increasing by approximately €1 billion every 4 to 5 years.

The purpose of changes to the State pension age is to make the pension system more sustainable in the context of increasing life expectancy.  This sustainability is vital if the current workers, who fund State pension payments through their PRSI, are to receive a pension themselves when they reach retirement age.  Therefore, the Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2011 provided that State pension age will be increased gradually to 68 years.  This began in January 2014 with the abolition of the State pension (transition), which was available to people aged 65 who satisfied the qualifying conditions.  This measure standardised the State pension age for all at 66 years.  This will increase to 67 in 2021 and to 68 in 2028.

In most cases, it is hoped that workers will continue to work up to State pension age.  Where this is not possible and a person loses their employment before reaching State pension age, they may apply for either the jobseeker’s benefit or jobseeker’s allowance schemes.  Jobseeker’s payments are currently paid to eligible jobseekers aged 18 to 66 years subject to the person satisfying the general scheme conditions. Social Welfare legislation states that jobseeker payments may be made until the person reaches pensionable age.  In this regard, the duration of jobseeker's payments will naturally adjust in line with increases in state pension age.

Jobseeker's Benefit is normally paid for 9 months (234 days) for people with 260 or more PRSI contributions paid and for 6 months (156 days) for people with fewer than 260 PRSI contributions paid.  Arrangements are in place to provide that jobseekers whose benefit expires in their 65th year can generally continue to be paid benefit up until pensionable age provided they satisfy the necessary contribution conditions.

It is important to note that there is no legally mandated retirement age in the State, and the age at which employees retire is a matter for the contract of employment between them and their employers.  While such a contract may have been entered into with a retirement date of 65, in the context of the previous State pension arrangements, there is no legal impediment to the employer and employee agreeing to increase the duration of employment for one or more years, if both parties wish to do so.  In this regard, the Workplace Relations Commission has produced a Code of Practice on Longer Working and the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) has published guidance material for employers on the use of fixed-term contracts beyond normal retirement age.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Carer's Allowance Appeals

Ceisteanna (870)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

870. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of a carer's allowance appeal by a person (details supplied); and when a decision will issue on same. [23411/19]

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 20 February 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.

Child Benefit Eligibility

Ceisteanna (871)

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

871. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if a child who reaches 18 years of age before leaving second level school can continue to receive child benefit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23413/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Child Benefit is a monthly payment made to families with children in respect of all qualified children up to the age of 16 years. The payment continues to be paid in respect of children up to their 18th birthday who are in full-time education, or who have a disability. Child Benefit is currently paid, as of end-April 2019, to almost 632,000 families in respect of over 1.2 million children, with an estimated expenditure of €2.1 billion this year.

Payments cease when the child reaches 18 years of age. Any proposal to extend payment beyond the age of 18 would have significant cost implications and would have to be considered in an overall budgetary context.

Families on low incomes may be able to avail of a number of social welfare schemes that support children in full-time education until the age of 22, including:

- Increase for a Qualified Child (IQCs) with primary social welfare payments;

- the Working Family Payment for low-paid employees with children;

- the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance.

These schemes provide targeted assistance that is directly linked to household income and thereby support low-income families with older children participating in full-time education.

I trust that this helps clarify the matter for the Deputy.

Carer's Allowance Applications

Ceisteanna (872)

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

872. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of an application for carer's allowance by a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23429/19]

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 child or an adult who has such a disability that as a result they require that level of care.

An application for CA was received from the person concerned on 5 March 2019.

Additional information in relation to the person’s application was requested by a deciding officer on 22 May 2019. Once the information is received the application will be processed without delay and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

JobPath Programme

Ceisteanna (873)

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

873. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if referrals to Turas Nua and Seetec are to cease; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23437/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

JobPath is a service which supports people who are long-term unemployed to secure and sustain full-time paid employment. Two companies, Seetec and Turas Nua, have been contracted by my Department to deliver this service. The JobPath employment service commenced in 2015 and, under the terms of the contracts signed with the providers, will run for at least six years. This includes a period of at least four years of client referrals to the end of 2019, and a run-off period of at least two years. The contract includes an option which could extend the term of referrals for two periods of up to twelve months each the end of 2019. The process of procuring contracted public employment services for 2020 and beyond is in its early stages of development. My officials are working to design a procurement model that will balance the need for value for money for taxpayers with the importance of preserving high-quality employment advisory services. As part of this process the ongoing requirements of the public employment service including the period for client referrals under the JobPath programme are currently being considered. To date no decisions have been taken in this regard. However, my Department is currently considering how best to continue to provide a high-quality public employment service that meets the needs of all jobseekers, while looking to provide employment services to those most distant from the labour market and to people who have not previously availed of these services.

