Written Answers.

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies as received on the day from the Departments [unrevised].
Questions Nos. 1 to 3, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 4 to 73, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 74 to 83, inclusive, answered orally.

Control of Infectious Diseases.

Jack Wall

Question:

84 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the concerns expressed by the chief medical scientist at the national MRSA reference laboratory that the facility is in dire need; the steps she will take to ensure that the laboratory is able to provide hospitals with the support they need in tackling this problem in view of the serious threat posed by MRSA; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24033/07]

The National MRSA Reference Laboratory is operated by St. James's Hospital and is funded by the Health Services Executive (HSE). It is a purpose-built facility that provides a range of national services which supports the overall HSE drive to tackle the problem of MRSA. The current budget for the Laboratory is just over €270,000. Plans for an expansion of its operation have been submitted to and are under consideration by the HSE.

Computerisation Programme.

Richard Bruton

Question:

85 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children if, in view of the findings of the Comptroller and Auditor General in his 2006 annual report, she is confident that the ICT governance in the Health Service Executive is compliant with Department of Finance rules issued in September 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24076/07]

The HSE has made significant progress in complying with the ICT governance requirements set out by the Department of Finance in September 2005. It has appointed a national Director of ICT to provide a central source of decision making in relation to ICT strategies, plans and projects. There is no longer delegation of ICT spending authority within the HSE. All ICT development and operational staff are now under the control of the ICT Director. Decisions about the engagement of ICT contractors and consultants are also matters for the Director.

A comprehensive ICT strategy for the HSE should be completed by the end of the year. When the strategy has been approved by my Department and the Department of Finance, it will enable the HSE to meet the standards contained in the Department of Finance 16/97 process. My Department will continue to work with the HSE and the Department of Finance to improve the governance arrangements applied to ICT within the HSE.

Mental Health Services.

Seán Barrett

Question:

86 Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Minister for Health and Children if funding for mental health services will be increased from the current 7.7% to 12% in line with the overall global proportion of spending on mental health problems and compared with funding of 12% in England and 18% in Scotland; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22316/07]

Seán Barrett

Question:

108 Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Minister for Health and Children the way funding disparities between the various health services will be resolved in budget 2008 having regard to the current 7.7% expenditure on mental health services in view of the fact that mental health problems account for 12% of the overall global disease burden; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22315/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 86 and 108 together.

The proportion of overall health spending on mental health is frequently used to make a point on the adequacy of funding. However, it is not valid to make this comparison. As the nature and scope of total health services change, funding ratios automatically change. The 7.7% expenditure on mental health referred to by the Deputy only reflects expenditure on specialist mental health services. This will amount to €1 billion in 2007. It is important to bear in mind that some 90% of public mental health services are provided at primary care level. The expenditure on these services is not captured in the figure of 7.7% referred to by the Deputy. This underlines the need for caution when drawing conclusions from percentages of total health expenditure.

It is more meaningful to note that, since 1997, public expenditure on specialist mental health services has trebled. The spending on other services at primary care level has also increased substantially.

Community Pharmacy Services.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

87 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will address the threat to the community drugs scheme and the fear that some pharmacists may not be able to continue to provide a service due to the decision of the Health Service Executive, without negotiation, to reduce payments to pharmacists under the community drugs scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24035/07]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

95 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the proposed changes in Health Service Executive payment schemes for the supply of medicines; if progress has been made in the discussions between the HSE and the Irish Pharmaceutical Union; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24054/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 87 and 95 together.

I do not accept that some pharmacists may not be able to continue to provide a service under the GMS and community drug schemes. Nor do I accept there is any basis for community pharmacists threatening to withdraw from these schemes. The main wholesaler companies have recently confirmed to the HSE they will charge community pharmacists the same price for drugs and medicines under the GMS and community drugs schemes as pharmacists will be reimbursed by the HSE following the price reimbursement percentage adjustments announced recently by the HSE. All the evidence available to the joint HSE/Department of Health & Children team dealing with this issue indicated that the State was paying a premium for this service and the new arrangements will save the HSE about €100m in 2008.

The impact of the new arrangements on the incomes of pharmacists will depend on the extent of the discounts which individual pharmacists were getting from wholesalers under the previous arrangements. I am advised that large urban pharmacies and chains typically got discounts of up to 12% whereas small and rural pharmacies got discounts of 2-3%.

I have previously outlined in detail to this House the legal reasons why it is not possible for the HSE to negotiate with the IPU on fees, prices or margins for their members. A process of dialogue was established, chaired by Bill Shipsey SC, to explore ways in which concerns raised by the IPU about the implications of this legal advice might be addressed. At a meeting on 11 October, the IPU maintained that it has a fundamental right as a trade union to fully represent its members on all issues. It appears, therefore, that the Union does not accept the legal position under competition law regarding negotiation on fees. However, in an effort to address concerns on all sides, there is ongoing contact with the Irish Pharmaceutical Union under the auspices of Mr. Shipsey.

Hospital Services.

Willie Penrose

Question:

88 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Health and Children if, in view of a 10% increase in births over budgeted targets for the first seven months of 2007 and the increased strain on the State’s maternity hospitals as well as projections for growth in demand, she will ensure that the growing demand for maternity services is addressed and that the embargo on recruitment does not adversely affect maternity services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24019/07]

The Health Service Executive has advised my Department that, based on current figures, the number of births at year-end is expected to be in the region of 68,000, an increase of nearly 11% over 2006. The current recruitment pause is a temporary measure initiated by the HSE as part of a financial break-even plan. It will be reviewed at the end of October 2007. Notwithstanding this, it has been recognised that there are some critical or exceptional circumstances where appointment of staff may be necessary in frontline services. Accordingly, a process has been put in place to evaluate, monitor and approve requests for derogation from the general recruitment pause. A group has been established within the HSE which will meet weekly to consider such applications. The relevant HSE Network Manager may request a derogation where it is considered that a particular vacancy could have an adverse effect on services.

An independent review of maternity and gynaecology services in the greater Dublin area is being undertaken for the HSE which is expected to be completed shortly. The review will help to inform decisions on the most appropriate model of care for the future delivery of maternity and gynaecology services in Dublin.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Mary Upton

Question:

89 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason she has given power to the Health Service Executive to retain one quarter of all interest generated from private accounts held on behalf of patients in long-term residential care; if she is satisfied that the planned deductions will be legal; the estimated revenue that will accrue from the deductions; the estimated cost of administering the scheme of deductions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24031/07]

Section 20 (1) (d) of the Health (Repayment Scheme) Act 2006 provides for the making of regulations allowing the Health Service Executive (HSE) to impose a charge for the administration of Patient Private Property Accounts. These regulations came into effect on 11 September 2007. The HSE has established a central unit in Tullamore Co. Offaly and the bulk of money held in Patient Private Property Accounts on behalf of patients will be invested via this Unit with the National Treasury Management Agency.

The costs associated with the Central Unit are readily identifiable and cannot be considered integral to HSE care provision. The administration charge will be used to offset the costs of this Unit and the associated external audit fees. The HSE has informed my Department that the costs of administering the Central Unit for 2007 will be approximately €600,000. Based on the current amount of funds in these accounts the estimated annual charges yield would be approximately €570,000.

Departmental Staff.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

90 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will proceed with the appointment of a chief nursing officer to provide her with professional advice at a salary of between €92,000 and €107,000; her views on whether this is excessive while the ban on recruitment of front-line staff is in place; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24023/07]

I should explain at the outset that the chief nursing officer (CNO) in the Department of Health and Children has been in existence since 1998. The Report of the Commission on Nursing (1998) strongly supported and endorsed the appointment of a CNO. It recognised the need to strengthen the workforce planning and professional leadership functions in the Department and recommended the continued development of the post. It envisaged the new position would have a crucial role in strengthening the central planning and strategic development of nursing and midwifery. To date there have been two holders of the position. The outgoing CNO completed her term of office on 30 September 2007, and the Public Appointments Service is currently recruiting a successor on behalf of my Department.

It is my view that the appointment of a new chief nursing officer should proceed as speedily as possible. I do not believe that the salary (which is linked to the Principal Officer Higher Scale) is excessive given the role and responsibilities of this post. The Deputy will be aware that the Department is not involved in the provision of front-line services, and there is no link between this appointment and the corrective measures currently being taken by the HSE in order to remain within its budget. The post is funded from my Department's Vote.

There are many important developments currently taking place and in train in respect of nursing policy, e.g. the bedding down of the undergraduate nursing degree programmes, rolling out the nurse prescribing initiative, modernising the regulatory framework for the nursing profession and making it more accountable to the public, together with the general expansion of the role of nursing and midwifery in the delivery of enhanced patient services to the public. The CNO provides professional advice to the Minister and the Department generally on nursing and midwifery related issues. It is vitally important that there is in position a chief nursing officer who can provide professional leadership to the profession at national level on nursing and midwifery related policy matters. The importance of filling this post is recognised by all stakeholders, including the main nursing unions, who fully support the appointment of a new chief nursing officer at this time.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

91 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health and Children if, in her plans for co-located private and public hospitals, she has considered the way highly specialised medical personnel can be available to both public and private patients where there may be only one person with the specific expertise to treat relatively uncommon conditions or complications; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24002/07]

The co-location initiative is designed to ensure that private beds in public hospitals are freed up for the use of public patients by having co-located private hospitals built on public hospital sites. In service terms, this means that the co-located facility will be required to treat all the private patients that are currently treated in the public hospital subject to limited exceptions, for example maternity, A&E, radiation oncology or organ transplantation services. In these exceptional cases, the public hospital will continue to provide such services to private as well as public patients.

Specifically in the case of A & E, there will be one service on the hospital site and under the new consultants' contract, no private patient fees will be chargeable to patients attending there. The Project Agreement between the Health Service Executive and the private partner will require the latter to have sufficient staff and other resources available to enable it to discharge its obligations.

Departmental Inquiries.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

92 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has received a report from the Health Service Executive on the inquiry it ordered into the circumstances in which a person (details supplied) was allowed to hold a sensitive position despite having a conviction for indecent assault in another jurisdiction; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24034/07]

I have not yet received the report that the Deputy refers to. However, the HSE has assured me that the Inquiry being undertaken on behalf of the HSE by Mr Conal Devine is proceeding to plan. I understand that Mr Devine is receiving full cooperation from all parties involved.

Health Services.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

93 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will report on her recent meeting with the Northern Ireland Minister, Mr. Michael McGimpsey; the matters on the agenda; her discussions regarding the provision of radiotherapy in the north west; the progress made; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23766/07]

I together with Ministers of State, Jimmy Devins TD and Pat "The Cope" Gallagher TD met with Michael McGimpsey MLA, Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety on Friday 5 October 2007. The issues discussed were Suicide, Cancer Services, Pandemic Flu and Acute Hospital Services. The significant amount of current joint cooperation was acknowledged and it was agreed to continue to pursue options for working on an all island basis on these issues.

In relation to radiotherapy services in the North West, the position is that cancer patients requiring radiation oncology treatment are referred to either St. Luke's Hospital Dublin or to University College Hospital Galway. A Service Level Agreement, which was developed under Cooperation and Working Together (CAWT), is also in place for the referral of radiation oncology patients from Donegal to Belfast City Hospital. The potential for further cross border co-operation and collaboration in relation to cancer care was discussed at the meeting. It was agreed that both Departments would progress this issue through a Joint North/South Feasibility Study on the potential for future co-operation which is currently underway.

Mental Health Services.

Joe Costello

Question:

94 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress and expected progress on the implementation of the mental health policy, A Vision for Change; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24005/07]

The Report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy, "A Vision for Change", which was launched in January 2006, provides a framework for action to develop a modern, high quality mental health services for a seven to ten year period. The Government has accepted the Report as the basis for the future development of our mental health services. An independent Monitoring Group was established in March 2006, to monitor and assess progress by the Health Service Executive, government departments and other agencies in implementing the recommendations set out in the Report. The Monitoring Group's first annual report was published in May 2007.

Implementation of the individual recommendations of "A Vision for Change", is a matter primarily for the HSE. In July 2006, the HSE established an implementation group to ensure that mental health services develop in a synchronised and consistent manner across the country. The HSE intend to publish an implementation plan shortly which is to include a timed and prioritised set of short, medium and longer term goals.

Question No. 95 answered with QuestionNo. 87.

Child Care Services.

Martin Ferris

Question:

96 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of community child care facilities which have received staffing grants under the equal opportunities child care programme since its inception; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24057/07]

Under the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme 2000-2006 (EOCP), which is co-funded under the EU Social Fund (ESF), targeted support was provided through the staffing support grant scheme whereby community based not-for-profit child-care providers with a focus on disadvantage were awarded grant aid towards their staffing costs to allow them provide services to families which otherwise would not have been able to afford the full economic cost of the service. The total number of community child-care facilities which have received staffing grants under the EOCP since its inception is 949.

Vaccination Programme.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

97 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to introduce the HPV 16/18 vaccine to prevent cervical cancer; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23768/07]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

111 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has plans to introduce a vaccination programme to prevent cervical cancer; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24016/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 97 and 111 together.

The most effective strategy for the prevention of cervical cancer requires decisions based on an assessment of the relative contributions of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccination and cervical screening in reducing the burden of both existing and projected cervical pre-cancerous changes and cervical cancer. Issues to be examined include the effectiveness and cost effectiveness of the vaccine for different age groups and for differing levels of screening provision and uptake.

As is being done in other jurisdictions, Ireland is now considering the potential role of HPV vaccination in addressing the problem of cervical cancer prevention. The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) has recently undertaken a scientific assessment of the public health value of HPV following a request from my Department. NIAC and the National Cancer Screening Service (NCSS), agreed that this work needed to be complemented by a study of the cost effectiveness of the vaccine in the current Irish context. Accordingly, both organisations requested that the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) undertake this study.

One of the key functions of the Authority is the assessment of health technology, drugs and health promotion activities. When I have received the policy advice from HIQA and NCSS I will make the necessary decisions that arise from the advice.

A quality assured population based cervical screening programme aims to reduce cervical cancer in Ireland by approximately 80%. The NCSS has confirmed that it will have such a programme in place from January next year. A national cervical screening programme will still be required regardless of a decision on a HPV vaccination programme.

Health Services.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

98 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will increase services available for those suffering from eating disorders; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23986/07]

Willie Penrose

Question:

116 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Health and Children when she will implement the recommendations in A Vision for Change to address the growing prevalence of eating disorders, including the appointment of specialist eating disorder teams and an increase in bed capacity from the current three, all in Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24018/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 98 and 116 together.

"A Vision for Change" — the Report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy, was launched in January 2006. It provides a framework for action to develop a modern, high quality mental health service over a 7 to 10 year period. "A Vision for Change" acknowledges gaps in the current provision of services for people with eating disorders and makes several recommendations for the further improvement of these services. Recommendations include support for health promotion initiatives that encourage greater community and family awareness of eating disorders, the further development of primary and community care services and the provision of a full multidisciplinary team in a National Centre for Eating Disorders for complex cases that cannot be managed by local child and adolescent community mental health teams. Responsibility for the implementation of these recommendations rests with the HSE.

Jack Wall

Question:

99 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of complaints received by the Health Service Executive in relation to harassment of home helps by family members of recipients or the recipients of such a service; the action taken; the procedures that are in place in relation to such an event occurring; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22320/07]

Under the Health Act 2004, the Health Service Executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to have delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services in a safe and secure setting. This includes responsibility for dealing with any complaints an employee may have concerning his or her working environment. The Executive is therefore the appropriate body to consider the matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued to the Deputy.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

100 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children the time frame for the full roll out of BreastCheck country wide; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24000/07]

I am committed to ensuring that the BreastCheck service is rolled out to the remaining regions in the country as quickly as possible. I have allocated additional revenue funding of €8 million to the National Cancer Screening Service for this year to meet the additional costs involved. The full complement of 111 staff for roll-out has been approved. I have also made available an additional €26.7m capital funding for the construction of two new clinical units and the provision of seven additional mobile units and state of the art digital equipment. BreastCheck has confirmed that the roll-out will commence later this month and will take around 27 months to complete. The Programme is designed to offer repeat screening within an interval of 21-27 months.

Community Care.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

101 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of community care packages affected by funding freezes under Health Service Executive cuts; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24060/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

102 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children the research that has been carried out to ascertain the success of BreastCheck in improving outcomes for women; if there are statistics available comparing outcomes in regions that have BreastCheck and those that have not; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24028/07]

The Deputy's questions in relation to BreastCheck are the responsibility of the National Cancer Screening Service. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Chief Executive Officer of the Service to respond directly to the Deputy in relation to these matters.

Health Service Staff.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

103 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children the number and location of consultants in microbiology and infection control in the health service; if there are plans to extend that number to assist in controlling infections such as MRSA; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24024/07]

Subject to overall parameters set by Government, the Health Service Executive has the responsibility for determining the composition of its staffing complement. In that regard, it is a matter for the Executive to manage and deploy its human resources to best meet the requirements of its Annual Service Plan for the delivery of health and personal social services to the public. The Executive is the appropriate body to consider the matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Ambulance Service.

Billy Timmins

Question:

104 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the way she has rolled out the community first responder programme in the Health Service Executive areas in which it operates to supplement and improve emergency response times, as outlined in the Health Service Executive National Service Plan 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23880/07]

Dinny McGinley

Question:

137 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for Health and Children the categories of people who are entitled to free hospital transport; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23767/07]

John Perry

Question:

142 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to develop ambulance services nationally; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24080/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 104, 137 and 142 together.

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall Vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issues raised by the Deputies. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matters investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputies.

Health Service Staff.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

105 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on concerns that newly qualified nurses, dieticians and other health professionals will be forced to emigrate for work due to the effect of the Health Service Executive recruitment embargo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24006/07]

The current recruitment pause is a temporary measure initiated as part of the HSE financial break-even plan and will be reviewed at the end of October 2007. The HSE recognises that there are some critical or exceptional circumstances where appointment of staff may be necessary in frontline services. Accordingly a process has been put in place to evaluate, monitor and approve requests for derogation from the general recruitment pause. A group has been established which will meet weekly to consider such applications.

I am aware that some physiotherapy, speech and language therapy and occupational therapy graduates have had some difficulty in obtaining employment in the public health service. In this regard, my Department is continuing to chair a working group comprising representatives from the HSE, the therapy managers and IMPACT. The Group has identified the contributing factors and has developed an action plan with a view to addressing these factors. The group is now working through prioritised actions and continues to make progress on several key actions.

Since the establishment of the HSE, the number of Medical and Dental personnel has increased by 13.02% (913). The number of nursing personnel has increased by 4,296 (+12.52%) to 38, 609 (or by 2,848 and 8.3% when student nurses are factored out). The number of Health and Social Care Professionals increased by 2,611 (+20.35%) to 15,441. The Deputy may wish to note in particular the increases of 32% (Dieticians), 35% (Occupational Therapists), 24% (Physiotherapists) and 30% (Speech and Language Therapists). These changes clearly demonstrate the commitment of the Health Service Executive to ensuring focus on patient care and the recruitment of frontline personnel.

Hospital Services.

Richard Bruton

Question:

106 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on whether, in view of the opinion of the chief executive officer of the Health Service Executive as well as that of her Department’s hospital planning office and the National Development Finance Agency that the radiotherapy network will not be delivered through PPP by the target date of 2011, it will be delivered by this time; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24075/07]

It is my objective and that of the Health Service Executive (HSE) to see the earliest delivery of the Government's National Plan for Radiation Oncology. The HSE will shortly appoint a National Director of Radiation Oncology to report to the National Cancer Control Director.

My Department and the HSE have been working closely on the examination of procurement options in order to expedite the delivery of the National Plan for Radiation Oncology. It has been agreed that the phase 1 facilities at St. James's and Beaumont will be increased from four linear accelerators to eight (four at each site). The HSE has confirmed that it will have in place radiation oncology capacity to meet the needs of the population by 2010. After 2010 the HSE will continue to increase capacity to ensure that these needs continue to be met. I am fully confident that this will be achieved through a combination of direct Exchequer provision, PPP and where appropriate, the use of the private sector.

The HSE is currently finalising details in relation to the phasing and timelines of the Plan. Developments to date include the procurement of additional capacity (2 linear accelerators) for St. Luke's Hospital Rathgar. These linear accelerators will be commissioned in February and March 2008 and two replacement linear accelerators will be commissioned in August and September 2008. The contract for the design consultants for the interim facilities in Beaumont and St. James's has commenced. The evaluation process for procurement of the supply contract is also underway and a technical subgroup is preparing the equipping specification for the phase 1 developments.

Departmental Reports.

Alan Shatter

Question:

107 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Health and Children if the review being undertaken by the Office of the Minister for Children of compliance by State bodies and NGOs with the children first guidelines has been completed; when it will be published; and the action he will take as a consequence of the review undertaken. [22836/07]

The national review of compliance with the ‘Children First' guidelines by State bodies and NGOs, to be carried out by the Office of the Minister for Children (OMC) in partnership with all relevant Government Departments, was part of the Government's response to the publication of the Ferns Report in October, 2005. The review to date has included the following elements:

An extensive consultation process seeking the views of all stakeholders which has resulted in a total of over 130 submissions being received. These have been analysed in a systematic and structured manner to identify the main issues arising.

All Departments have provided information regarding progress to date in relation to the implementation of Children First and child protection issues in their Departments and agencies under their remit.

Meetings have taken place with key stakeholders, including the HSE, the Departments of Health and Children and of Education and Science and an Garda Síochána in relation to child protection. The OMC has commissioned research on the experiences of users of child protection services.

The review is nearing completion and it is expected that it will be published by the end of the year. The OMC has had ongoing contact with the HSE, as the primary provider of child protection services, throughout the review process in order to link in with developments being made within the HSE in response to the Ferns report. The published review will include recommendations in relation to mechanisms to ensure the implementation of the findings of the review.

Question No. 108 answered with QuestionNo. 86.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

109 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the findings of the Euro Health Consumer Index Report which stated that waiting times here were among the worst in Europe; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24082/07]

I am aware of the findings of the Euro Health Consumer Index Report. A small section of the report deals with waiting times for operations for public patients within the Irish public hospital system. This is one indicator out of twenty-seven in the report and one of five used by the authors to reach their conclusions on the overall "waiting time" experience of Irish patients.

The National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) was set up in 2002 to reduce the length of time public patients wait for operations. In the past five years, significant progress has been achieved in this area with waiting times for the most common procedures down from two to five years to the current two to five months. According to the most recently published (July 2007) data from the Patient Treatment Register operated by the NTPF, waiting times for nineteen of the twenty most common adult procedures are four months or less. For eleven of these procedures, waiting times are three months or less.

The Euro Health Consumer Index Report focuses on four sample procedures out of thousands currently provided in the public hospital system and compares waiting times for these against a benchmark of three months. According to the Patient Treatment Register, current waiting times for the four procedures within these specialties are:

Hip replacement — 3 months

Knee replacement — 4 months

PTCA (angioplasty) — 2-3 months

Coronary Artery Bypass graft — 2-3 months.

The NTPF continues to work to reduce the length of time public patients wait for operations. Treatment through the NTPF can usually be arranged within a matter of weeks.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

110 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children the quality control in place where public patients are transferred to private institutions for treatment under the National Treatment Purchase Fund; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24013/07]

As the Deputy's question relates to the operation of the National Treatment Purchase Fund, my Department has asked the Chief Executive of the Fund to reply directly to the Deputy in relation to the information requested.

Question No. 111 answered with QuestionNo. 97.

Health Service Staff.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

112 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she is satisfied that adequate numbers of front line staff are available throughout the health service; the extent to which she has identified deficiencies including areas expected to be affected by recently announced cutbacks; her plans to address these issues; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24038/07]

The Health Service employs almost 130,000 personnel and this equates to 111,570 wholetime equivalents at end June 2007. Since the establishment of the HSE, the number of Medical and Dental personnel has increased by 13.02% (913). This includes an increase of 306 (+16.34%) in the number of Hospital Consultants. The number of nursing personnel has increased by 4,296 (+12.52%) to 38,609 (or by 2,848 and 8.3% when student nurses are factored out). The number of Health and Social Care Professionals has increased by 2,611 (+20.35%) to 15,441. I would draw the Deputy's attention in particular to increases of 32% (Dieticians), 35% (Occupational Therapists), 24% (Physiotherapists) and 30% (Speech and Language Therapists). These changes clearly demonstrate the commitment of the Health Service Executive to ensuring focus on patient care and the recruitment of frontline personnel.

The current recruitment pause is a temporary measure initiated as part of the HSE financial break-even plan. It will be reviewed at the end of October 2007. Of course, in any instance where a critical or essential vacancy arises it may be filled through redeployment of existing staff by the Line Manager or re-assignment of responsibilities based on assessment of priority need.

Notwithstanding this, it has been recognised that there are some circumstances where appointment of staff may be necessary in frontline services. Accordingly, a process has been put in place to evaluate, monitor and approve requests for derogation from the general recruitment pause. A small group has been established including a representative of the National Hospitals Office, PCCC and other Directorates and this group will meet weekly to consider such applications.

Additionally, as an interim measure, a derogation of the suspension in appointments has been made to facilitate service enhancements in a number of areas including Cherry Orchard Community Nursing Units and the Central Mental Hospital.

Mental Health Services.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

113 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number and location of beds dedicated to the child and adolescent psychiatric services; when plans will be implemented to increase the number of such beds; her views on waiting times of 20 months and more for access to the child and adolescent mental health community services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23999/07]

'A Vision for Change' — the Report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy, was launched on 24th January 2006. It provides a framework for action to develop a modern, high quality mental health service over the next 7 to 10 years.

In 2006, a sum of €26.2 million was allocated for the development of mental health services in line with 'A Vision for Change' and a further sum of €25 million has been allocated in 2007 to continue this development. A significant proportion of this year's funding — €7.95m — is for the development of child and adolescent psychiatric services. It is anticipated that this funding will bring about significant improvements in community, hospital-based and early intervention services. Existing multidisciplinary teams will be enhanced and new child and adolescent mental health teams developed. The provision of additional teams will reduce waiting times for assessment and treatment.

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Child Care Services.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

114 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Health and Children the timetable for the introduction of the community child care subvention scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24059/07]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

126 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if the introduction of the community child care subvention scheme will be suspended pending an urgent review in full consultation with the child care sector in view of the serious concerns regarding the effect of implementation of the scheme in its present form including the prospect of closure of community child care facilities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24053/07]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

131 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress in the changeover in funding of child care facilities from the equal opportunities child care programme to the community child care subvention scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24055/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 114, 126 and 131 together.

Under the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme 2000 — 2006 (EOCP), which is co-funded under the EU Social Fund (ESF), targeted support was provided through the staffing support grant scheme whereby community based not-for-profit child care providers with a strong focus on disadvantage were awarded grant aid towards their staffing costs to allow them to operate reduced fees to disadvantaged parents. Funding under this scheme was originally awarded for a limited period during which services were expected to move towards sustainability. This funding was subsequently continued to the end of 2007, where it was considered necessary to enable services to continue to make their services accessible to disadvantaged parents. This continuation funding was subject to the condition that tiered fee structures were implemented by the services in question.

With the closure of the EOCP in December 2007, to continue to support community child care services to provide affordable child care to disadvantaged parents, the Community Childcare Subvention Scheme (CCSS) is being introduced from January 2008 under the Exchequer funded National Childcare Investment Programme 2006-2010 (NCIP), the successor programme to the EOCP. The (CCSS) has been allocated €153 million over the next 3 years, representing a 16% increase in funding over the EOCP staffing scheme, and will continue to support community child care services to provide reduced child care fees for disadvantaged parents, complementing the universal supports in place for all parents. Under the new scheme, it will be possible to ensure that the level of grant aid which individual services qualify for will reflect the actual level of service they provide and the profile of the parents benefiting from their service. As part of their application for funding under the new scheme, services will be required to ask parents using their services to complete a simple declaration form which will be included in a return to my Office and on which basis the level of subvention for each service will be determined. The subvention received by services will, in turn, be reflected in the reduced fees for parents who qualify as disadvantaged under the scheme.

In practice, this will mean that parents with children in such services and in receipt of most social welfare payments (or participating in a scheme such as Community Employment which demonstrates an underlying entitlement to same) will see a €80 weekly subvention in respect of full day care (with pro-rata reductions in respect of shorter hour services). Parents in receipt of Family Income Supplement (FIS), will see a €30 weekly subvention in respect of full day care (with pro-rata reductions). A further subvention of €30 per week will be paid where the subvented child is a baby, in recognition of the higher costs associated with the care of children aged under 1 year. Parents who do not qualify under either of these categories will be charged the cost price for their child care service, however, as community not-for-profit services will, generally, have availed of capital grant aid under the EOCP or NCIP removing the requirement to cover rent or a mortgage, and as the services are run on a not-for-profit basis, this should still be significantly below the market price.

It is considered that the new scheme will provide an effective framework for the continued targeting of additional resources towards disadvantaged parents and their children while continuing to support community child care services generally. The scheme has been informed by and takes account of a number of enhancements recommended by the report of the Value for Money Review of the EOCP. These include the fact that the subvention to services will be more responsive to the level of service provided as well as the degree of parental disadvantage supported and the ceiling for funding, which existed under the previous scheme, is being removed. Account will also be taken of all of the operational costs of the service rather than staffing costs alone. Services, including full-time, part-time and sessional ones, which at present are, in some cases, inaccessibly priced for disadvantaged parents, will be available to them at more appropriate rates under the new scheme.

The new scheme has clear advantages over its predecessor. There is an increase in the level of funding available under it, and a majority of services will benefit from the changes it introduces. Existing EOCP staffing grant recipients who enter the new scheme will continue to be funded at their current levels until July 2008. My Office has engaged in a series of meetings with existing grant recipients to outline to them the details of the new scheme and to gather feedback from the services themselves. A meeting with representatives of the City and County Childcare Committees has also taken place.

Transitional arrangements have been made under which existing grant recipients will continue to be funded at their current levels until 1st July 2008. This is to ensure that existing child care services are facilitated to adjust to the new scheme, including making any adjustments necessary to their fee structures. As signalled when I announced the new scheme in July this year, the transitional period between now and 1 July 2008 will also be used to monitor and review the impact it will have on individual groups, on the basis of the more detailed and comprehensive data which is due to be received from applicants in November. If appropriate, any adjustments necessary to the scheme to secure the best outcomes for child care services and for disadvantaged parents and their children will be considered on the basis of this data and well in advance of the commencement of the new funding levels in July 2008.

Health Services.

Joan Burton

Question:

115 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the findings in a report published in October 2007 by the Women’s Health Council and the Money Advice and Budgeting Service entitled Women, Debt and Health which indicates that seven out of ten women who have debt problems have related health problems; if she will implement the recommendations of the report that refer to her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24010/07]

My Department is strongly committed to implementing a range of measures aimed at tackling and reducing health inequalities. Social inclusion-relevant aspects of existing health strategies and plans feature in the new social partnership agreement, Towards 2016, published in June 2006 and in Ireland's National Report on Strategies for Social Protection and Social Inclusion (NSSPI) 2006-2008, submitted to the EU in September 2006. The health commitments in both these documents are further developed in Ireland's new National Action Plan for Social Inclusion, Building an Inclusive Society (NAPinclusion) 2007-2016, published in February 2007.

The NAP inclusion details a number of health commitments aimed at tackling and reducing health inequalities and improving the health status of the more vulnerable members of our society. For example, the NAPinclusion includes the following high level goal aimed at improving access to health services for those on low incomes: Develop 500 primary care teams by 2011 which will improve access to services in the community, with particular emphasis on meeting the needs of holders of medical cards (i.e. those on low incomes and those over 70 years of age). Other significant health commitments in the NAPinclusion 2007-2016 relevant to addressing health inequalities and improving health status include:

Development of specific community and sectoral initiatives to encourage healthy eating and access to healthy food and physical activity among adults, with a particular emphasis on adults living in areas of disadvantage;

Monitoring inequalities in cancer risks, cancer occurrence, cancer services and cancer outcomes to maintain a policy focus on cancer inequalities;

Taking account of the strong body of evidence linking poverty and poor mental health, there will be two general adult community mental health teams per 100,000 of the population by 2013.

With specific regard to the report's recommendation on awareness and access to medical and GP visit cards, the Programme for Government commits to the following:

Indexing the income thresholds for medical cards to increases in the average industrial wage;

Implementation of an annual publicity campaign and making applications easier so as to increase uptake amongst those who are eligible for Medical Cards and GP Visit Cards;

Doubling of the income limit eligibility of parents of children under 6 years of age, and trebling them for parents of children under 18 years of age with an intellectual disability;

Allowing people with disabilities to work without losing key essential medical card cover after 3 years.

My Department is at present considering the steps required to enable these commitments to be implemented. My Department is also examining the steps necessary to give effect to the Towards 2016 commitment to review the eligibility criteria for the assessment of medical cards in the context of medical, social and economic/financial need with a view to clarifying entitlement to a medical card.

Question No. 116 answered with QuestionNo. 98.

Departmental Programmes.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

117 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Health and Children the level of co-operation and communication that exists between her Department and the Department of Education and Science with regard to specialist reports that are sought from health professionals in order for children to qualify for extra supports at school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24026/07]

Significant developments have taken place to promote the philosophy of a joined up government approach to disability and mental health.

The two Acts (Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004 and Disability Act 2005), provide the new framework within which specialist support services to children and adults with disabilities and mental health will be planned and delivered. The provisions of the EPSEN Act 2004 and the Disability Act 2005 are complementary and designed to cover the spectrum of needs for both adults and children. This includes transition planning at various stages such as pre-school to primary, primary to second level and into adult services. The NCSE and the HSE are the two key delivery organisations in both Acts and in order to oversee implementation of both Acts and as provided for in the Action Plan, a Cross Sectoral team has been established, with membership from my Department, the Department of Education and Science, the HSE and the NCSE, to progress the work in these areas.

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Dietary Supplements.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

118 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to vitamin and mineral supplements; the reason it is proposed to substantially reduce the recommended daily allowance as the maximum dose per tablet; if such proposals are based on detailed research into safety issues; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that such change will result in major cost and hardship; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23463/07]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

143 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children the extent of the use here of vitamin or mineral supplements; her views on whether they have a considerable contribution to make in health matters; the reason changes are proposed in relation to their sale; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23842/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 118 and 143 together.

These questions relate to the Directive on Food Supplements (2002/46/EC) which established harmonised rules for the sale and labelling of vitamins and minerals as dietary supplements and introduced a methodology under which maximum levels for vitamins and minerals in food supplements will be set. Article 5 of the Directive provides that the setting of such levels will be based on scientific risk assessment and data on vitamin and minerals intake from other foods while also taking account of what is considered an adequate vitamin and mineral intake for an average person. The scientific risk assessment will take into account the upper safe levels as determined by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). The legislative process in the setting of these levels will follow Standing Committee Procedure i.e. the agreement of Member States to a Commission proposal.

