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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 7 Oct 2009

Vol. 691 No. 1

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 10, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 11 to 99, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 100 to 108, inclusive, answered orally.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Tom Hayes

Question:

109 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the average processing time for a claim for jobseeker’s benefit to be dealt with; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34276/09]

Simon Coveney

Question:

111 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when the measures to expedite jobseekers’ applications will be rolled out nationally; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34250/09]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

114 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if her attention has been drawn to the delays which exist in processing jobseeker’s benefit applications which can take up to 15 weeks to process and of longer delays in processing claims for jobseeker’s allowance, an example of which is a claim lodged on 24 March which was not finalised until 10 September 2009; if her attention has been further drawn to the fact that people who have exhausted their jobseeker’s benefit and are awaiting the processing of their jobseeker’s allowance are being refused supplementary welfare allowance and in the meantime are left without any means; and the steps she will take to deal with such situations. [34377/09]

Róisín Shortall

Question:

121 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the steps she has taken to minimise delays in the processing times for jobseeker payments. [34394/09]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

122 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if her attention has been drawn to the average queuing time at social welfare offices. [34380/09]

Phil Hogan

Question:

124 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the processing time for each individual social welfare office to deal with a claim for jobseeker’s benefit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34279/09]

Terence Flanagan

Question:

137 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the average processing time for a claim in respect of jobseeker’s allowance to be dealt with; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34273/09]

Martin Ferris

Question:

144 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the average waiting time for a jobseeker’s claim to be dealt with. [34382/09]

Paul Kehoe

Question:

145 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the processing time for each individual social welfare office to deal with a claim for jobseeker’s allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34283/09]

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

176 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason for the increase in processing times for jobseeker payments during August 2009; and the system in place to ensure that claims are processed while staff are on annual leave. [34395/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 109, 111, 114, 121, 122, 124, 137, 144, 145 and 176 together.

The average processing times for claims decided in September was 3.63 weeks for jobseekers benefit and 7.53 weeks for jobseekers allowance. This is the average nationally and there are fluctuations between offices. 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 and or his/her employer and in the case of jobseekers allowance, the need to carry out additional enquires including the assessment of means and whether the claimant satisfies the Habitual Residence Condition.

Processing times can also vary from office to office due to the extent of the increased claimload, 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.

The Department put a particular focus on a number of offices in dealing with the older claims during August which would have impacted adversely on average processing times for the month. Tabular statements are set out below showing the average processing time for claims decided in September for each local and branch office and the number of claims that are pending award.

Over the past number of months the Department has introduced a range of process improvement initiatives to deal with the increased volume of claims including:

A more streamlined procedure for claimants moving to jobseekers allowance when their jobseekers benefit expires.

A streamlined process for people who had a claim in the previous two years.

Application forms for the jobseeker schemes are now available on the Department's website. This means that anyone who wants to make a claim can print the form at home and bring it to the local office completed. This helps reduce queuing times.

More straight-forward procedures for providing evidence of identity and address have been introduced

The process for casual employees has been streamlined and the employee can now self-certify on a weekly basis without recourse to the employer. A compensatory periodic control measure has been introduced for employers.

One of the most significant initiatives introduced recently aimed at reducing queuing times and waiting times involves the customer attending the office by appointment at which time the claim is taken and decided. This system has already been introduced in 20 offices and the Department is finalising plans to extend the initiative to a further 20 offices.

The signing arrangements have also been revised in a number of offices and customers have been given an appointed time to attend the office in order to reduce queuing times.

While every effort is made to ensure that applications are processed as quickly as possible, 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. It is open to any customer who is not satisfied with the decision on their claim to appeal that decision.

I fully appreciate that becoming unemployed and having to claim a jobseekers payment is stressful enough in itself. By introducing these initiatives I am trying to ensure that the process is as easy as it possibly can be. I know that processing times in some areas are still too long and I assure you that steps are being taken to bring them back to acceptable levels.

September '09 Processing Times

JB

JA

Achill

0.07

0.48

Apollo House

1.97

3.18

Ardee

4.02

12.39

Arklow

2.04

4.19

Athlone

3.84

5.19

Athy

2.36

10.86

Balbriggan

2.92

7.98

Ballina

2.91

8.20

Ballinasloe

6.93

7.38

Ballinrobe

4.33

10.13

Ballybofey

1.45

2.41

Ballyconnell

4.56

11.64

Ballyfermot

2.06

4.42

Ballymun

2.15

4.22

Ballyshannon

0.81

1.70

Baltinglass

0.84

10.42

Bandon

10.24

14.93

Bantry

2.00

6.02

Bantry Co

1.54

4.03

Belmullet

1.10

2.13

Birr

4.26

5.03

Bishop Square

4.19

9.02

Blanchardstown

2.96

9.97

Boyle

5.05

12.35

Bray

4.12

8.29

Buncrana

4.10

7.00

Cahir

2.84

5.49

Cahirciveen

1.28

3.09

Carlow

0.81

6.90

Carrickmacross

1.99

7.04

Carrick-On-Shannon

1.35

3.69

Carrick-On-Suir

3.86

8.89

Carrigaline

1.94

8.78

Cashel

2.01

5.75

Castlebar

3.76

5.69

Castleblayney

1.93

6.21

Castlepollard

5.64

14.86

Castlerea

3.34

8.98

Cavan

4.90

9.48

Claremorris

4.79

10.03

Clifden

0.52

2.62

Clonakilty

7.80

15.31

Clondalkin

6.40

10.11

Clones

1.48

4.40

Clonmel

1.80

4.53

Cobh

1.14

2.02

Coolock Lo

2.54

5.00

Cork

4.34

7.60

Dingle

1.54

3.79

Donegal

1.22

2.12

Drogheda

3.55

11.98

Dundalk

1.40

5.33

Dunfanaghy

1.65

2.68

Dungarvan

3.68

8.53

Dungloe

1.32

1.97

Dun Laoghaire

3.35

9.57

Edenderry

6.07

16.67

Ennis

2.30

4.78

Enniscorthy

3.46

13.37

Ennistymon

1.28

4.46

Fermoy

5.56

7.66

Finglas

1.49

5.31

Galway

6.58

11.31

Gorey

4.03

11.77

Gort

2.23

8.36

Kells

2.32

9.18

Kenmare

3.00

6.94

Kilbarrack

1.61

3.48

Kilkenny

1.19

7.10

Killarney

1.01

9.41

Killorglin

1.83

3.42

Killybegs

1.08

1.47

Kilmallock

2.44

3.70

Kilrush

2.99

5.50

King’s Inns Street

2.23

3.91

Kinsale

13.00

15.07

Letterkenny

2.58

4.83

Limerick

6.05

8.02

Listowel

4.12

7.69

Longford

5.76

11.38

Loughrea

3.76

13.66

Macroom

4.66

6.18

Mallow Branch Office

4.82

6.60

Manorhamilton

1.20

0.76

Maynooth

7.42

9.34

Midleton

5.58

9.22

Monaghan

1.99

3.81

Muine Bheag

0.91

6.93

Mullingar

5.29

11.57

Navan

4.61

14.30

Navan Road

3.45

7.57

Nenagh

1.11

4.01

Newbridge

1.54

9.28

Newcastle West

2.37

3.79

Newmarket

9.55

7.43

New Ross

6.08

9.26

Nutgrove

0.95

2.23

Portarlington

1.02

9.82

Portlaoise

2.99

10.48

Rathdowney

0.99

9.52

Roscommon

4.30

7.99

Roscrea

1.46

4.00

Skibbereen

2.10

6.24

Sligo

1.33

6.83

Swinford

1.89

11.97

Swords Lo

2.80

4.88

Tallaght

2.48

5.63

Thomas Street

1.67

4.53

Thomastown

5.67

8.85

Thurles

2.24

2.89

Tipperary

2.61

2.95

Tralee

4.14

5.70

Trim

2.99

10.34

Tuam

4.69

12.69

Tubbercurry

0.51

3.10

Tulla

2.88

4.29

Tullamore Control Office

0.69

8.22

Tullow

1.29

12.88

Waterford

2.63

8.01

Westport

2.69

1.06

Wexford

1.81

5.98

Wicklow

2.04

6.08

Youghal

4.16

5.03

Office

JA

JB

JBCO

Total

Achill

6

1

0

7

Apollo House

226

69

0

295

Ardee

338

125

4

467

Arklow

208

68

5

281

Athlone

400

266

22

688

Athy

295

62

3

360

Balbriggan

445

142

9

596

Ballina

321

92

9

422

Ballinasloe

332

206

10

548

Ballinrobe

95

25

1

121

Ballybofey

130

30

0

160

Ballyconnell

136

45

0

181

Ballyfermot

266

61

0

327

Ballymun

177

55

0

232

Ballyshannon

79

25

0

104

Baltinglass

165

44

2

211

Bandon

253

136

12

401

Bantry

116

38

3

157

Bantry CO

25

13

1

39

Belmullet

33

55

3

91

Birr

182

110

6

298

Bishop Square

1230

635

23

1,888

Blanchardstown

1,363

263

23

1,649

Boyle

139

28

6

173

Bray

498

378

17

893

Buncrana

510

130

5

645

Cahir

78

25

5

108

Cahirciveen

41

43

2

86

Carlow

266

18

3

287

Carrickmacross

142

16

1

159

Carrick-on-Shannon

189

64

6

259

Carrick-on-Suir

243

113

10

366

Carrigaline

311

83

4

398

Cashel

75

29

5

109

Castlebar

254

101

6

361

Castleblaney

108

21

2

131

Castlepollard

294

57

10

361

Castlerea

356

72

3

431

Cavan

655

307

10

972

Claremorris

246

75

2

323

Clifden

49

28

1

78

Clonakilty

232

179

17

428

Clondalkin

934

504

17

1455

Clones

42

8

1

51

Clonmel

174

43

2

219

Cobh

35

18

1

54

Coolock

469

140

11

620

Cork

2921

770

29

3,720

Dingle

40

19

1

60

Donegal CO

39

21

0

60

Drogheda

1,329

306

16

1,651

Dun Laoghaire

1,097

328

38

1,463

Dundalk

278

53

4

335

Dunfanaghy

37

13

2

52

Dungarvan

251

55

3

309

Dungloe

102

42

2

146

Edenderry

369

81

6

456

Ennis

529

161

15

705

Enniscorthy

568

116

7

691

Ennistymon

114

47

5

166

Fermoy

226

165

12

403

Finglas

423

190

8

621

Galway

2,927

1490

73

4,490

Gorey

511

162

13

686

Gort

144

48

6

198

Kells

201

46

3

250

Kenmare

36

36

4

76

Kilbarrack

360

129

3

492

Kilkenny

503

42

2

547

Killarney

342

31

2

375

Killorglin

51

38

3

92

Killybegs

25

19

1

45

Kilmallock

150

101

9

260

Kilrush

106

39

4

149

King’s Inns Street

370

172

6

548

Kinsale

149

137

14

300

Letterkenny

287

45

4

336

Limerick

1,883

851

39

2,773

Listowel

276

160

11

447

Longford

702

229

24

955

Loughrea

321

89

1

411

Macroom

168

112

7

287

Mallow

179

110

9

298

Manorhamilton

10

26

0

36

Maynooth

1,051

578

86

1,715

Midleton

320

157

16

493

Monaghan

107

36

2

145

Muine Bheag

205

11

0

216

Mullingar

747

191

11

949

Navan

1,236

283

13

1,532

Navan Road

1,028

283

12

1,323

Nenagh

239

122

8

369

New Ross

393

195

16

604

Newbridge

1,145

247

14

1,406

Newcastle West

193

76

4

273

Newmarket

186

249

14

449

Nutgrove

171

91

6

268

Portarlington

392

61

3

456

Portlaoise

383

84

10

477

Rathdowney

133

36

1

170

Roscommon

133

41

0

174

Roscrea

76

26

5

107

Skibbereen

135

38

4

177

Sligo

483

109

3

595

Swinford

185

41

9

235

Swords

289

106

2

397

Tallaght

728

321

5

1,054

Thomas Street

368

71

0

439

Thomastown

161

100

7

268

Thurles

175

63

6

244

Tipperary

111

30

1

142

Tralee

346

187

15

548

Trim

410

91

13

514

Tuam

523

92

3

618

Tubbercurry

19

7

3

29

Tulla

86

55

4

145

Tullamore

465

28

1

494

Tullow

150

11

1

162

Waterford

1,339

689

110

2,138

Westport

73

53

2

128

Wexford

498

162

12

672

Wicklow

132

43

3

178

Youghal

93

27

3

123

Total

46,092

16,616

1,097

63,805

Seán Barrett

Question:

110 Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs her views on persons travelling to other EU countries to seek employment, in receipt of jobseeker’s assistance, who are being penalised for failing to comply with the instructions of social welfare inspectors; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34232/09]

Under the Social Welfare Acts, a customer is disqualified for receiving jobseeker's allowance while resident, either permanently or temporarily, outside the State. Consequently, the allowance is not payable to persons travelling to other EU countries to seek employment.

There are, however, two exceptions to this disqualification. A person may receive jobseeker's allowance for up to two weeks in any calendar year while on holidays abroad. There is also an exemption for anyone who is representing Ireland at an international sporting event in an amateur capacity. This exemption applies for the duration of the international sporting event and is additional to the two weeks holiday in any calendar year.

Under EU regulations, a person who is getting jobseekers benefit can transfer their claim to another EU member State for up to 13 weeks in order to look for work in that country. However, this provision does not apply to persons on jobseekers allowance.

To qualify a person must also have been in receipt of JB for at least 4 weeks before they leave for the second Member State.

They must apply to their local office in advance to obtain the necessary documents to provide to the social security organisation in the member state to which they are travelling.

They must register as a person seeking work with the employment services of each of the Member States to which they go to seek work within seven days and be subject to the control procedure organised therein.

A person will generally lose their benefits if they do not return to the competent Member State within 3 months.

People who comply with this procedure should not experience any difficulties.

Question No. 111 answered with Question No. 109.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

112 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of people claiming rent supplement for more than 18 months; her views on the slow transfer of people from rent supplement onto the rental accommodation scheme; the action she is taking to address this problem; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34262/09]

There are currently almost 91,000 tenants benefiting from a rent supplement payment — an increase of 52% since the end of 2007. Over half of these recipients have been in payment for more than one year, while over 32,000 have been in payment for 18 months or more.

The Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS), which was introduced in 2004, gives local authorities specific responsibility for meeting the longer term housing needs of people receiving rent supplement for 18 months or more. Details of these cases are notified regularly by the Department to the local authorities. Local authorities meet the housing needs of these individuals through a range of approaches including the traditional range of social housing options, the voluntary housing sector and, in particular, RAS.

Latest figures from the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government (DoEHLG) indicate that to date, local authorities have transferred over 12,000 rent supplement cases to RAS units. Housing authorities have also transferred a further 10,400 recipients to other social housing options, a total of over 22,400 transfers since 2005. Almost 7,000 recipients were transferred in 2008.

It is accepted that progress in relation to RAS was initially slower than expected. However the pace of delivery has improved significantly, and in 2009 a target has been set of transferring an additional 7,000 households from rent supplement.

In addition to this official target, due to the numbers of unsold affordable stock around the country, an opportunity has been created to make use of some of these properties for RAS and it is expected that additional transfers may be possible in 2009, above that provided for by the 2009 target. The position regarding the availability of property is monitored on an ongoing basis, given the current market condition, and there may be an opportunity to achieve further transfers.

The changes made in Budget 2009 to better align the minimum weekly contribution required from tenants under the rent supplement scheme with that under the RAS should also encourage more people to take up RAS offers.

The Department continues to work closely with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in ensuring that RAS meets its objective of catering for those on long term rent supplementation while enabling rent supplement to return to its original role of a short-term income support.

Pensions Board.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

113 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the steps she is taking to ensure greater efficiencies at the Office of the Pensions Ombudsman; and the amount of savings or the types of efficiencies secured in the past 12 months. [34402/09]

Joan Burton

Question:

151 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the steps she is taking to ensure greater efficiencies at the Office of the Pensions Board; and the amount of savings or the types of efficiencies secured in the past 12 months. [34403/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 113 and 151 together.

The Office of the Pensions Ombudsman is a statutory office established in 2003 under the terms of the Pensions Act 1990, as amended. The Pensions Ombudsman is charged with investigating and deciding complaints and disputes concerning occupational pension schemes, trust-based retirement annuity contracts and personal retirement savings accounts (PRSAs).

There are two important factors to be taken into account when looking at the efficiency of the Office. Firstly, the number of complaints received by the Office has increased very significantly — by 47% in 2008 and, in the first nine months of 2009, an increase of 68% when compared with the same period in 2008. However, while additional staff resources are not available to the Office, the introduction of a new case management system and streamlined complaint handling procedures has resulted in the number of complaint cases closed in the first nine months of 2009 being over double the corresponding number closed in the same period in 2008, a very significant increase in efficiency in the context of delivery of service to the public.

The Office, including the Pensions Ombudsman, has a staff complement of 10. Pay costs account for almost 80% of its budget. Accordingly, the current public sector pay freeze, pension levy and recruitment moratorium will impact on costs.

The Exchequer allocation to the Office reduced from €1,058,000 in 2007 to €974,000 in 2009. In 2008, the Office secured a saving of €59,000, representing 25% of total non-pay cost. It is expected that further cost reductions will be achieved in 2010.

Day-to-day operations at the Pensions Board are funded by income generated from fees levied on occupational pension schemes, PRSAs and interest income received. Several initiatives have been taken during the past year to reduce costs and increase efficiencies. In 2009, funding for the National Pensions Awareness Campaign was halved, to €500,000. In addition, significant savings have been made through a reduction in fees paid to Board members, reductions in cost for staff training and development, a reduction in printing of publications through greater use of internet technology, and cost reductions in areas such as advertising, recruitment consultancy and project development. The recruitment moratorium — which has resulted in the non-replacement of some contracted employees — and the pension levy also apply to the Pensions Board. It is expected that further cost reductions will be achieved in 2010.

Question No. 114 answered with Question No. 109.

Departmental Staff.

Dan Neville

Question:

115 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the additional supports which have been provided to job facilitators to deal with the increased demand for access to support; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34295/09]

Facilitators work with social welfare recipients to identify appropriate training or development programmes which will enhance the skills that the individual has and ultimately improve their employment chances, as well as help them to continue to develop personally. They work in close co-operation with other agencies and service providers including FÁS, VEC, other education and training providers and the local and community and voluntary sector. In addition they provide advice and support to customers who wish to access the back to education scheme and the back to work schemes of the department.

The facilitator service is available locally to all social welfare recipients via the local network. Facilitators are assigned to cover a geographical area. They hold open clinics and meet with people who have been referred either by the social welfare local office, the employment support section or by other agencies.

Since September 2008, 21 additional facilitators have been appointed. The number of facilitators currently in place is 61.5 (half post due to a work sharing arrangement). It is envisaged that this number will increase to 70 in the coming months.

In the current economic climate the demand for the facilitator service is elevated. An appointment can be made by contacting the facilitators directly or via the appropriate local office.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Richard Bruton

Question:

116 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the processing time for one parent family payments in each social welfare office; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34236/09]

Richard Bruton

Question:

130 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if her attention has been drawn to the fact that one parent family applicants are waiting over three months to have their applications processed; her views on same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34237/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 116 and 130 together.

I want to assure the Deputy that the Department is committed to ensuring that claims for all schemes are processed and that decisions on entitlement are issued as expeditiously as possible having regard to the eligibility conditions that apply.

People who apply for the One Parent Family Payment must satisfy a means test and provide evidence that they are living alone. They must also satisfy the Habitual Residence Condition. These processes may result in delays in awarding claims. Delays can also occur where the applicants do not supply all the necessary information in support of their claim.

Operational procedures, the organisation of work, and the allocation of staff resources continue to be reviewed and restructured to maximise the processing capability in the scheme areas to improve these times. Process improvement initiatives have been introduced in local offices which are primarily designed to assist with the processing of jobseeker claims, nevertheless, will also have a positive impact on claims for other schemes administered in the local offices.

Additional staff have been redeployed to local offices from other parts of the civil service and the Department has identified a number of locations where the increasing number of claims for means tested payments warrants the allocation of additional Social Welfare Inspectors. Arising from this, an additional 40 Inspectors are being assigned.

The tabular statement sets out the processing times for One Parent Family for September 2009 in the Social Welfare Offices that administer the scheme locally. In some areas processing times are unacceptably high but every effort is being made to bring these times back to acceptable levels as quickly as possible. The Deputy will be aware that anyone suffering hardship can apply for Supplementary Welfare Allowance. The supplementary welfare allowance scheme (SWA) is administered on behalf of the Department by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive (HSE). SWA provides a safety net against poverty in that it gives a statutory entitlement to a minimum weekly income, based on criteria set out in legislation. The majority of SWA claims are processed within a matter of days.

Average processing times for One-Parent Family Payment Scheme September 2009*

Local Office

Weeks

Apollo House

14.08

Arklow

13.25

Athlone

12.70

Athy

24.19

Ballina

6.54

Ballinasloe

17.71

Ballybofey

10.71

Ballyfermot

14.65

Ballymun

15.44

Ballyshannon

5.69

Bandon

17.23

Birr

14.71

Bishop Square

12.89

Blanchardstown

22.44

Bray

11.08

Cahir

29.29

Carlow

16.98

Carrick-On-Suir

24.45

Carrigaline

6.39

Cashel

9.91

Castlepollard

23.90

Castlerea

10.38

Cavan

14.35

Claremorris

6.14

Clonakilty

20.07

Clondalkin

19.90

Clonmel

6.10

Coolock Lo

16.26

Cork

13.08

Dingle

3.36

Donegal

3.00

Drogheda

7.57

Dundalk

19.81

Dungarvan

11.00

Dungloe

4.04

Dún Laoghaire

5.09

Edenderry

37.07

Ennis

9.60

Enniscorthy

13.66

Finglas

20.46

Galway

25.34

Gorey

15.10

Gort

12.43

Kilbarrack

11.72

Kilkenny

12.52

Killarney

9.14

Killorglin

15.11

Kilmallock

13.35

Kilrush

16.86

King’s Inns Street

12.29

Kinsale

25.21

Letterkenny

11.86

Limerick

10.94

Listowel

12.68

Longford

16.96

Maynooth

13.37

Midleton

20.12

Muine Bheag

10.19

Mullingar

15.57

Navan

16.33

Navan Road

20.20

Nenagh

9.33

Newbridge

17.00

Newcastle West

5.57

Newmarket

12.86

New Ross

24.71

Nutgrove

8.61

Portarlington

20.86

Portlaoise

10.71

Rathdowney

20.00

Roscommon

8.79

Roscrea

7.57

Sligo

20.81

Swinford

10.93

Tallaght

13.72

Thomas Street

15.80

Thomastown

17.64

Thurles

15.14

Tipperary

7.29

Tralee

11.73

Trim

9.62

Tuam

2.71

Tubbercurry

0.14

Tulla

13.43

Tullamore

2.62

Tullow

14.14

Waterford

12.64

*To 26 September 2009.

Departmental Staff.

Billy Timmins

Question:

117 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of job facilitators; the average waiting times to access support from a job facilitator; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34293/09]

The number of facilitators currently in place is 61.5 (half post due to a work sharing arrangement). It is envisaged that this number will increase to 70 in the coming months. The facilitator service is available locally to all social welfare recipients via the local network. Facilitators are assigned to cover a geographical area. They hold open clinics and meet with people who have been referred either by the social welfare local office, the employment support section or by other agencies. In the current economic climate the demand for the facilitator service is elevated. Waiting times to see a facilitator may vary nationwide. Actual waiting times for individual facilitators are not available. An appointment can be made by contacting the facilitators directly or via the appropriate local office. Facilitators make every effort to contact customers as quickly as possible.

Social Welfare Fraud.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

118 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she is satisfied that the current methods employed by her Department to detect fraud and error on welfare payments are maximising expenditure savings in this area. [34390/09]

John Perry

Question:

127 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she is satisfied that she will reach the savings target she has set herself for 2009 by the end of 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34304/09]

Michael D'Arcy

Question:

140 Deputy Michael D’Arcy asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position in relation to fraud control measures put in place by her; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34257/09]

Róisín Shortall

Question:

143 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the steps she is taking to improve the level of information sharing in her Department in order that the number and scale of overpayments can be reduced significantly. [34391/09]

Paul Connaughton

Question:

149 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs her views on the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report that stricter controls and more accountability are needed to eliminate high levels of fraud and errors in the welfare system; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34246/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 118, 127, 140, 143 and 149 together.

The prevention of fraud and abuse of the social welfare system is an integral part of the day-to-day work of the Department. A key objective of the Department's control strategy is to ensure that the right person is paid the right amount of money at the right time.

The Department processes in excess of 2 million claims each year and it makes payments to over one million people every week. The vast majority of people are receiving the entitlement due to them.

Where overpayments occur the Department seeks to recover the overpayments and in cases of serious fraud, the Department will use all legal avenues open to it to recover the money defrauded and seek redress.

