239. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if the parents of foster children whose attention was not drawn to the fact that they could declare foster children as child dependants on the jobseeker’s allowance payment can have this payment backdated to when they first started caring for the foster children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 49582/17 asked on 22 Nov 2017)

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): The jobseeker’s benefit and jobseeker’s allowance schemes provide income support for people who have lost work and who are available for and genuinely seeking full-time employment. Jobseeker’s allowance is a means tested social assistance payment whereas jobseeker’s benefit is a contribution based insurance scheme. The 2017 Estimates for the Department provide for expenditure this year on the jobseekers’ schemes of €2.5 billion.

Jobseeker’s payments compensate for periods of involuntary unemployment only and for this reason social welfare legislation provides that all jobseekers must satisfy certain qualifying conditions in order to be entitled to an unemployment payment.

It is open to any individual to make a claim for jobseeker’s allowance including for their dependents at any time. There is a requirement under the legislation that persons must claim their entitlements within a specific period from the date their entitlement arises. This period is referred to as the ‘prescribed time’. Under the legislation an applicant shall be disqualified for payment in respect of any period before the date on which a claim for jobseekers allowance is made.

Where a claim is made after the prescribed time, a statutory disqualification is incurred, and payment cannot be made for the period of disqualification. Notwithstanding this, a person may be entitled to a payment where the claimant shows “good cause” for not making the claim within the prescribed time, subject to all of the other criteria of the scheme being satisfied.

Lack of knowledge by itself is not regarded as a sufficient reason for not claiming in time. My Department publishes information leaflets as widely as possible and advertises social welfare schemes in the national press and on radio. Information Offices are available throughout the country for people to make enquiries as to their entitlements. My Department’s website also provides information on entitlements for all social welfare schemes including the jobseekers allowance scheme.