State Pensions

Ceisteanna (1761)

John Lahart

Ceist:

1761. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the general rules for the treatment of farmers with regard to State pensions contributory and non-contributory; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35046/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

There are a number of payments and pensions paid by my department to people over State pension age. The State pension (contributory) is a PRSI based payment. It is not means tested and is paid from the Social Insurance Fund which in turn is financed by Pay Related Social Insurance (PRSI) contributions. Entitlement levels are largely based on such contributions. The maximum rate of payment is €248.30 weekly. Qualification for the scheme is based on a number of criteria including a minimum of 520 paid qualifying contributions. For those who have paid the required number and type of contributions at a reckonable rate – including Class S (self-employed) - they will be used in the calculation of their entitlements

A person aged over 66 with limited PRSI contributions over the course of their life may claim a State pension (non-contributory). This is a means-tested payment and the weekly rate payable is dependent on the means of each claimant. The maximum personal rate payable is €237 (over 95% of the maximum rate of the contributory pension). Account is taken in the means test of the value of property (other than the family home) and capital the person may have as well as cash income such as earnings from employment or self-employment, occupational pensions, foreign social security pensions and so on. This rate of payment does not include additional supports available, including rent allowance, household benefits or fuel allowance. Alternatively, if a person's spouse is a State pensioner, 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.

These arrangements apply to all claimants for the State pension (non-contributory) as well as other means-tested welfare schemes. The rules applying to the State pension (non-contributory) do not prohibit individuals engaging in any form of self-employment; it is the means available from the net profit from such self-employment (after allowing for expenses) which determines the rate of pension payable, if any.

The introduction of a Total Contributions Approach (TCA) to establishing the level of entitlement for all new state pension contributory claims was signalled by the then Government in the National Pensions Framework in 2010. At that time it set a target date of 2020 for the implementation of TCA. More recently, the Roadmap for Pensions Reform 2018-2023 targeted implementation of the TCA from Q3 of 2020. This is subject to the necessary legislation being enacted and supporting structures being in place.

Consultation is a very important part of the development and design of the new pension. With this in mind, I launched a public consultation on the design of the TCA 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.

Shortly afterwards, Oireachtas members were invited to a detailed briefing by my officials in Leinster House. The consultation was open for over three months and the Department received almost 300 responses from individuals and organisations. Those submissions outlined the views of respondents on the issues of most interest to them including how self-employed people and Class S PRSI contributions since 1988 could be treated.

Having carefully examined the outputs of the consultation process, my Department is now designing the scheme and I intend to bring a proposal to Government setting out that design in the near future. When the Government has agreed the approach to be taken, I will initiate the work required to introduce this reform.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance Scheme Data

Ceisteanna (1762, 1763, 1889)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Ceist:

1762. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the estimated cost of restoring the back to school allowance for clothing and footwear to pre-2011 levels. [35223/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Ceist:

1763. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the estimated cost to increase back to school and footwear allowance by €50. [35224/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

1889. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the funding set aside in 2019 for the back to school clothing and footwear allowance. [36672/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1762, 1763 and 1889 together.

The back to school clothing and footwear allowance (BSCFA) scheme provides a once-off payment to eligible families to assist with the costs of clothing and footwear when children start or return to school each autumn. The Government has provided €56.3m for the scheme in 2019 which operates from June to September. Provision was made to increase the payment rates by €25 in 2019.

The payment rates for the 2019 scheme are €150 for eligible children aged 4 to 11 years and €275 for children aged over 12 years and attending secondary school.

115,000 customers were awarded the allowance automatically in respect of 209,400 children from a matching exercise on the Department’s computer systems and did not have to make an application. They received their payment during week beginning 8 July. Payments totalling €42.3m were made in respect of these customers.

In addition, the Department has received approximately 32,700 manual and online applications for the 2019 BSCFA scheme since the 24 June 2019. In total, BSCFA payments amounting to €49.6m have been made to 132,860 households in respect of 244,600 children.

