Enterprise Support Schemes

Questions (105)

Michael Creed

Question:

105. Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation further to Parliamentary Question No. 87 of 25 April 2013, the way small and medium enterprises may apply for the scheme outlined in his reply; the other practical Government supports to a SME that wishes to create an online presence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20947/13]

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Written answers (Question to Jobs)

As I outlined in my reply to Question No 87 of 25 April 2013, the 2013 Action Plan for Jobs includes a commitment to increase the number of businesses – and particularly small businesses – trading on line. The progression of this initiative is being led by the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.

The objective of the initiative is to support one or more pilot projects in 2013 to inform a scaling-up of the initiative in 2014.

The intention is that the detailed operational arrangements for the pilot(s) will be agreed in the third Quarter of this year and that suitable projects for inclusion in the pilot(s) will be agreed within the same period.

I anticipate that once these milestones have been achieved, details of how companies can participate in the pilot scheme(s) will be made available by the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.

Information and Communications Technology Issues

Questions (106, 107, 108)

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

106. Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation when the report on the review of the feasibility and options for a national high performance computing service will be published which was undertaken under a steering group with representatives from the HEA, his Department, SFI and the Department of Education and Skills; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20960/13]

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Kevin Humphreys

Question:

107. Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will provide a breakdown of the financial contribution from his Department and SFI towards the provision of a national high performance computing service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20961/13]

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Kevin Humphreys

Question:

108. Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation when the decision was made to award the national high performance computing service to (details supplied); if he will indicate the way in which that decision was made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20962/13]

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Written answers (Question to Jobs)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 106 to 108, inclusive, together.

High Performance Computing (HPC) services include the provision and support of high-end compute resources, data analytics, education and training services to industry and higher education institutions. Globally, supercomputers are playing an ever increasing and critically important role in a wide range of computationally intensive tasks in various fields of relevance to cloud technologies, big data, climate research, weather forecasting, oil and gas exploration amongst others.

Since 2005 the main, though not exclusive, HPC provision in Ireland has been through the Irish Centre for High End Computing (ICHEC) which is hosted by NUI Galway. Other universities, such as Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin and NUI Maynooth also possess HPC expertise and facilities. Since its establishment in 2005 ICHEC has primarily received funding supports from Science Foundation Ireland and the Higher Education Authority.

During 2012 a small steering group comprising senior officials from the Department of Education and Skills, the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, the Higher Education Authority (HEA) and Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) was established to assess a number of issues regarding Ireland’s future HPC service provision needs and structure.

As part of this group’s work and following a tendering process in spring 2012, a report was commissioned from MacDougall Consulting, UK to examine a number of relevant issues regarding HPC services and demand in Ireland. The consultant undertook a series of meetings with a range of stakeholders, including higher education institutions, relevant Government Departments and Agencies, and key industry personnel and presented a report to the Steering Group in October, 2012. The consultant’s report was prepared to assist the Steering Group in its internal deliberations rather than publication per se.

Following consideration of the report, the Department of Education and Skills and the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation accepted the strong recommendations that continuation of HPC services in Ireland was a strategic priority; that a centralised model of high-performance computing provision was needed in Ireland; that there was an increasing demand for HPC services by industry; and that ICHEC was the preferred centralised option at this time. In light of the consultant’s recommendations, the Departments jointly agreed to the continuation of core funding support to ICHEC which previously had been provided through SFI and the Higher Education Authority. The funding will amount to €1.4m annually over the period 2013 to 2015, with €0.7m coming from each Department. The Departments also accepted the recommendation that ICHEC should, on balance, continue to be hosted by NUI Galway in the medium term.

The annual funding provision to ICHEC is subject to a range of conditions and targets involving the provision of a detailed annual business plan; ensuring best practice corporate governance arrangements; demonstrable alignment with national strategies and actions such as the Action Plan for Jobs and a national e-Infrastructure policy. ICHEC will also be subject to independent review over the period to 2015 and will be expected to leverage additional funding from industry, the EU or through national competitive research funding calls.

