Carer's Allowance Eligibility

Questions (172)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

172. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection if a person in receipt of carer's allowance must declare to the Department, for means purposes, the receipt of a rebate for past medical expenses incurred; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33708/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

To qualify for carer’s allowance the applicant must satisfy a means test. The income which is taken into account for the means test is set out in legislation and regulations and described in the information material produced for the scheme. Money received as a rebate of past medical expenses, say under a scheme of medical insurance, is not assessable. However, money received as compensation arising from an accident or injury may be assessable and should be declared. In general, if a person on a means-tested scheme is unsure of any aspect relating to their income or means and how it might affect their social welfare payment, they should provide full details to the Department and they will receive clarification.

Domiciliary Care Allowance Applications

Questions (173)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

173. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection if domiciliary care allowance will be granted to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33746/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

An application for domiciliary care allowance was received from the person concerned on the 11th April 2013. This application was referred to one of the Department’s Medical Assessors who considered that the child was not medically eligible for the allowance. A letter issued on the 13th June 2013 advising of the decision. The person concerned subsequently requested a review of the decision. The case was reviewed by another Medical Assessor on the 5th July 2013, who having examined all the information supplied, confirmed the opinion that the child was not medically eligible for the allowance. A letter issued on the 8th July 2013 advising of the decision. The person concerned has been advised of her right to appeal the decision to the Social Welfare Appeals Office within twenty one days.

Carer's Allowance Appeals

Question No. 175 withdrawn.

Questions (174)

Sean Conlan

Question:

174. Deputy Seán Conlan asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason there has been a delay in the appeal of a decision to refuse a carer's allowance to a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33838/13]

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 6 February 2013. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 28 May 2013 and the case was referred to an Appeals Officer on 21 June 2013 who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on 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 in relation to social welfare entitlements.

Question No. 175 withdrawn.

Budget 2014 Issues

Questions (176)

Andrew Doyle

Question:

176. Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Social Protection the names of the voluntary groups and organisations she has met to date in advance of the budget 2014 negotiations; the rationale for the selection of the groups she has met; the dates on which she met them; if she will state if other groups contact her between now and October that she will agree to have discussions with them; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33847/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

I hosted a Pre-Budget forum in Dublin Castle on Friday, 5 July last. It was attended by 37 voluntary and community groups, including Active Retirement Ireland, Age Action Ireland, Alone, Barnardos, Care Alliance Ireland, Carers Association, Centre for Independent Living, Children’s Rights Alliance, Congress Centres Network, CROSSCARE, Cúram, Disability Federation of Ireland, End Child Poverty Coalition, European Anti Poverty Network, FLAC, Focus Ireland, Healthy Food for All, Inclusion Ireland, Irish Council for Social Housing, Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed, Irish Senior Citizens Parliament, National Association of Widows in Ireland, National Federation of Pensioners' Associations, National Women's Council of Ireland, One Family, OPEN, Pavee Point, Retired Workers Committee, Saint Vincent de Paul, Simon Community, Social Justice Ireland, The Wheel, Threshold, TREOIR, Trustus We Care, Unmarried and Separated Families of Ireland and the Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice.

The purpose of the annual Forum is to provide a very wide range of welfare representative and advocacy organisations with an opportunity to have an input into the Budget process. The Forum enables the organisations to discuss their views on the Budget with the Minister and senior Departmental officials. This year’s Forum included a number of workshops on specific themes, such as children and families, illness and disability, and poverty and social inclusion. I also met with twenty of the organisations mentioned above at separate meetings, including joint meetings with a number of groups, over the period from April to date. Representative groups may, at any stage, contact my office if they wish to meet with me to discuss the forthcoming Budget and all such requests will be considered.

