Written Answers - Social Welfare Code

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 720 No. 3

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  360.  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 respective gross cost to the Exchequer if the withdrawal rate above allowances for rent supplement was changed from 75% to 15%, 20%, 25%, and so on at intervals of 5% up to 60%. [39692/10]

  361.  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 respective gross cost to the Exchequer if the withdrawal rate above allowances for mortgage interest supplement was changed from 75% to 15%, 20%, 25%, and so on at intervals of 5% up to 60%. [39693/10]

  362.  Deputy Brian Hayes  Information on Brian Hayes  Zoom on Brian Hayes   asked the Minister for Social Protection  Information on Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív   the estimated cost of rent allowance and rent subsidiary to the Exchequer for 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39694/10]

  366.  Deputy Martin Ferris  Information on Martin Ferris  Zoom on Martin Ferris   asked the Minister for Social Protection  Information on Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív   the amount of money allocated in 2009 and 2010 for rent allowance. [39765/10]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív): Information on Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  I propose to take Questions Nos. 360 to 362, inclusive, and 366 together.

There are currently 96,500 people in receipt of rent supplement, an increase of 62% since the end of December 2007. The outturn for rent supplement for 2009 was €511m with €509m provided for in 2010.

It is not possible to provide an accurate cost to the exchequer if the withdrawal rates for rent and mortgage interest supplements were adjusted due to the many variables in determining a person’s entitlement. Some of factors which affect the amount of rent or mortgage interest supplement payable include:

The accommodation cost,

The household composition,

Any special needs or circumstances the applicant may have or require,

The applicant’s earnings and its impact on the rate of primary scheme payable (e.g. jobseeker’s allowance/benefit, one parent family payment),

The different types of incomes that an applicant may have, for example maintenance payment or income from investments,

The location of the accommodation, and

[735]The number of hours per week worked; the supplements are not payable where a member of the household works for 30 or more hours per week.

The current assessment of means for these schemes provides for a gradual withdrawal of payment as hours of employment or earnings increase. Those availing of part-time employment and/or training opportunities can continue to receive a rent or mortgage interest supplement subject to their satisfying the standard means assessment rules. Since June 2007, where a person has additional income in excess of the standard weekly rate of supplementary welfare allowance, the first €75 of such additional income is disregarded with 75% of any additional income above €75 being contributed toward the accommodation cost. This ensures that those returning to work or participating in training schemes are better off as a result of taking up such an opportunity.

The tabular statement below shows the impact of adjusting the withdrawal rate for a person with an income of €250 per week in excess of the SWA appropriate to their circumstances. This statement shows that as the withdrawal rate reduces the amount of supplement payable increases.

Overall, I am satisfied that the rent and mortgage interest supplement schemes provide for a gradual withdrawal of payment as hours worked and earning increase and have no plans at present to change these arrangements.

Adjustment to withdrawal rate

Income above the SWA Rate 250.00
Income disregard 75.00
Accommodation cost per week 250.00
Minimum contribution 24.00

Withdrawal Rate Tenant Contribution Supplement Payable
%
Withdrawal Rate* 75 155.25 94.75
Withdrawal Rate 65 137.75 112.25
Withdrawal Rate 55 120.25 129.75
Withdrawal Rate 45 102.75 147.25
Withdrawal Rate 35 85.25 164.75
Withdrawal Rate 25 67.75 182.25
Withdrawal Rate 15 50.25 199.75
Withdrawal Rate 5 32.75 217.25

Under the current withdrawal rate, the first €75 in excess of the SWA rate is disregarded in full with 75% of any additional income in excess of this amount being contributed towards the accommodation cost.

  363.  Deputy Jack Wall  Information on Jack Wall  Zoom on Jack Wall   asked the Minister for Social Protection  Information on Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív   his views on a submission (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39702/10]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív): Information on Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  In considering any changes to social welfare schemes, full consideration is given to the impact of any proposals on the recipients [736]involved. The Government is acutely aware and appreciative of the contribution made by carers. It was for that reason, that when resources were available, we invested heavily in improving social welfare rates and services for carers. Following this year’s Budget, the carer’s allowance rate for carers over 66 years of age has not changed and remains at €239. The rate of carer’s allowance for someone under 66 is €212.

Since the introduction of the carer’s allowance in 1990 payments to carers have been increased and expanded. Carer’s allowance was increased in 2007, 2008 and 2009 by 12.1%, 6.5% and 3.3%, respectively. As a result, even with the reduction announced in the last Budget for carers under 66, the weekly rate of payment for the carers allowance is still almost 20% higher this year than in 2006 and more than 147% higher than in 1997.

