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Wednesday, 20 Jul 2011

Written Answers

Social Welfare Benefits

Questions (18, 19)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

23 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason delays are continuing to be experienced in her Department in deciding claims for carer’s allowance; the number of cases that are yet to be decided; the number of cases being reviewed; the number of cases being appealed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21437/11]

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Derek Keating

Question:

49 Deputy Derek Keating asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of applications she has received for carer’s allowance on a monthly basis for the past six months; the waiting time from application to the awarding of the allowance; if she is satisfied with the time that it is taking for same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21395/11]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 23 and 49 together.

The average time taken to award a claim for carer's allowance in the first half of 2011 was 13 weeks. A total of 8,171 applications were registered in the first 6 months of 2011 and 6,702 were processed in the same period. There are currently 5,294 applications awaiting a decision. There are 51,134 carer's allowance claims in payment. There are approximately 100 carer's allowance applications on hand where the applicant has supplied additional information and requested a review of a refusal by a deciding officer. I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that there are currently 2,300 carer's allowance cases awaiting a decision on appeal.

I acknowledge that the time taken to process carer's allowance claims is not satisfactory but I am satisfied that the Department is taking appropriate steps to resolve the situation.

In particular, a major service delivery modernisation project is underway to improve the efficiency of administration of the carer's allowance scheme. This involves the development of IT functionality and associated business process re-organisation. It is anticipated that the new system will introduce significant processing efficiencies and a quicker and more responsive service to the customer. Accordingly, this project is being given high priority and involves a significant level of time and commitment from the relevant staff in the Department, which has had, however, a short-term negative impact on claim processing times. The first tranche of new carer's allowance claims will begin to be processed under the new system in August 2011.

While these new systems and processes will facilitate a significant improvement in overall processing times it should be noted that individual claims may still take some time to process. Entitlement to carer's allowance is based on satisfying medical, means and residency conditions. In determining entitlement to the allowance there are, in certain cases, unavoidable time lags involved in making the necessary investigations and enquiries to enable accurate decisions to be made. Delays can also arise if people applying for the allowance are not in a position to supply all the necessary information in support of their claim.

I am assured that the situation is being monitored closely by the Department.

Departmental Expenditure

Questions (20, 21)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

24 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection the size of the cuts she envisages will be made to her Department’s budget each year to comply with the commitment to the EU and IMF to reduce social expenditure. [21322/11]

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Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

154 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection the size of the cut she envisages will be made to her Department’s budget each year to comply with the Government’s commitment to the EU and IMF to reduce social expenditure. [21601/11]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 24 and 154 together.

One of the core commitments in the Programme for Government is the restoration of fiscal stability. As we all know, overall Government spending in 2011 will be roughly €18 billion more than this year's overall Government income and that level of Exchequer borrowing is clearly not sustainable. In round terms, the total income that Government will get from tax and PRSI in 2011 is €42 billion. My Department is expected to spend over €20 billion or almost half of tax and PRSI income combined. For that reason, the transition to a more balanced budgetary position simply cannot be made without affecting social welfare spending. The funding agreement with the EU and IMF commits the Government to a further adjustment of "at least €3.6 bn” in Budget 2012, including a reduction in expenditure of €2.1 billion. The Department of Social Protection necessarily has a major contribution to make in achieving a more balanced budget, as it accounts for 39% of gross current voted expenditure, equivalent to 16% of GNP.

The depth of the economic downturn and the size of the exchequer borrowing requirement are such that there will be an on-going necessity to curtail overall expenditure in 2012 and in later years. The exact level of contribution that spending on social welfare will make to the overall reduction in expenditure will be decided by Government later this year, informed by the outcome of the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure that is currently underway in all Departments.

The objectives of the Review are to inform the best use of resources which will enable us to meet overall fiscal consolidation targets, re-align spending with Programme for Government priorities, target resources at the most effective programmes and set new objectives. This is necessary for many reasons, not least so that we can continue to make social welfare payments at appropriate levels, sustaining social cohesion and treating people with dignity.

I have also established an Advisory Group on Tax and Social Welfare which harnesses expert opinion and experience to address a number of specific issues around the operation and interaction of the tax and social protection systems. They will recommend cost-effective solutions as to how employment disincentives can be improved and better poverty outcomes achieved and identify the specific practical institutional and administrative improvements to their operation.

Any changes to the schemes and services provided by my department, including the levels of welfare payments, will be informed by the overall Government-wide options identified in the comprehensive review and by the findings of the Advisory Group

Question No. 25 answered with Question No. 20.
Question No. 26 answered with Question No. 22.

Consultancy Contracts

Questions (22)

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

27 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will make a statement detailing the consultancy reports or research commissioned by her Department in 2011; and the cost of same. [21325/11]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

The Department engages consultants (individuals or organisations) to provide intellectual or knowledge based services (e.g. expert analysis and advice) including the delivery of reports, studies, assessments, recommendations and proposals that contribute to decision making or policy making. As part of a drawdown contract on business processing, consultants have been commissioned to build on the work completed by the Department in the development of the National Employment and Entitlements Service. The cost of this project is €135,000.

The Social Inclusion Division of my Department has commissioned research on poverty trends through a three year contract at a per annum cost of €80,000. The researchers produce an annual report on poverty trends and technical reports and contributes to research seminars and briefings. The 2011 annual report is on childhood deprivation and poverty and the technical paper is on poverty measurement.

Funding is also provided for the Social Inclusion Research Innovation Awards (SIRIA), which is managed on behalf of the division by the Irish Research Council for Humanities and Social Sciences (IRCHSS) as part of its Research Development Initiative 2010 . The total grant aid is €110,000, paid in two instalments in 2010 and 2011.

In addition to work commissioned by the Social Inclusion Division, the Department also commissioned, as part of a multi-annual programme, a range of research projects in pensions modelling and child income support. The allocation for this work in 2011 is €150,000.

The Department has contracted with a specialist Information Systems (IS) Internal Audit provider for a three year programme, commencing July 2011, to carry out internal audits on the Departments ICT systems. This is to provide independent assurance that internal controls and security are satisfactory in the IS area. The cost will be between and €29,040 and €54,450 per annum over the three years.

The Department has engaged assistance in developing and implementing information security standards and promoting best practice throughout the Department. The programme of work includes the provision of advice and support on a range of issues, including Identity and Access Management, Data Classification and Retention, Risk Assessment of critical IS systems and infrastructure and an Information Security and Data Protection awareness programme. €60,000 is allocated to this work in 2011.

This year €3,557 has also been spent to provide a practitioner's view of access requirements to General Registry Office (GRO) historical records for genealogical research.

Social Welfare Benefits

Questions (23, 24)

Michael McGrath

Question:

28 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will assure Dáil Éireann that there will be no further reductions in social welfare allowances. [21425/11]

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Barry Cowen

Question:

41 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will confirm that there will be no cuts to current rates of social welfare payments. [20290/11]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 28 and 41 together.

The Government is committed to pursuing the deficit reduction strategy in a way that is fair, balanced, and which recognises the need for social solidarity. Sustainable public finances are a prerequisite for future economic stability and growth, and for maintaining and developing our social protection system. In that regard, the Government believes it is appropriate, in order to enhance international credibility, to stick to the aggregate adjustment as set out in the National Recovery Plan for the combined period 2011- 2012.

The appropriate level of overall expenditure by my Department will be considered in the context of Budget 2012 and subsequent Budgets. This consideration will be informed by the commitment in the Programme for Government to maintain social welfare rates.

The economic situation is such that there will be an ongoing requirement to curtail expenditure in 2012 and in later years. This is necessary for many reasons, not least so that we can continue to make social welfare payments at appropriate levels, sustaining social cohesion and treating people with dignity.

The priority of this Government is to get our economy moving, restore confidence, fix our banking system and support the protection and creation of jobs. The Jobs Initiative is the first step in our recovery strategy and includes a number of initiatives which will be administered by my Department including the recently introduced Internship Scheme JobBridge. In addition, the Social Welfare and Pensions Act, 2011, provided for the halving of the lower rate of employer PRSI thereby making it cheaper for employers both to take on and retain workers and thereby reduce unemployment.

There are considerable challenges ahead including the need to protect, as far as possible, the key income supports and services operated by my Department. This process will be informed by the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure which will be completed over the summer. The findings of the Review will then be available to the Government and will feed into its discussions on possible changes to schemes and services generally. The key decisions in this area will be made in the context of framing the Budget for 2012.

Departmental Bodies

Questions (25, 26)

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

29 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will provide an update on the proposals for converting the Money Advice and Budgeting Service into a strengthened personal debt management agency with strong legal powers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16720/11]

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Gerald Nash

Question:

152 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Social Protection when she plans to convert the Money Advice and Budgeting Service into a strengthened personal debt management agency with strong legal powers as described in the programme for Government; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21633/11]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 29 and 152 together.

The Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) assists people who are over-indebted and need help and advice in coping with debt problems.

There are 52 independent MABS companies operating the local MABS services from 65 locations throughout the country, with national support provided by the MABS NDL. In addition, the MABS National Telephone Helpline is available from 9am to 8pm Monday to Friday and the MABS website can be accessed 24 hours a day at www.mabs.ie. Some 90% of clients presenting to MABS are assisted through the telephone helpline, which provides assisted self-help to ensure clients take steps to assess and address their situation.

Responsibility for the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) transferred to the Citizens Information Board (CIB) in 2009 to provide strong management support to the local voluntary MABS companies. As part of the ongoing review of its services the Board have put a new organisational structure in place, since April 2011, which enables CIB regional managers to get a greater insight into the nature of supports required by MABS companies on the ground to deliver an effective service.

The CIB recently submitted a position paper setting out options for the future shape of MABS taking into consideration commitments in the Programme for Government and recommendations contained in the final reports of the Law Reform Commission on Personal Debt Management and Debt Enforcement, and the Expert Group on Mortgage Arrears and Personal Debt. This paper is currently under consideration.

In addition, The Citizens Information Board and the Department are also engaged with the Department of Justice and Equality concerning their plans for reform of personal insolvency law, and the role of MABS, in the context of the recommendations of the Law Reform Commission.

I am satisfied that MABS will continue to provide a high quality personal service to assist people in overcoming their indebtedness and managing their finances.

Departmental Staff

Questions (27, 28)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

30 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the degree if any to which further staff redeployments are required or have been requested to deal with the extra social welfare payments arising from the economic downturn over the past three years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21393/11]

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Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

192 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the extent to which adequate staff are available to her Department to clear backlogs in respect of various social welfare payments; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21847/11]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 30 and 192 together.

The staffing needs of my Department are kept under constant review to ensure that the best use is made of all available resources. In the context of the Employment Control Framework targets, as determined by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, my Department will continue to source available staff by way of transfer and redeployment from within the Department and from other Government Departments.

Arising from the economic downturn, in excess of 900 staff have been assigned to my Department, in the period since May 2008, to fill critical vacancies and additional posts that were approved to deal with the significant increase in claims for the various schemes operated by the Department.

It is recognised that the provision of additional staff in itself is not the only appropriate way to deal with the increased demands for the schemes operated by the Department. In this regard, all scheme areas in the Department are subject to continuous business process improvement supported by modern technology.

As the Deputy will be aware, one of the main impacts on current service delivery has been the increase in the Live Register. In this context, the Department has introduced a range of process improvement initiatives regarding claims for jobseeker's allowance and jobseeker's benefit. One of the most significant initiatives, aimed at reducing queuing and waiting times, involves customers attending their local office by appointment at which time the claim is taken and decided.

Processing times vary across schemes because of both the volume of applications and the differing qualification criteria. For example, means assessments are required for all of the social assistance schemes; medical examinations are required for some of the illness related schemes and customers must also satisfy the habitual residence conditions. In the case of the insurance-based schemes, it may be necessary to ascertain details of foreign insurance records.

Process improvements have resulted in a significant reduction in the number and proportion of all claims awaiting a decision. For example, there were 40,417 jobseeker's claims awaiting a decision on 9th July 2011 equating to 8% of the total claim-load. This compares favourably to 10th July 2010 when 52,542 claims or 10% of claim-load were awaiting decision and 82,520 claims or 17% of claim-load in July 2009.

As the Deputy is aware, it is planned to integrate the Community Welfare Service from the Health Service Executive, and employment and other services from FÁS into my Department. When this process is completed it will provide the basis for a new model of service delivery in my Department. The aim will be to ensure that income and employment support services are delivered in an effective and more timely case management based approach.

Departmental Bodies

Questions (29)

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

31 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will make a statement on the recently established advisory group on tax and social welfare, including the expected timeframe for and topic upon which its initial recommendations are expected to focus; and if she will make the recommendations available to the public as she receives them. [21321/11]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

Creating jobs and tackling poverty are two of the key challenges that we face. It is essential that our tax and social protection systems play their part in addressing these issues and ensure that work is worthwhile. To this end, I recently set up an Advisory Group on Tax and Social Welfare. The first meeting of the Group took place on 30 June and I understand that the Group is considering its work programme.

The main rationale for setting up the Group is to harness expert opinion and experience to address a number of specific issues around the operation and interaction of the tax and social protection systems. The Group will also be tasked with recommending cost-effective solutions as to how employment disincentives can be improved and better outcomes achieved, particularly child outcomes, and with identifying the specific practical institutional and administrative improvements to their operation. The Group will initially prioritise the area of family and child income supports.

It is envisaged that the Group's work programme will be based, where possible, on producing modular reports on the priority areas identified in the terms of reference in line with a timetable agreed by myself, in consultation with the Ministers for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform. Where possible, the aim is to provide recommendations that can be acted upon in time for the annual budget/estimates and legislative cycle and to allow the Government to best address its commitments under the EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support.

The Advisory Group is currently developing its mode of working and I expect that decisions in respect of publishing recommendations will be made at the appropriate time. It should be noted that the Group's recommendations will be considered in the first instance by a steering committee consisting of myself and the Ministers for Children and Youth Affairs, Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform and others, as considered necessary.

Employment Support Services

Questions (30)

Billy Kelleher

Question:

32 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Social Protection if she is satisfied that the measures in place to reduce the number of persons on the live register are adequate; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21427/11]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

While the primary responsibility for job creation rests with the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and agencies under its remit, the Department of Social Protection has a role in supporting people from welfare to work and operates a range of employment support measures designed to encourage and support social welfare recipients of working age to reduce their dependency on welfare payments. Supports available include the back to education programmes and back to work schemes. In addition, a fully integrated nationwide range of services and supports is available to employers and jobseekers through FÁS Employment Services, responsibility for which has been transferred to this Department.

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

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

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

These developments are complimented by measures announced recently by the Government under the Jobs Initiative and include initiatives such as JobBridge, the National Internship Scheme, which will provide 5,000 internship opportunities of 6 or 9 months in organisations in the private, public or community and voluntary sectors. Participants will retain their social welfare entitlements and will also receive a ‘top-up' of €50 per week. In addition, from July 2, the rate of employers PRSI on jobs paying up to €356 per week has been halved to 4.25%, up to end 2013. All of the measures outlined above will support people who are unemployed in acquiring the education and skills and work experience that will assist them in returning to employment while measures such as the PRSI reduction will encourage employers to new employment.

Social Insurance

Questions (31)

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

33 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will be detailing changes to social insurance-related appropriations-in-aid in the outcome of her negotiation with other Departments as part of the Estimates process. [20320/11]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

The appropriations-in-aid (A-in-A) from the Social Insurance Fund to the votes of various departments and agencies in 2011 are outlined in the following table.

Service provider

Service provided

2011 Estimate €m

Department of Social Protection

Administration of Social Insurance Fund schemes

177.28

Revenue Commissioners

Collection of PRSI contributions

37.437

Department of Finance

Superannuation

30

Office of Public Works

Maintenance of buildings

8.327

Department of Environment, Community and Local Government

Rates on the Department’s buildings

0.741

Comptroller and Auditor General

Audit of the Social Insurance Fund accounts

0.14

Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation

Certain expenses relating to the administration of the Redundancy and Insolvency schemes.

1.52

The overall purpose of these A-in-As is the payment by the Social Insurance Fund (SIF) of expenses incurred by various departments and agencies in the administration of SIF schemes. The most significant A-in-A is an internal transfer between the Social Insurance Fund and the Department's own vote.

The appropriations in aid from the Social Insurance Fund to various votes in 2012 will be considered as part of the forthcoming estimates process. The amounts agreed for 2012 under each heading in the table above will be published in the revised estimates volume for 2012. Any changes agreed for 2012 relative to the appropriation in aid agreed for 2011 will therefore be readily discernible once finalised.

Social Welfare Code

Questions (32, 33, 34, 35, 36)

Timmy Dooley

Question:

34 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans to put the household benefits package out to tender. [21431/11]

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Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

43 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will reconsider the cuts to fuel, electricity and phone allowances for the unemployed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21408/11]

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Billy Kelleher

Question:

44 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Social Protection if she negotiated with providers, other than Eircom, in relation to recent changes in the telephone allowance. [21426/11]

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Pearse Doherty

Question:

46 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Social Protection if, prior to announcing the cuts to the fuel allowance and household benefits package, she conducted a poverty impact assessment of the measure; and if so, the outcome of same. [21329/11]

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Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

48 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will reverse her decision to cut the fuel allowance and household benefits package in view of the impact such cuts will have on thousands of vulnerable persons, including older persons and those with disabilities. [21320/11]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 34, 43, 44, 46 and 48 together.

I have no plans to reconsider the changes to the fuel allowance and household benefits package which were announced last week. From September 2011 the fuel allowance is to be standardised at €20 per week, the rate currently received by the majority of customers, with no additional allowance for living in a smokeless area. The cost of the telephone allowance will be reduced following negotiations with Eircom which will ensure that customers receive €26.86 of value on their bills, at a cost to the State of €22.22 per month. The number of free units provided under the electricity and gas allowance will be reduced to the level at the start of 2007 (from 2,400 to 1,800). It should be noted that the unemployed do not receive these benefits apart from the long-term unemployed who may receive a fuel allowance. These three measures will generate savings of €17 million in 2011 and €65 million annually.

While we have had to implement these measures, the House should be aware that these savings were provided for last December in Budget 2011 but were not specified or announced by the then Government at that time. On the specific measures, the rationale for paying the smokeless allowance to customers in smokeless areas is no longer valid. The price differential between the types of coal is as low as 2% while the allowance represents an addition of 20% to the Fuel Allowance. Use of coal has dropped considerably, to about 3%. It is inequitable to continue paying this top-up allowance when it is not required.

As regards the telephone allowance, the deal negotiated with Eircom represents good value for the State and the customer. The main saving is that the Department will no longer pay a monthly rental for handsets, but customers will be able to keep their set at no charge. Indeed, a lot of households no longer use or have their original handsets so it makes no sense that the State would continue to pick up this cost.

The reduction in units in the electricity allowance and equivalent gas allowance is essential to control spending. Because the allowances are based on units the full cost of energy increases has been borne by the State, with no incentive for customers to switch to other cheaper companies. Only 16% of social welfare customers have switched companies compared to 42% nationally. People will be able to offset some of the reduction in units by availing of cheaper rates.

As regards the commitment to putting the household benefits out to tender, I am still exploring this issue. However, the Chief State Solicitor's Office has advised that the Department does not have the right to go to the market to procure electricity as it is not actually the customer in the first instance. This view has been endorsed by the Commission for Energy Regulation and the Competition Authority. I am indeed anxious to get the best value possible from the utility companies and the deal concluded with Eircom is a positive response in this regard. We are in negotiations with other suppliers also and I am hopeful that having regard to the difficult budgetary situation that we find ourselves in that they will respond positively too given their social responsibilities. We also have initiated contacts with smaller providers.

While of course we want to protect the basic social welfare payments which have very positive economic and social effects, regrettably there is an ongoing necessity to achieve savings due to our commitments with the IMF/EU/ECB Troika. There will be an ongoing necessity to curtail overall expenditure in 2012 and in later years. The Comprehensive Review of Expenditure currently under way in all government departments and agencies will form the basis for making the necessary decisions to achieve this.

A poverty impact assessment was carried out on a range of options for the future administration of the household benefits package. This focused on the potential impact of changing the electricity allowance from a unit base to a cash base to avail of cheaper rates available. The assessment concluded that the proposal would have limited impact.

Along with other Departments and agencies, my Department has been working with the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources on an Affordable Energy Strategy and this is expected to be brought to Government in the Autumn. Energy poverty is a factor of income, energy prices and the thermal efficiency of the home. The most cost-effective means of protecting households from energy poverty is to reduce their consumption of energy through improving the thermal efficiency of the home. Sustainable Energy Ireland has administered an energy efficiency programme for privately owned low income households (Warmer Homes) since 2001. Over 65,000 such households have benefited to date, with a further 15,000 expected to receive energy efficiency upgrades this year. A similar upgrade programme is also in place for local authority houses.

Departmental Agencies

Questions (37)

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

35 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Social Protection the steps she has taken to reform the operations of FÁS in so far as it falls under her remit. [21324/11]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

From 1 January 2011 policy and funding responsibility for FÁS functions in relation to employment and community services was transferred to my Department in accordance with the provisions of the Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2010. This is a transitional arrangement. The Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2010 provides for the transfer of all employment and community services, including staff and other resources, from FÁS to the Department of Social Protection. It is anticipated that this will be completed before the end of this year. Since January my Department and FÁS have been working closely to ensure that the various HR and administrative systems, such as payroll records and IT systems are put in place for the full transfer of staff and services before the end of the year. An intensive IR process is also under way which is dealing with staff terms and conditions.

To facilitate reform and to speed up the integration process at local level, a number of joint planning workshops between FÁS, CWS and DSP staff and senior management have taken place. Staff at local level have begun to implement integrated approaches to service provision following the identification by FÁS and DSP front line staff of actions and ‘quick wins' that can be undertaken to support the integration process and deliver early results. To accelerate the reform process, FÁS and the Department are working on a number of pilot projects in relation to the development of case management, the identification of those who are most at risk of falling into long-term unemployment, and the provision of appropriately tailored responses to their needs. These pilot projects will be completed and evaluated after which approaches will be developed for their roll out nationwide as part of the National Employment and Entitlements Service.

As part of such an approach, FÁS and the Department worked together on the development the new National Internship Scheme JobsBridge which was launched by the Taoiseach on 30th June 2011. It is expected that this scheme will provide 5,000 internships of up to nine months duration and participants will retain their social welfare entitlements and will also receive a ‘top-up' of €50 per week.

