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 9, inclusive, answered orally.

Pension Provisions.

Tom Hayes

Question:

10 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the date the long-term pension framework will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17066/09]

As the House is aware, the Green Paper on Pensions was published in October 2007 and was followed by an extensive consultation process which concluded at the end of May 2008. Almost 400 submissions were received on the range of issues presented in the Green Paper, indicating a strong desire for pension reform but there was little consensus on the type of reforms required.

The Government is faced with very difficult decisions in this area and this has become even more challenging over the last number of months. The current financial difficulties mean that many defined benefit schemes are in a deficit position and many people have seen their savings eroded. In this context, and to follow on from measures taken in December last year, the Government has just announced plans for the introduction of a Pensions Insolvency Payment Scheme to assist workers in defined benefit schemes where the employer has become insolvent.

I am aware that this is only one aspect of the many challenges facing pension provision in this country. We are also faced with challenges in relation to pension coverage, the sustainability of our pension system generally, the adequacy of current provision and the issues raised in the Green Paper process relating to social welfare pensions.

Our objective must be a pension system which will deliver an adequate retirement income for all which is, at the same time affordable and sustainable for the State, and those who sponsor and provide occupational pensions systems.

The House is aware that pension reform is an extremely complex issue and the Government must ensure that it has considered all of the issues involved before making decisions which have such a strong impact on people's livelihoods. A good, robust pensions system is costly no matter how it is organised. The challenge faced by Government is to strike the appropriate balance between those involved, including employers, people in employment and the State.

Discussions with my Government colleagues on the final framework are ongoing, and I expect that the framework will be published in the near future.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

11 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the proposals she has to tackle the situation whereby people receiving family income supplement who suffer reduced hours at work and go down to one week on one week off must cancel their family income supplement payment before they can qualify for jobseeker’s benefit for the week that they are off. [16977/09]

Family income supplement (FIS) is designed to provide income for employees on low earnings with families. This preserves the incentive to remain in employment in circumstances where the employee might only be marginally better off than if he or she were unemployed and claiming other social welfare payments.

To qualify for payment of FIS a person must be engaged in full time insurable employment which is expected to last for at least 3 months and be working for a minimum of 38 hours per fortnight or 19 hours per week. A couple may combine their hours of employment to meet the qualification criteria. The applicant must also have at least one qualified child who normally resides with them or is supported by them. Furthermore the average family income must be below a specified amount which varies according to the number of qualified children in the family.

FIS is then calculated on the basis of 60% of the difference between the income limit for the family size and the net income of the person(s) raising the children. Net income for FIS purposes comprises of total family income less tax, employee PRSI, health contribution, income levy, superannuation contribution and pension levy.

Once the level of FIS payment is determined, it continues to be payable at that level for a period of 52 weeks provided that the person remains in employment. The rate of payment can be increased if an additional child is born in the course of the 52 weeks.

Current Social Welfare legislation provides that both FIS and Jobseekers Benefit cannot be paid to a person in respect of the same period. However, a person in receipt of FIS whose work pattern changes can collect Jobseekers Benefit instead of their FIS for weeks where they are out of work, if this is financially more beneficial to them. In this situation payment of FIS is suspended for the weeks where the person is not working and chooses to collect a financially more beneficial Jobseekers Benefit payment. The FIS payment resumes again for the weeks that the person is working. The person must continue to satisfy the condition of working at least 19 hours per week or 38 hours per fortnight to avail of this arrangement.

A person who works one week on and one week off, can collect FIS for the week that they are working and either Jobseekers Benefit or FIS, for the week that they are not working, whichever is the most financially beneficial. The underlying entitlement to FIS is not cancelled. Payment is suspended for the weeks that a person chooses to collect the Jobseekers Benefit payment.

I do not propose to change this arrangement as it benefits the families concerned.

Liz McManus

Question:

12 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the discussions she has had with social welfare branch managers about their needs in order to speed up the processing of jobseeker claims. [16995/09]

The Department currently delivers a service from 62 branch offices which are operated by private individuals on a contract for service basis. Branch managers are responsible for recruiting their own staff. Each branch office reports to a parent local office of the Department. The main services provided from branch offices include jobseekers payment, one-parent family payment and an information service. However, branch office managers and their staff are not appointed as deciding officers, therefore all claims taken in branch offices are forwarded to the parent local office for decision by a deciding officer.

The additional number of people applying for jobseeker payments has placed increased pressure on all of the Department's offices and on branch offices. Staff in these offices are working extremely hard to process claims as quickly as possible.

Delays in processing branch office claims do not necessarily indicate difficulties in the branch office itself, as they may be attributable to difficulties being experienced in the parent local office.

Officials of the Department meet with the Branch Managers' Association on a periodic basis to discuss operational issues including staffing. At the most recent meeting held on 3 March, a number of process improvement initiatives that the Department has put in place in local and branch offices were discussed. Outline plans for further initiatives to ensure claims are processed as speedily as possible were also discussed. The branch managers were reminded that under the terms of their contract, they are required to ensure that staffing levels are adequate to allow for the efficient performance of the work of the office.

The branch manager's annual performance assessment, which is undertaken by the management from the parent local office, involves an evaluation of the staffing levels to ensure that service requirements are being met. Local office management were recently reminded of their obligations in this regard.

I fully appreciate that people claiming jobseekers benefit and allowance need to get access to financial and other supports as quickly as possible. Every effort is being made to ensure that applications made at Branch Offices are processed in a timely manner.

Departmental Staff.

Seán Barrett

Question:

13 Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs her views on increasing the number of facilitators in her Department in view of the growing numbers of unemployed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17019/09]

The department's facilitators work with social welfare recipients of working age in order to determine their needs and arrange through direct provision or jointly with other agencies, appropriate training and developmental programmes to equip them to progress to employment, training or further education. The current economic climate has determined that a large part of a facilitator's work at present is with people on the live register. Facilitators are located throughout the country and are assigned to cover a geographical area. For people on the live register the National Employment Action Plan (NEAP) is the main welfare to work measure. Under the National Employment Action Plan customers on the Live Register are referred to FÁS as they approach 3 months with a view to assisting them enter/re-enter the labour market.

The facilitator service was enhanced under the National Development Plan (NDP) Social and Economic Participation Programme. There are currently 60 facilitators in place, with a further 10 due for appointment, bringing the total in place to 70. The facilitators in each region are managed by a regional coordinator. Clerical support for facilitators is provided centrally by employment support services section.

Facilitators work in co-operation with other relevant service providers such as FÁS, VECs, the Adult Education Guidance Initiative, the HSE and other local agencies. The number of facilitators in place, their workload, and the effectiveness of the service will continue to be monitored under the National Development Plan (NDP).

Pension Provisions.

Denis Naughten

Question:

14 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the steps she will take to facilitate women, forced out of employment due to the marriage rule, to avail of contributory pensions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16929/09]

The Government is anxious to ensure that as many people as possible can be accommodated within the social welfare pensions system, with due regard being paid to the contributory principle underlying entitlement to contributory payments and, in the case of non-contributory payments, the need to ensure that resources are directed to those who are most in need. Over the last 10 years, means tests have been improved and qualifying conditions for contributory payments made easier.

Many women in both the private and the public sectors left employment upon marriage because they were required to, or because that was the societal norm at the time.

Public servants who left the workforce through the operation of the marriage bar were not insured for social welfare pension purposes. Accordingly, the loss of pension rights in their case relates more to their occupational position rather than social welfare pension entitlements.

That said, the Green Paper on Pensions considered a number of issues related to the qualifying conditions for a social welfare contributory pension including the pension position of women who had to resign due to the marriage bar. The Government is actively considering these issues and will make final decisions in the context of the long-term framework on pensions.

Discussions with my Government colleagues on the final framework are ongoing, and I expect that it will be published in the near future.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

15 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of persons on a national basis and by local social welfare office waiting for their application for jobseeker’s allowance to be processed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17087/09]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

21 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will put in place immediate procedures to speed up the process of applications for unemployment assistance with particular reference to the need to alleviate hardship, anxiety and stress caused by delays; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17001/09]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

41 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the steps being taken to reduce the delays in dealing with applications for social welfare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16810/09]

Emmet Stagg

Question:

47 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she has identified the reasons some social welfare offices have excessively high waiting periods; and if she will outline her findings. [16983/09]

Dan Neville

Question:

54 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the numbers of persons on a national basis and by local social welfare office waiting for their application of jobseeker’s benefit to be processed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17084/09]

Róisín Shortall

Question:

176 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the action she will take to address the waiting times at many social welfare offices. [17306/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 15, 21, 41, 47, 54 and 176 together.

The Live Register has increased to unprecedented levels as a result of the economic downturn that the country is currently experiencing. There are currently almost 72,000 claims awaiting decisions for jobseeker's benefit and jobseekers allowance. Approximately 10,000 claims are decided upon in a given week. (See the following Table 1 for claims pending at April 09).

The length of time it takes to process claims varies depending on the complexity of the claim, the availability of the necessary documentation from the applicant or his/her employer and the need to carry out additional enquires including assessment of means and whether the claimant satisfies the Habitual Residence Condition.

Furthermore, processing times can vary from office to office for a number of reasons including the extent of the increased number of claims, the number of staff vacancies, the duration of such vacancies and the turnover of staff in the office which impacts on the overall level of experience in the office.

During the past year an additional 190 staff have been assigned to local offices. In addition, as many local offices are very close to capacity as regards accommodating further staff, we have set up a number of central support units around the country. Four such units are currently set up in Dublin, Sligo, Finglas and Carrick-on-Shannon. Each unit has 10 staff. It is now planned to establish three further units with 10 staff each in Roscommon, Tallaght and Wexford and these units should be operational within the next few months.

A further 16 Social Welfare Inspectors have been assigned to various locations throughout the country to undertake means testing and other work associated with processing claims for the jobseekers allowance.

It is recognised that the provision of additional staff in itself will not deal with the rising claimload. Since early 2008 we have been examining all aspects of the work associated with the processing of claims and streamlining them wherever possible without, of course, compromising our scheme controls.

The following initiatives have been introduced at all local and branch offices. A new streamlined process has been introduced for people who had a claim in the previous 2 years. The application form has been simplified so that the claimant has only to provide details of circumstances that have changed since the previous claim. A simplified procedure has been introduced for people moving to jobseekers allowance when their jobseekers benefit expires. More straight-forward procedures have been introduced for providing evidence of identity and address.

Application forms for jobseeker schemes are now available on the Department's website with comprehensive information on claiming a jobseekers payment including details of the supporting documents required. This means that a person making a claim for jobseekers benefit or allowance can download and complete a claim form and bring it to their nearest local office.

An appointment system for taking claims is in operation in the following local offices:

North Cumberland Street;

Ballymun;

Tallaght;

Thomas Street;

Nutgrove;

Apollo House;

Bishops Square Dundalk;

Waterford;

Cork;

Listowel;

Galway;

Letterkenny;

Navan.

There are plans to extend this system to Ballyfermot, Kilkenny and Blanchardstown over the next few weeks and it will be extended to other offices with high volumes of new claims over the coming months.

In addition, a review of the processes involved in administering claims for those who are working reduced hours i.e. part-time, casual and systematic short time is underway. The existing arrangements are very labour intensive and it is envisaged that more streamlined arrangements, which will benefit both customers and the Department, will be introduced in the near future.

These improvements are part of a programme of initiatives being developed by the Department to streamline processes and procedures in local and branch offices and it is intended that further improvements will be implemented on an ongoing basis during 2009.

The Deputy will be aware that anyone who is under financial pressure while awaiting a decision on their claim for a jobseekers payment can apply for Supplementary Welfare Allowance which is subject to a means test and other qualifying conditions.

Claim Pending Week Ending 24 April 2009

OFFICE

Parent Office

Jobseekers Allowance Claims Pending

Jobseekers Benefit and Credits Claims pending

Total Claims Pending

Achill SWLO

Achill

2

1

3

Apollo House SWLO

Apollo House

278

279

557

Ardee SWBO

Drogheda

199

121

320

Arklow SWLO

Arklow

277

194

471

Athlone SWLO

Athlone

285

348

633

Athy SWBO

Newbridge

226

97

323

Balbriggan SWLO

Balbriggan

385

285

670

Ballina SWLO

Ballina

287

129

416

Ballinasloe SWBO

Athlone

179

177

356

Ballinrobe SWBO

Loughrea

170

61

231

Ballybofey SWBO

Donegal CO

119

32

151

Ballyconnell SWBO

Cavan

176

112

288

Ballyfermot SWLO

Ballyfermot

382

357

739

Ballymun SWLO

Ballymun

197

152

349

Ballyshannon SWBO

Donegal CO

44

17

61

Baltinglass SWBO

Newbridge

142

32

174

Bandon SWBO

Carrigaline

241

247

488

Bantry CO SWLO

Bantry CO

36

23

59

Bantry SWBO

Bantry CO

88

59

147

Belmullet SWLO

Belmullet

37

22

59

Birr SWBO

Athlone

109

115

224

Bishop Square SWLO

Bishop Square

843

616

1,459

Blanchardstown SWLO

Blanchardstown

1,410

889

2,299

Boyle SWBO

Longford

151

83

234

Bray SWLO

Bray

358

330

688

Buncrana SWLO

Buncrana

508

234

742

Cahir SWBO

Clonmel

64

73

137

Cahirciveen SWLO

Cahirciveen

45

32

77

Carlow SWLO

Carlow

367

159

526

Carrickmacross SWBO

Dundalk

182

43

225

Carrick-on-Shannon SWLO

Carrick-on-Shannon

142

81

223

Carrick-on-Suir SWBO

Waterford

136

101

237

Carrigaline SWLO

Carrigaline

261

186

447

Cashel SWBO

Clonmel

70

66

136

Castlebar SWLO

Castlebar

128

71

199

Castleblaney SWBO

Dundalk

175

43

218

Castlepollard SWBO

Mullingar

243

119

362

Castlerea SWBO

Ballina

221

112

333

Cavan SWLO

Cavan

781

367

1,148

Claremorris SWBO

Ballina

222

78

300

Clifden SWLO

Clifden

38

9

47

Clonakilty SWBO

Carrigaline

172

147

319

Clondalkin SWLO

Clondalkin

924

1,474

2,398

Clones SWBO

Dundalk

57

21

78

Clonmel SWLO

Clonmel

99

118

217

Cobh SWLO

Cobh

37

32

69

Coolock SWLO

Coolock

419

353

772

Cork SWLO

Cork

2,781

2,801

5,582

Dingle SWBO

Tralee

65

82

147

Donegal SWBO

Donegal CO

26

38

64

Drogheda SWLO

Drogheda

1,212

423

1,635

Dun Laoghaire SWLO

Dun Laoghaire

992

559

1,551

Dundalk SWLO

Dundalk

520

133

653

Dunfanaghy SWLO

Dunfanaghy

33

27

60

Dungarvan SWBO

Waterford

133

107

240

Dungloe SWLO

Dungloe

53

31

84

Edenderry SWBO

Mullingar

425

152

577

Ennis SWLO

Ennis

446

407

853

Enniscorthy SWBO

Wexford

383

209

592

Ennistymon SWBO

Ennis

98

41

139

Fermoy SWBO

Mallow CO

203

248

451

Finglas SWLO

Finglas

313

239

552

Galway SWLO

Galway

1,766

1,595

3,361

Gorey SWBO

Wexford

397

187

584

Gort SWBO

Ennis

205

78

283

Kells SWBO

Navan

281

71

352

Kenmare SWLO

Kenmare

36

39

75

Kilbarrack SWLO

Kilbarrack

311

669

980

Kilkenny SWLO

Kilkenny

684

186

870

Killarney SWLO

Killarney

252

268

520

Killorglin SWBO

Tralee

120

103

223

Killybegs SWBO

Donegal CO

26

17

43

Kilmallock SWBO

Newcastlewest

136

182

318

Kilrush SWBO

Ennis

72

76

148

Kinsale SWBO

Carrigaline

127

138

265

Letterkenny SWLO

Letterkenny

184

47

231

Limerick SWLO

Limerick

1,492

1,734

3,226

Listowel SWLO

Listowel

188

272

460

Longford SWLO

Longford

675

568

1,243

Loughrea SWLO

Loughrea

491

171

662

Macroom SWBO

Mallow CO

123

283

406

Mallow SWBO

Mallow CO

216

330

546

Manorhamilton SWLO

Manorhamilton

30

20

50

Maynooth SWBO

Ballyfermot

1,055

1,323

2,378

Midleton SWBO

Carrigaline

338

496

834

Monaghan SWBO

Dundalk

216

88

304

Muine Bheag SWBO

Carlow

175

47

222

Mullingar SWLO

Mullingar

589

494

1,083

Navan Road SWLO

Navan Road

661

517

1,178

Navan SWLO

Navan

970

590

1,560

Nenagh SWBO

Thurles

85

81

166

New Ross SWBO

Wexford

219

114

333

Newbridge SWLO

Newbridge

874

508

1,382

Newcastle West SWLO

Newcastlewest

119

181

300

SWLO = Social Welfare Local Office. SWBO = Social Welfare Branch Office. Branch Office claims are decided in the Parent Office.

Social Insurance.

Joan Burton

Question:

16 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs her views on introducing a temporary holiday, either full or partial, on the payment of employers’ PRSI as a means to create, sustain and protect jobs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12299/09]

The vast majority of workers pay social insurance contributions at the PRSI Class A rate. These general employees, together with their employers, pay a total social insurance contribution of 14.05%, excluding levies, under the full-rate PRSI Class A. These contributions provide entitlement to a range of contingency-based payments under various social insurance schemes.

Traditionally, social insurance spending has been funded on a tripartite basis — with contributions coming from the Exchequer, employers and employees. Employer contributions make up some 75% of income to the social insurance fund, with most such contributions arising from full-rate PRSI Class A. Reducing PRSI in order to support vulnerable employment would be an inefficient measure, as employments that did not require such support would also benefit, given the difficulties in targeting any reduction.

The Exchequer is the residual financier of the social insurance fund and any consideration of a reduction, even on a temporary basis, in employer PRSI would have to occur in a budgetary context. Such consideration would include the effect of any such change on the financial position of the social insurance fund. The fund, having recorded a surplus of income over expenditure since 1995, recorded a deficit in 2008. A further shortfall is expected this year and although these current deficits can be met from the accumulated surplus, it is likely that the Exchequer may again have to subsidise expenditure from the Social Insurance Fund within a few years. Given that context, a more targeted approach is required.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

17 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will improve expenditure control measures by requiring nursing homes to notify her Department once a patient has been in their full-time care for a month or more. [16978/09]

Entitlement to State pension contributory and non-contributory is not affected by a person's residency in a nursing home. However entitlement to household benefits, which comprise allowances for electricity or gas, telephone and free television licence, generally ceases when a person is a resident of a nursing home. There are a number of control measures in place to ensure the discontinuance of household benefits where entitlement ceases.

Data matching exercises between the Department and the various utilities identify cases for follow-up action where a change has occurred on a customer's bill, such as change of address.

Reports from the General Register Office notify the Department of deceased customers.

The household benefits computer system has recently been upgraded and now provides enhanced controls of claim management and processing with built-in validation and supports.

For example the system does not allow duplicate awards to utility numbers (such as meter point registration numbers) for overlapping periods; following the notification of an address change to the Department, the household benefit claim is automatically stopped and an advice notification is issued to the customer's new address.

Reviews are regularly undertaken in order to determine customers' continuing eligibility for household benefits. Letters issue to household benefit customers for completion and return within a specified time. Reviews include the re-assessment of household composition, income and re-confirming customers' primary residences. Follow-up action is taken where no reply is received from the customer or where the letter is returned undelivered. During 2008, 11,400 household benefit claims were terminated as a direct result of this ongoing review process.

The Department is currently reviewing the entitlement of up to 5,000 customers whose electricity usage is low. To date, some 700 household benefit claims have been stopped as part of this control review.

Control savings totalling €14.2 million was achieved under the Household Benefit scheme during 2008. It is intended to review 17,000 cases during 2009.

The Department is committed to ensuring that social welfare payments are available to those who are entitled to them and to ensuring that abuse of the system is prevented and dealt with effectively when detected.

Pension Provisions.

Phil Hogan

Question:

18 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs her plans to introduce a pensions protection fund to provide protection for defined benefit scheme members in the event that a scheme is wound up with insufficient resources; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17068/09]

Dinny McGinley

Question:

27 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the percentage of pension schemes failing the minimum funding standard; the number of schemes this includes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17077/09]

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

34 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of defined benefit pension schemes that fail the minimum funding standard; and the number of these that are below 25% of the standard, 50% of the standard and 75% of the standard respectively. [16988/09]

Róisín Shortall

Question:

55 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if her attention has been drawn to the fact that workers in a company (details supplied) who are to lose their jobs in 2009 will also lose their pension entitlements despite the fact that some of them have made the full 40 years worth of contributions; the action she is taking to protect the pension entitlement of such workers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16990/09]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

56 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the action she is taking to protect the pension entitlements of workers at a company (details supplied). [16999/09]

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

62 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she is satisfied that Ireland is in full compliance with Directive 80/987/EEC; and her intentions to amend legislation arising from Court of Justice judgment in case C-278/05. [16989/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 18, 27, 34, 55, 56 and 62 together.

Under the Pensions Act, defined benefit pension schemes must meet a minimum funding standard which requires that schemes maintain sufficient assets to enable them discharge accrued liabilities in the event of the scheme winding up.

Where schemes do not satisfy the Funding Standard, the sponsors/trustees must submit a funding proposal to the Pensions Board to restore full funding within three years, although as part of recent temporary measures announced by the Government, the Pensions Board can now allow a scheme ten years or more to meet the standard in certain circumstances.

There are currently 1,355 defined benefit schemes subject to the funding standard. It is estimated that in excess of 90% of defined benefits pension scheme are in deficit. However, the full extent of the level of under-funding will not be fully apparent until all schemes carry out their next actuarial assessment and report the results to the Pensions Board.

As the Deputies are aware, the regulation of pension schemes in Ireland is provided for by the Pensions Act. In an EU context, Article 8 of Directive 80/987/EEC provides that Member States shall ensure that the necessary measures are taken to protect the interests of employees and of persons having already left the employer's undertaking or business at the date of the onset of the employer's insolvency. In its review of the transposition of that Directive, the EU Commission, at the time gave an assurance that Ireland had adequately transposed the provision in that Directive. Accordingly, the implications of the more recent ECJ judgement are being assessed to see to what impact, if any, it might have on Ireland.

The Government is very conscious of the pressures on both sponsoring employers and pension scheme trustees, arising from the very significant losses incurred by pension funds over the last 18 months. We are anxious to ensure, in so far as we can, that those involved have sufficient time and space to fully assess the implications of the current difficulties for their schemes and the remedial action they can take.

Indeed, this was the thinking behind the recent implementation of a number of measures to ease the pressures being felt by many pension funds. Those measures included the granting of extra time for schemes to formulate funding proposals and allowing longer periods for recovery plans.

Furthermore, just this week I have introduced changes to the 1990 Pensions Act to allow for the restructuring of underfunded schemes; to ensure a more equitable distribution of assets in the event of the wind-up of a defined benefit scheme and to strengthen the powers of the Pensions Board in ensuring that pension contributions deducted from wages and salaries are remitted by employers to scheme trustees.

I also introduced on behalf of the Minister for Finance, the Pensions Insolvency Payments Scheme to reduce the cost of purchasing pension payments for trustees of pension schemes where the employer has become insolvent.

The Government is continuing to consider a number of options in relation to the ongoing security of pensions. Any decisions in this regard will be made in the context of the National Pensions Framework which will be finalised shortly.

Social Insurance.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

19 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will amend legislation to allow a person who takes a career break during the recession to be credited with a full credit history as this is currently one of the disincentives for not taking up this option. [16982/09]

The primary purpose of credited contributions is to preserve the continuity of a person's insurance record during periods when they are unable to work and pay PRSI in the normal way. In order to qualify for credited contributions, absences from work would generally have to be for reasons outside of the person's control, such as periods of proven illness or registered unemployment, or periods during which they may be entitled to certain other social welfare payments.

Credited contributions are not generally available in circumstances where a person voluntarily ceases insurable employment on a temporary or permanent basis. This reflects the contributory principle that underpins the qualifying conditions for all social insurance payments. However, a person taking time off work to care for children up to 12 years of age, or an incapacitated adult, may be entitled to avail of the homemaker's scheme whereby such periods can be taken into account for state contributory pension purposes at age 66.

One of the qualifying conditions for contributory pensions requires that the applicant must have a minimum yearly average number of paid or credited contributions throughout their working lives. Therefore, any prolonged gaps in insurance cover are likely to have significant consequences with regard to pension entitlement.

In the case of short-term benefits such as job-seekers allowance, illness and treatment benefits a person may retain entitlement to such payments for a limited period after their last PRSI contribution but entitlement would then lapse unless further reckonable contributions are recorded on their behalf.

There are no immediate plans to amend the legislation governing credited contributions for persons on a career break. However, it may be possible for a person on a career break to pay voluntary contributions, subject certain statutory conditions. In this regard it should be noted that voluntary contributions are reckonable only with regard to state contributory pension, transition pension and widows/widowers contributory pension. Obviously, depending on the nature of the career break, a person may be eligible to engage in employment or self-employment during the period of the break, thereby making social insurance contributions in the normal way.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

20 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if the changes in the jobseeker’s allowance are discriminatory against younger people; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16963/09]

In order to incentivise 18 and 19 year old jobseekers to avail of education and training opportunities and try to prevent their becoming welfare dependent from a young age, changes are being made to the Jobseekers Allowance. The rate of Jobseekers Allowance that will be paid to new claimants under the age of 20 is being reduced from €204.30 per week to €100 per week, with effect from the first week of May 2009. This decision was made on foot of ongoing consideration of unemployment and incentives policy by Government. It is not discriminatory but rather a targeted measure aimed at protecting young people from welfare dependency.

Receiving the full adult rate of a jobseekers payment at 18 years of age, without a strong financial incentive to engage in education or training, can lead to welfare dependency from an early age. If they do not improve their skills, such young persons are at risk of becoming long-term unemployed from a young age. Therefore, it is considered necessary to provide 18 and 19 year old jobseekers with a strong financial incentive to engage in education or training or to take up employment that pays more than €100 per week.

The fact that 18 and 19 year olds who participate in a FÁS or similar training/education course will get the full rate of the relevant payment (e.g. FÁS training allowance, Community Employment rate or Back to Education Allowance) instead of €100 on Jobseekers' Allowance, should also be a major incentive for such participation. Individuals will be required to access such courses if they are to receive a full rate payment. However young people with dependent children will not have their rates reduced.

Primarily delivered through FÁS, there is a wide range of courses being made available to person aged 18 or 19 years and additional Post–Leaving Cert courses are being made available through Vocational Education Committees. Also, this Department has a range of education and employment supports available to people in receipt of welfare payments. The overall aim is to assist persons to return to the active labour market by enhancing their employability. This is done through the operation of programmes including the back to education and back to work allowance enterprise schemes. In addition the Activation and Family Support Programme and the Second Chance Education Opportunities Scheme offer supports to social welfare customers and other disadvantaged persons including young people aged 18 to 19 to assist them to improve their employability and personal and family situations. Schemes will continue to be monitored in light of the changing economic circumstances to ensure that they continue to meet their objectives.

Question No. 21 answered with Question No. 15.

Departmental Offices.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

22 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the action she is taking to prevent the extensive queuing outside social welfare offices; and the way she proposes to tackle this problem which is degrading to clients of her Department. [16991/09]

The Live Register has increased to unprecedented levels as a result of the economic downturn that the country is currently experiencing. In many instances people begin queuing outside offices before they open in the mornings.

These queues include people making a claim for the first time and people signing the Live Register to show that they continue to be unemployed.

In order to deal with extensive queuing, we have introduced an appointment system for taking claims in offices with high volumes of claims. Under this initiative, when a person first attends at a local office to claim, they are given details of the supporting documents required together with an appointment to attend to have the claim taken. The appointment system has been introduced in 14 local offices to date and is being extended to three other offices over the coming weeks. This initiative has been particularly effective in reducing queuing in local offices and it has also helped improve processing times where the customer provides supporting documentation at point of claim. This initiative will be extended to a number of other offices over the coming months having regard to the volume of new claims at particular offices.

The signing arrangements for people who are already on the live register have been reviewed at a number of offices and additional signing days have been introduced where necessary. In addition, at some offices specific signing times have been allocated to claimants to reduce queuing times.

My Department has instituted a number of process improvement measures in order to improve the claim taking process.

In addition, we are reviewing the processes involved in administering claims for those who are working reduced hours i.e. part time, casual and systematic short time. The existing arrangements are very labour intensive and it is envisaged that more streamlined arrangements which will benefit both customers and the Department will be introduced in the near future.

These improvements are part of a programme of streamlining initiatives being developed by the Department and it is intended that further improvements will be introduced on an on-going basis during 2009.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Jack Wall

Question:

23 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the community welfare service are in some cases requiring fathers who are paying maintenance to go back to the courts to have their maintenance payments reduced before they assess their need under supplementary welfare allowance provisions. [16980/09]

The purpose of the supplementary welfare allowance scheme is to provide assistance to an eligible person whose means are insufficient to meet his/her basic needs and those of his/her dependants. Support available under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme includes a basic weekly allowance, supplements in respect of rent, mortgage interest, diet or heating and exceptional/urgent needs payments.