Using the total number of children covered by the scheme in 2018 as a basis, the additional cost to increase the BSCFA rates by €50 would be €13.3 million.

Using the same basis, the additional cost of restoring the rates to the 2011 levels, i.e. to €200 for children aged 4 to 11 and to €305 for children aged 12 years and older, would be €11.1 million

Any increases to the rates of payment for the BSCFA scheme would have to be considered in a budgetary context.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy

School Meals Programme

Ceisteanna (1764, 1765, 1768, 1771, 1841)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Ceist:

1764. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the estimated cost of ensuring that all DEIS schools have access to the school meals programme. [35236/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Ceist:

1765. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the estimated cost of increasing funding to the school meals programme by 40%. [35240/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

1768. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the amount of funding provided for school meals. [36747/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Kathleen Funchion

Ceist:

1771. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the estimated cost in one year to roll out the hot meals programme to all children of State run primary schools which have cooking and kitchen facilities. [36946/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

1841. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if she will report on the hot school meals pilot project; her plans to roll out the service to all primary schools in the coming years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35628/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1764, 1765, 1768, 1771 and 1841 together.

The school meals programme provides funding towards the provision of food to some 1,580 schools and organisations benefitting 250,000 children at a total cost of €57.6 million in 2019 representing an increase of €3.6 million over the previous year.  The objective of the scheme is to provide regular, nutritious food to children who are unable, due to lack of good quality food, to take full advantage of the education provided to them.  The programme is an important component of policies to encourage school attendance and extra educational achievement.

The School Meals Scheme is currently available to all DEIS schools, subject to submission of an application each year. The scheme provides funding for a breakfast or snack for all children and lunch for up to 90% of children in DEIS schools for the entire school year from September to June.  Currently 857, out of 896, DEIS schools participate in the scheme.  The remainder have chosen not to participate. A total of €43.8 million was allocated to DEIS schools in the 2018/2019 academic year.

Not all DEIS schools apply for the scheme and, out of the schools that do apply, not all schools apply for two clubs for the full enrolment figures.  If funding were to be provided to all DEIS schools for a breakfast or snack for all children and lunch for up to 90% of children in DEIS schools the full year cost would be €59.9 million. The full year cost of providing a breakfast and lunch to all children in DEIS schools would be €64.4 million.

 As part of Budget 2019, it was announced that DEASP would commence a pilot scheme from September 2019, providing Hot School Meals in 36 primary schools for an estimated 7,200 children at a cost of €1m for 2019 and €2.5m in 2020. 

All 3,239 primary schools were issued with an invitation to submit an expression of interest to participate in the pilot.  Over 500 expressions of interest were received from Primary Schools across the country. 

The 36 schools chosen to participate in the pilot were selected randomly, having regard to geographical spread, numbers enrolled, range of suppliers and the overall budget available for the pilot in 2019 and 2020 (€1m and €2.5 respectively).

The pilot will also be run in Our Lady of Lourdes NS in Goldenbridge for the 2019/20 school year following the Proof of Concept which has been operating there successfully since early this year.

A report will issue after the pilot is complete and the outcomes evaluated. As outcomes will be largely driven by a differential analysis of educational outcomes in pilot versus non-pilot schools, the intention is that the Department of Education and Skills and the Irish Government Economic and Evaluation Service will be involved in establishing an evaluation framework and timeframe. Outcomes will be tracked and measured throughout the duration of the pilot.

The full year cost of extending the Hot Meals Pilot to all children at primary school level would be an estimated €296m.

Any increase in the funding of the scheme, or extension of the pilot programme can only be considered in a budgetary context.

I trust that this clarifies the position. 

Disability Allowance Eligibility

Ceisteanna (1766)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

1766. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if the case of a person (details supplied) will be examined; if they can receive a social welfare payment to compensate the loss of income; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35784/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Disability allowance (DA) is a means tested scheme and means are assessed in line with the provisions specified in the relevant social welfare legislation. In summary, any income, with some exceptions, belonging to the person is assessable as means for DA purposes.

