SOLAS Administration

Ceisteanna (530, 568, 588)

Cathal Crowe

Ceist:

530. Deputy Cathal Crowe asked the Minister for Social Protection if a person (details supplied) will be considered for a SOLAS training course while temporarily out of work due to Covid-19. [27346/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

568. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Social Protection if the Covid-19 pandemic unemployment payment will be considered as a qualifying payment for FET courses; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26900/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

588. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Social Protection the supports being made available to persons availing of VTOS that are unable to work part-time in the evenings or on weekends due to the current restrictions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27235/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 530, 568 and 588 together.

My Department’s Back to Education Allowance provides income support for jobseekers and certain others in receipt of social welfare payments who pursue courses of education at second or third level. The main focus of the allowance is to assist qualifying applicants to improve their educational qualifications and their prospects of gaining employment.

The Back to Education Allowance has been extended as part of the July Stimulus in response to Covid-19. Ordinarily a person must be in receipt of a qualifying social welfare payment for a minimum period before being eligible to apply for the scheme when pursuing training or education. Similar arrangements will apply for further education or VTOS delivered by SOLAS. This would ensure that those who have lost their employment during the pandemic have immediate access to a range of educational options.

In order to avail of continued financial support while pursuing a full-time course, a person in receipt of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment should apply for and transfer to a jobseeker payment. I suggest that the person referred to by the Deputy should contact their Intreo Centre to discuss this option to them.

I trust this clarifies the issues for the Deputies.

Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment

Ceisteanna (531, 544, 545, 586)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

531. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Social Protection if she has spoken to the Minister for Finance about extending the pandemic unemployment rate at full pay to September 2021. [26288/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

544. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social Protection to outline the extra measures which will be put in place to support retail, bar and restaurant and allied workers in the Dublin region in view of their loss of income following the tightened Covid-19 emergency period restrictions for Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26449/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

545. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will consider reinstating the full €350 per week rate for the pandemic unemployment payment for the Dublin region for the duration of tightened Covid-19 emergency period restrictions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26450/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Marian Harkin

Ceist:

586. Deputy Marian Harkin asked the Minister for Social Protection if the pandemic unemployment payment will be restored to its former levels for those that lose their jobs now or in the future due to Covid-19. [26675/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 531, 544, 545 and 586 together.

Last week, my Department issued payments valued at €61.3 million to over 206,341 people on the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP). In total Government has spent over €3.5 bn on PUP payments.

From 17 September the PUP is being paid at three rates linked to a person's pre-covid employment earnings. Individuals whose prior earnings were €300 or over per week will receive a payment of €300 per week. A rate of €250 will apply to those who previously earned between €200 and €300 per week; and the rate of €203 remains unchanged for those who had prior earnings of less than €200 per week.

The changes to the payment rate means that Government is in a position to extend the scheme until April next and make it more sustainable by linking it to previous earnings. The new rates remain higher than the general weekly personal social welfare payments for people of working age, payable at €203.

In the interest of equality and fairness it is important that the pandemic unemployment payment rate changes apply to all scheme recipients as it would not be appropriate to make exceptions for those who had previously worked in a particular sector or location, while applying the changes to other recipients who are facing similar financial challenges.

I trust that this clarifies the position for the Deputies.

Pension Provisions

Ceisteanna (532)

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

532. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Social Protection the status of the establishment of a commission on pensions as per the programme for Government; the timeline for its establishment, if it will be ensured key economic stakeholders are members of the commission in a similar manner to the Low Pay Commission; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26291/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

As the Deputy is aware, the public policy and social issues in relation to funding a sustainable and adequate State pension system are complex.  As a consequence, the Programme for Government commits to establishing a Commission on Pensions to examine a range of issues including sustainability, eligibility, contributions and calculation methods.

The Terms of Reference for the Commission on Pensions are currently being developed and options for its membership are being considered.  Proposals will be brought to Government in that regard as soon as possible.  Once it has concluded its deliberations, the Commission will report to Government by June of next year.

