Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar
Gnáthamharc

Tuesday, 1 Jun 2021

Written Answers Nos. 438-462

Schools Building Projects

Ceisteanna (438)

Gary Gannon

Ceist:

438. Deputy Gary Gannon asked the Minister for Education the progress made and timelines for the provision of a permanent building for a school (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29849/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

With regard to the permanent accommodation for the school referred to by the Deputy, officials in my Department are working closely with officials from Galway County and City Councils under the Memorandum of Understanding in relation to the identification and acquisition of a suitable permanent location for the school. 

A number of site options have been identified and discussions with these landowners are ongoing. 

When the site has been acquired the project will then progress to the architectural design and planning stages.

Schools Building Projects

Ceisteanna (439)

Paul Murphy

Ceist:

439. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Education the status of the project for a school building to replace the prefabs that have been used for several years by a school (details supplied); and if building work will commence in June 2021 as planned. [29855/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The Letter of Intent (LOI) issued on 23rd April 2021 to the preferred tenderer. This allows the preferred bidder to put in place the Bond, Insurances and confirmations of all legal arrangements required under the Contract.

Following receipt of all the necessary documentation, my Department will be in a position to issue the Letter of Acceptance (LOA), which will allow the contractor to mobilise on site.

My Department will keep the Board of Management informed as the project progresses and advise them when the LOA issues.

School Facilities

Ceisteanna (440)

Neale Richmond

Ceist:

440. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Education the status of the permanent site for a school (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29856/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department is at an advanced stage of negotiations with Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council regarding the acquisition of a site in their ownership. The acquisition of a site for the school in question is an urgent priority for the Department.  This site is well located to serve the Booterstown Blackrock School Planning Area.

The accommodation proposed by my Department in the Eblana Avenue building in Dun Laoghaire is deemed to be suitable on an interim basis for this school.

Special Educational Needs

Ceisteanna (441)

Christopher O'Sullivan

Ceist:

441. Deputy Christopher O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Education the status of clearing the backlog of delays on assessments for children with special needs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29857/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

An Assessment of Need is a service provided by the Health Service Executive (HSE) for children or young people with a disability. The assessment identifies the child's health needs and what health services are needed to meet the child’s needs.

Matters in relation to the provision of health-related services and the assessment of need should be directed to the HSE or to the Department of Health. 

My Department has no role in the matter. 

Pension Provisions

Ceisteanna (442)

Carol Nolan

Ceist:

442. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Social Protection if there are plans to review the changes in pension eligibility and contribution rules introduced in 2012; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29145/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

On 23 January 2018, the Government agreed to a proposal to allow pensioners affected by the September 2012 changes in rate bands to have their pension entitlement calculated on a Total Contributions basis, including provision for up to 20 years of a new home caring credit.

The  interim Total Contributions Approach for those who reached pension age after September 2012, called the Aggregated Contribution Method (ACM), resolves many of the anomalies arising from the “Yearly Average” calculation model, as the year a person commenced paying social insurance contributions is no longer a key determining factor for pension entitlement rate calculation.  Instead, the totality of social insurance contributions paid and credited are central to the calculation.  The new method also, for the first time, acknowledged home-caring periods prior to 1994.

This was an equitable approach as pension outcomes were more in line with the total number of contributions paid and credited, with significant provision for years of caring in the home.

Work began on the examining the social insurance records of over 90,000 pensioners in September 2018 and review outcomes, provided for under the Social Welfare, Pension & Civil Registrations Act 2018, began issuing from 13 February 2019 - the day after the necessary Regulations were signed.

Where the review resulted in an increase in the pensioner’s rate of payment, the increase was backdated to 30 March 2018 or the pensioner's 66th birthday, whichever was the later.  As at the end of October 2019, with the project completed, 94,258 reviews were finalised.  Of these, 53,092 (56%) were women and 41,166 (44%) were men. 

Of the 53,092 women reviewed 28,528 (54%) received an increase while the rest remained on their existing rate.  Of the 41,164 men reviewed, 9,956 (24%) received an increase and the remainder continue to receive their same rate of payment.  No pensioner had their pension reduced as part of this review.  For those who received an increase in their rate of payment, the average weekly personal rate increased by €20.27 per week (Women €24.23; Men €8.82).

