Written Answers

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies as received on the day from the Departments [unrevised].
Questions Nos. 1 to 11, inclusive, answered orally.

Health Services

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

12 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Health if he will provide an update on the current state of preparation regarding his plans for free general practitioner care. [26390/11]

The Programme for Government provides for significant strengthening of primary care services to deliver universal primary care with the removal of cost as a barrier to access for patients. This commitment will be achieved on a phased basis to allow for the recruitment of additional doctors, nurses and other primary care professionals.

Access to primary care without fees will be extended in the first year to claimants of free drugs under the Long-Term Illness Scheme and in the second year to claimants of free drugs under the High-Tech Drugs Scheme. Access to subsidised primary care will be extended to all in the next phase and universal access to care without fees will occur in the final phase.

I will oversee the implementation of this programme with the assistance of a project team of officials from my Department and the HSE.

Hospital Services

Mick Wallace

Question:

13 Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Health the reason behind cuts to the Domino maternity service at Wexford General Hospital in view of the fact that the hospital itself failed to give the details to those using the service; his views on whether a service which ensures a comfortable birth is worthy of being retained; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26373/11]

There are over 74,000 births in Ireland each year, the majority of which take place in 19 public hospitals. Ireland currently enjoys one of the lowest neo-natal mortality rates in European and OECD countries.

As Minister for Health, I am committed to ensuring that women can avail of the highest quality maternity service. I am also keenly aware that we need to take account of women's preferences for a broader choice of services, including the potential for midwives to play a more prominent role in obstetrics.

The Domino scheme offers midwifery care to low-risk mothers from the beginning of pregnancy, during labour, and until the baby is five to ten days old. The underlying ethos for this scheme is to encourage and support normal childbirth with minimum medical intervention. I understand that the Domino scheme has operated successfully in Wexford General Hospital.(WGH) since 2003 and is continually audited.

WGH maternity unit delivers 2,300 babies a year, with approximately 200 mothers participating in the Domino programme. I have been advised by the HSE that, because of maternity leave and other factors, the numbers of midwives available to WGH is not sufficient to safely operate both the maternity unit and the full Domino service.

As a result he Domino service will continue but with some amendments, so that WGH can continue to provide a safe, high quality service for mothers attending the maternity unit. There will be one post-natal visit, with two clinics to be held in the hospital and a specific discharge visit prior to discharge. There will be no change with regard to the provision of home births.

As Minister for Health, I have taken on the very challenging task of improving our health services so that all citizens can avail of a high quality and equitable service. The Obstetrics and Gynaecology Clinical Programme is progressing across all the 19 hospitals that provide maternity services. Its work is ongoing and includes measuring obstetric outcomes, developing new models of care for deliveries and training. It is my aim that the work of this programme will inform better planning and use of resources, thereby ensuring that women's experience of childbirth will be enhanced, with the mother and child at the centre of the process.

Hospitals Building Programme

Catherine Murphy

Question:

14 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Health if the third phase of the development of Naas General Hospital, County Kildare, will proceed in the short or medium term, which would result in the old hospital being taken out of commission; if the development will occur on a phased basis; the way it is intended to deal with the replacement of the endoscopy unit in that context; if the temporary day hospital will be replaced in the near future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26205/11]

A number of major capital projects have been completed and commissioned at Naas General Hospital in recent years Any further developments will have to be considered in the light of the outcome of the review of capital spending which is currently underway. However, I can say there is as yet no time frame for Phase 3 of the development and there is currently no active plan to replace the day hospital.

Health Policy

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

15 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health the policy making or formulation structure in the health service; if policy emanates from him or the Health Service Executive or a combination of both or otherwise; the way policy decisions are arrived at or by whom such policies are influenced in such matters as hospital restructuring such as increase or diminution of services or facilities, the location and or facilities such as health centres including capacity criteria for up or downgrading, the structures most influential in reaching such decisions and national, regional or local level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26315/11]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

154 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health the various policy making structure within his Department or the Health Service Executive; the methodology used in the determination of policy at all levels with particular reference to general hospitals, special hospitals and community care services; the extent to which particular policies have changed over the past ten years; the reason for such change; if the need under each or any heading has grown or diminished in the period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26626/11]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

162 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health the policy structure in his Department and or the Health Service Executive with particular reference to clarification as to the way policy is formulated in current or future provisions in respect of the various disciplines at national, regional or local level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26634/11]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

164 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health the extent to which he interfaces with the Health Service Executive or others involved in policy making with particular reference to the determination of policies at local or regional level particularly those affecting the location and delivery of services at local health centres; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26636/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 15, 154, 162 and 164 together.

At present, my Department has primary responsibility for advising me on issues relating to national policy development and review while the HSE has primary responsibility for the delivery of health and personal social services, including regional and local operational issues relating to the location of particular services.

I believe there is a need for greater clarity about the respective roles of the Minister/Department and of those charged with the delivery of services.

The interim HSE board which I established last May was designed to facilitate greater integration between the senior management teams in my Department and the HSE. I made it clear at the time that I intend to seek Government approval to draft legislation to abolish the board of the HSE and put alternative governance structures in place. My Department is currently preparing policy proposals in that regard for my consideration.

While I would not wish to pre-empt the outcome of this process, I believe we need to make it clear that the Minister is responsible for defining the framework within which services have to be delivered. This would include issues such as funding and financial incentives, service delivery models, and standards relating to performance management, quality and access. Equally, we need to ensure that those charged with the delivery of services have the authority to make the operational decisions required to deliver an agreed quantum of services within budget and in accordance with quality and access standards set at national level. We need to delegate authority as close as possible to the point of service delivery, ensure that such authority is exercised within clear national standards and hold people to account for their performance in that regard.

Hospital Accommodation

Michael Colreavy

Question:

16 Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Health the total number of public hospital beds currently closed; the number per hospital; and if he has a programme for the reopening of closed hospital beds. [26384/11]

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

40 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Health the number of beds that have been closed across the country due to financial constraints. [26278/11]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

166 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health the extent to which the full general hospital bed complement has been identified, agreed and or provided for in the future having particular regard to the experience over the past six years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26638/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 16, 40 and 166 together.

There are some 13,000 acute hospital beds, including some 1,800 day beds, in the Irish public acute hospital system. The exact number available for use at any one time varies according to a number of factors, including planned levels of activity, refurbishment and infection control. Beds are also closed to control expenditure because, like all other public agencies, hospitals have to operate within budget.

The criteria for counting bed closures and methods vary between hospitals. Instead of having a debate about the exact number of beds that are judged to be open or closed at any one time, I believe we must concentrate on getting the best possible services for patients from the budgets available to us.

This means we need to focus on how beds are used, on the throughput of patients, on reducing length of stay to international norms and on having as many procedures as possible carried out as day cases rather than inpatient work.

The work of the SDU, together with implementation of the Clinical Care Programmes in the HSE, will help to improve the efficiency of our hospitals, allowing us to treat as many patients as possible within budget.

I believe that pursuing efficiencies through these means will be a far more productive approach than debating the number of beds open or closed at any one time.

The table gives the number of available beds in each hospital for the period 2009 and 2010.

Average Inpatient Beds Available*

2009

2010

Adelaide & Meath Hospital Inc NCH

534

533

Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital

187

187

Longford/Westmeath Regional Hospital — Mullingar

185

166

Midland Regional Hospital — Portlaoise

140

140

Midland Regional Hospital — Tullamore

192

176

Naas General Hospital

211

203

Our Ladys Children’s Hospital Crumlin

210

185

Temple Street Childrens Hospital

106

100

National Maternity Hospital

151

155

Royal Victoria Eye and Ear

35

46

St. Columcilles Hospital

114

107

St. James Hospital

835

831

St. Lukes Hospital — Dublin

156

154

St. Michaels Hospital DLaoire

101

99

St. Vincents Hospital Elm Park

482

482

DML Total

3,639

3,563

Cavan General Hospital

203

228

Louth County Hospital

110

75

Monaghan General Hospital

31

0

Our Lady of Lourdes

288

303

Our Ladys Hospital — Navan

131

115

Beaumont Hospital

635

594

Cappagh Orthopaedic

61

60

Connolly Hospital — Blanchardstown

218

228

Mater Misericordiae Hospital

572

567

Rotunda Hospital

170

170

St Josephs

34

36

DUBLIN NORTH HOSPITAL GROUP

2,453

2,376

Orthopaedic Hospital — Kilcreene

38

31

South Tipperary General Hospital

215

216

St Lukes Hospital — Kilkenny

259

220

Waterford Regional Hospital

441

465

Wexford General Hospital

210

200

Bantry General Hospital

69

68

Cork University Hospital

500

497

Cork University Maternity Hospital

185

185

Kerry General

261

249

Mallow General Hospital

76

76

Mercy Hospital

204

197

South Infirmary — Victoria Hospital

170

164

St. Marys Hospital — Gurranebraher

90

92

SOUTHERN HOSPITAL GROUP

2,718

2,659

Letterkenny General Hospital

306

309

Mayo General Hospital

271

276

Portiuncula Hospital Ballinasloe

185

173

Roscommon County Hospital

88

81

Sligo General Hospital

270

256

University Hospital Galway

674

623

Ennis General Hospital

54

52

Nenagh General Hospital

52

52

Regional Hospital — Dooradoyle

420

406

Regional Maternity Hospital — Limerick

99

99

Regional Orthopaedic Hospital — Limerick

67

62

St.Johns Hospital — Limerick

73

73

WESTERN HOSPITAL GROUP

2,559

2,461

National Totals

11,369

11,060

* The average number of bed days available by specialty for the reporting period. This should not include day beds and should also be reflective of any bed closures during the reporting period

Health Service Research Projects

David Stanton

Question:

17 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 76 and 89 of 1 July 2009 regarding foetal alcohol syndrome, if the research project undertaken by the Health Service Executive and the Coombe Hospital, Dublin, regarding alcohol exposure during pregnancy has been completed; if so, the findings of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26377/11]

David Stanton

Question:

26 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health further to Parliamentary Questions Nos 76 and 89 of 1 July 2009 regarding foetal alcohol syndrome, the conclusions and recommendations which resulted from the systematic review of prenatal outcomes following alcohol exposure; the action taken by him and the Health Service Executive as a result; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26378/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 17 and 26 together.

I wish to advise the Deputy that the prevalence study of alcohol exposure in pregnancy at the Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital has been completed.

Records on 61,241 women who booked for ante-natal care and delivered between 2000 and 2007 were examined as part of this study. The findings of this study were that 81% of women reported alcohol consumption during the peri-conceptual period; of these, 43,455 (71%) reported low alcohol intake (0-5 units per week), 6059(9.9%) moderate intake (6-20 units per week) and 114(0.2%) high intake (over 20 units per week).

There was one case of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome in each of these three categories of peri-conceptual drinkers, i.e. 1 of 43,455 in low intake drinkers, 1 of 6059 in moderate intake drinkers and 1 of 114 in high intake drinkers.

Factors associated with high intake included being less than 25 years, being single, being Irish, having an unplanned pregnancy, being a smoker or a user of illicit drugs. High alcohol consumption was associated with very pre-term birth. Adverse peri-natal outcomes were not increased in low or moderate drinkers compared to non-drinkers.

The Deputy may wish to know that as well as the above retrospective case note study a prospective study is underway to examine the incidence of foetal alcohol effects on a longitudinal basis.

A systematic review of perinatal outcomes following alcohol exposure was also carried out. A total of 42 qualifying studies were examined. Studies linking alcohol consumption with first trimester miscarriage were inconclusive but a dose-related increase in second trimester miscarriage has been reported. Studies have associated moderate to heavy consumption with pre-term birth and low birthweight. Results are sometimes inconsistent and the associations may not persist when socio-demographic confounders are taken into consideration. A number of studies have reported a relationship between alcohol intake in pregnancy and behavioural and cognitive deficits in childhood and adolescence.

Finally, the National Substance Misuse Strategy Steering Group was established in 2009. It is examining the development of policy to deal with a wide range of key issues relating to the supply, pricing, availability and marketing of alcohol, along with measures for the policy areas of prevention strategies, — including strategies to reduce alcohol intake in pregnancy — treatment, rehabilitation, alcohol and substance dependency, research and information. The report of the Steering Group is close to completion; I expect to receive proposals in the coming months and I will then brief my colleagues in Government on these.

Tuberculosis Incidence

Derek Keating

Question:

18 Deputy Derek Keating asked the Minister for Health the number of patients diagnosed with tuberculosis in 2010; the number of patients who were diagnosed with multi-drug resistant tuberculosis during the period 2007 to 2010; the services available for the treatment of infectious TB; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26147/11]

There were 427 cases of tuberculosis reported to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) in 2010. is equates to a rate of 10.1 TB cases per 100,000 population. 12 cases of multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) were notified to HPSC between 2007 and 2010. These are provisional data and are currently being confirmed.

Year of Notification

Number of MDR-TB notifications

2007

7

2008

2

2009

1

2010

2

Treatment of TB

Combined clinics attended by both respiratory physicians and public health staff have operated as models of good practice for some time throughout Ireland for the diagnosis and treatment of infectious TB and the evaluation of contacts of TB cases. e successful management and treatment of TB requires such a multidisciplinary approach and depends on strong working relationships between the treating physician, public health staff, nursing staff, laboratory staff and the pharmacist.

It is recommended that all cases of suspected active TB are referred to a TB clinic and have a clinical assessment at the next available clinic. If urgent assessment is required, it is recommended that the clinical team is consulted in this regard. National Guidelines on the Prevention and Control of Tuberculosis in Ireland (2010) recommend that clinical assessment includes clinical, radiological (chest X-ray) and bacteriological examinations (sputum for smear microscopy and culture). e guidelines also recommend that treatment of all infectious TB cases is directed by a consultant respiratory physician/consultant in infectious diseases with appropriate training in the management and treatment of TB.

Accident and Emergency Services

Martin Ferris

Question:

19 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Health the action he will take to address the overcrowding and threats to patient safety that led nurses to take industrial action in the Mid-Western Regional Hospital, County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26388/11]

I do not believe that any useful purpose is served by this industrial action. I am concerned that a further stoppage has happened today and would urge the INMO to reflect on the impact which these actions have on the general public.

I also find it hard to reconcile the fact that the nursing unions are taking this industrial action, given that they are parties to the Public Service Agreement, particularly as the agreement focuses on the need to deliver services in the changed circumstances which we now find ourselves in and with co-operation between management and unions. The shared focus of all those working in the health service should be on safeguarding front-line care in the face of the continuing very serious economic situation. The Mid-Western Regional Hospital Limerick was €16.2m over budget at the end of July 2011. Accordingly, it has had to take measures to reduce its spending, including a prohibition on staff overtime and on hiring agency staff.

As in all areas of the economy and the public service, we must focus on solutions, including efficiency, flexibility and innovative working, to allow us to maintain our public services in the face of economic crisis.

Industrial action by any group will simply exacerbate our country's problems and, in the case of nurses, may negatively affect patient care.

In recent months I have established the Special Delivery Unit (SDU), under the leadership of Dr Martin Connor. The SDU is working to unblock access to acute services by improving the flow of patients through the system. It is focusing initially on emergency departments and will be working to support hospitals in addressing excessive waiting times for admission to hospital. The SDU is due to submit a report to me on Limerick on Thursday. I look forward to the cooperation of all health service staff with the work of the SDU, which is aimed at ensuring that patients receive a safe and appropriate service when they present at our acute hospitals. In the case of Limerick, it is vital that we focus on solutions, including the introduction of new rosters and the redeployment of nurses to areas of greatest need in the hospital. New rosters become even more important in light of the need to maintain and improve services in a financially constrained context.

In relation to pressures in the emergency department, it is clear that risk issues arising from overcrowding should be regarded as a problem for the entire hospital to deal with. Hospital management cannot accede to a demand that no extra beds should be put up in wards. This is provided for in the escalation policy and represents a lesser risk than allowing an unsafe build-up of trolleys in the ED.

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

20 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Health if any assessment has been done as to the likely impact on the accident and emergency at St. Vincent’s Hospital, Dublin, as a result of the proposed downgrading of the 24 hour accident and emergency at St. Columcille’s Hospital, Loughlinstown, County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26374/11]

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

38 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Health if the budgets, staffing levels and bed numbers currently in place for St. Columcille’s Hospital, Loughlinstown and St. Vincent’s Hospital, Dublin, will remain the same or see reductions following the proposed re-configuration of accident and emergency services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26375/11]

Joan Collins

Question:

42 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Health if he will provide details and dates of all the planned downgrading of the 24 hour accident and emergency at St. Columcille’s Hospital, Loughlinstown, County Dublin; the date on which this proposal is due to be implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26428/11]

Joan Collins

Question:

44 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Health the plans that are in place in terms of staffing and budgets at St. Vincent’s Hospital, accident and emergency, in view of the threatened downgrading of the 24 hour accident and emergency at St. Columcille’s Hospital, Loughlinstown, County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26376/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 20, 38, 42 and 44 together.

Acute hospital services in the HSE Dublin South / Wicklow Area, are provided through a collaborative arrangement across three sites, St. Vincent's University Hospital (SVUH), St. Michael's Hospital (SMH) and St. Columcille's Hospital (SCH).

The configuration of services in the area has been under continued review and reorganisation for some time in the interest of improving access and quality of service to the local population.

The HSE is currently carrying out a collaborative study and consultation process across the three sites.

The issues raised by the Deputies will be considered within this context.

Health Service Staff

Brendan Smith

Question:

21 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Health the number of vacancies in speech therapist and occupational therapists throughout the country due to the recruitment moratorium; and the impact this is having on the level of services. [26282/11]

The Employment Control Framework for the Health Sector exempts a number of grades, including Speech & Language Therapists and Occupational Therapists, from the moratorium on recruitment to maintain essential services. The HSE does not collate data nationally on vacancies for Speech & Language Therapists and Occupational Therapists. However, the following table shows that Speech & Language Therapists and Occupational Therapists have increased by 104 and 73 whole-time equivalents respectively since December 2009.

Grade group

31/12/2009

31/08/2011

Change

Occupational Therapists

1,103

1,207

104

Speech and Language Therapists

776

849

73

In July 2011, the HSE made the decision to pause recruitment in order to assist in addressing its difficult financial situation. Notwithstanding this pause, exceptions are still being made address critical service risk.

Accident and Emergency Services

Mick Wallace

Question:

22 Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to the fact that 35 patients were on trolleys in Wexford General Hospital in early September with staff instructed to call them virtual words; if he will release funding to re-open at least one ward; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26372/11]

The HSE has confirmed that the trolley waits in Wexford General Hospital were in breach of target waiting times during the summer months. This was because of a number of factors, including increased activity and a number of delayed discharges.

