Single Payment Scheme Payments

Questions (475)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

475. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when payment under the 2013 single farm payment and disadvantaged area-based payment schemes will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Mayo, the reason for the delay in issuing this payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12068/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The 2013 Single Farm Payment/Disadvantaged Areas’ Scheme application of the person named was selected for a ground eligibility/cross compliance inspection. The ground eligibility inspection identified an over-declaration in area that was deemed to have been intentional which, under the Terms and Conditions of the schemes, resulted in no payment issuing in respect of the 2013 schemes. The person named was notified of this decision on the 11 November 2013.

In addition, the person named failed to co-operate with elements of the cross compliance inspection in relation to cattle identification and registration requirements. Under the Terms and Conditions of the schemes, this resulted in a 100% penalty being applied to all payments due in respect of 2013. The person named was notified of this decision on the 2 August 2013. The person named was informed of the right to seek a review of these decisions. To date no request for a review has been received by my Department. In the event that the person named is dissatisfied with the outcome of any such review, the decision can be appealed to the independent Agriculture Appeals Office, within 3 months.

Departmental Staff Grades

Questions (476)

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

476. Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the staffing levels in his Department for each year over the past five years; the grades of the staff members; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12073/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The staffing breakdown requested by the Deputy in respect of my Department is contained in the Table below. The figures are based on the actual full-time equivalent (FTE) position as recorded at the end of each year from 2009 to 2013.

DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, FOOD AND THE MARINE

-

FULL-TIME EQUIVALENT (FTE) STAFFING AT END OF:

FULL-TIME EQUIVALENT (FTE) STAFFING AT END OF:

FULL-TIME EQUIVALENT (FTE) STAFFING AT END OF:

FULL-TIME EQUIVALENT (FTE) STAFFING AT END OF:

FULL-TIME EQUIVALENT (FTE) STAFFING AT END OF:

