NAMA Social Housing Provision

Questions (68, 69)

Barry Cowen

Question:

68. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Finance the number of homes that the National Asset Management Agency has made available for the provision of social housing since March 2011 to date in 2012. [56139/12]

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Barry Cowen

Question:

69. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Finance the number of homes that he anticipates the National Asset Management Agency will make available for the provision of social housing in 2013. [56140/12]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 68 and 69 together.

NAMA advises that it has identified 3,879 residential properties controlled by its debtors and receivers as being available for social housing provision. This represents a very substantial contribution by NAMA in the context of the limited number of available residential properties in Ireland controlled by its debtors and receivers and the range of policy measures being adopted by this Government to meet demand for social housing provision.

The onus for determining the suitability for social housing of the units identified by NAMA rests, in the first instance, with the local authorities, which assess, in conjunction with the Housing Agency, the demand for identified houses and apartments by reference to criteria including the avoidance of undue segregation in housing within specific developments and areas. Once local authorities have confirmed demand for units, the Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) are, through the Housing Agency, asked to confirm and progress their interest in leasing or purchasing the units.

I am advised that to date demand has been confirmed by the local authorities for 1,484 of the properties that NAMA has made available. Another 841 properties are being evaluated bringing the overall total that may be deemed suitable to 2,325 potentially. The local authorities have confirmed that there is no demand in respect of 902 of the properties. I am advised by NAMA that, in the time required by local authorities to assess and confirm demand for units, 652 properties have been sold or privately let by their owners or duly appointed receivers.

Of the properties for which demand has been confirmed, 133 were delivered for social housing during the year, contract terms have been signed or agreed in respect of a further 84 properties and negotiations are at an advanced stage in relation to the majority of the remaining units. A further 563 residential properties are also subject to active negotiation by the various AHBs which brings the overall total residential properties completed and committed to 704 for 2012.

I am advised by NAMA that once demand has been confirmed for units and contracts signed there is no impediment to the early delivery of properties by its debtors and receivers for social housing. I am further advised by NAMA that it recently established a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) to acquire units from its debtors and receivers where necessary to speed up their direct leasing to housing authorities. NAMA advises that once the AHBs have confirmed their demand for and contracted to lease properties it will be in a position to make them available through the SPV.

NAMA is working very closely with the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government and the Minister of State for Housing and Planning in relation to this very important initiative and all parties are committed to the maximum possible delivery of residential units in 2013. The Deputy will appreciate that the housing authorities have a key role in this regard and the Housing Agency is working very closely with these bodies to facilitate delivery of units. However, the pace at which units are delivered is not controlled by NAMA and I am satisfied that NAMA has brought the initiative as far as it can at this point in time.

Budget 2013

Questions (70)

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

70. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Education and Skills the impact the recent changes in budget 2013 will have on a school (details supplied) in County Meath, including changes to overall budget, staffing levels including student teacher ratio, and support to students with special needs. [56023/12]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The Government has protected frontline services in schools to the greatest extent possible in the recent budget and there will no reduction in teacher numbers in primary schools and in free second level schools for the 2013/14 school year as a result of the budget. The criteria used for the allocation of teachers to schools is published annually on my Department's website and the staffing arrangements for the 2013/14 school year will be published in January.

The staffing process for the 2013/14 school year at individual school level will be initiated early in 2013, however the final staffing position for all schools will not be known until later in the year when the allocation process will be fully completed and all appeals to the Staffing Appeals Board will have been considered.

Student Grant Scheme Applications

Questions (71)

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

71. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason a person (details supplied) in County Cavan received the amount of grant they got; if they are entitled to a larger grant; if they can appeal same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56031/12]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Officials in my Department have confirmed with Student Universal Support Ireland that, in the case of the student referred to by the Deputy, a grant has been awarded and an award letter issued on 16th November, 2012.

If the applicant considers that the grant awarded is not the correct one, she may appeal, in the first instance, to SUSI. Where an individual applicant has had an appeal turned down, in writing, by SUSI, and remains of the view that SUSI has not interpreted the scheme correctly in his/her case, an appeal form outlining the position may be submitted by the applicant to the Student Grant Appeals Board. The relevant appeal form will be available on request from SUSI.

Maternity Benefit Issues

Questions (72)

Eric J. Byrne

Question:

72. Deputy Eric Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding maternity benefit in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56065/12]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Changes are being introduced in relation to the maternity leave entitlements for teachers and SNAs, however the statutory 26 weeks of paid and 16 weeks of unpaid maternity leave available to teachers and SNAs are completely unaffected by this decision.Teachers and SNAs who have been absent on maternity leave can currently avail of a maximum of 30 additional paid absence days in lieu of any school closures which overlapped with the 26 week period of maternity leave to which a teacher or SNA is entitled.

These additional days, which are taken during a period when the school is open, require the school to employ a substitute teacher or SNA to cover the absence at considerable cost to the taxpayer.

The Government has decided it is no longer justifiable to provide additional paid days off for those on maternity leave. Under the new arrangements, a teacher/SNA can still avail of the minimum statutory annual leave entitlements during periods of school closure either before or after taking her maternity leave.My alternative choice in this Budget was to increase the pupil-teacher ratio for all mainstream schools and I decided to retain the existing ratio in order to avoid having larger class sizes for our children.

I am conscious that teachers may be already planning their maternity leave arrangements and I have given the sector as much notice as possible before implementing this change. It will take effect from 1st May 2013, and will deliver savings of up to €20m in a full year. Days in lieu of maternity leave will not be accrued on and from 1st May 2013 but any remaining leave in lieu on that date may be taken after it.

No budget decision is ever easy to make. However, I have tried my best to protect frontline education services as best as possible in this Budget.

Student Grant Scheme Delays

Questions (73)

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

73. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason a person (details supplied) in County Cavan has not received their grant; the reason there has been a delay in view of the fact that they had supplied all the necessary documentation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56071/12]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Officials in my Department have confirmed with SUSI, the new centralised grant awarding authority, that on the 12th December, 2012 a request for further documentation was issued to the student referred to by the Deputy. When the requested documentation is returned the student will be notified directly of the outcome.

Student Grant Scheme Applications

Questions (74)

Timmy Dooley

Question:

74. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a student (details supplied) in County Clare will be notified of the outcome of their education grant application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56074/12]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Officials in my Department have confirmed with SUSI, the new centralised grant awarding authority, that on the 12th December, 2012 the student was requested to submit his Final Course Acceptance Form. When the document is returned to SUSI the student will be notified directly of the outcome.