Wexford General Hospital has undertaken a comprehensive audit of the emergency department (ED) and has identified a number of actions which will improve the efficiency of the ED. In addition to this, in line with the Acute Medicine Programme, an additional consultant general physician has been approved for appointment. This appointment will enable the development of an Acute Medical Unit in Wexford, which will improve access and streaming of patients through the hospital and alleviate the current pressures on the ED.

In recent months I have established the Special Delivery Unit (SDU), under the leadership of Dr Martin Connor. The SDU is working to unblock access to acute services by dramatically improving the flow of patients through the system.

I am satisfied that Wexford General is fully engaging with the priorities identified by the SDU, which will help incidences such as the one described in the Deputy's question become a thing of the past.

Mental Health Services

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

23 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health his preferred options for the delivery of psychiatric health services throughout the country relating to both inpatient and outpatient facilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26316/11]

Government policy on mental health incorporates the recommendations of A Vision for Change. The aim is to close the old psychiatric hospitals and move from the traditional institutional based model of care to a patient-centred, flexible and community based mental health service, where the need for hospital admission is greatly reduced, while still providing in-patient care when appropriate.

It is the Government's intention that over time access to modern mental health services in the community will be significantly improved. The Programme for Government includes a commitment to ring-fence €35 million annually from within the health budget to develop community mental health teams and services. In addition, as 90% of mental health needs are dealt with at primary care level, the Government is committed to developing closer links between mental health services and primary care. GPs and Primary Care Teams will be supported in their physical working environment through the provision of shared premises which will encourage and facilitate interaction across all health professionals. It is envisaged that the provision of improved community-based services will ensure that people with mental health problems receive the treatment and after-care support needed to facilitate recovery. I have asked the HSE to prepare an implementation plan, which will identify specific recommendations of A Vision for Change that can be progressed over the next three years, with timelines, detailed costs, person(s) responsible for implementation etc.

Non-Governmental Organisations

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

24 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Health his views whether it is appropriate that the CEO of Rehab, a large non-governmental organisation in receipt of significant amounts of public money, be paid a salary as reported, far in excess of the public service salary caps recently announced by him; and if he intends to take measures to bring pay levels of such NGO CEOs into line with public service bodies. [20328/11]

Neither the Health Service Executive (HSE) nor the Minister for Health have a direct role in relation to the remuneration of 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 all monies invested in public services on behalf of the taxpayer. In the context of the current Value for Money Review of Disability Services we are seeking to work with all providers, including the Rehab Group, to further improve processes of accountability in the sector, with a view to achieving the most cost efficient and effective delivery of services for people with a disability.

Hospital Service

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

25 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health the progress, if any, that has been made in establishing a medical assessment unit at Monaghan General Hospital. [26379/11]

A representative group has been established by the HSE to undertake the clinical and financial feasibility study on such a development. Terms of reference have been agreed and I understand that the group is due to commence its work in October. The timeframe for completion of the project is 6 weeks from commencement.

Question No. 26 answered with Question No. 17.

Vaccination Programme

John McGuinness

Question:

27 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health if adequate quantities of the flu vaccine for the elderly have been supplied to general practitioners and pharmacists. [26275/11]

Based on previous years' usage, the HSE has procured and received delivery of 700,000 doses of 2011/2012 seasonal influenza vaccine and has also placed an order for an additional 150,000 doses which will arrive in mid October. Seasonal influenza vaccine is recommended for all those aged 65 and older, those aged 6 months to 65 years with long term medical conditions, pregnant women, health care workers and carers.

The HSE National Cold Chain Service commenced vaccine distribution on 19 September 2011. All GPs, hospitals and health centres will have received vaccine supplies by 30 September. Pharmacists will receive supplies of influenza vaccine when regulations, currently being prepared by the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel, have been signed.

General Medical Services Scheme

Barry Cowen

Question:

28 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Health when the proposed changes to the general medical services scheme under the EU-IMF memorandum of understanding will be published and enacted. [26258/11]

Sandra McLellan

Question:

34 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Health his plans to reform the system of entry of general practitioners into the general medical services scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26385/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 28 and 34 together.

A Bill to provide for the removal of restrictions on suitably qualified and vocationally trained GPs from treating medical card and GP visit card patients under the GMS Scheme will be published shortly.

Hospital Accommodation

Dessie Ellis

Question:

29 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Health the action he will take to address overcrowding in Beaumont Hospital, Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26382/11]

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

Michael Colreavy

Question:

30 Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the Health Service Executive plans to close 59 public inpatient beds in County Mayo; if he will intervene to prevent these closures and to ensure the provision of resources to allow them to remain open; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26386/11]

The Deputy will appreciate that all developments have to be addressed in the light of the current economic and budgetary pressures and any decisions taken by the executive must have regard to this and the current moratorium on the recruitment of nursing and non-nursing staff. Each HSE area, including the Local Health Office in Mayo has been asked to make a rigorous examination of how existing funding might be re-allocated to ensure maximum service provision. In particular we need toensure that the highest standard of care will continue to be provided to all residents in a safe and secure environment.

The Department is currently considering the future of HSE Provision of Residential Care for Older People. This review will consider the position of all HSE residential facilities for Older People in terms of meeting the National Standards and Regulations. It will also consider local demographic pressures and the extent of existing public and private provision, with a view to developing an overall strategy on how the executive should continue to provide this service in view of current budgetary and other pressures. I should make it clear, however, that providing quality and safe care for our long-stay residents will have to remain at the heart of these considerations.

Hospital Staff

Timmy Dooley

Question:

31 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Health the number of consultants using private beds in public hospitals; and the number that have been penalised for such use. [26261/11]

The 2008 consultants' contract includes measures to strengthen the management, monitoring and control of activity in hospitals with a view to ensuring that the level of consultant private practice within public hospitals does not exceed the permitted ratio — 20% for new consultants, and up to 30% for those who had such a level previously. The HSE in conjunction with the ESRI has introduced a range of new measurement systems in order to meet the requirements of the contract.

Since January 2009 each consultant is issued with a monthly public/private mix measurement report. This documents the consultant's activity in relation to inpatient, daycase, outpatient and diagnostic activity over the previous three months. The contract provides that the employer may require the consultant to remit moneys in respect of any private practice excess to a research and study fund.

At this stage, the HSE's focus is on consultants who have been identified as engaging in as much as 50% private activity despite the passing of both a 9 month period allowed for resolution of the issue in the Contract and substantial additional periods of time for remittance of private fees. In January the HSE wrote to these consultants informing them that if they did not remit the required amount they would be required to cease private practice in respect of any segment of practice where they are in excess of the ratio specified in their contracts. It also advised them that as employer it would reserve the right to invoke the Disciplinary Procedure specified at Appendix II of the Contract.

To date the hospital managers have written to 70 Consultants who are 40% or higher in breach of their public private limits under the Consultant Contract 2008. These Consultants were requested to provide 20% of the money owing as an initial step. Failure to comply with the request to remit funds arising from breach of the public/private ratios will result in an instruction to cease charging private patients. This follows the completion of the 9-month period provided to each consultant for them to resolve the issue and to query any data issues. In many cases, the Consultant has had nearly 18 months to resolve the issue. Non-compliant consultants had until the 15th September to rectify breaches under their contract. A small number of consultants who failed to rectify the breach have been informed that they may no longer conduct private practice in public hospitals.

Health Service Staff

Seán Crowe

Question:

32 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Health the reason that fully qualified social workers who have trained at the University of Ulster are not considered qualified to work in the 26 counties and are forced to pay a substantial fee to re-register for social work. [25099/11]

The Health and Social Care Professionals Council (CORU) is the regulatory body for health and social care professionals and was established under the Health and Social Care Professionals Act 2005. The Social Workers Registration Board was established in August 2010 and the associated Social Workers Register opened for the receipt and processing of applications on the 31st May 2011.

I presume the Deputy refers to the position whereby social workers are required to statutorily register in each jurisdiction in which they seek to practise their profession — in the South with the Social Workers Registration Board of CORU and in Northern Ireland with the Northern Ireland Social Care Council. Persons trained in Northern Ireland are eligible for consideration to practise in that jurisdiction; they must apply for statutory registration and pay the appropriate registration fee in order to practise in the South. This is because education and training is a competence of each jurisdiction.

Directive 2005/36/EC on the recognition of professional qualifications facilitates freedom of movement by providing a mechanism for the recognition of qualifications obtained in other EEA jurisdictions. Qualification recognition is one of a number of elements of the statutory registration process and the Directive is applied as part of this wider statutory registration process.

Proposed Legislation

Luke 'Ming' Flanagan

Question:

33 Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan asked the Minister for Health if he will consider introducing legislation making all private medical care and medical insurance illegal for public representatives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19680/11]

The UHI system in the Programme for Government envisages a set of competing for-profit health insurers, with VHI continuing in public ownership as an integral part of this system. This will entail, among many other developments, a substantial restructuring of the Private Health Insurance (PHI) market. It is my view that the current structure of the PHI market, in which VHI has a substantial market share and a highly disproportionate share of poor risks, is not conducive to the introduction of UHI in the longer term. I am currently considering the steps required to address this imbalance and to restructure the market in advance of the introduction of UHI.

A number of important initiatives will play a critical role in improving our health service in advance of the introduction of UHI, including:—

the need to strengthen primary care services to deliver universal primary care with the removal of cost as a barrier to access for patients.

reform within the hospital sector, including the work of the Special Delivery Unit to deal with waiting times and waiting lists, the introduction of a purchaser-provider split and the implementation of a prospective "Money Follows the Patient" funding system.

Once these initiatives been put in place, the health sector will be ready for UHI.

The Government has given approval for an Implementation Group on Universal Health Insurance. I am currently finalising details of the Implementation Group and I will announce these in due course.

Question No. 34 answered with Question No. 28.

Hospital Services

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

35 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Health the position regarding the 50-bed community hospital in Tralee, County Kerry; when this hospital will open; and if he will provide an assurance that when this hospital opens that all 50 beds will be active immediately. [23123/11]

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

Denis Naughten

Question:

36 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health his plans for the development of services at Roscommon County Hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26148/11]

Denis Naughten

Question:

37 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health his plans for the development of services at Portiuncula Hospital, County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26149/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 36 and 37 together.

As these are service issues, they have been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Question No. 38 answered with Question No. 20.

Nursing Home Charges

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

39 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health the action he will take to address the over-charging of nursing home residents when additional service charges are being set on top of the agreed fees and when, in some cases, these charges are for services supposed to be covered by the nursing home support scheme. [26380/11]

As the Deputy is aware, on 1 July 2009 statutory responsibility was given to the Chief Inspector of Social Services, part of the Health Information and Quality Authority for inspecting and registering nursing homes. This responsibility is underpinned by a comprehensive quality framework comprising the Health Act 2007, the Health Act 2007 (Care and Welfare of Residents in Designated Centres for Older People) Regulations 2009, as amended, and the National Quality Standards for Residential Care Settings for Older People in Ireland.

Article 28 of the Regulations is of particular relevance to the Deputy's question.This requires that the registered provider of a nursing home to agree a contract with the resident within one month of admission. The contract must include details of the services to be provided and the fees to be charged. The Chief Inspector has the power to refuse to register, attach conditions to a registration or cancel the registration of a designated centre in the event of non-compliance with the regulations or the standards.

If the Deputy is aware of any nursing home not complying with the Regulations I would encourage him to notify HIQA directly of these concerns.

Question No. 40 answered with Question No. 16.

Mental Health Services

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

41 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Health the measures being put in place to enhance mental health inpatient services in Dublin in view of the closure of inpatient facilities at St. Ita’s, Portrane, County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26383/11]

The acute male and female units at St Ita's Hospital, Portrane closed by 18 September, 2011, in line with the condition attached to the registration of St Ita's, by the Mental Health Commission. Patients have transferred temporarily to St Vincent's Hospital, Fairview and Connolly Hospital, Blanchardstown, or other more appropriate services depending on their individual care plans. Inpatient admissions for the North Dublin Mental Health Service have also temporarily transferred to St Vincent's and Connolly Hospitals.

The HSE proposes to refurbish the existing admissions unit at St. Ita's and work is scheduled to be completed by 31 January, 2012. When complete, and subject to the approval of the Mental Health Commission, the temporary units will revert to St. Ita's Hospital, pending completion of a new purpose built, acute in-patient psychiatric facility for North Dublin. This new unit is currently being developed at Beaumont Hospital and planning permission has been approved, contracts are signed and construction work is due to commence shortly. This new unit is expected to be fitted out and ready for occupancy in early 2013.

Question No. 42 answered with Question No. 20.

Care of the Elderly

Seán Crowe

Question:

43 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Health his plans to close a nursing home (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26391/11]

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

Question No. 44 answered with Question No. 20.

Hospital Services

Sean Conlan

Question:

45 Deputy Seán Conlan asked the Minister for Health the reason behind the decision of the Health Service Executive to reduce the hours at Monaghan hospital’s minor injuries unit; if he will ask the HSE and place on the record of this House the actual cost savings that would be achieved to justify the reduction in hours in view of the fact that 34% of persons attend the unit between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m.; if he will ask the HSE to ensure there will be no reduction in service until it provides a clear alternative proposal in view of the fact that reduction in services at Monaghan General Hospital will clearly result in additional costs to Cavan and Drogheda hospitals. [26307/11]

The HSE is planning to change the opening time of the Minor Injuries Unit at Monaghan to an 8 hour 5 day service and expects that this will take effect from 1st November. This change is to be viewed as a temporary measure and will be reviewed in 2012.

The change in the opening times of the Monaghan MIU is the direct result of the current budgetary and financial position facing the health system. The HSE has reviewed other possible options to save money and/or increased revenue, but has concluded that they would not generate sufficient savings in the short term. Following a detailed analysis of this issue, the HSE has estimated that total annual savings of almost €400,000 would be generated with this alteration of opening hours.

I have emphasised to the HSE the need to ensure that the impact of such changes to patients is minimised and that all changes are fully communicated. I understand that arrangements, which include staff redeployments and a communications plan, are being put in place by the HSE in relation to this change.

It is not anticipated that the operation of a Monday to Friday 8 hours per day service will result in additional costs to Cavan and Drogheda hospitals.

Mental Health Services

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

46 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Health the total number of occasions on which children or adolescents were admitted to adult mental health care units in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26055/11]

In 2010, 155 children and adolescents were admitted to adult psychiatric units.

A child should only be admitted as an in-patient to a psychiatric facility as a last resort, and should as far as possible receive the necessary treatment in the community. The Government is committed to reforming our model of health care delivery so that more care is delivered in the community; there are now 61 multidisciplinary Child and Adolescent Mental Health teams nationally and further teams will be developed in line with the recommendations of A Vision for Change. In terms of child and adolescent mental health service infrastructure, by the end of the year bed capacity will have increased to 52, and a further 14 beds will be provided in the Dublin region next year. In addition, work on the Linn Dara Child and Adolescent Mental Health Day Facility in Cherry Orchard, Dublin is close to completion. It is anticipated that this facility will provide day care and treatment for children and adolescents with mental health needs and will obviate the need for some admissions.

It is envisaged that the provision of improved community based services, coupled with an increase in bed capacity, will put an end to the practice of placing children and adolescents in adult psychiatric facilities.

Accident and Emergency Services

Dessie Ellis

Question:

47 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Health if he will ensure that emergency department services are retained at James Connolly Hospital, Blanchardstown, Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26381/11]

The HSE has informed my Department that there are no changes planned for the Emergency Department in Connolly Hospital.

Mental Health Services

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

48 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Health the total number of dedicated child and adolescent inpatient mental health care places available in the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26053/11]

There are currently 36 child and adolescent psychiatric in-patient beds nationally — 12 in Dublin, 12 in Cork and 12 in Galway, with a further 16 beds to be commissioned by the end of the year — 8 in Cork and 8 in Galway. It is also proposed to provide additional beds in the Dublin region and, in this regard, work is due to commence later this year on the second phase of the Child and Adolescent Unit at St. Vincent's Hospital, Fairview which will increase capacity from 6 to 12 beds, and on the development of an 8 bedded facility at St Loman's, Palmerstown.

The Deputy may wish to note that work on the Linn Dara Child and Adolescent Mental Health Day Facility at Cherry Orchard, Dublin is close to completion. It is anticipated that this facility will provide day care and treatment for children and adolescents with mental health needs and will obviate the need for some in-patient admissions.

Passport Applications

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

49 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of valid Irish passports in circulation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26475/11]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

50 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his plans to establish a new system of recording the number of current passport holders who were the result of applications from outside of the Irish Republic; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26476/11]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

51 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of Irish passports issued through Irish embassies and consular representatives throughout the world each year for the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26477/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 49 to 51, inclusive, together.

The total number of valid Irish passports in circulation as at 22 September 2011 was 4,462,387. The number of Irish passport applications received through Irish embassies and consular representatives throughout the world each year for the past five years is as follows:

Year

No. of Irish Passport Applications

2007

41,462

2008

41,717

2009

40,522

2010

40,621

2011 (YTD) (Jan to Aug ’11)

28,668

192,990

Additionally: In relation to figures from Northern Ireland, I can confirm that up to end August 2011 29,000 applications were received through the Northern Ireland Passport Express Service available through post offices. This figure compares with 37,600 for all of 2010, 37,800 for 2009, 38,400 applications in 2008 and 36,000 in 2007.

In relation to figures from Great Britain, I can confirm that up to end August 2010 20,355 applications were received through the Passport Office in London. This figure compares with 50,899 for all of 2009, 53,804 applications in 2008 and 51,169 in 2007. (With effect from August 2010 all passport applications from Great Britain have been repatriated for processing in the passport offices in Dublin. It is therefore not possible to separate out statistical information on passport applications for Great Britain from this date.)

The Passport Service technology system does not record "address" information in the structured format necessary to facilitate the production of management information in relation to place of residency, place of birth etc. The availability of this information would require a fundamental redesign of the system, which could not be cost justified for this facility alone. However, this matter will be addressed in the context of any major system changes which may emerge in the future.

Departmental Staff

Anne Ferris

Question:

52 Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of promotions from age 63 years to retirement that were given to senior civil servants from higher executive officer grade to secretary general grade over the past ten years; if he will provide a breakdown by year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26540/11]

No such case arose in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in the period concerned.

Tax Code

Brendan Griffin

Question:

53 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) in County Kerry is exempt form the universal social charge; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26481/11]

The Universal Social Charge, which came into effect on 1 January 2011, is a charge payable on gross income subject to certain exemptions. All individuals are liable to pay the Universal Social Charge if their gross income exceeds the threshold of €4,004 per annum. It is not levied on payments from the Department of Social Protection. I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the taxpayer in question is in receipt of an Occupational Pension and a Widows Pension from the Department of Social Protection. Revenue records indicate that the taxpayer's Occupational Pension exceeds €4,004 per annum and as a result she is liable to pay the Universal Social Charge in respect of the Occupational Pension. There is no liability in respect of her Widows Pension. There is no age related exemption in respect of the Universal Social Charge.

