Dáil Éireann - Volume 458 - 14 November, 1995

Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.

36. Mr. Clohessy asked the Minister for Social Welfare the proposals, if any, he has to make available to the public the document published on exceptional needs payments within the supplementary welfare allowance scheme. [16766/95]

Minister for Social Welfare (Proinsias De Rossa): The booklet referred to by the Deputy, recently issued for the first time ever by my Department to the health boards, contains guidelines relating to the provision of supplementary welfare allowance and, in particular, the payments available to meet urgent or exceptional needs. The booklet was also made available to other agencies and non-statutory bodies which provide information or advice in this regard.

Copies of the booklet will be provided to members of the public on request at social welfare offices and community information centres. My Department is currently preparing a further information booklet setting out entitlements under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme. This is expected to be available shortly at local offices of my Department.

38. Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he intends to assess money received under the REPS scheme for environmental farming as income for the purpose of Department of Social Welfare means tests; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16511/95]

[201] Minister for Social Welfare (Proinsias De Rossa): The question of exempting income received by farmers under the rural environment protection scheme, REPS from the assessment of means for unemployment assistance purpose is currently under consideration by my Department in conjunction with the Departments of Finance and Agriculture, Food and Forestry.

I am aware that this issue is an important factor in encouraging participation in the scheme, and I fully support the introduction of measures which will ensure the scheme's successful implementation. The necessary legislative changes will be made as soon as the discussions between the relevant Departments are concluded.

[202] 39. Mr. Power asked the Minister for Social Welfare the number of appeals received in relation to the supplementary welfare allowance scheme in each health board in 1994; the number of appeals decided on in 1994; the number of appeals outstanding at the end of 1994; the average time taken to decided on an appeal; and the number of appeals that were successful. [16755/95]

Minister for Social Welfare (Proinsias De Rossa): The information requested is set out in a tabular statement which I will make available to the Deputies by circulating it in the Official Report.

Appeals Statistics: 1994*

Health Board

Number of Appeals

Average time to decide appeal. Number of days

Received

Decided

Successful

Outstanding

Eastern

2,087

2,166

274

1,086

39

Midland

141

154

18

22

42

North-Eastern

25

25

10

0

  2

North-Western

283

265

80

17

15

South-Eastern

172

172

19

5

21

Mid-Western

299

269

55

67

49

Southern

1,091

966

122

143

10

Western

224

221

40

3

14

Note: The figures for the Southern Health Board in respect of the number of appeals received in 1994 and the number outstanding at the end of 1994 are estimated.

*This table does not reflect the number of appeals carried forward from 1993 or withdrawn during 1994. The number of appeals refused can be calculated by subtracting the number of successful appeals from the number of appeals decided.

41. Mr. Kirk asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he will consider extending secondary benefits, free television licence, free electricity allowance and so on to superannuation recipients; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14515/95]

Minister for Social Welfare (Proinsias De Rossa): I presume the Deputy is referring to the free schemes administered by my Department, namely, free travel, free electricity allowance, free natural gas allowance, free telephone rental allowance and free television licence. Free travel is available to all persons in the State aged 66 years or over and also to certain disabled people under the age of 66. The other free schemes are available to people, usually aged 66 or over, who are in receipt of a welfare type payment and who are either living alone or who otherwise satisfy the living alone condition. In [203] addition, widows between the age of 60 and 65 whose late husbands had entitlement to the free schemes retain that entitlement notwithstanding their age.

A person who retires on superannuation may, depending on the level of their pension, be entitled to receive an old age (non-contributory) pension from my Department even at a reduced rate. If they are so entitled and can satisfy the living alone condition, they will qualify for the free schemes referred to above. Extending the free schemes to categories who do not qualify under the current conditions would have financial implications and could only be considered in the light of available resources.