Social Welfare Benefits

Questions (38)

Niall Collins

Question:

36 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Social Protection if she has satisfied herself that the automated service of the back to school clothing and footwear allowance is only making payments to persons who are entitled to them. [21432/11]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

As the Deputy is aware, the administrative arrangements for the 2011 back to school clothing and footwear allowance scheme are different from those that applied in previous years. In previous years these applications were manually processed by the Health Service Executive (HSE) on behalf of the Department. For this year the majority of back to school clothing and footwear allowance entitlements were fully automated with no application form required from customers.

This year the automated process identified some 127,000 households and generated payments in respect of some 243,000 children. The back to school clothing and footwear allowance is paid in respect of eligible children between the ages of: — 2 and 17 years of age, and — between the ages of 18 and 22, if in full time education.

In order to receive a payment on an automated basis the parent of the child must have been in receipt of a qualifying payment that included an increase in respect of a qualified child at the commencement of the scheme and also the household had to satisfy the means test for the scheme. The scheme commenced from the 1st June 2011 with the entitlement created based on the preceding week. As part of this year's administrative arrangements the Department will carry out a full review of the process and identify any improvements for subsequent years. In addition, if the Department establishes that any person received a payment to which he/she was not entitled, it will seek to recover that amount in full.

Question No. 37 answered with Question No. 22.

Customer Service Standards

Questions (39)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

38 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Social Protection if she has reviewed or plans to review customer service standards; if she has concerns about the capacity of her Department to adequately deal with the extent of communication being generated; if she has sought additional resources to meet this need; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21438/11]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

The Department's customer service standards are set out in its Customer Charter. Through regular consultation with customers and stakeholders, the commitments in the charter are measured to determine the extent to which these standards are achieved and these achievements are published every year in the Department's Annual Report. The Department's Customer Action Plan 2009-2011 builds on the commitments in the Customer Charter and sets out a range of aims and actions to achieve them during the lifetime of the plan.

A new Customer Charter and Customer Action Plan 2012-2014 will be drafted this year which will incorporate the changed role of the Department following recent Government decisions in relation to the Department's responsibilities and functions. As part of this process a new set of customer service standards will be established. Some 1.4m people each week receive a social welfare payment and when qualified adults and children are included, a total of over 2.1m people benefit from weekly payments. Some 600,000 families receive child benefit payments in respect of over 1.1m children each month.

The day-to-day activities of the Department include:

some 50 separate schemes and services;

over 2m applications cleared annually;

over 6.5m telephone calls to the Department annually;

over 85.3m payments annually;

processing applications for Personal Public Service Numbers for customers from some 140 countries.

As part of its ongoing modernisation agenda, the Department delivers services to customers through a range of contact channels — telephone, SMS text messaging, websites, online services and walk-in services. This gives customers more choice in how they access services, and also provides a more integrated service. The Department has been proactive in implementing new processes and procedures to improve service delivery, for example, in its local office process modernisation programme.

Any organisation experiencing peaks in demand for its service, as the Department has in recent years, may at times also experience periods where the service it provides may not always meet customer expectations. Additional staff have been appointed to the Department in recent times to help meet this demand, particularly in respect of Jobseekers payments. However, it should be noted that the Department must also achieve the employment control framework (ECF) targets, as agreed under the Public Service Agreement 2010 -2014, through compliance with the moratorium on recruitment. I am satisfied that my Department has the resources to meet the current demand for its services and will continue to deliver quality customer services to the public.

Wage-Setting Mechanisms

Questions (40, 41)

Willie O'Dea

Question:

39 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding the impact assessment that she is carrying out in relation to reforms of the joint labour committee system; and if she envisages any implications for her Department arising from the recent High Court ruling in relation to JLCs. [21429/11]

View answer

Willie O'Dea

Question:

51 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection if, in view of the fact that she is tasked with protecting the most vulnerable in society, she has satisfied herself that the there are adequate measures in place to protect the vulnerable workers affected by the recent High Court ruling in relation to joint labour committees. [21430/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 39 and 51 together.

The need for reform of the Joint Labour Committee system was clearly signalled in the Programme for Government. Following the commissioning of an Independent Review of Employment Regulation Orders (EROs) and Registered Employment Agreement (REAs) Wage Setting Mechanisms, my colleague, Richard Bruton, T.D., Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation undertook a consultation process on the main issues arising from the report. The outcome of this work is currently under consideration by the Government.

The Government will consider the impact of the reform proposals on workers with a view to achieving balanced reform which produces good outcomes for employment and social protection. My Department undertook an interim analysis of the broader impact of reform of EROs/REAs on low paid workers and the social protection system generally, and how reduced pay levels due to a reduction in Sunday premia and in overtime pay could possibly lead to an increased reliance on the social welfare system. This assessment will inform the Government's deliberations on the reform of EROs/REAs, with a view to achieving balanced reform for all those affected.

As the Deputy will be aware, my Department provides a number of schemes to support low paid workers and to prevent in-work poverty, including Jobseeker's Allowance, Jobseeker's Benefit, One Parent Family Payment and Family Income Supplement. These schemes provide financial supports for workers who meet the eligibility requirements and who may be affected through a reduction in earnings by the recent High Court ruling in relation to EROs made by JLCs.

Job Creation

Questions (42)

Robert Troy

Question:

40 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Social Protection if the jobs initiative has had an impact on the live register to date. [21428/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

The Jobs Initiative recently announced by the Government contains additional labour market activation measures that aim to provide unemployed people with enhanced opportunities to maintain and develop their skills and competencies while also offering the possibility of securing valuable work experience. These measures will assist those seeking employment to maintain their links with the labour market while also improving their prospects of securing employment. The Jobs Initiative contains an additional 20,900 education, training and work experience places for the unemployed.

A key element of that initiative was the introduction by my Department of the National Internship Scheme (NIS) last month which will provide 5,000 places for internship opportunities of either 6 or 9 months in organisations in the private, public or community and voluntary sectors. These opportunities will provide participants with valuable work experience that will develop their skills and enhance their career prospects. The national internship scheme was launched earlier in July. In addition, from July 2, the rate of employers' PRSI on jobs paying up to €356 per week was halved to 4.25%, up to end 2013.

These measures and others announced as part of the jobs initiative, complement ongoing development in the labour market policy area. The 5,000 NIS places, for example, are additional to the 5,000 places announced under the Tús community work placement initiative in last December's Budget. My Department also operates a range of employment support measure designed to encourage and support social welfare recipients of working age to reduce their dependency on welfare payments. Supports available include the back to education allowance, the back to work schemes and the employer job PRSI incentive scheme.

The measures announced under the Jobs Initiative, together with ongoing and planned further development of a range of activation and employment support measures, will have a significant impact on the Live Register, particularly in so far as they prepare unemployed people for jobs that will be generated as the economy improves.

Question No. 41 answered with Question No. 28.

Social Welfare Code

Questions (43)

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

42 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will make a statement elaborating on and updating her plans to introduce a partial capacity scheme. [21323/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

The legislative basis which provides for the introduction of the Partial Capacity scheme is contained in the Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2010, which was enacted by the Oireachtas in December 2010. A programme of work is currently under way to cater for the new scheme. This includes the preparation of Regulations, as required by legislation, which will set out the rates of payment which will apply to those who avail of the scheme; and the finalisation of the medical criteria against which partial employment capacity will be assessed; and the development of the necessary processes and information technology systems to process, record and pay applicants.

Every effort is being made to complete these necessary steps to allow for the formal introduction of the scheme at the earliest possible date. At this stage, I envisage that the Regulations will be introduced in the Autumn of this year and that the scheme will be formally introduced before the end of the year.

The introduction of the Partial Capacity scheme will mark a key development of the social welfare system. The scheme recognises that the current structure of the welfare system, which categorises people as ‘fit to work' or ‘unfit to work', does not reflect the reality for many existing customers. It will provide an opportunity for people with disabilities, and assessed to have an employment capacity which is restricted, to avail of employment opportunities while continuing to receive an income support payment.

Questions Nos. 43 and 44 answered with Question No. 34.

Personal Public Service Numbers

Questions (44)

Niall Collins

Question:

45 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Social Protection her response to the revelation that there are 7.2 million PPS numbers in issue while the population stands at just 4.58 million. [21433/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

The Department of Social Protection is responsible for maintaining the national database of Personal Public Service (PPS) numbers which are stored on the Department's Central Records System (CRS). There are currently 7.4 million customer records on CRS each of which is identified by a unique PPS number. The PPS number in its current format was originally a tax reference number. With the introduction of Pay Related Social Insurance (PRSI) in 1979 an individual's Pay As You Earn (PAYE) tax reference number became known as a Revenue and Social Insurance (RSI) number. The RSI number was renamed the Personal Public Service (PPS) number in 1998 to reflect its future use as a unique identifier across the wider public service. CRS is a complete database of all the historical tax reference numbers which were used to pre-populate the database in 1979 and every PPS number which has been issued since then. In addition to those persons currently resident in the State who have been issued with a PPS Number, the figure of 7.4 million also includes any individual who, since 1979, required a PPS number and;

1) has died,

2) has been resident in the State and has subsequently left the jurisdiction, and

3) has not been resident in the State (e.g. an individual resident abroad who has benefited from an Irish Estate — the Revenue Commissioners have a requirement that all beneficiaries of Irish Estates should have a PPS number)

The Department is continuously monitoring customer records on its CRS in order to preserve and enhance the quality of the data including, where appropriate, consolidating duplicate PPS numbers as they emerge.

Question No. 46 answered with Question No. 34.

Data Protection

Questions (45)

Seán Crowe

Question:

47 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Social Protection if she has met the Data Protection Commissioner to discuss the additional security measures required to accompany the increased computerisation that is being rolled out across her Department; and her plans for same. [21326/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

The Data Protection Commissioner is fully aware of the Department's investment in technology and how it is prioritising the security of customer information in its latest generation ICT systems. He has this knowledge from his audit of the Department in 2008 and subsequent ongoing progress reports and meetings with my officials. The Department continues to work closely with the Data Protection Commissioner to ensure that its information security standards and protocols reflect the highest international standards, in order to provide assurance to its customers that their personal information is fully protected and processed in a secure manner. My Department administers more than 50 separate social welfare schemes and services. Over one million people each week receive a social welfare payment. The nature and volume of its business means that my Department is heavily dependent on ICT facilities to carry out the bulk of its business and it bears responsibility for a significant amount of personal data.

The Department is fully aware of its obligation to safeguard the security of these data. It employs a wide range of measures to protect the confidentiality, availability and integrity of information. Over the past few years, the Department has undertaken a number of Information Security projects. Examples of the work currently ongoing in this area include the development of a range of information security protocols, the classification and tagging of all personal data held on the Department's information systems and the implementation of an identity and access management framework. In addition, technical work has been carried out on the Department's infrastructures and systems. The Department is also ensuring that higher levels of data protection are built into its latest generation of ICT systems to reflect the increased threats in this area. Considerable resources have also been devoted to increasing the security and monitoring facilities in its older systems.

Question No. 48 answered with Question No. 34.
Question No. 49 answered with Question No. 23.

Social Welfare Benefits

Questions (46)

David Stanton

Question:

50 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will provide a breakdown on the number of applications for each of the disability-related payments in her Department in 2010; if all of these applications are passed to medical assessors before a decision is reached; the number of applications which necessitated the examination of the applicant by a medical professional; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21356/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

The number of applications received for each of the main disability schemes in 2010 is set out in the following table. All applications for disability allowance, invalidity pension and domiciliary care allowance are desk assessed by the department's medical assessors who examine all the relevant medical reports and evidence submitted by the applicant. The practise of referring disability allowance and invalidity pension applications for in person assessments was phased out early in 2010. Consequently, the number of cases which underwent an in person assessment was low, as shown in table.

Illness benefit is a payment for insured people who cannot work due to illness and who satisfy the pay related social insurance conditions. The benefit is paid weekly, in arrears, on receipt of required medical certification signed by an applicant's doctor. While receiving illness benefit a person's claim may be reviewed and he/she may be required to attend a medical assessment by one of the department's medical assessors. Injury benefit is paid and reviewed on the same basis.

All disablement benefit applications are referred to a medical assessor who carries out an in person assessment of the applicant's percentage loss of faculty.

Medical assessors are fully qualified and experienced practitioners who provide a second opinion to that of the person's own doctor for the guidance of the department's deciding officers. Their assessments conform to the ethical conduct and behaviour guidelines of the Medical Council. Medical assessors are required to be medical practitioners who are on the general register of medical practitioners while holding an appointment. They must have at least six years satisfactory experience in the practice of medicine since registration. Many of the medical assessors have specialist post-graduate qualifications and all have received special training in human disability evaluation. They also have special training in eligibility assessment and all are trained in disability evaluation. The medical assessors have an ongoing commitment to continuing medical education to ensure that standards are maintained and enhanced.

When conducting an assessment, the medical assessor does not dispute the existence of the certified cause of incapacity but rather s/he assesses the degree to which the loss of function in work-related activities, resulting from disease or injury, affects the person's ability to perform either their own job or alternative types of work.

Scheme

Numbers Received 2010

In-Person Assessment 2010

Disability Allowance

21,409

29

Illness Benefit

289,962

Not normally assessed by the department’s medical assessors for initial eligibility

Invalidity Pension

8,774

52

Disablement Pension

1,652

1,228

Injury Benefit

15,157

Not normally assessed by the department’s medical assessors for initial eligibility

Domiciliary Care Allowance

5,457

0

Question No. 51 answered with Question No. 39.

Departmental Schemes

Questions (47)

Timmy Dooley

Question:

52 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Social Protection if she has identified the barriers to successful implementation of the placement and internship programme; and if so, her proposals to remove these barriers. [21073/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

The National Internship Scheme JobBridge is a key part of the Government's Jobs Initiative. It will provide up to 5,000 unemployed people with an internship opportunity ranging from 6 to 9 months in an organisation in the private, public or community and voluntary sectors. During this time participants will receive an allowance, which will consist of a €50 per week top up on their existing social welfare entitlements. The Internship scheme will assist in breaking that cycle whereby unemployed people cannot get a job without experience, either as new entrants to the labour market after education or training or as unemployed workers whose existing skills will not be appropriate to the types of jobs that will emerge in post- recession Ireland. The scheme will give young people a real opportunity to gain valuable experience to bridge the gap between study and the beginning of their working lives.

In order for the scheme to be a success, host organisations must offer meaningful internships that allow participants to enhance their current skills and to learn new ones. To this end, a clear set of rules have been developed to protect the intern and safeguard JobBridge from potential abuse.

In order for an application from a host organisation to be put up on the JobBridge site it must meet a number of criteria so as to ensure that the potential internship is one of quality. These include the following:

That the placement does not allow the intern to work unsupervised;

That the intern accrues significant experience throughout the entire placement;

That an internship will not be approved where, in the absence of the intern, the organisation would have to recruit an employee to carry out the tasks identified in the internship.

Following this application process, in order for an internship to commence, a Standard Internship Agreement must be signed by both the intern and the host organisation. This Agreement clearly stipulates the terms of the internship including the maximum number of hours an intern is expected to work in a week, their entitlement to rest breaks, annual leave and sick leave. To ensure compliance with the scheme the Department of Social Protection and the Employment Services Division of FÁS are monitoring internships to ensure that they are of sufficient quality and that both host organisations and interns are abiding by the spirit and the rules of the scheme.

In this regard, each host organisation will be required to submit monthly compliance reports verifying that the internship is proceeding as set out in the Standard Internship Agreement.

Also, the Employment Services of FÁS will undertake random site visits of internships as part of this process. In addition, a ‘whistle blowing' feature has been introduced where any individual who suspects that an internship may be in breach of the scheme's criteria may contact the National Call Centre. All such claims will be investigated.

The control mechanisms and conditions have been put in place to protect the integrity of the scheme and to ensure that the intern and host organisation both benefit from the arrangement.

Departmental Expenditure

Questions (48)

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

53 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Taoiseach the hourly rate paid for fees due to barristers who provided counsel at junior and senior level, respectively, for the Office of the State Solicitor and for the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21628/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Taoiseach)

I am informed that given the very varied nature and complexity of the work undertaken, counsel is not paid an hourly rate by the Office of the Chief State Solicitor. Measurement of counsel's fees is governed by the nature and extent of the work done by counsel and the features of each particular case. The factors taken into account in assessing counsel's fee include:

The amount of time likely to have been reasonably spent on the work

The number of documents perused and their importance and technicality

The specialist knowledge and skill of counsel

The complexity of the work undertaken

The difficulty or novelty of the questions involved

The value of the claim and its importance

The responsibility involved

The place and circumstances where the work is performed

Whether there is any overlap with other work performed by counsel which reduces the work that would otherwise have been necessary

The performance of counsel.

The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, which is involved only in criminal cases, does not pay barristers an hourly rate either, but rather uses a range of standard fees. The principal categories of fees, covering 95% of the fees paid, are brief fees, refresher fees, sentence fees and bail fees. The brief fee is payable for the first day of a trial or, if the case does not go to trial, the day the defendant pleads guilty. It covers both the work involved in preparing the case for trial and the appearance on the day in question. The current brief fee for junior counsel in the Circuit Court is €1,272. The brief fee paid to junior counsel in the Central Criminal Court is €4,225 in rape cases and €5,280 in murder cases.

A refresher fee is payable for the second and subsequent days of a trial. The current refresher fee for junior counsel in the Circuit Court is €636. The refresher fee paid to junior counsel in the Central Criminal Court is €1,157.

A sentence fee is paid for hearings that deal with the passing of sentence. There may be more than one such hearing in a case. The current sentence fee for junior counsel is €274.

A bail fee is payable for hearings where the defendant applies for bail and the matter is contested. The current bail fee for junior counsel is €196.

Where cases are heard in the Central Criminal Court, a senior counsel will also usually be appointed. On occasion, a senior counsel may be appointed to deal with a particularly complex case in the Circuit Court. The fees paid to senior counsel are one-and-a-half times the junior counsel rate.

Overseas Development Aid

Questions (49)

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

54 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the level of financial aid that will be provided to the escalating emergency in east Africa; if any additional funding will be provided on top of the €400,000 allocation from Irish Aid on 5 July 2011; if he has undertaken any engagement at UN level regarding the emerging reports of the scale of the problem; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21445/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Foreign)

The Horn of Africa is experiencing the most severe food crisis in the world today. Between ten and twelve million people are severely affected in drought-stricken areas of Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Uganda — a thirty percent increase since the beginning of the year. The immediate cause of the crisis is a prolonged drought and the failure of at least two seasonal rains, with the situation severely compounded by the ongoing conflict in Somalia, where humanitarian access remains limited.

The Government has been following and responding to this growing humanitarian emergency for many months. At the beginning of 2011, in anticipation of a severe crisis, we pre-approved humanitarian funding of €4 million for UN Agencies and NGOs working in the region and in more recent weeks followed this with the disbursal of additional funding for Concern and Trócaire for their operations in Somalia and Kenya.

As the crisis deepened and in close consultation with the major UN agencies operating on the ground, I last week approved an additional €1 million in funding for emergency food relief and assistance to refugees across the region. Some €750,000 of this funding will help the United Nations World Food Programme in its efforts to dramatically increase the distribution of highly-nutritious foodstuffs to young children and pregnant women, and other vulnerable groups. The remaining €250,000 is being provided to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to support this agency in providing shelter, health care, water and sanitation to the many thousands of Somali refugees fleeing to Ethiopia and Kenya from the drought and conflict in their own country.

Last week's announcement brings to €5.6 million the Government's funding to Concern, Trócaire, Goal and World Vision for emergency food, water, sanitation and health care, and to the United Nations agencies in the region so far this year. In addition, 11 members of the Rapid Response Corps administered by Irish Aid have deployed to the region. The Corps is made up of highly-skilled volunteers who work with UN and other humanitarian agencies in crisis situations.

Ireland also remains a major contributor to the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), which was established in 2006 following the Asian Tsunami to provide immediately-accessible funds to the UN for use in a crisis such as that currently under way in the Horn of Africa. Funds are now being drawn down by a range of UN agencies from the CERF for drought-related activities across the region. Ireland has contributed a total of €81 million to the CERF since 2006, including €4 million so far this year.

Irish Aid will remain in close contact with the UN and other humanitarian agencies in the Horn of Africa in order to assess how Ireland might best contribute to assisting the international relief effort.

Passport Applications

Questions (50, 51, 52, 53)

Finian McGrath

Question:

55 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, further to Parliamentary Question No. 68 of 28 June 2011, if he will support a matter (details supplied). [21488/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Foreign)

As you are aware from the reply to your Question No. 68 of 28 June 2011, the Department wrote to the applicant's parents on 30 April, 2011 and again on 16 June 2011 to explain its decision in this case. I can confirm that there is no record in the Passport Service of a reply from the parents. Accordingly, there has been no progress with this application since 28 June, 2011.

If the Deputy is aware of any additional information that the parents may have provided (or if they intend to so), they should contact Mr. Paul Evans, Passport Officer in the Passport Office in Molesworth Street (tel. 6733035) for direct and immediate assistance.

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

56 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on the deterioration in the service provided by the Passport Office and the difficulties citizens are experiencing by not only struggling to get a member of staff on the telephone but in exercising their right to travel as a result of substantial delays in the office; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21493/11]

View answer

There are currently 41,223 passport applications in the system, which are being processed by the Passport Offices in Molesworth Street, Balbriggan, Cork and London. This is down by 10,019(24%) on the figure of 51,242 which was given in reply to Question No. 76 of 12 July, 2011.

This reflects an improved situation in passport services with the turnaround period for Passport Express applications, for instance, at 11 working days which is down from 15 working days. The combined measures of the recruitment of temporary staff, the use of overtime and the redeployment of staff and work within the Passport Service continue to be effective in bringing passport service levels back to normal.

These efforts should be seen in the context of the number of applications received so far this year. Year to date demand on all passport services is 12% up on 2009 levels. The figures for 2010 are not a reliable comparison due to the impact of last year's industrial action. In addition, the Passport Service received an average of 3,300 applications per day last week which is down from a daily average of around 4,000 applications for the months of May and June. This reduction provides some evidence that passport demand is beginning to ease. This trend is expected to continue as progress is made towards the end of the traditional summer season. The decrease in demand on passport services in the coming weeks will help our ongoing efforts to bring all passport services back to their standard service levels.