Recently ICHEC was successful with a bid for supercomputing equipment in the 2012 SFI Infrastructure Call. ICHEC currently has a tender out for this supercomputing equipment. This will enable ICHEC to provide leading edge computing power to a range of industry players and our higher education sector which in turn will further enhance Ireland’s HPC capacity internationally. It will also assist Ireland’s “Big Data” ambitions and the Government’s “Disruptive Reform” agenda where we seek to be a world-leading location for big data and data analytics.

Credit Guarantee Scheme Application Numbers

Questions (109)

Alan Farrell

Question:

109. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the number of applications for funding received to the credit guarantee scheme since it has been established; the number of approved loans; the amount that has been paid out to date; the feedback that has been received on job creation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21035/13]

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Written answers (Question to Jobs)

The Credit Guarantee Scheme (CGS) began operations on 24th October 2012. As at 31st March 2013 there were twenty-four live CGS facilities resulting in €3,131,600 being sanctioned through the scheme by the participating lenders and it is expected that 181 new jobs will be created and 25 jobs maintained.

The Department does not monitor actual applications to the banks. Decision making on individual loan applications has been fully devolved to the participating lenders AIB, Bank of Ireland and Ulster bank.

Quarterly progress reports are published on my Department’s website www.enterprise.gov.ie. The new progress report detailing the analysis and performance of the CGS for the quarterly period ending end 31st March 2013 is now available on my Department’s website.

Consumers Association of Ireland Funding

Questions (110, 111)

Patrick Nulty

Question:

110. Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation in view of his previous statement that it is essential that all public bodies ensure that value for money is key consideration in any expenditure, if the Consumers' Association of Ireland has supplied his Department with its quarterly reports in relation to the various performance indicators identified in respect of the marketing project; if the association is meeting its performance indicators; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21040/13]

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Patrick Nulty

Question:

111. Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the reason a funding application was granted to the Consumers' Association of Ireland; if he will confirm that the organisation has not produced audited accounts in two years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21041/13]

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Written answers (Question to Jobs)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 110 and 111 together.

As previously advised to the House, the Consumers’ Association of Ireland made an application seeking funding on 27th September 2012 to support a marketing project. A number of meetings were held with the Association to discuss the details of its application and in particular the value for money that the project would offer. Arising from these discussions, funding in the amount of €46,865 was approved to support the marketing project. As part of the agreement to provide funding support, the Association committed to providing my Department with quarterly reports in relation to the various performance indicators identified in respect of the marketing project.

My Department has recently received the first quarterly report from the Association detailing various activities undertaken in connection with the marketing campaign, including statistical details of media interviews, website traffic, e-mail/telephone contacts, membership figures etc. The details of the report are currently being considered by my Department.

As regards the issue of accounts, the Consumers’ Association of Ireland is a company limited by guarantee and as such is required to file annual returns and audited accounts with the Companies Registration Office (CRO). I understand that the Association has filed an annual return made up to 28 February 2013. I also understand that accounts for the eighteen month period ending November 2012 were the last audited accounts filed with the CRO.

As previously advised, my Department is committed to achieving the best value for money in respect of the expenditure of public funds. Accordingly, my Department will continue to monitor the progress of the Association’s marketing project, not least in terms of the performance indicators identified for the project, so as to ensure that the Association remains focussed on achieving the best value for money possible from the project.

Public Sector Pensions Expenditure

Questions (112)

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

112. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will provide in tabular form information on lump sum payments (details supplied) paid to retiring public sector workers between March 2011 and March 2013. [21590/13]

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Written answers (Question to Jobs)

The lump sum amounts paid to retired staff members in my Department in the period March 2011 to March 2013 are listed in tabular form. In addition to those contained in the figures below, five retirees received lump sums of less that €10,000.

In relation to retirement lump sums paid to staff of Agencies under the remit of my Department, I have asked the Agencies to respond directly to the Deputy.

