43. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection if his attention has been drawn to the criticisms being levelled at JobPath; if so, the way he plans to address these criticisms; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 36085/16 asked on 22 Nov 2016 - JobPath Implementation)

Deputy Willie O’Dea: I am raising this question because of the large volume of complaints that not only I am receiving but also other colleagues on all sides of the House about the operation of the JobPath scheme.
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45. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection if he will address the anomaly in the calculation of the contributory pension which tends to disadvantage those who took time out of the workforce to care for children or relatives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 36086/16 asked on 22 Nov 2016 - Pension Provisions)

Deputy Willie O’Dea: This problem has been well ventilated. We are all aware of the unfairness in the contributory old age pension system whereby people who have paid fewer contributions can often get a higher pension than people who have paid a greater number of contributions. We discussed the issue last week on Committee Stage of the Social Welfare Bill and we will be discussing it again tomorrow. I just want to find out how far the Minister has advanced with the study he is carrying out on...

48. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection if he will conduct a review into the changes introduced to the one-parent family payment in view of the findings of a report (details supplied) on lone parents and activation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 35935/16 asked on 22 Nov 2016 - One-Parent Family Payment)

Deputy Willie O’Dea: There is widespread agreement that the new system for dealing with single parents is not working. We had a discussion on Committee Stage of the Social Welfare Bill. A number of parties from all sides of the House tabled amendments to require the Minister to conduct a review of this situation. I have tabled this parliamentary question to keep this matter to the forefront.
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1. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection his views on the assertion by an organisation (details supplied) that the main impacts of the reform of the one-parent family payment have been to reduce the income of lone parents in employment and to reduce the likelihood of lone parents who are not in employment, education or training take up work or education in the near future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 29009/16 asked on 06 Oct 2016 - One-Parent Family Payment)

Deputy Willie O’Dea: This question relates to the views given to the Oireachtas Committee on Social Protection by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul on the effect of the changes in relation to lone parents and I would like the Minister’s observations.
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3. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection his plans to reduce child poverty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 29010/16 asked on 06 Oct 2016 - Child Poverty)

Deputy Willie O’Dea: I will not take 30 seconds. The question is self-explanatory.
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12. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection the way in which he plans to address the issue of fuel poverty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 28747/16 asked on 06 Oct 2016 - Fuel Poverty)

Deputy Willie O’Dea: The Minister said earlier in response to Deputy Joan Collins that he had met a number of organisations representing the elderly in the run-up to the budget. They will no doubt have made him aware that fuel poverty has become a huge issue, particularly among the elderly. What plan does the Minister have for his Department to deal with this issue? I know that other Departments are involved but I am asking this question specifically from the point of view of income because i...

1. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection the assurances that can be provided that jobseekers who have been selected for the JobPath activation scheme will not be forced into unsuitable and inappropriate jobs given that participation on JobPath is mandatory; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 18818/16 asked on 30 Jun 2016 - JobPath Implementation)

Deputy Willie O’Dea: In tabling the question I wish to emphasise that we do not oppose the provision of programmes to help people to get back into work, but we are very concerned about any question or element of coercion into inappropriate or unsuitable employment, in particular now that the service has been privatised and there is a profit motive at the end of it. There are a number of problems with JobPath which I wish to bring to the attention of the Minister.
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3. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection his plans to tackle poverty in view of the anti-poverty targets that have been missed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 18819/16 asked on 30 Jun 2016 - Anti-Poverty Strategy)

Deputy Willie O’Dea: This question was prompted by a recent report from the Society of St. Vincent de Paul that it is getting in excess of 2,300 calls per week from families in need. What are the current levels of consistent poverty and otherwise? Where does the Minister intend to focus in his budget to start making inroads into those?
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7. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection his views on the fact that only 2% of applications for the domiciliary care allowance were awarded within the standard timeframe in 2015 and that only 32% of applications for the carer’s allowance were awarded within the standard timeframe in 2015; his views on the processing and appeals times for social protection payments in general; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 18690/16 asked on 30 Jun 2016 - Social Welfare Benefits Waiting Times)

Deputy Willie O’Dea: In recent years, the waiting times for the processing of applications for basic social welfare benefits have been gradually reduced. This trend seems to have halted and, in some cases, reversed. I want the Minister of State to address this.
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26. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection if he will provide assurances that receipt of child benefit will not be dependent on school attendance, as outlined in the programme for Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 11887/16 asked on 25 May 2016 - Child Benefit Payments)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Child benefit is a universal payment to help families with the cost of raising children and plays an important role in tackling child poverty. It does not rely on a means test or social insurance contributions and is paid to the parents of qualified children up to the age of 18 years. It is paid to approximately 623,000 families for 1.2 million children with estimated spending of more than €2 billion by my Department this year. Child benef...

29. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection his plans to reform the JobBridge Scheme given the number of criticisms that have been levelled at it; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 11888/16 asked on 25 May 2016 - National Internship Scheme Review)

Deputy Leo Varadkar: As Members of the House will be aware I have already announced that I plan to replace JobBridge with a more targeted scheme later this year. I believe that economic and labour market conditions have changed for the better since the scheme was introduced in 2011 and that the time may now be right for a more targeted scheme. JobBridge was developed in 2011 in response to the unemployment crisis to serve a dual purpose. First, it was to help jobseekers to secure work experie...

30. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection his plans to change the PRSI system to extend benefits to the self-employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 11905/16 asked on 25 May 2016 - Social Insurance)

Deputy Leo Varadkar: The new partnership Government aims to create an additional 200,000 jobs by 2010, including 135,000 outside Dublin. This will be achieved by continuing and enhancing a supportive environment for enterprise and employment.
In particular, the role of entrepreneurs and the self-employed will be central to this ambition. The new programme agreed with our partners in Government contains a commitment to introduce an improved PRSI scheme for the self-employed. In addition, we wil...

33. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection to publish the report by a person (details supplied) on the impact on one-parent families of the changes to the one-parent family payment scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 11768/16 asked on 25 May 2016 - One-Parent Family Payment)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): I propose to take Questions Nos. 33 and 35 together.
Research on activation measures for lone parents was commissioned at the request of my Department through the Irish Research Council, IRC, in 2014. The theme suggested by my Department was how best to engage and support lone parents from an activation perspective. The IRC sought expressions of interest from relevant academics to carry out independent research on this theme. Following the...

1. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection if she will reverse the changes made to the one-parent family payment given the data in the Survey on Income and Living Conditions which show those living in households with one adult and one or more children had the highest deprivation rate, at 58.7%, in 2014; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 1190/16 asked on 13 Jan 2016 - One-Parent Family Payments)

Deputy Willie O’Dea: Before dealing with the question, I take the opportunity to extend my congratulations to the newly appointed Clerk of the Dáil, as announced by the Ceann Comhairle.
My question refers to a recent survey which shows poverty is endemic among single parents. In view of the startling figures set out in the report, particularly in respect of the deprivation rate, is the Tánaiste prepared to reverse the changes she made recently to the lone parent’s allowance?
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4. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection why she has not increased the contribution to the community services programme in line with the increase in the national minimum wage, given that this increase will put community groups under considerable financial strain; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 1253/16 asked on 13 Jan 2016 - Community Services Programme)

Deputy Willie O’Dea: This relates to not-for-profit groups who will have to meet increased wage bills as a result of the increase in the minimum wage. What provision has been made to enable them to absorb the extra expense?
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