Child Maintenance Payments

Ceisteanna (27)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

27. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the work her Department is undertaking regarding a statutory maintenance agency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38311/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The Family Law Acts place a legal obligation on parents to maintain their children. In cases where the family unit has broken down these obligations continue to apply. Relevant maintenance payments can be arranged either directly between the parties themselves, or with the assistance of supports from the Department of Justice and Equality, such as the Family Mediation Service and the Legal Aid Board, or ultimately through the Courts.

When any one of the parents applies for a One Parent Family Payment from my department, a contribution towards the cost of this is sought from the other parent of any children of the relationship.

The Liability to Maintain the Family scheme, as it is known, is managed and administered by my department and its role is to:

- determine on the basis of income information supplied, whether the liable relative is in a position to contribute to the department,

- determine the amount of contribution due by the liable relative,

- monitor and enforce payment of the contributions due, and

- engage with both parties to ensure the requirements of the legislation are met.

I have had a number of discussions with stakeholders, experts and those affected by the current regime. On this basis I have tasked officials in my Department to examine international best practice on maintenance and report back to me with options on how best Ireland can achieve better outcomes in a proactive manner for families.

State Pension (Contributory) Data

Ceisteanna (28, 32, 33, 44, 49)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

28. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the outcome of the review of pension entitlements for persons who were affected by changes in 2012 to the State pension (contributory) scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38823/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Martin Heydon

Ceist:

32. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of the review of those in receipt of reduced contributory pensions; the number of reviews that have been completed; when the process will be concluded; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38893/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

33. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of the re-examination of pensions for women who lost out on their full State pension (contributory) due to leaving the workforce to rear their children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38566/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

44. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of pensioners whose entitlements have been reviewed; the number whose pensions have increased as a result of the review of entitlements of persons affected by changes in 2012 to the State pension (contributory) scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38824/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Aindrias Moynihan

Ceist:

49. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of persons who have been reviewed under the scheme for those affected by the changes to the State pension (contributory) in 2012; the number that have seen no increase in their contributory pensions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38896/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 28, 32, 33, 44 and 49 together.

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 19 September 2019, 93,981 reviews have been completed; of these, 52,932 are women and 41,049 are men. Of the 52,932 women 28,448 (54%) received an increase while the rest remain on their existing rate. Of the 41,049 men 9,921 (24%) received an increase and the remainder continue to receive their same rate of payment.

Only a small number of reviews remain to be completed and these are awaiting additional information relating to gaps in the social insurance records of individuals requested by my Department. I am advised that the review outcomes will issue to all remaining pensioners in the coming weeks.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputies.

Proposed Legislation

Ceisteanna (29)

Joan Collins

Ceist:

29. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when she plans to initiate her amendment to the Payment of Wages Act 1991 to deal with the issue of tip theft. [38796/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the Bill to amend the Payment of Wages Act 1991 dealing with tipping practices, last week received Government approval to be added as a priority to the Government’s Legislation Programme for the Autumn / Winter parliamentary session. The Scheme of the Bill is already crafted to an advanced stage and has been submitted to the Office of Parliamentary Counsel. The legislation will amend the Payment of Wages Act, clarifying that tips cannot be used to make up or satisfy payment of contractual rates of pay. Tips will be distinguished from service charges for this purpose.

We have referred the General Scheme of the Bill to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Employment Affairs and Social Protection for pre-legislative scrutiny.

The Joint Committee on Employment Affairs and Social Protection will consider the Bill at its next meeting on Thursday 26th of September. I look forward to working with members on all sides of the Houses of the Oireachtas to progress this Bill as expeditiously as possible in order to deliver legislation that is fair, balanced and that works in practice.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Gender Equality

Ceisteanna (30, 34)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

30. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the way in which she will reduce the gender pension gap; her target for eliminating the gap completely; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38312/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

34. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if her attention has been drawn to the recent report by the ESRI in which the extent of pension gender pay gap was highlighted; the measures she plans to undertake to remedy the situation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38844/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 30 and 34 together.

The Economic & Social Research Institute (ESRI) published a report “Gender, Pensions and Income in Retirement” on 12th September 2019. This report was sponsored by the Pensions Council, which is a statutory body which has been set up to provide advice to me in relation to pensions matters.

