Dáil Éireann - Volume 627 - 14 November, 2006
Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.
Mr. Durkan Mr. Durkan
Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the number of sufferers of pneumonocosis arising from the mining industry; if he will examine the situation with a view to achieving a level of compensatory payment on the grounds of occupational injury; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37953/06]
Mr. Durkan Mr. Durkan
Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will offer ex gratia payments to all suffers of pneumonocosis as a first step towards meeting their occupational injury requirement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37958/06]
Mr. Durkan Mr. Durkan
Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the discussions he has had with various interested groups or bodies with a view to addressing the long standing issue of former miners suffering from pneumonocosis; if he will investigate the extent to which qualification for occupational injury benefit payments can be eased for those who are diagnosed as sufferers, regardless of the extent; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37959/06]
Mr. Brennan Mr. Brennan
Mr. Brennan: I propose to take Questions Nos. 377, 404 and 405 together.
The legislation governing the Occupational Injuries Scheme provides entitlement to benefit for persons suffering from certain prescribed diseases which are listed in the legislation and where that person has contracted that disease in the course of their employment.
Where a person has contracted one of the diseases listed in the legislation, benefits are payable if they were employed in an occupation which is specifically prescribed in relation to that disease. In addition, benefits may be payable if the claimant can show that the disease was contracted through an employment not specifically prescribed in relation to that disease.
Employment under a contract of service as a miner is insurable for Occupational Injuries Benefit under the Social Welfare Acts. Miners who are unable to work due to an accident arising from their employment may be entitled to occupational injury benefit for the first 26 weeks of their claim. If their incapacity extends beyond that period they may receive Disability Benefit or Invalidity Pension, subject to meeting the qualifying conditions for these payments.
 Miners may be entitled to Disablement Benefit if they suffer a loss of physical or mental faculty as a result of an accident at work or a disease prescribed in legislation that they contracted at work. Medical assessments are undertaken in all such cases to determine the degree of disablement, which is calculated by comparison of the state of health of the applicant with a person of the same age and gender.
Persons claiming Occupational Injuries Benefit in cases of Pneumoconiosis are referred to Consultant Respiratory Physicians in the first instance for an examination and report. This examination consists of a clinical assessment and pulmonary function testing (PFT). Disablement benefit is awarded on the basis of the consultant’s report, including the pulmonary function test result. The degree of disablement is expressed as a percentage of loss of faculty and the compensation payable varies accordingly. Loss of faculty may be determined within a range of less than 1% to 100%, depending on the severity of the condition. There are 21 persons currently in receipt of disablement benefit as a result of contracting pneumoconiosis arising from their occupation, the percentage of disablement assessed ranges from 8% to 90%. A person must be assessed as having a minimum of 20% loss of faculty before they may be considered as being incapable of work due to their disablement. There is no reason, medical or otherwise, to make special arrangements in the case of Pneumoconiosis and this includes making an ex-gratia payment.
While I have not met formally with interest groups representing miners who have acquired pneumoconiosis, I am fully aware of the issues as raised in these and other parliamentary questions which I have answered. I would be happy to meet with such interest groups in the future if they so wish to discuss this matter.
Dáil Éireann 627 Written Answers. Social Welfare Benefits.