Written Answers

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies as received on the day from the Departments [unrevised].
Questions Nos. 1 to 9, inclusive, answered orally.

Social Welfare Benefits

Seán Crowe

Question:

10 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Social Protection her views on the fact that community welfare officers have been refusing to award fathers, who have shared custody of their children, rent supplement for anything more than a one bedroom flat which effectively denies them their right to family life; and if she will issue a memo to community welfare officers directing them to award rent supplement for the appropriate number of rooms to ensure that fathers with shared custody can have overnight access to their children. [20600/12]

The purpose of the rent supplement scheme is to provide short-term support to eligible people living in private rented accommodation whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source. The overall aim is to provide short term assistance, and not to act as an alternative to the other social housing schemes operated by the Exchequer. There are currently approximately 95,000 persons in receipt of rent supplement, with €436m provided for in 2012.

Every claim for rent supplement is determined having regard to the particular circumstances of the applicant. Persons seeking a rent supplement must first satisfy the Department that they have a housing need that they are unable to meet from their own resources. In addition, the Department must be satisfied that the residence is reasonably suited to the residential and other needs of the claimant. The Department must also be satisfied that the rent payable is reasonable having regard to the nature, character and location of the residence.

In a case where parents have joint custody of a child, the needs of both parents to have adequate accommodation to look after the child are taken into account when an application for a rent supplement is being determined. In such cases, documentation is normally required showing that a joint custody arrangement is in place and is being availed of before a decision can be made. The fact that one parent is in receipt of rent supplement would not in itself preclude the other parent from being entitled to assistance towards his/her rent.

Social Welfare Code

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

11 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans in response to the finding of the report, Person or Number?, that habitual residence conditions continues to fail to be applied fairly. [20599/12]

I was very pleased to launch the report Person or Number? in February and I welcome the research undertaken by Crosscare, Doras Luimní and Nasc into difficulties experienced by some migrants in their dealings with the Department. The report makes a number of recommendations and the Department is considering these. In particular, the recommendation that the Department establishes a Migrant Consultative Forum is one that I said we would pursue in an effort to address the issues raised in the report. The Department will do this shortly.

In order to ensure fair application of the habitual residence condition (HRC), since its introduction some 144 staff at local offices and 1,000 former community welfare staff have been trained on habitual residence. In June 2011 new HRC guidelines were produced which take into account recent developments in case-law (both national and international). The Department also published a supplement which gives example scenarios of how the condition is applied. These guidelines are available on the Department's website and were circulated to all relevant staff within the Department.

The Department operates an independent appeals service where a client can bring his or her case if she/he is not satisfied with the decision. In addition, the Department's Decisions Advisory Office provides advice and assistance to decision makers in order that decisions made on social welfare claims, including decisions on HRC, are consistent and of good quality and that customers are notified of decisions in a form which is clear and understandable.

The Department is committed to providing a quality service to all its clients and to ensuring continuous improvements in the standard of service it provides. Reports such as this one help direct the Department to where improvements may be needed.

Legislative Programme

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

12 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will provide an indicative time frame for the production and passage of a Gender Recognition Bill. [20597/12]

Since the publication of the Report, the Department have been engaged in discussions with the relevant medical health professionals and with representatives from interested NGOs. The Department has also sought advice from the Office of the Attorney General on the main issues arising in the context of these meetings. These discussions, and the advice that is received from the Office of the Attorney General, will continue to inform the drafting of the Heads of a Bill.

The Government Decision also provides for the consultation with the GRAG in the context of the drafting of the Heads and I will be doing this when advice is received from the Office of the Attorney General.

It is not possible to be definitive at this stage about when I will be in a position to introduce legislation to give legal recognition to the acquired gender of transgender persons as the issues are complex. However, I hope that the drafting of the Heads of a Bill will be completed by June of this year.

Social Welfare Benefits

Barry Cowen

Question:

13 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of persons under the age of 25 years that are refused as a result of the means tested income eligibility of their parents if they are living at home in relation to application for jobseeker’s allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20552/12]

Where a person who is under 25 years of age is living with a parent or step-parent in the family home, an assessment is made of the yearly value of any benefit and privilege enjoyed by that person by virtue of residing with a parent or step parent. The value of the benefit and privilege assessed is based on the level of the parents' income. The information requested by the Deputy is not collated by the Department. However, I am informed that during the period January to March 2012, 366 applications for jobseeker's allowance from persons under the age of 25 were disallowed on the grounds that the applicant's means were deemed to be in excess of the prescribed limits. A further 151 applications disallowed on the grounds that the applicants failed to disclose their means to the Department. In both cases, the means in question relate to all means, including any income the applicants may have had in their own right, and not just those assessed as a result of parental income.

The following table provides a breakdown of these disallowances on a monthly basis:

Means in Excess

Means Not Disclosed

Total

January

118

59

177

February

133

54

187

March

115

38

153

Totals

366

151

517

Patrick Deering

Question:

14 Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of recipients that are paid pensions, social welfare, unemployment assistance, occupational payments, disability benefit, children’s allowance and all other payments at the post office in Lucan village, Dublin; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the post office ran out of money leaving entitled citizens without payments and that recipients may have to queue for up to an hour; the provision that can be made to deal with this major health and safety issue; if her attention has been further drawn to the fact that, on occasions, the Garda has to assist with the queuing system; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20339/12]

Terence Flanagan

Question:

19 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of recipients that are paid pensions, social welfare, unemployment assistance, occupational payments, disability benefit, children’s allowance and all other payments at the post office in Lucan village, Dublin; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the post office ran out of money leaving entitled citizens without payments and that recipients may have to queue for up to an hour; the provision that can be made to deal with this major health and safety issue; if her attention has been further drawn to the fact that, on occasions, the Garda has to assist with the queuing system; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20340/12]

Anthony Lawlor

Question:

26 Deputy Anthony Lawlor asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of recipients that are paid pensions, social welfare, unemployment assistance, occupational payments, disability benefit, children’s allowance and all other payments at the post office in Lucan village, Dublin; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the post office ran out of money leaving entitled citizens without payments and that recipients may have to queue for up to an hour; the provision that can be made to deal with this major health and safety issue; if her attention has been further drawn to the fact that, on occasions, the Garda has to assist with the queuing system; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20341/12]

Derek Keating

Question:

30 Deputy Derek Keating asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of recipients that are paid pensions, social welfare, unemployment assistance, occupational payments, disability benefit, children’s allowance and all other payments at the post office in Lucan village; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the post office ran out of money leaving entitled citizens without payments and that recipients may have to queue for up to an hour; the provision that will be made to deal with this major health and safety issue; if her further attention has been drawn to the fact that, on occasions, the Garda has to assist with the queuing system; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20396/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 14, 19, 26 and 30 together.

The Department is committed to providing a high quality service to our customers. It offers a range of payment options to customers which include payment at the post office of the customer's choice. Alternatively, most customers, other than those in receipt of jobseeker's payments, can choose to be paid into either a bank or building society account or to certain credit unions that have been authorised by the banking and credit union regulators.

The Department currently issues approximately 2,200 payments to the post office in Lucan village on a weekly basis and a further 590 on monthly basis. The number of customers involved is not readily available as customers may be collecting more than one payment, for example jobseeker's allowance and child benefit.

While the Department is the largest retail customer for post offices overall, An Post also provide agency services for a large number of other companies including the delivery of front line banking services, foreign exchange and the payment of a range of utility bills etc. However, An Post has advised that due to an exceptionally heavy volume of business in week-ending 3 September, 2011, Lucan post office experienced a greater demand for cash than usual. As a consequence, the postmaster was concerned that he might not be able to deal with all customers, including welfare customers, pending receipt of a further cash delivery from An Post. He therefore asked a small number of customers if they would agree to delaying the collection of their entitlements. The payments to customers were not refused. Additional cash deliveries were made by An Post to Lucan post office on Saturday 3 September and again on Monday 5 September. An Post has advised that the ten to twelve social welfare customers who were not dealt with on the Friday or Saturday had their payments effected by the following Monday. The Department has engaged with An Post to ensure that all our customers are paid on their due date and An Post has given assurances that measures have been put in place to ensure that this will not happen again.

As the Deputy can appreciate, for security reasons, it is important to ensure that excess cash is not unnecessarily held in its offices. It is also important that An Post offices have at all times an adequacy of cash to meet the needs of its customers. This involves on-going active management of cash at its offices. With regard to the availability of funds at the post office in Lucan, An Post has confirmed that Lucan post office never ran out of money.

With regard to queuing times at Lucan post office on Fridays, An Post monitors queuing times in post offices across its retail network on an ongoing basis. This monitoring is carried out by an independent multinational research company. An Post has confirmed that it is not aware of any customers having to queue for up to an hour.

An Post is not aware of any health and safety concerns at Lucan and advise that it is extremely vigilant in relation to these matters. An Post has also confirmed that there have been no queuing incidents whereby Garda presence was requested or required at Lucan post office. The Department was made aware of delays on Friday 23 December when longer queues developed at Lucan post office. The Deputies will appreciate that this was one of the busiest days of the year for all businesses and commercial bodies. As all banking and financial institutions were closing for the Christmas period for up to five days, the queues experienced at post offices were exceptional as they were throughout a range of other financial institutions. The Department has been advised that no Garda presence was requested or required to manage queues. However, we understand the Gardaí were in the vicinity as part of their own operational deployment that day and advised people waiting for service in the post office that pickpockets were active in the locality and of the need to be vigilant.

An Post and the Department have taken a number of measures to address the large numbers of customers receiving payments on Fridays. The process of changing payment days is complex and must be managed closely to ensure customer service is not interrupted. Work was undertaken to move some 240 customers who normally received payments at Lucan post office on a Friday to Tuesday. I understand this change in payment day has had a very positive effect on the queuing times for DSP payments in Lucan post office on each Friday. In addition, Lucan post office has extended its opening time to 8:00 a.m. on Fridays with a view to catering for customers.

I would like to assure the Deputies that the Department will continue to work closely with An Post to ensure that together, we provide a high quality service to our customers, and in particular to monitor any issues emerging in Lucan.

Question No. 15 answered with Question No. 7.

Social Welfare Code

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

16 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will explain her rationale for changing the jobseeker’s payment from six a day a week to over a five day a week in view of the fact that it will act as a disincentive to work; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20628/12]

Anthony Lawlor

Question:

102 Deputy Anthony Lawlor asked the Minister for Social Protection the reasons, as effective from July 2012, the level of payment for a part-time worker in receipt of jobseeker’s benefit will be based on a five day week rather than the current six day week, but that this new rule will not apply to part-time workers in receipt of jobseeker’s allowance whose payment will remain based on six days; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20672/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 16 and 102 together.

In the last four years the numbers in receipt of a jobseeker's payment who are also working on a part-time or casual basis has increased by almost 200%. At the end of March 2012 there were some 84,118 people in this situation on the Live Register and some 41,008 of these were claiming jobseeker's benefit.

In line with other Budget measures the effect of this measure will not impact on any person whose sole income is from social welfare. It will only apply to those who have earned additional income from working some days during the week.

The effect of this measure will be to reduce the contribution from jobseeker's benefit to the weekly amount of total income and help towards a reduction in the reliance on the welfare system among those who currently avail of a mix of welfare and earned income. As a savings measure, the change will reduce costs within the jobseeker's benefit scheme but the scheme will continue to deliver incentives towards additional employment for part-time and casual workers. It is important to note that the measure applies to jobseeker's benefit only and that recipients of jobseeker's benefit may opt for jobseeker's allowance, which is subject to a means test.

Entitlement to jobseeker's benefit is based, inter alia, on the claimant being unemployed for three days in any period of six days with benefit being paid at a flat rate, irrespective of earnings. Jobseeker's allowance is also based on satisfaction of "three in six" criteria but entitlement is thereafter determined by reference to weekly means. Therefore the jobseeker's allowance scheme takes account of the earnings of part-time and casual workers, via means reduction in respect of any day in which they have earnings from employment.

Social Welfare Benefits

Derek Keating

Question:

17 Deputy Derek Keating asked the Minister for Social Protection if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the voice message on the telephone regarding applications for disability allowance is stating that applications are taking up to 17 weeks before they will be processed; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that appeals are taking from six months for written appeals and up to 12 months for oral appeals (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20395/12]

Patrick Deering

Question:

25 Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Social Protection if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the voice message on the telephone regarding applications for disability allowance is stating that applications are taking up to 17 weeks before they will be processed; if her further attention has been drawn to the fact that appeals are taking from six months for written appeals and up to 12 months for oral appeals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20347/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 17 and 25 together.

The average time taken to award an application for disability allowance in 2011 was 17 weeks. The average time taken to award an application for disability allowance in the first quarter of 2012 is not currently available, as claims are being processed on both a new system and the old system since the beginning of February 2012.

Entitlement to disability allowance is based on satisfying medical, means and residency conditions. In determining entitlement to the allowance there are, in certain cases, unavoidable time lags involved in making the necessary investigations and enquiries to enable accurate decisions to be made. Certain claims have to be sent to social welfare investigators for means investigations and this can add to the overall processing times. These claims are often complex and can take time to investigate. Delays can also arise if people applying for the allowance are not in a position to supply all the necessary information in support of their claim at the time of application. In addition, factors outside the department's control can have an impact, for example, the supply of relevant information by the customer, employers or other third parties.

A major service delivery modernisation project is currently underway to address the increase in the claim-load and to improve the efficiency of administration of the disability allowance scheme. This involves the development of information technology functions and associated business process re-organisation. It is anticipated that the new system will introduce significant processing efficiencies and a quicker and more responsive service to the customer. Accordingly, the project is being given high priority and involves a significant level of time and commitment from the relevant staff in the Department. In addition temporary staff have been deployed to reduce the backlog and waiting times.

The cadre of medical assessors (complement of posts) is 27 which includes a Chief Medical Advisor and a Deputy Chief Medical Advisor. There are currently 4 vacancies arising from recent retirements. The Public Appointments Service is currently advertising for new medical assessors and the closing date for applications is 9 May. It is expected that the selection process will commence soon thereafter.

The current average time to process disability allowance appeals decided by summary decision is 32.3 weeks and 40.7 weeks for oral appeals. 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. In an effort to reduce the appeal processing times, the Department appointed 12 additional appeals officers between 2010 and 2011. In addition, a further 10 appeals officers, formerly employed by the Community Welfare Services (CWS) of the Health Services Executive, joined the Social Welfare Appeals Office (SWAO) as part of the integration of the CWS. This brought the total number of appeals officers to 39. In addition to this, the SWAO has improved its business processes and IT support.

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 that Office and, overall, to reduce the processing times for dealing with appeals.

Question No. 18 answered with Question No. 7.
Question No. 19 answered with Question No. 14.

Departmental Staff

Robert Troy

Question:

20 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Social Protection the numbers of retirements in her Department since March 2011; the total number of staff currently employed by her Department; the total amount spent on wages on contract workers and permanent workers respectively; the number of new staff employed, temporary or permanent; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20574/12]

A total of 345 staff have retired from my Department since March 2011. There are currently 6,855 permanent staff serving in the Department, equating to 6,443 posts. The figure requested in relation to the amount of wages spent on contract and permanent staff is not readily available and will be forwarded separately to the Deputy.

Since March 2011 some 180 critical vacancies have been filled by way of redeployment or lateral transfer of staff from other Government Departments and agencies. In addition, temporary staff are recruited by the Department to cover absences of permanent staff on maternity leave, long term sick leave, other statutory leave and also to provide cover for some staff availing of the shorter working year scheme. Temporary contracts are offered for a fixed purpose and the term can vary according to the purpose of the contract. There were 516 temporary staff employed during the period in question. There are currently 177 temporary staff employed in the Department.

As the Deputy will be aware, there is currently a moratorium on recruitment in the Civil Service. However, the Department received sanction from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to recruit qualified doctors to perform the role of Medical Assessors, and three Medical Assessors have been appointed since March 2011.

Social Welfare Benefits

John McGuinness

Question:

21 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection the current waiting lists for welfare claims in her Department; the measures she has taken to address this issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20565/12]

Denis Naughten

Question:

35 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Social Protection the steps she is taking to address the delays in processing contributory and non-contributory applications; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20626/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 21 and 35 together.

The Department is committed to ensuring that claims are processed as expeditiously as possible. As is apparent from the data in the following table, schemes that require a high level of documentary evidence from the customer, particularly in the case of illness related schemes, can take longer to process. Similarly, means-tested payments can also require more detailed investigation and interaction with the applicant, thereby lengthening the decision process. As part of the Department's programme of service delivery modernisation, a range of initiatives aimed at streamlining the processing of claims, supported by modern technology, have been implemented in recent years. Operational processes, procedures and the organisation of work are continually reviewed to ensure that processing capability is maximised.

The staffing needs of the Department are regularly reviewed, having regard to workloads and the competing demands arising, to ensure that the best use is made of all available resources. The Department will continue to source available staff to fill critical vacancies by way of redeployment, or transfer from within the Department and other government departments, taking account of the employment control framework (ECF) target, as determined by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

Since May 2008, some 990 staff have been assigned to the Department to fill critical vacancies and additional posts allocated to deal with the increased volume of claims. Taking into account the numbers of staff who have left the Department and the vacancies that exist currently, a net total of 226 additional staff have been assigned to the Department. The Department also makes judicious use of overtime and employs temporary staff as appropriate to address particular service issues as they arise.

The following table sets out detailed information on the claim processing times and performance achieved across the wide range of schemes in the Department:

Table 1: Claim processing target times and performance, January-March 2012

Scheme type:

2012 Claims target 90% processed by

2012 (January-March) Percentage of claims processed within target

State Pension (contributory)

due date

92%

State Pension (transitional)

6 wks

79%

State pension (non-contributory)

10 wks

59%

Widow(er)’s Pension (contributory)

6 wks

91%

Widow(er)’s Pension (non-contributory) pension and one parent family payment (widow)

10 wks

51%

One Parent Family

10 wks

44%

Household Benefits

4 wks

90%

Bereavement Grant

4 wks

96%

Invalidity Pension

6 wks

8%

Family Income Supplement — New Claims

6 wks

11%

Disability Allowance

12 wks

30%

Carer’s Benefit

n/a

n/a

Carer’s Allowance

12 wks

n/a

Jobseeker’s Benefit

3 wks

82%

Jobseeker’s Allowance

6 wks

76%

Illness Benefit

1 wk

81%

Occupational Injury Benefit — Interim Illness Benefit

1 wk

84%

Maternity Benefit

due date

97%

Child Benefit — Domestic — EU

4 wksn/a

79%

Domiciliary Care Allowance

7 wks

62%

Back to Education Allowance

Applicants for BTEA are already in receipt of another social welfare payment before a decision is made on their entitlement to the Allowance.

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

22 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Social Protection if she has any methods in place for checking if recipients of rent allowance are paying the rent due to their landlord; when the rent is not being paid if is there any facility to pay rent allowance directly to the landlord; if there any direct consequences for the person withholding the rent allowance payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20342/12]

The purpose of rent supplement is to provide short-term support to eligible people living in private rented accommodation, whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source. There are currently approximately 95,000 persons in receipt of rent supplement, with €436m provided for in 2012. Under the relevant Social Welfare legislative provisions, the Department's relationship is with the tenant; the tenant makes the application for rent supplement and payment is made to the tenant. Rent supplement is specifically for the benefit of tenants to assist them with their accommodation needs.

Legislation does however provide for the making of a rent supplement payment to another person on behalf of the recipient, at the tenant's request and with the consent of the Department. Almost 20,000 (21%) rent supplement payments are made to a person other than the rent supplemented tenant, for example to a relative, a landlord or landlord's agent.

As part of the Department's ongoing review of rent supplement claims, landlords are given an opportunity to bring to the attention of the Department situations where a tenant has fallen into arrears with their rental payments. In addition, it is open to any landlord to bring to the attention of the Department any instance where a tenant is receiving rent supplement but is not paying the rent. Where an officer becomes aware that a person receiving rent supplement is not using that supplement to meet housing costs, payment of the supplement is suspended and the matter investigated. Where a landlord has a grievance in relation to the non-payment of rent by a tenant, s/he may apply to the Private Residential Tenancies Board to have the dispute resolved through the board's dispute resolution process.

Child Care Services

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

23 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection the level of additional funding or number of additional affordable places she considers that equates with a credible and bankable commitment on the delivery of relevant childcare precipitating her willingness to implement the reduction of the one parent family payment cut off age to seven. [20594/12]

The one-parent family payment (OFP) has played an important role in providing income support to lone parents. Total expenditure on this scheme will be some €1.06 billion this year. Changes have been made to the payment since its introduction in 1991, reflecting the changes taking place in society, the labour market and the expectations and realities of parents' lives, and particularly of mothers, in terms of work and care. These reforms continue that change. They recognise parental choice with regard to the care of young children, while, at the same time, having an expectation that parents will not remain outside of the workforce indefinitely. They aim to provide the necessary supports to lone parents to participate in education and training, to develop their skills, and to enter or move in the labour market and, ultimately, to achieve financial independence. The Social Welfare and Pensions Bill, 2012, introduces changes to the structure of the payment and the age of the youngest child at which the payment ceases. These changes are being brought in over time. I have acknowledged that reforming the OFP will require a whole of Government response. I am engaging with the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs and the Minister for Education and Skills to have a co-ordinated, cross-departmental approach to ensuring that the required level of services are in place to support lone parents as their youngest child reaches the relevant age thresholds.

