Dáil Éireann - Volume 514 - 09 February, 2000

Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.

198. Mr. N. Ahern asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs the benefits for persons over 55 who go on pre-retirement allowance; if these people can keep their payment from a FÁS community employment scheme as is allowed to lone parents; if he will clarify the situation; if he will introduce changes for those over 55 and remove a portion of the present inequality; the other categories in addition to lone parents who can retain income from community employment and social welfare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3726/00]

Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): Pre-retirement allowance is a means-tested payment which allows a person aged 55 or over to retire from the labour force and receive a weekly allowance. To qualify, a claimant must be in receipt of a long-term unemployment payment, or be no longer entitled to one-parent family payment or carer's allowance or be separated from his-her spouse and have not engaged in employment or self-employment for the preceding 15 months.

The community employment (CE) scheme, which is operated by FÁS under the aegis of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, aims to re-integrate the long-term unemployed into the active labour force. Accordingly, [301] persons in receipt of PRETA are not among the categories eligible to participate in the scheme.

In general, the CE allowance is paid in lieu of a social welfare payment. In the case of claimants of the one-parent family payment, however, income arising from participation on CE is treated in the same way as any other income from employment in the means-test which applies to that scheme.

Eligibility to participate in CE schemes has recently been extended to claimants of widow/er's contributory and non-contributory pensions. In the case of claimants of the widow/er's contributory pension, the CE allowance may be paid in addition to their existing welfare entitlements.