An individual making an application for supplementary welfare allowance who has recently become unemployed may have maintenance liabilities which they would have been in a position to meet while in employment. If the level of maintenance payments is now such that an individual finds they have inadequate funds with which to meet their basic needs the most appropriate course of action would be for the individual to seek to renegotiate their maintenance liabilities to take account of their current financial circumstances.

Where maintenance orders have been made through the courts, either parent can at a later date apply to the court for the issue of a summons against the other party for the purpose of obtaining a ‘Variation Order' to have the amount of maintenance varied. Information and advice on free legal aid for the purpose of applying to the court for a maintenance order or a variation of a maintenance order or responding to a maintenance summons can be obtained by contacting the local Citizen's Information Centre or nearest law centre.

In instances where welfare support is provided to single parents in the form of one-parent family payment, the other parent (liable relative) is legally required to contribute to the cost of this payment. Liable relatives who earn less than €18,000 per annum or whose main source of income is a social welfare payment are not deemed by the Department to be in a financial position to meet weekly maintenance payments and accordingly are not assessed with a maintenance liability.

Where welfare support is provided to single parents in the form of one-parent family payment and/or under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme and the amount of maintenance in payment has been reduced by court order or for any other reason, it is open to that person to contact the Department or the relevant Community Welfare Officer to seek a reassessment of their entitlements to take account of the change in their financial circumstances.

Social Welfare Code.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

24 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the proposals she has to change the definition of casual and short-term working. [16975/09]

The jobseekers schemes provide income support for people who are seeking their first job or have lost work and are seeking alternative employment. A fundamental qualifying condition for both the Jobseekers Benefit and Jobseekers Allowance is that a person must be available for full-time work.

When determining the classification of casual and short time workers each case must be examined on its own merits and, because of the variables necessarily involved in making a determination as to entitlement, payment rates and extent of entitlement are very much individual-specific.

Employment on a casual basis implies that the number of days worked will vary each week with the amount of work available. There will be no established pattern of days. This variety will also be reflected in the wages paid. Variations in hours or days worked must be due to the employer's requirements, as opposed to a work pattern chosen by the employee. In addition, there must be no guaranteed minimum hours or wages each week.

Short-time employment means employment in which, for the time being, a number of days is systematically worked in a working week which is less than the number of days which is normal in a working week in the employment concerned. Short- time work must be systematic, i.e., there must be a clear repetitive pattern of employment each week. The person must also work at least one day in each week that s/he would normally be working.

In the context of changing economic circumstances there are an increased number of people claiming Jobseekers Benefit and Assistance categorised as both systematic short-time and casual employees.

The application of the jobseekers payment scheme conditions to workers who are not employed on a full-time basis is being kept under review.

Employment Support Services.

Joe Carey

Question:

25 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the way she envisages profiling first time jobseeker claimants that incentivise people back to education or training; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17030/09]

The Department collects information from jobseekers to establish entitlement to payments, to ensure that conditions for receipt of payment continue to be satisfied and to assist in the activation of those who are not progressing into employment or accessing training opportunities.

Claims for jobseeker payments are processed in the department's local offices. Each claimant is advised of the range of employment support services operated by the department and of relevant services provided by other agencies. Claimants are also advised that there are facilitators available who can help them to explore the range of work and educational options available from the department and other agencies.

The department's facilitator network works with social welfare recipients to identify appropriate training or development programmes which will enhance the skills that individuals have and ultimately improve their employment chances as well as help them continue to develop personally. Facilitators are working closely with FÁS and other agencies at national and local level to identify appropriate education, training and development opportunities.

The National Employment Action Plan (NEAP) operated jointly with FÁS is the main activation measure for jobseekers. Under the Plan, all persons between the ages of 18 and 65 years who are approaching 3 months on the Live Register are identified by the Department of Social and Family Affairs and referred to FÁS for interview with a view to assisting them enter/re-enter the labour market. FÁS will also provide a range of certified, short, flexible, modular programmes designed to upskill redundant workers so that they can enhance their prospect of securing employment. The frequency and range of programmes in place will be expanded over the coming months.

The department has been engaged in customer profiling with the ESRI, the objective of which is to identify metrics other than duration of unemployment to target additional supports for people at risk of becoming long-term unemployed and to do so much earlier than is possible at the moment.

Social Welfare Code.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

26 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the proposals she has to tackle the significant disadvantages built into the welfare system if someone is put on short-time working hours and ultimately is made redundant in terms of the potential reduced rate of jobseeker’s benefit if later made redundant. [16976/09]

Full social insurance cover was extended to part-time workers from April 1991. At that time a range of measures were introduced to ensure that the rate of Jobseekers Benefit payable would be proportionate to the person's income and PRSI contributions. They were also intended to ensure that disincentives to employment were not created. In the absence of these measures, a situation would exist whereby many workers on low incomes would have access to weekly social welfare payments in excess of their income from employment.

These measures are regularly updated to keep pace with rises in benefit levels. Budget 2003 sought to bring the income threshold and banding structure back into line with the level of benefits payable. However, with the increases in benefits that have been provided since then, these thresholds and related bands had again gone seriously out of line with the associated rates of benefit. For example, an employee who earned €150.00 per week in 2004 qualified for a personal rate of payment of €134.80. In 2008, this payment had increased to €197.80 for the same level of earnings. At these levels, the weekly income threshold and graduated Jobseeker's Benefit rates represented a serious disincentive to employment.

The new thresholds that were introduced in January will address these disincentive effects by completing the process of bringing the income thresholds and banding structure back into line with the benefits payable. A reduced rate of Jobseeker's Benefit is now payable if average weekly earnings in the Relevant Tax Year (RTY) before unemployment were under €300.

Average weekly earning is total earnings from employment divided by the number qualifying contributions in the RTY. The RTY is 2 years before the year of claim, so if a claim for Jobseeker's Benefit is made in 2009 the Relevant Tax Year is 2007.

A person in receipt of a reduced rate Jobseeker's Benefit payment which is insufficient to meet their needs, may be eligible for a top-up under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme, subject to a means test. Recipients of Jobseeker's Benefit may also opt to transfer to means tested Jobseeker's Allowance.

Question No. 27 answered with Question No. 18.

Departmental Staff.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

28 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the additional supports which will be given to community welfare officers in view of the increasing demands on the supplementary welfare allowance supports; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17039/09]

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

30 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the action she is taking to ensure that there is adequate coordination between community welfare officers across their respective boundaries and to ensure that a seamless service is offered to clients. [16970/09]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

42 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she is satisfied that the number of community welfare officers is sufficient to meet the growing demand for supplementary welfare allowance, mortgage interest supplement, rent supplement and other basic allowances. [16987/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 28, 30 and 42 together.

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which includes rent and mortgage interest supplement and the back to school clothing and footwear allowance scheme, is administered by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive (HSE) on behalf of the department. The operational arrangements for processing of applications and payment to qualifying individuals, is a matter for the respective community welfare division areas.

The issue of increased demand on existing resources is a matter for the HSE in the first instance to prioritise workloads and re-deploy resources where necessary so that frontline services are maintained. The HSE is reviewing the allocation of staff currently engaged in the delivery of the supplementary welfare allowance scheme and associated income support payments and looking at current work practices with a view to developing proposals that would reconfigure the current service delivery model. The community welfare service has one agreed national training programme for staff to ensure uniformity and co-ordination in the administration of the supplementary welfare allowance scheme and associated income support payments across divisional areas.

The question of any increase in expenditure for staffing within the community welfare service above that currently provided would have to be considered in the context of overall Government policy on public service manpower levels.

Extra staff have been assigned to the department's social welfare local offices and process improvement initiatives are being implemented with a view to reducing processing times for jobseekers claims. These measures are helping to relieve some of the pressure on the Community Welfare Service.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

29 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the action she is taking to retrieve the €7 million that is lost each year by the non-retrieval of rent supplement deposits from landlords. [16984/09]

Under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which is administered on behalf of the department by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive, an exceptional needs payment (ENP) may be made to help meet an essential once-off cost, such as a payment of a rent deposit, which the applicant is unable to meet out of his/her own resources.

There is no automatic entitlement to this payment and each application is determined by the Executive based on the particular circumstances of the case, taking account of the nature and extent of the need. Such payments are confined to occurrences which the Executive considers to be unexpected, unforeseen or exceptional.

Over €7m was paid in rent deposits in 2008. In general, such payments are made to the tenant and only paid occasionally to the landlord where the tenant requests that the payment be made direct to the landlord.

If the landlord or tenant terminates the tenancy the tenant can use the returned deposit to secure a new tenancy. If a tenant has a legitimate grievance in relation to the refund of a rent deposit which they have paid to their landlord, they may apply to the Private Residential Tenancies Board to have the dispute resolved through the board's dispute resolution process.

Every effort is made to ensure that payment of rent deposit is only made once in an individual case by checking computer systems to identify if any previous deposit had been paid. In general multiple rent deposits are not paid to the same person. In these circumstances, there is no evidence to indicate that €7m was lost in rent deposits in 2008.

Community welfare officers have discretion to make a repeat payment of rent deposit in instances of potential homelessness.

Question No. 30 answered with Question No. 28.

Employment Support Services.

Richard Bruton

Question:

31 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she is considering alternatives or proposals for young people, who are unemployed, to avail of opportunities, in tandem with other Departments, in view of her recent changes to the payment of unemployment assistance to this group; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17024/09]

The budget changes made to the rate of payment of jobseekers allowance to young people was undertaken in order to incentivise 18 and 19 year old jobseekers to avail of education and training opportunities and try to avoid them becoming welfare dependant from a young age. The full adult rate of the relevant payment will be paid to 18 and 19 year olds who participate in full time approved education or training programmes. This measure will provide this group with a strong financial incentive to engage in education or training or to take up employment.

The Government is now providing, through FÁS a total of 128,000 training and activation places for the unemployed this year. This is a substantial increase on the approximate 66,000 places taken up last year. Also Job Search/National Employment Action Plan referral capacity has nearly doubled for 2009 from 6,500 cases per month to 12,250. This represents an unprecedented increase in capacity for this programme, which is being undertaken by FÁS in co-operation with the Department of Social and Family Affairs. In addition there are 146,700 places available in further education programmes in 2009. This demonstrates the scale of activity being supported by this Government to ensure that people are best positioned to get back into employment.

The recent supplementary budget outlined a joint approach to activation agreed between the departments of Social and Family Affairs, Enterprise Trade & Employment and Education & Science. A range of additional measures were outlined aimed at maintaining people in employment, re-skilling and facilitating better access to allowances while avoiding undue negative impacts on vulnerable individuals.

As part of the budget I introduced a package of measures relating to the back to work enterprise allowance and back to education allowance schemes to facilitate better access to supports. The package put together by the Departments of Enterprise, Trade & Employment and Education & Science has some 11 proposals to provide 23,435 extra employment and training scheme places.

The impact of the change to the jobseekers allowance payment to 18 and 19 year olds and the uptake by this age group of the available education and training opportunities will be kept under review by my department and the other departments involved.

David Stanton

Question:

32 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs her views on the lack of entitlement of self-employed persons who are no longer working to State jobseeker supports; her further views on making changes to the system to allow for improved supports for jobseekers who were formerly self-employed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16969/09]

The range of benefits and pensions to which different groups of workers may establish entitlement reflects the rate of contribution payable. Self-employed people are liable for PRSI at the Class S rate of 3% and are consequently eligible for a narrower range of benefits than general employees who, together with their employers, pay a total social insurance contribution of 14.05%, excluding levies, under the full-rate PRSI Class A.

Self-employed workers are not insured against short-term benefits such as illness and jobseeker's payments — these are only available to persons covered by PRSI Classes A, E, H and P. This reflects the need for coverage for various contingencies, the rate of contributions that self-employed persons pay, the practicalities of administering and controlling access to short-term payments and the annualised system of contributions that these same persons enjoy. A system of separate arrangements for employed and self-employed workers within a social insurance context is common in other European social protection systems.

There are no immediate plans to extend cover for short-term benefits to this group of insured workers. Any such measure would have significant financial implications and would have to be considered within a budgetary context. Consideration would also have to be given to an appropriate increase in the rate of the PRSI Class S contribution. Self-employed workers who do not qualify for an insurance-based benefit may establish entitlement to assistance-based payments such as Jobseekers Allowance by satisfying certain conditions including a means test.

Self-employed people can apply for the means-tested Jobseeker's Allowance if their business ceases or if they are on low income as a result of a downturn in demand for their services. Their means would be taken as any net profit that they will earn in the coming 12 months. While their income from the previous 12 months is used as an indication in estimating their likely future earnings, it is not simply assumed that the previous year's earnings will be received in the coming year. Instead, account is taken of the potential for significant upward or downward variations in income from one year to the next.

Child Support.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

33 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the action she has taken in the context of the EU Council of Ministers meetings to put the case that Ireland is disadvantaged under EU rules in relation to child payments for non-resident children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16972/09]

The social security rights of people living and working in the EU are governed by EU Regulations 1408/71 and 574/72. The regulations coordinated social security systems and are designed to ensure that people are not disadvantaged by moving within the EU to take up work.

The regulations are also intended to guarantee, within the Community, equality of treatment under various national legislation to workers living in the Member States and their dependants and survivors. Accordingly, persons residing in the territory of a Member State to whom the regulation applies are subject to the same obligations and enjoy the same benefits under the legislation of a Member State as the nationals of that State.

Generally speaking, the country of employment is the competent State for the payment of family benefits. Accordingly, the growth in the number of migrant workers in Ireland has meant a very significant increase in the amount of child benefit payments being exported to other EU countries — though the numbers involved are relatively very small. Indeed, less than 1% of overall child benefit payments made by my Department are in respect of children living abroad. All Member States of the EU are obliged to implement these arrangements and Ireland is therefore not alone in making child benefit payments for non-resident children.

Freedom of movement for workers and equality of treatment with nationals of the host country, are fundamental principles of the EU. The social security regulations are designed to support these principles. I am also conscious of the very significant contribution migrant workers have made to the growth and development of our economy over the last decade. The Government believes that, on balance, the Irish people have benefited from the EU principles of freedom of movement and equality of treatment with nationals of the host country.

Question No. 34 answered with Question No. 18.

Departmental Staff.

John Perry

Question:

35 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of staff and the grades of same, who have been transferred either on a full time or part time basis from dealing with fraud to tackling delays in processing social welfare applications; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17096/09]

Over the past two months a total of five executive officers who normally deal with fraud investigation have been assigned to claims decisions work. A further two executive officers involved in fraud investigation have been assigned to means assessment.

While these were full-time reassignments, they were only for short periods. Most of these officers involved have reverted to their normal roles. A further four staff (2 executive officers, 1 staff officer and 1 clerical officer) have been partially redeployed from Control work to claims processing. Approximately two thirds of their time is now devoted to claims processing with one-third for Control activity.

The management of resources, including the assignment of staff is a matter for each Regional Manager at any given time, having regard to the volumes of claims to be processed in their region. These reassignments were required to deal with backlogs arising on the jobseekers allowance scheme.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Simon Coveney

Question:

36 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if her attention has been drawn to the hardship increasing the minimum contribution to the rent supplement by a recipient by a further €6 will cause; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17037/09]

Willie Penrose

Question:

43 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the way she proposes to ensure that no existing tenant on rent supplement will be made homeless as a result of her decision to reduce rents on existing tenancies by 8%. [16997/09]

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

53 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the assistance put in place to facilitate planned changes in the rent supplement supports; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17043/09]

Arthur Morgan

Question:

58 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the evidence presented to her to illustrate that rents have fallen in the lower end of the market in each county; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16961/09]

Willie Penrose

Question:

64 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will set out the rent supplement caps that will apply following her recent decision to reduce the maximum amount of rent available to rent supplement tenants. [16996/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 36, 43, 53, 58 and 64 together.

The purpose of the rent supplement scheme is to provide short-term support to eligible people living in private rented accommodation whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source. There are currently almost 85,000 people in receipt of rent supplement, an increase of 42% since the end of December 2007. It is essential that state support for tenants does not give rise to inflated rental prices and overcharging by landlords.

The recent supplementary budget provided that payments currently being made to existing rent supplement tenants be reduced by 8% with effect from 1 June 2009 in the expectation that landlords will reduce their rents, given the reductions in rent levels in the private rental market as a whole. While tenants may be contractually obliged to pay the rent agreed to in their lease, it is expected that landlords will decrease the rent in recognition of the fact that rents have fallen generally and that there are now a large number of vacant rental properties nationally.

Other changes in the supplementary budget provide for new maximum rent limits to be prescribed in regulations to take effect from 1 June 2009 to reflect the general reductions in private sector rent levels as well as an increase of €6 in the minimum contribution towards rent and mortgage interest supplement to €24 a week. This increased contribution aligns the contribution made under this scheme more closely with the rents paid by local authority tenants and should facilitate a smoother transition to the RAS. The new maximum rent limits re regulations will be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Data published by the CSO shows that rents fell by almost 7% between November 2008 and February 2009. A leading property website reports that rents have fallen by around 12% in the last year. A similar trend is apparent in tenancies registered with the Private Residential Tenancies Board. Existing recipients of rent supplement will be advised by letter in advance of the change being made to their rent payment and this communication can be shown to landlords as evidence of the revised rent supplement in payment in individual cases. Landlords will be advised through advertising in the print media of the general reduction in rent supplement payments.

Community Welfare Officers have discretion to provide assistance where exceptional circumstances exist in any individual case e.g. where homelessness might result due to the inability of a person to meet their rent payment.

Social Welfare Payments.

Martin Ferris

Question:

37 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the welfare payments currently under review with the objective of imposing reductions in Budget 2010; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16967/09]

No schemes are specifically under review by my Department at present with the objective of imposing reductions in budget 2010. However, the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes is expected to examine the full range of social welfare services schemes and services. The group's recommendations will be considered by the Government in the context of budget 2010.

Departmental Staff.

Liz McManus

Question:

38 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she is satisfied that there are sufficient resources with the habitual residence condition unit in her Department to allow for the speedy processing of jobseeker claims. [16994/09]

The requirement to be habitually resident in Ireland was introduced as a qualifying condition for certain social assistance schemes and child benefit with effect from 1 May 2004. It was introduced in the context of the Government's decision to open the Irish labour market to workers from the ten new EU Member States, without the transitional limitations which were imposed at that time by most of the other Member States. The effect of the condition is that a person whose habitual residence is elsewhere would not normally be entitled to social assistance or child benefit payments on arrival in Ireland.

At present, the habitual residence condition central unit is staffed by nine staff. The unit deals with habitual residence condition decisions in respect of certain Jobseekers Allowance and One-Parent Family claims. Habitual residence condition decisions for child benefit, disability allowance, carers allowance and pensions are now made in their respective headquarter offices. To further expedite the decision-making process, the responsibility for deciding the habitual residence component of those social assistance claims processed by local offices is being devolved to the recently established Local Office Support Unit.

Formal training for the staff involved is due to commence in May 2009 and this will cover the Support Units in Sligo, Carrick-on-Shannon, Finglas and Townsend Street. In Dublin. The training of the remaining support units will be scheduled as these units become fully operational in processing claims for job seeker payments. The localisations of the decision making functions when completed will result in speedier processing of claims involving decisions on habitual residence.

Social Welfare Code.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

39 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs her plans to amend the benefit and privilege rule for under 25 year olds. [16981/09]

There are no plans to amend the benefit and privilege rules for under 25 year olds at this time. Any further improvements to the means testing arrangements for social welfare schemes generally, including the benefit and privilege assessment arrangements for the jobseeker's allowance and supplementary welfare allowance schemes, would have to be considered in a budgetary context and having regard to available resources.

David Stanton

Question:

40 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs further to Parliamentary Question No. 103 of 11 November 2008, the involvement she has in the development of the study on inappropriate care roles of young carers being carried out by NUI Galway; if her attention has been drawn to a completion date for the study; if she will reconsider her decision not to publish the National Carer’s Strategy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16968/09]

The Social Partnership Agreement "Towards 2016" included a commitment to study the extent and degree to which children undertake inappropriate care roles and the impact this has on their lives. The Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (OMCYA) has the lead role in relation to this study. Officials from my Department participated with the OMCYA and the Department of Health and Children in developing the structure of the study and in the tendering process. The study commenced in October 2008 and it is expected that it will be completed by the end of this year. The Department received a copy of the interim report on the study, Research on Young Carers in the Irish Population, in February 2009 for information. There are no plans to reconsider the decision not to publish a National Carer's Strategy at this time.

During 2008 an interdepartmental group, chaired by the Department of the Taoiseach, with secretariat support provided by my Department, undertook work, including a public consultation process to develop a National Carers' Strategy. However, because of the prevailing economic situation, it was not possible to set targets or time lines which could be achieved. In that context, rather than publishing a document which did not include any significant plans for the future, the Government decided not to publish a strategy. This position remains unchanged.

The Government is acutely aware of the sacrifices made by carers and has sought to make many improvements in services and supports for carers. Over the past decade, weekly payment rates to carers have greatly increased, qualifying conditions for carer's allowance have significantly eased, coverage of the scheme has been extended and new schemes such as carer's benefit, half-rate carer's allowance and the respite care grant have been introduced and extended.

The means test for carer's allowance has been significantly eased over the years, and is now one of the most generous means tests in the social welfare system, most notably with regard to spouse's earnings. Since April 2008, the income disregard has been €332.50 per week for a single person and €665 per week for a couple. This means that a couple with two children can earn in the region of €37,200 and qualify for the maximum rate of carer's allowance as well as the associated free travel and household benefits. A couple with an income in the region of €60,400 can still qualify for a minimum payment, as well as the associated free travel, household benefits package. These levels surpass the Towards 2016 commitment to ensure that those on average industrial earnings continue to qualify for a full carer's allowance.

From June 2005, the annual respite care grant was extended to all carers who are providing full time care to a person who needs such care, regardless of their income. The rate of the respite care grant has also been increased to €1,700 per year in respect of each care recipient since June 2008. In June 2006, the number of hours for which a person can engage in employment, self-employment, education or training and still be considered to be providing full time care for the purposes of carer's allowance, carer's benefit and the respite care grant was increased from ten to 15 hours per week.

In budget 2009, I increased the rate of carer's allowance for those aged 66 or over by €7 to €239 per week and for those aged under 66 by €6.50 to €220.50 per week. These increases took effect from January 2009. Recipients of carer's allowance are also eligible for household benefits and free travel and the respite care grant. It is estimated that the combined expenditure on carer's allowance, carer's benefit, the respite care grant and half-rate carer's allowance will be €650 million in 2009. The Department of Social and Family Affairs is committed to continuing to work with the carer representative groups to deliver services in the most effective way and to support the carer groups in the valuable work they do in helping carers.

Question No. 41 answered with Question No. 15.
Question No. 42 answered with Question No. 28.
Question No. 43 answered with Question No. 36.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Jack Wall

Question:

44 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the progress in reviewing mortgage interest supplement; and her plans to amend this scheme and allow more people to qualify. [16986/09]

Emmet Stagg

Question:

60 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the steps she is taking to ensure that the qualifying criteria for mortgage interest supplement are altered to ensure that they do not discourage people from moving from welfare to work. [16985/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 44 and 60 together.

The mortgage interest supplement scheme is designed to help those who have difficulty meeting their mortgage repayment schedule where their means are insufficient to meet their needs. The scheme provides a short-term "safety net" within the overall social welfare scheme to ensure that people do not suffer hardship due to loss of employment. A supplement may be paid in respect of mortgage interest only to eligible people who are unable to meet their mortgage interest repayments in respect of a house which is their sole place of residence. There are currently over 11,300 people in receipt of mortgage interest supplement, an increase of almost 7,000 (175%) over the number in payment at end 2007.

The assessment for the existing mortgage interest supplement scheme provides for a gradual withdrawal of payment as hours of employment or earnings increase. Those availing of part-time employment and/or training opportunities can continue to receive mortgage interest supplement subject to their satisfying the standard means assessment rules.

In view of the current economic environment, the Department is conducting a review of the administration of the mortgage interest supplement scheme. The main purpose of the review is to consider how the mortgage interest supplement scheme can best meet its objective of catering for those who require assistance on a short-term basis, where they are unable to meet mortgage interest repayments on their sole place of residence. Legislative and operational issues arising in the existing mortgage interest scheme, including the cap on hours of employment, are also being examined.

The views of the community welfare service and other interested parties are currently being canvassed as part of the review. In the interim, updated guidelines on the operation of the existing mortgage interest supplement scheme will issue shortly to community welfare service staff.

Social Insurance.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

45 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs her estimate of the impact of the changes in the Social Welfare Bill 2009, on the likelihood of the Social Insurance Fund requiring support from the Exchequer in 2009. [16973/09]

Martin Ferris

Question:

65 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the rationale behind limiting the PRSI ceiling to €75,036; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16965/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 45 and 65 together.

Under the PRSI system social insurance contributions are compulsorily payable by employers and employed and self-employed workers. Approximately 76% of workers pay PRSI Class A and Class H at the rate of 4% and accrue entitlement to a range of benefits and pensions under various social insurance schemes.

The PRSI ceiling for ordinary employees is one of a range of balancing measures between the two fundamental principles on which the PRSI system is based: the contributory principle whereby there is a direct link between contribution paid and entitlement to a varying range of benefits and pensions which are payable as a right, if and when particular contingencies arise; the solidarity principle whereby contributions paid by insured persons are not actuarially linked to benefits but redistributed to support contributors who are more vulnerable. It is an expression of solidarity between both earning groups and generations.

The retention of the PRSI ceiling ensures that those on higher incomes will support contributors who are more vulnerable but also provides that high income earners will achieve good value for their contributions in line with the contributory principle. The PRSI system is strongly redistributive and the increase in the ceiling in the supplementary budget 2009 further strengthens this whilst still ensuring that higher income earners continue to gain value for their contributions.

It may be noted that the "Actuarial Review of the Social Insurance Fund, 2005" report, published in 2007, found that paying social insurance contributions represents very good value for money in almost all circumstances. In particular, the report found that those on lower incomes fare considerably better than those on higher incomes, with persons earning less than the gross average industrial wage paying 35% of the contributions but receiving 66% of the benefits. Additionally, it is not expected that the Social Insurance Fund will require Exchequer funding in 2009. It is also estimated that the raising of the ceiling will yield an additional €69 million in contribution income in 2009.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Joan Burton

Question:

46 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position regarding core social welfare payments following the supplementary budget of 7 April 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12309/09]

The rates of core social welfare payments were not reduced in the supplementary budget, other than in the case of 18 and 19 year old recipients of jobseekers allowance and basic supplementary welfare allowance.

In order to incentivise 18 and 19 year old jobseekers to avail of education and training opportunities, and try to avoid them become welfare dependent from a young age, the personal rate of payment for jobseekers allowance and basic supplementary welfare allowance will be reduced to €100 per week with effect from May 2009. This change will not apply to 18 and 19 year old recipients of jobseekers benefit. Nor will it apply to those receiving an increase in their payment for dependent adults or children.

As savings had to be achieved to keep the welfare budget at a level the State could afford, the Christmas Bonus will not be paid this year. The alternative to this measure was to reduce social welfare rates across the board. A number of changes are also being made to rent supplement as follows: entry to rent supplement will be restricted to applicants who have been existing tenants for six months or who have been placed on a local authority housing list following a full assessment of their housing needs; the minimum contribution for rent and mortgage interest supplement will be increased by €6 per week to €24, and maximum rent limits will be reduced as appropriate by up to 10% for all new tenancies or renewals while all existing rent supplements will be reduced by 8%.

Question No. 47 answered with Question No. 15.

Employment Support Services.

Bernard Allen

Question:

48 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the measures put in place by her to incentivise people in employment action plan areas, who received redundancy to take up the back to education allowance in view of the increasing unemployment figures; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17015/09]

Under the National Employment Action Plan (NEAP) all persons between the ages of 18 and 65 years who are approaching three months on the live register are identified by the Department of Social and Family Affairs and referred to FÁS for interview with a view to availing of a range of employment, training and educational options. The NEAP is not confined to particular geographic areas.

The back to education allowance is designed to facilitate people of working age on welfare payments to return to education in order to gain qualifications which will help to enhance their employment prospects. The main incentives for jobseekers to avail of the scheme are that it exempts them from the requirement to be available for work while participating in an approved course and, in addition, an annual €500 cost of education allowance is payable. Participants may continue to receive any secondary benefits to which they have been entitled.

In general, an applicant must be in receipt of a relevant social welfare payment for six months if pursuing a second level course or 12 months if pursuing a third level course. Provision was made in the recent supplementary budget to allow access to the allowance at three months to pursue courses at second level. However, a person who is entitled to statutory redundancy may access the scheme immediately provided an entitlement to a relevant social welfare payment is established prior to commencing the first year of an approved course of study. Each claimant for a jobseeker's payment is given an information sheet when they make their claim that, among other things, lists the range of employment support services operated by the department, this includes the back to education allowance scheme. The relevant information and booklets are also available in each of the department's local offices.