Lump Sum Amounts

No of Retirees paid between March 2011 and March 2013

10,000 – 20,000

9

20,001 – 30,000

6

30,001 – 40,000

5

40,001 – 50,000

8

50,001 - 60,000

2

60,001 – 70,000

5

70,001 – 80,000

7

80,001 – 90,000

5

90,001 – 100,000

4

100,001 – 150,000

20

150,001 – 200,000

10

200,001 – 250,000

2

Over 250,000

1

Total

84

European Court of Justice Rulings

Questions (113)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

113. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Social Protection further to the decision by the European Court of Justice in the appeal by workers at the former Waterford Crystal company in respect of their pension entitlements, the potential liability that arises in this case; if she will provide an estimate of potential liabilities in respect of other company pension schemes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20865/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

On the 25th April last, the European Court of Justice issued a ruling which contained a number of clarifications regarding transposition EU Directive 2008/94EC which concerns the protection of employees in the event of the insolvency of their employer. This ruling was in response to a July 2011 referral from the High Court regarding proceedings brought by former workers at Waterford Crystal.

The High Court had, in taking the view that interpretation of the provisions of the Directive 2008/94 was necessary in order for it to give its decision in this case, decided to stay the proceedings and to refer a number of questions to the Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling.

Following the ECJ ruling, the matter will now revert to the High Court for consideration. Given this matter remains before the courts it would not be appropriate that I comment further on any specific aspects of the case at this time.

Employment Rights Issues

Questions (114)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

114. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Social Protection if the workers of a large Irish based company whose Irish operation was terminated several years ago will be covered by the recent decision of the European Court in relation to the defined benefit pension scheme of the former Waterford Crystal workforce; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20916/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

On 25 April 2013, the European Court of Justice issued a ruling which contained a number of clarifications regarding transposition EU Directive 2008/94EC which concerns the protection of employees in the event of the insolvency of their employer. This ruling was in response to a July 2011 referral from the High Court regarding proceedings brought by former workers at Waterford Crystal. The High Court had, in taking the view that interpretation of the provisions of the Directive 2008/94 was necessary in order for it to give its decision in this case, decided to stay the proceedings and to refer a number of questions to the Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling. Following the ECJ ruling, the matter will now revert to the High Court for consideration. Given this matter remains before the courts it would not be appropriate that I comment further on the question you have raised or any specific aspects of the case at this time.

National Internship Scheme Eligibility

Questions (115)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

115. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection if a business (details supplied) in County Kerry will qualify as a JobBridge employer in view of the fact that the nature of their business is not solely trade related; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20861/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

As of 25 April 2013, 16,791 people had commenced JobBridge internships, 6,030 participants were currently on JobBridge internships and 2,443 internship opportunities were advertised on the JobBridge website. I am advised that the firm to which the Deputy refers is already advertising internships under another name.

Rural Social Scheme Applications

Question No. 117 withdrawn.

Questions (116)

Noel Coonan

Question:

116. Deputy Noel Coonan asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will allocate additional placements on the rural social scheme taking into account the demand on placements from farmers who are experiencing serious financial losses due to uncontrollable weather factors; her future plans for the scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20873/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The purpose of the rural social scheme (RSS) is to provide income support for farmers and fisherpersons who have an entitlement to specified social welfare payments. Persons are engaged for 19 and a half hours per week to provide certain services of benefit to rural communities. The scheme currently provides work opportunities for around 2,600 participants and 130 supervisory staff. The funds allocated for 2013 amount to €45 million, which should enable the scheme to continue as in previous years but does not allow for the recruitment of additional participants above the numbers stated above. The Department of Social Protection has recently published a review of employment support schemes which, together with the outcome of the focused policy assessment of the RSS which the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has indicated it intends to publish this year, will inform future policy developments of the scheme. I have no plans to increase the number of places available on this scheme.