From April 2019, all new State pension contributory applications are assessed under all possible rate calculation methods, including the new total contributions approach, with the most beneficial rate paid to the pensioner. 

The estimated additional cost in the full 2019 year to the Exchequer from this review was circa €40.1 million and this included circa €0.9 million of increases for Qualified Adult payments, which increased in line with the pensioner’s personal rate of payment.  The 2018 cost of backdating the increases awarded from end of March 18 to end of December 18 was circa €26.6 million, including circa €0.6 million for increases in respect of qualified adult increases.

As the Deputy is aware, a Commission on Pensions has been established to examine a range of issues of options for the Government to consider and specifically with respect to pension calculation methods, the Pensions Commission has also been asked to examine and consider options to meet the Programme for Government commitment to “Introduce a Total Contributions approach, aligning a person’s contributory pension more closely with the contributions they make".  This will include a provision for credited contributions and homecaring periods, ensuring that people who take time off work to care for loved ones are not disadvantaged.

Once it has concluded its deliberations, it is hoped the Commission will report to Government by June of 2021.  The Government has committed to taking action having regard to the recommendations of the Commission within 6 months of receiving the Commission's report.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Social Welfare Payments

Ceisteanna (443)

John McGuinness

Ceist:

443. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection if all payments and arrears due to a person (details supplied) will be expedited. [29180/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

The person concerned had been awarded an Invalidity Pension with effect from 15 October 2020 under EU regulations, using a combination of his EU and Irish contributions.

His weekly payment was calculated as €139.80 and he received his first weekly payment on 25 March 2021.  The person concerned was in receipt of Supplementary Welfare Allowance from 22 October 2020 to 17 March 2021.  Therefore no arrears are due for this period.  

My Department received notification that the person concerned passed away on the 8 May 2021.

A cheque issued to his spouse on the 20 May consisting of 6 weeks of After Death Benefit.  I can confirm no other payments are due.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Social Welfare Eligibility

Ceisteanna (444)

Réada Cronin

Ceist:

444. Deputy Réada Cronin asked the Minister for Social Protection if the partial capacity benefit will be examined in the situation of a diagnosis of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis, RRMS, (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29182/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

Partial Capacity Benefit (PCB) allows a person who has been in receipt of Invalidity Pension or Illness Benefit (the latter for a minimum of six months) and who may not have full capacity for work, to return to employment or self-employment and continue to receive a partial or full payment.  There are no restrictions on earnings from employment or number of hours worked under the PCB scheme.

PCB extends the illness benefit and invalidity pension schemes to recognise and respond to the reality that some people with disabilities have a capacity to engage in employment while continuing to need to receive some income support from the State.

From 2012, PCB replaced the previous process whereby people had to apply to the Department to seek an exemption for work that was rehabilitative or therapeutic in nature, and keep their social welfare payment.  PCB allows persons to continue to receive, in addition to their earnings from employment, all or a percentage of their illness benefit or invalidity pension payment rate while working.   

The personal rate of payment of PCB is based on a medical assessment of a person’s restriction regarding their capacity for work, whether the person was in receipt of Illness Benefit or Invalidity Pension and their current rate of payment.  After the medical assessment, if a person's disability is rated as moderate, severe or profound their previous payment continues at 50%, 75% or 100% respectively.

PCB has been designed so that:

- There is no requirement that a person must only undertake work that is of a rehabilitative or therapeutic nature.  Therefore no exemption needs to be applied for from the Department;

- There is no restriction on the number of hours worked;

- There is no restriction on earnings;

- A person who participates on the PCB scheme may return to an Illness Benefit or Invalidity      Pension payment if, for example, the employment ceases or if the person cannot continue to work;

- A person on PCB, with an underlying entitlement to IP, will retain their Free Travel Pass for a period of five years, that is for five years while in employment.

PCB scheme supports people in receipt of IB or IP to return to work while also continuing to provide them with income support through the social welfare system. 

