Written answers

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Department of Social Protection

Social Welfare Code

9:00 pm

Photo of Willie PenroseWillie Penrose (Longford-Westmeath, Labour)
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Question 364: To ask the Minister for Social Protection if she will indicate the entitlements available to a person who is compelled due to ill health as certified by medical consultants and who has been in self employment for the past 35 years or so; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8467/12]

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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Self-employed persons are liable for PRSI at the Class S rate of 4%, which entitles them to access long-term benefits such as State pension (contributory) and widow’s, widower’s or surviving civil partner’s pension (contributory). Ordinary employees who have access to the full range of social insurance benefits pay Class A PRSI at the rate of 4%. In addition, their employers make a PRSI contribution of 10.75% in respect of their employees, resulting in the payment of a combined 14.75% rate per employee under full-rate PRSI Class A. (For employees earning less than €356 per week, the rate of employer’s PRSI is 4.25%).

Any changes to the PRSI system to extend the full range of social insurance benefits, including illness benefit, to self-employed persons would have significant financial implications and would have to be considered in the context of a much more significant rise in the rate of contribution payable. I established the Advisory Group on Tax and Social Welfare last year to meet the commitment made in the Programme for Government. The Advisory Group will, inter alia, examine and report on issues involved in providing social insurance cover for self-employed persons in order to establish whether or not such cover is technically feasible and financially sustainable. In addition, the Actuarial Review of the Social Insurance Fund, which is due to be completed in mid-2012, will examine this matter.

Self-employed individuals may establish entitlement to assistance-based payments such as Disability Allowance. Disability Allowance is a weekly payment made to persons with a disability whose employment capacity is substantially restricted by reason of their disability and whose means are insufficient to meet their own needs and those of their dependents. As well as providing income support for people with disabilities, incentives towards employment and training are also a key feature of Disability Allowance. An income disregard for earnings from rehabilitative employment provides that all earnings up to €120 per week are disregarded as means when assessing entitlement, while income between €120 and €350 is assessed on the basis of 50 cents for every euro earned.

Photo of Willie PenroseWillie Penrose (Longford-Westmeath, Labour)
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Question 365: To ask the Minister for Social Protection the number of hours persons, who are in receipt of social welfare, can work on a weekly basis where such persons might have to do the same for rehabilitate purposes or which might arise due to part time work becoming available and whereby they still can receive their specific social welfare payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8468/12]

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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Where a person is in receipt of a disability allowance payment, s/he may take up employment of a rehabilitative nature, subject to the approval of the Department. There is no limitation on the number of hours they may work in such circumstances. Any earnings up to €120 per week will be disregarded in the means-test for the disability allowance payment, while earnings above that threshold will be assessed at 50%.

Hitherto, where a person was in receipt of a social insurance based invalidity pension, or long-term illness benefit, s/he could apply for an exemption to take up rehabilitative employment which did not exceed 20 hours per week. With effect from 13 February 2012, a new scheme has been introduced which offers a more flexible long-term support to claimants of invalidity pension or long-term illness benefit. The partial capacity benefit scheme will provide an opportunity for people with disabilities to have their capacity for work assessed and to receive an ongoing income support payment based on this assessment. Any increase being paid in respect of a qualified adult or qualified children will not be affected.

The scheme is open to people who are in receipt of invalidity pension or who have been in receipt of illness benefit for a minimum of six months. Participation in the scheme is voluntary and the scheme is designed in particular to respond to the needs of people who have hitherto sought to avail of exemptions in order to take up employment opportunities. There are no limitations applied in relation to the number of hours a person may work, or the level of earnings they may secure, under the new scheme.

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