Dáil Éireann - Volume 526 - 21 November, 2000

Written Answers. - Pension Provisions.

318. Mr. J. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs if details of a reduction are given together with the circumstances alleged as a basis for the reduction where the recall of a pension book is sought and the reason given is a reduction in rate; and the appeal procedure that is available to the pensioner in such circumstances. [26405/00]

Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): Entitlement to old age non-contributory pension is subject to a means test. Items which count as means include cash income, the value of any property, excluding the person's own home, and the value of any investments and capital which a person may have. Means-tested payments are subject to periodic review and there is also an obligation on recipients to inform my Department of any change in means.

Where a means review warrants an increase in the rate of pension in payment, the resulting [708] deciding officer decision is notified to the person by letter. The person is also given advice of his/her right of appeal, if the rate of payment is less than the maximum rate.

When a means review gives rise to a potential reduction in the rate of payment, the deciding officer writes to the person concerned before a formal decision is made. This letter identifies the various means sources, sets out the manner in which the means are calculated and informs the pensioner regarding the extent of the proposed rate reduction. The pensioner is also afforded an opportunity to furnish any statement or evidence which they would wish to be taken into account in the formal decision. The pensioner is requested to respond within 21 days.

The response, if any, is taken into account by the deciding officer and may result in some instances in further investigation before a decision is made. A letter is sent then to the pensioner notifying him/her of the deciding officer decision. This again identifies the various means sources, outlines how the means were calculated and informs the pensioner of the resulting reduction in the pension rate. If the person concerned is in receipt of payment by means of a pension book, the pensioner is requested to return the pension book in order that a new book can be issued at the correct reduced rate.

In addition the pensioner is afforded the opportunity to appeal the decision to the social welfare appeals office within 21 days, if dissatisfied with the decision. The person is advised to set out clearly the grounds of appeal in a letter. He/she is also advised to contact the relevant deciding officer if further clarification regarding the decision is required.

On receipt of an appeal in the social welfare appeals office, the deciding officer is normally requested by that office to submit a statement showing the extent to which the facts and contentions advanced by the appellant are admitted or disputed, together with any documentation that is relevant to the appeal. In the course of this process, it is also open to the deciding officer to consider a revision of the decision in the light of any new facts or evidence which have emerged.

If the appeals officer is of the opinion that the case can be decided without the necessity of an oral hearing, the appeal may be decided summarily. If the appeals officer is of the opinion that an oral hearing is required, the pensioner and relevant other persons will be invited to attend. Following the appeal officer's decision on the case, a letter is issued by the social welfare appeals office to the appellant stating the outcome. The deciding officer is also notified and any consequent administrative action required is then carried out to give effect to the appeals officer's decision.

319. Mr. Aylward asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs if he will arrange to have the over 80 allowance paid to persons who are dependent on their spouses, old age pen[709] sion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26431/00]

Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): The over 80 allowance is an additional allowance, of £5.00 per week, payable at age 80, to recipients of social welfare pensions. The allowance is put into payment automatically when the claimant reaches age 80 and is payable to the claim recipient only.

Any changes to the current arrangements will be considered in a budgetary context.