Amongst other things, I will be proposing to Government for appropriate stakeholder representation within the Commission.  In addition, it is anticipated that the Commission will engage with key stakeholders to ensure it has a genuine understanding of the sustainability challenges involved.  The exact mechanisms for these engagement processes will be shaped by the Commission.

It should be noted that while this Government is acutely conscious of the need to consider the sustainability of the State’s finances, this is not the only consideration when thinking of the State pension.  The State Pension is the bedrock of the pension system in Ireland.  It is extremely effective at ensuring that our pensioners do not experience poverty.  The Government is committed to ensuring that this remains the case.  In this regard, it is important to note that as well as financial and economic sustainability, the Government is fully aware of the need to have regard for the social sustainability of any proposed policy changes, which includes aspects such as intergenerational equity and legitimate expectations by society around future living standards.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Community Employment Schemes

Ceisteanna (533)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

533. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection if a decision has been made on a community employment scheme extension appeal by a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26326/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

The person concerned has completed his quota for time allowed on a  CE Scheme. He completed 6 years on the CE Scheme which is the maximum allowed for him.  The person concerned did have his eligible time on CE reviewed but unfortunately he had completed 6 years on 21th August 2020.

The aim of the 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. Participation on CE is intended to be for a temporary fixed-term. These placements are not full-time jobs. There are participation limits in place to ensure that as many unemployed people as possible are able to benefit from CE.

The person concerned will be 62 years in June 2021 and under the Service Support Stream (SSS) participants aged 62 years and over may reapply to participate on CE up to the State pension age subject to availability of places on the SSS, satisfactory performance on the project, the agreement of the sponsoring organisation and approval by the Department (as SSS places are subject to limitation and limited to 10% of participants per individual CE project). The person concerned could therefore enquire with the Community Employment (CE) project in relation to the Service Support Stream (SSS) option in June 2021.

 I trust this clarifies the position for the Deputy.

Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment

Ceisteanna (534)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

534. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Social Protection the estimated cost of extending the pandemic unemployment payment until April 2021. [26337/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

As part of the July Stimulus package, and in tandem with a suite of enhanced and improved employment support services for workers, the Government announced the further extension of the pandemic unemployment payment until 1 April 2021.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Ceisteanna (535)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

535. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Social Protection the estimated cost of extending the Covid-19 illness benefit into 2021; the way in which persons can access the scheme; and the criteria in order to be eligible for the scheme. [26349/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

Over €36 million has been spent on the enhanced illness benefit payment to date. The estimated cost of extending the COVID-19 illness benefit payment until the end of March 2021 is estimated to be an additional €35 million.  This includes payments for increases for qualified adults and children.

The purpose of the enhanced Illness Benefit payment in respect of COVID-19 is to encourage people to not go to work due to financial constraint when they should be in isolation.  The rate of payment is higher than the normal maximum personal rate for a limited period.  The measures were designed to ensure that where a registered medical practitioner or a HSE medical officer of health diagnoses a person with Covid-19 or identifies him or her as a probable source of infection of Covid-19, the person can comply with medical advice to isolate.

It is important that employees and the self-employed comply with public health advice to self-isolate where appropriate, while having their income protected to the greatest extent possible.  This is essential to limit and slow down the spread of the virus, to keep the number of people affected to a minimum, and to reduce a peak of cases which would cause extreme pressure on the health system.

Payment is made at a rate of €350 per week for up to 10 weeks in the case of someone diagnosed with the illness or for up to 2 weeks for someone who is a probable source of infection, subject to ongoing medical certification.  There are no waiting days.

In order to access the payment, individuals need to:

- complete an application form in hard copy or online;

- provide a medical certificate of incapacity for work from their doctor (hard copy or online) or evidence of contact tracing by the HSE;

- have paid a contribution in the previous 4 weeks or been self-employed in that time; and

- be under pensionable age.