A four-pronged control strategy has been adopted by the Department, namely prevention of fraud and error at the initial claim stage, early detection through effective review of claims in payment, measures to deter fraud and the pursuit and recovery of overpayments.

Key elements of the Department's control strategy include systematic risk analysis, surveys of the levels of fraud and error within schemes, scheme specific review policies, data matching initiatives with both external and internal parties and investigation of anonymous reports. These control tools ensure that review activity is targeted in the most effective manner and ensure that where overpayments arise they are detected as early as possible.

Over 620 staff at local, regional and national level are engaged on a full or part-time basis on work related to the control of fraud and abuse of the social welfare system. About half of these work full time on control work, while the other half are responsible for routine investigations under the various schemes and for following up suspected cases of fraud where these are discovered.

The rapidly changing economic environment with large increases in the levels of unemployed poses challenges for the prevention and effective management of fraud and control.

The Department's response to these challenges has been to introduce new measures to target control activity at high risk categories of claimants.

For example:

Control activity is being focused on the prevention of fraud and error at claim application stage.

The Special Investigation Unit is undertaking more regular interviews of jobseeker recipients, particularly those with high risk ratings.

As a preventative measure the option to receive payments by Electronic Fund Transfer (EFT) was removed for new claimants for jobseeker payments. They must attend in person at the post office each week thus confirming their continued residency in the country. Their claim is automatically suspended where two consecutive payments are not collected.

Border regions have put an increased emphasis on controls on claims from applicants with a previous address in Northern Ireland.

One Parent Family Payment recipients with earnings are targeted for on-going review.

The frequency of issue of mail shots to validate continued entitlement to Child Benefit has been increased to 3 monthly intervals for EU worker customers and resident non-Irish national customers.

The number of anonymous reports from members of the public has increased dramatically in the past year, with over 4,600 reports made at end September 2009 compared to approximately 1000 reports made in 2008. Each report is followed-up.

The Department is moving to a risk-based system which will achieve better value for money by focusing scarce resources on the most appropriate cases. For example for Disability Allowance, a new control review policy for the scheme was introduced in January 2009 which involves assigning and recording a risk rating at the award and review stage of all claims in the medical and means categories. A similar risk based control review policy is being piloted for Carer's Allowance with the same approach planned for Invalidity Pension.

New data matches have been initiated to effectively target reviews and generate savings. In 2009 data was received from The Personal Injuries Assessment Board, The Commission for Taxi Regulation, The Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal and Local Authorities. In addition agreement has recently been reached with The Revenue Commissioners for data on capital assets.

In relation to savings, at the end of August 2009, the Department recorded control savings of nearly €312m, which is 78% of the year to date target of €398m. The annual control target for 2009 is €616.5m. It is difficult to project what the control savings for 2009 will be at this point but it is unlikely that the Department will reach the control savings target of €616.5m.

It must be noted that control activity is currently being focused on prevention of fraud and error at claim application stage. Savings made from the detection of bogus claims at application stage cannot be estimated as the claim will not go into payment. However, this is the most cost effective mechanism of reducing losses through fraud and error in social welfare schemes.

The significant increase in the live register has impacted on the Department's capacity to review claims. The increase has put pressure on staffing resources and particularly on social welfare inspectors who are responsible both for carrying out means-tests on initial applicants and conducting anti-fraud inspections. Additional staff are being assigned to front line work, including an increased number of inspectors.

In relation to information sharing, the department is involved in a number of data matching exercises which are very effective in identifying high risk claims for review and is an example of good cross-departmental co-operation.

Every month commencement of employment data from Revenue is matched against the Department's schemes and investigations are conducted where warranted. Earnings data supplied by the Revenue Commissioners is accessed by staff at both claim application and review stage. All cases identified on the COE notifications are examined to determine whether there has been willful concealment of information by the customer. Where there has been concurrent working and claiming for 12 weeks or more or where the overpayment exceeds €2,000 such cases will be considered for prosecution.

Other examples of data-matching initiatives include:

Department of Justice:

The Irish Prison Service provides lists of prison inmates quarterly. The Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal Data provides data on compensation payments made and The Courts Service has provided on-line access for information on the probate index of issued grants.

Control Division has also assisted the Central Authority for Mutual Assistance on a number of enquires. These enquiries resulted in this department supplying details on individuals where cases are being prepared for prosecution in agencies outside Ireland and the crimes involve a range of unlawful activity including money laundering and drug trafficking.

The Department of Education & Science:

Third level institutions are obliged to supply the Department with details of students registered for full-time daytime education. The student details are matched against the Jobseekers, Illness Benefit and Health Board databases.

The Department of Agriculture & Food:

Data are received from the Department of Agriculture & Food on total grant payments issued to farmers.

The Department of Transport:

The Commission for Taxi Regulation (CTR) supplies data on active taxi/hackney licence holders.

Department of Environment, Heritage & Local Government:

The Private Rental Tenancies Board provides information on registered landlords.

The General Register's Office:

The automation of the office with on-line access now available to staff in this Department regarding births, deaths and marriages is proving very effective for control of fraud and abuse purposes.

A number of control initiatives involve case by case searches. This Department works closely with the Department of Social Development in Northern Ireland and The Department of Work and Pensions in the United Kingdom. Cases are checked to ensure that there were no open claims in the Republic of Ireland while also claiming in another jurisdiction.

The Department is committed to ensuring that social welfare payments are available to those who are entitled to them. In this regard the control programme of my Department is carefully monitored and the various measures are continuously refined to ensure that they remain effective.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Joe Carey

Question:

119 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she has assessed the number of farmers who may qualify for farm assist payments, following the closure of REP scheme four; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34243/09]

Catherine Byrne

Question:

171 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the discussions which have taken place between herself and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food following the closure of REP scheme four; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34241/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 119 and 171 together.

The Rural Environment Protection Scheme, REPS 4, was closed to new entrants in July of this year. However, under the Rural Development Programme a new agri-environment measure will be introduced and individuals who have been affected by the closure of REPS 4 can apply for this new scheme. On this basis, estimation of the number of farmers who may apply to social welfare schemes as a result of the REPS 4 closure is not possible at this time. Officials are in ongoing contact with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in relation to this matter.

The Department of Social and Family Affairs provides support for farmers on low incomes through the Farm Assist scheme which is a means-tested payment broadly similar to the jobseeker's allowance scheme. It features a more generous means test, which takes account of the specific nature of farming and, unlike jobseeker's allowance, farmers claiming this payment do not need to be available for work outside of the farm in order to qualify.

In recent years changes have been made to Farm Assist which means that it is now easier for low income farmers to qualify for support under the scheme. In January of this year the rates of payment for the scheme were increased. Improvements in the method of assessing earnings from insurable employment were also introduced in September 2007 which provides further gains for families claiming farm assist, where either spouse is also in insurable employment.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

120 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the progress made to date on introducing a unified means test for all State social support schemes and benefits; and the timescale envisaged for the introduction of such a means test. [34387/09]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

160 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the estimated savings to the Exchequer in net terms if a unified means test was introduced for all State social support schemes and benefits. [34388/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 120 and 160 together.

An inter-departmental working group was established in March 2009, on foot of a recommendation in the Task Force Report Transforming Public Services, to undertake a detailed study on the feasibility and value of introducing mechanisms to simplify the provision of means information to all public bodies. This working group is chaired by a senior official of this Department. While the group is not examining a proposal for a unified means test, their work will include consideration of all possibilities in relation to simplifying and achieving other efficiencies across all public bodies with regard to means testing arrangements. The work of the group is progressing well and the feasibility report is expected by the end of 2009. While a more simplified system would be beneficial for citizens claiming state benefits and should result in a more streamlined administration, it is too early to estimate the level of savings which may arise.

In relation to social welfare means tested payments, individuals in receipt of these and their families have differing needs and requirements, and are at different stages of the lifecycle. The means tests operated by the Department need to reflect these differences, where appropriate, to some degree. That said, the Department would wish to move to a less complex and more unified approach, especially for those of working age.

Questions Nos. 121 and 122 answered with Question No. 109.

Money Advice and Budgeting Service.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

123 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she is satisfied with the capacity of the Money Advice and Budgeting Service to negotiate on people’s behalf with financial institutions and sub-prime lenders in relation to mortgage arrears; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34267/09]

The money advisors throughout the country focus on providing assistance, advice and intense support to people who have financial difficulties. The money advisor works out a budget, negotiates on behalf of the client with all creditors including financial institutions and sub-prime lenders, to secure better terms for the client in managing the repayment of their debts. Where required by the client, the money advisor can assist with setting up a special account with their local Credit Union into which an agreed amount of money is lodged regularly and from which each month the money advisor makes the repayments to the creditors on behalf of the client. They provide ongoing support to people who successfully overcome their financial difficulties. Focused training programmes designed to equip money advice staff and local management boards to meet the demands on the services are provided by MABS NDL the national support company. In addition, MABS NDL has introduced a number of community education and other initiatives to assist the local services in managing 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.

Under the statutory code of conduct on mortgage arrears published by the Financial Regulator, all financial institutions including the banks and sub-prime mortgage lenders must, where circumstances warrant it, refer a borrower in difficulty for guidance to a local MABS office or to an appropriate alternative.

A new operational protocol ‘Working Together to Manage Debt' is now in place and is the result of almost 2 years' work by MABS NDL, the national support company for the MABS network and the Irish Banking Federation (IBF), the main representative body for the banking and financial services sector. The protocol sets out an agreed process by which IBF members and the MABS money advisors will approach debt problems experienced by clients. The protocol includes a commitment that no legal action will be taken as long as there is compliance by the client with an agreed repayment plan. I am confident that the MABS is well equipped to provide a high quality personal service to assist people in overcoming their indebtedness and managing their finances.

Question No. 124 answered with Question No. 109.

Damien English

Question:

125 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the waiting times to access the Money Advice and Budgeting Service money advisers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34264/09]

Joe Costello

Question:

165 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will arrange for the waiting times for each Money Advice and Budgeting Service office to be published on a regular basis. [34398/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 125 and 165 together.

There are 53 local independent MABS companies operating nationwide. Each MABS is an independent legal entity, being a company limited by guarantee with a Board of Directors drawn from local voluntary and statutory services and community groups. Each MABS company runs their local MABS service. Each company has a 3 year contract which covers funding and service delivery commitments.

All MABS companies operate an appointment system for meeting with clients. Clients with urgent difficulties are prioritised for attention and are dealt with promptly. Less urgent cases are referred to the Telephone Helpline and to the MABS website in the first instance. The Helpline can now 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. Some 10% of callers are referred to the local MABS for assistance. The telephone Helpline also assists local services to manage their appointment lists by providing an initial MABS service to clients and ongoing support while they await their appointment with their local money advisor.

Local services monitor their waiting times for appointments and, where required, seek guidance and assistance in managing their caseload from MABS NDL, the national support company. Information is not currently collected centrally on waiting times for appointments at different MABS offices throughout the country.

Departmental Staff.

Bernard Allen

Question:

126 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the measures in place to replace social welfare inspectors in view of the delay in processing applications for social welfare payments which can occur due to their absence; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34229/09]

Social Welfare Inspectors appointed under Section 250 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005, investigate claims to all means tested Social Welfare Schemes, excluding Supplementary Welfare Allowance. Reviews of means tested payments are also carried out by Inspectors to ensure the conditions regarding entitlement continue to be satisfied. The Inspectors' remit also includes the combating of fraud and abuse of all the Department's schemes.

The increase in the Live Register over the last year or so has resulted in considerable extra demands being made on the resources of the Social Welfare Inspectorate. As a result of this, I sought and received approval for 40 additional assignments to the grade of Social Welfare Inspector.

Of these 40 posts, 21 Inspectors have already been assigned and are in place. Dates of assignment have been arranged for a further 6 posts and the process of assigning them is underway. Of the remaining 13 posts, offers have been accepted in relation to 8 posts and arrangements are in train to backfill their current positions in order to facilitate their transfer. Work continues on securing staff for the remaining 5 posts. All staff for the additional Inspector posts are being sourced by the redeployment or lateral transfer of serving Civil Servants either within the Department or from other Government Departments.

Question No. 127 answered with Question No. 118.

Social Welfare Appeals.

John Deasy

Question:

128 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs is she is satisfied with the average time it takes to process social welfare appeals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34258/09]

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

139 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the steps she is taking to ensure greater efficiencies at the social welfare appeals office; and the amount of savings or the type of efficiencies secured in the past 12 months. [34400/09]

Joan Burton

Question:

147 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the steps she is taking to reduce the waiting times for social welfare appeals. [34404/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 128, 139 and 147 together.

I am informed by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that during 2008 the average time taken to process all appeals (i.e. those decided summarily and by way of oral hearing) was 22 weeks. However, if allowance was made for the 25% most protracted cases, the average time fell to just over 14 weeks. Those processing times replicate those for 2007 notwithstanding the fact that there was an increase of 27% in the number of appeals received during 2008.

I am advised that there has been a further increase of 39% in the number of appeals received for the first nine months of this year over the corresponding period in 2008 and, while average processing times for 2009 are not yet available, I am concerned they will have deteriorated when compared to the 2008 position.

The processing time for appeals covers all phases of the appeal process including the submission by the Department of its comments on the grounds for the appeal, further examination by the Department's Medical Assessors in certain illness related cases and further investigation by Social Welfare Inspectors where required. Circumstances may also arise, normally outside of the control of the Social Welfare Appeals Office, which have the effect of unduly prolonging the time taken to process appeals. For example, delays can occur where the appellant submits new information or evidence, often at an advanced stage in the proceedings. In addition, adjournments may be sought by the appellant or his/her representative which would have the effect of prolonging the appeal process.

I am very concerned about any deterioration in appeals processing times especially in the light of the 39% increase in appeals received so far this year. In that connection, two additional Appeals Officers were appointed to the Social Welfare Appeals Office in January. Since then, however, four Appeals Officers have retired and I am advised that every effort is being made to have those vacancies filled as a matter of urgency. Furthermore, in the light of the current situation, I am assured by the Chief Appeals Officer that he is keeping current processes under continuous review with a view to achieving a more effective throughput of appeals. In that regard, since the beginning of the year, appeals are being rigorously vetted with a view to increasing the number of cases which can be determined by way of summary decision as opposed to holding an oral hearing. As a result, the number of oral hearings as a proportion of all appeals has fallen from 62% in 2008 to 58% to date this year. In addition, a number of administrative measures have been taken so as to further simplify, streamline and improve the appeals process. The number of appeals finalised so far this year has increased by 14% over the corresponding period last year.

While improving processing times and introducing efficiencies remains a major objective of the Social Welfare Appeals Office, it is necessary at all times, given the quasi-judicial nature of the appeals process, to ensure that progress in this regard is achieved in a manner which is not in conflict with due process in terms of the rights of appellants and adherence to the requirements of natural justice.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

129 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs her plans to reduce the child benefit payment. [34386/09]

Joe Costello

Question:

158 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the assessment that is being carried out in her Department on the impact of means-testing child benefit would have on poverty traps and the incentivisation of work. [34397/09]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

166 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs her plans in relation to the means testing, reduction or taxing of child benefit. [34411/09]

Willie Penrose

Question:

170 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs her views on the recommendations contained in the Commission on Taxation Report 2009 as they relate to her Department. [34415/09]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

177 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she has had discussions with the Department of Finance regarding the taxation of child benefit. [34385/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 129, 158, 166, 170 and 177 together.

As Deputies will be aware, the rates of child benefit have increased significantly since 2001 having trebled for the first two children and increased by over 185% for the third and subsequent children. Partly as a result of this and partly as a result of an increase in the number of eligible children, overall expenditure on child benefit grew from just under €965 million in 2001 to nearly €2.5 billion in 2008. The Government is proud to have been able to direct such substantial increases in financial support to all Irish families in recent years. However, given the scale of the current economic crisis, it is necessary to address all aspects of the public finances so as to ensure that they are sustainable and to ensure that fairness exists in the allocation of resources.

It is in this context that the Minister for Finance announced at the time of the Supplementary Budget in April that the Government's intention to either subject child benefit to income tax or means-test it from 2010. The Minister had already asked the Commission on Taxation to consider the implications of taxing Child Benefit. The Government is considering the recommendations of the Commission on Taxation and the report of The Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes which also have put forward proposals for reductions in Child Benefit rates.

My Department along with the Revenue Commissioners has had discussions with the Department of Finance on the policy and operational issues arising from the possible taxation of Child Benefit.

The Government is considering the various options and proposals put forward in these recent reports and they will be taken into consideration in drawing up the Budget.

While it is possible to achieve a more targeted approach through either the taxation or means testing of Child Benefit, these approaches have significantly differing implications for the practical implementation and the families involved. Issues regarding the definition of income, the implications for low income families, the impact on poverty traps and the disincentive to take up employment need to be considered. The implications for the impact of means-testing the Child Benefit payment on poverty traps and the incentivisation of work would depend on the specific details of the operation of a means test including what is included as assessable income, the thresholds at which payments are withdrawn and the rate at which they would be withdrawn. The Government will be mindful of the needs of families, particularly those on lower incomes.

More generally, the Commission of Taxation presents a range of policy and operational issues for my Department particularly in relation to the pensions system, the PRSI system, the proposed taxation of social welfare payments including Child Benefit. These issues are being considered in my Department with a view to seeing how they can be best addressed. Some of these would require very significant changes to how my Department operates its various programmes. For example, if it was decided to proceed with the proposal to tax social welfare payments at source, the fact this would need to be implemented over a longer time frame was recognised in the Commission's report.

Question No. 130 answered with Question No. 116.

P. J. Sheehan

Question:

131 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when the transfer of PPS numbers of landlords, who are in receipt of rent supplement for their properties, will be made available automatically to the Revenue Commissions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34600/09]

The Finance Act 2007 introduced a provision to enable the Department of Social and Family Affairs to collect the PPS or other tax reference number of a landlord of a rent supplemented tenancy and supply these to the Revenue Commissioners. Since October 2008, landlord PPS numbers have been collected in respect of rent supplement claims.

Details of rent supplement payments, including name and address of landlord/agent, address of tenancy and a statement of all payments arising from each individual tenancy, are supplied to the Revenue Commissioners on an annual basis. With the agreement of the Revenue Commissioners, the Department intends to provide the 2008 rent supplement data, including landlord PPS numbers, to Revenue in late December 2009/January 2010.

National Carers Strategy.

John O'Mahony

Question:

132 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs her future plans for carers following the decision not to publish the national carers strategy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34302/09]

The Government is acutely aware and appreciative of the contribution made by carers and has made considerable improvements in services and supports for them in recent years. The carer's allowance scheme has been significantly improved in recent years and, in budget 2009, I continued this process. The rate of carer's allowance for those aged 66 or over increased 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.

Since 1997, 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 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.

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.

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.

Social Welfare Appeals.

Jack Wall

Question:

133 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the action she is taking to provide better clarity for deciding officers in the case of applications for social welfare payments that are dependent on medical evidence in view of the fact that these type of payments continue to have a much higher success rate on appeal. [34405/09]

Jack Wall

Question:

152 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs her response to the criticism of her Department on page 10 of the annual report of the social welfare appeals office that that office was not informed of a decision to settle a case which directly involved the social welfare appeals office and its decision-making processes; and the steps she is taking to improve communication and coordination between her Department and the social welfare appeals office. [34406/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 133 and 152 together.

Decisions on statutory social welfare schemes are made by statutorily appointed deciding officers. These officers determine entitlement to social insurance and social assistance payments and liability for Pay Related Social Insurance contributions in accordance with the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 and regulations made under that Act. Determinations in relation to the supplementary welfare allowance scheme are made by community welfare officers appointed by the Health Service Executive. Guidelines are issued by the Department in relation to the legislation concerned to ensure consistency of decision making by deciding officers throughout the Department. In line with the Department's policy to promote the provision of information, these guidelines are also available to members of the public on the Department's website www.welfare.ie or on request from any social welfare local office. In addition, training is provided to deciding officers on their statutory obligations and the application of the principles of natural justice and fair procedures.

In relation to decisions made on claims which are wholly or partly dependant on medical evidence, such medical evidence as is provided is referred to one of the Department's medical assessors who expresses an opinion as to whether the customer meets the medical qualifying conditions for the particular scheme. The deciding officer takes this opinion into account when making his or her decision on the claim. In cases which proceed to the Social Welfare Appeals Office and where medical issues are involved, appeals officers, as well as taking account of reports from medical assessors of the Department, also take account of medical reports furnished by the appellant and any other evidence including evidence adduced at an oral hearing where appellants have the opportunity to explain how they are affected by their medical condition. As a result, the appeals officer's decision may differ from that of the deciding officer.

The proceedings referred to in the annual report of the Social Welfare Appeals Office were judicial review proceedings arising out of a claim for disability allowance. The Minister for Social and Family Affairs was the respondent in the proceedings. The Social Welfare Appeals Office was not a party to the proceedings. The claim was disallowed on the grounds that the claimant was not habitually resident in the State at the date of application. Having taken legal advice, and in the light of the exceptional circumstances of the case, the Department concluded that its decision to disallow the claimant's application for disability allowance was incorrect. Accordingly, the Department settled the judicial review proceedings at the earliest opportunity and the claimant's application for disability allowance has been allowed.

There is ongoing communication between the Social Welfare Appeals Office and the Department on matters of common interest and, as necessary, guidelines, procedures and practices relating to decision-making are reviewed.

Departmental Reports.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

134 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will cut social welfare payments across the board; and if so, the amount in relation to same. [34379/09]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

150 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs her views on the recommendations for her Department contained in the report of the special group on public service numbers and expenditure programmes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34254/09]

Liz McManus

Question:

154 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs her plans to cut the basic rate of any social welfare payment in budget 2010. [34414/09]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

159 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs her views on the recommendations contained in the report of the special group on public service numbers and expenditure programmes as it relates to her Department; the recommendations she has decided to accept; and the recommendations she has decided to reject. [34412/09]

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

168 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs her views on the recommendations of the report of the special group on public service numbers and expenditure programmes for her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34375/09]

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

179 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs her plans in relation to the ending or amendment of entitlement to dual payments as recommended by the report of the special group on public service numbers and expenditure programmes. [34419/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 134, 150, 154, 159, 168 and 179 together.

The proposals contained in the report of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes will be considered in the context of the forthcoming Estimates and Budget processes. It would not be appropriate for me to comment further at this stage pending the outcome of these deliberative processes.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

135 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs her views on the recommendations in the report of the special group on public service numbers and expenditure programmes in relation to the merging of the Pensions Board with the Financial Regulator. [34418/09]

Emmet Stagg

Question:

172 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs her views on the recommendations in the report of the special group on public service numbers and expenditure programmes in relation to the merging of the Office of the Pensions Ombudsman with the Financial Service Ombudsman. [34417/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 135 and 172 together.

The possible rationalisation or merger of agencies under the aegis of the Department will be considered as part of the Estimates and Budgetary process for 2010. This will include consideration of the report of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes, and the decisions on all of the issues arising will be a matter for the Government.

It would not be appropriate for me to comment further at this stage pending the outcome of these deliberative processes.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

136 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she has submitted recommendations to the special group on public expenditure in advance of the McCarthy report being formulated. [34383/09]

At the Special Group's request, my Department submitted an evaluation report on the various schemes and services operated by the Department as well as expenditure trends, in order to facilitate the Group's examination of my Department's expenditure. In addition, the Secretary General and other officials met with the Group.

The evaluation report submitted by my Department to the Special Group included options for changes in schemes and services. These options were not advanced as proposals or recommendations but as items which might be technically feasible within the parameters of given schemes or across schemes.

Question No. 137 answered with Question No. 109.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Mary Upton

Question:

138 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she is satisfied that the current means-testing for self-employed people seeking jobseeker’s allowance is operating to standards that are fair and equitable. [34392/09]

Self-employed workers who do not qualify for an insurance-based benefit may 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 the demand for their services. Generally, in assessing the means of a self-employed person, a Social Welfare Inspector will take into account the level of earnings in the preceding 12 months to determine their expected income in the following year. However, with the general downturn in the economy at present, it is accepted that earnings in the previous 12 months may not be representative of expected earnings in the coming year. The Social Welfare Inspector will take account of this fact in projecting future earnings.

There are no immediate plans to review the criteria for Jobseekers Allowance. Any such measure would have to be considered within a budgetary context.

Question No. 139 answered with Question No. 128.
Question No. 140 answered with Question No. 118.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

141 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if her attention has been drawn to the difficulties which have arisen for old age pensioners who save part of their weekly pension and as a consequence accumulate savings in excess of the means test limit thereby giving rise to claims by her Department for reductions in pensions or clawback by the State; and her proposals to deal with this situation with a view to encouraging rather than discouraging savings by pensioners. [34378/09]

In assessing means for social assistance purposes, including the State pension non-contributory, account is taken of any cash income the person may have, together with the value of capital and property (except the home). Capital may include the following:

Stocks and shares of every description, which are assessed according to their current market value.

Savings certificates/bonds/ national instalment savings, which are assessed according to their current market value.

Money invested in a bank, building society etc.