GRADE DESCRIPTION

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICER

21.6

22.6

25

24

23.5

ADVISORY COUNSEL GRADE 3

1

1

1

-

1

AGRICULTURAL INSPECTOR

85.9

75.2

70.6

75.7

74.1

AREA SUPERINTENDENT

16

14

14

11

11

ASSISTANT SECRETARY

7

7

7

7

7

ASST AGRICULTURAL INSP AGRIC

104.4

103.8

107.9

93.9

97.2

ASST PRINCIPAL

135.5

122.7

123.3

122.7

121.8

AUDITOR

-

-

-

1

1

CHEMIST

2

2

2

2

2

CHIEF INSPECTOR AGRIC

1

1

1

1

1

CHIEF TECHNOLOGIST

1

1

1

-

1

CHIEF VETERINARY OFFICER

1

1

1

1

1

CIVILIAN DRIVER

5

2

4

4

4

CLEANER

19.8

16.8

14.8

10.6

8.6

CLEANER PART- TIME

10.5

8

9

6

4.6

CLERICAL OFF

1,006.6

921.7

888.6

825.2

747.8

Craftsman

7.5

7.5

7.5

7.5

7.5

DAIRY PRODUCE OFFICER

6

4

4

3

2

DEPUTY CHIEF INSPECTOR

1

1

1

1

1

DEPUTY CHIEF TECHNOLOGIST

2

1

1

1

1

DEPUTY CHIEF VETERINARY OFF

2

3

3

3

2

DIRECTOR IMT

-

1

1

1

1

DIRECTOR AGRIC. LABORATORIES

1

1

1

1

1

DIRECTOR ANIMAL HEALTH

-

-

-

1

1

DIRECTOR VET RESEARCH LAB

-

-

-

-

1

DISTRICT SUPERINTENDENT

104.1

98.6

83.6

70.6

69.6

DRIVER TESTER

-

-

2

1

2

Dublin General OperativeBand 2

1

-

-

-

-

Dublin General OperativeBand 3

4

4

4

4

4

ENGINEER GRADE 1 CIVIL

5

3

3

3

3

ENGINEER GRADE 2 CIVIL

5

5

5

5

5

ENGINEER GRADE 3 CIVIL

9

6

6

8

8

EXECUTIVE OFFICER

460.6

437.8

428.7

399.3

387.4

EXECUTIVE OFFICER - TEMPORARY

-

-

2

-

1

FIRST ASST SOLICITOR AGRIC

2

2

2

1

1

FORESTRY INSPECTOR GRADE 1

4

3

4

7

7

FORESTRY INSPECTOR GRADE 2

12

13

12

9

8

FORESTRY INSPECTOR GRADE 3

17

16

19

16

15

GENERAL OPERATIVE

1

1

-

-

-

Harbour Constable

2

2

2

2

2

HARBOUR MASTER

7

5

6

3

5

HEAD LABORATORY ATTENDANT

1

1

-

-

-

HEAD OF LEGAL SERVICES IN AGRI

1

1

1

1

-

HEAD SERVICES OFFICER

1

1

1

1

1

HIGHER LEGAL EXECUTIVE

-

1

1

1

1

HIGHER EXECUTIVE OFFICER

268.4

254.8

250.2

231.3

220.5

HIGHER SEED ANALYST

3.8

3.8

3.8

3.8

3.8

Industrial Foreman

5

5

5

5

6

INSPECTOR & ENG FISHERIES

2

1

1

1

1

INSPECTOR GRADE 1

1

1

1

1

1

INSPECTOR GRADE 2

9

5.8

5.8

4.8

4.8

LABORATORY ANALYST

61.1

64.3

67.3

69.2

68.4

LABORATORY ATTENDANT AG&MAR

33

30

28

29.8

26

LIBRARIAN

1

1

-

-

-

PARLIAMENTARY ASSISTANT

-

1

-

-

-

PERSONAL ASSISTANT (MINISTERIAL)

1

1

2

2

2

PERSONAL SECRETARY (MINISTERIAL)

2

2

2

2

1

POULTRY OFFICER

5

4

4

1

1

PRINCIPAL

36

30

32

31

36

PROFESSIONAL ACCOUNTANT GR 1 -

1

1

1

1

1

QUALITY MANAGER

-

3

3

4

3

RESEARCH OFFICER

20.2

18.2

20.7

18.1

17.1

Rural General Operative Band 1

5

5

6

6

6

Rural General Operative Band 2

20.5

21.5

20.5

18.5

17.5

Rural General Operative Band 3

24.8

19.8

19.8

19

19

SECRETARY GENERAL AGRICULTURE

1

1

1

1

1

SECRETARIAL ASSISTANT

-

-

-

-

1

SEED ANALYST

10.9

11

10.4

10.6

10.6

SENIOR AUDITOR

1

1

1

1

1

SENIOR DAIRY PRODUCE OFFICER

3

2

2

1

1

SENIOR INSPECTOR

12

12

12

12

13

SENIOR LABORATORY ANALYST

45.9

40.9

40.9

37.2

37.3

SENIOR LEGAL CLERK

1

-

-

-

-

SENIOR RESEARCH OFFICER

14.8

9.8

10.8

9.8

9.8

SENIOR SEED ANALYST

1

1

1

1

1

SENIOR SEROLOGICAL ASSISTANT

1

1

1

-

1

SENIOR SUPERINTEND VET INSP

11

9

8

7

9

SENIOR SURVEYOR

1

1

1

-

-

SEROLOGICAL ASSISTANT

31.5

31.1

31.1

31.1

31.1

SERVICES ATTENDANT

7

5

5

5

5

SERVICES OFFICER

41

38

35

36

33.8

SPECIAL ADVISOR (MINISTERIAL)

-

-

1

2

2

STAFF OFFICER

92.6

80.4

74

65.7

57.4

SUPERINTEN SEN RESEARCH OFF

3

4

4

4

3

SUPERINTENDENT SURVEYOR

1

1

-

-

-

SUPERINTENDING VET INSP

52

48

41

36

36

SUPERVISING SEROLOGICAL ASST

10.8

7.8

8.3

8.4

7.4

SUPERVISORY AGRIC OFF

256.5

244.5

227.5

205.5

201.3

TECHNICAL AGRICULTURAL OFF

489.4

477.3

457.8

417.2

408.3

TECHNICAL GRADES LEVEL 4

6

5

5

4

4

VETERINARY INSPECTOR

207.2

203.9

199.1

195.5

197.8

VISUALLY IMPAIRED TELEPHONIST

3

3

3

2

2

Grand Total

3,881

3,632

3,525

3,276

3,154

Departmental Staff Grades

Questions (477)

