Questions Nos. 260 and 261 withdrawn.

Labour Activation Measures

Questions (262)

Michael McGrath

Question:

262. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of people currently on labour activation measures who are not included in the live register figures; and if she will confirm the number on labour activation measures when the Government came to office. [11995/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The total number of people on labour activation measures who are not included in the live register figures at the end of January was 85,028 which compares to a total of 70,768 when the Government came into office. A breakdown by scheme of the number of persons on activation measures in both January 2014 and February 2011 is detailed in the following tabular statement:

Scheme

Jan 2014

Feb 2011

Back to work allowance scheme – employee strand

9

715

Back to work enterprise allowance scheme - self employed strand

10,160

8,436

Short-term enterprise allowance

488

1,200

DSP part-time job incentive

296

161

Tús community work placement initiative

7,119

0

JobBridge

6,440

0

Community employment schemes (excluding supervisors)

22,512

21,867

FAS full time training for unemployed people

8,276

8,422

Back to education allowance (BTEA)

24,728

24,967

Vocational training opportunities scheme (VTOS)

Estimated at 5,000 annually

Note: Tús commenced in 2011, JobBridge started in July 2011.

Humanitarian Assistance Scheme

Questions Nos. 264 to 266, inclusive, withdrawn.

Questions (263)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

263. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Social Protection the forms of assistance that are being provided to persons affected by flooding and the severe weather in December 2013 and January 2014 from the Department’s humanitarian assistance fund of €25 million which was recently allocated by the Government. [12024/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government is the lead Department for severe weather emergencies and the Office of Public Works has responsibility for capital flood relief activities. However, the Department of Social Protection (DSP) has an important role to play in assisting households in the immediate aftermath of emergency events such as the recent severe weather conditions under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme (SWA).

A humanitarian assistance scheme was approved by Government in November 2009. The scheme, which is means tested, is available to assist people whose homes are damaged by flooding and who are not in a position to meet costs for essential needs, household items and in some instances structural repair. Levels of payment under the scheme depend on the relative severity of damage experienced and the household’s ability to meet these costs ensuring that the funding is appropriately targeted. Humanitarian assistance does not cover risks that are covered by insurance policies or cover business or commercial losses.

In dealing with events of this nature the DSP generally adopts a three stage approach as follows:

- Stage 1 is to provide emergency income support payments for food, clothing, personal items and temporary accommodation in the immediate aftermath of the event. A relatively small amount of financial assistance is generally provided initially but this will increase as the extent of the problems become clearer. Payments are made immediately following the impacts of severe weather mainly in respect of food, clothing, toiletries and accommodation.

- Stage 2 generally involves the replacement of white goods, basic furniture items and other essential household items. It is not until the flood water abates and houses dry out that the full extent of the damage to homes will become known. Payments are being issued under this stage to customers affected by the recent severe weather with payments ranging between €2,000 and €4,000.

- Stage 3 is to identify what longer term financial support or works are required. It could take several months before this stage of response commences and this involves a cross Departmental/Agency response. The type of work carried out can include plastering, dry-lining, relaying of floors, electrical re-wiring, painting etc. Payments under this phase will generally take longer to process as homeowners establish the cost of repair by securing builders’ estimates and the extent of the loss is verified, usually by a loss assessor, in cases where significant amounts are claimed.

Department officials are liaising with local authorities and other agencies to ensure supports are provided to those affected by the recent flooding as swiftly as possible. Any person who is experiencing hardship as a result of the recent weather events should contact the Department’s local representative administering SWA who may be able to offer assistance.

Questions Nos. 264 to 266, inclusive, withdrawn.

