Dáil Éireann - Volume 581 - 09 March, 2004

Written Answers - Social Welfare Benefits.

  439. Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will further review the case of a person (details supplied) in County Louth who was in receipt of deserted wife’s benefit, in view of the fact that she remains eligible for this payment. [7584/04]

  Mary Coughlan:The person concerned was awarded a deserted wife’s benefit in January 1996. She continued to receive this payment until her claim was terminated in September 1998. There is no record of her making contact with my Department until a letter in September 2002 requesting that her deserted wife’s benefit be reinstated.

Deserted wife’s benefit ceased for new applicants and re-applications with effect from 2 January 1997, when one-parent family payment was introduced. Accordingly, her request could only be treated as an application for one-parent family payment. This application was refused on the grounds that she did not have a qualified child dependant, one of the qualifying conditions for one-parent family payment. A subsequent review of her case found that there were no grounds for a change of this position.

Under social welfare legislation decisions about claims must be made by deciding officers and appeals officers. These officers are statutorily appointed and I have no role in regard to making such decisions.

  440. Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12 is entitled to the maternity [1466] allowance which was applied for in November 2003. [7614/04]

  Mary Coughlan:The person concerned made a claim for maternity benefit on 12 December 2003 in respect of her maternity leave, which commenced on 23 February 2004. Based on her social insurance record and the information supplied with her application form, the person concerned could qualify for payment of maternity benefit at the weekly rate of €151.60.

However, she is already in receipt of a one parent family payment at the rate of €154.10 per week. Under existing regulations a person cannot receive both payments concurrently. Accordingly, one parent family payment remains in payment to the person concerned. Under social welfare legislation decisions about claims must be made by deciding officers and appeals officers. These officers are statutorily appointed and I have no role in regard to making such decisions.

  441. Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason a person (details supplied) in County Cork has been refused a rent allowance by the Southern Health Board on the grounds that the rent is too high. [7765/04]

  Mary Coughlan:I have recently introduced a number of changes to the rent supplement scheme. The principal change is that, with certain important exceptions, new applicants are required, at the time of application, to have been in rented accommodation for at least six months within the preceding 12 month period to receive a rent supplement. Specific provision has been made to ensure that the interests of vulnerable groups such as the homeless, the elderly and people with disabilities are fully protected in the course of implementing the new measures. In addition, anyone who is assessed by a housing authority as having a housing need and who meets the existing qualifying criteria will continue to be entitled to rent supplement.

The Southern Health Board was contacted on behalf of the person concerned and has advised that he failed to satisfy the board that he had been in rented accommodation for six months. In addition, his accommodation needs had not been assessed by the housing authority. He was advised to contact the housing authority to have his housing needs assessed. The board offered to arrange temporary emergency accommodation while the housing assessment was carried out but this offer was refused.

The board has further advised that it contacted the housing authority and was told that the person concerned is not willing to provide details of his current address so that an assessment of his [1467] housing needs can be made. If the information is provided and the assessment is carried out, rent supplement may be payable, subject to the normal qualifying criteria, if he is assessed as having a housing need which the housing authority cannot meet.

  442. Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if her Department has plans to increase the earnings limit for persons in receipt of deserted wife’s benefit where the claim was made on or after 31 August 1992; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7795/04]

  Mary Coughlan:Where claims for deserted wife’s benefit were made on or after 31 August 1992, the earnings limit for entitlement to benefit is €12,697.38 per year gross earnings. However, where earnings are in excess of this amount there may be entitlement to a reduced rate of payment provided earnings do not exceed €17,776.33 per year gross.

Deserted wife’s benefit was closed to new applicants from 2 January 1997 when the one-parent family payment was introduced. The concept of desertion no longer exists in the social welfare code and deserted wives who have dependent children are treated in the same manner as all other lone parents with children. Under the one-parent family payment scheme, lone parents are encouraged to maximise their income from different sources and the means test [1468] for this scheme makes provision for the exemption of earnings and maintenance payments. With regard to employment, lone parents may earn up to €146.50 per week without affecting their payment. Earnings above this limit are assessed at 50%, up to a maximum of €293 per week. Lone parents are also eligible to avail of the full range of employment support schemes operated by my Department.

At present, 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 while 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.

  443. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the correct rent allowance payable in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7889/04]

  Mary Coughlan:The South Western Area Health Board was contacted on behalf of the person concerned and has advised that it paid an incorrect amount of rent supplement, €880, in respect of the month of February 2004. The correct amount of rent supplement, €796.20, is being paid in March. The board has indicated that it does not propose to seek recovery of the overpayment.