Inland Waterways Development

Questions (177)

Clare Daly

Question:

177. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the recommendations of the Waterways Ireland consultation process on utilising Dublin's waterways and the reason recommendations for the development of spaces for houseboats were not implemented; and his plans for same. [33612/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Arts)

I wish to advise the Deputy that Waterways Ireland is committed to utilising Ireland's waterways to the greatest extent possible. In relation to the Deputy's query regarding utilising Dublin's waterways for the development for spaces for houseboats, I am informed that Waterways Ireland has plans to develop provision for houseboats in the Dublin City area on the existing floating moorings at Grand Canal Dock in Ringsend.

The Deputy should be aware that when Waterways Ireland applied to the Dublin Docklands Development Authority for permission to install floating moorings around the Waterways Ireland Visitor Centre to provide approximately 55 berths for boats/vessels back in 2003, the Authority issued a Certificate of approval under Section 25 of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority Act, 1997 which included the condition that ‘This Certificate permits the use of the 55 berths for boats/vessels used solely for amenity on the waterways and not as permanent residential or commercial units’ . Waterways Ireland is currently in discussion with the Dublin Docklands Development Authority with the aim of having 25 berths designated for permanent residential or commercial use at Grand Canal Dock.

Seirbhísí Eitilte

Questions (178)

Dara Calleary

Question:

178. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Dara Calleary den Aire Ealaíon, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta cad é an staid reatha i dtaca le hAerstráice Thoraí, Dún na nGall. [33620/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Arts)

Bhí pleananna ann tamall de bhlianta ó shin aeradróm a fhorbairt ar Thoraigh ach ní dheachaigh an fhorbairt ar aghaidh ar chúiseanna éagsúla. Níl sé i gceist ag mo Roinn filleadh ar an fhorbairt sin faoi láthair. Mar eolas don Teachta, tá mo Roinn tiomanta héileapad a fhorbairt ar Thoraigh sa bhliain atá romhainn.

Departmental Funding

Questions (179)

Joan Collins

Question:

179. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if grants are available for Irish dancing groups to assist them in attending world championships; and if he will list those grants and the way to apply for them. [33700/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Arts)

The Culture Ireland Division of the Department supports and promotes Irish arts worldwide. The aim of the programme is to create career opportunities for Irish artists and to develop new audiences for Irish arts. The Culture Ireland programme does not however fund participation in events of a competitive nature, including dancing championships. The programme's funding covers professional artists/companies and includes traditional arts where they have opportunities to present in key international venues to open audiences.

Electricity Generation

Questions (180, 186)

Seamus Kirk

Question:

180. Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his plans to make investments in on-farm micro-energy installation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33913/13]

View answer

Seamus Kirk

Question:

186. Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his plans to review and change the micro-energy generation strategy in view of its unfavourable comparison to EU norms; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33911/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 180 and 186 together.

Electric Ireland has been offering a 9c/kwh feed in tariff, on a commercial basis, to domestic microgenerators since February 2009. No other electricity supply company has to date chosen to enter the domestic market and to offer a microgeneration feed-in-tariff on a commercial basis, although the Commission for Energy Regulation invited them to do so. In addition, no company has opted to offer, on a commercial basis, a feed-in-tariff for microgeneration to the commercial and industrial sectors.

Previously, a joint ESB/Electric Ireland microgeneration support scheme for the domestic sector offering a total of 19c/kwh (comprising €10c/kwh from ESB Networks combined with the 9c/kwh from ESB Customer Supply (now Electric Ireland)) ran for 3 years from February 2009 to February 2012, and had a take up of between 500 and 600 installations.

In view of falling technology costs, my Department has recently asked the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) to update analysis on the costs of varying levels of support for microgeneration technologies, with a view to considering how the sector, including on-farm microgeneration, could be supported in the future. This analysis will also cover non-tariff support mechanisms, the cost of which is not funded from the Public Service Obligation.

