Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.

Thursday, 18 December 2003

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 577 No. 5

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  220.  Ms Shortall  Information on Róisín Shortall  Zoom on Róisín Shortall   asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs  Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan   the basis for her guarantee that no day nurseries will close as a result of the abolition of the crèche supplement; the steps she has taken to secure alternative funding to make up the shortfall which the withdrawal of this supplement will cause; if this matter will be given urgent attention given that staff will have to be let go unless alternative funding is found; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31883/03]

Minister for Social and Family Affairs (Mary Coughlan): Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  The objective of the supplementary welfare allowance scheme is to meet immediate, short-term income maintenance needs. The crèche supplements, which have been provided under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme, were intended as a short-term income support for the parents of children who were referred to child care for medical. family support or child protection reasons by the health board public health nurses or social workers. However, in many cases, the supplements have been in payment for long durations and for reasons which are outside the scope of the original intention of the scheme.

My Department has written to the health boards that pay crèche supplements, informing them of my decision in this regard and outlining the cost of these payments in their functional area. In addition, my officials met health board representatives to discuss all of the measures I announced in the context of the Abridged Estimates Volume 2004, including crèche supplements.

The Northern Area Health Board has confirmed to my Department that the crèches in its functional area that receive support from the board will not close as a result of the withdrawal of supplementary welfare allowance crèche supplements. The board is examining the financial support it provides to these crèches and will seek whatever additional funding is deemed necessary within its child care and family support budget for 2004.

My officials have also met officials from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, which has responsibility for child care supports, and that Department is considering the scope it may have to provide support to the crèches in question.

  221.  Mr. Durkan  Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan   asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs  Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan   the way in which it transpires that a person (details supplied) in County Kildare has had rent allowance reduced and overpayments recovered given the reply to Parliamentary Question No 197 of 6 November 2003; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31886/03]

Minister for Social and Family Affairs (Mary Coughlan): Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  Under the terms of the supplementary welfare allowance scheme payment of a weekly or monthly supplement may be made in respect of rent to eligible people in the State whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation needs.

Rent supplements are subject to a means test and are normally calculated to ensure that a person, after the payment of rent, has an income equal to the rate of supplementary welfare allowance appropriate to his or her family circumstances, less a minimum contribution of €12 which recipients are required to pay from their own resources.

The South-Western Area Health Board was contacted on behalf of the individual in question and advised that in the course of a review of her rent supplement an error was discovered in the calculation of the amount of rent supplement paid for the period June 2003 to October 2003. Maintenance payments of €30 per week were not taken into account in the means test thus giving rise to an overpayment of rent supplement. The health board does not propose to seek recovery of this overpayment.

However, the individual in question also had a previous overpayment of rent supplement which arose when she took up work but did not advise the health board of the change in her circumstances. The recovery of this overpayment commenced in 2002 with a once off contribution. I have been advised that, following unsuccessful attempts to agree a repayment schedule, the individual was notified a deduction of €20 per month was proposed from her rent supplement to secure recovery of this overpayment. The health board is satisfied the individual was fully aware of this overpayment and of the intention to seek recovery.

The correct rate of rent supplement, including the deduction for the overpayment, went into payment on 24 November 2003. However, my Department is carrying out a review of her one-parent family payment in view of the change in her circumstances. The rent supplement payable may be revised in the light of the outcome of this review.


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