Driver Licences

Questions (234)

Seán Kyne

Question:

234. Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport when Directive 2012/36/EU which would allow a person undergoing a driving test on an automatic lorry or bus to be granted a full lorry or bus licence provided the person possesses a full manual car driving licence, particularly as the regulations to be introduced by end of June on foot of Directive 2016/126/EC will place Irish driving instructors at a disadvantage to their counterparts in the UK, including Northern Ireland. [23945/14]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

Irish legislation on driver licensing operates within the framework of EU legislation.  The principal EU law on driver licensing is Directive 126 of 2006.  This has been amended a number of times, including by Directive 36 of 2012. Directive 36 allows Member States the option that drivers who have passed a test for vehicles of categories C, CE, D, and DE with an automatic transmission to drive vehicles of those categories with a manual transmission, providing that they also have a licence to drive vehicles of categories B, BE, C, CE, C1, C1E, D, D1 or D1E, and that when tested they underwent tests in safe and energy-efficient driving.  Ireland has not adopted this measure, and I have no plans to introduce it. In regard to the second part of the question, standards for vehicles to be used in driving tests are set out in Annex II of Directive 126, as amended by Directive 36, and transposed into Irish law in the Road Traffic (Licensing of Drivers) Regulations 2006 (S.I. No. 537 of 2006), as amended.

The regulations provide that, from 30 June 2014, vehicles of categories C and CE must have a transmission of at least eight forward ratios. This is in line with the original text of Directive 126, but more stringent than the amended minimum standards set out in Directive 36.  However, under the Directives, it is open to Member States to adopt as a minimum the standards set out in the amended Directive, or to apply more stringent requirements.  Ireland has chosen to adopt a more stringent position by continuing to apply the minimum eight-ratio requirement.

Public Transport

Questions (235, 236, 237)

Seán Kyne

Question:

235. Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport in the context of the introduction of reduced fares for young persons aged between 16 and 18, where the cost of such reductions will be borne; and if the introduction of this measure will result in increased fares for other passengers. [23948/14]

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Seán Kyne

Question:

236. Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the way in which, in the context of the withdrawal of paper tickets for public transport and the introduction of a smaller number of prepaid ticketing options for leap cards only, it is proposed to offer good value and easily obtainable ticket options for public transport for tourists and visitors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23949/14]

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Seán Kyne

Question:

237. Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the progress to date in opening up bus routes to competition; if it is intended to, in terms of future opening up of routes outside of Dublin, group urban routes with rural routes in tenders given the greater financial return of urban routes but the necessity of rural routes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23950/14]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 235 to 237, inclusive, together.

The issues raised are matters for the National Transport Authority (NTA) and I have forwarded the Deputy's questions to the NTA for direct reply.  Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.

Child and Family Agency Staff

Questions (238)

Finian McGrath

Question:

238. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if he will support a family (details supplied) regarding social worker help; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23717/14]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

My Department has forwarded the information provided by the Deputy to the Chief Executive Officer of the Child and Family Agency for his attention having regard to the statutory responsibility of the Agency in respect of such matters. I wish to thank the Deputy for bringing this matter to my attention.

Child Care Services Provision

Questions (239)

Michael McGrath

Question:

239. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if he will consider the case made by a preschool (details supplied) in Cork city; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23776/14]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

Capital funding of €2.5 million is being provided in 2014 under the Early Years Childcare Capital 2014 programme for the maintenance and upgrade of community/not-for-profit childcare services. The objective of this funding is to ensure that previously-funded community facilities remain fit-for-purpose, maintain and improve quality, and to make community services more efficient and sustainable through improving the energy rating of these facilities. The Early Years Childcare Capital 2014 programme is being administered by Pobal on behalf of my Department. It was a condition of the programme that all groups seeking funding submit their application through the Pobal on-line application facility only.

In the guidance documentation provided prior to the commencement of the application process, applicants were advised that, if they were experiencing any difficulties with the on-line process, they should seek assistance from Pobal through a helpdesk e-mail address. There is no record of the group having sought such assistance. The group's application for funding is ineligible for consideration on the grounds that their application was not submitted through the Pobal on-line facility within the specified deadline. More than 220 applications for funding under the programme have been received. These are currently being assessed.

Inter-Country Adoptions

Questions (240)

David Stanton

Question:

240. Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 16 and 19 of 12 February 2014 relating to inter-country adoptions from India, the further progress that has been made in completing the full process of delegation to an accredited agency to handle these adoptions; the transitional arrangements in place for prospective adoptive parents, in particular those who are at risk of being aged out, to progress adoptions while awaiting the accredited agency to become fully operational; the timeframe established for this process; when he expects India to reopen to adoptions from Ireland in all adoption categories; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23835/14]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

The Adoption Authority has accredited Helping Hands Adoption Mediation Agency to facilitate intercountry adoptions from India. The Authority has informed the Indian Central Authority, CARA, of the Authorities decision and sought a favourable and speedy decision on approval from the Indian authorities. Helping Hands Mediation Agency has lodged an application for accreditation with CARA in the Indian Embassy in Ireland and the Indian Embassy has confirmed that that application has been forwarded to CARA. I met with the Irish Indian Group as recently as this morning and will continue to maintain contact with this Group with regard to progress on this matter.

Child Care Services Provision

Questions (241)

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

241. Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 1006, 1009 and 1010 of 27 May 2014, if he will provide an estimate of the number of child care staff currently in the workforce who will be forced to upskill in order to meet the increased qualification requirements; the way in which the €3 million is being made available for this purpose and the way potential staff members who require upskilling can seek to draw down the funds to pay for their upskilling; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23840/14]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

International evidence tells us that raising the qualification levels of staff working with children is key to improving the quality of services. As part of the ongoing progression of the pre-school quality agenda, it was announced last year that by September 2015 all staff working with children in early years services would have to have a minimum Level 5 qualification on the National Qualifications Framework in early years care and education, or an equivalent qualification. In addition, by September 2015, Preschool Leaders delivering the free pre-school provision under the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme will have to have a minimum Level 6 qualification, or equivalent. It is estimated that over 85% of staff working in the childcare sector already hold a Level 5 or equivalent qualification.

In March this year the launch of a Learner Fund to assist existing staff working directly with children in registered early years services to meet the new requirements, was announced. The Fund, which is being administered by Pobal with the help of local City and County Childcare Committees, has a total allocation of €3 million for the years 2014 and 2015 and will be used to subsidise the cost for eligible learners to undertake accredited Level 5 and Level 6 courses.

A panel of more than 50 training providers has been approved to deliver the training programmes following the completion of an Expression of Interest process. The fund closed for applications from staff seeking support under the programme at the end of April. Over 2,200 staff have applied to the fund. The cost to staff will be €25 per module with the fund providing the balance of up to €175 per module. The funding available will be sufficient to provide for all the applications on hand. The applications for support are currently being assessed and training will commence in September this year.