Wednesday, 13 December 2000
Dáil Eireann Debate
191. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs the number of applications for one parent family allowance, lone parent's allowance and widows-widowers pensions which have been on hand in the course of investigation by his Department for more than one month in the past year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30061/00]
Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): The number of new claims received for the schemes mentioned and the number of those new claims which were on hands for more than one month in the course of investigation from 1 November 1999 to 1 November 2000, are set out in the following tables:
|Widow/er's contributory pension||8,525|
|(Widow's non-contributory pension, One-parent family payment – widowed)||1,499|
|(One-parent family payment, lone parent allowance, deserted wife's benefit, deserted wife's allowance)||17,500|
|One-parent family payment||13,054|
|Widow/er's contributory pension||5,381|
|Widow's non-contributory pension||566|
|One-parent family payment (widowed)||138|
|Deserted wife's allowance||18|
|Lone parent allowance (widowed)||16|
|Lone parent allowance (unmarried)||14|
|Lone parent allowance (separated)||12|
|Deserted wife's benefit||9|
Over the past 12 months, the average time taken to decide one-parent family payment type claims was 10.1 weeks in the case of unmarried claimants and 12.8 weeks in the case of claims from separated claimants. A large majority of these applicants are in receipt of another social welfare payment while their claim is being processed. In the case of widow/er's type claims, the average time taken to decide a claim was 4.1 weeks in the case of contributory type claims and 5.8 weeks in the case of non-contributory type claims.
The relative length of time needed to process one-parent family payment applications in particular reflects the work that is required to ensure that all the statutory conditions of the scheme are met before a claim goes into payment. The number of one parent family claims now averages around 18,000 a year.
It is my Department's policy to provide an efficient and effective service to all of its customers and resources are deployed appropriately to achieve this. My Department is engaged at present in a review of its work priorities and requirements in its pension services office – where the one-parent family payment scheme is administered – in the light of these changes, so as to ensure that an efficient, courteous and speedy claim processing service continues to be provided to widowed and lone parent clients.
192. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs the number of recipients of unemployment, disablement or disability allowance whose payments have been reduced on means testing or other grounds in the past 12 months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30062/00]
Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): Each social welfare scheme has specific conditions that must be satisfied if a person is to qualify for payment. Schemes that are insurance-based, such as disablement benefit, use a person's social insurance contribution record to determine eligibility, while eligibility for social assistance schemes is based on a means test.
 In addition, where illness or incapacity is concerned, medical evidence is required to prove entitlement. In the case of unemployment, a person is required to prove that s/he is capable of, available for and genuinely seeking work.
In all schemes there are review mechanisms to ensure that entitlement conditions continue to be satisfied. This is achieved through a process of a systematic review of appropriate cases. It is also open to a person whose circumstances have changed to request a review of his/her claim.
It is not possible to give a breakdown as requested by the Deputy in respect of unemployment assistance. However, the following analysis of the Live Register is indicative of the general trend in relation to that scheme. There were, on average, 85,875 persons in receipt of unemployment assistance each week throughout the year. Of these, approximately 22%, or 18,892 claims, would have been assessed as having means when the claim was made and put into payment at a reduced rate.
The number of unemployment assistance recipients whose claims were reviewed and whose payments were reduced following an increase in means during the past 12 months was 4,183. In relation to the scheme conditions, some 3,245 persons had their claims disallowed, i.e. payments terminated, on the grounds that they were not genuinely seeking work, while a further 3,846 were disallowed on the grounds that they were not available for work.
In all cases where there was a reduction in payment, the persons concerned were informed of the decision. Anybody who is not satisfied with the decision may appeal to the independent social welfare appeals office.
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