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 14, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 15 to 104, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 105 to 113, inclusive, answered orally.

Mental Health Services

John Browne

Question:

114 Deputy John Browne asked the Minister for Health his views on whether mental health services funding should be protected from any reductions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29438/12]

While the current economic environment presents a significant challenge for the health system generally in delivering services, mental health services are being treated as a priority in so far as we can. In that regard, consideration was given to the mental health sector in Budget 2012 through a special allocation of €35m for mental health which was in line with the Programme for Government commitments. Funding from this special allocation will be used primarily to enhance both General Adult and Child and Adolescent Community Mental Health Teams, improve access to psychological therapies in primary care and implement suicide prevention strategies. The provision of this special allocation, compared to other sectors of health, recognises that mental health services are provided to vulnerable groups.

I fully accept that the impact of any reductions in mental health services must be minimised while ensuring that the needs of service users remains the highest priority. Notwithstanding the difficult financial environment, this Government is determined to do everything possible to protect services, to respond to priority needs and to support ongoing reform of the public health services within the resources available for health.

Hospital Services

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

115 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health if he will intervene to prevent the proposed cuts to surgical services at Cavan General Hospital which will see the theatre operating only every second week; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29412/12]

As the Deputy is aware this country is facing a great economic challenge. 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. In terms of service delivery, we must concentrate on getting the best possible services for patients from the budgets available to us. This means we need to focus on how beds are used, on the throughput of patients, on reducing length of stay to international norms and on having as many procedures as possible carried out as day cases rather than inpatient work, thus maximising also the efficient usage of operating theatre facilities.

In relation to Cavan General Hospital the hospital has informed me that it has opted to control its budget by reducing scheduled routine theatre activity to alternate weeks. It is important to note that all patients requiring emergency and urgent surgical/gynae procedures will continue to have these procedures performed as normal. I have been advised that there has been a robust consultative process and communication plan with all Consultants, Clinical Directors, staff, service users and the public in relation to these planned service changes. This process commenced in Quarter one well in advance of the change. The process was also discussed within the mechanism established as part the Public Service Agreement.

In relation to Cavan General Hospital I can confirm that it is performing well, maintaining the 12 month waiting time target and making significant progress on achieving the new 9 month target, the child 20 week target and the 13 week GI endoscopy target. Waiting list data for the hospital at the end March showed that 78% of patients were on the list for under 3 months, 16% between 3-6 months and the remaining 6% for over 6 months. The evidence to date shows that Cavan General Hospital has maintained a very good activity rate. The hospital looks set to achieve all of the targets that have been set by the SDU.

Primary Care Centres

Willie O'Dea

Question:

116 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Health if he has been approached by companies with a view to funding the provision of primary care centres; if it is his policy to work with private companies to facilitate the provision of such centres; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29455/12]

I can confirm that I have been approached by numerous companies with a view to funding the provision of primary care centres in Ireland. It is my Department's policy to work with all interested parties to facilitate the provision of primary care infrastructure which delivers value for money. There are always more construction projects than can be funded from the Exchequer's capital health care allocation. The primary care infrastructure model offers a good fit for private sector finance. The infrastructure development, through a combination of public and private investment, will facilitate the delivery of multi-disciplinary primary health care and represents a tangible re-focussing of the health service to deliver care in the most appropriate and lowest cost setting. The Exchequer will continue to fund the delivery of Primary Care Centres in deprived urban areas, small rural towns and isolated areas.

The Programme for Government sets out our commitment to ensuring a better and more efficient health system, a single-tier health service that will deliver equal access to health care based on need not income. The key objective of the Primary Care Strategy is to develop services in the community which will give people direct access to integrated multi-disciplinary teams of general practitioners, nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and other health care disciplines. In a developed primary care system, up to 95 per cent of people's day-to-day health and social care needs can be met in the primary care setting. These enable multi-disciplinary services to be delivered on a single site, provide a single point of access for users, and encourage closer coordination between health providers. I will continue to explore and examine innovative solutions to the provision of the necessary primary care infrastructure.

Health Insurance

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

117 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to large number of subscribers who are being forced out of private-voluntary health insurance as a result of increasing premiums in each of the past five years to date; if any studies have been done which might compare the extent to which private medicine is replacing the public sector in the context of the general provision of services throughout the country and in terms of absorbing the health budget; the extent to which bed and-or surgical and medical costs in the public sector are comparable with those in the private sector; the extent to which private health insurance premiums are affected by either; the extent to which the total number of hospital beds in both the public and the private sector has fluctuated over the past eight years; the extent to which the health insurance costs relative to each has developed in the same period; if the principle of community rated health insurance is being abandoned or replaced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29363/12]

I am strongly committed to protecting the principle of community rating in the private health insurance market. Community rating means that everybody is charged the same premium for a particular plan, irrespective of age, gender and state of health. Community rating needs a robust system of risk equalisation. Otherwise insurers will have a strong incentive to avoid older customers and retain only healthy customers who are less likely to make claims. The Interim Risk Equalisation Scheme was introduced in 2009 to provide direct support to community rating. In order to keep down the cost of health insurance for older people, I was pleased to significantly increase the age-related income tax credit under the Interim Scheme for insured persons aged 60 years and over, from 1 January 2012.

In December 2011, the Government agreed to introduce a new Risk Equalisation Scheme with effect from 1 January 2013 which will replace the present Interim Scheme. The new scheme will allow for a greater number of risk factors than the Interim Scheme, including a measure of health status. The Heads of a Bill to give effect to the new Scheme are being finalised and, subject to Government approval, a Bill will be published as soon as possible so that the necessary legislation is enacted to give effect to the Scheme from 1 January 2013.

My Department has no specific information about the extent to which private medicine is replacing the public sector, if at all, in the context of the provision of services. I can, however, provide information on the numbers of persons currently holding private health insurance. There has been a decrease in the numbers with private health insurance, by just 46,000 in the five year period from end-March 2007 to end-March 2012. This is a very modest decline in private health insurance coverage, at just over 2% of the overall market. Some 2.139 million, or 46.6% of the population, is still covered by private health insurance. Even in the current difficult financial climate, the vast majority of consumers holding private health insurance are choosing to retain some level of health insurance cover rather than allowing policies to lapse completely.

I have set out available information requested by the Deputy concerning the total number of hospital beds in the public sector in a table for circulation.

The Deputy also refers to bed costs in the public sector in comparison with those in the private sector. When individuals elect to be treated privately, they agree to meet the costs of the consultant's fees, which are a private contractual matter between the consultant and the patient, as well as the hospital's maintenance costs. Whilst it is not the role of the Minister for Health to determine costs associated with the provision of care in private facilities which are covered by any private health insurer, I have made it very clear to the Company with the largest share of the market (VHI) that they should increase their efforts to drive down the cost of health care and procedures. Each private health insurance provider has the right to determine which private health care providers and facilities they will cover, subject to providing a minimum level of cover determined by regulation. It is a matter for each insurer to negotiate and enter contracts with the private hospitals concerned, which in turn will be a determining factor in the maintenance cost per bed-day. However, a significant proportion of private patients who are provided with treatment by a public hospital are not currently charged for the services because of current rules on bed designation. It is intended to introduce new arrangements to allow public hospitals to raise charges in respect of all private patients in public hospitals, in keeping with the long-standing policy of moving towards recovering the full economic cost of providing treatment to private patients in public hospitals.

I have also set out available information on the applicable charging rates for inpatient and daycare services for public and private patients in the table for circulation.

With regard to cost of health insurance premiums generally, I would strongly advise consumers to shop around for the health insurance plan that best suits their needs. Consumers have a legal right to switch between or within insurers to get better value and to reduce their premium costs. Where customers wish to switch products, the relevant health insurance legislation ensures that switching is as easy and seamless as possible for customers.

The following table sets out the position in relation to the number of beds in the public hospital system:

In-Patient Beds

Day Beds/Places

Public

Private

Non designated

Total

Public

Private

Non designated

Total

Totals 2007

9,034

2,249

840

12,123

1,245

222

78

1,545

Totals 2008

8,696

2,251

899

11,678

1,299

217

221

1,737

Totals 2009

8,427

2,203

908

11,538

1,319

225

228

1,772

Totals 2010

8,084

2,190

885

11,159

1,375

223

259

1,857

Funding and Charging of Public Patients

Inpatient and Daycase Services: Public patients who are admitted as an inpatient or daycase patient are liable for a statutory charge of €75 per day capped at a maximum of €750 in any period of twelve consecutive months. Medical card holders, women in receipt of maternity services and certain other categories of patient are exempt from this statutory charge which is raised under section 53 of the Health Act 1970.

Funding and Charging of Private Patients

Inpatient and Daycase Services: Private inpatient and daycase treatment in publicly funded hospitals is financed via a system of ‘per diem' charges. These charges are determined nationally by the Minister for Health and vary by hospital category and by private, semi-private and daycase status. From 1st January, 2012, the ‘per diem' charges are as follows:

Charges for Private Treatment in Public Hospitals

Hospital Category

Private

Semi Private

Day Care

HSE Regional Hospitals, Voluntary and Joint Board Teaching Hospitals

€1,046

€933

€753

HSE County Hospitals and Voluntary Non-teaching Hospitals

€819

€730

€586

HSE District Hospitals

€260

€222

€193

Cosmetic Surgery

Catherine Murphy

Question:

118 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to the fact that in 2000, the Food and Drug Administration of the United States revoked the licence of the French manufacturer of breast implants (details supplied) to sell its product in the United States; if such revocation was known to officials in his Department at the time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29394/12]

In 2000 the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) in the USA raised concerns in relation to Poly Implant Prosthese (PIP)saline breast implants. Although produced by the same manufacturer, the Poly Implant Prosthese (PIP) silicone gel implants, which were recalled in March 2010, are a separate product to the saline breast implants which were of concern to the FDA in 2000. In 2000 my Department was the competent authority for medical devices in Ireland. From the records available in my Department and in the Irish Medicines Board, there is no record of my Department receiving, at that time, any notification regarding the FDA action, to which the Deputy refers. There is, however, a reference to receipt of an alert from the UK regulatory authority in January 2001 concerning PIP hydrogel implant products, which are the same product as the saline breast implant withdrawn by the FDA in the USA in 2000.

I am informed that, at the time, it was the practice in my Department to fax copies of these product safety alerts to hospitals on a regular basis. In October 2001 the IMB became the competent authority for medical devices. The IMB has been actively involved in the exchange of vigilance information between EU Member States since October 2001 and the exchange of vigilance information between global medical device regulators since 2004. In addition, the IMB has a memorandum of understanding with the FDA regarding regulatory issues since 2005.

In Europe medical devices are regulated under 3 EU Directives that specify the requirements which must be met before any device can be placed on the market. A medical device must obtain a CE mark from an independent Notified Body before it can be placed on the market in any EU Member State. The PIP silicone breast implants were manufactured in France and certified by a Notified Body in Germany. This certification allowed the product to be freely placed on the Irish market.

The IMB is responsible for post market surveillance and vigilance of medical devices. Market recall of the PIP silicone breast implants was initiated in Ireland by the IMB in March 2010 following receipt of notification from the French medical devices regulatory authority. The recall followed an inspection of the PIP implant manufacturing site in France which identified unauthorised silicone gel being used in the manufacture of the product. Since March 2010 the IMB engaged with the treating clinics and the recipients of the PIP breast implants to provide up-to-date information regarding the situation. My Department has also been engaging with the clinics and recipients to ensure that follow up care meets the appropriate professional standards. The international scientific research undertaken since 2010 has found no increased medical risks associated with this implant.

The EU Commission is currently reviewing the regulatory framework for medical devices and expects to publish proposals for a revision of the legislation in September 2012. I expect my Department, with support from the IMB, to play a key role in the negotiations of this legislation during the forthcoming Irish Presidency of the EU in 2013. As the new legislation will take a number of years to come into effect, the EU Commission has prepared a plan designed to address some of the weaknesses identified in the EU medical devices regulatory system. My Department and the IMB are fully committed to the implementation of this plan.

Hospital Services

Seán Crowe

Question:

119 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Health the action he proposes to take on the recommendations of the Health Information and Quality Authority report on Tallaght Hospital, Dublin 24; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29433/12]

I fully accept the thrust of this report, which is first and foremost about patient safety. I have moved quickly to address one of the key recommendations, the establishment of a committee to oversee the implementation of the report. The oversight committee, which I announced on 11 June, will be chaired by Dr Tony Holohan, the Chief Medical Officer. Confirmation of some members is awaited and I will announce the membership when that is received.

Overall, HIQA's report makes recommendations about unscheduled care, scheduled care, and board governance. Many of the recommendations are in line with the Government's stated policy intention to reform scheduled and unscheduled access to acute services through:

(i) clinical standards and performance targets;

(ii) rigorous performance management of access, quality and budgets; and

(iii) proper accountability through the establishment of hospital groups and, eventually, hospital trusts.

Many of the changes required are already underway or planned. The hospital's board and management team have fully accepted the report and its outcomes and recommendations. The staff of the hospital have a hugely important role in responding to the challenges ahead in order to allow Tallaght Hospital to achieve its potential.

Mental Health Services

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

120 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Health the reason that up to the start of June 2012 none of the promised 414 appointments to mental health positions had been made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29429/12]

A special allocation of €35m for mental health was provided in Budget 2012 in line with commitments in the Programme for Government. Funding from this special allocation will be used primarily to enhance both General Adult and Child and Adolescent Community Mental Health Teams, improve access to psychological therapies in primary care and implement suicide prevention strategies.

It is planned that 414 staff will be recruited to the mental health service to deliver on these objectives. In order to establish this figure, a detailed gap analysis of the present composition of 185 Community Teams had to be undertaken. The exact staffing requirement including the discipline, grade and number relating to each team in all of the four main regions was identified as quickly as possible after the HSE National Service Plan was approved by the Minister. HSE approvals have already issued to three of the four Regional Directors of Operations for the filling of posts in their areas. One further approval is expected to issue in the near future. The process of recruitment commences immediately on approval. It is proposed that the new professionals will be drawn from existing National Recruitment Service panels where available and new competitions will be established for the remaining posts. Appointments to these posts are expected to commence in the coming weeks and the majority of them should be filled over the summer months.

Question No. 121 answered with Question No. 110.

Care of the Elderly

Denis Naughten

Question:

122 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health if he will revise the funding structure of community geriatric hospitals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29359/12]

The introduction of the Nursing Homes Support Scheme,A Fair Deal,in October 2009 brought about a fundamental change in the way in which long-term nursing home care is funded and, consequently, the way in which nursing homes are funded. In the past, public nursing homes/community geriatric hospitals would have been allocated a lump sum annually by the HSE. However, the Nursing Homes Support Scheme provides financial support to the individuals that need long-term nursing home care, not to the facilities providing the care. The scheme is designed to ensure that money follows the patients, regardless of whether they choose public, private or voluntary nursing homes, and to ensure that these facilities are not being funded for empty beds.

Funding arrangements in relation to other services which may be provided in public nursing homes/community geriatric hospitals, e.g. short-term care for respite, rehabilitation, convalescence etc, remain unaffected by the Nursing Homes Support Scheme. When the Scheme was introduced, a commitment was made to review its operation after three years. The reason for allowing this period to elapse is to ensure that trends and statistics will be available in order to inform the work. The Terms of Reference for the review are: Taking account of Government policy, demographic trends and the fiscal situation—

1. To examine the on-going sustainability of the Nursing Homes Support Scheme,

2. To examine the overall cost of long-term residential care in public and private nursing homes and the effectiveness of the current methods of negotiating/setting prices,

3. Having regard to 1. and 2. above, to consider the balance of funding between long-term residential care and community based services, and

4. To make recommendations for the future operation and management of the scheme.

A call for submissions to inform the review was placed in national newspapers on the 14th June. The closing date for receipt of submissions is the 16th July. Thereafter, the Department of Health will be seeking tenders through the public procurement process for the carrying out of the review. This process takes approximately 4 months. It is anticipated that the review itself will take approximately three months to complete. It is expected that the review will commence in the last quarter of this year and be completed in early 2013.

As the Scheme is statutory based, the implementation of any recommendations arising from the review may require significant amendments to the Nursing Homes Support Scheme Act, 2009.

Hospital Facilities

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

123 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Health when he will be in a position to lift the embargo on the reopening of closed hospital beds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29427/12]

I wish to advise the Deputy that there is no embargo on the reopening of closed beds. I believe we must concentrate on getting the best possible services for patients from the budgets available to us. This means we need to focus on how beds are used, on the throughput of patients, on reducing length of stay to international norms and on having as many procedures as possible carried out as day cases rather than inpatient work.

The work of the Special Delivery Unit, together with implementation of the Clinical Care Programmes in the HSE, will help to improve the efficiency of our hospitals, allowing us to treat as many patients as possible within budget. I believe that pursuing efficiencies through these means will be a far more productive approach than debating the number of beds open or closed at any one time. In the current economic climate the acute sector must reduce its costs in order to deliver the agreed level of activity within the resources available to it. The emphasis in 2012 will continue to be to make the most effective use of acute bed capacity through shorter lengths of stay, increased rates of day-of-surgery admission and more day surgery. In this way the acute hospital system can ensure that, within the level of resources available, it provides safe, effective and efficient care to the maximum number of patients.

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

Hospital Services

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

124 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Health if he will set out his plans for smaller hospitals in this State. [29426/12]

I want to ensure that as many services as possible can be provided safely and appropriately in smaller, local hospitals. On this basis, the organisation of hospital services nationally, regionally and locally will be informed by the ongoing development of the HSE Clinical Programmes. The Framework for the future development of smaller hospitals has been drafted by a joint HSE/Departmental group. Consultation with all stakeholders, including patients and public representatives, will be an integral part of the process of implementing the framework for smaller hospitals.

This framework will demonstrate clearly that the future of smaller hospitals is secure. It will set out what services can and should be delivered safely by these hospitals in the interest of better outcomes for patients. I am currently examining the Framework in the context of the overall reorganisation of the health services. That includes the development of hospital groups. The changes that will and must take place will have a considerable impact on how our hospital services are aligned. As Minister for Health I am eager to initiate improvements to our hospital system, however due consideration must be given to the Framework to ensure that when implemented it will optimise the significant resources smaller hospitals have to offer. It is my intention to publish the Framework when this process has been completed.

Services for People with Disabilities

Niall Collins

Question:

125 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Health his views on whether disability services should be protected from any further cuts in 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29443/12]

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

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

The parameters applying to disability services in the Service Plan were informed by strong representations from organisations representing people with disabilities. The HSE and my Department recognise the valuable contribution disability organisations make to the provision of services to adults and children with disabilities, and acknowledge the significant savings and other efficiencies that service providers have made in general since 2008. Given the challenges service providers are experiencing, I recognise that the maintaining of service levels within available resources will require significant levels of cooperation, change, flexibility and creativity on the part of all stakeholders. HSE Disability Managers are currently engaging with service providers in line with the Service Plan requirements to achieve the necessary efficiencies in 2012

Departmental Reports

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

126 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Health when he expects to publish the report on symphysiotomy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29461/12]

Gerry Adams

Question:

136 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Health the action he will take in response to the Walsh report on symphysiotomy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29423/12]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

157 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health his views on the Walsh report on symphysiotomy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29413/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 126, 136 and 157 together.

Professor Oonagh Walsh, independent researcher from University College Cork was commissioned by the Chief Medical Officer in the Department of Health to draft a report in relation to the practice of symphysiotomy in Ireland. This draft report is the first stage of a two-stage process in relation to this research on the practice of symphysiotomy in Ireland. This first stage is an independent academic research report, which is based on an analysis of published medical reports and research. The draft report contains information about how frequently symphysiotomy was carried out in Ireland and compares rates with other countries. The second stage in the research, which is now underway, is a consultation process on the draft report involving patient groups, health professionals and in particular the women who have undergone symphysiotomy.

The final report, which will take full account of the consultation outcomes and include recommendations, will be presented to me for consideration of any actions that may be required to address the issues concerned. The researcher expects to complete the final report in the Autumn. I then intend to publish the report after it is presented to me, subject to the usual legal considerations but I do not anticipate any significant difficulties in that regard. I do not wish to express any views on the draft report which is going to consultation to preserve the independence of the research process and to allow the women in particular to provide their views in the consultation concentrating solely on the research report and without being possibly deflected from that process by any statements from me. I remain determined to bring this matter to a conclusion for all women concerned as soon as possible.

Mental Health Services

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

127 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Health when a director of mental health will be appointed in the Health Service Executive; if he will carry out this reform in advance of the establishment of a mental health directorate; if he is satisfied with the current use of resources budgeted for the provision of mental health services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29360/12]

The Government has recently approved the drafting of legislation to abolish the Board of the Health Service Executive and to provide for a Directorate to be the new governing body for the HSE in place of the Board. The intention is that the Bill will be drafted as a matter of urgency so that it can be considered by the Oireachtas as soon as possible. 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 new arrangements will include a separate Directorate for Mental Health. Consideration is currently being given to how best to give effect to the new administrative structures, including the selection and appointment of new directors at national level. It is not intended to appoint directors until this process is complete.

The Deputy will appreciate that the current economic environment presents a significant challenge for the health system generally in delivering services. However, mental health is being treated as a priority in so far as we can. Total funding for mental health in 2012 is in the region of €707 million. Like all other care areas, efficiency and other savings were required in 2012 from the Mental Health Service. However, in Budget 2012, a special allocation of €35m for mental health was announced in line with the Programme for Government commitments. Funding from this special allocation will be used primarily to strengthen Community Mental Health Teams in both Adult and Children's mental health services which will ensure, at a minimum, that at least one of each mental health professional discipline is represented on every team. This is very much in keeping with the policy set out in aVision for Change. Some of the funding will also be used to advance activities in the area of suicide prevention and response to self-harm presentations and to initiate the provision of psychological and counselling services in primary care, specifically for people with mental health problems.

The HSE National Service Plan, which has been approved by the Minister for Health, sets out the type and volume of service the HSE will provide directly, or through a range of funded agencies, during 2012. The Plan which was prepared in the context of the challenges faced by the health services this year in terms of reduced staffing levels, and a reduced budget, combined with increasing demand for services will be the subject of continuous review.

General Medical Services Scheme

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

128 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health if he will advise definitively the position regarding general practitioners charging for taking blood samples from medical card patients; if his attention has been drawn to the extent of this practice; the steps he is taking to have this and any other similar charging practices ended; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29416/12]

Section 11 of the General Medical Services (GMS) GP Capitation Contract, which was introduced in 1989, provides that the medical practitioner shall provide for eligible persons, on behalf of the Health Service Executive, all proper and necessary treatment of a kind usually undertaken by a general practitioner and not requiring special skill or experience of a degree or kind which general practitioners cannot reasonably be expected to possess. General Practitioners (GPs) who hold General Medical Services (GMS) contracts with the HSE must not seek or accept money from medical card or GP visit card holders for services covered under the GMS contract. In circumstances where the taking of blood is necessary to either:

(a) assist in the process of diagnosing a patient; or

(b) monitor a diagnosed condition;

the GP may not charge the patient if they are eligible for free GMS services.

At my request, the HSE has written to all GMS GPs reminding them of their obligations under their contract in respect of services such as phlebotomy and advised them that charges should not be applied for such services. The HSE is encouraging eligible patients who believe they have been inappropriately charged by a GP for routine phlebotomy services to seek a refund from the GP in question. Alternatively, they may wish to follow up with the HSE and the matter will be fully investigated. Formal complaints will be dealt with through the HSE's Consumer Affairs Service.

It is appreciated that because of the nature of the GP/patient relationship, it may be difficult for patients to make such complaints. Where public representatives are made aware of GPs charging GMS patients in error, they may wish to notify the HSE directly. The Programme for Government provides for the introduction of a new GMS GP contract with an increased emphasis on the management of chronic conditions, such as diabetes and cardiovascular conditions. It is envisaged that the new contract, when finalised, will focus on prevention and will include a requirement for GPs to provide care as part of integrated multidisciplinary Primary Care Teams. Officials in my Department are in consultation with the HSE with a view to drawing up a new contract. The appropriate arrangements in relation to phlebotomy services and other such services will be considered as part of the new contract.

Health Service Staff

Colm Keaveney

Question:

129 Deputy Colm Keaveney asked the Minister for Health if he will confirm that in the case of early retirements, the Health Service Executive is paying lump sums and that it is not making alternative arrangements, such as paying interest on the lump sum instead of the lump sum itself; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26444/12]

To date, the retirement benefits of more than 90% of staff who retired from the public health sector before the end of the ‘grace period' have been fully paid out. The processing of benefits in some cases can be very complex . Where delays have been experienced, or where a retired staff member has requested to be paid some monies, the HSE has made interim part-payments. This is in order to minimise financial hardship. This part-payment is made while the retired employee's full career service and pensionable earnings are being verified. The HSE administer payment of pensions and lump sums to retiring staff in accordance with the terms of their superannuation scheme. There is no provision in the superannuation scheme for the payment of interest on lump sumps, as referred to by the Deputy.

Hospital Waiting Lists

Gerry Adams

Question:

130 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Health the action he is taking to address the waiting list of some 158,000 patients waiting since January 2011 for an appointment to be seen by a consultant at an outpatient department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29422/12]

The HSE March 2012 Report showed that a total of 158,850 patients are waiting less than 12 months for a first time outpatient attendance. A further 45,959 patients are waiting over 12 months. It is likely that these are an underestimate of those waiting as not all hospitals are currently reporting outpatient waiting time data to the HSE. The issue of Outpatient waiting lists was essentially an untended problem. The scale of the problem was unmeasured and consequently no special action was taken to deal with it. This Government intends to change that. I have instructed the Special Delivery Unit to give priority to devising methods for dealing with the issue of the Outpatient waiting lists.

Work has already commenced on the systematic and automatic collection of waiting time data, at an individual patient level in a standardised format from all hospitals providing an Outpatient service. This will be the first time that such detailed data will be available at a national level from all hospitals. The collation and analysis of Outpatient waiting time data will reveal how many patients are waiting by region, by hospital, by specialty and by Consultant. The SDU and NTPF are aiming to publish outpatient waiting time data in the near future.

The next step will be to then set a maximum waiting time target for a first Outpatient appointment. Hospitals will be held responsible and accountable for ensuring that patients are seen in Outpatients within this maximum waiting time. The SDU and the National Treatment Purchase Fund will assist hospitals in targeting their resources towards those patients who are waiting longest and ensure that they are seen, assessed and appropriately treated. In parallel with reducing the numbers of those waiting longest, the SDU will also commence work with the HSE Clinical Programmes to reform the structure, organisation and delivery of Outpatient services to ensure that the right patient is seen by the right health professional at the right time.

The goal is to improve access by implementing an Out Patient Service Performance Improvement Programme that will underpin a radical transformation of how Out Patient services are delivered in Ireland.

Barry Cowen

Question:

131 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Health if there are increased waiting times for patients who require orthopaedic surgery at Tallaght Hospital, Dublin 24; the way this issue is being addressed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29445/12]

Tallaght has participated in the SDU Scheduled Care Performance Improvement programme and as a result has eliminated the problem of excessively long waits for routine orthopaedic surgery. By December last year Tallaght had reached the Minister's target of having no patient waiting for in-patient or daycase surgery for more than 12 months for all specialties, including orthopaedics. As of the end of March 2012, Tallaght has 17 adults waiting > 9 months. There are no children waiting > 3 months. Tallaght is continuing to make consistent and sustained progress towards ensuring that no adult patient waits longer than 9 months for surgery in 2012. The following table details the Orthopaedic surgical waiting list for Tallaght.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Months

0 to 3

3 to 6

6 to 9

9 to 12

24+

Totals

Paeds

3

0

0

0

0

3

Adults

217

164

117 (6 to 12)*

38

18

554

*Only have a combined 6-12 months figure for July 2011.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Months

0 to 3

3 to 6

6 to 9

9 to 12

24+

Totals

Paeds

3

0

0

0

0

3

Adults

305

268

98

17

0

688

Cosmetic Surgery

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

132 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Health the immediate and ongoing assistance that will be made available by the Health Service Executive to the women who received defective PIP breast implants; the further actions he and the Health Service Executive are taking on this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29414/12]

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

671 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Health his views on correspondence regarding PIP breast implants (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29771/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 132 and 671 together.

My Department's priority at all times has been that the three treating clinics involved in the PIP breast implant issue provide professional and appropriate care to their affected clients. The Chief Medical Officer has met with and continues to engage with the clinics to ensure that best practice and patient support is paramount in the service provided to concerned recipients of these implants.

The provision of an improved care package by the treating clinic referenced by the Deputies continues to be the subject of intense discussions between my officials and the provider concerned and the CMO continues to liaise with the provider in this regard. The provider has committed to rolling out a care package which would include face to face consultations with a surgeon and follow on care if required and my Department has welcomed and encouraged such a work programme. My Department will continue to support all parties in advancing acceptable and appropriate provision of care but the resolution of the issues arising has to be between provider and client and an appropriate solution found between the parties.

The Department's website and the website of the Irish Medicines Board (IMB) continue to provide regular updates and information on the ongoing EU and international scientific investigation of PIP implants. The advice of both my Department and the IMB has remained constant and readily available to all interested parties, i.e.:

there is no evidence of increased risk of cancer for women with this brand of implant;

the risk of rupture is within expected norms and routine explantation is not recommended;

anyone with a concern about their breast implants should discuss the matter with their GP or surgeon.

Health Service Staff

John McGuinness

Question:

133 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health if he expects agency costs to be reduced by 50% in 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29466/12]

Billy Kelleher

Question:

569 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health the total spend on agency staff to date in 2012; the number of temporary agency staff employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29023/12]

Billy Kelleher

Question:

592 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health the total agency staff costs in each of the years 2008 to 2011 including agency staff costs in the National Treatment Purchase Fund, NTPF; the cost to date in 2012 including in the NTPF; the projected costs including the NTPF; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29156/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 133, 569 and 592 together.

In the health service, agency staff have traditionally been used to meet a short-term service need or where some flexibility in staffing a service is required. In 2011, although the HSE had negotiated new agency contracts which involve lower unit costs, the use of agency staff accounted for approximately €177 million. This was accounted for in part by the usage of agency staffing to cover longer-term staffing needs. When locum staff, who are health service employees, are added, the total amounts to over €200 million.

The HSE's National Service Plan 2012 commits to significantly lowering the volume of agency usage across all staff functions, with a target reduction of up to 50% in 2012. The Plan also notes that the transposition into Irish law of the Temporary Agency Work Directive will increase the unit cost of agency staffing. Agency staff are the employees of the agencies concerned and as such the number of individuals engaged in such work is not reported.

Agency Costs

2008

2009

2010

2011

€000

€000

€000

€000

Clinical

68,655

67,176

109,389

125,443

Non Clinical

16,294

15,094

22,682

17,453

Other Client / Patient Services

32,112

26,061

21,306

33,674

Total

117,061

108,331

153,377

176,570

National Treatment Purchase Fund expenditure on agency staffing was €5,234 was 2008. No such expenditure has been incurred in subsequent years.

Health Insurance

Billy Kelleher

Question:

134 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health his views regarding the VHI’s refusal to cover new patients in Mahon Hospital, County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29437/12]

The decision taken by Vhi to decline to provide cover for the hospital facility at Mahon in Cork was a commercial decision taken by the Board of Vhi. While I was disappointed at that decision, I am not in a position to intervene in the commercial decisions of the Vhi or any other health insurer. I have raised the issue with the Chairperson and CEO of the Vhi in the context of competition and will continue to monitor Vhi's approach to such decisions.

Deputy Kelleher may be aware that his matter is now the subject of legal proceedings issued against the Vhi by the liquidator appointed to the operators of the Mahon facility. An order to provide security for the costs of this legal action was issued by the High Court on 12 June as the Court is not satisfied that a prima facie case has been made out as to the existence of a causal connection between the refusal of the Vhi to approve the facility at Mahon and the claimed loss resulting from its cessation of operations.

Cosmetic Surgery

Catherine Murphy

Question:

135 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to the recent declaration of the Irish Medicines Board which stated that independent clinics not owned by the State who provide cosmetic and surgical services are beyond the regulation of the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29395/12]

It is not quite the case, as the Deputy has stated, that private cosmetic surgery clinics are beyond the regulation of the State. Healthcare professionals, including doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, pharmacists etc employed by such clinics are required to be registered with their relevant professional regulatory body. Much of the legislation governing healthcare professionals has been extensively updated and amended in recent years with the publication of a number of relevant Acts including The Health and Social Care Professionals Act 2005, The Medical Practitioners Act 2007, The Pharmacy Act 2007 and The Nurses and Midwives Act 2011. In addition, my Department is in the process of preparing legislation to make it mandatory for all medical practitioners engaged in clinical practice to have adequate clinical indemnity insurance.

The Madden Commission on Patient Safety identified cosmetic surgery as one of the priority areas that should be addressed by a new system of licensing. Officials of my Department are currently working on the Licensing of Health Facilities Bill which will provide for a mandatory system of licensing for public and private health service providers. The legislative proposals are being prepared broadly in line with recommendations made by the Madden Commission and are designed to improve patient safety by ensuring that healthcare providers do not operate below core standards which are applied in a consistent and systematic way. The intention is to have a proportionate system which has the confidence of the public. Standards and other requirements will be enforceable through inspection and imposition of sanctions as necessary. Licensing will be targeted at areas which are not currently subject to regulation. It is expected that outline proposals for the new system of licensing should be finalised by year end. In the meantime I am making arrangements to put better information in place for people who are planning to undergo cosmetic surgery in Ireland.

Question No. 136 answered with Question No. 126.

National Children’s Hospital

Sean Fleming

Question:

137 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Health when he expects to make a decision regarding the national children’s hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29449/12]

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

142 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Health the position regarding the development of a national paediatric hospital [29415/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 137 and 142 together.

As you will be aware, I established an independent Review Group to consider the implications of the decision of An Bórd Pleanála, received on 23 February 2012, to reject the planning application for the proposed construction of a national paediatric hospital on the site of the Mater Misericordiae Hospital. The aim of the Review was to consider all the possible options for the earliest possible delivery of a new children's hospital. The Group has now presented its report, which I intend to consider carefully before bringing to Government.

Hospital Services

Sandra McLellan

Question:

138 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Health the steps that have been taken to build an oncology and palliative care unit at Waterford Regional Hospital. [29424/12]

The Deputy's question relates to service delivery matters and accordingly I have asked the HSE to respond directly to her.

Hospital Waiting Lists

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

139 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Health if he will reopen closed hospital beds in view of the fact that there are 35,000 people waiting longer than 12 months to be seen, in view of the fact that the recommended European standard is six months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29397/12]

I believe we must concentrate on getting the best possible services for patients from the budgets available to us. This means we need to focus on how beds are used, on the throughput of patients, on reducing length of stay to international norms and on having as many procedures as possible carried out as day cases rather than inpatient work. The work of the Special Delivery Unit, together with implementation of the Clinical Care Programmes in the HSE, will help to improve the efficiency of our hospitals, allowing us to treat as many patients as possible within budget. I believe that pursuing efficiencies through these means will be a far more productive approach than debating the number of beds open or closed at any one time.

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

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

In relation to the Deputys question on waiting times the Government fully accepts that waiting times for patients awaiting an elective surgical procedure are too long. One of my first priorities as Minister for Health was to set a maximum waiting time target of 12 months to be achieved by all hospitals by the end of 2011. I can confirm that 95% of hospitals achieved this target. The immediate challenge for 2012 was to maintain the 12 month maximum waiting time target for in patient and day case procedures and then to continually improve and move to a 9 month maximum waiting time target by the end of 2012.

The latest available figures from the end of April 2012 show that:

99% of patients were given a scheduled treatment date within 12 months.

94% of patients were given a scheduled treatment date within 9 months.

78% of patients were given a scheduled treatment date within 6 months.

These figures demonstrate that progress is being made in relation to reducing the maximum waiting times for patients awaiting an inpatient or daycase procedure and our health service is on target to ensure that no patient has to wait more than 9 months for surgery. I can assure the Deputy that I will continue to focus on waiting lists and that when the 9 month target has been achieved later in 2012, the SDU will focus on reducing that target even further.

Nursing Homes Support Scheme

Michael Colreavy

Question:

140 Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Health the scope, nature and duration of the review of the fair deal scheme. [29420/12]

The Terms of Reference for the review of the Nursing Homes Support Scheme are: Taking account of Government policy, demographic trends and the fiscal situation—

1. To examine the on-going sustainability of the Nursing Homes Support Scheme,

2. To examine the overall cost of long-term residential care in public and private nursing homes and the effectiveness of the current methods of negotiating/setting prices,

3. Having regard to 1. and 2. above, to consider the balance of funding between long-term residential care and community based services, and

4. To make recommendations for the future operation and management of the scheme.

A call for submissions to inform the review was placed in national newspapers on the 14th June. The closing date for receipt of submissions is the 16th July. Thereafter, the Department of Health will be seeking tenders through the public procurement process for the carrying out of the review. This process takes approximately 4 months. It is anticipated that the review itself will take approximately three months to complete. It is expected that the review will commence in the last quarter of this year and be completed in early 2013. As the Scheme is statutory based, the implementation of any recommendations arising from the review may require significant amendments to the Nursing Homes Support Scheme Act, 2009.