Doctors are only authorised to submit medical certificates in respect of COVID-19 in respect of two very limited circumstances set out in legislation for a person:

(i) who is diagnosed with COVID-19, or

(ii) who is a probable source of infection of COVID-19 and is self-isolating

Such persons will have either been certified by their doctor or will have received a notification from the HSE (i.e. where they are contact-traced or otherwise personally identified and advised by the HSE as being a probable source of infection).

I trust that this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Jobseeker's Benefit

Ceisteanna (536)

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

536. Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Social Protection if short-time working under jobseeker’s benefit was claimable at the same time as the employer was claiming the recently closed temporary wage subsidy scheme from the Revenue Commissioners. [26353/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

An employee subject to the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) must satisfy the conditionality requirements of the relevant social welfare scheme in order to receive payment.     

The Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme Section 28(5)(h) of the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Act 2020 provides that where the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme applies in relation to a specified employee for any week, the specified employee shall not be entitled to any benefit or payment, related to Covid-19, from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection for that week.

Decisions around individual entitlements to jobseekers benefit for periods where the TWSS was being availed of by the employer will depend on meeting the eligibility conditions, including satisfying the Department with regard to days of unemployment, including that no remuneration was payable for any such day of unemployment. This requires that the specific work pattern and remuneration arrangement in place for each individual needs to be examined for this period.

I trust that this clarifies the position for the Deputy.

Carer's Allowance

Ceisteanna (537)

Colm Burke

Ceist:

537. Deputy Colm Burke asked the Minister for Social Protection if a phased restoration to the income disregard for carer’s allowance will be expanded to ensure that those on average industrial incomes can qualify in full for the payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26389/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

The main income supports for carers provided by my Department are Carer’s Allowance, Carer’s Benefit, Domiciliary Care Allowance and the Carer’s Support Grant. The projected expenditure on Carer’s Allowance in 2020 is approximately €919 million. Combined spending on all these payments to carers in 2020 is expected to exceed €1.3 billion.

Carer's Allowance is a means tested payment made to people whose income falls below certain limits, and who are looking after certain people in need of full-time care and attention.

This allowance is part of the system of social assistance supports that provide payments based on an income need.  The means test plays a critical role in determining whether or not an income need arises as a consequence of a particular contingency – such as disability, unemployment or caring. This ensures that the recipient has a verifiable income need and that resources are targeted to those who need them most.

Current disregards for Carer’s Allowance are €332.50 per week for a single person and €665 per week for a couple, making the means test for carers the least onerous within the social protection system.

A couple earning a joint annual income of up to €37,500 (net of PRSI and other allowable deductions) can qualify for maximum payment and, given the tapered withdrawal approach, retain a payment of just under half-rate while earning €49,750.  A single person may retain a full-rate payment while having an annual income of just under €19,000, and retain a payment of just under half-rate while having an annual income of €25,400.

The Department has made an estimate of the cost of increasing the weekly income disregards for Carer’s Allowance to €450 for a single person and to €900 for a couple using the ESRI SWITCH model.  This analysis suggests that it would cost in the region of an additional €73 million per annum with net expenditure estimated in the order of €55 million per annum.

Changes to schemes are considered in an overall budgetary and policy context and from an evidence based perspective.  Some 92% of the current recipients of Carer’s Allowance have no means or means of less than €7.60 per week and would not benefit by an increase in the disregard.

My Department also offers other, non-means-tested supports to carers.  The Carer’s Support Grant is not mean-tested and is available to all carers who meet the eligibility criteria.  The payment is not dependent on a person receiving a weekly carer’s payment.  This non-taxable grant of €1,700  is payable annually in June.

