Dáil Éireann - Volume 565 - 09 April, 2003
Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.
Mr. O'Shea Mr. O'Shea
243. Mr. O'Shea asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the proposals she has to remove the inequity which exists regarding the means test for one parent family allowance which discriminates in favour of those with earnings from employment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10150/03]
Mary Coughlan Mary Coughlan
Minister for Social and Family Affairs (Mary Coughlan): The earnings disregard is a major feature of the one parent payment scheme and is designed to assist in offsetting expenses, which a lone parent may face in taking up employment opportunities, and to encourage them to consider employment as an alternative to full dependence on social welfare payments.
The operation of the earnings disregard means that a lone parent may earn up to €293 per week  and still retain entitlement to some level of payment. Thereafter, there are transitional arrangements in place whereby a lone parent who exceeds the earning threshold may retain 50% of the payment they had been in receipt of for a further 12 months.
At the end of January 2003, the latest figures available, there were 91,477 unmarried, separated or deserted lone parents receiving the one parent family payment or a payment under a corresponding scheme. Of these, up to 20,000 beneficiaries – 22% of the total – were receiving payments at a reduced rate due to earnings from employment.
Lone parents are also encouraged to pursue maintenance payments with the other parent. In this connection up to 50% of any maintenance received may be disregarded under the means test and, in addition, allowances are made for up to €95.23 per week of maintenance paid in respect of vouched housing costs.
I am satisfied that the social welfare arrangements in place for lone parents are appropriate and support the general policy which is to provide income support for lone parents which at the same time encouraging them to consider employment as a realistic alternative. The position is being kept under review and any changes would be a matter for consideration in a budgetary context.
Mr. Naughten Mr. Naughten
 244. Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the last date of attendance under the back to education allowance scheme for mature students in third level institutions who have to repeat their exams in August 2003; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10282/03]
Mary Coughlan Mary Coughlan
Minister for Social and Family Affairs (Mary Coughlan): The back to education allowance scheme is a second chance educational scheme designed to assist the unemployed and other disadvantaged groups who are being held back in their search for employment by a lack of qualifications.
The allowance is payable for the duration of the academic year only. It is not payable for the summer period between academic years except to students who have to as an integral part of their course of studies undertake a period of work experience. It is also payable during the summer to students in pursuit of postgraduate courses who have to submit a thesis or dissertation in order to complete their studies.
The allowance is payable to the date of last attendance or to the date of the last summer examination, whichever is the latest. Students who have to repeat examinations in autumn are not entitled to the allowance for the summer. However, they may qualify for an unemployment payment for the summer period, subject to satisfying the usual conditions.
Dáil Éireann 565 Written Answers. Social Welfare Benefits.