Thursday, 28 April 2005
Dáil Eireann Debate
157. Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will reconsider the situation of a person (details supplied) in County Monaghan; the reason a special needs supervisor on a school bus is treated differently from a home help; if this situation will be rectified; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13741/05]
Minister for Social and Family Affairs (Mr. Brennan): The person concerned is currently in receipt of a reduced rate widow’s non-contributory pension. This is a means tested payment. When assessing a person’s means, account must be taken of any earnings, savings, investments, property or income which the person may have.
It was decided on 18 March 2005 that the person concerned was entitled to a reduced rate widow’s non-contributory pension of €33.80, based on means of €121.05 per week derived from earnings as a special needs supervisor on a school bus. In addition, she is entitled to a fuel allowance of €9 per week. The person concerned was notified of this decision and of her right of appeal.
In the social welfare system, home help earnings are generally disregarded or treated more favourably than earnings from other insurable employment. No substantial changes have been made in these arrangements in recent years.
From January 2000, home helps were successful in securing equivalent status to non-nursing employees in the health service and are broadly in line with rates for equivalent health service staff. It is understood that these new pay rates also apply to the various agencies contracted by the HSE to provide home help services. Home helps employed directly by the HSE now have full employee status, with all of the rights of other health service employees, including annual leave, premia payments and mileage allowances. The treatment of earnings from employment as home help vis-à-vis earnings from other insurable employment for social welfare purposes is under review within my Department.
158. Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if his examination of the proposal of this Deputy to provide free travel to Irish pensioners who live abroad while they are visiting Ireland has been completed; and when he expects to make a decision on the matter. [13763/05]
Minister for Social and Family Affairs (Mr. Brennan): The extension of free travel to Irish pensioners living abroad could have, apart from the cost and administrative implications, legal implications arising from the prohibition of discrimination against pensioners of other EU member states. If the scheme were extended along the lines suggested, it is likely that it would have to be extended to all pensioners who are EU nationals coming to Ireland for temporary stays. Such an extension would have to be considered in a budgetary context, taking account of other requests for extension of the free travel scheme.
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