Another condition for receipt of DA is that a person has an injury, disease or physical or mental disability that has continued (or may be expected to continue for at least one year) and that as a result of this disability, is substantially restricted in undertaking work that would otherwise be suitable for a person of his/her age, experience and qualifications.

The DA scheme is structured to encourage recipients to avail of opportunities to engage in rehabilitative work where this is appropriate, either in self-employment or in insurable employment. When an individual engages in or is already engaged in rehabilitative work, they can avail of an income disregard of €120 per week, and 50% of earnings between €120 and €350 are also disregarded, for the purpose of the means test.

As the Department has no current claim for DA for the person concerned in order to determine his possible eligibility, he should fully complete and submit an application form (DA1).

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Free Travel Scheme Eligibility

Question No. 1768 answered with Question No. 1764.

Ceisteanna (1767)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Ceist:

1767. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if changes will be made to the qualifying payments for the free travel pass to include the thalidomide payment as a qualifying payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35844/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The free travel scheme provides free travel on the main public and private transport services for those eligible under the scheme. These include road, rail and ferry services provided by companies such as Bus Átha Cliath, Bus Éireann and Iarnród Éireann, as well as Luas and services provided by over 80 private transport operators. There are currently approx. 953,000 customers with direct eligibility. Following announcements in Budget 2019 the funding for the free travel scheme was increased by €5 million to a total of €95 million.

The scheme is available to all people aged over 66 living permanently in the State. In general access to a free travel pass for those aged under 66 is linked to a person being in receipt of certain primary Social Protection payments such as disability allowance, invalidity pension, carer’s allowance, blind pension and partial capacity benefit. The thalidomide payment scheme is administered by the Department of Health and is not a Social Protection payment.

The payment a person receives under the thalidomide payment scheme is not reckonable as means for the purpose of Social Protection payments. Subject to satisfying the qualifying conditions a person in receipt of the payment may apply for a Social Protection scheme which allows a person aged under 66 to receive a free travel pass.

Any decision to extend the qualifying criteria for the free travel scheme to include those who are in receipt of a thalidomide payment could only be considered in the context of overall budgetary negotiations.

Under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme (SWA) the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection may award a travel supplement in any case where the circumstances of the case so warrant. The supplement is intended to assist with ongoing or recurring travel costs that cannot be met from the client’s own resources and are deemed to be necessary. Every decision is based on consideration of the circumstances of the case, taking account of the nature and extent of the need and of the resources of the person concerned.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Question No. 1768 answered with Question No. 1764.

Public Services Card

Ceisteanna (1769, 1824, 1825, 1831, 1840, 1897, 1898)

Barry Cowen

Ceist:

1769. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the cost of challenging the decision made by the Data Protection Commission with regard to the public services card; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36783/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Ruth Coppinger

Ceist:

1824. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the cost of the processing of data, production and administration of public services cards for those not availing of services with her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35511/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Ruth Coppinger

Ceist:

1825. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if she will report on the deletion of data related to the public services card; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35512/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

1831. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if each person that had their data held by the State unlawfully has been communicated with. [35553/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

1840. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to introduce amendments to section 263 or other sections of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 in relation to the public services card; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35627/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

1897. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the progress made to date regarding providing an implementation plan to the Data Protection Commission identifying the changes she will make to the public services card scheme; the period within which those changes will be made; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36770/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

1898. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if she has commenced the process of cessation (details supplied) regarding processing of personal data carried out in connection with the issuing of public services cards in circumstances in which a card is being issued solely for the purpose of a transaction between a member of the public and a specified public body; if she has contacted the public bodies that require the production of a card as a precondition of entering into transactions with individual members of the public; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36773/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1769, 1824, 1825, 1831, 1840, 1897 and 1898 together.

My colleague, Paschal Donohue T.D., Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, and I briefed Government earlier this week on the recent report of the Data Protection Commission (DPC) on the Public Services Card (PSC).