I can assure the Deputy that I am very much aware of the key role that family carers play in our society and I will continue to keep the range of supports available to carers under review; however, any changes to scheme criteria would have implications for overall spending and would need to be addressed in an overall budgetary context.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Carer's Allowance

Ceisteanna (538)

Colm Burke

Ceist:

538. Deputy Colm Burke asked the Minister for Social Protection if consideration will be given to increasing the €20,000 disregard for the carer’s allowance to €50,000 in the capital formula in line with the disability allowance in which the first €50,000 of capital is disregarded; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26390/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

The Department operates a range of means-tested social assistance payments.  Social welfare legislation provides that the means test takes account of the income and assets of the person (and spouse / partner, if applicable) applying for the relevant scheme.  Income and assets include income from employment, self-employment, occupational pensions, maintenance payments as well as property owned (other than the family home) and capital such as savings, shares and other investments.

The assessment of capital reflects the fact that there is an expectation that people with reasonable amounts of capital and property are in a position to use that capital or to realise the value of property to support themselves without having to rely solely on a means-tested welfare payment.

In this regard, for Carer's Allowance, and most other social assistance schemes, the first €20,000 of capital is fully disregarded; the next €10,000 assessed at €1 per thousand, the next €10,000 is assessed at €2 per thousand, with the remainder assessed at €4 per thousand.

Disability Allowance has the highest capital disregard of all social assistance schemes; the first €50,000 of capital is fully disregarded; the next €10,000 assessed at €1 per thousand, the next €10,000 is assessed at €2 per thousand, with the remainder assessed at €4 per thousand.

In relation to Carer's Allowance, as the first €332.50 of gross weekly income for single people and the first €665 for couples is fully disregarded, and combined with a general disregard of €7.60 per week, 92% of the approximately 87,000 Carer's Allowance recipients have no means assessed.

Any proposals to change the capital means assessment for means-tested social assistance schemes would have to be considered in the overall budgetary context.

Carer's Support Grant

Ceisteanna (539)

Colm Burke

Ceist:

539. Deputy Colm Burke asked the Minister for Social Protection if consideration will be given to increasing the carer’s support grant (details supplied) from €1,700 to €2,000; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26392/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

The Government acknowledges the crucial role that family carers play and is fully committed to supporting carers in that role.  This commitment is recognised in both the Programme for Government and the National Carers’ Strategy.

The main income supports to carers provided by my Department are Carer’s Allowance, Carer’s Benefit, Domiciliary Care Allowance and the Carer’s Support Grant.  Combined spending on all these payments to family carers in 2020 is expected to exceed €1.3 billion.

The Carer’s Support Grant is an annual payment of €1,700 a year for each care recipient paid in a single lump sum with no requirement to satisfy a means test. The Carer’s Support Grant is payable on the first Thursday in June each year. This is not available for any other group nor is there an equivalent payment for carers in any other country in Europe. The Grant is paid automatically to people in receipt of Carer’s Allowance, Carer’s Benefit or Domiciliary Care Allowance.  Other people who are not in receipt of a social welfare payment but who are providing full time care and attention are also eligible and can apply for a ‘standalone’ grant.

Notwithstanding the substantial extra financial demands due to the COVID-19 crisis, I confirmed, on 4 June, that the Carer’s Support Grant would continue to be paid to carers this year at an estimated cost of over €237 million.  At the end of June 2020, almost 127,000 grants were paid to carers receiving the Carer’s Allowance, Carer’s Benefit or Domiciliary Care Allowance and to other full-time carers who are not receiving any of these payments.  Applications for the 2020 grant can be submitted up until 31 December 2021, and it is expected that further applications will be received before the closing date.

There have been calls from carers groups to increase the rate of the Carer’s Support Grant from €1,700 to €2,000. My Department has costed this proposal and the estimated additional full year cost of increasing the Carer's Support Grant from €1700 to €2000 is €41.9 million.

