Domiciliary Care Allowance Review

Ceisteanna (607)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

607. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of a survey carried out in 2018 by her Department of parents on domiciliary care allowance in respect of potentially increasing the disability allowance age from 16 to 18 years of age and extending the domiciliary care allowance age from 16 to 18 years of age; if a decision has been made on same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [51262/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The Make Work Pay report was published in April 2017 following a commitment in the Comprehensive Employment Strategy for people with disabilities 2015 -2024, and was undertaken in order to better identify how people with disabilities could be supported to achieve their employment ambitions.

The report made two recommendations (numbers 9 and 10) that addressed significant issues around the design of the main income supports schemes. These related to a proposed reconfiguration of Disability Allowance (from the current starting age of 16 to 18 years) and an implementation of the principle of early engagement for young persons on Disability Allowance (DA) and on all illness and disability payments.

To fulfil a commitment made at the time of the report, a wide-ranging consultation exercise was conducted with persons with disabilities, their families and representative groups in relation to these recommendations. This consultation began in September 2017 and continued until June 2018.

The national consultation process gathered a large amount of material and a draft report has been prepared by my Department together with the key stakeholder focus group. The "plain English" accessible format of the report is now being completed. Other accessible formats such as, an easy to read report, ISL videos (with both Irish and English voice over and captioning), audio files (Irish and English) and a braille report have been prepared.

I have asked my officials to consider what implementation issues related to early engagement need to be addressed before deciding on the next steps with regards to the report’s findings, and work is on-going in this regard.

Jobseeker's Benefit Eligibility

Ceisteanna (608)

Kevin O'Keeffe

Ceist:

608. Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason seasonal self-employed workers cannot claim jobseeker's benefit; and if she will consider changing this anomaly to enable all seasonable workers have the same benefits as PAYE workers. [51263/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The Social Welfare Act 2019 introduced a new scheme of jobseekers benefit for the self-employed since 1 November 2019. This new scheme builds on other significant improvements for self-employed people in recent years such as access to invalidity pension and treatment benefits in 2017.

Many of the features of the new support for the self-employed are similar to the existing jobseekers benefit scheme for employees. These include the duration and the rates of payment, including increases for adult and child dependents. Other fundamental conditions that apply to both schemes are that the person must be available for and genuinely seeking full-time work.

Not all features of both schemes are the same which reflects the differences that exist between the nature of self-employment and working as an employee. To qualify for payment for a self-employed person must meet the conditions for the new scheme including the condition of “not being engaged in self-employment.” A self-employed person who in the ordinary course of their business closes their business on a planned, temporary or, seasonal basis does not satisfy this condition.

If a self-employed person continues to operate their business at low levels of income they can access the means tested jobseekers allowance scheme, once they satisfy the conditionality for this scheme.

I trust that this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Child Poverty

Ceisteanna (609)

Willie O'Dea

Ceist:

609. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of children that will have to be taken out of poverty if the 2020 child poverty target is to be met in view of the latest Survey on Income and Living Conditions, SILC, data; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [51305/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The most recent data from the Survey on Income and Living Conditions 2018, published by the CSO in late November, shows that the consistent poverty rate for children in 2018 was 7.7%. This is a reduction on the 2017 figure of 8.8% and the rate is now at its lowest since 2008 when it was 6.3%. The 2018 at-risk-of-poverty rate for children was 15.9%, a reduction on the 2017 figure of 18.4% while the deprivation rate was 19.7%, down from 23.0% in 2017.

The National Policy Framework for Children and Young People (Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures) was published by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs in 2014. It includes a target to reduce the number of children in consistent poverty by at least two-thirds of the 2011 level by 2020. In 2011, the consistent poverty rate for children was 9.3%, equating to roughly 107,000 children. By 2013, this had risen significantly to 12.7% (roughly 150,000 children). The 2018 consistent poverty rate for children of 7.7% equates to some 92,000 children. Therefore, meeting the 2020 target means lifting almost 55,000 children out of poverty by that date, which will be both a challenge and a priority.

