Tuesday, 31 May 2022
Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection
Social Welfare Schemes
The person in question reached pension age on 01 February 2019. According to the records of my Department, the person in question was a self-employed contributor who entered into insurable employment in April 2000.
There is a total of 520 qualifying paid reckonable social insurance contributions from April 2000 to end of January 2019. This equates to a yearly average of 27 contributions giving an entitlement to 85% of the state pension (contributory) rate of payment. This is the correct rate commensurate with the social insurance record as held by my Department.
The claim was reviewed in 20 October 2021 with no change to the rate of payment. If the person in question considers that additional contributions or credits that have not been recorded, it is open to them to forward documentary evidence to my Department and their pension entitlement will be reviewed.
An application for the State Pension (non contributory) was received in May 2020. This application was disallowed as the means were in excess of the limits allowable.
I hope this clarifies the position for the Deputy.
486. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if urgent assistance will be provided to a person (details supplied) towards payment of a bill for a funeral; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28027/22]
The purpose of the Exceptional Needs Payment (ENP) is to assist people with essential, once-off, exceptional expenditure, which a person could not reasonably be expected to meet out of their weekly income.
The ENP scheme is demand led and payments are made at the discretion of the officers administering the scheme taking into account the requirements of the legislation and all the relevant circumstances of the case in order to ensure that the payments target those most in need of assistance.
Applications for ENPs are made under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance Scheme administered by Designated Persons in the Community Welfare Service in my Department.
My Departments’ records reflect there is no record of an ENP application registered for the person concerned. For convenience an ENP application pack has issued by post to the person concerned. On receipt of the completed application form and all relevant supporting documentation, the application will be assessed by a Designated Person and the person concerned will be advised of the outcome in writing.
I trust this clarifies the matter.
487. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason that self-employed workers are precluded from applying for a working family payment at present, regardless of their income levels; and if she plans to rectify this imbalance in the scheme. [28034/22]
The Working Family Payment (WFP) is an in-work support which provides an income top-up for employees on low earnings. The WFP is designed to prevent in-work poverty for low paid workers with child dependents, and to offer a financial incentive to take-up employment. There are approximately 47,000 families with 103,000 children in receipt of the WFP. Estimated expenditure on the scheme in 2022 is €349 million.
To qualify for the payment a person must be engaged as an employee in full time paid employment which is expected to last for at least 3 months and be working for a minimum of 38 hours per fortnight or 19 hours per week. A couple may combine their hours of employment to meet the qualification criteria. The applicant must also have at least one qualified child who normally resides with them or is part of a family supported by them.
It is possible for the household of a self-employed person to receive a WFP payment where the spouse, civil partner or cohabitant of the self-employed persons meets the qualifying criteria.
My Department has several schemes available to self-employed individuals including:
- The Back to Work Family Dividend which helps families to move from social welfare into employment or self-employment, by retaining their qualified child increase for up to two years. There are currently 2,678 families in receipt of the dividend.
- The Back to Work Enterprise Allowance scheme encourages people in receipt of certain social welfare payments to become self-employed. If a person takes part in the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance scheme they can keep a percentage of their social welfare payment for up to 2 years.
- The Short-Term Enterprise Allowance gives support to people who have lost their job and want to start their own business.
There are no plans to extend the WFP to the self-employed at this time. Any such extension could only be considered in a budgetary context.
I trust this clarifies the matter.
488. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the measures that are in place to support people with chronic illnesses and with disabilities who require additional heating to access the fuel allowance on compassionate grounds. [28059/22]
The Fuel Allowance is a payment of €33.00 per week for 28 weeks (a total of €924 each year) from October to April, at an estimated cost of €366 million in 2022. The purpose of this payment is to assist qualifying households with their energy costs. The allowance represents a contribution towards the energy costs of a household. It is not intended to meet those costs in full. Only one allowance is paid per household.
The criteria for Fuel Allowance are framed in order to direct the limited resources available to the Department in as targeted a manner as possible. This ensures that the Fuel Allowance payment goes to those households more vulnerable to fuel poverty including those reliant on social protection payments for longer periods and who are unlikely to have additional resources of their own.
While consideration is given to any requests to extend eligibility to the Fuel Allowance, any decision to enable the award of Fuel Allowance on a discretionary or compassionate basis would fundamentally alter the nature of the scheme. Any such change would require significant additional funding for the Fuel Allowance scheme, require new administrative processes and support and would have to be considered in the context of overall budgetary negotiations.
Qualifying schemes for Fuel Allowance include Disability Allowance, Invalidity Pension, Blind Pension and Incapacity Supplement. There is also a household composition test and a means test applies to those in receipt of social insurance payments such as, for example, State Pension (Contributory).
Under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme, a special heating supplement may be paid to assist people in certain circumstances. My Department also provides Exceptional Needs Payments which may be made to help meet an essential, once-off cost which customers are unable to meet out of their own resources, and this may include exceptional heating costs. Decisions on such payments are made on a case-by-case basis.
I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.
489. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when a decision on a working family payment application will be expedited in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork [28109/22]
Working Family Payment (WFP) is an in-work payment which provides additional income support to employees on low earnings with qualified children.
An application for WFP was received from the person concerned on 27th April 2022.
The Department wrote to the person concerned on 9th May 2022 to request pay slips. To date, no reply has been received.
On receipt of the requested details from the person concerned their WFP application will be processed without delay and they will be notified of the outcome.
I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.
490. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if he will reinstate the use of a Covid test result text from the HSE to claim the enhanced illness benefit rather than a certificate of incapacity for work medical certificate to reduce pressures on general practitioners. [28155/22]
Claims for Illness Benefit must be accompanied by a Certificate of Incapacity for Work from the claimants GP. This specifies the nature of the illness and the duration of the incapacity for work. The use of HSE texts as an acceptable form of medical evidence to support claims for Enhanced Illness Benefit was introduced at the start of the pandemic as an exceptional measure. The objective was to assist people who had tested positive with Covid-19 or who had been identified as a potential source of infection with Covid-19 to promptly comply with medical advice in line with pubic health objectives.
The number of people claiming Enhanced Illness Benefit has fallen significantly over the past two months. In light of the current public health guidance, the Department decided that the exceptional measure of accepting a HSE text message could be discontinued, and that those seeking a payment of Enhanced Illness Benefit would now be required to provide the appropriate medical certificate to support their claim, as is the case for all Illness Benefit claims. This matter has not been raised as an issue by the Irish Medical Organisation who engage regularly with the Department.
I trust this clarifies the position for the Deputy.