The source of any capital held by a pensioner can vary. For example, it can include savings from income while formerly working, savings derived from the sale of property or other assets, savings from occupational or social welfare pension, gifts, inheritances, accumulated interest or dividends or a combination of these. Therefore, in determining a pensioner's means, it would not be possible or practical to distinguish savings derived from particular sources. For this reason, savings from all sources are taken into account in assessing means.

It is recognised that some pensioners may wish to save some element of their non-contributory pension or may have accumulated savings in the past. Accordingly, the current assessment arrangements provide for a disregard of an initial amount of capital. In the case of a single pensioner, the first €20,000 of capital is disregarded and the balance is assessed by reference to a formula. In the case of a couple, the amount disregarded is €40,000. In addition, the first €30 per week of weekly means from all sources including capital does not affect the rate of pension payable.

Accordingly, a single pensioner who has no other means can have capital of up to €40,000 and qualify for a pension at the maximum rate. Where the savings exceed this amount but are less than €94,000, a reduced rate of pension is payable on a sliding scale. These amounts are double in the case of a couple at €80,000 and €188,000, respectively. These means testing arrangements seek to strike a balance between the need to focus scarce Exchequer resources on those who need them most while also encouraging people to save. Any change to the current capital assessment arrangements would have to be considered in a Budgetary context and in the light of available resources.

Money Advice and Budgeting Service.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

142 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the steps she is taking to ensure greater efficiencies at the Money Advice and Budgeting Service; and the amount of savings or the type of efficiencies secured in the past 12 months. [34399/09]

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

167 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the steps she is taking to ensure greater efficiencies at the Citizens Information Board; and the amount of savings or the type of efficiencies secured in the past 12 months. [34401/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 142 and 167 together

In Budget 2009, the Government decided to assign responsibility for the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) to the Citizen Information Board. The primary objective was to bring the two organisations under one Board of Management, maximise infrastructure, share support services and thus achieve efficiencies in the use of resources.

Current initiatives underway to ensure greater efficiency in the use of resources in both organisations include:

Co-location of services in a single office

Insurance provision

General procurement, including IT equipment, office supplies, energy costs

Broadening of CIB's internal audit function to include MABS companies

8% reduction in professional fees

Reduced travel and subsistence

5% reduction in electricity costs

Consolidation of advertising for the recruitment of staff for MABS

Efficiencies in a range of areas e.g. office supplies.

Promoting the CIB and MABS websites as a source of information

It is estimated that savings of €500K will be achieved by the CIB in 2009. There are no figures available at this time in relation to savings by MABS.

It is envisaged that the assignment of responsibility for MABS to the CIB will generate efficiencies and savings in the future in such areas as service co-location, administration and shared support services.

Question No. 143 answered with Question No. 118.
Questions Nos. 144 and 145 answered with Question No. 109.

Social Welfare Code.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

146 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason for the delay in introducing legislation to provide for changes to the law in relation to social welfare benefits for lone parents. [34408/09]

The Government discussion paper, "Proposals for Supporting Lone Parents," put forward proposals to tackle obstacles to employment for lone parents and other low income families. These included proposals for the extension of the National Employment Action Plan to focus on lone parents, focused provision of childcare and the introduction of a new social assistance payment for low income families with young children.

The current duration of the One-Parent Family Payment (OFP) is not in the best interests of the recipient, their children or society. Consideration is being given to reforming social welfare supports for lone parents. Supports for lone parents should be designed to:

Prevent long term dependence on social welfare income support and facilitate financial independence.

Recognise parental choice with regard to the care of young children but with the expectation that parents will not remain outside of the labour force indefinitely.

Change the expectations surrounding receipt of the OFP, introducing an expectation of participation in education, training and employment, with supports provided in this regard.

Income supports are only one element of the supports required by those parenting alone. Other co-ordinated supports and services required include access to childcare support, education, training and activation measures. These must also be addressed by the relevant Departments and Agencies if lone parents are to be enabled to access employment.

The Department of Social & Family Affairs will continue to keep policies in relation to lone parents under consideration. However, the extent and speed at which these can progress will be impacted by the current economic climate.

Question No. 147 answered with Question No. 128.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

148 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of applications for carer’s allowance, respite care, respite grant, unemployment benefit and jobseeker’s allowances received in each of the past two years to date in 2009; the numbers granted, refused or pending on a monthly basis in the same period; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34562/09]

The information requested by the deputy is contained in the following tabular statements.

Carer's Allowance 2009

Registered

Awarded

Rejected

Pending Month End

Jan

1,558

1,130

610

3,200

Feb

1,377

1,261

190

3,036

Mar

1,661

756

247

3,605

Apr

1,233

669

378

3,655

May

1,625

1,396

622

3,062

Jun

1,444

894

466

3,014

Jul

1,618

1,225

587

2,683

Aug

1,083

588

477

2,581

Totals

11,599

7,919

3,577

Note: Numbers Pending at months end are not a sum of the above figures. Claims may be closed for a variety of reasons, for example if they are withdrawn.

Carer's Allowance 2008

Registered

Awarded

Rejected

Pending Month End

Jan

930

1,136

187

5,903

Feb

2,122

1,791

322

5,723

Mar

1,418

848

284

5,978

Apr

2,105

1,467

301

6,226

May

2,015

1,324

476

6,326

Jun

1,480

1,141

316

6,254

Jul

1,584

1,509

486

5,748

Aug

1,640

1,451

779

5,015

Sep

1,462

1,183

179

5,035

Oct

1,738

1,210

682

4,767

Nov

1,588

1,730

609

3,832

Dec

846

667

394

3,569

Totals

18,928

15,457

5,015

Note: Numbers Pending at months end are not a sum of the above figures. Claims may be closed for a variety of reasons, for example if they are withdrawn.

Jobseeker's Allowance 2009

Registered

Awarded

Rejected

Pending Month End

Jan

23,101

9,932

1,215

32,611

Feb

20,184

9,684

1,611

37,788

Mar

20,290

12,516

1,891

38,810

Apr

18,830

11,625

1,648

40,005

May

22,723

13,014

1,581

43,140

Jun

28,205

15,779

1,862

48,953

Jul

26,543

17,973

2,243

49,155

Aug

20,815

15,590

2,031

47,471

Totals

180,691

106,113

14,082

Note: Numbers Pending at months end are not a sum of the above figures. Claims may be closed for a variety of reasons, for example if they are withdrawn.

Jobseeker's Allowance 2008

Registered

Awarded

Rejected

Pending Month End

Jan

13,398

6,950

966

12,656

Feb

11,770

7,161

1,181

13,005

Mar

10,042

5,263

958

14,332

Apr

11,339

7,140

1,382

13,863

May

12,253

6,662

1,244

15,087

Jun

15,279

7,898

979

18,444

Jul

16,771

9,953

1,396

20,151

Aug

13,037

7,898

1,061

20,982

Sep

16,252

9,390

1,417

22,162

Oct

17,453

10,100

1,339

23,632

Nov

17,578

10,721

1,339

24,903

Dec

14,707

10,386

1,299

24,529

Totals

169,879

99,522

14,561

Note: Numbers Pending at months end are not a sum of the above figures. Claims may be closed for a variety of reasons, for example if they are withdrawn.

Jobseeker's Benefit 2009

Registered

Awarded

Rejected

Pending Month End

Jan

45,779

32,329

688

29,639

Feb

37,278

29,427

607

31,296

Mar

34,733

32,130

714

27,683

Apr

33,205

27,959

649

27,819

May

27,771

26,047

622

24,700

Jun

34,724

25,623

578

29,526

Jul

30,531

29,834

553

25,350

Aug

22,801

23,062

527

21,539

Totals

266,822

226,411

4,938

Note: Numbers Pending at months end are not a sum of the above figures. Claims may be closed for a variety of reasons, for example if they are withdrawn.

Jobseeker's Benefit 2008

Registered

Awarded

Rejected

Pending Month End

Jan

25,685

20,707

578

12,292

Feb

20,469

17,851

592

11,470

Mar

20,502

13,549

540

15,797

Apr

18,275

19,272

622

11,244

May

19,084

15,275

510

12,106

Jun

27,200

17,426

476

18,776

Jul

27,413

24,772

590

17,584

Aug

20,310

18,014

470

16,941

Sep

24,441

20,776

573

16,910

Oct

29,899

22,217

1,050

19,602

Nov

29,911

28,025

667

16,525

Dec

31,691

23,587

465

21,071

Totals

294,880

241,471

7,133

Note: Numbers pending at months end are not a sum of the above figures. Claims may be closed for a variety of reasons, for example if they are withdrawn.

Respite Care Grant* 2009

Registered

Awarded

Rejected

January

204

344

124

February

191

166

76

March

175

165

112

April

1064

93

46

May

3607

48

25

June

1,116

924

76

July

399

2,621

282

August

254

860

244

September

246

453

134

Total

7,256

5,674

1,119

Respite Care Grant* 2008

Registered

Awarded

Rejected

January

206

482

97

February

260

238

69

March

212

154

125

April

1946

206

115

May

3719

114

107

June

1413

2227

205

July

590

2747

306

August

390

609

174

September

580

739

201

October

385

643

130

November

354

510

252

December

273

326

103

Total

10,328

8,995

1,884

*The total number of applications pending at end-September 2009 was 885. It is not possible to determine the number of applications pending on a monthly basis, retrospective to 2008.

Question No. 149 answered with Question No. 118.
Question No. 150 answered with Question No. 134.
Question No. 151 answered with Question No. 113.
Question No. 152 answered with Question No. 133.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

153 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she favours the proposal to boost Irish tourism by offering free travel to British old age pensioners visiting here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32279/09]

The current free travel scheme operated by the Department provides free travel on the main public and private transport services for those eligible under the scheme. These include road, rail and ferry services provided by companies such as Bus Átha Cliath, Bus Éireann and Iarnród Éireann, as well as Luas and services provided by over 80 private transport operators.

While the scheme is free for those who are eligible, all of the transport companies involved, including CIE, are paid for the service by the Department of Social and Family Affairs. The estimated cost of the scheme in 2009 is €76.4 million. Any extension of the scheme to include other EU citizens would have considerable cost implications. Under EU law, it would not be possible to provide free travel only to British old age pensioners as this would discriminate on the basis of nationality.

Given the current economic situation, I have no immediate plans to extend the free travel scheme to British or other EU citizens in the absence of an agreed and appropriately funded EU wide reciprocal arrangement.

Question No. 154 answered with Question No. 134.
Question No. 155 answered with Question No. 108.

Liz McManus

Question:

156 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs her plans in relation to the abolition or amendments of entitlement to treatment benefit. [34413/09]

The proposal to discontinue or amend entitlement to the treatment benefit scheme will be considered as part of the Estimates and Budget process for 2010. This will include consideration of the report of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes, and the decisions on all of the issues arising will be a matter for the Government. It would not be appropriate for me to comment further at this stage pending the outcome of these deliberative processes.

Civil Registrations.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

157 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason birth certificates for adopted persons are not available from Joyce House in Dublin on the same basis as all other birth certificates; if she will make arrangements to ensure that the same service is available from Joyce House to every citizen regardless of whether they were adopted; her views on whether the different treatment of adopted persons is appropriate; and if she will ensure that there is a full review of the service in order that all of these deficiencies will be eradicated. [34587/09]

The legislative provision governing the registration of domestic adoptions and the issue of birth certificates drawn from the register of adoptions is set out at section 22 of the Adoption Act, 1952.

Under this provision the Registrar General is charged with maintaining an Adopted Children Register and also to maintain an index to make traceable the connection between each entry in the register and the corresponding entry in the register of births. The index is not open to public inspection and no information from it may be given to any person except by order of a Court or of the Adoption Board. A certified copy of an entry in the Adopted Children Register, if purporting to be issued under the seal of Oifig an Ard-Chlaráitheora shall, without further proof, be received as evidence of the facts stated therein and any requirement of law for the production of a certificate of birth shall be satisfied by the production of such certified copy.

Birth certificates for adopted persons are available only from the office of the Registrar General, located in Roscommon. While it is appreciated that this may cause a degree of inconvenience in certain instances the security and confidentiality of the Adopted Children Register is of paramount importance and it is for this reason only that the restriction on availability exists. For this reason also, there are no plans to amend the legislation to change the current arrangements in relation to this matter.

Arrangements are in place to ensure that persons applying to registrars' offices in Dublin and at other locations across the country where certificates of life events may be obtained, will be accommodated without any undue delay. For example, for passport application purposes, a copy of the required certificate will be faxed directly from the GRO to, and be accepted by, the Passport Office.

Responsibility for adoption legislation rests with the Department of Health and Children. An extension of the availability of certificates for adopted persons beyond the single physical repository of the General Register Office would require an amendment to existing adoption legislation or an amendment to new adoption legislation at present being advanced through the Houses of the Oireachtas by that Department.

Question No. 158 answered with Question No. 129.
Question No. 159 answered with Question No. 134.
Question No. 160 answered with Question No. 120.

Asylum Applications.

Denis Naughten

Question:

161 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs her plans to review the habitual residency condition rules in view of the recent decisions of the appeals office concerning cases by asylum seekers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34519/09]

Denis Naughten

Question:

175 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs her plans to review the habitual residency condition rules; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34518/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 161 and 175 together.

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 1st May 2004. It was introduced in the context of the Government's decision to open the Irish labour market to workers from the new EU Member States without the limitations being imposed at that time by many of the other Member States.

A person who does not satisfy the habitual residence condition is not eligible for specified social welfare payments, regardless of citizenship, nationality, immigration status or any other factor.

The social welfare schemes concerned are Jobseeker's Allowance, One Parent Family Payment, Disability Allowance, Carer's Allowance, Widow/er's (Non Contributory) Pension, Guardian's Payment (Non Contributory), State Pension (Non Contributory), Blind Pension, Supplementary Welfare Allowance (except urgent or exceptional needs payments) and Child Benefit.

In view of the need to ensure that the operation of the new condition was fully in line with the criteria set out in European Court of Justice case law for determining habitual residence, the following factors were introduced into the Social Welfare Consolidation Act in 2007:

the length and continuity of residence in the State or in any other particular country;

the length and purpose of any absence from the State;

the nature and pattern of the person's employment;

the person's main centre of interest, and

the future intentions of the person concerned as they appear from all the circumstances.

The Department of Social and Family Affairs is aware of the decisions of the Chief Appeals Officer in a very small number of specific cases, and is currently considering any implications of these decisions.

An internal review of the operational aspects of the habitual residence condition was completed by the Department in 2006 and copies were laid before the Oireachtas in February 2007.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

162 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs her plans to allow self-employed persons pay additional social insurance in order that they are covered for jobseeker’s benefit in the event of unemployment. [34424/09]

The range of benefits and pensions to which different groups of workers may establish entitlement reflects the risks associated with the nature of their work. This in turn 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 people pay, the practicalities of administering and controlling access to short-term payments and the annualised system of contributions that these people 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.

They 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. In general, their means will take account of the level of earnings in the last twelve months in determining their expected income for the following year. In the current climate, account is taken of the downward trend in the economy. It is accepted that future earnings may be lower than those of previous years and this is factored in projecting future earnings, with account being taken of the potential for significant upward or downward variations in income from one year to the next.

Social Welfare Fraud.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

163 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs her projection of the amount that will be saved from anti-fraud and control work by her Department; and if she expects that these savings will be sufficient to allow the Christmas bonus payment to be reinstated. [34410/09]

The annual control target for my Department in 2009 is €616.5 million of which nearly €312 million was achieved by the end of last August. These target control savings for 2009 are incorporated in my Department's Revised Estimate for 2009.

In the supplementary budget in April, it was announced that the December bonus payment would not be paid this year. There are no plans to alter this decision.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

164 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs her plans to abolish the family income supplement. [34384/09]

The Family Income Supplement (FIS) is a non taxable payment, introduced in 1984 to provide income support for employees on low earnings with families and thereby preserve the incentive to remain in employment in circumstances where they might otherwise only be marginally better off than if they were fully reliant on social welfare payments.

To qualify for FIS, a family must have at least one qualified child, a combined total of at least 38 hours insurable employment (other than self-employment) per fortnight or 19 hours per week and have earnings below the specified income limits. For FIS purposes, a combination of hours worked by both parents may be used to reach the minimum 19 hours per week/38 per fortnight criterion. FIS is calculated on the basis of 60% of the difference between the income limit for the family size and the assessable income of the person(s) raising the children.

An integral part of the scheme is that once the level of FIS payments is determined, it continues to be payable at that level for a period of 52 weeks provided that the person remains in employment.

Furthermore a NESC research paper in 2007 proposed the abolition of the current FIS and the increases for qualified child — paid as supplements to SW benefits and allowances to benefit families with dependent children — and the introduction of a means tested employment neutral child income support payment. However this proposal raises a number of significant issues which will require a detailed examination by my Department and other agencies.

There are no plans to abolish the Family Income Supplement. However, proposals from the public service numbers and expenditure programmes, regarding social welfare schemes, including the FIS scheme, are being examined as part of the deliberation process for the budget.

Question No. 165 answered with Question No. 125.
Question No. 166 answered with Question No. 129.
Question No. 167 answered with Question No. 142.
Question No. 168 answered with Question No. 134.

Mary Upton

Question:

169 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when she proposes to introduce changes to the mortgage interest supplement scheme. [34393/09]

The mortgage interest supplement scheme provides support for people who have difficulty meeting their mortgage repayments and whose means are insufficient to meet their needs. The scheme provides a short-term income "safety net" within the overall social welfare system to ensure that people do not suffer undue hardship as a result of losing their employment. A supplement in respect of mortgage interest only may be paid 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 14,100 people in receipt of mortgage interest supplement, an increase of 244% (10,000) over the number in payment at end 2007.

The assessment for the 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.

A review of the administration of the mortgage interest supplement scheme is progressing. 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. The review group includes representatives from the Department, the community welfare service, the Department of Finance, the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the Financial Regulator's Office. The group is examining trends in programme and administrative costs, the impact of the Financial Regulator's statutory Code of Practice on Mortgage Arrears on the mortgage interest scheme and legislative and other issues arising, including the cap on hours of employment. The review is also considering whether alternative approaches to achieving the scheme's objectives are warranted in the light of recent changes in the economic climate and the mortgage market. The full review should be complete in early 2010.

Following consultation with the community welfare service, guidelines on specific and immediate operational issues for the community welfare officers operating the scheme, have been recently updated. The guidelines are available on the Department's website www.welfare.ie

Question No. 170 answered with Question No. 129.
Question No. 171 answered with Question No. 119.
Question No. 172 answered with Question No. 135.

Departmental Reports.

Willie Penrose

Question:

173 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs her views on the recommendations in the report of the special group on public service numbers and expenditure programmes in relation to family resource centres and the Family Support Agency. [34416/09]

The Report of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes made a range of recommendations relating to the Department of Social and Family Affairs including recommendations relating to the Family Support Agency and its programmes. The Department will consider, as part of the Estimates and budgetary process for 2010, the report’s recommendations and decisions on all of the issues arising will be a matter for Government. It would not be appropriate for me to comment further at this stage pending the outcome of these deliberative processes.

Departmental Schemes.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

174 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will undertake to amend the private investment profit system scheme in order that contributors to an organisation’s pension scheme (details supplied) may avail of this scheme. [34396/09]

I presume that this question should refer to the Pensions Insolvency Payment Scheme (PIPS), currently being established by the Minister for Finance on a pilot basis for a three year period.

This scheme is intended as an option of last resort and a social protection measure to assist pension schemes where the sponsoring employer is insolvent and the pension scheme is being wound up in deficit. The PIPS is intended to make it cheaper to pay for the pensions of retired pension scheme members, so that more money is available for the pension benefits of those who have not yet retired.

This scheme uses the definition of insolvency which applies to the insolvency payments scheme administered by the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment and as set out in the Protection of Employees (Employers Insolvency) Act 1984. The company mentioned by the Deputy will not qualify for the scheme as it is not an insolvent company as defined in the 1984 Act. As the Deputy knows, latest available information suggests that some 90% of defined benefit schemes are currently in deficit.

Under the Pensions Act, trustees of these schemes must submit a funding proposal to the Pensions Board to ensure that the financial position of the scheme recovers over time. The vast majority of underfunded schemes are working with the Pensions Board to comply with the pensions legislation in this regard.

I have no plans, therefore, to extend the qualification criteria for PIPS to cover companies which do not meet the definition of insolvency.

Question No. 175 answered with Question No. 161.
Question No. 176 answered with Question No. 109.
Question No. 177 answered with Question No. 129.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

178 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the steps she proposes to take to alleviate hardship in cases in which social welfare payments have been terminated without warning thereby creating difficulties for vulnerable people and families; if she will issue a directive to the effect that an assessment will be completed in each case culminating in a payment on hardship grounds when it is deemed that the recipients are left without an income; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34561/09]

It is the policy of the Department to ensure that all customers are advised of any change in their entitlements.

In the case of a person whose payment has been terminated the Deputy will be aware that anyone suffering hardship may apply for supplementary welfare allowance. This scheme is administered on behalf of the Department by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive. Supplementary welfare allowance provides a safety net against poverty in that it gives a statutory entitlement to a minimum weekly income, based on criteria set out in legislation. The majority of SWA claims are processed within a matter of days.

Question No. 179 answered with Question No. 134.

Departmental Schemes.

Joan Burton

Question:

180 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Taoiseach if his Department is taking part in the cycle to work scheme or plans to do so in the near future; the agencies and bodies under the aegis of his Department taking part in the cycle to work scheme and those which are not; and the impact the implementation of decentralisation will have on participation in the scheme. [34620/09]

My Department, the Central Statistics Office (CSO) and the National Economic and Social Development Office (NESDO) are taking part in the cycle to work scheme.

The implementation of decentralisation has no impact on participation in the scheme for my Department or its agencies.

Joan Burton

Question:

181 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if her Department is taking part in the cycle to work scheme or plans to do so in the near future; the agencies and bodies under the aegis of her Department taking part in the cycle to work scheme and those which are not; and the impact the implementation of decentralisation will have on participation in the scheme. [34613/09]

My Department and the Offices and Agencies that come under the aegis of my Department are taking part in the cycle to work scheme with the exception of Shannon Development and the 35 County and City Enterprise Boards which have indicated they have no immediate plans to participate in the scheme. It is not envisaged that the decentralisation process will have any impact on participation in the cycle to work scheme.

Work Permits.

Joe Costello

Question:

182 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if her attention has been drawn to the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3; when their work permit will be granted; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34624/09]

The Employment Permits Section informs me that an application in respect of the above named was received on the 19th August 2009. The Section is currently processing applications received in the third week of June 2009 and therefore a decision on the above will issue in due course.

Company Closures.

Brian Hayes

Question:

183 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if her attention has been drawn to the fact that a company (details supplied) is planning to close 14 shops here and has refused to disclose the financial situation of the company as an entity; her views on the way employees can engage meaningfully with the company in trying to save jobs when information has been refused which is required to put a viable survival plan to the company; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34631/09]

Brian Hayes

Question:

184 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if her attention has been drawn to the fact that a company (details supplied) will be making an application for a Government rebate of up to 60% of the statutory pay out to employees; her views on its parent company laying people off and then requesting the Government to pay up to 60% of the cost, in view of the fact that the companies grossed in excess of €800 million in 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34632/09]

Brian Hayes

Question:

185 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if her attention has been drawn to the fact that a company (details supplied) is proposing to downsize and not totally close down the company here and the ramifications within the local community, in particular the impact of women workers in view of the fact that in excess of 90% of employees under threat of redundancy are female; if her attention has further been drawn to the fact that the industry standard for redundancy when a travel industry company makes redundancies while maintaining a operating business is four weeks; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34633/09]

Joe Carey

Question:

188 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will respond to the correspondence (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34658/09]

Terence Flanagan

Question:

189 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will respond to correspondences (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34659/09]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

197 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if her attention has been drawn to the concerns of staff at a company (details supplied) in County Waterford; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34910/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 183 to 185, inclusive, 188, 189 and 197 together.

My Department received a collective redundancy notification in relation to proposed redundancies at the company in question on 14 August 2009.

Under the Redundancy Payments Scheme administered by my Department and funded from the Social Insurance Fund, the essential function of my Department is to ensure that all eligible employees receive the statutory minimum redundancy entitlements due to them. Currently, the statutory redundancy entitlements for all qualifying employees are two weeks pay per year of service plus a bonus week.

There are two types of redundancy payment made from the Social Insurance Fund — redundancy rebates of 60% which are payable to employers who have paid the minimum statutory redundancy payments to qualifying employees and, statutory lump sums to employees whose employers are insolvent or not in a position to pay. In the case of employers who pay the statutory redundancy payments to their employees, they are entitled, by virtue of their social insurance contributions, to avail of a 60% rebate in respect of the redundancy payments paid out.

Neither the Tánaiste nor I have any role in relation to the negotiation of ex gratia payments to employees in excess of the statutory minimum payments — this is entirely a matter of discretion for the company and an issue for negotiation as between the employees and the company.

