Written Answers

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies as received on the day from the Departments [unrevised].
Questions Nos. 1 to 10, inclusive, answered orally.

Hospital Waiting Lists

John McGuinness

Question:

11 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health the reason the Health Service Executive no longer collects data on waiting times for outpatient waiting lists; his plans to change the criteria; the way the new criteria will work and to differentiate between the previous and new criteria being used; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8380/12]

The Special Delivery Unit was established in my Department last July to tackle patient wait times for hospital services. Unacceptably high wait times have been tolerated for too long and have become systemic for both unscheduled and scheduled care. The problems have to be tackled step by step so that improvements can be sustained.

The SDU immediately began work with the HSE and the NTPF on the problem of trolley waits and long waits for inpatient care. Last July I introduced a 12 month limit beyond which no hospital could keep a patient waiting for inpatient or day case treatment.

There is no room for complacency but progress is being made. Since December the number of patients waiting on trolleys has been consistently lower than the same period last year and 94% of hospitals met the 12 month target for scheduled care. As a result some patients have had a better quality of service than would otherwise have been the case.

I believe I have also demonstrated through this initiative that, even in the challenging times we face, it is possible to exert control over the system and deliver improvements. This has been achieved by the SDU, the NTPF and the HSE working together to rigorously manage performance.

Up to now the number of patients waiting for OPD appointment has not been consistently and reliably quantified by all hospitals. The data have simply not been sufficiently accurate to be meaningful at a national level. The SDU has now begun to work with the HSE building a new approach to compiling and validating outpatient lists.

The priority for the first quarter of 2012 is for hospitals to support an SDU/NTPF project to establish weekly monitoring of outpatient waiting list numbers. The first task is to collate, analyse and validate the number of outpatient referrals in the system. This work has been well advanced by the HSE during 2011. Once it has been finalised and considered it will enable the SDU to make recommendations to me in respect of an outpatient wait time target in 2012. In principle I will be adopting the same criteria of strict chronological management of the waiting list which is now in place for in-patient treatment.

Hospital Staff

Billy Kelleher

Question:

12 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health if he will outline the number of consultants who are not complying with the 80:20 public-private mix as outlined in their contracts; and the actions that have been taken to reprimand such actions [8384/12]

A core policy objective of the Government's health reform programme is to ensure equal access to health care based on need, not income, through a single-tier health service supported by universal health insurance. Ensuring compliance with the contractual limits on private practice will increase the availability of consultants to treat public patients and help ensure that access to services in each hospital is determined solely by clinical priority.

Consultant Contract 2008 limits private practice for newly-appointed consultants on a Type B or C contract to 20% of activity. The upper limit for consultants who held a contract prior to 2008 is 30%. The HSE has put in place arrangements to measure consultants' private practice and to pursue issues of compliance where necessary. The Contract provides for a series of steps to be taken where a consultant exceeds the level of private practice permitted in his or her contract.

In the light of the information emerging from the measurement of public/private practice activity, the HSE has engaged with the medical unions and individual consultants to pursue the issue of compliance, with a particular focus on consultants who are significantly in breach of their permitted ratio. There has been a significant improvement in the level of compliance with the private practice rules.

In 2011 employers undertook a detailed engagement with 32 consultants whose private practice accounted for 50% or more of their activity. In these cases the matters were resolved. In addition, the HSE suspended the private practice rights of two consultants who did not reduce their private ratio to an acceptable level. In line with the terms of the contract, one of these consultants has remitted the excess private fee income into a research and study fund in the hospital concerned. The HSE is now moving to address a further group of consultants, those identified as engaging in excess of 40% private practice.

I have asked the HSE to furnish the information sought by the Deputy in relation to the number of consultants whose level of private practice exceeds that permitted by their contract and I will provide this to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Health Service Plan

Pearse Doherty

Question:

13 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Health in view of the fact that the Health Service Executive National Service Plan 2012 stated that the plan will have to be reviewed once the full impact of staff leaving is known, if he will give details of the format and timeframe for the review and if health service users have an opportunity to participate in the review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8324/12]

The most recent information available to me indicates that about 4,200 individuals will have left the health service between September 2011 and the end of this month. The corresponding wholetime equivalent figure is about 3,700. These figures are subject to change because, for example, of the time lags involved in collating data at national level. However, management at local and regional level have full details of the staff who have already left or will leave by 29 February. I should point out that over 2,000 individuals had already left by the end of January.

Planning for the impact of the end of the "grace period" began last autumn and a formal transition team for the health service is in place, chaired by an Assistant Secretary from my Department, comprising key HSE national and regional directors. Contingency plans have been developed locally for hospital and community services, reflecting risk assessments undertaken by each hospital/community manager. These have been reviewed at regional and national levels to ensure appropriate contingency measures are in place across all services.

I am satisfied that suitable arrangements are in place at national, regional and service specific levels to proactively manage the impact of staff exits on front line services. The focus is on protecting and maintaining critical front line services such as Emergency Department, maternity, critical care and neonatal services.

The recently approved HSE National Service Plan 2012 acknowledged that there will be an inevitable and unavoidable reduction in services this year because of the scale of the financial and staffing challenge facing the health service. Obviously, I would prefer to have more funding available for our health services but the reality is that this is not possible right now. I believe there is, therefore, a particular onus on all of us working in the health services to be as innovative and flexible as possible in order to mitigate the impact on services of reduced budgets and staffing.

The mitigation measures which are in place include the backfilling of certain critical posts. However, the main focus is on reform and achieving greater productivity. The National Clinical Programmes are already delivering improvements in day of surgery admission rates, increases in the proportion of care that can be delivered on a day case basis and other productivity improvements designed to provide a better quality service to patients at less cost. I very much welcome the clinical leadership that is being provided in this regard. I also want to acknowledge and welcome the improvements in productivity that are being delivered by staff at local level through the Croke Park agreement in relation, for example, to staff redeployment, streamlining of management structures including clinical management roles, changes in skill mix and more cost effective rosters.

The National Service Plan has already been published and the regional service plans are in the process of being finalised and published. However, the need for dynamic and proactive management of the impact of reduced budgets and staff and continuous review of the service plan targets will remain and will continue beyond 29 February.

Services for People with Disabilities

Dessie Ellis

Question:

14 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Health if he has quantified the level of reduction in day services, residential and respite services as a result of cuts to the budget for disability; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8333/12]

Dessie Ellis

Question:

48 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Health if he and the Health Service Executive have carried out an assessment of the likely impact on disabled persons of the cuts to spending on disability services in the HSE national service plan 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8332/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 14 and 48 together.

The recently approved HSE National Service Plan 2012 outlines, as required in legislation, the type and volume of services to be provided this year in return for the resources made available by the Oireachtas. The Plan acknowledges that there will be an inevitable and unavoidable reduction in services this year because of the scale of the financial and staffing challenge facing the health service. However, it also outlines the various actions that will be taken to mitigate as far as possible the impact which the budget and staff cuts would otherwise have on services. In particular, the Plan avoids crude across the board cuts in budgets and makes it clear that reductions in budgets should not lead to a corresponding reduction in services. Instead, we need to accelerate the Government's health reform programme and prioritise our services in a way that supports those in greatest need.

In the case of disability services, the Plan provides for a 3.7% reduction in budgets but makes it clear that there is scope for achieving efficiencies of 2% or more through measures such as consolidation and rationalisation of back office costs. All providers will be expected to achieve some efficiency savings but the level of savings required will vary depending on the profile of the service provider, efficiency savings achieved to date and the scope for further savings. The HSE will work closely with the Department in finalising the allocations. Some reductions in day services, residential and respite services will be unavoidable even with such efficiencies. The aim will be to tailor such reductions to minimise the impact on service users and families as much as possible.

Hospital Accommodation

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

15 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health the number of acute public inpatient hospital beds closed; the number of wards closed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8337/12]

The Business Intelligence Unit (BIU) of the HSE produces a weekly report on bed closures. I am circulating the most recent bed closure report published on 5 February 2012.

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 Special Delivery Unit, 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.

In the current economic climate the acute sector must reduce its costs in order to deliver the agreed level of activity within the resources available to it. The emphasis in 2012 will continue to be to make the most effective use of acute bed capacity through shorter lengths of stay, increased rates of day-of-surgery admission and more day surgery. In this way the acute hospital system can ensure that, within the level of resources available, it provides safe, effective and efficient care to the maximum number of patients with .

Throughout 2012 hospitals will open and close beds on various wards in order to deliver the planned level of activity. These beds may be closed for a number of reasons, including cost containment, infection control and refurbishment. It is not possible at this time to determine what beds in which wards will be closed and what length of time they will be closed for. The decision to open and close beds is made at hospital management level and approved by the Regional Director of Operations.

The Deputy can contact the BIU atpmu@hse.ie and request a copy at any time.

Ministerial Responsibilities

Catherine Murphy

Question:

16 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Health if the new institutional arrangements planned for the Health Service Executive will return direct responsibility to him and his Department; if so, the changes that have to be made; the legislation that will be required; the timeframe in which this will happen; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8294/12]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

281 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health when he expects the policy making structure in the health services to reside in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8719/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 16 and 281 together.

I secured Government approval last December for the preparation of legislation which would abolish the Board of the HSE and replace it with a new governance structure. The proposed legislation will strengthen the accountability of the HSE to me as Minister. It will also ensure that the governance structure has a clear service focus, with other corporate functions supporting the service delivery functions. Work on preparing the draft Heads of a Bill is well advanced and I hope to bring a further Memorandum to Government in the next few weeks.

I have previously made it clear that responsibility for health service policy development and review rests with me as Minister for Health. The primary responsibility of the HSE is to deliver health and personal social services in accordance with Ministerial policies.

I also announced last December that in tandem with the proposed new legal structures, new administrative structures will be put in place within the HSE which will reflect the need for a greater operational management focus on the delivery of key services, and greater transparency about funding, service delivery and accountability. This will involve appointing a number of directors at national level in charge of public health, primary care, hospital care, social care, mental health, and children and family services. My Department is working with the HSE to give effect to the new structures, including the selection and appointment of the new directors.

More recently, I announced the relocation of the National Clinical Care Programmes to my Department and the establishment of a Programme Management Office in the Department to drive implementation of the health reform agenda.

These and other arrangements represent important steps in the process of delivering the reform agenda contained in the Programme for Government which, in turn, is designed to improve the health system's ability to achieve its core purpose of improving the health and well-being of people in Ireland.

Hospital Waiting Lists

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

17 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health if he will report on all current initiatives to address waiting times and overcrowding in Beaumont Hospital accident and emergency unit, Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8293/12]

In July of last year I announced the establishment of the Special Delivery Unit. The development of the Unit is a key part of my plans to radically reform the health system in Ireland. Last year I identified two key priorities for the SDU, namely addressing trolley waiting times and reducing the maximum waiting time for elective surgery. I am happy to say that the SDU has delivered notable improvements on both objectives.

The next area of work in the area of Unscheduled Care will include a new focus on monitoring the total patient journey time, including any time spent on trolleys, as part of the new national score card for measuring performance. New target times to be introduced this year will ensure that 95% of all attendees at Emergency Departments are discharged or admitted within 6 hours of registration, and that those who need to be admitted through ED wait no more than 9 hours from registration. Beaumont Hospital will be expected to comply with these targets.

Scheduled Care Targets to be introduced in 2012 will reduce the maximum waiting time for elective surgery to 9 months or less. The target will be 20 weeks or less for elective paediatric procedures and 13 weeks for Endoscopy procedures.

A specific SDU liaison process has also been put in place for all hospitals with varying degrees of intensity commensurate with the issues on the ground in each location.

The organisation of hospital services nationally, regionally and locally will be informed by the Clinical Programmes, which have been developed and implemented by the HSE, and by the work on the Framework for the Development of Smaller Hospitals which I will be publishing. These inter-related programmes aim to improve service quality, effectiveness and patient access and to ensure that patient care is provided in the service setting most appropriate to individuals' needs.

The difficult budgetary position facing the health services this year means that maintaining and building on there will be a significant challenge particularly in the initial few months of 2012, typically the busiest time for acute hospitals. However, I am encouraged by the recent successes of the SDU and those involved in the delivery of acute hospital services.

Hospital Staff

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

18 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Health if he will make a statement on the survey carried out by the Irish Association of Emergency Medicine, which suggests that more than half of registrar posts remain unfilled in eight of the country’s emergency departments. [8340/12]

The shortage of Registrars in Emergency Medicine is an issue not just in Ireland, but internationally. Approximately 36 Registrar posts in Emergency Medicine are currently filled by locum/agency staff. This means that a doctor is in post to provide the service.

However, the HSE is pursuing a number of measures to address the dependence on agency staff and ensure appropriate availability of senior medical personnel in Emergency Departments. These include:

making maximum use of the work practice flexibilities embedded in Consultant Contract 2008 and the Public Service Agreement 2010-2014 to ensure that Consultants in Emergency Medicine are rostered to provide clinical services in the Emergency Department in line with service demands;

changes in General Medical and General Surgical rostering arrangements to provide a greater level of support to Emergency Departments;

a review of current staffing levels of all disciplines in Emergency Medicine, to ensure a sustainable staffing model into the future that is less reliant on junior doctors; and

evaluating the scope for the recruitment of Emergency Medicine Registrars from abroad.

I have previously expressed my concerns about the large numbers of qualified Irish doctors travelling abroad, the career structure for doctors and the recent difficulties in filling non-consultant hospital doctor posts. Last November, I appointed a project leader and an advisory group to progress the development of a proposal for the creation of a new Specialist grade of doctor for those who have completed their higher specialist training. The advisory group comprises representatives of my Department, the Health Service Executive, Medical Council, Post Graduate Forum and student doctors in specialist training. A draft interim report was provided to me in recent weeks and I am currently considering it.

Health Service Staff

Dan Neville

Question:

19 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health when the promised appointment will be made to the position of director of mental health services in view of the fact that a comprehensive and detailed plan must be formulated to allocate the committed €35 million for the implementation of the recommendations contained in A Vision for Change. [8498/12]

The Minister for Health announced last December that he had secured Government approval for the preparation of legislation which would abolish the Board of the HSE and replace it with a new transitional governance structure. The Minister also announced that, in tandem with the proposed new legal structures, new administrative structures would be put in place within the HSE which would reflect the need for greater operational management focus on the delivery of key services, and greater transparency about funding, service delivery and accountability. This will involve appointing a number of directors at national level in charge of public health, primary care, hospital care, social care, mental health, and children and family services. The main function of the mental health director will be to develop clearer funding and commissioning systems governing the delivery of mental health services as appropriate in the primary, acute and social care settings. Arrangements for the structures, including the selection and appointment of the new directors, are being developed by the Department and the HSE.

Care of the Elderly

Mick Wallace

Question:

20 Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Health if he plans to implement the recommendations made by the Law Reform Commission in relation to the regulation of professional home care, in view of his stated commitment to move towards a model of health care whereby more older persons, when appropriate, will be cared for in their homes rather than going into long-term residential care; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8490/12]

Government policy is to support older people to live in dignity and independence in their own homes and communities for as long as possible. To this end, about 10,870 people are expected to receive home care packages and about 50,000 people will receive home help services this year.

Government for National Recovery 2011-2016 commits the Government to developing and implementing national standards for home support services, which will be subject to inspection by the Health and Information Quality Authority (HIQA).

The Department is considering possible changes in legislation, including the regulation and inspection of home care services for older people, as part of its examination of the overall issue of the licensing of health care providers. This examination will take account of the recent Law Reform Commission report — Legal Aspects of Professional Home Care — as well as recommendations of the Commission on Patient Safety and a range of other considerations.

However, it is important to emphasise that statutory regulation or licensing is only one way of improving the safety and quality of services and that other measures are already being taken to improve the standards of community service for older people. These include a new public procurement framework for home care services (with quality and screening requirements built in); newNational Quality Guidelines for Home Care Support Services which introduce national standards for HSE provided services and also new National Home Help Guidelines which will standardise the distribution and allocation of home help across the country.

These various measures, taken together, have been designed to improve service provision overall, including quality and safety, for HSE home care recipients.

Health Services

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

21 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Health the manner in which the bulk of the reductions in staff, pay costs and efficiencies that the Health Service Executive is required to deliver in 2012 will increasingly impact directly on front line services in 2012, as stated in the HSE national service plan 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8323/12]

The HSE National Service Plan 2012 sets out the health and personal social services that will be delivered by the HSE within its current budget of €13.317bn and identifies a cost reduction target in 2012 of €750m. The Service Plan reflects the Programme for Government commitments for health and the savings targets set out in the Comprehensive Expenditure Report 2012-2014.

The scale of the financial challenge facing the HSE means that there will be an inevitable and unavoidable reduction in services but it will not be a "straight line reduction". In developing the Plan, my Department and the HSE undertook a rigorous examination of budget allocations across the care programme areas, with the explicit aim of reducing the impact on frontline services and identifying where efficiencies will be driven. This process involved re-prioritising funding to protect areas of greatest need and meet Programme for Government commitments.

Planning for the impact of the end of the "grace period" began last autumn and a formal transition team for the health service is in place, chaired by an Assistant Secretary from my Department, comprising key HSE national and regional directors. Contingency plans have been developed locally for hospital and community services, reflecting risk assessments undertaken by each hospital/community manager. These have been reviewed at regional and national levels to ensure appropriate contingency measures are in place across all services.

I am satisfied that suitable arrangements are in place at national, regional and service specific levels to proactively manage the impact of staff exits on front line services. The focus is on protecting and maintaining critical front line services such as Emergency Department, maternity, critical care and neonatal services.

The mitigation measures which are in place include the backfilling of certain critical posts. However, the main focus is on reform and achieving greater productivity. The National Clinical Programmes are already delivering improvements in day of surgery admission rates, increases in the proportion of care that can be delivered on a day case basis and other productivity improvements designed to provide a better quality service to patients at less cost. I very much welcome the clinical leadership that is being provided in this regard. I also want to acknowledge and welcome the improvements in productivity that are being delivered by staff at local level through the Croke Park agreement in relation, for example, to staff redeployment, streamlining of management structures including clinical management roles, changes in skill mix and more cost effective rosters.

It is clear that 2012 will be a very challenging year for the health services. The Service Plan commits the HSE to minimising the impact on services by fast tracking new, innovative and more efficient ways of using reduced resources. It reflects the need to move to new models of care across all service areas which will treat patients at the lowest level of complexity and provide quality services at the least possible cost. The Plan will be implemented in the context of the significant new governance structures for the health services which I recently announced.

Hospital Services

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

22 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Health the position regarding the review of medical services at St. Vincent’s University Hospital, St. Columcille’s Hospital and St. Michael’s Hospital, Dublin; his plans, if any, to curtail the services at St. Columcille’s Hospital, Loughlinstown; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8496/12]

Acute hospital services in the Dublin South-Wicklow Area, are provided through a collaborative arrangement across three sites, St. Vincent's University Hospital, St. Michael's Hospital and St. Columcille's Hospital.

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 work of this study will feed into the implementation of a Framework for Smaller Hospitals, which I expect to publish shortly and which encompasses St. Colmcille's Hospital. This framework will demonstrate clearly that the future of smaller hospitals is secure. It will set out what services can and should be delivered safely by these hospitals in the interest of better outcomes for patients.

Mental Health Services

Brian Stanley

Question:

23 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Health the contingency plan in place to address the staffing crisis in the mental health services as a result of the 400 front line nurses retiring, on top of the estimated 1,200 staff who have left posts in the mental health services in the past two years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8328/12]

The cumulative impact of staff reductions from this year and previous years presents a significant challenge for the health system generally in delivering services. The priority is to reform how health services are delivered in order to ensure a more productive and cost effective health system. Like other care areas, efficiency and other savings will be required from the mental health service and it will have to deal with its share of staff reductions.A Vision for Change recommended the closure of the old psychiatric hospitals and a 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. This Government is committed to implementing A Vision for Change and reforming our model of health care delivery so that more and better quality care is delivered in the community. This commitment was clearly shown in Budget 2012 with a special allocation of €35m for mental health in line with the Programme for Government. Funding from this special allocation will be used primarily to strengthen Community Mental Health Teams in both Adult and Children’s mental health services, improve access to psychological therapies in primary care and implement suicide prevention strategies in line with Reach Out —the National Strategy for Action on Suicide Prevention. The HSE Service Plan for 2012 provides for the recruitment of over 400 staff to the mental health service to deliver on these objectives.

Although final figures are not yet available, 467 mental health staff have indicated their intention to leave our mental health services by the end of February 2012. The figure includes all staff in mental health services including nurses and may vary as staff can re-consider up to the end of the month. The HSE's Service Plan includes a commitment to reduce acute in-patient capacity by a minimum of 153 beds nationally in 2012, in line with the recommendations ofA Vision for Change. A key priority for the HSE is the reconfiguration of acute in-patient services and the redeployment of staff resources away from old institutional settings or over-provision of acute in-patient beds towards community based services. Regional service plans are currently being finalised and will be published shortly. RDOs are continuing to manage the transition in their own areas. Briefings with staff, unions, public representatives and other stakeholders have already commenced and will continue as the situation unfolds over the coming weeks.

Hospital Staff

Brendan Smith

Question:

24 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Health the number, if any, of maternity staff in Holles Street hospital, the Mid-Western Regional Hospital and elsewhere who will be re-employed following the conclusion of the early retirement scheme at the end of February; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8350/12]

Dara Calleary

Question:

33 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Health if maternity services will be affected following the departure of midwives due to the early retirement scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8353/12]

Sandra McLellan

Question:

59 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Health if he has yet to receive an assessment of the way staff requirements and Health Service Executive national service plan cuts will impact on the southern hospitals group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8348/12]

Michael Colreavy

Question:

62 Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Health if he has yet received an assessment of the way staff retirements and Health Service Executive national service plan cuts will impact on the western hospitals group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8349/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 24, 33, 59 and 62 together.

I am aware of the impact the early retirement package will have on the provision of maternity services and indeed all services nationally and together with the HSE, we are committed to minimizing the impact through a range of strategies to be achieved through fast tracking new innovative and more efficient ways of using a reducing resource. I have requested the HSE to prioritise the ongoing delivery of safe services for patients and to ensure that all necessary steps are taken to ensure the avoidance of risk in the delivery of services for patients. The impact of the upcoming retirements requires a range of strategic national responses, together with specific local responses.

The most recent information available to me indicates that about 4,200 individuals will have left the health service between September 2011 and the end of this month. The corresponding whole-time equivalent figure is about 3,700. These figures are subject to change because, for example, of the time lags involved in collating data at national level. However, management at local and regional level have full details of the staff who have already left or will leave by 29 February. I should point out that over 2,000 individuals had already left by the end of January.

Planning for the impact of the end of the "grace period" began last autumn and a formal transition team for the health service is in place, chaired by an Assistant Secretary from my Department, comprising key HSE national and regional directors. Contingency plans have been developed locally for hospital and community services, reflecting risk assessments undertaken by each hospital/community manager. These have been reviewed at regional and national levels to ensure appropriate contingency measures are in place across all services.

I am satisfied that suitable arrangements are in place at national, regional and service specific levels to proactively manage the impact of staff exits on front line services. The focus is on protecting and maintaining critical front line services such as Emergency Department, maternity, critical care and neonatal services.

The recently approved HSE National Service Plan 2012 acknowledged that there will be an inevitable and unavoidable reduction in services this year because of the scale of the financial and staffing challenge facing the health service. Obviously, I would prefer to have more funding available for our health services but the reality is that this is not possible right now. I believe there is, therefore, a particular onus on all of us working in the health services to be as innovative and flexible as possible in order to mitigate the impact on services of reduced budgets and staffing.

The mitigation measures which are in place include the backfilling of certain critical posts. However, the main focus is on reform and achieving greater productivity. The National Clinical Programmes are already delivering improvements in day of surgery admission rates, increases in the proportion of care that can be delivered on a day case basis and other productivity improvements designed to provide a better quality service to patients at less cost. I very much welcome the clinical leadership that is being provided in this regard. I also want to acknowledge and welcome the improvements in productivity that are being delivered by staff at local level through the Croke Park agreement in relation, for example, to staff redeployment, streamlining of management structures including clinical management roles, changes in skill mix and more cost effective rosters.

The National Service Plan has already been published and the regional service plans are in the process of being finalised and published. However, the need for dynamic and proactive management of the impact of reduced budgets and staff will remain and will continue beyond 29 February.

Hospital Services

Derek Keating

Question:

25 Deputy Derek Keating asked the Minister for Health the position regarding the cystic fibrosis unit in St. Vincent’s Hospital, Dublin; his plans to extend the cystic fibrosis services; if he will take into consideration that Peamount Hospital, Dublin, is suitably situated to provide such a service; if he will consider it becoming a satellite clinic of St. Vincent’s Hospital to cover the west Dublin area; his further plans to develop cystic fibrosis services throughout 2012 and beyond; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8287/12]

St. Vincent's University Hospital is the designated National Adult Referral Centre for patients with Cystic Fibrosis. Phase 2 of the development at St. Vincent's Hospital is designed to provide a state of the art clinical building which will include up to date isolation facilities with accommodation for people with cystic fibrosis and others requiring such facilities. The new unit is due to open in June 2012. The unit will also provide a dedicated CF Day Unit, containing offices, treatment rooms, together with 10 single day treatment rooms, each with en-suite sanitary facilities for treating patients with cystic fibrosis. The hospital management in conjunction with relevant stakeholders is currently preparing plans for the transfer of patients to the new accommodation to take place as soon as possible.

It is important to avoid the exposure of CF patients to possible sources of infection. With this in mind, the HSE and hospitals aim to minimise the need to admit such patients to hospital. The long-term objective is to provide treatment for CF patients on an ambulatory day-care basis, as close as possible to their home.

I recently approved a lotto grant of €150,000 to Build Life Cystic Fibrosis group in Cork/Kerry towards the cost of a plan for a dedicated 10 bed unit for Cystic Fibrosis in Cork University Hospital. I will be reviewing this project positively this year. I also intend to examine some other projects to provide extra services for CF patients.

Peamount Hospital is currently in discussion with the HSE regarding future service delivery. The primary focus of discussion is around the implementation of national policy on congregated settings for persons with a disability and on how the hospital can support Tallaght Hospital by enhancing transitional care and step down facilities.

Health Services

Patrick Nulty

Question:

26 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Health if an exception will be given to the early intervention team in the Health Service Executive north west to hire speech and language therapists in view of the fact that there is now none operating in this region due to the recruitment embargo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8290/12]

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

Hospital Waiting Lists

Michael McGrath

Question:

27 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health the role of the special delivery unit; the way that it plans to spend the €85 million in its 2012 allocation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8378/12]

Building on the achievements of 2011 the SDU will work with the NTPF, the HSE Clinical Programmes and hospitals to minimise patient waiting times in emergency departments and reduce waiting periods for in patient and day case elective surgical care. The improvements already won have to be secured and continually improved upon. There is a specific SDU liaison process in place for all of these hospitals with varying degrees of intensity commensurate with the issues on the ground in each location. Some of the key developments planned by the SDU for 2012 are as follows:

February 2012 will begin to see the focus in ED turn to patient journey time monitoring (along with trolley waits) as part of the new national score card for measuring performance.

Unscheduled Care Target to be introduced in 2012. The target stipulates that 95% of all attendees at EDs are discharged or admitted within 6 hours of registration, and that those who need to be admitted through ED wait no more than 9 hours from registration.

Scheduled Care Targets to be introduced in 2012. These include the reduction of maximum waiting time for elective surgery to 9 months or less, a waiting time of 20 weeks or less for elective paediatric procedures and a waiting time of 13 weeks maximum for endoscopy procedures.

In addition, targets are to be set for improved access to outpatient (OPD) services in the first quarter of 2012. Finally the introduction of hospital groups will provide further opportunities for inter site cooperation. Although achieving these targets will be challenging given the difficult budgetary position the health services are facing, I am encouraged by the response of the system to the SDU initiative and the successes to date.

In relation to the 2012 allocation to the NTPF, the funds will continue to be used to treat patients. Prior to the issuing of the letter of determination by my Department I will be carefully considering how funds are best targeted in light of the next phase of work for the SDU.

Care of the Elderly

Willie O'Dea

Question:

28 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Health the number of persons who could be affected by the loss of 192 home help workers following the conclusion of the early retirement scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8370/12]

The home help service is a core community service supporting older people to remain in their own homes and communities for as long as possible, with the aim of best meeting their preferred wishes, and reducing pressures elsewhere on the wider care system. The demand for the home help service, and for additional supports such as Home Care Packages continues to grow as the population, and the complex needs, of older people increases.

The capacity of the Health Service Executive to provide approved levels of home help services is reviewed in the context of overall resources available. The latest estimated number of home helps that may potentially retire under the current initiative is in the region of 210 nationally, but the actual number that will retire cannot be confirmed at this time as some applicants may yet withdraw their applications.

It should be noted, however, that the majority of HSE employed home helps are part-time workers and that the impact on service delivery of retirements will be managed carefully by the Executive, within the remaining staff resource. In addition, should a situation arise that HSE employed home help staff are not available for whatever reason, it is possible for individual areas to make alternative arrangements as appropriate. This could include, for example,the use of indirect service providers, with whom areas already have partnership arrangements to provide services. In this way, it is planned that any impact on individual home help clients can be kept to a minimum.

The target for people expected to avail of home help services nationally at any time in 2012 is around 50,000. This represents a reduction of 1.2%, when compared with the projected out-turn for 2011. It is anticipated, therefore, that while overall service levels are being reduced due to resource constraints, the service reduction on home help client numbers will be minimised.

This approach will obviously require a stringent on-going review of resources and evolving service pressures. Local Health Offices will therefore regularly review the home help service to ensure that existing applicants receive supports aligned to their assessed needs, and that new applicants can, insofar as possible, continue to be processed and allocated appropriate supports in line with resources available.

Martin Ferris

Question:

29 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Health if he and or the Health Service Executive have measured the reduction of home help hours by 4.5% in the Health Service Executive national service plan 2012 against the projected additional need for home help in 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8326/12]

Government policy is to support older people to live at home and in their communities for as long as possible. This is realised through a range of community based services such as Home Help, Home Care Packages, Meals-on-Wheels, and Day or Respite Care.

While the recently agreed HSE Service Plan for 2012 involves a reduction of 4.5% in Home Help hours nationally, from around 11.2m hours in 2011 to 10.7m hours this year, the corresponding reduction proposed in the actual number of people receiving this service drops by only 1.2%. Therefore, the projected number of people receiving the Home Help service this year is 50,000, compared to some 50,600 in 2011. This approach is possible due to the increased focus by the HSE on more personalised care for the most vulnerable older people.

In addition, the HSE has committed in its Service Plan to maintaining Home Care Packages for this year at 2011 levels. These enhanced packages of care often contain a strong Home Help element, as well as a multidisciplinary care component, to assist vulnerable older people. The Executive is increasingly placing greater emphasis on other improvements in Home Care. These include developing new operational guidelines, increased linkages between Services for Older People and Primary Care Teams, and advancing the potential of Telecare, and Aids and Appliances, for older people. The central challenge facing the health service this year is to use the reduced level of resources available to meet as best it can the increasing needs of older people for health and personal social services. This means we have to prioritise those in greatest need and accelerate reform of our services.

Question No. 30 answered with Question No. 10.

Health Services

Michael McNamara

Question:

31 Deputy Michael McNamara asked the Minister for Health the way in which any change in the non-acute budget for the mid-west in 2012 compares proportionally to other areas in Health Service Executive west and nationally; the further way in which the pre-2012 funding for the mid-west compared to other areas in HSE west and nationally; the basis for the 2012 allocations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8489/12]

I have been advised by the Health Service Executive that the information is not readily available as the January Performance Reports are at present being submitted and consolidated.

I have requested the HSE to collect this information and I will forward it to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

National Substance Misuse Strategy

Timmy Dooley

Question:

32 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Health the recommendations of the national misuse strategy steering group that he is willing to accept; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8363/12]

As the report concerned was only recently launched on 7 February last, I intend to allow a period of public debate on the issues raised by and recommendations made by the National Substance Misuse Strategy Steering Group; and I then envisage that an Action Plan will be developed in advance of proposals being drafted for the Government.

Question No. 33 answered with Question No. 24.

Tax Code

Sean Fleming

Question:

34 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Health if he has liaised with the Department of Finance regarding the introduction of taxes on high fructose corn syrup, sugar, transfats or any other type of food taxes as part of a broader strategy on tackling obesity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8366/12]

I established a Special Action Group on Obesity comprising representatives from the Department of Health, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, the Health Service Executive, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland and Safefood to identify a number of specific issues which could be progressed to help make an impact on our obesity levels. While it was acknowledged that alone no single initiative will halt or reverse the trend, it was felt that a combination of measures should make a difference. For this reason the Group is concentrating on a range of measures. The introduction of a sugar tax on sugar-sweetened drinks was identified as a strategy for consideration and the feasibility of introducing such a measure is being examined. Other issues being examined include nutritional labelling, calorie posting on restaurant menus, restrictions on the advertising of high salt, fat and sugar products to children and the treatment of obesity. The Group will liaise with other Departments and organisations as required.

Following consultation with other Government Departments, I am in the process of initiating a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) on the potential effects of a tax on Sugar Sweetened Drinks which will provide a strong evidence base for such a tax. The Institute of Public Health has agreed to lead the HIA Project Group and the WHO Europe has indicated that its nutrition team would be available to my Department to offer guidance, given that this will be the first HIA in this area.

Health Amendment Act

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

35 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Health the action he will take to provide Health Amendment Act cards to the small group of women who, having received contaminated anti-D on the birth of their children, have developed health issues consistent with those testing positive for hepatitis C, but who are themselves testing negative; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8343/12]

Under the Health Amendment Act (No. 15 of 1996) the Health Amendment Act (HAA) Card is given to men, women and children who contracted Hepatitis C from the administration within the State of blood or blood products. The HAA Card gives entitlements to additional health and social services, on more flexible terms and conditions than the medical card. The HAA Card and the entitlements under it are for the lifetime of the cardholder.