Local and Community Development Programme Planning

Questions (267)

Eric J. Byrne

Question:

267. Deputy Eric Byrne asked the Minister for Social Protection in view of the possibility of local development companies losing the contract to deliver the local community development programme and Leader and becoming unsustainable as result, what contingency plans, if any, have been put in place for the continued delivery of Department of Social Protection programmes currently delivered by LDCs, that is, Tús, rural social schemes, community employment, local employment services, jobs club; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12037/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

Local Development Companies support the delivery of a range of programmes and schemes for the Department of Social Protection including Tús, the community work placement initiative, community employment, the rural social scheme and enterprise support to the long term jobseeker wishing to pursue a self-employment option. The Companies deliver the JobClubs and the Local Employment Service for the Department in a number of counties. Delivery of these programmes is not predicated on the companies delivering the Local Community Development and Rural Development Programmes. The Department will continue to work with the Companies in identifying and managing the risks to future delivery of programmes in the context of the changing procurement environment.

Unemployment Data

Question No. 269 withdrawn.

Questions (268)

Colm Keaveney

Question:

268. Deputy Colm Keaveney asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will provide, in tabular form, the numbers of persons on the live register, on any job activation scheme, or on a disability or invalidity payment, in January of 2012, 2013 and to date in 2014; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12038/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The information requested by the Deputy is contained in the tabular statement.

Scheme

Jan 2012

Jan 2013

Jan 2014

Activation

Back to work allowance scheme - employee strand

162

14

9

Back to work enterprise allowance scheme - self employed strand

10,772

10,812

10,160

Short-term enterprise allowance

1,201

1,002

488

DSP part-time job incentive

190

215

296

TUS - community work placement initiative

2,337

4,510

7,119

JobBridge

3,469

5,565

6,440

Community employment schemes (excluding supervisors)

22,298

21,063

22,512

FAS full time training for unemployed people

9,001

9,346

8,276

Back to education allowance (BTEA)

25,646

25,805

24,728

Vocational training opportunities scheme (VTOS)

Estimated at 5,000 annually

Live Register

Live Register

439,589

429,396

399,630

Disability Allowance and Invalidity Pension Recipients

Disability Allowance

102,698

101,830

106,673

Invalidity Pension

49,724

50,285

53,222

The live register for February 2014 as published by the CSO on 5 March stood at 398,069.

Question No. 269 withdrawn.

Carer's Allowance Appeals

Questions (270)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

270. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if an oral hearing will be facilitated in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare and their pending application for carer's allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12049/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was referred to an Appeals Officer on 6th February 2014, who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral hearing. The Deputy’s request for an oral hearing of this case will be brought to the attention of the Appeals Officer. 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 Nos. 272 and 273 withdrawn.

Questions (271)

Michael Ring

Question:

271. Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision on a carer's allowance appeal will issue in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12088/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

I confirm that the Department received an application for carer’s allowance from the person in question on the 30th of May 2013. The person concerned was refused carers allowance on the grounds that the care recipient is not so disabled as to require ful- time care and attention as prescribed in regulations. She was notified of this decision and the reason for it on the 9th of July 2013. The person concerned appealed this decision and submitted additional medical evidence in support of the application which was received on the 10th of October 2013. This supplementary information was forwarded to the Department’s medical assessor for consideration. However this information did not alter the opinion of the medical assessor and the decision remained unchanged. All the necessary papers have been submitted to the Social Welfare Appeals Office for determination. The Social Welfare Appeals Office will be in touch with the person directly regarding the progress of the appeal.

Questions Nos. 272 and 273 withdrawn.

Domiciliary Care Allowance Appeals

Questions (274)

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

274. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will provide in tabular form the annual cost for domiciliary care allowance oral hearings to include as separate line items, hotel room hire, mileage for Department personnel who attend the hearings, subsistence for Department personnel who attend the hearings, allowances paid to Department personnel in addition to their basic pay and any other costs associated with the hearings between 2011 and 2013. [12135/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that cost details for room hire and travel and subsistence are not maintained on a scheme by scheme basis. It is therefore not possible to provide the information sought by the Deputy in relation to Domiciliary Care Allowance oral hearings. General Social Welfare Appeals Office expenditure under the headings of room hire and travel and subsistence for the years in question is, however, provided in the following table:

