Dáil Éireann - Volume 473 - 22 January, 1997

Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.

475. Mr. N. Ahern asked the Minister for Social Welfare the guidelines under which the health boards can give assistance towards mortgage payments; and if it is in order to refuse an applicant on the grounds of the level of arrears and on the presumption of fact that the lending organisation may or will take court action for the surrender of the house. [1543/97]

Minister for Social Welfare (Proinsias De Rossa): Under the provisions of the supplementary welfare allowance scheme, health boards may pay a weekly supplement towards mortgage interest payments to people in receipt of social welfare or health board payments. The supplement is payable in respect of the interest content of the mortgage only. The legislation governing the payment of mortgage interest supplement is outlined in section 10 of S.I. No. 382 of 1995.

In awarding a mortgage interest supplement the health board will have regard for the position of the applicant to meet the repayments at the time that the loan was agreed, and that the mortgage interest was reasonable. It would also take into consideration the extent of the arrears at the time of the application.

For the Deputy's information the following is a copy of section 10 of S.I. 382 of 1995.

10.(1) Subject to these Regulations, a person shall be entitled to a supplement towards the amount of mortgage interest payable by him in respect of his residence:

Provided that—

(a) the loan agreement was entered into at a time when, in the opinion of the health board, the claimant was in a position to meet the repayments thereunder, and

(b) the residence in respect of which the loan is payable is not offered for sale.

[1272] (2) Subject to sub-article (3), it shall be a condition of any claimant's entitlement to a supplement under sub-article (1), that the health board is satisfied that:—

(a) the amount of the mortgage interest payable by the claimant does not exceed such amount as the health board considers reasonable to meet his residential and other needs, and

(b) it is reasonable to award a supplement having regard to the amount of any arrears outstanding on the loan.

(3) Notwithstanding sub-article (2), a health board may award a supplement where the amount of mortgage interest payable by the claimant exceeds such amount as the board considers reasonable to meet his residential and other needs:

Provided that no sum shall be paid in respect of such supplement for any period more than 12 months from the date on which the claim therefor is made.

476. Miss Harney asked the Minister for Social Welfare his views on whether maternity benefit should be transferable between employments. [1631/97]

Minister for Social Welfare (Proinsias De Rossa): Maternity benefit is payable to a woman whose employer certifies that she is entitled to maternity leave under the Maternity Protection Act, 1954, and who satisfies the relevant PRSI contribution conditions.

Under the provisions of the Maternity Protection Act, 1994, all women who are employed under a contract of employment or an apprenticeship are entitled to maternity leave, irrespective of the number of hours worked.

Where a woman, who is qualified for maternity benefit in one employment, subsequently moves to another employment, then she will retain entitlement to that benefit so long as it is certified by her new employer that she is entitled to maternity leave under the Maternity Protection Act and she continues to satisfy the relevant contribution conditions. Maternity benefit is, accordingly, transferable between employments.

477. Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Social Welfare the current position in relation to the review of the free fuel allowance scheme; whether the revised scheme will include all senior citizens; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1635/97]

Minister for Social Welfare (Proinsias De Rossa): The aim of the national fuel scheme is to assist householders who are on long-term social welfare or health board payments and who are unable to provide for their own heating needs. In addition applicants must live alone or only with qualified dependants, a carer, a person in receipt of a short-term unemployment assistance payment [1273] or a person who qualifies for a fuel allowance in their own right.

A review of the scheme was recently carried out on behalf of the Department by independent consultants to ensure that the scheme is operating effectively and equitably. Extending the scheme to all senior citizens was examined in this context. A draft of the consultant's report was recently received in the Department and is being examined. Decisions to revise the scheme will be made only when the consultant's final report has been received.