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

477. Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of members of staff and their grades in his Department for each year over the past five years that transferred to the employment of other Departments or Government agencies; if he will identify same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12074/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The number of staff that transferred from my Department to other Government Departments and Agencies over the past five years is:

Year

Clerical Officer

Staff Officer

Executive Officer

Higher Executive Officer

Administrative Officer

Assistant Principal

Principal Officer

Service Officer/Attendant

Assistant Chief Engineer

2009

40

15

18

2

1

2010

92

11

21

14

4

1

1

2011

25

4

7

3

2

2012

46

8

9

3

2013

94

8

14

7

1

1

1

The receiving Government Departments and Agencies included the Department of Arts, Heritage & the Gaeltacht, the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, the Department of Defence, the Department of Education and Skills, the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government, the Department of Finance, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Department of Justice, the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, the Department of Social Protection, the Office of the Attorney General, the Central Statistics Office, the Office of Public Works, the Oireachtas and the Revenue Commissioners.

Single Payment Scheme Payments

Questions (478)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

478. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the reason entitlements are based on their father's activity from pre-2004 in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry even though they run a far more productive farm now; if this matter could be addressed to reflect the current level of productivity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12079/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Livestock Premia and Arable Aid Schemes were decoupled from production with effect from 1 January 2005. A new scheme, known as the Single Payment Scheme, replaced those schemes from that date. The gross Single Payment is based on the average number of animals, and/or the average number of hectares in the case of Arable Aid, on which payments were made in the three reference years, 2000, 2001 and 2002. The above named received 59.90 Standard entitlements @ €107.29 with a total net value of €6,426.67 in 2005 through a transfer. In 2005 he submitted applications under Force Majeure, New Entrant and National Reserve, however he was unsuccessful under each category as he did not meet the required criteria.

The Single Payment Scheme will cease on 31 December 2014 and will be replaced by the Basic Payment Scheme. While initially retaining the link with the Single Payment Scheme, the model of convergence that will be implemented in Ireland will gradually move all farmers towards a national average value over the five years of the new scheme. Under this model all farmers are guaranteed that they will achieve a minimum value of at least 60% of the national average by 2019. The purpose of this model is to achieve a gradual phased redistribution of payments between those who currently hold high value entitlements and those who hold low value entitlements. It will I believe introduce a fairer more equitable distribution of funds between farmers while avoiding the negative impact of a sudden move to a ‘flat-rate’.

Single Payment Scheme Applications

Questions (479)

Seán Fleming

Question:

479. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if a single farm payment was granted to a person (details supplied) in County Laois; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12081/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

My Department is currently examining the matter and will contact the Deputy directly regarding the information requested as soon as possible.

Grassland Sheep Scheme Payments

Questions (480)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

480. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the supports that will be made available to upland sheep farmers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12082/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

In developing the shape of the new system of Direct Payments in Ireland, I have been very conscious of the needs of sheep farmers, in particular those who farm on hill and commonage land. In general this group holds low value entitlements under the current Single Payment Scheme and will benefit significantly from the model of convergence that is to be applied in Ireland where those with a low Initial Unit Value will see the value of their entitlements increase over the period of the scheme.

The Grassland Sheep Scheme is based on Article 68 of the current EU Regulation 73/2009 which governs direct payments in the form of the Single Payment Scheme. As of the 1 January 2015 that Regulation is superseded by EU Regulation 1307/2013 and consequently there is no longer any legal basis for the continuation of the Grassland Sheep Scheme in its present form.