Discussions have already taken place at official level between officials from my Department and from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs with regard to the development of a policy framework around after-school care, and, in the short-term, the assessment of the extent of the current provision of such care, the costs of such care to parents, and the demand for such services from lone parents.

Departmental Staff

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

24 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if and when she expects to be in a position to avail of the extra necessary staff, perhaps from other Departments, to assist with the work of eliminating ongoing backlogs and delays associated with the processing of claims for all levels of social welfare payments; the extent to which this issue is likely to be addressed in the short to medium term; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20638/12]

The staffing needs of my Department are regularly reviewed, having regard to workloads and the competing demands arising, to ensure that the best use is made of all available resources. The Department will continue to source available staff to fill critical vacancies by way of redeployment, or transfer from within the Department and other Government Departments, taking account of the employment control framework (ECF) target, as determined by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. Since May 2008, some 990 staff have been assigned across the Department to fill critical vacancies and additional posts allocated to deal with the increased volume of claims. Taking into account the numbers of staff who have left the Department and the vacancies that exist currently, a net total of 226 additional staff have been assigned to the Department.

Question No. 25 answered with Question No. 17.

Question No. 26 answered with Question No. 14.

Social Welfare Benefits

Gerry Adams

Question:

27 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Social Protection her views on whether it is fair that her Department would use a 16 year old’s disability allowance as grounds to reduce their mother’s rent allowance in view of the fact the family lived in local authority accommodation and that any income of her child would be disregarded prior to the age of 18; the consequence of which is that the family are worse off financially than when they received DCA up until they were 16 despite the rising costs of disability as a teenager gets older. [20598/12]

The purpose of Rent Supplement is to provide short term income support to assist with reasonable accommodation costs of eligible people living in private rented accommodation who are unable to provide for their accommodation costs from their own resources and who do not have accommodation available to them from another source. There are currently approximately 95,000 persons in receipt of rent supplement, with €436m provided for in 2012. Rent Supplement is normally calculated to ensure that a person, after the payment of rent, has an income equal to the rate of supplementary welfare allowance (SWA) appropriate to their family circumstances less a minimum contribution which recipients are required to pay from their own resources. The weekly minimum contribution is €30 for a single adult household and €35 for coupled households. Many recipients pay more than this amount because recipients are also required, subject to income disregards, to contribute any additional assessable means that they have over and above the appropriate basic SWA rate towards their accommodation costs.

Legislation provides that where a person, other than a qualified adult or a qualified child of the claimant, resides with the claimant, the designated officer deciding the claim shall reduce the amount of the supplement payable, by such amount, which in the opinion of that officer, is reasonably attributable to that other person.

The Department has previously advised staff administering the scheme that where a household consists of a non-dependent household member who is only in receipt of a Social Welfare payment, then the contribution payable toward the rent by that person should be €30 per week.

Question No. 28 answered with Question No. 7.

Departmental Funding

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

29 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will review the decision to cut funding to a addiction prevention service (details supplied) in Dublin 17 in view of the fact that the organisation has already had to cut some of its successful programmes including its horticulture programme and that it also lost a third of its grant from the Department of Education and Skills three years ago; the level of funding that will be provided for the same organisation in view of the fact that it is are currently unable to budget for upcoming programmes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20344/12]

A financial review has been requested of all Community Employment (CE) schemes. It is anticipated that CE schemes will see a reduction in the level of grant aid allocated in respect of materials and training in 2012 as funding will be allocated according to the needs of the participants and the project circumstances. The purpose of the review is to establish the level of need and this review should be completed in the near future. This review will provide a clear picture of the core funding required for each scheme. This will assist the Department in ensuring a fair distribution of the funding available for these schemes.

In addition, the Department is undertaking a separate review of the effectiveness of a range of employment supports including Community Employment Schemes. The outcome of these reviews will inform the overall approach to be taken by the Department and ultimately determine future policy.

Assurances have been given to community and voluntary organisations that no Community Employment scheme will close pending the completion of this review. The review outcomes are being compiled at present and all projects will be contacted regarding same in the near future.

Question No. 30 answered with Question No. 14.

Social Welfare Benefits

Catherine Murphy

Question:

31 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Social Protection the way decisions in relation to the awarding of domiciliary carer’s allowance are made by her Department; if there is scope to change the time the allowance may be awarded from two years currently to a period which may reflect the medical need of the child and the probability that his or her condition is not going to change in the short to medium term; the number of domiciliary carer's allowances currently being awarded; the number of cases relating to the former which are under review by her Department, the average time that appeals are taking to be processed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20350/12]

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

36 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Social Protection in view of the recent review of those in receipt of the domiciliary care allowance, the number of children that have been left without this support; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15128/12]

John Halligan

Question:

99 Deputy John Halligan asked the Minister for Social Protection in view of the recent review of those in receipt of the domiciliary care allowance, the number of children that have been left without this support; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15131/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 31, 36 and 99 together.

Domiciliary care allowance (DCA) is a monthly payment to the parent or guardian of a child under the age of 16 with a disability so severe that the child requires care and attention and/or supervision substantially in excess of another child of the same age.

Eligibility for DCA is not based primarily on the medical or psychological condition, but on the resulting lack of function of body or mind necessitating the degree of extra care and attention required. Each application is assessed on an individual basis taking account of the evidence submitted.

The Department's Medical Assessor (MA) will undertake the following into account before giving his/her opinion on whether the child meets the medical criteria:

Review the history of the case.

Consider all medical reports received.

Have regard to the description of the care and attention required by the child as set out by the parent/guardian.

The time frame for reviewing the medical eligibility in each case is recommended by the medical advisor when the application is initially awarded. This can vary between 12 months and 5 years or a ‘do not refer again' recommendation can be made depending on the potential for the care needs of the child changing over time.

A review policy is an integral part of all social welfare schemes and is necessary to ensure that payments continue to be made only to those customers who meet the qualifying conditions.

There are currently over 24,000 customers receiving DCA in respect of over 26,000 children. The average timeframe to process an application is 8 weeks. Processing times for appeals are currently 28 weeks for a summary hearing and 38 weeks when an oral hearing is held.

Since September 2011, 213 of the DCA claims reviewed have been found to no longer have an entitlement to the allowance and payment in these cases has been stopped. Any customer who has had their child's eligibility reviewed and is not happy with the outcome has the right to appeal the decision to the Social Welfare Appeals office.

Question No. 32 answered with Question No. 7.

Proposed Legislation

Denis Naughten

Question:

33 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans to amend the Civil Registration Act 2004; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20625/12]

The general review of the provisions of the Civil Registration Act 2004 was completed in 2011. There are a range of issues to be considered in relation to the scope and implementation of any proposed changes to the provisions of this Act and some of these issues have cross-departmental implications, which need to be considered also. One of the main priorities of the review was to examine possible legislative solutions to the issue of marriages of convenience and consultations with other Departments in relation to this and other issues are on-going.

I will shortly seek the approval of the Government for the drafting of Heads of a Bill to implement the proposed changes and it is planned to have Heads ready for consultation as early as possible.

Departmental Functions

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

34 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection the date on which she expects the rent supplement scheme to have been transferred from her Department to the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government; the size of any additional moneys that will be allocated; and the implications for her plans to develop one stop shops. [20595/12]

On 16th June 2011, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government and the Minister for Housing and Planning published a new housing policy framework statement. This framework statement reflects the content of the Programme for Government and sets out the principles to underpin the development of housing policy into the medium term. The framework statement specifically contains the announcement for the transfer of responsibility for providing housing needs for long term rent supplement recipients to housing authorities on a phased basis. The focus of this approach is to achieve a key Government commitment to remove barriers to employment, and at the same time, returning rent supplement to its original purpose of a short-term income support. There are currently approximately 95,000 persons in receipt of rent supplement, with €436m provided for in 2012. A multi-agency steering group has been established by the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government to give effect to this initiative and this group is currently developing proposals and operational protocols for the transfer of responsibility from the Department of Social Protection to housing authorities of persons who have long term housing requirements.

A commencement date for the new arrangements of 1st January 2013 has been approved by Government, subject to further consideration of the matter by it. Such consideration will include a detailed economic assessment of the proposal, the possibility of centralised management and reporting arrangements, any required amendments to Housing and Social Welfare legislation and consistency with overall expenditure ceilings for 2013 and 2014 set out in the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure Report. The consideration of an Exchequer neutral mechanism for funding and resourcing the proposed measure having regard to medium term expenditure targets will be examined. This transfer does not have any implication for the Department's plans to develop one stop shops for the delivery of its services.

As the Deputy will be aware, the new National Employment and Entitlements Service is being established which will integrate employment and benefit payment services within the Department and will be delivered from one stop shops. The first step in establishing the National Employment and Entitlements Service and one stop shops was integrating staff from FAS, the Community Welfare Service and the Department. The development of this new integrated service is a multi-annual programme of change within the Department and in how it provides its services.

Question No. 35 answered with Question No. 21.
Question No. 36 answered with Question No. 31.

Community Welfare Services

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

37 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will report on the proposed changes to the community welfare services at a location (details supplied) in Dublin 17 which will only deal with rent and mortgage interest supplement claims that were to come into effect from 16 April 2012; if she will also address community concerns at the ending of the general community welfare service at the location; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20343/12]

The changes to the delivery of community welfare services to which the Deputy refers came into effect from 16th April 2012. They form part of a wider reconfiguration of these services in the Swords/Coolock/Darndale area and are designed to maximise the effectiveness and efficiency of their operation. The backdrop to the changes is the reduction in the number of staff in the area and the primary objective of ensuring continuity of service in line with staff availability arising from leave (annual, maternity, sickness, or for any other reason) which would otherwise negatively impact on the quality of service.

Heretofore, the full range of community welfare services were directly available from each of the two local health centres at Cromcastle Road, Coolock and Darndale. The centres are located less than a mile from each other. Individual officers provided the full range of services to all customers based on the specific geographical area within which each customer resides. This model of service delivery is predicated on the availability of staff to provide one-for-one cover in the event of absences and is no longer tenable in the area. The change which was introduced on 16th April saw a move away from this traditional model of one officer serving an individual location and delivering the full range of community welfare services, towards a sustainable team-based approach which is more efficient, effective and economical and which will guarantee continuity of service in the event of any future staff absences.

Two business units have now been established. The unit in Darndale deals with Rent and Mortgage Interest Supplement claims for the Coolock/Darndale area. The centre in Coolock delivers all other community welfare services. Each location is now being served by a number of officers operating a team-based approach. In addition to ensuring continuity of service, further efficiencies have been gained from centralising the functions.

The decision to centralise Rent and Mortgage Interest Supplement processing in Darndale and all other services in the health centre on Cromcastle Road, Coolock was based on the fact that the latter is the main community welfare service office in the area and has a greater capacity to accommodate the greater number of customers attending, in addition to providing the increased office space and facilities required by the staff. It is also located close to the social welfare local office which many customers are required to attend. The local office is scheduled to provide the National Employment and Entitlements Service later this year, and the reconfiguration of community welfare services will also facilitate this.

The Department is aware of the concerns that were felt by the community in advance of the reconfiguration. A number of officials recently met with local community representatives to hear and respond to those concerns first hand, and to explain the reasons for the change. Further meetings have been arranged by local management to further address some of issues raised.

Social Welfare Benefits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

38 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the extent to which she hopes to have an opportunity to undertake checks to eliminate hardship arising from decisions taken by her predecessor in respect of reductions in payment levels arising from the memorandum of understanding; if she expects to be in a position to address any emerging or further disadvantage in the case of budget 2013; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20637/12]

I understand that the Deputy is referring to the reductions in the weekly rates of social welfare payments for people of working age, which were introduced by the last Government in Budgets 2010 and 2011. The Programme for Government contains a commitment to maintain social welfare rates. In Budget 2012, the Government endeavoured to protect the vulnerable and at the same time secure the long term financial viability of the social protection system. In this regard I was able to ensure that the primary weekly rates of social welfare were fully protected.

Given the scale of the fiscal crisis and given that spending on social protection accounts for nearly 40% of current Government expenditure, savings have to be found in the social welfare system in Budget 2013. Any changes to the current rates of primary weekly social welfare payments will have to be considered in this context.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

39 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will confirm that changes to the awarding of rent supplement will be made in the near future; if she intends to change the system whereby, outside of Dublin, rent supplement rates are set on a county basis to a new system which will reflect the large differences in average market rents which exist within counties; if there is a timeframe for the delivery of any such planned changes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20349/12]

The purpose of rent supplement is to provide short-term income support to eligible tenants living in private rented accommodation whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source. The overall aim is to provide short term assistance, and not to act as an alternative to the other social housing schemes operated by the Exchequer. There are currently approximately 95,000 persons in receipt of rent supplement, with €436m provided in 2012. Rent Supplement is subject to a limit on the amount of rent that an applicant may incur. Rent limits are set at levels that enable eligible households to secure and retain basic suitable rented accommodation, having regard to the different rental market conditions that prevail in various parts of the state. While the maximum rent limits are generally set at county level, staff administering rent supplement have always had the authority to set levels lower than those provided for in regulations. This allows for lower rent levels to apply in certain locations within counties reflecting local market conditions.

I have no plans at present to change the way in which rent supplement is awarded.

Departmental Expenditure

Niall Collins

Question:

40 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the amount spent on hair and make-up by his Department since February 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20694/12]

My Department has not incurred any expenditure on hair and make-up during the period in question.

Ministerial Transport

Niall Collins

Question:

41 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the amount spent by his Department on drivers and ministerial transport since February 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20710/12]

The table below provides the details of costs for drivers and ground transport for Ministers of State at my Department for the period in question. The sum includes severance payments that arose due to the change in Government in 2011. My Department currently employs two Civilian Drivers.

Ministerial transport costs, 1 February 2011 to 23 April 2012

Driver salaries, including PRSI

156,331

Driver severance and redundancy payments

42,447

Mileage payments to Ministers of State

31,686

Total

230,464

Consultancy Contracts

Niall Collins

Question:

42 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the amount paid on external public relations and communications consultants; the name of each organisation used; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20783/12]

My Department does not engage external consultants for public relations purposes. From time to time consultants or companies with some communications experience are commissioned to provide services such as project management, logistics and event management. I am very conscious of the need to achieve value for money on all consultant expenditure and commissioning of such work is in full compliance with national and EU procurement regulations concerning tendering requirements. DHR Communications has been contracted since 2010 to manage and administer the Simon Cumbers Media Fund (SCMF) grants scheme. This involves managing two funding rounds each year, including through national and regional information workshops; managing and administering the application process; organising the judging process and providing detailed feedback to all applicants; processing grant payments and keeping detailed administrative and financial records; maintaining and updating the SCMF website and managing the pilot SCMF student competition. DHR was awarded a two year contract to 2012 and was re-engaged in February 2012 for a further two years following a competitive tendering process.

DHR provided short-term management support services for the Review of the White Paper on Irish Aid, including the logistical management of the nationwide public consultation activities. DHR also provided some support to the management of the Africa Day events.

The following table sets out fees and third party expenses paid to DHR Communications in 2011 and 2012:

Project and Event Management 2011-2012 (to date — April 2012)

Name of Company

2011

2012

DHR Communications

€82,794

€11,808

Export Controls

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

43 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to reports of a discovery of engine parts in a pilotless drone in the Nuba Mountains, Sudan, marked by an Irish company (details supplied) which develops replacement carburettors and spare parts; if he has addressed the issue of Irish technology being used in the manufacturing of warfare and if he can address this in view of Ireland seeking election to the UN Human Rights Council next year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20861/12]

I am aware of the reference in a recent television documentary that a component that appears to have been made in Ireland was part of an unmanned aerial vehicle that was used for military surveillance in Sudan. The position of the Government is very clear in relation to the conflict in the Nuba Mountains/Southern Kordofan region which was the subject of this documentary. We condemn unreservedly the use of aerial bombing by the Sudanese Government against the civilian population. We have consistently called for an end to hostilities and for inclusive dialogue between the Government and insurgents to resolve differences through peaceful means.

The situation in Sudan is a high priority for the European Union and was discussed again at the Foreign Affairs Council which I attended in Luxembourg on Monday, April 23rd. The Council repeated the EU's call for dialogue to resolve the conflict in southern Kordofan and the Blue Nile region.

Ireland is a strong supporter of United Nations and European Union initiatives aimed at restricting the flow of military equipment to Sudan and the Government is fully committed to compliance with these measures.

The Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation is responsible for issuing licences in respect of exports of controlled goods and technology listed in the EU Dual Use Regulations and the EU Military List. I am informed that no licences have been issued in the past four years in respect of controlled technology intended for export to either Sudan or to the Sudanese authorities. The Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation works in close co-operation with the Revenue and Customs Service to monitor trade with countries against which trade sanctions are in place.

I would be concerned if equipment manufactured in Ireland was being used by the military in operations against the civilian population. Last week, I asked my officials to bring these reports to the attention of the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, which has undertaken to examine whether any restricted or sanctioned technology is involved. In particular, it will be important to clarify if the component apparently made in Ireland was a military or dual use item which would be subject to export control licensing, or a standard engineering component exported from Ireland which would not be subject to these conditions.

Tax Reliefs

Michael McCarthy

Question:

44 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Finance the amount that mortgage interest relief has cost the Exchequer in each of the past four years; the total number of persons who were approved for the relief in each year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20681/12]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the cost to the Exchequer of mortgage interest relief by way of tax relief at source (TRS) and the associated number of claimants in the past four years 2008 to 2011 inclusive is as follows:

Tax Year

Numbers

Cost €m

2008

778,100

705

2009

782,700

486

2010

490,900

375

2011

488,000*

357

*These figures are provisional and subject to revision.

Numbers are rounded to nearest hundred and costs are rounded to nearest million.

Banking Sector Regulation

Michael McCarthy

Question:

45 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Finance the total number of mortgages which are currently held by State-owned banks; if he will provide a breakdown of the number of mortgages held by each bank, specifying the type of mortgage held and corresponding number of mortgage holders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20682/12]

Extensive and detailed information regarding mortgages held by the covered institutions is publicly available and can be found in the annual reports of each of the institutions concerned. Further disclosures, beyond these statutory requirements, are not given due to commercial and market sensitivity issues.

For convenience the internet links to the Annual Reports of the covered institutions is provided below:

Table

Bank of Ireland

http://www.bankofireland.com/fs/doc/publications/investor-relations/boi-annual-report-2012-web.pdf

AIB

http://www.aib.ie/servlet/BlobServer/document.pdf?blobkey=id&blobwhere=1332770825985&blobcol=urlfile&blobtable=AIB_Download&blobheader=application/pdf&blobheadername1=Content-Disposition&blobheadervalue1=document.pdf

IL&P

http://www.irishlifepermanent.ie/~/media/Files/I/Irish-Life-And-Permanent/Attachments/pdf/2011/ar-2011.pdf

IBRC

http://www.ibrc.ie/About_us/Financial_information/Annual_Report/Annual_ Report_2011.pdf

Departmental Expenditure

Niall Collins

Question:

46 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Finance the amount spent on hair and make-up by his Department since February 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20693/12]

The amount spend on the matters specified by the Deputy was €50.

Ministerial Transport

Niall Collins

Question:

47 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Finance the amount spent by his Department on drivers and ministerial transport since February 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20709/12]

The amount spent by my Department on drivers and Ministerial transport since February 2011 has been €122,903. This cost includes mileage (which is to cover car related expenses), the salaries paid to civilian drivers, travel and subsistence paid to the drivers and Employer PRSI contributions in respect of the two drivers. This amount is significantly below the €280,000 average annual cost under the previous domestic Ministerial transport regime for each Minister.

Credit Union Regulation

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

48 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the closure of credit unions (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20717/12]

The Commission on Credit Unions submitted its Final Report to me on schedule at the end of March and it was published last week. The Report incorporates the recommendations of the Commission's Interim Report, published in October 2011, with regard to deposit protection, resolution, stabilisation, and liquidity. The key recommendations in the Final Report relate to restructuring, the proposed new legislative and regulatory framework, and new governance requirements for credit unions.

I welcome the Report and I have complimented the Commission on its in-depth analysis and far-reaching recommendations that will mark a fundamental turning point in the development of the credit union movement in Ireland.

Contrary to the reports referred to by the Deputy, the Commission does not recommend the closure of credit unions. A core recommendation is that the credit union sector should be restructured on a voluntary, incentivised and time-bound basis. The guiding aims of restructuring are: the protection of credit union members' savings; the stability and viability of credit unions and the sector at large; and the preservation of the credit union identity and ethos.

The Report states that the objective of the restructuring process is to provide the opportunity for stronger credit unions to develop a more sophisticated — and ultimately more sustainable — business model and provide a mechanism to sort through the financial stresses in the sector in an orderly way. The Report also points out that in the absence of a policy intervention to restructure credit unions, there is the risk that problems will unwind over an extended period and in a way that erodes member and public confidence in the sector and which increases the risk of costly resolutions and liquidations. However, the Commission does recommend that the resolution powers provided to the Central Bank under the Central Bank and Credit Institutions (Resolution) Act 2011 should be considered for those credit unions that meet the intervention conditions or grounds set out in that Act.

