Written Answers - Social Welfare Benefits.

Thursday, 26 February 2004

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 581 No. 1

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  188.  Mr. G. Mitchell  Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell   asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs  Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan   the plans she has to increase the earning limit for the one parent family payment, or make allowance for those with more than eight children; when the present limit of €293 was last increased; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6427/04]

Minister for Social and Family Affairs (Mary Coughlan): Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  Policy under the one parent family payment is to encourage and facilitate lone parents in moving into the paid labour force so that they may avoid long-term welfare dependency. The main element of this policy is an earnings disregard of €146.50 per week. Earnings above this limit are assessed at 50%, up to a maximum of €293 per week. These limits have been in place since 1997. The earnings disregard is designed to assist in overcoming the particular obstacles which lone parents may face in taking up employment and training opportunities and to encourage them to return to employment, instead of remaining dependent on social welfare payments. Lone parents who exceed the upper income limit applying under the one parent family payment may be eligible for the family income supplement.

The family income supplement, by providing cash support for employees with families on low earnings, preserves the incentive to remain in employment in circumstances where the employee might only be marginally better off than if s/he were claiming other social welfare payments.

I am satisfied that the social welfare arrangements in place for lone parents are appropriate and support general policy in this area, which is to provide income support for lone parents while at the same time encouraging them to consider employment as a realistic alternative to long-term welfare dependency. The position is being kept under review and changes will be considered when necessary.

  189.  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   when a companion pass will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6433/04]

Minister for Social and Family Affairs (Mary Coughlan): Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  People in receipt of an invalidity [223]pension who are medically certified as unfit to travel alone are entitled to a companion free travel pass from my Department.

The person concerned is in receipt of an invalidity pension and a standard free travel pass which entitles her to travel free. Late last year she applied for a companion free travel pass. The medical report forwarded by her in support of her application was sent to my Department’s chief medical adviser for his advice.

The chief medical adviser considered that the person concerned did not satisfy the medical criteria for receipt of a companion free travel pass, and that she is fit to travel unaccompanied. Based on this advice, the Department refused her application. The case was further reviewed following an examination by another medical adviser and following further information supplied by the person concerned the decision was unchanged. However, I am having the case examined again in the light of the Deputy’s representations on the matter.

  190.  Mr. McGuinness  Information on John McGuinness  Zoom on John McGuinness   asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs  Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan   if the rent allowance being awarded to persons (details supplied) in County Kilkenny will be increased in view of their medical and financial circumstances. [6480/04]

Minister for Social and Family Affairs (Mary Coughlan): Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  Subject to certain conditions, the supplementary welfare allowance scheme provides for the payment of a weekly or monthly supplement in respect of rent to eligible people in the State whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation needs and who do not have accommodation available from any other source.

The scheme is administered on behalf of my Department by the health boards and neither I nor my Department have any function in deciding entitlement in individual cases.

Rent supplements are subject to a means test and are normally calculated to ensure that a [224]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, currently €13.

In addition to the minimum contribution, each applicant is required to contribute towards his or her rent any additional assessable means that he or she may have over and above the appropriate rate of basic supplementary welfare allowance.

The South Eastern Health Board was contacted on behalf of the family in question and has advised that the amount of rent supplement in payment, which incorporates a disregard of €120 per week in respect of rehabilitative earnings, is the maximum amount payable in this case.

  191.  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 reason rent allowance has been reduced in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare whose rent has remained at its present level for the past two years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6515/04]

Minister for Social and Family Affairs (Mary Coughlan): Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  One of the conditions for receipt of rent supplement is that applicants are required to make a minimum contribution towards their rent from their own resources.

With effect from 5 January 2004, the rate of the minimum contribution increased from €12 to €13 per week. This increase maintains the relationship between the minimum contribution and the personal rate of basic supplementary welfare allowance which was increased by €10 in the recent budget.

The South Western Area Health Board was contacted on behalf of the individual in question and has advised that the recent reduction in the amount of rent supplement in payment is a result of the increase in the rate of minimum contribution required from all rent supplement recipients.


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