In accordance with Sections 9 and 10 of the Protection of Employment Act 1977, companies are required to consult employees' representatives and to supply certain information regarding proposed redundancies. Should it be the case that the level of consultation and information as set down in the Act is not being satisfied, it is possible for a complaint to be taken before the Rights Commissioner Service which will hear the case and communicate the outcome to the parties involved. An appeal can lie from a decision of the Rights Commissioner to the Employment Appeals Tribunal.

Responsibility for the resolution of industrial disputes between employers and workers, whether in redundancy or other collective disputes, rests with the employer, the workers and their representatives. The State provides the industrial relations dispute settlement machinery free of charge to assist this process, which, in line with the general principles of industrial relations in Ireland, is voluntary in nature. The system of industrial relations in Ireland is designed to help and support parties in their efforts to resolve their differences, rather than imposing an extensive set of legislative conditions on the parties to an industrial dispute. It is open to utilise the Industrial Relations mechanism of the state — the Labour Relations Commission and/or the Labour Court to further claims for an enhanced redundancy package.

The Tánaiste and I are very conscious of the loss of employment which will result from the redundancies proposed at the company and would encourage staff and management at the company to engage meaningfully in the process of consultation and to use, where appropriate, the recognized IR mechanisms of the State to come to an agreeable outcome in this case.

Brian Hayes

Question:

186 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if her attention has been drawn to the fact that a company (details supplied) has been reported to the Labour Relations Commission for failing to engage in effective and proper consultation since announcing the shop closure in September 2009 and that efforts by employees to engage in reasonable negotiation have been ignored; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34634/09]

Willie Penrose

Question:

191 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will take steps to ensure that her Department together with the dispute resolution machinery of the State will be deployed to ensure that a company (details supplied) engages with its employees and their union, following the recent announcement to close 14 of its 31 shops here and that the company would be called on to provide an enhanced redundancy package to its employees in view of the fact the company, which is international, made a significant profit here in 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34871/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 186 and 191 together.

Neither the Tánaiste nor I have any role in relation to the negotiation of ex gratia payments to employees in excess of the statutory minimum payments — this is entirely a matter of discretion for the company and an issue for negotiation as between the employees and the company.

In accordance with Sections 9 and 10 of the Protection of Employment Act 1977, companies are required to consult employees' representatives and to supply certain information regarding proposed redundancies. Should it be the case that there is dissatisfaction about the level of consultation and information as set down in the Act, it is possible for a complaint to be taken before the Rights Commissioner Service which will hear the case and communicate the outcome to the parties involved. An appeal can lie from a decision of the Rights Commissioner to the Employment Appeals Tribunal.

I understand that the Labour Relations Commission has been in contact with the parties with a view to facilitating conciliation on the issues in dispute as soon as possible. The experience and expertise of the Commission offers an appropriate avenue for resolving these issues. In this context, I would encourage both parties to avail of the professional services of the Commission in their efforts to resolve their differences.

Responsibility for the resolution of industrial disputes between employers and workers, whether in redundancy or other collective disputes, rests with the employer, the workers and their representatives. The State provides the industrial relations dispute settlement machinery free of charge to assist this process, which, in line with the general principles of industrial relations in Ireland, is voluntary in nature. The system of industrial relations in Ireland is designed to help and support parties in their efforts to resolve their differences, rather than imposing an extensive set of legislative conditions on the parties to an industrial dispute. It is open to those affected in such situations to utilise the Industrial Relations mechanism of the state — the Labour Relations Commission and/or the Labour Court to further claims for an enhanced redundancy package.

Industrial Development.

Joan Burton

Question:

187 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the amount of the enterprise stabilisation fund that has been drawn down to date in 2009; if expansion of the fund has been considered or is deemed necessary; the way the stated criteria are being applied by Enterprise Ireland; the number of applications for funds that Enterprise Ireland have received; the number of these which have been successful; the enterprises which have received financial support through this fund, including the sector or sectors in which they operate; the number and the type of jobs which are being sustained by the fund; thesectors in which they are being sustained; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34644/09]

The Government approved an amount of €100m in total for the Enterprise Stabilisation Fund for the years 2009 and 2010. €50m has been included in the estimate of my Department for this purpose in 2009. Under the scheme, Enterprise Ireland may provide up to €500,000 to viable companies with robust business models that are facing difficulties as a result of the current economic environment. The fund supplies direct financial support to internationally trading enterprises that are investing in cost reduction or other measures to gain sales in overseas markets.

To date, Enterprise Ireland has approved approximately €44m for 98 projects under this fund. Enquiries have also been received from a further 100 companies. However, these enquiries have not as yet progressed to formal applications. To date, 10 projects have not been successful and alternative options have been examined for these companies.

For reasons of commercial sensitivity, the names of companies who have applied for assistance from the Enterprise Stabilisation Fund are not disclosed.

The focus of the Enterprise Stabilisation Fund is to support viable but vulnerable exporting companies who are experiencing difficulties because of the current economic climate. Unlike the Government's Employment Subsidy Scheme, the Stabilisation Fund is not a direct employment support and is intended to support the survival and expansion of exporting companies. Accordingly, it is not possible to state the number of jobs being sustained directly by the fund. However, details of sectors that have received financial support through this fund are contained in the following tabular statement.

Funding for the Enterprise Stabilisation Fund in 2009 is being kept under review at present and any expansion of the Fund must await consideration in the context of the 2010 estimates deliberations.

Approved Applications — Sectoral Breakdown

Number

Clean tech

5

Clothing

2

Construction

11

Consumer Retail

4

Electronics

12

Engineering

19

Food

16

Life sciences

4

Manufacturing

2

Medical Devices

1

Print and Packaging

1

Scaling

2

Services

4

Software

15

Total

98

Questions Nos. 188 and 189 answered with Question No. 183.

EU Directives.

Phil Hogan

Question:

190 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the level of EU fines imposed on her Department for breaches of EU audit rules from 2003 to date in 2009; the reason for the fine in each instance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34714/09]

EU audit rules as set out in Regulations and guidance issued by the EU Commission from time to time are based on generally accepted audit practice and standards of the relevant auditing and accountancy bodies. Auditing in my Department is carried out in compliance with these requirements and the requirements of the Department of Finance. No fines have been imposed on my Department for breaches of EU audit rules from 2003 to date in 2009.

Question No. 191 answered with Question No. 186.

Industrial Relations.

Willie Penrose

Question:

192 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the Labour Court recommendation, 19544, regarding the life assurance arm of a bank (details supplied) which was issued on 3 June 2009 has been totally disregarded by the bank; if her attention has further been drawn to the fact that the refusal of the bank to implement this recommendation is not only a serious industrial relations development pertaining to employees’ representatives and the bank but it also represents a challenge to the industrial machinery of the State; the action she will take in regard thereto; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34872/09]

Ireland's system of industrial relations is, essentially, voluntary in nature and responsibility for the resolution of industrial disputes is a matter for the parties involved. The system of industrial relations in Ireland is designed to help and support parties in their efforts to resolve their differences, rather than imposing a solution on the parties to an industrial dispute. Responsibility for the settlement of this dispute rests, ultimately, with the parties themselves. The obligation lies with the parties to seek to resolve their differences and to carry their efforts through to completion.

I understand that the dispute was referred to the Labour Court in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. This provision allows the Court to investigate a trade dispute where the Labour Relations Commission is satisfied that it is unable to further assist the parties and the parties themselves have requested the involvement of the Court. However, the Labour Court's recommendation is not binding on either party to the dispute and the Court cannot compel a company to comply with its recommendations.

As the Labour Court is a court of last resort in the industrial relations process, it is expected that the parties come to the process in good faith and consequently are prepared to accept the outcome of the process, namely the Labour Court recommendation.

I welcome the decision taken by UNITE members to call off the strike action scheduled for 30 September at the Bank of Ireland in order to seek clarification from the Labour Court on its recent recommendation.

In my view, the experience and expertise of the Court offers the best avenue for resolving the issues in dispute. To this end, I would urge the company to reflect carefully on the consequences of not complying with the Court's recommendation and would strongly encourage them to give a positive consideration to the recommendation.

Departmental Properties.

John Deasy

Question:

193 Deputy John Deasy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the cost to the Exchequer for the rental or lease of property for her Department in Waterford city in each of the past five years; the individual units involved; the rental cost of each building. [34889/09]

My Department has not leased, rented or occupied any property in Waterford City in the past 5 years and, therefore, there has been no cost to the Exchequer.

John Deasy

Question:

194 Deputy John Deasy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the cost to the Exchequer for the rental or lease of property for Enterprise Ireland in Waterford city in each of the past five years; the individual units involved; and the rental cost of each building. [34890/09]

John Deasy

Question:

195 Deputy John Deasy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the cost to the Exchequer for the rental or lease of property for Waterford City Enterprise Board in Waterford city in each of the past five years; the individual unit’s involved; and the rental cost of each building; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34890/09]

John Deasy

Question:

196 Deputy John Deasy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the cost to the Exchequer for the rental or lease of property for Waterford City Enterprise Board in Waterford city in each of the past five years; the individual units involved; the cost of each building. [34891/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 194 to 196, inclusive, together.

I have been informed that Waterford City Enterprise Board leases their premises from Waterford City Council at an annual rental charge of €19,046 since 2004. However it should be noted that over the period in question the Board leased two Units within the premises to two separate businesses for which the Board received rental income.

Question No. 197 answered with Question No. 183.

Tax Yield.

Pat Breen

Question:

198 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the amount of moneys collected from airport charges and taxes for 2006, 2007, 2008 and up to the end of September 2009 by airport in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34918/09]

Matters relating the operation of airports and any related charges are a matter for the Department of Transport. Any connected matters involving taxes are an issue for the Department of Finance. Consequently, I am unable to provide the Deputy with any information in relation to this question as the topics are outside the remit of my Department.

Redundancy Payments.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

199 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason for the delay in payment of a redundancy refund of €44,041 to a company (details supplied) in County Cork for which the claim was made on 24 June 2009; and if she will arrange for immediate payment. [34939/09]

The Redundancy Payments Section of my Department received a number of statutory rebate applications from the company concerned on 26 June 2009.

However, the Redundancy Payments Section of my Department is in receipt of an unprecedented level of claims for redundancy payment that are giving rise to very significant delays in the processing of those payments for both companies and individuals. Currently, the average time it takes to process rebate applications from employers filed online is 7 months while claims submitted by post are taking 8 months. The Department is currently processing rebate claims submitted online from March '09 and claims filed manually from February '09.

To put it in perspective, at end September 2009, the number of Redundancy claims paid by my Department relating to applications received in 2009 and earlier years, amounted to 32,127. This equates to payments of around €206.5 million, both to employers and, in some cases, directly to employees. This means the Department is issuing an average of around €5.7 million per week in redundancy payments. The backlog of applications awaiting payment at end September '09 stands at 43,250. Of this total, an estimated 10,500 claims are the subject of requests for further information.

Naturally, the Tánaiste and I share concerns about current processing times which individuals and employers continue to experience and further initiatives, including that of additional resourcing measures, have been implemented in order to improve the turnaround in the processing of redundancy payments.

Departmental Bodies.

Niall Collins

Question:

200 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she has requested all chairpersons and members of boards and agencies under the aegis of her Department to take a reduction in their salary, fee or allowance; when this request was made to take effect; the amount or reduction requested; the boards and agencies which have complied with the request; when the remainder propose to comply; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34961/09]

Following a direction from the Department of Finance on 7 May 2009, my Department instructed that the fees payable to the Chairpersons and Board Members of boards and agencies under the aegis of my Department be reduced by 10% with effect from 1 May 2009. The instruction was relevant to the following bodies, all of which have complied with it.

Enterprise Ireland

IDA Ireland

Shannon Free Airport Development Co Ltd

Forfás

The National Standards Authority of Ireland

Irish Accounting and Auditing Supervisory Authority

The National Consumer Agency

The Health and Safety Authority

Science Foundation Ireland

The Board of the Labour Relations Commission

The Company Law Review Group

FÁS

Personal Injuries Assessment Board.

The Board members of County and City Enterprise Boards, including Chairpersons, provide their services in a voluntary and unpaid capacity. Therefore, the question of taking a reduction in salary, fee or allowance does not arise in this instance. InterTradeIreland is funded jointly by my Department and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, Northern Ireland and Board appointments are made by the North South Ministerial Council. Therefore, any such request would have to come from the North South Ministerial Council.

Departmental Expenditure.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

201 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance the cost of running the second Lisbon treaty referendum; the cost of preparation, publication and distribution of all related material, including polling card and accompanying information pages; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34703/09]

Returning Officers are only required to complete and return their accounts for the referendum by 2nd April 2010 and a breakdown of the overall cost of the referendum, including an account of any refunds made by the returning officers will not be available until all the returned accounts have been finalised.

Advances have been paid to the Returning Officers based on their estimated expenditure for the Lisbon Referendum 2009. The aggregate total of these advances and the expenses paid to OPW in connection with the Lisbon 2009 Referendum to date is €11,181,551.45. It is estimated that the total cost, which will include postage, will be about €16m.

Departmental Properties.

John Deasy

Question:

202 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Finance the cost to the Exchequer for the rental or lease of property for the Property Registration Authority in Waterford city in each of the past five years; the individual units involved and the cost of each building. [34898/09]

There is no rental cost to the Exchequer in the case of the building occupied by the Property Registration Authority in Waterford City for the years in question, as the building is owned by the State.

Departmental Schemes.

Joan Burton

Question:

203 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance if his Department is taking part in the cycle to work scheme or plans to do so in the near future; the agencies and bodies under the aegis of his Department taking part in the cycle to work scheme and those which are not; and the impact the implementation of decentralisation will have on participation in the scheme. [34615/09]

My Department is taking parting the cycle to work scheme together with the following bodies under the aegis of my Department:

Office of the Revenue Commissioners

Office of Public Works

State Laboratory

Public Appointments Service Commission for Public Service Appointments

Valuation Office

Office of the Ombudsman

I have been informed by the NTMA that there are plans to have the scheme in operation before the end of 2009. The scheme is not currently available in the Office of the Appeals Commissioners and Special EU Programmes Body. The scheme is open to all employees, including those in decentralised offices.

Consultancy Contracts.

Michael Creed

Question:

204 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the criteria laid down by him in respect of tendering for Government contracts for public works have a requirement that construction companies have a minimum of a €1.5 million turnover for each of the three preceding years, and that these criteria are discriminating against small construction companies which have a long track record of quality construction work for local authorities, the Department of Education and Science and so on; the reason he is discriminating against smaller companies; his views on amending the tender criteria in which the critical criteria for having a tender accepted would be the ability of the construction company to secure a bond for the satisfactory completion of the works if the contractor defaults on same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34622/09]

Public procurement is governed by either national or EU rules, which have as their underlining principles the need for non-discrimination, equality of treatment, transparency, mutual recognition, proportionality, freedom to provide service and freedom of establishment. Contracting authorities are obliged to observe these principles when awarding contracts. I have not laid down specific requirements in regard to thresholds, except that, as a general rule where they are applied, they should be proportionate to the size, nature and complexity of the project.

Individual contracting authorities have responsibility for the awarding of public works contracts. The setting of minimum standards in the suitability and contract award stage is left to individual contracting authorities on the basis that each is best placed to decide what is appropriate to meet its own requirements. These requirements and associated minimum standards will vary not only between individual cases but also over time.

The use of performance bonds instead of turnover qualifications would not affect the issue, as such bonds are a standard requirement in any event to safeguard the interests of the Exchequer. I am conscious of the pressures facing SMEs and the following actions are being initiated by my Department:

(a) a formal reminder is being issued to all contracting authorities that Government policy is to promote the participation of SMEs in public procurement;

(b) the renewed attention of public authorities is being brought to existing public procurement guidelines on the advertising of opportunities on the national etenders website, particularly in relation to contracts below €50,000 for goods and services;

(c) public authorities are being required to advertise all works contracts over a minimum level of €50,000 on the etenders website;

(d) contracting authorities are being reminded of the need to avoid setting disproportionately high capacity requirements and

(e) broad guidance is being drafted for dissemination to public authorities in order to assist them in determining the appropriate levels of financial capacity of tenderers relevant to particular contracts.

Tax Code.

Joan Burton

Question:

205 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance his views on whether further policy measures are needed to help parents to provide financially for their children who have disabilities in the event of death of the parents; his further views on the establishment of a disability savings plan, as proposed by an organisation (details supplied) and along the lines of a similar scheme operated in Canada since 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34640/09]

Primary responsibility for policy and services in relation to children with disabilities rests with my colleague the Minister for Health and Children. Accordingly, it would be a matter for her Department to assess in the first instance whether existing services are adequate to meet such needs or whether further measures along the lines suggested by the Deputy are necessary.

I have no current plans to establish a disability savings plan along the lines of the Canadian scheme. Tax relief is available for properly drawn up deeds of covenant in favour of permanently incapacitated individuals, but such relief is generally not available to parents making covenants for their own minor children (that is, where the children are aged under 18 years and unmarried).

Price Inflation.

Joan Burton

Question:

206 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance his views on the best measure of price inflation facing social welfare recipients, whether it be the consumer price index, the harmonised index of consumer price or other, in view of the relatively lower propensity to have a large mortgage of social welfare recipients; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34641/09]

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) publishes monthly both the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and the Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices (HICP). The latter is compiled on a common basis across the European Union. The main difference between the CPI and the HICP is that the latter excludes mortgage interest costs. The CPI fell by 5.9 per cent in the twelve months to August while the HICP fell by 2.4 per cent over the same period. Most of the difference can be explained by changes in mortgage interest rates.

The CPI basket is based on average consumption patterns so price changes for particular individuals and households will invariably differ from the national average. The CSO does not publish indices by income decile or social group. Nevertheless, I would like to point out to the Deputy that prices of a wide range of goods and services have fallen on a year-on-year basis, not just mortgage interest. This is supporting disposable incomes right across society and not just for mortgage holders.

Tax Code.

Joan Burton

Question:

207 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance if he will commit to compensating social welfare recipients given the higher fuel intensity of their spending with respect to the carbon tax that he has indicated will form part of budget 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34642/09]

I am committed to the introduction of a carbon tax on a phased basis in the context of the 2010 Budget. Indeed work is already underway on the design of a carbon tax. In relation to the issue of fuel poverty, it is acknowledged that appropriate measures may need to be put in place depending on the level of carbon tax introduced.

Budget Statement.

Joan Burton

Question:

208 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the date he will deliver budget 2010. [34643/09]

It is intended that Budget 2010 will be presented to the Dáil in December and an announcement on the exact date will be made shortly.

Departmental Staff.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

209 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Finance the terms of the severance package awarded to the former Financial Regulator (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34655/09]

The Chief Executive of the Regulatory Authority is appointed by the other members of that Authority and the conditions of employment are agreed between the person and the other members of the Authority. The Regulatory Authority has informed me that pension benefits to the former Chief Executive are payable in accordance with the Central Bank and Financial Services of Ireland Superannuation Scheme. This Scheme has terms and conditions which allow, in certain circumstances, for the payment of full pension benefits in cases where less than 40 years service is accrued. I am informed that the former Chief Executive had two years remaining on his contract. I am also informed that, having regard to independent legal advice and his exclusive availability to the Authority for a period of three months, the Authority agreed to the payment of an additional €151,500, equivalent to six months remuneration, plus an additional two months salary, to the former Chief Executive.

Tax Yield.

Joan Burton

Question:

210 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the tax revenue which would be raised on a 2010 and full year basis by limiting the application of business relief for capital acquisition tax to 75% of the value of the business before the tax is calculated and subjecting the reduction to an overall monetary limit of €3 million, in view of the recommendation set out in the Commission on Taxation Report 2009. [34669/09]

Joan Burton

Question:

211 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the tax revenue which would be raised on a 2010 and full year basis by limiting the application of agricultural relief for capital acquisition tax to 75% of the value of the property before the tax is calculated and subjecting the reduction to an overall monetary limit of €3 million in view of the recommendation set out in the Commission on Taxation Report 2009. [34670/09]

Joan Burton

Question:

212 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the amount of tax revenue which would be raised on a 2010 and full year basis by discontinuing income tax relief for trade union subscriptions, in view of the recommendation set out in the Commission on Taxation Report 2009. [34671/09]

Joan Burton

Question:

213 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the tax revenue which would be raised on a 2010 and full year basis by limiting the quantum of income tax relief for ex gratia termination payments to €200,000 in view of the recommendation set out in the Commission on Taxation Report 2009. [34672/09]

Joan Burton

Question:

214 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the tax revenue which would be raised on a 2010 and full year basis by limiting the quantum of income tax relief for termination payments where an employment involves foreign service to €200,000 in view of the recommendation set out in the Commission on Taxation Report 2009,. [34673/09]

Joan Burton

Question:

215 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the tax revenue which would be raised on a 2010 and full year basis by discontinuing the PRSI exemption for employee share options in view of the relevant recommendation set out in the Commission on Taxation Report 2009. [34674/09]

Joan Burton

Question:

216 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the amount of tax revenue which would be raised on a 2010 and full year basis by discontinuing the income tax exemption for approved share option schemes in view of the relevant recommendation set out in the Commission on Taxation Report 2009. [34675/09]

Joan Burton

Question:

217 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the tax revenue which would be raised on a 2010 and full year basis by subjecting the taxable value of option gains to both employer and employee PRSI and to the health contribution levy and the income levy in view of the relevant recommendation set out in the Commission on Taxation Report 2009. [34676/09]

Joan Burton

Question:

218 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the tax revenue which would be raised on a 2010 and full year basis by discontinuing the income tax exemption for new shares purchased on issue by employees in view of the relevant recommendation set out in the Commission on Taxation Report 2009. [34677/09]

Joan Burton

Question:

219 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the tax revenue which would be raised on a 2010 and full year basis by discontinuing the artists’ exemption from income tax in view of the relevant recommendation set out in the Commission on Taxation Report 2009. [34678/09]

Joan Burton

Question:

220 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the tax revenue which would be raised on a 2010 and full year basis by capping the sports person’s relief at €350,000 in view of the relevant recommendation set out in the Commission on Taxation Report 2009. [34679/09]

Joan Burton

Question:

221 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the tax revenue which would be raised on a 2010 and full year basis by discontinuing the seafarers’ allowance in view of the relevant recommendation set out in the Commission on Taxation Report 2009. [34680/09]

Joan Burton

Question:

222 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the tax revenue which would be raised on a 2010 and full year basis by discontinuing the income tax exemption for payments under scéim na bhfoghlaimeoirí Gaeilge in view of the relevant recommendation set out in the Commission on Taxation Report 2009. [34681/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 210 to 222, inclusive, together.

I am informed that, where available, costings of the various recommendations made by the Commission have been provided in their report. The estimates are generally to be found adjacent to the specific recommendation concerned. In the case of tax expenditures they are presented in a tabular form at the beginning of each relevant section of Part 8 of the Report. I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that they provided extensive technical assistance and support to the Commission in the preparation of these costings. In a number of cases no costing has been provided because there was no data available upon which a reasonable estimate could be based. I am similarly not in a position to provide the Deputy with those costs.

Joan Burton

Question:

223 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the amount of tax revenue which would be raised on a 2010 and full year basis by limiting the size of tax free lump sum pension payments to €200,000, after which point normal tax rates would apply in view of the relevant recommendation set out in the Commission on Taxation Report 2009. [34682/09]

I am informed that, where available, costings of the various recommendations made by the Commission have been provided in their report. The estimates are generally to be found adjacent to the specific recommendation concerned. In the case of tax incentives for retirement savings the available figures are presented at various stages throughout Part 10 of the Report. I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that they provided extensive technical assistance and support to the Commission in the preparation of these costings. In a number of cases no costing has been provided because there was no data available upon which a reasonable estimate could be based. I am similarly not in a position to provide the Deputy with those costs.

Joan Burton

Question:

224 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the amount of revenue which would be raised on a 2010 and full year basis by subjecting permanent offshore structures to commercial rates in view of the relevant recommendation set out in the Commission on Taxation Report 2009. [34683/09]

Joan Burton

Question:

225 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the amount of revenue which would be raised on a 2010 and full year basis by subjecting bed and breakfast accommodation and guest houses to commercial rates base when there are four or more bedrooms in a dwelling house provided on an ongoing basis for overnight guest accommodation in view of the relevant recommendation set out in the Commission on Taxation Report 2009. [34684/09]

Joan Burton

Question:

226 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the amount of revenue which would be raised on a 2010 and full year basis by subjecting self-catering apartments and holiday homes provided by tourism operators to commercial rates in view of the relevant recommendation set out in the Commission on Taxation Report 2009. [34685/09]

Joan Burton

Question:

227 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the amount of revenue which would be raised on a 2010 and full year basis by subjecting third level and professional institutions to commercial rates proportionate to the percentage of their revenue generated from their own resources and commercial activity in view of the relevant recommendation set out in the Commission on Taxation Report 2009. [34686/09]

Joan Burton

Question:

228 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the amount of revenue which would be raised on a 2010 and full year basis by subjecting community halls to commercial rates proportionate to the percentage of their revenue generated from commercial activity in view of the relevant recommendation set out in the Commission on Taxation Report 2009. [34687/09]

Joan Burton

Question:

229 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the amount of revenue which would be raised on a 2010 and full year basis by subjecting agricultural farm buildings which are owned by a body corporate to commercial rates in view of the relevant recommendation set out in the Commission on Taxation Report 2009. [34688/09]

Joan Burton

Question:

230 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the amount of revenue which would be raised on a 2010 and full year basis by subjecting all buildings or land occupied by the State to commercial rates in view of the relevant recommendation set out in the Commission on Taxation Report 2009. [34689/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 224 to 230, inclusive, together.