However, this reduction is still not reflected in the unprecedented demand for passports at short notice. It is not unusual for over 400 people to submit applications for a short notice priority passport service at the public office in Molesworth Street. In the context of these very high and unpredictable numbers of customers using the public counter service, it is clearly not possible, despite the best efforts of the Passport Office staff to be of assistance, to accommodate all requests for a short notice service. Citizens are advised that the public counter services should only be used in cases of genuine emergency. Priority at the public counters will be given to those who have a verifiable necessity to travel for reasons of family emergency i.e. travel is necessitated by the death, illness or welfare of a family member.

It should also be stressed that to protect the integrity of the system and the quality of the passport, the Passport Service cannot provide standard passports within a single day. The shortest turnaround time available, other than in cases of genuine emergency, is three working days for applications received over the public counter, accompanied by proof of travel. Priority will continue to be given to applications made through the Passport Express Services and Irish-based customers are strongly encouraged to use that service. Notice of the current extended turnaround time and its likely duration has been published on the Passport Service website www.passport.ie. The Passport Office has also informed An Post so that customers can be advised of the situation at the point of application.

The overwhelming numbers of applications that have been submitted through the ordinary post passport service or those that have been made through Ireland's overseas Missions are currently taking over 6 weeks to be processed.

I would like to express my regret at the length of time that it is taking to deliver all passport services to the customers of the Passport Service. However, I would strongly appeal to the public to assist the Passport Service by checking the validity of their passports well in advance of making bookings to travel abroad. A valid passport should be the first item on any check list when considering foreign travel.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

57 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the reason a person (details supplied) in County Antrim was denied an Irish passport by the Passport Office and told they must apply for naturalisation. [21546/11]

View answer

There is no record of an application for the person in question in the passport system. If the person concerned was born in County Antrim, he is an Irish citizen by virtue of that fact and, as such, he has entitlement to an Irish passport. There would, therefore, be no need to apply for this person to become a naturalised Irish citizen.

If the person concerned wishes to apply for a passport he should submit a fully completed and correctly witnessed application to the Passport Service. It is recommended that the applicant avail of the express services offered by An Post in the Republic and the Post Office in Northern Ireland.

If the Deputy has any further details in relation to the dealings of the person concerned with the Passport Service, I would be grateful if he could forward them to me.

Tom Fleming

Question:

58 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will review a matter in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry. [21653/11]

View answer

I can confirm that the fee for applications submitted through ordinary post is an extra €15, which is €6.50 more than those applications submitted through Passport Express, allowing for the Post Office charge of €8.50. The new fee was brought into effect by the Statutory Instrument 47 of 2011, which was advertised in the national press before its implementation on 11 April 2011.

The difference in the fees charged is designed to encourage people to submit their applications through the Passport Express Service. The logging of the application by the Post Office enables the Passport Service to provide a much more efficient service of registration, tracking and production than applications submitted through the ordinary post. However, it is ultimately the choice of the customer which service they select. Applications submitted by ordinary post are, at present, taking six weeks and reducing.

Advertisements outlining the price increases were published in national newspapers. Notifications of the price increases were also displayed in the public offices of the Cork and Dublin Passport Offices. Details of all passport fees are also available on our website.

Vehicle Registration Tax

Questions (54, 55)

Michael McGrath

Question:

59 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will consider an application made to the Revenue Commissioners to delete a certain vehicle registration (details supplied). [22033/11]

View answer

Michael McCarthy

Question:

60 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Finance the reason a person (details supplied) was refused a VRT refund and the deletion of his registration by the Revenue Commissioners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21525/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 59 and 60 together.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that having reviewed this case they are prepared to allow de-registration subject to the owner establishing to the satisfaction of his local Revenue tax district that the vehicle concerned remains a new and unused item of stock.

The position is that when a de-registration takes place the VRT can only be repaid, where

the exceptional event arose within 7 days of the registration,

the vehicle has not been taxed for motor tax purposes,

the application has been made within 21 days of the exceptional event,

Revenue is satisfied that the event is "exceptional" and

the declaration made in support of the claim is completed satisfactorily and contains all the necessary information.

Since, in the case referred to, the application was made outside of the 21 day time limit (as provided for in Regulation 7 of SI 437 of 1992), in the event that de-registration is allowed, the VRT payment of €200 in respect of the registration will be retained.

Departmental Reports

Questions (56)

Sandra McLellan

Question:

61 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Finance the specific date on which the report from the Office of Public Works-chaired working group regarding the former ISPAT site at Haulbowline, County Cork, will be published; when this report will be made public; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21535/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

The Working Group submitted its final report to Government in June 2011 and its recommendations have been accepted.

It will be a matter for the Government to decide whether to publish this report.

Banking Sector Remuneration

Questions (57, 58, 59)

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

62 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Finance the provision that has been made at the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, following the merger of Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide Building Society, due to liabilities that arise from deferred bonuses awarded to staff from the original institutions, as the IBRC assumed all outstanding liabilities; the figure of this liability; if he does not have this information, the steps he will take to inform himself of this liability; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21629/11]

View answer

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

63 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Finance when he expects to be able to provide Members with details of the levels of remuneration at the covered financial institutions; if he will provide a deadline for the furnishing of this important information to the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21630/11]

View answer

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

66 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Finance the reason his Department was previously able to provide answers to Parliamentary Questions No. 156 of 16 December 2010 and No. 96 of 1 December 2010 on the level of remuneration and bonuses at the covered financial institutions, yet his Department did not provide the requested up-to-date information in reply to Parliamentary Question No. 124 of 12 July 2011; if his Department is now restricting access for Members to data on the banks that destroyed the economy of this State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21634/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

I propose to answer Questions Nos. 62, 63 and 66 together.

As outlined in my reply of 12 July 2011, to the Deputy's series of twenty four parliamentary questions on particular aspects of the remuneration of staff members in various financial institutions, as these institutions continue to be managed at arms length basis, notwithstanding the large shareholding the Government holds, I do not compile the data sought by the Deputy at the level of detail he is seeking. This also applies to his latest question (ref no 21629/11) where he seeks information on the subject of bonuses in addition to his questions of 12 July 2011.

My Department cannot compile data on a bespoke basis in relation to a large number of differently framed remuneration related questions at once, in the timeframe applicable to parliamentary replies and within the resources available, so I am seeking to find an approach that can properly respond to the clear public interest here.

Far from restricting access to such information I indicated in my reply of 12 July 2011 that I fully recognise that there is a real public interest in the levels of remuneration at the covered institutions. I have asked the institutions to compile data on remuneration practices and details with a view, as part of the remuneration review presently being conducted by the institutions at the request of my Department, to improving transparency on the issue. I will endeavour to have this completed in light of the above comments in the shortest timeframe possible with a view to putting the information into the public domain.

Fiscal Policy

Questions (60)

Gerald Nash

Question:

64 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Finance when mortgage interest relief will be increased to 30% for first-time buyers between 2004 and 2008 as committed to in the programme for Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21631/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

As the Deputy is aware, there is a commitment in the programme for Government to help homeowners in distress. The Government will examine a number of proposals in relation to this commitment.

One of these proposals relates to increasing mortgage interest relief to 30% for First Time Buyers who bought between 2004 and 2008 and to finance this in part by abolishing mortgage interest relief for new buyers.

When this proposal has been thoroughly examined, I will decide on the appropriate action to be taken. However, any measures will not be introduced before Budget 2012.

Banking Sector Regulation

Questions (61)

Gerald Nash

Question:

65 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Finance if all financial institutions in receipt of State support have provided cost-cutting plans to him to avoid increases in interest rates as described in the programme for Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21632/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

The financial institutions which the Deputy refers to are engaging in cost-cutting plans which are already under way. These are part of the plans arising out of the restructuring and recapitalisation programme announced last March.

The effects of these plans including the consolidation of the banks around two pillar banks made up of the merger of AIB and EBS, alongside Bank of Ireland will be to enable cost saving through shared services and economies of scale. They are also expected to bring about cost reductions which will improve operating margins and permit the banks to better absorb funding costs which should include increases in ECB interest rates.

The Government remains in consultation with the banks in connection with the more significant parts of these plans including a significant reduction of employee numbers.

Question No. 66 answered with Question No. 62.

National Asset Management Agency

Questions (62)

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

67 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Finance, further to Parliamentary Question No. 98 of 7 June 2011, the reason he refused to release information on the bonuses awarded to staff of the National Asset Management Agency, part of the National Treasury Management Agency, yet proceeded to release the same data on bonuses in reply to Parliamentary Question No. 712 of 29 June 2011; if there is a specific policy in his Department as to the information is provided to particular Members of Dáil Éireann; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21636/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

I assume the Deputy is referring to Parliamentary Question No. 97 of 7 June 2011, which asked if I would provide an itemised list of all bonuses paid to staff of the National Asset Management Agency since its establishment. In my reply, I explained that all officers of the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) are employees of the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) and that the remuneration packages of all NTMA staff are negotiated on an individual contract basis and are confidential. This is the current factual position.

Parliamentary Question No. 71 of 29 June 2011 asked for more general information on bonuses paid at an NTMA-wide level, specifically details of the number of persons employed by the National Treasury Management Agency, including NAMA, who received bonus payments in 2010, the overall amount that was paid and the average payment to the employees in question. In my reply, I stated that the average payment made by the NTMA in February 2011 in respect of performance in 2010 was €7,681, that the overall amount paid was €1,981,760, representing 6.6% of the NTMA's overall payroll and that payments were made to 258 staff members. The information that I provided in my reply of 29 June was at an aggregate level and, in line with my reply on 7 June 2011, it did not provide information on payments made to individual employees of the NTMA.

I am satisfied that both questions were answered appropriately and I would also like to reassure the Deputy that it is my policy to answer all Parliamentary Questions put down to me by all Members of the House in as clear and comprehensive a manner as possible. Greater transparency in relation to expenditure on public services is a desirable objective. As I indicated in reply to a Parliamentary Question on 5 July 2011, it is my intention to examine the approach to remuneration in the NTMA in more detail in the coming months following consultation with my colleague, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. I will then see what changes, if any, might be appropriate in relation to the remuneration of all staff in the NTMA, having regard to the changing economic circumstances of the State and the need for transparency in public expenditure.

Banking Sector Regulation

Questions (63)

Mattie McGrath

Question:

68 Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will reconsider establishing a commission of inquiry into the way the ACC bank was run and its alleged connections with republican subversives, based on reports to the effect that the ACC bank hired undesirable characters for repossessions, as a recent case in County Mayo highlighted, and the many other complaints about this bank and its employees regarding overcharging, some of which have been refereed to the Garda by judges of the High Court; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21677/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

I have no intention of launching a commission of enquiry into the operations of ACC Bank. Regulation of the banks is a matter for the Central Bank. Individual complaints about ACC Bank should be brought to the attention of the Central Bank. If the Deputy has any information about the involvement of subversives in relation to the activities of ACC Bank or any other bank he should make it known to An Garda Síochána.

Fiscal Policy

Questions (64, 65, 66, 67)

Sean Fleming

Question:

69 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Finance in view of the recent ECB interest rate increase, the implications and costs of this for Ireland in respect of the interest rate charged on our financial assistance package. [21687/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

There is no automatic linkage between ECB interest rate changes and the interest rates charged by the EU and the IMF on their various loans to Ireland. In the case of the IMF, the Special Drawing Rights (SDR) interest rate is somewhat influenced by a European 3-month collateralised lending rate, EUREPO, which is correlated, but not linked, to the ECB interest rate. The other elements of the IMF's SDR interest rate are the returns on 3-month U.S. Treasury Bills, three-month U.K. Treasury Bills and three-month Japanese Treasury Discount Bills. However, this SDR interest rate is a minor component of the overall cost and most of the IMF interest rate to Ireland is made up of surcharges. The NTMA has converted the interest rate liabilities to the IMF to fixed rate euro borrowings thereby averting any minor influence that ECB interest rate changes may have on the IMF interest rate for borrowings already entered into.

In the case of new borrowings, the level of short term interest rates is one of a number of factors influencing the level of long term interest rates and through this the cost of borrowing. In the case of the EFSF and EFSM, the interest rates charged to Ireland on existing borrowings are fixed and, therefore, not directly influenced by ECB interest rate changes so that any influence is indirect. With respect to their future lending to Ireland, it is not possible to say to what extent ECB interest rate changes will have a bearing.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

70 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance if he will consider the abandonment of payment of promissory notes for Anglo Irish-NBS from 2012 onwards; and if this would enable him to abandon most of the projected cuts of €4.6 billion plus in the December 2012 budget; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21700/11]

View answer

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

71 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance if he would agree that the ending of promissory note payments for Anglo Irish-INBS would be the best outcome for the Irish people and to avoid a sovereign default; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21701/11]

View answer

I propose to take Questions Nos. 70 and 71 together.

It is the Government's policy to pay its debts when payment is due. Promissory Notes issued to Anglo Irish Bank and INBS are no different to any other Sovereign debt in this respect and will continue to be honoured by the Government as a matter of policy. Abandonment of payments of Promissory Notes by the Government would in fact amount to a Sovereign default which would have broader, negative consequences for the Irish State and its persons.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

72 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance his plans to address distressed mortgages and provide security for deeply worried young families; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21702/11]

View answer

I would like to inform the Deputy that there are measures in place to assist mortgage holders who are in genuine difficulties with regard to the payment of their mortgages. The Deputy will be aware of the work of the Expert Group on Mortgage Arrears and Personal Debt. This Group published its final report in November 2010. All of the Groups recommendations are listed in Chapter 2 of the Report which can be accessed at www.finance.gov.ie.

One of the recommendations of the Group was that lenders should offer a Deferred Interest Scheme (DIS) to borrowers. Under this Scheme, subject to certain criteria being satisfied, borrowers are allowed to pay at least 66% of their mortgage interest but less than 100%. Payment of the balance may be deferred for up to 5 years. Lenders representing the majority of the market have already implemented (or indicated their willingness to implement) the Groups proposals for a DIS or a variation of it. While the Scheme is voluntary for all lenders, those who have signed up in support of the Scheme will be monitored by the Central Bank to ensure compliance.

Since the publication of the Groups Report, the Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears (CCMA) has been revised by the Central Bank to reflect many of the Groups recommendations, including key recommendations relating to the introduction by all lenders regulated by the Central Bank of a standardised Mortgage Arrears Resolution Process (MARP). The most significant changes in the revised CCMA include:

penalty interest charges may not be imposed on borrowers in arrears who co-operate with the MARP,

harassment of borrowers through unsolicited communication is outlawed,

borrowers in financial difficulties, but not in arrears, are allowed to come under the MARP,

when determining the 12 month period the lender must wait before applying to the courts to commence legal action, the lender must exclude any time period during which the borrower is complying with the terms of an alternative repayment arrangement, making an appeal to the internal appeals board or making a complaint to the Financial Services Ombudsman.

The revised CCMA came into effect on 1 January 2011 and can be accessed at www.centralbank.ie. Lenders are required to comply with the CCMA as a matter of law. With effect from 30 June 2011, lenders must have in place the requisite systems and trained staff necessary to support the implementation of the MARP. Financial assistance is available to eligible claimants under the Department of Social Protections Mortgage Interest Supplement Scheme. People in debt or in danger of getting into debt can also avail of the services of the Money Advice and Budgeting Service. This is a national, free, confidential and independent service.

Proposed Legislation

Questions (68)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

73 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance if he would introduce legislation to promote recourse mortgages and handing back of keys and loans to mortgage companies to avoid the current suffering of young householders and in accordance with the best American practice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21703/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

I assume that the Deputy is referring to "non-recourse" mortgages. I have no plans to introduce legislation to promote such mortgages. There are accrued property rights which subsist as a consequence of existing property mortgages; legislation to alter such mortgage contracts could raise constitutional issues. The Deputy might wish to note that the provision of non recourse mortgages carries a higher level of risk for lenders. This risk would likely be reflected in higher costs to borrowers in the future.

Government Debt

Questions (69, 70)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

74 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance if he will estimate the total debt to GDP ratios for 2011 to 2015, inclusive; if he will indicate whether national debt levels of over 80% of GDP are remotely sustainable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21704/11]

View answer

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

84 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance his views on the level of general Government debt that is sustainable; the way and by when he intends to reach that level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21714/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 74 and 84 together.

National debt is defined as the total outstanding amount of principal borrowed by Central Government and not repaid to-date less liquid assets available for redemption of those liabilities at the same date. General Government debt is the standard measure used within the EU for comparative purposes. It includes the National debt as well as Local Government debt and some other minor liabilities of Government. In addition, General Government debt is a gross measure and it does not allow for the netting off of cash balances, which had been built up considerably in recent years, so adding greatly to General Government debt.

The forecast General Government Debt to GDP ratios for the years 2011 to 2015 published in the Stability Programme Update in April last are set out in the following table.

General Government Debt as % of GDP — SPU forecasts April 2011

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

111%

116%

118%

116%

111%

While debt levels are currently very high, up until as recently as 2008 Ireland's debt was among the lowest in the EU. Since then, debt levels have risen considerably throughout Europe as a result of the financial crisis. Indeed, in 2010, the average eurozone general government debt exceeded 85% of GDP. Although General Government Debt is estimated on reasonable assumptions to continue to rise in the short term it is expected to peak in 2013 and begin to fall thereafter, and is thus sustainable.

Of course sustainability is predicated on a whole host of factors, including assumptions regarding future economic growth and interest costs, amongst other things. But in addition to our own estimates, as indicated in the table, the IMF, the European Commission and others also believe that our debt is sustainable (provided the appropriate fiscal and structural programmes are maintained), and on that basis have been prepared to make large loans to us. One measure which may be referenced in forming a judgment of whether or not a particular level of debt is sustainable is the proportion of tax revenues that must go towards servicing the interest on that debt. Based on the Stability Programme Update projections, it is estimated that around 15 per cent of tax revenues will be required to service the interest on the State's national debt this year. By 2015, almost 21 per cent of our total tax revenues will be required for that purpose. This is undoubtedly a significant level, but it is worth bearing in mind that it is well below the ratios experienced in the mid-1980s when around a third of the tax revenues generated in the State went towards servicing the interest on the national debt.

The first step in ensuring that our debt remains sustainable is to stop the debt from rising any further. Stabilising the debt is one of this Governments key policy objectives and that is why we are implementing policies which both consolidate the budgetary position and foster economic growth. The Government is committed to bringing the General Government deficit back below 3 per cent of GDP by 2015, and this is very important in achieving debt sustainability.

EU-IMF Programme

Questions (71, 72)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

75 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance if he will renew his valuable current efforts to secure a cut in interest rates on EU loans for the bailout programme; his views that Ireland should at least be paying no more than Greece; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21705/11]

View answer

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

76 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance if he will ensure that any bailout interest rate cut will also apply to repayments on loans already drawn down, which is also a critical outcome for Irish economic recovery; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21706/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 75 and 76 together.

As the Deputy will be aware, in March 2011, the Euro Area Heads of State and Government agreed in principle to a reduction in the interest margin charged to programme countries. This has been applied in respect of Greece and Portugal. However, a decision to apply it to Ireland's loans has not yet been taken. This is because another Member State is asking for Ireland to deliver a quid pro quo in return for an interest rate reduction in the form of a change in our Corporation Tax. However, we have made it clear that we will not agree to this.

It is the Government's strong position that the margin being charged on loans from both the EFSM and the EFSF is excessive. This argument, which has been supported by the European Commission, is one that I and my Government colleagues plus our officials make at every possible opportunity. In my recent engagements with Troika senior officials I raised the issue of programme pricing. I have also continued to do so at every suitable opportunity at EU level.

The Government also avails of every suitable opportunity to press our case to have the reductions applied for the Greek and Portuguese programmes applied to Ireland. The value of any reduction granted to Ireland compared to what was agreed previously for Greece will be known if and when a decision is taken on granting such a reduction, and on the terms and conditions on which it is to be granted. This issue has now moved primarily to the political sphere. It has been raised on a number of occasions in the past two months, including the Taoiseach's meeting with President Sarkozy at last months European Council, the Tánaiste's meeting with his French colleague, Foreign Minister Juppé, and my own bilateral with the previous French Finance Minister Lagarde. The issue is a key agenda item at tomorrow's meeting of Euro Area Heads of State and Government — where the Taoiseach will once again present the Government's established position on the broader issue of the appropriate rate for the EU programmes.

In relation to the application of any reduction, it is my understanding that any interest rate margin reduction secured will apply to interest due on both existing and future drawdowns, but will not apply to any interest payments already made. In this context, I would refer the Deputy to my response to PQ 15570 of 14 June last.

Fiscal Policy

Questions (73)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

77 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance if he will estimate the growth rate for Ireland in quarters 1, 2, 3 and 4 of 2011 and for the same quarters of 2012 and 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21707/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

Quarterly Irish economic data can be very volatile and is subject to non-negligible revisions. This was evident once again in the latest Quarterly National Accounts, which revealed that, on a seasonally adjusted basis, GNP fell by 4.3 per cent quarter on quarter in Q1 2011 following positive growth of 0.3 per cent in Q4 2010. The previous estimate for the last quarter of 2010 was 2 per cent growth. Given this volatility, my Department's growth forecasts are based on annual averages rather than quarterly figures. On this basis, my Department's latest forecasts — set out in the Irish Stability Programme Update which was published at the end of April — are outlined in the following table. Growth will continue to be export driven over the short term before broadening out to the domestic side of the economy from 2013 onwards.

Growth forecasts (%)

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

GDP

0.8

2.5

3.0

3.0

3.0

GNP

0.3

2.0

2.5

2.5

2.6

Economic Competitiveness

Questions (74)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

78 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance if he is concerned by the apparent disconnect between Irish savings and investment as outlined in recent Central Bank and Department reports; the way he proposes to address this issue to kickstart Irish economic recovery; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21708/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

The household savings rate in Ireland is currently at a high level relative to its historical average. This reflects the need to repair household balance sheets, the uncertain external environment, weak labour market conditions and concern surrounding forthcoming budgets. My Department forecasts that the savings rate will remain at a relatively high level over the coming years but with a gradual moderation over the forecast horizon (2011-2015) as confidence returns to the economy. One of the major obstacles holding back investment in the Irish economy is lack of confidence and certainty about our future. This Government has acted swiftly and resolutely to rebuild this confidence. We have stabilised the public finances and recapitalised the banking system and are vigorously implementing the terms of the EU/IMF agreement which will see our deficit fall below the 3 per cent of GDP target by 2015. In addition there have been significant improvements in our competitiveness, and this has contributed to a recovery in our exports and a pick up in inward Foreign Direct Investment, which underpinned the expansion of GDP in the first quarter of the year.

