Pádraig Mac LochlainnQuestion:
21 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide a breakdown of the annual cost of providing the professional development service for teachers. [14449/11]
Vol. 734 No. 4
21 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide a breakdown of the annual cost of providing the professional development service for teachers. [14449/11]
The Professional Development Service for Teachers was established in 2010 following a reconfiguration of my Department's support services for schools. The total estimated cost of the service in 2011 is €14.9 million, of which the salaries of the seconded teachers who work in the service are the single largest cost item, at approximately €5.3 million. The balance of costs, an estimated €9.6 million, relates to the main programmes of support provided across a range of services such as DEIS and literacy and numeracy supports, leadership and planning supports, regionally based generic services and other national priority areas. The €9.6 million includes the cost of providing these supports such as venue costs, travel costs for participating teachers, course materials, resources, web presence and general administration and equipment. Some €1.1 million relates to travel and subsistence costs for the PDST team of seconded teachers.
22 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Education and Skills how teaching principals will find the time to provide additional appropriate support and probation to newly qualified teachers when inspectors are not fulfilling this role. [14456/11]
44 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Education and Skills in view of the additional responsibility of the probation of newly qualified teachers in the primary sector being passed from inspectors to school principals, the support, training, guidelines and quality checks he proposes to implement to facilitate this change over. [14470/11]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 22 and 44 together.
The Teaching Council has been informed that the relevant sections of the Teaching Council Act 2001 will be commenced no later than 1 September 2012. The Council has begun to consider the procedures and criteria for the induction and probation of primary and post-primary teachers that the Council would wish to implement following their commencement.
I understand that in drafting its procedures for induction and probation, the Council plans to adopt a completely fresh approach. As the Council's discussions are currently at an exploratory stage, no decisions have yet been made on the features of the procedures and any specific role that principals will play in their implementation. Therefore, the question of simply transferring responsibility for the implementation of current probationary procedures at primary level from the Inspectorate of my Department to principals does not arise. However it is important that principals play a key role in the quality of teaching in their schools, including the work of newly qualified teachers.
23 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the current difficulties being experienced by former workers (details supplied) who from 2010 have been studying a BA-ALBA degree course at All Hallows College, Drumcondra, Dublin 9, and with the ending of European globalisation funding in September now face the prospect of not being able to finish their degree studies. [14451/11]
EGF co-funding of supports for redundant S R Technics workers finishes on 9 October 2011 under the relevant European Commission decision. This end-date has always been made clear to both the providers of supports to the redundant workers and to the representatives of those workers wishing to avail of those supports.
No additional national funding is available to fund continued study on this course in this private college after 9 October 2011.
However, if these students wish to continue their studies on this course in this private college on a full-time basis at their own expense they could engage with the college to seek a reduced full-time course fee and they would in these circumstances retain their Back to Education Allowance as an income support.
Alternatively, these students could possibly transfer or apply to other full-time courses in the public higher education system which are approved for the Free Fees Scheme. If they did so they would retain their Back to Education Allowance subject to meeting the relevant eligibility criteria of that scheme.
24 Deputy Derek Keating asked the Minister for Education and Skills, in view of the recent circular 30/2011 to schools in the Lucan area of County Dublin, the impact this will have on a school (details supplied); if his attention has been drawn to the fact that since 2008 this school, like others in the area, has increased its pupil numbers by more than 300% in three years; if his further attention has been drawn to the fact that more than 30 different languages other than English and Irish are the first languages of children attending; if he will review his plan of appointments of learning support resource teachers posts and work with schools in dealing with the impact of circular 30/2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14369/11]
Department Circular 30/2011 sets out the arrangements for the deployment of resource teaching posts in schools for the 2011/12 school year.
The Department's approach has allowed schools "roll-over" their existing full-time resource posts on the condition that any surplus capacity in these posts is shared with other local schools. If the "roll-over" arrangements are not sufficient to meet a school's NCSE approved allocation they must firstly contact their neighbouring schools for any surplus capacity and then, if necessary, there is an application process to the Department for any remaining balance.
The circular also informs schools that the Department will look in the Autumn at its capacity within overall teacher numbers to update the General Allocation hours for learning support in developing schools to reflect increased enrolments.
Finally, in relation to language support the school referred to by the Deputy has recently being informed of its allocation for 2011/12 school year.
25 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he proposes to make any changes to the adjacent and non-adjacent rates of payment for higher education grants as outlined in budget 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14478/11]
I regret that the economic circumstances of the country are such that I am not in a position to reverse any of the changes to the student grant measures announced in Budget 2011 by the previous Fianna Fáil — Green Party Government. These changes included an increase in the qualifying distance criterion for the non-adjacent rate of grant.
I am very conscious of the fundamental role played by the student grant schemes in supporting families who are putting their children through further and higher education and I understand their concerns at the 2011 budgetary measures. I will take account of these in considering any future changes to the student grant schemes as part of the budgetary process for 2012 and beyond, having regard to the position of the public finances.
26 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to address 2010 OECD findings which found that up to one quarter of teenagers here were functionally illiterate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14462/11]
32 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills when the national literacy strategy will be put in place. [14513/11]
36 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Education and Skills the way he intends to address the dramatic fall in Ireland’s global ranking in literacy and numeracy from 15 to 25 in mathematics and 5 to 17 in reading. [14464/11]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 26, 32 and 36 together.
The very disappointing and worrying declines in the performance of Irish 15-year olds on PISA literacy and mathematics tests between 2000 and 2009 point to the urgent need to improve the literacy and numeracy standards of our students. The Government in fully committed to reversing these declines as indicated in the Programme for Government which has been endorsed by the Dáil.
My Department is preparing a National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy which will contain a series of specific actions to improve the teaching and learning of literacy and numeracy in our schools and early childhood settings. My Department is currently analysing the outcomes of a wide-ranging consultation process and is finalising the strategy and I hope to launch it at the end of this month.
27 Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress made to date on the proposal to rationalise vocational education committees; the likely timeframe for a further announcement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14481/11]
I am pressing ahead with a reduction in the number of VECs.
The Irish Vocational Education Association (IVEA) recently responded to the opportunity I provided to them to submit alternative rationalisation proposals, following the Association's expression of concerns regarding the configuration that had been decided upon by the previous Government.
I am considering the IVEA's submission and I plan to bring the matter to Government this month. Work on the preparation of the necessary legislation has advanced to the point I expect to bring the heads of bill to Government shortly. I hope to publish that legislation as soon as it is ready.
28 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide further detail on the work already advanced on the development of performance criteria for a re-designation process of technological universities. [14511/11]
My Department commissioned input from an international expert who is very familiar with the Irish third level sector on the detailed performance criteria against which any future applications for re-designation as a technological university would be assessed. I have now asked the Higher Education Authority to consider and provide formal advice on draft criteria and related issues for consideration. In providing me with their formal advice, I have also asked the authority to engage in a focused consultation on the draft criteria. I understand that these consultations are now commencing. It is my intention to publish these criteria when they have been finalised so that Institutes of Technology will have early direction on the expected demands for designation, enabling them to consider appropriate amalgamation options and prepare for future performance requirements.
29 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills the State child care support that is available to single parents who are looking to upskill, move on to further education or take up the proposed new internships or the jobs initiative. [14473/11]
The Childcare Employment and Training Support Scheme (CETS) is managed by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. The CETS scheme supports the childcare needs of up to 2,800 participants in training and educational courses operated by FÁS and Vocational Educational Committees (VECs). Under this scheme free childcare is available to FÁS unemployed trainees who require childcare in order to take up FÁS mainline training courses. It is also available to participants in the Vocational Training Opportunity, Senior Travellers Training, Youthreach or Back to Education Initiative programmes.
Parents who are participants in other Further Education programmes, such as Post Leaving Certificate courses may be eligible under other childcare schemes run by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.
I understand that the National Internship Scheme will be launched in July and the details of that scheme are currently being developed by the Department of Social Protection at the present time.
31 Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the proposals, if any, there are to expand the role of vocational education committees in the patronage of primary schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14480/11]
Since 2008 Vocational Education Committees have played an important role in providing an additional model of school patronage at primary level through the operation of Community National Schools. These schools are established on a pilot basis and the experience of their operation will inform further consideration of this model. I acknowledge the work of the VECs of counties Dublin, Kildare and Meath in this area.
I intend to consider further the role of VECs in the provision of primary education following the conclusion of the work of the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector which I launched on 19th April last. I expect to receive the report of the advisory group to the forum by the end of the year. I will also be considering generally the future role of the VECs in the context of the restructuring of VECS.
33 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Skills the current status of the Project Maths programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14483/11]
Project Maths is under way in all second level schools since September 2010 in both junior and senior cycle, building on the experience of 24 schools which began the programme in 2008. The initiative is supported by comprehensive investment in professional development for teachers which will continue to at least 2013.
Project Maths is being implemented on a phased basis over a three-year period across 5 strands of mathematics. Strands 1 and 2 began in all schools in September 2010 for first examination in 2012 at Leaving Certificate and 2013 at Junior Certificate. Strands 3 and 4 will begin in 2011, and strand 5 will start in 2012. The initial results for Project Maths in the 24 schools where students sat the Leaving Certificate examination in Strands 1 and 2 in 2010 were published by the State Examinations Commission. These showed that results were broadly in line with the national trends. However, there was a modest increase (2.5%) in the proportion taking higher level maths in the Project Schools, and significantly improved EFNG rates at ordinary level (5.4% v 9.8% in mainstream schools.)
34 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the degree to which he expects to be in a position to meet the requirements of children with special needs in mainstream education over the next four years, with particular reference to the provision of special needs assistants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14404/11]
There has been no reduction in the overall number of Special Needs Assistants (SNAs). 10,575 posts are available which represents a significant increase in the numbers of SNAs over recent years. It is considered that with careful management and distribution of these resources that there should be sufficient posts to provide access to SNA support for all children requiring support.
The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has issued a circular to schools advising of the allocation process for the 2011/2012 school year. A key feature of the scheme will be to provide for an annual allocation of SNA support to eligible schools.
The NCSE asked schools to submit all applications for SNA support to them by 18th March, 2011 and intend to inform schools of their annual SNA allocation as soon as possible. The allocations for future years will be considered in the context of the estimates for those years.
35 Deputy Eric Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a works grant will be awarded to a school (details supplied) in Dublin 10. [14368/11]
I can confirm that the school referred to by the Deputy submitted an application for funding under the 2011 Summer Works Scheme. This application was also further considered for purposes of the Government's Jobs Initiative.
Unfortunately, due to the scale of demand for funding under both the Scheme and the Initiative, it was not possible to grant aid all applications. On the basis of the scheme's prioritisation criteria, the school referred to by the Deputy was not included in the list of 453 schools that were successful under the summer works scheme and in the further list of 374 schools that were successful under the Jobs Initiative. A letter to this effect has issued to the school.
The school authority in question has since submitted an application for funding for additional accommodation. The application will be assessed and a decision will be conveyed to the school authority as soon as the assessment process has been completed.
37 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide an explanation for the withdrawal of special needs assistant services from a person (details supplied) in County Sligo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14472/11]
I wish to advise the Deputy that Special Needs Assistant (SNA) allocations are not permanent, as the level of SNA support allocated to a school may be increased or decreased as pupils who qualify for SNA support enrol or leave a school. They are also decreased where a child's care needs may have diminished over time. The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) for allocating resource teachers and SNAs to schools to support children with special educational needs. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support. This now includes a requirement for the NCSE to have regard to an overall cap on the number of SNA posts. I have referred this query to the NCSE for their consideration and direct reply to the Deputy.
38 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason funding for temporary classrooms has been cut in the case of a school (details supplied) by 10% when the school is committed to paying 100% of the contract price to its temporary classroom suppliers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14371/11]
65 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason a school (details supplied) in County Kildare is categorised under band 3 on his Department’s website in view of the fact that the school fulfils all the criteria for being a band 1 school because it has seven temporary classrooms and an autistic spectrum disorder unit and is more than 50 years old; if he will review this categorisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14370/11]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 38 and 65 together.
My Department has received correspondence from the school referred to by the Deputy relating to the Band Rating assigned to the school's application for capital funding. This will be considered and a response will be conveyed to the school authorities in due course.
In light of the current market trends in relation to the cost of the rental of accommodation, and because of the current budgetary constraints, my Department is obliged to seek reductions in the rental that is currently being charged to schools for temporary accommodation. Such reductions are being sought where contracts are up for renewal. The school referred to by the Deputy has been requested to negotiate and secure a reduction in the level of rent being sought for the rental of temporary accommodation. Such reductions have been achieved with suppliers of temporary class rooms in similar circumstances and substantial savings have been secured.
39 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will confirm that out of the estimated 1,200 posts due to be cut in June in the primary and post primary sectors, almost 800 will have a direct impact on children from a Traveller background. [14466/11]
I wish to advise the Deputy that the decision to withdraw Resource Teacher for Travellers was taken by the previous Government as part of the last Budget. The requirement to make expenditure savings and to ensure that staffing numbers remain within the Public Service Employment Control Framework prevent me from re-visiting this decision.
Resource Teacher for Traveller posts/Teaching Hours for Traveller pupils will be withdrawn, effective from 31st August 2011. Traveller pupils who are eligible for learning support teaching should receive this tuition through the existing learning support provision in schools. All schools should select students for learning support on the basis of priority of need. Limited alleviation or adjustment measures have been provided to assist schools that have high concentrations of Traveller pupils who were previously supported by Resource Teachers for Travellers.
The expected budgetary target reduction in the number of Resource Teacher for Traveller Posts/Teaching Hours for Travellers, based on estimated provision for 2011, was 723 Whole Time Equivalent (WTE) posts. As at the end of January 2011, in respect of the 2010/2011 school year, the actual number of Resource Teachers for Travellers employed amounted to a total of 709.54 WTE posts nationwide. The number of Whole Time Equivalent post savings in respect of the withdrawal of RTT posts will therefore be 709.54 posts. This will be offset by any alleviation or adjustment posts allocated. 119 such posts have been allocated to date.
My Department will also consider whether further limited alleviation measures can be provided for schools who have not received alleviation or adjustment measures to date and for whom it can be demonstrated that they have been disproportionately affected by the decision to withdraw Resource Teacher for Traveller posts, in comparison to schools of a similar size and circumstances. Under the National Recovery Plan 2011-2014, the Visiting Teachers Service for Travellers (VTST) will also be discontinued from September 2011. 40 Whole Time equivalent posts will be withdrawn as a result of this measure.
Work is ongoing in the Department to identify what can be done within the limits of remaining resources, to address the acknowledged ongoing needs of the Traveller community. The VTST is managed by the National Education Welfare Board (NEWB) as part of the Integration of Education Services alongside the School Completion Programme (SCP), the Home School Community Liaison Service (HSCL) and the Education Welfare Service (EWS). Responsibility for the NEWB and its services has transferred to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs with effect from May 2011. Our two departments will work together to ensure that the services in the NEWB, including the SCP, the HSCL and the EWS will have a renewed focus to more effectively target and support children at risk, including Traveller children.
40 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the professional development service for teachers support service provides all documentation, handouts, booklets, leaflets and resources in both Irish and English; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14446/11]
My Department and its support services are fully supportive of the national language and are committed to the implementation of the recently published Government strategy on the Irish language. The Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST) is a team of seconded teachers, which offers professional development support to primary and post-primary teachers and schools on a wide range of topics. The service was established in September 2010, following a reconfiguration of the support services in existence prior to that date, and 2011 is their first full year of operation.
It is the policy of the PDST to provide bilingual versions of its documentation, materials and resources in accordance with statutory requirements and the needs of teachers and schools. Where the PDST engages in face to face support with teachers and schools, documentation including presentations and handouts are provided through the language medium of the school. Generally, direct communications from the PDST to all schools are provided in both Irish and English.
41 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to encourage and provide new training opportunities for apprentices, many of whom are in their final year and left without certification or a pathway to finish their trade due to the collapse and downturn in the economy, particularly in the construction sector. [14463/11]
FÁS has, in consultation with the relevant stakeholders, put in place a number of measures in recent years and in 2011 to enable registered redundant apprentices to progress in their apprenticeships. The ‘Redundant Apprentice Placement Scheme' was introduced by FÁS in 2010 to provide work placement opportunities for redundant apprentices to complete their on-the-job training at Phase 3, 5 and 7. The scheme has been broadened in 2011 to include placements with employers in both the private and the public sectors. The scheme, for which €7.3m in funding is being provided, aims to provide work placements for up to 1,000 apprentices in 2011. As at 27 May 2011, 846 redundant apprentices are currently on the scheme and 118 redundant apprentices have completed their placement with FÁS approved employers.
Employers in the private sector and, for the first time, the public sector, may participate in the 2011 scheme provided they meet the eligibility criteria. The 2011 scheme requires no wage contribution from the employer but instead a standard training allowance of €260 at Phase 3, €350 at Phase 5 and €400 at Phase 7 is paid to the redundant apprentice by FÁS. Eligible redundant apprentices are referred by FÁS to approved employers to participate in the scheme. The maximum period of placement is 26 weeks at Phase 3 or 26 weeks at Phase 5 or 12 weeks at Phase 7.
Other initiatives taken by FÁS to assist redundant apprentices to progress in their apprenticeships include ‘Changes in Progression Rules' whereby redundant apprentices unable to complete their relevant on-the-job training phases are now permitted to progress to the next off-the-job training phase. Under the ‘Phase 7 Equivalent Assessments Scheme', redundant construction trade apprentices unable to complete on-the-job Phase 7 Assessments at an employer may undertake Phase 7 Equivalent Assessments at a FÁS Training Centre.
The ‘Recognition of Prior Learning Scheme' allows redundant apprentices who have successfully completed all apprenticeship training Phases 1 to 7, but who have not completed the statutory four years in employment as an apprentice, to validate their competence by submitting a portfolio of evidence of trade related work experience gained at home and/or abroad and/or trade related training and education. Under the ‘Fee Waiver Scheme', FÁS day and/or evening courses fees are waived for redundant apprentices. Under the EU ‘Leonardo da Vinci Lifelong Learning Programme', 12 redundant apprentices commenced on-the-job training with employers in Germany in February 2011.
A number of new programmes for redundant apprentices and craftspersons are currently being developed or implemented by FÁS in conjunction with the Higher Education Authority and Institutes of Technology. These programmes include a post-Phase 6 Certificate in Craft Transferable Skills, a special course in Advanced Skills for Redundant Plastering Craftspersons, a Certificate in Entrepreneurship for Redundant Craftspersons and short duration courses to prepare apprentices to repeat their outstanding assessments.
42 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Education and Skills the implications resulting from his decision to change the criteria by which gaelscoileanna are founded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14454/11]
A review of the criteria and procedures for the establishment of new primary schools has been undertaken by the Commission on School Accommodation and its report was recently published on my Department's website. The report's recommendations and proposals are a useful contribution to the deliberations of the recently established Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector. A review was deemed necessary given the rapid growth in population and changing demographics in recent years.