Hospital Services

Michael Colreavy

Question:

141 Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Health the measures being taken to reduce the number of delayed discharges in public hospitals. [29421/12]

Many of the Special Delivery Unit initiatives to date have been targeted at the patients remaining in acute beds post medical discharge and these have involved increased access to home supports and transitional care. A specific project aimed at improving the quality of care delivery to the frail older person is being finalised and a group will be set up to oversee implementation of this national initiative on care of the frail older person. The project aim is to support the frail older person at home, create direct access pathways in the acute setting, rehabilitation and transitional care settings and reduce the length of stay. The Model of Care document is being presented to the Acute and Community Sector currently and Acute and Community Sectors are looking at ways to implement the Model of Care. These plans are being submitted and assessed at the moment. SDU Liaison Officers also work with the hospitals and communities to improve the patient flow of all patient groups.

Question No. 142 answered with Question No. 137.

Michael McGrath

Question:

143 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health the services that he is requesting hospitals to cut in order to address their deficits; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29464/12]

As the Deputy is aware, this country is facing a great economic challenge. 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. In terms of service delivery, we must concentrate on getting the best possible services for patients from the budgets available to us. This means a greater emphasis on how beds are used, on the throughput of patients, on reducing length of stay to international norms and on having as many procedures as possible carried out as day cases rather than inpatient work, thus maximising the efficient usage of operating theatre facilities.

The work of the Special Delivery Unit, together with the Clinical Care Programmes and the Smaller Hospitals Framework will help to improve the efficiency of our hospitals, allowing us to treat as many patients as possible in more appropriate settings and within budget. I believe that pursuing efficiencies through these means will be a far more productive approach than debating any reductions in services.

Clare Daly

Question:

144 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Health if, in the context of the severe pressure on the State’s maternity services, he intends to bring forward proposals to expand and develop community based midwifery schemes as the safest, most cost-effective and woman-focused quality maternity care. [29357/12]

The matter raised by the Deputy relates to the delivery of services and accordingly has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Medicinal Products

Timmy Dooley

Question:

145 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Health when cancer patients may expect to be able to receive Ipilimumab; the reasons for the further delay in its provision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29447/12]

The Health Service Executive announced on 3 May that from that date Ipilimumab (trade name Yervoy), the new drug for patients with progressive melanoma, was being made available. The decision was the culmination of a comprehensive technology review process within the National Cancer Control Programme which included the drug company submission, a clinical practice guideline from medical oncologists and a pharmacoeconomic analysis by the National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics. A subsequent written notice was issued by the National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP) on 15 May to all hospital CEOs, medical oncologists and also hospital chief pharmacists that Ipilimumab was now available and providing additional information re patient eligibility. The letter also provided an interim means for hospitals to register patients for the drug. To the end of last week, 5 registrations had been received.

On 8 June, the NCCP wrote to the HSE's Primary Care Reimbursement Scheme (PCRS), confirming that the PCRS was implementing this new system whereby hospitals administering Ipilimumab should register the patient and the diagnosis with PCRS and submit billings to PCRS as the first drug to be administered under this new national oncology drugs demand led scheme, whereby money will follow the patient in a national process which captures eligibility information and utilisation. The final steps in the reimbursement process will be communicated to hospital CEOs in the next 2 weeks.

Health Service Reform

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

146 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health if he will set out his proposals for the democratisation of the structures engaged in the delivery of the health service with particular reference to the need to replace the Health Service Executive with a more accountable and transparent body in view of the need to ensure that policies are led and driven by a combination of elected public representatives, representatives of the professions and his Department, with the objective of achieving the highest possible levels of value for money and ready access for patients to services as required notwithstanding the current economic situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29362/12]

Stephen S. Donnelly

Question:

659 Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for Health his plans to develop national and-or regional integrated healthcare strategies, combining the various aspects of the health care system and the various existing strategies which address specific aspects of healthcare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29665/12]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

677 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health the way it is intended to develop policy in the health services in the future, whether by his Department, the Health Service Executive or otherwise; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29797/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 146, 659 and 677 together.

My Department has primary responsibility for advising me on issues relating to national policy development and review, while the HSE has responsibility for the delivery of health and personal social services. In line with the Programme for Government commitments, a series of legislative changes are planned to bring about radical reform of the health services which will see the introduction of Universal Health Insurance.

On 29 May, the Government approved the drafting of legislation to abolish the Board of the HSE and to provide for a Directorate to be the new governing body for the HSE in place of the Board. The intention is that the Bill will be drafted as a matter of urgency so that it can be considered by the Oireachtas as soon as possible. In tandem with the proposed new governance structures, new administrative structures will be put in place in the HSE, to 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 health reform programme is a complex and major undertaking that requires careful planning and sequencing. Detailed consideration must be given to the optimal structures for delivery of different services and to the critical inter-relationships between services as well as best practice in health care reform. These new governance and administrative arrangements represent important first steps in the process of delivering the reform agenda contained in the Programme for Government. The next steps, which will include measures to facilitate clearer and better integrated delivery and funding arrangements, are under consideration at present.

Data Protection

Micheál Martin

Question:

147 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Health the discussions he has held with the Data Protection Commissioner regarding insurance companies accessing the files of patients; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29457/12]

I can confirm that my Department has not had discussions with the Data Protection Commissioner regarding insurance companies accessing the files of patients. Health insurers, in common with all other organisations and persons in the public and private sectors who collect, use, have access to or disclose personal data (which includes any medical information relating to living identifiable individuals) are obliged to comply fully with the Data Protection Acts.

Health Services

Pearse Doherty

Question:

148 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Health his estimate of the total sum expended by the population on health services, including Exchequer funding, contributions to health insurance providers and direct payments by patients to general practitioners and to all other private health service providers; if he will provide the breakdown of the total by each of the above headings and any other outlay headings that occur; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29419/12]

The most recent data on total expenditure on health in Ireland, which includes both public and private, refers to 2010 and is compiled by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) and published by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). This indicates total expenditure of €14,334 million of which €9,964 million relates to public expenditure and €4,370 million to private expenditure. The latter figure includes expenditure on private health insurance (€1,817 million) and out-of pocket expenses (€2,489 million). Further breakdown on types of private health expenditure are not routinely available from the CSO.

In the interpretation of these figures it should be noted that the OECD data differs from the Revised Estimates figures for funding of the health group of Votes. The principal reason for this is that, to enable international comparability, the OECD excludes spending on a range of matters such as personal social services. It includes a much smaller amount related to spending by the Department of Social Protection on medical benefits. The Revised Estimates for the Public Services show expenditure for the health group of Votes in 2010 of €15,178 million.

Hospital Services

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

149 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health the additional resources that will be made available to the three existing children’s hospitals pending the development of a national paediatric hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29417/12]

Regarding the national paediatric hospital project, as you will be aware, I established an independent Review Group to consider the implications of the decision of An Bórd Pleanála, received on 23 February 2012, to reject the planning application for the proposed construction of the hospital on the site of the Mater Misericordiae Hospital. The aim of the Review was to consider all the possible options for the earliest possible delivery of a new children's hospital. The Group has now presented its report, which I intend to consider carefully before bringing to Government. Resources for the three existing children's hospitals relate to service delivery and I have asked the HSE to reply directly to the Deputy on this matter.

Nursing Home Services

Michael Moynihan

Question:

150 Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Health if the reduction in community care and community nursing home beds is resulting in an increase in delayed discharges; the actions he will take to address same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29468/12]

Many of the Special Delivery Unit initiatives to date have been targeted at the patients remaining in acute beds post medical discharge and these have involved increased access to home supports and transitional care. A specific project aimed at improving the quality of care delivery to the frail older person is being finalised and a group will be set up to oversee implementation of this national initiative on care of the frail older person. The project aim is to support the frail older person at home, create direct access pathways in the acute setting, rehabilitation and transitional care settings and reduce the length of stay.

The Model of Care document is being presented to the Acute and Community Sector currently and Acute and Community Sectors are looking at ways to implement the Model of Care. These plans are being submitted and assessed at the moment. The liaison officers also work with the hospitals and communities to improve the patient flow of all patient groups. Government policy is support older people to live at home and in their communities for as long as possible. This is realised through a range of community based services such as Home Help, Home Care Packages, Meals-on-Wheels or Day/Respite Care.

While the HSE Service Plan 2012 involves a reduction of around 3.5% in mainstream Home Help hours nationally, from just over 11m hours in 2011 to 10.7m hours this year, the corresponding reduction proposed in the actual number of people receiving Home Help drops by just under 2% or, in other words, from some 51,000 recipients last year to 50,000 in 2012. This reflects various recent operational improvements by the HSE, including an increased focus towards more personalised care at individual level. In addition, the current HSE Service Plan maintains Home Care Packages for this year at 2011 levels. This enhanced care option usually contains a significant Home Help element. This emphasis in the Plan indicates a strong commitment to Government policy, in the light of evolving resources and competing demands.

Water Fluoridation

Luke 'Ming' Flanagan

Question:

151 Deputy Luke “Ming” Flanagan asked the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to the study Human Toxicity, Environmental Impact and Legal Implications of Water Fluoridation; if his further attention has been drawn to the fact that this same report has been reviewed by many national and local authorities in many countries and that in Canada several cities and provinces have ceased adding fluoride to public water supplied as a result of the findings in the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29356/12]

Luke 'Ming' Flanagan

Question:

158 Deputy Luke “Ming” Flanagan asked the Minister for Health the action he will take in relation to the findings of a report entitled Human Toxicity, Environmental Impact and Legal Implications of Water Fluoridation which states that research findings have demonstrated the ability of fluoride to act as an enzymatic poison in the human body inhibiting critical metabolic pathways required for healthy living; if he will instruct the Irish expert body on fluorides and health to review the findings in this report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29355/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 151 and 158 together.

The report to which the Deputy refers was referred to the Irish Expert Body on Fluorides and Health for examination. The Expert Body has concluded that the report is not reliable. The Expert Body's Appraisal and an Executive Summary of the Appraisal are available on the Expert Body's website,www.fluoridesandhealth.ie. I understand that the report has been circulated to some national and local authorities in Ireland, some of whom have communicated with my Department regarding its content. My Department has received no communication from health authorities outside the jurisdiction regarding the report.

Fundamentally the Expert Body maintains that there continues to be overwhelming evidence that water fluoridation significantly benefits dental health and through this, benefits overall health. The Expert Body is satisfied having studied current peer reviewed scientific evidence worldwide that water fluoridation causes no ill effects to the health of adults or children. There are no plans to discontinue the policy of fluoridation of public water supplies, which continues to make an effective contribution to oral health in Ireland.

Medicinal Products

Sandra McLellan

Question:

152 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Health the improved procedures that will be put in place to address the need to make the most effective new drugs and treatments available as soon as possible to public patients. [29425/12]

The Chief Medical Officer has been requested to engage with the HSE to examine the current decision making process and ensure that there is a robust system in place to drive decision making around medicines and evidence based prescribing. It is expected that the Chief Medical Officer shall report on this in the coming weeks.

Care of the Elderly

Brian Stanley

Question:

153 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Health the position regarding the future of public nursing homes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29431/12]

Government policy in relation to older people is to support people to live in dignity and independence in their own homes and communities for as long as possible. Where this is not feasible, the health service supports access to quality long-term residential care. While reiterating this Government's commitment to the future public provision of residential care for older people, we must also recognise that the HSE is facing challenges in respect of all services in 2012. In the case of Community Nursing Units these include challenges regarding staffing, funding and the age and structure of its units. In this regard the HSE is carrying out a viability review of all its long stay nursing homes. When complete, this will give a clear outline and profile of each of the public long stay units including their status on meeting Health Information and Quality Authority standards.

Health Service Expenditure

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

154 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Health if he is carrying out an assessment of the impact of cuts to the 2012 health budget on patient care in advance of budget 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29428/12]

The Government will have to make very difficult decisions regarding expenditure across all areas of public spending in 2013 and beyond. In making decisions on health spending for 2013, I will be examining a range of options very carefully, and will have available to me a range of expertise, both within and outside my own Department. I will take full account of the situation as it emerges during 2012. My main concern is patient care, and all of the decisions taken by the Government in relation to health spending will be strongly informed by this key consideration. I believe that we can and must deliver a quality service to patients within the resources available, and I will continue to pursue this objective in respect of 2013.

Mortality Rates

Denis Naughten

Question:

155 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health when he will publish his Department’s report on mortality rates at acute hospitals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29358/12]

The Chief Medical Officer of my Department is finalising a report examining the potential of hospital discharge data in measuring the quality of health care. This includes the measure of recorded 30 day in-hospital mortality rates following heart attack. Work is ongoing. It is intended to publish before end of July 2012.

Primary Care Services

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

156 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Health the number of primary health care centres which currently host dentists or associated dental services; his plans to include dentist facilities in future primary health care facilities; if he has a strategy for the provision of dental services in primary health care centres; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29361/12]

HSE Dental Services are provided at a Primary Care Network level, not at a Primary Care Team level. The current policy is to provide at least one public dental service in each Primary Care Network. A re-organisation of the Dental Service is underway. The reorganisation will involve the restructuring of service areas in the near future. This will support a unified approach with fewer service areas and maximization of resources within each area.

Question No. 157 answered with Question No. 126.
Question No. 158 answered with Question No. 151.

North-South Study on Health Services

Pearse Doherty

Question:

159 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Health the progress, if any, made in the implementation of recommendations of the North-South feasibility study on co-operation in health services in Ireland [29418/12]

The North-South Feasibility Study, finalised in 2009, examined the potential for joint co-operation in health across an extensive range of health and social care services. It set out 10 priority recommendations and many of these are already being taken forward. Areas of ongoing collaboration include — child protection, cancer research, health promotion, suicide prevention, radiotherapy services, paediatric congenital cardiac surgery and a range of initiatives under the Interreg IVA funding initiative. The Study was published on the websites of the Irish Department of Health and the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety in Northern Ireland in December 2011.

At a departmental level co-operation between the two jurisdictions is active and ongoing. "Transforming Your Care: a Review of Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland" also recommends co-operation on a number of key issues. My officials are liaising with their counterparts in the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety in Northern Ireland on how to progress these issues. I am committed to working together with my Northern colleagues on issues of common concern and benefit. This is of particular relevance in the current time when both jurisdictions are implementing change and pushing forward health reform.

Hospital Services

John Halligan

Question:

160 Deputy John Halligan asked the Minister for Health the reason it can take up to 413 days for a person to be admitted to the National Rehabilitation Hospital’s brain injury inpatient programme; the reason the numbers of patients unable to be discharged home from this programme is sharply rising from 3% in 2010 to 17% in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29434/12]

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.

Job Statistics

Robert Dowds

Question:

161 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Taoiseach the numbers of people with disabilities known to be working in the private sector, in the most recent year for which figures are available. [29098/12]

The Quarterly National Household Survey (QNHS) is the official source of employment estimates in the State. The QNHS identifies people as disabled if they indicate that they have one or more of a list of long-standing illnesses or difficulties. On this basis the estimated number of disabled people aged 15 years or over in the State in the first quarter of 2012 was 409,400 of whom 70,900 or 17.3% were in employment. It is not possible to reliably split this employment between the public and private sectors using information from the QNHS.

The National Disability Survey (NDS) in 2006 was specifically designed to collect more detailed information regarding the status of disabled persons. The definition applied in this survey was different to that used in the QNHS and, as such, estimates cannot be directly compared. There were an estimated 15,100 disabled adults in private households employed in the private sector in 2006 based on the definitions used for the NDS. This refers to adults whose disability limited or affected them before the age of 65. Results from the Census of Population for 2011 covering disability will be published on 28th June 2012. These results will be based on the same measurement of disability as applied in the QNHS.

Departmental Funding

Derek Keating

Question:

162 Deputy Derek Keating asked the Taoiseach the number of associations, organisations and regulatory bodies in receipt of grants, benefit in kind and sums of money from the State in tabular form for the past three years; if he is satisfied that the State should be financing such organisations; if he will undertake to examine the savings that can be made in this area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28949/12]

Grant payments were made by my Department from the Commemoration Initiatives Fund in 2009, 2010 and 2011 and the Communicating Europe Initiative in 2012. In 2012 the Commemoration Initiatives Fund was transferred to the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. In addition a grant payment was made to the European Movement in 2012.

The following tables provide details of the payments made to organisations and individuals from 2009 to date under each of the initiatives.

Schedule of grants from the Commemoration Initiative Fund 2009 to 2011

2009

Recipient of Grant

Amount

Institute for British-Irish Studies, UCD

€50,000

Mayo Peace Park

€10,000

Kickham Country Weekend

€6,000

UCD and St. Deniol’s Library, UK

€5,896

Royal Irish Academy (RIA)

€40,000

SIPTU

€19,000

UCC

€1,500

Total

€132,396

2010

Recipient of Grant

Amount

Suffolk Historical Society

€980

University College Cork

€1,500

Northern Ireland Building Communities Trust Ltd

€2,004

John Moyney VC Project

€1,135

The O’Brien Press Ltd

€2,000

University College Dublin — National Folklore Collection

€5,000

The Somme Association

€23,327

Institute for British-Irish Studies, UCD

€35,000

Thomas Davis Project(Mallow Development Partnership)

€10,000

University College Dublin

€3,000

Marino College VEC — Memorial Garden and Information Wall — North Strand Bombings 31 May 1941

€2,000

Ireland Newfoundland Connections Ltd.

€900

Total

€86,846

2011

Recipient of Grant

Amount

London South Bank University

€910

Campile Memorial Society

€3,000

SIPTU — James Connolly Writings

€16,000

Kennedy Memorial Lecture Series

€1,550

Institute for British-Irish Studies, UCD

€35,000

Ulster Newfoundland Initiative (Don McNeill, Chairperson)

€700

Royal Irish Academy

€19,000

Total

€76,160

Schedule of grants from Communicating Europe Initiative January 2012 to date

Recipient of Grant

Amount

Understanding Europe

2,000

European Youth Parliament

8,000

Tina Leonard (Journalist)

2,000

Women for Election

4,000

West Dublin Access Radio

2,000

Institute of Technology Tralee

4,000

European Movement Ireland

5,000

Temple Bar Cultural Trust

15,000

Total

42,000

Grant payment to European Movement — 2012

European Movement Ireland

50,000

Vacancies on State Boards

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

163 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Taoiseach if he will provide a list of the State agencies in which he has not made an appointment to a State body when a vacancy has arisen in view of the fact that it is necessary to consider changes in the function or structure of the Board. [28950/12]

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

165 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Taoiseach if he will provide a list of all current commercial semi-State company and non-commercial State agency board appointees; and their annual remuneration and competencies. [28952/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 163 and 165 together.

The National Economic and Social Development Office (NESDO) is the only agency under the aegis of my Department. The NESDO was established under the National Economic and Social Development Office Act 2006 and is the body corporate for the National Economic and Social Council (NESC). There are no vacancies on the NESDO board at present. Under the NESDO Act 2006, the board of the NESDO comprises the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson of the NESC, posts which historically are filled from my Department at Secretary General and Assistant Secretary level. The NESDO board currently comprises Martin Fraser, Secretary General of my Department, and John Shaw, Assistant Secretary. No remuneration is paid for membership of the board of NESDO.

Departmental Staff

Sean Fleming

Question:

164 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Taoiseach the number of agency and contract staff currently employed in the public sector; the mechanism in place for monitoring and managing the associated costs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28951/12]

My Department does not employ any agency staff but 26 staff are employed on a contract basis. This figure includes seven graduates with qualifications in EU related disciplines who were recruited on a contract basis to support Ireland's work on the EU Presidency following an open competition held earlier this year. Their contracts will end when the EU Presidency is over in July, 2013. One member of staff is employed on a contract to cover for someone on long term sick leave. 18 contract staff in my Department are staff whom I appointed and whose contracts are coterminous with my term of office as Taoiseach e.g. my Special Advisers, Personal Assistants, etc. All staff on contracts are included in my Department's payroll. Their salary costs are monitored and managed as part of the overall payroll management system together with the payroll costs for permanent staff.

Question No. 165 answered with Question No. 163.

Niall Collins

Question:

166 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Taoiseach if he will provide a breakdown of costs, including autocue, make-up, consultants and other costs, incurred in his addresses to the nation in December 2011 and in May 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28974/12]

There were no additional costs relating to these addresses.

Appointments to State Boards

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

167 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Taoiseach if he will consider the appointment of an independent Public Appointments Commissioner to oversee all State board appointees, answerable to the Minister and the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform. [28243/12]

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

168 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Taoiseach the instruction he provides to Government Ministers regarding evaluation of necessary skills sets when making appointments to State boards. [28237/12]

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

169 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Taoiseach the actions he has taken to rectify issues regarding transparency in the process of appointments to State boards following the Institute of Directors’ report State boards in Ireland 2012 — Challenges for the future published last month. [28236/12]

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

170 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Taoiseach if he will consider the appointment of qualified Irish diaspora to State boards who have offered their expertise with no cost to the State. [28246/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 167 to 170, inclusive, together.

The Government does not plan to appoint an independent Public Appointments Commissioner to oversee all State Board appointments. Since coming into office we have made a number of improvements to the system for making such appointments, including:

Departments, on their websites, inviting expressions of interest in vacancies on the boards under their aegis, with the invitations indicating the skills being sought; and

those proposed for appointment as Chairpersons being required to make themselves available to the relevant Oireachtas Committee to discuss the approach they propose to take to their role as Chairperson and their views about the future contribution of the body in question.

I have noted the issues mentioned in the Institute of Directors' survey. However, the new arrangements introduced by the Government have significantly improved transparency in the making appointments to State Boards compared with the making of appointments in previous years.

As regards the appointment of qualified Irish diaspora, the only Boards under my Department's aegis are the National Economic and Social Development Office, National Economic and Social Council and the National Statistics Board. The arrangements for making appointments to these are set down in the relevant legislation (the National Economic and Social Development Office Act 2006 and the Statistics Act 1993). Members of the Government are aware of the offer made by the diaspora and I am sure they will take this into consideration when making appointments to the State Boards under their Departments' aegis.

State Agencies

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

171 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Taoiseach the number of quangos, quasi autonomous non-governmental organisations, which are funded partially or wholly, directly or indirectly, by his Department that have been abolished, merged, or reduced in scale since the formation of the Government; the amount that has been saved as a result and the number by which personnel numbers have been reduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29544/12]

No such bodies were or are funded by my Department and consequently none have been abolished, merged or reduced in scale by my Department since the formation of the Government.

Passport Applications

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

172 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the position regarding a passport application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo, and if there are any difficulties with this application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28976/12]

The Passports Act, 2008 broadly requires that before issuing a passport to a person, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade shall be satisfied as to the identity of each applicant and that the person is an Irish citizen. Documentary proof in respect of identity and entitlement to citizenship are required for all passport applications. These requirements are outlined in the passport application form notes that accompany each application form. Details are also available on the Department's websitewww.passport.ie. The person in question applied for a passport on 1 June, 2012 through the Passport Express service. The Passport Service wrote to the applicant on 15 June, 2012 to seek further information in relation to the application.

Referendum Expenditure

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

173 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if public expenditure has been spent to date or has been budgeted for research, focus groups, polling or any type of information gathering with regards to the referendum held on 31 May 2012. [28252/12]

Media monitoring services were provided for the duration of the Stability Treaty referendum campaign at a cost of €3,075. No public funds were spent or budgeted for research, focus groups or polling in relation to the referendum.

Overseas Development Aid

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

174 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will provide a breakdown of the amount of money Irish Aid spent on responding to emergencies in the past three years; the main recipients of that funding and the balance between funding for the work of Irish NGOs, other NGOs, and multilateral institutions. [29399/12]

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

175 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the amount of money Irish Aid spent over the past three years to prevent emergencies occurring; and the funding available to strengthen the resilience of poor people and poor communities to withstand setbacks in tackling such emergencies. [29400/12]

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

176 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the criteria in place to systematically invest in the prevention of disasters in view of the fact that the existing Irish Aid Humanitarian Relief Policy (2009) does not specify the way Irish Aid intends to do this. [29401/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 174 to 176, inclusive, together.

The Government's approach to humanitarian assistance is set out in Irish Aid's Humanitarian Relief Policy, which identifies the primary goals of humanitarian action as saving lives, alleviating suffering and maintaining human dignity. This policy highlights Ireland's commitment to upholding the application of international humanitarian law and to the internationally-recognised humanitarian principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence.

In keeping with the Humanitarian Relief Policy, Ireland has responded in a timely and effective manner over the past three years to large scale emergencies in Haiti, Pakistan, the Horn of Africa and more recently the Sahel Region. In addition, Ireland also pays particular attention to so-called protracted and "forgotten emergencies" — or those situations where the crisis continues but no longer commands the attention of the world's media. Such countries include Sudan, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad, Zimbabwe and Yemen.

Irish Aid's humanitarian funding is distributed through three groups of established partners: UN Agencies, the Red Cross Movement and NGOs (both Irish and other international NGOs). Efforts are ongoing to strengthen all of these partnerships, in recognition of the vital contribution that each group makes to effective emergency response globally. The balance of funding between these different categories of partners shifts depending on changing needs and priorities and an objective assessment of which agency is most competent to respond to a given crisis situation. Criteria for decision making are context specific depending on the nature of the crisis and the response required.

These funding arrangements are complemented by a more operational response capability through Ireland's Rapid Response Initiative. This includes the pre-positioning and transportation of humanitarian supplies to disaster areas as appropriate and a register of highly-skilled individuals, for deployment at short notice to assist in an emergency relief effort. The following table provides a breakdown of funding provided to Irish NGOs, other NGOs, the Rapid Response Initiative and multilateral agencies over the 2010 to 2012 period.

Irish Aid Humanitarian Funding

2010 €

2011 €

2012 to date €

% of total%

UN/Multilateral Agencies

29,813,196

30,784,513

11,132,203

51.3

Red Cross Movement

10,125,000

13,275,000

100,000

16.8

Irish NGOs

13,982,927

13,073,970

4,727,220

22.8

Other NGOs

248,516

400,000

0

.5

Rapid Response Corps

1,642,211

1,830,367

470,262

2.8

Stockpiles

2,347,078

3,250,000

2,500,000

5.8

Total

€58,158,928

€62,613,850.00

€18,929,685

100

While major progress has been made in improving the international response to crises, much attention is now focused on disaster prevention and preparedness as a complement to relief. Ireland is in the forefront of these efforts. It is estimated that every €7 spent on responding to natural disasters could be offset by €1 spent on preparedness and early warning. Increasingly, Ireland's strategy is to ensure that all of our aid — both long term development funding as well as humanitarian assistance — is targeted towards the poorest and most vulnerable populations in order to strengthen their resilience and build their capacity to respond to the inevitable pressures which result from climatic and other shocks.

Since the publication of the Humanitarian Relief Policy in 2009, a number of important innovations have been introduced to Irish Aid funding mechanisms in order to increase our investment in the prevention of disasters. For example, Irish Aid has pre-positioned funding with a number of humanitarian NGOs such as Concern, Goal and Trócaire (through the Humanitarian Programme Plan and the Emergency Response Fund) which encourages our NGO partners to anticipate predictable emergencies in their areas of operation, and both invest in resilience support activities as well as gearing up for early response. Through the Irish Aid Rapid Response Initiative, Ireland can immediately deploy highly-skilled personnel and emergency supplies to a disaster zone within hours of a crisis in order to prevent a major loss of life. Through these mechanisms, Irish Aid is in a position to support partners to prevent a major loss of life in those first critically important days of a disaster situation.

Irish Aid has also established a dedicated budget line called the Emergency Preparedness, Post-Emergency and Recovery Assistance (EPPR) Budget within the overall humanitarian budget (an average of €7 million per year). This supports pilots and innovative work being undertaken by Irish Aid partners in reducing risk and building local capacity to respond to disasters. We also continue to encourage our NGO partners to include investment in disaster risk reduction as part of their long term development work.

Internationally the 2005 Hyogo Framework for Action, to which Ireland is a signatory, provides the global blueprint for disaster risk reduction. In support of the implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action, Ireland provides funding to the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction and the World Bank's Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery to help developing countries reduce their vulnerability to natural hazards and adapt to climate change. In addition, Ireland is an active member of the EU Disaster Risk Reduction steering group established at expert level to oversee the implementation of the EU strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction.

Finally, and most importantly, through our ongoing long term development programmes, Ireland systematically invests in the prevention of disasters and strengthening the resilience of poor people and communities to manage risks and mitigate disasters. Social Protection and the provision of cash transfers are increasingly used as a development tool to enhance the capacity of poor people to cope with poverty, and equip them to better manage risks and shocks. These types of interventions are a core element of Irish Aid development programmes particularly in countries such as Malawi, Vietnam, Tanzania, Uganda, Mozambique and Ethiopia. These programmes, I believe, place Irish Aid at the leading edge in relation to working towards reducing and mitigating the effects of disasters.

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

177 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the amounts of funding Irish Aid has made available, as part of its finding for NGO programmes, for the strengthening of those organisations’ internal capacity; if he will provide, in tabular form, an overview of the areas of capacity development those NGOs have focused on in using those funds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29402/12]

The Government's aid programme, which is managed by Irish Aid in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, is sharply focused on the fight against global poverty and hunger. It is recognised internationally for its effectiveness, and for its concentration on some of the poorest countries and communities in sub-Saharan Africa.

Cooperation with development Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) represents a very important element of the Government's aid programme, administered by Irish Aid. The programme channels a higher proportion of overall assistance through the non-governmental sector than most other international donors, reflecting the strong support of the Irish people for the work of NGOs and missionaries. Funding for NGOs is provided through a range of funding schemes covering long term development, emergency and recovery assistance and development education.

Nineteen NGOs were recently approved for four-year programme grants for their long term development work. For 2012, this represents a cumulative budget of €65 million. This NGO funding is strongly focused on the achievement of development results through high quality programmes that make a real and sustainable impact on the reduction of poverty and hunger. In order to achieve quality programmes, Irish Aid allows each NGO to spend up to 6% of the grant on strengthening organisational capacity, monitoring the success of interventions and documenting good practice.

In general, NGOs use this capacity development support to strengthen their governance, management, quality and technical oversight capacity as well as improving their financial management and systems for tracking results. Irish Aid monitors progress in the strengthening of internal organisational capacity closely during the programme cycle through regular field monitoring visits to programme partners, annual narrative and financial reporting against agreed objectives and budgets, end of programme evaluations and ongoing reviews of compliance.

The Government is firmly committed to targeting our aid on the fight against extreme poverty and hunger among the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. Our NGO partners will continue to play a crucial role as we work to achieve the maximum benefit from Ireland's development co-operation programme and its contribution to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

State Agencies

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

178 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of quangos, quasi autonomous non-governmental organisations, which are funded partially or wholly, directly or indirectly, by his Department that have been abolished, merged, or reduced in scale since the formation of the Government; the amount that has been saved as a result and the number by which personnel numbers have been reduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29538/12]

There are no organisations of the type referred to by the Deputy under the auspices of my Department.

State Visits

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

179 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade when he will issue a formal invitation to Pope Benedict XVI to visit here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29768/12]

As I have previously made clear in public statements, if the Government receives an indication that the Pope wishes to travel to Ireland, the Government will be more than ready to issue a formal invitation and to welcome him here. The willingness of the Government to invite Pope Benedict to Ireland has been made very clear by our Ambassador to the Holy See in the course of his meetings with Vatican officials.

Official Engagements

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

180 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will report on his recent visit to Sierra Leone and Liberia; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29773/12]

My visit to West Africa between the 1st and the 8th of June 2012 provided me with an invaluable opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the considerable challenges facing Sierra Leone and Liberia and to see first-hand the contribution being made by Ireland through Irish Aid to both countries. The visit also included a short stop-over in Accra Ghana to view the UN Humanitarian Depot, and dispatch an essential life-saving shipment of Irish Aid stocks and supplies for refugees affected by the ongoing crisis in the Sahel.

Both Sierra Leone and Liberia have worked to consolidate peace since their inter-connected civil wars ended a little over a decade ago. The conflicts in both countries led to immense destruction and loss of life, and left a challenging legacy for the fledgling democratic institutions which are being now being developed there. In Sierra Leone, the war, which was funded and fuelled in no small part by Charles Taylor, the former Liberian President (who is currently indicted for war crimes), resulted in the death of over 50,000 people. In Liberia, the civil war which ended in 2003 claimed over 250,000 lives and displaced over 1 million people as well as devastating the country's social, political and physical infrastructure. It is praiseworthy however that despite this painful past, both countries have enjoyed a sustained period of peace and security for the past decade and Ireland has played its part in assisting this peaceful transition. During my trip, I met with a large number of Sierra Leoneans and Liberians who expressed hope and optimism for the future. People are moving forward and do not want to return to conflict.

Sierra Leone and Liberia remain however among the poorest countries in the world, ranked 180 and 182 respectively of 187 countries on the 2011 UN Human Development Index. The average Liberian has a life expectancy of 57 years, has less than four years of schooling and lives on less than $1.25 a day. Five out of every 100 Liberian women will die from giving birth. While the malnutrition situation has improved significantly since 2006, chronic malnutrition remains among the highest in the world at almost 42%. Life expectancy in Sierra Leone is 48 years, and 53% of the population of 6 million live below the absolute poverty line with maternal and under-five child mortality rates among the highest in the world. Ireland's development engagement in both countries seeks to specifically target these difficult development challenges.

Ireland's programme in Sierra Leone is primarily focused on addressing the issues of nutrition and food security. I saw the benefits of this support first hand when I visited an Agricultural Business Centre while in the northern town of Makeni where I met with successful smallholder farmers who can now add value to their crops and successfully sell at market. During my visit to St. Joseph's School for the Hearing Impaired also in Makeni, I had the opportunity to see a school-feeding programme supported by Ireland, which ensures that school-age children are provided with at least one nutritious meal per day. In Makeni, I also visited a Caritas supported programme which provides counselling and vocational training to former child soldiers. While there, I announced funding of €50,000 to Caritas, for its critical work in supporting those affected by conflict to build new lives and livelihoods.

In Liberia, a key focus of Irish effort is on strengthening the country's health systems and basic primary health care services. Irish and other development partner support has enabled a 24% expansion in the network of public health facilities and a doubling of the number of facilities providing the Basic Package of Health Services free of charge to all citizens. I visited an urban health facility in Monrovia, where I was able to see how Ireland's support has helped to significantly increase access to basic health and to strengthen health systems for the poorest and most vulnerable communities. While there, I announced further funding of €4 million euro to the Health Sector which will build on the important results achieved to date.

Ireland also provides support to the Liberia National Police. In Monrovia, I paid a visit to the National Police Training Academy in Monrovia to see how Ireland's support has contributed to the police force's capacity to maintain peace and provide security for the citizens of Liberia. I also met with the Deputy Commissioner of an Garda Síochána who was in Liberia at the time leading a review of Ireland's support to the Liberia National Police.

I took part in a number of high level political meetings during his visit, including with President Ernest Koroma of Sierra Leone and Vice President Joseph Boakai of Liberia (as well as several key Government Ministers). These discussions provided an opportunity to learn more about the challenges and progress being made by both countries in fostering economic growth and development, improving social service delivery and consolidating the democratic process. I took the opportunity to inform the Ministers from both countries about Ireland's strategy for deeper engagement with Africa, launched in 2011. I explained that this approach aims to place a greater emphasis on private sector investment and trade as an engine for sustainable development and I invited my West African counterparts to engage with us more fully on this agenda.

Ireland's support to Sierra Leone and Liberia demonstrates our commitment to working in fragile environments and supporting the recovery efforts and successful transition of countries emerging from conflict. Given the vulnerability of these fragile environments, my visit to West Africa has re-affirmed my view that it is imperative that Ireland provides supports to governments of countries in transition to enable them to assume responsibility for the arduous journey towards long term peace and development. I am furthermore convinced that Ireland can do more to assist Sierra Leone and Liberia not only in terms of aid, but also in terms of fostering trade and investment by Irish businesses.

Consular Services

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

181 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade in view of the further closure of a number of embassies here, if he is considering reviewing the allocation of embassies to predominantly include states in which there are reciprocal consular services and facilities in place or for important trade missions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29774/12]

Ireland had 56 Embassies, 7 multilateral missions and 10 Consulates General and other offices overseas. In addition to their country of primary accreditation, many Ambassadors are also accredited to additional countries on a non-resident basis. There are also 94 Honorary Consuls located in 54 locations around the world which assist primarily with consular functions on behalf of my Department.

