Disadvantaged Areas Scheme Appeals

Questions (429)

James Bannon

Question:

429. Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the reason an adjudication on an appeal in relation to payment of the 2012 disadvantaged area scheme has been delayed in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Longford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11293/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The person named is one of a number of applicants under the 2012 Disadvantaged Areas Scheme, whose cases are impacted by the requirement of a minimum stocking density of 0.3 livestock units per forage hectare in 2011 and who applied for and were refused derogation in this regard. Additional information was subsequently supplied to my Department which showed that this requirement had been satisfied, thereby allowing processing to be finalised. Payment issued to the nominated bank account on 1 February 2013.

Suckler Welfare Scheme Applications

Questions (430)

James Bannon

Question:

430. Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position regarding a suckler welfare scheme in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Longford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11304/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The person named registered 8 animals for the 2011 Suckler Welfare Scheme. The Terms and Conditions require that applicants undertake to carry out and notify to my Department, the requisite measures for the full 5 year duration of this Scheme. In August 2011, applicants were informed of the requirement to notify the details of these measures within one year of the date of birth of the animal. In this particular instance the animals were born between June and October 2011and all of the required data in relation to the measures carried out on these animals has not been received to date. In order for the case to be considered further the person concerned should write to the Review Officer, Suckler Welfare Scheme, Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Government Offices, Portlaoise, Co. Laois, setting out the reasons as to why the data was not submitted within the required timeframe and provide any supporting documentation.

Disadvantaged Areas Scheme Appeals

Questions (431)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

431. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position regarding disadvantaged area payment in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry. [11333/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The person named is one of a number of applicants under the 2012 Disadvantaged Areas Scheme, whose cases are impacted by the requirement of a minimum stocking density of 0.3 livestock units per forage hectare and who applied for and were refused derogation in this regard. The person named subsequently availed of the option to appeal to the independently chaired DAS Appeals Committee. The Committee has adjudicated on this appeal and the person concerned has been notified of the unsuccessful outcome, in writing, on 12 December 2012. As advised in that letter, it is open to the person named to pursue the matter with the Office of the Ombudsman.

Disadvantaged Areas Scheme Applications

Questions (432)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

432. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position regarding headage payments in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11335/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Under 2012 Disadvantaged Areas Scheme, the holdings of eligible applicants were required to have met a minimum stocking density of 0.15 livestock units for a retention period of six consecutive months, in addition to maintaining an annual average of 0.15 livestock units calculated over the twelve months of the scheme year. As the applicant has not as yet demonstrated that the holding satisfies the scheme minimum stocking density requirements, as of now, no payment is due in respect of the 2012 Scheme. My Department has been in direct contact with the person named to clarify the matter.

Disadvantaged Areas Scheme Appeals

Questions (433)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

433. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when a decision will be made on a derogation appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; the reason for the delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11401/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The person named is one of a number of applicants under the 2012 Disadvantaged Areas Scheme, whose cases were impacted by the requirement of a minimum stocking density of 0.3 livestock units per forage hectare and who applied for and were refused derogation in this regard. The person named subsequently availed of the option to appeal to the independently chaired DAS Appeals Committee. The Committee has adjudicated on this appeal and the person concerned has been notified of the unsuccessful outcome, in writing, on 12 December 2012. As advised in that letter, it is open to the person named to pursue the matter with the Office of the Ombudsman.

Appointments to State Boards

Questions (434)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

434. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of appointments he has made from March 2011 to January 2013 to State boards; in the case of each appointment, the number of appointments that were made to members of the general public who submitted a curriculum vitae for the appointment; the number of direct appointments he made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11468/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Since May 2011, a notification has been placed on my Department’s website inviting expressions of interest from persons interested in being appointed to the boards of State Bodies under the aegis of my Department. On 7 September 2012 last, I placed an advertisement in the National Newspapers inviting expressions of interest. All expressions of interest lapse at the end of the calendar year.

In making any board appointments, I am not necessarily confined to those who make such expressions of interest but ensure that all of those appointed have the relevant mix of knowledge and expertise to contribute to the relevant board. In the case of a number of bodies, some board appointments, while made by me, are not at my sole discretion and, instead, individuals are nominated for appointment by me by various organisations as specified in the relevant statute. These are the Aquaculture Licensing Appeals Board, Bord Bia, Teagasc, National Milk Agency, Veterinary Council of Ireland and Horse Racing Ireland.

The information sought by the Deputy is outlined in the table below as at 5 March 2013:

Body/Agency

No of Board Members

No of Board appointments since March 2011

Name

Date Appointed

‘Expression of Interest’ appointments

Aquaculture Licensing Appeals Board

7

4

Brendan Brice

Camilla Keane

Sean Murphy

Michael Sweeney

9 November 2011

23 February 2012

1 January 2013

1 January 2013

None-nominations made by prescribed organisations from which Minister made appointments

An Bord Bia

15

10

( including the Chair)

Michael Carey (Chair)

19 November 2011

None-nominations made by prescribed organisations from which Minister made appointments

Gary Brown

Michael Cronin

Rhona Holland

John Kingston

Brody Sweeney

John Comer

Mary J Byrne

John Bryan

John Horgan

7 October 2011

7 October 2011

7 October 2011

7 October 2011

7 October 2011

8 February 2012

28 March 2012

24 March 2012

7 December 2012

Bord Iascaigh Mhara

6

1

Kieran Calnan (Chair)

13 June 2012

None

Bord na gCon

7

6

( including the Chair)

Philip Meaney (Chair)

12 April 2011

None

Matt Murphy

Brendan Moore

Tim Gilbert

Tony McNamee

William O’Dwyer

2 December 2011

2 December 2011

2 December 2011

2 December 2011

12 June 2012

Coillte

9

3

( including the Chair)

