Dáil Éireann - Volume 459 - 14 December, 1995

Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.

126. Mr. J. Walsh asked the Minister for Social Welfare if his attention has been drawn to the substantial loss of [1884] income suffered by Irish citizens in receipt of United Kingdom pensions; and the steps, if any, he will take to remedy the situation. [19034/95]

Minister for Social Welfare (Proinsias De Rossa): Exchange rates can fluctuate frequently. In view of this and the fact that a considerable number of Irish non-contributory pensioners are in receipt of British pensions, it would not be practicable to reassess entitlement to old age non-contributory pension each time currency exchange rates move. A realistic approach for resolving this problem has therefore been adopted by my Department. When calculating means based upon EU pensions, the Department employs an exchange rate mechanism used within the EU in relation to certain social security transactions between member states.

Any person in receipt of a United Kingdom retirement pension whose means have changed as a result of the change in value of sterling may be entitled to an old age non-contributory pension from my Department provided their means do not exceed IR£66 per week. A United Kingdom pensioner already in receipt of an old age non-contributory pension and whose means have reduced as a result is entitled to request a review of his or her means assessment at any time.

People in receipt of United Kingdom pensions, who, for instance, may be waiting for the non-contributory old age pension application to be processed, who are experiencing difficulty as a result of their income falling below the appropriate rate of supplementary welfare allowance for their family size should also contact the community welfare officer at their local health centre.

While I have no plans to change the current arrangements, the position is being kept under review.

127. Mr. N. Ahern asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he will amend the regulations in relation to the granting of free travel companion passes in order to allow an entitlement to such passes [1885] when the pensioner reaches 85 or 90 years of age, particularly having regard to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9, who is 91 years of age and requires a companion pass for her 61 year old daughter. [19068/95]

Minister for Social Welfare (Proinsias De Rossa): The free travel companion pass is a variation on the free travel pass which allows certain incapacitated people, who are medically unfit to travel alone, to be accompanied free of charge by a person 16 years of age or over when travelling. The categories eligible for the free travel companion pass include recipients of blind person's pension, recipients of invalidity pension medically certified as being permanently wheelchair bound and recipients of disabled person's maintenance allowance medically certified as being unfit to travel alone.

The pensioner referred to by the Deputy is in receipt of a survivor's contributory pension which is not a qualifying payment for the purposes of the free travel companion pass. Her daughter is, in fact, 65 years of age and in receipt of a retirement pension. She will qualify for a free travel pass in her own right next April.

The question of extending the scope of the free travel companion pass to additional categories by reference to age as suggested by the Deputy is a matter for consideration in the light of available resources.

128. Mr. J. Walsh asked the Minister for Social Welfare the plans, if any, he has to extend the carers' allowance to an additional category of social welfare recipients under 66 years of age; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19098/95]

Minister for Social Welfare (Proinsias De Rossa): The carer's allowance is payable to people who provide elderly or incapacitated persons with full-time care and attention and whose incomes fall below certain limits.

The categories of carers under 66 [1886] years of age already covered by the scheme include those in receipt of an invalidity pension, a blind person's pension, a retirement pension where there is a transfer from invalidity pension at age 65, a disabled person's maintenance allowance, a social security pension from another EU country or a country with which Ireland has a bilateral social security agreement and those getting an occupational pension.

The question of further extending the range of categories covered by the carer's allowance where the recipients are aged under 66 would have cost implications which would have to be considered in a budgetary context.