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 8, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 9 to 17, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 18 to 26, inclusive, answered orally.

Child Care Services

Robert Troy

Question:

27 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if, in view of publication of the report of the independent child death review group, she will commit to the introduction of mandatory aftercare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33365/12]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

35 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the date on which she will introduce legislation to provide a statutory right to aftercare for children leaving the care system; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33319/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 27 and 35 together.

Section 45 of the Child Care Act 1991 places a statutory duty on the HSE to form a view in relation to each person leaving care as to whether there is a "need for assistance" and if it forms such a view, to provide services in accordance with the legislation and subject to resources.

All young people who have had a care history with the HSE, be it foster care, residential care or high support, are entitled to an aftercare service based on their assessed needs. The core eligible age range for aftercare is 18 years to 21 years. The HSE policy allows for this to be extended up to the age of 23 years of age on the basis of a need for assistance.

The basis of an aftercare service is an individual assessment of each young person's need in the months before their 18th birthday. An individual holistic needs assessment identifies a young person's need for accommodation, financial support, social network support and training and education. The level of support required will vary for each individual from advice to accommodation to further education, employment or training and social support.

The most important requirements for young people leaving care are for secure, suitable accommodation as well as further education, employment or training and social support. The most vulnerable group of young people leaving care are those that have dropped out of education and training and those that have left residential care. Some of these young people may have mental health problems or a disability. Aftercare provision incorporates advice, guidance and practical support. It is essential that all young people leaving care are provided with the type of transitional support that their individual situation requires. The provision of an appropriate aftercare service has been highlighted as a key element to achieving positive outcomes for young people leaving care.

Some 90% of children in care are in foster care and a large number of these remain living with their foster families, supported financially by the HSE, on reaching 18 years of age. These young people continue in education and training as planned. This remains a key component of aftercare for young people when they leave care.

The HSE National Aftercare Service is underpinned by a National Policy and Procedures Document which has been developed in cooperation with the key stakeholders, including the voluntary sector agencies involved in aftercare provision and my Department. The policy which was finalised in April 2011, commits to promoting and achieving the best outcomes for young people leaving care and in ensuring consistency of support to these young people. The HSE has established an intra-agency National Aftercare Implementation Group to monitor progress in implementing the national policy and their work is ongoing.

Clearly, there has been a lot of progress in the provision of aftercare services and more young people are receiving a service. The HSE has advised me that there were 1,310 young people in receipt of aftercare at the end of May 2012, compared to 847 young people in 2009. The implementation of the policy and the ongoing provision of aftercare services are being kept under review and I will continue to engage with the HSE on this matter over the course of the year. In addition, I recently had further discussions with the Attorney General regarding strengthening the legislative approach to aftercare and I believe that the law can be strengthened. It is my intention to seek to bring forward legislative proposals in this regard later this year.

Children’s Rights Referendum

John Browne

Question:

28 Deputy John Browne asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will give a timeline for the publication of enacting legislation for the children’s referendum; when the referendum will take place; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33370/12]

Dessie Ellis

Question:

44 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the date on which she will publish legislation to hold a referendum on children’s rights; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33325/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 28 and 44 together.

The Programme for Government 2011-2016 states that the Referendum on Children's Rights is a priority, and that the wording of the proposed referendum will be along the lines of that proposed by the All Party Joint Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children (JCCAC).

Both myself and officials of my Department have engaged extensively with the Attorney General and her officials to formulate a draft wording for the proposed constitutional amendment. Contact in that regard is ongoing and, as part of normal process, will involve consultations across the relevant departments in advance of presentation of a proposed wording to Government for consideration.

Integral to the passing of the proposed amendment will be a change as regards adoption law in the position of children of marriage and married parents. To ensure that the public are fully informed of the nature of the proposal, and the consequences of approving it, the proposed amending legislation in the area of adoption will be published along with the wording of the amendment. Publication of the Referendum Bill will have regard to the need to allow an appropriate period of time for the proposal to be fully debated and considered.

While the Government has yet to consider the matter of the precise referendum date, it has already decided that it will take place later this year and will be held on a standalone basis. The significant and complex work currently being done is geared towards this timeline and objective.

Departmental Functions

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

29 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the position regarding the dialogue between her and the Department of Justice and Equality regarding the transfer of certain youth justice functions to her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33330/12]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that towards the end of 2011, following discussions at Ministerial and Official level and in consultation with the Attorney General, it was agreed that certain youth justice functions would transfer from my colleague the Minister for Justice and Equality to myself as the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. Advices were received from the Office of the Attorney General in relation to the legislative mechanism to be used to effect such a transfer. It was agreed that responsibility for the Children Act, 2001 would be shared between my Department and the Department of Justice and Equality. The position is that:—

The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs is responsible for the Children Detention Schools at Oberstown, Lusk, Co. Dublin which provide detention places to the Courts for girls less than 18 years old and boys less than 17 years old ordered to be remanded or committed on criminal charges;

The Minister for Justice and Equality retains responsibility for all aspects of the Children Act related to crime detection (including anti-social behaviour), diversion, prosecution, court proceedings, community sanctions, age of criminal responsibility. The Minister also retains responsibility for dealings with An Garda Síochána and the Probation Service.

The formal transfer of statutory responsibility came into effect on 1 January, 2012 on foot of an Order of the Taoiseach by Statutory Instrument (S.I. No. 668 of 2011).

The staff of the Irish Youth Justice Service (IYJS) moved to my Department in November 2011 in anticipation of the transfer of functions. With effect from 1st January, 2012, the IYJS is staffed by officials from both the Department of Justice and Equality and my Department. This is a practical example of this Government's commitment to explore new and more flexible ways of working effectively to achieve cross-departmental collaborations.

The IYJS will develop a National Youth Justice Action Plan later this year which will sit within the Children and Young People's Policy Framework currently being developed in my Department but will also form part of the National Anti-Crime Strategy being developed as part of the draft White Paper on Crime being finalised by Minister Shatter.

I am very pleased that the practice of sending 16 year olds to St. Patrick's Institution has been ended. I made an order by Statutory Instrument (S.I. No. 136 of 2012) that, with effect from 1st May 2012, all newly remanded or sentenced 16 year olds are being detained in the children's detention facilities at Oberstown. On 2nd April 2012, I also announced that capital funding of approximately €50 million over three years has been secured to develop new and expanded facilities at the children detention schools at Oberstown in Lusk, Co. Dublin so that, within two years, all those under 18 who need to be detained will be sent to dedicated child-specific facilities on the Oberstown campus.

I can also inform the Deputy that, in conjunction with my colleague Alan Shatter TD, Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, I have made an Order by Statutory Instrument (S.I. No. 210 of 2012) which extends the remit of the Ombudsman for Children to consider complaints by and on behalf of children detained in St. Patrick's Institution.

Inter-Country Adoptions

Niall Collins

Question:

30 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of countries with which Ireland has signed an administrative agreement for the purposes of facilitating inter-country adoptions; the number of children adopted using administrative arrangements since the establishment of the Adoption Authority of Ireland; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33376/12]

The Hague Convention on Inter-country Adoption entered into force in Ireland on 1 November 2010 with the enactment of the Adoption Act 2010 and the establishment of the Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI). Therefore, since then, adoptions have been ongoing from Hague contracted countries and 35 such adoptions have taken place in the period 1 January 2011 to end June 2012.

Under section 72 of the Adoption Act 2010, the Adoption Authority may enter into administrative arrangements with another contracting State. An administrative arrangement is not mandatory for inter-country adoption between countries that are both signatories to Hague. However some contracting states, including Ireland, may determine that in some instances co-operation in the field of inter-country adoption between particular countries is best served by the development of an administrative agreement under Section 72 of the Act.

The Adoption Authority is working to establish administrative arrangements with a number of Hague countries in relation to inter-country adoptions, as provided for under section 72 of the Adoption Act 2010. The Authority has travelled to a number of jurisdictions in order to make contact with the Central Authorities, advise of our processes and procedures, assess the need for additional administrative arrangements or agreements; and to glean as much information as possible of relevance to prospective adopters from those countries. The visits also provide opportunities to streamline processes on both sides and obtain up-to-date information for prospective adopters on developments in these countries. The most recent engagements by the AAI with its counterpart Central Authorities include:

positive discussions in that regard which recently took place between the Adoption Authority of Ireland and a visiting delegation of senior officials from the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, which is a Hague signatory. The discussions lead to finalisation on the contents of administrative arrangements for the resumption of adoptions between Ireland and Vietnam. I have invited the Vietnamese Minister for Justice, Mr. Ha Hung Cuong, to visit Ireland in September at which point I expect that the agreement setting out the administrative arrangements will be signed by the two Central Authorities.

A delegation from the Adoption Authority travelled to New Delhi, India, on 18th June 2012 to discuss adoption arrangements between the Adoption Authority and CARA, the Indian Central Authority. I understand the Authority is considering the report from this visit.

With the help of the Irish Embassy in Moscow, the AAI has had a response to its earlier communications from the adoption authorities in Kazakhstan on the issue of inter-country adoptions and is proposing to meet the authorities in Kazakhstan.

Timmy Dooley

Question:

31 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the progress made on finalising an administrative or working agreement with Kazakhstan for the adoption of children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33381/12]

The Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI) seeks to proactively engage with its counterparts in countries identified for inter-country adoption purposes, including Kazakhstan. While direct contact and diplomatic channels are used to promote such contact, the success of these efforts is obviously contingent upon the preferences of such other countries regarding inter-country adoption relationships.

Over the past 18 months AAI has written to its counterpart Central Authority in Kazakhstan on three separate occasions to begin the process of developing an administrative agreement for inter-country adoption. To date there has been no reply from the Kazakhstani authorities to any of the contacts made by the AAI. The Authority has continued to indicate that it is open to discussing the issue of inter-country adoptions with its Kazakhstani counterparts at any time, and the most recent correspondence from the AAI was in March of this year.

An official of the Irish Embassy in Moscow presented the copy correspondence to, and raised the issue of inter-country adoption with, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kazakhstan on Friday 11 May 2012. The Embassy officials in Moscow have also been asked to secure feedback from the meeting held in Kazakhstan on 11 May to assess its relevance for progress towards an administrative agreement on inter-country adoption between Ireland and Kazakhstan. AAI is doing a review of adoption laws in Kazakhstan.

An official at the Irish Embassy in Moscow confirmed to the AAI on 4 July 2012 that the National Central Authority had received the Adoption Authority of Ireland correspondence and a reply was in the course of preparation. They were not in a position to state the nature of the reply. This matter was also followed up on 3rd July directly with the Embassy by officials of the DCYA. A response is awaited.

Child Abuse

Catherine Murphy

Question:

32 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if, in the preparation of policy concerning the mandatory reporting of the abuse of children and or vulnerable persons, she has taken into account the experience of New South Wales, Australia, which introduced similar legislation in 1999 that resulted in unintended adverse effects for the effective provision of child protection services in that State; if so, if she anticipates similar problems for child protection services here; the measures under investigation to ensure the avoidance of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33286/12]

I can confirm that in preparing the policy position to underpin the introduction of legislation to placeChildren First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children on a statutory footing due regard was paid to a range of international experience of relevant legislation, including that of New South Wales. I note that, while changes have been made to the reporting regime in New South Wales, the policy of mandatory reporting has been maintained.

As regards any potential adverse effects, the Deputy will be aware thatChildren Firsthas operated on the basis of voluntary compliance since it was first published by the then Department of Health and Children in 1999. Children First is much wider than reporting and sets out a comprehensive range of practices which organisations and professionals are required to adhere to in order to safeguard children. Significant resources have been put in place to support the implementation of Children First and in the case of the HSE and An Garda Síochána, Children First has formed an integral part of their existing operations and practices. The HSE has provided training, information and advice on the implementation of Children First throughout the HSE, voluntary and community sector.

In the draft legislative proposals on Children First it is proposed that organisations working with children appoint a Designated Officer. It is proposed that the Designated Officer, along with certain named professionals, will have statutory responsibility to report information about abuse to the HSE. To assist Designated Officers and certain named professionals make a determination as to whether to report abuse, a ‘Guidance for Reporting of Abuse' is to be developed by my Department. This Guidance will deal with issues such as definitions, thresholds and appropriate routes for the reporting of abuse. The Guidance will assist designated officers and professionals named in the legislation, in considering a number of factors to see if the concern reaches the threshold of a report under the legislation. This approach is intended to ensure that only those cases which require an assessment by the HSE are brought to its attention.

I received the Report of the Joint Committee on Health and Children on the draft Heads of the Children First Bill last week and my officials have commenced a review of the Report and an assessment of any changes that might be recommended to the Heads of Bill as currently drafted. I welcome the input of the Health and Children Committee and the experts consulted by the Committee during its deliberations and look forward to the further refinement of the legislative proposals as a result of this input.

Child Protection

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

33 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of children who have stayed overnight in Garda stations to date in 2012, broken down by division and month, due to a lack of an out-of-hours child protection unit. [29756/12]

Responsibility for matters relating to An Garda Siochana rests primarily with my colleague the Minister for Justice and Equality. Children, who are not being arrested or detained, may come into the care of An Garda Síochána for a number of reasons:

lost children brought to a Garda station;

child of an arrested person — where the child remains in the control of the An Garda Síochána for a period of time;

section 12 of the Child Care Act 1999 is invoked and the child is removed from a dangerous situation for his/her protection and cared for by An Garda Síochána for a period of time,

circumstances where a child seeks the services of the Health Service Executive (HSE), via a Garda station.

Current Garda policy caters for the provision of medical assistance as necessary; the removal of the child to hospital if required; the safe delivery of the child into the custody of the Health Service Executive (HSE) in accordance with section 12, Child Care Act, 1991; and any other assistance to ensure the health and well-being of the child while in Garda care.

At present the Health Service Executive provides out-of-hours emergency services for children at risk in the greater Dublin area through the Crisis Intervention Service, and outside the greater Dublin area through the Emergency Place of Safety Service. The Crisis Intervention Service provides out-of-hours emergency social work assistance to young people aged under 18 years. The CIS service has informed me that they successfully placed all children, with the exception of one child on one occasion, in either emergency foster care or in a hostel, who sought their assistance in 2011.

Outside the greater Dublin area, the HSE operates an Emergency Place of Safety Service whereby Gardai can access an emergency placement for children found to be in need of a placement out-of-hours. All Gardai Stations have a national contact phone number where a social worker is available for consultation, and where appropriate will arrange a placement with an emergency foster carers who provide a placement for one night, or over a weekend for a maximum of 3 nights. The Gardai will consult with the social worker as to the best course of action on occasions where a child may be intoxicated, in need of a health or psychiatric assessment or showing aggressive behaviour regarding the most appropriate course of action. Where a child's main issue is that of a placement, the social worker will make a suitable arrangement.

While I have been informed by the Department of Justice and Equality that statistics for the number of children who have remained in a Garda station overnight in the care of An Garda Síochána are not readily or centrally available, I understand that as a result of the current policy and services available, the reasons for children to stay overnight in a Gardai station due to a lack of suitable placements has been reduced to a minimum. However I have asked the HSE to look into any situation where a child is reported to have been kept overnight in a Gardai Station and to report to me on the reasons for this.

Furthermore, notwithstanding the current availability of service to Gardai, the HSE is currently engaged in work on the development of nationwide models for 24-hour social work assistance to be informed on the ongoing pilots projects in Cork and Donegal.

Micheál Martin

Question:

34 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the actions she is taking to address the serious issues of alcohol misuse as identified in a child welfare case and highlighted in the report of the independent child death review group as a factor in multiple cases; her liaisons with the Department of Health in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33391/12]

The Report of the Independent Child Death Review Group highlights in the most serious way our national problems with alcohol and drug abuse. The report highlights a significant number of individual cases where alcohol and drugs were prevalent in the home, and the devastating impact of drug and alcohol misuse on children and young adults, both through their own direct use and as a result of parental use. Some of those described in the report themselves sought release in alcohol and drugs.

I am committed to working with Minister Roisin Shortall and the HSE on progressing a fresh approach to identifying and addressing the hidden harm posed by substance misuse.

In February 2012 the Report of the National Substance Misuse Strategy Steering Group, was launched. The focus of the Steering Group was on alcohol and it was charged with identifying actions that could be used to deal with the harms caused by alcohol misuse. The Steering Group was drawn from relevant Departments and agencies, medical professional bodies, the community and voluntary sectors and the alcohol industry. Its report is a roadmap for the future direction of policy to deal with the use and misuse of alcohol. I continue to proactively support efforts to tackle alcohol misuse both directly with Minister Reilly, Minister of State Shorthall and their officials and through my participation in policy development and oversight in relation to this major public health issue at Government and in the Cabinet Committee on Social Policy.

Question No. 35 answered with Question No. 27.

Children in Care

Patrick Nulty

Question:

36 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the position regarding Irish children who are detained abroad on High Court orders; if she will take action to ensure that appropriate places are made available for these children within this jurisdiction; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33225/12]

Under the Child Care Act, 1991, the Health Service Executive has a duty to promote the welfare of children who are not receiving adequate care or protection. The policy of the HSE is to place children in care settings, preferably in foster care, as close as possible to their home and community. There were 6,236 children in the care of the state in April 2012, the vast majority of whom were in foster care (5,601) and residential care (378).

A very small minority of young people under 18 years of age have highly specialised needs arising from severe behaviour difficulties, due to their childhood experiences or in some cases as a result of injury, accident or disability. The care needs of these young people are generally met by directly provided residential services or services commissioned by the HSE within Ireland.

For a small number of young people, the HSE is on occasion required to make arrangements for their placement in care and treatment facilities outside of the State, primarily in the UK, to allow for access to an individually tailored mix of care and therapeutic services and psychiatric treatment not currently available in this country. This is done on as infrequent a basis as possible and only where such placement is considered to be in the best interest of the child. These placements are made under the order and supervision of the High Court. The HSE has advised me that there were 8 young people detained abroad on high court orders on 6 July last.

The HSE ensure that these placements are suitable and the child's social worker visits regularly and makes arrangements for family or carers of the child to also visit.

The units in which the children are placed are inspected and regulated by their national authorities and the HSE is attentive to the standards of care delivered in these specialised units.

The level of requirement for these services is closely monitored by the HSE's National Director for Children and Family Services.

The general issue of referral of persons abroad for specialised therapeutic interventions is an established feature within our health and social care system as it is in many other jurisdictions of similar size and is not unique to childcare services. However, recourse to such arrangements for children is kept to a minimum and decisions in each case are made in the best interests of the child.

Child Care Services

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

37 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if any action will be taken against those Health Service Executive employees who closed their files on children who subsequently died, whose cases were examined in the report of the independent child death review group; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33328/12]

It is important to note that the Independent Child Death Review Group conducted what was in essence a desktop review of HSE files. This was in accordance with the terms of reference for the Group. The Group did not interview staff and did not make specific findings regarding individual staff members. Consequently right of reply or opportunity was not afforded to the HSE, or indeed any of the service providers engaged with the deceased, to respond to the report'sfindings in relation to matters reported on. The purpose of the review was to establish how these children and young adults died and to focus on the strengths and weaknesses of the State’s involvement. Its purpose was to see how systems can be strengthened, rather than to establish culpability. The review related to deaths over a period of ten years and interventions in the lives of these children over preceding years.

The HSE has indicated that in some cases disciplinary actions were initiated against staff who were involved in cases subsequently examined by the Review Group. It also indicated that there may be further reviews and if cases of personal culpability are found these will be addressed. This would be done in accordance with the relevant employment legislation. The matter of action against employees of the Health Service Executive is one for the HSE to address as the relevant employer.

On a current basis the HSE now automatically has all deaths of children in its care or known to child protection services independently reviewed in order to identify learning and any actions that may be necessary.

Child Care Reports

Denis Naughten

Question:

38 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs when the audit produced on foot of the recommendations in the report on the Roscommon child care case will be published; the current PCCC areas in which this audit has been completed and those in which it is currently ongoing; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33228/12]

I have been informed by the HSE that the audit referred to by the Deputy has now been completed in the former Roscommon, Waterford and Dublin South East Local Health Offices. The HSE intends to publish a composite report of the findings relating to this phase of the audits. This report is nearing completion and it is expected to be published in late summer/early autumn.

There are currently no audits ongoing in other areas pending the agreement on the methodology for the further rollout of the process.

Youth Services

Michael Colreavy

Question:

39 Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of times the international expert reference group and the task group established under the auspices of the National Youth Work Advisory Committee have each met to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33227/12]

Michael Colreavy

Question:

57 Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the reason that the timeframe for the national youth framework has slipped from 2012 to 2013 as stated in parliamentary question replies of 19 June 2012 and 13 March 2012; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33226/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 39 and 57 together.

Work has commenced in my Department on an overarching Children's and Young People's Policy Framework. A public consultation on this Framework is underway at present. It is anticipated that the Children's and Young People's Policy Framework will be available in 2012. This will include a high level policy statement on youth.

It is my intention that the more detailed Youth Policy Framework will be completed in the light of the wider Children's and Young People's Policy Framework and in particular in the light of the public consultation underway at present as well as the expert and youth services providers' input. I am also keen to ensure that youth policy developments at European level during Ireland's Presidency of the EU Council of Youth Ministers in 2013 will inform Ireland's national policy for young people.

To further inform the process, my Department has commissioned a review of international best practice in the field of youth development and support and this will be available shortly. The findings from this review will be explored by practitioners and managers of young people's services, academics, researchers and others at a symposium on Youth Development Outcomes planned for later this month.

Two working groups — an International Expert Reference Group and a National Youth Work Advisory Committee Task Group — are assisting my Department in developing the Youth Policy Framework. The International Expert Reference Group has met on three occasions. The Task Group has met once and both groups have met together jointly on one occasion to coordinate expert and stakeholder input into the draft findings of the international review.

Child Protection

Sean Fleming

Question:

40 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the date she received the most recent report of the special rapporteur on child protection; the reason that the report has not been published; when same will be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33385/12]

The Report of the Special Rapporteur on Child Protection was received by my Department on the 7th of February this year. The report was distributed to relevant Ministerial colleagues for observations on the range of issues highlighted by the report. This consultation process has now been completed and my Department is currently finalising the necessary arrangements to have the report laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas.

Child Care Services

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

41 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of children who received out of hours emergency care services through the Crisis Intervention Service each month since its establishment; the county in which they normally reside; the type and location of care placement that was found for them; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33321/12]

Brian Stanley

Question:

53 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of days each child who received out of hours emergency care services through the Crisis Intervention Service stayed in their crisis intervention placement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33322/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 41 and 53 together.

My Department has sought the information requested by the Deputy from the HSE. I will provide the information to the Deputy when it becomes available.

Foster Care

Dessie Ellis

Question:

42 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the cost of private foster care services used by the Health Service Executive during each of the past five years; the number of children placed in each of these settings during the past five years and to date in 2012; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33324/12]

The HSE has advised me that 249 children were placed in private foster care at a cost of €6,727,698 in 2009, 304 children were placed in private foster care at a cost of €9,581,360 in 2010 and 360 children were placed in private foster care at a cost of €12,893,243 in 2011. The information requested for 2007 and 2008 is not available at this time.

While the HSE was unable to provide details of precise costings to date in 2012, it has advised me that there are currently 251 children in private foster care at a weekly cost of €342,265.

The private foster care company costs include the recruitment, assessment and training of the foster carer. The private company also provides the link worker (professional social worker) to provide support and supervision to the carer,ongoing training, and depending on the circumstances of the placement, support may be available on a 24 hour basis. The HSE generally utilise private foster care companies where children have a higher level of need including stepping down from high support placements.

Private foster companies provide services to separated children seeking asylum and to the emergency out of hours placement service.

The HSE retain the approval authority of the foster carer in all cases.

National Children’s Research Programme

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

43 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the extent to which her Department has evaluated or identified issues affecting the psychological development of children with particular reference to isolating and addressing the most commonly identified contributing factors, if social or economic deprivation, health or environmental issues leading to a creation of feelings of failure with, in some cases, tragic consequences; if any particular strategy is regarded as appropriate or applicable in such circumstances; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33256/12]

The type of research initiated through my Department's National Children's Research Programme and, in particular through the National Longitudinal Study of Children —Growing Up in Ireland — is providing us with a wealth of valuable data on all aspects of children’s development, including their psychological development.

Since 2006,Growing Up in Ireland has been following the development of almost 20,000 children in Ireland across two cohorts: an infant cohort recruited at nine-months; and a child cohort recruited at nine years. The infant cohort children (with their families) have been interviewed at 9 months, 3 years of age and further interviews are planned in 2013 when these children make the critical transition to primary schooling (at 5 years of age). The child cohort children (also with their families) have been interviewed at 9 and 13 years of age.

It is generally accepted that many causes of poor psychological outcomes in both adolescence and adulthood can be traced back to early childhood. By capturing data on these children in early childhood and following their development over time, we will have a better understanding how, why and when these children experience and/or overcome psychological difficulties.

A series ofGrowing Up in Ireland reports have already been published, one of which focuses specifically on children’s psychological development. This report shows that the majority of nine-year-olds in Ireland are developing well without any significant problems in this area of their lives. It also found that however, one in five nine-year-olds have been classified as showing significant levels of emotional or behavioural difficulties and that certain characteristics of the child (e.g. the presence of a chronic illness) and other factors (e.g. economic deprivation, maternal depression, neglectful parenting style and conflict in the home) make children more vulnerable than others. Clearly these data have the potential to inform policy and practice regarding children and their families thus ensuring that policies, services and interventions are targeted, practical and effective.

Question No. 44 answered with Question No. 28.

Children Detention Schools

Mick Wallace

Question:

45 Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of children currently detained at St. Patrick’s Institution, Dublin; her views on the need to introduce interim steps to transfer these 16 and 17 year olds out of that institution; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33340/12]

On 2 April this year I announced a series of measures that set out a clear timetable to end the use of St. Patrick's Institution for the detention of under 18 year olds in the next 2 years and a number of intermediary steps that would support the commitment made in the Programme for Government in this regard. These included extending the children detention school model up to 16 year of age, an action made possible by reductions in recent demand for detention places and subsequent spare capacity within the existing children detention schools. I signed the necessary orders to bring this about and since 1 May 2012 any boy aged 16 years or less, newly remanded or committed, has been detained to a children detention school.

As the Deputy may be aware, my colleague the Minister for Justice and Equality, Mr. Alan Shatter TD, has the line responsibility for St. Patrick's Institution. In addition to the interim measures I have announced, I have been informed that the Irish Prison Service has instituted a programme of placing suitable under 18 year olds into the community under the supervision of the Probation Service, further reducing the demand for places in St. Patrick's Institution. I understand that it is intended to review the effectiveness of this programme towards the end of the year. As of 4 July 2012 I have been advised that there were 21 males aged 17 years and 1 male, who is completing a sentence, aged 16 years being detained in St. Patrick's Institution.

Also, it may interest the Deputy to know that I have, with the consent of my colleague Minister Shatter, signed the statutory instrument that has extended the remit of the Ombudsman for Children to include those children being detained in St. Patrick's Institution and that this has been in effect since 1 July 2012.

With these measures, I am satisfied that good progress is being made on Government policy on ending the use of St. Patrick's Institution.

Inter-Country Adoptions

Michael Moynihan

Question:

46 Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of adoptions registered with the Adoption Authority of Ireland since its establishment to adopters who were issued with their declarations of eligibility and suitability; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33380/12]

In 2011 a total of 188 adoptions were entered into in the Register of Inter-country Adoptions of which 21 were from countries who have ratified the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-Operation in respect of Inter-country Adoption and 167 were from non-Hague countries. To date in the current year 69 adoptions were entered into the Register of Inter-country Adoptions of which 14 were from countries who have ratified Hague and 55 were from non-Hague countries.

The Adoption Authority of Ireland maintain statistics for the number of declarations of eligibility and suitability issued and for the number of adoptions entered in the Register of Inter-country Adoptions. These figures do not require correlation as the processes for completing adoptions can span several years due to various external factors such as considerable variation in the waiting times between the sending of an application pack and the actual completion of an adoption in sending countries, which can be as much as 3 years or more in some cases.

Accordingly, register entries can have been made by the AAI on foot of declarations of eligibility and suitability issued by its predecessor, The Adoption Board.

Court Proceedings

Brendan Smith

Question:

47 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will bring forward legislation to change the in camera rule regarding the reporting of child protection and welfare cases; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33366/12]

The Independent Child Death Review Group highlighted in its report what it considers to be the restrictive nature of the in camera rule and the fact that court proceedings relating to child welfare and protection cases are held in private. The Review Group called for a review of the operation of the rule.

I believe there is scope for more transparency in this area. We need to put in place a mechanism which will ensure that the learning from such cases is shared across the system in order to improve services, while continuing to protect minor's interests and maintain anonymity. This would also allow the public to gain some insight into how the child protection system operates.

With this in mind it is my intention to bring forward regulations to allow access to child welfare and protection proceedings for the purpose of reporting on such proceedings. I believe this can be achieved as long as it is approached sensitively and with due regard to the interests of those who are the subject of proceedings. I do not propose a full range of access to the media, but something more along the lines of Section 40 of the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004, which gives access to a limited range of parties such asbona fide researchers and persons appointed by the Courts Service. The persons allowed to access the family courts under this provision can publish reports on the proceeding so long as the anonymity of the parties is maintained. The pioneering work of Dr Carol Coulter in reporting on family law matters provides an excellent template as to how to balance the right to privacy with the right to a fair, transparent and accountable system of justice.

The exact nature of the regulations, however, will be informed by consultations with my colleague the Minister for Justice and Equality and the Courts Service.

Independent Child Death Review Group

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

48 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her plans for the independent child death review group; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33335/12]

The work of the Independent Child Death Review Group was completed upon the production of its final draft report. I want to commend the authors for the professional and painstaking work they did to produce a report of such high quality. The Review Group was asked to present key details of each case where the individual died from unnatural causes, but to anonymise the report so that the identities of all those children and young adults who passed away were protected. Ms Gibbons and Dr. Shannon were more than equal to the challenge this presented.

It was my clear intention that the report would enter the public domain and inform debate and discussion about the level of State and other services being offered to children and young adults in need of intervention and/or assistance. The Review Group achieved this aim. By publishing the report the Government has demonstrated its commitment to transparency and honesty about the challenges in getting children's services right. Child protection remains a high priority on our agenda and changes at every level — policy, law, structures and individual practitioner — were happening during the period of the preparation of this report, and will continue to happen.

Many of the recommendations echo recommendations made in previous reports. My officials are preparing a single database of various report recommendations in order to streamline reporting to me on these matters. My officials are also preparing a detailed project plan for children's services reform. Actions not already part of change programme will be incorporated into that plan. It is my intention to bring regular progress reports on the reform programme to Government and the relevant Cabinet sub-committee.

Children and Family Services

Seán Crowe

Question:

49 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the distinct budget that has been allocated to the management and reporting structure being put in place in children and family services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33336/12]

In preparation for the establishment of the new Child and Family Support Agency work is under way on disaggregating the Children and Families budget from within the overall HSE financial determination. This necessary work will be completed in the latter half of 2012 in preparation for the planned establishment of the new agency early in 2013. The 2012 budget provision for Children and Families in the HSE National Service Plan is €568 million across all services. A separate figure in respect of management and reporting is not described. The current reporting systems in the HSE are not designed in such a way as to readily facilitate the provision of national data relative to this area.

It is my intention and that of the National Director, Gordon Jeyes as the Chief Executive Officer designate for the new Agency, to ensure that there is full transparency with regard to the composition of the budget for the new Agency when established. I acknowledge the need for improvement and greater accountability in this area as part of our concerted efforts to strengthen the governance and organisational arrangements in respect of children and family services generally.

Governance arrangements for the new Agency will be further addressed in the report of the Task Force of the New Agency.

Children in Care

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

50 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of children in care on 1 June 2012; the type of care setting they were in and the Health Service Executive area they were in; the number of children on that date who were known to the HSE child and family social workers but not in care; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33329/12]

I have been advised by the HSE that at the end of May 2012, there were 6,282 children in care. The following is a breakdown by HSE Area and care settings

Residential and Foster Care

National

HSE DML

HSE DNE

HSE South

HSE West

No. of children in care by care type

6,282

1,567

1,483

1,884

1,348

Residential: Special Care

18

8

4

2

4

Residential:High Support

20

6

2

9

3

Residential: General Care

371

148

97

95

31

Foster Care

3,929

943

861

1,218

907

Foster Care with Relatives

1,795

427

478

515

375

Other Care placements

149

35

41

45

28

In relation to the number of children known to the HSE and social workers but not in care, I have been advised by the HSE that there were approximately 25,000 cases open to child welfare and protection services at the end of April 2011. All reports to child protection services are screened and an initial assessment is undertaken to determine whether a further more comprehensive assessment may be required and to enable a plan for continued intervention or support to be put in place. In 2010, there were 29,277 child protection reports received 16,452 of which related to welfare concerns. The remaining 12,825 related to neglect (4,755), sexual abuse (2,962) physical abuse (2,608), emotional abuse (2,500) and abuse was confirmed in 1,566 of these cases.

Child Protection

Martin Ferris

Question:

51 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the average case-load for social workers working in child protective services; the number of those social workers employed in residential care settings; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33332/12]

The HSE has advised that it does not apply a standardised number of cases per individual social worker. However, an indicative range would be in the region of 15-25 cases per social worker. Actual variations in caseloads are dependent on the complexities of the individual cases, and whether the cases are in relation to child protection or children in care. There is, in general, a higher intake of cases held by duty social workers.

The HSE through a document titled ‘The Induction of Social Workers: A Policy and Guidelines for Children and Families Social Services' provided guidance on the management of caseloads by recommending limited caseloads and supervision and support for newly qualified social workers. This induction policy is the subject of a review and evaluation. Furthermore, as part of the ongoing reform process, a methodology for workload management for all social work staff is also being developed within the HSE.

As regards residential care, most residential units are operated by social care staff, rather than by social workers. All children in care, including those in residential care, should be allocated a social worker. The HSE reported in May 2012 that 97.3% of children in residential care have an allocated social worker.

Child Protection

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

52 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if, arising from the number of reported incidents of child physical, sexual or other abuse, any particular lessons will be learned as to how best the relevant State institutions can become aware of the issues at a much earlier stage; if, arising from these experiences, she has in mind any particular structural changes in the area of child support services whereby it might be possible for the implementation of an early warning system thereby ensuring greater protection for children and young vulnerable adults in the future; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33257/12]

The HSE's 2010 Review of Adequacy provided information on reported incidents of physical abuse, sexual abuse and neglect. Such information has informed learning about the impact of neglect, the benefits of early intervention, the serious impact of adult addiction on children's welfare and the issues that present for older teenagers with high risk behaviours, including suicide.

What is happening now in terms of the HSE's engagement with children and families is as follows:

there is a closer integration across family support, child protection, and child and adult mental heath services;

there is better integration of services and information;

there is a model of managing referrals to ensure rapid response to welfare as well as child protection concerns, known as the differential response model;

the Children First Guidance is being placed on a statutory footing;

improved services within the HSE's Children and Family Services are currently being implemented by the National Director, Mr. Gordon Jeyes, and his national team. This team includes new national posts for Quality Assurance (including implementing all recommendations from inspections and investigations) and national standardised operational systems.

A fundamental structural change is currently under way, which will see the establishment of a dedicated Child and Family Support Agency in 2013. This will radically change how services are delivered to children and families. I established the Task Force on the Child and Family Support Agency in September 2011 under the chairmanship of Ms Maureen Lynott. The Task Force has been examining the necessary transition programme to establish a Child and Family Support Agency, and is basing its work on best practice in child welfare, family support and public administration; consistent with the Government's public sector reform agenda.

I am also committed to a Constitutional referendum to strengthen children's rights.

Question No. 53 answered with Question No. 41.

Health Service Executive Reports

Brian Stanley

Question:

54 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the date on which she will receive a copy of the Health Service Executive’s review of Adequacy of Services for Children and Families Report for 2011; the reason for the delay; if she has met with Health Service Executive management on this matter; and if any further action will be taken regarding this delay. [33323/12]

The Review of Adequacy of Services Report for Children and Families for 2009 and 2010 were laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas and published on the HSE's website, in June 2012. I am advised by the HSE that it is expects to submit the report for 2011 to me by the fourth quarter of this year.