State Banking Sector

Brendan Griffin

Question:

54 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Finance his plans regarding a situation with financial institutions (details supplied); the steps he will take to address this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26450/11]

As the Deputy is aware, the day to day running of a bank's operations is a matter for the Board of the relevant bank. Commercial decisions such as the fixing of interest rates etc are matters in which I have no direct function. The rates of interest charged on mortgages are normally determined by the terms of the mortgage agreement. If a bank or mortgage provider unilaterally changes the terms of a mortgage agreement, the mortgage holder can challenge the decision under contract law or refer the matter to the Financial Services Ombudsman who will adjudicate in the matter. In a situation where a mortgage is a variable rate mortgage, then subject to the mortgage agreement and consumer law, the interest rate can be varied from time to time, depending on the market and/or the particular requirements of the mortgage provider.

If the Deputy can provide more specific information or a particular example it may be possible to address the matter in a more detailed manner.

Tax Yield

Pearse Doherty

Question:

55 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the tax to GNP ratio for Ireland in 2010; and what it is projected to be in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. [26453/11]

The information the Deputy has requested is provided in the following table.

2010

2011 (f)

2012 (f)

2013 (f)

2014 (f)

Tax/GNP Ratio

25%

28%

29%

30%

31%

The tax projections for the years 2011-2014 are those technical forecasts set out in the April Stability Programme Update (SPU). The GNP figures upon which the ratios are based, are also taken from the time of the SPU. Revised economic and fiscal projections will be published in the October Pre-Budget Outlook.

National Debt

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

56 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance the amount of the national debt at the end of each quarter in each of the years 2008, 2009 and 2010 and at the end of each month from 31 December 2010 to 31 August 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26470/11]

The information the Deputy requests is provided in the following tables, which have been compiled by the National Treasury Management Agency.

National Debt 2008-2010:

(€m)

2008

2009

2010

End-Q1

37,919

54,245

79,082

End-Q2

43,157

65,278

83,984

End-Q3

46,962

70,754

88,636

End-Q4

50,398

75,152

93,445

National Debt 2011:

(€m)

2011

End-January

94,396

End-February

95,851

End-March

100,945

End-April

103,755

End-May

104,255

End-June

104,575

End-July

112,830

End-August

114,406

The sharp contraction in economic activity since 2007, three years of large budget deficits and the significant level of State support required for the banking sector have combined to drive up Ireland's national debt level. This rapid rise in the debt levels, which is evident in the figures above, underlines the importance of reducing the deficit and restoring order to the public finances.

Bank Guarantee Scheme

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

57 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance his plans to end the payment of promissory notes for Anglo Irish Bank in view of the detrimental impact that this will have on budget 2012 and in view of the significant gains that he has made recently in respect of the ESF; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26471/11]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

58 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance if he has ordered an investigation into the manner in which the structure for the promissory note recapitalisation of Anglo Irish Bank was put in place and if that structure was adequately reported to Dáil Éireann and the Comptroller and Auditor General at the time in view of the profoundly onerous financial drain on the Irish State as a result; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26472/11]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

59 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance if he will report on the progress of the ongoing negotiations between him and the troika on the payment of promissory notes for the Anglo Irish Bank recapitalisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26473/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 57 to 59, inclusive, together.

Promissory notes were provided as consideration for the capital introduced by the State into Anglo. Under the terms of the Anglo (including INBS) promissory notes the State has an obligation to make annual repayments of €3.1 billion per annum. Furthermore the interest rates on the promissory notes, which were set by reference to government yields at the time of issue, are relatively high with a weighted interest rate, after the interest holiday, of circa 8%. The State has budgeted to meet both the interest and cash requirements.

It is not intended to end payment of the promissory notes to Anglo Irish Bank. The Government is committed to a restructuring plan to work out the assets of the bank over a 10 year period. It is important that this process is completed in an orderly manner and in the best interests of the State. In the absence of an alternative source of funding/capital the removal of the promissory notes would create serious problems for the institution and the system generally. That is not to say that other approaches to funding and meeting the bank's capital requirements will not be examined. As I have already indicated I proposed to President Trichet and Commissioner Rehn that our technical experts get together to examine the technical aspects of the promissory notes and the implications of any potential changes. They were agreeable to this on the basis that there is clearly no commitment on their part upfront. We are now proceeding on that basis.

I have not ordered any investigation into the manner in which the promissory note were put in place. As the Deputy will be aware, the Thirtieth Amendment to the Constitution (Houses of the Oireachtas Inquiries) Bill, 2011 recently completed its passage through the Oireachtas. The referendum on the constitutional amendment to allow the Houses of the Oireachtas undertake full inquiries will take place on 27 October next. As my colleague, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform has made clear, subject to the constitutional amendment being approved by the electorate it will be a matter for the Houses of the Oireachtas to determine what matters are of general public importance and warrant the establishment of an Oireachtas inquiry under the detailed framework for Oireachtas inquiries which it is intended will be established under enabling legislation. This role is consistent with the proposed strengthening of the performance of our parliamentary system under the Programme for Government.

Tax Code

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

60 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance the number of vehicles seized by customs and excise for the failure of paying vehicle registration tax for the year 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011; the amount received in penalties in order to have vehicles released; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26474/11]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the law provides for the seizure of motor vehicles in respect of which Vehicle Registration Tax (VRT) offences have been committed. Revenue enforcement officers, who are based at numerous locations around the country, carry out regular and on-going checks to identify and deal with breaches of vehicle registration tax legislation. The vast majority of vehicle seizures were as a result of State residents being detected using foreign registered vehicles over a period of time in the State. It is Revenue's policy to return seized vehicles to their owners on payment of a compromise penalty in lieu of prosecution, where appropriate. The majority of the seized vehicles were therefore returned to their owners on payment of compromise amounts. The vehicles were then either registered within the State on payment of VRT or removed permanently from the State.

The following table reflects the information requested by the Deputy.

Year

No Of Vehicles Seized

Amount applied in penalties:

2007

1,118

€1,135,541

2008

1,602

€1,501,176

2009

1,956

€1,357,838

2010

2,023

€1,228,494

At 31.08.11

1,243

€598,832

Paschal Donohoe

Question:

61 Deputy Paschal Donohoe asked the Minister for Finance his plans to review the qualifying criteria for the seafarer’s allowance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26515/11]

Section 472B of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 is the legislative basis for the seafarers' allowance. Where the section applies, a deduction of €6,350 is available to a qualifying individual, who is resident in the State, against income arising to him or her from a qualifying employment. A qualifying individual must show that he or she was absent from the State for at least 169 days in a year of assessment for the purposes of performing the duties of a qualifying employment in order for the allowance to apply for that year.

A qualifying employment is one which is performed on a sea-going ship, on a voyage which begins or ends in a port outside the State or at a rig, platform or installation in a maritime area. The ship must be registered in a member state of the European Communities, and must be used solely for the trade of carrying, by sea, passengers or cargo for reward. Fishing vessels are excluded.

All tax reliefs and incentives are subject to regular review as part of the annual Budget and Finance Bill planning process. Any significant decisions taken by the Government in this regard are usually announced on Budget Day.

Departmental Staff

Anne Ferris

Question:

62 Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for Finance the number of promotions from age 63 years to retirement that were given to senior civil servants from higher executive officer grade to secretary general grade over the past ten years; if he will provide a breakdown by year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26539/11]

The particular information sought by the Deputy is not collected by my Department. Generally, information on the age of a candidate is not part of the candidate information that is collected when promotion competitions take place in the Civil Service. Selection for appointment to posts in the Civil Service (both internal and external) is governed by the Codes of Practice set down by the Commission for Public Service Appointments. The Commission has a statutory role in ensuring that all appointments are made on merit and as result of fair and transparent processes.

The Civil Service is an equal opportunities employer. Age is not one of the eligibility criteria used in the selection process in promotion competitions.

FÁS Training Programmes

John Browne

Question:

63 Deputy John Browne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the proposals he has to assist apprentices who have completed all their off site education phases but cannot obtain their certificates due to the building industry situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26577/11]

I understand that, in order to qualify for the award of the FETAC Advanced Certificate — Craft, apprentices are required to be registered as an apprentice for a period of at least four years; have successfully completed Phase 1 to Phase 7 of their apprenticeships; have completed a statutory period of 4 years (208 weeks) in employment since date of registration, as apprentices in their registered trade with FÁS-approved employers.

In order to ensure that apprentices are given as many opportunities as possible to support the timely completion of their apprenticeship, FÁS has taken a number of initiatives to enable registered redundant apprentices to progress and finish their apprenticeships. Change in Progression Rules Redundant apprentices are now permitted to progress to their next Off-the-Job Phase of their apprenticeships even though they have not yet completed their previous on-the-job Phase. Redundant Apprentice Placement Scheme 2011 FÁS is providing a temporary Redundant Apprentice Placement Scheme whereby FÁS approved employers in the public and private sectors will provide redundant apprentices with training and assessment on-the-job at Phase 3, Phase 5 and Phase 7 of their apprenticeships. The maximum period of placement is 26 weeks at Phase 3 or 26 weeks at Phase 5 or 12 weeks at Phase 7.

I understand that FÁS is introducing a Competency Determination Scheme for the trades of Brick & Stonelaying, Carpentry & Joinery, Electrical, Plastering and Plumbing. This scheme is for redundant apprentices who have successfully completed Phases 1 to 7 of their apprenticeships, but who do not meet the requirement of having completed the statutory 4 years (208 weeks) in employment.

Redundant apprentices who pass the competency assessment will receive an exemption from this requirement thereby enabling them to complete their apprenticeships and qualify for the award of the FETAC Advanced Certificate — Craft. Competency assessments are being scheduled in September 2011.

Recognition of Prior Learning Scheme. Redundant apprentices who have successfully completed Phase 1 to Phase 7 (or Phase 7 Equivalent assessments) of their apprenticeships excluding the trades of Brick &Stonelaying, Carpentry & Joinery, Electrical, Plastering and Plumbing but who have not completed the statutory 4 years in employment as apprentices may be granted an exemption from this requirement by validating their competence under the Recognition of Prior Learning Scheme. FÁS will invite eligible redundant apprentices to submit a portfolio of evidence of trade related work experience gained at home and/or abroad and/or trade related further training and/or education undertaken during periods of redundancy. The granting of exemptions is based solely on the portfolios of evidence submitted to the Redundant Apprentice Accreditation Committee. Redundant apprentices who are granted an exemption will be considered to have completed their Apprenticeships and thereby qualify for the award of the FETAC Advanced Certificate — Craft.

Certificate in Craft Transferable Skills. FÁS and the HEA with the Institutes of Technology have developed a post Phase 6 programme for redundant apprentices who wish to access a programme at third level in the Institutes of Technology. Redundant Apprentices who successfully complete this programme will receive a HETAC Special Award Level 3, 30 ECTS Credits. This award should entitle apprentices to enter year 2 of a relevant Higher Certificate (level 6) and in some particular cases may gain entry to Ordinary Degree Programmes Level 7. The Certificate in Craft Transferable Skills (optional) will be offered by the Institutes of Technology in Term 1 — 2011/2012.

Refresher Programme for Redundant Referred Apprentices. To assist referred apprentices who wish to progress, FÁS and the Institutes of Technology have developed a short duration programme to prepare redundant apprentices to repeat their outstanding assessments, and this programme will be offered by the Institutes of Technology in Term 1 — 2011/2012 Léargas has provided support to FÁS for apprentices to complete on-the-job training with assessment with employers in Germany and Finland. In the period 2009/2010, over 100 apprentices have undertaken this programme and FÁS has received approval for a further 43 redundant apprentice placement in 2011/2012 Conversion Programme — Electrical / Plumbing. FÁS has developed a Conversion Programme for redundant Electrical and Plumbing apprentices who have worked primarily in the Construction Sector to undertake additional training in modules associated with the Manufacturing and Facility Maintenance Sectors. The pilot programme provides a combination of off and on-the-job training in a FÁS Training Centre with work experience in the Manufacturing and Facility Maintenance Sectors

My Department along with FÁS will continue to explore ways to support and assist apprentices progress and finish their apprenticeships.

School Books

Luke 'Ming' Flanagan

Question:

64 Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the high price for school books; the reason new editions of books and other frequent updates to school books are required when we should be cutting down on spending in these hard economic times; if there is any way to regulate the demands primary schools make on the new books that are needed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26442/11]

I share the concern expressed by many parents and organisations in relation to the high cost of school textbooks and the frequent rate of revisions made by book publishers. I have adopted a number of approaches to this issue. As the Deputy will be aware, I recently met with educational book publishers, representatives of parents' organisations and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul regarding the cost of school textbooks. Subsequently, the publishers devised a voluntary Code of Practice and, while I welcome the Code as a significant step in the right direction, I believe that more should be done to reduce the price of textbooks.

Accordingly. I have proposed to the representatives of the textbook publishers: that the cover price of the most popular textbooks should be reduced; that a significant discount should be given to schools which purchase textbooks in bulk, in line with the discounts given to retailers of textbooks; that the practice of combining a conventional textbook and workbook in a single volume should be ended to allow students to re-use a textbook; and that support materials should be provided to teachers online, to minimise ancillary printing costs.

I am also keen to examine if there are ways to encourage schools, via the book grant scheme, to establish or maintain book rental schemes as I believe this to be one of the most effective ways of lowering the burden of the cost of school books. I have invited the National Parents Councils at primary and post-primary levels to provide me with examples of good practice of book rental schemes. Drawing on these and other examples, I intend to publish advice to schools on how best to establish and maintain textbook rental schemes in schools well in advance of the beginning of the next school year.

Redundancy Payments

Simon Harris

Question:

65 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason he has stated that redundancy payments for a former special needs assistant (details supplied) will take up to twelve months to process; his views on whether this is an acceptable waiting period; the procedures he plans to implement to reduce this waiting period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26451/11]

An application for redundancy was received by my Department on 21st September 2011 from the Special Needs Assistant referred to by the Deputy. Applications are processed in date order of receipt and every effort is being made to process these applications as quickly as possible. Applications received in December 2010 are currently being processed.

The priority of my Department's Payroll Division over the past two months has been to ensure that replacement teachers and special need assistants being appointed for the 2011/2012 school year are placed on payroll for payment. This process is now nearing completion. Over the coming weeks, extra resources will be assigned to try and ensure that special needs assistants that are made redundant will have their claims for payment processed as quickly as possible.

School Meals Programme

Pearse Doherty

Question:

66 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated cost of providing each child of school-going age with a daily lunch meal. [26452/11]

Expenditure on the provision of school meals which is primarily funded by the School Meals Programme, administered by my colleague, the Minister for Social Protection was €34.96 million in 2010 with €35 million provided for 2011.

The estimated cost of providing a daily lunch meal for 874,759 school going children and young people in primary and post primary schools currently and based on an estimate of €3 per lunch, would cost in the region of €429 million per annum. The School Meals Programme which is strictly for food items only, is among the many measures available to 676 primary and 200 post primary schools participating in DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools), the Action Plan for Educational Inclusion.

The majority of the 692 schools currently participating in the School Completion Programme (SCP) under DEIS operate meal provision as part of breakfast, lunch, after school and homework clubs, in accordance with the Nutritional Guidelines issued by the Department of Social Protection.

The National Educational Welfare Board with responsibility for the School Completion Programme and Home School Community Liaison, which are major components of DEIS transferred from my Department to my colleague, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs with effect from 2 June 2011.

My Department will continue to work in close co-operation with the Departments of Social Protection and Children and Youth Affairs to prioritise and ensure that the resources available for school meals are used to best effect.

School Staffing

Brendan Griffin

Question:

67 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on a situation (details supplied) regarding primary teachers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26461/11]

Anecdotal evidence indicates that there is an over supply of teachers and that there are newly qualified teachers not yet holding teaching positions in schools. The full extent of over supply is not yet known.

Historically, my Department has endeavoured to manage the supply of trained primary teachers in an effort to achieve some equilibrium between the supply of and the demand for trained teachers. However, fluctuations inherent in the supply and demand equation dictate that the attempt to match supply with demand cannot be an exact science.

In light of concerns expressed, my Department has introduced a circular which obliges schools to recruit unemployed teachers ahead of retired ones, in an effort to ease the difficulties for those who cannot find work in the profession. My Department is also engaged in discussion to extend the JobBridge National Internship Scheme to teachers and I hope to issue a circular to schools in the near future. This will provide newly qualified teachers with opportunities to undertake the necessary teaching duties to complete the process of probation and fulfil the requirements for full registration with the Teaching Council.

Property Transfers

Terence Flanagan

Question:

68 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding tenancy entitlements in respect of a club (details supplied). [26512/11]

I wish to advise the Deputy that it is my intention to lease the entire former community school site referred to by the Deputy, including the sports complex, to the City of Dublin VEC. My Department has requested the VEC to ensure that the club referred to by the Deputy is given use of the facility following execution of the lease. I understand that the VEC has already presented a draft user agreement to the club for their consideration in anticipation of concluding legal formalities with my Department. Providing a letter of comfort to the club in relation to its future use of the sports facility is, therefore, no longer considered necessary.

Departmental Staff

Anne Ferris

Question:

69 Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of promotions from age 63 years to retirement that were given to senior civil servants from higher executive officer grade to Secretary General grade over the past ten years; if he will provide a breakdown by year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26537/11]

Promotional competitions conducted by my Department are governed by the Code of Practice as published by the Commission for Public Service Appointments. In addition to this my Department must comply with the terms of the Employment Equality Act 1998. As such, candidates that apply for promotional competitions are not obliged to state their age or date of birth.

During the ten year period stated by the Deputy, no officials at my Department at the grade of higher executive officer to secretary general were promoted at the age of 63 or over.

Special Educational Needs

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

70 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the home education application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Donegal. [26559/11]

The Deputy will be aware that my Department's home tuition scheme provides funding to parents to provide education at home for children who, for a number of reasons such as chronic illness, are unable to attend school. The scheme was extended in recent years to facilitate tuition for children awaiting a suitable educational placement and also to provide early educational intervention for pre-school children with autism. Home tuition has been sanctioned for the child to whom the Deputy refers.

Vocational Education Committees

John Deasy

Question:

71 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason he is considering a proposal for 16 vocational education committees rather than the 22 VECs recommended in the report of the special group on public service numbers and expenditure programmes; if the will detail the savings that will be made through these amalgamations and identify any new costs involved. [26654/11]

In July 2009, the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes recommended that the number of VECs could be reduced from 33 to 22 and aligned with the functional areas of the 22 Local Authorities, also recommended by the Group.

In September 2009 the then Minister for Education and Science invited interested parties to make written submission in relation to a reduction in the number of VECs. Arising from this process, the previous Government decided in October 2010 to reduce the overall number of VECs from 33 to 16 and agreed on the merger of particular counties. At the core of this restructuring is the need to address the current low scale and size of operations in particular VECs in order to position the sector for future development. In this regard, the previous Government decided on a reduction to 16 new entities.