Employment Levels

Questions (75, 76)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

79 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance if he agrees with various celebrity economists that Irish employment levels will fall steadily to 2016 and beyond to 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21709/11]

View answer

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

80 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance if he will estimate the total number of citizens in employment in quarter 1 of 2007, Q1 2008, Q1 2009, Q1 2010, Q1 2011, Q1 2012, Q1 2013, Q1 2014, Q1 2015 and Q1 2016, when the Government’s term will end; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21710/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 79 and 80 together.

Table 1 outlines the number of people employed in the State in the first quarter of each year from 2007 to 2011. Over this period total employment has declined by almost 285,000, or 13½ per cent. This reflects the sharp decline in activity in labour intensive sectors such as construction and retail. The construction sector alone accounts for more than half of the jobs lost since the start of 2007.

Table 1 — Employment levels in the Irish economy (non-seasonally adjusted)

2007 Q1

2008 Q1

2009 Q1

2010 Q1

2011 Q1

Employment (’000)

2,088.5

2,124.1

1,965.6

1,857.6

1,804.2

Quarterly Irish economic data can be very volatile. This was evident once again in the latest Quarterly National Household Survey data, which revealed that, on a seasonally adjusted basis, the unemployment rate fell from 14.8 per cent in the final quarter of 2010 to 14 per cent in the first quarter of this year. Reflecting this, my Department's labour market forecasts are based on annual averages rather than quarterly figures.

On this basis, my Department's latest forecasts — set out in the Irish Stability Programme Update which was published at the end of April — are outlined in Table 2. Given that recovery in the labour market typically lags that in economic activity, a further decline in employment in net terms is anticipated this year. Furthermore, with growth set to be driven by less labour-intensive export demand over the forecast horizon, employment will recover at a moderate pace. Nevertheless, net employment growth is forecast to return in 2012 and to continue in the following years. In total around 100,000 net jobs are expected to be created over the period 2012 to 2015.

In terms of longer term trends, it is important to emphasise that Ireland's underlying economic strengths remain intact despite the very sharp downturn that we have experienced. These strengths include a well-educated work force, relatively favourable demographics, a very open economy with a high tech export base and a pro-enterprise environment. These underlying strengths should continue to support economic growth in the longer-term and this will, in turn, create net employment growth in the economy.

Table 2 — Employment Forecasts

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

Employment (’000)

1,848.0

1,819.0

1,828.0

1,850.0

1,882.0

1,921.0

Fiscal Policy

Questions (77)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

81 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance the possible tax implications for Ireland’s positive external balance in comparison with other eurozone peripheral countries; if he agrees that the proposed massive fiscal contraction in 2012 may be necessary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21711/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

Ireland recorded a current account surplus in 2010 for the first time since 1999. This is very encouraging and shows that Ireland is paying its way in the world. The balance of payments is split between the public sector balance and the private sector balance. The public sector element of the balance of payments has a significant deficit. For example the exchequer deficit in 2010 was €18.7 billion and is forecast to be over €18 billion again this year.

On the private sector side, the savings rate is at historically high levels. This reflects the fact that Irish companies and individuals are paying down their own debt as well as increasing their precautionary savings. This is resulting in a significant private sector current account surplus. The extent of this surplus outweighs the large public sector deficit. There are obvious tax implications from the higher level of household savings on deposit in the Irish banking system through DIRT. However, DIRT represents just over 1% of the overall tax take and that is unlikely to increase significantly this year, notwithstanding the increase in the DIRT rate from 25% to 27%.

The Government is committed to implementing an overall adjustment package of at least €3.6 billion in 2012. This is to ensure the deficit target for 2012 can be achieved. As we go through the second half of the year, we will have to study closely the emerging trends, both positive and negative, and formulate what the likely outlook for 2012 will be.

Economic Competitiveness

Questions (78)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

82 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance if he is concerned at the ongoing deterioration of Irish competitiveness as revealed in the harmonised competitiveness indicators; the steps he and others are taking to improve competition; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21712/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

I note the recent disimprovement in the month-on-month nominal Harmonised Competitiveness Indicators (HCI). This has been evident for just a few months of 2011 and reflects the recent strengthening of the euro exchange rate. It goes without saying that if this trend persisted over a longer period of time it would be a concern.

However, in year-on-year (y-o-y) terms the nominal HCI actually improved in the first four months of 2011. Furthermore, I would direct the Deputy to the real HCI, which deflates the HCI by consumer prices. In this context, it is worth noting that on an EU harmonised basis, Ireland has had the lowest rate of inflation in the euro area over the last two years. Indeed, Irish inflation this year and next year will continue to be lower than in the euro area. This moderate rate of inflation has resulted in a much greater improvement (y-o-y) in the HCI in real terms when compared to the nominal improvement.

The Harmonised Competitiveness Indicator is not the only metric which can be used for gauging competitiveness developments. With regard to cost competitiveness, we are seeing the benefits of our labour market flexibility: according to the European Commission, unit labour costs — wages adjusted for productivity — declined in Ireland by 6% in 2009 and 2010, compared to a 4% increase in the euro area. Looking to the future, a further decline of 3% is expected by 2012 compared to an increase of 2% in the euro area.

While the recent price and wage adjustments together with improvements in productivity are helpful, we must not be complacent as further improvements in our competitiveness are essential to take advantage of the global recovery. To this end, both the Programme for Government and the EU/IMF Programme set out a series of structural reforms which will help to further restore competitiveness and support economic growth.

Fiscal Policy

Questions (79)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

83 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance if he will estimate the current level of the Irish structural deficit; how this has changed in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011; his targets to eliminate the deficit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21713/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

The latest estimates of the structural deficit, as a percentage of GDP, are presented in the following table. These figures were compiled on the basis of economic and budgetary forecasts published in the latest Stability Programme Update and submitted to the EU Commission at the end of April.

Table 1: Structural Budget Balance, % of GDP

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

Structural balance

-7.3

-9.3

-10.0

-8.3

-8.1

-7.7

-5.9

-4.6

Source: Department of Finance, Ireland — Stability Programme Update, April 2011

Estimates of the structural deficit are determined on the basis of the harmonised methodology, developed jointly by the EU Commission and the Member States, to decompose the headline deficit into its cyclical and structural components. This structural deficit, by definition, excludes all one-off measures, which in an Irish context are primarily composed of fiscal supports to the banking sector. In practice, all estimates of the structural position are subject to considerable uncertainty, the sources of which have been outlined in an annex in the latest Stability Programme Update.

Notwithstanding these considerable uncertainties, the figures in Table 1 indicate that a significant part of the deficit is structural in nature, and so will not be eliminated with economic recovery. The structural deficit is projected to decrease substantially over the next five years in line with ongoing fiscal consolidation. Although not fully eliminated, the budget deficit will be at a much more sustainable level at the end of this period. It is worth noting that the structural primary balance, which excludes interest expenditure from the calculations, is projected to return to positive territory in 2014.

Question No. 84 answered with Question No. 74.

Interest Rates

Questions (80, 81)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

85 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance the views expressed by him and colleagues in relation to the recent ECB interest rate rise; his view on whether the rise was helpful to struggling Irish householders; the way he has indicated to Ireland’s eurozone partners that any further quarter-point rises will inflict major damage on Irish living standards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21715/11]

View answer

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

86 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance his views on whether further rate rises by the ECB, up to perhaps 2.5% plus, are sustainable for the Irish economic recovery; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21716/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 85 and 86 together.

The Deputy will be aware that the ECB's main task is to maintain price stability in the euro-area as a whole. In that context, the ECB cannot take account of the unique positions of individual Member States when considering interest rate changes. I would also stress that responsibility for monetary policy rests with the ECB, which is an independent institution, and that national Governments do not have any role in that decision-making process.

Having said that, I am fully conscious of the burden being placed on mortgage holders by increases in interest rates. This is why returning the economy to growth is so important — once employment starts to increase again it will have a beneficial impact on households' incomes.

Banks Recapitalisation

Questions (82, 83)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

87 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance if he will estimate the total cost to the Exchequer and the Irish people so far of the bank bailout; if he is concerned at reports that another €35 to €40 billion in recapitalisation may be necessary to reach Basel III funding levels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21717/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

The recapitalisation commitments made by the State to date and the additional capital requirements of the banks as prescribed by the Central Bank under the March 2011 PCAR/PLAR stress tests are set out in the following table.

Credit Institution

Cost of Share Acquisition

Cost of Preference Shares

Capital contributions

Capital Provided by the State to 31 December 2010

PCAR 2011 requirement

Contingent Capital

Mar 31st Total(1)

€bn

€bn

€bn

€bn

€bn

€bn

€bn

Anglo Irish Bank

4.0

25.3

29.3

0.0

Allied Irish Banks

3.7

3.5

7.2

11.9

1.4

13.3

Bank of Ireland

1.7

1.8 (2)

3.5

4.2

1.0

5.2

Irish Nationwide Building Society

0.1

5.3

5.4

0.0

EBS Building Society

0.6

0.3

0.9

1.3

0.2

1.5

Irish Life and Permanent

3.6

0.4

4.0

Total

10.1

5.3

30.8

46.3

21.0

3.0

24.0

(1) Before banks' potential capital raising actions (LME's/Asset Sales / Internally Generated Capital)

(2) Original investment of €3.5bn, of this €1.7bn converted to equity in May 2010

As the Deputy will be aware, the Financial Measures Programme ("FMP") announced on 31 March 2011 included an independent loan loss assessment exercise performed by BlackRock Solutions ("BlackRock"), the results of which have informed the calculation of capital requirements for AIB, Bank of Ireland, EBS and ILP under the PCAR. The PLAR completed as part of that Programme will set banks specific funding targets consistent with Basel III and other international measures of stable, high quality funding. The PLAR will outline measures to be implemented with a view to steadily deleveraging the banking system and reducing the bank's reliance on short term funding.

As I have said previously in my Statement on Banking in March, the PCAR bank stress tests carried out by the Central Bank are certainly among the most thorough and demanding such tests ever performed in Ireland and or indeed anywhere. The detailed results methodology and assumptions underlying these stress tests have been published, emphasising Ireland's firm commitment for this critical exercise to be fully open and transparent. In addition to the very conservative economic assumptions built into the capital scenarios the Central Bank has gone further than its international peers in setting its requirements by taking a three year, rather than two year outlook and also by requiring capital levels after any stress losses of 6%, rather than 5% of Risk Weighted Assets.

In specific terms I am satisfied on the basis of the results of the PCAR assessment carried out by the Central Bank, which have been endorsed by the external authorities, that the loan loss assumptions made reflects a high degree of conservatism and underpin the robustness and credibility of the exercise overall. It should be noted that stress testing is used by banking supervisors to determine whether a bank is adequately capitalised to withstand adverse macro-economic events or unanticipated shocks. Our banks will be well capitalised by international standards following the recapitalisation measures but this position will not then remain frozen in time.

I would nevertheless reiterate that based on the conservative assessments used in the PCAR/PLAR analysis of potential future scenarios for the banks, and indeed the Irish economy, I am entirely satisfied that the banks are currently well capitalised to serve the needs of the Irish economy following this round of measures.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

88 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance if he will estimate the level of bank deposit flight between Q3 2008 and Q2 2011; the impact of that flight on his bank recapitalisation plans; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21718/11]

View answer

The Central Bank has informed me that in the period from 23 Jan 2009 to 30 June 2011, customer deposit balances (retail, corporate and non-bank financial institutions) across the covered institutions fell by €96 billion from €255 billion to €159 billion. As the Deputy may know already, the single biggest driver of this decline has been the loss of corporate and institutional deposits from overseas as credit ratings on Irish banks and indeed the sovereign were reduced. This trend has effectively run its course. The overall trend in deposits has been stabilising in recent months particularly since the banking announcement on March 31st last.

In relation to the capital plans, the current and future funding structures of the institutions have been factored into the capitalisation plans during the stress testing (PCAR and PLAR) process.

Banking Sector Regulation

Questions (84, 85)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

89 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance if he will estimate the full impact of the new loan-to-deposit, LTD, ratio of 122.5% on Irish banks; the parallel strategy he will undertake to address the credit crunch for Irish small and medium enterprises; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21719/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

The banks involved in the PCAR process submitted detailed deleveraging plans for the three years to the 31 December 2013 to the Central Bank of Ireland (CBI) as part of the Financial Measures Programme, which was announced on 31 March 2011. These plans outlined how the institutions would achieve a loan-to-deposit ratio of 122.5% by end 2013. To monitor progress, semi-annual interim targets have been set for each of the institutions and progress against these targets will be reported every six months. The first reporting date by the institutions to the CBI is 31 December 2011. Subsequent to 31 March 2011, AIB and BOI were required to provide alternative deleveraging options to account for the fact that the transfer of sub-EUR 20 million land and development loans to NAMA will now no longer take place. These plans were submitted to the CBI in May 2011.

The Deputy will be aware that the banking system restructuring plan creates capacity for the two Pillar Banks, Bank of Ireland and AIB, to provide lending in excess of €30 billion in the next three years. SME and new mortgage lending for these banks is expected to be in the range of €16-20bn over this period. In each bank, a team of senior managers will be dedicated to the task of ensuring lending continues to grow to support economic growth. This lending capacity is incorporated into the banks' deleveraging plans which allow for repayment of Central Bank funding through asset run-off and disposals over the period to 2013.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

90 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance how Irish banks’ capital-to-assets ratios have changed from Q3 2008 to Q2 2011; where he intends these ratios to be configured in Q4 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21720/11]

View answer

The Deputy should be aware that this reply is based on the assumption by the Central Bank that the term ‘Capital to Assets ratios' referred to by the Deputy is a leverage ratio. The Central Bank has not imposed a leverage ratio on Irish banks. On this basis the Deputy will note that the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (BCBS) has proposed a leverage ratio in Basel III proposals. Further details of the Basel III proposals can be accessed on the BCBS website.

The Deputy should also note that ‘total asset numbers' and ‘shareholder equity' for banks are reported on a half yearly basis and are available from the banks on their websites.

Bank Guarantee Scheme

Questions (86)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

91 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance the total amount paid to senior bondholders in the covered institutions since Q4 2008, especially including the amounts paid in 2011 and up to the present; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21721/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

I am advised by the Central Bank that the total principal paid to senior bondholders during the period from 1st October 2008 to June 2011 was €77.3bn. Of this amount €5.8bn was paid to senior bondholders during the period 1 January 2011 to June 2011. The Deputy should note that these amounts include scheduled repayments and buybacks.

Banking Sector Regulation

Questions (87)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

92 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance if he is confident that the two pillar banking model will survive through the ongoing banking crisis and if he has given any consideration to the creation of a single Irish pillar bank based in the performing assets of the State-controlled institutions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21722/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

The Deputy will be aware of my Statement on Banking of 31 March 2011 where I set out Government policy in relation to the matters the Deputy has raised. The Government has no plans to change its strategy at this stage.

The recent positive review delivered by the Troika as well as the EBA stress test results for the two pillar banks reinforces that decision and puts us on the path to re-start stability and economic growth in core businesses based on a sound and well capitalised banking system with two pillar institutions.

Banks Recapitalisation

Questions (88)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

93 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance his views on whether major write-downs plus equity for bondholders are crucial elements of the recapitalisation and restoration of Irish banks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21723/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

The Deputy will be aware of my Statement on Banking of 31 March 2011 where I set out Government policy in relation to the matters the Deputy has raised. As part of the PCAR 2011 results further recapitalisation measures are required to enable AIB/EBS, Bank of Ireland and IL&P to meet their regulatory capital requirements set by the Central Bank. The State has committed to completing the recapitalisations to the extent possible by 31 July as part of the Programme of Financial Support for Ireland and there are no plans to change to an alternative recapitalisation strategy.

The Government has, however, instigated processes which have reduced and will further reduce the cost to the State by looking for significant contributions from subordinated debt holders, by the sale of assets to generate capital and, where possible, by seeking private sector investors. It is expected that the effect of these actions will be to reduce the amount of capital required by the State very significantly. In particular, a number of the financial institutions have recently engaged in liability management exercises in relation to subordinated debt which have resulted in the generation of some €4.4bn in Core Tier 1 Capital, reducing accordingly the amount required to be contributed by the State to the €24bn PCAR capital requirement.

Banking Sector Regulation

Questions (89)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

94 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance if he is considering in the context of budget 2012 encouraging competition in the Irish retail bank market including incentives to attract major new foreign entities into the Irish high street; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21724/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

The Deputy will be aware that discussions around the Budget are on-going. There are, at present, a number of foreign owned entities that operate within the retail banking market.

In relation to competition within the retail bank market, barriers to entry and expansion are low. I would welcome further interest that foreign entities may have in entering or expanding in the Irish market.

Financial Services Regulation

Questions (90)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

95 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide a full report on the recent establishment of the Credit Union Commission; the persons he has appointed to the commission; the number of times they report to him; the objectives he has given the commission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21725/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

The Commission on Credit Unions was established by Government on 31 May 2011 and has begun its programme of work. It met for the first time on 20 June 2011 and has had subsequent meetings on 24 June 2011 and 8 July 2011. The Commission will make initial recommendations on the strengthening of the regulatory framework by 30 September 2011 and will submit a final report to me, as Minister for Finance, by 31 March 2012.

Membership of the Commission is as follows:

Chairman

Professor Donal McKillop (Professor of Financial Services, School of Management, Queens University, Belfast) and Member of the Credit Union Advisory Committee.

Ordinary members of the Commission on Credit Unions:

Mr. Kieron Brennan (Chief Executive Officer, Irish League of Credit Unions)

Ms Fiona Cullen (Head of Legal Department, Irish League of Credit Unions)

Mr. Billy Doyle (Management Committee, Credit Union Development Association)

Ms Eileen Fitzgerald (Senior Manager in the Citizens Information Board, with responsibility for MABS)

Mr. Eamonn Kearns (Financial Services Division, Department of Finance),

Mr. Tom McCarthy (Chief Executive Officer, Irish Management Institute)

Mr. Tim Molan (National Secretary, Credit Union Managers Association)

Mr. Robert Moynihan (Qualified Chartered Accountant and Regulatory Consultant)

Mr. James O'Brien (Registrar of Credit Unions)

Mr. Dan O'Gorman (Solicitor)

Mr. Joe O'Toole (Former Senator), and

Prof. John Wilson (Professor of Banking, St. Andrews University, Scotland)

The Government agreed the terms of reference of the Commission on Credit Unions and these are as follows:

Having regard to the commitments

in the Programme for National Government 2011-2016 to review the future of the credit union movement and to make recommendations in relation to the most effective regulatory structure for credit unions, and

under the EU/IMF Programme of Support for Ireland to design a strategy for the future evolution of the credit union sector, to assist credit unions with a strengthened regulatory framework including more effective governance and regulatory requirements and to make recommendations to the Minister on legislation to be submitted to the Oireachtas by end-2011; and

taking into account

the not-for-profit mandate of credit unions, their volunteer ethos and community focus, paying due regard to the need to fully protect depositors' savings and financial stability,

the comprehensive strategy to enhance the viability of the credit union sector prepared under the EU/IMF Programme of Support for Ireland;

international best practice in the structure, organisation and regulation of credit unions or analogous entities; and

the strengths and weaknesses of the sector as set out in work done in the Strategic Review of the Credit Union Sector in Ireland;

the Commission on Credit Unions is invited to:

1. Define the role of credit unions in the context of a restructured financial services sector. This will focus on the credit union as a cooperative, owned and run by its members and providing its members with the financial services that they require. Consideration will also be given to the role of the credit union in relation to the community in general. In particular, the objects of a credit union as set out under section 6 of the Credit Union Act 1997 will be examined including the function of the common bond in the context of modern financial services systems. The Commission should also consider the question of the prudential supervision of loan societies and credit cooperatives registered under the Friendly Societies Act 1896 and the Industrial and Provident Societies Act 1893 that engage in taking deposits from and providing loans to their members and make recommendations in this regard.

2. Propose a model for modern credit unions and define the structure/parameters within which financially viable credit unions will operate. At the same time, the Commission will examine how credit unions may continue to provide the services required by their members while meeting regulatory requirements sufficient to protect the savings of depositors and the financial stability of the credit union sector as a whole. This should examine how the size of a credit union, the variety and complexity of the services it provides and the competencies of its management and staff influence its viability. The question of credit unions competing with the larger financial institutions should be studied.

3. Options for restructuring. The Commission will make recommendations on the possibility of voluntary consolidation or restructuring of the credit union sector over time, recognising the need to maintain local presence and taking into account the not for-profit mandate, the volunteer ethos and community focus of credit unions. In this consideration, due regard must be given to the need to protect depositors savings and financial stability. Central Bank of Ireland proposals in relation to possible restructuring of some credit unions should be examined and recommendations made to the Minister for Finance as these may arise over the term of the Commission. The Commission is required to engage with the Department of Finance, make recommendations and exchange information on legislative proposals during the course of its deliberations.

4. Shared services. The Commission will examine the options for groups of credit unions to share services on a formal basis and the extent to which this model is appropriate. The Commission should consider which services are most suitable for delivery by a separate entity, e.g. purchasing, auditing, compliance, credit control, legal, marketing, human resource management, administration and training. Progress in relation to the introduction of modern information technology and management information systems for and in credit unions will be examined and recommendations made in this regard.

5. Determine and set out the basic governance and regulatory requirements that must be met. The Commission will focus on a set of benchmarks that credit unions should meet if they are to be registered to operate in the State. These benchmarks should include capital requirements, sizes of loan books and of loans, competencies of directors and staff, investments policy, fitness and probity and governance standards. Recommendations will be made in relation to management reporting arrangements both internally and with the Registry of Credit Unions.

6. Make recommendations for legislative change. The Commission will examine the existing legislation and in particular the Credit Union Act 1997 and make recommendations on changes required to implement their findings. The Commission should make initial recommendations required to strengthen the regulatory framework of credit unions by 30 September 2011. A final report should be submitted to the Minister for Finance by 31 March 2012.