Social Welfare Payments

Ceisteanna (445)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

445. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if an application for an exceptional needs payment to cover funeral expenses for their spouse will be reconsidered in the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29242/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

My officials have advised that the person concerned submitted an application for an Exceptional Needs Payment to assist with funeral expenses on 08/12/2020.  The application was assessed and refused on the basis that a need had not been established due to the disclosure of significant Credit Union savings.

A decision letter dated 10/12/2020 issued to the person concerned advising her of the outcome of her application and affording her the option of seeking a review of the designated officer’s decision.

My officials have advised that a request for a review has not been received from the person concerned.

I trust this clarifies the matter.

Departmental Reports

Ceisteanna (446, 462, 464)

Holly Cairns

Ceist:

446. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will publish a report (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29257/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Mark Ward

Ceist:

462. Deputy Mark Ward asked the Minister for Social Protection if her attention has been drawn to the current status of the Cost of Disability report; the timeline for the publication of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29596/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Violet-Anne Wynne

Ceist:

464. Deputy Violet-Anne Wynne asked the Minister for Social Protection the status of the publication of a report (details supplied) given that there is a mounting concern that the delay in publishing the report will negatively impact its consideration and inclusion in Budget 2022; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29717/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 446, 462 and 464 together.

My Department has commissioned Indecon International Consultants to carry out research into the cost of disability.  I expect to receive the final report in the coming days.  I look forward to examining the findings of this very important report which will provide a valuable input to inform policy direction in relation to the adequate provision of supports to meet the needs of people with disabilities.  Given that this is a matter for the whole of Government, and considerably wider than the income support system, I will be bringing the report to the attention of my Cabinet colleagues for consideration in advance of its publication. 

A key element of the research was a survey undertaken by Indecon which was sent to a random sample of over 34,000 individuals in receipt of disability related payments.  It is worth noting that at the outset of the process, the target response rate to the survey element was 1,000 respondents.  However, a remarkable 4,700 responses were received from people living with a disability.  This represents one of the most detailed surveys ever undertaken in Ireland of individuals with disabilities.  Although the processing of such a large response extended the expected delivery time of the final report, I am satisfied that the longer time it took to conclude the project will have ultimately strengthened the research and increased the usefulness of the final report.

In line with the principles of consultation and engagement with the disability sector that have underpinned the conduct of this research project, it is my Department's intention to hold a briefing on the research with the relevant organisations at an appropriate time.  The input of these organisations has been invaluable to the research and survey work undertaken by Indecon. 

I trust this clarifies the matter at this time.

Community Employment Schemes

Ceisteanna (447)

Holly Cairns

Ceist:

447. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Social Protection her views on extending the employment of all persons in the community employment programme until at least 31 December 2021 given the difficulty in replacing persons during the Covid-19 pandemic; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29258/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

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

At the onset of the Covid-19 emergency last year my Department introduced a number of contingency measures to support CE schemes including the extension of participant contracts.  These measures have continued in particular during Level 5 periods of restriction in place over the course of the last fifteen months. 

The current position is that CE participants due to finish on schemes since October 2020, have had their contracts extended on a number of occasions.  Over 7,000 CE and Tús participants are benefitting from the latest contract extension date of 2nd July 2021.

This latest extension date is now under active review by my Department, in line with the planned, gradual reopening of the wider economy.  It is important to note that when CE participants are eventually due to finish on their respective schemes, this will be undertaken on a coordinated, phased basis over a number of months.  This will facilitate the recruitment of new CE participants while ensuring service continuity for the CE schemes. 

Some CE schemes, in particular those that provide essential community services, have been able to maintain service delivery while complying with public health restrictions over the Level 5 periods while the activities of many other CE schemes have been significantly curtailed.  While referrals to CE placements have continued where possible, numbers have been limited due to the related public health restrictions.

CE schemes face a number of challenges over the coming months as they re-establish the full range of community services available.  My priority is to ensure all CE schemes are in a position to get services fully back up and running over the next few months, in line with the phased opening up of the economy, while continuing to comply with public health restrictions.