At the outset it is very important to note that the ESRI's research found no consistent evidence of a gender gap in the payment of state pensions. Measures regarding homecaring periods that I introduced last year and intend to continue in the announced reform of the State pension will ensure that this continues into the future.

Men and women have different experiences in the labour market. My Department has a range of supports for those who wish to re-enter the labour force including Jobseeker’s Transitional Payment and the Working Family Payment.

Furthermore, I launched the Irish Government’s "Roadmap for Pensions Reform 2018-2023" in February 2018. The Roadmap provides for major reform of State, occupational, private and public service pensions. One of the key proposals is the introduction of an automatic enrolment pensions savings scheme. It is now widely accepted that reform of the current, purely voluntary approach to retirement saving is required to improve coverage to a desired level. A report on auto-enrolment will be brought to Government for consideration in the near future to facilitate the next steps for implementation of the scheme in 2022 as planned.

I share the Deputies' wish that the pension gender gap be eliminated completely and look forward to their continued support for policy initiatives aimed at achieving this result.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputies.

Social Welfare Schemes

Questions Nos. 32 and 33 answered with Question No. 28.

Question No. 34 answered with Question No. 30.

Ceisteanna (31)

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

31. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the supports made available to workers in the beef processing factories who have been made redundant or laid off temporarily; if migrant workers on permits are eligible for unemployment assistance; the number of workers that have been supported; the number that sought assistance but were not eligible; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38876/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The primary social welfare schemes available to individuals who have been laid off as a result of current layoffs inn the meat processing industry are Jobseekers Benefit and Jobseekers Allowance. Both schemes are administered through my Department's network of Intreo Centres and Social Welfare Branch Offices throughout the country.

Payment of Jobseekers Benefit and Assistance is contingent on a person satisfying the qualifying conditions. A principal requirement for entitlement to Jobseekers Benefit or Assistance is that an individual must be able to demonstrate his or her availability for full-time employment. In consideration of this condition, any factor which would place an unreasonable restriction on the acceptance of an offer of suitable employment would lead to the claim being disallowed.

Deciding Officers have been advised that non-EU nationals who are employed under work permits issued by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation and who are in a situation of involuntary unemployment due to the on-going effects of meat factory protests are considered to be available for employment.

My Department is advising all affected meat factory employees to make a claim for a jobseekers payment regardless of their work / employment permit status. Each claim will be decided in light of the facts of the situation and the particular circumstances of each individual. If they have not done so already, affected employees should contact their local Intreo Centre or Social Welfare Branch Office. Dedicated arrangements have been made to ensure that claims are processed in a timely manner once all supporting documentation is available. To date approximately 1,700 claims have been received. Of these 1,080 have been decided with only 8 claims having been disallowed.

Customers on non-EU work permits who satisfy the other conditions for receipt of Jobseekers Benefits, including having a satisfactory contribution record, can be paid Jobseekers Benefit.

Customers who do not have enough PRSI contributions can apply for Jobseekers Allowance where other conditions apply, including Habitual Residence and satisfying a means test. Any claim for Jobseeker’s Allowance in the case of involuntary short-term lay-offs represents a transient need for support and will be treated as such.

In the absence of entitlement to Jobseekers Allowance, supports may also be available under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme.

I hope that clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Questions Nos. 32 and 33 answered with Question No. 28.
Question No. 34 answered with Question No. 30.

Departmental Strategies

Ceisteanna (35, 40)

Willie O'Dea

Ceist:

35. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when she plans to publish a new action plan for social inclusion; the reason it was not published in 2018 as envisaged; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38832/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

John Brady

Ceist:

40. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the date for the publication of the new social inclusion strategy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38799/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 35 and 40 together.

The new social inclusion strategy "Roadmap for Social Inclusion 2019-2025", is being finalised and I expect that the new strategy will be published shortly.

Unemployment Benefits Data

Question No. 37 answered with Question No. 25.

Ceisteanna (36)

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

36. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of childcare workers that claim unemployment benefit or assistance throughout the months of June, July and August; the breakdown of these figures for the past three years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38873/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The total number of persons who declared their employment category as childcare and related occupations who have claimed jobseeker's payments in June, July and August 2016-2019 are detailed in the following tabular statements.

