Tuesday, 10 April 2001
Dáil Eireann Debate
43. Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs the measures that would be required to put in place provisions for the restriction of supplementary welfare payments in certain instances. [10357/01]
Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): The supplementary welfare allowance – SWA – scheme is administered on my behalf by the health boards. Under the SWA scheme, health boards can provide a basic weekly payment to eligible people who are resident in the State and who have little or no income. An assessment of a person's means and needs is carried out and, where there is a shortfall in a person's income, a payment may be made to bring that person's income up to the appropriate supplementary welfare allowance rate.
Payments are made where a person has no means to meet their immediate needs pending payment from another source, for example, where they are awaiting determination of an application for a social welfare or a health board payment. Under the legislation governing the supplementary welfare allowance scheme, certain categories of people are already excluded. These include people in full-time education, in full-time employment or engaged in trade disputes. The legislation also provides for exceptions to these exclusions. For example, people on specified education or training courses may be eligible to retain entitlement to supplementary welfare allowance. In addition, people in full-time employment who are in receipt of back to work allowance may also be eligible to retain entitlement to supplementary welfare allowance.
Restricting eligibility for the scheme further or limiting the period of payment in any way would, in the first instance, require a change in the legislation governing the scheme. I have no plans to introduce any such changes at this time. The supplementary welfare allowance scheme is currently being reviewed by an interdepartmental working group as part of my Department's series of programme evaluations. This review is examining all aspects of the scheme including eligibility criteria.
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