The report recognises the increasing parental demand for diversity of school provision and in particular for Irish medium and multi-denominational/non-denominational education. It will be necessary to consider the report's recommendations and proposals. In the interim it is not proposed to recognise any new primary schools, except in areas where the increases in pupil numbers cannot be catered for in existing schools and which require the provision of new schools. In this regard, I wish to point out that approval has been given to recognise a new Gaelscoil in Ashbourne, County Meath, from September 2011 and approval has also been given to recognise a new Gaelscoil in Mulhuddart, Co. Dublin from September 2012. Both these schools will be under the patronage of An Foras Pátrúnachta.
43 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the review of the CAO system will be carried out hand in hand with reform of the leaving certificate curriculum; and his engagement to date with the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment on the issue of CAO and leaving certificate reform. [14510/11]
I have asked the universities and institutes of technology to examine the scope for reform of the current points system for entry to higher education to address some of the negative backwash effects on students' learning in senior cycle. I am anxious that all possible reform options would now be explored and presented for wider discussion and consideration ahead of a planned joint HEA-NCCA conference to take place this coming September.
The NCCA will shortly advise on reforms in junior cycle to address curriculum overload and rote learning, and promote creativity and innovation. Hopefully, the reforms will provide some scope in the longer term for further expansion of second assessment components in senior cycle subjects. These changes are being advanced in the context of the imperative to strengthen attainment levels in maths, science and technology, and to promote the skills for independent learning and critical thinking on a lifelong basis.
45 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has taken the responsibility from the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation to implement the proposals relating to the comprehensive employment strategy for people with disabilities; and in view of the fact that one of its key initiatives is to promote equal opportunities for that sector in the employment market, if he will agree to prioritise and implement this element without delay. [14461/11]
My Department is responsible for and is implementing the training and education components of the Comprehensive Employment Strategy for People with Disabilities with a view to giving them the skills to progress to further education, training or employment.
46 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on the statistics which show that only one in every ten children from the Traveller community who enrols in school goes on to complete his or her post-primary education; and, in view of these statistics, his plans to address this crisis. [14459/11]
A survey carried out by the Visiting Teachers Service for Travellers on Traveller enrolment found that in September 2009, over 11,300 young Travellers were enrolled in school, 8,301 at primary level and 3,014 in mainstream at post-primary. Progress at primary level has been taking place on a steady basis over the past twenty five years while progress at post-primary level has been more evident in recent years. The September 2009 enrolment shows more than a doubling of Traveller enrolment in post-primary since September 2000 when there were 1,165 Traveller students enrolled. Over the four year period to 2009 the number of Traveller pupils sitting Junior Certificate has increased by over 50% from 292 in 2005 to 442 in 2009. Likewise the number sitting Leaving Certificate and Leaving Certificate Applied has more than doubled from 43 in 2005 to 103 in 2009.
While the data point to a fall off before completion of the Leaving Certificate many Travellers remain engaged with education in alternative settings. Youthreach is an integrated programme of education, training and work experience, for young people in the 15-20 age group who have left school early without any qualifications or vocational training. There are almost 6,000 places available nationwide under the Youthreach umbrella. The programme is funded by the Department of Education and Skills with some 3,700 of these places provided by VECs in Youthreach centres with the remaining places provided by FÁS in Community Training Centres. The latest available annual survey (2010) of participants showed that of a total of 6,000 learners, 800 identified themselves as Travellers. All Further Education programmes are open to Travellers and include both full time programmes (Post Leaving Certificate programme; Vocational Educational Opportunities Scheme; and Youthreach) and part time programmes (Back to Education Initiative; and Adult Literacy and Community Education).
The Report and Recommendations for a Traveller Education Strategy was launched in 2006, following wide ranging consultation with stakeholders including Traveller representatives. It covers all aspects of Traveller education from preschool to further and higher education. A core principle of the strategy is that allocation of resources is based on ‘individual educational need' rather than ‘Traveller identity'. My department's aim is to prioritise the available resources to maximum effect across the education sector to enhance educational outcomes for all children and adults including Travellers.
Under the National Recovery Plan 2011-2014, the Resource Teaching posts for Travellers will be withdrawn, effective from 31st August 2011. In order to assist schools, with high concentrations of Traveller pupils, limited alleviation or adjustment measures are being provided. As such, alleviation measures are being concentrated on schools which had 33 or more pupils supported by RTT posts, based on 2009/10 school year enrolments. Furthermore Traveller enrolments have been included in the valid enrolment for the purpose of allocating additional staffing under DEIS from the 2011/12 school year.
The Visiting Teachers Service for Travellers (VTST) will also be discontinued from September 2011 under the National Recovery Plan 2011-2014. The VTST is managed by the National Education Welfare Board (NEWB) alongside the School Completion Programme (SCP), Home School Community Liaison Service (HSCL) and the Education Welfare Service (EWS). While responsibility for the NEWB has transferred to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, the two departments will work together to ensure that the services in the NEWB, including the SCP, HSCL and the EWS will have a renewed focus to more effectively target and support all children at risk, including Traveller children.
47 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills the date on which he intends to begin a review of State funding for capital projects in fee-paying schools and the steps he has taken regarding same. [14512/11]
Funding for school building projects, whether for fee-charging schools or schools in the free education scheme, are selected on the basis of priority of need using published criteria. However, as the Deputy may be aware, considerations of State support for minority religions has been an important factor in the provision of funding for such schools, given that much of the fee-charging sector has traditionally been made up of Protestant schools and those with a minority religious ethos. Such considerations however have to take into account the constitutionality of making resources available to fee-charging schools of one ethos and not to those of another. Officials of my Department have been in discussions with senior representatives of the Protestant churches and schools concerning the funding arrangements, including funding for capital projects, for their schools. Such discussions are continuing.
48 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will give assurances that qualified teachers will not be expected to work in a school on a voluntary basis or for less remuneration than their counterparts. [14468/11]
A 10% reduction in salary applies to all teachers who commence employment for the first time on or after 1 January 2011. This is in accordance with the Budget 2011 decision. Teachers appointed for the first time also now commence employment at the first point of the salary scale. Incremental credit for the length of time in college training as a teacher is no longer reckonable. Regardless of starting pay the remuneration of teachers in the same school will often differ due to a number of factors such as the qualifications held by individuals, the work undertaken by the teacher and the length of service as a teacher. My Department is also aware that a number of teachers and, in particular, newly qualified teachers are unable to source experience in schools which would allow them to complete teaching practice requirements and so gain full registration with the Teaching Council or indeed to gain classroom and school based experience which may prove advantageous to their future employment prospects.
The FÁS Work Placement Programme (WPP), which allows a business or organisation to take on a person for a work experience placement, was therefore extended in late 2010 so as not to exclude unemployed teachers or non-teaching staff from obtaining placements in publicly funded schools. Participation in the programme is entirely voluntary and involves a placement for a defined period of time. Participants may be entitled to maintain their social welfare entitlements subject to the rules of the Department of Social Protection.
49 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on the report of the expert group on future skills needs regarding the level of achievement in mathematics among students here; if he will implement the recommendations of the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14482/11]
The Report of the Expert Group called for the introduction of bonus points for Higher Level Mathematics in the Leaving Certificate. I am pleased to say that all third level institutions have collectively decided to operate a bonus points scheme for Higher Level Mathematics for a four year trial period from 2012 to 2015 with a review in 2014. A bonus of 25 points will be allocated to students who achieve a grade D3 or above in LC Higher Level mathematics.
As recommended in that report, Project Maths began in all second level schools in September 2010, building on the experiences of 24 Project Schools which started the programme in 2008. This is being supported by a national programme of professional development for teachers which began in 2009, and will continue to at least 2013. A Project Maths Implementation Support Group, as an industry/education partnership, has also reported in 2010 on how stakeholders from business, second level and higher education can work together to achieve the objectives of Project Maths. My Department is also currently finalising a draft National Literacy and Numeracy plan which is designed to promote a significant improvement in this area across primary and second level schools.
50 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide a report outlining any difficulties with the Project Maths website www.projectwebsite.ie; and if past papers are to become available for download from this website. [14448/11]
The www.projectmaths.ie website is operating normally. The norm, in cases of syllabus reform, is that the State Examinations Commission publishes a sample examination paper in the first term of the examination year. In the case of Project Maths, the website contains sample examination papers published by the State Examinations Commission for the Junior Certificate 2011, sample papers for the Leaving Certificate 2010 and 2011, and the actual examination papers for the Leaving Certificate in 2010. This is supplemented by a range of resources for teachers and students and by comprehensive professional development for teachers. The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment has also provided examples of questions and materials for schools which are available on its website, www.ncca.ie. The examination papers are also available on the NCCA and on the State Examinations Commission website www.examinations.ie.
Project Maths began in all schools in September 2010 in junior and senior cycle, building on the experience of 24 schools which began the initiative in 2008. The reforms are being implemented on a phased basis over 3 years across five strands of mathematics, and are being refined in the light of the experience in the project schools. As each of the strands are implemented, the examinations for the relevant class years for the strands in question are changed to reflect the new approach. The initiative is therefore evolutionary in nature for the 24 project schools. While materials and supports and sample examination papers are being provided, schools cannot rely on a databank of past examination papers, as they could in the past.
Project Maths is designed to encourage better understanding of mathematics, to reinforce its practical relevance to everyday life, and to ensure better curriculum continuity across the system. A key objective is to improve attainment levels in Maths and to encourage more students to take the subject at higher level.
51 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the extent to which he can provide for school building projects during the next four years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14405/11]
97 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he expects to approve all of the primary and second-level school building projects listed as being a priority in the current year; if he foresees any increase on projections; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14746/11]
109 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number and location of school building projects in County Kildare awaiting approval in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14758/11]
110 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the extent to which it is expected the various school building projects in County Kildare will be progressed in the next four years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14759/11]
115 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number and location of primary and second-level schools in County Kildare in respect of which he has received requests for the provision of additional permanent and-or temporary facilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14764/11]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 51, 97, 109, 110 and 115 together.
My Department's most recent projections indicate that enrolments at post-primary level will rise from current levels of circa 312,200 pupils to about 336,600 pupils by the year 2017 and at primary level enrolments are expected to increase from the current total enrolment of circa 505,600 pupils to an expected enrolment circa 567,300 pupils by the year 2017. It is within this context that the Forward Planning Section of my Department is finalising its analysis of all areas in the country in order to determine the level of additional school provision which will be required at both primary and post primary level up to 2017.
The progression of all large scale building projects, including projects for schools in Kildare, from initial design stage through to construction phase, will be considered in the context of my Department's Multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme with due regard to Forward Planning's recommendations and available financial resources. The current status of all projects on the school building programme, including those in Kildare, may be viewed on my Department's website at www.education.ie and this programme will be regularly updated throughout the year. Details of schools in Kildare who requested permanent accommodation is available on the Department’s website. A list of schools in Kildare who submitted requests for temporary accommodation in 2011, together with the status of the application is provided as follows for the Deputy’s information.
Rathcoffey National School
Replacement of temporary accommoation
Ursaille Naofa, Naas
S N Naomh Ioseph, Kilcullen
St Conleths, Derrinturn
Scoil Uí Riada, Kilcock
Gaelscoil Uí Fhiaich, Maynooth
52 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will review the situation in Dún Laoghaire College of Further Education, Dublin, in which, due to a reduction in apprentice places and a cap on student places, six courses are in jeopardy and ten teachers will not be used to full capacity, while ten other teachers will lose their jobs; if he will consider increasing the cap by 175; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14539/11]
The Deputy will be aware that the downturn in the construction sector has resulted in a significant fall off in the numbers of apprentices being recruited nationally. In 2009, an independent evaluation panel was established to advise the Higher Education Authority (HEA) in relation to the appropriate levels of provision which should be maintained within the education sector having regard to likely future demand to 2014. The panel recommended a reduction in provision in Dún Laoghaire College of Further Education (DLCFE) from 24 blocks in the 2009/2010 academic year to 12 blocks in 2014. The full reduction is being phased in over the period 2010 to 2014.
In 2011/2012 the college will provide 2 blocks for the first and second term and 3 blocks for the third term, a reduction in provision which will require a reduction of 5.84 whole time equivalent (WTE) teachers in the DLCFE teacher allocation. DLCFE is an approved PLC centre under the management of Dun Laoghaire Vocational Education Committee (VEC). On an annual basis, my Department allocates approved Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) places to VECs and other providers. VECs are responsible for the allocation of places to approved PLC centres under their remit.
Dún Laoghaire VEC's current allocation of approved PLC places is 2,151, which includes 28 places specifically allocated for the 2009/2010 academic year to compensate for the loss of apprenticeship blocks and a further 75 places allocated for the 2009/2010 academic year as part of the 2009 Supplementary Budget.
Dún Laoghaire VEC's allocation of approved PLC places was maintained for the 2011/2012 academic year. As part of the recently announced Jobs Initiative, provision has been made for the allocation of a further 1,000 PLC places, targeted at the unemployed. Providers were invited to apply for these places and I understand that Dún Laoghaire VEC has submitted an application, highlighting the issue raised by the Deputy. Officials in my Department are currently evaluating these applications and providers will be notified of the outcome as soon as possible.
53 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he is opposed to the introduction of a cap on student numbers at third level. [14509/11]
I am anxious to support the higher education sector in responding to future demand for growth in participation. This future growth needs to be reconciled with limitations on public resources and a need to protect and enhance core quality. Although the nature of these difficult trade-offs are described in the National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030, the strategy also identifies the need for more detailed analysis. In this regard, I have asked the Higher Education Authority to undertake further work on the sustainability of the existing funding framework over the course of this year. This work will inform consideration by Government of policy options in relation to future funding of the sector.
54 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the retention of resource teachers for Travellers in DEIS 1 schools; the change in the number of such posts in each school in the next school year; and his plans to update the general allocation model to ensure that travellers are counted. [14515/11]
I wish to advise the Deputy that the decision to withdraw Resource Teacher for Travellers was taken by the previous Government as part of the last Budget. The requirement to make expenditure savings and to ensure that staffing numbers remain within the Public Service Employment Control Framework prevent me from re-visiting this decision.
Resource Teacher for Traveller posts/Teaching Hours for Traveller pupils will be withdrawn, effective from 31 August 2011. Traveller pupils who are eligible for learning support teaching should receive this tuition through the existing learning support provision in schools. All schools should select students for learning support on the basis of priority of need. Limited alleviation or adjustment measures are being provided to assist schools that have high concentrations of Traveller pupils who were previously supported by Resource Teachers for Travellers.
In respect of DEIS Urban Band 1 schools, Traveller enrolments have been included in the valid enrolment for the purpose of allocating additional staffing under DEIS from the 2011/12 school year. The schools involved have already received their staffing allocations for next year.
A total of 81 posts have been allocated to DEIS schools, following the inclusion of Traveller enrolments in the valid enrolment under DEIS from the 2011/12 school year. I will arrange to have details of the breakdown of these posts sent to the Deputy. A review of the General Allocation Model has now been completed. The findings and recommendations of this review will be considered in the context the Government's Employment Control Framework and competing demands on teacher numbers.
55 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Education and Skills if legislation is being prepared with regard to the establishment of the new skills agency; the progress made to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14477/11]
I am currently reviewing options regarding the future provision of further education and training and the structures required to support it. If necessary, following the completion of this review, I will bring proposals to Government to draft any appropriate legislation.
56 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he is committed to investing in project maths and his plans for improving the way in which maths and science are taught. [14514/11]
I am committed to investment in Project Maths. The initiative is designed to encourage better understanding of mathematics, to reinforce its practical relevance to everyday life, and to ensure better curriculum continuity across the system. Project Maths began in all schools in September 2010, building on the experiences of 24 schools which started the initiative in September 2008. It is being supported by a comprehensive programme of professional development for teachers which began in 2009 for mainstream schools and will continue to at least 2013. My Department will also be tendering shortly for the provision of post graduate programmes in maths for teachers.
In science, a new junior cycle syllabus was implemented on a phased basis since 2003 and provides a strong emphasis on practical investigative approaches. The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment is currently engaging in a public consultation on revised draft Leaving Certificate syllabuses in Biology, Physics and Chemistry which are designed to extend these approaches to senior cycle. The Government is committed to an agenda of reform in this area to strengthen Ireland's competitiveness, supported by the work of the professional development services for teachers and the Discover Science and Engineering programme.
57 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to ensure all school staff at primary and post primary level are trained in the proper procedures to deal with bullying. [14469/11]
My Department's Guidelines on Countering Bullying in Primary and Post Primary Schools (1993) require all schools to have an anti bullying policy. It is the responsibility of school management to ensure that the guidelines are followed and if training is required, it is available from the Social, Personal & Health Education (SPHE) support service. My Department's support teams, the PDST and SPHE provide advice and guidance to schools on a range of school policies including their anti-bullying policies. In addition, the SPHE Anti Bullying Co-ordinator runs training courses on positive strategies for managing bullying issues. In the academic year 2010/2011, SPHE supported 1320 teachers from 330 schools and also provided cluster training in Education Support Centres. Since 2006 SPHE has supported 7,200 teachers.
Having regard to current priorities, for example literacy, numeracy and other pressures, I have no plans to introduce compulsory CPD for teachers in relation to bullying.
58 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the additional resources available to him as a result of the jobs initiative announcement by the Minister for Finance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14479/11]
60 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the total number of additional training places available as a result of the jobs initiative announcement; the particular programmes that will have additional placements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14475/11]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 58 and 60 together.
The recent Jobs Initiative contains details of over 20,000 additional training, education and work experience places for the unemployed. The majority of the places (15,900) will be delivered through the Department of Education and Skills and through the following programmes:
6,000 places on FÁS Specific Skills Training Courses (FÁS)
3,000 places on the part-time Further Education Back to Education Initiative (BTEI)
1,000 places on the Further Education Post Leaving Certificate Courses (PLC)
5,900 Higher Education places on the Springboard Initiative.
These additional places are being funded in 2011 through a combination of additional funds and through redeployment of some financial resources within the Department. In 2011 an additional €8.3 million is being provided to my Department in this regard.
59 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to develop a policy to promote higher level mathematics to second level students and improve its uptake at leaving certificate level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14406/11]
Higher education institutions have collectively agreed to operate a bonus points scheme for Higher Level Mathematics for a four year trial period from 2012 to 2015 inclusive, with a review in 2014. A bonus of 25 points will be allocated to students who achieve a grade D3 or above in LC Higher Level mathematics. This pilot scheme has been specifically designed with the objective of maximizing the numbers of Leaving Certificate students who study for and sit the Higher Level maths examinations, and should compensate for the perceived additional workload associated with Higher Level Mathematics, and particularly incentivise the 20% of students who currently move to Ordinary Level having studied Higher Level for most of their senior cycle.