Brendan McKenna (Chair)

8 October 2012

None

Oliver McCabe

David Gunning

24 October 2011

- Resigned from board with effect from 1 November 2012

25 May 2012

Horse Racing Ireland

14

3

Noel Meade

Neville O’Byrne

Mary O’Connor

8 February 2012

8 February 2012

8 February 2012

None

Irish National Stud

7

1

Matt Dempsey

28 February 2013

None

Marine Institute

9

3

Paul Hyde

David Owen

Prof Patricia Barker

1 June 2012

4 December 2012

19 February 2013

Two appointments were from ‘expressions of interest’

National Milk Agency

14 including Chair

6

Elected Members

Denis Fagan

Eamonn McEnteggart

Padraig Mulligan

Timothy Cashman

Jerome Crowley

Nominated Members

Eoghan Sweeney

23 January 2012

23 January 2012

23 January 2012

23 January 2012

23 January 2012

23 January 2012

None

Sea Fisheries Protection Authority

3

1

Dr Susan Steele

4 March 2013

Yes

Teagasc

11

4

Thomas Cooke

Dr Karina Pierce

Brendan Gleeson

Tom Tynan

5 October 2011

9 January 2013

9 January 2013

9 January 2013

3 of the appointments were from ‘expressions of interest’

Veterinary Council

19

6

Michael Sheahan

Peadar Ó’Scanaill

Michael Sadlier

Deirdre Campion

Martin Blake

Crionna Creagh*

1 January 2012

1 January 2012

1 January 2012

1 January 2012

21 December 2011

27 August 2012

None

No appointments to the following State Bodies have been made since March 2011:

- National Milk Agency – members elected rather than appointed

Directors of State Bodies who are officials of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine do not receive board fees.

* Appointed directly by the Minister as provided under Section 17 (2) of the Veterinary Practice Act 2005 as the National Consumer Agency chose not to furnish a nomination

Fishery Harbour Centres

Questions (435)

Thomas Pringle

Question:

435. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the steps he will take to ensure that a tug boat service is available in Killybegs Fishery Harbour Centre, County Donegal, to ensure that the port can continue to develop and attract shipping business and also provide for a vital safety tool to be available to all users of the harbour including the emergency services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11490/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The provision and engagement of a tug boat service at Killybegs Fishery Harbour Centre is a commercial and private transaction between vessel owners and tug boat service providers. Although my Department does not play any role in the provision of tug boat services, I can confirm that I have endeavoured to encourage and facilitate the provision of such services by private enterprise through the application of minimal harbour charges for tug boat operators. The annual charge levied for tug boats at Killybegs Fishery Harbour Centre is limited to €200 per year.

Agriculture Schemes Eligibility

Questions (436)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

436. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the protections he will provide to small farmers who have to make earnings outside of agriculture so that their initiative to work an extra job will not be detrimental to their farm related entitlements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11520/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Earnings outside of agriculture do not affect entitlements to the Single Farm Payment or to Disadvantaged Area Payments. Total income is assessed by the Revenue Commissioners for income tax and any queries concerning taxation regulations should be directed to them.

Common Agricultural Policy Reform

Questions (437)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

437. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position regarding reform of the single farm payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11521/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The reform of the single farm payment arises in the context of the negotiations on the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, where perhaps the most contentious issue is the question of how direct payments should be redistributed between farmers within Member States, by a process referred to as ‘internal convergence’.

The Commission has proposed a movement to a system of flat-rate national or regional payments by 2019. This would result in significant transfers between farmers in a number of Member States, including Ireland. These Member States are seeking a solution that will mitigate this impact. Indeed, Ireland has been to the forefront in developing an alternative model of partial convergence which, while consistent with the overall thrust of the Commission's proposal, results in a more measured outcome. We have been formally supported by five other Member States in this regard, while a number of others are also sympathetic to this approach. Other Member States - such as the newer Member States who already implement an area-based system - are seeking alternative solutions, while others still (including Germany) are happy with the flat rate system.

Last week’s Council of Agriculture Ministers broadly endorsed a package of measures tabled by the Irish Presidency aimed at achieving a compromise on this very difficult issue. This package included the option to implement the Irish model. The Council’s endorsement represented a considerable success for Ireland, which twelve months ago was alone in suggesting such an alternative approach. Further work remains to be done, but I hope that a final set of proposals can be agreed by the Council later this month.

There has been a good deal of comment in recent weeks about the state of play on this issue, and particularly in the aftermath of last week’s Council meeting. Much of this comment has been misinformed, and has been characterised by unhelpful speculation about the potential impact of the proposals on Irish farmers and on the agri-food sector generally. We need to retain a little bit of perspective. I would remind farmers - and commentators - that we are in the early stages of a two-phase negotiating process. We need to reach a compromise not just within the Council of Ministers but also, subsequently, with the European Parliament and the Commission. Ultimately, I believe we will find a solution that lies somewhere between the extreme of the Commission flat-rate proposal and the more measured Irish approach, because that is where the common ground between 27 Member States will lie. I will be working to ensure that that solution is as close to the Irish model as possible.

Single Payment Scheme Eligibility

Questions (438)

Michael Colreavy

Question:

438. Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if land with rushes growing on it is considered grazable land; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11544/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

In order to be eligible under the Single Payment Scheme and other area based schemes, an applicant must ensure that all agricultural land is maintained in good agricultural and environmental condition (GAEC). Farmers can keep grassland in GAEC by conducting an agricultural activity on it such as grazing, harvesting forage crops, or by topping. Grasslands continue to be eligible where it is evident that the stocking rate used by the applicant on the land is sufficient and, for example, can keep rushes under control and avoid their proliferation. In such situations, the reality is that there may not be a necessity to cut rushes. Where a farmer cuts rushes as part of management practice, with the exception of certain designated lands, there are no restrictions on when this is done, enabling the task to be carried out at any time throughout the year once conditions are suitable.