We acknowledged the finding of the DPC that the PSC is validly required for the purposes of transactions with my Department.  About 2.5m of the over 3m active users of the PSC are beneficiaries of my Department’s services, such as free transport and pension payments, and the DPC report confirms that both DEASP and its clients can continue to rely on the convenience of the PSC for these purposes.  We also welcomed the DPC’s clarification that nothing in the report or findings undermines or invalidates the use of any PSCs already in issue. This is particularly welcome given the very high level of citizen satisfaction with, and support for, the PSC.

We also updated the Government on our consideration of the DPC’s other findings relating to the legal basis for the issue of the PSC for transactions with bodies other than DEASP  and the transparency of information provided to people related to the PSC.

Following very careful consideration of the report and having taken the advice of the Attorney General’s Office, we informed Government that we are satisfied that the processing of personal data related to the PSC does, in fact, have a strong legal basis in current legislation, that the retention of data is lawful and that the information provided to users does satisfy the requirements of transparency.  On this basis, we believe that it would be inappropriate, and potentially unlawful, to withdraw or modify the use of the PSC or the data processes that underpin it as has been requested by the DPC.

Accordingly, it is intended, in line with decisions of successive Governments dating back to 1998, to continue to operate the PSC and the SAFE 2 identity authentication process on which it is based.

We acknowledged that the DPC has reached a different conclusion but are satisfied based on our Departments’ consideration of the issue and the advice received from the Attorney General’s Office that the correct, and lawful, approach to take is to continue to provide, and support the use of, the PSC, not just by DEASP but by the other public bodies that rely on it.

My Department subsequently wrote to the DPC, on my behalf, advising it of this decision. It also offered, together with the Department of Public Expenditure & Reform, to meet with the DPC to clarify a number of matters and to identify through this clarification and, without prejudice to the position either of the DPC or the Department, if there were steps that could be agreed that would address the DPC's concerns. 

It was hoped, that, through this process, we might have been able to resolve the matters in question without any need to refer them to the Courts for a definitive decision.  However, the DPC has now declined to engage in any discussions and has indicated its intention to institute enforcement proceedings. 

My Department is now considering the next steps given that it understands that the DPC is initiating proceedings, which are subject to an appeals process in the Courts. It would therefore be inappropriate for me to make any further comment on this matter.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputies.

 

Low Pay

Question No. 1771 answered with Question No. 1764.

Ceisteanna (1770)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

1770. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if she has examined the policy options in respect of low skill and pay, and in respect of work disproportionately done by women in circumstances in which such jobs congregate near dense urban labour markets, in view of the rise of same in another jurisdiction as per a report (details supplied). [36859/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The Low Pay Commission was established in 2015 through the National Minimum Wage (Low Pay Commission) Act 2015. Its principal function is, once each year, to examine the national minimum hourly rate of pay and to make a recommendation to the Minister regarding the rate, ensuring that all decisions are evidence-based, fair and sustainable, and do not create significant adverse consequences for employment or competitiveness.

It is the view of the Commission that a National Minimum Wage (NMW) provides the best model to establish a ‘pay floor’ below which no-one should be expected to work. A ‘pay floor’ protects those workers who are vulnerable and prone to being exploited.

In order to obtain a better understanding of the composition and profile of women on the National Minimum Wage, the Low Pay Commission produced a report on the preponderance of women on the national minimum wage in 2016.

The report found that the three key factors which explain the preponderance of women in low paid work are the

- Cost of Childcare

- Sector of Employment

- Whether working Part-time or full-time

These factors are interlinked; the high cost of childcare leads to many women taking up part-time or temporary work. As this type of work is most readily available in low-pay sectors such as retail and accommodation, women are found in these sectors in disproportionate numbers. Working within these sectors and working part-time greatly increases the likelihood of being in receipt of the NMW and may go some of the way towards explaining the preponderance of women on the NMW. The Government has recognised the impact and importance of the costs of childcare both to parents and to the labour market, and are taking steps to tackle the issue of affordability of childcare through the National Childcare Scheme.