I am informed that, where available, costings of the various recommendations made by the Commission have been provided in their report. The estimates are generally to be found adjacent to the specific recommendation concerned. I am informed by the Valuation Office that there is no data available upon which a reasonable estimate of the probable 2010 revenues from bed and breakfast accommodation, permanent offshore structures, self-catering apartments and holiday homes, community halls and agricultural farm buildings which are owned by a body corporate could be based. I am therefore not in a position, to provide the Deputy with an estimate of these costs.

Question No. 231 withdrawn.

Tax Code.

John Deasy

Question:

232 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Finance if, as a goodwill gesture to former employees of a company (details supplied) in Waterford, he will exempt them from being liable for tax and employer and employee PRSI contributions in respect of a €10 million payment by the new owners that was negotiated by the Labour Relations Commission; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that this payment will cover only a little more than 40% of their entitlements; if his further attention has been drawn to the fact that these employees have lost all of their pension entitlements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34892/09]

In general all income arising from an employment is chargeable to income tax. The relevant legislation is contained in Section 112 Taxes Consolidation Act, 1997. The scope of that legislation is very wide and includes all salaries, wages, fees, perquisites and any profit whatever arising as a result of holding or having held an employment. In the case of the payment in question, based on the information provided by the Receiver, the payment is fully within the charge to income tax in accordance with Section 112 Taxes Consolidation Act 1997. In relation to the liability of this payment to PRSI, this is a matter in the first instance for the Minister for Social and Family Affairs.

Departmental Properties.

John Deasy

Question:

233 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Finance the cost to the Exchequer for the rental or lease of property for his Department in Waterford city in each of the past five years; the individual units involved; and the rental cost of each building. [34893/09]

John Deasy

Question:

235 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Finance the cost to the Exchequer for the rental or lease of property for the Office of the Revenue Commissioners in Waterford city in each of the past five years; the individual units involved; and the rental cost of each building. [34895/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 233 and 235 together.

The Office of Public Works has not leased or rented any property on behalf my Department in Waterford City for the timeframe in question. I have been informed by the Office of Public Works that the cost to the Exchequer for the rental of property by the Office of Public Works on behalf of the Minister for Finance for the Revenue Commissioners in Waterford City for the years 2004-2008 is as set out in the following table:

Rental costs of Buildings 2004-2008

Building Name

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

Waterford Custom Stores, Unit 2, Tramore Road Industrial Estate

14,760

14,760

14,760

14,760

14,760

Waterford Custom Stores, Unit 4, Tramore Road Industrial Estate

32,505

32,505

32,505

32,505

32,505

Waterford Harbour Warehouse, Belview, Waterford Port

n/a

15,187

60,750

60,750

60,750

Total

47,265

62,452

108,015

108,015

108,015

John Deasy

Question:

234 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Finance the cost to the Exchequer for the rental or lease of property for the Office of Public Works in Waterford city in each of the past five years; the individual units involved; and the rental cost of each building. [34894/09]

The cost to the Exchequer for the rental of property by the Office of Public Works, on behalf of other Departments / Offices in Waterford City for the years 2004-2008 is as follows:

Year

2004

237,247

2005

252,434

2006

280,035

2007

281,402

2008

292,830

I have included a breakdown of these figures in the attached spreadsheet, together with the individual units involved and the rental cost of each building over this period.

Rental payments for the below buildings for 2004-2008

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

Totals

Government Buildings, Johnstown Industrial Estate.

117,968.00

117,968.00

117,968.00

117,968.00

117,968.00

589,840

Waterford Harbour Agricultural Office, Bellview Port.

8,712.00

8,712.00

8,712.00

1,452.00

27,588

Waterford Custom Stores, Unit 4, Tramore Road Ind Est

32,505.00

32,505.00

32,505.00

32,505.00

32,505.00

162,525

Waterford DTC, Unit 23 Tramore Road Bus Park.

13,967.00

13,967.00

13,967.00

13,967.00

13,967.00

69,835

108, The Quay, Waterford.

23,940.00

23,940.00

18,676.00

66,556

Waterford Harbour Warehouse.

15,187.00

60,750.00

60,750.00

60,750.00

197,437

Waterford Probation & Welfare, Parnell Street.

25,395.00

25,395.00

12,697.00

63,487

Waterford RSA Test Centre

40,000.00

40,000.00

80,000

Waterford Harbour Agricultural Office, Bellview Port.

12,880.00

12,880

Waterford Custom Stores, Unit 2, Tramore Road Ind Est

14,760.00

14,760.00

14,760.00

14,760.00

14,760.00

73,800

Totals

237,247

252,434

280,035

281,402

292,830

1,343,948

Question No. 235 answered with Question No. 233.

Pension Provisions.

Brian Hayes

Question:

236 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Finance when he will approve a scheme (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34912/09]

The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources has primary responsibility for matters relating to the state body mentioned, including its pension schemes. However as Minister for Finance, I am generally required to consent to pension schemes made by public sector bodies. The legal requirement usually arises from the founding statutes of the organisation in question. In this particular case, under the terms of the relevant legislation, pension schemes and arrangements for the body in question are subject to the approval of the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources with the concurrence of the Minister for Finance.

My role arises because of my responsibility for public service pension policy and for public service expenditure generally. In this context I seek to ensure that the terms granted by the commercial semi-state sector are not out of line and/or likely to give rise to cost-increasing claims for similar terms elsewhere in the non-commercial public service. My Department normally examines the pension schemes submitted to ensure that they are, broadly speaking, reasonable, proportionate and fundamentally sound especially from the Exchequer's point of view.

In the commercial public sector, employing organisations are responsible for the initiation and drafting of superannuation schemes and for ensuring that appropriate and sustainable financing arrangements are in place. The parent Department, in this case the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, ensures, inter alia, that the superannuation schemes submitted for their Ministers’ approval are properly drafted, are broadly in accordance with public service pension policy, unless otherwise justified, and that they conform to the requirements of the relevant Departmental legislation. Officials from my Department are involved in consultation with officials in the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources concerning the scheme referred to by the Deputy. It is hoped that, with cooperation from all parties involved, the scheme will be in order for the Ministers to approve in the near future.

Financial Institutions Support Scheme.

Thomas Byrne

Question:

237 Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Finance the expected monetary gain to the State from the State guarantee to the banking sector in the years 2008, 2009 and 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34916/09]

Each of the covered institutions covered by the Bank Guarantee Scheme pay a quarterly charge to the Exchequer for its guarantee. For the years in question, I expect to have received the following monies under the Guarantee Scheme:

Year

2008

110,203,000

2009

433,401,692

2010

456,395,308

We intend to collect at least this €1bn from the guaranteed institutions and this figure may be increased as institutions move from the existing guarantee scheme into the proposed revised guarantee scheme shortly to be brought to the Oireachtas.

In addition to the charge for the Guarantee levied on the covered institutions, institutions under the Guarantee are obliged to recoup the administrative costs of the Guarantee to the Minister. To date payments of €2,495,459 have been made, covering the period September 2008 to April 2009. There will be further charges made periodically between now and the end September 2010 when the Scheme is due to end.

Thomas Byrne

Question:

238 Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Finance the expected monetary gain to the State from the recapitalisation scheme to the banking sector in the years 2009 and 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34917/09]

Both AIB and Bank of Ireland were recapitalised with €3.5bn of Core Tier 1 Capital on 13 May and 31 March respectively. In return the Government has received €3.5bn worth of non-cumulative preference shares. These preference shares pay a fixed coupon of 8% annually. If cash coupon is not paid, then ordinary shares are issued in lieu at a time no later than the date on which the bank subsequently pays a cash coupon on other Core Tier 1 capital. Both banks were also given the option of repurchasing a portion of these preference shares early. Assuming that the outstanding preference shares are not repurchased by the institutions, AIB and Bank of Ireland would each pay an annual coupon in arrears of €280m.

AIB are due to pay their coupon on 13th May 2010 in respect of the year 13th May 2009 to 13th May 2010 and as such they are expected to pay €280m on that date. This will also apply in respect of the same period in the years thereafter. As Bank of Ireland received the recapitalisation money on March 31st 2009 and are due to make their first payment on 20 February 2010, they are expected to pay their pro-rata share which is circa €249m. Thereafter, a full annual coupon would expect to be paid each year on 20 February.

Tax Yield.

Pat Breen

Question:

239 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Finance the amount of moneys collected from airport charges and taxes for 2006, 2007, 2008 and up to the end of September 2009 by airport in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34919/09]

In relation to airport charges, this is a policy matter in the first instance for my colleague the Minister for Transport, under whose aegis the State airports fall. I am informed by the Department of Transport that such charges are set for Dublin Airport by the independent regulator, the Commission for Aviation Regulation, and for Shannon and Cork airports by the companies themselves according to their assessment of what is commercially viable. These charges provide direct income streams for the State airports and the cumulative amount of revenue arising from them is published each year in the Dublin Airport Authority's annual report and financial statements.

In relation to airport taxes, it is assumed that the Deputy is referring to the air travel tax. The air travel tax was introduced with effect from 30 March 2009. I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the air travel tax arising from travel undertaken in any month is payable by airline operators by the 23rd of the following month. The yields from the air travel tax received in the period from May to September 2009, in respect of travel undertaken during the months April to August 2009 are as follows:

Month

€ (m)

May

9.6

June

11.5

July

11.9

August

12.5

September

12.4

Total

57.9

In addition to the monthly payments of the tax, each airline operator is required to furnish a detailed annual return to the Revenue Commissioners, which will include details of the number of departures liable at each rate of the tax. The first annual returns, covering the period 30 March to 31 December 2009, are due to be provided by 23 February 2010.

Pat Breen

Question:

240 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Finance the amount collected to date in 2009 from the €10 air travel tax; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34921/09]

Pat Breen

Question:

241 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Finance if each individual airport passes on the €10 air travel tax collected on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34923/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 240 and 241 together.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the air travel tax arising from travel undertaken in any month is payable by airline operators by the 23rd of the following month. The yields from the air travel tax received in the period from May to September 2009, in respect of travel undertaken during the months April to August 2009 are as follows:

Month

€m

May

9.6

June

11.5

July

11.9

August

12.5

September

12.4

Total

57.9

In addition to the monthly payments of the tax, each airline operator is required to furnish a detailed annul return to the Revenue Commissioners, which will include details of the number of departures liable at each rate of the tax. The first annual returns, covering the period 30 March to 31 December 2009, are due to be provided by 23 February 2010.

Departmental Bodies.

Niall Collins

Question:

242 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Finance if he has requested all chairpersons and members of boards and agencies under the aegis of his Department to take a reduction in their salary, fee or allowance; when this request was made to take effect; the amount or reduction requested; the boards and agencies which have complied with the request; when the remainder propose to comply; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34963/09]

On foot of a Government decision to reduce board fees by 10%, all Departments were advised in writing on 7 May of this year, authorising the implementation of the revised fee rates. Departments were also asked to bring the matter to the attention of all bodies under their aegis (which were listed in an accompanying appendix). The request was brought to the attention of all bodies under the aegis of my Department which were included on the Appendix to the 7 May letter. The following bodies have advised that they implemented the fee reductions as requested, with immediate effect:

Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland

Decentralisation Implementation Group

An Post National Lottery Company

Public Appointments Service.

I can also confirm that the Chairman of the National Treasury Management Agency Advisory Committee wrote to me on 23/02/09 informing me that the Committee had decided to take a 10% reduction in fees with effect from 1 March 2009.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

243 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Health and Children the status of an appeal regarding the reduction of rental supplement for a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34702/09]

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

Departmental Schemes.

Joan Burton

Question:

244 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Health and Children if her Department is taking part in the cycle to work scheme or plans to do so in the near future; the agencies and bodies under the aegis of her Department taking part in the cycle to work scheme and those which are not; and the impact the implementation of decentralisation will have on participation in the scheme. [34617/09]

My Department is taking part in the cycle to work scheme and a number of staff have already availed of the scheme. Decentralisation will have no impact on participation in the scheme as my Department is not scheduled to decentralise. The implementation of the scheme by agencies and bodies under the aegis of my Department is an operational matter for the bodies in question.

Health Services.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

245 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Health and Children if a case has been expedited in respect of persons (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34630/09]

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

Nursing Home Subventions.

Jack Wall

Question:

246 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the position of an application for a nursing home subvention payment in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34639/09]

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

Nursing Homes Support Scheme.

Richard Bruton

Question:

247 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children if the fair deal will apply to people who suffer from lifelong disabilities and require residential care; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34661/09]

The Minister announced on Monday that the Nursing Homes Support Scheme, A Fair Deal, will commence on the 27th October 2009. The scheme is a new system of financial support for individuals in public, voluntary and approved private nursing homes. The scheme is available to anyone assessed as needing long-term nursing home care regardless of their age. However, it does not cover long-term residential care in other settings.

In order to become approved for the purposes of the scheme, a private nursing home must:

a. be registered and subject to inspection by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA),

b. have agreed a price for the purposes of the scheme with the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF), and

c. hold a valid tax clearance certificate.

Finian McGrath

Question:

248 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9. [34701/09]

The Minister announced on Monday that the Nursing Homes Support Scheme will commence on the 27th October 2009.

The application form and information booklet for the scheme are now available to the public and may be obtained from the HSE. This will enable people to familiarise themselves with the application form and process, gather necessary information and generally prepare themselves so that they are ready to apply when the scheme is introduced.

In addition, the new care representative appointment process commenced from the 5th October. This allows people to apply to the Circuit Court for appointment as a care representative where they wish to apply for the Nursing Home Loan on behalf of an applicant with reduced capacity. The individuals referred to by the Deputy should contact the HSE for further information at this stage. The number for the HSE's Infoline is 1850 24 1850.

John Cregan

Question:

249 Deputy John Cregan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide the commencement date for the fair deal scheme. [34706/09]

The Minister announced on Monday that the Nursing Homes Support Scheme will commence on the 27th October 2009. The legislation providing for the scheme was signed into law on the 1st July 2009. Certain sections of the Act were commenced on the 3rd July to enable the National Treatment Purchase Fund to immediately begin price negotiations with private nursing homes. This work, which must be completed before the scheme can commence, is almost concluded.

As of the 5th October, the new care representative appointment process has commenced. This allows people to apply to the Circuit Court for appointment as a care representative where they wish to apply for the Nursing Home Loan on behalf of an applicant with reduced capacity.

In addition, the application form and information booklet for the scheme are now available to the public and may be obtained from the HSE. This will enable people to familiarise themselves with the application form and process, gather necessary information and generally prepare themselves so that they are ready to apply on the 27th October when the scheme is introduced.

Hospital Services.

Michael Creed

Question:

250 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the problem at Beaumont Hospital, Dublin, regarding the non-availability of paediatric anaesthetists which is giving rise to the cancellation of life saving neurosurgical appointments for young children; the interim solutions she envisages to overcome this problem while permanent positions are advertised and filled; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34733/09]

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

Michael Creed

Question:

251 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that an appointment for a person (details supplied) in County Cork was recently cancelled at Beaumont Hospital, Dublin, due to the non-availability of a consultant paediatric anaesthetist; when this surgical appointment will be rescheduled; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34734/09]

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

261 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Cork, who is in need of brain surgery, will receive treatment; the reason for the delay; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34926/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 251 and 261 together.

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

Medical Cards.

Jack Wall

Question:

252 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding a medical card renewal application for a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34816/09]

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

Inter-Country Adoptions.

Pat Breen

Question:

253 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 303 of 16 September 2009, if she will confirm that following receipt of the two reports referred to that she will sign a new bilateral agreement with Vietnam; when she expects this matter to be finalised; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34824/09]

In late August, I was made aware of two significant reports regarding child welfare, protection and adoption in Vietnam. The issues referred to in these two reports are of concern to the Government especially since they confirm anecdotal reports that have been aired in the past. Firstly, the Vietnamese Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, with technical assistance from UNICEF in Vietnam, published a report known as the ‘MoLISA Report' entitled "Creating a protective environment for children in Vietnam: An assessment of child protection laws and policies, especially children in special circumstances in Vietnam". The MoLISA report found that, inter alia:

there are no detailed principles or criteria to guide the assessment in Vietnam of prospective guardians, foster parents or substitute families for orphans;

there is no framework for the systematic, professional assessment of orphans and abandoned children to determine what type of placement would be in their best interest, and to ensure that they are matched with the most appropriate alternative family;

there is no clear requirement that decisions about alternative care be based on the child's best interest;

there is no clear statement in law that international adoptions shall be used only as a last resort, once all options for placement within the country have been considered;

there are no systematic procedures for ensuring that all efforts are made to find a suitable domestic family before consideration of international options;

there is no requirement that birth parents be given counselling and be clearly informed of the consequences of adoption prior to giving consent;

The Report contains a series of recommendations including, the need to:

reform the institutional care of orphaned and abandoned children in Vietnam;

provide counselling to birth parents prior to giving consent to adoption;

intensify preparations for accession to the Hague Convention on inter-country adoption;

centralise authority to consider and approve inter-country adoptions, and

stipulate that international adoptions may be considered only after all other options have been explored and, also, that the child cannot be placed into foster care or with a family or cannot, in any suitable manner, be cared for in Vietnam.

In addition to the MoLISA Report, I have recently received, in draft form, the report of an examination of inter-country adoption in Vietnam carried out by the International Social Services (ISS) — a UN-affiliated organisation. The Report was jointly commissioned by UNICEF and the Vietnamese Ministry of Justice and seeks, inter alia, to "identify and address problems in both domestic and inter-country adoption processes with a view to assisting Vietnam in its preparations to ratify the Hague Convention". I will be considering these two reports jointly. These reports go to the heart of the matter in relation to concerns relating to inter-country adoption in Vietnam. I would be failing in my duty to protect children if I did not acknowledge and consider the content of these reports extremely carefully before deciding on an appropriate response.

Medical Cards.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

254 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a medical card will issue in the case of persons (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34832/09]

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

Preschool Services.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

255 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children if additional funding will be provided for child care facilities to assist in the provision of the early childhood care and education scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34838/09]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

256 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason her Department chose to make additional funding to assist child care providers in the provision of the early childhood care and education scheme available under the top up funding that is being provided as a transitional agreement during the introduction of the ECCE scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34839/09]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

257 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on whether cognisance should be given to additional costs including rent or mortgages by private child care providers in the rollout of the early childhood care and education scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34840/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 255 to 257, inclusive, together.

As the Deputy will be aware, I have responsibility for the implementation of the new Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) scheme which provides a free Pre-School year to eligible children. In addition, my Office is also responsible for implementing the Community Childcare Subvention Scheme (CCSS) which supports community not- for- profit childcare services to enable them to provide childcare at reduced rates to disadvantaged and low income families.

Under the ECCE scheme, participating services will be paid a standard annual capitation fee of €2,450 in return for the provision of the free pre-school year. The payment will be made, in advance, at the beginning of each term. Services participating in the scheme should be satisfied that they will be in a position to meet all of their costs from the capitation provided and additional funding will not be provided where this is not the case. Participating services may charge parents for additional services, provided these are clearly optional and children not availing of such services continue to receive appropriate programme based provision.

A higher capitation rate of €75 per week (€2,850 p.a.) was announced in July of this year and will be available to sessional playschool services in which all childcare workers have qualification levels above the minimum requirements for the scheme. To qualify for the higher capitation rate all Pre-School leaders in the service must hold a level 7 or 8 qualification relating to childcare and have 3 years experience working in the sector, and all assistants must hold a relevant level 5 qualification.

It is considered that the capitation rates are reasonable and will accommodate the great majority of services. The scheme represents an investment of almost €170 million annually in pre-school services and in light of the current economic situation there are no proposals to increase this provision.

Community services participating in the CCSS may also choose to participate and receive funding under the ECCE scheme. Many services in the CCSS are eligible for a transitional funding rate in 2010 under which they will receive not less than 75% of the funding they received in 2007 under a previous support scheme. In most cases, the level of funding paid to community services in the CCSS has increased and, in the absence of the ECCE scheme in 2010, not more than 25% of services would have been expected to qualify for the transitional rate.

With the introduction of the additional funding programme, it is considered appropriate to take account of the total grant funding which this Office will pay to services when calculating any additional payments due under the transitional rate. The following is an example of how this will apply. A service which received €80,000 funding in 2007 and which qualifies in 2010 for subvention amounting to €50,000 would, in the absence of ECCE funding, receive €10,000 in transitional funding, bringing its total funding to €60,000. If the service qualifies for €19,600 in ECCE funding, it will receive €69,600 in total funding in 2010 rather than €60,000.

Hospital Services.

Willie Penrose

Question:

258 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will take steps to admit a person (details supplied) in County Longford for a dexa scan at the Midland Regional Hospital Mullingar, as he or she has been on the waiting list for almost a year now, and same is required in view of his or her medical condition; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34870/09]

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

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

259 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support a matter (details supplied). [34908/09]

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

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

260 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Kildare can expect to be called for a hip replacement operation at Tallaght Hospital. [34924/09]

I understand that the HSE has responded to the Deputy's previous question concerning this patient on 5 October.

Question No. 261 answered with Question No. 251.

Health Service Staff.

Thomas Byrne

Question:

262 Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children if approval has been sought by the Health Service Executive for the filling of four dentists’ posts in County Meath which is a majority of the current allocation of seven for the county; when such approval will be granted by her; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34928/09]

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

Departmental Bodies.

Niall Collins

Question:

263 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has requested all chairpersons and members of boards and agencies under the aegis of her Department to take a reduction in their salary, fee or allowance; when this request was made to take effect; the amount or reduction requested; the boards and agencies which have complied with the request; when the remainder propose to comply; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34965/09]

Agencies under the aegis of my Department were written to in May 2009 following Government approval of a 10% reduction in fees for non-executive chairpersons and members of boards. The reduction was with effect from 1 May 2009 and where an annual fee fell to be paid for a period encompassing a period from 1 May onwards, a pro-rata reduction was to be calculated. Agencies were advised to contact my Department with any queries in relation to the application of the reduction but, as is normal practice, were not required to specifically notify my Department when the reductions had been implemented as this is an operational matter for the agencies concerned.

Departmental Schemes.

Joan Burton

Question:

264 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Transport if his Department is taking part in the cycle to work scheme or plans to do so in the near future; the agencies and bodies under the aegis of his Department taking part in the cycle to work scheme and those which are not; and the impact the implementation of decentralisation will have on participation in the scheme. [34621/09]

I wish to advise the Deputy that the cycle to work scheme is fully operational in my Department. The scheme is available to all staff in each geographical location of the Department, therefore the implementation of decentralisation will not impact on any staff member wishing to avail of the cycle to work scheme. As this initiative is an optional scheme, the implementation of the scheme in the agencies under the remit of my Department is a matter for decision by those agencies.

Public Transport.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

265 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Transport if a system of electronic information signage indicating public transport services will be introduced at bus stops; if he will fund a project to provide electronic information signage at heavily used bus stops in urban areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34636/09]

Deirdre Clune

Question:

266 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Transport his views on a system of electronic information signage for the bus service; if a system which provides public transport users with detailed timetable information should be a priority to improve public transport services and encourage the use of public transport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34637/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 265 and 266 together.

My Department has approved funding of €5.8 million to enable Dublin City Council to undertake the installation of Real Time Passenger Information (RTPI) Display signs and an RTPI system in the Greater Dublin Area. These RTPI displays will be located at 500 selected bus stops or interchange points in the GDA. The choice of bus stops that signs will be allocated to is a matter for Dublin City Council. I understand that Dublin City Council will be issuing a tender for the signs shortly and the system will be delivered during 2010. The future extension of RTPI will be contingent on a review of the operation and impact of this scheme and the level of funding available to my Department in the current economic climate.

Rural Transport Services.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

267 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Transport the future of the rural transport scheme; if it will continue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34696/09]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Dáil Question No. 588 which was answered on 6 October 2009.

Road Network.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

268 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport the reason he asked the National Roads Authority to take over some of the management functions of the non-national roads from the Department of Transport; the reason this was done on a non-statutory basis; if he will explain the management functions of the non-national roads for which the NRA is now responsible and if there are any fiscal implications for this new role; the way the NRA will interact with his Department and local authorities in carrying out the new management functions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34705/09]

From 1 September last, the National Roads Authority was tasked to undertake the management of the Regional and Local Roads Grants Programme on behalf of my Department. This decision was taken on grounds of administrative efficiency, particularly in circumstances where there is increasing pressure on staffing and financial resources. It makes sense to use one organisation to administer all road grant payments and to monitor the expenditure of these road grants. The NRA already had very effective systems in place to administer the national road improvement and maintenance programme and it was therefore concluded that the most logical and efficient approach was to use that NRA expertise to administer regional and local road grants as well. The new arrangement was concluded on an administrative basis so as not to affect my statutory role or that of the local authorities in any way. The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads is the statutory responsibility of road authorities under section 13 of the Roads Act 1993. This statutory position is not affected by the new administrative arrangements. The NRA is not being given any new statutory powers similar to those it has in relation to national roads.

