Written answers

Thursday, 14 December 2006

Department of Social and Family Affairs

Social Welfare Benefits

7:00 pm

Photo of Michael MulcahyMichael Mulcahy (Dublin South Central, Fianna Fail)
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Question 10: To ask the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the increases in the weekly earnings threshold for maternity and adoptive benefit; the impact he expects that these changes will have; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43217/06]

Photo of   John Curran John Curran (Dublin Mid West, Fianna Fail)
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Question 17: To ask the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will explain the increase in the weekly earnings threshold for maternity and adoptive benefit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43153/06]

Photo of Séamus BrennanSéamus Brennan (Minister, Department of Social and Family Affairs; Dublin South, Fianna Fail)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 10 and 17 together.

Last week, I was pleased to announce an increase in the ceiling on reckonable earnings applied to maternity benefit from €332 to €350 per week for 2007. This will raise the maximum rate of payment — based on 80% of reckonable earnings — from €265.60 to €280 per week with effect from 1st January, 2007. The minimum rate of maternity benefit payment will be raised concurrently from €182.60 to €207.80 per week.

As the rates of adoptive benefit are linked to the maternity benefit scheme (i.e. to ensure that the same level of support is afforded to both natural and adoptive parents), those in receipt of adoptive benefit will equally gain from the above changes in maternity payments.

This Department pays both maternity and adoptive benefit to workers who have accrued the required number of PRSI contributions on their social insurance record and who could otherwise be without income during a period of entitlement to statutory leave in respect of a birth or an adoption. These payments are funded from social insurance contributions paid by workers and employers.

The maternity benefit measures will cost a total of €10.96 million to implement (i.e. €8.42 million for the change to the ceiling and €2.54 million for the change in the minimum rate of payment — respectively) and the adoptive benefit rate increases will cost a total of €44,000.

It is estimated that some 11,500 women will benefit each week from the increase in the earnings ceiling applied to maternity benefit. An additional 2,200 women will benefit each week from the increase in the minimum rate of maternity benefit payment. Furthermore, it is estimated that some 60 persons will benefit each week from the adoptive benefit rate increases.

In addition to these improvements in rates of payment there have also been recently announced extensions to the periods for which benefits are payable. With effect from 1st March, 2007, the total period of statutory maternity leave attracting a payment will be twenty-six weeks and that of statutory adoptive leave attracting a payment will be twenty-four weeks — a four-week extension in each case.

The changes announced in Budget 2007 build on increases already made to the payment duration of both maternity and adoptive benefit in last year's Budget.

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