Jobseekers claimants are also advised about the department's facilitator service which is available to help a claimant to explore the range of work and educational options available. Where a person avails of this service and participation in the back to education scheme is recommended by the facilitator, the qualifying period for the third level option is reduced from 12 to nine months. In addition where a FÁS Employment Officer recommends participation in the back to education allowance Jobseekers claimants are also advised about the department's facilitator service which is available to help a claimant to explore the range of work and educational options available. Where a person avails of this service and participation in the back to education scheme is recommended by the facilitator, the qualifying period for the third level option is reduced from 12 to nine months. In addition where a FÁS Employment Officer recommends participation in the back to education allowance scheme under the NEAP the qualifying period for access to the third level option is also reduced from 12 months to nine months.

Over the summer the Department intends contacting all persons under 25 who are more than three months on the live register to advise them of the back to education options and sources of information available. The Government has devoted significant resources to the back to education allowance over the years. In view of its important role in enhancing the employability skills of jobseekers, the department continues to promote the scheme through all the channels at its disposal.

Tax and Social Welfare Codes.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

49 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the steps she proposes to take in conjunction with the Minister for Finance, to ensure that cohabitating couples are treated equitably by both the tax and welfare systems recognising their couple status. [16992/09]

The social welfare and tax systems have evolved over time and in response to a variety of factors, including Constitutional imperatives as interpreted by the Courts, changing social trends and EU Directives.

The social welfare code recognises the couple status of cohabiting couples and treats married and cohabiting couples in a similar manner. The EEC Equality Directive 79/9 and the subsequent Supreme Court case (Hyland v Minister for Social Welfare, 1989) led to the change in the treatment of non-married cohabiting couples in the social welfare code. The court ruled that it was unconstitutional for the total income a married couple received in social welfare benefits to be less than the couple would have received if they were unmarried and cohabiting. The income tax arrangements for cohabiting couples are a matter for the Minister for Finance.

Social Welfare Fraud.

Mary Upton

Question:

50 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the fraud rate among jobseekers who are claiming from abroad. [16974/09]

There is no provision in Social Welfare legislation for a person who is living abroad to claim a jobseeker's payment in this country. In order to qualify for a jobseeker's payment a person must be: resident in the State, under age 66, capable of work, available for work, and genuinely seeking work.

To qualify for jobseekers benefit a person must also satisfy certain contribution conditions. To qualify for jobseekers allowance a person must satisfy a means test, and the habitual residence condition.

Under EU regulations, a person who has been receiving jobseeker's benefit in Ireland for more than four weeks may transfer their benefit to another EU country for up to three months while looking for work in that country. When a claim is transferred to another EU country, the competent authority in that country takes over responsibility for the payment which is subsequently reimbursed to that country by the Department. While claiming under EU regulations the person becomes subject to the normal controls that pertain in the other EU country. Jobseeker's allowance is not transferable to another EU country.

There are no statistics maintained in the Department of fraud perpetrated in other EU member states by persons who have transferred jobseekers benefit abroad under EU Regulations.

Departmental Investigations.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

51 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if, in the course of investigations into social welfare applications it is considered appropriate that copies of bank statements are obtained directly from the applicant’s bank without their knowledge or consent in a situation in which the applicant is then charged by the bank for issuing such copies; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16809/09]

Applications for means tested payments are investigated by staff in the Department. In the ordinary course of events, a means assessment involves an interview of a claimant by a Social Welfare Inspector, in which they will be asked,inter alia, for details of any bank accounts they hold.

Where an applicant states he or she has one or more bank accounts, there are two possible courses of action open to the inspector; one is to request the applicant to provide copies of the relevant bank statements, the other is to ask the applicant to sign an authorisation permitting the bank concerned to provide the information required directly to the investigating officer. The first option, while it will provide accurate details of any accounts disclosed, will not provide any guarantee that the account(s) disclosed represent all of an applicants' accounts. Nonetheless, in many instances this option is used by an inspector.

There are, however times when an inspector will require further information or may need to establish from the bank that they have details of all accounts held in the person's name. In these circumstances, the inspector will ask the customer to sign a form of authorisation as described above. An inspector will always get the authority of the customer before making any inquiry of a bank.

Social Welfare Fraud.

Mary Upton

Question:

52 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the savings on social welfare fraud that would have to be made in order to restore in full the Christmas bonus for welfare recipients. [16998/09]

It is estimated that the payment of a full Christmas Bonus of 100% would cost over €220 million this year. The Department has already set an ambitious target for control savings this year of over €580 million and it would not be possible to secure further savings of the magnitude required to meet the cost of a Christmas bonus.

Question No. 53 answered with Question No. 36.
Question No. 54 answered with Question No. 15.
Questions Nos. 55 and 56 answered with Question No. 18.

Departmental Estimates.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

57 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she has reviewed the budgetary requirements of her Department for 2009 in view of increased levels of unemployment; if the level of unemployment emerging was fully anticipated during the preparation of the Estimates for 2009; if she will give an assurance regarding the adequacy of her Department’s budget to meet requirements for the full year and that savings are not likely to be made by an application of guidelines resulting in hardship in an effort to meet budgetary targets; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17002/09]

The Estimates for the Department of Social and Family Affairs which were published on 23 April last were based on an up to date analysis of trends as regards likely numbers of recipients and average value of payments in 2009. The estimates for jobseekers benefit, jobseekers allowance and supplementary welfare allowance were significantly increased from the Estimates published at the time of the October budget. These estimates were increased in line with the Department of Finance's projections of an average live register of 440,000 for the year. The amounts provided were not derived from a budgetary target.

There is no question of any overzealous application of qualification guidelines to achieve target expenditure outcomes. Expenditure on Social Welfare schemes is driven by a range of economic, social and demographic factors and it has long been accepted that expenditure on these schemes is demand lead. A person's entitlement to any given social welfare payment is assessed in accordance with predetermined qualifying conditions and rates of payment which are laid down in legislation or published guidelines. There are also well established appeal procedures for those who are unhappy with the decisions made on their claims for a social welfare payment.

Question No. 58 answered with Question No. 36.

Money Advice and Budgeting Service.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

59 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will instruct the Money Advice and Budgeting Service to collect statistics on waiting times in order that resources will be provided to the centres with the highest demand. [16979/09]

The Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) provides assistance to people who are over-indebted and need help and advice in coping with debt problems. There are 53 independent MABS companies with voluntary boards of management operating the local services throughout the country. In addition, the MABS National Telephone Helpline is available from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday to Friday, at lo-call number 1890 283 438 and budgeting and money management information can be accessed 24 hours a day atwww.mabs.ie. The MABS advises that people coping with debt difficulties should make an approach to the MABS, via any of the channels. This can be the first positive step in addressing debt difficulties.

In 2009, almost €18 million has been provided to fund the service. The additional investment in the MABS in recent years has strengthened the capacity of the service to deal with increased demand for service. There are now 252 money advice staff employed throughout the country and the Telephone Helpline has been strengthened to provide an immediate response to clients seeking information and advice. Applications for extra resources from individual MABS companies are subject to funding being made available and are kept under review.

All MABS companies operate an appointments system for meeting clients. Clients with urgent difficulties are prioritised for attention and dealt with promptly. Less urgent cases are referred to the Telephone Helpline and to the website for immediate assistance with budgeting and money management issues. Information is not collected centrally on the waiting times for appointments at different offices. However, I have been advised that the waiting period for less urgent cases ranges from a maximum of approximately eight weeks to as short a period as one week depending on the local service. Local services monitor their waiting times for appointments and, where required, seek guidance in managing their caseload from MABS NDL, the national support company.

The Telephone Helpline assists local services manage their appointment lists by providing an initial preliminary MABS service to clients and ongoing support while they await their appointment with their local money adviser. The Telephone Helpline can handle less complex straight forward single debt cases such as threatened utility disconnections and deals directly with the ESB and An Bord Gáis in relation to these cases. Over 90% of callers to the Helpline find that their money management and budgeting issues can be resolved with the assistance of the helpline advisor.

MABS NDL has introduced a number of community education and other initiatives to further assist the local services with their increased caseloads. These include a money management education programme for people facing redundancy to inform them about managing on a reduced income and how to avoid getting into debt.

Question No. 60 answered with Question No. 44.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

61 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of people in each county availing of the rent income supplement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16960/09]

The following tabular statement shows the number of recipients of rent supplement by county.

Rent Supplement Recipients by County

County

Recipients

Carlow

1,410

Cavan

1,033

Clare

1,596

Cork

9,664

Donegal

3,586

Dublin

27,464

Galway

4,346

Kerry

2,456

Kildare

3,687

Kilkenny

1,369

Laois

836

Leitrim

501

Limerick

3,206

Longford

869

Louth

2,211

Mayo

2,969

Meath

1,905

Monaghan

606

Offaly

984

Roscommon

1,259

Sligo

811

Tipperary

2,356

Waterford

2,372

Westmeath

1,466

Wexford

3,447

Wicklow

2,358

Total

84,767

Question No. 62 answered with Question No. 18.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

63 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the action she is taking to speed up processing times for payments for unemployed people who were formerly self-employed. [17000/09]

Self-employed people or those who were formerly self-employed are treated the same as any other applicant for a jobseekers payment. Those who do not qualify for jobseekers benefit which is based on PRSI contributions may qualify for jobseekers allowance provided they satisfy the normal conditions which include a means test.

Generally, self-employed persons are assessed on the basis of their income in the past 12 months to determine their expected income in the following year. If a self-employed person lost a contract and was unlikely to find a substitute contract in the coming year, this is factored into the assessment of future income. It is recognised that the present downturn in the economy is having a significant impact on many self-employed persons and the consequent reduction in their income and activity levels would be reflected in any assessment of their means from self-employment for jobseeker's allowance purposes. The Social Welfare Inspectors take account of this fact in projecting future earnings.

While additional staff have been allocated to Local Offices to deal with the increasing live register, other initiatives have also been put in place to speed up the taking and processing of claims. This includes the setting up of regional support units in Sligo, Carrick-on-Shannon, Finglas, and Townsend St. in Dublin. These improvements are part of a programme of initiatives being developed by the Department to streamline processes and procedures in Local and Branch Offices and it is intended that further improvements will be introduced on an on-going basis during 2009.

Question No. 64 answered with Question No. 36.
Question No. 65 answered with Question No. 45.

Audit Exemption.

Phil Hogan

Question:

66 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment her views on removing the statutory audit requirement from all companies limited by guarantee with an annual income of less than €50,000; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17176/09]

The extension of the audit exemption regime to small companies limited by guarantee is currently being examined by the Company Law Review Group as part of its 2008-2009 Work Programme and I will consider their recommendation(s) in the matter.

Departmental Reports.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

67 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she has received reports from bodies under the aegis of her Department in relation to their operation; if such will be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17187/09]

The information requested by the Deputy in respect of reports I have received from bodies under the aegis of my Department in relation to their operation since I took up office on 7 May 2008 is set out in the following table.

Reports Received from DETE Agencies on their Operation

Laid before Oireachtas (Y/N)

Intended to Lay before Oireachtas (Y/N)

Annual Report of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board 2007

Y

N/A

Science Foundation Ireland Annual Report and Accounts 2007

Y

N/A

Business Process Review and Gap Analysis of the Operations and Activities of the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA) [September, 2008]

N

N

National Employment Rights Authority (NERA) — Review of 2008 [February, 2009]

Y

N/A

Health and Safety Authority Annual Report 2007

Y

N/A

Health and Safety Authority Accounts for 2007 and the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General on the Accounts

Y

N/A

The Employment Appeals Tribunal 40th Annual Report 2007

Y

N/A

The Employment Appeals Tribunal 41st Annual Report 2008

N

Y

Health and Safety Authority Programme of Work 2009

N*

N

FÁS Annual Report and Accounts 2007

Y

N/A

Skillnets Annual Report 2007

N

N

Competition Authority 2008 Annual Report

Y

N/A

National Consumer Agency — Annual Report for 2007

Y

N/A

National Consumer Agency — Financial Statements & Accounts for 2007, including the Report of the Comptroller & Auditor General.

Y

N/A

National Consumer Agency — Annual Report for 2008

N

Y

National Consumer Agency — Annual Work Programme for 2009

N

N

Companies Registration Office Business Process Engineering Review

N

N

Companies Registration Office XBRL Feasibility Study

N

N

IAASA draft Financial Statements 2008

N

N

IAASA draft work programme 2009-2011

N

Y

ODCE Annual Report 2007

Y

N/A

ODCE Annual Report 2008

N

Y

Take Over Panel Annual Report 2007/2008

Y

N/A

Companies Registration Office Annual Report 2007

Y

N/A

Companies Registration Office Annual Report 2008

N

Y

**Annual Report for 2008 of the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority Report in respect of its activities under the Investment Limited Partnerships Act 1994

Y

N/A

*Not required to be laid before the Oireachtas, but is published on HSA website.

**The Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority is an agency within the remit of the Department of Finance. This refers to aspects of the report relating to activities that fall within the remit of this Department.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

68 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if her Department has commissioned internal or external reports in relation to her Department or bodies under the aegis of her Department in the past five years; if so, the objectives of such reports; the cost of same; if such reports have been laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17201/09]

The detailed information being sought by the Deputy, going back to 2004, is currently being compiled across my Department. However, in the short time available to me since the Deputy tabled this Question, I am not in a position to provide those details at present. A full response will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.

County Enterprise Boards.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

69 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the help available for a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17252/09]

My Department does not provide direct funding or grants to businesses but provides funding to a number of State Agencies including the County and City Enterprise Boards (CEBs) and Enterprise Ireland through whom assistance is delivered directly to businesses.

The County and City Enterprise Boards provide support to small businesses with 10 employees or fewer. Subject to certain eligibility criteria new and developing enterprises may qualify for financial support from the CEBs in the form of feasibility, employment and capital grants. In addition, the CEBs deliver a range of non-financial supports to improve management capability development within micro-enterprises designed to help new and existing enterprises to operate effectively and efficiently so as to last and grow. All of the CEBs operate to the same criteria in relation to the assistance which they can offer i.e. they can support the establishment and/or the development of enterprises provided that the projects have the capacity to achieve commercial viability and which over time may develop into strong exporting entities.

However, I would stress that priority is given to projects in the manufacturing and internationally traded services sectors. It is considered inappropriate to support other areas such as retail enterprises, personal services (e.g. hairdressers, gardeners, etc), professional services (accountants, solicitors, etc), construction, as it is considered that these enterprises generally give rise to unacceptable deadweight (where projects would have proceeded anyway) and/or displacement (where the projects simply displace business from other players in the market) concerns.

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.

Anyone with a business idea would be best advised to contact their local CEB in the first instance to discuss the matter further. Contact details for individual CEBs can be found by accessing the following website; www.enterpriseboards.ie.

Company Closures.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

70 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when she will announce the representative of her Department on the Waterford Crystal Task Force; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17288/09]

I have not established any Task Force on Waterford Crystal so the question of a representative from my Department does not arise. However, Waterford City Council has established the Waterford Crystal Forum to deal with the situation following job losses at Waterford Crystal. The Industrial Development agencies under the aegis of my Department are actively involved with the Forum.

Registered Moneylenders.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

71 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Finance the number of registered moneylenders operating in each local authority area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17289/09]

Particulars regarding registered moneylenders are provided by the Financial Regulator in its register of moneylenders.

The Register may be accessed via the link:

http://registers.financialregulator.ie/DownloadsPage.aspx. The Financial Regulator is not required to maintain details on the local authority area in which the registered moneylender operates.

Ministerial Remuneration.

Martin Ferris

Question:

72 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Finance the severance the sacked Ministers of State are to be awarded. [17146/09]

Martin Ferris

Question:

73 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Finance the legal basis for the severance to Ministers of State. [17147/09]

Martin Ferris

Question:

74 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Finance the reason sacked Ministers of State who still have a job receive this severance when ordinary workers will only receive one week’s pay per year worked when they are made redundant. [17148/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 72 to 74, inclusive, together.

Section 10 of the Oireachtas (Allowances to Members) and Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices (Amendment) Act 1992 provides for the payment of severance to Officeholders (Ministers, Minister of State etc.) who are members of the "new" Officeholders pension scheme from the day following that on which they cease to hold office. A person who ceases to hold office in order to take up a position to which he or she is appointed by the Government or for which he or she is nominated by the Government is not entitled to severance.

Severance is paid for a maximum of two years or for a period equivalent to that for which the person held office, if this is a lesser period. The severance is paid at a rate of 75% of the Officeholder's salary during the first six months, 50% of the salary during the next twelve months and 25% of salary during the last six months. A person who is entitled to receive an Officeholder's pension may switch to that pension at any time, but pension and severance are not payable during the same period.

Financial Institutions Support Scheme.

Martin Ferris

Question:

75 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Finance the reason NAMA is to be given €90 billion in view of the fact that the banks claim that their impaired loans are no more than 5% of their loan books which is approximately €25 billion. [17154/09]

It is not true that €90 billion of taxpayers' money will be given to any organisation.

While the potential book value of loans that will be transferred to NAMA is estimated to be in the region of €80 to €90 billion, NAMA will not be paying book value for them. Significant further detailed work and extensive due diligence on the loan books of each of the banks will be needed to ensure that the appropriate categories or portfolio of loans are transferred and that the banks are cleared of the identified riskiest loans.

Departmental Programmes.

Richard Bruton

Question:

76 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the details in tabular form of the programme changes compared to a no policy change estimate in the 2009 Estimates and the increases or savings involved in each programme in order that there can be an informed debate on the policy changes and their impact. [17161/09]

In line with the position outlined in previous replies on this subject, ‘existing level of service' or ‘no policy change' estimates have not been prepared for 2008 or 2009. Instead the focus has been on identifying priority areas for expenditure within the financial resources that are available.

However, the 2009 Revised Estimates for Public Services presented to this House and published on 23 April 2009, contain full details of the year-on-year expenditure changes for all areas of voted expenditure. Associated programme changes are set out in the Annual Output Statements for each Department which will be debated and scrutinised alongside the 2009 Estimate allocations before the relevant Dáil Select Committees.

Departmental Reports.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

77 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Finance if he has received reports from bodies under the aegis of his Department in relation to their operation; if such will be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17189/09]

The following table lists the latest reports received from bodies under the aegis of the Department of Finance, in relation to their operation.

Name of the Report

Has the report been laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas

Standards in Public Office Commission Annual Report 2007

Yes

The Special EU Programmes Body Annual Report and Accounts 2007

Yes

An Post National Lottery Company Annual Report for 2008

Yes

National Treasury Management Agency Annual Report 2007

Yes

National Pensions Reserve Fund Annual Report 2007

Yes

Report and Financial Statements of Sealuchais Arachais Teoranta for year ended 31 December 2007

To be laid shortly

Financial Services Ombudsman Annual Report 2008

To be laid shortly

Financial Services Appeals Tribunal Annual Report 2008

To be laid shortly

Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland Annual Report 2007

Yes

2007 Annual Report Office of Public Works

Not Applicable

Valuation Office Annual Report 2007

Yes

National Development Finance Agency annual report 2007

Not applicable

2008 Annual Report of the Office of the Revenue Commissioners

Yes

Irish Financial Services Regulator Statement of Estimated Income and Expenditure Report 2009

To be laid shortly

Irish Financial Services Regulator Annual Report 2007

Yes

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

78 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Finance if his Department has commissioned internal or external reports in relation to his Department or bodies under the aegis of his Department in the past five years; if so, the objectives of such reports; the cost of same; if such reports have been laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17203/09]

The following tables set out the reports commissioned in the period 2004-2008.

2004

Name of report commissioned

Cost/ Estimated cost of report

Reason for report

The Cohesion Fund in Ireland

43,545

Report on the Cohesion Fund in Ireland

Electricity Purchasing Strategies for the Public Sector

66,500

Electricity de-regulation 2006

Report to the Directors General Responsible for Public Administration in the European Union — Assessing the Implications of Demographic Changes on Public Sector Pensions.

59,840

The Report sets out the findings of an academic study on the Implications of Demographic Changes on Public Sector Pensions and was presented to the DGs in Dublin in 2004.

Report to the Directors General Responsible for Public Administration in the European Union — Ethics in the Public Services of the Member States of the European Union

66,975

The Report to the Directors General Responsible for Public Administration in the European Union was part of Ireland’s contribution to the European Public Administration Network in 2004.

A Financial Assessment of Decentralisation Costs and Savings

48,400

To identify the types of costs and savings associated with the decentralisation programme.

Evaluation of the Expenditure Review on the Charitable Lotteries Fund

1,200

Required under the Value for Money Process

2005

Name of report commissioned

Cost/ Estimated cost of report

Reason for report

Evaluation of the Expenditure Review of Change Management fund

1,452

Required under the Value for Money Process

Review of delegation of responsibility within the department and related work

5,755

To strengthen accountability

Securing Maximum Positive Benefits for Local Communities from the Public Service Decentralisation Programme

49,489

Advice on securing the maximum benefit for local communities from Decentralisation.

External evaluation of the Expenditure Review of the Grant in Aid to the IPA by the Department of Finance.

1,452

Required under the Value for Money Process

Evaluation of Water service investment in NDP/CSF 2000-2006

163,201

This report was commissioned under the Evaluation arrangements in the 2000-2006 Development Plan

Update Evaluation of Community Support Framework

91,889

This report was commissioned under the Evaluation arrangements in the 2000-2006 Development Plan

2006

Name of report commissioned

Cost/ Estimated cost of report

Reason for report

External Evaluation Report — on the Expenditure Review of the Grant-in-aid to the Economic and Social Research Institute

2,420

Necessary as part of the value for Money Review process

Evaluation of Value for Money and Policy Review of the Grant-in-Aid to Ordnance Survey Ireland

2,420

Required under the Value for Money Process.

Evaluation of the Expenditure Review of the Information Society Fund

1,000

Necessary as part of the value for Money Review process

Ex-Ante Evaluation of the Investment Priorities for the National Development Plan 2007-2013

356,942

Provided an evaluation of priorities for public investment as an input into the preparation of the National Development Plan 2007-2103

2007

Name of report commissioned

Cost/ Estimated cost of report

Reason for report

Value for Money and Policy Review of the Grant-in-Aid to Ordnance Survey Ireland

57,475

* To assess the objectives of the grant-in aid to Ordnance Survey Ireland (OSi); to identify improved output definitions and monitoring arrangements for future editions of the Service Level Agreement with OSi; and to advise on the placement of oversight of the agency.

Risk Review for Accountant’s Branch/ Paymaster General’s Office

49,624.06

To review risk management in Accountant’s Branch/ Paymaster General’s Office

Review of remuneration of CEOs of Commercial State Bodies

191,180

Review pay of CEOs of Commercial State Bodies

2008

Name of report commissioned

Cost/ Estimated cost of report

Reason for report

Evaluation of the Value for Money Review of the Civil Service Childcare Initative

2,178

To Review and assess the objectives of the Civil Service Childcare Initative

Review of the National Pensions Reserve Fund

No fee paid

Review of the National Pensions Reserve Fund

National Development Plan annual report 2007

23,724.34

*Progress report on National Development Plan

Tax Forecasting Methodology Review Group

N/A

To examine the tax revenue methodology employed by the Department of Finance in light of the actual experience over the period 1999-2006 following the previous review in 1998

*These reports were laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Tax Code.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

79 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Finance the reason for the delay in issuing a refund of tax for the years 2006 and 2007 to a person (details supplied). [17216/09]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that in December 2008, Returns of Income for 2006 and 2007, with supporting documentation, were requested from the person concerned. This information is necessary to deal with reviews but has not yet been submitted by the person concerned.

Drainage Schemes.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

80 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the commencement of a project (details supplied) in County Cork. [17228/09]

The closing date for receipt of tenders for the main contract for the construction phase of the Munster Blackwater (Fermoy) Drainage Scheme was yesterday, Wednesday 29th April 2009. A Contractor chosen from these tenders will be formally appointed, subject to sanction from the Minister for Finance. It is anticipated that this process will take approximately four weeks. Construction of the Scheme is expected to commence four weeks following the Contractor appointment.

Pension Provisions.

Michael Creed

Question:

81 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Finance if final details are available regarding the operation of the early retirement scheme in the public service for persons over 50 years of age; if he will clarify the pension benefit which will accrue to applicants for remaining years available to them in the public service; the rate of pension on offer for persons who retire early; the number of years service required for full pension benefits; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17235/09]

Details on the terms of the scheme and instructions regarding its operation are being circulated to Departments and will also be available on my Department's website. The benefits available under the scheme are based on service up to the date of departure, there is no addition of years of notional service in respect of the service forgone. The pension entitlement is calculated in the normal way i.e. on reckonable service and the pensionable remuneration. Forty years of reckonable service, or the equivalent, is normally required for maximum pension benefits.

Consultancy Contracts.

Joan Burton

Question:

82 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the arrangements relating to the employment of an economist (details supplied) in the context of the bank rescue plan; if they are kept on retainer; if they are paid on a per diem, hourly or other rate; the rate of their fee or remuneration; if they are retained by the National Treasury Management Agency or his Department; the cost to date of their employment; the duration of their contract; when it is due to conclude; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17249/09]

The Economist referred to is retained by the NTMA. I am advised by the NTMA that the terms of his contract with the NTMA were agreed on a confidential basis. In the circumstances I am unable to comment further on the issue.

Joan Burton

Question:

83 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the purpose of the retention of a company (details supplied) by his Department; when it was first retained for this purpose; the arrangements set out in the relevant contract; when this contract is due to expire; the rate of remuneration or fees contained in the contract; the amount of remuneration paid in this regard to date; the amount of remuneration currently outstanding; the procurement process that led to the retention of this company; the number of such companies short listed during this procurement process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17251/09]

The company the Deputy refers to is retained by the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) and was contracted at my request by the NTMA under the powers set out in the National Treasury Management Agency Act 1990, to assist the Government by providing general, strategic and specific technical advice on the Irish banking sector.

The company was first retained in the final week of September 2008 and the contract is due to expire at the end of June 2009.

As the Deputy is aware, in September 2008 there was severe market dislocation after the collapse of Lehmans and AIG difficulties. Given the strategic importance of retaining an advisor urgently, which was not conflicted, the NTMA procured such an advisor. The NTMA made contact with a number of Investment Banks who declared conflicts and thereby could not be retained.

The fees paid to the company are a flat retainer fee of €2 million with an overall limit of €6 million on any transactions undertaken. These fees do not include VAT and expenses.

The NTMA has advised me that the specific arrangements set out in the company's contract and the amount of remuneration currently outstanding are confidential contractual matters.

Joan Burton

Question:

84 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the purpose of the retention of a company (details supplied) by his Department; when it was first retained for this purpose; the arrangements set out in the relevant contract; when this contract is due to expire; the rate of remuneration or fees contained in the contract; the amount of remuneration paid in this regard to date; the amount of remuneration currently outstanding; the procurement process that led to the retention of this company; the number of such companies short listed during this procurement process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17250/09]

The company the Deputy refers to was retained by the Financial Regulator in late 2008 to assist the Financial Regulator with a review of the financial and capital positions of Irish banks and to enable the Financial Regulator to advise the Government on what action needed to be taken. Due to the extreme urgency of this work, and in accordance with Public Procurement Guidelines, the contractual terms were negotiated with the company without advertising the contract.

The work undertaken involved an initial high level assessment of the capital and liquidity levels of the institutions, stress testing of the institutions' loan portfolios over a three year period, and reviewing the valuation of properties held as collateral against the main property loans.

The total fees paid by the Financial Regulator to the company in respect of the work was €3.8 million, which has been completed. These costs will ultimately be charged by the Financial Regulator directly to the relevant institutions.

Further to a request of the Department of Finance under the Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Scheme 2008, the Financial Regulator has asked the company referred to, building on its previous work, to carry out further analysis of certain specified covered institutions. This work is ongoing and the same contractual arrangements will apply.

I understand that the company concerned has also carried out work to assist the National Pension Reserve Fund Commission's due diligence examination of AIB and Bank of Ireland. The NPRFC is an independent body and I cannot comment on the terms of this contract.

Tax Yield.

Joe McHugh

Question:

85 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Finance the amount of revenue generated on VRT for each of the years from 2002 to 2008 and for the first three months of 2009 on a county basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17263/09]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the information in relation to Vehicle Registration Tax is not captured in such a manner as to identify the receipts generated on a county basis. However, details of the total Vehicle Registration Tax receipts by category of vehicle for the years 2002 to 2008 and the first three months of 2009 are provided in the following table.

