Dáil Questions: Social Protection

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Dáil Issues, Social Welfare

 

Minister buries her head and fails to take action to immediately halt the growing housing crisis faced by those in rental accommodation…

To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection if she will urgently increase Rent Supplement to enable persons to remain in their present rented properties and to stem rising homelessness. – Clare Daly.

For ORAL answer on Wednesday, 30th September, 2015.

R E P L Y

Rent supplement plays a vital role in housing families and individuals, with the scheme supporting approximately 65,000 people at a cost of €298 million in 2015.

Over 13,700 rent supplement tenancies have been awarded this year, of which almost 4,300 are in Dublin, showing that landlords are accommodating significant numbers under the scheme.

A review of the rent limits undertaken earlier this year found that the impact of increasing limits at a time of constrained supply will increase costs disproportionately for the Exchequer with little or no new housing available to recipients.

Rather than increasing limits at this time rent supplement policy will continue to allow for flexibility where landlords seek rents in excess of current limits.  Flexibility is provided under the National Framework for Tenancy Sustainment for both existing customers of the scheme and new applicants.  Under this measure tenant’s circumstances are considered on a case-by-case basis, and rents are being increased above prescribed limits as appropriate.  This flexible approach has already assisted approximately 4,000 households throughout the country to retain their rented accommodation.  In addition, the Department, in conjunction with Threshold, operates a special Protocol in the Dublin and Cork areas where supply issues are particularly acute, with plans to extend this arrangement to Galway City.

I can assure the Deputy that where Departmental staff are notified of a threat of tenancy loss these measures are implemented as appropriate.  Persons in receipt of rent supplement at risk of losing their tenancy are advised to contact the Department’s Community Welfare Service or Threshold’s Tenancy Protection Service without delay.

I am keeping the matter under review.

ORAL question for answer on 30/09/2015 :

 To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection her plans to address the inequality experienced by persons who are in receipt of reduced pensions because of the marriage bar, with the effect that they have an income below the Supplementary Welfare rate. – Clare Daly.

For ORAL answer on Wednesday, 30th September, 2015.

R E P L Y

The marriage bar is a term used to describe a rule that existed in most of the public service and some private sector employments, whereby women were expected to leave their employment upon marriage.  The bar was removed when we joined the European Economic Community in 1973.

Where such employees were in the public service, they paid a modified rate of PRSI. These contributions provided no cover for the State pension and, accordingly, the marriage bar would not have impacted on State pension entitlement.  It may, however, have impacted upon their eventual entitlement to a Public Service pension which is a matter for the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

State pension (contributory) is based on the PRSI contributions paid or credited by the person over their working life, and the level of entitlement depends on their yearly average number of contributions.  From 1994, a Homemakers Scheme was introduced, where time out of the workforce to care for children, or people with a disability can be disregarded for the purposes of calculating that yearly average.

Where someone over 66 does not qualify for a full rate contributory pension, they may apply for a non-contributory pension, which is based on need and is means tested.  The maximum rate of this pension is €219 weekly.

Where it is more beneficial for the claimant, they may instead seek an Increase for Qualified Adult payment, based on their spouse’s State pension contributory, the maximum rate of which is €206.30. This increase is, by default, paid directly to the Qualified Adult.

Supplementary Welfare Allowance is a means tested payment. Any person aged 66 or over is entitled to make a claim for the means tested State Pension non-contributory. The pension is, in the first instance, paid at a higher weekly rate than SWA – €219 rather than €186 – and the means test for the pension is considerably less onerous than that which applies for SWA.

This means that, regardless of their circumstances, someone eligible to apply for the State pension non- contributory should receive significantly more than they would if they claimed SWA.