CE sponsoring authorities are encouraged by my Department to continue to promote the benefits of CE in their local communities.  They can advertise their vacancies on www.jobsireland.ie, the Department’s online job advertising and recruitment service for job candidates and employers, including CE sponsors.

Jobseekers are advised to register their interest through this website or by contacting a case officer in their local Intreo Centre who will determine their eligibility for the CE scheme.  The facility to register interest in CE schemes was introduced on the website in August 2020 in response to the Covid 19 pandemic.

I am fully committed to the future of CE and will continue to support and improve the programme for the benefit of the CE participants and the valuable contribution being made to local communities throughout the country.

Social Welfare Eligibility

Ceisteanna (448)

Peter Burke

Ceist:

448. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Social Protection if the income limits will be reviewed for carer’s allowance applicants; when these limits were reviewed most recently; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29280/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

The main income supports for carers provided by my Department include Carer's Allowance, Carer's Benefit, Domiciliary Care Allowance, and the Carer's Support Grant.  At the end of April, there were 89,549 people in receipt of Carer's Allowance and the estimated expenditure on Carer's Allowance in 2021 is approximately €953 million.  In total, over 135,000 carers benefit from regular income supports and combined spending on these payments in 2021 is expected to be in the region of €1.5 billion.  The value of income transfers to family carers has increased by over 50% since 2015.

Carer's Allowance acts as an income support for those who cannot earn adequate income in the open labour market due to their caring responsibilities.  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. 

A comprehensive Policy Review of Carer’s Allowance, including an examination of the means test, was prepared by my Department and was laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas at the end of August 2019.  In addition, in August 2019, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform published a Spending Review of Carer’s Supports, including Carer's Allowance.  Among its key findings was that of the €1.04bn spent on Carer’s Support Programmes in 2018, Carer’s Allowance accounted for 77% of total support spend on carers.  Given how little time has elapsed since these two in-depth reports on carer’s schemes were published, I do not propose to conduct another review on the area at this time.

The means test for Carer's Allowance is one of the most generous in the social welfare system, most notably with regard to spouse’s earnings.  The amount of weekly earnings disregarded is €332.50 per week for a single person and €665 per week for a couple.  By comparison, the income disregard applied to Disability Allowance is €120 per week.  As per Budget 2021 this will increase to €140 per week from June 2021.  For Jobseeker's Allowance, it is €20 per day up to a maximum of €60, and the balance is assessed at 60%.  For Jobseeker's Transitional Payment, the weekly income disregard is €165 with 50% of the balance assessed as means.

Changes to schemes are considered in an overall expenditure and policy context and from an evidence-based perspective.  Those existing carers whose sole income is the Carer’s Allowance would not benefit from an increase in the means disregard.  This proposal would benefit just 3% of carers and benefit better-off families. Increases to the disregard would result in the provision of additional payments to people who may have significant sources of income while reducing the scope to provide income supports to lower income households.

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 improvements or additions to these supports can only be considered in an overall budgetary context and in the light of available financial resources. 

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Social Welfare Benefits

Question No. 450 answered with Question No. 449.

Ceisteanna (449, 450)

Alan Dillon

Ceist:

449. Deputy Alan Dillon asked the Minister for Social Protection if consideration is being given to automatically awarding a free travel pass to persons who lose their driver licence entitlement for one year due to seizures as a result of epilepsy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29286/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Neasa Hourigan

Ceist:

450. Deputy Neasa Hourigan asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans to ensure persons who lose their driver licence due to a diagnosis of epilepsy or breakthrough seizures are provided automatic access to a free travel pass; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29288/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 449 and 450 together.

The Free Travel scheme provides free travel on the main public and private transport services for those eligible under the scheme.  These include road, rail and ferry services provided by companies such as Bus Átha Cliath, Bus Éireann and Iarnród Éireann, as well as Luas and services provided by over 80 private transport operators.  There are currently approx. 996,000 customers with direct eligibility.  The estimated expenditure on free travel in 2021 is €95 million.