The entitlement of an individual to a HAA Card and services under the Health (Amendment) Act 1996 rests with the Chief Executive Officer of the Health Service Executive. The Chief Executive Officer is bound by the definition of eligibility in the Hepatitis C Compensation Tribunal (Amendment) Act 2006, which requires a positive diagnostic test for applications received by the Tribunal after the specified date of 20 June, 2006.

In respect of persons who made an application before that date, the Chief Executive Officer is still obliged to satisfy himself that the applicant was infected with Hepatitis C. In that regard, the Chief Executive also takes account of any relevant decision of the Hepatitis C and HIV Compensation Tribunal, on the basis that the Tribunal arrives at its decisions after careful consideration of available evidence and expert testimony.

A great deal of consideration has been given to the issue of women who have neither tested positive for Hepatitis C, nor had a positive Tribunal decision in their favour. While a number of these women who have tested negative for Hepatitis C have had, and may continue to have, a variety of symptoms, there is no scientific proof that the symptoms are specific evidence of Hepatitis C infection. Some symptoms of Hepatitis C, such as fatigue, fibromyalgia and depression, are common conditions that occur in the general population. It is estimated that up to 16,000 women were exposed to potentially infectious batches of Anti-D and approximately 1,000 of these women were infected with Hepatitis C.

Taking account of international practice and the rationale which led to the clarification of the Hepatitis C Compensation Tribunal eligibility requirements in 2006, while I am sympathetic to the women in question, I am satisfied that the present arrangements are fair and reasonable.

Health Service Staff

Clare Daly

Question:

36 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Health if he will reconsider the cuts in pay and hours that have been applied to personal assistants who provide support to persons with severe disabilities; and if he will respond to the demands of the newly formed leaders’ alliance, which is advocating on the full restoration of this service by the Health Service Executive. [8494/12]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) provides arange of assisted living services including Personal Assistant services to support individuals to maximise their capacity to live full and independent lives.

In 2011, a total of 1.68 million personal assistant/home support hours were provided to 11,571 persons with physical and/or sensory disability. Although the funding allocated to disability services has been cut by 3.7%, the HSE aims to maintain this level of service in 2012. Service efficiencies will be achieved through a process of negotiation with service providers around the unit cost of providing the service rather than reducing the number of hours or the pay of personal assistants.

At this point in time, the HSE is not aware of any service provider that has applied reductions in pay or hours to personal assistants who provide support to persons with disabilities.

Health Insurance

Barry Cowen

Question:

37 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Health the action he will take to tackle the increase in VHI premiums; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8360/12]

Liam Twomey

Question:

61 Deputy Liam Twomey asked the Minister for Health the steps he will take or consider to control the cost of private health insurance here; the discussions he is having with the VHI to control the cost of VHI premiums to customers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8295/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 37 and 61 together.

I am concerned that private health insurance is becoming harder to afford, especially for older people, as insurers increasingly tailor their insurance plans towards younger, healthier customers. I am strongly committed to protecting community rating, whereby older and less healthy customers should pay the same amount for the same cover as younger and healthier people.

In order to keep down the cost of health insurance for older people, I was pleased recently to increase significantly the age-related income tax credit, under the Interim Scheme of Risk Equalisation, for insured persons aged 60 years and over, from 1 January 2012. Without this support, health insurers would have had a strong financial incentive to ‘segment' the market by offering policies targeted at young people, to the disadvantage of older customers.

I must stress that the measures I took are designed to result in no overall increase of premiums in the market and to spread the risk more evenly between the healthy and the less healthy, the old and the young. The increased tax credits for older people are balanced by a corresponding increase in the levy on each insurer in respect of all of its insured customers, so that the system is Exchequer neutral.

In this regard, it is important to note that the levy on policies is not a revenue collecting mechanism for the Exchequer. The Community Rating Levy, under the Interim Scheme, is placed on private health insurance providers for each insured individual, and not on the individuals themselves. It is a matter for the insurance providers as to the extent, if any, they pass the levy on to their clients.

In December 2011 I agreed with the three commercial health insurers to establish a Consultative Forum on Health Insurance, to tackle issues of mutual concern. We agreed to work cooperatively in driving down costs related to health insurance and to identify savings that could be achieved by both public and private hospitals. I indicated to the insurers that I would be happy to hear proposals from them which would result in lower costs for the health insurance sector. The first meeting of the Forum will be Chaired by the Secretary General of my Department and is due to take place next week.

In addition, a new review of the VHI's claims costs will be carried out to establish what further savings can be made. The review is to be completed early this year and will contribute significantly to more effective cost control within the private health insurance market. In the meantime, VHI has been finalising contract negotiations with the private hospitals treating its customers. In addition, VHI's contracts with consultants will be reviewed in mid-2012 and the VHI has informed me that it will be seeking further savings from consultants at that point. I am determined that these and other measures will have a significant impact in containing the level of any future increases in health insurance premiums.

The Government's clear objective is for the health insurance market to remain competitive and strong as we move towards a new system of Universal Health Insurance. It is my intention to ensure that the private health insurance market is reformed to ensure that costs are reduced and that there is a more even balance in the market.

Health Service Plan

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

38 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health in view of his repeated commitment to enhance the role of smaller hospitals, and in view of the Health Service Executive National Service Plan 2012, the services that will be provided at Monaghan General Hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8344/12]

The Government intends to publish a framework for the development of smaller hospitals, which will set out the way these hospitals provide services to patients and how they work within their regional hospital networks. The framework and its implementation is a priority of the Government.

In developing the framework, the Government is clear that: there is an important future role for smaller hospitals, in which they will provide services for more patients, not fewer; no acute hospital will close; and safety issues in all acute hospitals, large or small, must be fully addressed, by providing the right type of services in the right settings.

This framework will demonstrate clearly that the future of smaller hospitals is secure. It will set out what services can and should be delivered safely by these hospitals in the interest of better outcomes for patients. I expect to be in a position to publish the framework shortly. Monaghan Hospital is an integral part of the Cavan and Monaghan Hospital Group and continues to play an important role in the delivery of clinical services in the Cavan Monaghan area and to other parts of the North East Region. The current level of activity will be maintained at Monaghan Hospital as part of the 2012 Service Plan. In addition, an increase in day services activity is also planned for 2012.

Hospital Services

Sandra McLellan

Question:

39 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Health if he will made a statement on the recent major cuts to services at Waterford Regional Hospital. [8347/12]

Yesterday I explained to the House in a previous question that reducing public service numbers is an integral part of the Government's drive to reduce public expenditure. Health service employment numbers must be reduced to approximately 102,000 by the end of this year. Further reductions will be required over the coming years.

The Regional Service Plans are currently being finalised and the exact ceiling for each service has not yet been determined. However Waterford Regional Hospital is subject to the same restrictions as the rest of the health service.

There were 1,851 employees in Waterford Regional Hospital, expressed as whole time equivalents (wte), in March 2009. Up to December 2011 this figure had reduced by 131 to 1,720. A significant portion of the reduction is accounted for in the Management Administration and General Support staff grades. The Hospital is aware of a further 41 employees (wtes) who will be leaving during 2012. This equates to 2.43% of current staff and is well within the national target of 3%.

The total amount spent by the hospital on agency staff in 2009 was €0.8m. The figures for 2010 and 2011 were €3.1m and €3.2m respectively.

Medical agency costs have accounted for the bulk of agency spend. They were €0.3m in 2009, €1.9m. in 2010 and €2m in 2011. However I am informed that since October 2011 the hospital has eliminated its spend on medical agency costs through a combination of cost saving measure, and the recruitment of NCHDs.

The remaining agency costs are largely for paramedical and support staff. In 2012 the challenge for the hospital is to address its remaining spend on agency costs in the same effective way in which it has tackled the issue with medical cover. The HSE National Service Plan commits to a reduction of up to 50% in agency costs.

The 2012, Employment Control Framework will be finalised shortly. I envisage that the HSE will still have discretion to decide on exceptional appointments to minimise service, quality and safety risks. I am not suggesting that there will be wholesale replacement of staff or that there are easy options here. Part of the solution must be to implement the National Clinical Programmes to improve efficiency along with quality, to manage performance relentlessly, contain costs and to look at all available options including redeployment and re-assignment of staff.

Health Services

Mick Wallace

Question:

40 Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Health his views on a recent report by the Law Reform Commission which recommends that the Health Information and Quality Authority be empowered to regulate and monitor undertakings that provide professional home care; if he plans to implement any of the recommendations made in this report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8491/12]

The Law Reform Commission's recent report, entitled Legal Aspects of Professional Home Care, is a follow up to its 2009 consultation paper entitled, Legal Aspects of Carers.

Primary legislation and resources will be required for the introduction of a statutory regulation system for home care services. The question of possible changes to legislation, including regulation and inspection, for Home Care services for older people is under consideration. The Department is, at present, examining this matter in the overall context of the licensing of Health Care providers. Legislation is currently being prepared in this regard, taking into account the recommendations of the Commission on Patient Safety, and the Law Reform Commission. Various options are being considered at present, including the complex legal issues involved.

Health Service Staff

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

41 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health the total number of health personnel excluding administration and management staff currently working in the private health sector; the numbers engaged in the public sector by discipline; the extent to which staff numbers have been reduced or increased in each sector over the past five years to date; if he will further indicate the total number of administrative and management personnel at all levels employed in both sectors; the extent to which these numbers have fluctuated over the same period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8387/12]

My Department does not collate information in relation to the numbers employed in the private health sector.

The following table sets out (i) the numbers employed in the public health service at December 2007 and December 2011 (latest data) by grade category; and (ii) the changes in the numbers employed during that period:

Numbers (WTE excld. career break) employed in the public health service

Grade category

31/12/2007

31/12/2011

Change between Dec 2007 and Dec 2011

Medical/Dental

8,005.00

8,331.14

326.14

Nursing

39,005.99

35,902.20

-3,103.79

Health and Social Care Professionals

15,704.67

16,217.42

512.75

Management/Admin

18,043.36

15,983.48

-2,059.88

General Support Staff

12,899.83

10,449.85

-2,449.98

Other Patient and Client Care

17,846.03

17,508.30

-337.73

Total

111,504.88

104,392.39

-7,112.49

Notes:

(1) Excludes home helps;

(2) student nurses are included in the 2007 employment ceiling on the basis of 3.5 students equating to 1 wholetime equivalent — the Dec 2007 employment level adjusted for student nurses on the above basis is 110,664 WTEs; and

(3) the data for Other Patient and Client Care and General Support Staff may have been affected by reclassification between grade categories.

The table below sets out (i) the numbers of staff employed in the Management/Administrative grade category, by grade group; and (ii) the changes in the numbers employed during that period:

Numbers (WTE excld. career break) employed in the Management/Administrative grade category

Grade group

31/12/2007

31/12/2011

Change between Dec 2007 and Dec 2011

General Administrative [III to VII]

16,011.20

14,231.01

-1,780.19

Management [VIII+]

1,237.43

1,087.07

-150.36

Other Administrative

794.73

665.4

-129.33

Total

18,043.36

15,983.48

-2,059.88

The current Employment Control Framework for the health sector gives the HSE some flexibility in relation to filling posts in order to protect frontline services in so far as possible while still achieving the required staff reduction targets. In addition, the Public Service Agreement allows the HSE to redeploy staff based on service need. Nevertheless, the overall target reduction in numbers must be met, which will undoubtedly pose a significant challenge.

Michael Colreavy

Question:

42 Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Health his views on the work to rule by psychiatric nurses at the children and adolescent mental health services inpatient unit at Merlin Park Hospital, Galway, which commenced on 6 February 2012 and which arises from frequent assaults on staff, a situation brought about by staff shortages and poor management [8329/12]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has been engaged for some time in discussions with the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) regarding the Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services In-patient Unit in Merlin Park. The parties have participated in a conciliation process under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission, without resolution. Subsequent to this there has been further engagement between management and local representatives of the PNA in an effort to achieve resolution on a number of issues.

In the meantime the HSE is seeking to minimise the impact of any industrial action on the children and their parents. I would hope that the parties, either through direct engagement or with the assistance of the State's industrial relations machinery, will resolve the outstanding issues.

Health Services

Robert Troy

Question:

43 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Health if patient groups and local representatives will be involved in advance of any decision by him to close community nursing units; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8373/12]

In accordance with the Health Act, 2004, the arrangement for providing responses on detailed operational issues is a matter for the Health Service Executive. Section 7(4) of the Act specifies that "The Executive shall manage and shall deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services in accordance with the Act. Therefore as this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Health Service Staff

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

44 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Health if there are contingency plans to address the staffing arising from mass retirements in each of the Health Service Executive regions and hospital groups; if he will outline these plans by region and hospital group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8322/12]

The cumulative impact of staff reductions, and particularly those occurring before the end of the present "Grace Period", together with reduced financial resources, represents a significant challenge for the health system in delivering services in 2012. The HSE's National Service Plan, which I approved on 16 January, sets out the actions to be taken to address these challenges. The priority is to reform how health services are delivered in order to ensure a more productive and cost-effective health system.

The most recent information available from the HSE indicates that some 2,000 staff will retire from the health service during the month of February 2012. It should be noted that this figure is liable to change as data are refined, as additional applications are processed and if existing applications are withdrawn. However management at local and regional level have a clear picture of which staff are leaving or have already retired and are fully focused on addressing all critical service issues.

The HSE is currently finalising detailed regional contingency plans, the focus of which is on maintaining essential frontline services such as emergency departments, intensive care and maternity services as well as addressing the service areas identified for priority development under the National Service Plan. The plans reflect the fact that the number of staff leaving varies from region to region and from service to service. These have been the subject of a series of discussions with my Department in recent weeks. Briefings with staff, unions, public representatives and other stakeholders have already commenced and will continue over the coming weeks.

The contingency plans make use of measures under the Public Service Agreement to achieve increased flexibility in relation to work practices and rosters, redeployment and other changes to achieve more efficient delivery of services. Some management structures and services will be amalgamated and streamlined. Cross-cover arrangements will be put in place wherever possible and where clinical management numbers have been reduced. Other measures will involve the filling of some key vacancies as part of a targeted investment and recruitment response. The HSE will also work to mitigate the impact of the staffing reductions through the accelerated implementation of the National Clinical Programmes as part of the Government's reform agenda. This will involve measures such as reductions in average length of stay, improving day-of-surgery admission rates and increasing the proportion of hospital care provided on a day case basis.

In addition to these measures, the Government recently announced the establishment of transition teams in key sectors to oversee the response to the specific short-term impact of Grace Period retirements. In this context I have established a formal Transition Team for the health sector, chaired by an Assistant Secretary in my Department and including key HSE Directors at national and regional level.

The national, regional and site-specific contingency planning process will continue up to and beyond 29 February. This is a dynamic process and the objective is to ensure that there are measures in place to address all critical issues. The Executive will be arranging, in the normal way, to publish regional service plans as these are finalised.

Health Services

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

45 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Health the extra staff and services, over and above those available in 2011, that will be provided by the alleged additional €35 million ring-fenced for mental health in the health budget; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8330/12]

A special allocation of €35m for mental health was announced in Budget 2012 in line with the Programme for Government commitments. Funding from this special allocation will be used primarily to strengthen Community Mental Health Teams in both Adult and Children's mental health services. It is intended that the additional resources will be rolled out in conjunction with a scheme of appropriate clinical care programmes based on an early intervention and a recovery approach. Some of the funding will also be used to advance activities in the area of suicide prevention and response to self-harm presentations and to initiate the provision of psychological and counselling services in primary care specifically for people with mental health problems. Some provision will also be made to facilitate the re-location of mental health service users from institutional care to more independent living arrangements in their communities, in line withA Vision for Change. Approximately 400 additional staff will be recruited to support these initiatives. Details of how the additional funding will be apportioned are set out in the HSE National Service Plan for 2012 which was approved by the Minister in accordance with the Mental Health Act 2004.

Medicinal Products

Luke 'Ming' Flanagan

Question:

46 Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan asked the Minister for Health if he will consider making sativex available on prescription through chemists here. [8285/12]

Cannabis is designated as a Schedule 1 controlled drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977. As the law currently stands, it is not possible for cannabis-based medicinal products such as Sativex to be prescribed by a medical practitioner in Ireland. I am aware that claims have been made in respect of the possible health benefits of cannabis-based medicinal products for patients suffering from certain conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis. I am also aware that Sativex is authorised in the UK for the relief of spasm in patients with Multiple Sclerosis. Accordingly, my Department is examining the issues associated with applying controls, similar to those that apply to other controlled drugs that can be misused, such as morphine and methadone, to cannabis-based medicinal products to permit them to be prescribed and dispensed in Ireland.

Primary Care Strategy

Derek Keating

Question:

47 Deputy Derek Keating asked the Minister for Health if the new primary care headquarters under construction in area 5 covering Lucan, Clondalkin, Rathcoole, Saggart, Palmerstown and Newcastle, Dublin, is on target to be opened; if there is adequate staff to meet the primary care programme such as public health nurses, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, community based social workers, care of the elderly social workers, care assistants, dieticians and others; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8286/12]

The HSE has developed a new Primary Care and Mental Health Centre in Ballyfermot which will provide a focal point for the provision of primary, community and continuing care services in the immediate area. This facility is on schedule to open during the first quarter of 2012.

The HSE Integrated Service Area (ISA) Dublin South Central (formerly Community Care Areas 3 and 5) has, in line with the Primary Care Strategy, reconfigured existing clinical staff to Primary Care Teams in the area. This process, coupled with additional clinical posts approved during 2009 and 2010, has allowed the Primary Care Teams to continue to develop. ISA Dublin South Central has formulated a contingency plan in an effort to address issues of service delivery arising due to staff departures before 29 February next.

Funding of €20m has been provided in the HSE's National Service Plan 2012 to fill as many of such vacancies as possible. This fund will be increased to €25m if it can be established that there is scope for further savings of €5m in demand led schemes. The allocation of these posts will be subject to approval by the Project Team overseeing the implementation of Universal Primary Care.

Question No. 48 answered with Question No. 14.

Care of the Elderly

Joan Collins

Question:

49 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Health the rationale behind the setting aside of the decision to close St. Brigid’s nursing home, Crooksling, pending a review, whose terms of reference have yet to be published, although Tallaght Hospital, Dublin, has been instructed not to refer patients there. [8492/12]

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

Hospital Services

Denis Naughten

Question:

50 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health when he will publish his report on mortality rates at acute hospitals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8289/12]

The Chief Medical Officer of my Department is finalising a report examining the potential of hospital discharge data in measuring the quality of health care. This includes the measure of recorded 30 day in-hospital mortality rates following heart attack. It is expected that the report will be finalised and published in the near future.

Health Service Staff

Niall Collins

Question:

51 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Health the estimated number and cost of re-employing staff following the conclusion if the early retirement scheme at the end of February; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8357/12]

I wish firstly to clarify that there is currently no early retirement scheme available in the public health sector. The "grace period" during which the calculation of public service pensions is unaffected by the pay reductions applied under the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act 2009 expires on 29 February 2012.

The cumulative impact of staff reductions, and particularly those occurring before the end of the present "Grace Period", together with reduced financial resources, represents a significant challenge for the health system in delivering services in 2012. The HSE's National Service Plan, which I approved recently, sets out the actions to be taken to address these challenges. The priority is to reform how health services are delivered in order to ensure a more productive and cost-effective health system.

The HSE is currently finalising detailed regional contingency plans, the focus of which is on maintaining essential frontline services such as emergency departments, intensive care and maternity services as well as addressing the service areas identified for priority development under the National Service Plan. The plans reflect the fact that the number of staff leaving varies from region to region and from service to service. These have been the subject of a series of discussions with my Department in recent weeks. Briefings with staff, unions, public representatives and other stakeholders are also being conducted.

The contingency plans make use of measures under the Public Service Agreement to achieve increased flexibility in relation to work practices and rosters, redeployment and other changes to achieve more efficient delivery of services. Some management structures and services will be amalgamated and streamlined. Cross-cover arrangements will be put in place wherever possible and where clinical management numbers have been reduced. Other measures will involve the filling of some key vacancies as part of a targeted investment and recruitment response.

A limited amount of funding (in the order of €16m) has been allocated in the National Service Plan to replace some critical posts where there will be gaps in essential frontline services. Local contingency plans are focusing only on the replacement of key essential posts that cannot be filled through other means such as reorganisation of services and reallocation of responsibilities.

Medical Cards

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

52 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Health the outcome of the review of the operation of the centralised medical card application facility; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8331/12]

A review of the medical card processing service is under way at the moment and the issues raised by the Deputy are being examined as part of this process. The review will be completed in a few weeks time.

Hospitals Building Programme

Brian Stanley

Question:

53 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Health the current status of the proposed national children’s hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8338/12]

An application for planning permission for the new National Children's Hospital is currently being considered by An Bord Pleanála. A decision on the application is expected before the end of this month.

The National Paediatric Hospital Development Board, in conjunction with the HSE, is currently making preparations for the tender process for the construction and delivery of the hospital, with a view to awarding the design/build contract at the earliest possible date. Both the Development Board and the HSE are currently working with the three existing Dublin children's hospitals with a view to bringing their work closer together in advance of the opening of the new hospital.

The Government is committed to ensuring that the project happens in the most cost effective and timely way and with the maximum benefit for patients, their families, and the staff of the new hospital.

Suicide Prevention

Dan Neville

Question:

54 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health when the position of director of the National Office for Suicide Prevention will be appointed on a permanent basis. [8281/12]

As the National Office for Suicide Prevention was established by the HSE in 2005 and is part of the internal organisation of that body the issue raised is a matter for the HSE. On that basis the question has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Care of the Elderly

Pearse Doherty

Question:

55 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Health if he will make a commitment to retain and resource public nursing homes, including those with fewer than 50 beds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8325/12]

Government policy in relation to older people is to support people to live in dignity and independence in their own homes and communities for as long as possible. Where this is not feasible, the health service supports access to quality long-term residential care where this is appropriate.

While the Minister and this Government continues to reiterate our commitment to the future public provision of residential care for older people we must recognise that the HSE is facing challenges in respect of all services in 2012. In the case of Community Nursing Units for Older People these include challenges regarding staffing, funding, and environmental factors around the age and structure of the units. In addition further losses of staff are anticipated between now and the end of February 2012.

It is clear that on a business as usual basis, the HSE would have to close further beds across a range of public community nursing units in 2012. In the absence of reform, this would increase the cost of caring for older persons within the public system, undermine the viability of public community nursing units and reduce the overall number of older persons that can be supported within the budget available for Fair Deal. This is not a sustainable way forward and would not meet the needs of older persons, local communities, the taxpayer or those working in the public service.

The Minister has requested that the HSE provide him with a plan which seeks to protect the viability of as many units as possible within the funding and staffing resources available, including smaller units where challenges of scale may require more innovative approaches to service delivery. It is accepted that this will require a combination of actions such as consolidation of services; changes in staffing, skill mix and work practices; age and structure of public units etc. It will also have to take into account different types of services required and the capacity available within an area. The HSE is already examining issues in this regard and will be working closely with the Department to develop an overall set of proposals for the Minister.

Hospital Services

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

56 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health if he was consulted on or if he intervened in the review of outpatient services at Cavan and Monaghan general hospitals which has resulted in a further reduction in services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8345/12]

The Special Delivery Unit was established in my Department last July to tackle patient wait times for hospital services. Unacceptably high wait times have been tolerated for too long and have become systemic for both unscheduled and scheduled care. The problems have to be tackled step by step so that improvements can be sustained.

Up to now the number of patients waiting for OPD appointment has not been consistently and reliably quantified by all hospitals. The data have simply not been sufficiently accurate to be meaningful at a national level. The SDU has now begun to work with the HSE building a new approach to compiling and validating outpatient lists

The priority for the first quarter of 2012 is for hospitals to support an SDU/NTPF project to establish weekly monitoring of outpatient waiting list numbers. The first task is to collate, analyse and validate the number of outpatient referrals in the system. This work has been well advanced by the HSE during 2011. Once it has been finalised and considered it will enable the SDU to make recommendations to me in respect of an outpatient wait time target in 2012. In principle I will be adopting the same criteria of strict chronological management of the waiting list which is now in place for in-patient treatment.

The organisation of hospital services nationally, regionally and locally will be informed by the Clinical Programmes, which have been developed and implemented by the HSE, and by the work on the Framework for the Development of Smaller Hospitals. These inter-related programmes aim to improve service quality, effectiveness and patient access and to ensure that patient care is provided in the service setting most appropriate to individuals' needs. The planned introduction of hospital groups will also provide further opportunities for inter-site cooperation.

There has been no reduction to date in the outpatient activity levels in the Cavan and Monaghan Hospital group. There are currently plans in place to increase the outpatient activity on the Monaghan hospital site which will alleviate the pressures currently experienced on the Cavan General hospital site. This will assist with managing the service level activity within the overall budget and service plan for the Cavan and Monaghan Hospital group. The difficult budgetary position facing the health services this year means that maintaining and building on will be a significant challenge particularly in the initial few months of 2012, typically the busiest time for acute hospitals. However, I am encouraged by the recent successes of the SDU and those involved in the delivery of acute hospital services.

Disability Support Service

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

57 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Health the position regarding the programme for Government commitment to address the need for further compensation for victims of Thalidomide; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8346/12]

I met with the Irish Thalidomide Association (ITA) and separately with the Irish Thalidomide Survivors Society (ITSS) last year. I informed both organisations that the Government's main concern is to address their health and social care needs. The first step in this process is to identify the needs of each individual. The Department is currently working with the Health Service Executive and members of one of the representative groups, the Irish Thalidomide Survivors Society, to develop an appropriate assessment process. This assessment process will commence as soon as possible.

Having taken legal advice, I am satisfied that the State does not have a legal liability for the injuries suffered by the survivors of thalidomide. However, I have previously indicated that I am willing to enter into discussions about a financial gesture of goodwill towards Irish survivors of thalidomide, which will be constrained by virtue of the current economic circumstances of the country and the many demands made on limited resources. The Irish Thalidomide Association has stated that it fundamentally disagrees with the State's position above and it is unwilling to engage with me on this basis.

Hospital Services

Denis Naughten

Question:

58 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health the steps he is taking to address overcrowding at Galway and Roscommon hospitals group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8288/12]

In July of last year I announced the establishment of the Special Delivery Unit. The development of the Unit is a key part of my plans to radically reform the health system in Ireland. In 2011 I identified two key priorities for the SDU, namely addressing trolley waiting times and reducing the maximum waiting time for elective surgery. I am happy to say that the SDU has delivered notable improvements on both objectives. The next phase of work in the area of Unscheduled Care will include a new focus on monitoring the total patient journey time, including any time spent on trolleys, as part of the new national score card for measuring performance. New target times to be introduced in this year will ensure that 95% of all attendees at Emergency Departments are discharged or admitted within 6 hours of registration, and that those who need to be admitted through ED wait no more than 9 hours from registration. Galway and Roscommon hospitals will be expected to comply with these targets.

Scheduled Care Targets to be introduced in 2012 will reduce maximum waiting time for elective surgery to 9 months or less. The target will be 20 weeks or less for elective paediatric procedures and 13 weeks for Endoscopy procedures.

There is also a specific SDU liaison process in place for all hospitals with varying degrees of intensity commensurate with the issues on the ground in each location.

The organisation of hospital services nationally, regionally and locally will be informed by the HSE's Clinical Programmes, which have been developed and implemented by the HSE, and by the work on the framework for the development of smaller hospitals. These inter-related programmes aim to improve service quality, effectiveness and patient access and to ensure that patient care is provided in the service setting most appropriate to individuals' needs.

In order to assist Galway and Roscommon Hospitals, I announced on 8th December, 2011 the appointment of Mr Bill Maher, as group CEO to the Galway group of hospitals. As well as strengthening the managerial capacity of the Galway and Roscommon hospitals, it is hoped that the appointment of Mr Maher will help these hospitals to meet the significant challenges they face in terms of service delivery and financial performance. The new reporting structures will support transparent accountability on the part of hospitals and their management for the services they deliver to patients. They will also ensure that the smaller hospitals are managed as part of a group and that their role is protected.

The introduction of hospital groups will provide further opportunities for inter-site cooperation. Smaller hospitals can assist larger hospitals in the group by taking on more elective work. For example, outreach plastic surgical services have been recently established at Roscommon. This is the first of a number of service enhancements at this hospital. The development of services at Roscommon will help relieve waiting lists currently in Galway and in the wider West area.

Notwithstanding the significant progress which has been made to date, it is recognised that it will be a significant challenge to maintain these achievements particularly in the initial few months of 2012, typically the busiest time for acute hospitals. However, although achieving the targets for this year will be challenging, given the difficult budgetary position the health services are facing, I am encouraged by the recent successes of the SDU.

Question No. 59 answered with question No. 24.

Health Services

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

60 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Health if he has assessed the likely impact of the health budget cuts on essential orthodontic treatments for children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8341/12]

Reductions to the budget for orthodontic services are being applied by the HSE in line with the agreed cost efficiencies required under the National Service Plan. The HSE will be commencing an independent review of Orthodontic Services which will consider a number of service provision models. The outcome of this review will give guidance as to what changes will be desirable to provide the best possible model of care delivery, given the current resources available and expected future demand for the services.

Question No. 61 answered with question No. 37.
Question No. 62 answered with question No. 24.

Hospital Accommodation

Joan Collins

Question:

63 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Health if he will set down the location at which the 41 patients in Tallaght Hospital, Dublin, who are in need of step-down facilities, 20 of whom are maximum dependancy, will be cared for. [8493/12]

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

Medical Cards

John Deasy

Question:

64 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Health if he will urgently investigate the process for medical card applications; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that current medical cards which are due to expire are not being rolled over pending decision on their renewal and that doctors and pharmacists are refusing treatment because they will not receive payment for same due to the renewal being operational only from a current date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8503/12]

Under a new procedure, a medical card will remain valid, irrespective of the expiry date shown on the card, once the medical card holder is genuinely engaging with the HSE review process. The medical card status of an individual can be confirmed by any doctor or pharmacist in their practice or pharmacy, or by the medical card holders themselves either on-line atwww.medicalcard.ie or through their GP’s practice system. However, I am aware that there have been difficulties for a number of individuals. The HSE is taking steps to ensure that this rule is properly implemented.

Hospital Services

Seán Crowe

Question:

65 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Health the current status of the Health Information Quality Authority report on Tallaght hospital, Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8336/12]

I understand that the report of the investigation by the Health Information and Quality Authority into the quality, safety and governance of the care provided by Tallaght Hospital for patients who require acute admission has been drafted and all interviews and analysis of the information requested have been concluded. The Authority is now undertaking a process of ensuring the accuracy of the information in the report. Once this is complete, the final report will be approved by the Board of the Authority and published thereafter.

Medical Cards

John Browne

Question:

66 Deputy John Browne asked the Minister for Health when the application for a medical card in respect of persons (details supplied) in County Wexford will be approved in view of the fact that the application was lodged a long time ago; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8284/12]

I have asked the Health Service Executive for a report on the issue raised by the Deputy. I will revert to the Deputy on the matter as soon as possible.

Nursing Homes Support Scheme

Martin Ferris

Question:

67 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Health the number of outstanding applications under the fair deal scheme at the end of 2011; the projected number of new applications for the year 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8327/12]

The HSE received 9,323 applications for the Nursing Homes Support Scheme in 2011. In the same period, 10,671 applications (some of which would have been received in 2010) were processed to conclusion. This figure includes approximately 2,700 applications which were withdrawn by the applicant.

There were just over 3,100 applications in progress at end-December. However, it should be noted that a significant volume of applications are submitted without the necessary supporting documentation. This can create delays which are outside of the HSE's control.

The HSE's National Service Plan 2012 estimates that an additional 1,270 people will be supported under the Nursing Homes Support Scheme at end-2012. However, it should be noted that the HSE is currently developing a Care of the Elderly Programme. Some of the objectives of the Programme are to improve the management of acutely ill, frail, older adults in acute hospitals and to increase independence in the home and reduce inappropriate admission to nursing homes. The implementation of this Programme during 2012 is likely to impact on the number of people applying for the Nursing Homes Support Scheme. This will be monitored on an ongoing basis.

Accident and Emergency Services

Patrick Nulty

Question:

68 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Health if the 24-hour accident and emergency service at James Connolly Memorial Hospital, Dublin, will remain in place this year as previously indicated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8291/12]

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 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 organisation of hospital services nationally, regionally and locally will be informed by the Clinical Care Programmes. Together with the work of the Special Delivery Unit, implementation of these programmes will help to improve the efficiency of our hospitals, allowing us to treat as many patients as possible within budget and reducing the need for many emergency admissions.

In the current economic climate the acute sector must reduce its cost in order to deliver the agreed level of activity within the resources available to it. The emphasis for the HSE in 2012 will be to continue its focus on the effective use of acute capacity through shorter length of stay, increased rates of day-of-surgery admission and more day surgery. In this way the acute hospital system can ensure that, within the level of resources available, it facilitates the maximum number of patients with safe, effective and efficient care.

Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown received its allocated budget for 2012 at the end of last week and the Hospital's cost containment plan for 2012 is currently in draft format. The Hospital Executive is currently in discussions with the HSE and the Regional Director of Operations for the area with regard to the plan. There are no plans in place to change the emergency department service in Connolly Hospital.

Eating Disorders

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

69 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health if he will review the arrangements in place for citizens trying to access services to treat eating disorders in public and private hospitals and clinics; his views that health insurance providers should review their current arrangements for facilitating citizens who are seeking treatment for an eating disorder; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8282/12]

HSE services for people with eating disorders are embedded in the Community Mental Health Service and with Primary Care. Individuals with eating disorders frequently present to the primary care practitioner with complications of their condition and early intervention at this level greatly improves outcomes. The HSE has developed a Mental Health in Primary Care accredited training programme for primary care practitioners with Dublin City University with a view to enhancing the capacity of primary care to recognise, assess and treat a range of mental illnesses, including eating disorders, within the primary care setting.

Community based Adult Mental Health Services receive referrals from Primary Care and provide assessment and treatment to individuals with eating disorders. Child and Adolescent Mental Health Teams provide a similar role for their cohort of referrals. Where the individual's psychiatric or medical needs are more acute, in-patient admission is offered within the local psychiatric services or acute medical care where necessary.