Agriculture Schemes Eligibility

Questions (439, 440)

Michael Colreavy

Question:

439. Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if physical and satellite inspections are carried out on farms in a small timeframe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11545/13]

View answer

Michael Colreavy

Question:

440. Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the amount of notification farmers are given prior to an inspection; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11546/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 439 and 440 together.

In the context of delivering the Single Payment Scheme, Disadvantaged Areas’ Scheme and other area based schemes, my Department is required to carry out an annual round of inspections covering both the eligibility of the land declared to draw down payments and also cross compliance aspects, to ensure compliance with EU regulatory requirements in the areas of public, animal and plant health, environment and animal welfare.

Land eligibility checks must be carried out on at least 5% of applicants. These checks are carried out to verify that the actual area claimed in the application form corresponds to the area farmed and to ensure that any ineligible land or features are not included for aid purposes. Currently, around two-thirds of these inspections are carried out in the first instance without the need for a farm visit, as the information needed is acquired using the technique of remote sensing via satellite. When the available images do not permit a satisfactory verification of the land use or area of a parcel(s) applied for by an applicant, perhaps due to cloud cover, it is an EU requirement that a ground inspection must take place. These inspections are generally limited to verifying the area of the particular parcel(s) where the position is unclear from the imagery available (unless 80% or more of the area was unclear). The results obtained are used, in combination with the clear satellite imagery, to finalise the eligibility inspection of the entire areas declared.

As regards the timing of inspections, the annual inspection cycle can only commence following completion of a structured risk analysis selection process which includes the analysis and evaluation of data from the previous year’s inspections. Eligibility inspections, as such, can only commence following the initial stages of processing of the current year’s Single Payment Scheme applications. All eligibility inspections must take place before any payments can issue to any farmers in the country in a given year. It is a regulatory requirement that Cross Compliance inspections must take place throughout the calendar year to take account of specific requirements at individual Statutory Management Requirement level.

Provided the purpose of the control is not jeopardised, relevant EU Regulations enable my Department to give up to 14 days notice for land eligibility inspections. This also applies for cross compliance inspections involving Statutory Management Requirements (SMRs), other than those related to animal identification and registration, feed, food and animal welfare. For checks involving animal identification and registration, the maximum advance notice permitted under EU regulations is 48 hours, provided the purpose of the inspection is not jeopardised. For SMRs dealing with feed, food and animal welfare, no advance notice is permitted under governing EU Regulations.

As a general rule and following requests from the farming organisations, my Department tries to integrate inspections, including all of the cross compliance inspection elements, with a view to avoiding more than one visit to a farm; this, however, has implications for the degree of flexibility available to my Department to give advance notice. Nonetheless, in respect of those elements of an integrated inspection for which advance notice is possible, the farmer can request deferral of those particular elements to a separate inspection.

Felling Licences Applications

Questions (441)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

441. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position regarding a permit in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry. [11578/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The applicant submitted a felling licence application, no. GFL12173, which was received by the Forest Service on 6 March 2012. In his report on 25 May 2012, the District Inspector recommended refusal of the licence because the plantation is not ready for thinning and there was a high risk of wind-throw. Following discussions between the Inspector and the applicant’s forester, on 7 August 2012 the applicant was asked to provide a wind-throw hazard risk assessment and a mitigation plan to offset any risk. To date, the Forest Service has received no reply. However, the applicant submitted a second felling licence application, no. GFL12488, which was received by the Forest Service on 10 May 2012. This second application appears to be for the same site as that applied for under GFL12173 but with a different age profile for the trees to be felled. On this basis, the Forest Service is currently clarifying the situation with GFL12488.

Ash Dieback Threat

Questions (442)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

442. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the exact extent of ash plant disease here; and if surveys are planned by his Department. [11581/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

In total there are now 46 confirmed cases of the disease. Of these 26 are in forestry plantations in Counties Carlow, Cavan, Clare, Galway, Kildare, Kilkenny, Leitrim, Longford, Meath, Tipperary and Waterford. There are 14 Horticultural Nurseries that have tested positive for the disease, three samples from roadside landscaping have tested positive as well as one Garden Centre, one private garden and one farm. In addition to the confirmed findings other samples have been submitted on an ongoing basis to the laboratory and the results are awaited. Since the disease was first confirmed in Ireland, this Department has been carrying out a nationwide survey of ash forests which are known to have been planted in recent years with saplings imported from the continent. My Department has extended the scope of the survey work to cover ash plantations planted since 1992 and are also surveying AEOS and REPS plantings.

Disadvantaged Areas Scheme Payments

Questions (443)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

443. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when payment of the 2012 disadvantaged area scheme will issue in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11592/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Under 2012 Disadvantaged Areas Scheme, the holdings of eligible applicants were required to have met a minimum stocking density of 0.15 livestock units for a retention period of six consecutive months, in addition to maintaining an annual average of 0.15 livestock units calculated over the twelve months of the scheme year. As the applicant has not as yet demonstrated that the holding satisfies the scheme minimum stocking density requirements, as of now, no payment is due in respect of the 2012 Scheme.