Employment rights legislation was recently strengthened by the addition of the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2018, which is one of the most significant pieces of employment legislation in a generation. The Act delivers on the Programme for Government commitment to address the challenges of the increased casualisation of work and to strengthen the regulation of precarious employment. The key objective of the Act, which came into effect on 4 March 2019, is to improve the security and predictability of hours for those working in less secure employment arrangements and those working variable hours. In a changing world, this reform ensures that the legal protections for all workers, including women, will match the conditions experienced by a modern workforce and make a real difference in the lives of thousands of workers.

Question No. 1771 answered with Question No. 1764.

Jobseeker's Benefit Appeals

Ceisteanna (1772)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

1772. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if jobseeker's benefit will be awarded on appeal to a person (details supplied). [34725/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the appeal from the person concerned was originally registered in that office on 23 August 2018 and was disallowed by an Appeals Officer on 24 January 2019.

After receiving additional documentation from the person concerned by way of representations from the Deputy the appeal decision is now under review. After consideration of the matter the Appeals Officer to whom the case has been assigned has decided to convene an oral hearing. The person concerned will be informed when arrangements for the oral hearing have been made.

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.

Invalidity Pension Applications

Ceisteanna (1773)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

1773. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if an invalidity pension will be awarded to a person (details supplied). [34726/19]

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. Partial Capacity Benefit (PCB) is a payment which allows people to return to work or self-employment (if they have reduced capacity to work) and continue to receive a payment from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP).

The lady concerned had been in receipt of PCB which had ceased from 26th Feb 2018. She applied for IP on March 13th 2019 and was determined as being eligible with effect from 14 March 2019. As she remains in employment her PCB payment has been reinstated with effect from 14 March 2019 at the rate applicable to a person who has a moderate incapacity for work which is 50% of the personal rate IP payment.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Domiciliary Care Allowance Applications

Ceisteanna (1774)

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

1774. Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if an application for a domiciliary care allowance by a person (details supplied) will be reviewed; if not, if a new application needs to be made; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34772/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

An application for Domiciliary Care Allowance ( DCA) was received in respect of this child on the 7th June 2018. The application was not allowed as it was considered that the child did not meet the eligibility criteria for the allowance. A letter issued on the 4th September 2018 outlining the decision.

The right to request a review of the decision and/or appeal the decision directly to the independent Social Welfare Appeals Office ( SWAO) was outlined in the letter.

A request for a review of this decision was not received and an appeal has not been registered with the SWAO. A review of the decision can still be requested in this case. However, due to time that has elapsed since the original application, this would be most effectively progressed by completing the Dom Care 1 form, available on www.welfare.ie outlining the child's current care needs and including any recent medical reports on their disability.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Working Family Payment Payments

Ceisteanna (1775)

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

1775. Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if the working family payment for a person (details supplied) will be backdated to when the qualified child returns to education; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34774/19]

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, an applicant must have a qualified child and be engaged in full-time paid employment as an employee for not less than 38 hours per fortnight.

Under Social Welfare Legislation, a qualified child is defined as a child under 18 years of age or aged between 18 and under 22 and in recognized full-time day education.

Working Family Payment for the person concerned was due for renewal from 17 July 2019. The person's son turned 18 on 22 June 2019 and is not currently in full time education. As the person concerned does not have a qualified child as defined in legislation the claim was therefore disallowed.

A fulltime education certificate issued to the person concerned for completion by the College/University if the child dependent begins third level education. If the certificate is returned confirming that the child has commenced fulltime education the application for the person concerned will be considered from the date College commences.

I trust this clarifies the matter.

State Pension (Contributory) Data

Ceisteanna (1776)

Marc MacSharry

Ceist:

1776. Deputy Marc MacSharry asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the percentage of applicants who receive the full rate of old age contributory pension in tabular form; the number qualified for the maximum payable rate of contributory pension in each of the years 2014 to 2018 and to 30 June 2019; if they were male or female; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34780/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

According to the records available to my Department, there were 419,451 state pension (contributory) claimants as at 30 June 2019. Of these, 233,077 claimants receive maximum rate of pension.

