Cross-Border Enterprise Initiatives

Questions (242, 243, 244)

Gerry Adams

Question:

242. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation in view of the economic stress facing the Border counties, if he will consider raising additional initiatives to support cross-Border economic development at the next North-South Ministerial Council. [12760/14]

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Gerry Adams

Question:

243. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation in view of the adverse impact of the Border on economic development of communities, if he will consider promoting the establishment of a Border development zone at the North-South Ministerial Council. [12761/14]

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Gerry Adams

Question:

244. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his views regarding establishing a Border development zone which could play a key role in promoting greater North-South co-operation for mutual benefit. [12762/14]

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Written answers (Question to Jobs)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 242 to 244, inclusive, together.

My ongoing engagement with the Northern Ireland Administration through the North South Ministerial Council, both in Plenary format and through the Trade and Business Sectorial sessions, presents a very useful forum to drive cross border and all-island economic development. I will continue to pursue relevant and appropriate initiatives through the North South Ministerial Council.

The concept of a specific Border Development Zone as a means of fostering economic recovery in the cross-border region of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland was the main theme of a conference organised by the Centre for Cross Border Studies (CCBS) and the International Centre for Local and Regional Development (ICLRD) in January last. This follows the development of this concept in the CCBS-sponsored Bradley/Best economic study of 2012 and I am aware that the CCBS has undertaken research on the topic in the intervening period also.

I strongly believe that it is important to continue building on what has already been achieved in the region by the relevant State bodies and by local authorities on both sides of the border. The work of the Cross Border Body, InterTrade Ireland, has been foremost in this regard, with a significant range of enterprise development initiatives and programmes in place. My Department jointly funds and provides oversight to this Body, together with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment in Belfast and it represents a very effective mechanism for tackling business development on an all-island basis. In addition, there is on-going co-operation between Enterprise Ireland and its Northern Ireland counterpart agency, Invest Northern Ireland on areas of mutual interest.

A further useful mechanism has been the work of organisations such as the Irish Central Border Area Network, the North West Region Cross Border Group and East Border Region Ltd. These organisations involve local authorities on both sides of the border working together to pursue the specific needs of communities in their regions. They have the experience and local knowledge to assist with driving future development strategies of mutual interest. Indeed, the projects led by such groups, and others, under the Enterprise Development theme of the INTERREG IVA Programme (2009-2015), have made a significant impact on developing small businesses in the region. My Department co-funds the Enterprise Development strand of this INTERREG Programme, under which a total of 29 individual projects have been initiated. Work is underway on devising the format of the next strand of the INTERREG Programme for the period up to 2020, and my Department is involved in that process.

The concept of initiating a Border Development Zone in the border region is an interesting proposal. However it could raise significant issues involving EU State Aid Rules and other EU provisions and it would also, of course, require detailed negotiations between both Administrations on this island. There would also, almost certainly, be significant resource issues. For these reasons, and while I will of course keep abreast of the ongoing research by the CCBS, I do not envisage the establishment of such a zone as being practical or realistic at this time, especially given the existing, well-developed arrangements which are in place, as set out above.

Small and Medium Enterprises Supports

Questions (245)

John Lyons

Question:

245. Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his plans for a one-stop-shop website for small and medium-sized enterprises to allow access to all information on supporting their business such as access to finance and other Government schemes; and when this website will be completed. [15176/14]

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Written answers (Question to Jobs)

Later this month, the new Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) will be established countrywide and they will become the 31 First-Stop-Shops for new entrepreneurs and existing micro and small business owners at local level.

In preparation for the new support structure, a new LEO website, comprising a gateway and 31 sub sites, has been designed. The design and development of the new website is a key component of the roll out of the LEOs and the project will deliver a powerful resource which will ensure that a level of web capability is available to all LEOs in the country. The website will incorporate signposting to other Government schemes, including a self-assessment tool for access to finance, as well as how to guides etc. The website will go live when the LEOs are launched in mid-April.