Agri-Environment Options Scheme Payments

Questions (444)

Paul Connaughton

Question:

444. Deputy Paul J. Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when an agri-environment options scheme payment for 2012 will issue in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11691/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The person named was approved for participation in the Agri-Environment Options Scheme with effect from 1 September 2010 and full payments totalling €1,050.30 and €3,629.48 issued in respect of 2010 and 2011 respectively. Under the EU Regulations governing the Scheme and other area-based payment schemes, a comprehensive administrative check, including cross-checks with the Land Parcel Identification System, must be completed before any payment can issue. During these checks for 2012 an issue was identified in relation to the claimed areas on the Species Rich Grassland action which resulted in a 2.25% penalty reduction in two land parcels. To date 75% payment totalling €2,721.24 issued on 4 March 2013 in respect of 2012. My Department is currently examining the issues identified with the intention of issuing the balancing 25% payment in respect of 2012 as soon as possible.

Harbours and Piers Funding

Questions (445)

John Deasy

Question:

445. Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will provide funding for urgent improvements to the harbour slipway at Dunmore East, County Waterford, in view of the importance of this work being carried out before the summer. [11708/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The harbour at Dunmore East is one of the six designated Fishery Harbour Centres which are owned, managed and maintained by my Department. Funding is made available on an annual basis by my Department to the Fishery Harbour Centres, including Dunmore East, via the Fishery Harbour and Coastal Infrastructure Capital Development Programme. The allocation of funding for projects within the 2013 Programme is currently under consideration for each of the Fishery Harbour Centres.

Home Schooling

Questions (446)

Simon Harris

Question:

446. Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the options in place for a child to avail of home schooling; the criteria which must be met to be eligible for home schooling; the way a parent goes about applying to have their child home schooled; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11024/13]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

Recognising the constitutional role of the family as primary educator of the child, the Education (Welfare) Act, 2000 provides for the right of every child to a “certain minimum education” and sets out the requirements for the registration of children as being in receipt of an education in a place other than a recognised school, including home settings. Parents/guardians who decide to educate their child at home are legally obliged under the Act to undertake a registration process through the National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB). This involves the submission of an application process to the NEWB by the parent/guardian, which is followed by an assessment by the Board of the education being provided. The assessment process is outlined under the Education (Welfare) Act, 2000 and in the Department of Education and Skills’ Guidelines on the Assessment of Education in Places other than Recognised Schools.

I am advised by the Board that if, after the preliminary assessment, it cannot be determined if the child is in receipt of a certain minimum education, the Board will require that a comprehensive assessment be carried out under Section 14 of the Act. Parents wishing to undertake the registration process should refer to the website of the National Educational Welfare Board at www.newb.ie for further information on home schooling or contact the NEWB at 01 8738736.

Foster Care Provision

Questions (447)

Billy Kelleher

Question:

447. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the action she will take to address the lack of resources for foster-care services as highlighted in the Report Inspection of the Health Service Executive Dublin North West Local Health Area Fostering Service in the HSE Dublin North East Region; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11156/13]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

HIQA undertakes inspection of foster care services against the National Standards for Foster Care, under Section 69 of the Child Care Act 1991. The purpose of foster care inspections is to review compliance with regulations and standards for all children. HIQA's inspection methodology includes interviewing HSE managers and social workers, a sample of children, carers and birth parents and review a range of files, including complaints. Foster care services in HSE Dublin North West Area have been inspected by HIQA on three occasions since September 2009, the most recent of which took place in October 2012. Progress was noted particularly in the area of foster care assessment, approval and training with all general foster carers approved and significant improvements in the area of relative foster carers. Some 96% of children in foster care had been visited by a social worker within the preceding six months.

Notwithstanding such progress, I was concerned to note that inspectors found that some deficits identified previously had not been rectified. Allegations made against a small number of foster carers had not been fully resolved. Inspectors found that there were inadequacies in systems to assess risk and to investigate and take timely action in response to concerns. File keeping, data collection and analysis were also found to be lacking. The inspection also found that sufficient foster carers have not been recruited within the area and this has provided difficulties in making placements and matching children with particular needs with the most suitable carers. Recruitment of foster carers is of concern more generally and it is intended to conduct a national recruitment campaign in the coming months.

An Action Plan to address the weaknesses identified was prepared by HIQA. In order to ensure that the Action Plan is fully implemented, I have requested that the HSE set up a high level oversight process to be lead by the Head of Quality Assurance to ensure implementation of all the HIQA recommendations. I intend that this oversight process will provide regular updates to both me and HIQA on the implementation of the Action Plan. Last week I met with Mr Gordon Jeyes Chief Executive Designated of the Child and Family Support Agency to review the actions underway to address the critical issues identified.

UN Convention on Children's Rights

Questions (448)

Robert Troy

Question:

448. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs when Ireland will submit our report on the implementation of our obligation to the UN Convention on rights of the child. [11066/13]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

Ireland ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1992. Ireland submitted our second progress report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in 2005/2006. A third progress report was due to be submitted in 2009, but regrettably this did not happen. Therefore, following the establishment of my Department in June 2011, I directed that a substantial progress report, combining the 3rd and 4th reports, to cover the period 2006 to 2011 inclusive should be submitted to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in mid 2012.

An Inter-Departmental Liaison Group was established to prepare the report and a draft of the report was completed in December 2012. The report was sent to the Children's Rights Alliance for their observations in December 2012. On foot of this, officials of my Department and the Inter-Departmental Liaison Group met with the Children's Rights Alliance and its member organisations on 28 January, 2013. Following this meeting the Children's Rights Alliance submitted initial observations to my Department on 8 February, followed by further observations on 25 February. These observations are currently being considered by my Department and it is my intention to finalise the report and bring it to Government shortly, in advance of submission to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. The report outlines the most significant developments for children and how Ireland has been implementing the main aims of the UN Convention during the period 2006 to 2011 inclusive.