The HSE can and has worked with service providers in the independent sector to provide specialised care, on an in-patient and/or an out-patient basis. In a limited number of cases, referrals to specialised eating disorder services in Dublin or the UK can be clinically recommended and supported in appropriate circumstances, subject to the necessary resources being available.

With regard to the private health sector, minimum benefit is one of the key principles on which the Irish private health insurance regulatory system is based. Minimum Benefit Regulations, made under the Health Insurance Acts, require insurers to offer a minimum benefit to every insured person. The key purpose of the Regulations is to ensure the continued availability of the type of broad hospital cover traditionally held as a minimum by the insured population and to ensure that individuals do not significantly under-insure. Minimum Benefit Regulations were introduced in 1996 under Section 10 of the Health Insurance Act 1994 and cover in-patient, out-patient and day-patient services provided by publicly funded hospitals, private hospitals, registered nursing home and hospital consultants.

Health insurance providers operate in a competitive market and are free to impose certain terms and conditions in their policies, providing they comply with Minimum Benefit Regulations. My Department has no role to play in the commercial decisions of any health insurer and is therefore not in a position to direct insurers to provide cover for any particular procedure or service, such as the treatment of an eating disorder, other than those outlined in the Minimum Benefit Regulations.

It is intended that the current Minimum Benefit Regulations will be examined over the coming months as part of the overall strategy to address issues in the private health insurance market, leading in to the introduction of Universal Health Insurance.

Health Service Reform

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

70 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Health if he will report on the progress made on developing a universal single-tier health service which guarantees access to medical care based on needs not income as committed to in the programme for Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8497/12]

The Government is committed to fundamental reform of the health system. This will see the delivery of a single-tier health service, supported by universal health insurance, which will ensure equal access to care based on need, not income. The universal health insurance system will be based on the principle of social solidarity. Every citizen will have a choice of insurer and will have equal access to a comprehensive range of curative services.

There are a number of key initiatives in the reform programme which will underpin the introduction of universal health insurance and significant work has been undertaken to progress these. Firstly, the Programme for Government commits to significant strengthening of the primary care sector to deliver universal primary care with the removal of cost as a barrier. Access to primary care without fees will be extended on a phased basis over the life of this Government. The Minister for Primary Care has established the Universal Primary Care Project Team which has been tasked with working through the issues relating to this commitment. Initially, it is intended to provide GP visit cards to persons in receipt of drugs and medicines under the Long Term Illness Scheme. Primary legislation is required to give effect to this commitment. It is hoped that the new arrangements will be in place by early Summer.

Significant reform of the acute hospital sector is also underway. I have established the Special Delivery Unit (SDU) which has been tasked with unblocking access to acute services by improving the flow of patients through the system. Since the establishment of the SDU, a number of initiatives have been put in place which are having a positive effect on numbers waiting for both scheduled and unscheduled care. Furthermore, one of the priorities for the SDU in 2012 is to begin the work to transform public hospitals into independent not-for-profit trusts, as provided for in the Programme for Government. The first step in achieving this is the establishment of initial hospital groups and work on this is beginning immediately. Hospital groups will have a single clinical governance model, one budget and one employment ceiling.

Reform of the funding system for hospital care is also planned through the introduction of a "Money Follows the Patient" funding mechanism. To achieve this a number of initiatives are already underway including a patient level costing project and a pilot initiative in relation to prospective funding of certain elective orthopaedic procedures at selected sites.

In addition, I recently announced significant changes in the governance of the Health Service Executive under which the current Board/Chief Executive structure will be replaced with a Directorate or transitional governance structure. This new directorate structure will facilitate greater transparency, accountability, and efficiency, and is a key component in the move to UHI.

Delivering on the reform programme is a significant undertaking which should not be underestimated. It will require careful consideration, planning and sequencing. Cognisant of the scope and complex nature of what is planned, the Government has given approval for an Implementation Group on Universal Health Insurance to assist in developing detailed and costed implementation proposals for universal health insurance and to help drive the implementation of various elements of the reform programme. I have finalised details of the Implementation Group and these will be announced shortly.

Nursing Home Accommodation

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

71 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health the total number of public nursing homes at respective locations throughout the country; the number of patients therein; the number of such patients requiring long-term high dependency nursing care; the extent to which a similar profile of patients is accommodated in private nursing homes; the basis on which comparisons have been made between the cohort of high dependency patients in private and public nursing homes with particular reference to cross comparison; the extent to which it is proposed to meet the needs of high dependent patients in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8386/12]

The latest validated information from the Health Service Executive reports that there are currently 128 public residential units in operation across the country providing 7,954 beds (this includes temporary closed beds). Of these, 5,914 are designated long-stay beds under the Nursing Home Support Scheme (NHSS). The balance (2,040) provide short-term care, i.e. rehabilitation, respite, convalescent and palliative care. The breakdown of these beds is set out in the following table.

Region

Number of Units

Designated NHSS Beds

Other Beds

Total Beds

HSE DML

25

1,615

346

1,961

HSE West

44

1,458

746

2,204

HSE South

38

1,719

721

2440

HSE DNE

21

1,122

227

1,349

Total

128

5,914

2,040

7,954

The Department of Health carries out a survey of long-stay units each year. Each long-stay unit (public, private and voluntary) is sent a questionnaire and the responses are collated by the Department. The aim of the survey is to provide statistics on the number of beds available for long-term care, how these beds are used and the types of residents who occupy these beds. The results of the surveys are used to prepare the Long-Stay Activity Statistics Reports which are published on the Department's website.

The Long-Stay Activity Statistics for 2010 (the most recent year available) provides the following information in respect of the Percentage Distribution of Patients Resident by Level of Dependency in long-term care as at 31 December that year. The Deputy should be mindful that these are self reported survey results.

Survey Response Rate — 80%

Table B6 — Long-Stay Units by Category: Percentage Distribution of Patients Resident by Level of Dependency

Region

Low Dependency

Medium Dependency

High Dependency

Maximum Dependency

Total

HSE Extended Care Unit

4.9

11.5

26.4

57.3

100%

HSE Welfare Home

9.5

17.9

18.4

54.3

100%

Voluntary Home

10.1

21.6

28.9

39.5

100%

Voluntary Welfare Home

34.3

12.6

32.6

20.6

100%

Private Nursing Home

15.3

24.9

31.8

27.9

100%

Total

12.6

21.4

30

35.9

100%

The HSE is currently piloting a single assessment tool that will uniformly assess dependency levels.

Hospital Services

Liam Twomey

Question:

72 Deputy Liam Twomey asked the Minister for Health the plans he has to tackle the distress that alcohol-fuelled consultation causes to staff and other patients in hospital accident and emergency departments; and will moneys raised by a fat tax or sugar tax be used to deal with this crisis in our accident and emergency departments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8499/12]

Measures aimed at reducing the overall consumption of alcohol in Irish society is the primary means to deal with the issue raised by the Deputy. The report of the National Substance Misuse Strategy Steering Group was launched this week; and it reported that in 2010 the per capita consumption of alcohol in Ireland equated to 11.9 litres of pure alcohol per adult, corresponding to 482 pints of lager, 125 bottles of wine or 45 bottles of vodka — in effect, a bottle of vodka per week. (Given that 19 per cent of the adult population are abstainers, the actual amount of alcohol consumed per drinker is considerably more.)

The report contains a range of recommendations to, among other things, reduce the consumption of alcohol in general. These recommendations are grouped under five pillars of Supply Reduction (availability), Prevention, Treatment, Rehabilitation and Research and the main recommendations include:

Increase the price of alcohol so that it becomes less affordable;

introduce a legislative basis for minimum pricing, along with a ‘social responsibility' levy on the drinks industry;

commence Section 9 (structural separation of alcohol from other products in supermarkets, etc) of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2008;

introduce legislation and statutory codes to provide for a 9.00 p.m. watershed for alcohol advertising on television and radio; alcohol advertising in cinemas to only be associated with films classified as being suitable for over-18s; prohibition of all outdoor advertising of alcohol; and all alcohol advertising in the print media to be subject to stringent codes, enshrined in legislation and independently monitored;

phase out drinks industry sponsorship of sport and other large public events by 2016;

develop a system to monitor the enforcement of the provisions of the intoxicating liquor legislation;

establish a Clinical Directorate to develop the clinical and organisational governance framework to underpin treatment and rehabilitation services; develop early intervention guidelines for alcohol and substance use across all relevant sectors of the health and social care system. This will include a national screening and brief intervention protocol for early identification of problem alcohol use.

The recommendation to introduce a social responsibility levy on the drinks industry is associated with the theme of the Deputy's question; as in recommending this levy, the Steering Group adverted to using such funds raised to contribute to both the cost of social marketing and awareness campaigns on the social and health harms caused by alcohol and to fund sporting and other large public events that help provide alternative to a drinking culture for young people.

Finally, the recommendations of the Steering Group on alcohol will encourage public debate and the Minister envisages an Action Plan being developed in advance of proposals being drafted for Government.

Foreign Conflicts

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

73 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on the aims of the independence movement in Kashmir; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8693/12]

The historic princely state of Jammu and Kashmir which was never part of British India was partitioned between India and Pakistan after both States became independent in 1947. China occupies two areas of the former State, one ceded by Pakistan, the other — Aksin Chin-taken from India before the 1962 Indo-China war. The political situation on the Indian side of the Line of Control (LOC), in the State of Jammu and Kashmir, is a complex one, ethnically, religiously, linguistically and topographically. Although a majority of the population that live in the State are Muslim, there are those who are Buddhist and Hindu as well as other minorities in different regions such as Leh and Ladah.

In recent years the State has been comparatively quiet apart from 2010 when there was an outbreak of violence in the capital Srinigar and in the Valley area, resulting in the deaths of more than 100 young men and boys.

After the violence in 2010 an All-Party Committee from the Indian Parliament visited the State and the visit resulted in the establishment of a group of interlocutors who reported in October, last year, after interviews with all sectors of the local population. The report noted that the demands of Muslim groups vary from the lifting of emergency powers to greater autonomy for the State within India, to union with Pakistan including independence. In addition to the religious, ethnic and linguistic variations within the State, the differences within the Muslim community contribute to the intractability of the political situation. The report, which was the most comprehensive ever produced on Jammu and Kashmir, made a large number of recommendations which are being considered by the Indian Government.

The political situation in the State and its relations with Delhi are monitored by the Embassy to India. The Ambassador visited the area as part of an EU delegation in May, 2011.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

74 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will report on any additional sanctions he proposes at EU and UN level towards Syria; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8702/12]

I have on a number of occasions stated clearly my grave concerns at the deteriorating situation in Syria and condemned the unacceptable violence and repression which is now estimated to have claimed some 7,000 lives since last March. In my address to the Security Council in New York on 9 February, I described the current situation in Syria as completely intolerable and condemned the appalling suffering of the Syrian people at the hands of the Assad regime. I also discussed the situation with the UN Secretary General Ban Ki moon and US Deputy Secretary of State Burns during the course of my visit to the United States last week. Given the serious implications for regional peace and security, it is deeply regrettable that the Security Council has so far been unable to speak with a single voice on Syria, in failing to pass a Resolution on 4 February which otherwise commanded the full support of the Council. The ramifications of this failure have been made painfully clear in the past week as the violence in Syria, and in particular the appalling attacks on the civilian population in cities such as Homs, Bab Amr and Hama, has increased significantly. There is a desperate need for humanitarian access, including medical assistance, to citizens in these areas.

The international community can no longer continue to ignore the daily escalation of bloodshed and repression as the Assad regime seeks to extinguish the legitimate desire of ordinary Syrians for democracy and renewal. There is a clear onus on the international community to protect the people of Syria from further suffering and to promote a speedy resolution of this conflict through peaceful political dialogue. It is clear that President Assad will not begin this process without additional pressure from the international community.

I welcome the continued strong leadership of the Arab League as well as the UN Secretary General and others in the international community who are striving to end the violence in Syria. The UN General Assembly discussed the situation and received a briefing from High Commissioner for Human Rights Pillay on 13 February. The current appalling human rights situation is also likely to be addressed at the forthcoming session of the UN Human Rights Council later this month.

The EU is also playing its part, not least through the enactment of tough sanctions against Syria which include a ban on oil imports. Syria will also figure heavily on the agenda for the EU Foreign Affairs Council on 27 February which I will attend and where there is likely to be consideration of how to increase even further the already considerable international pressure on the Assad regime to change course. This may include additional restrictive measures.

Arab League Ministers met in Cairo on 12 February and decided to increase sanctions against Syria, to support Syria's non-violent opposition, and to appoint former Jordanian Foreign Minister Al-Khatib as Arab League envoy to Syria. The Arab League plan adopted last November and recently considered by the UN Security Council still represents the most credible basis for resolving the current crisis. All sides need to desist from further violence and to allow the main elements of the Arab League plan, including withdrawal of all military forces to barracks, release of all detainees and the stepping down of President Assad to allow the start of a political transition, to be implemented. In relation to the Arab League's proposal for a joint UN-Arab peace-keeping force to be established, this is a proposal which offers a further opportunity for the UN Security Council to live up to its responsibilities in the area of international peace and security and revisit the current crisis as soon as possible.

Ireland and its EU partners, working with the UN, the Arab League and international partners such as the US and Turkey, are determined to maintain strong and united political pressure on the Syrian regime until it ends the violent repression against its own people and begins a process of transition.

Diplomatic Representation

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

75 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the annual cost of maintaining the Irish embassies in London, Washington DC, Brussels, Moscow, Buenos Aires and Canberra for the years 2007 to 2011, inclusive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8703/12]

The budget for each of the Missions in question for 2007 to 2011 is provided in the following table. These budgets comprise the locally-devolved administrative budget, including local staff salaries but not salaries of diplomatic staff, which are a charge on the Headquarters budget. Likewise, my Department's small capital budget is not allocated to missions on an ongoing basis but is managed from Headquarters. The budget for the Embassy in Brussels includes the administrative costs associated with Ireland's participation in the Partnership for Peace. The budget for the Embassy in London includes the cost of administering a dedicated Passport office that is located there.

Outturn figures for Missions

Mission

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

Brussels Emb (incl PfP)

1,092,437

1,064,838

1,132,756

816,501

799,662

Buenos Aires

322,915

356,510

372,902

435,854

415,840

Canberra

685,692

735,778

659,319

760,935

746,570

London (Inc PPO)

4,770,113

4,176,511

3,807,568

3,448,547

3,064,169

Moscow

848,094

621,369

759,994

758,895

731,157

Washington

1,271,809

1,170,402

1,200,800

1,236,870

1,072,065

Foreign Trade

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

76 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the volume of imports from Israel in 2009, 2010 and 2011; and the percentage of those imports that are from companies that operate in illegal settlements. [8808/12]

The total value of merchandise imports from Israel was €82.5m in 2009 and €71.2m in 2010. The total value of services imports from Israel was €72m in 2009 and €96m in 2010. Figures for the value of imports in 2011 are not yet available. A breakdown of statistics is not available in relation to imports from companies operating in the settlements.

EU Presidency

Niall Collins

Question:

77 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the preparations he has undertaken for the Irish Presidency of the EU Council in January 2013; the amount of money spent on EU Council Presidency related activities to date in 2012; the estimated expenditure up to December 2012; the budget for the six month Presidency specifically; the additional staff he has undertaken; the number of re-assigned staff he has undertaken; the estimated future staff requirements for the Presidency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8843/12]

Preparations for Ireland's EU Presidency are under way in all Departments and significant progress has been made in setting out what our Presidency priorities will be. At a practical level, the Government has taken a number of decisions with a view to putting in place an efficient and cost-effective Presidency. The Presidency is an important opportunity for Ireland to rebuild its positive image as a credible, effective, and trustworthy international player. However, the need for financial discipline means that expenditure for the Irish Presidency will be tightly controlled. As with previous Presidencies, our Permanent Representation to the EU will be responsible for the day to day management of the Presidency. In preparation for this work the number of staff working at the Representation will increase temporarily in 2012 and preparations are currently underway to manage this process.

In addition to the full range of meetings of the Council at Ministerial and official level and formal engagements with the European Parliament, there will also be a programme of events taking place in Ireland. The calendar of events is being compiled at present and currently stands at approximately 150 events. This is smaller than during our previous presidency in 2004 and is similar to the scale of programme currently hosted in Presidency countries. During the Presidency, extra responsibilities will also be assumed by Ireland in a number of other multilateral organisations. Consequently, Ireland's representation in these organisations will also be strengthened in the coming months.

As an important cost-containment measure, the Government has decided that Dublin Castle and other State-owned properties in the Dublin area will be the default venues for all Presidency-related events in Ireland. In spite of this, the responsibility of hosting the Presidency entails considerable unavoidable cost. To date, the amount of money spent directly on Presidency preparations by my Department totals €31,000. The current overall budget for the Presidency foresees approximately €25 million being spent during 2012 in areas such as additional staff costs, preparation of the venues to host meetings during the Presidency and procurement of a range of goods and services normally associated with a programme of this size and importance. The final 2012 allocations will be included in the 2012 Revised Estimates Volume.

In terms of staffing, Departments are already deploying staff internally to meet the increased Presidency responsibilities. As that process concludes, it will be necessary to assign a number of extra staff to meet the needs of the Presidency. This will be done in the most cost-effective way possible and will include a number of further redeployments between Departments and agencies as well as some targeted recruitment, including of interns, on a strict time-limited basis to ensure that the policy priorities of the Presidency are supported in full.

During the Presidency itself, it is foreseen that a further sum in the order of €35 million will be required to support the Presidency. In addition a further sum will be required to meet security costs. The amount needed will be determined by the Government when the scale of the proposed Presidency programme has been finalised, and to the extent that these costs cannot be met from within the normal provision, additional funding will be found. The final 2013 allocations will be included in the 2013 Revised Estimates Volume. The total budget for the Presidency is at the lower end of the range of Presidency costs in other EU member States in recent years.

Departmental Expenditure

Charles Flanagan

Question:

78 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the total cost to his Department of the provision of external legal services to his Department in respect of legal advice and legal services each year for the past five years. [8856/12]

As the Deputy will be aware, Government Departments do not directly pay for the legal services provided by the Office of the Attorney General and the Chief State Solicitor's Office or for advice from Counsel briefed by them. My Department has a Legal Division, staffed by qualified legal professionals who provide legal advice on a wide range of international legal issues. Having such ‘in-house' legal experts reduces the costs which would be incurred if the Department was to engage externally for similar services.

Nevertheless, there are from time to time occasions where a need to engage external legal services arises, where the necessary specialised expertise is not available within my Department and cannot be accessed from the AG or CSSO, for example in regard to advice relating to the lease or purchase of Embassy properties abroad. I have provided details in the table below on the costs for external legal services in respect of general and property related legal fees in Ireland and overseas. It has not been possible to provide information prior to 2004 in the time available. There are no state agencies operating under the remit of my Department.

Year

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

Cost of External Legal services

293,943

225,052

215,620

484,042

269,758

Pension Provisions

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

79 Deputy Mary Mitchell O’Connor asked the Minister for Finance if she will review section 19 of the Finance Act which forces the average individual with an average pension fund of circa €200,000 to €250,000 to either purchase an annuity, contrary to the whole concept of ARF’s, or lock the majority of the fund away until they reach 75 years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8649/12]

This question relates to the flexible options on retirement first introduced in Finance Act 1999. Prior to that Act, any person taking a pension under a defined contribution (DC) scheme or a Retirement Annuity Contract was required to purchase an annuity with their remaining pension pot after drawing down the appropriate tax-free lump sum. Finance Act 1999 introduced significant changes which gave a considerable degree of control, flexibility and personal choice to certain categories of individuals in relation to the drawing down of benefits from their pension plans. These choices include the options to purchase an annuity, to receive the balance of the pension fund in cash (subject to tax, as appropriate), to invest in an approved retirement fund (ARF) or an Approved Minimum Retirement Fund (AMRF), subject to certain conditions.

Access to these flexible options was extended to all main benefits from retirement benefit schemes (other than Defined Benefit arrangements) by section 19 Finance Act 2011. The changes made in Finance Act 2011 have particular relevance for ordinary members of occupational DC pension schemes in respect of the main benefits from such schemes, as up to the passing of the Act, the only option available to them in respect of those benefits had been the purchase of a retirement annuity after taking the tax-free lump sum. These individuals now have the choices referred to above depending on their particular circumstances. It should be borne in mind, however, that the option to invest in an ARF or AMRF as opposed to purchasing an annuity may not be appropriate for everyone.

Under the regime the options to:

invest in an ARF, or

receive the balance of the pension fund in cash (subject to tax, as appropriate),

are subject to conditions. The conditions include the requirements that the individual be over 75 years of age or, if younger, that the individual has a guaranteed level of pension income (specified income) actually in payment for life at the time the option to effect the ARF or cash option is exercised. Finance Act 2011 increased the guaranteed level of pension income required from the previous fixed amount of €12,700 introduced in 1999, to a variable amount equal to 1.5 times the maximum annual rate of the State Pension (Contributory) bringing the "specified income" limit to €18,000 per annum at present. The amount of a State Pension in payment to an individual in his or her own right (excluding any amount in respect of a dependent) would count towards meeting the specified income test.

The purpose of the specified income limit is to ensure, before an individual has unfettered access to their remaining retirement funds via an ARF or the cash option mentioned above, that they have the security of an adequate guaranteed income throughout their retirement. The change to the specified income limit introduced in Finance Act 2011 was strongly signalled in the National Pensions Framework published in March 2010.

Where the minimum specified income test is not met, and an individual does not wish to purchase an annuity, then an AMRF must be chosen into which a "set aside" amount must be invested from the pension fund equal to 10 times the maximum annual rate of State Pension (Contributory) —€119,800 at present — or the remainder of the pension fund, after taking the tax-free lump sum, if less. The purpose of an AMRF is to ensure a capital or income "safety net" for individuals with pension income below the specified income limit throughout the latter period of their retirement. The funds in an AMRF can be used by the owner at any time to purchase an annuity. On death of the AMRF owner, the AMRF automatically becomes an ARF and any remaining funds may be passed on in a tax efficient way to a surviving spouse and/or children.

As an alternative to going the AMRF route, an annuity can be purchased with the first €119,800 of the pension fund or an annuity can be purchased sufficient as to satisfy the specified income test and the balance placed in an ARF or taken as cash subject to tax. Prior to Finance Act 2011, if the minimum specified income test was not met at the time the option to effect the ARF or cash option was exercised and the individual placed a "set aside" amount in an AMRF, that capital sum was effectively "locked in" and could not be accessed by the individual, other than to purchase an annuity, until he or she reached 75 years of age (at which point the AMRF automatically becomes an ARF) though any income generated by the fund could be drawn down subject to tax. This was the position even if the minimum specified income test was met after retirement. Finance Act 2011 changed this rule so that where the minimum specified income test is met at any time after retirement and before age 75, the AMRF automatically becomes an ARF with full access to the funds.

As a transitional measure, Finance Act 2011 allows the previous lower guaranteed income requirement of €12,700 per annum to continue to apply for a period of 3 years from the date that Act was signed into law (6 February 2011):

for individuals who had retired before that date and who already had an AMRF, and

for individuals who availed of the deferred annuity purchase option, had exercised the ARF (or cash) option within one month of the date of passing of Finance Act 2011 and who in exercising that option had transferred the requisite amount to an AMRF within that one month period.

This means that if such individuals satisfy the guaranteed income requirement of €12,700 within that three-year period their AMRF becomes an ARF. After this three-year period expires, the new higher guaranteed income test will have to be satisfied before the AMRF can become an ARF. The amount of guaranteed income required to meet the test will change in line with any future change in the maximum annual rate of State Pension (Contributory). The Budget and Finance Act 2011 changes sought to ensure that those in pension arrangements to whom the flexible ARF options on retirement have been extended will have choices which best suit their particular circumstances. In making the changes, however, there was also a concern to ensure that the parameters and rules governing the extension are set in a way that avoids an increase in the risk of income poverty in old age.

The deferred annuity purchase option was introduced with effect from 4 December 2008 for members of defined contribution occupational pension schemes and allowed them to defer the purchase of an annuity for an initial period of 2 years, in light of the fact that pension funds had been adversely affected by the falls in equity markets and the more general falls in assets values. The deferral option was operated administratively by the Revenue Commissioners. The period of deferral was subsequently extended to 6 March 2011 i.e. one month beyond the passing into law of the Finance Act 2011.

Motor Vehicle Registration

Joe Carey

Question:

80 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Finance the ways in which it is possible to change the registration number on a vehicle subsequent to its first Irish registration; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8691/12]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that registration numbers are assigned under section 131(5) of the Finance Act 1992. The registration number assigned at the time of first registration in the State remains assigned to that vehicle and must be displayed at all times until the vehicle is scrapped, destroyed or sent permanently out of the State. An owner of a vehicle which is 30 years old may request that the registration mark originally assigned to that vehicle be replaced with a registration number in the ZV series.

Tax Code

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

81 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Finance if he will direct officials in Revenue to make inspections to ascertain if a company (details supplied) has unlawfully claimed relief on import duty on goods it has exported to Ireland. [8807/12]

This is a matter for the Revenue Commissioners and the Deputy will be aware of the longstanding independence of the Revenue Commissioners which was recently confirmed by Section 101 of the Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Act 2011. However, I have arranged for the Deputy's concerns to be brought to the attention of the Revenue Commissioners. In that context, the Deputy might advise the Revenue as to the specific basis for his concerns and provide such information as he considers would assist in the consideration of the issue raised by him.

Tax Reliefs

Pearse Doherty

Question:

82 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the benefits that will be allowed for an employee under the special assignee relief programme; and if the employee will be entitled to a medical card. [8512/12]

Section 14 of Finance Bill 2012 provides for the Special Assignee Relief Programme (SARP). An exemption from income tax on 30% of salary between €75,000 and €500,000 will be provided for employees that are assigned for a minimum of 1 year. The exemption will be available for a maximum of 5 years. The scheme will operate through the PAYE system as a deduction from income tax, but USC will continue to be payable on the full income amount. Social Insurance will also be payable.

As well as the exemption from income tax the assignee will be entitled to receive at their employers expense the cost of one trip home per year tax free. No other day-to-day expenses will be permitted free of income tax under the scheme. In recognition of differences in curriculums taught and languages spoken by the assignee and/or their children being brought to Ireland, vouched primary or secondary school fees of up to €5,000 per annum per child where paid for by the employer on behalf of an employee will be allowed free of benefit-in-kind taxation.

Share-based remuneration can also qualify for the exemption and there are no restrictions on where the income can be remitted. The scheme will be introduced for an initial three-year period ending on 31 December 2014, in order to allow for review. Any assignee that avails of the scheme during this time will have access to the relief for the period of their assignment, up to the maximum 5 years. As the minimum qualifying salary is €75,000, it is unlikely that any employee that avails of SARP would be eligible for a medical card under the qualifying conditions for medical cards set down by the Minister for Health.

Tax Code

Stephen S. Donnelly

Question:

83 Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 82 of 11 January 2012, if he will release the analysis and recommendations provided to him on this issue; if directors of limited companies paying Class S PRSI, whose income exceeds €100,000 in a year, and who may have additional income as landlords or from self-employment, pay the 3% USC surcharge on any or all of their total income; and if they do not, the reason for same. [8644/12]

For the purpose of this reply it is assumed that the Deputy is referring to a Proprietary Director who is a director of a company who is either the beneficial owner of, or able, either directly or through the medium of other companies or by any other indirect means, to control more than 15 per cent of the ordinary share capital of the company. The 3% surcharge of Universal Social Charge on self-employment (Schedule D) income in excess of €100,000 was introduced in Finance Act 2011 as a transitional measure. This measure was introduced when it became apparent that self-employed income earners earning over €100,000 would be sheltered from the harsher effects of Budget 2011.

Proprietary Directors generally pay Class S (self-employed) PRSI but, for tax purposes, their income in their role as Proprietary Director is assessed in the same manner as employment income and their tax is collected under the PAYE system. This means that the USC surcharge of 3% on self-employment income is not applied to their income as Proprietary Directors. However, where Proprietary Directors have self-employment income (such as rental, investment, trading or professional income) over €100,000, this income is subject to the 3% surcharge.

Many Proprietary Directors have significant other income from a self-employment source. Of the estimated 15,000 Proprietary Directors earning over €100,000 per annum, an estimated 5,500 have self-employment income of over €100,000. These Proprietary Directors are charged the 3% USC surcharge on non-directorship income. It is estimated that €34 million will be yielded in 2011 from Proprietary Directors alone as a result of the USC surcharge of 3%.

Furthermore, Proprietary Directors have a higher tax liability than other PAYE income earners, on the same level of income, as they do not benefit from the PAYE tax credit. They may also pay more PRSI than other PAYE income earners because, unlike Class A contributors, Class S contributors do not have the €127 per week PRSI allowance. Revenue classifies Proprietary Directors as PAYE taxpayers on their income from their role as Proprietary Directors and, based on the information I have outlined, I see no grounds for altering this state to, in effect, reclassify them as self-employed.

Stephen S. Donnelly

Question:

84 Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for Finance if he will set out the total tax and charges burden that will follow the Finance Bill for three case studies, as follows, assuming all are single, and any other variables are standardised between them, a PAYE employee earning €200,000 per year; a company director earning €200,000 per year from that directorship; and a company director earning €100,000 per year from the company directorship plus €100,000 per year from other sources, including should the burden vary according to what those other sources of income are, setting out the variation according to the different classes of income; and if he will explain the discrepancies. [8645/12]

For the purpose of this reply it is assumed that the Deputy is referring to:

1. a proprietary director, which is a director of a company who is either the beneficial owner of, or able, either directly or through the medium of other companies or by any other indirect means, to control more than 15 per cent of the ordinary share capital of the company.

2. "€100,000 per year from other sources" is taken to mean other self-employed income (Schedule D income).

On that basis, the total taxes and charges for 2012 are set out as follows for the three case studies put forward by the Deputy. Figures are rounded to the nearest €1. In addition, variations can arise due to rounding.

Summary

Case

Gross Income

USC, PRSI, Income Tax

Net Annual Income

Single PAYE Employee

€200,000

€92,867

€107,133

Single Proprietary Director

€200,000

€94,781

€105,219

Single Proprietary Director with income from other sources

€200,000

€94,780

€105,220

The variation is due to the Employee benefitting from the PAYE (Employee Tax Credit) of €1,650 per annum and Class A PRSI having an weekly allowance of €127 which is not available to Class S contributors.

Case 1: A single PAYE employee earning €200,000 per year.

Gross Income

€200,000

Universal Social Charge:

€10,036 @ 2% = €200.72

€5,980 @ 4% = €239.20

€183,984 @ 7% = €12,878.88

(€13.319)

PRSI:

Class A

€200,000 —€6,604 @ 4% =

(€7,736)

Income Tax:

€32,800 @ 20% = €6,560

€167,200 @ 41% = €68,552

€75,112

Less Credits

Personal Tax Credit (€1,650)

PAYE Tax Credit (€1,650)

(€71,812)

Total Deductions

(€92,867)

Net Income

€107,133

Case 2: A single Proprietary Director earning €200,000 per year.

Gross Income

€200,000

Universal Social Charge:

€10,036 @ 2% = €200.72

€5,980 @ 4% = €239.20

€183,984 @ 7% = €12,878.88

(€13.319)

PRSI:

Class S

€200,000 @ 4% =

(€8,000)

Income Tax:

€32,800 @ 20% = €6,560

€167,200 @ 41% = €68,552

€75,112

Less Credits

Personal Tax Credit (€1,650)

(€73,462)

Total Deductions

(€94,781)

Net Income

€105,219

Case 3: A single Proprietary Director earning €100,000 per year plus €100,000 per year from other sources (self —employed/Schedule D income).

Gross Income

€200,000

Source A (Income from Proprietary Directorship)

€100,000

Universal Social Charge:

€5,018 @ 2% = €100.36

€2,990 @ 4% = €119.60

€91,992 @ 7% = €6,439.44

(€6,659)

PRSI:

Class S

€100,000 @ 4% =

(€4,000)

Income Tax:

€16,400 @ 20% = €3,280

€83,600 @ 41% = €34,276

€37,556

Less Credits

Personal Tax Credit

(€825)

(€36,731)

Total Deductions under Source A

(€47,390)

(Income from Proprietary Directorship)

Net Source A Income

€52,610

Source B Income from other sources

€100,000

(self-employed/Schedule D income)

Universal Social Charge:

€5,018 @ 2% = €100.36

€2,990 @ 4% = €119.60

€91,992 @ 7% = €6439.44

(€6,659)

PRSI:

Class S

€100,000 @ 4% =

(€4,000)

Income Tax:

€16,400 @ 20% = €3,280

€83,600 @ 41% = €34,276

€37,556

Less Credits

Personal Tax Credit

(€825)

(€36,731)

Total Deductions under Source B

(€47,390)

(self-employed/Schedule D income)

Net Source B Income

€52,610

Total Deductions under source A and B

(€94,780)

Total Net Income from Source A and B

€105,220

Tax Collection

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Question:

85 Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Finance his views on a possible revenue raising initiative (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8657/12]

Luxury goods such as the items outlined by the Deputy are currently subject to VAT at 23%, which was increased from 21% in the last Budget, and some luxury items are subject to further taxation such as excise duties. While any additional revenue would be welcome in the current circumstances, it is questionable whether placing a further tax on these goods would produce additional revenue, as the yield would be affected by the possible behavioural impact of the charge. I have no plans to introduce such a tax at this time.

National Asset Management Agency

Pearse Doherty

Question:

86 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance with respect to the National Asset Management Agency Q3 2011 accounts, the total amount of interest actually received by NAMA for that quarter and for Q1 and Q2 in the same year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8800/12]

Pearse Doherty

Question:

87 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance if he will confirm that a method known as effective interest rate method is used by the National Asset Management Agency when calculating its interest income for the purposes of the compilation of its quarterly accounts; the difference between this method and the actual amount of interest received by NAMA in any given quarter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8801/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 86 and 87 together.

NAMA advises me that interest income is recognised in its quarterly accounts, based on the Effective Interest Rate (EIR) methodology. The EIR methodology is an accounting technique which NAMA is required to adopt for the recognition of interest income on its loan portfolio in accordance with International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). The EIR method allocates interest income proportionately over the life of a loan regardless of the timing of cash receipts. The income recognised in NAMA's accounts reflects the expected rate of return on NAMA's acquired loans based on their expected future cash receipts over the life of the loans.

