Community Employment Schemes Funding

Questions (188)

Robert Dowds

Question:

188. Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Social Protection the criteria under which a community employment scheme sponsor may qualify for a top-up materials grant, as announced by her in 2012. [10684/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The top-up materials grant to which the Deputy refers was only applicable in 2012 pending publication of the CE Financial Review. At that point, the scheme budgets were finalised based on the detailed discussions between Department officials and the Community Employment (CE) Sponsors.

Community Employment Schemes Review

Questions (189)

Robert Dowds

Question:

189. Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will give consideration to any measure which could reduce the cost currently circa €1,500 of annual audits to community employment scheme sponsors, which are limited companies. [10685/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

A financial review of the CE schemes was carried out by Department officials last year. One of the findings was that the requirement that an annual audit be conducted for each scheme without any limit being placed on the amount allowable for audit costs, had in certain cases resulted in value for money not being secured. A comparison of audit fees indicated that there was a wide variation in costs (minima €20, maxima €9,500). The level of reimbursement of audit fees has now been capped at €1,000 from the overall materials grant, which is considered to be adequate.

Unemployment Levels

Questions (190)

Niall Collins

Question:

190. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Social Protection the unemployment level in Newcastle West, Kilmallock and Limerick city in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and to date in 2013. [10687/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The number of persons on the live register as published by the Central Statistics Office (CSO), in Newcastle West, Kilmallock and Limerick City, at the end of each of the years 2009 to 2012 and at the end of January 2013 is detailed in the tabular statement.

Live register as published by the CSO at the end of December in each of the years 2009 to 2012 and at the end of January 2013.

Area

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

Kilmallock

2762

2707

2650

2563

2549

Newcastle West

3521

3484

3376

3161

3178

Limerick City

15092

14779

14313

13504

13577

Source – www.cso.ie

Community Employment Schemes Funding

Questions (191)

Dara Calleary

Question:

191. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Social Protection the provisions being made for community employment scheme sponsors to avail of assistance in meeting the cost of rent of premises; her views on whether the cessation of rent payment under materials claims is putting the future of many schemes in jeopardy; if she will outline the circumstances in which rent can be paid; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10723/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

Rental costs are not an eligible expenditure under the CE materials grant except in exceptional circumstances with the written approval of the Department. The CE Financial Review carried out in 2012 revealed that for the majority of cases rental costs were to enable the delivery of services of the sponsor body rather than to provide specific accommodation for the CE scheme. To provide an equitable solution to the situation it was proposed that where rental costs had been allowed, they would continue to be funded in 2012 from the materials budget under specific conditions:

1. Details of when the building was acquired/rented and details of current square footage usage and any additional income being received through room rental.

2. Invoices to be on a 3rd party invoice with Employer/Individual Tax number.

3. A copy of the Lease Agreement and Tax Clearance Cert or PBRT registration number.

Departmental Staff Data

Questions (192, 194)

Seán Fleming

Question:

192. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of agency and contract staff currently employed under the aegis of her Department; the mechanism in place for monitoring and managing the associated costs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10986/13]

View answer

Clare Daly

Question:

194. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will outline the numbers and cost of agency staff under the aegis of her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11065/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 192 and 194 together.

In March 2012, one member of staff in the Department, the Chief Medical Advisor, was re-hired on a temporary contract on a payscale of €93,197 to €113,503. Payment of his pension is abated pending the termination of his temporary contract. The decision to re-employ the Chief Medical Advisor was taken due to his specific skills and his involvement in the policy reform of the illness related schemes, the difficulty and long lead-in time for replacing his skills, and the critical importance of ensuring continuity and a high level of service to customers of the Department.

There are currently 262 temporary clerical officers employed in the Department. Temporary clerical staff are recruited to cover absences of permanent staff on maternity leave, long term sick leave, other statutory leave and also to provide cover for some staff availing of the shorter working year scheme. They are also recruited to alleviate work pressure in certain areas, and to assist in the roll out of the Public Service Card project. Temporary contracts are offered for a specific timeframe or fixed purpose and the term can vary according to the purpose of the contract. The contracts are kept under review by the HR Division and are terminated when the purpose for the contract has ceased. Some of the costs involved in the recruitment of temporary staff can be offset, for example, where permanent staff avail of certain unpaid statutory leave such as the shorter working year scheme or unpaid leave; or where staff on long-term sick leave are on a reduced salary.