Budget Timetable

Alex White

Question:

49 Deputy Alex White asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to a survey by the National Retail Industry Alliance which recommended rescheduling the budget to February; his views on this recommendation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20719/12]

I have reviewed a submission from the National Retail Industry Alliance in relation to the rescheduling of the Budget that raise concerns about the impact of the current Budget timetable on consumer sentiment and Christmas trading volumes. While I have sympathy for their views, there are a number of contributing factors which act as a deterrent from attempting to alter the current Budget timetable.

Firstly, a draft EU regulation, which is part of the so-called "Two-Pack", envisages that all Member States will adopt their respective budgets by 31 December each year. This process would also require Member States to submit draft Budget Plans to the European Commission by 15 October each year to aid the consultation process. The current timetable fits with this draft requirement.

Secondly, in order to construct budgets that are underpinned by the best available data, it is necessary to wait until late in the year to finalise economic and fiscal forecasts. For example, most of our Corporation Tax receipts are received into the exchequer each year in November Each month of extra macroeconomic data also helps to improve the accuracy of forecast that underpins the annual budget.

In relation to the Retail Industry, the Programme for Government states that the standard rate of VAT will not exceed 23%. This commitment should ensure greater certainty surrounding consumption decisions and limit sentiment affects relating to Christmas trading volumes.

Promissory Notes

Stephen S. Donnelly

Question:

50 Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for Finance if, in view of the arrangement on the March 2012 promissory note payment, if it is the case that, instead of borrowing the money for this payment from the troika facility at 3.5%, the Government and State-owned corporations will now be borrowing it at 2.35% from Bank of Ireland; if it is the case that Bank of Ireland could buy a comparable bond on the open market at higher rates; if this is the case, the reason Bank of Ireland will buy the bond to cover the promissory note payment; and the economic logic for same. [20772/12]

As the deputy is aware on 29th March 2012, I made the following statements on the matter to the Dail: "The €3.06 billion of programme funding that would otherwise have been used to make the promissory note payment should potentially allow greater flexibility around when and at what level Ireland returns to the capital markets."

It is proposed that IBRC will enter into a repurchase agreement with Bank of Ireland at margin of 135bps above the ECB main refinancing rate which is currently 100bps. The troika funds continue to be available to the State at the appropriate funding levels.

The commercial terms and economic logic for proposed repurchase transaction between IBRC and Bank of Ireland is a matter for the board of directors of the respective banks. I note that the matter is subject to Bank of Ireland's independent stockholder approval and I refer the deputy to the statement released by Bank of Ireland on the matter on 29 March 2012: "As the transaction is considered to be a related party transaction under the listing rules, it will be subject to independent stockholder approval. A circular containing additional details of the transaction and the date of the proposed extraordinary general court will be posted to stockholders once the circular has been approved by the UK listing authority and Irish Stock Exchange."

National Asset Management Agency

Stephen S. Donnelly

Question:

51 Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for Finance if, in view of his statement in Dáil Éireann on 16 March that the money which we accessed for bridging finance from the National Asset Management Agency was money which is due to be repaid to the ECB for the loans it gave to NAMA to acquire the impaired assets in the bank; if he will confirm that this is the case; or if it is the case that the NAMA-issued bonds are redeemable in 2020 and not before; if there is a discrepancy, or the appearance of one if he will explain same. [20773/12]

I presume the Deputy is referring to my statement to the Dáil on 29 March 2012. The money used by NAMA to facilitate a bridging transaction with IBRC and Bank of Ireland was generated from its own resources.

The ECB did not provide loans to NAMA to acquire assets from the participating institutions. NAMA issued senior notes to the participating institutions which can be extended annually subject to the agreement of the note holders. NAMA has already redeemed €1.25bn of these notes. I am advised that the objective of the NAMA board is to redeem all senior notes on a phased basis by the end of 2020.

Tax Code

John Lyons

Question:

52 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Finance further to Question No. 206 of 18 April 2012, if the Revenue Commissioners will update their website and information booklets to indicate that relief from motor tax and an entitlement to repayment of excise duty on fuel can still be offered to a qualifying person under disabled drivers and disabled passengers, tax concessions, regulations, even in a case where the full limit of vehicle registration tax and VAT has been claimed on the vehicle in question. [20774/12]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that it is intended to conduct a review of material on the "Tax Relief Scheme for Drivers and Passengers with Disabilities" on the website and information booklets. Any necessary clarifications or amendments will be made. This review will be completed by the end of June.

Consultancy Contracts

Niall Collins

Question:

53 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Finance the amount paid on external public relations and communications consultants; the name of each organisation used; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20782/12]

As clarified with the Deputy's office, the question relates to the period since February 2011. My Department has not made any payments to public relations and communications consultants in the period from February 2011 to date.

Banking Sector Regulation

Robert Troy

Question:

54 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Finance if he will ensure that the banks, which are under the control of the State, are not refusing mortgages to persons with the means to repay them under small technical issues such as the estate not being taken in charge of by the council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20793/12]

Policy in relation to individual credit lending decisions in the covered banks is a matter for the management and board of those institutions. 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. Notwithstanding the fact that the State is a significant shareholder in a number of these institutions, I must ensure that these banks are run on a commercial, cost effective and independent basis to ensure the value of the bank as an asset to the State, as per the Memorandum on Economic and Financial Policies agreed with the EU Commission, the ECB and the IMF. Relationship Frameworks have now been agreed that clearly define the nature of the relationship between me and each of these institutions. Those Frameworks were published on 30 March 2012 and can be found at: http://banking.finance.gov.ie/presentations-and-latest-documents/.

National Asset Management Agency

Pearse Doherty

Question:

55 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance if he will confirm that the National Asset Management Agency is not required to redeem its senior debt until 2020 and that NAMA is paying a rate of interest on its senior debt equal to the six-month EURIBOR rate; and if NAMA is entitled to invest its cash reserves in projects which support the Irish economy pursuant to sections 2 and 12 of the NAMA Act. [20799/12]

The ECB did not provide loans to NAMA to acquire assets from the participating institutions. NAMA issued Senior Notes to the Participating Institutions which can be extended annually subject to the agreement of the note holders. NAMA has already redeemed €1.25bn of these Notes. I am advised that the objective of the NAMA Board is to redeem all Senior Notes on a phased basis by the end of 2020. NAMA also advises me that it pays interest on its senior debt at the same rate as the six-month Euribor rate, which is reset in March and September. Under the NAMA Act 2009, NAMA may invest funds to protect or enhance the value of the collateral securing its loans. Where it considers that it makes commercial sense to do so, NAMA may advance funds to projects, including projects located in Ireland, under the control of its debtors or receivers.

Pearse Doherty

Question:

56 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance of the 24 applications received for the National Asset Management Agency board appointment in March 2012, the date the last application was received. [20802/12]

The closing date for expressions of interest in appointment to the NAMA Board was 6 March 2012. I can confirm that 24 expressions of interest were received on that date. No further expressions of interest were received after that date.

International Agreements

Pearse Doherty

Question:

57 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance if a copy of the bilateral agreement signed with Denmark, which is available from the Danish Parliament in Danish, can be made available here. [20827/12]

It is my understanding, following information received from our colleagues in the Danish Finance Ministry, that there is no Danish language version of the bilateral loan agreement with Denmark and that the loan agreement has not been published. The agreement was signed in English. I understand that Denmark's Standard Parliamentary Committee procedures were followed in this case and that the designated Parliamentary Committee obtained at the relevant time a short written briefing in respect of the loan agreement with Ireland. This note is similar to the press statement provided at the time by my Department, and which is available on the Department's website: http://www.finance.gov.ie/viewdoc.asp?DocID=7196. However, I do propose to lay the Danish bilateral loan agreement before the Houses as has already been done for the draft Swedish loan agreement.

Consultancy Contracts

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

58 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide a list of external property consultants, surveyors and estate agents engaged by his Department for each of the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20870/12]

My Department has not engaged any Property Consultants, Surveyors or Estate Agents in the past five years. Most of the buildings occupied by the Department of Finance are leased by the Office of Public Works.

School Patronage

Brendan Smith

Question:

59 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the total cost of the work of the forum on patronage and pluralism; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20652/12]

As the Deputy will be aware, I officially launched the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector in April 2011. During the course of its work, the Advisory Group to the Forum conducted a number of public meetings and sought submissions. 215 written submissions were received initially and these were examined by the Advisory Group.

Public working sessions with the main stakeholder groups were held on 22, 23 and 24 June 2011 and a further plenary session was held on 17 November 2011. Following the November session a further 32 submissions were received. These working sessions were broadcast live over the Internet and recordings of the working sessions are available from the Department website, along with all the submissions received and other Forum documents. I published the Report of the Advisory Group to the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector on 10 April 2012. The total cost of the Forum to-date is €37,589. This figure includes the cost of printing the report and translation costs.

Brendan Smith

Question:

60 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills when he will begin carrying out parental surveys in the areas identified by the forum on patronage and pluralism; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20653/12]

Brendan Smith

Question:

61 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he supports the recommendation in the report of the advisory group to the forum on patronage and pluralism which recommends leaving stand-alone schools alone and that a change of patronage should only be considered in areas in which there is a stable population and demand for diversity of schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20654/12]

Brendan Smith

Question:

63 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress made to date in arranging the transfer of school buildings from the church; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20656/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 60, 61 and 63 together.

The Deputy will be aware that I recently published the Report of the Advisory Group to the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector. The overarching aim of the Forum's work was to ensure that schools cater for diversity and ensure an inclusive and respectful environment for all their pupils. The Advisory Group has presented a comprehensive report and I am aware that some of the issues dealt with in the report are sensitive and need to be carefully examined. I have asked the education partners and interested parties to examine the report and take time to reflect on and digest the recommendations. I am considering the report's findings and recommendations and intend to outline my official response next month. As per the commitment in the Programme for Government, a White Paper on Pluralism and Patronage in the primary sector will follow.

School Staffing

Brendan Smith

Question:

62 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of minority faith schools that are affected by the decision to change the staffing schedule for schools with fewer than 86 pupils; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20655/12]

The Government recognises that small schools are an important part of the social fabric of rural communities. They will continue to be a feature of our education landscape. However, this does not mean that small schools can stand still or never have their staffing levels changed to something that is more affordable and sustainable for these difficult and challenging times. Around 73 small schools were due to lose a classroom teaching post in September 2012 as a result of this budget measure. This represents about 6% of all small schools. 65 of these schools are under catholic patronage and 8 are Church of Ireland schools. For constitutional reasons all schools are treated equally irrespective of the type of patronage.

The existing appeals process was expanded this year so that it was accessible to those small schools that were due to lose a classroom teaching post as a result of the budget measure. The first meeting of the Primary Staffing Appeals Board took place last week. 72 small schools submitted applications to the Appeals Board of which 6 were from Church of Ireland schools that were due to lose a classroom teaching post. 34 small schools (3 of which are Church of Ireland schools) had their appeals provisionally upheld by the Appeals Board on the basis of their projected increase in enrolments. The retention of the classroom teachers in these 34 schools is conditional on confirmation from the schools in September that their actual enrolments reach the required level. If the required level of enrolments is not in the schools in September then the classroom teaching posts will be automatically withdrawn and the teacher will be redeployed to another school. A summary outcome of the appeals is now published on my Department's website. Individual schools are being notified this week of the outcome of their appeals. A Value for Money examination of small schools has been carried out and my Department expects to publish the analysis and findings in the near future. I hope that this report will foster constructive engagement both in the Oireachtas and among all interested parties in looking at the challenges ahead and how best to make provision for primary education in rural and dispersed communities. How best to sustain provision for widely dispersed and small Protestant communities will present as a particular challenge particularly in any locality where enrolment in their schools is declining to single figures and amalgamation is not an option because there is no other school nearby. The Government is intent in fostering pluralism in school provision. Supporting minority churches in maintaining their schools is part of that policy and will inform how the Government approaches the outcome of the Value for Money Study.

My Department's officials will be working with schools and the relevant education partners to ensure that the teacher allocation and redeployment processes operate as efficiently as possible. In this regard the Department is in regular and on-going contact with the relevant management bodies for all primary schools.

Question No. 63 answered with Question No. 60.

Departmental Agencies

Brendan Smith

Question:

64 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if we may expect SOLAS to be fully established by the end of 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20657/12]

Brendan Smith

Question:

66 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the kind of role industry will have in the new education and training authority SOLAS; if it will be given a formal role in overseeing course provision and content; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20659/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 64 and 66 together.

Following the Government Decision to create SOLAS, an Implementation Group was set up to establish SOLAS. I am chairing this Group and its membership includes representatives from the Department of Education and Skills, FÁS, the Irish Vocational Education Association and the Department of Social Protection.

The Group has been meeting regularly to drive the process forward. The Heads of a Bill have been approved by Government and have recently been referred to the Office of the Attorney General for drafting purposes.

Once SOLAS is established it will have strategic responsibility for the training currently delivered by FÁS and Skillnets and the further education currently delivered by VECs. SOLAS will ensure that further education and training programmes are more flexible and responsive to meet the particular needs of jobseekers and industry. As part of this process, courses and their curricula will be constantly reviewed to ensure that they are fully aligned to the skills needs identified by SOLAS, the NEES, the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs, and through direct contact with employers.

Given the complex elements involved, including enacting appropriate legislation, it is expected that the process of establishing SOLAS will be completed by the end of 2012.

FÁS Training Programmes

Brendan Smith

Question:

65 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if FÁS has carried out a review of all education and training courses on offer or if the review will take place after SOLAS has been formally established; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20658/12]

At present further education is delivered by the Vocational Education Committees while general training is delivered by FÁS Training Services. As part of its annual planning exercise to ensure that its courses, and the courses it procures, remain relevant to the needs of an evolving labour market and to the needs of its clients, FÁS reviews the training provision for which it has a mandate. This review is facilitated by its own National Skills Database, the work of the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs, and regular contact with the Department of Social Protection, together with information from a range of sources, including direct contact with employers, independent surveys on course outcomes, and national and international research on skills needs. Both in its training plan for 2011 and again this year (2012) FÁS have introduced significant numbers of new courses to address current and predicted future needs. Once SOLAS is established it will have strategic responsibility for the training currently delivered by FÁS and the further education currently delivered by VECs. The programmes will be integrated, flexible, value-for-money and responsive to the needs of learners and the requirements of a changed and changing economy. SOLAS will also ensure that further education and training programmes are more flexible and responsive to meet the particular needs of jobseekers and enterprise. As part of this process, courses and their curricula will be constantly reviewed to ensure that they are fully aligned to the skills needs identified by the EGFSN.

Question No. 66 answered with Question No. 64.

Graduate Statistics

Brendan Smith

Question:

67 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of computer science graduates expected in 2012; the number of computer science graduates in 2011 and 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20660/12]

Brendan Smith

Question:

68 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of electronic engineering graduates expected in 2012; the number of electronic engineering graduates in 2011 and 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20661/12]

Brendan Smith

Question:

69 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of graduates expected from honours degree ICT undergraduate programmes in 2012; the number of graduates from these courses in 2011, 2010 and 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20662/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 67 to 69, inclusive, together.

The data requested are provided in the following Table. Graduate data are not yet available for 2011. However, recent CAO data show that the number of students expressing a first preference for Science courses (including Computing) at honours degree level (level 8) increased by 18.47% this year and over the five year period 2008-12, by a total of 63.5%. The number of 1st preference Computer Science applications increased by 20% from 2011 to 2012. The continued increase in demand for science related undergraduate programmes evident in recent years is starting to feed through into increased graduate output. This is an extremely positive development in the context the very significant employment and career opportunities that will continue to emerge for science and technology graduates and the targets set out in the joint Government-Enterprise ICT Skills Action Plan which I launched in January.

Table 1 — Honours Bachelor Degree Graduates

2007

2008

2009

2010

Computer Science

976

868

754

960

Electronic Engineering

392

273

328

481

Total ICT Graduates

1,368

1,141

1,082

1,441

Information and Communications Techology

Brendan Smith

Question:

70 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide an update on the implementation of the ICT action plan launched by him earlier this year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20663/12]

The ICT Action Plan outlines a range of short and medium term measures to develop a sustainable domestic supply of high quality ICT graduates to support the further expansion and development of the ICT sector and support innovation and growth across other sectors of the economy.

Since I published the Plan in January over 760 places have been made available on 17 new ICT conversion programmes in public, private and not for profit higher education institutions across the country. The programmes are highly intensive leading to an honours degree level award in computer science and include a work placement period with an industry partner of approx 3 months. Access is free of charge to participants and there has been strong demand from high quality applicants for places on the programmes. Further details are available at www.bluebrick.ie. Over 400 unemployed people are expected to complete Springboard programmes leading to awards at honours degree or masters level in ICT disciplines before the Summer and a new range of Springboard programmes for 2012 will also be launched in the coming weeks. The new high level ICT Foresight Group has been established with membership from the education and enterprise sector and other actions in the Plan are being progressed in line with the timeframes in the Plan.

School Curriculum

Brendan Smith

Question:

71 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress made to date in implementing junior certificate reform; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20664/12]

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment provided its advice to me on Junior Cycle Reform in late 2011. Since then, consideration has been ongoing in relation to the implementation of reform.

Reform will be introduced on a phased basis. All of the existing subjects are being continued, and Irish (except where there is an exemption), English and Mathematics will remain core subjects.

To start with, a revised syllabus in English will be implemented as a first step in the process, for students beginning junior cycle in 2014, for first examination in 2017. Groups of subjects will be implemented each year after that. Schools will also have the option of providing locally developed short courses of 100 hours, supported by exemplars developed by the NCCA.

A cap of 8 is being placed on the number of subjects which can be taken for examination purposes, to apply on a mandatory basis from the 2017 examination. Into the future, students will be able to take 8 subjects or 7 subjects with 2 short courses or 6 subjects and 4 short courses. Subjects will be assessed by means of a written examination set and marked by SEC, and a portfolio marked by the class teacher in the school, moderated by the school and subject to external moderation on a sample basis by SEC. Short course will be assessed in the school.

FÁS Training Programmes

Brendan Smith

Question:

72 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of apprenticeship training places currently on offer by FÁS; the breakdown of the types of training apprenticeships on offer and the take up of such apprenticeships; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20665/12]

The Standards Based Apprenticeship Programme is a demand led alternance training and education programme for employed apprentices.

I understand that based on previous years' experience, the anticipated total apprenticeship registration in 2012 is expected to be approximately 1,200.

The number of apprentices who have been registered by employers by trade in the three months to 31/3/2012 is 389 — see Appendix 1 by Family of Trade Group.

Appendix 1

Family of Trade Groups

Registration YTD 31/3/2012

Construction

Brick and Stonelaying

2

Cabinetmaking

0

Carpentry and Joinery

24

Floor and Wall Tiling

1

Painting and Decorating

3

Plastering

3

Plumbing

21

Wood Machining

0

Wood Manufacturing and Finishing

4

Total:

58

Electrical

Aircraft Mechanics

0

Electrical

118

Electrical Instrumentation

3

Electronic Security Systems

2

Instrumentation

0

Refrigeration and Air Conditioning

10

Total:

133

Engineering

Mechanical Engineering and Maintenance Fitting (M.A.M.F)

56

Farriery

2

Industrial Insulation

1

Metal Fabrication

40

Sheet Metalworking

1

Toolmaking

5

Total:

105

Motor

Agricultural Mechanics

7

Construction Plant Fitting

15

Heavy Vehicle Mechanics

7

Motor Mechanics

60

Vehicle Body Repairs

4

Total:

93

Printing

Print Media

0

Total:

0

Overall Total

389

Irish Language

Michael McCarthy

Question:

73 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of pupils nationwide who have secured an exemption from sitting Irish for the leaving certificate this year; the total number of pupils who secured exemptions from Irish in each of the past five years separately; the number of exempted pupils in 2012 who study a foreign language; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20673/12]

Michael McCarthy

Question:

74 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Education and Skills in respect of the rules set out in Circular M10/94, the number of pupils who receive an exemption under the following sections of part C: pupils who function intellectually at average or above average level but have a specific learning disability of such a degree of severity that they fail to achieve expected levels of attainment in basic language skills in the mother tongue; pupils who have been assessed as having a general learning disability due to serious intellectual impairment, that is, a mental handicap and are also failing to attain adequate levels in basic language skills in the mother tongue; pupils who have been assessed as having a general learning disability due to serious sensory impairment and are also failing to attain adequate levels in basic language skills in the mother tongue; if there are any plans to update this circular; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20674/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 73 and 74 together.

The information sought by the Deputy on exemptions from the study of Irish held by students in post-primary schools is not readily available. I have asked my officials to compile the information and to forward it to the Deputy as soon as it is available. The specific information sought by the Deputy regarding the breakdown of exemptions granted under the different categories of learning disability is not available as this information is not included in the returns made by post-primary schools to my Department. My Department is currently reviewing the circulars which deal with exemptions from the study of Irish in recognised primary (12/96) and post-primary schools (M10/94).

