Dáil Éireann - Volume 651 - 08 April, 2008

Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when maternity benefit will be granted to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare who applied for same 10 weeks ago; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12863/08]

  Deputy Martin Cullen: To qualify for Maternity Benefit, a woman must satisfy one of the following PRSI contribution conditions.

She must have at least 39 PRSI contributions in the twelve month period before the first day of her maternity leave or at least 39 paid PRSI contributions since first starting work and at least 39 contributions paid or credited in the relevant tax year or the year following the relevant tax year or at least 26 paid PRSI contributions in the relevant tax year and at least 26 paid PRSI contributions in the tax year before the relevant tax year. Only PRSI contributions paid at classes A,E and H are relevant.

The person concerned applied for Maternity Benefit on the 29th January 2008. As she only commenced employment in Ireland in summer 2007, she does not have sufficient PRSI contributions paid to date to qualify her for Maternity Benefit. However, her employment record from the UK may also be used to help her to qualify. A request for her UK social insurance record was issued on the 1st February 2008, details of which have not yet been received.

When the required information is received, a decision will be made and the person concerned will be notified immediately.

Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the target time level for processing disability allowance applications; and the average of how often that target was met by staff within that section in each of the past six months. [12895/08]

[459] Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of applications for disability allowance lodged with his Department and awaiting a decision at the present time; the average processing time for disability allowance applications; his plans to reduce the average processing time for such applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12896/08]

  Deputy Martin Cullen: I propose to take Questions Nos. 278 and 279 together.

The Department is committed to providing a quality service to all its customers. This includes ensuring that applications are processed and that decisions on entitlement are made as quickly as possible.

Disability allowance is a weekly allowance paid to people with a specified disability who are aged over 16 and under 66. The disability must be expected to last for at least one year and the allowance is subject to both medical assessment and a means test.

The time taken to process a disability allowance claim includes three important elements; the time taken to carry out a medical examination of the claimant, where this is required, investigation of the claimant’s means by a Social Welfare Inspector which can necessitate a visit to the claimant’s home and the claim decision process. Once entitlement is decided the claim is put into payment and any arrears issue shortly afterwards.

The performance standard for disability allowance is 70% of claims to be decided in 9 weeks. This standard was set on the basis of 12,000 applications per annum.

There has been a continuous upward trend in recent years in applications for Disability Allowance. The Department received 17,581 new applications in 2006 and 19,989 in 2007. To date in 2008, some 4,440 applications have been received.

Performance over the past six months is as follows:

Month

Number awarded

Average weeks to award

% awarded within 9 weeks

%

March 2008

1,094

13.97

34

February 2008

1,396

16.75

17

January 2008

1,160

17.89

9

December 2007

684

15.17

21

November 2007

1,255

16.31

21

October 2007

1,274

16.99

16

The number of cases awaiting finalisation at present is 4,700 (at 2nd April). In some 3,300 of these cases, information is awaited to enable the claim to be further processed.

The Department’s management services unit monitors available resources against workload on an ongoing basis with a view to ensuring optimum processing times for claims.Measures introduced by the Department to address the efficiency of claim processing include the following:

The review of existing processes and procedures on an ongoing basis with the explicit objective of reducing delays in claim processing;

Review of ongoing staffing requirements in light of the increased volumes of claims;

The judicious application of overtime working;

[460] These measures will, over time, lead to more efficient processing and reduce the number of claims on hand. The position is being closely monitored and kept under review by the Department.

Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason it will take his Department 240 days from the date of receipt of an application from a person (details supplied) in County Mayo for disability allowance for the applicant to be called for a medical assessment. [12897/08]

  Deputy Martin Cullen: Disability allowance is a weekly Allowance paid to people with a specified disability who are aged over 16 and under 66. The disability must be expected to last for at least one year and the allowance is subject to both medical assessment and a means test.

The time taken to process a disability allowance claim includes three important elements; the time taken to carry out a medical examination of the claimant, where this is required, investigation of the claimant’s means by a Social Welfare Inspector which can necessitate a visit to the claimant’s home and the claim decision process. Once entitlement is decided the claim is put into payment and any arrears issue shortly afterwards.

The person concerned is currently in receipt of jobseekers allowance. He made an application for disability allowance on 12th September, 2007. The application was referred to a Social Welfare Inspector to determine the means position. The person concerned was also referred to medical review and assessment section in November 2007 for medical assessment. The application was reviewed initially by a Medical Assessor who determined that the applicant should be assessed in person.

Medical review and assessment section currently operate 54 medical assessment centres throughout the country. The frequency of usage of each centre depends on various factors such as the number of cases on hand, the number of cases requiring urgent attention and the availability to the centre, of nurse-attendants and of medical assessors. However, in view of the fact, that he would be seen at an earlier date in Ballina, he has been offered and accepted the option of an assessment in Ballina.

As a general rule, priority status is afforded to those claimants who are not already in receipt of a payment from the Department. In the case of rural locations that are scheduled for assessment less frequently than larger urban areas, every effort is made to ensure that claimants who are not in receipt of a payment from the Department or who are appealing decisions, are scheduled for the nearest urban area.

Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his views on increasing the age limit for a qualified child to 23, across various social welfare schemes, in respect of students in full-time education in view of the number of students doing transition year in second level schools and the older age generally at which students are commencing and finishing third level education. [12950/08]

  Deputy Martin Cullen: Social welfare customers in receipt of a long term payment or in receipt of a short term payment for more than six months can claim an IQC for each child who is over 18 years and up to age 22 and attending a full-time day course of education at an institute of education. If a child reaches age 22 during an academic year while attending a full-time day course of education, the IQC continues in pay[461] ment up to the end of that academic year provided the child continues to receive full-time education.

I am satisfied that this provision assists social welfare recipients in supporting a qualified child up to and including primary degree level in most cases. Any improvement could only be considered in a budgetary context and in light of competing priorities. I have no immediate plans to change current arrangements but I will keep the matter under review.

Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the criteria persons (details supplied) in County Kildare must meet to qualify under income guidelines to obtain a rent subsidy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12987/08]

  Deputy Martin Cullen: The Health Service Executive has advised that it had terminated payment of a rent supplement in this case from March 2008. The Executive has advised that it will review the claimant’s entitlement and advise the person concerned of its decision in due course.

Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason persons (details supplied) in County Kildare have not received payments from his Department or the community welfare officer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12988/08]

  Deputy Martin Cullen: The Health Service Executive has advised that it awaiting the receipt of outstanding documentation from the persons concerned and will not be in a position to make a decision on entitlement until all documentation requested has been received.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when one parent family allowance will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12993/08]

  Deputy Martin Cullen: I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an appeal from the person concerned was received on 2nd April 2008 and is being referred to an Appeals Officer for consideration.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office is an office of my Department that is independently responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if it is possible to examine the habitual residence condition and returning Irish emigrants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13093/08]

  Deputy Martin Cullen: Irish nationals returning to live here on a permanent basis should experience no difficulty in demonstrating that they satisfy the requirements of the Habitual Residence Condition. My Department has been unable to trace any claims where this has not been the case, and has already offered to review any such claims that may be brought to its attention.

However national legislation cannot provide advantages to non-resident Irish nationals on short visits here without extending the provisions to all EU nationals under the same conditions. There is currently no discrimination on grounds of nationality in social welfare legislation and to introduce such a provision would be contrary to the equality principles that Ireland has adopted in our own equality legislation, and that we are obliged to respect by virtue of the Treaties of the European Community, the Charter of Fundamental Rights, and other international conventions. This matter has already been fully investigated by my Department.