Tuesday, 19 July 2011
Department of Social Protection
Social Welfare Benefits
Question 269: To ask the Minister for Social Protection if an increase in rent support is warranted in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare while awaiting accommodation; if arrears will be awarded; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21015/11]
The Health Service Executive (HSE) has advised that the person concerned is in receipt of an exceptional short-term support payment of €500 per month in respect of her accommodation needs. The HSE has further advised that it not aware of any issue in relation to the amount currently payable or any issue in relation to arrears. The person concerned should contact the community welfare officer dealing with her case if she wishes to pursue these matters.
The person concerned has submitted claims for domiciliary care allowance in respect of two children. In both cases, the child was not considered to satisfy the medical criteria for receipt of the allowance.
In the case of an application which is refused on medical grounds, the applicant may submit additional information and/or ask for the case to be reviewed, or they may appeal the decision directly to the Social Welfare Appeals Office. The person concerned submitted further information in both cases and appeals have been registered by the Social Welfare Appeals Office. As part of the appeal process, this additional information is currently being reviewed by another Medical Assessor in advance of being considered by an Appeals Officer.
Question 271: To ask the Minister for Social Protection if the traditional double-week Christmas bonus will be paid in 2011 to the wide range of persons who rely largely on their social welfare payments for financial support. [21106/11]
Payment of the Christmas bonus was discontinued in 2009 and no provision has been made in the Estimates for the payment of a Christmas bonus in 2011. The cost of paying this bonus to the usual categories of recipients would be in the region of €231m. In order to consider incurring additional expenditure of this magnitude it would be necessary to introduce measures to achieve corresponding savings in the overall level of social welfare expenditure.
The Government is committed to tackling Ireland's economic crisis in a way that is fair and balanced and which recognises the need for social solidarity. In this regard, the Programme for Government commits to maintaining social welfare rates. Taking into account the prevailing economic realities it is not feasible to reverse the reductions that have already been made in the social welfare budget.
Question 272: To ask the Minister for Social Protection if she will instruct her officials to carry out a complete review of an application for domiciliary care allowance in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow; if all reports relative to their claim will be re-assessed by her Department; and if she will expedite a response. [21189/11]
An application for domiciliary care allowance was received on 18 April 2011 from the person in question. This application was referred to one of the Department's Medical Assessors who found that her child was not medically eligible for the allowance. In order to qualify, a child must have a disability so severe that the child needs care and attention and/or supervision substantially in excess of another child of the same age.
A letter issued to the person in question on 28 June 2011 advising her of the decision. In the case of an application which is refused on medical grounds, the applicant may submit additional information and/or ask for the case to be reviewed or may appeal the decision directly to the Social Welfare Appeals Office within 21 days.
The person in question submitted further information and an appeal was registered by the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 5 July 2011. As part of the appeals process, the application together with the additional information will be reviewed by a different Medical Assessor. If the outcome of this review is negative, the file will be sent to the Social Welfare Appeals Office for the appeal to be considered.
The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 21 March 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 18 May 2011 and the appeal will be referred to an Appeals Officer, in due course, who will decide whether the case can be decided on a summary basis or whether to list it for oral hearing.
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 on social welfare entitlements.
Question 274: To ask the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for the back-to-school clothing and footwear allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21205/11]
Question 275: To ask the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork who has applied for rent supplement; when they will be awarded same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21210/11]
The Health Service Executive (HSE) has advised that the person concerned has been refused rent supplement as he is in full-time employment. The HSE has further advised that the person concerned has appealed the decision to the HSE Appeals Office.
The administrative arrangements for the 2011 back to school clothing and footwear allowance scheme are different from those that applied in previous years. For this year, the majority of back to school clothing and footwear allowance entitlements were fully automated with no application form required from customers. This year the automated process identified 127,000 households and generated payments in respect of some 243,000 children.
In order to qualify for an automated payment the parent of the child must have been in receipt of a qualifying payment that included an increase in respect of a qualified child at the commencement of the scheme and the Department were satisfied that the household satisfied the means test for the scheme. The scheme commenced from the 1 June 2011 with the entitlement created based on the preceding weeks entitlement.
Persons who have not received an automated payment are required to complete an application form that is available for download from www.welfare.ie or by texting "Form BTSCFA", followed by their name and address to 51909. Completed application forms should be returned to Department of Social Protection, PO Box 131, Letterkenny, Co Donegal. Processing has begun on the manual applications already received and it will take 4-6 weeks to process applications.
The rates of payment for the back to school clothing and footwear allowance are as follows: - €200 for each eligible child aged 2-11 - €305 for each eligible child aged 12-17 - €305 for each eligible child aged 18-22 who is in full-time education.
An application for carer's allowance from the person concerned was received on the 2 June 2011. As the person concerned is in receipt of domiciliary care allowance for the care recipients in question, the medical condition for carer's allowance is considered to be satisfied. On completion of the necessary investigations on the remaining aspects of her case a decision will be made and she will be notified directly of the outcome.
Question 278: To ask the Minister for Social Protection when the back-to-school clothing and footwear allowance will be awarded in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Laois; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21227/11]
The administrative arrangements for the 2011 back to school clothing and footwear allowance scheme differ from those that applied in previous years. For this year, the majority of back to school clothing and footwear allowance entitlements were fully automated with no application form required from customers. Those customers who did not receive an automated payment are required to complete an application form that is available for download from www.welfare.ie or by texting "Form BTSCFA", followed by their name and address to 51909.
Processing has begun on the manual applications already received and it will take 4-6 weeks to process applications. In all cases a letter will issue to applicants informing them of the decision and, where payment has been awarded, when and where they can collect the payment. In the case of refusal of the allowance the procedures for review of the decision will be outlined to customers. Due to the large volume of applications received, information regarding the receipt or progress of individual applications will not be available until such time as the applications have been examined and a decision taken.
I have no plans to reconsider the changes to the fuel allowance which were announced last week. From September 2011 the fuel allowance is to be standardised at €20 per week, the rate currently received by the majority of customers, with no additional allowance for living in a smokeless area.
While we have had to implement this measure, the House should be aware that these savings were provided for last December in Budget 2011 but were not specified or announced by the Government at that time.
While of course we want to protect the basic social welfare payments which have very positive economic and social effects, regrettably there is an ongoing necessity to achieve savings due to our commitments with the IMF/EU/ECB Troika. There will be an ongoing necessity to curtail overall expenditure in 2012 and in later years. The Comprehensive Review of Expenditure currently underway in all government departments and agencies will form the basis for making the necessary decisions to achieve this.
Along with other Departments and agencies, my Department has been working with the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources on an Affordable Energy Strategy and this is expected to be brought to Government in the autumn. Energy poverty is a factor of income, energy prices and the thermal efficiency of the home. The most cost-effective means of protecting households from energy poverty is to reduce their consumption of energy through improving the thermal efficiency of the home. The SEI has administered an energy efficiency programme for privately owned low income households (Warmer Homes) since 2001. Over 65,000 such households have benefited to date, with a further 15,000 expected to receive energy efficiency upgrades this year. A similar upgrade programme is also in place for local authority houses.
Question No. 280 withdrawn.