Under social welfare legislation, there are a number of ways to qualify for a state pension (contributory). With effect from 30 March 2018, pension entitlement of those born on or after 1 September 1946 can also be calculated under a new Total Contributions Approach (TCA), which includes provision for new HomeCaring Periods. Claimants are assessed under relevant calculation methods and paid the highest rate of pension achievable.

The numbers in receipt of maximum rate, per gender, for the years ending 2014 to 2018 and to end June 2019 are set out in the following table.

Period

Number

Female

Male

%Female

%Male

Total

% of all claimants

Year end 2014

Max rate

47,557

130,114

27%

73%

177,671

51%

Year end 2015

Max rate

49,978

135,813

27%

73%

185,791

51%

Year end 2016

Max rate

52,498

141,676

27%

73%

194,174

51%

Year end 2017

Max rate

55,172

147,446

27%

73%

202,618

51%

Year end 2018

Max rate

58,041

153,397

27%

73%

211,438

51%

End June 2019

Max rate

72,228

160,849

31%

69%

233,077

56%

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Social Welfare Offices

Ceisteanna (1777, 1778)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

1777. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if INTREO centres in the north west will be downgraded and turned into front offices; if so, the reason for the downgrading; if her attention has been drawn to the potential negative effects this will have in terms of the provision of local services to persons seeking jobseeker's and other social welfare entitlements in view of the fact that the skill set will have been removed as a result of the loss of front-line staff; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34809/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

1778. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if the results from a number of piloted projects involving the downgrading of INTREO offices into front and back offices will be made available; if there were reported delays in claims being processed or other issues; if the results will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34810/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1777 and 1778 together.

A new operating model which seeks to make best use of resources by balancing workloads across the Intreo network is currently being introduced. This does not represent a downgrading of Intreo Centres. The new model utilises recent ICT developments implemented in Intreo Centres – collectively known as the digital claim - which have removed the location constraints of the previous paper based system and deliver the capability to distribute work to available resources across the Intreo network regardless of location. This enables the separation of Front Office customer facing functions and Back Office processing of claims and decision making which can now be undertaken via a back office that can utilise resources from across the country.

The new operating model was successfully piloted in late 2017 and early 2018 and the model has been approved for national implementation. It has now been implemented across the Department's Branch Office network and in eight Intreo Centres with rollout across the remainder of the Intreo network planned to complete in mid 2020.

Hope that clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Invalidity Pension Applications

Ceisteanna (1779)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

1779. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of an application for an invalidity pension review by a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34811/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Following a review of her application, the lady referred to has been awarded invalidity pension with effect from 07 March 2019. Payment will issue to her nominated bank account on 12 September 2019 Any arrears due from 07 March 2019 to 11 September 2019 (less any overlapping social welfare payment) will issue as soon as possible. The lady in question was notified of this decision on 27 August 2019.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Ministerial Advisers Data

Ceisteanna (1780)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

1780. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the name of each person employed as an adviser or special adviser to her and the Minister of State in her Department; the salary of each in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34845/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Under Government guidelines I am permitted to appoint a maximum of two Special Advisors.

Their annual salary is set out in the following table.

Name

Role

Annual Salary

Name

Role

Annual Salary

Denise Duffy

Special Advisor to the Minister

€94,487

Alex Connolly

Special Advisor to the Minister

€110,074*

*Mr. Connolly is on secondment from Fáilte Ireland for the duration of his appointment and retains his conditions of service from that Body.

Child Benefit Data

Ceisteanna (1781)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

1781. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the estimated annual extra cost that would be incurred if the age of eligibility for child benefit for those in full-time education was raised to 19 years of age; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34864/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The estimated annual cost that would incur in restoring the full rate of child benefit to age 19 is €99,503,040. This estimate is based on 59,228 recipients (derived from my Department's statistics on child benefit recipients). This costing represents the upper limit of what may be required. If the child benefit was restored to €70 (half the full rate) the costing is approximately €49,751,520 and if it was restored to €50 it would be €35,536,800.