Illicit Trade in Tobacco

Questions (91)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

96 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance if he will report on the number of illicitly imported tobacco products that have been seized by An Garda Síochána and Revenue officials in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011; if he will raise the issue of the alleged importation of counterfeit tobacco products with his Chinese counterpart, given current allegations that most of these illegal products originate in China; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21727/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners, who are responsible for the collection of tobacco products tax and for tackling the illicit trade in cigarettes and tobacco products, that the figures requested are as follows:

Seizures of smuggled cigarettes

Year

Number of Seizures

Quantity of Cigarettes Seized

2007

15,481

74,520,798

2008

10,191

135,243,859

2009

10,600

218,557,900

2010

9,012

178,347,306

2011*

5,494

63,852,779

Seizures of smuggled tobacco

Year

Number of Seizures

Quantity of Tobacco Seized (Kgs)

2007

763

1,516

2008

1,100

3,083

2009

1,171

10,451

2010

1,169

3,342

2011*

710

1,444

*Jan to June 2011

The above quantities include tobacco products seized by the Gardaí and subsequently transferred to Revenue custody.

Of the above cigarette total the following quantities originated in China, all of which have been confirmed as counterfeit:

Year

Number of Seizures

Quantity of Cigarettes Seized

2007

Nil

Nil

2008

2

17,080,000

2009

4

21,250,000

2010

10

58,693,000

2011*

3

19,669,600

I am advised that there is an ongoing exchange of intelligence in relation to cigarette smuggling between the Revenue Commissioners, other Member States, the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) and third country Customs Administrations. In April 2005, the Chinese Government signed an agreement between the European Union, including its Member States, and the People's Republic of China on co-operation and mutual administrative assistance in customs matters. This agreement provides the legal basis for OLAF, or an individual Member State, to seek the assistance of the Chinese Authorities in the course of cigarette smuggling investigations.

The European Commission, through OLAF, has established a special Unit titled Task Group Cigarettes to assist Member States in their investigations where the assistance of third country authorities is required. This Unit has an overseas officer stationed in Beijing on a permanent basis. The Revenue Commissioners have availed of the assistance of this posting to enhance liaison with the Chinese Authorities in the course of its investigations into large maritime seizures of contraband cigarettes originating in China.

The Revenue Commissioners regard the tackling of the illicit trade in cigarettes and tobacco products to be a high priority. Their strategy includes the development and sharing of intelligence on a national, EU and international basis; the use of analytics and detection technologies; and the optimum deployment of resources at points of importation and inland to intercept contraband tobacco product and to prosecute those involved.

Banking Sector Regulation

Questions (92)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

97 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the proposed merger of EBS and AIB; if all the EBS staff will transfer to AIB; if the EBS and AIB branch system will be reconfigured; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21728/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

Since 1 July 2011 EBS has been a fully owned subsidiary which benefits from the full support of AIB. The new merged entity will be a stronger and more domestically focused institution which will leave it better placed to service the needs of the Irish economy and will help return the banking system to long-term viability. As announced on the date of the transaction, EBS Limited will initially operate as a standalone, separately branded subsidiary of AIB with its own branch network and the terms and conditions of customers' financial products remain unchanged following the transfer. As a result of the combination, existing EBS staff were also transferred and will initially continue in their previous roles.

This combination is part of the Government's strategy to return the banking system to long-term viability and profitability so it is no longer reliant on State support. The completion of the merger is a structural benchmark under the EU/IMF programme for support and the merger was completed ahead of schedule, three months after it was initially announced. The future organisational and operational structure of the combined entity is under detailed consideration and will be finalised over time in a manner which creates the strongest possible bank which can best meet the future needs of the Irish banking system.

Financial Services Sector

Questions (93)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

98 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons currently employed in banking and financial services here in 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21729/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

I am advised by the Central Bank that it does not keep statistics on employee numbers in the banking and financial services under their regulation. However based on information from Central Statistics Office who keep data on the labour market including the financial sector, in 2009, 108,700 people were employed in ‘financial, insurance and real estate activities', and in 2010, that number was 103,200. There are no 2011 figures available at present.

Financial Services Regulation

Questions (94, 95, 96, 97)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

99 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance the value of outstanding loans lent by Irish-based legal moneylenders as notified to the Financial Regulator in 2008, 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21730/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

I have been advised by the Central Bank that the information requested by the Deputy is not available. There is no legal requirement on licensed moneylenders to prepare or to submit audited accounts to the Central Bank. The end of the year accounting period for financial accounting purposes varies from moneylender to moneylender.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

100 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance the number of Irish-based moneylenders registered with the Financial Regulator in 2008, 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21731/11]

View answer

I have been advised by the Central Bank that the number of licensed moneylenders registered in each of the years was as follows:

Year

Number of Licensed Moneylenders

2008

53

2009

52

2010

46

2011

46 (as at 30 June 2011)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

101 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance the levies paid by moneylenders to the Financial Regulator in 2008, 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21732/11]

View answer

I have been advised by the Central Bank that the amount of levies paid to the Bank by moneylenders in the years 2008 to 2010 inclusive is as follows:

Year

Levy amount collected

2008

€162,000

2009

€244,000

2010

€257,000

The information for 2011 is not yet available.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

102 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance the number of illegal moneylending operations the Financial Regulator, in conjunction with An Garda Síochána, has investigated and has brought charges against in the years 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21733/11]

View answer

I wish to inform the Deputy that persons operating as illegal moneylenders are in breach of the law. It is a matter for An Garda Síochána to investigate their activities. Under Section 98 of the Consumer Credit Act 1995 (as amended), An Garda Síochána have sole responsibility for the investigation and prosecution of such offences. The Central Bank has no powers in this regard. If the Bank has reason to believe that a person is operating as an illegal moneylender, the matter is reported to An Garda Síochána. I will check with my colleague, the Minister for Justice and Equality, on whether or not data are available in this regard and have the information sent to the Deputy.

Proposed Legislation

Questions (98)

Brendan Smith

Question:

103 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Finance the date on which he will publish the Betting (Amendment) Bill 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21846/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

The Finance Act 2011 contains legislation that, subject to a Ministerial Commencement Order, provides for the extension of betting duty to remote bookmakers and betting exchanges. The tax changes provided for in the Finance Act can only be implemented once the Betting (Amendment) Bill, which will provide for a regulatory and licensing regime, is enacted. The Betting (Amendment) Bill 2011 is currently at an advanced stage of drafting.

Graduate Retention

Questions (99)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

104 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has undertaken any research on the number of postgraduates who have been awarded higher research degrees in the areas of science and information technology at Irish universities and who are now leaving the country to seek further employment and research opportunities; if he is concerned at a high-level brain drain in this area; if he has any proposals to address this problem; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21760/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Skills)

The HEA publishes a First Destination Report annually which provides information on the position of Irish graduates nine months after graduation. The information is gathered through a survey of all graduates from publicly funded higher education institutions.

I have set out, for the information of the Deputy, data provided by the HEA in relation to students graduating in 2009 with Masters and PhD qualifications, the latest year for which data are available. Information is provided for the broad subject areas of science, engineering and food science and technology. Unfortunately, the nature of the survey does not allow for the disaggregation of data in relation to graduates in information technology specifically. Overall, these data show that 17.2% of graduates in 2009 went abroad to work or study.

The Expert Group on Future Skills Needs advises the Government on skills needs and labour market issues that impact on enterprise and employment growth, and this advice informs broad education and training policy. While the downturn has impacted very significantly on levels of employment across the economy, significant employment opportunities are emerging in some sectors. In particular, the ICT sector in Ireland is actually experiencing difficulties in filling some vacancies. A key priority for the Government is to work with the sector to ensure that we increase the domestic supply of graduates with the appropriate levels of skills to support the expansion and growth of the ICT sector into the future.

Specifically, proposals are being developed for a joint industry/Government Action Plan which aims to increase the domestic supply of high level ICT graduates in the short term through expansion of conversion and re skilling opportunities while also boosting the longer term supply of graduates in terms of numbers and quality.

Table 1.1A

Science — Masters Degree Taught — Level 9

Engineering — Masters Degree Taught — Level 9

Food Science and Technology — Masters Degree Taught — Level 9

First Destination of Graduates 2009

First Destination of Graduates 2009

First Destination of Graduates 2009

Number of Awards

%Response

Number of Awards

%Response

Number of Awards

%Response

Masters Degree Taught — Level 9

50.1

Masters Degree Taught — Level 9

45.08

Masters Degree Taught — Level 9

41.67

Present Situation of Respondents

%

Present Situation of Respondents

%

Present Situation of Respondents

%

A Gained Employment IRL

27.91

A Gained Employment IRL

30

A Gained Employment IRL

53.33

OS

10.47

OS

11.82

OS

0

B Further Study or Training IRL

20.16

B Further Study or Training IRL

25.45

B Further Study or Training IRL

26.67

OS

3.1

OS

2.73

OS

0

C Seeking employment

17.44

C Seeking employment

21.82

C Seeking employment

20

D Not Available for Employment

20.93

D Not Available for Employment

8.18

D Not Available for Employment

0

Total

100

Total

100

Total

100

Science — Masters Degree Research — Level 9

Engineering — Masters Degree Research — Level 9

Food Science and Technology — Masters Degree Research — Level 9

First Destination of Graduates 2009

First Destination of Graduates 2009

First Destination of Graduates 2009

Number of Awards

%Response

Number of Awards

%Response

Number of Awards

%Response

Masters Degree Research — Level 9

32.04

Masters Degree Research — Level 9

40.82

Masters Degree Research — Level 9

35.71

Present Situation of Respondents

%

Present Situation of Respondents

%

Present Situation of Respondents

%

A Gained Employment IRL

36.36

A Gained Employment IRL

50

A Gained Employment IRL

60

OS

12.12

OS

10

OS

0

B Further Study or Training IRL

30.3

B Further Study or Training IRL

20

B Further Study or Training IRL

40

OS

6.06

OS

5

OS

0

C Seeking employment

15.15

C Seeking employment

15

C Seeking employment

0

D Not Available for Employment

0

D Not Available for Employment

0

D Not Available for Employment

0

Total

100

Total

100

Total

100

Science — Doctorate — Level 10

Engineering — Doctorate — Level 10

Food Science and Technology — Doctorate — Level 10

First Destination of Graduates 2009

First Destination of Graduates 2009

First Destination of Graduates 2009

Number of Awards

%Response

Number of Awards

%Response

Number of Awards

%Response

Doctorate — Level 10

52.43

Doctorate — Level 10

53.4

Doctorate — Level 10

25

Present Situation of Respondents

%

Present Situation of Respondents

%

Present Situation of Respondents

%

A Gained Employment IRL

52.32

A Gained Employment IRL

63.64

A Gained Employment IRL

100

OS

26.49

OS

16.36

OS

0

B Further Study or Training IRL

3.31

B Further Study or Training IRL

7.27

B Further Study or Training IRL

0

OS

1.99

OS

0

OS

0

C Seeking employment

13.25

C Seeking employment

7.27

C Seeking employment

0

D Not Available for Employment

2.65

D Not Available for Employment

5.45

D Not Available for Employment

0

Total

100

Total

100

Total

100

Please note that these tables are informed by collating the findings of Engineering, Science and Food Science & Technology graduates.

The First Destination Report has been compiled annually by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) since 1982. The facts and figures presented in the FDR report have been instrumental in communicating the importance of higher education and helping to illustrate how education benefits the individual, society, research activity and the country in general.

The tables set out are based on the First Destination of Award Recipients in Higher Education Survey (FDR), an annual survey conducted by the Higher Education Training Awards Council (HETAC) and the Careers Officers in all institutions under the aegis of the HEA. The FDR surveys every graduate of publicly funded third level institutions (and HETAC approved courses in private institutions) in order to portray their circumstances nine months after graduation. The HEA analyses the datasets produced by these agencies.

They include an analysis of those in employment and those seeking employment in addition to levels of participation in further study and training. Graduates of all higher education qualifications are surveyed, from Higher/University Certificates to PhDs. It is important to reiterate that the data contained in this report are based on information provided by graduates nine months after they graduate.

The survey results will continue to be of particular relevance to those in higher education including educators, Government Departments, policy makers and research organisations. The findings will also be of interest to students, teachers and career guidance counsellors at second level to inform their future careers.

Higher Education Grants

Questions (100)

Dan Neville

Question:

105 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will make a statement on the case of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [21453/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Skills)

The Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) is a third-level admissions scheme for students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds. The scheme is operated by a number of higher education institutions and not by my Department. Admissions to the institutions are regulated by the institutions themselves. The Deputy may wish to contact the Irish Universities Association, which operates the HEAR scheme on behalf of participating institutions. Further details are available at www.accesscollege.ie.

Special Educational Needs

Questions (101, 102)

Joan Collins

Question:

106 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason for the delays in compensation for loss of hours and redundancy for specifically for special needs assistants. [21484/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Skills)

Applications for redundancy/partial redundancy for Special Needs Assistants are being received by my Department on an ongoing basis. Applications are processed in date order of receipt. Every effort is being made to process these applications as quickly as possible.

Joan Collins

Question:

107 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12 who has applied to his Department for compensation for loss of hours; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that this person has been informed that it will take 12 months for their claim to be processed; his plans to ensure these claims will be processed promptly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21487/11]

View answer

I can confirm that an application for partial redundancy has been received by my Department from the person referred to by the Deputy.

Applications for redundancy are being received on an ongoing basis and are processed in date order of receipt. I can assure the Deputy that my Department is making every effort to process redundancy applications as quickly as possible. The application in question will be dealt with as soon as possible.

Schools Building Projects

Questions (103, 104)

Nicky McFadden

Question:

108 Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the tender at a school (details supplied) in County Westmeath for construction of a new school building; and when the construction of the new building will commence. [21516/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Skills)

The school to which the Deputy refers has applied to my Department for large scale capital funding. The application has been assessed in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria for large scale building projects and assigned a Band 1 rating.

All large scale building projects, including the proposed project for the school in question will be considered within the context of my Department's Multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme. In light of current competing demands on the capital budget of my Department, it is not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the progression of the project at this time.

The current status of all projects on the school building programme, including the project referred to by the Deputy, may be viewed on my Department's website at www.education.ie and this will be updated regularly throughout the year.

Ray Butler

Question:

109 Deputy Ray Butler asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a commencement date for construction of a primary school (details supplied) in County Meath will be established in July 2011, as construction work carried out throughout the summer months would cause minimal disruption to this school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21519/11]

View answer

The project to which the Deputy refers is at an advanced stage of the tender process. Subject to no issues arising, it is envisaged that the project will progress to construction in quarter 3 of 2011.

Grant Payments

Questions (105)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

110 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the grants made through National Lottery funding under the heading of locally based community grants and community development programmes; and the procedures for accessing this funding. [21520/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Skills)

My Department does not provide National Lottery-funded grants under the headings referred to by the Deputy. My Department does provide grants-in-aid, part-funded by the National Lottery, to a number of adult education organisations, such as AONTAS and the National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA), which undertake adult education, cultural and scientific activities. The funding is for their general running expenses.

Schools Statistics

Questions (106)

Sandra McLellan

Question:

111 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide a full list of primary and secondary schools in County Cork; and if he will further provide a breakdown of the number of pupils, teachers and support teachers for the years 2008, 2009, 2010 and so far in 2011. [21537/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Skills)

Data on the number of pupils and teachers in each primary school are available on a county by county basis for the school years 2007/2008, 2008/2009 and 2009/2010 on the Statistics area of my Department's website (link as follows). http://www.education.ie/home/home.jsp?pcategory=17216&ecategory=47122&language=EN.

Data for the 2010/11 school year for primary schools are not currently available and will be on my Department's website in September.

Pupil enrolment data at post primary level for the school years 2008/2009, 2009/2010 and 2010/2011 for schools in Cork County and Cork County Borough are listed in the table below. The enrolment figures include pupils studying Junior Certificate, Transition Year, Leaving Certificate, Post Leaving Certificate and Core VTOS courses in the specified school years. The information relating to the number of teachers and support teachers is not readily available.

County/County Borough(Baile)

School Name and Address(Ainm agus Seoladh na Scoile)

Boys(Buachaillí)

Girls(Cailiní)

School Roll No.(Uimh Rolla)

Cork County (Co. Chorcai)

Secondary Meanscoileanna

Bandon

Bandon Grammar School

284

261

62060R

Bandon

Coláiste Na Toirbhirte, Árd Aoibhinn

0

581

62061T

Bantry

Árdscoil Phobal Bheanntraí

104

148

62080A

Blarney

Scoil Mhuire gan Smál

231

191

62090D

Carraig na bhFear

Coláiste An Chroí Naofa

259

210

62130M

Carrigtwohill

St Aloysius’ College

0

683

62140P

Charleville

St. Mary’s Secondary School, Convent Of Mercy

0

387

62450H

Charleville

Scoil na mBráithre Chríostaí, Baker’s Road

264

0

62440E

Clonakilty

Sacred Heart Secondary School, Convent of Mercy

0

474

62170B

Cobh

Coláiste Muire, Bishop’s St

317

279

62180E

Crosshaven

Coláiste Muire

178

215

62200H

Doneraile

Nagle Rice Secondary School

128

104

62210K

Droichead na Bandan

Árdscoil Uí Urmoltaigh

319

0

62050O

Fermoy

Loreto Secondary School

0

652

62270F

Gleann Maghair

Coláiste An Phiarsaigh

257

285

62301N

Kanturk

Scoil Mhuire

135

165

62290L

Macroom

St Mary’s Secondary School, Convent of Mercy

0

354

62320R

Macroom

De La Salle College

300

1

62310O

Mainistir Fhearmuí

Coláiste Cholmáin

423

0

62260C

Mallow

Patrician Academy

402

0

62330U

Mallow

St Mary’s Secondary School, Convent of Mercy

0

593

62350D

Midleton

Midleton College

211

114

62370J

Midleton

St Mary’s High School

0

620

62380M

Midleton

Christian Brothers Secondary School, Castleredmond

564

0

62360G

Mitchelstown

Presentation Secondary School

0

324

62421A

Mitchelstown

Christian Brothers Secondary School

332

0

62420V

Rochestown

St Francis Capuchin College

588

0

62460K

Rosscarbery

Mount St Michael

198

205

62470N

Skibbereen

Mercy Heights Secondary School

0

410

62490T

Skibbereen

St Fachtna’s — De La Salle College

260

0

62480Q

Vocational Gairmscoileanna

Baile Mhic Íre

Coláiste Ghobnatan

112

102

70920O

Ballincollig

Coláiste Choilm

679

648

71103K

Bandon

St. Brogan’s College, Bandon, Kilbrogan

454

250

70910L*

Bantry

St Goban’s College, Sheskin

232

177

70930R*

Béal Atha an Ghaorth

Scoil Mhuire

41

56

70931T

Charleville

Mannix College

51

55

71080B*

Cill na Mullach

Coláiste Pobail Naomh Mhuire

124

95

76067L

Clonakilty

Clonakilty Community College

519

121

70950A*

Coachford

Coachford College

276

254

70960D

Cobh

Cobh Community College, Carrignafoy

138

153

70970G*

Dublin Hill

St Aidan’s Community College, Ballincolly

479

239

71101G

Dunmanway

Maria Immaculata Community College

281

225

76086P*

Fermoy

Coláiste an Chraoibhín, Duntaheen Road

381

268

70990M*

Glanmire

Glanmire Community College

442

297

76064F

Kanturk

Coláiste Treasa

247

199

71000A

Macroom

McEgan College

152

166

71030J*

Mallow

St Fanahan’s College, Mitchelstown

108

121

71040M*

Mallow

Davis College, Summerhill

343

554

71020G*

Midleton

St Colman’s Community College, Youghal Road

403

191

71050P*

Schull

Schull Community College, Colla Road

240

209

71102I*

Skibbereen

Rossa College

129

111

71090E*

C&C Scoileanna

Mallow

Boherbue Comprehensive School, Boherbue

179

158

81009B

Ballincollig

Ballincollig Community School, Innishmore

360

372

91386O

Beara

Beara Community School, Castletownbere

157

149

91387Q

Carrigaline

Carrigaline Community School, Waterpark Road

453

514

91388S

Kinsale

Kinsale Community School

364

396

91499E*

Millstreet Town

Millstreet Community School

130

113

91390F

Passage West

St Peter’s Community School

155

161

91391H

Youghal

Pobalscoil na Tríonóide

446

419

91513S

Cork County Borough (Corcaigh)

Secondary Meanscoileanna

Corcaigh

Gaelcholáiste Mhuire, An Mhainistir Thuaidh

219

135

62531H

Cork

Presentation Secondary School, Ballyphehane

0

336

62693K

Cork

St Patrick’s College, Gardiner’s Hill

0

379

62730N

Cork

St. Aloysius’ School, St Marie’s of the Isle, Sharman Crawford Street

0

282

62630J

Cork

Ursuline Secondary School, Blackrock

0

244

62650P

Cork

Presentation Brothers College, The Mardyke

652

0

62570R

Cork

Regina Mundi College, Douglas Road

0

419

62691G

Cork

North Monastery Secondary School, Our Lady’s Mount, North Monastery Rd.

326

0

62530F

Cork

Scoil Mhuire, 2 Sidney Place, Wellington Road

0

441

62690E

Cork

Coláiste An Spioraid Naoimh, Bishopstown

665

0

62580U

Cork

Deerpark C.B.S., St Patrick’s Road

266

16

62540I*

Cork

Coláiste Chríost Rí, Capwell Road

625

0

62560O

Cork

St Vincent’s Secondary School, St Mary’s Road

0

287

62590A

Cork

North Presentation Secondary School, Farranree

0

268

62621I

Cork

St. Angela’s College, St. Patrick’s Hill

0

512

62640M

Cork

Mount Mercy College, Model Farm Road

0

718

62661U

Cork

Christ King Girls’ Secondary School, Half Moon Lane, South Douglas Road

0

1011

62692I

Cork.

Christian Brothers College, Sidney Hill, Wellington Road

800

0

62520C

Vocational Gairmscoileanna

Corcaigh

Coláiste Daibhéid, An t-Ardán Theas

95

97

71124S

Cork

Cork College Of Commerce, Morrison’s Island

798

1433

71120K*

Cork

St John’s Central College, Sawmill Street

586

607

71121M*

Cork

Terence Mac Swiney Community College, Hollyhill, Knocknaheeny

167

175

71123Q*

Cork

Coláiste Stiofán Naofa, Tramore Road

554

390

71122O*

Cork

Nagle Community College, Mahon, Blackrock

162

71

71110H*

C&C Scoileanna

Cork

Ashton School, Blackrock Road

298

206

81008W

Cork

Douglas Community School, Clermont Avenue, Douglas

569

0

91396R

Cork

Bishopstown Community School, Bishopstown

101

59

91397T

Cork

Mayfield Community School, Old Youghal Road, Mayfield

237

71

91400F

School Transport

Questions (107, 108)

Sandra McLellan

Question:

112 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide a breakdown on a school basis of the number of children availing of the school transport scheme in County Cork for the years 2008, 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011. [21538/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Skills)

Bus Éireann, which operates the School Transport Schemes on behalf of my Department, has provided the following information regarding the number of pupils who availed of school transport services in County Cork: 2007/08 — 15,788; 2008/09 — 15,869; 2009/10 — 14,660; 2010/11 — 14,662.