Illness Benefit Eligibility

Ceisteanna (874)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

874. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her views as to whether it is equitable that widows and widowers are unable to collect illness benefit while sick due to the two payments rule (details supplied); and her plans to address this inequity. [23516/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

There are a number of basic principles which underpin the Irish social insurance system.  Firstly there is the contributory principle.  Under this principle there is a direct link between the PRSI contributions that a person has paid and entitlement to a varying range of benefits and pensions.  Where a person has sufficient PRSI contributions, then benefits and pensions may be paid, where a particular contingency arises and without a means test.

Secondly there is the solidarity principle. Under this principle the benefits and pensions that are paid are not directly related to the amount of PRSI contributions paid by insured persons.  PRSI contribution income is instead redistributed to support contributors who are more vulnerable.

In addition, there is a general principle of one person, one payment, which applies across the social welfare system.  Given the contingency-based nature of this system, it can happen that a person may experience more than one contingency at the same time, but generally, as these payments are to help them meet their income needs, he or she can receive only one of those payments.  This principle is common to social security systems across the world.

There were a limited number of exceptions in the social insurance system to the general principle of one person, one payment.  These exceptions usually applied in the context of short-term benefits at reduced rates.  For instance, recipients of One-Parent Family Payment, Widows and Widowers Pensioners could, until recent years, also receive short-term social insurance benefits, such as Illness Benefit and Jobseeker’s Benefit at half-rate at the same time.  These overlapping payment arrangements were introduced in the early 1950s when the social insurance system was first established, at a time when there were only 10 individual social welfare payments and when rates were significantly lower in real terms than they are now.  However, the social welfare system has been significantly developed over the intervening period, with the result that the number of possible combinations of concurrent contingencies has increased greatly.

The concurrent payment of half-rate Illness Benefit and Jobseeker’s Benefit in addition to One-Parent Family Payment, and Widows and Widowers Pensions was discontinued from January 2012, in the context of the Government’s commitments to maintain existing core rates of primary payments for social welfare recipients. There are exceptions to this as in a case where a reduced Widows Pension is in payment and paid at a rate lower than the Illness Benefit Rate. In such circumstances Illness Benefit may be paid to ensure that the aggregate payment will equate with the maximum rate of Illness Benefit appropriate to the person’s circumstances.  However, it is not possible for someone to be paid both a full rate Widows Contributory Pension (€208.50 for someone under 66, plus allowances) and Illness Benefit (€203.00 plus allowances).  Such combined rates of payments, neither of which are subject to a means test,  would be significantly higher than those paid to other people supported by my Department, many of whom are at significantly greater risk of poverty.

To change the underlying principle of entitlement, and allow people claim multiple payments in the manner suggested, would involve significant additional expenditure which could prove unsustainable in the long-term, and would have to be considered in the overall policy and budgetary contexts.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Disability Allowance Applications

Ceisteanna (875)

Eamon Scanlon

Ceist:

875. Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of a disability allowance claim by a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23518/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The person concerned submitted an application for disability allowance (DA) on 22 January 2019. Her application, based upon all the evidence submitted, was refused as she was deemed to have means in excess of the statutory limit for her circumstances.

The person concerned was notified in writing of this decision on 4 April 2019 and was also notified of her right to request a review of this decision or to appeal it to the independent social welfare appeals office (SWAO). No request for an appeal or review of her DA has been received.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Invalidity Pension Appeals

Ceisteanna (876)

Eamon Scanlon

Ceist:

876. Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of an invalidity pension appeal by a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23519/19]

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 4th March 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.