Employment Rights

Questions (246)

Dara Calleary

Question:

246. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the current working arrangements for au pairs; if he proposes changes to these arrangements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15204/14]

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Written answers (Question to Jobs)

It is important to note that there is no legal definition of an “au pair”. Rather, Ireland's body of employment rights legislation protects all employees legally employed on an employer-employee basis in Ireland, regardless of what title is given to them. Therefore, once it is clear that a person is working under a contract of employment, on a full-time or part-time basis, that person has the same protection under employment law as other employees. For example; the National Minimum Wage Act, 2000 requires any persons under a contract of employment to be paid the statutory National Minimum Wage. For the purposes of this Act, this means a contract of service or apprenticeship, or any other contract whereby an individual agrees with another person to do or perform personally any work or service for that person.

There is a general understanding that an au pair is a student or young adult who travels to a foreign country to live with a family, learn the local language and culture and undertakes limited childcare and light household duties. They normally receive a small sum of money from the host family. Non-EU nationals wishing to take up a role as an au pair in Ireland require a visa from the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS), which comes within the remit of the Department of Justice and Equality, while the Department of Children and Youth Affairs has general responsibility for childcare matters. My Department has no oversight role vis-à-vis au pairs, except where there are concerns over whether or not an employment relationship might exist.

Where the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA), which comes within the remit of my Department, receives a complaint involving somebody described as an au pair, NERA will investigate with a view to establishing the person's statutory entitlements under employment law (including whether the term “au pair” is being used to avoid statutory obligations). NERA has encountered individuals, described by their employers as au pairs, who have been found to be domestic employees.

I have no plans to make changes to the existing body of employment rights legislation in this context and the question as to whether a person is an employee or not is determined by NERA within the provisions of existing employment legislation and established contract law.

Where a person has concerns that employees may be exploited or are receiving less than their statutory entitlement, the matter can be reported to the NERA for investigation. Cases for redress on matters relating to employment rights legislation can be made on the workplace relations complaint form available from NERA or online at www.workplacerelations.ie. NERA has a dedicated information service, Workplace Relations Customer Service, which provides information on all aspects of employment rights. This service operates from 9.30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and can be contacted on Lo-Call 1890 808090. Workplace Relations Customer Service also provides extensive information on its website www.workplacerelations.ie.

Job Creation

Questions (247, 248, 249)

James Bannon

Question:

247. Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation following his visit to Longford town late last year if he will provide an update on his efforts to create new jobs in County Longford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15213/14]

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James Bannon

Question:

248. Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he raised the issue of Longford-Westmeath's high unemployment rate with IDA Ireland and, if so, the measures it plans to improve the employment situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15238/14]

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James Bannon

Question:

249. Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will target assistance towards the small and medium enterprises sector in Longford-Westmeath for job creation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15248/14]

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Written answers (Question to Jobs)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 247 to 249, inclusive, together.

There are 52 Enterprise Ireland client companies in Longford employing 1,632 people on a full time basis. There are 105 Enterprise Ireland client companies in Westmeath employing 2,610 people on a full time basis. Enterprise Ireland runs many initiatives to help sustain existing jobs and to create new jobs in the Midlands and provides funding to the Institute of Technology in Athlone to build the research capabilities in the Region. In addition, the Community Enterprise Centres, funded through Enterprise Ireland, are providing enterprise space to cater for micro enterprises throughout Longford. Enterprise Ireland approved over €0.56m in 2013 for companies in Longford and made payments of over €1.06m to companies in Longford during the same period. Enterprise Ireland approved over €1.21m in 2013 for companies in Westmeath and made payments of over €1.62m to companies in Westmeath during the same period.

Currently, the IDA positions the Midlands as having a strong cluster in Medical Technologies and Life Sciences (Abbott, Covidien, Integra, GeneMedix, Freund, Utah, KCI, AMS) and International Business Services (Teleflex, AXA, NPD Group and PPD). These international brands are an attraction for additional companies to potentially locate to the Midlands.