Child Care Services

Gerry Adams

Question:

55 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the percentage of the 2,343 applications made to the childcare capital programme 2012 that listed dampness problems or sewerage problems or sanitary and hygiene problems as reasons for the applications; and the number of these applications that were successful. [33327/12]

The maximum grant available was €50,000 (including VAT). The aim of the funding is to provide support to child care settings to address remedial, maintenance and renovation work, or to purchase equipment.

Following a robust appraisal, 290 applications were approved for funding. Unfortunately it is not possible to isolate the applications concerning the particular problems referred to in the Deputy's question without devoting a considerable amount of time and, in view of the significant amount of work involved in administering the programme, this would not be considered the best use of resources at this time. Pobal has, however, advised that funding for the issues referred to by the Deputy came under either the maintenance or renovation headings. The total figure approved was €6m and of this figure €3.8m was approved for applications that came under the heading of renovations which is 63.5% of total approvals and €0.7m was approved for applications that came under the heading of maintenance which is 11% of total approvals.

The successful applications were those that represented the most complete, coherent, precise and compelling cases for funding. The investment has been directed, to the greatest extent possible, to addressing the most urgent works, and supporting the quality of services making the greatest impact for disadvantaged children and communities.

Child Care Services

John Halligan

Question:

56 Deputy John Halligan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the reason a person (details supplied) in County Dublin has been excluded from school, has no respite and their father has no care at home for them; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33338/12]

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

58 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the reason a person (details supplied) in County Dublin has been excluded from school, has no respite and their father has no care at home for them. [33393/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 56 and 58 together.

I would like to advise the Deputy that the provision of education falls within the remit of the Minister for Education and Skills in accordance with the provisions of the Education Act, 1998.

With regard to the specific case raised by the Deputy, the Department of Education and Skills has advised that an appeal against a decision by the Board of Management of the school to exclude the young person in question was determined under Section 29 of the Education Act, 1998. It is understood that the appeal was not upheld and home tuition has been provided by the Department of Education and Skills pending the availability of a suitable educational placement.

I have been advised that the National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB), under the remit of my Department, has been working with the family over a period of time. The National Council for Special Education also has a role in this case. The NEWB has provided assistance to the family in the appeals process under the Education Act, 1998. An Education Welfare Officer of the Board continues to assist the family and efforts are continuing to access an appropriate educational placement at an early date as well as appropriate clinical services to support the young person in question.

Question No. 57 answered with Question No. 39.
Question No. 58 answered with Question No. 56.

Child Care Services

Denis Naughten

Question:

59 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the plans, if any, she has to expand either community child care subvention programme or other child care supports; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33229/12]

My Department currently administers three support programmes — the Community Childcare Subvention (CCS) programme, the Childcare Education and Training Support (CETS) programme and the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme.

The Community Childcare Subvention (CCS) programme provides funding to community child care not-for-profit services to enable them to charge reduced child care rates to low income and disadvantaged families. Community child care services qualify for grant aid on the basis of the level of service they provide and the profile of the parents benefiting from their service. Because of the current budgetary situation no new applications, for entry into the CCS programme, by service providers are being considered at this time.

The Childcare Education and Training Support (CETS) programme was introduced in September 2010. The CETS programme provides free child care places in both community and commercial services to qualifying FÁS and Vocational Educational Committees (VECs) trainees and students. Again, due to the budgetary situation, no approvals for new child care places are currently being considered under this programme. In the region of €63 million is being provided in 2012 to support the CCS and CETS programmes.

The Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme provides one free pre-school year to all eligible children in the year before commencing primary school. Both community and commercial child care services are eligible to apply to participate in this programme. Due to demographic pressures, which mean that the number of children eligible for the programme will increase by some 3,000, the cost of the programme is expected to rise to almost €176 million in 2012, an increase of almost €10 million and this funding has been provided for. The ECCE programme will continue to be evaluated and developed as resources permit.

Future developments relating to early years care and education will be considered during preparation of the new National Early Years Strategy 2012.

Children and Family Services

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

60 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the details of evaluation that will take place of the two pilot projects providing out of hours social work assistance to children; and the timeframe during which this will take place. [33331/12]

Two out-of-hours pilot projects, one in Donegal and the other in Cork, were commenced by the HSE in 2011. The Donegal project started mid-year and the Cork project started in the third quarter. Both projects were internally evaluated by the HSE, which then commissioned an independent external assessment, undertaken by Trinity College Dublin. This external assessment has been completed and is now being examined by the HSE. The outcome of this assessment process will inform further decisions in the coming months on progression to a national out of hours service model. Clearly whatever model emerges will need to address the challenges of varying demographic demands in both rural and urban settings.

What is important is that children in crisis, no matter where they are, have access to 24 hour social work assistance, and this is what the HSE's National Director for Children and Family Services and I are working towards. It should be noted that at present the Health Service Executive provides out-of-hours emergency services for children at risk in the greater Dublin area through the Crisis Intervention Service, and outside the greater Dublin area through the Emergency Place of Safety Service.

The Crisis Intervention Service provides out-of-hours emergency social work assistance to young people aged under 18 years. The service operates across the greater Dublin area (Counties Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow). Referrals are made by service providers outside of normal working hours i.e. Gardai, hospital and ambulance service personnel. Outside the greater Dublin area, the HSE operates an Emergency Place of Safety Service whereby Gardai can access an emergency placement for children found to be at risk out-of-hours. This service involves the placement of a child in a family setting until the next working day, when the local social work service assumes responsibility for the case. As part of this service Gardai have access to advice and information from a non-HSE social work off-site resource which is provided on a contract basis.

Inter-Country Adoptions

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

61 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the date in September 2012 on which she will sign a new inter-country adoption agreement with Vietnam; and the position regarding any ongoing negotiations with other states regarding inter-country adoption agreements. [33320/12]

Positive discussions recently took place between a visiting delegation of senior officials from the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and the Adoption Authority of Ireland. The discussions lead to finalisation on the contents of administrative arrangements for the resumption of adoptions between Ireland and Vietnam. I have invited the Vietnamese Minister for Justice, Mr. Ha Hung Cuong, to visit Ireland in September at which point I expect that the agreement setting out the administrative arrangements will be signed by the two Central Authorities.

The Adoption Authority has accredited two bodies to facilitate adoptions from Vietnam, ARC and Helping Hands. During their visit, the Vietnamese delegation met with both agencies and I am hopeful that the discussions the delegation held with these accredited bodies will assist future interactions. Details in relation to time frames and processes for adoptions from Vietnam should become clearer following the finalisation of the administrative arrangements by the two Central Authorities. The relevant information will be posted on the Authority's website as soon as it is available.

The Adoption Authority is working to establish administrative arrangements with a number of other Hague countries in relation to inter-country adoptions, as provided for under section 72 of the Adoption Act 2010. The Authority has travelled to a number of jurisdictions in order to make contact with the Central Authorities; advise of our processes and procedures, assess the need for additional administrative arrangements or agreements; and to glean as much information as possible of relevance to prospective adopters from those countries. The visits also provide opportunities to streamline processes on both sides and obtain up-to-date information for prospective adopters on developments in these countries. The most recent engagements by the AAI with its counterpart Central Authorities include:

A delegation from the Adoption Authority travelled to New Delhi, India, on 18th June 2012 to discuss adoption arrangements between the Adoption Authority and CARA, the Indian Central Authority. I understand the Authority is considering the report from this visit.

With the help of the Irish Embassy in Moscow, the AAI is continuing its approaches to its Kazahk counterparts on the issue of inter-country adoptions.

AAI delegations have made visits to the US to discuss issues in relation to inter-country adoptions. The Authority has advised that a Memo of Understanding relating to inter-country adoption between the US and Ireland has been drafted and transmitted to the US State Department in its role as the Central Authority.

The Adoption Authority has accredited Helping Hands for the purposes of adoption mediation with the Philippines and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

On the 12th of June the AAI announced the accreditation of ARC Adoption Ltd for the purposes of adoption mediation with the US.

Proposed Legislation

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

62 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she has had any discussions with the Department of Justice and Equality regarding the necessity for progressing the Children First Bill at the same time as progressing the Criminal Justice (Withholding of Information on Offences Against Children and Vulnerable Persons) Bill 2012; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33326/12]

In the first instance, I would like to make a clear distinction between the Criminal Justice (Withholding of Information) Bill and the draft Heads of the Children First Bill. These two Bills and the National Vetting Bureau Bill are part of a suite of complementary legislative proposals to strengthen child protection.

The focus of the Withholding Bill is on the responsibility of all citizens to provide information to the Gardaí where they have knowledge of a serious sexual crime against a child, in the investigation and prosecution of that crime. The proposed Children First legislation focusses on the protection of individual children about whom a report is made and other children who may be at risk from an alleged perpetrator of abuse. Its aim is to make organisations safe places, and to ensure that key people in authority in these organisations, and named professionals report to and co-operate with the HSE information about abuse and serious neglect.

Given the close link between the legislative programmes of my Department and the Department of Justice and Equality I have regular contact with my colleague Minister Shatter in this regard. In addition, officials from my Department have been meeting and working closely with colleagues in the Department of Justice and Equality to ensure both pieces of legislation are well aligned and complementary. Minister Shatter and I have also worked closely to ensure our communications regarding both pieces of legislation are clear. This process will continue.

Last week I received the Report of the Joint Committee on Health and Children on the draft Heads of Bill for Children First. My consideration of the Report and any changes to the Heads of Bill is ongoing. My officials will continue to liaise closely with counterparts in the Department of Justice and Equality as both pieces of legislation move through the legislative process.

Child Protection

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

63 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the position regarding the establishment of the national child care information system; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33334/12]

Since taking office last year, it has been evident to me that there is a particular need to improve the quality and accuracy of information available from the HSE in relation to child protection services, together with a need to provide more timely and meaningful information. The introduction of the National Child Care Information System will help to greatly improve performance in this area. I am pleased to advise the Deputy that good progress is being made by the HSE with regard to the introduction of this system. An Invitation to Tender (ITT) was issued in January of this year and responses from potential suppliers were received in March. An NCCIS evaluation team in the HSE has had meetings with all of the suppliers who responded and attended at demonstrations of proposed child care ICT systems and or prototypes. The evaluation team is currently completing its assessment of the tenders and will, on completion, recommend a preferred supplier. This process is expected to be complete in the very near future.

The NCCIS will be the central system supporting Social Work services. As a social work case management system, it will be used to record and store the case history of every child and other clients of the service. Management information will be derived automatically from the case management system. The aim of the NCCIS project is to identify and procure an easy to use technology solution to support this type of case recording and to automatically provide management information. A first step was to develop agreed and consistent definitions and business processes across all social work offices. In this regard, a national standardised business process has been rolled out nationally. This will ensure that definitions used are consistent, for example to ensure the number of recorded referrals relates to individual children and not families. I am confident that the process being led by Gordon Jeyes, the HSE National Director of Children and Families Services will deliver the information needed.

The introduction of the NCCIS is a high priority and will help to significantly improve the level, quality and accessibility of information in respect of Children and Family Services.

Departmental Funding

Paudie Coffey

Question:

64 Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Taoiseach if he will provide a list in tabular form of every quango and non-governmental organisation that received any moneys from his Department in the years 2009, 2010 and 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33049/12]

In response to the Deputy's question the following table lists bodies which received moneys from my Department in the period in question.

List of bodies who received funding in period 2009 to 2011

Year

Quango or non governmental organisation in receipt of Funding from the Department of Finance

2009

International Association for Research in Income and Wealth (IARIW)*

Irish Economic Association*

Credit Union Advisory Committee

2010

International Association for Research in Income and Wealth (IARIW)*

Irish Economic Association*

Credit Union Advisory Committee

2011

International Association for Research in Income and Wealth (IARIW)*

Irish Economic Association*

Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland*

Irish Fiscal Advisory Council

Credit Union Advisory Committee

Commission on Credit Unions

*The Department pays a subscription fee to each of these bodies which supports economic research in Ireland.

CSO Quarterly Accounts

Pearse Doherty

Question:

65 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Taoiseach the reason the Central Statistics Office has not yet released the national accounts for the first quarter of 2012; and if he will confirm when this information will be released. [33150/12]

As indicated in the Weekly Release Calendar for 9th-13th July which was published on the CSO website on Thursday 5th July the Quarterly National Accounts Results for Q1 2012 will be published on Thursday 12th July.

On average the publication time lag for the quarterly national accounts is 82 days after the end of the relevant quarter. However, on this occasion the release will be delayed by a further 21 days because of the introduction of the Nace Rev. 2 classification of economic activity. The implementation of the new classification proved quite demanding as it is significantly different from its predecessor (Nace Rev. 1.1). The decision to reclassify the national accounts back to 1995 in both current and constant prices also added to the delay.

Departmental Staff

Simon Harris

Question:

66 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Taoiseach the procedures in place to manage sick leave in all agencies, offices or other bodies reporting to his Department, separate to individuals working directly for his Department; the combined number of sick days taken by staff in the agencies, offices or other bodies reporting to his Department in 2011 and to date in 2012; the financial cost of this sick leave; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33028/12]

Simon Harris

Question:

69 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Taoiseach the number of staff who took sick leave of more than five, ten, 15, 20 days and 21 days or over in 2011 in all agencies, offices or other bodies reporting to his Department; the length of the ten highest incidences of sick leave across these bodies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33117/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 66 and 69 together.

The National Economic and Social Development Office (NESDO) is the only agency under the aegis of my Department. NESDO operates a comprehensive sick leave policy which is outlined in its Policy and Procedures Guidelines. These Guidelines were agreed by both staff and management and approved by the NESDO board, and are reviewed on an annual basis. NESDO's sick leave policy outlines the responsibilities of both staff and management in the management of sick leave. Among the requirements are review meetings ( where individual staff member's pattern of sick leave is examined and discussed with the staff member concerned), return to work meetings (to facilitate a staff member's transition back to work after an instance of long-term certified sick leave), resumption of work forms, and disciplinary measures where sick leave abuse occurs. NESDO's Performance Management and Development System (PMDS) also offers an opportunity for the manager to discuss with a staff member instances where attendance patterns impact on the individual's performance.

NESDO fully complies with the requirements set out in Circular 9/2010.

The information sought by the Deputy in relation to the number of sick leave days in 2011 for NESDO is contained in the following tabular statement.

Number of Sick Leave Days in 2011

Number of Staff

More than 5

4

More than 10

1

More than 15

0

More than 20

0

More than 21

0

The length of the ten highest absences in 2011 was as follows: 12, 9, 7, 6, 5.5, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 days.

The combined number of sick leave days taken by staff in 2011 and to date in 2012 is 76.5 and 36 respectively. While no direct costs were incurred (by the employment of substitute staff or additional overtime), the salary cost of this sick leave in 2011 and to date in 2012 is approximately €15,200 and €7,200 respectively.

Prompt Payments

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

67 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Taoiseach the average time lapse between receipt of invoices for goods and services and actual payment in his Department and in each agency and organisation within his remit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33029/12]

The average time for processing of invoices by my Department from January to June this year was 9.72 working days and 5 working days for the National Economic and Social Development Office.

Departmental Staff

Sean Fleming

Question:

68 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Taoiseach in respect of 2011 the best estimate for 2012 of the number of persons in the following salary ranges; the total cost of the increments in respect of persons in each of these salary ranges: less than €40,000, €40,001-€50,000, €50,001-€60,000, €60,001-€70,000, €70,001-€80,000, €80,001-€90,000, €90,001-€100,000, and more than €100,001; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33030/12]

Details are set out in the following table:

Salary Bands

Number of Staff in Salary Band

Estimated 2012 Cost of Increment

More than €100,001

11

€3,500

€90,001-€100,000

7

€5,819

€80,001-€90,000

19

€15,627

€70,001-€80,000

18

€6,364

€60,001-€70,000

5

€6,753

€50,001-€60,000

33

€14,617

€40,001-€50,000

41

€30,647

Less than €40,000

74

€37,934

Question No. 69 answered with Question No. 66.

Departmental Staff

Tom Fleming

Question:

70 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Taoiseach the number of the over 9,000 persons from the public service who have retired over the past six months with high tax-free lump sum payments in many cases and substantial pensions that have been re-hired on contract; if these persons are now being paid on the double by the State, that is, their pension and the salary they are receiving under the new contracts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33132/12]

No public servants who retired in the past six months have been re-hired by my Department on contract or otherwise.

Consular Services

Dessie Ellis

Question:

71 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will appoint a liaison officer to work with the Spanish police and the family of a person (details supplied) in order to improve the current investigation into the person’s disappearance. [33451/12]

Dessie Ellis

Question:

72 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will express to the Spanish authorities his wish that they do not shelve the missing person’s case of a person (details supplied). [33452/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 71 and 72 together.

My Department has provided extensive consular assistance to the named person's family since her disappearance in 2008 and continues to liaise with the relevant authorities on their behalf.

The police investigation case remains operational and when Embassy officials met with the Judicial Police in Malaga last month they were advised that while the judicial case — a separate question from the status of the police investigation — has been archived, it has not been closed and can be "unarchived" at any time should further information emerge.

The police have assured the Embassy that they have followed up every possible lead, including in recent weeks, and continue to cross-check new cases for any potential links with Amy's disappearance. The police remain at the disposal of the family and of the Embassy.

Proposed Legislation

Gerry Adams

Question:

73 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the current status of the European Communities (Amendment) Bill 2012; and when all Stages of the Bill will be passed. [33034/12]

The European Stability Bill 2012 passed all stages in the Dáil on 20th June and all stages in the Seanad on the 27th June 2012. The European Stability Mechanism Act 2012 (No. 20 of 2012) was signed into law by President Higgins on the 3rd day of July, 2012.

Consular Services

Finian McGrath

Question:

74 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will provide an update on a case (details supplied). [33089/12]

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

76 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will ontact the Greek authorities in relation to the request for an urgent appeal in respect of persons (details supplied) where documents proving the absence of one of the men from Crete at the time of the offences are continually being ignored; and if he will do his utmost to ensure the appeal is conducted in a manner that is within EU law. [33169/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 74 and 76 together.

I am aware of the situation concerning the two men referred to by the Deputies. As neither of them is an Irish citizen it is not possible for my Department to offer them consular assistance. The Greek authorities are under no legal obligation to assist our Embassy with any requests made in connection with this case, as we have nolocus standi in the matter. However, on hearing of their detention, and notwithstanding the fact that neither is a citizen of Ireland, the Irish Embassy in Athens made contact with the Greek police in an effort to convey the Irish Government’s interest in this case on the basis that he is married to an Irish citizen. It was made clear to our Embassy that the authorities in Crete would not provide them with any information regarding this case as no Irish citizen was involved.

To clarify further, the Embassy has certain rights of communication and contact with Irish citizens in Greece to facilitate the exercise of our consular functions under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (1963). This Embassy has no such rights for other persons, even if they are related to Irish citizens.

Departmental Staff

Simon Harris

Question:

75 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of staff who took sick leave of more than five, ten, 15, 20 days and 21 days or over in 2011 in all agencies, offices or other bodies reporting to his Department; the length of the ten highest incidences of sick leave across these bodies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33111/12]

There are no State agencies, offices or bodies under the aegis of my Department.

Question No. 76 answered with Question No. 74.

Human Rights Issues

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

77 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has raised with the appropriate authorities the situation regarding a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33188/12]

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

78 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will endorse the requests of human rights activists. [33285/12]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

82 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to the deteriorating situation of Palestinian prisoners being held in Israeli prisons; and if he has raised this matter with the Israeli authorities; and if he will intervene with them in the case of a person (details supplied). [33348/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 77, 78 and 82 together.

In my replies to earlier Questions about Palestinian hunger strikes, I made clear my continuing concern for Mr. Akram Rikhawi, who was continuing with his protest. He has been on hunger strike now for over 80 days. Although he was for much of this period taking mineral and vitamin supplements, he is believed now to be only taking water, and is in a critical condition. There are reports that he may be periodically blacking out, although he remains in control of his actions.

I had hoped that Mr. Rikhawi's protest could be satisfactorily resolved along the same lines as earlier protests, but this has not proven to be the case so far. I continue to call on both parties to actively consider pragmatic solutions which can avoid a tragic outcome. The Irish Ambassador has conveyed my concerns about this case directly to the Israeli authorities at a senior level, following up on earlier messages, and has also been in contact with the ICRC. Our Representative Office in Ramallah has been in contact with NGOs working with the prisoners and with Mr. Rakhimi's lawyers. The EU has also conveyed its concerns at Head of Mission level.

Prisoner Releases

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

79 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the steps he will take to demand that the British authorities release a person (details supplied) forthwith in line with the commitments in view of his and other participants in the talks at the time of the signing of the Weston Park Agreement in relation to on-the-runs. [33315/12]

The various measures included in the package agreed at Weston Park in August 2001 addressed four issues to assist in the successful implementation of the Good Friday Agreement: policing, normalisation, the stability of the institutions and decommissioning. Proposed draft legislation by the British Government to deal with this specific issue as referred to in paragraph 20 of the Weston Park accord was formally withdrawn by the then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Peter Hain MP, on 11 January 2006. The draft legislation, the Northern Ireland (Offences) Bill, had been opposed by the majority of the Northern Ireland Assembly parties and the Secretary of State was compelled to withdraw the legislation when the only supporting party, Sinn Féin, could not accept certain aspects of the proposed legislation. The Government remains committed to the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.

On the particular issue of securing early release for Mr. McGeough, the prisoner in question initiated legal proceedings to secure an early release and judgment on this has been passed. On 8 July 2011, Mr. McGeough was granted leave to seek a judicial review in an attempt to obtain a Royal Prerogative of Mercy. Mr. McGeough's legal team argued that because he had been previously jailed abroad, the Royal Prerogative of Mercy should be granted to ensure equal treatment with others who benefited from it. On 2 March 2012, the High Court ruled this argument untenable. Officials from my Department continue to monitor developments very closely.

Prisoner Releases

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

80 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to the condition of a prisoner (details supplied) and the need for the British Government to release them forthwith in line with the royal pardon they had been issued, or the fact that they would also qualify under the terms and conditions of the Good Friday Agreement for the release of prisoners and further that on humanitarian grounds they should not be incarcerated any longer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33316/12]

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

99 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he intends to raise the deteriorating health of Marion Price, who is being held without trial in prison in the North, with political leaders during his next visit to the North; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29470/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 80 and 99 together.

I have discussed this case with the Secretary of State on a number of occasions, most recently on 27 April. I have been assured that the process which has led to the prisoner's detention fully adhered to the law and that advice was sought from an independent body to verify that this action was pursued in a correct manner. The NIO has confirmed that a Royal Prerogative of Mercy was given to the prisoner on 30 April 1980 but that this pardon was only granted in respect of a sentence of twenty years for conspiracy to cause an explosion and was not granted in relation to the sentence of two terms of life imprisonment related to the Old Bailey bombing. On 22 February this contention was upheld by the Parole Commission which ruled that the prisoner is subject to life licence in respect to the two life sentences.

I understand that the prisoner's legal representatives are currently exploring the further legal avenues available to the prisoner to appeal this decision. I have also raised concerns surrounding the health of the prisoner with the relevant authorities. The prisoner has been moved to the medical wing of Hydebank Prison and more recently to hospital for medical treatment. My officials are in regular contact with the authorities in Northern Ireland, relevant MLAs, human rights NGOs and others closely following this case. I will continue to raise my concern as appropriate with the relevant authorities.

Treatment of Prisoners

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

81 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to the protests by prisoners in Maghaberry Jail, County Antrim and the effect it would have on the ongoing peace process if the situation further deteriorates due to the lack of action and the need for him to intervene with the authorities to ensure that their grievances are resolved and prisoners are held in decent, safe and humane conditions. [33317/12]

The issue of prisons within Northern Ireland is a devolved matter to the Northern Ireland Executive and, specifically, to the Department of Justice in Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Prison Service. Arising from the Hillsborough Agreement of February 2010, Dame Ann Owers and the Prison Review Team undertook a review of the prison system. In October 2011 their report made forty recommendations on prison reform in Northern Ireland. Minister for Justice Ford has underlined his commitment to full implementation of the recommendations and has described the prison reform process as "unstoppable". I had an opportunity to discuss the reform process with him at our most recent meeting on 20th April. Implementation of the Owers Report remains the most effective way to ensure that prison conditions in Northern Ireland meet the required standard.

Where allegations arise in relation to conditions in Maghaberry Prison, or any other prisons in Northern Ireland, which affect an Irish citizen, the Government continues to raise the matter with the relevant authorities. The Government is of the view that the full implementation of all of the recommendations of the Owers Report remains the most effective way to ensure that conditions within all prisons in Northern Ireland are of an acceptable standard.

Question No. 82 answered with question No. 77.

Human Rights Issues

Patrick Nulty

Question:

83 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will make contact with the Ukrainian ambassador to Ireland with relation to Law 8711 which may undermine the human rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in the Ukraine; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33418/12]

I understand that the Ukrainian Parliament has discussed draft legislation which could ban activities which allegedly promote homosexuality. As the Deputy will be aware, I am on record as having expressed concern about any legislation that could result in further stigmatisation, and even criminalisation, of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people. In relation to this issue, I will ensure that the concerns of the Government are relayed to the Ukrainian authorities.

The Government is strongly committed to combating discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity. We believe that consensual, same-sex relationships between consenting adults should not be criminalised and supports measures to ensure that the right to freedom of expression and association can be enjoyed effectively by all people. Discriminatory legal or administrative provisions, which curtail the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are not acceptable. In our international relations, Ireland strongly supports the promotion and protection of the human rights of all persons, irrespective of their sexual orientation and gender identity. On Friday, 17 June 2011, a historic resolution on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity was adopted at the 17th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. Ireland co-sponsored the resolution. This was the first time a UN resolution explicitly acknowledged human rights protection as covering sexual orientation and demonstrates the increasing commitment across the broader international community to the promotion and protection of the human rights of all persons, irrespective of their sexual orientation and gender identity. Ireland also participated in a panel at the 19th session of the UN Human Rights Council on the report prepared as mandated by this resolution. Ireland will continue to engage actively with this issue at the Human Rights Council.

Fiscal Compact Treaty

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

84 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he expects any significant changes to the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the context of the election of President Hollande; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26281/12]

I do not expect any changes to be made to the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance as a result of the election of President Francois Hollande. Both before and after his election, President Hollande made clear his wish to see the Treaty complemented by an agenda for Growth and Jobs at European level, an approach the Government Strongly supported.

At its meeting on 28/29 July, the European Council adopted a ‘Compact for Growth and Jobs' which contains an ambitious programme of actions to be taken at national and European levels in order to increase investment and to stimulate growth. Ensuring its full implementation will be an important task in the period ahead.

Paramilitary Groups

Micheál Martin

Question:

85 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he intends to meet groups in Derry who are concerned about the activities of RAAD; if he intends to discuss these concerns on his forthcoming visit to Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26509/12]

Micheál Martin

Question:

86 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views regarding the illegal activities by RAAD in Derry; if he has discussed this at the North-South Ministerial Council meetings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26508/12]

Micheál Martin

Question:

87 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views regarding the recent bomb threats in the North of Ireland; if he has discussed these with the First Minister; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26235/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 85 to 87, inclusive, together.

The peace process and the Good Friday Agreement have resulted in a transformation of society in Northern Ireland, perhaps most visibly in the normalisation of daily life and the dramatic decrease in terrorist-related incidents and violence. There remains, however, a threat from paramilitary groups who continue to assert their determination to impose a return to conflict on the people of Ireland. RAAD has claimed responsibility for the murder of one young man in Buncrana earlier this year and for a grim series of shootings and mutilations of young people in Derry. It is clear that these people enjoy no popular support within the community, as evidenced by the unequivocal response by the people of Derry who have publically protested against those who seek to impose their will on the community through violence.

Strong deep cooperation between the Garda Síochána and the Police Service of Northern Ireland is doing much to counter such individuals and groups. The number of arrests in connection with paramilitary activity made in both jurisdictions continues to be significant. The Gardaí and the PSNI will continue to cooperate very closely to combat such activity on both sides of the border. Justice and security matters are not among the six Areas of Co-Operation on which common policies and approaches are discussed and agreed in the North South Ministerial Council. It is however, a matter of close ongoing cooperation between the Government, the Northern Ireland Assembly and the British authorities. The Joint Statement by the Taoiseach and Prime Minister Cameron on British Irish relations in March this year underlined the determination of both governments to support reconciliation and prosperity in Northern Ireland. I reviewed progress in this area with Secretary of State Owen Patterson today and will have an opportunity to do so again when I meet with the Secretary of State, the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister next week.

EU Presidency

Micheál Martin

Question:

88 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the policy areas his Department will be prioritising for the six months that Ireland holds the EU Presidency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26236/12]

Getting the European economy back on track by improving the European Union's global competitiveness, promoting economic growth and creating jobs will be the central theme of Ireland's EU Presidency. Peace, security and development, within an open and transparent rules bound system are essential for sustainable growth and job creation and my Department will focus on a range of key policy areas during our Presidency in support of our overall objectives. Among the areas that will require priority attention are:

Active support for the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the European External Action Service (EEAS) to promote effectiveness and coherence in the EU's response to current foreign policy and security challenges. It is likely that the Middle East and Iran, North Africa and other issues in Africa and elsewhere will require priority attention within the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) during the Irish semester.

We will promote greater coherence in EU external policies, including at the UN and in other multilateral fora. Our priorities within the CFSP will include the promotion and protection of human rights and helping to shape the EU's position on disarmament and non-proliferation. We will work to enhance the role of the EU at the UN on human rights issues; we will also help to implement a political declaration and action plan expected under the EU Human Rights Strategy. Key areas of work in the disarmament and non-proliferation field include preparation for the Non-Proliferation Treaty review process and a major chemical weapons conference in April 2013.

We will contribute to the development of the EU's Common Security and Defence Policy, taking full account of Ireland's interests and building on the experience of Ireland's 2012 Chairmanship of the OSCE in the areas of conflict prevention and resolution.

The Irish Presidency will actively support the work of the EU's permanent President of the European Council and the High Representative to strengthen the EU's relations with its strategic partners. We will support growth and employment for the EU and its partners through enhanced political engagement underpinned by strengthened commercial relations. Coordination among EU Members States and with the EU institutions on the EU's Summits and Ministerial level meetings with the US, Russia and Latin America will be an integral aspect of the Irish Presidency's work in this regard.

We will support the implementation of the incentive-based approach of the European Neighbourhood Policy. This is aimed at promoting democratic reforms and strengthening economic development in the countries to the East and South of the Union.

We will promote the integrity and universality of the International Criminal Court (ICC), encourage further ratification of the Rome Statute of the ICC and seek to ensure that those indicted by the Court are brought to justice.

The Irish Presidency will engage in targeted efforts to reinforce and improve the EU's civil protection instruments.

Issues on the enlargement agenda arising during our Presidency will be shaped by progress made in the accession negotiations in the interim. It can be expected, nonetheless, that we will continue oversight of the accession negotiations with Iceland, Turkey and Montenegro. It is expected also that Croatia will accede to the European Union on 1 July 2013.

As Presidency in the lead up to the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Review Summit in September 2013 we will highlight areas to be considered as part of the post-2015 framework such as: human rights; equity / inclusiveness; climate change and sustainable development; economic growth and employment; agriculture and industrial development; governance, fragile states and vulnerability; and security-related issues.

We will seek to address the linkages between hunger, nutrition and climate justice by ensuring that these linkages are adequately reflected in the new international development goals post-2015. We will oversee also the EU's input to the UN General Assembly's reporting and assessment of the state of the marine environment.

The Irish Presidency will champion greater links between humanitarian relief and development aid. Drawing on lessons from the Horn of Africa emergency in 2011 and input from our partners in the field, we will explore the practical application of these principles and showcase examples of best practice. We will place particular emphasis on the EU's approach to disaster risk reduction. We will progress the implementation of the European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid and work to develop new and innovative ways in which to ensure that the common set of humanitarian principles and commitments can be put into practice.

We must also be prepared to ensure that we are in a position to respond in an appropriate way to a range of issues that may emerge. Ireland has won a high reputation on six previous occasions for maintaining its flexibility and for managing an efficient, effective and impartial presidency, with clearly defined, realistic and achievable goals. In the post-Lisbon institutional framework, it will be even more important to work closely with partners and with all the institutions of the Union. We will seek to ensure that in the year which marks the 40th anniversary of our accession, the people of Ireland can continue to be proud of our contribution to the European Union.

Undocumented Irish

Micheál Martin

Question:

89 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has discussed the issue of the undocumented Irish in the USA with dignitaries that he has met recently; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30549/12]

The welfare of the Irish abroad is a very important priority for the Government. There are particular concerns in the United States where addressing the position of the undocumented Irish and reforming our migration arrangements are priorities for the Government in its contacts with the US Administration and Congress. The Government's keen interest in a resolution of the situation for undocumented Irish migrants is well recognised and accepted by our friends within US Administration and Congress. Their advice to us remains that comprehensive reform of the US immigration system and procedures is likely to be the only manner by which this can be achieved.

With a view to helping some positive momentum around immigration issues insofar as they relate to Ireland, enabling Irish people to apply for E-3 temporary U.S. work visas has been a particular focus of our efforts. If passed this would make 10,500 E-3 visas available to Irish citizens each year. During my visit to Washington in February this year, I reviewed progress on E-3 issues during meetings with Senators Leahy, Brown and Schumer and with the Friends of Ireland group in the House of Representatives and with Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns. I also discussed prospects for progress with the Congressional Delegation led by leader Nancy Pelosi in Dublin in March.

During his recent visit to Washington, the Taoiseach raised immigration with President Obama and with Senators Leahy, Brown and Schumer and the Friends of Ireland Group. In June, I spoke again with Senators Leahy and Brown to reiterate the importance the Government attaches to this issue and our support for their efforts to make progress. Most recently, I raised the subject with Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania during his visit to Ireland on 2 July. On 15 June, President Obama made an announcement in relation to the specific category of young illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children and measures to exempt them from deportation and to be granted temporary work permits. It is too early to determine what effect, if any, this will have on the overall immigration debate.

While I am heartened by the advances that have been made so far towards bi-partisan consensus in the US Senate towards enabling Irish people to apply for E-3 visas, I am conscious that passing any immigration-related legislation in an election year in the US presents very significant challenges. Through our Embassy in Washington, the Government will continue to work closely with all relevant actors, including our friends in Congress and with Irish-American community representatives with a view to ensuring that every opportunity is taken to put an E-3 visa scheme in place.

North-South Ministerial Council

Micheál Martin

Question:

90 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the actions being taken in relation to issues discussed at the North-South Ministerial Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30548/12]

The North South Ministerial Council (NSMC) meets in three formats: Plenary, Institutional and Sectoral. To date in 2012 there have been 16 Sectoral meetings, an Institutional meeting on 27 April and a Plenary meeting on 15 June. The next Institutional meeting is planned for the early autumn and the next Plenary is scheduled for 2 November 2012. At the meeting in Plenary format at Farmleigh on 15 June discussions covered a wide range of issues including the economic challenges faced in both jurisdictions, the impact of the euro-zone crisis, bank restructuring and lending and NAMA. The meeting reviewed progress across a range of areas of North-South co-operation, including the work of the North-South bodies, particularly as they relate to fostering economic recovery on the island. Ministers re-iterated their commitment to practical cooperation on these issues, and to exploring areas where cost savings might be achieved.

We discussed the opportunities for co-operation in exploiting the trade opportunities in developing markets. The benefits from maximising the potential of major tourism events including ‘The Gathering' were noted. We welcomed continuing collaboration on innovation supported by the European Union and noted the successful all-island "Collaborate to Innovate" Conference on European research and innovation funding for SMEs which took place on 7 June 2012 in Belfast and which was addressed by EU Commissioner Máire Geoghegan Quinn. We also discussed the challenges and priorities for the upcoming Irish EU Presidency in 2013, and explored the potential for co-operative actions during the Presidency, including meetings of senior officials, the hosting of EU events in both jurisdictions and the inclusion of EU matters as an Agenda item at relevant NSMC sectoral meetings.

The Decade of Commemorations and the importance of ensuring that all commemorative events are respectful and inclusive was also discussed.

We welcomed continued progress on business planning for the establishment of the Radiotherapy Unit at Altnagelvin in Derry which will benefit patients on both sides of the border. Work on this important facility is planned to commence in 2013 and the Unit should be operational in 2016. The very successful North/South conference on alcohol misuse which was held in Armagh earlier this year was also welcomed.

