Dáil Éireann - Volume 503 - 20 April, 1999
Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.
Mr. R. Bruton Mr. R. Bruton
431. Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork who has referred his case to the Ombudsman regarding the refusal to allow him to retain secondary benefit with the back to education allowance; and if he will modify the rule to permit retention in this case. [9990/99]
Mr. D. Ahern Mr. D. Ahern
Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): The back to education allowance is an educational opportunities scheme for unemployed people who wish to pursue approved second or third level courses of education. Participants receive a standard weekly rate of payment equivalent to the maximum rate of unemployment benefit. The scheme also provides for the retention of secondary benefits such as rent or mortgage supplements under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme.
The vast majority of participants are students who were in receipt of the maximum rate of an unemployment payment immediately prior to qualifying for a back to education allowance. These students continue to receive their rent/mortgage supplement at the same level as previously.
The issue raised by the Deputy concerns a participant who was in receipt of a reduced rate of unemployment assistance because he was assessed with means from another source. When he qualified for a back to education allowance, he was entitled to a higher basic weekly payment, equivalent to the maximum rate of unemployment benefit. When taken together with his other means, his income exceeded the threshold for payment of mortgage interest relief and the supplement had to be discontinued.
However, allowing for the increase in his basic payment, he received a net increase of £12.70 in weekly income.
I have recently announced the publication of a report entitled “The Disincentive Effects of Secondary Benefits”, following on a study by Goodbody Economic Consultants on this issue. I have now commenced a process of consultation with the social partners on the question of alleviating any remaining poverty traps associated with various schemes including the back to education allowance. Following completion of this process I  will be bringing forward proposals to address any anomalies in the present arrangements.
Dáil Éireann 503 Written Answers. Social Welfare Benefits.