The Citizens Information Board (CIB) currently has five temporary clerical officers assigned to provide general mortgage information and advice. The costs of their salaries are being met by the mortgage lenders. The CIB also has one agency staff member (0.5 full time equivalent) on an annual salary of €16,158.

The Office of the Pensions Ombudsman currently has one temporary clerical officer assigned.

The Pensions Board currently has seven staff members employed on fixed term contracts, all of which will expire in the last quarter of 2014. In addition, the board currently has one temporary member of staff covering a staff absence.

Temporary clerical officers are paid on a weekly pay scale ranging from €421.92 to €680.62 for staff employed in the public service prior to 1/1/2011 or €379.72 to €612.56 for new entrants employed from 1/1/2011.

Departmental Staff Rehiring

Question No. 194 answered with Question No. 192.

Questions (193)

Joan Collins

Question:

193. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of public sector workers who have retired in the past three years within her Department or any office or body under her aegis who have been reinstated; if she will provide details on the pay rates they are receiving; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11000/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

In March 2012, one member of staff in the Department, the Chief Medical Advisor, was re-hired on a temporary contract on a payscale of €93,197 to €113,503. Payment of his pension is abated pending the termination of his temporary contract. The decision to re-employ the Chief Medical Advisor was taken due to his specific skills and his involvement in the policy reform of the illness related schemes, the difficulty and long lead-in time for replacing his skills, and the critical importance of ensuring continuity and a high level of service to customers of the Department.

As an exception to the current moratorium on recruitment, my Department has limited sanction to recruit temporary clerical officers to cover critical staff absences and to assist with the roll-out of the new Public Service Card. Three of these temporary staff are retired civil servants. They are on a payscale of €22,016 to €35,515 and were recruited from open competitions run by the Public Appointments Service. Abatement of pension applies, if applicable, pending the termination of their temporary contracts. Following an open competition for staff with investigative skills, the Pensions Board, which is under the aegis of my Department, employed two people on temporary contracts who were previously employed by An Garda Síochana and who are in receipt of Garda pensions. The salary scales for the two staff are €46,081 - €58,294 and €65,185 - €80,678.

Question No. 194 answered with Question No. 192.

Heritage Council Funding

Questions (195)

James Bannon

Question:

195. Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he will provide an update regarding the inequitable cuts to the Heritage Council which have resulted in grants programme not being available for 2013, to the detriment of funding for local heritage projects; if this deficit will be compensated for in 2014; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10694/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Arts)

The level of funding allocated from my Department’s vote to the Heritage Council will be set out in the revised estimate volume which is due to be published shortly. I also hope to be in a position to provide some funding to the Council from my Department's share of the Environment Fund. It will be a matter for the Council to decide how its funding should be allocated across the range of research, education and conservation programmes it supports in 2013 and future years having regard to competing priorities for limited resources.

The scope to provide additional funding for the protection, conservation and development of the State’s heritage is constrained by the current national economic difficulties and the significant reduction in the public finances. Between 2008 and 2011 the level of funding from voted expenditure to the Heritage Council was reduced by 55%. However, my Department will continue to provide funding for the protection, conservation and development of our built and natural heritage, in so far as resources allow. The allocation to the Heritage Council in 2014 will be subject to the normal budgetary processes.

Hedge Cutting Season

Questions (196)

Pat Deering

Question:

196. Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he will extend the hedge cutting season to allow farmers cut their hedges (details supplied). [10474/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Arts)

Under Section 40 of the Wildlife Acts, the cutting, grubbing, burning or destruction by other means of vegetation growing on uncultivated land or in hedges or ditches is prohibited during the nesting and breeding season for birds and wildlife, from 1 March to 31 August subject to certain specific exceptions. Hedgerows are an important reservoir of biodiversity and habitat for birds, insects, wild flowers and other wildlife during the summer breeding season. The purpose of these provisions is to protect bird life during the nesting season, to prevent forest fires, and to protect vegetation and wildlife habitats during the months of growth and reproduction. I have no current plans to extend the period for hedge cutting.

While hedgerows and scrub are important as wildlife habitats, they need to be managed in the interests of both farming and biodiversity. Accordingly, I included a commitment in the National Biodiversity Plan 2011-2016 to review the overall policy in this area. The commitment is to review, in co-operation with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, both hedgerow and scrub regulation with a view to producing guidelines to encourage best practice for hedgerow and scrub management for wildlife. As part of that review, the potential for setting the relevant dates by statutory instrument, rather than in primary legislation as is the position currently, will be examined.