I can assure the Deputy that I will continue to keep the range of supports provided by my Department under review. However, any changes to the current supports provided by this Department would have implications for overall spending and would need to be addressed in an overall budgetary context.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Carer's Benefit

Ceisteanna (540)

Colm Burke

Ceist:

540. Deputy Colm Burke asked the Minister for Social Protection if consideration will be given to extending eligibility for the carer’s benefit to include self-employed persons or those paying a class S stamp that need the assurance of having a financial support available to them should they need to take time away from work to provide care; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26393/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

Self-employed workers who earn €5,000 or more in a contribution year are liable to pay social insurance contributions at the class S rate of 4%, subject to a minimum annual payment of €500.  Such contributors are currently covered for a wide range of social insurance benefits including State pension (contributory), widow's, widower's or surviving civil partner's pension (contributory), guardian’s payment (contributory), maternity, adoptive and paternity benefits, treatment benefits, invalidity pension, partial capacity benefit if in receipt of invalidity pension, jobseeker’s benefit (self-employed) and parent’s benefit.

The issue of extending additional social insurance benefits to self-employed persons paying class S social insurance contributions was considered in the Actuarial Review of the Social Insurance Fund, conducted by independent consultants, which was published in October 2017.

The Review indicates that if access to certain additional benefits, including carer's benefit, was extended to self-employed contributors, the class S rate of social insurance contribution would have to increase by 94% in order to ensure that the additional benefits are delivered in a revenue neutral manner. This rate of increase would bring the current class S contribution rate of 4% to 7.8% to cover the additional benefits only and does not take account of the value of the existing benefits to such contributors.

Any proposal to extend social insurance entitlements to self-employed contributors would have to be considered in a budgetary context, taking account of the current economic circumstances and with a view to the sustainability of the Social Insurance Fund.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Domiciliary Care Allowance

Ceisteanna (541)

Colm Burke

Ceist:

541. Deputy Colm Burke asked the Minister for Social Protection if consideration will be given to extending eligibility for the domiciliary care allowance to children residing in hospital that do not satisfy the requirement that they live at home; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26394/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

Domiciliary Care Allowance (DCA) is a payment made in respect of a child with a severe disability who requires additional care and attention, it is payable to the person providing for the child's care while they are resident with that person for at least 5 days each week.

DCA can be paid, for a period not exceeding 13 weeks in any 12 months, if the child is admitted to hospital on a full-time basis for medical or other treatment.

If a child is resident in an institution (including a hospital) for part of each week, DCA can be paid at 50% of the normal rate if the child resides with the qualified person between 2 and 4 days each week.

It is not proposed to amend the qualifying condition of the scheme at this time.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

State Pensions

Ceisteanna (542)

Colm Burke

Ceist:

542. Deputy Colm Burke asked the Minister for Social Protection if consideration will be given to developing a pension solution for family carers that due to extended periods out of the workforce to provide care for family members, do not qualify for a State pension (contributory) or a State pension (non-contributory); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26397/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

The Programme for Government “Our Shared Future” includes a commitment to examine options for a pension solution for carers, the majority of whom are women, particularly those of incapacitated children, in recognition of the enormous value of the work carried out by them. This Government acknowledges the important role that carers play and is fully committed to supporting them in that role. Officials in my Department will be examining the policy options for reforming the state pension system both in this area, and more generally in relation to considerations around a Total Contributions Approach.

The public policy and social issues in relation to funding a sustainable and adequate State pension system are complex.  That is why the Programme for Government also commits to the establishment of a Commission on Pensions to examine a range of issues including contributions, calculation methods, sustainability, eligibility and intergenerational fairness.  The Terms of Reference for the Commission on Pensions are currently being developed and options for its membership are being considered.  I will bring proposals in that regard to Government as soon as possible.  Once it has concluded its deliberations, the Commission will report to Government by June of next year. 

In the meantime, the current situation is that through the award of credited contributions, normally known as credits, the social insurance system gives significant recognition to time spent caring in terms of qualifying for the State Pension (Contributory).  Credits protect social insurance entitlements by bridging gaps in an employee’s social insurance record, where they are not in a position to pay PRSI, such as during periods spent caring.  In combination with paid PRSI contributions, credits assist employees in qualifying for short-term schemes and enhance the level of benefit for long-term schemes.  Credits are awarded to recipients of Carer’s Allowance (and Carer’s Benefit) where they have an underlying entitlement to credits.  Recipients of these payments qualify for credits where they have at least one paid contribution in the previous two years or have had credited contributions in that period.  Credits are also awarded to workers who take unpaid Carer’s Leave from work.