In general, access to a free travel pass for those aged under 66 is linked to a person being in receipt of certain primary Social Protection payments such as Disability Allowance, Invalidity Pension, Carer’s Allowance, Blind Pension and Partial Capacity Benefit. 

Extending the free travel scheme to people with epilepsy during the period in which they are disallowed from driving cannot be considered in isolation.  There are a range of disabilities and medical conditions that can prevent a person from holding a driving licence and to award a free travel pass to any one of these conditions in isolation would immediately result in calls for all people who are not allowed to hold a driving licence because of their medical condition to receive the free travel pass and could result in challenges under the Equal Status Act.

If the Free Travel scheme were to be extended to all people who are not allowed to drive due to their disability, regardless of whether they receive a qualifying payment, a medical assessment process would be required for all such applications, significantly changing the nature of the scheme and requiring additional administrative processes to be put in place in order to adjudicate eligibility.  Significant extra funding would also be required and accordingly, it could only be considered in the context of overall budgetary negotiations.

Under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme, my Department may award a travel supplement, where the circumstances of the particular case so warrant.  The supplement is intended to assist with ongoing or recurring travel costs that cannot be met from the client’s own resources and are deemed to be necessary.  Every decision is based on consideration of the circumstances of the individual case, taking account of the nature and extent of the need and of the resources of the person concerned.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Question No. 450 answered with Question No. 449.

Social Welfare Benefits

Ceisteanna (451)

Paul McAuliffe

Ceist:

451. Deputy Paul McAuliffe asked the Minister for Social Protection if the case of a person (details supplied) will be reviewed. [29294/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered with that office on 3 December 2020.  The appeal was referred to an Appeals Officer on 9 February 2021 and the Appeals Officer's summary decision was issued to the person concerned on 19 April 2021.  

An Appeals Officer's decision is generally conclusive. However, an Appeals Officer may revise his/her decision under Section 317 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005, if new evidence, new facts or any relevant change of circumstances come to light after a decision is made.  The Chief Appeals Officer may revise a decision of an Appeals Officer under Section 318 of the Act, if it appears that a mistake was made in relation to the law or the facts.

A request for a review under Section 318 of the Act was received from the Department of Social Protection on 14 May 2021.  In his decision the Appeals Officer stated that his interpretation of Article 20(1)(a) of the Social Welfare (Consolidated Claims, Payments and Control) Regulations 2007 was that the person concerned should be deemed incapable of work for the period 10 October 2020 to 3 December 2020 because her GP had certified that she was unable to attend work during that period.  In her review under Section 318 of the Act, the Chief Appeals Officer found that the provisions of Article 20(1)(a) of the Regulations did not apply in this case and that the Appeals Officer erred in law in applying the provisions to the appeal.  The Chief Appeals Officer revised the Appeals Officer's decision accordingly on 24 May 2021 and the person concerned was advised of this outcome on that date. 

A Section 318 review is the final stage in the appeal process.  Any person who is dissatisfied with the Chief Appeals Officer's revised decision may appeal that decision to the High Court on any question of law under Section 327 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005.  

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions in relation to social welfare entitlements.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Social Welfare Payments

Ceisteanna (452)

Paul McAuliffe

Ceist:

452. Deputy Paul McAuliffe asked the Minister for Social Protection the status of a working family payment application by a person (details supplied). [29296/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

Working Family Payment (WFP) is an in work, income tested payment which provides additional income support to employees on low earnings with children.  WFP applications are processed based on an applicant's circumstances, including employment earnings and income status that apply at the time of application.

An application for WFP was received from the person concerned on 06 May 2021. 

The Department wrote to the person concerned on 12 May 2021, to request further employment related information and documentary evidence.  The requested information has not been provided to date.  The person concerned has been contacted by the Department on 26 May 2021 and they have confirmed that the requested details will be submitted shortly.

On receipt of the requested information from the person concerned, a decision will be completed on their application without delay, and they will be notified in writing.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy. 

