Seanad Éireann - Volume 122 - 16 March, 1989

Social Welfare Bill, 1989: Committee and Final Stages.

Acting Chairman (Mr. Harte): I wish to inform the House that amendments [745] Nos. 1, 2, 4 to 11, inclusive, and 14 have been ruled out of order on the grounds of involving a potential charge on the public revenue. For the information of Senators, that means amendments Nos. 3, 12 and 13 are in order.

SECTION 1.

Question proposed: “That section 1 stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. Cregan: Because some amendments involve a charge on Revenue are you saying we do not have much option but to accept the Social Welfare Bill? In other words, if Senators were in agreement with the Minister for the Department that something constructive should be done, we would not have the right to discuss it if it involved an extra public charge? Can the Minister explain it because it is somewhat confusing? I would be afraid to go any further on the Bill if I thought I was not fully informed on it.

Acting Chairman: I cannot allow the Minister to get into an exchange with the Senator unless it is do with the amendment. Under Standing Orders an amendment to a Bill which could have the effect of imposing a charge or of incresing a charge on the people or on the Revenue may not be moved save by way of Government amendment.

Mr. Cregan: With all respect, I appreciate that under Standing Orders we are not allowed to look for anything that could involve an extra charge on Revenue. Let us be constructive here, or try to be realistic and logical about things. What I am saying is that if we think that funds could be better used if diverted from one area to another, and you, a Leas-Chathaoirligh will be very much aware of that, do we not have the right under standing Orders, to discuss this with the Minister?

Acting Chairman: I am bound by the Standing Order and at present I do not intend entering into a debate in that [746] respect but if you want to have a discussion outside the House I will probably give you a different view.

Mr. Cregan: I am concerned that arguments I want to make on a particular section may not be allowed because they involve an extra charge. The Minister or his Department could say that because there would be an extra charge on the Revenue we could not discuss the matter.

Question put and agreed to.

Sections 2 and 3 agreed to.

SECTION 4.

Question proposed: “That section 4 stand part of Bill.”

Mr. Cregan: The rate of unemployment assistance will increase on 19 July. The rate of deserted wife's allowance, prisoner's wife's allowance, the widow's pension and some social assistance allowance — old age pensions and blind pensions and non-contributory pensions — will increase on 27 July. The supplementary welfare allowance will increase on 24 July. Is it not possible, Minister, that all increases could apply from the one day or at the one time?

Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods): All increases are paid in the one week, but what looks so different is that the unemployment payments are not paid until the end of that week so that brings them into the next week. Basically, they are paid in the one week but in some cases the dates are brought forward and in others they are put back. It is the dates on which the money falls due that makes them look so much further apart. In other words, the increase in unemployment assistance falls due on 19 July but will not be paid until the next week so they are actually all paid in the same week. There is a huge volume of payments involved and it is spread throughout the week but they actually all relate to the one week.

Question put and agreed to.

[747] Section 5 agreed to.

SECTION 6.

Question proposed; “That section 6 stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. Cregan: I welcome again, as I have said on Second Stage, the allowance to deserted husbands. However, is the Minister happy that he has gone far enough is providing for a deserted husband in comparison with a deserted wife? You made the point when replying to the Second Stage that you recognise that there are deserted men who are in a diabolical situation trying to look after their children. At the same time when we compare the amount of recognition and facilities that deserted wives are getting are you happy that we are going far enough to help deserted husbands?

Dr. Woods: First, this is simply a social assistance scheme. We do not have a social welfare benefit scheme for deserted husbands or widowers at this stage. That is a matter to be considered further in future. This, of course, is a major step forward as the Senator will recognise, in that it introduces a new scheme in the social assistance area which, of course, is the area where the greatest need arises. The question of further equal treatment measures is being considered by the European Communities. There is a directive under consideration which would take in the order areas. Meanwhile, I recognise that there are special problems at the assistance level and we are tackling those here in this measure.

Mr. Cregan: I am glad that the Minister is now prepared to say that this is recognised that deserted husbands do not get the same facilities as are available to deserted wives. Why is that in the Social Welfare Act ther is a recognition of a deserted wife and yet we now have only made an allocation to the deserted husband? We had much debate here two years ago regarding equal opportunity [748] equal rights and benefits. There was a hullabaloo about equal benefits for people who are entitled to them. I am not saying that they should not have got these benefits — indeed I am one of the people who would sat they should have rightly got them — too many comparisons were made and equal treatment worked to the benefit of some people only. A spouse who was on disability benefit got an extra increase for every child he or she had not but the same did not apply to someone who was not on disability benefit. Why has taken us so long to recognise the equality between men and women who are deserted by their spouses?

Dr. Woods: The equal treatment Directive did not cover this area and it was not included because it was not part of the Directive. As of yet there is no EC co-ordination in that area.

Mr. Cregan: I was referring to the recognition of the equality of the work done by them.

Dr. Woods: Equal treatment was involved in what was done technically but it only covered certain areas, and this area was not included. This is being considered at present by the European Community in a new directive which possibly may be introduced in a couple of years. It was not included in the original Directive and this is one of the reasons nothing has happened up to this stage from an equal treatment point of view. I accept, of course, that it was always up to the Government to take action along these lines but nedless to say this costs money. I am very happy that it has been done now, it is a new scheme.

Mr. Cregan: The Minister is admitting that the EC have not yet recognised equality for men in this area. I was under the impression — and indeed I think this was clarified for us several times here — that under the Equality Act which was brought before us as a result of an EC ruling each person was recognised equally. Now we are saying that a deserted [749] man with a family is not yet recognised under EC regulations.

I know the Minister has now introduced a widower's and deserted husband's allowance. I think the Minister said that 5,500 men have been deserted by their wives but a deserted husband does not get the same benefits as a woman who lives next door or three doors up from him who has been deserted by her husband. This is a fact of life and I believe that men who find themselves in this position are worse off than women who are deserted by their husbands. The vast majority of men need assistance when they are dealing with children and I do not think they can deal with them as capably as women can. This is the same as asking a woman to do a man's work — she will not do it as well as a man. Women do not have work as hard as men and they get paid the same amount for doing less work, yet a man who has to care for four or five children will not be given the same treatment as a deserted wife. The Minister has done a lot in this area and I appreciate that very much. He has shown very serious concern and has a great deal of knowledge of this area. However, we should not have to wait for EC regulations to come to our door again before doing something in this area. This is a fact life and we must recognise it.

