Written Answers - Social Welfare Code

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 714 No. 2

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  221.  Deputy Róisín Shortall  Information on Róisín Shortall  Zoom on Róisín Shortall   asked the Minister for Social Protection  Information on Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív   the daily disregards of additional income from employment applying to jobseeker allowance claimants in each of the past ten years. [28951/10]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív): Information on Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  The current arrangements for assessing the income from employment of a claimant for jobseeker’s allowance have applied since the end of September 2007. The first €20 of earnings for each day worked, up to a maximum of €60 per week, is disregarded from the average net weekly earnings, and 60% of the balance assessed. Net earnings are gross earnings less deductions for PRSI, superannuation/PRSA contributions and union dues.

Prior to September 2007, earnings from employment were assessed as follows:

Where a person had one or more qualified children, 60% of the average net weekly earnings were assessed as means;

Where a person had no qualified children, the first €12.70 of earnings for each day worked was disregarded from the average net weekly earnings, and 60% of the balance was assessed as means.

Net earnings were gross earnings less deductions for PRSI, income tax, health insurance premiums, superannuation/PRSA contributions and union dues. The pre-September 2007 arrangements were unchanged since the mid 1990s.

  222.  Deputy Joan Burton  Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton   asked the Minister for Social Protection  Information on Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív   the basis on which he is implementing revised rent support rates; if he will publish this research; when he next intends to review these rates; the amount of money that will be saved on an annual basis as a result of the implementation of these revised rent support rates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28959/10]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív): Information on Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  There are currently almost 95,700 tenants benefiting from a rent supplement payment — an increase of over 58 per cent since the end of 2005. The total cost of the rent supplement scheme for 2009 was €511m. Rent supplements are subject to a limit on the amount of rent that an applicant for rent supplement may incur. Rent limits are set at levels that enable different types of eligible households to [530]secure and retain basic suitable rented accommodation, having regard to different rental market conditions that prevail in various parts of the State. The objective is to ensure that rent supplement is not paid in respect of overly expensive accommodation having regard to the size of the household and market conditions. Furthermore, it is essential that State support for tenants does not give rise to inflated rental prices and overcharging by landlords.

Setting or retaining maximum rent limits at a higher level than are justified by the open market can have a distorting effect on the rental market, leading to a more general rise in rent levels. This in turn may worsen the affordability of rental accommodation unnecessarily, with particular negative impact for those tenants on lower incomes who are trying to support themselves without State aid.

The recent changes to maximum rent limits were based on a review by my Department of nationwide rental prices in the private rental sector. The Department will publish the main findings shortly. The objective of this review was to ensure that value for money is achieved whilst at the same time ensuring that people on rent supplement are not priced out of the market for private rented accommodation.

The review was based on analysis on data on private rental prices supplied by the Central Statistics Office, the Private Residential Tenancies Board and publicly available data sources to determine market trends and current asking prices for one, two and three bedroom properties throughout Ireland on a county by county basis. The only exception to this was Dublin, in which it was decided to isolate Fingal as a separate entity.

The Department also received submissions from various stakeholders within the private rented sector. Discussions in relation to rent limits were also held with the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government and key local authority representatives in the context of the transfer of rent supplement tenants to local authority provided accommodation.

It is expected that the reduction in rent limits should yield up to €20m in savings. As the market adjusts to the new rates it is expected that further savings will arise, though this cannot be quantified.

The maximum rent limits which were introduced recently are valid until December 2011. The Department will continue to closely monitor the rent levels in the private rental sector during the intervening period. It is expected that the Department will commence a full review of rent levels within the third quarter of 2011 or earlier if required.


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