Tuesday, 30 September 1997
Dáil Éireann Debate
Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): Family income supplement has been awarded and is in payment at a rate of £ 5 per week with effect from 4 September 1997. The person concerned was notified on 10 September 1997.
375. Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be approved for a carer's allowance in view of the fact that she applied some time ago. [14337/97]
Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): The person concerned was refused carer's allowance in July 1997 on the basis that her means, derived from her husband's earnings, exceeded the statutory limit for entitlement to the allowance. She appealed this decision and following a further investigation, her means assessment was revised, giving her an entitlement to carer's allowance at a rate of £ 6.90 per week with effect from 25 September 1997. A carer's allowance book will be available for collection at her local post office on that date.
376. Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs the reason a married couple (details supplied) in County Mayo, who applied for a family income supplement in early June 1997 and who received their first payment on 24 July 1997, did not receive any payments for the month of June when they first made their application. [14340/97]
Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): Regulations governing  the operation of the family income supplement scheme provide that a claim is paid from the first Thursday after the date of receipt of application. The applicant's claim, signed and dated 17 July, was received by my Department on Monday, 21 July 1997. Her claim was approved and she was therefore awarded family income supplement from Thursday, 24 July 1997.
377. Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs when a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15 will receive unemployment benefit for which she applied in March 1997, some five months ago. [14341/97]
Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): The person concerned made a claim for unemployment benefit on 18 March 1997. As she had been employed in the UK it was necessary to establish details of her social insurance record there. In the interim she was given the option to apply for unemployment assistance but she declined to do so.
While awaiting details of her UK record from the Department of Social Security she was requested to furnish evidence of efforts she had made to obtain employment since making her unemployment benefit claim. This evidence was submitted by her on 20 August 1997. In the meantime her UK record was received. Her claim was authorised for payment on 9 September 1997. She was so informed on that date. All arrears due have since been issued.
378. Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs the reason a person (details supplied) in County Mayo was refused a second companion travel pass in view of the fact that he is suffering from a brain tumour, cannot travel alone because of his ill health and failing sight and his wife is not always available to travel with him since they have a young family; whether a full investigation can be carried out on this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14342/97]
Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): The person concerned is under 66 years of age and in receipt of an invalidity pension from my Department. Under the current free travel scheme conditions, invalidity pensioners may be entitled to a companion free travel pass if they are permanently confined to a wheelchair, or if a carer's allowance is in payment to people who are giving the applicants full-time care and attention, or if they are medically confirmed as visually impaired.
The normal method by which visual impairment is established for companion free travel pass purposes is that the applicant must either be registered as a blind person with the National Council-League of the Blind of Ireland, or provide a certificate from an ophthalmic physician for assessment by the Department's medical adviser to determine if the person concerned  would satisfy the impairment condition as applied to the blind person's pension scheme. A medical certificate was received by the Department for the person concerned from his doctor. This stated that the person's eyesight had deteriorated and that he was unable to travel alone. In the opinion of the Department's medical adviser, the evidence available was insufficient to establish that the person concerned was entitled to a companion free travel pass due to visual impairment. He continues to hold a valid standard free travel pass. However, in the light of this question, the
Department will arrange immediately for further information to be obtained about the visual impairment of the person concerned, with the aim of issuing him a companion free travel pass quickly if it is appropriate in his circumstances.
379. Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs if he will extend the free telephone rental allowance scheme to include mobile telephones; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14348/97]
Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): The free telephone rental allowance scheme is based on the assumption that people, mainly elderly, who are living alone on limited means, need a telephone in their home in case of an emergency and as a way of keeping in touch with friends and relations. The allowance is limited to the payment of the standard rental plus a unit credit for free calls.
The extension of the scheme to include the use of mobile telephones would therefore extend the remit of the scheme and could involve significant additional expenditure both for the Exchequer and the pensioner. Any changes to the free telephone rental allowance scheme could only be considered in a budgetary context.
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