Under section 82 of the Roads Act the Minister for Transport is empowered to pay grants to road authorities and under this power I allocate regional and local road grants to these authorities each year to supplement expenditure from their own resources. This power is also unaffected by the revised administrative arrangements. I will still continue to decide on grants policy and on the grant allocations to each individual roads authority. Because there is no change in my statutory power I will also continue to be accountable to the Oireachtas as at present. In particular I want to confirm that I will continue to reply to Parliamentary Questions on regional and local road grants. There are no financial implications as a result of the change. Regional and local road grants will be paid to the NRA as a block grant and disbursed by it to local authorities in accordance with the allocations I have decided. The management role of the NRA is set out in the Agreement and I have arranged that a copy of the Agreement will be sent to the Deputy.

Departmental Properties.

John Deasy

Question:

269 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Transport the cost to the Exchequer for the rental or lease of property for his Department in Waterford city in each of the past five years; the individual units involved; and the rental cost of each building. [34901/09]

The Department of Transport does not currently have any offices in Waterford City. Prior to the establishment of the Road Safety Authority in 2006, one of the Department's driving test centres was located in Waterford City. Rental costs associated with this facility were discharged by the Office of Public Works and I am arranging for that office to forward details of the costs involved directly to the Deputy.

John Deasy

Question:

270 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Transport the cost to the Exchequer for the rental or lease of property for Bus Éireann in Waterford city in each of the past five years; the individual units involved; and the rental cost of each building. [34902/09]

John Deasy

Question:

271 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Transport the cost to the Exchequer for the rental or lease of property for Iarnród Éireann in Waterford city in each of the past five years; the individual units involved; and the rental cost of each building. [34903/09]

John Deasy

Question:

272 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Transport the cost to the Exchequer for the rental or lease of property for the CIE Group in Waterford city in each of the past five years; the individual units involved; and the rental cost of each building. [34904/09]

I propose to answer Questions Nos. 270 to 272, inclusive, together.

I am advised by CIE that it is not aware of any costs to the Exchequer for rental or lease of property in Waterford City over the past five years.

John Deasy

Question:

273 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Transport the cost to the Exchequer for the rental or lease of property for the Port of Waterford Company in Waterford city in each ofthe past five years; the individual units involved; and the rental cost of each building. [34905/09]

This is a day-to-day matter for the Port of Waterford Company, which is liable for the cost of the rental or leasing of any property for the company.

Departmental Bodies.

Niall Collins

Question:

274 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Transport if he has requested all chairpersons and members of boards and agencies under the aegis of his Department to take a reduction in their salary, fee or allowance; when this request was made to take effect; the amount or reduction requested; the boards and agencies which have complied with the request; when the remainder propose to comply; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34968/09]

A 10% reduction in the fees payable to all chairpersons and members of boards under the aegis of my Department was implemented with effect from 1 May 2009 in accordance with a Department of Finance instruction.

Departmental Schemes.

Joan Burton

Question:

275 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his Department is taking part in the cycle to work scheme or plans to do so in the near future; the agencies and bodies under the aegis of his Department taking part in the cycle to work scheme and those which are not; and the impact the implementation of decentralisation will have on participation in the scheme. [34618/09]

The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and all bodies under its aegis are participating in the cycle to work scheme which is available to all employees, regardless of location. It is unlikely that decentralisation will have any significant impact on the implementation of the scheme.

Garda Deployment.

Finian McGrath

Question:

276 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a matter (details supplied) will be supported. [34717/09]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the area referred to is within the Clontarf Garda sub-district. I am further advised that local Garda management is aware of the difficulties that anti-social activity behaviour is causing in this area. The area referred to is patrolled by uniform and plain-clothes units, including the local community policing and garda mountain bike units, which pay particular attention to incidences of public disorder and anti-social behaviour in the area. Patrols are also supplemented by the district detective and drugs units, the divisional crime task force and traffic corps personnel. Garda records indicate that regular searches of people and vehicles are carried out in this area. To date in 2009, 391 searches of people have been conducted in the Clontarf Garda sub-district, 48 of which were carried out in the area referred to. In addition, there have been 71 detections of offences of possession of drugs for personal use, 16 of which were recorded in the area referred to, with an additional two offences of possession of drugs with intent to supply. Complaints in relation to public disorder and other anti-social type behaviours which are received by the Garda Síochána are investigated and offenders dealt with by means of adult or juvenile caution, fixed charge penalty notice, or the initiating of criminal proceedings. Current policing plans in the area are designed to address issues of crime and public order offences and maintain an environment conducive to the improvement of quality of life of the residents of the area. This strategy is and will continue to be central to the delivery of a policing service to the area in question. Local Garda management closely monitors the operational strategies in place, along with local crime trends and the policing needs of the community. This is to ensure optimum use is made of resources and the best possible Garda service is provided to the public. The situation will be kept under review and paramount consideration will continue to be given to the needs of residents.

Citizenship Applications.

Brian Hayes

Question:

277 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of an application by a person (details supplied) in Dublin 1 for a certificate of naturalisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34719/09]

A valid 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 February 2006. I decided not to grant a certificate of naturalisation and the reason for refusal was disclosed to the applicant in a letter dated 2 July 2009. It is open to the person in question to lodge a new application if and when she is in a position to satisfy the statutory requirements. However, in doing so she should bear in mind the reasons for refusal of her previous application.

Brian Hayes

Question:

278 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will request the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service to correctly spell the name of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3 on the certificate of naturalisation. [34720/09]

A valid 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 2006. I decided to grant a certificate of naturalisation and the person in question was informed of this in a letter issued to him on 29 July 2009. The name that appears on a certificate of naturalisation, except in the case of a married woman, will be that which appears on the birth certificate as submitted by the person concerned.

Drug Offences.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

279 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of convictions secured under section 15 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1984 in 2008 and to date in 2009; the number of those convicted each year who were given a mandatory ten-year jail sentence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34721/09]

In relation to the first part of the Deputy's question, the Garda Síochána Act 2005 makes provision for the compilation and publication of crime statistics by the Central Statistics Office, as the national statistical agency, and the CSO has established a dedicated unit for this purpose. I have requested the CSO to provide the statistics sought by the Deputy directly to him. I refer to the second part of the Deputy's Question and wish to advise that my Department does not compile statistics in relation to sentencing as this is a matter for the Courts Service which under the Courts Service Act 1998 is independent in the performance of its functions including the management of the courts and the provision of statistics. The operation of the provision in question is subject to review.

Temporary Release of Prisoners.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

280 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of prisoners who were given temporary release in 2008 and to date in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34722/09]

Charles Flanagan

Question:

281 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of prisoners who were given early release in 2008 and to date in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34723/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 280 and 281 together.

It is not possible to provide figures regarding temporary release to the Deputy in the format requested as this would require the manual examination of records going back over a considerable time period. Such an examination would require a disproportionate and inordinate amount of staff time and effort and could not be justified in current circumstances where there are other significant demands on resources. There is no provision for "early release"per se. I am informed by the Irish Prison Service that the number of prisoners on temporary release on 5 October 2009 was 609. This represented 13% of the overall prisoner population for this day. By contrast, the equivalent percentage of prisoners on temporary release for the years 1994 to 1997 was as follows: 1994, 22.2%; 1995, 20.2%; 1996, 17.9%; and 1997, 19.2%. The Criminal Justice Act 1960, as amended by the Criminal Justice (Temporary Release of Prisoners) Act 2003 provides that the Minister may approve the temporary release of a sentenced prisoner. This discretionary instrument assists in gradually preparing suitable offenders for release, in administering short sentences, in addressing humanitarian issues and can be an incentive to well-behaved prisoners. It should be noted that a prisoner on temporary release is still subject to his or her sentence and may be returned to prison without any court intervention. Temporary release arrangements are an important vehicle for re-integrating an offender into the community in a planned way. It is generally accepted that the risk to the community is reduced by planned re-integration of offenders compared with their return to the community on the completion of their full sentence. Each case is examined on its own merits and the safety of the public is paramount when decisions are made. In addition, all releases are subject to conditions, which in the vast majority of cases include a requirement to report on a regular basis to the offender’s Garda station. Of course, any offender who breaches his or her conditions may be arrested and returned to prison immediately by the gardaí.

Prison Staff.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

282 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of psychologists currently appointed to the Irish Prison Service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34724/09]

Charles Flanagan

Question:

283 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of psychologists working on the sex offenders programme in prisons here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34725/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 282 and 283 together.

The Psychology service has an authorised staff complement of 21, comprising one head of psychology, six senior psychologists, 11 psychologists and three psychology assistants. Of this staff, five are assigned to Arbour Hill, five are assigned to Wheatfield Prison and three to the Midlands Prison. Arbour Hill is the designated centre for delivery of a new programme of sex offender interventions introduced in January 2009. Wheatfield Prison and Midlands Prison are satellite centres for sex offenders and also deliver a range of interventions. The Psychology service offers group and individual interventions to all prisoners. Sex offenders can avail of these interventions in addition to the new programme available in Arbour Hill. Group interventions include programmes on motivational enhancement, relapse prevention, anxiety management, dialectical behaviour therapy, stress management, enhanced thinking skills and anger control. Individual interventions comprise therapeutic work focusing on mental health care and offence-related issues, motivational counselling and crisis counselling.

Sex Offender Treatment Programme.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

284 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of places available annually on the sex offenders programme in prisons here; the number of prisoners who completed the programme in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008; the number who have completed the programme in 2009 or are in the process of completing the programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34726/09]

As the Deputy will be aware, on 22 April 2009 I announced a new policy on the management of sex offenders in prison. The new policy document is available on the website of the Irish Prison Service (www.irishprisons.ie). The policy is aimed at bringing about changes in offenders' lives that reduce the risk of re-offending and enhance public protection. It forms an integral part of the wider range of interventions by criminal justice and community-based agencies.

A new programme of group interventions commenced in January 2009, replacing the Sex Offender Programme initiated in 1994 and concluded last year. The programme, "Building Better Lives", is available in Arbour Hill Prison. It comprises three modules: "Exploring Better Lives", "Practising Better Lives", and "Maintaining Better Lives".

The programme allows more responsive and flexible delivery of rehabilitation services to a greater number of offenders. The interventions take greater account of individual risk, needs and capacity, with higher risk offenders, for example, spending longer on offence-based work where necessary.

It is expected that the programme will be fully operational by end 2010 and will deliver interventions with up to 60 offenders each year. To date, thirteen offenders have completed the first module and another eight offenders are currently participating. One offender has completed the second module while eight offenders have commenced it.

With regard to the Sex Offender Programme which ran from 1994 to 2008, eight offenders completed the programme in 2005, eight offenders in 2006, seven offenders in 2007 and eight offenders in 2008. This intensive programme took eleven months to complete and over its lifetime a total of 136 sex offenders completed the programme.

Prison-based therapeutic interventions with convicted sex offenders also include one-to-one interventions, interventions by approved in-reach services and interventions available to prisoners generally.

Crime Levels.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

285 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of prisoners convicted of possessing, using or supplying a mobile telecommunications device in prison in 2008 and to date in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34727/09]

Statistics in relation to court convictions is a matter for the Courts Service, which under the Courts Service Act, 1998 is independent in the performance of its functions.

Section 36 of the Prisons Act 2007, which was brought into operation on 1 May, 2007, makes it an offence for prisoners to have unauthorised possession of or use of mobile telecommunication devices. Under the Act it is also an offence to supply such a device to a prisoner. The penalties for such an offence, on summary conviction, include a fine not exceeding €5,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or both, and on conviction on indictment, to a fine not exceeding €10,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years or both. It is Irish Prison Service policy to report and hand over seizures of mobile phones to the Gardaí.

Since the inception of the legislation 65 people have received prison sentences arising from committing this offence. On 25th September, 2009, (the latest date for which statistics of this nature are currently available from the Irish Prison Service) there were 7 people serving custodial sentences for this offence.

Cell and area searches for contraband such as mobile phones take place in all prisons on a daily basis. These include random, targeted and intelligence led searches. These searches have been particularly effective and local intelligence indicates that the availability of mobile phones has decreased across the prison system. Details of mobile seizures are set out in the table below and it is important to note that a large percentage of these seizures are not directly from prisoners but are instead retrieved at entry point or before they get to the prisoner population. This is as a direct consequence of newly introduced security measures. Airport style scanners and x-ray machines are in operation at the entrances of all the relevant closed prisons. Details of mobile seizures for 2008 and recent figures for 2009 are set out in the table below.

Prison/Place of Detention

2008

2009 (to 31 August 2009)

Arbour Hill

3

2

Castlerea

106

58

Cloverhill

128

31

Cork

64

33

Dóchas Centre

55

37

Limerick

292

267

Loughan House

58

51

Midlands

136

62

Mountjoy (Male)

580

680

Portlaoise

41

103

Shelton Abbey

72

41

St. Patrick’s Institution

160

65

Training Unit

120

89

Wheatfield

232

166

Total

2,047

1,685

Prison Building Programme.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

286 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the amount of money expended on the Thornton Hall project to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34728/09]

A total of €41.8m, the bulk of which relates to the cost of the site, which was largely offset by the sale of surplus prison lands at Shanganagh, County Dublin has been expended to end August 2009 on site acquisition costs, professional fees, site preparation and engineering surveys, landscaping and security work. As is the case with all major infrastructure projects a comprehensive set of geological, engineering and archaeological surveys were conducted at the site. These essential preliminary site surveys will help to reduce the overall construction programme once a contract is signed.

In June of this year the Government re-affirmed its commitment to developing a new prison campus at Thornton Hall, Kilsallaghan, County Dublin and approved the launching of a new tendering process for the construction of a more affordable and better value prison campus at Thornton. The aim is to provide good quality, regime focussed accommodation with appropriate support and rehabilitation facilities to prepare prisoners for re-integration back into society. The new facility will provide accommodation for 1,400 prisoners with operational flexibility to accommodate up to 2,200 prisoners in a range of security settings.

The development will now proceed on a phased basis with Phase one comprising essential basic preliminary works required for the development including the construction of the access route and perimeter wall. It is intended that this work will proceed in the short term on the basis of separate contracts. The tender documentation and scope of works are currently being drafted. It is anticipated that work on Phase one will commence towards the end of this year or early next year.

While Phase one work is in progress the procurement process for the buildings and other facilities that will make up the new prison campus will be examined and finalised in accordance with the Department of Finance guidelines for capital projects. The objective is to complete the design and procurement process for the main prison complex while the construction of the phase one work is underway. While an outline design plan has been prepared, work is ongoing on more detailed design plans which are required for the tendering process. The two phase approach means that once a contract is signed for Phase two -the main prison development — the fact that the preliminary works envisaged by Phase one will have already have been completed will allow for construction to commence immediately on the main prison buildings within a secured perimeter.

The development of the new prison campus at Thornton Hall is a complex project which is governed by Department of Finance and EU procurement guidelines. The guidelines set out a range of actions that must take place prior to inviting tenders for the project. The Irish Prison Service is being assisted in this work by the National Development Finance Agency. It is intended to invite tenders for the construction of the Phase 2 — the main prison development — next year. I would expect the new prison to be operational within 3 years of the signing of a contract for Phase 2.

Crime Prevention.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

287 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of anti-social behaviour orders served since the relevant legislation was introduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34729/09]

Part 11 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006, which provides for civil proceedings in relation to anti-social behaviour by adults, was commenced on 1 January, 2007. Part 13 of the Act, which relates to anti-social behaviour by children, was commenced on 1 March, 2007. These provisions set out an incremental procedure for addressing anti-social behaviour by adults and children. With regard to children, these range from a warning from a member of An Garda Síochána, to a good behaviour contract involving the child and his or her parents or guardian, to referral to the Garda Juvenile Diversion Programme and finally to the making of a behaviour order by the Children's Court.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that, up to 30 September, 2009, 1,378 behaviour warnings were issued to adults and 1,025 to children. In addition, three civil orders (in respect of adults) and three behaviour orders (in respect of children) have been issued by the courts.

In setting up the regime the intention was that these interventions — warnings, good behaviour contracts and referrals to the Juvenile Diversion Programme — would address the problem behaviour. It is only if they fail that a court order will be applied for. Conversely, if they succeed, there will be no need to apply to the courts for an order. Where warnings or good behaviour contracts do not succeed in altering a person's behaviour, however, they will culminate in ASBOs being sought by the Garda authorities from the courts.

Departmental Contracts.

John Cregan

Question:

288 Deputy John Cregan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if there is a tendering process currently in place for taxis and hackneys used by members of An Garda Síochána when transporting prisoners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34732/09]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that they have a tendering process in place when setting up contracts for the transport of detained persons in Garda Divisions or Districts. Tenders over €16,500 in value are advertised on the E-tenders web site and, where the value exceeds €133,000, are also advertised in the Official Journal of the EU. Contracts under €16,500 are put in place following sealed bids or faxed tenders. The Garda authorities have put in place a number of contracts around the country for the provision of this service.

Asylum Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

289 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34829/09]

I refer the Deputy to Parliamentary Question No. 169 of Thursday, 12 March, 2009 and the written Reply to that Question.

The person concerned applied for asylum on 10 January 2005. In accordance with Section 9 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended), the person concerned was entitled to remain in the State until her application for asylum was decided. 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.

Arising from the refusal of her asylum application, and in accordance with the provisions of Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was notified, by letter dated 26 October 2005, 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 a Deportation Order should not be made against her. Representations have been received on behalf of the person concerned. The position in the State of the person concerned will now be decided by reference to the provisions of 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. All representations submitted will be considered before the file is passed to me for decision. Once a decision has been made, this decision and the consequences of the decision will be conveyed in writing to the person concerned.

Deportation Orders.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

290 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will reconsider an order for deportation in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Monaghan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34830/09]

The person concerned applied for asylum on 21 November 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.

The person concerned was informed, by letter dated 24 October 2008, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of her. She was given three options in accordance with Section 3(3)(b)(ii) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), to be exercised within 15 working days. Namely, to leave the State voluntarily, to consent to the making of a Deportation Order or to make representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why she should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State i.e. why she should not be deported.

By correspondence dated 9 July 2009, an application for Subsidiary Protection was made on behalf of the person concerned by her legal representative. Following consideration of the information submitted, the application was refused. The person concerned and her legal representative were notified of this decision by letter dated 1 September 2009.

Her 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 her behalf by her legal representative for permission to remain in the State. On 2 September 2009, I refused permission to remain temporarily in the State and instead signed a Deportation Order in respect of her. Notice of this order was served by registered post requiring the person concerned to leave the State by 3 October 2009 or failing that, present herself at the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) 13-14 Burgh Quay, Dublin 2 on 6 October 2009 in order to make travel arrangements for her removal from the State.

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

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

291 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34831/09]

The person concerned applied for asylum on 7 March 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.

The person concerned was informed, by letter dated 22 September 2004, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given three options in accordance with Section 3(3)(b)(ii) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), to be exercised within 15 working days. Namely, to leave the State voluntarily, to consent to the making of a Deportation Order or to make 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.

His case was 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 10 December 2004, the then Minister 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 requiring him to ‘present' to the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB), 13-14 Burgh Quay, Dublin 2, on 20 January, 2005, in order to make travel arrangements for his deportation from the State. The person concerned failed to ‘present' as requested and was classified as evading his deportation.

On 28 August 2007, the legal representative of the person concerned lodged an application for Subsidiary Protection pursuant to the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006 — Statutory Instrument No. 518 of 2006. The legal representative of the person concerned was invited to make an application under Regulation 4(2) of the aforesaid Regulations setting out any new facts or circumstances relevant to the person concerned or his country of origin which had arisen since the original decision to deport was made and which related to a possible entitlement to Subsidiary Protection. This application was considered and refused. The person concerned and his legal representative were notified of this decision by letter dated 8 August 2009.

The legal representative of the person concerned also lodged a request for revocation of the Deportation Order pursuant to Section 3(11) of the Immigration Act, 1999, (as amended). The application was refused and the Deportation Order was affirmed. The person concerned and his legal representative were notified of this decision by letter dated 8 August 2009.

The person concerned was notified by letter dated 8 August 2009 of the requirement that he present himself at the Offices of the Garda National Immigration Bureau on 8 September 2009 in order to make arrangements for his removal from the State. He failed to present and was classified as evading his deportation. Should he come to the notice of the Gardaí, he would be liable to arrest and detention. He should, therefore, present himself to the GNIB without any further delay.

I am satisfied that the applications made by the person concerned for asylum 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.

Citizenship Applications.

Jack Wall

Question:

292 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding an application for naturalisation by a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34868/09]

A valid 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 July 2006.

All valid applications are dealt with in chronological order as this is deemed to be the fairest to all applicants.The average processing time from application to decision is now at 24 months. More complicated cases can at times take more than the current average, while an element of straight forward cases can be dealt with in less than that timescale. Officials in the Citizenship Division inform me that an explanation for a discrepancy between the information given by the person in question on his Form 8 and the information contained on the birth affidavit submitted was requested from the person concerned on 17 September, 2009 and to date this explanation has not been received. On receipt of the documentation requested further processing of the application will continue.

The length of time taken to process each application should not be classified as a delay, as the length of time taken for any application to be decided is purely a function of the time taken to carry out necessary checks.

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 it is not undervalued and is only given to persons who genuinely satisfy the necessary qualifying criteria.

Departmental Properties.

John Deasy

Question:

293 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the cost to the Exchequer for the rental or lease of property for the Legal Aid Board in Waterford City in each of the past five years; the individual units involved and the cost of each building. [34896/09]

I have had enquiries made and I am informed by the Legal Aid Board that it leases an office property at Canada House, Canada Street, Waterford. I am also informed that the total rent for this property is €260,000 for the past 5 years (2005-2009 inclusive).

Departmental Bodies.

Niall Collins

Question:

294 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has requested all chairpersons and members of boards and agencies under the aegis of his Department to take a reduction in their salary, fee or allowance; when this request was made to take effect; the amount or reduction requested; the boards and agencies which have complied with the request; when the remainder propose to comply; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34966/09]

I can inform the Deputy that all agencies within the remit of my Department were asked to comply with the Department of Finance circular dated 7 May 2009 directing the ten per cent reduction in fees to Chairpersons and members of State Boards retrospectively with effect from 1 May 2009.

My Department has confirmed to the Department of Finance that all of its agencies have complied with this circular.

Departmental Schemes.

Joan Burton

Question:

295 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his Department is taking part in the cycle-to-work scheme or plans to do so in the near future; the agencies and bodies under the aegis of his Department taking part in the cycle-to-work scheme and those which are not; and the impact the implementation of decentralisation will have on participation in the scheme. [34616/09]

The Finance (No. 2) Act 2008 provided for the introduction of an exemption from income tax in respect of a benefit-in-kind arising from a bicycle or associated safety equipment being supplied by an employer to an employee for the purposes of commuting to work.

My Department is implementing the Cycle to Work Scheme and, thus far, seventeen officers have applied to avail of this tax exemption.

The decentralisation to Limerick of the Development Cooperation Division of my Department has not had any impact on participation in the Cycle to Work Scheme; five of the applications received to date have been from officers based in Limerick.

There are no Government agencies under the remit of the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Diplomatic Representation.

Richard Bruton

Question:

296 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has taken up a case (details supplied) with the Hungarian authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34730/09]

I have been following developments closely in the case mentioned by the Deputy for the past twenty one months. The case involves the abduction of the child of an Irish citizen. My officials, both in Dublin and in the Embassy in Budapest have been in regular contact with the Irish citizen concerning this case. Diplomatic staff in our Embassy in Budapest, have met with the relevant authorities in Hungary on numerous occasions to raise our concerns.

Following the completion of legal proceedings in Hungary in July 2009, a bailiff was granted powers including police assistance to enforce an Order of the Hungarian High Court compelling the ex-wife to hand over the child to her father. On 29 July, when the bailiff went to a house in the village of Boconad in order to enforce the Order, he found that the mother had absconded with the child. Diplomatic staff from our Embassy and the Embassy of France in Budapest were present in Boconad on that occasion to observe proceedings and provide consular assistance.

The Hungarian authorities subsequently issued a search warrant in respect of the child's mother but to date she or the child have not been found. The Embassy is maintaining close contact with the Hungarian police.

I recently wrote to the Hungarian Foreign Minister and urged that the Hungarian authorities take all appropriate action to locate the child with a view to enforcing the Court Order. I am now awaiting a reply to this letter.

I have also been in contact with my French counterpart Mr. Bernard Kouchner concerning this case.

I can assure the Deputy I will continue to give a high priority to the supporting the Irish citizen in question.

Departmental Bodies.

