Dáil Éireann - Volume 383 - 19 October, 1988

Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.

155. Mr. P. O'Malley asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he has satisfied himself that a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15, has received the correct level of social welfare benefit since the 1985/1986 tax year; if he will investigate the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods): The person concerned claimed unemployment benefit and pay-related benefit on 23 December 1986.

He was paid full rate unemployment benefit and his full pay-related benefit entitlements at the rate appropriate to his earnings in the 1984-85 tax years, which was the year governing his claim. Benefit was paid up to and including 24 March 1988, when the person concerned exhausted his entitlement to benefit. Since 25 March 1988, he has been in receipt of unemployment assistance at the appropriate rate.

156. Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Social Welfare the reason for the reduction in unemployment assistance to a person (details supplied) in County Waterford, whose allowance was reduced from £43.70 to £42.40; and if he will restore it to the original amount.

Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods): Section 12 (4) of the Social Welfare (No. 2) Act, 1985 provides that where one of a married couple is entitled to certain social welfare benefits or pensions (including old age pension) and the other spouse is entitled to unemployment assistance, the total amount payable to them by way of benefit or pension and assistance shall not exceed the total amount which would be payable to them if the spouse in receipt of benefit or pension were receiving an increase in respect of the other spouse as an adult dependant. The section provides that where this [118] limit is exceeded, the rate of unemployment assistance is to be reduced accordingly.

The wife of the person concerned is in receipt of an old age pension of £48.50 weekly. The flat rate amount to which she would be entitled if she were in receipt of an adult dependant allowance for her husband is £72.90. Therefore, the maximum weekly amount of unemployment assistance payable to her husband is £24.40, being the difference between £72.90 and £48.50.

On the introduction of the equal treatment measures the person concerned was granted a special transitional payment of £20 per week to alleviate the loss of the allowance previously received in respect of his wife as an adult dependant. This allowance was due to end in November 1987 but the present Government decided that it should be phased out over a period rather than ended abruptly. Accordingly this transitional allowance was reduced to £18 per week from 20 July 1988 in accordance with the legislative provisions governing this year's budgetary changes which reduced allowances generally for couples in this category by £2.00 per week. As the budgetary increase in his unemployment assistance payment (£0.70) was less than the reduction in his transitional payment (£2.00) his total pre budget social welfare payment (£43.70) was reduced by £1.30 per week.

The person concerned is currently in receipt of a social welfare payment of £42.40 per week comprised of the basic (reduced) unemployment assistance rate of £24.40 and the transitional payment of £18.00. Although the total social welfare payment to the person concerned was reduced by £1.30 per week, this reduction was more than offset by the increase of £1.40 per week in the non-contributory old age pension payable to his wife leaving a slight increase in the overall household income.

157. Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Social Welfare the reason for the reduction in unemployment assistance to a person (details supplied) in County [119] Waterford, whose allowance was reduced from £42.70 to £41.30; and if he will restore it to the original amount.

Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods): Section 12 (4) of the Social Welfare (No. 2) Act 1985 provides that where one of a married couple is entitled to certain social welfare benefits or pensions (including old age pension) and the other spouse is entitled to unemployment assistance, the total amount payable to them by way of benefit or pension and assistance shall not exceed the total amount which would be payable to them if the spouse in receipt of benefit or pension were receiving an increase in respect of the other spouse as an adult dependant. The section provides that where this limit is exceeded, the rate of unemployment assistance is to be reduced accordingly.

The wife of the person concerned is in receipt of an old age pension of £48.50 weekly. The flat rate amount to which she would be entitled if she were in receipt of an adult dependant allowance for her husband is £72.90. Therefore, the maximum weekly amount of unemployment assistance payable to her husband is £24.40, being the difference between £72.90 and £48.50.

On the introduction of the equal treatment measures the person concerned was granted a special transitional payment of £19 per week to alleviate the loss of the allowance previously received in respect of his wife as an adult dependant. This allowance was due to end in November 1987 but the present Government decided that it should be phased out over a period rather than ended abruptly. Accordingly this transitional allowance was reduced to £17 per week from 20 of July 1988 in accordance with the legislative provisions governing this years budgetary changes which reduced allowances generally for couples in this category by £2.00 per week. As the budgetary increase in his unemployment assistance payment (£0.70) was less than the reduction in his transitional payment (£2.00) his total pre-budget social welfare [120] payments (£42.70) were reduced by £1.30 per week.

The person concerned is currently in receipt of a social welfare payment of £41.40 per week comprised of the basic (reduced) unemployment assistance rate of £24.40 and the transitional payment of £17.00. Although the total social welfare payment to the person concerned was reduced by £1.30 per week, this reduction was more than offset by the increase of £1.40 per week in the non contributary old age pension payable to his wife leaving a slight increase in the overall household income.

158. Miss Flaherty asked the Minister for Social Welfare when he envisages the creation of a one-parent allowance scheme under which benefits would be paid to lone parents irrespective of whether they were male or female, in line with the recommendations of the Commission on Social Welfare and the submissions to the EC Commission; the cost of this; and whether he has positive proposals for phasing-in or fully introducing such benefits in the near future.

Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods): The Commission on Social Welfare recommended that a comprehensive social assistance scheme should be introduced to replace all existing assistance schemes and that one parent families, regardless of sex, should be catered for under that scheme. This would be a major change in the present arrangements where special schemes exist for particular categories of one-parent families.

At European level the question of extending equal treatment to social security schemes other than those covered by the previous EC Directive is also under consideration.

The future of the existing schemes for one-parent families will be considered in the light of the proposals which emerge from the present discussions. I cannot say at this stage what changes in the present arrangements will be possible nor is it possible to evaluate their cost implications and whether such arrangements would be introduced on a phased basis.

[121] 159. Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he will indicate the number of disability benefit recipients who had their benefit withdrawn from them on medical grounds and subsequently restored to them on appeal for the nine month period ended 30 September 1988; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods): In the period from 1 January 1988 to 30 September 1988, 17,461 claimants were deemed to be capable of work following examination by a medical referee and consequently had their benefit disallowed by a deciding officer of the Department.

In the period in question, following a second examination by a different medical referee, 1,221 were found to be incapable of work and had their payments restored.

In addition 624 persons had their payments restored following consideration of their case by an appeals officer.

160. Mr. Conaghan asked the Minister for Social Welfare when a decision will be taken on an appeal for a disability benefit claim for a person (details supplied) in County Donegal.

Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods): The person concerned was paid disability benefit to 17 February 1988 after which date payment was disallowed following examination by a medical referee who expressed the opinion that the was capable of work. He appealed against the disallowance of benefit and was examined by a different medical referee on 18 May 1988 who also expressed the opinion that he was capable of work.

His appeal was referred to an appeals officer who held an oral hearing of his claim on 22 September 1988. The appeals officer agreed to defer a decision pending the submission of the results of any X-ray which the person concerned will have on 20 October 1988.

161. Mr. Conaghan asked the Minister [122] for Social Welfare when disability benefit will be paid to a person (details supplied) in County Donegal.

Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods): When the person concerned claimed disability benefit, certain investigations were necessary regarding his social insurance record before benefit could issue.

When these investigations were completed, arrears of benefit up to 4 October 1988, were issued. Further payment of benefit will issue on receipt of medical certificates.

162. Mr. Conaghan asked the Minister for Social Welfare when a decision will be given on a claim for disability benefit for a person (details supplied) in County Donegal.

Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods): Payment of disability benefit to the person concerned was suspended following an examination by a medical referee who expressed the opinion that she was capable of work. She appealed against this decision and an oral hearing was held on 22 September 1988. The appeals officer decided that the person concerned was incapable of work and therefore entitled to disability benefit.

Arrears of benefit due to 7 October 1988, the date of the latest medical certificate received, were issued on 13 October 1988.

163. Mr. Aylward asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he will arrange to have all arrears of disability benefit paid to a person (details supplied) in County Carlow.

Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods): Payment of disability benefit to the person concerned was disallowed from 27 May 1988 following an examination by a medical referee who expressed the opinion that she was capable of work. She appealed against the disallowance and was examined by a different medical referee who found her to be incapable of work.

[123] Accordingly payment of benefit was restored from 27 May 1988 and all arrears payable to the person concerned have been issued to her.

164. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Welfare the reason disability benefit has been terminated in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; if medical evidence has been supplied, the conclusion of such evidence; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods): The person concerned who was in receipt of disability benefit failed to attend for examination by a medical referee of the Department. As a result, payment of benefit was disallowed for the statutory period of nine weeks from 10 October 1988 to 10 December 1988.

He had been informed of the disallowance of benefit on 30 September 1988 but did not offer an excuse for his non-attendance. His case will be reviewed if he communicates with the Department on this point. He should continue to forward medical evidence of his incapacity if he is incapable of work.

165. Proinsias De Rossa asked the Minister for Social Welfare in relation to an employee's PRSI contribution, other than the 1.25 per cent health and 1 per cent youth employment levy, the proportion of the remaining 5 per cent which is allocated to finance the following benefits: (a) old age contributory pension, (b) retirement pension, (c) disability benefit, (d) unemployment benefit, (e) widow's and orphan's contributory pension, (f) deserted wife's benefit, (g) maternity allowance, (h) pay-related benefit, (i) invalidity benefit, (j) death grant and (k) treatment benefit.

Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods): The employee's element of the standard rate of PRSI contribution relating to social insurance is 5.5 per cent and this is paid into the Social Insurance Fund from which all of the benefits listed are [124] paid. The overall level of contribution is fixed having regard to the overall expenditure of the fund and the amount which it is considered appropriate to be levied on the three main contributors to the fund, namely employees, employers and the Exchequer. Contributions are not, therefore, explicitly apportioned as between different benefits and pensions. In 1987 the income of the fund amounted to £307 million from employees contributions, £634 million from employers, £405 million from the Exchequer and £2 million interest on investments etc.