The European Commission consulted widely and the Irish response was formulated following a public consultation which took place during August and September, 2006. That response suggested that the Commission should proceed on a cautious basis, setting maximum limits for as many vitamins and minerals as possible based on scientific evidence. This arises from concern at the possible and, as yet, unknown risks of excessive intake of certain vitamins and minerals from all sources over a period of time. It was considered vital that the safety of the general population and the needs of particular subgroups such as pregnant women, children, older people and those on various specialist diets be taken into account in formulating the final position on this issue.

Examples of known adverse effects associated with over-consumption of some commonly taken vitamins and/or minerals include—

reduction in iron absorption as a result of ingesting calcium;

increase in the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer as a result of excessive iron intake;

significant risk to unborn children of complications arising from vitamin A toxicity, where the mother ingests large doses of pre-formed vitamin A;

higher cancer mortality rate amongst smokers who ingest large doses of beta-carotene (despite the belief that it may afford some protection against chronic diseases — mainly cancer); and

over-consumption of folic acid leading to masking of vitamin B12 deficiency-related anaemia in older people.

In July of this year the Commission produced an Orientation Paper on the setting of those levels: the paper also addresses a similar provision of the Fortification Regulation (EC) No 1925/2006 in regard to setting maximum levels of vitamins and minerals added to foods. The first meeting of a Working Group of Member States experts to discuss that paper was held on 24 September last: discussions at the Working Group will inform a Commission Proposal for a Directive which must be published by January 2009. My Department will take account of the views of Irish consumers and industry stakeholders, as well as the discussions of the Working Group, and these will influence the final position taken in future discussions on this issue.

To date, EFSA, at the Commission's request, has given an opinion on upper levels for 16 nutrients and a further 19 nutrients have not yet had a level set — due to a lack of data based on oral intake dose-response studies. However, other scientific bodies (in the UK and the US) have established levels for many of those remaining nutrients. The Commission has proposed in the Orientation Paper that in the case of certain nutrients where studies have indicated evidence of no or low toxicity even at high level dosage, that it may be possible to waive the setting of maximum levels. The Commission consider this a proportionate approach which is in line with the principle of better regulation. The Commission has also proposed to refer to the figures from the US and UK bodies in the absence of EFSA figures in order to attempt setting the levels.

My Department does not gather data on the extent of vitamin or mineral supplements usage. In general, healthy people obtain adequate levels of nutrients by eating a variety of foods in moderation rather than by taking supplements. In addition, in Ireland an increasing range of foods are fortified by manufacturers through the addition of vitamins and minerals. As almost any nutrient can be potentially toxic if consumed in large quantities over a long period, the absence of scientifically based maximum levels of vitamins or of minerals could lead to their inadvertent over-consumption. There is also the possibility of interactions between dietary supplements and prescription drugs and among several dietary supplements taken at the same time which underlines the desirability of a cautious and science based approach. Finally, the setting of maximum levels for vitamins and minerals should not, in itself, cause major cost or hardship.

Mental Health Services.

P. J. Sheehan

Question:

119 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number, in relation to the A Vision for Change strategy, of catchment area teams that have been established; the number that are fully staffed; the geographic area covered by these catchment teams; the population of each of the catchment areas; the name of the person with managerial responsibility for mental health services in each of the catchment areas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24083/07]

The Report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy, "A Vision for Change", which was launched in January 2006, provides a framework for action to develop a modern, high quality mental health services for a seven to ten year period. The Government has accepted the Report as the basis for the future development of mental health services. An independent Monitoring Group was established in March 2006, to monitor and assess progress by the Health Service Executive, government departments and other agencies in implementing the recommendations set out in the Report. The Monitoring Group's first annual report was published in May 2007.

Implementation of the individual recommendations of "A Vision for Change", is a matter primarily for the HSE. In July 2006, the HSE established an implementation group to ensure that mental health services develop in a synchronised and consistent manner across the country and resource service managers and clinicians in making the recommendations in "A Vision for Change" a reality. In acknowledging the need to provide a dedicated and coordinated response to "A Vision for Change", the HSE appointed a full time Project Manager to progress the prioritised implementation plan. The HSE intend to publish an implementation plan shortly which is to include a timed and prioritised set of short, medium and longer term goals.

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 including the organisation and management of catchment areas. The Executive is, therefore the appropriate body to consider the matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Care of the Elderly.

Phil Hogan

Question:

120 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Health and Children if her proposed fair deal for nursing home care will be introduced as planned on 1 January 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24074/07]

The Department is currently working on the Bill for the new nursing home support scheme — A Fair Deal. The necessary legislation will be in place prior to 1 January 2008 and the scheme will commence on that date.

Health Services.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

121 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children the waiting lists for children between the ages of five to 12 and 12 to 16 for orthodontic treatment in each of the Health Service Executive regions; the average waiting time in each region for each age group; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24025/07]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Care of the Elderly.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

122 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on concerns at the effect of the Health Service Executive recruitment embargo on the discharge of patients from acute hospitals due to a reduction in the availability of home care packages, meaning that acute beds are occupied by patients who could be cared for at home; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24007/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Joe Costello

Question:

123 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will clarify that the €340 million that was allocated for payments under the Health (Repayment) Scheme Act 2006 will be assigned for this purpose in 2007 without negative effect on the 2007 budget; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24004/07]

I have been informed by the HSE that based on most recent estimates, €160m will be required to meet costs arising under the Health Repayment Scheme in 2007. Full provision has and will continue to be made to meet the cost of all valid claims arising under the scheme.

Community Care.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

124 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Health and Children if, in the context of the report entitled Women, Debt and Health, she will ensure that information on the Money Advice and Budgeting Service is displayed in health care access points including local health centres; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24011/07]

The Deputy's question relates to the funding, management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Control of Infectious Diseases.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

125 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Health and Children the measures in place to ensure that Ireland is prepared for a possible pandemic of avian influenza; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24020/07]

I take it the question relates to a possible human flu pandemic. For the sake of clarity, avian flu is primarily a disease of birds. To date, there have been a small number of human cases of infection with the avian flu (H5N1) virus in situations where there has been very close contact with infected birds. There is no evidence of efficient human to human transmission. I would like to draw a very clear distinction between avian flu and the possibility of a future human flu pandemic. Experts advise that such a pandemic may arise from the avian flu (H5N1) virus, but this is by no means inevitable. Nevertheless, the pandemic threat is real: while neither the timing nor the severity of the next pandemic can be predicted, experts advise it is a matter of when it arrives not if.

My Department and the Health Service Executive published the National Pandemic Influenza Plan on 15th January 2007. The purpose of the plan is to limit the effects of a potential pandemic and to inform the public about pandemic influenza, to explain what the Government and the health services are doing to prepare for a possible pandemic, and to give information on what members of the public need to do if there is a pandemic.

Also published on 15th January was Pandemic Preparedness for Ireland: Advice of the Pandemic Influenza Expert Group. This document outlines clinical guidance and provides public health advice to health professionals and others involved in pandemic influenza preparedness and response. It was published as a draft consultation document. The consultation period is now closed and the Expert Group is reviewing the guidance with reference to latest international developments. The revised version will be published within the next few months.

The National Pandemic Influenza Plan will be updated as required to reflect the most up to date advice of the Expert Group and international developments. The health service response to pandemic influenza is based on eight core elements: communications strategy, telephone hotline, responsibilities of the public, surveillance, antiviral drugs, pandemic vaccine, reorganisation of health services, and essential supplies. These elements are detailed in the plan.

The development of a robust emergency plan based on the National Pandemic Influenza Plan is a priority for the Health Service Executive. The HSE National Service Plan sets out key deliverables for the development of specific emergency plans for an influenza pandemic across all directorates and functions. In particular these plans should address:—

For the National Hospitals Office: bed capacity, ventilation capacity, role of private hospitals, ambulance transport requirements;

For Primary, Community and Continuing Care: redeployment of staff to support care settings and supports;

For Population Health: plans for surveillance, contact tracing, and management of cases.

All directorates and functions across the HSE are required to address the issue of redeployment of staff to manage essential services and business continuity issues. In addition, National Procurement will manage the purchase, storage and distribution of the National Stockpile of Medicines and Supplies. Human Resources will manage the industrial relations agenda arising from the pandemic influenza plan. ICT will design, scope and implement the information technology solutions required, for example around the telephone hotline.

The National Pandemic Influenza Plan concentrates on the health response to pandemic influenza but also provides some advice on the planning which must take place across all sectors of society. In this context, my Department established a Standing Inter-Departmental Committee in 2006 to provide advice on non-health areas of public policy or public services to ensure a coordinated cross -Government response. In February 2007, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment published a guidance document for businesses on preparing for a pandemic.

The National Public Health Emergency Team is the forum for managing the interface between my Department and the HSE during the planning and response phases of a public health emergency. The team is chaired by the Secretary General of my Department. It met for the first time in October 2006 and meets on a quarterly basis or as required during the planning phase. The National Public Health Emergency Team met last week. Significant progress over the last year was noted, but it was also recognised that there is a need to continue work on pandemic planning over the next two to three years, with the focus on cross-Government response and detailed planning at the local level.

Question No. 126 answered with QuestionNo. 114.

Health Service Staff.

Phil Hogan

Question:

127 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Health and Children her view on the recent comments by the National Implementation Body, which criticised the manner in which the Health Service Executive imposed the recruitment ban as well as other cost cutting measures and said that this is in breach of the most recent social partnership agreement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24073/07]

The National Implementation Body plays a fundamental role in supporting the National Partnership process and has my full support. I understand that following the statement by the NIB on the HSE financial break even plan, further engagement has taken place between the HSE and the unions on this matter. I think it is important to note that the NIB did not make any adjudication in respect of compliance with Towards 2016. It concentrated on the need for both sides to address the financial situation facing the HSE on the basis of partnership and joint problem-solving.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

128 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide a Supplementary Estimate in order to end the embargo on recruitment in the Health Service Executive in view of the most recent developments including the inability of the National Rehabilitation Hospital to take in scheduled new patients due to the fact that a shortage of home care packages means that patients who are ready to go home cannot do so; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24027/07]

I met with Professor Drumm, Accounting Officer of the HSE, recently to discuss the progress of the Service Plan for 2007 and the associated spending, both non-capital and capital. Excluding the Long Stay Repayment Scheme the HSE non-capital or current expenditure outturn, in vote spending terms, for the period to end September is some €284m ahead of profile. The Accounting Officer has informed me that he has put measures in place, the aim of which is to bring back spending to the approved level by year-end. The measures, including those relating to services, are aimed at bringing back activity to those levels/targets set in the HSE Service Plan for 2007. The progress of the measures will be received at the end of each month.

Regarding the HSE capital spending, I have been informed by the Accounting Officer that, based on progress to date, the 2007 Capital programme funding will be fully utilised. Having regard to the reported position, I do not intend to seek additional funding for the HSE by way of a supplementary estimate.

Hospital Services.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

129 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans, in view of the investigation into breast cancer treatment in Barringtons and other concerns with regard to quality control in privately run health institutions, to ensure that standards and quality in private health care are monitored to protect patients; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24012/07]

Quality standards for symptomatic breast disease services have already been developed by a group established by the Minister and were subsequently endorsed by the Board of the Health Information and Quality Authority. The Authority will be monitoring compliance with these standards by the Health Services Executive. HIQA has also invited all public and private hospitals to participate in a self assessment exercise which will be conducted over the next few months. I have called on hospitals in the independent sector to take steps to ensure that their breast cancer services comply with these standards and I have brought the standards to the attention of private healthcare insurers. The HSE recently announced a major re-configuration of the delivery of cancer care in this country which will involve the provision of services from dedicated centres of excellence.

In January 2007, I established the Commission on Patient Safety and Quality Assurance to develop proposals for a health service wide system of governance based on corporate accountability for the quality and safety of all health services. One of its terms of reference is to specifically examine and make recommendations in relation to a statutory system of licensing for public and private health care providers and services.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

130 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Health and Children her proposals to fulfil the commitment in the 2001 health strategy which stated that by the end of 2003 no adult would have to wait longer than six months for treatment and no child would have to wait longer than three months; the measures that will be taken on foot of recent figures indicating that 12,000 adults are waiting longer than six months and 2,200 children are waiting longer than three months; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24022/07]

My Department has been advised by the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) that waiting times for the most common surgical procedures now range from 2 to 5 months compared to 2 to 5 years before the advent of the NTPF in 2002. According to the most recently published (July 2007) data from the Patient Treatment Register operated by the NTPF, 19 of the 20 most common adult procedures have an average wait time of 2 to 4 months while 9 of the top 10 surgical procedures for children have an average wait time of 2 to 5 months. The NTPF and the HSE will continue to address the issue of hospital waiting lists to seek to ensure that patients do not have to wait for unacceptably long periods to obtain the treatment that they require.

Question No. 131 answered with QuestionNo. 114.

Health Services.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

132 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress made on the implementation of the minimum data set method of determining the care needs of elderly patients as recommended in the O’Neill report and adopted by her Department and the Health Service Executive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24078/07]

I understand from the HSE that there are different software packages of minimum data sets used internationally. The O'Neill Report referred to by the Deputy did recommend the introduction of a minimum data set and the HSE is considering this issue at the moment with a view to identifying the most appropriate one for use in this country. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular matter raised by the Deputy. The Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Control of Infectious Diseases.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

133 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of recorded incidents of MRSA each year in the past five years; the degree to which she or her Department are successfully combating such occurrences; if she will reassure the public in regard to safety from MRSA in the event of hospitalisation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24037/07]

MRSA is not a notifiable disease. However, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre of the HSE collects data on MRSA. The data is collected on the first episode of bloodstream infection of MRSA per patient per quarter. This system shows that there were 445 cases in 2002, 480 cases in 2003, 553 cases in 2004, 592 cases in 2005 and 588 cases in 2006. Figures for the first six months of 2007 show that there were 292 cases.

A National Surveillance System has recently been established to collect data and provide information on a quarterly basis in four key areas to monitor HCAIs in our healthcare system:

Staphylococcus bacteremia;

Antibiotic consumption;

Alcohol gel use;

MRSA surveillance in Intensive Care Units.

The first report is expected shortly and eventually 52 hospitals and 30 local health office will report into the system.

Tackling Healthcare Associated Infections (HCAIs) including MRSA is a priority for the government and the Health Service Executive (HSE). The HSE has established a National Infection Control Action Plan. The Infection Control Steering Group is Chaired by Dr. Pat Doorley, National Director (Population Health) and is responsible for reducing infection levels in Ireland's health care facilities. Over the next three to five years the HSE aims to reduce HCAIs by 20%, MRSA infections by 30% and antibiotic consumption by 20%. Achievement of these targets will benefit all patients who are at risk. These targets will be achieved through the development of national and local level action plans to reduce the potential for spread of infections between persons in healthcare settings, and in addition will focus on reducing antibiotic use in Ireland. The Steering Group is supported by eight Local Implementation Teams which will ensure that all local facilities are focused on achieving the national targets.

The HSE have issued hygiene and infection control standards for all hospitals and have begun initiatives on reducing antibiotic consumption. In addition, the HSE is currently appointing a number of new infection control nurses, surveillance scientists and antibiotic pharmacists. These staff will strengthen specialist support for infection control and facilitate the development of the national surveillance system.

Each hospital has been mandated to carry out hygiene audits at least annually. The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has completed its first Hygiene Services Assessment Scheme incorporating unannounced hospital hygiene inspections. Its report is expected shortly. HIQA is currently working with the HSE to produce national infection control standards. When these are introduced they will have the status of approved standards under the Health Act 2007 and their implementation will be monitored by HIQA.

I have instructed the HSE that designated private beds should be used where isolation facilities are required for patients who contract MRSA. While accepting that not all HCAIs are preventable, I am satisfied that significant steps are being taken to reduce the rates of infection and to treat them promptly when they occur.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Tom Sheahan

Question:

134 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Health and Children the status of the nursing home refund scheme for the repayment of illegal nursing home charges; the number of claims received and completed to date; the amount refunded to date; the number of applications that have been rejected; the reason they have been rejected; the average time for an application to be processed; when she expects the scheme to complete its work; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24084/07]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has responsibility for administering the health repayment scheme in conjunction with the appointed scheme administrator KPMG/McCann Fitzgerald. The HSE has informed my Department that since the commencement of the scheme over 30,000 claims have been received and to date over 3,500 payments totalling over €71.5m have issued while over 6,250 offers of repayment totalling over €117m have been made. The HSE have also informed my Department that over 2,800 applications have been rejected up to 5 Oct 2007.

The time taken to process each application varies depending on the complexity of the application and the availability of accurate records to calculate repayment. The scheme is progressing as speedily as possible and every effort is being made to complete repayments. The HSE has indicated that the delays in making repayments under the scheme have been due to legal and technical issues. Firstly, over 14,000 estates who lodged claims to date had not extracted a grant of representation in respect of the estate of the deceased patient. In these instances the person entitled to extract the grant of representation has to be identified before an application can be processed and to date over 6,800 certificates of entitlement permitting individuals to apply for a repayment have issued.

Secondly, there has been a high incidence of claimants providing insufficient information and these claims have taken longer to process as the scheme administrator must be provided with certain information in order to ensure that the correct person and correct amount is repaid. Thirdly, it has been necessary for the scheme administrator to visit over 330 HSE facilities to scan records which form the basis for the calculation of repayments. The format in which this information is held varies widely between institutions and usually includes a mixture of paper files, handwritten files and computer files.

Priority had been given to repaying living applicants as they were most immediately affected but repayments to estates have now commenced. A two year timeframe has been allotted to the Scheme and the HSE and the scheme administrator are confident that all claims submitted by the public, including those submitted by the relatives of deceased patients will be processed within that timeframe.

Suicide Prevention.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

135 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress made in providing appropriately trained multi-disciplinary teams on a 24 hour basis to cater for persons who present themselves at hospital accident and emergency departments with suicidal tendencies or attempted suicide; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24029/07]

Responsibility for the implementation of "Reach Out" the National Strategy for Action on Suicide Prevention, which was published in September 2005, rests with the HSE's National Office for Suicide Prevention (NOSP). The Minister and the National Office are fully committed to the implementation of the strategy.

Significant additional funding of €3.05 million was provided in 2006 and 2007 which brings the total funding available to support suicide prevention initiatives in 2007 to €8 million. This funding is being used to develop and implement national training programmes, complete the availability of self-harm services through A&E Departments, launch the National Mental Health Awareness Campaign, implement recommendations arising from a review of bereavement services and support voluntary organisations working in the field of suicide prevention.

There are currently 32 posts of specialist nurses in Accident and Emergency Departments to respond to deliberate self-harm presentations. The National Suicide Research Foundation in Cork are currently looking at best practice in this area in order to standardise the approach to service delivery.

A National Registry of Deliberate Self-Harm has been operating in general hospitals in the Republic of Ireland since 2001. Their 2005 Annual Report indicates that 10,227 people presented in A&E having self harmed. While 60% were assessed by a mental health professional 23% received psycho-social assessment from A&E staff and the remainder left before a next care recommendation could be made. Following treatment in the A&E Department inpatient admission was recommended for 56% ie. general and psychiatric admission. One third of cases were discharged following treatment in A&E.

Health Service Staff.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

136 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the effect of the Health Service Executive recruitment embargo on the discharge of patients in hospitals where social workers who arrange the discharge have not been replaced; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24008/07]

The current recruitment pause is a temporary measure initiated as part of the HSE financial break-even plan. It will be reviewed at the end of October 2007. Notwithstanding this, it has been recognised that there are some critical or exceptional circumstances where appointment of staff may be necessary in frontline services. Accordingly, a process has been put in place to evaluate, monitor and approve requests for derogation from the general recruitment pause. A small group has been established including a representative of the National Hospitals Office and other Directorates and this group will meet weekly to consider such applications.

Question No. 137 answered with QuestionNo. 104.

Hospital Services.

Chris Andrews

Question:

138 Deputy Chris Andrews asked the Minister for Health and Children if, in view of the fact that she intends to ensure that the resources of St. Luke’s will be utilised in the best interests of the health services, she will rule out the sale of the St. Luke’s site for private development; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24061/07]

The transfer of services from St. Luke's Hospital to new facilities at St. James's Hospital is not due to take place for a number of years. In the meantime, two additional linear accelerators will be commissioned at St. Luke's in early 2008 and two replacement linear accelerators will be commissioned later in 2008. These will provide much needed interim capacity pending the roll out of the National Plan for Radiation Oncology. No decisions have yet been taken in relation to the future use of the site and facilities at St. Luke's. However, I intend to ensure that these resources are utilised in the best interest of the health services.

Martin Ferris

Question:

139 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Health and Children the discussions she has had with Health Service Executive management regarding cuts in hospital services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24058/07]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

141 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children if her Department has assessed the effect of Health Service Executive cutbacks on patient care; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24056/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 139 and 141 together.

I have frequent meetings with the Chairman and Chief Executive of the HSE where financial management and service development are discussed. My Department also has ongoing contact with the HSE on a wide range of subjects. There are close to 130,000 people employed in the delivery of our public health and personal social services the vast majority of whom provide direct service to patients and clients. The current pause in recruitment must be viewed in this context. It is a temporary measure put in place by the HSE to live within its budget. It will be reviewed at the end of October and it is being monitored by the HSE on a week by week basis. I have frequent meetings with the Chairman and Chief Executive of the HSE where financial management and service development are discussed. My Department also has ongoing contact with the HSE on a wide range of subjects.

The HSE must be able to manage within the resources made available to it by Government and voted by the Dáil. It should not come as a surprise to anyone that managing the budget in the health sector means managing staff. Staff costs make up almost 70% of the HSE's overall budget. It is unreasonable to suggest that in a service of this scale, with an employee cohort of this size, that every vacancy which arises must be filled immediately, and, if it is not filled immediately, that dire consequences will result. Living within budget and making the best use of the available resources is an essential task of any sound organisation. Reforming our health system is not just about extra funding and extra posts. It's about ensuring that the extra money which has already been invested by the Government on behalf of the Irish people is being used wisely and is being used efficiently.

Many of the actions taken by the HSE to control its rate of spending in the last three months of this year have demonstrably no effect on front line services and some of the claims made about alleged effects on services are without justification. For example, the cancellation of foreign travel and the release of temporary summer holiday cover staff cannot mean a reduction of services. Claims of this nature should be assessed in the context of the HSE's overall activity levels. For each of the last three months of this year, there will be over 100,000 patients treated as in-patients or on a day case basis in publicly-funded acute hospitals. That will continue to be the case.

However, I would emphasise, and the HSE recognises, the importance of staying within annual budgets and staffing levels, and managing activity throughout the year, so that planned annual service increases are achieved in an orderly manner over the whole year. It is ultimately no service to patients for hospitals or any other cost centres to over-run budgets and staffing levels in the early part of the year, causing a slowdown of activity in their own service or in any other service later on. Any postponement of an operation or service arising is naturally very disappointing to individual patients and clients.

John Perry

Question:

140 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Health and Children the amounts by which each hospital has overspent their budget as at end of September 2007; if she is still confident that the recruitment ban and cutbacks will not affect frontline services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24081/07]

The latest reports available to me from the HSE, for the period to end August 2007 show that overall the National Hospital Office is some €162m in excess of its period budget. The table gives details of the spend of each hospital against its agreed budget. Those hospitals with the highest overspend include Kilcreene Orthopaedic Hospital, Our Lady's Hospital Navan and Portlaoise General Hospital. It is also worth noting the hospitals that are staying within, or very close to their budgets, e.g. the Regional in Dooradoyle, Limerick, Holles Street and Waterford Regional. It is very clear that if every hospital performed as efficiently as the best we would achieve both better cost control and better services.

Professor Drumm has informed his board that, through a combination of some additional funding and remedial measures, he is aiming for a break-even position in 2007. The statistics on hospital activity to end August indicate the overall the targets set in the Service Plan for the National Hospital Office in 2007 are some 2 — 5% up for In-patient Services, 4.1% for Day Cases and 7.5% for Out-patients. The measures are aimed at discretionary spending in the first instance, suspension of recruitment for a specified period and at bringing back activity to target or funded levels activity. The measures are subject to a continuous review by the HSE National Hospital Office.

In the event that these measures are not sufficient to achieve a financial break-even, it may be necessary to implement additional measures, given the statutory responsibility of the Accounting Officer to contain spending to the level approved by Dáil Éireann.

Extract from HSE Performance Monitoring Report (PMR), August 2007

National Hospitals' Office — Expenditure by Hospital — August 2007

YTD

Approved Allocation

Actual

Budget

Variance

€000

€000

€000

€000

%

Waterford Regional Hospital

142,019

96,802

94,733

2,069

2.2

St Lukes Kilkenny

53,164

37,968

35,200

2,768

7.9

Wexford General Hospital

53,169

36,137

34,712

1,424

4.1

St Josephs Hospital

50,317

36,762

32,624

4,138

12.7

Our Lady’s Hospital Cashel

0

0

0

(0)

-184.4

Kilcreene Orthopaedic Hospital

6,063

4,818

3,990

829

20.8

South Eastern Acute Services

0

0

0

0

0.0

South Eastern Acute Support

612

2,873

408

2,465

604.3

Network Manager — South Eastern Hospitals

6,257

380

4,086

(3,706)

-90.7

South Eastern Hospitals Group

311,601

215,739

205,753

9,986

Cork University Hospital

258,749

177,869

172,073

5,796

3.4

Unified Maternity / Neonatal (Erinville)

0

0

0

0

0.0

St. Mary’s Orthopaedic Hospital

13,986

10,741

9,305

1,436

15.4

Mallow General Hospital

14,728

11,530

9,796

1,735

17.7

Kerry General Hospital

74,848

50,936

49,832

1,104

2.2

Bantry General Hospital

17,882

12,160

11,895

265

2.2

Mercy University Hospital, Cork

70,826

49,770

47,416

2,354

5.0

South Infirmary — Victoria Hospital, Cork

52,701

36,758

34,967

1,791

5.1

Southern Regional Acute Services

16,720

13,132

11,149

1,984

17.8

Southern Regional Acute Support

0

0

0

0

0.0

Network Manager — Southern Hospitals

4,722

2,036

3,109

(1,073)

-34.5

Southern Hospitals Group

525,161

364,933

349,541

15,391

Sligo General Hospital

103,754

80,850

69,425

11,424

16.5

Letterkenny General Hospital

98,670

71,705

65,949

5,756

8.7

Galway College University Hospital

210,488

151,536

139,648

11,888

8.5

Merlin Park Regional Hospital

45,749

31,574

30,313

1,260

4.2

Mayo General hospital

69,460

55,134

46,186

8,949

19.4

Roscommon General Hospital

21,297

16,551

14,043

2,508

17.9

Portincula Acute Hospital

45,341

33,913

29,626

4,287

14.5

Western Regional Acute Services

15,201

560

10,106

(9,546)

-94.5

Western Regional Acute Support

0

0

0

0

0.0

North Western Regional Acute Services

510

1,575

506

1,069

211.0

North Western Regional Acute Support

131

100

87

13

15.0

Network Manager — West / North Western Hospitals

12,338

236

8,163

(7,927)

-97.1

West / North Western Hospitals Group

622,940

443,735

414,054

29,681

St. John’s Limerick

22,121

15,493

14,511

982

6.8

Regional Hospital Dooradoyle

157,218

104,837

103,825

1,012

1.0

Regional Maternity Hospital Limerick

18,141

13,541

11,837

1,704

14.4

Regional Orthopaedic Hospital

13,397

8,722

8,860

(138)

-1.6

Ennis General Hospital

22,279

17,118

14,721

2,397

16.3

Nenagh General Hospital

20,494

15,765

13,459

2,306

17.1

Mid Western Regional Acute Services

1,596

1,518

1,059

459

43.3

Mid Western Regional Acute Support

0

0

0

0

0.0

Network Manager — Mid Western Hospitals

6,431

766

4,191

(3,425)

-81.7

Mid Western Hospitals Group

261,676

177,760

172,463

5,297

Our Lady’s of Lourdes Hospital

90,979

66,723

59,955

6,768

11.3

Louth County Hospital

28,686

20,960

19,080

1,879

9.9

Cavan Monaghan General Hospital

57,840

44,733

38,124

6,609

17.3

Monaghan General Hospital

22,203

16,389

14,647

1,741

11.9

Our Lady’s Hospital Navan

36,579

29,520

24,382

5,138

21.1

North Eastern Regional Services

15,287

1,442

9,460

(8,018)

-84.8

North Eastern Regional Support

0

0

0

0

0.0

Network Manager — North Eastern Hospitals

0

0

0

0

0.0

North Eastern Hospitals Group

251,575

179,766

165,648

14,118

Mater Misericordiae University Hospital

226,559

163,115

149,912

13,203

8.8

Beaumont Hospital

262,628

187,258

168,117

19,141

11.4

Rotunda Hospital

48,545

34,060

31,340

2,720

8.7

Children’s University Hospital, Temple Street

71,629

54,183

47,730

6,453

13.5

Cappagh National Orthopaedic Hospital

27,844

19,116

18,563

553

3.0

Connolly Memorial Hospital

94,612

69,150

63,660

5,491

8.6

Northern Area Regional Acute Services

18,221

1,345

12,141

(10,796)

-88.9

Northern Area Regional Acute Support

0

0

0

0

0.0

Network Manager — Dublin North East Hospitals

261

233

179

54

30.2

Dublin North Hospitals Group

750,299

528,460

491,641

36,819

Mullingar General Hospital

53,461

41,007

35,576

5,431

15.3

Tullamore General Hospital

79,136

57,906

52,703

5,203

9.9

Portlaoise General Hospital

40,741

33,036

27,058

5,978

22.1

Naas General Hospital

61,626

40,985

41,187

(202)

-0.5

Midland Regional Acute Service

4,593

3,454

3,679

(225)

-6.1

Adelaide & Meath Hospital Tallaght

205,102

156,085

135,787

20,298

14.9

Coombe Womens Hospital

48,177

34,372

29,131

5,241

18.0

Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children Crumlin

125,738

91,816

85,737

6,079

7.1

Midland Regional Acute Support

0

0

0

0

0.0

South Western Regional Acute Service

0

0

0

0

0.0

South Western Regional Acute Support

1

0

0

(0)

-100.0

Network Manager — Dublin Midlands Hospitals

12,588

221

8,218

(7,997)

-97.3

Dublin / Midlands Hospitals Group

631,163

458,883

419,078

39,805

St. Vincent’s Elm Park

214,432

151,704

142,956

8,748

6.1

St. Michael’s Dun Laoghaire

32,349

22,285

21,750

535

2.5

National Maternity Hospital Holles Street.

47,718

32,113

31,808

305

1.0

City of Dublin Skin & Cancer Hospital

160

0

0

0

0.0

St. Lukes Hospital

35,992

24,754

23,024

1,730

7.5

Royal Victoria Eye & Ear Hospital

23,846

16,400

15,553

847

5.4

St. James’s Hospital

351,901

243,262

230,478

12,784

5.5

St. Columcilles General Hospital

37,364

29,847

25,035

4,812

19.2

East Coast Regional Acute Service

0

0

0

0

0.0

East Coast Regional Acute Support

0

0

0

0

0.0

Network Managers — Dublin South Hospitals

32,509

7,286

21,061

(13,775)

-65.4

Dublin South Hospitals Group

776,271

527,650

511,665

15,985

South Eastern Regional Ambulance Service

15,993

13,040

10,612

2,428

22.9

Southern Regional Ambulance Services

15,613

12,028

10,472

1,556

14.9

Western Regional Ambulance Services

14,435

12,599

9,595

3,004

31.3

North Western Regional Ambulance Service

11,046

8,900

7,302

1,598

21.9

Mid Western Regional Ambulance Service

10,952

7,815

7,223

591

8.2

North Eastern Regional Ambulance Service

10,680

8,290

7,121

1,169

16.4

Northern Area Regional Ambulance Service

0

0

0

0

0.0

Midland Regional Ambulance Service

19,906

6,668

10,549

(3,881)

-36.8

South Western Regional Ambulance Service

0

0

0

0

0.0

East Coast Regional Ambulance Service

30,755

22,739

20,595

2,144

10.4

Regional Ambulance Services

129,381

92,079

83,468

8,611

Office of the National Director

31,824

7,115

21,126

(14,011)

-66.3

National Hospitals Office Total

4,291,890

2,996,121

2,834,438

161,683

Question No. 141 answered with QuestionNo. 139.
Question No. 142 answered with QuestionNo. 104.
Question No. 143 answered with QuestionNo. 118.

Medical Cards.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

144 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on widening the availability of medical cards in view of the return to the Exchequer of nearly €23 million assigned to that budget for 2006, according to the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24003/07]

Expenditure on the General Medical Services Scheme is funded from the Health Service Executive's (HSE) revenue budget. The final out-turn on Vote expenditure for the Health Service Executive, in 2006, shows a capital saving of €114m of which €42m was used to offset a revenue overspend across the HSE's activities as a whole and a further €47m was used to offset a shortfall in Appropriations-in-Aid. This left a balance of €25m to be surrendered to the Exchequer. The Health Service Executive's Appropriation Account for 2006 shows an overall surrender of €365m, €25m capital and €340m in respect of the Long Stay Repayment Scheme.

The Programme for Government commits to the following:

Indexing the income thresholds for medical cards to increases in the average industrial wage;

Doubling of the income limit eligibility of parents of children under 6 years of age, and trebling them for parents of children under 18 years of age with an intellectual disability;

Allowing people with disabilities to work without losing key essential medical card cover after 3 years;

Implementation of an annual publicity campaign and making applications easier so as to increase uptake amongst those who are eligible for Medical Cards and GP Visit Cards.

My Department is at present considering the steps required to enable these commitments to be implemented. My Department is also examining the steps necessary to give effect to theTowards 2016 commitment to review the eligibility criteria for the assessment of medical cards in the context of medical, social and economic/financial need with a view to clarifying entitlement to a medical card.

Control of Infectious Diseases.

Alan Shatter

Question:

145 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps she proposes to take to counteract the problem of MRSA in hospitals here; and the action taken to date. [22318/07]

Seymour Crawford

Question:

182 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps she will take in consultation with the Health Service Executive to deal with the ongoing crisis with MRSA; her views on whether this is now not only a crisis issue for the elderly but also for younger patients going in for routine operations who leave the hospital with MRSA and have to deal with it in their own home, and that overcrowding and lack of beds is part of the difficulty in controlling this and other diseases where proper cleansing and disinfecting need to be carried out; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24118/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

237 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the results of her efforts and associated costs to date in combating MRSA; the number of hospitals or institutions deemed to be entirely free from such infection; if she has identified the institutions with the greatest incidence; the degree to which the issue has been addressed at such locations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24482/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

238 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the action that has been taken to prevent the spread of MRSA throughout the hospital network; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24483/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 145, 182, 237 and 238 together.

Tackling Healthcare Associated Infections (HCAIs), including MRSA is a priority for the government and for the Health Service Executive (HSE). I share the public concern in relation to MRSA. The HSE has established a National Infection Control Action Plan. The Infection Control Steering Group is Chaired by Dr. Pat Doorley, National Director (Population Health) and is responsible for reducing infection levels in Ireland's health care facilities. Over the next three to five years the HSE aims to reduce HCAIs by 20%, MRSA infections by 30% and antibiotic consumption by 20%. Achievement of these targets will benefit all patients who are at risk. These targets will be achieved through the development of national and local level action plans to reduce the potential for spread of infections between persons in healthcare settings, and in addition will focus on reducing antibiotic use in Ireland. The Steering Group is supported by eight Local Implementation Teams which will ensure that all local facilities are focused on achieving the national targets.

