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Tynwald Sitting - 20th February 2007 20 February 2007

Oral Question 9 | Oral Question 10 | Oral Question 11 | Oral Question 12 | Oral Question 13 | Oral Question 14 | Oral Question 15 | Written Question 39 | Written Question 40

The question number refers to the question order specified in the official Keys Question Paper. To read the answers, scroll down this page or select a link to a question from above.

The question number refers to the question order specified in the official Keys Question Paper. To read the answers, scroll down this page or select a link to a question from above.

Question NumberSubjectQuestion from
Question 9BenefitsMr Henderson, MHK
Question 10Tax Credit RebateMr Henderson, MHK
Question 11Winter Heating AllowanceMr Henderson, MHK
Question 12Income SupportMr Henderson, MHK
Question 13FluorideMr Gill, MHK
Question 14Children and Young Persons Act 2001Mr Karran, MHK
Question 15PensionsMr Henderson, MHK
Question 39Thie RosienMr Gill, MHK
Question 40Nursing StaffMr Henderson, MHK

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Oral Question 9

For Oral Answer:The Hon Member for Douglas North (Mr Henderson) to ask the Minister for Health and Social Security

Can you confirm where your Department gets the figure of £185.84 and states “that this is the amount that the law says you need to live on” in letters to benefit claimants?

Answer

Mr President

The £185.84 to which the Honourable Member refers is most likely to be an applicable amount of income support. The applicable amount of income support for a claimant is dependent upon their circumstances and is usually constituted of a personal allowance (or allowances) and housing costs, and may also include certain premiums.

Without knowing the specific circumstances of the case alluded to by the Honourable Member, I am unable to provide a more detailed explanation.

However, what I am able to confirm is that all rates of social security benefits and allowances, including the prescribed amounts for income support, payable on the Island are as approved by this Honourable Court.

Oral Question 10

For Oral Answer:The Hon Member for Douglas North (Mr Henderson) to ask the Minister for Health and Social Security

Will your Department review its regulations for benefit claimants to include all those people in receipt of “Tax Credit Rebate”?

Answer

Mr President

I assume the Honourable Member is actually referring to Income Tax Personal Allowance Credits, responsibility for the administration of which lies with Treasury.

Personal Allowance Credits currently have no affect at all on entitlement to non income-related social security benefits and in respect of income-related benefits are not regarded as income.

I am confident that Honourable Members would agree that it would not be in the best interests of benefit recipients to change the status quo.

Oral Question 11

For Oral Answer:The Hon Member for Douglas North (Mr Henderson) to ask the Minister for Health and Social Security

Will you and your Department review the “Winter Heating Bonus Allowance” criteria to include a wider range of our community than can currently claim?

Answer

Mr President

I assume that the Honourable Member is, in fact, referring to the Winter Bonus.

I can confirm that the Low Incomes Working Group is currently looking at options to help those who have relatively low incomes but who do not qualify for a Winter Bonus under the present eligibility criteria.

The Group is currently considering a number of ways to deliver additional help, using either the social security benefits regime or the income tax system. However, there are, of course, resource implications which would require careful consideration before any recommendations could be made.

Honourable Members may wish to note that I am considering increasing certain income support pensioner premiums from this April, which would have the potential to bring entitlement to income support, and therefore the Winter Bonus, to some of those pensioners currently on the margins.

Honourable Members may also wish to note that despite the increases in tariffs which were announced last September, domestic fuel prices on the Island have actually fallen since then. Indeed, the fuel and light element of the Manx Retail Prices Index shows that in the year to mid December, overall fuel prices rose by just 1.1% and have actually fallen by 1.5% over the last 3 months.

Mr President, whilst I have asked the Low Incomes Working Group to hasten their deliberations, I think the majority of Members would agree with me that the urgency which we faced last October has now passed. Indeed, it is ironic that this Honourable Court has committed itself to paying an Additional Winter Bonus at a time when domestic fuel costs are actually falling.

Oral Question 12

For Oral Answer:The Hon Member for Douglas North (Mr Henderson) to ask the Minister for Health and Social Security

Can you make a statement regarding your Department’s issuing of letters to claimants for Income Support where such letters give claimants formal notification that they are not entitled to benefit such as Income Support because “you have more money coming in than the law says you need to live on”?

Answer

Mr President

As Honourable Members are aware, income support is an income-related benefit. Therefore, in determining entitlement to it, the Adjudication Officer must compare a claimant’s income and capital resources (if any) against the applicable amount for a person in the claimant’s circumstances. The applicable amount is constituted of personal allowances and, according to the circumstances of the case, housing costs and premiums - the levels of which are approved by this Honourable Court.

The purpose of the letters referred to by the Honourable Member is to formally advise customers of the outcome of their income support claims and their rights of redress if they are dissatisfied with the Adjudication Officer’s decision.

Oral Question 13

For Oral Answer:The Hon Member for Rushen (Mr Gill) to ask the Minister for Health and Social Security

  1. Is it your intention to have a policy of introducing Fluoride into the public water supply; and
  2. If so, will you engage in a meaningful consultation programme with the general public and relevant professional bodies?

