State Pension (Contributory)

Ceisteanna (240)

John Brassil

Ceist:

240. Deputy John Brassil asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if there is a €190,500 disregard on the means assessment for qualified adult payments on the State pension (contributory) for persons who wish to downsize their home; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40086/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The legislation allowing for the disregard of proceeds from sale of principal residence - Article 158 of the Social Welfare (Consolidated Claims, Payments and Control) Regulations 2007 - applies to those moving to more suitable accommodation who are in receipt of one of the following payments:

- State Pension (Non-Contributory)

- Widow's, Widower's or Surviving civil Partner's (Non-Contributory) Pension (66 years of age or over)

- Disability Allowance

- Blind Pension

There is currently no provision for this disregard in respect of an adult dependant on the state pension (contributory). Any changes to disregards and means assessments would have to be considered in the overall policy and budgetary process.

JobPath Programme

Ceisteanna (241)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

241. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if a person who finishes a community employment scheme in June 2020 could be referred back to JobPath despite the fact that new referrals will cease at the end of 2019; if being on the scheme guarantees a person a year exemption from being referred to JobPath; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40091/19]

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 the service. 

The JobPath employment service commenced in 2015 and, under the terms of the contracts signed with the providers, was to run for at least six years comprising two consecutive phases. Phase one entailed four years’ of client referrals, while phase two entailed a ‘run off’ period during which time no additional clients were to be referred.  Therefore client referrals were due to cease on 31st December 2019. The contract included an option to extend the term of referrals for a period no greater than two years.

As per an econometric review carried out by my Department, JobPath has been, and continues to be, a successful service in providing a comprehensive and value for money activation service for the long-term unemployed. On this basis, my Department triggered the extension provisions of the existing contracts with the JobPath providers and secured agreement on the extension of these contracts on existing terms and conditions for a further twelve months. 

This is not a renewal of the JobPath contracts but the execution of the extension clauses of the existing contracts.

This extension is important as it will ensure that the Government retains the necessary labour activation capacity to deal with any labour market uncertainty that arises as a result of Brexit.

With regard to Community Employment (CE) schemes, Jobseekers currently engaged on a CE scheme are not eligible for selection for the JobPath service.  On finishing a CE placement however, long term jobseekers will become eligible for activation services provided by my Department, including referral to JobPath. This ensures that the benefits of the experience and training that they received during their time on CE are maximised. 

If referred to JobPath they will receive one-to-one, intensive and regular engagement with a personal adviser who will assess their skills, experience, challenges and work goals and assist them in finding full-time sustainable employment.  This process will also help identify potential employment opportunities and offer support to the individual in overcoming any barriers to employment.

From 1st June 2018 all persons currently engaged with JobPath may also elect to take up a placement on CE whilst continuing to engage with their JobPath provider.  Application for participation on CE by JobPath customers is entirely voluntary and at their discretion.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Fuel Allowance Eligibility

Ceisteanna (242)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Ceist:

242. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if the fuel allowance can be paid on a discretionary basis to people participating in community employment schemes and of limited income despite not being on a qualifying payment prior to engaging with community employment. [40097/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Following recent changes to the eligibility criteria, it is now open to participants on Community Employment schemes to apply for a Fuel Allowance.  If the Deputy would like to forward the details of a particular case(s) he is referring to I will have them examined.

I trust this clarifies the position. 

Fuel Allowance Eligibility

Ceisteanna (243)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Ceist:

243. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if the fuel allowance will be paid to recipients of carer's allowance should they satisfy a means test and are of limited income. [40098/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The fuel allowance is a payment of €22.50 per week for 28 weeks (a total of €630 each year) from October to April, to over 372,000 low income households, at an estimated cost of €240 million in 2019.  The purpose of this payment is to assist these households with their energy costs.  The allowance represents a contribution towards the energy costs of a household.  It is not intended to meet those costs in full.  Only one allowance is paid per household.

My Department also pays an electricity or gas allowance under the Household benefits scheme at an estimated cost of €188 million in 2019.  This is paid at a rate of €35 per month, 12 months of the year. 

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 carers support grant (€1,700) in respect of each person for whom they care. 

Fuel Allowance is a household-based payment, and a Carer will very often live with and be caring for a person with a qualifying payment for Fuel Allowance.  Income from full rate carers allowance is disregarded if the carer is providing full time care and attention to the Fuel Allowance applicant, their qualified spouse / civil partner or cohabitant or qualified child(ren).