After-School Support Services

Questions (449)

Robert Troy

Question:

449. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will provide a detailed update regarding the 6,000 after school places as announced in budget 2013. [11067/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

As previously advised, the new School Age Childcare initiative, targeted at low-income parents availing of employment opportunities, was announced by myself and my colleague, the Minister for Social Protection, as part of Budget 2013. Eligibility for the programme is a matter for the Department of Social Protection (DSP). Officials from the DSP and my Department are continuing to liaise and are currently considering the operational details of the programme. It is expected that a pilot project will be launched shortly which will assist both Departments in determining the procedures necessary for the full roll-out of the programme in September 2013. Further information will be made available as the work progresses.

Child Detention Centres

Questions (450)

Robert Troy

Question:

450. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will update the current status of the new national children's detention facility at Oberstown, County Dublin; and if she will confirm when it will cease detaining 16 and 17 year olds in totality. [11068/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

As the Deputy may be aware I announced in April 2012, following agreement with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, an investment package for the project to expand the detention places and facilities on the Oberstown campus, known as the national children's detention facility (NCDF) project. The main objective of this project is to meet the Programme for Government commitment to end the practice of detaining children in St Patrick's Institution.

My officials in the Irish Youth Justice Service continue to work closely to progress this project with the Office of Public Works (OPW) which is providing the relevant project management services for my Department. The tender process for the award of a contract for the project is currently ongoing and the current projected timeline estimate from the OPW indicates that the first new residential units, to provide sufficient capacity to end the practice of sending 17 year old boys to St. Patrick's Institution, will be available for use by mid 2014. My aim is to deliver suitable detention facilities on the earliest possible date, in a manner that complies with all design, planning and heath and safety requirements. I am also conscious that the Oberstown campus is already the location of the existing children detention facilities and these must remain in operation during the construction project. The overall project for the campus, which will also replace some existing outdated buildings and deliver education, visiting and other ancillary facilities, is currently scheduled for completion by mid 2015.

I assume the second part of the Deputy's question relates to when it will be possible to cease detaining 16 and 17 year old boys in St Patrick's Institution in totality. In relation to 16 year old boys, I announced the ending of the practice of detaining 16 year old boys in St Patrick’s Institution from 1 May 2012 by using existing capacity that was available on the Oberstown campus. Since July 2012, there have been no 16 year old boys detained in St Patrick’s Institution. On foot of legal changes that I have made, all 16 year old boys are now detained at Oberstown and for the first time are no longer sent to St. Patrick's Institution.

Ending the practice of detaining 17 year old boys in St Patrick's Institution will be achieved through the provision of further capacity in Oberstown by mid 2014 under the capital project now underway. In relation to the 17 year old boys who will be detained at that time on the Oberstown campus, I will have to consider the required practical, security and legal issues involved in the transition from the prison model to the children detention model, which will also involve consultation with my colleague, the Minister for Justice and Equality.

I also intend to examine the feasibility of accommodating some categories of the 17 year old age group in Oberstown before mid 2014.  In October of last year, I asked the Oberstown Board of Management and the Irish Youth Justice Service to keep this matter under review based on the trend of occupancy in Oberstown under the recent change in age categories, and I understand that their report will be available to me within the coming weeks. I will consider the information provided at that time, as well as relevant advices from the Office of the Attorney General.

Appointments to State Boards

Questions (451)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

451. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of appointments she has made from March 2011 to January 2013 to State boards; in the case of each appointment, the number of appointments that were made of members of the general public who submitted a curriculum vitae for the appointment; the number of direct appointments she made; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11470/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

I would like to inform the Deputy there are four agencies which are funded by the Exchequer through my Department's Vote. These are the Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI); the Family Support Agency (FSA); the National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) and the Ombudsman for Children. With effect from 1 January 2012, I have taken responsibility for the Children Detention Schools as provided in Part 10 of the Children Act 2001.

Apart from the Ombudsman for Children's Office which does not have a board, I am responsible for all Board of Management appointments. Since I took office in March 2011, I have directly appointed 35 persons to the Boards of Management under the aegis of my Department.

As the Deputy may be aware, in line with the Government decision of April 2011, new arrangements were put in place for the making of appointments to State Boards and bodies. Following this Government Decision, on my Department's website I have invited expressions of interest from persons interested in being appointed to the boards of State Bodies and Agencies operating under the Department's aegis. The notice indicates the vacancies in the boards of the respective bodies. My officials acknowledge all expressions of interest received and maintain a database of those expressions. My Department’s website is monitored and updated on a regular basis to reflect the number of vacancies as they arise.

The appointment of members to each of these bodies is not a competency-based process. The governing legislation in relation to each of these bodies sets out the composition of the Board either in terms of their qualifications and experience, or the Government Minister or body that is responsible for nominating representatives on them or who must be consulted in the nomination process. For example, the Adoption Act, 2010 requires that the Adoption Authority of Ireland consists of 7 members – the chairperson must be a Judge, barrister or solicitor and the ordinary members must include a social worker with experience in adoption practice, a social worker with research expertise in child welfare, child protection or both, a barrister or solicitor with experience in the practice of law in relation to families and children, a medical practitioner and a person with appropriate training in psychology. On the other hand, the Education Welfare Act, 2000 provides that the Minister shall make appointments to the National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) from among persons who in the opinion of the Minister have a special interest or expertise in matters relating to the functions of the Board.

There are also prescribed bodies to be consulted in appointing ordinary members. The Family Support Agency Act, 2001 provides that the Minister may appoint individuals to the Board who have a special interest or expertise in matters relating to the functions of the Agency. Between March 2011 and January 2013, 9 of the FSA Board members appointed by me had submitted an expression of interest. One other member appointed was a Departmental representative.