The importance of co-operation on Third Level Education was discussed, taking account of the likely increase in student mobility between the two jurisdictions and of continuing collaborative action between third level institutions to assist with cost savings and on research and development.

We discussed progress to date on the A5 and A8 road projects, noted that the government remains committed to the completion of the A5 and approved a funding and implementation plan for the A5 project to the end of 2016 based on existing financial commitments.

We agreed to finalise deliberations on the North South Consultative Forum at the next NSMC Plenary meeting, and welcomed recent progress in establishing the North-South Parliamentary Forum.

We also discussed the North West Gateway Initiative, welcoming the progress that has been made on a range of projects. I expect that we will meet with the relevant Ministers, before the next NSMC Institutional meeting, to ensure that the measures to be taken forward through the Initiative are effectively delivered through the work of their Departments.

Elements of the St Andrews Agreement Review were advanced at the meeting. In regard to the Review's first Term of Reference, Ministers endorsed the recommendations concerning the various North South Bodies that had been agreed at sectoral meetings. Work is progressing on a review of the financial memoranda of the North/South bodies. In relation to shared services, work has commenced on exploring the potential for realising efficiency savings within the Bodies, and a report will be submitted to the NSMC in the autumn. The First Minister, deputy First Minister, Taoiseach and I will reflect and consult on Terms of Reference Two and Three of the St Andrews Review, which include the case for additional areas of co-operation within the NSMC, with a view to decisions being taken on these at the November 2012 Plenary meeting. We will continue to work with our Northern colleagues in the NSMC to ensure that additional opportunities to engage cooperatively in areas where there is scope for joint action are identified to the maximum extent possible.

European Council Meetings

Micheál Martin

Question:

91 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to a study carried out by the Department of Political Science and Centre for European Research in the University of Gothenberg, Sweden, in relation to attendance by member states at EU ministerial meetings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30551/12]

The Swedish research paper referred to by the Deputy is a useful historical document covering Ministerial attendance across all Member States at EU Council meetings between 2000 and 2010. This shows that Ireland was ranked 5th during the 2000 to 2010 period. However, this has been significantly improved upon by the current Government. In 2011 Ireland rose to 2nd overall in terms of Ministerial attendance at Councils, including outperforming France and Germany. This is contained in the ‘Accountability Report 2011' published last April by European Movement Ireland. This showed that Ireland had an overall Ministerial attendance rate of 86%, with Ministers attending 61 out of 71 Councils that took place from 9th March to end December 2011. This was an almost 10% increase on the attendance level by Ministers of the previous Government when Ministers only attended 63 out of a total of 82 Council meetings held in 2010, and of the 9 Council meetings held between January and 9 March 2011, Ireland was represented at Ministerial level on only one occasion, at Ecofin in February 2011 by the late Brian Lenihan TD, Minister for Finance. I am happy to record that there has been a 100% attendance record by Ministers at the 39 Council meetings held during the recent Danish EU Presidency.

Humanitarian Access

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

92 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the action that has been taken at EU and UN level to ensure there is humanitarian access for affected civilians in the region of South Korodofan and the Nuba Mountains in Sudan; if he will report on Irish Aid assistance to Sudan and South Sudan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33533/12]

The Government remains seriously concerned about the situation in Sudan and South Sudan. We are working with our EU partners to ensure that, in addition to a focus on the political and security situation, priority is given by the international community to the vital issue of humanitarian access to people and communities affected by the conflict and the tension in the region. We will continue to use all available opportunities, within the EU and internationally, to raise these issues.

The situation in Sudan and South Sudan, including the humanitarian crisis in Southern Kordofan, has been discussed by EU Foreign Ministers at their meetings over recent weeks and months. In January, with Ireland's encouragement, the EU urged the Government of Sudan to allow safe and unhindered access for international humanitarian workers to all civilians, and reiterated its readiness to provide humanitarian assistance. The EU also emphasised that the ongoing conflicts in Southern Kordofan, Blue Nile and Darfur remain obstacles to the provision of the full range of support we would like to provide to Sudan, and in the region. In April, the EU called on the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N) to engage in an inclusive political process to resolve the ongoing conflict.

The UN Security Council on 2 May and 17 May adopted Resolutions demanding that both Sudan and South Sudan fulfil their obligations under international law to allow access by humanitarian agencies to civilian populations in need of assistance.

Since the adoption of the UN Security Council Resolutions, there has reportedly been some calming of the tensions between Khartoum and Juba. However, the issue of humanitarian access has remained unclear, despite continuing pressure from the EU and other parties. On 27 June, the Sudanese Government finally approved a Tripartite Proposal by the African Union, the Arab League and the United Nations for the delivery of humanitarian assistance to civilians in the areas held by the SPLM-N. This nine point agreement provides for the right to humanitarian assistance to the Sudanese affected by the conflict in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan without discrimination and the immediate cessation of hostilities in the region. It also includes a joint plan between the Sudanese Government and the UN to deliver humanitarian relief to those in need in both states.

We are in contact with a range of parties on the ground, but unfortunately there is no clarity yet as to whether the new deal on humanisation access is actually being implemented. I very much share the concerns expressed by the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, who has called for urgent access to all of the communities affected by the conflict. It is vital that neutral, impartial, independent and experienced humanitarian workers can reach these people to assess their needs and to immediately deliver the assistance necessary for their survival.

The Government has provided substantial assistance for those affected by the conflict in this region. Earlier this year, I approved an allocation of €2 million for the UN-managed Common Humanitarian Funds for both the Republic of Sudan and South Sudan. On 24 May, in recognition of deterioration in the humanitarian situation I announced a further funding allocation of €3m. These funds are being provided to help UN agencies and NGOs target the most critical humanitarian needs across both countries, including in areas affected by conflict and by displacement of populations from the Blue Nile and South Kordofan areas. In addition, almost €1.5 million in assistance has been allocated to a number of key Irish NGO partners, including Goal, Trócaire and World Vision for programmes in Sudan and South Sudan under the annual Irish Aid Humanitarian Programme Planning funding scheme.

We will continue to monitor closely the situation in South Kordofan, Blue Nile, and other affected areas of both countries. Together with other EU Member States, we will continue to press for unrestricted humanitarian access to affected civilians. We also stand ready to provide further assistance to our partner agencies as needs are identified on the ground.

Overseas Development Aid

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

93 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the position regarding the review of the 2006 White Paper on Irish Aid and the timeline for completion and publication of the review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33534/12]

The 2006 White Paper on Irish Aid set out clearly the basis and priorities for Ireland's official aid programme, which is working on behalf of the Irish people to improve the lives of the world's poorest people. The programme has been recognised internationally for its focus on poverty and hunger, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, and for its leadership in making aid more effective.

The Review of the White Paper on Irish Aid is one of the commitments contained in the Programme for Government. We wanted to carry out such a Review to examine the progress being made in our aid programme, to assess the changed context, globally and here at home, and to set out our future priorities.

A very vibrant public consultation was undertaken for the Review between February and April of this year, which was overseen by the independent Irish Aid Expert Advisory Group. We met over 1,000 people across Ireland and in our partner countries, and received 165 written submissions. We also undertook consultation across Government Departments and in the Houses of the Oireachtas. It was encouraging to see so many Members of the Oireachtas participate in these consultations. In particular I would like to acknowledge the written responses that we received from the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Joint Committee on European Union Affairs, and others.

The contributions made during the consultation period are now being examined carefully and work is beginning on the Report on the Review of the White Paper. I intend that the Report and its recommendations will be submitted to Cabinet for approval in October, and that it will then be published.

Consular Services

Dessie Ellis

Question:

94 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to the situation in which Irish citizens studying with pilot training college Ireland have become stranded in Florida, USA following the untimely termination of the college’s contract with Florida Information Technology College; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33541/12]

I wish to assure the Deputy that my Department is very aware of the appalling situation in which these students have found themselves and we are in regular communication with the students in Florida and their families in Ireland through our Consulate in Atlanta and our Consular Division here in Dublin. Ireland's Consul General in Atlanta, Paul Gleeson, travelled to Florida on Thursday and met with the affected students to offer support and any available consular assistance. As in all such cases, we will continue to monitor developments closely and to provide all appropriate consular assistance, including by helping to relay messages to family in Ireland and by providing emergency travel documentation where the need arises.

Overseas Development Aid

Anthony Lawlor

Question:

95 Deputy Anthony Lawlor asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if Irish Aid currently has a programme for population planning in aid recipient countries; if so, where; if not, the reason therefor; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33544/12]

As we know from our own history, population growth is an enormously complex, multi-dimensional issue. The challenges posed by a rapidly expanding world population need to be addressed by tackling the root causes of that expansion. In poor countries, extreme poverty, food insecurity, inequality, high death rates and high birth rates are all linked in a vicious cycle. Irish Aid, Ireland's official development aid programme, is focused on dealing with these challenges and breaking that cycle.

Investing in health, particularly sexual and reproductive health, and in education for women and girls is fundamental.Women and girls who have at least completed primary school have fewer children. Women who can access information on family planning options and safe, effective and affordable contraception use it to plan their family size in a way that maximises their own potential and that of their children.Providing women with access to reproductive health care also has a transformative effect on women's vulnerability to poverty, hunger and economic and social discrimination. The Government's aid programme, administered by Irish Aid in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, aims to address the root causes of poverty.Rapid population growth alone is not the cause of poverty. The situation is more complex:poverty actually drives high population growth. Irish Aid responds to this challenge through our work in our priority countries and through our engagement with the multilateral system. In 2010, for instance, through Irish Aid, the Government provided €145 million in support to the health and education sectors in our nine partner countries and through global level partnerships. Since 2006, we have provided almost €30 million to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to support better reproductive health services for women in the developing world.

In 2011, as a member of UNFPA's Executive Board, Ireland worked to develop strategies and programmes that reach the poorest and most vulnerable women and allow them to make real choices over their lives.We have recently joined the international Partnership for Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health which promotes access to family planning.

Ireland's aid programme is strongly focused on sub-Saharan Africa, where the challenge of population growth is acute. In Ethiopia, our support for the Health Extension Programme has seen impressive growth in the uptake of contraception in rural areas. In both Tanzania and Mozambique, Irish support for the health sector has contributed to better delivery of district level reproductive health care. In Lesotho, in partnership with the Clinton Health Access Initiative, we have contributed to improved access to family planning by women living in very remote mountain villages. The international community has made real progress on many important development goals in the last ten years.School enrolment and child health have improved, child deaths have been reduced and access to clean water and sanitation has been expanded. With just three years remaining for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals we are committed to helping repeat this level of progress in the area of reproductive health.

Diplomatic Representation

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

96 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he is reviewing the provision of diplomatic and consular services and full embassies to states who have closed their embassies here in recent months; the process for deciding in which states full diplomatic services are assigned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33655/12]

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.

Human Rights Issues

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

97 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on the status of Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty in Iraq; the steps being taken at UN and EU level to protect the safety of Iranian refugees at both camps; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33656/12]

In December 2011 the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees and the Government of Iraq agreed a process for the closure of Camp Ashraf in Iraq, whose terms were accepted by the camp residents. This process began in February, under the supervision of the UNHCR and the UN Special Representative Martin Kobler. Of the 3,400 residents in Camp Ashraf, about 2,000 have now transferred to Camp Hurriya near Baghdad. This is designated as a Temporary Transit Location from which the residents will move on to permanent accommodation in other countries, which both the residents and the Iraqi authorities now agree is the desired solution. The transfer process to Camp Hurriya is a difficult one, with great distrust and suspicion between the two sides.

In Camp Hurriya, the UNHCR is processing the individual residents and determining where best to relocate them. The UNHCR is encouraging countries to make places available for those residents who do not already have an entitlement to resettlement elsewhere.

The protection and human rights of the residents during this process are concerns for Ireland, its EU partners and the wider international community. The EU has enunciated a series of essential principles in relation to Camp Ashraf and its residents:

1. Iraq is once again a fully sovereign state, no longer under the tutelage of either the US or the UN. It has sovereignty over the camps, and is within its rights in seeking to move Camp Ashraf away from the Iranian border.

2. Equally, however, this means that the Government of Iraq is responsible for the safety and humane treatment of the residents.

3. There must be no question of forced return of any residents to Iran — and the Iraqi authorities have accepted this.

4. The process under the UNHCR is the agreed — and only — means of resolving the situation of Camp Ashraf, and should be adhered to.

In relation to the living conditions in Camp Hurriya, I call on the Iraqi authorities to allow all reasonable provision for the safety and comfort of the residents, including the transfer of personal property from Camp Ashraf. In doing so, we recognize that it is the judgement of the UNHCR that Camp Hurriya is of an acceptable standard to accommodate refugees. The precise status of this camp is a matter for the UNHCR and the Iraqi authorities.

Economic and Monetary Union

Micheál Martin

Question:

98 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on a two tier Europe with an increase in fiscal and political union described by Chancellor Merkel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28972/12]

The question of the future direction of the European Union is, of course, a matter for all 27 Member States. For its part, the Government has expressed its strong view that any future arrangements must avoid fragmentation of the Union and that maintaining the integrity of the Single Market is a matter of the highest importance.

At the European Council meeting on 28/29 June, President Van Rompuy presented his report "Towards a Genuine Economic and Monetary Union" to the Heads of State and Government. He identified four ‘building blocks':

an integrated financial framework;

an integrated budgetary framework with commensurate steps towards common debt issuance;

an integrated economic policy framework; and

strengthened democratic legitimacy and accountability.

President Van Rompuy has now been invited to develop these ideas, in close cooperation with the Presidents of the Commission, ECB and Eurogroup, and to come forward with a specific and time-bound roadmap for the achievement of a genuine economic and monetary union.

He will examine what can be done within the current Treaties and which measures would require Treaty change. He will make an interim report in October and a final report before the end of December 2012.

Ireland has a very strong national interest in a robust and stable currency, in a strong and coherent European Union, and the Government looks forward to engaging with President Van Rompuy in this important work over the period ahead.

Question No. 99 answered with Question No. 80.

Legislative Programme

Gerry Adams

Question:

100 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Finance the current status of the European Stability Mechanism Bill 2012; and when all Stages of the Bills will be passed. [33034/12]

The European Stability Bill 2012 passed all stages in the Dáil on 20 June and all stages in the Seanad on the 27 June 2012.

The European Stability Mechanism Act 2012 (No. 20 of 2012) was signed into law by President Higgins on the 3rd day of July, 2012.

Customs and Excise

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

101 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Finance the protocol and requirements that exist for small airports for customs and excise inspectors upon the landing of unscheduled flights at these airports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33041/12]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the terms and conditions of approval of airports by the Revenue Commissioners, as a place for the arrival of aircraft from outside the State, requires the operator/proprietor/licensee of each airport to notify Customs of all arrivals and to maintain a record of all such arrivals. In general, customs controls at small airports are risk-based and carried out by mobile Revenue staff. In the event of an unscheduled landing by a flight from abroad, the person in charge of the airport is required to report to Customs giving details of the landing, the pilot, the registration of the aircraft, whether there are goods or passengers on board, place from where the aircraft came and is destined, whether the landing was a forced landing outside the control of the pilot and whether the pilot expects to be able to continue the flight. This information is used for risk assessment by Customs and will determine what action is necessary.

It is important to note by way of context that the operating environment for Customs has been shaped to a significant degree by the Internal Market and the related principles of freedom of movement within the EU. Of specific relevance are the abolition of routine and systemic Customs checks on goods and passengers moving within any part of the EU and the elimination of Customs controls on the baggage of intra-Community passengers other than for anti-smuggling checks. This is particularly relevant in the case of the smaller airports outside of Dublin, Cork and Shannon where passenger traffic is predominantly intra-Community. In fact some of the smaller airports have no international flights at all. In this context, Revenue's approach has of necessity been to balance the freedom of movement principle in regard to people and goods with the need to control smuggling and enforce prohibitions and restrictions.

Customs and Excise

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

102 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Finance the number of unscheduled flights into Ireland West Airport, Knock, County Sligo and Galway Airport in the past three years in respect of which customs and excise were not notified; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33042/12]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that arrangements have been in place for some time, between the operators/ proprietors/licensees at the airports in question and the Revenue Customs Service, to ensure that all unscheduled flights arriving into these airports are notified to Customs. These arrangements are working well and the Commissioners are satisfied, insofar as possible, that all unscheduled flights have been properly notified. All aircraft arrivals at Ireland West Airport Knock, Sligo and Galway are monitored on an ongoing basis and, based on risk analysis, profiling, review of intelligence and other factors, a decision is made on whether Customs inspection is deemed necessary. Passengers and crew from all aircraft, including private aircraft, entering the State are subject to the same checks, including individual profiling, physical inspection/examination by Customs, and screening by a drug detector dog.

The risk of smuggling (including drug smuggling) using unscheduled flights is fully appreciated by Revenue and is the subject of continuous assessment and risk analysis. Each airport is the subject of a formal risk assessment process that has regard to the nature of the facility, traffic frequency, routes, national and international seizure trends, specific intelligence and other risk indicators. Traffic with origins and destinations with a high-risk rating attract particular interest. The level of assessed risk at each location then informs the frequency of physical inspections. This approach is similar to that employed throughout the EU, is in keeping with recognised best practice and represents the most effective deployment of scarce resources.

Finally, it should be noted that the terms and conditions of approval of each of the airports in question by the Revenue Commissioners, as a place for the arrival of aircraft from outside the State, require the operator/proprietor/licensee of each airport to notify Customs of all arrivals and to maintain a record of all such arrivals.

Disabled Drivers

John Paul Phelan

Question:

103 Deputy John Paul Phelan asked the Minister for Finance if there has been changes recent to the URT rebate on vehicles purchased by the families of disabled people; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33172/12]

John Paul Phelan

Question:

104 Deputy John Paul Phelan asked the Minister for Finance if the fuel and motor tax rebates for vehicles of families with disabled children have been abolished; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33173/12]

John Paul Phelan

Question:

105 Deputy John Paul Phelan asked the Minister for Finance if there are any rebates on URT and VAT for the purchase of MPVs or buses for the purpose of transporting children with spina bifida; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33174/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 103 to 105, inclusive, together.

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that Statutory Instrument (S.I.) 353/1994 Disabled Driver and Disabled Passenger Regulations outline the provisions under which certain vehicles may qualify for relief from VRT and VAT when used for the transportation of disabled passengers.

Regulation 2 of the above mentioned S.I. outlines a "qualifying organisation" and Regulation 3 outlines the medical grounds under which a disabled person may be assessed.

Regulations 16 and 17 outline the provisions under which fuel rebates and motor tax remissions are allowed.

There have been no recent changes to the provisions of S.I. 353/1994.

However, I have also been informed by the Revenue Commissioners that it has come to their attention that occasions have arisen where relief from VRT and VAT on a vehicle was allowed to organisations which are primarily funded by the State. As the provisions of S.I. 353/1994 do not apply to such organisations, procedures were put in place to ensure that relief for the payment of VRT and VAT is only allowed on vehicles purchased by "qualifying organisations" as provided for in legislation.

In addition it was also brought to the Commissioners' attention that relief of the residual VRT was allowed to qualifying individuals on the purchase of used vehicles in the State where no VRT was paid in the first instance, e.g. on the purchase of a used vehicle by a qualifying individual where the relief was granted to an earlier owner of the vehicle who had previously qualified for the relief.

Consequently procedures were put in place to ensure that relief for the payment of VRT and VAT will only be allowed to qualifying persons or organisations in situations where the person or organisation has borne or paid VAT, VRT or residual VRT in respect of a vehicle or in respect of the adaptation of a vehicle. If the VRT on a vehicle has been fully refunded at an earlier date under the scheme, there is no residual VRT available to be refunded on a subsequent sale to a second qualifying person and this should be reflected in the price of vehicle at the time of resale.

VAT Rates

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

106 Deputy Mary Mitchell O’Connor asked the Minister for Finance his views on the current VAT rate on fruit juices, bottled water, and smoothies is appropriate at 23%; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33280/12]

All fruit juices, soft drinks, bottled water and smoothies are subject to the standard VAT rate, currently 23%. The standard rate is the VAT rate applied to such products in the majority of EU Member States. Prior to 1992 bottled waters and fruit juices had applied at the zero rate, but were made subject to the standard rate from 1 November 1992 in order to correct a competitive anomaly, as similar competing products such as soft drinks were standard rated. The change in the VAT treatment coincided with the removal of excise duty from bottled water. Where a product was zero rated prior to 1 January 1991 but subsequently standard rated, it is not possible to reintroduce the zero rate for that product. However, under Annex III of the EU VAT Directive, Member States are permitted to apply a reduced rate of not less than 5% to soft drinks, bottled water and fruit juices. It would therefore be possible to apply our reduced rate of 9% or 13.5% to these drinks. However, a reduction in the rate of VAT on such products would be costly to the Exchequer and I have no plans to reduce the rate of VAT on bottled water, fruit juices or smoothies.

Tax Reliefs

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

107 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Finance if there are any tax breaks available for small businesses to send their employees on part-time courses to help them support and improve their business; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33552/12]

In general, all companies are entitled to claim a deduction for costs wholly and exclusively incurred for the purposes of the trade. There are a number of statutory prohibitions on deductions and these are set out in Section 81, Taxes Consolidation Act 1997. In addition, a deduction in respect of entertainment expenses is expressly forbidden. Where the cost of a training course is reimbursed to a staff member, the Revenue Commissioners will normally allow a deduction to the employer on the basis that the cost is incurred wholly and exclusively for the purposes of the trade — from the company's point of view such a cost would normally be included as part of its staff costs for the year. Tax relief is also available under Section 473A of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997, subject to certain conditions and thresholds, at the standard rate of income tax (20%), for qualifying fees paid by an individual in respect of a third level education course including part-time and postgraduate courses. An individual can claim tax relief on fees paid by him/her in respect of an approved third level course pursued by him/her and on fees paid by him/her in respect of an approved course pursued by other individuals.

Section 476 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997, also provides tax relief for fees paid by individuals for training courses in the areas of information technology and foreign languages. The training courses, which can be up to two years duration, must be approved by FÁS. The tax relief, which is at the standard rate of tax, is available for fees of up to €1,270, subject to a minimum amount of €315. To qualify for the relief, the individual must receive a certificate of competence on completion of the course.

Departmental Properties

Seán Kyne

Question:

108 Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Finance the schedule for the vacating of the Central Bank of Ireland on Dame Street, Dublin; and if members of the public will be afforded the opportunity to contribute suggestions on the future possible uses for this building. [33639/12]

I would advise the Deputy that I have no function in the matter of accommodation arrangements at the Central Bank and that the matter has not been discussed at Cabinet.

I understand from the Central Bank that based on current construction programme projections and planning time lines, it is expected that the Central Bank would occupy the new building on the North Quays by the second quarter of 2015.

The Bank has stated on a previous occasion that any relocation of its headquarters may involve the retention of some activities in its building on Dame Street for a number of years in any event, as the relocation would not take place quickly.

Tax Code

Stephen S. Donnelly

Question:

109 Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 40 of 20 June 2012, if he will instruct or request his officials, or the Revenue Commissioners, to prepare an analysis of the estimated net cost to the Exchequer of making child care tax deductible, using the data on the cost of child care from the review of the cost of a full-day child care placement published by the National Children’s Nurseries Association in 2007, adjusted as appropriate or comparable research, and data on the numbers of families using childcare from the report A Social Portrait of Children in Ireland, published by the Office for Social Inclusion in 2007, adjusted as appropriate or comparable research, in order to compensate for the fact that the Revenue does not capture data on the overall net cost of child care. [33024/12]

Stephen S. Donnelly

Question:

110 Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 40 of 20 June 2012, if, in the case that he is not in a position to have such analysis prepared within the Department or the Revenue, he will release funding in order to allow me to commission such analysis from independent experts in the field. [33025/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 109 and 110 together.

I understand that comprehensive analysis of the options to support the provision of affordable and accessible childcare was undertaken in 2005.

Having considered the options available, the then Government introduced the early childcare supplement, providing a direct payment to all families with young children. In addition, certain other incentives were introduced in order to encourage an increase in the supply of childcare places.

At that time, tax relief for childcare costs was considered but not introduced, as it would only have been of benefit to those in the tax net and would most likely have been absorbed by childcare providers in the form of higher prices. Analysis showed that a standard rated childcare costs allowance of €4,000 per annum would cost the Exchequer €64 million per annum and would have resulted in a reduced liability to income tax of only €15 per week for those availing of it.

The Deputy will be aware that the early childcare supplement has since been abolished as the measure was very costly, poorly targeted and possibly led to increased charges. In its stead, the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme, which provides for a free pre-school year for children in the year before commencing primary school, was introduced.

In my view the concerns raised in the 2005 analysis regarding tax relief for childcare costs are still valid. This is particularly the case considering the major changes in the economy that have occurred in the intervening period. Furthermore, I would have concerns about basing any analysis of the cost of making childcare tax deductible on data provided in reports that were compiled five years ago.

To allocate already stretched resources to complete the analysis requested would not, in my view, be an efficient use of these resources. This is especially the case where it is likely that the cost of such a tax relief would be prohibitive for the State at the current time. Furthermore, I am not in a position to release funding to you for the commissioning of such an analysis. Requests for expenditure might be more appropriately addressed to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

Departmental Funding

Paudie Coffey

Question:

111 Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide a list in tabular form of every quango and non-governmental organisation that received any moneys from his Department in the years 2009, 2010 and 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33049/12]

In response to the Deputy's question the following table lists bodies which received monies from my Department in the period in question.

List of bodies who received funding in period 2009 to 2011

Year

Quango or non governmental organization in receipt of Funding from the Department of Finance

2009

International Association for Research in Income and Wealth (IARIW)*

Irish Economic Association*

Credit Union Advisory Committee

2010

International Association for Research in Income and Wealth (IARIW)*

Irish Economic Association*

Credit Union Advisory Committee

2011

International Association for Research in Income and Wealth (IARIW)*

Irish Economic Association*

Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland*

Irish Fiscal Advisory Council

Credit Union Advisory Committee

Commission on Credit Unions

*The Department pays a subscription fee to each of these bodies which supports economic research in Ireland.

Bank Debt Restructuring

Peter Mathews

Question:

112 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Finance the amount of subordinated debt in Irish banks when Ireland entered the EU-IMF programme at the end of 2010; the amount of subordinated debt that was redeemed in full since this date; the amount of burden sharing that was forced on subordinated debt holders since this date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33068/12]

Unfortunately, it has not been possible to get the information from the covered institutions in the timeframe allowed by the Question. I will write to the Deputy in the near future with information provided by the institutions.

Banking Sector Regulation

Patrick Nulty

Question:

113 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Finance if there is a possibility that banks operating in here have attempted to manipulate inter-bank lending rates, along the lines that Barclay’s PLC in London, England, have been found to have attempted to rig the London inter-bank offered rate, Libor, and euro inter-bank offered rate, Euribor; if he will take steps to investigate this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33095/12]

Michael McGrath

Question:

132 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if the London Interbank Offered Rate scandal at Barclay’s Bank in the UK has any implications for the Irish Government, the National Treasury Management Agency or any financial entities operating here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33569/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 113 and 132 together.

Libor is an average interest rate compiled by the British Bankers Association (BBA) based on estimates provided by a number of banks of what they would be charged if borrowing from other banks. Along with Euribor, it is a benchmark for interest rates around the world. Additionally Libor and Euribor are commonly used as reference rates for interest rate swaps and other derivative instruments. The integrity of these benchmark reference rates is of fundamental importance to international financial markets.

Barclays Bank has been fined by the UK Financial Services Authority, the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the US Department of Justice for attempted manipulation of Libor and Euribor rates. A number of international investigations are ongoing, including one by the European Commission, and the British Bankers Association is currently undertaking a review of the way Libor is set and is expected to publish its findings shortly.

Allied Irish Bank and Bank of Ireland are members of the panel of 43 European banks which contribute quotes for the setting of Euribor but are not involved in the setting of LIBOR, the London Interbank Offered Rate.

I am informed by the NTMA that both NTMA and NAMA have substantial portfolios of derivative products, some of which use Libor (or Euribor) as the reference rates. However, much of that exposure is reduced by netting. The NTMA will continue to monitor the situation in order to asses any potential impact on the Exchequer.

I am informed by the Central Bank that this event may have had a very limited impact for some of the financial entities operating here, on account of the widespread usage of LIBOR as a reference price by most banks, including those in Ireland. Thus far the Central Bank has not received any complaints from the regulated banks nor have there been any issues raised with the Central Bank on this issue. In the course of its normal regulatory engagement with the banks it will raise this topic as appropriate.

Banking Operations

Ciara Conway

Question:

114 Deputy Ciara Conway asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide an update on his Department's and the Central Bank interactions to date with Ulster Bank in view of the continuing crises; the measures the regulator and Central Bank of Ireland are taking to help resolve the situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33096/12]

I am fully aware of the negative impact that Ulster Bank's technical problems are having on the bank's personal and business banking customers throughout the country. This issue has been ongoing for far too long at this stage and the Bank is fully aware of my position in terms of the need to have the matter resolved as a priority. The Central Bank is closely monitoring the situation to ensure that it is resolved as quickly as possible. In that respect, the Central Bank has officials on the ground in Ulster Bank to ensure that immediate priority is given to the backlog issue and ensuring that all customers accounts are brought up to date as soon as possible. The Central Bank has also indicted that they will be putting in place a full restitution regime for all persons that have been impacted and that it will work with the Irish Credit Bureau to ensure that customer ratings are not impacted.

The current focus is to get all transactions processed and following that Ulster Bank has said that they will commence the process of refunding customers for any interest or fees and charges that have occurred as a result of this incident. I was pleased to note that the Bank has given a commitment that no customer would be out of pocket arising from the disruption caused by the problems at the Bank.

Departmental Staff

Simon Harris

Question:

115 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Finance the number of staff who took sick leave of more than five, ten, 15, 20 days and 21 days or over in 2011 in all agencies, offices or other bodies reporting to his Department; the length of the ten highest incidences of sick leave across these bodies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33110/12]

There were a total of 29 NTMA employees across all its business areas including NAMA who took greater than 5 days sick leave in 2011.

Greater than 5 days — 17 employees

Greater than 10 days — 4 employees

Greater than 15 days — 4 employees

Greater than 20 days — 4 employees

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that they are not in a position to provide a detailed reply on this matter within the timeframe for answering Parliamentary Questions. Accordingly, the Deputy will be contacted directly on this issue at an early date.

Banking Sector Regulation

Pearse Doherty

Question:

116 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance if he will set out the position of the credit institutions over which the State has total or majority control, towards persons declaring bankruptcy in other jurisdictions. [33151/12]

AIB:

I am advised that the incidences of persons declaring bankruptcy in other jurisdictions are uncommon for AIB. Notwithstanding this, AIB considers each action on a case by case basis and will adopt an approach which best protects AIB's financial and legal position as it seeks to recover outstanding amounts owed regardless of the jurisdiction involved.

PTSB:

I am advised that PTSB also adopt an approach to best protect the Bank's right to seek repayment of all outstanding debt in a fair and equitable manner regardless of the jurisdiction involved.

IBRC:

I am advised by IBRC that the approach of the Bank is to work constructively with each borrower on an individual basis to identify the most appropriate loan repayment plan. IBRC takes a very serious view of borrowers seeking bankruptcy in other jurisdictions as a means of circumventing the repayment of monies owed to the Bank. Where necessary, and as has occurred previously, the Bank will pursue borrowers to ensure bankruptcy is declared in what it deems to be the correct jurisdiction, with the ultimate goal of maximising recovery of loans for the Bank.

National Asset Management Agency

Pearse Doherty

Question:

117 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance in view of the recent direction issued by him to the National Asset Management Agency to loan €3.06 billion to the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation in place of the planned payment by the State to IBRC, if he will set out the consideration given to borrowing further funds from NAMA, and if he considers that the 2.35% per annum interest rate charged by NAMA on the IBRC transaction is cheaper than the rate that may be paid by the National Treasury Management Agency on short-term bill issuance. [33152/12]

As an entity with a commercial mandate, the management of NAMA's cash position is first and foremost a matter for the board and management of NAMA. In managing its liquidity needs, NAMA must ensure that it has available liquidity over the medium term to meet all of its contractual obligations as they fall due. Such obligations, as outlined, include its day-to-day operating costs, investment to improve the value of the assets underpinning the loans, coupon payments due on its bonds and derivative contract payments. Furthermore, the Agency also provides an important stimulus to the construction sector in the form of advances to debtors for working capital and project funding, some of which is required at short notice. I am advised that updated liquidity projections, based on these various expected inflows and outflows, are reviewed on a monthly basis by the NAMA Board. In terms of cash management in NAMA, I am advised that cash is either placed on deposit with approved counterparties or the Central Bank or it is invested in qualifying liquid assets (short-term Irish Government securities). In this way the liquidity position of NAMA is actively used to support the ongoing financial commitments of the State.

As the Deputy will be aware, the NTMA successfully auctioned € 500m three-month Irish treasury bills on 5 July at an issue yield of 1.8%. I welcome this success which had a bid to cover ratio of 2.8 times and I view it as a very important milestone on Ireland's continuing path to recovery. The interest rate charged by NAMA on the IBRC deal was in line with the commercial terms charged by Bank of Ireland at 2.35% and was higher than the rate paid on the short-term bills issued last week.

In relation to the ministerial direction to NAMA on the IBRC financing facility, I should remind the Deputy that this was a short-term interim measure and had been required pending the consent of Bank of Ireland's shareholders' to the IBRC financing arrangement and followed intense discussions on the matter with our European partners.

Any such future decision to use NAMA funds under Ministerial direction would be given a similar level of consideration.

Commercial Leases Database

Pearse Doherty

Question:

118 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance further to calls by the National Asset Management Agency chairman (details supplied) for the introduction of a public register of commercial property sales prices, if he will set out the consideration he has given to such a register and confirm if there are any plans for such a register; and if he will further set out the detail of any such plans. [33157/12]

I understand that a Commercial Leases Database and a database of residential property sales prices is currently being considered by the newly-established Property Services Regulatory Authority, which does not fall under the auspices of the Department of Finance. I understand the primary purpose of the Commercial Leases Database will be to ensure that accurate information will be available to assist in ensuring that rent review assessments are based upon true comparisons of rent levels and that the availability of such information should favourably impact on the conduct of rent reviews and also on the operation of the letting market itself.

Credit Unions Regulation

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

119 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Finance further to his reply to Parliamentary Question No. 58 of 20 June 2012, when the credit union restructuring board, ReBo, will be appointed; when will it come into operation; if it will operate on an interim or administrative basis pending the passage of the draft credit union Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33175/12]

In my response the Parliamentary Question No. 58 of 20 June 2012 I stated that expressions of interest had been sought for appointment to the Credit Union Restructuring Board (the ReBo). The closing date for receipt of applications was 8 June. The process of identifying suitable candidates to sit on this Board is currently taking place within my Department and it is envisaged that the ReBo will be established shortly. The ReBo will operate on an administrative basis pending the enactment of the Credit Union Bill which will provide the statutory basis for the ReBo.

National Asset Management Agency

Martin Ferris

Question:

120 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Finance the reason the National Asset Management Agency do not pay sub-contractors a portion of the proceeds of sales of property where they are owed the money by the main contractors company which was liquidated by NAMA. [33191/12]

NAMA advises that, in circumstances in which it has entered into consensual arrangements with a debtor, all creditor claims, including those of unsecured creditors who hold no security or other attachment to the assets held by that debtor, are assessed on a case by case basis in the context of managing such assets to realise maximum return to the taxpayer. NAMA is not prescriptive as to when it will approve payments in the case of unsecured creditors. Each case is assessed by reference to its own circumstances. This often involves 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 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. In all cases, NAMA's primary objective is to protect the interests of taxpayers.

Tax Code

Paul Connaughton

Question:

121 Deputy Paul J. Connaughton asked the Minister for Finance if the full amount of stamp duty has to be paid in respect of persons when one has a green certificate in agriculture; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33203/12]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that Section 81AA of the Stamp Duties Consolidation Act 1999 provides an exemption from Stamp Duty on the transfer of agricultural land to a farmer who is:

a) Under 35 years of age; and

b) The holder of certain educational qualifications.

In the case of a joint purchase by a father and son, both must satisfy these conditions.

On the basis of the information presented, stamp duty would be payable as both joint purchasers do not, it appears, satisfy the necessary conditions.