When determining the Initial Unit Value of a farmer’s entitlements under the Basic Payment Scheme in 2015, Regulation 1307/2009 gives Member States the option to take into account any payment the farmer received in 2014 under Article 68 schemes such as the Grassland Sheep Scheme. This option is only available where the Member State is not applying voluntary coupled support to the sector concerned under the new CAP.

I have decided to apply this provision in Ireland as a means of safeguarding the payments received under the Grassland Sheep Scheme. The incorporation of the Grassland Sheep Scheme payment into the calculation of a farmer’s Initial Unit Value in 2015 will obviously result in a higher entitlement value for the farmers concerned from the start of the Scheme rather than relying solely on the gradual process of convergence to increase the unit value over the five year period up to 2019. Our analysis confirms that as a result of this provision the group of farmers who receive the Grassland Sheep Scheme will have the immediate benefit of an additional €10.3 million in 2015 as part of their payment under the Basic Payment Scheme.

Over the past two years sheep numbers have stabilised and while the breeding flock declined slightly in 2013, a return to growth is expected in 2014. I was pleased to note that for the third consecutive year Irish sheep throughput grew, reaching 2.61 million head, a rise of 7%. These developments led to sheepmeat production rising by around 3% to stand just over 55,000 tonnes. The total value of Irish sheepmeat exports is estimated to have increased by over 4% in 2013 to reach €220m.

I have recently announced details in relation to the measures proposed for inclusion in the new Rural Development Programme (RDP), 2014-2020. These proposed measures form the basis for a public consultation in relation to the new RDP, and written submissions have been invited by 19 February. Details in relation to the consultation process and the proposed measures for the new RDP can be found on my Department’s website. The consultation process will inform the next stage of RDP design, including the detailed development of new schemes.

Animal Identification Schemes

Questions (481)

Willie Penrose

Question:

481. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will provide an assurance to the farming community that all details registered by them on the AIMS database are confidential and cannot be accessed by third parties in order to enable such bodies or organisations to monitor livestock numbers of individual farmers or the herd profiles of such farmers; the way the database is operated and safeguarded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12131/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I can confirm to the Deputy that, as required by the provisions of legislation on Data Protection, information held by my Department on the Animal Identification and Movement (AIM) system is confidential and is maintained for the purposes only for which it was provided. Herd-level data stored on the AIM system in respect of an individual farmer can only be accessed by a third party where the farmer has provided a written authorisation to my Department granting access to that third party. In all other cases, the individual keeper, who has signed up to use AgFood.ie or an approved farm management package, can access her/his own herd profile from the AIM system via the use of a unique secure password.

TAMS Applications

Questions (482)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

482. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will review the way the points system for TAMS works to improve weaknesses in the system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12181/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The first Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Schemes (TAMS) introduced by my Department under the aegis of the 2007-2013 Rural Development Programme are now closed for the receipt of applications. I have no plans to alter on a retroactive basis the selection criteria which were in place under those schemes.

The consultation paper prepared by my Department in relation to the proposed measures for inclusion in Ireland’s Rural Development Programme for 2014-2020 includes a commitment to the introduction of further targeted investment schemes for the sector (TAMS II). The governing EU provisions require the employment of selection criteria in such schemes in order to ensure the equal treatment of all applicants and the better use of financial resources. Any proposals from the Deputy with regard to the possible selection criteria for the new TAMS will receive careful consideration.

Common Agricultural Policy Reform

Questions (483, 484)

Finian McGrath

Question:

483. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine in view of the new requirements for ecological focus areas as part of the greening element of Pillar 1 of CAP 2014-2020, the way his Department justifies the determination of land such as hedgerows, areas under tree cover, small areas of foliage or scrub as ineligible for the single farm payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12208/14]

View answer

Finian McGrath

Question:

484. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he intends to implement a provision for ecological focus areas under Pillar 1 of the Common Agricultural Policy. [12209/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 483 and 484 together.

The agreement reached under the Irish Presidency on the Reform of the Common Agricultural Policy incorporated the following three greening measures as part of the Direct Payment Regime:

- Crop Diversification;

- Maintenance of Permanent Grassland;

- Ecological Focus Areas.

