Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Questions (66)

Denis Naughten

Question:

66. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will review the provisions of Department circular 0030/2014 in view of concerns that it will detrimentally impact upon children with special needs, including those with Down's syndrome; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23956/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The purpose of Circular 0030/2014, which issued to schools on 10th April 2014, is not to reduce the number of SNA posts in schools, but clarifies and restates the purpose of the SNA scheme which is to provide schools with additional support staff who can assist children with special educational needs who also have additional and significant care needs. My officials have already consulted with school Management Bodies prior to issuing the circular and are currently setting up further meetings with Management Bodies and Parent representative groups to address any concerns which may have arisen since the circular issued.

The Government approved an extra 390 SNA posts last December for the period to end-December 2014, which means that there are now almost 11,000 SNAS available to work with children who have an assessed care need in primary, post-primary and special schools. This means that rather than a reduction of SNA posts, there is provision for a further 309 posts to be allocated to schools to the end of December 2014.

In June 2011, the DES published a Value for Money and Policy Review of the SNA scheme. In May 2013, the NCSE published its Policy Advice on Supporting Children with Special Educational Needs in Schools. Both reports concluded that the SNA scheme has been highly successful in supporting the care needs of children with special needs in schools, and with assisting to facilitate their integration and inclusion. However, the reports also concluded that the intended purpose of the scheme was not always generally well understood by parents or schools and that the scope and purpose of the scheme should be clarified for schools.

Whereas all SNA allocations are reviewed annually, it should not be assumed that any such review may lead to a reduction in SNA support for individual pupils, or for schools who have pupils who have continuing care needs. The Circular acknowledges that many pupils will have care needs which may remain constant. However, the Circular makes clear that whereas supports may be reduced to ensure that pupils who have diminishing care needs can be afforded an opportunity to develop independent living skills, that SNA supports will continue to be provided for those pupils who have ongoing care needs.

My Department encourages parents and school authorities to engage locally regarding pupils' education. Should a parent be dissatisfied with the manner in which SNA supports have been provided to support their child's education they should raise this matter directly with their school Principal or the Board of Management of the school. Parents may also contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs, using the contact details available on www.ncse.ie. Implementation of this circular should ensure that children's care needs are better understood so that SNAs can work more effectively to assist children.

Exchequer Savings

Questions (67)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

67. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will provide, in tabular form, the carryover for the 2015 fiscal year in respect of the Haddington Road agreement and other expenditure measures. [23748/14]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

The Haddington Road Agreement contains provisions which, when fully implemented, will enable the delivery of savings totalling €1 billion by the end of the Agreement.  The total amount of allocated savings arising from the implementation of provisions under the Agreement was almost €300m in 2013.  A further €465m in savings was incorporated into the budgetary arithmetic for 2014, reflecting the full year impact of various provisions implemented in 2013, as well as measures which are to be implemented in 2014.  This brings the total amount of savings allocated to date under the Agreement to over €760m.  The rest of the €1 billion will arise over the remaining life of the Agreement; the bulk of this relates to the implementation of productivity and efficiency measures in the Agreement, and decisions about using the associated cash savings will be decided in the context of the Budget.

The Deputy has also asked whether there is a carryover impact into 2015 of other expenditure measures.  In overall terms the full-year impact of other measures introduced in the Expenditure Report 2014 is expected to be broadly equivalent to the 2014 impact. As the Deputy is aware, the Government will be publishing its Budget and Estimates in October, based on the up-to-date economic and fiscal outlook at that time.  It will set out the Estimates and all pay and non-pay measures as decided by Government for 2015 and the expenditure ceilings for the period to 2017.

Public Sector Staff Remuneration

Questions (68)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

68. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform when the provisions of the financial emergency measures in the public interest, FEMPI, legislation will no longer apply; his plans for restoring pay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23816/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

In order to achieve the general government deficit target of below 3 per cent of GDP by 2015, all components of the public finances must make an appropriate contribution. Public Servants have made a significant contribution to the fiscal recovery of the State, through a number of measures which have helped to reduce the Public Service gross pay bill from its peak of €17.5 billion in 2009, to an estimated €13.63 billion net of the pension related deduction in 2014.  In this context, reducing the Exchequer Pay Bill has been an important element in reducing public expenditure. While unprecedented efforts have been made to reduce the cost of the public service pay bill since 2009 through the operation of the Financial Emergency legislation and other measures, pay costs still account for some 29 per cent of current expenditure.

The Haddington Road Agreement (HRA), which came into force on 1 July 2013, included a number of measures including pay reductions for those public servants on annual salaries of €65,000 or more under the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act, 2013. These measures  provided for a reduction of the public service pay and pensions bill by €1 billion by 2016. It is a three year Agreement covering the period to end June 2016 and forms the basis for current public service pay policy over that period.  Through its provisions, the Agreement is also delivering an unprecedented structural increase of almost 15 million additional working hours annually in the productivity of the Public Service.  That productivity is contributing to the maintenance of our public services at a time of significant resource constraints and is a core enabler for a sustainable reduction in the cost of the public service pay bill. In addition, it is important to note that the measures introduced under Haddington Road provides the scope to recruit additional staff to frontline services, particularly in the Education Sector and the Health Sector. This is a reform dividend that will help sustain the Public Service Reform agenda by re-investing some of the efficiency savings we are delivering into improved services.

