Wednesday, 8 October 1997
Dáil Éireann Debate
130. Mr. McGrath asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs the additional allowances, if any, which are applicable to workers on social employment schemes; and the plans, if any, he has to alter or delete any of these allowances. [15819/97]
131. Mr. McGrath asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs when workers who have just finished on social employment schemes will qualify for the Christmas bonus payments; and the benefits, if any, accruing to social employment scheme workers resulting from their payment of an A9 stamp. [15820/97]
Under the terms of the community employment scheme, which is operated by FÁS on behalf of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, scheme workers retain entitlement to any secondary benefits they held prior to commencing work under the scheme. Such secondary benefits could include the normal social welfare benefits of butter vouchers, Christmas bonus and free fuel allowance as well as income-related benefits such as rent allowance or mortgage supplements under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme, medical cards and differential rents.
The entitlement to secondary benefits of those community employment workers who return to the live register when their period of community employment finishes will vary depending on their individual circumstances. By virtue of having paid class A PRSI contributions, persons returning to the live register after completing community employment may qualify or re-qualify for unemployment benefit rather than reverting to long-term unemployment assistance. In the case of persons who qualify or re-qualify for unemployment benefit, their earnings in the relevant tax year will determine whether they receive a graduated rate or the full rate of unemployment benefit. Persons entitled to a reduced or graduated rate of unemployment benefit are entitled to claim unemployment assistance if it is more beneficial to them. However, long-term unemployment assistance is not payable where the claimant is entitled to full rate unemployment benefit. The social welfare secondary benefits I referred to above are not payable with short-term payments such as unemployment benefit.
Secondary benefits can, however, be retained if the person transfers from a community employment scheme to a back-to-work allowance scheme or the Jobstart scheme. As regards the income-related secondary benefits, the position is that, in the normal course, former community employment workers who are solely dependent on a social welfare payment should continue, where appropriate, to receive these benefits.
The Social Welfare Act, 1996, provided for the extension of class A PRSI to community employment workers. Class A PRSI provides cover for the full range of benefits and pensions available under the social insurance system including, for example, unemployment benefit, disability benefit, maternity benefit, retirement pension, old age contributory pension, widow's contributory pension, treatment dental and optical benefits and occupational injuries benefit. The purpose of this measure was to enhance the PRSI status of community employment workers and to put them on a par with other class A workers.
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