Broadband Services Provision

Questions (181)

Terence Flanagan

Question:

181. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will provide an update on the achievement of the targets set out in the national broadband plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33600/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

The Government’s National Broadband Plan, which I published in August last, aims to radically change the broadband landscape in Ireland by ensuring that high speed services of 30Mbps are available to all of our citizens and businesses, in advance of the EU’s target date of 2020, and that significantly higher speeds are available to as many homes and businesses as possible. The Plan aims to deliver high speed broadband to all parts of Ireland through two principal means:

- by providing a policy and regulatory framework that assists in accelerating and incentivising commercial investment, and

- by providing a State-led investment for areas where it is not commercial for the market to invest.

Since the publication of the Plan, investments by the commercial sector are underway in both fixed line and wireless high speed broadband services, particularly in urban and semi-urban areas. ComReg has put in place a new regulatory regime for fixed line Next Generation Access and for service bundles, both of which are designed to incentivise the rollout of services by service providers. ComReg’s multiband spectrum auction, completed in 2012, is also enabling the rollout of advanced mobile broadband services.

There is evidence that industry is investing beyond the targets to which they committed in the Plan with investments of up to €1bn underway. Some of the key developments in the short and medium term are as follows:

- eircom launched its next generation broadband services on 16th May last, with speeds of up to 70Mbps, immediately available to over 300,000 premises. By the end of this year, eircom aims to reach more than 600,000 homes and businesses. It has a target to pass 1.2m premises by June 2015.

- UPC is continuing with its investment in the cable network, which should see 750,000 homes able to access services at data speeds of at least 150 Mbps by 2015.

- Other fixed operators also continue to invest in Local Loop Unbundling (LLU). BT Ireland now supplies broadband access to both Vodafone and Sky Ireland, and along with other operators, is also investing in fixed infrastructure.

- Mobile wireless operators are making plans for the rollout of 4G services later this year. The operators are obliged, under the terms of the licences, to cover 70% of the population.

- ESB is currently considering the prospect of utilising its distribution network to rollout fibre broadband services.

In tandem with these commercial developments, intensive work is underway in my Department to progress a State-led investment to secure the countrywide introduction of next generation broadband access.

In order to progress the State-led investment, a full procurement process must be designed and EU State Aids approval must be obtained. My officials have just commenced a comprehensive mapping exercise of the current and anticipated investment by the commercial sector to identify where the market is expected to succeed and fail in the delivery of high speed broadband services over the coming years. The results of this mapping exercise will inform the level of Government interaction that may be required and the areas that need to be targeted in the State-led investment so as to deliver on the targets for high speed broadband contained in the National Broadband Plan. Intensive technical, financial and legal preparations including stakeholder engagement will be ongoing throughout 2013 with a view to the launch of a procurement process in 2014.

Through the implementation of the National Broadband Plan, we are committed to increasing the availability of next generation speeds significantly, with a view to ensuring that all citizens and businesses can participate fully in a digitally enabled society. Implementation of the National Broadband Plan will be complemented by the National Digital Strategy. The first phase of the National Digital Strategy, which I will launch on 11 July next, will target specific segments of society, aiming to improve digital adoption and to realise the economic and social benefits that digital technologies can bring.

Energy Resources

Questions (182, 184)

Gerry Adams

Question:

182. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the rationale behind the National Oil Reserve Agency duty; if this duty acts as a competitive disadvantage to Irish producers of firelighters or firelogs as compared with companies which have firelighters or firelogs produced in Britain which can thus avoid NORA duty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33638/13]

View answer

Gerry Adams

Question:

184. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he has received representations from a company (details supplied) in County Louth in relation to the possibility of granting an exemption from the NORA levy pursuant to sections 38 of the NORA Act 2007; if such representations have been considered; if a decision has been made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33687/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 182 and 184 together.

It is a condition of EU and International Energy Agency (IEA) membership that all Member States maintain certain levels of strategic oil reserves to maintain security of oil supply. The National Oil Reserves Agency (NORA) is responsible for maintaining Ireland’s 90 days of strategic oil stocks for use in the event of an oil supply disruption. It is a matter for each Member State to decide on the manner in which they fund this security of supply obligation and this will vary from Member State to Member State. NORA receives no Exchequer funding and is funded by way of a levy on disposals of petroleum products and by bank borrowings. I do not believe that the NORA levy creates competition issues between EU Member States. All Member States have to bear the cost of the strategic oil stocks requirement and ultimately this requirement will be transferred by way of price inclusion to consumers.