Social Welfare Appeals Office - Annual Costs Relating to Room Hire and Travel and Subsistence

-

Year

Year

Year

-

2011

2012

2013

Room Hire

94,750

117,390

95,256

Travel & Subsistence

236,543

261,016

233,670

The information sought in relation to the travel and subsistence costs incurred by Department staff attending Domiciliary Care Allowance appeal oral hearings is provided in the following table:

Annual Costs Relating to Travel and Subsistence for DCA Staff

-

Year

Year

Year

-

2011

2012

2013

Mileage

€549.35

€265.82

€107.51

Travel & Subsistence

€141.30

€107.69

€13.71

Community Employment Schemes Eligibility

Questions (275)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

275. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will allow persons finishing community employment schemes to start another one in less than 12 months in certain circumstances, as the current time is very long if persons cannot find employment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12141/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The purpose of the gap between Community Employment (CE) scheme years is to maximise the number of places for new entrants. The vacant place can then be taken up by another eligible person. A full 52 week placement is deemed to be of sufficient duration for the majority of participants to become “job-ready”. Where further participation is deemed of benefit to the participant by the sponsor (employer), there is the facility to extend up to 10% of participants into another CE year under the Part-Time Integration Option of CE, with Departmental approval.

As part of the Individual Learner Plan process utilised on CE, exit planning and preparation is carried out. This includes information regarding participants’ options on exiting the programme, such as progressing into further training e.g. with the local Education and Training Board to enhance their skillsets and qualifications, or by availing of the services of the local Job Club to assist in gaining employment.

As a general rule, for a person who has exited CE to be considered for re-entry, 12 months need to have elapsed since any previous participation and he/she must have been in receipt of a CE-qualifying payment for that 12-month period (i.e. they requalify for further time on CE under the standard CE eligibility conditions). This is subject to availability of places and compliance with the participation time limits i.e. 3 years cumulative participation for those under 55 years of age, or 6 years cumulative participation for those of 55 years of age up to state pension age. Persons in receipt of a qualifying disability-related social welfare payment can qualify for 1 additional year’s participation on top of those maxima. While there are no immediate plans to alter this condition at present, CE eligibility conditions are kept under on-going review.

Community Development Projects

Questions (276)

Brendan Smith

Question:

276. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Social Protection if funding will be continued in respect of a project where valuable and much-needed employment has been created (details supplied); if urgent consideration will be given to the detailed appeal submitted to Pobal in respect of the need to continue financial assistance for this project; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12150/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

As part of the regular re-contracting process undertaken for the Community Services Programme, the company in question submitted its business plan for the future contracting period beginning in 2014. The business plan was assessed as being weak as it did not adequately demonstrate a need for the service nor was it possible to conclude that good value for money would be delivered over the coming years and when compared to other services, the future sustainability of the service was in doubt.

The Department has agreed to a proposal from the Board that the opportunity should be afforded to the company to develop an alternative service proposal to reflect emerging priorities and needs in the communities serviced. The proposals will be evaluated when received and if found to be of satisfactory standard, it will allow for continued programme support. The current commitment to the company is some €127,000 per annum.

Appointments to State Boards

Questions (277)

Terence Flanagan

Question:

277. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Social Protection the action she is taking to encourage more Irish executives to serve on State boards under the remit of her Department; her views on the recent Merc Partners survey; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12464/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The statutory bodies operating under the aegis of the Department of Social Protection are the Citizens Information Board, the Pensions Board, the Pensions Ombudsman (which does not have a board) and the Social Welfare Tribunal.

Citizens Information Board

The procedures followed when appointing members to the Citizens Information Board are in accordance with the Revised Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies where Departments invite expressions of interest from members of the public for vacancies on the boards or bodies under their aegis. These new arrangements involve using a centralised application service provided by the Public Appointments Service (PAS) to manage the expressions of interest received. Interested parties are required to submit an online application form, a self-assessment of their skills and/or experience in a number of identified competency areas, a curriculum vitae and a covering letter. The legislative provisions governing appointments are contained in the Comhairle Act 2000, the Citizens Information Act 2007 and the Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2011.