Additionally, it would be necessary to have more details regarding the "green certificate in agriculture" in order to determine whether this certificate satisfies the appropriate educational qualification requirement. However, if it does, this on its own would not be sufficient for the exemption to apply, as only the son holds a certificate.

Where the exemption is not available, Stamp Duty is chargeable at the rate of 2% on the purchase price.

Fuel Rebate Scheme

Mattie McGrath

Question:

122 Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding his Department's working group that was set up to examine the Irish Road Hauliers Association proposals for an essential user fuel rebate; the efforts he is taking to tighten up on the availability of green diesel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33273/12]

As the Deputy is aware a working group was set up between officials of my Department, the IRHA and members of the Oireachtas. This working group had a series of meetings to discuss issues of concern to the haulage industry. I have recently received a submission from the group and I am considering the matters raised. I note the recent trend in falling oil prices and I hope that this continued fall is reflected in the price of fuel for consumers including hauliers at the pumps. The Deputy may also wish to note that provision was made in the Finance Act 2012 for a strengthened and extended licensing system for mineral oil traders, which will require traders in marked oils to be licensed for that purpose. In parallel with these changes, the Revenue Commissioners have recently made regulations that put in place new requirements in relation to the recording and reporting of oil movements. In particular, traders will have to submit returns to the Revenue Commissioners monthly giving details of fuel transactions. Action is being taken also to obtain an improved fuel marker. The Irish and UK revenue authorities published a joint ‘Invitation to Make Submissions' (IMS) on 28th June for a new fuel marker. The IMS was also published in the Official Journal of the European Union on 4 July 2012.

Tax Collection

Gerald Nash

Question:

123 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Finance the contact that has been made by the Revenue Commissioners with the social security authorities in other states to clarify the number of persons resident here who are receiving pensions from those states; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33306/12]

Gerald Nash

Question:

124 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Finance the contact the Revenue Commissioners have made with HMRC to ensure that those who are in receipt of occupational pensions from the UK, but are resident here and assessable on that income here in accordance with Articles 17 and 18 of Ireland-UK double taxation treaty, are tax compliant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33307/12]

Gerald Nash

Question:

125 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Finance the level of tax due to the State which has not been collected in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 due to the failure to correctly assess Irish income tax occupational and social security pensions paid to Irish residents in view of the fact that census 2011 advised that there are 114,948 persons aged 60 and over who had lived in the UK before moving here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33308/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 123 to 125, inclusive, together.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that taxpayers are required, under the self-assessment tax system, to supply details each year of foreign-sourced pensions, both Social Security and Occupational, to Revenue. Taxpayers, however, are not required to separately identify the country of origin of pension income on tax returns and in the time available, the Commissioners are unable to provide up-to-date details of the number of taxpayers returning foreign-sourced pensions. The following details are the position as at January 2012, for the tax year 2009, in relation to the number of cases reporting a pension. This is the latest date for which figures are readily available.

Year

State Welfare pensions

Other foreign pensions

Total

2009

10,646

10,889

21,535

I am further informed by the Revenue Commissioners that they are not in a position to provide an estimate of the amount of income tax that is not being collected on UK-sourced pensions. However the Commissioners advise that the figure of 114,948 quoted by the Deputy is not a reliable indicator of the scale of possible non-declaration. A significant number of these people may not have any entitlement to a UK pension, or such entitlement may be small.

In this context, it should be noted that the rates of UK Social Security pensions are small when compared to the general tax exemption from income tax granted to those aged 65 or over in this State, viz. where their annual income is less than €18,000 for single or widowed persons and less than €36,000 for married persons or those in a civil partnership.

The question of information from other jurisdictions is affected by other countries Data Protection Laws, and in general can only arise in the context of Double Taxation Treaties. I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they seek information from other tax administrations, under Treaty provisions, about foreign-sourced pensions paid to Irish resident individuals where they are dealing with specific cases. The Commissioners are aware that there are data exchange arrangements in place between the Department of Social Protection and their UK counterparts and they are exploring with the Department of Social Protection (DSP) the usefulness for tax purposes of information available to them, and the possibility of gaining access to such information having regard to Data Protection law and other legal provisions.

Health Insurance

Niall Collins

Question:

126 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Finance his views on State-owned Irish Life having a 30% stake in a newly established private health insurance company; if EU competition issues arise as a result of the State’s shareholding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33345/12]

Niall Collins

Question:

127 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Finance the reason Irish Life, as a State-owned entity, has been permitted to hold a significant shareholding in a private health insurance company when he is working to divest itself of its shareholding in VHI; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33346/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 126 and 127 together.

I must ensure that Irish Life is run on a commercial, cost effective and independent basis to maximise value for the State. I recognise that Irish Life remains a separate economic unit with independent powers of decision and that its board and management team retain responsibility and authority for determining the Company's strategy and commercial policies and conducting its day to day operations. The State will continue to work on the disposal of the business as soon as market conditions permit.

Irish Life is now a 48.95% shareholder in GloHealth Financial Services Limited, an insurance intermediary licenced by the Central Bank. GloHealth insurance policies are underwritten by Great Lakes Reinsurance (UK) Plc, a subsidiary of Munich Re. I have been informed by Irish Life that the investment does not give rise to issues under EU Competition Law.

The future strategy for VHI is a matter for the Minister for Health.

Tax Code

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

128 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide the following information, estimated, for a single person with no dependants, no credits, breaks or reliefs, earning €42,000 in income, with no other assumed additional sources of income: the amount of income tax and other taxes on incomes expected to be paid by this person in 2012; if he will provide a percentage breakdown of the areas of Government spending on which the taxes paid by the person are to be spent by each Department and in each area in line with the budget for 2012; if he will provide a detailed description of the way the taxes paid by the person are to be spent in simple monetary terms euros and cents in line with this breakdown; if he will provide a figure detailing the person’s annual contribution to national debt repayments, a figure detailing the person’s share of the national debt and a figure detailing the person’s share of the national deficit; and if he will provide the same information as projected for 2013. [33359/12]

It is assumed for the purposes of answering this question that the single person is a PAYE worker in the private sector who would receive the basic tax credits and standard bands of tax, appropriate for an employee earning €42,000 per annum in 2012. The amount of PAYE income tax, Universal Social Charge (USC), and employee PRSI that person would pay is €10,707. The calculation is outlined in the table:

Single Individual (Employee) Earning €42,000 (Class A Full PRSI)

Gross Income

€42,000

Deductions

Universal Social Charge (USC)

€2,259

PAYE Income Tax

€7,032

Employee PRSI

€1,416

Total Deductions

€10,707

Net Income

€31,293

Note that figures are rounded.

Tax revenues are not generally assigned to particular areas of expenditure. Rather they are available, along with non-tax revenues, capital receipts as well as moneys sourced from borrowing to fund overall expenditure.

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform published the Revised Book of Estimates (REV) for 2012 in February. The REV sets out the voted expenditure allocations for every Government Department and Office, including for areas such as Social Protection, Health, Education, Justice and Agriculture. The REV therefore sets out the areas of voted expenditure that the tax revenues, non-tax revenues and capital receipts collected by the State as well as borrowing undertaken by the State are used to fund.

National debt servicing in 2012 was estimated at €6,965 million by the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) at the time of the Stability Programme Update (SPU) publication in late April. Last year's Census estimated the Irish population at just under 4.6 million. On this basis, an individual's share of total National debt servicing in 2012 is just under €1,520.

As per the website of the NTMA, at end-June 2012 the State's National debt stood at €131.9 billion. Given an estimated population of just under 4.6 million, an individual's share of National debt outstanding at end-June 2012 is just under €28,750.

This year's Exchequer deficit was estimated at €18,655 million in the SPU. Given an estimated population of just under 4.6 million, an individual's share of this year's Exchequer deficit is approximately €4,065. Note that this deficit estimate included, as part of non-voted capital expenditure, €3,060 million in respect of the IBRC Promissory Note although settlement of this payment was with a Government bond.

As regards 2013 it is not yet possible to provide the Deputy with the detailed information as voted expenditure allocations for 2013 have not yet been decided.

State Debt

Patrick Nulty

Question:

129 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Finance if the agreement reached between EU leaders on the separation of banking debt from sovereign debt reached at the recent EU summit will result in a retrospective easing of Ireland’s national debt burden, namely, in relation to the €64 billion used to capitalise Irish banks but which now forms part of Ireland’s national debt; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33417/12]

As I stated last week in the Dáil during Oral questions, the announcement following the euro area summit in Brussels at end-June represents a major shift in European policy in terms of breaking the link between recapitalising the banks and the sovereign, a policy change that I have repeatedly pressed for at EU meetings. This message has been echoed by the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and other Ministers in meetings with their EU colleagues. The specific mention of Ireland in the statement issued following the summit is a welcome development and is the result of intensive discussions over the past year. It shows that there is widespread recognition for the measures this country has implemented and the significant sacrifices that Irish people have taken to bring our public finances under control.

This is an agreement in principle which provides an opportunity for the issue of bank debt to be addressed at an EU level. As the details have yet to be worked out, it is too early to say at this time what the precise implications of the announcement will be.

Preliminary discussions on how to separate Irish banking debt from sovereign debt are underway, with a view to concluding in October, but I do not want to prejudice them by commenting on the likely contents of any agreement at this time. Because of their complexity the discussions are likely to take some time. Our shared objective, agreed with our European colleagues is to break the link between banks and sovereigns and we are open to discussing any method of doing this.

This announcement is undoubtedly a positive development for Ireland. However, we cannot lose sight of the fact that notwithstanding the very considerable negative effect State support for the banking system has had on the public finances, including the debt level, there remains a large gap between day to day spending and revenues. This needs to be closed so as to enhance further the long-term sustainability of our public finances.

Departmental Statistics

Michael McGrath

Question:

130 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance when the GDP and GNP figures for Quarter 1 2012 will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33475/12]

The CSO will publish the Quarterly National Accounts for Quarter 1 2012 on Thursday 12 July 2012.

Tax Code

Patrick Nulty

Question:

131 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Finance if he supports the introduction of a financial transactions tax; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33487/12]

Patrick Nulty

Question:

136 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Finance the reason there was a three month delay between the completion of the ESRI research on a financial transactions tax and its publication; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33712/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 131 and 136 together.

I have stated in the past my view that, if a financial transactions tax (FTT) cannot be introduced on a global basis, it would be better if it were introduced at least on an EU-wide basis. This would prevent any distortion of activity within the Union.

The Deputy will be aware that following the ECOFIN meeting on 22 July, the Commission's proposal to introduce an FTT on an EU-wide basis will not now proceed and certain Member States are going to ask the Commission to propose that the tax be introduced via the "enhanced co-operation" mechanism in those states which are willing to introduce the tax.

Ireland is opposed in principle to enhanced co-operation in tax matters and will not be one of the enhanced co-operation countries. Our decision not to participate is consistent with the position we previously expressed that the tax should be introduced on at least an EU-wide basis. However, I indicated at the ECOFIN meeting that we would not stand in the way of those countries who wish to introduce an FTT. We will continue to monitor the issue, in particular to ensure the compatibility of any proposed measure with the internal market and with existing taxes on financial transactions such as our Stamp Duty on transfers of shares in Irish companies.

I received the ESRI/Central Bank of Ireland report into the FTT in late April. I did not publish the report immediately because my officials and I needed time to examine it. It has proven useful in our consideration of the issues surrounding the FTT.

Question No. 132 answered with Question No. 113.

Bank IT Systems

Regina Doherty

Question:

133 Deputy Regina Doherty asked the Minister for Finance if he intends to review banking procedures and protocols to protect customers from another crisis such as the Ulster Bank occurrence which has seen customers without banking facilities for nearly three weeks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33600/12]

I have been informed by the Central Bank that, in conjunction with the Financial Services Authority in the UK, they will undertake a review of the IT failure which arose in Ulster Bank. This review will include a focus on lessons learned which will then be utilised in the Bank's on-going oversight of operational risks faced by all banks. In addition, the Irish Payments Services Organisation (in conjunction with the Central Bank) have commissioned an independent review of the risk assessment methodologies applied by clearing companies such as the Irish Paper Clearing Company and the Irish Retail Electronic Clearing Company.

On the completion of the reviews mentioned, I would expect that, should the Central Bank need to examine and strengthen its procedures, they will do so. It is important that the Central Bank satisfies itself that all requirements are met by credit institutions to avoid the occurrence of similar IT problems in the future.

Departmental Reports

Seán Kyne

Question:

134 Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Finance if he will report on the progress made in implementing those recommendations categorised as immediate, short and medium term of the Advisory Group for Small Business Report entitled The Voice of Small Business for which he has been designated as having lead responsibility. [33644/12]

The following table outlines the actions and current status of recommendations contained in "The Voice of Small Business" for which my Department has lead responsibility:

Action

Current Status

6(a) Develop and implement a cross-departmental awareness campaign on the impact of hidden economy activity.

There is no doubt that shadow/hidden economy activity creates distortions in the economy and competitive disadvantages for compliant businesses. For these reasons, Revenue focuses on deterring shadow/hidden economy activity and non-compliance through its audit and investigation programmes based on risk analysis, use of Revenue powers and their intelligence and information systems. Last year Revenue carried out 11,066 audits resulting in a yield of €440.46 million. The Revenue approach to the shadow economy is underpinned by close consultation and cooperation with the Department of Social Protection. The primary objective of these activities is to uncover either non-declaration or under declaration of income and/or fraudulent DSP claims. In addition, there is continuing strengthening of legislation to provide for a robust framework within which the Revenue Commissioners may tackle tax and duty evasion. Revenue has a prioritised focus on those sectors that traditionally have been susceptible to shadow activity such as cash businesses. In order to inform the approaches they are taking and help determine where resources may best be deployed, Revenue have engaged on a series of meetings with trade and representative bodies. Increasingly they are finding that bodies and individuals are prepared to share insights and specific information with Revenue with regard to shadow economy activity in times of recession. Revenue is deepening their engagement with the representative bodies and has set up regional shadow economy liaison groups. Any additional information campaign should be considered in the context of measures already in place.

8(a) Mandate the introduction of electronic payments by all Government and State agencies by end 2012.

A very similar goal is included as part of the Croke Park agreement and this is being worked towards in that context. Under the SEPA regulation the Irish government is committed to migrating the civil service to SEPA compliant payment systems by end Q1-2013. This will facilitate further the introduction of electronic payments.

8(b) Remove Professional Services Withholding Tax for service providers.

After careful consideration, and in light of the effect that this measure would have on the Exchequer returns, it is not proposed to abolish PSWT for service providers at this time.

8(b) Consider a reduction in the preliminary tax requirement from 100 percent to 75 percent for small firms until 2013.

After careful consideration, and in light of the effect that this measure would have on the Exchequer returns, it is not proposed to introduce this measure at this time.

Departmental Functions

Seán Kyne

Question:

135 Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Finance if the recommendation of the Deloitte report into the €3.6 billion accounting error to transfer sole responsibility for the compilation of statistics and information on the Government deficit to the Central Statistics Office will be implemented; and, if so, if a timescale will be indicated. [33647/12]

The Deloitte Report into the error was finalised earlier this year and published on 7th June. A key overarching recommendation was the establishment of a Governance Group tointer alia oversee the implementation of the recommendations arising from the Report. This Group has considered the recommendations, including the recommendation that overall responsibility for the General Government Debt (GGD) compilation and reporting processes should be centralised in one organisation. In response to this it has been agreed by my Department and the Central Statistics Office (CSO) that the primary responsibility for this is to be transferred to CSO. Given the complex nature of the processes and the amount of work involved in the compilation of the necessary data, it is envisaged that CSO will take over primary responsibility for the Excessive Deficit Procedure Returns required under the Maastricht Treaty for the transmission due in March 2013.

Question No. 136 answered with Question No. 131.

National Asset Management Agency

Pearse Doherty

Question:

137 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance, further to Parliamentary Question No. 207 of 3 July 2012, the reason the National Asset Management Agency has redeemed senior debt from Permanent TSB since this organisation is not a NAMA participating institution. [33728/12]

The recent NAMA Senior Bond redemption was carried out on a pro-rata basis, whereby a proportion of each institution's share of NAMA Senior Bonds was repaid. The NAMA Senior Bonds held by Permanent TSB were received in February 2011 as part of the transfer of the former INBS deposit book to PTSB under the transfer order issued by the previous Minister for Finance. As set out in the transfer order, the deposit book and corresponding assets (including € 2.89 billion of NAMA Senior Bonds) transferred to NAMA at that time. Previous to the most recent bond redemption PTSB held € 2.77 billion and following this redemption PTSB hold € 2.575 billion of NAMA Senior Bonds.

The text of the transfer order and other details are available on the Department of Finance website:www.finance.gov.ie.

State Debt

Pearse Doherty

Question:

138 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the contribution made by the State to the first bailout in Greece in 2010; the way this contribution was accounted for in the deficit and national debt figures; the amount of interest received by Ireland from this contribution; when the sum is due for repayment by Greece to Ireland; if he will provide an assessment of the prospects for the repayment of the contribution; and if any provision will be made for any non-repayment in our national accounts. [33729/12]

Under the Euro Area Loan Facility as agreed for Greece in May 2010, stability support in the form of a joint Euro area/IMF financing package of €110 billion is being provided to Greece over a three-year period. Ireland contributed €345.7 million (net of a 50 basis points service charge) in respect of the first two tranches of the loan in 2010. Ireland withdrew from participation in the facility when we entered the EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support.

This amount was accounted for as a loan under non-voted capital expenditure.

Interest payments on the loan in respect of Ireland's contribution to the facility are due quarterly and are calculated on the full nominal amount of the loan (i.e., including the 50 basis points service charge). The original loan agreement provided that the principal would be repayable quarterly over two years starting in 2013 and that the rate of interest, which is variable, would be based on three-month EURIBOR (the average rate at which euro interbank term deposits are being offered by one prime bank to another within the EMU zone) plus a margin of three hundred basis points (3 percentage points) for the first three years and four hundred basis points subsequently. However, the lending countries agreed in 2011 to extend the grace period and term of the loans and to reduce the margin in the interest rate charged to Greece to 100 basis points (one percentage point). As a result, the principal on Ireland's loan to Greece is due to be repaid over five years beginning in June 2020.

The total amount of interest received by Ireland on the loan to date is €25.96 million.

As the Deputy will be aware, Greece came to an agreement with its private sector creditors in March 2012 which allowed it to restructure debt held by banks and other private investors. However, that restructuring and the consequent losses for investors did not apply to loans under the Euro Area Loan Facility under which Ireland provided a loan to Greece in 2010.

School Transport

Brendan Griffin

Question:

139 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on a matter (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33192/12]

Under the terms of my Department's Post Primary School Transport Scheme children are eligible for transport where they reside not less than 4.8 km from and are attending their nearest education centre as determined my the Department/Bus Éireann, having regard to ethos and language.

Bus Éireann, which operates the School Transport Scheme on behalf of my Department, determine eligibility by measuring the shortest traversable route from a child's home to the relevant education centre. Bus Éireann are currently processing applications for school transport for the 2012/13 school year. The number and size of vehicles required will be determined by the number of eligible pupils whose applications are finalised by the deadline date at the end of July. Children who are not eligible for school transport may apply for transport to a particular school on a concessionary basis in accordance with the terms of the scheme.

Children who applied for enrolment in their nearest school but who did not secure a place may have their school transport eligibility considered by reference to the distance they reside from their next nearest school. This consideration will only apply where my Department is satisfied that the child's nearest school does not have the capacity to enrol additional first year pupils.

European Globalisation Fund

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

140 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the EU’s Globalisation Fund; his views on whether an expanded fund will be part of the EU’s 2014 to 2020 budget round; his position on the fund; if the proposed expanded fund will include provisions for citizens who may lose their job in the self-employed and agricultural sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33290/12]

The current European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF) Regulation expires on 31 December 2013. On 6 October 2011, the European Commission tabled a proposal for a new Regulation for the period 2014-2020 to the European Council and European Parliament.

Substantive discussions on the Commission proposal commenced in the European Council Working Party on Social Questions in early 2012 under the Danish Presidency of the EU and are currently ongoing. Ireland is taking a full and active part in these discussions. A progress report on this dossier was presented to the EPSCO Council of Ministers on 21 June 2012. The current Cypriot Presidency of the EU is seeking to progress the dossier to finalisation if possible. If not, the dossier will fall to be progressed during the Irish Presidency in 2013.

Ireland continues to be a strong supporter of the EGF given the important contribution it makes to co-financing approved active labour market programmes in support of eligible redundant workers in this country.

It is not possible at this time, and given that discussions on the dossier are ongoing, to surmise whether, or in what form, the Fund will continue in 2014. However, Ireland is negotiating in Council on the basis that the Fund should and will continue.

The proposal to include both the self-employed and farmers in the scope of the new Regulation is a significant broadening of the existing position. Ireland is not opposed in principle to these elements of the proposal and together with their colleagues in the Departments of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and Agriculture, Food and the Marine, my officials will be seeking the most positive national outcome in the continuing discussions.

FÁS Training Programmes

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

141 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there is no longer an ecommerce training course being offered by FÁS; and his views on whether an ecommerce course would be a useful addition to the current courses on offer. [33352/12]

I am informed that the ecommerce course referred to by the Deputy was deactivated by FÁS in order to update it and bring it into line with the new Common Awards System. FÁS is currently working on a replacement course and once this course has been developed, it will be scheduled on the FÁS course calendar.

In addition, Skillnets receive funding from the National Training Fund (NTF) through my Department to support companies from any sector or region to engage in training by co-investing in the delivery of training with member companies of networks. Skillnets works in partnership with enterprise, in particular SMEs, by supporting the development of flexible and effective training delivery methods which are customised to its specific needs. There are a number of current course offerings related to ecommerce or which include a module around ecommerce and these can be viewed on the Skillnets website atwww.skillnets.ie.

Graduate Medicine Programme

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

142 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the complete range of financial supports available for students entering the graduate medicine programme [33661/12]

Simon Harris

Question:

151 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the significant impact the increase in fees payable for graduate entry to medicine and the withdrawal by AIB of the graduate student loan package for graduate students will have on the viability of graduate entry medicine for many students; if he is considering any measures to offset these obstacles; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33011/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 142 and 151 together.

Higher education institutions are autonomous bodies and the level of tuition fees charged for their Graduate Entry Medicine (GEM) programmes, is a matter for the institutions themselves to determine. Accordingly I have no role in the matter. The prerequisite for entry to GEM programmes is an Upper Second or First Class Honours Bachelor's degree in any discipline. GEM students therefore are pursuing a second undergraduate degree and are not eligible for free fees or for student grants. However in order to widen access the fees of EU students are partly subsidised by the State through the Higher Education Authority. For the 2011/12 academic year this subsidy amounted to €11,000 per EU student. In addition the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 provides tax relief, at the standard rate, for tuition fees paid in respect of approved courses. I appreciate that for individual students having to meet those fees can be difficult and therefore it is a matter of regret if the loan package in question has been withdrawn by the bank.

Graduate Medicine Programme

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

143 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of students who have undertaken and are currently undertaking the graduate medicine programme; the locations at which this course is available; the respective course fees; the degree to which this programme has achieved its stated purpose; and the way he will ensure that entry to these courses is not determined by ability to pay. [33663/12]

The graduate entry medicine (GEM) programme commenced in 2007/08 and has an annual EU intake of 240 students in four institutions: UCD (77), UCC (38), UL (95) and RCSI (30). Information regarding the numbers who have undertaken these programmes is not readily available. I have asked the Higher Education Authority to collate this data and it will be forwarded to the deputy when available. Each institution is responsible for setting its tuition fees which, in 2011/2012, were as follows: UCD (€13,915), UCC (€13,580), UL (€13,915) and RCSI (€15,940). The fees of EU students are partly subsidised by the State through the Higher Education Authority. For 2011/12 this subsidy amounted to €11,000 per EU student.

The establishment of a Graduate Medicine Programme was a specific recommendation of the Report of the Working Group on Undergraduate Medical Education and Training (the ‘Fottrell Report') published in 2006. The Report made a number of recommendations in relation to the reform of medical education and training. It specifically saw the introduction of GEM as a means to increase the number of EU medicine graduates in the context of an evolving health care system and growing population needs. The first cohort of students graduated in 2011.

Departmental Funding

John Perry

Question:

144 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will ensure that the three applications (details supplied) submitted to his Department are granted as this school cannot function without furniture and IT hardware and the essential upgrade of the electrical power supply is needed for health and safety; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32967/12]

My Department has received three separate applications from the school referred to by the Deputy.

Additional funding for the upgrade of the electrical power supply has been approved under my Department's Additional Accommodation Scheme and the school authorities have been notified accordingly.

My Department has recently approved grant aid for loose furniture and dress design equipment for the new classrooms at the school in question.

In relation to the third application as all post primary schools were paid substantial grant aid late in 2010 for the purchase of high-tech IT equipment no further funding for IT equipment can be approved.

Schools Refurbishment

Martin Ferris

Question:

145 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide an update on the status of an application for emergency funding in respect of a school (details supplied) in County Kerry who needs to update their electrics. [32973/12]

I can confirm that the school to which the Deputy refers have applied for grant aid to carry out refurbishment works to an adjacent school building which the school authority has recently acquired.

As outlined in the Five Year Plan last March and in view of the need to ensure that every child has access to a physical school place, the delivery of major school projects to meet significant demographic demands nationally will be the main focus for capital investment in schools in the coming years. The Five Year school building programme is focused on meeting those demographic needs.

I wish to advise you that my Department is considering the school's request in consultation with my Department's inspectorate. Department officials have been in contact with the Principal of the school and have conveyed this information to him.

School Staffing

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

146 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding panel rights in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32995/12]

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

170 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33412/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 146 and 170 together.

The arrangements for panel access for fixed term (temporary), substitute and part-time teachers are set out in Department Circular 0012/2012 which is available on my Department's website. The panels set up in accordance with the arrangements set out in this circular will be used for appointments to full-time permanent teaching posts but only where those posts are not otherwise required to facilitate the redeployment of surplus permanent and CID holding teachers. My Department notifies applicant teachers of the outcome for panel access as the panels are issued to the various panel operators. It is anticipated that the teacher referred to by the Deputy will be notified in this regard shortly.

School Staffing

Michael Creed

Question:

147 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Education and Skills if there will be an appeals process open for two, three and four teacher schools who stand to lose a teacher for the 2013, 2014 school year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32996/12]

As part of the Budget 2012 decisions, the number of pupils required to gain and retain a classroom teaching post in small primary schools will be gradually increased between September 2012 and September 2014. The detailed arrangements are set out in the Department's Staffing Circular 0007/2012 that is now published on my Department's website. In these extremely challenging times, all public servants are being asked to deliver our public services on a reduced level of resources and teachers in small schools cannot be immune from this requirement.

It is anticipated that the staffing arrangements for the 2013/14 school year, including the appeal process will be published in early 2013.

Special Educational Needs

Peter Mathews

Question:

148 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to provide a special needs assistant in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 16; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32998/12]

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.

There is no automatic system of transfer of resources from one school to another. In considering applications for teaching and SNA supports for individual pupils, the SENOs take account of the pupils' needs and consider the resources available to the school to identify whether additionality is needed or whether the school might reasonably be expected to meet the needs of the pupils from its current level of resources.

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 are currently being notified by SENOs 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.

SNAs should be deployed by schools 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.

School Patronage

Brendan Smith

Question:

149 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress made to date in relation to a proposal (details supplied); when this application is likely to be approved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33001/12]

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

181 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there is significant demand in the Dublin 6, 8 and 12 area for a new multidenominational school; if any plans have been drawn up in his Department towards recognising the start up group that currently exists; if there has been any consideration of any potential there may be locally for divestment of a current school to cater for this demand; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33603/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 149 and 181 together.

In June of last year I announced that up to 40 new schools are to be established within the next six years to provide sufficient school capacity to meet our increased demographics. These consisted of twenty new primary schools and twenty new post-primary schools. This announcement did not include a proposal to establish a new primary school in the areas referred to by the Deputies.

On foot of recommendations in the Report of the Advisory Group to the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector, I recently announced an Action Plan to progress divesting Catholic schools in certain areas.

Surveying will be carried out in five pilot areas initially in October this year and surveys in the balance of the forty four areas will take place in November. The 44 initial areas where surveys of parental preferences will be carried out include the Dublin 6 and 8 districts.

The outcome of the initial surveys will then be made available to the relevant school patrons who will be asked to come forward with divesting options in line with parental preferences within the areas. Full details of the Action Plan are available on my Department's websitewww.education.ie.

Special Educational Needs

Brendan Griffin

Question:

150 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason a person (details supplied) in County Kerry has had their special needs assistant taken away; if the SNA will be reinstated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33009/12]

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 are currently being notified by SENOs 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.

SNAs should be deployed by schools 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.

Question No. 151 answered with Question No. 142.

Michael McGrath

Question:

152 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the allocation of special needs assistants to a particular school (details supplied) in County Cork for the 2012/13 school year is being reassessed; if he will agree to become involved in the matter in view of the exceptional circumstances that apply; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33014/12]

I wish to advise the Deputy that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is an independent agency with responsibility for determining the appropriate staffing levels in relation to the support of pupils with special educational needs in mainstream and special schools. The NCSE operates within my Department's established criteria for the allocation of supports to schools and the staffing resources available to my Department.

The Deputy will appreciate that it would be inappropriate of me to intervene in the resource allocation process which would be to compromise the independence of the role of the NCSE as set out in the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs (EPSEN) Act, 2004.

As I advised the Deputy in my PQ reply of 21 June, the NCSE has confirmed that the SNA allocation for the school in question for the 2012/13 school year is a sufficient level of support to cater for the care needs of all qualifying children in the context of the applications received for the 2012/13 school year. Whereas I understand that schools may wish to maintain current staffing levels, the NCSE must ensure that where there are surplus SNA posts in a school, these must be redirected to meet the needs of children who need this valuable support.

I am sure the Deputy will agree that at a time of constrained resources it is essential that SNA numbers are managed and deployed as prudently and as effectively as possible. Resources left in an area that are not in accordance with criteria mean public resources are not available for another deserving area. It is worth noting that this school has been allocated 12 SNA posts for the forthcoming school year, which is an extensive provision of resources by any measure.

It is expected that schools seeking to have their SNA provision reviewed, before requesting any review of their SNA provision, will be in a position to demonstrate that they have made every effort to manage their allocation of SNA posts to best effect. It is open to schools to contact their local SENO in this regard, using the contact details available onwww.ncse.ie.

Emergency Works Scheme

Michael Creed

Question:

153 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding an application for emergency electrical works at a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33032/12]

My Department recently approved funding under the Emergency Works Scheme for electrical works at the school in question.

Emergency Works Scheme

Niall Collins

Question:

154 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills if an application for emergency works in respect of a school (details supplied) in County Kerry will be approved as soon as possible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33033/12]

My Department has no record of any recent application for funding under the Emergency Works Scheme from the school in question. Should an application be received it will be assessed and the school authority will be advised of the outcome.

Special Educational Needs

Terence Flanagan

Question:

155 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a special needs assistant in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33052/12]

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 are currently being notified by SENOs 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.

SNAs should be deployed by schools 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.

Teacher Training

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

156 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills his future plans, if any, to address the additional 12 workshops that student teachers must complete in order to successfully acquire their full professional qualification with particular reference to the financial burden facing student teachers to complete same when they have had no choice but to avail of the opportunity to teach abroad to acquire sufficient teaching hours; if he has any plans to introduce the completion of such workshops online; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33058/12]

The commencement of mandatory Induction for Newly Qualified Teachers (NQTs) is in keeping with the provisions of the 2001 Teaching Council Act and fulfils a key element of my Department's Literacy and Numeracy Strategy which states that Induction would be mandatory by September of this year.

The Induction workshops which the Deputy refers to are designed to complement the learning and development that the NQT gained during their initial teacher training in college. The workshops focus on priority issues and challenges that arise for NQTs, and are intended to equip them with a range of effective strategies and skills that can be readily implemented in day-to-day classroom practice, across a range and variety of school contexts. The workshops also provide networking opportunities and the professional support needed in making the transition from student to teacher. The National Induction Programme for Teachers (NIPT) develops and designs the workshops and the content of the workshops is reviewed on an ongoing basis, having regard to feedback received from NQTs and consultation with Colleges of Education. As the workshop programme evolves and develops, it is expected that the workshops will gradually introduce blended e-learning elements, as appropriate. The face-to-face elements of the workshop programme will continue to be an important feature of the NIPT programme.

NQTs have three years to attend the twelve workshops and achieve full registration. NQTs can complete all workshops in any one of the three years, or spread their attendance at the workshops over the course of the three years. In certain extenuating circumstances, the Teaching Council may grant an extension to the three years.

There is no fee applicable for attendance at the NQT workshop programme as these costs are covered by the Department of Education and Skills. The Teaching Council receives no income from the Induction programme.

School Transport

Mattie McGrath

Question:

157 Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the free school transport scheme for medical card holders will be extended to a person (details supplied) in County Waterford when they have not been accepted to a school in their catchment area and subsequently attend a school in the adjoining area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33086/12]

Under the terms of my Department's Post Primary School Transport Scheme children are eligible for transport where they reside not less than 4.8 kms from and are attending their nearest education centre as determined by my Department/Bus Éireann, having regard to ethos and language.

Children who are not eligible for school transport may apply for transport on a concessionary basis subject to a number of conditions; one of these conditions includes the payment of the annual charge. Only eligible children who hold valid medical cards (GMS Scheme) are exempt from paying the annual charge. Children who applied for enrolment in their nearest school but who did not secure a place may have their school transport eligibility considered by reference to the distance they reside from their next nearest school. This consideration will only apply where my Department is satisfied that the child's nearest school does not have the capacity to enrol additional first year pupils.

Departmental Staff

Ciara Conway

Question:

158 Deputy Ciara Conway asked the Minister for Education and Skills the measures being put in place to ensure that anyone receiving payment from his Department processed through Ulster Bank will continue to receive their entitlements; if alternative arrangements are being made to facilitate collection elsewhere, such as at a post office; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33099/12]

Payroll and supplier/grant payments are being issued as normal by my Department. The payroll and supplier /grant payments are not processed via Ulster Bank. To date my Department has received only minimal enquiries in relation to this issue and as such I do not see the need at this time to make alternative arrangements.

Ulster Bank via its websitewww.Ulsterbank.ie/roi/personal/generic/service-update.ashx continues to offer updated advice to customers impacted by the current problems, and offers guidance to customers to help the bank facilitate disbursements from their bank accounts . Individuals who are experiencing difficulties receiving payments from Ulster Bank should in the first instance contact that bank for assistance.

School Transport

Pearse Doherty

Question:

159 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills the arrangements being put in place to provide school transport for students to attend their new amalgamated school who had previously attended a primary school in Donegal that has been amalgamated with another school in County Donegal (details supplied). [33100/12]

Under the terms of my Department's Primary School Transport Scheme children are eligible for transport where they reside not less than 3.2 kms from and are attending their nearest national school as determined by my Department/Bus Éireann, having regard to ethos and language.

These eligibility criteria are applied equitably on a national scale to all children attending a national school including children who are attending a school of amalgamation.

Departmental Staff

Simon Harris

Question:

160 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of staff who took sick leave of more than five, ten, 15, 20 days and 21 days or over in 2011 in all agencies, offices or other bodies reporting to his Department; the length of the ten highest incidences of sick leave across these bodies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33108/12]

The day to day administration of agencies is a matter for each agency. Every agency has responsibility for its own HR function which includes the management of sick leave. My Department does not collate information on sick leave in agencies.

The Department of Finance circular 25/78 governs the conditions that apply to sick leave for officials within the Civil Service. Under these conditions an official can at most take 7 uncertified sick days with pay within a 12 month period. These conditions apply to those agencies under the aegis of my Department which are staffed by civil servants.

Teachers’ Remuneration

Derek Keating

Question:

161 Deputy Derek Keating asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of teachers retired or otherwise engaged who were employed by his Department to act as supervisors during the exam period for the leaving certificate this year; the status of a person who acts as a supervisor; if it required that they be be registered, approved by the Teaching Council and cleared by the Garda; the employment status of engaging them for this work, that is, if a person is out sick or if a person was employed as a teacher in another school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33135/12]

The State Examinations Commission has statutory responsibility for operational matters relating to the certificate examinations including determining procedures in places where examinations are conducted including the supervision of examinations. In view of this I have forwarded your query to the State Examinations Commission for direct reply to you.

