Wednesday, 22 February 1995
Dáil Éireann Debate
97. Mr. Davern asked the Minister for Social Welfare the number of health board areas that are giving supplementary welfare allowance for holy communion and confirmation; the number that are not; and the reason therefor. [4060/95]
Minister for Social Welfare (Proinsias De Rossa): Under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme all health boards may make a single payment to meet an exceptional need, including assistance with the cost of clothing, to persons in receipt of social welfare or health board payments. Health boards recognise that confirmation and communion times involve families in additional expense and all boards assist with such costs. Health boards decide each application on its merits having regard to the income and circumstances of the applicant.
The back to school clothing and footwear scheme which was introduced in 1990 and runs from the beginning of  June to the end of September every year, enables people on low incomes, including those on family income supplement, to qualify for assistance towards the cost of children's clothes. This scheme is administered by the health boards on behalf of the Department of Social Welfare and expenditure was in the region of £10.9 million in 1994. In 1994 some 114,000 families were assisted in respect of 270,000 children.
For the 1995 scheme, I have increased the rates of allowance from £35 to £40 for a child attending primary school and from £50 to £55 for a post-primary pupil. It is expected that some 285,000 pupils will benefit under the scheme this year at a cost of approximately £12.9 million.
98. Mr. Aylward asked the Minister for Social Welfare the reason rent allowance is no longer payable to persons under the age of 25 years; if he will consider reversing this decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4140/95]
Minister for Social Welfare (Proinsias De Rossa): The supplementary welfare allowance — SWA — scheme is administered by the health boards on behalf of my Department. Under the legislation governing the scheme, the determination of entitlement to supplementary welfare allowance is a matter for the chief executive officer of the board. Under the SWA scheme, health boards may pay a weekly supplement towards rent or mortgage interest payments to people whose means are insufficient to meet their needs. In determining whether assistance with rent and mortgate payments should be given in any case, the health boards have reference to regulations and guidelines issued by my Department.
Persons under 25 years are not precluded from receipt of rent supplements.However, the Department's guidelines indicate that young single people seeking a rent supplement from  a health board must demonstrate a valid reason for leaving home.
Such reasons would include moving to seek employment or the existence of serious social problems within the family home which make it necessary for the young person to leave home. Where there are serious domestic problems the guidelines specify that independent verification should be sought by the health board from social workers or others familiar with the family situation.
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