Data Protection

Ceisteanna (453)

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

453. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Social Protection the nature of the data breaches experienced by her Department since 2018. [29315/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

The majority of personal data breaches in my Department were in the following three categories:

- Delivery of correspondence to an incorrect address or to the customer's previous address;

- Accidentally including a document or an item of personal data of a customer in correspondence with another customer.

- Email errors such as auto population to an unintended address, or inadvertently including personal data of another customer.

The number of confirmed breaches should be viewed in the context of the scale of the Department’s business, administering over 70 separate schemes and services and processing almost 2 million applications every year.

In particular, in 2020, the Department has provided services to an extraordinarily high volume of customers.  At one point, the Department was processing over 50,000 claims per day.  At its peak, in early May 2020, 602,000 were in receipt of PUP.  Just under 20 million PUP payments have been made to nearly 900,000 people providing income support of more than €7.3 billion to date.

My Department takes its data protection obligations very seriously. In order to minimise incidents regarding these types of data breaches, there are regular reminders for staff to be vigilant in matters of data protection.

For example, recent Data Protection Awareness Weeks placed particular emphasis on how staff need to remain aware in relation to accidental data breaches.  Also, posters were issued to offices throughout the Department with the particular message to be vigilant when sending letters or e-mails, i.e., to double-check address details and letter contents and not to send personal data in bulk e-mails.

It is mandatory for all staff in the Department, and for new entrants, to complete the GDPR e-learning module and to obtain a pass rate of at least 80% at the exam that concludes the module.  All new staff (including temporary clerical officers) must complete the module before they are granted access to any system containing customer data.

In addition, Data Protection Unit staff visit the Department's Offices and deliver presentations on data protection and answer staff questions throughout the year.  Given the current travel restrictions, video presentations are being developed for staff to view online.

Local Authorities

Ceisteanna (454)

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

454. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection the amount provided by her Department to Tipperary County Council in 2020 in respect of rent supplement. [29353/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

Rent supplement continues to play a key role in supporting families and individuals in private rented accommodation, with the scheme currently supporting 19,570 recipients (end April 2021). 

The scheme provides short-term income support to eligible people living in private rented accommodation whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source.  The scheme ensures that those who were renting, but whose circumstances have changed due to temporary loss of employment or income, can continue to meet their rental commitments. 

Rent supplement is not payable where a customer is in a local authority sponsored housing solution.  Accordingly, I can confirm that no rent supplement payments have been made to Tipperary County Council in 2020. 

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Island Communities

Ceisteanna (455)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

455. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection the cost, number of recipients and number of applicants of the island allowance in each of the years 2010 to 2020, by offshore island. [29354/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

Data requested by the Deputy on the costs and recipients, where available, is set out in Table 1 below. The islands which are enumerated under each county are set out in Table 2.  The increase was paid at a rate of €12.70 per week for the period 2012-2020 inclusive, which has been used to approximate the expenditure. The increase is attached to the claim of the main social welfare payment, and as such it is not possible to report on applications for the Island Increase.  

Table 1: Cost and Recipients: 2012 to 2020

table1

Table 2: Specified Islands & County

table2

Island Communities

Ceisteanna (456)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

456. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection the expected increase in total annual cost of the island allowance resulting from the increase to €20 announced in Budget 2021; and if she will provide a copy of any documented analysis conducted by her Department before making the decision to increase the allowance. [29355/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

The Increase for Living on a Specified Island - or Island Allowance - is an increase in the weekly rate of certain social welfare payments for recipients who are aged 66 or over and are ordinarily resident on an island off the coast of Ireland. It is also paid to recipients aged under 66 on certain schemes. The objective of the scheme is to compensate for the additional costs of living on these specified islands when compared to people resident on the mainland.

As part of the Budget 2021 package, the allowance was increased by €7.30, from €12.70 to €20 per week. This was the first increase to the allowance since the payment was introduced in 2000 and was the basis on which the decision to increase the allowance was made. As Minister with responsibility for the islands, I was acutely aware of the additional costs associated with living offshore.

Based on the current number of recipients, it is estimated that the increase will cost €0.23 million this year.