The HSE have issued hygiene and infection control standards for all hospitals and have begun initiatives on reducing antibiotic consumption. In addition, the HSE is currently appointing a number of new infection control nurses, surveillance scientists and antibiotic pharmacists. These staff will strengthen specialist support for infection control and facilitate the development of the national surveillance system.

It is unrealistic to try to isolate the overall cost of combating HCAIs. Reducing the incidence of these infections will not alone improve patient care but will also generate savings in the cost of service delivery. Each hospital has been mandated to carry out hygiene audits at least annually. The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has completed its first Hygiene Services Assessment Scheme incorporating unannounced hospital hygiene inspections. Its report is expected shortly. HIQA is currently working with the HSE to produce national infection control standards. When these are introduced they will have the status of approved standards under the Health Act 2007 and their implementation will be monitored by HIQA.

A primary element of the fight against healthcare-associated infections involves changing practices and procedures and the way in which many health care staff go about their daily work. Hygiene is a significant issue in our hospitals. It impacts hugely on inspection rates. Hand hygiene is the most important form of hygiene in this regard, but hygiene in general is important.

Two national hygiene audits have taken place over recent years. Great improvements were made between the first and second audits carried out in 2005 and 2006. Almost every hospital had increased its overall score. Only 2 hospitals received a 'poor' score in 2006 compared with 26 in the first audit and the percentage of hospitals achieving a ‘good' score moved up from 9% in 2005 to 60% last year. These audits most definitely represented a significant step forward in relation to improving hygiene in our hospitals.

In addition the HSE has developed a media campaign which aims to educate patients, visitors and staff about the importance of hand hygiene in all areas of hospital activity.

In relation to the issue of overcrowding in hospitals, focussed efforts under the Winter initiative scheme have achieved a reduction in the numbers of patients waiting for admission on trolleys in A&E and a reduction in the time those patients spend waiting. Admission lounges have been put in place in a number of hospitals to ensure that patients are treated with dignity while awaiting admission. A number of new A&E Departments commissioned in 2005/06 have provision for minor injury clinics, including Connolly Hospital, Blanchardstown, Cork University Hospital, St. Vincent's University Hospital and St. James's Hospital which reduce the burden on busy A&E departments. In 2006, over 1,000 additional extended care places were provided through privately contracted arrangements. In relation to 2007, the HSE has developed proposals to contract a further 450 beds in private nursing homes throughout the country. There are also proposals for an additional 450 beds within the public system. Additional home-care packages have been put in place to facilitate discharge from hospital to the patient's own home.

I have instructed the HSE that designated private beds should be used where isolation facilities are required for patients who contract MRSA. While accepting that not all HCAIs are preventable, I am satisfied that significant steps are being taken to reduce the rates of infection and to treat them promptly when they occur.

Hospital Services.

Liz McManus

Question:

146 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of pathology laboratories here that hold recognised accreditation; if she has plans to introduce legislation to require accreditation; her views on concerns that laboratories in the US that are carrying out tests for patients here have different codes of practice; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24015/07]

Prior to the establishment of the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) this year, accreditation was carried out by the Irish Health Services Accreditation Board. This has now been taken over by HIQA. The bulk of work on accreditation has been carried out in the acute hospital sector, for which an Acute Care Assessment Scheme was developed. This scheme provides a quality and safety framework involving standards of excellence, self assessment and skills of trained peer review and service user surveyors and covers all aspects of each participating hospital — including laboratories within the hospital. The scheme is voluntary. However currently over 95% of public acute hospitals have applied for accreditation.

There are a number of other accreditation schemes available for the private sector. There are also a number of agencies which provide accreditation for medical laboratories such as the Irish National Accreditation Board which accredits medical laboratories to ISO 15189, which is the internationally recognised standard of best practice in medical laboratories. This, too, is a voluntary process.

In January 2007, I established the Commission on Patient Safety and Quality Assurance to develop proposals for a health service wide system of governance based on corporate accountability for the quality and safety of all health services. One of its terms of reference is to specifically examine and make recommendations in relation to a statutory system of licensing for public and private health care providers and services.

In relation to the use of US laboratories for carrying out testing, I understand from the Health Service Executive that the National Hospitals Office outsourced the backlog of cervical smears earlier this year. The tests were conducted at fully accredited laboratories in Quest's Houston and Chicago. All Quest's Diagnostics' testing locations are subject to Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988 (CLIA-88) certification and maintain current CLIA licenses. Quest Diagnostics' main laboratories are accredited by the College of American Pathologists (CAP) and the above labs have CAP and CLIA approval.

Quest laboratories use the internationally accepted Bethesda methodology for reporting pap smears. This methodology is utilised world wide with the exception of Ireland and England which uses the British Society of Cytology standards. As the Besthesda method is the dominant world wide, the EU requires that the British standards be fully translatable with Bethesda.

Health Services.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

147 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Health and Children if her Department has carried out a study into the arrangements between general practitioners and hospitals in areas such as Mallow, Nenagh and Kilkenny where co-operation on the intake and discharge of patients between professionals in the community and the hospital appears to be very effective in terms of cost and patient care; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24021/07]

As part of its management of A & E services the HSE has been working to identify areas of best practice within networks, and to replicate these elsewhere in order to improve the delivery of A & E services and acute hospital services generally for the benefit of patients. One of the best examples of this involves the development of Acute Medical Assessment Units in acute hospitals where patients who may not require admission, but do need investigation and treatment, can be referred directly to the Unit by general practitioners.

As the Deputy's question, concerning arrangements between general practitioners and hospitals, relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the HSE under the Health Act 2004, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to address this matter and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Ambulance Service.

P. J. Sheehan

Question:

148 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Minister for Health and Children when the helicopter landing pad in Bantry Hospital will be restored to a safe and operational state for the use of air ambulance helicopters and air sea rescue helicopters; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23844/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall Vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Service Staff.

Enda Kenny

Question:

149 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the comments of the Taoiseach on 3 July 2007, that there have been significant increases in recent years in administrative promotional posts throughout the Health Service Executive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24085/07]

The health service employs almost 130,000 personnel and this equates to 111,570 wholetime equivalents (WTEs) as at 30 June 2007, excluding home helps. This employment level includes the Health Service Executive, Voluntary Hospitals and Voluntary providers of Service for People with a Disability.

Over the period since the establishment of the Health Service Executive, recorded health service employment has increased by 13% (12,847 WTEs). Since the establishment of the HSE, the number of Medical & Dental personnel has increased by 13.02% (913). This includes an increase of 306 (+16.34%) in the number of Hospital Consultants. The number of nursing personnel has increased by 4,296 (+12.52%) to 38,609 (or by 2,848 and 8.3% when student nurses are factored out). The number of Health and Social Care Professionals increased by 2,611 (+20.35%) to 15,411. I would draw the Deputy's attention, in particular, to increases of 32% (Dieticians), 35% (Occupational Therapists), 24% (Physiotherapists) and 30% (Speech & Language Therapists). The Clerical and Administrative staffing has remained stable at 16.4% of overall staffing and General Support Staffing has fallen from 13.95% to 11.87% of overall staffing.

I am informed that the vast majority of Clerical and Administrative staff work in hospitals and community based services and perform key functions in relation to patients. However, it is important to set the right balance between these posts and clinical posts. In that regard, the HSE has commissioned an independent study to examine the number of management/admin staff and the proportion of such staff engaged in front line services.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Tom Sheahan

Question:

150 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress on the provision of a new national children’s hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22319/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

245 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if it is intended to review the proposal to locate the new children’s hospital adjacent to the Mater Hospital; if she has received or examined the compelling submissions from experts including consultants who are adamant that the previously available site for the children’s hospital has greater advantages in terms of future development potential, accessibility and space for the provision of ancillary or support facilities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24497/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 150 and 245 together.

I have no plans to review the decision to locate the new National Paediatric Hospital on a site to be made available at the Mater Hospital, Dublin. As the House is aware, a joint Health Service Executive/Department of Health and Children Task Group was established in February 2006 to advise on the optimum location for the development of a new National Paediatric Hospital. The Task Group recommended that the new hospital be developed as an independent hospital on a site to be made available by the Mater Hospital. This recommendation was accepted by the Board of the Health Service Executive.

Following the Government's decision to endorse the recommendation of the HSE Board, a joint HSE/Department of Health and Children Transition Group was established to advance the development of the national tertiary paediatric hospital on the Mater site. A high level framework brief for the new hospital, developed for the Transition Group by Rawlinson Kelly & Whittlestone Ltd (RKW), an established UK-based health care planning company, is virtually complete. The brief will set out the preferred model of care, the core services to be delivered at the new hospital, and the additional range of services to be provided in an urgent/ambulatory care setting.

The National Paediatric Hospital Development Board has been established. The primary function of the Board is to plan, design, build, furnish and equip the new national paediatric hospital. Since its establishment, the Board has had the opportunity to familiarise itself with the project and to prepare for the recruitment of a Chief Officer, and the implementation of the High Level Framework Brief.

Joan Burton

Question:

151 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Health and Children the position on the Government’s plans for co-location of private hospitals on the grounds of public hospitals; the projects in respect of which contracts have been signed; the projects with which it is intended to proceed where contracts have still to be signed; the expected date on which building will commence for each project; the projected completion date in each case; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24030/07]

The Board of the Health Service Executive approved the preferred bidder status for the following six co-located hospital sites at its July meeting:—

Waterford Regional Hospital

Cork University Hospital

Limerick Regional Hospital

Sligo General Hospital

Beaumont Hospital

St. James's Hospital

It is expected that the signing of the project agreements for these sites will be completed during October and November. Connolly Hospital and Tallaght Hospital, which are also participating in the co-location initiative, are at an earlier stage of the procurement process. A tender proposal in relation to the former is under consideration. It is expected that the invitation to tender (ITT) for Tallaght Hospital will issue in the near future. It is expected that the co-located private hospitals will most likely open within 3 years of receiving planning permission.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Liz McManus

Question:

152 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children if an analysis has been carried out on the relative cost of treatments under the National Treatment Purchase Fund as compared with similar treatments in public hospitals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24014/07]

Cost comparisons between the public and private hospital sectors are difficult to make. For example, private hospital costs and prices include capital costs in the form of depreciation whereas in the public hospitals these are funded separately and are excluded from Casemix averages. Also, public hospitals carry an additional cost in that they cater for training and education of medical and nursing personnel.

Obtaining value for the Exchequer for funding allocated to the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) is a key priority for the NTPF Board. Over the years, the NTPF has built up checks and balances to ensure that its rates are competitive and suitable for the circumstances. The checks and balances employed include comparing the price that the NTPF is offered by a private hospital to:—

Prices available to NTPF in other private hospitals.

Costs quoted in the latest available Casemix data.

Prices quoted by private insurers (for example,VHI).

A projected price built up from the NTPF's knowledge of the likely constituent costs of a particular treatment (e.g. estimating likely fees, accommodation, tests, etc).

Occasionally, international data on treatment prices.

The Fund operates on an input-output basis. That is, for a known resource the NTPF can quantify the volume of service provided and the costs of each patient episode is known. Casemix, the mechanism used for costing in the public hospital system, provides the cost of treating patients with similar conditions rather than the cost of a particular procedure.

Hospital Services.

Michael Noonan

Question:

153 Deputy Michael Noonan asked the Minister for Health and Children the arrangements she will make for patients in County Limerick who cannot be accommodated at the dialysis unit in the Mid-Western Regional Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22317/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall Vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Denis Naughten

Question:

154 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans for the development of services at Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe, County Mayo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23644/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall Vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Assisted Human Reproduction.

Mary Upton

Question:

155 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has plans to regulate fertility treatment following concerns expressed in an independent inquiry commissioned by the family of a person (details supplied) who died following complications that arose during their IVF treatment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24032/07]

In March 2000 the then Minister for Health and Children established the Commission on Assisted Human Reproduction (CAHR). Its terms of reference were: ‘To prepare a report on the possible approaches to the regulation of all aspects of assisted human reproduction and the social, ethical and legal factors to be taken into account in determining public policy in this area.'

The CAHR was comprised largely of persons with expert knowledge spanning medical, scientific, social and legal domains. This expertise was a prerequisite to a precise examination of the issues concerned. The Commission published its report in May 2005. Its report was the first step in determining a policy response to Assisted Human Reproduction (AHR) and it made 40 recommendations on AHR services in Ireland. The key recommendation of the Commission is that a regulatory body should be established by an Act of the Oireachtas to regulate AHR services in Ireland. The Commission proposed that this body be accountable to the Minister for Health and Children and that it would have regulatory and executive powers in relation to permitted AHR services.

The Government decided to refer the report to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children so that the Committee could consider and report in due course on its views of the recommendations of the Commission. The Committee was considered an appropriate forum in which to subject the report to structured democratic and political analysis and scrutiny.

In the meantime, cognisant of the amount of work required, I instructed my Department to begin work on the development of an appropriate regulatory framework. As part of the analysis of the complex issues involved in developing an appropriate regulatory framework for this area, the report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children — when completed — along with any judgement of the Supreme Court in theRvR (frozen embryo) case, will be taken into account.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

156 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Health and Children the provisions that have been put in place to assist patients affected by the immediate closure of breast cancer services at 13 hospitals nationally; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24079/07]

The recent decisions of the Health Service Executive (HSE) to designate four managed cancer control networks and eight cancer centres will be implemented on a managed and phased basis. A detailed transitional plan will be put in place to facilitate the progressive, gradual and carefully managed transfer of services over the next two years or so. The HSE plans to have completed 50% of the transition of services to the cancer centres by end 2008 and 80-90% by end 2009. In relation to breast cancer specifically, the HSE plans to have completed 60% of the transition by end 2008 and 90% by end 2009.

In order to comply with the National Quality Assurance Standards for Symptomatic Breast Disease, the HSE has directed thirteen hospitals with very low case volumes to cease breast cancer services immediately. The thirteen hospitals concerned performed a combined total number of 55 breast cancer procedures in 2005. A number of these hospitals had in practice already discontinued symptomatic breast services. The National Hospitals Office has already planned the redirection of this symptomatic caseload. Further staged reductions in the number of hospitals providing breast cancer services will occur over the next two years in line with the development of quality assured capacity in the eight designated centres.

National Health Strategy.

David Stanton

Question:

157 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children her Department’s policy on stroke victims and persons who have suffered acquired brain injury; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24071/07]

My Department considers that there should be an over-arching policy framework to set out the broad policy guidelines for development of policy on cardiovascular health, including stroke. The Cardiovascular Health Policy Group (CHPG), chaired by Professor Hannah McGee, has been appointed by Minister Harney to develop this framework. The CHPG had its inaugural meeting on 19th September and is due to complete its work by the end of April 2008. In addition, a national audit of stroke services has recently been undertaken by the Irish Heart Foundation in association with the HSE with significant funding provided by my Department. A stroke strategy is currently being developed by the HSE. This is due to be finished by the end of this year.

In the last two years the Health Service Executive (HSE), and the voluntary sector funded by the HSE, have undertaken specific actions in regard to service provision for people with Acquired Brain Injury (ABI), such as the expansion of neurological services and the planned development of the rehabilitation capacity in the National Rehabilitation Hospital and Merlin Park Hospital. The issue of ABI, and service planning and provision for people with ABI has been, and continues to be a matter for discussion and examination between my Department and the HSE.

Hospital Services.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

158 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children if it is anticipated that the budget allocated to the Health Service Executive for 2007 will allow for the transfer of all facilities from the old Midlands Regional Hospital at Tullamore, County Offaly to the new facility; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23536/07]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

161 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has received a progress report from the Health Service Executive in relation to when it is expected that the new Midlands Regional Hospital, Tullamore, County Offaly will be opened; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23535/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 158 and 161 together.

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall Vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

159 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Health and Children if the proposed relocation of the Central Mental Hospital to the Thornton Hall site will require planning permission; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22487/07]

The development of the new Central Mental Hospital (CMH) is the responsibility of the HSE. I am advised that preliminary discussions have taken place with Fingal County Council and that the CMH project will require planning permission. The HSE will seek planning permission at the appropriate time and will engage in the normal process of public consultation in this regard.

Hospital Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

160 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans for the development of services at the County Hospital, Roscommon; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23645/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall Vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Question No. 161 answered with QuestionNo. 158.

Anti-Poverty Strategy.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

162 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Taoiseach the progress made in his Department on the roll out of the poverty impact assessment to ensure that all policies are evaluated in terms of their potential impact on poverty and social inclusion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24112/07]

Poverty proofing was introduced in 1998 on foot of a commitment in the first National Anti-Poverty Strategy. It is defined as "the process whereby Government policies and programmes are assessed at design, implementation and review stages in relation to their impact on poverty and on inequalities which are likely to lead to poverty, with a view to poverty reduction". The Cabinet Handbook, published by my Department, includes a requirement that Memoranda for Government should indicate clearly, as appropriate, the impact of significant policy proposals for persons experiencing or at risk of poverty or social exclusion.

Following a review of the poverty proofing process, the Office for Social Inclusion produced a revised set of guidelines for what is now termed Poverty Impact Assessment. This change of name is intended to underline that the emphasis in the process should be on outcomes and that poverty impact assessment should form an integral part of the policy making process. The revised guidelines are designed to better assist policy makers across all levels of Government in evaluating policy proposals in terms of their potential impact on poverty. They include a number of new steps to make the process more useful and transparent and a requirement to monitor the impact of any policy change.

Last year, the Office for Social Inclusion held an information meeting in my Department which provided an opportunity to introduce policy-makers to the new Guidelines and to seek feedback about their application. The implications of policy proposals for poverty are routinely assessed in my Department, in accordance with Cabinet Handbook procedures, and the new Poverty Impact Assessment guidelines are helping to inform that process. Departments, including my own Department, are working closely with the Office for Social Inclusion to further refine the new guidelines in the light of experience and application.

Decentralisation Programme.

Richard Bruton

Question:

163 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Taoiseach if he has ascertained from all public service agencies involved in decentralisation the make-up of the 2,800 people who have taken up posts due to decentralise; the number of these who are transferring with their post from Dublin, who are transferring upon promotion and who are new recruits; and if he will set out the relevant data. [24685/07]

The Deputy will be aware that there are no proposals to decentralise any of the bodies under the aegis of my Department.

Public Service Contracts.

Eamon Scanlon

Question:

164 Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the time-scale for advancement to work commencing on a 21 month programme in view of the fact that the tenders have been received for a project (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24140/07]

Consideration of tenders is currently in progress. It is hoped that a contract will be placed in the coming weeks. The project will take 21 months to complete with work expected to be completed in the second half of 2009.

Disabled Drivers.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

165 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance when a review of eligibility for a primary medical certificate will take place in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24498/07]

The initial application for a Primary Medical Certificate under the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994, is made to the Senior Medical Officer of the relevant local Health Service Executive administrative area. If the Primary Medical Certificate is refused, the person may appeal the refusal to the Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal, National Rehabilitation Hospital, Rochestown Avenue, Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin.

I understand the named person appealed the decision of the Senior Medical Officer not to grant a Primary Medical Certificate and the appeal was subsequently refused by the Medical Board of Appeal. If the named person wishes to apply again for a Primary Medical Certificate, the application to the Senior Medical Officer must be accompanied by a medical certificate from a registered medical practitioner indicating that the practitioner has formed the opinion that the medical condition of the person concerned has materially disimproved since the previous application. I would point out that the Medical Board of Appeal is independent in the exercise of its functions.

Departmental Bodies.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

166 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the boards, bodies, authorities, agencies and quangos under the remit of his Department; the date of establishment; the number of members, staff and budget for each of the past ten years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24095/07]

The tables outline the information requested by the Deputy. Table A provides information on bodies which receive funding from the exchequer. Table B provides information on bodies which do not receive Exchequer funding and as such information on budgets is not included.

Table A

Name of Body

Date Established

No of Board Members

Budget in each of the past 10 years

Staff Numbers

Credit Union Advisory Committee

Department of Finance took over responsibility for Funding the Committee in 2004. (Previously under the aegis of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.)

7

2005: €17,506.59* 2006: €26,062.70 *Includes payment for 2004 Meeting.

No staff. The Department of Finance provide part time Secretariat

Decentralisation Implementation Group

Dec 2003

7

2003: Nil 2004: €100,843 2005: €115,324 2006: €61,414 2007: €43,386

no staff

Ordnance Survey Ireland (OSI)

Mar 2002

10

2002: €21.142m 2003: €23.176m 2004: €31.461m 2005: €28.827m 2006: €30.405m Total Expenditure of OSI is partially funded from an annual grant-in aid from the Exchequer.

2002: 303 2003: 294 2004: 311 2005: 307 2006: 310

Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal (DDMA)

Dec 1989

1997-2003: 3 2004: 5 2005: 15 2006: 17

2005: €276,520 2006: €279,653 Prior to 2005 the DDMA was financed through the Eastern Regional Health Authority

1

Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB)

Dec 1999

2000: €1.365m 2001: €3.194m 2002: €2.884m 2003: €2.660m 2004: €2.800m 2005: €2.979m 2006: €2.813m The Department of Finance fund 50% of the SEUPB budget. The Department of Finance and Personnel in Northern Ireland fund the other 50%.

2000: 19* 2001: 21 2002: 33 2003: 32 2004: 40 2005: 41 2006: 41 *This refers to average number of staff in the post in any given year

Table A—contd.

Name of Body

Date Established

No of Board Members

Budget in each of the past 10 years

Staff Numbers

Valuation Tribunal

Jul 1998

1997: 10 1998: 10 1999: 10 2000: 10 2001: 7 2002: 11 2003: 13 2004: 13 2005: 12 2006: 14

1997: €250.138 1998: €147,290 1999: €159,987 2000: €151,099 2001: €156,178 2002: €151,099 2003: €156,178 2004: €220,000 2005: €268,000 2006: €231,000

1997: 4 1998: 4 1999: 4 2000: 4 2001: 4 2002: 4 2003: 2.6 2004: 4.6 2005: 4.6 2006: 4.6

Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Sector

1969

1997: 7 1998: 7 1999: 7 2000: 6 2001: 6 2002: 6 2003: 6 2004: 6 2005: 6 2006: 6

1997: €33,013 1998: €31,744 1999: €31,744 2000: €177,763 2001: €56,000 2002: €19,000 2003: €19,000 2004: €19,000 2005: €110,000 2006: €438,000

1997-1999 1 (Part-time) 2000: 3 2001: 3 2002-2004 1 (Part-time) 2005: 3 2006: 4

Public Service Benchmarking Body *1st Public Service Benchmarking Exercise began 2002. **2nd Public Service Benchmarking Exercise began 2006

Jul 2000

2000: 7 2001: 7 2002: 7 2003: 0 2004: 0 2005: 0 2006: 7

2001: 1.927m 2002: 2.735m 2003: 0.282m 2006: 1.084m

2000 : 13 2001 : 13 2002 : 13 2003-2005 (1 Part-time) 2006: 10

Committee for Performance Awards

Nov 2001

2003: 5 2004: 5 2005: 5 2006: 5

2003: €39,000 2004: €39,994 2005: €39,521 2006: €36,521 (relates mainly to fees for private sector members of the committee.)

No staff. Department of Finance provide part time Secretariat

Civil Service Arbitration Board

1994

1997: 3 1998: 3 1999: 3

1997: €24,798 1998: €24,995 1999: €22,455

No staff.

Table A—contd.

Name of Body

Date Established

No of Board Members

Budget in each of the past 10 years

Staff Numbers

Civil Service Disciplinary Code Appeal Board

1993

2000:3 2001:3 2002:3 2003:3

2000: €15,053 2001: €29,204 2002: €15,414 2003: €29,011.

Independent Mediator for the Civil Service

1992

2004:3 2005:3 2006:3

2004: €21,768 2005: €33,000 2006: €27,118 *Budget in respect of all three bodies.

Outside Appointments Board

Sep 2004

5

€ 10,000** relates to 2006 fees. No payments made prior to 2006.

No staff.

National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA)*

Dec 1990

1997: 7.5m 1998: 7.7m 1999: 7.9m 2000: 7.7m 2001: 9.0m 2002: 13.6m 2003: 14.9m 2004: 18.9m 2005: 22.0m 2006: 29.8m**

1997: 52 1998: 52 1999: 45 2000: 46 2001: 59 2002: 74 2003: 80 2004: 79 2005: 104 2006: 125

National Treasury Management Agency Advisory Committee

Dec 1990

5-7

Included in figures for NTMA above, see footnotess

Included in figures for NTMA above, see footnotes

National Pensions Reserve Fund

2 Apr 2001

Included in figures for NTMA above, see footnotes

Included in figures for NTMA above, see footnotes

National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission

2 Apr 2001

7

Included in figures for NTMA above, see footnotes

Included in figures for NTMA above, see footnotes

Table A—contd.

Name of Body

Date Established

No of Board Members

Budget in each of the past 10 years

Staff Numbers

State Claims Agency

Dec 2001

Included in figures for NTMA above, see footnotes

Included in figures for NTMA above, see footnotes

State Claims Agency Policy Committee

Apr 2002

7

Included in figures for NTMA above, see footnotes

National Development Finance Agency

1 Jan 2003

Included in figures for NTMA above, see footnotesI

Included in figures for NTMA above, see footnotes

Board of National Development Finance Agency

31 Jan 2003

8

Included in figures for NTMA above, see footnotes

*The NTMA is also the State Claims Agency, the Manager of the National Pensions Reserve Fund and the body through which the National Development Finance Agency (NDFA) performs its functions. Staff working in the areas of the State Claims Agency, National Pensions Reserve Fund and National Development Finance Agency are NTMA employees who are assigned to these business activities.

**Exchequer cost which includes staff costs of NTMA, including staff assigned to State Claims Agency, National Pensions Reserve Fund and National Development Finance Agency, and costs of NTMA Advisory Committee, National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission, State Claims Agency Policy Committee and Board of NDFA.

Table B

Name of Body

Established

No Board Members

Interim Board of the Civil Service Childcare Initiative

Feb 2002

6

Disciplinary Appeals Board

Sep 2004

5

Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland

1 May 2003

12

Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority (Financial Regulator)

1 May 2003

10

Irish Financial Services Appeals Tribunal

1 Oct 2004

7

Financial Services Ombudsman Council

1 Oct 2004

9

Financial Services Consultative Consumer Panel

1 Oct 2004

20

Financial Services Consultative Industry Panel

1 Oct 2004

20

Investor Compensation Company Ltd.

1 Aug 1998

12

An Post National Lottery Company

Sep 1986

7

Anti-Poverty Strategy.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

167 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the progress made in his Department on the roll out of the poverty impact assessment to ensure that all policies are evaluated in terms of their potential impact on poverty and social inclusion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24107/07]

As the Deputy may be aware, the poverty proofing exercise was reviewed last year by the Office of Social Inclusion. This led to an updating and re-titling of the process as Poverty Impact Assessment. A Poverty Impact Assessment is required for significant policy or programme proposals. One area where my Department has been to the forefront of progress in relation to poverty impact assessment is in the examination of the taxation measures contained in the annual Budget.

The personal taxation measures and social welfare rate increases and other social welfare changes contained in the Budget are examined using the poverty impact assessment guidelines published by the Office for Social Inclusion. The personal taxation and social welfare measures contained in each of the Budgets since Budget 2001 were examined using the national anti-poverty strategy guidelines which were the forerunner of the poverty impact assessment guidelines. The results of these examinations are recorded in the Budget booklets for each of the years in question.

The best practice guidance in relation to Value for Money and Policy Reviews, which was published by my Department in March 2007, highlights the importance of taking into account Poverty Impact Assessment as part of the evaluation criteria in reviews carried out under this initiative.

Social Inclusion is an important horizontal theme in the Government's priorities. The National Strategic Reference Framework approved by the Government in February 2007 and the Operational Programmes will as far as possible incorporate measures to ensure Social Inclusion and minimise the effects of Social Exclusion in the implementation of the Operational Programmes. Interventions under the Human Capital Investment Operational Programme in particular will be designed to increase the participation and activation of groups outside the workforce including young people, early school leavers, people with disabilities, migrants, travellers and adults experiencing literacy problems.

The implementation of poverty impact assessments for all policies covered by the National Development Plan is a matter for line Departments in the first instance. Combating social exclusion is one of the key aims of the NDP with an entire Sectoral Priority devoted to it. Some €49.6bn will be invested under the Social Inclusion Priority over the 7 years of the Plan. Departments will also be asked to indicate each year the impact of relevant Sub-Programme investment on promoting social inclusion.

Disabled Drivers.

Michael McGrath

Question:

168 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if his Department has plans to review the maximum repayment thresholds under the disabled drivers and disabled passengers scheme. [24130/07]

The Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Scheme provides relief from VAT and Vehicle Registration Tax (up to a certain limit) on the purchase of an adapted car for transport of a person with specific severe and permanent physical disabilities, as well as relief from excise on the fuel used in the car, up to a certain limit. As the Deputy will be aware, there was an interdepartmental review of the Scheme. However, given the scale and the scope of the scheme, any possible changes can only be made after careful consideration and with regard to the existing and prospective cost of the scheme and the available resources. In this context, I consider any possible changes within the framework of the annual Budgetary process.

Flood Relief.

Willie Penrose

Question:

169 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if, in view of his reply to Parliamentary Question No. 58 of 5 July 2007, the Office of Public Works has been in contact with Westmeath County Council in relation to a serious flooding problem occurring on the land of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath which is rendering a significant area of the said land sterile and it is not possible to farm same; if steps will be taken either by his Department or in conjunction with Westmeath County Council to remedy same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24132/07]

As stated in the previous response to the House in this matter, the flooding problems are due to the construction of a road bridge and as such are the responsibility of Westmeath County Council. Westmeath County Council has not contacted the OPW to request assistance to alleviate the flooding problems. The OPW is, however, available to provide advice and technical support if requested. The Deputy may wish to contact the Council directly in the matter.

Cycle Facilities.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

170 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance, further to Parliamentary Question No. 219 of 9 October 2007, the initiatives referred to in his reply and the Office of Public Works’ plans to monitor their effectiveness. [24155/07]

The Office of Public Works has introduced a bicycle ranger unit in the Phoenix Park to patrol the cycle lanes and promote greater public awareness of these. In addition an updated map of the Phoenix Park will be published shortly, which will clearly indicate all footpaths and cycle lanes. The use of cycle lanes will be continually monitored.

Decentralisation Programme.

Richard Bruton

Question:

171 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he has ascertained from all public service agencies involved in decentralisation the make-up of the 2,800 people who have taken up posts due to decentralise; the number of these who are transferring with their post from Dublin, who are transferring upon promotion and who are new recruits; and if he will set out the relevant data. [24237/07]

I understand that the figure of 2,800 refers to the number of civil servants assigned to decentralising posts at end June 2007. At end June my Department had assigned one hundred and thirty-one (131) staff to posts decentralising to Tullamore and Kildare. Of these, thirteen (13) transferred with their posts from Dublin, nineteen (19) transferred on promotion and eighteen (18) were recruited.

I am informed by the Office of Public Works (OPW) that at end June one hundred and sixty-six (166) people had been assigned to decentralising posts. Of these, one hundred and forty-four (144) have chosen to transfer with their posts from Dublin, twenty-eight (28) have been promoted and twenty-five (25) are new recruits. I am also informed by the Public Appointments Service and the Valuation Office that at end June 2007 seventeen (17) staff have been assigned to posts decentralising to Youghal, seven (7) and ten (10) respectively. Of these seventeen (17), six (6) are transferring with their posts, three (3) are transferring on promotion and eight (8) are new recruits.

I understand from the Revenue Commissioners that at end June 2007 they had two hundred and eighty- two (282) staff assigned to decentralising posts. This figure has now increased to two hundred and ninety-one (291) staff who have accepted decentralisation offers for Athy, Listowel, Newcastlewest, Kilrush and Navan. Thirty-five (35) officials are transferring with their posts from Dublin, none have been transferred on promotion and five (5) are new recruits.

Richard Bruton

Question:

172 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number of posts and the number of applicants to date on the system established by the Public Appointments Service to match Dublin based vacancies with people wishing to remain in Dublin. [24238/07]

I refer the Deputy to Parliamentary Question No. 172 on 10th October 2007, which sets out the background to the operation of the arrangements in place for civil service general service staff who do not wish to decentralise with their existing or another department. The primary mechanism for placing Civil Servants who are in posts which are due to decentralise but wish to remain in Dublin is by way of bilateral transfer. As staff who have applied to decentralise continue to be transferred into decentralising organisations, the posts they vacate become available to those wishing to remain in Dublin.

Arrangements are managed by the Public Appointments Service for general service grades where a bilateral transfer is not possible. The purpose is to match over time staff who wish to remain in Dublin with appropriate vacancies in Dublin posts as they arise. The arrangements allow for prioritisation at certain times of staff in organisations who have an immediate need to be placed in Dublin posts due to the timing of the relocation of their current department or office. It is intended that the arrangements will continue over the implementation of the Programme and the numbers requiring placement will vary in line with the different phasing arrangements for the decentralising organisations. My department is monitoring these arrangements in co-operation with Departments and the relevant unions to ensure that they are operating efficiently.

A total of 70 posts have been circulated under these arrangements to date to staff who do not wish to decentralise. Staff have been assigned or nominated for assignment to over half of these and arrangements are in train to assign staff to the remaining posts over the coming weeks.

Richard Bruton

Question:

173 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he has assessed the implication of the recommendation of the decentralisation implementation group that his Department should now free up local recruitment where necessary and initiate, where appropriate, arrangements to fill gaps by promotion; if he will act on this recommendation; and the number of posts and costs involved. [24239/07]

My Department is currently examining the implications of the recommendations in the latest report from the Decentralisation Implementation Group (DIG), including those relating to recruitment and promotion. Quantification of the posts and costs involved will form part of that examination, which is expected to be concluded over the coming weeks.

National Monuments.

Ulick Burke

Question:

174 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on an allocation of funds for the completion of restoration and maintenance of works at Portumna Castle in view of the designation of the middle Shannon region under the terms and provisions of budget 2007 and work already carried out by the Office of Public Works; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24299/07]

The EU programme of works at Portumna Castle was undertaken during the years 1990-2000 and eligible expenditure under the EU programme during this period amounted to some €3,643,880, of which €2,318,200 was contributed by the EU. Under the National Development Plan 2000-2006, some €236,000 was expended on Portumna Castle during the period 2000-2003. There has been no capital expenditure on the Castle since 2003 but routine maintenance works continue to be undertaken.

The Office of Public Works does not propose to undertake further major works at Portumna Castle. The major objectives for the Castle, which were to provide extended public access and an enhanced exhibition facility for visitors, have been achieved.

Tax Code.

