Dáil Éireann - Volume 616 - 21 March, 2006
Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.
Mr. J. O’Keeffe Mr. J. O’Keeffe
449. Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the protections which are in place for deckhands on fishing vessels from the point of view of social welfare payments for periods during which they are injured, ill or unemployed; and the social welfare pension arrangements which are in place for them. [10017/06]
Mr. Brennan Mr. Brennan
 Mr. Brennan: Where a deckhand is paid solely by reference to a share in the catch, they are considered to be insurable at the Class S rate of PRSI. This entitles them to the following benefits: widow’s or widower’s contributory pension, orphan’s contributory allowance, old age contributory pension, maternity benefit, adoptive benefit and bereavement grant.
Where a deckhand is paid a set wage, even where it may be supplemented by reference to a share in the catch, the worker is generally considered to be an employee and covered for all benefits and pensions at PRSI Class A.
Self-employed deckhands may also pay the optional Class P contributions to secure entitlement for additional short-term benefits. The additional contribution of 4% on all income exceeding €2,500 per annum and, subject to a minimum annual contribution of €200, entitles deckhands to limited short-term benefits such as unemployment benefit for up to 13 weeks, disability benefit for up to 52 weeks and treatment benefits. These special arrangements recognise the particular circumstances associated with working in the sea-fishing sector in Ireland.
Mr. Ring Mr. Ring
450. Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason a person (details supplied) in County Mayo has not been approved for unemployment assistance; and if an appeal will be opened on their behalf. [10054/06]
Mr. Ring Mr. Ring
458. Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the way in which his Department came to the conclusion that a person (details supplied) in County Mayo was not genuinely seeking work when they provided letters as evidence to the contrary; the number of letters which were submitted by the claimant; and the way in which his Department determine whether or not this person is looking for work. [10358/06]
Mr. Brennan Mr. Brennan
Mr. Brennan: I propose to take Questions Nos. 450 and 458 together.
In making a decision on an unemployment payment claim, a deciding officer will take all relevant factors into account including the level of job opportunities available and the person’s availability for and his or her efforts to find work. The onus is on the customer to prove to the satisfaction of the deciding officer that he or she satisfies the conditions for receipt of payment, including that he or she is genuinely seeking full-time work on a consistent and ongoing basis.
A deciding officer disallowed the unemployment assistance claim of the person concerned from 21 February 2006 on the grounds that he was not genuinely seeking employment. In reaching this decision, the deciding officer took into account the two letters from employers submitted by the person concerned. However, the deciding  officer took the view that he had failed to produce sufficient evidence to show that he is seeking work from employers who are most likely to be in a position to offer employment. It is open to the person concerned to appeal this decision and a form for this purpose was issued to him on 9 March 2006.
Under social welfare legislation decisions in respect of 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.
Ms Shortall Ms Shortall
451. Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if the problem regarding the qualifying conditions for back to school clothing and footwear allowance will be addressed whereby lone parents who take up employment on a community employment scheme and receive income from both the community employment scheme and from the one-parent family payment lose their entitlement to the back to school clothing and footwear allowance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10058/06]
Mr. Brennan Mr. Brennan
Mr. Brennan: The back to school clothing and footwear allowance scheme, BSCFA, is administered on my behalf by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive. Neither I nor my Department has any function in relation to decisions on individual claims.
The back to school clothing and footwear allowance scheme provides a one-off payment to eligible families to assist with the extra costs when their children start school each autumn. From June 2006, an allowance of €120 is payable in respect of qualified children aged from two to 11 years, or €190 in respect of qualified children aged from 12 to 22 years. These rates were increased by €40 in budget 2006 from the previous rates of €80 and €150. Applications for BSCFA may be made between the beginning of June and the end of September each year.