The provisions governing Ecological Focus Areas – referred to as EFA areas - are mandatory requirements and must be applied in all Member States. Under these provisions, arable farmers whose holdings include more than 15 hectares of arable land must ensure that at least 5% of that arable land is allocated to Ecological Focus Area. All arable farmers with less than 15 hectares are exempt from the EFA requirement.

There are, of course, a number of further exemptions whereby farmers will be exempt from Crop Diversification and EFA greening measures. The following categories of farmers are the most significant for Irish farmers:

- Where more than 75% of the eligible land of the holding is permanent grassland, used for production of grasses or other herbaceous forage or a combination of these, provided the arable area not covered by these uses does not exceed 30 hectares.

- Where more than 75% of the arable land of a holding is used for the production of grasses or other herbaceous forage or land laying fallow, or a combination of these, provided the remaining arable area does not exceed 30 hectares.

- Land that is subject to organic farming practices automatically fulfils all greening requirements. However such exemption only applies to that part of the holding which is farmed organically.

The following areas can be classified as EFA areas under the EU Regulations:

- Lands lying fallow;

- Landscape features such as hedges, ditches and drains – including those situated adjacent to arable land;

- Buffer Strips;

- Short Rotation Coppice – no use of mineral fertiliser and/or plant protection products

- Eligible SPS Afforested Areas;

- Areas of catch crops or green cover;

- Areas of nitrogen fixing crops;

- Field margins – no agricultural production;

- Ponds – maximum of 0.1 ha

- Traditional stonewalls.

With the exception of buffer strips which may also be situated on permanent grassland, and afforested areas/short rotation coppice, the EFA areas referred to above must be situated on arable lands. Arable lands are lands that were involved in crop rotation in one or more years during the previous five years. In relation to the areas referred to by the Deputy, I assume that the lands with tree cover and scrub are not arable lands and are, therefore, not eligible as an EFA area. The grazing part of such areas are eligible for payment under the Single Farm Payment and under the Basic Payment Scheme (from 2015) provided they are farmed by the applicant and maintained in Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition. However, hedgerows, as already stated can be eligible as an EFA area provided they are situated in or adjacent to an arable parcel declared by the applicant.

Single Payment Scheme Eligibility

Questions (485)

Finian McGrath

Question:

485. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine in view of the fact that his Department's website states entitlements may be transferred, including by way of lease; if he will confirm if a lessee holds entitlements can they establish new entitlements based on the fact that they are leasing entitlements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12210/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Any farmer who was entitled to receive a direct payment in 2013 (Single Payment, Grassland Sheep Scheme, Burren Life Scheme, Beef Data Scheme) is automatically eligible to receive an allocation of entitlements under the Basic Payment Scheme in 2015. The status of entitlements held in 2013, whether leased or owned, has no impact on the establishment of such an allocation right.

The value of entitlements that will be allocated to a farmer in 2015 will be based on a percentage of the value of entitlements (and where relevant the payment received in 2014 under the Grassland Sheep Scheme) owned by the farmer on the closing date for applications under the 2014 scheme year. When carrying forward the value of leased entitlements to the Basic Payment Scheme in 2015, such value will be assigned to the owner of the entitlements (where the owner is eligible to participate in the Basic Payment Scheme) and not to the lessee.

The lessor and lessee in question may wish to carry forward the existing lease into the new Basic Payment Scheme and may do so by way of a Private Contract Clause. However, to enter into such an agreement, the lessor must hold an allocation right (from 2013) and must also establish entitlements in his own right in 2015.

If the parties concerned do not enter into a Private Contract Clause, and the lessee in question does not own entitlements in 2014, he/she has no value to carry forward into the new scheme. However he/she retains his allocation right and will establish new entitlements. Such entitlements will have an Initial Unit Value of zero but will be converged upwards immediately in the first year of the scheme.

Alternatively, the lessee has the option to purchase entitlements under the current 2014 scheme year and the value of such entitlements will carry forward to the calculation of his entitlements under the new Scheme in 2015.