Ulick Burke

Question:

175 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the details of the scheme announced in budget 2006 extending to the middle Shannon region incentives for tourism related projects; if application forms are available; the number of applications received by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24300/07]

The mid-Shannon Corridor Tourism Infrastructure Investment Scheme was introduced in the Finance Act 2007. It is a new pilot tax based scheme for tourism facilities in the mid-Shannon area. The scheme is aimed at encouraging the development of new tourism infrastructure, or the refurbishment of existing tourism infrastructure, in that area. Projects wishing to avail of relief must get approval in advance (for which an application must be made within 1 year of the commencement of the scheme) and also must get formal certification after completion. The legislation provides for the appointment of a mid-Shannon Tourism Infrastructure Board which will be responsible for approving and certifying buildings and structures that qualify for relief under the Scheme. I expect the guidelines and the relevant application forms to be finalised soon.

Pension Provisions.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

176 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the cost to the State of tax expenditures on supplementary pension schemes in each of the years this century with a breakdown of the benefit to employees, employers, self-employed, pension fund returns, retirement annuity premiums and so on in each of these years. [24309/07]

As part of the work on the Green Paper on Pensions, a review was carried out of the current regime of incentives for supplementary pension provision with a view to developing more comprehensive and reliable estimates of the cost of reliefs in this area. The review examined, among other things, the current reliefs and incentives for investment in supplementary pensions and the data available on which to base reliable estimates of the costs in revenue foregone to the Exchequer.

The review also drew on newly available 2006 aggregate data on contributions to pension schemes by employers and employees arising from a P35 initiative introduced on foot of provisions that were included in Finance Act 2004 with a view to improving data quality. Arising from the review, the following estimates of the cost of tax and other reliefs for private pension provision for 2006 have been made. Further work will be necessary to provide similar estimates for 2005 and this is ongoing. As similar data sources would not be available for previous years, it is not possible to provide costings on a similar basis for those years.

Estimate of the cost of tax and PRSI reliefs for private pension provision 2006

Estimated costs €million

Employees’ Contributions to approved Superannuation Schemes

540

Employers’ Contributions to approved Superannuation Schemes

120

Estimated cost of exemption of employers’ contributions from employee BIK

510

Exemption of investment income and gains of approved Superannuation Funds

1,200

Retirement Annuity Contracts (RACs)

380

Personal Retirement Savings Accounts (PRSAs)

120

Estimated cost of tax relief on “tax-free” lump sum payments

130

Estimated cost of PRSI and Health Levy relief on employee and employer contributions

220

Gross cost of tax relief

3,220

Estimated tax yield from payment of pension benefits

320

Net cost of tax relief

2,900

The breakdown and make-up of the estimated cost of reliefs set out in the table of 2006 estimated costs differ from presentations of costs in this area for previous years in a number of respects and are not directly comparable. For further details on the cost of tax and other reliefs and the changes in the methodology, I would refer the Deputy to pages 106 and 107 of the Green Paper on Pensions which is being published today and which is available at www.pensionsgreenpaper.ie.

Disabled Drivers.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

177 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the position in regard to the interdepartmental review of the 1994 disabled drivers disabled passengers tax concessions; when it is expected to extend the current limits of the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24487/07]

The Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Scheme provides relief from VAT and Vehicle Registration Tax (up to a certain limit) on the purchase of an adapted car for transport of a person with specific severe and permanent physical disabilities, as well as relief from excise on the fuel used in the car, up to a certain limit. The disability criteria for these concessions are set out in the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994. To get a Primary Medical Certificate, an applicant must be permanently and severely disabled within the terms of these Regulations.

As the Deputy will be aware, there was an interdepartmental review of the Scheme. However, given the scale and the scope of the scheme, any possible changes can only be made after careful consideration and with regard to the existing and prospective cost of the scheme and the available resources. In this context, I consider any possible changes within the framework of the annual Budgetary process.

Tax Collection.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

178 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance when P21 certificates for tax years ending 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006 will issue in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24490/07]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the taxpayer is jointly assessed with her spouse for income tax purposes. Her spouse is self-employed and therefore, as a chargeable person, is obliged to submit annual tax returns. The taxpayer's spouse should submit a 2003 tax return to enable the issue of a notice of assessment for 2003 (in lieu of form P21). Tax returns are outstanding for the years 2004 and 2005. These have been previously requested from the taxpayer's spouse. On receipt of the outstanding tax returns, notices of assessment for 2004 and 2005 (in lieu of forms P21) will issue to her spouse. For the year 2006, a notice of assessment (in lieu of form P21) issued to the person's spouse on 13 July 2007.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

James Reilly

Question:

179 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on hospital waiting list figures which were exposed in the media recently; the steps she will take to reduce waiting lists; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24456/07]

The figures cited recently in the media as being on hospital waiting lists included patients waiting less than three months for their procedure.

It has long been the practice, under several Governments, not to include patients waiting for hospital treatment for less than 3 months in published waiting list statistics. For example, in 1997, about 32,000 patients were on such waiting lists for elective treatment. The population was about 3.7 million. The total number of acute hospital in-patient treatments was 796,000. Now the population is 4.2 million, total acute hospital discharges are about 1.1 million, and the comparable number of people waiting for procedures is 21,403. This counts some procedures that were not included in 1997.

As a proportion of population and as a proportion of hospital discharges, the number of people waiting is down by approximately 40 and 50 per cent respectively. Specifically, I have been advised by the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) that, at the end of September, the number of adults waiting for more than 3 months was 19,083 and the number of children was 2,320; a total of 21,403. For the most common procedures, adults and children tend to wait 2-5 months, compared with 2-5 years before the advent of the NTPF in 2002.

The NTPF and the HSE will continue to address the issue of hospital waiting lists to seek to ensure that patients do not have to wait for unacceptably long periods to obtain the treatment that they require.

Departmental Bodies.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

180 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children the boards, bodies, authorities, agencies and quangos under the remit of her Department; the date of establishment; the number of members, staff and budget for each of the past ten years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24096/07]

The information requested by the Deputy is in the process of being compiled pursuant to the Deputy's similar question of 2 October last. As the Deputy will appreciate, compiling data covering a ten year timespan, under a number of headings, and relating to a multiplicity of agencies will take time. Every effort is being made to provide the information as speedily as possible.

Anti-Poverty Strategy.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

181 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress made in her Department on the roll out of the poverty impact assessment to ensure that all policies are evaluated in terms of their potential impact on poverty and social inclusion; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24109/07]

All memoranda for Government that are prepared by the Department of Health and Children evaluate the potential impacts on poverty and social exclusion of policy proposals, in accordance with the requirements specified in the Cabinet Handbook. Training of Department of Health and Children staff in respect of poverty impact assessment is ongoing. As part of the roll out of poverty impact assessment across the Department, a Poverty Impact Assessment Guidelines Seminar, hosted by the Office for Social Inclusion, was held in the Department in May 2006. The seminar was attended by relevant Department staff involved in policy formulation and evaluation and legislation.

Question No. 182 answered with QuestionNo. 145.

Hospital Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

183 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if the Mater Public Hospital is tendering for the outsourcing of the central supplies department in relation to buying and distribution of essential supplies and services at the hospital; and if this will lead to a huge expense especially at a time when the Health Service Executive has great concerns for hospital budgets. [24124/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matters investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Nuclear Safety.

Finian McGrath

Question:

184 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has updated facts on the impact of Sellafield on the health of the population on the east coast of Ireland. [24125/07]

The Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) is responsible for measuring the levels of radioactivity in foodstuffs and in the environment on an ongoing basis and for assessing the significance of these levels. Their data indicate that the levels of radioactivity in the Irish environment — and in fish caught in the Irish Sea — are extremely low and do not pose a significant risk to health. Figures produced by the National Cancer Registry Board do not indicate an elevated incidence of leukaemia in those counties which are closest to Sellafield.

Hospital Services.

James Reilly

Question:

185 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason she had to wait 19 months to be informed by her Department or the Health Service Executive of serious concerns regarding breast treatment services at Barrington’s Hospital taking into account that a senior official had raised concerns with the HSE; the steps the HSE has taken to ensure that she is informed in a timely manner in future; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24135/07]

James Reilly

Question:

187 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason taking into account that she and HIQA had no remit over private hospitals in August 2007 but were able to take action on Barrington’s, she did not take action on Barrington’s in 2006 when the same restrictions existed and if her attention has been drawn to the concerns in the hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24147/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 185 and 187 together.

In June 2005, a number of concerns aboutbreast cancer services at Barrington's Hospital, Limerick were expressed over the phone to an official of my Department by a Consultant employed by the Health Service Executive (HSE). The majority of the concerns reflected the fact that the breast cancer service at Barringtons Hospital had a relatively low patient throughput and limited specialist staffing levels. At that time, there were similar concerns in relation to the fragmentation of cancer services nationally, including breast cancer services, a matter that the Department was seeking to address in the context of the preparation of the National Cancer Control Strategy. As part of this process, I established an Expert Group in June 2005, on the recommendation of my Department, to develop National Quality Assurance Standards for Symptomatic Breast Disease Services.

In relation to Barringtons Hospital, my Department was not furnished with any documentary or other evidence in support of the concerns that had been expressed. It formed the view that there was insufficient evidence available to allow it to pursue these concerns directly with the hospital. This remained the situation up to August this year despite consultations with the HSE and further telephone contacts with the consultant.

In August of this year my Department received correspondence from the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) advising that it had obtained patient-specific information in relation to the adequacy of breast cancer services at Barringtons Hospital from the Consultant who had previously been in touch with my Department. HIQA indicated that that information had been reviewed by two specialists in the field of symptomatic breast disease. On the basis of these reviews, HIQA advised that it had formed a view that serious issues existed in relation to the management of current and future patients with symptomatic breast disease at the hospital.

In the light of this new information and the briefing I received, officials in my Department, at my request, immediately met with the Management of Barringtons Hospital and obtained agreement to the immediate suspension of all breast cancer work there. This suspension remains in place. In co-operation with the hospital, an expert group has been established to undertake a clinical review of the cases of women who attended the symptomatic breast disease services at the Hospital between September 2003 and August last. The group expects to complete its work in November.

I recently approved Standards for Symptomatic Breast Disease Services which were developed by the Expert Group that I referred to earlier. The aim of the Standards is to ensure that every woman in Ireland who develops breast cancer has an equal opportunity to be managed in a centre which is capable of delivering the best possible outcome. My Department has contacted hospitals in the independent sector urging them to take steps to ensure that their breast cancer services comply with the Standards and has also brought the Standards to the attention of private health care insurance providers.

Departmental Reports.

Michael Ring

Question:

186 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide this Deputy with a copy of a report finalised earlier in 2007 and referred to in a previous question (details supplied). [24136/07]

Michael Ring

Question:

210 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when recommendations in a report (details supplied) will be implemented by the Health Service Executive, particularly as the report has been approved by the HSE’s management team. [24234/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 186 and 210 together.

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive (HSE) under the Health Act 2004. The HSE's responsibility includes implementing the recommendations of the Orthodontic Review Group. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the questions raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have these matters investigated and a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Question No. 187 answered with QuestionNo. 185.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Damien English

Question:

188 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of persons who are on waiting lists to see consultants at Our Lady’s Hospital, Navan; the length of time each patient has been on the waiting list; the estimated time each will be on the list before seeing a consultant; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24149/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matters investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Voluntary Sector Funding.

Jack Wall

Question:

189 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the involvement of her Department with refuge centres for those who have suffered from domestic violence; the funding or personnel her Department supplies: the research her Department has carried out in relation to such centres; if she is satisfied with the results of such research; the action proposed or taken as a result; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24166/07]

The Deputy's question relates to the funding, management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Child Care Services.

Niall Blaney

Question:

190 Deputy Niall Blaney asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will address the concerns of persons (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24170/07]

The main supports the Government makes available to parents to assist them with their childcare costs are Child Benefit and the Early Childcare Supplement. The latter payment, which is in recognition of the higher childcare costs of pre-school children, is the responsibility of my Office, and it alone amounts to expenditure of over €400m in a full year. These payments are universal and benefit all parents, regardless of their income, labour market status or the type of childcare they choose and regardless of whether they live in urban or rural areas. In addition to these universal supports, Government childcare policy has also recognised the need to target additional supports towards disadvantaged families.

Under the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme 2000 — 2006 (EOCP), which is co-funded under the EU Social Fund (ESF), targeted support was provided through the staffing support grant scheme whereby community based not-for-profit childcare providers with a strong focus on disadvantage were awarded grant aid towards their staffing costs to allow them to operate reduced fees to disadvantaged parents. Funding under this scheme was originally awarded for a limited period during which services were expected to move towards sustainability. This funding was subsequently continued to the end of 2007, where it was considered necessary to enable services to continue to make their services accessible to disadvantaged parents. This continuation funding was subject to a requirement, as a condition of funding, that services implement a tiered fee structure. This was intended to ensure that the grant aid received by services was reflected in reduced fees being charged to disadvantaged parents with non-disadvantaged parents being charged the full cost for their childcare service.

With the closure of the EOCP in December 2007, to continue to support community childcare services to provide affordable childcare to disadvantaged parents, the Community Childcare Subvention Scheme (CCSS) is being introduced from January 2008 under the Exchequer funded National Childcare Investment Programme 2006-2010 (NCIP), the successor programme to the EOCP. The (CCSS) has been allocated €153 million over the next 3 years, representing a 16% increase in funding over the EOCP staffing scheme, and will continue to support community childcare services to provide reduced childcare fees for disadvantaged parents, complementing the universal supports in place for all parents.

Under the new scheme, it will be possible to ensure that the level of grant aid which individual services qualify for will reflect the actual level of service they provide and the profile of the parents benefiting from their service. As part of their application for funding under the new scheme, services will be required to ask parents using their services to complete a simple declaration form which will be included in a return to my Office and on which basis the level of subvention for each service will be determined. The subvention received by services will, in turn, be reflected in the reduced fees for parents who qualify as disadvantaged under the scheme. As a self-declaration system, the OMC will validate the returns forwarded by community services and will not require them to engage in means testing of parents.

In practice, this will mean that parents with children in such services and in receipt of most social welfare payments (or participating in a scheme such as Community Employment which demonstrates an underlying entitlement to same) will see a €80 weekly subvention in respect of full daycare (with pro-rata reductions in respect of shorter hour services). Parents in receipt of Family Income Supplement (FIS), will see a €30 weekly subvention in respect of full daycare (with pro-rata reductions). A further subvention of €30 per week will be paid where the subvented child is a baby, in recognition of the higher costs associated with the care of children aged under 1 year. Parents who do not qualify under either of these categories will be charged the cost price for their childcare service, however, as community not-for-profit services will, generally, have availed of capital grant aid under the EOCP or NCIP removing the requirement to cover rent or a mortgage, and as the services are run on a not-for-profit basis, this should still be significantly below the market price.

It is considered that the new scheme will provide an effective framework for the continued targeting of additional resources towards disadvantaged parents and their children while continuing to support community childcare services generally. While it was difficult to ensure that all community services were implementing the required tiered fee structure, the more streamlined arrangements under the new scheme will help to ensure that this will no longer be the case. The new scheme has been informed by and takes account of a number of enhancements recommended by the report of the Value for Money Review of the EOCP. These include the fact that the subvention to services will be more responsive to the level of service provided as well as the degree of parental disadvantage supported and the ceiling for funding, which existed under the previous scheme, is being removed. Account will also be taken of all of the operational costs of the service rather than staffing costs alone. Services, including full-time, part-time and sessional ones, which at present are, in some cases, inaccessibly priced for disadvantaged parents, will be available to them at more appropriate rates under the new scheme.

The new scheme has clear advantages over its predecessor. There is an increase in the level of funding available under it, and a majority of services will benefit from the changes it introduces. Existing EOCP staffing grant recipients who enter the new scheme will continue to be funded at their current levels until July 2008. My Office has engaged in a series of meetings with existing grant recipients to outline to them the details of the new scheme and to gather feedback from the services themselves. A meeting with representatives of the City and County Childcare Committees has also taken place.

Transitional arrangements have been made under which existing grant recipients will continue to be funded at their current levels until 1st July 2008. This is to ensure that existing childcare services are facilitated to adjust to the new scheme, including making any adjustments necessary to their fee structures. As signalled when I announced the new scheme in July this year, the transitional period between now and 1 July 2008 will also be used to monitor and review the impact it will have on individual groups, on the basis of the more detailed and comprehensive data which will be generated under the new grant application process. If appropriate, any adjustments necessary to the scheme to secure the best outcomes for childcare services and for disadvantaged parents and their children will be considered on the basis of this data and well in advance of the commencement of the new funding levels in July 2008.

Health Services.

James Bannon

Question:

191 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason for the discrepancies in dental charges from one dentist to another (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24171/07]

There are no statutory powers available to my Department to address the issue of the cost of private dental treatment. Consequently, the fees charged by dental practitioners for treatment to their private patients is a matter between the practitioner and the patient. Last month, I announced the research and development of a new National Oral Health Policy. This new oral health policy will be undertaken by my Department in conjunction with the HSE. The development of this new policy will allow a critical examination of the many challenges and issues currently facing the dental sector, including the issues of competition as raised by the Competition Authority in its recent report on the dental profession.

James Bannon

Question:

192 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason despite assurances to the contrary the Health Service Executive cutbacks have resulted in dentistry services for children being withdrawn and community care packages being cut back, leaving the National Rehabilitation Hospital unable to admit new patients or discharge existing patients and stroke victims being unable to obtain community care schemes. [24172/07]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Nursing Home Subventions.

James Bannon

Question:

193 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Health and Children the measures she will put in place to remove the discrepancies in relation to farm families that will see the provisions of the new nursing home subvention scheme impact adversely, both in relation to direct and deferred charges on such families, as there is no cap on deferred charges on fixed assets other than private residences such as land; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24173/07]

My Department is preparing legislation which will deal with a range of issues including the one raised by the Deputy. The Government will be considering these issues in due course.

Medical Cards.

James Bannon

Question:

194 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason she considers it appropriate or essential that a person applying for a medical card or general practitioner visit card should have to provide vehicle registration documents or if this would be more appropriate to a driving licence application; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24174/07]

Under the Health Act 2004, the management and delivery of health and personal social services are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive. This includes operational responsibility for the medical card and GP visit card application and assessment process. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to address this matter and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Service Staff.

James Bannon

Question:

195 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will break down the figures for temporary staff into career break cover, project based staff and staff employed on contract to do normal ongoing work; if the staff numbers given under the three headings of job sharing, part-time, sessional, relate to permanent or temporary staff; the staff included under the heading training; and if they are permanent or temporary. [24175/07]

Almost 130,000 people work full-time or part-time in our public health services. In recent years, the Government's ongoing high level of investment in health has achieved and maintained significant increases in the numbers of doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals employed in the public health services. The Government has also invested heavily in the education and training of such personnel in order to secure a good supply of graduates to provide for the healthcare needs of the population into the future.

Subject to overall parameters set by Government, the Health Service Executive has the responsibility for determining the composition of its staffing complement. In that regard, it is a matter for the Executive to manage and deploy its human resources to best meet the requirements of its Annual Service Plan for the delivery of health and personal social services to the public. The Executive is the appropriate body to consider the matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

James Bannon

Question:

196 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Health and Children if the new paediatric and special care units at the Midlands Regional Hospital in Mullingar will open in mid-October 2007 as promised by the Health Service Executive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24176/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matters investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

James Bannon

Question:

197 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the completion of phase 2B of Longford/Westmeath General Hospital with particular reference to a final date for such completion in its entirety. [24177/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall Vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Pat Breen

Question:

198 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be facilitated with a transfer to the National Rehabilitation Facility in Dún Laoghaire; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24182/07]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

199 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Galway is not entitled to transport to Cappagh Hospital to attend clinics there; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24185/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall Vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this case investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

200 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Health and Children the infection control policy in Loughlinstown Hospital; and the way the absence of a vital member of the infection control team, the microbiologist, can be addressed as an urgent matter of public health and safety. [24189/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health act 2004 and funding for all health services, including infection control, has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Finian McGrath

Question:

201 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will urgently support persons (details supplied) in Dublin 3. [24195/07]

The current recruitment pause is a temporary measure initiated as part of the HSE financial break-even plan. It will be reviewed at the end of October 2007. Of course, in any instance where a critical or essential vacancy arises it may be filled through redeployment of existing staff by the Line Manager or re-assignment of responsibilities based on assessment of priority need. Notwithstanding this, it has been recognised that there are some circumstances where appointment of staff may be necessary in frontline services. Accordingly, a process has been put in place to evaluate, monitor and approve requests for derogation from the general recruitment pause. A small group has been established including a representative of the National Hospitals Office, PCCC and other Directorates and this group will meet weekly to consider such applications.

As the Deputy may be aware, an additional sum of €75m for revenue purposes was provided to the Health Service Executive for Disability Services in the 2007 Budget. This sum incorporates the 2007 element of the Government's multi-annual investment programme for the National Disability Strategy. This Strategy is committed to enhancing the level and range of multi-disciplinary support services to adults and children with an intellectual, physical and sensory disability and those with autism.

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

202 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children if, in view of the fact that the legal changes required to give an eligibility to children in all schools both public and private access to dental services from the State, commenced on 1 May 2007; the timescale for the roll out of the scheme to children attending private schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24203/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive (HSE) under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. The HSE's responsibility includes the provision of dental treatment for children. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the question raised by the Deputy. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Jack Wall

Question:

203 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of facilities, that is, access centres available within the Health Service Executive for parents to meet with their children where court proceedings have determined that either parent in a separation agreement has access to their children; if no such facilities are available if she will provide such given the grave concern being expressed by support groups that the lack of such facilities is a danger to the children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24208/07]

Under the Health Act 2004, the provision of health and personal social services is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive. Therefore, the Deputy's question has been forwarded to the HSE and I have requested that they reply to the Deputy directly.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

204 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will respond to correspondence from a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24216/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall Vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Michael Ring

Question:

205 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when home help will be provided to a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [24217/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Peter Power

Question:

206 Deputy Peter Power asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Limerick has not received an official decision by the contractors for the Health Service Executive regarding refunded nursing homes subvention; and when they can expect a final decision on the application. [24218/07]

The Health Service Executive has responsibility for administering the Repayment Scheme and the information sought by the Deputy relates to matters within the area of responsibility of the Executive. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Peter Power

Question:

207 Deputy Peter Power asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount of funding allocated for Limerick city and county for home care packages for 2007; and the amount of home care packages this was expected to fund. [24219/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

208 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will respond to a query (details supplied). [24231/07]

The National Cancer Control Strategy does not recommend the introduction of a population based screening programme for prostate cancer as there is currently insufficient evidence available. This position is consistent with the Recommendations adopted by the European Union which advocate the introduction of cancer screening programmes which have demonstrated their efficacy having regard to professional expertise and priority setting for healthcare resources. The EU proposals do not provide for specific recommendations in respect of screening for prostate cancer. My Department and the National Cancer Screening Service will keep emerging international evidence under review including the results of randomised trials that are currently being conducted internationally.

Appropriate treatment for men diagnosed with prostate cancer is available at major hospitals throughout the country. Any man who has concerns in relation to prostate cancer should contact his GP who will, where appropriate, refer him to the appropriate services in his area.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Finian McGrath

Question:

209 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will advise and assist persons (details supplied). [24232/07]

As the Deputy may be aware, an additional sum of €75m for revenue purposes was provided to the Health Service Executive for Disability Services in the 2007 Budget. This sum incorporates the 2007 element of the Government's multi-annual investment programme for the National Disability Strategy. This Strategy is committed to enhancing the level and range of multi-disciplinary support services to adults and children with an intellectual disability, physical and sensory disability and those with autism.

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Question No. 210 answered with QuestionNo. 186.

Departmental Properties.

Ulick Burke

Question:

211 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Health and Children if funding will be provided, as promised, for the restoration of the Old Work House at Portumna, County Galway, formally the property of the Western Health Board; if she supports the original commitments given on her visit to launch the scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24301/07]

The Health Service Executive has responsibility for the planning and management of capital projects in the health sector, including the development referred to in the Deputy's question. I continue to support the project and the HSE has informed me that it also continues to support the project. The procurement process for this and all other projects where land value is used to fund infrastructure is under review. Services identified have not changed and are subject to the unusual reviews. The project is expected to commence about mid 2008.

Health Services.

Ulick Burke

Question:

212 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Health and Children the average length of time patients have to wait for an assessment with an occupational therapist; the number of people in County Galway waiting for an assessment; the number of occupational therapists employed in the Health Service Executive west working within County Galway; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24302/07]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Departmental Staff.

Michael Ring

Question:

213 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a chief dental officer will be appointed in her Department; when did the former chief dental officer leave; and when her Department will advertise to have that position filled. [24304/07]

The last Chief Dental Officer completed his tenure on the 30th April, 2004. In the meantime, however, my Department has available to it the services of a dental advisor on secondment from the Health Service Executive. The question of the appointment of a Chief Dental Officer is still being actively considered by my Department.

Health Services.

Billy Timmins

Question:

214 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children if the funding as promised in correspondence (details supplied) was allocated; if not, when this money will be allocated; if the Health Service Executive will enter into a service level agreement with this body; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24308/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. The Executive, therefore, is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Accident and Emergency Services.

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

215 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide a commitment that the accident and emergency services at St. John’s Hospital will not only be retained but enhanced. [24415/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall Vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Service Staff.

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

216 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to ensure that sufficient home help personnel will be in place by the winter months in view of the health cuts embargo on staff recruitment. [24416/07]

Almost 130,000 people work full-time or part-time in our public health services. In recent years, the Government's ongoing high level of investment in health has achieved and maintained significant increases in the numbers of doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals employed in the public health services. The Government has also invested heavily in the education and training of such personnel in order to secure a good supply of graduates to provide for the healthcare needs of the population into the future.

Subject to overall parameters set by Government, the Health Service Executive has the responsibility for determining the composition of its staffing complement. In that regard, it is a matter for the Executive to manage and deploy its human resources to best meet the requirements of its Annual Service Plan for the delivery of health and personal social services to the public. The Executive is the appropriate body to consider the matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

217 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of whole time equivalents budgeted for as against the number working in the areas of speech therapy, occupational therapy and physiotherapy in respect of the mid-west area. [24418/07]

Almost 130,000 people work full-time or part-time in our public health services. In recent years, the Government's ongoing high level of investment in health has achieved and maintained significant increases in the numbers of doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals employed in the public health services. The Government has also invested heavily in the education and training of such personnel in order to secure a good supply of graduates to provide for the healthcare needs of the population into the future.

Subject to overall parameters set by Government, the Health Service Executive has the responsibility for determining the composition of its staffing complement. In that regard, it is a matter for the Executive to manage and deploy its human resources to best meet the requirements of its Annual Service Plan for the delivery of health and personal social services to the public. The Executive is the appropriate body to consider the matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Damien English

Question:

218 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount of money that the Health Service Executive will save by closing the orthopaedic unit in Our Lady’s Hospital, Navan for the month of December 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24458/07]

Damien English

Question:

219 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Health and Children if she is satisfied that the Health Service Executive had only six patients from the north-east region booked in for elective orthopaedic surgery for the month of December 2007 at Our Lady’s Hospital, Navan; the reason for this low level of appointments; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24459/07]

Damien English

Question:

220 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will intervene on the decision made by the Health Service Executive to close the orthopaedic unit at Our Lady’s Hospital, Navan; and if she will instruct the HSE to reverse this decision in order to keep this service open to the people of the north east. [24460/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 218 to 220, inclusive, together.

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall Vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issues raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Accident and Emergency Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

221 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the areas throughout the Health Service Executive most seriously affected by a shortage of accident and emergency staff; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24465/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

222 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she is satisfied regarding the adequacy of nursing and medical staff at various accident and emergency departments throughout the country; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24466/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 221 and 222 together.

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services, including staffing issues, was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matters investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Ambulance Service.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

223 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the strength of the ambulance service in Dublin city and county; if this is sufficient in the event of a major accident or emergency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24468/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall Vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Research.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

224 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the extent of the research into the high incidence of autism here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24469/07]

There has been an increase in recent years in the numbers of children being diagnosed with autism in Ireland. Similar increases have also been experienced in other European countries and in the USA. What is not clear however, is whether the increase is due to a greater awareness or whether there is actually a true increase in the prevalence of autism. It is however recognised that the epidemiology of Autistic Spectrum Disorder is undergoing rapid change due in whole or part to better ascertainment and re-clarification.

The diagnosis is a clinical one i.e. it is based on a variety of observations rather than a defined laboratory investigation. Hence the evolving concept of an "autistic spectrum" which stretches from those severely affected to those with only a mild disability.

In December 2004, the Department of Health & Children, through the Health Research Board, approved expenditure of €5 million on autism research to help improve international understanding of the genetic causes of autism. This €5 million is the Irish contribution to a new major international research initiative called the Autism Genome Project which will receive a total investment of €12 million from a variety of international organisations over the next three years. The other co-funders in the international consortium include Autism Speaks (US), the British Medical Research Council (MRC), Genome Canada and Partners, Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR), Southwest Autism Research and Resource Centre (SARRC), and the Hilibrand Foundation. This unique combination of international, public and private partners funding a consortium of clinicians and scientists is a new and welcome departure in the field of autism research.

The Health Research Board has informed my Department that this funding was awarded as follows:—

€2.8m: Professor Michael Gill, Department of Psychiatry, Trinity College, Dublin.

€2.2m: Professor Andrew Green, Director National Centre for Medical Genetics, Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children, Crumlin (affiliated to UCD).

This figure represents the largest tranche of funding to be awarded by any of the four funders within the international consortium. The Irish researchers are at the forefront in unravelling the genetic determinants of autism and related disorders. They are using novel state-of-the-art genetic sequencing technology to analyse DNA samples taken from autistic patients to identify candidate genetic markers for autism. They will collaborate with their international colleagues to then link these genetic markers with clinical outcomes. This unique international research effort will greatly improve not only our understanding of the causes of autism, but its diagnosis and treatment.

Hospital Accommodation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

225 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans for the augmentation of the public hospital bed complement in the short term; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24470/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

226 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the full extent of the bed shortfall at all public hospitals throughout the country with particular reference to addressing those hospitals which have been forced to utilise hospital trolleys in lieu of beds in the past five years; her plans to address the issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24471/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 225 and 226 together.

There has been a significant increase in acute bed capacity in recent years. The average number of in-patient beds and day places in public acute hospitals has increased by approximately 1,200 since 2001, the year of the publication of the Health Strategy. The increase is continuing. In the current year the Health Service Executive has indicated that it has commissioned over 100 additional beds and day places across the following hospitals — Galway, Tullamore, St. Vincent's, and Wexford. This is part of the current National Development Plan which will provide an additional 458 public beds and day places overall. We are also creating a further 1,000 public beds through the building by the private sector of private hospitals on the sites of public hospitals, thereby freeing up additional beds for public patients. The provision of the 1,000 beds will result in no direct capital cost to the Exchequer as the capital costs will be met by the private sector.

Improving the delivery of Accident and Emergency services continues to be a top priority for the Government and the Health Service Executive. Our objectives are to further reduce the numbers waiting for admission, the time spent waiting for admission, and the turnaround time for those who not require admission. The Health Service Executive continues to report a significant reduction in the number of patients awaiting admission as compared with the same period 12 months ago.

The Health Service Executive has undertaken a review of future acute bed capacity requirements. This will enable it to plan for future needs based on evidence and international best practice.

Nursing Homes.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

227 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of public long stay nursing beds available throughout the country; the number of same in 1990; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24472/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Cancer Incidence.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

228 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has studied the incidence of the various forms of cancer throughout the country; if this indicates a particular trend in any area; if she has examined the cause or causes of such trends; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24473/07]

Statistics in relation to cancer incidence are collated by the National Cancer Registry. My Department has asked the Director of the Registry to examine these matters and to reply directly to the Deputy.

National Carers Strategy.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

229 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she proposes to engage in discussions with the Department of Social and Family Affairs with a view to expanding, liberalising and improving facilities for carers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24474/07]

The Deputy may be aware that one of the key Government commitments in the national partnership agreement "Towards 2016" is the development of a national carer's strategy and this commitment is reiterated in the Programme for Government. The strategy will focus on supporting informal and family carers in the community. While financial support for carers will clearly be a key issue in the strategy, other issues such as access to respite and other services, education, training and employment will also feature strongly. Co-operation between relevant Government departments and agencies is essential if the provision of services, supports and entitlements for carers is to be fully addressed.

The Department of Social & Family Affairs has lead responsibility for the development of the carer's strategy and is currently considering how best to ensure all relevant departments and agencies can be involved in the strategy. My Officials in the Department of Health & Children will continue to work with their counterparts in the Department of Social & Family Affairs to progress matters.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

230 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the waiting period for heart or hip replacement surgery; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24475/07]

Statutory responsibility for the collation, management and publication of data on waiting times and numbers of persons waiting for surgical procedures rests with the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF). My Department has, therefore, asked the Chief Executive of the NTPF to reply directly to the Deputy in relation to the information requested.

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

231 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of persons throughout the country whose home help hours were reduced in the past two years; the reason for this reduction; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24476/07]

Subject to overall parameters set by Government, the Health Service Executive has the responsibility for determining the composition of its staffing complement. In that regard, it is a matter for the Executive to manage and deploy its human resources to best meet the requirements of its Annual Service Plan for the delivery of health and personal social services to the public. The Executive is the appropriate body to consider the matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

232 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of cases dealt with under the National Treatment Purchase Fund in each of the past five years; the costs involved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24477/07]

As the Deputy's question relates to the operation of the National Treatment Purchase Fund, my Department has asked the Chief Executive of the Fund to reply directly to the Deputy in relation to the information requested.

Hospital Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

233 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the cost of hospital hygiene audits to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24478/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the HSE under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services, including hospital hygiene audits, has been provided as part of its overall Vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Staff.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

234 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of consultant posts currently vacant or about to become vacant throughout the Health Service Executive; her timetable for the filling of these posts; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24479/07]

Subject to overall parameters set by Government, the Health Service Executive has the responsibility for determining the composition of its staffing complement. In that regard, it is a matter for the Executive to manage and deploy its human resources to best meet the requirements of its Annual Service Plan for the delivery of health and personal social services to the public. The Executive is the appropriate body to consider the matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Medical Cards.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

235 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the extent to which she has ordered improved entitlements in respect of medical cards with particular reference to the raising of income guidelines for eligibility; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24480/07]

Since the beginning of 2005 I have introduced a number of significant changes to the manner in which the assessment for medical cards and GP visit cards is undertaken. The assessment guidelines have been increased by a cumulative 29%. Applications are now considered on the basis of income net of tax and PRSI and allowance is made for reasonable expenses incurred in respect of mortgage/rent, childcare and travel to work. In June 2006, I agreed with the Health Service Executive (HSE) a further adjustment to the assessment guidelines for GP visit cards and these are now 50% higher than those used in respect of medical cards.

The Programme for Government commits to the following:

Indexing the income thresholds for medical cards to increases in the average industrial wage;

Implementation of an annual publicity campaign and making applications easier so as to increase uptake amongst those who are eligible for Medical Cards and GP Visit Cards;

Doubling of the income limit eligibility of parents of children under 6 years of age, and trebling them for parents of children under 18 years of age with an intellectual disability;

Allowing people with disabilities to work without losing key essential medical card cover after 3 years.