In June of this year, the Government confirmed a reduction to 16 but decided to revise the configuration agreed by the previous government.

The new VEC structure fits with the Government's policy of reducing the number of agencies and is consistent with the strategic objectives of the transforming public service agenda through service delivery by a smaller number of agencies, each benefiting from efficiencies of greater scale. This change will better position the sector for future development particularly in the context of the work of SOLAS. It will also facilitate the required reductions, under the public service Employment Control Framework, of administrative staff employed in VECs, while protecting the services provided by VECs.

The Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes suggested that savings of €3 million could be realised. The reconfiguration to 16 can, over time, yield such savings in the recurrent cost of the headquarter functions of VECs which, at present, is of the order of €40 million in total. Since some of the likely savings from the restructuring of the VECs will come from the sale of existing VEC buildings these may not be realised in the short term. The potential revenue to be raised from the sale of these assets, however, is closely linked to the current state of the property market and it may not be possible to dispose of such properties satisfactorily in the short term and must proceed in such a manner that does not give rise to new or additional costs in a manner that prejudices realising the savings that are targeted.

John Deasy

Question:

72 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will detail the criteria which will be required to determine the location of the new headquarters for the vocational education committees; and the proposals for existing staff and or grades within the proposed new amalgamated structure. [26655/11]

In the coming period, I will be designating the headquarter location for the 16 bodies. In doing so, I will be taking a number of factors into account. The VEC headquarters must, as far as possible, be able to facilitate redeployment of staff having regard to the terms of the Croke Park Agreement. Where redeployment of all of the headquarters staff in an entity to one location is not possible due to a distance factor, or where for other reasons such as suitability of buildings, it is not feasible to have all of staff based in one headquarter building, I am giving consideration to the possibility of having sub-offices in some locations, at least for the medium term. Issues in relation to the staff will be worked through in accordance with the Croke Park agreement and will involve the unions representative of the grades concerned.

John Deasy

Question:

73 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the role of local democratic control within the proposed new vocational education committee structure. [26656/11]

Within a matter of weeks I hope to have the approval of the Government for the publication of the General Scheme of an Education and Training Boards Bill. This Bill will consolidate the existing nine Vocational Education Acts and will reflect the enhanced role future role of the Sector. This will be a substantial piece of legislation which will provide for the legal establishment of the new Education and Training Boards and among other things it will set out the composition of the new Education & Training Board Committees, including representation from the relevant local authorities in each case.

Public Procurement

Anne Ferris

Question:

74 Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if a review of the existing tendering processes for legal services by Government and State and semi-State agencies to ensure value for money and end anti-competitive practices has taken place; the recommendations that have been made; if a cap on earnings from the State for barristers and solicitors will be set; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26443/11]

My Department and the National Procurement Service have been engaged with a number of State bodies which are critically involved in the engagement of legal services, with a view to pursuing reductions in overall costs through a number of measures including reducing fee levels and increasing competitive forces.

My Department will shortly be reporting to me about the extent of reductions already achieved and setting a workable path to secure further improvements.

Waiver Applications

Billy Timmins

Question:

75 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the position regarding an application for a waiver which was received in the Office of the Chief State Solicitor in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; if this will be dealt with as a matter of urgency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26621/11]

My Office has already instructed the Chief States Solicitor to grant a waiver to the applicant in this case. The matter should be finalised shortly.

Departmental Records

David Stanton

Question:

76 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he is engaged in research and conducting trials to determine appropriate cloud computing approaches for public service data and applications; if he will provide details of the companies, indigenous small and medium enterprises, multinationals and so on with whom he is working for the purpose of research and examining commercial models; the way these companies are selected; when he expects this research to be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26529/11]

My Department views Cloud Computing as a major shift in the provision of ICT infrastructure, systems and services. Consequently, over time, it expects Cloud Computing to be a key part of the strategic future of ICT in the public service.

To that end, my Department has been engaged in a programme of research with a very wide variety of ICT companies of all types and nature. This research does not involve expenditure with any company. In addition, my Department is carefully examining the strategic approaches being adopted in other jurisdictions and is participating in the deliberations of the Cloud Computing Implementation Group established by my colleague Minister Bruton. This group is also engaging with industry to determine appropriate responses to a range of matters.

As with all major ICT shifts, any move to Cloud Computing will occur over time as markets and technologies mature and opportunities that provide value arise. Accordingly, research in this area will be continuous rather than an event. In this context, my officials are willing to engage with any company/individual that feels it can make a contribution of value to this research. The aim is to learn enough of the market, its solutions and approaches, to determine an appropriate strategic direction for the public service. In this respect, my officials hope to produce a Cloud Computing Strategy over the coming months. My officials also hope to develop an initial market exercise for the provision of "Infrastructure As A Service" with a view to implementing infrastructure services for use by all public bodies in a Government Community Cloud context. This of course will be dependent on the market responding with appropriate solutions offering best value for money, and opportunities for standardising and streamlining the provision of ICT infrastructure.

Departmental Staff

Anne Ferris

Question:

77 Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of promotions from age 63 years to retirement that were given to senior civil servants from higher executive officer grade to secretary general grade over the past 10 years; if he will provide a breakdown by year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26544/11]

My Department was formally established on 6 July 2011 under the Ministers and Secretaries Act, 2011. Generally, information on the age of a candidate is not part of the candidate information that is collected when promotion competitions take place in the Civil Service.

Selection for appointment to posts in the Civil Service (both internal and external) is governed by the Codes of Practice set down by the Commission for Public Service Appointments. The Commission has a statutory role in ensuring that all appointments are made on merit and as result of fair and transparent processes.

The Civil Service is an equal opportunities employer. Age is not one of the eligibility criteria used in the selection process in promotion competitions.

Employment Rights

Robert Dowds

Question:

78 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will provide a report on the case of a Pakistani worker who was grossly exploited while working for a restaurant (details supplied) in Dublin 22; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26554/11]

I am aware, from media reports, of the case to which the Deputy is referring.

I understand the individual in question made a number of complaints to the Rights Commissioner Service of the Labour Relations Commission. The Rights Commissioner made a number of awards in favour of the individual which were neither appealed nor implemented by the individual's employer. As a consequence, the individual, pursuant to section 28(8) of the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 and section 31(1) of the National Minimum Wage Act 2000, referred the matter to the Labour Court.

The Labour Court subsequently issued two Determinations. The first, under the Organisation of Working Time Act, awarded the individual €5,000 (in accordance with the original decision of the Rights Commissioner) while the second, under the National Minimum Wage Act, awarded the individual €86,134.42 (again, in accordance with the original decision of the rights commissioner).

In accordance with all Labour Court Determinations, the employer is allowed six weeks within which to implement the requirements of the Determinations. If this six week period expires without these requirements being implemented, the individual has the option of bringing the matter before the Circuit Court seeking orders directing the employer to carry out the determinations in accordance with the Court's terms.

Robert Dowds

Question:

79 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if the National Employment Rights Authority carries out regular spot checks on businesses they suspect of bad or illegal practice in terms of employment; if the authority reports back to him on a regular basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26556/11]

NERA carries out inspections of employer records with a view to determining compliance with employment rights legislation. These inspections arise

In response to complaints received of alleged non-compliance with relevant employment rights legislation;

As part of NERA inspections focusing on compliance in sectors where there is an identifiable risk of non-compliance and,

As routine inspections, which act as a control measure.

NERA aims to achieve voluntary compliance. However, some employers either refuse or fail to rectify the breaches identified and/or pay money due to their employees. These employers are referred for prosecution. A total of eight cases have been finalised to date this year with a further 155 cases awaiting decision by the courts.

NERA provides regular reports on its activities to my Department.

Redundancy Payments

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

80 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the position regarding an employment appeals tribunal case in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 22; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26510/11]

The Employment Appeals Tribunal is independent in the exercise of its quasi-judicial function. However, having made enquiries, I understand that the Tribunal received a claim from the person concerned on 21st April 2011 under the Redundancy Payment Acts, which was acknowledged on 31st May 2011.

The Tribunal has seen a marked increase in its caseload in recent years, as it is one of the front-line services directly impacted upon by the significant economic downturn. The largest increase in claims has been in redundancy appeals but other types of claims have also increased. This has had the unfortunate consequence of increasing the time it takes for a claimant to have his or her case heard. All appeals are listed for hearing in accordance with their date of lodgment with the Tribunal. The current waiting period for redundancy claims in Dublin, which includes this claim, is 52 weeks from the date of application. I fully expect the work that I have initiated with regard to the reform of the employment rights dispute resolution institutions to significantly improve the quality of service to users.

Registry of Friendly Societies

Joan Collins

Question:

81 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the number of industrial and provident societies registered with the Registry of Friendly Societies in 2010; the number which complied with the statutory obligations with regard to filing annual returns; the number that failed to file annual returns; the action, if any, the Register of Friendly Societies has taken in respect of those societies that did not file annual returns; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26524/11]

The annual report of the Registrar of Friendly Societies for 2010 (published on the websites of both my Department and the Companies Registration Office) indicates a total of 1,063 Industrial and Provident Societies on the register. Annual returns in respect of these societies are outstanding in 487 cases. Advance notice of return dates, initial reminders and final reminders have issued to each relevant society from the Registry of Friendly Societies. As I said in reply to the Deputy in relation to a similar question yesterday, I am informed by the Registrar that further enforcement action is now under consideration by the Registry to follow its targeted enforcement campaigns in 2010 and 2011 in relation to Friendly Societies and Trade Unions.

Information and Communications Technology

David Stanton

Question:

82 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, further to the announcement of a €5 million applied research centre in cloud computing in May 2011, if he will provide details of its location, staff and expenditure to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26527/11]

David Stanton

Question:

83 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the details of the cloud computing implementation group, its membership, the number of times it has met to date and its objectives and progress to date; if inputs and attendances from industry and other sectors have been sought and if any Irish companies are involved in the group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26528/11]

David Stanton

Question:

84 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the supports available to businesses to assist the development of cloud computing programmes from the industrial development agencies, in particular Industrial Development Agency, IDA, Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and Science Foundation Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26530/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 82 to 84, inclusive, together.

I announced the establishment of a Technology Centre in Cloud Computing on 12 May last. The Centre will be a collaborative research entity led by industry, resourced by researchers in Universities and Research Institutions and funded through an Enterprise Ireland/IDA research programme. Support of up to €1 million each year for a period of five years will be made available to establish this Technology Centre to carry out research on the basis of an industry-led agenda.

Since the announcement, Enterprise Ireland and the IDA have developed a Detailed Description of Needs document in consultation with Industry for the Centre. Four core research themes have emerged to form a basis for the applied research to be conducted by the Centre; these are:

Architecture

Service Lifecycle

Business Research

Cloud Security

Enterprise Ireland & the IDA will issue a call for proposals to all academic institutions to make submissions for the research centre this week. On receipt of proposals from the academic institutions, an evaluation process will be conducted during the remainder of 2011. Enterprise Ireland envisages that the centre will be established in the early part of 2012. While the establishment process is ahead of schedule, a location and staff resources have yet to be decided. No expenditure has been incurred on behalf of the centre as yet but it is expected that the engagement of a suitably qualified research programme manager will take place shortly.

Cloud computing is of relevance to a large percentage of Enterprise Ireland software and services clients as a delivery vehicle for their application and service solutions. To exploit the opportunities in this area, Enterprise Ireland is engaged in a number of activities with the relevant client companies to raise awareness of the opportunities in this area in association with the software industry and its representative bodies. In addition, Enterprise Ireland's Strategy for Development of the Software Sector features transition programmes to assist software companies to change their business models to take advantage of Cloud computing. Cloud Computing, as an emerging and exciting area of business, is a strategic focus for IDA Ireland and is a priority for development and support. A strong cluster of cloud-related activities is already emerging among the Irish subsidiaries of the world's leading ICT companies such as IBM, H-P, Microsoft, Dell, salesforce.com, EMC, VMware and many others such as Google, Amazon, and Yahoo.

Science Foundation Ireland's investment in top-class ICT research over the past decade has significantly underpinned the efforts of both IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland to develop employment opportunities for Irish based industry in a number of sectors, including cloud computing. SFI funded researchers are based across Ireland's higher education institutions and the agency strongly encourages research collaboration between its funded scientists/engineers and industry. Such interactions can lead to the scientists/engineers becoming more informed about industrial priorities and research needs; and also lead to industrial collaborators being informed about important new science and engineering research developments in Ireland. Irish industry interested in Cloud based technologies can interact with the SFI funded research community through the primary SFI industry facing programmes, such as the Centres for Science, Engineering and Technology (CSETs) and the Strategic Research Clusters (SRCs). More information is available on the SFI website (www.sfi.ie) http://www.sfi.ie/under the “Working with Enterprise” section.

Subsequent to the establishment of the Technology Centre, Minister Bruton, on 30 June, announced the establishment of the Cloud Computing Implementation Group. The objective of this Group is to support the implementation of the commitment in the Programme for Government to make Ireland a leader in the emerging I.T. market of cloud computing by promoting greater use of cloud computing in the public sector. In addressing this challenge, the Group has been asked to consider how existing State supports for cloud computing can be organised into a package to promote Ireland as a progressive place for I.T. investment, to address new security and privacy issues arising from the use of cloud computing and reviewing the adequacy of current legislation and to identify what steps need to be taken to ensure a supportive regulatory environment. The Implementation Group, which is chaired by the Secretary General of my Department, comprises representatives of the Departments of Public Expenditure and Reform; Justice, Equality and Defence; Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; The Office of the Data Protection Commissioner; Forfás, IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland; and, Science Foundation Ireland.

The Implementation Group met for the first time on 20 July and covered a wide range of aspects of Cloud Computing including skills, the potential opportunities to introduce cloud computing in areas of the public service, data protection, energy costs, and possible incentives to promote cloud computing such as agency supports and tax incentives. Since this meeting, the Secretary General of my Department has convened a number of bilateral meetings with ICT companies and representative bodies to obtain their views on how the Government can act as an enabler to make Ireland a leader in Cloud Computing. The second meeting of the Group is scheduled for 28 September. It is expected that the group will submit proposals for consideration by the Minister before year end.

Departmental Staff

Anne Ferris

Question:

85 Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the number of promotions from age 63 years to retirement that were given to senior civil servants from higher executive officer grade to Secretary General grade during the past ten years; if he will provide a breakdown by year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26542/11]

There were no promotions given to senior civil servants from age 63 years to retirement, at higher executive officer grade to secretary general grade, over the past 10 years in my Department.

Consumer Protection

John Lyons

Question:

86 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will request the National Consumer Agency to set up an online grocery database containing real-time price information which will enable consumers to make accurate comparisons on the cost of various goods, or a basket of goods, across a number of retailers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26551/11]

The promotion of public awareness and the provision of public information on matters regarding consumer protection and welfare, including on issues such as prices, is an integral part of the statutory mandate of the National Consumer Agency (NCA). In the exercise of this function the Agency has conducted numerous surveys to raise awareness in relation to the price of a whole range of goods and services. Whilst these surveys have covered areas such as driving lesson costs, GP/Dentist fees, babycare product prices, home heating oil prices, child care costs etc. the Agency through its National Grocery Prices Survey has devoted significant resources to raising consumers awareness in relation to the different offerings available in the grocery market. Research conducted on behalf of the Agency has found that following on its price awareness activities there is now a heightened awareness of and responsiveness among consumers to price competitiveness in the grocery goods sector.

Insofar as the issue of online delivery of grocery price comparison information is concerned, I understand that in the course of 2009 the Agency looked at the possibility of establishing a reliable methodology for the online delivery of timely and accurate grocery price comparison information. Whilst a number of retailers at that time did provide proprietary online grocery price information, not all of the principal retailers did so. Accordingly the Agency contacted all the principal grocery retailers operating in the State with a view to securing their co-operation in the development of an online grocery price comparison website. Whilst retailers were not opposed to the development of such a site, it was not possible to secure agreement on this issue principally because of a number of technical impediments which were held out by the retailers as posing challenges to the idea of generating accurate, detailed grocery price information in a common format that would be useful to consumers.

Notwithstanding the difficulties in securing support for a dedicated price comparison website, the NCA was of the view that if a sufficient number of grocery retailers in Ireland operated online grocery websites, a commercial operator would respond by developing a price comparison site based on these website prices. This has indeed turned out to be the case and as of September 2011 there are two privately operated websites (SmartShopper and Fitthebill), providing price comparison information to Irish consumers.

EU Directives

Michael Creed

Question:

87 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, with reference to correspondence issued by his predecessor (details supplied), his views on the implementation of the Directive 2006/123/EC — the services directive — particularly in respect of the levying of fees by local authorities for casual trading licences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26657/11]

Directive 2006/123/EC [the Services Directive] on services in the internal market was transposed into Irish law by way of S. I. No. 533 of 2010, (European Communities (Provision of Services) Regulations 2010) and S. I. No. 555, (European Communities (Court Orders for the Protection of Consumer Interests) Regulations, 2010). The Directive is not concerned specifically with casual trading but with the provision of services in general. The service in the context of the Deputy's question is the regulation of casual trading by local authorities which results in the provision of casual trading licences to traders to sell goods in public places.

On the 17 December 2009 my Department issued a detailed notice to all 88 local authorities entitled to make bye laws under the Casual Trading Act, 1995 outlining the obligations arising for them under the Services Directive. This Notice was drawn up in my Department following consultations with the Office of the Attorney General. Arising from this Notice local authorities and others raised issues in respect of the obligations under the Services Directive. Regulation 14 (2) of S. I. No. 533 of 2010 transposes Article 13 (2) of the Services Directive. This Regulation states that competent authorities (in this case local authorities) shall ensure that the fees charged "are reasonable and proportionate to the cost of administering the scheme". The question arises as to how this provision interacts with the provision for fees in the Casual Trading Act, 1995 [section 6 (4)]. My Department is preparing a Notice to issue to all local authorities in the near future dealing with this and other issues arising from how the Services Directive affects casual trading regulation. Consultation between my Department and the Office of the Attorney General is continuing on this matter. When this and other issues have been clarified, my Department will write to all 88 local authorities informing them of the position.

Employment Support Services

Brendan Griffin

Question:

88 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will roll out the national internship scheme to include national schools in order to help alleviate any staffing difficulties; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26459/11]

JobBridge, the National Internship scheme is available to all eligible host organisations in the private, public and community & voluntary sectors. It should be noted that the purpose of JobBridge is to assist unemployed individuals to gain valuable work experience opportunities to assist them improve their skills while also enhancing their prospects of securing future employment. The purpose of JobBridge is not to alleviate an organisation's staffing difficulties; in fact participation by an organisation in JobBridge is expected to be a serious commitment on their part to develop an intern. Specifically in relation to national schools there is nothing preventing them from participating in the scheme provided that they meet the eligibility requirements of the scheme. However, I understand that the Department of Education and Skills is in the process of preparing a circular for schools wishing to participate in JobBridge.