Literacy Levels

Derek Keating

Question:

162 Deputy Derek Keating asked the Minister for Education and Skills the latest research that has been conducted by his Department and its conclusions regarding the number of children leaving primary school who have difficulty in reading and writing or cannot read and write; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33139/12]

Rigorously constructed surveys of attainment in English reading have been carried out since the 1970s. The 2009 National Assessments of Mathematics and English Reading, which are the most recent in this series of national assessments, provide baseline data for future national assessments in English reading at second and sixth class but are not directly comparable with previous assessments. In 2009, test scores were grouped into four proficiency levels (clusters of skill-sets and competencies describing what pupils are likely to be able to do). Those proficiency levels are described in the report of the 2009 National Assessments, which is available on the website of the Educational Research Centre (www.erc.ie). To facilitate comparability across classes and subjects, the cutpoints used to create each proficiency scale were based on predefined percentages of pupils. Thus, 10% of pupils were classified as at Level 4; 25% at Level 3; 30% at Level 2; and 25% at Level 1, with 10% of pupils described as failing to reach Level 1. The next national assessments in 2014 will facilitate direct comparison with the 2009 results.

The National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy, which I launched in July 2011, contains a range of actions to improve the literacy and numeracy skills of children and young people up to 2020 and these actions are being implemented.

School Transport

Dara Calleary

Question:

163 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will outline the mechanisms used by VECs in determining the distance from a candidate’s home to place of education; if he is satisfied that this method of measuring the distance is accurate and transparent; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33144/12]

Bus Éireann operates the School Transport Schemes on behalf of my Department.

Under the terms of these Schemes children are eligible for school transport where they meet the distance eligibility criterion and are attending their nearest school, having regard to ethos and language.

Distance eligibility is determined by Bus Éireann by measuring the shortest traversable route from a child's home to the relevant school. Mobile Bus Éireann Inspectors located throughout the country physically conduct these distance measurements where required; a GIS mapping solution may also be used to complement this process. In cases where the distance eligibility is marginal or in dispute, vehicles fitted with calibrated measuring devices which measure the distance down to the nearest metre may be used to establish the exact distance.

Road Safety

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

164 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his Department will make funds or grant assistance available to schools to carry out works to improve the safety of the public road-entrance to the schools from the public road, in the interests of pupil safety; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33162/12]

In general, individual school authorities are responsible, in the first instance, for ensuring the safety and welfare of children and others in their care.

The issue of road safety measures outside the vested site areas of schools on public roads, such as road signage, traffic calming measures etc., is a matter, however, for the relevant Local Authority. Local Authorities have the power to decide on road safety measures outside schools to ensure that measures are in place to protect the safety of local school children.

Fire Safety

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

165 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of primary and post-primary schools that have a current buildings fire safety certificate; the number of primary and post-primary that do not hold a current buildings fire safety certificate, and if so, the reasons these schools do not hold a current fire safety certificate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33195/12]

The aggregate information requested by the Deputy is not held by my Department.

A school is not required to apply for a Fire Safety Certificate unless it is undertaking building works. A Fire Safety Certificate is a certificate granted by a Building Control Authority certifying that the building or works, if constructed in accordance with the plans, documents and information submitted to the authority as part of a planning application, would comply with the requirements of the current Building Regulations.

The Building Regulations apply to the construction of new buildings and to extensions and material alterations to existing building and to certain changes of use of existing buildings.

However, School Management Authorities have a responsibility to ensure that the School's Safety Statement includes an up to date Fire Safety Management Plan which would address fire safety in the building. All schools should have fire drills and procedures in place for actions in the event of a fire including evacuating the building.

School Transport

Dara Calleary

Question:

166 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason secondary school persons (details supplied) in County Mayo are being denied school transport even though the bus servicing the school of their choice passes by their door; the reason these same persons are being told by Bus Éireann to avail of a service to other schools even though there is no existing bus to service such a run; his views on whether this system is unfair and insensible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33305/12]

Changes to the Post Primary School Transport Scheme were announced in Budget 2011 and derive from recommendations in the Value for Money Review of the School Transport Scheme.

The main change to the current scheme means that from the 2012/13 school year, school transport eligibility for all pupils newly entering a post primary school will be determined by reference to the distance they reside from their nearest Post-Primary Education Centre having regard, as heretofore, to ethos and language. In general, children who are currently eligible for, and who are availing of school transport, will retain their transport eligibility for the duration of their post primary education cycle unless there is a change in their current circumstances. Children who are not eligible for school transport may apply for transport to a particular school on a concessionary basis in accordance with the terms of the scheme.

The planning and organising of school bus routes is an operational matter for Bus Éireann which operates the School Transport Schemes on behalf of my Department. Bus routes are planned in such a way as to ensure that, as far as possible, eligible children have a reasonable level of service while at the same time ensuring that school transport vehicles are utilised in an efficient and cost effective manner. Services are reviewed over the summer months and may be altered or extended depending on the number of eligible children who apply for school transport, and pay the annual charge, for the following school year.

Third Level Fees

Derek Keating

Question:

167 Deputy Derek Keating asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 220 of 3 July 2012. if he will reply to the question in relation to the details supplied. [33406/12]

I understand that this relates to a student who does not qualify for free fees and is being charged the non EU rate of fee as an international student.

As explained in my last reply higher education institutions are autonomous bodies and the criteria governing the level of tuition fees to be charged (EU or Non EU rate), in cases where undergraduate students do not qualify for free fees under my Departments free fees scheme, are a matter for the institutions to determine. The particular institution concerned sets their own criteria as to the rate of fees to apply and the issue as to whether the student in question qualifies for the EU or non EU rate is a matter for the fees office of the institution concerned.

I have no role in this matter however officials of my Department did make contact with the fees office of the institution concerned who confirmed that this student registered online and as he has a stamp 2 GNIB card was classified as an International student for the purposes of paying tuition fees at the non EU rate.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

168 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason a school (details supplied) in County Meath had a reduction in their funding for their leaving certificate applied English course with the loss of a teacher; when this decision was made and communicated to the school; the provisions that will be put in place in the school to help the pupils who would otherwise have gone to this course; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33407/12]

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. 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.

The reform of the teacher allocation process being introduced for the 2012/13 school year were designed to give a more equitable distribution of existing posts between schools. The enhanced resources for schools that operated the LCA programme were redistributed so that support could also be given to new schools joining the programme. Previously schools joining the programme were allocated no additional teacher support. The new arrangements are to operate on the basis of the standard allocation under the staffing schedule (18.25:1 in DEIS post-primary schools, 21:1 in fee-charging schools and 19:1 in all other post-primary schools)and an additional fixed allocation of 0.5 of a post to each school that operates the programme. This additional allocation of 0.5 of a post will be available to all new schools joining the programme. The teacher allocation process at post-primary level is largely completed at this stage and all schools would have been notified accordingly.

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.

Special Educational Needs

John Browne

Question:

169 Deputy John Browne asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will approve a fixed term resource teaching post to be based at a primary school (details supplied) in County Wexford on a shared basis. [33410/12]

The NCSE has notified all schools of their allocation for the 2012/13 school year of resource hours for low incidence special needs. The arrangements for how schools access these resource hours in teaching posts are set out in the Department Staffing Circular 0007/2012. Under these arrangements a network of over 2,500 full-time resource posts has been put in place in close to 1,700 base schools throughout the country. The list of these schools and the criteria used to select them is set out in the published Circular.

These resource posts are allocated on a permanent basis and the teachers in them will undertake NCSE approved (low incidence) resource hours in the base schools or in neighbouring schools. Schools that are unable to access these hours will be allocated mainly temporary part-time posts. It is also open to schools to make a joint application for a full-time temporary resource post.

I understand that the school referred to by the Deputy has submitted such an application and my officials will be in contact with the school Board of Management in this regard.

Question No. 170 answered with Question No. 146.

School Transport

John Perry

Question:

171 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the difficulties a person (details supplied) in County Sligo will encounter with school transport; if he will intervene with Bus Éireann on their behalf; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33414/12]

Changes to the Primary School Transport Scheme were announced in Budget 2011 and derived from recommendations in the Value for Money Review of the Scheme. One of the changes announced means that from the beginning of the 2012/13 school year children will be eligible for school transport where they reside not less than 3.2 kilometres from and are attending their nearest national school, having regard to ethos and language.

Existing eligible children, who are not attending their nearest school, will retain their school transport eligibility for the duration of their primary education cycle provided there are no changes to their current circumstances. Siblings of these children, who wish to attend the same school, may apply for transport on a concessionary basis only, subject to a number of conditions which are detailed in the scheme. In this regard, it is worth noting that the annual charge for concessionary tickets will be reduced to €100 for the 2012/13 school year which is the same charge that applies for eligible tickets.

Schools Building Projects

John Perry

Question:

172 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the correspondence submitted to his planning and building unit by a school (details supplied) in County Sligo; if he will ensure that the additional funding is provided; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33422/12]

In September 2011, the school referred to by the Deputy was granted funding for the provision of 2 Mainstream Classrooms under my Department's Additional Accommodation Scheme. In May 2012 the school applied for additional funding for a sliding sound proof partition between both classrooms so that the school could use the rooms for assemblies, choir practice and parent meetings. This application was refused and the school advised that any building works carried out over and above those approved must be funded by the Board of Management, as was set out in the Department's original letter of approval.

I am sure the Deputy will appreciate that there are many competing demands on my Department's capital resources and in this context it must prioritise applications for the provision of much needed additional mainstream classroom accommodation.

School Staffing

Seán Crowe

Question:

173 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide a breakdown, by name and location, of the 32 small schools that will lose a teacher in September 2012 as a consequence of the budget measures. [33430/12]

Some 73 small primary schools were originally due to lose a classroom teacher in September 2012 as a result of the budget measure to increase the relevant pupil thresholds. The Staffing Appeals Board provisionally upheld appeals from 41 schools subject to confirmation that their actual enrolments in September 2012 reach the required level. The breakdown of the remaining 32 schools is attached as requested by the Deputy.

County

Roll Number

School Name and Address

Cavan

17630E

Scoil Naomh Maodhóg, Baileboro, Co. Cavan

Clare

17633K

Scoil Náisiúnta Eoin Baiste Ballyvaughan

Cork

19978I

Maultrahame Central N. S., Leap, Skibbereen, Co. Cork

Cork

17281F

Togher NS Dunmanway, Co. Cork

Donegal

16384K

SN Arainn Mhor II Arainn Mhor, Co. Dhun na nGall

Donegal

16819T

S.N. Gort a Choirce, Gort a Choirce, Co. Dhún na nGall

Donegal

18219F

Scoil Chonaill, An Bun Beag, Leitir Ceanainn, Tír Chonaill

Donegal

16829W

S N Loch An Iubhair Anagaire, Leitir Ceanainn, Tir Chonaill

Donegal

20144M

Gaelscoil Cois Feabhail, Carn na Gaírbhe, Bun an Phobail, Co. Dhún na nGall

Galway

10591I

Scoil na hAirde Moire Cill Chiarain, Conamara

Galway

18113M

Kilasolan N. S. Caltra Ballinasloe

Galway

17760R

SN Baile An Leasa Dunmore, Tuam, Co. Galway

Galway

19283T

Ballymacward Central Ballinasloe, Co. Galway

Kerry

18756I

Fibough N. S. Castlemaine Co. Kerry

Kilkenny

14476F

Wandesforde Mixed N S Castlecomer Co. Kilkenny

Laois

17557U

St Abban’s N. S. Killeen Maganey

Laois

18075H

Rathdomhnaigh N S Rathdowney, Co. Laois

Leitrim

17558W

S N Rosan Carrigallen Co. Leitrim

Longford

14300O

Killasonna N.S., Granard, Co. Longford

Longford

17724N

Ballycloghan N. S. Carrickboy, Co. Longford

Mayo

14923E

Keenagh N. S. Keenagh Ballina Co. Mayo

Mayo

16295L

SN Chorrain, Currane, Achill, Co. Mayo

Offaly

15638K

Monasteroris N. S. Edenderry, Co. Offaly

Roscommon

18061T

Scoil Mhuire Ballyleague, Lanesboro, Co. Roscommon

Roscommon

14966W

Kilteevan N S Roscommon

Sligo

19688W

Dromore West Central N. S., Dromore West, Sligo

Tipperary

17640H

Sc Naisiunta Colman Naofa Terryglass Nenagh Co. Tipperary

Tipperary

18322V

Drom N. S. Drom Templemore Co. Tipperary

Westmeath

18764H

Ardnagrath N.S., Walderstown, Athlone, Co. Westmeath

Westmeath

01731U

Ballynacargy Mixed NS Ballynacargy Co. Westmeath

Wexford

15883A

Killegney N S Killegney, Clonroche, Enniscorthy Co. Wexford

Wicklow

14829M

Redcross 1 N S Redcross, Co. Wicklow

School Curriculum

Regina Doherty

Question:

174 Deputy Regina Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on embedding information literacy in the national school curriculum; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33458/12]

Regina Doherty

Question:

175 Deputy Regina Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on embedding information literacy in the secondary school curriculum; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33461/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 174 and 175 together.

Attention to information literacy is a feature of the NCCA's ICT Framework: A structured approach to ICT in Curriculum and Assessment (2007) which is available to all primary and post-primary schools. There are no specific initiatives underway at the moment on information literacy at primary level but information literacy is an integral part of a student's on-going education. It harnesses the young person's natural sense of wonder. The primary curriculum promotes the importance of ICT as a resource which enriches the quality of teaching and learning across the curriculum.

The new Framework for Junior Cycle, proposed for introduction in schools in 2014, features six Key Skills that will be embedded in all junior cycle subjects and short courses. One of these is Managing Information and Thinking through which "learners improve their capacity to search for information from different sources. They also develop their skills in judging and discriminating between information. They develop strategies for organising information so that they can understand it and use it later" A key element of this skill is to "use ICT and digital media to access, manage and share knowledge".

The new Junior Cycle Framework also provides for short courses to be introduced in schools, some of which will be developed by the NCCA and some by schools themselves. A short course that the NCCA is currently working on is in the area of Digital Literacy which includes topics such as information literacy, personal safety online, digital storytelling, and online privacy.

The Senior Cycle curriculum explicitly espouses the central role of self-directed learning, a spirit of enquiry, critical thinking and problem solving. Recently revised syllabi contain references to the student as a researcher. This requires the skills of analysis of a range of data to make judgements based on the student's research. Such an approach is, in reality, at the heart of good practice in information literacy. Strategies to enhance the students information literacy skills are, as noted earlier, contained in the NCCA's ICT Framework document.

Schools Building Projects

Noel Harrington

Question:

176 Deputy Noel Harrington asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will review clause 3.3a regarding turnover in the declaration of suitability for contractors for small works open procedure only in view of the economic downturn in the construction sector over recent years which has had a dramatic effect on turnover which may restrict suitable contractors from tendering; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33466/12]

Contracting Authorities have an obligation to ensure that, as part of suitability assessment for projects, Contractors have adequate economic and financial capacity. The Turnover requirements are 1.5 times the project value, which for small projects of limited duration is not onerous. In that regard I do not propose to make any changes to the requirements.

Information and Communications Technology

Regina Doherty

Question:

177 Deputy Regina Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the policy of implementing the smart school initiative that every classroom here is to get a teaching laptop, software and digital projector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33476/12]

Between November 2009 and November 2010, my Department distributed some €92m directly to schools and VECs under the national ICT Infrastructure Grant Scheme. The main priority under this scheme is the equipping of each classroom with a teaching computer and digital projector. Once the baseline is in place schools can allocate any remaining funding under the scheme to other ICT equipment and software for educational use. A number of key support measures were taken to help schools get best value in the use of these devolved grants — in particular, the inclusion of schools in national purchasing frameworks for desktops, laptops, digital projectors and printers, the delivery of a national series of e-learning seminars for school leaders, and the provision of extensive guidance and training on the use of ICT in the classroom.

My officials are currently examining ways of assessing the impact of this funding. A survey will be carried out in the Autumn which will ascertain the availability of infrastructure and the integration of ICT in teaching, learning and assessment. Ireland's levels of ICT integration will be also benchmarked against international comparisons.

Enterprise Support Services

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

178 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if there are any grants available for small businesses to send their employees on part-time courses to help them support and improve their business; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33552/12]

I can confirm that Skillnets receives funding from the National Training Fund (NTF) through my Department to support companies from any sector or region to engage in training by co-investing in the delivery of training with member companies of networks. Skillnets works in partnership with enterprise, in particular SMEs, by supporting the development of flexible and effective training delivery methods and enterprise has full decision-making power and can customise training to its specific needs.

Companies can avail of subsidised training by joining a Skillnet network. The member companies contribute match funding to a ratio agreed by the network and Skillnets. Full details are available on the Skillnets website atwww.skillnets.ie.

In addition, the full range of FÁS night courses are open to employees and these are available, on a fee paying basis, in the various FÁS Training Centres countrywide. Full details are available on the FÁS website atwww.fas.ie.

Emergency Works Scheme

Paudie Coffey

Question:

179 Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide an update on an emergency works application in respect of a school (details supplied) in County Waterford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33581/12]

The school referred to by the Deputy submitted a revised application for funding under my Department's Emergency Works Scheme to replace windows at their school. The application is currently being considered and the school authority will be advised of the decision as soon as possible.

Adult Education

Michael Creed

Question:

180 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has received representations from the National Adult Literacy Agency seeking to provide a place for adult learners on the education and training boards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33596/12]

In October 2011 the General Scheme of an Education and Training Boards Bill was referred to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Jobs, Social Protection and Education. The General Scheme was also published at that time. Following discussions with this Department and relevant stakeholders, the Committee prepared a report which the Minister responded to at a meeting of the Committee on 25 January 2012. The General Scheme was then referred to the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel to the Government for formal drafting. It is hoped that the Bill will be published during the summer.

I have received representations from the National Adult Literacy Agency in relation to the membership of the new Education and Training Boards. Consideration will be given to those representations in the course of the drafting of the legislation.

Question No. 181 answered with Question No. 149.

Bullying in Schools

Seán Kyne

Question:

182 Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to introduce statutory provisions to require the preparation and operation of safe schools programmes to combat bullying in schools and educational facilities in a holistic and community-centred approach; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33637/12]

The Deputy may be aware that an Anti-Bullying Forum was held on Thursday 17th May bringing together a range of experts, support groups and representatives of the schools sector including parents and students. I was very pleased to open this important Forum and to provide an opportunity to explore with all the relevant stakeholders how best to tackle bullying in schools and to consider what changes or updating of existing practices and procedures are required to achieve this having regard to what is feasible to implement in the current financial climate.

The range of speakers on the day of the Forum included contributions from my Department, Professor Mona O'Moore of the Anti-Bullying Centre, Trinity College, representatives of the National Anti-Bullying Coalition (NABC), and contributors from the school sector from the various perspectives of school principal, parent and pupil. The Forum also gave other stakeholders an opportunity to give their views. The proceedings of the Forum were broadcast live over the internet and recordings of the day's events can be now viewed by accessing the Anti-Bullying Forum web page of my Department's websitewww.education.ie. The presentations of the various speakers can also be viewed and downloaded from this page.

As a follow on to holding the Forum itself, I invited the stakeholders and any other interested parties, including those unable to attend the event on the day, to submit their views on this important topic to my Department by 29th June 2012. I have also established a working group on tackling bullying in schools, including homophobic bullying, cyber bullying and racist bullying. The outcomes from the Forum together with the submissions from the stakeholders and other interested parties will assist the working group in its deliberations. This working group includes representatives of the Department of Education and Skills and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, and will draw upon the expertise of a range of organisations throughout their work.

Weight of Schoolbags

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

183 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has examined the weight of school bags been carried to school by children; his views on whether excessive weight been carried on children’s backs has the potential to cause injury; if he provides assistance to schools to install locker facilities for school books; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33659/12]

My Department issued Circular M35/05 in 2005 to highlight the potential health hazard of overweight schoolbags and to outline a range of local measures that could be put in place to help alleviate the problem. The circular referred to the recommendations of the previously published report of the Working Group on the Weight of School Bags. This report acknowledged that many of the solutions belong at local school level and made various recommendations in this regard, such as optimum use of storage facilities, developing pupil organisation skills and timetabling.

It is a matter for each individual school to determine which particular measures are most suited to its individual circumstances and to how the school concerned organises teaching and learning. The circular and the report of the Working Group on the Weight of School Bags are available on my Department's website atwww.education.ie.

Schools Building Projects

Patrick Nulty

Question:

184 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a school (details supplied) in Dublin 15 is included in the capital programme for school buildings improvements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33713/12]

The building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is currently at an early stage of architectural planning. The Design Team are currently working on the Stage 2a submission (Developed Sketch Design) of the design process. This project was not included in the Capital Programme, which I announced in March of this year. School building projects currently in architectural planning, including the project referred to by the Deputy, will continue to be advanced incrementally over time within the context of the funding available.

Budget 2013

Terence Flanagan

Question:

185 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will address the following concerns regarding budget 2013 (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33184/12]

As the Deputy is no doubt aware I do not comment on Budget measures prior to Budget Day.

Flood Prevention Measures

Noel Harrington

Question:

186 Deputy Noel Harrington asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the position regarding the Skibbereen flood plan, County Cork; if the various stages are now six months behind schedule; his plans to bring this plan back on schedule; the planned completion date; when an application by Cork County Council made in March 2012 for addition funds for minor flood mitigation works will be processed and a decision communicated to the council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33474/12]

Following the allocation of funding by the Office of Public Works, Cork County Council appointed consultants in February 2011 to carry out a Study aimed at bringing forward proposals for a flood relief scheme for Skibbereen. The process of establishing the most appropriate solution from the technical, social, environmental and economic perspectives, from the range of potential mitigation options requires detailed technical analysis and extensive consultation with stakeholders. Timelines for the various stages are difficult to predict with accuracy, particularly given the range of issues that can arise. The Study has been progressing satisfactorily, with two public information days held in the town as part of the consultation process, the first on 23 March 2011 and the second on 25 January, 2012. These public consultations have helped to inform the development of a preferred option for the scheme which is now emerging.

It was envisaged at the commencement of the Study that the emerging scheme would be brought through the planning process by Cork County Council under the Planning and Development Regulations. However, it has recently been agreed that the scheme should be progressed by the Council as OPW's agents using the Arterial Drainage Acts.

The proposed scheme will, therefore, be brought forward by means of formal Public Exhibition under the Arterial Drainage Acts. It is expected that the Exhibition will take place in the latter half of 2012. This is in line with the schedule outlined at the second public information day. Subject to a successful exhibition, the scheme will be progressed through detailed design and the procurement process for a civil works contractor. The scheme will then be submitted for Confirmation under the Arterial Drainage Acts to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. It is envisaged that this will be in the second half of 2013.

In relation to minor works, Cork County Council was allocated funding of €10,000 under OPW's Minor Flood Mitigation Works Scheme in 2011 for some cleaning works on the River Ilen. A further application for funding for cleaning works was submitted by the Council in 2012 and is currently being considered in the light of the current criteria and the availability of resources for flood risk management, with a decision expected in the coming weeks.

Ministerial Staff

Billy Kelleher

Question:

187 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the names of each special adviser to each Minister and Minister of State for whom he approved a pay increase in excess of the Government cap; the amount involved in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33720/12]

I refer the Deputy to the reply I gave to PQ Ref 32379/12 on Wednesday 4th July 2012.

Flood Prevention Measures

Billy Kelleher

Question:

188 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the Office of Public Works plans to implement its plans for the alleviation of flooding in Clonakilty, County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33722/12]

In relation to the identification of measures to address flooding issues on a long-term basis, the Office of Public Works is continuing to progress the programme of Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management (CFRAM) Studies. The studies will recommend an integrated management plan and prioritised measures to address flood problems in areas where there is significant risk in each major catchment in the country.

Clonakilty has been identified as an Area for Further Assessment (AFA) under the South West CFRAM study and will therefore be subject to a full flood risk analysis to identify appropriate mitigation measures.

I am very aware of the impact of the flooding of 28th June, 2012, having visited the town last week to meet with those affected and inspect the damage.

Following the flood event of 2009, the Office of Public Works provided funding of €350,000 to Cork County Council under the Minor Flood Mitigation Works Scheme for a serious of works to improve the capacity of the River Fealge, which burst its banks in November, 2009. Cork County Council has completed some of the required works and other works are still in hand.

Following a recent event, I am advised the Council has submitted an application to this Office on 4th July, 2012 for further funding of €1.216m to complete these works and also to address further issues which have arisen in the wake of the June event.

The current application submitted by Cork County Council will be considered having regard to the CFRAM study.

Parking Regulations

Sean Fleming

Question:

189 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the proposals being considered by the Office of Public Works to introduce an element of pay parking within the Phoenix Park, Dublin, if he favours such proposals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33036/12]

The Office of Public Works has no immediate plans to implement paid parking within Phoenix Park. However the present parking practices pose particular issues for the Park in terms not only of its management, conservation and presentation as a very special historic landscape but also because of the inconvenience posed to users wishing to enjoy the recreational and amenity facilities.

The recently published Conservation Management Plan identified the restriction of free public parking in continuous periods of more than 3-4 hours as one item for consideration. Plans will be developed on this in due course.

Proposed Legislation

Stephen S. Donnelly

Question:

190 Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform with regard to the Public Service Pensions (Single Scheme) and Remuneration Bill, if he will provide the national employer contributions for the groups listed in the rates of contribution table on page 21 of the Bill, which would be required in a funded scheme with the same employee contributions and benefits; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33059/12]

The Comptroller and Auditor General's (C&AG) special study on public service pensions in 2009 estimated the annual pension cost for public servants to range between 10% and 41%. The new scheme will reduce these costs by approximately one-third. The employee contribution in the Single Scheme continues to be 6.5% (3% on pensionable pay and 3.5% on net pensionable pay (i.e. reduced for social welfare integration)), which nets to an average contribution of about 5% of total pay for most public servants.

There is no fund as public service schemes are pay-as-you-go. Employee contributions are actual in that pay is reduced to account for these. Employer contributions are estimated as being that figure necessary to fund the retirement benefits, were a fund to exist, after employee contributions are taken into account.

The C&AG derived employer contribution rates for various categories of staff in his 2009 report — see Table below. Without carrying out a substantial and expensive actuarial exercise, the best estimate is to reduce the employer rates derived by the C&AG below for each category in line with overall one-third reduction and that means approximately a 10% or higher employer contribution in the new scheme for the majority of public servants.

Table

Notional contribution rates — post 2005 male entrants (C&AG Report 2009)

Categories from C&AG

gross contribution rate

Employee contribution

Current notional employer rate

Single Scheme notional employer rate

Established CS

24.6%

4.6%

20.0%

11.8%

Non-Established CS

9.5%

0.3%

9.2%

6.0%

Primary Teacher

20.5%

4.9%

15.6%

8.8%

Post-Primary Teacher

23.1%

4.9%

18.2%

10.5%

Garda

29.6%

5.1%

24.5%

14.6%

Prison Officer

27.8%

4.5%

23.3%

14.0%

Commissioned Officer

41.2%

4.8%

36.4%

22.7%

Enlisted Personnel

22.4%

0.4%

22.0%

14.5%

Consultant

25.9%

6.0%

19.9%

11.3%

Nurse (general)

17.7%

4.7%

13.0%

7.1%

Established in NCSSB

22.7%

4.9%

17.8%

10.2%

Departmental Staff

Simon Harris

Question:

191 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of staff who took sick leave of more than five, ten, 15, 20 days and 21 days or over in 2011 in all agencies, offices or other bodies reporting to his Department; the length of the ten highest incidences of sick leave across these bodies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33115/12]

The following shows the number of staff who took sick leave of more than five, ten, fifteen, twenty days and twenty-one days or over in 2011 in all agencies, offices or other bodies reporting to my Department except the Office of Public Works where the information requested is not readily available but, in relation to the Established staff, will be extracted and forwarded directly to the Deputy. As regards the State Industrial Employees the information is not readily available as it is not recorded in a manner that would facilitate a retrieval of the data in the manner requested.

More than 5 days taken — 114 staff.

More than 10 days taken — 48 staff.

More than 15 days taken — 29 staff.

More than 20 days taken — 16 staff.

21 days or over taken — 53 staff.

Additionally details of the length of the ten highest incidences of sick leave across these bodies as requested by the Deputy are as follows:

1-229 days.

2-209 days.

3-165 days.

4-162 days.

5-146 days.

6-119 days.

7-116 days.

8-112 days.

9-92 days.

10-71 days.

It should be noted that the sick days shown above include a mix of paid, half pay and unpaid leave. Furthermore it should be noted that Civil Service sick leave policy dictates that where a period of sick leave spans a weekend, public holiday, or any other day on which the officer was not required to work, and the officer remains on sick leave on the day(s) after the non-working days, those non-working days should be counted as sick leave.

Flood Prevention Measures

Billy Kelleher

Question:

192 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the remedial works to be carried out in Glanmire, County Cork, to prevent any future flooding, regardless of its nature, to protect homes and businesses and if he will outline the time frame envisioned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33176/12]

In relation to the identification of measures to address flooding issues on a long-term basis, the Office of Public Works is continuing to progress the programme of Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management (CFRAM) Studies, which is due for completion at end 2015 in accordance with the EU Floods Directive. The studies will recommend an integrated management plan and prioritised measures to address flood problems in areas where there is significant risk in each major catchment in the country.

I am very aware of the impact of the severe flooding of 28th June 2012 in Glanmire and other areas in Cork.

Specifically, in relation to Glanmire, the recent flood events of June 2012 will be analysed and the results incorporated into the CFRAM Plan for the South-West. The Plan will set out clearly a proposed phasing framework for the flood risk management measures for all catchments within the South West River Basin District including the Glashaboy River.

In conjunction with these comprehensive studies, the OPW continues to provide funding under the Minor Flood Mitigation Works and Coastal Protection Scheme to local authorities, to undertake minor flood mitigation measures to address localised flooding and coastal erosion problems within their administrative areas.

Cork County Council has recently submitted a minor works application for funding to undertake a study of the Glashaboy River catchment following the serious flooding which affected the Meadowbrook housing Estate (45 houses flooded) and the Hazelwood Shopping Centre (10 units flooded) in Glanmire. This application will be assessed in accordance with the current criteria, the availability of resources for flood risk management and will also have regard to the outcome of the CFRAM process.

Over €2.6m has been allocated Under the Minor Works Scheme to date for projects in Cork city and county.

Public Sector Staff

Noel Harrington

Question:

193 Deputy Noel Harrington asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will state the exceptions that have been permitted to the public service embargo; the number of vacancies permitted to be filled; if he will indicate where he expects recruitment; the numbers involved to be permitted over the next 18 months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33342/12]

The latest available data on moratorium exceptions, which covers the period to the end of the first quarter 2012 will be forwarded to the Deputy as requested.

The Employment Control Framework (ECF) for 2012 set a ceiling of 294,400 on public service staffing numbers by the end of this year. This will allow scope for some targeted recruitment of up to 3,000 in 2012 so as to address needs in key areas of front-line services, particularly in the Health and Education Sectors and other strategic requirements including the EU presidency in 2013. Final decisions of where recruitment will actually arise will obviously depend on (a) where vacancies arise as staff retire, (b) how Departments and organisations decide to reorganize and reallocate work, (c) the business case made for the filling of any particular post, and (d) the decision made on this business case in the light of other priority demands.

It is part of the day to day function of the Boards and Management of all public bodies to assess, budget and plan for current and ongoing staffing requirements within the context of reducing public service numbers. In support of this, the Strategic Workforce Planning Groups in each sector 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.

Departmental Staff

Michael Conaghan

Question:

194 Deputy Michael Conaghan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he has set a time limit within which individuals awaiting redeployment must be fully redeployed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33554/12]

The Public Appointments Service (PAS), which has day-to-day operational responsibility for the implementation of redeployment, has put in place a system of Resource Panels of Civil Service and State Agency staff to support the redeployment processes in those sectors agreed under the Croke Park Agreement. Posts to be filled by redeployment are offered in the first instance to the relevant panel or panels. It is a matter for the employer to identify the number and grades of posts to be redeployed in the first instance and to upload the posts onto the PAS panels. Employers can do this early in the redeployment process to maximise the opportunities to place their staff. There is no set time-limit within which individuals awaiting redeployment must be redeployed.

To ensure an effective system, Personnel Officers in sending and receiving organisations have been asked to put a dedicated Redeployment Liaison Officer in place to proactively manage the redeployment of staff. In addition, my Department works on an ongoing basis with PAS and other stakeholders to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the redeployment processes and of the panel system in particular.

Employment Rights

Michael Conaghan

Question:

195 Deputy Michael Conaghan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if a person who has held three consecutive fixed-term contracts with a body under the aegis of a Government Department is considered permanent and a public servant. [33555/12]

A person who has held three consecutive fixed-term contracts would not necessarily be entitled to a permanent post in the civil or public service. However such a person would be protected by the Protection of Employees (Fixed-Term Work) Act 2003 which allows for the renewal of existing or granting of new contracts where there are valid reasons for doing so. Only if the Body concerned failed to comply with the terms of the Act would the question of any entitlement to a contract of indefinite duration arise.

Any person employed in the civil or public service on a fixed-term contract would be regarded as a temporary civil or public servant.

Departmental Correspondence

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

196 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will consider reopening the issues in respect of a person (details supplied) if he became aware of additional or new information on the case. [33007/12]

The issues referred to by the Deputy were examined by the appropriate authorities, including the Office of the Ombudsman and no basis for any complaint was upheld. Any new evidence in relation to this matter should be brought to the attention of the relevant authorities for appropriate attention.

Departmental Staff

Simon Harris

Question:

197 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the number of staff who took sick leave of more than five, ten, 15, 20 days and 21 days or over in 2011 in all agencies, offices or other bodies reporting to his Department; the length of the ten highest incidences of sick leave across these bodies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33113/12]

The table below shows the breakdown of sick leave in the categories requested:

Table

0.5-5.5 days

296

6-10.5 days

132

11-15.5 days

61

16-20.5 days

39

21 days and over

119

242 staff of my Department took no sick leave in 2011.

There were 230 available working days per staff member in 2011. The ten highest instances of sick leave were as follows:

Table

1

230

2

230

3

230

4

230

5

203

6

189

7

168

8

144

9

132

10

116

In general, sick absences of up to 183 days (uncertified and certified combined) in any 12-month period, counting back from the date of the most recent absence, will be on full pay, subject to submission of valid medical certificates and social welfare forms (where applicable).

Once 184 days' sick absence has been reached in any 12-month period, pay is reduced to half of normal pay. If sick absence continues, paid sick leave will be exhausted once 365 days' sick leave have been taken in any 4-year period, counting back from the most recent absence. Staff who have more than five years' pensionable service may, when paid sick leave has been exhausted, qualify for "pension rate of pay", subject to the agreement of the Chief Medical Officer (CMO). Pension rate of pay is the rate of pay such a person would receive if they were, at that time, retiring from the Civil Service on grounds of ill-health.

With regard to the Agencies under the aegis of the Department, the management of sick leave is a day to day matter for the Agencies and I have asked each Agency to contact the Deputy directly in response.

Departmental Bodies

Stephen S. Donnelly

Question:

198 Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he is prepared to meet representatives of the Consumers Association of Ireland to discuss the organisation’s urgent financial position; and if he has communicated such to the association following its repeat requests for a meeting. [33181/12]

I recently met with the Consumers' Association of Ireland which apprised me of its current financial position. The Association also raised the possibility of future exchequer support. I advised the Association that, notwithstanding difficulties it may be experiencing in managing its finances, Exchequer support could only be considered where the expending of public funds would represent value for money. In the light of our discussion, I understand that the Association intends to submit a proposal to seek Exchequer support in the coming weeks. Any proposal submitted by the Association will have to demonstrate that it represents value for money, which is the requirement in respect of the expenditure of all public moneys.

Employment Rights

Terence Flanagan

Question:

199 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the position regarding joint labour committee rates in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33211/12]

Joint Labour Committee, Employment Regulation Orders no longer have the force of law. However, the Government is currently progressing legislation to provide for a new system of Employment Regulation Orders.