While the NAMA borrower continues to be liable for interest accruing on the original par value of the loan, IFRS accounting standards do not allow NAMA to use this as a basis to recognise interest income on its loan portfolio for the purpose of financial reporting. As a result NAMA does not recognise in its financial statements interest income based on the contractual interest being accrued or being received on the nominal or original par value of the loan.

NAMA has informed me that the contractual interest payments actually received in cash from NAMA borrowers in respect of NAMA Loans during each quarter of 2011 are as set out in the table. The table also shows that quarterly income based on the EIR method.

Quarterly Income Reported based on EIR Method

Interest Income Received on Loans

€’m

€’m

Q1

276

178

Q2

255

184

Q3

255

175

The higher interest income reflected under the EIR method reflects the expected rate of return based on its expected future cash flows from the realisation of property collateral underlying the loans.

Pearse Doherty

Question:

88 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance if he will confirm the total number of loans held by the National Asset Management Agency that are performing; the average interest rate being paid on those loans that are performing; the average interest paid by those loans which are non-performing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8802/12]

NAMA informs me that as at 30 September 2011, 2,872 of its loans were performing and 8,911 were non-performing. The weighted average contractual interest rate being paid in cash by those performing loans is estimated at 3.40% of the par / nominal debt at 30 September 2011. The non-performing loans at 30 September 2011, by definition, are not meeting their full contractual interest payments. However, it is estimated that €320 million in contractual interest has been paid to NAMA in respect of some of these loans since their acquisition, representing an estimated average annual interest rate of 0.38% on the non-performing loans.

Pearse Doherty

Question:

89 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the reason the sale of assets is included in the quarterly accounts of the National Asset Management Agency on the income side; his views that this practice gives a distorted account of the way NAMA is actually performing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8803/12]

NAMA has advised me that it prepares its quarterly accounts in accordance with International Financial Reporting Standards. In accordance with these standards, sales of assets are included in the income statement (Profit and Loss). NAMA informs me that during Quarter 3 and Quarter 4 of 2011, it sold a number of loans to third parties. When a loan is sold to a third party, the gain or loss on the disposal of the loan is calculated as the sale proceeds minus the value of the loan NAMA had been carrying in its books. NAMA advises that accounting for gains or losses on disposals of assets in this manner is a normal accounting practice and will present a fair reflection of its performance in the period.

Pearse Doherty

Question:

90 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the reason foreign exchange gains are included in the quarterly accounts of the National Asset Management Agency; his views that this practice gives a distorted account of the way that NAMA is actually performing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8804/12]

NAMA advises me that it prepares its quarterly accounts in accordance with International Financial Reporting Standards. In accordance with these standards, foreign exchange gains and losses are included in the income statement (Profit and Loss). The amount included in the income statement represents the gains or losses on the translation to euro of its foreign currency loan portfolio and related foreign exchange derivatives. NAMA has put in place hedging arrangements and uses foreign exchange swaps to manage its foreign exchange risks. The performance of foreign exchange markets may result in unrealised foreign exchange gains or losses being recognised in the income statement for a period, which may not be subsequently realised at a later date. The gain of €47 million in the Quarter 3 Report is an unrealised gain reflecting movements in foreign exchange swap rates in the quarter. NAMA informs me that its accounting treatment for foreign exchange gains or losses and the presentation of its financial performance in general is in accordance with other similar enterprises.

Pearse Doherty

Question:

91 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the reason no independent auditing firm is used in the preparation of the National Asset Management Agency’s quarterly accounts. [8805/12]

The NAMA quarterly accounts are prepared in accordance with section 55 of the National Asset Management Agency Act 2009. NAMA advises that it would not be considered normal practice for any State or commercial entity to have its quarterly accounts audited or prepared by an independent auditing firm. NAMA also advises me that, apart from imposing additional and unnecessary costs, involving an independent auditing firm in the preparation of the agency's quarterly accounts would delay their publication. The annual accounts of NAMA and each group entity are subject to an independent audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General in accordance with section 57 of the Act. It is expected that the NAMA 2011 annual accounts will be publicly available by the middle of the year.

State Banking Sector

Joe Higgins

Question:

92 Deputy Joe Higgins asked the Minister for Finance the amount spent by the State-funded EBS and Bank of Ireland in preparing the submissions of their respective chief executives for the Central Bank of Ireland’s fitness and probity review of directors, including both the cost of engaging the services of the US-based consultants Promontory and the cost of these banks’ own employees; and if he, the Central Bank of Ireland or the Regulator approved the use of these consultants. [8812/12]

I can confirm that I did not approve the use of these consultants in the case of either EBS or Bank of Ireland. The Central Bank has also confirmed to me that it did not approve the use of these consultants. The procurement of external service providers is a matter for the management and board of each respective institution. I have no role in the day-to-day commercial and operational decisions of the banks, which include these matters. These decisions are taken by the board and management of the institution. As the Deputy will be aware, notwithstanding the fact that the State is a significant shareholder in both institutions, the banks are run on a commercial arm's length basis as per the Memorandum on Economic and Financial Policies agreed with the EU Commission, the ECB and the IMF.

The individual institutions have provided certain additional details. In line with AIB's normal practice, the bank has not publicly disclosed the fees paid as the bank deems it to be commercially sensitive to do so in respect of arrangements entered into with individual firms. Use of Promontory or other services were not formally notified to the Central Bank of Ireland or the Department of Finance as it is not normal practice nor is there a requirement to do so. Promontory was engaged by the chairman of EBS to perform an independent assessment of the Chief Executive's fitness and probity. The Promontory report was submitted to the Central Bank of Ireland on 3 February. The bank has confirmed that the full cost of the Promontory engagement was borne by the bank. Bank of Ireland uses a range of professional firms, and in some instances individuals, to assist it in its activities across a wide range of governance, regulatory, commercial and other matters. These would vary on an ongoing basis, depending on specific business needs right across the group. The bank does not divulge details of arrangements in place with any such companies or individuals.

EU Presidency

Niall Collins

Question:

93 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Finance the preparations he has undertaken for the Irish Presidency of the EU Council in January 2013; the amount of money spent on EU Council Presidency related activities to date in 2012; the estimated expenditure up to December 2012; the budget for the six month Presidency specifically; the additional staff he has undertaken; the number of re-assigned staff he has undertaken; the estimated future staff requirements for the Presidency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8842/12]

Preparations for the Irish Presidency of the EU in the first half of 2013 are well advanced in my Department. A steering Committee has been established to coordinate the preparation of the Department's Presidency programme for the Ecofin Council and the organization of the Informal Ecofin meeting in Dublin. The Management Advisory Committee is updated regularly on progress to date. A budget in the order of €2m approximately has been allocated in my Department for Presidency-related activities in 2012. This will mainly be accounted for in additional staffing costs and increased travel on Presidency planning with our Trio partners (Lithuania and Greece), the preceding Presidencies (Denmark and Cyprus) and the EU Institutions. To date no Presidency-related additional expenditure has been identified. The 2013 Presidency budget for Department of Finance has not yet been finalized.

Recently the Government made a decision regarding the overall cost of Ireland's Presidency. The current overall budget for the Presidency foresees approximately €25m being spent during 2012 in areas such as additional staff costs, preparation of the venues to host meetings during the Presidency and procurement of a range of goods and services normally associated with a programme of this size and importance. The precise figure will emerge in the coming months as the preparations progress. During the Presidency itself, it is foreseen that a further sum in the order of €35m will be required to support the Presidency across all Departments. In addition a further sum will be required to meet security costs. The amount needed for security will be determined when the scale of the Presidency programme has been finalised. The total budget for the Presidency is at the lower end of the range of Presidency costs in recent years.

The staff requirements of the Department of Finance are still under consideration and will represent a temporary increase in headcount for the duration of the Presidency and for some months before and after the first half of 2013. It will be important that an adequate complement of appropriately skilled staff is available to ensure that Ireland's Presidency of the EU is businesslike and successful.

This will be the 7th EU Presidency that Ireland has presided over and our record from previous Presidencies has been that we get the business done in an efficient and effective manner. The Government is determined that Ireland's 7th Presidency of the European Union will enhance our reputation and standing at EU level. The hosting of a successful and businesslike Presidency of the EU will demonstrate to our European colleagues that we are committed to the European project and that we have much to contribute in resolving the crisis in the Euro area and the wider EU. In addition, every effort will be made to control EU Presidency-related expenditure and to ensure value for money for the taxpayer.

School Meals Policy

Gerry Adams

Question:

94 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Education and Skills if there are specific guidelines for schools in relation to the times allowed for school children to eat lunch to ensure that children have sufficient time in which to eat their lunch; if he has been in contact with parents from a school (details supplied) in County Meath in relation to this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8678/12]

The Rules for National Schools provide for a midday recreation interval of one half-hour. Forenoon and afternoon breaks of five minutes each are also allowed. Where a recreation interval or breaks of a longer duration than the foregoing are taken the length of the school day must be extended correspondingly. The arrangements within the recreation interval for pupils to eat their lunch are a matter for each Board of Management to determine. My Department has not issued guidelines to schools in this regard. In the event that a parent has concerns regarding these arrangements, the parent should raise these concerns with the Board of Management in question.

Departmental Expenditure

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

95 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Education and Skills the funding provided by him towards the operation of AONTAS for the years 2010 and 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8531/12]

My Department provided funding of €920,000 and €896,000 to AONTAS in 2010 and 2011 respectively. The 2012 provision for AONTAS is €887,000.

Departmental Schemes

Anthony Lawlor

Question:

96 Deputy Anthony Lawlor asked the Minister for Education and Skills the future plans for the summer works scheme and minor works grants; if these schemes are being phased out, the funding that will be available to schools to undertake necessary minor structural works, such as improving recreational facilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8544/12]

As the Deputy is aware, the Government's Medium Term Infrastructure and Capital Investment Framework, which was published on 10th November last, sets out the demographic challenge facing the education system. Total enrolment in both primary and post-primary schools is expected to grow by almost 70,000 between now and 2018 — over 45,000 at primary level and 25,000 at post primary — and will continue to grow up to at least 2024 at post-primary. In view of the very real need to ensure that every child has access to a school place, the delivery of new schools, together with extension projects, will be the main focus for capital investment in schools in the coming years. The Deputy will be aware that a Minor Works Grant issued to primary schools last November for the school year 2011/2012 at a cost of €28m. In the context of the financial constraints imposed by the need to prioritise available funding for the provision of essential school accommodation, it is not possible for me to advance with a summer works programme this year. It is not envisaged that a Minor Works Grant to primary schools will be issued in 2012 for the school year 2012/2013. My Department administers an Emergency Works Scheme solely for unforeseen emergencies or to provide funding to facilitate inclusion and access for special needs pupils. An emergency is deemed to be a situation which poses an immediate risk to health, life, property or the environment which is sudden, unforeseen and requires immediate action and in the case of a school if not corrected would prevent the school or part thereof from opening. Details of the Scheme are available on the Department's websitewww.education.ie.

Tionscnaimh Tógála Scoile

Pearse Doherty

Question:

97 D’fhiafraigh Pearse Doherty den Aire Oideachais agus Scileanna cad é an staid reatha i gcás Scoil Náisiúnta Ghort an Choirce, Uimhir 16819T. Gealladh scoil nua do Ghort an Choirce ach anois, nuair nach bhfuil sin ag tarlú, tá athchóiriú agus méadú ar fhoirgneamh na scoile riachtanach go práinneach. An gcuirfidh an tAire eolas chun dáta ar fáil agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ar an ábhar seo. [8545/12]

Beidh fhios ag an Teachta nárbh fhéidir dul ar aghaidh le tógáil scoile nua do Scoil Náisiúnta Ghort an Choirce mar gur diúltaíodh cead pleanála don suíomh a bhí beartaithe.

Tá eolas maidir leis an gclár reatha tógála scoile mar aon leis na hiarratais mheasúnaithe go léir ar oibreacha móra caipitil, an tionscadal seo san áireamh, le fáil ar shuíomh gréasáin na Roinne agwww.education.ie.

Breithneofar cur ar aghaidh na dtionscadal mór tógála go léir, an tionscadal seo san áireamh, ag tabhairt aird ar an mhaoiniú caipitil atá ar fáil, agus ar an riachtanas le tosaíocht a bheith ag tionscadail mhóra, a theastaíonn chun freastal ar éileamh déimeagrafach, i ndáil le maoiniú dá leithéid. Ina leith sin, ní féidir fráma ama táscach a thabhairt do chur ar aghaidh an tionscadail seo ag an dtráth seo.

Teachers’ Remuneration

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

98 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide a full list of the allowances and payments referred to in a Circular 003/2012 and corresponding amounts in tabular form. [8553/12]

A full list of the teaching allowances referred to in Circular 0003/2012 is provided in tabular form. A full list of the allowances payable to non-teaching staff in schools and VECs is currently being compiled and details will be supplied when this has been finalised. Not every person serving in a beneficiary grade has necessarily been eligible to receive the allowances listed.

Teaching Allowances

Name/Description of Allowance

Amount of allowance €

Beneficiary (Grade)

Higher Diploma in Education (pass)

591

Teacher

Higher Diploma in Education (honours)

1,236

Teacher

Primary Degree (pass)

1,842

Teacher

Primary Degree (honours)

4,918

Teacher

Master’s Degree (pass)

4,918

Teacher

Master’s Degree (honours)

5,496

Teacher

Doctor’s Degree

6,140

Teacher

Diploma in Special Ed

2,437

Teacher

Supervision and Substitution — minimum 37 hour payment — payment for hours worked in excess of 37 is at the hourly rate for the hours worked

1,769 for 37 hours or 47.82 per hour

Teacher

Principal — Rate varies depending on category of school — categories are based on number of teachers in the school

9,310 — 42,469

Principal

Deputy Principal — Rate varies depending on category of school — categories are based on number of teachers in the school

3,769 — 27,217

Deputy Principal

Assistant Principal

8,520

Assistant Principal

Director of Adult Education — Rate varies depending on category of school — categories are based on number of enrolment hours

3,769 — 22,645

Director of Adult Education

Supervising Teacher in Prison Education Unit — Rate varies based on number of teachers in the unit

8,520 — 23,127

Supervising Teacher

Programme Coordinator AP level

8,520

Programme Coordinator

Special Duties Teacher

3,769

Special Duties Teacher

Deputy Supervising Teacher in Prison Education Unit

8,520

Deputy Supervising Teacher

Programme Coordinator SDT level

3,769

Programme Coordinator

Assistant Supervising Teacher in Prison Education Unit

3,769

Assistant Supervising Teacher

Allowance payable to Principals of schools offering a part-time adult education programme — Rate varies depending on category of school

1,625

Principal

Allowance for Principals who act as Secretary to Board of Management — rate varies based on number of students in school

523 — 1,572

Principal

Honorarium

4,773

Teacher

Allowance payable to Principals of 5 Community Schools for management role in sports complexes

4,820

Principal

Secondment allowance Category 1 (Divisional Inspector scale)

25,638

Teacher on secondment — rate varies depending on length of service

Secondment allowance Category 2

16,825

Teacher on secondment

Secondment allowance Category 3

13,146

Teacher on secondment

Secondment allowance Category 4

10,130

Teacher on secondment

Director of Education Centre allowance

27,197

Teacher on secondment

Gaeltacht grant

3,063 or 10% of salary

Teacher

Teaching through Irish

1,583

Teacher

Island Allowance

1,842

Teacher

Visiting Teacher Allowance

8,520

Teacher

Secure Unit Allowance/ Disturbed Adolescent Allowance

2,195

Teacher

Allowance payable to teachers of apprentices in Dun Laoghaire and County Cork VECs

9,740

Teacher

Allowance for teachers with 35 years service

2,324

Teacher

National Teacher PCW allowance

1,842

Teacher

Principal — pre PCW — Rate varies depending on points rating of school

6,660 — 25,303

Principal

Personal rate of Principal Allowance — Rate varies depending on category of school

6,660 — 11,163

Principal

Personal rate of Principal Allowance Pre ’87/ Revised Duties — Rate varies depending on category of school

8,521 — 14,289

Principal

Vice Principal — pre PCW — Rate varies depending on points rating of school

2,944 — 15,983

Vice Principal

A Post — pre PCW

6,660

A Post

B Post — pre PCW

2,944

B Post

Rural Science Teachers

1,842

Teacher

Itinerant Domestic Science Teachers

1,842

Teacher

Special Allowance to Teachers in Comprehensive Schools

2,471

Teacher

Special Payment to EPTs under AR 2/98 — rate varies depending on years of service

313 — 1,644

Teacher

Special Payment to TWTs under AR 2/98 — rate varies depending on years of service

626 — 5,482

Teacher

Rule 87 (Higher Froebel Cert)

1,435

Teacher

Long Service Increment

1,477

Teacher

Special differential allowance paid to ex-Preparatory College Professors

2,860

Teacher

Personal Allowances referred to in Paragraph 2 of C/L 50/70

2,565 — 13,049

Teacher

Children’s Allowances

113

Teacher

Secretary to Board of Management allowance (payable on a personal basis to Principals of Comprehensive schools who held the allowance prior to the implementation of Agreed Report 3/06)

2,802

Principal

Departmental Expenditure

Alex White

Question:

99 Deputy Alex White asked the Minister for Education and Skills the level of public funding given by him to subsidise and support the network of Irish summer colleges in 2011; the budgetary provision, if any, that has been made for 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8641/12]

In 2011, my Department paid a total of €868,440 to the Irish Summer Colleges in respect of student primary teachers and provision has been made for a similar amount of expenditure in 2012.

As part of the Government's budgetary considerations and the Comprehensive Expenditure Review, a decision was made to abolish the payment of grants by this Department to the Gaeltacht Colleges towards the cost of student teachers' attendance at Gaeltacht courses. The cost of attendance at the courses will, from the commencement of the 2012/13 academic year, not be met by this Department as priority has been given to protecting resources for front line services as far as possible in the coming years.

Departmental Schemes

Stephen S. Donnelly

Question:

100 Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the work to encourage school book rental schemes; if he will consider implementing a national scheme, or in some way making participation in a scheme obligatory; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8642/12]

My Department has undertaken a survey of schools to establish the current situation regarding school book rental and loan schemes. This survey has recently been completed.

When the results of this survey have been examined in detail, I will consider how I might incentivise the introduction of book loan or rental schemes in schools that do not currently operate such schemes. I believe it is the most effective means of lowering costs for all parents.

My Department is also, currently preparing guidelines for schools on best practice in the operation of such schemes.

School Accommodation

Stephen S. Donnelly

Question:

101 Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for Education and Skills the total number of pupils and schools currently being accommodated in prefabricated buildings in the country and in County Wicklow; the annual spend on rental and purchase of prefabricated buildings for each of the past ten years, broken down by school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8643/12]

My Department does not hold information on the numbers of pupils in individual schools who currently occupy temporary accommodation; this depends on the organisation of class groups by schools within available accommodation and may vary from year to year. Local school managements are responsible for organising their class numbers, year on year, to achieve the optimum local efficiencies.

Currently, there are 591 primary and post-primary schools renting 1,543 prefab units throughout the country of which 19 of these schools rent 56 prefabs in County Wicklow. (Please note that one prefab unit may consist of one or more classrooms and/or ancillary accommodation). Current expenditure on rental of prefabricated accommodation in primary and post-primary schools in Co. Wicklow is in the region of €600k per annum.

The information requested by the Deputy on the annual spend on rental and purchase of prefabricated buildings for each of the past ten years, broken down by school is not readily available. The Table sets out details of expenditure on purchased prefabs throughout the country including Co. Wicklow since 2008, with details of Co. Wicklow outlined in a separate table.

Separately, the amount spent on renting temporary accommodation at primary and post-primary level throughout the country, including — but not limited to — prefabricated accommodation in the last 4 years:

Year

€m

2012

€29.3m (allocation)

2011

€28.9m

2010

€29.3m

2009

€39m

Number and Cost of Purchased Prefabs 2008-2011

Country

Year

Total Paid

No. of schools

2008

€29,788,751.25

199

2009

€10,955,153.84

94

2010

€9,901,538.57

73

2011

€3,455,257.89

33

Total

€54,100,701.55

399

Wicklow

Year

Total Wicklow Paid

No. of schools

Mainstream Classrooms

Resource Classrooms

2008

€312,426.69

3

4

0

2009

€92,895.24

2

1

0

2010

€534,874.10

1

4

1

2011

€239,910.00

3

6

1

Total

€1,180,106.03

9

15

2

Special Educational Needs

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

102 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will confirm that 30 December 2011 is the closing date for applications for submissions regarding resource teachers and not 25 November 2011 the date used by the National Council for Special Education; if he will review the application of a school (details supplied) in County Cork in this context; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8658/12]

The Deputy will be aware that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) for allocating resource teachers to schools to support children with special educational needs. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support.

All schools have now received their resource teaching allocations for the current school year, based on the number of valid applications for resource teaching support received by the NCSE to 25th November, 2011, and taking into account my Departments Employment Control Framework obligations which limits the number of overall resource teaching posts which may be allocated to schools.

Applications for resource teaching hours received after 25th November, 2011, will be processed by the NCSE in the context of the 2012/13 school year applications process. In the interim, schools should support pupils for whom new applications are being made from their existing resource teaching allocations, until revised allocations are made for the September 2012 school year.

Where a pupil meets the criteria for Resource Teaching support, following diagnosis or enrolment to a school which does not have any existing allocation of resource teaching support, the NCSE may make an allocation for such pupils from the small pool of remaining posts which have been reserved for such emergencies or eventualities.

Ministerial Staff

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

103 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of staff working directly for the Minister of State, Deputy Ciarán Cannon, that is, constituency staff, and the cost involved; the number of secretaries in his Department; and if he will provide the cost of a driver and personal assistants. [8673/12]

In accordance with the terms of the Department of Finance Guidelines in relation to Ministerial Appointments dated the 24th, March 2011 a personal assistant and personal secretary were appointed to assist the Minister of State in carrying out his functions. The following is a breakdown of staff assigned to his constituency office together with their salaries: 1 Personal Assistant (non civil servant appointed 20/04/2011) —€49,790 p.a. 1 Personal Secretary (non civil servant appointed 10/06/2011) —€38,906 p.a. 0.80 Staff Officer (civil servant) —€34,024 p.a. Two civilian drivers were appointed on 11th April 2011 at an annual combined salary cost of €65,930 (€32,965 each per annum). Five civil servants are assigned to the Minister of State's private office at an annual combined salary cost of €213,548.

Disadvantaged Status

Gerry Adams

Question:

104 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the review he established in relation to cuts to legacy posts for DEIS schools; if the group tasked with the review has concluded its work; when he expects the review to conclude; when will the review be made public; the contact that he has had with the DEIS schools affected by these cuts in the course of the review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8674/12]

Gerry Adams

Question:

105 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will give details of the DEIS schools in County Louth; and if he will assess the number of posts that will be lost as a result of cuts to DEIS legacy posts. [8675/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 104 and 105 together.

As announced in the house on the 11th January, I have asked my Department for a report on the impact of the withdrawal of certain posts allocated under previous disadvantaged schemes in DEIS Band 1 and Band 2 primary schools.

This report, which is currently being finalised, will detail the facts for each individual school affected by this measure, applying the most up to date enrolments for September 2011. In addition, the report will take account of the net effect of a range of factors on teacher allocations in these schools, for example increasing and decreasing enrolments and the reforms to the existing teacher allocations process, all of which will determine the staffing requirement for these schools for 2012/13 school year.

When the report is finalised and submitted to me I will be in a position to make a decision on the final outcome for the individual schools involved.

Schools will be notified in the coming weeks of their staffing entitlements under the new arrangements for 2012/13.

Special Educational Needs

Gerry Adams

Question:

106 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has a long-term strategic plan to integrate children with special needs into mainstream classes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8697/12]

I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department's policy is to promote the principle of inclusive education as envisaged in Section 2 of the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs (EPSEN), Act 2004. The Department, either directly or through the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), provides for a range of supports in schools to enable them to cater for students with special educational needs which includes additional resource teachers, Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) and specialist equipment. The precise model of provision made will depend on the pupil's assessed disability.

A key priority for my Department is to facilitate the maximum possible inclusion of students with special educational needs while always allowing for individuals for whom inclusion with mainstream peers may not be in their best interests, or the interests of children with whom the child is to be educated, as set out in section 2 of the EPSEN Act, to be provided for.

Some students are capable of attending ordinary classes on an integrated basis with additional teaching and/or SNA support. In other cases, a more appropriate response for pupils may be to attend special dedicated classes within the school. These students have the option, where appropriate, of full/partial integration and interaction with other pupils. Other children may have such complex needs that special school places may be required to provide them with specialist interventions and reduced pupil teacher ratios.

The continuum of provision provided for by my Department ensures that all such requirements can be catered for, while allowing for the majority of children with special educational needs to be educated in mainstream environments.

Approximately 15% of the entire budget of my Department — some €1.3 billion — was spent in support of children with Special Educational Needs in 2011. Despite the current economic difficulties, funding for special education has not been cut.

The continued commitment of this Government to special education provision, at a time when savings are being required across a range of other expenditure areas, will ensure that children with special educational needs can continue to have access to mainstream education, in line with their requirements, while also providing specialist interventions for the small number of students who require special school or class placements.

Martin Heydon

Question:

107 Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the provision of a place in an ASD unit at a local primary school for a pupil (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8734/12]

The Deputy will be aware that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), through the local special educational needs organisers (SENOs), is responsible for processing applications from primary and post primary schools for special educational needs supports including the approval of special classes for autism. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support.

All schools have the names and contact details of their local SENO. Parents may also contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs, using the contact details available onwww.ncse.ie.

I have arranged for the information requested by the Deputy to be forwarded to the NCSE for their direct reply.

The Deputy will also be aware the provision of therapy supports is a matter for the Health Service Executive.

FÁS Training Programmes

Martin Ferris

Question:

108 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Education and Skills the person who owns the premises which were used by Monavalley FÁS centre, Tralee, County Kerry; and what is being done with the equipment formerly used by the centre which is being removed. [8740/12]

These issues are a day to day matter for FÁS. However I understand that the TV and Video Production Course being run by FÁS in Kerry is currently located in a building adjoining the FÁS Training Centre in Tralee. This premises is leased by FÁS from Shannon Development.

There is a plan under consideration by FÁS to move the TV and Video Course from these rented premises into a newly renovated part of the existing FÁS Training Centre in Monavalley, Tralee. All equipment from the TV and Video Course would transfer from the existing premises into the new facility.

The section allocated to the new facility is currently being organised in anticipation of the project being approved. Equipment has therefore been moved and stored in the Centre. At this time, no capital or accountable equipment items have been disposed of by the Training Centre. Some unused items of furniture (benches) have been disposed of in compliance with FÁS procedures.

Irish Language

Liam Twomey

Question:

109 Deputy Liam Twomey asked the Minister for Education and Skills his best estimate of the cost to the Exchequer of teaching Irish in our primary and secondary schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8741/12]

Only a small element of the costs of teaching Irish can be identified separately. These include the outlay on professional development of teachers provided at second level through the Seirbhís Tacaíochta Dara Leibhéal don Ghaeilge, €832,500 p.a, and the grant paid to An Chomhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaíochta for the development of resources and materials, advice and research (€1.6m in 2011 and €1.75m in 2012). At primary level, professional development is provided by the Professional Development Service for Teachers, but the costs of Irish cannot be identified separately.

The main areas of expenditure on Irish are the overall costs of teacher salaries and the grants paid for the running costs of schools. When the curriculum time devoted to Irish and participation levels in Irish relative to other subjects are apportioned, the estimated annual outlay in 2011 on Irish at primary and second level was €522.8m excluding capital costs, and €573.7m including capital costs.

School Staffing

Liam Twomey

Question:

110 Deputy Liam Twomey asked the Minister for Education and Skills the cost to his Department for chaplaincy services in secondary schools; noting that their role is different to school guidance services, but asking whether they overlap in any way; the schools entitled to have a full-time chaplaincy service paid for by him; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8742/12]

My Department allocates chaplain posts to Community and Comprehensive Schools and designated Community Colleges. There are currently 152 whole time equivalent chaplain posts allocated to these schools. The annual cost is approximately €9m.

The appointment of chaplains to these schools flow from the original agreements concluded when the schools concerned were established. The chaplains are not necessarily teachers of religion and perform pastoral and counselling roles. Under current arrangements they can teach a minimum number of hours and subject to their individual qualifications this may be for subjects other than religion.

Schools have autonomy in relation to how to use their standard staffing allocation for the provision of subjects to their students. As a result of the recent budget measure the standard staffing allocation must, from September 2012, also be used for the provision of guidance to students. The provision of guidance continues to remain a statutory requirement for schools and my Department's forthcoming Circular will make this clear. It will also make clear that guidance is a whole school activity and under existing arrangements each school is expected to develop a school guidance plan as a means of supporting the needs of its students.

Departmental Expenditure

Liam Twomey

Question:

111 Deputy Liam Twomey asked the Minister for Education and Skills the cost of providing transition year to schools; if he will provide the breakdown of the costs incurred to him by transition year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8743/12]

Teachers employed within an approved staffing allocation granted by my Department in fee-charging schools and teachers in schools within the Free Education Scheme are paid by the State. Teacher allocations for fee-charging schools are based on a ratio of 20 to 1, while allocations for schools in the Free Education Scheme are at a ratio of 19 to 1.

The average cost of a teaching post for a transition year student in a fee-charging school is €3,200 and the estimated annual cost is €13.6m. The average cost of a teaching post for a transition year student in a school in the Free Education Scheme is €3,368 and the estimated annual cost is €88.5m.

My Department also provides funding by way of a programme grant of €95 per Transition Year pupil to schools in the Free Education Scheme. The estimated annual cost of this grant is €2.5m.

Liam Twomey

Question:

112 Deputy Liam Twomey asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he carries out a cost benefit analysis review on different educational programmes paid for by him; if, for example, he has reviewed the leaving certificate vocational programme from this point; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8744/12]

My Department commissions or undertakes evaluation reports from time to time on the impact of various educational programmes.

A formal cost benefit analysis study was not undertaken in respect of the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme. The programme was introduced in 1994 on foot of the Report of the Industrial Policy Review Group (the Culliton Report, published 1992) which recommended a strengthening of the vocational and technical dimensions of second level schooling. The LCVP programme attracted aid from the European Social Fund as part of the Vocational Preparation and Training Measure for the period 1994-99 and was costed and reported on regularly for this purpose.

An evaluation of the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme was published by my Department's inspectorate in 1998, and the results were generally positive. The emphasis on enterprise, active learning, integration of ICT and enhancement of career investigation skills were viewed very positively by students.

As part of the ongoing evaluation of schools, my Department publishes whole school evaluation reports, subject inspection reports, and reports on the operation of programmes, including Transition Year and the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme, in individual schools. These are available on the websitewww.education.ie. In 2010/11, there were 37,213 students following the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme at an estimated cost of €325.6m per annum. These students follow linked business and/or technical subjects in the established Leaving Certificate, allied with a continental language, a strong focus on ICT, and the LCVP Link Modules — Enterprise Education and Preparation for the World of Work. The State Examinations Commission provides information on the results scored in the LCVP Modules.

Vocational Education Committees

Noel Harrington

Question:

113 Deputy Noel Harrington asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 112 of 14 December 2011, the number of legal cases taken against County Cork Vocational Education Committee in each of the years since 2000 that have been subject to a court hearing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8761/12]

Noel Harrington

Question:

114 Deputy Noel Harrington asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 112 of 14 December 2011, the number of legal cases taken against County Cork Vocational Education Committee in each of the years since 2000 relating to employment legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8762/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 113 and 114 together.

The Deputy will appreciate that the information requested by him is not held by my Department, as such cases are a matter for County Cork VEC.

Further to Parliamentary Question No. 112 of 14 December 2011, my officials again contacted the VEC which confirmed that it would require an inordinate amount of administrative time to compile the information sought.

Noel Harrington

Question:

115 Deputy Noel Harrington asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 112 of 14 December 2011, the total amount of legal costs spent by Cork County Vocational Education Committee in each year since 2000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8763/12]

The information requested by the Deputy is contained in the accounts of Co. Cork VEC, which for most of the years in question are stored in an off site location. Officials from my Department are arranging for the documents to be retrieved and the information will be collated and forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Noel Harrington

Question:

116 Deputy Noel Harrington asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has raised any issues with Cork County Vocational Education Committee in respect of its spending of its grant in aid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8764/12]

My Department has raised a number of issues with Co. Cork VEC in relation to the expenditure of its funding. These relate to ineffective expenditure on an IT project that was the subject of a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG), in accordance with Section 7 of the Comptroller and Auditor General (Amendment) Act 1993, and to an internal audit report on Macroom Youthreach centre.

The C&AG's report found that the processes employed by the Co. Cork VEC in this case were defective in regard to certain aspects of procurement, that the approval of the Minister had not been sought to enter into a leasing agreement, that the financial risk associated with the arrangement rested mainly with the VEC and that the contract was inadequate.

Resulting from this report my Department issued Circular 39/2011 "Good Practice Guidelines in relation to Contracts for the Provision of Goods and/or Services" to the Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of the VECs in June 2011. Circular 39/2011 informed VECs that, whether commissioning public services or providing them directly, they have a duty to strive for economy, efficiency, transparency and effectiveness in their expenditure.

The Circular drew the attention of VECs to their obligations with regard to procurement, to the importance of adherence to EU Directives and national regulations in regard to advertising, and to the use of objective tendering procedures for awarding contracts above certain value thresholds.

The guidelines also dealt with the evaluation of proposals, borrowing/leasing, and the reporting of losses.

The Secretary General of my Department also wrote recently to each CEO, in the context of the Co. Cork VEC report and a number of other C&AG Section 7 reports, reminding each of their responsibility, as accounting officer, to ensure that value is achieved in the engagement of services and the procurement of goods. CEOs were reminded that, as public servants, they have a responsibility to ensure that funds provided by the Exchequer are expended in a manner which is economic, efficient, transparent, and effective and achieves the very best value for the taxpayer.