Social Welfare Benefits

Brendan Ryan

Question:

89 Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason community welfare officers are not providing exceptional needs payments to long term lease tenants throughout County Donegal. [26447/11]

Under the supplementary welfare allowance (SWA) scheme, the Health Service Executive (HSE) may make a single payment to help meet essential, once-off, exceptional expenditure, which a person could not reasonably be expected to meet out of their weekly income. Those who qualify are normally in receipt of a social welfare or HSE payment.

The principal consideration in making a single payment of SWA to address a particular need is that the need to be met must be ‘exceptional'. Payments should arise only under abnormal conditions and should not become a regular or standard practice. Thus, an exceptional needs payment (ENP) should be a single payment to meet an unforeseen and/or special need which cannot be met from a client's basic income. The use of ENP's and every such decision must be based on the careful consideration of all the circumstances of an individual case. However, it is not considered appropriate that ENP's should be paid towards the costs of furnishing private rented accommodation. In this regard, my Department has advised the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government that local authorities should not seek to have long term leased properties furnished by way of ENP's.

Jack Wall

Question:

90 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason a person (details supplied) has not been awarded rent allowance or subsidy payment for the maintenance of their four children and themselves; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26449/11]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has advised the person concerned met with the Community Welfare Officer recently. The HSE advised the person concerned that in order to process an application for rent supplement she must provide information on her means for the months where she had no social welfare payment, she must make an application for a social welfare payment and provide proof of her address.

Social Welfare Appeals

Paul Connaughton

Question:

91 Deputy Paul J. Connaughton asked the Minister for Social Protection when an oral hearing in relation to a disability allowance appeal will be heard in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26458/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the appeal from the person concerned was referred to an Appeals Officer who proposes to hold an oral hearing in this case. There has been a very significant increase in the number of appeals received by the Social Welfare Appeals Office since 2007 when the intake was 14,070 to 2010 when the intake rose to 32,432. This has significantly impacted on the processing time for appeals which require oral hearings and, in order to be fair to all appellants, they are dealt with in strict chronological order. In the context of dealing with the considerable number of appeals now on hand, the Department made 9 additional appointments to the office earlier this year.

While every effort is being made to deal with the large numbers awaiting oral hearing as quickly as possible, it is not possible to give a date when the person's oral hearing will be heard, but he will be informed when arrangements have been made. 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.

Jobs Initiative

Michael Creed

Question:

92 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Social Protection the incentives available for persons who have recently lost their jobs to re-enter the work force; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26468/11]

The Department of Social Protection supports operates a range of employment support measures designed to encourage and support social welfare recipients of working age to reduce their dependency on welfare payments. Supports available include the back to education programmes and back to work schemes. In addition, a fully integrated nationwide range of services and supports is available to employers and jobseekers through FÁS Employment Services, responsibility for which has been transferred to this Department.

The National Employment Action Plan (NEAP) process is a key element in addressing the progression needs of those on the live register. It provides an opportunity to explore and access, under professional guidance, a full range of employment and training services. Development of the NEAP is central to ongoing development in the labour market policy area and will be progressed within the framework of a new National Employment and Entitlements Service which, as provided for in the Programme for Government, is being established by the Department. The new service will integrate employment and benefit payment services, currently delivered by FÁS and the Department, respectively, within the Department and will be based on a case management approach with the objective of providing a more customised and personal service to customers.

In line with good international practice, this new service will focus primarily on activation. The objective is to encourage and enable customers to embark on developmental pathways appropriate to their needs; pathways to employment and /or training and/or personal development. The objective of the new service is to offer users a high level, personalised employment support and prioritise the provision of more intensive support for those on the live register who are identified as being most at risk of long-term unemployment. A key feature of the new service will be that customers will be expected to engage with these options in order to retain their entitlement to full benefit payments.

Roll-out has commenced on a number of projects in relation to the development of case management, the identification of those who are most at risk of falling into long-term unemployment, and the provision of appropriately tailored responses to their needs. These projects will evaluated in the coming months after which approaches will be developed for their rollout nationwide as part of the national employment and entitlements service.

These developments are complemented by measures announced recently by the Government under the Jobs Initiative and include initiatives such as JobBridge, the National Internship Scheme, which will provide 5,000 internship opportunities of 6 or 9 months in organisations in the private, public or community and voluntary sectors. In addition, from July 2, the rate of employers PRSI on jobs paying up to €356 per week has been halved to 4.25%, up to end 2013.

The short-term enterprise allowance scheme allows continued payment to someone in receipt of jobseekers' benefit who wishes to commence a self employment enterprise. This scheme is payable for the duration of their jobseekers benefit entitlement. This scheme is designed to provide immediate support for someone who loses their job and qualifies for jobseekers' benefit but wants to start a business, provided it is approved by a Local Integrated Development Company or a Departmental Facilitator. All of the measures outlined above will support people who are unemployed in acquiring the education and skills and work experience that will assist them in returning to employment while measures such as the PRSI reduction will encourage employers to new employment.

Community Services Programme

Dara Calleary

Question:

93 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Social Protection if he will consider allowing organisations participating in the community services programme to allocate budgetary savings achieved via the adjustments in employers PRSI towards their overhead costs to assist them in the provision of invaluable services to their local communities. [26486/11]

The Community Services Programme (CSP) is designed to address locally identified gaps in the provision of services and to exploit the potential of community assets and resources to improve community well-being. CSP support is designed in such a manner that service providers are required to offer employment opportunities to people from specific target groups. The target group includes people with disabilities, Travellers, recovering drug users, persons who are long-term unemployed and lone parents. The grant is formulated to meet the service providers' statutory requirements with respect to paying the minimum wage and the employer's liability for Pay Related Social Insurance (PRSI). With the reduction in the rate of employers PRSI as part of the Jobs Initiative from 1st July 2011, the liability falling on service providers supported by the CSP has reduced. I have no proposals to allocate the savings indicated by the Deputy given the significant demands on other areas of my Department's operations. The Deputy should note that a key requirement of the CSP is that service providers in contract to the Programme generate a significant element of their total turnover from non-public sources.

Social Welfare Benefits

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

94 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Social Protection the average length of time being taken by her to assess an application for rent supplement; the number of such applications she receives on average per month, together with the number of applications which are granted, refused or are subject of a request for further information; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26491/11]

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which includes rent supplement, is administered on my behalf by the Community Welfare Service (CWS) of the Health Service Executive (HSE). The timescale for determining applications for rent supplement is dependant, among other things, on the availability of the required information, such as details of the applicant's income, bank statements, information from landlords etc. In addition, some aspects of the application are inevitably time consuming and delays can occur where investigations such as home visits or third party evidence are required. Delays can also arise if the applicant is slow to respond to requests for additional information.

Statistics are not available on the average length of time taken to assess rent supplement applications or the number of applications per month or the outcome of those applications. The tabular statement shows the number of rent supplement claims registered and awarded in 2011.

The provision of a prompt service is a major objective of the CWS, this is tempered by the necessity to ensure that every case is fully investigated and that all cases are dealt with in a consistent and fair manner. While certain applications may take more time to process than others, I am satisfied that the CWS makes every effort to ensure rent supplement claims are processed efficiently and that the appropriate levels of oversight and controls are in place.

Tabular Statement

Rent Supplement Claims Registered and Awarded 2011 YTD*

Claim Registered

Claims Awarded

Rent Supplement

54,287

46,676

* — To 23 September 2011

Notes

Claims registered include

claims not pursued by the applicant and

re-application where a rent supplement recipient moves to new accommodation.

Claim details are recorded electronically where it is established that rent supplement is payable. Where an appeal has been lodged, claim details are also recorded electronically.

Given the pressure on the community welfare service, claim details are not always recorded on the system where no entitlement has been established to rent supplement and no appeal is made.

The difference between claims registered and claims awarded is not necessarily a refusal rate, for the reasons outlined above.

In these circumstances, fully reliable statistics are not available on the total number of people who applied for and were refused rent supplement.

Social Welfare Appeals

Tom Hayes

Question:

95 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision on a domiciliary care allowance appeal will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26518/11]

An application for domiciliary care allowance was received from the person concerned on 20th May 2011. This application was referred to one of the Department's Medical Assessors who found that the child was not medically eligible for the allowance and a letter issued on 16th July 2011 advising of the decision. In the case of an application which is refused on medical grounds, the applicant may submit additional information and/or ask for the case to be reviewed or they may appeal the decision directly to the Social Welfare Appeals Office. The person concerned submitted further information and notice of her appeal was forwarded to the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 4th August 2011. As part of the appeals process, this additional information will shortly be reviewed by a Medical Assessor.

Social Welfare Benefits

Jack Wall

Question:

96 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason a person (details supplied) in County Kildare has been disallowed a diet allowance and refused a clothing allowance in view of their medical condition; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26519/11]

The HSE has advised that the applications for assistance from the person concerned were refused in both instances as her income was in excess of the allowable limits appropriate to each scheme. The person concerned was advised in writing of her right to appeal the decision to the relevant appeals office in the HSE.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

97 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection, further to Parliamentary Question No. 248 of 20 September 2011, if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare qualifies for a back to education allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26522/11]

In light of documentation supplied, a review is being carried out of this case and the person concerned will be informed of the outcome shortly.

Departmental Staff

Anne Ferris

Question:

98 Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of promotions from age 63 years to retirement that were given to senior civil servants from higher executive officer grade to secretary general grade over the past ten years; if she will provide a breakdown by year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26545/11]

During the period from September 2001 to September 2011, there were no promotions carried out for any staff member from age 63 to retirement, from Higher Executive Officer to Secretary General grades. However, it is not possible to say how many applied for promotion from this age group as the effort involved in collating this information would be excessive.

Social Welfare Benefits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

99 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection, further to Parliamentary Question No. 300 of 20 September 2011, if she will clarify the documentation requested in respect of an application for rent supplement in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26550/11]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has advised that the person concerned has been requested to provide the following documentation before her application for rent supplement can be processed:

A copy of the Housing Needs Assessment letter from Kildare County Council,

A completed Habitual Residence Condition form,

Copy of photo identification,

6 months bank statements or if the person concerned does not possess a bank account, a declaration of this fact and,

A letter from her Social Worker confirming the long term plan regarding access to the eldest daughter of the person concerned.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

100 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a domiciliary care allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Donegal. [26558/11]

An application for domiciliary care allowance was received on 23rd August 2011. The application has been forwarded to one of the Department's Medical Assessors for a medical opinion. A decision will issue to the person concerned when the Medical Assessor's opinion is received.

Social Welfare Appeals

John McGuinness

Question:

101 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection if carer’s allowance will be approved in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow; if approval will be expedited. [26578/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 28th March 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 4th August 2011 and the appeal will be assigned an Appeals Officer who, in due course, 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.

Personal Public Service Numbers

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

102 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Social Protection, further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 269 and 319 of 14 September 2011, the source of income those who were granted PPS numbers in 2010 have, aside from those who were granted work permits in that year. [26582/11]

The information requested by the Deputy is not available. The information required to be submitted in application for a PPS Number is set out in Section 262 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act, 2005 (as amended) and does not include source of income.

Social Welfare Benefits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

103 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if an entitlement to contributory State old age pension exists in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26653/11]

The person concerned has reached pension age. The Department has not received a claim for State pension (contributory) from him. A claim form has been sent to him and on receipt of the completed claim form, his entitlement to pension will be fully examined and he will be notified of the outcome without delay.

Irish Language

Peter Mathews

Question:

104 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht his plans for the future of Cumann na bhFiann; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26445/11]

As indicated in my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 163 on 22 September 2011, Foras na Gaeilge currently provides core funding to 19 Irish language organisations, including Cumann na bhFiann. Foras na Gaeilge is an agency of the North/South Language Body, An Foras Teanga, which is jointly funded by my Department and by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure in Northern Ireland. Decisions regarding An Foras Teanga are made by both Sponsor Departments under the auspices of the North/South Ministerial Council.

Following an external review completed on behalf of Foras na Gaeilge, the North/South Ministerial Council agreed that the core funding arrangements be reconfigured to ensure a more streamlined and cost effective approach. The reconfiguration consists of moving from core funding for 19 organisations to a competitive funding model based on a portfolio of schemes requiring the delivery of various strategic priorities. Draft schemes have been approved by the board of Foras na Gaeilge and following approval by the Finance Ministers in both jurisdictions, these schemes will be brought to the North/South Ministerial Council for approval. Pending the introduction of the schemes, it has been agreed that interim core funding will continue to be provided to the 19 organisations to 30 June 2012.

The draft schemes include a Youth Scheme with the objectives of providing a range of youth services on an all-island basis and supporting groups/clubs that provide opportunities for young people to regularly use Irish in a social environment outside the school system. It will, of course, be open to Cumann na bhFiann to seek funding under the proposed Youth Scheme to continue its work with Irish language youth clubs.

Arts Funding

Gerald Nash

Question:

105 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the reason for his refusal to fund a project (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26446/11]

My Department's cultural infrastructure and development capital allocation for arts-related projects in 2011 was already fully committed to existing projects, prior to the receipt of the application mentioned in the Deputy's Question. In this regard, it may be noted that my Department's cultural infrastructure and development capital allocation fell by over 50% in 2011, compared to the allocation for 2010.

Departmental Staff

Anne Ferris

Question:

106 Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the number of promotions from age 63 years to retirement that were given to senior civil servants from higher executive officer grade to Secretary General grade over the past ten years; if he will provide a breakdown by year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26533/11]

As the Deputy will be aware, the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht was established on 2nd June 2011. I am advised that available records do not indicate that any internal promotions of the type described by the Deputy have taken place in my Department.

Telecommunications Services

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

107 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if it is his intention to avail of the opportunity presented by the laying of the Hibernia express cable from the UK to the USA by using the limited opportunity that exists to insert a branching unit in order to enhance connectivity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26457/11]

I am aware of the Hibernia Atlantic Express project referred to by the Deputy. I would very much welcome an investment by the Company, as referred to by the Deputy, that would lead to improved international connectivity.

As regards any exchequer support for such an investment, the electronic communications market is, and has been since its liberalisation, a commercial competitive market. The State can only intervene in the market in limited circumstances and in such circumstances this would be following State Aid approval from the European Commission and a public tender procurement process. In addition, any such assistance would have to meet the tests of capital appraisal and affordability in the current acutely difficult fiscal climate.

Additionally, I am aware of at least one similar proposal. Any appraisal must be on an open and transparent basis that assesses the comparative merits of all projects that might be submitted. I do nonetheless recognise the importance of improved international connectivity to national and regional economic development. I will therefore maintain close contact with the promoters of this project and closely monitor its progress.

Departmental Staff

Anne Ferris

Question:

108 Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the number of promotions from age 63 years to retirement that were given to senior civil servants from higher executive officer grade to Secretary General grade over the past ten years; if he will provide a breakdown by year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26535/11]

Since the formation of my Department in June 2007, there have been no promotions in the category referenced by the Deputy.

Telecommunications Services

Catherine Murphy

Question:

109 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources in view of the variety of land line telephone operators, his plans to develop a comprehensive telephone directory amalgamating all providers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26562/11]

The Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) is responsible for the regulation of the electronic communications sector. As part of its remit to inform consumers, ComReg operates a website called www.callcosts.ie. This site is a free, up-to date, easy to use and independent website that covers most telephone, mobile and broadband plans available in Ireland. The Callcosts website helps people to compare the cost of different plans available for their home phone, mobile and broadband services. Many providers offer different types of plans and sometimes it may be difficult for consumers to pick the best one to suit their needs. This ComReg-operated website callcosts.ie is a useful place for consumers to go for comparison of providers and offerings. Unlike a printed directory, the website may be updated easily and quickly to account for telephone companies either exiting or entering the market.

Water and Sewerage Schemes

Pearse Doherty

Question:

110 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding the proposed sewage scheme for Glenties, County Donegal; if this scheme will be funded through the water capital project 2010-13; the estimated commencement date for the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26463/11]

The Glenties Sewerage Scheme, which is being advanced jointly with the Dungloe Sewerage Scheme, is included in the Water Services Investment Programme 2010-2012 among the list of contracts in Donegal to start in the period 2010-2012.

My Department has approved the tender documents for the scheme and it is now a matter for Donegal County Council to advance the scheme through the tender process.

Business Regulation

Dara Calleary

Question:

111 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the restrictions placed on Leader funding companies involved in food preparation, production or processing; if his further attention has been drawn to the damage that this is causing to small companies seeking funding in this area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26487/11]

The Rural Development Programme (RDP) 2007-2013 is divided into 4 Axes. Axis 1 deals with the competitiveness of the agricultural sector and Axis 2 aims to improve the countryside and environment. The objectives of Axis 3 are to support the diversification of the rural economy and improve the quality of life in rural areas. Axis 4 provides support for the use of a "bottom-up" approach to development which ensures local people are involved in decision making, thereby facilitating sustainable development in a more inclusive way. In Ireland the LEADER approach is used to implement Axis 3 measures.

A significant number of projects funded under the previous LEADER+ programme, 2000-2006, and under the diversification and business-creation measures of the current RDP, involve support for enterprise initiatives that add value to agri-food products. Basic agricultural products are listed in Annex 1 to the EC Treaty and are commonly called Annex 1 products. Under the main rural development regulation, support for adding value to Annex 1 products is facilitated under Axis 1 of the programme. Early this year, Ireland was notified by the European Commission that support for adding value to agri-food products is only allowable under Axis 1 and not under Axis 3 of the RDP. As a result, grant aid under Axis 3 of the RDP for this type of activity remains suspended.

Food and food-related business are a significant driver of enterprise activity and I am very aware of the difficulties the restrictions described are having on food related business in rural areas. These businesses require continued support as we look to ways to generate employment in rural Ireland. My Department continues to work with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in pursuing a solution that meets the regulatory requirements. We are also maintaining ongoing contacts with the European Commission on the matter. While it is my objective to find an appropriate solution in the context of our overall budgetary situation, it is important to recognise that €62 million is available this year for the LEADER elements of the RDP.

Local Authority Housing

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

112 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding persons who have fled the family home being included on local authority waiting lists; if he is insisting that spouses or partners who have left the family home on foot of violence, abuse or intimidation must produce evidence to a local authority that they have commenced proceedings for a legal separation prior to being included on a housing waiting list; the regulations that apply in such circumstances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26490/11]

It is open to any person or household to apply to a housing authority for an assessment of their housing need. It is a matter solely for the housing authority concerned to determine whether an applicant for social housing support is eligible for and in need of that support. The authority must make its determination in accordance with the provisions of section 20 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009, and regulations made under that section, primarily the Social Housing Assessment Regulations 2011, having regard to the particular circumstances of the case.