Employment Schemes

Ceisteanna (457)

Claire Kerrane

Ceist:

457. Deputy Claire Kerrane asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of persons that have availed of employability services in the State in 2020 and to date in 2021, by county in tabular form. [29532/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

The EmployAbility service is based on the ethos that participation in employment can be achieved by people with a disability (PwD) when they are able to avail of individualised supports that are based on their choices and preferences.

It should be noted that, due to public health restrictions, referrals to all contracted public employment services including EmployAbility were suspended on three separate occasions during 2020 (March, October and December). Referrals for 2021 commenced in early March. The EmployAbility Service has 2969 active clients as of March 2021. The number of customers referred by my Department to the EmployAbility Services and the active client numbers for 2020 and for 2021 is as follows:

employabilityservice

Disability Services

Ceisteanna (458)

Claire Kerrane

Ceist:

458. Deputy Claire Kerrane asked the Minister for Social Protection the measures in place to support persons with disabilities with employment and employability services; the way additional needs of persons with disabilities will be incorporated into the forthcoming tender for employment services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29533/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

My Department recognises the additional difficulties people with disabilities experience in securing and maintaining paid employment. To this end, my Department has contracts for the provision of the Employability services to help address these difficulties. These services are currently delivered under contract by 24 different organisations located around the country. The total value of the contracts for 2021 is approximately €10m.

The Employability services provide support and advice to people with disabilities to facilitate their integration into paid employment. Integration is an essential feature of the Employability services: People with disabilities have an entitlement to full participation in society and paid employment.

It is not envisaged that the open competitive tendering processes for employment services, which my Department are undertaking this year, will include the supports currently delivered by the Employability service. My Department will be developing a new model of contracting for these Employability services over the next year, with a view to having these important services procured in a manner that is consistent with the State's obligations under national and EU procurement rules. It is envisaged this process will see these services procured in an open and competitive manner during 2022 with new contracts being in place for 2023.

Social Welfare Benefits

Ceisteanna (459)

Willie O'Dea

Ceist:

459. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will be made in relation to an application by a person (details supplied) for a carer’s allowance in view of the fact that it has been marked urgent; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29576/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

Carer's Allowance (CA) is a means-tested payment, made to a person who is habitually resident in the State and providing full-time care and attention to a child or an adult who has such a disability that they require that level of care.  An increased payment can be made where full-time care is being provided to two people.

I can confirm that my department received two applications for CA from the person concerned on 17 May 2021. 

CA was awarded to the person concerned in respect of both care recipients on 26 May 2021 with effect from 10 June 2021.  The first payment will issue to his nominated bank account on 10 June 2021. 

The person concerned was notified on 26 May 2021 of this decision, the reason for it and of his right of review and appeal.

I hope this clarifies the position for the Deputy.

Social Welfare Appeals

Ceisteanna (460)

Jackie Cahill

Ceist:

460. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Social Protection the status of an appeal by a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29584/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered with that office on 3 February 2021.  It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought.  These papers were received on 31 March 2021.  The appeal was referred on 7 April 2021 to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if necessary, hold an oral hearing.  Hearings are currently being conducted online or by telephone.  Due to the current level of Covid-19 restrictions in-person oral appeal hearings have been suspended.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions in relation to social welfare entitlements.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Departmental Budgets

Question No. 462 answered with Question No. 446.

Ceisteanna (461)

Mark Ward

Ceist:

461. Deputy Mark Ward asked the Minister for Social Protection the funds returned unspent to the Exchequer from her Department’s budget in each of the years 2017 to 2020, in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29595/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

Below in tabular format are the unspent amounts that my Department has returned to the Exchequer for the years 2017 to 2020 inclusive.

Year

Surplus €

Deferred Surrender €

Surplus to be surrendered €

2017

21,019,255

(1,000,000)

20,019,255

2018

39,887,039

(1,000,000)

38,887,039

2019

52,647,107

(1,187,000)

51,460,107

2020*

858,121,283

(910,000)

857,211,283

*The 2020 Appropriation account is currently subject to audit by the Comptroller & Auditor-General.

 

Question No. 462 answered with Question No. 446.
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