My Department is at present considering the steps required to enable these commitments to be implemented.

My Department is also examining the steps necessary to give effect to the Towards 2016 commitment to review the eligibility criteria for the assessment of medical cards in the context of medical, social and economic/financial need with a view to clarifying entitlement to a medical card.

Mental Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

236 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to extend community based mental health services in County Kildare and throughout the country; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24481/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. The Executive, therefore, is the appropriate body to consider the particular matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Questions Nos. 237 and 238 answered with Question No. 145.

Hospital Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

239 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the extent to which all the facilities including state of the art operating theatres are fully operational at Naas General Hospital; her plans in this regard for the future; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24484/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall Vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

240 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of children awaiting treatment for orthodontic services throughout the country; when she expects to have in place the necessary orthodontic services to meet the requirements as they arise; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24485/07]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Accommodation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

241 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the full scale and extent of services and beds occupied or available at Peamount Hospital, Newcastle, County Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24486/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Medical Cards.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

242 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will be included on their mother’s medical card; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24494/07]

Medical cards are made available to persons and their dependants who would otherwise experience undue hardship in meeting the cost of General Practitioner (GP) services. In 2005 the GP visit card was introduced as a graduated benefit so that people on moderate and lower incomes, particularly parents of young children, who do not qualify for a medical card would not be deterred on cost grounds from visiting their GP.

Since the beginning of 2005 substantial changes have been made to the way in which people's eligibility for a medical card is assessed and these apply equally to the assessment process for a GP visit card. The income guidelines have been increased by a cumulative 29% and in addition allowance is now made for reasonable expenses incurred in respect of mortgage/rent, childcare and travel to work costs. In June 2006 I agreed a further adjustment to the income guidelines for GP visit cards. These are now 50% higher than those in respect of medical cards.

As the Health Service Executive has the operational and funding responsibility for these benefits, it is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has therefore requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to address this matter and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Service Staff.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

243 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of personnel currently employed in the delivery of health services throughout County Kildare; the number employed in 1990; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24495/07]

Almost 130,000 people work full-time or part-time in our public health services. In recent years, the Government's ongoing high level of investment in health has achieved and maintained significant increases in the numbers of doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals employed in the public health services. The Government has also invested heavily in the education and training of such personnel in order to secure a good supply of graduates to provide for the healthcare needs of the population into the future.

Subject to overall parameters set by Government, the Health Service Executive has the responsibility for determining the composition of its staffing complement. In that regard, it is a matter for the Executive to manage and deploy its human resources to best meet the requirements of its Annual Service Plan for the delivery of health and personal social services to the public. The Executive is the appropriate body to consider the matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

244 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of positions to be filled in the Health Service Executive nationally and in County Kildare, in the categories of speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, psychological assessment and medical, surgical and nursing; the extent to which these positions are expected to be filled in 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24496/07]

Almost 130,000 people work full-time or part-time in our public health services. In recent years, the Government's ongoing high level of investment in health has achieved and maintained significant increases in the numbers of doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals employed in the public health services. The Government has also invested heavily in the education and training of such personnel in order to secure a good supply of graduates to provide for the healthcare needs of the population into the future.

Subject to overall parameters set by Government, the Health Service Executive has the responsibility for determining the composition of its staffing complement. In that regard, it is a matter for the Executive to manage and deploy its human resources to best meet the requirements of its Annual Service Plan for the delivery of health and personal social services to the public. The Executive is the appropriate body to consider the matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Question No. 245 answered with QuestionNo. 150.

Infectious Diseases.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

246 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of reported incidents of tuberculosis in each of the past five years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24499/07]

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) monitors rates of TB in Ireland on an on-going basis and identifies any increases in rates or clusters of the disease. According to data provided by the HPSC TB notifications in Ireland between 2002 and 2006 were as shown in the table.

Year

Number of cases

Crude Rate per 100,000 population

2002

408

10.4

2003

407

10.4

2004*

432

10.2

2005

450

10.6

2006 (provisional)

458

10.8

*Rate updated with Census 2006 denominator

There is a slight increase in the rate for 2005 (10.6/100,000) compared to rates reported between 2000 and 2004, which ranged from 9.7/100,000 to 10.4/100,000 population, but the 2005 rate is still lower than the crude incidence rates reported between 1991 and 1999, which ranged from 11.5/100,000 to 18.5/100,000

Nursing Home Subventions.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

247 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children her proposals for further improvements in nursing home subvention with particular reference to improving income qualification guidelines; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24500/07]

As of 1 January 2008 no new nursing home subventions will be granted. On that date, the subvention scheme will be replaced by the new Nursing Home Support Scheme — A Fair Deal. People who are already in receipt of a subvention can either continue to receive their subvention or apply for support under the Fair Deal. All new applicants for nursing home support will apply under the Fair Deal.

The current system of nursing home support is not predictable or sustainable. People who need care face different costs depending on whether they are in public or private nursing homes. People in private nursing homes may qualify for a nursing home subvention but are otherwise required to meet the full costs of their care. Subventions are means-tested and take a person's income and assets into account. In particular, the means test imputes an income of 5% from housing assets, and effectively assumes people have a higher assessable income than they currently have.

Therefore:- Many people who do get support — subvention payments — cannot afford to pay the balance of their costs. As a result, people are sometimes forced to sell or mortgage their homes to pay for their care, or must rely on contributions from their family or friends. Many people do not receive any support from the State.

The Fair Deal aims to remedy the above situation. Under the new scheme, a person will make a contribution towards their care costs and the State will meet the full balance of cost in homes approved for the purpose. This will ensure that long-term residential care is affordable for all who need it. The means assessment for the scheme will work out how much the applicant can contribute to the cost of their care by taking into account their income and assets.

The immediate contribution by the applicant towards the cost of their care will be based on 80% of their assessable income, i.e. Old Age Pension, private pensions, etc. Depending on the amount of assessable income, there will also be a Deferred Contribution of up to 5% on the applicant's assets, such as their home. The contribution is deferred because it will not have to paid during the applicant's lifetime. Of course, the person can choose to pay the contribution on assets at the time of receiving care if they so wish.

Under A Fair Deal, anyone who is assessed as needing long-term nursing care can apply for support under the scheme. The scheme is voluntary. Every person will make a fair contribution to the cost of their care, based on their means.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

248 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she is satisfied regarding the adequacy of respite care for parents and carers of children and adults with special needs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24501/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

251 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the extent to which she proposes to improve and extend respite care facilities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24504/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

253 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the extent to which she proposes to meet requirements in terms of permanent and respite places for persons with physical or sensory disabilities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24506/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 248, 251 and 253 together.

As the Deputy may be aware, additional funding of €75m for revenue purposes was provided to the Health Service Executive for Disability Services in the 2007 Budget. This amount incorporates the 2007 element of the Government's multi-annual investment programme for the National Disability Strategy. This Strategy is committed to enhancing the level and range of multi-disciplinary support services to adults and children with an intellectual, physical and sensory disability and those with autism, including the provision of additional resources towards respite care.

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

249 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on whether the needs of cancer sufferers are best served by the retention of St. Luke’s Hospital and the facilities there, having particular regard to the extent to which patients have confidence in and rely on the services at St. Luke’s; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24502/07]

The decision to transfer St. Luke's Hospital was taken by the Government in the context of its consideration of the National Plan for Radiation Oncology Services. The decision is designed to ensure that radiation oncology, one element of cancer care, is integrated with all other aspects of care, including surgery and medical oncology. This is in line with best international practice. I am convinced that this model will provide better patient centred treatment with improved quality of service and outcome for patients.

The Board of St. Luke's Hospital and its Executive Management Team are fully committed to supporting the Government's decision in this regard. A transfer on similar lines took place last year in Northern Ireland when radiation oncology services transferred to Belfast City Hospital, a major academic teaching hospital. In progressing the transfer, I will build on the expertise and ethos of St. Luke's. I have ensured that experts at St. Luke's are centrally involved in the planning and delivery of the National Plan.

The transfer of services from St. Luke's Hospital to new facilities at St. James's Hospital is not due to take place for a number of years. In the meantime, two additional linear accelerators will be commissioned at St. Luke's in early 2008 and two replacement linear accelerators will be commissioned later in 2008. These will provide much needed interim capacity pending the roll out of the National Plan.

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

250 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she is satisfied regarding the adequacy of speech therapy services in County Kildare and throughout the country; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24503/07]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Question No. 251 answered with QuestionNo. 248.

Mental Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

252 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide an assurance that the money realisable from the sale of psychiatric hospitals is expected to be sufficient to provide the level of community care required; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24505/07]

The Report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy, "A Vision for Change" was launched in January 2006 and has been accepted by Government as the basis for the future development of mental health services. This policy envisions an active, flexible and community-based mental health service where the need for hospital admission will be greatly reduced. It will require substantial funding, but there is considerable equity in buildings and lands within the current mental health system, which could be realised to fund this plan. "A Vision for Change" recommends that steps be taken to bring about the closure of all psychiatric hospitals and to re-invest the resources released by these closures in the mental health service.

The closure of mental hospitals and the reinvestment of the proceeds will take place on a phased basis. Hospitals can only close when the clinical needs of the remaining patients have been addressed in more appropriate settings such as additional community residences, day hospitals and day centres together with a substantial increase in the number of well trained, fully staffed, community-based multidisciplinary Community Mental Health Teams as is recommended in a A Vision for Change.

The identification of assets and the assessment of their value is the responsibility of the HSE National Director of Estates. While the funds which will be realised from the sale of psychiatric hospitals will depend on prevailing market forces, I am confident that sufficient funds will be realised to provide the level of community care required.

Question No. 253 answered with QuestionNo. 248.

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

254 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she is satisfied regarding the adequacy and frequency of school medical examinations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24507/07]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Service Staff.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

255 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of personnel dedicated to dealing with children at risk throughout the Health Service Executive; the degree to which her Department interacts with other Departments on such issues; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24508/07]

Under the Health Act 2004, the Health Service Executive has statutory responsibility for the delivery of child welfare and protection services. The Office of the Minister for Children focuses on harmonising policy issues that affect children in areas such as early childhood care and education, youth justice, child welfare and protection, children and young people's participation, research on children and young people and cross-cutting initiatives for children. In developing policy in respect of children at risk, the Office of the Minister for Children liaises with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and other Government Departments as appropriate.

The Deputy's question has been forwarded to the HSE and I have requested that the HSE reply to the Deputy directly with regard to the information he sought on the number of HSE personnel dedicated to dealing with children at risk.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

256 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the extent to which she has evaluated the services available at a centre (details supplied) in County Kildare; the extent to which she proposes to fund these necessary services with particular reference to ensuring adequate places for the number of children expected to rely on such services in the future; if her attention has been drawn to the ever increasing pressure for the places and services at the centre; and if she will substantially increase funding and support in line with these requirements in the future; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24509/07]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy. As the Deputy may be aware an additional sum of €75m for revenue purposes was provided to the Health Service Executive for Disability Services in the 2007 Budget. This amount incorporates the 2007 element of the Government's multi-annual investment programme for the National Disability Strategy. This Strategy is committed to enhancing, the level and range of multi-disciplinary support services to adults and children with an intellectual, physical and sensory disability and those with autism, including Therapy Services.

Adoption Services.

Alan Shatter

Question:

257 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the Adoption Board has, in determining a number of applications, rejected the opinion of Health Service Executive social workers that a couple or an individual are unsuitable for foreign adoption and made declarations of suitability, that substantial difficulties in effecting a foreign adoption have been experienced by prospective adopters so declared suitable because of the refusal of the Adoption Board to furnish to such adopters separate and independent family assessment reports and the refusal of the HSE to amend reports whose conclusions have been rejected by the Adoption Board; and if she will take urgent action to resolve this difficulty. [23460/07]

Intercountry adoption is regulated by the Adoption Acts 1952-1998. The Acts which are most relevant to intercountry adoption are the Adoption Act 1991 and the Adoption Act, 1998. There are a number of statutory procedures regulating intercountry adoption. For example, for an intercountry adoption to be recognised in Ireland, all prospective adoptive parents habitually resident in Ireland, must be assessed by the HSE or a registered adoption society and obtain a Declaration of Eligibility and Suitability to adopt. Countries of origin, through the State or its agents, will seek an assurance that prospective adoptive parents have been appropriately assessed and counselled before placing a child with them.

Section 8 (1) of the Adoption Act, 1991 provides a health board shall carry out an assessment when requested and as soon as practicable for people intending to adopt from abroad. While the assessment procedures are based on a model in which prospective adoptive parents have a self-selection role, the State has the ultimate responsibility in deciding whether they have the capacity to parent an adopted child.

While the Adoption Board can overturn a negative recommendation from the HSE, it is obliged to pass on the assessment report as the provision in the 1991 Act states:

" [the assessment report] shall be made available by the Board to the person or persons who are the subject of the declaration and to any person in the place where the adoption concerned is proposed to be effected having an interest in the matter."

Where the Adoption Board overturns a negative recommendation from the HSE, the Board also sends a letter of explanation with the Declaration.

Health Service Staff.

Denis Naughten

Question:

258 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps she is taking to secure long-term employment for immigrants who are employed in the health service in areas which are experiencing long-term staffing shortages; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23956/07]

The Deputy's question relates to human resource management issues within the Health Service Executive which, under the Health Act 2004, is a matter in the first instance for the Executive. Subject to overall parameters set by Government, it is a matter for the Executive to manage and deploy its human resources to best meet the requirements of its Service Plan for the delivery of health and personal social services to the public.

Legislation regarding Employment Permits/ Green Cards is a matter in the first instance for my colleague the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment. Residency is a matter for my colleague the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. In the case of non-EEA nationals, I am advised by the Health Service Executive that their tenure, in the main, is of a fixed term nature arising from the conditions attached to the employment permit of which they are in receipt. I am also advised by the Executive that all immigrants currently employed in the health service enjoy the same terms and conditions of employment as their fellow colleagues who are similarly employed.

The HSE through the National Projects Office in Manorhamilton has recruited professional staff from overseas to areas in which they are experiencing long term staffing shortages. These mainly comprise Specialist Nurses, Midwifes, Specialist Senior Speech and Language and Occupational Therapists. In the main, they are initially offered contracts of two years duration. Again this is due to the conditions attached to the Green Card of which they are in receipt. The Green Card Permit is an employment permit issued to the employee and allows his or her employment in the State by the named employer in the occupation specified on the permit. It is issued in areas of designated skill shortage (and for salaries greater than €60,000 and not contrary to the public interest) for an initial period of two years and thereafter normally can be renewed indefinitely. It allows the employee to apply for immediate family re-unification and will normally allow a pathway to permanent residency after two years.

Within the period of their employment these HSE personnel are welcome and entitled to apply for permanent positions within the HSE through the normal channels. These candidates, like all applicants, must meet the selection criteria laid down by the HSE in the particular recruitment competition; the conditions attached to their work permit or visa renewal is a matter for the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and is separate from the recruitment process.

Denis Naughten

Question:

259 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps she is taking to ensure a level of competency in the English language of front line staff employed in the health service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23957/07]

The Deputy's question relates to human resource management issues within the Health Service Executive which, under the Health Act 2004, is a matter in the first instance for the Executive. I am advised by the Executive that all aspects of its recruitment and selection processes are based on the principle of assessing the skills, qualities and attributes of applicants against those which have been determined as required for effective performance of the job. Selection is based on merit and successful candidates demonstrate their suitability for appointment to the post according to predetermined job-related selection criteria which are consistently applied throughout the recruitment process.

All front-line staff, regardless of country of origin, recruited by the HSE must demonstrate at interview and in their written application a number of core competencies, one of which is communication which covers written, spoken and aural language. In the case of nurses and midwifes from outside the EU, an English language competency must be demonstrated in the form the ILETs and TOEFL examinations, which are internationally recognised comprehensive English language tests. This is a core part of their professional registration/licence to practice from An Bord Altranais (ABA). This does not apply to Nurses and Midwifes from within the EU.

Decentralisation Programme.

Richard Bruton

Question:

260 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has ascertained from all public service agencies involved in decentralisation the make-up of the 2,800 people who have taken up posts due to decentralise; the number of these who are transferring with their post from Dublin, who are transferring upon promotion and who are new recruits; and if she will set out the relevant data. [24682/07]

I take it that the Deputy is referring to civil servants involved in the Government's Decentralisation Programme. As the Deputy will be aware my Department is not one of the Departments scheduled for decentralisation under the Government's Decentralisation Programme. To date forty seven civil servants have transferred to decentralising Departments from my Department. Further details in respect of the transfer of these officers is available from the decentralising Departments and I understand that the Deputy has also tabled questions to the relevant Ministers.

The Health Information and Quality Authority which was formally established this year is encompassed by the Decentralisation Programme. Its headquarters are located in Cork.

Departmental Bodies.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

261 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Transport the boards, bodies, authorities, agencies and quangos under the remit of his Department; the date of establishment; the number of members, staff and budget for each of the past ten years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24098/07]

The information requested by the Deputy is contained in the tables.

Name

Establishment Date

1997-2007

No. of Members

No. of Staff

Budget

€m

Córas Iompair Éireann

01/01/1945

2007

12

283

*See below

2006

12

290

2005

12

298

2004

12

303

2003

12

302

2002

12

315

2001

12

444

2000

12

407

1999

12

314

1998

12

299

1997

12

311

Bus Éireann

11/12/1986

2007

9

2,750

*See below

2006

9

2,756

2005

9

2,758

2004

9

2,736

2003

9

2,721

2002

9

2,701

2001

6

2,641

2000

6

2,565

1999

6

2,462

1998

6

2,523

1997

6

2,521

Bus Átha Cliath

11/12/1986

2007

9

3,694

*See below

2006

9

3,453

2005

9

3,407

2004

9

3,408

2003

9

3,367

2002

9

3,319

2001

6

3,332

2000

6

3,093

1999

6

3,004

1998

6

2,901

1997

6

2,901

Iarnród Éireann

11/12/1986

2007

9

4,964

*See below

2006

9

5,317

2005

9

5,463

2004

9

5,590

2003

9

5,833

2002

9

5,976

2001

6

5,724

2000

6

5,358

1999

6

5,234

1998

6

4,985

1997

6

4,939

Railway Safety Commission

01/01/2006

2007

N/A

8

2.09

2006

N/A

7

1.786

Railway Safety Advisory Council

11/05/2007

2007

14

N/A

Budget comes out of RSC Budget

*The CIÉ Group Annual Reports and Financial Statements, which are published annually, provide details of Revenue and Expenditure for CIÉ, Bus Átha Cliath, Bus Éireann and Iarnród Éireann.

Name

Establishment Date

1997-2007

No. of Members

No. of Staff

Budget

€m

*Railway Procurement Agency

28th December 2001

2002

8

121

141,311,481

2003

8

131

145,405,647

2004

8

120

163,476,521

2005

8

120

91,892,082

2006

8

139

39,953,252

Commission for Taxi Regulation

1 September 2004

2004

1

Nil

748,799

2005

10

Nil

2,485,878

2006

11

Nil

10,322,845

2007

21

Nil

N/A

Advisory Council to the Commission for Taxi Regulation

4 November 2003

2003

Nil

18

Nil

2004

Nil

18

Nil

2005

Nil

18

Nil

2006 (1 January to 3 November)

Nil

18

Nil

2006 (4 November to 23 November)

Nil

Nil

Nil

2006 (24 November to 31 December)

Nil

1

Nil

2007 (1 January 2007 to 29 March 2007)

Nil

16

Nil

2007 (30 March to 23 July)

Nil

17

Nil

2007 (24 July to date)

Dublin Transportation Office

7 November 1995

2006

16

17

30,846

2005

16

17

38,131

2004

18

17

40,794

2003

18

16

42,564

2002

16

16

31,520

2001

15

16

35,983

2000

13

15

33,941

1999

14

15

30,967

1998

14

14

13,633

1997

14

14

10,459

Integrated Ticketing Project Board. The board is interim in nature, pending the establishment of the Dublin Transport Authority.

07 July 2006

2007 2006

7 7

Zero. (The Board is non-statutory, all members except the independent chairperson are volunteers. The independent chairperson is paid a daily rate.)

Zero. (The capital budget for the integrated ticketing project is administered by the Railway Procurement Agency. A daily rate to cover the independent chairperson’s costs usually amounting to 3-4 days per month is paid to the chairperson.)

National Roads Authority

1st January 1994

1997

14

65

3,540,030

1998

19

69

3,617,484

1999

21

68

4,106,333

2000

21

81

4,525,347

2001

24

88

5,722,710

2002

30

90

7,139,000

2003

31

90

7,589,000

2004

33

90

8,452,000

2005

36

89

8,688,000

2006

36

120

13,080,000

**The Marine Casualty Investigation Board

5th June 2002

2002

5

2

90,000

2003

5

2

205,384

2004

5

2

284,206

2005

5

2

286,918

2006

5

2

373,832

*In addition to the above, the RPA has to date received €77m in EU grant aid towards the cost of building the Luas line A.

**In 2002 staff salaries were paid by the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources. Staff salaries for each year 2003 to 2006 were paid by the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources and recouped from the Board at year end. Overall staff salaries for 2007 are not available. Both staff members are on secondment from the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.

Following the Aer Lingus IPO in October 2006 the Government retains a 25.4% shareholding in the airline. Details of staff numbers from 1997-2006 are set out in the table.

Name

Establishment Date

Year 1997-2007

No. of Members

Average No. of Staff

Budget *

Aer Lingus

1966

1997

12

8,308

* No Exchequer funding for the last ten years

1998

12

8,316

1999

12

7,044

2000

12

6,624

2001

12

6,108

2002

12

4,647

2003

12

4,281

2004

12

3,906

2005

12

3,475

2006

12

3,617

The Commission for Aviation Regulation (CAR) is headed by the Commissioner for Aviation Regulation who is appointed by the Minister.

Staff numbers are set out in the table.

Name

Establishment Date

Year

No of Members *

Number of staff at year end

Budget *

The Commission for Aviation Regulation (CAR)

February 2001

2001

* There is no board of Directors

16

CAR is a self financing body

2002

16

2003

17

2004

17

2005

18

2006

20

The Irish Aviation Authority staff numbers are set out in the table.

Name

Establishment Date

Year

No. of Members *

Staff

Budget *

The Irish Aviation authority

1st January 1994

1997

* The full compliment including the Chairman is 9

637

* The IAA does not receive any State funding

1998

642

1999

654

2000

675

2001

693

2002

681

2003

684

2004

673

2005

640

2006

650

Authority

Date of Est.

No. of Board Members

Staff and Budget

Dublin Airport Authority (DAA)

In keeping with the State Airports Act 2004 the DAA was established on the 1st October 2004.

9 Board Members 4 Elected Employee Members

Commercial State Body.

Shannon Airport Authority (SAA)*

In keeping with the State Airports Act 2004 the SAA was incorporated on the 16th September 2004.

9 Board Members 4 Elected Employee Members** 1 Non-Voting Worker Director***

Commercial State Body.

Cork Airport Authority (CAA)*

In keeping with the State Airports Act 2004 the CAA was incorporated on the 16th September 2004.

9 Board Members 4 Elected Employee Members** 1 Non-Voting Worker Director***

Commercial State Body.

*The Shannon and Cork Airport Authorities were incorporated on the 16th September 2004 and in line with the framework provided by the State Airports Act 2004, these two authorities will, in due course, operate their respective airports.

**The employee members are appointed on a short term temporary basis in accordance with Section 9(9) of the State Airports Act 2004 until the Minister for Transport is in a position to appoint employee members under Section 15 of the Worker Participation (State Enterprises) Act, 1977 as amended by Section 19 of the Worker Participation (State Enterprises) Act, 1988.

***The Department agreed to a request by ICTU for the appointment of a fifth worker representative on each of these boards, during the temporary period, pending the implementation of the State Airports Act 2004. For the duration of the interim period, the two additional worker representatives are entitled to attend board meetings but they are not entitled to vote or otherwise discharge any of the formal duties of directors.

The vast majority of the State's commercial seaport capacity is located within the jurisdiction of the ten State owned port companies established pursuant to the provisions of the Harbours Acts 1996 and 2000 (Dublin, Cork, Waterford, Dun Laoghaire, New Ross, Shannon Foynes, Dundalk, Drogheda, Galway and Wicklow). The Minister for Transport is the main shareholder in the ten companies. Each board has up to twelve members in accordance with the Act. Staff and budgets are operational matters for the companies.

Rosslare Europort falls outside the scope of the Harbours Acts but is owned and operated by the CIE Group. Greenore Port in Co. Louth is a privately owned port in which Dublin Port Company has a 50% shareholding.

There are currently 10 harbour authorities under the provisions of the Harbours Act 1946:

Arklow Harbour Commissioners

Bantry Bay Harbour Commissioners which were established under the Harbours Act 1976.

Baltimore and Skibbereen Harbour Commissioners

Kilrush Urban District Council

Kinsale Harbour Commissioners

River Moy Commissioners

Tralee and Fenit Harbour Commissioners

Westport Harbour Commissioners

Wexford Harbour Commissioners

Youghal Urban District Council.

Membership of the harbour authorities varies in accordance with the provisions of the legislation. Staff and budgets of the harbour authorities are operational matters for the authorities themselves. Two harbour authorities transferred to local authority control in 2006 (Sligo and Annagassan). Dingle was designated a Fishery Harbour Centre in 2007 by the Minister of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, with the consent of the Minister for Transport. Accordingly, these three bodies ceased to function as harbour authorities under the Harbours Acts.

Anti-Poverty Strategy.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

262 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Transport the progress made in his Department on the roll out of the poverty impact assessment to ensure that all policies are evaluated in terms of their potential impact on poverty and social inclusion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24113/07]

My Department takes account of the revised guidelines for Poverty Impact Assessment that were published by the Office for Social Inclusion in July this year when assessing policy proposals.

School Transport.

Mary Upton

Question:

263 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Transport the steps being taken to promote alternatives to the private car as a school transport option in view of the recent report published by the Dublin Transportation Office; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24156/07]

Mary Upton

Question:

264 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Transport the schemes his Department has funded in the Dublin south central electoral area to discourage the use of private cars as a means of school transportation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24157/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 263 and 264 together.

The public information campaign One Small Step encourages drivers in the Greater Dublin Area to examine their car usage patterns and to think about using other ways of getting around, such as walking, cycling or public transport, whenever they can. The campaign targets car drivers specifically. The campaign promotes cycling and walking as one of the best ways of getting fresh air, regular exercise, saving money, saving journey time and benefiting the local and general environment.

It also emphasises safety and points to improved conditions for cyclists in Dublin City Centre since the Port Tunnel opened, with far fewer heavy vehicles in the city centre and extra sections of cycle lane and bus lane (which cyclists can use) on the north quays and, in general, improved the improved traffic environment in the city centre.

My Department has also provided funding to the Dublin Transportation Office (DTO) who initiated the Safer Routes to School project in 2000, with 6 pilot schemes being implemented. The objectives of the Green Schools Initiative are to raise awareness of sustainable travel and transport, increase the number of children who walk and cycle, increase the number of families who ‘park and stride' or ‘carpool', improve safety on the school run by promoting safe practices and awareness of hazards, reduce school-related congestion, and improve physical health and fitness.

The programme was extended and currently has 29 schools with a combined student population of approximately 10,400 with 545 teachers. Results from the initiative show that, of journeys to school, between March and June 2006, walking increased by 7% to 40%, and car use decreased by 8% to 46%, while, on the journey from school, walking increased by 4% from 37% to 41% and car use fell by 9%. A further roll-out of the programme is being considered at present.

My Department is currently in the process of commissioning research in relation to best practice which will assist in the development of a National Cycling Policy. This will, in turn, feed into the Sustainable Travel and Transport Action Plan, which the Government is committed to publishing in the Spring of 2008. That Plan will specifically address the issues relating to children travelling to and from school.

Regarding the question of schemes funded in the Dublin South Central Electoral Area, the disbursement of funds to the DTO is not broken down on an electoral area basis and therefore specific data are not readily available.

Public Transport.

Mary Upton

Question:

265 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Transport the way Dublin south central electoral area will benefit from Transport 21; if his attention has been drawn to the lack of public transport in particular serving the Terenure and Harold’s Cross area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24158/07]

The area referred to by Deputy is primarily served by bus-based public transport. The deployment of buses is an operational matter for Dublin Bus but I understand that as part of the allocation of the 100 additional buses, Dublin Bus has put additional buses on Route 54A which services Harold's Cross and this has resulted in a 25% increase in frequency on the route.

In addition, Dublin Bus has also recently introduced new routes 74 and 74A from Ballycullen which provide an additional 14 morning peak buses through Terenure. These routes operate 7 days a week. Terenure further benefited with significant increases in departures on Route 15 from Knocklyon also serving the area.

Transport 21 includes funding for a feasibility study on the proposed Luas line from the city centre to Dundrum via Rathfarnham and Terenure. It was announced, on 30 January last, that the RPA would commence work on the Rathfarnham feasibility study in April. Preliminary work has commenced on this feasibility study and I understand from the RPA that the feasibility study will take a number of months to complete.

While Transport 21 involves a very large commitment of financial resources, those resources are also finite. It has therefore been necessary to prioritise the investments to be made over the ten-year period. There is no financial provision in Transport 21 for the construction of a Luas line to serve the Terenure/Harold's Cross/ Rathfarnham areas.

Airport Development Projects.

Richard Bruton

Question:

266 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Transport the critical conditions that need to be met to establish readiness to vest three airports; the way the airports currently measure against these benchmarks; and if the airports outlined have a critical path and a timeframe to achieve them. [24163/07]

The State Airports Act, 2004 provides the framework for the establishment of Shannon and Cork as independent airports. Under the Act, both the Minister for Finance and I will have to be satisfied as to the state of operational and financial readiness of the three airports before any vesting of assets can take place.

The actual timing of airport restructuring will continue to depend on the creation of the appropriate conditions that will ensure the financial sustainability of each State Airport. I would expect that these conditions would include presentation of forecasts of profitable operations and necessary capacity to finance investment at autonomous airports. The airports will require coordinated strategies for the achievement of operational and financial readiness and the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) has a key role to play in finalizing the financial framework and coordinating business plans that would enable airport separation to take place. I will be considering the complex issues involved in the coming months.

Air Services.

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

267 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Transport when his attention was drawn, formal or otherwise, to Aer Lingus’s proposal to withdraw all services from the Shannon to Heathrow route and BMI’s not taking up the offer by Shannon Airport Authority to service the Shannon to Heathrow route. [24419/07]

A media article on 13th June 2007 reported the possibility of Aer Lingus opening a new base at Belfast. Following a query to the Company by my Department on foot of that article, the Company, on 13th June, indicated that it was considering opening a new base at Belfast and that, if the proposal proceeded, there would be implications for Shannon. An official conveyed the concerns of the Department, from an aviation and regional development perspective, about the implications for Shannon and asked the Chief Executive to give full consideration to the ways in which a new base might be accommodated before arriving at a decision, which he agreed to do. The matter was not brought to my attention.

Subsequently, an official of the Department contacted Aer Lingus on 27th July arising from a query to the Company on industrial relations matters. In the course of that conversation, it was confirmed that the Company's plans for a new base had solidified and that a formal announcement was to be made on 8th August. It was also confirmed that opening the new Belfast base would involve the reallocation of Shannon Heathrow slots to Belfast from early 2008. The official expressed concern about the impact of the loss of a Shannon-Heathrow service from an aviation and regional policy perspective, emphasised the importance of Aer Lingus commitment to Shannon and indicated that these matters would be raised with the Chief Executive of the company.

In an e-mail to my private office on 27th July the official stated "The Company intends to announce the new Belfast base on 8 August. This will involve the reallocation of Shannon-Heathrow slots to Belfast from early 2008" and referred to the concerns that he had raised. A meeting with the Chairman and Chief Executive was arranged for the earliest opportunity — 3rd August — to enable me to discuss these matters with the Company. At the meeting with the Chairman and Chief Executive of Aer Lingus on 3rd August, I was informed of the decision to open a hub in Belfast and of the re-allocation of all the Shannon-Heathrow slots to a new Belfast Heathrow service.

The decision by British Midland that it would not commence a Shannon Heathrow service was made public on 4th October and reported in the media the following day. I was made aware two days previously, on 2nd October, that the decision was likely to be negative. Prior to that I was kept informed, on an informal basis, of continuing dialogue between the Dublin Airport Authority and Shannon Airport Authority and British Midland. In the normal way of negotiations of this kind the views of progress alternated between optimism and pessimism before a final conclusion was reached.

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

268 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Transport the reason the Government will not call for an extraordinary general meeting of Aer Lingus to reverse the decision by the management of Aer Lingus to end the Shannon to Heathrow service in view of the commitments given by the Government at the time of floatation that it was retaining the 25.4% stake in Aer Lingus for strategic reasons. [24420/07]

The legal advice available to the Government is that shareholders do not have the power to over-rule management decisions on business matters. Even if the Government on its own or in conjunction with other shareholders called an EGM and voted for the restoration of the Shannon Heathrow service, the management of Aer Lingus would not be obliged to follow any such direction from its shareholders. At the time of the IPO the State had two key objectives in retaining a strategic shareholding of 25.4%. Firstly, this shareholding provides a major impediment to a hostile takeover.

The second strategic advantage of a shareholding of over 25% is that it enables Government as a shareholder to block special resolutions. Because of provisions specifically built in to the Memorandum and Articles of Association of Aer Lingus at the time of the IPO this provides for the potential for the State to protect against the disposal of Heathrow slots. The measures put in place at the time of the IPO do not apply to the re-allocation of slot pairs to new or existing bases.

Tourism Industry.

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

269 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Transport when Government funding will be put in place for the full implementation of the €53 million mid-west tourism and economic development plan. [24421/07]

My Department is currently finalising an Economic and Tourism Development Plan for the Shannon Airport catchment area. The Plan has been prepared in consultation with the Department of Finance, the Department of Arts, Sport & Tourism, the Department of Enterprise, Trade & Employment and the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.

The purpose of the plan is to ensure that the region is well placed to respond to the challenges and opportunities emerging in the context of full liberalisation of the transatlantic aviation market and the phasing out of the Shannon Stop asenvisaged under the EU-US Open Skies Agreement.

Rail Network.

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

270 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Transport when Government funding will be provided for the construction of a rail link between Limerick city and Shannon Airport. [24422/07]

Transport 21 does not provide for the construction of a rail link between Limerick and Shannon Airport. I understand that the feasibility study carried out on behalf of Iarnród Éireann with input from a steering groups representative of local interests concluded that the economic case for the rail link is poor and that Iarnród Éireann have no plans to undertake any further work on the proposal at this stage.

Harbours and Piers.

Seán Barrett

Question:

271 Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Minister for Transport if he will make a once-off grant, perhaps from national lottery funds, to a company (details supplied) in County Dublin in order to carry out necessary renovations to the fort at the end of the east pier in Dún Laoghaire, in order that this amenity can be opened up to the public, and the establishment of recreational facilities accommodated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22312/07]

Dún Laoghaire Harbour is owned and operated by Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company, a State-owned company established under the Harbours Act 1996. The company has invested considerable funds in past years into the upkeep and renovation of the piers in the harbour. Decisions regarding any renovations to the East Pier Fort are an operational matter for the company. I understand that the company is currently carrying out a feasibility study on the matter.

