Dáil Éireann - Volume 446 - 02 November, 1994

Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.

99. Mr. H. Byrne asked the Minister for Social Welfare the number of people in receipt of social welfare payments and the type of such payments in respect of the area of County Wexford comprising Duncannon, Ramsgrange, Fethard, Clongeen and Tintern; if informations is not available for the exact areas as requested, if he will give the figure for the nearest approximate area and details of the area for which the figures are available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2503/94]

Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods): Statistics are not kept in the form requested by the Deputy. [1521] However a breakdown on the number of recipients on a county by county basis is compiled at the end of each calendar year and the Central Statistics Office publishes a monthly area analysis of the Live Register of the unemployed.

Table A attached, sets out by payment type, the number of recipients of social welfare payments in County Wexford at 31 December 1993.

The number of people on the Live Register at 30 September 1994 at the New Ross office was 1,874. This figure includes 1,241 people on unemployment assistance, 468 on unemployment benefit and 165 on credits.

Table A.

Number of Recipients by Scheme Type in County Wexford at 31 December 1993.

Scheme Type

No. of recipients

Old Age Contributory Pension

1,642

Retirement Pension

1,776

Old Age Non-Contributory Pension

3,367

Pre-Retirement Allowance

605

Widow's Contributory Pension

2,449

Widow's Non-Contributory Pension

554

Deserted Wife's Benefit

284

Deserted Wife's Allowance

91

Loan Parents' Allowance

1,208

Family Income Supplement

454

Carer's Allowance

139

Maternity Benefit

89

Disability Benefit

1,034

Invalidity Pension

1,071

Injury Benefit

28

100. Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Social Welfare the reason a person (details supplied) in County Cork is not receiving deserted wife's benefit. [2508/94]

Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods): The person concerned is in receipt of a deserted wife's allowance of £17 per week which takes into account her income from self-employment and the maintenance payment she is receiving. Her application for deserted wife's benefit was refused on the grounds that her statutory contribution conditions [1522] were not satisfied either on her own insuranace, there is no record of insurance in her case, or on the husband's Irish insurance record.

The person concerned appealed the decision and a number of complex issues of a legal nature were raised on which legal advice was sought. This is currently being considered by my Department and the person's possible entitlement to deserted wife's benefit is being further examined in the light of this. She will be notified of the outcome as soon as possible.

101. Ms McManus asked the Minister for Social Welfare if his attention has been drawn to the fact that women who want to return to the workforce after some years absence are not being allowed to sign for credits, thereby making them ineligible for courses such as the return to work course; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2514/94]

Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods): Credited contributions are awarded to preserve the contribution record of an unemployed person. Such credits may subsequently be of value in satisfying the contribution conditions for different social welfare entitlements. Credits are only awarded where the person has had an attachment to the workforce over the previous two year period.

Social welfare legislation provides that where no employment contributions, paid or credited, have been awarded for two consecutive contribution years, a credited contribution cannot be awarded until a further 26 contributions have been paid at the appropriate Class A1 rate.

102. Ms McManus asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he will have arrangements made to examine the system whereby a deserted wife can lose her benefit if she receives a pay increase in view of the fact that other categories such as widows would not lose their benefit; the reason the number of children is not taken into account when [1523] assessing income levels for deserted wives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2593/94]

Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods): The deserted wives benefit scheme was introduced as a response to a particular need which arose for some married women whose husbands had left them, many of whom had given up paid employment on marriage. This need still exists. There is to my knowledge, no comparable insurance scheme relating to desertion in any other EU country.

To avoid a sudden withdrawal of benefit the income limit for the scheme is tapered and entitlement is graduated from £10,000 to £14,000. As a result those who qualify for a reduced entitlement, i.e. with income of between £10,000 and £14,000, still receive a full allowance for each child dependant. A small number of women is affected by this income limit.

103. Mr. E. Kenny asked the Minister for Social Welfare if a person (details supplied) in County Mayo is eligible for free electricity allowance, free fuel, free telephone rental and free television licence. [2700/94]

Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods): The person concerned is in receipt of a free electricity allowance and free television licence from my Department.

A free telephone rental allowance is also in payment to the spouse of the person concerned at this address. Under the rules governing the free telephone rental allowance schemes only one allowance can be awarded per household.