The breakdown of these pupil numbers on an individual school basis is not available.

Billy Timmins

Question:

113 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number and location, by address and county of bus school routes that did not meet the revised criteria for school transport; the number and location of these that had dropped below seven users; the number and location of routes that have been re-examined and that transport be will provided; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21544/11]

View answer

The detailed information requested by the Deputy is available on my Department's website.

Bus Éireann has identified a number of services where applications have fallen below the minimum number of eligible pupils required to retain a school transport service; these services will be withdrawn based on current information. However, Bus Éireann will continue to monitor the position and some services may be restored if late applications/payments are received from eligible pupils. As is currently the position, families of eligible pupils, for whom there is no school transport service available, may apply for the remote area grant towards the cost of making private transport arrangements.

Higher Education Grants

Questions (109, 110)

Jack Wall

Question:

114 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare is entitled to a third level education grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21567/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Skills)

The decision on eligibility for a grant is a matter for a student's local grant awarding body — the relevant Local Authority or VEC. The Deputy will appreciate that in the absence of all of the relevant details that would be contained in an individual's application form, including those relating to age, residence, means, nationality and previous academic attainment, it would not be possible for me to say whether or not a student would qualify for a grant.

The student in question should, therefore, apply to his local grant awarding authority to have his eligibility for a grant assessed.

Clare Daly

Question:

115 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of mature students receiving the maintenance grant throughout the country, specifically in the counties of Galway and Mayo and more specifically in the National University of Ireland, Galway. [21569/11]

View answer

The information is not available in the format requested by the Deputy. However, it is estimated that nationally, some 30% of the student cohort or some 21,600, are mature students. Qualifying students in this cohort may be in receipt of either the Back to Education Allowance or the maintenance element of the student grant. In addition, qualifying students will have their fees or student contribution paid.

Teaching Staff

Questions (111)

Derek Nolan

Question:

116 Deputy Derek Nolan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason substitute work completed prior to September 2008 is no longer considered when assessing teachers’ eligibility to join permanent teacher panels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21691/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Skills)

The primary redeployment panel rules agreed between the relevant education partners and my Department are published on my Department's website.

Prior to 1 September, 2008 the panel rules allowed for the counting of permanent and fixed term service of primary school teachers towards eligibility for the redeployment panels. Substitute service did not count for panel rights.

It was agreed through the Teachers' Conciliation Council that with effect from 1 September, 2008 the calculation of service for access to the redeployment panels at primary level includes the service of teachers engaged in non-casual substitution contracts. The Teachers' Conciliation Council is the recognised forum for dealing with matters relating to pay and conditions of service of teachers. The parties to the forum include representatives of the managerial authorities of schools, the teacher unions and the Departments of Education & Skills and Finance.

Third Level Participation

Questions (112)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

117 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide the most recent figures on participation in third level education on a county basis and by postcode in the Dublin area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21757/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Skills)

The most recent figures on participation in third level education on a county basis and by post code in the Dublin area are for the 2009-10 academic year. The tables below provide this information in relation to both Universities and Institutes of Technology. It is anticipated that data for the 2010-11 academic year will be accessible on the HEA Website in the autumn.

County of permanent residence of Irish full-time students 2009/10

AIT

CIT

DIT

DLIADT

DKIT

GMIT

ITB

ITC

ITS

ITT

ITTRA

LYIT

LIT

TI

WIT

Totals

Grand

County

M

F

M

F

M

F

M

F

M

F

M

F

M

F

M

F

M

F

M

F

M

F

M

F

M

F

M

F

M

F

M

F

Total

Connacht

Galway

166

276

37

28

79

44

12

20

4

18

1515

988

8

5

21

18

109

118

1

1

18

10

19

19

135

113

2

1

23

30

2,149

1,689

3,838

Leitrim

13

18

0

3

27

27

3

5

4

8

56

21

1

0

6

5

166

150

3

1

2

2

10

19

5

6

0

0

3

2

299

267

566

Mayo

40

57

14

8

92

56

17

10

22

10

581

438

3

2

18

5

369

399

3

2

9

8

45

49

57

50

0

0

11

6

1,281

1,100

2,381

Roscommon

154

178

2

9

48

43

11

3

3

10

119

84

0

1

13

2

161

160

1

3

3

2

12

11

16

15

0

0

5

8

548

529

1,077

Sligo

9

20

3

3

39

38

8

6

8

10

82

38

1

1

7

4

464

446

1

1

3

1

16

28

14

5

0

0

3

5

658

606

1,264

Leinster

Carlow

3

5

7

3

77

30

7

10

2

9

11

2

3

0

435

312

0

2

3

4

6

1

0

0

4

7

2

1

107

84

667

470

1,137

Dublin (including postal districts)

29

20

26

27

3547

2580

629

545

222

175

47

18

594

459

98

46

18

21

1,255

770

15

8

7

8

10

30

3

3

62

43

6,562

4,753

11,315

Kildare

18

23

12

14

461

343

21

24

12

13

28

14

67

51

310

199

11

12

110

86

15

8

4

6

14

28

5

4

117

79

1,205

904

2,109

Kilkenny

1

6

60

35

69

45

14

15

5

12

11

7

1

0

132

69

1

7

2

2

3

6

1

2

19

20

14

3

363

419

696

648

1,344

Laois

43

60

8

13

59

45

1

7

3

4

28

20

4

2

143

126

2

2

3

5

8

5

2

2

38

21

16

8

105

78

463

398

861

Longford

126

128

1

0

58

29

4

1

9

7

33

30

0

0

7

5

92

49

2

0

1

1

4

5

7

5

0

0

3

2

347

262

609

Louth

7

12

0

4

146

105

12

12

928

851

11

7

15

10

14

5

17

14

3

1

1

5

15

10

2

10

1

0

11

9

1,183

1,055

2,238

Meath

39

56

7

6

438

292

23

32

355

347

25

28

124

93

33

21

28

46

24

14

4

1

9

11

12

15

4

4

42

27

1,167

993

2,160

Offaly

184

231

1

5

69

37

9

9

2

8

51

38

4

2

52

36

16

17

5

4

9

2

3

0

38

24

7

2

49

35

499

450

949

Westmeath

505

557

2

5

97

80

8

7

13

31

52

46

11

4

17

19

73

50

4

7

4

4

8

7

15

11

4

5

16

12

829

845

1,674

Wexford

0

5

46

37

177

87

39

36

3

9

20

7

7

3

189

307

3

5

1

2

5

2

3

0

12

14

4

4

509

483

1,018

1,001

2,019

Wicklow

4

10

14

6

438

274

119

121

9

15

20

9

11

10

98

95

5

3

39

34

4

7

6

3

6

9

1

0

103

91

877

687

1,564

Munster

Clare

9

17

34

46

20

21

6

3

0

2

111

85

1

0

9

4

7

11

1

1

30

37

5

4

456

334

9

3

30

27

728

595

1,323

Cork

4

12

3173

1976

37

61

19

15

7

15

29

15

3

1

38

14

7

6

2

1

112

124

3

3

107

100

14

4

143

188

3,698

2,535

6,233

Kerry

2

11

420

203

25

35

10

9

2

7

25

16

0

0

9

1

5

2

1

2

739

805

4

0

104

81

4

5

31

20

1,381

1,197

2,578

Limerick

4

15

116

81

20

26

3

3

1

6

26

32

2

1

11

4

6

4

0

1

70

94

3

1

872

629

18

8

52

50

1,204

955

2159

Tipperary

15

36

210

129

56

38

13

13

2

8

25

16

3

3

41

24

3

3

0

3

18

7

2

0

314

176

147

154

291

333

1,140

943

2,083

Waterford

2

3

125

85

21

28

6

9

3

2

9

5

6

0

25

15

3

1

2

0

5

3

2

1

12

15

7

5

1,115

985

1,343

1,157

2,500

Ulster

Antrim (including Belfast)

0

0

0

2

0

5

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

8

8

Armagh

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

1

1

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

3

4

Cavan

38

68

3

3

148

89

10

9

156

128

25

18

15

9

8

5

105

99

1

0

4

1

13

11

7

1

0

0

9

3

542

444

986

Derry

0

0

0

0

3

3

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

5

2

0

0

0

0

0

0

9

5

14

Donegal

11

12

8

5

69

47

6

9

17

14

122

69

3

2

10

0

131

182

0

0

7

2

956

964

13

5

2

0

8

4

1,363

1,315

2,678

Down

0

0

0

0

4

2

1

1

8

19

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

1

1

1

0

0

0

0

15

24

39

Fermanagh

0

0

0

0

1

2

0

0

1

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

2

2

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

4

6

10

Monaghan

7

19

1

0

95

63

5

8

244

290

16

7

8

2

10

6

44

53

2

1

1

1

48

25

0

0

0

1

5

3

486

479

965

Tyrone

0

0

0

0

3

1

0

0

1

1

1

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

1

4

0

0

0

0

0

0

7

6

13

Unknown Ireland

0

0

1

0

1

1

0

0

0

2

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

1

3

5

8

Total

1,433

1,855

4,331

2,736

6,424

4,578

1,016

942

2,047

2,032

3,079

2,060

895

661

1,754

1,348

1,850

1,864

1,469

947

1,096

1,147

1,207

1,196

2,290

1,726

264

215

3,217

3,027

32,372

26,334

58,706

HEA-funded institutions key

Short form

Long form

AIT

Athlone IT

CIT

Cork IT

DIT

Dublin IT

DLIADT

Dún Laoire Institute of Art, Design & Technology

DKIT

Dundalk IT

GMIT

Galway-Mayo IT

ITB

IT Blanchardstown

ITS

IT Sligo

ITT

IT Tallaght

ITTRA

IT Tralee

LYIT

Letterkenny IT

LIT

Limerick IT

TI

Tipperary Institute

WIT

Waterford IT

Code

University Sector

Institutes of Technology Sector

Totals

County Dublin

6,444

4,305

10,749

Dublin 1

292

91

383

Dublin 2

157

66

223

Dublin 3

739

239

978

Dublin 4

818

199

1,017

Dublin 5

756

305

1,061

Dublin 6

982

283

1,265

Dublin 6W

743

307

1,050

Dublin 7

725

276

1,001

Dublin 8

533

261

794

Dublin 9

987

308

1,295

Dublin 10

113

52

165

Dublin 11

555

280

835

Dublin 12

561

290

851

Dublin 13

607

298

905

Dublin 14

1,276

422

1,698

Dublin 15

1,567

917

2,484

Dublin 16

1,408

716

2,124

Dublin 17

104

46

150

Dublin 18

993

428

1,421

Dublin 20

194

90

284

Dublin 22

363

223

586

Dublin 24

733

554

1,287

Dublin Unknown

883

359

1,242

22,533

11,315

33,848

County

University Sector

Institutes of Technology Sector

Totals

Connacht

Galway

6,451

3,838

10,289

Leitrim

575

566

1,141

Mayo

2,752

2,381

5,133

Roscommon

1,215

1,077

2,292

Sligo

1,296

1,264

2,560

Leinster

Carlow

777

1,137

1,914

Dublin

22,533

11,315

33,848

Kildare

3,733

2,109

5,842

Kilkenny

1,657

1,344

3,001

Laois

1,140

861

2,001

Longford

686

609

1,295

Louth

1,484

2,238

3,722

Meath

2,833

2,160

4,993

Offaly

1,155

949

2,104

Westmeath

1,488

1,674

3,162

Wexford

2,011

2,019

4,030

Wicklow

2,252

1,564

3,816

Munster

Clare

2,916

1,323

4,239

Cork

11,685

6,233

17,918

Kerry

3,130

2,578

5,708

Limerick

4,506

2,159

6,665

Tipperary

3,052

2,083

5,135

Waterford

1,678

2,500

4,178

Ulster

Antrim

209

8

217

Armagh

56

4

60

Cavan

1,049

986

2,035

Derry

88

14

102

Donegal

1,853

2,678

4,531

Down

195

39

234

Fermanagh

63

10

73

Monaghan

852

965

1,817

Tyrone

102

13

115

Unspecified Ireland1

554

8

562

Total

86,026

58,706

144,732

Postal Code

University Sector

Institutes of Technology Sector

Totals

County Dublin

6,444

4,305

10,749

Dublin 1

292

91

383

Dublin 2

157

66

223

Dublin 3

739

239

978

Dublin 4

818

199

1,017

Dublin 5

756

305

1,061

Dublin 6

982

283

1,265

Dublin 6W

743

307

1,050

Dublin 7

725

276

1,001

Dublin 8

533

261

794

Dublin 9

987

308

1,295

Dublin 10

113

52

165

Dublin 11

555

280

835

Dublin 12

561

290

851

Dublin 13

607

298

905

Dublin 14

1,276

422

1,698

Dublin 15

1,567

917

2,484

Dublin 16

1,408

716

2,124

Dublin 17

104

46

150

Dublin 18

993

428

1,421

Dublin 20

194

90

284

Dublin 22

363

223

586

Dublin 24

733

554

1,287

Dublin Unknown

883

359

1,242

22,533

11,315

33,848

School Staffing

Questions (113)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

118 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of special needs assistants in each school in Dublin 5, Dublin 13 and Dublin 17 in September; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21758/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Skills)

The information requested by the Deputy on the number of special needs assistants employed in each school in Dublin 5, Dublin 13 and Dublin 15 in September is not readily available.

The number of Special Needs Assistants employed nationally from 2007 to 2010 is available in the attached document. The details for each year are the December figures for the year in question. The primary schools information is inclusive of the special schools details.

SNAs are recruited specifically to assist in the care of pupils with disabilities in an educational context. The class teacher is responsible for educating all pupils in their class, including any pupil with a special educational need. In this task, the teacher may be supported by a learning support teacher and/or resource teacher. As a result, the allocation of SNAs in each school can alter from year to year. Some schools may receive an increased allocation, while others may experience a reduction because the allocation of supports are provided in line with the needs of individual schools.

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

Number of Special Needs Assistants

Year

Number of Special Needs Assistants in Primary schools

Number of Special Needs Assistants in Post Primary Schools, including VECs.

2007

8,038

1,786

2008

8,440

2,002

2009

8,392

1,950

2010

8,401

2,142

School Accommodation

Questions (114)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

119 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he is committed to guaranteeing that eight places will be available for the children of a school (details supplied) in Dublin 13 as per a recent meeting in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21759/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Skills)

As the Deputy is aware that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible for the provision of a range of educational services at local and national level for students with special educational needs. In particular, its network of Special Education Needs Organisers (SENOs) co-ordinates special needs education provision at local level and arranges for the delivery of special educational services. The SENOs act as single points of contact for parents of students with special educational needs. Another specific function of the SENO is to identify appropriate educational placements for children with special educational needs. SENOs are a valuable source of support to parents who are actively sourcing a placement for their children.

The relevant SENOs are actively engaged with the parents of the children to whom the Deputy refers with a view to securing placements for them for the 2011-2012 school year.

School Transport

Questions (115)

Michael Creed

Question:

120 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Education and Skills with regard to the withdrawal of school transport in school (details supplied) in County Cork, if he will clarify the number of eligible and concessionary pupils who availed of the service in the 2010-2011 school year on each route; the number of pupils disqualified as eligible pupils for the 2011/2012 school year arising from revised eligibility criteria as published in the value for money review of school transport; and the financial savings being made on each of these routes by the withdrawal of this service. [21768/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Skills)

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

The decisions announced include the uniform application of the distance requirement, the cessation of the Closed/Central School Rule (CSR), an increase in the minimum number of eligible children required to establish or retain a service and the introduction of charges for eligible primary pupils.

Bus Éireann has identified a number of services that will be withdrawn from the commencement of the 2011-12 school year where the number of applications received from eligible pupils has fallen below the minimum number required to retain a school transport service. Bus Éireann is continuing to monitor the situation and some services may be restored if late applications/payments are received.

The list of the services in question is available on my Department's website and includes details of the number of eligible pupils that have applied for school transport for 2011-12 school year. This number of eligible pupils is the same as the number of eligible pupils that travelled to the schools in question last year. Pupils applying for concessionary transport are not considered when calculating the minimum number requirement.

As is currently the position, families of eligible pupils, for whom there is no school transport service available, may apply for the remote area grant towards the cost of making private transport arrangements.

The cost of individual routes or services is regarded as commercially sensitive. However, the estimate is that savings of €3 million will accrue from the combination of the changes. It is essential to stress that the wider context within which all these changes are taking place, is a situation of the most serious financial difficulties. Under the four year recovery plan, there is a requirement to deliver savings of €17 million on the school transport budget and these measures are an integral part of this.

Educational Disadvantage

Questions (116)

Brendan Smith

Question:

121 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the mid-term review of the national plan for equity of access to higher education; if the review outlines progress for students from lower income families; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21769/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Skills)

The mid-term review to which the Deputy refers is being finalised. Unfortunately, an analysis of progress by socio-economic background was not possible due to the four-year gap since the previous census and changes in the under-lying population. However, a new study of participation in 2010, which will draw on the 2011 census data will be carried out. This will include an update on participation by students in higher education from under-represented socio-economic groups.

School Curriculum

Questions (117)

Brendan Smith

Question:

122 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the review of the junior cycle; if his attention has been drawn to concerns expressed by teachers of history and geography; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21770/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Skills)

The NCCA has been asked to review the junior certificate and advise on the scope for reform designed to strengthen literacy and numeracy, embed key skills, promote active learning and enhanced creativity and innovation, and ensure appropriate ways of generating evidence of learning. Concerns have also been raised about curriculum overload, and rote learning.

The Council has completed a public consultation process and is finalising its advice to me on the direction of reform, in consultation with the partners in education. I expect the Council's advice in the Autumn.

I am aware that teachers of history and geography have raised concerns that their subjects will no longer be compulsory. The requirement to study history and geography in a secondary school but to have different options in vocational schools is a historical anomaly which is no longer appropriate. I believe that students should have as wide a choice as is feasible in their schools given the overall level of student demand and interest, the teaching resources available, and the qualifications profile of staff. The importance of history and geography in promoting critical analysis skills, interculturalism, an understanding of human development, democracy, past and current world issues, and the skills for an environmentally sustainable life are fully appreciated. I will be guided by the NCCA's advice in this matter.

Proposed Legislation

Questions (118)

Brendan Smith

Question:

123 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills when he proposes to publish the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Bill; when the legislation is likely to be enacted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21771/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Skills)

The Government has approved the drafting of the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Bill to provide for the establishment of a Statutory Fund to support the needs of victims of residential institutional abuse. The legislative proposals followed extensive consultations with representatives of survivors of residential abuse together with a public consultation process. The report on the consultation process and the General Scheme of the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Bill are available on my Department's website. I will be meeting with groups representing survivors of residential institutional abuse to discuss the proposals later this week and I am confident that the proposals will receive broad support.

It is my intention to publish the Bill as soon as possible and I hope that this important legislation can be enacted in the autumn session.

Schools Building Projects

Questions (119)

Brendan Smith

Question:

124 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the application by a school (details supplied) in County Cavan for permanent accommodation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21772/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Skills)

I wish to advise the Deputy that the progression of a building project to provide permanent accommodation for the school to which he refers necessitates the acquisition of a site. The acquisition of the site and the delivery of the school building project will be considered in the context of the capital budget available to my Department for school buildings generally.

Literacy Levels

Questions (120)

Brendan Smith

Question:

125 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on the recent OECD Pisa Digital Literacy Test. [21773/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Skills)

The OECD PISA 2009 Digital Literacy Assessment showed that Irish students' ability to read computer-based text was significantly above the average of the 19 OECD countries that took the test. It is reassuring to see that students in Ireland compare very well with their OECD counterparts in this study but there is no room for complacency about reading standards in our schools. The above-average results of Irish students on the digital literacy tests contrasts with their poor performance in the 2009 round of the traditional pencil-and-paper PISA literacy tests. These results seem to suggest that the reading standards of Irish 15-year olds may be better than the poor results achieved on the traditional pencil-and-paper test in 2009 but not at the above-average levels scored by Irish students in 2000.

Departmental Bodies

Questions (121)

Brendan Smith

Question:

126 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills when the skills agency will be established; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21774/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Skills)

As far as the training activities of FÁS are concerned, I am currently reviewing options regarding the provision of further education and training and the structures to support it. I propose to bring the matter to Government for discussion in the near future.

School Curriculum

Questions (122)

Brendan Smith

Question:

127 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress to date in the roll-out of project maths; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21775/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Skills)

Project Maths is a major programme of reform in mathematics in second level schools, which is designed to encourage better understanding of mathematics, to reinforce its practical relevance to everyday life, and to ensure better continuity between primary and second level, and junior and senior cycle. It began in 24 project schools in September 2008 and was introduced in all schools in September 2010. Project Maths provides for a professional development model under which change will be implemented in various areas of maths on a phased basis. The curriculum will be phased in over a number of years covering the following five strands of mathematics:

Phase 1: Strand 1- statistics and probability; Strand 2- geometry and trigonometry

Phase 2: Strand 3- number; Strand 4- algebra

Phase 3: functions

Strands 1 and 2 began in all schools in September 2010 for first examination in 2012 at Leaving Certificate and 2013 at Junior Certificate. Strands 3 and 4 will begin in 2011, and strand 5 will start in 2012.

A comprehensive programme of professional development is being provided for teachers. Support will be provided on a rolling basis as each strand of the curriculum is implemented, and will continue until at least 2013.

School Transport

Questions (123)

Brendan Smith

Question:

128 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will reverse the proposal to withdraw the existing school transport arrangements for the traveller community at a location (details supplied) in County Leitrim; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21776/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Skills)

I wish to advise the Deputy that the exceptional school transport arrangements, which heretofore have been made available to Traveller children only, were reviewed in line with the Report and Recommendations contained in the Traveller Education Strategy published in 2006.

This Strategy was finalised following a comprehensive consultative process and was overseen by a group which included representation from three national Traveller organisations. The strategy recommended that both primary and post primary Traveller children should use the mainstream school transport scheme in operation at present and that only in exceptional circumstances, based on special needs, should special transport be provided as a positive action measure.

Consequently, the general terms of the Primary School Transport Scheme, including the eligibility requirement that pupils reside 3.2 kilometres or more from their nearest school, is now being applied to all school transport applicants.