Our Missions abroad are actively involved in representing and advancing Government policies with other States and in international organisations, in particular the EU and the UN; economic and cultural promotion; providing frontline consular and passport services to Irish citizens overseas; engaging with Irish communities and harnessing the resource they offer in assisting economic recovery; and managing programmes, particularly in Irish Aid priority countries. Our Embassy network works very closely with the State Agencies which have a remit for the promotion of Irish trade, tourism and inward investment — Enterprise Ireland, Bord Bia, Tourism Ireland and IDA Ireland — and other relevant Departments in assisting Irish producers to find and access new markets.

The scale and presence of the Irish diplomatic network is a matter that is kept under ongoing review in the light of changing circumstances and needs. Given the current budgetary situation, and recognising the role that our diplomatic network is playing in Ireland's economic recovery, any further adjustments to our diplomatic network will continue to be strategically focused. While any reduction in the number of Embassies in Dublin is to be regretted, it is a matter for each State to make decisions on where it deploys its diplomatic network. Likewise, for Ireland, we will continue to make our own decisions on where we have a Mission on the basis of an assessment of what best serves the interests of the State and our people.

Departmental Staff

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

182 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will report on the tax arrangements in place for the Irish diplomatic service; if he will confirm that Irish diplomats pay tax to the Irish tax authorities; his views on suggestions that pay scales for the Irish diplomatic service are considerably higher than their counterparts in other EU and OSCE countries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29775/12]

The salary scales applicable to diplomatic grades are the same as those that apply to equivalent grades in the general civil service and, as such, are a matter for the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. The salaries of diplomats and other staff temporarily posted abroad are subject to Irish income tax and other statutory deductions in the same way as any Irish based civil servant. I have no information to suggest that the relationship between the pay scales of Irish diplomats and their EU and OSCE counterparts is any different than that of any other area of the Irish public service.

Passport Applications

Catherine Byrne

Question:

183 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if there is currently a backlog of passport application in the Passport Office in Dublin; the conditions under which emergency passports are currently being granted or refused; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29857/12]

There are approximately 35,000 passport applications in the system at present. Of these, 25,000 are applications received through the Passport Express service which attracts a ten day guaranteed turnaround. The other 10,000 are a mixture of urgent counter applications, postal applications, applications from Northern Ireland and applications from our missions around the world. I am pleased to confirm that all correctly completed applications submitted through the Passport Express service, used by the vast majority of passport applicants within the State, are being processed within the ten day guarantee. Emergency passports are issued only in circumstances where the Passport Service is satisfied, on the basis of the application and supporting evidence, that:

the proposed journey is related to the death or serious injury or illness abroad of a close relative or a medical emergency relating to the applicant him/herself; and

the presence of the applicant at the foreign location in connection with such an unexpected event is necessary or highly desirable; and

the need to travel has arisen at short notice.

The Passport Service advises that citizens check the validity of their passports and submit for renewal through the Passport Express service where a guaranteed ten day turnaround will be provided.

Foreign Conflicts

Finian McGrath

Question:

184 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will support Argentina in its efforts on the Malvina’s issue; and if he will demand that the United Kingdom respond to the United Nation Resolutions. [29866/12]

As I have indicated to the House on a number of occasions, most recently on 6 March of this year, the question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) has been the subject of resolutions adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations, as well as its special committee on decolonisation. In its most recent resolution, adopted on 14 June 2012, the committee expressed its regret that, despite widespread international support for negotiation between the two governments, implementation of General Assembly resolutions on the question had not yet started. The governments were requested to consolidate the current process of dialogue and cooperation through resumed negotiations to find a peaceful solution to the dispute relating to the question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), in line with resolutions 2065 (XX) and 3160 (XXVIII), among others. I would encourage both countries to resume their negotiations in the interest of pursuing a peaceful resolution of their differences on this matter.

Job Initiatives

Michael McGrath

Question:

185 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his Department has prepared any report accounting for the way in which the sums of money raised from the jobs initiative of May 2011 have been spent to date; if so, if he will provide full details of the way in which this has been expended; and if he will advise the number of full and part-time jobs that have been created as a result of the initiative. [30149/12]

My Department does not have a central role in the jobs initiative of May 2011 and has not raised any funds from same.

Tax Code

Martin Heydon

Question:

186 Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Finance the reason services provided by Eircom are charged at a VAT rate of 23% while ESB services are charged at 13%; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29333/12]

VAT is charged on the supply of goods and services at different VAT rates, which are subject to the requirements of EU VAT law. The supply of electricity is liable to VAT at the 13.5% reduced rate, as specified in paragraph 17 of Schedule 3 of the Value-Added Tax Consolidation Act 2010. It is possible for Ireland to apply the 13.5% reduced rate to electricity under Title VIII of the EU VAT Directive. The supply of telecommunication services, however, is liable to VAT at the standard rate of 23%. The VAT Directive provides that the standard VAT rate must be applied to these services and as such it is not possible for Ireland to apply the 13.5% reduced rate to them.

Overseas Development Aid

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

187 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Finance the percentage of overseas development assistance funds administered directly by his Department; the amount of same that is spent on the World Bank and IMF and in which areas within those organisations. [29398/12]

Detailed statistics on Ireland's Official Development Assistance (ODA) are compiled by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Based on the preliminary outturn for 2011 the percentage of ODA administered directly by my Department is approximately 4.25%. A detailed breakdown of expenditure on ODA will be published in the Irish Aid Annual Report for 2011 which I understand is due to be available shortly. The 2011 Annual Report on Ireland's Participation in the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank was published by my Department earlier this year and includes details of payments to the World Bank which form part of Ireland's ODA. The report is available at www.finance.gov.ie.

Tax Clearance Certificates

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

188 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Finance the status of the investigation by the Revenue Commissioners into the income tax and VAT affairs of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28977/12]

Following a Revenue Audit a significant additional tax liability was established and assessed. The taxpayer made a payment on account and the balance of tax due was referred to the Revenue Sheriff for enforcement. Should the taxpayer wish to engage with Revenue, with a view to settling the liability, he can contact his local Revenue District, which is located at Michael Davitt House, Castlebar, County Mayo.

Mortgage Resolution Processes

Terence Flanagan

Question:

189 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance if he will deal with the following matter regarding mortgage rates in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 13; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28994/12]

Lending institutions are independent commercial entities and, as such, it is a commercial decision for each lender to decide what loans they will provide or agree to have switched to them. I have no power to insist that another lending institution accept a transfer of a mortgage from EBS.

Consumer Protection

Terence Flanagan

Question:

190 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance the outcome of investigations into a company (details supplied) which went into liquidation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29008/12]

I, as Minister for Finance, have no statutory role in relation to the investigation by the Central Bank into the company mentioned by the Deputy. However, I have been informed by the Central Bank that while the company concerned was not authorised or licensed by the Bank, and therefore its clients were not eligible to a compensation scheme/deposit protection scheme, the Central Bank has worked with the National Consumer Agency, regulatory and industry bodies to provide assistance to customers affected.

The Central Bank advises that it has undertaken a review of firms in the State who appeared to offer consumers debt advice and/or debt management type services. As a result of the review, some firms are engaging with the Central Bank and putting in place client safeguards while they seek authorisation and a number of other firms have opted to wind down their business. The Central Bank has also informed me that, while it cannot comment on an individual case, it can confirm that it continues to engage with a number of such firms and, in some instances, further action may arise from these investigations.

Pension Provisions

Robert Dowds

Question:

191 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Finance if he is considering proposals to allow persons to access a percentage of their private pensions before they reach retirement age; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29009/12]

There are a number of reasons why, under existing policies, early withdrawals of pension savings are not permitted, the principal one being that pension schemes and plans (and the associated tax reliefs) are designed as long term savings vehicles based on the principle that the savings will be "locked away" until retirement. Otherwise, there would be little reason to treat pension savings more favourably from a tax point of view than other general savings. A number of proposals have been made that individuals should be allowed access to their pension savings prior to retirement. Various rationales have been advanced to justify these proposals including that such access would allow those individuals to pay down mortgage and other debt and would otherwise provide a boost to economic activity.

This is not a simple matter. During 2011, at the request of the Government's Economic Management Council (EMC), an Ad-hoc group was established under the chairmanship of the Department of Social Protection to consider the idea of allowing people to access their pension savings before pension age in order to assist them in paying down debt. The ad-hoc group presented a detailed report to the EMC in September 2011. The conclusions of the Ad-hoc Group report were that:

There is no evidence that, in general, the group likely to be most affected by mortgage debt (or other debt) has access to sufficient pension savings to make a difference to their situation.

The legislative and administrative implications for such a scheme would be extremely complex and would appear excessive given the overall impact.

Longer term difficulties whereby people are not making adequate provision for their retirement would be exacerbated, with potential for increased demands on the State.

Individuals cashing in their pension savings now would get poor value in current circumstances which they would struggle to replace in the future.

The "Keane Group" on mortgage arrears did not dispute these findings and early access to pension savings did not feature among the recommendations of that Group. A more general scheme of early access to pension savings would present significant problems in terms of the proper targeting of the use of accessed funds and controls over potential abuse.

The tax treatment of pension savings for which I have responsibility is only one aspect of the broad policy of encouraging people to provide for an adequate income in retirement beyond the basic State pension. This policy area is the responsibility of my colleague, Ms Joan Burton TD, Minister for Social Protection, who I know is also aware of the proposals being made for early access to pension savings. The OECD is currently carrying out an independent review of long term pension policy in Ireland on behalf of the Minister for Social Protection. I have been advised, in response to a request from me in this matter, that the terms of reference of the independent review are such as to facilitate consideration of the issue of early access to pension savings and I would expect that the OECD review would deal with this issue.

Public Procurement Contracts

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

192 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide the procurement process that was followed by his Department in the selection of Deloitte to undertake the external review of the €3.6 billion accounting error in his Department. [29043/12]

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

193 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance if he will confirm if any oral instructions were given to Deloitte when they were awarded the contract to complete the external review of his Department’s €3.6 billion accounting error; if he will publish the terms of reference, engagement letter and brief provided to Deloitte. [29044/12]

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

194 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide a breakdown of the total cost of the Deloitte external review into the Department €3.6 billion accounting error; and in addition to provide the hourly rate charged by the senior partner working on the external review. [29045/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 192 to 194, inclusive, together.

The Deputy will recall that when the matter of the €3.6 bn statistical error was discussed in the Dáil on 2nd November of last year, I indicated that an external review of systems in the Department of Finance, the National Treasury Management Agency and the Central Statistics Office would be undertaken. It was envisaged that this external review would be separate, but related, to a review of the issue to be conducted internally by the Department of Finance. Given the urgency of this investigation, combined with the specialised nature of the matters to be covered by the review, the Department did not publicly advertise by tender. Instead, as provided under the 2004National Procurement Guidelines — Competitive Process, the direct invitation to tender approach was used where an invitation is made directly to suppliers deemed appropriately qualified for a particular project.

As provided under this approach, contact was made with a number of individuals who were deemed to have the necessary expertise to conduct the work covered by the Terms of Reference on an urgent basis. It was not possible to secure quotations from these individuals apart from the person contacted in Deloitte who indicated that their preference would be to undertake the work on foot of a contract with the firm. Deloitte submitted an initial estimate for the work at a fee of €135,050 (excluding expenses and VAT) which was subsequently reduced through negotiations to €50,000, excluding expenses and VAT, provided that expenses cannot exceed 10% (€5,000) of the cost quoted for the work which constituted a fixed price paid on completion.

Deloitte undertook the work in accordance with Terms of Reference which are set out below. I understand that separate oral instructions were not given to Deloitte when they were awarded the contract. I am informed that because the engagement with Deloitte was not a ‘time and rates' contract, but rather a fixed fee arrangement irrespective of how long the work took to complete, the question of an hourly rate does not arise.

The final cost of the work undertaken by Deloitte comes to €61,552.77 which consists of the agreed fixed fee of €50,000 plus miscellaneous expenses of €42.90 giving a total net fee of €50,042.90 which comes to €61,552.77 with the addition of 23% VAT of €11,509.87. The invoice for this work is currently in the process of being paid by my Department.

Terms of Reference for External Review

review the respective roles of the Department of Finance, the CSO and the NTMA in the compilation of the General Government Debt figures;

review the inter-action between all three organisations, including communications;

drawing on the findings of the Internal Review, this process should summarise the reasons for the error with regard to processes, systems, staffing, and control issues; (Individual personal performance is excluded from scope), and

making recommendations, if any, to (for example):

improve the inter-action between the three organisations, including the development of a communications protocol for all three organisations;

clarify and, if appropriate, reallocate the responsibilities for the compilation and reporting of the General Government Debt;

restructure the systems and work flows/responsibilities within the relevant areas of each of the three organisations;

identify system wide issues in this regard for more general applicability; and

recommend appropriate checks and balances to enable mistakes to be picked up in the system.

State Banking Sector

Michael McGrath

Question:

195 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the interest rate charged by the Central Bank of Ireland to IBRC for the exceptional liquidity assistance it provides to the bank and if he will confirm the current amount of ELA owed by IBRC to the Central Bank of Ireland. [29046/12]

The information requested by the Deputy is commercially sensitive and is not specifically disclosed by the Central Bank. However, details of Anglo Irish Bank's primary sources of funding are disclosed in the bank's Annual Report for the year ended 31 December 2011 which is accessible at the link below. These accounts will be updated in the IBRC interim accounts for the six months ended 30 June 2012 due for publication towards the end of September 2012.http://www.ibrc.ie/About_us/ Financial_information/Annual_Report/Annual_Report_2011.pdf

Disabled Drivers

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

196 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 69 of 24 May 2012, if some level of financial assistance may be provided to purchase a specifically adapted motor vehicle in view of the increasing extent and degree of their disability including the fact that she is an amputee, has suffered irreparable damage to her spinal cord, lower back and limbs arising from Spina Bifida, and has previously suffered from polio, if the decision to refuse a primary medical certificate is an accord with EU legislation in this instance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29172/12]

The Deputy may be aware that the decision to refuse a Primary Medical Certificate is a matter for the relevant Health Service Executive administrative area. The person may be eligible for a Motorised Transport Grant and accordingly should apply to the Health Service Executive. I am not aware that a refusal to grant a Primary Medical Certificate constitutes any breach of EU legislation in this instance.

Tax Clearance Certificates

Brendan Griffin

Question:

197 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Finance if a tax clearance will be provided to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29179/12]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that there are outstanding taxes owing in respect of the person who is the subject of this question. A Tax Clearance Certificate or a Temporary Tax Clearance Certificate cannot issue in circumstances where there are outstanding tax liabilities. The particular circumstances of the taxpayer are known, and discussions are ongoing between Revenue and the taxpayer to arrive at an acceptable solution in the circumstances.

Departmental Schemes

Dara Calleary

Question:

198 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Finance the supports available under the business expansion scheme to promoters willing to invest in the construction of commercial space for projects for which employment grants have been approved; the supports or reliefs that are available to such a promoter. [29307/12]

The Business Expansion Scheme (BES) is available to companies in respect of investments made and shares issued on or before 31 December 2011. No relief is available under BES in respect of investments made after that date. The BES was replaced by the Employment and Investment Incentive (EII), which came into effect on 25 November 2011.

The EII is available in respect of investments in most small and medium-sized trading companies. Certain exclusions do apply, however, and a trade of dealing in, or developing, land is specifically excluded from the qualifying trades for EII. This exclusion applies irrespective of whether an employment grant has been approved in respect of the project. However, a company that carries on a trade which is not an excluded trade may use funds raised under EII to construct a building or structure to be used for the purposes of that non-excluded trade. For example, a company carrying on a manufacturing trade may use funds raised under EII for the construction of a new factory to be used by it for that trade.

Job Initiatives

Michael McGrath

Question:

199 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if his Department has prepared any report accounting for the way in which the sums of money raised from the jobs initiative of May 2011 have been spent to date; if so, if he will provide full details of the way in which this has been expended; and if he will advise the number of full and part-time jobs that have been created as a result of the initiative. [29375/12]

Accounting for the way in which the sums of money raised from the Jobs Initiative have been spent is a matter for the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the other Departments with responsibility for implementing the measures introduced. Employment data are presented in net terms and information on gross flows into and out of employment is not available, making it difficult to assess the number of jobs created by any policy initiative.

So leaving aside the fact that quantifying the impact is difficult, I am confident that the measures introduced by the Government in May, such as reducing the rate of VAT in the high value added tourism sector, are playing an important role in both creating and sustaining employment. My Department has been monitoring retail prices in affected sectors to evaluate the effectiveness of the reduced VAT rates. Its analysis which is based on data provided by the CSO has demonstrated high levels of pass-through of the VAT reductions to consumer prices.

Finally, I want to reiterate that addressing the difficulties in the labour market remains the Governments biggest challenge and, accordingly, Government is giving its highest priority to job protection and job creation.

Tax Rebates

Jack Wall

Question:

200 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) is due a tax rebate for 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29406/12]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that PAYE Balancing Statement (P21) for 2011 and refund of tax overpaid will issue shortly to the person concerned.

Consumer Protection

Terence Flanagan

Question:

201 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance the regulations in place for money lending agencies regarding interest rates; if there is a maximum interest rate set for lending agencies or are they free to charge any interest rate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29518/12]

Moneylenders are covered by a range of provisions under the Consumer Credit Act 1995, including the annual licensing process by the Central Bank and the register of licensed moneylenders as detailed on the Central Bank's website,www.centralbank.ie. The annual percentage rate (APR) allowable under each moneylending licence is also available on the website. While there is no maximum rate of interest set out in legislation, under section 93(10)(g) of the Consumer Credit Act, the Central Bank may refuse to grant a moneylender’s licence if, in the opinion of the Bank, the cost of the credit sought by the moneylender is excessive or any of the terms or conditions attaching to it are unfair.

The Central Bank's Consumer Protection Code for Licensed Moneylenders, published in 2009, affords certain protections to client of moneylenders. Under the Code, a moneylender must, prior to entering into an agreement with a client:

disclose all the fees, costs and interest charged in a clear manner and

indicate prominently the high-cost nature of the loan on all loan documentation where the APR is 23% or higher. This disclosure must take the following form: "Warning: This is a high-cost loan.

State Agencies

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

202 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Finance the number of quangos, quasi autonomous non-governmental organisations, which are funded partially or wholly, directly or indirectly, by his Department that have been abolished, merged, or reduced in scale since the formation of the Government; the amount that has been saved as a result and the number by which personnel numbers have been reduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29537/12]

In response to the Deputy's question no quangos, quasi autonomous non-governmental organisations, which are funded partially or wholly, directly or indirectly, by my Department have been abolished, merged, or reduced in scale since the formation of the Government.

National Asset Management Agency

Pearse Doherty

Question:

203 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide the cash balances, by currency including sterling, at the National Asset Management Agency prior to the temporary funding of the IBRC promissory note on 3 April 2012; if he will confirm if foreign currency was exchanged into euros in order to finance the transaction; if so, the exchange rates and transaction costs that applied to any exchanges; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29556/12]

I am advised by NAMA that the IBRC-NAMA short-term financing transaction was funded by the Agency from its Euro Cash Balances. Prior to the short-term financing NAMA had a Euro cash balance of c. €4.5 billion. NAMA had small non-euro cash balances of less than €60 million.

Tax Code

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

204 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied that goods purporting to be produced in Israel but which are actually produced in illegal Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory have never illegally claimed preferential tariff on importation to Ireland; the measures the Customs authorities make to ensure that such illegal activity is not carried out. [29581/12]

Ireland, in common with its EU partners, is mindful of the obligation to ensure that the benefits of the EU-Israel Association Agreement are not granted to goods produced in Israeli settlements in either the West Bank or East Jerusalem. The origin of all goods imported into the EU must be declared to customs at the point of entry to the European Union. Where preference is being claimed under the terms of an international accord, such as the EU-Israel Association Agreement, this must be declared and appropriate documentary proofs of origin must be made available to customs.

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that across the EU, customs authorities regularly examine this documentation either at import or as part of their post-clearance risk based audit programmes. Where doubt arises, the origin of the goods is verified through contact with the customs authorities in the country of origin. The procedures followed by Revenue's Customs Service are similar to those operated throughout the entire EU. To date, these checks have not identified any instance where preferential treatment was being claimed inappropriately.

Universal Social Charge

Jack Wall

Question:

205 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) should be deducted the universal social charge on their pension; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29615/12]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that, based on the information currently available to them, the Universal Social Charge (USC) should not be deducted from the pension of the person concerned. A revised tax credit and USC certificate will shortly issue to the person concerned and to their employer. On receipt of the revised certificate the person's employer will refund any USC deducted for 2012.

Tax Rebates

Jack Wall

Question:

206 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare has a claim for tax rebate with the Revenue Commissioners; the position regarding the claim; when a decision will issue on same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29646/12]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they have no record of a recent claim from the person concerned. However they have written to the person concerned on 7 June 2012 for information necessary to carry out reviews for 2010 and 2011. A reply is awaited.

National Asset Management Agency

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

207 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Finance if the National Assets Management Agency takes into account, in its dealings with developers and builders, the situation regarding creditors of those builders and developers and the need for those creditors to be paid for services and goods provided to the developers and builders concerned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29685/12]

I am informed by NAMA that all cases are managed to realise the maximum return to the taxpayer. This is typically achieved through agreeing a course of action with the debtor referred to as a consensual arrangement. Prior to reaching a consensual arrangement with debtors cases are managed based on their individual circumstances with a view to achieving a maximum return to the taxpayer which may include providing the debtor with temporary support so as to give NAMA an opportunity to assess the scope for reaching long-term agreements with them. Very often that involves meeting their short-term liabilities so that they can remain in business.

In reaching a consensual arrangement with a debtor all creditor claims, both secured and unsecured are assessed on a case by case basis. Once the overall consensual arrangement has been agreed with the debtor the day to day implementation of that arrangement is managed directly by the debtor including the daily interaction with unsecured creditors. In cases where the process does not lead to a consensual arrangement with a debtor, enforcement is initiated. In those circumstances, an insolvency practitioner appointed by NAMA is required only to realise the value of NAMA's fixed or floating charges over assets. Understandably, he is not under any obligation to unsecured creditors. In an insolvency situation the ultimate outcome for all creditors will depend on the nature and ranking of their charges.

Memorial to Victims of Institutional Abuse

Dara Murphy

Question:

208 Deputy Dara Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide an update on plans for a memorial to victims of child sex abuse here as proposed under the Ryan report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28973/12]

The provision of a memorial to victims of abuse while in institutional care was one of the recommendations of the Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, which were unanimously accepted and supported by Dáil Éireann. A memorial committee, chaired by Mr. Seán Benton, was appointed to oversee the commissioning of the memorial with a budget of up €0.5m being set aside therefor.

Following a consultation process with survivor groups and interested parties the Committee launched the competition in July 2011. The first stage of the competition process invited expressions of interest outlining the concepts/approach by the applicants of the nature, medium and format through which the memorial is to be delivered. Thirty two expressions of interest were examined by the jury for the competition, from which six competitors were shortlisted to proceed to Stage 2 of the competition. Those shortlisted were required to submit their detailed and specific proposals for each stage of the design, planning and realisation of the memorial with detailed costings and mechanisms for realisation. The jury met with the shortlisted competitors on Monday, 11 June 2012 and I expect to receive their recommendations shortly.

Foirne Scoile

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

209 D’fhiafraigh Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Oideachais agus Scileanna an bhfuil sé i gceist aige an dara múinteoir ranga a cheadú do Scoil Náisiúnta Inis Meáin ó tharla go mbeidh ochtar leanbh sa scoil i mí Mheán Fómhair seo chugainn agus gur scoil oileánda í; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [29471/12]

Tá na critéir a úsáidtear i gcomhair leithdháileadh múinteoirí do bhunscoileanna don scoilbhliain 2012/13 leagtha amach i gCiorclán Bunscoile 0007/2012 atá le fáil ar shuíomh gréasáin mo Roinne. Is í an phríomhfhachtóir a chuirtear san áireamh nuair a chinntear ar leibhéal na n-acmhainní foirnithe a sholáthraítear ag leibhéal na scoile aonair ná an sceideal foirnithe don scoilbhliain ábhartha agus an rollachán daltaí ar 30 Meán Fómhair na bliana roimhe sin. Ba é an rollachán daltaí i Scoil Náisiúnta Inis Meáin ar 30 Meán Fómhair 2011 ná 6 dalta, i gcomórtas le 9 dalta i mí Mheán Fómhair 2010. De réir an sceidil fhoilsithe foirnithe laghdaíonn sé seo leibhéal foirnithe na scoile don scoilbhliain 2012/13 ó scoil dhá-oide go dtí scoil aon-oide.

Rinne an scoil achomharc chuig an mBord Achomhairc um Fhoirniú Bunscoile. Breithníodh gach uile achomharc a rinneadh chuig an mBord Achomhairc um Fhoirniú Bunscoile de réir na gcritéar foilsithe achomhairc atá leagtha amach i gCiorclán Foirnithe 0007/2012 de chuid mo Roinne. Níor éirigh leis an achomharc a rinne an scoil agus is é an foras a bhí leis sin nár shásaigh an scoil na critéir fhoilsithe achomhairc. Tá na critéir nua achomhairc i leith scoileanna beaga dírithe ar na scoileanna beaga sin a bhí ag cailliúint post rangsheomra de thoradh ar thionchar an bheart buiséid chun na tairseacha daltaí sa sceideal foirnithe a mhéadú. Ní dheachaigh an beart buiséid i gcion ar Scoil Náisiúnta Inis Meáin, an t-aon bhunscoil ar Inis Meáin, sa chaoi seo. Feidhmíonn an Bord Achomhairc go neamhspleách ón Roinn agus níl dul thar a bhreith.

Chun comparáid a dhéanamh, éilítear ar na scoileanna beaga a ndeachaigh an beart buiséid i gcion orthu bheith ag réamh-mheas 17 dalta ar a laghad i mí Mheán Fómhair 2012 chun bheith in ann an dara múinteoir acu a choinneáil go sealadach i scoil dhá-oide. Tá an Rialtas seo tar éis an t-oideachas a chosaint sa mhéid gur féidir leis. Tá laghduithe i bhfad níos mó ná sin a ndéanamh ar an gcaiteachas, agus ar líon na bhfostaithe sa tseirbhís phoiblí, in earnálacha eile, i gcomparáid leo sin atá á ndéanamh i scoileanna. Ach tá teorainneacha leis an leibhéal caiteachais ar an oideachas agus leis an líon post múinteoireachta is acmhainn linn.

In aimsir seo na deacrachta geilleagraí, táthar ag iarraidh ar na fostaithe uile sa tseirbhís phoiblí na seirbhísí poiblí againn a sheachadadh le leibhéal laghdaithe acmhainní, agus ní ceart go mbeadh múinteoirí i scoileanna beaga díolmhaithe ón éileamh seo.

Training Courses

Peter Mathews

Question:

210 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a person (details supplied) in Dublin 16 will receive a place on a FÁS course; the reason for the delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29587/12]

This is a day-to-day operational matter for FÁS. The person referred to applied to participate on the GID (Gas Installers) course on 19th January 2012. There are currently 196 clients on the GID course waiting list and this person is number 51 on the list. The GID course accommodates 12 participants per course and is delivered on two days a week over a six week period. An examination of the GID course schedule would indicate that the person referred to should expect to be offered a place on the GID course around November/December of this year.

Schools Refurbishment

Patrick Nulty

Question:

211 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Education and Skills if immediate action will be taken to address the presence of pyrite in a primary school (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28983/12]

My Department is working closely with the school to which the Deputy refers. Where interim remedial works were deemed necessary, these have been undertaken. My officials are in the process of engaging consultants to scope the extent of the remedial works necessary to eradicate the pyrite issue and will then be arranging for the necessary remedial works to be undertaken.

School Staffing

Tom Fleming

Question:

212 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to address the reductions in guidance counselling hours in the 27 post primary schools in County Kerry which is forcing school principals and boards of management of Kerry’s post primary schools into making impossible choices; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28992/12]

Teacher allocations are approved annually in accordance with established rules based on recognised pupil enrolment. My Department has published the staffing arrangements at post primary level for the coming school year, 2012/13. The relevant Post Primary circular is 0009/2012 which is available on my Department's website. At post primary level schools will have autonomy on how best to prioritise its available resources to meet its requirements in relation to guidance and the provision of an appropriate range of subjects to its students. Decisions on how this is done will be taken at school level and I am confident that schools will act in the best interest of students when determining precisely how to use the teaching resources available to them.

A key priority for me is to continue to prioritise and target available funding at schools with the most concentrated levels of educational disadvantage. All 195 second-level schools in DEIS have been given targeted support by a more favourable staffing schedule of 18.25:1. This is a 0.75 point reduction compared to the existing PTR of 19:1 that applies in non-fee-paying second-level schools. The teacher allocation process at post-primary level is largely completed at this stage and all schools would have been notified accordingly. The final staffing position for all schools at post primary level will ultimately not be known until the Autumn. At that stage the allocation process will be fully completed and all appeals to the Staffing Appeal Board will have been considered.

Special Educational Needs

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

213 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Education and Skills if it is acceptable to him that special educational needs organisers do not have the necessary formal qualifications in education or health to assess special needs assistant supports for children with special needs. [28998/12]

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

214 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Education and Skills if it is acceptable to him that on application for an additional special needs assistant for a new entrant, the entire population of special needs children in the school must be reviewed. [28999/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 213 and 214 together.

I wish to advise the Deputy that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), which was established as a result of the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs (EPSEN) Act, 2004, is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) for co-ordinating special needs education provision at local level and arranging for the delivery of special educational services. It is the role of SENOs to process applications from schools for special educational needs supports, within my Department's criteria, and to determine the quantum of educational resources to be allocated to schools to support pupils with special educational needs.

The NCSE has advised that all SENOs hold a minimum qualification of a third level primary degree. Appropriately qualified professionals from a variety of agencies, including my Department's National Educational Psychological Service and private practice, provide reports and recommendations on children with special educational needs to SENOs who take into account the needs set out in such reports, along with other relevant factors such as the resources available to the school, to identify supports which may be allocated to schools to support pupils with special educational needs. SNAs, once allocated to schools, are a school-based resource. The allocation of SNAs, while allocated on the basis of an assessed need of an individual child, are allocated to the school and should be deployed with discretion by the school in a manner which bests meets the support and care requirements of the children.

Disadvantaged Status

Pearse Doherty

Question:

215 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has given any consideration to the correspondence sent to his Department from a school (details supplied) in Coutny Donegal with regard to the loss of DEIS status, the serious implications for this school with regard to the Straitéis 20 bliain; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29016/12]

I wish to inform the Deputy that the correspondence to which he refers has been considered. It is important to note that the school referred to by the Deputy did not have DEIS status as it was not selected for inclusion in DEIS following from the identification process in 2005. Second-level schools were selected for DEIS by reference to centrally-held data from the Post-Primary Pupils and State Examinations Commission databases. The identification process was in line with international best practice and had regard to, and employed, the existing and most appropriate data sources available.

An appeal by this school to the independent review body in 2006 confirmed that the level of disadvantage did not warrant the school's inclusion in the DEIS programme. It should also be noted that none of the existing schools in the country, which were unsuccessful in the initial identification and subsequent review processes, were ever admitted to the DEIS programme. A key priority for my Department is to prioritise and target resources in schools with the most concentrated levels of educational disadvantage. That challenge is significant given the current economic climate and the target to reduce public expenditure. This also limits the capacity for any additionality in the DEIS programme including the selection of further schools.

As announced in the 2012 Budget, five scholarship schemes for higher education, namely the Easter Week 1916 Commemoration Scholarship Scheme, An Scéim Scoláireachtaí Triú Leibhéal do Scoláirí ón nGaeltacht, An Scéim Scoláireachtaí Gaeilge Triú Leibhéal (Neamh Theoranta), An Scéim Scolaireachtaí Triú Leibhéal (Trí Ghaeilge: Teoranta) and the Donogh O'Malley Scholarship Scheme, will be replaced with a new single scheme of bursaries based both on merit and on financial need. These earlier scholarships, with one exception, were awarded without the application of any socio-economic criteria. The new bursaries, on the other hand, are designed specifically to target students attending DEIS schools in disadvantaged areas and also indicating a level of personal or family disadvantage by virtue of having qualified for a medical card. The bursary will be an extra support and incentive to recognise high achievement for students who are from disadvantaged families and attending DEIS schools.

This change has been made in order to make the best use of the limited funds we have available for bursaries so as to focus on the best performing students in the cohort of those who are most in need of financial help. It is envisaged that some 60 students will receive a bursary this September. This number will rise over each of the next three years, with over 350 students a year benefiting by 2015. These changes will not impact on those who already hold scholarships under the existing schemes.

The principal financial support made available by my Department to facilitate access to third level education continues to be the means-tested student grant. Other financial measures to support broader access and participation include the provision of the special rate of maintenance grant for students from welfare-dependent families and the availability of the Student Assistance Fund at college level to assist students in particular financial difficulties. From the 2012/13 year onwards, grants will be centrally administered by a single grant awarding authority Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI — a division of the City of Dublin VEC) which will administer the Student Grant Scheme on behalf of my Department. A new online-only grant applications system has been introduced for the academic year 2012/13.

Schools Building Projects

Noel Grealish

Question:

216 Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he is considering any amendments to the school building projects list which was announced earlier this year; if a school (details supplied) will be included on the school building projects list in view of the fact that the school is at an advanced stage in the planning process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29020/12]

The building project referred to by the Deputy is currently at an advanced stage of architectural planning. The Stage 2(b) submission (Detailed Design) was approved by my Department's Planning and Building Unit on 10th January 2012. Due to the financial constraints imposed by the need to prioritise the limited funding available for the provision of additional school accommodation to meet increasing demographic requirements it has not been possible to advance all school building projects concurrently.

Schools which have not been included in five year construction programme, but which were announced for initial inclusion in the building programme will continue to be progressed to final planning stages in anticipation of the possibility of further funds being available to the Department in future years. The project referred to by the Deputy was not included in the five year construction programme announced in March. As such the project cannot be progressed to tender and construction at this time.

Special Educational Needs

Simon Harris

Question:

217 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Education and Skills the guidelines in place to ensure that a child with autistic spectrum disorder can attend an ASD unit on a full time basis in view of the fact that this particular child currently attends an ASD unit for three hours a day; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29088/12]

Department Circular 11/95 states that a full school day at primary level comprises a period of not less than five hours and forty minutes. Circular 11/95 and the Rules for National Schools also provide that pupils in infant classes may have a school day that is one hour shorter than the length of the normal school day, (i.e. 5 hours and forty minutes). It is a matter for the Board of Management of a particular school to decide whether this concession should be applied in the case of its school. If pupils in infant classes are being given a shorter day, their parents should be notified accordingly and invited to collect them at time of dismissal.

It is acknowledged that particular circumstances may arise whereby the implementation of the shorter day for pupils in infant classes may cause issues for some parents. Where this arises, my Department would encourage school authorities to engage with parents locally with a view to arriving at a mutually acceptable resolution. As the Deputy will be aware, the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENO) for allocating resource teachers and special needs assistants to schools to support children with special needs. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support. All schools have the names and contact details of their local SENO. Parents may also contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs, using the contact details available onwww.ncse.ie.

Special Educational Needs

Brendan Griffin

Question:

218 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if additional special needs assistant hours will be granted in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29093/12]

I wish to advise the Deputy that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), for allocating resource teachers and Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) to schools to support children with special educational needs. The NCSE operates within my Department's established criteria for the allocation of such supports and the staffing resources available to my Department.

Firstly I wish to clarify the distinction between the role of the SNA and that of the teacher. SNAs and teachers have separate yet complementary roles. The class teacher is responsible for educating all pupils in his/her class, including any pupil with a special educational need. In this task, the teacher may be supported by a learning support teacher and/or resource teacher. SNAs are allocated to schools to enable them to support pupils with disabilities who also have significant care needs. All schools had been advised to apply to the NCSE for SNA support for the 2012/13 school year by 16th March, 2012 and schools will be notified shortly by their local SENO of their SNA allocation for 2012/13, based on the number of valid applications received and the extent of the care needs of qualifying children.

The deployment of SNAs within schools is a matter for the individual Principal/Board of Management. SNAs should be deployed by the school in a manner which best meets the care support requirements of the children enrolled in the school for whom SNA support has been allocated. It is a matter for schools to allocate support as required, and on the basis of individual need, which allows schools flexibility in how the SNA support is utilised. All schools have the names and contact details of their local SENO. Parents may also contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs, using the contact details available onwww.ncse.ie.

FÁS Training Programmes

Sean Fleming

Question:

219 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to the reply to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 258 and 259 of 1 May 2012, if she will provide the information requested; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29153/12]

This is a day-to day operation matter for FÁS who have responsibility for the management of this programme. As I indicated in my reply on the 1st May 2012 the information the Deputy sought covers a 12 year period and is not readily available. FÁS are currently finalising the collation of this data and I expect that all data will be supplied to me shortly. I will then forward directly to the Deputy. I apologise for the delay in this matter.