In addition, all carers, including those who do not qualify for a payment or for credits, may qualify for the Homemaker scheme.  The scheme, which was introduced in and from 1994, is designed to help homemakers and carers qualify for State Pension (Contributory).  Years spent caring on a full-time basis are disregarded when calculating the State Pension (Contributory) rate of payment when the rate of pension is calculating using the Yearly Average method.

When the Interim Total Contributions Approach (also known as T12) was introduced in 2018, it included provision for the HomeCaring Periods Scheme which fundamentally changed the entitlement of many who spent time out of the workforce caring for others.  It, for the first time, acknowledged home caring periods prior to 1994 and provides for up to 20 years of home caring periods to be considered.  Those who have a 40 year record of paid and credited social insurance contributions, subject to a maximum of 20 years of credits / homecaring periods, qualify for a maximum contributory pension where they satisfy the other qualifying conditions for the scheme. Arising from this initiative, the Department reviewed over 94,000 cases resulting in over 38,000 receiving an increased pension payment.

Since April 2019 all new State (Contributory) Pension applications are assessed under all possible rate calculation methods, including the Yearly Average and Interim Total Contributions Approach, with the most beneficial rate paid to the pensioner.

It should be noted if a person does not satisfy those conditions, they may qualify for the means-tested State Pension (Non-Contributory), the maximum rate of which is over 95% that of the maximum rate of the State Pension (Contributory).  Alternatively, if their spouse is a State pensioner and they have significant household means, their most beneficial payment may be an Increase for a Qualified Adult, based on their personal means, and amounting to up to 90% of a full contributory pension.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment

Questions Nos. 544 and 545 answered with Question No. 531.

Ceisteanna (543)

Paul Murphy

Ceist:

543. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Social Protection if the Covid-19 emergency measures will be amended to make persons over 66 years of age that would still be working if not for Covid-19 eligible for the pandemic unemployment payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26436/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

The pandemic unemployment payment is payable to people between the ages of 18 up to 66 which is consistent with other social protection schemes payable to people of working age who have lost their employment. People aged 66 years and over are provided for through the contributory State pension or the non-contributory State means tested pension.

A person in receipt of the State contributory pension can retain their entire State pension and employment income.  If a person does not have the required number of contributions to receive the maximum rate of State Pension Contributory they may qualify for an increased rate of State non-contributory pension, depending on their circumstances.  People receiving the non-contributory State pension who also have employment income may have their pension payment increased if they lose their employment income due to the pandemic or if it is reduced.

People aged 66 and over may also be entitled to ancillary supports which are significantly more valuable than those generally available to people of working age.  These include free travel, fuel allowance, household benefits package for gas or electricity costs and living alone allowance.

A person of any age who is experiencing financial hardship may access assistance under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme including Exceptional and Urgent Needs Payments. Information on the supports available under this scheme is available at www.gov.ie.

I hope that this clarifies the position for you.

Questions Nos. 544 and 545 answered with Question No. 531.

State Pension (Non-Contributory)

Question No. 547 answered with Question No. 523.

Ceisteanna (546)

Aindrias Moynihan

Ceist:

546. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Social Protection if a person (details supplied) who earlier in 2020 had their non-contributory pension reviewed and suspended pending the outcome of a review, will have their pension reinstated at the end of September 2020; and if so, if it will be backdated to when they reached pension age and originally applied for pension. [26487/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

State pension non-contributory is a means-tested payment for people aged 66 and over, habitually residing in the State, who do not qualify for a state pension contributory, or who only qualify for a reduced rate contributory pension based on their social insurance record.

For the purposes of the means-test, it is necessary at the outset for applicants to provide full details of any income(s), assets, savings and investments they hold. Following the award of pension, a reporting obligation continues to apply whereby the pension recipient (and, where relevant, their qualified adult dependant, personal representative or agent) must notify the Department in a timely manner of any change in their circumstances that may impact on their pension entitlement.