Regulation 22 of Social Housing Assessment Regulations 2011 provides that an applicant household for long-term social housing support is ineligible for social housing support if a household member owns alternative accommodation that it could reasonably be expected to use to meet its housing need, either by occupying it or by selling it and using the proceeds to secure suitable accommodation. For this reason, if either member of a separated couple applies, local authorities require evidence of legal separation or divorce before considering a household's eligibility for long-term social housing support, as the separation agreement will provide certainty regarding ownership of property.

In cases of domestic violence, there is a range of services available to deal with the immediate primary needs of a household both in terms of protection of the abused partner and any children, and any need for emergency accommodation. Applicants do not need to go on the general housing waiting lists to avail of short-term emergency housing in domestic violence situations.

Local Authority Staff

Joan Collins

Question:

113 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that Cork City Council and Sligo Borough Council have received funding from the sustainable communities fund for the employment of community wardens; and his plans to continue funding the employment of the community wardens through urban renewal schemes and regeneration schemes when the sustaining communities fund is discontinued. [26523/11]

My Department is committed to a holistic approach to the regeneration of large social housing estates, and, in addition to bricks and mortar considerations includes social interventions that contribute significantly to addressing disadvantage and building sustainable communities. To that end, my Department supports a broad range of social interventions, including community warden schemes, under the Sustainable Communities Fund and as part of the National Regeneration Programme.

Both Sligo Borough Council and Cork City Council have received funding over the past four years for community warden posts under these two funding streams, two in Sligo and five in Cork City. The sustainable communities fund is operated on the basis of an annual call for proposals. In terms of regeneration funding, which currently supports two warden posts in Cranmore, Sligo and a further two posts in Knocknaheeny/Hollyhill, Cork City, funding is being provided for these posts as part of the overall regeneration programme. The future funding of such posts will be considered in the context of the comprehensive regeneration masterplans which are being developed by both Councils at present.

Health and Safety Regulations

David Stanton

Question:

114 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the regulations governing funfairs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26531/11]

The Planning and Development (Certification of Fairground Equipment) Regulations 2003 put in place procedures and checks to ensure that funfair equipment cannot be operated in Ireland without a valid safety certificate. Under those Regulations, the requirement to have safety certificates came into force on 1 March 2004. Responsibility for obtaining a certificate lies with the organisers of funfairs and/or owners of fairground equipment.

Applications for certificates of safety must be made to an authorised person designated by the Minister and a separate application must be made for each piece of fairground equipment. Certificates are valid for a period of up to 14 months.Since the Regulations came into force, a panel of up to six persons have been authorised under their provisions to carry out inspections and grant certificates of safety. These appointments resulted from expressions of interest being sought by my Department for suitably qualified and experienced personnel. My Department will shortly advertise seeking further expressions of interest with a view to appointing additional authorised persons.

The Regulations provide that when a certificate of safety is granted by an authorised person, a copy of the certificate is sent, inter alia, to my Department. In 2010 certificates of safety were issued to 45 companies and individuals covering numerous specific items of fairground equipment.

Departmental Staff

Anne Ferris

Question:

115 Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of promotions from age 63 years to retirement that were given to senior civil servants from higher executive officer grade to secretary general grade over the past ten years; if he will provide a breakdown by year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26538/11]

There was one promotion of a senior civil servant aged over 63 in the past ten years. This promotion occurred in 2004.

Community Development

Gerald Nash

Question:

116 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the supports provided by him towards the implementation of the Julianstown village design statement pilot project, County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26560/11]

Funding of €427m is available under the Rural Development Programme (RDP) 2007-2013 for allocation to qualifying projects up to the end of 2013. One of the objectives of the RDP is to provide appropriate supports to enhance the economic and social attractiveness of villages, small towns and the surrounding countryside. In this context the development and implementation of Village Design statements could be eligible for support under the Rural Development Programme 2007-2013.

There are 36 Local Action Groups contracted, on my Department's behalf, to deliver the RDP throughout the country and these groups are the principal decision-makers in relation to the allocation of project funding. Such decisions are made in the context of the local development strategy of the individual groups and in line with Departmental operating rules and EU regulations.

My Department has been in touch with Meath Partnership, the group responsible for the Julianstown area and they have confirmed that two elements of the Julianstown Village Design Statement, a community garden and a heritage brochure have already received funding under the RDP. In keeping with the bottom-up philosophy underpinning the delivery of the RDP, decisions regarding RDP funding for any further elements of the plan rest solely with Meath Partnership.

Garda Vetting Service

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

117 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to set up a national vetting bureau; if progress has been made since July 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26082/11]

Since 2002, the Central Vetting Unit of the Garda Síochána has provided a vetting service for public service employees and other bodies where employees or voluntary workers are working with children or vulnerable adults. On 27 July, I published the Scheme of a National Vetting Bureau Bill which will provide a statutory basis for the existing system of vetting provided by the Central Vetting Unit. In addition, and in line with the recommendation of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children, the Bill will also provide for the disclosure of "soft information" for the purpose of the protection of children and vulnerable adults. The drafting of the Bill is ongoing with publication expected during the current Dáil session.

Citizenship Applications

Brendan Griffin

Question:

118 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if the rights and entitlements sought by a person (details supplied) will be granted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26464/11]

The immigration position of the person concerned requires detailed consideration. I have asked my officials in the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service to examine the matters raised in the Deputy's Question and to correspond directly with the person concerned. The Deputy will appreciate that issues relating to qualification for social welfare payments are the responsibility of the Minister for Social Protection and neither I nor my Department have any function in such matters. Equally, issues relating to access to social housing are the responsibility of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the relevant local authority.

Departmental Bodies

Brendan Griffin

Question:

119 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will compensate persons (details supplied) in County Kerry in respect of expenses incurred by them in trying to rectify a fault on the part of the Property Registration Authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26466/11]

I can inform the Deputy that under the Registration of Deeds and Title Act 2006, the Property Registration Authority (PRA) was established as and from 4 November 2006. The PRA replaces the Registrar of Deeds and Titles as the registering authority in relation to property registration in Ireland and, subject to the above Act, is independent in the performance of its functions.

The Deputy will be aware of the service to T.D.s and Senators which provides information on the current status of applications, such as the subject of this question, which was introduced in May 2006. The service provides a speedier, more efficient and more cost effective alternative to submitting Parliamentary Questions. It is operated by the PRA and is available all year round. However, to be helpful to the Deputy I have had enquiries made with the Property Registration Authority and I am informed that this application for compensation was received by them on 19th May 2011. I am further informed that the application has now been approved for payment and the Property Registration Authority will be in contact with the lodging solicitors in relation to some further information required for payment purposes. Upon receipt of such details, the application for compensation will be processed to completion as a matter of priority.

Prison Staff

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

120 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of prison officers in each prison; his plans to increase same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26478/11]

I am advised by the Irish Prison Service that the current staffing levels for each prison are as follows:-

Prison

Prison Grade staff

Mountjoy (Male)

505

Mountjoy (Female)

78.5

St Patrick’s Institution

203

Cork

206

Limerick

215

Castlerea

206

Cloverhill

349

Wheatfield

362

Portlaoise

273

Arbour Hill

100

Training Unit

54

Midlands

332

Loughan House

48

Shelton Abbey

50.5

In addition, staff are also assigned to a range of important support prison services, details of which are set out in the following table:

Support Services

Prison Service Escort Corps

149.5

Operational Support Group

148

Building Services Division

20

Training, Procurement, & Logistics

24.5

The number of operational staff currently serving in the Irish Prison Service is 3324. I am informed by the Irish Prison Service that discussions in relation to staffing levels are ongoing in the context of the Transformation Agenda under the Public Service Agreement 2010 — 2014. The Irish Prison Service is also subject to the moratorium on public sector recruitment and any future requirement to recruit prison officers will be addressed in that context.

Garda Stations

Dara Calleary

Question:

121 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will outline, on a county basis, the locations of Garda stations that have been identified as being at risk of closure due to impending garda retirements. [26484/11]

I can assure the Deputy and the House that it is a priority for this Government to maintain front-line services at the highest level possible. I have been advised that the Commissioner is currently carrying out a review of the entire Garda organisation in the context of ensuring that the Force will be in a position to match the deployment of resources to its policing commitments as effectively as possible. Clearly, an examination of the opening hours and in some cases the viability of Garda stations will form part of this. The issue of the closure of some Garda stations will be a question the Garda Commissioner will have to consider as part of this process. He may have to consider in appropriate cases whether a better policing service could be delivered to a local community by having Gardaí out on patrol instead of in a station. I look forward to receiving the Commissioner's proposals, which will be aimed at maximising the efficiency of the Garda Síochána and prioritising the resources available to operational front-line policing services.

Proposed Legislation

Dara Calleary

Question:

122 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the organisations he has consulted in the preparation of the landlord and tenant (business leases review) Bill. [26485/11]

As indicated in my response to Question No. 61 of 20 September 2011, my preliminary proposals for the Landlord and Tenant (Business Leases Review) Bill have been forwarded to the Attorney General for further examination and development, having regard to the complexities attendant on dealing with existing leases, including the rights that exist by virtue of the Constitution. In advance of the outcome of those deliberations I have had representations on the general issue of upwards only rent reviews from a variety of organisations, including the Society of Chartered Surveyors, Jones Lang LaSalle, DKM Economic Consultants, Retail Ireland, Retails Excellence Ireland and the Irish Association of Investment Managers.

Enforcement of Court Orders

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

123 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 280 and 334, the sanctions that have been applied in the 165 applications for the enforcement of court orders granted in 2010 and the 202 applications for the enforcement of court orders granted in 2009; the reason these applications were not referred to in the Court Services Report 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26514/11]

The statistics supplied in response to the previous Parliamentary Questions referred to by the Deputy related to cases taken under Section 5(2) of the Courts (No. 2) Act 1986 arising from alleged breaches of Sections 7 or 11 of the Guardianship of Infants Act 1964. Under the provisions of the Courts Service Act 1998, the management and administration of the courts including responsibility for maintaining and publishing court statistics is a function of the Courts Service.

However, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made and the Courts Service has informed me that the further detailed information sought by the Deputy is not currently collected and could only be retrieved by way of a manual examination of each individual Family Law court record in those courts where an Order was granted. As I am sure the Deputy will appreciate, this would require the expenditure of a disproportionate amount of staff time and resources and it is therefore not possible to provide the level of detail sought.

I am informed it is not possible to include all statistics in the Annual Report. However, the Courts Service has indicated that consideration will be given to including the information previously supplied in response to Parliamentary Question No. 280 in future Annual Reports.

Departmental Staff

Anne Ferris

Question:

124 Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of promotions from age 63 years to retirement that were given to senior civil servants from higher executive officer grade to Secretary General grade over the past ten years; if he will provide a breakdown by year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26543/11]

I am advised by officials in my Department that there were no promotions of the type outlined by the Deputy during the period concerned.

Human Trafficking

Robert Dowds

Question:

125 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the instruments at his disposal to combat forced labour and illegal work practices here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26555/11]

The Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act, 2008 introduced the crime of human trafficking into Irish criminal law. It provides for penalties of up to life imprisonment for trafficking of persons for the purposes of labour or sexual exploitation or for the removal of a person's organs. Under the Act, labour exploitation means —

(a) subjecting a person to forced labour,

(b) forcing him or her to render services to another, or

(c) enslavement of the person or subjecting him or her to servitude or a similar condition or state.

Human Trafficking continues to be treated as a high priority by An Garda Síochána. In An Garda Síochána's Policing Plan for 2011, one of the seven stated priorities is "to prevent and detect human trafficking". In January 2009, the Garda Commissioner established the Human Trafficking Investigation and Coordination Unit (HTICU) within An Garda Síochána. As well as investigating human trafficking cases, this unit provides advice and support to other units within An Garda Síochána with regard to human trafficking. An extensive programme of training both within and outside An Garda Síochána has been undertaken by the HTICU.

In conjunction with the Anti Human Trafficking Unit in my Department, An Garda Síochána have also embarked on extensive awareness raising measures and have made presentations to various groupings including to representatives of a wide variety of State organisations likely to encounter victims and to university students, the hospitality industry and secondary school students etc.

The Human Trafficking Investigation and Coordination Unit (HTICU) works closely with labour inspectors attached to the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA) with regard to cases of alleged labour exploitation and where illegal work practices are alleged.

An Garda Síochána works closely with other Police forces to counter this problem. In December 2009, three Romanian men were sentenced in Romania for the human trafficking of Romanian nationals into Ireland for labour exploitation. In this case Romanian males and females were recruited in Romania and trafficked into Ireland where they were exploited for labour purposes on farms in Wexford. An intensive investigation was conducted in Ireland and evidence was transferred to Romania where the men had been arrested on their return to Romania from Ireland. Sentences of 7 years, 5 years and 5 years respectively were handed down.

In a number of the cases that have been referred to An Garda Síochána as human trafficking for labour exploitation, prospective evidence of other offences including immigration offences, employment permits offences, false imprisonment and assault has been uncovered. These matters remain under investigation.

The question of whether forced labour should be criminalised as a stand-alone offence without reference to human trafficking is being considered in my Department. For the purpose of considering this issue An Garda Síochána was asked to conduct an analysis of allegations of forced labour which have come to their attention. The purpose of the analysis is to identify what problems exist and what legislative and administrative measures, if any, are required to address them. The results of this analysis have recently been received in the Department and are currently being examined.

Cash for Gold Trade

Catherine Murphy

Question:

126 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he is considering regulating the cash for gold industry; if not, if he is satisfied with the compliance culture surrounding high value goods by these outlets; if he plans to change the way it will proceed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26561/11]

My Department is currently finalising a report on the "Cash for Gold" trade and I can inform the Deputy that this report will be submitted to me shortly for consideration. Following consideration of the report I will make an assessment as to what, if any, action, legislative or otherwise, may be required. I will, in due course, make known the report's findings and any proposals which may arise.

My Department, in compiling the report, has been in close contact with the Commissioner of An Garda Síochána with a view to monitoring the position. I can inform the Deputy that the Commissioner has reported that all "Cash for Gold" premises in the State have been visited by An Garda Síochána and the operators of such premises have been made aware of their responsibilities and obligations with regard to purchasing gold and jewellery. In addition, I have been informed that contact information has been provided to "Cash for Gold" operators by An Garda Síochána which will facilitate the reporting of any suspicious activity. The Commissioner has also indicated that any new "Cash for Gold" premises that may be identified will be visited by An Garda Síochána.

Garda Strength

Timmy Dooley

Question:

127 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will provide a breakdown, by grade and by station, of Garda staffing levels in the Dublin metropolitan area on 1 March 2011 and on 1 September 2011. [26642/11]

As stated in my reply to Parliamentary Question No 413 put down for answer yesterday 27 September 2011, the personnel strength of each Garda station in the Dublin Metropolitan Region on 28 February and 31 August 2011 was as set out in the following table:

28 February 2011

Division

C/SUPT

SUPT

INSP

SGT

GDA

Total

DMR South Central

Donnybrook

1

3

13

113

130

Irishtown

1

7

43

51

Kevin Street

1

6

13

138

158

Kilmainham

16

65

81

Harcourt Terrace

11

71

82

Pearse Street

1

2

7

31

220

261

DMR Southern

Crumlin

1

2

5

17

82

107

Sundrive

11

65

76

Rathmines

9

60

69

Terenure

1

6

16

82

105

Rathfarnham

8

67

75

Tallaght

1

5

19

174

199

DMR Northern

Balbriggan

1

3

6

59

69

Garristown

1

2

3

Lusk

1

6

7

Rush

1

4

5

Skerries

1

10

11

Ballymun

1

1

2

23

99

126

Dublin Airport

4

18

22

Santry

3

9

70

82

Whitehall

2

5

37

44

Coolock

1

5

13

100

119

Malahide

5

32

37

Swords

1

11

73

85

Clontarf

1

10

68

79

Howth

1

5

32

38

Raheny

1

3

8

63

75

DMR West

Blanchardstown

1

2

4

31

157

195

Cabra

8

62

70

Finglas

3

14

104

121

Ballyfermot

2

13

85

100

Clondalkin

1

3

13

83

100

Rathcoole

2

26

28

Lucan

1

3

9

67

80

Ronanstown

1

14

80

95

DMR North Central

Bridewell

1

7

31

136

175

Fitzgibbon Street

1

4

14

96

115

Mountjoy

11

89

100

Immigration D/Docks

1

7

8

Store Street

1

2

5

32

244

284

DMR Eastern

Blackrock

4

12

82

98

Dundrum

1

9

65

75

Stepaside

3

27

30

Cabinteely

1

5

33

39

Dalkey

2

29

31

Dún Laoghaire

1

2

3

19

83

108

Kill-O-Grange

2

27

29

Shankill

1

11

47

59

31 August 2011

Division

C/SUPT

SUPT

INSP

SGT

GDA

Total

DMR South Central

Donnybrook

1

3

13

113

130

Irishtown

1

7

42

50

Kevin Street

1

6

11

135

153

Kilmainham

16

60

76

Harcourt Terrace

11

69

80

Pearse Street

1

2

7

30

217

257

DMR Southern

Crumlin

1

2

5

17

79

104

Sundrive

11

63

74

Rathmines

7

59

66

Terenure

1

6

15

78

100

Rathfarnham

8

65

73

Tallaght

1

5

20

172

198

DMR Northern

Balbriggan

1

3

5

62

71

Garristown

1

2

3

Lusk

1

6

7

Rush

1

3

4

Skerries

1

9

10

Ballymun

1

1

2

18

94

116

Dublin Airport

6

20

26

Santry

3

10

70

83

Whitehall

2

7

38

47

Coolock

1

5

13

100

119

Malahide

4

32

36

Swords

1

10

70

81

Clontarf

1

10

66

77

Howth

6

34

40

Raheny

1

3

6

61

71

DMR West

Blanchardstown

1

2

4

27

160

194

Cabra

8

61

69

Finglas

3

16

101

120

Ballyfermot

2

12

83

97

Clondalkin

1

3

13

81

98

Rathcoole

2

26

28

Lucan

1

4

9

65

79

Ronanstown

1

15

82

98

DMR North Central

Bridewell

1

6

30

133

170

Fitzgibbon Street

1

4

14

95

114

Mountjoy

11

89

100

Immigration D/Docks

1

7

8

Store Street

1

2

6

32

240

281

DMR Eastern

Blackrock

1

4

11

78

94

Dundrum

1

9

64

74

Stepaside

3

27

30

Cabinteely

1

5

32

38

Dalkey

2

29

31

Dún Laoghaire

1

2

3

18

82

106

Kill-O-Grange

2

27

29

Shankill

1

9

50

60

Garda Stations

Brendan Smith

Question:

128 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will confirm that there will be no change to the status of Garda stations at Bawnboy, Dowra and Killeshandra in County Cavan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26652/11]

I can assure the Deputy and the House that it is a priority for this Government to maintain frontline services at the highest level possible.