Vehicle Registration Tax — Net Receipts

Year

Category A (Motor Cars)

Category B (Car Derived Vans)

Category C (Commercial Vehicles)

Category M (Motor Cycles)

Total Net Receipts

2002

777,126,144

9,023,500

2,545,976

3,875,042

792,570,662

2003

806,712,804

6,881,875

2,511,034

3,344,032

819,449,745

2004

930,024,490

10,165,352

2,632,821

3,150,738

945,973,401

2005

1,128,605,603

13,553,352

3,291,750

3,332,447

1,148,783,152

2006

1,257,506,548

22,661,283

3,702,805

3,537,219

1,287,407,855

2007

1,376,409,029

21,694,431

3,755,350

4,196,824

1,406,055,634

2008 (Prov)

1,096,977,660

16,859,363

2,892,950

4,047,411

1,120,777,384

2009 (Est)

194,807,000

2,426,000

554,000

872,000

198,659,000

The estimated receipts for 2009 represent the VRT generated for sales of vehicles from January-March 2009. The net receipts received to the end of March amount to €163 million.

Financial Services Regulation.

Joe McHugh

Question:

86 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Finance the measures he will introduce in order to help fixed rate mortgage holders to switch to variable rates in order to avoid a significant breakage fee; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17265/09]

The Deputy's question refers to the redemption fee applied by mortgage providers in circumstances that a customer seeks to break a fixed rate mortgage. Mortgage lenders in Ireland generally seek to recover costs of funds when a borrower with a fixed rate mortgage agreement seeks to terminate the agreement some time before the term agreed.

Traditionally redemption fees were articulated with the institution specifying that a given number of months interest would apply. Overtime, they have generally moved towards a mechanism which reflects the difference between the contracted rate and current market rates applied to the amount outstanding for the remaining fixed period. Where a redemption fee is payable on a housing loan the mortgage agent has to inform the consumer about it at the outset.

Compensation sought by the lender reflects the cost to the institution of obtaining the funds on the capital market at a certain cost, as against selling them on at a related price. Institutions fund the fixed rate agreement through funding on markets, generally through interest rate swaps. This allows them to hedge their exposure to interest rate fluctuations. Where the borrower seeks to repay the loan before the contractually agreed fixed term in an environment where interest rates have declined, the institution is exposed to re-investment risk, i.e., it will be unable to re-lend the funds at a rate related to their cost, due to intervening market fluctuations.

Ireland is relatively unusual in the EU context in that borrowers have an absolute legal right to repay their loan early as set out in Section 121(1) of the Consumer Credit Act 1995. However Section 121 goes on to recognise that while a consumer will not be liable to pay an early redemption fee with respect to a variable rate loan, this exemption from redemption fees does not apply where the rate of interest is fixed or is fixed for one year.

The Deputy may wish to note that as part of the preparations for the EU White Paper on Mortgage Market Integration, which was published in December 2007, the Mortgage Industry and Consumer Expert Group agreed that lenders should receive a compensation when a consumer repays his or her fixed rate loan earlier than at its contractual termination.

There are significant benefits for both individual householders and for the stability of the housing and financial sector overall from greater take-up of fixed rate mortgages and it would not be advisable to embark on any course of action which could impact adversely on the cost and availability of fixed rate mortgages in the future.

On 26 March 2009, I undertook, in this House, to contact the Consumer Director of the Financial Regulator on the subject of customers who wish to switch from a fixed rate mortgage. On foot of that my Department has contacted the Financial Regulator to request confirmation that the redemption costs for switching from a fixed rate mortgage cover funding costs only and that there are no other costs included in these charges. The Financial Regulator has confirmed to my Department that it is looking into this matter and that it will revert shortly. I will advise the Deputy of the outcome of the Financial Regulator's consideration of this matter.

Banking Sector.

Brian Hayes

Question:

87 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Finance the number of employees working for Anglo Irish Bank at the time of nationalisation; the number at present; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17273/09]

Anglo Irish Bank is being run on an arms length commercial basis. Accordingly, the normal ongoing business of the bank, which includes the number of staff, is a matter for the Board of Anglo.

Notwithstanding this I am informed that the number of staff working in Anglo has decreased since the Nationalisation of Anglo from 1,723 at the end of January to 1695 at the end of March 2009.

Brian Hayes

Question:

88 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Finance the wage bill, including bonuses, for Anglo Irish Bank at the time of nationalisation; the wage bill, including bonuses, at present; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17275/09]

Anglo Irish Bank is being run on an arms length commercial basis. Accordingly, the normal ongoing business of the bank, which includes the pay and conditions of staff, is a matter for the Board of Anglo.

The cost of wages and salaries for Anglo for 2008 was €143m as per their 2008 annual accounts. As the number of staff working in Anglo has decreased and no bonuses have been awarded I would expect that this wage bill will decrease.

Brian Hayes

Question:

89 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Finance if bonuses have been awarded to any employees in Anglo Irish Bank since nationalisation; the value of these bonuses; the number of people who received them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17274/09]

Anglo Irish Bank is being run on an arms length commercial basis. Accordingly, the normal ongoing business of the bank, which includes the pay and conditions of staff, is a matter for the Board of Anglo.

Notwithstanding this I am informed that no bonuses have been awarded since the Nationalisation of Anglo.

Tax Code.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

90 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Finance his proposals to end the practice whereby the income levy is deducted from the income of couples who are under the €40,000 income threshold but will be refunded at the end of the year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17287/09]

The position is that section 531K(3) of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 provides for any income levy deducted from the income of a married person, jointly assessed for tax, where one or both persons are aged 65 years or over, to be repaid after the end of the tax year where the aggregate income of both spouses for the year does not exceed €40,000.

The legislation provides for a refund after the end of the year because it would not be possible for the Revenue Commissioners, an employer or pension provider to know during the course of the year whether or not all of the requirements necessary for the exemption to apply have been met. This would include knowing, for example, if the person or their spouse had turned 65 in the tax year, if they had other income sources and the aggregate income from these sources, if there had been a change in employment circumstances or if there had been a change in marital status during the year.

Revenue would not be in a position to establish many of these matters until after the end of a tax year and hence the need for the legislation to provide for the exemption to apply on the basis of a person making a repayment claim after the end of the tax year. I understand that in the case of the personal exemption of €20,000, the Revenue Commissioners have, on an administrative basis, advised employers and pension providers that they may apply the personal exemption of €20,000 during the course of the year for those persons aged 65 years and over, irrespective of marital status, where it is clear that the person's income for the year from that employment or pension will not exceed €20,000. Where it emerges after the end of the year that this arrangement results in an underpayment of the levy Revenue will pursue recovery of the levy underpaid.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

91 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children the average waiting time from the first appointment with the orthopaedic surgeon or a specialist at the Midlands Regional Hospital, Tullamore, County Offaly, to the patient’s operation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17117/09]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Medical Cards.

Pat Breen

Question:

92 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children when an appeal will be finalised for persons (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17118/09]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy.

Medical Aids and Appliances.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

93 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Health and Children if the new digital hearing aids will be made available to persons with hearing problems; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the new digital hearing aids are more effective and are more practical than the existing ones; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17122/09]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Health Services.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

94 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Galway has not been allocated a place at a nursing home near their home; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17123/09]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Health Care Payments.

Mary Upton

Question:

95 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children the situation regarding the overpayment to her Department by the UK Government, as reported recently; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17127/09]

Regulation (EC) 1408/71 coordinates health and social security arrangements among EU member states (it also applies in the remaining EEA member states and Switzerland). Under these provisions, people who are insured with (covered by) the health care system of one EU member state are entitled to receive health care in the public system of another member state in certain circumstances, at the cost of the member state in which they are insured.

Ireland operates a bilateral health care reimbursement agreement with the United Kingdom, arising from the application of Regulation (EC) 1408/71. The agreement comprehends such persons as temporary visitors between the two countries; pensioners of one country residing in the other country and their dependants; and the dependants residing in one country of people who are employed in the other country. The amount due is the net difference between the costs to the Irish health services of providing care to those with UK entitlements and the cost to the UK health services of providing services to those with Irish entitlements. Allowance is also made for those with dual entitlements in both jurisdictions. Under the terms of the agreement net liability between the two countries is calculated on a lump sum basis rather than an individual basis.

The payment made in any one year is based upon an estimate of the number of persons falling within categories eligible for reimbursement and for whom each country is liable and an estimate of the average cost of providing health care treatment. Payments are made in advance with final settlements made once all necessary information is complete. Total payments in any one year can relate to both final settlements in respect of previous years' liabilities and advance payments in respect of the current year. The net payment received from the UK over the last three years was: 2006 — €397m; 2007 — €450m; 2008 — €100m. These amounts represent the actual payments made in cash in these years and do not correspond to the full liability for that particular year. In line with established practice, advances are subject to final settlement once all necessary information is complete, including the approval of average costs figures for both countries at EU level.

Due to the nature of the claims process and the fact that bilateral discussions are continuing, it is not possible to establish whether any previous payments the UK has made represent overpayments in advance of the finalisation of accounts for these years. By far the largest part of the payment received from the UK authorities on an annual basis relates to the provision of health care to UK pensioners and their dependants residing in Ireland. The estimated number of pensioners for whom each country is liable is based on a survey by both administrations undertaken every three years. Such a survey was completed in 2008 and, in line with the agreement, will be applied to determine the liabilities for that year and retrospectively 2007. Discussions between my Department and the UK on the application of the survey and other aspects of the implementation of the agreement are continuing. The 2008 survey does indicate a reduction over previous surveys in the number of pensioners for which the UK is liable. This is in line with trends in demography and patterns of migration between the two countries.

While discussion of the detailed application of the survey is continuing, the reduction indicated in the survey will lead to an offsetting reduction in respect of the UK's estimated liability for 2007. The likelihood of such a reduced liability in respect of 2007 and subsequent years was considered in agreeing the 2008 payment of €100m set out above. The emerging reduction in ongoing liability of the UK also informed the estimation of the potential income from the UK authorities this year of €250m which is incorporated in the Revised Estimates Volume. As indicated, in line with established practice, the UK's final liability for 2007 will be determined once all necessary information is complete, including the approval of average costs figures for both countries at EU level.

Medical Cards.

Finian McGrath

Question:

96 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [17133/09]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Richard Bruton

Question:

97 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will issue guidelines clarifying the obligations of patients in nursing homes whose resources have been exhausted and who face mounting deficits in their payments to the nursing home; the obligation of the patient’s next of kin, the provider and the State in respect of the financial shortfall involved; and the protection there is in the case of persons who have given up their home and exhausted all their savings that liability can not be pursued in respect of their next of kin who are not in a position to pay the cost. [17162/09]

The cost of private nursing homes is set by the nursing home and is not determined by the Department. The Health Service Executive can pay an approved subvention to the nursing home of the applicants' choice and the payment of the balance of the nursing home fee is a matter between the patient and the nursing home under the contract of care agreed between these parties. In order to qualify for a subvention, an individual must be:

(a) sufficiently dependent to require maintenance in a nursing home, and

(b) unable to pay any or part of the cost of maintenance in the home. In order to determine this, they must undergo a means assessment which takes account of their income and assets.

The existing subvention scheme is governed by the Health (Nursing Homes) (Amendment) Act 2007. Under the Act, the maximum amount for basic subvention is €300 per week. The Act also provides for an enhanced subvention to be paid. However, there is no maximum amount set for enhanced subvention. The amount paid is at the discretion of the HSE and will vary depending on the following criteria:

the assessed means of the applicant,

the cost of care in the individual case compared to the level of fees in the locality,

the amount of basic subvention payable,

the amount of resources available for the scheme,

the need for the HSE to ensure that the available resources are distributed in a way that supports applicants as evenly as possible across the country.

Medical card holders are entitled to retain their medical card when they move into a private nursing home. In such circumstances, the HSE must continue to make a General Practitioner (GP) service available to the patient free of charge and they retain the right to choose their own GP in the same way as if they were living in the community.

Finally, the Minister has acknowledged that the current system of Nursing Home Subvention does not provide adequate supports for some people. It was with this in mind that work commenced on the Nursing Homes Support Scheme, A Fair Deal. You will be aware that the legislation completed Committee Stage in the Dáil on 12 March 2009. It is the Minister's intention to progress the legislation through the Houses of the Oireachtas with a view to implementing the scheme later this year. Unfortunately it is not possible to give a more specific timeframe at present.

The Fair Deal is designed to remove real financial hardship from many individuals and their families who, under the current system of Nursing Home Subvention, have to sell or re-mortgage homes to pay for the cost of nursing home care. It aims to render private long-term care affordable and anxiety-free, and ensure that no-one has to sell their home during their lifetime to pay for their care. The Fair Deal will equalise State support for public and private long-term care recipients. There will be one, transparent system of support towards the cost of care that will be fair to all, irrespective of whether they are in public, private or voluntary nursing homes. This will meet one of the objectives of Towards 2016, namely that State support should be indifferent as to whether a person is in public or private care.

Child Care Services.

Richard Bruton

Question:

98 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the way the free preschool and early childhood scheme will operate; the children who will be eligible; the number of children who will be eligible in January 2010; the criteria which will be used to determine eligibility; if the scheme is universal or if a higher contribution will be imposed on higher income families; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17167/09]

Richard Bruton

Question:

99 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the way the free preschool and early childhood scheme will operate; the service providers who will be eligible to provide the scheme; the criteria which will be used to determine eligibility; if existing service providers will be allowed to provide the public service while continuing to provide a private service simultaneously; if such a service provider who continues to provide a private service will be eligible for the capitation grant for their private practice; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17168/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 98 and 99 together.

As the Deputy will be aware I have responsibility for the implementation of the new scheme to provide a free Preschool year of Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) which was announced recently by the Minister of Finance. The scheme will allow children to avail of a free playschool place in their preschool year, which will be provided for 3 hours per day, 5 days per week for 38 weeks. It will also allow children in their preschool year who are attending a full part-time day day care service to avail of a free session of 2 hours and 15 minutes per day, 5 days per week for 50 weeks. As the new scheme will be introduced from January next, the first full year will be from September 2010 and children availing of the scheme in January 2010 will have a reduced period of free preschool provision. It is hoped that the majority of parents, regardless of their income levels, will avail of the scheme for a free preschool year.

Participating children must normally be aged between 3 years 3 months and 4 years 6 months on 1 September of each year. Exceptions will be allowed where children have special needs or it is necessary to accept children at an older age due to the enrolment policy of the local primary school. Participating services will receive capitation of €64.50 per week where children attend for 38 weeks, and €48.50 where they attend for 50 weeks of the year. Services will receive payments at the start of each term. Where the child is attending full-day or part-time child care, the service will be required to reduce the child care fees by the amount of the capitation. A participating service may also operate a preschool service which is not within the scheme.

The scheme is expected to cost approximately €170 million per annum. This figure has been estimated on the basis that the capitation grant of over €2,400 per annum will be paid in respect of some 70,000 participating children. As parents are not required to enrol their children in the preschool year, a participation rate of 90% of eligible children has been assumed. As the age range for eligibility covers a 15 month period (i.e. children must be aged between 3 years 3 months and 4 years 6 months at 1 September), the participation rate of 90% takes account of the full cohort of children who could be enrolled. (The number of live births in Ireland in 2005 was 61,042, rising to 64,237 in 2006 and 70,620 in 2007.) As the majority of children start school at the age of 5, most participating children in January 2010 are expected to be aged 4 with a significant minority aged 3. The 15 month age range is provided to facilitate parents in aligning their children's preschool year with the year they commence school.

The scheme will be open to almost 5,000 private and voluntary preschool services and officials in my Office will be writing to these by the end of May 2009 to provide further details and to advise them of the application process. Preschool leaders will be expected to have a qualification in child care to FETAC level 5 or 6 qualifications, or equivalent or to be in the process of completing their qualification. All services will be required to provide an educational programme consistent with the principles of Síolta and appropriate to the age of participating children. A national team of Síolta co-ordinators will assist services in meeting these standards.

Hospital Services.

Michael McGrath

Question:

100 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will intervene with the Health Service Executive and ensure sufficient resources are made available to a hospital for a particular drug to be administered to a person (details supplied) in County Cork, or to ensure that another hospital can provide the treatment to them; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17170/09]

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Inter-Country Adoptions.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

101 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding inter-country adoption, in particular, such adoptions between Ireland and Russia and Ireland and Ethiopia; the status of any adoption agreement between Ireland and those countries; and if her Department has plans to further facilitate adoptions from those countries. [17177/09]

The Adoption Bill, 2009, which will give force of law to the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-country Adoption, was published on 23 January, 2009.

A core principle of the Hague Convention is that inter-country adoption should be child-centred — that is, in all stages of the process, the child's interests must be paramount. Legislating for inter-country adoption is essential to give protection to children during the process of adoption. The Hague Convention has put in place the equivalent of a contract between States to regulate the standards that will apply in each jurisdiction. This is an additional safeguard for a receiving country like Ireland with regards to the standards that are being applied in the sending country — over which we have no jurisdiction. As a receiving country, it is especially important for Ireland to have some confidence in the process of consent to the adoption, in the status of the child as adoptable and in a guarantee of no improper financial gain from the process.

I firmly believe that legislation and, specifically, the regime of the Hague Convention provide an assurance for individual children, their families and the State that appropriate procedures have been followed and that the adoption was affected in the best interests of the child. As such, it is our intention that inter-country adoptions will now meet the standards of the Hague Convention. Under the proposed new legislative regime, prospective adoptive parents will be able to adopt from countries that have ratified the Hague Convention as well as from those countries with which Ireland has a bilateral agreement based on Hague standards. As part of the preparations for the likely passage and entry into force of these new legislative arrangements, my Office has been liaising with the Department of Foreign Affairs to identify and negotiate with countries that continue to seek homes abroad for children in need of alternative care that cannot be provided domestically. We are working actively to assess the possibilities of entering into bilateral agreements with a small number of countries, including the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and the Russian Federation.

As regards the Russian Federation, my Office is undertaking preparatory work to consider the contents of such an agreement, including anticipating the likely requirements of the Russian Federation. While every effort will be made to conclude a bilateral agreement with countries from which children have traditionally been adopted by Irish applicants in advance of any of the proposed changes in Irish law taking effect, it must be acknowledged that these matters will be determined to a considerable degree by the Governments of these sovereign States. However, at this point in time, it is my priority to endeavour to ensure that an international bilateral agreement with the Socialist Republic of Vietnam is put in place as soon as possible to maintain the continuity of arrangements between Ireland and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam in relation to inter-country adoption.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

102 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the time it takes to carry out inter-country adoption procedures varies from just a few months to a year in some parts of the country to four or five years in other parts; if she will provide figures detailing the number of social workers involved in processing these procedures by county or relevant administrative area; and if her Department has plans to reduce the waiting times for carrying out these procedures in those parts of the country where it is currently high. [17178/09]

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

103 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children if the Health Information and Quality Authority has a statutory role to assess inter-country adoption procedures here from the standpoint of international best practice; if such an assessment or inspection of the relevant social services will take place at some point in the future. [17179/09]

The Adoption Acts, 1952 -1998 provide the statutory framework for adoption, including intercountry adoption, in Ireland. The Adoption Act, 1952 provides for the establishment of the Adoption Board. The Adoption Board has a range of powers and functions which include:

(i) powers to make adoption orders and in doing so, to determine the eligibility and suitability of applicants for adoption;

(ii) to determine of the requisite consent to adoption and the validity of such consents; and

(iii) to determine that the requisite administrative and procedural requirements under the Act have been met.

In determining the issue of eligibility and suitability, either in relation to the making of an adoption order or the issuing of a Declaration of Eligibility or Suitability to adopt abroad, the Board has regard to assessement reports prepared by the Health Service Executive or a registered adoption society. Under section 8 of the Adoption Act, 1991 the Health Service Executive carries out assessements of eligibility and suitability for intercountry adoption or makes arrangements for such assessments to be carried out by a registered adoption society. The Adoption Act, 1952 also provides for the establishment of Register of Adoption Societies. The Adoption Board keeps this register and grants registration to those bodies competent to undertake the obligations of a registered adoption society set out in the Acts for the making of arrangments for adoption.

At a practical level, the development of standards for the assessment of applicants for intercountry adoption has been advanced through the conjoint working of the Adoption Board, the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs and the Health Service Executive. This work was based on a Report commissioned by the Department of Health and Children and submitted to Government in June 1999 "Towards a Standardised Framework for Intercountry Adoption Assessment Procedures". The standardised framework which emerged from that process in 2000 was founded on evidence-based practice and developed with the assistance of international agencies in the field. The implementation of this framework is continually under review by all parties as intercountry adoption practice and experience continues to evolve and with particular regard to the new statutory framework likely to emerge from the recently published Adoption Bill, 2009.

The Bill is aimed at copperfastening the role of a new Adoption Authority as the Central Authority under the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption. This will include the strengthening of the system of accreditation for a range of agencies working in the adoption field, either assessing or assisting applicants in advancing their adoption application once they have been approved as eligible and suitable to adopt by the Adoption Authority. This will also provide for a comprehensive framework for the oversight of intercountry adoption practices across jurisdictional boundaries in conjunction with other Contracting States. The Health Information and Quality Authority has no role in setting standards for assessements under the Adoption Acts, 1952-1998.

Departmental Reports.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

104 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has received reports from bodies under the aegis of her Department in regard to their operation; if such will be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17191/09]

The information requested by the Deputy is currently being collated by my Department and will be forwarded as soon as it becomes available.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

105 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children if her Department has commissioned internal or external reports relating to her Department or bodies under the aegis of her Department in the past five years; if so, the objectives of such reports; the cost of same; if such reports have been laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17205/09]

The information requested by the Deputy in respect of the period January 2004 to July 2008 is set out below. Information in respect of the period August 2008 to the present date is currently being collated by my Department and will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as it becomes available. While there are statutory requirements to lay particular documents before the Houses of the Oireachtas, for example the Health Service Executive's Corporate and Service plans when approved, many of the following documents do not fall into that category. Details of documents laid by my Department are available from the Oireachtas Library and Research Service.

Reports commissioned in 2004

Name of Report

Cost

A critical appraisal of and commentary on “50 Reasons to oppose fluoridation”

15,529.00

A Feasibility Study of the Inclusion of Blood and Tissue Data as a Component of the National Longitudinal Study of Children in Ireland

75,504.00

Cultural Male Circumcision Report

1,983.00

Evaluation of Coronary Heart Attack Ireland Register (CHAIR)

64,100.00

Evaluation of Heartwatch

81,700.00

Giving Children a Voice: Investigation of children’s experiences of participation in consultation and decision making in Irish hospitals

27,294.00

Health Service Reform Programme Composite Report

No cost to the Department

Investigating the Impact on Children of Witnessing Domestic Violence: Nature and Adequacy of Child-Centred Services

46,518.00

Kidscreen National Survey 2005

49,911.82

Lourdes Hospital Inquiry — An Inquiry into Peripartum Hysterectomy at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda

2,955,000.00

National Primary Care Steering Group Progress Report

6,493.00

National Children’s Advisory Committee — End of Term Report 2001-2004

12,783.00

Obesity the Policy Challenges — The Report of the National Taskforce on Obesity 2005

42,000.00

Play and Technology

49,368.00

Public Perceptions of Biomedical Research

120,000.00

Report by the Care and Management Sub-Committee of the National AIDS Strategy Committee on HIV/STI Services in Ireland

5,053.00

Report from the Evaluation of the National Health Promotion Information Project

13,600.00

Report of the Expert Group on Midwifery and Children’s Nursing Education

3,407.00

Report of the Working Group to examine the development of appropriate systems to determine nursing and midwifery staffing levels

4,712.00

Report on certain issues of management and administration in the Department of Health and Children associated with the practice of charges for long-stay patients in Health Board institutions (Travers Report)

93,150.00

Research on Children’s Understanding of Wellbeing

16,625.00

Review of the National Health Promotion Strategy

19,713.00

Review of the Strucures and Support Needs of Comhairle na nÓg and Dáil na nÓg

26,611.00

The Child’s Right to be heard in the Health Setting

52,591.00

The Development and Implementation of Child Impact Statements

25,410.00

The Process of Youth Homelessness: A Qualitative Longitudinal Cohort Study

44,506.00

‘What we Heard’ and ‘Speaking Your Mind’ — Reports on the Service User Consultation Process and the Public Consultation Process for the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy

169,714.00

Young People’s Views about Opportunities, Barriers and Supports to Recreation and Leisure

45,325.00

Young Voices: Guidelines on how to involve children and young people in your work

64,485.00

Reports commissioned in 2005

Name of Report

Cost

Comhairle Implementation Group Report

Produced internally — no cost

Dáil na nÓg Delegate Report 2005

16,379.00

Evaluation of the Work of the Children and Young People’s Forum

17,740.00

Joint Ministerial and Coiste na dTeachtaÍ Report 2005

Part of NYCI Dáil na nÓg 2006-2008 contract

NCAC — Mid-Term Review of the National Children’s Strategy

57,500.00

Prospectus (co-located Private Hospitals)

29,403.00

Reducing the Risk: A Strategic Approach (Sudden Cardiac Death Taskforce Report)

23,900.00

Report from the Evaluation of the National Health Promotion Information Project

13,600.00

Report of Consultation on the Health Act (2004) Part 9 — Complaints

16,750.00

Report of Dr. Deirdre Madden on Post Mortem Practice and Procedures (Working Group).

436,000.00

Report of the Long-Term Care Working Group

Nil

Report of the National Committee on Folic Acid Food Fortification

25,000.00

Report on Public Consultation on the Development of a Recreation Policy for Young People in Ireland

72,631.00

Sustaining Progress — Working Together to Reduce the Harms Caused by Alcohol Misuse

9,100.00

The Irish Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) Study 2006 (Research Project)

505,385.00

Reports commissioned in 2006

Name of Report

Cost

Dáil na nÓg Delegate’s Report 2006

Part of NYCI Dáil na nÓg 2006-2008 contract

European Schools Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD) Research Project

48,400.00

Evaluation of the Irish Haemovigilance System

9,432.00

First Annual Report of the Independent Monitoring Group on ‘A Vision for Change’ the Report to the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy

3,324.00

HIV and AIDS Education and Prevention Plan 2008-2012

27,118.00

National Children’s Advisory Council (NCAC) — Report on Youth Volunteering in Ireland

47,389.00

Report of the Working Group on Haemochromatosis

2,537.00

Report on the Outcome of Consultations with Teenagers on the Issues to be Considered by the Minister for Children when Examining the Age of Consent for Sexual Activity

78,098.00

Research commissioned on: Children’s Perspectives on Parenting Styles and Discipline

17,000.00

Research Commissioned on: National Longitudinal Study of Children in Ireland (NLSCI)

The NLSCI contract covers the period 2006 to 2012. It is a fixed price contract amounting to €29,005,987.00 including VAT in 2005 prices. This is currently under review.

Research commissioned on: A follow up study on the educational and Social Support experiences of Young People in Long Term Foster Care

47,500.00

Research commissioned on: A Study of Parent-Child Agreements and Arrangements based on Court Records

30,894.00

Research commissioned on: Child Protection Services in Ireland: An Evaluation

64,493.00

Research commissioned on: Ethics Committees and Ethics Approval for Children’s Research in Ireland

35,973.00

Research commissioned on: Public Library Services for Children and Young People in Ireland

56,864.00

Research commissioned on: Services and Supports for Children on Remand in Ireland

59,573.00

Review of Administration and Processes, Department of Health and Children

No cost to the Department

Second Annual Report of the Independent Monitoring Group on ‘A Vision for Change’ the Report to the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy

9,361.00

Slan 2007 — Survey of Lifestyle, Attitudes and Nutrition in Ireland (Research Project)

1,807,641.00

Study of Efficiency and Effectiveness of Vocational Training Services and Rehabilitative Training Services for People with Disabilities Provided by Specialist Training Providers

50,866.00

Value for Money Review of the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme 2000-2006

76,109.00

Working Group on Alcohol and Drugs Synergies

Nil

Reports commissioned in 2007

Name of Report

Cost

Dáil na nÓg Delegate Report 2007

10,576.00

Doherty Report on Breast Radiology Services at Midland Regional Hospital, Portlaoise

Nil

Fitzgerald Report on Breast Radiology Services at Midland Regional Hospital, Portlaoise

Nil

Independent Inquiry into the tragic deaths of the Dunne Family in Monageer, Co. Wexford

Costs ascertained when report completed

National Children’s Advisory Council (NCAC) — Report on Youth Café Provision

63,023.00

National Oral Health Policy

Costs ascertained when report completed

Quality Assessment of the Value for Money Review of the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme 2000-2006

2,995.00

Report of the Commission on Patient Safety and Quality Assurance

42,086

Research commissioned on : The Physical Chastisement of Children by Parents

126,723.00

Review of the Operation of the Mental Health Act 2001 — Findings and Conclusions

Nil

Round Table discussion on the financial abuse of older people

3,000.00

Teenagers’ Views on Solutions to Alcohol Misuse

55,257.00

Vaccine Damage Steering Group

11,048.00

Reports commissioned up to July 2008

Name of Report

Cost

National Children’s Advisory Council (NCAC) — End of Term Report 2005-2008

Nil

Report of the Independent Pharmacy Pricing Body

41,497.00 (to date)

Strategic Plan for the St. Ultan’s Children’s Project

14,702.00

Study of certain Accounting Issues within the Health Service Executive

54,450.00

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Eamon Scanlon

Question:

106 Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Health and Children when an application under the health repayment scheme will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Sligo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17227/09]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Health Service Staff.