The farm assist scheme, based on jobseeker's allowance, is the primary scheme for supporting low income farmers, without the requirement to be available for and genuinely seeking work. Farm assist recipients retain all the advantages of the jobseeker's allowance scheme such as retention of secondary benefits and access to activation programmes. Farm assist is a flexible payment and any farmer experiencing lower levels of income or cash-flow issues, due for example to bad weather, can ask the local social welfare office to review the level of means applying to his or her claim. It may also be noted that the assessment of means for the purpose of qualifying for farm assist is designed to reflect the actual net income. It looks at gross income, less any expenses necessarily incurred, from farming. Income and expenditure figures for the preceding year are generally used as an indicator of the expected position in the following year. However, account is taken of any exceptional circumstances so as to ensure that the assessment accurately reflects the current situation.

The Deputy will be aware of the measures to support farmers introduced by my colleague the Minister for Agriculture and Food to provide a €1 million fund to contribute to the transport costs of importing fodder to the country, and the availability of emergency assistance under the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Council's early warning system to ensure that there is no reason for any farmer to see animals suffer, and to ensure that processing of outstanding scheme payments as promptly as possible to provide cash-flow for farmers.

Question No. 117 withdrawn.

Jobseeker's Allowance Appeals

Questions (118)

Paschal Donohoe

Question:

118. Deputy Paschal Donohoe asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for jobseeker's benefit in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 1; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20883/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The person concerned applied for jobseeker's allowance on 4 October 2012 which was disallowed on the basis that he did not satisfy the condition of being habitually resident in the State; in addition he failed to satisfy a Social Welfare Inspector as to his means and circumstances. The person concerned was advised of both decisions on 26 November 2012. He lodged an appeal against them on 10 December 2012 and provided additional information relating to his employment record in the State. In light of this information his case was referred to a Social Welfare Inspector to review the means assessment; the outcome of this was that the decision of the original means assessment was upheld. The appeal was subsequently referred to the independent Social Welfare Appeals Office who will notify the person concerned of the outcome when it is determined.

Special Educational Needs Services Provision

Questions (119)

Patrick Nulty

Question:

119. Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Social Protection if there are any training or education opportunities available for young persons with hearing difficulties in the Dublin area; if she will outline details of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20889/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The Department of Social Protection supports job seekers to secure employment. A wide range of programmes are provided by both the Department itself and other departments and job seekers should contact their local office to secure information and assistance to access these programmes. The Department is currently considering a specific proposal that seeks to support younger persons with hearing difficulties in the Dublin are but it is too early to say whether this programme will be approved for support.

Employment Support Services

Questions (120)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

120. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will have the INTREO services rolled out to the Kilbarrack Social Welfare Office, Dublin, before year end; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20919/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The roll-out of the Intreo service as outlined in the Pathways to Work document is a multi-annual project. The first ten Intreo offices went live in 2012. A further 33 offices are expected to go live in 2013, with the remainder to be delivered by the end of 2014. The implementation of the Intreo service is dependent on a number of supports including the appropriate physical infrastructure, IT, staff training etc. In relation to Kilbarrack, it is envisaged that some aspects of the service will be delivered in the coming months but the full integrated service will not be completed until 2014.

Dental Services Provision

Questions (121)

Billy Timmins

Question:

121. Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding dentures in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20948/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

An application in respect of dentures has not yet been received from the person concerned. However, since January 2010 dentures are no longer provided under the dental benefit scheme, which is now limited to a free yearly examination. If the person concerned has a Medical Card, he should contact his local HSE offices, who will be able to advise him of his entitlements under their dental scheme.

Treatment Benefit Scheme Applications

Questions (122)

Dan Neville

Question:

122. Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Social Protection further to Parliamentary Question No. 341 of 23 April 2013, if the application can be reviewed again (details supplied). [20951/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

There are two conditions that must be satisfied in order to qualify for treatment benefit. The person referred to would have needed to fulfil the following two conditions at the time of his death in order for his wife to qualify for treatment benefit now: have 156 qualifying PRSI contributions paid since first starting work, and have 26 of these contributions paid or credited in either 1974 or 1975, the relevant contribution years prior to his death. While he met the first condition, with a total of 839 paid contributions paid since he commenced employment, he did not fulfil the second condition, having no contributions or credits recorded in either 1974 or 1975. As he was not eligible for treatment benefit prior to his death, his wife does not now qualify for treatment benefit on his PRSI record.