Dr. Woods: First, the figure of 5,500 did not refer to deserted husbands only; it included widowers and deserted husbands.

Mr. Cregan: I appreciate that.

Dr. Woods: The cost of the scheme is £5.7 million and that is probably why it was not introduced in the past. I regard this as a major step. We will see how it goes and it can be reviewed in the future. At social assistance level there will be a similar scheme in both cases but so far as the benefit side is concerned it will not apply at that level.

Mr. Connor: I want to refer to the position of a man whose wife dies intestate. With regard to the distribution of [750] means for the level of entitlement of widower's pension, how does the Minister propose to deal with the distribution of an estate? There is a notional distribution of an estate if the situation is the reverse. For example, if the husband in a family dies intestate, and assuming that he has land, one-third of his estate is deemed to be attributed to his children and two-third is deemed to be attributed to his widow. On this basis an income is then assessed as arising from the property or farm and two-thirds of that income is attributed to the wife and one-third to the children. Will those children be regarded as qualified for the purposes of the receipt of an increase in pension for the family? My question relates to the reverse of that where a wife who dies intestate and who, because of family protection, etc., has rights to property. How does the Minister propose to deal with that problem?

Dr. Woods: I think I would need to look at the Succession Act to give a full answer in a particular case. So far as the Department are concerned the assessment would be the same but it is the income a person will have——

Mr. Connor: The percentage or fraction.

Dr. Woods: Whatever percentage or fration it was, it would have the same effect on the income as it would in the case where a husband dies. The means test will be exactly the same in all aspects.

Incidentally this relates in interesting point which people have not yet fully realised. We are talking here about a widower's and deserted husband's scheme and a widower or deserted husband could work to some extent and still receive income. There is an allowance in the case of widows, which will now apply to the widower, of £6 per week for the person concerned and £6 for each child, together with a child minding allowance of £30 to £35 per week.

Mr. Cregan: Will a man get this?

[751] Dr. Woods: He will under this scheme. He will also be able to claim travelling expenses. Therefore, a widower with four children could earn £3,640 per year, allowing, say, £10 travelling expenses, and still get the full pension. He can earn more than that and get part of the pension. It is an assistance pension. People have not fully realised this factor. It does not just relate to cases where there is a nil income; there is an allowance for certain other income as well, which is more generous in the case of widows than in other cases, and this will now apply to a man in this position.

Mr. Cregan: The Minister recognises that widows and deserted wives were treated better than deserted husbands and widowers. Widows and deserted wives were entitled to certain benefits and to work. They received tax-free allowances after they earned a certain amount and if they worked so many hours they could still receive the full pension. It is only right that this is the case because they have to look after their children without the fiscal help of their spouses and the same should apply in the case of widowers or deserted husbands. However, men did not get this assistance. I know a man who has seven children and he has not got any assistance up to now. Even if he wanted someone to come into his house for two hours in the mornings to look after his children or do housework, there was no allowance for this. However a widow could do a certain amount of work and still receive the full amount of the allowance. I am glad the Minister has at last recognised this anomaly and we should not wait any longer for EC regulations on equality.

Question put and agreed to.

SECTION 7.

Question proposed: “That section 7 stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. O'Shea: Regarding section 7 where the definition of a “qualified child” has been improved to cover children in [752] full-time education — this is welcome and I compliment the Minister on it — but, where appropriate, would other educational establishments, for example, FÁS courses be covered?

Dr. Woods: In this case it would have to be the normal full-time educational course. It would not cover a FÁS course and in any event there would be an individual payment to the person.

Mr. O'Shea: Would that necessarily apply to an apprentice where sponsorship was required? Is that something the Minister could look at in the context of regulations afterwards?

Dr. Woods: I will certainly look at the question of apprenticeship where there is no income involved.

Question put and agreed to.

SECTION 8.

Question proposed: “That section 8 stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. Cregan: I note that the employer's contribution is being increased to £18,000. This is an area where PRSI payments for the people who are earning less could be reduced and PRSI payments increased for those earning in excess of £16,700. The Minister referred to that in his Second Stage speech. In that connection, can the Minister see where a person should be paying PRSI on an income of over £16,700 and, if so, what extra revenue would it bring in? If a person earns £16,700 up to the end of September, from then on he would not pay any more and he would not receive hospital services unless he was a member of the VHI. If he were to continue to pay for the remainder of the year what would it mean to the State?

Dr. Woods: The first thing I should say is that if we were to exempt, say, the first £1,000 the cost in respect of the employee — if we exempt the employee only — would be £43 million; if we exempt the [753] employer from the first £1,000 it would be £88 million; if both were exempted it would amount to £131 million. If we went on to exempt the first £3,000 the total would be £350 million. The difficulty here is that everybody is involved and, therefore, the numbers are big even though it is a small amount. It is important to recognise that what we are doing this time is making a difference between the ceilings going up to £18,000. It opens up the whole question of how we can take the money in future and what we can do to meet these kinds of requirements. There is also the question of part-time people who have to be considered in that context. When you come to consider the whole matter globally, it is more important to provide some benefits and security for part-time people. If that continued into the distant future they would be left in very bad circumstances. We might need to be flexible in that direction. If we were to abolish the ceiling entirely — and let it run indefinitely — the total saving would be £86 million.

Mr. Cregan: The Minister has again said——

Dr. Woods: Did the Senator ask about employees only?

Mr. Cregan: If the contributions are to be continued to the end of the year you could bring in — even though there are not thousands of people on £18,000 or on £16,700 but there are enough — another £86 million. For a person earning £5,000 — which is £20 per week — there is no contribution for the first £1,000 which is paid to everybody. I would say that anybody who is earning under £7,000 per year should pay no PRSI on the first £2,000. The less well off and the person who is earning £140 per week should pay no PRSI because he cannot afford to pay it and the employer should not be asked to pay it for him either.

I am not saying that the person who is earning £16,700 a year should not pay more; of course he should. That is what is happening in Britain. The facts are that the person who is earning more is on a [754] rate of tax of 25 per cent. The person earning £30,000 pays only at the rate of 40 per cent and the person who is earning £5,000 still has to pay tax at the rate of 25 per cent. The Department of Social Welfare are able to change things in a short period because of computerisation. I am not denying that and thanks to computerisation that can be done. There is no reason we cannot now say that a person who is earning less than £7,000 should not pay PRSI on the first £2,000. It is a help to him to go to work rather than go to the employment exchange where he will receive £10 less. That is the point I am trying to make.