Early Retirement Scheme

Mattie McGrath

Question:

220 Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the total number of retired primary and second level teachers who have retired on or after 1 February 2009 and who are currently on his Department’s payroll and being paid by payable order; the number of these awarded the salary increase of 2.5% payable from 1 September 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29169/12]

There are no retired primary, secondary or community/comprehensive school teachers who meet all the criteria set out by the Deputy in his question.

Mattie McGrath

Question:

221 Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of retired primary and second level teachers currently on his Departments payroll who having transferred from payable order to electronic funds transfer since 1 February 2009 that were given retrospection of the salary increase of 2.5% payable from 1 September 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29170/12]

There are no retired primary, secondary or community /comprehensive teachers who transferred from payment by payable order to electronic fund transfer since the 1st February 2009 that were given retrospection of the 2.5% salary increase from 1st September 2008.

Redundancy Payments

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

222 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Education and Skills when redundancy payment will issue in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 17; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that despite his reply to Parliamentary Question No. 222 of 1 May 2012 this person was informed by his Department by telephone on 30 May that they were still processing applications from September 2011; if he will take steps to expedite the processing of applications, taking into consideration the hardship the delay is causing for people; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29171/12]

A redundancy application in respect of the person referred to by the Deputy was received by my Department on 9th November 2011. The application will be reached for processing within the next fortnight. The person will then be advised of the position regarding the redundancy payment by an official of my Department. When a redundancy application is being processed the applicant's payroll file is also checked. This is to verify that the person did not have any underpayment or overpayment of salary during the course of their service as an SNA.

To comply with audit requirements all payments must be verified by a second official before issue. The Department's payrolls, due to their size, close for processing ten days in advance of the date of issue of the payment. Accordingly, there is a time lag between the initial processing of the application and the date the person receives the payment.

Every effort is being made, within the resources available, to ensure that Special Needs Assistants that have been made redundant have their claims processed as quickly as possible. Extra resources are assigned to the Redundancy Unit as and when they are available. The Deputy will appreciate that, in the context of the employment control framework, it is only possible to reassign limited additional staffing resources from within the existing staff cohort of the Department to deal with redundancy payments whilst at the same time ensuring that other priority functions such as the payment of salaries to teachers and Special Needs Assistants on a fortnightly basis are performed.

Tax Code

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

223 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Skills the date on which the error in classification for PRSI and superannuation of teachers was first identified in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29191/12]

In 1995 the class A rate of PRSI was extended to many categories of public service employment to which modified rate (class D in the case of teachers) PRSI had previously applied. All teachers appointed for the first time after the 6th April 1995 pay class A rate PRSI. Teachers appointed prior to the 6th April 1995 who after that date resigned or retired from their teaching posts and who subsequently obtained new appointments also pay class A rate PRSI. Teachers appointed prior to the 6th April 1995 who took a period of approved leave of absence such as a career break since that date continue to pay Class D rate of PRSI on resumption of duty.

Eligible Part Time (EPT) teachers appointed prior to 1995, paid class A rate PRSI as their service was not pensionable and they continued to pay class A rate PRSI after 1995 until the 31st August 1996. On the 1st September, 1996, pensionability for EPTs was introduced. This was done retrospectively, from 1998 following acceptance of the PCW (Programme for Competitiveness and Work). Substitute service was non pensionable and such teachers paid class A rate PRSI. Ongoing pensionability was only introduced from 2001. This service, by its nature, is interrupted service. Teachers employed as substitutes continue to pay class A rate PRSI.

Temporary Whole Time Teachers in service prior to 1996 paid class A rate PRSI contributions where they were not members of the pension scheme. Where they subsequently joined the pension scheme and had remained in continuous service from a date prior to the 6th April 1995 their PRSI Class was changed to Class D.

The Deputy will appreciate that the determination of the PRSI class of a teacher since 1995 has been a complex matter. Due to the complexities of the employment capacities and the admission of certain part-time teachers to the pension scheme, a small number of teachers were incorrectly classified. When a case is identified, which tends to be at the time of retirement the error is then rectified. Where a teacher has been classified as Class A PRSI instead of Class D, it results in an overpayment of PRSI contributions and an underpayment of Pension contributions. Since becoming aware of this difficulty, my Department has been working with the Department of Social Protection to resolve these cases. A protocol is being agreed to ensure that teachers are not disadvantaged.

Schools Building Projects

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

224 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the site on which the board of management of a school (details supplied) in County Mayo are required to construct permanent buildings under the prefab replacement scheme, that is, the existing site or a new site; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29210/12]

My Department recently offered grant aid to the school in question to facilitate the construction of five classrooms and two SET rooms under the Prefab Replacement Initiative and to accommodate the anticipated appointment of an additional teacher in September 2012. The school authority has indicated that the existing school site is restricted and cannot accommodate this development. I understand that the school purchased a green field site a number of years ago for school development purposes. It is open to the school authority to consider constructing this development on the green field site. The school authority should advise my Department of its intentions relating to the Department's offer.

State Examinations

Seán Kenny

Question:

225 Deputy Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of students who sat higher level Irish, engineering, French, construction studies, physics and chemistry and accounting in the leaving certificate in each of the past five years to date in 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29234/12]

The State Examinations Commission has statutory responsibility for operational matters relating to the certificate examinations. I wish to inform the Deputy that statistics in relation to the Leaving Certificate examinations (2005-2011) including the number of school leavers who completed the Leaving Certificate can be downloaded from State Examinations Commission website:www.examinations.ie/statistics. Data on the 2012 examination and the number of entrants will not be available until mid-August.

Job Statistics

Seán Kenny

Question:

226 Deputy Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of persons in Dublin 5, 13 and 17 who received job placements from FÁS in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and to date in 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29235/12]

This is a day-to-day operational matter for FÁS. The information sought by the Deputy is set out in the following table:

Year

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

Number of People

691

714

577

535

752

328

FÁS Training Programmes

Seán Kenny

Question:

227 Deputy Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of persons in Dublin 5, 13 and 17 who received an offer of training from FÁS in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and to date in 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29236/12]

This is a day-to-day operational matter for FÁS. The information sought by the Deputy is set out in the following table:

Year

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

No. of Training Offers

821

892

1,742

1,992

2,086

882

School Staffing

Seán Crowe

Question:

228 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the four cases of bullying brought against a person (details supplied) in a school in County Laois which were subsequently upheld; if his further attention has been drawn to the fact that following the first investigator’s report into their conduct, the person was suspended on full pay from their post as principal and tendered their resignation effective from the 31 August, 2012; and if a compensation package was offered to the person as an incentive for them to resign their post. [29239/12]

Seán Crowe

Question:

229 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a person (details supplied) has been interviewed for the post of principal at another school since agreeing to retire from their post as principal of a school (details supplied) in County Laois; the name of the school to which they applied; if the interview has taken place; the outcome of the interview process; if the interview panel was given prior knowledge of the four cases of bullying brought against the person and if their future appointment is subject to ratification by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29240/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 228 and 229 together.

Any bullying issues concerning an employee of a school are a matter for the Board of Management of the school concerned and as Minister I have no role in relation to such matters. I can confirm that the Board of Management of the school to which the Deputy refers in June 2011 suspended the principal of the school having considered a report of an investigation into alleged bullying. The Board informed the Department that the suspension with pay was pending a disciplinary hearing under Section 24(3) of the Education Act 1998. The Board requested the Department as payroll agent for the Board to continue the payment of salary until the necessary investigations were carried out and the matter was brought to a conclusion.

The person who was suspended claimed his suspension was disproportionate and unlawful and secured leave from the High Court to take Judicial Review proceedings. A stay was placed on a meeting that the Board had arranged for 20 September 2011 under the disciplinary procedure. Earlier this year and prior to the hearing of the Judicial Review case, discussions took place between the legal representatives of the school and the person concerned. In the context of these discussions the litigation, by agreement of the parties, did not proceed, the person concerned wrote to the Board vacating his position with effect from 31 August 2012 and the disciplinary proceedings that had been initated by the Board of that school have been terminated.

In the context of these discussions the Department arranged for the person concerned to be assigned as a teacher to the Co. Kildare VEC scheme where he has been assigned to carry out principal duties for the remainder of the current school year and for the 2012/13 school year arising from a vacancy in a principal post. In light of his assignment to the VEC his position with the school in County Laois was vacated with effect from 1 June 2012 when he transferred to the VEC payroll. In relation to the vacancy concerned the Department had separetely indicated to the VEC that the filling of the vacancy through permanent recruitment should not apply pending the completion of an analysis of how the future education needs of the area would be planned for and met. My Department is satisfied that the assignment of the person concerned, which did not require an interview process, ensured an efficient deployment of resources by Kildare VEC.

Schools Refurbishment

Pearse Doherty

Question:

230 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will consider providing emergency grant funding in respect of a school (details supplied) in County Donegal; if his attention has been drawn to correspondence from the school’s architects outlining the necessity to undertake works due to the serious condition of the roof; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29258/12]

The school referred to by the Deputy submitted an application for funding under my Department's Emergency Works Scheme for a roof replacement in 2010. This application was refused as the scope of works for which funding was sought was outside the terms of the scheme. This decision has been the subject of two appeals and the school authority have been informed that the project remained outside the scope of the scheme.

School Transport

Dara Calleary

Question:

231 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will outline the official procedures and guidelines, as laid down to vocational education authorities, in determining the distance from a candidate’s home to their third level college of education, with respect to the awarding of the adjacent or non-adjacent rate of maintenance grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29264/12]

The guidance given to the 66 awarding authorities, the local authorities and VECs, in relation to the application of the distance criterion, for determining whether the adjacent or non-adjacent rate of grant applied, provided for the measurement of the shortest most direct route to the institution from the normal residence. The awarding authorities were best positioned to interpret the application of the distance criterion in the context of local circumstances.

The Student Grant Scheme and the Student Support Regulations for the 2012/13 academic year were published by my Department last week to coincide with the introduction of the single grant awarding authority, Student Universal Support Ireland or SUSI, and the new central online application system going live. Article 27(3)(a) of the 2012 Scheme provides that the distance criterion will be measured in line with agreed guidelines. My Department is liaising with SUSI in regard to these guidelines.

Further Education and Training Programmes

Finian McGrath

Question:

232 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding formal recognition for the establishment of a course (details supplied). [29274/12]

Finian McGrath

Question:

252 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the retention of the fashion industry practice teacher at a college (details supplied) in Dublin 3. [29579/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 232 and 252 together.

Up to the current academic year, the course referred to by the Deputy was operated as a Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) course in an approved PLC centre managed by City of Dublin Vocational Education Committee (CDVEC). I understand that a decision was made not to continue to operate this course for the forthcoming academic year. The person referred to by the Deputy was employed by the VEC on a non-casual part-time teacher basis for the 2011/2012 academic year to deliver this course. All such teacher posts automatically end at the end of the academic year.

School Transport

Pearse Doherty

Question:

233 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills the date on which he will meet with a delegation (details supplied), whom he has made commitments to meet since March; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29290/12]

The Deputy will be aware of the changes to the Post Primary School Transport Scheme that will take effect from the beginning of the 2012/13 school year. These changes will be applied equitably on a national basis. Bus Éireann will be communicating directly with families who already avail of school transport services and with families who have applied for the first time. Existing eligible children will retain their school transport eligibility for the duration of their post primary education cycle provided there are no changes to their current circumstances. The new eligibility criteria will only apply to those pupils who are newly entering a post primary school in the 2012/13 school year. I have already set out the rationale underpinning the policy position for the Deputy and other local representatives and cannot make any exceptions to the policy; it is not feasible for me to meet with individual groups of parents to discuss these changes.

Schools Refurbishment

Pearse Doherty

Question:

234 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he is satisfied that the electrical panels supplied to a school (details supplied) are appropriately certified for insurance purposes. [29291/12]

The VEC is the client on the project referred to by the Deputy. My Department has been assured, by the VEC and its design team, that the entire electrical installation including the distribution boards have been appropriately certified for insurance purposes and that a RECI Electrical Test Certificate was issued at the Substantial Completion stage of the project.

Departmental Contracts

Pearse Doherty

Question:

235 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he is satisfied that all subcontractors and suppliers for the construction of a school (details supplied) have been paid. [29292/12]

The VEC is the Employer on the project to which the Deputy refers. There is no contractual relationship between my Department and the main contractor, sub-contractor or suppliers involved in this project. However, I can confirm that all monies due to be paid to the VEC in respect of this particular project have been paid. A school building project is a complex arrangement of contractual relationships between the client, the main contractor, specialist sub-contractors, domestic sub-contractors, suppliers of materials, suppliers of plant etc. In general all sub-contractors employed on school building projects are employed directly by the Main Contractor or indirectly by the Main Contractor through other sub-contractors. It is a matter for all sub-contractors to agree terms and conditions and a schedule of payments with the Main Contractor as their direct employer.

Child Protection

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

236 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the guidelines in place to address health and safety and child protection issues in the case of one teacher primary schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29315/12]

The responsibility for day to day management of schools is at local school level. Schools are required to take all reasonable precautions to ensure the safety of pupils. A supervision grant is provided by my Department to 1-teacher schools to assist them supervise pupils during the morning and lunch-time breaks in the school day. My Department has recently published updated "Child Protection Procedures for Primary and Post-Primary Schools". These procedures are based on the recently published "Children First — National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children 2011" and apply to all primary and post-primary schools, irrespective of size.

The new procedures incorporate significant improvements to the previous school guidelines and are intended to better ensure consistent and uniform implementation of Children First across all schools. The improvements include a new template child protection policy, a requirement that all primary schools fully implement the Stay Safe programme and also put in place improved oversight arrangements at Board of Management level.

School Staffing

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

237 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the additional supports and resources in place at a school (details supplied) in County Mayo; the changes that are envisaged for September, 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29337/12]

The criteria used for the allocation of teachers to schools is published annually on my Department's website. The key factor for determining the level of staffing resources provided at individual school level is the staffing schedule for the relevant school year and pupil enrolments on the previous 30 September. The staffing schedule for the 2012-2013 school year is available on my Department's website. The staffing arrangements in schools for the 2012/2013 school year can also be affected by changes in their enrolment, the impact of budget measures and the reforms to the teacher allocation process. As part of the new staffing arrangements my Department has expanded the existing appeals process so that it is accessible to the small primary schools that are losing a classroom post as a result of the budget measure. Such schools will not lose their classroom post if they are projecting increased enrolments in September 2012 that would be sufficient to allow them to retain their existing classroom posts over the longer term.

The school referred to by the Deputy submitted an appeal to the Staffing Appeals Board. All appeals submitted to the Primary Staffing Appeal Board were considered in accordance with the published appeals criteria that is set out in my Department's Staffing Circular 0007/2012. This was done at its meeting on 18th and 19th April. The appeal by the school was unsuccessful on the basis that the school did not meet the published appeal criteria. The Appeals Board operates independently of the Department and its decision is final.

Special Educational Needs

Patrick Nulty

Question:

238 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Education and Skills the current position regarding a unit in a school (details supplied) in Dublin 15 which will cater for students with a diagnosis of autistic spectrum disorder; if he will confirm when the unit will open; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29352/12]

I understand that the National Council for Special Education has confirmed that the Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Unit will open in the school in September 2012.

Scoileanna Gaeltachta

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

239 D’fhiafraigh Maureen O’Sullivan den Aire Oideachais agus Scileanna an bhfuil sé i gceist aige agus ag a Roinn plean struchtúrach a chur i bhfeidhm maidir le todhchaí scoileanna na Gaeltachta mar chuid den Straitéis 20 Bliain don Ghaeilge, 2010- 2030 agus aird á tabhairt ar Airteagail 8 agus 42 de Bhunreacht na hÉireann, mar aon le hailt 6, 9 agus 31 den Acht Oideachais, 1998; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [29384/12]

Tá oifigigh as mo Roinnse ag comhoibriú go dlúth le hoifigigh as an Roinn Ealaíon, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta maidir le feidhmiú na Straitéise 20 Bliain don Ghaeilge 2010-2030. Tá líon áirithe beart sa Straitéis, a bhaineann leis an oideachas, agus a thabharfaidh tacaíocht do scoileanna i gceantair Ghaeltachta, faoi shiúl cheana féin.

Oiliúint Múinteoirí

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

240 D’fhiafraigh Maureen O’Sullivan den Aire Oideachais agus Scileanna an bhfuil sé i gceist aige cinneadh na Roinne Oideachais agus Scileanna deireadh a chur le deontais d’ábhair oidí chun freastal ar chúrsaí tumoideachais Ghaeilge sa Ghaeltacht mar chuid riachtanach dá gcúrsa, a aisghairm, ó thagann an cinneadh salach go hiomlán ar na moltaí atá déanta ag an Rialtas féin sa Straitéis 20 Bliain don Ghaeilge, 2010-2030 agus ag an gComhairle Mhúinteoireachta, arb í an comhlacht reachtúil gairmiúil don mhúinteoireacht in Éirinn í; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [29385/12]

Mar chuid de bhreithniúcháin bhuiséadacha an Rialtais agus den Athbhreithniú Cuimsitheach ar Chaiteachas, cinneadh ar na deontais a d'íocadh an Roinn seo i leith an chostais ar ábhar múinteora as freastal ar chúrsaí Gaeltachta, a chur ar ceal. Beidh feidhm leis an gcinneadh i gcás mac léinn a bheidh ag tosú ar an gclár túsoideachas bunmhúinteoireachta sa bhliain acadúil 2012/13. Mar is eol don Teachta, tá tosaíocht á tabhairt d'acmhainní a chosaint i gcomhair seirbhísí túslíne sna blianta amach anseo. Níl beartaithe agam an cinneadh seo a aisghairm. Fágann an beart seo go bhfuil na cláir thúsoideachas bunmhúinteoireachta ar aon dul le cláir chéime eile níos mó ná mar a bhídís, le cláir ar nós clár céimeanna teanga, ina n-éilítear ar mhic léinn costais riachtanas speisialta breise a ghlanadh iad féin. Tá an Rialtas tiomanta do thacú le héirim ghinearálta na Straitéise 20 Bliain don Ghaeilge agus cuirfidh sé i gcrích na haidhmeanna agus na spriocanna insroichte atá molta, ag tabhairt aird ar an gcomhthéacs buiséadach.

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

241 D’fhiafraigh Maureen O’Sullivan den Aire Oideachais agus Scileanna an aontaíonn sé gur chóir cloí leis na teisteanna a rinne an Chomhairle Mhúinteoireachta, ina moltar go leanfadh ábhair mhúinteoirí clár sainithe do theagasc teanga sa Ghaeltacht, agus go gcuirfí leis an am teagaisc agus freastail d’ábhair oidí ar chúrsaí tumoideachais Ghaeilge sa Ghaeltacht, mar chuid éigeantach dá gcéim oideachais chun a gcuid scileanna Gaeilge a fheabhsú; an dtacaíonn sé leis an moladh gur chóir d’ábhair oidí an tréimhse Ghaeltachta a dhéanamh ag tús na céime chun gur féidir leo an rogha a dhéanamh leanúint leis an gcúrsa trí mheán na Gaeilge más mian leo; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [29386/12]

Os í comhlacht na gcaighdeán gairmiúil í don mhúinteoireacht, tá ról reachtúil ag an gComhairle Mhúinteoireachta maidir le cláir thúsoideachais múinteoirí a chreidiúnú. Tá riachtanais chreidiúnaithe na Comhairle leagtha amach in Critéir agus Treoirlínte do Sholáthróirí Clár, a foilsíodh i mí Meithimh 2011, agus tá an clár athbhreithnithe Bhaitsiléir san Oideachas chun tosú i gColáistí Oideachais na múinteoirí bunscoile go léir i mí Mheán Fómhair 2012. Is gnó don Chomhairle Mhúinteoireachta agus do na Coláistí Oideachais é fad agus foirm an tSocrúcháin Ghaeltachta agus níl feidhm ar bith ag mo Roinnse sa ghnó sin. Bhunaigh an Chomhairle Meitheal do Shocrúcháin Ghaeltachta, agus ionadaithe as na Coláistí Oideachais go léir páirteach ann, chun moltaí a dhéanamh maidir le socrúchán sínithe Gaeltachta. Tá an Chomhairle Mhúinteoireachta tar éis faomhadh a thabhairt do thuarascáil an Mheitheal Oibre le déanaí agus molann sé go ndéanfadh mic léinn Socrúchán Gaeltachta ceithre seachtaine san iomlán i dhá bhloc ar leith. Ní ceart go ndéanfaí an dá bhloc sa bhliain acadúil chéanna. Leagann an tuarascáil moltaí amach freisin i dtaobh struchtúir agus inneachair an chúrsa.

Schools Building Projects

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

242 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Education and Skills the criteria for school projects to be included in Band Rating 2:1; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29392/12]

All applications for large scale capital funding are assessed in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria for large scale building projects. There are four band ratings, of which band one is the highest and band four the lowest. Band one projects, for example, include the provision of buildings where none currently exists but there is a high demand for pupil places, while a band four project makes provision for desirable but not necessarily urgent or essential facilities, such as a library or new sports hall. An explanation of the band rating system is available on my Department's website onwww.education.ie. A copy is set out below for the Deputy’s ease of reference.

Amended Criteria for Prioritising Large Scale Projects (Primary and Post Primary)

Background

The 2004 School Building Programme indicated that a review of the criteria for prioritising large-scale projects would be undertaken in consultation with the Education Partners early in 2004. The review was necessary to ensure that the criteria have the optimum precision and are fully tuned to meeting the priority accommodation needs of primary and post primary schools.

The amended criteria will be applied to all projects that are not proceeding to tender and site as part of the 2004 School Building Programme. These projects will be detailed in the Multi Annual Programme currently being prepared.

Band 1

Band 1 subdivides into four sub divisions or sub sets 1.1; 1.2; 1.3 and 1.4.

Criteria applicable to a Band 1.1 project

Serving a rapidly developing area whereeither there is no existing school or where existing provision is unable to meet the demand for places.

Definition of a rapidly developing area:

A rapidly developing area is located in a large urban centre or within commuting distance of a large urban centre.

The area has experienced major and significant demographic change in the past ten years.

All available information indicates that the process of sustained development is set to continue with a corresponding major and significant impact on the demographics of the area.

There is clear evidence of substantial pressure for pupil places in all schools serving the area.

No school in the area is operating below capacity.

No school is accommodating a sizeable or significant number of pupils from outside of its catchment area.

Criteria applicable to a Band 1.2 project

The provision of specialist accommodation urgently required for children with special needs such as autism, speech and language impairment, severe and profound intellectual impairment, etc.

Criteria applicable to a Band 1.3 project

Addressing the needs of schools that are structurally unsound.

Criteria applicable to a Band 1.4 project

Providing accommodation post rationalisation.

Band 2

Band 2 subdivides into six sub divisions or subsets 2.1; 2.2; 2.3; 2.4; 2.5 and 2.6.

Criteria applicable to a Band 2.1 project

A Band 2.1 project should reflect theentirety of the following criteria.

There is a deficit of mainstream accommodation. The deficit constitutes a substantial and significant proportion of the school's overall accommodation needs.

A technical evaluation of a school building indicates that an extensive refurbishment of existing accommodation is required. The refurbishment cannot be rectified by the application of an improved and / or comprehensive maintenance programme.

The necessary remedial works cannot be addressed either through the Summer Works Scheme in any one year or incrementally over a number of years.

There is clear evidence that the day-to-day functionality of the school is impaired or will become seriously impaired unless urgent remedial action is taken promptly.

Determining a deficit of mainstream accommodation

A deficit of mainstream accommodation shall be computed by firstly determining the overall accommodation needs of the school relative to its curricular options and/or its projected long-term enrolment. The quality, extent and adequacy of existing accommodation, including temporary accommodation (whether rented or otherwise) will then be assessed. Where existing accommodation is determined to be inappropriate to the school's long term needs, it will be reckoned for the purposes of determining the deficit of mainstream accommodation. Additionally, as a general guiding principle, reliance on temporary accommodation as a reasonable solution to a school's long-term accommodation needs is not a sustainable position.

Definition of extensive refurbishment

As a general principle, the definition suggested is not intended to be prescriptive, when it is necessary to address all or a majority of the following elements of a school an extensive refurbishment applies.

Upgrade of the mechanical system.

Upgrade of the electrical system.

Extensive roof repairs.

Improvements to the structures or fabric of a building, i.e. spalling concrete, etc.

Window replacements.

Interior door replacement including the installation of fire doors.

Replacement of ceilings.

Replacement of floor.

Criteria applicable to a Band 2.2 project

There is a deficit of mainstream accommodation. The deficit constitutes a substantial and significant proportion of the school's overall accommodation needs. The condition of the existing accommodation is adequate.

Criteria applicable to a Band 2.3 project

A technical evaluation of a school building indicates that an extensive refurbishment of existing accommodation is required. The refurbishment cannot be rectified by the application of an improved and / or comprehensive maintenance programme.

The necessary remedial works cannot be addressed either through the Summer Works Scheme in any one year or incrementally over a number of years.

There is clear evidence that the day-to-day functionality of the school is impaired or will become seriously impaired unless urgent remedial action is taken promptly.

Criteria applicable to a Band 2.4 project

There is a deficit of mainstream accommodation. The deficit does not represent a substantial or significant proportion of the school's overall accommodation needs.

A technical evaluation of a school building indicates that a refurbishment is required the nature and extent of which is not as extensive or critical as applies in Band 2.1 or Band 2.3. The refurbishment cannot be rectified by the application of an improved and / or comprehensive maintenance programme.

The necessary remedial works cannot be addressed either through the Summer Works Scheme in one year or incrementally over a number of years.

Criteria applicable to a Band 2.5 project

There is a deficit of mainstream accommodation. The deficit does not represent a substantial or significant proportion of the school's overall accommodation needs. The condition of the existing accommodation at the school is adequate.

Criteria applicable to a Band 2.6 project

A technical evaluation of a school building indicates that a refurbishment is required the nature and extent of which is less extensive and less critical than applies in Band 2.3.

The refurbishment cannot be rectified by the application of an improved and / or comprehensive maintenance programme.

The necessary remedial works cannot be addressed either through the Summer Works Scheme in one year or incrementally over a number of years.

Band 3

Band 3 subdivides into five sub divisions or subsets 3.1; 3.2; 3.3; 3.4; and 3.5.

Criteria applicable to a Band 3.1 project

While there is no deficit of mainstream accommodation at the school, there is a deficit of ancillary accommodation required to support delivery of special education, i.e. learning supports.

Some improvements works are necessary but not urgent.

The necessary improvement works cannot be addressed either through the Summer Works Scheme in one year or incrementally over a number of years and/or through the application of an improved or comprehensive maintenance programme.

Key definition

Ancillary accommodation is accommodation other than mainstream classrooms or specialist rooms in post primary schools required for the teaching of specialist subjects.

Criteria applicable to a Band 3.2 project

While there is no deficit of mainstream accommodation at the school, there is a deficit of ancillary accommodation required to support delivery of special education i.e. learning supports.

No improvements works are required.

Criteria applicable to a Band 3.3 project

While there is no deficit of mainstream accommodation at the school, there is a deficit of ancillary accommodation other than ancillary accommodation required to support delivery of special education (learning supports).

Some improvements works are necessary but not urgent.

The necessary improvement works cannot be addressed either through the Summer Works Scheme in one year or incrementally over a number of years and/or through the application of an improved or comprehensive maintenance programme.

Criteria applicable to a Band 3.4 project

While there is no deficit of mainstream accommodation at the school, there is a deficit of ancillary accommodation other than ancillary accommodation required to support delivery of special education (learning supports).

No improvements works are necessary.

Criteria applicable to a Band 3.5 project

There is no deficit of accommodation at the school.

Improvements works are necessary but not urgent. Day to day functionality is not impaired.

The necessary improvements works cannot be addressed either through the Summer Works Scheme in one year or incrementally over a number of years and/or through the application of an improved or comprehensive maintenance programme.

Band 4

Band 4 projects are desirable but not urgent or essential.

Selecting within Bands

When it is necessary to select projects from within the same band, as a general principle projects will be selected on the basis of enrolment stability; projects that have been the longest period in the planning process and the most cost effective solution.

Summary of the relevant bands

Band

Sub Category

Details

1

1.1

New schools or extension in developing areas

1

1.2

Accommodation for special needs students

1

1.3

School that are structurally unsound

1

1.4

Rationalisation projects

Band 2

2

2.1

Major extension of existing schoolandExtensive refurbishment.

2

2.2

Major extension of existing school.

2

2.3

Extensive refurbishment.

2

2.4

Extension of existing schoolandModerate refurbishment.

2

2.5

Extension of existing school

2

2.6

Moderate refurbishment.

Band 3

3

3.1

Ancillary accommodation for special education and some improvements only

3

3.2

Ancillary for special education only.

3

3.3

Deficit of ancillary other than special education ancillary and some improvements.

3

3.4

Deficit of ancillary other than special education ancillary.

3

3.5

Improvement works.

Band 4

4

4.1

All other requests

Queries:

Please address queries to:

School Planning Section,

Department of Education and Science,

Clonminch,

Tullamore,

Co. Offaly.

Email:school_planning@education.gov.ie

July 2004

Teaching Qualifications

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

243 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 177 of 6 June 2012, the number of the 980 teachers that have a nationally recognised third level qualification in physics; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29487/12]

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

245 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 176 of 6 June 2012; the number of the 1,900 teachers that have a nationally recognised third level qualification in chemistry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29505/12]

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

246 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 176 of 6 June 2012, the number of the 4,360 teachers that have a nationally recognised third level qualification in maths; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29506/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 243, 245 and 246 together.

In my reply to PQs on 6 June, I set out the numbers of teachers on the Teaching Council's Register of Teachers who are recognised on the basis of qualifications in physics, chemistry, mathematics and applied mathematics. Every person on the Register holds a recognised qualification in the relevant subject area. The Teaching Council's criteria for registering teachers on the basis of post-primary subjects are as follows.

Generally, an applicant must hold a suitable degree or equivalent award with recognised post-primary subject(s) taken as major component(s). The duration of such a degree programme must be at least three years of full-time study or equivalent, and the degree should be provided by a nationally-recognised university or similar third level college. Standard higher education arrangements for accreditation and recognition of such degree programmes apply.

In relation to content relevant to post-primary subjects, while the criteria may vary slightly from subject to subject, broadly speaking applicants must provide officially certified evidence of:

Study of the subject as a major subject in the degree extending over at least three years and of the order of 30% at a minimum of that period.

Details of the degree course content to show that the knowledge and understanding required to teach the subject to the highest level in post-primary education has been acquired.

Explicit details of standards achieved in degree studies in the subject with at least an overall Pass result in the examinations.

Further details on the requirements are available onwww.teachingcouncil.ie.

Departmental Agencies

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

244 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 167 of 6 June 2012, regarding the conditions of staff transferring to the Qualifications and Quality Assurance Authority, if he will confirm that the current pension entitlements of staff will be maintained as they currently stand; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29491/12]

I can assure the Deputy that there will be no change to the existing pension entitlements of staff transferring to the Qualifications and Quality Assurance Authority of Ireland (QQAAI) from one of the dissolved bodies, as a result of their transfer to the new body. The continuation of existing superannuation entitlements for staff transferring to the QQAAI from one of the dissolved bodies (the NQAI, HETAC, and FETAC) is specifically provided for in Section 22 (subsections 8, 9 and 10) of the Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) Bill 2011.

Questions Nos. 245 and 246 answered with Question No. 243.

Special Educational Needs

Dessie Ellis

Question:

247 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12 has not been awarded any resource time for the next school year September 2012. [29512/12]

I wish to advise the Deputy that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), for processing applications from schools for special educational needs supports including resource teaching and Special Needs Assistant (SNA) support, to support children with special educational needs. The NCSE operates within my Department's established criteria for the allocation of such supports and the staffing resources available to my Department.

All schools had been advised to apply to the NCSE for resource teaching and SNA support for the 2012/13 school year by 16th March, 2012 and schools will be notified shortly by their local SENO of their resource teaching and SNA allocation for 2012/13, based on the number of valid applications received and, in the case of SNA support, the extent of the care needs of qualifying children. All schools have the names and contact details of their local SENO. Parents may also contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs, using the contact details available onwww.ncse.ie.

Transition Year Fees

Terence Flanagan

Question:

248 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding transition year fees (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29514/12]

A key requirement for all recognised schools in the Free Education Scheme is that the school does not operate a charge, in whatever form, that is in effect a mandatory fee and that is contrary to the principle of not charging fees which distinguishes schools in the Free Education Scheme from those recognised post-primary schools that have elected to charge fees. Certain charges may, however, be legitimately requested from pupils such as:

Payment for school books or photocopied material provided by the school where the charge is reasonable and simply reflects the true costs concerned;

Charges for meals and refreshments provided pupils are not required to purchase same and can bring their own refreshments to school (e.g. lunchbox); or

Services and activities provided by the school in excess of that included in the general school programme, provided the pupil can elect to avail of such services (e.g. supervised after-school study, school tours, or visits to theatres or sporting events).

While the above is not exhaustive, the key requirement is that a school does not operate a charge, in whatever form, that is in effect a mandatory fee. Voluntary contributions may be sought from parents, provided it is made clear to parents that there is no compulsion to pay and that a child's place in the school or continued enrolment is not dependant on a willingness to make a contribution.

State Agencies

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

249 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of quangos, quasi autonomous non-governmental organisations, which are funded partially or wholly, directly or indirectly, by his Department that have been abolished, merged, or reduced in scale since the formation of the Government; the amount that has been saved as a result and the number by which personnel numbers have been reduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29535/12]

The Deputy should note the following in relation to non-commercial state agencies under the aegis of my Department. In March 2012 the Irish Research Council was established. This new Council is a merger of the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences (IRCHSS) and the Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology (IRCSET). This has resulted in a saving of €100,000 in salary costs.

Since September 2011, the National Centre for Technology in Education (NCTE) is within the remit of Dublin West Education Centre alongside the Department's largest support service, the Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST). In June 2011, the functions of the National Educational Welfare Board transferred to the newly established office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. The Deputy will be aware that there are a number of major structural reform projects that are being progressed in the Education sector. These are:

1) The establishment of the Qualifications and Quality Assurance Authority of Ireland which involves the merger of the National Qualifications Authority, FETAC and HETAC. These amalgamating bodies have already made major savings in preparation for amalgamation. The purpose of the agency is in making awards in further and higher education, administering the National Framework of Qualifications and quality assuring education and training providers. The amount expected to be saved by the merger is in the region of €1 million annually.

2) The amalgamation of 33 Vocational Education Committees (VECs) / establishment of 16 Education and Training Boards (ETBs). The ETBs will take over the work of VECs and will have an expanded role in the delivery of further education and training across the country. The new bodies will be better positioned to establish shared services and to provide support services to schools not just within the VEC sector but to primary schools and other second level schools in their areas. They can contribute significantly to driving in particular an agenda of encouraging aggregated procurement of supplies and services. Departmental estimates suggest that by 2016 following full implementation, savings of the order of €3.2million can be made annually.

3) The establishment of SOLAS, the new agency to reform, co-ordinate and fund further education and training programmes including developing a seamless interaction with the National Employment and Entitlement Service (NEES) on activation measures.

4) A single awarding authority for student grants. City of Dublin VEC will operate as the new single student grant awarding authority to replace the existing 66 grant awarding bodies. Implementation of the new arrangements is being phased in from 2012/13 academic year.

5) It is also proposed to dissolve the Education Finance Board on the establishment of the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund. The purpose of this agency is to pay education grants to former residents and their relatives from the €12.7m provided by the religious congregations pursuant to the 2002 Indemnity Agreement. The recently published Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Bill 2012 provides for the dissolution of the EFB and the transfer of its functions in relation to the remaining moneys available to the new Residential Institutions Statutory Fund.

6) The consolidation of Higher Education provision under the Strategy for Higher Education to 2030.

Schools Building Projects

Áine Collins

Question:

250 Deputy Áine Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding grant applications in respect of schools (details supplied) in County Cork. [29567/12]

The schools, referred to by the Deputy, have applied to my Department for large scale capital funding. In view of the need to ensure that every child has access to a school place, the delivery of major school projects to meet future demographic demands nationally will be the main focus for capital investment in schools in the coming years. The five year programme announced on 12 March last is focused on meeting those demographic needs. In the context, therefore, of the financial constraints imposed by the need to prioritise available funding for the provision of essential school accommodation to meet this demographic demand, it is not possible to indicate at this point when building projects for the schools in question can be provided.

State Examinations

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

251 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Skills if issues raised by teachers and students regarding the leaving certificate paper II honours maths will be borne in mind in the marking and grading scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29578/12]

Comments and observations regarding test instruments are an intrinsic part of the feedback that SEC would normally expect to receive in any year. The well-tried methodology in place to deal with issues that arise in the course of the examination process is the development of the marking scheme by the Chief Examiner and his college of examiners in light of the circumstances of that year's examinations. All observations received in relation to any subject are reviewed by the relevant Chief Examiner in the context of preparing the marking scheme for that subject.