Recent examples of where the cluster benefits investment decisions is the announcement of Jazz Pharmaceuticals in Monksland, outside Athlone and American Medical Systems in Athlone, who are already seeking planning permission to expand after only two years. As well as the FDI sector, this cluster is supported by over 600 people employed in Medical Technologies related industries from the indigenous sector, in areas such as manufacturing to delivery of parts of the supply chain. The arrival of Jazz Pharmaceuticals to Monksland and the announcement of investment from Alexion Pharma combined with the existing presence of Alkermes, employing 400 staff identifies a new cluster in the Midlands in bio pharmaceuticals and this will be presented to potential new name companies in the market place.

In addition, the approval to build a 25,000 sq.ft. ATB in Athlone will provide an enhanced platform to attract FDI to the Midlands.

In 2013, the IDA Ireland scheme “Succeed in Ireland” with Ark Consulting announced the creation of 10 jobs, to be located in Longford.

As the Deputy will be aware, the CEB's will shortly be dissolved and established as Local Enterprise Offices (LEO) within Longford and Westmeath County Councils, as part of the reform of the model of supports for the micro-enterprise sector. The LEO will integrate the business support and enterprise development functions of the Council with an enhanced range of existing CEB functions, such as making it easier to obtain the full support of Revenue, Social Protection, Microfinance Ireland, the Credit Review Office, Skillnets and the Education and Training Boards. This reform will result in the provision of the best possible service to people who have a business idea.

The role of Longford and Westmeath County Enterprise Boards (CEBs) as part of the CEB/LEO network is to develop indigenous potential and stimulate economic activity at a local level primarily through the provision of financial and technical support for the development of small and micro-enterprises employing 10 or less people.

In 2013, Longford County Enterprise Board approved financial assistance totalling €352,000 in respect of 39 projects, with a further €63,000 allocated to 7 projects so far this year. In addition, last year the Board held 30 training courses, with over 330 participants. In 2014, the CEB/LEO will continue to provide a full range of training and mentoring supports, including a forthcoming Management Skills course, as well as its ongoing Management Development Programme and its Women in Business Network, etc.

Last year, Westmeath County Enterprise Board approved financial assistance totalling €596,213 in respect of 32 projects, over half (53%) of which were new businesses. In addition, the Board allocated €257,931 towards enterprise development activities, which comprised of business training courses, schools programmes, mentoring, exhibition assistance, website grants, exporting grants and business networking events. Westmeath CEB facilitated 980 people in business training in 2013.

In 2014, Westmeath CEB/LEO will be hosting a range of training courses and events, including a number of Start Your Own Business courses, information sessions on developing your business idea, current business topics, financial management, marketing courses, social networking, management development courses and business networking events in 2014.

Finally, I should point out that under action 117 of the Action Plan for Jobs 2014, my Department as well as Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland have been tasked with the development of a framework for a Regional Enterprise Strategy to better integrate the efforts of enterprise agencies and the other regional stakeholders in building enterprise based on sustainable competitive advantage of the region. This framework for enterprise development, using the Midlands as a template is expected for delivery in the second quarter 2014.

Building and developing an ecosystem supportive of enterprise at a regional level is vital for economic growth and sustainable job creation. Regional development is central in Enterprise Ireland's role supporting the growth of Irish enterprise. With the advent of the new network of Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs), Enterprise Ireland will now have a greater role to play in driving and nurturing entrepreneurship all the way from an originating idea at local level, to taking-on global markets.

IDA Staff

Questions (250)

Dara Calleary

Question:

250. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he has had any discussions with IDA Ireland on the establishment of a fully staffed south-east regional office in County Waterford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15289/14]

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Written answers (Question to Jobs)

IDA Ireland is an autonomous agency set up by statute, with a mandate to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) into this country and to support new and existing FDI operations so as to maximise the related industrial employment, output, exports, and economy expenditures including wages and corporation tax contributions.

The management and location of IDA Ireland staff is a day to day operational matter for the Agency and not one in which I have a function. I am informed by the Agency that there are 5 IDA personnel based in Waterford with client facing and regional responsibilities. These staff work with the existing client base in the South East Region to ensure their ongoing sustainability and growth and facilitate new name client itineraries into the Region. They also work with key stakeholders to ensure that the Region has a competitive and ever improving offering.