If a person is getting certain qualifying social welfare payments and also providing full time care and attention to another person, they can keep their main social protection payment and get the half-rate carer's allowance as well.  They can also receive an extra half-rate carer’s allowance if they care for more than one person.  It should also be noted that the payment of half-rate carer’s allowance does not preclude a person from qualifying for fuel allowance.  If a person is in receipt of a non-contributory social welfare payment and a half-rate carer’s allowance, then they are deemed to have satisfied the means test and fuel allowance is payable subject to all remaining criteria being satisfied.  If a person is in receipt of a contributory social welfare payment and a half-rate carer’s allowance then they will have to satisfy a means test to qualify for fuel allowance.

Any decision to amend the criteria for receiving fuel allowance to include a carer’s allowance as a qualifying payment in the circumstances the Deputy has outlined would have to be considered in the overall policy and budgetary context. 

Under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme, exceptional needs payments may be made to help meet an essential, once-off cost which customers are unable to meet out of their own resources and this may include exceptional heating cost.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Disability Allowance Applications

Ceisteanna (244)

John McGuinness

Ceist:

244. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of an application for a disability allowance by a person (details supplied); and if the matter will be expedited. [40141/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

I can confirm that my department received an application for disability allowance (DA) from this lady on 31 July 2019. 

On 27 September 2019 the person concerned was requested to supply supporting documentation required by the deciding officer in order to make a decision on her eligibility.  On receipt of this information a decision will be made on her DA application and the person concerned will be notified of the outcome.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Housing Adaptation Grant Funding

Ceisteanna (245)

Carol Nolan

Ceist:

245. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he will restore housing adaptation grants funding to 2010 levels; and if he will make provision of an additional €28.38 million for these grants. [40040/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The funding provided for the Housing Adaptation Grants for Older People and People with a Disability Scheme, to support people living in private houses, has increased year on year since 2014. Compared to a funding level of €43 million in 2013, the funding provided reached €71.25 million nationally in 2019, an increase of some 8% on 2018. I am conscious of the benefit accruing from these grants, particularly in terms of facilitating older people and people with a disability, to remain living independently in their own homes.  As part of the annual budgetary process, consideration will be given in future years to increasing further the funding for these grants in line with both Rebuilding Ireland and the Government's Policy Statement on Housing Options for Our Ageing Population, which is available on my Department's website at the following link: www.housing.gov.ie/sites/default/files/publications/files/housingoptionsforanageingpopulationeng_web.pdf.

ERASMUS Programme

Ceisteanna (246)

Jonathan O'Brien

Ceist:

246. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the progress made on the development of ERASMUS Gaeltachta under the Irish language learners scheme; the third-level institutions that will offer a semester in the Gaeltacht to their students; the number of student places per institution that will be available; the Gaeltacht areas in which they may attend courses; the dates on which these places will be available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40009/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Culture)

The Deputy will be aware that, earlier this year, I  announced  a new initiative - ERASMUS Gaeltachta - worth €250,000, under which third-level students are being provided with the opportunity to live with qualifying Gaeltacht families for a full three month semester while attending a third-level course.

Under the scheme, a subsidy of €17 per day per student is payable to qualifying households who provide accommodation to participating students. This subvention, which is being provided under the terms of Scéim na bhFoghlaimeoirí Gaeilge, is the equivalent of approximately €1,428 per student.

This three-month language immersion opportunity is being directed towards third-level students:

- who have Irish as a core subject in their 3rd level programme (for example, B.A. in Irish or B. Comm with Irish) or:

- for whom Irish is not a core student subject but who require a high level of competency in Irish in order to work in professions in the public service, in particular, in which it is critical to ensure engagement with the Irish speaking community through Irish.

To date, Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge, NUIG, and Coláiste na hOllscoile, Corcaigh have embarked on providing courses which qualify under the ERASMUS Gaeltachta initiatiave - catering for approximately 90 students in total.  It is anticipated that up to 175 students can be catered for initially under the measure, with a view to further increasing the number in the medium-term, depending on demand.

I am satisfied that this practical measure, which represents the outworking of a commitment made in the Government's Action Plan for the Irish Language 2018-2022, will generate both significant additional benefits for the language as well as downstream economic benefits for Gaeltacht regions.  It will also go some way towards preparing students for employment in areas of the public service requiring a competency in the Irish language, thus contributing to efforts to meet the ambitious targets set out in the proposed Official Languages (Amendment) Bill.

Waterways Ireland Funding

Ceisteanna (247)

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

247. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the estimated amount it would cost in 2020 if the budget for Waterways Ireland increased by 9%. [40065/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Culture)

The allocation from my Department's Vote for Waterways Ireland  for 2019 is €25.117m.

The estimated amount it would cost in 2020 if the budget for Waterways  Ireland is increased by 9% is therefore €2.260m.