I am trying to keep people at work. The person who is working does not necessarily say he is worth a lot more than the person who is not working. The facts are that he and his family feel better. he looks better and is cleaner because he is working. It does not matter what he is doing, whether he is going from one place to another; at least he is doing something and the children know he is at work. It is good for him, it is good for us and it is good for society. We have 240,000 people who are unemployed, 50,000 people per year are leaving and we are not prepared to give an incentive to the person who is not earning much. I am not worried about the person who is earning £15,000 and upwards. Let him suffer.

Dr. Woods: Senator Cregan mentioned the question of £1,000 and in the course of his contribution raised it to £2,000.

Mr. Cregan: For the person who is earning less than £7,000.

Dr. Woods: I appreciate that is one way of limiting the cost but obviously the specific figures would have to be worked out for any of those variations. The Government did something like that this year on the tax system instead. That is what the child-related tax exemption is all about. The child-related tax exemption does almost exactly that. For a person who is on £6,000 he will pay no tax up to that level, together with an extra £200 for each child which, with five children, [755] would bring it up to £7,000. Therefore, at £7,000 the person at work will gain £13 per week which includes the extra child benefit of £1.65 per week.

That is the reason the Government decided this year to go into that system because it was a means whereby one could ease the position of people who were at work. That operates also in a marginal way up to about £9,500. The people at work will receive £13 per week — if it is a five child family — if they are earning £7,000. The amount will be reduced to £4 if the person is earning £9,000 or £9,500. There is a sliding scale upwards. One of the advantages of the tax system is that we can operate that kind of scheme. With that in mind the Government decided — and bearing in mind what Senator Cregan has said repeatedly in the Seanad whenever we come to discuss these matters — to deal with the people at work. The other matter concerning people at work is the family income supplement.

Mr. Cregan: The Minister admits that but, in actual fact to receive the £9,500 one would need to have a very large family.

Dr. Woods: No, it is the same; five children enables one to reach £9,500. It is on a sliding scale from a £13 a week saving down to about £4.

Mr. Cregan: I am very much aware that as a result of the budget a person on £6,000 per annum would not pay tax. In order to create an incentive for an employer to take on another employee, would it not be better to charge a smaller PRSI contribution? The Minister says that a person would be better off working even though, if he were on social welfare, he would be receiving £10 more. From July, a man with two children will be doing all right on social welfare but not as well as his mother and father who are over eighty. I would like that man to go to work. By reducing the employer's PRSI contribution will the Minister enable the employer to pay a man as [756] much as he would otherwise get on social welfare? Such an employee on low earnings is not even in the tax bracket. People want to work; the social employment scheme has proved that. Even with less money than they had two years ago, people are still saying they want to work under these schemes. Even though people on social employment schemes are only getting £55 instead of £60 a week, they still want to work. The Minister can imagine the number of jobs that could be created in the private sector by implementing a reduction in PRSI payments for the employer.

Dr. Woods: I accept the Senator's points. The Government have chosen this route this year but we will look at it further in the light of our experience.

Section agreed to.

SECTION 9.

Amendment Nos. 1 and 2 not moved.

Question proposed: “That section 9 stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. O'Shea: We will oppose this section on the grounds that the increase is not substantial enough. Obviously if we had put down an amendment it would have been ruled out of order.

Dr. Woods: The increase in section 9 relates to the self-employed contributions and the earnings ceiling. The income from this is very substantial. I do not know of anything else one can point to that has had the same sort of increases in income to the fund over the last number of years.

Mr. O'Shea: The tax amnesty.

Dr. Woods: Basically we are keeping the self-employed people in line with other employees.

Mr. Cregan: I, like Senator O'Shea, deplore the fact that we are not allowed put a limit on this because of an extra increase to the Revenue. I welcome the idea of self-employed contributions. [757] From listening to people in the self-employed area, I know they recognise that it is important for them to be properly covered within the Social Welfare Acts. There is no great opposition to the recommendation with regard to the self-employed, but there are still many areas in the upper classes where the Minister could increase the take and reduce it for the lower classes.

Dr. Woods: We are going back to a higher ceiling generally. We have made substantial savings which have enabled us to make major improvements under this Bill without having to look for more money. We have a very substantial carry over from last year, approximately £55 million. Our savings have enabled us to meet our costs as well as the extra costs of the increases given this year in this Bill. It is true that the increase in the ceiling as a percentage is the lowest for the last eight years but the same increase is applying to employees and the self-employed. We wanted equitable treatment and equitable participation and we have that now. We want the self-employed to proceed in line with employees generally.

In 1983, the ceiling increased to £3,500, in 1984 there was no increase, in 1985 it was £800, in 1986 it was £900, in 1987 it was £800, in 1988 it was £700 and in 1989 it will be £500. As far as the employees and the self-employed persons are concerned, it is the lowest percentage increase since and including 1982.

Question put and declared carried.

SECTION 10.

Question proposed: “That section 10 stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. O'Shea: I spoke about this in my Second Stage contribution. Basically we are talking about an increase in the floor for the assessment of pay-related benefit from £66 to £69 without any corresponding increase at the upper end. This Government have effectively [758] reduced the maximum amount of pay-related benefit which can be paid to any employee to less than £19. When one considers the very substantial payments that PRSI contributions are making, this seems to be a retrograte and an inequitable step.

Mr. Cregan: On a point of information, in relation to the amendments, are we dealing with them now or are we taking them later?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: There is no amendment to section 10 because it has been ruled out of order.

Mr. Cregan: There was an amendment to section 9.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Section 9 has already passed, so the Senator must speak on section 10.

Mr. Cregan: I can have a stand up fight about this if we are not allowed to make amendments because of——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: There is nothing new in this. The House does not have the power to impose an additional charge on the Exchequer in this kind of Bill. That has been the case since 1937.

Mr. Cregan: That is a long time without a change.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: It will not be changed today.

Mr. Cregan: This is 1989, and only 52 years have passed since 1937. In America they still talk about the famine.

Dr. Woods: In reply to what Senator O'Shea said about pay-related benefit, I presume that he is aware that the Commission on Social Welfare recommended doing away with it altogether and including it in the basic level of unemployment benefit. This is being done routinely over the years. The base has been raised but the ceiling has remained the same since 1983. This is the smallest increase in the [759] floor since that time. The increase in 1983 was £4, in 1984 it was £7, in 1985 it was £6, in 1986 it was £9, in 1987 it was £4, in 1988 it was £4 and in 1989 it was £3.