Mary Upton

Question:

107 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will investigate the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17240/09]

There has been a growing demand for, and investment in, physiotherapy services over the last number of years. A particular priority for my Department and the Department of Education and Science in recent years has been the expansion of the supply of therapy graduates. 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. In this regard, since 1997, the number of training places for physiotherapists has been increased from 64 to 145 which represents an increase of 127%. The numbers employed in physiotherapy has also grown significantly, with 593 whole time equivalents employed in December 1997 compared to 1,449 whole time equivalents employed in December 2008, which represents an increase of 144%.

The Government is committed to ensuring continued adequate recruitment of professional staff across a range of community settings to ensure the continued development of community services. Additional funding of €20 million has been provided in 2009 for health and education services for children with special educational needs. This funding will provide a total of 125 additional therapy posts in the HSE targeted at children of school-going age. 90 of these will be in the disability services, including physiotherapists, speech and language therapists and occupational therapists.

My Department recently wrote to the Health Service Executive setting out the overall approved employment control ceiling for 2009. As part of this approval, written confirmation has been provided to the HSE that the general moratorium on recruitment, promotion and the payment of acting up allowances does not apply to specific designated grades. Delegated sanction has been given to the HSE for the creation and filling of frontline posts including physiotherapy, speech and language therapy and occupational therapy posts. The approval indicated that vacancies in existing posts in these grades may continue to be filled. New posts may also be created in these grades, up to a specified limit, provided that the HSE is satisfied in each case that there is no scope to redeploy an equivalent post from the hospital sector to the primary and community care sector. This moratorium exemption provides for an increase in the number of therapy posts, in line with Government policy, in order to meet the requirements of integrated care delivery and primary care needs particularly in respect of children at risk, the elderly and those with disabilities. The recruitment and retention of these key front line therapy posts, including physiotherapy, is vital to ensure continued progress in the development of community settings.

Subject to overall parameters set by Government, the Health Service Executive has the responsibility for determining the composition of its staffing complement. 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. As this is a service matter it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Denis Naughten

Question:

108 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 174 of 10 July 2008, the number of applications received under the nursing home repayment scheme from applicants with an intellectual disability or their representatives; the number of such applications which were submitted by Health Service Executive staff; the number of these applications approved to date; the number on hand; the number who have appealed the offer made to them; the success rate of same; the number who have appealed the rejection of their application; the success rate; the procedure employed to have an offer accepted or reviewed when HSE staff made the original application; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17242/09]

Denis Naughten

Question:

109 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of applications received under the nursing home repayment scheme from elderly applicants with no next of kin; the number of such applications which were submitted by Health Service Executive staff; the number of these applications approved to date; the number on hand; the number who have appealed the offer made to them; the success rate of same; the number who have appealed the rejection of their application; the success rate; the procedure employed to have an offer accepted or reviewed when HSE staff made the original application; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17243/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 108 and 109 together.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has responsibility for administering the health repayment scheme in conjunction with the appointed scheme administrator KPMG-McCann Fitzgerald. The Health (Repayment Scheme) Act 2006 provides a clear legal framework to repay recoverable health charges for publicly funded long term residential care. Recoverable health charges are charges which were imposed on persons with full eligibility under the Health (Charges for In-patient Services) Regulations 1976 as amended in 1987 or charges for in-patient services only, raised under the Institutional Assistance Regulations 1954 as amended in 1965. All applications received under the scheme are processed within this legal framework and specific details on certain cohorts of applicants, such as those outlined by the Deputy are not currently available. However, in terms of the overall scheme over 39,500 applications have been received, 7,600 of which were submitted by the HSE on behalf of patients. Approximately 7,100 HSE claims have been concluded, 500 HSE claims remain to be concluded and approximately 1,100 HSE claims have been appealed.

The procedure employed to have an offer accepted or reviewed when HSE staff make an application is in accordance with the legislative provisions of the Act. If the applicant disagrees with the repayment amount offered an appeal is lodged under section 16 of the Act which provides for the process for those who wish to appeal the decision of the Scheme Administrator. When HSE staff accept an offer of repayment on behalf of a patient, the repayment is made directly to the relevant patient private property account. The Health Repayment Scheme Appeals Office is an independent office established to provide an appeals service to those who wish to appeal the decision of the Scheme Administrator under the Health (Repayment Scheme) Act 2006.

Up to the 24 April 2009, the Health Repayment Scheme Appeals Office has received 1,552 completed appeal forms from all claimants who had received an offer from the Scheme Administrator. Decisions have been made in 764 of these appeals and 331 of these decisions have disagreed with the amounts offered by the Scheme Administrator. Up to the 24 April 2009, the Health Repayment Scheme Appeals Office has received 3,997 completed appeal forms from all claimants whose claim had been rejected by the Scheme Administrator. Decisions have been made in 2,449 of these appeals and 276 of these decisions have disagreed with the decision of the Scheme Administrator. The HSE has informed my Department that up to the 17 April 17,076 payments totalling over €376m have issued while over 20,000 offers of repayment totalling over €396m have been made. Approximately 700 claims are currently outstanding and these claims are being concluded on a daily basis.

Health Services.

Joe McHugh

Question:

110 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children the code of practice for parents accompanying their children to orthodontic clinics; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17257/09]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Medical Cards.

Frank Feighan

Question:

111 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason new GMS cards issued to persons (details supplied) in County Roscommon are only issued for two years despite the fact that have held a GMS card for many years; and if all new GMS cards issued to persons from the client registration unit in Finglas, Dublin are only for two years. [17272/09]

The Health Service Executive reports that in general, medical cards currently issued under the Health Act 2008 to persons aged 70 years of age and over are issued for a period of two years. In respect of the particular case raised by the Deputy, which is a service matter, my Department has asked 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.

Michael McGrath

Question:

112 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in regard to an application for permanency by a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [17276/09]

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the HSE for attention and direct reply to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Michael McGrath

Question:

113 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if a medical appointment for a person (details supplied) in County Cork will be rescheduled. [17279/09]

As the Deputy's question relates to a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Medicinal Products.

Michael McGrath

Question:

114 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide details of the Health Service Executive’s dispose of unused medicines properly campaign, including details of the volume and value of medicines disposed of as part of the campaign to date; and the measures being taken by the HSE to minimise the volume of wasted medicines in the system. [17280/09]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of Health 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 Health Service Executive to consider the information requested by the Deputy and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy on the matter.

Medical Cards.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

115 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Health and Children if there has been a change in entitlement to medical card for a person with a social security pension and an occupational pension from another EU member state; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17286/09]

Regulation (EC) 1408/71 deals with the coordination of social security schemes, including healthcare, for those moving within the European Union. Under its provisions persons who are insured with (covered by) the healthcare system of one EU member state are entitled to receive healthcare services in the public system of another member state, in certain circumstances, at the cost of the member state in which they are insured. Such persons may include people who are employed in one member state and resident in another and their dependants, pensioners of one member state who reside in another and their dependants and visitors to one member state from another.

The provisions of Regulation (EC) 1408/71 supersede national eligibility provisions. Persons residing or staying in Ireland who are covered by these provisions are entitled free of charge to all medical treatment provided by Irish legislation, where the cost of this treatment is payable by a member state other than Ireland; those residing here receive a medical card as evidence of their entitlement, although this is not based on national legislation. Persons in receipt of a qualifying pension from another EU member state and who are not in receipt of a qualifying Irish pension will receive a medical card under these arrangements. There have been no changes in the entitlement of this category of insured persons.

Infectious Diseases.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

116 Deputy Ciarán Cuffe asked the Minister for Health and Children the type, brand and number of units of anti-viral medicines available to deal with a possible pandemic in view of the outbreak of swine flu in Mexico and elsewhere; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17292/09]

Stocks of antivirals sufficient to treat 47% of the population are currently stockpiled.

We have one million courses of adult dosage Tamiflu; 177,958 of 30mg paediatric capsules; 51,549 of 45mgs paediatric capsules and 706,000 courses of Relenza in stock for an Influenza Pandemic.

Recommendations for the stockpiling of antivirals are kept under constant review by the Pandemic Influenza Expert Group. The quantity of antivirals in stock or on order is enough to treat almost 2 million people. This compares very favourably with other countries across Europe and beyond.

Accident and Emergency Services.

Michael McGrath

Question:

117 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the Health Service Executive’s plans for changes to the delivery of accident and emergency services in Cork city; and the impact on the delivery of services at the current accident and emergency unit at each of the three acute hospitals in the city. [17299/09]

The HSE is about to commence a review in respect of emergency services in acute hospitals in Cork and Kerry. The review will focus on achieving safe services for patients. It will benchmark Emergency Department services against international best practice and adopt an integrated approach to academic medicine, education, teaching, training and research across the region. The review will seek to identify a model of care that delivers services as near to home as possible for the vast majority of patients.

The review will include full engagement and discussion with relevant healthcare providers, staff and patient representative groups and public representatives.

I have asked the HSE to give the Deputy further information in relation to accident and emergency services in Cork City.

Health Service Staff.

Frank Feighan

Question:

118 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of employees in the Health Service Executive west who received a bonus in 2008. [17310/09]

Payment of Performance Related Awards is a matter for the HSE and has been forwarded to the Executive for Direct reply.

Departmental Reports.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

119 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport if he has received reports from bodies under the aegis of his Department in relation to their operation; if such will be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17194/09]

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

120 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport if his Department has commissioned internal or external reports in relation to his Department or bodies under the aegis of his Department in the past five years; if so, the objectives of such reports; the cost of same; if such reports have been laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17208/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 119 and 120 together.

The information requested by the Deputy is being compiled and will be forwarded as soon as possible.

Rail Network.

Joe McHugh

Question:

121 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Transport the number of level crossings on national primary and secondary roads on a county basis; the approximate waiting time for road vehicles at these level crossings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17254/09]

Iarnród Éireann informs me that it now has very few level crossings remaining on the national primary road network. There are 15 remaining in six different counties in the midlands and the West of Ireland. These crossings are mostly fully automated, full barrier crossings controlled by CCTV surveillance.

The table below shows the distribution by county of these primary road level crossings and the typical waiting time for road users for the passage of a train.

County

No. of Level Crossings

Current Estimated Waiting Time

Galway

4

1 minute

Kerry

2

3 minutes

Kilkenny

1

5 minutes

Limerick

3

5 minutes

Mayo

1

4 minutes

Roscommon

4

4 minutes

Total

15

3.3 minutes Average

On other public roads across the state there are a further 254 level crossings, ranging from fully automated & CCTV crossings on secondary roads in urban areas through to a few remaining user-worked crossings on very minor public roads in rural areas. The waiting times at these crossings varies from crossing to crossing depending on the method of operation of the crossing and the road and rail traffic densities.

Asylum Applications.

Phil Hogan

Question:

122 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will review a decision for refugee status in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17126/09]

The person concerned applied for asylum in the State on 1 September 2005. Following investigation by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner, it was established that the person concerned had previously made an asylum application in the United Kingdom and, as such, a determination was made that the person concerned should be transferred to the United Kingdom for the purposes of having her asylum application examined there. This determination was upheld following an appeal to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. Consequently, a Transfer Order was signed in respect of the person concerned on 3 November 2005. This Order was subsequently served on the person concerned which placed a legal obligation on her to present herself at the Offices of the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB), on Monday 21 November 2005, to make arrangements for her formal transfer to the United Kingdom. The person concerned failed to ‘present' on this occasion and was therefore classified as having ‘evaded' her transfer. The person concerned became illegally resident in this State at that time.

The person concerned continued to evade her transfer with the consequence that the Transfer Order expired leaving Ireland responsible for processing the asylum application of the person concerned. At this point the case of the person concerned was referred back to the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner for the purposes of having her asylum claims investigated. As part of this process, the person concerned was invited to attend for interview at that Office, on a designated date and time, but she failed to attend. Neither did she offer any explanation for her non-attendance. As a result, the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner made a recommendation that the person concerned be refused a declaration of refugee status. This recommendation was conveyed in writing to the person concerned by letter dated 13 June 2007. This communication also notified the person concerned that, in accordance with the provisions of Section 13(2)(c) of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended), there was no appeal against this recommendation.

Arising from the recommendation of the Refugee Applications Commissioner, and in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 9 April 2009, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of her. She was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why she should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. In addition, she was notified of her entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006). The person concerned has not yet responded to my Department's letter of 9 April 2009. However, the 15 working day period referred to does not expire until 5 May 2009.

The Deputy can be assured that the case of the person concerned will not be processed further pending the expiration of the 15 working day period referred to.

Prison Staff.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

123 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if, in respect of the State fund to compensate prison officers in the line of duty and payable under the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal, he will confirm that such fund has sufficient moneys to discharge cases currently pending; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17129/09]

I can inform the Deputy that the position remains the same as set out in my Reply to Parliamentary Question Number 121 of 1st April last.

EU Directives.

Seán Barrett

Question:

124 Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the effects the new EU Equal Treatment Directive, if passed by the Council of Ministers, will have on religious schools in terms of enrolment policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17151/09]

On 7 July 2008, the European Commission published a proposal for a Council Directive on implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation in the supply of and access to goods and services, social benefits including social security and healthcare, social advantages and education. The text of the legislative proposal and an information note were provided to the Oireachtas on 5 August 2008.

Discussions at Council Working Group level commenced under the French Presidency on 18 July 2008 and a brief orientation debate on the proposal was held by Council on 2 October 2008. These ongoing discussions are at a very early stage and it is not yet possible to determine what a final draft will contain. Therefore, any comments made at this stage must of necessity be of a preliminary nature. The Deputy will note that Ireland has already legislated extensively in this area. The initial view of my Department is that the proposal will not require any change to the provisions of the Equal Status Acts governing access to education.

Departmental Expenditure.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

125 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if, under the Revised Estimates under equality, E.7 gender mainstreaming and positive action, he will provide the breakdown of the €4.982 million under the gender mainstreaming and positive action Estimate; the allocation for the implementation of the national women’s strategy; the budget for the equality for women measure; the amount that will be spent on each of the four strands of the measure; when this funding will be allocated to each of access to employment, development of female entrepreneurship, career development for women in employment and fostering women as decision makers in view of the fact that the applications under the first strand of access to employment have been with him since July 2008 and no announcement has been made on projects nor information given to organisations to date; and when there will be an public announcement on the funding to all those who have applied. [17160/09]

I have already indicated in response to Question No 144 of 12 February 2009 that the first Strand of the Equality for Women Measure (Access to Employment) was launched in Summer 2008 and it attracted a high level of interest, with over 150 applications being received, that all the project proposals had been appraised, but that the extremely difficult Exchequer position made it difficult to commit funding, and that the matter continued to be kept under review.

The position now is that my Department is in the process of completing its review and the decisions taken on the outcome will be made known in the near future.

Departmental Reports.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

126 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has received reports from bodies under the aegis of his Department in relation to their operation; if such will be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17192/09]

I wish to inform the Deputy that it has not been possible to compile the information requested in the time available. A response is being prepared and will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

127 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his Department has commissioned internal or external reports in relation to his Department or bodies under the aegis of his Department in the past five years; if so, the objectives of such reports; the cost of same; if such reports have been laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17206/09]

I wish to inform the Deputy that it has not been possible to compile the information requested in the time available. A response is being prepared and will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Departmental Correspondence.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

128 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to his reply to Parliamentary Question No. 145 of 12 March 2009 when he will respond to correspondence dated 29 January 2009 from a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17247/09]

A reply issued from my office to the person concerned, in relation to the correspondence referred to, on 29 April, 2009.

Garda Recruitment.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

129 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the intake of applicants for An Garda Síochána in each of the quarters during 2008 and for the first quarter of 2009; the number of new recruits he envisages being taken in for the remaining three quarters of 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17246/09]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the intake and attestations of students in the Garda College, in each quarter of 2008 and to date in 2009 and the projected numbers for the remainder of 2009 and 2010, are as set out in the following table. Student Gardai are attested as members of an Garda Síochána after successful completion of Phase 3 of their training which is normally 58 weeks after they commence their training. The second intake of students this year will occur in early May, after which the moratorium on recruitment in the Public Service, which includes An Garda Síochána, will apply.

Year

Q.1 Intake

Q.1 Attestation

Q.2 Intake

Q.2 Attestation

Q.3 Intake

Q.3 Attestation

Q.4 Intake

Q.4 Attestation

2008

270

223

286

269

270

275

100

224

2009

100

267

100

*270

*286

*270

2010

*100

*100

*100

Garda Deployment.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

130 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the minimum number of gardaí needed to maintain front-line policing services in each Garda division. [17283/09]

The Garda Commissioner, with his senior managers and Divisional Officers, arranges for the allocation of Garda personnel throughout the State. Garda Management are aided in this by a distribution model known as the Garda Establishment Redistribution Model (G.E.R.M.).

The Commissioner advises me that the GERM model indicates the most effective means to distribute Garda personnel and acts as a guide to Garda management decision making. It takes into account many different policing variables including socio-economic factors, census information, crime trends and the minimum establishment required for each district. The allocation of Garda personnel is determined by these factors and also takes account of the policing requirements of each individual Division.

Drug Addiction.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

131 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of registered heroin addicts in the Cork city and Cork county areas in each year since 2000 to date in 2009; the number of such registered addicts who have been incarcerated at any time since 2004 to date in 2009; the prisons in which they were incarcerated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17285/09]

I wish to advise the Deputy that the data in the table below has been supplied by the Department of Health and Children and sets out the number of individuals in the Cork area who are registered with the Health Service Executive (HSE) to receive methadone therapy. For personal data protection reasons the identities of these individuals cannot be released. Accordingly, the Irish Prison Service is not in a position to determine how many of these individuals, if any, have spent time in prison.

Total Cork Residents in treatment as of 31st of December for each year 2000-2008 and as of 31st of March '09 per HSE Local Health Office Area (Based on information compiled by the Central Treatment List 29th of April '09)

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

Cork South Lee

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Cork North Lee

<10*

<10

<10

<10

<10

<10

<10

13

27

46

West Cork

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

North Cork

<10

<10

<10

<10

<10

<10

<10

25

40

48

Total

<10

14

12

12

14

12

12

38

67

94

*< = less than 10.

Total Cork Residents in treatment during the period 1st/1 to 31st/12 for each year 2000-2008 and 1st/1/ to 31st/3/ 2009 per HSE Local Health Office Area (Based on information compiled by the Central Treatment List 29th of April '09)

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

Cork South Lee

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Cork North Lee

<10*

<10

<10

<10

<10

11

<10

15

37

49

West Cork

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

North Cork

<10

<10

<10

<10

<10

<10

<10

27

49

54

Total

<10

14

16

16

17

18

15

42

86

103

*< = less than 10.

Probation and Welfare Service.

Frank Feighan

Question:

132 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding Harristown House, Castlerea, County Roscommon; when it will reopen; and the number of staff who will be employed. [17309/09]

I can advise the Deputy that my Department has received a proposal from the Probation Service relating to Harristown House. That proposal is currently being examined by my officials. It is too early to say whether this facility will reopen and in that event how many people might be employed there.

Asylum Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

133 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the application for residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17311/09]

I refer the Deputy to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 836 and 948 of Wednesday, 24 September 2008, and the written Reply to those Questions.

The person concerned arrived in the State on 6 October 2003 and applied for asylum. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 12 January 2005, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of submitting written representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State.

Representations have been submitted on behalf of the person concerned and these representations will be fully considered, under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement, before the file is passed to me for decision.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

134 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the application for residency or citizenship in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17312/09]

The person concerned has been granted temporary Leave to Remain in the State for a six month period to 24 August 2009. This decision was conveyed in writing to the person concerned by letter dated 24 February 2009.

Asylum Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

135 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the application for residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17313/09]

The person concerned applied for asylum on 20 May 2005. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 28 February 2006, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. Representations were submitted on behalf of the person concerned at that time.

By letter dated 6 February 2008, the person concerned was notified of his entitlement to submit an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State. He was also invited to update his earlier representations to the Minister. He was advised to respond within 15 working days. Updated representations were submitted on behalf of the person concerned as was an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State.

The application for Subsidiary Protection is under consideration at present. When this consideration has been completed, the person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome.

In the event that the application for Subsidiary Protection is refused, the case file of the person concerned, including all representations submitted, will then be considered under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. When this latter consideration has been completed, the file is passed to me for decision.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

136 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the application for residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17314/09]

There is currently no application pending in my Department for residency in the case of the person whose details were supplied.

If an application for asylum has been made by the person concerned the Deputy will of course be aware that it is not the practice to comment on asylum applications that are pending.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

137 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the application for residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17315/09]

I am informed by the Immigration Division of my Department that no application for residence in the State has been received from the person referred to by the Deputy.

Asylum Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

138 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the application for residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Louth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17316/09]

I refer the Deputy to Parliamentary Question No. 194 of Thursday, 25 September 2008, and the written Reply to that Question.

The person concerned applied for asylum on 18 August 2004. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 20 February 2008, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. In addition, he was notified of his entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006).

The person concerned submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with these Regulations and this application is under consideration at present. When consideration of this application has been completed, the person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome.

In the event that the Subsidiary Protection application is refused, the case file of the person concerned, including all representations submitted, will then be considered under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. When this latter consideration has been completed, the case file of the person concerned is passed to me for decision.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

139 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the application for residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Louth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17317/09]

I refer the Deputy to Parliamentary Question No. 195 of Thursday, 25 September 2008, and the written Reply to that Question.

The person concerned applied for asylum on 18 August 2004. Her application was refused following consideration of her case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 20 February 2008, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of her. She was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why she should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. In addition, she was notified of her entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006).

The person concerned submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with these Regulations and this application is under consideration at present. When consideration of this application has been completed, the person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome.

In the event that the Subsidiary Protection application is refused, the case file of the person concerned, including all representations submitted, will then be considered under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. When this latter consideration has been completed, the case file of the person concerned is passed to me for decision.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

140 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the application for residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17318/09]

I refer the Deputy to Parliamentary Question No. 948 of Wednesday, 24 September 2008, and the written Reply to that Question.

The person concerned applied for asylum on 29 July 2003. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 24 April 2006, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State.

Representations have been submitted on behalf of the person concerned and these representations will be fully considered, under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement, before the file is passed to me for decision.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

141 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the application for residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17319/09]

The person concerned applied for asylum on 20 December 2005. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 14 November 2006, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. In addition, he was notified of his entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006). The person concerned submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with these Regulations and this application is under consideration at present. When consideration of this application has been completed, the person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome.

In the event that the Subsidiary Protection application is refused, the case file of the person concerned, including all representations submitted, will then be considered, under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. When this latter consideration has been completed, the case file is passed to me for decision.

In relation to his accommodation needs, the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) is responsible for the accommodation of asylum seekers in accordance with the Government policy of direct provision and dispersal. The person referred to in the details supplied is currently availing of direct provision accommodation at An Poc Fada, Cobh, Co. Cork. If this person wishes to transfer to another accommodation centre, they can make an application directly to the RIA, setting out the grounds for the request and providing any appropriate documentation in support of that transfer.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

142 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the application for residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17320/09]

I am informed that the person concerned has permission to remain in the State on the basis of parentage of an Irish citizen child. This permission to remain is currently valid until 24 November 2013.

I am informed by the Immigration Services Section of my Department that the person in question is not a recognised refugee and is not entitled to be issued with Irish Travel documents. The person in question was advised in January and again in February 2009 to contact their own embassy in Ethiopia to arrange for their own national passport.

Asylum Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

143 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the application for residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17321/09]

The person concerned applied for asylum on 29 June 2005. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 10 November 2006, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. In addition, he was notified of his entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006).

The person concerned submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with these Regulations and, following consideration of this application, it was determined that the person concerned was not eligible for Subsidiary Protection in the State. The person concerned was notified of this decision by letter dated 12 May 2008.

The case file of the person concerned now falls to be considered in accordance with the provisions of Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended). All representations submitted by, and on behalf of, the person concerned will be considered under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. When this overall consideration has been completed, the case file of the person concerned is passed to me for decision.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

144 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the application for residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17322/09]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 11 July 2005 and applied for asylum on 11 October 2005. She gave birth to a child in the State in late 2005 and this child was included in her mother's asylum application. Her asylum application was refused following consideration of her case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 31 August 2006, that the Minister proposed to make Deportation Orders in respect of her and her child. She was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of Deportation Orders or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why she and her child should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State.

Representations have been submitted on behalf of the person concerned and these representations will be fully considered, under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement, before the file is passed to me for decision.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

145 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the application for residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17323/09]

The person concerned applied for asylum on 11 September 2007. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 9 February 2009, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. In addition, he was notified of his entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006). The person concerned submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with these Regulations and this application is under consideration at present. When consideration of this application has been completed, the person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome.

In the event that the Subsidiary Protection application is refused, the case file of the person concerned, including all representations submitted, will then be considered under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. When this latter consideration has been completed, the case file is passed to me for decision.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

146 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the application for residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17324/09]

The person concerned applied for asylum on 20 December 2004. Her asylum application was refused following consideration of her case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

The person concerned has initiated Judicial Review proceedings, challenging the decision of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal in her case. As these proceedings are ongoing, it would not be appropriate for me to comment further at this time.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

147 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the application for residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17325/09]

I refer the Deputy to Parliamentary Question No. 847 of Thursday, 10 July 2008 and the written Reply to that Question.

The person concerned arrived in the State on 20 May 2003 and applied for asylum. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 16 May 2005, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State.

Representations have been submitted on behalf of the person concerned and these representations will be fully considered, under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement, before the file is passed to me for decision.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

148 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the application for subsidiary protection in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17326/09]

The person concerned applied for asylum on 11 November 2004. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 12 February 2009, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. In addition, he was notified of his entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006).

The person concerned submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with these Regulations and this application is under consideration at present. When consideration of this application has been completed, the person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome.

In the event that the Subsidiary Protection application is refused, the case file of the person concerned, including all representations submitted, will then be considered under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. When this latter consideration has been completed, the case file is passed to me for decision.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

149 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17327/09]

The person concerned applied for asylum on 26 November 2004. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 25 August 2006, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. Representations were submitted on behalf of the person concerned at that time.

The person concerned initiated Judicial Review Proceedings in the High Court, challenging the decision of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal in his case. The High Court refused the Judicial Review Leave Application with the consequence that the earlier decisions of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal and the Minister stood.

By letter dated 21 January 2009, the person concerned was notified that he could submit an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State. He was also invited to update his earlier representations to the Minister. He was advised to respond within 15 working days. Updated representations were submitted on behalf of the person concerned as was an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State.

The application for Subsidiary Protection is under consideration at present. When this consideration has been completed, the person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome. In the event that the application for Subsidiary Protection is refused, the case file of the person concerned, including all representations submitted, will then be considered under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. When this latter consideration has been completed, the file is passed to me for decision.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

150 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17328/09]

The person concerned applied for asylum on 4 January 2006. Her asylum application was refused following consideration of her case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

The person concerned has initiated Judicial Review proceedings, challenging the decision of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal in her case. As these proceedings are ongoing, it would not be appropriate for me to comment further at this time.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

151 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17329/09]

I refer the Deputy to Parliamentary Questions No. 953 of Wednesday, 24 September 2008, and No. 855 of Thursday, 10 July 2008, and the written Replies to those Questions. The person concerned applied for asylum on 30 January 2006. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 9 November 2006, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. In addition, he was notified of his entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006). The person concerned submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with these Regulations and this application is under consideration at present. When consideration of this application has been completed, the person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome.

In the event that the Subsidiary Protection application is refused, the case file of the person concerned, including all representations submitted, will then be considered under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. When this latter consideration has been completed, the case file of the person concerned is passed to me for decision.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

152 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17330/09]

The person concerned applied for asylum on 3 February 2006. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 13 February 2009, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. In addition, he was notified of his entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006).

The person concerned submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with these Regulations and this application is under consideration at present. When consideration of this application has been completed, the person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome.

In the event that the Subsidiary Protection application is refused, the case file of the person concerned, including all representations submitted, will then be considered under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. When this latter consideration has been completed, the case file is passed to me for decision.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

153 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17331/09]

An application for long-term residency by the person referred to by the Deputy was received on 10/01/2007. Her application is currently in the latter stages of processing. As soon as a decision is reached in her case, she will be notified directly.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

154 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding residency or citizenship in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17332/09]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Division of my Department in October 2008.

The average processing time from application to decision is now at 23 months. More complicated cases can at times take more than the current average while an element of straight forward cases are now being dealt with in less than that time scale. There is a limit to the reduction in the processing time that can be achieved as applications for naturalisation must be processed in a way which preserves the necessary checks and balances to ensure that the status of citizenship is not undervalued and is only given to persons who genuinely satisfy the necessary qualifying criteria.

An application for long-term residency by the person referred to by the Deputy was received on 10 January, 2007. His application is currently in the latter stages of processing. As soon as a decision is reached in his case, he will be notified directly.

Asylum Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

155 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17333/09]

I refer the Deputy to Parliamentary Question No. 132 of Thursday, 20 November 2008, and the written Reply to that Question.

The person concerned applied for asylum on 21 September 2006. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 26 August 2008, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. In addition, he was notified of his entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006). The person concerned submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with these Regulations and this application is under consideration at present. When consideration of this application has been completed, the person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome.