The means test for carer’s allowance has been significantly eased over the years, and is now one of the most generous means tests in the social welfare system, most notably with regard to spouse’s earnings. Since April 2008, the income disregard has been €332.50 per week for a single person and €665 per week for a couple. This means that a couple with two children can earn in the region of €37,200 and qualify for the maximum rate of carer’s allowance as well as the associated free travel and household benefits. A couple with an income in the region of €60,400 can still qualify for a minimum payment, as well as the associated free travel and household benefits package. These levels surpass the ‘Towards 2016’ commitment to ensure those on average industrial earnings continue to qualify for a full carer’s allowance.

From June 2005, the annual respite care grant was extended to all carers who are providing full time care to a person who needs such care, regardless of their income. The rate of the respite care grant has also been increased to €1,700 per year in respect of each care recipient since June 2008.

As regards the suggestion to increase the number of hours a carer can engage in employment from 15 to 19 hours per week, the fundamental qualifying condition for carer’s allowance, carers’ benefit and the respite care grant is that the carer must be providing “full time care and attention” to a person who needs it. Prior to June 2006 people could engage in employment outside the home for up to 10 hours per week and still qualify for payment. Since then, the number of hours a person can engage in employment, self-employment, training or education outside the home has increased from 10 to 15 hours per week. This relaxation was introduced to recognise the value of work for the carer in terms of additional income, self-esteem, a form of respite and retention of involvement in the workforce. This improvement applies to carer’s allowance, carer’s benefit and the respite care grant. Similarly, a person on carer’s leave can also engage in employment, education or training outside the home for up to 15 hours per week.

It is important, however, to protect the needs of the care recipient. The qualifying conditions for the payment are such that the person receiving care is medially assessed as needing it on a full-time basis. Any further change would necessarily dilute the very notion of “full time care and attention” and directly impact on the person who needs that care. The Government will continue to support carers and the people they care for within the resources available.

  364.  Deputy Jack Wall  Information on Jack Wall  Zoom on Jack Wall   asked the Minister for Social Protection  Information on Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív   his views on a submission (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39703/10]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív): Information on Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  In considering any changes to social welfare schemes, full consideration is given to the impact of any proposals on the recipients involved. The Government is acutely aware and appreciative of the contribution made by carers. It was for that reason, that when resources were available, we invested heavily in improving social welfare rates and services for carers. Following this year’s Budget, the carer’s [737]allowance rate for carers over 66 years of age has not changed and remains at €239. The rate of carer’s allowance for someone under 66 is €212.

Since the introduction of the carer’s allowance in 1990 payments to carers have been increased and expanded. Carer’s allowance was increased in 2007, 2008 and 2009 by 12.1%, 6.5% and 3.3%, respectively. As a result, even with the reduction announced in the last Budget for carers under 66, the weekly rate of payment for the carers allowance is still almost 20% higher this year than in 2006 and more than 147% higher than in 1997. The means test for carer’s allowance has been significantly eased over the years, and is now one of the most generous means tests in the social welfare system, most notably with regard to spouse’s earnings.

Since April 2008, the income disregard has been €332.50 per week for a single person and €665 per week for a couple. This means that a couple with two children can earn in the region of €37,200 and qualify for the maximum rate of carer’s allowance as well as the associated free travel and household benefits. A couple with an income in the region of €60,400 can still qualify for a minimum payment, as well as the associated free travel and household benefits package. These levels surpass the ‘Towards 2016’ commitment to ensure those on average industrial earnings continue to qualify for a full carer’s allowance.

From June 2005, the annual respite care grant was extended to all carers who are providing full time care to a person who needs such care, regardless of their income. The rate of the respite care grant has also been increased to €1,700 per year in respect of each care recipient since June 2008.

As regards the issue of access to the warmer home scheme, this scheme is operated by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) which is under the aegis of the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. In carrying out its function the SEAI has decided to prioritise those in receipt of the fuel allowance. While carers are not in receipt of the fuel allowance, they do receive the household benefits package and free travel which represents a significant additional level of support. In the case of this submission, the care recipient is in receipt of fuel allowance and could, therefore, apply for the warmer home scheme. The Government will continue to support carers and the people they care for within the resources available.

Question No. 365 withdrawn.

Question No. 366 answered with Question No. 360.


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