The Senator will recognise that it is the smallest increase of recent years. Before that time, the increases were even bigger. This is the smallest increase as far back as 1981. The effect of it is to reduce the maximum rate of pay-related benefit from £18.50 to £18.10 per week but I would submit that is minimal, and has less effect than has been the case for a good many years.

Mr. O'Shea: The raising of the floor is one aspect, but the Minister has also reduced the amount that can be paid by the calculation method to 12 per cent of the accessible amount. It has not just been the floor that has been the problem during his term. Whereas the Commission on Social Welfare may have recommended this, the increases in the basic benefit have not been enough to justify what is happening with pay-related benefit. I will be opposing this section.

Dr. Woods: To keep it in perspective, the rate was 40 per cent at one stage and the Senator's colleagues, in Coalition, in 1983 reduced it from that to 25 per cent. It is true that in 1987 it was further reduced. In fact, it was being reduced in the budget in any event when we came into office but it stayed reduced to 12 per cent. Since that time we have maintained it at 12 per cent and I have resisted any reduction beyond that. My argument in that case was on the grounds that that £18 to £19, on top of the basic amount gives the sort of level that the commission would have regarded as adequate and I did not agree with going below that level.

That brings us back to the general question of the commission's recommendation that it should be absorbed into the basic rate. If, in future, it was absorbed into the basic rate and the basic rate was adequate, that would be a different question altogether.

[760] Mr. Cregan: I can appreciate some of those points. I can imagine the pressure that was on the Minister to take more money from social welfare as regards pay-related benefit. I know that at one time the rate was 40 per cent and it was then reduced to 25 per cent. There was a recognition that a person was then better off not working but because the rate was reduced to 25 per cent does not necessarily mean that the 40 per cent rate was not a good thing. In theory, it was used to the benefit of people who probably were not being paid enough for the work they were doing. The vast majority lost out because a certain number of people were inclined to abuse it and stay out of work. They knew when to use the system. They knew the times of the year not to work so that their benefit would be at its highest. It is sad that now a person who is really sick and has to stay out of work is not properly covered. Even the Minister admits that they are just above the bread line. For a person to be out of work because of sickness and not get a proper benefit because of other people abusing the system is unfair and the Minister should be making no apologies to anyone in saying that the rate of benefit should be increased.

Dr. Woods: The position is fairly clear. The change which is being made at this stage is a minimal one and will have a minimal effect.

Question put and declared carried.

SECTION 11.

Question proposed: “That section 11 stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. Cregan: There are a number of rates to be eliminated. I have always said and still say that there should be one benefit for everybody irrespective of their situation. There is a real concern in particular areas as regards the payment of non-urban rates. Is there any way in which we can bring about a better system of payment for people? Is there any way we can have a better system of investigating [761] people, particularly people in rural areas? It is most unfair to have them queueing up on the side of the street to see certain people before they can get any benefit.

I am not saying that it should be easy to get benefit but, on the one hand, the Minister is saying that people over 55 years of age should not be seen any more and people over 60 years of age should be allowed to work, even though they would be getting benefit — I am not saying that that should not happen. On the other hand, in every little village in the country people are queueing up on a certain day every week and they have many kinds of cars parked near the exchange. I am not saying that all of them should be getting benefit, either, could we not have a system where at least they could be taken in off the streets, given some privacy and some dignity. There are 240,000 people unemployed and as the Minister said, there are 190,000 of them on long term benefit. When is he going to improve the system? Is there not a better way of doing it?

Mr. Connor: I said on Second Stage I welcomed this section of the Bill which abolishes the difference between urban and rural rates. I would like to return to a certain category of rural rate of unemployment assistance and maybe repeat some of the points I made on Second Stage. I do not think they can be repeated often enough because there is a degree of injustice being done here to small farmers who used to qualify for the old rural rate of unemployment assistance.

In relation to the means test to qualify for what is called a qualification certificate, I made the point on Second Stage that the system used by the Department of Social Welfare in their investigation is far from scientific, let alone accurate. Many of the items of expense a small farmer may have in the running of his farm are not allowed for as, say, in an analogous situation under the tax code. They are not allowed for under the social welfare code and I introduce that at this stage because we are dealing with the abolition of the differential between the [762] urban and rural rates which, of course, is enlightened in itself.

Could the Minister look at the proposal that a completely new, better defined, set of regulations would be given to our social welfare officers in the carrying out of their investigations and that the same criteria would be used by our appeals officers who have to deal with these cases. On Second Stage I mentioned many areas where expenses necessarily incurred in the running of a farm are not allowed for in the determination of means to qualify for a qualification certificate.

Dr. Woods: As I said at the end of Second Stage, commenting on the Senator's contribution, we certainly will keep them in mind because what the Senator says is factually true. There is this kind of assessment. There is a difficulty, in any event, in assessing a smallholder's means and it is all on factual assessment now rather than notional. That was finalised a couple of years ago. Smallholders will get substantial increases in any event and are being brought up to the same rate. There was a school of thought which proclaimed that it should not apply but their view did not prevail. In relation to Senator Cregan's remark, we are now improving our system of payment. One of the problems is that people are paid by cash and must come to collect it. A survey showed that most people want to be paid by cash which is a difficulty. We are rapidly computerising employment exchanges which will give us the option of doing other things. The question of queueing comes up very often but it should not be a problem as people are asked to come at different times but, unfortunately, sometimes they all come together which causes delay.

Mr. Cregan: Why do they all come at the same time?

Dr. Woods: Do not ask me to work out the whys and wherefores of that. The Senator kept referring to the age of 55 but we brought in the post-60 pre-retirement scheme. It was suggested that people [763] over 55 years of age might not have to sign as frequently and that the pre-retirement allowance might come into effect at the age of 55. However, I did not visualise this and we settled on the age of 60. A person in receipt of the pre-retirement allowance is not allowed to undertake work up to 18 hours per week. At the same time, if a person in that bracket was doing a very small amount of work we would only pay attention of a very minor nature to it.

Mr. Connor: I regret that I did not hear the Minister's reply to Second Stage as I was having my lunch. I submit that the means of assessment relating to smallholders is not factual. It is full of anomalies and, consequently, full of injustices. Will the Minister look at the whole system of determining what expenses are necessarily incurred in running a farm for the purpose of receiving a qualification certificate under small farmers' assistance-unemployment assistance? The Minister should look at the code which applies for the assessment for tax and he will see a great difference in that and the system assessing income derived from land.