In the event that the Subsidiary Protection application is refused, the case file of the person concerned, including all representations submitted, will then be considered under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. When this latter consideration has been completed, the file is passed to me for decision.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

156 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Monaghan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17334/09]

The person concerned and her three children arrived in the State on 18 May 2007. The person concerned and two of her children made separate applications for asylum on 20 December 2007 while the third child was born in the State in 2002, during the course of his mother's previous stay in the State, and, as such, he is an Irish Citizen. The three asylum applications were refused following the individual consideration of their cases by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), the persons concerned were informed, by separate letters dated 18 March 2009, that the Minister proposed to make Deportation Orders in respect of them. They were given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of Deportation Orders or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why they should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. In addition, they were notified of their entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006).

The persons concerned submitted applications for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with these Regulations and these applications are under consideration at present. When consideration of these applications has been completed, the persons concerned will be notified in writing of the outcomes.

In the event that the Subsidiary Protection applications are refused, the case files of the persons concerned, including all representations submitted, will then be considered under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. When these latter considerations have been completed, the case files of the persons concerned are passed to me for decision.

Deportation Orders.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

157 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17335/09]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 13 July 2003 and applied for asylum on 14 July 2003. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner, and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 17 April 2007, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State i.e. why he should not be deported. He was also notified of his entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection pursuant to the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006.

An application for Subsidiary Protection was made on behalf of the person concerned by his legal representative. Following consideration of this application, a decision was made to refuse the application. The person concerned and his legal representative were notified of this decision by letter dated 4 March 2009.

His case was then examined under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999, as amended, and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996, as amended, on the Prohibition of Refoulement. Consideration was given to representations submitted on his behalf by his legal representative for permission to remain in the State. On 5 March 2009, I refused permission to remain temporarily in the State and instead signed a Deportation Order in respect of him. Notice of this order was served by registered post which obliges the person concerned to leave the State. To this end, the person concerned was required to present himself at the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) 13-14 Burgh Quay, Dublin 2 on Thursday 16 April 2009 in order to make travel arrangements for his removal from the State. The person concerned presented as required and is due to present again on Thursday 21 May 2009.

I am satisfied that the applications made by the person concerned for asylum, for Subsidiary Protection and for temporary leave to remain in the State, together with all refoulement issues, were fairly and comprehensively examined and, as such, the decision to deport him is justified.

The effect of the Deportation Order is that the person concerned must leave the State and remain thereafter out of the State. The enforcement of the Deportation Order is an operational matter for the GNIB.

Travel Documentation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

158 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if temporary travel documentation will issue in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17336/09]

The Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) informs me that the person in question was refused refugee status following appeal in 2005 and is therefore not entitled to be issued with an Irish travel document.

In all cases, INIS must be satisfied that there is no alternative open to an Irish temporary travel document applicant preventing them from procuring their own national passport or travel document before an Irish temporary travel document will issue.

As the person in question is a Cameroonian national it is advised that they should seek consular assistance from their own national authorities and contact the Embassy of Cameroon, 84 Holland Park, London W11 3SB, England with a view to obtaining their national passport or travel document.

Asylum Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

159 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Sligo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17338/09]

The person concerned applied for asylum on 10 April 2006. Her application was refused following consideration of her case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 25 September 2008, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of her. She was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why she should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. In addition, she was notified of her entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006).

The person concerned submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with these Regulations and this application is under consideration at present. When consideration of this application has been completed, the person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome.

In the event that the Subsidiary Protection application is refused, the case file of the person concerned, including all representations submitted, will then be considered under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. When this latter consideration has been completed, the case file of the person concerned is passed to me for decision.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

160 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 Dublin 7; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17339/09]

I refer the Deputy to my answer to his previous Parliamentary Question No. 727 of the 27th January 2009.

I am informed by the Immigration Division of my Department that the person in question made an application for Family Reunification in April 2007.

The application was forwarded to the Refugee Applications Commissioner for investigation as required under Section 18 of the Refugee Act 1996. This investigation was completed and the Commissioner forwarded a report to my Department.

The report has been considered by my Department and a decision on the application was issued to the person in question on the 7th April 2009.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

161 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to the application for residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17340/09]

I refer the Deputy to my detailed Reply to his recent Parliamentary Question, No. 150 of Thursday, 5 February 2009. The position in the State of the person concerned is as set out in that Reply.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

162 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to the application for citizenship in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17341/09]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question 176 on 12 March, 2009. The position remains as stated.

Deportation Orders.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

163 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will review the decision to deport in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; the extent to which their case was previously investigated and by whom before the decision was taken to deport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17342/09]

I refer the Deputy to my detailed Reply to his Parliamentary Question, No. 229 of Thursday 15 May 2008, in this matter. The position in the State of the person concerned is as set out in that Reply.

Asylum Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

164 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17343/09]

The person concerned applied for asylum on 7 November 2003. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 17 May 2005, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. Representations have been submitted on behalf of the person concerned and these representations will be fully considered, under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement, before the file is passed to me for decision.

Travel Documentation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

165 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a temporary travel document will be issued to facilitate the application for a national passport in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17344/09]

The Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) informs me that the person in question was refused refugee status following appeal in 2005 and is therefore not entitled to be issued with an Irish travel document. The person concerned was granted temporary permission to remain in the State on 08/07/2008 for 3 years until 8 July 2011.

In all cases, INIS must be satisfied that there is no alternative open to an Irish temporary travel document applicant preventing them from procuring their own national passport or travel document before an Irish temporary travel document will issue.

As the person in question is a Rwandan national it is advised that they should seek consular assistance from their own national authorities and contact the Embassy of Rwanda, 120-122 Seymour Place, London W1H 1NR, England with a view to obtaining their national passport or travel document.

Deportation Orders.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

166 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will review his decision to deport persons (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17345/09]

The persons to whom the Deputy refers sought asylum in the State on 12 July 2005 along with three other family members. Their applications for asylum were refused and deportation orders were signed in respect of them on 11 August 2006. The deportation orders were revoked on 15 October 2008 following settlement of judicial review proceedings.

The persons in question applied for subsidiary protection and this application was refused on 27 March 2009. Deportation orders were signed in respect of them on 2 April 2009. The applicants issued judicial review proceedings on 23 April 2009 challenging the decision to make the deportation orders. As the matter is sub judice, I do not propose to comment further.

Departmental Reports.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

167 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has received reports from bodies under the aegis of his Department in relation to their operation; if such will be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17190/09]

There are four bodies operating under the responsibility of my Department: three Advisory Committees and one Educational Commission.

The Development Education Advisory Committee was established in 2003 following the recommendations of the Ireland Aid Review Committee. Its purpose is to advise the Minister, Minister of State and Irish Aid on development education policy. The members serve in a voluntary capacity. While I have not received reports relating to the operation of the Committee, the Chairman regularly provides advice to Ministers, including on implementation of the development education strategy of the Department.

The Government Emigrant Services Advisory Committee (previously known as Díon) was set up in 1984 to advise the Government on the welfare of the Irish community in Britain. The Committee's primary role is to advise on the distribution of Government support to voluntary agencies providing front line services and community care to Irish people in Britain. The Committee is chaired by an official from our Embassy in London and its members serve in a voluntary capacity. The Committee provides ongoing advice to my Department and the Embassy reports to me on the operation of the Committee on a regular basis. In 2007, an independent Value for Money Review reported on my Department's Emigrant Services Programme, including such services provided in Britain. Copies of the Report were lodged with the Houses of the Oireachtas in August 2007.

The Fulbright Commission (The Board of the Ireland — United States Commission for Educational Exchange) finances study, research, teaching and other educational activities between Ireland and the United States of America. In regard to the Fulbright Commission, I, as Minister for Foreign Affairs under section 5(10) of the Educational Exchange (Ireland and the United States of America), Act, 1991, am responsible for laying before both Houses of the Oireachtas a copy of the Annual Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General on the Fulbright Commission. The most recent Annual Report was forwarded to the Oireachtas Library & Research Service on April 23rd.

The Advisory Board for Irish Aid (ABIA) was established in August 2002 to provide general oversight and advice to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister of State for Overseas Development on the strategic direction of the Government's programme of assistance to developing countries. The term of the last Board ended on October 31st 2008. During its lifetime, the Advisory Board for Irish Aid (ABIA) published Annual reports which were made available to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Minister of State for Overseas Development, and the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs. In addition, a number of detailed analytical studies on themes relevant to development cooperation policy and the Irish Aid programme were commissioned by ABIA in the context of its research mandate.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

168 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his Department has commissioned internal or external reports in relation to his Department or bodies under the aegis of his Department in the past five years; if so, the objectives of such reports; the cost of same; if such reports have been laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17204/09]

The Department of Foreign Affairs is responsible for two Votes: Vote 28 (Foreign Affairs) and Vote 29 (International Development). Details of reports commissioned by my Department in the past five years are set out as follows. It should be noted that in addition to the reports detailed as follows, my Department produces an Annual Report. It is no longer published in hard copy but, instead, is placed on the Department's website after it has been laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. Irish Aid also produces an Annual Report, which in 2008, was produced at a cost of €14,064. While this is not formally laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas, a copy is sent directly to all members of the Oireachtas and a number of copies are placed in the library of the Houses of the Oireachtas. My Department also publishes a Strategy Statement, most recently the Statement of Strategy 2008-2010. This report is produced internally with the most recent version incurring printing costs of €7,703. It is also available on the Department's website.

Vote 28 (Foreign Affairs) Reports

Support for Irish Emigrants (Value for Money Review)

The Value for Money and Policy Review of the Support for Irish Emigrant Groups Programme was undertaken by Goodbody Economic Consultants, and completed in July, 2007. The purpose of the Review was to examine the objectives of the Support for Irish Emigrant Groups Programme, the economic effectiveness and efficiency with which services were being delivered, and the quality and quantity of the outputs and benefits delivered to our communities abroad. The total cost of the report, including VAT, was €45,254. Copies of the Report were lodged with the Houses of the Oireachtas on 1 August 2007.

In June 2007, the Department contracted Annesley Consulting to complete an independent Quality Assessment of The Value for Money and Policy Review of the Support for Irish Emigrant Groups Programme, in line with best practice. The total cost of the Assessment was €3,751, including VAT. Annesley Consulting's Quality Assessment was completed in mid July 2007 and provided to the Sectoral Policy Division in the Department of Finance. The report was not laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Assessment of EU accession training programmes, 2001-2003

In 2004, A&L Goodbody was commissioned to assess the Department's EU accession training programmes. The cost incurred was €4,878. It took one week to complete and was delivered in May 2004. The report was not laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Assessment of Assistance programmes in Bulgaria and Romania by the IPA

In 2007, BCT Communications Ltd was commissioned to conduct an assessment of the Department-funded capacity building programmes provided by the Institute of Public Administration in 2005/6 to the Bulgarian Institute of Public Administration and European Integration and the Romanian National Institute of Administration. The cost of preparing the report was €20,469. It took one month approximately to complete and was delivered in April 2007. The report was not laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Report on the reasons underlying the result of the Lisbon Treaty Referendum and public attitudes to Ireland's role in the European Union — Millward Brown IMS

A report was commissioned by my Department to analyse the result of the Lisbon Treaty Referendum and public attitudes to Ireland's future role in the European Union. The key objective of this national survey of public attitudes was to understand the reasons underlying voting decisions in the referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon on 12 June 2008. The report cost €138,061 including VAT. The report was not laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. The Minister sent a copy of the report directly to each member of the Oireachtas and directed that a number of copies be placed in the library of the Houses of the Oireachtas. This report was published on the 10th September 2008 and is available on the Department's website.

Attitudes and Behaviour in the Referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon– UCD/GEARY Institute Report

A report carried out by UCD and the Geary Institute was commissioned to undertake detailed statistical analysis of the quantitative data gathered by Millward Brown IMS, and also draw on other sources, including Euro-barometer surveys, opinion polls, and General Election and other referendum results, in order to analyse why people voted yes or no, or abstained in the referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon. The cost of this report was €11,800. The report was not laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. The Minister sent a copy of the report directly to each Member of the Oireachtas. This report was published on the 8 March 2009 and is available on the Department's website.

Annual Report on Developments in the European Union

Under the terms of the EU (Scrutiny) Act 2002, the Department of Foreign Affairs compiles an Annual Report on Developments in the European Union on the basis of submissions received from all Government Departments. This report is laid before the Houses of Oireachtas. The First such Report was produced internally. Production of the Second, Third and Fourth reports was outsourced. Printing, design and translation costs were approximately €7,300 for the Second, Third and Fourth Report respectively. However in 2008, the Department produced the report internally and so the cost incurred is for translation only, which was €3,219 for the Fifth Report .

In addition, under the terms of the EU (Scrutiny) Act 2002, the Minister lays a report twice yearly before the Houses of Oireachtas in relation to measures, proposed measures and other developments in relation to the European Union for which the Minister has lead responsibility. There are no costs incurred in producing these reports.

Conflict Prevention

As part of preparations for Ireland's Presidency of the EU in 2004, the NGO International Alert/Saferworld was commissioned to produce a paper on conflict prevention. It received €10,000 for its work in preparing the paper, a copy of which can be found on International Alert's website, www.international-alert.org.

Human Rights

In April 2008, the Department funded the publication of the report "Bullets in the Alms Bowl", by the Human Rights Documentation Unit of the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma. The funding provided was €4,000. This report documented the brutal suppression of Burma's September 2007 monk-led protests through 50 detailed eyewitness interviews. It was launched on 17 June 2008. The report was not laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Irish Prisoners Abroad

A report on Irish Prisoners Abroad was launched by the Minister on 13 August 2007. It was prepared by Mr. Chris Flood at a cost of €6,066 (publication costs only). This report was commissioned to further enhance the services we provide to citizens incarcerated abroad. The key recommendations of the report are in the process of being implemented. The report was not laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Irish Passport Service (Value for Money Review)

This value for money review was undertaken by KPMG to evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of the passport service and to provide recommendations to the Department that will underpin the provision of a cost effective, quality passport service in the coming years. Work on the review was completed in June 2008. The total cost of the review, including VAT, was €71,384. Copies of the report were lodged with the Houses of the Oireachtas in November 2008 and the report is also published on the Department's website.

Vote 29 (International Co-operation) Reports

The Department of Foreign Affairs, through Irish Aid, commissions reports as part of its ongoing evaluation process designed to ensure value for money in its development activities and in relation to strategic development policy.

The major reports commissioned by Irish Aid between 2004 and 2009 include an evaluation of the Multi-annual Programme Scheme with its larger NGO partners in 2005; a Public Expenditure Review of Ireland's Support for Education in Uganda and Zambia in 2005; and the Management Review of Irish Aid which is expected to be submitted to the Government shortly. In addition, the Hunger Task Force, which was appointed to identify the contribution that Ireland can make to international efforts to reduce hunger, submitted its report to the Government in 2008. Reports and reviews commissioned by Irish Aid on aspects of the Irish Aid programme, including those highlighted above are detailed in the following table.

Year

Name of Report

Cost

Laid before Oireachtas

2004

Public Expenditure Review of Support to Afghanistan 2000-2003

2,250

No

2005

Civil Protection Audit (report on options and recommendations for the development of the Rapid Response Corps)

20,855

No

2005

Evaluation of Development Cooperation Ireland’s Multi-Annual Programme Scheme 2003-2005

309,113

No

2005

A Public Expenditure Review of Development Cooperation Ireland’s Support for Education in Uganda and Zambia

23,398

Yes

2005

Report on Tsunami — Ireland and the Recovery Effort prepared by Chris Flood

27,000 (Approx.)

No

2006

Evaluation of Irish Aid/Tigray Regional Support Programme — Ethiopia

83,249

No

2006

Evaluation of South Africa Country Strategy Paper 2006

106,525

No

2006

Communications Strategy for Irish Aid

49,131

No

2006

Rapid Response Initiative — Final Report (on stockpiling)

24,828

No

2007

2007 — Irish Aid’s Support to Tsunami Affected Countries — A Value for Money Review

31,181

Yes

2008

Evaluation of the Mozambique Country Programmes 2001-2006, A Value for Money Review

93,200

Yes

2008

HIV and AIDS Value for Money Review (work in progress, to be published mid 2009)

151,085

No

2008

Evaluation of Ireland Aid’s Timor Leste Country Programme (2003-2008)

121,790

No

2008

Management Review of Irish Aid (expected to be published in 2009)

230,000

No

2008

Hunger Task Force: Report to Government of Ireland

285,206

No

2009

Evaluation of the Irish Aid (Uganda) Country Strategy Paper (2007-2009) (work in progress, to be published mid 2009)

104,877*

No

2009

Evaluation of Irish Aid Supported Activities of Dóchas, 2006 to 2008 (work in progress, to be published mid 2009)

15,127*

No

Notes

1. *Estimated cost; assignment not yet complete.

2. In the case of assignments that are work-in-progress, budgeted costs are given.

All of the reports mentioned and the operational reviews have informed the design and implementation of the Irish Aid programme. All Irish Aid publications may be found on the Irish Aid website athttp://www.irishaid.gov.ie.

The Advisory Board for Irish Aid was established in August 2002 to provide general oversight and advice to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister of State for Overseas Development on the strategic direction of the Government's programme of assistance to developing countries. The term of the Board ended on October 31st 2008. During its lifetime, the Advisory Board for Irish Aid (ABIA) published Annual Reports which were made available to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Minister of State for Overseas Development, and the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs. In addition, a number of detailed analytical studies on themes relevant to development cooperation policy and the Irish Aid programme were commissioned by ABIA in the context of its research mandate. A list of these studies is set out as follows.

Year

Report Title

Cost

Laid before Oireachtas

2006

“Oversight structures in the Irish Public service”

16,940

No

2007

“Best Practice In the Governance of Aid Programmes”

6,050

No

2008

“Selectivity in Action; Choosing Irish Aid’s Tenth Programme Country”

7,000

No

2008

“Measuring Impact: the Global and Irish Aid Programme context”

153,505

No

2008

“Good Governance, Aid Modalities and Poverty reduction”

486,038

No

2008

Study on Private Sector Development

17,250

No

2008

Study on Biofuels

6,713

No

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

169 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he has received reports from bodies under the aegis of his Department in relation to their operation; if such will be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17182/09]

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

170 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if his Department has commissioned internal or external reports in relation to his Department or bodies under the aegis of his Department in the past five years; if so, the objectives of such reports; the cost of same; if such reports have been laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17196/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 169 and 170 together.

The bodies under the aegis of the Department submit their annual reports to me as required under the relevant legislation or other governing arrangements establishing the bodies, and these reports are laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. In addition, reports on various aspects of the operations of these bodies are received by the Department in the context of its normal ongoing governance relationship with the bodies. Such reports would not be laid before the Houses.

In respect of reports commissioned in the past five years into the operation of the Department and/or bodies under its aegis, details are as set out in tabular form as follows.

Title of Report

Objectives

Cost

Laid before Houses of Oireachtas

Review of the Role and Function of the Irish Manuscripts Commission

To review the role of the Irish Manuscripts Commission (IMC), founded in 1928.

44,165

No

Report on Certain Matters Affecting Bord na gCon

Independent examination of Bord na gCon following allegations regarding corporate governance irregularities, the drug testing regime operated and the dismissal of the CEO.

37,667

Yes

Evaluation of Local Sports Partnership Programme

To establish the level of progress achieved by the existing Local Sports Partnerships against the outcomes defined by the Irish Sports Council.

54,450

No

Culture Ireland Strategy Report

To develop a Strategy for Culture Ireland.

10,890

No

Report on Future Opportunities to Promote Contemporary Art from Ireland through International Engagements

To advise on future opportunities to promote contemporary art from Ireland through international engagements.

8,500

No

Planning and Provision of Sports Facilities in Ireland

To provide consultancy in the development of a strategy for sports facilities and advice in relation to an analysis of sports facility provision.

113,740

No

National Concert Hall — DKM Report

To review the economic benefits of the proposed redevelopment of the National Concert Hall.

19,273

No

Close-Up — The International Promotion of Irish Film and Irish Filmmakers

To advise on the international promotion of Irish film and filmmakers.

15,000

No

These are in addition to routine internal audit reports and expenditure review reports conducted in relation to the Department and the bodies under its aegis.

Security of the Elderly.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

171 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if formal communications have been sent to all community alert groups outlining the reason he is not taking more applications under the supports for older people scheme; if so, the groups which have been contacted and when; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17130/09]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

172 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the provisions put in place for people involved with the community alert groups, who may lose their positions as a result of the recent announcement that no more applications will be accepted under the supports for older people scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17131/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 171 and 172 together.

My Department wrote to over 1,300 community and voluntary groups, including community alert groups, that have received funds from the Scheme of Community Support for Older People in recent years to advise them of the suspension of funding. The letter was issued on 7th April 2009. The letter contained contact details for members of staff in my Department to enable direct enquiries to be made.

The Deputy may wish to note that the Scheme is delivered by volunteers working with older people in their communities and does not provide funds for the engagement of staff. I am aware that the suspension of the Scheme may reduce the volume of work for some operations in the installation of alarms and security devices. However, the suspension does not affect arrangements already in place for the monitoring of alarms systems funded by the Scheme.

Last week, I met with representatives of Age Action Ireland, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Muintir na Tíre, Irish Rural Link and the Senior Citizen Parliament to discuss the suspension of the scheme and the concerns about how it currently operates. Arising from these discussions, I have agreed with these organisations a process that will set the broad parameters for a review of the scheme to be undertaken by my Department and for the necessary consultation to be undertaken as part of the review process. I am hopeful that the review process can begin in May and be completed by mid-September.

Departmental Reports.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

173 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he has received reports from bodies under the aegis of his Department in relation to their operation; if such will be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17184/09]

My Department has received the following from bodies under its aegis: Oifig Choimisinéir na dTeangacha Oifigiúla: annual report for 2008; The Dormant Accounts Board: annual report for 2008; The Western Development Commission: annual reports for 2007 and 2008.

It is my intention that these reports will be laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas shortly. I am aware that a number of other bodies have produced draft annual reports that are awaiting finalisation.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

174 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if his Department has commissioned internal or external reports in relation to his Department or bodies under the aegis of his Department in the past five years; if so, the objectives of such reports; the cost of same; if such reports have been laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17198/09]

It has not been possible within the time available to compile the information sought.

I am arranging for this work to be compiled and the material provided directly to the Deputy as a matter of priority.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

175 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason she does not collect information and statistics on the number of people who apply for mortgage interest supplement or the number of people who have been refused mortgage interest supplement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17304/09]

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme provides for a weekly or monthly supplement to be paid in respect of mortgage interest. The purpose of the supplement is to provide short term income support to eligible people who are unable to meet their mortgage interest repayments in respect of a house which is their sole place of residence. The supplement assists with the interest portion of the mortgage repayments only.

There are currently over 11,300 people in receipt of mortgage interest supplement, an increase of over 7,000 (175%) over those in payment at end 2007.

The scheme is administered by the community welfare service of the Health Service Executive (HSE) on behalf of the department and delivered locally by community welfare officers. A community welfare officer interviews applicants for mortgage interest supplement when they first present in order to determine if they satisfy the statutory qualifying conditions for entitlement. They also ensure that all the documentation required to make a decision has been provided.

Claim details are recorded electronically in cases where it is established that mortgage interest supplement is payable. However, claim details are not always recorded electronically where no entitlement has been established to mortgage interest supplement, unless an appeal has been lodged with an appeals officer of the HSE, in which case claim details would be recorded electronically.

For this reason, reliable statistics are not available on the total number of people who applied for and were refused mortgage interest supplement.

In view of the current economic environment, the Department has commenced a review of the administration of the mortgage interest supplement scheme. The main purpose of the review is to consider how the mortgage interest supplement scheme can best meet its objective of catering for those who require assistance on a short-term basis, where they are unable to meet mortgage interest repayments on their sole place of residence. Legislative and operational issues arising in the existing mortgage interest scheme, including the cap on hours of employment, are also being examined. The review will examine operational aspects of the scheme including best practice in the recording, collating and maintenance of statistical data.

Question No. 176 answered with Question No. 15.

Departmental Reports.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

177 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she has received reports from bodies under the aegis of her Department in relation to their operation; if such will be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17193/09]

The information requested is currently being compiled within the Department and will be made available to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

178 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if her Department has commissioned internal or external reports in relation to her Department or bodies under the aegis of her Department in the past five years; if so, the objectives of such reports; the cost of same; if such reports have been laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17207/09]

The information requested is currently being compiled within the Department and will be made available to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Tom Sheahan

Question:

179 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of social welfare recipients in the Kerry South constituency who will be affected by the withdrawal of the Christmas bonus; and the average payment per social welfare recipient. [17226/09]

Statistics are not compiled on this basis by the Department. Accordingly, the information requested by the Deputy is not available.

Employment Support Services.

Joe McHugh

Question:

180 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will incorporate the idea of find a worker into all literature and signage at social welfare offices; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17258/09]

The Department produces a comprehensive range of information leaflets on its schemes and services. These are available in a wide range of outlets across the country, including all Social Welfare Local Offices and Branch Offices, Citizens Information Centres, Post Offices and in other organisations such as local community centres. Where appropriate the leaflets also contain information directing members of the public to services provided by other Government Departments and agencies such as FÁS.

Information on the range of schemes and services administered by the Department is also provided on the Department's website www.welfare.ie. This site links to other Government Departments and agencies. The Department's Employment Action Plan (EAP) is a systematic process whereby people in receipt of Jobseeker's Benefit or Jobseeker's Allowance are referred to FÁS. The purpose is to facilitate access to the range of employment and training services available. The Department will continue to work with FÁS to ensure that these services are availed of to their fullest extent.

The Department's information leaflets and signage or website do not refer to recruitment agencies or any other private sector organisations and there are no plans to do so. Any initiative involving the contracting of a private sector organisation would be advertised in accordance with EU procurement guidelines.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

181 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when unemployment assistance will be awarded in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17346/09]

The person concerned applied for jobseeker's allowance with effect from 21 April 2009. This application is being examined and he will be notified of the outcome in due course. The person concerned has also claimed illness benefit but has insufficient contributions paid/credited to qualify for payment.

The address quoted is the only one known to the Department for this person.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

182 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position in regard to qualification for the back to education allowance; if these requirements are expected to be eased in the current climate; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17347/09]

Since its introduction, the underlying objective of the back to education allowance scheme has been to equip people on social welfare payments with qualifications that will enable them to obtain employment in the labour market. It is a second chance educational opportunities scheme for people on welfare payments who wish to participate in full time education and who would not otherwise be able to do so.

Improvements to the scheme were announced in the recent supplementary budget. The qualifying period has been reduced to three months for access to the second level option. Also jobseekers who engage with the department's facilitator programme can access the third level option at nine months on the recommendation of a facilitator.

In general, to qualify, an applicant must be at least 21 years of age prior to commencing an approved course of study. However, lone parents and persons in receipt of jobseeker's payments can qualify at 18 years of age provided they are out of formal education for at least 2 years. In addition an applicant must be in receipt of a relevant social welfare payment for 3 months if pursuing a second level course or 12 months if pursuing a third level course.

In response to the current economic circumstances people who are awarded statutory redundancy may access the scheme immediately, provided an entitlement to a relevant social welfare payment is established prior to commencing an approved course of study. Also as indicated earlier the qualifying period for the third level option is reduced to 9 months for persons who are participating in the National Employment Action Plan process or engaging with a department facilitator.

The Government recognises that education has an important role to play in enhancing the employability skills of those on the Live Register and the qualifying conditions of the back to education scheme will continue to be monitored.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

183 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs her proposals to alleviate hardship and speed up the processing of applications for various social welfare payments in view of the ongoing downturn in the economy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17348/09]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

191 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs her plans to expedite applications for unemployment assistance and unemployment benefit thereby eliminating hardship; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17356/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 183 and 191 together.

This Department is committed to providing a quality service to all its customers. This includes ensuring that applications are processed and that decisions on entitlement are made as expeditiously as possible. The staff and other resources available to the Department are regularly reviewed having regard to the workload arising and other competing demands. The available resources are then used to discharge the Department's obligations towards our claimants and in implementing cost effective controls to prevent and detect fraud and abuse. With the increase in the number of people applying for jobseeker's payments staff in local offices have been working extremely hard to process claims as quickly as possible, however there are delays in some areas.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

184 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the average length of time currently taken to process an application for disability benefit and invalidity pension; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17349/09]

The average length of time taken to process applications for Disability Allowance, Illness Benefit and Invalidity Pension for the first three months of 2009 is as follows:

(In Weeks)

January ’09

February ’09

March ’09

Disability Allowance

18

15

15

Illness Benefit

2

1

1

Invalidity Pension

11

13

9

The Department is committed to providing a quality service to all its customers. This includes ensuring that applications are processed and that decisions on entitlements are made as expeditiously as possible. The staff and other resources available to the Department are regularly reviewed having regard to the workload arising and other competing demands.