A major programme of reform in Mathematics, Project Maths, began in all second level schools at both junior and senior cycle in September last, building on the experience of 24 schools which began the programme in 2008. Project Maths is designed to encourage better understanding of mathematics, to reinforce its practical relevance to everyday life, and encourage more students to take the subject at higher level.
I also intend to publish a National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy shortly which will provide a continuum of measures designed to improve performance in these critical areas. The NCCA will shortly advise me on reforms in junior cycle which are designed to address curriculum overload and rote learning, and promote creativity and innovation. In addition, I have also asked higher education institutions to examine the scope for reform of the CAO points system to overcome some of its negative backwash effects on senior cycle students' learning.
Taken together, these initiatives are intended to improve attainment in Mathematics and increase the numbers of students taking Higher Level.
61 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to a situation in Waterford in which FÁS students currently undertaking a child care practitionership course at FETAC level 5 and looking to progress to FETAC level 6 in child care management with the City of Waterford VEC College of Further Education are unable to do so due to a time difference between the start of the level 6 course and the exam results and accreditation of the level 5 course; that this anomaly is resulting in a delay of a full year for a group of students before they can progress to level 6; and the action he will take on this issue to resolve the matter and prevent similar anomalies taking place in the future. [14467/11]
My Department has made inquiries with FÁS and with the relevant VEC about this issue. I understand also that FÁS and the VEC have been in contact about the matter and that both organisations are liaising with a view to resolving the difficulty that arose in this instance.
62 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Education and Skills the additional measures he intends to introduce to tackle the increasing numbers of second level students attaining low grades in mathematics, science and technology, as detailed by a European Commission report published in April 2011. [14460/11]
The EU Commission's report in terms of reading, maths and science is based on the PISA 2009 results. These showed a significant deterioration in the performance of 15 year olds in Ireland in Mathematics and Reading vis-à-vis earlier years. Ireland’s performance in Mathematics ranked as just below the OECD average, and Reading was at the OECD average. In science, Ireland’s score is significantly above the OECD average and is the same mean score as reported in PISA 2006.
The fall in standards has not been corroborated by evidence from other surveys and must be treated with some caution. Changes in the profile of students, survey fatigue, and the chance inclusion of some very low performing schools were seen by international experts to be factors which partly explain the change.
A major programme of reform under Project Maths is currently under way in all second level schools supported by comprehensive investment in professional development for teachers. My Department is also currently finalising a National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy. In science, revised syllabuses were introduced in primary level and in junior cycle in 2003, and the NCCA is currently engaging in a public consultation process on revised syllabuses in Leaving Certificate Biology, Physics and Chemistry. Enhancements to the teaching and learning of science are being supported by the professional development services for teachers and the Discover Science and Engineering Programme.
In technology, €116.4 million has been invested in 2009 and 2010 under the Schools ICT programme to provide infrastructure, professional development for teachers, digital content and broadband services. This is being supplemented by a wide range of adult learning options in ICT provided locally by schools and VECs.
63 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to reform the higher education grants system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14407/11]
The Deputy will probably be aware that, currently, there are four student grant schemes administered by 66 grant awarding bodies (local authorities and VECs) on my Department's behalf. However, earlier this year, the Student Support Act became law. This paves the way to consolidate the four existing schemes into a single unified scheme and I intend that this will happen for the 2011/12 academic year. In addition, plans are well underway to replace the 66 grant awarding bodies with one single authority. I have approved the appointment of the CDVEC to operate this centralised body on a transitional basis subject to the agreement of an operational plan with my Department. The single authority will be operative from 2012. It will accept all new applications initially. Existing grant awarding bodies will continue to deal with the renewal of existing grants on a wind-down basis over three to four years. I will also be establishing an independent appeals board commensurate with the provisions of the legislation. In tandem with these developments, the on line application facility for students and the payment of grants by EFT continues to be rolled out. I expect that these fundamental reforms will make it easier for students to apply for a grant. They will also ensure consistency of treatment of applications and the timely payment of grants.
64 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the instructions that have been given by him to boards of management of primary and post-primary schools in relation to recruitment of teachers for temporary and substitute teaching positions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14474/11]
The process of allocating teaching resources to schools for 2011/2012 and the arrangements for filling vacant or new teaching posts, including temporary posts, takes place in the context of the EU/IMF Programme of Support for Ireland and the Public Service Agreement 2010/2014. It is necessary for my Department to exercise additional control and reporting measures this year to ensure that the numbers of teachers employed in schools is consistent with the EU/IMF Programme of Support for Ireland. This requires that all permanent and fixed term positions are in the first instance made available to those surplus teachers with either permanent contracts or contracts of indefinite duration. It is the intention of the Department to restore recruitment from fixed-term teachers on the main panels, supplementary panels or public advertisement at the earliest possible opportunity, after all the surplus permanent teachers have been redeployed.
Circular 31/2011 recently issued by my Department sets down rules in regarding the appointment of appropriately qualified registered teachers and is applicable to all appointments made on or after 1 September 2011. Schools will be required to keep a list of appropriately qualified registered teachers who are available for substitute teaching at short notice. Teachers who are available for work will be able to inform schools in their locality and be included on this list. Schools must then use this list or a service like Subsearch or TextaSub when they need a teacher at short notice. If a school cannot find an unemployed teacher in time, they may then employ a retired appropriately qualified registered teacher. If none is available, it may move on to employ a registered teacher whose qualifications are for a different sector or post giving preference, wherever possible, to an unemployed teacher over a retired one. If a school, despite its best efforts, cannot find a registered teacher it may, for a maximum period of one week, employ an unregistered person, provided that it is satisfied that the person is competent and capable to act in place of a teacher. A school must continue looking for an appropriately qualified registered teacher and, if it finds one in the meantime, the interim person must be let go.
66 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will he consider reviewing the unregulated patron power and the procedures that are used to authorise the dismissal of a teacher. [14453/11]
Section 24 of the Education Act 1998 provides that the appointment, suspension and dismissal of teachers are the responsibility of boards of management. In the case of VEC schools, section 20 of the Vocational Education (Amendment) Act 2001 provides that the appointment of teachers and other staff are a matter for each VEC. Removal from office of a VEC officeholder is provided for by section 8 of the Vocational Education (Amendment) Act 2001 and requires a decision of the Minister.
Under Circulars 59/2009 (VEC Schools) and 60/2009 (all other schools) procedures were agreed relating to both professional competence issues and procedures relating to work, conduct and matters other than professional competence. This agreement was made under the terms of Towards 2016 and the procedures were issued in September 2009.
The procedures serve a dual purpose in that they provide a framework which enables schools to maintain satisfactory standards, and for teachers and principals to have access to procedures whereby alleged failures to comply with these standards may be fairly and sensitively addressed.
67 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Education and Skills when the higher education grant scheme 2011-2012 will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14476/11]
As the Deputy may be aware, the Student Support Act became law earlier this year. This legislation enables the consolidation of the four existing student grant schemes into a single unified scheme. As a consequence, a fundamental review of the schemes was necessary. This is nearing completion and I expect to be able to publish the new scheme shortly.
68 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will report on an alleged massacre in Camp Ashraf of Iranian dissidents; if there are any plans by the UN and EU to assume protection of Ashraf and to station an independent monitoring team there; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14583/11]
As the Deputy will be aware from my reply to Question No. 32 of 14 April 2011, I am deeply concerned at recent reports of the use of force against Camp Ashraf residents in Iraq and the resulting loss of life. Ireland and the EU are determined to seek a long-term and peaceful solution to the predicament of the residents of Camp Ashraf. The EU Foreign Affairs Council discussed the situation at Camp Ashraf on 23 May, emphasising the need to respect human rights. I fully support the Council's view that we must work with the UN (including the UN High Commissioner for Refugees) and US in particular, to seek a lasting resolution to this situation.
As you will be aware, Ireland does not have a resident Embassy in Iraq. However, HR Ashton has clearly set out the EU position, including a strong condemnation of the recent violence in Camp Ashraf, and has conveyed this position in writing and by telephone to Iraqi Foreign Minister Zebari. I particularly endorse HR Ashton's renewal of the EU's repeated call on the Iraqi government to refrain from the use of violence and to show full respect for the human rights of Camp Ashraf's residents. I also strongly support her call for a thorough and independent inquiry into the events of 8 April.
While there are no easy remedies to the situation in Camp Ashraf, force is not the answer. Iraq's sovereignty should be respected over the entire territory of Iraq, including in Camp Ashraf, but the human rights of residents of Camp Ashraf must be respected too and the Iraqi government must accept full responsibility for ensuring the protection of all those resident on its territory. In actively seeking a solution, Ireland and its EU partners will continue to work with international institutions and partners, while calling upon the Iraqi government to grant access to independent international observers, to show restraint and to seek a peaceful and sustainable solution.
69 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Finance if the bicycle scheme is still available; and if any more funding is being provided for same. [14594/11]
The cycle-to-work scheme continues to operate following its introduction in Finance (No. 2) Act 2008. At present there are no plans for its amendment.
Similar to the travel pass scheme, an employer and employee may enter into a salary sacrifice arrangement whereby the employee agrees to forgo part of his or her salary to cover the costs associated with the purchase of the bicycle/safety equipment. In such circumstances, the employee will not be liable to tax or PRSI or levies on the salary forgone. Where salary sacrifice arrangements are used, they must be completed over a maximum of 12 months from the date of provision of the bicycle/safety equipment.
70 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Finance if a company (details supplied) has been able to avail of tax exemptions or taxation expenditures since its arrival on the Irish market; the schemes that the company could have benefited from; and the cost to the Exchequer of each scheme on an annual basis since its arrival here. [14670/11]
The tax affairs of a particular company are a matter for the Revenue Commissioners and the company concerned. I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that their obligation to observe confidentiality in relation to the tax affairs of individual taxpayers or companies precludes them from providing the information requested by the Deputy.
71 Deputy Alex White asked the Minister for Finance his plans for the abolition of mortgage interest relief for first time buyers and the proposal to introduce a new relief for those who purchased homes between 2004 and 2008; how a person will qualify under the new scheme; the stage of house purchase that must have been completed by 31 December 2008 in order to qualify; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14570/11]
There is a commitment in the Programme for Government to help homeowners in distress. The Government will examine a number of proposals in relation to this commitment.
One of these proposals relates to increasing mortgage interest relief to 30% for First Time Buyers who bought between 2004 and 2008 and to finance this in part by abolishing mortgage interest relief for new buyers.
When this proposal has been thoroughly examined, I will decide on the appropriate action to be taken. However, any measures will not be introduced before Budget 2012.
72 Deputy Stephen Donnelly asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide the content and conditions of the formal comfort he has provided to the Central Bank of Ireland in relation to any potential shortfall in the liquidation of collateral, as referenced on page 104 of the Central Bank of Ireland’s 2010 Annual Report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14581/11]
I can confirm that formal comfort was provided to the Central Bank that any shortfall on the liquidation of collateral would be made good, as reported in the Central Bank Annual Report 2010.
The Deputy will understand, however, that the details of correspondence on this issue between the Minister and the Governor are market-sensitive and must remain confidential.
73 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Finance his plans to extend the Freedom of Information Act to include the National Asset Management Agency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14596/11]
The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform is currently carrying out preparatory work to implement the commitments in the Programme for Government in relation to the Freedom of Information Acts. When this work is completed the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Brendan Howlin, will bring proposals to the Government. The proposals will include consideration of the extension of the provisions of the Freedom of Information Acts to all statutory bodies including the National Assets Management Agency.
74 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Finance, further to Parliamentary Question No. 104 of 17 May 2011, if he will give the Office of Public Works a deadline to place e-invoicing out to tender; the date of this deadline; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14620/11]
The National Procurement Service (NPS) in the Office of Public Works has been tasked with the establishment of a national multi-stakeholder e-invoicing forum, and this forum was set up on 30 May 2011.
The members of the forum are being consulted on the best approach to promoting e-invoicing, taking into account the views of the various sectors.
Standards in e-invoicing are due to be agreed at European Level later this year. At that time the NPS will be in a better position to decide on the appropriate approach to acquiring this service.E
75 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Finance if he will consider correspondence (details supplied) regarding the levy on private occupational pension funds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14641/11]
I have received the representations referred to in the Deputy's question and I will be responding directly to those representations shortly.
76 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Finance his plans to implement the provisions of the Finance Act 2011 regarding tax relief for the retrofitting of homes; the provision made in the 2011 Estimate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14642/11]
Section 13 of Finance Act 2011 provided for income tax relief at the standard rate for expenditure incurred by individuals on a range of works carried out to improve the energy efficiency of residential premises situated in the State. The maximum amount of expenditure that could qualify for relief in any one tax year under the scheme was €150 million. The section is subject to a Ministerial Commencement Order.
There was no provision made in the 2011 estimate for this relief as it was designed such that the relief would be claimed in the year following that in which the work was completed and the expenditure incurred.
Due to the truncated timetable available for Finance Bill 2011, it was not possible to consider a number of potential legislative amendments to the scheme, and thus the legislation as it currently stands is inherently flawed.
The Government announced additional funding for energy efficiency measures in the Jobs Initiative on 10 May 2011, via the grants available from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). Against this background, I have decided to review the need for a separate tax relief for similar works.
77 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide an up-to-date list of the total cost of bonds held by each of the five guaranteed banking institutions, broken down into senior bonds guaranteed, senior bonds unguaranteed and secured, and senior bonds unguaranteed, unsecured and subordinated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14665/11]
The Central Bank of Ireland has advised me that the latest information they have in relation to the value of bonds held by the six covered institutions is as follows:
Senior Bonds Guaranteed: €20,808 million
Senior Bonds Unguaranteed secured: €19,632 million
Senior Bonds Unguaranteed unsecured: €16,306 million
Subordinated bonds: €6,250 million
TOTAL: €62,996 million
The Deputy may wish to note that on 1 April 2011, the Central Bank published the total senior and subordinated debt issuances by those banks covered by the Guarantee as at March 2011. This information, which is available on the Central Bank's website at www.centralbank.ie, published the individual figures on a once-off basis and were disclosed with the consent of the financial institutions and does not form part of any Central Bank statistical series. The value of total senior and subordinated debt at March 2011 was €64,326 million.
78 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if, in line with his pre-election commitment, he now plans to impose losses on senior bondholders at Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide, in view of the fact that the stress test results for these institutions have been concluded and deposits have already been transferred out of the institutions. [14672/11]
The position set out in my Banking Statement at the end of March last regarding possible burden sharing with senior bondholders in Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide Building Society is unchanged notwithstanding the developments highlighted in the Deputy's question.
Last week the Central Bank of Ireland published an addendum to the Financial Measures Programme Report detailing the results of an independent review of the capital requirements of the two institutions. The Central Bank concluded on the basis of this review that the capital level in each institution is adequate and no new capital is required at this time.
It remains Government policy to minimise further injections of taxpayer capital into either institution in the future in order to safeguard Ireland's fiscal position and overall debt fiscal sustainability. As I made clear in my March Statement, should it be determined that additional capital is required at any point in time reflecting for example the worse, or stress, case loan losses similar to the stress estimates in the Restructuring Plan, the Government intends to consult with the external partners on the timeframe and means of recapitalising those institutions at minimum cost to the taxpayer, having regard to the financial stability impacts in Ireland and abroad.
79 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Finance if the Revenue Commissioners has a policy of working with businesses that may be having difficulties in making required payments, in order to maintain these companies in existence; the number of companies that have been forced to cease trading as a result of Revenue demands in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14743/11]
I know that Revenue has a strong focus on maintaining and indeed improving the rates of timely compliance by businesses with the tax return and payment obligations. Notwithstanding the more difficult economic circumstances in which businesses are operating at present, it is very important that businesses organise their financial affairs in such a fashion as to ensure that tax debts are paid as they fall due. This is essential not just from an Exchequer viewpoint but also because late or non-payment of tax debts puts those businesses who are timely compliant at a significant competitive disadvantage. I fully support what Revenue is doing in that regard to ensure a focus by businesses on paying the right amount of tax and on time.
I know that Revenue appreciates the challenge for business in being timely compliant especially in the difficult economic and financial climate that prevails at present. Revenue has consistently encouraged businesses experiencing particular payment difficulties to work proactively with them when such difficulties start to arise towards an agreed way through those difficulties so as to quickly restore voluntary timely compliance. In that regard, Revenue has developed an administrative framework to manage such issues, and has published material for businesses experiencing tax payment difficulties on its website at www.revenue.ie. I am aware that tax practitioners and representative bodies have recognised Revenue’s practical support and assistance to viable businesses.
Where businesses or individuals experience difficulties in meeting their tax payment obligations on time, in the absence of meaningful and timely engagement with Revenue and agreement on how that challenge will be managed, Revenue will take the necessary action, including enforcement, to secure compliance. Those businesses and individuals who comply on a voluntary and timely basis must be confident that their efforts are recognised through the initiation of the necessary collection and recovery action by Revenue against those who do not meet their obligations.
Revenue is not in a position to say exactly how many companies have been forced to cease trading as a result of their demands for payment of tax debts in 2010. In many instances companies and businesses in difficulty with Revenue will have difficulties with other creditors and it is not readily possible in every instance to isolate the efforts of any particular creditor as the underlying reason for the decision to cease trading. However, I am advised by Revenue that in 2010, 63 companies were wound up by the High Court following the presentation of its petition to the Court for the appointment of a liquidator.
80 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on the impact the present cuts are having on DEIS band 1 schools, and his further views on whether pupils and staff in these schools are suffering disproportionately when compared to those in schools servicing more affluent areas; how he proposes to balance the effects of this on the system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14658/11]
I wish to advise the Deputy that there have been no specific cuts in the School Support Programme to DEIS Band 1 schools.
DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools), the action plan for educational inclusion, provides for a standardised system for identifying levels of disadvantage and an integrated School Support Programme (SSP). As a result of the identification and review processes, 876 schools (200 Post Primary Schools and 676 Primary Schools) are currently included in the School Support Programme (SSP) under DEIS. DEIS primary schools are further subdivided into three classifications to reflect rural and urban status and levels of disadvantage. The current list includes 200 Urban Band 1, 145 Urban Band 2 and 331 Rural Primary schools.
DEIS provides various supports for both primary and post primary schools. These include: reduced pupil teacher ratio in primary schools in urban areas with most disadvantage; allocation of administrative principal on lower figures than generally apply in primary schools in urban areas; additional capitation funding based on level of disadvantage; additional funding for schools books; access to the School Meals Programme; access to numeracy/literacy supports and measures at primary level; access to Home School Community Liaison services; access to the School Completion Programme; enhanced guidance counselling provision at post primary level; access to planning supports; provision for school library and librarian support in post primary schools with most disadvantage; access to the Junior Certificate School Programme and Leaving Certificate Applied; and access to a range of professional development supports.
The process of identifying schools for participation in DEIS, was managed by the Educational Research Centre (ERC) on behalf of the Department of Education & Skills and supported by quality assurance work co-ordinated through my Department's Regional Offices and the Inspectorate. The ERC's overall approach was guided by the definition of educational disadvantage set out in the Education Act (1998), as:
the impediments to education arising from social or economic disadvantage which prevent students from deriving appropriate benefit from education in schools.
