259. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of persons employed by his Department in each of the years 2011 to 2016; the details of the current staffing levels and vacancies in all locations, in tabular form; his views on the way the effective delivery of services in his Department has been affected by the restrictions on staffing levels imposed by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in 2016; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 25273/17 asked on 30 May 2017 - Departmental Staff Data)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): The following table shows the staffing levels in my Department at 31 December for each year requested. The increase in staffing in 2011 and 2012 is primarily as a result of the integration of staff and functions from the former FAS and the Community Welfare Service of the HSE. 
 Year Posts People 2011 5,965.57 6394 2012 6,732.34 7154 2013 6,569.86 6997 2014 6,555.20 6962 2015 6,497.79 6898 2016 6,436.37 6823 

The fol...

260. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection his plans to recruit permanent staff to deal with current delays in all areas of his Department’s services in view of difficulties in the processing of maternity benefit claims in County Donegal. (Question 25274/17 asked on 30 May 2017 - Departmental Staff Recruitment)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): My Department, like all Government departments and agencies, is required to operate within a staff ceiling figure and a commensurate administrative staffing budget, which for this Department has involved reductions in staff numbers. Within these constraints, the Department is focusing on prioritising the filling of critical posts. 
My Department is committed to providing a quality service to all its customers. This includes ensuring that ap...

272. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection to outline the other social welfare assistance a person (details supplied) would be eligible to receive in view of the fact that the person is currently struggling financially. (Question 23094/17 asked on 16 May 2017 - Social Welfare Benefits Eligibility)

Minister of State at the Department of Social Protection (Deputy Finian McGrath): Illness Benefit is a weekly payment for persons who are unable to work due to illness and who satisfy certain PRSI contribution conditions. The person concerned is in receipt of this payment at the current maximum rate of €193.00 weekly.
Supplementary Welfare Allowance is a payment for persons whose means are insufficient to meet their needs. Application may be made to the community welfare service at the person’...

290. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection the status of a person’s (details supplied) application for disability allowance; and when they can expect a decision on their case. (Question 23275/17 asked on 16 May 2017 - Disability Allowance Applications)

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Finian McGrath): Following a successful review this person has been awarded disability allowance with effect from 1 February 2017. The first payment will be made by her chosen payment method on 17 May 2017. 
Arrears of payment due will issue as soon as possible once any necessary adjustment is calculated and applied in respect of any overlapping payments or in respect of outstanding overpayments (if applicable). 
I trust this clarifies the m...

147. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) will be called for medical assessment. (Question 22200/17 asked on 10 May 2017 - Illness Benefit Eligibility)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): A medical report was issued from the Department on 13 January 2017 to the person concerned in relation to his claim for Illness Benefit. The report was completed by his GP. and returned to the Department on 27 January 2017. It has been reviewed by one of the Department’s Medical Assessors and the person concerned still remains eligible for Illness Benefit and will not be required to attend for a medical assessment in the near future.
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268. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection the status of an application for carer’s allowance by a person (details supplied); and when a decision will be made. (Question 21449/17 asked on 09 May 2017 - Carer’s Allowance Appeals)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the appeal from the person concerned was referred to an Appeals Officer who has decided to convene an oral hearing in this case. 
Every effort will be made to hear the case as quickly as possible and the appellant will be informed when arrangements for the oral hearing have been made. 
The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of t...

339. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason a person (details supplied) who is registered with Seetec is not allowed to apply for a community employment scheme; if the position will be changed to allow the person to do so. (Question 17462/17 asked on 11 Apr 2017 - Community Employment Schemes Eligibility)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): The aim of the JobPath service, which is provided for jobseekers only, is to assist them in finding sustainable full time paid employment. Each person referred to the JobPath service is allocated a personal advisor who provides intensive individual support and assistance. When a jobseeker with JobPath finds employment, they will be supported by the JobPath Company for at least the first 13 weeks and up to a year until they are settled in th...

179. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection the funding allocated to the Citizens Information Board to defray the cost of consultancy for each of the past five years; and the detail of each of the consultancy reports. (Question 17216/17 asked on 06 Apr 2017 - Departmental Bodies Expenditure)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): The Citizens Information Board (CIB) under the aegis of my Department is responsible for supporting the provision of information, advice (including money advice and budgeting) and advocacy on a wide range of public and social services. It provides some services directly to the public and directly funds and supports an extensive range of services through its delivery partners including the network of 42 local Citizens Information Centres (CIC...

491. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason a renal diet allowance was reduced by €5 a month in respect of a person (details supplied); and if it will be restored. (Question 12933/17 asked on 21 Mar 2017 - Social Welfare Benefits)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): The person concerned is in receipt of a diet supplement along with her primary social welfare payment. As a result of an increase in the rate of her primary payment she was notified that her diet supplement would be reduced by the same amount with effect from the 16th March. However, legislative provision has since been made so that this will not happen for persons in such circumstances and she will be notified of this. As she is due to be ...

128. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection if a person’s holiday home is taken into consideration under the means assessment when applying for disability allowance. (Question 8858/17 asked on 22 Feb 2017 - Disability Allowance Eligibility)

Minister of State at the Department of Social Protection (Deputy Finian McGrath): In the case of means-tested payments from my Department, such as disability allowance (DA), applicants are assessed with any cash income, property other than the home, and capital (such as savings, shares and investments). For all means-tested schemes, there is an initial amount of capital that is disregarded for means assessment purposes. For most schemes this disregard is €20,000 but, in the case of DA, it is €50...

129. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection if mortgage payments can be taken into consideration under a person’s means assessment when applying for disability allowance. (Question 8859/17 asked on 22 Feb 2017 - Disability Allowance Eligibility)

Minister of State at the Department of Social Protection (Deputy Finian McGrath): In the case of means-tested payments from my Department, such as disability allowance (DA), applicants are assessed with any cash income, property other than the home, and capital (such as savings, shares and investments). For all means-tested schemes, there is an initial amount of capital that is disregarded for means assessment purposes. For most schemes this disregard is €20,000 but, in the case of DA, it is €50...

276. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection the purpose of reckonable credits if they are not taken into account when calculating eligibility for various social welfare payments. (Question 6671/17 asked on 14 Feb 2017 - Social Insurance)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): PRSI credited contributions (credits) are social insurance contributions designed to protect the social insurance entitlement record of insured workers who are not in a position to make PRSI contributions. Credits are awarded in circumstances such as unemployment or illness, and their purpose is to help protect the social insurance entitlements of insured persons by covering gaps in insurance during periods when they may not be in a position...

282. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the JobsIreland website is the only online vacancy and job matching service available to local employment services and Intreo, and the only method of advertising for vacancies in employment programmes, such as community employment schemes, permitted by his Department (details supplied). (Question 6766/17 asked on 14 Feb 2017 - Departmental Websites)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Jobsireland.ie is a free online jobs site that enables employers to post job opportunities and jobseekers to search and apply for these opportunities online. At 20 years old, the original site was showing its age. For example, although it enabled jobseekers to search for job opportunities based on job type and location, it wasn’t possible for employers to search for suitable jobseekers on the site – they had to rely on candidates finding an...

139. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection the status of a person’s (details supplied) application for back to work allowance; and when they can expect a decision on their case. (Question 6435/17 asked on 09 Feb 2017 - Back to Work Allowance Applications)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): A copy of the decision, and reason for same, in respect of the back to work allowance application made by the person concerned was issued to him by post on 31st January 2017.
He has since been in contact with his case officer who will continue to work with him in relation to possible options. 
I trust this clarifies matters for the Deputy.
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308. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection the status of an application for jobseeker’s benefits in respect of a person (details supplied); and when they can expect a decision on their case. (Question 5595/17 asked on 07 Feb 2017 - Jobseeker’s Benefit Applications)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): The client concerned made an application for jobseeker’s allowance on 4th October 2016. Her file was referred to a Social Welfare Inspector in order to fully establish her means from self-employment, casual work and property. Unfortunately there was a delay with this process and the Department apologises for this. A Deciding Officer contacted the client on 3rd February 2017, regarding her application which is being processed by the Intreo ...

155. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection the status of an application for a carer’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) including when they can expect a decision on their case. (Question 2293/17 asked on 19 Jan 2017 - Carer’s Allowance Applications)

Minister for Social Protection Deputy Leo Varadkar: I confirm that the department received an application for carer’s allowance (CA) from the person concerned on the 20 October 2016. 
The application has been awarded to the person concerned from 20 October 2016 and the first payment will issue to their nominated post office on 9 February 2017. Arrears of allowance due from 20 October 2016 to 8 February 2017 will issue shortly. The person concerned was notified on 18 January 2017 of this deci...

532. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason a person (details supplied) was not awarded a Christmas bonus; and if this decision will be reviewed. (Question 41016/16 asked on 17 Jan 2017 - Social Welfare Benefits Eligibility)

Minister for Social Protection Deputy Leo Varadkar: The Christmas bonus is a payment equivalent to 85% of the appropriate amount of a person’s weekly payment, which is to be paid to all customers on a long-term Social Welfare payment who meet certain criteria. The person concerned is in receipt of a Jobseeker’s Allowance payment. One of the criteria to qualify for this bonus is that one must be in receipt of this payment in excess of 390 days. The person concerned had been paid a total of 266...

534. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection the status of an application for a disability allowance by person (details supplied); and when a decision will issue. (Question 41020/16 asked on 17 Jan 2017 - Disability Allowance Applications)

Minister of State at the Department of Social Protection (Deputy Finian McGrath) Deputy Finian McGrath: I confirm that my Department received an application for disability allowance from this lady on 25 November 2016. On completion of the necessary investigations on all aspects of the claim a decision will be made and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome. 
The processing time for individual disability allowance claims may vary in accordance with their relative complexit...

564. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection if consideration has been given to indicating on a disabled person’s free travel companion pass that they are allowed to be accompanied by more than one carer in the exceptional circumstances where two persons are required due to the patient’s condition; and his views on the matter. (Question 41524/16 asked on 17 Jan 2017 - Free Travel Scheme)

Minister for Social Protection Deputy Leo Varadkar: The current free travel scheme provides free travel on the main public and private transport services for those eligible under the scheme. These include road, rail and ferry services provided by companies such as Bus Átha Cliath, Bus Éireann and Iarnród Éireann, as well as Luas and services provided by over 80 private transport operators. There are currently approx. 873,000 customers with direct eligibility with an annual allocation of €80 mi...

236. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection the status of an application for a disability allowance in respect of a person (details supplied); and when the person can expect a decision on their case. (Question 40737/16 asked on 16 Dec 2016 - Disability Allowance Applications)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): I confirm that my Department is in receipt of an application for disability allowance from this man. On 5 December 2016 the person concerned was requested to supply supporting documentation in order to finalise the claim. On receipt of this information a decision will be made and the person concerned will be notified directly in writing of the outcome. I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.
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104. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection if an application for the back to education allowance will be awarded without delay as the person (details supplied) has no financial means. (Question 37871/16 asked on 30 Nov 2016 - Back to Education Allowance Eligibility)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): The person mentioned made enquiries about accessing the back to education allowance scheme (BTEA) at her local Intreo Centre. She was given an application form and subsequently returned the completed form. Her application was examined by a deciding officer and she was refused a back to education allowance because she did not meet a basic qualification of the scheme, i.e., that a person must be in receipt of a jobseekers payment for at least...

293. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection if an application for an eye test examination will be granted for a person (details supplied). (Question 36120/16 asked on 22 Nov 2016 - Treatment Benefit Scheme Applications)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): The Treatment benefits scheme is based on PRSI contributions; currently only PRSI paid at Classes A, E, H, or P are reckonable for this scheme. There are two main conditions to be met to qualify:
- The customer must have paid at least 260 Class A/E/H or P contributions since first starting work, and:
- The customer must have at least 39 such contributions paid or credited in 2014, the relevant tax year, (or, alternatively, as in this case, i...

296. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection if a person (details supplied) can be granted an extension to their community employment scheme. (Question 36142/16 asked on 22 Nov 2016 - Community Employment Schemes Eligibility)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Community Employment has three options each with its own set of qualifying conditions, namely:
Part Time Integration Option (PTI)
Part Time Job Option (PTJ) 
Service Support Stream – SSS (Pilot)
This client has been employed by Enable Ireland on CE since 6 January 2014 under the Part Time Integration Option (PTI). 
This is the only option that the client is eligible for as she had been in receipt of a qualifying payment for less than three y...

325. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection the status of an appeal for an invalidity pension in respect of a person (details supplied); and when the person can expect a decision on their case. (Question 36355/16 asked on 22 Nov 2016 - Invalidity Pension Appeals)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 13 October 2016. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. When these papers have been received from the Department, the case in question will be referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary ...

195. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection the status of a person’s (details supplied) appeal for carer’s allowance; and when they can expect a decision on their case. (Question 32607/16 asked on 02 Nov 2016 - Carer’s Allowance Appeals)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): The Department periodically reviews claims in payment to ensure that there is continued entitlement.
Carer’s allowance (CA) was in payment to the person concerned from 13 July 2007 and a review was recently carried out. As part of that review the matter was referred to a local social welfare inspector (SWI) to assess the level of care being provided, assess means and confirm that all the conditions for receipt of carer’s allowance continued ...