Dáil Éireann - Volume 526 - 15 November, 2000
Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.
Proinsias De Rossa Proinsias De Rossa
222. Proinsias De Rossa asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs if he will alter unemployment benefit and assistance regulations to allow provision for actors who may find themselves unemployed at periods of time during their career but need to be available for acting roles; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that many actors are having to leave our theatres due to this lack of provision for them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26004/00]
Mr. D. Ahern Mr. D. Ahern
Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): Social welfare legislation provides that a person must satisfy the conditions of being available for and genuinely seeking work in order to be entitled to unemployment benefit or unemployment assistance. In applying the legislation, deciding officers do not treat actors any differently to any other unemployment benefit or assistance claimant.
Where a person is seeking work in his or her usual employment and there is a reasonable prospect of securing work of that nature, he or she would normally satisfy the conditions for receipt of payment. However, if there is no employment available within a specialised field within a reasonable period of time, the unemployed person would be expected to broaden his or her search so as to include other types of employment.
After a period of unemployment, a person would be expected to accept any employment for which he or she is qualified.
There have been a number of discussions with the union representing actors over recent years in relation to recognising the position of actors within the unemployment payment schemes. A further meeting is due to take place later this month.
The introduction of special arrangements exempting actors from the requirements to fulfil the statutory conditions of being available for and genuinely seeking work for entitlement to unemployment benefit or assistance would raise equity issues vis-a-vis other claimants to unemployment payments and there are no current plans to make any changes to this legislation.
Mr. Ring Mr. Ring
223. Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs the reason a person (details supplied) in County Sligo was refused the £75 means disregard for a disability allowance calculation, in view of the fact that his general practitioner submitted a detailed letter con firming that the farm was rehabilitative employment; and if this case will be reviewed. [26007/00]
Mr. D. Ahern Mr. D. Ahern
Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): Disability allowance regulations provide for a specific income disregard for means test purposes in respect of rehabilitative employment. From 5 April 2000, this disregard was extended to persons who are engaged in rehabilitative self employment. Additionally the amount of income from rehabilitative employment which can be disregarded was increased from £50 to £75 per week.
The person concerned is in receipt of disability allowance at the rate of £53.50 per week and an increase of £6.60 child dependant allowance per week. His means are derived from farming.
He applied on 2 November 2000 to avail of the rehabilitative employment disregard in respect of his work as a farmer. He submitted a certificate from his general practitioner that his self-employment was rehabilitative.
His case was referred to a medical assessor of my Department on 8 November 2000 to establish whether this self employment was rehabilitative in nature. In the light of the views of the medical assessor the deciding officer was of the opinion that the person's self-employment could not be regarded as rehabilitative. The claim for exemption was disallowed accordingly and the person concerned was advised of this decision and of his right of appeal.
Dr. Upton Dr. Upton
224. Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs the reason disability benefit is not a qualifying payment for the back-to-work allowance; and the proposals he has to change this. [26008/00]
Mr. D. Ahern Mr. D. Ahern
Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): The back to work scheme is designed to encourage lone parents, long-term unemployed persons and those who have a long-term illness or disability to return to the active labour force. This reflects the special difficulties that such persons may encounter when attempting to gain a foothold in the workforce after a long absence.
The disability benefit scheme is designed to cater for persons who are suffering from short-term illnesses. If a person in receipt of disability benefit is unable to return to work due to a long-term illness they may apply for invalidity pension or disability allowance. The back to work scheme was extended to recipients of disability allowance in April 1997 and to recipients of invalidity pension in June 2000.
Given that the disability benefit scheme is designed for those whose incapacity is of a short-term, or relatively short-term nature, I do not consider that the extension of the back to work allowance to this group would be warranted.
However, it is possible for persons in receipt of disability benefit to be exempted from the rule that they undertake no paid work. Such an  exemption would enable the person to undertake part-time work of a rehabilitative or therapeutic nature or to participate in a training course to fit them for other work.
Such an exemption may be granted subject to an evaluation by the Department of the particular circumstances of the case.
Dáil Éireann 526 Written Answers. Social Welfare Benefits.