Written answers

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Department of Social and Family Affairs

Social Welfare Benefits

9:00 am

Photo of Michael CreedMichael Creed (Cork North West, Fine Gael)
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Question 83: To ask the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the steps she is taking to facilitate the transfer from rent supplement to the rental accommodation scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40614/09]

Photo of Shane McEnteeShane McEntee (Meath East, Fine Gael)
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Question 97: To ask the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of persons claiming rent supplement for more than 18 months; her views on the slow transfer of persons from rent supplement onto the rental accommodation scheme; the efforts she has taken to address this problem; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40641/09]

Photo of Mary HanafinMary Hanafin (Minister, Department of Social and Family Affairs; Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 83 and 97 together.

There are currently over 91,600 tenants benefiting from a rent supplement payment - an increase of 24% since the end of 2008. Over 33,000 of recipients have been receiving payment of rent supplement for 18 months or more.

The Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS), which was introduced in 2004, gives local authorities specific responsibility for meeting the longer term housing needs of people receiving rent supplement for 18 months or more. Details of these cases are notified regularly by the Department to the local authorities. Local authorities meet the housing needs of these individuals through a range of approaches including the traditional range of social housing options, the voluntary housing sector and, in particular, RAS.

Latest figures from the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government (DoEHLG) indicate that to date, local authorities have transferred 12,260 rent supplement cases to RAS units. Housing authorities have also transferred a further 10,630 recipients to other social housing options, a total of almost 22,900 transfers between the end of 2005 and the end of September 2009. Almost 7,000 recipients were transferred in 2008.

While progress in relation to RAS was initially slower than expected, the pace of delivery has improved significantly, and in 2009 a target has been set of transferring an additional 7,000 households from rent supplement of which almost 5,000 transfers have been achieved.

In addition to this official target, due to the numbers of unsold affordable stock around the country, an opportunity has been created to make use of some of these properties for RAS and it is expected that there may be an opportunity to achieve further transfers.

The changes made in Budget 2009 to better align the minimum weekly contribution required from tenants under the rent supplement scheme with that under the RAS should also encourage more people to take up RAS offers.

The Department continues to work closely with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in ensuring that RAS meets its objective of catering for those on long term rent supplementation while enabling rent supplement to return to its original role of a short-term income support.

Photo of Seán SherlockSeán Sherlock (Cork East, Labour)
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Question 84: To ask the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if her attention has been drawn to the expected effect the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes Report proposals on social welfare basic rates and the half rate carer's allowance would have on the overall income of carers; her views on same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40727/09]

Photo of Lucinda CreightonLucinda Creighton (Dublin South East, Fine Gael)
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Question 86: To ask the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if disability allowance will be protected in Budget 2010; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40536/09]

Photo of Róisín ShortallRóisín Shortall (Dublin North West, Labour)
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Question 101: To ask the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she has completed her deliberations on the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programme; and if she will outline her conclusions. [40729/09]

Photo of George LeeGeorge Lee (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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Question 103: To ask the Minister for Social and Family Affairs her views on the recommendations in respect of her Department contained in the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes Report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40638/09]

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Question 108: To ask the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will give an assurance that those in receipt of social welfare payments are not selectively or specifically targeted for punitive reductions in the course of Budget 2010; if she will ensure due regard is had for the difficulties faced by those with special needs, the elderly and families and that a provision be made that a specific clause is introduced to prevent hardship on the vulnerable; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40700/09]

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Question 221: To ask the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the steps she proposes to take to ensure that families are not negatively affected by cutbacks contemplated within her Department arising from the current economic climate; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41030/09]

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Question 226: To ask the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will ensure that budgetary cuts expected to be applied by her Department do not impact on the vulnerable in society; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41035/09]

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Question 227: To ask the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if her attention has been drawn to the full impact of the economic downturn on vulnerable sectors of the population particularly with the approach of winter; the steps she has taken or proposes to take to address these issues in the short to medium term; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41036/09]

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Question 228: To ask the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the action she proposes to take to protect the most vulnerable in society during the winter months in view of the continued economic climate; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41037/09]

Photo of Mary HanafinMary Hanafin (Minister, Department of Social and Family Affairs; Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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I propose to answer Questions Nos. 84, 86, 101, 103, 108, 221 and 226 to 228, inclusive, together.

In its consideration of the forthcoming Budget and Estimates, the Government will take account of a wide range of factors including the prevailing economic situation, the need to reduce public expenditure, the recommendations of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes and the impact of such proposals on individuals and vulnerable groups in society. It would not be appropriate for me to comment further at this stage pending the outcome of these deliberative processes.

However, the Government is very conscious of the need to take account of the cumulative impact of measures on individuals and groups when finalising the Budget package.

In this regard, I have requested the newly-formed Social Inclusion Division of my Department to prepare an analysis of the impact of the social welfare and other measures proposed in the Report of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure on families. The analysis is nearing completion and will contribute to the Government's deliberations in the Budgetary process.

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