Back to school clothing footwear allowances are subject to a means test. They are not paid in cases where the household income exceeds the relevant income limit, regardless of the source of that income. A person may qualify for payment of a BSCFA if they are in receipt of a social welfare or Health Service Executive payment, are participating in an approved employment scheme or attending a recognised education or training course, and have household income at or below certain specified levels. For example, in the case of a lone parent with one child, the income limit is €14.90 per week.
While community employment, CE, is one of the qualifying schemes for the purposes of the BSCFA scheme, a person who has income both from one-parent family payment and community employment will not qualify on means grounds.  However, a person in these circumstances is still significantly better off for having taken up a CE place. For example, a lone parent with one child is €182 per week better off on taking up a CE place, equivalent to €9,464 per annum, while a lone parent with two children is €191.30 per week better off, equivalent to more than €9,947 per annum. I recognise that child care expenses, where these are incurred, could reduce that net benefit.
Social welfare programmes aim to be responsive to the needs of those who depend on income maintenance support while providing incentives to assist people to become more independent financially, particularly through employment. In this regard, a number of positive measures have been introduced in recent years to assist in the transition from welfare to work. These include special means disregards, tapered withdrawal of benefits as earnings increase, and employment support schemes such as the back to work programme.
In January 2006, I provided for an improvement in the standard means test for BSCFA by increasing the income limits by €50. This is in addition to the budgetary increases on the primary social welfare rates. In budget 2006, I also improved the standard assessment rules governing the rent supplement scheme to ensure that a lone parent who takes up a training or employment opportunity will be financially better off having done so. For example, in 2006, participants on certain employment or training courses, such as a community employment scheme, will have the first €60 per week of additional income disregarded and will have half of any additional income between €60 per week and €90 per week also disregarded. In addition any PRSI and reasonable travelling expenses are also disregarded in the means test. These arrangements fully support the objective of assisting social welfare recipients, including lone parents, in progressing into employment and becoming financially independent in their own right.
Mr. Penrose Mr. Penrose
452. Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the steps which are been taken by his Department to ensure that the appropriate procedures are put in place, to enable persons who are subject to domestic violence within their relationships, to escape therefrom, and in particular the financial help and assistance which is given to such persons to enable them secure accommodation either through a local authority or a voluntary housing association; if he has satisfied himself with the number of refuges available for victims of domestic violence; if additional moneys will be provided to increase the number of such refuges; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10250/06]
Mr. Brennan Mr. Brennan
Mr. Brennan: Responsibility for policy to combat  violence against women rests with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. The national steering committee on violence against women is chaired by my colleague the Minister of State at the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy Frank Fahey, and includes representatives from the Departments of Health and Children, the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Education and Science and Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.
The provision of local authority and voluntary housing and refuges for victims of domestic violence is a matter for my colleague the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Although my Department does not have direct responsibility in combating domestic violence, it does, through the Family Support Agency, have a number of schemes in place to support families generally.
The Family Support Agency administers the scheme of grants to voluntary organisations providing marriage, child and bereavement counselling and related services. It is also responsible for the direct provision of the national Family Mediation Service, which is a free, professional and confidential service for couples who have decided to separate and want to negotiate the terms of their separation.
The agency is also responsible for the support and development of the network of family resource centres, FRCs, around the country. The aim of the family and community services resource centre programme is to combat disadvantage and improve the function of the family unit. The emphasis in the projects is on the involvement of local communities in developing approaches to tackle the problems faced in those communities and on creating successful partnerships between the voluntary and statutory agencies in the area concerned. Family resource centres involve people from marginalised groups and areas of disadvantage at all levels in the project.
Under the family and community services resource centre programme, funding is given to a number of specialist support agencies to provide support and information to individual family resource centres on a number of issues. One such support agency funded under the programme is Women’s Aid. In 2005, Women’s Aid was awarded €93,800 to provide support and information to FRCs on women’s issues and in particular in respect of women and their children who are being physically, emotionally and sexually abused in their own homes.
Dáil Éireann 616 Written Answers. Social Welfare Benefits.