Dáil debates

Wednesday, 21 February 2007

Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2007: Second Stage (Resumed)


5:00 pm

Photo of Séamus BrennanSéamus Brennan (Dublin South, Fianna Fail)

I will ensure that the operation of the 12-day limit is considered as part of the ongoing review. People should not lose any money as a result of the new computer arrangements. The new system is voluntary — people can get their funds in other ways. The use of the computer programme also has an important anti-fraud element, which will be reviewed. I hope nobody is disadvantaged by the new arrangements because it is not intended to withhold funds from people who are entitled to them. I will take account of what has been said in the House and amend these arrangements, if necessary.

Some Deputies spoke at length about the proposal to transfer certain staff. Like my colleagues in the Department of Social and Family Affairs, I am hugely supportive of community welfare officers, who are given a substantial budget of approximately €700 million to help people under a range of headings, including health. They distribute exceptional needs and rent supplement payments etc. It is not just a health issue — it is much broader than that. There is no question of any interference in the work of community welfare officers, who are funded through the Department of Social and Family Affairs. They will not lose any flexibility or discretion. Many speakers, including Deputy Penrose, have pointed out that community welfare officers need flexibility because they are in the front line and know what is going on. I am determined to ensure they retain such advantages. As the officers, who are paid by the Department of Social and Family Affairs, provide welfare supports and not just health supports, they have to take a broader view of who needs assistance, particularly as they deal with the challenges presented by this country's immigrant population. I do not think the question of whether they work for one Department or another should be a major issue.


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