The Ports Policy Statement published in January 2005 sets out policy in relation to the ports sector, including the funding of port infrastructure developments. The policy states that the port companies, as commercial entities, should be capable of funding their operations and infrastructure requirements without relying on Exchequer support. My Department does not administer any National Lottery funds. Any application for such funding would be a matter for the company.

Road Safety.

Seán Barrett

Question:

272 Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Minister for Transport his proposals to make the wearing of safety helmets by cyclists mandatory; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22322/07]

Under the Road Safety Authority Act 2006 (Conferral of Functions) Order 2006 (S.I. No. 477 of 2006) this is now a matter for the Road Safety Authority.

Air Services.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

273 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Transport if he has received the report from the group of senior officials, operating under the auspices of his Department, who were asked to evaluate the implications of the Aer Lingus decision to end its Shannon-Heathrow service; the number of occasions on which the group has met; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20136/07]

The Government considered the Report of the Senior Officials Group, chaired by a representative of the Department of An Taoiseach, on the 26th September this year. The group met on 4 occasions. The Government endorsed the analysis and conclusions of the Group and agreed to ask relevant Ministers, following consultation with the four Mid-West planning authorities, together with the Mid-West Regional Authority, to report back to Government as soon as possible on strategies for unlocking the further development potential of the Limerick-Shannon Gateway and its wider region. The Report is available on the websites of both my Department and the Department of An Taoiseach.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

274 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Transport if he will make a statement on the outcome of his meeting on 20 August 2007 (details supplied). [20135/07]

The Taoiseach met with the Chairman of the Atlantic Way on the 20 August 2007 in the context of the decision announced by Aer Lingus to withdraw the Shannon Heathrow service. The Chairman expressed concern about the lack of consultation on the part of Aer Lingus before the Company announced its decision. The views of the Atlantic Way relating to the economic development of the Shannon region, which were also expressed in written form and at a further meeting at official level, were taken into account by the Senior Officials Group established at the initiative of the Taoiseach and tasked with assessing the implications of the Aer Lingus decision and the options facing the Government.

The Report of the Senior Officials Group was endorsed by the Government on the 26 September and is published on the websites of both the Department and the Department of the Taoiseach.

Decentralisation Programme.

Richard Bruton

Question:

275 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Transport if he has ascertained from all public service agencies involved in decentralisation the make-up of the 2,800 people who have taken up posts due to decentralise; the number of these who are transferring with their post from Dublin, who are transferring upon promotion and who are new recruits; and if he will set out the relevant data. [24686/07]

No-one has yet taken up posts in the agencies under the Department of Transport which are still due to decentralize, either on promotion or as a new recruit.

Passport Applications.

James Bannon

Question:

276 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position regarding an application for a passport for a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath. [24179/07]

No application has been received in the Passport Office to date for the person mentioned. If the person has any difficulties with documentation regarding his application, the Passport Office (Brian Hanniffy, 6733040) will be happy to help.

Anti-Poverty Strategy.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

277 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the progress made in his Department on the roll out of the poverty impact assessment to ensure that all policies are evaluated in terms of their potential impact on poverty and social inclusion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24108/07]

Given the nature of this Department's work, our policies and programmes normally do not have direct impact on poverty and social inclusion in Ireland. In June 2006, officials from the Office of Social Inclusion briefed the relevant sections of this Department regarding implementation of the guidelines on poverty impact assessment which were issued in April 2006. All proposals submitted by this Department to Government address the impact such decisions will have on poverty.

I would like to underline the important role of my Department in the reduction of poverty abroad. This is particularly evident in Ireland's development co-operation programmes and in our work assisting Irish emigrants abroad. Poverty reduction in developing countries is the overarching objective of Irish Aid. Among donor countries, Irish Aid has been a leading player in developing and encouraging the roll-out of Poverty Impact Assessment as a means of increasing the proportion of aid that directly targets and benefits poor people.

The Government is providing an unprecedented level of support for Irish citizens abroad. The primary focus of this funding is on supporting welfare services for our most vulnerable and marginalised citizens abroad, though the increased funding of recent years has also enabled us to support a number of capital projects, as well as some culture and heritage projects. A Value for Money and Policy Review of the Support for Emigrants Programme carried out recently stated that the systems and procedures are well designed to achieve a positive impact.

Diplomatic Relations.

James Bannon

Question:

278 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the support the Government is providing to Taiwan’s bid to join the United Nations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24178/07]

Under the General Assembly's Resolution 2758 of 25 October 1971, the Government of the People's Republic of China is recognised as the sole representative of China. In common with most Member States of the UN, and all EU partners, Ireland recognises the Government of the People's Republic of China as the sole legitimate government of China. Taiwan's official status remains that of a Province of China. This 'one-China policy' was reaffirmed in 1979 in the joint communiqué which was issued on the establishment of diplomatic relations between Ireland and the People's Republic of China . Ireland does not maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan. Efforts by the authorities in Taiwan to apply for UN membership under the name of Taiwan are incompatible with the One China policy and, on that basis, Ireland opposes them.

Undocumented Irish.

Peter Power

Question:

279 Deputy Peter Power asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the sponsorship schemes for citizenship available for Irish people living illegally in the United States of America at present; and the location they can seek advice on the matter in America. [24224/07]

A US citizen, or a lawful permanent resident, can apply to sponsor a close family relative to enter the United States on an immigrant visa. Eligibility for citizenship is then normally based on legal residency and/or service in the U.S. military. In addition, employers in the US may, in certain circumstances, apply to sponsor non-US nationals for entry. The undocumented, including the undocumented Irish, are not legally entitled to reside in the United States and are not, therefore, entitled to obtain US citizenship.

As US immigration law is complex, I would recommend that individuals seeking detailed advice should consult an immigration lawyer. Our Embassy in Washington or one of our Consulates in the United States can provide a list of suitable lawyers. Comprehensive information is also available on the United States Government's Citizenship and Immigration Services website www.uscis.gov.

As the Deputy will be aware, efforts to bring about comprehensive immigration reform, which would have addressed the status of our undocumented citizens in the United States, failed to get the necessary support in the US Congress earlier this year. Given the present very difficult and divided environment in Congress on immigration, it is now widely considered that such comprehensive legislation is unlikely to be back before Congress in a meaningful way in advance of the next US Presidential and Congressional Elections.

The Government is determined to explore all possible alternative options, including bilateral arrangements. My recent visit to the United States provided me with the opportunity to discuss the situation with senior members of the Administration and with some of the key central players in Congress. While they emphasized the present extremely difficult environment for making progress on immigration reform in Congress, I was pleased that they were willing to work with us in exploring further possible ways for resolving the position of our undocumented citizens. This work will now be pursued by the Ambassador and his staff in Washington and will be reviewed by my on an ongoing basis.

Decentralisation Programme.

Richard Bruton

Question:

280 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has ascertained from all public service agencies involved in decentralisation the make-up of the 2,800 people who have taken up posts due to decentralise; the number of these who are transferring with their post from Dublin, who are transferring upon promotion and who are new recruits; and if he will set out the relevant data. [24681/07]

Under the Government's decentralisation programme, the Development Cooperation Directorate of the Department of Foreign Affairs, which is Irish Aid's Headquarters, will decentralise to Limerick. This is scheduled to take place in early 2008 on completion and fit-out of the permanent premises in Henry Street. It will involve the relocation to Limerick of 124 posts. Good progress has been made and personnel have either been assigned to, or identified for, 100 posts or approximately 81% of the 124 posts scheduled to be decentralised. An advance party involving 53 of these officers has already decentralised to interim office premises in Limerick.

A total of 72 posts in the Directorate, including that of Director General, are filled by officers who have either decentralised to Limerick or signalled their intention to do so. Fifteen of these officers were already serving within the Department at the time of the announcement of the decentralisation programme in December, 2003. Another two were assigned to the Department by the Public Appointments Service and subsequently indicated their interest in decentralising. The remainder is made up of forty-two officers who have been recruited from other Departments via the Central Applications Facility for Limerick, ten who have been assigned from inter-departmental promotion panels and three newly-recruited officers.

In addition, there are currently 13 officers serving elsewhere in the Department, mostly abroad, who have also expressed an interest in decentralising to Limerick, and fifteen officers from other Departments, mainly based in provincial locations, who have applied to decentralise through the Central Applications Facility. These officers will be assigned to the Directorate on a phased basis closer to the time of the completion of the permanent premises.

Anti-Poverty Strategy.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

281 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the progress made in his Department on the roll out of the poverty impact assessment to ensure that all policies are evaluated in terms of their potential impact on poverty and social inclusion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24105/07]

Following a review of the poverty proofing process, the Office for Social Inclusion produced a revised set of guidelines for what is now termed Poverty Impact Assessment. The Office of Social Inclusion presented the new guidelines to officials of my Department and my Department and its agencies, including FÁS in particular, is following the guidelines in relation to the evaluation of the impact of policies on poverty and social inclusion.

Since the introduction of the roll-out of poverty impact assessments in 1999 there have been several developments with regard to proofing processes in FÁS, including equality proofing, the integration of processes and localising procedures. Equality, social inclusion and diversity has always been a priority for FÁS. The organisation's most recent high-level commitment to ensuring equality for all its customers is articulated through Priority Goal 6 in ‘Building on our Vision: Statement of Strategy 2006-2009': "To promote the removal of barriers and help provide supports which ensure access to programmes, services and employment for individuals and groups experiencing exclusion, discrimination and labour market disadvantage."

Priority Goals give rise to a set of actions necessary for implementation, and a series of goal-specific Performance Management Indicators which will measure outcomes and effectiveness. In the case of Priority Goal 6, these actions will result in the mainstreaming of equality measures throughout all parts of the organisation as a core element of the FÁS approach to doing business. The fulfilment of Priority Goal 6 will serve to ensure that the approach to equality is coherent throughout the organisation, and is embedded at the core of all FÁS practice.

FÁS has implemented regional equality proofing activity plans across its Employment Services Division and the process of rolling out equality proofing in other FÁS operational divisions is underway. FÁS is committed to this process through its Statement of Strategy 2006-2009.

Decentralisation Programme.

Billy Timmins

Question:

282 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the situation with respect to the proposed decentralisation of the NSAI to Arklow in view of a letter (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24134/07]

Under the Government's decentralisation programme the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) is due to relocate to Arklow, Co. Wicklow. The current NSAI implementation plan anticipates a target date of April 2009 as the completion date for its decentralisation programme; however, this is highly dependent on the resolution of matters at central level concerning the transfer of staff within the public service and other staffing related issues. The accommodation requirements for the NSAI in Arklow are being addressed by the OPW but to date there has been no progress in identifying and securing suitable office accommodation in the Arklow area.

Issues concerning the suitability of the accommodation occupied by NSAI in Glasnevin, which have been ongoing for some time, have given rise for an immediate requirement for suitable office accommodation to enable the Authority to provide its services in an efficient manner. The Authority recently decided to proceed with the consideration of securing office facilities in the north Dublin area to accommodate the staff currently based in Glasnevin. Leasing agreements will provide for break clauses in accordance with normal business practice. At this point the NSAI has initiated a building selection process with a view to occupation in early 2008.

Notwithstanding changes in the NSAI's existing office accommodation it continues to be part of the decentralisation programme and will continue to engage in preparations for relocation to Arklow.

Departmental Properties.

Michael D'Arcy

Question:

283 Deputy Michael D’Arcy asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if IDA lands (details supplied) in County Wexford are available for sale; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24164/07]

The management of IDA Ireland's industrial property portfolio is a day-to-day operational matters for the Agency and not one in which I have a function. I have been informed by IDA that the Agency does not own any lands in Edermine, Enniscorthy but it does own approximately 2.4 hectares in Moine Upper, Enniscorthy, of which 1.9231 hectares are marketable for industrial purposes.

Industrial Development.

Niall Blaney

Question:

284 Deputy Niall Blaney asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the funding supports or initiatives in place for small and medium enterprises in County Donegal; if his Department will provide additional funding supports or initiatives for them in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24180/07]

The primary agencies under the remit of my Department with responsibility for supports and initiatives for small and medium enterprises in Donegal are Enterprise Ireland (EI) and the Donegal County Enterprise Board (CEB). Enterprise Ireland provides funding and expertise to companies with ten or more employees in the indigenous manufacturing and internationally traded services sectors who wish to expand through increased export activity. Through its network of 34 overseas offices, Enterprise Ireland assists client companies to create and implement successful strategies for market entry, development and growth.

Since the beginning of 2004 Enterprise Ireland approved over €15m in support to its client companies in Co. Donegal and made payments of over €7.5m. In the same period, EI has also approved support of €883,000 for Third Level/Industry Partnerships with Letterkenny Institute of Technology to encourage the adoption of new technologies by industry.

Enterprise Ireland initiatives in County Donegal to assist in job creation include;—

Enterprise Ireland supports the CEIM Enterprise Platform Programme, in partnership with Letterkenny Institute of Technology, the Institutes of Technology in Sligo and Border Action in providing a training programme for entrepreneurs wishing to set up their own businesses. This programme is now going into its fourth year.

Enterprise Ireland, in partnership with Invest Northern Ireland and SEUPB commenced recruitment for the Transform Programme (a new cross-border enterprise incubation programme) in May 2007. The programme was launched on 11th Sept 2007 with a total of 43 participants (9 from the North West Region).

Enterprise Ireland approved support of €650,000 in 2006 for the provision of enterprise space in Carndonagh and Donegal Town, as part of the Community Enterprise Centre scheme.

Enterprise Ireland approved €2.54m in 2005 to extend The Business Development Centre at Letterkenny Institute of Technology to cater for increasing demand. The building is due to commence in 2008.

During the years 2004 to 2006, a total of 1,156 full time jobs were created in Enterprise Ireland client companies in County Donegal, as against job losses of 980, leaving a net gain of 176 jobs.

Enterprise Ireland's policy objectives for balanced regional development are reflected in the structure of its funding offer, whereby, funding for existing company expansion and start-up businesses is biased towards the regions. The maximum grant level is higher than in Dublin and the Mid-East and a higher proportion of this funding is also non-repayable.

Also, under the Innovation Voucher Scheme, which I announced in March of this year, companies with less than 50 employees can apply for a voucher worth €5,000 and, if successful, the voucher can be exchanged for advice and expertise from accredited knowledge providers. A number of Donegal companies have already availed of this scheme.

As regards the Donegal County Enterprise Board, funded by my Department, its role is to provide support to micro-enterprises in the start-up and expansion phases, to promote and develop indigenous micro-enterprise potential and to stimulate economic activity and entrepreneurship at local level. Through the provision of both financial and non-financial support the Board supports individuals, firms and community groups provided that the proposed projects have the capacity to achieve commercial viability. Financial support is available in the form of Capital Grants, Employment Grants and Feasibility Study grants. From the Board's inception in 1993 to-date they have paid out over €6.7m in grant assistance to over 300 clients, which has assisted in the creation of 1,385 jobs.

In relation to non-financial support, Donegal CEB engages in a range of activities to stimulate enterprise and to support small businesses, including the following:

provision of one-to-one business advice and guidance and one-to one Mentoring through the Boards Mentor panel;

development and delivery of activities to highlight and promote enterprise in such as the annual Enterprising Donegal Week;

provision of targeted training programmes such as Start Your Own Business, financial management, computerised accounts, IT for small business etc.

In addition to its normal budgetary allocation, I have made additional funding available to Donegal CEB to develop and deliver two new initiatives i.e. a Business Information Service and a Lets Do Business Schools Programme. The Business Information Service involves the provision of a comprehensive business information service to individuals and businesses in the County. The Lets Do Business Schools Programme seeks to develop a spirit of enterprise within national and secondary schools through active learning in a range of enterprise competitions, events and enterprise clubs.

I can assure the Deputy that government funding support and initiatives for enterprises in County Donegal is, and will remain, a priority for the State development agencies under the auspices of my Department.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

285 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of IDA premises which are vacant in each county including the town in which each of the vacant premises is located. [24285/07]

The management of IDA Ireland's industrial property portfolio is a day-to-day operational matter for the agency and not a matter in which I have a function. I have been informed by IDA that there are 28 IDA owned buildings vacant at present. In addition, the Agency leases units from private investors and I understand that 35 of those units are also vacant. Details of the locations of these buildings are set out in the tabular statement.

A policy decision to move away from involvement in buildings was implemented by the Agency in the late 1990s. In divesting of buildings the Agency was conscious of the need to maximise the financial returns and to balance the disposal programme against the need to have buildings available in key locations for marketing to IDA and Enterprise Ireland clients.

Table showing the number of IDA owned and leased buildings

County

Town

Leased properties Vacant

IDA owned properties Vacant

Cork

Ballygallan

0

3

Cork

Charleville

1

0

Cork

Little Island

1

0

Cork

Kilbarry

3

0

Cork

Wilton

1

0

Donegal

Ballyshannon

3

0

Dublin

Ballyfermot

0

1

Dublin

Clonshaugh

0

4

Dublin

Gardiner St

0

13

Dublin

Tallaght

1

0

Dublin

Airways

7

0

Dublin

Poppintree

1

0

Galway

Roundstone

0

2

Galway

Ballinasloe

1

0

Galway

Tuam

3

0

Kerry

Killarney

0

1

Kildare

Newbridge

5

0

Mayo

Charlestown

0

1

Roscommon

Castlerea

0

1

Sligo

Finisklin

0

1

Waterford

Johnstown

6

0

Waterford

Waterford

0

1

Westmeath

Athlone

1

0

Wexford

Enniscorthy

1

0

35

28

John Cregan

Question:

286 Deputy John Cregan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if Shannon Development and the IDA are prepared to prioritise the promotion of the Askeaton Business Park as a suitable location for the employment of individuals in the pharmaceutical industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24457/07]

IDA Ireland is the agency with statutory responsibility for the attraction of foreign direct investment (FDI) to Ireland and its regions. Shannon Development's remit includes the provision of property solutions to accommodate the FDI sector in the Mid West region. IDA Ireland works closely with Shannon Development in the promotion and marketing of these tailored property solutions, throughout the Mid West, including the Askeaton business park.

The marketing of individual areas for new or expansion FDI investments and jobs is a day-to-day operational matter for the IDA. While I may give general policy directives to the Agency, I am precluded under the Industrial Development Acts from giving directives regarding individual undertakings or from giving preference to one area over others. Both IDA Ireland and Shannon Development are working closely concerning the provision of a strategic site for the Mid West region and are looking at a number of locations in this regard, including the Askeaton site. This process is ongoing. Shannon Development is also considering other development options for the Askeaton land bank.

The Askeaton site is been actively marketed through IDA's network of overseas offices as a solution for utility intensive projects, and not just biopharma. The investment projects which IDA Ireland seeks to win are in more advanced higher value sophisticated activities, both manufacturing and services, often related to research activities, requiring high level skills, infrastructure and business services generating more high value products, services and jobs. Ultimately decisions regarding where to locate a project, including what areas to visit are taken by investors based on the ability of the locations to support their business needs.

Decentralisation Programme.

Richard Bruton

Question:

287 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he has ascertained from all public service agencies involved in decentralisation the make-up of the 2,800 people who have taken up posts due to decentralise; the number of these who are transferring with their post from Dublin, who are transferring upon promotion and who are new recruits; and if he will set out the relevant data. [24679/07]

My Department is required to relocate 250 posts to Carlow under the Government's Decentralisation Programme and this is planned to occur by the end of 2009. In order to accommodate staff who wished to move earlier than the projected building completion date of late 2009, officials of my Department, in consultation with the Department of Finance and the OPW, as well as decentralising staff and Business Units, opened an advance office in Carlow on July 30th 2007. The number of posts in this decentralised advance office is 98. Of the staff in place in this office, 36 were decentralised from locations outside Dublin with the remainder decentralised from Dublin.

The number of posts in Business Units decentralising to Carlow is 288. As well as the 98 posts already decentralised to Carlow, my Department has 47 staff due to decentralise to Carlow in the substantive move scheduled for 2009. Of these staff, five are based outside Dublin. Seven officers within my Department accepted promotion offers to posts scheduled to decentralise to Carlow. There are currently eleven officers who were assigned as new recruits to my Department to take up posts scheduled to decentralise to Carlow.

Departmental Bodies.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

288 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the boards, bodies, authorities, agencies and quangos under the remit of his Department; the date of establishment; the number of members, staff and budget for each of the past ten years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24090/07]

I wish to refer the Deputy to my reply to Question 328 put by him on 2nd October 2007. The position is unchanged.

Anti-Poverty Strategy.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

289 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the progress made in his Department on the roll out of the poverty impact assessment to ensure that all policies are evaluated in terms of their potential impact on poverty and social inclusion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24100/07]

I am fully aware of the Government's commitment to evaluate all policy proposals in terms of their potential impact on poverty. Both the Sports Capital and Swimming Pools Programmes which have been in existence for some years and are operated by my Department have a strong social inclusion element.

Under the Sports Capital Programme, organisations that can prove they are located in any of the recognised disadvantaged areas of CLÁR, RAPID or in a Local Drugs Task Force Area are awarded extra points under one of the assessment criteria. In addition, applicants from disadvantaged areas only have to provide evidence of 20% minimum local funding as against the 30% requirement for all other applicants. Under the Swimming Pools Programme there is a 90% grant rate for new projects located in disadvantaged areas as opposed to 80% in other areas.

A poverty proofing evaluation of the legislation to establish the National Sports Campus Development Authority was carried out prior to the legislation being brought into effect on 1st January, 2007. The evaluation is integrated into the planning for the Campus.

The National Economic and Social Forum have produced a report "The Arts, Social Inclusion and Cultural Inclusion", presented to Government in February 2007. The report looked at how the arts contribute to cultural and social cohesion and how this could be enhanced further. The Government approved the report's proposal for the establishment of a high-level independently chaired Strategic Committee to consider its recommendations. Progress on the establishment of this committee is being advanced within my Department.

Decentralisation Programme.

Richard Bruton

Question:

290 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he has ascertained from all public service agencies involved in decentralisation the make-up of the 2,800 people who have taken up posts due to decentralise; the number of these who are transferring with their post from Dublin, who are transferring upon promotion and who are new recruits; and if he will set out the relevant data. [24674/07]

Under the Central Applications Facility (CAF), the number of civil servants who have applied to decentralise with my Department to Killarney was 208. The number of civil servants who have taken up posts due to decentralise or have decentralised currently stands at 72. The make-up of the 72 officers is as follows: 3 Principal Officers, 17 Assistant Principal Officers, 18 Higher Executive Officers, 17 Executive Officers, 14 Clerical Officers, 2 Service Officers and 1 Accountant. Of these, 24 were civil servants based in Dublin and 48 were civil servants based in provincial locations. To date, my Department has not transferred any officer upon promotion. Two new service officers have been recruited for my Department's temporary offices in Fossa, Killarney.

Pension Provisions.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

291 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of occupational pension schemes registered with the Revenue Commissioners in each of the years this century; the number of these that are categorised as defined benefit schemes and the number of these that are categorised as defined contribution schemes in each year; and the number of persons with such a pension in each year and for both categories. [24310/07]

Occupational pension schemes are approved in the first instance by the Revenue Commissioners and then entered on the scheme register of the Pensions Board. Information in relation to the schemes registered and membership is set out in the table for each year from 2000.

No. of Schemes Registered with The Pensions Board as at 31st December each year

Year

Total No. of Occupational Pension Schemes on the Pensions Board Register

No. of Defined Benefit Schemes

No. of Defined Contribution Schemes

No. of members in Defined Benefit Schemes

No. of members in Defined Contribution Schemes

2000

86,348

2,027

84,321

449,111

180,690

2001

97,931

1,956

95,975

455,627

214,871

2002

107,764

1,901

105,863

471,841

237,491

2003

112,665

1,693

110,972

483,031

241,302

2004

88,069

1,583

86,486

500,633

225,772

2005

84,319

1,478

82,841

499,885

234,814

2006

93,486

1,411

92,075

542,362

255,008

It should be noted that the reduction in schemes registered in 2004 arose because of a data quality exercise, conducted by the Pensions Board, which identified a significant number of schemes (mainly single member schemes) which had been wound-up or were no longer active.

Anti-Poverty Strategy.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

292 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the progress made in his Department on the roll out of the poverty impact assessment to ensure that all policies are evaluated in terms of their potential impact on poverty and social inclusion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24111/07]

Poverty proofing was introduced in 1998 on foot of a commitment in the first National Anti-Poverty Strategy. Since then it has been a requirement for significant policy proposals to indicate clearly the impact of the proposal on people in poverty or at risk of falling into poverty.

Following a review of the poverty proofing process, the Office for Social Inclusion, which is based in my Department, produced a revised set of guidelines for what is now termed Poverty Impact Assessment. This change of name is intended to underline that the emphasis in the process should be on the outcomes of policies, programmes and services and that poverty impact assessment should form an integral part of the policy making process.

The revised guidelines are designed to better assist policy makers across all levels of Government in evaluating policy proposals in terms of their potential impact on poverty. They include a number of new steps to ensure greater transparency in the process and a requirement to monitor the impact of any policy change. The guidelines have been published on the website of the Office for Social Inclusion, at www.socialinclusion.ie, and have been presented to all Government Departments, which have responsibility for their implementation.

Support for the work of the Office for Social Inclusion in developing effective poverty proofing mechanisms is a key commitment in the Programme for Government and the roll out of the revised guidelines is a priority in this regard. The Office has commenced a pilot programme providing focused assistance to individual departments on implementation of the new guidelines. The experience gained from this process will aid the development over the coming months of training for officials in all government departments. The Office is working with the Combat Poverty Agency on applying the new guidelines to local authorities.

Within my Department, it is the practice for policies and programmes to be assessed for their impact on poverty. The revised guidelines for poverty impact assessment are now being used for this purpose. For example, poverty impact assessments have been carried out on Social Welfare Budget packages in recent years and on a number of policies reviewed as part of the Expenditure Review Initiative, including the proposals in the Government discussion paper on supporting lone parents and Phase II of the review of the Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme.

My objective, in line with the Programme for Government, is to ensure that the new guidelines will serve as an effective tool in ensuring that the priority of combating poverty and social exclusion is kept to the fore in policy making and implementation at all levels of Government.

Social Welfare Code.

Michael Ring

Question:

293 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his views on increasing the living alone allowance in view of the fact that this allowance has been unchanged for the past seven years and in view of the higher costs of basic food provisions and so on. [24169/07]

The living alone allowance is an additional payment of €7.70 per week made to people aged 66 years or over who are in receipt of certain social welfare payments and who are living alone. It is also available to people who are under 66 years of age who are living alone and who receive payments under one of a number of invalidity type schemes. The increase is intended as a contribution towards the additional costs people face when they live alone.

The policy in relation to support for pensioners has been, for many years, to give priority to increasing the personal rates of pension rather than supplements like the living alone increase. The objective is to use resources to improve the position of all pensioners to the fullest extent possible rather than focusing on particular groups. This approach was continued in Budget 2007 with increases of up to €16 and €18 per week granted on personal rates.

Social Welfare Appeals.

Jack Wall

Question:

294 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position of an appeal by a person (details supplied) in County Kildare against the decision to refuse their application for a diet supplement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24215/07]

Diet supplements are paid under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which is administered by the Health Service Executive on behalf of my Department. The person concerned recently applied for, and was refused a diet supplement. She has appealed the decision to the Executive's designated Appeals Officer who is examining her appeal. She will be notified of the outcome as soon as possible.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Mary O'Rourke

Question:

295 Deputy Mary O’Rourke asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he has plans to rectify the pension anomaly of a person (details supplied) in County Galway. [24241/07]

The social welfare pension rights of those who take time out of the workforce for caring duties are protected by the homemaker's scheme. The scheme allows up to 20 years spent caring for children or incapacitated adults to be disregarded when a person's social insurance record is being averaged for pension purposes. However, the scheme will not of itself qualify a person for a pension. The standard qualifying conditions, which require a person to enter insurance 10 years before pension age, pay a minimum of 260 contributions at the correct rate and achieve a yearly average of at least 10 contributions on their record from the time they enter insurance until they reach pension age, must also be satisfied.

In general, social welfare reforms, including those affecting the social insurance records of individuals, are not backdated but apply from a current date. The same approach was taken in relation to the homemakers scheme, which was introduced in 1994 and applies to periods spent out of the paid workforce from that date.

The operation of the homemakers scheme is reviewed in the Green Paper on pensions. Decisions regarding pension provision for people who do not currently qualify for a social welfare pension will be made in the context of the framework for long-term pensions policy, which will be developed after the consultation process on the Green Paper has been completed around the middle of 2008.

Social Welfare Code.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

296 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the justification for including carer’s allowance as part of the means test for the back to school clothing and footwear allowance scheme; and if he will commit to amending legislation in the next Social Welfare Act to disregard income from carer’s allowance in these circumstances. [24413/07]

The back to school clothing and footwear allowance (BSCFA) scheme provides a one-off payment to eligible families to assist with the extra costs when their children start school each autumn. The allowance is not intended to meet the full cost of school clothing and footwear but only to provide assistance towards these costs. A person may qualify for payment of an allowance if they are in receipt of a social welfare payment (including family income supplement), or Health Service Executive payment, are participating in an approved employment scheme or attending a recognised education and training course and have household income at or below certain set levels. In 2007, it is estimated that over 170,000 children will benefit from the back to school clothing and footwear allowance scheme at an annual cost in excess of €38 million.

Apart from a number of exceptions, all household income is assessable as means under the BSCFA scheme in accordance with the normal assessment for Supplementary Welfare Allowance. The exceptions to these rules are that any income received in the form of Family Income Supplement (FIS), Higher Level Education grants or the first €120 earnings from employment of a rehabilitative nature is disregarded for the purposes of the BSCFA scheme.

The purpose of the means test is to ensure that limited resources are directed to those in greatest need. I consider the back to school clothing and footwear allowance scheme to be an important support for parents at a time of particular financial strain. I am satisfied that recent improvements to the scheme, namely an increase in income limits and an increase in the rates of payment, provide a major boost to meeting the financial costs associated with return to school for those who most need assistance.

Any further improvements to the scheme, or amendments to the qualifying criteria, would have to be considered in a budgetary context and in the light of resources available to me for improvements in social welfare payments generally.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

297 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the measures taken by his Department to actively encourage the re-entry of recipients of illness benefit and disability allowance into the workforce; if there is a structured review process that facilitates an assessment of the person’s education and training needs, their skills, potential job opportunities and so on; and the policy reforms he will bring to this area. [24414/07]

Illness benefit is a social insurance payment for people who cannot work due to illness. Continuing entitlement is subject to the beneficiary conforming to certain "Rules of Behaviour" set out in legislation. One of the rules of behaviour states that a person cannot work while receiving illness benefit. However, in order to encourage claimants to take up employment or training opportunities, an exemption to this general rule states that the claimant may engage in employment or training which is part-time (i.e less than 20 hours per week) and of a rehabilitative or therapeutic nature. The claimant must apply to my Department in advance of taking up such employment or training and a decision will be made on whether the employment meets the criteria of part-time and rehabilitative or therapeutic in nature.

Disability allowance is a social assistance payment for people with a disability. A person's disability must be expected to last for at least one year. A person in receipt of disability allowance who engages in employment or training of a rehabilitative nature may avail of a disregard of the first €120 per week of their income for the purpose of assessment of means for the disability allowance scheme.

Prior to June 2006, once a person's earnings exceeded €120 per week, payment of their disability allowance was withdrawn on a euro for euro basis i.e. for every euro earned above €120, the disability allowance was withdrawn by one euro. In order to improve the employment incentives for people of working age, a new withdrawal rate of disability allowance was introduced with effect from 1 June 2006. This change means that, for earnings above €120 and under €350 per week, disability allowance is now withdrawn at 50 cents for every euro earned, rather than the previous euro for euro withdrawal. In practice, this means that a single person can earn up to €420 per week before their disability allowance fully ceases, compared to €240 per week previously.

In addition people in receipt of both illness benefit and disability allowance can access the back to education allowance scheme. This is an educational opportunities scheme, the objective of which is to enhance the employability skills of vulnerable groups who are distant from the labour market.

In July 2006, my Department launched its Sectoral Plan under the Disability Act 2005, which is aimed at developing services that not only give people with disabilities financial security but also encourage maximum participation in society. Over the period of the Plan my Department will seek to deliver support to people with disabilities which will reduce their risk of dependence. The approach will be to encourage them to meet their income needs largely from employment, as well as achieving other social outcomes, such as further education and developing life skills in a way that will ensure that their contributions to society, talents and aspirations are not overlooked.

Furthermore under the social partnership agreement "Towards 2016" and the National Development Plan 2007-2013 my Department is committed to a programme of activation measures aimed at all people of working age, including people with disabilities. The particular added value that will be provided by my Department is an active outcome-focused individual case management of all social welfare customers of working age who are not progressing into employment or accessing training or education opportunities.

My Department is also commencing an interagency project, under the European Social Fund 2007-2013, to develop and test a comprehensive employment strategy based on individual case management of people on disability welfare payments that will have the capacity to increase their rate of employment. The policy in relation to supporting employment incentives for people with disabilities will continue to be kept under review in my Department.

Decentralisation Programme.

Richard Bruton

Question:

298 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he has ascertained from all public service agencies involved in decentralisation the make-up of the 2,800 people who have taken up posts due to decentralise; the number of these who are transferring with their post from Dublin, who are transferring upon promotion and who are new recruits; and if he will set out the relevant data. [24684/07]

Under the Government's decentralisation programme for the civil and public service, the Department's headquarter sections and the Social Welfare Appeals Office are relocating to 6 locations — Sligo, Carrick-on-Shannon, Donegal, Buncrana, Carrickmacross and Drogheda. In addition, the Combat Poverty Agency and Citizens Information Board are scheduled to relocate to Monaghan and Drogheda, respectively, under the programme.

To date, 173 employees have relocated from the Dublin Offices to Carrick-on-Shannon and Sligo. In addition, a further 181 employees have transferred into posts in preparation for decentralisation. The table outlines the data requested.

Location

Transferred to decentralised post

No. of Dublin based Civil Servants who have accepted offers of transfer

No. who are transferring with post

Promotion

New Recruits

Buncrana

6

6

0

1

2

Carrickmacross

2

6

0

0

0

Carrick-on-Shannon

107

11

2

5

0

Donegal

11

12

2

2

7

Drogheda

162

162

80

0

0

Sligo

66

51

4

2

0

Furthermore, a total of 180 employees have transferred to other Government Departments for the purposes of their decentralisation programme, of which 84 employees were Dublin based.

Departmental Bodies.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

299 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the boards, bodies, authorities, agencies and quangos under the remit of his Department; the date of establishment; the number of members, staff and budget for each of the past ten years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24092/07]

The Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs was established on the 6th June 2002. The Table details the Boards, Bodies, Agencies and Authorities within the ambit of the Department since its establishment in 2002 and includes the number of board members as well as details of staffing and budget for each of the years since then.