The Children Act, 2001 outlines the different Ministers and organisations that nominate persons to serve on the board of management of the children detention schools.

In making my decisions on appointments to Boards, subject to the governing legislation, I consider the most suitable persons for the positions available with due regard to the body or agency in question and its particular responsibilities and I seek to ensure that the appropriate mix of skills and experience is in place to achieve the best result.

Foreign Adoptions

Questions (452)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

452. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the progress made to date in discussions with the Russian authorities on adoptions from Russia; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11591/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

I recently travelled to Moscow, accompanied by Dr Geoffrey Shannon, Chair of the Adoption Authority of Ireland, in order to discuss at a diplomatic level issues in relation to the potential for a bilateral agreement with Russia. During my visit I met with my counter part, Minister Dmitry Livanov, Minister of Education and Science of the Russian Federation. This meeting was productive and allowed for an exchange of views on the possibility of Ireland entering into a bilateral agreement on intercountry adoption with Russia. I emphasised the success of over 1600 Russian/ Irish adoptions and the Irish Government’s willingness to find solutions to address the constitutional difficulties in relation to post placement reporting, which the current draft agreement presents.

The Russian authorities acknowledged the satisfactory outcomes for Russian children adopted in Ireland and expressed a willingness to conclude an agreement with Ireland which will be subject to the approval of the Russian parliament. My Department, together with the AAI, will continue efforts to develop proposals in this regard with a view to a possible visit by Russian officials to Ireland in the coming months. I also met with Mr Pavel Astakhov, the Russian Commissioner for Children’s Rights. The Commissioner highlighted the sensitivity of adoption and described the changes in adoption within Russia, with more emphasis on Russian families fostering and adopting children.

I am hopeful that progress can be made in relation to the development of a bilateral agreement with Russia under Section 73 of the Adoption Act 2010. In any event I intend to address the current uncertainty for parents around the future of intercountry adoption from Russia.

Child Protection

Questions (453)

Denis Naughten

Question:

453. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the steps being taken to implement the recommendations of the National Review of Sexual Abuse Services for Children and Young People; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11616/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

The Ferns Inquiry Report was published in October 2005 and contained 20 separate recommendations. The then Government accepted all of the recommendations. Many of the recommendations related to the provision of services and accordingly, from a child welfare and protection perspective, were taken forward by the HSE given its statutory responsibilities in this area. In this context the HSE established five working groups to address the various recommendations made by the Inquiry team.

The Ferns 4 Working Group was established to examine the needs of children and young persons and their families who have been affected by sexual abuse. This working Group produced its report in 2009 and one of the key recommendations was the establishment of a National Steering Committee.

The Ferns 5 Working Group was tasked with advising the HSE on the strategic direction and level of need in the area of assessment and treatment for children, adolescents and adults who have exhibited sexually harmful behaviour. The Ferns 5 Working Party completed a report in 2007.

National Review of Sexual Abuse Services for Children and Young People.

In order to update the work of the Ferns 4 and Ferns 5 Working Groups the HSE in 2010 commissioned a National Review of Sexual Abuse Services for Children and Young People to include Forensic Examination services, Joint Interviewing, Assessment of Need and Therapeutic Services. This Review considered services across all four HSE Regions including the specialist services located at Our Lady’s Hospital Crumlin and the Children’s University Hospital, Temple Street. Mott McDonald Consultants were commissioned to carry out the review and completed the Report in June 2011.

Implementation process.

The HSE established the Ferns 4 Steering Committee and the Ferns 5 Steering Committee in 2011. The role of these Committees is to examine the assessment, therapy and counselling needs of children who have been sexually abused and their families, as well children and adults who have exhibited sexually harmful behaviour and to make recommendations concerning service requirements. The Committees are multidisciplinary and multiagency with representation from all sectors including Children and Family Services, Acute Services, an Garda Síochána, Probation Service, Psychology Service and the voluntary sector.

The Ferns 4 and Ferns 5 National Steering Committees are currently reviewing the recommendations of the Ferns 4 and Ferns 5 Reports as well as the recommendations of the National Review of Sexual Abuse Services for Children and Young People. The objective of the Committees is to develop national models of service which ensure that all available resources are effectively deployed within a national, standardised service providing ready access to assessment and treatment for children and families across the country.

Fire Safety Regulations

Questions (454)

Clare Daly

Question:

454. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Health the steps he will take to ensure that fire safety regulations are adhered to in all hospitals here (details supplied). [11014/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

As this is an issue for the Health Service Executive, the Deputy's question has been referred to the Executive for direct reply.

Industrial Relations

Questions (455)

Clare Daly

Question:

455. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Health the steps he will take regarding State bodies' refusing to use the State's industrial relations machinery (details supplied). [11015/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

As this is an issue for the Health Service Executive, the Deputy's question has been referred to the Executive for direct reply.

Mental Health Services Funding

Questions (456)

Robert Troy

Question:

456. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Health the percentage of the €35 million mental health budget he has secured for child and adolescent mental health services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11069/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

Implementation of A Vision for Change, the 2006 Report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy is a priority for this Government. In 2012, 150 additional posts were allocated to Child and Adolescent Community Mental Health Teams and a further 80 posts have been identified for allocation to CAMHS in 2013 from the investment of €35m in mental health in each of those years.

Health Services Staff Remuneration

Questions (457, 458, 459)

Billy Timmins

Question:

457. Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health the position regarding the current rates of pay for nurses at all grades; also their premium pay, allowances and increments at all grades; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11139/13]

View answer

Billy Timmins

Question:

458. Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health the position regarding the rates of pay for nurses at all grades for the years 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012; also their premium pay, allowances and increments at all grades for 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012; the reductions in pay for all grades for the years 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012; and the reductions in premium pay, allowances and increments for all grades for the years 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11140/13]

View answer

Billy Timmins

Question:

459. Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health the position regarding the levies, increased PRSI, reduced annual leave and reduced sick leave for nurses at all grades for the years 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11141/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 457 to 459, inclusive, together.