Niall Collins

Question:

297 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has requested all chairpersons and members of boards and agencies under the aegis of his Department to take a reduction in their salary, fee or allowance; when this request was made to take effect; the amount or reduction requested; the boards and agencies which have complied with the request; when the remainder propose to comply; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34964/09]

There are no state agencies operating under the responsibility of my Department. However, there are currently three bodies; two Advisory Committees and one Educational Commission, which operate under the aegis of my Department. All members serving on these bodies do so in a voluntary capacity and are not in receipt of a salary or fee.

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 policy regarding development education. All committee members serve in a voluntary capacity.

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. All committee members serve in a voluntary capacity.

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. As Minister for Foreign Affairs, I have some statutory obligations in regard to this organisation, including the appointment of four members of the eight-member Commission, who serve in a voluntary capacity.

Departmental Schemes.

Joan Burton

Question:

298 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if his Department is taking part in the cycle-to-work scheme or plans to do so in the near future; the agencies and bodies under the aegis of his Department taking part in the cycle-to-work scheme and those which are not; and the impact the implementation of decentralisation will have on participation in the scheme. [34608/09]

The Department is currently taking part in the cycle to work scheme. There are no implications for participation in the scheme as a result of the decentralisation process.

The operation of the scheme by the agencies under the aegis of the Department is a day to day matter for the agencies themselves.

Departmental Properties.

John Deasy

Question:

299 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the cost to the Exchequer for the rental or lease of property for his Department in Waterford city in each of the past five years; the individual units involved; and the rental cost of each building. [34879/09]

There was no cost to the Exchequer for rental or lease of property by the Department in Waterford City in the past five years.

John Deasy

Question:

300 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the cost to the Exchequer for the rental or lease of property for Fáilte Ireland in Waterford city in each of the past five years; the individual units involved; and the rental cost of each building. [34880/09]

I have set out as follows, in tabular format, the information requested by the Deputy in relation to the five years 2004 to 2008 together with the current year to date.

Property/Purpose/Status

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009 (to date)

1 The Quay, Waterford HQ of Fáilte Ireland South East Freehold since 1992

N/a

N/a

N/a

N/a

N/a

N/a

The Granary, Waterford Tourist Information Office Leasehold since 1994

88.50

88.50

88.50

88.50

88.50

88.50

Tycor Business Centre Training Centre Leasehold from 01/06/01 – terminated September 2008

60,500

60,500

68,666

76,835

57,626

Waterford Institute of Technology Training Centre Leasehold from September 2008 for 4 years 9 months

27,047

60,857

Waterford Crystal Tourist Information Office Yearly Licence Agreement

10.00

10.00

10.00

10.00

10.00

10.00

Note: The above figures are inclusive of VAT.

Departmental Bodies.

Niall Collins

Question:

301 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he has requested all chairpersons and members of boards and agencies under the aegis of his Department to take a reduction in their salary, fee or allowance; when this request was made to take effect; the amount or reduction requested; the boards and agencies which have complied with the request; when the remainder propose to comply; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34956/09]

The Government approved a reduction of 10% in the fees for non-executive chairpersons and members of boards of state bodies with effect from 1 May 2009. The Department informed all relevant bodies accordingly and all these bodies are obliged to comply with this requirement.

Departmental Programmes.

Noel Coonan

Question:

302 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his plans to integrate the local development social inclusion programme and the community development programme; the consultation his Department has had with community development projects; the reason for the delay in consultation which has effectively left staff in the dark; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34660/09]

The LDSIP and the CDP are my Departments two main social inclusion/community development programmes. Both have a community development element and both are delivered through separate local delivery structures.

I have already indicated that my clear view is that a single focused programme with a single integrated delivery structure is now needed in order to maximise the impact of these two programmes which serve disadvantaged communities. The Centre for Effective Services is currently preparing proposals for me in this regard, which will draw on good international practice and independent advice. I hope to receive this in the near future with a view to rolling out a new programme early next year.

My overall aim is to ensure that, from 2010, disadvantaged communities will benefit from a more focussed programme with clear objectives and simplified and streamlined delivery structures.

I wish to remind the Deputy that the Department has no role in the internal operations of community development projects or partnership companies and therefore does not have a role in relation to staff matters, which are a matter for the Boards of the companies as the employer.

Since its inception, my Department has consulted widely with all relevant stakeholders in relation to its programmes, as appropriate.

Departmental Schemes.

Joan Burton

Question:

303 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if his Department is taking part in the cycle-to-work scheme or plans to do so in the near future; the agencies and bodies under the aegis of his Department taking part in the cycle-to-work scheme and those which are not; and the impact the implementation of decentralisation will have on participation in the scheme. [34610/09]

I can confirm to the Deputy that my Department is taking part in the cycle to work scheme and a total of 7 staff have availed of the scheme to date. The evidence shows that the implementation of decentralisation in my Department has had no impact on participation in the scheme, with participation in the scheme arising in each of my Department's offices in Tubbercurry, Na Forbacha and Dublin.

The information requested by the Deputy in relation to the operation of the cycle to work scheme in the bodies and agencies that are funded from within my Department's Vote Group is reflected in the following table.

Agencies and bodies taking part in the cycle to work scheme

Agencies and bodies planning to take part in the cycle to work scheme

Agencies and bodies not taking part in the cycle to work scheme at present

Western Development Commission

Údarás na Gaeltachta

Waterways Ireland

Oifig an Choimisinéir Teanga

Foras na Gaeilge

Ulster-Scots Agency

Office of the Commission of Charitable Donations and Bequests

Michael Creed

Question:

304 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the details of a scheme which compensates farmers for allowing walkers access their property; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34648/09]

My Department operates a Walks Scheme for the development, enhancement and maintenance of waymarked ways and priority walks. It does not operate, as the Deputy suggests, on the basis of compensating farmers for allowing access to walkers — rather, it provides for limited payments to landowners for carrying out essential maintenance works on trails crossing their properties.

This Scheme has been developed within my Department in consultation with Comhairle na Tuaithe. It was introduced in 2008, and currently operates on 18 trails.

This is the first managed maintenance programme for walks and trails and the evidence is that the Scheme is working very well. In this context, the Deputy should note that there is a significantly higher standard of maintenance on trails where the Scheme is in operation.

Figures provided by Fáilte Ireland are very encouraging with over 500,000 walkers visiting Ireland in 2008. These figures also indicate that the numbers of walkers visiting the country are increasing year-on-year, despite the difficulties in some areas of tourism. This is particularly welcome news as it justifies the efforts to date in developing this natural resource and demonstrates conclusively the economic arguments in favour of encouraging walkers to visit Ireland.

Security of the Elderly.

Michael Creed

Question:

305 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when he will restart the community support for older people scheme which is currently suspended; the way this scheme will differ from the previous community support scheme for older people; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34649/09]

I would refer the Deputy to my reply to questions numbered 121, 158 and 162 on 6 October 2009.

National Drugs Strategy.

Finian McGrath

Question:

306 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if a matter (details supplied) will be supported. [34716/09]

As the Deputy will be aware, the majority of expenditure allocated to community groups and projects through my Department for drugs initiatives is channelled though the Local and Regional Drugs Task Forces.

The Project in question was initially funded by my Department, through Dublin North East LDTF. It has since been mainstreamed to the HSE and I understand that it is in receipt of €320,100 from that organisation in 2009.

The project has also applied for Dormant Accounts Family Support funding and capital funding under the Premises Initiative in 2009. The Dormant Accounts funding of €6,000 is in the process of being drawn down and the capital funding application of €3,600 is currently being considered by the Office of the Minister for Drugs (OMD).

The project also applied through the Task Force for funding for a Rehabilitation Manager. Funding of €60,000 p.a. has recently been approved by the OMD and this will facilitate the increased rehabilitative potential of the project through the development of an enhanced case management system with increased tracking of the progression of service users.

Departmental Expenditure.

Finian McGrath

Question:

307 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the position in relation to a matter (details supplied). [34906/09]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Questions Nos. 121, 126, 128, 137, 139, 143, 147 and 159 on 6 October 2009.

Departmental Bodies.

Niall Collins

Question:

308 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he has requested all chairpersons and members of boards and agencies under the aegis of his Department to take a reduction in their salary, fee or allowance; when this request was made to take effect; the amount or reduction requested; the boards and agencies which have complied with the request; when the remainder propose to comply; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34958/09]

At its meeting on 5 May 2009, the Government approved the application from 1st May 2009 of revised fees for the non-executive chairpersons and members of the boards of State bodies, which were to be 10% lower than the fees that applied until 30th April 2009. An instruction in this regard issued from my Department on the 11th May.

The relevant bodies have fully complied with the Government decision.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

309 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the progress made to date on the transfer of the community welfare service to her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34866/09]

The Government decided in February 2006 that the Community Welfare Service would transfer to the Department from the Health Service Executive to administer the Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme. Provision has been made in the Social Welfare and Pensions Acts 2007 and 2008 for the transfer of the administration of the SWA scheme from the HSE to the Department. These provisions are subject to a Commencement Order.

A considerable amount of preparatory work, to allow for the transfer, has been completed but progress has been stalled due to industrial relations issues. Following consultation between the Department and the Health Sector Management the Labour Relations Commission was asked to intervene. A meeting of the parties took place on 22 September in the LRC and further meetings are planned for October. The management side's intention is to reach a collective agreement with the unions as soon as is practical so that the transfer can be implemented as early as possible in 2010. Discussions have also taken place with the unions representing the staff in the Department in relation to the transfer proposal.

The integration of the Community Welfare Service into the Department will result in a more coordinated approach to the provision of service to the public and to the removal of duplication of work effort by staff. The transfer will not lead to any changes in the exercise of discretion by Community Welfare Officers when dealing with applications for Supplementary Welfare Allowance. The flexibility and responsiveness which is inherent in the scheme will remain. I am anxious that every effort is now made to complete the arrangements for the transfer in accordance with the Government decision. I am confident that the concerns of all the staff involved can now be dealt with.

Departmental Schemes.

Joan Burton

Question:

310 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if her Department is taking part in the cycle to work scheme or plans to do so in the near future; the agencies and bodies under the aegis of her Department taking part in the cycle to work scheme and those which are not; and the impact the implementation of decentralisation will have on participation in the scheme. [34619/09]

The Cycle to Work scheme for employees of the Department was introduced in the Department in early September 2009 and is now fully operational. To date, a total of 27 applications have been received and 20 of these have been approved.

The scheme is also in operation in the Pensions Board, the Pensions Ombudsman's Office and the Citizens Information Board. The Family Support Agency will be providing staff with an opportunity to participate in the scheme in January 2010. All of these bodies are responsible for the operation of the scheme in respect of their own employees.

Staff employed in the Department's decentralised offices have full access to the scheme. It is not envisaged, therefore, that the decentralisation programme will have any major impact on the level of participation in the scheme.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Joe Costello

Question:

311 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if her attention has been drawn to the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34626/09]

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme is administered on behalf of the department by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive.

Apart from a number of excluded categories, anyone in the State who satisfies a means test, has registered for employment and can prove unemployment, may qualify for a weekly payment of supplementary welfare allowance. However, since 1 May 2004, all applicants regardless of nationality are required to be habitually resident in the State in order to qualify for supplementary welfare allowance. The effect of this condition is that a person whose habitual residence is elsewhere is not qualified for a weekly supplementary welfare allowance payment.

The person concerned was refused supplementary welfare allowance by the Community Welfare Officer as she was deemed to be not habitually resident in the state.

The Health Service Executive has advised that the person concerned appealed against this decision to an Appeals Officer of the Executive, who has upheld the decision of the community welfare officer. She has been advised of her right to appeal further to the Social Welfare Appeals Office.

The person concerned has also made an application for Jobseeker's Allowance at King's Inns Street Local Office. This claim is currently under consideration.

James Reilly

Question:

312 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the waiting times for decisions on appeals for disability benefit; the waiting times for appointment for an oral hearing from the date of being referred for an oral hearing; the position regarding a person (details supplied). [34664/09]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the disability allowance appeal from the person concerned has been referred to an Appeals Officer who proposes to hold an oral hearing. The person concerned will be notified when the necessary arrangements have been made.

In relation to waiting times, I am informed that the average time taken to process illness related appeals (illness benefit and disability allowance) during 2008 was just under 25 weeks. However, when allowance is made for the 25% most protracted cases, the average time fell to 14 weeks in the case of illness benefit and 17.5 weeks in the case of disability allowance.

Oral hearings are granted at the discretion of the Appeals Officer usually in circumstances where there is a conflict in the evidence presented by the parties involved or where an oral hearing is requested by the appellant in order to present his or her case. In general, the decision to grant an oral hearing can add 8 weeks on average to the total processing time. Given the logistics involved in organising oral hearings in some 60 venues around the country, the average period from the date of referral for an oral hearing to the oral hearing appointment is of the order of 17 weeks.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office is an office of the Department that is independently responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Michael Ring

Question:

313 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be approved and awarded their jobseeker’s allowance. [34698/09]

The person concerned applied for jobseeker's allowance on 29 September 2009. His file has been forwarded to a Social Welfare Inspector for examination. On completion of enquiries a decision will be made and he will be notified of the outcome.

Under Social Welfare legislation decisions in relation to claims must be made by Deciding Officers and Appeals Officers. These officers are statutorily appointed and I have no role in regard to making such decisions.

Social Welfare Appeals.

Michael Ring

Question:

314 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when an invalidity pension appeal will be finalised for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [34699/09]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an appeal, by the person concerned, was registered by that Office on 15 September 2009 and in accordance with statutory requirements, the relevant Departmental papers and comments of the Department have been sought in this case. On receipt of its response the case will be referred to an Appeals Officer for early consideration.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office is an office of the Department that is independently responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

315 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when a decision will be made on the appeal by a person (details supplied) in County Kerry for one parent family allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34709/09]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the appeal from the person concerned has been referred to an Appeals Officer who proposes to hold an oral hearing in the case. The person concerned will be notified when the necessary arrangements have been made.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office is an office of the Department that is independently responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

316 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when one parent family allowance will be restored in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34834/09]

The person concerned claimed one parent family payment on 21 May 2009. One of the qualifying conditions for the receipt of one parent family payment is that a person must be habitually resident in the state. On 9 September 2009 a deciding officer decided that she did not satisfy these conditions.

The person concerned has been notified of this decision and advised of her right to appeal.

Social Welfare Appeals.

Michael Noonan

Question:

317 Deputy Michael Noonan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when a decision will be made on an appeal by a person (details supplied) in County Limerick in respect of their illness benefit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34835/09]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that, following receipt of the grounds of appeal from the person concerned, the relevant Departmental papers and comments of the Department have been sought. On receipt of its response the case will be referred to an Appeals Officer for early consideration.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office is an office of the Department that is independently responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Departmental Properties.

John Deasy

Question:

318 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the cost to the Exchequer for the rental or lease of property for her Department in Waterford city in each of the past five years; the individual units involved; and the rental cost of each building. [34899/09]

The provision of office accommodation for the Department is the responsibility of the Office of Public Works. The Office of Public Works does not lease any office space for the Department in Waterford city. The Department's offices are located in a State owned building on the Cork Road.

John Deasy

Question:

319 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the cost to the Exchequer for the rental or lease of property for the Citizens Information Board in Waterford City in each of the past five years; the individual units involved; and the rental cost of each building. [34900/09]

The rental cost of property used by the Citizens Information Board for it's regional office, associated car parking, and the Citizen Information Centre (CIC) in Waterford in each of the past 5 years is outlined in the table below.

CIB Regional Office Gladstone St.

CIC Lr. Yellow Rd.

2005

43,151

9,350

2006

43,151

10,285

2007

85,676

11,313

2008

66,325

11,879

2009

63,750

15,660

Social Welfare Benefits.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

320 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of farming families that have applied for farm assist to date in 2009; the number of which have been finalised; the average allocation per family, specifically in the case of an individual, a couple and a family where children are involved; if she is satisfied that the present serious collapse in farm income is being taken into account by all of her personnel; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34934/09]

Since 1 January 2009 a total of 1,986 applications for farm assist have been received in the Department. Of these 1,191 have been awarded and are in payment. Fifty nine claims were disallowed and 736 are awaiting a decision on their application. Of the 1,191 claimants who were awarded farm assist this year, 522 have one or more children.

The total number of farm assist claims in payment at present is 8,383 and of these, 2,891 have children. The average weekly payment is €221.07.

The investigation of claims for farm assist is undertaken by Social Welfare Inspectors who are very experienced in relation to the assessment of farming means. They take into account the present downturn in the economy in estimating a farmer's likely income from farming in the coming year.

Any farmer who is dissatisfied with a decision given on their claim may appeal that decision to the independent Social Welfare Appeal Office.

In recent years changes have been made to farm assist which means that it is now easier for low income farmers to qualify for support under the scheme. For instance, in January of this year the rates of payment for the scheme were increased. Improvements in the method of assessing earnings from insurable employment were also introduced in September 2007 which provides further gains for families claiming farm assist, where either spouse is also in insurable employment.

Farm assist has brought about significant worthwhile improvements for low income farmers, particularly for those with children, making a valuable contribution to supporting those who are at the lower end of the farm income spectrum.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

321 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will ease means testing criteria for applicants for social welfare payments who were previously self-employed but who now find themselves with no income and are being assessed on their previous employment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34942/09]

The range of benefits and pensions to which different groups of workers may establish entitlement reflects the risks associated with the nature of their work. This in turn 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. A system of separate arrangements for employed and self-employed workers within a social insurance context is common in other European social protection systems.

Self-employed workers who do not qualify for an insurance-based benefit may 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 the demand for their services. Generally, in assessing the means of a self-employed person, a Social Welfare Inspector will take into account the level of earnings in the preceding 12 months to determine their expected income in the following year. However, with the general downturn in the economy at present, it is accepted that earnings in the previous 12 months may not be representative of expected earnings in the coming year. The Social Welfare Inspector will take account of this fact in projecting future earnings.

There are no immediate plans to review the criteria for Jobseekers Allowance. Any such measure would have to be considered within a budgetary context.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

322 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if it is intended to ease means testing criteria for rent allowance having particular regard to current economic climate; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34943/09]

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 90,800 people in receipt of rent supplement, an increase of 23% since the end of December 2008.

Rent supplement is subject to a means test which is normally calculated to ensure that, after payment of rent, an eligible person has income equal to the rate of basic supplementary welfare allowance appropriate to their family circumstances, less a minimum contribution, currently €24, which each recipient is required to pay from his or her own resources.

The assessment for the existing rent interest supplement provides for a gradual withdrawal of payment as hours of employment or earnings increase. Where a person, working up to 30 hours per week, has additional income in excess of the standard weekly rate of supplementary welfare allowance, the first €75 of such additional income together with 25% of any additional income above €75 is disregarded for means assessment purposes. This ensures that those returning to work or participating in training schemes are better off as a result of taking up such an opportunity. A person accepted as having a long term housing need 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 recent years, a significant number of people have come to rely on rent supplement for extended periods. Over 32,600 people are getting a supplement for 18 months or more. For this reason, the rent supplement scheme has to be viewed in the context of overall housing policy, particularly in the case of long-term recipients.

The Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS), which was introduced in 2004, gives local authorities specific responsibility for meeting the longer term housing needs of people receiving rent supplement for 18 months or more. Details of these cases are notified regularly by the Department to the local authorities. Latest figures from the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government (DoEHLG) indicate that to date, local authorities have transferred 22,400 people from rent supplement to RAS or social housing since 2005.

The fact that there almost 90,800 people are receiving rent supplement indicates that the scheme is meeting need to a significant extent. However, the rent supplement scheme, including the means testing criteria, will be kept under review. The Department will continue to work closely with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in ensuring that RAS meets its objective of catering for those on long term rent supplementation while enabling rent supplement to return to its original role of a short-term income support and that local authorities are supported in providing a wide range of social housing supports for those with a long-term housing need.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

323 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if her attention has been drawn to the concern expressed by parents here at the prospect of a reduction in child benefit payments; if she will give an assurance that no such proposal is in mind; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34944/09]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

324 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the steps she proposes to take to prevent hardship to families in the event of reduction of child benefit payments; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34945/09]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

325 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if her attention has been drawn to the potential hardship to families in the event of a reduction of child benefit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34946/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 323 to 325, inclusive, together.

As the Deputy will be aware, the rates of child benefit have increased significantly since 2001 having trebled for the first two children and increased by over 185% for the third and subsequent children. Partly as a result of this and partly as a result of an increase in the number of eligible children, overall expenditure on child benefit grew from just under €965 million in 2001 to nearly €2.5 billion in 2008. The Government is proud to have been able to direct such substantial increases in financial support to all Irish families in recent years. However, given the scale of the current economic crisis, it is necessary to address all aspects of the public finances so as to ensure that they are sustainable and to ensure that fairness exists in the allocation of resources.

It is in this context that the Minister for Finance announced at the time of the Supplementary Budget in April 09 that the Government's intention to either subject child benefit to income tax or means-test it from 2010. To this end, the Minister asked the Commission on Taxation to consider the implications of taxing Child Benefit.

In their respective reports, both the Commission on Taxation and The Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes have put forward a wide range of proposals relating to my Department's schemes and services, including the child benefit scheme. While it is possible to achieve a more targeted approach through either the taxation or means testing of Child Benefit, these approaches have significantly differing implications for the practical implementation and the families involved. In their respective reports, both the Commission on Taxation and The Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes have put forward a wide range of proposals relating to my Department's schemes and services, including the child benefit scheme. While it is possible to achieve a more targeted approach through either the taxation or means testing of Child Benefit, these approaches have significantly differing implications for the practical implementation and the families involved. Issues regarding the definition of income, the implications for low income families and the impact on poverty traps need to be examined. The Government is now considering these proposals and implications will be mindful of the needs of families, particularly those on lower incomes when deciding on the various options in the forthcoming Budget.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

326 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the average time taken to process applications for retirement, old age and widowers pensions; the way this compares with the past five years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34947/09]

The Department is committed to ensuring that claims are processed as expeditiously as possible having regard to the eligibility conditions that apply to each scheme. Over the past number of years a range of initiatives aimed at streamlining the processing of claims, supported by modern technology, have been implemented in the pension scheme area in Sligo. Significant improvements have been achieved in claim processing times and backlogs have been eliminated. Operational processes and procedures and the organisation of work are continually reviewed to ensure that processing capability is maximised.

From January 2009, new processing targets, based on processing 90% of claims, were introduced for all schemes. The processing targets and average performance achieved to August 2009 for State Pension Contributory (SPC), State Pension Non Contributory (SPNC), State Pension Transition (SPT), Widow(er)'s Contributory Pensions (WCP) and Widow(er)'s Non Contributory Pension (WNCP) schemes are given in the following table.

While direct comparisons with previous years is not possible due to the new processing targets introduced by my Department, I can assure the Deputy that pension entitlements are being delivered promptly to customers.

Scheme

Processing Target

Performance (average monthly) to August 2009

State Pension Contributory

90% by entitlement date

91% achieved

State Pension Non Contributory

90% within 10 weeks

73% achieved

State Pension Transition

90% within 6 weeks

87% achieved

Widow(er)’s Contributory Pension

90% within 6 weeks

89% achieved

Widow(er)’s Non Contributory Pension

90% within 10 weeks

66% achieved

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

327 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of applications for jobseeker’s allowance or unemployment benefit received on a monthly basis in the past 24 months to date in 2009; the number approved, rejected or pending monthly throughout the period to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34948/09]

The information requested by the deputy is attached in tabular format at Appendix A for jobseekers benefit and Appendix B for jobseekers allowance. Details regarding the numbers of JA and JB claims rejected and pending can only be provided from January 2008 onwards, as data for periods prior to this date is not available.

I assure the Deputy that every effort is being made to process claims as quickly as possible.