The NORA levy is not imposed directly on firelighters or fire logs as such, although oil may be a constituent element of such products and the levy would be payable on that constituent part. The NORA Act 2007 provides that the levy must be paid by all companies on the oil products specified in the legislation. An exemption is provided for in the case of companies that maintain 55 days of oil stocks, on the basis of their previous year’s oil consumption.

My Department received an application from the company concerned for an exemption from NORA levy duty under Section 38 of the NORA Act, 2007 in 2011 but that application was unsuccessful because it did not satisfy the requirements of Section 38 and Section 62 of the NORA Act. Officials of my Department met with representatives of the company to outline the position.

I understand that whilst a revised proposal was subsequently put to my Department by the company that my Department had no contact from the company since June 2012. My officials have contacted the company and are seeking to clarify the position as soon as possible.

Mobile Telephony

Question No. 184 answered with Question No. 182.

Questions (183)

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

183. Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his plans to introduce legislation that would require all purchasers of mobile phones to produce a valid ID and proof of residence. [33683/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

A proposal to register all customers of mobile phone services was considered previously by my Department which identified many complex legal, technical, data protection and practical issues to be considered. It was concluded at the time that the proposal would not solve the illegal and inappropriate use of mobile phones and was not practical. There are no current proposals to compel mobile telephone service providers to register all customers.

Question No. 184 answered with Question No. 182.

Energy Resources

Questions (185)

Gerry Adams

Question:

185. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will provide a breakdown of the percentage of Ireland's strategic reserves of oil under the auspices of the National Oil Reserves Agency that are held here; the percentage held in other EU states; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33688/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

At the end of December 2008, the National Oil Reserves Agency (NORA) held 46% of their stockholding obligation as physical stocks on the island of Ireland, 38% as physical stocks abroad and 16% as stock tickets. By the end of April 2013, the situation has dramatically improved and the split is now 74% as physical stocks on the island of Ireland and 26% as physical stocks in other EU Member States.

In 2007, NORA held approximately 75 of Ireland’s total 90 day strategic stockholding obligation. Today NORA holds 88 of Ireland’s total 90 day obligation. This increase has come about largely due to the implementation of the new EU Oil Stocks Directive (Directive 2009/119/EC), which came into effect on 1 January 2013, whereby commercial stocks may no longer be counted towards a country’s strategic stockholding.

As an island nation with limited refining capacity and no indigenous oil production, the physical availability of already refined strategic oil product stocks on the island, as part of our strategic oil stocks, improves our security of supply position, particularly in the event of prolonged weather disruption which might make imports difficult. It was considered that the over-reliance on stock tickets (short term contracts for the supply of oil in the event of an emergency), created a vulnerability in the event of supply disruption and this has now been eliminated. There are also benefits to the national economy of holding the strategic stocks on the island of Ireland. In this context, a policy has been pursued since 2007 of rebalancing the wholly owned strategic stocks onto the island of Ireland.

The lack of physical infrastructure on the island available for oil storage required NORA to develop its own new storage facilities which took time as well as additional funding and staffing resources. NORA pursued all options for increasing storage capacity in Ireland, including maximising its use of existing commercial storage and refurbishing existing storage facilities for its own use. In the last 3 years, NORA has refurbished and commissioned three new oil storage facilities on the island – in Dublin, Kerry and Antrim, providing a total of an additional 320,000 tonnes of storage. NORA will continue to seek out new storage facilities and opportunities subject to value for money in line with Government policy. Stocks held in other EU Member States are held in Spain, Netherlands, United Kingdom and Denmark. These stocks are held under Member State to Member State bilateral agreements.