Departmental Expenditure

Niall Collins

Question:

75 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills the amount spent on hair and make-up by his Department since February 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20691/12]

My Department has not incurred any expenditure on hair or make-up since February 2011.

Ministerial Transport

Niall Collins

Question:

76 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills the amount spent by his Department on drivers and ministerial transport since February 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20707/12]

In March 2011, the Government agreed new measures for Cabinet Ministers in relation to the provision of official transport to take effect from 1st May 2011. On my appointment as Minister from the 9th, March 2011 until the 30th, April 2011 I was provided with a state car. From the 1st, May 2011 in line with the revised procedures I have used my own car and I am provided with the services of 2 civilian drivers. The Minister of State at my Department has used his own car since his appointment.

The following tabular statement gives details of the total gross salary paid to the civilian drivers (including Employer's PRSI contribution), the amount of subsistence claimed by the driver to date and the payment of travel expenses to the Minister and Minister of State to date.

Mr. Ruairí Quinn T.D, Minister for Education and Skills

Payment Type

Period

Amount

Civilian Drivers Salaries

May 2011 to March 2012

€73,885

Civilian Drivers’ Subsistence

May 2011 to November 2011

€1,468

Minister’s Travel Expenses

May 2011 to March 2012

€15,745

Mr. Ciarán Cannon T.D., Minister of State

Payment Type

Period

Amount

Civilian Drivers Salaries

April 2011 to March 2012

€81,551

Civilian Drivers’ Subsistence

April 2011 to April 2012

€11,791

Minister of State’s Travel Expenses

March 2011 to February 2012

€21,466

School Staffing

Michael McCarthy

Question:

77 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide an update on the pupil-teacher ratio for a school (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20718/12]

John McGuinness

Question:

79 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a resource teaching post will be allocated to a school (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20757/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 77 and 79 together.

The staffing arrangements for the 2012-13 school year are set out in Primary Circular 0007/2012 which is available on my Department's website. As part of the reforms to the teacher allocation process existing posts are being used to put in place a network of over 2,500 full-time resource posts in close to 1,700 base schools throughout the country. These posts will be allocated on a permanent basis and the teachers in them will undertake NCSE approved (low incidence) resource hours in the base schools or in neighbouring schools. This approach builds on the interim arrangements that operated in 2011 but in a more structured and transparent manner.

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.

All schools have been asked to make applications to the NCSE for resource teaching support for the 2012-13 school year by 16th March, 2012. Schools will subsequently be advised by the NCSE of their allocation for the 2012-13 school year, based on the number of valid applications received. The staffing schedule also includes an appeals mechanism for schools to submit an appeal under certain criteria to an independent Appeals Board. Details of the criteria for appeal are contained in the staffing schedule, Circular 0007/2012.

The Primary Staffing Appeals Board met last week. A summary outcome of the appeals is now published on my Department's website. Individual schools are being notified this week of the outcome of their appeals. My Department's focus is on notifying schools of the outcome of their appeals and to implement the staffing arrangements for the coming school year. The final staffing position for all schools will ultimately not be known until the Autumn. At that stage the allocation process will be fully completed and all appeals to the Staffing Appeals Board will have been considered.

John McGuinness

Question:

78 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of a submission made by a school (details supplied) in County Kilkenny, relative to staffing for the 2012-13 school year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20755/12]

The Primary Staffing Appeals Board met last week. A total of 367 schools submitted appeals to the Appeals Board. These appeals were considered in accordance with the appeals criteria set out in Department Staffing Circular 0007/2012. 205 schools had their appeals upheld by the Staffing Appeals Board. A summary outcome of the appeals is now published on my Department's website. Individual schools are being notified this week of the outcome of their appeals.

My Department's focus is on notifying schools of the outcome of their appeals and to implement the staffing arrangements for the coming school year. The final staffing position for all schools will ultimately not be known until the Autumn. At that stage the allocation process will be fully completed and all appeals to the Staffing Appeals Board will have been considered.

Question No. 79 answered with Question No. 77.

Consultancy Contracts

Niall Collins

Question:

80 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills the amount paid on external public relations and communications consultants; the name of each organisation used; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20780/12]

Since my appointment as Minister for Education and Skills in 2011, my Department has not made any payments to external public relations and communications consultants.

School Curriculum

Anthony Lawlor

Question:

81 Deputy Anthony Lawlor asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason there have been delays with regard to the development or investigative stage of e-portfolios being used for the junior certificate cycle; when he will be in a position to move forward with the concept of e-portfolios; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20820/12]

I am happy to report to the Deputy that there has been no delay. The work on portfolios and e-portfolios is being progressed in the overall context of Junior Cycle Reform.

I have asked the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment to investigate the area of e-Portfolio assessment and the potential role that e-Portfolios might play in a reformed junior cycle. To inform this process, I understand that a background paper is in the final stages of preparation. The paper is to consider the literature on e-Portfolios, how they are defined, what they typically include, and the beneficial role that they can play in learning and assessment. It is to look at the experience of a number of countries where work on e-Portfolios has taken place and highlights the adoption and implementation issues, including technological and administrative issues, that have arisen in these cases. The paper will be completed in May and will be made available online.

The question of portfolios will be taken forward at a pace commensurate with the capacity for change within the system and like other elements of Junior Cycle reform will be implemented on a phased basis.

School Openings

John Lyons

Question:

82 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he can detail in tabular form the names and addresses of the new post-primary schools opened from 2006 to 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20821/12]

The information requested by the Deputy is detailed below as requested:

School Openings 2006-2011

Year Opened

County

Roll No.

School Name and Address

New school / Amalgamation

2006

Limerick

76101I

Gaelcholáiste Luimnigh, c/o Athenaeum Building, 30 Upper Cecil Street, Limerick

New School

2006

Galway

76102K

Gaelcholáiste Athenry, c/o VEC Offices, Coiléar Bán, Athenry, Co. Galway

New School

2006

Co. Cork

91513S

Pobailscoil na Trionóide, Parkmountain, Youghal, Co. Cork

Amalgamation

2006

Donegal

91408V

Pobalscoil Chloich Cheannfhaola, Falcarragh, Co. Donegal

Aonad attached to school

2007

Kildare

68077S

Ardscoil na Trionóide, Athy, Co. Kildare

Amalgamation

2007

Kerry

91511O

Pobailscoil Chorca Dhuibhne, Daingean Ui Chuis, Co. Chiarraí

Amalgamation

2007

Offaly

76105Q

Coláiste na Sionna, Banagher Community College, Banagher, Co. Offaly

Amalgamation

2007

Waterford

68078U

Gaelcholáiste Portlairge, Waterford

New School

2007

Wexford

68080H

Meanscoil Garman, Wexford,

New School

2007

Wicklow

76106S

Gaelcholáiste na Mara, Arklow, Co. Wicklow

New School

2007

Kilkenny

70641K

Coláiste Pobail Osraí, Ormonde Street, Kilkenny

New School

2007

Donegal

76107U

Gaelcholáiste Bhun Cranncha, Bhun Cranncha, Co. Dhún Na nGall

New School

2008

Leitrim

76089V

Mohill Community College, Mohill, Co. Leitrim

Amalgamation

2008

Meath

76103M

Laytown Community College, Laytown, Co. Meath

New School

2008

Dublin

76104O

Donabate Community College, Donabate, Co. Dublin

New School

2008

Dublin 15

76098W

Phibblestown Community College, Phibblestown, Dublin 15.

New School

2009

Laois

91550B

Mountrath Community School, Mountrath, Co. Laois

Amalgamation

2009

Galway

68074M

St. Jarleth’s College, Tuam, Co. Galway

Amalgamation

2009

Dublin

76097U

Adamstown Community College, Adamstown, Co. Dublin

New School

2009

Dublin

76129H

Ardgillan Community College, Castlelands, Balbriggan, Co. Dublin

New School

2009

Dublin

76130P

Luttrellstown Community College, Porterstown, Dublin 15.

New School

2011

Mayo

76150V

Coláiste Pobail Acla, Achill Sound, Westport, Co. Mayo

Amalgamation

2011

Limerick

76093M

Abbeyfeale Community College (Coláiste Íde agus Iosaf), Limerick

Amalgamation

2011

Cork

76090G

Bantry Community College, Main Street, Bantry, Co. Cork

Amalgamation

2011

Wicklow

76099B

St. Joseph’s Abbey, Wicklow Town, Co. Wicklow

Amalgamation

2011

Kildare

91530S

Kildare Town Community School, Kildare Town

Amalgamation

2011

Wexford

76127D

Gorey Community College, Gorey, Co. Wexford

New School

Third Level Fees

Finian McGrath

Question:

83 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a proposed increase in student fees (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20822/12]

Under the terms of my Department's Free Fee Initiative the Exchequer meets the cost of tuition fees in respect of eligible students who are pursuing full-time undergraduate courses of study which are a minimum of two years duration in an approved institution. With effect from the 2011/2012 academic year, a new student contribution charge was introduced in higher education. This charge replaced the Student Services Charge and applies to all full-time students who currently benefit under the ‘free fees' scheme.

Where students are not eligible for free tuition fees, including students attending part-time course, they are liable to pay the appropriate tuition fee as determined by the third level institution. Such institutions are autonomous bodies and, as such, the level of fees to be charged in such cases is a matter for the institution concerned. As the Deputy may also be aware, tax relief is available at the standard rate of taxation in respect of expenditure on fees associated with part-time higher education.

School Staffing

Derek Nolan

Question:

84 Deputy Derek Nolan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the level of compliance with Circular 0031/2011 which was issued last July to discourage retired teachers getting new posts; if whistleblowers can be facilitated with respect to reporting such appointments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20835/12]

Circular 31/2011 details a cascade of measures for recruitment of teachers, prioritising unemployed registered teachers over retired registered teachers, and registered teachers over unregistered persons.

Each principal must report to his or her board of management on a regular basis on the fact that a list of unemployed registered teachers is being maintained, and the circumstances in which he or she has had to engage a registered teacher in receipt of a pension under a public service pension scheme or an unregistered person. Records relating to recruitment and appointment must be made available by the school for inspection by the Department and a copy of such a record must be furnished to the Department upon a request being made for this. The Department has recently initiated a review of compliance with the procedures outlined in 31/2011. Following a random sample of 103 schools, data have been collated in respect of 99 schools. In these 99 schools a total of 736 appointments were made in 2011/12, 12 retired teachers were appointed to cover short-term appointments which equates to 1.6% of the appointments made. A further 5 appointments of retired teachers were made in accordance with the Department's measure to permit the re-employment of teachers who retired between 1 December 2011 and 29 February 2012 and who, immediately before their retirement, had been teaching students preparing to sit the Junior or Leaving Certificate in 2012.

Higher Education Grants

John Browne

Question:

85 Deputy John Browne asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a person (details supplied) in County Wexford will be approved for a higher education grant. [20839/12]

The decision on eligibility for a student grant is a matter for the relevant grant awarding authority. I understand from the awarding authority in this case, County Wexford VEC, that the grant application from the student referred to by the Deputy was approved on the 17th of April 2012.

School Staffing

Brendan Griffin

Question:

86 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if primary main panel rights will be granted to a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20860/12]

The arrangements for panel access for fixed term (temporary), substitute and part-time teachers are set out in Department Circular 0012/2012 which is available on my Department's website. The panels set up in accordance with the arrangements set out in this circular will be used for appointments to full-time permanent teaching posts but only where those posts are not otherwise required to facilitate the redeployment of surplus permanent and CID holding teachers. The closing date for application under this circular was Friday, 20 April, 2012.

My Department intends to notify teachers of the outcome of their applications for panel access in late May, 2012.

Departmental Expenditure

Niall Collins

Question:

87 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the amount spent on hair and make-up by his Department since February 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20698/12]

No money has been spent on hair and make-up by my Department.

Ministerial Transport

Niall Collins

Question:

88 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the amount spent by his Department on drivers and ministerial transport since February 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20714/12]

I have received a total of €12,991 in respect of mileage claims covering the period May 2011-March 2012. I have two civilian drivers who are paid €631.75 per week by my Department. In the period May 2011 to March 2012 they received a combined payment of €66,370. In the same period they received a combined total of €16,246 in travel and subsistence claims. My Department paid €13,512 in Employer PRSI contributions in respect of the two drivers for the period February 2011 to March 2012.

Consultancy Contracts

Niall Collins

Question:

89 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the amount paid on external public relations and communications consultants; the name of each organisation used; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20787/12]

As clarified with the Deputy's office, the question relates to the period since February 2011.

My Department has not made any payments to public relations and communications consultants in the period from February 2011 to date.

Departmental Expenditure

Niall Collins

Question:

90 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the amount spent on hair and make-up by his Department since February 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20696/12]

My Department did not spend any money on hair and make-up since February 2011.

Ministerial Transport

Niall Collins

Question:

91 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the amount spent by his Department on drivers and ministerial transport since February 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20712/12]

The total cost to this Department of ministerial transport for the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, the Minister for Small Business and the Minister for Research and Innovation from 9 March 2011 to 20 April 2012 was €322,377.60. This sum included the following principal costs — the salary costs of the Ministers' civilian drivers, including employer's PRSI contribution, travel and subsistence expenses paid to the drivers in the course of their official duties and mileage expenses paid to Ministers. A breakdown of the total cost by Minister is as follows:

Table

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation

€78,267.57

Minister for Small Business

€131,363.89

Minister for Research and Innovation

€112,746.14

Consultancy Contracts

Niall Collins

Question:

92 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the amount paid on external public relations and communications consultants; the name of each organisation used; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20785/12]

The total spend of my Department and the Offices of my Department on External Public Relations and Communications Consultants and the name of each organisation used for the period 2011 to date is as follows:

Year

Name of Consultant/Organisation

Purpose

Cost

2011

Barberry Limited; trading as Keating and Associates

To provide NERA with Communication Services; including PR; media monitoring; advising on the design; content and production of reports and brochures and assisting with website content.

€18,770

YTD 2012

Barberry Limited; trading as Keating and Associates

To provide NERA with Communication Services; including PR; media monitoring; advising on the design; content and production of reports and brochures and assisting with website content.

€1,283

Small and Medium Enterprises

Pearse Doherty

Question:

93 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the number of persons employed in the small and medium sized business sector; the percentage that this sector of the economy represents as a percentage of GDP; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20794/12]

My Department does not compile statistics on the number of SMEs in operation here or the number of staff they employ. Responsibility for statistical information rests with the Central Statistics Office (CSO). Information received from the CSO shows that the number of persons engaged in small and medium enterprises (employing up to 250 people) in the total business economy was 900,952 in 2009. This represents 69 per cent of all persons engaged in the total business economy (the rest accounted for by large enterprises). Using a total employment figure of 1,887,700 for 2009 from the Quarterly National Household Survey (QNHS), the 900,952 represents 48 per cent of all those employed in the wider economy (NACE Sectors A to U) in 2009.

The gross value added (GVA) generated by small and medium enterprises in the non-financial business economy (NACE sectors B to N — excluding K) was €43.052 billion in 2009. This represents 51 per cent of the GVA generated in the total non-financial business economy (the rest being generated by large enterprises). The Central Statistics Office's "Business inIreland 2009" publication of January 2012, is available at the following website link: http://www.cso.ie/en/media/csoie/releasespublications/documents/services/2009/businessin ireland2009.pdf

Job Protection

Seamus Kirk

Question:

94 Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation further to Parliamentary Question No. 436 of 18 April 2012, if he will clarify the position in relation to the obligation on employers to employees in a transfer situation, to advise them of the legal, economic and social implications for them of the transfer in view of the transfer of a person (details supplied), due to take place on 8 May 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20801/12]

While the rights of employers in transfer situations may vary, depending on the particular characteristics involved, the transfer to which the Deputy refers will have regard to the European Communities (Protection of Employees on Transfer of Undertakings) Regulations 2003 (S.I. No. 131 of 2003). These Regulations provide that the rights and obligations of the original employer, arising from an employment contract in existence at the time of the transfer shall be transferred to the new employer.

The Regulations also require that in a transfer situation, both the original employer and the new employer inform employee representatives of the reasons for the transfer and the date on which it will take effect. In relation to the nature of the information to be provided, the Regulations provide that both the original employer and the new employer must, in accordance with regulation 8 of the Regulations, inform the representatives of their respective employees affected by the transfer, of (1) the date or proposed date of the transfer, (2) the reasons for the transfer, (3) the legal implications of the transfer for the employees and a summary of any relevant economic and social implications of the transfer for them and (4) any measures envisaged in relation to the employees.

The original employer is required to provide this information to the employees' representatives, where reasonably practicable, not later than 30 days before the transfer and, in any event, in good time before the transfer occurs. The new employer must give the information to the employees' representatives, where reasonably practicable, not later than 30 days before the transfer occurs and in any event, in good time before the employees are directly affected by the transfer as regards their conditions of work and employment. If either employer envisages measures in relation to their employees, the employees' representatives must be consulted, where reasonably practicable, not later than 30 days before the transfer occurs and, in any event in good time before the transfer about such measures, with a view to reaching agreement.

The above Regulations are supplemented by the Employee (Provision of Information and Consultation) Act 2006, which provides employees with a general right to request to enter into negotiations and to establish information and consultation arrangements with their employer on matters that directly affect them. This Act applies to employers with at least 50 employees. In the case referred to, I have met with the parties involved and have been assured that a process of consultation, as provided for in the legislation, has commenced.

Public Procurement

Finian McGrath

Question:

95 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will respond to a query from a company (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [20809/12]

The query in this case relates to a contract for the supply of goods which was awarded by a Local Authority. It would not be appropriate for me to comment on specific contracts in the procurement process which are a matter for the procuring authority and the company in question regarding any issues or queries on the awarding of particular contracts.

I am, however, keen to ensure that SMEs have every possible opportunity to compete for public procurement contracts. In this respect, the Action Plan for Jobs contains a number of measures to facilitate SME access to public procurement. These include:

ensuring that pre-qualification criteria (e.g. turnover, insurance thresholds, experience) for public procurement contracts are proportionate,

the assignment by Enterprise Ireland of advisors and mentors to help client companies to prepare better for public procurement opportunities, and

encouraging more SMEs to register on the Government's eTenders website to enable forthcoming procurement opportunities to be brought to their attention.

While the Government's objective is to ensure improved access to procurement for SMEs, ultimately the award of any particular contract is a matter for the procuring authority in question, having regard to the content of the tenders received and the criteria under which they are assessed.

EU Funding

Micheál Martin

Question:

96 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he has requested assistance from the EU in relation to tackling youth unemployment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15193/12]

In December 2011, the European Commission launched a "Youth Opportunities Initiative" in response to the growing problem of youth unemployment across the EU. The Commission's communique of 20 December 2011 set out a number of actions which will be financed directly by the Commission as part of the Initiative. These include measures to be supported by the European Social Fund and by the ERASMUS and Leonardo da Vinci programmes. The Department of Education and Skills is responsible for the management and operation of the European Social Fund in Ireland and for administering the ERASMUS and Leonardo da Vinci programmes. I understand that Department has been examining the potential to provide further support for youth unemployment through these mechanisms.

The Government is responding to the issue of youth unemployment through the measures outlined its labour market initiative, Pathways to Work, which includes various training, education and work experience measures delivered by the Department of Education and Skills and the Department of Social Protection. Many young people will also benefit from the employment opportunities that will arise from the Action Plan for Jobs.

Job Creation

Micheál Martin

Question:

97 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the actions he has taken in relation to reducing costs for business to enable job creation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15192/12]

Tackling the cost of doing business is a shared objective across the whole of Government. Since coming into office, we have taken a number of measures to reduce business costs.

In the Jobs Initiative last May, we halved the rate of Employer's PRSI on earnings up to €356 per week and reduced the lower rate of VAT on certain goods and services, from 13.5% to 9%. The Restaurant Association of Ireland has acknowledged that this reduction has helped support job creation in its sector.

The Action Plan for Jobs 2012, which was published on 13 February, includes an extensive range of measures across Government which will help to reduce costs for businesses and support job creation. These include simplification and extension of the Employer's PRSI exemption scheme, measures to reduce and manage energy costs, and putting downward pressure on prices in areas such as legal services.

From my own perspective, I have undertaken to reform the statutory wage setting mechanism, to benchmark and develop actions to systematically reduce excessive key business costs, and to encourage all professionals to supply the business sector and other consumers with price quotations in advance.

My Department has already reduced business burdens within areas of its own responsibility by 23%, which will yield potential savings of €198 million per annum for business. It is currently engaged in an exercise with seven other Departments and with the Revenue Commissioners on reducing administrative burdens in their areas.

In addition, I wrote to my Ministerial colleagues in March, asking them to examine all charges which are levied on business by their Departments and associated bodies, with a view to identifying which charges can be reduced, or frozen to the end of 2013 or beyond.

My officials are currently preparing a composite overview of the responses from Government Departments and the bodies under their aegis. However, I can confirm, at this stage, that a number of areas have been identified where charges are being reduced or frozen. I will be announcing further details shortly.