While the identification variables selected are, either individually or taken together, reasonable indicators of social disadvantage, it is when they present in high concentrations that they best predict educational disadvantage. This is commonly referred to as the "social context effect".
The majority of Irish schools will include among their enrolments a number of children who exhibit one or a number of ‘disadvantage' characteristics. In most cases the school will be equipped to meet the individual needs of these children from within existing resources.
Evidence from research strongly supports the view that educational disadvantage will occur, to the extent that supplementary supports will be necessary, in schools and school communities where socio-economic disadvantage is most concentrated.
DEIS supports and measures are designed to address the needs of schools who require significant additional resources to supplement and support the mainstream teachers where the enrolment consists of a high percentage of children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The set of measures included in the National Recovery Plan 2011 to 2014 impacts on every sector of the public service and will unquestionably lead to significant challenges for schools as well as my Department in the coming years. The major challenge will undoubtedly be to seek improved outcomes for children with fewer resources. A key focus of my Department's Social Inclusion measures will be to retain resources, where possible, in DEIS schools. There is a need to focus targeted resources on the schools in most need and this approach is in line with the broad thrust of the recommendations of the Comptroller and Auditor General which are set out in his report on Primary Disadvantage of 2006, which recommended that my Department should focus its educational disadvantage measures on those schools serving the most disadvantaged communities.
81 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will explain the changes contained in a recent circular sent to schools that state certain clarifications will have to be made before home school liaison co-ordinator posts are filled for the forthcoming year; and if he will give a commitment that he will not make further cutbacks to the HSLC posts. [14659/11]
The current provision of Home School Community Liaison (HSCL) Services will remain in the 200 post primary and 345 urban primary schools participating in DEIS.
The process of allocating teaching resources to schools for the 2011/12 school year and the arrangements for filling vacant or new teaching positions takes place in the context of the Programme for National Recovery, the EU/IMF Programme of Support for Ireland and the Public Service Agreement 2010-2014. It is necessary for my Department to exercise additional control and reporting measures this year to ensure that the number of teachers employed in schools is consistent with those programmes. Schools can only fill their vacancies from the surplus permanent and CID holding teachers. It is not possible to permit schools to fill vacancies in any other manner until the surplus permanent teachers are redeployed.
Schools with HSCL coordinator vacancies were requested to hold off making new appointments. Although HSCL coordinator appointments are made internally from among the staff of schools, the filling of the replacement post for the teacher deployed to undertake HSCL duties may have implications in relation to panel arrangements.
Given that there are currently 248 surplus permanent and CID holding teachers remaining on panels my Department will not decide until 10 June 2011 (at the earliest) in relation to giving schools authority to commence recruitment in any other manner. My Department may decide at that stage to prioritise schools that have fully cooperated with the redeployment process.
Discussions with the relevant education partners also include devising whatever additional arrangements are necessary to facilitate the redeployment of any remaining permanent and CID holding teachers (including 21 surplus permanent teachers that do not currently have access to a redeployment panel).
82 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the review of small schools; and when he intends to publish proposals in this regard. [14707/11]
The value for money review on small schools is part of the normal review processes undertaken by all Departments on an annual basis on selected areas of expenditure and is being conducted in line with the standard procedure for value for money reviews. These procedures require that the views of stakeholders be obtained and the public consultations were designed to achieve this aim. This was done by issuing a direct invitation to relevant interest groups to provide a submission. The interest groups included the school patron bodies, management bodies, teacher unions, national parents' council, Irish language groups and other groups who operate in the area of social inclusion.
The review will attempt to explore the general policy options for re-organisation of small schools including the sharing of resources and clustering arrangements towards small schools. I think it is important to clarify that this study is part of an overall requirement across all Departments to have a rolling programme of such studies.
This review was initiated last October by the previous Fianna Fáil-Green Party Government and is not driven by any ideology. The study is simply about ascertaining the facts to inform future policy. It does not mean that any policy decision has been taken at this point or that any particular outcome is sought. Given that the Government has recently announced a Comprehensive Review of Expenditure, all Government expenditure and programmes will come under similar scrutiny.
The terms of reference acknowledge the important role primary schools play in their local communities. In considering any policy change in relation to small schools, I am conscious that there is a wider dimension to be considered in addition to the cost of maintaining small schools.
Among the issues that will need to be taken into account are questions such as availability of diversity of provision, ethos of schools, parental choice, language of instruction, travel distances, transport costs and the impact of schools on dispersed rural communities. The review will examine the locations of small schools relative to each other and to other schools of a similar type. It will also examine the costs of running small schools and the educational outcomes associated with small schools.
Educational quality for the students must be one of the main criteria in any consideration of primary school size. We must also consider the needs of local communities and wider social and cultural factors. Decisions on school provision and reorganisation must be widely perceived to be cost-effective, equitable and reasonable. These decisions need to be based on a rigorous evaluation of requirements and needs, not just at a local level but also at both regional and national levels.
The review is expected to be completed by the end of the year and a report should be available to me then at which stage I will consider the outcomes and proposals of the review.E
83 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will review the criteria for recognising primary schools to include Montessori schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14561/11]
A review of the criteria and procedures for the establishment of new primary schools has been undertaken by the Commission on School Accommodation and its report has recently been published on my Department's website. It will be necessary to consider the report's recommendations and proposals. In the interim it is not proposed to recognise any new primary schools, except in areas where the increases in pupil numbers cannot be catered for in existing schools and which require the provision of new schools.
Any application for the recognition of Montessori primary schools must be assessed in accordance with the criteria and procedures for the recognition of new primary schools and having regard to the provisions of the Education Act 1998.
84 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills if persons (details supplied) will qualify for school transport under the primary school transport scheme; if this service will be continued; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14586/11]
Changes to school transport services were announced in the 2011 Budget by the previous Fianna Fáil-Green Party Government and derive from recommendations in the Value for Money Review of the scheme.
One of the changes, which takes effect from the beginning of the 2011/12 school year, is that the distance eligibility criterion will be applied uniformly to all pupils attending primary schools and the exemption under the ‘Central/Closed School Rule' (CSR) will cease. This means that children who reside less than 3.2 kilometres from their school of attendance and who are currently availing of free transport to that school under the CSR will lose their transport eligibility.
Bus Éireann, which operates the school transport schemes on behalf of my Department, has advised that the children referred to reside less than 3.2 kilometres from the school in question and are therefore not eligible for school transport. Children who are not eligible for school transport may apply to Bus Éireann for concessionary transport in accordance with the terms of the scheme.
85 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Skills his policy on how drama in primary and secondary schools is to be supported and developed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14591/11]
Working through the arts helps to nurture and develop cognitive, communicative, emotional, imaginative, aesthetic, social, and spiritual intelligence and skills. Arts education in primary schools, through drama and also the subjects of music, visual arts and through language, provides opportunities for a child to express ideas, feelings and imaginative insights, to make sense of and express his/her world in visual tangible form; and to make, listen and respond to art.
At post-primary level, drama is one of the dimensions of language subjects along with literature, poetry and film, which provide an important vehicle for self expression and creativity, and a way of bringing to the fore themes of everyday life which warrant exploration and group discussion as part of the learning process. This education also builds foundation skills in a key vocational/business sector of the economy. The artists in schools guidelines, developed jointly by the Arts Council and my Department, provide practical help for primary and post primary schools on how to plan and implement "arts in education" practice. This is where practising artists give of their time and expertise to work closely with schools, and students get the opportunity to get real experience of the arts in action in communities, both as visitors and participants.
86 Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has received correspondence from a school (details supplied) in Dublin 13 about funding to prevent the closure of the school, which provides excellent care for children with autism; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14608/11]
The Deputy is referring to a private ABA centre in Dublin 13. I can confirm that my Department has received a proposal for funding from the organisation that runs the centre in question. My Department will respond to the submitted proposal in the near future.
Consideration of this proposal will take account of my Department's policy in this regard, which is focused on ensuring that all children, including those with autism, can have access to an education appropriate to their needs, preferably in school settings through the primary and post primary school network. This facilitates access to individualised education programmes, fully qualified professional teachers who may draw from a range of autism-specific interventions, including ABA, special needs assistants, and the appropriate school curriculum with the option where possible of full/partial integration and interaction with other pupils. As each child with autism is unique it is important that children have access to a range of interventions so their broader needs can be met.
My Department's policy is to provide for children with special educational needs, including autism, to be included in mainstream schools unless such a placement would not be in their best interests or the interests of the children with whom they are to be educated. Some children may be supported in a special class attached to a mainstream school. These students have the option, where appropriate, of full/partial integration and interaction with other pupils. Other children may have such complex needs that they are best placed in a special school. Students with special educational needs have access to a range of support services including additional teaching and/or care supports. In special schools and special classes, students are supported through lower pupil teacher ratios. Special needs assistants may also be recruited specifically where pupils with disabilities and significant care needs are enrolled.
Reflective of the important role of continuing professional development, my Department has put in place a training programme for teachers in autism-specific interventions including Treatment and Education of Autistic Communication Handicapped Children (TEACCH), Picture Exchange Communications System (PECS) and Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) through the Special Education Support Service.
The Deputy will be familiar with the ABA pilot scheme which was funded by my Department for the past decade. All of the centres which participated in this scheme have been granted recognition as special schools for children with autism. These schools will operate in line with my Department's policy. I am pleased to update the Deputy that following their recognition the new schools are currently progressing well in the transitional phase. Twelve schools have opened and the remaining school is scheduled to open shortly. It is my intention to continue to support this transitional process.
The pilot scheme was established in the absence of a network of school-based special classes for children with autism which is now available. The Deputy will be aware that the establishment of this network of autism-specific special classes in schools across the country to cater for children with autism has been a key educational priority in recent years. In excess of 430 classes have now been approved around the country at primary and post primary level, including many in special schools.
87 Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he is in receipt of an application for an extension and renovation from a school (details supplied); if his attention has been drawn to the serious health and safety issues at this school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14610/11]
I can confirm that the school to which the Deputy refers has made an application to my Department for large scale capital funding for an extension. The application was assessed and assigned a band rating of 2.
The progression of all large scale building projects, including this project, from initial design stage through to construction is dependent on the prioritisation of competing demands on the funding available under the Department's capital budget. This project will be considered in the context of the Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation programme. However, in light of current competing demands on the capital budget of my Department, it is not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the progression of the project at this time.
In the meantime, for works that are of a very urgent nature, it is open to the school authorities to consider if the works in question qualify for funding under the Department's Emergency Works Scheme. An emergency is deemed to be a situation which poses an immediate risk to health, life, property or the environment which is sudden, unforeseen and requires immediate action and, in the case of a school, if not corrected would prevent the school or part thereof from opening. Details of the scheme, together with an application form for grant assistance, can be accessed on the Department's website at www.education.ie
88 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the savings that have been made further to Circular 0017/2011 regarding resource hours for Traveller education in secondary schools; how this has affected schools in the Dublin South Central constituency; his views on the Stokes report on Traveller education; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14662/11]
I wish to advise the Deputy that the decision to withdraw Resource Teacher for Travellers was taken by the previous Government as part of the last budget. The requirement to make expenditure savings and to ensure that staffing numbers remain within the Public Service Employment Control Framework prevent me from re-visiting this decision.
Resource Teacher for Traveller posts/Teaching Hours for Traveller pupils will be withdrawn, effective from 31 August 2011. Traveller pupils who are eligible for learning support teaching should receive this tuition through the existing learning support provision in schools. All schools should select students for learning support on the basis of priority of need.
Limited alleviation or adjustment measures are being provided to assist schools that have high concentrations of Traveller pupils who were previously supported by Resource Teachers for Travellers. The expected budgetary target reduction in the number of Resource Teacher for Traveller Posts/Teaching Hours for Travellers, based on estimated provision for 2011, was 723 Whole Time Equivalent (WTE) posts. As at the end of January 2011, in respect of the 2010/2011 school year, the actual number of Resource Teachers for Travellers employed amounted to a total of 709.54 WTE posts nationwide. The number of Whole Time Equivalent post savings in respect of the withdrawal of RTT posts will therefore be 709.54 posts. This will be offset by any alleviation or adjustment posts which are allocated. A total of 119 such posts have been allocated to date. The Department does not record details of schools by constituency categorisation.
There have been a number of reports on Traveller Education, including the one referred to by the Deputy. In November 2006 the advisory committee on Traveller education published its Report and Recommendations for a Traveller Education Strategy. The strategy covers, in a very comprehensive manner, aspects of Traveller Education from pre-school right through to further and higher education within a lifelong learning context. The underlying principle recommended for provision of additional resources is that the "principle of individual educational need" rather than "Traveller identity" is the criteria for all children, including Traveller children.
89 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills if public servants employed as superintendents, exam supervisors or exam correctors for the State examinations 2011 can include their remuneration for these positions in the calculation of their pensionable income on retirement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14663/11]
The State Examinations Commission has statutory responsibility for operational matters relating to the certificate examinations including the payment of examiners and superintendents. I wish to inform the Deputy that the majority of those employed on contract work on the certificate examinations are members of the teaching profession. While their examinations earnings are not pensionable, if they are public servants they will receive a public service pension on retirement, and accordingly, are legally liable for the Pension Related Deductions on their subsidiary public service employment earnings.
90 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a full time special needs assistant will be allocated to a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14664/11]
I wish to advise the Deputy that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) for allocating resource teachers and Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) to schools to support children with special educational needs. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support. This now includes a requirement for the NCSE to have regard to an overall cap on the number of SNA posts.
The NCSE has issued a circular to all schools advising of the allocation process for the 2011/2012 school year. A key feature of the amended scheme will be to provide for an annual allocation of Special Needs Assistant support to eligible schools. The NCSE asked schools to submit all applications for SNA support to them by 18 March, 2011 and intend to inform schools of their annual SNA allocation as soon as possible, in advance of the coming school year. However, while this process is ongoing it is not possible to predict the numbers of Special Needs Assistants that will be allocated to any school, including the school referred to by the Deputy in Killeagh, County Cork.
91 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Education and Skills if workers employed by companies (details supplied) in Dundalk, County Louth, or Leopardstown, Dublin, received training under the Skillnets programme; the amount of public money expended on this training; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14669/11]
I understand that 251 workers in total from both of the companies in question have participated in Skillnets Network training programmes. I also understand that since the commencement of the current Training Networks Programme, €26,960 or 21% of the total expenditure (€126,442) in respect of these companies participation in the training programmes was met through Skillnets grant funding.
92 Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on the practice by universities (details supplied) of employing expensive external legal firms to represent them in industrial relations forums; if he has instructed these colleges to engage such legal advice; the cost of such legal advice in 2010 and the projected cost in 2011; his views on whether such an expensive legal approach to industrial relations is appropriate in view of the fact that each college already has a well-staffed human resources department; if he will provide details of the affiliation fees paid to the Irish Business and Employers’ Confederation by all higher education institutions under his remit; and his views on whether so many individual memberships represent good value for taxpayers’ money. [14673/11]
It has not been possible to assemble the information requested in the time available. The information is being collated and will be forwarded to the Deputy in due course.
93 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a school (details supplied) in County Kerry will qualify for an additional classroom under the temporary accommodation scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14687/11]
I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the school to which he refers was recently approved for funding for the provision of additional accommodation for one Mainstream Classroom.
94 Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on the action being taken to ease the financial demands faced by mature students now that they can no longer avail of a vocational education committee grant while receiving back to education allowance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14739/11]
From September 2010, the previous Fianna Fáil-Green Party Government removed eligibility for all new applicants in receipt of the Back to Education Allowance (BTEA) and the VTOS allowances for those pursuing PLC courses, for student maintenance grants. The cost of the student services charge and tuition fees payable to colleges continues to be met for eligible students by the Exchequer on their behalf.
I understand that the reason it was decided to discontinue the practice of allowing students to hold both an allowance and a grant simultaneously was because this represented a duplication of income support payments. I regret that the economic circumstances of the country are such that I am not in a position to reverse this change.
The Deputy may be aware that students currently in receipt of the BTEA or VTOS allowances and the maintenance grant continue to be eligible for both payments for the duration of their current course provided they continue to meet the terms and conditions of the relevant grant schemes. Students who progressed to a new course with effect from 2010/11 are no longer eligible for student maintenance grants but can continue to apply for assistance towards the cost of the student services charge and any fees payable. To assist students in exceptional financial need, the Student Assistance Fund at some €5m continues to be made available through the access offices of third-level institutions. The access offices themselves will also provide support and advice to students to enable them to continue with their studies.
95 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will specify the items covered for purchase by a school on behalf of pupils with special educational needs; if and when changes were made to the administration of such funding by the school building unit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14741/11]
On approval of a special class my Department provides lump sum grant aid towards the purchase of educational aids and equipment for special needs pupils enrolled in that class. The funding is provided on a devolved basis and it is a matter for the school authority to decide on the items to be purchased.
In addition, my Department historically provided grant aid towards the purchase of equipment for schools with approval for a multi-sensory room. In April of this year my Department reviewed this and introduced a fixed lump-sum grant. This grant is now used to purchase equipment that will enable students to access, participate in, and benefit from their educational experiences.
96 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the extent to which he expects children with special needs will continue to be facilitated throughout mainstream education in the wake of the provisions of budget 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14745/11]
98 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the extent to which he hopes to retain special needs teachers at all schools throughout the country in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14747/11]
99 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the extent to which he expects special needs assistants to be retained in the current year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14748/11]
101 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the current and expected position regarding the number of resource teachers required and available in the current year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14750/11]
108 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the extent to which he expects special needs teachers in County Kildare to be retained in the current year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14757/11]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 96, 98, 99, 101 and 108 together.
The Deputy will be aware that it is necessary to ensure that educational services are delivered within the resources available due to the current fiscal position. I intend to prioritise and support special educational services. However, I cannot re-visit the previous Government's decision to place a cap on the number of posts available under the Special Needs Assistant (SNA) scheme. This number is 10,575 whole time equivalent (WTE) posts. This is a significant number of posts and unlike other areas of the public sector vacancies are being filled up to this number. It also represents continual increases in the number of SNAs over recent years. It is considered that with equitable and careful management and distribution of these resources that there should be sufficient posts to provide access to SNA support for all children who require such care support to attend either a mainstream or special school, in accordance with Departmental criteria.
The NCSE has issued a circular to all schools advising of the allocation process for the 2011/2012 school year. A key feature of the amended scheme will be to provide for an annual allocation of Special Needs Assistant support to eligible schools. The NCSE asked schools to submit all applications for SNA support to them by 18th March, 2011 and intend to inform schools of their annual SNA allocation as soon as possible, in advance of the coming school year.
In respect of the allocation of Resource Teaching hours/posts, the total number of Whole time Equivalent (WTE) posts that are being provided for mainstream educational resource teaching/learning support (including under the General Allocation Model) for 2011 is approximately 9,950 WTE posts. By comparison approximately 9,600 WTE posts were provided for 2010. The Deputy will note that this is an increase in the number of WTE posts available for the previous year.
