Dáil Éireann - Volume 574 - 13 November, 2003

Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.

  263. Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason maintenance payments are assessed in regard to rent subsidy for a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; if the maintenance payments are attributable to the child only; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26907/03]

  Minister for Social and Family Affairs (Mary Coughlan): The supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which is administered on behalf of my Department by the heath boards, provides for the payment of a weekly or monthly supplement in respect of rent to eligible people in the State whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation needs.

  With the exception of certain designated payments e.g. child benefit, the legislation governing the supplementary welfare allowance scheme requires that all household income, whether in cash or in kind, must be taken into account in determining a person's entitlements under the scheme. Maintenance payments made in respect of both adults and children are treated as household income and all such payments up to €95.23 per week are fully assessed in determining entitlement to rent supplement.

  264. Mr. O'Shea asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs further to Parliamentary Question No. 196 of 6 November 2003, if she will consider the extension of child benefit to all students in full time education up to their 22nd birthdays on a phased basis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26925/03]

[918]  Minister for Social and Family Affairs (Mary Coughlan): As outlined in my previous reply, the implementation of this proposal in full in respect of all qualified children would cost approximately €185 million at current rates. There are a number of selective measures to support low-income families with children up to 22 years of age in full-time education.

  Employees on low earnings with families are provided with in-work cash payments through the family income supplement scheme. Under this scheme, a qualified child is any child under the age of 18 or aged 18 to 22 if in full-time education. This supplement is paid where a family's net weekly income – gross pay less tax, PRSI, health contribution, superannuation – is below a specified income limit for the family size. Over 12,000 families benefit from this scheme, receiving an average payment of approximately €60 per week.

  Also, as stated in my previous reply, entitlement to child dependant allowance has been extended to age 22 from October 2003 where the parent of a full-time student has been in receipt of a short-term social welfare payment for six months or more. The provision already applies to recipients of long-term payments.

  Any proposal to extend child benefit entitlement, even on a phased basis, would have to be considered in the light of available resources and competing budgetary priorities.

  265. Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs her plans to introduce regulations which will allow health boards to withhold or suspend rent supplement to tenants of houses if the tenant persists in unsocial behaviour; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26934/03]

  Minister for Social and Family Affairs (Mary Coughlan): The supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which is administered on behalf of my Department by the health boards, provides for the payment of a weekly or monthly supplement in respect of rent to eligible persons in the state whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation needs.

  Anti-social behaviour by a tenant is a matter for the landlord in the first instance. There are a number of avenues open to landlords in such cases, including the mediation service for landlords and tenants operated by the private residential tenancies board. If necessary, the landlord may seek termination of the tenancy which, if effected, would result in the termination of rent supplement.

  Given that these facilities are in place, as a matter of housing policy, I have no plans to make any changes to the social welfare legislation in this regard.