Dr. Woods: I am prepared to look at it.

Mr. Connor: With an open mind?

Dr. Woods: I always have an open mind which often gets me into trouble. However, the Senator should rejoice in the fact that increases have been applied to smallholders as well as to everybody else.

Mr. Connor: I welcome the fact that increases have been granted but the maximum rate will not bring a smallholder above the basic poverty line. For that reason, I cannot rejoice. My criticism is not confined to that area, I am also unhappy about attributing value to fixed or moving assets on a farm because their value can be very small. At least under the tax code, there is an allowance [764] for depreciation but this does not apply under the social welfare code. The Minister should look at the example of the tax system as a possible road to reform.

Mr. Cregan: The Minister has admitted that some facilities give rise to concern. It is worrying that people want to be paid in cash in these dangerous times. Why can they not be paid by cheque? The problem is that a person cashing a cheque is charged from 8p to 13p.

Dr. Woods: There can be difficulty in cashing cheques because the banks are not over-enthusiastic about accepting the additional number of customers who would be involved. However, we are laying the foundation for a more flexible method of payment and in computerised exchanges a chit is issued which is the same as a cheque. The step from that to a cheque is a fairly small one but it requires agreement in a whole variety of areas. Dublin and Cork have been computerised and we are gradually getting around the rest of the country. Sligo is next on the list. We will soon have the whole country computerised which will give great flexibility in the system of payments. In relation to the increases for smallholders and Senator Connor's criticism I should like to say to him that an elderly lady I know always says that it is a poor heart which cannot rejoice. The Senator should rejoice at the prospect of substantial increases.

Mr. Cregan: The Minister admitted that the banks are not anxious to cash the cheques of those receiving social welfare. I welcome computerisation but it is not fair to charge a person who has very little for cashing a cheque. The banks should be ordered to cash such cheques free of charge.

Dr. Woods: The postal draft is another possibility. I recognise the difficulties and we will be doing what we can to meet them.

Question put and agreed to.

[765] Sections 12 and 13 agreed to.

NEW SECTIONS.

Mr. Cregan: I move amendment No. 3:

In page 14, before section 14, to insert the following new section:

“14.—Section 3 of the Principal Act is hereby amended by the insertion before subsection (5) of the following subsection:

‘(5) In the execution of his functions under this Act and the Social Welfare Acts in general, the Minister shall ensure the provision of a minimum degree of privacy in so far as circumstances permit, to persons having to discuss their personal business in any public office in connection with the provisions of the Social Welfare Acts.’.”.

I have been made aware by a Member of the other House that the Minister is trying to do something in the Cork area but the fact of the matter is that those applying for unemployment assistance or some other social welfare benefit are placed in an embarrassing position in employment exchanges. There are no facilities available. Let me say in passing, a Leas-Chathaoirligh, that some of my amendments were ruled out of order on the basis that an extra charge could be imposed on the Exchequer. Some extra charge to the Revenue must be involved in this case——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Is the Senator questioning the Chair's ruling?

Mr. Cregan: I appeal for better facilities to be provided. I am aware that a new centre is being built in Cork. I would much prefer if we did not have to build employment exchanges but we have to accept that there will always be a big unemployment problem. This is sad. It is also sad that we have to buy land in prime areas so as to erect new buildings to cater [766] for the unemployed. In many employment exchanges at present people can get no privacy at all when dealing with their problems. It is very easy to be overheard with the result that someone could tell you what your domestic position is. I do not want to dwell for too long on this point but there should be some degree of privacy. In many employment exchanges in towns and villages people can get no privacy.

The Minister may say that I should take a look at what is being done in Cork where a new centre is being built and which will have every facility, such as showers and saunas and so on. Perhaps they might be better off staying there. Even though I welcome this development I would much prefer if something else was built in its place and I make no apology for saying this. If it does not need to be built, then do not build it. With all due respects, many Departments of State own buildings in Cork. With the making of a transfer order these could be used as local employment exchanges rather than our having to erect new buildings. If it is necessary for us to erect new buildings, we should make sure that adequate facilities are provided so that those in the less well off category of our society can get some privacy.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: I wish to point out that in looking at this amendment the Chair considered that it would impose an additional administrative cost, not a cost on the Exchequer in respect of social welfare.

Mr. Cregan: With all due respects——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: The Chair is not in a position to have an argument over it. I call on the Minister to reply.

Mr. Cregan: You are quite right.

Dr. Woods: I think the Senator has attempted to forestall anything I might say. We are building a very fine social welfare services office in Cork. In any event we need a social welfare services [767] office. Cork deserves a first class social welfare services office.

Mr. Cregan: There are many unemployed people in Cork.

Dr. Woods: We will always have to make provision for the elderly, the disabled, the handicapped and various other categories. We hope that there will be fewer unemployed. It is also possible that those in employment may want to check their entitlements. We are now building social welfare services offices. While people in Cork will still refer to these as “the exchange” I would much prefer if they looked upon them as one-stop shops. Even though the Senator would prefer I did not refer to Cork, I feel I have to make a reference to the position in Cork. If the Senator takes a look at the plan which I have in my hands he will see the very fine facilities that are going to be provided. Three rooms, very nicely sectioned off, are going to be set aside as fresh claims interview rooms. Separate from these, other interview rooms will be provided. I give this as an example of what is being done everywhere else. Where an office is being refurbished we are providing facilities which would allow for a degree of privacy. I would regard it as important that we do this.

At present there are 225 offices throughout the country and a lot of work remains to be done. The Senator spoke about the acquiring of sites and the erecting of new buildings but let me tell him that what took place within the Nutgrove Shopping Centre in Rathfarnham was very interesting. We obtained facilities within that complex and have established a one-stop shop there providing all of these facilities. This was opened a couple of months ago. Another was opened in Galway not so long ago, and in the near future new exchanges will be opened in Ballyfermot and Kilbarrack on the north-side. In the Dublin area we wish to cater for people in outlying areas rather than their having to come in to the centre of the city where overcrowding takes place. I agree entirely that the cost of transport [768] is an important factor. In Kilbarrack we have managed to obtain facilities in a shopping centre free of charge and these are now being converted. This is a very interesting development and I would like to take a look to see where facilities are available within shopping areas around the country. I would also like to see more such developments in the future as we wish to provide all of the services available in the one place along with information on jobs.