An internal audit report on Macroom Youthreach centre was received in my Department on 29 September 2011. On receipt of the report my officials wrote to the acting CEO of Co. Cork VEC and sought a report on how the irregularities highlighted arose, how it was proposed to rectify them, or if already rectified how this was accomplished, and how it was proposed to safeguard against their recurrence in the future. The acting CEO confirmed to my Department that the recommendations of the internal audit had been implemented, however, my Department has sought clarification from the acting CEO on any possible losses arising.

EU Presidency

Niall Collins

Question:

117 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills the preparations he has undertaken for the Irish Presidency of the EU Council in January 2013; the amount of money spent on EU Council Presidency related activities to date in 2012; the estimated expenditure up to December 2012; the budget for the six month Presidency specifically; the additional staff he has undertaken; the number of re-assigned staff he has undertaken; the estimated future staff requirements for the Presidency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8840/12]

Significant preparatory work has been undertaken by my Department in preparation for the education and skills components of the Irish Presidency of the EU Council in the first half of 2013. A departmental committee, chaired by the responsible member of the Management Advisory Committee, is co-ordinating the Department's approach at official level. To date, the work has focused on developing a set of priorities in the education and skills sectoral area, including the identification of suitable themes for Council meetings, conferences and working group meetings during the Presidency. Engagement on priorities and possible themes has taken place with the European Institutions and a number of meetings have been held with senior representatives of our Trio partners, Lithuania and Greece. The final programme of activities for the Presidency which arises from this process will serve as the basis for determining financial and other resource requirements, having regard to the level of services, such as conference facilities, which will be provided centrally. Until this process is complete, I will not be in a position to give a detailed indication of my Department's resource requirements for the Presidency. The current budget for the Presidency for 2012 across Government as a whole foresees approximately €25 million being spent in areas such as additional staff costs, preparation of venues to host meetings and procurement of a range of goods and services. The final 2012 allocations will be included in the 2012 Revised Estimates Volume. It is foreseen that a further sum of the order of €35m for Government as a whole will be required to support the Presidency during 2013. In addition, a further sum will be required to meet security costs. The final 2013 allocations will be included in the 2013 Revised Estimates Volume.

Departmental Expenditure

Charles Flanagan

Question:

118 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the total cost to his Department of the provision of external legal services to his Department in respect of legal advice and legal services each year for the past five years. [8854/12]

The following is the expenditure of my Department in relation to the provision of external legal services legal in the years 2007-2011 (inclusive):

Year

Amount

2007

€150,963.01

2008

€158,431.21

2009

€192,455.29

2010

€106,192.39

2011

€25,586.91

Total

€633,628.81

Educational Projects

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

119 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to establish a database or network of PhD students at universities in the country and details of their work so as to create a portal into this important State resource. [8909/12]

My Department has no plans to create a database or network that is dedicated specifically to Ph.D. students at Irish universities. However, funding was provided under the Department's Strategic Innovation Fund to the Irish Universities Association in 2008 to develop a national online repository for research publications from Irish universities. This initiative aims to make Irish research material more freely accessible, and to increase the research profiles of individual researchers and their institutions. The portal, rian.ie, was launched in 2010 and provides open access to the research of the seven universities and the Dublin Institute of Technology. I understand that there are proposals to extend this initiative to other institutions. I understand that there are a number of other initiatives under development across the sector, which aim to showcase and promote Irish research internationally and these developments are to be welcomed.

Vocational Education Committees

Noel Harrington

Question:

120 Deputy Noel Harrington asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform when he intends to extend the Freedom of Information Acts to vocational education committees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8765/12]

The Programme for Government provides that the Government will legislate to restore and extend the Freedom of Information Acts. My Department is at an advanced stage in the preparation of the General Scheme of a Bill to give effect to the above commitments on Freedom of Information. Subject to Government approval of the draft Heads of the Bill and other priorities in the Government's legislative programme, I expect to be in a position later this year to introduce the Bill to give effect to these commitments. Extension of the Freedom of Information Acts will include consideration of extension of the Acts to the Vocational Education Committees.

Departmental Expenditure

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

121 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the minimum amount of money spent by a Department that must be made public as an individual itemised line in the departmental accounts when published. [8767/12]

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

122 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the maximum amount of money that a Department can spend before that specific item of expenditure must be made public. [8768/12]

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

123 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the obligations to publish money spent by each Department. [8769/12]

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

124 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the degree of detail the Government is obliged to provide on expenditure incurred by the State; and the form in which the information must be published. [8770/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 121 to 124, inclusive, together.

In relation to expenditure by Government Departments, in the case of the majority of transactions, there are no minimum or maximum amounts specified for reporting in the annual accounts. There are, however, a number of situations in the annual Appropriation Accounts where expenditure thresholds apply. These are outlined in the Statement of Accounting Policy and Principles which are published with the Appropriation Accounts. Certain notes to the Accounts aim to draw the attention of the Dáil and of the Committee of Public Accounts to matters bearing on parliamentary control, or to provide fuller information about material transactions of an unusual nature recorded in the Account, e.g. losses, special orex gratia payments, and extra remuneration. Except in the cases outlined below, notes are provided where an individual transaction, or a category of transactions taken together, involves a sum of €50,000 or more. Where amounts lower than the threshold values are involved, notes are also provided where a serious issue of principle arises or where the Comptroller and Auditor General or the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform consider that a note should be given.

In the case of extra remuneration, the details given include the total amount paid under each category, the total number of recipients, the number of individuals that received €10,000 or more, and the maximum individual payment, if over €10,000. In the case oflate payments in commercial transactions, information is supplied where the total of interest payments due was €10,000 or more or an individual interest payment was €10,000 or more. Apart from the issue of annual accounts, as the Deputy is probably aware, the Programme for Government includes a provision that every purchase order by a Government Department or agency for more than €20,000 will be published online. This process will commence over the coming months and will provide a range of information on state expenditure.

Departmental Reviews

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

125 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform when the national development plan is to be reviewed; and his plans for this review. [8775/12]

My Department has already conducted a major review of capital expenditure programmes across Government in 2011. On foot of this we have set out our capital investment priorities for the next five years inInfrastructure and Capital Investment 2012-2016, which we published on 10 November 2011.

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

126 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his plans to introduce a green book appraisal system similar to that in the UK. [8778/12]

In theComprehensive Expenditure Report 2012-2014 published last December, I set out a range of reform initiatives designed to modernise our system of public expenditure management and planning. As part of this reform process, I introduced a new Value for Money (VFM) Code, a central point of reference for the public service on good practice in the areas of evaluation, appraisaland prioritisation of public funds. The VFM Code, which is accessible on-line at http://VFM.per.gov.ie, consolidates, updates and streamlines earlier elements of the national VFM framework, including the Capital Appraisal Guidelines.

EU Presidency

Niall Collins

Question:

127 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the preparations he has undertaken for the Irish Presidency of the EU Council in January 2013; the amount of money spent on EU Council Presidency related activities to date in 2012; the estimated expenditure up to December 2012; the budget for the six month Presidency specifically; the additional staff he has undertaken; the number of re-assigned staff he has undertaken; the estimated future staff requirements for the Presidency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8847/12]

I have taken a close interest in the preparation for Ireland's EU Presidency since my appointment as Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. A Presidency planning group has been set up within the Department and the matter is discussed regularly by the Department's Management Board. My Department also takes an active part in the various Presidency preparation groups established by the Department of the Taoiseach and continues to work closely with the Department of Finance on matters of common interest.

In addition to normal staffing and travel costs, a sum of €343,000 has been provided in my Department's budget for 2012 for Presidency related matters. Expenditure to date in 2012 has mainly been related to travel. As with other Departments, the budget for 2013 has yet to be finalized.

In the areas of staffing, my Department will shortly be appointing an attaché to the Permanent Representation in Brussels to deal with issues falling within the remit of the Department, principally in the area of Cohesion policy. This will be in addition to the Department of Finance personnel already in place there who provide a service to both Departments. Additional staffing requirements are under review.

A key issue for my Department during the Presidency will be the area of Cohesion policy. Under the Commission's proposals, which were published on 6 October 2011, the total Cohesion package is valued at €376 billion, making it the biggest single element of the EU Budget. Last November I attended an Informal Meeting of Cohesion Ministers in Poznan where I had an opportunity to engage with other Ministers responsible for Cohesion Policy, as well as Regional Policy Commissioner Hahn and Social Affairs Commissioner Andor. In December I also attended a meeting of the General Affairs Council devoted to Cohesion Policy. I will continue to be actively engaged in this important issue as we head into the Presidency.

Departmental Expenditure

Charles Flanagan

Question:

128 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the total cost to his Department of the provision of external legal services to his Department in respect of legal advice and legal services each year for the past five years. [8860/12]

In general, my Department uses the services of the Office of the Attorney General and the Office of the Chief State Solicitor. The costs associated with these Offices are borne by their respective Votes. My Department also seeks outside legal advisors in circumstances requiring legal services of a specific nature. The total cost of such payments made by my Department since it was formed in 2011 was €2,226.40.

Departmental Bodies

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

129 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the total number of employees in the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement; and the total number of ODCE employees who are part of the investigation team into Anglo Irish Bank. [8786/12]

The total number of staff in the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement is 48.9 full-time equivalents including 10.1 full-time equivalent Garda staff seconded from the Department of Justice and Equality. Sixteen staff are involved with the Office's investigation into events at Anglo Irish Bank.

Michael Creed

Question:

130 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he is satisfied that the Competition Authority has sufficient resources to carry out its statutory and non statutory duties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8559/12]

My Department is currently undertaking a review of the resources of the Competition Authority. I expect this review to be completed by the end of March 2012. This review will have to take account of Government policy to reduce the size and cost of the public sector through the Employment Control Framework.

Work Permits

Willie Penrose

Question:

131 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will outline the way in which a person (details supplied) from Canada who is authorised because of special skills to work in the country on a one year work holiday visa can have same extended; if he will give details of their options on their status; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8687/12]

My Department processes applications in respect of the different types of employment permits and all applications are processed in line with the Employment Permits Act 2006. The Employment Permits Section has indicated that they cannot consider applications for employment permits for foreign nationals who are currently in the State on a working holiday authorisation (WHA) issued by Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. WHAs are issued by the Irish Embassy/Consulate in the relevant country. They are issued to individuals for a period of 12 months and they must adhere strictly to the conditions set out. One of these conditions is that the person concerned would have signed a declaration stating that they would not seek authority to settle in Ireland and that they would leave the State at or before the end of the authorised period of stay. In the event that the WHA has expired and they have left the State then they are free to apply for an employment permit, however the current policy in relation to new first time applications would apply.

It is current Government policy to issue new employment permits only in respect of:

highly skilled, highly paid positions or;

non-EEA nationals who are already legally resident in the State on valid employment permits or;

positions requiring specialist or scarce skills, expertise or qualifications which cannot be filled elsewise.

Further information and the conditions that apply to the obtaining of new employment permits can be found at my Department's website at www.djei.ie.

County Enterprise Boards

Pearse Doherty

Question:

132 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the supports in place for persons who wish to set up a business. [8796/12]

State assistance for micro and small businesses and services in Ireland is currently delivered principally by the County and City Enterprise Boards (CEBs) and Enterprise Ireland (EI), operating as agencies under the aegis of my Department. Contact details for each of the CEBs can be obtained through their national websitewww.enterpriseboards.ie. Enterprise Ireland’s HPSU Team is located at The Plaza, Eastpoint Business Park, Dublin 3. Early Stage Start-Up enquiries to EI should be directed to Phone No. 01 7272885, Fax No: 01 7272020 or e-mail: client.service@enterprise-ireland.com; Website: www.enterprise-ireland.com.

In addition, I have been reviewing the structure of enterprise supports in recent months and, in particular, the role of the CEBs. As the Deputy will be aware, under the Action Plan for Jobs it is proposed that a new "one-stop-shop" micro enterprise support structure be established through the dissolution of the existing CEB structures and the creation of a new Micro Enterprise and Small Business Unit in EI. EI will work with the Local Authorities to establish a new network of Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) in each Local Authority. The LEOs will combine the enterprise support service of the previous CEBs and the business support work of the Business Support Units in the Local Authorities, offering an enhanced service because of their seamless access to both EI expertise and the broader business services of the Local Authority.

The intention is that the new LEOs will act as a focal point for a series of important new policy initiatives aimed at small businesses. The Deputy may wish to access the full details of the Action Plan for Jobs on my Department's websitewww.djei.ie. However with regard to the crucial micro and small business sectors — from which many of our new jobs will come — my objective is to ensure that there is a continued clear focus of Government policy and supports.

Job Creation

Regina Doherty

Question:

133 Deputy Regina Doherty asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his plans to provide employment opportunities for County Meath. [8799/12]

Job creation is at the top of the Government's agenda. Since we came into office, we have been working hard to create the improved economic conditions which will support the maintenance of existing jobs and the creation of new ones. Our objective is to put the country back on the road to economic recovery and full employment. The Action Plan for Jobs, which I launched last Monday, outlines the Government's plan to rebuild the economy and create jobs. The plan will improve access to finance for small businesses, reduce costs and red tape, and improve supports for exports, management and innovation.

Enterprise Ireland will continue to drive industrial development and job creation in Co. Meath where it is working with 172 Enterprise Ireland client companies. For the second successive year, employment in these companies has grown, with the most recent figures indicating that they employed 5,120 people on a full and part-time basis in 2011. Since 2007, funding of over €20m (€2.2m in 2011) has been approved by Enterprise Ireland to companies based in Co. Meath, helping them to retain and create employment.

In 2011, businesses supported by Meath County Enterprise Board created 358 full-time jobs and 120 other (i.e. part-time, seasonal, contract) jobs and I will continue to ensure that available funds are targeted to maximise entrepreneurial development.

I have also been reviewing the structure of enterprise supports in recent months and, in particular, the role of the CEBs. As the Deputy will be aware, under the Action Plan for Jobs it is proposed that a new "one-stop-shop" micro enterprise support structure be established through the dissolution of the existing CEB structures and the creation of a new Micro Enterprise and Small Business Unit in Enterprise Ireland. EI will work with the Local Authorities to establish a new network of Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) in each Local Authority. The LEOs will combine the enterprise support service of the previous CEBs and the business support work of the Business Support Units in the Local Authorities, offering an enhanced service because of their seamless access to both EI expertise and the broader business services of the Local Authority.

The intention is that the new LEOs will act as a focal point for a series of important new policy initiatives aimed at small businesses. The Deputy may wish to access the full details of the Action Plan for Jobs on my Department's website www.djei.ie. With regard to the crucial micro and small business sectors — from which many of our new jobs will come — my objective is to ensure that there is a continued clear focus of Government policy and supports.

One of the targets for IDA Ireland in the Action Plan for Jobs is to have 50% of foreign direct investments based in locations outside of Dublin and Cork. IDA Ireland has been marketing a number of large towns, including Navan and Drogheda, as key locations of focus for foreign direct investment. At present, there are 16 IDA Ireland supported companies in Co. Meath employing approximately 1,300 people. The agency continues to work with these clients in encouraging them to broaden their mandate and to continue to re-invest within the region.

I am confident that the measures outlined in the Action Plan for Jobs, together with other policies and initiatives being pursued, will create the employment opportunities necessary for Co. Meath.

Economic Competitiveness

Michael Creed

Question:

134 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he is satisfied that a free and fair market exists for cement in this country; his views on the cost differential per tonne for cement supplied to the Irish market and the cost per tonne at which the same cement is exported to the UK; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8829/12]

One of the objectives of the Competition Act 2002 is to prohibit activities which prevent, distort or restrict competition in trade in the State. In that context, the Competition Authority is the statutory body responsible for the enforcement of competition law in the State. Section 29(3) of the Competition Act 2002 provides that the Authority is independent in the performance of its functions while under section 30(1)(b) of that Act, the Competition Authority is responsible for investigating alleged breaches of the Act. Persons who have concerns that anti-competitive practices are being undertaken should bring their concerns to the attention of the Competition Authority. As investigations and enforcement matters generally are part of the day-to-day operational work of the Authority, I have no direct function in the matter. On the issue of cost differentials, pricing strategies in any business is the normal outcome of the competitive process and is a legitimate business tool. Such practices are matters for businesses themselves and are ones in which I have no direct function.

EU Presidency

Niall Collins

Question:

135 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the preparations he has undertaken for the Irish Presidency of the EU Council in January 2013; the amount of money spent on EU Council Presidency related activities to date in 2012; the estimated expenditure up to December 2012; the budget for the six month Presidency specifically; the additional staff he has undertaken; the number of re-assigned staff he has undertaken; the estimated future staff requirements for the Presidency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8845/12]

Preparations for the Irish Presidency have been ongoing in my Department for some time now. The Department has been inputting into two Inter-Departmental Planning Groups dealing with planning and logistics, the Inter-Departmental Committee for Coordinating the Presidency chaired by my colleague Ms Lucinda Creighton T.D. Minister of State for European Affairs and the Inter-Departmental Administrative Planning group chaired by a senior Official of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Last July a Presidency Planning Committee was established in my Department. The Committee meets on a regular basis and has discussed a wide range of related topics such as the implications of the Presidency on financial and human resources, ICT requirements, likely Presidency issues both legislative and non-legislative, the servicing of Council working groups in Brussels and training for chairpersons and delegates of these working groups. A considerable amount of Presidency engagement with Geneva based organisations will take place, including the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO). Additional staff resources will be required to service the Permanent Representation of Ireland to the EU in Brussels and Geneva, Presidency conferences and high level group meetings in Ireland.

This Department will be primarily responsible for three of the current Council of Ministers formations, namely:

Competitiveness Council (Research, Industry and Internal Market issues).

Employment, Social Policy Health and Consumer Affairs Council.

Trade Council.

These Councils are supported by or linked to a range of Council chaired and Commission chaired Working Groups, advisory Groups and implementing Committees.

During the Irish Presidency I, along with my Ministers of State, Mr John Perry T.D., Minister for Small Business, and Mr Seán Sherlock T.D., Minister for Research and Innovation, will chair and act as head of delegation for the formal Council meetings. We will also attend plenary sessions of the European Parliament and work closely with various Commissioners. In preparation for this we continue to avail of every opportunity to engage with all the EU institutions and key players on policies of mutual concern. Bilateral meetings have been held at both official and Ministerial level with Commissioners and high ranking officials, our trio partners Lithuania and Greece, EU partners and like-minded groups. This level of engagement will further intensify during 2012.

It is my Department's intention to enhance its current staff deployment in the Perm Reps in Brussels and Geneva with 8 officials. Where possible, with effect from mid-2012, we also intend to avail of internships in both locations. In addition to these staff costs, there will be additional expenditure on staffing, training and travel and subsistence in 2012 in preparation for the Presidency. To-date no additional funding has been spent on Irish Presidency-related work. It is estimated that Presidency-related expenditure in 2012 could amount to €2 million in pay and non-pay costs. A similar figure is estimated for 2013.

Departmental Expenditure

Charles Flanagan

Question:

136 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the total cost to his Department of the provision of external legal services to his Department in respect of legal advice and legal services each year for the past five years. [8858/12]

The cost of the provision of external legal services from solicitors and barristers to my Department and its Offices for each of the last five years is set out in the following table:

Cost of Legal Advice and Services

Year

Total cost €

2007

€1,259,629

2008

€816,797

2009

€1,581,284

2010

€642,893.61

2011

€577,821.76

Redundancy Payments

Dan Neville

Question:

137 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a statutory redundancy application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [8546/12]

A redundancy lump sum claim in respect of the person concerned was awarded and payment issued by cheque in December 2011.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

138 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason a redundancy payment has not yet been issued in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; if said payment will be expedited; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8635/12]

My officials are investigating the reason why payment has not issued in this case. I understand that they are currently liaising with your office directly in this regard.

Pension Provisions

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

139 Deputy Mary Mitchell O’Connor asked the Minister for Social Protection if funds in additional voluntary contribution schemes can be made available for early draw down thereby creating a more humane and flexible system which is responsive to the reality of life of many persons living in Ireland today; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8648/12]

Additional Voluntary Contributions (AVCs) are contributions made by employees in addition to any compulsory pension contributions they make to a pension scheme. They are used to improve the benefits of members over and above those provided by the pension scheme. AVCs are an integral part of pension savings and are normally availed off by employees to make up any shortfall they may have in their pensions. In common with regular contributions to pension saving, early access to pension savings is currently not permitted as they are designed to provide financial support to people in later life.

Pension coverage is still relatively low in Ireland and people are not making adequate provision for their retirement. Also, demographic indicators clearly indicate that increasing numbers of people are living longer and healthier lives with more of their lives spent in retirement than previously. The reduction in pension savings as a result of allowing people access their pension savings might have a short term benefit, however it could have significant longer term negative consequences by depleting the retirement savings of those who availed of it and could contribute to an increase in old age poverty.

Once the principle of keeping funds locked away until retirement has been breached it would be difficult to argue against a further withdrawal. Allowing people access to their pension savings before pension age would run totally counter to the policy of encouraging more people to save more for their retirement. Accordingly, there are no proposals to provide for early draw down of AVC funds or early access to pension funds.

Social Welfare Appeals

Martin Ferris

Question:

140 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) in County Kerry will receive a decision on an appeal for domiciliary care allowance. [8504/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 23 January 2012. 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. When received, the appeal in question will be referred in due course to an Appeals Officer for consideration. 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.

Social Welfare Benefits

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

141 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will consider making all participants in the CERRS, Tús and CSB schemes the same as social welfare recipients and classify them as such; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8511/12]

The Department of Social Protection 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. I understand that the Deputy is interested in the position relating to entitlement to secondary benefits.

Participants on the RSS, Tús and CE are entitled to continue to receive any secondary benefits to which they were previously entitled prior to their commencement on any of the above schemes. Entitlement to secondary benefits is subject to the usual assessment processes operated by the appropriate scheme area of the Department of Social Protection or relevant Authority. Participants are required to meet the terms and conditions attached to the secondary benefits, as set out in order to continue to qualify for any such payments.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) is responsible for medical cards and entitlement is dependent on personal circumstances. Applicants (for the above schemes) in receipt of jobseeker's allowance for a period of 12 months or more are entitled to retain their medical card for three years on taking up a place on the schemes from the date on which the placement commenced.

While participants on the RSS, Tús and CE are encouraged to engage in part-time work outside the time spent working on the respective scheme, they are advised to check this and any secondary benefits which are being claimed with their local Social Welfare Office, Health Service Executive and/or Local Authority to see if benefits are affected (for example, lone parents, rent allowance, medical card).

Individuals participating on the Community Services Programme (CSP) are treated as employees and it is up to their employer companies to determine their final salary levels. However, any spouse of a CSP participant is free to receive his/her own DSP payment, should the circumstances warrant it.

Social Welfare Appeals

Martin Ferris

Question:

142 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) will have an appeal heard. [8518/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 1 December 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 23 January 2012 and the appeal will, in due course, be assigned to an Appeals Officer for consideration.

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.

Social Welfare Benefits

Martin Ferris

Question:

143 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision on carer’s allowance will issue in respect of a person (details supplied). [8520/12]

The person concerned was refused carer's allowance on the grounds that the care recipient is not so disabled as to require full-time care and attention as prescribed in regulations. He was notified of this decision and the reason for it.

Additional medical evidence was received and forwarded to the Department's medical assessor for consideration. However, this information did not alter the opinion of the medical assessor and the deciding officer confirmed his decision. On 9 February 2012, the person concerned was notified of the outcome of the review.

Social Welfare Appeals

Martin Ferris

Question:

144 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Social Protection when a supplementary benefit appeal will be heard in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry. [8524/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 14 January 2012. 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 30 January 2012 and the appeal will, in due course, be assigned to an Appeals Officer for consideration.

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.

Brendan Griffin

Question:

145 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection if a decision has been made on the appeal for habitual residency in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8527/12]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an oral hearing of the appeal of the person concerned took place on 7 February 2012 and the Appeals Officer is now considering the appeal in the light of all the evidence submitted, including that adduced at the hearing. The person concerned will be notified of the Appeals Officer decision when the appeal has been determined.

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.

Pat Breen

Question:

146 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8536/12]

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 and 2011 when the intake rose to 32,432 and 31,241 respectively. 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.

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 s/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.

Redundancy Payments

John O'Mahony

Question:

147 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive their rebate payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8537/12]

Five redundancy rebate claims in respect of the company concerned were received on 28 July 2011. Redundancy rebate claims received in May 2011 are currently being processed.

Anthony Lawlor

Question:

148 Deputy Anthony Lawlor asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason for the delays in processing applications for State redundancy payments; the steps being taken to expedite the processing of these claims; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8543/12]

The purpose of the Redundancy Payments Scheme is to compensate workers, under the Redundancy Payments Acts, 1967 to 2011, for the loss of their jobs by reason of redundancy. Under the Redundancy Payments Acts an eligible employee is entitled to two weeks statutory redundancy payment for every year of service, plus a bonus week. Compensation is based on the worker's length of reckonable service and reckonable weekly remuneration, subject to a ceiling of €600 per week. Employees must have at least two years' service to be eligible for a redundancy payment. There are two types of redundancy payments — rebates to employers and lump sums paid directly to employees, where an employer refuses, or is unable to pay lump sums. Both rebate and lump sum payments are paid from the Social Insurance Fund (SIF).

It is the responsibility of the employer to pay statutory redundancy to all eligible employees. An employer who pays statutory redundancy payments to employees is then entitled to a rebate from the State of a percentage of the relevant amount.

There is currently a backlog of approximately 29,000 statutory redundancy claims on hand. There are two processing streams for redundancy claims. A new computerised system was introduced in October 2011 and online claims submitted correctly through this system may be processed, on average, within six to eight weeks. Manual claims submitted since October 2011 are also processed as part of this stream but take longer to process due to the need to enter the manual claims onto the new system.

Claims submitted prior to the introduction of this new system require more clerical intervention and will take longer to process and are part of a second processing stream. The Department is currently processing claims in this category which were received in late May/early June 2011.

Social Welfare Appeals

Timmy Dooley

Question:

149 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will issue on an appeal for farm assist in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8556/12]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer having fully considered all the available evidence disallowed the appeal of the person concerned by way of summary decision. The person concerned has been notified of the Appeals Officer decision.

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.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

150 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for domiciliary care allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8558/12]

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 and 2011 when the intake rose to 32,432 and 31,241 respectively. 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.

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 s/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.

Social Welfare Benefits

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

151 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding the enactment of the partial capacity benefit scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8661/12]

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that the Partial Capacity Benefit scheme was formally launched on Monday, 13 February 2012. Full details of the scheme have been published on the Department's website.

The Partial Capacity Benefit scheme is open to people who are in receipt of Invalidity Pension (IP) or who have been in receipt of Illness Benefit (IB) for a minimum of six months. Participation in the scheme is voluntary and the scheme is designed in particular to respond to the needs of people who have sought to avail of ‘exemptions' in order to take up employment opportunities. The limitations on hours worked which applied under the ‘exemptions' arrangements do not apply to the new scheme.

The introduction of the Partial Capacity scheme marks an important positive development of the social welfare system. The scheme recognises that the welfare system, which categorised people as ‘fit to work' or ‘unfit to work', did not reflect the reality for many existing welfare customers. It provides an opportunity for people with disabilities, and assessed to have an employment capacity which is restricted when compared to the norm, to avail of employment opportunities while continuing to receive an income support payment.

Social Welfare Appeals

James Bannon

Question:

152 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for carer’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Longford; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8664/12]

On 27 April 2010 the person concerned was refused carer's allowance on the grounds that the care recipient was not so disabled as to require full time care and attention as prescribed in social welfare legislation. She was notified of this decision and the reason for it.

The person concerned appealed this decision and the matter was brought before an appeal hearing of the Social Welfare Appeals Office. The decision of the appeals officer was to uphold the deciding officer's decision and, accordingly, the appeal was disallowed. On 25 March 2011 the person concerned was notified of the appeals officer's decision. The Department has no record of any subsequent application for carer's allowance.

Social Welfare Benefits

James Bannon

Question:

153 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of migrants claiming benefits here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8668/12]

The information requested by the Deputy is not routinely collated by my Department as not all schemes register the details of the client's nationality.

If a person has paid the required PRSI class, in non-EU cases had a valid Work Permit and satisfies all the qualifying conditions of the scheme (including the Habitual Residence Condition) they are treated as equally as all other claimants.

At the end of January 2012 there were approximately 315,018 identifiable non-Irish nationals claiming benefits in this jurisdiction. A scheme breakdown of this number is set out for your information.

Scheme

Non-Irish National

Carers Allowance

Not Available

Carers Benefit

Not Available

Domiciliary Care Scheme

3,637

Invalidity Pension

1,022

State Pension Contributory

4,551

State Pension Non-contributory

3,979

State Pension Transition

353

Widow(er)’s Contributory Pension

2,561

Disablement Benefit

Not Available

FIS

8,467

Child Benefit (Recipients)

121,592

Child Benefit (Children)

223,362

Blind Persons Pension

Not Available

Basic Supplementary Welfare Allowance (1)

11,162

Rent Supplement

35,333

Mortgage Interest Supplement

1,979

Other Supplements (2)

1,234

Disability Benefit

10,749

Occupational Injury Benefit

383

One-parent Family Payment

15,668

Back to Education Allowance

4,288

Back to Work

2,540

Internship Program

444

Labour Market Activation Fund

59

Springboard Program

334

Short Term Enterprise Allowance

167

Jobseekers Allowance

59,087

Jobseekers Benefit

25,429

(1) Includes Direct Provision Allowance.

(2) Includes Diet, Travel, Creche, etc.

Social Welfare Appeals

Sean Fleming

Question:

154 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding mortgage interest supplement in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Laois; if it is being awarded; the amount involved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8670/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 24th October 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Designated Person who decided the case on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 24th January 2012 and the appeal will be assigned, in due course, to an Appeals Officer who will decide whether the case can be decided on a summary basis or whether to list it for oral hearing.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Community Employment Schemes

Gerry Adams

Question:

155 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will provide a list of all community employment schemes in County Louth in tabular form; the numbers of participants per scheme; the length of time each scheme will be active; the location of each scheme; the supervisor of each scheme; the funding that was provided to each scheme in 2009, 2010, 2011; the funding that will be provided in 2012; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8676/12]

There are currently 29 Community Employment Projects with a total of 743 participants and 44 supervisors in place in County Louth. Projects run for a 52 week period and contracts are renewed at various stages throughout the year.

Attached is a breakdown of Co Louth projects showing the number of participants, project start and finish dates, the name and location of each project and the number of supervisors attached to each project. Funding to County Louth projects is estimated as follows:

Year

€m

2009

circa €14.2 million

2010

circa €15.4 million

2011

circa €14.7 million

Funding for County Louth Projects in 2012 is estimated to be €14.3 million.

The following revised reply was received on 23 February 2012.

The response included a miscalculation, therefore, public records should be amended to reflect the following funding for CE projects in County Louth:

Year

€m

2009

circa €11.46 million

2010

circa €12.49 million

2011

circa €11.83 million

Estimated Funding for CE Projects in County Louth 2012 is €11.3 million.

Gerry Adams

Question:

156 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Social Protection when she expects the review into the community employment schemes she announced in the aftermath of Budget 2012; when the review will conclude; if the review team have been consulting with CE scheme supervisors as part of the review; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8677/12]

Following the reductions in the CE training and materials grant announced in the Budget, the Department of Social Protection commenced a review of the financial resources of individual schemes. This review is scheduled to be completed by the end of March.

All sponsors have been contacted by Department officers at local level to brief them on the review, discuss their returns and deal wit h any queries that the sponsors may have. The submissions will be made to these officers.

In addition to these local discussions, discussion and consultation with the main representative bodies and stakeholders, including supervisors, involved in schemes will take place over the coming weeks in regard to funding.

Departmental Staff

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

157 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Social Protection in view of the fact that community welfare officers have been transferred from the Department of Health to the Department of Social Protection, the persons with responsibility of providing financial assistance to patients who have to travel regularly to hospital for treatment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8681/12]

Under the supplementary welfare allowance (SWA) scheme, the Department may make a single exceptional needs payment (ENP) to help meet essential, once-off expenditure, which a person could not reasonably be expected to meet out of their weekly income. However, the scheme is not intended to cover circumstances where another Government Department or Agency has a primary responsibility such as patient transport. Patient transport is a matter for the Health Service Executive and it was never within the remit of the Community Welfare Service.

Social Welfare Benefits

Gerry Adams

Question:

158 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will provide an update from the group formed in her Department to examine the position of part-time fire-fighters with respect to social welfare payments. [8727/12]

Taking account of the unusual circumstances of retained fire brigade personnel and general efforts to develop and standardise our jobseeker schemes, a departmental group was established in late 2011 to examine the position of these workers vis-à-vis jobseeker's benefit and jobseeker's allowance. Deliberations on this issue are currently being finalised. My officials will be in touch with relevant deputies in this regard in due course.

Social Welfare Appeals

Michael Creed

Question:

159 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason for the delay in expediting a decision on an appeal on an application for disability allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8780/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 21 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 28th November 2011 and the appeal was assigned to an Appeals Officer for consideration on 16 January 2012.

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 and 2011 when the intake rose to 32,432 and 31,241 respectively. This has significantly impacted on the processing time for appeals and, in order to be fair to all appellants, they are dealt with in strict chronological order.

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.

Social Welfare Code

Pearse Doherty

Question:

160 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will clarify changes made in budget 2012 to one-parent family payments for applicants who applied after 27 April 2011 and whose children turn 14 in 2012; and whether the payment ceases once the child turn 14 or if they continue to receive it until the end of 2012. [8782/12]

Legislative changes were introduced to the one-parent family payment (OFP) scheme in the Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2010. These came into effect on 27 April, 2011, and reduced the maximum age limit of the youngest child for receipt of the OFP to 14. Further changes to the maximum age limit of the youngest child for receipt of the OFP were announced in Budget 2012.

For pre-27 April, 2011 customers the current tapering arrangement will remain in place until 2015 (i.e. age 18 in 2012, age 17 in 2013, age 16 in 2014), at which point the age limit of the youngest child for receipt of payment will reduce to age 7. A saver, up to the end of the 2012-2013 academic year, was provided for recipients with a child aged between 17 and 22 who is in full-time education, when the change in qualification was introduced on 27 April, 2011 and this will continue to apply.