Question No. 252 answered with Question No. 232.

Special Educational Needs

Paul Connaughton

Question:

253 Deputy Paul J. Connaughton asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a person (details supplied) in County Galway will be granted a July provision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29590/12]

The July Education Programme is available to all special schools and mainstream primary schools with special classes catering for children with autism who choose to extend their education services through the month of July. My Department also provides for a July Programme for pupils with a severe/profound general learning disability. Where school based provision is not feasible, home based provision may be grant aided. I am pleased to advise the Deputy that funding under the Home Based July Programme has been approved for the child in question by my Department. The parents have been notified accordingly.

Pyrite Remediation Programme

John Lyons

Question:

254 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Education and Skills the extent, if any, to which school properties containing and affected by pyrite can be offered assistance; the particular supports available to a school (details supplied) in Dublin 11 to remediate the major structural damage caused by pyrite and the commencement date for these required works. [29635/12]

My Department is providing assistance to the school in question. Where interim remedial works were deemed necessary, these have been undertaken. The school Board of Management has engaged consultants to scope the extent of the remedial works necessary to eradicate the pyrite issue. Once the extent of the works is known, arrangements will then be put in place to have the remedial works done.

School Staffing

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

255 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a school (details supplied) in County Meath will lose a teacher from September 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29639/12]

The criteria used for the allocation of teachers to schools is published annually on my Department's website. The key factor for determining the level of staffing resources provided at individual school level is the staffing schedule for the relevant school year and pupil enrolments on the previous 30 September. The staffing schedule for the 2012-2013 school year, Circular 0007/2012 is available on my Department's website. The school referred to by the Deputy submitted an appeal which was considered at the April meeting of the Primary Staffing Appeals Board. The appeal by this school was unsuccessful on the basis that the school did not meet the published appeal criteria. The Board of Management of the school has been notified accordingly. The Appeals Board operates independently of the Department and its decision is final.

Third Level Courses

Arthur Spring

Question:

256 Deputy Arthur Spring asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a person (details supplied) in County Kerry is eligible for accreditation for the UCD diploma in emergency medical technology as a result of the training they undertook and completed successfully at the National Services College in 2002. [29668/12]

Universities are autonomous institutions and the management of academic affairs including admissions criteria and the making of awards are matters for the individual institutions concerned. Neither I nor my Department has any function in relation to such matters.

An Ghaeilge

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

257 D’fhiafraigh Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Oideachais agus Scileanna cén fáth nach féidir iarratas a dhéanamh i nGaeilge ar an suíomh gréasáin, studentgrant.ie; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [29689/12]

Tá áthas orm a chur in iúl don Teachta gur féidir cur isteach ar dheontas mic léinn trí Ghaeilge.

Departmental Expenditure

Seán Kyne

Question:

258 Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Education and Skills if there was a capital expenditure carryover in his Department for 2011; and if so, if he will outline the way in which these funds are being expended in 2012. [29692/12]

There was no capital expenditure carryover in my Department from 2011 to 2012.

School Transport

Seán Kyne

Question:

259 Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will outline the expected budget to be available to fund the school transport service for the coming school year; and if local private companies or community groups will have the opportunity to tender for the provision of such services. [29695/12]

The 2012 allocation to my Department to cover all aspects of school transport provision is almost €170m. Bus Éireann which operates the school transport schemes, on behalf of my Department, is responsible for the negotiation and awarding of school transport contracts to private operators. In this regard, Bus Éireann has advised that an extensive procurement exercise was conducted in summer 2011. This exercise invited applications from operators of large, medium, small buses and taxis who were interested in undertaking, on a contractual basis, the operation of school transport services throughout Ireland.

Advertisements were placed on the etenders website, the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU), and in the Local and National Newspapers. A similar exercise is underway for the 2012/13 school year. It may interest the Deputy to note that some 85% of the vehicles used to provide services under the School Transport Scheme, equivalent to over 3,300 vehicles, are provided by private operators under contract to Bus Éireann.

School Patronage

Finian McGrath

Question:

260 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on the recommendations made by the Advisory Group to the National Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the primary sector regarding the divestment of existing Catholic schools into multi-denominational schools (details supplied). [29779/12]

The Report of the Advisory Group to the National Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the primary sector was published in April of this year. I have considered the Report's findings and recommendations and intend to outline my official response in the coming days.

Higher Education Institutions

Brendan Smith

Question:

261 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the action he will take in relation to unauthorised expenditure by universities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29786/12]

The recent report from the Comptroller and Auditor General confirms that over €8 million in unauthorised payments were made to senior university staff over the period June 2005 to February 2011. This is completely unacceptable behaviour and represents a failure in governance in our universities and is a serious breach of public pay policy. These unauthorised payments have been ceased in all cases. While these overpayments happened on the previous Government's watch, we are determined to ensure they cannot happen again. It is my intention, as part of the National Strategy implementation process, to strengthen legislation and put more robust accountability processes in place for the sector.

The HEA, acting in consultation with my Department and the Department for Public Expenditure and Reform, is making arrangements with each university covering the use of an amount of their funding equivalent in each case to the amount of overpayments. These arrangements will be directed towards improving student services and specific new innovations in front line services. It is an imperative that any action taken does not impact on students, especially at a time when resources are particularly limited.

It is also important to note that my Department has sought and received unequivocal commitments from each university that in future it will adhere to the provisions of the Universities Act. In the context of annual reporting arrangements provided for in the Code of Governance of Irish Universities each University is required to submit a statement to the HEA affirming that Government policy on pay is being complied with.

Brendan Smith

Question:

262 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills when he expects reform proposals from the heads of universities following the publication of the Highland Report last September; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29788/12]

Following the publication of the NCCA-HEA report on Transitions into higher education last December, I asked the universities and the Institues of Technology to submit proposals to me in relation to the implementation of the recommendations in the report. I have been informed that the universities are currently finalising a report for submission to me in the coming weeks.

Schools Building Projects

Brendan Smith

Question:

263 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the proposed building project for a school (details supplied) in County Dublin; when this project will proceed to the next stage; the likely timescale for construction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29790/12]

The building project for the school referred to by the Deputy has been included in the 5 year construction programme. A stage 2(b) submission was received in my Department in May. This submission includes tender documents and is the precursor to tender and construction stage. The Design team has been asked to do a review of the tender documents and revert to the Department when that review is complete. Due to the financial constraints imposed by the need to prioritise the funding available each year for the provision of new school accommodation to meet the increasing demographic requirements the project for Newpark Comprehensive has been scheduled to commence construction in 2015/16.

Seán Kyne

Question:

264 Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will outline the procedure in terms of the expenditure of the €500 million set aside from the schools’ capital buildings budget which was not included in the five year schools building programme budget announced this year. [29792/12]

The capital investment programme for the school sector over the years 2012 to 2016 amounts to €2 billion. As I announced last March €1.5 billion of the investment is in respect of the major school building projects that will be underway during the five-year period. The remaining €500 million will be expended on the additional accommodation programme (including the initiative to replace rented prefabs with permanent accommodation), site acquisitions, emergency works, the provision of furniture and equipment, commitments arising from pre-2012 programmes and other miscellaneous capital activity.

Job Initiatives

Michael McGrath

Question:

265 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his Department has prepared any report accounting for the way in which the sums of money raised from the jobs initiative of May 2011 have been spent to date; if so, if he will provide full details of the the way in which this has been expended; and if he will advise the number of full and part-time jobs that have been created as a result of the initiative. [30272/12]

As part of the Jobs Initiative in 2011 the following details were announced by my Department at the time: 16,000 training and education places and €40 million in funding for building works for schools.

The Department of Education and Skills was to provide 15,900 education and training places across a spectrum of programmes:

6,000 places in the FÁS Specific Skills Training programme.

5,900 places in the Higher Education Springboard programme.

3,000 places in the Back to Education Initiative programme.

1,000 places in Post Leaving Cert Courses.

These additional places were funded through the redeployment of some financial resources within the Department and an additional €8.3 million from the Exchequer. The aim of this provision was to enable more unemployed people to up-skill and re-skill so they can effectively compete for jobs in the labour market.

On the capital side, €40 million was made available through the Jobs Initiative to fund 374 primary and post primary school building projects. These funds allowed schools to carry out small and medium scale building works such as special needs access, toilet facilities, roof works and window replacements. The investment was expected to create 2,400 direct and 480 indirect much needed jobs in the construction sector. I have asked officials in my Department to look at the other issues raised in the question and I will revert to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Public Procurement Contracts

John McGuinness

Question:

266 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the reasons behind the issue of circular 10/10 from his Department in relation to local purchasing; if it is possible for his Department to reinstate the previous limit of €50,000 for purchasing locally with three quotes; if he will consider reviewing the current provisions with a view to making it easier for small business to obtain business; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29770/12]

I am aware that public procurement can be an important source of business for local enterprises. Current guidelines (Circular 10/10) issued by my Department require public bodies to promote participation of small and medium-sized enterprises in the award of public contracts. Circular 10/10 was developed in 2010 by a cabinet committee which was tasked with considering issues that face SMEs in the public procurement market. The cabinet committee recommendations that formed the basis for the circular were consistent with EU commissioned research, entitledEvaluation of SMEs’ Access to Public Procurement Markets in the EU (2010).

Circular 10/10 sets out positive measures that contracting authorities are to take to promote SME involvement in a manner that is consistent with the principles and rules of the existing public procurement regulatory regime. The guidance also highlights practices that are to be avoided because they can unjustifiably hinder small businesses in competing for public contracts. The key provisions of the guidance include:

supplies and general services contracts with an estimated value of €25,000 or more to be advertised on thewww.etenders.gov.ie website;

less use of "restrictive" tendering procedures and greater use of "open" tendering;

ensuring that the levels set by contracting authorities for suitability criteria are justified and proportionate to the needs of the contract;

sub-dividing larger requirements into lots where this is practical and can be done without compromising efficiency and value for money.

The reason why the threshold for advertising onwww.etenders.ie (the national public procurement web portal) was reduced from €50,000 to €25,000 was to make such contracts more accessible to SMEs. This initiative is consistent with national public procurement policy which is aimed at ensuring that all public sector purchasing is carried out in a manner that is transparent and secures optimal value for money for the taxpayer. The Deputy will appreciate that advertising such contracts facilitates SMEs in accessing public procurement opportunities whilst also ensuring that each public body secures work, goods and services that are value for money.

Facilitating SMEs to access public procurement opportunities is an ongoing priority for Government. The National Procurement Service (NPS) recently established a Working Group on Small and Medium Enterprises to respond to public procurement issues arising for SMEs. The Working Group consists of representatives from the NPS, the Health Service Executive, the Irish Business and Employers Federation, the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association, Chambers Ireland, and the Small Firms Association. The Working Group will develop measures to highlight the scope that contracting authorities have under circular 10/10 to encourage SME participation in public procurement processes.

Public Sector Pensions

Terence Flanagan

Question:

267 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the most recent total estimate of the public sector pension liabilities and when it is planned to update this number; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29860/12]

The gross accrued liability for public service occupational pensions is estimated at €116bn as of December 2009. This estimate is set out in the Annual Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General published in 2010. This figure was arrived at on the basis of a detailed actuarial valuation of public service pension schemes carried out by consultants employed by the C&AG in the light of the pension terms and conditions then prevailing. Since 2008 the Finance Accounts, published annually by the Department of Finance, also show the gross accrued liability figure. I would add that the term public sector is usually taken to comprise all those who are employed, both directly and indirectly, by a public body. The public service is, broadly speaking, the public sector less the commercial semi-state bodies.

This accrued liability figure of €116bn is a single monetary amount representing the present value of all expected future superannuation payments to current staff and their spouses in respect of service to date, plus the full liability for all future payments to current pensioners (including preserved pensioners) and to their spouses. The large size of the figure is due to the fact that it represents a projection of aggregate pension payments that will be spread over 70 or more years into the future.

The estimate of the accrued liability should not be confused with the actual cash funding that will be required in the future. This latter, measure of public service pension costs is the actual annual gross outgoing on public service pensions which comprises the Exchequer Pensions Bill and certain other public service pension outlays, principally local government pensions. In 2011 the Exchequer Pensions Bill was estimated to have been €2.8bn, or 2.2% of GNP.

It is important to point out that a new Single Public Service Pension Scheme Bill, to apply to all public service staff, is currently before the Oireachtas, and it is intended that the new scheme will be implemented this year. The new Scheme will provide for pension to be based on career average earnings, as opposed to the current system of pension based on final salary. This and other features of the Scheme will eventually deliver a saving of a third in the Exchequer Public Service pension bill. Once these new arrangements come into force consideration will be given to carrying out the large scale actuarial exercise that would be necessary to update the accrued liability figure.

State Agencies

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

268 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of quangos, quasi autonomous non-governmental organisations, which are funded partially or wholly, directly or indirectly, by his Department that have been abolished, merged, or reduced in scale since the formation of the Government; the amount that has been saved as a result and the number by which personnel numbers have been reduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29542/12]

The Public Service Reform Plan, published in November 2011, outlines the Government's programme of public service reforms and improvements which are designed to deliver on the commitments made in the Programme for Government. The radical streamlining of 48 state bodies, a key element of the Plan, includes the merger of the Commission on Public Service Appointments into the Office of the Ombudsman, which falls under the remit of my Department. This merger is completed on an administrative basis and will be included in the new FOI Amendment Bill which the Government intends to introduce later this year.

As the merger is completed on an administrative basis, the potential savings from the measure would have been taken into account in the overall consideration of the 2012 Revised Estimates for the CPSA and the Office of the Ombudsman and was reflected in their respective allocations. Regarding the personnel numbers involved, the merger has lead to efficiencies through flexibility in the deployment of staff and the amalgamation of back office functions. The total numbers for both bodies is included in the table. It must be borne in the mind that the overall reduction in numbers may be due to a number of factors, including retirements, as well as the rationalisation measure.

On the wider issue of savings, I would make the point that while these reform measures will deliver savings to the taxpayer, the real benefits lie in the simplification of the administrative landscape, thereby ensuring greater democratic accountability, less duplication of effort and more transparent lines of responsibility of public servants. In addition to the specific rationalisation measures detailed in the Public Service Reform Plan, there is also the broader issue of fiscal consolidation that is required to bring the General Government deficit below 3% of GDP by 2015, as the Government is committed to doing. This level of consolidation requires all areas of government, including state bodies, regardless of whether they are highlighted for rationalisation or not, to reduce in scale.

Non Industrial Civil Servants (FTE)

Dec-09

Dec-10

Dec-11

Mar-12

Total:

97

95

95

93

Garda Stations

Clare Daly

Question:

269 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will ensure that the premises of Rush Garda station, County Dublin, are maintained in public ownership and made available to the local scout group or other interested community groups in the event that the Department of Justice and Equality refuses to overturn the decision to close the station. [29648/12]

The Office of Public Works (OPW) is currently assessing the property options arising in respect of the recently closed Garda station in Rush, County Dublin. This assessment will include other potential State uses for the property. If the property is considered surplus to requirements, the OPW will consider options including disposal on the open market and consideration of any viable local proposals in the matter.

Drainage Schemes

James Bannon

Question:

270 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his plans to manage the flood levels (details supplied) on the River Shannon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29656/12]

Operational control of water flows and levels on the Shannon is a matter for both the ESB and Waterways Ireland. The water management protocols operated by these two bodies for the major storage areas in the Shannon system are kept under regular review. I understand that the ESB prepares a water level forecast based on the 5 day rainfall forecast from Met Éireann, and that these forecasts are shared with all local authorities contiguous to the Shannon catchment and with other primary stakeholders.

The assessment and management of flood risk on the River Shannon and all the national river catchments is being addressed through the Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management (CFRAM) Programme, which is scheduled to continue until the end of 2015 and will meet the requirements of the EU Floods Directive. Consultants were appointed to undertake the Shannon CFRAM study in January 2011. The objectives of the Study, which involves Advisory and Progress Groups containing Local Authority representatives, are to identify and examine, in detail, the causes of flooding throughout the Shannon catchment and produce an integrated plan of specific measures to address the significant flood risk factors in a pro-active and comprehensive way. Its output will be a flood risk management plan that will take into account economic, social and environmental factors.

Specific updates on the Shannon CFRAM Study are available onhttp://shannoncframstudy.ie/. Public open days were held in Athlone on 27th and 28th April 2012 as part of a consultative process designed to seek local views on what should be considered when examining solutions for managing flood risk in the future.

Garda Stations

Sean Fleming

Question:

271 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if the Office of Public Works will carry out some minor repairs and improvements at a Garda station (details supplied) in County Laois; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29660/12]

The Commissioners of Public Works carry out maintenance works to Garda Stations on foot of requests from An Garda Síochána. However, the Commissioners have not received a request to carry out the works identified in the Deputy's question. If such a request is made, due consideration will be given at that stage, subject to the necessary funding being made available by An Garda Síochána.

Computerisation Programme

John McGuinness

Question:

272 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the accumulated cost incurred by each Department, State Agency and local government of migrating to Microsoft Office versions 2007 and 2010; the future annual expenditure commitments for each Government Department, State Agency and Local Government in relation to the continued use of Microsoft Office versions 2007 and 2010; the cost benefit analysis carried out in each Government Department, State Agency and local government to establish whether upgrading Microsoft Office 2007 and 2010 was a more cost effective option than migrating to open source alternatives such as Open Office; the total cost including staff costs of rolling out Microsoft Office versions 2007 and 2010 for each Government Department, State Agency and local government; the total cost of training staff in Microsoft Office 2007 and 2010 for each Government Department, State Agency and local government; the alternatives, if any, that were examined prior to the decision to roll out Microsoft Office version 2007 and 2010 and the reason that they were discounted; his policy in relation to the use of open source software in the Public Sector here and if any public body can show the way in which they are making savings on software licensing by using open source alternatives rather than proprietary products. [29769/12]

As the Deputy is aware, while my Department is responsible for the overall sanctioning of ICT expenditure in the public service, the responsibility for day to day operations rests with each Department and State Agency. Consequently, the decision on what particular office productivity software to deploy and its specific costs are matters for each Department and Agency, subject to the normal sanctioning arrangements. Advice issued by my Department requires such decisions to be made on the basis of functionality, available support, overall lifetime value for money, compatibility with the existing environment, compliance with applicable standards, and other considerations.

Naturally, the form that such an analysis takes will very much depend on the size and complexity of the deployment; one would probably employ a very different methodology and level of formality in deciding on the appropriate software for a small agency as opposed to a large central Department with thousands of staff. However, in every case the purchasing decision will involve a procurement exercise. Where the analysis for a particular public body concludes that the Microsoft Office suite is suitable, that body can avail of the lowest possible price for this software by using a public service pricing agreement that has been negotiated by my Department with Microsoft.

My Department currently provides IT services to the Department of Finance on a shared service basis. In the two Departments we are currently examining whether to migrate from a much older office productivity system to an updated version of the same. This decision will be based on the criteria mentioned above. As part of our evaluation we have rolled out updated software to a limited number of units. The total cost to date of this deployment is €18,199 (VAT inclusive). The estimated on-going cost is zero.

On the broader issue of open source software policy, it remains the position of my Department that the appropriate basis for making decisions about software is through robust analysis, open procurement and compliance with underlying open standards, rather than mandating the use of a particular software licence. However, my officials are always happy to hear the views of open source proponents as to how an explicit open source policy might drive further cost savings.

Public Sector Staff

Brendan Ryan

Question:

273 Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform further to retired public servants being re-engaged by Department for specific tasks or assignments, his plans to end this practice on a short-term and phased basis. [29783/12]

As I have previously stated in my reply to Parliamentary Question number 28316/12, the general policy with regard to the re-engagement of retired public servants is that staff should not be retained beyond retirement age and any re-engagement should be kept as limited as possible and should be for a very restricted period. In any big organisation situations can arise where a particular issue requires a short-term specialist input in order to complete a task. In many instances the most appropriate and cost-effective way of solving a short-term problem is to bring in someone who has worked in the area, understands the background and can hit the ground running.

The Strategic Workforce Planning Groups in each sector, including my own Department, are currently ensuring that sectoral employers develop plans to deal on an ongoing basis with the operational and strategic consequences arising from the reductions in public service staffing numbers including, inter alia, the lose of corporate memory and experience. Clearly, the issue of the re-engagement of retired public servants falls within the broad remit of Workforce Planning and an absolute prohibition may not be appropriate in all cases. Furthermore, I understand that in the vast majority of cases these re-hires are very short-term and project specific and the expense of any more formal selection process which would generally take longer than the time needed to solve the actual problem, as well as using up more staff time away from actual service delivery could not be justified.

Pension Provisions

Terence Flanagan

Question:

274 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of persons in the public sector who are now in the new pension scheme introduced under the Croke Park Agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29859/12]

I understand that the Deputy is referring to the proposed Single Public Service Pension Scheme for new recruits to public service employment. This new scheme is being legislated for by way of the Public Service Pensions (Single Scheme) and Remuneration Bill 2011, which is a major wide-ranging and complex piece of legislation. The new scheme will apply to all future new entrants in all areas of the public service including the civil service, education sector, health sector, local authorities, Garda, Defence Forces, regulatory sector, non-commercial State bodies, Oireachtas and the judiciary. The Deputy may wish to note that I am taking this Bill giving effect to the Single Scheme at Committee Stage on 21 June. Thereafter I am committed to pressing forward with the Bill so that the new scheme can become law as soon as possible.

Trade Union Recognition

Brendan Ryan

Question:

275 Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation following on from the Report of the Committee on Freedom of Association regarding reports of interference in the freedom of association and representation of staff at a company (details supplied), which possibly contravenes the requirements of the International Labour Organisation of which Ireland is a signatory, and invites the Government of Ireland to review the existing framework and consider any appropriate measures to ensure respect for the freedom of association and collective bargaining principles, if he will be reviewing the existing framework; the person he intends to head up this consultation; if the consultations will be conducted in a open and transparent manner; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29019/12]

In 2010, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (and IMPACT acting on behalf of their airline pilot members in Ryanair) submitted a complaint to the Committee on Freedom of Association of the International Labour Organisation that Ireland was not in conformity with the provisions of ILO Convention No. 98 — Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949.

The complaint involved allegations of anti-union discrimination and the refusal to engage in good faith collective bargaining on the part of Ryanair, as well as the failure of labour legislation to provide adequate protection against acts of anti-union discrimination and promote collective bargaining. The ICTU complaint arises as a result of the 2007 Supreme Court decision in the Ryanair case. The ILO Committee on Freedom of Association considered the submissions during the March session of the ILO Governing Body. The Committee's findings were

1) As the information available to the ILO Committee is insufficient to determine whether the alleged offer by Ryanair of conditional benefits to employees provided that the company would not be required to enter into a collective bargaining relationship with the union, the Committee requests the Government to ensure that the protection available against anti-union discrimination would adequately cover such acts, including through a thorough review of the protective measures with the social partners concerned.

2) The Committee requests the Government to carry out an independent inquiry without delay into the alleged acts of employer interference in order to establish the facts of this specific case and, if necessary, to take the necessary measures to ensure full respects of the principles of freedom of association.

3) Noting the commitment on collective bargaining in the Programme for Government, the Committee invites the Government, in full consultation with the social partners, to review the existing framework and consider any appropriate measures, including legislative, so as to ensure respect for the freedom of association and collective bargaining principles set out in its conclusions, including through the review of the mechanisms available with a view to promoting machinery for voluntary negotiation between employers' and workers' organisations for the determination of terms and conditions of employment.

I welcome the fact that the ILO report did not find Ireland to be in breach of its obligations under ILO Conventions in respect of collective bargaining rights. Neither did the ILO find that a resolution of the difficulties arising over the Ryanair judgement would require the introduction of a legal regime of mandatory trade union recognition.

The ILO's formal request for the Government's response to the Committees' findings was received on 25 May. The preparation of a formal response to the recommendations made to the Government is currently receiving attention. As regards the ILO recommendation concerning a review of the existing framework on collective bargaining, the ILO Committee's Report acknowledges that the Government is committed in its Programme for Government to reform the current law on employees' right to engage in collective bargaining (the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2001), so as to ensure compliance by the State with recent judgements of the European Court of Human Rights.

Delivery on the Government commitment to find a solution to the difficulties that emerged as a result of the Ryanair Supreme Court judgement will require consultation with stakeholders, including employer and worker representatives, and a review of the experience of the operation of the existing legislative framework as put in place under the Industrial Relations Acts of 2001 and 2004 and the consequences of the litigation that has arisen in the course of the operation of these Acts.

Business Regulation

Ann Phelan

Question:

276 Deputy Ann Phelan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his views in respect of amending the Companies Acts to remove the statutory audit requirement from all companies limited by guarantee with an annual income of less than €100,000 in view of the fact that the fee for such a statutory audit is an enormous financial burden on many voluntary groups struggling to survive on local fundraising efforts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29265/12]

The Company Law Review Group (CLRG) 2009 Report examined the issue of extending audit exemption to companies limited by guarantee (CLG). It made the following recommendations:

(i) Subject in each case to consultation with the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and the charities regulator, the audit exemption regime contained in Part III of the 1999 (No. 2) Act be extended to such class or classes of CLG which are charitable organisations (within the meaning of the Charities Act 2009) so as to bring them into alignment with charitable organisations that are not companies, provided that 10% of the members with voting rights should be able to require an audit.

(ii) The audit exemption regime contained in Part III of the 1999 (No. 2) Act be extended to all CLGs which are not charitable organisations, subject to a veto right, by any one member of the company, and further subject to the requirement that audit exemption in respect of the following year shall be an item on the agenda of the annual general meeting.

Bearing in mind the work done by the CLRG in the matter, I am considering how these issues may best be addressed in the context of the Companies Bill, which I hope to publish later this year.

Departmental Websites

Willie O'Dea

Question:

277 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will provide an estimate of the cost of his Department’s new website including hosting, designing, building and posting, the location at which the site is hosted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29262/12]

The Department has recently developed two new websites —www.enterprise.gov.ie and www.businessregulation.ie. The former, www.enterprise.gov.ie, will replace the Department’s existing website which has remained substantially unchanged for over ten years. Infrastructure, including a content management system, is shared between the two websites. The latter, www.businessregulation.ie, brings together in one site information on regulation for over 30 Government bodies and, building on the architecture and design work of www.enterprise.gov.ie, was developed in response to a problem identified by business. Work on the websites and a new associated content management system is still under way so the final cost of development is not yet to hand. Based on work carried out to date and the estimated effort of work on hand, the final cost of the two websites is estimated to be approx €83,000.

Work carried out included initial design scoping and detailed design, wireframe design and layout, design, development and coding of html and style sheets for page templates, design, development and testing of code to integrate to application programming interfaces of all feed content systems, functionality testing, delivery and deployment of the CMS and developed systems on production servers, security review and hardening of servers and deployment of firewalls, integration of search functionality, and training of staff in the use of the content management system. The site is hosted in Ireland. The new website will, over time, replace the existing Departmental website which has remained substantially unchanged for over ten years.

Design and development work is being carried out following an open tendering process in a very competitive market. The work being undertaken includes the delivery of a new web content management system which gives the Department a modern and flexible tool for managing web content and opens up options for consolidating existing diverse website platforms. This incremental approach minimises risk and optimises the use of constrained personnel resources. The new website platform presents a much more sophisticated tool than the existing website to draw data from the Department's diverse Offices and Agencies in real time to provide a holistic view of the enterprise agenda. As a first step in maximising the value of the new web content management system, the new platform is also being used to host the newwww.businessregulation.ie website which delivers guidance and support for businesses in understanding the regulations which apply to them.

Foreign Direct Investment

Regina Doherty

Question:

278 Deputy Regina Doherty asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will take a proactive approach to improving County Meath’s status for attracting foreign direct investment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29276/12]

IDA Ireland is an autonomous agency whose statutory obligation is the attraction of foreign direct investment (FDI) to Ireland and its regions. One of the targets in IDA Ireland's strategy document ‘Horizon 2020’ is the creation of 63,000 new jobs in Ireland in IDA supported companies and a further 42,000 jobs in the wider economy over the period 2010-2014, with 50% of these investments to be based in locations outside of Dublin and Cork. 2011 was a very successful year for IDA Ireland with the creation of 13,000 new FDI jobs. In accordance with the Government’s Action Plan for Jobs, I have asked IDA Ireland to target another 144 new FDI investment projects in 2012, which will create 12,500 new jobs with an associated 8,750 in the wider economy, giving a total impact of 21,250 this year.

There are 16 IDA Ireland client companies in Co Meath employing approximately 1,300 people. IDA Ireland has indicated to me that as Ireland competes for high quality investments, the concept of scale is crucial. Leading global corporations require a significant population pool, access to qualified talent, world standard physical and digital infrastructure, coupled with the availability of sophisticated professional and business support services. Ireland has only one such Metro Region, the Greater Dublin area. In order to achieve regional economic development, IDA Ireland prioritises the marketing of Gateway locations within each Region as the locations of critical mass, i.e. sufficient scale of population, skills infrastructure, companies, business services etc., and highlights the opportunities provided by Hub locations which are within commuting distances of these Gateways. In addition, IDA Ireland promotes other locations as part of its marketing efforts and in response to specific client requirements. It must be remembered, however, that in all cases, it is the investor who decides where to locate.

With continuing enhancement and improvements in physical and digital infrastructure, an FDI project secured for one Gateway Economic Region has a positive impact on other Gateway Economic Regions and surrounding areas. A relevant example of this is the recent announcement by PayPal who will create c. 1,000 new jobs over the next 4 years in Dundalk. This investment will have a positive economic impact directly and indirectly, not only in the North East Economic Region, but also in the East Economic Region, of which Meath is a part.

Small and Medium Enterprises

Regina Doherty

Question:

279 Deputy Regina Doherty asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the number of businesses from County Meath who have participated in the Enterprise Platform Programme since it recommenced in quarter one of this year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29278/12]

The recently announced New Frontiers Programme replaces the Enterprise Platform Programme and aims to raise the number of business start-ups and to increase the pipeline of HPSUs and other sustainable businesses. This new programme forms part of one of the action points set out in the Government's Action Plan for Jobs. New Frontiers is a national programme delivered in 9 regional locations by 13 Institutes of Technology. As participation in the programme is not predicated on the location of the participant's business Enterprise Ireland does not, therefore, collect data on a county by county basis.

The programme is currently being phased in across the country. Ten institutes have commenced/completed Phase 1 of the Programme with over 300 participants taking part in this 6-8 week introductory course. The first interviews for Phase 2 began in mid-May and four institutes have completed the recruitment process with 48 places offered on the 6 month courses taking place in their incubation centres. Eight Institutes of Technology (IoTs) have partnered to form four collaborative programmes to deliver the New Frontiers Programme while individual programmes are also being offered from a number of IoTs as follows:

Collaborative Programmes

Individual Programmes

IT Carlow/Waterford IT

Dublin IT

Limerick IT/IT Tralee

Dundalk IT (partnered with CIT)

IT Tallaght/IT Blanchardstown

Cork IT (partnered with DkIT)

IT Sligo/Letterkenny IT

Galway-Mayo IT (partnered with AIT)

Athlone IT (partnered with GMIT)

Employment Investment Incentive

Dara Calleary

Question:

280 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the supports available to promoters business expansion scheme willing to invest in the construction of commercial space for projects for which employment grants have been approved; the supports or reliefs from agencies within his Department that are available to such a promoter. [29308/12]

The Finance Act 2011 introduced the Employment Investment Incentive (EII) in replacement of the old Business Expansion (BES) Scheme. The new Scheme has significantly increased the amount of investment a company can receive under the Scheme and also increased the number of SMEs who can receive investment under the Scheme. Under the old BES Scheme, only companies in the manufacturing, internationally traded services and tourism sectors were eligible. This widening of the criteria also means Enterprise Ireland as no further role in certifying projects under the Employment Investment Incentive (EII) Scheme as certification is now a matter for the Revenue Commissioners.

However, the following trading activities were specifically cited in the legislation as not being eligible for investment under the Scheme:

Adventures or concerns in the nature of trade;

Dealing in commodities or futures in shares, securities or other financial assets;

Financing activities;

Professional service companies;

Dealing in or developing land;

Forestry;

Operating or managing hotels, guest houses, self-catering accommodation or comparable establishments or managing property used as a hotel, guest house, self-catering accommodation or comparable establishment;

Operating or managing nursing homes or residential care homes or managing property used as a nursing home or residential care home;

Operations carried on in the coal industry or in the steel and shipbuilding sectors;

The production of a film.

The development of land is specifically cited as not being an activity eligible for investment under the Employment Investment Incentive Scheme. Such a company would also not fall under the legislative remit of Enterprise Ireland or IDA Ireland.

Industrial Development

Michael McGrath

Question:

281 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will provide on a county basis a breakdown of the number of Industrial Development Agency sponsored visits for each year since 2007 to date in 2012; and if he will explain the IDA’s strategy to ensure there is an equitable distribution of visits among counties. [29338/12]

Michael McGrath

Question:

282 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation in the context of the Industrial Development Agency’s Horizon 2020 strategy and the target that 50% of investments will be located outside Dublin and Cork, if he will provide a breakdown of the number of IDA sponsored visits to Dublin which also visited Cork and the number of IDA sponsored visits to Cork which also visited Dublin since 2006. [29339/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 281 and 282 together.

Details of the number of IDA sponsored site visits by potential investors to each county in each of the years 2006 to the end of May 2012 are set out in the following tabular statement. I am informed by IDA Ireland that the Agency does not maintain records in such a way that would enable it to provide an instant cross reference of locations visited by individual companies.

As Ireland competes for high quality investments, the concept of scale is crucial. Leading global corporations require a significant population pool, access to qualified talent, world standard physical and digital infrastructure coupled with the availability of sophisticated professional and business support services. Ireland has only one Metro Region, the Greater Dublin area. In order to achieve regional economic development, IDA prioritises the marketing of Gateway locations within each Region as the locations of critical mass, i.e. sufficient scale of population, skills, infrastructure, companies, business services etc., and highlights the opportunities provided by Hub locations which are within commuting distances of these Gateways. In addition, IDA Ireland promotes other locations as part of its marketing efforts and in response to specific client requirements.

With continuing enhancement and improvements in physical and digital infrastructure, a foreign direct investment (FDI) project secured for one Gateway Economic Region has a positive impact on other Gateway Economic Regions and surrounding areas. A relevant example of this is the recent announcement by PayPal who will create c. 1,000 new jobs over the next 4 years in Dundalk. This investment will have a positive economic impact directly and indirectly (job creation and expenditure), not only in the North East Economic Region, but also in other Economic Regions such as the East Economic Region and the Midlands Economic Region.

The provision of flexible and cost effective property and infrastructural solutions has also been a key aspect in developing differentiating regional value propositions and attracting FDI into Gateway Economic Regions. In marketing potential locations for a site visit to clients, IDA Ireland has to be credible and competitive in its approach, in the face of stiff international competition for mobile FDI, i.e. locations must meet the criteria of the client company in respect of skills, labour, site and/or buildings, infrastructure, etc. Typically, a company is shown three or four locations within a Gateway Economic Region that can meet its requirements and, in certain cases, other locations are visited on an opportunistic basis. In selecting locations to market to client companies, IDA Ireland endeavours to include locations which have been affected by closures/job losses. Whilst IDA Ireland seeks to influence the selection of a location, the final decision on where to locate is taken in all cases by the client company.

Table showing the number of IDA sponsored site visits by potential clients in the period 2006 to end May 2012

County

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012 end May

Carlow

6

7

1

1

3

2

0

Cavan

4

1

1

0

3

0

1

Clare

3

3

2

9

7

15

6

Cork

16

27

41

29

44

27

17

Donegal

9

3

3

3

4

2

0

Dublin

90

91

92

90

197

150

85

Galway

20

15

14

22

41

35

10

Kerry

2

3

4

3

2

2

0

Kildare

0

1

1

1

2

3

0

Kilkenny

0

2

1

2

0

0

2

Laois

5

6

6

1

0

2

0

Leitrim

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Limerick

24

35

9

18

38

40

12

Longford

0

2

1

0

0

0

0

Louth

47

24

23

28

25

26

6

Mayo

3

4

3

1

1

0

1

Meath

2

0

3

2

0

2

0

Monaghan

1

0

0

0

0

1

0

Offaly

1

4

11

6

7

1

1

Roscommon

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

Sligo

5

6

2

5

12

3

3

Tipperary

0

0

0

1

1

1

0

Waterford

12

9

12

8

11

11

12

Westmeath

16

18

18

14

22

15

5

Wexford

0

1

0

0

1

0

0

Wicklow

0

0

2

2

5

3

1

Meat Slaughtering Plants

Willie O'Dea

Question:

283 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his views on the legal obligations regarding certification for scales used for the purposes of purchasing livestock in meat slaughtering plants; the person responsible for the legal certification of the scales and the person who provides this service; the requirements in respect of the frequency which these scales must be certified; if he will outline in tabular form, specifying the name of each meat plant, the most recent certification date and the current status in respect of the scales being used in each plant. [29517/12]

The extensive amount of information requested by the Deputy will take some time to compile, beyond the timeframe allowed for this question. I will therefore respond to the Deputy with the relevant information as soon as possible.