I have been advised that the Commissioner is currently carrying out a review of the entire Garda organisation in the context of ensuring that the Force will be in a position to match the deployment of resources to its policing commitments as effectively as possible.

Clearly, an examination of the opening hours and in some cases the viability of Garda stations will form part of this. The issue of the closure of some Garda stations will be a question the Garda Commissioner will have to consider as part of this process. He may have to consider in appropriate cases whether a better policing service could be delivered to a local community by having Gardaí out on patrol instead of in a station.

I look forward to receiving the Commissioner's proposals, which will be aimed at maximising the efficiency of the Garda Síochána and prioritising the resources available to operational front-line policing services.

Departmental Staff

Anne Ferris

Question:

129 Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for Defence the number of promotions from age 63 years to retirement that were given to senior civil servants from higher executive officer grade to Secretary General grade over the past ten years; if he will provide a breakdown by year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26536/11]

There have been no promotions from age 63 years to retirement given to civil servants from Higher Executive Officer grade to Secretary General grade in the Department of Defence over the past 10 years.

Defence Forces Personnel

David Stanton

Question:

130 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Defence the number of medical doctors currently serving in the Defence Forces; the locations at which these doctors are posted; the number and location of any vacant medical doctor posts; if he intends to fill these posts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26622/11]

Based on the global medical requirement across the Defence Forces as a whole, there is a current requirement for approximately 32 doctors within the Defence Forces Medical Corps. There are currently sixteen doctors serving in the Permanent Defence Force and the table below shows the locations where these doctors are currently posted.

Number

Location

Director/Deputy Director, Medical Corps

2

St. Bricin’s Hospital

3

Eastern Brigade

1

Southern Brigade

3

Western Brigade

2

Defence Forces Training Centre

2

Naval Service

1

Overseas

1

Leave of Absence

1

Total

16

The recently completed Medical Services Review recommended a programme of major change in the structure of the Defence Forces Medical Corps. In the new structure, medical personnel within the Defence Forces will come under one central command, the Central Medical Unit, which will have responsibility for the management and delivery of medical services, including the allocation of doctors across the system on the basis of demand and operational requirements. This Central Medical Unit will mandate change across the service and deploy resources centrally, locally and overseas as required. This approach will better support delivery of all care requirements, as both demand and capacity can be pooled and managed centrally and be deployed and redeployed more flexibly across the system.

A competition for the appointment of doctors to the Medical Corps was advertised and applications are currently being processed in this regard. While the competition remains open and further applications will be accepted on an ongoing basis, it will take some time before we have achieved the current target of 32 doctors in the Defence Forces. Alternative arrangements to address the ongoing shortfall in medical officers are being developed by the Central Medical Unit.

Army Barracks

Brendan Smith

Question:

131 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Defence if he will confirm that Dún Úi Neill Barracks, Cavan town, will continue to play a pivotal and key role as a military installation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26650/11]

As of now, no decision has been made by the Government on the future of Cavan barracks or any other military installation. The issue of the closure of barracks no longer required for operational reasons to effect necessary savings will, however, be considered shortly by Government. Various commissions, reports and studies back to the 1990s identified barrack closures as a fundamental requirement towards improving military effectiveness and efficiency. Since 1998 a total of ten barracks have been closed under two barrack consolidation programmes. A total of €84.98 million has been realised from the disposal of six of these barracks and part of another. The moneys received from the sales of such properties have been reinvested in equipment and infrastructure for the Defence Forces.

I wish to ensure that all decisions made and resources utilised are focused on maximizing the capabilities of the Defence Forces and ensuring their continued operational excellence. I am also anxious to ensure, in so far as is possible, that the Government is not compelled by fiscal and budgetary constraints to effect any substantial reduction in the current number of personnel in the Defence Forces.

Harbours and Piers

Pearse Doherty

Question:

132 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he has received an application for works on a pier (details supplied) in County Donegal; if he will approve this application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26511/11]

The pier at Ranagh, Arranmore Island is owned by Donegal County Council and the responsibility for its repair and maintenance lies with the Local Authority in the first instance.

Earlier this year however, my Department invited coastal Local Authorities to submit applications in respect of priority harbour development projects for inclusion in its 2011 Fishery harbour and Coastal Infrastructure Development Programme. The application received from Donegal County Council did not include any request for funding in respect of Ranagh Pier. The 2011 programme has since been finalised and all offers of funding have been issued.

Any future applications will be given consideration subject to available exchequer funding and overall national priorities.

Milk Quota

Marcella Corcoran Kennedy

Question:

133 Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food further to Parliamentary Question No. 283 of 20 July 2011, if an application has been considered in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Offaly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26448/11]

Allocations of milk quota from the National Reserve are granted on the basis of recommendations from the Milk Quota Appeals Tribunal. The Tribunal examines and makes recommendations on applications for additional quota from individual producers.

The person named submitted an application to the Tribunal seeking an allocation of additional quota under the Hardship category. This application was examined on 14th September 2011. The Tribunal did not recommend an allocation of additional quota on this occasion. The person named has been notified of the outcome.

Afforestation Programme

Noel Harrington

Question:

134 Deputy Noel Harrington asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will assure those planting trees in the current planting season that there will be no reduction in their contracted payments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26462/11]

The Government is committed to ensuring the continuation of the afforestation programme at a rate that maximises the use of available financial resources. My Department, in the context of the Comprehensive Expenditure Review and the Budgetary process for 2012, is reviewing all financial commitments within my Department to identify priorities and possible savings. That process in ongoing and has not, as yet, been finalised.

Grant Payments

Dan Neville

Question:

135 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the position regarding single farm payment in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26493/11]

The 50% advance payment under the 2011 Single Payment Scheme is not scheduled to commence until 16 October. 2011.

Five Transfer of Entitlement applications were received prior to the closing date of 17 May 2011 requesting the transfer of entitlements from the first person named to five other farmers.

All transfers have now been processed. Payment in respect of the remaining entitlements held by the first person named will issue as of from 16 October 2011. An official from my Department has been in contact with the first person named outlining the position.

Departmental Staff

Anne Ferris

Question:

136 Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of promotions from age 63 years to retirement that were given to senior civil servants from higher executive officer grade to Secretary General grade over the past ten years; if he will provide a breakdown by year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26532/11]

There were no such promotions in my Department in the last ten years.

Anne Ferris

Question:

137 Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of promotions from age 63 years to retirement that were given to senior civil servants from higher executive officer grade to Secretary General grade over the past ten years; if he will provide a breakdown by year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26534/11]

My Department was established on 2 June 2011 and there have been no promotions made in the category mentioned in the question.

Health Services

Brendan Griffin

Question:

138 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Health his views on a matter (details provided); the steps he will take regarding this situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26454/11]

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

Hospital Services

Jack Wall

Question:

139 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health the position regarding a hospital appointment in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26455/11]

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

National Treatment Purchase Fund

Dan Neville

Question:

140 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health if he will ensure that the National Treatment Purchase Fund will review the allowable rate granted to a nursing home (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26465/11]

The legislation underpinning the Nursing Homes Support Scheme requires all private nursing homes and Voluntary Nursing Homes which previously received funding under Section 39 of the Health Act 2004 to negotiate and agree a price for the cost of care with the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) should they wish to participate in the scheme. This is a necessary feature of the scheme due to the commitment by the State to meet the full balance of the cost of care over and above a person's contribution.

The National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) has statutory responsibility for the negotiation of prices with private and voluntary nursing homes.

NTPF is independent in the performance of this function and, in carrying it out, it must ensure value for money for both the individual and the State.

cost of care in each nursing home is not determined by virtue of a nursing homes geographical location.

NTPF negotiates with each nursing home individually and may examine the records and accounts of nursing homes as part of the process. is method of negotiation is necessary in order to ensure that the State obtains the best value for each individual in a nursing home and to comply with competition law.

Finally, the Minister for Health issued an instruction to the NTPF in June to renegotiate with nursing homes with a view to achieving price decreases because the increases agreed over the last number of months are not sustainable.

Hospital Services

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

141 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health the names of the hospitals that currently have the operation of their car parking services contracted out; the names of the companies to which the car parks have been contracted out; the length of each contract; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26479/11]

I referred this matter to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Alcohol Marketing

Dara Calleary

Question:

142 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to the proposed research to measure young persons’ exposure to, and awareness of, alcohol marketing here, currently for tender by Alcohol Action Ireland; if he, the Health Service Executive or another State agency under his remit is the source of funding for this research; the cost to the taxpayer of this work, if any; if the Alcohol Marketing Communications Monitoring Body, under whose remit such research would fall, was considered to undertake this project; if not, the reasons for that decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26482/11]

The Health Service Executive provided €192,000 this year to Alcohol Action Ireland for the purposes of — among other things — to carry out research to measure young people's exposure to and awareness of alcohol marketing in Ireland. This research will — among other objectives — establish a population baseline measure of young people's exposure to and awareness of alcohol marketing; examine how alcohol is marketed in Ireland; and produce research capable of being repeated in order to gauge change. In effect, this is a field study of significant scope and amplitude. The total budget available for the project including VAT is €100,000 with the HSE funding 50% of the cost.

The proposal from the Alcohol Marketing Communications Monitoring Body encompasses commissioning a report — facilitated by the Institute of Advertising Practitioners in Ireland — from a media company that would be based on detailing by volume and by media, both all advertising and all alcohol advertising. The media to be covered are television, radio, cinema, print and outdoor; but in effect, it is research that is quantitative by nature.

The Alcohol Action Ireland study and any report proposed for commissioning by the Alcohol Marketing Communications Monitoring Body would not be mutually exclusive alternatives; but as the National Substance Misuse Strategy Steering Group is almost at the end of its deliberations and preparing its final report, the occasion for considering any such quantitative research by the Alcohol Marketing Communication Monitoring Body is best postponed until the future direction on alcohol policy is determined — which shall arise in the context of the Steering Group's recommendations and any related Government decision.

Health Services

Dara Calleary

Question:

143 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Health the amount of moneys outstanding to the Health Service Executive from private insurance companies; if he will list same on a region by region basis; if he will provide information on the age of this debt region by region; if he will provide information on the provision for non-payment region by region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26483/11]

The Government is very concerned about the level of uncollected patient charges in the health system. This is one of the key areas now being examined by the Department of Health in the context of the Comprehensive Spending Review.

The Value for Money Report published in December last year highlighted a number of problems, including outmoded administrative systems and delays in sign-off of claims forms by consultants. The Minister supports the HSE proposal to remove the need for consultant sign off on claims being sent to Private Health Insurance companies by public hospitals. The HSE is currently undertaking a range of actions to address these issues, including setting targets for each hospital for the collection of charges. In addition, electronic claims management is being rolled out in the ten largest acute hospitals.

The current processes for collecting private patient fees from private health insurers have resulted in an unacceptably high level of uncollected revenues. The HSE has requested that insurers accept being billed directly by hospitals for accommodation charges, independent of the need for a consultant to sign off on the overall claim. To date each of the three major insurers has refused to agree to this approach.

The tables set out the amounts owed to statutory and voluntary hospitals in relation to charges for private accommodation in public hospitals, including the amounts owed by private health insurance companies, as at 31st December 2010. HSE accounting policy for bad and doubtful debts is such that known bad debts are written off in the period in which they are identified, with specific provision being made for any amount which is considered doubtful. General provision is made for patient debts which are outstanding for more that one year. While provision is made for debts in excess of one year in the Annual Financial Statements of the HSE, it is the Executive's policy to continue to pursue collection of these outstanding debts.

Bad Debt provision in respect of voluntary hospitals is not centrally collated and is therefore unavailable at this time. I have requested the HSE to collate this information and I will forward it to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

Amounts owed for Private Charges to HSE Statutory Hospitals — December 2010

Area

Aging of Gross Debtor

< 1 year old

2 — 3 years old

> 3 years old

Total Gross Debt

Bad Debt Provision

Net Debt

Dublin Mid Leinster

5,738,360

829,494

259,526

6,827,380

1,228,809

5,598,571

Dublin North East

9,381,921

2,162,945

672,401

12,217,267

2,839,921

9,377,346

South

28,768,754

3,169,499

1,139,267

33,077,519

4,308,765

28,768,754

West

32,389,263

6,954,067

3,167,493

42,510,823

10,121,560

32,389,263

Total

76,278,298

13,116,005

5,238,687

94,632,989

18,499,055

76,133,934

Amounts owed for Private Charges to HSE Voluntary Hospitals — December 2010

Area

Aging of Gross Debtor

< 1 year old

2 — 3 years old

> 3 years old

Total Gross Debt

Dublin Mid Leinster

32,586,003

3,575,688

708,458

36,870,149

Dublin North East

17,842,528

4,605,942

1,347,285

23,795,755

South

9,003,769

921,867

136,268

10,061,904

West

1,570,505

436,938

24,348

2,031,791

Total

61,002,805

9,540,435

2,216,359

72,759,599

Medical Cards

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

144 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Health the progress that has been made in developing a centralised system for the processing of medical card applications; the average period of time now required to process an application; the percentage of applications which are fully complete on being received; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26489/11]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has centralised the processing of all new medical card applications and renewals at the Primary Care Reimbursement Service (PCRS) with effect from 1st July 2011.

The Executive has stated that completed medical card applications are processed within 15 working days. Delays occur where applications are submitted without the supporting documentation necessary to complete the processing of the application. Over 70% of applications received in the Central Office are complete.

Departmental Staff

Anne Ferris

Question:

145 Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for Health the number of promotions from age 63 years to retirement that were given to senior civil servants from higher executive officer grade to Secretary General grade over the past ten years; if he will provide a breakdown by year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26541/11]

Selection for appointment to posts in the Civil Service (both internal and external) is governed by the Codes of Practice set down by the Commission for Public Service Appointments. The Commission has a statutory role in ensuring that all appointments are made on merit and as result of fair and transparent processes.

Generally, the information on the age of a candidate is not part of the candidate information that is collected when promotion competitions take place in the Civil Service. However, there do not appear to have been any promotions of persons aged 63 and over during the relevant period.

Health Services

Regina Doherty

Question:

146 Deputy Regina Doherty asked the Minister for Health the reason for the delay in services in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Meath. [26549/11]

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.

Medical Cards

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

147 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health the position regarding a medical card application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Donegal. [26557/11]

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

Hospital Waiting Lists

John McGuinness

Question:

148 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health further to Parliamentary Question No. 146 of 21 April 2011, and a separate reply from the Health Service Executive of 15 April 2011, if he will confirm the details or status of the special delivery unit; if the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny could be dealt with through the unit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26579/11]

The Government is committed to addressing the unacceptable waiting times for treatment in our health service. In this context, I established the Special Delivery Unit (SDU), under the leadership of Dr Martin Connor. The SDU is working to unblock access to acute services by dramatically improving the flow of patients through the system. Public hospitals have been instructed to ensure that, by the end of 2011, they have no patients waiting more than 12 months for treatment. Where they fail to do so, the NTPF will source the necessary treatments elsewhere and the hospitals' budgets will be reduced accordingly. The NTPF will purchase treatments wherever it gets the best value, in either the public or the private sector.

The situation in relation to these longest waiters will be closely monitored and I expect the hospitals concerned to treat those waiting over 12 months as a matter of urgency.

Hospital Services

John McGuinness

Question:

149 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health if an MRI scan will be arranged as a matter of urgency in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow. [26580/11]

The scheduling of patients for hospital treatment is a matter for the consultant concerned in each case and is determined on the basis of clinical need. Should the patient's general practitioner consider that the patient's condition warrants an earlier appointment, he/she would be in the best position to take the matter up with the consultant involved. As this is a service matter it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

John McGuinness

Question:

150 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health the reason an operation was cancelled in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny. [26581/11]

The scheduling of patients for hospital treatment is a matter for the consultant concerned in each case and is determined on the basis of clinical need. Should the patient's general practitioner consider that the patient's condition warrants an earlier appointment, he/she would be in the best position to take the matter up with the consultant involved. As this is a service matter it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

National Lottery Funding

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

151 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health if and when funding under the national lottery funding scheme will be awarded in the case of an association (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26623/11]

My Department has received an application for funding from the 2011 National Lottery allocation from the organisation in question. This is one of a large number currently being assessed by my Department, and the Deputy will be informed of the outcome of the application as soon as a decision has been made.

Hospital Staff

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

152 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health the extent to which future requirements in terms of junior hospital doctors are planned for on an annual basis; the methodology employed in such planning; the extent to which advanced planning has been undertaken in each of the past seven years to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26624/11]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

153 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health the number of doctors who have qualified on an annual basis in each of the past seven years to date in 2011; the degree to which they have been available to meet requirements at hospital and community levels; the numbers in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26625/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 152 and 153 together.

The Medical Practitioners Act 2007 requires the HSE to develop an active and strategic role in determining the appropriate utilisation of non-consultant hospital doctor posts in terms of training and service requirements. The Act also creates a mechanism whereby strategic planning is undertaken at a national level and in collaboration with the Medical Council and recognised postgraduate training bodies.

Under the Act the HSE must undertake appropriate workforce planning in order to meet the medical specialist staffing and training needs of the health service on an ongoing basis. This includes assessing on an annual basis the number of intern training posts and the number and type of specialist medical training posts required by the health service. It is then a matter for the Medical Council, having regard to the HSE's proposals, to specify the number of posts it approves for the purposes of intern training and for specialist medical training. The HSE is currently in the process of finalising its assessment of intern and specialist training posts for 2011/2012. Its 2010/2011 assessment is available at www.hse.ie.

An Integrated Workforce Planning Strategy for the Health Services 2009-2012 was published in November 2009 by my Department and the HSE. The Strategy was designed and developed to ensure integration of workforce planning activity with the broader objectives of financial and service planning in the Irish health and social care system. The Strategy emphasises the use of skill mix, matching education and training to service needs and demand for professional and general population demographics. It also provides health service planners with the tools to assess other sources of supply through redeployment, retraining or changed skill mix.

Graduates from Medical Schools in Ireland must successfully complete 12 months clinical training in order to practise medicine. Approximately 500 doctors complete their internship each year. However, it should be noted that information available to the HSE indicates that approximately 45% of those who completed their internship in 2011 are no longer working in the Irish health service.

I have asked the Higher Education Authority to provide data on the number of Medical School graduates for each of the last seven years. This information will be provided to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Question No. 154 answered with Question No. 15.

Care of the Elderly

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

155 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health the provision currently being made or likely to be made in the future to meet the care needs of older persons in view of the emerging age profile; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26627/11]

As Minister with responsibility for older people, it is my job to bring greater coherence to government planning, policy, and service delivery for older people. In this context, I will ensure that the Department of Health, the Health Service Executive, and all other relevant agencies, whether in the statutory or non-statutory sectors, develop and implement the policies and services set out in the current Programme for Government, Government for National Recovery, 2011-2016. This includes completion of the National Positive Ageing Strategy which will set out the strategic direction for future policies and services by relevant Government Departments and agencies.