Under section 12 of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2013, I must review the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Acts 2009-2013 annually and cause a written report of my findings to be laid before each House of the Oireachtas.  As part of that review I am required to consider whether the measures continue to be necessary having regard to the purposes of the legislation, the revenues of the State and State commitments in respect of public service pay and pensions.  My next such report will be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas by 30 June 2014.

Public Sector Staff Retirements

Questions (69, 70, 71)

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

69. Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the criteria and procedures required to be met by the employer and the employee in order for an employee to retire under the Civil Service occupational pension scheme grounds of ill health; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23754/14]

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Michelle Mulherin

Question:

70. Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the employees of the State that have retired on ill-health grounds under the Civil Service occupational pension scheme for each of the past ten years and the Departments from which they retired; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23773/14]

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Michelle Mulherin

Question:

71. Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will set out the manner in which the State exercises its discretion to allow employees to retire on ill-health grounds under the Civil Service occupational pension scheme and the rationale for same and to set out any change in policy during the past ten years and the reason the issue of added years service of employment deemed in the case of retirement on ill-health grounds is not put on a statutory basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23780/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 69 to 71, inclusive, together.

The provisions relating to ill-health retirement are set out in statute in the Civil Service Regulation Act 1956, as amended, and the associated Circular 22/07: Ill-Health Retirement from the Civil Service.  The provisions relating to ill-health retirement pensions are set out in the Superannuation Acts and related instruments including, in particular, the Civil Service Superannuation Regulations 1980, S.I. 188/1980. The criteria and procedures required for an employee to retire on grounds of ill-health are set out in Circular 22/2007: Ill-Health Retirement from the Civil Service.  This Circular sets out the procedures to be followed in a case of ill-health retirement, either on the initiative of the civil servant or of the Department/Office.

Where a civil servant applies to retire early on the grounds of ill-health he or she must provide the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) with a completed Ill-Health Retirement form along with a medical report detailing his/her diagnosis, treatment and prognosis. Section 9 of the Civil Service Regulation Act 1956 provides for retirement on grounds of ill-health in circumstances where the civil servant has not tendered his/her resignation.  Where a Department/Office seeks to compulsorily ill-health retire a civil servant, the appropriate authority should refer the matter to the CMO.  The CMO will arrange for the civil servant to be medically examined and may also arrange for an outside specialist opinion if the CMO feels that this would be of benefit. If the CMO is of the opinion that the civil servant is incapable on medical grounds of regular and effective service and that the situation is likely to be permanent, then the CMO will sign the relevant part of the Ill-Health Retirement form and return the form to the civil servant's Department/Office.

In all cases, the final decision on whether or not a civil servant is granted ill-health retirement, lies with the relevant appropriate authority having received the advice of the CMO.  This allows management discretion to consider both medical and non-medical matters. A civil servant whose application for ill-health retirement has been refused, may request that his or her case be referred on appeal to a medical referee.

Circular 22/07 replaced a previous circular (Circular 7/57: Retirement from the Civil Service on the ground of ill-health) to take account of an amendment made by the Civil Service Regulation (Amendment) Act 2005 to the Civil Service Regulation Act 1957.  The 2005 Act amended the definition of "appropriate authority" under the 1957 Act to streamline management procedures by allowing the heads of Civil Service Departments and Offices to manage middle-ranking and junior staff without reference to Ministers or Government. Where an officer retires on the grounds of ill health notional service may, at the discretion of the Minister, be added to his/her actual service for the purposes of calculating retirement lump sum and personal pension.

Initially the provision for "added years" was provided for on an administrative basis during the 1970s as a result of General Agreements. The provision of added years' service was put on a statutory basis in 1980 (Civil Service Superannuation Regulations 1980, S.I. 188/1980).  There has been no change in the past ten years in pension policy in respect of added years for ill health benefits.

The following table provides details of the number of ill health retirements in each Department /Office in Civil Service over the past 10 years.

Department

Number of Retirees

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

Agriculture, Food & Rural Development / Agriculture, Food and the Marine

67

4

6

4

3

5

14

8

6

8

6

3

Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht

4

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

1

1

1

1

Arts, Sports & Tourism

1

1

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Attorney General

1

-

1

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Central Statistics Office

29

2

1

2

6

3

3

2

3

2

3

2

Chief State Solicitor/Dpp

7

-

-

1

1

2

-

-

-

2

-

1

Children & Youth Affairs

1

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

1

-

-

Civil Service Commission

1

-

1

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Communication,Marine & Natural Resources /Communications, Energy and Natural Resources

18

2

4

3

1

1

3

2

1

1

-

-

Community,Rural & Gaeltacht Affairs 

1

-

-

-

1

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Comptroller & Auditor General