The judgment of Mr. Justice Feeney delivered,in the High Court, on the 7th of July 2011 declaring that the provisions of sections 42, 43, and 45 of the 1946 Industrial Relations Act and section 48 of the 1990 Act are invalid having regard to the provisions of Article 15.2.1 of the Constitution of Ireland means that Joint Labour Committee Employment Regulation Orders (EROs) no longer have the force of law.

Accordingly, the rates of pay provided in all ERO's formulated by JLCs ceased to be legally enforceable from the date of the High Court ruling and employees in employment sectors previously regulated by ERO's now come within the ambit and the pay rates provided for under the National Minimum Wage Act 2000.

Contractual entitlements which employees enjoyed prior to 7th July 2011 remain protected by law unless changed by agreement with employers. An employee's rate of pay is a term/condition of their contract of employment (employees have a contract of employment or terms of employment whether notified in writing or not). Any change in an employee's terms or conditions of employment would normally be by agreement between the parties. Such agreement can be expressed or implied, tacit or by acquiescence (i.e it can be formally agreed, informally or verbally agreed or accepted by the employee).

Any dispute arising in relation to the operation of employment contracts/conditions falls to be settled either between the parties involved or by availing of the State's industrial relations dispute settlement machinery as provided for under the Industrial Relations Acts. In the event of the parties being unable to resolve a dispute relating to conditions of employment, it is open to the parties to refer the matter to the Labour Relations Commission for investigation under the Industrial Relations Acts (for such an investigation to commence the consent of both parties to participate is required).

The Payment of Wages Act 1991 provides that non-payment of wages or any deficiency in the amount of wages properly payable by an employer to an employee is regarded as an unlawful deduction from wages unless the deficiency or non-payment is attributable to an error of computation.

If an employee considers a reduction in their wages to be an improper deduction from wages or non-payment of wages, the employee may consider referring a complaint to a Rights Commissioner under the Payment of Wages Act

Alternatively if an employee considers a reduction to be a breach of their employment contract they may seek redress for breach of contract in the civil courts.

The Industrial Relations (Amendment) (No. 3) Bill 2011, published on 22 December 2011, is progressing through the legislative process. The main purpose of the Bill is to implement the commitment in the Programme for Government to reform the Joint Labour Committee system. The Bill provides for the more comprehensive measures required to strengthen the legal framework for the EROs and Registered Employment Agreement sectoral wage setting mechanisms, under the Industrial Relations Acts 1946 to 2004, in the light of deficiencies in the original legislation.

Work Permits

Noel Harrington

Question:

200 Deputy Noel Harrington asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he has examined the proposals of an organisation (details supplied) to create special technology visas for skilled workers in the ICT sector to make it easier for them to work and live here, and lead to the creation of 20,000 further jobs; his views on this proposal; if he will promote such a visa to the Department of Justice and Equality; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33311/12]

Ireland remains a very open and welcoming country for non-Irish nationals in our Labour Force. Quarter 1 2012 labour market statistics show there are 274,000 non-Irish nationals in our labour force of just over 2 million. Ireland remains a very attractive location for Foreign Direct Investment. Favourable demographics and consistent investment in education ensure a plentiful supply of highly qualified workers with excellent technical, language and customer services capabilities, as well as a reputation for flexibility and innovation. In addition, Irish employers have access to the EU and EEA labour force in accordance with EU law on freedom of movement or Accession Treaties.

I would advise the Deputy that for specified highly skilled and strategically important occupations, where a skills shortage exists, Green Card employment permits may be issued. ICT professionals, professional engineers and technologists are specifically catered for under this scheme. The Green Card permit is issued to the employee and allows his or her employment in the State by the named employer in the occupation specified on the permit. It may be issued for a period of two years. The employee may apply for immediate family re-unification and an application for long-term residence may be made after two years. No labour market needs test (e.g. newspaper and FÁS/EURES advertising) is required prior to making an application. Sensibly, it is a requirement that no more than 50% of staff employed by a company in Ireland may be employment permits holders.

In addition my officials advise me that in 2011 we received 6408 new applications for permits of all kinds and that new permits issued in respect of 5200, or 81% of these cases. Notwithstanding this the Employment Permit structure and procedure has been designed and maintained to ensure that it is responsive to Irish labour market conditions while ensuring that key specific skills are available to ensure that the Irish economy expands and develops.

Work Permits

Noel Harrington

Question:

201 Deputy Noel Harrington asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he has examined the proposals of an organisation (details supplied) to create special technology visas for skilled workers in the ICT sector to make it easier for them to work and live here, and lead to the creation of 20,000 further jobs; if he has examined the potential of Irish third level colleges to produce enough graduate and postgraduate students in the next year; the next three years and the next five years, to satisfy the job requirements of this sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33312/12]

Ireland remains a very open and welcoming country for non-Irish nationals in our Labour Force. Quarter 1 2012 labour market statistics show there are 274,000 non-Irish nationals in our labour force of just over 2 million. Ireland remains a very attractive location for Foreign Direct Investment. Favourable demographics and consistent investment in education ensure a plentiful supply of highly qualified workers with excellent technical, language and customer services capabilities, as well as a reputation for flexibility and innovation. In addition, Irish employers have access to the EU and EEA labour force in accordance with EU law on freedom of movement or Accession Treaties.

With regard to the specific issue of employment permits for specified highly skilled and strategically important occupations, where a skills shortage exists, Green Card employment permits may be issued. ICT professionals, professional engineers and technologists are specifically catered for under this scheme. The Green Card permit is issued to the employee and allows his or her employment in the State by the named employer in the occupation specified on the permit. It may be issued for a period of two years. The employee may apply for immediate family re-unification and an application for long-term residence may be made after two years. No labour market needs test (e.g. newspaper and FÁS/EURES advertising) is required prior to making an application. Up to 50% of staff employed by a company in Ireland may be employment permits holders.

The Department also operates an Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) scheme. This scheme is designed to facilitate the transfer of senior management, key personnel or trainees who are foreign nationals from an overseas branch of a multinational corporation to its Irish branch. Up to 5% of the entire workforce may have such ICT Permits. However for startups this level may be increased on a case by case basis for an initial period. No labour market needs test is required in respect of an application for an Intra-Company Transfer permit. Certain basic criteria must be met.

I should add that the Government is also guided by the Expert Group for Future Skills Needs and keeps its permit policy under review and can adapt to changing circumstances.

Finally, I would like to advise the Deputy that issues regarding skills availability through the third level colleges and graduate and postgraduate students are primarily a matter for my colleague the Minister of Education and Skills. However, a report produced in January by the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN) entitledAddressing High-Level ICT Skills Recruitment Needs confirms that Ireland is a successful major centre for ICT operations with around 75,000 people employed in 8,000 companies. Indeed, ten of the top ICT companies in the world have substantial operations in Ireland.

The research undertaken by the Group, the Secretariat to which is provided by Forfás, indicates that the global ICT market is expected to grow by 5% between 2009 and 2014/15 with potential growth rate as high as 20% per annum over the next decade. In order to exploit these opportunities, however, it is crucial to ensure that Ireland's labour force is appropriately skilled. In this context the Group's report found that there are a range of skills and recruitment difficulties within the ICT sector with the result that, as at December 2011, there were approximately 1,800 vacancies in the sector. These vacancies arose mainly due to the lack of graduates with high-level ICT Honours Degrees and above which are required to fill such positions as Computer Software Engineers, ICT Network Specialists and Engineers, ICT Security Experts, ICT Telecommunications, ICT Project Managers and IT Sales and Marketing / Foreign Languages Skills Personnel. The report points out that this challenge is not unique to Ireland as such high level ICT skills are also in short supply globally.

In order to address these challenges I, along with my colleague, Mr. Ruairi Quinn, T.D., Minister for Education and Skills, subsequently launched theICT Action Plan: Meeting the High Level ICT Skills Needs of Enterprise in Ireland. The Action Plan establishes an overreaching target of doubling the annual output from honours degree ICT undergraduate programmes to 2,000 graduates by 2018 and outlines a number of actions that will be implemented to ensure an increased output of appropriately skilled graduates in the medium term 2015-2018.

Proposed Legislation

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

202 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation with regard to the consumer and competition Bill if it will be expanded to include the banking sector and to enable laws to be passed to ensure that the consumer is protected in the event of unforeseen difficulties arising as is the case at present with many of our banks failing to fulfil their obligations to have money put into people’s accounts, such as when children’s allowance payments were not put into parents accounts despite the banks having received the payments from the Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33439/12]

The matter referred to by the Deputy is essentially concerned with the operation of the payments system and the current difficulties being experienced by consumers and businesses alike.

Regulatory responsibility in relation to the national payments system lies with the Central Bank. The Deputy will be aware that the Central Bank is actively engaged with the financial institution concerned and with other institutions in the payments/clearing system to ensure that the current difficulties are resolved as a matter of urgency and also to ascertain what precisely happened in this instance. Once its investigations are concluded, I understand that the Bank will bring any deficiencies in the operation and the legal framework supporting the national payments system to the attention of my colleague, the Minister for Finance who has primary policy responsibility for legislative initiatives in this area.

Employment Appeals Tribunal

Robert Troy

Question:

203 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the position regarding an employment appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath. [33576/12]

The Employment Appeals Tribunal is independent in the exercise of its quasi-judicial function and I have no direct involvement in its day to day operations.

However, having made enquiries, I understand that the Tribunal has already issued notices of hearing to the parties and that the hearing is scheduled to take place on 1st August 2012 in Naas.

The Employment Appeals Tribunal has seen a significant increase in its caseload in recent years, as it is one of the front-line services directly impacted upon by the economic downturn. The largest increase in claims has been in redundancy appeals but other types of claims have also increased. Regrettably, this has increased the time it takes for a claimant to have his or her case heard. All appeals are listed for hearing in accordance with their date of lodgment with the Tribunal.

The Tribunal has been pro-active in driving efficiencies. Divisions of the Tribunal are sitting longer, hearing more cases per sitting and seeking to manage the caseload to maximise efficiency. These efficiencies have resulted in improvements to the service provided and delivered significant increases in output and the number of cases disposed of, in both 2010 (30%) and a further 11% in 2011, with a further 11% increase to date in 2012 over the same period in 2011.

Notwithstanding the efforts of the Tribunal, I believe that the delays that users of the service are experiencing are unacceptable. This is one of the reasons I am undertaking a root and branch reform of all five Workplace Relations Bodies.

The Reform Programme I have commenced will deliver a two tier Workplace Relations structure by merging the activities of the Labour Relations Commission, the National Employment Rights Authority, the Equality Tribunal and the first instance functions of the Employment Appeals Tribunal and the Labour Court into a new Body of First Instance, to be known as the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC). The appellate functions of the Employment Appeals Tribunal will be incorporated into an expanded Labour Court. Work has commenced on the drafting of a Workplace Relations Bill to give effect to the new two-tier structure.

The purpose of the Reform Programme is to provide a more efficient and effective system of resolving employment disputes. Substantial progress has already been made in this regard. For example, the establishment of a Workplace Relations Single Contact Portal from January this year has resulted in all complaints now being acknowledged and respondents notified within, on average, 5 working days of receipt of the complaint. In some cases this was taking up to eight months. This service enhancement increases the likelihood of employers and employees resolving issues sooner and has substantially reduced the backlog for certain hearings. I understand that the backlog for Rights Commissioner hearings has effectively been eliminated.

The service improvements have also been underpinned by the launch from January this year of a Single Complaint Form for all first instance workplace relations complaints. A Pilot Early Resolution Service commenced on 14th May this year. This service will provide the opportunity in certain cases for employers and employees to resolve issues without recourse to formal adjudication hearings, thus relieving pressure on adjudication services such as the Rights Commissioner Service and the EAT.

The two tier model now being designed will deliver a just, fair and efficient adjudication service provided by independent, professional and impartial decision-makers with a target period of three months from the time of complaint to hearing, and written, reasoned decisions within 28 working days of the hearing with published decisions. Finally, I also intend to provide for a more effective method of enforcing the awards of adjudicators.

Youth Enterprise Initiatives

John Lyons

Question:

204 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he has considered any youth specific enterprise initiatives to encourage entrepreneurial activity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33586/12]

The role of the County and City Enterprise Boards (CEBs) is to develop indigenous potential and stimulate economic activity at a local level primarily through the provision of financial and technical support for the development of small and micro-enterprises that employ less than ten people.

Encouraging and promoting a youth enterprise culture is an important area of activity for the enterprise boards. Through various programmes and initiatives, the CEBs seek to influence student attitudes in favour of enterprise. To that end, the CEBs continue to reinforce entrepreneurship in the education system as a critical element in the future development of small business in Ireland. A number of initiatives are provided by the CEBs at both primary and secondary level including, the annual Student Enterprise Awards, Exploring Enterprise, Celtic Enterprise and Bí Gnóthach Enterprise. Over 20,000 students a year now participate in the various CEB-supported programmes implemented in the education sector. Further information on the initiatives run by the CEBs is available atwww.enterpriseboards.ie.

Enterprise Ireland has a wide range of programmes to address the multi-disciplinary demands of entrepreneurship and the diversity of business types, regardless of the age profile of a project promoter. The agency supports companies, employing ten or more people, to achieve productivity gains, internationalisation and export growth. It assists with research and development, management skills acquisition, market information and seed and venture capital. The Deputy may wish to access full details of the agency's programmes on its websitewww.enterprise-ireland.com.

Youth Unemployment

John Lyons

Question:

205 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he has considered using the European Progress Microfinance Fund as a source of funding for youth unemployment initiatives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33587/12]

Youth unemployment initiatives are the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for Education and Science. I am in the process of introducing a Microfinance Loan Fund, which has a significant entrepreneurship focus, for all would-be entrepreneurs including young entrepreneurs who are unemployed. Loans will be made available to start-up, newly established, or growing microenterprises, with viable business propositions, that do not meet the conventional risk criteria applied by banks. The potential viability of the business proposal will be the dominant factor in all credit decisions. However, I believe that the Fund will be of particular benefit to young entrepreneurs, as they do not have the advantage of a favourable credit history and therefore, may be categorised as a high risk by the banks. Loans from the Microfinance Loan Fund will be administered under the remit of the Social Finance Foundation on behalf of the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.

The European Progress Microfinance Facility is a European Investment Fund (EIF) initiative to support entrepreneurship and employment through microfinance activities. Capped guarantees may be provided to eligible intermediaries partially covering their portfolios of micro-loans, or loan facilities may be availed of to increase lending to micro-enterprises. Initial engagement has taken place between the Social Finance Foundation and the EIF in relation to availing of the EU Progress Microfinance Guarantee Facility. Formal application will be made for the EU Progress Microfinance Guarantee Facility following enactment of the legislation, which provides for the establishment of the microfinance lending entity, Microfinance Ireland. A rigorous due diligence process is required to secure EIF accreditation.

Departmental Bodies

Seán Kyne

Question:

206 Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will report on the progress made in implementing those recommendations categorised as immediate, short and medium term of the Small Advisory Group’s Report entitled The Voice of Small Business for which he has been designated as having lead responsibility. [33641/12]

The Minister for Small Business, John Perry, chairs the Advisory Group on Small Business. This group published the Voice of Small Business Report in 2011, which was submitted to the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Employment as the recommended small business actions for consideration in the Action Plan for Jobs. The Voice of Small Business contains fifty-seven actions across twelve broad policy areas. Thirty-four of the Advisory Groups actions/recommendations were included in the Action Plan for Jobs. The Action Plan for Jobs first Quarterly Report shows that twelve of the thirty-four actions met their Quarter 1 timeline (the others have varying timelines). This full Progress Report is published on the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation website. One action, the publication of the Official 15 Day Prompt Payment Notice is fully implemented. Twenty-two further actions have different timelines but will be progressed over the remainder of 2012.

Skills Development

Seán Kyne

Question:

207 Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the procedures in place to ensure cross-departmental co-operation for the filling of strategically important vacancies at companies in highly globalised and competitive industries when such companies have encountered clear difficulties in sourcing Irish and EU citizens with the requisite skills. [33646/12]

There is close strategic alignment across Government in both identifying and responding to the skills needs of highly globalised and competitive industries operating in Ireland. The Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN) advises the Irish Government on current and future skills needs of the economy and on other labour market issues that impact on Ireland's enterprise and employment growth. It has a central role in ensuring that labour market needs for skilled workers are anticipated and met. Forfás, under my Department, in conjunction with FÁS, under the Department of Education and Skills provides the EGFSN with research and secretariat support.

A report produced in January by the EGFSN entitled Addressing High-Level ICT Skills Recruitment Needs confirms that Ireland is a successful major centre for ICT operations with around 75,000 people employed in 8,000 companies. Indeed, ten of the top ICT companies in the world have substantial operations in Ireland. The research undertaken by the Group, indicates that the global ICT market is expected to grow by 5% between 2009 and 2014/15 with potential growth rate as high as 20% per annum over the next decade. In order to exploit these opportunities, however, it is crucial to ensure that Ireland's labour force is appropriately skilled. In this context the Group's report found that there are a range of skills and recruitment difficulties within the ICT sector with the result that, as at December 2011, there were approximately 1,800 vacancies in the sector. These vacancies arose mainly due to the lack of graduates with high-level ICT Honours Degrees and above which are required to fill such positions as Computer Software Engineers, ICT Network Specialists and Engineers, ICT Security Experts, ICT Telecommunications, ICT Project Managers and IT Sales and Marketing/Foreign Languages Skills Personnel. The report points out that this challenge is not unique to Ireland as such high level ICT skills are also in short supply globally.

In order to address these challenges from domestic sources I, along with my colleague, Mr. Ruairi Quinn, T.D., Minister for Education and Skills, subsequently launched the ICT Action Plan: Meeting the High Level ICT Skills Needs of Enterprise in Ireland. The Action Plan establishes an overreaching target of doubling the annual output from honours degree ICT undergraduate programmes to 2,000 graduates by 2018 and outlines a number of actions that will be implemented to ensure an increased output of appropriately skilled graduates in the medium term 2015-2018.

As part of my Departments policies for attracting employees for specified highly skilled and strategically important occupations, where a skills shortage exists, Green Card employment permits may be issued. The Green Card permit is issued to the employee and allows his or her employment in the State by the named employer in the occupation specified on the permit. It may be issued for a period of two years. The employee may apply for immediate family re-unification and an application for long-term residence may be made after two years. No labour market needs test (e.g. newspaper and FÁS/EURES advertising) is required prior to making an application. Up to 50% of staff employed by a company in Ireland may be employment permit holders.

The Department also operates an Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) scheme. This scheme is designed to facilitate the transfer of senior management, key personnel or trainees who are foreign nationals from an overseas branch of a multinational corporation to its Irish branch. Up to 5% of the workforce may have ICT Permits. However for startups this may be waived on a case by case basis for an initial period. No labour market needs test is required in respect of an application for an Intra-Company Transfer permit. Certain criteria apply in the case of ICTs.

Also my Department operates the Researcher Mobility "Hosting Agreement" scheme, which provides for the entry into the State of researchers from Third Countries under Council Directive 2005/71/EC, which has operated very successfully since 2007. As an example of cross-Departmental co-operation, a Hosting Agreement Extranet was established enabling relevant key departments, such as Immigration authorities, Embassies and Consulates access to an electronic database thus expediting immigration procedures for third country researchers. The Extranet is operated and maintained by the Irish Universities Association.

Carer’s Allowance

Billy Kelleher

Question:

208 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Social Protection the process by which carer’s allowance appeals are being carried out; if there is a significant backlog; the average and maximum wait for appeals decisions; her views on the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33299/12]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that for the first half of 2012 the current average times taken to process carer's allowance appeals decided by summary decision is 32.1 weeks and 45.3 weeks for those requiring an oral hearing. Generally the vast majority of cases fall within average times but extenuating factors, often outside of the control of the Social Welfare Appeals Office, will cause greater delays in some cases. In the light of this, if the most protracted cases are excluded (i.e. those received before January 2011), the relevant waiting times are 30.7 for summary decision and 38.7 weeks for those requiring an oral hearing. There are 1,606 carer's appeals pending at the end of June 2012.

By its nature and because it is a quasi-judicial process, the processing of appeals takes time and reflects the fact that, by definition, the appeal process cannot be a quick one. Once an appeal is received, there is a statutory requirement for a response to that appeal by a Deciding Officer addressing the contentions raised in the appeal. If new evidence is submitted, a review of the decision will be undertaken by the Department and this may involve a re-investigation of the appellant's circumstances. When the submission is received from the Department, in many cases there is a need to conduct an oral hearing of the appeal which requires the booking of a venue at a location convenient to the appellant, arranging the attendance of witnesses, notifying appellants and handling cancellations and this adds quite considerably to the time taken to process appeals.

In an effort to reduce the processing times, the Department has appointed 13 additional Appeals Officers since 2010. In addition, a further 10 Appeals Officers, formerly employed by the Community Welfare Service (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 has brought the total number of Appeals Officers to 40. In addition to this, the Office has improved its business processes and IT support.

I am assured by the Chief Appeals Officer that she is keeping the methods of operation by which the Social Welfare Appeals Office conducts its business under constant review, and that the processes are continuously being enhanced to reduce the backlogs in the Office and, overall, to reduce the processing times for dealing with appeals. I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an appeal for the person concerned has not, as yet, been received in that Office. The application is currently being processed by the Carer's Allowance section of the Department and an appeal to the Social Welfare Appeals Office will only arise in the event that the person is not satisfied with the decision of the Deciding Officer.

The Department is committed to delivering the best possible service to its customers. Currently the average time taken to award a carer's allowance application is 28 weeks. I acknowledge that the time taken to process carer's allowance claims at present is not satisfactory but 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 customers. Full deployment of the new system for carer's allowance has been completed this month. In tandem with the full implementation of the new system, a comprehensive business process improvement exercise commenced on the 2nd July, the focus of which is to optimise performance and provide improved customer service. However it is expected to be a number of months before the backlog is reduced to an acceptable level.

Homeless Persons

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

209 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding emergency homeless accommodation (details supplied). [33440/12]

Eric J. Byrne

Question:

256 Deputy Eric Byrne asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding payments made to homeless young persons in transition from care (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33444/12]

Terence Flanagan

Question:

266 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will deal with a query (details supplied) regarding youth homelessness; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33477/12]

Peter Mathews

Question:

291 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans in respect of a person (details supplied) who are currently in receipt of welfare allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33715/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 209, 256, 266 and 291 together.

The €100 rate of jobseeker's allowance was introduced for claimants aged under 20 in April 2009, and this rate was applied to claimants aged up to 21 from December 2009. The €100 rate does not apply to certain categories of claimant including:

claimants with a qualified child;

those transferring to Jobseeker's Allowance immediately after exhausting their entitlement to Jobseeker's Benefit;

those making a claim for Jobseeker's Allowance where that claim is linked to a Jobseeker's Allowance claim made within the previous 12 months to which the maximum personal rate applied;

those transferring directly to Jobseeker's Allowance from Disability Allowance;

certain people who were in the care of the HSE during the period of 12 months before he or she reached the age of 18.

A rate of €144 applies to claimants aged 22-24. The adoption of these measures reflected the need to encourage more young jobseekers to improve their skills by either pursuing further study or accessing a labour market programme.

Receiving the full adult rate of a jobseekers payment without a strong financial incentive to engage in education or training can lead to welfare dependency. While many young people with low levels of education and training were able to get work in construction and other areas when the economy was doing well, they are likely to find it much harder to get work over the course of the next few years. The measures encourage young jobseekers to improve their skills and remain active in the labour market in order to avoid the risk of becoming long-term unemployed and will help them to progress into sustainable employment on a long-term basis. Where a person is in receipt of a rate of jobseeker's allowance described above and he or she participates in a course of education, training, Community Employment, Rural Social Scheme or Tús, the full normal rate of payment applicable to that course or scheme applies without any reduction for persons aged under 25.

I understand that Deputies have been contacted with regard to these measures following a campaign by Focus Ireland. My officials met with Focus Ireland in May, 2012 in relation to their concerns. These are being examined and further discussions are planned.

More generally, Deputies may wish to note that my Department's role with regard to persons who are homeless is mainly income maintenance. Under the social welfare system, homeless people have entitlements to the full range of social welfare schemes, including supplementary welfare allowance and associated supplements, subject to the normal qualifying conditions. My Department, through its work in the Homeless Persons Unit and the Asylum Seekers and New Communities Unit provides assistance to people in sourcing the most appropriate accommodation available. In addition, prison and hospital in-reach services are provided to explore accommodation options and, where necessary, liaise with local authorities to identify and source the most appropriate accommodation available for those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. This ensures that where possible, people are diverted away from homeless services and towards community-based supports.

Departmental Staff

Dara Calleary

Question:

210 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Social Protection if a person (details supplied) in County Sligo may extend their career break in her Department. [33539/12]

All applications for leave, including career breaks, are a matter for local management to consider and approve subject to the business requirements of the area at the time. The officer concerned is not currently on a career break from her position in the Department. An application for a six month career break received by her local management in September 2011 was not approved because of business demands at the time and difficulties finding replacement staff due to the moratorium on recruitment. The officer subsequently applied for a leave absence of thirteen weeks from 18th January 2012 to 18th April 2012, under the Shorter Working Year (SWY) scheme which was approved by her local management. The SWY scheme provides for temporary cover for the period of the absence and a temporary officer was recruited for the period up to the 18th April. In addition, a period of eight weeks special leave without pay up to the 20th June 2012 was approved. Following this a period of annual leave was approved up to 6th July 2012. The officer was due to report for duty on 9th July 2012, however, she failed to do and has since informed her manager that she remains out of the Country. Accordingly, she has been removed from the payroll and HR division is examining her current position.

The Deputy will appreciate that the pressures of work in my Department are substantial and, while managers make every effort to ensure family friendly policies and facilitate staff, the needs of the customer must be seen as a major priority for the Department.

Social Welfare Benefits

Stephen S. Donnelly

Question:

211 Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will provide a breakdown of the cost of the survivor’s pension for the nearest year for which this is available; the number receiving this pension; and the total cost of the pension to the State. [33718/12]

There were 115,762 recipients of Widow's, Widowers or Surviving Civil Partner's Contributory Pension in December 2011 with 11,310 qualified children. The cost of the scheme was €1.34 billion for the year 2011. In addition, there were 1,959 recipients of Widow's, Widowers or Surviving Civil Partner's Non-Contributory Pension in December 2011 at a cost of €18.2 million for the year 2011.

Carer’s Allowance

Jim Daly

Question:

212 Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a carer’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32963/12]

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.

Carer’s Alowance

Jim Daly

Question:

213 Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a carer’s application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32964/12]

The application for carer's allowance from the person in question was refused on the ground that the care recipient is not in need of full-time care and attention as laid down in the regulations. The person in question has requested a review of this decision and has submitted further medical evidence in support of the application. Once the review is completed in this case the person in question will be notified directly of the outcome.

Carer’s Allowance

Sean Fleming

Question:

214 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Social Protection when the carer’s allowance will be approved in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Laois; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32965/12]

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.

Carer’s Allowance

Michael McGrath

Question:

215 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a carer’s allowance application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [32971/12]

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.

Carer’s Allowance

Paschal Donohoe

Question:

216 Deputy Paschal Donohoe asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will issue on the review of a half rate carer’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32976/12]

The application for carer's allowance from the person in question was refused on the ground that the care recipient is not in need of full-time care and attention as laid down in the regulations. The person in question has requested a review of this decision and has submitted further medical evidence in support of the application. Once the review is completed in this case the person in question will be notified directly of the outcome.

Rent Supplement Scheme

Billy Timmins

Question:

217 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding rent allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; if it will be granted as a matter of urgency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32984/12]

The person concerned made an application for rent supplement on 16th March 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 information has been provided.

Carer’s Allowance

John O'Mahony

Question:

218 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will be made on a review for a carer’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32999/12]

The application for carer's allowance from the person in question was refused on the ground that the care recipient is not in need of full-time care and attention as laid down in the regulations. The person in question has requested a review of this decision and has submitted further medical evidence in support of the application. Once the review is completed in this case the person in question will be notified directly of the outcome.

Rent Supplement Scheme

Robert Dowds

Question:

219 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Social Protection if there are any measures which she will introduce to make it easier for people who are in receipt of rent supplement to take up jobs without being hit by punitively high rents. [33002/12]

The purpose of the rent supplement scheme is to provide short-term income support, to eligible people living in private rented accommodation whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source. The 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 92,000 persons in receipt of rent supplement for which the Government has provided a sum of €436 million for 2012.

Rent supplement is calculated to ensure that an eligible person, after the payment of rent, has an income equal to the rate of supplementary welfare allowance appropriate to his or her family circumstances, less a minimum weekly contribution of €30 (€35 for couples) which each recipient is required to pay from his or her own resources. The existing rent supplement assessment provides for a gradual withdrawal of payment as hours of employment or earnings increase. Those availing of part-time employment and/or training opportunities can continue to receive rent supplement subject to their satisfying the standard means assessment rules. Where a person has additional income in excess of the standard weekly rate of supplementary welfare allowance, the first €75 of such additional income together with 25% of any additional income above €75 is disregarded for means assessment purposes. This ensures that those returning to work or participating in training schemes are better off as a result of taking up such an opportunity.

Rent supplement is not generally payable where a person or their spouse or partner is in full-time employment, i.e. for 30 hours or more a week. However, a person on rent supplement, who is accepted as eligible for accommodation under the rental accommodation scheme (RAS), may return to full-time work, subject to a means test, without losing entitlement to their rent supplement payment. The rental accommodation scheme gives local authorities specific responsibility for meeting the longer-term housing needs of people receiving rent supplement for 18 months or more. Details of these cases are notified regularly by my Department to the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government.

On 16th June 2011, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government and the Minister for Housing and Planning published a new housing policy framework statement. This framework statement reflects the content of the Programme for Government and sets out the principles to underpin the development of housing policy into the medium term. Specifically, it contains the announcement for the transfer of responsibility in providing housing needs for long term rent supplement recipients to housing authorities. A multi-agency steering group, which includes representation from my Department, has been established to develop proposals to give effect to this transfer. This will help achieve a key Government commitment of removing barriers to employment at the same time returning rent supplement to its original purpose, that of a short term income support payment for those temporarily unemployed.

Domiciliary Care Allowance

Finian McGrath

Question:

220 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will include a group (details supplied) in County Clare on the domiciliary care allowance review group. [33005/12]

The review of the domiciliary care allowance (DCA) scheme, as recently announced will commence shortly. The group undertaking the review will be comprised of representatives from a number of government Departments, the National Disability Authority and other persons with relevant experience. Three representatives from a working group established by Downs Syndrome Ireland, Inclusion Ireland, Irish Autism Action, Special Needs Parents Association, the Carers Association and Midlands Regional Forum of People with Disabilities have been invited to be part of the review group. It is considered that this broad representation will reflect the issues and views of the vast majority of parents on the matter.

Officials from my Department have met with representatives from the DCA Warriors to discuss how they can be facilitated in making a positive contribution to the review process. Based on those discussions and the understanding that this group has membership from all over the country, I am pleased to inform the Deputy that this NGO is being offered a place on the working group. The terms of reference for the review allows for a consultation process with parents and representative groups to be held. This will allow for all parents and groups not directly represented on the working group to input their concerns and suggestions to the review process.

Carer’s Allowance

Paul Connaughton

Question:

221 Deputy Paul J. Connaughton asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will be made in relation to an application for carer’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33008/12]

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.

Carer’s Allowance

John McGuinness

Question:

222 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection if carer’s allowance will be approved in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny. [33018/12]

The application for carer's allowance from the person in question was refused on the ground that the care recipient is not in need of full-time care and attention as laid down in the regulations. The person in question has requested a review of this decision and has submitted further medical evidence in support of the application. Once the review is completed in this case the person in question will be notified directly of the outcome.

Carer’s Allowance

John McGuinness

Question:

223 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection if an application for carer’s allowance will be granted in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny. [33020/12]

I can confirm that an application for carer's allowance has been received 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.

Free Travel Scheme

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

224 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding benefits (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33026/12]

Free travel passes are provided for more than 700,000 people at an annual cost of €77 million. Approximately 400,000 people are in receipt of the household benefits package at a cost of almost €370 million in 2011 and 400,000 people are in receipt of the fuel allowance at a cost of almost €265 million in 2011.

I appreciate the important role that these schemes play in promoting social inclusion and preventing isolation of older people and people with disabilities. All of the schemes operated by my Department, including free travel, the household benefits package and the fuel allowance were examined in the context of the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure and continue to be kept under review given the on-going need for savings. The Review continues to inform me and my colleagues in Government in our decisions on future spending.

Social Welfare Benefits

Ciara Conway

Question:

225 Deputy Ciara Conway asked the Minister for Social Protection the measures being put in place to ensure that anyone with Ulster Bank receiving a payment from her Department, such as child benefit or pension entitlements, will continue to receive their entitlements; if alternative arrangements are being made to facilitate collection elsewhere, such as at a post office; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33097/12]

The Department issues over 1.4 million weekly payments and a further 723,000 monthly payments to its customers. In most cases the Department offers a range of payment options including payment at a local post office via electronic information transfer (EIT), payment through a bank, building society account or certain credit union of the customer's choice via electronic funds transfer (EFT) or by cheque. Payment can be received at Post Offices in respect of Child Benefit and Pensions.

Last week approx. 62,000 weekly payments and 48,000 monthly payments were made to customers who nominated to have their payments made into an account at Ulster Bank.

Bank of Ireland is the Department's primary banker partner and all EFT payment files are routed through them for onwards transmission to other financial institutions in the case of those social welfare customers who bank with institutions other than Bank of Ireland.

The Department is in continuous contact with Ulster Bank in relation to their current difficulties. Ulster Bank has assured the Department that arrangements have been put in place to ensure that customers who have been affected can access their money by contacting their local Ulster Bank Branch. In the circumstances, the Department does not propose to put alternative arrangements in place but will continue to monitor the situation closely.

Departmental Staff

Simon Harris

Question:

226 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of staff who took sick leave of more than five, ten, 15, 20 days and 21 days or over in 2011 in all agencies, offices or other bodies reporting to her Department; the length of the ten highest incidences of sick leave across these bodies; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33116/12]

The agencies operating under the aegis of the Department are the Citizens Information Board and the Pensions Board. In addition, the Office of the Pensions Ombudsman comes under the remit of the Department.

Details of the sick leave as requested by the Deputy are shown in the following table:

Citizens Information Board

Pensions Board

No. of days

No. of instances

No. of instances

5+

32

11

10+

15

4

15+

10

2

20+

7

1

21+

7

1

None of the sick leave absences that occurred in respect of the staff serving in the Office of the Pensions Ombudsman exceeded 5 days in 2011.

The ten highest instances of sick leave across the agencies in 2011 were 85 days, 72 days, 59 days, 36 days, 32.5 days, 27 days, 25 days, 19 days, 18.5 days and 16 days respectively.

Departmental Staff

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

227 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of clerical officer grade staff in her Department seeking a transfer to County Galway; the arrangements in place to facilitate transfers on a cross departmental basis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33123/12]

Currently there are 27 Clerical Officers recorded on the transfer list for the Department's office in Galway City, 25 for the Loughrea Office and 16 for the Clifden Office.

When filling vacancies, the Department is obliged, in the first instance, to fill positions by the redeployment of staff from other departments or agencies. Where there are no staff available from the redeployment panel, the Department then seeks to fill the post by reference to the relevant transfer list.

In accordance with protocols agreed centrally with unions and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, the names of officers seeking to transfer to alternative locations are recorded on the relevant transfer list in strict order of date of application. The transfer lists are open to Clerical Officers in all Government Departments.

Jobseeker’s Allowance

Paul Connaughton

Question:

228 Deputy Paul J. Connaughton asked the Minister for Social Protection when an oral hearing will be held in relation to a jobseeker’s assistance appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33145/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 15th 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 28th 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.

Carer’s Allowance

Denis Naughten

Question:

229 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision on a carer’s allowance application will issue in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; the reason for the delay in same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33149/12]

The carer's allowance application for the person in question was refused on 11th January 2012 on medical grounds. Subsequent to this, the person in question requested a review of this decision and submitted further medical information in support of the application.

The medical assessor has reviewed the medical component of this application and is of the opinion that the care recipient is eligible.

A decision will be made by a deciding officer and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

Invalidity Pension

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

230 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will provide an update on an appeal for invalidity pension in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin and if she will expedite the matter. [33179/12]

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.