The Dormant Accounts Fund Disbursements Board was dissolved on 4th January 2006 in accordance with the Dormant Accounts (Amendment) Act 2005. A reconstituted Board (Dormant Accounts Board) was established under the same legislation. The fees, costs and expenses incurred by the Dormant Accounts Fund Disbursement Board were met directly from the Dormant Accounts Fund and no staff were directly employed by the Board. Details of the fees, costs and expenses incurred by the Board from its establishment to its dissolution in January 2006 are available in Annual Reports produced and published by the Board.

For the sake of completeness, I should add that the budgets provided in respect of Pobal relate only to this Department's programmes and schemes. Pobal also operate programmes and schemes on behalf of other Government Departments. Details of relevant spend for these are available from the Pobal annual reports or from the Pobal website www.pobal.ie.

Table: Amounts (actual/estimated) provided through the Vote of the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs

Name of Body/Board/Agency/ Authority

Date of Establishment

Number of Members

Staff and Expenditure 2002

Staff and Expenditure 2003

Staff and Expenditure 2004

Staff and Expenditure 2005

Staff and Expenditure 2006

Staff and Budget 2007

An Foras Teanga — comprising

Foras na Gaeilge

2 Nollaig 1999

16

*39 staff €13.4m

*40 staff€13.4m

*42 staff€14.021m

*46 staff€14.517m

*51 staff €14.811m

*48 staff €15.133m

Tha Boord o Ulstèr-Scotch

2 Nollaig 1999

8

4 staff €0.6m

4 staff €0.6m

6 staff €0.647m

8 staff €0.675m

9 staff €0.757m

12 staff €0.921m

Bord na Leabhar Gaeilge

1952

12

3 staff €880,000

3 staff €922,000

3 staff €950,000

3 staff €1,288.00

3 staff €950,000

3 staff €1,819,000

Board of the Commissioners of Charitable Donations and Bequests for Ireland

19th C.

10 plus 1 vacancy

8 staff €401,000

8 staff €413,000

8 staff €411,000

8 staff €429,000

8 staff€445,000

8 staff€465,000

Dormant Accounts Board

4th January 2006

11 (Current membership 10 with 1 vacancy)

n/a

n/a

n/a

n/a

The Board does not employ staff. Outturn €157,905, on fees and expenses, met from the Dormant Accounts Fund.

The Board does not employ staff. 2007 Estimates Provision is €200,000.

Pobal — formerly ADM

ADM reconstituted as Pobal July 2005

16

108 staff €57,565,746

121 staff €55,222,250

132 staff €66,998,573

161 staff €89,112,312

196 staff €144,729,994

227 staff €170,303,000

Údarás na Gaeltachta

1979

20

117 staff €42.975m**

116 staff €32.720m**

113 staff €33.193m**

107 staff €36.655m**

113 staff €42.776m**

113 staff €38.944m**

Western Development Commission (WDC)

01/02/2005

12

15 core staff€1,413,000

15 core staff €1,385,000

15 core staff €1,563,000

15 core staff €1,792,000

15 core staff €2,224,000

15 core staff €2,495,000

Oifig Choimisinéir na dTeangacha Oifigiúla

2004

n/a

Nil

Nil

6 staff €500,000

6 staff €700,000

6 staff €731,000

6 staff plus 3 additional posts sanctioned, €842,000

*Total of 65 posts sanctioned in principle to Foras na Gaeilge
**Údarás na Gaeltachta voted expenditure
†The amounts shown above do not reflect the full operating budget in each case as some of the bodies receive income/funding from other sources.

Anti-Poverty Strategy.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

300 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress made in his Department on the roll out of the poverty impact assessment to ensure that all policies are evaluated in terms of their potential impact on poverty and social inclusion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24102/07]

As the Deputy will be aware, the Minister for Social and Family Affairs circulated a new set of guidelines for Poverty Impact Assessment in July 2007. I can confirm that these Guidelines are taken into account, as appropriate, across my Department.

Decentralisation Programme.

Richard Bruton

Question:

301 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he has ascertained from all public service agencies involved in decentralisation the make-up of the 2,800 people who have taken up posts due to decentralise; the number of these who are transferring with their post from Dublin, who are transferring upon promotion and who are new recruits; and if he will set out the relevant data. [24676/07]

The only posts relevant to the question insofar as they relate to a body operating under the aegis of my Department are posts filled by Pobal in Clifden, Co. Galway.

The information is supplied in the table.

Numbers transferring with post

On Promotion

New recruits

0

1

21

Anti-Poverty Strategy.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

302 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the progress made in her Department on the roll out of the poverty impact assessment to ensure that all policies are evaluated in terms of their potential impact on poverty and social inclusion; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24099/07]

The development of policy within my Department is informed by consultation with a range of stakeholders as well as consideration of its impact on the physical, economic and social conditions of people living in rural areas, with particular emphasis on farm and fishing communities. In relation to the Rural Development Programme 2007-2013, my Department consulted with a number of groups involved either directly or indirectly with poverty and social inclusion such as the Combat Poverty Agency, European Anti-Poverty Agency, the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, Irish National Organisation for the Unemployed, Community Partnership Network, Irish Rural Link, Age Action Ireland and many other organisations who focused on the importance of poverty and social inclusion as part of their submissions.

My Department has engaged with the Office of Social Inclusion on the roll-out of the Poverty Impact Assessment guidelines and will be engaging with them further on implementation of the new guidelines.

Animal Deaths.

Dan Neville

Question:

303 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she will put in place a system that can react properly and carry out immediate post-mortems within hours and not weeks and months, as is the practice, on animals who are suspected of being affected by fall out from industrial plants. [24148/07]

A post-mortem diagnostic service, provided by my Department's Laboratory Service, has the capacity to respond rapidly to urgent disease outbreaks involving animal deaths. This involves a comprehensive pathology-based diagnostic service and is available throughout the year to herd and flockowners, in consultation with their veterinary practitioners. In all cases of unexpected on-farm death, immediate arrangements should be made by the herd or flockowner to have the carcase removed to the nearest Regional Veterinary Laboratory for post-mortem examination.

While in many cases post-mortems are undertaken on animals that die on-farm, post-mortems are also carried out in circumstances such as those referred to by the Deputy. Such latter cases generally involve the selection for slaughter of often healthy animals and the transfer of their carcases to one of the Department's laboratories. Once arrangements have been made, through the farmer's private veterinary practitioner, to get the carcase to the laboratory, post-mortems are conducted without delay and there is no question of such post-mortems taking any longer than is absolutely necessary though, depending on the nature of the tests that it may be necessary to run, it may be some time before post-mortem results can be confirmed.

Grant Payments.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

304 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if the area aid application for 2007 in the name of a person (details supplied) in County Galway has been accepted; when payment of the area based payment and the single farm payment will commence; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24184/07]

Following the recent receipt of acceptable evidence from the person named, it was decided to accept his 2007 Single Payment Scheme/Disadvantaged Areas Scheme application for processing. Payment under the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme is scheduled to issue to the person named today, 17 October, with the advance payment under the Single Payment Scheme due to issue to him shortly.

Food Industry.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

305 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she will make a commitment to the Irish meat producing sector that all meat served in the public service canteens in her Department will be from local sources. [24187/07]

The Restaurant Franchise holders in my Department source all meat from local suppliers who are part of the Féile Bia Programme administered by An Bord Bia.

Sheep Industry.

Ulick Burke

Question:

306 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she will revise the conditions and eliminate the anomalies in the implementation of the Malone sheep report which now restricts grant support to REP scheme four applicants and so denies most sheep farmers from benefit of grants; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24288/07]

The Sheep Industry Strategy Development Group, under the chairmanship of Mr. John Malone, issued its report in June 2006. The report contained a total of 37 recommendations as to how the future of the sheep sector could be secured going forward. I established an Implementation Group, also under the chairmanship of Mr. Malone, in July 2006, to oversee the implementation of the recommendations contained in the report. That Group reported to me in April this year.

The recommendations in the report relate to the development of the sector and refer to REPS in the context that sheep farmers are major beneficiaries of this scheme. The report does not set down conditions for applicants to REPS. I have however secured the European Commission's approval for a new supplementary measure in REPS 4 whose objective is to maintain and increase biodiversity on grassland by encouraging mixed grazing. REPS farmers with the appropriate mix of sheep and cattle can qualify for additional payments of up to €1,000 a year. The conditions are not onerous and I hope that sheep farmers will give serious consideration to the advantages that this new measure offers them.

Deer Population.

Billy Timmins

Question:

307 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of deer in County Wicklow; the percentage being tested for tuberculosis; the measures in place to cull the deer population; if there is correlation between the deer population and cattle herds being infected by TB; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24307/07]

Primary responsibility for all issues relating to wild deer rests with the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government. My Department does not have a role in the culling of wild deer or in relation to statistics on the deer population in Co. Wicklow. Any queries in relation to the deer population or proposals to cull deer in Wicklow should be taken up directly with the NPWS. I understand that the NWPS routinely issue licences, under a number of different categories, to shoot deer. One particular licence category is available to a farmer who suspects that deer are spreading disease to his livestock herd. My Department supports such licence applications by farmers and examines relevant post-mortem samples for TB.

Current research/epidemiological investigations indicate that the main source of TB infection in bovines is badgers and residual infection. However where epidemiological investigations indicate that the source of TB infection in bovines may be wild deer, which is infrequent, staff from my Department liaise with personnel from the NWPS with a view to taking samples from any wild deer that may be culled in the area. My Department has recently commenced a small preliminary exploration of strain types around a small number of TB infected farms in Wicklow in order to establish if there are any linkages between the TB strain in the deer and cattle population in the area. The results of this project are not yet to hand.

Decentralisation Programme.

Richard Bruton

Question:

308 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she has ascertained from all public service agencies involved in decentralisation the make-up of the 2,800 people who have taken up posts due to decentralise; the number of these who are transferring with their post from Dublin, who are transferring upon promotion and who are new recruits; and if she will set out the relevant data. [24673/07]

To the end of September, 329 civil servants have been assigned to posts in my Department under the decentralisation programme. Some 250 have already transferred to my Department's offices in Portlaoise. 180 of the 250 were Dublin-based and 70 were from other locations. Almost 50% of the assignments were as a result of applications to the Central Applications Facility, some internal but the majority from other Departments. 28% of assignments were on promotion. The remainder consists of officers who are either in the post or who requested a transfer internally.

Departmental Bodies.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

309 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Education and Science the boards, bodies, authorities, agencies and quangos under the remit of her Department; the date of establishment; the number of members, staff and budget for each of the past ten years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24093/07]

The information requested by the Deputy is not readily available in my Department and would involve an inordinate amount of administrative time to compile. Following is list of bodies under the aegis of my Department. If the Deputy has any queries in relation to a particular body then officials in my Department would be more than happy to discuss these with him.

Bodies under the Aegis of the Department

Advisory Council for English Language Schools

An Chomhairle um Oideachais Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaíochta

Centre for Early Childhood Development and Education

Commission on School Accommodation Needs

Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies

Education Finance Board

Further Education & Training Awards Council

Grangegorman Development Agency

Higher Education and Training Awards Council

Higher Education Authority

Integrated Ireland Language and Training Ltd.

International Education Board — Ireland

Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology

Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences

Léargas — The Exchange Bureau

National Centre for Technology in Education

National Centre Guidance in Education

National Council for Curriculum and Assessment

National Council for Special Education

National Education Welfare Board

National Qualifications Authority of Ireland

Residential Institution Redress Board

Royal Irish Academy of Music

Royal Irish Academy

State Examinations Commission

The President's Award — Gaisce

The Teaching Council

Anti-Poverty Strategy.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

310 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress made in her Department on the roll out of the poverty impact assessment to ensure that all policies are evaluated in terms of their potential impact on poverty and social inclusion; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24104/07]

Poverty proofing was introduced in 1998 on foot of a commitment in the first National Anti-Poverty Strategy. It is defined as "the process whereby Government policies and programmes are assessed at design, implementation and review stages in relation to their impact on poverty and on inequalities which are likely to lead to poverty, with a view to poverty reduction". Since 1998 it has been a requirement for significant policy proposals to indicate clearly the impact of a proposal on persons in poverty or at risk of falling into poverty.

Following a review of the poverty proofing process, the Office for Social Inclusion has produced a revised set of guidelines for what is now termed Poverty Impact Assessment. This change of name is intended to underline that the emphasis in the process should be on outcomes and that poverty impact assessment should form an integral part of the policy making process. The revised guidelines are designed to better assist policy makers across all levels of Government in evaluating policy proposals in terms of their potential impact on poverty. They include a number of new steps to make the process more useful and transparent and a requirement to monitor the impact of any policy change.

The revised guidelines have been published on the website of the Office for Social Inclusion and have been presented to all Government Departments, including the Department of Education and Science, who have responsibility for their implementation. My Department's Social Inclusion Unit, which is responsible for developing and promoting a co-ordinated response within the Department to tackling educational disadvantage at all levels of the formal and non-formal education sectors, is continuing to liaise with the Office for Social Inclusion with regard to the roll out of the guidelines.

Departmental Correspondence.

Finian McGrath

Question:

311 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science the outcome of her contacts with the Bureau of European Schools (details supplied). [24126/07]

My Department has not received a response from the Bureau of the European Schools as yet. The person to whom the Deputy refers has been in communication with my Department and was advised on 12/10/07 to make direct contact with the authorities of the European School in question.

Languages Programme.

Michael McGrath

Question:

312 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science the supports provided by her Department to primary schools in respect of English language support. [24127/07]

In order to meet the language needs of students in our schools whose first language is not English or Irish, additional support is given to their schools which can take the form of financial assistance, additional teaching posts or portions of posts. The level of extra financial or teaching support provided to any school is determined by the numbers of eligible non-English speaking students enrolled. I indicated in January last that the limit of two teachers per school and the limit of two years' support to an individual pupil which had applied up to then, will no longer apply. As a result, an individual school may be allocated up to six language support posts under the arrangements now in place.

Schools with between 3 and 13 eligible pupils receive grant assistance towards the cost of employing part-time teachers. Schools with 3 to 8 such pupils receive a grant of over €6,300, while schools with between 9 and 13 such pupils receive over €9,500. Schools with 14 or more such pupils are entitled to one or more language support teachers, the number of which has increased dramatically in recent years. There are now almost 1,400 language support teachers in our primary schools.

In order to ensure that schools can accurately and objectively assess the language requirement of children, my Department will be sending to schools assessment materials which have been developed by Integrate Ireland Language and Training (IILT). The assessment materials will enable schools to ensure that the specific language requirements of children needing support are met in a targeted way. The IILT materials will also enable accurate initial and on-going assessment of the language proficiency of the child and his or her need for continued language support.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Sean Fleming

Question:

313 Deputy Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will set out, in respect of County Laois, the name and roll number of each primary school; the number of students and mainstream teachers; and the pupil teacher ratio in each of these schools. [24150/07]

Information regarding the name, roll number and number of students for each school in 2006/07 can be found under Education Provider on the front page of my Department's website (www.education.gov.ie). Pupil Teacher Ratio in respect of all primary school is currently only available at national level and not disaggregated by county or any other variable.

Schools Building Projects.

Michael McGrath

Question:

314 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the appointment of a design team for an extension to a primary school (details supplied) in County Cork. [24153/07]

Officials in the Department have completed a technical visit of the school referred to by the Deputy with a view to determining the project brief. The future progression of the project will be considered in the context of the School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Grant Payments.

Richard Bruton

Question:

315 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science if she provides assistance towards the cost of commercial pilot training for mature students. [24162/07]

My Department does not provide grant assistance to persons wishing to obtain a private pilot's licence.

Schools Recognition.

Richard Bruton

Question:

316 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science the criteria which her Department uses to establish that a new multi-denominational school deserves permanent recognition. [24183/07]

New schools commence operation with provisional recognition and are generally required to complete a period of three years in this mode. Accommodation remains the Patron's responsibility until the Department is in a position to provide permanent accommodation, assuming the school achieves permanent recognition.

The following four main areas are examined in determining permanent recognition: the school must be operating in accordance with the Rules for National Schools; the school has determined its viability in terms of enrolment; the school's accommodation is deemed suitable to meet its needs for the short/medium term or until the Department is in a position to provide permanent accommodation; the school is meeting a need which is not already being met by existing schools. A new school, when it secures permanent recognition, becomes eligible for capital funding and is considered within the context of the Department's School Building and Modernisation Programme.

School Transport.

Mattie McGrath

Question:

317 Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science the criteria used when allocating school catchment areas; if there is a review of boundaries; and when it will take place. [24199/07]

The Programme for Government includes a commitment to review the school transport scheme, including catchment boundaries. My Department is currently considering how best to progress this task.

Youth Services.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

318 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Education and Science the outcome of the recent meeting with a group (details supplied) in County Louth; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24233/07]

I recently met a delegation from the group in question which briefed me on its work and financial support needs. While I took note of the work of the group and of its needs, I explained that the financial resources available to me for 2007 are committed and that I was not in a position to make any future commitments at this juncture. The position of Drogheda Youth Development will be kept under review.

Schools Building Projects.

Jack Wall

Question:

319 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the provision of schools in an area of high population density in County Kildare (details supplied); the number of meetings she or her Department has had or proposes to have with the relevant bodies and interested parties in the area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24235/07]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that a range of significant measures have been undertaken by the Department to address the current and future need for pupil places in the area in question.

A new primary school commenced operation in Newbridge from September 2007 under Catholic Patronage. The VEC agreed to use of a portion of its existing school site as a temporary location for the school. The Department is actively pursuing a more permanent accommodation solution for the new school.

A major building project is at an advanced stage of architectural planning for the provision of 16-classroom school for Newbridge Educate Together National School. A project to provide 4 additional classrooms at Gaelscoil Cill Dara is also at an advanced stage of architectural planning. Officials in the School Planning Section of the Department are in communication with the relevant authorities of the existing schools and Kildare County Council to determine how best to meet both the immediate and long-term educational needs of the area as expeditiously as possible.

School Curriculum.

Jack Wall

Question:

320 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science her views in relation to a submission (details supplied); the plans she has or is proposing to address the issue; the cost to her Department of such a proposal; the meetings she or her Department has had with the interested parties; if not, her plans to meet with the parties; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24243/07]

I am aware of the views of the Irish Science Teachers' Association in this matter. Significant progress has been made in progressing a range of areas highlighted in the Report of the Task Force on the Physical Sciences. A new science curriculum has been introduced at primary level supported by a resource grant in December 2004 of €1000 per school plus €10 per pupil. A revised syllabus in Junior Certificate Science was introduced in 2003 and it was examined for the first time in June 2006. Revised syllabi in Leaving Certificate Physics, Chemistry and Biology have also been introduced and examined within the last five years. Work on the revision of the two remaining Leaving Certificate subjects — Agricultural Science and Physics and Chemistry (combined) — has also been advanced.

The introduction of each of the revised syllabi has been supported by comprehensive in-service programmes for teachers. Additional equipment grants have been provided to schools, and laboratories continue to be refurbished as part of the ongoing school building programme. In that context, €16 million was issued to schools in 2004 to support the implementation of the revised Junior Certificate Science syllabus. Investment in the Programme of Research in Third Level Institutes (PRTLI) is continuing apace to enhance and promote world class standards in research, innovation and development.

My Department does not allocate provision for laboratory technicians/assistants in second level schools. The recommendation made by the Task Force Report in this area, in 2002 prices, was costed at €18.8m annually. The current cost of such provision is estimated at c.€24.6m for science subjects only, but could exceed €120m annually if applied to other practical subjects. While I have made it clear that I am not yet convinced of the need for lab assistants and that I believe that their provision would lead to demands for similar assistance in other subjects with a strong practical component, the Government is committed under the Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation to re-visit the issue.

As you will be aware, the Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation 2006 to 2013 sets out a range of measures to further strengthen science teaching and learning and improve the uptake of senior cycle Physics and Chemistry. These include ensuring that the project based hands-on investigative approach now in place at junior cycle is extended to senior cycle, that the appropriate type of assessment is used and that there is an emphasis on the inter-disciplinary nature of science in society.

Other aspects of the Plan include reviewing the implementation of the primary science curriculum to ensure its effectiveness in stimulating interest and awareness in science at a very young age; strengthening teacher training in this area; reforming maths and Leaving Certificate Physics and Chemistry curricula; promotion of science initiatives in Transition Year; and the provision of information and brochures on science opportunities and careers, linking effectively with school guidance services.

Taken together, the comprehensive set of measures provided for in the SSTI will build on the improvements made in recent years and ensure even greater support for science education.

Schools Building Projects.

Mary O'Rourke

Question:

321 Deputy Mary O’Rourke asked the Minister for Education and Science the situation with regard to enhanced school facilities for a school (details supplied) in County Westmeath; and if her attention has been drawn to the fact that this school operates a varied curriculum to a large number of students. [24283/07]

An application for major capital funding has been received from the school to which the Deputy refers. The application has been assessed in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria agreed with the education partners for large scale projects. Progress on the project is being considered in the context of the multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Site Acquisitions.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

322 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will confirm that Fingal County Council is correct in informing its councillors that the residual one acre reserved site at Littlepace, Clonee, Dublin 15 has been acquired at a cost of €3.5 million; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24284/07]

This site is being acquired under the Fingal School Model Agreement. Its acquisition is at an advanced stage. The Deputy will appreciate however that due to the commercial sensitivities of land acquisitions, that it would be inappropriate for me to comment on the detail in relation to specific land purchases until the acquisition is fully complete.

School Transport.

Ulick Burke

Question:

323 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will provide funding for the provision of a supervisor on all school buses to eliminate potential distractions to the driver; if she will provide for the provision of warning flashing lights to avoid injuries to students getting off school buses especially during the hours of darkness; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24290/07]

My Department allocates funding to schools to enable them to employ escorts on school transport services. These escorts are specifically engaged to cater for children with special educational needs whose care requirements are such as to necessitate continuous support. My Department has no plans currently to provide funding for the provision of supervisors on all school buses.

The Deputy will be aware that all dedicated school transport buses are now equipped with safety belts and pupils are required by law to wear these belts. In addition, Bus Éireann has issued a circular to parents of children travelling on school transport, inviting their co-operation, and that of their children, to help make the school transport journey as safe and comfortable as possible. The circular emphasises the importance of safety, the consequences of misbehaviour and the disciplinary measures which may be necessary.

A Warning Flashing Light pilot scheme on school buses was launched in Ennis, County Clare in 2005. It is planned to extend the pilot scheme shortly, in three specific areas, with a view to further testing the effectiveness of the equipment.

State Examinations.

Ulick Burke

Question:

324 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Education and Science if she is satisfied with the standard of allocation of grades in the leaving certificate examinations 2007 in view of the fact that 2,063 upgrades were granted on appeal; her views on whether this will have serious effect on allocation and availability of third level places at this late stage in the academic year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24291/07]

The State Examinations Commission has statutory responsibility for operational matters relating to the certificate examinations, including organising the holding of examinations and issuing the results of examinations. The number of upgrades awarded in the Leaving Certificate must be looked at in context. In the Leaving Certificate in 2007, there were 53926 candidates, of whom 3056 sat the Leaving Certificate Applied programme, 14080 sat the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme and the remainder sat the established Leaving Certificate. Over 350,000 subjects were graded, and around 700,000 subject components were examined. A total of 10,135 appeals were received, representing 2.9% of the overall subjects graded, and 2063 results, or 0.6% of the overall grades marked, were upgraded.

We can be proud that our Leaving Certificate operates to an extremely high level of fairness, quality and transparency. Results are published and subject to a high degree of public scrutiny, marking schemes are made available and candidates can view their scripts to ensure that the marking schemes have been fairly applied. This enables them to decide whether they should appeal their result, and is designed to ensure that any errors are addressed promptly. The results issued in August are provisional pending the result of such appeals.

When there is a change in grade as a result of an appeal, the Central Application Office is notified by the State Examinations Commission, and third level colleges are contacted as appropriate. The colleges make every effort to ensure that students are accommodated where the revised result gives entitlement to admission to a course, or that, if this cannot be facilitated, the admission is deferred to the following year.

School Accommodation.

Ulick Burke

Question:

325 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Education and Science the status of the application for a much needed class room extension at a school (details supplied) in County Galway as there is serious overcrowding at the school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24292/07]

The Department has no records of the national school to which the Deputy refers. In the circumstances, I assume the Deputy is referring to the application for capital funding towards an extension at the second level school in Loughrea, County Galway.

An assessment of projected enrolments, demographic trends and housing developments in the area will be required in order to assist in determining the long term projected enrolment for the school on which the school's long term accommodation needs will be based. When the long-term projected enrolment has been finalised and agreed with the school authorities the Department will draw up schedules of accommodation for the project which will be notified to the school management authority. The project will then be considered in the context of the multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Third Level Fees.

Ulick Burke

Question:

326 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will incorporate the cost of college registration fees in the third level maintenance grant for students; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24293/07]

Clause 5.4.1 of the 2007 Higher Education Grants Scheme and the Vocational Education Committee's Scholarship Scheme provides for the payment of a grant in respect of the charge for Student Services, Registration and Examinations.

Where a candidate qualifies for a maintenance grant and is pursuing an approved course to which the Free Fees Initiative applies or, would have qualified for a lecture fee grant but for the Free Fees Initiative, the paying agent shall, where applicable, award the candidate a grant in respect of the charge for student services, registration and examinations up to €825. Where a candidate qualifies for a maintenance grant and is pursuing an approved course at postgraduate level, the paying agent shall award a grant in respect of the charge for student services, registration and examinations of up to €825 provided the charge and the tuition fee does not exceed the maximum fee limit.

Departmental Expenditure.

Michael Ring

Question:

327 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science the amount spent to date on the land purchased and preliminary works for the new secondary school which had been proposed for a town (details supplied) in County Mayo; the proposed plans for this land; if it will be educational or otherwise; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24303/07]

Capital funding of some €381,000 was expended by my Department on the project in question. I am advised that County Mayo VEC is conducting an evaluation of all VEC lands and property, and the plans for the land in question will be considered as part of this evaluation.

Schools Building Projects.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

328 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science if a design team has been appointed to a school (details supplied) in County Kildare following an information seminar attended by representatives of the board of management in December 2006; her plans to progress this matter in early date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24491/07]

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that the process of appointing a Design Team for the school building project he refers to is at an advanced stage. Tender documents are currently being assessed by my Department's technical team. When this assessment is completed, a number of documents will be requested from the preferred consultants namely, Tax Clearance Certificate, evidence of Certified Turnover and evidence of suitable Professional Indemnity Insurance. Once these documents are checked and deemed appropriate, contracts will be signed and the architectural planning of the school project will be commenced.

Progression of the project to tender and construction will be considered in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Decentralisation Programme.

Richard Bruton

Question:

329 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science if she has ascertained from all public service agencies involved in decentralisation the make-up of the 2,800 people who have taken up posts due to decentralise; the number of these who are transferring with their post from Dublin, who are transferring upon promotion and who are new recruits; and if she will set out the relevant data. [24678/07]

A total of 125 officers employed by my Department in Dublin are assigned to posts in Dublin in which they will decentralise to Mullingar, Athlone or Tullamore. Thirty nine of these officers are committed to decentralise as a condition of their recruitment or promotion. The figures for the agencies under the aegis of my Department that are scheduled to decentralise are not to hand but I will arrange to have this information provided directly to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Anti-Poverty Strategy.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

330 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Defence the progress made in his Department on the roll out of the poverty impact assessment to ensure that all policies are evaluated in terms of their potential impact on poverty and social inclusion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24103/07]

The Department of Defence and the Defence Forces have very specific functions and roles as set out in the Defence Acts and in the White Paper on Defence. They have no direct role in the implementation of Government policies to relieve poverty and social exclusion. Nevertheless, where matters are submitted for consideration by Government, the Department does have regard to the procedures set out in the Cabinet Handbook in relation to "poverty-proofing" of proposed legislation and/or policy decisions.

Departmental Properties.

Michael McGrath

Question:

331 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Defence if his Department owns properties (details supplied) in County Cork; the number of units owned; and the future plans his Department has for the properties. [24152/07]

The property in question is vested in the Minister for Finance and comprises 3.5 acres approximately and includes four houses formerly used as married quarters for members of the Defence Forces. The Office of Public Works is in the process of disposing of the property.

David Stanton

Question:

332 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Defence the properties in County Cork in the ownership of his Department; the approaches that have been made to his Department in the past two years by companies or individuals interested in purchasing any of these properties; his plans to dispose of any of these properties in the next two years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24462/07]

Properties owned or administered by the Department of Defence in County Cork are as follows:

Ballincollig — Balance of lands at the former Murphy Barracks

Beál na Bláth — Collins Memorial Plot

Bere Island — Lands at Bere Island

Buttevant — 2 plots adjacent to Military Barracks

Castletownbere — Furious Pier

Cork City — 7 Eldred Terrace

Cork City — Collins Barracks

Crosshaven — Fort Templebreedy

Fermoy — RDF Premises

Fermoy — New Barracks, Fermoy

Kanturk — RDF Premises, Greenane

Haulbowline — Naval Base

Kilcrohane — RDF Premises

Kilworth — Kilworth Camp and Range

Macroom — RDF Premises

Mallow — RDF Premises

Middleton — RDF Premises

Shanbally — RDF Premises

Skibbereen — RDF Premises

Whitegate — Plot at Curtain's Wells Whitegate — Fort Davis

Youghal — RDF Premises

The Government, in July, 1998, approved a programme of evacuation and sale of six barracks considered surplus to military requirements, including two barracks in County Cork. Murphy Barracks, Ballincollig and Fitzgerald Camp, Fermoy. Most of the property at Murphy Barracks, Ballincollig has been sold and the disposal of the remaining lands is being progressed at present. Circa 19 acres at the former Fitzgerald Camp, Fermoy were sold to Cork County Council in 2001. An area of the Campfield, Collins Barracks, Cork is presently in progress of disposal to Cork City Council, while an area at Kilworth is being transferred to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. My Department's property portfolio is kept under on-going review. Properties deemed surplus to military requirements are disposed of and the funds invested to meet the equipment and infrastructure needs of the Defence Forces.

Inquiries are received in the Department from time to time in relation to the availability of properties for sale. During the past two years such enquiries have been received concerning lands on Bere Island; the plots adjacent to Military Barracks, Buttevant; Furious Pier, Castletownbere; Fermoy and the Reserve Defence Forces premises at Mallow, Shanbally and Youghal. The Department also receives enquiries from time to time in relation to local community access to and use of its properties.

Decentralisation Programme.

Richard Bruton

Question:

333 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Defence if he has ascertained from all public service agencies involved in decentralisation the make-up of the 2,800 people who have taken up posts due to decentralise; the number of these who are transferring with their post from Dublin, who are transferring upon promotion and who are new recruits; and if he will set out the relevant data. [24677/07]

The Government Decision on Decentralisation, announced by the Minister for Finance in his Budget Statement on 3 December 2003, provides for the transfer of all my Department's Dublin based Civil Service staff to Newbridge, County Kildare. Of the 128 staff currently serving in my Department and who are due to decentralise to Newbridge almost 30% of these were serving in my Department at the time the Government Decision was announced. The remainder have transferred into my Department in preparation for the move. Given that my Department was oversubscribed with applicants, it is unlikely that promotions or recruitment will be required to fill the full staffing complement for Newbridge.

Proceeds of Crime.

Tony Gregory

Question:

334 Deputy Tony Gregory asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the amounts returned to the Exchequer under the Proceeds of Crime Act 1996 each year for which there are records. [24192/07]

Details of the activities of the Criminal Assets Bureau since its establishment in 1996 are contained in the Annual Reports of the Bureau which are submitted to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. The most recently published report is for the year 2005. These reports are quite comprehensive and include details of the number of cases commenced, money frozen and returned to the Exchequer under the Proceeds of Crime Acts, 1996 and 2005, and money collected under the Revenue and Social Welfare Acts. Copies of the reports are available in the Oireachtas library.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the total amount which was returned to the Exchequer under the Proceeds of Crime Act 1996, for the period 1996 up to 16 October 2007 inclusive, is the sum of €5,626,790. This figure is deemed to be provisional pending the publication of the CAB Annual Reports for 2006 and 2007. As the Deputy will be aware, monies or property frozen pursuant to Section 2 or 3 of the Act, remain frozen for a period of at least seven years unless all relevant parties consent to a Section 4A Order. As the provisions relating to ‘consent' came into force in February 2005, only funds collected pursuant to the Act since 2003 could have been returned to the Exchequer since that time.

The first applications for "Disposal Orders" under Section 4 of the Act, instigated at the end of the statutory seven year period, came before the Courts in 2004. During that year the first two Section 4 applications were concluded and, following directions of the High Court, sums totalling €275,875.43 were sent to the Minister of Finance for the benefit of Central Funds. In 2005, Disposal Orders under Section 4 and Section 4A of Act realised a total of €2,002,738.41.

In addition to this, up to the end of 2006, almost €108 million was recovered by the Bureau in respect of tax debts and forwarded to the Exchequer. Again this figure is deemed to be provisional pending the publication of the CAB Annual Report for 2006 and this figure does not include those who have already been tax assessed and are currently being pursued through the Courts.

Furthermore, the total sums recovered and forwarded to the Exchequer (not including savings made) under the Social Welfare Vote, up to the end of 2006, as a consequence of investigations by the Criminal Assets Bureau is estimated to be approximately €1.12 million (this figure is deemed to be provisional pending the publication of the CAB Annual Reports for 2006). The tables provide more detail in respect of the above data with regard to the years 1996-2005 inclusive (the year of the most recently published CAB Annual Report). It should be noted that some of the figures quoted under Section 2 and 3 of the Proceeds of Crime Acts relate to real property, the value of which may have increased significantly since the making of the freezing order.

All funds collected by the Criminal Assets Bureau are forwarded, either directly or through the Revenue Commissioners/Department of Social and Family Affairs, to the Central Exchequer Fund under the remit of the Department of Finance and are allocated accordingly as approved by Dáil Éireann through the normal Estimates process.

Table 1 — Details of orders secured by CAB 1996 to date under the Proceeds of Crime legislation 1996/2005

Orders obtained under the proceeds of Crime Act 1996

Year

Value of Section 2 Interim Orders

Year

Value of Section 3 Interlocutory Orders

Value of Section 4 & 4a Disposal Orders

1996

€2,667,719

1996

€2,600,424

1997

€2,964,432

1997

€1,899,756

1998

€2,136,391

1998

€1,385,808

1999

€1,904,607

1999

€1,033,134

2000

€1,064,721

2000

€2,083,913

Stg£52,230

Stg£Nil

2001

€2,377,781

2001

€1,705,196

Stg£491,114

Stg£279,636

US$Nil

US$224,926

2002

€3,709,086

2002

€2,504,669

Stg£17,802,004

Stg£1,993,094

US$5,558,377

US$5,247,821

2003

€3,045,842

2003

€71,699

Stg£12,150

Stg£557,070

US$Nil

US$Nil

2004

€1,027,152

2004

€1,688,651

€275,875.43

Stg£6,115

Stg£375

2005

€5,860,355

2005

€1,200,526

€2,002,738.41

Stg£26,760

US$314,620

130,000

Total by Currency

€26,760,791

Total by Currency

€16,175,984

€2,278,613.84

Stg£18,363,613

Stg£2,856,934

US$5,872,997

US$5,377,821

Overall Total

€58m approx

Overall Total

€25 m approx

Table 2 — Details of monies secured by CAB through Revenue Actions.