State Agencies

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

284 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the number of quangos, quasi autonomous non-governmental organisations, which are funded partially or wholly, directly or indirectly, by his Department that have been abolished, merged, or reduced in scale since the formation of the Government; the amount that has been saved as a result and the number by which personnel numbers have been reduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29540/12]

In the context of the Government's Programme of Public Sector Reform including rationalisation of the number of State Agencies and Bodies, there are a number of Bodies under the aegis of my Department that are scheduled to be reviewed under that Programme. Details of the current status of the Bodies under review, including the staff and financial savings anticipated, are set out in the following table.

Name of Body/ Organisation

Current Status

Savings/Reduction in Numbers

Competition Authority and National Consumer Agency

As both agencies were established under statute, it is necessary to give effect to the newly merged body by way of primary legislation. Government approved the draft Heads of a Bill in July 2011 and these were sent to the Office of Parliamentary Counsel for drafting.

Initial set-up costs will be incurred.No savings in whole-time-equivalent (WTE) numbers.

Labour CourtNational Employment Rights AuthorityLabour Relations CommissionEmployment Appeals TribunalEquality Tribunal

In July 2011, the intention to streamline the work of five bodies currently dealing with employment disputes in the workplace into a two-tier structure was announced. Four of the existing bodies — the Employment Appeals Tribunal, the National Employment Rights Authority, the Labour Relations Commission and the Labour Court — are currently within the remit of the Department. One — the Equality Tribunal — is currently within the remit of the Minister for Justice and Equality.In terms of building the new two tier-model a number of important priority actions that were identified have been successfully delivered, including the development of a: Single Contact PortalA new single contact portal called “Workplace Relations Customer Services” is fully operational since the beginning of 2012 and provides a single point of entry into the system for employment rights and industrial relations information.

The total annual cost of the State’s Workplace Relations Services amounted to some €20m in 2010. It is expected that significant savings, in terms of both reductions in staff numbers and increased efficiency and productivity, will be generated by the end of 2013 by which time the majority of the Workplace Relations Reform Programme will have been implemented. Work has commenced on identifying and capturing on-going pay and non-pay savings and it is expected that definitive information in this regard will be available in Qtr 3 of 2012.

Single Complaint FormA Single Complaint Form that deals with over 100 first instance complaints was launched on the 4th of January 2012 replacing 30 forms previously in use. Workplace Relations WebsiteThe new workplace relations websitewww.workplacerelations.ie went live on 4th January 2012. This website brings together, in one place, information on all aspects of employment rights and industrial relations. Early Resolution ServiceDelivery of a pilot Early Resolution Service has commenced. This service will assist parties to a dispute to resolve the issue themselves with the assistance of a Case Resolution Officer.LegislationWork has commenced on the drafting of a Workplace Relations Bill to give effect to the new structure. This will see the number of bodies reduced from the current five to two.BlueprintA blueprint document was launched on 5th April setting out a clear path for the delivery of the remainder of the Reform Programme.

County and City Enterprise Boards (CEBs)

Government has approved the establishment of a new “one-stop-shop” micro-enterprise support structure through the dissolution of the existing CEBs and the formation of Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs). An implementation Working Group has been set up under the auspices of the Department to progress the matter and a first meeting of the Group has been held. In conjunction with this, the Department is seeking formal advice from the Office of the AG regarding appropriate legislation.

It is to be expected that over time there will be Current savings resulting from the removal of costs associated with the individual Company status of each CEB, use of shared services, reduced rental costs associated with the relocation of some offices, etc. However initial direct savings will be modest as it could take some years to realise these savings due to existing leasing arrangements, etc.

Forfás

An Implementation Group has been established to progress a proposal for the integration of Forfás with the Department.

Amalgamation will improve efficiencies/ synergies between the Department and Forfás, but will not lead to immediate financial savings. Potential initial costs of amalgamation (e.g. ensuring compatibility of IT systems, etc.) need to be explored by the Implementation Group.Amalgamation of Forfás with DJEI will facilitate improvements in the use of existing resources — the objective is not driven by achieving reductions in WTEs. In any event, the scope for further reduction is severely limited following departure of staff of retirement age in February.

Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN)

The EGFSN reports to both the Minister for Education and Skills and the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. It is supported by Forfás. Discussions on the future role of the EGFSN are progressing and the issue will be finalised by end June 2012.

Advisory Council for Science, Technology and Innovation (ASCTI)

The role of the ASCTI is being reviewed in the context of the amalgamation of Forfás into the Department and appropriate arrangements for supporting the Research Prioritisation Exercise.

National Competitiveness Council (NCC)

The position of the NCC has been reviewed and the view is that the NCC should continue as an independent body, but with a renewed mandate that will produce improved outputs. Proposals for the renewed mandate to the NCC will be presented shortly.

There would be no notable financial savings to be achieved by the abolition of the NCC. The Council will continue to be supported by the Department / Forfás.

Office of the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government

The contract of the current Chief Scientific Adviser will expire on 31st August 2012. The future of the Office will be determined at that point.

Shannon Development

With the Minister for Transport and Sport an announcement on the formation of a Steering Group and two taskforces to oversee proposals regarding the restructuring of Shannon Airport and Shannon Development was made recently. The Steering Group will report back to cabinet by year end. As part of its work, the Group will also address issues relating to the re-alignment of tourism functions in the region currently carried out by Shannon Development.

Companies Registration Office and the Office of the Registrar of Friendly Societies

Working Group established and a draft Report is due by the end of June 2012.

Local Enterprise Offices

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

285 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the position regarding the establishment of local enterprise offices; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29566/12]

The Government has approved the restructuring of the enterprise supports for the micro and small business sectors with a view to creating an enhanced national enterprise support model. This restructuring will include:

The creation of a small and micro business Division within Enterprise Ireland with a new and enhanced focus on the wider small business sector, and

The establishment of Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) to provide a "one-stop-shop" for small businesses within Local Authorities.

As agreed by Government, the CEBs will be dissolved in their current legal format and their functions, assets and liabilities transferred to Enterprise Ireland (EI). EI is being mandated to work with the Local Authorities to develop benchmarks for service delivery and enterprise supports as well as appropriate structures and delivery models for the LEOs. In this regard, a detailed formal Service Level Agreement (SLA) will be put in place between Enterprise Ireland and the Local Authorities which will set out how the new enterprise support model will operate in practice. The existing staff of the CEBs will be an integral part of the new arrangements.

There is a lot of detailed work to be done to effect these changes. An Implementation Working Group has been set up under the auspices of my Department to progress the matter and a first meeting of the Group has been held. In conjunction with this, my Department is seeking formal advice from the Office of the Attorney General regarding appropriate legislation.

Job Creation

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

286 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the plans the Industrial Development Agency and Enterprise Ireland have to increase investment in County Meath in the years 2012 and 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29597/12]

Both IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland are autonomous agencies with statutory obligations to, in the case of IDA Ireland, attract foreign direct investment to this country and its regions and, in the case of Enterprise Ireland, to develop indigenous industry and to secure opportunities for those industries in international markets and thereby increase employment in this country. There are 16 IDA Ireland client companies in Co. Meath employing approximately 1,300 people while 172 Enterprise Ireland client companies employ 5,120 people in that county.

The Action Plan for Jobs has set a target of supporting the creation of 100,000 net new jobs over the period 2012 to 2016, with the longer term objective of having 2 million people at work by 2020. The Action plan contains 270 measures for delivery across all Government Departments and 36 agencies which will support job creation in this and future years. While specific job targets have not been set for individual locations the enterprise development agencies under the aegis of my Department work closely with one another and with other state agencies to delivering the job creation targets which have been set. In addition I should point out that despite severe budgetary constraints, my Department secured an increase in its capital budget for 2012. Between 2012 and 2013 almost €1m has been committed for capital supports for enterprise.

The following revised reply was received on 29 June 2012.

Both IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland are autonomous agencies with statutory obligations to, in the case of IDA Ireland, attract foreign direct investment to this country and its regions and, in the case of Enterprise Ireland, to develop indigenous industry and to secure opportunities for those industries in international markets and thereby increase employment in this country.

There are 16 IDA Ireland client companies in County Meath employing approximately 1,300 people while 172 Enterprise Ireland client companies employ 5,120 people in the county.

The Action Plan for Jobs has set a target of supporting the creation of 100,000 net new jobs over the period 2012 to 2016, with the longer term objective of having 2 million people at work by 2020. The action plan contains 270 measures for delivery across all Government Departments and 36 agencies which will support job creation in this and future years. While specific job targets have not been set for individual locations the enterprise development agencies under the aegis of my Department work closely with one another and with other state agencies to delivering the job creation targets which have been set.

In addition, despite severe budgetary constraints, my Department secured an increase in its capital budget for 2012. Between 2012 and 2013 almost €1 billion has been committed for capital supports to enterprise countrywide.

Business Regulation

Billy Kelleher

Question:

287 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his plans to update and modernise company law in order that the accounting profession will be obliged to give an accurate account of the financial state of a business in view of the recent collapse of financial companies including banks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29598/12]

The onus in company law is for the Directors of companies to prepare the accounts of companies on an annual basis. There is a requirement for these accounts to give a "true and fair view" of the financial position and performance of the company. Accounting rules such as International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) adopted by the EU are required to be used in the preparation of the consolidated accounts of companies admitted to trading on a regulated market, in order to give a true and fair view. IFRS standards are set by the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) an independent standard-making body. It is the function of external auditors to express their opinion as to whether these accounts provide a true and fair view.

In the wake of the financial crisis, perceived shortcomings were identified as regards an accounting standard relating to the fair valuation of financial assets, and these were addressed in a new standard. Issues also arose in relation to loan loss-recognition, and these are being examined by the IASB, with the intention of revising this standard. As regards the functions of external auditors, EU Commission proposals in the aftermath of the financial crisis to improve audit quality are currently being considered at Council Working Group level in Brussels.

In addition, my Department is currently finalising logistical aspects of the practical implementation of a Quality Assurance provision in respect of the audit of Public Interest Entities, based on the EU Commission Recommendation in the matter. This will entail direct inspections of relevant audit firms' files by the Irish Auditing and Accounting Supervisory Authority. This will require primary legislation, and it is my intention to bring proposals to Government on this matter shortly.

Work Permits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

288 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if and when a review will take place and be completed in respect of an application for a work permit in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29637/12]

My officials advise me that this Work Permit application was refused on the 15th December 2011 on the grounds that it is current Government policy to issue new employment permits only in respect of:

highly skilled, highly paid positions or;

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

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

Furthermore permits are issued in respect of employment where it is established that a minimum salary of €30,000 per annum is on offer, based on a 39 hour week. It appeared that insufficient efforts were made to recruit/train an Irish or EEA National for this position. New work permit applications can only be considered where it is established that the position has been advertised with FÁS/EURES for a period of 8 weeks and that this advertisement has been flagged as a work permit vacancy and advertised for at least six days in both local and national newspapers. Finally, it also appeared from the information provided that the applicant was already working for the company without having a valid employment permit and that the company had no other employees. The applicant was notified of this decision in writing and of their right to appeal this decision within 21 days. No such appeal was received in the Employment Permits Section.

Work Permits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

289 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if and when a review will take place and be completed in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare in respect of an application for a work permit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29638/12]

My officials advise me that this Work Permit application was refused on the 13th December 2011 on the grounds that it is current Government policy to issue new employment permits only in respect of:

highly skilled, highly paid positions or;

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

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

Furthermore permits are issued in respect of employment where it is established that a minimum salary of €30,000 per annum is on offer, based on a 39 hour week. It appeared that insufficient efforts were made to recruit/train an Irish or EEA National for this position. New work permit applications can only be considered where it is established that the position has been advertised with FÁS/EURES for a period of 8 weeks and that this advertisement has been flagged as a work permit vacancy and advertised for at least six days in both local and national newspapers. In addition the position and salary as advertised did not correspond with the position or salary proposed for this application. Finally, the proposed employee's current immigration status as set out in supporting documentation precluded them from obtaining an Employment Permit in the State. The applicant was notified of this decision in writing and of their right to appeal this decision within 21 days. No such appeal was received in the Employment Permits Section.

Work Permits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

290 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the extent of reconsideration of an application for a work permit in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29640/12]

My Department processes applications in respect of the different types of employment permits and all applications are processed in line with the Employment Permits Act 2006. My officials inform me that it has no record of permits being applied for or issued in respect of the named individual.

Work Permits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

291 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the extent to which review or reconsideration has been given to entitlement to work permit application in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29641/12]

My Department processes applications in respect of the different types of employment permits and all applications are processed in line with the Employment Permits Act 2006. My officials inform me that it has no record of permits being applied for or issued in respect of the named individual.

Labour Shortages

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Question:

292 Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if his attention has been drawn to the labour shortage in the culinary industry at present and the problems that this is creating by driving up costs and stunting creativity and output; his views on whether the restrictions on the amount of time a person on a student visa can work is putting a strain on the culinary industry who rely on such students; if he will undertake measures to alleviate these problems in the industry by easing the restrictions on work permits for chefs coming to Ireland, by actively promoting a recruitment campaign to keep graduates here instead of going abroad for work and experience; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29662/12]

It is current Government policy to issue new employment permits for highly skilled highly paid positions, for non-EEA nationals who are already legally resident in the State on valid employment permits or where there is an officially recognized scarcity of workers of a particular type or qualification. All catering occupations, with the exception of Chefs, are currently ineligible for new employment permits for non-EEA nationals.

The Employment Permits Section consider applications in respect of fully trained Head Chefs on a case by case basis for ethnic restaurants, this policy does not apply to take-aways. In line with current policy, new work permit applications can only be considered where it is established that the position has been advertised with FÁS/EURES for a period of 8 weeks and that this advertisement has been flagged as a work permit vacancy and advertised for at least six days in both local and national newspapers. New Employment Permit applications are normally only considered where it is established that a minimum salary of €30,000 per annum is on offer based on a 39 hour week. This helps ensure that jobs are available to Irish and EU citizens and other EEA nationals in the first instance.

The Immigration Regime for Full Time Non-EEA Students, which includes "Third Level Graduate" is the responsibility of the Minister for Justice. Full details of both of these Schemes can be found on the Department of Justice and Equality website. I understand the New Immigration Regime for Full Time Non-EEA Students which has been in operation since 1 January 2011 has commitments to a separate evaluation of the student work concession under the auspices of the Interdepartmental Committee on Student Immigration which is chaired by the Department of Justice. Work on this review is currently ongoing. Finally the focus of Government policy in all sectors including the culinary industry is to ensure that labour shortages can be met from training and up-skilling people already in our labour market.

Business Regulation

Peter Mathews

Question:

293 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his views on correspondence (details supplied) regarding the Commission for Communications Regulation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29787/12]

I am informed that the Code of Practice referred to by the Deputy in the Question is currently the subject of Court proceedings. Therefore, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on this matter at this point in time.

Enterprise Support Services

Seán Kyne

Question:

294 Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the progress made on the planned amalgamation of city and county enterprise boards with local authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29794/12]

The Government has approved the restructuring of the enterprise supports for the micro and small business sectors with a view to creating an enhanced national enterprise support model. This restructuring will include:

The creation of a small and micro business Division within Enterprise Ireland with a new and enhanced focus on the wider small business sector, and

The establishment of Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) to provide a "one-stop-shop" for small businesses within Local Authorities.

As agreed by Government, the CEBs will be dissolved in their current legal format and their functions, assets and liabilities transferred to Enterprise Ireland (EI). EI is being mandated to work with the Local Authorities to develop benchmarks for service delivery and enterprise supports as well as appropriate structures and delivery models for the LEOs. In this regard, a detailed formal Service Level Agreement (SLA) will be put in place between Enterprise Ireland and the Local Authorities which will set out how the new enterprise support model will operate in practice. The existing staff of the CEBs will be an integral part of the new arrangements.

There is a lot of detailed work to be done to effect these changes. An Implementation Working Group has been set up under the auspices of my Department to progress the matter and a first meeting of the Group has been held. In conjunction with this, my Department is seeking formal advice from the Office of the Attorney General regarding appropriate legislation.

Death Certificates

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

295 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason a person (details supplied) in County Donegal has yet to be furnished with a death certificate. [29272/12]

I am informed by the Registrar General that this case was referred to the Coroner for Donegal North East in September 2011. Where a death has been referred to a coroner, the death can only be registered on foot of a coroner's certificate. I am informed that the Coroner intends to convene an inquest into the cause of death in the near future. The death will be registered by the local registrar on receipt of a coroner's certificate as provided for under section 41 of the Civil Registration Act 2004.

Live Register

Seamus Kirk

Question:

296 Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Social Protection if any analysis has been carried out on the most up to date unemployment figures in County Louth of 17,356; if she will provide a breakdown of the sectors in which the unemployed were previously employed; the measures she will take to reduce these unemployment figures in County Louth; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29673/12]

The total number of persons on the Live Register in Local Offices in County Louth at the end of May 2012 was 17,356. The catchment area of these offices, particularly near the border of counties, may include addresses in neighbouring counties (e.g. Meath), and as such those signing on at a Local Office in Louth may not be resident in the county. A detailed breakdown of this number by Profession and Local Office is contained in the attached tabular statement.

There are two major elements to the Government's response to the unemployment crisis in Louth and elsewhere. These are theAction Plan for Jobs to create employment and the Pathways to Work Policy aimed at ensuring that as many as possible of job vacancies are filled by people from the live register. My colleague, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and his Department are primarily responsible for employment creation and for the Action Plan for Jobs, while the Pathways to Work initiative is primarily a matter for my Department.

There are five strands in the Pathways to Work policy:

More regular and on-going engagement with the unemployed. The new National Employment and Entitlement Service will provide an integrated and more personalised service to unemployed people, with more regular and intensive engagement through the use profiling tools and case management systems.

Greater targeting of activation places and opportunities. Over 85,000 places will be provided in training and education.

Incentivising the take-up of opportunities. This will ensure that work pays by reviewing policies and schemes to ensure they are not seen as disincentives to taking up employment.

Incentivising employers to provide more jobs for people who are unemployed. This involves rebuilding relations with and gaining the trust of employers both at local national levels. This also involves giving employers incentives such as the PRSI exemption scheme to employ people from the live register.

Reforming institutions to deliver better services to the unemployed. The establishment of the NEES and the integration of the FÁS Employment Services and the Community Welfare Services into the Department are key element of this institutional restructuring. The establishment of SOLAS, the rationalisation of the VECs and the establishment of the new education and Training boards (ETBs) are also part of this structural reform.

I am confident that these two sets of initiatives will lead to a reduction in unemployment in Louth and elsewhere.

Number of People on Live Register by Local Office in Louth

Profession

Ardee

Drogheda

Dundalk

Associate Professional and Technical Occupations

57

187

220

Clerical and Secretarial Occupations

179

820

729

Craft and Related Occupations

992

2,127

1,549

Managers and Administrators

42

378

263

Other Occupations

195

728

788

Personal and Protective Service Occupations

200

931

867

Person has no Occupation

8

189

224

Plant and Machine Operatives

357

1,475

1,082

Professional Occupations

96

356

395

Sales Occupations

218

837

867

Total

2,344

8,028

6,984

Social Insurance

Seán Kyne

Question:

297 Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Social Protection if, in view of the reform of the statutory sick-pay scheme currently under consideration and to reduce any overbearing burden on employers which could threaten job retention and creation, a portion of the PRSI/universal social charge fund could be ring-fenced to cover assistance for workers who fall ill; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29705/12]

Nicky McFadden

Question:

314 Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for Social Protection to outline the proposed new arrangements for sick pay in the PRSI scheme; the impact on private sector employers if any proposal to impose an obligation on employers to pay staff for the first three days of sick leave is implemented; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29099/12]

Michael McGrath

Question:

315 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection if she plans to compel employers to pay a certain amount of illness benefit in respect of their employees; if she has consulted with the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation on her proposals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29101/12]

Anne Ferris

Question:

349 Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans to alter sick pay arrangements; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29223/12]

It is proposed to take Questions Nos. 297, 314, 315 and 349 together.

The question of introducing a scheme of statutory sick pay, whereby employers would directly meet the costs of sick absence for an initial period of illness, is being considered in the context of the need to reform the social welfare system to bring it into line with practices in other countries in this area; the need to address the deficit in the social insurance fund; the need to limit progression from short-term illness to long-term illness or disability; and in the wider context of enhancing the health of the workforce and addressing levels of absenteeism. A range of complex issues need to be addressed before any decision could be taken by Government on the possible introduction of a statutory sick pay scheme. These include the extent of coverage; the duration of payment; the rate of payment; compensation mechanisms for employers where appropriate; and how to ensure that a scheme of statutory sick pay would be enforced and policed.

The impact of introducing a statutory sick pay scheme would be contingent on how all of these issues are addressed and how such a scheme would ultimately be structured. I am acutely conscious of the pressures facing employers and in particular, the smaller and medium-sized enterprises. A preliminary analysis based on estimates of absenteeism in the private sector indicates that if a sick pay scheme with a duration of four weeks were to be introduced, it would add about €1 per week per employee to the costs of employment. In the event that a scheme were to be introduced, the Social Insurance Fund would continue to provide supports for extended periods of illness.

I hosted a consultative seminar on the feasibility and implications of introducing a scheme of statutory sick pay in February 2012. This seminar was attended by a broad range of key stakeholders and afforded an opportunity to discuss the complex issues involved. A report of that seminar was published on the Department's website today and provides the basis for further consultations with key stakeholders. The analysis of the potential impact will continue to be developed and refined as the consultations with key stakeholders, including other relevant Government Departments, progresses.

Jobseeker’s Allowance

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

298 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason for refusal of a jobseeker’s allowance application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28978/12]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that the appeal from the person concerned has been referred to an Appeals Officer who proposes to hold an oral hearing on 20 June 2012. The person concerned has been notified of the arrangements. 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.

Carer’s Allowance

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

299 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for carer’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo and if the application will be expedited due to financial hardship. [28979/12]

I confirm that the department is in receipt of an application for carer's allowance from the person in question. In the interests of fairness and equity, carer's allowance applications are dealt with as far as possible in order of their date of receipt in the department. On completion of the necessary investigations relating to all aspects of the case a decision will be made and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome. In the meantime, if the person's means are insufficient to meet their needs they may apply for a means-tested supplementary welfare allowance from their local community welfare officer.

Supplementary Welfare Allowance

Brendan Griffin

Question:

300 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection if a decision has been made on an appeal of the suspension of a supplementary welfare diet supplement payment in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28980/12]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer, having fully considered all the evidence has allowed the appeal of the person concerned, who has been notified of the decision. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Job Vacancies

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

301 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Social Protection further to Parliamentary Question reply 23729/12 (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28987/12]

All vacancies advertised on Jobs Ireland are advertised for a period of 8 weeks. Where the employer has not successfully filled a vacancy, the employer can advertise it for an additional period of time. Where an employer has successfully filled the vacancy advertised or received a large number of applications to form a suitable recruitment pool of candidates, the employer can close the vacancy directly online or free phone Jobs Ireland and request that the vacancy is closed with immediate effect.

Invalidity Pension

Willie O'Dea

Question:

302 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will issue regarding an application for invalidity pension in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [28988/12]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer, having fully considered all the evidence, disallowed the appeal of the person concerned by way of summary decision. Under Social Welfare legislation, the decision of the Appeals Officer is final and conclusive and may only be reviewed by the Appeals Officer in the light of new evidence or new facts. Following the submission of additional evidence the Appeals Officer has agreed to review the case. The person concerned will be contacted when the review of her appeal has been finalised. 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 Appeals

Tom Fleming

Question:

303 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans to address the unacceptable long delays in the processing of social welfare appeals which is causing added hardship to most applicants; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29003/12]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that, based on figures for the first quarter of 2012, the average waiting time for appeals dealt with by summary decisions was 22.4 weeks and 40.9 weeks for those that required an oral hearing. The comparable times for 2011 were 25 weeks and 52.5 weeks.

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. By its nature and because it is a quasi-judicial nature, the processing of appeals takes time even at the best of times and reflects the fact that, by definition, the appeal process cannot be a quick one.

In an effort to reduce the processing times, the Department appointed 12 additional Appeals Officers in 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 Office as part of the integration of the CWS appeals services into the Social Welfare Appeals Office. This brought the total number of Appeals Officers to 39. The Office also 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 and processing times for dealing with appeals.

Supplementary Welfare Allowance

Patrick Nulty

Question:

304 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Social Protection if a supplementary welfare allowance appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15 will be expedited; if an urgent oral hearing will be granted; the reason for the delay; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29004/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 23rd May 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 who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, 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.

Community Employment Schemes

Michael McGrath

Question:

305 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding the review of community employment schemes; if she is committed to the future of the schemes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29007/12]

The financial review of Community Employment (CE) Schemes is very nearly completed. The outcomes of the review will be communicated to CE sponsoring organisations directly by staff in the Department in the coming weeks. The Department is committed to supporting the CE Programme and the valuable contribution it makes to the provision of services to individuals and communities.

Domiciliary Care Allowance

Jim Daly

Question:

306 Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason a person who was in receipt of domiciliary allowance up to the age of 16 years was refused on both application and appeal for carer's allowance and disability allowance; and if she will arrange for the appeals office to issue an independent medical assessment for the person; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29018/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that a Carers Allowance appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 30 May 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 who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, 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.

Social Welfare Fraud

Joe Carey

Question:

307 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will respond to correspondence (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29036/12]

A key priority for my Department is to ensure that fraudulent activity within the social welfare system is vigorously prevented and combated. Social welfare fraud undermines public confidence in the entire system as well as being unfair to other recipients of social welfare payments, taxpayers and businesses run on a legitimate basis. My Department is very conscious of its obligation to protect public money and is determined to ensure that abuse of the system is prevented and dealt with effectively when detected. Fraud detection measures have increased and improved significantly over the last number of years and will continue to be reviewed to prioritise resources at achieving results.

While I note the contents of the letter associated with the Deputy's Question, outsourcing of the investigation function is not envisaged at the moment. Investigators in the Department work closely with Revenue staff in the Joint Investigation Unit, with NERA, the Gardaí and other compliance and enforcement agencies in the context of preventing welfare fraud. An investigator from my Department will be following up the details contained in the letter referred to.

The Department's control policy aims to minimise fraud and abuse of the social welfare system. As part of this policy, the Department accepts reports of possible fraud offered by members of the public in relation to the Department's schemes. All reports are followed up and are dealt with in confidence. Members of the public are asked to provide as much detail about the case they are reporting as possible and, they can do so anonymously. Reports can be made as follows:

By email:www.welfare.ie

By phone: Locall: 1890 927999 (071) 9672648 or (01) 6732123

By Post: Central Control Division,DSP,Shannon Lodge,Carrick-on-Shannon,Co Leitrim.

Invalidity Pension

Tom Fleming

Question:

308 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans to address the unacceptable long delays in the processing of invalidity pension claims; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29039/12]

At the end of May 2012 there were 7,007 Invalidity Pension (IP) claims registered and pending decision. Average time to award is currently 37 weeks, this includes the time taken to decide EU and bilateral cases which have a significantly longer processing time. Since the introduction of the two year expiration of illness benefit there has been a significant increase in the number of IP claims received in the Department. A high percentage of these applicants are not suitable for the invalidity pension scheme as they are not considered to be permanently incapable of work.

The processing time for individual Invalidity pension claims may vary in accordance with their relative complexity in terms of the qualifying criteria. In addition, factors outside the Department's control can have an impact, for example, insufficient information received from claimants at time of application and delays in claimants furnishing the information requested.

This Department is continually reviewing its processes in an effort to improve processing times and customer service. Many improvements have already been introduced in IP section. These improvements include the introduction of a new IT platform under the Department's service delivery model project which has led to further efficiencies in processing which resulted in an increase in the number of claims processed. Most claims are now desk assessed by medical assessors to determine medical suitability. Additional staff has been assigned to the IP area to help to reduce the backlog and waiting time. Overtime has been made available and is utilised on a judicious basis.

From June 2012 further changes have been introduced to assist with claim processing, a business process improvement project was carried out and a plan is now in place. Some staff have been reallocated from other duties to focus on claim processing, a phone bank has been introduced, many processes have been streamlined in an effort to improve processing times. Despite these improvements it is expected to be a significant number of months before the backlog are reduced to an acceptable level. Customers waiting on a decision on their IP claim, who have urgent income support needs, can apply for the means tested supplementary welfare allowance (SWA).

Habitual Residence Conditions

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

309 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection the specific rules governing the habitual residency conditions in respect of Irish citizens who are returning to Ireland to live or who have given up work in England to help care for a relative here. [29053/12]

The habitual residence condition applies to social assistance payments and to Child Benefit. The determination of a person's habitual residence is made in accordance five factors which are set out in legislation, as follows:

(a) the length and continuity of residence in Ireland or in any other particular country;

(b) the length and purpose of any absence from Ireland;

(c) the nature and pattern of employment;

(d) the person's main centre of interest, and

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

These five factors have been derived from European Court of Justice case law.

EU rules prevent discrimination on Nationality grounds in relation to social security, so it is not possible to exempt a particular category of Irish citizens (such as returning emigrants) from the HRC (either in general or for carers allowance) without extending the same treatment to all EU Nationals. However, the guidelines regarding determination of habitual residence address the issue of returning emigrants very specifically. The Guidelines state: "A person who had previously been habitually resident in the State and who moved to live and work in another country and then resumes his/her long-term residence in the State may be regarded as being habitually resident immediately on his/her return to the State."

In determining the main centre of interest in the case of returning emigrants, deciding officers take account of:

purpose of return, e.g. expiry of foreign residence permit

the applicant's stated intentions

verified arrangements which have been made in regard to returning on a long-term basis, e.g. transfer of financial accounts and any other assets, termination of residence based entitlements in the other country, or assistance from Safe Home or a similar programme to enable Irish emigrants to return permanently

length and continuity of the previous residence in the State

the record of employment or self employment in another State and

whether s/he has maintained links with the previous residence and can be regarded as resuming his/her previous residence rather than starting a new period of residence.

This is generally sufficient to enable the deciding officer to determine whether their present circumstances in Ireland indicate a temporary visit or habitual residence.

The Deputy should be aware that the number of applications for carer's allowance refused on grounds of habitual residency is small. For 2012 (to date), only 5 Irish Nationals have been refused Carers on HRC grounds. In 2011, 13,888 applications for carer's allowance were processed. Of these, 223 were refused on the basis of habitual residency, of which 42 were Irish nationals. This means that, in 2011, approximately 1.6% of all applications were refused on habitual residency grounds. Any applicant who disagrees with the decision on a case has the right to request a review of that decision and/or appeal to the independent Social Welfare Appeals Office.

Social Welfare Appeals

Jack Wall

Question:

310 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29078/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 11 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 21 February 2012 and the case has been referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on documentary evidence presented or, if required, 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.

Carer’s Allowance

John Paul Phelan

Question:

311 Deputy John Paul Phelan asked the Minister for Social Protection if the vetting of carer’s allowance applications can be expedited as they are taking at least nine months to process; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29083/12]

The Department is committed to delivering the best possible service to its customers. In the interests of fairness and equity applications are processed, as far as possible, in order of the date on which they were received in the Department. The average time to process a claim for carer's allowance, which includes an assessment of the means, medical evidence, residency and full-time care aspects, is approximately 28 weeks at present. There are currently approximately 8,830 new applications registered and awaiting a decision and approximately 330 new applications are received each week.

A major service delivery modernisation project is underway to improve the efficiency of administration of the carer's allowance scheme. This involves the deployment of information technology solutions 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. Full deployment for carer's allowance will be achieved by mid-June but it will be a number of months before the backlog is reduced to an acceptable level.

In addition to the deployment of new systems, the Department is allocating additional resources in the form of overtime working and temporary staff to help reduce backlogs that have built up. Once full deployment of the new systems is complete, it is planned to undertake a full review of processes in the area with a view to further streamlining and improving service to customers including reducing the backlog and the waiting time for a decision on a new claim. In the meantime, if a person's means are insufficient to meet their needs while awaiting a decision on an application, he/she may apply for a means-tested supplementary welfare allowance.

Disability Allowance

Brendan Griffin

Question:

312 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection if a decision been made on the appeal for disability allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29085/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the appeal from the person concerned was assessed by a Medical Assessor of the Department of Social Protection who was of the opinion that she was capable of work. She appealed this decision and in that context the appeal was assessed by another Medical Assessor who also expressed the opinion that she was capable of work.

In the light of this, it was decided to afford the person concerned an opportunity of setting out the complete and up to date grounds of her appeal and to furnish any further medical evidence that she wished to submit in support of her appeal. She did this and, at this stage, the Department of Social Protection have been requested to submit relevant documents to this office on her case. On receipt of their response her appeal will be referred to an Appeals Officer for consideration. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Domiciliary Care Allowance

Patrick Nulty

Question:

313 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding the domiciliary care allowance review; the length of time it will take to complete same; if she will confirm who will sit on the review panel; if she will confirm if parents, such as the DCA Warriors group will be given input into the review; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29089/12]

I recently announced that a review of the operation of the domiciliary care allowance scheme will be carried out over the coming months. This review will look at, amongst other things, the current application and assessment process and will identify any potential improvements to the delivery of service that can be implemented while retaining an efficient and effective operational model. The terms of reference for the review are being finalised at present and I would expect that it will commence in the next couple of weeks. In terms of consultation, officials from the Department have met parents and representatives of advocacy groups on a number of occasions in recent months and it is envisaged that further consultations will be held in the context of the review.

Questions Nos. 314 and 315 answered with Question No. 297.

Question No. 316 withdrawn.

Carer’s Allowance

Barry Cowen

Question:

317 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) may expect a decision on an appeal for carer’s allowance. [29110/12]

The person concerned was refused carer's allowance on the ground that the care recipient is not so disabled as to require full time care and attention as prescribed in regulations. She was notified of this decision, the reason for it and of her right of review or appeal. Additional medical evidence was received and forwarded to the Department's medical assessor for consideration. However, this information did not alter the opinion of the medical assessor and the decision remained unchanged.

The person concerned subsequently submitted further medical evidence in support of her appeal. This information was forwarded to the medical assessor for further consideration. The medical assessor is now of the opinion, based upon all the evidence, that the medical conditionality for carer's allowance is satisfied. A revised decision will be made in the case and the person in question will be notified accordingly in due course.

Invalidity Pension

Barry Cowen

Question:

318 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) in County Offaly may expect a decision on an appeal for invalidity pension. [29111/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 29th February 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 01st June 2012 and the case will be referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, 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.

Question No. 319 withdrawn.

Disability Allowance

Barry Cowen

Question:

320 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) may expect a decision on an application for disability allowance. [29115/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 5th November 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 21st May 2012 and the case has been referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, 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.

Barry Cowen

Question:

321 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) may expect a decision on an appeal for disability allowance. [29116/12]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer, having fully considered all the evidence, disallowed the appeal of the person concerned by way of summary decision. Under Social Welfare legislation, the decision of the Appeals Officer is final and conclusive and may only be reviewed by the Appeals Officer in the light of new evidence or new facts.

Following the submission of additional evidence the Appeals Officer has agreed to review the case. The person concerned will be contacted when the review of her appeal has been finalised. 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.

Invalidity Pension

Barry Cowen

Question:

322 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) may expect a decision on an appeal for invalidity pension. [29118/12]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an oral hearing of this case took place on 14th June 2012. The Appeals Officer is now considering the appeal in the light of all the evidence submitted, including that adduced at the hearing. The person concerned will be notified of the Appeals Officer's decision when the appeal has been determined. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Carer’s Allowance

Barry Cowen

Question:

323 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) may expect a decision on an application for carer’s allowance. [29119/12]

I confirm that the Department is in receipt of an application for carer's allowance from the person in question. On completion of the necessary investigations relating to all aspects of his case a decision will be made and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

Barry Cowen

Question:

324 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) may expect a decision on an application for carer’s allowance. [29121/12]

The person concerned has been awarded carer's allowance and the first payment issued on the 24 May 2012. All arrears due issued by cheque on 25 May 2012.

Barry Cowen

Question:

325 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) may expect a decision on an appeal for carer’s allowance. [29125/12]

A social welfare appeals officer, having fully considered all the evidence, disallowed the appeal of the person concerned as the care recipient was no longer deemed in need of full time care and attention as laid down in legislation. The person concerned was notified accordingly on 16 May 2012. The decision of an appeals officer is final and may only be reviewed in the light of new evidence or new facts not already presented at the time of the appeal.

