Written Answers. - Departmental Agencies.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

747 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs the committees, boards, companies or other bodies under the auspices of his Department which were established pursuant to statutory instrument; if he will give details of the statutory instrument in each case; if there are any proposals to have the body in question given a basis in statute as opposed to statutory instrument; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19669/00]

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

748 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs the committees, boards, companies or other bodies under the auspices of his Department which were established otherwise than pursuant to statute or statutory instrument; if there are any proposals to have the body in question given a statutory basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19684/00]

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

749 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs the committees, boards, companies or other bodies under the auspices of his Department which it is proposed to establish; if it is intended that each such body will have a statutory basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19699/00]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 747 to 749, inclusive, together.

Because of the range of the Departments activities there is at any one time a range of working groups, committees and project boards involved in aspects of the Department's business. Many of these are set up on an ad-hoc basis to address particular issues and details are not available as to the number and nature of all of these.

The statutory agencies operating under the aegis of my Department are the Pensions Board, the Combat Poverty Agency, Comhairle and the Social Welfare Tribunal.

The Pensions Board was established in December 1990 under the Pensions Act, 1990. The role of the board is to monitor and supervise the provisions of the Pensions Act, 1990 relating to occupational pensions; and to advise the Minister on all matters relating to its functions and on matters relating to pensions generally. There are two committees operating the aegis of the board.

The Combat Poverty Agency, CPA, was established in September 1986 under the Combat Poverty Agency Act, 1986. The main functions of the agency are to advise the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs on all aspects of economic and social planning in relation to poverty; to initiate and evaluate measures aimed at overcoming poverty; and to promote greater public understanding of the nature, causes and extent of poverty and the measures necessary to overcome poverty. There are currently five sub-committees operating under the agency.

Comhairle was established in June 2000 in accordance with the Comhairle Act, 2000. It is responsible for the provision of independent information, advice and advocacy services for citizens throughout the country, including people with disabilities. It combines the National Social Service Board, NSSB, which was established in 1984 under the National Social Service Board Act, 1984, with relevant functions of the National Rehabilitation Board, NRB.

The Social Welfare Tribunal is a statutory body established under section 276 of the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act, 1993, as amended.

The function of the tribunal is to adjudicate on applications for unemployment payments by workers who have been involved in a trade dispute, on the grounds that they were unreasonably deprived of their employment. Where the tribunal rules in favour of the workers, unemployment benefit or assistance may be paid to them for the period of the dispute. Non-statutory bodies, groups or initiatives operating under the aegis of my Department include:

The REACH agency, recently established to co-ordinate and progress the development of modern integrated services across the public sector including the development of an electronic public services broker to act as the gateway for the delivery of electronic services. The REACH unit will be a cross-departmental unit under section 12 of the Public Service Management Act, 1997, reporting to the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs.
An interdepartmental steering committee comprising representatives from my Department, the Departments of Health and Children, chair, Finance, Environment and Local Government, the Central Statistics Office, the General Register Office and REACH has been set up to oversee the civil registration modernisation programme. The programme is being led by a full-time programme director in my Department who reports to the steering committee.
There are no plans to give the committee a statutory basis.
The family mediation service is a free, professional, confidential service, which enables couples who have decided to separate to reach agreement on all issues related to their separation.
The Government are committed in the renewed Action Programme for the Millennium to establishing the Family Mediation Service on a statutory basis. I plan to bring proposals to Government in this regard as soon as is practicable.
A joint steering group was established by my Department with the Department of Finance to oversee the implementation of the expenditure review process within the Department. The steering group, which is chaired by the secretary-general of my Department, monitors progress in relation to the reviews under way and approves completed reviews for submission to the central steering committee, chaired by the Secretary-General of the Department of Finance, which has responsibility for the process across the public service. There are no plans to establish the Department's steering group on a statutory footing.
The money, advice and budgeting service, MABS, was established on a pilot basis in 1992 to make available money management and budgeting skills to people who need such skills to enable them to cope with pressures on their incomes and to introduce them to low cost, socially targeted credit and a culture of saving. The programme now comprises some 50 projects, or companies, nation-wide.It is now proposed to establish the MABS on a statutory basis and I will be bringing proposals for legislation to Government shortly.
The Programme for Prosperity and Fairness provides for the establishment of a national committee on volunteering prior to the UN International Year of Volunteers in 2001 to devise strategies and actions for supporting and developing volunteering. This will be established shortly. There are no provisions to put the committee on a statutory basis.
Customer panels involve customers meeting representatives from the Department on an informal basis to express their opinions on the service they receive. Such panels have been set up from time to time throughout the Department and provide a useful means of obtaining views and feedback from users of the Department's services.
The Department jointly operates a business users' panel for employers in conjunction with the Revenue Commissioners.
Prior to the transfer in 1996 of the disabled person's maintenance allowance scheme, renamed disability allowance, from the Health Boards to the Department, a forum of the principal organisations and service providers representing people with disabilities was established to ensure that all aspects and implications of the transfer were discussed. The forum has continued in operation, now meeting on a quarterly basis, and has since been broadened to include issues concerning the invalidity pension and carer's allowance as well as other matters relevant to people with disabilities.
It is not proposed to establish these panels on a statutory basis. A number of working groups will be set up under the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness but it is not intended to establish any of these on a statutory basis.
A partnership steering committee and a series of regional and local committees have been established in the Department under the terms of Partnership 2000. The membership of these committees consists of departmental management, staff and unions. It is not proposed to establish these committees on a statutory basis.
The Department is represented on the hidden economy monitoring group, HEMG, which also involves the Revenue Commissioners, Irish Business and Employers Confederation, IBEC, Small Firms Association SFA, Construction Industry Federation, CIF, and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, ICTU. This group was set up in 1988 under the Programme for National Recovery, PNR, to provide a forum for exchange of views on and to monitor the effectiveness of measures introduced in combating the hidden economy. The group's tenure was extended under the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness, PPF.
It is not proposed to establish this group of a statutory basis.
A number of other groups and committees have been set up by the Department involving representatives of other agencies and bodies. It is not proposed to establish any of these on a statutory basis at this time.
These include: inter-departmental committee on the national anti-poverty strategy; joint monitoring group with An Post which monitors and reports on the performance of the obligations and conditions under which An Post provides payment delivery services to the Department; community development programme advisory committee; community development programme technical group.