I will continue to work systematically with my Ministerial colleagues to ensure that we reduce business costs in every way that we can.

Departmental Programmes

Gerry Adams

Question:

98 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the way he will monitor implementation of the 2012 Action Plan for Jobs; when will the first report on the progress of implementation be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10762/12]

The Action Plan for Jobs 2012 contains over 270 actions for delivery across all 15 Government Departments and 36 State agencies, to support employment creation and retention. Each action is broken down into quarterly measures — or milestones — for delivery, and the body responsible for implementation of those measures is identified.

A Monitoring Committee, comprising representatives from the Department of the Taoiseach, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, my own Department and Forfás, has been established to track the progress of each of the milestones. The Monitoring Committee is supported by a small team in the Department of the Taoiseach.

When the Action Plan was launched in February, the Taoiseach stated that he would publish Progress Reports on the implementation of the Action Plan on a quarterly basis. The first such Progress Report was published on 20 April. It showed that 80 of the 83 measures due to be delivered in the first Quarter of 2012 have been completed. While the 3 remaining measures were not fully completed on schedule, significant progress has been made on these items and I fully expect them to be finalised during the second Quarter. The Progress Report is available on my Department's website, www.djei.ie.

Question No. 99 answered with Question No. 31.

Social Welfare Appeals

Martin Ferris

Question:

100 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) will have their result of their appeal of an invalidity pension. [20641/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 16 February 2012. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. When received, the appeal in question will be referred to an Appeals Officer for consideration as to whether the case may be decided on a summary basis or to hold an 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.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

101 Deputy Paul J. Connaughton asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will issue in relation to a carer’s allowance appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20670/12]

The carer's allowance claim of the person in question was reviewed when the care recipient reached 16 years of age and no longer qualified for domiciliary care allowance. It was decided that the care recipient no longer satisfied the medical criteria for receipt of carer's allowance.

Additional medical evidence was received and assessed, but, based upon the opinion of the department's medical assessor, the deciding officer decided that there was no grounds to revise the original decision.

Accordingly, on 22 February 2012, payment of carer's allowance was stopped. She has been notified of this decision, the reason for it and her right of review and/or appeal to the Chief Appeal's Officer within 21 days.

Further medical evidence has been received and forwarded to the medical assessor for further consideration.

She will be notified directly of the outcome of the review.

Question No. 102 answered with Question No. 16.

Departmental Expenditure

Niall Collins

Question:

103 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Social Protection the amount spent on hair and make-up by her Department since February 2011; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20699/12]

In the period from February 2011 to date, there have been no expenses incurred by my Department in respect of hair and make-up.

Redundancy Payments

Tom Hayes

Question:

104 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Social Protection when redundancy will be paid to a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20701/12]

A redundancy lump sum claim in respect of the person concerned has been awarded and payment will issue directly to the person's nominated bank account in the coming weeks.

Ministerial Transport

Niall Collins

Question:

105 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Social Protection the amount spent by her Department on drivers and ministerial transport since February 2011; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20715/12]

The Government decided in March 2011 to confine the use of State cars from 1 May 2011. Accordingly, I now use my own car for official business. The travel/mileage rates payable depend on the car engine size and also incorporate a number of expense elements associated with the cost of running a car. These cost elements include insurance, full membership of AA/RAC, road tax and licence. The engine size of my car is 1400cc and the rate applicable is 46.25 cent per kilometre. The mileage costs, which I have claimed since 1 May 2011 to 31 March 2012, amount to €8,341.92. I have two civilian drivers, both on a remuneration rate of €631.75 per week. The total salary costs involved to date has been €49,725.70. They may also claim travel and subsistence allowances, in accordance with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform regulations for necessary absences on official duties from home and headquarters. Total cost of travel and subsistence claimed by my drivers to 31 March 2012 is €2,211.33.

The total cost incurred in all of the above amounts to €60,278.95.

Community Development

Dan Neville

Question:

106 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a community employment scheme (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20754/12]

Following changes to the training and materials grant for Community Employment (CE) schemes announced in Budget 2012, the Department has made a commitment that no CE Scheme would close pending the completion of a review. All CE Scheme Sponsors are working with the Department to ensure that there is adequate funding for the continuation of their projects. The baseline amount of the materials/training grant remains at €500 per participant, as announced in the Budget. My officials have discretion to make an amount of up to €1,000 per participant available to schemes in respect of the training and materials grant, subject to individual schemes providing a clear and transparent demonstration of need for this level of funding. The onus is on sponsors to make the case for the appropriate level of the grant for their individual scheme. The level of grant sought will have to be justified by the scheme sponsor and will be subject to verification and agreement by the Department on a case by case basis.

In the case of Ballingarry, officials met the sponsors on 5 April last to discuss their funding needs in detail. The Sponsor Group was asked to provide a detailed breakdown of its requirement to stay viable to the end of the scheme. The Department are awaiting clarification on some issues relating to the costs that it included. However, at the meeting, it was recognised that its situation was untenable and that additional funding would be required. When the outstanding issues are clarified, the Department will be able to put a precise figure on the additional funding to be provided.

Social Welfare Appeals

John McGuinness

Question:

107 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection if an application for invalidity pension now under appeal will be expedited and approved in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny. [20759/12]

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 on 01 May 2012. The person concerned has been notified of the arrangements for the 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.

John McGuinness

Question:

108 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection if an application for disability allowance now under appeal will be expedited in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny. [20760/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the disability allowance claim of the person concerned was disallowed following an assessment by a Medical Assessor who expressed the opinion that she was medically unsuitable for the allowance. An appeal was registered on 16 February 2012 and in accordance with the statutory procedures the relevant department papers and the comments of or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the matter raised in the appeal have been sought. In that context, an assessment by another Medical Assessor will be carried out. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social and Family Affairs and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

John McGuinness

Question:

109 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an appeal for domiciliary care allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow; if the appeal will be approved as a matter of urgency based on medical evidence submitted; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20762/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 15 February 2012. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. When received, the appeal in question will be referred to an Appeals Officer for consideration as to whether the case may be decided on a summary basis or whether to hold an 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.

John McGuinness

Question:

110 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will explain the delay in dealing with an appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny and if a decision will be expedited. [20765/12]

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 27 March 2012 and the appeal will be assigned 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.

Social Welfare Benefits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

111 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an appeal of a decision not to grant carer’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20766/12]

The above named was refused carer's allowance on two separate issues, firstly that she was employed outside the home for more than 15 hours per week, contrary to the conditions of eligibility for the scheme, and secondly on the grounds that the care recipient is not so disabled as to require full-time care and attention as prescribed in regulations. On 25 January 2012, she was notified of this decision and the reasons for it. Additional information was received in respect of the number of hours she works per week and this aspect of her application was subsequently approved. However, her application remained refused on review as the care recipient does not satisfy the medical criteria for receipt of carer's allowance. The person in question was notified accordingly on 9 February 2011. There is no record, to date, of an appeal having been registered in this case.

Employment Support Services

Brian Walsh

Question:

112 Deputy Brian Walsh asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will provide an update on the ongoing review of eligibility criteria for the JobBridge scheme; if she anticipates that the scheme will be extended to those in receipt of allowances in respect of disability; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20770/12]

The National Internship Scheme is currently limited to individuals who are currently on the Live Register and have been in receipt of Jobseekers Allowance/Benefit or are signing on for credits for at least 3 of the last 6 months. Given the scale of the unemployment crisis, it is important that as employment opportunities become available they are taken up by those on the Live Register. The key objective of labour market policy is to keep those on the Live Register close to the Labour Market and prevent the drift into long-term unemployment. This will ensure that Live Register members availing of activation measures such as the National Internship Scheme will, while retaining social welfare unemployment payments and a top up allowance of €50, get an opportunity to engage in the workplace, get work experience and so be in a position to avail of employment opportunities as the economy improves.

For these reasons, it has been proposed as a matter of public policy that eligibility for the scheme be confined to those on the Live Register and in receipt of unemployment payments or signing for credits for 3 of the last 6 months. As such, the policy objective is to prioritise scarce resources on those on the Live Register so as to increase their chances of leaving it thereby ensuring a reduction in Exchequer costs over time. Individuals who are in receipt of a disability allowance however can access the Work Placement Programme, which provides participants with a work experience placement of between two and nine months. During this time participants may be able to retain their social welfare entitlements. In addition, people in receipt of a disability allowance can access a range of other specific programmes, such as the Supported Employment Programme and the Wage Subsidy Scheme. Both of these programmes aim to assist people with a disability to secure and maintain a job in the labour market.

My Department continues to monitor and review the operation of the JobBridge scheme, including its eligibility criteria, on an ongoing basis. The extension of JobBridge to those in receipt of Disability Allowances forms part of this broader review process. The review process is at an advanced stage and it is anticipated that I may be in a position to present formal proposals very shortly.

Community Employment Schemes

Denis Naughten

Question:

113 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Social Protection further to Parliamentary Question No. 186 of 15 December 2011, if she will provide an update; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20771/12]

A financial review of Community Employment (CE) Schemes is underway. This review of CE Schemes has proved to be a valuable exercise for both the schemes themselves and for my Department.

Given the volume and breath of the data being returned, the financial review of CE schemes will take longer than originally envisaged to complete. This will allow more time for schemes to engage with local officials in the finalisation of their respective budgets and for my Department to bring forward improvements to the overall operation of Community Employment which will improve the budgetary situation for schemes. No final allocations of materials and training grants have been made pending the completion of the review.

The existing commitment in relation to the financial support of schemes will continue to apply. Department Officers are supporting any schemes that have identified a requirement for on-going supports while the review is underway.

Public Relations Contracts

Niall Collins

Question:

114 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Social Protection the amount paid on external public relations and communications consultants; the name of each organisation used; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20788/12]

Details of the Department's usage of external public relations and communications companies over the past decade are outlined in the tabular statement below. The Department spent a total of €8,700 over the past ten years on external public relations and communications consultants. Spending has been kept to this minimal level as the Department's press office deals with media queries and public relations matters.

Company

Service Provided

Year

Amount (€)

Carr Communications

Advise on a PR strategy for Press Office

2002

6,500

Carr Communications

Media Skills training

2004

450

Carr Communications

Media Skills training for top management

1/1/2012 to date

1,800

Total:

8,750

Domiciliary Care Allowance Appeals

Michael McGrath

Question:

115 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding domiciliary care allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [20792/12]

The continued entitlement to domiciliary care allowance of the person concerned was reviewed in January 2012. The case was referred to one of the Department's Medical Assessors who reviewed the entitlement based on the medical review form submitted and found that the child was no longer medically eligible for the allowance.

The person concerned was notified of the decision on the 23rd January 2012 and she has appealed the decision. As part of the appeal process, the case has been forwarded to another of the Department's Medical Assessors for further consideration, including a review of any new information supplied. Upon receipt of the Medical Assessor's opinion, the case will be further examined and forwarded for consideration by the Appeals Office, if necessary.

Mortgage Interest Supplement Payments

Gerry Adams

Question:

116 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of applicants for mortgage interest supplement in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and to date in 2012 on a county breakdown and a breakdown by Dublin post code. [20808/12]

The Department does not maintain statistics on the number of mortgage interest supplement applications received.

However, the number of mortgage interest supplement recipients at the end of each year for the period in question is provided in the tabular statement below. Statistics are not available on the number of recipients by Dublin postal code.

Mortgage Interest Supplement Recipients by County

2007 to End March 2012

County

Mar-12

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

Carlow

393

432

414

352

184

87

Cavan

501

519

470

453

262

92

Clare

304

323

359

276

170

78

Cork

1,555

1,726

1,755

1,497

871

533

Donegal

395

434

368

309

177

97

Dublin

4,514

4,665

4,332

3,855

2,257

1,295

Galway

641

681

683

645

364

171

Kerry

223

239

245

192

160

90

Kildare

1,319

1,417

1,365

1,115

514

222

Kilkenny

444

439

450

385

160

86

Laois

289

288

253

150

64

35

Leitrim

69

66

53

50

13

9

Limerick

661

676

647

551

298

149

Longford

99

112

117

82

28

13

Louth

465

475

419

346

147

75

Mayo

677

695

700

594

308

168

Meath

1,443

1,491

1,333

998

438

169

Monaghan

208

202

182

143

78

38

Offaly

307

304

241

145

56

22

Roscommon

339

342

306

263

143

62

Sligo

54

57

50

48

28

12

Tipperary

617

646

605

484

267

147

Waterford

500

525

498

438

229

91

Westmeath

213

232

227

189

101

36

Wexford

1,243

1,326

1,271

986

453

178

Wicklow

644

676

631

555

321

156

Total

18,117

18,988

17,974

15,101

8,091

4,111

Domiciliary Care Allowance Appeals

Willie Penrose

Question:

117 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will take steps to contact the social welfare appeals office with a view to expediting an appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath against the refusal of an application for domiciliary care allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20810/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 12 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 to an Appeals Officer for consideration as to whether the case may be decided on a summary basis or hold an 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.

Rent Supplement Scheme Applications

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

118 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the length of time it takes an application for rent support to be processed; the number of applications currently on hand in her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20849/12]

The Department does not maintain statistics on the length of time taken to process rent supplement applications or the number of applications received.

However, I include a tabular statement showing the number of rent supplement claims awarded during 2011 and during the first quarter of 2012:

Rent Supplement Claims Registered and Awarded

Period

Claims Awarded

2011

63,878

Jan — Mar 2012

12,819

Social Welfare Overpayments

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

119 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the total number of jobseeker’s allowance overpayments currently on hand in her Department; the total amount of moneys involved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20850/12]

The total value of overpayments raised in 2010 amounted to €83.4m in respect of approximately 52,000 cases. Recoveries in that year amounted to €34.5m. The value of overpayments raised in the jobseeker's allowance scheme in 2010 amounted to €12.1m in respect of approximately 15,000 cases and recoveries amounted to €6.3m.

My Department actively pursues the recovery of all overpayments, including the initiation of civil proceedings, where appropriate. The overpayments figures for 2011 will not be available until audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

120 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of staff in her Department engaged in recovering overpayments of moneys made by her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20851/12]

Each of the Department's primary scheme areas and all local offices have a debt management function. The number of staff specifically involved in the collection of debt will depend on the claim-load and the level of overpayments in each of these areas. It is the responsibility of all Departmental officers to review the debt position of a customer at the claim stage, when establishing a customer's entitlement, and to negotiate a repayment plan on outstanding debt.

My Department's policy is to seek the maximum level of repayments from clients, who have received payments in excess of what they were entitled to, in order to encourage prompt repayment of all debts. We are fully committed to recovering 100% of all overpayments.

Effective debt recovery is seen an integral part of the deterrent to fraudulent claiming. Debt holders should be aware that a departmental debt will remain on their records until fully recovered and will result in a reduction of all future entitlements, up to and including state pension. Following the death of a customer who owes a debt, my Department has a claim on any estate remaining. Persons who have a debt and who are no longer dependent on social welfare are required to repay this debt as quickly as possible. My Department actively pursues the recovery of all overpayments, including the initiation of civil proceedings, where appropriate.

Social Welfare Benefits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

121 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of applications for supplementary welfare allowance currently awaiting a decision; the length of time it takes for claims to be processed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20852/12]

The Department does not maintain statistics on the number of applications for supplementary welfare allowance (SWA) currently awaiting a decision. However more than 95% of basic SWA applications are decided and paid within a week.

Social Welfare Appeals

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

122 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of appeals received in respect of all schemes in her Department in the past three weeks; the length of time for such appeals to be decided; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20853/12]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that a total of 1,543 appeals across all schemes were received in the 3 week period 2 April to 20 April 2012. Based on returns for the first quarter of 2012, the average times taken to process appeals decided by summary decision is 22.4 weeks and 40.9 weeks for those requiring 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.

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.

Social Welfare Benefits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

123 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the total number of invalidity benefit applicants refused in her Department in each of the past three years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20854/12]

My reply is as follows:

Year

Claims Received

Claims Disallowed

% Disallowed

2009

7,475

2,933

39%

2010

8,774

4,017

46%

2011

14,621

*4,697

N/A

*The figures shown for claims disallowed in 2011 refers to those dealt with from June to December 2011 only as a breakdown of decisions awarded and disallowed is not available for the period January to end May 2011 as a dual system was in operation prior to migration of all Invalidity Pension Claims to a new computer platform. The number of claims registered during that period was 8,466 and the estimated percentage of claims disallowed (4,697), during the same period was 56%.

It is to be noted that the large increase in claim-load during 2011 is related to the changes made whereby payment of short-term illness benefit is now limited to a maximum of 2 years. As a consequence there has been an increase in the number of claimants seeking to avail of the longer term invalidity pension payment. However such claimants may not satisfy the medical conditions necessary to establish a permanent incapacity to work and/or may not satisfy the social insurance contribution conditions necessary to qualify for an invalidity pension. In such cases claimants can apply for the means tested disability allowance scheme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

124 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of applications for jobseeker’s benefit on hand in her Department from applicants in County Kildare; the length of time to determine such applications; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20855/12]

On 20 April 2012 there were 301 jobseeker's benefit claims pending decision from claimants in County Kildare. The average processing time for jobseeker's benefit claims is 1.86 weeks.

Social Welfare Appeals

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

125 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of domiciliary care applications going forward for oral hearing; the reasons for same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20856/12]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that there are currently 69 domiciliary care applications scheduled for oral hearing.

Oral hearings are granted at the discretion of the Appeals Officer based on the nature and circumstances of the case.

Niall Collins

Question:

126 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for jobseeker’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20862/12]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer having fully considered all the available evidence allowed the appeal, of the person concerned, by way of summary decision. The person concerned was notified of the Appeals Officer decision on 18th April 2012.

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.

Nicky McFadden

Question:

127 Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for Social Protection when a date for social welfare appeal can be expected in respect of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20875/12]

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.

John O'Mahony

Question:

128 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Social Protection when will a review and a decision will be made on an application for domiciliary care allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20878/12]

The continued entitlement to domiciliary care allowance (DCA) of the person concerned was reviewed on 3rd April 2012. The case was referred to one of the Department's Medical Assessors, who reviewed the entitlement of the child based on the medical review form submitted and found that the child was no longer medically eligible for the allowance.

The person concerned was notified of the decision and has now supplied further information in support of her case. An appeal against the decision is currently being registered and as part of the appeal process, the case will be forwarded to another of the Department's Medical Assessors for further consideration, including a review of all new supporting information supplied. Upon receipt of the Medical Assessor's opinion, the case will be further examined by the deciding officer and will be forwarded for consideration by the Appeals Office, if necessary.

Anti-Poverty Strategy

Mick Wallace

Question:

129 Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Social Protection her views on the rate of single parent households at risk of poverty or social exclusion, which is far higher than the EU-15 average, in view of the cuts to one-parent families introduced in budget 2012; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20952/12]

Mick Wallace

Question:

130 Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will commit to protecting one-parent families from further budget cuts in view of the sustained attack on these households which has been carried out over the course of successive austerity budgets including budget 2012; if she will target limited resources towards tackling the high rate of single-parent households that are at risk of poverty and social exclusion; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20953/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 129 and 130 together.

In the past, income support for people of working age, including lone parents, has been passive in nature, with little systematic engagement by the State with the customer. This is now changing. Long-term welfare dependency and passive income support to people of working age are not in the best interests of the recipient, of their children or of society.

Despite significant levels of State spending on one-parent families, as well as improvements made to the OFP scheme over the years, the results have been poor in terms of tackling poverty and social exclusion. Lone parents and their children continue to experience high rates of "consistent poverty". Consistent poverty is the official measure of poverty used by the Government to set the national poverty target in the National Action Plan for Social Inclusion 2007-2016. Consistent poverty is a targeted measure which identifies the population both at-risk-of-poverty (income below 60% of median income) and experiencing basic deprivation (lack two or more basic necessities). EU-SILC figures (2011) show that, in 2010, 9.3% of lone parents in Ireland were experiencing “consistent poverty”. The comparable rate in 2009 was 16.6 per cent and in 2008 was 17.8 per cent. However, the rate of consistent poverty among lone parent households is 50% more than the population as a whole. The national poverty target is to reduce the rate of consistent poverty to between 2 and 4 per cent, with the ultimate aim of eliminating it.

The EU measure of at risk of poverty or social exclusion is a much broader measure of poverty, combining three separate indicators (at-risk-of-poverty, severe material deprivation and low work intensity).

The one-parent family payment (OFP) has played an important role in providing income support to lone parents. Changes have been made to the payment since its introduction in 1991, reflecting the changes taking place in society, the labour market and the expectations and realities of parents' lives, and particularly of mothers, in terms of work and care. These reforms continue that change. They recognise parental choice with regard to the care of young children, while, at the same time, having an expectation that parents will not remain outside of the workforce indefinitely.

It is recognised that the best route out of poverty and social exclusion is through paid employment. Work, and especially full-time work, may not be an option for parents of young children. However, supporting parents to participate in the labour market, once their children have reached an appropriate age, will improve both their own economic situation and the social well-being of themselves and of their families.