Bus Éireann, which operates the School Transport Schemes on behalf of my Department, has advised that the pupils in question do not meet this distance criterion and are therefore not eligible for school transport.

Departmental Bodies

Questions (124)

Patrick Deering

Question:

129 Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Education and Skills the criteria that is being used for selection of headquarters for the newly configured vocational educational committees. [21779/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Skills)

Earlier this year my Department invited submissions from the relevant parties on the location of the headquarters for the new VEC entities, resulting from the reduction in the number of VECs from 33 to 16.

At the outset of this process, my Department advised that a fundamental requirement will be the need to ensure that the location of a VEC headquarters will, to the greatest extent possible, facilitate distance requirements under which staff may be redeployed to that location under a redeployment scheme, as envisaged in the Croke Park Agreement. In addition, parties were reminded of the need to operate at lower cost having regard to accommodation available in existing locations.

I am currently giving consideration to the question of where the headquarters of the new entities will be located. The outcome of these deliberations will be announced in the coming period.

School Staffing

Questions (125)

Seán Crowe

Question:

130 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will list, on a county basis, the numbers of special needs assistants working in schools in the academic year 2009/2010; and the proposed number of SNAs that will be employed in schools, on a county basis, during the new school term, starting from September 2011 onwards. [21820/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Skills)

The information requested by the Deputy on the number of special needs assistants employed in schools on a county basis is not readily available.

The number of Special Needs Assistants employed nationally from 2007 to 2010 is available in the attached document. The details for each year are the December figures for the year in question. The primary schools information is inclusive of the special schools details.

SNAs are recruited specifically to assist in the care of pupils with disabilities in an educational context. The class teacher is responsible for educating all pupils in their class, including any pupil with a special educational need. In this task, the teacher may be supported by a learning support teacher and/or resource teacher. As a result, the allocation of SNAs in each school can alter from year to year. Some schools may receive an increased allocation, while others may experience a reduction because the allocation of supports are provided in line with the needs of individual schools.

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

Number of Special Needs Assistants

Year

Number of Special Needs Assistants in Primary schools

Number of Special Needs Assistants in Post Primary Schools, including VECs.

2007

8,038

1,786

2008

8,440

2,002

2009

8,392

1,950

2010

8,401

2,142

Schools Building Projects

Questions (126, 127, 128)

Noel Coonan

Question:

131 Deputy Noel Coonan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a school (details supplied) in County Tipperary which has applied for major capital funding; the timeframe for completion of works; the works that has yet to be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21824/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Skills)

The school to which the Deputy refers has applied to my Department for large scale capital funding for an extension. The application has been assessed in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria for large scale building projects and assigned a Band 3 rating.

Information in respect of the current school building programme along with all assessed applications for major capital works, including the project referred to by the Deputy, is available on the Department's website at www.education.ie.

All large scale building projects, including this project, from initial design stage through to construction phase are being progressed in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme and the available financial resources. However, in light of current competing demands on the capital budget of my Department, it is not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the progression of the project at this time.

Noel Coonan

Question:

132 Deputy Noel Coonan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a school (details supplied) in County Tipperary which has applied for major capital funding; the timeframe for completion of works; the works that has yet to be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21825/11]

View answer

The school to which the Deputy refers has applied to my Department for large scale capital funding for accommodation to cater for the amalgamation of the school to which he refers with another primary school in the town. The application has been assessed in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria for large scale building projects and assigned a Band 1.4 rating.

Information in respect of the current school building programme along with all assessed applications for major capital works, including the project referred to by the Deputy, is available on the Department's website at www.education.ie.

All large scale building projects, including this project, from initial design stage through to construction phase are being progressed in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme and the available financial resources. However, in light of current competing demands on the capital budget of my Department, it is not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the progression of the project at this time.

Noel Coonan

Question:

133 Deputy Noel Coonan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a school (details supplied) in County Tipperary which has applied for major capital funding; the timeframe for completion of works; the works that have yet to be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21826/11]

View answer

My Department has no record of an application for major capital funding from the school referred to by the Deputy. This school has been provided with an extension project which was completed in 2002. If the school wishes to request further capital funding towards a specific project, it should complete the appropriate form which can be found on my Department's website, www.education.ie, and forward the completed form to my Department. This form will then be assessed by my Department’s staff and a response will issue to the school when a decision has been made.

School Transport

Questions (129, 130)

Billy Timmins

Question:

134 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a school transport (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21832/11]

View answer

Billy Timmins

Question:

135 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding children travelling on school buses to a rural school because of the Closed School Rule; if they will still be eligible to travel on the school bus to complete their education; if they have siblings will they be eligible to travel on the school bus to be with their siblings in school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21833/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Skills)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 134 and 135 together.

Changes to the School Transport Schemes, including the ‘Closed School Rule (CSR)', were announced in Budget 2011 and derive from recommendations in the Value for Money Review of the Scheme.

The change referred to by the Deputy in relation to ceasing the CSR is not scheduled to be introduced until the beginning of the 2012/13 school year. Pupils commencing their primary education from this date will have their eligibility determined by the distance they reside from their nearest national school, as determined by my Department, having regard to language and ethos. A sample survey undertaken as part of the Value for Money Review showed that the majority of pupils are in fact attending their nearest open school, so this change will not have any practical impact on these pupils.

My Department has requested Bus Éireann to conduct a detailed analysis of the "on the ground" impact for individual schools and the rural communities they serve. This analysis will be based on the most up to date information available on current school transport usage patterns and on the final data in relation to school transport requirements in September 2011. Given this fact, I do not expect to have the final details for some weeks yet.

These changes are not due to be implemented until September 2012 and as detailed consideration and assessment will be required it will be some time before this work is completed.

Eligible pupils who are currently availing of school transport services under the CSR will retain their eligibility for the duration of their primary school education cycle.

Schools Building Projects

Questions (131, 132, 133)

Noel Coonan

Question:

136 Deputy Noel Coonan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding an application for building works in respect of a school (details supplied) in County Tipperary; when a decision will issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21834/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Skills)

The school to which the Deputy refers has applied to my Department for large scale capital funding for an extension. The application has been assessed in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria for large scale building projects and assigned a Band 2 rating.

Information in respect of the current school building programme along with all assessed applications for major capital works, including the project referred to by the Deputy, is available on the Department's website at www.education.ie.

All large scale building projects, including this project, from initial design stage through to construction phase are being progressed in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme and the available financial resources. However, in light of current competing demands on the capital budget of my Department, it is not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the progression of the project at this time.

Noel Coonan

Question:

137 Deputy Noel Coonan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding additional accommodation in respect of a school (details supplied) in County Tipperary; when the project will proceed to the next stage and be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21835/11]

View answer

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that construction on the school building project referred to by him commenced at the end of June.

Noel Coonan

Question:

138 Deputy Noel Coonan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding an application for capital funding for an extension for a school (details supplied) in County Tipperary; when the project will proceed to the next stage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21836/11]

View answer

The school to which the Deputy refers has applied to my Department for large scale capital funding for an extension. The application has been assessed in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria for large scale building projects and assigned a Band 3 rating.

Information in respect of the current school building programme along with all assessed applications for major capital works, including the project referred to by the Deputy, is available on the Department's website at www.education.ie.

All large scale building projects, including this project, from initial design stage through to construction phase are being progressed in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme and the available financial resources. However, in light of current competing demands on the capital budget of my Department, it is not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the progression of the project at this time.

Schools Building Projects

Questions (134)

Noel Coonan

Question:

139 Deputy Noel Coonan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding an application for building works by a school (details supplied) in County Tipperary; when a decision will issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21837/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Skills)

The school to which the Deputy refers has applied to my Department for large scale capital funding for an extension. The application has been assessed in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria for large scale building projects and assigned a Band 2 rating.

Information in respect of the current school building programme along with all assessed applications for major capital works, including the project referred to by the Deputy, is available on the Department's website at www.education.ie.

All large scale building projects, including this project, from initial design stage through to construction phase are being progressed in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme and the available financial resources. However, in light of current competing demands on the capital budget of my Department, it is not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the progression of the project at this time.

This school also applied recently to my Department for grant aid towards the provision of additional resource accommodation. Due to the fact that there have been no additional staff appointments at the school, it was not possible to provide funding for the additional accommodation requested.

School Accommodation

Questions (135)

Timmy Dooley

Question:

140 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress that has been made in implementing his decision to reopen a school (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21844/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Skills)

There has been no decision to re-open the school referred to by the Deputy.

The Forward Planning Section of my Department has carried out a study of the country to identify the areas where, due to demographic changes, there may be a requirement for significant additional school provision at both primary and post-primary levels over the coming years. This study has been conducted using data from the Central Statistics Office, the General Register Office and the Department of Social Protection and with reference to recent schools' enrolment data.

School accommodation requirements in the area referred to by the Deputy have been considered as part of this study and the analysis indicates there will be no requirement for significant additional accommodation in the short to medium term. It is not envisaged that the school referred to will be re-opened.

Special Educational Needs

Questions (136)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

141 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of pupils attending primary school by county in 2010; the number of special needs assistants positions by county; the number of remedial teachers by county; the number of pupils attending special schools by county; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21860/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Skills)

Data in relation to the 2010/11 school year are not currently available. They will be available on my Department's website in September.

The number of pupils attending primary and special schools by county in 2009/10 is available in table 2.18 of the Annual Statistical Report which can be found on my Department's website at http://www.education.ie/home/home.jsp?pcategory=17216&ecategory=46606&language=EN.

In December 2010 there were 8,401 SNA's in primary schools. A breakdown by county is not available. The number of learning support/resource teachers by county in 2009/10 are shown in the following table.

County

Number of Learning Support/Resource teachers in 2009/10

Full-time

Part-time

Carlow

70

6

Cavan

85

19

Clare

177

15

Cork City

181

14

Cork County

497

81

Donegal

199

21

Dublin South County

307

15

Dublin City

504

52

Dublin Fingal

268

17

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown

187

20

Galway City

93

7

Galway County

244

43

Kerry

170

27

Kildare

256

17

Kilkenny

99

18

Laois

103

14

Leitrim

39

8

Limerick City

106

5

Limerick County

172

14

Longford

47

13

Louth

144

18

Mayo

160

18

Meath

220

22

Monaghan

58

11

Offaly

105

17

Roscommon

87

17

Sligo

76

7

Tipperary

226

19

Waterford City

59

3

Waterford County

66

20

Westmeath

114

16

Wexford

177

34

Wicklow

160

25

Total

5,456

653

Departmental Bodies

Questions (137)

Joe McHugh

Question:

142 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will consider allowing accredited researchers and genealogists to photograph for research purposes documents including Cancelled Land Books at the Valuation Office, Irish Life Centre, Abbey Street, Dublin 1; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21676/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Expenditure)

I have been informed by the Valuation Office that it provides customers with photocopies of extracts from the valuation books and of portions of maps for a modest charge. The income received from the photocopy charge recoups a small fraction of the cost of providing the service. The use of digital cameras without flash may be permitted where special permission has been obtained in advance.

Public Private Partnerships

Questions (138)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

143 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he is currently examining any proposals for new public private partnerships; if he will indicate which public private partnerships will proceed in 2011 and 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21726/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Expenditure)

My Department is responsible for the overall PPP investment framework, including the framework for the appraisal, assessment, procurement and evaluation of projects. Individual Departments are responsible for the projects and programmes in their areas, within that overall framework. Further details about individual projects can be obtained directly from the relevant Department. The National Development Finance Agency (NDFA) provides financial, insurance and risk analysis advice to State Authorities in order to assist in determining the most appropriate procurement mechanism. I understand that to date in 2011 there are five PPPs at various stages of the procurement process of which the NDFA is acting as the procuring authority for three in the education sector. There are a further four PPP projects in the pipeline.

Official Engagements

Questions (139)

Nicky McFadden

Question:

144 Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the level of participation and responsibility of each Minister of State in his Department in relation to attendance at Ministerial Councils for which his Department has responsibility since the formation of the Government; and if he will list all such meetings which have taken place and the Minister in attendance at each meeting. [21511/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Expenditure)

This Department does not have responsibility for any specific Ministerial Council.

Departmental Expenditure

Questions (140)

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

145 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform how he plans to prioritise investment in school buildings, non-national roads, health care; and when this investment will commence. [21682/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Expenditure)

The Review of Capital Expenditure is currently underway and is running in parallel with the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure. It is intended that the review will be completed in the autumn. Programmes and projects that support economic recovery will be at the core of the capital review. This review will inform how we our prioritise capital investment programmes in future years. Prioritisation within the schools' building, non-national roads and health care programmes is a matter for the Ministers for Education and Skills, Transport, Tourism and Sport and Health respectively.

Departmental Bodies

Questions (141, 142)

Thomas Pringle

Question:

146 Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, further to Parliamentary Question No. 53 of 14 July 2011, if he will answer the first part of the question and explain the purpose of the Secret Service. [21699/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Expenditure)

Given the nature of this Vote, it is not the practice to provide detailed information as to how the annual allocation will be spent.

The Appropriation Account of the Vote for the Secret Service is audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General in accordance with section 3 of the Comptroller and Auditor General (Amendment) Act, 1993. The C & AG is furnished with certificates from the responsible Ministers which support the expenditure shown in the account. On the basis of these certificates, the C & AG expresses an opinion in the annual published Appropriation Accounts that the account properly presents the expenditure of the Vote for the particular year concerned. This arrangement has been accepted by the Committee of Public Accounts of the Dáil.

Billy Timmins

Question:

147 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the position regarding an organisation (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21497/11]

View answer

I have recently approved the transfer of the Excellence through People scheme from FÁS to the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI). The transfer arrangements provide that the FÁS Excellence through People assessors will provide operational assistance services to NSAI during a transitional period. The assessors will remain the staff of FÁS. The redeployment of the staff after the transitional period is in the first instance a matter for FÁS as the employer of the staff.

Job Creation

Questions (143)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

148 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will estimate the total number of citizens in employment in Quarter 1, 2007; Q1, 2008; Q1, 2009; Q1, 2010; Q1, 2011, Q1, 2012; Q1, 2013; Q1, 2014; Q1, 2015, and Q1, 2016, when the Government’s term will end; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21761/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation)

My Department does not collate statistics in relation to numbers in employment. However, following is a table provided to my Department by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) www.cso.ie, which details employment figures for Q1 2007 to Q1 2011. I would also draw your attention to the latest (April 2011) update on the Growth and Stability Pact, available on www.finance.gov.ie, and in particular paragraph 2.6, copied below, which estimates percentage changes in employment to 2015.

Table 6: Labour Market Developments

2010

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

(‘000s)

% change

Employment

1,848

-4.2

-1.6

0.5

1.2

1.8

2.0

Unemployment Rate (QNHS)

292

13.6

14.4

13.7

12.7

11.5

10.0

Labour Productivity (GDP per person employed)

3.3

2.4

2.1

1.7

1.2

1.0

Compensation of Employees

-5.4

-1.3

1.3

3.1

4.1

4.4

Compensation per Employee

0.3

0.0

0.6

1.4

1.8

2.2

Source: 2010 — CSO and Department of Finance calculations; 2011-15 — Department of Finance calculations.

Persons aged 15 years and over in employment (ILO)

’000

All persons in employment:

Q1

Q1

Q1

Q1

Q1

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2,088.5

2,124.1

1,965.6

1,857.6

1,804.2

Data may be subject to future revisionData may be subject to sampling or other survey errors, which are greater in respect of smaller values or estimates of change:Reference Period Q1 — Jan to MarSource — Quarterly National Household Survey, Central Statistics Office:

Economic Competitiveness

Questions (144)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

149 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he is concerned at the ongoing deterioration of Irish competitiveness as revealed in the Harmonised Competitiveness Indicators; the steps he and others are taking to improve competition; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21762/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation)

National competitiveness is a broad concept that encompasses a diverse range of factors, including costs to business, and also policy inputs such as education and training, economic and technological infrastructure, and the taxation and regulatory framework. The Harmonised Competitiveness Indicators provide one measure of our competitiveness trends.

The recent report published by the National Competitiveness Council on Costs of Doing Business in Ireland states that Ireland experienced a significant loss in cost competitiveness as measured by the real Harmonised Competitiveness Indicator between 2002 and early 2008. Since 2008, however, we have regained some of this lost competitiveness and Irish competitiveness is now back to 2003 levels. This has been driven by favourable exchange rate movements and lower rates of inflation compared with our competitors.

Our competitiveness has also been improved through a reduction in the costs of doing business. Improvements have been seen in relation to labour costs, property costs, utilities and business services, as highlighted by the National Competitiveness Council in their recent report.

To continue to build on this improvement in our competitiveness, however, the Government recognises that it must put in place structural reforms to our cost base, to ensure that the gains we make are permanent and will not be eroded by a resumption in growth or exchange rate movements.

In this context, I have been in contact with my ministerial colleagues, highlighting the issues which the National Competitiveness Council believes must be addressed to strengthen the competitiveness of our cost base, and asking them to consider those recommendations.

As the Deputy will be aware, on 10th May the Government announced the introduction of a range of measures under the Jobs Initiative to improve the competitiveness of the economy, to support the maintenance of existing jobs and the creation of new ones, and to assist those who are currently unemployed to return to work.

Many of these measures have already been brought into effect, including the reduction of VAT on services primarily in the hospitality sector; the halving of the lower rate of employer's PRSI on earnings up to €356 per week; the launch of the National Internship scheme; and the focusing of the State's capital expenditure towards more employment-intensive projects in the areas of education, local and regional roads and sustainable transport projects. My Department is also currently working on developing a Loan Guarantee scheme and a Microfinance Start up Fund, to improve access to finance for businesses.

I am also continuing to develop proposals for substantial reform of our Sectoral Wage Agreements, as well as working to develop job opportunities in a number of emerging sectors, including Cloud Computing, Digital Gaming, Life Sciences, Medical Devices, Information and Communications Technology, Financial Services, Content Industry, Consumer and Business Services.

I will continue working with my Government colleagues, through the Cabinet Committee structure, to identify actions that can be taken to improve cost competitiveness in other areas, such as commercial rates, legal costs and administrative burdens. The Government will also in the near future legislate to address the commitment in the Programme for Government to abolish upwards only rent reviews in existing business leases.

State Agencies

Questions (145)

Brendan Smith

Question:

150 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will ensure that the IDA Ireland Border-area headquarters remains in Cavan town; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21777/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation)

IDA is an autonomous Agency set up by statute with a mandate to attract foreign direct investment in manufacturing and internationally-traded service industries into Ireland, and to support new and existing FDI operations so as to maximise the related industrial employment, output, exports, economy expenditures including wages, and corporation tax contributions.

The management and location of IDA staff is a day to day operational matter for the Agency and not one in which I have a function. IDA's Head Office is located in Dublin and the Agency has a number of regional offices throughout the country as well as a network of marketing offices globally. IDA decides where it needs its resources in order that it can meet its strategic goals.

County Enterprise Boards

Questions (146)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

151 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the funding, by county, allocated to the county enterprise boards for 2010 and 2011; the number of grants offered and taken up; if any county enterprise board did not use its entire budget in 2010, the enterprise board to which it was transferred; the number of feasibility studies that were assisted with grant aid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21861/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation)

The role of the County and City Enterprise Boards (CEBs) is to provide support for micro-enterprises in the start-up and expansion phases, to promote and develop indigenous micro-enterprise potential and to stimulate economic activity and entrepreneurship at local level. The CEBs deliver a range of tailored Programmes and Supports in order to fulfil this role. The overall priorities for Capital expenditure by the CEBs focus on the promotion and stimulation of entrepreneurship at local level and the development of sustainable growth-orientated micro-enterprises, which, over time, can develop into strong export entities. This is done through the provision of both financial assistance and non-financial assistance.

An annual Exchequer allocation is provided each year for the operation of the County and City Enterprise Boards (CEBs). The Exchequer allocation is made in the context of the overall public finances and in 2011 amounts to €27.242m, of which €15m in Capital is available for direct grants and training, mentoring and advice services to micro-enterprise clients. The bulk of the non-capital allocation to each CEB pays the salaries of the Business Advisors and other staff who provide direct advice and mentoring to client companies. This represents a strong investment in the micro-enterprise sector, notwithstanding the additional level of demand on CEB services generated in the current difficult economic climate.

It is a matter in the first instance for individual CEBs to determine how they will use allocated funds. The CEB Central Coordination Unit (within Enterprise Ireland) works closely with the CEBs throughout the year reviewing individual expenditures to ensure that the funding allocated to the CEBs is utilised to the maximum extent possible. As part of this process the CCU undertakes a surrenders and reallocation process whereby any potential underspend by a CEB is identified and made available to any CEB that has requested additional funding. Any monies surrendered are not transferred from one specific CEB to another but are pooled and reallocated as part of an impartial reallocation process. Some CEBs may not be in a position to spend the totality of their annual allocation when for example an approved grant is decommitted very late in the year in circumstances where the grantee is unable to draw down the grant within the time available. If this arises in the very limited circumstances where the money cannot be reallocated the money is surrendered to the Exchequer.

The information requested by the Deputy is set out in tabular format following. Data breakdown of Feasibility Study/Innovation Grants paid for 2010 has not been available from the information available to the Department but is being sourced and will be supplied separately to the Deputy.

