Flood Prevention Measures

Questions (95)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

95. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform with regard to land in County Kerry which is continuously being eroded by flooding from the River Maine, if he will provide details of the works he is proposing to undertake to alleviate and stop this erosion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21654/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

The Office of Public Works is continuing to carry out repair works on damaged flood defences on the River Maine Scheme. Given the extent of works required and the limitations of available resources, works are prioritised and carried out on a planned phased basis.

I can assure the Deputy that an inspection at Ballymcpierce will take place as soon as possible and, should remedial works be required, they will be carried out as soon as is practicable.

Legislative Process

Questions (96)

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

96. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will publish draft heads of the workplace relations Bill. [21740/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Jobs)

The Government is committed to reform of the State’s existing Workplace Relations Services. The system that developed over the last eighty years had become unwieldy and complex and was no longer fit for purpose. Indeed, there was universal acceptance of the need for a root-and-branch reform of the existing structures.

My objective is to deliver a world-class workplace relations service which is simple to use, independent, effective, impartial, cost effective and provides for workable means of redress and enforcement, within a reasonable period of time.

A new two-tier Workplace Relations structure will be established comprising two statutorily independent bodies replacing the current five. We will have a new single body of first instance to be called the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) and a separate appeals body, which will effectively be an expanded Labour Court.

A significant amount of work has been completed on the preparation of the legislation which will give statutory effect to the new structures and associated processes. The Draft Scheme of the Workplace Relations Bill has been approved by Government for priority drafting. The Office of the Parliamentary Counsel has assigned resources to ensure the earliest possible publication of the Bill and drafting is at an advanced stage. I intend to publish the Bill during the current Spring/Summer Dail session with a view to having the new structures in place during 2014.

The legislation will provide for the services of the Equality Tribunal, the National Employment Rights Authority, the Labour Relations Commission and the first instance functions of the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) to come together under the remit of the Workplace Relations Commission. The appellate functions of the EAT will be amalgamated into a reconfigured Labour Court.

Significant progress has also been achieved to date, in advance of the enabling legislation, insofar as the technological, structural, administrative and staffing changes required to underpin the Workplace Relations Reform Programme are concerned, including the following measures which have already been put in place:

- Transfer of the Equality Tribunal into my Department to be part of the WRC,

- Establishment of a Single Contact Portal (Workplace Relations Customer Service),

- Launch of a single Workplace Relations Complaint Form and e-complaint facility,

- Finalisation of a Staffing and Structures Plan,

- Design and launch of a single Workplace Relations website,

- Design and launch of a Single Adjudication and Appeals Decisions Database,

- Establishment of an Early Resolution Service,

- Finalisation of Adjudicator training and recruitment plans, and

- Implementation of enhanced technologies and business processes, including the completion of the procurement phase in relation to the design and commissioning of a Customer Relationship Management Solution.

Rent Supplement Scheme Administration

Question No. 98 withdrawn.

Questions (97, 101, 106, 109, 111)

Ciara Conway

Question:

97. Deputy Ciara Conway asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans to review and increase rent supplement levels to reflect increasing rent levels; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21631/14]

View answer

Finian McGrath

Question:

101. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection her views on correspondence (details supplied) regarding rent supplements; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21690/14]

View answer

Peter Mathews

Question:

106. Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans to increase the level of rent supplement for families due to the increase in costs of renting properties,in order that they reflect the real level of rents; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21723/14]

View answer

Derek Nolan

Question:

109. Deputy Derek Nolan asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will reconsider the levels of rent supplement available to persons in order that they reflect the real levels of rent in the country; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21747/14]

View answer

Barry Cowen

Question:

111. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans to increase rent supplement for families, in order that they reflect the level of rents and families can hold on to their homes (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21755/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 97, 101, 106, 109 and 111 together.

The purpose of the rent supplement scheme is to provide short-term income support to assist with reasonable accommodation costs of eligible people living in private rented accommodation who are unable to provide for their accommodation costs from their own resources. The overall aim is to provide short term assistance, and not to act as an alternative to the other social housing schemes operated by the Exchequer. There are currently approximately 77,000 rent supplement recipients for which the Government has provided over €344 million for 2014. The Department continues to monitor trends in the private rental market to determine the impact on rent supplement recipients. Following the most recent review of the private rental market revised maximum rent limits were introduced from Monday 17 June 2013 until 31 December 2014. Despite the overall pressures on the social protection budget, there were increases in the rent limits in Dublin, Galway, North Kildare and Bray areas.

Any further changes to the rent limits would have to be considered in a budgetary context. A full rent limit review will be commenced shortly and will be completed in time to feed into the budgetary process.