These reforms will require a whole of Government response, with regard to the provision of the appropriate education, training, employment and childcare supports including the provision of appropriate after-school care. The development of the National Employment and Entitlement Service (NEES) and the profiling of jobseekers, which is already underway in my Department, will lead to a better identification and understanding of the supports that individual customers need and the extent to which these are available and affordable.

The changes introduced in the Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2012 are being brought in over time. Between now and 2014, the consequences of these changes will be examined on a cross-departmental basis and in consultation with the groups that represent lone parents.

As part of this examination, discussions have already been taking place between officials from my Department and from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs with regard to the development of a policy framework around child care, including after-school care and, in the short-term, the assessment of the extent of the current provision of such care, the costs of such care to parents, and the demand for such services from lone parents.

Pearse Doherty

Question:

131 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Social Protection the actions she is taking in response to the fact that at-risk-of-poverty rates here have increased from 14.1% in 2009 to 15.8% in 2010 according to the latest survey on income and living conditions conducted by the Central Statistics Office and published last month. [19307/12]

The elimination of poverty is a key objective of Government. In this context, the National Action Plan for Social Inclusion 2007-2016 includes a target to reduce the number of people experiencing consistent poverty. People are in consistent poverty if their income is below 60% of median income (at-risk-of-poverty) and they experience two or more items of basic deprivation, out of an 11 item list. The latest data from the Central Statistics Office shows that the rate of consistent poverty was 6.2 per cent in 2010. According to the CSO, this does not represent a statistically significant change on the 2009 figure of 5.5 per cent.

The question refers to the risk at-risk-of-poverty indicator and this is limited in its ability to measure poverty as it measures income only and does not include deprivation measures. The recent trend in this income-only indicator reflects the fall in household income on foot of the economic recession and increased unemployment. The social protection system has played a key role in cushioning the effects of declining household income and limiting a possible rise in poverty indicators. Data from the CSO show that social transfers reduce the at-risk-of-poverty rate from 51 per cent to 15.8 per cent. This equates to a poverty reduction effect from social transfers of 60 per cent (excluding pensions) and 69 per cent (including pensions). According to Eurostat, Ireland has one of the highest poverty reduction effects among EU Member States.

A rapid return to sustainable economic growth and the development of inclusive labour market policies are crucial to reduce poverty and social exclusion. The Government recently published its policy statement on labour market activation called Pathways to Work. The approach is to ensure that as many new job opportunities as possible are filled by those on the Live Register, so that unemployed, in particular the long-term unemployed, can benefit from an improvement in economic conditions. My Department will be playing a key role in this regard through the establishment of the National Employment and Entitlements Service.

Departmental Expenditure

Niall Collins

Question:

132 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the amount spent on hair and make-up by his Department since February 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20687/12]

As the Deputy will be aware, the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht was established on 2 June 2011, following substantial Departmental reconfigurations. I am advised that, since that date, there is no record of any payment by my Department for the purposes referred to by the Deputy.

Ministerial Transport

Niall Collins

Question:

133 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the amount spent by his Department on drivers and ministerial transport since February 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20703/12]

As the Deputy will be aware, the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht was established on 2 June 2011, following substantial Departmental reconfigurations. I am advised that, since that date, there is no record of any payment by my Department for the purposes referred to by the Deputy.

Consultancy Contracts

Niall Collins

Question:

134 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the amount paid on external public relations and communications consultants; the name of each organisation used; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20776/12]

The total amount spent by my Department on public relations companies from 2 June 2011 to 16 April 2012 is €87,569 and this expenditure was incurred in relation to Imagine Ireland, Culture Ireland’s year-long programme of events in America during 2011.

Name of Company

Service Provided

Total payments between 2 June 2011 and 16 April 2012

Zoetrope

Press and publicity services for Imagine Ireland, Culture Ireland’s yearlong programme of events in America during 2011, update of Imagine Ireland website and updating CI social media websites.

€87,569

Total Expenditure

€87,569

Natural Heritage Areas

Brendan Griffin

Question:

135 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht further to Parliamentary Question Nos. 192 and 198 of 18 January 2012 and No. 402 of 31 January 2012, if he will engage with the National Parks and Wildlife Service to expedite the setting of conservation objectives in respect of Valentia Harbour, County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20836/12]

As indicated in my reply to questions in January, my Department is working with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, and the Marine Institute, in the programme of work enabling assessment of licensing applications for aquaculture in Natura sites. My Department is proceeding according to this programme and will publish conservation objectives for Valentia as soon as possible.

Departmental Schemes

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

136 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will provide details of the inspection scheme that is in place for those houses that avail of grant assistance to increase the energy efficiency of the housing stock; if he will provide details of the number of inspections that were carried out in 2010 and 2011 to ensure conformity as part of this scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20666/12]

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

137 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the number of companies that were approved in 2010 and 2011 respectively to carry out works under the home energy grants scheme; if he will provide details of the approvals procedures that were put in place; if the approval system is undertaken by a public authority or a private consortium; if he is satisfied that the approval system is robust enough to ensure that only those companies that are capable of undertaking the works are being approved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20667/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 136 and 137 together.

The Better Energy Homes scheme is administered by Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), and provides financial assistance to householders who wish to improve the energy performance of their homes, saving money, improving comfort and reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions. Fixed grants are provided towards the cost of a range of measures including attic insulation, wall insulation, heating systems upgrades, solar thermal panels and accompanying BER.

Since commencement in March 2009 the scheme has disbursed over €119m in grants and supported the installation of over 300,000 such measures in almost 120,000 homes.

All works carried out under the scheme must be done by installers registered with the SEAI on the basis of a number of prescribed requirements including:-Vouched tax compliance; Vouched insurance cover to undertake works; As appropriate to the measures to be completed, vouched accreditation by NSAI Agrément and RGII; Commitment to undertaking works in accordance with the Contractors Technical Specification and Code of Practice; Commitment to using a contract for all jobs undertaken in the scheme; Full cooperation with the quality assurance scheme; Commitment to detailed terms and conditions set out on registration form.

At the end of 2010 there were 2,756 contractors registered under the scheme, with 2,888 registered at the end of 2011. The numbers vary over the course of any given year on the basis of contractors choosing to continue participation or not. Registrations also automatically lapse when tax clearance or insurance requirements expire. Continued registration is also predicated on full compliance with all requirements under the scheme.

Registration to the scheme is implemented on the SEAI's behalf by an outsourced entity, managed by the SEAI and appointed through public procurement. In order to verify compliance with the requisite standards, under the scheme, SEAI implements a technical inspection regime in accordance with SEAI's detailed Quality Assurance and Disciplinary Procedure. A percentage of properties are inspected by suitably qualified personnel, in accordance with published checklists, to ascertain compliance with relevant aspects of the Technical Specification and Code of Practice. The technical inspections are undertaken by a private company, appointed through public procurement and managed directly by SEAI.

In 2010, 2,497 properties were inspected comprising 3,975 upgrade measures. In 2011 inspectors reviewed 5,274 properties comprising 8,336 measures. The overall technical inspection rate for the scheme has been around 11% of installations. The rate of inspections and the targeting of inspections is being enhanced by SEAI to ensure, among other requirements, that both large and small or new contractors are appropriately and proportionately covered under the technical inspection regime.

While technical inspections are largely, but not exclusively, focused on quality assurance, SEAI is currently implementing much greater use of prepayment verification inspections across all categories of installations and contractors as well as a programme of ongoing enhancement of scheme assurances and controls.

The imperative for ongoing rigorous assessment and enhancement of scheme controls and inspections and audit regimes for all Exchequer grant aid programmes is underlined by SEAI's statement last month that the Authority has identified a number of irregularities associated with one contractor under the Better Energy Homes Scheme. The contractor has been deregistered from the scheme and all related payments suspended pending the outcome of further investigations that are underway. The matter has been referred to An Garda Síochána, and to legal advisors regarding the recovery of monies.

Departmental Expenditure

Niall Collins

Question:

138 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the amount spent on hair and make-up by his Department since February 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20689/12]

My Department incurred no expenditure on hair and make-up over the period in question.

Ministerial Transport

Niall Collins

Question:

139 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the amount spent by his Department on drivers and ministerial transport since February 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20705/12]

Since the formation of the new government in March 2011 and the revised transport arrangements for Ministers introduced in May 2011 the total cost incurred in the provision of transport to the Minister and Minister of State at my Department amounts to €195,033 to date.

This amount consists of salary costs of €163,950 (including employer's PRSI) for four civilian drivers and €31,083 mileage expenses for official travel undertaken by the Minister and Minister of State. The decision to discontinue the provision of State cars for Cabinet Ministers (with the exception of An Taoiseach, An Tánaiste and the Minister for Justice) has reduced the cost to the Exchequer on average by 65%.

Consultancy Contracts

Niall Collins

Question:

140 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the amount paid on external public relations and communications consultants; the name of each organisation used; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20778/12]

The information which the Deputy requested is outlined in the following tabular format for the years 2011 and 2012:

Year

Amount Spent on Public Relations

Company

2011

€40,513.83

Morrow Communications Ltd

€8,349.00

Murray Consultants

€32,670.00

McConnells Advertising Agency

2012 (to mid April)

€10,625

Morrow Communications Ltd

€86,932.71

McConnells Advertising Agency

Mining Industry

Arthur Spring

Question:

141 Deputy Arthur Spring asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the number of tonnes of zinc that has been mined here per annum on average over the past ten years; the amount this zinc has been worth to the Irish economy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20795/12]

During the period 2002 to 2011, an average of 382,000 tonnes of zinc metal, in concentrate, was produced in Irish mines. Mine operators pay royalties to the State based on the tonnage of extracted ore on foot of State mining facilities (leases and licences), the details of which are laid before the Oireachtas twice yearly under the Minerals Development Acts 1940 to 1999.

The most recent economic study of the impact of the geoscience sector in Ireland prepared for the GSI in 2007, "Geoscience: Gaining ground , included a profile of the mining industry in 2006. The report calculated the turnover of €316.5 million, the gross value added (GVA is defined as gross domestic sales less gross industrial costs, that is, the value added by both labour and capital), as being €235.6 million and employment of 1,250 jobs for base metal mining. As the price of metals can vary considerably, the Department intends to update the assessment, to calculate the value of the minerals exploration and mining sector to the Irish economy, with a view in part to determining if and how this can be increased in the future. It is intended to commence this project later this year.

Natural Gas Grid

Arthur Spring

Question:

142 Deputy Arthur Spring asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the number of barrels of oil equivalent per day of natural gas brought ashore per annum on average over the past ten years as a result of drilling in Irish waters; the amount of money this gas has been worth to the economy here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20796/12]

Arthur Spring

Question:

143 Deputy Arthur Spring asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the number of barrels of oil that have been brought ashore per annum on average over the past ten years as a result of drilling in Irish waters; the amount this oil has been worth to the economy here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20797/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 142 and 143 together.

The only commercial discoveries of hydrocarbons made in the Irish offshore to date are the three producing gas fields (Kinsale, Ballycotton and Seven Heads) in the Kinsale area, along with the Corrib gas field which is currently under development. There have been no commercial discoveries of oil.

Production from the Kinsale area gas fields commenced in 1978 with peak production occurring in the four year period from 1993 to 1996 at an average rate of 96 billion cubic feet (bcf) of gas per annum. The three gas fields are nearing depletion and currently supply approximately 10 bcf per annum or 5% of Ireland's annual gas requirements. The remaining 95% is imported through the gas interconnectors from Scotland.

Regarding the benefits to the Irish economy, production from the Kinsale fields was the catalyst for the development of the gas transmission network in Ireland. The three gas fields have also made a significant contribution to Ireland's security of energy supply since production commenced 1978; though this has fallen off in recent years as the fields near depletion. In common with most major infrastructure projects, the development phase of a petroleum production project give rise to significant employment opportunities with a smaller number of high quality jobs being created on a permanent basis during the production phase.

In terms of the direct financial contribution to the State, profits from the petroleum production are taxed at a rate of 25% while royalties from the Kinsale and Ballycotton gas fields are payable to the State at a rate of 12.5%. While the amount paid in tax is a matter between the operators of the gas fields and the Revenue Commissioners, I can advise that the amount received in royalties since production commenced is €191.7 million.

The following table sets out the volume of gas produced and royalties received in the 10-year period to the end of 2010. While natural gas is sometimes expressed using barrel of oil equivalent units, this measurement relates solely to the energy content of natural gas when compared to oil. Barrel of oil equivalent units are not relevant when comparing the price of gas to the price of oil. For comparison purposes the energy content of 5,800 cubic feet of natural gas equates to roughly 1 barrel of oil equivalent.

Gas Production and Royalty Payments for the 10 year period to end 2010

Year

Production (BCF)

Royalties received (000)

2001

33

8,180

2002

29

7,306

2003

22

4,961

2004

32

4,900

2005

21

5,080

2006

15

12,231

2007

15

6,389

2008

14

8,153

2009

11

2,114

2010

10

2,572

Total

201

61,885

Energy Conservation

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

144 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the number of persons who have qualified for Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland grants to improve their home insulation in the years 2009, 2010, 2011 and to date in 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20871/12]

The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) administers the Better Energy Programme. My Department is advised by the SEAI that almost 119,700 homes have received energy efficiency upgrades under Better Energy: Homes since the scheme was launched in May 2009.

The Better Energy: Homes programme is demand-led and open to all homeowners of dwellings built before 2006. The Better Energy: Homes programme provides support to homeowners towards the installation of attic and wall insulation, and heating system upgrades including solar thermal with the works being undertaken by privately appointed contractors. The following table outlines the numbers of applications to Better Energy: Homes from 2009-2012 up to 31 March 2012. This also includes situations where a homeowner makes an application, accepts the offer but subsequently decides not to proceed with the application.

Year

Applications

2009

40,808

2010

68,854

2011

58,329

2012 (up to 31 March)

8,250

Total

176,241

The Better Energy: Warmer Homes scheme is available to low-income households and is delivered through a range of Community Based Organisations (CBOs), augmented by a panel of private contractors in order to ensure national coverage. The table below outlines the number of homes who have received upgrades under the Better Energy: Warmer Homes scheme from 2009-2012 up to 31 March 2012.

Year

Applications

2009

16,240

2010

24,291

2011

20,388

2012 (up to 31 March)

817

Total

61,736

The SEAI, at my request, is analysing the possible factors underlying the significant decline in applications to both schemes to date in 2012 and I expect to receive their findings shortly.

Noise Pollution

Arthur Spring

Question:

145 Deputy Arthur Spring asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the authority responsible for dealing with loud noise at night caused by dogs which are kept on a private residence in an urban environment; the process one should go through in order to have the problem dealt with; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20867/12]

In the first instance contact should be made with the Local Authority regarding loud noise caused by dogs.

If following the intervention of the Local Authority, a solution cannot be reached, a complaint can be made to the District Court about the nuisance caused by excessive barking of a dog. The legislative provisions for this are set out in Section 25 of the Control of Dogs Acts, 1986 and Section 108 of the Environmental Protection Agency Act, 1992. A person making such a complaint to the District Court must first serve notice on the occupier of the premises in which the dog is kept. Forms for this purpose are available from local authorities.

Under the Control of Dogs Act 1986 and 1992, a hearing can be arranged in the District Court at which the person affected by the noise and the dog owner attend. The District Court can make an order requiring the reduction of excessive barking by a dog, can limit the number of dogs that can be kept on a premises or can direct that a dog be delivered to a dog warden as an unwanted dog.

Local Authorities also have powers to investigate complaints about neighbourhood noise that affects quality of life under Section 108 of the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992 and the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992 (Noise) Regulations 1994.

Water Charges

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

146 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding premises in which water meters are already installed (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20643/12]

James Bannon

Question:

147 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the constraints that have been put in place to ensure that the water metering, for which the public is being asked to foot the bill, will be the most up-to-date available and on-street with the least intrusion on private property and will not repeat the departmental error in relation to the purchasing of e-voting machines, which were obsolete before they were installed and cost the taxpayer in excess of €55 million; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20669/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 146 and 147 together.

I refer to the reply to Question Nos. 489, 498, 508, 511, 513, 539 and 542 of 24 April 2012 which sets out the position in this matter.

Departmental Expenditure

Niall Collins

Question:

148 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the amount spent on hair and make-up by his Department since February 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20692/12]

My Department has not incurred any expenditure on hair and make-up since February 2011.

Ministerial Transport

Niall Collins

Question:

149 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the amount spent by his Department on drivers and ministerial transport since February 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20708/12]

My Department has spent €198,243.97 on Ministerial car transport arrangements since the formation of the Government.

Local Authority Charges

Paschal Donohoe

Question:

150 Deputy Paschal Donohoe asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the reason that residents in an area (details supplied) were exempt from the household charge but residents in another location were still liable despite its unfinished condition; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20746/12]

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.

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. 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 significantly as my Department continues to work with local authorities and other stakeholders to resolve outstanding issues, including through the Public Safety Initiative.

Timmy Dooley

Question:

151 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if the persons who paid the household charge, but were later found to be not liable will receive a refund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20752/12]

The Local Government (Household Charge) Act 2011 provides the legislative basis for the household charge. Under the Act, an owner of a residential property on the liability date of 1 January 2012 is liable to pay the household charge, unless otherwise exempted or entitled to claim a waiver. The household charge is on a self-assessment basis and it is a matter for an owner of a residential property on the liability date to determine if he/she has a liability and, if so, to declare that liability and pay the household charge.

Application for a refund of a household charge can be made by completing the refund form HC12B and returning it to the Household Charge Support Centre, PO Box 12168, Dublin 1. This form is available from the Household Charge Support Centre at the above address — LoCall 1890-357357 or 01-2224000. Alternatively the form may be downloaded from www.householdcharge.ie or obtained from local authorities.

Construction Industry

John McGuinness

Question:

152 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government further to Question No. 585 of 2 February 2010, if he will confirm his policy and plans in the area of building regulations; his plans to further amend the various acts quoted in that reply; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20753/12]

In July 2011, I announced a number of measures to be advanced by my Department and local authorities with a view to improving compliance with, and oversight of, the requirements of the Building Regulations.

In broad terms the measures will involve:

(a) the introduction of mandatory certificates of compliance by builders and designers of buildings confirming that the statutory requirements of the Building Regulations have been met;

(b) the lodgement of drawings at both commencement and completion of construction, demonstrating how the building has been designed and built to comply with all parts of the Building Regulations;

(c) more efficient pooling of building control staff and resources across the local authority sector to ensure more effective oversight of building activity;

(d) standardised approaches and common protocols to ensure nationwide consistency in the administration of building control functions;

(e) better support and further development of the building control function nationwide.

I have recently released, for public consultation, proposed Building Control (Amendment) Regulations which will provide for mandatory certification and the lodgement of drawings as referred to at (a) and (b) above. The draft regulations and an explanatory document to inform the public consultation process are currently available on the Department's website www.environ.ie. The closing date for submissions in relation to the proposed regulations is 24 May 2012.

The other measures referred to above, relevant to more meaningful oversight of building activity by building control authorities and improved functioning of building control authorities, are being advanced separately by local authorities in consultation with the Department in the context of the wider programme of achieving greater efficiencies in the local government system.

Mandatory certification, lodgement of drawings and improved inspection arrangements as outlined above are key reforms which, I believe, will have the capacity to improve the quality of buildings and will lead to further strengthening of the regulatory regime as early as possible in 2012.

Consultancy Contracts

Niall Collins

Question:

153 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the amount paid on external public relations and communications consultants; the name of each organisation used; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20781/12]

No external public relations and communications consultants have been engaged by me or by Ministers of State in my Department since March 2011.

Local Authority Charges

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

154 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No. 143 of 19 April 2012, the amount of money it will cost directly and indirectly to write to 700,000 persons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20847/12]

The Local Government (Household Charge) Act 2011 and the Local Government (Household Charge) Regulations 2012 provide the legislative basis for the household charge. Under the legislation, an owner of a residential property on the liability date of 1 January 2012 is liable to pay the household charge by 31 March 2012, unless otherwise exempted or entitled to claim a waiver. The household charge is on a self-assessment basis and it is a matter for an owner of a residential property on the liability date to determine if he/she has a liability and, if so, to declare that liability and pay the household charge, unless otherwise exempted or entitled to claim a waiver.

Under Section 12 of the Act, it is a function of a local authority to collect household charges and late payment penalties due to it and all household charges and late payment penalties imposed and payable to a local authority are under the care and management of the local authority concerned.

As such, it would be a matter for each county and city council to identify and to decide to make contact with those households who may have an outstanding liability to the household charge reminding them to discharge their liability and avoid the application of further late payment penalties. The quantum of the costs arising in the context of written communications to such households would be a matter for the councils concerned.

Crime Prevention

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

155 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Justice and Equality, in view of the Garda Representative Association’s condemnation of him, accusing him of being soft on crime, if he has any proposals to get tough on crime and on persons who profiteer from crime and on the profits of crime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20644/12]

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

156 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if, in view of the Garda Representative Association condemnation of him and his poor record on crime, in which it reminded him of his previous statement when in opposition where he stated vast areas were becoming lawless wasteland, he has any plans to deal with these areas which have been identified as trouble spots when it comes to crime and policing in general; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20645/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 155 and 156 together.

The suggestions referred to by the Deputy are, of course, baseless.