An application for a free fuel allowance by the person concerned was refused on the grounds that the qualifying conditions were not satisfied. According to the information available to my Department, a son of the pensioner, who is currently in employment, [1524] also resides in the household. As a person in employment does not come within the categories of people who may reside with an applicant for the purposes of an allowance under the national fuel scheme, a fuel allowance cannot be awarded in this case.

104. Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Social Welfare the plans, if any, he has to exempt for dole assessment purposes, any moneys received by farmers under the rural environmental protection scheme; if his attention has been drawn to the anxiety felt by many farmers in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2721/94]

Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods): I am at present considering proposals for the relaxation of the rules for assessment of means for unemployment assistance purposes as they apply to payments under the rural environment protection scheme. I am aware of the importance of this scheme and I am concerned to ensure that it is availed of to the maximum possible extent. I hope to be in a position to make an announcement in this regard in the near future.

105. Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Social Welfare the proposals, if any, he has to change the regulations whereby old age pensioners in receipt of a free fuel allowance are refused a free coloured television licence. [2723/94]

Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods): Under my Department's free television licence scheme, a free black and white television licence is provided to about 180,000 pensioners and disabled people who are in receipt of a qualifying payment and who satisfy the living alone condition.

In April last year, I announced an improvement in the scheme which enables those already getting the black and white licence and who also qualify for a free fuel allowance, to get a free colour licence. That improvement [1525] means that more than half the total number of recipients now qualify for the free colour licence instead of the black and white.

Any further extension to the scheme would have cost implications and would have to be considered in a budgetary context.

106. Mr. J. Mitchell asked the Minister for Social Welfare the reason it frequently happens that his Department's medical referee deems individuals claiming disability benefit fit for work while their own doctors refuse to issue a final certificate on the basis that they are not fit for work; whether there are any figures available which indicate the percentage of cases where this happens; his views on a particular case (details supplied) in Dublin 10 where the person concerned was deemed fit for work by the medical referee of his Department and, in the same week, the medical referee of the local authority for which he worked, deemed him to be permanently unfit for work and considered that he should be retired even though he is only in his thirties. [2742/94]

Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods): Medical referees of my Department provide advice, by way of a second opinion to that of the client's own doctor, which assists deciding officers and the independent social welfare appeals office in determining entitlement to disability benefit and other sickness schemes.

When a medical referee examination is arranged, the client's doctor is notified and invited to be present or to furnish a report on the medical history and current condition of the client. Where consultants' reports are submitted these are also carefully considered.

Where a medical referee is of the opinion that the nature of the client's illness does not render him incapable of work, the case is reviewed by the chief medical adviser. His report is passed to a deciding officer who decides the question of entitlement to benefit. Where the deciding officer decides that the [1526] conditions for receipt of benefit are not satisfied, the client is informed in writing and is advised of his right of appeal.

Where an appeal is lodged a second medical referee examination is arranged. The second examination is conducted by a different medical referee and the client's doctor is again invited to be present or to submit any additional information and reports.

There is no figures available regarding the percentage of general practitioners who refuse to issue final medical certificates on the basis of unfitness for work. However, of the number of cases medically certified as unfit for work, over 21 per cent of these examined by medical referees in 1993 were found capable.

These person concerned was examined on 15 August 1994 by a medical referee who expressed the opinion that he was not incapable of work. A deciding officer then decided that he was not entitled to disability benefit. He appealed against this decision and was examined again on 7 October 1994 by a different medical referee who also expressed the opinion that he was not incapable of work. The social welfare appeals office is at present reviewing this case and an oral hearing of the appeal is being arranged. All the relevant medical evidence will be available to the appeals officer.

107. Mrs. Doyle asked the Minister for Social Welfare the plans, if any, he has to extend the living alone allowance to those over 66 years of age in receipt of EC old age pensions, widow's pensions or other such pensions; and the cost of this provision. [2758/94]

Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods): The living alone allowance is one of a number of increases of social welfare pensions which may be payable with the personal rate of pension depending on the circumstances of the pensioner. The other increases which can be payable are increases for an adult dependant, increases for a child [1527] dependant and increases where the pensioner has attained the age of 80 years. These increases are an integral part of the social welfare pension. The question of paying them independently or with social security pensions from other countries, which are often calculated on quite different bases, would have to be considered in a budgetary context.