Disability Allowance Appeals

Questions (134)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

134. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the progress made to date in respect of an appeal for disability allowance in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42686/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The person concerned applied for disability allowance on 19 December 2012. Based upon the evidence submitted, he was refused on medical grounds and the person was notified in writing of this decision on 22 February 2013.

A review of this decision was completed on 3 July 2013 as a result of which there was no change to the original decision to disallow on medical grounds and the person was notified of this outcome.

The person subsequently appealed the decision to the Social Welfare Appeals Office and his claim has recently been forwarded to that Office for determination. He will be contacted by the Appeals Office in due course in relation to progress on his case.

Supplementary Welfare Allowance Payments

Questions (135)

Terence Flanagan

Question:

135. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans to reduce the amounts available for social welfare recipients to claim for kitchen appliances and household furniture; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42692/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

Under the supplementary welfare allowance (SWA) scheme, the Department may make a single exceptional needs payment (ENP) to help meet essential, once-off and unforeseen expenditure which a person could not reasonably be expected to meet out of their weekly income. The Government has provided over €47 million for the ENP scheme in 2013.

ENPs are payable at the discretion of the officers administering the SWA scheme taking into account the requirements of the legislation and all the relevant circumstances of the case in order to ensure that the payments target those most in need of assistance.

A review of the guidelines on exceptional needs payments was carried out for the Department by a working group made up of community welfare service staff. One of the recommendations emanating from this review was to address the different approaches taken, in different areas in relation to the payment of ENPs. The 2013 guidelines that issued to staff made recommendations in relation to the maximum amounts payable for a number of items including kitchen appliances and household furniture. ENPs in respect of these items are still payable within the maximum amounts set.

Carer's Allowance Appeals

Questions (136)

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

136. Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Social Protection the reasons for the delay in processing the appeal of a decision on carer's allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; when a decision can be expected; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42700/13]

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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 7th May 2013. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought from the Department of Social Protection. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on the 3rd September 2013 and the case was referred to an Appeals Officer on the 3rd October 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.

Carer's Allowance Appeals

Questions (137)

Billy Timmins

Question:

137. Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will expedite an application for carer's allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42767/13]

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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 14th May 2013. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought from the Department of Social Protection. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 03rd September 2013 and the case will be referred to an Appeals Officer 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.

Tourism Industry Issues

Questions (138)

Tom Fleming

Question:

138. Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he will examine the retention of the Torc waterfall and Muckross House and gardens sign, erected by licensed jarveys at the Muckross Abbey gates jarvey stand, as it is a good quality design, is a standard size and is unobtrusive in an appropriate location; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42639/13]

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Written answers (Question to Arts)

The sign referred to had been placed on Killarney National Park lands without appropriate consultation or permission. The management of the Park received a number of complaints from visitors who had, as a result of this sign, parked at the Muckross Abbey Gate entrance in the mistaken belief that it was the only entrance to Muckross House and Torc Waterfall. In the circumstances the Park management’s request for the removal of the sign was reasonable.

With regard to proposals concerning such signage, I understand that the functions of Kerry County Council, as the road authority involved, include responsibility for the specification, construction and maintenance of road signs and markings and also, that any planning issues concerning such signage would similarly be a matter for Kerry County Council.

Heritage Council Funding

Questions (139)

Terence Flanagan

Question:

139. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he will ensure there are no further cuts to the budget of the Heritage Council in 2013; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the council is seeking an increase in its budget this year of €1 million, to benefit communities across Ireland, following a decrease in the council's budget of 66% from 2008 to 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42693/13]

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Written answers (Question to Arts)

The allocation to the Heritage Council in 2014 will be subject to the normal budgetary processes. I am aware of the Heritage Council's request for additional funding. However, the scope to provide additional funding for the protection, conservation and development of the State’s heritage is constrained by the current national economic difficulties and the significant reduction in the public finances.

My Department will continue to provide funding for the protection, conservation and development of our built and natural heritage, in so far as resources allow.

Special Areas of Conservation Criteria

Questions (140)

Martin Heydon

Question:

140. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he will provide an update on the work being carried out by the consultants RPS on a national management plan for bogs included in the turf-cutting plan, with specific reference to concerns of residents in those areas regarding potential flooding and the way local residences will be protected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42756/13]

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Written answers (Question to Arts)

In keeping with the recommendations of Mr. Justice John Quirke, on 7th of March last year, Dáil Éireann agreed a motion put forward by the technical group to “engage actively with the European Commission to seek a resolution within the terms of the Habitats Directive, and to prepare and submit a National Raised Bog Restoration Plan to the Commission as a matter of urgency”.

Following the motion, I immediately secured the agreement of Environment Commissioner Potonik to the development of a National Raised Bog SAC Management Plan.

The plan will set out the approach to the future restoration and management of each of the SACs, and may unlock some flexibility, within the terms of the Habitats Directive, to address the most difficult of sites, where relocation alternatives for turf-cutters may be limited.

To progress the preparation of the plan, my Department engaged a team of specialists - RPS - to provide the scientific basis for raised bog conservation in Ireland. RPS has been working with my Department and the Peatlands Council to prepare a National Raised Bog SAC Management Plan, a draft of which I hope to make available for consultation before the end of the year. Further information on the work of RPS can be found at www.raisedbogrestoration.ie .

The draft plan will include a number of case studies to illustrate the scientific approach that will be needed for the restoration of all 53 raised bog SACs and to address concerns regarding implications for surrounding land. The surveys will involve site visits to verify drainage systems and to take other scientific measurements. I would like to make it clear that this is a scientific survey and that no restoration work is to take place during this survey. I would also like to make it clear that no future restoration work will be carried out on any raised bog SAC without full consultation and engagement with stakeholders.

This is set out clearly in the documentation which has been produced to guide this process, which is available to the public on www.raisedbogrestoration.ie. The Raised Bog Conservation Study SEA Scoping Report states:

The development of a National Raised Bog SAC Management Plan was recommended by Mr. Justice John Quirke in his report following the 2012 Peatland Forum. A national plan was also called for in a unanimous Dáil vote in 2012. The purpose of the plan is to provide the ability to explore whether there are any other options available for those sites where relocation is genuinely not possible. It also indicates how the 53 SACs are to be restored and managed into the future, which will be done in full consultation and partnership with those who own the bogs and surrounding land owners.

For the avoidance of all doubt, what is being conducted at the moment is a scientific survey. Comments in the local media from some parties about a risk of flooding arising from this simple scientific survey are unfounded. I am happy to reassure all partners in this process that this is a scientific survey and any future actions that might be proposed arising from it will only be considered in consultation with the local community and landowners.

I would therefore encourage all turf cutting committees, property owners and stakeholders to engage with this very preliminary assessment, so that an informed discussion can begin on the future management options for each site.