Addressing child poverty was identified as a priority under the 'Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures' (BOBF) framework. In conjunction with the BOBF Advisory Council, my Department formed an ad hoc group with the objective of working with key officials from other relevant Government Departments and NGOs towards the adoption of a whole of government, multi-dimensional approach to tackling child poverty. The paper on a 'Whole of Government Approach to Tackling Child Poverty' was published by DEASP in October 2017. It emphasises the need for a combined approach to tackling child poverty levels in Ireland, involving both income supports and services. The value of this approach can be seen in the reduction in the child poverty figures over recent years.

Recent Budgets have introduced a number of measures that have had and will continue to have a direct and positive impact on child poverty. Across Budgets 2017 to 2020, the Government increased maximum weekly welfare payments by €15 per week with proportionate increases for qualified adult dependents; introduced a new qualified child rate for children over 12 years of age and increased weekly qualified child rates by €6.20 for children under 12 and €10.60 for those over-12. There were also increases in the income thresholds for the Working Family Payment, and increases in earnings disregards for One Parent Family and Jobseeker Transition payments.

It can take some time for the full impact of budgetary measures to reflected in data from the Survey on Income and Living Conditions. Given the continuing economic recovery and the measures introduced in recent Budgets, I expect to see the poverty data for 2019 and 2020, when they become available, to show further improvements over the 2018 outcomes. I will continue to work with my Government colleagues to ensure that the economic recovery is experienced in all regions and by all families, households and individuals.

Poverty Data

Ceisteanna (610, 611)

Willie O'Dea

Ceist:

610. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of persons in consistent poverty here based on the latest SILC data; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [51306/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Willie O'Dea

Ceist:

611. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the national poverty target; the number of persons that will have to be taken out of poverty for the target to be met; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [51307/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 610 and 611 together.

The National Social Target for Poverty Reduction aims to reduce consistent poverty from the 2010 baseline of 6.3% to 2% or less by 2020. This was an ambitious target but one to which the Government has remained committed. Data from the CSO Survey on Income and Living Conditions (SILC) show that consistent poverty rose sharply from the 2010 level, to a peak of 9.0% in 2013. However the most recent SILC data from 2018 show that this had reduced to 5.6%, down from the 2017 figure of 6.7%.

Using the CSO estimated population figure for 2018 (4.857m people), the 2018 consistent poverty rate of 5.6% equates to some 272,000 people. Between 2016 (when the rate was 8.3%) and 2018, over 118,000 people were lifted out of consistent poverty. This is a welcome and significant decrease. Nevertheless, a reduction of over 3.6 percentage points is required to meet the 2% target by 2020. Based on the 2018 estimated population figure, this equates to slightly less than 175,000 people.

While this remains a challenge, I expect the poverty data for 2019 and 2020, when they become available, to show further improvement over the 2018 outcomes in light of the continuing economic recovery and measures introduced in the most recent Budgets. I will continue to work with my Government colleagues to ensure that the economic recovery is experienced in all regions and by all families, households and individuals.

Poverty Data

Ceisteanna (612)

Willie O'Dea

Ceist:

612. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason there was an increase in the at risk of poverty rate for those not at work due to an illness or a disability in the latest SILC data; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [51308/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The most recent data from the Survey on Income and Living Conditions 2018 was published by the CSO in late November. It shows that the 2018 at-risk-of-poverty rate for people with a principal economic status (PES) of ‘not at work due to illness of disability’ was 47.7%, an increase on the 2017 rate (35.4%). In 2018, the at-risk-of-poverty (AROP) threshold for a single person increased by €1,200 to €13,723 per year. This was primarily driven by an increase in employment income.

The at-risk-of-poverty rate is determined by the percentage of individuals with an equivalised disposable income below 60% of the median equivalised disposable income. The calculation of equivalised income is based on household income, and thus is dependent on the income of others in the household.