At present we are refurbishing offices in Buncrana, Newbridge, Cavan, Carlow, Clonmel, Tralee, and a number of others were refurbished recently. I would like to reassure the Deputy that we are trying to provide the facilities which would allow for a degree of privacy.

Mr. Cregan: Let me make one point on section 14.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: We are not dealing with section 14.

Mr. Cregan: I am very much aware of what is the position in Cork. I am glad that the Minister has been given a plan for the new social welfare services office and that he has brought this plan into the House to point out to me where the cubicles will be provided in the new centre. Four cubicles and one private room——

Dr. Woods: Two private rooms will be provided.

Mr. Cregan: In order to get to the private rooms one would have to pass through an open space about 20 yards wide. The Minister is right in saying that in the Dublin area people do not have to come into the centre of the city, but with all due respect, I do not understand why the Minister has to bring a plan into the House. Four open cubicles will be provided. In order to get to the fourth cubicle one must pass the other three and in doing so one will not close ones eyes. It is an open plan, it is not nice and we can do better. There are many people earning [769] a great deal of money, more than £16,000 a year, to draw up proper designs and the Minister can rest assured that for less than £16,000 he would draw up a better design than that one.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 4 not moved.

SECTION 14.

Question proposed: “That section 14 stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. Connor: I tabled an amendment to section 14 which I regret to say has been ruled out of order.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: The Senator is correct.

Mr. Connor: Nevertheless, with your permission, I would like to refer to what I proposed. During my remarks on Second Stage on this proposal — the Minister was going to lunch then — I appealed to his compassion to extend the free travel scheme operated by his Department to that category of disabled people who, because they have a very small income of their own, do not qualify for disabled person's maintenance allowance. The Minister will inform me that the DPMA maximum adult rate is at present approximately £47 per week. A person in receipt of this allowance only is on the poverty line as we know it.

There are a group of unfortunate people who have lost a leg, an arm or arms or were born without a leg or an arm and through their own initiative they are gainfully employed on a part-time basis. This gives them an income above the basic rate of DPMA but these unfortunate people do not qualify for the free travel operated by the Department. I said on Second Stage that all persons over 66 years of age, irrespective of income, qualify for free travel; even if they are millionaires they have the right to free travel. There is nothing wrong with that but before the Bill passes the Minister should introduce an amendment to [770] extend the free travel to the category I have mentioned. I am informed by the union of voluntary organisations for the disabled that we are talking about no more than 200 to 300 people.

Dr. Woods: I appreciate the point. Following the passage of this Bill the figure will be £47.20 for the single rate and £74.10 with an adult dependant. I appreciate the difficulty which arises for people who are marginally above the limits but the difficulty really is the cost of these schemes. In fact, I did very well to maintain these schemes in the last few years when times were particularly difficult. However, I will bear in mind what the Senator has said about that scheme.

Question put and agreed to.

SECTION 15.

Question proposed: “That section 15 stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. Cregan: In regard to children boarded out, what is the position? In some areas people seem to want to cover up this matter and in other areas it seems to be an accepted thing. Will the Minister explain it?

Dr. Woods: It is a scheme operated by the health boards. There are about 1,800 children in foster care throughout the country, more than half of whom are in the Eastern Health Board area. A percentage of those children would be with families on social welfare. In this section we are ensuring that the payment in respect of a foster child will not be an impediment and will not be taken into the means calculations. This will remove a potential disincentive to foster parents. I understand there is a desire to increase the number of foster parents and this will help in that regard.

Mr. Cregan: There is a worry in some areas that people are not prepared to foster because of financial considerations. It would not pay them to do it. It would be sad if people in the less [771] well off categories were at a disadvantage in this regard. If we can do better for people, children in particular, in regard to fosterage we must do so. I make no apology for saying there should be a tax allowance or tax benefit for a person who is prepared to foster. Such persons must be paid properly and get proper recognition. Otherwise the cost to the State would be enormous. Such children are of great concern to social workers. Nice families, people who are caring, are not lacking in our society and we must make no apologies for the cost involved in improving the position of children who need such care.

Question put and agreed to.

Sections 16 and 17 agreed to.

SECTION 18.

Amendments Nos. 5 and 6 not moved.

Question proposed: “That section 18 stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. Cregan: Is the Minister happy about the ongoing concern of the Garda about their proper entitlements in regard to compensation claims and assessing compensation? Do other areas in the State structure get the same facilities? For instance, do the armed forces get the same facilities as the Garda? What about the Navy and other areas, do they get the same facilities?

Dr. Woods: As far as the Garda are concerned we welcome this provision. We have had discussions with the Department of Justice and they are very anxious to have this covered. It is an extension. They will have the same kind of cover in the occupational injuries scheme as civil servants generally and a shortfall or gap that has been in their cover will be overcome.

In relation to the Army and other parts of the public service as a whole, we are considering that question. The Pensions Board are examining it for me at present [772] and we hope to have a report from them later in the year. On the basis of that we will be looking at the question to try to get as far as possible, a unified system, across the board.

Mr. Cregan: I am not saying the Garda should not get this facility because they are doing an excellent job. In our prisons gardaí and prison officers are dealing with such matters as the AIDS threat. We just cannot flip over this very serious problem, but are we now opening the doors? If a new system is being introduced, will all people in the State structure be in the one system? If so, there will be ongoing arguments in other bodies.

For instance, the Army deliver money to the banks. At the moment they are keeping silent because of the arguments about their 15 per cent claim, but they claim that they do a great deal of dirty and dangerous work and they do not have the same facilities as the Garda. The Garda are recognised as doing a dangerous job but the Army, the prison officers, the Navy and other such people, also do work of a quality that should be recognised. I welcome the Minister's statement that one scheme will cover all people within the State structure, but I am not saying that people in the structure, including civil servants, should not pay for it.

Dr. Woods: In the public service generally roughly 160,000 are in this scheme and 140,000 are not, so there is a division. This is a complex area. They are covered for all sorts of different things, varying from one area to another. That is why I have asked the pensions board to look at the actuarial side of the problem, which is very important for the future. My objective is to have the one basic cover for widow's and old age pension for everybody and then to allow the employer to top up as he wishes. There will have to be negotiations with the public sector unions as to how this will be implemented and that process is about to begin. Many anomalies arise because people go in and out of the public service and they find gaps in their insurance [773] cover. Some very sad cases arise when these people come to pension age. We want to see an end to that and to provide basic cover for everybody, letting the private and the public sector top up on that basic cover. That is the objective I have in mind. It is now provided for the self-employed and employees generally and we are examining urgently the question of the public sector.