Pensions Board

The Pensions Act, 1990 (as amended) provides for the establishment of the Pensions Board and for the appointment of Board members. The Public Service Reform Programme provided for a critical review of the integration of the regulatory functions of the Pensions Board with the Financial Regulator and the merging of the Pensions Ombudsman with the Financial Services Ombudsman. The recommendations arising out of the Critical Review on the Pensions Board were approved by Government in April 2013 and were provided for in the Social Welfare and Pensions Act, 2013.

It was recommended that the governance structure of the Pensions Board be restructured with two distinct arms as follows:

- Oversight of the Pensions Board will be undertaken by a three person body called the Pensions Authority. This will consist of a Chairperson and two officials from the Department of Social Protection and the Department of Finance.

- A separate unpaid Pensions Council, with a majority of members representing consumer interests, will be established to advise me on pensions policy.

I have appointed the Chairperson(s) of the Pensions Authority and the Pensions Council. I will be seeking expressions of interest for appointments to the Pensions Council through the Public Appointments Service.

Social Welfare Tribunal

Under the provisions of Social Welfare legislation, two members of the Tribunal’s Board are nominated by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and two are nominated by the Irish Business and Employer’s Confederation. I must appoint the persons whose names are forwarded by the respective organisations. The Chairperson is sourced by the Department of Social Protection by way of a recommendation from the Labour Court with regard to a particular candidate’s suitability.

Turf Cutting Compensation Scheme Payments

Questions (278)

Paul Connaughton

Question:

278. Deputy Paul J. Connaughton asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if payment in relation to the cessation of the turf cutting compensation scheme issued to a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if the payment did not issue, the reasons for the non-payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11539/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Arts)

No application has been received under the cessation of turf cutting compensation scheme, administered by my Department, from the individual referred to in the Deputy’s Question.

Wildlife Regulations

Questions (279)

Tom Fleming

Question:

279. Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he will now apply a derogation to extend the season for controlled mountain gorse burning; if he will take into consideration the current extreme weather conditions and come to the assistance of farmers-landowners who have not been given the opportunity to carry out controlled gorse burning; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11669/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Arts)

The Wildlife Acts 1976 to 2012 prohibit the cutting, grubbing, burning or destruction of vegetation, with certain strict exemptions, from 1 March to 31 August during the nesting and breeding season for birds and wildlife. There are no provisions in the Acts which would allow a derogation to be applied. Vegetation such as hedgerows and scrub is important as wildlife habitat and needs to be managed in the interests of both farming and biodiversity. I have initiated a review of the current legislation to ensure that it remains both effective and balanced. As part of that review, the potential for setting the relevant dates by statutory instrument, rather than in primary legislation, as is the position currently, will be examined.

National Parks and Wildlife Service Expenditure

Questions (280)

Dara Calleary

Question:

280. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he will provide in tabular form, the funding provided to each of our five national parks in 2010 to 2014, inclusive. [11731/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Arts)

For the information of the Deputy, there are six national parks. The following table sets out the capital allocations in respect of each national park since 2011, the year in which my Department as currently configured was established. Current allocations, i.e. ongoing staffing and other day-to-day running costs such as heating, lighting and property maintenance, relate to the wider regional operational costs of the National Parks and Wildlife Service of my Department and are not broken down at national park level.

National Park

2011 - €

2012 - €

2013 - €

Ballycroy

91,000

112,000

75,540

Burren

175,000

75,240

0

Connemara

25,000

20,000

13,600

Glenveagh

80,000

167,500

142,000

Killarney

600,000

1,088,405

913,100

Wicklow Mountains

10,000

64,500

40,500

Total:

981,000

1,527,645

1,184,740