Claims between June and August 2016

June

July

August

Jobseeker's Allowance

3,590

3,780

3,759

Jobseeker's Benefit

810

1,140

1,139

Total

4,400

4,920

4,898

Claims between June and August 2017

June

July

August

Jobseeker's Allowance

2,858

3,081

2,929

Jobseeker's Benefit

581

1,078

778

Total

3,439

4,159

3,707

Claims between June and August 2018

June

July

August

Jobseeker's Allowance

2,309

2,503

2,380

Jobseeker's Benefit

577

1,069

771

Total

2,906

3,572

3,151

Claims between June and August 2019

June

July

August

Jobseeker's Allowance

1,833

2,081

1,980

Jobseeker's Benefit

535

1,045

803

Total

2,368

3,126

2,783

Question No. 37 answered with Question No. 25.

Public Services Card

Question No. 39 answered with Question No. 11.

Question No. 40 answered with Question No. 35.

Ceisteanna (38)

Joan Collins

Ceist:

38. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if the public services card will not expire on a particular date after it has been issued and reapplied for by a person. [38804/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The PSC was provided for in legislation in 1998 when it was introduced alongside the PPSN to replace the previous Revenue and Social Insurance number (RSI) and the Social Service Card (SSC).

The clear and stated objective as articulated in Oireachtas at that time was that the Public Services Card was not to be confined to welfare services but to act as an identifier for access to a broad range of public services.

Successive Governments have reaffirmed this policy both in Government decisions and through legislation.

With regard to the expiry date of the Public Services Card, the card that is issued on completion of SAFE registration is currently valid for up to 10 years. At renewal a new photograph is taken to update the new card and the PSI dataset. A person is only required to undertake a SAFE 2 registration process once.

A new PSC may also be required when a person's status changes, e.g., a person reaching the age of 66 will be automatically issued with a new card with 'free travel' functionality, enabling them to avail of free travel on public transport services.

Question No. 39 answered with Question No. 11.
Question No. 40 answered with Question No. 35.

JobPath Implementation

Question No. 42 answered with Question No. 24.

Ceisteanna (41)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

41. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason the JobPath provider Seetec is issuing notices to jobseekers detailing its policy on tackling radicalism; if jobseekers have been referred to her Department or An Garda Síochána in respect of same; the number of claimants that have been sanctioned or interviewed on foot of the concerns of Seetec relating to potential radicalisation risks; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38794/19]

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. Seetec is one of the companies contracted by my Department to deliver the Job Path service.

Seetec have strong customer service policies in place, one of which is a safeguarding policy. The Seetec policy covers a range of areas where concern may emerge regarding the safety of a customer or others and the action that Seetec may take in regard to that concern, this may involve notifying the appropriate statutory agency of their concerns.

Seetec make a leaflet available to customers setting out their safeguarding policy and the procedure Seetec follow as part of their commitment to safeguarding their customers and others.

As the Deputy will be aware, decisions regarding a person’s welfare entitlements are taken only by Department officials and that external contractors have no role in that decision making process.

I trust this clarifies matters for the Deputy.

Question No. 42 answered with Question No. 24.

Community Employment Schemes Supervisors

Question No. 44 answered with Question No. 28.

Ceisteanna (43)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

43. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of the community employment scheme (details supplied); if further discussions have taken place with unions on this matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38565/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

As the Deputy will be aware, I am currently engaging with representatives of CE supervisors to discuss issues arising following the 2008 Labour Court Recommendation (LCR 19293). All parties to the engagement process have agreed that the detail of the discussions should remain confidential while the engagement is ongoing and I would ask Deputies to respect these wishes and allow the talks to continue free from speculation which might prove unhelpful. I expect that it will take a number of weeks to reach a conclusion.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Question No. 44 answered with Question No. 28.

Public Services Card

Ceisteanna (45)

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

45. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to proceed with the second generation of the public services card in view of the recent report by the Data Protection Commission; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38880/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Following a public procurement process, the tender for the supply of the production, personalisation and distribution of the Public Services Card (PSC) and the provision of associated services was awarded to Security Card Concepts in July 2018 for a period of three years. The supplier is based in Bray. This is simply a new supply contract, it is not a new generation card.

The Public Services Card (PSC) continues to be supplied.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Treatment Benefit Scheme Applications

Ceisteanna (46)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Ceist:

46. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if measures are being put in place to reduce long waiting times for applications to be processed. [38820/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Applications for Treatment Benefit are now routinely submitted on-line via the department's WelfarePartners portal, with 97% of cases received via this channel to date in 2019. Applications received in this manner are processed immediately, in real time, and as a result there is no delay in processing applications.