Circular 37/2011 provides information to schools regarding the arrangements which are being put in place for the 2011/12 school year for the allocation of Resource Teaching hours for children with assessed special educational needs.
100 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has decided on any curriculum changes; the extent of any such changes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14749/11]
103 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills his priorities to improve student participation and performance in science subjects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14752/11]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 100 and 103 together.
The primary curriculum is currently being reviewed by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment in the context of the forthcoming National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy. The focus of the review will be on how best to enhance children's learning in these areas, provide a clearer delineation of the learning outcomes required, and integrate into the infant cycle the learning experiences from Aistear, the curriculum framework for early childhood education.
In junior cycle, the NCCA will shortly advise me on reforms designed to address curriculum overload and rote learning, and promote creativity and innovation. It is possible that the reforms may provide further scope in the longer term for continued reform in senior cycle, such as the expansion of second assessment components in the examinations to strengthen practical project and portfolio based learning. I have also asked the higher education institutions to examine the scope for reform of the CAO points system to address the negative effects on students' learning in senior cycle.
Reform in mathematics is already under way in junior and senior cycle under the Project Maths initiative which began in all schools in September 2010 building on the experience of 24 schools which began the initiative in 2008. Project Maths is being phased in over a three-year period across 5 strands of mathematics.
A revised syllabus in Leaving Certificate Irish began in September 2010 for first examination in 2012. 40% of the marks in the examination will be available for oral assessment. The NCCA has been asked to review the syllabus in the light of students' experience in the first examination.
In science, revised curricula were introduced in 2003 at primary and junior cycle levels. The NCCA is currently engaging in a public consultation process on revised draft syllabuses in Leaving Certificate Biology, Physics and Chemistry prior to submitting its advice to me. A key objective is to strengthen practical investigative and scientific process skills.
The priorities in the period ahead are to strengthen achievement in literacy and numeracy, to implement reforms in maths, Irish and science, and to progress junior cycle reforms. Changes will be supported by appropriate lead in notice and professional development for teachers.
Question No. 101 answered with Question No. 96.
102 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to accelerate the various procedures associated with the school building programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14751/11]
The Programme for Government undertakes the prioritisation of school building projects in a revised national development plan.
I have already declared my intention to initiate the preparation of a five-year plan for educational infrastructure at primary and post-primary level having regard to demographic trends and the need to upgrade existing stock. Improved forecasting of demand for new school places through my Departments GIS system and more comprehensive information on existing school accommodation through improvements to the inventory on school accommodation will facilitate the development of this programme.
My Department has in place a number of approaches to delivering major projects under the school building programme. These include the traditional design process which has recently been enhanced through the introduction of a preliminary design meeting between the design team, the school authority and my Department to ensure a focused and targeted approach to the early stages of the design process. On a number of new projects where design teams were appointed this year, this approach has already shown indications that it can accelerate the early stages of the design process.
A Rapid "design and build" process which streamlines and speeds up the traditional processes in order to minimise the timeframe in getting a project on-site is also used where the new accommodation is urgently needed.
More recently, a pilot initiative has commenced under which projects are devolved to a VEC or Local Authority for delivery. A key aim of this initiative is to determine the scope for greater levels of co-operation between the Department and the VEC and local government sectors in developing school infrastructure, with a view to increasing the output of school building projects. I have also requested that my Department's Planning and Building Unit develop generic designs at post-primary level to enhance the speedy delivery of new post-primary schools. This approach will shortly be complimented by the development of a number of exemplar designs as part of the appointment of design teams on a number of new post-primary projects. Each of these approaches will have a role to play in delivering the required projects under the programme.
104 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to ensure that education is steered towards meeting the employment needs of the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14753/11]
The Programme for Government emphasises that this Government's ambition is to build a knowledge society and that education will be the engine of sustainable economic growth. In performing this role the education system has regard to the skills needs of future employment. Specifically, it responds to the reports of the Expert Group for Future Skills Needs. The role of the Expert Group is to advise Government on the current and future skills needs of the economy.
105 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the extent to which he proposes to engage with all of the educational stakeholders with a view to ensuring a well-focused and comprehensive education system in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14754/11]
The Deputy will be aware that in my previous role as Opposition Spokesperson on Education that I had regular engagement with the education partners on a range of issues across the entire sector. As Minister for Education and Skills I intend to continue this engagement particularly in relation to the implementation of commitments in the Programme for Government. For example, one of the first issues I tackled on taking up office was to establish the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector — a forum which many stakeholders had been calling for. There are a range of other issues where significant consultation and discussion are ongoing including the development of the Literacy and Numeracy Strategy and delivery of the Strategy for Higher Education.
106 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number and location of school building projects in County Kildare scheduled for completion in the current year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14755/11]
116 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the expected completion dates for the various schools and locations in County Kildare at which construction works are currently in hand; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14765/11]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 106 and 116 together.
The Deputy will be aware that up to date information on the school building programme is available on my Department's website at www.education.ie.
For the Deputy's convenience the major school building projects in County Kildare which are expected to be completed in 2011 are listed as follows:
Scoil Choca Naofa, Kilcock (anticipated completion Quarter 3 of 2011);
Scoil Bhride, Kill (anticipated completion Quarter 3 of 2011);
Caragh National School, Naas (anticipated completion Quarter 3 of 2011);
Scoil Atha I, Athy Model School (anticipated completion Quarter 3 of 2011);
Scoil Phadraig Naofa, Athy (anticipated completion Quarter 3 of 2011);
Meanscoil Iognaid Rís, Naas (anticipated completion Quarter 3 of 2011);
SN Aine Naofa, Ardclough (anticipated completion Quarter 4 of 2011);
Scoil Ui Fiach, Maynooth (anticipated completion Quarter 4 of 2011);
Scoil na Naomh Uilig, Newbridge (anticipated completion Quarter 4 of 2011).
107 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number and location of schools in County Kildare likely to benefit from summer projects in the current year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14756/11]
I wish to advise the Deputy that details of the successful applicants under the 2011 Summer Works Scheme were announced on 30th March 2011 and are published on the Department's website, www.education.ie.
A total of €41.2 million will be made available under the Summer Works Scheme and will see major improvements in primary and post primary schools around the country including Co. Kildare. 453 primary and post primary schools across the country have been successful in their applications for funding under the Summer Works Scheme this year.
In light of further funding being made available under the Government's Jobs Initiative, projects submitted under the 2011 Summer Works Scheme were considered further. An additional 374 schools were successful under the Jobs Initiative Scheme. A list of all successful schools is also published on my Department's website www.education.ie.
112 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to approve a second level all-Irish school in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14761/11]
The Forward Planning Section of my Department is in the process of analysing all areas in the country in order to determine the level of additional provision which will be required at both primary and post primary level up to 2017. Overall post-primary requirements in County Kildare, including the case for the provision of a new Irish language post-primary school will be considered in this context.
As the Deputy may be aware, a Gaelcholáiste with a capacity for 600 pupils has been provided in Lucan. This Gaelcholáiste, was built to serve the needs of the west Dublin/north Kildare area and is enrolling children from Gaelscoileanna in Leixlip, Kilcock and Maynooth. The enrolment for 2010/11 in that school is 378 pupils and therefore this school has capacity to cater for more pupils. There is also a Gaelcholáiste providing all-Irish second level education which is currently located in Naas. This Gaelcholáiste has plans to expand its enrolment.
113 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the extent to which an evaluation has been carried out at towns, villages and parishes in County Kildare in respect of future primary and second level school place requirements; the action he has taken or proposed to take arising therefrom; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14762/11]
In the 2009/10 school year there was an enrolment of 26,771 pupils at primary level and 14,806 pupils at post-primary level in County Kildare. Based on my Department's most recent statistics it is expected that enrolments will increase nationally from a current enrolment at primary level of circa 509,652 pupils to circa 552,800 pupils by 2017 and at post-primary level from a current enrolment of circa 317,432 pupils to circa 342,300 pupils by 2017. In line with this nationally increasing trend it is expected that enrolments in Kildare will rise accordingly.
The Forward Planning Section of my Department is currently examining all areas of the country to determine where additional provision will be required at both primary and post-primary level up to 2017. Overall primary and post-primary requirements throughout County Kildare will be fully considered in this context.
114 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has received submissions from a school (details supplied) in County Kildare with reference to primary and or second level requirements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14763/11]
My Department has received expressions of interest from the organisation referred to for the establishment of new schools at both primary and post-primary level in various locations in County Kildare.
At primary level the Deputy will be aware that a review of the criteria and procedures for the establishment of new primary schools has been undertaken by the Commission on School Accommodation and its report has recently been published on my Department's website. It will be necessary to consider the report's recommendations and proposals. In the interim it is not proposed to recognise any new primary schools, except in areas where the increases in pupil numbers cannot be catered for in existing schools and which require the provision of new schools. The establishment of new schools, including the establishment of new schools in the Kildare area, will be considered in this context.
In line with a commitment given in The Programme for Government I have launched a Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector which will enable all stakeholders including parents to engage in open debate on change of patronage in communities where it is appropriate and necessary. The Forum intends to develop a mechanism by which a change of patronage in existing schools can occur.
In regard to second level, the Deputy will be aware that the Programme for Government gives a commitment to move towards a more pluralist system of patronage at second level, recognising a wider number of patrons. In line with this policy I have recently confirmed the Government's view that the organisation referred to by the Deputy meets all the requirements to operate as a patron of a second-level school.
I intend to prioritise the development of a new framework for the recognition of new second-level schools in the context of the Government's commitment to plurality. The decision on the patronage of any individual school will be made following the process to be established under this framework.
117 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his plans to amend the Industrial Relations Act 1990; his views on term workers; the list of occupations not included under this section of the Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14644/11]
Access to the employment dispute settling bodies under the Industrial Relations Acts is governed by the definition of "worker" in Section 23 of the Industrial Relations Act 1990. The following categories of workers are excluded from access to the dispute settling bodies under the provisions of Section 23:
a person who is employed by or under the State,
a teacher in a secondary school,
a teacher in a national school,
an officer of a vocational education committee, or
an officer of a school attendance committee
Workers not included within this definition are normally covered by separate schemes of Conciliation and Arbitration.
Section 23(1)(e) of the 1990 Act excludes, inter alia, “an officer of a vocational education committee” from this definition of “worker”. Arising from an agreement between management and union sides to abolish the existing Conciliation and Arbitration machinery for vocational educational committee officers and to bring them within the scope of the Industrial Relations Acts, it is proposed to amend the definition of “worker” to include such officers, with the exception of teachers, within the definition of “worker” in the Act. An amendment to this effect was included in the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Bill, 2009, which had not completed its progress through the Dáil before the House was dissolved on 1 February 2011.
The question of an amendment to the Industrial Relations Acts to provide for the inclusion of persons employed in the Civil Service in the definition of "worker" may arise in future in the context of possible changes in arrangements under the Civil Service Conciliation and Arbitration Scheme. These discussions would be a matter in the first instance for the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.
118 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if any public funds have been received by a company (details supplied) since it entered the Irish market; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14671/11]
Other than paying telephone bills, my Department and the State development agencies, under the auspices of my Department, have not provided public funds to the company.
I am very concerned about the job losses that have been announced in the Dundalk area and of the impact that they have had on the workers concerned and their families as well as the communities affected. I can assure the Deputy that the State Development agencies, Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland, as well as the Louth County Enterprise Board will continue to promote Dundalk and the surrounding area for industrial projects and enterprise development.
Job creation is central to economic recovery and the Programme for Government has job creation at its core. The role of my Department is to ensure that we have the right policies in place that will support and grow our enterprise base in order to facilitate both job creation and job retention. The programmes supported by my Department and its agencies will be critical in achieving economic growth through promoting the export potential of enterprise in Ireland and driving our Smart Economy.
119 Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the number of times Balbriggan, County Dublin, has been shown to potential foreign direct investment clients in each of the past four years from 2007 to 2010, and to date in 2011. [14676/11]
Balbriggan is located in County Dublin and the data available on site visits is tracked on a county basis. The number of site visits to County Dublin from 2007 to date in 2011 is set out below:
2011 to date
Balbriggan, in Fingal, North County Dublin forms part of IDA Ireland's East Region, which comprises Dublin City and County as well as the counties of Kildare, Meath and Wicklow, and is the largest region in Ireland and one of the fastest growing economic zones in Western Europe. The East Region is now home to 60,935 FDI jobs.
IDA Ireland promotes Fingal for foreign direct investment as part of the East Region. In addition the Agency continues to work with significant client companies in the Balbriggan area, in order to support them in transforming their Irish operations to ensure jobs can be maintained and losses minimised.
The Fingal area is well equipped to compete with other areas for potential foreign direct investment with high quality property solutions. IDA Ireland promotes all land and property solutions in the Fingal area, irrespective of ownership to potential FDI clients as opportunities arise. In addition the Agency is represented on the Fingal Development Board and the Fingal Economic Forum and works to promote Fingal for Foreign Direct Investment in partnership with those agencies.
In selecting locations to show companies, IDA Ireland seeks to include locations which have been affected by closures/job losses. Typically, a company is shown three or four selected towns, which can meet its requirements for skills, labour, site and/or buildings, infrastructure, etc. While IDA Ireland seeks to influence the selection of location, the final decision on location is taken in all cases by the promoting company.
120 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, further to Parliamentary Question No. 51 of 7 April 2011, when a decision will issue on an application for a work permit in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14694/11]
All applications for Work Permits are processed in the date order in which they are received and in line with the Employment Permits Act 2006.
Since the issue of the work permit in this case was raised by the Deputy on 7 April last, I am pleased to advise that a work permit has issued in respect of the individual concerned on 7 June, 2011.
121 Deputy Paul J. Connaughton asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason a domiciliary care allowance was not granted in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14571/11]
An application for domiciliary care allowance was received from the person concerned on 11 May 2010. This application was referred to one of the Department's Medical Assessors who found that the child was not medically eligible for the allowance. A letter issued on 14 July 2010 advising the person concerned of the decision to refuse the allowance. The person concerned subsequently lodged an appeal against this decision. She was informed by the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 25 January 2011 that the appeal had been disallowed.
The decision/appeal process for this application is now complete. All the available information was provided to the appeals officer before the appeal was considered.
122 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive a decision regarding their supplementary welfare application; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14574/11]
Under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme an exceptional needs payment may be made by the Health Service Executive (HSE) to help meet an essential, once-off cost which the applicant is unable to meet out of his/her own resources.
The HSE has advised that an application from the person concerned for an exceptional needs payment has been approved and payment will issue in due course.
123 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Social Protection the amount of money spent in 2010 and to date in 2011 on rent supplement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14575/11]
Rent Supplement expenditure in 2010 was some €516 million. Expenditure up to end April 2011 was some €167 million.
124 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Social Protection the amount of money spent in 2010 and to date in 2011 on exceptional needs payments; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14576/11]
The amount spent on exceptional needs payments in 2010 was some €69.9 million. Expenditure up to end April 2011 was some €23.2 million.
125 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Social Protection how entitlement to the exceptional needs payment is determined; the person responsible for administering the payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14577/11]
Under the supplementary welfare allowance (SWA) scheme an exceptional needs payment (ENP) may be made by the Health Service Executive (HSE) to help meet an essential, once-off cost which the applicant is unable to meet out of his/her own resources. There is no automatic entitlement to this payment. Each application is determined by the HSE based on the particular circumstances of the case. Eligible people would normally be in receipt of a social welfare or HSE payment. The payment is administered by Community Welfare Officers at local offices of the HSE.
127 Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of applications for domiciliary care allowance received by her in the past year; the number that have been refused; the number for children with autism spectrum disorders and Asperger’s syndrome that have been refused; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14614/11]
The Department has been accepting new claims for domiciliary care allowance (DCA) since 1 April 2009. Statistics relating to the period prior to April 2009 are not held by this Department and are a matter for the HSE, the previous administrator of the scheme.
Applications fully processed
Applications allowed *
2009 (From 1st April)
2011 (to 31st May)
In the period 1st April 2010 to 31st March 2011 a total of 481 domiciliary care allowance applications were processed with a medical condition within the autism spectrum. Of these, 289 (60%) were deemed to satisfy the qualifying criteria, with 192 (40%) not satisfying the criteria.
In the period 1st April 2010 to 31st March 2011 a total of 287 domiciliary care allowance applications were processed with a medical condition of Asperger's syndrome. Of these, 82 (29%) were deemed to satisfy the qualifying criteria, with 205 (71%) not satisfying the criteria.
128 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason a person who is currently on a community employment scheme cannot apply for the position of supervisor with Tús; and if this initiative should be made available to all unemployed persons. [14647/11]
The purpose of Tús is to focus on those people who are long-term unemployed. For this reason, eligibility is at present confined to those on the Live Register for 12 months and in receipt of jobseeker's allowance. These provisions are to ensure a targeted approach to those currently affected by long-term unemployment. Persons already in employment are not eligible for these positions.
This initiative is delivered through the network of local development companies and Údarás na Gaeltachta in Gaeltacht areas. Participants will, in the first instance, be identified by the Department of Social Protection by applying the following conditions:
A person must be unemployed and in receipt of a jobseeker's payment for at least 12 months, and
Currently be in receipt of jobseeker's allowance, and
Be fully unemployed.
The operation of the scheme, including eligibility criteria, will be kept under review and will inform the evaluation process in due course.
129 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Social Protection if the social welfare appeals office has all the necessary documentation to process an appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; when a decision is expected to be reached on this appeal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14653/11]
The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned has been registered in that office on 3 June 2011 and will, in due course, be referred to an Appeals Officer who will decide whether the case can be decided on a summary basis or whether to list it for oral hearing.
The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.
130 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will provide details on the amount of money that has been spent on the back-to-school clothing and footwear allowance in Dublin South-Central in 2010 and to date in 2011; the number of recipients who were non-resident; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14661/11]
In order to qualify for a payment under the back to school clothing and footwear allowance scheme a person must be resident in the State. The total expenditure on the back to school clothing and footwear allowance scheme in 2010 was some €77.4 million; no expenditure has yet been incurred to date in 2011, a breakdown of expenditure for Dublin South Central is not available.
131 Deputy Noel Coonan asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a non-contributory State pension appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; the reason the appeal was refused; if the person may now seek a review of the decision; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14693/11]
The claim for State pension (non-contributory), by the person concerned, was disallowed by a Deciding Officer of the Department on the grounds that her means exceeded the statutory limit for entitlement to state pension. I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer, having fully considered all the evidence, disallowed the appeal by way of summary decision.
The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department in determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements. Under Social Welfare legislation, the decision of the Appeals Officer is final and conclusive and may only be reviewed by the Appeals Officer in the light of new evidence or new facts. If there is any new evidence or new facts pertinent to this case that was not brought to the attention of the Appeals Officer during the determination of this appeal, they may be submitted to the Social Welfare Appeals Office for further consideration.
