The Dormant Accounts Act 2001, together with the Unclaimed Life Assurance Policies Act 2003, provide a framework for the administration of unclaimed accounts in credit institutions (i.e. banks, building societies and An Post) and unclaimed life assurance policies in insurance undertakings.
The main purpose of the legislation is to reunite account or policy holders with their funds in credit institutions or insurance undertakings and in this regard, these bodies are required to take steps to identify and contact the owners of dormant accounts and unclaimed life assurance policies.
Dormant funds or unclaimed life assurance policies which have not been reclaimed by the original accounts/policy holder or their beneficiaries, are transferred each year by the holding institution to the Dormant Accounts Fund which is managed by the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA). The transfer of moneys takes place on the basis that the beneficial owner will have a guaranteed right of reclaim to their property at any time in the future.
The legislation also introduced a scheme for the disbursement of funds that are unlikely to be reclaimed for the purposes of measures to assist:
- the personal and social development of persons who are economically or socially disadvantaged;
- the educational development of persons who are educationally disadvantaged or;
- persons with a disability.
The Dormant Accounts (Amendment) Act 2012 provided for the exercise of the functions relating to the disbursement of moneys from the fund by a designated Minister; namely the then Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government. The Act provided for the Minister to put in place Disbursement Schemes which cover a three year period (setting out the principles and priority areas for disbursements) and subsequent Annual Action Plans which details the approved measures for funding in line with the Disbursement Scheme. These function subsequently transferred to the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.
Since July 2017 the Minister for Rural and Community Development has responsibility for decisions relating to the disbursements of moneys from the fund, including the development and implementation of the Disbursement Scheme and subsequent annual Action Plan.
Dormant Accounts Fund Disbursement Schemes
Under the Dormant Accounts (Amendment) Act 2012 the relevant Minister (currently the Minister for Rural and Community Development) must prepare a Disbursement Scheme which sets out the guiding principles for disbursements and priority areas to be addressed in Annual Action Plans. The Disbursement Scheme runs for a period not exceeding three years.
The first such Disbursement Scheme was prepared by the then Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government and covered the period 2013-2016. The current Disbursement Scheme was put in place by the then Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, and covers the period 2017-2019.
Dormant Accounts Fund Action Plans
Under the Dormant Accounts (Amendment) Act 2012, following the making of a Disbursement Scheme for the relevant 3 year period, Annual Action Plans must be prepared at least once a year. The Annual Action Plans have the purpose of giving effect to the disbursement scheme – detailing the specific measures to be funded from the Dormant Accounts Fund, and the maximum amount approved for disbursement to each measure.
Both the 2014 and 2016 Action Plans were put in place by the then Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government. The 2017 Action Plan was put in place by the then Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs in July 2017.
Most recently, the 2018 Action Plan was launched in July 2018 by Minister Seán Kyne, T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Rural and Community Development. The Action Plan details funding of almost €40 million to support 45 measures across 10 Government Departments. The measures will benefit some of the most vulnerable sections of the population, helping to address issues such as social inclusion, housing the homeless, assisting migrants, support for carers, speech and language therapy, Irish Sign Language and support for dementia sufferers.
Dormant Accounts Fund Annual Reports
The Dormant Accounts (Amendment) Act 2012 also requires the preparation of Annual Reports, by 30th June each year, on the operations of disbursements from the Fund over the previous year. Most recently the 2017 Dormant Accounts Fund Annual Report was prepared by the Department of Rural and Community Development and published in June 2018. It details expenditure of €15.8 million on Dormant Accounts measures over the course of 2017. This expenditure occurred across a range of Departments, supporting programmes which benefitted children and young people; prisoners; the unemployed; carers; victims of crime and human trafficking; people suffering from dementia and a number of marginalised communities.
Review of the Dormant Accounts Fund Disbursement Schemes 2013-2016 and 2017-2019.
A further requirement of the Dormant Accounts (Amendment) Act 2012 is the preparation of a review of the Disbursement Scheme. The legislation requires that this review be carried out within 3 years of the first Disbursement Scheme being put in place.
The Department of Rural and Community Development has completed a Review of the Dormant Accounts Fund Disbursement Schemes 2013-2016 and 2017-2019. This is the first such review, and it was completed in the context of the 2016 Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General, and the Department’s statutory obligations relating to the fund.
The review covers the operation of the 2013-2016 Disbursement Scheme and the operation to date of the 2017-2019 Disbursement Scheme. It analyses the measures funded over the period, the administration of the scheme, information management and, amongst other issues, the reasons for the low levels of disbursement from the fund over the period in question.
The review sets out 15 recommendations to be implemented to improve administration of the fund, and to ensure more efficient and effective operation of disbursement schemes.