Invalidity Pension

Barry Cowen

Question:

326 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) may expect a decision on an appeal for invalidity pension. [29126/12]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an oral hearing of the appeal of the person concerned took place on 11th June 2012 and the Appeals Officer is now considering the appeal in the light of all the evidence submitted, including that adduced at the hearing. The person concerned will be notified of the Appeals Officer decision when the appeal has been determined. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Carer’s Allowance

Barry Cowen

Question:

327 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) may expect a decision on an application for carer’s allowance. [29127/12]

I confirm that the Department is in receipt of an application for an increase in carer's allowance in respect of a second care recipient from the person in question. On completion of the necessary investigations relating to all aspects of her case a decision will be made and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

Barry Cowen

Question:

328 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) may expect a decision on an application for carer’s allowance. [29128/12]

I confirm that the Department is in receipt of an application for carer's allowance from the person in question. On completion of the necessary investigations relating to all aspects of her case a decision will be made and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

Barry Cowen

Question:

329 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) may expect a decision on an application for carer’s allowance. [29129/12]

I confirm that the Department is in receipt of an application for carer's allowance from the person in question. On completion of the necessary investigations relating to all aspects of his case a decision will be made and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

Barry Cowen

Question:

330 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) may expect a decision on an application for carer’s allowance. [29130/12]

I confirm that the Department is in receipt of an application for carer's allowance from the person in question. On completion of the necessary investigations relating to all aspects of her case a decision will be made and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

Barry Cowen

Question:

331 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) may expect a decision on an appeal for carer’s allowance. [29131/12]

The person concerned was refused carer's allowance on the ground that the care recipient is not so disabled as to require full time care and attention as prescribed in regulations. She was notified of this decision, the reasons for it and of her right of review or appeal. Additional medical evidence was received and forwarded to the Department's medical assessor for consideration. However, this information did not alter the opinion of the medical assessor and, accordingly, the original decision remained unchanged.

The person concerned appealed this decision to the Social Welfare Appeals Office and submitted further medical evidence in support of her appeal. This information was forwarded to the medical assessor for further consideration. The opinion of the medical assessor, having regard to all the evidence furnished to date, remains unchanged. A submission is being prepared and her file and papers will be forwarded to the Social Welfare Appeals Office for determination.

Question No. 332 withdrawn.

Barry Cowen

Question:

333 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) may expect a decision on an application for carer’s allowance. [29133/12]

I confirm that the Department is in receipt of an application for carer's allowance from the person in question. Further information has been requested from the person in question in relation to the application. On receipt of this information and on completion of the necessary investigations relating to all aspects of his case a decision will be made and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

Barry Cowen

Question:

334 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) may expect a decision on an application for carer’s allowance. [29134/12]

The person in question was awarded carer's allowance with effect from 22 September 2011. Payment of her first entitlement will issue to her bank account on 28 June 2012. Arrears due for the intervening period less any other payment made on her behalf for this period and less any overpayments that may have occurred will be calculated and will issue to her nominated bank account in due course.

Jobseeker’s Allowance

Barry Cowen

Question:

335 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) may expect a decision on an appeal for jobseeker’s allowance. [29137/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 13 March 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 19 April 2012 and the case has been referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on documentary evidence presented or, if required, 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.

Carer’s Allowance

Barry Cowen

Question:

336 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) may expect a decision on an application for carer’s allowance. [29138/12]

I confirm that the department is in receipt of an application for carer's allowance from the person in question. On completion of the necessary investigations relating to all aspects of her case a decision will be made and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

Barry Cowen

Question:

337 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) may expect a decision on an application for carer’s allowance. [29140/12]

I confirm that the department is in receipt of an application for carer's allowance from the person in question. On completion of the necessary investigations relating to all aspects of her case a decision will be made and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

Barry Cowen

Question:

338 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) may expect a decision on an appeal for carer’s allowance. [29141/12]

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.

Barry Cowen

Question:

339 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) may expect a decision on an application for carer’s allowance. [29143/12]

I confirm that the Department is in receipt of an application for carer's allowance from the person in question. On completion of the necessary investigations relating to all aspects of his case a decision will be made and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

Social Welfare Appeals

John McGuinness

Question:

340 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if she will expedite the matter. [29165/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 11 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 15 February 2012 and the case has been referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on documentary evidence presented or, if required, 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.

Carer’s Allowance

Jack Wall

Question:

341 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for carer’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29173/12]

I confirm that the Department is in receipt of an application for carer's allowance from the person in question. On completion of the necessary investigations relating to all aspects of the case a decision will be made and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

Invalidity Pension

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

342 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if and when invalidity pension will be granted in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29176/12]

Invalidity Pension is a payment for people who are permanently incapable of work because of illness or incapacity and who satisfy the contribution condition. An invalidity pension claim in respect of the person concerned was disallowed on the ground that the medical assessor of this department, having viewed the medical evidence submitted, did not consider him to be permanently incapable of work. He was notified of this decision on 8 September 2011 and was advised of his right to seek a review of the decision or to appeal the decision to the independent Social Welfare Appeals Office.

The person concerned requested a review of the decision and submitted further medical evidence. This additional evidence, along with the original information, was evaluated by a different medical assessor, who was also of the opinion that he does not satisfy the medical criteria. The person concerned was notified of the outcome of the review on 10 January 2012 and was advised of his right to appeal the decision. The person concerned did not lodge an appeal. He is currently in receipt of State Pension Transition.

Disability Allowance

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

343 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if and when payment for disability benefit will be reinstated in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29180/12]

Following a review of the person's continued entitlement to disability allowance, medical evidence furnished by the person concerned was referred to one of the Department's medical assessors who was of the opinion, based on the information supplied, that the person was no longer medically suitable for disability allowance. The deciding officer accepted this opinion and disallowed the claim and the person was notified in writing of this decision on 7 June 2012. This decision is currently being reviewed by a deciding officer and the person will be notified directly of the outcome in due course.

Community Employment Schemes

Pat Breen

Question:

344 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Social Protection if a person (details supplied) in County Clare can be facilitated. [29187/12]

The person concerned is not eligible for further participation on Community Employment under current eligibility guidelines. However, other supports may be available which would assist in his progression to employment. A meeting to discuss his options can be arranged through the Department's Employment Services office at Parnell St. in Ennis on 065-6868280.

Supplementary Welfare Allowance

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

345 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will issue on an appeal for arrears of supplementary welfare payment in respect of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29192/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 15 May 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 12 June 2012 and the case will be referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, 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.

Social Insurance

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

346 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Social Protection the date on which the error in classification for PRSI and superannuation of teachers was first brought to the attention of her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29193/12]

New arrangements relating to PRSI for public and civil servants came into operation with effect from 6 April 1995. Public and civil servants who had been in employment before 6 April 1995 and continued to be so employed without a break in service were insured at the modified rate of PRSI contribution, Class D, whereas new entrants paid PRSI Class A.

Following on from the 6 April 1995 changes the Department of Education and Skills applied the incorrect rate of PRSI in certain situations. This resulted in an overpayment of PRSI contributions and an underpayment of pension contributions in respect of the teachers concerned. This Department dealt with individual cases as they arose over a number of years. Subsequently, the group affected was identified and consultation took place between officials from this Department and the Department of Education and Skills which clarified the correct PRSI class and steps were taken to rectify these records. Officials from this Department and the Department of Education and Skills are in on-going discussions to agree a satisfactory solution in this matter.

Question No. 347 withdrawn.

Carer’s Allowance

Jack Wall

Question:

348 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an appeal against the decision to refuse an application for carer’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29222/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 10 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 and the case was referred to an Appeals Officer on 21 May 2012 who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, 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.

Question No. 349 answered with Question No. 297.

John O'Mahony

Question:

350 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive a decision on their application for carer’s allowance; the reason for the delay in receiving a decision following the further information supplied by the person; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29228/12]

I confirm that the department is in receipt of an application for carer's allowance from the person in question. The additional information has been forwarded to the medical assessor for further consideration. On completion of the necessary investigations relating to all aspects of the case a decision will be made and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

Community Employment Schemes

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

351 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason sponsors of community employment schemes (details supplied) are being furnished renewal contracts for their schemes without being informed in advance of the result of the review conducted by her Department or the materials grant beyond €500 per participant will be given for the future operation of the scheme in circumstances where a case for additional funding has been made; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29230/12]

The annual contracts for Community Employment (CE) projects do not detail the amounts of funding to be allocated at this stage of approval. The rates of funding of CE are determined by the Department and are advised to projects separately. Contracts between the Department and the CE Sponsor must be in place to facilitate funding from the Department. The organisation referred to by the Deputy is due to have their contract renewed on Monday, 25 June 2012. The financial review of CE Schemes is very nearly completed and the outcomes will be communicated to CE sponsoring organisations directly by staff in the Department in the coming weeks. The Department is committed to supporting the CE Programme and the valuable contribution it continues to make to the provision of services to individuals and communities.

Question No. 352 withdrawn.

Carer’s Allowance

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

353 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will be reached on a carer’s allowance application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo in view of the fact that this application was received on the 19 July 2011; the reason for the delay in a decision issuing in this case. [29257/12]

I confirm that the department is in receipt of an application for carer's allowance from the person in question. The application was examined and has been forwarded to an investigating officer for confirmation that the applicant satisfies all aspects of the conditionality for the scheme. On completion of the necessary investigations relating to all aspects of the case a decision will be made and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

Redundancy Payments

Ann Phelan

Question:

354 Deputy Ann Phelan asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding the rights of workers made redundant by a nursing home (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29267/12]

The primary purpose of the Redundancy Payments scheme is to compensate workers, under the Redundancy Payments Acts, 1967 to 2011, for the loss of their jobs by reason of redundancy. Compensation is based on the worker's length of reckonable service and reckonable weekly remuneration, subject to a ceiling of €600 per week. It is the responsibility of the employer to pay statutory redundancy to all their eligible employees. An employer who pays statutory redundancy payments to their employees is then entitled to a rebate from the State. Rebates to employers and lump sums paid directly to employees are paid from the Social Insurance Fund (SIF).

The Insolvency Payments scheme operates under the Protection of Employees (Employers' Insolvency) Act, 1984 and is designed to protect certain outstanding pay-related entitlements due to employees in the event of the insolvency of their employer. Such entitlements include wages, holiday pay, sick pay, and payment in lieu of minimum notice due under the Minimum Notice and Terms of Employment Acts 1973 to 2001. The Minimum Notice and Terms of Employment Acts 1973 to 2001 provide that, if an employee has been in continuous service with the same employer for at least thirteen weeks, the employee is entitled to a minimum period of notice if the employer terminates the contract of employment. The period of notice varies according to the length of service. The Acts, which are under the aegis of the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, do not prevent an employee from accepting payment in lieu of notice.

Under Redundancy Payments legislation, an eligible employee must receive at least two weeks' notice. This two-week notice period can overlap with the minimum notice period provided for under the Minimum Notice legislation. The Minimum Notice legislation provides a means of redress for an employee who believes he/she has not received his/her entitlements, whereby the employee can make a claim for compensation to the Employment Appeals Tribunal.

The State provides various mechanisms, including the Employment Appeals Tribunal and the Labour Court, through which alleged breaches of employment rights may be pursued by an employee. These bodies are independent in the performance of their duties. While these bodies are available to deal with any complaint received, it is strictly a matter for an employee as to whether any such complaint should be pursued. To date no applications under the redundancy payments scheme or the insolvency payments scheme have been received in respect of the former employees of the nursing home concerned. If there are outstanding payments of PAYE and/or PRSI due to the State in respect of the nursing home concerned the Office of the Revenue Commissioners will pursue those monies through the appropriate channels.

Employment Support Services

Robert Dowds

Question:

355 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will consider opening the JobBridge internship scheme to participation by small businesses; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29270/12]

The National Internship Scheme (JobBridge) was launched on 1st July 2011 and is open to organisations in the private, public and community or voluntary sectors. The Scheme provides internship opportunities of either 6 or 9 months for unemployed individuals at all skills levels. It aims to assist individuals in breaking the cycle where they are unable to get a job without experience by providing them with an opportunity to gain valuable experience, relevant knowledge and skills within a working environment.

The Scheme has made significant progress to-date. Currently, over 7,682 internships have commenced to date with 4,880 internships in place as at 7th June 2012 and over 1,900 opportunities presently advertised onwww.jobbridge.ie. In this context, it should be noted that the Scheme is open to companies in all sectors including private, public, voluntary and community. In line with the eligibility criteria, a host organisation participating in JobBridge must be in a position to provide a substantial commitment to their intern so as to ensure the provision of a quality internship. To this end, a clear set of rules have been developed to protect the intern and safeguard JobBridge from potential abuse.

The total number of internship places an organisation can offer at any one time is set out in the table below:

Number of Full Time Employees*

Number of Internships

1-10 employees

1 internship place

11-20 employees

2 internship places

21-30 employees

3 internship places

30 + employees

20% of the workforce to a maximum of 200 internships whichever is the smaller

*employed for 30 hours or more per week (i.e. on payroll and subject to tax and PRSI)

The Deputy should note that local branch offices of national organisations e.g. large retail outlets will not be regarded as an individual host organisation for the purpose of JobBridge (effective from 10th October 2011). The maximum number of interns a host organisation can have on the Scheme at any point in time is 200, irrespective of the number of local branches they have. Further information for potential host organisations is available on the JobBridge websitewww.jobbridge.ie.

In August 2011, these criteria were amended to include the participation of sole traders within the JobBridge scheme provided they have a minimum of 1 full-time employee (employed for 30 hours or more per week and subject to tax and PRSI). My Department continues to monitor and review the operation of the JobBridge Scheme including its eligibility criteria, both for host organisations and interns, on an on-going basis.

Social Welfare Appeals

John McGuinness

Question:

356 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding payments in respect of persons (details supplied) in County Carlow; and if an oral hearing will be granted. [29280/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the appeals by the persons concerned were registered in that office on 1st November 2011 and 15th February 2012 respectively. 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 1st June 2012 and 11th June 2012 respectively and both cases will be referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeals based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, 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.

Carer’s Allowance

Pearse Doherty

Question:

357 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of appeals for carer’s allowance in County Donegal for the past year and the number of these that have been eventually granted carer’s allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29285/12]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that statistics are not maintained on a county by county basis and it is not in a position, therefore, to supply the information sought by the Deputy in relation to Donegal. Overall, a total of 2,199 carers allowance appeals were received in 2011. Of the total number of carers allowance appeals processed in 2011, 1,461 (45.7%) had a successful outcome for the appellant. Of these decisions, 618 (42.3%) were in fact revised decisions made by deciding officers of the Department who reviewed the claim following the submission of the grounds of the appeal from the appellant. These revised decisions arose as a result, in many cases, of new facts or fresh evidence produced by the claimant after the original decision on his /her claim. In such cases an Appeals Officer decision was not necessary.

Pearse Doherty

Question:

358 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason a person (details supplied) in County Donegal was initially refused carer’s allowance. [29286/12]

The person concerned was refused carer's allowance on the grounds that, based upon the medical and other evidence submitted in support of the application, the care recipient is not so disabled as to require full time care and attention as prescribed in regulations. He was notified of this decision on 6 June 2012, the reason for it and of his right of review or appeal within 21 days.

Invalidity Pension

John O'Mahony

Question:

359 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive a decision on their review and an appeal for invalidity pension; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29294/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal, by the person concerned, was registered in that office on 14th April 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 case will be referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, 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.

Employment Support Services

Patrick Nulty

Question:

360 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Social Protection if recipients of disability allowance will be allowed to access the JobBridge scheme; if so, when will they be allowed to do so; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29299/12]

The National Internship Scheme (JobBridge) was launched on 1st July 2011 and is open to organisations in the private, public and community or voluntary sectors. The Scheme provides internship opportunities of either 6 or 9 months for unemployed individuals at all skills levels. It aims to assist individuals in breaking the cycle where they are unable to get a job without experience by providing them with an opportunity to gain valuable experience, relevant knowledge and skills within a working environment.

The Scheme has made significant progress to-date. Currently, over 7,682 internships have commenced to date with 4,880 internships in place (as at 7th June 2012) and over 1,900 opportunities presently advertised onwww.jobbridge.ie. In early May, I announced proposals to increase the number of places available in JobBridge and to widen the eligibility criteria. The number of available places has been increased to 6,000 and the eligibility criteria has been extended to include those in receipt of One Parent Family Payment and Disability Allowance. These changes have taken effect from 28th May 2012.

JobBridge was one of the pillars of the Government's first Jobs Initiative and it sets out to help those seeking employment to gain valuable experience while enhancing their prospects of securing employment. It is one element of the Department's wider activation programme and a good example of how we engage with jobseekers.

Rent Supplement Scheme

Jack Wall

Question:

361 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for rent allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29306/12]

The person concerned is in receipt of her full entitlement to rent supplement based on her household circumstances. The rent supplement claim has been awarded from the 1st March 2012 and all arrears are due to issue directly to the person concerned on the 28th June.

Employment Support Services

Pearse Doherty

Question:

362 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will consider reducing the criteria for eligibility to participate on the national internment scheme whereby eligibility for the scheme is confined to those on the Live Register and in receipt of jobseeker’s allowance/benefit payments or signing for credits for 78 days of the past six months; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29331/12]

The National Internship Scheme (JobBridge) was launched on 1st July 2011 and is open to organisations in the private, public and community or voluntary sectors. The Scheme provides internship opportunities of either 6 or 9 months for unemployed individuals at all skills levels. It aims to assist individuals in breaking the cycle where they are unable to get a job without experience by providing them with an opportunity to gain valuable experience, relevant knowledge and skills within a working environment.

The Scheme has made significant progress to-date. Currently, over 7,682 internships have commenced to date with 4,880 internships in place (as at 7th June 2012) and over 1,900 opportunities presently advertised onwww.jobbridge.ie. Given the scale of the unemployment crisis, a key objective of our labour market policy is to keep those on the Live Register as close to the labour market as possible and to prevent the drift into long-term unemployment. This will help to ensure that individuals availing of activation measures such as JobBridge will, while retaining their 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, eligibility for JobBridge is targeted at those in receipt of Jobseekers Allowance, Jobseekers Benefit, One Parent Family Payment, Disability Allowance or signing for credits for 78 days of the last 6 months. Time spent on certain Government sponsored training may also be taken into account when calculating eligibility. Overall, the policy objective is to prioritise scarce resources at those in one of the above categories as to increase their chances of leaving the Live Register, thereby ensuring a reduction in Exchequer costs over time. My Department continues to monitor and review the operation of the JobBridge scheme on an on-going basis.

Question No. 363 withdrawn.

Carer’s Allowance

Marcella Corcoran Kennedy

Question:

364 Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy asked the Minister for Social Protection when a carer’s allowance claim will be processed in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29336/12]

I confirm that the department is in receipt of an application for carer's allowance from the person in question. On completion of the necessary investigations relating to all aspects of the case a decision will be made and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

Community Employment Schemes

Dessie Ellis

Question:

365 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Social Protection the cost of the audit being carried out on community employment to date and the estimated future cost of this process. [29353/12]

The Community Employment (CE) Financial Review was undertaken by Departmental staff responsible for CE at regional level. The results of the regional reviews were collated and analysed by the CE Policy Unit in my Department. There was no additional cost to the Exchequer in carrying out this review.

Rent Supplement Scheme

Jack Wall

Question:

366 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a rent allowance application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29409/12]

The person concerned has made an application for rent supplement on the 10th May 2012 and has been requested to provide further information in order to process her claim. A decision will be made on her application when the requested information has been provided.

Jobseeker’s Benefit

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

367 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if and when payment will issue in respect of an application for jobseeker’s allowance in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29483/12]

An application for jobseeker's benefit from the person concerned has been awarded. Due to accrued holidays, payment will commence with effect from 28th June 2012. The first payment will issue on 4th July 2012.

Rent Supplement Scheme

Terence Flanagan

Question:

368 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Social Protection if she has consulted with local community welfare officers in Dublin North-East as part of the current rent assistance review; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29502/12]

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 approximately 93,800 persons in receipt of rent supplement, with €436m provided in 2012.

New maximum rent limits came into force on 1 January 2012 and are in place until June 2013. These new limits were set after an analysis of the most up-to-date market data available. Consultation with officers responsible for administering the scheme was undertaken as part of the review process, including officers from the Department's central rents unit which administers rent supplement for a significant portion of the Dublin region. Consultation with local officers in the Dublin North East area was not undertaken. The emphasis of the rent limit review was to ensure that maximum value for money for tenants and the taxpayer was achieved whilst, at the same time, ensuring that people on rent supplement are not priced out of the market for private rented accommodation.

Community Employment Schemes

Terence Flanagan

Question:

369 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of community employment schemes in areas (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29503/12]

The details sought by the Deputy are as follows:

Raheny, Dublin 5 — 5 projects

Kilbarrack, Dublin 5 — 2 projects

Donaghmede, Dublin 13 — 1 project

Baldoyle, Dublin 13 — 1 project

Darndale, Dublin 17 — 2 projects

Coolock, Dublin 17 — 6 projects

Howth, Co. Dublin — 1 project

Sutton, Co Dublin — 1 project

Portmarnock, Co Dublin has no Community Employment projects.

Carer’s Allowance

Peter Mathews

Question:

370 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason for the delay in a decision regarding carer’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin. [29504/12]

I confirm that the department is in receipt of an application for carer's allowance from the person in question. On completion of the necessary investigations relating to all aspects of the case a decision will be made and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

Domiciliary Care Allowance

Peter Mathews

Question:

371 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will issue on an application for domiciliary care allowance in respect of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29511/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 10th 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 6th June 2012 and the case will be referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, 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

Gerry Adams

Question:

372 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of occasions since new maximum rent limits for rent supplement scheme came into effect on the 1 January 2012 rent supplements above the new limit have been paid due to the particular circumstances of the individual case. [29513/12]

Rent supplement is subject to a limit on the amount of rent that an applicant may incur. The general practice is that rent supplement is not paid where the rent is above the relevant limit. However, rent supplement may be paid in cases where the rent is above the relevant limit in the following circumstances:

Where there are special housing needs related to exceptional circumstances (in particular, for example, a person with a disability in specially-adapted accommodation or homeless persons whose housing needs cannot be met within the standard terms of the rent supplement scheme, etc.);

Where the person concerned is entitled to an income disregard and has sufficient income to meet his or her basic needs after paying rent, taking into account the appropriate rate of rent supplement that is otherwise payable in the case. "Sufficient income" in this context means the relevant basic supplementary welfare allowance rate less the prescribed minimum contribution to rent; and/or

Where the tenant will be in a position to re-assume responsibility for his/her rent within a short period. For this purpose, a guideline period of no longer than 6 to 8 weeks is suggested but where there are exceptional circumstances, an extension up to a total of 12 weeks may be allowed.

Statistics are not available on the exact number of cases where rent supplement was paid in excess of the maximum rent limit since January 2012.

Carer’s Allowance

Marcella Corcoran Kennedy

Question:

373 Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy asked the Minister for Social Protection when a carer’s allowance application will be processed in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Offaly; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29519/12]

I confirm an application for carer's allowance was received from the person concerned. On 21 May 2012 further information was requested from her in support of her application. On receipt of this information and completion of the necessary investigations relating to all aspects of the case, a decision will be made and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

Question No. 374 withdrawn.

Rent Supplement Scheme

Gerry Adams

Question:

375 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Social Protection if he will provide a breakdown in tabular form of the number of persons in receipt of rent supplement in each county and in each Dublin postal district. [29528/12]

There are currently 93,800 persons in receipt of rent supplement, for which the Government have provided €436m in 2012. A table outlining the total number of recipients of rent supplement in each county and Dublin postal district is attached.

Rent Supplement Recipients by County and Dublin Postal District:

County

Recipients

CARLOW

1,339

CAVAN

641

CLARE

1,888

CORK

10,610

DONEGAL

2,712

DUBLIN (COUNTY)

6,115

DUBLIN 1

1,457

DUBLIN 2

274

DUBLIN 3

1,285

DUBLIN 4

390

DUBLIN 5

745

DUBLIN 6

1,828

DUBLIN 6W

457

DUBLIN 7

3,065

DUBLIN 8

2,570

DUBLIN 9

1,414

DUBLIN 10

414

DUBLIN 11

1,793

DUBLIN 12

1,141

DUBLIN 13

828

DUBLIN 14

349

DUBLIN 15

3,904

DUBLIN 16

486

DUBLIN 17

455

DUBLIN 18

501

DUBLIN 20

257

DUBLIN 22

1,671

DUBLIN 24

2,503

DUBLIN TOTAL

33,902

GALWAY

4,553

KERRY

2,233

KILDARE

4,416

KILKENNY

1,547

LAOIS

1,122

LEITRIM

401

LIMERICK

3,656

LONGFORD

540

LOUTH

2,679

MAYO

2,767

MEATH

2,584

MONAGHAN

418

OFFALY

1,288

ROSCOMMON

1,207

SLIGO

603

TIPPERARY

2,468

WATERFORD

1,968

WESTMEATH

1,611

WEXFORD

3,998

WICKLOW

2,667

TOTAL

93,818

State Agencies

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

376 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of quangos, quasi autonomous non-governmental organisations, which are funded partially or wholly, directly or indirectly, by her Department that have been abolished, merged, or reduced in scale since the formation of the Government; the amount that has been saved as a result and the number by which personnel numbers have been reduced; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29543/12]

The Department of Social Protection funds three bodies that fall within the terms of the Deputy's Question. These are the Social Welfare Tribunal, the Citizens Information Board and the Pensions Board. In addition, the office of the Pensions Ombudsman comes under the remit of the Department but it does not have a Board. No body under the aegis of my Department has been merged or abolished since the formation of the Government.

The integration of the regulatory functions of the Pensions Board with the Financial Regulator and the merging of the Pensions Ombudsman with the Financial Services Ombudsman are the subject of a critical review under the Public Service Reform Programme. This review will include identifying any potential savings arising from such an amalgamation. In that regard, I have recently commissioned the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to review Ireland's pension arrangements.

As the OECD is also currently reviewing the direction of pension policy, including governance structures and will act as an independent expert to the critical review I expect the Critical Review Group to report to me within a similar time frame as the OECD Review Group. The Critical Review Group is due to have its first meeting in July 2012 and I expect to receive a report from both by year end. Following receipt of these reports, decisions in relation to the reforms as set out above will be taken.

Rent Supplement Scheme

Martin Heydon

Question:

377 Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason rent allowance was suspended in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; the information, if any, that is outstanding; when it will be reinstated; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29554/12]

Rent supplement for the person concerned was suspended as the Department were seeking verification regarding the status of her employment. The Department has since received information that the person concerned is no longer working full-time. All outstanding arrears have been paid and her monthly entitlement has now been reinstated. A payment for June will issue at the end of the month.

Domiciliary Care Allowance

Patrick Nulty

Question:

378 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Social Protection the current position regarding a domiciliary care allowance appeal and a carer’s allowance appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cavan; if an early oral hearing will be granted; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29555/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that a domiciliary care allowance appeal, by the person concerned, was registered in that office on 28th October 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 12 June 2012 and the case will be referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral hearing.

The carer's allowance appeal, by the person concerned, was registered in that office on 31st May 2012 and the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal were sought. Similarly, when received the case will be referred to an Appeals Officer. 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.

Jobseeker’s Allowance

Brendan Griffin

Question:

379 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection if a decision has been made on the appeals in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry for jobseeker’s allowance and supplementary welfare allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29557/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the appeals, by the person concerned, were registered in that office on 16th May 2012 and 12 June 2012 respectively. 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, both cases will be referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, 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.

Carer’s Allowance

Brendan Griffin

Question:

380 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection if a decision has been made of an application for carer’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29568/12]

I confirm that the Department is in receipt of an application for carer's allowance from the person in question. On completion of the necessary investigations relating to all aspects of the case a decision will be made and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

Niall Collins

Question:

381 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for carer’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [29573/12]

I confirm that the Department is in receipt of an application for carer's allowance from the person in question. On receipt of the necessary investigations relating to all aspects of the claim, a decision will be made and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

Billy Timmins

Question:

382 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding carer’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; if this will be dealt with as a matter of urgency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29574/12]

I confirm that the Department is in receipt of an application for carer's allowance from the person in question. In the interests of fairness and equity, claims are dealt with as far as possible in the order in which they are received in the Department. On completion of the necessary investigations relating to all aspects of the case a decision will be made and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

Jack Wall

Question:

383 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a carer’s allowance appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29586/12]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer having fully considered all the evidence, including that adduced at oral hearing, disallowed the appeal of the person concerned. Under Social Welfare legislation, the decision of the Appeals Officer is final and conclusive and may only be reviewed by the Appeals Officer in the light of new evidence or new facts. Following the submission of additional evidence the Appeals Officer has agreed to review the case. The person concerned will be contacted when the review of her appeal has been finalised. 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.

Supplementary Welfare Allowance

Jack Wall

Question:

384 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection the income limits for a person to be entitled to diet allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29588/12]

Any person who is receiving a social welfare or health service executive payment who has been prescribed a special diet as a result of a specified medical condition, and whose means are insufficient to meet their needs, may qualify for a diet supplement under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme. The amount of diet supplement payable in individual cases is calculated by assessing one-third (single people) or one-sixth (couples) of the applicant's weekly income against the cost of the relevant diet. The last study into the cost of specialised diets was carried out in 2007. Accordingly, when diet supplement payments for qualifying individuals are being calculated the social welfare rates for 2007 are used. The Department intends reviewing the diet supplement scheme in 2012.

Carer’s Allowance

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

385 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will issue on a carer’s allowance application in respect of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29603/12]

I confirm that the Department is in receipt of an application for carer's allowance from the person in question. On completion of the necessary investigations relating to all aspects of the case a decision will be made and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

Jobseeker’s Allowance

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

386 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason the jobseeker’s allowance appeal was unsuccessful in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29611/12]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer, having fully considered all the evidence, disallowed the appeal of the person concerned by way of summary decision. Under Social Welfare legislation, the decision of the Appeals Officer is final and conclusive and may only be reviewed by the Appeals Officer in the light of new evidence or new facts. Following the submission of additional evidence the Appeals Officer agreed to review the case and in light of the new evidence submitted has revised his decision and has allowed the appeal. The person concerned was advised of the revised decision on 13th June 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.

Rent Supplement Scheme

Martin Heydon

Question:

387 Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will expedite the processing of rent allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29613/12]

The person concerned is in receipt of her full entitlement to rent supplement based on her household circumstances. All arrears have been awarded from 22nd March 2012 and will be paid directly to the client on 28th June 2012.

Carer’s Allowance

Michael McGrath

Question:

388 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for carer’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [29617/12]

I confirm that the Department is in receipt of an application for carer's allowance from the person in question. On completion of the necessary investigations relating to all aspects of her case a decision will be made and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

Peter Mathews

Question:

389 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding carer’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 14; when a decision will issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29618/12]

The person concerned was refused carer's allowance on the ground that the care recipient is not so disabled as to require full time care and attention as prescribed in regulations. He was notified of this decision, the reason for it and of his right of review or appeal. Additional medical evidence was received and this information has been forwarded to the medical assessor for further consideration. The person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome of this review in due course.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

390 Deputy Paul J. Connaughton asked the Minister for Social Protection when an application for carer’s allowance will be finalised in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29620/12]

I confirm that the Department is in receipt of an application for carer's allowance from the person in question. On completion of the necessary investigations relating to all aspects of the case a decision will be made and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

Rent Supplement Scheme

Terence Flanagan

Question:

391 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Social Protection the checks that are made to rental properties before rent allowance is paid to claimants and the number of inspectors employed by her Department to inspect these properties before occupation. [29625/12]

The purpose of the rent supplement scheme 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. 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 93,800 persons in receipt of rent supplement, for which the Government has provided €436m in 2012.

Responsibility for setting and enforcing housing standards rests with the Local Authorities. However, accommodation occupied by rent supplement tenants should at least meet minimum housing standards. In consultation with the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government, S.I. No. 572 of 2006 and Section 25 of the Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2007 introduced the condition that allows the Department's officers administering supplementary welfare allowance to decide that a rent supplement may not be payable where it has been notified by a housing authority of the non-compliance with standards.

Where such a notification is received from a housing authority in respect of an existing tenant, it is recommended that the designated officer would discuss the situation with the tenant and take whatever action it decides is necessary in the best interests of the tenant. This approach supports the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government in their aim to promote further improvement in private rented accommodation standards.

Mortgage Interest Supplement

James Bannon

Question:

392 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason a person (details supplied) in County Longford has been refused assistance in terms of mortgage interest supplement, under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29653/12]

The person concerned submitted an application for Mortgage Interest Supplement on 23rd May, 2012. The Department refused payment of the Supplement as the person's means exceeded the limits prescribed for the scheme.

Carer’s Allowance

James Bannon

Question:

393 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for carer’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Longford; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29654/12]

I confirm that the Department is in receipt of an application for carer's allowance from the person in question. On completion of the necessary investigations relating to all aspects of his case a decision will be made and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

Proposed Legislation

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

394 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Social Protection if legislation is being prepared to comply with the High Court ruling on Ireland’s breach of the European Convention on Human Rights due to the absence of a process to recognise the acquired gender of transsexual persons; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29663/12]

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

395 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Social Protection if in legislating and implementing a process for recognising transgender persons she will consider, contrary to the expert group recommendation, including persons already married or who have civil partnership status; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29664/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 394 and 395 together.

The Gender Recognition Advisory Group (GRAG) was established in 2010 to advise the Government on the legislation required to give legal recognition to the acquired gender of transgender persons. The Report of the Group, which recommends a scheme for the legal recognition of transgender persons, was approved by the Government on 12 July 2011, and was subsequently published on 14 July 2011. Since then, my Department has been working on developing draft Heads of a Bill. The Department has sought advice from the Office of the Attorney General on the issue of transgender persons who are already married or who have civil partnership status. The advice that is received from the Office of the Attorney General will inform the drafting of the Heads of the Bill.

Jobseeker’s Allowance

Sandra McLellan

Question:

396 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will consider taking mortgage payments into consideration when assessing means for jobseeker’s allowance in view of the difficulties persons are facing with repayments; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29776/12]

Jobseeker's Allowance is a means tested social assistance scheme operated by my Department. For means test purposes, account is taken of the income and assets of both the claimant and his or her spouse/partner including the earnings of the spouse. Where a spouse/partner has earnings from employment, earnings less PRSI contributions, pension contributions and trade union subscriptions are assessed as means. Mortgage payments are not deducted from earnings for means assessment purposes. However, a person who is claiming Jobseeker's Allowance may also apply for mortgage interest supplement. That scheme is designed to help those who have difficulty meeting their mortgage repayment schedule where their means are insufficient to meet their needs. The scheme provides a short-term "safety net" to ensure that people with mortgage interest commitments do not suffer hardship due to loss of employment.

The mortgage interest supplement scheme is being modernised this month in order to ensure that the Mortgage Arrears Resolution Process operated by the lenders functions alongside State supports, such as the mortgage interest supplement scheme, and that the forbearance arrangements implicit in the Mortgage Arrears Resolution Process are reflected in the eligibility criteria for the mortgage interest supplement scheme. There are two categories of individuals who will be affected by this change:

New claims whose difficulty is resolved within the first 12 months, e.g. if they return to work. These individuals will no longer qualify for mortgage interest supplement, and

Customers who will no longer qualify for a payment until they have availed of 12 months of an alternative payment arrangement from their lender.

Any further changes to the arrangements outlined above would have to be considered in the context of the on-going review of all Government expenditure.

Social Welfare Appeals

John Lyons

Question:

397 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will review a decision not to award an oral hearing in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11. [29782/12]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer having fully considered all the available evidence disallowed the appeal, of the person concerned, by way of a summary decision. Under Social Welfare legislation, the decision of the Appeals Officer is final and conclusive and may only be reviewed by the Appeals Officer in the light of new evidence or new facts. The legislation also provides that an Appeals Officer may decide a case before him/her on the basis of the documentary evidence. This course of action was taken in this case as it was considered that an oral hearing was not warranted. 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.

Domiciliary Care Allowance

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

398 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social Protection in relation to the assessment of entitlement to domiciliary care allowance, the procedure used to assess children with suspected autism spectrum disorder; the effort she has made to ensure the assessment is completely standardised and equitable, between different geographical regions and between individual medical assessors; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29868/12]

The Department has been responsible for the domiciliary care allowance scheme (DCA) since April 2009. As there were no agreed national medical guidelines for the scheme while it was administered by the Health Service Executive, an Expert Medical Group was established, in advance of the transfer of functions, to examine this issue and to draw up standardised medical guidelines. The Group considered that the most appropriate way for the Department to conduct assessments for medical eligibility was by assessing evidence submitted by the claimant, rather than by way of individual examination by the Department's Medical Assessors (MAs) as they are not involved in the on-going treatment of the child.