This is of importance when considering those with a PES of ‘not at work due to illness/disability’ in 2018. Almost 68% of this group were living in households where nobody worked. As a result, the equivalised disposable income of those ‘not working due to illness/disability’ did not increase at the same rate as the AROP threshold in 2018.

It is interesting to note that the 2018 deprivation rate for this group was 36.7%, a reduction on the 2017 rate of 45.9%. Looking at this more closely, the deprivation rate for those within this group who were also at-risk-of-poverty saw a large decrease from 67.8% in 2017 to 44.7% in 2018. This is reflected in the 2018 consistent poverty rate for this group (those both at-risk-of-poverty and experiencing deprivation) which was 21.3%, down from the 2017 rate of 24%.

This means that, while the at-risk-of-poverty rate rose for people with a PES of ‘not at work due to illness/disability’ in 2018, the deprivation rate fell, particularly for those within the group who were also at risk of poverty.

Across Budgets 2017 to 2020, the Government increased maximum weekly welfare payments by €15 per week with proportionate increases for qualified adult dependents; introduced a new qualified child rate for children over 12 years of age and increased weekly qualified child rates by €6.20 for children under 12 and €10.60 for those over-12, amongst other measures.

It can take some time for the full impact of budgetary measures to reflected in data from the Survey on Income and Living Conditions. Given the continuing economic recovery and the measures introduced in recent Budgets, I expect to see the poverty data for 2019 and 2020, when they become available, to show further improvements over the 2018 outcomes. I will continue to work with my Government colleagues to ensure that the economic recovery is experienced in all regions and by all families, households and individuals.

Carer's Allowance Applications

Ceisteanna (613)

Tom Neville

Ceist:

613. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of a carer's allowance application by a person (details supplied). [51313/19]

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.

The application was referred to a local social welfare inspector (SWI) on 17 October 2019 and follow up contact was made with the SWI on 5 December 2019, to confirm that all the conditions for receipt of CA are satisfied.

Once the SWI has reported, a decision will be made and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Community Employment Schemes Eligibility

Ceisteanna (614)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

614. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if she will meet with this Deputy and a person (details supplied) to discuss older workers and community employment schemes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [51320/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The aim of the Community Employment (CE) programme is to enhance the employability of disadvantaged and unemployed people by providing work experience and training opportunities for them within their communities. The programme helps break the cycle of unemployment and improve a person’s chances of returning to the labour market. CE is generally open to applicants aged between 21 and 66 years.

A number of new conditions were introduced on CE in July 2017 to further support progression and broaden access to CE to a wider range of people. In general all CE placements for new entrants aged between 21 and 55 years are for 1 year – however CE participants, working towards a major educational award, can seek to extend participation by up to two years to enable them to reach the required standard of qualification. In addition, those over 55 years of age can remain on CE for three years.

Participants over age 62 are allowed to participate on a continuous basis up to the State Pension age on the CE Service Support Stream (SSS), subject to availability of places on the SSS, satisfactory performance by them on the scheme and, subject to annual approval by the Department. The places allocated for these participants within each individual CE scheme are subject to certain limitation criteria.

As previously advised, if the Deputy could provide more information on the matters raised, and the particular concerns of the person whose details were provided, I will have my officials look at the case in question in light of the request for a meeting.

Child Benefit Expenditure

Ceisteanna (615)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Ceist:

615. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the estimated full-year cost of making a one-off annual double payment of child benefit to all recipients in July 2020. [51321/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The estimated cost of a once-off annual double payment of Child Benefit to all recipients in July 2020 is an additional €173m.

There is no provision in the 2020 Budget Day estimate for such a payment.

Community Employment Schemes Supervisors

Ceisteanna (616, 631)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

616. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of talks with community employee supervisors; the status of proposals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [51353/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

John Brady

Ceist:

631. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to honour the Labour Court ruling of 2008, which recommended pension payments for community employment supervisors and assistant supervisors. [51587/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 616 and 631 together.

