Dáil Questions: Social Protection

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Dáil Issues, Oral Questions, Social Welfare

To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection if she will justify the way those who are required to take up a Gateway position, end up financially worse off through the payment of PRSI, along with the cost of attending work, ensuring a substantial reduction in their family’s income; and her plans regarding same. – Clare Daly.

*For ORAL answer on Thursday, 5th March, 2015.

R E P L Y

Gateway is a Government initiative in the Local Authorities which aims to provide short-term quality and suitable work opportunities to improve the employability and maintain the work readiness of those who have been unemployed for 24 months or more. To date there are some 1,800 participants.

Employees on Gateway with income over €352 per week are liable for Class A PRSI contribution at a rate of 4% on the total earnings. These employees are also subject to normal income tax and payroll deductions if their level of earnings brings them into the tax net. As the Deputy is aware, this also applies to employees in the private and public sector and those engaged in other work placements initiatives such as Tús, Community Employment and the Rural Social Scheme.

Participants on employment schemes, who pay Class A, can establish entitlement to the full range of short-term benefits, including jobseeker’s benefit, illness benefit, and maternity benefit and to long term benefits including state pension (contributory).

I should also mention the additional benefits that must be considered such as the provision of paid annual leave, the opportunity to engage in paid work outside of their working hours and the experience gained on work placements which can significantly enhance a person’s ability to identify other work and development opportunities to access the jobs market.

While the majority of people who are referred to Gateway are selected on a random basis by the Department, the opportunity for voluntary or self-selection is also available.

Overall, I want to make it very clear that if a placement is putting a negative financial impact on a participant, then it is open to them to inform their Intreo Office and to seek to be excused from participation on financial grounds. In such cases, the Department will work with the person to identify other activation and/or educational opportunities, which may be more appropriate to their circumstances.

To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection if she is satisfied with the power and independence of the Pensions Authority; and she plans to change it. – Clare Daly.

For ORAL answer on Thursday, 5th March, 2015.

R E P L Y

The recommendations arising out of the Critical Review on the Pensions Board were approved by Government in April 2013 and were provided for in the Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2013.

It was recommended that the governance structure of the Board be restructured as follows:

· Oversight of the then Pensions Board to be undertaken by a three person body called the Pensions Authority consisting of a Chairperson and two officials from the Department of Social Protection and the Department of Finance. This was put in place in early 2014.

· The Pensions Board was renamed the Pensions Authority to reflect better its key role of safeguarding the pensions of occupational pension scheme members and the provision of information on occupational pensions.

· A separate unpaid Pensions Council was established to advise me and the Department on matters of pension policy and give consumers greater input into pension policy. The Pensions Council was appointed on 3 February, and its first meeting will be held shortly. Its membership ensures that the relevant skills, knowledge, and experience is available to provide the necessary advice and information in the development of pensions policy.

This separation of the regulatory oversight and policy development functions previously under the Pensions Board will ensure there is no perception of regulatory capture by the industry

I am satisfied that the new structures as outlined above and the provisions of the Pensions Act provide the Pensions Authority with sufficient power and independence and I do not have any plan to change it further at the present time.