The DCA application process is the same for children with autism as for those with any other disability and involves the completion of a claim form which includes details of the medical condition of the child and the level of care and attention that the child needs to deal with normal day to day activity. The process involves the submission of a detailed statement by the parent or guardian of the child, a detailed statement by the child's General Practitioner as well as any other relevant evidence from qualified experts who have examined the child. This evidence is assessed by the MAs who have received special training and are qualified and experienced medical professionals who meet regularly to ensure best practice and consistency of approach.

As the Deputy may be aware, I recently announced that a review of the DCA scheme will be undertaken over the coming months. I expect to make announcements shortly in relation to the terms of reference and other arrangements for the review.

Pension Provisions

Catherine Murphy

Question:

399 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will confirm that the proposed changes to the weekly rate of contributory State pension to take effect in September 2012 will result in a substantial loss of weekly income for several recipients, in some cases of up to 13%; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29871/12]

At the outset I would like to confirm that the rate band changes, which will come into effect from September 2012, will not affect existing customers. There is an important context to the proposed changes to State pension provision. Firstly, there is the fiscal context. Given the scale of the fiscal crisis and because spending on social protection accounts for nearly 40% of current Government expenditure, you will appreciate that savings have to be found in the social welfare system.

The change to State Pension rate bands means that pension payments made, will reflect PRSI payments made over a working life. Currently a person with an average of 20-47 PRSI contributions per year over their working life receives a weekly State pension of only €4.50 less than a person with a yearly average of 48 or more PRSI contributions. This is neither fair nor equitable. From September 2012, a lower pension will be payable to new applicants for State pension who have a yearly average of less than 48 PRSI contributions which better relates to their PRSI record. This measure introduces additional rates bands for State pension (transition) and State pension (contributory) to more fairly reflect the proportionality of attachment to the workforce by the claimant.

The maximum rate will remain unchanged and the rate payable to people with an average of between 40 and 47 contributions per year will also remain unchanged. However, those who have fewer contributions will receive a lower rate of pension but it should be noted that while expectations may need to be adjusted, a rate of pension will still be payable. I have included, for information, the new rate bands below. Claimants with an income need, may, following a means test, qualify for a State pension (non-contributory). The maximum rate of the (State pension non-contributory) is €219.00 per week

This change to rate bands which I am introducing in September 2012, moves somewhat closer to a ‘total contribution approach' where those who pay more, benefit more. The ‘total contributions approach' to State pension will be adopted to replace the current averaging system. The current proposed date for its introduction is 2020. Under this system, the level of pension paid will be directly proportionate to the number of social insurance contributions made by a person over his or her working life.

Secondly, there is also an important long-term policy context for the proposed changes to State pension as the challenges facing the Irish pension system are significant. There are currently six people of working age for every pensioner and this ratio is expected to decrease to approximately two to one by 2050. People aged 65 years and over will account for a greater proportion of the population while the proportion of working age is expected to decline. People are living longer with healthier lives and growing numbers of people want to work, or may need to work beyond State pension age. This has obvious and significant implications in relation to the future costs of State pension provision. Therefore, the task of financing increasing pensions will fall to a diminishing share of the population. The State pension is the bedrock of the Irish pension system, and these reforms are essential to address the challenges of increasing life expectancy and to ensure its sustainability.

All information relating to the changes that I have outlined here is also available on my Department's website.

Current State Pension (Contributory) Rates of payment

Yearly average contributions

Personal Rate per week

Increase for Qualified Adult aged under 66 yearsRate per week

Increase for Qualified Adult aged over 66 yearsRate per week

48 or over

€230.30

€153.50

€206.30

20-47

€225.80

€153.50

€206.30

15-19

€172.70

€115.10

€154.70

10-14

€115.20

€76.80

€103.20

New State Pension (Contributory) Rates of payment

Yearly average contributions

Personal Rate per week

Increase for Qualified Adult aged under 66 yearsRate per week

Increase for Qualified Adult aged over 66 yearsRate per week

48 or over

€230.30

€153.50

€206.30

40-47

€225.80

€146.00

€196.00

30-39

€207.00

€139.00

€186.00

20-29

€196.00

€130.00

€175.00

15-19

€150.00

€100.00

€134.00

10-14

€92.00

€61.00

€83.00

Current State Pension (Transition) Rates of payment

Yearly average contributions

Personal Rate per week

Increase for Qualified Adult aged under 66 yearsRate per week

Increase for Qualified Adult aged over 66 yearsRate per week

48 or over

€230.30

€153.50

€206.30

24-47

€225.80

€153.50

€206.30

New State Pension (Transition) — Rates of payment

Yearly average contributions

Personal Rateper week

Increase for Qualified Adult aged under 66 years Rate per week

Increase for Qualified Adult aged over 66 years Rate per week

48 or over

€230.30

€153.50

€206.30

40-47

€225.80

€146.00

€196.00

30-39

€207.00

€139.00

€186.00

24-29

€196.00

€130.00

€175.00

Departmental Expenditure

Tom Fleming

Question:

400 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he will cancel all cuts in Gaeltacht funding until such time as the 20 year strategy is put in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29041/12]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 86 on Thursday 14 June 2012.

National Monuments

Jack Wall

Question:

401 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if, through his Department or any agency attached or directed by him funding is available to purchase a property to obtain the stated property for public ownership; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29411/12]

The property referred to by the Deputy is included in the statutory Record of Monuments and Places and, as such, is protected under the National Monuments Acts. Because of resource implications, the State is only ever in a position to acquire, maintain and conserve a relatively small number of heritage properties and monuments. My Department makes such acquisitions from time to time in exceptional circumstances, as resources permit and in line with their archaeological, architectural, historical or other special significance. There are no proposals to acquire any such properties at present.

Dessie Ellis

Question:

402 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if his attention has been drawn to the immediate need to secure the buildings 14-17 Moore Street, Dublin a national monument and vital heritage site, which is falling into a greater state of disrepair and is open to the elements due to broken windows in the sites and his plans to rectify same. [29516/12]

I refer to my statement and that of the Minister of State at my Department in relation to the Motion taken during Private Members Business on 22 and 23 May 2012.

Arts Council Funding

Peter Mathews

Question:

403 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he will provide a breakdown between national lottery funding and State funding to the Arts Council for the years 2007 to date in 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29070/12]

As the Deputy is aware, an overall allocation is provided from the National Lottery each year for expenditure through the Votes of various Departments. Details of this allocation are published in Appendix 1 of the annual Revised Estimates Volume and I understand that a total provision of €220m is being made available in 2012.

Three subheads in my Department's Vote are partially funded from this National Lottery allocation, including Subhead A9 — An Chomhairle Ealaíon, for which €63.241 million (comprising both Lottery and Exchequer funding) is being allocated this year. Allocations to the Arts Council in the years 2007 to 2010 are set out in the Revised Estimates Volumes (REV) for each of those years. Under section 8 of the National Lottery Act 1986, the proceeds of the National Lottery are paid into the Central Fund of the Exchequer and therefore National Lottery funding is one of the constituents of Exchequer funding. The apportionment of National Lottery funding to various lines of voted expenditure is the responsibility of the Minister of Public Expenditure and Reform.

Cycle Facilities

Robert Troy

Question:

404 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he will provide details on the Waterways Ireland announcement of 27 January 2012, in conjunction with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, of the plan to upgrade the Royal Canal towpath between Porterstown, Keenan Bridge and Clonsilla, Dublin in 2012, including the estimated cost of this project; the timeframe for work to commence; the length of time that this work will last and when the works will be completed; the details, if available, of the company contracted to carry out this work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29206/12]

As the Deputy will be aware, Waterways Ireland owns and manages the towpaths adjacent to the Royal Canal and continues to facilitate and work in partnership with Local Authorities, State Agencies and community organisations in developing the potential of this recreational amenity. I am informed that Waterways Ireland has agreed in principle with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport to its designation of the Royal Canal towpath as a cycle route. Furthermore, Waterways Ireland is working with a number of local authorities in developing cycle routes along various stretches of towpath and is supporting the current application by Westmeath County Council to the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport for further development of the cycle route in its functional area.

I am advised by Waterways Ireland that the Royal Canal towpath upgrading works between Kennan Bridge, Porterstown, and Callaghan Bridge, Clonsilla, are being carried out as financial and human resources permit. Preliminary works commenced in October 2010 in compliance with the Wildlife Acts, which only permit the carrying out of hedge cutting and tree maintenance works between 1st September and the end of February the following year. It is expected that the upgrading works, which are being carried out directly by Waterways Ireland, will be completed by December 2012. There are no specific costs estimated for this project, which is being undertaken as part of Waterways Ireland's day-to-day maintenance operations.

Architectural Heritage

Patrick Nulty

Question:

405 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the steps he will take to ensure the protection of Aldborough House, Portland Row, Dublin 1, a protected structure, in view of its importance as part of Dublin’s architectural heritage;; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29297/12]

My role as Minister, the role of local authorities, and the responsibilities of owners, with regard to protected structures are set out in the provisions of the Planning and Development Acts 2000-2011. Under Part IV (Architectural Heritage) of the Acts, inclusion on the Record of Protected Structures places a duty of care on the owners and occupiers of protected structures in relation to those structures. Planning authorities are also given powers to ensure that the structures are protected. This includes powers to serve notice to carry out protective works, and obligations in relation to how development proposals are considered. The appropriate authority in this case is Dublin City Council.

My Department also has some limited funding for structures at risk. In 2011, I awarded a grant of €80,587 from this funding stream to Dublin City Council to assist with urgent repair and conservation works on Aldborough House and am satisfied that the assistance offered has made a significant contribution to conserving the architectural heritage value of this protected structure. Applications for this funding are made by local authorities to my Department and the deadline for applications in 2012 has passed. No further application was made under the fund in 2012 in respect to Aldborough House.

Commemorative Events

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

406 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if, as part of the forthcoming commemorations of the 1916 Rising, he has any plans to commemorate the internment of those who participated in the Rising at Frongoch in Wales and other centres; if he will engage with his counterparts in the UK as part of the consultative process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29368/12]

The decade from 1912 to 1922 is the most momentous of modern Irish history and requires a comprehensive commemorative programme that will acknowledge the achievements of the revolutionary generation and enhance the understanding today of the events that shaped our society. While the Centenary commemorative programme commenced earlier this year, the arrangements for the continuing decade are still at an early stage of development. I am working with the British Government and the Executive in Northern Ireland in this regard. I very much appreciate the interest and support of British Ministers and officeholders from Northern Ireland for the programme and their participation in several recent commemorative events.

At the centre of the programme for the Decade of Centenaries, there will be a comprehensive commemoration of the Easter Rising with attention to both the background and consequences. The detention of prisoners is an important part of the story of the Rising and an account of their experience at Frongoch and elsewhere would be appropriate in the commemorative programme. As the general arrangements for commemoration of the Rising in 2016 are still under development, I would not seek to anticipate the particular arrangements for the prisoners or any other element of the programme.

I very much appreciate the interest reflected in this enquiry and would extend an invitation to the Deputy and any other persons to contact me with the contributions or suggestions they would offer towards the developing programme.

Caiteachas Caipitiúil

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

407 D’fhiafraigh Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Ealaíon, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta cad é an caiteachas caipitiúil faoi gach fomhír de na meastacháin go dáta, cad í an sprioc chaiteachais go dáta; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [29393/12]

Mar is eol don Teachta, tá leithdháiltí caiteachais mo Ghrúpa Vóta ag leibhéal fo-mhírchinn foilsithe sna Meastacháin Athbhreithnithe agus tá próifílí caiteachais foilsithe don bhliain 2012 ar fáil ar láithreán gréasáin na Roinne Airgeadais. Mar áis tagartha tá leithdháiltí mo Roinne ag leibhéal fo-mhírchinn ar fáil ag an nasc thíos:http://per.gov.ie/estpubexp2012/. Is féidir breathnú ar chaiteachas maidir le próifílí foilsithe do mo Ghrúpa Vóta tríd an nasc seo a leanas: http://www.finance.gov.ie/documents/exchequerstatements/2012/analspendMay2012.pdf.

Mar eolas don Teachta, ar an 31 Bealtaine, 2012, sheas caiteachas caipitil mo Roinn thart ar €9.7m. Léiríonn sé seo thart ar 91% den phróifíl foilsithe agus 23% den leithdháileadh REV de €43m.

Mar a thuigeann an Teachta, ar ndóigh, cé go ndéantar monatóireacht agus bainistiú ar bhonn rialta ar chaiteachas mo Roinnse i gcoibhneas le próifíl ag leibhéal fo-mhírchinn, bíonn figiúirí caiteachais leanúnacha dá leithéid sealadach agus faoi réir phromhadh inmheánach trí chóras bainistíochta airgeadais mo Roinn agus, ar deireadh, faoi réir phromhadh an Ard-Reachtaire Cuntas agus Ciste. Dá mbeadh tuarascálacha mionsonraithe inmheánacha ar chaiteachas ag leibhéal fo-mhírchinn le foilsiú roimh dheireadh bliana, feictear dom go mbeadh breis promhaidh ag teastáil, chomh maith le méid díréireach ama agus oibre ar bhonn leanúnach, agus go mbeadh sé deacair cás a shuíomh dó sin.

Imeachtaí Comóraidh

Question:

408 D’fhiafraigh Michael P. Kitt den Aire Ealaíon, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta an bhfuil sé sásta go mbeidh ról ag eagraíochtaí pobail a bhí lárnach in Éirí Amach na Cásca 1916 sa cheiliúradh oifigiúil a bheidh ar siúl sa bhliain 2016 mar chuid den chomóradh 100 bliain; an gcinnteoidh sé go mbeidh an Ghaeilge san áireamh agus, go deimhin, chun tosaigh in imeachtaí comórtha 1916; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [29507/12]

Cuimseoidh an clár comóraidh do na Deich mBliana d'Ócáidí Comóraidh Céad Bliain ó 2012 go 2022 roinnt tionscnamh agus imeachtaí oifigiúla á n-eagrú ag údaráis áitiúla, institiúidí cultúrtha, cumainn náisiúnta agus grúpaí pobail.

I gcomhráite i Seanad Éireann le déanaí maidir leis na socruithe comóraidh do na blianta atá amach romhainn, chuir mé in iúl go mbeinn ag scríobh go luath ag cumainn chultúrtha náisiúnta ar leith, ag iarraidh ar gach ceann acu a machnamh a dhéanamh ar a suntas speisialta le linn na tréimhse seo den stair agus an méid a d'fhéadfaidís a chur leis an gclár comóraidh do na Deich mBliana d'Ócáidí Comóraidh Céad Bliain agus go háirithe ar Chomóradh Céad Bliain Éirí Amach na Cásca in 2016. Chun deis a thabhairt i gcomhair comhairliúcháin laistigh de struchtúir náisiúnta na n-eagraíochtaí sin, bheinn breá sásta bualadh leo san fhómhar. Ní mór dom a rá freisin go bhfuil socruithe á ndéanamh i láthair na huaire do réamh-chomhráite le Conradh na Gaeilge i ndáil leis seo.

Straitéis 20 Bliain don Ghaeilge

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

409 D’fhiafraigh Peadar Tóibín den Aire Ealaíon, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta an aontaíonn sé gur chóir go mbeadh na heagraíochtaí pobail Gaeilge páirteach sa struchtúr do chur i bhfeidhm na Straitéise 20 Bliain don Ghaeilge ionas nach gcaillfidh an pobal seilbh ar an Straitéis, mar atá ag tarlú i láthair na huaire; an aontaíonn sé gur fearr go mbeadh na húdaráis agus an pobal — trí na heagraíochtaí pobail — ag gníomhú agus ag obair le chéile chun aon straitéis don Ghaeilge a chur i bhfeidhm go héifeachtach, éifeachtúil; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [29508/12]

Tá forbairt chóras cuimsitheach pleanála teanga ag leibhéal an phobail mar ghné lárnach denStraitéis 20 Bliain don Ghaeilge 2010-2030. Faoi Bhille na Gaeltachta 2012 atá foilsithe inniu, tabharfar feidhm reachtúil don phróiseas pleanála teanga faoina mbeidh plean teanga á ullmhú ag leibhéal an phobail do 19 limistéir pleanála teanga faoi leith sa Ghaeltacht. Bunaíodh na ceantair seo cuid mhaith ar na limistéir pleanála a bhí ag Údarás na Gaeltachta, ag cur san áireamh cúrsaí teanga, cúrsaí tíreolaíochta, struchtúir pobail agus dlús daonra. Beidh plean teanga le réiteach ag gach ceann de na limistéir seo in imeacht ama. Tá sé i gceist gon-aontóidh na pobail sna limistéir éagsúla pleananna teanga le hÚdarás na Gaeltachta agus go gcuirfear faoi bhráid mo Roinnse iad le measúnú a dhéanamh orthu. Nuair a bheidh siad faofa, tabharfar tréimhse ama don phobal chun iad a chur i bhfeidhm. Ar ndóigh, déanfaidh mo Roinnse athbhreithniú ar chur i bhfeidhm na bpleananna go tréimhsiúil.

Faoi láthair, tá Údarás na Gaeltachta ag maoiniú eagraíochtaí pobalbhunaithe éagsúla sa Ghaeltacht, ar nós comharchumainn agus comhlachtaí forbartha. Táthar aontaithe go mbeidh príomheagraíocht cinnireachta amháin i ngach limistéar pleanála teanga chun an próiseas pleanála teanga a stiúradh agus go mbeidh na heagraíochtaí eile sa limistéar pleanála teanga céanna ag feidhmiú faoin bpríomheagraíocht sin, mar a bhaineann sé leis an bpleanáil teanga. Ós rud é go bhfuil na heagraíochtaí seo maoinithe ag an Údarás, is faoin Údarás a bheidh sé na céimeanna cuí a thógáil i gcomhar leis na heagraíochtaí féin chun an cur chuige seo a fhorbairt agus a fheidhmiú.

Ar ndóigh, tá sé tábhachtach freisin nach mbeidh an próiseas pleanála teanga seo teoranta do na ceantair a bhfuil stádas reachtúil Gaeltachta acu faoi láthair. Dá bhrí sin, tabharfar stádas reachtúil faoi Bhille na Gaeltachta 2012 do Líonraí Gaeilge agus do Bhailte Seirbhíse Gaeltachta. Faoin mBille, tá sé i gceist go mbeidh na pobail sna ceantair seo ag aontú pleananna teanga le Foras na Gaeilge agus le hÚdarás na Gaeltachta, de réir mar is cuí, agus go gcuirfear na pleananna sin faoi bhráid mo Roinnse le measúnú a dhéanamh orthu.

Ní miste a rá go bhfuil fócasghrúpa ar a bhfuil ionadaithe ó eagraíochtaí pobalbhunaithe i gCluain Dolcáin, Ceatharlach agus Inis bunaithe ag mo Roinnse, i gcomhar le Foras na Gaeilge, chun tarraingt ar an saineolas atá ag na pobail sin maidir le cur chun cinn na Gaeilge ina gcuid ceantair féin. Anuas air sin, tionóladh seisiúin eolais agus cruinnithe idir oifigigh mo Roinne agus eagraíochtaí éagsúla le bliain anuas ar mhaithe leis na heagraíochtaí sin a choinneáil ar an eolas maidir le cur i bhfeidhm na Straitéise. I measc na n-eagraíochtaí seo, bhí Conradh na Gaeilge, Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge, Glór na nGael, an Foras Pátrúnachta, Gaelscoileanna agus an Chomhairle um Oideachas Gaeilge agus Gaelscolaíochta.

An Ghaeilge

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

410 D’fhiafraigh Peadar Tóibín den Aire Ealaíon, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta cén staid ag a bhfuil na haighneachtaí maidir leis an athbhreithniú ar Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla, 2003; an bhfuil saineolaí neamhspleách faighte le tuarascáil a chur le chéile maidir leis na haighneachtaí úd go fóill; cathain a bheidh scéal á scaipeadh ar an bpobal maidir leis na haighneachtaí agus leis an gcéad chéim eile den athbhreithniú ar an Acht; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [29509/12]

I dtús báire, is mian liom a mhiniú go bhfuil an t-athbhreithniú ar Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla 2003 á stiúradh ag mo Roinnse. Mar thoradh ar phróiseas comhairliúcháin poiblí a reáchtáladh mar chuid den athbhreithniú, fuarthas timpeall 1,400 freagra ar shuirbhé maidir le seirbhísí trí Ghaeilge ó chomhlachtaí poiblí, chomh maith le 260 aighneacht ó hiliomad páirtithe leasmhara, lena n-áirítear Ranna Rialtais agus comhlachtaí poiblí eile, eagraíochtaí Gaeilge agus Gaeltachta agus an pobal i gcoitinne. Tá anailís ar na moltaí éagsúla a fuarthas ar siúl ag oifigigh mo Roinne faoi láthair.

Faoi réir théarmaí tagartha an athbhreithnithe, is féidir leas a bhaint as saineolaithe seachtracha, saineolaithe acadúla agus idirnáisiúnta san áireamh, de réir mar is cuí. Is fiú a lua fosta go dtabharfar aird ar dhea-chleachtas i dtaca le soláthar seirbhísí teanga ag comhlachtaí poiblí i ndlínsí eile. Tar éis don athbhreithniú a bheith curtha i gcrích, déanfar an cás do leasú na reachtaíochta a bhreithniú agus cuirfear moltaí cuí i dtaca leis sin faoi bhráid an Rialtais. Táthar ag súil leis go bhfoilseofar ar shuíomh gréasáin mo Roinne in am trátha torthaí an tsuirbhé agus na haighneachtaí a fuarthas uathu siúd a chuir in iúl go raibh siad sásta go bhfoilseofaí iad.

State Agencies

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

411 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the number of quangos, quasi autonomous non-governmental organisations, which are funded partially or wholly, directly or indirectly, by his Department that have been abolished, merged, or reduced in scale since the formation of the Government; the amount that has been saved as a result and the number by which personnel numbers have been reduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29531/12]

The Deputy will be aware that the Government announced a series of rationalisation measures in the Public Service Reform Plan on 17th November 2011. A number of amalgamations, mergers and critical reviews of bodies funded from my Department's Vote Group are currently being progressed, as required under the Reform Plan. Details of these are reflected in the Plan, which can be accessed on the website of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform —www.per.gov.ie.

As the Deputy will also be aware, the priorities set out in the Programme for Government for the rationalisation of State agencies provide that such rationalisation must be cost effective and lead to a more transparent, accountable and efficient public service. As the Deputy will appreciate, it is not possible at this stage to outline projected savings for each body to be rationalised. However, the implications arising are currently being examined within my Department with a view to identifying savings, as well as opportunities for efficiencies and more effective service delivery. My Department expects to submit proposals in this regard to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform by the end of June 2012.

Programme for Government

Seán Kyne

Question:

412 Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if a decision has been taken on the publication of the 1926 census particularly in view of the recent publication of the 1940 US census which has benefitted citizens with an interest in genealogy and which would have the potential to increase genealogy related tourism alongside the Gathering planned for next year. [29699/12]

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to enabling the publication of the 1926 Census. The project requires two principal components to be addressed. The first is the legal necessity to change the relevant legislation to permit publication of the Census before the expiry of the statutory 100 year period, while respecting certain rights. The second is the technical process whereby the material can be converted from the paper records to a searchable electronic database in a cost-effective fashion. Legal advice has been obtained in relation to the legislative changes and consultation with relevant bodies is in progress. Possible technical approaches are also currently being considered, as are their resource implications. My Department is working to progress these matters.

Action Plan for Jobs

Michael McGrath

Question:

413 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if his Department has prepared any report accounting for the way in which the sums of money raised from the jobs initiative of May 2011 have been spent to date; if so, if he will provide full details of the way in which this has been expended; and if he will advise the number of full and part-time jobs that have been created as a result of the initiative. [30146/12]

In relation to the Government'sAction Plan for Jobs, published in February 2012, there are 11 specific actions to be undertaken by my Department and the agencies under its remit in the areas of arts, culture and creative enterprise. Together, I believe that we can work to realise the both explicit and implicit set for these areas. The relevant actions (under section 7 of the Plan) are set out below.

7.14 Arts, Culture and Creative Enterprise

Steps Necessary for Delivery

Timeline Responsible body

7.14.1

Take actions as set out in the Creative Capital Report prepared by the Audiovisual Strategic Review Steering Group to double the value of the film and audiovisual sector by 2016 to over €1 billion, double employment to over 10,000 and increase cultural exports of Irish audiovisual production

Work with the audiovisual industry to grow exports

Ongoing 2012 Irish Film Board

Undertaking a range of skills initiatives to address medium to long-term challenges for the sector

Ongoing 2012 Irish Film Board

Leveraging investment in data centres and cloud computing to create distribution and fulfilment opportunities for the digital content industries.

Ongoing 2012 Irish Film Board

7.14.2

Through Culture Ireland, maximise the business opportunities abroad for cultural and artistic businesses and enterprises by promoting Irish artists world-wide and showcasing our strengths in culture and creativity.

Ongoing 2012 DAHG/IDA

7.14.3

Through Culture Ireland, undertake joint marketing activities with the enterprise development agencies to build ‘brand Ireland’ in this sector.

Ongoing 2012 DAHG/Enterprise agencies

7.14.4

Leverage the potential for language and roots tourism, working with Tourism Ireland, the National Archives of Ireland, Foras na Gaeilge and relevant partners.

Ongoing 2012 DAHG/ Tourism Ireland, National Archives of Ireland / Foras na Gaeilge and relevant partners

7.14.5

Roll-out further cultural digitization initiatives, in partnership with the private sector, in order the leverage our unique cultural offerings and bring them to a wider international audience.

Ongoing 2012 DAHG

7.14.6

Through the Arts Council, support over 50 venues, approximately 200 festivals and 400 arts organisations in 2012, supporting employment in communities across the country, both directly through funding artists and organisations and indirectly in the tourism sector and the wider economy.

Ongoing 2012 DAHG

7.14.7

Ensure continuity in the provision of heritage services nationally through an allocation of €48m for 2012.

Ongoing 2012 DAHG

7.14.8

Invest in quality customer offerings through the National Cultural Institutions and regional cultural bodies and enterprises to enhance our overall tourism offering and to make Ireland a destination of cultural distinction for the cultural tourists globally.

Ongoing 2012 DAHG

7.18.9

Support research activities of relevance to the sector including research in the areas of digital networks, communications and radio spectrum optimization, semantic web and sensor web, big data and data analytics, and their application in sectors such as film and television, social media and publishing

Ongoing 2012 Research funders and Prioritisation Action Group

No monies were provided to this Department from the Jobs Initiative of May 2011.

Information and Communications Technology

Dara Calleary

Question:

414 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his plans to reimburse customers of the national broadband scheme who despite subscribing to it are not receiving an adequate service (details supplied). [29005/12]

Broadband services under the National Broadband Scheme (NBS) are available since October 2010 from "3", the NBS service provider, in all of the 1,028 Electoral Divisions (ED) designated to be covered under the Scheme. In keeping with State Aid clearance for the Scheme, the broadband service contracted under the NBS is an affordable, scalable product. The NBS mobile wireless service currently offers minimum speeds of 1.6Mbps download and 1.2Mbps upload subject to a maximum contention ratio. The NBS satellite service is utilised in a small number of cases for technical reasons associated with the location of the premises, as in the case of the person to whom the Deputy refers above. At present the minimum speeds are 1Mbps download and 128kbps upload. Both products are due to be upgraded in the next few months without any increase in the monthly charge.

With regard to the NBS service quality, my Department has well-established monitoring arrangements in place to ensure that the NBS delivers the minimum specified service or better to all users. The NBS contract guarantees service levels and imposes a service credit regime on 3, with financial consequences in the event that minimum specification service levels are not met. The NBS contract provides that where NBS customers do not receive the minimum guaranteed service as set out in the terms and conditions of their contract, they are entitled to service rebates.

My Department liaises very closely with 3 to ensure that any issues relating to service performance, which are brought to its attention are addressed as quickly as possible. In the case of the person referred to by the Deputy, my officials had already, on receipt of earlier representations on his behalf, been in contact with 3 to assist in resolving his service difficulties. Likewise, my officials have been in direct contact with the customer in the matter. 3 is currently working on improving aspects of the overall satellite service provision and have confirmed that this customer will be reimbursed for the service deterioration experienced by him. My officials will remain in contact with the customer until such time as his service issues are successfully resolved, in accordance with the requirements of the Scheme.

Television Reception

John Paul Phelan

Question:

415 Deputy John Paul Phelan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the action he will take in respect of the lack of full digital reception and cover in areas of the country in which Saorview cannot be received either now or in October; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29082/12]

RTÉ provides full digital reception through its SAORVIEW (98%) and SAORSAT (100%) networks. This is the first time in the history of TV that Ireland has a national TV network covering 100% of the population. RTÉ has built, owns and controls the digital TV network and is also responsible for the coverage and operation of that network. In accordance with Part 8 of the Broadcasting Act 2009, the development of the RTÉ network is an operational matter for RTÉ and not one in which I, as Minister, have a function.

I have, however, had enquiries made on your behalf. I understand from RTÉ that the analogue network covers 98% of the population, the SAORVIEW network will provide 98% population coverage and SAORSAT provides 100% coverage. SAORSAT is a new ‘free-to-air' satellite service unique to Ireland which ensures the RTÉ TV services are available to the remaining 2% of the population. RTÉ is not obliged to provide a satellite service and is doing so on its own initiative. Further information on SAORSAT is available onwww.saorview.ie and also www.rtenl.ie.

Work has been ongoing across the country to prepare the transmission sites for the move from analogue to digital terrestrial television. However, it is virtually impossible to cover 100% of the population by terrestrial means. Reasons for this include local topography, for example. RTÉNL is continuing to work on developing more detailed information on areas where coverage issues have been identified and my Department will continue to liaise with RTÉNL to ensure that such information is made available at a local level.

Information and Communications Technology

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

416 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the broadband options available to residents (details supplied) in County Mayo; when broadband will be made available to them through the rural broadband scheme; the proposed timetable for a full broadband service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29084/12]

Ireland's telecommunications market has been liberalised since 1999 and since then has developed into a well-regulated market, supporting a multiplicity of commercial operators, providing services over a diverse range of technology platforms. Details of broadband services available on a county-by-county basis can be found on the Commission for Communications Regulation's (ComReg) website atwww.callcosts.ie.

The Government has undertaken a number of initiatives to bring broadband to those parts of the country where operators have been unable to offer services on a commercial basis. In the case of one such intervention, namely the National Broadband Scheme (NBS), services are available since October 2010 from the NBS service provider, 3, to persons with a fixed residence or fixed business in each of the 1,028 Electoral Divisions (ED) designated to be covered under the Scheme. That includes 112 EDs in County Mayo, which are listed in Appendix I.

The Rural Broadband Scheme (RBS) was launched last year in recognition of the fact that despite the widespread availability of broadband throughout Ireland, there still remained individual premises that were unable to receive broadband provision, due to technical difficulties such as line of sight issues. This Scheme, which is being rolled out this year, is aimed at making a basic broadband service available to those individual un-served premises in rural non-NBS areas who wish to avail of such services.

My Department has received 49 eligible applications from County Mayo. The details of applicants have been passed to the commercial operators participating in the Scheme. The names of these companies and the area where they operate can be found on the following link:list of companies. It is expected that a significant number of applicants will be served by commercial operators as part of this phase of the Scheme, which concludes at the end of July. Should any applicants remain un-served after this phase, a service will be procured by my Department and the target is to have this rolled out by the end of this year.

The combination of private investment and State interventions means that Ireland will meet the EU Commission's Digital Agenda for Europe target of having a basic broadband service available to all areas by 2013. With basic broadband services available throughout Ireland, the challenge now is to accelerate the roll out of high speed services. This Government accepts that the widespread availability of such speeds is required to deliver future economic and social development.

Following the recent publication of the Next Generation Broadband Taskforce (NGBT), and a short public consultation on its findings and recommendations, I will be bringing proposals for a National Broadband Plan to Government shortly with a view to agreeing a comprehensive set of policy actions to underpin the provision of high speed broadband services on a national basis.

Electoral Divisions (ED) Covered by the NBS in County Mayo

Electoral Divisions

ADDERGOOLE

ED 157002

AGHAGOWER NORTH

ED 157003

AGHAGOWER SOUTH

ED 157004

AGHAMORE

ED 157005

AILLEMORE

ED 157006

AN GEATA MOR THEAS

ED 157007

AN GEATA MOR THUAIDH

ED 157008

ARDNAREE NORTH

ED 157010

ATTYMASS EAST

ED 157012

ATTYMASS WEST

ED 157013

BALLINCHALLA

ED 157019

BALLYCASTLE

ED 157022

BALLYCROY NORTH

ED 157023

BALLYCROY SOUTH

ED 157024

BALLYNAGORAHER

ED 157028

BALLYOVEY

ED 157029

BALLYSAKEERY

ED 157030

BANGOR

ED 157031

BARROOSKY

ED 157032

BEKAN

ED 157033

BELDERGMORE

ED 157034

BELMULLET

ED 157036

BOHOLA

ED 157037

BRACKLOON

ED 157038

BUNAVEELA

ED 157040

BUNDORRAGHA

ED 157041

BURRISCARRA

ED 157043

CALLOW

ED 157044

CAPPAGHDUFF

ED 157045

CARAUN

ED 157046

CARROWMORE

ED 157047

CLARE ISLAND

ED 157050

CLOGHER

ED 157052

CLOGHER

ED 157053

CLOGHERMORE

ED 157054

CLOONMORE

ED 157056

COOLNAHA

ED 157058

COONARD

ED 157059

CORRAUN ACHILL

ED 157060

COURSE

ED 157061

CROAGHMOYLE

ED 157062

CROAGHPATRICK

ED 157063

CROSSMOLINA SOUTH

ED 157066

CUILDOO

ED 157067

CULNACLEHA

ED 157068

DALGAN

ED 157069

DEEL

ED 157070

DERRY

ED 157071

DERRYLOUGHAN

ED 157072

DOOCASTLE

ED 157073

DOOEGA

ED 157074

DRUMMIN

ED 157075

ERRIFF

ED 157077

FORTLAND

ED 157078

GARRYMORE

ED 157079

GLENAMOY

ED 157080

GLENCASTLE

ED 157081

GLENCO

ED 157082

GLENHEST

ED 157083

GOOLAMORE

ED 157084

HOLLYMOUNT

ED 157085

HOUNDSWOOD

ED 157086

ISLANDEADY

ED 157087

KILBEAGH

ED 157088

KILCOMMON

ED 157090

KILFIAN EAST

ED 157091

KILFIAN SOUTH

ED 157092

KILFIAN WEST

ED 157093

KILGARVAN

ED 157094

KILGEEVER

ED 157095

KILKELLY

ED 157096

KILLALA

ED 157097

KILLAVALLY

ED 157098

KILLEDAN

ED 157099

KILMACLASSER

ED 157100

KILMAINE

ED 157101

KILMEENA

ED 157102

KILSALLAGH

ED 157104

KILVINE

ED 157106

KNAPPAGH

ED 157107

KNOCK SOUTH

ED 157109

KNOCKADAFF

ED 157110

KNOCKNALOWER

ED 157111

LACKAN NORTH

ED 157112

LACKAN SOUTH

ED 157113

LETTERBRICK

ED 157114

MAYO

ED 157118

MEELICK

ED 157119

MOUNT FALCON

ED 157120

MUINGNABO

ED 157121

MUINGS

ED 157122

MURNEEN

ED 157123

NEALE

ED 157124

NEWBROOK

ED 157125

NEWPORT EAST

ED 157126

NEWPORT WEST

ED 157127

OWENBRIN

ED 157128

OWENNADORNAUN

ED 157129

PORTROYAL

ED 157131

RATHHILL

ED 157132

RATHOMA

ED 157133

ROSLEE

ED 157134

SALLYMOUNT

ED 157135

SHESKIN

ED 157136

SHRULE

ED 157137

SLIEVEMAHANAGH

ED 157138

SONNAGH

ED 157140

SRAHMORE

ED 157142

TAGHEEN

ED 157145

TAWNYNAGRY

ED 157146

TOOCANANAGH

ED 157147

TUMGESH

ED 157149

Alternative Energy Projects

Terence Flanagan

Question:

417 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the steps being taken by him to increase the number of wind farms here, to increase the productivity of these wind farms and to move to export wind energy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29241/12]

Ireland has a 2020 target for the share of renewable energy in all of energy consumption across the electricity, heat and transport sectors. This is 16% as set out in the Renewable Energy Directive. Our intention is to meet this through around 40% renewable electricity, 10% renewable transport and 12% renewable heat which together total 16% overall. Ireland has been increasing the number of windfarms significantly in recent times. There is currently approximately 1600MW of wind connected to the system.

The Gate 3 system developed by the Commission for Energy Regulation which involves grid connection offers of 3900MW to renewable generation, the bulk of which have been made to wind generators, along with Grid 25 and its implementation plans being rolled out by EirGrid, are the processes in place that underpin the expansion of wind electricity in line with the achievement of having 40% of our electricity consumption from renewable resources by 2