For customers whose OFP claim commenced between 27 April, 2011 and April, 2012 the current age limit of age 14 will remain in place in 2012 and there will therefore be no change. The age limit will then reduce to age 12 in 2013, age 10 in 2014 and age 7 in 2015. In all cases, the age limit applies when the child reaches that age.

Social Welfare Benefits

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

161 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of qualified adults in relation to whom a payment is being made minus those qualified adults that are of pension age. [8746/12]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

162 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of female qualified adults in relation to whom a payment is being made minus those qualified adults that are of pension age. [8747/12]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

163 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection if any recent research has been undertaken that documents a breakdown of qualified adults in regard to whom a payment is being made in terms of age profile, educational qualifications and work history; and if so, the key findings of same. [8748/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 161 to 163, inclusive, together.

The information requested by the Deputy is not routinely collated by my Department across all of its various schemes. Where possible I have included the information requested by the Deputy in full. The Department has not undertaken or commissioned research in relation to qualified adult payments. This is a matter that the Department may examine in the future as it develops policies to further reform the Social Welfare system. At the end of December 2011 there were approximately 193,000 adult dependent allowances in payment.

Total Number of Qualified Adults

Number of Qualified Adults Under 66 years of age.

Female Adult Dependents under 66 years of age

State Pension (Contributory)

66,609

18,246

17,954

State Pension (Transition)

2,572

2,284

2,224

State Pension (Non-Contributory)

3,012

3,012

2,600

Pre-Retirement Allowance

1,233

Not Available

Not Available

Illness Benefit

7,894

Not Available

Not Available

Interim Illness Benefit

33

Not Available

Not Available

Injury Benefit

95

Not Available

Not Available

Invalidity Pension

7,728

7,478

6,573

Disablement Pension

161

Not Available

Not Available

Disability Allowance

8,737

8,606

Not Available

Blind Pension

127

127

Not Available

Jobseeker’s Benefit

9,771

Not Available

Not Available

Jobseeker’s Allowance

65,480

Not Available

Not Available

Back To Work Allowance Employee

17

Not Available

Not Available

Back To Work Enterprise Allowance

— Self Employed First Year

2,216

Not Available

Not Available

— Self Employed Years 2-4

1,885

Not Available

Not Available

Back To Education Allowance

2,322

Not Available

Not Available

Farm Assist

5,213

Not Available

Not Available

Supplementary Welfare Allowance

7,906

Not Available

Not Available

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

164 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection the total number of persons in receipt of one-parent family payment; and the total number of children to which this relates. [8751/12]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

165 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of persons in receipt of one-parent family payment who are also engaged in paid employment. [8752/12]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

166 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will provide a breakdown of the weekly hours worked by persons in receipt of a one-parent family payment, that is, the number of recipients working five hours, ten hours, 15 hours, 20 hours, 25 hours, 30 hours and 35 hours. [8753/12]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

167 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will provide a breakdown of the days worked each week by persons in receipt of a one-parent family payment, that is, the number of recipients working one day, two days, three days, four days and five days each week. [8754/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 164 to 167, inclusive, together.

There were 90,267 recipients of One-parent Family Payments at the end of January 2012 with payments being made in respect of 149,196 qualified children. It is estimated that approximately 46% of the recipients are in paid employment. Information concerning the working patterns of recipients of One-Parent Family Payment is not collated by my Department.

Social Welfare Code

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

168 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will provide tables updating those contained on pages 96 to 108 of the report on the desirability and feasibility of introducing a single social assistance payment for persons of working age’ published in November 2010 taking account of the subsequent budget cuts. [8755/12]

In November 2010, my Department published a "Report on the Desirability and Feasibility of introducing a Single Payment for People of Working Age". The report concluded that it was both desirable and feasible to move to a single payment over time. There is a commitment contained in the agreed EU/ECB/IMF Programme of Financial Support, that Ireland will present a comprehensive programme of reforms for the social welfare system to the troika by the end of quarter 1 2012. This programme of reforms is expected to contain an implementation plan for the introduction of the single payment.

An internal working group within the Department of Social Protection has been established and has commenced work on designing the single payment. As part of its work a number of models are being developed to illustrate the various policy options regarding the single payment. These models will contain tables similar to those in the 2010 feasibility study. As all the relevant data is still being compiled these tables are not yet available.

In addition to the internal working group, an interdepartmental group has been set up in relation to the provision of the necessary supports and services to assist recipients of a single payment to progress into employment.

Following the work of these groups a report will be prepared for the Minister. No decisions have been made on the structure of the single payment; those will be matters for Government in due course.

Social Welfare Benefits

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

169 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will provide a breakdown by age of the number of recipients of one-parent family payment. [8757/12]

At the end of January 2012 there were 90,267 people in receipt of One-parent Family Payment. A breakdown of these recipients by age is set out in the following table:

One-Parent Family Payment

Age

Recipients

Under 25

11,701

25-29

17,443

30-34

17,931

35-39

15,946

40-44

13,297

45-49

8,672

50-54

3,803

55-59

1,209

60-64

249

65 and over

16

Total

90,267

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

170 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will provide a breakdown by age of the number of recipients of carer’s allowance. [8758/12]

At the end of December 2011 there were 51,666 people in receipt of Carer's Allowance. A breakdown of these recipients by age is set out in the following table:

Carer's Allowance

Age

Recipients

Under 25 years

655

25 to 29 years

1,564

30 to 34 years

3,262

35 to 39 years

5,313

40 to 44 years

6,914

45 to 49 years

7,134

50 to 54 years

6,333

55 to 59 years

5,622

60 to 64 years

5,132

65 to 69 years

4,254

70 to 74 years

2,912

75 to 79 years

1,846

80 years and over

725

Social Welfare Appeals

Billy Timmins

Question:

171 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding invalidity pension appeals; the length of time it is taking for decisions to be made on IP appeals; the steps she is taking to help speed up the process; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8811/12]

I am informed by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that the number of appeals for invalidity pensions on hand at the end of 2011 was 1,582 and the average length of time to process invalidity pension appeals which were finalised in 2011 was 36.4 weeks for those dealt with by way of a summary decision and 58.9 weeks for those that required an oral hearing. These processing times are calculated from the registration date of the appeal to the date of its finalisation and include all activities during this period including time spent in the Department for comments by the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal put forward by the appellant and any further investigation, examination or assessment by the Department's Inspectors and Medical Assessors that is deemed necessary. A considerable period of time is added to the process when an oral hearing is required because of the logistics involved in this process.

In an effort to reduce the processing times, the Department appointed 9 additional Appeals Officers during 2011 who augmented the 3 appointments made to the Office in 2010. In addition, a further 10 Appeals Officers, formerly employed by the Community Welfare Services (CWS) of the Health Services Executive joined the Office as part of the integration of the CWS appeals services into the Social Welfare Appeals Office. This brings the total number of Appeals Officers to 39.

I am assured by the Chief Appeals Officer that she is keeping the methods of operation by which the Social Welfare Appeals Office conducts its business under constant review, and that the processes are continuously being enhanced to reduce the backlogs in the Office and, overall, to reduce the processing times for dealing with appeals.

EU Presidency

Niall Collins

Question:

172 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Social Protection the preparations she has undertaken for the Irish Presidency of the EU Council in January 2013; the amount of money spent on EU Council Presidency related activities to date in 2012; the estimated expenditure up to December 2012; the budget for the six-month Presidency specifically; the additional staff she has undertaken; the number of re-assigned staff she has undertaken; the estimated future staff requirements for the Presidency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8848/12]

Discussions on priorities for the EU Presidency, the functions which will take place under the auspices of my Department and the resources which will be required to support Presidency activities are ongoing at present. Work on the Presidency has so far been undertaken using existing staffing resources. Accordingly, expenditure to date has been quite small and is limited to about €750 on travel costs in respect of meetings in Brussels with officials of the EU Commission.

The Presidency will involve officials of my Department taking over the Chair of a number of EU Committees which oversee the coordination of social security systems across the EU. In addition, the hosting of a number of other functions including Ministerial meetings or conferences and high level officials meetings is being considered. Discussion on the number and nature of these meetings is at present taking place. It is not possible at this stage to estimate the cost of the Presidency to my Department or the additional staffing resources required until discussions on the overall programme are finalised. My Department's plans must, of course, have regard to the overall budget set by the Government for Presidency activities.

Departmental Expenditure

Charles Flanagan

Question:

173 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Social Protection the total cost to her Department of the provision of external legal services to the Department in respect of legal advice and legal services in each year for the past five years. [8861/12]

The Department incurs expenditure on legal and compensation costs and fees from the Department of Social Protection Vote and the Social Insurance Fund. The elements of these payments relating solely to legal fees are not recorded separately. The following table sets out expenditure on legal and compensation costs/fees for the period from 2007 to 2011:

Legal and compensation costs/fees

Year

Department of Social Protection Vote€

Social Insurance Fund€

2007

300,814

97,670

2008

204,964

20,797

2009

280,778

96,028

2010

838,266

0

2011

1,245,115

0

Costs relating to prosecutions arising from fraudulent claims made to the Department are borne by the Chief States Solicitors Office. Figures provided for 2011 are provisional.

Departmental Funding

Alex White

Question:

174 Deputy Alex White asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the level of public funding given by him to subsidise and support the network of Irish summer colleges in 2011; the budgetary provision, if any, that has been made for 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8640/12]

My Department does not provide any assistance directly to Irish summer colleges in the Gaeltacht. However, under Scéim na bhFoghlaimeoirí Gaeilge, my Department provides assistance to Gaeltacht households who accommodate Irish students while attending summer colleges in the Gaeltacht. A total of €4.45m was paid under the scheme in 2011 and €4.35m has been allocated for the scheme in 2012.

Designated Areas

Pearse Doherty

Question:

175 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the number of appeals submitted to his Department with regard to proposed SPAs in west County Donegal; if all appeals and objections have been acknowledged by him; and the direction he intends to pursue taking into account the local concerns in the west Donegal area. [8656/12]

I assume that the Deputy's Question refers to the six Special Protection Areas (SPAs) that have been specifically selected for the Corncrake in Donegal. My Department has issued written acknowledgements in respect of some 261valid objections received in relation to the proposed designation of these sites. Each of these objections will be considered on its own merits. Objectors will be informed of my Department’s decisions and will be given an opportunity to appeal to the Designated Areas Appeals Advisory Board, which will consider further the merits of any appeal referred to it. Once all appeals are dealt with, it will then be a matter of proceeding to formally designate the sites, including any boundary adjustments arising from appeals, through the making of a Statutory Instrument for each site.

EU Presidency

Niall Collins

Question:

176 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the preparations he has undertaken for the Irish Presidency of the EU Council in January 2013; the amount of money spent on EU Council Presidency related activities to date in 2012; the estimated expenditure up to December 2012; the budget for the six-month Presidency specifically; the additional staff he has undertaken; the number of re-assigned staff he has undertaken; the estimated future staff requirements for the Presidency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8836/12]

My Department is actively involved in the ongoing preparations for Ireland's Presidency of the Council of Ministers of the European Union in 2013, including in relation to events both on the European and wider international stage in the lead up to, and during, the Presidency. To this end, an EU Presidency steering group has been established in my Department, which reports to me on a regular basis. The group is advancing a programme of work to support key EU Presidency objectives, particularly in the heritage and culture areas. Officials from my Department are also actively involved in the inter-Departmental committees established to oversee Presidency preparations.

In particular, my Department will play a significant role in the development and implementation of a Cultural Programme to accompany Ireland's EU Presidency. The Cultural Programme offers an important opportunity to project a strong image of Ireland to audiences within the EU and beyond. It will also provide a platform to engage with people at home concerning Ireland's place in the EU. Funding to support the development of the Cultural Programme will be addressed in the context of the 2012 Revised Estimates. My Department is already engaged with a number of other key Departments and organisations to ensure that effective advance planning is undertaken in developing a multi-stranded programme targeted at audiences, both in Ireland and abroad.

With regard to staff to support Presidency-related work, my Department is currently reviewing what internal reassignments will be necessary to support its increased Presidency responsibilities. In this regard, an application for some limited staff flexibility has been made to the Department of Public Expenditure of Reform, within the parameters set out by Government.

Departmental Expenditure

Charles Flanagan

Question:

177 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the total cost to his Department of the provision of external legal services to the Department in respect of legal advice and legal services each year for the past five years. [8851/12]

My Department was established on 1 June 2011 and the Deputy will appreciate that it only feasible, therefore, to provide the information requested from that date. Accordingly, I can confirm that my Department has not incurred any costs in relation to legal advice or legal services since 1 June 2011.

Grant Payments

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

178 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the reason a person (details supplied) in County Cork has not yet received payment under the Sustainable Energy Ireland scheme for work carried out; the reasons for the delay; when payment can be expected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8814/12]

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

179 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the reason a person (details supplied) in County Cork has not yet received payment under the Sustainable Energy Ireland scheme for work carried out; the reasons for the delay; when payment can be expected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8815/12]

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

180 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the reason a person (details supplied) in County Cork has not yet received payment under the Sustainable Energy Ireland scheme for work carried out; the reasons for the delay; when payment can be expected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8816/12]

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

181 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the reason a person (details supplied) in County Cork has not yet received payment under the Sustainable Energy Ireland scheme for work carried out; the reasons for the delay; when payment can be expected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8817/12]

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

182 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the reason a person (details supplied) in County Cork has not yet received payment under the Sustainable Energy Ireland scheme for work carried out; the reasons for the delay; when payment can be expected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8818/12]

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

183 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the reason a person (details supplied) in County Cork has not yet received payment under the Sustainable Energy Ireland scheme for work carried out; the reasons for the delay; when payment can be expected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8819/12]

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

184 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the reason a person (details supplied) in County Cork has not yet received payment under the Sustainable Energy Ireland scheme for work carried out; the reasons for the delay; when payment can be expected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8820/12]

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

185 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the reason a person (details supplied) in County Cork has not yet received payment under the Sustainable Energy Ireland scheme for work carried out; the reasons for the delay; when payment can be expected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8821/12]

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

186 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the reason a person (details supplied) in County Cork has not yet received payment under the Sustainable Energy Ireland scheme for work carried out; the reasons for the delay; when payment can be expected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8822/12]

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

187 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the reason a person (details supplied) in County Cork has not yet received payment under the Sustainable Energy Ireland scheme for work carried out; the reasons for the delay; when payment can be expected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8823/12]

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

188 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the reason a person (details supplied) in County Cork has not yet received payment under the Sustainable Energy Ireland scheme for work carried out; the reasons for the delay; when payment can be expected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8824/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 178 to 188, inclusive, together.

Better Energy Homes is administered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). It is a rules-based scheme with each application subject to a number of checks and reviews to ensure that the terms and conditions of the scheme are fully met by homeowners and contractors in the disbursement of public funds. I have been informed by the SEAI that the cases referred to by the Deputy are currently being examined.

In general, queries in relation to individual applicants are an operational matter for the SEAI and a dedicated hot line can be reached at 1850 927 000. In addition, the SEAI has established a specific email address for queries from Oireachtas members, which can be sent tooireachtas@seai.ie and will be dealt with promptly mailto:oireachtas@seai.ie.

Mobile Telephony

Martin Ferris

Question:

189 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the number of complaints ComReg has received in relation to a premium mobile phone number 57675. [8515/12]

In accordance with Part 2 of the Communications Regulation (Premium Rate Services and Electronic Communications Infrastructure) Act 2010, the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) has statutory responsibility for the regulation of premium rates services. Complaints regarding such services are therefore a matter for ComReg. I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department does not hold the information sought. I understand that comprehensive information on the rights of individuals and complaints procedures is available on ComReg's websitewww.phonesmart.ie.

EU Directives

Liam Twomey

Question:

190 Deputy Liam Twomey asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will outline the pathway for the implementation of the renewable energy Directive for 2020, in view of the fact that this will help indigenous companies plan for the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8516/12]

Directive 2009/28/EC on renewable energy requires all EU Member States that they have a plan in place which sets out the planned trajectory towards the achievement of their legally binding target under the Renewable Energy Directive. The Directive also sets indicative interim targets so that the European Commission can monitor whether the actions being taken by Member States are sufficiently robust over the period to ensure the target will be reached by 2020. Ireland submitted its National Renewable Energy Action Plan to the European Commission in mid 2010.

Under Article 22 of the Directive, Member States are required to submit progress reports on the National Renewable Energy Action Plan to the European Commission. The progress report requires any changes in policy to be flagged to the Commission as well as requiring various other reporting and statistics. Ireland's first progress report has been published on my Department's website.

Within each sector, the progress report sets out the actions which are being taken towards the achievement of the target and the renewable technologies being deployed. In the electricity sector, the bulk of the target will be achieved through onshore wind generation supported by the REFIT tariff. In transport, the target is being progressed through the biofuels obligation with the prospect of some contribution to the target from electrification. The heating target which is particularly challenging will be assisted through take-up of the recently announced biomass REFIT scheme.

Telecommunications Services

Tom Hayes

Question:

191 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when a service under the rural broadband scheme will be offered to persons in County Tipperary (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8694/12]

The Application Phase of the Rural Broadband Scheme (RBS) closed on 29 July 2011. The Department received 5,000 applications and of these, approximately 3,700 qualified under the terms of the scheme.

The Verification Phase of the Scheme has now commenced. In this phase of the Scheme, the details of applicants have been passed to Internet service providers to assess whether a service can be offered to them without intervention from the State.

A total of 32 companies are participating in this part of the Scheme.

My Department will be writing to all applicants by the end of this month, including those in the areas mentioned by the Deputy, to let them know the position in relation to their application and asking applicants to give their written permission to enable the companies to contact them directly with a written offer.

It is expected that the companies involved will then write with offers to those applicants who give their consent.

I expect that a significant number of applicants may be served by commercial operators as part of this phase of the scheme. If any applicants remain unserved after this phase, a service will be procured by my Department which will be rolled out later this year.

Departmental Agencies

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

192 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will confirm who will carry out the report into the practice of fracking on his behalf; the qualifications of this person; the report’s terms of reference; and if external organisations will be in a position to make submissions. [8797/12]

I can inform the Deputy that in October of last year, Minister Rabbitte requested the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to conduct research and advise on the environmental implications of hydraulic fracturing as a means of extracting natural gas from underground reserves.

The EPA is currently funding preliminary background research into the environmental aspects of shale gas extraction and into the regulatory approaches of other countries with a view to helping to establish best environmental practice. This research is in the form of a desk based study being carried out by the University of Aberdeen. The EPA proposes to commission further, more extensive research on hydraulic fracturing in 2012 and a working group involving representatives from my Department and the EPA has been established to develop the scope for this study. However, the final specification for this research will only be prepared after the EPA, which is an independent statutory body, has considered the output from the study currently underway at the University of Aberdeen.

EU Presidency

Niall Collins

Question:

193 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the preparations he has undertaken for the Irish Presidency of the EU Council in January 2013; the amount of money spent on EU Council Presidency-related activities to date in 2012; the estimated expenditure up to December 2012; the budget for the six-month Presidency specifically; the additional staff he has undertaken; the number of re-assigned staff he has undertaken; the estimated future staff requirements for the Presidency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8838/12]

Preparations for the Irish Presidency of the EU Council are underway in my Department. While there has been no specific expenditure on Presidency related activities to date provision has been made for such activities in 2012 including any additional staff costs that may arise. Presidency resource requirements for 2013 will be determined as part of the overall resource allocation within my Department's Vote for 2013. I am not in a position to indicated the level of this provision at this stage.

Departmental Expenditure

Charles Flanagan

Question:

194 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the total cost to his Department of the provision of external legal services to his Department in respect of legal advice and legal services each year for the past five years. [8853/12]

The following table sets out the total cost of external legal advice and legal services provided to my Department in the years 2007 to 2011:

Cost 2007

Cost 2008

Cost 2009

Cost 2010

Cost 2011

€723,496.57

€2,159,273.5 6

€494,683.64

€567,194.98

€335,335.74

Planning Issues

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

195 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his position on the need for a national organisation to support the effective and sustainable strategic management of our towns and cities; and if he has considered establishing something along the lines of an Irish branch of the Association of Town Centre Management in the UK. [8771/12]

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

197 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his strategy regarding the sustainability of town centres; the way such a strategy is to be supported; and the systems to be put in place to monitor performance. [8773/12]

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

198 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his views on the need for a national plan driving urban policy throughout the country to ensure strategic planning at the national, regional, local level to protect and promote town centres. [8774/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 195, 197 and 198 together.

The responsibility for the planning of cities, towns and urban areas is a matter for local authorities. The regeneration of urban areas has been a priority of my Department for some time, and a number of initiatives and programmes have been used to promote regeneration.

A wide range of property-based tax relief schemes were introduced up to the mid 2000s including town renewal and living over the shop schemes. While many important developments were encouraged by these schemes, independent reviews concluded that the tax costs of the initiatives were high relative to the outputs achieved and the Department of Finance is in the process of winding down existing schemes in light of the current economic climate and the ongoing legacy costs of such schemes to the Exchequer as investors use their reliefs and capital allowances.

Similarly, the Urban and Village Renewal Programme 2000-2006, through which grant assistance was provided to local authorities for a range of interventions to upgrade the fabric of the built environment in cities, towns and villages, ended in early 2008. That scheme involved total EU and Exchequer co-financed expenditure of over €158m. The 2007-2013 Urban and Village Regeneration Programme, administered by my Department, was deferred due to budgetary constraints. A comprehensive hierarchy of evidence-based national, regional and local planning policies have been put in place to secure the proper planning and sustainable development of the country as a whole, including urban areas.

The 2002 National Spatial Strategy (NSS) is a twenty-year planning framework designed to achieve a better balance of social, economic and physical development and population growth between regions, including the urban structure of Gateway cities and towns, Hub towns and other towns and villages. The NSS is further elaborated on and implemented through statutory regional planning guidelines across eight regions, which were reviewed in 2010.

A comprehensive review of implementation of the NSS was undertaken during 2010, culminating in the publication in October 2010 of the NSS Update and Outlook Report (available atwww.environ.ie); this addresses a range of issues relevant to urban areas, including the vitality of city and town centres.

In addition, the adoption of updated Regional Planning Guidelines in 2010 for the twelve-year period to 2022, and legislative requirements under the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2010 to include new Core Strategies in development plans, are further implementing the NSS within the forward-planning process and ensuring an appropriate policy focus on the importance of urban areas, including city and town centres, for the long term proper planning and sustainable development of the country.

My Department published statutory Guidelines for Planning Authorities on Sustainable Residential Development in Urban Areas (Cities, Towns and Villages) in December 2008. The Guidelines are accompanied by an Urban Design manual which sets out practical examples and best practice.

Furthermore, I intend shortly to finalise draft Guidelines for Planning Authorities on Retail Planning on foot of the submissions received during the public consultation process. These Guidelines are aimed, inter alia, at advancing choice for the consumer while promoting and supporting the vitality and viability of city and town centres, and also highlight the options open to planning authorities for the operations of Business Improvement Districts as provided by the Local Government (Business Improvement Districts) Act 2006. I also intend to publish a consultation draft of planning guidelines on Local Area Plans later this year which will also address matters relating to the vitality of city and town centres.

My Department is also working in conjunction with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport on a Manual for Streets which will address design guidance and standards for streetscapes and related shared space, and will be guided by universal design and accessibility principles.

My Department remains committed to working with local government and other community development and enterprise stakeholders to ensure that a recovering economy will result in an even distribution of opportunity. In this regard there is a particular need to target in an integrated way urban areas which face particular problems resulting from both the economic downturn and investments in the past which did not facilitate the development of sustainable communities capable of benefiting from the period of high prosperity or coping with the subsequent downturn. Major regeneration programmes in Ballymun and Limerick together with a range of other remedial works schemes across the country continue to be prioritised to assist in addressing this deficit.

I am therefore satisfied that this policy and legislative framework, together with the suite of existing and proposed planning guidelines, will ensure effective delivery of a sustainable urban policy, but I will continue to keep under review the need for any further provisions in this regard.

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

196 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government in respect of the draft sustainable development framework, if this has the involvement of universities; the extent to which the framework evidence is based; if it will include an evaluation of its 1997 predecessor; if it will take into account urban sprawl; and if there is any international best practice exchange with other countries on the development of this document. [8772/12]

Following clearance by Government, a draft Framework for Sustainable Development for Ireland (FSDI) was published for public consultation in December, 2011. A public consultation seminar was held on 24 January, 2011 which was attended by a broad range of stakeholders, including from academia. The consultation period concludes on 29 February, 2011 and it is open to all stakeholders, including universities, to make a submission to my Department.

The FSDI aims to build on the progress made under Sustainable Development, a Strategy for Irelandpublished in 1997 and is a response to the significant challenges now being faced across a range of economic, social and environmental policy areas. In terms of our approach, the FSDI follows the model of the Renewed EU Sustainable Development Strategy (2006 and 2009) which is based on a gap analysis, identifying areas where limited progress has been made, particularly in terms of the need to decouple natural resource use from economic growth, and outlining actions to address these challenges. The draft FSDI also takes account of developments at international and EU level to deliver an effective transition to an innovative, low carbon and resource efficient economy and to achieve a shift towards greener growth. The preparatory phase also involved an examination of best practice models in terms of national sustainable development strategies in other countries.

Among the thematic areas addressed in the FSDI are Social Inclusion, Sustainable Communities and Spatial Planning. The FSDI examines the complex challenges being faced in this area, including development and settlement patterns that have emerged in the last decade or so. It also identifies gaps that need to be addressed and actions that should be taken in this sector.

It is my intention to seek Government approval for the Framework for Sustainable Development for Ireland following consideration of submissions made during the public consultation phase. The FSDI will form a central element of Ireland's contribution to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) which takes place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in June 2012. This major conference marks the 20th anniversary of the ‘Earth Summit'. The FSDI will set an overarching framework for the advancement of sustainable development, resource efficiency and green economy agendas in Ireland over a medium to long term time horizon.

Questions Nos. 197 and 198 answered with Question No. 195.

Departmental Agencies

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

199 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the total cost of the operation of the Private Residential Tenancies Board; if he will provide a breakdown of the expenditure incurred in the following areas, the cost of full-time administrative staff, the cost of independent adjudicators, the cost of tribunals and the total number of tribunals conducted in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8825/12]

I have no function in the operational matters of the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB), an independent statutory body established under the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 on 1 September 2004. While the PRTB received Exchequer funding for a number of years, it has operated on a self-financing basis since 2010.

Details of the Board's income and expenditure are published in its annual report and accounts, which are available on the PRTB websitewww.prtb.ie. The most recently available accounts relate to 2010 and will be published shortly. The total expenditure for the year ended 31 December 2010 was €7.7 million.

Local Authority Charges

Derek Nolan

Question:

200 Deputy Derek Nolan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the reasons for applying the household charge to persons who also pay a non-residential property tax; if both these payments will be streamlined when the new property tax comes in; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8521/12]

The Local Government (Household Charge) Act 2011 and the Local Government (Charges) Act 2009, as amended, set out the legislation underpinning the household charge and the charge on non-principal private residences respectively.

Under the legislation, owners of residential property are liable to the household charge, including those persons with a liability to pay the charge on non-principal private residences, unless otherwise exempt.

I have recently established an inter-Departmental expert Group to design an equitable property tax having regard to its terms of reference. This Group has been asked to report to me by end April, 2012. I will then bring proposals to Government for decisions on the structure and modalities of the property tax.

Dara Murphy

Question:

201 Deputy Dara Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government in view of the fact that collection of the household charge is vested with the city and county managers, the discretion these managers have regarding unfinished estates and the liability of the persons living in those estates for the household charge; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8538/12]

Gerald Nash

Question:

202 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to amend the Local Government (Household Charge) Act 2011 to provide for an appeals facility regarding inclusion of housing estates on the list of category three and four estates in view of the level of dissatisfaction expressed by residents in some estates at their exclusion from the lists; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8541/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 201 and 202 together.

As part of the process of preparing the National Housing Development Survey 2011, published by my Department in October 2011, local authorities provided details of all unfinished housing developments in their areas. Unfinished housing developments were divided into four categories as follows:

Category one, where the development is still being actively completed by the developer, or where no serious public safety issues exist;

Category two, where a receiver has been appointed;

Category three, where a receiver has not been appointed and the developer is still in place but effectively inactive; and

Category four, where the development has been effectively abandoned and is posing serious problems for residents.

Other relevant factors for the purposes of the categorisation process include,inter alia:

the state of completion of roads, footpaths, public lighting facilities, piped water and sewerage facilities and open spaces or similar amenities within the development;

the extent to which the development complies with the terms of applicable planning permission;

the extent to which it complies with the provisions of the Building Control Acts 1990 and 2007;

the provisions of the Local Government (Sanitary Services) Act 1964 as they pertain to dangerous places and dangerous structures within the meaning of the Act;

the extent to which facilities within the development have been taken in charge by the local authority concerned and

where there is an agreement regarding the maintenance of such facilities, the extent to which this agreement has been complied with.

In some cases a local authority may have found that conditions in respect of a certain phase of a development were relatively good and that, for example, no serious public safety issues could be identified. This phase of the development may have been categorised under category 1 or 2. Conversely, safety issues may have been identified in another phase of the same overall development, or development in that second phase may have been abandoned altogether, implying a category 3 or 4 identification for that phase.

This categorisation formed the basis for the list of those unfinished developments eligible for a waiver on the annual household charge.

Only households in developments in categories three and four are eligible for the waiver from payment of the household charge. This list of developments in which households are eligible for the waiver in 2012 is set out under the Local Government (Household Charge) Regulations 2012 and forms the complete list of such developments for this year. The Local Government (Household Charge) Act 2011 does not provide for an appeals facility in this regard. A revised list of estates will be prescribed for 2013 after which time the waiver for unfinished housing developments will end. Throughout this period it is anticipated that the numbers of categories 3 and 4 developments will decrease as my Department continues to work with local authorities and other stakeholders to resolve outstanding issues, including through the Public Safety Initiative.

Local Authority Housing

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

203 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of recognised voluntary housing bodies currently operating here; the number of housing units being managed by each of these associations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8636/12]

The voluntary and co-operative housing sector are valued partners in the delivery of social housing solutions for low-income families and persons with specific categories of housing need, including older people, persons with a physical, intellectual or mental health disability, homeless persons and elderly returning emigrants.

Some 700 voluntary and co-operative bodies have been granted Approved Housing Body status by my Department in accordance with section 6 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act of 1992. Of these, 443 bodies have completed one or more housing projects yielding a total of 25,363 housing units to date.

A detailed breakdown of the number of housing units provided by each of the approved housing bodies will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

204 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of recognised voluntary housing associations that have undertaken long-term leasing arrangements; the number of units that each such association has taken on; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8637/12]

To the end of December 2011, 21 approved housing bodies have been issued approval by the Department to proceed with leasing projects, which encompass over 1,200 housing units. A breakdown of these units by body is shown in the following table.

In addition, 1,546 unsold affordable units have been included in the leasing scheme and are being managed by approved housing bodies.

AHB/Status

Operational

Approved

Total

Banner Housing Association

0

2

2

Carberry

0

6

6

Cheshire Ireland

0

3

3

Circle

0

76

76

Cluíd Housing Association

4

433

437

Escombe

1

0

1

Focus Ireland

0

156

156

Fold Ireland Housing Association

0

31

31

Galtan Ltd

0

8

8

HAIL

0

9

9

Inis Housing Association

0

13

13

Midlands Simon Com.

7

0

7

NABCo

2

2

4

North and East Housing Association

0

66

66

Oaklee Housing Trust

0

36

36

S.T.E.E.R.

29

44

73

St Vincent De Paul

0

10

10

Sunbeam

0

16

16

The Iveagh Trust

64

20

84

Thomond Housing Association

5

0

5

Tuath/Helm

83

139

222

AHB Total

195

1,070

1,265

Social and Affordable Housing

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

205 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he has given consideration to introducing a tenant purchase scheme for housing units built under the capital loan and subsidy scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8638/12]

Under the terms of the Incremental Purchase scheme introduced in June 2010, new houses provided by approved voluntary and co-operative housing bodies and designated under the scheme may be purchased by their tenants. As regards the sale to tenants of existing houses provided by approved bodies, my Department is currently examining, in consultation with the relevant bodies, the future funding and governance arrangements for the voluntary and co-operative housing sector. The need for any policy and legislative changes, including changes to facilitate the sale to tenants of houses provided by approved housing bodies, will be considered in the light of the outcome of this examination.

Foreshore Licences

Pearse Doherty

Question:

206 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the status of the lease of the foreshore licence at Burtonport Harbour to Donegal County Council; the date the licence was applied for to his Department; the date Donegal County Council and the fee Donegal County Council paid his Department for the lease; and if he is satisfied with the process in which this case has been dealt with. [8653/12]

The application involves the proposed lease of an area of foreshore by Donegal County Council and a proposal by the Council to sub-lease a portion of the foreshore concerned to a third party. It has come to my Department's attention that the nature of the proposal for which the Council had originally intended to make the third party sub-lease has changed substantially. The proposed changes to the third party lease arrangements raise a number of legal issues on which my Department has sought advice. Given the complexity of the issues involved processing of the application cannot be moved forward until the advices of the Chief State Solicitor's Office are received.

Local Authority Charges

James Bannon

Question:

207 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if a local authority will only allow payment of the household charge in cash and refuses to accept a credit card, which is the preferred method of payment of a person (details supplied) in County Longford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8665/12]

The Local Government (Household Charge) Act 2011 and the Local Government (Household Charge) Regulations 2012 provide the legislative basis for the household charge. There is a range of options available for persons to pay the household charge. An online systemwww.householdcharge.ie is in place in the Local Government Management Agency (LGMA) to enable homeowners to pay the household charge by credit/debit card or in four instalments by direct debit. In addition, homeowners can make payment by cheque, postal order, credit/debit card or in four instalments of €25 by direct debit by completing the relevant payment details on the declaration form and posting it to Household Charge, PO Box 12168, Dublin 1. Instalment payments are available by direct debit only and persons opting to pay in this way must register their details by 1 March, 2012. A bureau is in place in the LGMA to administer the charge on a shared service/agency basis for all local authorities. In addition, all county/city councils have been requested to have arrangements in place for persons to attend their principal offices to pay the household charge up to 31 March, 2012. I am satisfied that there is a comprehensive suite of payment options available to persons with a liability to pay the household charge.