The Community Employment Scheme (CE) is an active labour market programme designed to provide eligible long-term unemployed people and others with an opportunity to engage in useful work within their communities on a temporary, fixed term basis.

The programme is delivered through independent Community Employment Sponsoring Bodies. The contract agreement between the Department and the Community Employment Sponsoring Body establishes their role as an independent contractor.

The sponsor organisations of these schemes receive state funding to cover the cost of participant, supervisor, assistant supervisor remuneration, training and material costs from the Department. The supervisors and assistant supervisors are employees of the sponsoring organisations and are not public servants or employees of the Department.

My Department is engaging with representatives of CE supervisors to discuss issues arising following the 2008 Labour Court Recommendation and all parties have agreed that the detail of all discussions undertaken by the group should remain confidential until the process has completed. I have asked Deputies to respect these wishes and allow the talks to continue free from speculation.

Social Welfare Benefits Eligibility

Ceisteanna (617)

Danny Healy-Rae

Ceist:

617. Deputy Danny Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason a person who is unemployed and wishes to undertake an education and training board, ETB, course is not eligible for a social welfare payment while partaking in the course (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [51361/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The range of education and training supports available through my Department enable eligible persons to pursue approved courses and to continue to receive income support for the duration of their training or study, subject to meeting certain conditions.

My Department supports jobseekers, through the preservation of their welfare payment, wishing to advance to part-time education or short term training from their first day in receipt of a payment. This ensures training and educational opportunities are available to jobseekers following initial engagement with the Department. These supports include SpringBoard, 1 year part-time courses and other part-time courses through the Education Training Boards (ETBs).

In addition those who continue to maintain their jobseekers payment while studying, there is a further group of people in receipt of a Training Allowance directly from the ETBs while pursuing education up to a QQI level 6. These would generally have been in receipt of social welfare support prior to transferring to the ETB's education programmes.

Longer term education supports are available under the back to education allowance (BTEA) scheme. Anyone interested in the BTEA will have to satisfy a number of conditions such as being in receipt of a prescribed social welfare payment for a specified time period and pursuing a full-time course of study leading to a recognised qualification. The conditions under which the BTEA operate are designed to ensure that they address the objective of supporting longer term social welfare customers into employment.

Overall, it is important to note that the purpose of these supports is to raise educational and skill levels so as to improve a welfare recipient’s employment prospects.

Eligibility to the supports available depends on the type and duration of the particular course being pursued. I would advise the Deputy that any person that is unemployed and seeking to undertake a course is encouraged to engage with their local Intreo centre to assess the options available to them.

Illness Benefit Eligibility

Ceisteanna (618)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Ceist:

618. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if self-employed persons can avail of illness benefit when on sick leave; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [51363/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The Government is committed to enhancing the position of the self-employed through improving the level of PRSI based benefits available to self-employed people and through a supportive tax regime.

Self-employed persons are liable for PRSI at the Class S rate of 4% which covers them for access to long-term benefits such as State pension (contributory), widow's, widower's or surviving civil partner's pension (contributory), invalidity pension, as well as some treatment benefits, maternity and paternity benefit, adoptive benefit and guardians payment (contributory). Class S contributions do not provide access to short-term social insurance benefits such as illness benefit. However, the means tested supplementary welfare allowance scheme may be available to those who are experiencing financial difficulty.

Self-employed contributors have been covered for invalidity pension since December 2017. This gives the self-employed access to a safety-net of income supports if they become permanently incapable of work as a result of a long-term illness or disability without a means test.

It is the Government’s intention to keep under review the further extension of benefits to self-employed people. In doing this, it will take account of results of the 2017 survey of self-employed workers, which indicated that self-employed people are open to paying a higher rate of social insurance in return for additional benefits, and the actuarial review of the social insurance fund which was undertaken by KPMG. This review found that the combined cost of introducing the invalidity, illness, jobseeker’s and carer’s benefits for class S contributions was estimated to be €223 million for 2020. The review indicated that PRSI rates for the self-employed would need to increase from the current level of 4% to 7.8% to ensure a revenue neutral outcome. The actuarial review will play an important role in informing the overall debate on policy developments in relation to the Social Insurance Fund including its financial sustainability, and the consideration of extending benefits for workers generally, including the self-employed.