The success of this strategy is borne out by the two significant investments won for Waterford during 2013. In February 2013, Sanofi announced plans to invest €44m in Genzyme's biotechnology campus in Waterford. This investment will increase the site's diversity of products and comes on top of a €150m investment a little more than a year previously. The investment ensures that the Waterford facility, which currently employs approximately 500 people, can produce the company's latest products and provides an indication of the Waterford site's value to the company. In March 2013, Nypro Healthcare announced plans to establish an additional state of the art medical devices facility in Waterford. This will result in the creation of over 200 new high quality jobs in the coming years.

Furthermore, in order to improve the offering in the Region to win new business, IDA Ireland has signed contracts for the construction of an advanced manufacturing facility in Waterford. This facility, which will be 2,348 sq metres in area, will be located in the IDA Technology Park at Butlerstown and will be completed by year end. The building design has taken account of the flexibility requirement of potential end users by creating a front of house open plan area with an open plan production area to the rear offering large scale flexibility for either large scale open plan use or the potential to subdivide or introduce cellular spaces.

In addition IDA Ireland has rolled out a dedicated digital marketing initiative for inward investment focusing on the South East Region and Waterford (Connect and Invest Waterford). Initiatives such as this can enhance the marketability of the location for investment at a very early stage in a prospective client's decision-making process.

IDA Ireland remains a key supporter of the South East Employment Action Plan which brings together a number of stakeholders in addressing the persistent employment challenges faced in the South East Region.

Exports Growth

Questions (251)

Seán Kyne

Question:

251. Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the progress of the get export ready programme operated by the potential exporters division of Enterprise Ireland; the number of companies in 2013 that participated; the numbers to date in 2014; if there is a breakdown of participants on a regional basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15418/14]

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Written answers (Question to Jobs)

The Potential Exporters Division of Enterprise Ireland holds “Export Awareness Events” and “Exploring Exporting Workshops” across the regions for new and early exporters to develop the tools and techniques needed to succeed in export markets. Enterprise Ireland is committed to helping companies strengthen their export readiness and export selling capabilities. The Agency offers customised training and access to experts, matched to a company's level of export awareness in order to save time and money and increase their chances of export success.

Enterprise Ireland organises “Export Awareness Events” regularly in a number of locations around Ireland. These short (typically two-hour duration) workshops are aimed at companies thinking of exporting for the first time. In 2013, “Export Awareness Events” were held across the regions with 362 companies / 412 individuals participating in the events. Table 1 which follows identifies the regional areas involved together with the number of companies and individuals who participated. Table 2 provides details in respect of 2014 (year to date) where Export Awareness Events were held in Cork and Sligo with 49 companies/64 individuals participating in the events.

“Exploring Exporting Workshops” is a series of workshops, focused on helping first-time exporting companies become export ready. Topics include: conducting market research, defining the export value-proposition, processes for exporting and, the exportable offer. Business mentors are available to work with client companies to identify the issues they need to address to become export ready.

In 2013, “Exploring Exporting Workshops” were held across the regions with 129 companies/172 individuals participating in the workshops. Table 3 which follows outlines the regional areas involved together with the number of companies and individuals who participated. To date in 2014, one “Exploring Exporting Workshop” was held in Cork with 15 companies/20 individuals participating. A further 8 Workshops will take place throughout the year.

Enterprise Ireland is also involved in “Meet the UK Market Team” initiative. This is an opportunity for those companies that have made progress in developing their export market capability to meet face-to-face with the EI UK market team to gain insights into market specific opportunities and challenges relating to their business. Three workshops with the UK market team will be held in 2014 in Cork, Dublin and Galway.

