Dáil Éireann - Volume 410 - 02 July, 1991

Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.

118. Mr. Allen answered the Minister for Social Welfare when an appeal by a person (details supplied) in Cork will be heard against the decision to cut her off her disability benefit on 1 May 1991.

Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods): The person concerned was examined by a medical referee and was found to be capable of work following which payment of disability benefit was discontinued. She appealed against this decision to the independent social welfare appeals office and arrangements are being made to have her referred for examination by another medical referee shortly. Her claim to benefit will be reviewed in the light of the second medical referee's report.

119. Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Social Welfare the reason a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7, whose sole income is her widow's pension of £56 per week, was refused supplementary welfare assistance towards her late husband's burial costs.

Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods): Under the provisions of the supplementary welfare allowance scheme the payment of assistance towards burial costs is a matter for determination by health boards.

The board have advised my Department that the applicant has appealed the decision not to provide assistance towards the burial costs. Accordingly, the matter will be considered by the board's appeals officer and his decision will be conveyed to the applicant in due course.

120. Mr. Ellis asked the Minister for Social Welfare if his Department will now grant the full rate of old age pension to a person (details supplied) in County Leitrim.

[249] Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods): The person concerned is currently in receipt of a reduced rate widow's non-contributory pension. She has been assessed with a small income derived from a holding and the rate in payment, at present, is £2 less than the maximum rate.

She holds a free travel pass and receives the living alone, free electricity and free telephone rental allowances. She is also eligible for the free fuel allowance.

I have now arranged for a review of this case and the file has been referred to the local social welfare officer.

On completion of the necessary inquiries, her entitlements will be reviewed. The person concerned will be notified of the outcome as soon as possible.

121. Mr. Ellis asked the Minister for Social Welfare if his Department will now grant a free electricity allowance to a person (details supplied) in County Leitrim.

Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods): The person concerned has been awarded the free electricity allowance and the ESB have been instructed to apply this allowance to his account with effect from the April/May billing period.

He is also entitled to a free television, black and white, licence which he may collect at his local post office.

122. Mr. Aylward asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he will arrange to have a lone parents allowance issued to a person (details supplied) in County Carlow together with arrears at soon as possible.

Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods): The person concerned applied for deserted wife's benefit in March of this year.

Certain aspects of this claim still require further investigation by the social welfare officer. These inquiries will be completed shortly. An early decision on her entitlement to benefit will then be made and she will be notified accordingly.

[250] 123. Mr. E. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Social Welfare the reason for the delay in having an application for a widow's non-contributory pension, for a person (details supplied) in County Cork.

Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods): An application for widow's non-contributory pension was recieved in my Department from the person concerned on 28 May 1991.

The claimant's case is currently being investigated by the social welfare officer. On completion of the necessary inquiries her entitlement to widow's non-contributory pension will be determined.

124. Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he will review the situation of entitlement to the free fuel allowance scheme in the case of a widow whose son is still in full time education and passed the age of 21, in view of the fact that under present regulations she loses both the child dependant allowance and the free fuel allowance, despite the fact that no increase in income becomes available to the household.

Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods): The national fuel scheme is intended to assist households who are dependent on long term social welfare or health board payments and who are unable to provide for their own heating needs.

One of the conditions for entitlement to a fuel allowance is that the claimant must live alone or only with a dependant, another eligible recipient or a person on short term unemployment assistance. Where a dependent child goes over the age of 21 during the course of a heating season the allowance continues in payment until the end of the season. The question of extending entitlement to the allowance further in these circumstances would have financial implications and would have to be considered in a budgetary context.

125. Mr. Byrne asked the Minister for Social Welfare his views on whether, given the numbers of people in receipt [251] of pensions, including widow's and preretirement pensions, the age requirement for receipt of a free bus pass should be steadily reduced from 66 years of age as in the case of old age pensioners in order to allow these persons the freedom to travel as their pension payments are so low they severely restrict their mobility.

Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods): The free travel scheme applies to all those who have attained pensionable age, i.e. 66 years of age and over, blind persons aged 18 and over and to persons receiving social welfare type payments as permanently incapacitated persons. The scheme enables those people to travel free on certain bus, train and ferry services and it also provides free travel for accompanying spouses or, in the case of recipients of disabled person's maintenance allowance who cannot travel alone, for their companions.

A reduction of the age requirement for free travel generally below pensionable age would have significant cost implications and could only be considered in a budgetary context.

All categories of pensioners have received increases over the last number of years which have more than kept pace with inflation. A further 4 per cent increase in the weekly rates of pension will come into effect at the end of this month. Since 1987 pensioners have received increases of around 20 per cent in their personal rates of payment.

126. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Welfare the current position regarding marriage benefit in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods): According to the records of my Department, the person concerned has been married for many years and is regarded as an adult dependant for the purposes of her husband's disability benefit claim since December 1988.

It has not been possible to determine, [252] from the details provided, what additional entitlements the person concerned might be seeking.

If the person concerned wishes to inquire further in relation to any possible entitlements she may have, she should contact my Department.

127. Mr. J. Mitchell asked the Minister for Social Welfare if, in view of the facts of a case (details supplied) in Dublin 12 he will now accept the offer of the person concerned to repay other over-payments at the rate of £5 per month.

Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods): The person concerned was in receipt of disability benefit from 15 November 1978 to 4 March 1987. She has been in receipt of invalidity pension since 5 March 1987. It came to light that she worked while continuing to claim benefit during the period 22 September 1984 to 28 February 1986. A formal decision has not yet been made in this case. However, on the basis of the evidence available, it appears that she was overpaid almost £2,400. She will have a right of appeal against the deciding officer's formal decision which will be communicated to her in writing in the next few days.

When the overpayment is formally established, she will be asked, to make proposals for repayment. In the circumstances of this case, my Department would be prepared to consider repayment by weekly deductions of a few pounds from her invalidity pension. When that arrangement is made, the current amnesty will apply in her case and no further action will be taken.