The Programme for Government reflects the need for reform across our health and personal social services overall, including addressing the challenges and opportunities presented by changing demographics and care needs of older people in future years. This reform will have to take account, for example, of a projected significant increase in the population, in the coming decades, of those aged 65 and over. There are currently, in Ireland, in the region of 500,000 people in this age category. This equates to approximately 11% of the population. The number of older people is expected to rise to around 775,000 by 2021, and to 1.4 million by 2041. This increase in population will, inevitably, result in increased demands for health and social care, which will require proper planning, vision, and resources in the future to support our older people.

Nursing Homes Support Scheme

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

156 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health the extent to which applicants under the fair deal scheme have been approved or are on a waiting list; the number of applications approved to date; the number still pending if any; when he expects the need to be met in full; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26628/11]

By end-July 2011, approximately 23,800 applications for the Nursing Homes Support Scheme had been received since the scheme commenced in October 2009. Of these, over 18,700 had been processed, almost 1,800 had been withdrawn and there were approximately 3,250 applications in progress.

The processing of approvals for financial support under the Nursing Homes Support Scheme was suspended for a month from May to June while an examination of funding was being carried out. However, the HSE has been issuing funding approvals again since the 13th June. Approximately 2,600 people have been allocated funding since that date. The HSE is continuing to process applications within the funding limits available to the scheme and in accordance with the legislation. There are approximately 500 people awaiting funding approval at present.

By the end of the year, the HSE intends that any delays in awarding funding will be eliminated. The situation will be closely monitored to ensure that funding is allocated as soon as it becomes available. It is anticipated that any delays will be resolved in the final quarter of 2011.

Medical Cards

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

157 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health the average length of time taken to process medical card applications; the reason for the delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26629/11]

The Health Service Executive has centralised the processing of all new medical card applications and renewals at the Primary Care Reimbursement Services (PCRS) in Finglas, Dublin with effect from 1st July 2011.

The Executive has stated that completed medical card applications are processed within 15 working days. Delays occur where applications are submitted without the supporting documentation necessary to complete the processing of the application.

Hospital Services

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

158 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health the full extent of the facilities currently available for combined heart and lung transplants as promised 15 years ago; the extent to which the facilities have evolved in the intervening period; the location or locations at which the facilities are available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26630/11]

Heart and lung transplantation programmes are based in the Mater Hospital Dublin. Ireland also has a formal agreement with the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle for transplantation procedures.

In 1985 the first heart transplant procedure was undertaken in the State. Since then to late 2010 two hundred and seventy nine heart transplants have been performed.

The lung transplantation programme commenced in 2005 and to date thirty seven lung transplants have been performed in the Mater with outcomes exceeding the international average. It is anticipated that the volumes of lung transplants will reach 15-20 cases per year following the recent appointment of a surgeon with expertise in lung transplantation. This projected increase in numbers will reduce the need for patients to travel abroad for this service resulting in considerable cost efficiencies.

The National Office for Organ Donation and Transplantation was set up earlier this year. The Office will endeavour to enhance organ donation in Ireland and underpin the quality of outcomes for patients following organ donation in line with Directive 2010/53/EU on Organ Donation and Transplantation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

159 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health the number of patients referred outside this jurisdiction for various procedures in each of the past six years to date in 2011; the reasons for such referral with particular reference to the availability of and quality of any such services here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26631/11]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) operates a Treatment Abroad Scheme (TAS), for persons entitled to treatment in another EU/EEA member state or Switzerland under EU Regulations and in accordance with my Department's Guidelines. The TAS provides for the cost of approved treatment in another EU/EEA member state or Switzerland through the issue of form E112 (IE). Under EU Regulations, an E112 form is issued to cover the cost of lawfully permitted treatment/examination that is not available to an "ordinary resident" person within their resident member state.

To date, the TAS scheme has operated from regional HSE offices across the country so national figures for the number of patients referred abroad for the last 6 years are not readily available. I have requested the HSE to collate these figures and I will forward them to the Deputy when they come to hand. From January 2012, the HSE will operate the TAS in a central facility and figures will be maintained on a national basis.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

160 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health the extent to which paediatric services are adequate to meet current or anticipated requirements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26632/11]

The provision of paediatric services in Ireland and health outcomes for children are broadly in line with other EU countries. Child mortality rates in the under one year old and under five years old categories are similar to those in other EU states. The national childhood immunisation rate of 90% compares well with other developed countries.

However it is clear that there are issues which need to be addressed in relation to ensuring better outcomes for young patients. Specific areas of importance at present in terms of service pressures are adolescent Scoliosis, Urology, Endocrinology, transition to Adult Inherited Metabolic Disorders services and Child Protection.

In developing improved and additional services the HSE has been working to identify areas of specific and projected need in paediatrics nationally to ensure best in class care in Paediatric Services into the future and have provided additional funding to support this. Areas such as Paediatric Critical Care, Immunology, a Retrieval Service, Neurosurgery, Rheumatology, Spina Bifida and Newborn Screening have come in for focused attention and investment. Challenges remain to implement some of these development posts given the employment moratorium however the hospital network and the Regional Director are working to progress the appointments.

The HSE is currently working on developing a national model of care and clinical programme in paediatrics. The aim of the model of care and clinical programme will be to ensure that children receive the most appropriate treatment in the most appropriate location as close to their homes as possible with only the most complex cases being referred to the national centres. Dr Alf Nicholson has been appointed as national lead for the development of the new clinical programme in paediatrics and Dr John Murphy has been appointed national clinical lead in neonatology. The proposed new children's hospital will be at the centre of the national model of care and will provide an outreach programme to the regional centres.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

161 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health the extent to which orthopaedic services are equally available and accessible throughout the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26633/11]

My Department has asked the HSE to provide the detailed information sought by the Deputy and I will be in further communication when it is to hand.

Question No. 162 answered with Question No. 15.

Health Services

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

163 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health the extent to which information is available relating to the standard, quality and availability of care for all persons in various hospitals and institutions, public and private, throughout the country; the person or persons responsible for the control of such information in all institutions under his aegis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26635/11]

The setting and monitoring of standards by the Health Information and Quality Authority relating to public health services other than mental health are provided for in the Health Act 2007. The rules providing for the registration of healthcare professionals in the public and private sectors are provided for in several other pieces of legislation. However, I am informed that in this question the Deputy is particularly referring to psychiatric services.

The Mental Health Act 2001 provides a modern framework within which people who have a mental disorder and require treatment or protection can be cared for and treated. It puts in place mechanisms by which the standards, care and treatment in mental health services can be monitored, inspected and regulated. The Act provided for the establishment of the Mental Health Commission as an independent statutory body to promote, encourage and foster the establishment and maintenance of high standards and good practice in the delivery of mental health services and to protect the interests of people detained under the 2001 Act. It also provided for the establishment of the Office of the Inspector of Mental Health Services.

Under Section 51 of the Act, the Inspector of Mental Health Services must visit and inspect every approved centre at least once in each year and may visit and inspect any other premises where mental health services are provided. There are currently sixty-six approved centres, public and private.

Each year the Inspector carries out a review of mental health services and furnishes a report in writing to the Commission on (i) the quality of care and treatment given to persons in receipt of mental health services, (ii) what he/she has ascertained pursuant to any inspections carried out by him/her of approved centres or other premises where mental health services are being provided, (iii) the degree and extent of compliance by approved centres with any code of practice prepared by the Commission under section 33(3)(e) of the Mental Health Act 2001, and (iv) such other matters as he/she considers appropriate to report on arising from his or her review. The Inspector's Report is published as part of the Mental Health Commission Annual Report and copies are laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas.

Question No. 164 answered with Question No. 15.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

165 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health the extent to which the full extent of orthodontic needs as determined through school medical examinations or otherwise is being met in part or in full on an annual basis throughout the country; the degree to which patients are categorised; the changes if any that have taken place in respect of such categorisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26637/11]

In 2010, 17,249 patients were in active treatment in the HSE Orthodontic Service. A further 9,304 were in inactive treatment, i.e. in observation or in retainers.

Patients are referred by the HSE's dental service school screening programme to the Orthodontic Service. They are then assessed under the modified Index of Treatment Need (IOTN). The IOTN was introduced on foot of a recommendation in the HSE Orthodontic Review Group Report (2006). Patients with the greatest level of need, i.e. Grade 5 or Grade 4 are provided with treatment by the HSE Orthodontic Service.

Question No. 166 answered with Question No. 16.

Hospital Staff

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

167 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health the total requirement in respect of hospital staff at all levels over the next five years; the extent to which current or anticipated deficiencies have been identified and or resolved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26639/11]

Workforce planning analysis is complex as Ireland is part of the international market for skilled health professions. In addition workforce planning must now be undertaken in the context of the current economic realities and the Employment Control Framework for the health services. In 2009 my Department and the HSE published ‘An Integrated Workforce Planning Strategy for the Health Services, 2009-2012’. Integrated workforce planning was identified as one of the key supports for public service reform by the OECD and is one of the matters to be progressed as part of reforming the public sector under the Transforming Public Service programme. The strategy is designed to ensure integration of workforce planning activity with the broader objectives of financial and service planning in the Irish health and social care system. A copy of the strategy is available at www.dohc.ie/publications The Strategy followed the publication in June 2009 of the report by the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs and FÁS — A Quantitative Tool for Workforce Planning in Healthcare. The report contained workforce planning analysis for selected healthcare occupations and provided a valuable evidence base for workforce planning decisions resulting from policy and demographic changes. The forecasting was undertaken for the period of 2008-2020. A copy of the report is available at www.fas.ie

The HSE will continue to monitor the staffing needs in our hospitals and to fill vacancies while complying with the Employment Control Framework, which is designed to maintain tight control of the cost of providing public services while protecting front-line services as far as possible. The Framework also allows the HSE discretion to fill non-exempted posts on exceptional grounds in order to maintain essential services and to meet priority service change and reconfiguration requirements.

It is not possible to give a precise indication of the requirements in respect of all hospital staff over the next 5 years, in view of the planned reform programme and commitments in the Programme for Government, which will have major implications for our hospitals.

Health Services

Joan Collins

Question:

168 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the Health Service Executive west intends to close a nursing home (detail supplied) in County Galway as a residential facility notwithstanding the unanimous motions adopted by both Galway City Council and the Regional Health Forum West to keep it open; if his further attention has been drawn to the fact that more than 13,000 persons have signed a petition calling on him and the HSE to keep this home open, that the Health Information and Quality Authority confirmed among other findings that HIQA inspectors were satisfied that residents’ nursing, medical and other health care needs were met and that the primary difficulty was lack of sufficient staff as well as the absence of sufficient ensuite facilities, that the refurbishment costs are estimated at €200,000, that the most recent report to the health forum from University Hospital Galway indicates that 33 acute beds in UHG are currently occupied by vulnerable elderly patients who should be in nursing homes; if he will confirm that he will inquire into the situation as a matter of urgency and further confirm that the HSE west will not close the facility in view of the urgent need for nursing home beds in Galway. [26658/11]

The Deputy's question refers to a public nursing home in Galway. In 2010, the Health Service Executive completed a review of the future viability of the facility as a long stay residential unit. The review recognised that significant refurbishment and a new design of the facility was required. This included extra showering and toilet facilities, single rooms, family room and storage to meet current standards. Aside from the cost, the HSE considered that the changes would also have resulted in a very significant reduction in bed numbers at the facility. Following the review the HSE decided to discontinue providing residential services at the unit.

On 14th September 2010 the HSE stopped taking in new referrals and it announced the intention to develop an enhanced day care service for older people in the current building once the residential service element came to an end. At the time there were 28 residents in the facility, now there are 19 residents. The HSE's intention is that a day care service, operated over an extended six days per week, would be very valuable in the context of maintaining older people in their own homes for as long as possible. The Executive is currently developing the detail of this plan with the staff in the unit and their representatives.

The Executive anticipate that residential services will come to an end at the facility by the middle of 2012 and has advised the Health Information and Quality Authority accordingly. The HSE is committed to a detailed communication process with the residents, their families and staff.

The Deputy will appreciate that all developments have to be addressed in the light of the current economic and budgetary pressures and any decisions taken by the Executive must have regard to this and the current moratorium on the recruitment of nursing and non-nursing staff. Each HSE area, including the Local Health Office in Galway has been asked to make a rigorous examination of how existing funding might be re-allocated to ensure maximum service provision. In particular we need to ensure that the highest standard of care will continue to be provided to all residents in a safe and secure environment.

The Department is currently considering the future of HSE Provision of Residential Care for Older People. This review will consider the position of all HSE residential facilities for Older People in terms of meeting the National Standards and Regulations. It will also consider local demographic pressures and the extent of existing public and private provision, with a view to developing an overall strategy on how the Executive should continue to provide this service in view of current budgetary and other pressures. I should make it clear, however, that, providing quality and safe care for our long stay residents will have to remain at the heart of these considerations.

Ciara Conway

Question:

169 Deputy Ciara Conway asked the Minister for Health the progress being made on waiting lists for counselling for survivors of child sexual abuse in view of the fact that in Waterford, families are being faced with a wait of at least one year for such services; if resources will be prioritised to tackle this backlog; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26661/11]

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

Tax Code

Paschal Donohoe

Question:

170 Deputy Paschal Donohoe asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the benefits to the employment register here as a direct result of the tonnage tax relief for shipping companies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26516/11]

The European Commission approved the Irish Tonnage tax regime in December 2002. The regime was introduced by the Irish Government as a direct measure that was designed to halt the decline in the Irish shipping industry and prevent the migration of the shipping industry to alternative jurisdictions. The Irish Tonnage Tax is part of the Irish Corporation Tax rules. A qualifying company may choose to be taxed on its trading income under normal corporation tax rules or choose to elect to Irish tonnage tax for a period of 10 years and incur tax on its tonnage consistent with rates in other EU regimes.

The introduction of the Irish Tonnage Tax regime has had a positive impact on employment, investment and the sustainable development of the Irish Shipowning and shipping services sector. As of December 2010 there were 45 qualifying companies operating in the Irish tonnage tax regime, an increase of 16 over 2009 . There were 346 individuals employed in shore based positions with Irish tonnage tax companies. This represents an increase of 10% over 2009 in direct employment.

The 10% increase in employment does not take into account the additional indirect jobs created or supported by this activity in other segments of the Irish shipping cluster such as maritime law, accounting, ship broking and finance sectors. My Department does not have figures for these.

In addition, the majority of the companies availing of the Tonnage tax regime have displayed a strong commitment to the training and support of Irish cadet training programs at the National Maritime College of Ireland. The current 10 year period of Irish tonnage tax is due to expire in December 2012 and my Department will be seeking an extension of the scheme.

Road Network

Joan Collins

Question:

171 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the average cost per sq. m incurred by each local authority outside of Dublin of road resurfacing for regional roads in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26525/11]

Joan Collins

Question:

172 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the average cost per sq. m incurred by each local authority outside of Dublin of road resurfacing for local roads in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26526/11]

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

The average resurfacing costs for regional and local roads under the Restoration Maintenance Programme in 2010 for each County Council outside of Dublin is outlined in the table:

Regional Roads

Local roads

2010

2010

County Council

SD €/sq m

SD €/sq m

Carlow

€5.15

€4.63

Cavan

€3.83

€2.72

Clare

€3.78

€4.02

Cork

€4.93

€4.16

Donegal

€6.63

€5.28

Galway

€6.43

€5.43

Kerry

€8.55

€9.11

Kildare*

Kerry

€4.44

€3.43

Laois

€5.59

€4.98

Leitrim

€4.76

€4.64

Limerick

€3.88

€3.53

Longford

€6.87

€4.17

Louth

€4.38

€3.38

Mayo

€5.26

€3.72

Meath

€5.17

€5.64

Monaghan

€4.16

€3.55

North Tipperary

€4.27

€3.92

Offaly

€4.92

€3.89

Roscommon

€5.09

€4.56

Sligo

€10.87

€11.53

South Tipperary

€7.06

€9.06

Waterford

€4.42

€4.42

Westmeath

€6.92

€4.41

Wexford

€4.00

€3.52

Wicklow

€4.58

€4.18

*No information available

There are a number of reasons why the cost of surface dressing work can vary from county to county including, the condition of the road pavement, traffic levels, traffic management requirements and the additional works associated with urban areas. In general, rural roads that are amenable to surface dressing work predominate in the areas outside Dublin but these counties still have some roads that pass through urban areas and which require a more expensive surface treatment.

Departmental Staff

Anne Ferris

Question:

173 Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the number of promotions from age 63 years to retirement that were given to senior civil servants from higher executive officer grade to Secretary General grade over the past ten years; if he will provide a breakdown by year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26546/11]

Since the formation of my Department on 9th March 2011 there have been no promotions in the category referenced by the Deputy.

Rail Services

Timmy Dooley

Question:

174 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the position, including timeframe, regarding his plans for the electrification of the Maynooth train service to supply DART services on the route. [26644/11]

I refer the Deputy to my answer to an identical question — Question No. 597 — on 27 September 2011.

Taxi Regulations

John Lyons

Question:

175 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if his attention has been drawn to public concern about standards in the taxi industry in relation to both drivers’ knowledge of the local area and quality of cars; and in view of the implications for passenger safety and comfort, the steps he will take to address this matter. [26651/11]

The regulation of the taxi industry, including matters related to both drivers' knowledge of the local area and quality of vehicles, is a matter for the National Transport Authority (NTA) under the Taxi Regulation Act 2003.

The NTA is committed to introducing a comprehensive Skills Development Programme in line with international best practice and, to this end, made it compulsory for new applicants to the industry to undertake that Programme and pass the SPSV entry test and to have received an SPSV Skills Development Certificate.

The Authority is also currently reviewing the small public service vehicle standards and has engaged in a public consultation on proposed measures this year with a view to improving the quality of service, comfort and safety of all passengers and drivers. I should add that the review of the taxi sector announced by me on the 8th June last will consider the promotion of good standards relating to drivers operating in the sector and appropriate vehicle standards, as part of the wide ranging issues to be addressed in the review. It is my firm intention that the work of the review group will deal with the issues and concerns the Deputy has outlined which are, unfortunately, a feature of the taxi sector in Ireland currently.

Departmental Agencies

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

176 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if the salary in the new contract for the CEO of Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company, due to be signed in March 2012, will be set at a maximum of €110,569 in line with the new salary range for newly appointed chief executive officers of commercial State sponsored bodies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26660/11]

The Government decided in June this year to impose new pay ceilings for CEOs of State agencies. These salary arrangements will apply to new CEOs appointed from that date. The Government decision will also apply to incumbents whose contracts are extended beyond the maximum period of their existing contract.

The Government recognises that in a small number of cases exceptions may be necessary where a role is of substantial importance and the appointee brings exceptional or scarce expertise and/or qualifications to that role. No consideration has been given to such in the case of Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company.