Question put and agreed to.

SECTION 19.

Question proposed: “That section 19 stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. Cregan: At long last there is to be notification by the employer of the commencement of employment. I know the Department have done a lot of work regarding the problem of people working in the black economy. Three years ago we had long arguments here on that topic. Unfortunately the problem is still as bad as ever and a lot of people are drawing benefits while working in the black economy.

The Minister spoke earlier about paying out on a computerised basis. Should we not provide that every person at work should have a job card? Other countries have such a scheme. I do not mean that every person should be identified by a number or by a photograph, but there is much concern about people who are working while at the same time claiming money from the State. Employers are worried about the possibility of employees illegally claiming social welfare benefits. Computerised systems are being introduced in all local exchanges and it would be possible to provide that every person at work would have a job card held by his employer. It would be illegal to work without a job card being available on the premises.

It was proved without doubt that people who tendered for local authority work in my area were employing people working in the black economy. All the local authority looked for was a tender form giving the price of the tender. [774] Nothing further was looked for, even though the State was providing the money. There is no question that contractors involved in several jobs in the city and county of Cork had employees who were not paying PRSI.

We should institute a system whereby a person coming off the live register would take a job card to give to his employer. The card could be produced in the event of an investigation and money would not be paid out from the local exchange. I am probably simplifying the matter but computerisation is marvellous, although we have certainly 100,000 more people unemployed due to the introduction of high technology. The State is spending at least £7 million per day on social welfare benefits. Should we not consider using technology to the State's advantage? The system I am proposing is working in northern Europe. I am not claiming that every person in the State should have an identity card — quite the opposite. However, I am certainly saying that every person at work should have a job card available at his place of work.

Dr. Woods: We are taking measures in this section to tighten the position and ensure by a variety of means that records are available to check on people fairly readily. Regarding sub-contractors, we have begun a system of notification covering the cleaning, forestry, building construction and security industries, who are required to notify the Department when they take on new employees. This system commenced on 1 January and 528 new employees were notified to my Department for that month. The figure for February was 1,145, making a total of 1,673 new employees notified to us in these industries. As a direct result of these notifications 60 individuals are under investigation because there is some reason to believe they are drawing some other benefit at the same time. That system is actually bringing its own controls with it.

Senator Cregan raised the wider question of having what he calls a job card. We are fairly advanced in our discussion with the Revenue Commissioners in [775] relation to the issuing of RSI numbers. I hope it will not be too long before we can issue these from the Department, which will give us more direct control over the system. The Revenue Commissioners regard it as the proper course. It will facilitate the kind of development the Senator has in mind. I assure him we are anxious to ensure by the simplest method possible that the system is self-correcting.

Question put and agreed to.

Sections 20 to 22, inclusive, agreed to.

SECTION 23.

Question proposed: “That section 23 stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. O'Shea: I am seeking clarification from the Minister. He is empowered by regulation to specify the circumstances in which contributions payable by a self-employed contributor may be treated as paid. I came across a case recently of somebody who had been self-employed until his 58th birthday. His business was no longer viable and he took a community-type job which was not very well paid. He has been paying a Class A contribution since just after his 58th birthday. He would have had to enter the insurance scheme before his 56th or 57th birthday to qualify for an old age contributory pension. I should like to ask the Minister to cater for such a case under the regulations referred to. What I am asking is if credit for contributions will be given retrospectively.

Dr. Woods: Not under this section, although I appreciate the difficulty expressed by the Senator. The matter will fall to be reviewed at the end of the three-year period when we will know the strength of the fund and the income. I am anxious to deal with those between 56 and 60 years of age but the cost would be enormous. In effect, a person should be entering the scheme at about 20 years of age and contributing from then until he or she reaches 60 years of age. Those [776] who enter the scheme at 50 years of age get a very good deal actuarially. It is very expensive to bring people in above that age and that is why I am caught and cannot go any further. I should like to tell the Senator that if the scheme is going well at the end of the three years we will review the matter. The section refers specifically to a technical difficulty that may arise. It relates to a person who may have paid in his or her money but who has not been cleared by Revenue because the tax for the previous two years was not dealt with. We want to be able to regard such people as having paid. It is a technical provision which is needed.

Mr. Cregan: When we were dealing last year with the question of contributions by the self-employed, the Minister told us he would be receiving a specific amount. He told us that for 1989 he will be taking in £39 million and for the next year he expects to take in £50 million. I should like to know if he will make allowances for those between 56 and 60 years of age who are in difficulties. I suggest to him that they should be allowed pay half the amount of the contributions and be given the full benefit. We are prepared to give benefits to other sections of society and we should cater for those who have very little. Will the Minister consider that suggestion between now and the next budget?

Dr. Woods: It will be considered but I cannot give any undertaking in regard to it. We are talking about £260 million. I am an optimist and I can tell the Senator that all the indications are that the scheme is going better than anticipated. In the light of that the Senator's suggestion can be considered at a later date. I should like to tell the Senator that a widow, and the family, will be covered if the old age pensioner was not on a contributory pension.

Mr. O'Shea: I am satisfied that the Minister is aware of the problem and is willing to bring about improvements if he has the finance to do so. On that basis I accept his reply.

[777] Question put and agreed to.

SECTION 24.

Amendment No. 7 not moved.

Section 24 agreed to.

SECTION 25.

Amendment No. 8 not moved.

Section 25 agreed to.

Section 26 agreed to.

SECTION 27.

Question proposed: “That section 27 stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. Cregan: I should like to ask the Minister to have a look at cases where the net amount of income is taken into account when deciding on the eligibility of a person for a non-contributory widow's pension. Eligibility seems to be assessed on the gross amount a person may have in the bank. A person with £1,000 on deposit in a bank may earn £100 interest on that amount but 35 per cent of that interest is paid in tax. It is wrong that they are not assessed on the net amount of income. After all, most people consider such savings to be “burial money”.

Dr. Woods: The figure for a couple is £6,000 and that would cover burial. I should like to tell the Deputy that the assessment is based on the gross income. Any change would cost a lot of money but this will be considered at a later stage. Finances for such changes are made available in the budget and at that time the Minister must opt for certain priorities. The Senator's suggestion will be kept in mind when we are looking at the assessment of means under all schemes. He will be aware that there is a wide variation in the schemes and that widows are treated among the best.