The salaries and allowances in the nature of pay of all directly employed health service staff, including nurses at all grades, are subject to income tax, levies and PRSI. Details of the rates payable nationally, including increments, are contained in the health sector consolidated salary scales issued by my Department. The current and previous scales are available on my Department’s website – www.dohc.ie/publications. The rates of pay for nurses have been subject to the same modifications as the rates of pay for other public service workers over the period 2009 to 2012. The terms of revised public service arrangements in respect of annual leave and sick leave are also applicable to nursing staff.

EU Directives

Questions (460, 508)

Damien English

Question:

460. Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Health the progress made on the EU medical devices and clinical trials directives; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a number of med-tech and pharma industry bodies have raised concerns that progress has been slow and that more should be done to progress these directives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11197/13]

View answer

Damien English

Question:

508. Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Health the progress that the Irish EU Presidency has made to date in progressing the EU medical devices and clinical trials directives; if these dossiers remain a priority for the Irish EU Presidency; if his attention has been drawn to the concerns raised by a number of med-tech and pharma industry bodies that progress to date on these directives has been slow; if additional resources will be allocated during the Irish Presidency to ensure that this issue is a top priority during our tenure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11196/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 460 and 508 together.

The Clinical Trials Proposal and the two Medical Devices Proposals (one on medical devices and one on in vitro diagnostic medical devices), are high priority proposals for the Irish Presidency and have been identified as two of the four priority areas for the Health Presidency programme. I am not aware of any concerns raised by med-tech and pharma industry bodies that progress to date has been slow under the Irish Presidency and indeed I am surprised that anyone would have that perception.

To date Departmental officials have chaired seven meetings of the relevant Council Working Party in Brussels and significant progress has been made. With regard to the Clinical Trials Proposal my plan is to complete a first examination of this entire Proposal by the end of the Irish Presidency. A number of informal meetings have taken place with Ms Glennis Wilmott, MEP, Rapporteur in the European Parliament for this Proposal.

With regard to the two Medical Devices Proposals, a discussion has already taken place on some of the key chapters and informal meetings have taken place with the European Parliament rapporteurs on these dossiers, Ms Dagmar Roth Behrendt, MEP and Mr Peter Liese, MEP. In addition, my colleague, the Minister for Health, Dr James Reilly met with the rapporteurs for the Proposals in the European Parliament in January last to personally assure them of Ireland's commitment to making progress during the Irish Presidency. Both Minister Reilly and I are very happy with the progress made to date.

Tobacco Control Measures

Questions (461)

Damien English

Question:

461. Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Health his views on the joint submission, recently received by his Department to its June 2012 consultation on the Your Health is Your Wealth public health framework from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, TransAtlantic Business Dialogue, Emergency Committee for American Trade, National Association of Manufacturers, National Foreign Trade Council and US Council for International Business; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that this submission calls on the Irish Government to exercise great caution when considering the possible introduction of legislation that could damage Ireland’s reputation as a leading jurisdiction for intellectual property rights; if he is concerned that EU proposals in a number of fields could threaten Ireland’s reputation for having a strong intellectual property rights regime and as a result, impact on foreign direct investment here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11198/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

Tobacco products are the main issues outlined to in the submission referred to by the Deputy in the context of Intellectual Property. This submission was received following a consultation process held in 2012 in relation to “Your Health is Your Wealth – Health and Well-being Framework 2012-2020”. The submission refers to the fact that plain packaging of tobacco products was identified during the consultation process as a legislative gap in Ireland. This measure was just one of eight measures identified in feedback from the consultation process in relation to legislative proposals specifically related to Tobacco and was outlined in the technical supplement “A discussion paper on public health and the law, including proposals for a new Public Health Act – Draft document for consultation”. As the Deputy is aware last December the European Commission published a proposal for a new EU Tobacco Products Directive, the ultimate purpose of which is to reduce the numbers of people smoking.

Areas covered by the new proposal include labelling and packaging. The proposal foresees combined warnings (pictures plus text) of 75% to be displayed on both sides of the pack In addition under the proposal Member States would be free to regulate the area of the packet not regulated by this Directive or other Union legislation, including implementing provisions for full standardisation of tobacco products. This proposal is being discussed in the European Parliament and Council of Ministers and the Commission has expressed the hope that it will be adopted in 2014. I am fully supportive of the measures outlined in the proposal. My objective is to build consensus, facilitate agreement among the Member States and significantly progress the Commission’s proposal during Ireland's Presidency.

My colleague, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation is at the forefront of ensuring that Ireland pursues a strong intellectual property regime as part of its policy to encourage new and continued investment into Ireland. However, the issue which is the subject of the Deputy's question raises essential issues in terms of public health policy and therefore, the public interest focus must be strongly and to the fore in considering these proposals.

Alcohol Pricing

Questions (462)

Stephen Donnelly

Question:

462. Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for Health if he will provide an update on his proposals to ban below cost selling of alcohol, including his preferred approach and any agreed timescale for implementation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11450/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that real and tangible proposals are currently being finalised on foot of the recommendations in the National Substance Misuse Strategy report. These proposals cover all of the areas mentioned in the report, including legislation on minimum unit pricing. The Cabinet Committee on Social Policy has considered these proposals and I intend to bring forward specific proposals for consideration by Government as soon as possible.

