Dáil Éireann - Volume 579 - 11 February, 2004
Written Answers - Social Welfare Benefits.
Mr. S. Ryan Mr. S. Ryan
133. Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if her attention has been drawn to concerns expressed that the €6 increase in child benefit per month announced in the December 2003 budget is insufficient and that, if the Government were to honour its three year commitment to increase children's allowance, it would have had to increase the benefit to €24 per month; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3887/04]
Mary Coughlan Mary Coughlan
Mary Coughlan:The 2004 budget provided for a €6 per month increase, 4.8%, in the rate of child benefit payable in respect of each of the first two children and €8 per month, 5.1%, increase in the rate payable in respect of the third and subsequent children. Over the period since 1997, the value of all social welfare payments has  increased in real terms. In particular, the monthly rates of child benefit has increased by €93.51, lower rate, and €115.78, higher rate, increases of 246% and 234% respectively, compared with inflation of 26.9%. This level of increase is unprecedented and delivers on the Government's objective of providing support for children generally while offering real choice to all parents.
Looking ahead, my priorities include making further progress on our child benefit strategy along with all the other commitments on social welfare contained in Sustaining Progress, the national anti-poverty strategy and the programme for Government. The progression of all of the commitments will be a matter to be decided having regard to available resources.
Mr. Stanton Mr. Stanton
134. Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of persons in receipt of invalidity pension or disability allowance whose attention had not been drawn to their entitlement to the living alone allowance and who have been approved for same with arrears of six months; and the number of persons who have had their arrears extended beyond the six months to the date that the living alone allowance was introduced for these payments. [4017/04]
Mary Coughlan Mary Coughlan
Mary Coughlan:The living alone allowance scheme was extended from 4 April 2001 to persons who were receiving disability allowance and invalidity pension. The total number of customers receiving these payments at that time was 104,806. Comprehensive arrangements were put in place and all 104,806 recipients of both schemes were made aware of their potential entitlement to this allowance.
All recipients who were paid through the post office were notified of their potential entitlement to the allowance in their payable order books. Recipients of disability allowance and invalidity pension who were paid by electronic fund transfer received a direct mailshot. This included details on the qualifying conditions for the allowance and advice on how to apply.
The extension of the allowance to these recipients was advertised in all provincial, national, daily and Sunday papers. A freephone number was also provided, whereby customers could obtain further information concerning the allowance. Details of all social welfare budget changes, including those relating to the living alone allowance were advertised on Aertel.
There is an onus on social welfare applicants to apply for any allowances in the prescribed manner and within certain time limits. However, in the case of living alone allowance claims which were received from existing disability allowance or invalidity recipients, and where there was evidence that the recipient was living alone, the allowance was backdated, where appropriate. The number of persons paid six months arrears or who had their arrears of living alone allowance  extended beyond the six months is not available from departmental records.
The Deputy should note that from 4 April 2001 all new applications for disability allowance and invalidity pension have their entitlement to living alone allowance assessed in conjunction with their primary claim entitlement. All application forms for these payments currently include an application for living alone allowance.
I am satisfied that the measures put in place when the scheme was extended to recipients of long term disability payments were adequate to ensure that eligible persons were made aware of their possible entitlement to living alone allowance. Additionally, I consider that the approach undertaken by my Department to the processing of living alone allowance claims from existing recipients was appropriate in the circumstances.
Question No. 135 answered with Question No. 96.
Dáil Éireann 579 Written Answers Social Welfare Benefits.