Household Benefits Scheme

Ceisteanna (877)

Peter Burke

Ceist:

877. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if she will consider restoring the household benefits package for carers who do not live with the people for whom they care, which sees them take home less than most other recipients of social welfare payments; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23532/19]

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 446,000 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.

Since 1 April 2012, new applicants in receipt of Carer's Allowance who are not living with the person for whom they provide care do not have an automatic entitlement to the household benefits package. Carers who live with the person they are caring for still have an entitlement of their own to the household benefits package and do not have to satisfy the household composition criteria.

The Government values the role of carers very much and it is for this reason that they receive significant income supports from the Department. In addition to carer’s allowance, carers receive additional support in the form of free travel and household benefits (for those who live with the person for whom they care) and the annual carer's support grant (€1,700) in respect of each person for whom they care. Where a person is in receipt of certain qualifying social welfare payments, and also providing full-time care and attention to another person, they can keep their primary social welfare payment and also get the half-rate carer's allowance.

The maximum rates of Carer's Allowance for those aged under 66, at €219 (€257 for carers aged 66 or over) for where one person is being cared for, and €328.50 (€385.50 for carers aged 66 or over) where there are two or more carees, is significantly higher than that for such Department Schemes as Jobseeker's Allowance, which is €203 for those aged 26, and lower for younger claimants.

The means test for carers allowance has been significantly eased over the years, and is now one of the most generous means tests in the social welfare system, most notably with regard to spouse’s earnings. At present the means test for Carer’s Allowance allows for an income disregard of €332.50 per week for a single person and €665 for a couple. In the case of a single carer: - that person may retain a full-rate payment of €219.00 while having an annual income of just under €19,000.00, retain a payment of €109.00 per week (just under half rate) while having an annual income of €25,400.00, or retain the minimum payment of €4 per week while having an annual income of €31,100.00.

Carers can also engage in employment, self-employment, training or education courses outside the home for not more than 15 hours a week.

Any decision to change the qualifying criteria for HHB would have budgetary consequences and would have to be considered in the context of budget negotiations.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Disability Activation Projects

Ceisteanna (878)

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

878. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason the EmployAbility national contract for 2019 does not provide for budgetary measures for pay increments for employees delivering this important service; if this decision, which adversely impacts staff on post-2012 contracts, will be reviewed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23534/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The EmployAbility Service is an important service delivered by individual contractors on behalf of my Department. Service contracts have been entered into with 24 organisations around the state, servicing some 3000 clients. Similar to the Local Employment Service (LES) and Job Clubs, the EmployAbility Service contracts describe the employment service to be delivered and the funding available to an organisation for the full delivery of that service.

Each contract is a stand-alone agreement and is subject to negotiation with the service provider taking account of local circumstances and my Department's service requirements. The budget allocation to an individual service provider may be subject to an increase or decrease based on the requirements for the coming year taking into account such things as demographic changes, improved employment opportunities etc. The contracts are for a fixed term of one year and run from 1st of January to the 31st December. The budget allocated to my Department in 2019 for the provision of EmployAbility Services nationwide has been maintained at €9.8m, the same as in 2018.

As with any 'contract for service', the terms and conditions of staff, including remuneration, are a matter for the contracting organisation that employs them.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Invalidity Pension Applications

Ceisteanna (879)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

879. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when a decision will be finalised on an invalidity pension claim by a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [23542/19]

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.

To qualify for IP a claimant must, inter alia, have at least 260 (5 years') paid PRSI contributions since entering social insurance and 48 contributions paid or credited in the last or second last complete contribution year before the relevant date for their claim.

The department received a claim for IP for the gentleman concerned on 21 March 2019. The claim was disallowed on 09 April 2019 on the grounds that the contribution conditions under national legislation for the scheme were not satisfied.

EU Regulations provide that insurance contributions made in any other EU Member State may be aggregated with Irish contributions in order to satisfy the contribution conditions for IP. A request was sent to the UK social security authorities requesting the gentleman's UK insurance record. Upon receipt of same, the IP claim will be finalised and he will be notified directly of the outcome.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.