Carer’s Allowance

John Lyons

Question:

231 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Social Protection when an application for carer’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11 will be assessed; and if she will expedite a decision on same. [33189/12]

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, applications are dealt with by the Department as far as possible in the order in which they are received.

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.

Carer’s Allowance

Marcella Corcoran Kennedy

Question:

232 Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy asked the Minister for Social Protection when a carer’s allowance appeal will be processed in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Offaly; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33194/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal, by the person concerned, was registered in that office on 02nd 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.

Disability Allowance

Patrick Nulty

Question:

233 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding disability allowance appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; if an early oral hearing will be granted; the reason for the delay; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33196/12]

To date, no appeal has been received from the person concerned in relation to the refusal of their disability allowance application.

The person concerned also made a claim for invalidity pension and was refused on medical grounds. He appealed the decision to disallow him an invalidity pension. An appeals officer found that the appellant failed to show that he was permanently incapable of work due to illness/disability within the meaning of Social Welfare legislation and, accordingly, the appeal was disallowed.

An appeals officer's decision is final and conclusive in absence of any fresh facts or evidence. The person concerned was notified of this decision in writing on 19 December 2011.

It is open to the person concerned to make a new claim for invalidity pension or disability allowance.

Carer’s Allowance

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

234 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the progress made to date in the determination of 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. [33202/12]

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.

Carer’s Allowance

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

235 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Social Protection the up to date position regarding an application for carer’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Donegal. [33217/12]

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.

Question No. 236 withdrawn.

Carer’s Allowance

Michael McGrath

Question:

237 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection the date an application for carer’s allowance was received in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and when same will be processed. [33239/12]

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

John Perry

Question:

238 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will ensure that an invalidity pension appeal is granted in view of the medical report submitted in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Sligo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33258/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal, by the person concerned, was registered in that office on 11th June 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.

Carer’s Allowance

Niall Collins

Question:

239 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a carer’s allowance application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [33261/12]

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.

Statutory Sick Pay Scheme

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

240 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Social Protection if any progress has been made in the context of the earlier report this year from the Consultation Seminar — The Feasibility and Implications of Introducing a Scheme of Statutory Sick Pay in Ireland; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33270/12]

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

247 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Social Protection if, in view of her proposal to introduce statutory sick pay on employers, if she has carried out a full cost-impact analysis on small businesses if this proposal were to be introduced; and if so what are the results of this. [33356/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 240 and 247 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.

In considering the wide range of issues to be addressed before such a scheme could be introduced, a preliminary analysis based on estimates of absenteeism in the private sector has been carried out and this 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.

The report of the consultative seminar on the feasibility and implications of introducing a scheme of statutory sick pay held in February is now available on the Department's website.

The range of complex issues associated with the introduction of such a scheme continue to be considered and will be discussed in the course of the wider process associated with the preparation of Budget 2013. Any decisions which might be taken by Government on the possible introduction of a statutory sick pay scheme will be considered in that context.

Employment Support Services

Gerald Nash

Question:

241 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason no reference is made to the national figures of the Local Employment Service Network or to its involvement in the National Employment Action Plan in the recent report Employment Action Plan Monthly Progress Report No. 163 of April 2012; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33274/12]

The monthly progress report is a long-standing report produced by FÁS since the late 1990s providing summary overall national data on outcomes for persons referred under the National Employment Action Plan (EAP). It predates the involvement of the LES in the EAP referral process (which commenced in 2009), and the absence of a reference to this LES involvement is an oversight.

Approximately one third of referrals under EAP are now to LES offices, with the remainder being to employment services offices of the Department.

The report in its current form and the data collection process underlying it have become out-dated in a number of respects as the EAP has evolved, and particularly in the light of the transfer of the employment service from FÁS to the Department. It is planned to move to an updated reporting format later this year.

Youth Unemployment

Gerald Nash

Question:

242 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will provide an analysis in tabular form of youth unemployment between those born in Ireland and those born outside the State in view that 10% of those aged between 18 and 25 were not born in the State; if she will outline any plans to tackle the specific employment problems many of those young persons face; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33275/12]

The official measure of unemployment comes from the Quarterly National Household Survey. While the survey provides some data on the nationality of the unemployed at the aggregate level, these are considered by the Central Statistics Office to be "broadly indicative", and the data are not available below the aggregate level.

Administrative data show that there were 79,098 persons aged less than 25 years on the Live Register at the end of June 2012. The data do not distinguish place of birth; however, data on nationality are available and these are given in the table:

Persons aged under 25 years on the Live Register, June 2012

Ireland

UK

EU 13

EU AC 12

Non-EU

Total

Total Non Irish

Jobseekers Allowance

65,614

1,439

136

2,371

1,303

70,863

5,249

Jobseekers Benefit

7,217

67

19

526

36

7,865

648

Jobseekers Benefit Credits Only

324

5

8

32

1

370

46

Total Live Register

73,155

1,511

163

2,929

1,340

79,098

5,943

The data show that 7.5% of all young people on the Live Register are not Irish nationals.

Currently, once they have been on the Live Register for three months, unemployed people — including young people and those originally from abroad — are referred to the employment service of my Department for a one-to-one interview and more intensive assistance through a caseload approach. That approach provides for the identification of specific barriers to re-employment faced by each individual so that these can be addressed.

Profiling of the newly unemployed is now being introduced by the Department to identify those least likely to re-enter the workforce unaided. This will allow those facing specific barriers to re-employment to be referred for interview and more intensive assistance earlier in their unemployment spell than has been possible up to now.

Pension Provisions

Gerald Nash

Question:

243 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Social Protection the contact she has made with social security authorities in other states to clarify the number of persons resident here receiving pensions from those states; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33276/12]

Gerald Nash

Question:

244 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Social Protection the information she has furnished to the Revenue Commissioners in relation to residents of Ireland who are receiving social security pensions from other states, where that information has been furnished to her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33277/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 243 and 244 together.

The Department does not have information about the total numbers of people resident in Ireland with foreign social security pensions as information about an individual with other pension income would only be required by the Department if the person applied for the means tested State Pension (Non-Contributory). That information is mainly sourced when the person applies for that pension.

A person can receive both an Irish contributory pension and a pension from another source such as an occupational or foreign pension. Their entitlement to the contributory pension is based on their PRSI contribution record. It is not means tested so information in relation to their other income is not required. In addition, there would be people resident in Ireland with foreign social security pensions who have no Irish pensions.

In relation to means tested payments, any monies received by way of a foreign social security payment is assessable as means for the purposes of determining the rate of their social welfare means tested payment. An applicant for a means tested payment is obliged to declare if they have an entitlement to a foreign social security payment/pension. If a person has indicated that they previously worked in the UK or in another jurisdiction, then a check will be made with the relevant authority to establish if the customer had an entitlement to a social security entitlement from that jurisdiction.

It is the practice that a data match is conducted with the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) in the UK to identify their customers who reside in Ireland and who are receiving a social security payment from the UK and the rate of payment the customer is receiving. This information is then matched against DSP customers who are receiving means tested income support payments.

Once the information is received and the customers are identified, a review of the customer's entitlement is undertaken. Appropriate action is then taken in terms of amending the rate of entitlement to the DSP payment/pension. The impact of any increase in the value of the UK entitlement on a customer's DSP entitlement is also dependent on the change in the exchange rate, if any, since the customer's entitlement was last reviewed. The value of any increase in the UK entitlement may be offset by a reduction in the exchange rate, if the exchange rate has fallen.

To date the Department has not provided the Office of the Revenue Commissioners with any information that was received from other States on residents of Ireland who are receiving social security pensions from outside of Ireland.

Child Benefit

Gerald Nash

Question:

245 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of children for whom child benefit was paid in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 and who also had a social insurance record at Classes A, S or M for the same year in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33278/12]

Child Benefit (CB) is currently paid for 598,336 families in respect of 1,136,361 children.

The corresponding figures for the past four years are as follows:

Year

Families

Children

2008

596,108

1,141,938

2009

602,932

1,156,917

2010

591,432

1,124,003

2011

597,333

1,136,065

Details on the number who also had a social insurance record at Classes A, S or M for these years is not readily available and can only be obtained through an extensive data matching exercise. Given the number of years involved and the total number of children for whom CB is in payment it is not proposed to undertake such an exercise.

It should be noted that children who are aged over 16 and in full time education are not precluded from taking part time work and paying PRSI contributions while CB remains in payment.

National Employment and Entitlements Service

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

246 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Social Protection when the new national employment and entitlements service will be fully rolled out; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33291/12]

My Department is establishing a new National Employment and Entitlements Service, as provided for in the Programme for Government, which will integrate employment and benefit payment services within the Department.

The first step in establishing the National Employment and Entitlements Service was integrating staff from FÁS, the Community Welfare Service and my Department which will free up resources and staff for the more resource intense role of case management and activation.

With regard to the timeline for the development of the National Employment and Entitlements Service the assignment and integration of functions and the full transformation to a case management approach focussed on activation, will be a multi-annual programme of work. However, significant progress has already been made and the first trial National Employment and Entitlements Service offices are scheduled open before the end of the year

Question No. 247 answered with Question No. 240.

Statutory Sick Pay Scheme

Jack Wall

Question:

248 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection his views regarding a submission (details supplied); if she has had or is proposing meetings with the national organisation regarding this issue; if the meetings have taken place, the results of the meetings; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33361/12]

A consultative forum on the feasibility and implications of introducing a scheme of statutory sick pay was held in February of this year. The national organisation to which the Deputy refers was represented at the Forum, (a report of which is now available on the Department's website). I should add that Department officials will also be meeting some of the organisation again on the matter.

At that forum, concerns were expressed by various employer representative groups regarding the introduction of such a scheme, and these concerns will be taken into account as the range of complex issues associated with the introduction of such a scheme continue to be considered.

The issues involved will be discussed in the course of the wider process associated with the preparation of Budget 2013 and any decisions which might be taken by Government on the possible introduction of a statutory sick pay scheme will be considered in that context.

Community Employment Schemes

Catherine Murphy

Question:

249 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Social Protection if she is concerned about the length of time community employment applicants are having to wait for Garda clearance; if she is aware of the amount of schemes adversely affected by these wait times; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33399/12]

The Department of Social Protection is committed to ensuring the protection of children and/or vulnerable adults. It is Community Employment policy that participants on any scheme that gives individuals substantive unsupervised access to children and/or vulnerable adults are subject to Garda Vetting. This policy has been in place since June, 2009 in compliance with Childcare Legislation/Regulations and with legal advice.

Once an individual has been selected for a CE position that requires Garda Vetting, their Garda Vetting application can be processed through either my Department or through the employing organisation if they are already registered with the Garda Central Vetting Office.

The Garda Central Vetting Office are doing their utmost to process applications speedily. In relation to Community Employment over 1,500 Garda Vetting applications have been made by my Department to the end of June this year in addition to the applications submitted directly by the employing organisations.

Applications from my Department are taking approximately 6 weeks on average to process. Some applications with addresses outside the state, or pending further regional investigation or who submit incomplete forms can take longer to process.

Social Welfare Appeals

Brendan Griffin

Question:

250 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason the sole residence of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry is being assessed as an income; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33401/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 23 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. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 3 July 2012 and the case will be 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.

Rent Supplement Scheme

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

251 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason for termination of rent allowance without warning in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33403/12]

The primary social welfare payment of the person concerned, upon which her qualification for rent supplement depends, was suspended causing the rent supplement to also be suspended. As the primary payment has now been restored, the rent supplement has also been reinstated and the person concerned has been issued with all outstanding arrears.

Carer’s Allowance

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

252 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if and when payment will issue in respect of 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. [33421/12]

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.

Carer’s Allowance

Paschal Donohoe

Question:

253 Deputy Paschal Donohoe asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for carers’ allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33428/12]

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.

Carer’s Allowance

John Lyons

Question:

254 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an appeal for a carer’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied). [33429/12]

The application for carer's allowance from the person in question was refused on the ground that the care recipient is not in need of full-time care and attention as laid down in the regulations. The person in question requested a review of this decision and has submitted further medical evidence in support of the application.

On completion of the review of the case, a decision will be made and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

Domiciliary Care Allowance

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

255 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding the case of a person (details supplied). [33432/12]

The continued entitlement of the person concerned to domiciliary care allowance was reviewed in March 2012. The case was referred to one of the Department's Medical Assessors who found that the child was no longer medically eligible for the allowance.

The person concerned was notified of the decision on 7 March 2012 and she has appealed the decision. As part of the appeal process, the case has been forwarded to another of the Department's Medical Assessors for further consideration, including a review of any new information supplied. Upon receipt of the Medical Assessor's opinion, the case will be further examined and forwarded for consideration to the Social Welfare Appeals Office, if necessary.

Question No. 256 answered with Question No. 209.

Invalidity Pension

Brendan Griffin

Question:

257 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection if a decision has been made on the appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry for invalidity pension; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33445/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 12 April 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 case in question will be 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.

Disability Allowance

John McGuinness

Question:

258 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection the status of an application for disability allowance in the case of a person (detaiils supplied) in County Carlow; and if she will expedite a response. [33446/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 6 December 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 17 January 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 McGuinness

Question:

259 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for carer’s allowance in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if she will expedite a response. [33447/12]

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, applications are dealt with by the Department as far as possible in the order in which they are received. 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.

Carer’s Allowance

John McGuinness

Question:

260 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection if an appeal will be expedited for carer’s and social welfare allowance in view of the fact that they were registered on 29 July, 2011 in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33448/12]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer, having fully considered all the available evidence, including that adduced at oral hearing, decided that the appeal of the person concerned is disallowed in regard to Rent Supplement but has allowed the Carer's Allowance appeal for each week where it has been established that the person worked for 15 hours or less. The person has been informed of these outcomes. 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 McGuinness

Question:

261 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for carer’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow; and if she will expedite a decision. [33449/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the appeal from the person concerned was referred to an Appeals Officer who proposes to hold an oral hearing in this case on 25 July 2012. The person concerned has been notified of the arrangements for the hearing. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Disability Allowance

Brendan Griffin

Question:

262 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection if a decision has been made on the request by a person (details supplied) in County Kerry to have their appeal for disability benefit back-pay reviewed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33450/12]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer, having fully considered all the available evidence, including that adduced at oral hearing, disallowed the appeal of the person concerned. The person concerned was notified of the Appeals Officer's decision on 26 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.

Invalidity Pension

Brendan Griffin

Question:

263 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection if a decision has been made on the appeal by a person (details supplied) in County Kerry for invalidity pension; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33459/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 23 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 they have been 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.

Carer’s Allowance

Brendan Griffin

Question:

264 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection if a decision has been made on the application by a person (details supplied) in County Kerry for carer’s allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33460/12]

I can 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.

Question No. 265 withdrawn.
Question No. 266 answered with Question No. 209.
Question No. 267 withdrawn.

Rent Supplement Scheme

Billy Timmins

Question:

268 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for rent allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33481/12]

The person concerned was refused rent supplement on 5th July 2012 due to his failure to meet a number of the qualifying conditions and he was notified of the reasons for refusal on the same day. If the person concerned can meet these criteria, the Department will be in a position to re-assess his rent supplement claim. Alternatively, the person concerned can appeal the refusal to the Social Welfare Appeals Office. An appeal can be sent in writing to the Chief Appeals Officer, Social Welfare Appeals Office, D'Olier House, D'Olier Street Dublin 2.

Carer’s Allowance

Emmet Stagg

Question:

269 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will issue on a carer’s allowance application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare. [33536/12]

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

John McGuinness

Question:

270 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection if an appeal for invalidity pension will be expedited in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33550/12]

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.

Rent Supplement Scheme

Catherine Murphy

Question:

271 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Social Protection if her attention has been drawn to the fact that single parents in receipt of rental supplement may often have variations in their income subject to the vagaries of the other parent’s intermittent maintenance payments; if there is a mechanism to deduct maintenance at source where it is linked to a rental supplement payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33558/12]

The purpose of the rent supplement scheme is to provide short-term income support, to eligible people living in private rented accommodation whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source. The 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 92,000 persons in receipt of rent supplement for which the Government has provided a sum of €436 million for 2012.

Rent supplement is normally calculated to ensure that a person, after the payment of rent, has an income equal to the rate of supplementary welfare allowance appropriate to their family circumstances less a weekly minimum contribution which recipients are required to pay from their own resources. The minimum contribution is currently €30 for a single adult and €35 for couples.

Many rent supplement recipients pay more than the minimum contribution because they are also required, subject to income disregards, to contribute any additional assessable means that they have over and above the appropriate basic supplementary welfare allowance rate towards their accommodation costs.

A person who claims a one-parent family payment is required to seek maintenance from her/his spouse or the other parent of the child. Maintenance payments are assessed as means for the purpose of determining entitlement one-parent family payment. However, vouched housing costs of up to €95.23 per week in respect of rent or mortgage are disregarded in establishing the rate of one-parent family payment payable.

For rent supplement, maintenance payments of up to €95.23 per week are assessed in determining the appropriate rate payable. Where a person has weekly maintenance payments of more than €95.23, the first €75 a week together with 25% of any additional maintenance above €75 can be disregarded for means assessment purposes. This ensures that the family benefits from any maintenance payments received in excess of €95.23.

Customers are obliged to notify the Department of any changes in circumstances, including changes in maintenance payments.

In every case where a one-parent family payment is awarded, the Department seeks to trace the other parent (liable relative) in order to ascertain whether he or she is in a financial position to contribute towards the cost of the one-parent family payment. Liable relatives in receipt of a social welfare payment from my Department are not asked to contribute, as, when assessed in line with the regulations, they are determined to have a nil contribution due. Accordingly there is no mechanism to deduct maintenance at source from any social welfare payment.

The Liability to Maintain Family provisions contained in the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 is separate to Family Law legislation. Any applications to the courts under family law for a maintenance order against the other parent are made through the courts service and are not the responsibility of the Department.

Social Welfare Benefits

Catherine Murphy

Question:

272 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Social Protection if there is any facility under her Department’s remit whereby a minimum sum can be guaranteed for any parent who is required to pay child maintenance despite their personal financial situation, including people in receipt of unemployment assistance; if there is a limit on the proportion of a social welfare payment that will be paid over in maintenance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33559/12]

The Department is responsible for implementing the Liability to Maintain Family Provisions, as provided for in Part 12 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005, as amended. The methods of assessment of the liable relative's ability to pay are specified in detail in Regulations (S.I. No. 571 of 2006 and S.I. No. 142 of 2007).

In every case where a one-parent family payment is awarded, the Department seeks to trace the other parent (liable relative) in order to ascertain whether he or she is in a financial position to contribute towards the cost of the one-parent family payment. Persons in receipt of a social welfare payment from my Department are not asked to contribute, as, when assessed in line with the regulations, they are determined to have a nil contribution due.

The Liability to Maintain Family Provisions, contained in the 2005 Act, are completely separate to family law legislation. Applications to the courts under family law for a maintenance order are made through the courts service and are not the responsibility of this Department.

Invalidity Pension

Tom Fleming

Question:

273 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Social Protection the steps she has taken to improve the length of time it takes to process invalidity pension appeals; if she is satisfied with the current turn around time; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33572/12]

Tom Fleming

Question:

275 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Social Protection the steps she has taken to improve the length of time it takes to process domiciliary care allowance appeals; if she is satisfied with the current turn around time; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33575/12]

Tom Fleming

Question:

280 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Social Protection the steps she has taken to improve the length of time it takes to process illness benefit appeals; if she is satisfied with the current turn around time; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33606/12]

Tom Fleming

Question:

281 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Social Protection the steps she has taken to improve the length of time it takes to process disability allowance appeals; if she is satisfied with the turn around time; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33607/12]

Tom Fleming

Question:

283 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Social Protection the steps she has taken to improve the length of time it takes to process carer’s allowance appeals; if she is satisfied with the current turn around time; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33612/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 273, 275, 280, 281 and 283 together.

The current processing times for the scheme types mentioned by the Deputy are included in the following table. Generally the vast majority of cases fall within average times but extenuating factors, often outside of the control of the Social Welfare Appeals Office, will cause greater delays in some cases.

In light of this, the following table showing the current processing times (based on figures at the end of June 2012) shows the overall average for each scheme along with the average when the older appeals are excluded.

These processing times are calculated from the registration date of the appeal to the date of its finalisation. They 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 have appointed 13 additional Appeals Officers since 2010. In addition, a further 10 Appeals Officers, formerly employed by the Community Welfare Service (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 has brought the total number of Appeals Officers to 40. In addition to this, the Office has improved its business processes and IT support.

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

Appeals processing times by scheme 1/1/2012 — 30/6/2012 — Summary and Oral

Average processing times (weeks) Summary Decisions

Average processing times (weeks) Summary Decisions (Excluding appeals registered before 1.1.2011)

Average processing times (weeks) Oral Hearings

Average processing times (weeks) OralHearing (Excluding appeals registered before 1.1.2011)

Adoptive Benefit

15.6

15.6

40.4

40.4

Blind Pension

22.2

22.2

30.4

30.4

Carers Allowance

32.1

30.7

45.3

38.7

Carers Benefit

32.7

24.4

35.4

34.0

Child Benefit

53.1

37.5

58.5

42.8

Disability Allowance

31.3

29.4

40.8

36.1

Illness Benefit

38.4

36.5

51.1

43.7

Domiciliary Care

28.6

28.2

41.8

37.2

Deserted Wives Benefit

19.8

14.6

47.2

Deserted Wives Allowance

14.6

19.8

47.2

Farm Assist

20.3

17.3

44.9

35.6

Bereavement Grant

29.7

25.5

Family Income Supplement

18.8

18.7

30.2

27.4

Invalidity Pension

36.6

33.5

57.6

37.8

Liable Relatives

72.8

30.4

One Parent Family Payment

25.6

23.2

46.3

38.5

Maternity Benefit

32.3

29.4

40.0

40.0

State Pension (Contributory)

30.8

21.8

58.6

35.2

State Pension (Non-Cont)

28.0

27.2

51.3

40.4

State Pension (Transition)

20.0

20.0

61.8

61.3

Occupational Injury Benefit

0.3

0.3

56.0

44.6

Occupational Injury Benefit (Medical)

78.7

87.4

Disablement Pension

46.1

39.3

51.4

37.0

Incapacity Supplement

7.7

7.7

52.1

36.8

Guardian’s Payment (Con)

24.5

24.5

56.3

37.3

Guardian’s Payment (Non-con)

27.1

27.1

82.9

41.7

Pre-Retirement Allowance

54.6

54.6

Jobseeker’s Allowance (Means)

20.1

18.2

40.5

34.0

Jobseeker’s Allowance

24.6

19.4

35.9

29.8

Jobseeker’s Benefit

16.7

15.3

29.3

28.0

JA/JB Fraud Control

Respite Care Grant

25.8

25.8

38.7

36.1

Insurability of Employment

52.0

41.7

81.8

48.8

Supplementary Welfare Allowance

14.7

14.6

19.1

19.0

Treatment Benefits

18.9

18.9

Survivor’s Pension (Con)

75.0

55.5

Survivor’s Pension (Non-con)

28.6

28.6

44.6

34.2

Widows Parent Grant

23.2

23.2

All Appeals

26.0

22.0

40.4

38.0

Invalidity Pension

Tom Fleming

Question:

274 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Social Protection the steps she has taken to improve the length of time it takes to process invalidity pension applications; if she is satisfied with the current turn around time; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33573/12]

This Department is committed to delivering the best possible service to its customers. I acknowledge that the time taken to process Invalidity Pension (IP) claims at present is not satisfactory but I am satisfied that the Department is taking appropriate action to resolve the situation. Many improvements have already been introduced in IP Section.

Since June 2011 all IP claims are processed on a new IT platform under the department's service delivery model project. A comprehensive business process improvement exercise has recently been completed, the focus of which is to optimise performance and reduce waiting times. New organisation structures and claim processing procedures have recently been implemented. Additional staff has also been assigned to IP area and overtime has been made available and is used when necessary.

Processes and procedures are continuously reviewed with the explicit objective of reducing delays. The position is being closely monitored and kept under review by my Department.

Question No. 275 answered with Question No. 273.

Carer’s Allowance

Marcella Corcoran Kennedy

Question:

276 Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy asked the Minister for Social Protection when a carer’s allowance appeal will be processed in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Offaly; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33591/12]

The application for carer's allowance from the person in question was refused on the ground that the care recipient is not in need of full-time care and attention as laid down in the regulations. The person in question has requested a review of this decision and has submitted further medical evidence in support of the application. Once the review is completed in this case the person in question will be notified directly of the outcome.

Social Welfare Benefits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

277 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the extent to which two days working per week will affect applications for rent allowance and jobseeker’s allowance in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33598/12]

The person concerned has not supplied the Department with any information in relation to his part-time earnings. Details would have to be provided to the relevant sections in order to accurately establish what effect two days of employment would have on his rent supplement and jobseekers allowance entitlements. However, the person concerned has no current entitlement to rent supplement as his rent is in excess of the appropriate limit.

Farm Assist Scheme

Dara Calleary

Question:

278 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of farm assist applications made on a county basis from March 2011 to date in 2012; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33599/12]

The total number of farm assist applications made from March 2011 to June 2012 is 2,295. A breakdown of this figure is set out in the tabular statement below. The county breakdown is based on the local office where the application was made, not the applicant's address. The catchment area of an office may include residents of neighbouring counties.

Table A: Number of farm assist applications between 28/02/2011 and 30/06/2012

County

1/1/2012-30/06/2012

1/03/2011-31/12/2011

Total

Carlow

13

29

42

Cavan

31

36

67

Clare

43

104

147

Cork

84

126

210

Donegal

74

155

229

Dublin

1

4

5

Galway

106

177

283

Kerry

73

141

214

Kildare

3

8

11

Kilkenny

5

26

31

Laois

17

28

45

Leitrim

18

50

68

Limerick

39

56

95

Longford

36

48

84

Louth

4

12

16

Mayo

68

136

204

Meath

9

13

22

Monaghan

49

61

110

Offaly

14

34

48

Roscommon

35

60

95

Sligo

16

39

55

Tipperary North

16

35

51

Tipperary South

10

18

28

Waterford

6

8

14

Westmeath

15

22

37

Wexford

16

35

51

Wicklow

14

19

33

Total

815

1,480

2,295

Redundancy Payments

Dan Neville

Question:

279 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for redundancy payment in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [33602/12]

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

Questions Nos. 280 and 281 answered with Question No. 273.

Rent Supplement Scheme

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

282 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will provide details of the amount of funding provided in respect of rent supplement for the years 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33611/12]

The purpose of the rent supplement scheme is to provide short-term income support, to eligible people living in private rented accommodation whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source. The 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 92,000 persons in receipt of rent supplement for which the Government has provided a sum of €436 million for 2012.

Details of the expenditure on rent supplement for the years 2008 to 2012 are provided in the following tabular statement:

Tabular Statement

Year

Expenditure €000

2008

440,548

2009

510,751

2010

516,538

2011

502,748(1)

2012

436,001(2)

(1) Provisional Outturn.
(2) Revised Estimate.
Question No. 283 answered with Question No. 273.

Carer’s Allowance

Tom Fleming

Question:

284 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Social Protection the steps she has taken to improve the length of time it takes to process carer’s allowance applications; if she is satisfied with the current turn around time; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33615/12]

The Department is committed to delivering the best possible service to its customers. Currently the average time taken to award a carer's allowance application is 28 weeks.

I acknowledge that the time taken to process carer's allowance claims at present is not satisfactory but I am satisfied that the Department is taking appropriate action to resolve the situation.

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. Full deployment of the new system for carer's allowance was completed last month. In tandem with the full implementation of the new system, a comprehensive business process improvement exercise has recently commenced, the focus of which is to optimise performance and provide improved customer service. However it is expected to be a number of months before the backlog is reduced to an acceptable level.

Question No. 285 withdrawn.

Carer’s Allowance

Patrick Nulty

Question:

286 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will expedite an application for carer’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; the reason for the delay; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33626/12]

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.

Carer’s Allowance

Stephen S. Donnelly

Question:

287 Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for Social Protection further to Parliamentary Question No. 376 of 3 July 2012 if, in view of the fact that constituents are reporting that deciding officers have refused to accept any evidence of a joint custody arrangement other than a court order, she will confirm that a letter from a solicitor should be regarded, in ordinary circumstances, as acceptable documentation by the officer administering the scheme; and if she will issue an instruction to that effect. [33660/12]

The purpose of the rent supplement scheme is to provide short-term support to eligible people living in private rented accommodation whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source. The overall aim is to provide short term assistance, and not to act as an alternative to the other social housing schemes operated by the Exchequer.

Each claim for rent supplement is determined having regard to the particular circumstances of the applicant and in a case where parents have joint custody of a child, the needs of both parents to have adequate accommodation are taken into account when an application for a rent supplement is being determined. While documentation is normally required showing that a joint custody arrangement is in place, and being availed of, before a decision can be made, it is a matter for the officer administering the scheme to determine the form of documentation required. This flexibility supports the officer in fully assessing the circumstances specific to each case.

Accordingly it is not proposed to issue instructions to officers administering rent supplement on the documentation required for claims where the applicant has joint custody of a child.

Back to Education Allowance

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

288 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason the back to education allowance is not available to students undertaking the graduate medicine programme in view of the fact that the issue of displacement does not arise; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33662/12]

The back to education allowance (BTEA) is a second chance education opportunities scheme designed to remove the barriers to participation in second and third level education by enabling those eligible to certain social welfare payments to continue to receive a payment while pursuing an approved full-time education course that leads to a higher qualification than that already held. A person wishing to pursue BTEA will have to satisfy a number of conditions such as being of a certain age, in receipt of a prescribed social welfare payment for a specified time period, pursuing a full time course of study leading to a recognised qualification in a recognised college and progressing in the level of education held by the client with reference to the national framework of qualifications (NFQ) among others.

The entry requirements of the graduate medicine course to which the Deputy refers require a person to already hold an honours degree in any discipline which is level 8 on the NFQ. As indicated above, a person who already possesses a level 8 qualification is not eligible for the BTEA. State support for education purposes is grounded on a student progressing from one qualification level to a higher one. The progression criteria is essential and applies to all courses of study. The scheme was never intended to be an alternative form of funding for people entering or re-entering the third level education system.

Carer’s Allowance

Brendan Griffin

Question:

289 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection if a decision has been made on the appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry for carer’s allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33683/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 2 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 have now been received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office 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. 290 withdrawn.
Question No. 291 answered with Question No. 209.

Turbary Rights

Pat Breen

Question:

292 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht when payment in respect of bog compensation will issue in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32975/12]

I am advised that my Department does not have any record of an application from the individual referred to in the Deputy's Question — neither under the voluntary bog purchase scheme or the cessation of turf cutting compensation scheme administered by my Department.

National Cultural Institutions

Brian Walsh

Question:

293 Deputy Brian Walsh asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he will provide an update on progress made in relation to plans to merge the National Archives and the Irish Manuscripts Commission with the National Library; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32990/12]

As Deputy will be aware, the Government's Public Service Reform Plan, published by Minister Howlin on 17 November last, contains a number of actions in respect of my own Departmental remit. These include the amalgamation of the National Library, the National Archives and the Irish Manuscripts Commission. At the outset, I would like to underline the value which I place on the role of the National Cultural Institutions in this country. They are the custodians of our arts and cultural heritage. They also have a key role in scholarship and the national discourse. That is why €47.25 million is provided for our cultural institutions and bodies in the 2012 Estimates. The critical role that art and culture play in attracting tourists to Ireland is also well recognised. Cultural tourism is now a key element of Ireland's tourism industry and the National Cultural Institutions play a very significant role in that respect. The institutions funded by my Department attracted over 3 million visitors in 2011.

In the overall context of the Public Service Reform agenda, one of my key concerns is to ensure that all options are examined so that the most appropriate implementation approach can be adopted for each institution. The artistic and curatorial autonomy of the cultural institutions is, of course, a major consideration in this regard. The fact is, however, that all of our cultural institutions are facing very difficult challenges in the times ahead, particularly in relation to resources and funding. Given the difficult economic circumstances, there has been a considerable reduction in Exchequer funding over the last number of years and this is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

My Department is consulting with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform at present, following which these matters will be submitted to Government.

Turbary Rights

John McGuinness

Question:

294 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he is in receipt of a submission from 14 persons seeking permission to cut turf on All Saints bog, County Offaly; the date the submission was received by the Department; if the request has been examined; his views on the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33017/12]

The applications, which were received in my Department at the end of May, are currently being assessed and I expect recommendations will be made in relation to them in the near future. My Department will be in touch with the applicants shortly.

Departmental Staff

Simon Harris

Question:

295 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the number of staff who took sick leave of more than five, ten, 15, 20 days and 21 days or over in 2011 in all agencies, offices or other bodies reporting to his Department; the length of the ten highest incidences of sick leave across these bodies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33104/12]

I refer to my reply to Question No. 149 of 4th July in relation to the management of sick leave in the bodies funded from my Department's Vote Group. I have asked that the further information now sought be included in the information to be provided by the bodies concerned to the Deputy directly.

Turbary Rights

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

296 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the position regarding turf cutting harvesting rights in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Fermanagh; when a date will issue for an appeal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33155/12]

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

297 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht when the panel for hearing and determining appeals on turf cutting and harvesting rights will begin its work; when appeals will be heard; when will appellants be advised of their appeals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33156/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 296 and 297 together.

Under the provisions of the Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2000, the carrying out of certain works in natural heritage areas, including the extraction of turf, cannot take place without my consent, as Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. Consent was refused for the works referred to in the Deputy's Question, as they were considered to be damaging to the natural heritage area. I understand that the individual in question has appealed against this decision. My Department has established a panel from which to draw upon barristers or solicitors of not less than seven years standing to hear and determine appeals against decisions to refuse consent for the carrying out of certain works in natural heritage areas.

An arbitrator has been appointed to hear and determine the appeal in question. I am advised that my Department has written to the solicitor acting for the individual concerned notifying him of this appointment and in relation to agreeing a date for the appeal hearing.

National Museum

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

298 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he will provide an inventory of all historical objects that are held my State museums which have their origins in County Meath. [33625/12]

Whilst my Department provides funding to the National Museum of Ireland, the Board of that Institution is responsible for all operational matters, including inventories, and I do not have a statutory function in respect of such matters.

Flood Prevention Measures

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

299 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if his Department and-or the National Parks and Wildlife Service place restrictions on the amount of debris and gravel that can be removed from rivers by local authorities or the Office of Public Works; if the restrictions on the removal of material applies in areas in which flooding to private domestic dwellings and other properties have taken place; his views on whether restrictions of this nature are in keeping with the principles of good river management and flood protection; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33634/12]

As the Deputy will be aware, the dredging of rivers and streams has the potential to cause environmental and economic damage, and must be undertaken with due care and in keeping with the appropriate legal framework governing such activities. It is, in my view, fully in keeping with the principles of good river management and flood protection that all potential impacts of proposed works be fully considered before proceeding. The activities referred to by the Deputy, insofar as they relate to the responsibilities of my Department, are governed by the provisions of the Wildlife Acts (if the works relate to Natural Heritage Areas) or the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011. Those Regulations, together with the Planning and Development Acts, transpose into Irish law Ireland's obligations under the EU Birds and Habitats Directives. Certain drainage works within certain Natural Heritage Areas and protected European sites (Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas) require the consent of my Department before they can be undertaken.

Drainage plans or projects undertaken by State bodies, such as the Office of Public Works or local authorities, must also be undertaken in compliance with the relevant legislation. Any flood alleviation plan or project must, by law, be screened for potential impacts on European sites and, if necessary, subjected to a more detailed "appropriate assessment" of its potential impacts in view of the sites' conservation objectives. If it can be concluded that there is not a risk to a European site, then the plan or project may proceed. If, on the other hand, such a risk cannot be ruled out, then the project cannot proceed unless the legally prescribed conditions for derogation can be met.

Any project adversely impacting on the otter or bat species, which are afforded strict protection under the Habitats Directive, will also require a derogation licence from my Department before commencing.