I recommend that the parties concerned contact the 2015 Direct Payments Information Centre at 0761 064438 or CAPdirectpayments@agriculture.gov.ie to discuss their individual circumstances in more detail.

Single Payment Scheme Payments

Questions (486)

Martin Heydon

Question:

486. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position regarding a single farm payment and penalty dating back to 2008 in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; if he will advise what has happened since; the current position; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12218/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

On 15 May 2008 the person named made an application for Single Farm Payment. This application was subsequently selected for on farm inspection. The inspection took place on 9 September 2008. At that time the inspector found that the person named had over claimed by 5.11 hectares. As the over declaration was more than 2 hectares the payment was reduced by twice the area over declared. The person named was officially informed of this finding on 23 October 2008 and given the opportunity to appeal. The Single Farm Payment Unit do not have a record of an appeal been lodged.

Appointments to State Boards

Questions (487)

Terence Flanagan

Question:

487. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the action he is taking to encourage more Irish executives to serve on State boards under the remit of his Department; his views on the recent Merc Partners survey; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12456/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Since May 2011, a notification has been placed on my Department’s website inviting expressions of interest from persons interested in being appointed to the boards of State Bodies under the aegis of my Department. On 20 December 2013 last, I placed an advertisement in the National Newspapers inviting expressions of interest.

In making any board appointments, I am not necessarily confined to those who make such expressions of interest but ensure that all of those appointed have the relevant mix of knowledge and expertise to contribute to the relevant board. In the case of a number of bodies, some board appointments, while made by me, are not at my sole discretion in that individuals are nominated for appointment by me by various organisations as specified in the relevant statute. These are the Aquaculture Licensing Appeals Board, Bord Bia, Teagasc, National Milk Agency, Veterinary Council of Ireland and Horse Racing Ireland. I welcome the Merc Partners Executive Expectations Survey 2014 and in particular the fact that 80% of respondents indicated a willingness to express interest in being appointed to a State Board.

Child and Family Agency Establishment

Questions (488)

Dara Calleary

Question:

488. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the design costs for the new Tusla logo; the tender process entered into for the logo design, that is, was it open or restricted, was it advertised on eTenders and so on; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11568/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

In preparation for the establishment of the Child and Family Agency on 1st January 2014 and in order to establish a single brand identity, the HSE Children and Family Services decided to formally engage external support. A tendering process was entered into by Children and Family Services and three companies were invited to make presentations.

Creative Inc were selected and contracted for branding purposes. Costs on research, stakeholder engagements, brand architecture, naming, visual identity and logo usage guidelines for the Agency amounted to €30,270.40 excluding VAT.

Early Childhood Care Education

Questions (489)

Robert Troy

Question:

489. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the date on which she initiated her departmental review of the community child care schemes; when will she invite submissions from sectoral and interested parties; when the review will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11586/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

The Community Childcare Subvention (CCS) programme, the Childcare Education and Training Support (CETS) programme and the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme are implemented by my Department. These programmes represent an annual investment of approximately €260 million and benefits more than 100,000 each year.

My Department has commenced an internal review of the childcare support programmes to consider how best to structure future childcare support to both support working families and to incentivise labour market activation. The review will also examine how the programmes could be expanded to assist a greater number of families when resources permit. The participation of the wider childcare sector in the review will be considered as the internal review progresses and it is not possible at this stage to determine when the review will be finalised.

Child and Family Agency Staff

Questions (490)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

490. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the total number of educational welfare officers here in 2011 to 2013, inclusive, and to date in 2014; and the current number of EWOs in the following areas Dublin 3, Dublin 5, Dublin 13 and Dublin 17. [11630/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

As the Deputy may be aware the functions and operational responsibilities of the former National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) are now part of the new Child and Family Agency, which was established on 1 January 2014. Since this date the staff of the former NEWB, including its Educational Welfare Officers, have transferred to the new Agency.