Household Benefits Scheme

Ceisteanna (1782)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

1782. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to enhance the household benefits package in the context of budget 2020; if she will increase the electricity and gas allowance aspects for budget 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34887/19]

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 448,000 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.

Any decision to enhance the HHB package or to increase the electricity and gas aspect of the package would have budgetary consequences and would have to be considered in the context of overall budget negotiations. The Government has not made any decisions in relation to measures to be introduced in Budget 2020. The Government will finalise its consideration of the Budget in the coming weeks having regard to all of its commitments. The outcome of this process will be announced on Budget Day.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

State Pension (Contributory) Data

Ceisteanna (1783)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

1783. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of cases due for review under the new total contribution system for assessing pensioners for the State pension (contributory); the number of cases reviewed and finalised to date; the number of cases that have resulted in an increase of €20 and more each week; the number between €10 and €20 per week and less than €10 per week; the number of those that received an increase of less than €10 that are now receiving the maximum pension; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34911/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Since late September 2018, my Department has been examining the social insurance records of over 90,000 pensioners, born on or after 1 September 1946, who have a reduced rate State pension contributory entitlement based on post Budget 2012 rate-bands.  These payments are being reviewed under a new Total Contributions Approach (TCA) to pension calculation which includes provision for homecaring periods. 

Reviews commenced from 13 February 2019, the day after I signed the necessary Regulations which, together with provisions in the Social Welfare, Pensions and Civil Registrations Act 2018, allows the increased payments to be made.

As at 29 August 2019, 92,507 reviews have been completed; of these, 51,943 are women and 40,564 are  men.  Of the 51,943 women 27,915  (54%) received an increase while the rest remain on their existing rate. Of the 40,564 men ,9,746  (24%)  received an increase and the remainder continue to received their same rate of payment.

Most of the remaining reviews for completion are awaiting additional information relating to gaps in the social insurance records of individuals requested by my Department.  Review outcomes will issue to all remaining pensioners in the coming weeks.

The latest information available on the detailed increase in rate breakdown requested by the Deputy is as at the end of July 2019 and is provided in the table below.

Weekly personal rate increase

 Number of all increases

€  0.10 - €10.00

13,161

€10.01 - €20.00

3,378

€20.01 or more

18,598

As at the end of July, of those awarded an increase of less than €10.00 following review, 7,298 are now in receipt of the maximum rate of state pension (contributory).

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Carer's Allowance Applications

Ceisteanna (1784)

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

1784. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if a carer's allowance will be granted to a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34921/19]

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 30 May 2019. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant papers and comments, by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer, on the grounds of appeal be sought from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection These papers have been received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 15 July 2019 and the case will be referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral 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.

State Pension (Contributory)

Ceisteanna (1785)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

1785. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the date from which the increase for a qualified adult payment as part of the State pension (contributory) has been means tested; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34926/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The current arrangements for the means testing of the increase for a qualified adult payment as part of the State pension (contributory) were introduced in section 15 of the Social Welfare Act 1995. The first regulations implementing these arrangements were subsequently introduced in March 1996.

The rate of the increase for a qualified adult depends on various factors including weekly income, the State Pension rate of the primary claimant, and whether the qualified adult is aged over or under 66 years. An example of the current rates are shown in the following table. The rate is tapered when gross weekly income is between €100 and €310. These tapered rates are adjusted if primary rates are adjusted in the annual Budget.

Yearly average PRSI contributions

Personal rate per week, €

Increase for a qualified adult (under 66), €

Increase for a qualified adult (over 66), €

State Pension (Contributory) rates from 29 March 2019

48 or over

248.30

165.40

222.50

40-47

243.40

157.40

211.40

30-39

223.20

149.80

200.50

20-29

211.40

140.10

188.70

15-19

161.80

107.80

144.50

10-14

99.20

65.70

89.50