CEB Exchequer Allocations 2010 and 2011

CEB

Final 2010 Current Budget Allocation

Final 2010 Capital Budget Allocation

Total 2010 Final Budget Allocation

2011 Current Budget Allocation

2011 Capital Budget Allocation

Total 2011 Budget Allocation

Carlow

352,808

439,655

792,463

348,881

344,532

693,412

Cavan

403,455

469,606

873,061

398,290

358,658

756,948

Clare

287,130

414,531

701,662

295,577

407,230

702,807

Cork City

392,470

525,159

917,629

382,732

415,991

798,723

Cork North

156,781

300,918

457,699

176,998

376,032

553,029

Cork South

423,015

763,368

1,186,384

444,889

518,371

963,261

Cork West

358,427

417,191

775,618

381,355

357,320

738,674

Donegal

430,007

726,196

1,156,203

424,451

444,801

869,252

Dublin City

445,469

1,146,082

1,591,551

443,597

816,172

1,259,769

Dublin South

364,820

730,637

1,095,457

335,679

547,922

883,601

Dún Laoghaire/ Rathdown

445,222

799,957

1,245,179

440,489

493,194

933,683

Fingal

372,033

681,709

1,053,742

366,028

540,739

906,767

Galway

323,208

743,667

1,066,875

264,682

532,129

796,810

Kerry

360,892

666,432

1,027,324

345,829

437,115

782,944

Kildare

354,601

427,345

781,946

360,629

485,225

845,853

Kilkenny

345,745

432,923

778,668

350,394

383,029

733,423

Laois*

298,659

329,459

628,118

288,322

361,820

650,142

Leitrim

346,516

350,030

696,546

324,211

322,392

646,603

Limerick City

369,846

412,209

782,055

365,488

346,798

712,286

Limerick County

323,599

536,845

860,444

336,571

428,508

765,079

Longford

283,591

365,909

649,500

277,743

328,021

605,764

Louth

437,985

445,220

883,205

429,700

407,558

837,259

Mayo

275,136

437,596

712,731

198,803

420,565

619,368

Meath

397,755

500,777

898,532

406,973

460,907

867,880

Monaghan

305,280

356,738

662,018

305,674

350,375

656,049

Offaly

363,904

362,809

726,713

354,870

365,761

720,631

Roscommon

261,248

343,042

604,290

199,479

353,242

552,721

Sligo

360,728

448,085

808,813

364,979

355,442

720,421

Tipperary North

352,593

356,423

709,016

353,844

360,748

714,592

Tipperary South

346,901

424,840

771,741

348,451

378,541

726,992

Waterford City

224,108

461,190

685,298

216,561

339,771

556,333

Waterford County

284,013

445,647

729,659

179,272

356,806

536,079

Westmeath

377,172

509,116

886,288

381,995

374,532

756,527

Wexford

300,452

557,362

857,815

299,985

428,749

728,734

Wicklow

402,286

551,842

954,127

413,743

423,002

836,745

**Total

12,127,855

17,880,515

30,008,370

11,807,162

14,622,000

26,429,162

**Figures for 2010 are final allocations for each year (i.e. by year end, after any additional funding or reallocation within the Network have been conducted). Figure for 2011 is the initial allocation for the year

County and City Enterprise Boards — Grants 2010/2011

2010

2011 (Jan-July only)

Feasibility/ Innovation Grants

CEB

Number of Grants Approved

Number of Grants Paid*

Number of Grants Approved

Number of Grants Paid*

Number of Grants Approved/Paid 2011 to date

Carlow

32

30

25

17

6

Cavan

29

20

18

5

3

Clare

37

37

18

19

4

Cork City

26

23

10

4

2

Cork North

12

7

3

9

1

Cork South

20

27

26

13

1

Cork West

11

17

8

7

1

Donegal

24

26

12

3

5

Dublin City

79

92

29

10

9

Dublin Fingal

34

57

17

20

3

Dún Laoghaire/ Rathdown

75

33

29

33

11

Galway

67

31

19

18

5

Kerry

38

51

38

12

5

Kildare

32

27

24

27

5

Kilkenny

25

26

0

19

0

Laois

21

26

17

13

8

Leitrim

26

21

12

3

1

Limerick City

20

30

15

4

4

Limerick County

20

26

22

15

6

Longford

18

22

13

11

2

Louth

19

32

20

10

1

Mayo

24

20

19

12

8

Meath

32

29

10

7

0

Monaghan

13

28

12

21

3

Offaly

26

20

13

4

2

Roscommon

16

18

8

20

1

Sligo

26

23

9

2

1

South Dublin

24

34

15

15

1

Tipperary NR

21

19

16

11

2

Tipperary SR

20

25

12

3

3

Waterford City

22

31

18

6

3

Waterford Co.

35

33

27

8

2

Westmeath

38

43

21

7

5

Wexford

41

41

19

7

9

Wicklow

34

36

19

7

7

Total

1,037

1,061

562

369

129

*Number of grants paid may be higher or lower than the number of grants approved — not all approved grants are drawn down by a project promoter, and also as grants are approved on an ongoing basis an approved grant may in some cases be drawn down/paid in the next calendar year

Question No. 152 answered with Question No. 29.

FÁS Training Programmes

Questions (147)

John Lyons

Question:

153 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of unemployed persons availing of the FÁS work placement scheme in north-west Dublin; the details of the local employers providing these placements; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21695/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

There are no separate figures available for the Dublin north-west region. To date (1 June 2009 to 18 July 2011) there have been 310 starts on the work placement programme in the Dublin north region (Balbriggan, Baldoyle, Blanchardstown, Coolock, Finglas, Swords). These posts have been provided by 213 providers. There are currently 127 participants on the programme in the Dublin north region.

Question No. 154 answered with Question No. 24.

Social Welfare Benefits

Questions (148)

Tom Fleming

Question:

155 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will find the €55 million of savings elsewhere in her departmental budget rather than eroding the progress made for our senior citizens over the past 40 years due to the fact that the proposed reductions will have health implications for people who have insufficient fuel for their needs over the winter period. [21819/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

I have no plans to reconsider the changes to the fuel allowance and household benefits package which were announced last week. From September 2011 the fuel allowance is to be standardised at €20 per week, the rate currently received by the majority of customers, with no additional allowance for living in a smokeless area. The cost of the telephone allowance will be reduced following negotiations with Eircom which will ensure that customers receive €26.86 of value on their bills, at a cost to the State of €22.22 per month. The number of free units provided under the electricity and gas allowance will be reduced to the level at the start of 2007 (from 2,400 to 1,800). These three measures will generate savings of €17 million in 2011 and €65 million annually.

While we have had to implement these measures, the House should be aware that these savings were provided for last December in Budget 2011 but were not specified or announced by the Government at that time.

While of course we want to protect the basic social welfare payments which have very positive economic and social effects, regrettably there is an ongoing necessity to achieve savings due to our commitments with the IMF/EU/ECB Troika. There will be an ongoing necessity to curtail overall expenditure in 2012 and in later years. The Comprehensive Review of Expenditure currently underway in all government departments and agencies will form the basis for making the necessary decisions to achieve this.

Along with other Departments and agencies, my Department has been working with the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources on an Affordable Energy Strategy and this is expected to be brought to Government in the Autumn. Energy poverty is a factor of income, energy prices and the thermal efficiency of the home. The most cost-effective means of protecting households from energy poverty is to reduce their consumption of energy through improving the thermal efficiency of the home. The SEI has administered an energy efficiency programme for privately owned low income households (Warmer Homes) since 2001. Over 65,000 such households have benefited to date, with a further 15,000 expected to receive energy efficiency upgrades this year. A similar upgrade programme is also in place for local authority houses.

FÁS Training Programmes

Questions (149)

Dan Neville

Question:

156 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Social Protection, further to Parliamentary Question No. 253 of 12 July 2011, if she will make a statement on the case of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [21444/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

Qualified adult dependants, aged 25 and over, of eligible persons may avail of the spousal swap option. This involves the person exchanging his/her FÁS place with his/her dependant with the dependant inheriting the entitlements of the eligible person. Essentially, a person who is offered a position on a relevant FÁS scheme can choose not to avail of it and offer the opportunity instead to their qualified spouse/civil partner/cohabitant.

With respect to a placement on a community employment (CE) scheme, which I understand is involved in this case, the situation arises where a person in receipt of jobseeker's allowance is offered a CE place. They can choose not to take up the place by offering it to their dependent spouse/civil partner/cohabitant. They then become the dependent adult for the duration of the CE engagement.

As a result of this transfer of dependency status the original claimant becomes ineligible for jobseeker's allowance as a primary claimant.

Departmental Staff

Questions (150)

Paudie Coffey

Question:

157 Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of staff that are employed as community welfare officers (details supplied) both part and full time; her plans to reduce these numbers in the immediate future; if so, the number of same; if she will make provision for the allocation of temporary staff as they are needed over the coming months; if the JobBridge initiative is applicable for these positions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21450/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

I understand that the Deputy's office has confirmed to my office that this question relates solely to the operation of the central Rents Unit in Dublin.

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which includes rent supplement, is currently administered on behalf of the Department by the Community Welfare Services division of the Health Service Executive. Late last year agreement was reached between the Health Service Executive (HSE) and unions representing the Community Welfare Officers that the staff of the Community Welfare Service (CWS) would transfer to the Department of Social Protection with effect from 1st January 2011 on a secondment basis initially. The period of secondment is to last for 9 months until the end of September 2011. During this period these staff will remain employees of the HSE but are subject to the general direction and control of the Minster for Social Protection. From 1 October 2011 it is intended that the staff of the CWS will be transferred fully to the Department as civil servants and will be accountable to the Minister in the same way as other civil servants.

Historically rent supplements have been administered locally by the Community Welfare Officer (CWO) directly to the customer. However, as a result of a large increase in claims being made in recent years and the restriction on staff recruitment in the service, it was decided that priority had to be given to the demand on the local service for claims where an immediate decision was needed such as basic payments and exceptional needs payments. It was considered that rent supplement claims could be delivered more efficiently through centralised units. A unit to provide this service was set up on the North side of Dublin in December 2010 to take claims from Balbriggan, Swords and other areas of North Dublin where a large increase in demand for rent supplement had been experienced. As the Deputy is aware it is a matter for all Departments and public sector organisations to continue to manage services with diminishing resources taking advantage of business re-engineering possibilities as provided for in the Public Service Agreement 2010 — 2014.

I have been advised that a number of staff in the CWS were employed in a temporary capacity by the HSE in 2010 for a period of six months, including some of the staff in the rent unit in question. These contracts were subsequently extended to June 2011 from when they are being gradually withdrawn.

A number of Transition Managers have been appointed from within the Community Welfare Service, to work with the Department of Social Protection to oversee the transfer of the service to the Department and to manage the day to day administration of the service. The relevant Transition Managers are currently in the process of examining the service implications arising from the loss of these temporary staff, in particular from the rent units. They are also examining the model being used to deliver the service to ensure that the most efficient process will be used to improve service delivery. Further initiatives are also proposed which will result in process improvement with a realignment of resources. There are no plans at present to allocate additional temporary staff to this unit.

To avail of job-bridge, the national internship scheme, applicants must be currently in receipt of certain jobseeker's payments and have been unemployed for a minimum period of 78 days in the preceding six months. Potential providers of internship (host organisations) approach FÁS who will assess the vacancies to ensure that they are appropriate for the scheme.

One of the conditions of the national internship scheme is that no vacancies exist in the area in which the internship is being offered as such the positions in question would not qualify for inclusion in the scheme.

Social Welfare Benefits

Questions (151)

Noel Coonan

Question:

158 Deputy Noel Coonan asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a back to school clothing and footwear application 2011 form in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; when a decision will be made; if it is anticipated the application will be successful; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21458/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

The administrative arrangements for the 2011 back to school clothing and footwear allowance scheme differ from those that applied in previous years. For this year, the majority of back to school clothing and footwear allowance entitlements were fully automated with no application form required from customers. For some people on the basis of the information available it was not possible to establish entitlement. These customers are required to complete an application form that is available for download from www.welfare.ie or by texting “Form BTSCFA”, followed by their name and address to 51909.

Processing has begun on the manual applications already received and it will take 4-6 weeks to process applications. In all cases a letter will issue to applicants informing them of the decision and, where payment has been awarded, when and where they can collect the payment. In the case of refusal of the allowance the procedures for review of the decision will be outlined to customers.

Due to the large volume of applications received, information regarding the receipt, progress or likely outcome of individual applications will not be available until such time as the applications have been examined and a decision taken.

Social Welfare Appeals

Questions (152, 153, 154, 155)

Barry Cowen

Question:

159 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding the case of a person (details supplied) in County Offaly; and when this person will expect to be called for an oral hearing. [21462/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the appeal from the person concerned was referred to an Appeals Officer who proposes to hold an oral hearing in this case.

There has been a very significant increase in the number of appeals received by the Social Welfare Appeals Office since 2007 when the intake was 14,070 to 2010 when the intake rose to 32,432. This has significantly impacted on the processing time for appeals which require oral hearings and, in order to be fair to all appellants, they are dealt with in strict chronological order. In the context of dealing with the considerable number of appeals now on hand, the Department has made a further 9 additional appointments to the office in recent weeks.

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

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

Barry Cowen

Question:

160 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding the case of a person (details supplied) in County Offaly; and when this person will expect a decision. [21463/11]

View answer

An application for carer's allowance from the person concerned was received on the 18 May 2011. On completion of the necessary investigations of all aspects of his case a decision will be made and he will be notified directly of the outcome.

Barry Cowen

Question:

161 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding the case of a person (details supplied) in County Offaly; and when this person will be called for an oral hearing. [21464/11]

View answer

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the appeal from the person concerned was referred to an Appeals Officer who proposes to hold an oral hearing in this case.

There has been a very significant increase in the number of appeals received by the Social Welfare Appeals Office since 2007 when the intake was 14,070 to 2010 when the intake rose to 32,432. This has significantly impacted on the processing time for appeals which require oral hearings and, in order to be fair to all appellants, they are dealt with in strict chronological order. In the context of dealing with the considerable number of appeals now on hand, the Department has made a further 9 additional appointments to the office in recent weeks.

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

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

Barry Cowen

Question:

162 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding the case of a person (details supplied) in County Offaly; and when this person will expect to be called for an oral hearing. [21466/11]

View answer

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 21 June 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by the Social Welfare Services on the grounds of appeal be sought. When received, the appeal in question will be referred to an Appeals Officer for consideration.

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

Social Welfare Benefits

Questions (156, 157, 158, 159)

Barry Cowen

Question:

163 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding the case of a person (details supplied) in County Offaly; and when this person will expect a decision. [21467/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

An application for carer's allowance from the person concerned was received on the 21 April 2011. The file was sent to the department's investigative branch for confirmation that all the conditions necessary for receipt of carer's allowance are satisfied. On completion of the necessary investigations, a decision will be made and she will be notified directly of the outcome.

Barry Cowen

Question:

164 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding the case of a person (details supplied) in County Offaly; and when this person will expect a decision. [21468/11]

View answer

An application for domiciliary care allowance was received on 22nd September 2010. This application was referred to one of the Department's Medical Assessors who found that the child was not medically eligible for the allowance. A letter issued to the person concerned on 19th October 2010 advising her of the decision to refuse the allowance.

In the case of an application which is refused on medical grounds, the applicant may submit additional information and/or ask for the case to be reviewed or they may appeal the decision directly to the Social Welfare Appeals Office. The person concerned submitted further information and an appeal was registered by the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 5th July 2011. As part of the appeals process, the application and the additional information is currently being reviewed by a Medical Assessor.

Barry Cowen

Question:

165 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding the case of a person (details supplied) in County Offaly; and when this person will expect a decision. [21469/11]

View answer

An application for carer's allowance from the person concerned was received on the 26 April 2011. On completion of the necessary investigations on all aspects of her case a decision will be made and she will be notified directly of the outcome.

Barry Cowen

Question:

166 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding the case of a person (details supplied) in County Offaly; and when this person will expect a decision. [21473/11]

View answer

An application for carer's allowance from the person concerned was received on the 4 May 2011. On completion of the necessary investigations on all aspects of her case a decision will be made and she will be notified directly of the outcome.

Social Welfare Appeals

Questions (160)

Barry Cowen

Question:

167 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding the case of a person (details supplied) in County Offaly; and when this person will expect a decision. [21474/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 29 March 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 03 May 2011 and the appeal will be referred to an Appeals Officer, in due course, who will decide whether the case can be decided on a summary basis or whether to list it for oral hearing.

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

Social Welfare Benefits

Questions (161, 162)

Barry Cowen

Question:

168 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding the case of a person (details supplied) in County Offaly; and when this person will expect a decision. [21475/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

An application for carer's allowance from the person concerned was received on the 2 February 2011. His application was refused on the grounds that the care recipient is not so disabled as to require full-time care and attention. Further medical evidence was submitted to the department and, on completion of the review of this new information, he will be notified directly of the outcome.

John O'Mahony

Question:

169 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive a decision in relation to their application for back to school allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21485/11]

View answer

The administrative arrangements for the 2011 back to school clothing and footwear allowance scheme differ from those that applied in previous years. For this year, the majority of back to school clothing and footwear allowance entitlements were fully automated with no application form required from customers. For some people on the basis of the information available it was not possible to establish entitlement. These customers are required to complete an application form that is available for download from www.welfare.ie or by texting “Form BTSCFA”, followed by their name and address to 51909.

Processing has begun on the manual applications already received and it will take 4-6 weeks to process applications. In all cases a letter will issue to applicants informing them of the decision and, where payment has been awarded, when and where they can collect the payment. In the case of refusal of the allowance the procedures for review of the decision will be outlined to customers.

Due to the large volume of applications received, information regarding the receipt or progress of individual applications will not be available until such time as the applications have been examined and a decision taken.

Social Welfare Appeals

Questions (163, 164)

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

170 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will issue on an carer’s allowance appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cavan; and if she will expedite a decision. [21492/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 9 February 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 30 May 2011 and the appeal will be referred to an Appeals Officer, in due course, who will decide whether the case can be decided on a summary basis or whether to list it for oral hearing.

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

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

171 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) will receive an oral appeal hearing; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21496/11]

View answer

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 16 March 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 04 July 2011 and the appeal will be referred to an Appeals Officer, in due course, who will decide whether the case can be decided on a summary basis or whether to list it for oral hearing.

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

Community Employment Schemes

Questions (165)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

172 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection, further to Parliamentary Question No. 288 of 3 May 2011, if there has been further progress with her plans for community employment schemes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21528/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

As I have previously indicated to the House, I do not envisage any change in the community employment programme that would impact on the nature or range of services delivered given the important supports that are provided locally and the training and employment opportunities afforded by the programme.

With respect to the commitment to reform local government contained in the Programme for Government, work is ongoing under the lead of the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government which will include consideration of a realignment of a number of functions now performed by a range of existing agencies, including community employment. You will appreciate that such realignment of functions will require significant planning and consultation before any proposal in respect of community employment can be considered.

Social Welfare Appeals

Questions (166, 167, 168)

Dan Neville

Question:

173 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an appeal of illness benefit claim in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [21549/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

Payment of illness benefit, to the person concerned, was disallowed by a Deciding Officer following an examination by a Medical Assessor of the Department who expressed the opinion that he was capable of work. An appeal was opened and in the context of that appeal, his case was reviewed by a second Medical Assessor who also expressed the opinion that he was capable of work.

I am informed by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that, in the light of this second medical opinion, that office decided to afford him an opportunity of setting out the complete and up to date grounds of his appeal. On receipt of his response the relevant departmental papers will be requested from the Department and the appeal will then be referred to an Appeals Officer for consideration.

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

Dan Neville

Question:

174 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding the case of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21563/11]

View answer

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that, following receipt of the grounds of appeal from the person concerned, the relevant Departmental papers and comments of the Department have been sought. On receipt of its response the case will be referred to an Appeals Officer who will decide whether the case can be decided on a summary basis or whether to list it for oral hearing.

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

Question No. 175 withdrawn.

Dan Neville

Question:

176 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will make a statement on the case of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [21587/11]

View answer

I am informed by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that the person concerned was afforded the opportunity of setting out the complete and up to date grounds of her appeal including any further medical evidence in support of her appeal, by letter dated 23 March 2011. The current position is that the Appeals Office is still awaiting a response from her.

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

Social Welfare Benefits

Questions (169)

Sean Fleming

Question:

177 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a mortgage interest supplement in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Laois; if same is being paid; the amount of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21602/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has advised that the person concerned had previously been in receipt of mortgage interest supplement which ceased on 18 July 2009 as the person concerned had secured a moratorium on her repayments at that time. The HSE further advised that the person concerned has been requested to make a new application for mortgage interest supplement. A decision will be made on her entitlement when the application form has been submitted to the HSE.

Social Welfare Appeals

Questions (170, 171)

Peter Mathews

Question:

178 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will issue on an application for domiciliary care allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21610/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the appeal from the person concerned was referred to an Appeals Officer who proposes to hold an oral hearing in this case.

There has been a very significant increase in the number of appeals received by the Social Welfare Appeals Office since 2007 when the intake was 14,070 to 2010 when the intake rose to 32,432. This has significantly impacted on the processing time for appeals which require oral hearings and, in order to be fair to all appellants, they are dealt with in strict chronological order. In the context of dealing with the considerable number of appeals now on hand, the Department has made a further 9 additional appointments to the office in recent weeks.

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

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

Peter Mathews

Question:

179 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will issue on an application for unemployment benefit in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21615/11]

View answer

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 a summary decision. The person concerned has been notified of the decision.

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

Photographic Identification

Questions (172)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

180 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection the categories of social welfare recipients that will be required to produce photographic identification in order to pick up their payments from post offices from the week starting 18 July 2011; if her Department is issuing free photographic identification; if so, the timeframe for same; and how persons who do not have photographic identification will collect their cheques. [21648/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

An Post, with a network of 1,160 Post Offices and a further 181 postal agencies, is the principal agency through which payments are delivered to social welfare customers. The prevention of fraud and abuse is a vital priority for this Department and An Post, acting as our agent to make payments, is required to ensure that payment is only made to the person who is entitled to receive it.

It has always been a requirement of this Department that An Post staff satisfy themselves as to identity of the person presenting at the post office for payment. From time to time An Post has issued instructions reminding their staff of this requirement. The latest instruction from An Post to its staff reinforces previous instructions and sets out that there is an absolute requirement to seek ID from an individual if the counter staff member performing the transaction does not know for certain that the person seeking the payment is the individual named on the card for which the payment is sought or if the person is validly authorised as an agent to collect the payment. Acceptable forms of identification are a valid Passport, a valid Driving Licence, a Garda National Age Card or a Travel Pass accompanied by Photo ID. The identification requirements apply equally to those cashing a social welfare cheque as those using the social welfare services card to access their electronic payment. All claimants, of whatever scheme they are on, may be asked for proof of identification on collection of a payment from a post office, where they are not known to the counter staff.

he Department has developed, in conjunction with a number of other Government Departments, the specifications for a Public Services Card (PSC) under the Standard Authentication Framework Environment, or SAFE, programme. The specification provides for identification features, including a photograph. The aim is to develop a card that acts as a key for access to public services in general, identifying and authenticating individuals as appropriate and where required. Registration has commenced and it is expected that cards will begin to issue later this year. There is no charge to the customer for this card.

Social Welfare Appeals

Questions (173, 174, 175, 176, 177, 178)

John McGuinness

Question:

181 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason an oral hearing arranged in respect of a person (details supplied) was cancelled; and if another early date will be set for the hearing. [21660/11]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)</