Mr. Cregan: It is important to bear in [778] mind that some people get more recognition than others. It is time we introduced equality. A person who uses the system will get a lot of money but others who are not prepared to trouble the State do not receive much money in benefit. One regulation should cover all benefits. We are all aware that some holders of medical cards should not have them and some of those who have been refused medical cards are entitled to them. It is wrong that we should assess the people on the gross income. I accept that the Minister is concerned about that.

Question put and agreed.

Sections 28 to 31, inclusive, agreed to.

NEW SECTIONS.

Amendments No. 9 to 11, inclusive, not moved.

Mr. O'Shea: I move amendment No. 12:

In page 21, before Schedule A, to insert the following new section:

“. Copies of all information secured by investigating officers shall be supplied to each appellant with the appeal notice at least 7 days prior to the appeal being heard for unemployment benefit and unemployment assistance.”.

When I raised this matter on Second Stage the Minister said that copies of information as sought by me would be available on request. That is not indicated to the person who receives the notice. I am anxious that all papers be forwarded to the person when he or she is notified of the date of the appeal hearing.

Mr. Cregan: I second the amendment.

Dr. Woods: The documents are available on request but if we were to adhere to the Deputy's request we would be getting involved in considerable administrative costs. In many cases it is not necessary to send the information because after many appeals are set in [779] motion they are not pursued. We are reviewing the appeal system at the moment. We will look at the way in which this information is provided to people as part of that review. Later in the year I hope to be coming back with something on the appeals system.

Mr. O'Shea: I feel we could get around the administrative difficulty if the appeal notice were accompanied by a prepaid envelope which the person could return to request information.

Dr. Woods: We will consider that.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. O'Shea: I move amendment No. 13:

In page 21, before Schedule A, to insert the following new section:

“.—An appeals officer shall provide a written report together with his decision setting out his reasons for refusing any benefit.”.

I referred this morning to some disturbing reports that come my way from time to time in regard to how people are treated by medical referees. I am not suggesting that this is universal but there are incidents that I would be concerned about. If somebody appeals after two visits to medical referees and then gets a notice saying they are capable of work with no explanation, often these cases are borderline, and I believe a report should be provided by the appeals officer explaining why they have been found capable of work. On humanitarian grounds alone this is something that should be done and it has not been done up to now.

Mr. Cregan: I have to agree with [780] Senator O'Shea. There is a worry that people are not getting any information back from appeals officers. I know a case where a person is not capable of work and yet on appeal for the second time he has been found capable of work. I would like to have been at the oral hearing to hear about this claimant's situation. The claimant's own doctor admitted that he was not capable of work. Is the appeals officer qualified to say if a person is capable of work? Is he a doctor or a consultant? There is one person who came to me about his second appeal. He is not fit for work, and there is no way I would say he was not fit for work if he was. This man had to have two harnesses removed to have his condition checked. There is also the question of the definition of work. This person might be able to push a pen or get on a bus, but he certainly could not drive the bus. There is the question of what kind of work a person is available for. If it is a question of work, this person could not work. This person did not say he did not want to work; he would love to work but cannot. He was still cut off from benefit and now we are looking for an oral hearing.

Dr. Woods: The arrangement for disability benefit hearings is that we provide two medical officers. If one medical officer decides that a person is capable of work then there is the opportunity to appeal to a second qualified medical officer. If the second medical officer also decides that the person is capable of work, there is still an appeal to an administrative appeals officer who will take the information provided to him by the medical officers and use his own judgement and administrative experience in deciding whether a person is or is not capable of work. That system works very efficiently when one considers the numbers involved. We all, as practitioners, come across cases that we are not happy with, but it is very hard to get away from the system entirely. Broadly speaking when one looks at the numbers and the way the system operates, it is basically fair. It has been taken as far as the High Court [781] to decide if it was an independent system, and it was decided that it was independent. Notwithstanding that, the whole question that Senator O'Shea is talking about here, the question of ensuring that people are properly informed, is still one that could be improved. That is part of the consideration that is going on at the moment. Under the Programme for National Recovery the Government gave an undertaking to examine what changes if any were required in the social welfare appeals system with particular regard to ensuring that the system is seen to be fair.

The question of providing reports is one which would involve considerable additional administrative expenditure if it were to apply in all cases. The main question that needs to be addressed is how to provide what people require without getting oneself into a great bureaucracy of needless paper passing. I note the point made by the Senator that further information would be helpful. I will certainly have that considered in the review that is going on at the moment.

Mr. O'Shea: I have one further point regarding equality legislation. We tried to put down an amendment here which was disallowed asking that when somebody was being assessed for unemployment assistance only that person's means would be taken into account. I am totally in favour of equality, but where a wife is in receipt of disability benefit and the husband in receipt of unemployment assistance the latter payment is reduced. It is part of the Irish ethos that the husband is the breadwinner, and the reduced payment to the husband can have a bad psychological effect. I would ask the Minister to respond to me as to whether any review is going on in this area?

Dr. Woods: The equality legislation brought about equal treatment as between men and women. I take it the Senator is referring to the limit on unemployment assistance where the wife is on disability benefit. That is basically a [782] question of the level at which the means test applies and what is taken into consideration. Disability benefit is really a payment for people at work, who are out for just a few weeks, and this is often forgotten. I know in this country it often goes on for a few years and people begin to regard it almost as a pension. In most other countries it is not a long term payment. After a time there is an assessment and one either gets nothing or goes on to invalidity benefit. Here one can go on to invalidity pension after a year. If one does not choose to do that one can go on taking disability benefit if one is mildly unwell or maybe has a problem with one's back.

Mr. Cregan: If a person goes on to invalidity benefit he loses out on tax allowances.

Dr. Woods: That is another factor but in any event that is the whole level at which the means operate. It is probably a fairly wide cost element.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 14 not moved.

Schedule A agreed to.

Schedule B agreed to.

Title agreed to.

Bill reported without amendment and received for final consideration.

Question proposed: “That the Bill do now pass.”

Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods): In conclusion, I thank the Senators for their contributions. We have noted what they had to say and we will do what we can in regard to their suggestions. They have given the Bill a fairly thorough going over.

[783] Question put and agreed to.

Acting Chairman (Mr. Mullooly): Will the Leader of the House say when it is proposed to sit again?

[784] Mr. W. Ryan: We will adjourn sine die.

The Seanad adjourned at 3.40 p.m. sine die.