Microenterprise Loan Fund Application Numbers

Questions (102)

Seán Fleming

Question:

102. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the number of applications under the microenterprise loans fund scheme received in the period of 1 October 2012 to 31 March 2013 from counties Laois, Offaly, Kildare and Westmeath; the number of applications granted for each of these counties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21720/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Jobs)

The information sought by the Deputy in relation to the number of applications received and loans approved under the Microenterprise Loan Fund from 1 October 2012 to 31 March 2013 from counties Laois, Offaly, Kildare and Westmeath is set out in the table.

Microfinance Ireland 1 October 2012 - 31 March 2013

-

Applications Received

Loans Approved

Work in progress at 31 March 2013

Declined

Withdrawn

Laois

4

0

2 (as of 8 May 2013 one has been approved and one declined)

2

0

Offaly

2

1

0

0

1

Kildare

3

0

0

2

1

Westmeath

2

1

0

1

0

A full progress report on the operation of the scheme from 1 October 2012 to 31 Mary 2013 can be found on my Department’s website (www.enterprise.gov.ie) and the Microfinance Ireland website (www.microfinanceireland.ie ).

Review and Audit of Licences

Questions (103)

Seán Kyne

Question:

103. Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his views on the progress at reforming the 50 licences identified by Forfás which constitute a significant burden for our retail sector; and if he is in a position to identify which licences will be streamlined in the short to medium term as such information will be of great benefit to retailers. [21818/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Jobs)

The Forfás report on “The Review and Audit of Licences” recommended the introduction of an integrated licensing system. The Government considers this project to be of significant importance and has positioned it as one of the Disruptive Reforms in the Action Plan for Jobs 2013. Such an integrated licensing system, which will streamline the licensing application process, is a reformative step in reducing the administrative burdens for business. Delivering an integrated licensing system, in the first instance for the retail sector by the end of the year, will require the firm and on-going commitment and engagement of the relevant licensing authorities to work closely with my Department and with Forfás.

A list of some 30 core licences for the retail sector have been identified for the initial stages of this project involving up to 16 licensing authorities. My colleague, Minister John Perry, has invited all these authorities at the highest level to become members of the Steering Group for this project. The Steering Group has met twice, on 12th March and 29th April, with Minister Perry as chair, and detailed discussions have taken place between Forfás, the licensing authorities and relevant Departments.

Detailed analysis has been undertaken, examining a range of information submitted by the licensing authorities in relation to the processes and underpinning legislative requirements for the core set of retail licenses to be incorporated into the integrated licensing application system. The outputs of this audit process will inform the definition of the integrated licence management system.

It is expected that a request for tender for the service provision of an integrated licensing application system will be issued in the coming weeks.

Microenterprise Loan Fund Applications

Questions (104)

Seán Kyne

Question:

104. Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if his attention has been drawn to the fact that many retailers consider the interest rate and the term length of the finance services available under the microfinance scheme to be to onerous and are consequently preventing a significant update of what is a welcome and innovative programme. [21868/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Jobs)

I am aware that there are concerns about the cost of finance across the economy, including from Microfinance Ireland (MFI).

MFI was established as a private limited company with a Board of Directors. The Directors set the interest rate to be charged on loans under the Scheme 8.8% taking into account a number of factors including: prevailing market interest rates, the economic environment, specific risk factors and administrative overheads.

The Deputy will know that lending to microenterprises is high risk due to the high failure rates with business start-ups, little or no track record and no security available. Therefore, pricing of loans tends to strike a balance between the support of new start-ups and the erosion of the taxpayers investment in the Scheme.

With regard to the term length of the loan, the standard term is 3 years but may be extended up to 6 years maximum. Applications are assessed on their individual merits and in tandem with the on-going commercial viability of the business. This maximum term is a condition of the European Investment Fund (EIF) which is providing a guarantee for Microfinance Ireland to assist with the risk tolerance levels. The support and involvement of the EIF guarantee was a critical factor in the establishment of this loan scheme which otherwise would not make this new avenue available to such businesses that have difficulty accessing credit.

In its first half year of operation, MFI have not received feedback and have not been made aware of issues with regards to applicants being deterred from applying for loans due to the interest rate or term length, as having been previously declined by a bank, access to credit is the priority in seeking support for their new or existing business.

I can assure the Deputy that I am keeping all aspects of the Scheme under on-going assessment and that I am obliged under section 22 of the Microenterprise Loan Fund Act 2012 to commence a review of the operation of the Act not later than 2 years after the date of its passing.

County and City Enterprise Boards Abolition

Questions (105)

Seán Kyne

Question:

105. Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will report on the planned reform of the city and county enterprise boards; and the steps being taken to ensure that the vital job creation and business support functions will be enhanced in respect of the new anticipated configurations. [21878/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Jobs)

The County and City Enterprise Boards (CEB) restructuring project is the first radical reform of the system for the delivery of State support to micro and small businesses since the establishment of the CEBs twenty years ago. In the meantime, there have been many changes to the social, economic and technological landscape of Ireland. It is incumbent on Government to ensure that State supports are delivered in the most integrated, focussed and seamless way possible. The proposed reform is a major commitment in the Programme for Government and a core part of the Action Plan for Jobs.

