Dáil Éireann - Volume 417 - 12 March, 1992

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Child Benefit Applications.

4. Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Social Welfare when the practice was instituted of requiring applicants for child benefit to include the RSI number of their spouses on the application forms; the reason this practice was introduced; if, in light of the recent Government decision to discontinue the requirement for farmers applying for headage grant payments to supply their RSI numbers, he will discontinue the requirement in the case of child benefit requirements; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Mr. McCreevy: The practice of requesting applicants for child benefit to quote their own and their spouse's RSI numbers started in 1983. The RSI number is the common reference number used in the majority of schemes operated by my Department.

In April 1991, responsibility for the allocation of RSI numbers was transferred from the Revenue Commissioners to my Department. This represented the first step towards the development of a national index for welfare purposes based on the RSI number which will improve [783] efficiency and also simplify the process for clients when making applications for the various benefits and allowances to which they may be entitled. For example, the cross-referencing, when completed, will allow increases in respect of dependent children to be awarded automatically when other claims are lodged.

I believe that the current arrangements will provide substantial benefits over the years, and I see no reason therefore to discontinue the practice.

Mr. Ferris: First I might congratulate the Minister on his appointment. Would the Minister agree that women are entitled to these payments and that compelling them to submit their spouse's RSI number is an abuse of or an intrusion into the equality area, since this payment is intended specifically for women in the home? Would the Minster agree that this could lead to the future taxation of these benefits, as has been suggested by his Department in other areas?

Mr. McCreevy: I do not agree. About 85 per cent of all child benefit cases now have the RSI number. Perhaps the Deputies received representations from the 15 per cent who are outside this system and have been asked the question. I hope to have the RSI number as a standard practice for all schemes in my Department as it would be one way to clear up many anomalies.