Within the Child and Family Agency, the statutory Education Welfare Service (EWS) has specific responsibility for the Agency’s general function to ensure that each child attends a recognised school or otherwise receives a certain minimum education. The Agency has advised me that the total number of Educational Welfare Officers in the years 2011, 2012, 2013 and to date in 2014 are as follows:

2011

2012

2013

2014 to date

59

57

59

58

In addition to these posts, there are 12 Senior Educational Welfare Officers and 3 Regional Managers employed nationally. The Agency has advised me that the Dublin 3, Dublin 5, and Dublin 17 postal districts do not have the services of an assigned Educational Welfare Officer at this time. To ensure continuity of service and a targeted approach to areas and cases of greatest need, all locations where an Educational Welfare Officer is not assigned or where a leave event exists receive a service provided by the Senior Educational Welfare Officer, responding to the most critical situations where children are out of school or have no place. The Agency has advised me that Dublin 13 area has an assigned officer who will be returning in April 2014. I am advised that the other locations mentioned by the Deputy remain priorities for full education welfare service having regard to the resources available to the Agency.

The Child and Family Agency will deliver an integrated approach to educational welfare services through the continued reform of work practices in its three service strands, namely; the Education Welfare Service; Home School Community Liaison Programme (402 school-based co-ordinators); and School Completion Programme (€24.756m in funding provided to support 124 school cluster projects and related initiatives). This integrated model of service is designed to provide an enhanced response to the needs of children, families and schools.

The decision by Government to amalgamate the NEWB and its services into the new Child and Family Agency broadens the focus of the Agency and tackles educational welfare as a key outcome for children in its own right and as a positive contributor to other outcomes. It will provide opportunities for more effective working amongst the range of professionals involved in directly supporting children and their families.

Early Childhood Care Education

Questions (491)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

491. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will provide an additional free preschool year in respect of a child (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11668/14]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

The Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme is implemented by my Department and provides for one free pre-school year for each eligible child before they commence primary school. The child referred to by the Deputy is availing of the full free preschool complement in this academic year and there are no circumstances where a second free preschool year is provided under the programme.

Social Workers Recruitment

Questions (492)

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

492. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the position regarding the proposed graduate placement scheme for social workers; her views on whether this scheme will discriminate unfairly against new graduates; her further views on whether the principle of equal pay for equal work is being met in this instance; if she has future plans to abandon this scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11766/14]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

Budget 2014 included the provision of €6.7m (€12m in a full year) to support the continuing implementation of the reform programme across children and family services. This additional funding will assist the new Child and Family Agency in meeting identified service pressures. This will include the filling of social work vacancies taking account of identified need, with a particular focus this year on the filling of vacancies arising from maternity leave.

The Agency is also finalising proposals arising from the provision of this additional funding, for the targeted recruitment of graduate social workers. This initiative will involve the introduction of a guaranteed and protected induction programme for newly qualified social workers. Discussions with IMPACT and other parties are ongoing and the merits of the scheme will be clear when the details are finalised.

It is my view that the scheme will not discriminate against new graduates as it is being designed to create a stable and protected initial environment within which newly qualified graduate social workers can hone their skills in practice. The scheme will include protected workload as well as weekly tutorial and mentoring provision and therefore does not constitute equal workloads to that of staff who are social workers with more experience and have a larger number of caseloads to manage.

Full details of the scheme will be published after discussions with the trade unions have been completed.

Early Childhood Care Education

Questions (493)

Robert Troy

Question:

493. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will consider a reduction in the staff to child ratio for preschool early education settings that are servicing children who ultimately will enter DEIS schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11791/14]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

Childcare services are governed by the Child Care (Pre-School Services) (No 2) Regulations 2006. The Explanatory Guide to the Regulations recommends a range of adult/child ratios that reflect the age of the child and the level of care the child is receiving. These ratios are considered to provide the optimum level of adult participation needed to ensure the health and safety of each child.

The Pre-School Quality Agenda is currently being progressed by my Department and will introduce a series of reforms that provide for the further development of the childcare sector. As part of this programme of reforms the Explanatory Guide to the Regulations is being replaced by new National Quality Standards. There are no proposals to amend the child/adult ratios to make special provision for children enrolling in the pre-schools referred to by the Deputy and it is expected that the new standards will confirm the existing ratios.