Dáil Éireann - Volume 400 - 27 June, 1990

Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefit.

[1117] 160. Mr. G. Brady asked the Minister for Social Welfare when a person (details supplied) in Dublin 6 will receive payment of disability benefit arrears.

Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods): The records of my Department show that full payment has been issued to date to the person concerned. However, on 15 May 1990, he notified the Department that he had not received his weekly cheques covering the period from 7 November 1989 to 3 March 1990.

As all the cheques for this period have been cashed, the case has been referred to an Inspector of the Department who will call on the claimant shortly to obtain further details.

161. Mr. McCartan asked the Minister for Social Welfare the reason a person (details supplied) in County Dublin was not awarded unemployment assistance for the winter months when he was not in a position to work, in view of the Minister's undertakings given to Dáil Éireann to help fishermen; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods): The person concerned claimed unemployment assistance on 29 January 1990 and his claim was authorised for payment at the weekly rate of £88.90 on the basis of a nil means assessment previously made in his case. This rate is that appropriate in the case of a married person with two dependent children.

The person concerned has four children, but failed to supply supporting evidence in respect of two of them to the employment exchange. His entitlement is however now being revised from £88.90 to £108.90 per week for the period 29 January 1990 to 20 March 1990. For the period from 21 March onwards, pending determination of an appeal against the current means assessment in his case, he is entitled to payment at the rate of £5 per week up to 26 May 1990, when he signed off.

The change in rate from 21 March 1990 [1118] arises from a means re-investigation in February 1990. A deciding officer subsequently assessed his means at £103.90 per week from 21 March 1990 derived from his earnings from self-employment as a part-time fisherman. This assessment was based on information about his earnings supplied by the claimant. He has appealed against the means assessment and his case has been referred to an appeals officer for consideration. When a decision is given, he will be informed of the outcome without delay.

162. Mr. Moynihan asked the Minister for Social Welfare if, in view of the eligibility of married women to claim carer's allowance under the Social Welfare Act, 1990, he will clarify the amount of a husband's earnings which will be assessed as income in making a decision of an application.

Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods): The new carer's allowance will be introduced in October. It will replace the existing prescribed relative allowance.It is anticipated that an additional 6,000 people will be eligible for the new scheme bringing the total estimated number to almost 8,000. Under the new arrangements married women looking after an incapacitated pensioner will, for the first time, be able to claim the allowance.

In cases where the spouse of the carer is working the standard method of assessing income will be applied. The income of both the carer and spouse will be added together, and half of this assessed as the carer's means. The means as assessed will be deducted from the maximum rate of the allowance, £45 per week, plus increases for child dependants, if any, to determine the amount of allowance which will be paid.

163. Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he will review the old age non-contributory pension case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny.

Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods): An appeals officer decided on [1119] 17 November 1989 that the person concerned was entitled to an old age non-contributory pension at the reduced rate of £22.50 per week from 19 May 1989 rising to £24 per week from 28 July 1989. He has been assessed with means derived from a holding.

The person concerned has transferred his holding to a nephew who has been resident in Scotland for many years. In these circumstances, the appeals officer has not accepted the transfer for old age pension purposes and the person concerned is still considered to be in beneficial occupation of the holding.

Under the terms of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act, 1981, a person may not deprive himself of pay, income or property in order to qualify for old age non-contributory pension. If it appears that a person has deprived himself or income or property in order to qualify for pension, the yearly value of that means or property is still taken to be part of the means of that person for the purposes of determining entitlement to old age non-contributory pension.

Following representations from the pensioner's solicitors, the case was reviewed in April 1990. As no new facts or fresh evidence were presented, the appeals officer's decision still stands. The decision of the appeals officer is final and conclusive and can only be reviewed in the light of new facts or evidence. If the circumstances of the person concerned have changed since April, he should advise my Department and his case will be reinvestigated.

164. Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he is considering the introduction of payments of assistance to students attending third level education.

Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods): Assistance to students in third level education is provided mainly through the scheme of higher education grants administered by the Department of Education. As far as my Department [1120] are concerned I am anxious to ensure that unemployed people and particularly the long-term unemployed, are given every opportunity to participate in education courses. Opportunities for the long-term unemployed to avail of second level education courses without losing their unemployment payments are available through the vocational training opportunities scheme, originally the education opportunities scheme, which operates in 12 centres throughout the country and under which courses up to leaving certificate level are provided for long-term unemployed people over age 21. At present 170 people are catered for in the scheme. In addition I made regulations in 1989 under which long-term unemployed people can, under certain conditions, take up full-time second level educational courses while continuing to receive their unemployment payment.

I am also considering how the long-term unemployed can be enabled to take up courses at third level and I am making arrangements for a pilot scheme in this area to operate from the start of the next academic year.

165. Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Social Welfare if his attention has been drawn to the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare who is being denied payment for dental treatment as the dentist concerned refuses to lodge a claim with his Department; if he will outline the regulations governing the lodging of claims by dentists and patients; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods): There is no record in my Department of a recent dental benefit claim from the person concerned. Neither is there a record of a complaint from him regarding a dentist refusing to provide treatment under the scheme.

Under the social insurance dental benefit scheme a dentist, who is a member of my Department's dental panel, contracts to provide a certain range of dental treatment to qualified persons. Treatments such as examination, scaling, mild [1121] gum treatments and basic fillings are provided free of charge to the patient and the dentist is paid a fixed fee for these treatments by my Department. For certain other treatments, including root treatment and dentures, patients are required to pay a fixed amount to the dentists with the balance of the fee being met by my Department.

As part of a campaign of opposition to the extension of dental benefit to dependent spouses of insured persons some dentists are imposing charges for extractions, dentures and root canal treatment, which are not in accordance with the terms of their agreement with the Department. Discussions are taking place with the Irish Dental Association to find an agreed approach to the operation of the dental benefit scheme.

Any qualified person who is asked to pay inappropriate charges for treatment covered under the scheme, should refuse to do so and report the matter to my Department. However, there is no provision under the scheme whereby patients who proceed with treatment and pay such charges can be reimbursed.

166. Mr. Aylward asked the Minister for Social Welfare the reason payment of unemployment assistance has not yet been made to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny.

Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods): The person concerned claimed unemployment assistance on 19 July 1989. He failed to disclose his means and his claim was disallowed. He appealed the disallowance and was awarded a qualification certificate by an appeals officer in May 1990 with means of £1.10 assessed against him from 19 July 1989 and nil means from 1 August 1989.

Arrangements are being made to have all arrears due to him up to 6 June 1990 paid to him without delay. An adjustment will have to be made in respect of any supplementary welfare allowance he received for the period in question.

On 6 June he submitted a medical certificate to the effect that he was not capable of work. The question of his [1122] entitlement to unemployment assistance from that date has been submitted to a deciding officer for decision and he will be informed of the outcome as soon as the decision is available.

167. Mr. Aylward asked the Minister for Social Welfare if a decision has been made on the appeal of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny for unemployment assistance.

Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods): Following investigation, the unemployment assistance claim of the person concerned was disallowed from 27 November 1989 on the grounds that she failed to show that her yearly means did not exceed the statutory limit. She appealed against the decision and her case has been referred to an appeals officer for consideration. When a decision is given she will be informed of the outcome without delay.