Dáil Éireann - Volume 486 - 28 January, 1998

Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.

695. Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs if his Department will review the decision to renew social welfare payments to the person (details supplied) in Dublin 7. [1564/98]

Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): It has been decided that the person concerned satisfies the conditions of entitlement to lone parents allowance with effect from 1 June 1996. Her entitlement is subject to her continuing to satisfy the relevant conditions and this is being kept under review.

Following a previous review of her circumstances by the Criminal Assets Bureau her claim was disallowed for the period from July 1993 to May 1996 on the grounds that she did not satisfy the statutory conditions during that period. An overpayment was assessed against her for the period in question. She has lodged an appeal against this decision.

696. Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs when he will be in a position to lay regulations before Dáil Éireann which arise from section 31 (2D) of the Social Welfare Act, 1997; if these regulations will exclude the approximately 300 pensioners whose claims for arrears arose before the 1 January 1997; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1567/98]

Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): The period of disqualification for payment in respect of claims not made within the prescribed time was extended from six to 12 months in the case of old age (contributory) pension, retirement pension, widow's and widower's (contributory) pension and orphan's (contributory) allowance, by section 32 of the Social Welfare Act, 1997. Regulatory power to extend backdating beyond 12 months in these cases is also provided. These provisions are limited to claims received on or after 1 January, 1997.

The regulations are at an advanced stage of preparation and it is intended to have them signed and laid before the Oireachtas in the very near future.

The existing arrangements will continue to apply to claims made before 1 January, 1997.

697. Mr. N. Ahern asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs his views on the current unemployment benefits entitlements [474] particularly in relation to people who work abroad for a while and discover on their return that they are not entitled to unemployment benefit; and if he will alter the regulations to extend the period within which the 15 months unemployment benefits can be claimed. [1648/98]

Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): The general insurance contributions conditions which govern the award of unemployment benefit require that a claimant must have 39 weeks PRSI paid and 39 weeks PRSI paid or credited in the relevant tax year — i.e. in the last complete income tax year before the benefit year in which the claim is made. These conditions ensure that a claimant must have a reasonable recent level of attachment to the active labour force in order to secure entitlement to unemployment benefit.

The EU Social Security Regulations 1408/71 and 574/72 provide for the co-ordination of social security schemes — including unemployment benefit — for workers, self-employed persons and their families moving throughout the EU as well as Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. There are a number of options available to unemployed Irish people who last worked in an EU member state or one of the other states referred to above. They can, subject to satisfying certain conditions, have their unemployment benefit payments from the state in which they were last employed paid to them for up to three months when they return to Ireland in search of work. They can, on returning to Ireland, qualify for Irish benefit if they satisfy the conditions for entitlement based on their Irish PRSI contribution record. Irish unemployment benefit is, however, not payable for any period during which they are in receipt of unemployment benefit from another member state.

If a person fails to qualify for Irish unemployment benefit based on his/her Irish PRSI record, there is provision, under the EU legislation referred to above, for taking into account periods of insurance or employment in all states to which the Regulation applies in order to determine an individual's entitlement to unemployment benefit. In order for such periods to be aggregated it is necessary that the person was last insured or employed in the state in which unemployment benefit is claimed. In Ireland's case this necessitates the payment of at least one employment contribution.

In the case of a worker who has been employed in a country which does not come within the ambit of the EU legislation, entitlement to unemployment benefit is based on the same general conditions which apply to all other claimants.

I have no plans to introduce changes to these conditions.

698. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs if he will confirm if his Department has received documentary evidence from a person (details supplied) in County [475] Kildare to the effect that she is not cohabiting in relation to her application for a one parent family allowance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1684/98]

Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): The person concerned has been in receipt of a one-parent family payment (formerly lone parent's allowance) for some years. Recent investigations by a local officer of the Department indicate that she and another person are cohabiting as man as wife.

Under the relevant legislation, a lone person is disqualified for receiving payment under this scheme as long as he/she and another person are cohabiting as man and wife. This is a matter for decision by a statutorily appointed deciding officer against whose decision there is a statutory right of appeal to the independent appeals office.

In the documentary evidence received by my Department the person concerned admits to “co-habiting part-time”. My department has received no documentary evidence to the effect that she is not co-habiting.

Before taking a decision in this case, the deciding officer invited the person concerned to furnish her comments on the evidence.

To date, the Department has not received any additional information or response from her to this request. She has been requested to return her book of payable orders to the Department, and the local post office has been notified accordingly.

If she can supply any relevant new facts or information even at this stage, it is in her interest to do so. Any evidence or information received will be taken into account by the deciding officer in reviewing her entitlement and she will be notified of the results.