Additionally, the Chief Appeals Officer has power under the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 to revise any decision where it appears to her that the Appeals Officer's decision was erroneous by reason of some mistake having been made in relation to the law or the facts. In making a request for such a review an appellant must set down the reasons why he or she believes a mistake was made having regard to the application of the law or the facts.
The Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 also provides that any person who is dissatisfied with either the decision of the Appeals Officer or the outcome of the review carried out by the Chief Appeals Officer may appeal that decision and/or outcome, as the case may be, to the High Court on any question of law.
132 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he will lift the ban on a chemical (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14541/11]
I am advised that responsibility relating to the implementation of the regulatory system for pesticides and for approving the uses of individual pesticide products rests with the Pesticide Control Service of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. It is my Department's understanding that the chemical referred to by the Deputy is notified for use as a rodenticide only, therefore making its use as an avicide illegal.
The Deputy may wish to note that as a result of a number of incidents over the years involving reintroduced birds of prey, such as golden eagles and the white tailed eagle, which have died as a result of eating poisoned meat-based bait, my Department published the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) (Restriction on Use of Poison Bait) Regulations 2010 (S. I. No. 481 of 2010) last year, which made it an offence for a person to use any type of meat, fish, egg or other animal substance as bait to poison or stupefy birds or animals, or in a manner likely to poison or stupefy, except under licence by my Department.
133 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the Department that has jurisdiction over export licences for wild salmon. [14646/11]
Sections 154 to 163 of the Fisheries Consolidation Act 1959 (No 14 of 1959), as amended, set out the Statutory provisions applicable to the sale and export of salmon. These provisions, which are overseen by Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI), operating under the aegis of my Department, provide that the applicant/holder of a licence for the sale or export of salmon must apply for and may be granted a Certificate of Fitness to hold a Part X licence for the purposes of these provisions. A holder, after being granted a licence, must display the licence and maintain an up to date Dealers register (Section 163). Purchases and sales are documented and periodic inspections are carried out by IFI.
134 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the cost to the Exchequer of the rural broadband scheme; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the private Internet service providers that will be used to complete the broadband rollout are unable to provide Internet speeds any greater than the original dial-up connection; the effect this poor quality service is having on small rural enterprises that require fast broadband services to operate; and the disincentive that arises as a result to the creation of further business and employment by individuals in their own communities. [14543/11]
Funding for the recently-launched Rural Broadband Scheme has become available from the European Economic Recovery Programme (EERP) through the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) administered by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. A total of €13.413m from the EAFRD is available and this allocation, being 75% of the total, means a total available funding of €17.884m for the initiative. This funding will allow for expenditure up until the end of 2012.
It is important to point out that the eventual total cost of the Scheme will be determined by the final number of eligible applicants. Whatever portion of the allocation that remains unspent following the completion of the Scheme will be returned to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food for expenditure on its rural development programmes.
My Department is currently in the process of accepting applications under the scheme and later this year will carry out a procurement process to select a service provider who will supply the actual broadband connections and service to eligible applicants.
This procurement process will, inter alia, specify minimum speeds that must be met by the successful bidder. Whilst the full details of how this competition will be designed and run have yet to be finalised, I am satisfied that the scheme, by providing broadband access to those who do not have such access, will have a positive social and economic impact for the beneficiaries.
135 Deputy Eric Byrne asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if it is envisaged that the European Union-wide 116000 hotline for missing children will be rolled out across Ireland; and his specific policy on EU hotlines. [14578/11]
I do not have a policy function in relation to the provision of a service for reporting missing children. The allocation of specific numbers in the 116 number range, which are reserved for services of social value, is managed in Ireland by the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg).
The role of ComReg is limited to the assignment of the number to an appropriate service provider. Once the number has been assigned, it is a matter for the service provider to provide the service. Neither ComReg nor my Department has any function in providing such services or the remit to require any organisation to provide the service.
While the number 116000 has been specifically reserved for a hotline for missing children, it will not become operational until it is assigned to an appropriate service provider. ComReg has published an information notice on its website which makes all relevant information available to potential applicants who may wish to provide the 116000 service. It also issued corresponding national press advertisements inviting applications for the number in question. Unfortunately, to date, no applications have been received in respect of the 116000 service.
The Departments of Justice and Equality and Department of Health and Children, have policy functions in the area of missing children and child protection respectively and the question of providing a missing children's hotline has been raised with them. I have written to both Ministers recently and officials from my Department are continuing to engage with those Departments on this issue.
136 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the precise methodology that will be used for detecting potential leaks of high-pressure, odourless gas during transmission from the sea bed to the projected land terminal at Rossport, County Mayo. [14668/11]
The principal means through which the safety of the Corrib gas pipeline is to be achieved is that the pipeline be designed, constructed and commissioned in compliance with pipeline codes that are in keeping with best international practice. Prior to commissioning, the gas pipeline will be subject to detailed verification, including independent verification carried out on behalf of my Department. During the operation phase, the pipeline will be subject to a Pipeline Integrity Management System to ensure that the integrity of the pipeline is maintained.
In addition there will be two leak detection systems as detailed at pages 11 and 16 of Appendix Q4.1 of the published 2010 EIS. These systems include a "mass balance system" and a system based on fibre optic distributed acoustic sensing.
137 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the plans there are for waivers for persons on social welfare payments to upgrade their television equipment in order that they may receive the new Saorview service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14684/11]
Saorview is the new digital free-to-air service which RTÉ launched on 26 May 2011. The launch of Saorview forms an integral part of Ireland's national digital switchover strategy which provides for the closure of the RTÉNL analogue TV network at the end of 2012 and, through the resulting ‘digital dividend', paves the way for the delivery of new jobs, new mobile and broadband services and new national economic growth.
I am keenly aware of the challenges this initiative brings, in particular for Irish households which are reliant on the analogue network. Each of these households will need to upgrade to digital TV by the end of 2012 or they will lose access to television.
Experience from other European countries indicates that the cost of set top boxes, for example, reduces as the date for digital switchover approaches, and there is increased competition in the market. I look forward to RTÉ and RTÉNL working intensively with manufacturers and retailers to ensure that there is a plentiful supply of simple to use, accessible and affordable set top boxes available on the market as well as a wide range of digital televisions and digital video recorders.
To overcome the challenges that digital switchover brings, we must also assist people with information and practical assistance to ensure that no one is left behind as Ireland goes digital.
For my part, as Minister, I have promised to deliver a substantial information campaign providing households with information on the digital switchover and on their options for going digital. This information campaign will start in October.
In conjunction with this, my Department is currently developing plans to ensure that a range of practical assistance is made available, in particular, to address the particular needs of vulnerable households as they prepare to go digital. In this context, the expertise and local knowledge of the many voluntary and charity organisations around the country will be of critical importance to ensuring the success of the switchover process. I have asked my Department to ensure that, to the greatest possible extent, these organisations play a major part in our information campaign.
I have no plans, however, to introduce waivers for persons on social welfare payments to upgrade their television equipment.
138 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will examine a matter in respect of a person (details supplied). [14567/11]
The Local Government (Charges) Act 2009 broadened the revenue base of local authorities through the introduction of the charge on non-principal private residences. The charge is set at €200 and is being levied and collected by local authorities. Income from the charge is used to support the provision of local services.
With some exemptions, the charge applies to a residential property that is not the sole or main residence of the owner. A residential property, in the Act, means a building used, or suitable for use, as a dwelling and the definition of a dwelling includes that it must be a ‘separate' dwelling. This suggests that dwellings under the Act must have their own independent access and facilities — as is the case for apartments and flats.
The Act places collection of the charge under the care and management of the relevant local authority, and interpretation and implementation of the legislation is a matter for the local authorities in the first instance.
Section 2(2) of the Act clarifies that, where bedrooms within a dwelling are let in circumstances where the persons concerned also enjoy use of common areas, each bedroom is not a separate unit of living accommodation to which the charge applies.
Section 4(1)(a)(ii) of the Act further provides that where a person partly occupies a dwelling as his or her sole or main residence and avails of and is entitled to the Revenue Commissioner’s Rent-a-Room Scheme no liability for the charge will apply.
139 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans for those who rented out their private residences and are now living in rented accommodation due to family circumstances to be exempt from the non-principal private residence levy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14547/11]
The Local Government (Charges) Act 2009, which sets out the detail of the €200 charge on non-principal private residences, is structured with a starting position of a universal liability for residential property in respect of the charge. It goes on to exempt certain buildings and owners from this liability, the most important exemption being where a property is occupied by the owner as his or her sole or main residence on the liability date.
In a case where a person owns a property in which he or she does not live and his or her sole or main residence is a rented property, there would be a liability for the charge in respect of the property owned by the person unless it is otherwise exempt under the provisions of the Act.
I currently have no plans to amend the legislation in this respect but I will take the views of the Deputy into account in any future assessment of the charge.
140 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 219 and 220 of 31 May 2011, the proposed date for the introduction of the noise reduction legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14588/11]
My Department is re-considering the approach to introducing noise legislation in light of the current programme for Government, which includes a commitment to address noise pollution through the introduction of fixed payment notices (also known as on the spot fines) and provision for mediation between neighbours. As this process will influence the content and timing of new legislative proposals in this area, it was indicated in the Government Legislation Programme published on 5 April 2011 that it is not possible at this time to indicate when the legislation will be published.
141 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, further to Parliamentary Question No. 230 of 31 May 2011, his plans to introduce legislation for a maximum allowable height of hedges and trees in gardens of private dwellings in urban areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14589/11]
Further to the reply to Question No. 230 of 31 May 2011, I have no plans at present to introduce specific legislation to regulate the permitted heights of hedges and trees in privately owned gardens. As previously indicated, complaints or disputes in relation to such matters are normally addressed under civil law.
142 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans for waivers to the new household charge for persons on social welfare payments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14597/11]
The EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support for Ireland under its fiscal consolidation measures commits to the introduction of a property tax for 2012 and to an increase in the property tax for 2013. The programme reflects the need, in the context of the State's overall financial position, to put the funding of locally delivered services on a sound financial footing, improve accountability and better align the cost of providing services with the demand for such services.
In light of the complex issues involved, a property tax, requiring a comprehensive property valuation system, would take time to introduce and accordingly, to meet the revenue measure in the EU/IMF Programme, I have already indicated my intention to introduce a household charge in 2012.
I will be bringing proposals to Government in the near future on the legislative and administrative requirements necessary to implement the household charge including the applicability of waivers to the charge.
143 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if persons with private wells who do not receive water from the public mains system will have to pay any charges for their water under the new water metering scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14598/11]
147 Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the proposals for the introduction of residential water meters in 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14652/11]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 143 and 147 together.
In order to address a commitment in the programme for Government, my Department is preparing proposals for the installation of meters on households connected to a public water supply. I expect to bring proposals on the matter to the Government for consideration shortly. Subject to Government approval, I expect the installation of water meters will commence in early 2012.
144 Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if there is a system in operation whereby persons can pay the non-principal private residence levy by instalment if they can prove they are suffering financial hardship; if he will consider introducing such a scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14606/11]
The Local Government (Charges) Act 2009 broadened the revenue base of local authorities through the introduction of the charge on non-principal private residences. The charge is set at €200 and is being levied and collected by local authorities.
The charge is levied on a fixed liability date in each calendar year and payment becomes due two months after that date. There is then a further month's grace period to pay the charge, giving a total of three months during which the charge may be paid before penalties for late payment commence. Given this length of time and the relatively modest nature of the charge, it is not considered that an instalment payment plan is merited in this case.
The Act places collection of the charge under the care and management of the relevant local authority, and interpretation and implementation of the legislation is a matter for the local authorities in the first instance.
I have no plans to amend the payment arrangements with regard to the charge on non-principal private residences at present but I will take the views of the Deputy into account in any future assessment of the charge.
145 Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans for the introduction of a septic tank charge for single house waste water treatment systems; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14612/11]
In October 2009, the European Court of Justice ruled that Ireland failed to adopt the necessary legislation to comply with Articles 4 and 8 of Council Directive 75/442/EEC, known as the Waste Directive, regarding domestic wastewaters disposed of in the countryside through septic tanks and other individual wastewater treatment systems. The Government recently approved the urgent drafting of a Bill to provide for the establishment of a new system for the inspection and monitoring of the performance of all septic tanks and other on-site waste water treatment systems. The Bill will be published as soon as possible and my intention will be to pursue its early enactment.
In so far as support for the upgrading of septic tanks is concerned, the introduction of a grants scheme for any purpose must be managed within current budgetary constraints. The matter is being considered by my Department in the context of developing the overall response to the ECJ judgment.
146 Deputy Derek Nolan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to make the fire service more efficient while protecting front-line services; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that when compared to other jurisdictions, the fire service appears to be top-heavy, with, for example, 272 senior staff for 2,459 fire fighters; if his further attention has been drawn to the fact that the fire service has 37 fire authorities, 29 chief fire officers and 82 assistant chief fire officers; if his attention has been drawn to fact that the Northern Ireland Fire Service has one fire authority, one chief officer and two assistant chief fire officers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14618/11]
Fire services are provided by the 37 statutorily designated fire authorities, and are accordingly structured around the principal local authorities. The Farrell Grant Sparks review of fire services in Ireland concluded unambiguously that this is an appropriate approach which should be strengthened. The review's recommendations were dealt with conclusively by the further strengthening of national leadership through the establishment of the National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management.
Although structured around the principal local authorities, for operational purposes there is a sharing of services among a number of fire authorities, such as in Dublin, Galway, Louth and Westmeath. The fire services have been to the fore also in using the "shared services" concept, and have provided training and mobilisation and communications facilities on a regional basis for some years now. I have recently approved a new programme of joint procurement of fire appliances which further extends this concept, and is expected to deliver budgetary and administrative savings.
The national blueprint and programme for developing and improving the efficiency and effectiveness of Fire Services is set out in the recently agreed Irish Fire Services National Development Framework 2010-2015. The Framework sets out policies and key actions in the areas of Fire Services Role in Society; National Processes and Standards; Staff Learning and Development; Quality Assurance Systems and Reporting Performance; and Service Infrastructure and Legislative Support. The Framework was prepared by my Department's National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management, which is also managing the implementation of its actions through close working with its Management Board and Consultative Committee, which ensures that all key stakeholders, including staff representatives, are involved. I will forward a copy of the Framework to the Deputy.
At the most recent count, there are 271 officers (including the 29 Chief Fire Officers) and 3,416 fire fighters countrywide, who provide and manage the delivery of fire services from 220 fire stations, using a fleet of some 500 vehicles. The annual budget provided by local authorities (and managed by the Chief Fire Officers) for running fire services is of the order of €240m. It should be noted that requests for staffing in the fire services have been approved within the Employment Control Framework.
In undertaking any international comparison, it is vital to look at the duties and functions carried out by the Fire Service in Ireland. This is a broad range and encompasses fire prevention work, including community fire safety; running the Building Control and dangerous buildings service; leading major emergency management within the local government system and in the inter-agency regional structures; running mobilisation and communication centres as well as training centres on a regional basis; liaising with and in some cases running the Civil Defence service; and making input to national policy development and delivery. All these areas of work are managed by the 29 Chief Fire Officers (at a ratio of one Chief per eight senior fire officers).
This expanded range of functions may be in contrast with other jurisdictions to which the question refers. In Northern Ireland, Fire and Rescue Services are not provided by local authorities, but operate as a single regional authority, headed by a Chief Fire Officer who is supported by two Assistant Chief Fire Officers. It also has an officer cadre, appropriate to the needs of the organisation, and a different structure to that in this jurisdiction, with Directors, Managers, Group Commanders, Assistant Group Commanders and so on, as well as a significant headquarters staffing complement. At the other end of the scale, in Denmark, which has a population similar to Ireland, I understand there are some 98 Chief Fire Officers in the local government system.
I consider that the Irish Fire Service is appropriately structured and I appreciate the high quality of services provided and managed by our senior fire officers. In accordance with the Irish Fire Services National Development Framework, there will continue to be a significant continuing agenda of development work which senior fire personnel will lead.
148 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if there is any legislation governing the erection of satellite dishes by private residents on apartment buildings here; if he has implemented a communication from the European Commission regarding same (details supplied); if management companies can remove such dishes without the permission of the owner; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14667/11]
Under Class 4 of Schedule 2, Part 1 of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001 (as amended), the erection on or within the curtilage of a house of a dish-type antenna used for the receiving and transmitting of signals from satellites is exempted development, subject to certain conditions relating to the location, size and number of antennae. This exemption does not apply to apartments. The erection of a satellite dish other than within the terms of the exemption requires planning permission.
My Department acknowledges the need to balance the requirements outlined in the Commission's Communication, cited in the question, regarding the free movement of goods and services and an individual's access to satellite receptions of their choice with the principles of proper planning and sustainable development and the potential visual impacts of such dishes and antennae.
It is a matter for management companies to ensure their compliance with any EU law relevant to their operations. The regulation of management companies is a matter for the Department of Justice and Law Reform.
149 Deputy Noel Coonan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his policy in relation to retrofitting of new houses that have been taken over by the council (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14740/11]
In line with overall national policy which promotes a reduction in energy use, the enhancement of energy efficiency standards remains a priority within my Department's overall strategy for the improvement of local authority housing.
Under my Department's Social Housing Investment Programme, local authorities are allocated capital funding each year in respect of a range of measures to improve the standard and overall quality of their social housing stock. The programme includes a retrofitting measure aimed at improving the energy efficiency of older apartments and houses by reducing heat loss through the fabric of the building and the installation of high-efficiency condensing boilers.
Some €31million is being provided to local authorities in 2011 in respect of their social housing improvement works programmes. Under this year's programme, there is a particular focus on returning vacant properties to productive use. Newer houses constructed in accordance with Part L of the Building Regulations should achieve a high level of energy efficiency and will not require any form of retrofitting. While the installation of solid fuel stoves as room heaters is supported under the retrofitting programme when used to replace an open fire, it is not possible from an energy efficiency or a value for money perspective to justify the replacement of a highly efficient heating system with a less efficient solid fuel one. Therefore, any such works undertaken by a local authority in this regard are not eligible for funding under my Department's current programme.
My Department is also working closely with other Departments and agencies to develop a whole of Government approach to addressing the issue of energy affordability. An inter-departmental group is currently finalising a comprehensive energy affordability strategy which will be presented to my colleague the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources in the coming weeks.
150 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the cost of temporary control barriers erected around a location (details supplied) for the recent State visits; the reason for erecting them in view of the fact that there was already a permanent barrier at this location; the cost of their erection; the Department that bore the cost; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14559/11]
The barriers to which the Deputy refers were erected as part of the security arrangements put in place in relation to the two recent State visits. The Deputy will appreciate that for obvious reasons it is not the practice and it would not be in the public interest to comment in any detail on matters related to the security of visiting heads of state. However, I am satisfied that the necessary and appropriate measures were in place to ensure safety and security during the recent state visits.
