Dáil Éireann - Volume 632 - 01 March, 2007

Written Answers. - Social Welfare Payments.

Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if the estimated increase in the cost of welfare claims in 2008 arising from the entitlement of EU migrant workers to the new child care supplement and child benefit; the level of increase in applications for such benefits that has been evident since the beginning of 2007; his views on these increases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7915/07]

  Mr. Brennan: EU migrant workers have an entitlement to Child Benefit and other “Family benefits” including Early Childcare Supplement (ECS) under EU Regulation 1408/71. Where a [1643] national of an EU State is working in Ireland, the worker is entitled to payment of such benefits, even if the children are resident in the worker’s home country.

Applications for family benefits from EU migrant workers who come to live in Ireland with their families are dealt with under domestic legislation. Entitlement to Child Benefit is based on the applicant satisfying the Habitual Residency condition and the child being ordinarily resident in Ireland.

Currently there are over 34,000 EU nationals in receipt of Child Benefit for 61,000 children who are resident with them in Ireland. Of these recipients, some 16,500 are UK nationals, with a further 13,500 recipients from the ten States that joined the EU in 2004.

EU nationals who come to work in Ireland but whose families remain in their home country may have an entitlement to Family Benefits in Ireland under EU Regulation 1408/71. Before payment of Child Benefit is made for non-resident children it is necessary to contact the authorities in the country of residence of the children to confirm details and establish what, if any, family benefits are payable there.

This process can take a number of months to complete and, as a result, the number of claims that has been finalised to date is relatively small. There are approximately 15,000 claims at various stages of processing and awaiting finalisation. The number of claims to Child Benefit and potentially Early Child Supplement in respect of non resident children of EU nationals has, since the start of 2006, averaged about 300 per week.

Child Benefit is in payment under EU regulations to 680 families, in respect of 1625 children resident outside of the Republic of Ireland. Some 87% of these children are resident in the UK.

The child benefit expenditure for EU migrants with non resident children in respect of 2007 will depend on a number of factors which are difficult to determine until the claims in question are finalised. Assuming, however, that the claims received have full entitlement including arrears, and that the current trend in new claims being received continues, it is estimated that expenditure on these claims would be around €85m or 3.9% of overall child benefit expenditure.

The total cost in 2008 is also difficult to estimate but on a similar basis and on current trends, the potential accrued cost could be of the order of €130m.

The estimates in respect of early childcare supplement are €27m in respect of 2007 and €30m in respect of 2008.

Question No. 62 answered with Question No. 25.

Question No. 63 answered with Question No. 27.

[1644] Question No. 64 answered with Question No. 14.

Question No. 65 answered with Question No. 22.

Questions Nos. 66 and 67 answered with Question No. 14.

Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the extent to which he or his Department have examined the prospect of making a full occupational injury payment to sufferers of pneumoconiosis currently deemed to be affected to the extent of 10% or less; if his attention has been drawn to the procedures applicable in other jurisdictions in such cases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7946/07]

Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he has met with, is willing to meet or intends to meet sufferers of pneumonocosis with a view to awarding full occupational injury payments to those now deemed to suffer from the illness regardless of the extent to which they are affected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8228/07]

Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the extent to which he has reviewed applicants or recipients of pneumonocosis with a view to easing the conditions for qualification; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8229/07]

  Mr. Brennan: I propose to take Questions Nos. 68, 179 and 180 together.

Pneumoconiosis is a prescribed disease for the purpose of the Occupational Injuries scheme administered by my Department. 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 is insurable for Occupational Injuries Benefit under the Social Welfare Acts. Persons 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 [1645] Pension, subject to meeting the qualifying conditions for these payments.

Persons 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 22 persons currently in receipt of disablement benefit as a result of contracting pneumoconiosis arising from their occupation, of which 19 are former miners. 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. A person in receipt of disablement benefit may at any time request a review of their award.

The arrangements which apply to pneumoconiosis under the occupational injuries scheme are in line with practice elsewhere and there are no plans at present to change those arrangements. My officials will be glad to meet with representatives of the group involved to discuss any concerns in relation to the present arrangements.