All prospective tenants, including those seeking to access rent supplement, are now finding it increasingly difficult to secure appropriate accommodation due to the reduced availability of rental properties. The market shows no sign of stabilising and increasing the maximum rent limits for rent supplement will not resolve the current difficulties, due to the reduced level of supply, and would result in further increases in rental costs for all persons renting including those on reduced incomes and students.

The Community Welfare Services, including through its work in the Homeless Persons Unit and the Asylum Seekers & New Communities Unit, works closely with local authorities and other stakeholders to facilitate homeless persons to access private rented accommodation. This ensures that where possible, people are diverted away from homeless services and towards community-based supports. Department officials have discretionary powers to award a supplement where it appears that the circumstances of the case so warrant and is of an exceptional nature.

In addition and in view of the current supply difficulties, the Dublin local authorities are currently engaging with the Department in finalising a further interagency intervention system to identify vulnerable families who are in receipt of rent supplement and at risk of becoming homeless due to the imminent loss of their tenancy to ensure that the necessary supports can be put in place. These cases will be assessed on an individual basis having regard to the individual circumstances and families requiring additional support will receive the necessary assistance, financial or otherwise.

The Department is represented on the Homelessness Implementation Team, chaired by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, which will ensure greater integration between the key agencies involved in the area of homelessness as recommended by the First Report of the Homelessness Oversight Group.

The Department’s strategic policy direction is to return rent supplement to its original purpose of a short term income support. In July 2013 the Government approved the introduction of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP). Under HAP, responsibility for recipients of rent supplement with a long-term housing need will transfer from the Department of Social Protection to local authorities. Officials in the Department are working closely with those in the lead Department of Environment, Community and Local Government, in piloting HAP in Limerick City and County Council with further roll out to a further six selected local authorities during the year.

Question No. 98 withdrawn.

Social Welfare Overpayments

Questions (99)

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

99. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason a person (details supplied) in County Wexford is being pursued for a jobseeker's allowance overpayment when the error was on the part of the social welfare officials; if the overpayment can be cancelled at this time; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21657/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The person concerned was overpaid a total of €1,849 Jobseekers Allowance for the period 1 March 2012 to 18 December 2012 following a review of their income from their spouse’s insurable employment. The decision to assess an overpayment was appealed to the independent Social Welfare Appeals Office, where an Appeals Officer upheld the decision of the Deciding Officer. There is an obligation on the Department to ensure that every effort is made to recover overpayments in full and the person concerned is currently repaying €10 per week. The request for the cancellation of the recovery of the overpayment is currently being examined by my officials and a further communication will issue to the Deputy in that regard.

Family Income Supplement Payments

Question No. 101 answered with Question No. 97.

Questions Nos. 102 to 104, inclusive, withdrawn.

Questions (100)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

100. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason the rate of family income supplement payable to a person cannot be reviewed before 52 weeks in cases where there is a change to the financial circumstances of the recipient; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21658/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The family income supplement (FIS) is an in-work support which provides an income top-up for employees with children on low earnings. FIS is designed to prevent child and family poverty and to offer a financial incentive to take-up employment as compared to social welfare payments. Expenditure on FIS for 2014 is estimated to be of the order of €280 million and it is currently paid to some 44,000 families in respect of some 97,000 children.

A unique feature of FIS is that once the level of payment is determined, it continues to be payable at that rate for a period of 52 weeks, provided that the recipient remains in full-time employment, and regardless of whether there is a change in their financial circumstances, eg due to increase (or decrease) of earnings. The advantage of this feature is that recipients can be certain that they will receive a guaranteed level of income support throughout the 52 week period. This certainty is important to the success of the scheme as it provides a real incentive to workers with families to maximise their earnings opportunities. For those who experience a reduction in their earnings over the course of the year, the rate of payment will be reassessed at the end of the 52 weeks upon renewal of their FIS claim.

There are two changes in circumstances in which the FIS payment can be revised during the year:

- If a recipient starts to care for an additional child in the course of the 52 weeks.

- If a recipient is getting a one-parent family payment and the payment is stopped because their youngest child reached the relevant age limit.

The tax and social protection systems have an important part to play in creating jobs and reducing unemployment, which are the key challenges facing the Government. To this end, I established an Advisory Group on Tax and Social Welfare to harness expert opinion and experience on cost-effective proposals for improving employment incentives and poverty outcomes. The Group is currently examining working age supports, including FIS. I expect to receive the report of the Advisory Group in the coming months and look forward to considering its recommendations in relation to FIS and other in-work supports.

Question No. 101 answered with Question No. 97.
Questions Nos. 102 to 104, inclusive, withdrawn.