The person concerned applied for state pension non-contributory on 12 February 2020. On 15 April 2020, the pension application was awarded, with effect from 14 February 2020, and the decision was notified to the person in writing on the date of award.

The person’s state pension entitlement was reviewed in May 2020 and they were requested to provide some additional information and supporting documentation. A reasonable timeframe was allowed for reply. As the requested details were not supplied within the timeframe, after a further waiting period, the pension payment was suspended from 2 July 2020.

Following the receipt of the requested information, the person’s state pension non-contributory entitlement has now been reviewed and they have been awarded a higher weekly payment rate of €179.50, with effect from 8 May 2020. Pension payment has being reinstated and will be available for collection at the person’s nominated Post Office, together with arrears due, from Wednesday 30 September 2020.

The person concerned was notified of this revised decision on 22 September 2020, together with the reasons for the decision and their right, if dissatisfied with the decision, to request a review, or to appeal the decision to the independent Social Welfare Appeals Office.

I hope this clarifies the position for the Deputy.

Question No. 547 answered with Question No. 523.

Invalidity Pension

Ceisteanna (548)

Kieran O'Donnell

Ceist:

548. Deputy Kieran O'Donnell asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will address a matter regarding the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26502/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

Invalidity pension (IP) is a payment for people who are permanently incapable of work because of illness or incapacity and for no other reason and who satisfy the pay related social insurance (PRSI) contribution conditions.

The department received a claim for IP for this gentleman on 18 May 2020.  The claim was refused on the grounds that the medical conditions for the scheme were not satisfied. He was notified on 27 July 2020 of this decision, the reasons for it and of his right of review and appeal.

The gentleman concerned subsequently requested a review and lodged an appeal of the decision to the independent Social Welfare Appeals Office (SWAO) and submitted further medical evidence in support of his claim.

Following a review of all the information available it was decided that there was no change to the original decision and he was notified on 25 September 2020 of the outcome of the review.

A submission is being prepared by the department and will forwarded to the SWAO for determination.  The SWAO will be in touch with him directly in due course in relation to the progress of his appeal.

I hope this clarifies the position for the Deputy.

Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment

Ceisteanna (549)

Alan Dillon

Ceist:

549. Deputy Alan Dillon asked the Minister for Social Protection if a redundancy waiver or similar intervention will be reintroduced for the duration of the Covid-19 pandemic unemployment in view of the fact they are not in a position to pay redundancies to their staff with zero income; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26535/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

In March 2020 the Government introduced an emergency amendment to the Redundancy Payments Act 1967 in order to ensure the future viability of businesses and help prevent permanent job losses.  As a result of Covid-19 there have been immediate and unprecedented volumes of temporary lay-off and short time work situations.  Under the existing provisions these lay-off and short-time situations could result in significant redundancy claims on employers in a very short period of time.  Employers are obliged to pay redundancy entitlements to employees who have been temporarily laid off or placed on short-time work after a period of time.

The emergency measure effectively suspends these provisions where the lay-off or short time work arose as a result of Covid-19 during the emergency period.  In light of the on-going emergency situation, the Government decided to further extend the temporary suspension until 30th November 2020 in order to support businesses in continuing to recover and re-open and plan their future staffing requirements.

Other than this important intervention, there are no plans to introduce any other changes to redundancy law.  Other existing redundancy provisions remain unchanged and in force and employee protections such as notice periods for redundancy and the payment of a redundancy lump-sum still apply.

In situations where an employer is making employees redundant but their business cannot bear the cost of redundancy payments at the moment due to immediate trading difficulties, there is provision for the Department to pay the employees their statutory entitlement on behalf of the employer from the Social Insurance Fund. When such a redundancy payment is made from the Fund, a debt is raised against the employer.  The Department will engage with employers on a case by case basis to recover the debt on a mutually-agreed, phased basis, repaying by instalment, as appropriate.