Year Ending

Taxes Assessed

Taxes and Interest Demanded

Taxes Collected

1996

4,002,079

4,372,975

Nil

1997

7,946,235

6,616,207

251,700

1998

8,309,226

13,706,312

789,459

1999

9,971,706

71,083,072

2,998,207

2000

12,625,172

6,168,662

8,595,134

2001

18,638,050

8,344,701

23,561,666

2002

9,954,554

12,830,793

10,003,816

2003

7,405,114

7,198,272

9,997,022

2004

5,519,474

5,497,449

16,408,649

2005

14,078,812

4,888,818

16,376,599

Total

98,452,891

86,718,833

88,983,719

Table 3 — Social Welfare Savings/Recoveries made by CAB

Year

Overpayments assessed

Savings

Sums Recovered

1996

42,199

Nil

1997

235,878

296,634

1998

356,889

281,214

1999

416,163

341,527

2000

Nil

137,146

2001

317,404

192,803

166,279.82

2002

350,347

155,481

51,909.36

2003

518,885

109,654

199,702.77

2004

262,049

222,921

273,073.64

2005

338,296

216,054

293,948

Total

2,838,110

1,953,434

984,913.56

Anti-Poverty Strategy.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

335 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made in his Department on the roll out of the poverty impact assessment to ensure that all policies are evaluated in terms of their potential impact on poverty and social inclusion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24110/07]

As the Deputy is aware, poverty proofing was introduced in 1998 on foot of a commitment in the first National Anti-Poverty Strategy. It was defined as "the process whereby Government policies and programmes are assessed at design, implementation and review stages in relation to their impact on poverty and on inequalities which are likely to lead to poverty, with a view to poverty reduction". My Department , since 1998 has indicated in policy proposals brought before Government any potential impacts of a proposal on persons in poverty or at risk of falling into poverty.

Following a review of the poverty proofing process, the Office for Social Inclusion produced a revised set of guidelines for what is now termed Poverty Impact Assessment, underlying that the emphasis in the process should focus on outcomes and that poverty impact assessment should form an integral part of the policy making process.

Policy proposals in my Department are assessed having regard to a number of factors, including quality regulation, employment, poverty impact, industry costs, Gender Equality, and Rural Communities. In particular, within my Department, policy proposals which have an impact on the most vulnerable sectors, including policies aimed at people with disabilities, women, members of the travelling community, and immigrants and ethnic minorities are assessed in the context of the Poverty Impact Assessment process.

Public Order Offences.

Tom McEllistrim

Question:

336 Deputy Thomas McEllistrim asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress in setting up anti-social behaviour action teams in the local authority areas of County Kerry as set out in the programme for Government. [24122/07]

Brendan Kenneally

Question:

340 Deputy Brendan Kenneally asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress in setting up anti-social behaviour action teams in the local authority areas of Waterford City Council and Waterford County Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24143/07]

Mattie McGrath

Question:

348 Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress in setting up anti-social behaviour action teams in the local authority areas of south Tipperary as set out in the programme for Government. [24198/07]

Peter Power

Question:

357 Deputy Peter Power asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress in setting up anti-social behaviour action teams in the local authority areas of Limerick city and county as set out in the programme For Government. [24225/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 336, 340, 348 and 357 together.

I attach a high priority to the combating of anti-social behaviour. One of the priorities set for An Garda Síochána for 2007 under section 20 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 is addressing anti-social behaviour and behaviour adversely affecting the quality of life of communities, with particular emphasis on alcohol related behaviour. To this end An Garda Síochána are driving forward the establishment of interagency activities against anti-social behaviour, including the deployment of CCTV in urban areas. In addition, they are identifying local public order and anti-social behaviour hot spots and developing responsive actions and plans. In setting the policing priorities for 2008, I propose to make the area of public order one of these priorities.

The Agreed Programme for Government contains a wide range of commitments to combat anti-social behaviour. One of these commitments is the creation of Anti-social Behaviour Action Teams in each local authority area. I have asked my Department, in consultation with the relevant agencies, to draw up proposals for taking forward this matter as quickly as possible.

Tom McEllistrim

Question:

337 Deputy Thomas McEllistrim asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of behaviour warnings that have been issued in respect of adults and children in County Kerry under the ASBO legislation. [24123/07]

Seamus Kirk

Question:

338 Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of behaviour warnings issued under the Criminal Justice Act 2006 to adults, children and youths since their inception; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24141/07]

Mattie McGrath

Question:

347 Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of behaviour warnings that have been issued in respect of adults and children in Tipperary under the ASBO legislation. [24197/07]

Peter Power

Question:

358 Deputy Peter Power asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of behaviour warnings that have been issued in respect of adults and children in Limerick county and Limerick city under the ASBOs legislation. [24226/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 337, 338, 347 and 358 together.

Part 11 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006, which provides for civil proceedings in relation to anti-social behaviour by adults, was commenced on 1 January, 2007. Part 13 of the Act relating to anti-social behaviour by children was commenced on 1 March, 2007. These provisions set out an incremental procedure for addressing anti-social behaviour by adults and children. With regard to children, these range from a warning from a member of An Garda Síochána, to a good behaviour contract involving the child and his or her parents or guardian, to referral to the Garda Juvenile Diversion Programme and to the making of a behaviour order by the Children Court. I am informed by the Garda authorities that up to 30 September, 2007, 264 behaviour warnings to adults and 80 behaviour warnings to children were issued.

During the same period the Kerry Garda Division issued 14 behaviour warnings to adults and 1 behaviour warning to a child. The Tipperary Garda Division issued 5 behaviour warnings to adults and no behaviour warnings to children. The Limerick Garda Division issued 17 behaviour warnings to adults and 9 behaviour warnings to children. Figures are provisional, operational and liable to change.

Deportation Orders.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

339 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of women and girls deported to the Democratic Republic of Congo in the past twelve months; if the extent of gender based violence in the DRC is taken into consideration in deportation proceedings against women and girls; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24142/07]

In determining whether to make a deportation order or grant temporary leave to remain in the State, I must have regard to the eleven factors set out in Section 3 (6) of the Immigration Act, 1999, as amended, and Section 5 (Prohibition of Refoulement) of the Refugee Act, 1996, as amended.

The Deputy might wish to note that, in addition to the eleven factors contained in Section 3 (6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), I must, as stated earlier, also have regard for Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the Prohibition of Refoulement before making a deportation order. This essentially means that the safety of returning a person, or refoulement as it is commonly referred to, is fully considered in every case when deciding whether or not to make a deportation order i.e. that a person shall not be expelled from the State or returned in any manner whatsoever to a State where, in my opinion, the life or freedom of that person would be threatened on account of his or her race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. My Department uses extensive country of origin information drawn from different independent sources in evaluating the safety of making returns to third countries.

Each asylum application received from a citizen of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), whether male or female, is considered on the basis of the facts, individual circumstances and merits of the case presented and a final decision is reached following a comprehensive examination and investigation of these facts, merits and circumstances taking full account of the political and human rights conditions prevailing in DR Congo and the latest reports of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.

Since the commencement of the Immigration Act, 1999, as amended, my predecessors have signed a total of 118 deportation orders in respect of nationals of the DR Congo. In the past twelve months the Garda National Immigration Bureau has not enforced any deportation orders in respect of women and girls who are nationals of the DR Congo.

Question No. 340 answered with QuestionNo. 336.

Youth Diversion Projects.

Michael McGrath

Question:

341 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of an application for a Garda youth diversion project for Carrigaline, County Cork. [24154/07]

Garda Youth Diversion Projects are community-based, multi-agency crime prevention initiatives which seek to divert young people from becoming involved (or further involved) in anti-social and/or criminal behaviour by providing suitable activities to facilitate personal development, and promote civic responsibility and improve long-term employability prospects. By doing so, the projects also contribute to improving the quality of life within communities and enhancing Garda/community relations.

The recent establishment of 12 new Garda Youth Diversion Projects brings the current total to 93 projects operating throughout the country. This represents significant progress towards fulfilling the pledge made by the Government to increase the number of Garda Youth Diversion Projects in Ireland to 100 by the end of this year. I am confident that this target is an attainable one.

The Garda Commissioner brings forward proposals to me for the establishment of new Garda Youth Diversion Projects following periodic assessment of applications received from community groups etc. The locations for new Projects are selected on the basis of factors including an increase in the level of juvenile crime in the area and the number of young people referred to the Juvenile Diversion Programme.

There are currently 10 Projects operating in Co. Cork, the most recent of these was established in Togher in September of this year. In total, funding in excess of €700,000 has been allocated to projects operating in Co. Cork for 2007 to cover operating costs. I can confirm that an application to establish a Garda Youth Diversion Project in Carrigaline, Co. Cork has been received by the Commissioner's Office of An Garda Síochána. This application is currently being assessed by An Garda Síochána in conjunction with my Department.

Citizenship Applications.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

342 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of an application for citizenship by a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24; and when a decision is due; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24167/07]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Section of my Department in October 2005.

Officials in that Section are currently processing applications received at the beginning of 2005 and have approximately 3,500 applications on hand to be dealt with before that of the person concerned. These are generally dealt with in chronological order as this is deemed to be the fairest to all applicants. It is likely, therefore, that further processing of the application will commence in the first half of 2008. I will inform the Deputy of the outcome of this application.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

343 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of an application for citizenship by a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24; when a decision is due; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24168/07]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Section of my Department in October 2005.

Officials in that Section are currently processing applications received at the beginning of 2005 and have approximately 3,500 applications on hand to be dealt with before that of the person concerned. These are generally dealt with in chronological order as this is deemed to be the fairest to all applicants. It is likely, therefore, that further processing of the application will commence in the first half of 2008. I will inform the Deputy of the outcome of this application.

Niall Blaney

Question:

344 Deputy Niall Blaney asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of an application by a person (details supplied) in County Donegal for citizenship; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24181/07]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Section of my Department in September 2005. Officials in that section inform me that processing of the application has commenced and the file will be forwarded to me for a decision in the very near future. I will inform the Deputy of the outcome of this application.

Garda Deployment.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

345 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to a reduction in the Garda force at a town (details supplied) in County Laois. [24190/07]

I have been informed by the Garda Commissioner that as of 30 September 2007, the personnel strength of Mountmellick Garda Station was 5. A vacancy has arisen in September 2007 due to a promotion in the Station. The Deputy will appreciate that, as with any large organisation, on any given day, the overall strength of the organisation may fluctuate due, for example, to promotions, retirements, resignations etc. It is the responsibility of the Garda Divisional Officer to allocate personnel within his or her Division taking everything into account.

The situation will be kept under review by the Garda Commissioner and when the next allocation of Probationer Gardaí takes place on the 23rd November 2007, the needs of the Laois/Offaly Division, which includes Mountmellick Garda Station, will be fully considered in this allocation within the overall context of the needs of Garda Stations, throughout the country.

Immigration Policy.

Finian McGrath

Question:

346 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if assistance will be given to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9. [24196/07]

The circumstances of the person referred to by the Deputy are currently under enquiry, pursuant to the Immigration Act, 2004. The person concerned will be advised in early course of the outcomes of these enquiries.

Question No. 347 answered with QuestionNo. 337.
Question No. 348 answered with QuestionNo. 336.

Joint Policing Committees.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

349 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when it is expected that the evaluation review of the pilot joint policing committees will be undertaken and completed; and the form the review will take. [24206/07]

The Garda Síochána Act 2005 provides for the establishment of a joint policing committee in each local authority administrative area. The purpose of these committees is to provide a forum where members of a local authority and the senior Garda officers responsible for the policing of that area, with the participation of Oireachtas members and community interests, can consult, discuss and make recommendations on matters affecting the policing of the area including the levels and patterns of anti-social behaviour such as the misuse of alcohol and drugs. There are currently 29 committees established as part of a pilot project, including in the Dublin City Council area. In addition, because of the extent of the Dublin City Council area, five subcommittees, corresponding to the five operational areas of the City Council, have been established.

The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and I are examining what lessons can be learned from the operation of the pilot committees. As an initial step, we propose to hold a consultation seminar on the experiences gained in the operation of the pilot projects. The outcomes of the seminar will be an important input to the evaluation. We intend to have committees up and running in all local authority areas as early as possible in 2008.

Voluntary Sector Funding.

Jack Wall

Question:

350 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if within his Department there is funding available to groups (details supplied) who are involved in the support mechanism for families and persons who suffer domestic violence in regard to the training of personnel to meet the demands placed on such groups and their personnel and whom due to lack of funding are not in a position to provide such funding themselves; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24209/07]

As I informed the Deputy in my reply to Question Nos. 212 and 213 of Thursday, 28th June, 2007, my Department primarily funds perpetrator programmes and awareness raising campaigns. The budget for these activities has increased ten-fold over the past five years with €2.185 million available to my Department for 2007. Under the National Development Plan 2007-2013, my Department has been allocated €21m for the expansion of our supports to perpetrator programmes and awareness raising initiatives on domestic, sexual and gender-based violence.

In addition, the Deputy will be aware that the Commission for the Support of Victims of Crime was established by my Department to devise an appropriate framework for victims of crime and to disburse funding for victim support measures. Since 2005, the Commission has provided funding of close to €2.4m to approximately 40 groups involved in the support of victims of crime, including organisations supporting victims of domestic violence.

These initiatives complement the Government's existing funding for the care of victims of domestic violence delivered through the health and social services sector and through relevant non-governmental organizations. Funding to front-line services is provided primarily by the Department of Health and Children through the Health Service Executive. I understand that €16.5 million is allocated to the sector in 2007, an increase of over 30% on 2006 levels.

Garda Strength.

Jack Wall

Question:

351 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of gardaí specially trained within each division of the Garda to deal with domestic violence incidents; if such personnel receive refresher courses; if such personnel meet in group sessions to ensure consistency of the Garda guidelines in relation to such occurrences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24212/07]

I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that as part of Student/Probationer training all members of the Garda Síochána receive instruction in the investigation of incidents relating to domestic violence. Student/Probationer instruction covers domestic violence in two study areas, namely Social and Psychological Studies and Legal & Policing Studies.

Additional training is also provided as part of the Continuous Professional Development programmes and a dedicated training programme is in place for those selected for Detective Branch. Continuous Professional Development incorporated Domestic Violence on the 1997 Core Programme for all members of Garda and Sergeant rank after the Domestic Violence Act came into force in 1996. Furthermore, a policy document was issued to all members.

The Core Continuous Professional Development Programme for 2006 contained a module on Sexual Crime, developed in consultation with the Rape Crisis Counselling Network and covered some areas pertinent to domestic violence. The situation is kept under constant review by the Continuous Professional Development Unit. A number of selected members of the Garda Síochána in all Garda Divisions are currently undergoing training as special victim interviewers for vulnerable persons and for persons who have been the subject of sexual assault.

There is a Garda Inspector in each Garda Division nominated to monitor all incidents of domestic violence within the Division and to ensure that members of the Garda Síochána investigating such incidents adhere to the Garda Síochána Policy on domestic violence.

Legal Aid Service.

Jack Wall

Question:

352 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the period of time an applicant must wait for an appointment at the free legal aid centres in Newbridge, Portlaoise and Carlow; the number on the waiting list in each area; the number seeking barring orders that are on the waiting list; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24213/07]

I can inform the Deputy that the present position regarding waiting times at the Legal Aid Board's law centres is that legal services are being provided to all eligible persons within a maximum period of four months. The table shows the length of time the person longest on the waiting list has waited for legal services in addition to the number of people on the waiting list at each of the specified law centres.

The Board does not specifically retain information in relation to the number of people seeking barring orders. However, the Deputy should note that the Board continues to provide a priority service to certain categories of cases that have been identified as requiring an immediate or near immediate service. The types of cases which are regarded as priority include domestic violence, (including barring orders), child abduction, child care and cases involving statutory time limits. In essence, this means that anyone applying for legal aid, who comes within one of the above categories, would not be put on a waiting list, but would be dealt with immediately.

Law Centre

Waiting time

Number on waiting list

Newbridge

2 months

26

Portlaoise

3 months

24

Carlow

2 months

16

Asylum Applications.

Peter Power

Question:

353 Deputy Peter Power asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he expects to make a decision on the application by a person (details supplied) for leave to remain in Ireland. [24220/07]

It is not the practice to comment in detail on individual asylum applications. As the Deputy will be aware, applications for refugee status in the State are determined by an independent process comprising the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal which make recommendations to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on whether such status should be granted. A final decision in this case will be made upon receipt of the decision of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Residency Permits.

Peter Power

Question:

354 Deputy Peter Power asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he expects to make a decision on the application by a person (detail supplied) for a stamp four. [24221/07]

The position in relation to granting long term residency is as follows: Persons who have been legally resident in the State for over five years on the basis of work permit/work authorisation/work visa conditions may apply to the Immigration Division of my Department for a five year residency extension. In that context they may also apply to be exempt from employment permit requirements.

The dependants of the aforementioned, who have been legally resident in the State for over five years may also apply for long term residency. This particular long term permission does not grant an exemption from employment permit requirements to any such dependants. Time spent in the State on student conditions cannot be counted towards long term residency. While applications for long term residency are under consideration, the person concerned should ensure that their permission to remain in the State is kept up to date. An application for long term residence from the person referred to by the Deputy was received in September 2006. I understand that applications received in July 2006 are currently being dealt with.

Visa Applications.

Peter Power

Question:

355 Deputy Peter Power asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his Department has received an application for a holiday visa from a person (details supplied); and when he expects to make a judgment on the application. [24222/07]

The application referred to by the Deputy was received in the Visa Office, Dublin on 3 October 2007. It was refused by the Visa Officer on 11 October 2007 for a number of reasons:

There was insufficient documentation submitted in support of the application

The application form was unsigned

Documents provided were not translated

Financial evidence provided was deemed insufficient or incomplete

No letter of invitation was submitted with the application

Obligations to return home were not deemed sufficient

It was the opinion of the Visa Officer that the applicant would not observe the conditions of the visa and overstay following the proposed visit.

The decision of the Visa Officer may be appealed within two months of the date of decision, in this case, before 11 December 2007. Guidelines on making an appeal can be found on the website of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service at www.inis.gov.ie

Prison Staff.

Peter Power

Question:

356 Deputy Peter Power asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if it is possible to extend an employee’s contract in the Irish Prison Service beyond the age of 60 (details supplied). [24223/07]

The conditions of service for a prison officer appointed prior to 1st April, 2004 provide that a person with 30 years of actual service in the Prison Service may retire at any time after age 50 but, regardless of length of service, retirement is usually compulsory at the age of 60. The only exceptions are where an officer's retention is clearly in the interests of the Service or where they fulfil the criteria as defined by the Department of Finance in relation to hardship cases. I am informed by the Director General of the Irish Prison Service that the case of the officer referred to by the Deputy has been considered and he has been found not to be eligible for retention.

Question No. 357 answered with QuestionNo. 336.
Question No. 358 answered with QuestionNo. 337.

Visa Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

359 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding family reunification in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24510/07]

I am informed by the Immigration Division of my Department that the person in question made a Family Reunification application in January 2006. The application was forwarded to the Refugee Applications Commissioner for investigation as required under Section 18 of the Refugee Act 1996. This investigation has been completed and the Commissioner has forwarded a report to my Department. This application will be considered by my Department and a decision will issue in due course. At the present time Family Reunification applications are taking up to 24 months to process.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

360 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the extent to which an application for naturalisation has been progressed in the case of persons (details supplied) in Dublin 24; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24511/07]

Applications for certificates of naturalisation from the persons referred to in the Deputy's Question were received in the Citizenship Section of my Department in March 2005. Officials in that section inform me that further processing of the applications has commenced and the files will be submitted to me for a decision in the coming months. I will inform the Deputy of the outcome at that time.

Decentralisation Programme.

Richard Bruton

Question:

361 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has ascertained from all public service agencies involved in decentralisation the make-up of the 2,800 people who have taken up posts due to decentralise; the number of these who are transferring with their post from Dublin, who are transferring upon promotion and who are new recruits; and if he will set out the relevant data. [24683/07]

I would refer the Deputy to yesterday's reply to parliamentary questions 24435 /07 and 24449/07 in relation to my Department's Decentralisation Programme. Very significant progress has been made and by the end of this year, close to five hundred posts, from twelve agencies under the aegis of my Department, will have transferred to seven provincial locations. This represents 50% of the total numbers involved.

All of the posts scheduled to move from my Department's agencies are civil service posts. They are sourced directly from the Central Applications Facility and the question, therefore, of recruitment to these posts does not generally arise. The number of promotions has been limited to twenty-three and I can also confirm that thirty officers have transferred in their existing posts.

Special Protection Areas.

Enda Kenny

Question:

362 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position regarding sheep farmers on the Nephin Beg mountain range; if the sheep farmers in question agreed to destock numbers to 30% of their respective quotas and remove sheep off the mountain for five months of the year; if having taken this action sheep farmers have since been told that only 20 to 25 sheep per flock are being allowed back on the mountain after the five month holding period; if he will confirm that this is not what farmers were told and understood that they had agreed to; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24121/07]

Overgrazing of livestock in the Nephin Beg area has given rise to environmental problems, particularly loss of vegetation and soil erosion in commonages. In this regard, damage to the habitat of the Red Grouse in the Owenduff/Nephin Beg Complex Special Protection Area (SPA) in County Mayo has been the subject of a continuing infringement case, under the Birds Directive, taken against Ireland by the European Commission in the European Court of Justice. A Commission Reasoned Opinion of 18 October 2006 states that the Irish authorities must implement measures and demonstrate improvements in this area and in other commonages.

My Department, in cooperation with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Commission, has been working with farming interests to resolve the issue of appropriate commonage management, which is made complex by the multiple shareholdings involved. This will be achieved through the amendment of existing REPS plans, or the preparation of an agri-environmental farm plan through a special National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) scheme. General principles applicable to these amended plans have been agreed with farming interests and are as follows: All active farmers who wish to continue to farm within the SPA must be in an approved agri-environmental plan. Full destocking as provided for in the commonage plans will be delivered. There will be a closed period in commonages (and adjacent unfenced privately owned SPA) for five months (1 November to 31 December and 14 February to 13 May) during which there will be no stock allowed go to the hills. Farm planners have been issued with guidelines on appropriate stocking regimes based on the condition of the commonages to which farmers wish to return stock.

Compensation is payable in the NPWS scheme for destocked sheep and offwintered sheep. Where the existing REPS plan does not provide for this destocking, NPWS will also pay €2000 per annum to each farmer. The purpose of these initiatives is to ensure that ecological recovery takes place in damaged commonages in the area. The number of sheep that are allowed return to the commonage is based on the best available scientific advice, and will vary according to individual and local circumstances in each commonage, as well as the number of shares that a farmer holds in the commonage. In some cases it may be restricted to 25 sheep but in other cases it may be considerably greater. Farmers will be given a summer allocation of stock to the hill for seven months, which may be increased if returned for a period shorter than seven months.

It is important that the destocking measures negotiated locally and summarised above be implemented. I am hopeful that the infringement proceedings taken by the European Commission can be resolved on the basis of real progress in securing recovery of damaged habitats.

Air Pollution.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

363 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if, arising from air pollution monitoring outposts throughout the country, he has noticed an increase in particular forms of pollution; if he proposes action in response thereto; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24467/07]

The situation remains broadly similar to that of 10 October when the Deputy raised this matter. Air quality assessment is the responsibility of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and air quality management is a matter for local authorities informed by air quality measurement data. The EPA's Air Quality in Ireland 2006, published on 10 October 2007, contains details of the monitoring and assessment of national air quality, and incorporates data from all air quality monitoring stations operated by the EPA and local authorities, including monitors in Co. Kildare. Air quality was good throughout the country in 2006 and complied with the air quality standards in force for all pollutants. The report is available on the EPA's website www.epa.ie.

Where the indicative level for any pollutant is exceeded, the Air Quality Standards Regulations 2002 require the local authority concerned, following notification by the Agency, to develop a long-term air quality management plan to ensure compliance with the thresholds for the relevant pollutant or pollutants, including those arising from traffic. As the monitoring in 2006 indicated that air quality in Ireland is good and complied with the air quality standards in force for all pollutants, I understand that the EPA required no local authority to develop a long-term air quality management plan.

Departmental Bodies.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

364 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the boards, bodies, authorities, agencies and quangos under the remit of his Department; the date of establishment; the number of members, staff and budget for each of the past ten years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24094/07]

The information requested in relation to the state bodies and boards under the aegis of my Department was compiled in response to Question No. 519 of 2 October 2007 and forwarded to the Deputy on 15 October 2007. The information concerned is also set out in the table.

Name of body/board

Date of establishment

No. of members

No. of staff

Budget

Year applicable

Affordable Homes Partnership

2005

9

6

1,100,000

2005

9

6

26,835,263

2006

9

10

26,960,737

2007

An Bord Pleanála(1)

1977

9

82.5

4,933,323

1998

10

94.5

6,232,331

1999

10

102.5

7,702,756

2000

10

138

10,432,447

2001

12

138

13,837,674

2002

12

138

13,233,970

2003

10

136.5

17,731,540

2004

10

146.5

18,799,861

2005

10

160.5

20,913,350

2006

10

160.5

15,294,000(2)

2007

Building Regulations Advisory Body

1998

20

Nil

19,000

1998

20

Nil

19,000

1999

20

Nil

19,000

2000

20

Nil

19,000

2001

19

Nil

19,000

2002

19

Nil

18,000

2003

19

Nil

19,000

2004

19

Nil

19,000

2005

19

Nil

20,000

2006

21

Nil

20,000

2007

An Chomhairle Leabharlanna

1947

13

14

1,464,423

1998

13

14

1,611,987

1999

13

14

1,342,571

2000

13

14

2,253,371

2001

13

14

2,166,515

2002

13

14

2,916,685

2003

13

14

2,285,463

2004

13

14

3,617,774

2005

13

14

2,634,189

2006

13

14

3,913,457(3)

2007

Comhar Sustainable Development Council

1999

26

3

228,000

1999

26

3

232,000

2000

26

3

238,000

2001

26

3

248,000

2002

26

3

250,000

2003

26

3

227,800

2004

26

3

156,500

2005

26

3

320,000

2006

26

4

320,000

2007

Designated Areas Appeals Advisory Board

1998

5

0.5

42,303

1999(4)

5

0.5

54,658

2000

5

0.5

12,977

2001

5

0.5

56,713

2002

5

0.5

33,868

2003

5

0.5

72,559

2004

5

0.5

64,102

2005

5

0.5

89,886

2006

5

1

100,000

2007

Dublin Docklands Development Authority Board(5)

1997

8

N/A

N/A

1998

8

N/A

N/A

1999

8

N/A

N/A

2000

8

N/A

N/A

2001

8

N/A

N/A

2002

8

N/A

N/A

2003

8

N/A

N/A

2004

8

N/A

N/A

2005

8

N/A

N/A

2006

Dublin Docklands Development Council(5)

1997

26

N/A

N/A

1998

26

N/A

N/A

1999

26

N/A

N/A

2000

26

N/A

N/A

2001

26

N/A

N/A

2002

26

N/A

N/A

2003

26

N/A

N/A

2004

26

N/A

N/A

2005

26

N/A

N/A

2006

26

N/A

N/A

2007

Environmental Protection Agency(1)

1993

17(6)

179

14,795,109

1998

17

204

15,974,235

1999

17

220

22,255,671

2000

17

242

25,825,561

2001

17

242

24,464,929

2002

17

250

29,124,882

2003

17

250

33,720,089

2004

17

264

39,754,488

2005

17

290

46,390,598

2006

17

290

57,200,000(3)

2007

Fire Services Council

1983

14

6

240,000

1998

14

6

273,000

1999

14

6

342,000

2000

14

6

414,000

2001

14

6

368,000

2002

14

6

372,000

2003

14

6

377,000

2004

14

6

435,000

2005

14

6

379,000

2006

14

6

634,000

2007

The Heritage Council

1995

15

15

5,079,000

1998

15

15

6,450,000

1999

15

15

6,980,000

2000

15

15

10,140,000

2001

15

15

10,498,000

2002

15

15

9,370,000

2003

15

15

10,178,000

2004

15

15

8,987,000

2005

15

15

10,970,000

2006

15

15

11,800,000

2007

Housing Finance Agency

1981

12

11

781,000

1998

12

11

916,999

1999

12

11

912,000

2000

12

11

1,211,000

2001

12

12

1,337,000

2002

12

12

1,606,000

2003

12

12

1,574,000

2004

12

12

1,610,000

2005

12

12

1,754,000

2006

12

12

1,834,000

2007

Irish Water Safety(7)

1999

12

5

505,441

2000

12

5

553,274

2001

12

5

827,662

2002

12

5

702,513

2003

12

5

772,977

2004

12

5

866,078

2005

12

5

963,556

2006

12

5

1,000,000(3)

2007

Limerick Northside Regeneration Agency

June 2007

15

15 (shared with Limerick Southside Regeneration Agency

Expenditure of 450,000 between the Limerick Northside and the Limerick Southside Regeneration Agencies has been sanctioned in respect of projected salary and start up costs 2007

2007

Limerick Southside Regeneration Agency

June 2007

15

15 (shared with Limerick Northside Regeneration Agency

Expenditure of 450,000 between the Limerick Northside and the Limerick Southside Regeneration Agencies has been sanctioned in respect of projected salary and start up costs 2007

2007

Local Government Computer Services Board

1975

11

109

4,971,569

1998

11

93

5,838,459

1999

11

81

8,485,915

2000

11

89

11,319,264

2001

11

93

19,380,215

2002

11

95

19,370,566

2003

11

95

19,796,925

2004

11

92

18,885,050

2005

11

96

15,056,158

2006

11

96

15,000,000

2007

Local Government Management Services Board

1997

13

16

936,056

1998

13

19

1,911,062

1999

11

19

5,037,114

2000

11

16

5,105,097

2001

11

21

5,177,046

2002

13

23

6,221,420

2003

13

28

7,109,595

2004

13

28

7,695,132

2005

13

32

8,998,541

2006

13

30

9,500,000(3)

2007

National Building Agency

1960

13

52

2,773,000

1998

13

51

2,984,000

1999

12

57

3,356,000

2000

12

61

4,111,000

2001

13

59

4,343,000

2002

13

56

4,158,000

2003

13

57

4,615,000

2004

13

57

4,888,000

2005

12

61

5,374,000

2006

12

61

5,844,000

2007

Private Residential Tenancies Board

2004

14

26

267,259

2004

14

27

2,176,992

2005

14

27

3,480,435

2006

14

27

3,818,000(3)

2007

Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII)

1992

12

45

1,913,890

1998

12

45

2,159,000

1999

12

45

2,217,000

2000

12

45

2,641,000

2001

12

45

2,715,000

2002

12

45

3,068,000

2003

12

46

3,310,000

2004

12

46.2

3,663,000

2005

12

46.2

4,662,000

2006

12

46.2

3,971,000

2007

The Rent Tribunal

1983

9

Nil

79,220

1998

9

Nil

83,110

1999

9

Nil

95,583

2000

9

Nil

104,689

2001

9

Nil

160,842

2002

9

Nil

85,760

2003

8

Nil

99,966

2004

8

Nil

64,282

2005

7

Nil

187,661

2006

7

Nil

53,000

2007

Notes:

(1)In the case an Bord Pleanála and the Environmental Protection Agency the budget listed includes Oireachtas grants and own resource income.

(2)The budget listed for An Bord Pleanála in respect of 2007 does not include own resource income.

(3)The budget listed for an Chomhairle Leabharlanna, the Environmental Protection Agency, Irish Water Safety, Local Government Management Services Board and the Private Residential Tenancies Board in respect of 2007 is provisional.

(4)In the case of the Designated Areas Appeals Advisory Board, 1999 was the first year in respect of which expenditure arose.

(5)As the Dublin Docklands Development Authority is not publicly funded details relating to its staffing and budget are not included.

(6)In the case of the Environmental Protection Agency the membership consists of 5 board members and 12 Advisory committee members

(7)The budget listed for Irish Water Safety includes Oireachtas grants, local authority contributions and own resource income.

Anti-Poverty Strategy.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

365 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress made in his Department on the roll out of the poverty impact assessment to ensure that all policies are evaluated in terms of their potential impact on poverty and social inclusion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24106/07]

Poverty proofing was introduced in 1998 on foot of a commitment in the first National Anti-Poverty Strategy. It is defined as ‘the process whereby Government policies and programmes are assessed at design, implementation and review stages in relation to their impact on poverty and on inequalities which are likely to lead to poverty, with a view to poverty reduction'. Since 1998 it has been a requirement for significant policy proposals to indicate clearly the impact of a proposal on persons in poverty or at risk of falling into poverty.

Following a review of the poverty proofing process, the Office for Social Inclusion has produced a revised set of guidelines for what is now termed Poverty Impact Assessment and these guidelines were presented to my Department in 2006.

The following is the position regarding the implementation of Poverty Impact Assessments in my Department: the Centre for Housing Research has been engaged by my Department to carry out a Poverty Impact Assessment on the revised Government Strategy on Homelessness, which is currently being prepared. Two consultation events in relation to this Poverty Impact Assessment took place earlier this year with relevant stakeholders; a Poverty Impact Assessment will be carried out later this year in respect of the new private rented accommodation standards regulations;

A Poverty Impact Assessment on the review of Part L of the Building Regulations, dealing with energy efficiency of new homes, will be carried out before the end of the year. Poverty Impact Assessments will continue to be used as an effective tool in ensuring that the priority of combating poverty and social exclusion is kept to the fore in policy making by my Department.

Local Authority Housing.

John Curran

Question:

366 Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the figures for each local authority stating the number of houses sold under the tenant purchase scheme over the past five years; and the number of these houses that were subsequently re-sold within 12 and 24 months of their purchase. [24119/07]

Data on the sale of local authority houses to tenants in the period 2002 to 2006 are contained in section 6 of the recently published Annual Housing Statistics Bulletin 2006, copies of which are available in the Oireachtas Library and on my Department's website at www.environ.ie. The information sought on the resale of such houses is not available in my Department.

Michael McGrath

Question:

367 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his Department plans to review the imposition of conditions by local authorities on certain property transfer orders (details supplied). [24129/07]

I have no function in relation to individual property transactions under the tenant purchase scheme, which are the responsibility of the local authority concerned, operating within the framework set down in primary legislation and regulations made thereunder.

Article 85(2) of the Housing Regulations 1980 prescribes the form of the transfer order for the purchase of the fee simple in local authority houses originally sold to tenants by way of leasehold. I will review the form of such transfer orders as part of a broader package of reforms to the tenant purchase scheme that is being examined in the context of the Social Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, which is currently being drafted in the Office of the Attorney General.

Fire Service.