Table 1 - Export Awareness Events 2013

Awareness Events – Location

Month

No of Companies

No of Participants

Clonakilty

January

28

35

Castlebar

February

40

49

Dublin

February

62

53

Tralee

February

54

65

Athlone

May

27

38

Wexford

June

18

21

Dundalk

September

26

33

Galway

September

50

56

Dublin

October

37

40

Limerick

October

20

22

Total 10

#

362

412

Table 2 - Export Awareness Events 2014 (year to date)

Awareness Events – Location

Month

No of Companies

No of Participants

Cork

February

33

44

Sligo

March

16

20

Table 3 - Exploring Exporting Workshops 2013

Workshop Location

Month

No of Companies

No of Participants

Dublin

March

13

16

Tralee

March

8

9

Castlebar

April

7

9

Dublin

April

9

11

Athlone

May

17

26

Wexford

June

13

15

Dundalk

September

10

14

Galway

September

13

22

Dublin

October

15

18

Clare

October

9

11

Dublin

December

15

21

Total 11

#

129

172

Patent Legislation

Questions (252)

Seán Kyne

Question:

252. Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if his attention has been drawn to the major concerns of business groups, the legal professions and entrepreneurs regarding the local division of the unified patent court should such a division be established in London; if there will be consultation with the Oireachtas prior to the taking of a decision on this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15443/14]

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Written answers (Question to Jobs)

I would refer the Deputy to the earlier replies given to Parliamentary Questions 270 and 295 on 4 February last at which point I advised that this issue is under active consideration in my Department. In the replies given at that time, I indicated the intention to bring this matter to the attention of Government within the next few months and that remains my intention.

I am fully seized of the concerns expressed by a number of interested parties in relation to the location of a local division of the Court outside the State in the context of submissions received up to very recently. This wide engagement with the relevant stakeholders on this issue is informing our overall consideration.

The Deputy has raised the issue of whether there will be consultation with the Oireachtas Committees in advance of taking a decision on this issue. I am sure that the Deputy will appreciate that, in the first instance, Government should have the opportunity to be fully apprised of the issues arising for the State in relation to the various policy options that present in relation to the Unified Patent Court. However, I do intend, as I mentioned at the Joint Oireachtas Committee on 4 February last when this matter came up for mention, to keep the Committee fully informed of developments in this regard.

Ministerial Responsibilities

Questions (253)

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

253. Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans to create a Minister of State for pensions and retirement issues in the future as it is a policy area that covers at least four Departments and would enable the co-ordination of policy across these areas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15332/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The appointment of a Minister of State is a matter for the Government under the Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) (No. 2) Act 1977. The Department of Social Protection has lead responsibility for pensions policy.

However, given that pensions is an issue with broad implications, including across a number of Government Departments, there is an Ad Hoc Ministerial Group on Pensions, similar to a Cabinet Committee which is chaired by the Taoiseach. This ensures broad consideration of pensions policy and related issues as required.

Back to Education Allowance Applications

Questions (254)

Dan Neville

Question:

254. Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a back to education allowance review in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14691/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The person concerned applied for Back to Education Allowance (BTEA) and was refused on the grounds that the course being pursued is not a recognised course for BTEA purposes. The original decision was upheld following review.

The Back to Education Allowance is a non-statutory scheme and as such decisions cannot be appealed to the independent Social Welfare Appeals Office.

Social Welfare Appeals Waiting Times

Questions (255)

Pádraig MacLochlainn

Question:

255. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Social Protection her views on correspondence regarding the length of time a person (details supplied) is waiting for an appeal decision on lone-parent allowance. [14714/14]

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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 28 November 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 have been received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 4 February 2014.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the appeal from the person concerned was referred to an Appeals Officer on the 18 February 2014 who has decided to convene an oral hearing in this case. Every effort will be made to hear the case as quickly as possible and the appellant will be informed when arrangements for the oral hearing have been made.

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.

Jobseeker's Allowance Appeals

Questions (256)

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

256. Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an appeal for jobseeker's allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14716/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The person concerned was refused jobseeker's allowance by a Deciding Officer of the Department on the grounds that he was not genuinely seeking full-time employment. The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned together with the relevant Departmental papers were received by that office on 11 March 2014 and that the case will be referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the 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.

Disability Allowance Appeals

Questions (257)

Tom Fleming

Question:

257. Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will expedite a disability allowance appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14720/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer, having fully considered all of the available evidence, has decided to allow the appeal of the person concerned by way of a summary decision. The person concerned has been notified of the Appeals Officer's decision.

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 (258)

Tom Fleming

Question:

258. Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will expedite a carer's allowance appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14728/14]

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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 referred to an Appeals Officer on 28 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 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. 259 withdrawn.