1549. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection the amount paid by her Department in each of the years 2008 to 2016, and to date in 2017, for free television licences for those in receipt of certain social welfare payments. (Question 36133/17 asked on 26 Jul 2017 - Household Benefits Scheme)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): The household benefits package (HHB) comprises the electricity or gas allowance, and the free television licence. There are currently 428,611customers in receipt of the free television licence as of June 2017. 
The amounts paid each year from 2008 to date are:
 Year € 2008 53,700,925 2009 55,703,654 2010 57,184,565 2011 57,184,560 2012 57,184,560 2013 57,184,560 2014 52,184,556 2015 52,184,556 2016 52,184,556 20...

1550. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection if she has engaged in discussions with the Department of Communications, Climate action and Environment regarding free television licences for those in receipt of certain social welfare payments, with a view to those persons being issued with a certificate of exemption or similar rather than a licence costing €160 such that her Department is not paying a licence fee to another Department. (Question 36134/17 asked on 26 Jul 2017 - Household Benefits Scheme)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): The free television licence is received as part of the household benefits package (HHB) which also comprises of the electricity or gas allowance. The package is generally available to people living in the State, aged 66 years or over who are in receipt of a social welfare type payment or who satisfy a means test. The package is also available to carers and people with disabilities under the age of 66 who are in receipt of certain welfare ...

208. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason a person (details supplied) is being refused the documents they need to certify that they are a jobseeker here in view of the fact that if they wish to leave and return home they will require such documented certification. (Question 29288/17 asked on 22 Jun 2017 - Jobseeker’s Allowance Applications)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): The person concerned made an application for jobseekers allowance in the Kilbarrack Intreo Centre in April 2017. This application was refused on the basis that he was not habitually resident in the State. The applicant was informed of this decision in writing and afforded the right of appeal, which he declined. 
If a person is unemployed and does not qualify for an unemployment payment, they can sign-on for credits at their local Intreo Cen...

2013. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection her views on whether the proposal to expand the range of public services for which a public services card will be required coupled with the proposal for the card to carry a person’s date of birth constitutes the introduction of a national identity card by stealth; the range of legal and privacy issues such an introduction by stealth would give rise to; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 27096/17 asked on 20 Jun 2017 - Public Services Card)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): The idea behind the Public Services Card (PSC) and its underlying identity registration and authentication process is to provide public bodies with substantial assurance as to the identity of individuals they are providing services to and to provide individuals with greater assurance that their identity can’t be used by anybody else in dealings with public bodies.
Registration for a PSC is only needed once. All other public bodies will the...

2083. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection if a person in receipt of a blind pension will automatically lose access to all or part of that pension if they marry or enter into a civil partnership; and if so, her plans to revise this policy. (Question 28538/17 asked on 20 Jun 2017 - Blind Person’s Pension)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Blind pension is a means-tested payment for blind and visually impaired people between the ages of 18 and 66 who are habitually resident in Ireland. In the case of a married couple or a civil partnership, a means test will take into account any income belonging to the individual and the income of their spouse or partner. As a general rule, the joint means is then divided by two to determine the individual means of the claimant.
The follow...

48. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection if he has satisfied himself with the operation of the JobPath scheme, including the costs involved in the operation of the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 25762/17 asked on 31 May 2017 - JobPath Implementation)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): The JobPath model has a number of key features which enables my Department to monitor the service provider’s performance and ensure contract compliance.
Every participant is provided with a service guarantee - a baseline level of service covering frequency of engagement, personal progression planning, geographic accessibility and in-employment support.
The service providers are subject to regular audits and inspections. In addition my Depart...

294. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection his plans regarding the reinstatement of diet supplements for persons suffering from coeliac disease or throat cancer. (Question 25844/17 asked on 30 May 2017 - Dietary Allowance Administration)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): I propose to take Questions Nos. 275 and 294 together.
Diet supplement, administered under the supplementary welfare allowance (SWA) scheme, is payable to qualifying persons, in receipt of the supplement prior to February 2014, who have been prescribed a special diet as a result of a specified medical condition. There are currently 3,200 in receipt of the diet supplement of diet supplement at a cost of €4.6 million in 2017.
Following the out...

162. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection his views on the fact that no pension entitlements, other than the basic entitlement to the State pension, accrue for persons that give many years of their lives to working for community employment schemes, in view of the fact that such schemes are publicly funded and provide a vital public service; his plans to remedy this situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 22340/17 asked on 10 May 2017 - Pension Provisions)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Community Employment (CE) participants and supervisors are not employed by my Department, rather they are employees of private companies in the community and voluntary sector. Given that situation, the State is not responsible for funding pension arrangements for such employees, even where the companies in question are reliant on State funding. It is open to individuals to make provision for a pension by way of PRSA which all employers are ...

307. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection further to Parliamentary Question No. 599 of 3 May 2017, if he will provide a breakdown of fraudulent claims for each of the years from 2014 to 2016. (Question 22112/17 asked on 09 May 2017 - Social Welfare Fraud Data)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): I understand the Deputy is referring to my reply to question number 599 of 2 May 2017.
As part of the roll-out of the Public Services Card (PSC), my Department introduced facial recognition software in March 2013 to support its efforts to combat identity fraud and impersonation. This software is used to ensure that multiple or fraudulent identities can be detected at the point where a person registers for a personal public services number (...

127. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection his views on the fact that a person (details supplied) who has worked as a community employment scheme supervisor for 24 years is being forced to take mandatory retirement at 66 years of age and will receive only the basic State pension of €230 per week upon retirement. (Question 21147/17 asked on 04 May 2017 - Public Sector Staff Retirements)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Community Employment (CE) is a non-statutory scheme put in place to support persons who are long-term unemployed and other vulnerable groups to gain the confidence and skills to re-enter the labour market. Schemes are sponsored by local community and voluntary groups who provide valuable support services to local communities. These sponsoring organisations employ supervisory staff to administer the scheme and funding for this purpose is pro...

205. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection the details of payments made by his Department, or a public body under the aegis of his Department, to a person (details supplied) in the past 36 months and to date in 2017. (Question 21392/17 asked on 03 May 2017 - Departmental Expenditure)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): There have been no payments made by my Department, or by any public body under the aegis of my Department, to the person during the period in question.
 ...

599. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of persons reported and charged with making fraudulent claims for social protection payments by disguising their identity with beards or makeup; and the number of these alleged frauds that were reported to An Garda Síochána for each of the years 2014 to 2016. (Question 20471/17 asked on 02 May 2017 - Social Welfare Fraud)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): I propose to take Questions Nos. 560 to 562, inclusive, 571 and 599 together.
As part of the rollout of the Public Services Card (PSC), my Department introduced facial recognition software in March 2013 to support its efforts to combat identity fraud and impersonation. This software is used to ensure that multiple or fraudulent identities can be detected at the point where a person registers for a personal public services number (PPSN) or a ...

600. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection the cost to his Department of the recently launched welfare fraud campaign, including all costs for public advertising related to the campaign. (Question 20472/17 asked on 02 May 2017 - Departmental Expenditure)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): I propose to take Questions Nos. 555, 556, 570 and 600 together.
The Department administers over 70 separate schemes and services, which affect the lives of almost every person in the State. In 2016, some 1.7 million applications for benefit, assistance and access to schemes were received and processed and over 82 million individual payments were made to people across all age groups and to employers. The scale of its operations and expendit...

601. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection his views on the way in which the ERIN recording system calculates data and its potential to record individual claims numerous times thereby misrepresenting the figures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 20473/17 asked on 02 May 2017 - Departmental Records)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): The ERIN system in the Department is an integrated file tracking system that is used by staff in offices to pinpoint the location of a paper based case file at any given time, i.e. throughout its life cycle from creation to finalisation. 
The system records and monitors the progress of the case file as it is assigned for action across the office network and to individual investigators. 
When a case is assigned to an individual investigator,...

47. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection his plans to alleviate the financial hardship that will be endured by many persons due to an absence of financial bridging in the social protection system and the time-limited nature of jobseeker’s benefit (details supplied). (Question 17757/17 asked on 11 Apr 2017 - State Pensions)

Deputy Clare Daly: This question arises from the massive race of the previous Government to increase the pension age in 2012 without putting in place any financial bridging arrangements to cushion the blow from the way in which our pension schemes operate, with the result that many people who took early retirement had their pension based on an un-coordinated basis until they reached the age of 65. However, upon reaching 65, the full State pension is deducted from that pension even though they a...

54. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection his views on the fact that changes to the contributory State pension introduced in 2012 will result in tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of workers, receiving in some circumstances, a pension of 60% below the full contributory State pension; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 17756/17 asked on 11 Apr 2017 - State Pension (Contributory) Eligibility)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): The current rate bands applying to the State pension (contributory) were introduced from September 2012, replacing the rates introduced in 2000. The new rate bands reflect the social insurance contributions history of a person more closely, although alternative payments are available for those with small additional means. It is estimated that to revert to the previous bands would cost at least €60 million in 2018.
Since the new rate bands c...

372. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection the whole number totals used to calculate percentages for employment progression rates for unemployed persons on JobPath and not on JobPath, respectively, in the January 2017 JobPath performance report. (Question 18019/17 asked on 11 Apr 2017 - JobPath Data)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): I propose to take Questions Nos. 372 and 373 together.
As the Deputy will be aware JobPath is a new approach to employment activation designed to support long-term unemployed people and those most at risk of becoming long-term unemployed to secure and sustain paid employment. Two companies, Turas Nua and Seetec, have been contracted by the Department to deliver the JobPath service.
Clients receive support for 52 weeks but this period may con...

373. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection his views on the fact that persons unemployed for one to two years and referred to JobPath in July to September 2015 were 9% less likely to be in employment than persons unemployed for 1 to 2 years that did not participate in JobPath as of 31 October 2016. (Question 18020/17 asked on 11 Apr 2017 - JobPath Data)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): I propose to take Questions Nos. 372 and 373 together.
As the Deputy will be aware JobPath is a new approach to employment activation designed to support long-term unemployed people and those most at risk of becoming long-term unemployed to secure and sustain paid employment. Two companies, Turas Nua and Seetec, have been contracted by the Department to deliver the JobPath service.
Clients receive support for 52 weeks but this period may con...

374. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection further to Parliamentary Question No. 531 of 21 March 2017, the commercial sensitivities preventing the publication of individual payments to the JobPath companies Turas Nua and Seetec; and his views on the appropriateness of channelling public moneys to these companies without public transparency as to the sums involved. (Question 18021/17 asked on 11 Apr 2017 - JobPath Implementation)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): JobPath is a payment by results model and all initial costs and the ongoing operational costs are borne by the companies.
Payments made to the service providers are only in respect of registration fees, for persons engaging with the service, and fees for sustained employment outcomes.
My Department does not publish the individual fees to providers because of commercial sensitivity. This commercial sensitivity is specifically in relation to t...

375. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection if his Department is given a detailed accounting by Seetec and Turas Nua, respectively, of the way the €25.2 million of public money given to those two companies in 2016 was spent. (Question 18022/17 asked on 11 Apr 2017 - JobPath Implementation)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): JobPath is a payment by results model. All initial set up costs and the ongoing running costs are borne by the companies. 
The companies are paid registration fees and job sustainment fees. 
A registration fee may be claimed only when a jobseeker has developed a personal progression plan. Job sustainment fees are payable for each 13-week period of sustained employment, up to a maximum of 52 weeks. The jobs must be full time, that is, more ...

376. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection the fee paid to a company (details supplied) to conduct the customer satisfaction survey published in the January 2017 JobPath performance report. (Question 18024/17 asked on 11 Apr 2017 - JobPath Implementation)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): The survey of JobPath candidates formed part of a single contract covering a 2016 customer satisfaction survey of both JobPath candidates and of jobseeker users of standard Intreo services.
Taking account of the numbers surveyed in the different respondent categories, the amount of the contract charge attributable to the JobPath element of the survey was €58,500 before VAT, or €71,900 inclusive of VAT.
 ...

378. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection the detail of discussions between his Department and the management of a company (details supplied) regarding the company’s operation of the JobPath scheme and potential changes which might ensue in the operation of that scheme when the company was acquired by a German venture capital firm (details supplied) in 2016. (Question 18063/17 asked on 11 Apr 2017 - JobPath Implementation)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Following the completion of a rigorous public procurement process, conducted in accordance with EU and national procurement rules, Turas Nua is one of two companies selected to provide the JobPath service. The JobPath Agreement between my Department and Turas Nua Limited was signed on 5 June 2015. 
Turas Nua is a joint venture between FRS Recruitment and Working Links:
 FRS Recruitment, part of FRS Network, is a co-operative organisation es...

237. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection his views regarding the fact that private hearing aid companies are unregulated in the State, in view of the fact that grants for the purchase of hearing aids are made available to these companies through the PRSI system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 16881/17 asked on 05 Apr 2017 - Treatment Benefit Scheme)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): The treatment benefit scheme provides for a contribution towards the purchase of medical appliances, such as hearing aids. In 2016 some 9,500 people benefitted from this element of the scheme, at a cost of over €7.5m.
The scheme currently has over 100 providers, who are required to operate under the terms of their contractual agreement with the Department. This contract covers the qualification of persons providing the service, the scope of...

353. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection his plans to introduce a dental cleaning and payments towards glasses scheme in budget 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 16265/17 asked on 04 Apr 2017 - Treatment Benefit Scheme)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): The intention to re-introduce additional treatments and benefits as part of the treatment benefit (TB) scheme was announced in Budget 2017. 
The first part of this commitment involves the extension of the existing TB scheme to cover some 450,000 self-employed people and their spouses for the first time. I am pleased to inform the Deputy that this extension is now in place with self-employed contributors, who meet the qualifying conditions, b...

497. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection if his attention has been drawn to the financial hardship on those in co-ordinated occupational pension schemes that have retired early, in many cases through ill health, and whose pension has reduced by up to €1,000 per month on reaching 65 years of age in view of the fact they will not be entitled to a State contributory pension until they are 66 years of age and are not entitled to jobseeker’s benefit; and his plans to rectify this situation. (Question 13085/17 asked on 21 Mar 2017 - Pension Provisions)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): The Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2011 provided that State pension age will be increased gradually to 68 years. This began in January 2014 with the abolition of the State pension (transition) available from 65 for those who satisfied the qualifying conditions, thereby standardising State pension age for all at 66 years, which is the current State pension age. This will increase to 67 in 2021 and to 68 in 2028. 
Re-introducing the State p...