Pension Provisions.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

185 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the average length of time currently taken to process an application for an old age pension; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17350/09]

The Department is committed to providing a quality service to all its customers. This includes ensuring that pension claims are processed and that decisions on entitlement are made as quickly as possible.

Claims for State Pension (Contributory) are now fully processed within four weeks of receipt of application where all information is available. Average processing times for all State Pension (Contributory) claims now stand at less than 9 weeks. At present, 78% of State Pension Non-Contributory claims are processed and decided within 10 weeks.

The Department has a process in place whereby people are proactively invited to claim State Pension Contributory in advance of reaching pension age in order to ensure their entitlement to pension is decided by the due date. Similarly, people who are in receipt of long term means tested payments, such as Disability Allowance, Jobseeker's Allowance, etc. are also proactively notified to claim State Pension Non-Contributory in advance of reaching pension age.

In order to facilitate a good customer service all customers are advised to apply for a pension at least three months before reaching pension age.

Departmental Staff.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

186 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she proposes to deploy adequate staff throughout her Department in order to deal with the increased workload arising from the downturn in the economy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17351/09]

The increasing Live Register has meant that Local Offices, being a frontline service, have borne the brunt of the additional workload as a result of the downturn in the economy.

During the past year an additional 190 staff have been assigned to local offices throughout the country. In addition, as many local offices are very close to capacity as regards accommodating further staff, the Department has set up a number of central decision units around the country. Four such units are currently set up in Dublin, Sligo, Finglas and Carrick-on-Shannon. Each unit has 10 staff. It is now planned to establish three further units with 10 staff each in Roscommon, Tallaght and Wexford and these units should be operational within the next few months.

A further 16 Social Welfare Inspectors have been assigned to various locations throughout the country to undertake means testing and other work associated with processing claims for the jobseekers allowance. Staffing levels are being monitored on an on-going basis.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

187 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if adequate provision has been made to meet rent and mortgage support requirements for the duration of 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17352/09]

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme provides for a weekly or monthly supplement to be paid in respect of rent or mortgage interest to any person in the State whose means are insufficient to meet their needs.

There are currently almost 85,000 recipients of rent supplement, a 42% increase since the end of 2007 and 11,300 recipients of mortgage interest supplement, a 175% increase since the end of 2007.

The published estimate of expenditure for 2009 for rent supplement is €490.4m and €40.1m for mortgage interest supplement, an increase of €50.7 million and €12.5 million on the outturn of expenditure in 2008.

In the current economic climate, it is difficult to estimate expenditure into the future. Expenditure on rent and mortgage interest supplement is closely monitored on a monthly basis taking into account trends in recipient numbers, average monthly payments and savings arising from the supplementary budget measures.

Overall, it is expected that adequate provision has been made for both the rent supplement and mortgage interest schemes in 2009. Developments in relation to current year expenditure will continue to be closely monitored in the context of the Government's framework for reporting on public expenditure.

Live Register.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

188 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of persons currently signing on the live register; the degree to which this represents an increase over the past two years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17353/09]

The live register is published by the Central Statistics Office on a monthly basis. The figures show that the number of persons signing on the Live Register at the 24th April 2009 is 384,448. This represents an increase of 188,850 on the number for the last week in April 2008 and an increase of 230,129 on the number for the last week of April 2007.

While the monthly rate of increase has been coming down in recent months, from 36,498 in January to 13,177 in April, I am acutely conscious of how job losses on this scale impact on the individuals and families affected. Income support continues to be the department's first priority in relation to people who are unemployed. Despite the economic downturn, the rates of payment have been maintained above the level of inflation.

The increase in the volume of claims for unemployment payments has imposed a severe strain on resources but the department has taken steps to ensure that waiting times are minimised.

It is recognised that while income support is a crucial support, we must also do all we can to help get people back to work. The department through its Employment Support Services and in conjunction with other agencies continues to assist people on the live register to make the transition to work, education or training. Changes were made in the recent supplementary budget to the rate of payment in jobseeker's allowance to people under 20 in order to incentivise them to avail of training and education opportunities Under the National Employment Plan, people who are approaching 3 months on the live register are identified by the department and referred to FÁS for interview with a view to job placement or an offer of training.

The Government is now providing, through FÁS, a total of 128,000 training and activation places for the unemployed this year. This is a substantial increase on the approximate 66,000 places taken up last year. Also, Job Search/National Employment Action Plan referral capacity has nearly doubled for 2009 from 6,500 cases per month to 12,250. This represents an unprecedented increase in capacity for this programme, which is being undertaken by FÁS in co-operation with the Department of Social and Family Affairs. In addition there are 146,700 places in further education programmes in 2009.

The recent supplementary budget outlined a joint approach to activation agreed between the departments of Social and Family Affairs, Enterprise Trade & Employment and Education & Science. A range of additional measures were outlined aimed at maintaining people in employment, re-skilling and facilitating better access to allowances while avoiding undue negative impacts on vulnerable individuals.

As part of the budget I introduced a package of measures relating to the back to work enterprise allowance and back to education allowance schemes to facilitate better access to supports. The package put together by the Departments of Enterprise, Trade & Employment and Education & Science has some 11 proposals to provide 23,435 extra employment and training scheme places.

This demonstrates the scale of activity being supported by this Government to ensure that people are best positioned to get back into employment.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

189 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will put in place measures to address the needs of persons who have suddenly become unemployed, in many cases for the first time, with particular reference to rent and mortgage support and emergency supplementary payments; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17354/09]

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme provides for a weekly or monthly supplement to be paid in respect of rent or mortgage interest to any person in the State whose means are insufficient to meet their needs.

The scheme also provides for an exceptional needs payment which may be made to help meet an essential once-off cost, such as a payment of a rent deposit, which the applicant is unable to meet out of his/her own resources. There is no automatic entitlement to this payment and each application is determined by a community welfare officer based on the particular circumstances of the case, taking account of the nature and extent of the need.

Rent supplement is payable to people who are unable to meet the cost of renting private accommodation. The supplement is intended as a short-term income support to eligible tenants whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs. There are currently nearly 85,000 people in receipt of rent supplement, an increase of 42% since the end of December 2007.

The mortgage interest supplement scheme is designed to help those who have difficulty meeting their mortgage repayment schedule where their means are insufficient to meet their needs. The scheme provides a short-term "safety net" within the overall social welfare scheme to ensure that people do not suffer hardship due to loss of employment.

A supplement may be paid in respect of mortgage interest only to eligible people who are unable to meet their mortgage interest repayments in respect of a house which is their sole place of residence.

There are currently over 11,300 people in receipt of mortgage interest supplement, an increase of 175% over the number in payment at end 2007.

The assessment for the existing rent and mortgage interest supplement provides for a gradual withdrawal of payment as hours of employment or earnings increase. Those availing of part-time employment and/or training opportunities can continue to receive rent and mortgage interest supplement subject to their satisfying the standard means assessment rules.

In the case of rent supplement, a person accepted as having a long term housing need who has been accepted as being eligible under the rental accommodation scheme (RAS) may engage in full time employment and still qualify for rent supplement, subject to standard means assessment rules.

In view of the current economic environment, the Department is conducting a review of the administration of the mortgage interest supplement scheme. The main purpose of the review is to consider how the mortgage interest supplement scheme can best meet its objective of catering for those who require assistance on a short-term basis, where they are unable to meet mortgage interest repayments on their sole place of residence. Legislative and operational issues arising in the existing mortgage interest scheme, including the cap on hours of employment, are also being examined.

The views of the community welfare service and other interested parties are currently being canvassed as part of the review. In the interim, updated guidelines on the operation of the existing mortgage interest supplement scheme will issue shortly to community welfare service staff.

The mortgage interest supplement scheme is administered by the community welfare service of the Health Service Executive on behalf of the department. The operational arrangements for the processing of applications and the payment to qualifying individuals, is a matter for the respective community welfare division areas.

The HSE is reviewing the allocation of staff currently engaged on the delivery of the supplementary welfare allowance scheme, including rent and mortgage interest supplement.

The question of any increase in expenditure for staffing within the community welfare service above that currently provided would have to be considered in the context of overall Government policy on public service manpower levels.

Departmental Estimates.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

190 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she is satisfied that the budget originally provided by her Department is adequate to meet the emerging needs with particular reference to unemployment benefit and unemployment assistance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17355/09]

The Estimates for the Department of Social and Family Affairs which were published on 23 April last were based, in the main, on an analysis of trends as regards likely numbers of recipients and average value of payments in 2009. The estimates for Jobseeker's Benefit, Jobseeker's Allowance and Supplementary Welfare Allowance were significantly increased from the Estimates published at the time of the October Budget. These estimates were increased in line with the Department of Finance's projections of an average Live Register of 440,000 for the year.

Question No. 191 answered with Question No. 183.

Reserve Defence Forces.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

192 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Defence his proposals to disband the Reserve Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17172/09]

There are no plans to disband the Reserve Defence Force. The Government introduced a moratorium on recruitment to the Public Service with effect from 27th March 2009 and, as with the public service generally. The Defence Organisation is required to operate with reduced funding. In this context, all recruitment to the Reserve Defence Force has been suspended for the present. While the budgetary provision for training of members of the Reserve has been reduced, it will be sufficient to allow all current members of the Reserve to undertake paid training during 2009.

Departmental Reports.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

193 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Defence if he has received reports from bodies under the aegis of his Department in relation to their operation; if such will be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17185/09]

My Department produces an Annual Report on the performance of the Department and the Defence Forces in accordance with the Public Service Management Act, 1997. In addition, I receive Annual Reports from the Civil Defence Board and from the Board of Coiste an Asgard. These reports are laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

194 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Defence if his Department has commissioned internal or external reports in relation to his Department or bodies under the aegis of his Department in the past five years; if so, the objectives of such reports; the cost of same; if such reports have been laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17199/09]

The information requested by the Deputy in relation to reports commissioned by my Department in the past five years is as follows:

In 2004, my Department commissioned a report from an Independent Monitoring Group which was set up to give effect to the recommendations of the Doyle Report (2002) concerning Harassment, Bullying and Discrimination and Sexual Harassment in the Defence Forces. The cost of the report was €161,259. This report was published. It was not laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas.

In 2006, my Department carried out an Expenditure Review of Maintenance of Aircraft in the Air Corps. The objective of the review was to ensure value for money. The cost included internal staff costs plus €3,220 for Report Quality Assurance by Epsilon Consulting. The report was laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas.

In 2007, my Department carried out a Value for Money Review of Clothing Procurement in the Defence Forces. The objective of the review was to ensure value for money. The cost included internal staff costs plus €2,904 for Report Quality Assurance by Petrus Consulting. The report was laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. TNS MRBI, an independent market research company, was awarded the contract to undertake research into the issue of Recruitment and Retention of Women in the Defence Forces. The research tested women's attitudes to military life and a career in the Defence Forces. The cost incurred was €48,000. The results of this market research will assist in the formulation of policy and practice in this area for the future. This report was published. It was not laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas.

The Independent Monitoring Group that was set up to give effect to the recommendations of the 2002 Doyle Report on Harassment, Bullying and Discrimination and Sexual Harassment in the Defence Forces, was reconstituted in February 2008. The objective was to review progress and report on the implementation of the recommendations of the 2004 and 2002 reports. The cost of this report was €37,109. This report was published. It was not laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. Also in 2008, PA Consultant Group was commissioned by my Department to make recommendations on the best means of meeting the medical requirements of the Defence Forces. The consultancy focused on the sustainable provision of the relevant medical expertise and services to the Defence Forces. The contract was awarded in June 2008 and the cost of this review is €95,000, excluding VAT. I am awaiting this report. The report will be published when it has been completed. Also in 2008, Entograph was commissioned by my Department to carry out a study to review and evaluate options for bracken control in the Glen of Imaal and identify a plan for its control. The cost of this review was €30,129. The report was not laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. Also in 2008, Mott Mac Donald Limited was commissioned by my Department to carry out a review of Safety Policy at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel. The cost of this review was €50,000. I am awaiting this report. It is not expected that the report will be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas.

In March 2009 my Department commissioned Deloitte to undertake a review of its Finance Branch. The review is expected to be completed in mid-June. The objective of the review is to examine the business processes, procedures and organisational structures in operation in the Finance Branch of my Department and to provide a report making recommendations for improvements in order to maximise efficiency and effectiveness. The cost is €80,550 excluding VAT. It is not expected that the report will be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. Also in 2009, my Department carried out a Value for Money Review of the Naval Service Vessel Maintenance. The objective of the review was to ensure value for money. The cost included internal staff costs plus €2,800 for Report Quality Assurance by Raymond Burke Consulting. The report was laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. A Value for Money Review of Military Training Lands commissioned from FGS Consulting is in progress. The objective of the review is to ensure value for money. The value of the contract is €90,000 including VAT. A final report is due later in the year and on completion it will be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Defence Forces Reserve.

Finian McGrath

Question:

195 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Defence if he will support a matter (details supplied). [17209/09]

The Government introduced a moratorium on recruitment to the Public Service with effect from 27 March 2009. As with the public service generally, the defence organisation is required to operate with reduced funding for 2009. In this context, all recruitment to the Reserve Defence Force has been suspended for the present. I accept that this will disappoint many individuals who have applied for enlistment in the Reserve. Membership of the Reserve already requires a significant voluntary commitment of unpaid training. In addition members of the Reserve undertake paid training. While the budgetary provision for training of members of the Reserve has been reduced, it will be sufficient to provide for paid training for the existing members of the Reserve this year. I appreciate that certain individuals wishing to join the Reserve are willing to forego paid training. However, the recruitment of new personnel to the Reserve under differing terms and conditions to existing members of the Reserve would not be in the best interests of the Reserve Defence Force in general.

Army Barracks.

Joe McHugh

Question:

196 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Defence his plans for the upkeep and maintenance of Rockhill Barracks, County Donegal; the maintenance and security costs which will be incurred annually; if he envisages an alternative use for Rockhill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17253/09]

The closure of Rockhill Barracks was completed on 29 January 2009. A private security firm has been employed to provide security at the barracks in the short term with effect from 30 January 2009. As the appointment of this contractor is temporary, for commercial reasons it would be inappropriate to state the cost at this stage. It is not anticipated that a Private Security firm will need to be employed in the long term. However, my Department will continue to monitor the situation. It is anticipated that Rockhill Barracks will be disposed of, taking account of the market conditions, to maximise the return to the Defence Forces and generate funding for reinvestment in Defence Forces equipment and infrastructure in accordance with Government policy. Significant progress has been achieved over the past decade in re-equipping and developing Defence Forces capabilities, using the proceeds from the sales of surplus properties. We need to ensure this progress is continued. Having regard to the investment needs of the Defence Forces and given the current economic circumstances, it is important that my Department realises the full commercial value of the current properties. As such, it will not be possible to make the property available for other use.

Building Regulations.

Liz McManus

Question:

197 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will ensure the Private Residential Tenancies Board amends its registration forms to include the building energy rating certificate number; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17157/09]

I refer to the reply to Questions Nos. 568 and 591 of 22 April 2009. The position is unchanged. The Building Energy Rating requirement in the case of dwellings offered for letting came into effect from 1 January 2009. My Department will keep the potential role of the Private Residential Tenancies Board in this matter under review.

Wildlife Conservation.

Joe McHugh

Question:

198 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will introduce a ban on the indiscriminate use of poisoned bait that does not differentiate between vermin and other carnivorous species; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17255/09]

Joe McHugh

Question:

214 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the measures he is establishing to protect endangered species and to reintroduce extinct species of bird, with reference to obligations under EU legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17267/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 198 and 214 together.

The Wildlife Acts of 1976 and 2000 and the EU (Natural Habitats) Regulations 1997, which transposed the EU Birds and Habitats Directives, provide the statutory basis for the protection of endangered species in Ireland. The designation of Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas under the directives helps to conserve and protect rare and threatened species such as the hen harrier, the chough and the Killarney fern. My Department is involved in a wide range of specific projects to protect rare or endangered species, including, for example, the corncrake, the grey partridge and the freshwater pearl mussel. In addition, my Department has been working with the Golden Eagle Trust on the reintroduction of extinct birds of prey into Ireland, such as the Golden Eagle in Donegal, the White Tailed Eagle in Kerry and the Red Kite in Wicklow. I am aware that some of these reintroduced birds have died as a result of eating poisoned meat-based bait. I am concerned about these incidents as not only do they endanger the fulfilment of our commitment to maintain and enhance Ireland's native wildlife, but they also harm our environmental and agricultural reputation at home and abroad. I propose, therefore, to introduce new regulations to prohibit the use of poisoned meat-based bait. My Department is in consultation with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on this matter to ensure that maximum protection is afforded to Ireland's wildlife while at the same time supporting good farming practice.

Local Authority Housing.

Bernard Allen

Question:

199 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when a decision will be made on the application by Cork City Council for funding for the regeneration of Spriggs Road, Gurranabraher, Cork. [17110/09]

A Remedial Works Scheme application in respect of the estate in question was received late last year. Following an evaluation process, my Department has informed Cork City Council that it is favourably disposed towards the proposed project and would, subject to available funding, like to have it progress under the Remedial Works Programme 2009-2011. In a letter, which issued on 9 February 2009, the Council was advised that the progression of the project will, however, be contingent on certain details of design, costing and phasing being reviewed and agreed with my Department. The information in this regard sought by my Department is awaited.

Electronic Voting Machines.

Mattie McGrath

Question:

200 Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the cost of storing electronic voting machines nationally, and in south Tipperary; the location at which the machines are stored; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17120/09]

Based on information provided to my Department by Returning Officers, the total annual costs for storage of the electronic voting equipment (including the cost of insurance, service charges, rates, heating, etc.) for the various locations are set out in the following table. In 2007, over 60% of the machines (4,762 in total) were moved to a central storage facility located at Gormanston Army Camp. Costs incurred to date in respect of the movement and storage of this equipment are some €328,000. A total of 2,729 voting machines are stored locally by Returning Officers at locations throughout the country. A further 13 machines are stored in the Custom House.

Electronic Voting Annual Storage Costs 2004-2008, and Current Storage Locations

County/City

Storage Location of Machines

Annual Storage Costs (incl. VAT)

Annual Storage Costs (incl. VAT)

Annual Storage Costs (incl. VAT)

Annual Storage Costs (incl. VAT)

Annual Storage Costs (incl. VAT)

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

Carlow-Kilkenny

Gormanston

28,506.00

29,595.00

30,166.00

24,653.65

Cavan-Monaghan

Monaghan Town

25,828.00

25,828.00

27,075.32

21,608.32

21,685.79

Clare

Ennis

10,800.00

3,600.00

3,600.00

3,600.00

3,600.00

Cork City

Gormanston

27,207.50

42,499.50

53,942.33

48,561.85

Cork County

Gormanston

37,609.30

37,609.30

35,124.00

35,913.29

Donegal

Letterkenny

9,293.00

15,714.00

16,685.80

13,987.80

14,026.20

Dublin City

Gormanston

65,000.00

72,350.00

71,265.00

6,954.00

Dublin County

Gormanston

62,938.66

62,938.66

49,034.86

Nil

Galway

Castlebar

5,253.00

5,253.00

Nil

5,000

Nil

Kerry

Tralee

26,125.00

26,125.00

22,624.96

28,003.00

31,875.32

Kildare

Gormanston

27,125.86

27,125.86

31,984.21

29,364.82

20,748.97

Laois-Offaly

Portlaoise

28,178.00

28,178.00

27,647.60

27,647.60

27,682.60

Limerick

Gormanston

57,675.86

57,675.86

64,465.30

28,423.10

Longford

Longford Town

2,995.16

15,095.16

18,439.88

20,003.28

16,859.98

Roscommon

Roscommon Town

10,374.98

10,374.98

9,816.00

10,664.82

10,026.82

Louth

Dundalk

298.00

298.00

593.47

595.06

566.11

Mayo

Gormanston

34,930.00

34,930.00

37,426.00

38,608.00

Meath

Navan

20,366

20,366.00

21,976.51

26,354.72

26,395.72

Sligo

Sligo Town

Nil

Nil

Nil

Nil

2,500

Leitrim

Carrick-on-Shannon

Nil

3,000.00

3,150.00

3,200.00

3,200

Tipperary (N&S)

Gormanston

42,700.00

42,700.00

31,200.00

39,196.00

Waterford

Gormanston

52,888.48

52,888.48

57,699.17

35,989.67

Westmeath

Gormanston

22,805.34

22,805.34

21,772.62

21,440.30

Wexford

Drinagh

16,875.00

16,876.00

19,064.76

18,934.46

25,057.70

Wicklow

Gormanston

42,455.80

42,455.80

54,241.29

Nil

Total

658,228.94

696,281.94

705,995.08

488,703.74

204,225.21

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

John O'Mahony

Question:

201 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when he will sign the documents in respect of the treatment plant for a sewerage scheme (details supplied) in County Mayo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17128/09]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 55 of 8 April 2009. The position is unchanged.

Dan Neville

Question:

202 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position regarding a sewerage scheme (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17137/09]

The Kilmallock Sewerage Scheme is included for funding in my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2007-09.

My Department is awaiting submission of Limerick County Council's revised contract documents for the Wastewater Treatment Plant Design/ Build/Operate contract along with the other information outlined in the Department's letter of 22 December 2008 to the Council. I understand that the Council is examining draft contract documents it has received for the civil works element of the scheme.

Electronic Voting Machines.

Martin Ferris

Question:

203 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the person who is accountable for the loss of €51million on the electronic voting machines. [17141/09]

Martin Ferris

Question:

204 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the person who advised the Government in relation to the purchase of the electronic voting machines. [17142/09]

Martin Ferris

Question:

205 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason he failed to take legal action against persons involved in advising the purchase of the electronic voting machines. [17143/09]

Martin Ferris

Question:

206 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will confirm that the tendering process for the electronic voting machines was in accordance with the EU and Irish procurement regulations. [17144/09]

Martin Ferris

Question:

207 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the way the electronic voting machines are to be disposed of. [17145/09]

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

215 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the new information which prompted him to make his recent decision to scrap electronic voting machines; if he received a report on the electoral commission which examined the e-voting issue as stated in the Houses of the Oireachtas on 28 October 2008; if he will make that report available to the House; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17282/09]

Paul Kehoe

Question:

220 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position with regard to individuals or businesses interested in putting the electronic voting machines to use in an alternative project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17298/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 203 to 207, inclusive, 215 and 220 together.

I indicated on a number of occasions that I was considering the position in relation to the electronic voting and counting project. On 23 April 2009, I announced that the Government have decided not to proceed with the implementation of electronic voting in Ireland.

In announcing the decision, I stated that significant additional costs would arise to advance electronic voting in Ireland and that the decision had been taken to avoid such costs, especially at a time of more challenging economic conditions. The financial and other resources that would be involved in modifying the machines in advance of implementation could not be justified in present circumstances. I also stated that the public in broad terms appear to be satisfied with the present paper-based system and this must be recognised in decisions on the future steps to be taken with the electronic voting system.

A process will now be put in place, including discussions with the supplier, to address the disposal of the electronic voting and counting equipment and termination of storage arrangements. Proposals made to my Department in this regard will be considered as part of the process.

In February 2000, the Government approved the introduction of electronic voting and counting at elections in Ireland. This was followed by an invitation to tender for an electronic voting and counting system through notices in the EU Official Journal and the national press leading to a decision on the chosen system.

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to the establishment of an independent Electoral Commission. To assist in consideration of the issues involved, I commissioned a report by an expert group from UCD. I published the report for consultation on 10 February 2009, with a closing date for submissions of 26 June 2009.

The report is available on my Department's website and I have forwarded a copy to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Environment, Heritage and Local Government inviting its input into the consultation process that is currently underway.

Water and Sewerage Projects.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

208 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position regarding the Gort water scheme, Gort, County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17152/09]

The Gort Regional Water Supply Scheme is included for funding in my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2007 — 2009.

My Department is finalising its examination of Galway County Council's updated Preliminary Report for the scheme and of the Council's proposals for some advance works. The Council will be notified of the outcome of these examinations as soon as possible.

Housing Grants.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

209 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when funding will be released to Waterford City Council in regard to the various housing grants operated by the city council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17165/09]

Local Authorities will be notified of their allocations under the schemes in early May.

Special Protection Orders.

Richard Bruton

Question:

210 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the steps necessary to implement a special protection order on Dublin Bay; the progress he has made in implementing the order; if any of Dublin Port’s lands will be exempted from the order; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17166/09]

The South Dublin Bay and River Tolka Estuary Special Protection Area (SPA), North Bull Island SPA and the Howth Head Coast SPA were proposed for designation and advertised on 28 May 2008. These sites had previously been designated as SPAs but it was considered necessary to amend the boundaries of all three sites with the effect of increasing the proportion of Dublin Bay that is protected.

Under the provisions of the European Communities (Habitats) Regulations 1997, public notification affords these sites the full protection of the Regulations from the date of notification, including any part of the proposed SPA that may be under appeal.

Local landowners, businesses, marine users and residents were notified directly of these changes and the proposal to designate was also advertised in national newspapers and on three radio stations.

A three month period was given to all land and marine users and persons with a legal interest in the area in which to object to the designation. There were no appeals on the North Bull Island and Howth Head Coast SPAs .

The South Dublin Bay and River Tolka Estuary SPA is the subject of one appeal — the Dublin Port Authority has objected to the inclusion within the SPA of 31 hectares of inshore area adjacent to its lands. The appeals process is currently underway and will result in a recommendation to me, based solely on the criteria as stipulated in the EU Birds Directive, as to whether this area should be included in the designed area or not. I expect this appeals process to be completed in a matter of weeks.

Departmental Reports.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

211 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has received reports from bodies under the aegis of his Department in relation to their operation; if such will be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17188/09]

State bodies, including the subsidiaries of such bodies, are required in the conduct of their operations to adopt the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies, produced by the Department of Finance and endorsed by the Government in October 2001. Section 10 of the Code of Practice details the specific reporting requirements placed on such bodies, particularly in relation to the production of annual reports and accounts. In general, the legislation relating to the establishment of these bodies also details the requirements to produce such reports and present these to the Minister.

Annual reports and/or the audited accounts of the bodies under the aegis of my Department are furnished to me as Minister and laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas, in line with the requirements set out above.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

212 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his Department has commissioned internal or external reports in relation to his Department or bodies under the aegis of his Department in the past five years; if so, the objectives of such reports; the cost of same; if such reports have been laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17202/09]

The information requested in respect of my Department is being compiled and will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Local Authority Rates.

Joe McHugh

Question:

213 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will suspend or reduce water rates and other local authority rates on school buildings, community buildings, and buildings associated with benevolent voluntary groups; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17264/09]

The Water Framework Directive requires that Member States take account of the principle of recovery of the costs of water services. Accordingly, the Government's Water Pricing Policy requires local authorities to recover the cost of providing water services from the users of these services, with the exception of households using the services for domestic purposes. The policy provides for full cost recovery without profit, with charges based on actual metered consumption.

In January 2008, the Government introduced transitional arrangements for charging schools for water services. The transitional arrangements provide for a flat rate amounting to €4.00 per pupil in the current year (the fee for 2007 was €3.00 and for 2008 was €3.50). To ensure compliance with the Water Framework Directive, the transitional arrangements will cease at the end of this year and all schools will be charged for water services on a full cost recovery and volumetric basis with effect from 1 January 2010.

In relation to other rates, local authorities have a statutory obligation to levy commercial rates on properties that are included in the valuation lists prepared by the Commissioner of Valuation under the Valuation Act 2001. The amount of rates is calculated having regard to the valuation of the property as determined by the Valuation Office and the annual rate on valuation as determined by local authority members in their annual budget.

It is entirely a matter for each local authority to determine the annual rate on valuation when their annual budgets are being adopted. This decision is at the absolute discretion of the elected members of each local authority having regard to the needs of their area, the level and range of services to be provided and all the sources of revenue, including commercial rates, charges and central government grants available to finance those services. I, as Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, have no function in the determination of the annual rate on valuation.

School buildings used exclusively for the provision of educational services on a not-for-profit basis and property occupied by a charitable body where the facilities are not used for making a private profit are not rateable under schedule 4 of the Valuation Act 2001. In addition, community halls which are not licensed for the sale of alcohol are not rateable under schedule 4 of the Valuation Act 2001.

Question No. 214 answered with Question No. 198.
Question No. 215 answered with Question No. 203.

Fire Stations.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

216 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position in relation to his moratorium for recruitment to fire services; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a station (details supplied) in County Offaly is operating below capacity, putting both public and personnel at risk; if he will authorise recruitment in this area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17294/09]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

217 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position in relation to his moratorium for recruitment to fire services; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a station (details supplied) in County Offaly is operating below capacity, putting both public and personnel at risk; if he will authorise recruitment in this area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17295/09]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

218 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position in relation to his moratorium for recruitment to fire services; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a station (details supplied) in County Offaly is operating below capacity, putting both public and personnel at risk; if he will authorise recruitment in this area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17296/09]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

219 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position in relation to his moratorium for recruitment to fire services; if his attention has been drawn to a the fact that a station (details supplied) in County Offaly is operating below capacity, putting both public and personnel at risk; if he will authorise recruitment in this area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17297/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 216 to 219, inclusive, together.