Answer

Mr President

  1. No, the DHSS does not presently have a policy to introduce Fluoridation into the public water supply. We might seek to develop a policy on fluoridation of water after consulting the public.
  2. Yes, the Public Health Directorate will plan and lead a consultation programme over the next year which will include a questionnaire to determine the views of the public. The results of this survey will help to guide us in determining a Policy on Fluoridation.

Oral Question 14

For Oral Answer:The Hon Member for Onchan (Mr Karran) to ask the Minister for Health and Social Security

Under the Childrens Act and Young Persons Act 2001 it is a requirement for service providers to report to your Department any person in their employment who in the employer’s opinion has displayed behaviour that may render them unfit to work with children or young people -

  1. since the introduction of this Act how many people have been reported to your Department;
  2. what checks are carried out by your Department in order to comply with data protection legislation to very the authenticity of any information they receive from a third party regarding an individual who may, in an employer’s opinion, be unfit to work with children or young people;
  3. who holds this information within your Department;
  4. if an individual has been reported to your Department would that individual be able to work with children or young people within the Department or private sector; and
  5. given the findings of the recent report into child care why do your Department allow St Christopher’s organisation to put its staff and the young people they look after at risk from excessive working hours?

Answer

Mr President

Under the Children and Young Persons Act 2001, the Childrens Homes Regulations 2002 Para 3 and 4 define the criteria under which a person may be deemed ‘fit’ to work in a childrens home. By implication it is possible to identify someone who is ‘unfit’ to work in a childrens home. The Island Child Protection Committee also have procedures for investigation of child protection concerns and in many cases these concerns will also provoke a Child Protection Investigation.

To answer the specific points raised:

  1. Since the introduction of the 2001 Act and Regulations in 2002, there are estimated to have been five cases where child protection concerns have been investigated in relation to individuals in employment either by Child Care Providers or by other official bodies.
  2. All information is verified by investigation and we would refer to source to check the authenticity of all information. In these cases Social Services work closely with colleagues in the Police Force in the investigation of concerns.
  3. Information is recorded within the Social Services and Police recording systems as the Child Protection Procedures outline.
  4. The Department would have to determine on the basis of information received and other relevant information whether or not the person concerned met the requirement of being a fit person within the Act.
  5. St Christopher’s have recently taken over services previously operated by another Service Provider, and they are currently reviewing the shift patterns being operated to ensure that they are appropriate.

Oral Question 15

For Oral Answer:The Hon Member for Douglas North (Mr Henderson) to ask the Minister for Health and Social Security

How far has your Department got with its review of increasing the benefit net to catch people who are denied help as they are in receipt of a small pension - private, superannuation or otherwise, who desperately require assistance?

Answer

Mr President

Honourable Members may recall that from 2nd October 2006 the income support regulations on the Island were changed so as to ignore, when assessing entitlement to income support for a person aged 60 or over, the first £10 of any additional pension provision they may have.

As well as increasing the entitlement of many existing claimants at that time, it also had the effect of bringing a number of pensioners within the scope of income support entitlement whose resources had previously excluded them.

As this change came into effect less than 5 months ago, I do not consider that it requires reviewing at this time. However, the situation will, of course, be monitored and enhancements to the Island’s income-related benefits programme will be made when it is appropriate to do so and provided the requisite finance is available.

Written Question 39

For Oral Answer:The Hon. Member for Rushen (Mr Gill) to ask the Minister for Health and Social Security

What proposals does your Department have to extend the Audiology Unit services at Thie Rosien?

Answer

Currently the Audiology Service provided at Thie Rosien is that of a Paediatric Service, with a clinic being held on a monthly basis. The monthly clinic was initiated with effect from January 2007, prior to that date the clinic was held on a bi-monthly basis.

At present resources are inadequate to further extend the service at Thie Rosien.

Two whole-time Audiologists are currently employed on a permanent basis and in order to cope with the demand a “Bank” Audiologist has also been employed.

In order to provide a service to the South of the Island a “home visit” service is provided for those who are unable to travel to Douglas.

The Department is constantly reviewing how it is able to provide services to the Island within the resources available. This need is one of the key aims to address in the near future. Should the Department be successful in obtaining further resources then it would be possible to improve services in a very short space of time.

Written Question 40

For Oral Answer:The Hon Member for Douglas North (Mr Henderson) to ask the Minister for Health and Social Security

  1. Do you operate a “Family Friendly” policy for your nursing staff;
  2. if so, what is the policy; and
  3. is it applied across the Nursing Service?

Answer

The Department does not have a specific written “Family Friendly” policy but does provide highly flexible working conditions for many of its staff including nurses. In the Health Service, practices are primarily based on the UK NHS guidance “Improving Working Lives” which recognises that better working conditions for staff can improve patient care.

This is achieved through a flexible approach to recruitment which includes “family friendly” conditions, such as:

  • Term time contracts
  • Flexible working hours/shifts
  • Twilight and evening shifts in some areas
  • Bank working
  • Job sharing

In addition to the above, the Department operates a special leave policy which includes time off for the following family commitments:

  • Paternity Leave
  • P arental Leave
  • Adoption Leave
  • Compassionate & Carer Leave

The Special leave is applicable to all staff of the Department, including nursing staff, and is aimed at helping employees balance domestic responsibilities at times of urgent and unforeseen need by the provision of special leave, paid or unpaid according to the circumstances.

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