Appendix A

JB 2009

Total Registered

Total Awarded

Total Rejected

Pending Month End

Jan

45,779

32,329

688

29,639

Feb

37,278

29,427

607

31,296

Mar

34,733

32,130

714

27,683

Apr

33,205

27,959

649

27,819

May

27,771

26,047

622

24,700

Jun

34,724

25,623

578

29,526

Jul

30,531

29,834

553

25,350

Aug

22,801

23,062

527

21,539

Sep

25,187

25,745

680

16,644

Totals

292,009

252,156

5,618

JB 2008

Total Registered

Total Awarded

Total Rejected

Pending Month End

Jan

25,685

20,707

578

12,292

Feb

20,469

17,851

592

11,470

Mar

20,502

13,549

540

15,797

Apr

18,275

19,272

622

11,244

May

19,084

15,275

510

12,106

Jun

27,200

17,426

476

18,776

Jul

27,413

24,772

590

17584

Aug

20,310

18,014

470

16941

Sep

24,441

20,776

573

16,910

Oct

29,899

22,217

1,050

19,602

Nov

29,911

28,025

667

16,525

Dec

31,691

23,587

465

21,071

Totals

294,880

24,1471

7,133

JB 2007

Total Registered

Total Awarded

Rejected

Pending Month End

Oct

12,608

11,927

N/Avail

N/Avail

Nov

18,340

15,543

N/Avail

N/Avail

Dec

13,549

10,067

N/Avail

N/Avail

Appendix B

JA 2009

Total Registered

Total Awarded

Total Rejected

Pending Month End

Jan

23,101

9,932

1,215

32,611

Feb

20,184

9,684

1,611

37,788

Mar

20,290

12,516

1,891

38,810

Apr

18,830

11,625

1,648

40,005

May

22,723

13,014

1,581

43,140

Jun

28,205

15,779

1,862

48,953

Jul

26,543

17,973

2,243

49,155

Aug

20,815

15,590

2,031

47,471

Sep

24,566

17,922

2,373

45,337

Totals

20,5257

12,4035

16,455

JA 2008

Total Registered

Total Awarded

Total Rejected

Pending Month End

Jan

13,398

6,950

966

12,656

Feb

11,770

7,161

1,181

13,005

Mar

10,042

5,263

958

14,332

Apr

11,339

7,140

1,382

13,863

May

12,253

6,662

1,244

15,087

Jun

15,279

7,898

979

18,444

Jul

16,771

9,953

1,396

20,151

Aug

13,037

7,898

1,061

20,982

Sep

16,252

9,390

1,417

22,162

Oct

17,453

10,100

1,339

23,632

Nov

17,578

10,721

1,339

24,903

Dec

14,707

10,386

1,299

24,529

Totals

169,879

99,522

14,561

JA 2007

Total Registered

Total Awarded

Rejected

Pending Month End

Oct

9,266

7,253

N/Avail

N/Avail

Nov

11,932

7,991

N/Avail

N/Avail

Dec

6,938

5,238

N/Avail

N/Avail

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

328 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of application for carer’s allowance refused in the past six months; the way this compares with the previous two year period; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34949/09]

Entitlement to carer's allowance is based on an applicant satisfying medical, means and residency conditions.

A total of 13,090 new applications for Carer's Allowance have been received this year to date (week end 2 October 2009). A total of 18,097 claims were received in 2007. 1,603 claims were refused in 2007. A total of 18, 928 claims were received in 2008. 2,895 claims were refused in 2008.

The information requested by the Deputy is in tabular format as follows:

No. of claims received and refused April – Sept during the years 2007-2009

Period

Carer’s Allowance claims received

Carer’s Allowance claims refused

April 07 – Sept 07

7,688

907

April 08 – Sept 08

10,286

1,465

April 09 – Sept 09

8,218

2,773

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

329 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of carer’s allowance or part carer’s allowance currently under review; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34950/09]

Entitlement to carer's allowance is based on an applicant satisfying medical, means and residency conditions.

A total of 13,090 new applications for Carer's Allowance have been received this year to date (week end 2 October 2009). There are currently 2,175 applications for Carer's Allowance waiting decision. It is at decision stage when the Deciding Officer decides whether a person will be awarded full rate Carer's Allowance or half rate Carer's Allowance depending on their circumstances at that time. The average time to decide a claim for carer's allowance is currently 9.4 weeks. The processing target for Carer's Allowance is 90% of claims decided within 12 weeks. The figure achieved for the month of September 2009 was 80% of claims decided within 12 weeks. In determining entitlement to the allowance there are, in certain cases, unavoidable time lags involved in making the necessary investigations and enquiries to enable accurate decisions to be made. Delays can also arise if people applying for the allowance are not in a position to supply all the necessary information in support of their claim. Many applicants for carer's allowance are already in receipt of another social welfare payment while their claim is being processed.

The staff and other resources available to the Department are regularly reviewed having regard to the workload arising and other competing demands. The Department monitors available resources against workload on an ongoing basis with a view to ensuring optimum processing times for claims.

Social Welfare Appeals.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

330 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of applications for the various forms of social welfare payments currently under appeal or review; the way this number compares with previous years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34951/09]

The statistics required by the Deputy are attached in tabular form. I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that the increase in the number of appeals outstanding in 2008 and 2009 is a reflection of the 27% increase in the numbers of appeals received in 2008 over 2007 and the further 39% increased received up to end of September 2009 when compared to the same period in 2008.

2007 Outstanding

2008 Outstanding

2009-to 30/9/09 Outstanding

Adoptive Benefit

1

1

3

Blind Pension

6

6

12

Carers Allowance

336

594

1,099

Carers Benefit

17

24

59

Child Benefit

131

573

1,192

Disability Allowance

1,311

1,550

2,220

Illness Benefit

1,016

1,404

2,515

*Domiciliary Care Allowance

0

0

322

Deserted Wives Benefit

4

4

5

Farm Assist

31

34

66

Bereavement Grant

6

13

23

Family Income Supplement

40

51

46

Invalidity Pension

290

310

450

Liable Relatives

7

15

8

One Parent Family Payment

285

382

429

Maternity Benefit

4

2

7

State Pension (Contributory)

55

47

57

State Pension (Non-Cont)

137

141

160

State Pension (Transition)

19

12

9

Occupational Injury Benefit

22

16

22

Occupational Injury Ben (Med)

17

28

43

Disablement Pension

187

201

226

Incapacity Supplement

10

3

5

Guardian’s Payment (Con)

1

16

13

Guardian’s Payment (Non-Con)

0

1

4

Pre-Retirement Allowance

5

4

1

Jobseeker’s Allow (Means)

398

875

1,870

Jobseeker’s Allowance

666

762

1,410

Jobseeker’s Benefit

284

415

580

JA/JB Fraud Control

33

11

4

Rent Allowance

0

0

0

Respite Care Grant

221

119

151

Insurability of Employment

85

77

90

Supplementary Welfare All

79

114

156

Treatment Benefits

3

8

3

Survivor’s Pension (Con)

5

8

9

Survivor’s Pension (Non-Con)

8

7

9

*Commenced April 2009.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

331 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs her views on the introduction of revised application forms for various social welfare payments with a view to reducing Departmental time in the process; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34952/09]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

332 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs her views on revising and simplifying the application forms for various social welfare payments with a view to the elimination of duplication, reducing administrative costs and delays within the process; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34953/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 331 and 332 together.

The Department has a continuous programme of process improvement initiatives underway aimed at streamlining the processing of claims, supported by modern technology. The simplification and reduction of application forms complements the introduction of more streamlined processes.

The key principles underpinning the design of the Departments application forms are the use of clear and simple language, with consistent layout and presentation across both online and paper forms. All application forms are designed to facilitate the use of scanning and automated processing. This ensures that the application is processed as efficiently as possible and that customers receive their entitlement in a timely manner.

In addition, all primary application forms are available on the Department's website. Applications for a number of schemes, e.g. State Pension (Contributory) and Household Benefits can be completed and submitted online. This facility will be extended to other schemes in the coming months. The objective is to enable people to access services at a time and place that best suits their needs. The use of online application forms reduces the administrative burden for the customer and facilitates efficient processing of claims by the Department.

I am satisfied that the initiatives underway in the Department, the improvements to processes and procedures supported by the redesign of application forms, and the Department's use of modern technology will deliver an improved and efficient service to customers.

Grant Payments.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

333 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of applications for respite grants that have been made in each of the past three years to date in 2009; the number approved and rejected on a monthly basis in the same period; the number of applications pending; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34954/09]

The Respite Care Grant (RCG) is an annual payment made to all persons providing full-time care, regardless of means or PRSI contribution record, but subject to certain conditions. The Grant, in respect of any given year, is payable from the first Thursday in June of the year in question.

The extension of eligibility for the scheme to all carers was introduced in Budget 2005. Prior to this, only those in receipt of certain payments from the Department, principally Carer's Allowance/Benefit, could receive the Grant.

Details of applications received, applications allowed and applications refused by month, for the years 2008 and up to September 2009, are set at in tabular form below. Carers may submit applications for the grant in respect of both the current and the previous year and the figures below include instances where the carer submitted claims for grants for one or more years.

The total number of applications ‘pending' at end-September 2009 was 885. Enquiries to determine entitlement were ongoing in 509 of these and action had not yet commenced in connection with the remaining 379. Data in relation to the number of applications pending on a monthly basis, retrospective to 2007 is not available.

2007

Month

Applications

Claims Allowed

Claims Refused

January

511

550

139

February

550

534

104

March

441

470

74

April

3,550

405

117

May

4,619

156

80

June

1,501

1,896

62

July

719

3,882

161

August

423

1,252

181

September

349

911

180

October

398

817

205

November

296

629

127

December

207

437

58

Total

13,564

11,939

1,488

2008

Month

Applications

Claims Allowed

Claims Refused

January

206

482

97

February

260

238

69

March

212

154

125

April

1,946

206

115

May

3,719

114

107

June

1,413

2,227

205

July

590

2,747

306

August

390

609

174

September

580

739

201

October

385

643

130

November

354

510

252

December

2672

326

103

Total

10,328

8,995

1,884

2009

Month

Applications

Claims Allowed

Claims Refused

January

204

344

124

February

191

166

76

March

175

165

112

April

1,064

93

46

May

3,607

48

25

June

1,116

924

76

July

399

2,621

282

August

254

860

244

September

246

453

134

Total

7,256

5,674

1,119

Departmental Bodies.

Niall Collins

Question:

334 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she has requested all chairpersons and members of boards and agencies under the aegis of her Department to take a reduction in their salary, fee or allowance; when this request was made to take effect; the amount or reduction requested; the boards and agencies which have complied with the request; when the remainder propose to comply; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34967/09]

The Agencies that operate under the aegis of my Department which incorporate a chairperson and board members are the Pensions Board, the Citizens Information Board and the Family Support Agency. The Combat Poverty Agency was subsumed into my Department with effect from 1 July 2009.

The Government decided that with effect from 1 May 2009 a reduction of 10% should be applied to the fees payable to non-executive chairpersons and members of State boards.

I can confirm that the fees paid to the chairperson and board members of the Agencies under the aegis of my Department have been reduced by 10% with effect from 1 May 2009.

Departmental Schemes.

Joan Burton

Question:

335 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Defence if his Department is taking part in the cycle to work scheme or plans to do so in the near future; the agencies and bodies under the aegis of his Department taking part in the cycle to work scheme and those which are not; and the impact the implementation of decentralisation will have on participation in the scheme. [34611/09]

My Department and the agencies under the aegis of my Department are taking part in the Cycle to Work Scheme. The detailed administrative arrangements for the operation of the scheme were circulated to all staff on 3 June 2009 and participation in the scheme is available to all staff from that date. I can also confirm that the Defence Forces will participate in the Cycle to Work Scheme.

An Administration Instruction has been issued on the operation of the scheme which was launched in the Defence Forces on the 17 Sept 09. To date here have been in excess of 900 expressions of interest in the Cycle to Work Scheme. It is not anticipated that Decentralisation will have any impact on participation in the scheme.

Departmental Properties.

John Deasy

Question:

336 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Defence the cost to the Exchequer for the rental or lease of property for his Department in Waterford City in each of the past five years; the individual units involved; and the rental cost of each building. [34886/09]

My Department does not rent or lease any property in Waterford City. However, a property of less than one acre that is owned by my Department is used by the Reserve Defence Forces.

Departmental Bodies.

Niall Collins

Question:

337 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Defence if he has requested all chairpersons and members of boards and agencies under the aegis of his Department to take a reduction in their salary, fee or allowance; when this request was made to take effect; the amount or reduction requested; the boards and agencies which have complied with the request; when the remainder propose to comply; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34959/09]

The Army Pensions Board is the only body under the aegis of my Department whose members are in receipt of fees. The Department of Finance has set the fees that are payable to State Boards which are categorized into four separate categories. The fees that are payable to the State Boards within these four categories were revised downwards by 10% with effect from 1 May 2009. The Army Pensions Board does not fall within any of the four categories listed as it does not have a CEO. The Chairman and members of the Board receive a fixed fee which is lower than the fees paid to any of the State Boards in the four categories.

Water Services.

Joan Burton

Question:

338 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the amount of revenue which would be raised on a 2010 and full year basis by ensuring that the cost of water services provided is fully recovered from the non-domestic sector in view of the relevant recommendation set out in the Commission on Taxation Report 2009. [34690/09]

Under the Government's Water Pricing Policy, local authorities are required to recover in full the cost of delivering water services to non-domestic customers.

The local authority budgets for 2009 include an overall provision of €753 million for the delivery of water services. Up to 40% of these costs relate to the non-domestic sector.

A volumetric charge is set by each local authority every year based on the anticipated cost of delivering water services during that year. As the 2010 budgets have yet to be adopted, it is not possible to estimate the charge to be levied or the revenue that will be raised next year.

Register of Electors.

John O'Mahony

Question:

339 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason people who were not entitled to vote in the Lisbon Treaty referendum on 2 October received polling cards stating they had a vote; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35000/09]

Emmet Stagg

Question:

344 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that non-Irish citizens living in County Kildare received polling cards for the Lisbon referendum on 2 October, although they had no entitlement to vote in a referendum; if he has established the person who was responsible for this error; when the error was first drawn to his attention; the reason no action was taken to alert those who had received cards in error in advance of polling day; the steps which are being taken to ensure that such an error does not occur in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34657/09]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

345 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if polling cards for the Lisbon Treaty referendum were issued across all constituencies, or only some to persons not entitled to vote in a referendum; the number of such voting cards which were printed and distributed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34703/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 339, 344 and 345 together.

Under electoral law, local returning officers are responsible at a referendum for sending a polling information card (PIC) to every presidential elector (i.e. Irish citizens) whose name is on the register of electors; there are 3,078,032 such electors on the register of electors which came into force on 15 February 2009.

At the recent referendum, the PIC was issued with the Statement for the Information of Voters, which was prescribed by the Oireachtas, as a single document with the PIC being detachable from the statement. In order to assist local returning officers with the addressing and issuing of the PICs, the Office of Public Works put in place a central contract for this work and returning officers were responsible for supplying the relevant register of electors data to the printers.

Possession of a PIC does not confer a right to vote. It was stressed to local returning officers and polling station staff in written guidance from my Department in advance of the referendum that they must refuse to issue a ballot paper to any individual who is recorded on the register of electors as being a non-Irish citizen.

Departmental Schemes.

Joan Burton

Question:

340 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his Department is taking part in the cycle to work scheme or plans to do so in the near future; the agencies and bodies under the aegis of his Department taking part in the cycle to work scheme and those which are not; and the impact the implementation of decentralisation will have on participation in the scheme. [34614/09]

The cycle to work scheme commenced in my Department in June 2009. While it is not possible to predict the impact, if any, of decentralisation on the scheme, it should be noted that, of the thirty-eight members of staff who have participated in the scheme to date, eleven are based in decentralised offices in Wexford and six are based in other locations throughout the country.

The implementation of the scheme in the agencies and bodies under the aegis of the Department is a matter for the agencies and bodies themselves.

Local Authority Housing.

Jack Wall

Question:

341 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when the regeneration of a housing estate (details supplied) in County Kildare will be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34627/09]

The project in question, which is at an early stage of development, is part of my Department's Remedial Works Programme 2009-2011. The project proposal was received in late 2008 and, following an evaluation process, approval in principle issued from my Department in February 2009.

Certain further details provided by Kildare County Council on the design, costing and phasing of the project are the subject of technical examination by my Department, with a view to reaching agreement with the Council as soon as possible on an inclusive programme of works.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

342 Deputy Ciarán Cuffe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the measures in place to improve the energy performance of local authority housing and to address fuel poverty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34635/09]

In recent years significant efforts have been made to ensure that all new construction projects, including the delivery of local authority housing stock, are designed and built to high energy efficiency and sustainable development standards. To that end, Part L of the current Building Regulations requires that all new housing, including social housing:

has 40% lower heat energy demand than previous buildings standards;

requires the installation of boilers with not less than 86% energy efficiency (condensing boilers);

requires the mandatory use of renewable energy sources (a minimum of 10 kilowatt hours per square metre per annum).

Ireland has become the first country to include a mandatory provision for renewable energy sources in its building code. My Department is committed to building on this success by pushing beyond these recommended levels in the 2010 Building Regulations.

As part of a national programme to improve the energy efficiency of the social housing stock, a range of initiatives has been introduced to deliver improved energy performance and to address, in large part, issues of fuel poverty in local authority housing.

Following a call for proposals for new social housing projects, my Department has, this year, approved eight new construction projects that are designed to go beyond the current building regulations and will achieve a minimum Building Energy Rating of A2 for each dwelling. These Towards Carbon Neutral demonstration projects will serve to further the local authority’s knowledge and experience in the design, construction and operation of high performing energy efficient social housing. Following this programme, it is intended that the successful, viable processes and technologies identified in the demonstration projects would be mainstreamed into general social housing provision.

My Department is also concerned to improve the existing local authority housing stock. Two new initiatives were announced earlier this year which further support this Government's objective of improving energy efficiency and tackling the issues of fuel poverty.

Firstly, my Department has allocated some €20 million to facilitate local authorities in improving the energy efficiency of local authority apartment complexes and vacant local authority dwellings. This operates on a co-funded, grant per unit basis, under which my Department provides funding for 75% of the cost of the works, subject to a maximum grant of €15,000, to bring vacant properties up to a Building Energy Rating of C1. In the event that a property does not achieve a C1 rating following remedial works, authorities may instead claim 50% of the cost, again subject to a maximum grant of €15,000.

In parallel with the Towards Carbon Neutral initiative for new construction projects, my Department is also supporting a number of demonstration projects for the retrofitting of energy efficiency improvements to existing local authority dwellings, with a view to again building up the expertise and experience of local authorities in delivering better energy returns in their stock. To that end, the Department has set aside a fund of €5 million to support a number of projects around the country. Two projects, Glover Court in Dublin City and two Georgian buildings in Limerick City, are already at an advanced stage of planning and design.

Since 2004, my Department has provided €125 million to support the installation of central heating and other energy efficiency measures in almost 26,000 local authority homes that were without any form of central heating. This programme is due for completion this year, with a further 2,100 installations being undertaken at a cost of €14 million.

Local authorities will, of course, themselves continue to fund a range of housing maintenance and improvement activities from their own resources.

Beyond the measures and programmes already outlined to improve energy efficiency and address issues of fuel poverty, my Department is also represented on the Inter-departmental/agency group on Energy Affordability. This group, under the auspices of the Department of Communications, Energy, and Natural Resources, provides an important vehicle for Departments and Agencies to share information and co-ordinate activities in the fuel poverty arena to best effect.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

343 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will introduce a new tenant purchase scheme for local authority tenants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34638/09]

New schemes of incremental purchase of certain new dwellings provided by housing authorities and approved housing bodies and of tenant purchase of local authority apartments will be introduced in the coming months, according as the relevant parts of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 are brought into operation. There are no proposals at present to replace the existing tenant purchase scheme for local authority houses with a new scheme.

Questions Nos. 344 and 345 answered with Question No. 339.

Foreshore Licences.

Phil Hogan

Question:

346 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when legislation will be enacted to reform foreshore licence criteria to assist renewable energy projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34715/09]

When the Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill 2009 was published in June I indicated that I would introduce, by way of committee stage amendments, new provisions aimed at better integrating the foreshore consent processes with the planning processes under the Planning Acts. The necessary work is underway in anticipation of the formal transfer of the foreshore functions into my Department; the initial focus is on integrating the foreshore consent process for major infrastructure projects with the consent process under the Strategic Infrastructure Act. It is my intention that the Planning Bill will be enacted before the end of this year.

Special Areas of Conservation.

John Cregan

Question:

347 Deputy John Cregan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if permission can be granted by his Department to a group (details supplied) to place bank protection boulders at Poll a Cúr and Lin a Buí to ensure that remedial works can be carried out; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34837/09]

The River Feale is a candidate Special Area of Conservation, particularly for salmon, but also for lamprey, otter and several threatened habitats. Because of its designation, rock-armouring works of the river bank such as those proposed would be considered a notifiable activity, and therefore Ministerial consent must be sought to ensure that no works are carried out that would result in damage to the conservation interests.

My Department has granted permission, subject to a number of conditions, for similar works in the Feale in the past. As this case also involves turning and raking of spawning gravel, probably mechanically, these works require ecological assessment. I expect that this assessment will be completed very shortly and a decision will be made as soon as possible thereafter.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Jack Wall

Question:

348 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No. 164 of 23 September 2009, the number of applicants submitted by Kildare County Council; the areas covered by the applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34841/09]

The Ballymore Eustace Wastewater Treatment Plant was the only Serviced Land Initiative scheme resubmitted by Kildare County Council.

Michael Ring

Question:

349 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if funding will be available to communities for the treatment of water and installation of a reservoir if they decide to own and operate their own treatment facility, rather than opting for the design-build-operate option. [34869/09]

Responsibility for the administration of the Rural Water Programme has been devolved to local authorities since 1997. Under the devolved arrangements Local Authorities approve and prioritise schemes to go to construction subject to block grant funding provided by my Department on an annual basis.

The Rural Water Programme prioritises the upgrading of existing water quality deficient group water schemes to ensure that they provide water of an acceptable quality for their members which is in compliance with the Drinking Water Regulations. Grant aid is available for all privately sourced group water schemes wishing to upgrade their water treatment facilities and network distribution system.

The proposed works must be assessed and approved by the local authority on the basis that they are in compliance with the agreed national strategy for the provision of water treatment facilities, considered fit for purpose and based on sound engineering and economic principles which will ultimately result in the group water scheme being able to provide water for its members which is in full compliance with the Drinking Water Regulations.

The national strategy agreed between my Department, the Local Authorities, the National Rural Water Services Committee and the National Federation of Group Water Schemes for the provision of water treatment facilities in privately sourced group water schemes is based on Design, Build, Operate, (DBO) procurement coupled with the bundling of a number of schemes under a single contract.

The objective of this approach is to promote best value for money principles and the most efficient implementation of the programme to resolve water quality deficiencies in the group sector in the shortest possible timeframe. Local authorities have been asked to ensure that the Design, Build and Operate (DBO) procurement route is fully considered in all cases involving the provision of water treatment filtration and disinfection equipment on schemes to ensure that only value for money and fit-for purpose projects are grant aided.

Departmental Bodies.

Niall Collins

Question:

350 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has requested all chairpersons and members of boards and agencies under the aegis of his Department to take a reduction in their salary, fee or allowance; when this request was made to take effect; the amount or reduction requested; the boards and agencies which have complied with the request; when the remainder propose to comply; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34962/09]

The fees payable to chairpersons and members of boards and agencies under the aegis of my Department are set out and approved by the Department of Finance. These were reduced by 10% with effect from 1 May 2009, in line with a Government decision. All boards and agencies were notified of this decision on the 15 May 2009 and have confirmed that they have complied with the decision.

Departmental Schemes.

Joan Burton

Question:

351 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if his Department is taking part in the cycle to work scheme or plans to do so in the near future; the agencies and bodies under the aegis of his Department taking part in the cycle to work scheme and those which are not; and the impact the implementation of decentralisation will have on participation in the scheme. [34609/09]

My Department has been operating the cycle-to-work scheme since June 2009. Participation in the scheme is not affected by decentralisation. Staff in our decentralised office in Cavan are also entitled to avail of the scheme. I have no function in relation to the operation of the scheme in agencies and bodies under the aegis of my Department.

Energy Resources.

Joe McHugh

Question:

352 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the cost to the State regarding a matter (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34666/09]

The National Oil Reserves Agency (NORA) was established in 1995 to ensure that Ireland holds the equivalent of 90 days strategic stocks that can be released to consumers and industry in the event of an oil supply disruption or shortage. This is in line with Ireland's international obligations, as well as being strategically important for Ireland.

NORA ensures that Ireland meets its 90 day stock-holding obligation through a combination of stocks held in Ireland and other EU Member States, and through short-term commercial contracts to purchase oil in the event of an oil supply disruption. Stocks held by industry in Ireland also form part of Ireland's 90 day stockholding. NORA receives no Exchequer funding. Its activities are funded by a levy imposed on certain oil products in Ireland and charged to oil supply companies. In 2008, NORA received income of €81m from this levy.

The Government's Energy Policy Framework 2007 — 2020 committed to the re-balancing of Ireland's strategic oil stocks, in favour of stocks held on the island of Ireland. In 2009 my Department published a Review of Security of Commercial Oil Supply in Ireland, which was undertaken by international oil consultants Purvin and Gertz, and Irish energy consultants Byrne O'Cleirigh. The report noted that Ireland currently holds one of the lowest proportions of oil stocks within its own borders of all EU Member States. It also noted that Ireland is particularly vulnerable to supply disruptions because of our island status and the fact that 45% of our oil imports are shipped through Dublin port.

In light of these key strategic factors, and NORA's need to maintain a firm financial basis for its ongoing and future activities, in June 2009, I introduced the National Oil Reserves Agency Act 2007 (Returns and Levy) Regulations. The purpose of these Regulations was to increase the NORA levy from 1 cent to 2 cent per litre of fuel purchased from 1st October 2009.

The income from the levy will ensure that NORA has sufficient funds to effectively manage Ireland's strategic oil stocks. It will ensure that Ireland continues to have 90 days of strategic oil stocks available and accessible in the event of a major oil supply disruption.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Joe McHugh

Question:

353 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his timeframe for the adoption of the biofuels obligation scheme for which the public consultation closed in November 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34667/09]

The Programme for Government commits to the introduction of a Biofuel Obligation, which will underpin