Illness Benefit Eligibility

Ceisteanna (619)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Ceist:

619. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if she will address the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [51364/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Self employed persons do not qualify for Illness Benefit but can apply for Invalidity Pension or Disability Allowance.

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.

A total of 260 weeks PRSI paid and 48 weeks PRSI paid or credited in the last or second last complete tax year before the relevant date of application are required to satisfy the PRSI conditions for IP. The reckonable PRSI contribution classes for IP are A, E, H and S.

Disability allowance (DA) is a weekly allowance paid to people with a specified disability who are aged over 16 and under 66. The disability must be expected to last for at least one year and the allowance is subject to a medical assessment, a means test and a habitual residency test.

It is open to the gentleman concerned to make an application for IP and/or DA and a decision on his eligibility will be made as soon as possible.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Illness Benefit Applications

Ceisteanna (620)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

620. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of an illness benefit for a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [51377/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The Illness Benefit claim from the person concerned has been awarded at the graduated rate of €159.00 per week. Arrears have issued to the bank account of the person concerned paying him up to the 2nd December 2019, the date on his most recent medical certificate.

If the person concerned remains ill and unfit for work, a further medical certificate should be submitted to the Department as soon as possible in order for further payments to issue.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Departmental Advertising Campaigns

Ceisteanna (621)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

621. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the advertising campaigns, promotional events and launches planned by her Department for the first six months of 2020; the budgeted costs of these campaigns; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [51409/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

My Department is committed to ensuring that members of the public are aware of the social welfare supports and services that are available to them and that they are notified of scheme changes which may affect them. The Department’s public information campaigns includes paid media including national and regional print and radio, outdoor advertising, and social and digital media advertising. All public information campaigns are tailored to ensure the best possible mix of media is used to effectively reach the target audience.

A number of public information campaigns have recently been completed, including for the promotion of the new Parent's Benefit and Jobseeker’s Benefit for the Self Employed, and for the services and supports which Intreo provides to employers, jobseekers, and people interested in returning to the workforce. In December, my Department’s final public information campaign for this year – a print-only advertising campaign to inform our customers of Christmas and New Year social welfare payment arrangements - will be completed.

At this point, a number of other communications initiatives for the first half of 2020 are at early stages of discussion, with only one campaign currently planned, scheduled, and confirmed for 2020. The campaign is the second phase of the Intreo and 'Return to Work' information campaign, mentioned above, which ran from October to November 2019.

The campaign is designed to promote the wide range of services and supports which Intreo offers to employers, jobseekers, and people interested in returning to the workforce. The 2020 phase of this campaign is scheduled to run from 7 January to 4 February and will include digital advertising and social media advertising on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. The budgeted cost for the 2020 phase of this campaign is approximately €16,000 (ex. VAT).

The Department's customer service team will be present at the Pregnancy & Baby Fair event at the RDS in April 2020 to inform parents and parents-to-be on a range of DEASP supports and services including Maternity Benefit, Paternity Benefit, Working Family Payment and Parents Benefit and also to promote the Department's online services at MyWelfare. The budgeted cost for this two-day event is approximately €5,800 (ex. VAT).

As any potential communications projects are at early development stages at present, no budgeted figures can be supplied for projected spend in the first 6 months of 2020. Details on launches in 2020 are not available at this time.

I trust this settles the matter for the Deputy.

