Dáil Éireann - Volume 482 - 12 November, 1997

Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.

334. Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs the plans, if any, he has to allow the Christmas bonus and the fuel allowance to be paid to those who are getting unemployment benefit after working on a FÁS course, particularly where these people were in receipt of long-term unemployment assistance before joining the FÁS course and in view of the fact that there has been no real break in their receipt of benefits. [18695/97]

337. Mr. Bradford asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs the response, if any, of his Department to correspondence from a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will have the matters raised in this letter reviewed within his Department. [18881/97]

341. Mr. O'Shea asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs if a person's entitlement to free schemes and Christmas bonus will continue where a person participates for a continuous three year period on a community employment scheme and on the termination of which that person is in receipt of unemployment benefit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19183/97]

342. Mr. Ellis asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs if his Department will withdraw article 35 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Regulation, SI417 of 1994 in view of the effect it has on people who now partake on FÁS schemes and are forced to re-claim unemployment benefit. [19187/97]

[1293] Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): It is proposed to take Questions Nos. 334, 337, 341 and 342 together.

The issues raised by the Deputies arise from the introduction of class A PRSI for community employment workers, which was provided for in the Social Welfare Act, 1996. Class A PRSI provides cover for the full range of benefits and pensions available under the social insurance system including, for example, unemployment benefit, disability benefit, maternity benefit, retirement pension, old age contributory pension, widow's contributory pension, treatment - dental and optical benefits and occupational injuries benefit. The purpose of this measure was to enhance the PRSI status of community employment workers and to put them on a par with other class A workers.

In the case of persons who qualify or re-qualify for unemployment benefit, their earnings in the relevant tax year will determine whether they they receive a graduated rate or the full rate of unemployment benefit. Persons entitled to a reduced or graduated rate of unemployment benefit are entitled to claim unemployment assistance if it is more beneficial to them. However, long-term unemployment assistance is not payable where the claimant is entitled to full rate unemployment benefit, in accordance with Article 35(b)(1) of SI 417/94. The purpose of this article is to ensure that where a claimant has secured entitlement to a benefit payment on the basis of his-her social insurance contributions, the cost arising from that entitlement is met by the social insurance fund.

The social welfare secondary benefits of the Christmas bonus, free fuel allowance and butter vouchers are payable only with long-term social welfare payments. Unemployment benefit claimants do not, therefore, have an entitlement to these benefits. While I recognise the difficulties faced by CE workers who re-qualify for unemployment benefit when their period of CE finishes, I trust the Deputies will appreciate that I cannot introduce special concessionary arrangements for such people without having equal regard to the position of other short-term social welfare payment recipients. Any such concessions would, accordingly, carry an extremely high cost and could be considered only in light of available resources and in the light of other priorities.

335. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs if his Department has reviewed the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare in view of information recently supplied by her employer; if his Department will allow her application for unemployment assistance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18701/97]

Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): The person concerned claimed unemployment benefit on 24 May 1995 and her claim was disallowed by a deciding officer [1294] on the grounds that she had not sustained a substantial loss of employment, which is a condition of entitlement to unemployment benefit. She appealed against this decision and her appeal was considered by appeals officer, who upheld the original decision. The appeals officer's decision is final in the absence of new facts or fresh evidence. The person concerned has not submitted any new evidence or facts which would warrant a revision of the decision in her case.