Tuesday, 27 April 2010
Dáil Éireann Debate
296. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of Irish citizens born here who were refused payment for failure to satisfy the habitual residence condition over the past 12 months. [16730/10]
Minister for Social and Family Affairs (Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív): The Department records details of a customer’s nationality rather than his or her country of birth so the statistics requested by the Deputy are not available. However, during the week ending 5th February 2010, the central HRC Unit undertook a manual exercise to analyse the outcomes of habitual residency cases relating to Irish born citizens who had applied for Jobseeker’s Allowance. 125 cases of Irish born citizens were decided that week and 122 cases were allowed. The 3 disallowed cases related to people who said they were born in the State and subsequently emigrated. In 2 of these cases, there was no evidence that the people involved ever lived in Ireland and in the third case the person intended to stay less than a year as his family continue to reside in Australia.
297. Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his views on the provision of payment options for people in receipt of fuel allowance including the provision of a lump sum option and or weekly payment type; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16737/10]
Minister for Social and Family Affairs (Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív): The national fuel allowance scheme assists householders on long-term social welfare or health service executive (HSE) payments with meeting the cost of their heating needs during the winter season. A detailed review of the fuel allowance scheme was carried out a number of years ago. This review looked at alternatives to the weekly payment method including a single lump sum payment. A survey of recipients with the allowance, carried out in conjunction with the review, showed that the majority favoured weekly payments. The review recommended continuing with the weekly payment method.
While the payment of fuel allowance in lump sums could be advantageous for some people, there would also be disadvantages. The lump sum payment might not be used for the purpose of fuel purchase leading to hardship at a later stage and recourse having to be made to supplementary welfare allowance payments. A person’s circumstances could change, leading to disqualification from payment of fuel allowance resulting in an overpayment having to be refunded. Payment of a lump sum in arrears would not be a viable option for persons with immediate needs during the winter period. Many oil companies provide facilities for making payment by instalments over a period of time which allows people to plan and budget for fuel expenses.
The Department is examining alternatives to the weekly payment method including lump sum payments. A number of issues need to be considered in detail including the administrative costs and processes involved in any changes to the current method of paying fuel allowance on a weekly basis. When all issues have been examined, a decision can be made in the best interests of all fuel allowance recipients.
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