Question No. 125 withdrawn.

Child Care Services Provision

Questions (126)

Joan Collins

Question:

126. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will report on the Scandinavian style child care that has been implemented since the announcement of Budget 2013 and future plans; the number of extra children that have child care access compared to 2011/12 in pre school and day child care. [51045/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The provision of all child care services and any future plans in this regard is a matter for my colleague the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Francis Fitzgerald T.D. The Scandinavian child care model, while being a very comprehensive model, is also a very expensive model. The Department of Children and Youth Affairs (D/CYA) estimates that the cost of universal child care provision in Ireland could reach around €1 billion per annum. In light of the current fiscal environment, this level of funding is not available.

The early childhood care and education (ECCE) programme is a universal programme implemented by the D/CYA and provides a free pre-school year for all eligible children before they commence primary school. Approximately €175 million is provided annually to support the programme. In the school year 2012/2013 approximately 68,000 children availed of the free pre-school provision. The community child care subvention scheme is operated by D/CYA and supports in excess of 25,000 children, across some 1,000 community/not-for-profit child care providers. Under this scheme child care providers charge reduced fees to disadvantaged and low-income parents. Access to affordable child care is one of the key supports required by customers of the Department of Social Protection when entering employment. Customers of the Department can access the ECCE programme, the CCS programme, the child care education and training scheme (CETS) and the after school child care (ASCC) scheme.

The purpose of the After-school Child Care scheme (ASCC) is to help offset some of the after-school child care costs that are associated with availing of an employment opportunity. The scheme supports those who are unemployed as well as OFP recipients and is funded from the transfer of savings from my Department to the D/CYA.

The ASCC scheme was piloted during 2013 and following a review of the pilot, I have the agreed with Minister Fitzgerald to re-focus the funding for 2014. This will allow for a new strand of child care support for customers of my Department who are participating in the community employment (CE) scheme. This new child care support will provide an additional 1,800 places on top of the existing 2,800 places, which are currently available under the child care education and training support (CETS) scheme that is administered by the D/CYA. The CETS provides subsidised child care places to clients of my Department participating in education, training and now community employment programmes.

In addition the ASCC scheme is now available nationally and will provide 800 subsidised after-school child care places in 2014. The allocation of places, funding for the scheme, and the design of the scheme itself will be monitored and reviewed – as appropriate – during 2014.

Youth Unemployment Measures

Questions (127)

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

127. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social Protection what will happen if Ireland's youth unemployment rate drops below 25% in terms of eligibility for EU funding under the youth guarantee scheme. [51050/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

Eligibility for EU funding through the Youth Employment Initiative (YEI) for the period 2014-2018, which is being front-loaded in the two years 2014 and 2015, will be based on 2012 regional youth unemployment rates. Hence, any change in Ireland’s regional youth unemployment rates, which were above 25% in 2012 for both the Border, Midlands & Western region and the Southern & Eastern region, will not change our eligibility for this funding.

Invalidity Pension Appeals

Questions (128)

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

128. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will confirm that an appeal has been lodged in respect of the decision of her Department to refuse an invalidity pension application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Monaghan; the current status of that appeal. [51073/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that there is no record of an Invalidity Pension appeal by the person concerned having been received by that office. I understand from the Social Welfare Appeals Office that a Disability Allowance appeal was registered in respect of the person concerned in that office on 17 July 2013. However, this appeal was closed on 16 August 2013; it was withdrawn as a result of a favourable decision being made for the person concerned by Disability Allowance Section. 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.

Employment Support Services

Questions (129)

Brendan Ryan

Question:

129. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will outline the employment schemes that are directed at persons who are over 55 years of age; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [51083/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The Department of Social Protection funds and manages a number of employment schemes with the objectives for providing a mix of policy responses and opportunities for person who are unemployed. All programmes are open and accessible to person aged 55 years and over. No specific actions are undertaken or targeted at unemployed persons in this age group.

Wind Energy Generation

Questions (130)

Michael Colreavy

Question:

130. Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on whether the bulk of the projected wind energy exports to Britain will be supplied by offshore or onshore installations. [50908/13]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

In January of this year the United Kingdom Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Mr. Edward Davey MP, and I signed a Memorandum of Understanding on energy cooperation. That Memorandum sent a strong signal of our shared interest in developing the opportunity to export green electricity from Ireland to Britain and will result in completion of consideration of how Irish renewable energy resources, onshore and offshore, might be developed to the mutual benefit of both countries. The amount of energy to be procured by the United Kingdom and the mechanisms for sharing the resultant economic benefits, including an appropriate return to the Exchequer, are among the matters to be addressed ahead of signing any Inter-Governmental Agreement.

Projects of a significant scale specifically for export will have to await (i) the signing of an Inter-Governmental Agreement, (ii) the Renewable Energy Export Policy and Development Framework which is being developed by my Department over the coming year or so, and (iii) the obtaining of planning permission, informed by this policy, from An Bord Pleanála. Given the relative maturity of wind technology and the abundant resource available to Ireland, wind generation is likely to contribute a large component of any potential export to the United Kingdom. In this regard, both onshore and offshore developers will be free to bring forward proposed developments in due course.

Wind Energy Generation

Questions (131)

Michael Colreavy

Question:

131. Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on whether it is good policy to develop wind farms in this State to generate electricity for export; and when that electricity will be taken into the national grid and assist in attaining targets. [50957/13]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

Ireland has the capability to achieve its national targets for renewable electricity from onshore renewable generation alone, with capacity to spare. This means that, under the co-operation mechanisms outlined in Directive 2009/28/EC, there is potential for projects of scale both onshore and offshore that are aimed at export markets. It is in this context that the United Kingdom Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Mr. Edward Davey MP, and I signed a Memorandum of Understanding on energy cooperation. That Memorandum sent a strong signal of our shared interest in developing the opportunity to export green electricity from Ireland to Britain and will result in completion of consideration of how Irish renewable energy resources, onshore and offshore, might be developed to the mutual benefit of both countries.

The amount of energy to be procured by the United Kingdom and the mechanisms for sharing the resultant economic benefits, including an appropriate return to the Exchequer, are among the matters to be addressed ahead of signing any Inter-Governmental Agreement. Furthermore, the Renewable Energy Export Policy and Development Framework that my Department is currently developing will ensure that any export of renewable energy must take account of Ireland's energy needs and long term strategic energy requirements. Projects of a significant scale specifically for export will have to await the signing of an Inter-Governmental Agreement, the putting in place of the policy framework, and the obtaining of planning permission, informed by this policy, from An Bord Pleanála.