The small and reducing number of dental and optical benefit applications submitted on paper forms are processed using scanning and automation in so far as is possible and this is normally done within 2 days of receipt. Those applications which do require clerical intervention are routinely processed within 1-2 weeks of receipt.

I hope this clarifies this matter for the Deputy.

Social Insurance Data

Ceisteanna (47)

John Brady

Ceist:

47. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the amount recouped by her Department from money lost in PRSI through bogus self-employment practices being identified in the past five years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38802/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Work is ongoing in my Department to tackle false self-employment across the economy. In that regard I am currently reallocating resources to this issue to understand, measure and quantify better the prevalence of false self-employment and obtain a sectoral analysis of its level of incidence.

My Department is already focussed on increasing the number of employer inspections it conducts nationwide. Based on experience from these inspections, and recognising that there is a particular challenge when dealing with large companies or companies with complex legal structures, I also established in August a dedicated team to work strategically in this area. This team has commenced its work, in parallel with other Inspectors across the country.

My officials work in cooperation with the inspectorates of the Workplace Relations Commission and Revenue Commissioners as necessary and strong liaisons have been established with those organisations to focus strategically on tackling false self-employment.

In addition to more rigorous policing of existing law, I intend to introduce a number of new legislative measures to further strengthen our powers. These measures include putting the 'Guidance on Determining Employment Status' – which is a revision of the former Code of Practice in this area – on a statutory footing. This, in addition to a new offence of misclassifying an employee as self-employed, will both be included in the Social Welfare Budget Bill, which I expect to be enacted by the end of the year.

I also will bring forward new provisions to address the potential victimisation of workers who seek a determination on their employment status. These latter provisions will likely mirror similar provisions I brought into law earlier this year via the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2018. While the drafting of this legislation is complex, its timely introduction to the Oireachtas remains a priority.

I am advised that it is not possible to provide figures on money recouped on the sole basis of false self-employment cases alone. However, as an indication of the level of work going on in relation to PRSI inspections generally, a total of 1,931 employer inspections have been carried out across the country by my Inspectors this year up to the end of last month. However, savings achieved so far this year from PRSI inspections carried out comes to a total of €1.184m.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Social Welfare Payments Waiting Times

Question No. 49 answered with Question No. 28.

Ceisteanna (48)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

48. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the applications for various social welfare payments currently taking the longest time to process; the cause or causes of such a delay; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38898/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

My Department is committed to providing a quality service to all its customers, ensuring that applications are processed and that decisions on entitlement are made as quickly as possible. In general, social welfare schemes which involve medical or caring conditionality take the longest time to process.

These cases have a number of complex qualifying conditions that can take longer to process. As an example, before a decision can be made on entitlement to Domiciliary Care Allowance (DCA), evidence must be provided and examined in respect of the additional care needs of the child. Similarly, before a decision can be made on entitlement to Carer’s Allowance (CA), evidence must be provided in respect of the care recipient’s care requirement, the level of care the carer provides and the caree's means. In considering applications for disability allowance (DA), evidence must be provided in respect of the person’s medical condition, the extent to which it restricts them from taking up employment, their means and their habitual residency.

It is also the case that in order to register their claim and establish an early entitlement or claim date many people submit a claim without first securing all of the necessary supporting documentation. While this does ensure that people will be paid with arrears from an early "effective" date it does mean that claims take longer to process.

My Department is continually working to achieve processing times target which at time we deviate from. When this happens we continually renew our focus to rectify the matter.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Question No. 49 answered with Question No. 28.

Employment Rights

Ceisteanna (50)

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

50. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to put the code of practice on bogus self-employment on a statutory footing; if a timeframe has been identified for same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38874/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The Code of Practice is currently being reviewed by an Interdepartmental Group comprising the WRC, Department of Finance, Revenue and this Department. A substantial revision is nearing completion, at which time it will be shared with ICTU and IBEC through the Labour Employer Economic Forum (LEEF) structure for observations. This revised Code draws heavily on case law that has emerged since the Code’s introduction in 2007.

Once the Code is finalised, I will seek to put it on a statutory footing.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.