Under the terms of the Government's decision on implementation of savings in public service numbers no public service post, however arising, may be filled by recruitment, promotion, or payment of an allowance for the performance of duties at a higher grade. This decision is effective from 31 March 2009 and stands until the end of 2010. My Department has, accordingly, written to all local authorities requesting their compliance.

However, in recognition of the priority attaching to the maintenance of key frontline services, my Department is consulting with the Department of Finance in regard to the management of relevant staffing needs. The needs of local authority fire services will be considered in this context.

In regard to the staffing requirements in each local authority, it is the responsibility of each county and city manager, under the Local Government Act 2001, to employ such staff and to make such staffing and organisational arrangements as may be deemed necessary for the purposes of carrying out the functions of the local authorities for which he or she is the manager. The specific matters relating to individual fire stations raised in the question are, accordingly, appropriately determined at local level.

Question No. 220 answered with Question No. 203.

Departmental Schemes.

Martin Ferris

Question:

221 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if a company which produces fireplace inserts that burn cut and seasoned wood but provide an energy efficient heating system qualifies for existing grants. [17169/09]

Sustainable Energy Ireland administers a number of schemes, which stimulate the wider deployment of sustainable energy technologies including:

Greener Homes Scheme — stimulating installation of renewable heating systems in homes, including solar panels, biomass and gasification boilers, biomass stoves and geothermal heat pumps.

ReHEAT Scheme — supporting technologies for the commercial, public and community sectors.

Home Energy Savings Scheme — promoting the uptake of energy efficiency measures in homes including improved attic and wall insulation and upgraded heating system controls.

The objective of these programmes is to enhance the energy performance of systems/buildings, thereby reducing emissions, reducing Ireland's reliance on imported fossil fuels and improving the cost competitiveness of energy. The specification for products supported under the Greener Homes Scheme or the Home Energy Saving Scheme would not cover the product in question, particularly as open fires by their nature are inherently inefficient with typically less than 30% efficiency.

Liz McManus

Question:

222 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will change the home energy saving scheme so that a building energy rating is mandatory; the reason a BER is not currently required; his views on ensuring local authority building control officers enforce the legislation covering BERs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17156/09]

The Home Energy Saving (HES) Scheme is administered by Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI). SEI recommends that people participating in the HES who are uncertain about their best options for energy saving avail of the before/after BER grant. Initial indications are that as many as one third of applicants plan to avail of this option. There will also be homeowners who are already familiar with the measures in place or needed in their house and they will doubtless select on the basis of that knowledge. In developing the HES scheme, it was concluded by SEI that it would be unreasonable to oblige homeowners to incur the BER cost as a mandatory requirement to grant eligibility. The arrangements for the enforcement of BER by local authorities/building control authorities has been set out in the reply given by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to Question Nos. 372 and 377 on 28 April 2009. The position is unchanged.

Departmental Reports.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

223 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he has received reports from bodies under the aegis of his Department on their operation; if such will be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17183/09]

Annual reports are received from bodies under the aegis of my Department. Annual reports are laid before the house and are available in the library of the houses of the Oireachtas. Other reports published by bodies under the aegis of my Department are available from those bodies.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

224 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if his Department has commissioned internal or external reports on his Department or bodies under the aegis of his Department in the past five years; if so, the objectives of such reports; the cost of same; if such reports have been laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17197/09]

In the time available it has not been possible to identify and assemble the information requested. My Department is in the process of identifying and assembling the information and I will revert to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Joe McHugh

Question:

225 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the reason grants are not available for the installation of domestic wind turbines in view of the fact grants are available for the installation of domestic solar panels; his views on addressing this contradiction; his further views on whether Donegal is more suited to domestic wind turbines than to domestic solar panels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17256/09]

Solar and wind-powered technologies contribute to different energy requirements in domestic settings. Solar panels harness heat for hot water and space heating. Wind-turbines, on the other hand, are installed primarily to generate electricity. Solar panels qualify for support under the Greener Homes Scheme operated by Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI). It is a qualifying condition that equipment approved under this scheme meets internationally accepted certification standards. Only a very small minority of domestic-scale wind turbine products have been independently verified in accordance with the internationally recognised standard (IEC/EN 61400-12-1). Domestic wind turbine technology is therefore included in the Small- and Micro-Scale Generation Field Trials programme operated by SEI which, among other things, will assess appropriate products and quality standards for the domestic-scale turbines and appropriate installation requirements.

Harbours and Piers.

Martin Ferris

Question:

226 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his views on the funding difficulties Greencastle Breakwater and Pier is currently facing; and if he will reinstate the funding in order to complete the pier. [17111/09]

Greencastle harbour is under the control of Donegal County Council and responsibility for its repair and maintenance rests with the local authority in the first instance. The development at Greencastle has however, received funding under my Department's Fishery Harbours and Coastal Infrastructure Development Programme in recent years. Up to the end of 2008, my Department has spent approximately €5 million on the project. Approval has recently been granted for expenditure of up to €1.6 million in 2009. This investment will build on the work already carried out on Phase 1 of the development which involves the construction of a 290 metre long breakwater.

Grant Payments.

Michael Ring

Question:

227 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason forestry payments which were due for payment on 1 March 2009 have not been awarded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17113/09]

The forestry premiums are paid annually in late March or early April. Following the April 7 Budget forestry premiums are being reduced by 8%. Issues relating to the implementation of the reduction had to be addressed before payment is made. It is intended that the annual forestry premium payment will issue shortly.

Michael Ring

Question:

228 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason forestry payment were not awarded to eligible applicants on 1 March 2009 in view of the fact that they have written confirmation of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17114/09]

The forestry premiums are paid annually in late March or early April. Following the April 7 Budget forestry premiums are being reduced by 8%. Issues relating to the implementation of the reduction had to be addressed before payment is made. It is intended that the annual forestry premium payment will issue shortly.

Michael Ring

Question:

229 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason farmers who were due to be awarded their forestry payments on 1 March 2009 but were not are being penalised 8% of their forestry payments following the 7 April 2009 Budget; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17115/09]

The forestry premiums are paid annually in late March or early April. Following the April 7 budget, forestry premiums are being reduced by 8%. Issues relating to the implementation of the reduction had to be addressed before payment is made. It is intended that the annual forestry premium payment will issue shortly.

Tom Hayes

Question:

230 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when payment will be made to a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary in respect of their application under the farm improvement scheme. [17140/09]

The person named is an applicant under the Farm Improvement Scheme. Applications under this Scheme are being processed by my Department up to the level of funding provided for the Scheme in the 2006 Partnership agreement, Towards 2016.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

231 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when payment of a grant will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [17149/09]

It is intended that the annual forestry premium payment will issue to this applicant shortly.

Departmental Reports.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

232 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he has received reports from bodies under the aegis of his Department in relation to their operation; if such will be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17181/09]

The following are the reports I have received since January 2008 from bodies which come under the aegis of my Department and which have been laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Report

Teagasc Annual Report and Accounts for 2007

National Milk Agency Annual Report and Accounts 2007

Veterinary Council of Ireland Annual Report and Accounts 2007

Irish National Stud Company Ltd Annual Report and Accounts 2007

An Bord Bia Annual Report and Accounts 2007

Aquaculture Licensing Appeals Board Annual Report and Accounts 2006

Marine Institute Annual Report and Accounts 2007

Bord Iascaigh Mhara Annual Report and Accounts 2007

Coillte Teoranta Annual Report and Accounts 2007 and 2008

COFORD (National Council for Forest Research) 2007 Annual Report

The Annual Report and Accounts of the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority for 2007 have been received but not yet laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

233 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if his Department has commissioned internal or external reports in relation to his Department or bodies under the aegis of his Department in the past five years; if so, the objectives of such reports; the cost of same; if such reports have been laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17195/09]

The following are the details sought by the Deputy of reports in relation to this Department or the bodies under its aegis undertaken in the past five years.

Internal Reports undertaken in respect of the Department

Name of Report

Purpose of Report

Cost

Laid before the Houses

Beef Classification Scheme Expenditure Review

To assess the extent to which the scheme expenditure comprised value for money

Not applicable (N/A)

Yes

Purchase for Destruction Scheme Expenditure Review

To assess the extent to which the scheme expenditure comprised value for money

N/A

Yes

Potato Sector Expenditure Review

To assess the extent to which the scheme expenditure comprised value for money

N/A

Yes

Aid Donations — World Food Programme/FAO Expenditure Review

To assess the extent to which the scheme expenditure comprised value for money

N/A

Yes

Early Retirement Scheme expenditure review

To assess the extent to which the scheme expenditure comprised value for money

N/A

Yes

Dairy Laboratories Expenditure Review

To assess the extent to which the scheme expenditure comprised value for money

N/A

Yes

Compensatory Allowance Scheme Expenditure Review

To assess the extent to which the scheme expenditure comprised value for money

N/A

Yes

A review of public expenditure on BSE eradication in Ireland from 1996-2004.

To assess the extent to which the scheme expenditure comprised value for money

N/A

Yes

School Milk Scheme Expenditure Review

To assess the extent to which the scheme expenditure comprised value for money

N/A

Yes

Farm Waste Management Expenditure Review

To assess the extent to which the scheme expenditure comprised value for money

N/A

Yes

Laboratory Facilities (Plant health, crops, Research & Development grants) Expenditure Review

To assess the extent to which the scheme expenditure comprised value for money

N/A

Yes

Public (Exchequer and EU) Supports for Aquaculture Expenditure Review

To assess the extent to which the scheme expenditure comprised value for money

N/A

Yes

Dairy Hygiene Expenditure Review

To assess the extent to which the scheme expenditure comprised value for money

N/A

Yes

FIRM (Food Research & Development Grants) Value for Money Review

To assess the extent to which the scheme expenditure comprised value for money

N/A

Yes

Bovine TB Scheme Value for Money Review

To assess the extent to which the scheme expenditure comprised value for money

N/A

Yes

Marketing and Processing Scheme Value for Money Review

To assess the extent to which the scheme expenditure comprised value for money

N/A

Yes

Installation Aid Expenditure Review

To assess the extent to which the scheme expenditure comprised value for money

N/A

Yes

Meat Hygiene — Temporary Veterinary Inspectors Value for Money Review

To assess the extent to which the scheme expenditure comprised value for money

N/A

Yes

Bovine Animal Identification and Traceability System Value for Money Review

To assess the extent to which the scheme expenditure comprised value for money

N/A

Yes

Fallen Animals Scheme Value for Money Review

To assess the extent to which the scheme expenditure comprised value for money

N/A

Yes

BIM Marine Support Programme Value for Money Review

To assess the extent to which the scheme expenditure comprised value for money

N/A

Yes

Forest Roads Scheme Value for Money Review

To assess the extent to which the scheme expenditure comprised value for money

N/A

Yes

Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme Value for Money Review

To assess the extent to which the scheme expenditure comprised value for money

N/A

Yes

Afforestation Programme Value for Money Review

To assess the extent to which the scheme expenditure comprised value for money

N/A

Yes

Review of DVO Administrative Operations Division

To assess the appropriate staffing levels for the division.

N/A

No

Review of Forest Service (Administrative Division)

To assess the appropriate staffing levels for the division.

N/A

No

Review of Export Refunds Division

To assess the appropriate staffing levels for the division.

N/A

No

Review of Agriculture Structures Division

To assess the appropriate staffing levels for the division.

N/A

No

Review of On Farm Investments, Subsidies and Storage Division

To assess the appropriate staffing levels for the division.

N/A

No

Review of Veterinary Border Inspection Posts

To assess the appropriate staffing levels for the division.

N/A

No

Review of Technical Staffing in Integrated Controls Division

To assess the appropriate staffing levels for the division.

N/A

No

Review of Agricultural Environment and Structures Division — Technical Officers

To assess the appropriate staffing levels for the division.

N/A

No

Review of District Veterinary Offices — Technical Staffing

To assess the appropriate staffing levels for the division.

N/A

No

Review of Technical Staffing in VPHIS (Veterinary Public Health Inspection Service)

To assess the appropriate staffing levels for the division.

N/A

No

Review of Corporate Governance of Bodies under the aegis of the Department

To assess Department’s functions in meeting conditions set down in the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies

N/A

No

External Reports Commissioned in respect of the Department

Name of Report

Purpose of Report

Cost

Laid before the Houses

Human Resource Management System Technical Audit Report: Peoplesoft UK Ltd

To conduct an a technical audit of the Human Resources Management System

9,519

No

Quarterly Independent Assessment of the Department’s IT Security Measures — 2004: RITS

Independent assessment of Department’s IT Security Measures

34,866

No

Quarterly Independent Assessment of the Department’s IT Security Measures — 2005: RITS

Independent assessment of Department’s IT Security Measures

30,469

No

Quarterly Independent Assessment of the Department’s IT Security Measures — 2006: RITS

Independent assessment of Department’s IT Security Measures

14,568

No

Quarterly Independent Assessment of the Department’s IT Security Measures — Q1 — 2007: RITS

Independent assessment of Department’s IT Security Measures

2,916

No

Quarterly Independent Assessment of the Department’s IT Security Measures Q2 — Q4 2007: Espion

Independent assessment of Department’s IT Security Measures

19,360

No

Quarterly Independent Assessment of the Department’s IT Security Measures Q1 — Q4 2008: Espion

Independent assessment of Department’s IT Security Measures

13,915

No

Independent assessments of Internet facing business systems — Espion

To provide independent assessments of internet facing business systems

3,408

No

Review of the implementation of the 2000 IT Strategy: Morehampton Consultancy Services

To conduct a review of the Department’s implementation of the 2000 IT Strategy

8,400

No

Study for the upgrade of the Department’s SAP Accounting System: Enterprise Process Consulting

To carry out a project scoping exercise on the upgrade of the Department’s SAP Accounting System

51,425

No

High Level feasibility Study on the development of an electronic record and management system: PriceWaterhouseCoopers

To examine the feasibility of developing an Electronic Records Management system

19,965

No

Accessibility and usability report on the Department’s Website and online services site: Open Interface Ltd

To evaluate the accessibility and usability report on the Department’s Website and online services site

8,470

No

Analysis of the required developments for the provision on forestry online services: Vantage Resources

To scope and estimate the cost of the IT work necessary for the provision of facilities for the submission of forestry applications

20,241

No

IFORIS Computer System (Forestry online) post implementation review: Resources Global Consultancy

To provide a post-implementation evaluation of the Forestry online computer system

11,480

No

Specialist ICT procurement: Achilles Procurement Services

To provide specialist advice regarding new EU Framework tender format and the compilation of the Department’s first tender using the system

2,240

No

Review of the Organisational Structure and Management of all of the Laboratories under the Control of the Department of Agriculture & Food: Bearing Point

To facilitate a review of the organisational structure and management framework of the laboratories under the control of the Department.

117,460

No

Organisation Review of the Department of Agriculture and Food: Farrell, Grant, Sparks

To facilitate a review of the structures, organisation and staffing arrangements of the Department of Agriculture & Food.

108,900

No

External Reports Commissioned by the Department in respect of its Bodies

Name of Report

Purpose of Report

Cost

Laid before the Houses

Potential acquisition by Coillte Teoranta of Weyerhaeuser Europe Ltd: McStay Luby Chartered Accounts

To advise on the financial, business and related issues regarding the potential acquisition by Coillte Teoranta of Weyerhaeuser Europe Ltd

78,984

No

Grant Payments.

Michael Ring

Question:

234 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, further to a previous parliamentary question (details supplied), if it was his Department’s eREPS software which was responsible for the breaches; and the number of farmers penalised in error. [17212/09]

The technical breaches referred to were minor in nature and in some cases were the result of automatic rounding of values within the eREPS system. My Department is reviewing the small number of cases in question and has put in place a system to ensure that the automatic rounding of values in the system does not in itself result in a reduction in payment.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

235 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason for the delay in issuing a REP scheme four payment to a person (details supplied) in County Cork who applied in February 2008; if he will confirm that same will be issued without further delay. [17213/09]

Tom Sheahan

Question:

236 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of farmers in the Kerry South constituency who will receive payment under the REP scheme; and the average payment per head for REP scheme payment. [17223/09]

It is not possible to supply figures for the Kerry South constituency, but in County Kerry as a whole there are 2,752 participants in REPS 3 who are eligible for payment in 2009. There are also 831 applications for REPS 4 which are currently being processed for payment. The average REPS 4 payment for 2008 is €4,400 and the average annual payment for REPS 3 is €6,200.

Animal Identification Scheme.

Tom Sheahan

Question:

237 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the position regarding electronic tagging of sheep. [17224/09]

The introduction of electronic identification (EID) for sheep was agreed at EU level in late 2003. At that time, the implementation date was deferred until January 2008 and subsequently set in EU legislation for 31 December 2009.

I have consistently opposed the mandatory introduction of EID and have made my position on this very clear in Brussels. I will continue to seek the introduction of EID on a voluntary basis and some other Member States support this position. The Commission and most Member States are, however firmly attached to the introduction of EID by the end of this year. My Department is in contact with the Commission, other Member States and Stakeholders in relation to detailed aspects of EID. These discussions are without prejudice to the continuing political discussion on the overall policy in relation to EID. I am anxious that all Irish concerns are taken into account in whatever system is finally implemented.

I should also point out that under the EU legislation, EID will not apply to sheep born before January 2010 nor generally will there be a need to retag existing sheep. Furthermore provision is made whereby lambs intended for slaughter and less than 12 months old can be permanently excluded from the EID requirement. If this provision is applied by Ireland, it will reduce the number of animals affected by EID substantially.

Grant Payments.

Tom Sheahan

Question:

238 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of farmers in the Kerry South constituency who will receive a forestry payment; and the average payment per head for forestry payment. [17225/09]

It is not possible to provide the Deputy with the number of farmers in Kerry South constituency who will receive a forestry payment. However, the number of applicants in County Kerry who will receive forestry premium payments in the annual payment run is 1,514. The average premium payment per head is approximately €3,497.

Milk Quota.

Michael Creed

Question:

239 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the volume of milk permitted to be sold directly by farmers to the consumer; the relevant criteria which must be met to avail of this entitlement; the way his interpretation of this EU directive permitting direct farmer to consumer sales of liquid milk compares with the interpretation and implementation of this directive in other EU countries, specifically regarding the volume of milk permitted to be sold on a daily basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17234/09]

Ireland's Direct Sales Quota for 2008/2009 was 2,146,481 kgs, which equates to 0.04% of Ireland's total national quota. For the EU as a whole, 2.28% of total quota is allocated to direct sales. All Member states with the exception of one (Romania) have a quota allocation that is greater in Deliveries than Direct Sales. Malta has no quota allocated to Direct Sales. In order to sell milk directly to the consumer, a milk producer would need to allocate part or all of his/her quota to Direct Sales and satisfy dairy hygiene requirements.

In Ireland, the volume of milk sold directly to the consumer has reduced substantially in recent years. During the 2002/2003 quota year, milk sales accounted for 38.63% of dairy products sold directly to the consumer. The corresponding figure for the 2007/2008 quota year was 8.78%. The volume of quota allocated to Direct Sales reduced by 76.86% between 2002/03 and 2007/08.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

Michael Creed

Question:

240 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will provide an assurance that all current REP scheme 4 applicants whose applications have yet to be validated and awarded and whose applications may be determined as invalid will not have the opportunity of reapplying for REP scheme 4 denied to them for any reason; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17238/09]

The arrangements for REPS 4 are derived from Commission Regulations that reflect the Commission's objective of integrating and harmonising the operation of the various farm payment schemes — including the Single Payment Scheme, REPS and the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme. For REPS 4, this means that applications to join the Scheme must be submitted by 15 May each year. Any application to join REPS 4, including resubmitted applications which may have been previously rejected, which are submitted after May 15 cannot be considered for payment in the same calendar year.

Aquaculture Development.

Michael Creed

Question:

241 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason for the delay in finalising the Operational Programme for Fisheries 2007-2013; if his attention has been drawn to the consequent delay in processing grant applications for the sector and the employment opportunities lost in the interim; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17239/09]

The draft Seafood Development Operational Programme was advertised for public consultation in October 2008. Issues were raised by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources on behalf of CFB (Central Fisheries Board) regarding the grant-aiding of projects where environmental issues arise relating to compliance with the EU Birds and Habitats Directives and sea lice control on salmon farms.

My Department with its agencies working with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has developed a plan to deliver compliance with the EU Birds and Habitat Directives for wild fisheries and aquaculture over a determined timeframe. This plan has been submitted to DG Environment for consideration. I have also met with EU Environment Commissioner Dimas to promote a resolution of these difficulties.

A meeting between my Department, the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and Agencies and DG Environment is to take place in Brussels on 13 May to discuss the plan with a view to securing DG Environment's support for the approach set down in the plan. My Department is also in discussion with the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources to inform them on the significant progress made in relation to managing sea lice levels on salmon farms. I am hopeful that the concerns raised have been satisfactorily addressed and that we will be in a position to adopt the Operational Programme for Fisheries in the near future.

A provision of €5m has been made for aquaculture development in the Vote for 2009 and to date I have approved the spending of €3.8m of this for aquaculture projects in both the BMW and S&E regions under the 2000-06 OP which will assist the continued operation of aquaculture projects in these areas and the employment that they support.

Aquaculture Licences.

Joe McHugh

Question:

242 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will expedite the licence application of a person (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17259/09]

My Department does not have an application for an aquaculture licence from the person referred to by the Deputy. The site in question is currently licensed to another person for 10 years with effect from 9th May 2005. This person applied for an aquaculture licence in respect of a further area adjacent to his existing licensed site. In October 2006 my Department advised the applicant that it was not in a position to recommend the application.

I should also add that the area for which this licence was sought is a designated Special Area of Conservation under the EU Habitats Directive and a Special Protection Area under the EU Birds Directive (Natura 2000 site). As such any applications will require to be considered in the context of ongoing discussions between my Department, the National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the EU Commission on the issue of aquaculture activities in Natura 2000 sites generally.

Farm Waste Management.

Joe McHugh

Question:

243 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the banks that have been instructed by him to place a moratorium on interest rate payments for the farm waste management scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17260/09]

The financial arrangements in respect of any loans taken out by farmers for the purposes of carrying out investments under the Farm Waste Management Scheme are entirely a matter between the individual farmers and financial institutions concerned.

Fishing Vessel Licences.

Joe McHugh

Question:

244 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his views on introducing a temporary licensing system for the fishing of non-quota species only (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17266/09]

The EU Fisheries Council acting on a proposal from the EU Commission decides which fish stocks are subject to a Total Allowable Catch (TAC) and quota regime. The allocation of quotas (per-cent shares) between Member States is based to a large extent on recent track record of fishing by Member States fishing fleets.

The stocks in western waters specified by the Deputy are not at this time subject to a TAC and quota regime. Consequently, it is open to any registered fishing vessel to target such species. If industry representatives wish to introduce national management arrangements in respect of these species I will certainly consider any proposals that they may have.

Grant Payments.

Bobby Aylward

Question:

245 Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason for the delay in having forestry premium awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary. [17291/09]

Following the April 7 Budget issues relating to the implementation of the announced reduction in forestry premiums had to be addressed before payment is made. It is intended that the annual forestry premium payment will issue to this applicant shortly.

Michael Ring

Question:

246 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be awarded a forestry grant payment in view of the fact that payment is two months overdue. [17293/09]

It is intended that the annual forestry premium payment will issue to this applicant shortly.

Higher Education Grants.

Enda Kenny

Question:

247 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Science when the final higher education grant will be awarded by a local authority (details supplied); the reason the final payment has not been authorised to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17171/09]

In accordance with the Department's Financial Procedures recoupments are paid to the Local Authorities in three instalments December, March/April and May/June.

The Local Authority referred to by the Deputy issued payment to students on 27th April 2009. All claims submitted to date to the Department in respect of the Higher Education Maintenance Grant have been paid.

Ministerial Meetings.

John O'Mahony

Question:

248 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Education and Science the names of the delegations which he met while on a visit to County Mayo; the outcome of these meetings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17124/09]

As the Deputy will be aware, while in Co. Mayo recently I visited a number of schools and met with a number of delegations. The names of the delegations are listed below.

As the Deputy knows, such meetings provide the representatives of various groups and organisations to discuss their particular issues and concerns with me. They also provide me with the opportunity to outline the context for particular programmes etc.

All of the meetings were constructive and led to a shared understanding of the issues discussed.

Lankill N.S, Liscarney Westport, Co Mayo

Brackloon N.S. Westport, Co Mayo

Scoil Phadraig, Westport, Co Mayo

Sacred Heart Sec Sch, Westport, Co Mayo

St. Muredach's Secondary School, Ballina, Co Mayo

St. Mary's Secondary School, Ballina, Mayo

Mayo Autism Action

Bonninconlon National School, (St Joseph's), Ballina, Co Mayo

Craggagh N.S., Kiltimagh, Co Mayo

Killawalla N.S., Westport, Co Mayo

Inver N.S., Barr na Tra, Ballina, Co Mayo

Gaelscoil De Burca, Claremorris, Co Mayo

Our Lady's Secondary School Belmullet, Co Mayo

Midfield National School, Swinford, Co Mayo

Culleen National School, Ballina, Co Mayo

Crossmolina National School, Crossmolina, Co Mayo

Scoil Iosa, Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo.

Schools Building Projects.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

249 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Education and Science the plan his Department has for meeting the educational needs of children in a community (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17155/09]

The building project for the school to which the Deputy refers is currently at an early stage of architectural planning.

As the Deputy will be aware, in February, I announced details of 43 major building projects to proceed to tender and construction and 25 high priority projects to commence architectural planning. The project to which the Deputy refers was not included in this announcement. Therefore, it is unlikely that it will be progressed further in 2009.

The progression of all large scale building projects, including this project, from initial design stage through to construction phase will be considered in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme. However, in light of current competing demands on the capital budget of the Department, it is not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the progression of the project at this time.

Departmental Reports.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

250 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Education and Science if he has received reports from bodies under the aegis of his Department in relation to their operation; if such will be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17186/09]

The information requested by the Deputy is being compiled and will be forwarded to him when available.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

251 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Education and Science if his Department has commissioned internal or external reports in relation to his Department or bodies under the aegis of his Department in the past five years; if so, the objectives of such reports; the cost of same; if such reports have been laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17200/09]

The information requested by the Deputy in relation to reports commissioned by my Department is being compiled and will be forwarded to him when available.

Schools Recognition.

Joe McHugh

Question:

252 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will grant full recognition to a school (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17262/09]

My Department has received an application for permanent recognition from the school to which the Deputy refers. The application is currently being considered and a decision will be conveyed to the school authority in due course.

Site Acquisitions.

Brian Hayes

Question:

253 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science his plans to provide alternative permanent school premises for a school (details supplied) in Dublin 7 during the short to medium term; if he will confirm that this school will move into the Grangegorman Dublin Institute of Technology site in the first wave of new buildings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17277/09]

My Department is progressing with the relocation of the school in question to an alternative site for the academic year beginning September 2009. Officials in my Department are liaising with the school authorities and other interested parties in this regard.

On the broader development of the Grangegorman campus, the Grangegorman Development Agency has submitted a revised draft strategic plan and budget to my Department. These documents are currently being examined by officials in my Department. When this examination is complete I intend to bring proposals to Government for a decision on the way forward.

Schools Building Projects.

Brian Hayes

Question:

254 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress he is making in the provision of a new school building for a school (details supplied) in Dublin 7; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17278/09]

My Department recently wrote to Dublin City Council advising them of the design option favoured by the GAA club following a meeting with my Department and requested the Local Authority to consider a technical assessment of the site incorporating the views of the GAA. A response is awaited.

Higher Education Grants.

Finian McGrath

Question:

255 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will support the case of a person (details supplied). [17281/09]

Currently my Department funds four maintenance grant schemes for third level and further education students. These are the Higher Education Grants Scheme, the Vocational Education Committees' Scholarships Scheme, the Third Level Maintenance Grants Scheme for Trainees and the Maintenance Grants Scheme for Students attending Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) Courses. The Higher Education Grant Scheme is administered by the Local Authorities on behalf of my Department; the other three maintenance grant schemes are administered on a similar basis by the VECs.

Students who are entering approved courses for the first time are eligible for grants where they satisfy the relevant conditions as to age, residence, means, nationality and previous academic attainment. The decision on eligibility for student grants is a matter for the relevant assessing authority — i.e. the local authority or VEC.

Special Educational Needs.

Willie Penrose

Question:

256 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Science when a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath, for whom it has been recommended that he or she receive remedial support and a special needs assistant, will receive same; if he will take steps to ensure that this person receives the support as set out; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17284/09]

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), for allocating resource teachers and Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) to schools to support children with special needs. Applications for SNAs may be considered by the NCSE where a pupil has a significant medical need for such assistance and where there are identified care needs arising from a diagnosed disability. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support.

I understand that the SENO has notified the relevant parties in relation to the decision taken on the application for additional resources made on behalf of the pupil in question.

The NCSE will undertake to review a decision taken by a SENO on foot of a request from a school or parents/guardians, when accompanied by relevant additional information, which may not have been to hand at the time of the decision. The NCSE has outlined this process in its Circular 01/05.