2

-

-

1

-

-

1

-

-

-

-

-

Courts

19

2

-

-

6

2

2

1

3

1

2

-

Defence & European Affairs /Defence

13

-

1

2

-

1

4

-

2

1

1

1

Education & Skills / Education & Science

27

1

1

4

2

6

4

-

4

5

-

-

Enterprise, Trade & Employment / Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation

21

1

3

2

3

-

4

1

2

4

1

-

Environment, Heritage & Local Government

19

-

2

2

3

1

4

3

-

2

-

2

Finance

19

2

3

1

1

3

1

2

3

1

1

1

Foreign Affairs / Trade

24

2

-

3

2

1

5

3

3

3

2

-

Health & Children / Health

18

1

1

3

4

-

3

-

2

1

1

2

Justice, Equality & Law Reform

56

-

2

6

4

5

7

4

9

8

7

4

Land Registry/Property Registration Authority

20

2

-

4

4

3

3

4

-

-

-

-

Legal Aid Board

2

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

1

1

-

National Gallery

1

1

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Office Of Public Works

20

1

1

3

6

 

3

2

1

1

1

1

Oireachtas

10

1

-

-

1

1

1

-

3

-

1

2

Ombudsmans Office

1

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

1

-

Prisons

158

22

33

13

23

9

21

8

11

6

8

4

Public Expenditure & Reform

2

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

1

1

-

Public Appointments Service

1

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

1

-

-

-

Revenue

155

14

14

15

13

18

16

15

17

22

6

5

Social Protection / Social & Family Affairs

144

7

1

12

14

22

15

11

14

22

19

7

State Examination Commission (D.Educ)

5

1

-

-

-

-

-

1

-

1

1

1

State Laboratory

4

1

-

1

-

-

1

-

1

-

-

-

Taoiseach

4

1

1

-

-

2

-

-

-

-

-

-

Transport, Tourism & Sport

25

-

1

1

2

5

4

2

4

2

2

2

Valuation Office

3

-

-

-

-

1

2

-

-

-

-

-

TOTAL

903

69

77

83

100

91

121

69

91

97

66

39

Public Sector Staff Sick Leave

Questions (72)

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

72. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will report on developments to date in respect of the Public Service Management (Sick Leave) Regulations S.I. 124 of 2014 since their publication to date. [23708/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

The Public Service Management (Sick Leave) Regulations SI 124 of 2014 were signed by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform on 6th March 2014 and were laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas. The Regulations came into effect in the majority of Public Service organisations on 31 March 2014 and will come into effect in the Education Sector on 1 September 2014.

The new Public Service Sick Leave Scheme as set out in the Regulations allows staff access to paid sick leave for a maximum of 6 months in a rolling four year period, comprising of 3 months on full pay, followed by 3 months on half pay in a rolling one year period. The Scheme also allows for the granting of Temporary Rehabilitation Remuneration (previously pension rate of pay).  This payment may be paid for up to a maximum period of 18 months generally and only on the basis of a reasonable prospect of return to work by the staff member. It will be calculated on the basis of what an individual would be entitled to if they were to be paid an ill health pension at that time. A Critical Illness Protocol was also developed with the staff side which provides the basis for access to extended sick leave with pay.  In the event that a staff member is diagnosed with a critical illness or serious physical injury they will be allowed access paid sick leave for a maximum of 12 months in a rolling four year period comprising of 6 months on full pay, followed by 6 months on half pay in a rolling one year period. This was agreed as part of the Labour Court recommendations.

The Regulations are being challenged in the High Court in two different cases.  The four Associations representing An Garda Síochána (Chief Superintendents Association, Superintendents Association, Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors and Garda Representative Association) have a joint application for Judicial Review in the High Court in relation to the these Regulations. The Garda Associations sought an interim Injunction to restrain the application of the Regulations pending the outcome of the Judicial Review hearing.  This application was refused and the main hearing for the Review is scheduled for mid-July. The Psychiatric Nurses Association have also been given leave to apply for a Judicial Review by the High Court. As both these cases are being dealt with by the Courts it would be inappropriate at this time to comment further on these matters.

Heritage Sites

Questions (73)

Regina Doherty

Question:

73. Deputy Regina Doherty asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the documents relating to Skyrne Tower, County Meath, that were handed over to the Office of Public Works when it passed from private family ownership; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23884/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

The Commissioners of Public Works retain no documents relating to the transfer of Skyrne Tower from private family ownership to the State. The site actually came into public ownership following the Irish Church Act of 1869. The 1869 Irish Church Act held as a premise belief that Churches covered by the Act were to be preserved as National Monuments and not used as places of public worship: Section 25 (1) of the Act vested certain ecclesiastical buildings in the Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland on condition that the properties were wholly disused as places of public worship and not suitable for later restoration for that purpose. The Commissioners of Church Temporalities in Ireland Reports 1869 to 1880, Appendix 7, lists Skyrne "Ruins of Church and two Stone Crosses" as one of 107 Churches in the Diocese of Meath that was vested in the ownership of the Commissioners of Public Works for preservation as a National Monument.