With regard to the cost of the barriers, I am informed by the Garda authorities that a breakdown of the costs by specific locations is not available. The overall costs incurred by the Garda authorities in putting in place the necessary and appropriate security arrangements for the state visits will be borne by the Garda Síochána.
151 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will review the naturalisation case of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13911/11]
Officials in the Citizenship section of my Department inform me that there is no record of an application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's question.
Section 15 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended, provides that the Minister may, in his absolute discretion, grant an application for a certificate of naturalisation provided certain statutory conditions are fulfilled. The conditions are that the applicant must—
be of full age
be of good character
have had a period of one year's continuous residency in the State immediately before the date of application and, during the eight years immediately preceding that period, have had a total residence in the State amounting to four years
have made, either before a Judge of the District Court in open court or in such a manner as the Minister for special reasons allows, a declaration in the prescribed manner, of fidelity to the nation and loyalty to the State.
In the context of naturalisation, certain periods of residence in the State are excluded. These include—
periods of residence in respect of which an applicant does not have permission to remain in the State
periods granted for the purposes of study
periods granted for the purposes of seeking recognition as a refugee within the meaning of the Refugee Act, 1996.
Section 16 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended, provides that I may, in my absolute discretion, waive some or all of the statutory conditions, including residency, in certain circumstances including where an applicant is of Irish descent or of Irish associations.
It is open to any individual to lodge an application for citizenship if and when they are in a position to meet the statutory requirements as prescribed in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 as amended.
I should remind the Deputy that queries in relation to the status of individual Immigration cases may be made direct to INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. The service enables up-to-date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek this information through the more administratively expensive Parliamentary Questions process.
152 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position with regard to students from outside the EU studying for a three-year degree course in computer science, who were informed by a college before the end of the first year that the remaining two years will not be provided (details supplied); the implications for their study visas of transferring to an alternative college to complete the course; and if he can outline the general situation on this matter. [14545/11]
As the Deputy will be aware, the ‘New Immigration Regime for Full Time non-EEA Students' was published on 22 September 2010. The Report contains more than 20 recommendations designed to reform the student immigration regime in a manner that is better integrated with Ireland's immigration policy generally while providing a stronger regulatory framework for the sustainable development of the international education sector. A number of the recommendations contained in the Report came into effect from 1 January 2011. These recommendations include the introduction of maximum periods of residence in the State on foot of a student permission and the introduction of a differentiated approach as between "Degree Programme" courses and those at the "Language or Non-Degree Programme" level.
In order to ensure a smooth transition from the old regime to the new a special dedicated e-mail address —email@example.com — has been put in place within the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service. This facility allows students to send in details of their case for consideration, in the context of the new regime. To date this service has dealt with approximately 1,500 queries from students and education providers regarding the operation of the new regime.
In relation to the case referred to by the Deputy, it is not possible to give a definitive answer because each student's options can depend on their immigration history (for instance the number of years they have been in Ireland and the courses they have pursued). It will also be necessary for my officials to look in more detail at the course referred to.
Therefore I would advise the Deputy that, in this case, the students should write to firstname.lastname@example.org setting out the full details of their particular case. The students can expect a full and prompt response to their queries.
153 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of gardaí who were on duty during the visit of Queen Elizabeth II; if he will provide a breakdown of the number of gardaí on duty at each stage of the visit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14599/11]
The Deputy will appreciate that for obvious reasons it is not the practice and it would not be in the public interest to comment in any detail on matters related to the security of visiting heads of state. However, I am satisfied that the necessary and appropriate measures were in place to ensure the safety and security of Queen Elizabeth during the recent visit here.
154 Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the average wait time for a case commenced by way of judicial review to be heard by the High Court; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14600/11]
I am informed by the Courts Service that the waiting time for non-asylum related judicial review cases depends on the length of time the hearing of the application will require. For most applications it is one month. Cases likely to take less than two hours are dealt with within two weeks. For cases requiring longer than two hours there is a waiting time of four months.
An application for leave to seek judicial review in asylum related cases must be made on notice to the State. The current waiting time for pre-leave applications is 26 months. Once leave is granted, the waiting time for a final hearing is three months.
155 Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of immigration cases currently awaiting a hearing date in both the pre-leave judicial review list and the post-leave judicial review list; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14601/11]
There are approximately 1,400 cases challenging decisions relating to immigration matters — including asylum cases — before the High Court where an application for leave to bring Judicial review proceedings is pending. In addition there are 76 such cases where Leave has been granted and a substantive hearing of the case is awaited.
The above cases are at various stages in the Judicial Review process. Identifying those cases which have yet to be allocated a date for hearing would involve a disproportionate use of resources.
156 Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the formal mechanism being utilised by the State to settle those cases in which the rights of an applicant have been clearly breached by the State, which would then result in early settlement of that case with associated cost savings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14602/11]
In the event that a decision related to immigration matters is challenged in the Courts, a detailed review of the legal case is undertaken by the Legal Services Support Unit of my Department and detailed observations are prepared. Legal advice is then sought. In the event that legal advice clearly indicates that a decision was incorrectly arrived at, a decision is made to compromise those proceedings as soon as possible and on the best terms possible. Settlement of cases is normally conducted by way of correspondence between the solicitors for the Applicants and the Chief State Solicitor's Office acting on behalf of the State. My Department is always concerned to minimise the costs to the State in negotiating settlement of cases.
157 Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of adjournments that have been sought by the State in the pre-leave judicial review list to put in a replying affidavit where no replying affidavit has ever been subsequently entered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14605/11]
It is not the usual practice in my Department to seek adjournments in the pre-leave Judicial Review list to put in replying affidavits and then not file same. For this reason, statistics of the nature requested by the Deputy are not maintained by my Department.
158 Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number and location of accommodation units provided by the State for the purpose of housing asylum seekers; the cost of their provision on a year-by-year basis since 2002; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14650/11]
In relation to the first part of this question, I refer the Deputy to my reply below to Parliamentary Question No. 169 of 1 June 2011. The position is unchanged since then.
In relation to the second part of the question, the expenditure outturn by RIA on accommodation of asylum seekers and related costs in the period 2002 to 2010 is as follows:
2002 — €84m
2003 — €76m
2004 — €84m
2005 — €84m
2006 — €79m
2007 — €83m
2008 — €91m
2009 — €86m
2010 — €79m
2011 — €67m (estimate provision).
The principal expenditure on the above outturn is on contracts for commercial and State-owned direct provision centres as well as self-catering centres. It also includes expenditure outside these contract costs, e.g. utility (gas, electricity etc.) costs in State-owned centres; pre-school costs; transport costs and miscellaneous costs. A detailed breakdown of these costs is shown in the 2007 to 2010 (inclusive) RIA Annual Reports published on the aforementioned RIA website.
159 Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the timeframe for the processing of asylum applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14651/11]
Applications for refugee status in the State are determined by an independent process comprising the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner (ORAC) and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal (RAT) which make recommendations to the Minister for Justice and Equality on whether such status should be granted.
During 2010, the median processing time for asylum applications by the ORAC was 6 to 7 weeks from the date of application in the case of prioritised applications, and 9 weeks from the date of application in the case of non-prioritised applications.
The median processing times for RAT appeals in 2010 was 33 weeks in the case of substantive appeals (cases involving an oral hearing) and 9 weeks in the case of accelerated appeals (appeals on the papers).
I would point out that some cases can take significantly longer to complete due to, for example, delays arising from medical issues, non-availability of interpreters or because of judicial review proceedings. All asylum applications and appeals are processed in accordance with the Refugee Act 1996 and high quality and fair decision-making in all cases continues to be a key priority at all stages of the asylum process.
For the sake of completeness, I should also state that persons who are refused a declaration under Section 17 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended) enter what is commonly referred to as the "leave to remain" process which generally has two elements to it; an application for subsidiary protection and further consideration to be given under Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended). This is separate to the asylum or refugee status determination process.
The processing of cases at this point is also complex and extremely resource intensive given that where an application for subsidiary protection is lodged in addition to representations for consideration under Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the subsidiary protection application must be considered first to assess whether the applicant has an identifiable need for international protection. The investigation of such applications requires a fresh examination of the entire asylum file, the documentation and country of origin information submitted in support of the application, as well as an examination of objective, reputable, up to date country of origin information before a conclusion can be arrived at as to whether or not the applicant is likely to be exposed to ‘serious harm' if returned to his/her country of origin. Where such an application is refused, consideration must then be given to the case in accordance with the provisions of Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), at which point the Minister must make a decision whether or not to make a deportation order in respect of the person. All of this must be done in strict compliance with the Constitution, together with relevant international law including the European Convention on Human Rights. It will be seen that these are not quick or easy decisions to make and, given the life changing consequences for the persons involved, these are decisions which must be taken with the most scrupulous care and attention.
I have taken steps to speed up the processing of these applications by redeploying staff from the refugee determination bodies primarily.
The Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill 2010 which provides for the introduction of a single procedure to determine applications for protection and other reasons to remain in the State, should substantially simplify and streamline the existing arrangements. This re-organisation of the protection application processing framework will remove the current multi-layered processes and provide applicants with a final decision on their application in a more straightforward and timely fashion. The Deputy is probably aware that I am currently developing a number of amendments to the Bill before commencing Committee Stage which I hope to be in a position to do in the near future.
160 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if divorces granted in Switzerland fall within EU regulations or some similar agreement or fall under the Lugano Convention in terms of the recognition of foreign divorces here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14685/11]
I am not in a position as Minister to give legal advice in response to a Parliamentary Question. However, I can say that the Brussels II bis Regulation (EC2201/2003) concerning jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in matrimonial matters and matters of parental responsibility does not govern divorces granted in Switzerland. Furthermore, matters relating to status are explicitly excluded from the scope of the Lugano Convention.
Recognition of divorces in Ireland that fall outside the scope of the Brussels II bis Regulation is subject to the Domicile and Recognition of Foreign Divorces Act 1986. Where a person is unsure as to whether a divorce is recognised in this jurisdiction, he or she may enquire with An tÁrd-Chláraitheoir (the General Registrar) in the event that he or she intends to remarry in the State, or may make an application to the Circuit Court under section 29 of the Family Law Act 1995 for a declaration as to the status of the previous marriage.
161 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when a decision will issue on an application for naturalisation in respect of a person (details supplied). [14691/11]
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 December, 2008.
The application is at an advanced stage of processing and will be finalised as expeditiously as possible. As I outlined in response to Parliamentary Question No. 69 of 7 April last, I can inform the Deputy that I have initiated steps within my Department to provide for speedier processing of applications to bring about a substantial reduction in the processing timescale. The new arrangements will be publicly announced once my Department is in a position to implement them.
The granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is a privilege and an honour which confers certain rights and entitlements not only within the State but also at European Union level and it is important that appropriate procedures are in place to preserve the integrity of the process.
I should remind the Deputy that queries in relation to the status of individual Immigration cases may be made direct to INIS by Email using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. The service enables up-to-date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek this information through the more administratively expensive Parliamentary Questions process.
162 Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his plans to enhance the welfare of Irish greyhounds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14569/11]
My Department attaches a high priority to animal welfare and, alongside our EU partners, we are working to promote better animal welfare internationally.
Bord na gCon is a commercial state body established under the Greyhound Industry Act, 1958, chiefly to control greyhound racing and to improve and develop the greyhound industry. Bord na gCon has demonstrated its commitment to greyhound welfare and in this regard has a number of initiatives in place to ensure consistent and appropriate welfare standards are met. These include the attendance of veterinary surgeons at racing and at sales trials, employment of personnel to oversee greyhound welfare and the employment of a Welfare Manager. Bord na gCon is also an active member of the International Greyhound Forum — an international group involved in the establishment of welfare standards and education. A guide to best practice as to the care and welfare of greyhounds is available from the Bord na gCon website.
Bord na gCon established a Welfare Committee in July 2009 which seeks to identify ways in which the welfare of greyhounds can be improved.
In addition Bord na gCon also operates the Retired Greyhound Trust which focuses on the adoption and re-homing of greyhounds when they finish racing. In 2011 they launched a campaign, which is on-going, to promote greyhounds as pets. The Government has published legislation dealing specifically with greyhound welfare with a view to enhancing the welfare of Irish greyhounds.
163 Deputy Paul J. Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when payment will be made in respect of interest on the control of farmyard pollution scheme in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14573/11]
An application for grant-aid under the Farm Waste Management Scheme was received in the name of the person concerned who is unfortunately now deceased. Two instalments of grant-aid in respect of this application have been paid by my Department. However, no further payments can be made in respect of the application until the documentation which has been requested by the Inheritance Enquiry Unit in my Department has been received.
164 Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he has received correspondence from Skibbereen and Baltimore Harbour Board through Cork County Council in relation to funding for works to Baltimore pier and surrounding areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14607/11]
My Department recently invited Local Authorities to submit applications in respect of priority harbour development projects for inclusion in the 2011 Fishery Harbour and Coastal Infrastructure Development Programme. An application has been received from Cork County Council, however it did not include an application for funding for Skibbereen and Baltimore Harbour.
165 Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if a decision has been made on whether to provide assistance to landowners who have suffered losses due to the recent devastating gorse fires in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14615/11]
My Department is not in a position to provide assistance to farmers who suffered losses during the recent spate of wildfires in County Donegal. I am not aware of any mechanism at EU level for such assistance. It is the case that some forest herdowners have insured against fire and I would encourage others to pursue this approach.
166 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the capital programmes that are currently available for piers around the coast; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14689/11]
My Department administers the Fishery Harbour and Coastal Infrastructure Development Programme. The Programme provides funding for the development of fishery harbours and aquaculture landing places.
Subject to the availability of necessary exchequer funding, the Fishery Harbour and Coastal Infrastructure Development Programme does in addition, provide funding for harbour development works at Local Authority owned piers and harbours. I can confirm that my Department has recently invited Local Authorities to submit applications in respect of priority harbour development projects for inclusion in the 2011 Fishery Harbour and Coastal Infrastructure Development Programme.
167 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when payment for a milking parlour grant will issue in respect of a person (details supplied). [14703/11]
The person concerned is an applicant under the Farm Improvement Scheme. Payment of the grant will take place when it has been determined that all the terms and conditions of the Scheme have been complied with. The checks concerned should be completed in the near future.
168 Deputy Paul J. Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if lands owned by a person (details supplied) in County Galway have commonage rights included in their area aid over the past number of years; if so, will this entitle them to priority on the agri-environment options scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14768/11]
The person named does have Commonage recorded on their Single Payment application for the last five years. An application to the Agri-Environment Options Scheme has been received from the person named and their commonage rights will give them priority access to the scheme, subject to compliance with other eligibility requirements. Officials from my department will shortly be in contact with the person named to acknowledge receipt of the application.
169 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs when she intends to introduce the 116000 EU hotline for missing children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14564/11]
171 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, in view of the fact that the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources has no role in providing the 116000 missing children hotline as it is an operational matter, when she will make available the funds to provide this service for the protection and location of missing children; if she is not willing to fund the hotline, if she will confer responsibility for the hotline’s establishment to another Department; if she will pursue the matter with other Departments to ensure some comfort is brought to the parents and families of missing children by ensuring this hotline is established; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14737/11]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 169 and 171 together.
The purpose of the 116000 phone number is to provide a contact number to families if children go missing. While the Office of the Minister for Children is involved in ongoing discussions with other Government Departments in relation to the development of a hotline for missing children, the establishment of the hotline for missing children is not a matter for the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. The issue of missing children is a matter for the Garda Síochána.
170 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of children taken into care for each of the past seven years, broken down by Health Service Executive area; the categories under which these children were taken into care; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14675/11]
As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.
172 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Health the position regarding an application for a medical card in respect of persons (details supplied) in County Limerick. [14542/11]
173 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Health if he will provide details of each of the ambulance stations in counties Louth and Meath. [14548/11]
174 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Health the number of ambulance teams based in each ambulance station in counties Louth and Meath for day and night cover. [14549/11]
175 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Health the level of ambulance cover prior to July 2010 and the level of cover today. [14550/11]
176 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Health the level of cover in County Louth and Navan, County Meath, on the morning of Thursday, 26 May 2011, when an emergency call was made in reference to the collapse of a person (details supplied); if there were two emergency ambulances available when the emergency call was received; and if not, the location of same. [14551/11]
177 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Health his views on whether a 30-minute response time for an emergency call is unacceptable. [14552/11]
178 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Health if he will establish an inquiry to determine the facts surrounding the death of a person (details supplied). [14553/11]
179 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Health his views on whether the closure of the accident and emergency and acute medical services in County Louth has created a higher demand on the ambulance service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14554/11]
180 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Health if he will order a review in the level of ambulance provision in County Louth. [14555/11]
181 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Health the number of advanced paramedics stationed in County Louth. [14556/11]
191 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Health if he will instruct the Health Information and Quality Authority to undertake a full investigation into the circumstances surrounding the response of the Health Service Executive ambulance service in the north east to the events surrounding the death of a person (details supplied) in Drogheda, County Louth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14616/11]
193 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Health if he is satisfied that the ambulance service response times in the north east are adequate to meet the demands in the area in view of the events surrounding the death of a person (details supplied) in Drogheda, County Louth; if he will review the operation of the ambulance service in view of this tragedy; the immediate measures he will take to ensure improvements in emergency response times in the Drogheda area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14619/11]
198 Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Health if he will review ambulance cover in accident and emergency at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, County Louth in view of the tragic death of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14666/11]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 173 to 181, inclusive, 191, 193 and 198 together.
Firstly I wish to offer my sincere condolences to the relatives of the person who has died. From what I have been informed, I understand that the man concerned had collapsed in the street and passers-by came to his help and called for an ambulance. It appears that it was subsequently decided at the scene, because of the man's condition, to take him direct to hospital by private vehicle and the ambulance was cancelled. The HSE's log of calls to the National Ambulance Service does bear out this version of events as the ambulance was cancelled nine minutes after the first 999 call had been received.
I commend the instincts that prompted people on the street to help a fellow human being in a dire situation. No one can predict the outcome when faced with such a dilemma. The emergency services can provide advice and support over the phone while an ambulance is awaited but the confusion on the ground may have made this difficult in this case. This case underlines the need for the reform and modernisation of the ambulance service currently underway. While it does not appear to have been an issue in this case, the move to two national call centres to prioritise and manage calls is clearly essential. It is critical that emergency ambulances are used for emergency services and that there is a rapid hand-over of patients at emergency departments.
Supported by my Department and by HIQA, the NAS is working to improve the management and integration of its services. This includes a reduction to two ambulance control centres nationally, with appropriate technology, a clinical lead for pre-hospital care, development and implementation of new performance indicators for pre-hospital care and development of standard national criteria in relation to non-emergency patient transport.
The HIQA report "Pre-Hospital Emergency Care: Key Performance Indicators for Emergency Response Times", published in January 2011, recommends response times for first responders and for ambulances. The HIQA response time standard for transporting ambulances is 18 minutes 59 seconds for life threatening emergencies in 75% of cases. The HSE has been recording this data since January 2011 and since March 2011 has advised me that it meets this standard throughout Ireland.