In the meantime, work on developing a framework for the necessary Department of Health legislation is continuing. For example, in conjunction with Northern Ireland, a health impact assessment is being commissioned as part of the process of developing a legislative basis for minimum unit pricing. (Scotland commissioned the same sort of assessment before it drafted its legislation on minimum unit pricing.) The health impact assessment will study the impact of different minimum prices on a range of areas such as health, crime and likely economic impact.

Mobility Allowance Numbers

Questions (463, 552, 553)

Seán Fleming

Question:

463. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Health the number of persons on a county basis who are currently in receipt of the mobility allowance; the number of applications received that have not yet been approved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11726/13]

View answer

Seán Fleming

Question:

552. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Health the number of persons on a county basis who are currently in receipt of the mobility allowance; the number of applications received that have not yet been approved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11355/13]

View answer

Seán Fleming

Question:

553. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Health the number of persons on a county basis who are currently beneficiaries of the motorised transport grant scheme; the number of applications received that have not been approved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11361/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 463, 552 and 553 together.

I have provided the Deputy with the figures for numbers of applicants in receipt of the Mobility Allowance and the Motorised Transport Grant for the last full year which those figures are available, i.e. 2011, in the table below. I have referred the Deputy's specific question regarding the number of applications for each scheme received but not yet approved to the Health Service Executive, for direct reply to the Deputy.

County / HSE Region

Applicants in receipt of Mobility Allowance in 2011

Applicants in receipt of Motorised Transport Grant in 2011

Dublin South

99

1

Dublin South City

75

1

Dublin South East

68

0

Dublin South West / Kildare West Wicklow

394

5

Dublin West

207

1

Midlands

152

12

Wicklow

114

1

Meath

102

6

Louth

110

3

Cavan / Monaghan

80

3

Dublin North Central

185

1

Dublin North West

299

0

Dublin North

255

6

Carlow / Kilkenny

251

1

Cork North

109

0

Cork North Lee

213

3

Cork South Lee

171

0

Cork West

69

1

Kerry

173

1

Tipperary South Riding

116

14

Waterford

128

4

Wexford

191

7

Donegal

113

83

Galway

367

39

Mayo

160

15

Mid West

371

19

Roscommon

45

13

Sligo / Leitrim / West Cavan

85

38

TOTALS

4,702

278

Mobility Allowance Decision

Questions (464, 473, 557, 564, 565, 572, 573, 580)

Patrick Nulty

Question:

464. Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Health if he will immediately reverse his decision to abolish the mobility allowance. [11834/13]

View answer

Willie O'Dea

Question:

473. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Health his plans to remove the upper age limit of 66 years for the mobility allowance in view of the fact that that has been recommended by the Ombudsman and that the upper age limit has already been removed for the motorised transport grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11023/13]

View answer

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

557. Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Health the way he will address the mobility allowance and the motorised transport grant legality issue in order that the grants can resume within the four-month timeline that has been announced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11398/13]

View answer

Finian McGrath

Question:

564. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health if he will provide an update on the changes to the mobility allowance and the motorised transport grant; if he will clarify what will happen to these entitlements during the interim period of four months, especially for new and future applicants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11447/13]

View answer

Tom Fleming

Question:

565. Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Health if he will reverse the decision to axe the mobility allowance and motorised transport grant which will have an adverse impact and is an attack on persons with disabilities and goes right to the very core of their independence; his views on the Ombudsman's report which found the Government to be in breach of equality legislation because the schemes discriminated against those over 65 years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11453/13]

View answer

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

572. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health the date on which the decision was made to end the mobility allowance and the motorised transport grant; and if consideration was given to continuing the payment until such time as new schemes were in place. [11507/13]

View answer

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

573. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health if he will clarify an issue regarding the motorised transport grant and the mobility allowance (details supplied); and if he will state that no indication was given that it was intended to discontinue the motorised transport grant and the mobility allowance. [11508/13]

View answer

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

580. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Health if he will restore the payment of mobility allowance and motorised transport grant immediately [11580/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 464, 473, 557, 564, 565, 572, 573 and 580 together.

The Government is very conscious of the needs of people with a disability who require transport supports from the State and also conscious of the position of the Ombudsman that the Mobility Allowance and the Motorised Transport Grant schemes are illegal in the context of the Equal Status Acts. Minister Reilly and I considered the recommendations of the Ombudsman in relation to both schemes carefully and in particular, we looked at the potential cost of implementing the recommended changes. Any additional cost incurred by expansion of the schemes would have to be met from current expenditure and result in a reduction of front-line specialist disability, older people and mental health services for people who need them. It is clear that an extension of either scheme would create serious financial pressure on the health budget in the current climate and would be unsustainable.

Following detailed consideration of issues involved with Cabinet colleagues, the Government decided on 26th February that it is no longer possible to allow the two schemes to continue as they presently operate and to devise an alternative solution for meeting people's needs. A special review group, which will be independently chaired, has been established to seek an alternative method to provide for the needs of people in a manner that does not run counter to the Equal Status Acts. Following the initial phase of the group's work, which will concentrate on issues around Mobility Allowance and the Motorised Transport Grant, a key concentration of the group will be to look at opportunities for the enhancement of the transport options provided to the relevant persons in need. As part of the review, the Health Service Executive will examine the circumstances of all those currently benefiting from the schemes to ensure the identified solutions will encompass their priority mobility needs. In addition, the Minister for Health has instructed the HSE to contact each individual in receipt of the payments to notify them of this decision.

It is important to note that, although the Government's decision ends both schemes to new applicants with immediate effect, the payment of mobility allowance to those currently in receipt of it, will continue for another four months. It is also important to note that the decision is in no way intended to save costs and the funding involved in the two schemes (€10.6 million) remains committed to meeting the priority transport needs of people with a disability.