This reform will bring about a new level of engagement and interaction at both national and local level in relation to enterprise support and stimulation and economic recovery and growth. The proposed reforms offer a huge opportunity to leverage the skills, resources and experience of the CEBs, Local Authorities and local business community to create a national approach to the sector allowing for seamless progression, innovative performance, streamlined delivery and increased employment.

The creation of a First-Stop-Shop at local level for the support of small and micro business will bring local enterprise support into an integrated national network of Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) delivering enterprise policy to the highest standards, offering seamless progression for small business with potential to the existing national programmes run by Enterprise Ireland (EI). The LEOs will deliver the combined functions of CEBs and the Local Authority business support functions as well as developing an enhanced service to business at local level. The new Centre of Excellence within EI will be responsible for developing an improved environment for small and micro business and bringing this sector into the heart of national enterprise policy. As Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation I will retain responsibility for policy, and a key feature of this new structure will be the consistent application of policy across all LEOs, from the evaluation of applications for funding support, to the spending of budgets allocated.

In relation to the formal dissolution of the CEBs, officials of my Department are continuing, in conjunction with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel, to develop draft legislation with a view to enactment before summer recess. In addition, a Framework Service Level Agreement (SLA) between EI and the Local Authorities has been finalised and the LEO branding and associated logo has been designed. Within the next couple of weeks, I will publish the SLA and launch the branding and logo, both of which are tangible steps to the full roll out of the new infrastructure.

Money Advice and Budgeting Service Funding

Questions (106)

Seán Kyne

Question:

106. Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Social Protection if additional resources will be made available to the Money Advice and Budgeting Service to enhance the support, advice and information available to persons in financial difficulties such as mortgage arrears. [21817/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The Money Advice and Budgeting Service ( MABS), under the aegis of the Citizens Information Board, assists people who are over-indebted and need help and advice in coping with debt problems, in particular those on low incomes and people living on social welfare payments.

In 2013, the Citizens Information Board has been allocated a budget of approximately €47.5 million of which some €19 million has been assigned to MABS. In 2012 the corresponding allocation was €46.8 million and €18.3 million respectively.

The Money Advice and Budgeting Service is made up of a network of 53 companies, which includes 51 local companies and 2 national companies MABS National Development Limited and National Traveller MABS. There are some 277 money advice staff employed across the MABS network.

The Personal Insolvency Act 2012 provides for a Debt Relief Notice for persons with no assets or income with unsecured debts of up to €20,000. With the assistance of an approved intermediary, a person may apply for a Debt Relief Notice which will allow for the full write-off of qualifying unsecured debt after a three year supervision period. The Citizens Information Board (CIB), which has the statutory responsibility for the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) has agreed to my request that MABS be an approved intermediary for the purpose of processing applications for Debt Relief Notices. Those who can avail of Debt Relief Notices are typically part of the MABS core client cohort of people on low incomes in debt or in danger of falling into debt.

Sanction has been given for 16 temporary staff to be assigned to MABS for up to 2 years, to establish an Approved Intermediary Service as part of the new Insolvency Service. The CIB and MABS National Development Limited are working closely to ensure that the appropriate structures are in place within MABS to implement this new and important statutory role. They have also engaged proactively with the Insolvency Service to ensure that the Approved Intermediary Service is fully operational in time for the establishment of the Insolvency Service.

I am satisfied that MABS will play an important role in the new arrangements for dealing with debt and will continue to provide a high quality personal service to assist people in overcoming their indebtedness and managing their finances.

Invalidity Pension Appeals

Questions (107)

Charles Flanagan

Question:

107. Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will be reached on an invalidity pension appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Laois; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21595/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 18th July 2012. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 25th April 2013 and the case will be referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral hearing.

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

Rent Supplement Scheme Eligibility

Questions (108)

Patrick Nulty

Question:

108. Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will outline the way maintenance payments are taken into account for the calculation of rent supplement payments; if she will reference the regulations and or circulars which set this out; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21605/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The purpose of rent supplement is to provide short-term support to eligible people living in private rented accommodation, whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source. The overall aim is to provide short term assistance, and not to act as an alternative to the other social housing schemes operated by the Exchequer. There are currently approximately 86,000 rent supplement recipients for which the Government has provided over €403 million for 2013.

A person who claims a one-parent family payment is required to seek maintenance from her/his spouse or the other parent of the child. Maintenance payments are assessed as means for the purpose of determining entitlement to one-parent family payment. However, vouched housing costs of up to €95.23 per week in respect of rent or mortgage are disregarded in establishing the rate of one-parent family payment payable.

For rent supplement, maintenance payments of up to €95.23 per week are assessed in determining the appropriate rate payable. Where a person has weekly maintenance payments of more than €95.23, the first €75 a week together with 25% of any additional maintenance above €75 can be disregarded for means assessment purposes. This ensures that the family benefits from any maintenance payments received in excess of €95.23.

The treatment of maintenance payments when assessing an entitlement to rent supplement is contained in the Third Schedule, Part 4 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005.