The table details the level of ambulance cover in the Louth and Meath region. I have been advised by the HSE that the level of service on 26 May 2011 was the same as the service provided prior to July 2010.
Drogheda Ambulance Station
Dundalk Ambulance Station
Navan Ambulance Station
Dunshaughlin Ambulance Station
Ardee Ambulance Station
There are currently 4 staff who are trained as advanced paramedics for Louth. In addition, there is a rapid response vehicle staffed by an advanced paramedic based in Castleblayney who works regularly in the Louth area.
Following the transfer of emergency complex care to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, ambulance activity, including emergency, urgent and routine, has increased by over 600 calls in a full year. In response to this, the HSE has placed additional resources on an interim basis, which are currently under review to determine which configuration will deliver the best service. The NAS deploys resources on a dynamic basis, to meet surges in demand and ensure spatial application of emergency cover. Resources in any given area can be supplemented by re-deploying available capacity from surrounding areas.
In relation to the incident on 26 May, the HSE has carried out an investigation and has advised me as follows:
A 999 call was received from the Drogheda area at the National Ambulance (NAS) Service Command and Control Centre at 09:59 on 26 May 2011.
A number of emergency vehicles were already engaged on other 999 calls at the time. Vehicles parked at the local emergency department were awaiting the handing over of patients and were not free.
At 10:00, the nearest available emergency vehicle was dispatched to the scene. The ambulance had already been dispatched from Navan to provide cover in Drogheda and was not in Navan at the time of the call.
At 10.08 (9 minutes after receipt of the 999 call), a second 999 call was received from the scene, cancelling the ambulance as the patient was being transported by a private vehicle. In line with best practice the issue has also been referred by the HSE to its Serious Incident Team for assessment. The Health and Information and Quality Authority has sought a detailed briefing on the incident.
The National Ambulance Service has undergone significant change in order to ensure quality, safety and value for money. In line with other clinical areas, this process is ongoing as clinical needs and standards develop. I believe that these developments are in the best interests of patients, and that they are a key part of the Government's work to ensure high quality emergency care.
182 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Health his plans for the reopening of the accident and emergency service at Louth County Hospital. [14557/11]
I am committed to ensuring that acute hospital services at national, regional and local level are provided in a clinically appropriate and efficient manner. In particular I want to ensure that services are provided safely and in the setting most appropriate to patients' needs.
The local emergency department in Louth County Hospital was put in place last year following the transfer of emergency and complex care to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital Drogheda and is a 7 day service available between 9am and 8pm each day. The unit treats adults and children aged fourteen years and over who present with non-emergency conditions. Attendances to the service have continued to increase in 2011 with an average of 25 daily. Patients requiring emergency hospital admission are admitted to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital Drogheda or the nearest appropriate hospital. It is important to stress that patient safety has been central to all decisions taken regarding the operation of health services in the region as well as nationally.
Louth County Hospital is an integral part of the Louth/Meath Hospital Group and I am determined that it will continue to play an important role in the delivery of clinical services in the Louth/Meath area and to patients in other parts of the North East Region. In order to fully consider the issues involved, I will be taking account of the current organisation of acute services in the region and the important clinical programmes being developed by the HSE.
183 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Health the position regarding the construction of the cystic fibrosis unit being developed at St. Vincent’s Hospital, Dublin; the expected completion date of construction; the expected opening date for patients of the facility; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14563/11]
I have been informed by the HSE that the project is proceeding according to plan, within budget and no reports of delays have been received. Completion for service delivery is expected in early 2012.
184 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Health the reason a person (details supplied) has had to wait six weeks with no notification of when they will be receiving treatment in the National Rehabilitation Hospital, Dublin; when this person will receive treatment at the National Rehabilitation Hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14566/11]
As the Deputy's question relates to service matters I have arranged for the question to be referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy.
185 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Health when a person (details supplied) will receive an appointment at Crumlin children’s hospital, Dublin. [14579/11]
As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.
186 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Health when a person (details supplied) will receive an appointment at Crumlin children’s hospital, Dublin. [14580/11]
187 Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Health if he will provide the details of the diabetes paediatric services available to children living in south Tipperary and west Waterford and also in the broader Health Service Executive area; if he will consider further developing local services in south Tipperary and west Waterford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14582/11]
188 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health if an appointment will be expedited in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3. [14585/11]
189 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Health the reason a social worker who lives on the Border must pay an annual fee to the National Social Work Qualification Board together with an annual fee to CORU before they can practice on both sides of the Border; and if social work qualifications should be recognised on both sides of the Border to avoid this duplication. [14587/11]
CORU is the umbrella body responsible for protecting the public by regulating health and social care professionals. It includes the Health and Social Care Professionals Council and the 12 registration boards to be established under the Health and Social Care Professionals Act 2005. The Health and Social Care Professionals Council was established in March 2007 and has been working to put in place the necessary structures for registration, education and fitness to practise for the twelve health and social care professions designated in the Act. The first registration board under the Health and Social Care Professionals Council, the Social Workers Registration Board, was established in August 2010, and the opening of the Social Workers Register on 31st May 2011 to accept registrants marks the start of statutory registration of this profession. CORU will enable health and social care professionals to practice in a regulated manner while providing the highest level of patient care and service.
I presume the Deputy refers in his question to the situation where social workers are required to register in Northern Ireland with the Northern Ireland Social Care Council and in the South with CORU. The National Social Work Qualifications Board was dissolved in March 2011 and its functions in relation to "non-national qualifications" were assumed by the Social Workers Registration Board of CORU. The competent authority for the assessment of social work qualifications in Ireland is the Social Workers Registration Board and, in Northern Ireland, the competent authority is the Northern Ireland Social Care Council.
There is no mutual recognition agreement in place between the two jurisdictions in relation to social work. Instead, the provisions of Directive 2005/36/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 7 September 2005 on the recognition of professional qualifications affords the opportunity to interested persons to have their qualifications recognised to work in both jurisdictions. This Directive applies to all EEA nationals wishing to practise a regulated profession in an EU Member State other than that in which they obtained their professional qualifications, on either a self-employed or employed basis. Its intention is to make it easier for certain professionals to practise their professions in European countries other than their own, but due safeguards are provided in the assessment of the qualification for public health and safety and consumer protection. The Directive also contains provisions in relation to the provision of temporary services where a service provider, established in one member state, wishes to provide services in another member state on a temporary basis.
For the purposes of the Directive, a regulated profession is defined as a professional activity, access to which is subject, directly or indirectly, by virtue of legislative, regulatory or administrative provisions to the possession of specific professional qualifications i .e. where statutory registration exists. Hence a statutory registration fee is payable in the two jurisdictions should a person wish to practise their profession in the two jurisdictions.
190 Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Health if he will authorise the Health Service Executive to re-open the 14 beds that have been closed in Dungloe Community Hospital, County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14613/11]
As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Executive for direct reply.
192 Deputy Anthony Lawlor asked the Minister for Health the number of persons employed by his Department in 2004; the number transferred to the Health Service Executive on its formation; the number currently employed by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14617/11]
At the end of December 2004, there were 630.02 Whole Time Equivalents employed in my Department. 17 individuals moved to the HSE on a permanent or secondment basis following its formation. There are currently 453.76 Whole Time Equivalents employed in my Department (figures correct at end May 2011).
194 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health the reason for the delay in renewing a medical card in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare. [14643/11]
195 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health if any progress has being made regarding meetings and services of functional packages for a group (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14645/11]
I wish to assure the Deputy that the Government is committed to re-opening discussions with the Irish survivors of thalidomide.
196 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding guidelines on the use of chemicals (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14656/11]
The matter the Deputy refers to concerns safety in the workplace and in particular, the safe use of chemicals by employees at their place of employment. As such, I have no function in the matter referred to. However, the Health and Safety Authority has responsibility for influencing changes in the behaviours of employers and employees so that they can prevent injury and ill-health arising from work activity and protect human health and the environment through the sound management and safe use of chemicals. The Health and Safety Authority may be able to provide some assistance in this matter.
197 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health if he will provide an update on funding for the provision of nursing home care, further to recent difficulties concerning the fair deal scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14660/11]
The examination of funding for the Nursing Homes Support Scheme has been completed and the Minister for Health received a report of the findings and recommendations on Friday, 3rd June. The Minister is currently reviewing the report, which outlines the complex nature of the issues involved.
When the Minister has considered the report and the issues arising, he will make an announcement regarding the Scheme. He expects to do this later this week.
199 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Health if he will provide details of the current backlog of medical card appeals in an area (details supplied); the way he intents to tackle this backlog; if his attention has been drawn to the number of appeals that have been withdrawn by the Health Service Executive and appellants have been informed that due to the length of time that has elapsed since their appeals were submitted it will be necessary now to have their eligibility assessed and therefore they must submit a new medical card application form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14674/11]
During the period 2008-2010, the number of medical cards increased nationally by over 26%. At the same time, the number of appeals of a decision regarding a medical card in the Dublin/Mid-Leinster area increased significantly. At the end of May 2011, there were 456 appeals on hand in that area. Where a person submits an appeal within 21 days of a decision, they retain their medical or GP visit card until the appeal is decided. The processing of some appeals was delayed while the necessary documentation was being collated by the Local Health Office. In view of this, it was decided that, where outstanding appeals had been received prior to 1 January 2011, the appellants would be permitted to retain their medical card for an additional 3 months to enable them to submit a new application to take account of any change in their circumstances. Appellants were advised of this decision and were also informed that, should they be refused a medical card, they could submit a new appeal.
200 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Health if he will provide a breakdown of the nursing staff ratios to patients in the public health system per hospital in the Dublin and mid Leinster region. [14677/11]
As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive and I will revert to the Deputy with the reply.
201 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Health if he will provide a breakdown of the nursing staff ratios to patients in the public health system per hospital here. [14678/11]
As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive and I will revert to the Deputy with the reply.
202 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Health if he will provide figures outlining the amount of unfilled staff positions at Tallaght Hospital, Dublin. [14679/11]
As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the HSE for attention and direct reply to the Deputy.
203 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Health if the backlog in relation to x-rays at Tallaght Hospital, Dublin has been cleared and the approximate timescale now in operation for patients awaiting results. [14680/11]
As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.
204 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Health the usual or approximate timescale for patients receiving biopsy reports per hospital; and if there is now a problem or specific reason for the delays in some hospitals receiving this information. [14681/11]
The information sought by the Deputy is not readily available. However I have asked the Health Service Executive to supply this information to me and I will forward it to the Deputy as soon as possible.
205 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Health if he will provide the figures per hospital of the waiting times for patients awaiting access to a dermatologist. [14682/11]
The information sought by the Deputy is not readily available. However I have asked the Health Service Executive to supply this information to me and I will forward it to the Deputy as soon as possible.
206 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there is no general practitioner based in an area (details supplied); his view that this unacceptable; and the reason for the long delay in the roll out of the GP out of hours service at the local hospital in Tallaght, Dublin. [14683/11]
As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy.
207 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Health if he or the Health Service Executive have any proposals to close facilities in County Donegal (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14688/11]
As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Executive for direct reply.
208 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Health when a person (details supplied) in County Limerick will receive a medical card for the over 70 years. [14692/11]
As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy.
209 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Health the position regarding an application for a medical card in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [14701/11]
210 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Health if there are any plans by the Health Service Executive to complete a service level agreement with a counselling centre (details supplied) in Dublin 22; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14708/11]
As this is a service matter it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.
211 Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for Health if he will provide an update on the status of knee and hip operations being performed at Midlands Regional Hospital, Tullamore, County Offaly; if these operations will resume in the near future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14735/11]
As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.
212 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Health if he has received signed service level agreements from a group (details supplied); if not, the actions he will take against the group; when the group will make available its full financial statements, including the remuneration packages of the groups of directors, to the Government; if he deems the current remuneration package of the group chief executive appropriate in the context of the annual funding of the group from various State agencies using public moneys. [14738/11]
The Health Service Executive has reported that there is a valid signed Service Level Arrangement (Part 1 General Terms and Conditions and Part 2 Schedules) in place in all HSE areas for RehabCare for 2010. In relation to 2011, work is currently in progress to complete the 2011 Part 2 schedules. The situation regarding National Learning Network (NLN), another company in the Rehab Group, is not as advanced due to the capitation invoicing arrangements for payment that exists with NLN. The work involved in agreeing 2011 schedules is progressing well, with many HSE areas having already signed.
Neither the Health Service Executive (HSE) nor the Minister for Health, has a direct role in relation to the remuneration of the Directors or the Chief Executive Officer of the Rehab Group. However both my colleague, Minister Reilly and myself are concerned to ensure that the State receives value for money for all monies invested in public services on behalf of the tax payer. In this context, Minister Reilly wrote to the Chairperson of the Rehab Group on 20th May last and sought a report on the Chief Executive Officer's remuneration package and a reply is awaited.
In addition, as part of the Government's Value for Money Reviews, a Review of the Efficiency and Effectiveness of Disability Services in Ireland is being undertaken in my Department. This in-depth review of Disability Services will assess how well current services for people with disabilities meet their objectives and support the future planning and development of services.
213 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Health his views on recent refusals by the Health Service Executive of applications for the motorised transport grant scheme; if he will enumerate the number of refusals and set out the criteria being used for the application process; his further view on the introduction of charges and the changeover to the rural transport scheme; his view on the suitability of vehicles owned by rural transport companies for passengers with physical or other special needs; if he will consider amending the criteria on the basis of these facts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14766/11]
The Motorised Transport Grant supports people with a severe disability to purchase/adapt a car for travel to and from work. The eligibility criteria are governed by a circular issued by the Department. It is not proposed to change the current circular. I have asked the Health Service Executive to provide the Deputy with the details requested in relation to the number of unsuccessful applications for the grant this year.
I have asked my colleague the Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport to provide the Deputy with the information requested regarding the Rural Transport Scheme.
214 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the additional funding he is putting in place to support the efforts of the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre, County Clare, in its effort to achieve a position in the competition relating to the seven natural wonders of the world; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14558/11]
The matter raised by the Deputy is an operational matter for Shannon Development. I have referred the Deputy's Question to Shannon Development for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.
215 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the grants being made available in 2011 for sports facilities or organisations. [14593/11]
Under the Sports Capital Programme, which is administered by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, funding is allocated towards the provision of sports facilities at national, regional and local level. It is the primary vehicle for promoting the development of sports and recreational facilities in Ireland. The Programme has transformed the sporting landscape of Ireland with improved facilities in virtually every village, town and city. The facilities funded range from new equipment for the smallest clubs, to regional multi-sport centres and national centres of sporting excellence. Over 7,400 projects providing a range of essential sports facilities have now benefited from sports capital funding since 1998 bringing the total allocation in that time to over €739 million. These grants continue to play a pivotal role in ensuring the provision of modern, high quality facilities around Ireland that attract more people to participate in sporting activities. No decision has yet been made about the timing of further rounds of the programme.
216 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the number of public private partnership agreements that have been agreed regarding the provision of rest areas on new motorways; the percentage of each agreement that has been funded by his Department; the financial returns to date to the Exchequer, if any, from each project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14649/11]
As Minister for Transport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme. The planning, design and implementation of individual national roads projects are matters for the National Roads Authority (NRA) under the Roads Acts 1993 to 2007 in conjunction with the local authorities concerned. Within its capital budget, the assessment and prioritisation of individual projects and allocation of funding for these works is a matter in the first instance for the NRA in accordance with section 19 of the Roads Act. More specifically, under section 54 of the Roads Act 1993, as amended by section 10 of the Roads Act 2007, the NRA has a specific responsibility in relation to agreements to build and operate Motorway Service Areas. I understand from the NRA that they have entered into one PPP agreement on service areas to date. Noting the above position, I have referred the Deputy's question to the NRA for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you don't receive a reply within 10 working days.
217 Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the funding available from him for park and ride facilities; the grants available to persons who wish to set up a park and ride facility; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14654/11]
Following the establishment of the National Transport Authority (NTA) in December 2009, responsibility for the delivery of public transport infrastructure, including the provision of park & ride facilities in the Greater Dublin Area (GDA) is a matter for the NTA. I have therefore referred the Deputy's question, insofar as the GDA is concerned, to the NTA for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 working days.
My Department has no scheme in place to fund privately developed and operated park & ride facilities. However, funding is provided to relevant local authorities in an ongoing programme of Bus Priority Measures (Green Routes) and Park & Ride facilities in the four regional cities of Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford. Since 2006 the four cities have received funding totalling €55 million, of which approximately €2 million was in respect of park & ride facilities. In line with the general reduction in capital funding, the outgoing government cut the overall budget for the regional bus priority/park & ride programme from €14m in 2010 to €5.5m in 2011. Given the limited availability of funding for this and other capital programmes, I consider the further roll-out of bus priority improvements in each city should be afforded a higher degree of priority than the development of park & ride facilities. Indeed in certain cases the development of park & ride facilities would be premature pending further improvement in bus priority measures.
218 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, in view of impending retirements, if the full complement of staff will be maintained at Valentia coast guard radio station, County Kerry, as this is a front-line emergency service; if he will fast-track the installation of urgently needed updated equipment at Valentia coast guard radio station; when he now expects responsibility for this service to be transferred to the Department of the marine; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14690/11]
In relation to the current staffing complement and impending retirements of staff at Valentia, Malin and Dublin a panel of candidates have been created by the Public Appointment Service from which three new Officers have been recruited and are currently undergoing their new entrant training. A Deputy Divisional Controller promotion competition has also been sanctioned. Further take up off the panel is likely to be subject to the functional efficiency review being undertaken by the Department as part of the Croke Park Agreement.
As regards the installation of Integrated Communications System (ICS) at Valentia, the existing buildings will have to be adapted to accommodate the ICS equipment. Planning for this is currently underway in consultation with the Office of Public Works. Works are not expected to commence this year. Discussions between both Departments are ongoing to transfer the functions of the Irish Coast Guard to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. Discussions have also taken place with the Office of the Attorney General in relation to a number of complex legal issues arising in the transfer.
219 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, further to Parliamentary Question No. 380 of 31 May 2011, the timeline for the announcement of the winning projects; the total amount of funds now available to carry out the projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14695/11]
The future of the Smarter Travel Areas Programme is currently under active consideration in the context of the available budget for 2011 and the National Recovery Plan. The size and availability of a funding stream for the delivery of a Smarter Travel Areas programme of any scale must be considered in the context of the Government's and my Department's overall priorities. The local authorities involved will be notified of the outcome shortly.
220 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide details of the person to whom a building (details supplied) is leased; and if he will provide the details of this lease. [14742/11]
The leasing of land by the State commercial port companies is an operational matter in which I have no function. The companies may well regard such information as confidential. I have referred the Deputy's question to Mr. Gerry Dunne, Chief Executive Officer of Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company, for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.