Data Sharing Arrangements

Ceisteanna (622)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

622. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the data sharing agreements her Department has in place with organisations that are not other Departments or State agencies; the purpose of these data sharing agreements; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [51426/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The information requested is currently being compiled within the Department and will be made available to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Freedom of Information Data

Ceisteanna (623)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

623. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of freedom of information requests in which her Department made a decision to deny; and the number in which the Information Commissioner overturned the decision of her Department in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019. [51460/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the attached tabular statement.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Tabular Statement

FOI Requests Received: 2016 to End November, 2019

Year

Total Received

Refused

OIC overturned

2016

2,089

104

0

2017

2,443

166

1

2018

2,510

369

3

2019 *

2,209

163

0

* All figures provided for 2019 are preliminary

Pensions Data

Ceisteanna (624)

John Brady

Ceist:

624. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection further to Parliamentary Question No. 484 of 26 November 2019, the reason for the difference between gross and net cost estimated; and the breakdown of same. [51472/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Increasing pension age, to moderate the increase in pension duration, is a means by which pensions can be made sustainable in the context of increasing longevity. In order to provide for sustainable pensions and to facilitate a longer working life, legislation passed in 2011 provides for an increase in the State pension age in three separate stages. In 2014, the State pension age was standardised at 66. This will be increased to 67 in 2021 and 68 in 2028. The Roadmap for Pensions Reform 2018-2023 has stated that future changes in State pension age after 2035 will be based on research into 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. It is the only feasible solution which does not involve reducing pension rates to pensioners (which would result in an increase in the rate of poverty among older people), or reducing other significant areas of Government expenditure (such as other payments made by my Department).

It is estimated that the gross cost to the State Pension (Contributory) of postponing the increase in State Pension Age would be approximately €430m per annum, but the net cost is closer to €217.5 million per annum. The estimates factor in secondary costs such as foregone PRSI receipts and additional Household Benefit payments.

In this case, the estimated gross cost of an annual cohort of SPC recipients (in terms of State Pension Payments) to the SIF is offset by factors such as:

- Those who would continue working.

- Those who would be retired on an occupational / foreign pension.

- Those who would be on a working age claim.

- Those who would be a qualified adult on a claim.

It should be noted that this figure is per annum, and is expected to increase. It is not conservative to estimate that the additional cost over 5 years from 2021 to 2026 would be €1.5 billion.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Illness Benefit Applications

Ceisteanna (625)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

625. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of an illness benefit for a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [51479/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The Illness Benefit claim from the person concerned has been awarded at the maximum rate of €203 per week.

There was a delay in processing the claim from the person concerned as the details on his application form did not match the department's records, and this required manual intervention in order to process his claim.

An award letter has issued to the person concerned and he has now been paid fully up to date. He is currently medically certified as unfit for work until the 18th December 2019.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Departmental Agencies Data

Ceisteanna (626)

James Browne

Ceist:

626. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the agencies or organisations under the remit of her Department; the number that have boards; the number of positions on each board; the number of vacant positions; and the agencies or organisations that have boards whose members have an obligation to appear before committees of the Houses of the Oireachtas. [51494/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The statutory bodies operating under the aegis of my Department are the Citizens Information Board, the Pensions Authority, the Pensions Council, the Low Pay Commission and the Social Welfare Tribunal. Details of the total number of positions on the boards of each of these bodies is set out in tabular format below. There are no current vacancies on any of the boards.

Board name

Total number of members on the board

Citizens Information Board

15

Low Pay Commission

9

Pensions Authority

3

Pensions Council

13

Social Welfare Tribunal

5

Section 2.8 of the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies (August 2016) requires that “persons being proposed by Ministers for appointment as Chairpersons of State bodies are required to make themselves available to the appropriate Oireachtas Committee to discuss the approach they will take to their role as Chairperson and their views about the future contribution of the body or Board in question”.

In addition, the Pensions Regulator (in his role as Chief Executive Officer of the Pensions Authority) is required to appear before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) subject to Section 22A of the Pensions Act 1990 (as amended). A similar provision is included in Section 23 of the Comhairle Act 2000 (as amended) requiring the Chief Executive Officer of the Citizens Information Board to attend the PAC in her official capacity.