Dormant Accounts Fund

John Browne

Question:

208 Deputy John Browne asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the total amount of funding still available in his Department through the dormant accounts fund; and the reason he continues to withhold funding already approved for projects under the rapid programme for County Wexford (details supplied). [8684/12]

Since its establishment in April 2003 to the end of December 2011, the transfers to the Dormant Accounts Fund have totalled some €631.14m, which includes interest earned of some €35.51m. Funds reclaimed in that period by account holders amounted to approximately €228.94m. The net value of the Dormant Accounts Fund (uncommitted funds) at year-end was €69.091m, subject to final audit. No funds have yet been allocated to meet the costs of projects in the new RAPID towns and this matter remains under active review in my Department in light of available funding for 2012.

Fire Services

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

209 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the sectors from within the public service from which Dublin City Council intends to fill fire-fighter vacancies through redeployment; and the oversight measures that he has put in place to ensure that such redeployments will not compromise the heath and safety of citizens in need of the Dublin fire brigade service. [8689/12]

The provision of fire services in local authority areas, including the establishment and maintenance of fire brigades, the assessment of fire cover needs and the provision of premises is a statutory function of individual fire authorities under the provisions of the Fire Services Act 1981. My Department supports fire authorities through setting of general policy, training support and issue of guidance on operational and other related matters, and the provision of capital funding.

Under section 159 of the Local Government Act 2001, each county and city manager is responsible for the staffing and organisational arrangements necessary for carrying out the functions of the local authority for which he or she is responsible. Accordingly, the deployment of fire brigade staff in Dublin is a matter in the first instance for Dublin City Council. However, I understand that Dublin City Council, under the Public Service Agreement 2010-2014 (Croke Park Agreement), intend to replace fire-fighters who currently work in the Regional Communications Centre (RCC) in Townsend St. with dedicated control room operators, sourced from within the four Dublin Local Authorities, so that the fire-fighters can fill vital front-line fire service roles for which they are especially trained. Such staff will be trained in accordance with a national syllabus for the role and in nationally agreed procedures which have proved effective over the years at similar Regional Communications Centres in Limerick and Castlebar. On the general issue of fire service staffing, my Department considers all staffing sanction requests on a case by case basis, having due regard to Public Service numbers policy and the continued delivery of key services.

Local Authority Charges

Billy Timmins

Question:

210 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding the household charge in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8709/12]

The Local Government (Household Charge) Act 2011 and the Local Government (Charges) Act 2009, as amended, set out the legislation underpinning the household charge and the charge on non-principal private residences respectively. Under the legislation, owners of residential property are liable to the household charge, including those persons with a liability to pay the charge on non-principal private residences, unless otherwise exempt. The Acts contains a common definition of residential property as including a house, maisonette, flat or apartment (including the form of accommodation commonly known as a bedsit). The NPPR charge and the household charge are payable on each unit of accommodation that is occupied, or suitable for occupation, as a separate dwelling, whether or not the occupier shares, or would be entitled to share, in connection therewith, any accommodation, amenity or facility with any other person. The owner of a building split into a number of studio flats is thus liable for the NPPR charge and the household charge on each such unit in that building.

Billy Timmins

Question:

211 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding the non-principal private residence charges on multi-unit dwellings in view of the fact that some local authorities are failing to collect charges from those liable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8710/12]

The Local Government (Charges) Act 2009, as amended, broadened the revenue base of local authorities by introducing a charge on non-principal private residences. The charge is set at €200 and liability for it falls, in the main, on owners of rental, holiday and vacant properties. Under the Act, it is a function of a local authority to collect non-principal private residence charges and late payment fees due to it and all charges and late payment fees imposed and payable to a local authority are under the care and management of the local authority concerned. In this regard, application of the legislation in particular circumstances is a matter for the relevant local authority. The Act further provides for offences where a person contravenes the statutory requirements. In addition, late payment fees apply where payment is not made by the due date and non-principal private residence charges and any associated late payment fees are a charge against the property which will have to be discharged in the event of the sale or transfer of the property concerned. Since the introduction of the charge on non-principal private residences in 2009 over €208m has been raised from it for the provision of local authority services.

Niall Collins

Question:

212 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the current campaign to oppose the household charge which informs persons they do not have to legally pay the charge unless they register; the actions he is taking to address that campaign; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8736/12]

The Local Government (Household Charge) Act 2011 and the Local Government (Household Charge) Regulations 2012 provide the legislative basis for the household charge. Under section 5(1) of the Act, the owner of a residential property, who on a liability date, is liable to pay a household charge to a relevant local authority, or who is entitled to a waiver from payment of a household charge under section 4(4), must make and provide to the relevant local authority a declaration stating that he or she is so liable or so entitled, as the case may be. Under section 5(2) of the Act, the declaration must, in the case of a person who is liable to pay a household charge, be accompanied by payment of the household charge in respect of the property concerned. The Act further provides for offences where a person contravenes these statutory requirements. In addition, late payment penalties apply where payment is not made by 31 March, 2012 and household charges and late payment penalties are a charge against the property which will have to be discharged in the event of the sale or transfer of the property concerned.

Significant measures are underway to ensure that property owners are aware of the household charge and the liability and payment dates. The LGMA and local authorities have commenced a national information campaign to advise people of the household charge and their responsibilities in relation to payment of the charge. A similar and successful advertising and information campaign was undertaken in the context of the €200 charge on non-principal private residences on its introduction in 2009 with further advertising taking place each year since. A household charge information leaflet is being issued at this time to residential properties in the State. I am confident that those liable to the household charge will be aware of their obligation to discharge their liability for the charge by 31 March 2012 and thereby avoid any late payment fees or late payment interest.

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

213 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to release data sets containing information on retail and commercial floor space rateable under each local authority with a view to ascertaining existing floor space in urban areas versus developments located outside or on the outskirts of cities and town centres. [8776/12]

The information requested is not available in my Department. Local authorities are under a statutory obligation to levy rates on any property used for commercial purposes in accordance with the details entered in the valuation lists prepared by the independent Commissioner for Valuation under the Valuation Act 2001. The Commissioner for Valuation has sole responsibility for all valuation matters.

EU Presidency

Niall Collins

Question:

214 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the preparations he has undertaken for the Irish Presidency of the EU Council in January 2013; the amount of money spent on EU Council Presidency-related activities to date in 2012; the estimated expenditure up to December 2012; the budget for the six month Presidency specifically; the additional staff he has employed; the number of reassigned staff he has taken on; the estimated future staff requirements for the Presidency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8841/12]

Preparations for my Department's role in Ireland's Presidency of the EU commenced in July 2010 with the establishment of an internal committee to co-ordinate arrangements and significant progress has been made since then in building a draft Presidency programme. My Department is also working closely with the Departments of An Taoiseach and Foreign Affairs and Trade who are co-ordinating preparations at national level.

As part of my ongoing Presidency preparations, I have already met with Irish MEPs, the Chair and Leaders of political groupings on the European Parliament's Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, and MEPs who will be acting as rapporteurs for some of the key dossiers. My Department has also met with key officials in the European Commission and in the Council Secretariat. Only very limited Presidency-related costs have arisen so far in 2012 and these have been met from within existing resources. Specific Presidency-related funding for my Department in 2012 will be finalised in the context of the Revised Estimates to be published later this month, with the 2013 costs being finalised in the context of next year's Estimates.

In addition to the corps of existing staff, primarily in my Department's Environment Division, who by virtue of their normal responsibilities will be involved in Presidency-related work, some 40 additional staff will be required for varying periods in order to support my Department's Presidency-related activities. Approximately half of these posts are being filled through staff resources freed up through restructuring/efficiency initiatives and from internal re-assignments; the mechanisms for filling the remaining posts will be decided later this year.

Departmental Expenditure

Charles Flanagan

Question:

215 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the total cost to his Department of the provision of external legal services to his Department in respect of legal advice and legal services each year for the past five years. [8855/12]

The information requested in respect of relevant payments made by my Department from 2007 to 2011 is set out in the following table:

Year

Cost €*

2011

118,101

2010

134,234

2009

30,622

2008

143,167

2007

44,925

*In addition to the payments shown, some other contractual arrangements for services contain an element of recoupment for incidental legal fees; the table does not include costs associated with the Planning Tribunal.

Coroners Service

Billy Timmins

Question:

216 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding the outcome of the coroner’s inquest into the death of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8552/12]

I wish to inform the Deputy that while neither I nor my Department has any role in individual cases, I understand that this case was within the jurisdiction of the Coroner for West Wicklow. I am advised that following receipt of the post-mortem report, the Coroner decided that an inquest was not necessary and a Coroner's Certificate was issued to the County Registrar in October 2011.

Departmental Funding

Clare Daly

Question:

217 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he can make it a requirement that non-governmental organisations that receive funding from him in return for such funding respect recommendations from the Labour Court. [6379/12]

As the Deputy is aware, issues concerning the Labour Court come under the remit of my colleague, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.

However, it should be noted that were a Department to place more onerous obligations regarding Labour Court recommendations on a certain class of employer, i.e. non-governmental organisations (NGOs), who are in receipt of Departmental grants, such grants given to help these NGOs in the provision of services could instead end up financing, for example, redundancy payments on foot of Labour Court recommendations.

Garda Transport

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

218 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of community Garda vans in operation in each of the years 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012; the stations to which they are attached in the Dublin region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8704/12]

I am advised by the Garda authorities that the number of community Garda vans in operation throughout the country in each of the years requested is set out in the following table:

2009

2010

2011

2012

22

22

22

20

I am further advised that the following table sets out the allocation of these vans within the Dublin Metropolitan Region:

Station

2009

2010

2011

2012

DMR-Blanchardstown

1

1

1

0

DMR-Clontarf

1

1

1

0

DMR-Crumlin

1

1

1

0

DMR-Fitzgibbon Street

1

1

1

1

DMR-Harcourt Terrace

1

0

0

0

DMR-Kevin Street

0

1

1

2

DMR-Pearse Street

1

1

1

0

DMR-Santry

1

1

1

1

DMR-Store Street

1

1

1

1

DMR-Tallaght

2

2

2

3

Charities Act

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

219 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the reason he has not commenced the 2009 Charities Act, which refers to a sector worth €6 billion and employing a similar number of people as multinationals based here. [8728/12]

In taking on the charities regulation function, in the context of the reorganisation of Government Departments in May last year, I recognised that full implementation of the Charities Act 2009, which would necessitate the establishment of a new regulatory body for charities, presented a challenge, particularly given the moratorium on public service recruitment.

The Irish Government, under the agreement with the troika, is committed to reducing public service numbers, not increasing them. It is committed to increasing the efficiency of service delivery, which the Government is doing, for example, in the case of the legal profession. It is committed to reducing bureaucracy, and reducing the number of State bodies and eliminating duplication.

The Deputy will appreciate that the implementation of the Charities Act 2009 had to be considered in that overall context. On balance, I considered, within the comprehensive review of expenditure, that it was not practicable to proceed with the full implementation of the Act at this time given the financial and staffing resources that would have been required, hence the implementation of the Act has been deferred.

I would like to reassure the Deputy that it is not the case that charities in Ireland are currently devoid of oversight — charities are already subject to scrutiny by various State bodies. The Revenue Commissioners have granted charitable tax exemptions to almost 8,000 charities, and they have significant powers to help them to ensure that such charities comply with tax law. A full list of eligible charities is available to the public atwww.revenue.ie. Many charities are companies limited by guarantee and, as such, are also subject to the provisions of company law and are generally required to provide information to the Companies Registration Office under the Companies Acts, which can be accessed by the public. Such charities would also potentially be subject to scrutiny by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement. Charities that take the form of a trust are subject to the provisions of trust law. And, of course, any business entity is subject to general criminal and fraud legislation.

I am also committed to developing approaches, within available resources, to enhance the transparency and oversight of the Irish charities sector, in order to maintain public confidence, and to help to develop a climate of philanthropic giving in Ireland. For example, my Department is supporting the development of Codes of Practice to regulate charitable fundraising in partnership with the charities sector through Irish Charities Tax Reform Ltd (ICTRL), an umbrella body for the sector. The new Guidelines and Code of Practice for fundraising were developed after extensive consultation with industry experts and stakeholders including charities, non-profit organisations, legal and financial advisers, donors and academics. These Codes are intended to complement the statutory regulation of collections that is administered by An Garda Síochána under the Street and House to House Collections Act 1962.

The Deputy will note therefore that it is certainly not the case that the sector will be unregulated pending the implementation of the Charities Act 2009 when circumstances permit.

Garda Investigations

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

220 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the cost to date of the investigation into Anglo Irish Bank; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8784/12]

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

221 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of gardaí working on the investigation into Anglo Irish Bank. [8785/12]

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

222 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the total number of gardaí who are part of the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation; and the number of these gardaí who are part of the investigation team investigating Anglo Irish Bank. [8787/12]

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

224 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the moneys paid to any external consultants or forensic accountants as part of the Anglo Irish Bank investigation; and the names of these individuals or companies and services rendered. [8789/12]

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

225 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he has met the Garda Commissioner regarding the Anglo Irish Bank investigation; and if he discussed personnel levels during this meeting. [8790/12]

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

226 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of gardaí assigned to the Anglo Irish Bank investigation who retired in the course of the investigation; the number of these vacancies which remain unfulfilled; and the date on which they will be filled. [8791/12]

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

227 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of gardaí assigned to the Anglo Irish Bank investigation who retired during February; and the number of these vacancies which remain unfulfilled; and the date on which they will be filled. [8792/12]

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

228 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of times the Garda has applied to the courts, under the relevant provisions of the Criminal Justice Act 2011, to require any person with relevant information to produce documents, answer questions and provide information for the purposes of the investigation of relevant offences connected to Anglo Irish Bank. [8793/12]

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

230 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of files to date submitted by the Garda to the Director of Public Prosecutions as a result of the Anglo Irish Bank investigation; the dates on which they were submitted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8795/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 220 to 222, inclusive, 224 to 228, inclusive and 230 together.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the investigations into Anglo Irish Bank by An Garda Síochána and the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) are ongoing with a full Investigation team employed at the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation.

I am further informed that as of 14 February, the current strength of the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation is seventy one, comprising one Superintendent, five Inspectors, fifteen Sergeants and fifty Gardaí. Twenty-six Garda personnel are engaged in the investigations into Anglo Irish Bank, comprising sixteen personnel at the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation, including fifteen Garda investigators and a forensic accountant as well as ten members of An Garda Síochána currently seconded to ODCE.

I am also informed that no money was paid to external consultants or forensic accountants by An Garda Síochána as part of the Anglo Irish Bank investigation.

No members of the Garda team of investigators assigned specifically to the Anglo Irish Investigation have retired during the course of the investigation and no members of the team of investigators have retired, or are due to retire, during February 2012. Following retirements in 2011 the allocation of a Chief Superintendent and a Superintendent to the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation have recently been announced by the Garda Commissioner, who will take up their posts with effect from 21 February 2012.

The Garda authorities have indicated that to date two investigation files were submitted by the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation to the Law Officers in December, 2010. A supplementary file was submitted in May 2011 and a further investigation file was forwarded in October 2011. The files remain under consideration by the Director of Public Prosecutions, and directions are awaited. Following recent developments additional information has been submitted to the Law Officers to allow the matters resting at that office be considered further.

Members of An Garda Síochána attached to the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement made an application under section 15, Criminal Justice Act, 2011 before Naas District Court in September, 2011. Such applications are only required in circumstances where an individual has failed, or refused without reasonable excuse, to make available documents or provide information, upon request, to An Garda Síochána and this situation has not arisen since.

In relation to the costs incurred associated with the investigation, the Garda authorities have indicated that these are payable from the overall budget allocated to the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation. The actual cost of this investigation, which remains ongoing, is not readily available without a disproportionate expenditure of Garda time and resources to calculate same.

The detailed deployment of Garda personnel is a matter for Garda management who inform me that they are satisfied there is sufficient personnel and technical expertise available to assist in the various aspects of ongoing investigations. I can assure the Deputy that this Government will continue to provide the necessary legislative and administrative supports for the investigations and that I attach the highest priority to the full investigation of white collar crime and bringing the perpetrators of such crime to justice.

In particular, on taking office, this Government gave priority to satisfying itself that the necessary resources, both personnel and legal, were available to the investigation. Within eight weeks of taking up office, I moved urgently to draft and seek Government approval to the introduction of additional legislation. This new legislation, the Criminal Justice Act, 2011, was enacted on 2 August.

I am being briefed on an ongoing basis on the progress of the investigations and am assured that this investigation remains an absolute priority for An Garda Síochána and that there is sufficient personnel and technical expertise available to assist in the various aspects of this ongoing investigation.

Departmental Expenditure

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

223 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the total annual budget of the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation for the past 12 months; and the total moneys spent by the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation on the Anglo Irish Bank investigation. [8788/12]

The Garda Commissioner is the Accounting Officer for the Garda Vote. In that context I am informed by the Garda authorities that a total of €6,786,759 was expended by the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation in 2011.

I am further informed that a special cost-code has not been established for the purpose of the investigation referred to by the Deputy and that, accordingly, costs associated with the investigation are payable from the overall budget allocated to the Bureau of Fraud Investigation. In the circumstances the Deputy will appreciate that the actual costs involved are not readily available and I understand that they could not be compiled without a disproportionate expenditure of Garda time and resources.

Questions Nos. 224 to 228 answered with Question No. 220.

Criminal Prosecutions

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

229 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of persons who have been convicted under provisions of the Criminal Justice Act 2011 due to failure to comply with such an order; and the penalties received by these persons. [8794/12]

Section 15, Criminal Justice Act, 2011 commenced on the 9 August 2011. Section 15 relates to Orders to produce documents or provide information. For the purposes of the investigation of a relevant offence, a member of An Garda Síochána may apply to a judge of the District Court for an order under this section in relation to the making available by a person of any particular documents or documents of a particular description, or the provision by a person of particular information by answering questions or making a statement containing the information, or both. A person who, without reasonable excuse, fails, or refuses, to comply with an order under section 15 of the Act is committing an offence.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that, while the provisions of the 2011 Act are being utilised fully, up to 12 February 2012 there have been no proceedings commenced for an offence contrary to Section 15 of the Act.

Question No. 230 answered with Question No. 220.

Asylum Applications

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

231 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the reason for the drop in the rate of positive determinations for asylum protection applications from 38.7% to 2.9% between Q4 of 2009 and Q1 of 2010; if there are plans to improve Ireland’s positive determinations rate for 2012 and to improve Ireland’s overall rate in relation to the EU average of 25%, Q2 of 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8813/12]

The statistical information quoted by the Deputy is not correct. The EUROSTAT figure referred to in respect of 2009 was the subject of revision as it erroneously included in the first instance protection recognition rate, figures in respect of failed asylum seekers who were granted leave to remain under the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended). The correct first instance recognition rate for Q4 2009 was in fact 4.7%.

As I have explained on a number of occasions, Ireland's overall first instance recognition rate cannot be readily compared with that for the EU. A large proportion of Ireland's asylum applications are processed under the Dublin II Regulation; are withdrawn or deemed withdrawn; or are made in respect of children under 3 years of age by parents who may have failed in their own asylum applications. In total, determinations in respect of these three categories of applicant accounted for over half of all refused applications at first instance in 2010. In addition, many EU states have particularly low numbers of decisions. For instance Estonia had just 40 decisions in all of 2010 with a refugee recognition rate of 37.5%. In cases such as this where there are low numbers of decisions made by certain member states it is difficult to make a meaningful comparison of recognition rates.

As I am sure the Deputy is aware, the Refugee Applications Commissioner has responsibility for investigating first instance asylum applications and is fully independent in the exercise of that function. The Commissioner has advised that every case is considered on its merits having regard to its subjective and objective elements.

Garda Recruitment

Niall Collins

Question:

232 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if An Garda Síochána will run a recruitment campaign during 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8830/12]

The moratorium on Public Service Recruitment continues to apply to An Garda Síochána and no date has been fixed for future intakes into the Garda College. A decision on when recruitment will re-commence will take into account the rate of retirements in the Garda Síochána and Government targets, set in the context of the agreement with the EU and the IMF, to reduce the numbers of public servants. In addition to this and what will ultimately determine the sustainable level of Garda numbers, and therefore establish when recruitment will recommence, is the level of budgetary provision that can be made for the Force, and the House will be conscious that difficult decisions will continue to have to be made, right across the public sector, in order to bring our public finances back into balance.

EU Presidency

Niall Collins

Question:

233 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the preparations he has undertaken for the Irish Presidency of the EU Council in January 2013; the amount of money spent on EU Council Presidency-related activities to date in 2012; the estimated expenditure up to December 2012; the budget for the six month Presidency specifically; the additional staff he has undertaken; the number of reassigned staff he has undertaken; the estimated future staff requirements for the Presidency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8846/12]

I am determined to play my part in ensuring that Ireland's 2013 Presidency of the Council of the European Union is seen as a success. We must ensure that the Presidency demonstrates that Ireland is fully open for business with its reputation restored and playing a full part in shaping the destiny of Europe. Preparations for Ireland's EU Presidency are well underway in my Department and significant progress has been made in identifying priority issues for the Presidency programme in the Justice and Equality areas. A Steering Group has been put in place in my Department to oversee this important work. My Department actively participates in the two inter-Departmental committees led by the Department of An Taoiseach and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to coordinate Presidency planning across all Departments in both policy and administrative areas.

At a practical level, the Government has taken a number of decisions with a view to putting in place an efficient and cost-effective Presidency. The Presidency is an important opportunity for Ireland to rebuild its positive image as a credible, effective, and trustworthy international player. I have held several discussions with EU Interior and Justice Ministers in regard to EU issues to be pursued in the Justice and Home Affairs Council. A further series of meetings, including with important contacts in the European Parliament, will be held in the coming months. Department officials have also met with key officials in the European Commission and in the Council Secretariat.

Some limited Presidency-related costs have been incurred which have been met from existing resources. Specific Presidency-related funding for my Department in 2012 will be finalised as part of the Revised Estimates process and the Presidency budget for 2013 will be included in the normal Estimates process for 2013. As with previous Presidencies, our Permanent Representation to the EU will have significant responsibility for the day to day management of the Presidency. In preparation for this work the number of staff working at the Representation will increase temporarily in 2012 and preparations are currently underway to manage this process.

My Department is already deploying staff internally to meet Presidency responsibilities. As that process develops further assignments to meet the needs of the Presidency will be made. This will be done in the most cost-effective way possible and may include a number of redeployments between Departments and agencies as well as some targeted recruitment, including of interns, on a strict time-limited basis to ensure that the policy priorities of the Presidency are supported in full. The Department is also engaged in discussions with relevant officials in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in terms of establishing a sustainable level of staffing resources to ensure delivery of a successful Presidency.

Departmental Expenditure

Charles Flanagan

Question:

234 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the total cost to his Department of the provision of external legal services to his Department in respect of legal advice and legal services each year for the past five years. [8859/12]

I wish to inform the Deputy that, for the most part, the legal services sought by my Department are coordinated and paid for by the Office of the Attorney General and the Chief State Solicitor's Office. These services are typically sought in the context of the preparation of legislation, legal advice in respect of policy issues and in the management of litigation including judicial reviews. In a number of instances, my Department has sought and paid for legal advice and services additional to those provided centrally by the Attorney General and the Chief State Solicitor.

The information requested by the Deputy concerning external legal services is set out in the following table:

Year

Amount (€)

2007

1,773,478

2008

1,337,005

2009

244,818

2010

179,295

2011

135,000

Total

3,669,596

Defence Forces Personnel

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

235 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Defence the number of personnel by rank who have indicated their intention to retire before 29 February 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8706/12]

The number of personnel who retired from the Defence Forces in the period from 1 January 2012 to 10 February 2012 was 157. A further 208 personnel have indicated their intention to depart the Defence Forces before 29 February 2012. A detailed breakdown of these figures by rank is contained in the table below. It is the Government's intention that the Defence Forces retain the capacity to operate effectively across all of the assigned roles to them. It was against this backdrop, and having regard to restricted financial allocations, that the Government decided to maintain the strength of the Permanent Defence Force at 9,500 personnel. This recognises the significant modernisation that has been achieved to date.

In response to this revised strength ceiling of 9,500, there will be a major re-organisation of the Defence Forces encompassing a reduction in the number of Army Brigades from three to two. I have asked the Chief of Staff and the Secretary General of the Department of Defence to bring forward detailed proposals for my consideration.

Having said that, I recognise that the departure of the number of personnel outlined earlier, over a short period, will require close monitoring, particularly where vacancies arise in critical appointments. In order to address this issue, limited promotion competitions will take place to provide candidates to fill critical vacancies. In addition, within the agreed 2012 estimates, limited recruitment will be undertaken in 2012. Throughout this process careful monitoring will take place to ensure that any problems arising are managed in the interim period.

Officers

Subject

BRIG GEN

COL

LT COL

CMDR

COMDT

LT CMDR

CAPT

Total

Retired from 01-Jan-2012 to 10-Feb 2012

2

1

3

1

7

1

1

16

Expected to Retire up to 29-Feb-2012

5

7

17

2

31

2

6

10

1

24

1

3

0

47

Other Ranks

Subject

SGT Major

BQMS

CS/FS/BS

CQMS/ FQMS

SGT

CPL

Total NCO’S

PTE 3 */REC

Total

Discharged from 01-Jan-2012 to 10-Feb 2012

0

0

4

5

23

25

57

84

141

Additional Expected to Depart up to 29-Feb-2012

3

1

12

12

40

33

101

76

177

3

1

16

17

63

58

158

160

318

TOTAL

365

EU Presidency

Niall Collins

Question:

236 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Defence the preparations he has undertaken for the Irish Presidency of the EU Council in January 2013; the amount of money spent on EU Council Presidency-related activities to date in 2012; the estimated expenditure up to December 2012; the budget for the six month Presidency specifically; the additional staff he has undertaken; the number of reassigned staff he has undertaken; the estimated future staff requirements for the Presidency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8839/12]

The preparations for the upcoming Irish Presidency of the EU Council during the first six months of 2013 have been underway since mid-2010. The Departments of An Taoiseach and Foreign Affairs and Trade are the lead Departments in planning for the Presidency. Two Inter-Departmental Committees have been setup. The Inter-Departmental Committee for Co-ordinating the Presidency, chaired by Minister of State Creighton, is responsible for policy aspects. The Inter-Departmental Administrative Planning Group, chaired by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, deals with administrative, logistical and resource elements. Officials from all Departments, including my own Department, and the Permanent Representation to the EU are represented on these Committees.

In relation to the issue of Defence, both formal and informal meetings of Defence Ministers are held during each EU Presidency. In consultation with the European External Action Service (EEAS), Ireland will facilitate a formal meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council in Defence Ministers format and a formal Defence Policy Directors meeting. Both of these formal meetings will be held in Brussels.

It is also my intention to host, in Ireland, a number of informal meetings and seminars, including a Defence Ministers informal. Usually, the subjects of discussion at the informal meetings include current military operations, cooperation between the EU and other International Organisations, the development of EU military capabilities and ongoing developments in the European Defence Agency.

The agendas for Ireland's Presidency defence related meetings will be considered in consultation with the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Baroness Catherine Ashton, the EEAS and our Trio partners (Lithuania and Greece). Both my officials and I will be in regular contact with the High Representative, the EEAS and our Trio Partners in the lead up to Ireland's Presidency in order to prepare the Defence agenda.

No money has been spent to date in 2012 specifically on EU Council Presidency activity. Although ongoing discussions are taking place within my Department, it is not envisaged that there will be substantial additional spending in 2012 on EU Council Presidency activity. It is instead envisaged that any additional staffing resources in 2012 will be met from within my Department's existing resources through redeployment from other areas.

The Government has recently agreed that expenditure on EU Council Presidency activity across all Departments will cost €60m, of which €10.6m relates to staffing costs. No final budget has been agreed between my Department and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform for 2013 overall or for the six months Presidency specifically. Preliminary discussions are underway internally within my Department regarding the number of additional or re-assigned staff that will be necessary to run the Presidency in 2013. No decisions have been taken to date and it is anticipated that it will be some time yet before my Department will commence negotiations with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform regarding an allocation in the 2013 Estimates in respect of the additional costs of running the Presidency.

Grant Payments

Pat Breen

Question:

237 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine further to Parliamentary Question No. 745 of 11 January 2012, if payment has issued to a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8522/12]

The person named commenced REPS in June 2008 and received payments for the first three years of their contract. REPS 4 is a measure under the current 2007-13 Rural Development Programme and is subject to EU Regulations which require detailed administrative checks on all applications to be completed before any payments can issue in respect of 2011. These checks have now been completed and 75% of the year 4 payment issued to the person named on 20 January 2012 for the amount of €9,210.89, and the remaining 25% balancing payment issued on 25 January 2012 for the amount of €3,070.29.

Paudie Coffey

Question:

238 Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when an agri-environment options scheme payment will issue to a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8650/12]

The person named was approved for participation in the Agri-Environment Options Scheme with effect from 1 September 2010. Under the EU Regulations governing the Scheme and other area-based payment schemes, a comprehensive administrative check, including cross-checks with the Land Parcel Identification System, had to be completed before any payment could issue. During these checks a query arose in respect of land parcels declared which required digitisation. This is being dealt with by my Department at present and once the digitisation process is completed, the application will be processed with a view to making payment in respect of 2010 at the earliest opportunity.

Payments in respect of the 2011 Scheme year are subject to a similar administrative checking process which includes verification of capital investments related to approved AEOS actions. These checks have now been completed and following the payment of year 1, the payment in respect of year 2 will be processed further.

Afforestation Programme

James Bannon

Question:

239 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the plans in place to allay legitimate concerns (details supplied) about the effects of a proposed forest surrounding a property; the effect on the environment and on a landscape amenity in view of the fact that this is within a NHA-SAC area, contains mass rock and an archaeological site — stone wall adjoins monument — is also within a prime scenic area and a forest would obstruct the view of Saints Island, church and lake; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8663/12]

The application in question is currently being examined by my Department to determine its suitability for afforestation and to ensure that the development is compatible with the protection of the environment. Because of its location adjacent to a designated conservation area, consultations have taken place with a number of public agencies, including the National Parks and Wildlife Service. As a consequence of these consultations, the applicant has been requested to supply further information to enable an assessment to be completed of the potential impacts of this proposed development on the designated areas. No decision on this application will be taken pending receipt of this information and completion of the necessary assessment.

Grant Payments

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

240 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine with regard to farmers in the Gap of Dunloe, Blackvalley, County Kerry who have horses and ponies, will they be able to continue the practice of using these animals when it comes to claiming entitlements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8679/12]

While the proposed changes to the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme await the response of the EU Commission, necessitated as the Scheme forms part of our Rural Development Programme 2007/2013, which is co-funded by the EU, the proposal relating to the eligibility of equines in the calculation of applicants' stocking density is prompted by the need to make the Scheme more focused. However, it is specifically proposed that those engaged in equine breeding enterprises will continue to be otherwise eligible, subject to specific criteria in this regard currently being developed. Furthermore, it is envisaged that provision will be made for consideration, on a case by case basis, of cases deemed to represent force majeure/exceptional circumstances; should the proposed changes be approved, it is intended that all those who are shown not to have achieved the qualifying stocking density for 2011 will be written to and offered the opportunity to outline any circumstance which restricted the activity in 2011.

Question No. 241 withdrawn.

Agricultural Imports

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

242 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the volume of agricultural and horticultural produce imported from Israel in 2009, 2010 and 2011; and the percentage of imports that are from companies in illegal settlements. [8809/12]

The table below outlines Ireland's imports of horticultural and agricultural produce from Israel for the last three available years. Trade data for the year ending December 2011 will not be available until later this year.

As CSO data is per country only, a regional breakdown from within Israel is not available.

Agricultural Imports into Ireland from Israel

Year

Jan-Dec 2008

Jan-Dec 2009

Jan-Dec 2010

Volume (Tonnes)

Value(€m)

Volume (Tonnes)

Value(€m)

Volume (Tonnes)

Value(€m)

Horticultural produce

11,239

7.05

11,076

6.94

7,826

5.72

Other agricultural produce

2,255

4.86

2,049

4.88

2,851

5.35

Total imports

13,494

11.91

13,125

11.82

10,677

11.07

Fur Farming

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

243 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position regarding the report and findings of the review group set up by him to review the issue of fur farming; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8827/12]

The Review Group set up in my Department to review fur farming in Ireland and make appropriate recommendations will conclude its report shortly. I will consider what action, if any, to take following the submission and conclusions of the Group's findings.

Grant Payments

Brendan Griffin

Question:

244 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when a grassland sheep payment for 2011 will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8831/12]

An application under the 2010 Single Payment Scheme/Grassland Sheep Scheme was received from the person named on the 11 May 2010. On processing this application it was found that a sheep census return had not been made under the herd number quoted; however, following investigation, it was established that the census return had been submitted under an associated herd number. This has allowed processing of the case to be finalised, with payment due to issue shortly.

EU Presidency

Niall Collins

Question:

245 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the preparations he has undertaken for the Irish Presidency of the EU Council in January 2013; the amount of money spent on EU Council Presidency related activities to date in 2012; the estimated expenditure up to December 2012; the budget for the six month Presidency specifically; the additional staff he has undertaken; the number of re-assigned staff he has undertaken; the estimated future staff requirements for the Presidency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8835/12]

Preparation for Ireland's Presidency of the European Union is underway in my Department and significant progress has been made in setting out what our Presidency priorities will be. At a practical level the Government has taken a number of decisions with a view to putting in place an efficient and cost-effective Presidency. The Presidency is an important opportunity for Ireland to rebuild its positive image as a credible, effective and trustworthy international player.

The Department of the Taoiseach and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade have established various working groups and officials from my Department are participating fully in these preparations. In addition, I and my officials are in regular contact with the Danish Presidency, the forthcoming Cypriot Presidency and our trio partners Lithuania and Greece and with the EU institutions to monitor existing agenda items and develop our work plan for 2013.

