1489. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social Protection the analysis that has been carried out on the level of activity in each Intreo office in respect of the number and percentage of persons that they have interviewed in each of the past three years; the actions that have been taken on these interviews; the training and job placement rates, respectively; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 35211/17 asked on 26 Jul 2017 - Labour Activation Measures)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Labour market policy is guided by the Pathways to Work Strategy, which seeks to ensure that as many jobs as possible go to people on the Live Register. In line with this objective and as part of the activation agenda, Case Officers employed by my Department deliver activation and case management services to jobseekers across the network of Intreo Centres. Case Officers by their proactive engagement with jobseekers and through the provisio...

1520. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will issue guidelines that would allow staff members, such as classroom assistants and cleaners who work in schools but who claim social welfare over the summer holidays, to be able to resume their social welfare claim as soon as the school holidays start rather than putting them in a situation year on year that can force them to go without a payment while their claim is processing; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 35789/17 asked on 26 Jul 2017 - Jobseeker’s Benefit)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): In general, there is no delay in processing jobseeker benefit claims in Intreo Centres if the relevant claim application forms and supporting documentation are completed by the customer, in a timely manner.
Seasonal workers should apply for jobseeker’s benefit as soon as they become unemployed. Initially, when a person makes an application for jobseeker’s benefit, 3 waiting days apply and payment is made from the 4th day of the claim. If...

1593. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social Protection her views on the impact of the 2012 band changes to the calculation of the contributory State pension; if her attention has been drawn to reports of its disproportionate impact on women that took a break from the workforce; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 36646/17 asked on 26 Jul 2017 - State Pension (Contributory))

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): As a result of more people living to pension age and living longer in retirement the number of State pension recipients is increasing year on year. This has significant implications for the future costs of State pension provision. This demographic change alone is expected to increase spending on pensions by over €220 million this year - not including the impact of rate increases. 
The current rate bands applying to the State pension (con...

1232. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans to raise public awareness of eligibility for family income supplement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 34689/17 asked on 13 Jul 2017 - Family Income Supplement Eligibility)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Family Income Supplement (FIS) is an in-work support, which provides an income top-up for employees on low earnings with children. FIS is designed to prevent in-work poverty for low paid workers with child dependants and to offer a financial incentive to take-up employment. There are just over 57,000 families with more than 126,000 children in receipt of FIS. The estimated spend on FIS this year is approximately €422 million.
There has b...

1233. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social Protection the status of the introduction of a working family payment proposed in A Programme for a Partnership Government; the way the proposed payment will differ from family income supplement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 34690/17 asked on 13 Jul 2017 - Family Support Services)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): The Department has established an internal working group and an Inter-Departmental Group of the relevant Government Departments to consider proposals to advance the Programme for Government commitment on delivering a new Working Family Payment. 
The Department has carried out extensive analysis of its existing supports. The analysis is at an advanced stage and shows the existing in-work supports are effective, and work well in assisting ind...

782. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social Protection the average waiting times from the point of application to a decision being made in respect of each social protection payment. (Question 33062/17 asked on 11 Jul 2017 - Social Welfare Payments Waiting Times)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): The information requested by the Deputy is detailed in the following tabular statement.
Social Welfare claims by average waiting times 31 May 2017
 Scheme Average Waiting time - (weeks) Jobseeker’s Benefit 1 Jobseeker’s Allowance 2 One-Parent Family Payment 5 State Pension Contributory 5 Widow’s, Widower’s or Surviving Civil Partner’s Contributory Pension 1 State Pension Non-Contributory 12 Household Benefits 2 Free...

783. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social Protection the average waiting time for a decision to be made by the social protection appeals office in respect of each social protection payment. (Question 33063/17 asked on 11 Jul 2017 - Social Welfare Appeals Waiting Times)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): The average appeal processing times to date in 2017 for all scheme types where the appeal was decided by an appeals officer, broken down by oral hearing and summary decision, are set out in the following table.
The time taken to process an appeal reflects all aspects of the appeal process including the time spent in the Department preparing the appeal submission. The quasi-judicial nature of the system impacts on appeal processing times wh...

258. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason jobseeker’s allowance and rent supplement was cut from a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9 leaving them without financial support for the past two months; the reason there was no response to medical correspondence and correspondence outlining part-time employment submitted to her Department on a number of occasions; and if she will reinstate both payments. (Question 32024/17 asked on 06 Jul 2017 - Social Welfare Benefits)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Notification was received from the Revenue Commissioners on 3 March indicating that the person concerned had commenced employment. As is normal in such cases the Department contacted the customer to establish the circumstances and correspondence commenced. Following receipt of the customer’s correspondence on 12 and 21 March 2017 an official in the Department contacted them by phone on 30 March 2017 to outline the immediate steps the cust...

573. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social Protection if her attention has been drawn to the withdrawal of the provision of school lunches in a primary school (details supplied) in Dublin 11; if she will instruct her Department to intervene to ensure that funding is made available for this school to continue providing meals to children in a very disadvantaged area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 31067/17 asked on 04 Jul 2017 - School Meals Programme)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): The school meals programme provides funding towards the provision of food to 1,460 schools and organisations benefiting over 200,000 children at a total cost of some €47.5 million in 2017. As part of Budget 2017, the funding for the scheme was substantially increased this year by an additional €5.5 million (13% over the previous year’s allocation) which will benefit over 50,000 children. 
The school referred to by the Deputy has been fund...

606. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will consider allowing carer’s allowance to be classed as a recordable contribution for the purpose of eligibility for contributory pensions in view of the expense that is spared to the State through persons taking on caring roles themselves as opposed to having to engage residential or other care; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 31389/17 asked on 04 Jul 2017 - Carer’s Allowance Eligibility)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): I propose to take Questions Nos. 606 and 607 together.
The social insurance system currently provides recognition of the contribution of recipients of carer’s allowance and full-time carers generally, through the system of credited contributions and the homemaker’s scheme.
Credited contributions (credits) are awarded to recipients of carer’s allowance where they have an underlying entitlement to credits. Recipients of this payment qualify ...

607. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social Protection the estimated cost of allowing for carer’s allowance to be classed as a recordable contribution for the purpose of calculating eligibility for contributory pensions. (Question 31390/17 asked on 04 Jul 2017 - Carer’s Allowance Eligibility)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): I propose to take Questions Nos. 606 and 607 together.
The social insurance system currently provides recognition of the contribution of recipients of carer’s allowance and full-time carers generally, through the system of credited contributions and the homemaker’s scheme.
Credited contributions (credits) are awarded to recipients of carer’s allowance where they have an underlying entitlement to credits. Recipients of this payment qualify ...

167. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social Protection if he will address an anomaly whereby a person (details supplied) who is living alone can be denied a living alone allowance in view of the fact they are in receipt of a qualified adult payment on their partner’s pension but 80% of this pension is being taken as part of a fair deal agreement due to the fact the partner is in a nursing home; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 26103/17 asked on 31 May 2017 - State Pension (Contributory) Eligibility)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): State pension (contributory) is a qualifying payment for receipt of living alone increase, payable to primary claimants where the eligibility conditions are met. The increase is not payable to qualified adults of primary claimants. 
On 1 February 2017, a form to facilitate direct payment of the qualified adult portion of the spouse’s total pension entitlement was issued to the person concerned. There is no record of that form being returne...

275. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason for his signing of SI 71/2017 (Consolidated Supplementary Welfare Allowance) (Amendment) (No. 1) (Diet Supplement) Regulations 2017; his views on whether there is a need to restore the terms of the diet supplement scheme to pre-2014 terms and to reopen the scheme for applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 25387/17 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...

268. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social Protection to set down the number of persons convicted of welfare fraud who have dependents and children; the way in which plans to reduce welfare payments for those convicted of fraud, as outlined by him on 9 May 2017, will affect such persons; his views on whether these measures will create unnecessary deprivation for dependents of those convicted of fraud for the sake of being punitive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 22968/17 asked on 16 May 2017 - Social Welfare Fraud)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Social welfare legislation provides that certain offences are to be dealt with by means of prosecution. The Department’s policy is to consider for prosecution all cases of fraud and abuse of the social welfare system.
The decision to prosecute is based on the circumstances of the individual case and the nature of the alleged offence, as well as on an appraisal of the evidence available. Factors taken into account include the duration of the...

202. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social Protection his views on the proposal that income received by social welfare recipients from the rent-a-room scheme should be disregarded in view of the potential of this scheme to contribute to addressing the housing crisis. (Question 21101/17 asked on 03 May 2017 - Social Welfare Benefits)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Social welfare legislation provides that, for means testing purposes, rental income received by a claimant and his or her spouse/partner where it derived from a property other than the family home is not assessed. However, the yearly value of such a second property is assessed on a notional basis based on the market value of the property less any outstanding mortgage. This reflects the position that the individual(s) possesses a capital asset...

555. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social Protection the cost of his anti-fraud publicity campaign. (Question 19770/17 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...

556. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social Protection the savings targets for his anti-fraud campaign. (Question 19772/17 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...

557. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social Protection the total savings arising from the detection of social welfare fraud as opposed to control measures in each of the past three years; the basis upon which these savings are calculated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 19773/17 asked on 02 May 2017 - Social Welfare Overpayments)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): I propose to take Questions Nos. 547 to 551, inclusive, 557 and 565 together.
Nearly 950,000 entitlement reviews and investigations were conducted across the Department’s schemes in 2016. These reviews yielded €506 million in control savings for the year. Reviews and investigations of entitlements are conducted by social welfare staff, social welfare inspectors and inspectors assigned to the Special Investigations Unit and a combination of ...

565. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of cases of suspected fraud uncovered by his Department in each of the past five years; the number of cases of suspected fraud referred to the Garda; the number of overpayments due to departmental error; the number of overpayments due to other reasons; the amount of money involved in each relevant category, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 19840/17 asked on 02 May 2017 - Social Welfare Overpayments)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): I propose to take Questions Nos. 547 to 551, inclusive, 557 and 565 together.
Nearly 950,000 entitlement reviews and investigations were conducted across the Department’s schemes in 2016. These reviews yielded €506 million in control savings for the year. Reviews and investigations of entitlements are conducted by social welfare staff, social welfare inspectors and inspectors assigned to the Special Investigations Unit and a combination of ...

589. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social Protection the date a tender was published (details supplied); the name of the body which has been appointed to carry out the review; and the likely date of publication of the review. (Question 20230/17 asked on 02 May 2017 - Social Insurance Fund)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): I propose to take Questions Nos. 589, 590 and 592 together.
The Social Welfare Consolidation Act, 2005 makes provision for the carrying out of actuarial reviews of the Social Insurance Fund at five yearly intervals. Each five-yearly review must be completed within 5 years of the completion of the previous review and a copy of the report is to be laid before each House of the Oireachtas within 6 months of the completion of each Review.
The fi...

590. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social Protection if he will consider the appointment of a qualified actuary at assistant secretary level to his Department to advise both his Department and the Government on pensions and related issues. (Question 20231/17 asked on 02 May 2017 - Social Insurance Fund)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): I propose to take Questions Nos. 589, 590 and 592 together.
The Social Welfare Consolidation Act, 2005 makes provision for the carrying out of actuarial reviews of the Social Insurance Fund at five yearly intervals. Each five-yearly review must be completed within 5 years of the completion of the previous review and a copy of the report is to be laid before each House of the Oireachtas within 6 months of the completion of each Review.
The fi...

591. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social Protection if he is in receipt of expert advice regarding the pension age; his plans to increase the pension age further than currently indicated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 20232/17 asked on 02 May 2017 - Pensions Reform)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): The Pensions Green Paper consultation process commenced in October 2007 and was completed in May 2008. It formed the basis of the National Pension Framework published in 2010. The Framework set out that the State pension age would increase to 66 in 2014, 67 in 2021 and 68 in 2028. This was a response to increasing life expectancy, which has been well documented both in Ireland and internationally, and the requirement to make the pension sy...

592. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social Protection his views on the creation of a State actuary’s office reporting to the Houses of the Oireachtas similar in format to the Comptroller and Auditor General’s role or that of the UK Government’s actuary’s department to provide independent information and analysis. (Question 20233/17 asked on 02 May 2017 - Social Insurance Fund)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): I propose to take Questions Nos. 589, 590 and 592 together.
The Social Welfare Consolidation Act, 2005 makes provision for the carrying out of actuarial reviews of the Social Insurance Fund at five yearly intervals. Each five-yearly review must be completed within 5 years of the completion of the previous review and a copy of the report is to be laid before each House of the Oireachtas within 6 months of the completion of each Review.
The fi...

153. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social Protection if a cost benefit analysis has been carried out to justify the cessation of mortgage interest supplement to the 2,000 persons that are still in receipt of this payment; the supports being made available by his Department for those exiting this payment when it ceases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 19042/17 asked on 13 Apr 2017 - Mortgage Interest Relief Application)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): The original purpose of the mortgage interest supplement scheme was to provide short-term support to eligible people who are unable to meet their mortgage interest repayments in respect of a house which is their sole place of residence. 
The scheme was discontinued to new entrants from 1 January 2014. Customers availing of this support prior to 1 January 2014 have been able to retain entitlement to the scheme up to 1 January 2018. There ar...

154. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social Protection if he will clarify his comments describing some community employment scheme participants as being persons who find it difficult to hold down a job; the basis for these remarks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 19043/17 asked on 13 Apr 2017 - Community Employment Schemes Administration)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Community Employment (CE) has its origins in 1994. At that time, long-term unemployment was undermining the employability of many individuals and the capacity of communities to function as cohesive social structures. The alienation experienced by the long-term unemployed often reflected a sense of disempowerment in their communities. CE acted as a resource for communities to identify their own needs and priorities and, over the years, it be...