Fisheries Protection

Robert Troy

Question:

300 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources in relation to the ongoing ban of eel fishing, if he will apply to the EU for compensation for the fishermen who lost their livelihood as a result of this ban; if he will engage with the Department of Finance to ensure that national funding is made available to compensate this group of people; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33060/12]

Following scientific research conducted by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) indicating that the European eel stocks are in a critical state, the EU introduced Council Regulation 1100/2007, the objective of which is to achieve recovery of the stocks to previous high levels. The Regulation required that all Member States prepare a national Eel Management Plan (EMP). Ireland's plan was approved by the European Commission in July, 2009. Bye-laws, Conservation of Eel Fishing Bye-law No. C.S. 303, 2009 and Conservation of Eel Fishing (Prohibition On Issue Of Licences) Bye-law No. 858, 2009, were signed by the then Minister in 2009 prohibiting the capture of eels. There was no provision for compensation for those who previously engaged in this fishery on a commercial basis.

The then Central and Regional Fisheries Boards (now Inland Fisheries Ireland — IFI) engaged with the eel fishermen representatives to investigate possible diversification schemes; however, no specific funding was identified for diversification. I understand that a number of former eel fishermen have been contracted by the ESB to undertake Trap and Transport operations to mitigate the impact of hydropower schemes as part of the eel management plan. There is no property right attaching to public eel licences and consequently the issue of compensation does not arise, given that the closure of the fishery was applied for conservation reasons under the Fisheries Acts. Given that context and having regard to National economic circumstances, no provision has been made for compensation payments.

The National EMP is currently being updated following the provision of three additional years of scientific research and monitoring of the status of eels stocks. The latest independent Standing Scientific Committee report on eels is available on the IFI website and a link to this web page is also available on my Department's website. IFI's three-year eel monitoring report is also available online. Ireland's EMP Implementation report, which details progress on Ireland's 2009 EMP, is due to be submitted to the EU shortly. In relation to the information contained in these reports and prior to consideration of the continuation of existing measures, a public consultation period has commenced. The closing date for receipt of submissions to be considered as part of the review of eel plans for Ireland was set as Monday 2nd July 2012. However, on foot of presentations made to stakeholders as part of the consultation, I have decided to extend the closing date to 11th July to facilitate the receipt of submissions from as many stakeholders as possible.

Submissions made during the public consultation period, which included a number of public meetings/seminars, will be considered in formulating proposals for the management of the eel fishery for the coming years. Three public meetings on the EMPs have been held in Clonmel, County Tipperary on 19th June, in Athlone, County Westmeath on 20th June and in Carrick on Shannon, County Leitrim on 21st June. Copies of all relevant documents (EU Report, Scientific Report and Monitoring Report) were available at the public meetings and are also available on IFI's website (www.fisheriesireland.ie) or through the link on my Department’s website (www.dcenr.gov.ie).

Departmental Staff

Simon Harris

Question:

301 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the number of staff who took sick leave of more than five, ten, 15, 20 days and 21 days or over in 2011 in all agencies, offices or other bodies reporting to his Department; the length of the ten highest incidences of sick leave across these bodies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33106/12]

I wish to advise the Deputy that issues relating to sick leave in State Bodies under the aegis of my Department are an operational matter for the individual Bodies in the first instance and I have no function in this regard. I will however ask the Agencies under the aegis of my Department to reply directly to the Deputy in the matter.

Fisheries Protection

Brendan Griffin

Question:

302 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on a matter (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33164/12]

In the 1960s and 1970s Irish bass stocks were very severely depleted due to the overexploitation of the species by commercial fishing. This resulted in the near loss of one of our most important marine sport fish species and the collapse of the accompanying angling tourist industry that serviced this area. As a result of the serious decline in bass stocks, bass conservation legislation was put in place to facilitate the rebuilding of stocks. The south and east coastline have shown an improvement in stocks during the last decade but catches are still down on results experienced in the sixties and early seventies. The west coastline up to Galway Bay has also shown an improvement.

Bass in Irish waters are also protected by a number of measures including the Bass (Conservation of Stocks) Order 1990 which regulates the activities of Irish fishermen within ICES sub-areas VI and VII: commercial fishing for bass is prohibited, the taking of bass using nets is prohibited, and Irish fishing boats must not have bass on board or engage in trans-shipment of bass. This order also sets the legal size of capture for bass at 40cm. The slow pace of stock recovery indicates why all conservation measures and legislation needs to remain in place. Bass is the only marine species which is protected in this way, primarily for angling purposes. Angling for bass is also subject to control and anglers are limited to two fish in a 24 hour period, there is a close season from 15th May to 15th June and bass cannot be sold. Many bass anglers now practice catch and release voluntarily.

The Central and Regional Fisheries Boards and subsequently Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) have always given their full support to the Bass Conservation measures introduced by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and the Marine and will continue to do so in the future. Bass is a most important and sought after shore caught angling species attracting many anglers from home and abroad. This resource brings in additional sustainable revenue to many rural areas around our coastline. In 2007, angling brought circa 128,000 visitors, 68% of whom stayed between 6-14 nights in the country. The estimated spend by visiting anglers was €87.4m. It is estimated that circa 31,000 of these visiting anglers were sea anglers. In this regard and to underpin the importance of Bass as a key sea angling species the IFI is in the process of finalising a National Policy on the management of the species to ensure that it is only exploited in a sustainable manner into the future.

Inland Waterways

Luke 'Ming' Flanagan

Question:

303 Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will instruct the ESB to make available its regulations for the control of the River Shannon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33288/12]

ESB is an independent statutory body and the matter referred to by the Deputy is an operational matter in which I have no role or function.

Mobile Telephony

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

304 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the actions he has taken or future plans he has to address the high cost of cross-Border mobile telephone roaming charges particularly for those resident in Border areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33310/12]

The provision of mobile telephony services within the EU is a fully liberalised market and regulation of that market is limited to the provisions permitted by EU harmonisation Directives. The maximum charges which can be imposed for roaming services within the EU is also regulated by EU harmonisation measures, in the form of EU Regulations. The most recent such Regulation, Regulation (EU) No. 531/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 June 2012 on roaming on public mobile communications networks within the Union, which commenced on the 1st July last, imposes decreasing annual maximum wholesale and retail charges as set out in the following table:

Retail (excl VAT)

Wholesale (excl VAT)

Making a phone call/minute

€0.29 cent from July 2012,

€0.14 from July 2012

€0.24 from July 2013 and

€0.10 from July 2013

€0.19 cent from July 2014

€0.05 from July 2014

Receiving a phone call/minute

€0.08 from July 2012,

€0.07 from July 2013 and

€0.05 from July 2014

Sending a text message

€0.09 from July 2012,

€0.03 from July 2012

€0.08 from July 2013 and

€0.02 from July 2013

€0.06 from July 2014

€0.02 from July 2014

Data usage/Mbyte

€0.70 from July 2012,

€0.25 from July 2012,

€0.45 from July 2013 and

€0.15 from July 2013

€0.20 from July 2014.

€0.05 from July 2014

The prices permitted by the EU Regulation are maximum prices. Service providers are permitted and encouraged to charge lower rates. At least one operator in Ireland advertises that it imposes no additional charges for roaming within the EU. Most other mobile operators advertise that they impose no additional roaming charges or reduced charges for roaming in Northern Ireland, providing customers opt to take service from a named service provider in Northern Ireland usually operating with the same brand name e.g. 3, O2 or Vodafone and T mobile in the case of e-mobile. The detailed terms and conditions may vary depending on the account type and package chosen. Customers should consult with their service provider to identify the charging options available and to ensure they can manually select the most appropriate service provider when roaming in Northern Ireland or disable the automatic switching function to avoid inadvertent roaming within the State in border areas.

I will continue to work with my EU colleagues and at a Government policy level, to reduce the cost of cross-border mobile phone charges.

Energy Resources

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

305 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on recent new evidence that peak oil has not happened and is unlikely to happen and that instead a new global oil boom has occurred; if he will outline the impact of this changed future oil scenario on his energy policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33396/12]

Ongoing discoveries of oil and new methods of extraction of oil and gas continue to change the fossil fuel landscape as well as having impacts on global energy markets. Ireland, however, remains critically dependent on imported fossil fuels, particularly oil and natural gas, which are subject to price volatility and supply risks. This dependency underlines the immediate and long term imperatives of enhancing energy security and moving to more sustainable forms of energy. It is also critical for climate change targets.

Latest International Energy Agency analysis continues to point to a tight balance between global oil supply and demand, with price impacted by ongoing geopolitical uncertainties and fluctuating economic demand in OECD and developing economies. Volatility in global oil prices and continued supply risks underscore the Government's commitment to delivering national energy efficiency and renewable energy objectives which are aimed at moving the economy away from over reliance on imported carbon intensive fossil fuels. Irrespective of new global oil and in particular, gas scenarios, Ireland needs to sustain all efforts to reduce the fossil fuel bill and reduce emissions.

The electrification of transport offers potential for Ireland, not just in terms of energy savings but also because of the opportunity to better utilise grid sourced renewable electricity, as work continues to progressively deliver on the target of 40% renewable generation by 2020.

The Biofuel Obligation Scheme is also enabling the sustainable growth of an Irish biofuels market affording opportunities for indigenous biofuel producers and displacing traditional oil products in the transport sector.

The Government is also committed to continuing and enhancing the delivery of significant energy efficiency improvements across the commercial, public and private sector. Energy efficiency will progressively reduce Ireland's dependence on imported fossil fuels, while supporting energy competitiveness and security as well as employment and economic activity and reducing emissions.

Energy Prices

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

306 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he is satisfied that the impact of recent increases in daily global oil production is being passed on to consumers in view of the fact that when oil production decreases on the global market, Irish consumers immediately see significant increases in the price of petrol and diesel; if he has any plans to examine the operation of the liquid fuels sector in conjunction with the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation in relation to this process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33397/12]

I have no statutory function in relation to the setting of diesel and petrol fuel prices. The oil market is fully liberalised and deregulated. Notwithstanding increased global oil production, the International Energy Agency oil market analysis continues to point to a tight balance between global oil supply and demand with price impacted by ongoing geopolitical uncertainties.

The National Consumer Agency, under the aegis of Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, carried out a detailed survey on consumer oil prices. The survey found that the prices charged by Irish retailers for oil products relate to the refinery price rather than to the price of crude oil and that prices at the pump reflect the volatile market price, as well as transportation costs, trends in euro/dollar exchange rates and other operating costs, together with the impact of taxation on oil products. There are no plans to carry out a further examination of the sector at this time.

Broadcasting Services

Patrick Nulty

Question:

307 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if any procedures and protocols are in place with digital TV service providers to deal with household arrears with a particular sensitivity towards vulnerable and low income households; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33419/12]

There are several digital TV service providers in the country. The main pay TV operators are Sky and UPC. In addition RTÉ operates a digital network called SAORVIEW, which is subscription free.

I have no role in relation to the subscriptions demanded by pay TV service providers or the payment processes they use. The Broadcasting Act 2009 requires RTÉ to provide a national digital network as a replacement for its national analogue TV network. The new digital network is called SAORVIEW. RTÉ has also rolled out a satellite network — SAORSAT. As with the analogue network, these digital networks are subscription free.

Alternative Energy Projects

Anthony Lawlor

Question:

308 Deputy Anthony Lawlor asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will confirm that a company (details supplied), in compliance with section 7.3 of the terms and conditions of the refit competition document, has been granted on extension to the REFIT scheme 1 until the end of December 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33545/12]

The REFIT 1 feed in tariff scheme was open for applications until end 2009 and the project, referred to by the Deputy, applied for entry into the scheme in June 2006. The scheme required that projects were operational by end 2010. However extensions of time have been granted for projects to build out after that date, although the end date of the scheme remained the same.

As there were no other REFIT schemes available for onshore wind energy until REFIT 2 opened in March 2012, an extension of time to build out was granted to those projects seeking extensions between the closure of REFIT 1 and the introduction of REFIT 2, while noting that the backstop date remained 2025. This project was granted an extension in time, at their request, to build until June 2012. I understand that a further extension to end 2013 has been requested.

The REFIT 2 scheme opened in March 2012. It caters for onshore wind projects built between 1/1/10 and 31/12/15. REFIT 2 is on the basis of a minimum price for exported electricity of the REFIT reference price (which is the same as in REFIT 1) plus a balancing payment. The manner in which the balancing payment operates is the main change between REFIT 1 and REFIT 2

My Department is finalising advice for my consideration in relation to whether to grant further extensions to extensions already granted to projects in REFIT 1, in view of the fact that the new REFIT scheme is now in operation. All relevant project developers will be informed as soon as possible of the outcome of my considerations in light of the Department's advice to me.

Post Office Network

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

309 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will consider establishing an inter-departmental group to progress a long-term strategy for the enhancement of the vital post office network; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33621/12]

Operational matters and the role of developing commercial strategies for the post office network are a matter for the management and Board of An Post and one in which I have no statutory function. As shareholder I do, however, have a strong concern in relation to the ongoing commercial position of the Company and I regularly liaise with the Company in this regard. The Company has been adversely affected by a significant and ongoing downward trend in its core mail business. In response, the Company has, sought to control costs and diversify operations whilst continuing to provide a high quality national service. I fully support the Company's strategy in this regard.

In this context, I have stressed to my Government colleagues that the increased use of the post office network should be considered by public sector bodies where this is appropriate. In the context of the public sector transformation agenda, I will be engaging with my colleague the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform in relation to new public sector business processes to ensure that the post office network is considered in this regard.

An Post has many strengths and has the largest retail presence in the country. I have impressed on the Company the need to further exploit its unique position in this regard and have been supportive of its attempts to diversify its income streams and to win a wider range of commercial contracts offering higher margins.

Overall, it is Government policy that An Post remains a strong and viable company, in a position to provide a high quality, nationwide postal service and maintain a nationwide customer focused network of post offices.

Flood Prevention Measures

Billy Kelleher

Question:

310 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will be commissioning reports on the recent flooding in Glanmire, County Cork to examine the sequence of events and the effectiveness of the warning system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33177/12]

Billy Kelleher

Question:

320 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will be commissioning reports on the recent flooding in Glanmire, County Cork, to examine the sequence of events; the effectiveness of the warning system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33171/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 310 and 320 together.

Heavy rainfall across the country on the night of 27/28 June gave rise to very localised downpours, particularly in several areas of Cork, including Glanmire. Given their nature, it is not possible accurately to predict the exact location, scale or intensity of such localised downpours. An aggravating factor was the already saturated ground due to the wettest June on record.

As the primary response agencies, Cork local authorities will report comprehensively to their elected members on the flooding and response. When all details and analyses of the flooding event that occurred in Cork last week are to hand in the near future, a detailed report will be prepared for the Government Task Force on Emergency Planning in order that we can learn from it and improve our overall resilience to deal with severe weather events of the kind witnessed last week.

The Office of Public Works is the lead agency for flood risk management in Ireland. However, I understand from the OPW that they are not directly involved in the operation of any flood warning system in County Cork. I further understand from the OPW that Cork County Council very recently (4 July 2012) submitted to them a minor works application for funding under the Minor Works Scheme to undertake a study of the Glashaboy River catchment following the serious flooding which affected the Meadowbrook Housing Estate and the Hazelwood Shopping Centre in Glanmire. The purpose of the study is to identify appropriate alleviation measures. The Council would intend to submit a further minor works application on the identification of such works.

Non-Principal Private Residence Charge

Brendan Ryan

Question:

311 Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if money for the non-principal private residence charge goes to a central Exchequer fund or if it is apportioned to local authorities as the household charge is; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33472/12]

The Local Government (Charges) Act 2009, as amended, broadened the revenue base of local authorities through the introduction of the charge on non-principal private residences (NPPR). The charge is set at €200 and is being levied and collected by local authorities. It is used to support the provision of local services and the income from the charge is retained by the individual local authorities that collect it.

Non-Principal Private Residence Change

Billy Timmins

Question:

312 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding the non-principal private residence charge; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33733/12]

The Local Government (Household Charge) Act 2011 and the Local Government (Household Charge) Regulations 2012 provide the legislative basis for the household charge. Under the legislation, an owner of a residential property on the liability date of 1 January 2012 is liable to pay the household charge by 31 March 2012, unless otherwise exempted or entitled to claim a waiver.

Article 4 of the Local Government (Charges) Regulations 2011 (S.I. No. 721 of 2011) made under the provisions of the above Act, as amended by section 19(1)(h) of the Local Government (Household Charge) Act 2011, prescribes a fee of €10 for the payment of a NPPR charge by a person attending at the offices of a relevant local authority providing such payment services. The €10 charge is payable by that person to the relevant local authority with the said charge from 1 January, 2012.

Over-the counter payments are resource-heavy for local authorities and this is reflected in an additional fee if a person chooses to use an administratively-expensive payment option when others are available. A €10 transaction charge was also recommended by the Local Government Efficiency Review Group to apply to all payments other than those made electronically.

The €10 fee does not apply in any circumstances in the case of persons making payment of a household charge at the office of a local authority. There is no proposal to introduce a fee for payment of the charge by cheque.

Noise Pollution

Peter Mathews

Question:

313 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the current regulation regarding neighbourhood noise; to whom one should complain if one is suffering from excessive neighbourhood noise; the process of making a complaint; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32987/12]

Currently, a person experiencing noise nuisance may contact their local authority, which may initiate proceedings on grounds of noise nuisance under the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992. This Act also provides for any person, or group of persons, to seek an order in the District Court to have noise giving reasonable cause for annoyance abated. The procedures involved have been simplified to allow action to be taken without legal representation.

A public information leaflet A Guide to the Noise Regulations, outlining the legal avenues available to persons experiencing noise nuisance, is available on my Department's websitewww.environ.ie

Motor Taxation

Billy Timmins

Question:

314 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position in relation to commercial tax on a crew cab when a farmer who farms with his brother and father but they are not his employees and they have out farms he has been informed by Wicklow County Council that he cannot tax his crew cab commercially even though the three travel together to farm; the action he will take in order to tax his crew cab commercially as it is used commercially for farming; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32991/12]

For a crew cab to be taxed commercially an applicant must fulfil the normal requirements for goods vehicles. The conveyance of persons other than the driver is prohibited where a vehicle is taxed commercially, except that the carriage of employees is permitted in a goods vehicle provided they are employed by the registered owner of the vehicle, the carriage takes place in the course of their employment and the vehicle is ordinarily used for the conveyance of goods in the course of trade/business.

The assessment of motor tax in the case of any particular vehicle is a matter for the local licensing authority. A licensing authority must be satisfied that the tax class for which an application is being made is the appropriate class for the vehicle in question and may seek whatever additional documentation it deems necessary in order to be satisfied in this regard, including evidence of the existence of employees in order to be satisfied that the reduced rate of motor tax available to commercial vehicles is correctly being applied to the vehicle.

Planning Issues

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

315 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the arrangements with An Bord Pleanála with regard to staff taking holidays; and if it is the situation that everyone takes holidays at the same time which would result in planning applications being delayed in their decisions for people waiting for their appeals to be heard. [33087/12]

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

316 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of planning appeals that are awaiting a decision from An Bord Pleanála from four to 14 months; if he will provide a detailed breakdown for each month. [33102/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 315 and 316 together

The scheduling of leave arrangements for staff and Board Members is an internal matter for An Bord Pleanála and my Department has no function in that regard. The information sought in relation to the number of planning appeals currently awaiting a decision from An Bord Pleanála for four to fourteen months is not available within my Department. A range of information in respect of planning appeals is available in the annual reports of An Bord Pleanála and on its website.

Departmental Staff

Simon Harris

Question:

317 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of staff who took sick leave of more than five, ten, 15, 20 days and 21 days or over in 2011 in all agencies, offices or other bodies reporting to his Department; the length of the ten highest incidences of sick leave across these bodies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33109/12]

As indicated in the reply to Question No. 169 of 4 July 2012, day to day operational matters, including sick leave in the State agencies under my Department's remit are a matter for the agencies concerned.

Waste Management

Sandra McLellan

Question:

318 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if any changes in legislation are proposed with regard to the importation of partially used or worn vehicle tyres; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33158/12]

The Waste Management (Tyres and Waste Tyres) Regulations 2007 were designed to improve information on tyre flows and the management of waste tyres. These regulations facilitate the comparison of quantities of waste tyres arising with the amounts placed on the market and the tracking of the movement of waste tyres from their discarding until they are either reused or processed for recycling.

Changes in legislation with regard to the importation of partially used or worn tyres are not within the remit of my Department.

Local Authority Housing

Tom Fleming

Question:

319 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the total number of housing applications on the local authority waiting list in Killarney, County Kerry; the total number of vacant houses available under various schemes in the Killarney area; his plans for these houses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33166/12]

I refer to the reply to Questions Nos. 167,169 and 171 of 28 June, 2012 which set out the position on this matter.

Question No. 320 was answered with Question No. 310.

Water and Sewerage Schemes

Noel Harrington

Question:

321 Deputy Noel Harrington asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will state the position regarding Bantry sewage works programme, County Cork; the expected timetable for the works to be completed; the expected cost; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33178/12]

The Water Services Investment Programme 2010-2013 provides for the development of a comprehensive range of new water services infrastructure in County Cork. The Programme includes contracts under construction and to commence to the value of some €230 million in the county during the period of the Programme.

The Water Services Investment Programme currently includes two projects in the ‘Contracts to Start' category of the Programme under Bantry Sewerage Scheme. Both of these are now completed resulting in the construction of a new waste water treatment plant in Bantry, the upgrading of the existing waste water pumping station and the provision of waste water transfer pipework between the town and the new waste water treatment plant. The infrastructure installed under these contracts is fully operational since early 2011.

Bantry Sewerage Scheme is also included in the Water Services Investment Programme 2010-2013 in the ‘Schemes at Planning' category of the Programme. This Scheme will provide for the upgrading of the sewage collection system in Bantry town and the elimination of various separate waste water discharges to existing storm water culverts, which are unconnected to the town's existing waste water collection network. The Design Brief for the appointment of Consultants to prepare the Preliminary Report for this element of the scheme was recently submitted by Cork County Council to my Department and this will be assessed as soon as possible. The Preliminary Report, when completed, will make recommendations on the necessary upgrading of the sewage collection network, will outline the costs involved and will also provide the time scale for the delivery of the additional works.

Septic Tank Registration Scheme

Sean Conlan

Question:

322 Deputy Seán Conlan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if it is the responsibility of the home owner or lessee of a premises to register for the septic tank charge; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33182/12]

The Water Services (Amendment) Act 2012 provides that the owner of a premises connected to a domestic waste water treatment system must register the system. Lessees are not obliged to register. Owners may register details of their system on-line atwww.protectourwater.ie or at local authority offices or by post to Protect Our Water, PO Box 12204, Dublin 7.

Departmental Funding

Sean Conlan

Question:

323 Deputy Seán Conlan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the current position (details supplied) of an application for funding with Pobal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33183/12]

Funding of €314m is available under the Rural Development Programme (RDP) 2007-2013 for allocation to qualifying projects up to the end of 2013. Currently there are 35 Local Action Groups contracted, on my Department's behalf, to deliver the RDP throughout the country and these groups are the principal decision-makers in relation to the allocation of project funding. Such decisions are made in the context of the local development strategy of the individual groups and in line with Departmental operating rules and EU regulations.

Projects that require funding of €150,000 or more must seek final approval from the Department before a final decision can be made by the Local Action Group. Pobal has no involvement in the assessment and approval of such projects. The project referred to in the question is one such project and funding of €322,528.41 has been sought. The assessment of higher value projects (projects with a grant approval of €150,000 or more) usually involves detailed consultations between my Department and the relevant local development company. It frequently necessitates the provision of further documentation or clarifications. It may also, in some instances, result in modifications to the project proposed to ensure best value for money and compliance with all the necessary regulations, both national and European, governing the activities funded under the programme.

These assessments also consider whether the project as proposed addresses the needs of the local community in the best possible way. I am sure you will appreciate that a full and detailed assessment of all projects is vital. It must be remembered that currently, project expenditure under Axes 3 and 4 of the Rural Development Programme 2007-2013 is co-financed by the European Union at a rate of 85% and, accordingly, comes within the remit of a strict regulatory regime which requires that each project must be compliant before any funding is awarded.

An application regarding the project in question has not as yet been submitted to the Rural Development Section of my Department. I understand that the Local Development Company dealing with the application does not have sufficient funding available under the Basic Services Measure of the RDP for the proposed project. Recently, as part of a number of changes that I introduced, I announced an additional €10m in funding under the Basic Services Measure of the RDP which is in the process of being allocated to the 35 Local Development Companies. Each Company was asked to make a submission regarding its need for additional funding and the overall value of those submissions is approximately €34m. Accordingly, in the context of the available funding and the level of demand, it will not be possible to allocate funding to all eligible projects.

The project mentioned by the Deputy will be evaluated in that context.

Environmental Schemes

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

324 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if the National Economic and Social Council secretariat submitted the interim report on potential options for policies and measures to close the distance to Ireland’s greenhouse gas emission reduction target under Decision 406/2009/EC in the compliance period 2013-2020; the date he will release the interim report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33246/12]

The secretariat to the National Economic and Social Council have submitted their interim report. As indicated in the programme for the development of national climate policy and legislation published earlier this year, I intend to release the report and formally invite views from the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht by end September 2012.

Environmental Schemes

Noel Harrington

Question:

325 Deputy Noel Harrington asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans for the re-instatement of Reendonegan Lake, Bantry, County Cork; the timetable for the work to be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33293/12]

The local rowing club at Reenydonegan has submitted an engineering report to my Department outlining the works required to re-instate the lake. As it is believed that the original barrage was put in place in the 1950s by the inland fisheries authorities, my Department referred the report to Inland Fisheries Ireland for their views and is awaiting a response.

Rural Development

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

326 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will clarify whether the chair of a local development company will have to vacate the position and cannot seek re-election to the position as chair for a further term of three years (details supplied); if the chair may seek re-election for a further term; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33350/12]

In line with the guidelines on the Governance of Integrated local development companies and urban based partnerships and the Operating Rules of the Rural Development Programme 2007-2013 the chairperson of the Local Development Company will have to vacate the position at the end of the term but may seek re appointment to the Board as a director and may subsequently be re-elected for a further term.

Every chairperson appointed holds office until the end of the third Annual General Meeting following his or her appointment, whereupon he or she must retire from office as both chairperson and as a director and also cease to be a member of the company. A chairperson who retires in accordance with this may, if willing to act and if re-nominated by any pillar or sector, be re-appointed as a director for a further term provided that no person is re-appointed as a director more than twice and provided that no person holds the office of director for more than two consecutive terms. The directors elect one of their number to be the chairperson of the Company.

Performance Management and Development System

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

327 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of local authority employees who completed performance management and development system assessments in 2011 by authority sector; and if he will provide a breakdown of the scoring categories 5 to 1 in each authority sector. [33358/12]

Under section 159 of the Local Government Act 2001, each City and County Manager is responsible for staffing and organisational arrangements necessary for carrying out the functions of the local authorities for which he or she is responsible. Accordingly, the detailed information sought is not available in my Department.

Local Authority Charges

Derek Nolan

Question:

328 Deputy Derek Nolan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if the non-principal private residence charge applies to persons who are living abroad; the exemptions in place in relation to paying this charge; if owners who now find themselves unemployed are liable to pay the charge; his plans to review the stipulations on this charge; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33402/12]

The Local Government (Charges) Act 2009, as amended, broadened the revenue base of local authorities by introducing a charge on non-principal private residences. The charge is set at €200 and liability for it falls, in the main, on owners of rental, holiday and vacant properties in the State.

The Act has a starting position of a universal liability for residential property in respect of the charge. It goes on to exempt certain buildings and owners from this liability, the most important exemption being where a property is occupied by the owner as his or her sole or main residence on the liability date. Where a property is not occupied by the owner as his or her sole or main residence, it falls liable for the charge, regardless of whether the owner's usual residence is in the State or abroad.

Further exemptions provide for buildings that are newly constructed but unsold and form part of the trading stock of a business; buildings with heritage merit; buildings let by local authorities for social housing or by voluntary housing bodies; buildings which are the subject of a shared ownership arrangement with local authorities; and buildings on which commercial rates are paid and which are wholly used as dwellings. In addition, exemptions apply where a person purchases a property for use as a principal private residence provided they dispose of their existing property within six months; where a charity owns a property, and where a spouse or ex-spouse has an interest in a property after a divorce or separation agreement but does not reside there. Granny flats and principal private residences that have to be vacated due to long-term illness are also exempt if certain criteria are fulfilled.

I have no plans at present to review the exemptions provided under the Act.

Departmental Properties

Niall Collins

Question:

329 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will expedite a land transfer and correspond with a housing organisation (details supplied) in relation to its query; if he will provide this Deputy with a copy of his response; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33411/12]

The site in question was approved for inclusion under the Land Aggregation Scheme, and the Housing Finance Agency loan on it was redeemed by my Department in October 2011, following which the process of transferring the land from Limerick County Council to Housing and Sustainable Communities (HSC) Ltd was commenced.

My Department understands that the transfer process from Limerick County Council to HSC Ltd is currently at an advanced stage. Once the transfer has been completed HSC Ltd will have responsibility for managing the land and has undertaken to contact the approved housing body in this context. My Department will write to the approved housing body in this regard and a copy will be provided to the Deputy.

Local Authority Housing

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

330 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the steps he has taken in relation to the pyrite issue in local authority housing in Dublin; if he has made, or is making, funding available to the local authority to address and redress this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33431/12]

Funding may be available under the Social Housing Investment Programme to fund major refurbishment works to dwellings with serious structural defects, including problems arising from pyrite. My Department has been liaising with Dublin City Council on this issue on an ongoing basis and is currently assisting the Council with regard to social housing schemes affected by pyrite at a number of locations.

Urban Renewal Schemes

Dessie Ellis

Question:

331 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to publish his regeneration plan and the information it will contain. [33463/12]

My Department currently supports an ambitious programme of regeneration projects to deliver integrated physical, social and economic regeneration, ranging from large-scale urban regeneration projects such as those in Ballymun and Limerick city to smaller estate-wide regeneration projects in Dublin city and in a number of regional towns around the country.

This year my Department is providing some €90 million to support the national regeneration programme. Regeneration goes beyond a bricks and mortar solution in improving the accommodation and lifestyles of residents of run down local authority estates and flat complexes. Regeneration seeks to address the underlying causes of disadvantage and social exclusion and to create vibrant and sustainable communities. The projects supported by my Department take a broad focus, beyond the remediation of the physical environment, also to deliver social and economic regeneration of the areas concerned.

To qualify for regeneration funding, local authorities and regeneration agencies are required to prepare comprehensive evidence-based masterplans, which provide a vision for the physical, social and economic regeneration of the area concerned and set out a framework for delivering on the objectives of the plan. The plan should include detailed strategies and implementation arrangements for delivering all three strands of regeneration and for addressing the socio-economic and infrastructural deficits that contribute to the social exclusion of the community concerned. Beyond this, regeneration masterplans are project-specific and it is a matter for the local authority, in consultation with tenants, the local community and relevant statutory bodies, to determine the nature and extent of individual regeneration projects.

Leader Programmes

Jim Daly

Question:

332 Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if it is possible to grant funding to a project situated on land in the ownership of Coillte notwithstanding all other elements of the application that would have to be assessed for approval; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33629/12]

Jim Daly

Question:

333 Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if it is possible to grant Leader funding to a project situated on land in the ownership of Coillte notwithstanding all other elements of the application that would have to be assessed for approval; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33630/12]

Jim Daly

Question:

334 Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if it is possible to grant local authority funding such as the Community Fund to a project situated on land in the ownership of Coillte notwithstanding all other elements of the application that would have to be assessed for approval; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33631/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 332 to 334, inclusive, together.

The operating rules of Axis 3 and 4 (LEADER) of the Rural Development Programme 2007-2013 (RDP) require legally binding leasing arrangements for any land where works of a capital nature are being carried out by the entity seeking funding (promoter). The promoter must provide evidence of Title/Leasehold in respect of capital projects involving land, e.g. sites of building construction/renovation, fixtures, traffic ways, etc. Leases in respect of such projects must run for a minimum period of 5 years from the date of the final grant payment to the promoter. Where a lease or evidence of title is not available a legal document declaring that the project promoter has permission to carry out the project activities concerned for at least a 5 year period, signed by a person/entity recognised as being the person/entity in charge of the property in question and the promoter, will suffice. A solicitor must witness the signing of this document.

Where leasing arrangements as described above are in place, and not withstanding the full and robust consideration of all other elements of the proposed project, a project situated on Coillte land may be eligible in principle for funding from the LEADER elements of the RDP. Section 109 of the Local Government Act 2001 provides the statutory basis for the establishment of a Community Fund. A local authority may by resolution establish a fund (in this section referred to as a ‘‘community fund'') for the purposes of supporting community initiatives and may accept contributions to such fund by any voluntary, business or community group, other local authority or public authority or other person and may itself make contributions to such fund. The establishment of a fund is discretionary but requires a resolution of the Council.

The Rural Recreation Section of my Department has previously provided funding to Coillte to support the implementation of the National Countryside Recreation Strategy and for the development and maintenance of recreation facilities such as walking and cycling trails. Future support of this nature is subject to the availability of funding.

Water Services

Seán Kyne

Question:

335 Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding the report on the establishment of Irish Water. [33638/12]

The Programme for Government provides for the establishment of a new State-owned national water authority, Irish Water, to take over responsibility for managing and supervising investment in water services infrastructure and to manage the domestic water metering programme. The Memorandum of Understanding between Ireland and the EU/IMF committed Ireland to undertaking an independent assessment of the establishment of such an authority.

The first phase of work on the independent assessment has been completed, and the published report is available on my Department's website. The Government decided in December 2011, based on the recommendations in the independent assessment, to establish a public water utility company to take over the operational and capital delivery functions of local authorities in the water services area.

Work is now focused on the development of an implementation strategy which will address transformation planning in more detail. This strategy will provide the platform for dealing with a broad range of implementation issues during the transitional phase. The implementation strategy is being developed in collaboration with other relevant Government Departments, local authorities, Bord Gáis and NewERA. The strategy will focus on maintaining the delivery of a critical public service during and following a restructuring process, and will give further clarity on the next steps that will be taken in this reform process.

Local Government Reform

Seán Kyne

Question:

336 Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will report on the progress of implementing those recommendations categorised as immediate, short and medium term of the small advisory group’s report entitled The Voice of Small Business for which he has been designated as having lead responsibility. [33643/12]

My Department has been identified, in the Small Advisory Group's Report — The Voice of Small Business , as having lead responsibility for implementing recommendations in relation to local government reform and efficiencies, commercial rates, property taxes, water charges and the taxing of commercial vehicles.

With regard to local government reform, the Government's broad policy approach was set out in the Programme for Government. In line with this, I intend to bring proposals to Government shortly for an extensive programme of local government reform. Subject to the Government's decisions, I will publish a comprehensive Policy Statement setting out a clear vision for the future of local government and proposals to achieve it, with particular focus on strengthening structures generally at regional, county and sub-county levels, expanding the role of local government, maximising operational and organisational efficiency and improving governance, oversight, local political and executive leadership and citizen engagement.

With regard to the recommendations contained in the Report of the Local Government Efficiency Review Group, I established an independently chaired Implementation Group in April 2011 to drive forward relevant recommendations of the Report, with a focus on key recommendations that will remove costs and yield early savings. The Group has recently completed an interim report and I am considering its contents in the overall context of the Local Government Reform Programme.

With regard to commercial rates, local authorities have responded positively in recent years to requests to exercise restraint in setting commercial rates. 68 rateable local authorities when adopting their 2012 budgets maintained their ARVs at 2011 levels, and 19 reduced theirs. Overall, the average change of ARV from 2011 to 2012 shows a decrease of 0.31%. There are currently no plans to review the regulations or other legislation relating specifically to the payment of commercial rates.

With regard to property taxes, an independently-chaired Inter-Departmental Expert Group was established to consider the structures and modalities for an equitable valuation-based property tax. The Group has recently completed its work and submitted its report to me. I will now be considering the approach to the report in consultation with my Government colleagues.

With regard to water charges, the Memorandum of Understanding with the EU/IMF and ECB commits Ireland to introducing water charges for households during the programming period. However, no decision has been taken by the Government on the exact date for the introduction of water charges. The Government considers that charging based on usage is the fairest way to charge for water and it has decided that water meters should be installed in households connected to public water supplies.

With regard to the taxing of commercial vehicles, Article 3 of the Road Vehicles (Registration and Licensing) (Amendment) Regulations 1992 provides that a licensing authority must be satisfied that a vehicle is correctly taxed. Departmental Circular MT4/1, issued in August 2010, contained an instruction to licensing