In addition to the full range of meetings of the Council at Ministerial and official level and formal engagements with the European Parliament, there will also be a number of meetings taking place in Ireland. The calendar of events is being compiled at present.

My Department has incurred some minor incidental expenses to date as current Presidency activities at EU level are organised around existing meeting requirements. The bulk of expenditure will arise towards the latter part of 2012 and in 2013. Costs in the region of €320,000 for 2012 and €1.875m for 2013 have been factored into the annual estimates to cover Presidency related expenditure including costs associated with hosting meetings in Ireland.

In terms of human resources, no additional staff have been assigned to the Presidency to date in 2012. As the year progresses and the work required for logistical arrangements intensify, additional staff will be assigned to work on Presidency related matters as required.

Departmental Expenditure

Charles Flanagan

Question:

246 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the total cost to his Department of the provision of external legal services to his Department in respect of legal advice and legal services each year for the past five years. [8850/12]

The information requested is being collated at present and will be forwarded to the Deputy directly.

EU Presidency

Niall Collins

Question:

247 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the preparations she has undertaken for the Irish Presidency of the EU Council in January 2013; the amount of money spent on EU Council Presidency related activities to date in 2012; the estimated expenditure up to December 2012; the budget for the six month Presidency specifically; the additional staff she has undertaken; the number of re-assigned staff she has undertaken; the estimated future staff requirements for the Presidency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8837/12]

My Department participates in the Inter-Departmental Committee for Coordinating the Presidency and the Inter-Departmental Administrative Planning Group, both of which are chaired by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

No specific expenditure has been incurred on EU Council Presidency related activities to date in 2012 and I do not foresee such expenditure up to December 2012. I do not expect that there will be a specific budget for the EU Presidency in 2013 for my Department. I expect that staffing requirements for the EU Presidency in 2013 by will be met from existing staffing resources.

Departmental Expenditure

Charles Flanagan

Question:

248 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the total cost to her Department of the provision of external legal services to her Department in respect of legal advice and legal services each year for the past five years. [8852/12]

As the Deputy will be aware, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs was only established on the 2 June 2011. There were no costs directly incurred by my Department in respect of the provision of legal advice and legal services.

Medical Cards

Martin Ferris

Question:

249 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Health when a person (details supplied) will be issued an over 70 years medical card. [8519/12]

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

Water Fluoridation

Gerry Adams

Question:

250 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Health the amount the insertion of fluoride into water costs the State on an annual basis. [8554/12]

The estimated annual spend for fluoridation nationally in 2011 is €3,865,406, broken down as follows:

Table

Operational costs

€2,392,266

Acid costs

€1,387,561

Capital costs

€85,579

Medical Cards

Martin Ferris

Question:

251 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Health when a person (details supplied) will receive a decision on a medical card. [8506/12]

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

Medical Aids and Appliances

Martin Ferris

Question:

252 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Health when a person (details supplied) in County Kerry will receive a hearing aid. [8507/12]

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

Medical Cards

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

253 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Health when a determination will be made on an application for a medical card in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8530/12]

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

Ray Butler

Question:

254 Deputy Ray Butler asked the Minister for Health when a decision will issue on a medical card application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8533/12]

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

Mental Health Services

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

255 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health if he will provide a breakdown, by discipline, of all inpatient and outpatient staff in the mental health services that were in place by the end of 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8539/12]

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

Medical Cards

Martin Ferris

Question:

256 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Health when a person (details supplied) will receive a medical card. [8547/12]

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

Martin Ferris

Question:

257 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Health when a person (details supplied) will receive a medical card. [8550/12]

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

Niall Collins

Question:

258 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Health when persons who hold long-term illness cards will be awarded general practitioner visit cards as announced in budget 2012. [8551/12]

The Programme for Government committed to reforming the current public health system by introducing Universal Health Insurance with equal access to care for all. As part of this reform programme the Government is committed to introducing Universal Primary Care within the first term of office of this Government.

It is intended to provide GP visit cards to persons in receipt of drugs and medicines under the Long Term Illness Scheme. Primary legislation is required to give effect to this commitment. There will be an announcement in due course about the start date for the new arrangements. It is hoped that the new arrangements will be in place by early Summer.

Hospital Waiting Lists

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

259 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Health if he will arrange for urgent surgical intervention in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Laois; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8557/12]

I am determined to address the issues which cause unacceptable delays in patients receiving treatment in our hospitals. In this regard I have established the Special Delivery Unit (SDU), which will work to unblock access to acute services by dramatically improving the flow of patients through the system, and by streamlining waiting lists, including referrals from GPs. The SDU is working closely with its partner agencies — mainly the HSE and the NTPF.

As a priority, public hospitals were instructed to ensure that, by the end of 2011, they had no patients waiting more than 12 months for treatment. I can confirm that the vast majority of hospitals achieved this objective. During 2012 the SDU will support hospitals in the delivery of a 9 month maximum wait time for inpatient or daycase surgery.

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

Health Service Funding

Alex White

Question:

260 Deputy Alex White asked the Minister for Health the total revenue grant given to the Food Safety Promotion Board, SafeFood, in 2011; his Department’s budget provision for revenue grant in 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8647/12]

The total revenue given to Food Safety Promotion Board in 2011 was €8.5m. This was made up of a grant of €5.95m from my Department with the remainder allocated from the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety in Northern Ireland. This was down 10.8% on their 2010 budget, a reduction achieved through efficiency savings. It is expected that our grant to Food Safety Promotion Board this year will amount to €5.95m.

Health Service Properties

Pearse Doherty

Question:

261 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Health the terms and conditions that the Health Service Executive has agreed with Respond Housing Association with regard to development in Dungloe, County Donegal; the date the premises was obtained by the HSE; and the usage of this premises since the property was obtained by the HSE. [8651/12]

Estate management of the Health Service Executive property portfolio is a service matter. Therefore your question has been referred to the Executive for direct reply.

Pearse Doherty

Question:

262 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Health if he will provide a list of all properties and their location that are owned by, leased or rented by the Health Service Executive in County Donegal; and the practice that is being carried out in each property. [8655/12]

Estate management of the Health Service Executive property portfolio is a service matter. Therefore your question has been referred to the Executive for direct reply.

Medical Cards

Finian McGrath

Question:

263 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health if he will support a matter (details supplied). [8659/12]

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

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

264 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health when a medical card will issue in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8662/12]

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

James Bannon

Question:

265 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Health the position regarding an application for a medical card in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath who is on oxygen 16 hours per day; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8667/12]

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

Hospital Services

James Bannon

Question:

266 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Health when a cancer patient (details supplied) in County Longford will be called for treatment to Tallaght hospital, Dublin 24; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8669/12]

I am determined to address the issues which cause unacceptable delays in patients receiving treatment in our hospitals. In this regard I have established the Special Delivery Unit (SDU), which will work to unblock access to acute services by dramatically improving the flow of patients through the system, and by streamlining waiting lists, including referrals from GPs. The SDU is working closely with its partner agencies — mainly the HSE and the NTPF.

As a priority, public hospitals were instructed to ensure that, by the end of 2011, they had no patients waiting more than 12 months for treatment. I can confirm that the vast majority of hospitals achieved this objective. During 2012 the SDU will support hospitals in the delivery of a 9 month maximum wait time for inpatient or day case surgery

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

Ministerial Staff

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

267 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Health the number of staff working directly for the Minister of State, Deputy Shortall — that is, constituency staff — and the cost involved; the number of secretaries in the Department; and if he will provide the cost of a driver and personal assistants. [8672/12]

I wish to advise the Deputy that there are three administrative staff employed by my Department working in my colleague Minister of State Shortall's constituency office, one of whom is a Personal Assistant and one of whom is a Personal Secretary. She does not avail of a civilian driver. The full year cost of these staff amounts to €125,841.97.

Health Service Allowances

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

268 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Health, in view of the fact that community welfare officers have been transferred from his Department to the Department of Social Protection, the persons with responsibility of providing financial assistance to patients who have to travel regularly to hospital for treatment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8680/12]

In general, patients are expected to make their own way to and from hospital and OPD appointments, using private or scheduled public transport. The exceptions are for dialysis, cancer (radiotherapy and chemotherapy) and post-operative transplant patients. In these cases, the patient's appointment or treatment should be directly related to the condition. Transport may also be provided where, in the clinician's view, the patient would be unable to make the journey without clinical assistance or where the patient must be transported on a stretcher.

Under the supplementary welfare allowance (SWA) scheme, the Department of Social Protection 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. These payments are known as Exceptional Needs Payments (ENPs). The amount paid, if any, is assessed by Departmental staff (former Community Welfare Officers) on a case by case basis, depending on the nature of each particular exceptional need and the type of assistance required. There is no automatic entitlement to such payments i.e. the fact that a person is dependent on a social welfare or HSE payment does not necessarily mean that they will qualify for an ENP. The scheme is not intended to cover circumstances where primary responsibility rests with another Government Department or Agency.

Medical Cards

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

269 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Health the position regarding an application for a medical card in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8682/12]

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

Drugs Payment Scheme

Liam Twomey

Question:

270 Deputy Liam Twomey asked the Minister for Health the reason Pradaxa was removed from the drug allowance scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8683/12]

Pradaxa is available under the GMS Scheme, the Drug Payment Scheme and other community drugs schemes for the prevention of blood clots in adult patients who have undergone elective hip replacement surgery or elective knee replacement surgery.

The HSE is assessing the availability of resources to provide for the long term treatment with Pradaxa for the prevention of stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation. This is a complicated process with long term implications. The HSE wrote to all GMS doctors and community pharmacy contractors in November 2011 to clarify the position in relation to Pradaxa. The HSE will continue to update health care professionals in relation to the matter.

The HSE does not intend to disturb established therapeutic regimens for patients whose treatment with Pradaxa for the prevention of stroke was initiated prior to the clarification.

Hospital Services

John Browne

Question:

271 Deputy John Browne asked the Minister for Health the number of deaths due to a certain illness (details supplied) at a Dublin hospital in the past ten years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8686/12]

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

Medical Cards

Ann Phelan

Question:

272 Deputy Ann Phelan asked the Minister for Health if he will investigate the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny in respect of their application for a medical card, which has been ongoing since May 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8698/12]

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

Departmental Funding

Gerry Adams

Question:

273 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Health if the Health Service Executive will provide funding to Dignity for Patients, the support organisation which provides counselling services for victims of sexual abuse at Drogheda Hospital, County Louth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8699/12]

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

Departmental Investigations

Gerry Adams

Question:

274 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Health if he will respond to calls from Oireachtas Members in counties Louth, Meath, Cavan and Monaghan for an inquiry into allegations of abuse of patients at Drogheda Hospital, County Louth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8700/12]

The Government's original intention was to facilitate an inquiry by an Oireachtas Committee into the issues referred to by the Deputy. As this approach has not proved possible, I am examining how best to deal with the issues involved in the case. My Department is currently exploring the options in this regard, including the possibility of a Commission of Investigation under the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004. I also intend to consult with the Attorney General in view of the complex legal issues involved.

Departmental Schemes

Willie Penrose

Question:

275 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Health if he will make contact with the primary care reimbursement service with a view to the immediate processing of a change of doctor application (details supplied) which was initially submitted in November 2011 and, notwithstanding the furnishing of additional details, has not been processed to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8701/12]

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

Autism Spectrum Disorder

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

276 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health the extent to which intensive research, or any research, continues to be conducted here with a view to determination of the cause or causes of autism, Asperger’s syndrome or similar conditions; the extent to which comparisons have been made with other European countries in respect of determination of the origins of these conditions, whether genetic or otherwise; the degree to which the number of cases reported in this country compares with the average in other European countries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8714/12]

The Department of Health does not collect information on children identified with autism and Asperger's on a national or international basis. Information pertaining to diagnosis is specifically excluded from the National Intellectual Disability Database as the database is not designed as a medical epidemiological tool. Accordingly the database does not record the incidence of autism or any other disability.

In 2004 the Department of Health provided funding through the Health Research Board (HRB) on autism research to help improve international understanding of the genetic causes of autism. I will arrange to ask the HRB for information on how this research has progressed and will arrange for the Deputy to be contacted on the matter.

Medical Research

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

277 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health the extent of research currently ongoing in respect of the various forms of cancer, heart, lung and-or kidney conditions; the extent to which preventative measures have been identified as being most essential; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8715/12]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

287 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health the full extent of any research ongoing in relation to the various life-threatening illnesses currently affecting the broadest age profile of the population, children and adults of all ages; the degree to which the origins of such conditions continue to be monitored; the number of incidents compared with those in other jurisdictions throughout Europe; the extent to which any information can be obtained to ascertain the reason for higher or lower levels of conditions in particular regions, nationally and overseas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8725/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 277 and 287 together.

The information requested by the Deputy is not readily available within my Department. The information sought is extremely broad and detailed in nature, and would require the extensive and costly use of scarce resources. I have asked the Health Research Board to provide the Deputy with a list of the research it is currently funding.

Health Services

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

278 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health the total number of long-term patients requiring constant nursing care currently residing in public or private nursing homes; the full extent of the care facilities available in terms of medical and nursing staff, physiotherapy or other back-up services at each location; the extent to which waiting lists for the services in both the public and private sector exist; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8716/12]

The Health Act 2007 (Care and Welfare of Residents in Designated Centres for Older People) Regulations, 2009 (as amended) currently require that there is an appropriately qualified registered nurse on duty and in charge of all designated centres at all times. The Long-Stay Activities Statistics for 2010 (the most recent year available) provides the following information in respect of the Percentage Distribution of Patients Resident by Level of Dependancy in long-term care as at the 31st December that year. The Deputy should be mindful that these are self-reported survey results.

Survey Response Rate — 80%

Table B6 — Long-Stay Units by Category: Percentage Distribution of Patients Resident by Level of Dependency

Region

Low Dependency

Medium Dependency

High Dependency

Maximum Dependency

Total

HSE Extended Care Unit

4.9

11.5

26.4

57.3

100%

HSE Welfare Home

9.5

17.9

18.4

54.3

100%

Voluntary Home

10.1

21.6

28.9

39.5

100%

Voluntary Welfare Home

34.3

12.6

32.6

20.6

100%

Private Nursing Home

15.3

24.9

31.8

27.9

100%

Total

12.6

21.4

30

35.9

100%

The HSE is currently piloting a single assessment tool that will uniformly assess dependancy levels. The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) is the statutory body responsible for the registration of all designated centres for older people, including public, voluntary and private nursing homes. Full details of all currently registered homes, including the care services provided, can be found on the HIQA website,www.hiqa.ie.

Since the Nursing Homes Support Scheme was introduced in October 2009, individuals must undergo cares needs and financial assessments in order to qualify for financial support towards the cost of long-term residential care. At end-December 2011, there were 583 applicants on the national placement list awaiting allocation of funding. In addition, 779 applicants had been allocated funding but had not yet taken up a bed. A further 3,112 applications for the scheme were in progress. However, it should be noted that applications are frequently submitted to the HSE without the necessary supporting documentation. This can create delays which are outside of the HSE's control.

Hospital Waiting Lists

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

279 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health the total number of patients currently residing in general hospitals and awaiting transfer to either public or private nursing homes; the extent of waiting lists and the average time on such waiting lists for placement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8717/12]

Immediately following my appointment as Minister for Health, I set about establishing the Special Delivery Unit, the purpose of which is to unblock access to acute services by improving the flow of patients through the system.

The problems in our emergency departments are complex and they did not arise overnight and they will take time to resolve but they are being tackled in a systematic and relentless fashion through the SDU. For some hospitals the issue of delayed discharges are a factor and additional funding was provided to some hospitals at the end of last year to alleviate this. The funding was issued on a strictly once off basis, based on specific proposals including the reduction of delayed discharges.

The HSE is currently developing a Care of the Elderly Programme. Some of the objectives of the Programme are — to improve the management of acutely ill frail older adults in acute hospitals, increase independence in the home and reduce inappropriate admission to nursing homes. I do not minimise the scale of the task before us but I am very confident that the SDU will facilitate real performance improvement in the Irish hospital system.

In relation to the Deputy's query regarding the number of patients awaiting transfer to nursing homes, I have arranged for the question to be forwarded to the HSE who will respond directly to the Deputy.

Health Services

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

280 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health the total number of stroke patients currently in private nursing homes and in public nursing homes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8718/12]

Patients/residents in nursing homes can have a number of complex medical conditions, which may include stroke. As far as we are aware there is no overall statistical information in relation to numbers of stroke patients in private residential homes. The part of the question relating to public nursing homes has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Question No. 281 answered with Question No. 16.

Medical Cards

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

282 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health the length of time currently taken to process an application for a medical card; the extent to which the process can be expedited; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8720/12]

The final part of the centralisation project took place on 1 July 2011 with the centralisation of Medical Card processing and associated tasks for the entire country in the Primary Care Reimbursement Service (PCRS) office in Finglas, Dublin. For the first time in the State's history a single uniform system of application processing has been put in place. This system replaces the different systems previously operated through more than 100 Offices across the country. Some of the changes that have been introduced include themedicalcard.ie website and the standardisation of medical card assessments.

However, I am aware that there have been difficulties. These issues are a matter of serious concern and I have held several meetings with the HSE to raise the concerns. As a result of these discussions a number of changes are being introduced to the medical card application system. These changes will assist in speeding up the turn around for applications by easing the level of pressure on the medical card system, particularly with respect to the review process which, due to the timing of the re-issuing, and hence review, of a large cohort of medical cards has placed a large demand on the resources of the centralised office.

In 2010 the Central Office introduced a self assessment review process for people aged 70 years and over, as that cohort was managed entirely by the central office. Following on from this development the HSE has eased the review process for all pensioners. The change will mean that reviews for medical card holders who are 66 years or over will operate on a self-assessment basis, as currently happens with over-seventies. The self-assessment review model will also be extended to medical card holders under 66, who were granted their medical card on the basis of a means assessment, where the HSE is satisfied the person is living in this jurisdiction.

The HSE is also standardising eligibility periods from two years to three years for people aged under 66 yrs, with a new four year eligibility period for medical card holders aged 66 or over. Notwithstanding, there continues to be an obligation on all card holders to notify the HSE of any change in their circumstances which would disentitle them from holding a medical card. The HSE is in the process of arranging access to data in the possession of the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Social Protection to allow them conduct reviews without troubling medical card holders for further documentation. It is also intended to increase the fine applying to false claims in a forthcoming Bill.

Discretionary cards, emergency cards and cards held by people in a small number of other categories will continue to be reviewed in the normal way, but the HSE are confident that the extension of the self assessment model to the great majority of medical card holders will simplify the process substantially, will improve the service to the client and will improve turnaround times for reviews. It is hoped that ultimately about 80% of renewals will be dealt with in this way. This new process also focuses attention on active users of the Medical Card to ensure that those most in need are involved in the streamlined process.

In addition, from this month, the HSE will implement a new system that gives GPs the additional ability to identify and assist the most vulnerable Medical Card holders in our society. GPs will be able to maintain the eligibility of these patients where they are going through the renewal system. GPs will also be able to add new babies onto the medical card system online.

I wish to emphasise that in no circumstances should a medical card holder who genuinely engages with the review of their medical card have their entitlement withdrawn before that review is complete. Some such cases were brought to my attention in recent weeks and this is unacceptable. The HSE is taking steps to ensure that this rule is properly implemented.

In addition the PCRS's central office is working to deal with some of the processing issues that have been arising. This has included reviewing and refining their systems for the receipt and logging of applications and documents being sent in as a result of requests for additional information. In addition, the PCRS has received further staff resources this month as a result of a transfer from the Central Statistics Office and this should make an impact on processing times. I am continuing to engage with the HSE with regard to other possible improvements. I will continue to monitor the situation and have arranged to meet the HSE on a regular basis to discuss any issues which may arise with respect to medical cards.

Health Service Staff

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

283 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health the total number of staff at all levels of management throughout the public health sector; the extent to which such management numbers compares with the private sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8721/12]

My Department does not collate information in relation to numbers employed in the private health sector. The numbers employed in the public health service in the Management/Administrative grade category (by grade group), as at December 2011 (latest data), are as follows:

Numbers employed in the Management/Administrative grade category

Grade Group

Total WTE excl. Career Break

General Administrative [III to VII]

14,231.01

Management [VIII+]

1,087.07

Other Administrative

665.4

Total

15,983.48

The numbers employed in the public health service in the Management [VIII+] grade group (by grade), as at December 2011, are as set out in the table:

Numbers employed in the Management [VIII+] grade group

Grade

Total WTE excl. Career Break

Administrative Officer, Senior

2

Architectural Advisor, Chief

1

Area Planning Specialist

3

Care Group Specialist

2

Chief Executive Officer

30.5

Chief Executive Officer, Deputy

10.97

Chief Executive Officer (HSE)

1

Corporate Learning and Development Manager

3

Director, NCSS

1

Director of Care

8.91

Director of Corporate Services

1

Director of Finance

7

Director of HR

5

Director of Human Resources (HSE)

1

Director of ICT

5

Director of Information Services

1

Director of Information Systems

11

Director of Integrated Services

2

Director of Medical Manpower

1

Director, Regional Health Office (HSE)

1

Finance Officer

8.93

Functional Officer

63.14

General Manager

137.61

Grade VIII

607.7

Head of Internal Audit (HSE)

1

Head of Process and Operations (HSE)

1

Head of Shared Financial Services (HSE)

1

HSE Area [ISA] Manager

4

Local Health Office Manager — PCCC (HSE)

20.99

National Director, Assistant (Services)

13.97

National Director, Assistant (Support)

38.96

National Director CPCP

1

National Director for Children and Families

1

National Director, NCCP

1

National Director of Communications

1

National Director of Risk, Quality and Clinical Care

1

National Director, Population Health

1

National Planning Specialist

12.22

Network Manager (Hospital)

2

Personnel Officer/Manager

27.2

Planning and Evaluation Officer

7

Programme Manager

7.97

Regional Director of Operations

3

Regional Materials Manager

2

Secretary Manager

11

Service Function Officer

11

Service Manager

1

Total

1,087.07

Health Services

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

284 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health the extent to which the total requirement in terms of beds for stroke or Alzheimer’s patients has been identified; the provision likely to be made for such conditions in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8722/12]

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

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

285 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health the total number of persons currently receiving home help or other supports on an ongoing basis in each region throughout the country; the extent to which such persons require full-time nursing care; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8723/12]

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

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

286 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health the extent to which community care facilities are likely to be made available to older persons in the future with particular reference to those with a higher degree of mobility; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8724/12]

Government policy is to support older people to live at home and in their communities for as long as possible. This is realised through a range of community based services such as mainstream Home Help, enhanced provision through Home Care Packages, or through other service elements such as Meals-on-Wheels, Day Care and Respite Care.

While the recently agreed HSE Service Plan for 2012 involves a reduction of 4.5% in Home Help hours nationally, from around 11.2m hours in 2011 to 10.7m hours this year, the corresponding reduction proposed in the actual number of people receiving this service is 1.2%. This means that the number of people receiving the Home Help service this year is 50,000 compared to around 50,600 in 2011. This approach is possible due to the increased focus by the HSE on more personalised care for the most vulnerable older people.

I would also draw the Deputy's attention to the fact that the level of community based supports for older people contained in the HSE Service Plan maintains Home Care Packages for this year at 2011 levels. These enhanced packages of care usually contain a nursing, therapy or allied professional care element to support vulnerable older people remain at home. In addition, the HSE are increasingly placing greater emphasis on other improvements, such as increased linkages between Services for Older People and Primary Care Teams and, in particular, advancing the potential of Telecare, and of Aids and Appliances for those with mobility problems. The measures I have outlined reflect the commitment of the Government to provide the best possible services to the most vulnerable older people, in the light of increasing competing demands and severe resource limitations overall.

Question No. 287 answered with Question No. 277.

James Bannon

Question:

288 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Health the position regarding dental treatment in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Longford. [8726/12]

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

Medical Cards

Willie Penrose

Question:

289 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Health if he will make contact with the PCRS with a view to having an urgent medical card application processed immediately, which was initially submitted in November 2011 and has not been processed to date in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8738/12]

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

Hospital Services

Michael Lowry

Question:

290 Deputy Michael Lowry asked the Minister for Health if he will provide information on the status of the closed respite beds in the Community Hospital of the Assumption, Thurles, County Tipperary; when these 22 beds will be re-opened further to his guarantee that these would be reopened by 31 January 2012, the reason for the delay in such; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8779/12]

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

Health Services

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

291 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health if and when a centre for dialysis treatment will be catered for in north Kildare; his plans if any in regard to same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8781/12]

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

Hospital Services

Pearse Doherty

Question:

292 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Health if there will be any change in service in Dungloe Community Hospital, County Donegal, in 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8783/12]

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

Health Services

Pearse Doherty

Question:

293 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Health the number of home help hours allocated in the Health Service Executive West service plan for County Donegal for 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012; the number of actual home help hours serviced in County Donegal for 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8745/12]

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

Medical Cards

Finian McGrath

Question:

294 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health the position regarding a medical card in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3. [8806/12]

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

Health Services

Billy Kelleher

Question:

295 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health the progress being made in developing the clinical care programmes within the Health Service Executive, particularly, with regard to reducing the level of inappropriate use of acute hospitals; the way the overall development process and that of the individual clinical care programmes is being reported on and evaluated; the way this work will be incorporated into recently announced directorates; when a detailed report can be available to the Health Committee; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8826/12]

Immediately following my appointment I set about establishing the Special Delivery Unit to unblock access to acute services by improving the flow of patients through the system. The SDU was established in June last year and quickly began work with the HSE to put in place a systematic approach to eliminate excessive waiting in emergency departments. The SDU is establishing an infrastructure based on information collection and analysis, hospital by hospital, so that we will know what is actually happening in real time. This will allow us to being to embed performance management in the system to sustain shorter waiting times.

I also want to ensure that as many services as possible can be provided safely in smaller, local hospitals. Joint HSE/Departmental group is currently developing a framework for the future development of smaller hospitals. Consultation with all the stakeholders, including patients and public representatives, will be an integral part of the process.

The organisation of hospital services nationally, regionally, and locally will be informed by the clinical programmes, which have been developed and implemented by the HSE, and by the work on the framework for the development of smaller hospitals. These inter-related programmes aim to improve service quality, effectiveness and patient access and to ensure that patient care is provided in the service setting most appropriate to individual's needs.

The clinical programmes, led by multidisciplinary teams, are developing and implementing solutions that will improve the quality, access to and cost of patient care. The benefits of the programmes have already been felt. The Acute Medicine programme, currently being implemented in 18 hospitals already contributed to a reduction in the average length of stay of medical patients and enabled bed day savings while at the same time improving the patient experience. The stroke programme is implementing nine new stroke units and standardising care in another 19. This will ensure that for the first time in Ireland there will be a thrombolysis service available 24/7 across the country. The Elective surgery programme is already generating savings through improving theatre management and will also generate reduction in the average length of stay for elective surgery.

Behind each of the programmes currently being implemented is a business case setting out the quality, access and cost benefits they are seeking to achieve. Each programme at a national level has a clinical programme lead, a programme manager and a multidiscipline working group including nursing, AHPs, GPs, etc. At a regional level there are programme co-ordinators in place in each who co-ordinate the implementation of the programmes on behalf of the Regional Director of Operations. Implementation plans are developed are developed at a local hospital level by local project managers. Fortnightly meetings of the National Programme Managers and Regional Co-ordinators are held which focuses on tracking progress, issue resolution and monitoring of risks. There are also regular 1:1 meetings with the National Clinical Leads and the National Director of Clinical Care.

The 2012 service plan includes key performance indicator (KPI) for a number of the programmes. Progress on the delivery of these KPIs will be tracked in the usual service plan reporting progress process. The HSE itself acknowledges that there is a need to accelerate the process of health care reform and through the use of initiatives, such as the National Clinical Care Programmes, to move to models of care across all programmes that deliver services to patients and clients at the lowest level of complexity and the least possible unit cost. It is hoped to minimise the impact on services but the reality is that we are in very challenging times and there is going to be a consequence for every programme. A key way forward will be changing how services are delivered and this will involve full engagement from all concerned. The HSE will be working with all involved.

I have recently announced my intention to move the clinical programmes to my Department. The precise arrangements are now under consideration.

Medical Cards

Mattie McGrath

Question:

296 Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Health when a decision will issue on an application for a medical card in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; the reason for the delay in processing further information that was received two months ago; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8828/12]

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

EU Presidency

Niall Collins

Question:

297 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Health the preparations he has undertaken for the Irish Presidency of the EU Council in January 2013; the amount of money spent on EU Council Presidency related activities to date in 2012; the estimated expenditure up to December 2012; the budget for the six month Presidency specifically; the additional staff he has undertaken; the number of re-assigned staff he has undertaken; the estimated future staff requirements for the Presidency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8844/12]

My Department is currently preparing its Programme for the Irish Presidency of the EU Council from January to June 2013. As you will appreciate, discussions are ongoing with the European Commission on its programme, including legislative proposals in the fields of public health, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, narcotics and foodstuffs, which Ireland will be expected to progress during its Presidency.

To date most activity, and therefore expenditure, has related to my Department's ongoing commitments at EU level which includes attendance at various working groups. It is inevitable that engagement will increase in the coming months with an increase in the number of meetings to be held with various stakeholders (European Parliament, Commission, other Member States, etc.) and increased attendance at meetings for officials who will be engaged in Presidency work. Given that the Programme is still under consideration, the budget and staffing requirements for the Presidency are not yet finalised.

For my part I have, over the past months, worked to build relationships with relevant stakeholders in advance of Ireland's Presidency. This included meeting with Commissioner John Dalli and the Director General of SANCO Paola Testori Coggi, key members of the European Parliament's ENVI Committee in Brussels, and fellow Health Ministers from the Netherlands, Denmark, UK and Malta. I will continue to engage with the Commission, the European Parliament, and with other Health Ministers (including Ireland's Trio partners Lithuania and Greece) in the coming months to prepare for Ireland's Presidency.

Departmental Expenditure

Charles Flanagan

Question:

298 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Health the total cost to his Department of the provision of external legal services to his Department in respect of legal advice and legal services each year for the past five years. [8857/12]

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

State Airports

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

299 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the pre-clearance arrangements being put in place for the US military at Shannon Airport, County Clare; and the practical significance of these changes. [8517/12]

At present no arrangements have been made for the pre-clearance at Shannon of commercial aircraft carrying U.S. military personnel. This is an issue which is being discussed between Irish and US authorities.

Sports Capital Programme

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

300 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport when sports grants will be available for 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8510/12]

I recently announced that the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport will be advertising two new rounds of the Sports Capital Programme between now and 2016. I am currently making the necessary arrangements to launch a new programme early this year.

Public Transport

Michael McGrath

Question:

301 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will make any funding available in 2012 in respect of a project (details supplied). [8525/12]

My Department is funding an ongoing programme for public transport improvements in the four regional cities of Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford, and this programme is being administered on behalf of my Department by the National Transport Authority (NTA).

I am informed by the NTA that it has just recently completed, in consultation with Bus Éireann, a review of the bus network operated in the Cork metropolitan region. That review has identified various beneficial changes to the bus network which will be implemented by Bus Éireann over the coming months.

Arising from that review and the resultant network changes, the NTA are examining with the relevant local authorities the bus corridor improvements that should be implemented to support the revised service pattern. Associated with that exercise, an analysis is being undertaken by the NTA on appropriate funding allocations to the Cork region for 2012 under the public transport grant funding programme and my Department expects the NTA's recommendations in this regard within the next few weeks.

The issue of potential bus priority measures to support bus routes to Douglas / Carrigaline will be considered as part of that process.

Tourism Industry

Brendan Griffin

Question:

302 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if an attraction (details supplied) in County Kerry will receive development funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8549/12]

The issue raised is an operational matter for Fáilte Ireland. I have referred the Deputy's Question to Fáilte Ireland for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.

Rail Services

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

303 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the reason that bikes are not allowed on commuter or DART trains before 10 a.m. and between 3.30 p.m. to 7 p.m.; the reason commuters have to pay an additional €6 single or €12 return to bring their bikes on the intercity service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8705/12]

The issue raised is a matter for Iarnród Éireann. I have referred the Deputy's question to the company for direct reply. Please inform my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.

EU Presidency

Niall Collins

Question:

304 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the preparations he has undertaken for the Irish Presidency of the EU Council in January 2013; the amount of money spent on EU Council Presidency related activities to date in 2012; the estimated expenditure up to December 2012; the budget for the six month Presidency specifically; the additional staff he has undertaken; the number of re-assigned staff he has undertaken; the estimated future staff requirements for the Presidency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8849/12]

Preparations for Ireland's EU Presidency are well underway in my Department. A separate EU Coordination and Presidency Planning Unit was established last Autumn, with a Dublin-based staff complement of two. A Presidency Planning Group, comprising relevant officials from the Irish Permanent Representation in Brussels together with key Departmental staff, is in place and has already met on a number of occasions. The focus to date has been on tracking legislative and non-legislative priorities, planning the official calendar of Councils and events and making sure that the appropriate resources, training and business planning is in place to ensure an efficient and cost-effective Presidency.

Minister of State Ring and I have met with our European Commission counterparts and with representatives of the relevant European Parliament Committees. These and other contacts will intensify in the rundown to the Presidency.

As with previous Presidencies, the Irish Permanent Representation to the EU will be responsible for the day to day management of the Presidency. In preparation for this work, the number of staff working in the Representation will increase temporarily in 2012 and arrangements are underway to manage this process.

To date, the amount of money spent directly on Presidency preparations by my Department has been very small and confined to some training and travel costs. It is estimated that we will have additional staff costs of up to €150k per annum in each of the years 2012 and 2013 and additional administrative costs for travel, training etc. of up to €70k per annum over the same period. I understand that estimates for the overall budget for the Presidency are contained in the reply to a similar Question from the Deputy to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade. The precise figures will emerge in the coming months as the preparations progress.

Departmental Expenditure

Charles Flanagan

Question:

305 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the total cost to his Department of the provision of external legal services to his Department in respect of legal advice and legal services each year for the past five years. [8862/12]

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