42. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection the projected number and percentage of income earners who will be below the pay-related social insurance exemption threshold in 2016. (Question 46046/15 asked on 17 Dec 2015 - Social Insurance Data)

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Based on macro-economic indicators for 2016 the number of employees who will be below the €38 Pay Related Social Insurance (Class A) threshold is 9,750. This represents under 0.5% of the projected total Class A contributors for the year.
 ...

43. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection the average waiting time for a decision on appeal for social protection payments paid on a weekly basis, in cases where there is no oral hearing and in cases where there is an oral hearing, in 2015, in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 45666/15 asked on 17 Dec 2015 - Social Welfare Appeals Waiting Times)

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): I propose to take Questions Nos. 43 and 56 together.
The average appeal processing times for 2014 and to date in 2015 broken down by all social welfare scheme types are outlined in the following tables.
Appeal processing times generally peaked in 2011 when the overall average time for an oral hearing was 52.5 weeks and 25.1 weeks for a summary decision. In 2014 average appeal processing times for an oral hearing had almost halved...

44. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection the number of young persons classified as not in education, training or employment; the percentage of youth unemployment; the way this number compares with the European Union area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 45667/15 asked on 17 Dec 2015 - Youth Unemployment Data)

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): I propose to take Questions Nos. 44 and 57 together. 
Trends in the data on young persons not in education, training or employment indicate that there was a significant worsening in labour market conditions for young people between 2007 and 2010, and that there has subsequently been a substantial improvement that began in 2012. The post-2012 period has seen improvement both in absolute terms and relative to the EU average. Early...

45. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection if she has analysed the impact of the increase in the national minimum wage from January 2016 on income disregards pertaining to schemes and payments under the auspices of her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 45668/15 asked on 17 Dec 2015 - Social Welfare Code Reform)

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): I am pleased that this Government will be increasing the National Minimum Wage for the second time from January 2016, up from €8.65 to €9.15 per hour.
I am also introducing the tapered PRSI Credit as part of Budget 2016, to address a significant issue with the manner in which charging PRSI impacts those on lower weekly earnings. This will also benefit many of those gaining from the increase in the minimum wage. 
Currently Class ...

46. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection the name, position and annual salary awarded to her special advisers; the details of requests for increases above the special adviser pay cap as set by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 45670/15 asked on 17 Dec 2015 - Ministerial Advisers Remuneration)

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): There are four special advisers employed in the Department of Social Protection. The details sought by the Deputy in respect of these Special Advisers are show in the following table.
 Name Position Annual Salary Edward Brophy Chief of Staff to the Tánaiste €144,550 Terry Quinn* Economic Advisor to the Tánaiste €114,424 Claire Power Special Advisor to the Tánaiste €79,401 Karen O Connell Special Advisor to the...

47. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection why a school (details supplied) in County Donegal did not qualify for the full grant applied for under the school meal (local projects) scheme for 2015-2016; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 45741/15 asked on 17 Dec 2015 - School Meals Programme)

Minister of State at the Department of Social Protection (Deputy Kevin Humphreys): The school meals programme provides funding towards the provision of food services to some 1,700 schools and organisations which benefits approximately 217,000 children at a total cost of €39 million. An additional €3 million was allocated to the programme as part of Budget 2016, bringing the total allocation to €42 million in 2016.
There are two schemes operated under the school meals programme. The first schem...

48. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection the appeal process under the school meal (local projects) scheme for 2015-2016. (Question 45742/15 asked on 17 Dec 2015 - School Meals Programme)

Minister of State at the Department of Social Protection (Deputy Kevin Humphreys): The school meals programme provides funding towards the provision of food services to some 1,700 schools and organisations which benefits approximately 217,000 children at a total cost of €39 million. An additional €3 million was allocated to the programme as part of Budget 2016, bringing the total allocation to €42 million in 2016. 
There are two schemes operated under the school meals programme. The first sche...

49. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection her views on the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8 who has been informed of non-entitlement to the Christmas bonus; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 45743/15 asked on 17 Dec 2015 - Social Welfare Benefits Eligibility)

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): The Department has reviewed this matter. Any person who has been in receipt of supplementary welfare allowance and then transfers to jobseeker’s allowance is entitled to the Christmas bonus payment if they have a combined duration of over 390 days in payment from the two schemes. Payment of the Christmas bonus has been authorised in respect of the person concerned.
 ...

50. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection the number of political staff working in her Department, including the role and salary of each staff member. (Question 45792/15 asked on 17 Dec 2015 - Ministerial Staff)

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): There are 12 political staff working in my Department. Details requested by the Deputy are set out in the following table.
Political Appointments in the Department of Social Protection
 Name Position held Annual salary Edward Brophy * Chief of Staff to the Tánaiste €144,550 Terry Quinn ** Economic Advisor to the Tánaiste €114,424 Claire Power Special Advisor to the Tánaiste €79,401 Karen O Connell Special Advi...

51. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection if she will ensure payment due to a person (details supplied) who is now deceased is paid out to that person’s spouse without delay; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 45795/15 asked on 17 Dec 2015 - Illness Benefit Payments)

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): An application for illness benefit from the person concerned was made from 24 Nov 2015. From 6 January 2014 no illness benefit payment is made for the first 6 days of illness. This means that a person concerned would not have been entitled to illness benefit for the first 6 days of their claim. The person concerned passed away on 29 November 2015, illness benefit is therefore not payable for this claim.
There is no record in my...

52. Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection the number of Bills her Department has published since 9 March 2011; the number and Title of those Bills in respect of which a regulatory impact assessment was done in advance of publication; the regulatory impact assessments published; the number of promised Bills for publication; the Bills that will include a regulatory impact assessment; the regulatory impact assessments that will be published before publication of the relevant Bill; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 45814/15 asked on 17 Dec 2015 - Legislative Process RIA)

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): I have published fourteen Bills since taking office, all of which have been enacted. Details of these Bills are set out in the following table.
Regulatory Impact Analyses (RIAs) are undertaken by the Department of Social Protection in accordance with the relevant guidelines published by the Department of the Taoiseach relating to significant legislative, policy and other changes. 
A Regulatory Impact Analysis is not ordinarily u...

53. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection the reason payment of a United Kingdom widow’s pension for a person (details supplied) in County Dublin was ceased; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 45844/15 asked on 17 Dec 2015 - Pension Provisions)

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): The person concerned is in receipt of the maximum rate of Irish widow’s contributory pension, for a person aged under 66, from the Department. Additionally, the person concerned receives a weekly payment under the national fuel scheme.
If the person concerned has an enquiry about their UK pension, it should be directed to the authority with responsibility for United Kingdom pensions which is the Department of Work and Pensions, O...

54. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection her plans to increase current funding levels awarded to service providers under the community services programme as a result of the increases to the minimum wage, which is to come into effect from 1 January 2016; if she is aware of the need for additional funding to be made available under the programme in order for service providers to cover the cost of this increase in staff wages; if a failure to increase funding in line with increased staff payments will place additional financial pressures on already struggling service providers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 45898/15 asked on 17 Dec 2015 - Community Services Programme)

Minister of State at the Department of Social Protection (Deputy Kevin Humphreys): The Department of Social Protection supports service provision through a number of programmes and schemes. The Community Services Programme (CSP) supports community companies that operate on a community business or social enterprise model. Companies supported by the CSP generate and use income from the services they provide to pay staff, meet overhead costs and to contribute to future development. The CSP provi...

55. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection the cost of the dental treatment benefit scheme and the number of persons who will benefit in 2015; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 45932/15 asked on 17 Dec 2015 - Dental Services Expenditure)

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): The dental benefit scheme has been availed of by 312,659 people during 2015. The total amount paid out on the scheme in 2015 to date has been €10.3 million.
 ...

56. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection the average waiting time for a decision on appeal for all social protection payments paid on a weekly basis, where there is no oral hearing and where there is an oral hearing, in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter (Question 45933/15 asked on 17 Dec 2015 - Social Welfare Appeals Waiting Times)

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): I propose to take Questions Nos. 43 and 56 together.
The average appeal processing times for 2014 and to date in 2015 broken down by all social welfare scheme types are outlined in the following tables.
Appeal processing times generally peaked in 2011 when the overall average time for an oral hearing was 52.5 weeks and 25.1 weeks for a summary decision. In 2014 average appeal processing times for an oral hearing had almost halved...

57. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection the number of young persons categorised as not in education, training or employment; the percentage of youth unemployment; the way this number compares with the European Union area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 45934/15 asked on 17 Dec 2015 - Youth Unemployment Data)

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): I propose to take Questions Nos. 44 and 57 together. 
Trends in the data on young persons not in education, training or employment indicate that there was a significant worsening in labour market conditions for young people between 2007 and 2010, and that there has subsequently been a substantial improvement that began in 2012. The post-2012 period has seen improvement both in absolute terms and relative to the EU average. Early...

58. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection the number of data protection breaches reported in her Department this year; the action she has taken to address these breaches; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 45935/15 asked on 17 Dec 2015 - Data Protection)

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): To date this year, there have been a total of 42 reports of data protection breaches and suspected breaches to the Department of Social Protection. 
In 18 of the 42 cases investigations were/are being conducted into alleged deliberate unauthorised access and/or disclosure of customers’ personal data by staff members. In 10 of these cases no evidence was found of a data breach and 8 cases are still under investigation.
In the rema...

59. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection if she is aware of any double insolvency pension schemes whereby compensation will be payable to former members; if she has estimated the potential liability to the State in such circumstances; the action she plans to take in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 45962/15 asked on 17 Dec 2015 - Pensions Insolvency Payments Scheme)

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): The Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2009 provided for the establishment by the Minister for Finance of a Pensions Insolvency Payments scheme (PIPS) to provide for the payment of pensions, in the event of the wind up of a pension scheme where both the employer and the scheme are insolvent, at less cost than through traditional annuities, thereby making more scheme assets available for the pensions of those yet to retire. 
Applicati...

60. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection the status of the implementation of the Youth Guarantee, including the number of participants; the number of these who have received employment through the guarantee; and the amount spent implementing the Guarantee to date. (Question 46006/15 asked on 17 Dec 2015 - Youth Guarantee)

Minister of State at the Department of Social Protection (Deputy Kevin Humphreys): The Government’s primary strategy to tackle youth unemployment is to create the environment for a strong economic recovery by promoting competitiveness and productivity. Economic recovery will underpin jobs growth and the availability of productive employment for young people. 
The Government recognises that as the recovery takes hold, there is a need for additional measures to ensure that as many as possible of...

61. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection the cost of introducing a derogation from the habitual residency clause for returning emigrants. (Question 46011/15 asked on 17 Dec 2015 - Social Welfare Benefits Eligibility)

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): I propose to take Questions Nos. 61 and 62 together.
My Department does not maintain data on the number of returning emigrants who claim a Social Welfare payment to which the statutory Habitual Residence Condition applies. Therefore it is not possible to estimate a cost of amending the provision as suggested by the Deputy.
 ...

62. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection the cost of altering the habitual residence test for social protection eligibility for those returning to care for elderly relatives, by applying the habitual residence test to the elderly relative as opposed to the returning emigrant. (Question 46012/15 asked on 17 Dec 2015 - Social Welfare Benefits Eligibility)

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): I propose to take Questions Nos. 61 and 62 together.
My Department does not maintain data on the number of returning emigrants who claim a Social Welfare payment to which the statutory Habitual Residence Condition applies. Therefore it is not possible to estimate a cost of amending the provision as suggested by the Deputy.
 ...

63. Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection to consider the apparent anomaly raised by a person (details supplied) in County Cork regarding the State pension (contributory); and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 46016/15 asked on 17 Dec 2015 - State Pension (Contributory) Eligibility)

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): The social welfare system is primarily a contingency-based system, with entitlement based on a number of defined contingencies such as sickness, unemployment, old age or widowhood.
There are two basic principles which underpin the Irish social insurance system. Firstly there is the contributory principle. Under this principle there is a link between the PRSI contributions that a person has paid and entitlement to a varying range...

64. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection the per-client fee that Seetec or Turas Nua will receive at the different stages. (Question 46030/15 asked on 17 Dec 2015 - JobPath Implementation)

Minister of State at the Department of Social Protection (Deputy Kevin Humphreys): I propose to take Questions Nos. 64 and 65 together. 
JobPath is a new approach to employment activation that will support people who are long-term unemployed and those most at risk of becoming long-term unemployed to secure and sustain paid employment. Following the completion of a public procurement process, two companies were selected to provide the JobPath service - Turas Nua and Seetec.
It is not intended to...

65. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection the per-client fee for the harder-to-place category and for the easier-to-place category. (Question 46031/15 asked on 17 Dec 2015 - JobPath Implementation)

Minister of State at the Department of Social Protection (Deputy Kevin Humphreys): I propose to take Questions Nos. 64 and 65 together. 
JobPath is a new approach to employment activation that will support people who are long-term unemployed and those most at risk of becoming long-term unemployed to secure and sustain paid employment. Following the completion of a public procurement process, two companies were selected to provide the JobPath service - Turas Nua and Seetec.
It is not intended to...

66. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection her views on extending the Christmas bonus to recipients of illness benefit who have been on this payment on a long-term basis, having qualified under the pre-2009 rules; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 46050/15 asked on 17 Dec 2015 - Social Welfare Benefits Eligibility)

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): I propose to take Questions Nos. 66 and 103 together.
The Christmas Bonus was abolished by the previous Government in 2009. Last year, I partially re-introduced a 25% bonus, and this year, I was pleased to announce a 75% bonus for over 1.2 million long-term social welfare recipients, such as pensioners, people with disabilities, carers and long-term jobseekers. Illness Benefit was never eligible for the bonus in the past and sim...