It should be noted that the Central Statistics Office crime statistics for 2011 show a welcome decrease in 11 of the 14 crime groups compared with 2010. These statistics reflect the capacity of An Garda Síochána, which continues to receive substantial resources, to respond effectively to emerging crime trends.

While some categories of property crime are up, the overall trend shows a decrease in most types of crime, including homicide, assault, criminal damage, and drug and public order offences.

I particularly welcome the reduction of more than a quarter in the number of murders. This reflects in part a reduction in the number of gang related killings in 2011, against a backdrop of significant enforcement as well as legislative measures to tackle and disrupt serious organised crime. In this regard, I have made it clear to the Garda Commissioner that I am open to considering any additional changes in the law which the Gardaí believe would be helpful in tackling the activities of organised criminals.

An Expert Group, established under the auspices of my Department, is currently engaged in a comprehensive review of the Proceeds of Crime legislation with a view to identifying possible improvements which would serve to strengthen the operation of the Criminal Assets Bureau.

A number of matters are being reviewed by the Group including decreasing the amount of time which must elapse before criminal assets which have been frozen become the property of the State; increasing the powers of receivers over properties so as to immediately deprive criminals of the use of those properties; short term seizure of assets believed to be the proceeds of crime pending determination by the courts and further improving measures supporting international cooperation.

When that work concludes later this year it is my intention to make available, in due course, the outcome of that review and to bring forward my proposals in the normal way.

As the Deputy will be aware, I have also commenced the Criminal Law (Defence and the Dwelling) Act 2011, which clarifies the law concerning the defence of the home.

Furthermore, and within eight week of taking up office, I moved urgently to draft and seek Government approval to the introduction of new legislation to tackle white collar crime. This new legislation, the Criminal Justice Act 2011, was enacted on 2 August 2011. Its main purpose is to address delays in the prosecution and investigation of complex white collar crime by improving certain important procedural matters and strengthening Garda investigative powers.

The details of the policing response to crime and lawlessness is of course an operational matter for the Garda authorities. However, I can inform the Deputy that all crime trends are monitored closely by Garda management, with appropriate intelligence-led initiatives put in place to target various types of crimes and I have every confidence that the Gardaí will continue to provide a robust response to criminal activity. The fact is that, week in week out, the Gardaí are successfully detecting offenders and bringing those people before the Courts and securing convictions. An Garda Síochána is also further disrupting criminal activity through significant seizures of drugs and firearms, with an estimated €65.5m worth of drugs and a total of 737 firearms seized last year.

In addition, the Deputy will also be aware of the Commissioner's recent announcement concerning the introduction of a new operation, Operation Fiacla , aimed at tackling mobile gangs involved in burglaries around the country as part of the response to recent crime trends. I cite this as simply being one of a wide range of targeted operations which An Garda Síochána has in place and which are making a real impact in terms of community safety throughout the country.

I can further inform the Deputy that I intend to build on existing work in order to put in place a National Anti-Crime Strategy, arising from the White Paper on Crime consultation process. This will provide a strategic framework for all of the measures in place to tackle crime, including prevention, intervention and enforcement measures, as well as measures to support victims. My intention is to publish this Strategy later this year and that it will help to guide our work to tackle crime into the future.

Garda Stations

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

157 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if, in view of the Garda Representative Association condemnation of him and its call upon him not to close any more Garda stations, he will review his statement whereby he stated Garda stations were not required to police the countryside; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20646/12]

I am at a loss to understand the basis for the Deputy's assertion that I stated that Garda stations are not required to police the countryside.

What is at issue is not whether we need Garda stations, because of course we do, but whether we need the 703 Garda stations we have had more or less since the beginning of the State, a time when transport, communications and technology were vastly inferior to what we have today. This is also a very high number by international standards. Scotland, for example, a directly comparable jurisdiction, has less than half that number of police stations.

The Garda Commissioner, in his Policing Plan for 2012, proposed the closure this year of 39 Garda stations. Many of these stations were in any event only open for limited periods and 8 of them were completely non-operational, some for many years. In the Policing Plan the Garda Commissioner comments that "these decisions were only made after careful analysis and research and I am confident that this action will result in a more efficient delivery of policing services."

The purpose of these changes is to deploy members of the Garda Síochána more efficiently and to maximise the number available for front line operational duty, and that is an objective that everyone should support.

Visa Applications

Jack Wall

Question:

158 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the reasons that persons (details supplied) have being refused a visa to visit their son in Ireland in view of the fact that he has never had any dependency on the State in the 12 years that he has resided in Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20679/12]

The persons referred to by the Deputy created a ‘C type', i.e. short-stay, visa application on-line on 7 March, 2012. Following full consideration by a Visa Officer the application was refused on 11 April, 2012 as the reason for applying for the visa was contrary to general policy. Visas are not generally granted to dependent family members over the age of 18 to join persons granted residency in the State. Prior to a decision being reached clarification in relation to the type of visa being applied for in this case was sought from the reference in the State and it became apparent that the actual purpose of the journey to Ireland was different to that described in the visa application.

It is of course open to the person concerned to submit an appeal visa application prior to 11 June 2012. If doing so, the applicant should address the above-mentioned issue.

Departmental Expenditure

Niall Collins

Question:

159 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the amount spent on hair and make-up by his Department since February 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20697/12]

I can inform the Deputy that my Department has not incurred any expenditure on hair or make-up since February 2011.

Ministerial Transport

Niall Collins

Question:

160 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the amount spent by his Department on drivers and ministerial transport since February 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20713/12]

As the Deputy will be aware, the Government introduced a number of changes for the provision of Office Holder transport during 2011. One of the consequences of that decision was that the transport arrangements in place for Ministers of State became applicable to Government Ministers, subject to very limited exceptions on security grounds. In addition, it was decided that former Presidents and Taoisigh would only be supplied with official transport for important State occasions. The revised transport arrangements came into operation for Government Ministers on 1st May 2011 and for former Office Holders on 16th June 2011.

The Garda Commissioner is the Accounting Officer for the Garda Vote. In that context, I am informed by the Garda authorities that records in relation to the cost of providing Office Holder transport have not been maintained in a manner which would allow for the identification of costs associated with individual Office Holders. However, the Garda authorities have indicated that total expenditure on the provision of Office Holder transport in the period February 2011 to March 2012 was €4,625,296. The costs arising in 2011 included costs associated with this service prior to and after the change of Government, including under the new transport arrangements which have been introduced.

In 2010 expenditure on Office Holder transport amounted to €7.5m. In the circumstances significant savings have been achieved within the Garda Vote and I also understand that overall the revised arrangements have considerably reduced the level of expenditure on Ministerial transport.

Garda Districts

Dara Calleary

Question:

161 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to amalgamate Garda districts within the Carlow-Kildare Garda division, which, if any, Garda stations will be affected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20724/12]

Dara Calleary

Question:

162 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to amalgamate Garda districts within the Waterford-Kilkenny Garda division, which, if any, Garda stations will be affected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20725/12]

Dara Calleary

Question:

163 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to amalgamate Garda districts within the Cavan-Monaghan Garda division, which, if any, Garda stations will be affected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20726/12]

Dara Calleary

Question:

164 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to amalgamate Garda districts within the Clare Garda division, which, if any, Garda stations will be affected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20727/12]

Dara Calleary

Question:

165 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to amalgamate Garda districts within the Cork Garda division; which, if any, Garda stations will be affected. [20728/12]

Dara Calleary

Question:

166 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to amalgamate Garda districts within the Cork City Garda division; which, if any, Garda stations will be affected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20729/12]

Dara Calleary

Question:

167 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to amalgamate Garda districts within the Donegal Garda division; which, if any, Garda stations will be affected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20730/12]

Dara Calleary

Question:

168 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to amalgamate Garda districts within the Dublin Garda division; which, if any, Garda stations will be affected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20731/12]

Dara Calleary

Question:

169 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to amalgamate Garda districts within the Galway Garda division; which, if any, Garda stations will be affected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20732/12]

Dara Calleary

Question:

170 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to amalgamate Garda districts within the Kerry Garda division; which, if any, Garda stations will be affected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20733/12]

Dara Calleary

Question:

171 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to amalgamate Garda districts within the Limerick Garda division; which, if any, Garda stations will be affected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20734/12]

Dara Calleary

Question:

172 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to amalgamate Garda districts within the Laois-Offaly Garda division; which, if any, Garda stations will be affected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20735/12]

Dara Calleary

Question:

173 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to amalgamate Garda districts within the Longford-Roscommon Garda division; which, if any, Garda stations will be affected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20736/12]

Dara Calleary

Question:

174 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to amalgamate Garda districts within the Westmeath Garda division; which, if any, Garda stations will be affected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20737/12]

Dara Calleary

Question:

175 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to amalgamate Garda districts within the Meath Garda division; which, if any, Garda stations will be affected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20738/12]

Dara Calleary

Question:

176 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to amalgamate Garda districts within the Louth Garda division; which, if any, Garda stations will be affected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20739/12]

Dara Calleary

Question:

177 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to amalgamate Garda districts within the Mayo Garda division; which, if any, Garda stations will be affected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20740/12]

Dara Calleary

Question:

178 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to amalgamate Garda districts within the Sligo-Leitrim Garda division; which, if any, Garda stations will be affected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20741/12]

Dara Calleary

Question:

179 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to amalgamate Garda districts within the Tipperary Garda division; which, if any, Garda stations will be affected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20742/12]

Dara Calleary

Question:

180 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to amalgamate Garda districts within the Wexford Garda division; which, if any, Garda stations will be affected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20743/12]

Dara Calleary

Question:

181 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to amalgamate Garda districts within the Wicklow Garda division; which, if any, Garda stations will be affected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20744/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 161 to 181, inclusive, together.

As the Deputy is aware, the Commissioner's Policing Plan for 2012, which I laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas on 5 December 2011, sets out, among other things, plans for the amalgamation of Garda Districts. On 29 April 2012 the Garda Districts of Abbeyleix and Portlaoise in the Laois-Offaly Garda Division and Laytown and Ashbourne in the Meath Garda Division will be amalgamated and form the new Portlaoise Garda District and Ashbourne Garda District respectively. The Policing Plan for 2013 has not yet been prepared and therefore it is not possible to say at this stage what it may contain.

Liquor Licensing Laws

Finian McGrath

Question:

182 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will implement section 9 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act which would make the structural separation of alcohol a statutory requirement as well as introducing a ban on below cost selling. [20748/12]

The position is that during the period leading up to enactment of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2008, bodies representing the mixed trading sector proposed implementation of a voluntary code of practice with an independent audit and oversight mechanism as an alternative to section 9 of the Act. A code of practice was subsequently drawn up and agreed between the Departments of Health and Children and Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the mixed trading sector.

A new body — Responsible Retailing of Alcohol in Ireland Ltd. (RRAI) — was established by the mixed trading sector to oversee implementation of the Code and Mr. Padraic White was appointed as independent Chairperson of RRAI. Following receipt of Mr. White's third Compliance Report on the RRAI Code of Practice on the Display and Sale of Alcohol in Mixed Trading Premises in October last, I launched a public consultation process inviting views on the Report and, more generally, on the voluntary approach to implementing structural separation of alcohol products in such premises. I expect to be in a position to seek Government approval for proposals relating to future arrangements for the display and sale of alcohol products in mixed trading outlets in the coming weeks.

As regards restrictions on below cost selling of alcohol products, the recently published Report of the National Substance Misuse Strategy did not recommend such restrictions due to anticipated enforcement difficulties. The Report did however recommend the introduction of a legislative basis for minimum pricing per gram of alcohol. I understand that this proposal is being actively considered by the Department of Health in the context of the development of an Action Plan to address the Steering Group's recommendations.

Proposed Legislation

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

183 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will consider renaming the Mental Capacity Bill the Legal Capacity Bill in order that the title is as non-discriminatory as possible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20749/12]

The Short Title, along with other issues, is under consideration in finalising the text of the Bill which I expect to bring to Government for approval in the coming weeks.

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

184 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will include the right to advance directives within the Mental Capacity Bill in order that persons can plan ahead for times of acute mental ill health; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20750/12]

The Minister for Health has policy responsibility for mental health care. However, I can inform the Deputy that the Law Reform Commission excluded legislative reform for advance care directives involving mental health from the recommendations made in its 2009 report on Bioethics: Advance Care Directives. The Commission's view was that a separate analysis was required including the impact of the specific legislative framework contained in the Mental Health Act 2001, and the developing work of the Mental Health Commission in this area.

The Scheme of the Mental Capacity Bill published by my Department made no provision for mental health advance directives. The issue the Deputy raises remains a matter for further consideration.

Consultancy Contracts

Niall Collins

Question:

185 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the amount paid on external public relations and communications consultants; the name of each organisation used; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20786/12]

There are no records to indicate that there were any payments made to External Public Relations or Communications Consultants by my Department during the period February 2011 to date.

Public Liability Insurance

Terence Flanagan

Question:

186 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if there are any plans to bring about changes in the law in order that public liability insurance is made compulsory; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20832/12]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to him in parliamentary question No. 57 of Wednesday, 21 March 2012. Policy relating to the area of public liability insurance does not fall within my remit as Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence.

Crime Levels

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

187 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of burglaries reported to gardaí in the R district of the Dublin region for the years 2011 and to date in 2012; the number of persons arrested and charged to date; the number of successful convictions secured to date; the additional measures and resources gardaí in the district are taking to tackle same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20868/12]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the R District consists of the Garda Sub-Districts of Coolock, Swords and Malahide. I am further informed that crime trends nationally, including burglary, are being monitored closely by senior Garda management with appropriate intelligence led initiatives being put in place to target this type of criminality. The Deputy will be aware of the Commissioner's recent announcement concerning the introduction of a new operation, Operation Fiacla , aimed at tackling mobile gangs involved in burglaries around the country.

In addition to these measures, Operation Acer was established in March 2012 in response to the recent increase in burglaries in the Dublin Metropolitan Region (DMR). The objective of this regional operation is to have a focused and integrated approach to criminals involved in committing burglaries by analysing specific target areas so that resources can be adequately deployed where necessary. This operation provides both a preventative and detection element and focuses on geographical areas and specific targets.

In combating burglaries in the R District, local Garda management has directed that regular patrols, Community Policing Units, Detective Units and Special Resource Units conduct checkpoints in areas of high incidents and in areas identified through analysis as vulnerable to this type of crime. In addition, enhanced case management has been introduced in relation to prolific offenders. This enables Gardaí to manage current charges before the Courts more effectively and to raise objections to bail on the grounds of re-offending, or on the basis of warrant history. Another valuable tool being utilised by An Garda Síochána is the Automatic Number Plate Recognition system (ANPR) present in Garda vehicles. This is being used to target suspect vehicles and routes used by criminals.

The ongoing work of Local Community Policing units allows Gardaí to visit and advise residents of the incidents of burglaries in their area, and to advise them of appropriate crime prevention strategies. In relation to the statistics requested by the Deputy. the Garda Síochána Act 2005 makes provision for the compilation and publication of crime statistics by the Central Statistics Office, as the national statistical agency, and the CSO has established a dedicated unit for this purpose. I have requested the CSO to provide relevant statistics directly to the Deputy.

Defence Forces Personnel

Terence Flanagan

Question:

188 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Defence the position regarding age restrictions in the Defence Forces band; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20831/12]

A competition for the enlistment of instrumentalists in the Defence Forces School of Music is currently underway. The closing date for receipt of applications was 22 April 2012. The age requirement applicable to this competition is that candidates must be not less than 17 years of age and must be under 28 years of age on the date of enlistment. As the age requirement for this competition is of general application it is not possible at this stage to amend the conditions as advertised.

Departmental Expenditure

Niall Collins

Question:

189 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Defence the amount spent on hair and make-up by his Department since February 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20690/12]

My Department has not incurred any expenditure on hair and make up since February 2011.

Ministerial Transport

Niall Collins

Question:

190 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Defence the amount spent by his Department on drivers and ministerial transport since February 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20706/12]

In accordance with Government Decision of 15 March 2011, I retain a State car and Garda drivers in my capacity as the Minister for Justice and Equality. The Government Chief Whip and Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach and the Department of Defence, Paul Kehoe T.D., is assigned two civilian drivers who were appointed in May 2011. The costs associated with the drivers since May 2011 is set out below. Any mileage and car related expenses paid to Minister of State Kehoe are a matter for the Department of the Taoiseach.

Table

Pay Related Costs

€76,904.05

Travel and Subsistence Expenses

€17,941.53

Consultancy Contracts

Niall Collins

Question:

191 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Defence the amount paid on external public relations and communications consultants; the name of each organisation used; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20779/12]

My Department has not incurred any expenditure on external public relations or communications consultants since I took office in March 2011.

Departmental Expenditure

Niall Collins

Question:

192 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the amount spent on hair and make-up by his Department since February 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20686/12]

Ministerial Transport

Niall Collins

Question:

193 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the amount spent by his Department on drivers and ministerial transport since February 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20702/12]

The total expenditure by my Department on Ministerial drivers and Ministerial transport expenses since February 2011 to date is €254,168.08. This amount includes the salary and subsistence costs of the drivers as well as the mileage expenses and transport costs for Ministers when on official business. Expenditure relates to claims submitted which do not include recent periods.

Common Agricultural Policy

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

194 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position regarding the farming industry (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20720/12]

The European Commission's proposals for the reform of the CAP post-2013 include a proposal to use 2014 as a reference year for establishing entitlements to future direct payments. I am, of course, aware that this proposal, as currently formulated, could create a number of problems both in the land rental market up to 2014 and in the establishment of entitlements.

Following my earlier contacts with the Commission on this issue — indeed before the proposals were finalised — I secured an improvement to the initial proposals in the form of an activation clause which ties the award of entitlements in 2014 to farming activity in 2011. I also raised the matter again with Commissioner Ciolos during his visit to Dublin in January, and I will continue to do so in my ongoing contacts with Member State colleagues and with the Commission.

I have advised farmers that they should not rush into investment or long-term leasing decisions on the basis of the current proposals. Detailed clarification and further negotiation remains to be done in this area. My objective at all times will be to ensure that the system of entitlements that is finally agreed will be in the best interests of productive and active farmers.

Afforestation Programme

John McGuinness

Question:

195 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if an application for a felling licence will be issued to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; if he will respond to the persons correspondence as a matter of urgency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20761/12]

The felling licence, applied for by the applicant,was issued to him on 12 January 2012. It was sent to the address for correspondence specified by him on the licence application form. The application was made in August 2011 but had to be referred for observations to Forestry Inspectorate and then to the National Parks and Wildlife Service before the Forest Service could issue the licence. I am informed that a query, received from the applicant on 16 April 2012, was replied to by the Forest Service on 17 April 2012 informing him that the licence was dispatched in January 2012.

Grant Payments

Denis Naughten

Question:

196 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when a person (details supplied) in County Roscommon will be awarded payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20768/12]

An application under the Single Payment Scheme/Disadvantaged Areas Scheme was received from the person named on the 13 April 2011. This application was selected for and was the subject of a Ground Eligibility/Cross Compliance Inspection.

In the vast majority of inspected cases, including this case, amendments had to be made to the maps in order that the Land Parcel Identification System that is used for making payments to farmers is kept up-to-date.

This process was completed and payment to the person named under the Disadvantaged Area Scheme issued on the 29 December 2011 with payment under the Single Payment Scheme issuing on 5 January 2012.

Consultancy Contracts

Niall Collins

Question:

197 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the amount paid on external public relations and communications consultants; the name of each organisation used; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20775/12]

My Department does not employ external public relations companies. Public relations advice, where required is provided by my Department's Press Office. It is not possible to provide costs for this service, as the work is carried out as part of the standard duties of the staff involved.

Hazardous Waste Sites

Catherine Murphy

Question:

198 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of times the committee on clean up options for the former Irish Steel, ISPAT, site on Haulbowline Island, County Cork, has met; the dates of such meetings involved; the timescale for this group to finish its work; the budget required for remaining remedial works and where funding for this budget is to be sourced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20826/12]

I have been authorised by the Government Decisions to take responsibility for overseeing the submission of an application to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regularise the licensing status of the East Tip of the Ispat site in relation to the hazardous waste deposited there. In this context I established two groups. The Working Group has been established to advise and assist me and is chaired by an official of my Department. The Group consists of officials from Departments of Environment, Community and Local Government; Defence; Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation; Public Expenditure and Reform; Cork County Council and the Office of Public Works.

The second is a Steering Group to oversee the licence application and to act as a consultative forum for interested parties, to reflect the concerns of the community and to represent the public interest and the stakeholders. The Group is chaired by me with membership from the Naval Service, Cork Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment (CHASE), Port of Cork, National Maritime College, local public representatives and the Working Group.

The Steering Group has met on three occasions to date — 29 July 2011 and 28 October 2011 and 24 February 2012. The Working Group has met on four occasions to date — 29 July 2011, 19 August 2011, 28 October 2011 and 24 February 2012.

It is envisaged that expenditure of €40m will be incurred to undertake the necessary capital works associated with landfill licence application for the East Tip. The money is to be channelled through my Department to Cork County Council, and drawn down by the Council on a phased basis as the work is carried out.

