Dáil Éireann - Volume 608 - 25 October, 2005
Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.
Mr. Gormley Mr. Gormley
381. Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if returned Irish immigrants who have been living outside the country for more than two years are entitled to the same social welfare benefits as all Irish citizens; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30060/05]
Mr. Brennan Mr. Brennan
Mr. Brennan:From 1 May 2004 a requirement to be habitually resident in Ireland was introduced as a qualifying condition for certain social assistance schemes including child benefit.
The basis for the restriction contained in the rules is the applicant’s habitual residence. The restriction is not based on citizenship, nationality, immigration status or any other factor. Irish citi zens, including returned Irish emigrants, must satisfy the habitual residence condition on the same basis as any other applicants for social assistance.
The effect of the restriction is that a person whose habitual residence is elsewhere is not paid certain social welfare payments on arrival in Ireland. The question of what is a person’s “habitual residence” is decided in accordance with European Court of Justice case law, which sets out the grounds for assessing individual claims. The court has determined that five factors are relevant in determining whether a person is habitually resident, which are: 1. Length and continuity of residence in a particular country; 2. Length and purpose of absence from Ireland; 3. Nature and pattern of the employment; 4. Applicant’s main centre of interest; and 5. Future intention of applicant concerned as it appears from all the circumstances.
Each case received for a determination on the habitual residence condition is dealt with in its own right and a decision is based on application of the guidelines to the particular individual circumstances of each case. Any applicant who disagrees with the decision of a deciding officer has the right to appeal to the social welfare appeals office. The habitual residence condition is not applied to social welfare benefit schemes, as these scheme types are based on insurance contributions.
Dr. Cowley Dr. Cowley
382. Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if free travel will be extended to older Irish emigrants, at the very least to Irish pensioners living in the UK, when they return here on their holidays; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30065/05]
Mr. Brennan Mr. Brennan
Mr. Brennan:The free travel scheme is available to all people living in the State aged 66 years, or over. It is also available to carers and to people with disabilities who are in receipt of certain social welfare payments. It applies to travel within the State and cross-Border journeys between here and Northern Ireland.
There has been a number of requests and inquiries in relation to the extension of entitlement to free travel to Irish born people living outside Ireland, particularly in the UK.
I assure the Deputy that there is a strong desire on the part of the Government to extend the free travel concession to older Irish emigrants, particularly those in the UK, as a recognition of their contribution to the economic life and other aspects of the growth of this country over several decades.
This issue has now been examined in considerable detail. As of now, the legal advice available to me is that such a proposal would be contrary to the EU treaty, which prohibits discrimination  on grounds of nationality. While taking this advice on board, I intend to continue to examine the options that remain available and to pursue all possible avenues in order to advance the issue further.
Mr. Ring Mr. Ring
383. Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if a reassessment of means for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo in respect of their claim for farm assist will be arranged; if he will provide a complete breakdown of the calculations of their recent assessment given exact details of where the income and means assessed were earned. [30066/05]
Mr. Brennan Mr. Brennan
Mr. Brennan:A deciding officer disallowed the farm assist claim of the person concerned from 26 May 2005, on the grounds that his means exceeded the statutory limit of €148.80 per week, which is the rate applicable in this person’s case.
The means of the person concerned are derived from income from a holding and the capital value of a house.
His means are assessed as follows:
gross income from holding, €19,733.00;
less expenses, €15,776.92;
net income, €3,956.08 x 70%;
yearly means, €2,769.20 ÷ 52; weekly means from holding, €53.25;
capital value of house, €100,000;
less disregards, €20,000;
assessable capital, €80,000; €10,000 @ €1.00 per €1,000; €10.00,
€10,000 @ €2.00 per 1,000; €20.00; €60,000 @ €4.00 per €1,000; €240.00.
Total weekly means from capital, €270.00.
Total weekly means assessable, €323.00.
It is open to the person concerned to appeal this decision and a form for this purpose was issued to him on 20 October 2005. Under social welfare legislation, decisions on 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.
Mr. Durkan Mr. Durkan
384. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if the community welfare officer has discretion in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30104/05]
Mr. Brennan Mr. Brennan
Mr. Brennan:Section 172(1) of the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act 1993 provides that people in full-time education are not normally eligible to  receive assistance, including rent supplements, under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme. Section 172(3) of the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act 1993 and regulations made thereunder, provide that in a case where there are exceptional circumstances, supplementary welfare allowance may be granted to a person who would qualify other than for their exclusion under section 172(1). This discretion is aimed at enabling assistance to be provided through the scheme if necessary to people who face an exceptional non-recurring cost which they cannot meet from their own resources. This exceptional needs provision is not intended to circumvent existing standard rules for other schemes.
Under the back to education scheme operated by my Department, there is special provision to enable the retention of rent supplement, and any other secondary benefits to which they had been entitled, by eligible people who wish to resume full-time education in approved courses.
The person concerned is in full-time third level education. She is not eligible under the back-to-education scheme, and in any case has no existing rent supplement to retain under that scheme as she has not been in receipt of supplement previously. The Dublin-mid-Leinster area of the Health Service Executive has advised that it has thoroughly examined all information available to it about the circumstances of the person concerned, in considering her application for rent supplement in her college location, and has determined that she is not eligible on the basis that she is a full-time student. This decision has been upheld by a designated appeals officer of the executive recently. The executive has further advised that, in its opinion, there are no special circumstances in this case to merit payment of assistance on an exceptional needs basis.
It is open to the person concerned to appeal the decision of the executive appeals officer to the social welfare appeals office if she so wishes.
Ms Cooper-Flynn Ms Cooper-Flynn
385. Ms Cooper-Flynn asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his plans to increase the amount the dependant of an old age contributory pensioner is allowed to earn. [30136/05]
Mr. Brennan Mr. Brennan
Mr. Brennan:Across the majority of social welfare payments, entitlement to an increase for a qualified adult is based, inter alia, on the spouse-partner’s income. An increase at the maximum rate is payable where the spouse-partner’s income is €88.88 per week or less, with a reduced or tapered rate payable where this income is between €88.88 and €220. This lower threshold of €88.88 was last increased in budget 2000 while the upper threshold has been increased in each successive budget since then, from €171.41, 135, in 2000 to €220 in budget 2005. It should be noted, therefore, that  the IQA is not fully withdrawn until the spouse-partner’s weekly income exceeds €220.
Since this Government came into office, a number of changes to these tapered arrangements have been introduced with a view to ensuring that the impact of increases in earnings are not negated for families where the spouse is the sole earner and is in low-paid employment. First, the range of income over which the IQA is withdrawn has been progressively extended. Second, provision was made for the deferral of the loss of half the child dependant allowance until the earnings of the spouse-partner exceeds the upper bound of the income range. Third, the IQA weekly rates have been increased annually in each budget package.
One of the key objectives of the 2005 social welfare budget package was to protect and enhance the real value of all rates of payment. In this context, budget 2005 provided for increases in the main personal rates of weekly payments ranging from 8.4% to 13.1%.
The main IQA rates were also increased by the same percentages thereby ensuring that they did not fall as a proportion of the associated personal rate. Thus, since the year 2000 the rate of IQA payable with old age contributory pension has increased by 56.3%, €43.06, while the consumer price index has risen by 18.8%. Similarly, since 1995, the rate of IQA has increased by 95.7%, €58.43, while the consumer price index has risen by 34.6%. This has given real increases of 31.6% and 45.4% respectively.
Any change in the current arrangements relating to entitlement to an increase for a qualified adult would have to be considered in a budgetary context and in the light of available resources.
Dáil Éireann 608 Written Answers. Social Welfare Benefits.