Cork County Council has developed a project plan involving seven phases to submit the licence application to the EPA. It envisages that the preparation of a waste licence application and all associated works to take 12-16 months and based on this timetable it is envisaged that the application will be made to the EPA in autumn of this year. The consideration of the licence by the EPA could take a minimum of nine months which indicates that the licence could be awarded in the summer of 2013.

Grant Payments

John Browne

Question:

199 Deputy John Browne asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when an area aid application will be approved in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wexford. [20842/12]

The position with regard to this case is as outlined in reply to a question from the Deputy on 18 April 2011.

The person named does not hold any single payment entitlements. He applied to transfer 24.58 entitlements by way of lease from another farmer under the 2011 single payment scheme. EU Regulations governing the scheme provide that entitlements may only be leased if accompanied by an equivalent number of hectares of eligible land. The transfer of entitlements application was rejected as the person named did not declare any land or submit a single payment application form in 2011. He was notified of this decision on 28th September 2011.

Departmental Expenditure

Niall Collins

Question:

200 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the amount spent on hair and make-up by her Department since February 2011; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20688/12]

No costs have been incurred by my Department for the provision of hair and make-up services.

Ministerial Transport

Niall Collins

Question:

201 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the amount spent by her Department on drivers and ministerial transport since February 2011; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20704/12]

In line with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform guidelines on ministerial appointments, I employ two civilian drivers on a week on/week off basis to drive my private car on official business. Each driver receives €631.75 per week in respect of these duties and are not entitled to claim overtime. However, they are entitled to claim subsistence payments in respect of certified official travel at the appropriate Civil Service rates and under the regulations applying to such subsistence. A total of €4,469.02 has been paid since 2011 in this regard.

In addition, milage claims totalling €15,173.55 in respect of the use of my personal car on official business have been paid.

Consultancy Contracts

Niall Collins

Question:

202 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the amount paid on external public relations and communications consultants; the name of each organisation used; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20777/12]

My Department was established on 2 June 2011. To date the Department of Children and Youth Affairs has not spent any money on communications and public relations consultants.

Adoption Services

Finian McGrath

Question:

203 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the options open to a person (details supplied). [20823/12]

Issues relating to the level of fees charged by an accredited body are a matter for the Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI) and are covered in some detail by the Adoption Act 2010 (Accredited Bodies) Regulations 2010. These regulations set out the standards which must be met by accredited bodies in order to satisfy the requirements of the Adoption Authority under the Adoption Act, 2010 (No. 21 of 2010) for entry in the register of accredited bodies.

The regulations set out, inter alia, the requirement for any body applying for accreditation to include in its Memorandum and Articles of Association that it is to be solely concerned with assisting in the adoption process on a not for profit basis. The regulations also set out a range of provisions in relation to financial reporting, fees and charges, including a provision that an accredited body shall submit to the Authority for prior approval its schedule of fees and any subsequent increases in fees or additions to the schedule.

It is a matter for the agency involved to work with each applicant during the adoption process having regard to the level of services required from the agency on an individual basis. My Department has brought the issue raised by the Deputy to the attention of the Adoption Authority.

Health Services

Billy Kelleher

Question:

204 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health his plans for the Health Service Executive integrated primary healthcare for travellers project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20647/12]

I assume the Deputy is referring to the Traveller Primary Health Care Projects operating across the country.

The HSE funds the Traveller Primary Health Care Projects (TPHCPs) which work in partnership with the HSE to deliver agreed actions within the HSE National Service Plan. These Projects provide a model of participation for Travellers in development of health services. The overall aim of the TPHCPs is to improve the health status and associated health outcomes of members of the Traveller community.

While the targeted approach used via TPHCPs is acknowledged as necessary in addressing the unique health needs of a vulnerable group, it is important to note that this also entails mainstreaming of Traveller health into primary health care. A key objective here involves development of closer links with HSE Primary Care Teams. A subgroup was established in March 2012 under the auspices of the HSE National Traveller Health Advisory Forum — a national body comprising HSE and Traveller representation — to further this aim. It is expected that this work will assist in enhancing access of Travellers to services within Primary Care Teams.

Services for People with Disabilities

Billy Kelleher

Question:

205 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health the measures he will take regarding adequate supports for persons with reading problems, visual and hearing impairments using health care services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20648/12]

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

Health Service Reform

Billy Kelleher

Question:

206 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health the steps he has taken regarding establishing and utilising ethnic identifiers in healthcare systems; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20649/12]

The implementation of an ethnic identifier is a key element of ethnic equality monitoring as outlined in the HSE's National Intercultural Health Strategy 2007-2012. A pilot study was successfully conducted and this led to the development of the ethnic identifier that is currently in use in a number of clinical settings. A phased, prioritised program is now under way to extend the roll out of the ethnic identifier to capture key health information of minority ethnic groups in each HSE region.

Hospital Services

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

207 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Health the position regarding Valentia Hospital (details supplied), County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20650/12]

Those assignments will include an assignment to provide factual input to an NTPF review of nursing homes which, prior to the commencement of the Nursing Homes Support Scheme, received funding for long-term residential care under section 39 of the Health Act 2004. This would include Valentia Community Hospital.

Long-Term Illness Scheme

Arthur Spring

Question:

208 Deputy Arthur Spring asked the Minister for Health when the necessary legislation will be enacted to provide general practitioner visit cards to long term illness claimants as part of the roll-out of a national chronic disease management programme for diabetes; the method with which diabetes patients will be informed of the enactment of this legislation; if the current medical card application form will be used to permit diabetes patients apply for the GP visit card; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20668/12]

Paudie Coffey

Question:

210 Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for Health when primary legislation will be published to facilitate the extension of free general practitioner care to all claimants of medicines under the long term illness scheme as announced in Budget 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20678/12]

Alan Farrell

Question:

229 Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Health if and when patients on the long term illness scheme who are not in receipt of a medical card will receive free general practitioner care; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20879/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 208, 210 and 229 together.

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 GP Care within the first term of office of this Government.

Initially it is intended to extend GP cover without fees to persons with a defined illness. Primary legislation is required to give effect to this commitment. Once primary legislation has been approved by the Oireachtas, the details of the new arrangements will be announced. The Department is currently working on preparing legislation, which is intended to be published as soon as possible.

Medical Cards

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

209 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Health the position regarding a medical card in respect of persons (details supplied) in County Kerry. [20675/12]

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.

Question No. 210 answered with Question No. 208.

Mental Health Services

Patrick Nulty

Question:

211 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Health if he will review as a matter of urgency plans to move the Dublin 15 Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service out of Dublin 15 and into Cherry Orchard Hospital; if he will take into account the concerns from the Under 18’s Services Group in Dublin 15 that an area based response is integral to intensive care planning for young persons at risk in the area and that moving the service outside of Dublin 15 would effectively dismantle this essential infrastructure that is working so well there and that the rationale for local based services is that access for current and future clients could become a real barrier due to location; if he will consider the proposals put forward to keep the service in the area to ensure community needs are prioritised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20680/12]

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

Departmental Staff

Billy Kelleher

Question:

212 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health the salaries and working hours of special development unit executives; the expenses of each of these executives; if there have been any changes in these since February 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20683/12]

The information sought by the Deputy is currently being collated and I will forward it to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Hospital Staff

Billy Kelleher

Question:

213 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health if he will provide in tabular form the hospitals at which consultants are in breach of their 80:20 public private mix; the maximum breach of the ratio; the number in each hospital; his views on whether this is impacting on waiting lists; the actions he is taking to address same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20685/12]

The specific figures requested by the Deputy regarding consultant public/private practice ratios are not held by my Department. In this regard, the Health Service Executive has been requested to compile them and provide them to the Deputy as soon as possible.

One of my immediate priorities is to achieve more effective implementation of the 2008 Consultant Contract, including compliance with the public/private ratios specified therein, and to reform how services are delivered to patients.

The Health Sector Action Plan 2012, sets out, as one of its key priorities, ensuring full compliance by consultants with public/private ratios as contracted and as measured by the HIPE measurement system.

The HSE is at present preparing for the commencement of discussions with the consultant representative bodies under the PSA. These discussions are to begin shortly. This process will need to be focussed on the achievement of worthwhile and measurable change including compliance with the public/private practice ratios agreed in the 2008 Contract. I am satisfied that compliance and implementation of the other measures relating to consultants provided for in the Health Sector Action Plan will have a positive impact on waiting lists.

Departmental Expenditure

Niall Collins

Question:

214 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Health the amount spent on hair and make-up by his Department since February 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20695/12]

The amount spent on hair and make-up by my Department since February 2011 is nil.

Ministerial Transport

Niall Collins

Question:

215 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Health the amount spent by his Department on drivers and ministerial transport since February 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20711/12]

The total amount spent by my Department on Ministerial transport for myself and two Ministers of State since February 2011 is €222,811.

Accident and Emergency Services

Billy Kelleher

Question:

216 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health if he will provide in tabular form the average wait in each hospital accident and emergency; the number in each waiting more than 24 hours to be admitted; the number waiting more than 12 hours; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20745/12]

The information sought by the Deputy is not readily available. However I will have the data requested collated and I will forward it to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Mental Health Services

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

217 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Health if he will appoint an interim director of mental health until such time as the Health Service Executive Governance Bill passes in Dáil Éireann; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20747/12]

My colleague Minister Reilly intends to bring legislative proposals to Government to abolish the HSE Board structure under the Health Act 2004 and to provide for replacement governance structures and enhanced accountability arrangements. 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. The planned new administrative structures are still under active consideration and it is not intended to appoint directors until the planning process is complete.

Proposed Legislation

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

218 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Health his views on whether the Mental Capacity Bill should legislate for advance directives in order that persons can plan ahead for times of acute mental ill health; if so, if he will discuss this issue with the Department of Justice and Equality; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20751/12]

The Government's mental health strategy, "A Vision for Change", promotes a more person-centred approach involving greater patient participation, which includes supporting mechanisms such as advance directives.

An advance directive (whether for general health care or for mental health treatment and care) is an instrument that enables individuals to express their autonomy by making their wishes known regarding their future treatment, should they subsequently lose capacity.

My Department is currently conducting a detailed review of the ethical, legal and practical issues pertaining to advance directives in order to establish the optimal mechanism for the progression of policy in this area.

As part of this process the Department is in contact with our colleagues in the Department of Justice and Equality.

Medical Cards

John McGuinness

Question:

219 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health if a review of a medical card application will be expedited in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny. [20756/12]

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

Health Service Staff

Denis Naughten

Question:

220 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health further to Parliamentary Question No. 458 of 11 October 2011, if he will provide an update; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20769/12]

The HSE has confirmed that, as yet, there is no formal national transfer scheme in place within the HSE for Public Health Nurses to facilitate such grades to transfer across HSE regions.

In the absence of such a transfer scheme, Public Health Nurses may apply for nationally advertised Public Health Nurse posts as and when they are advertised by the HSE's National Recruitment Service in order to relocate geographically. In applying for such posts, candidates are given the opportunity to indicate the areas where they wish to be considered for, should a position for filling become available.

The filling of approved posts for Public Health Nurses, whether by newly qualified Public Health Nurses or by transfer of existing Public Health Nurses, is a matter for HSE Primary Care Services to determine on a case by case basis.

Consultancy Contracts

Niall Collins

Question:

221 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Health the amount paid on external public relations and communications consultants; the name of each organisation used; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20784/12]

The Press and Communications Office of my Department liaise with the media on behalf of the Department as well as all Ministers and do not use the services of a PR company. My Department has not spent any money on public relations or communications consultants between 2009 and 2011. Information in respect of 2012 is not available at this time but will be collated and forwarded to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

Medical Aids and Appliances

Niall Collins

Question:

222 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Health when a specially adapted wheelchair will be provided by the Health Service Executive in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20790/12]

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

Tom Fleming

Question:

223 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Health when a hospital appointment will issue in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20798/12]

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 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 Services

Eric J. Byrne

Question:

224 Deputy Eric Byrne asked the Minister for Health the position regarding respite care at a location (details supplied) in Dublin 8; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20807/12]

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

Pharmacy Services

Gerry Adams

Question:

225 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Health further to Parliamentary Question No. 1226 of 18 April 2012, the level with which he has engaged with the European Commission on this issue; if any progress has been made in resolving the situation; if any options have been identified which might find a legal outcome to this issue; the number of persons affected by the situation; if any interim solutions will be put in place for persons who are affected by this issue; and the timeframe for bringing the issue to finality. [20811/12]

The difficulty that arises in relation to the recognition of UK 4 year pharmacist qualifications is not unique to Ireland, but applies to the recognition of those qualifications in all other Member States under the framework of the 2005 Directive.

My Department and the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland (PSI), which is the competent authority in Ireland for the recognition of pharmacist professional qualifications, have both met and engaged in correspondence with the relevant division of the EU Commission on this issue. My Department and the PSI have also engaged with the UK Department of Health and the General Pharmaceutical Council.

Both my Department and the PSI have received legal advice on the options available to remedy this situation. This advice is being considered and further advice is being sought from the Attorney General's Office as a matter of urgency.

The PSI have advised that they are currently in receipt of seven applications for recognition and registration which are impacted by the change resulting from the repeal of the provisions of the 1985 Directives and the implementation of the 2005 Directive. My Department and the PSI are working closely to endeavour to find a legal means by which affected individuals can be registered as pharmacists in Ireland.

Tobacco Industry

Luke 'Ming' Flanagan

Question:

226 Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan asked the Minister for Health if he will examine the possibility of compelling manufacturers and importers of tobacco products to fulfil their duties under Article 6 Section 1 of the Tobacco Products Directive 2001/37/EC, transposed into Irish Law via the European Communities (Manufacture, Presentation and Sale of Tobacco Products) Regulations 2003 that is, submit the ingredients in each of their products by brand and type, via the Electronic Model Tobacco Control system, which is currently used in Belgium, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands; if he will instruct the National Tobacco Control Office to force the tobacco companies to do so; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20834/12]

As indicated by the Deputy there is a legal obligation on tobacco manufacturing companies and tobacco importers to provide a list to the Health Service Executive (HSE) of all ingredients used in the manufacture of their tobacco products. This is a legal requirement set out in Directive 2001/37/EC and given effect to in Irish law by S.I. No. 425 of 2003 — European Communities (Manufacture, Presentation and Sale of Tobacco Products) Regulations 2003. My Department is liaising with the National Tobacco Control Office, HSE in relation to this and other tobacco related matters.

Pension Provisions

John Browne

Question:

227 Deputy John Browne asked the Minister for Health the total amount of pension payments paid by his Department to retired nurses of all disciplines for the years 2010 and 2011. [20840/12]

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

Hospital Equipment

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

228 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health if he will allocate additional funding to purchase an extra MRI scanner for Beaumont Hospital, Dublin 9; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20872/12]

I believe we must concentrate on getting the best possible services for patients from the budgets available to us. 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. 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. In relation to the specific query raised by the Deputy, as this is a service matter, it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Question No. 229 answered with Question No. 208.

Departmental Funding

David Stanton

Question:

230 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health the amount of money made available to the Health Service Executive for IT innovation and procurement in 2008, 2009 and 2010 respectively; the amount of this expended in each year respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20954/12]

The HSE receives capital funding each year for ICT enabled initiatives but there is no specific line item or categorisation for IT innovations or procurement. While some capitally funded projects could be viewed as innovative in their own right, the categorisation in this regard would be somewhat subjective. Policy in relation to the deployment of operational ICT systems in the HSE is primarily based on the application of mature, proven technologies. These are selected following a business needs analysis and a detailed specification of requirements for the particular system. These systems are then selected following public procurement exercises, in compliance with EU and national procurement rules. The HSE is currently engaging with the ICT industry to explore ways to collaborate on ICT innovation and research. In addition, my Department, in conjunction with the HSE, will be developing an eHealth strategy over the coming months which will support innovation within the sector.

Universal Health Insurance

David Stanton

Question:

231 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health the plans, if any, he has put in place to enable the implementation of universal health insurance; the timescale for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20955/12]

The Government is committed to fundamental reform of the healthcare system with the objective of delivering a single tier health system, supported by universal health insurance, where access is based on need, not income.

I have established an Implementation Group on Universal Health Insurance which will play a key role in supporting the Government to deliver on this commitment. It is tasked with helping to develop detailed implementation plans for universal health insurance and to actively drive implementation of various elements of the health reform programme.

The Group held its first meeting on 1 March 2012 and a second meeting took place on 4 April 2012. A project team comprised of senior Department of Health officials has also been established to support the work of the Implementation Group.

The initial work of the Group will focus on overseeing reform work in relation to the following work streams:

Hospital Financing (e.g. Money-follows-the-patient, Hospital Care Purchase Agency),

Hospital Structures (e.g. Hospital Trusts),

Regulation of the Hospital Sector (e.g. Patient Safety Authority, Licensing),

Health Insurance Market (e.g. Risk Equalisation, Minimum Benefits),

Overarching UHI Design (e.g. UHI legislative framework).

In conjunction with the Implementation Group, the Government has established a Universal Primary Care Project Team to oversee the introduction of universal primary care.

The reform programme is a complex and major undertaking that requires careful sequencing over a number of years. The Implementation Group will continue in existence throughout the health reform process and will oversee different elements of the reforms as they are being put in place. It is also intended that it will consult widely as part of the reform implementation process.

Departmental Expenditure

Niall Collins

Question:

232 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the amount spent on hair and make-up by his Department since February 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20700/12]

There has been no expenditure by my Department on hair and make-up since February 2011.

Ministerial Transport

Niall Collins

Question:

233 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the amount spent by his Department on drivers and ministerial transport since February 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20716/12]

The amount spent by the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport on drivers and Ministerial transport since February 2011 up until 2012 year to date is as follows:

Minister Varadkar

Salaries for two drivers

€74,565

Subsistence paid to two drivers

€9,166

Mileage

€16,421

Total Spend

€100,152

For the Deputy's information, my predecessor was provided with a Ministerial car and a Garda driver. The cost and provision of which was not the responsibility of the Department of Transport. For the Deputy's information I am advised that the average cost of the provision of a State Car and Garda drivers during the last government was around €280,000 per annum.

Minister Kelly

Salaries for two drivers

€77,692

Subsistence paid to two drivers

€14,329

Mileage

€13,597

Total Spend

€105,618

Minister Ring

Salaries for two drivers

€76,034

Subsistence paid to two drivers

€15,184

Mileage

€24,939

Total Spend

€116,157

Details of expenditure on Ministers' transport by air is available at www.dttas.ie.

Consultancy Contracts

Niall Collins

Question:

234 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the amount paid on external public relations and communications consultants; the name of each organisation used; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20789/12]

The amount spent on external public relations and communications consultants by my Department since its formation in March 2011 is €4,828. Communications Clinic were paid €3,860 and Montague Communications were paid €968 for the development,delivery and management of a publicity and advertising campaign in respect of Bike Week, 2011. Internal Departmental resources are used for such matters as far as is possible. However, occasionally external assistance may be required.

By way of comparison, I would draw the Deputy's attention to PQ 305 of the 14th December 2011 which shows that the average spend on external public relations and communications in the years 2006 to 2010 inclusive was €149,120.

Departmental Funding

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

235 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he intends to allocate extra funding to attract additional major international events to come here in 2013, 2014 and 2015; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20873/12]

The Programme for Government states that event tourism will be prioritised to continue to bring major fairs and events to Ireland. There is a strong programme of events for 2012, including the return of the Volvo Ocean Race to Galway, the US Navy-Notre Dame American Football game, the Tall Ships Race and the Bavaria motor racing demonstration event. A number of large conferences are also being held in Ireland this year that will bring major economic benefits and are expected to draw around 30,000 high-spending delegates such as the European City of Science conferences and the International Eucharistic Congress. Fáilte Ireland will continue to work with partners and promoters to develop events for future years based on an assessment in each case of the costs and benefits involved and available funding.

The funding available for the purpose of attracting major international tourism events to Ireland forms part of Fáilte Ireland's overall annual operating budget and the level of funding available will be decided as part of the annual estimates process.

Road Network

Martin Heydon

Question:

236 Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans for the future development of the southern distributor route in Athy, County Kildare; if he accepts the need for and importance of this project being advanced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20883/12]

The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads, in its area, is a statutory function of each road authority in accordance with the provisions of section 13 of the Roads Act, 1993. Works on such roads are a matter for the relevant local authority to be funded from its own resources supplemented by State road grants. The initial selection and prioritisation of works to be funded is also a matter for the Council. My Department received an application from Kildare County Council in November 2008 for 100% funding of the Athy Southern Distributor Road. A grant of €150,000 was allocated to the Council in 2011 to allow certain design and planning work on this project to be undertaken. I am advised that the total cost of the project is in excess of €34 million. As the Deputy will appreciate, given the current financial circumstances, I am not in a position to give any commitment regarding the provision of further funding for this project in the future. However, this is an issue the Deputy has raised with me on a number of occasions and I am aware of the importance of this road to Athy and to the south Leinster region. If and when the financial position of the state improves I would like to be in a position to support the advancement of this project.

The 2012 regional and local road grant funding has now been fully allocated and there are no further funds available from which an additional allocation could be made. It is open to Kildare County Council to progress this project through its own resources.