Cyberbullying

Questions (39)

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

39. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his plans to bring forward legislation to implement the recommendations of the Internet content governance advisory group to help tackle the issue of cyber bullying; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47114/14]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

This Government is committed to our citizens’ safety both on and offline. I believe it is of critical importance that there is a cohesive Governmental response to coordinating this regulatory function and my Department is at the forefront of this response.

In late 2013, an independent, expert Internet Content Governance Advisory Group (the ICGA Group) was established to report to the then Minister on a range of issues related to online content following a number of incidents. The Group conducted a public consultation taking particular account of issues of online safety arising from children and young people’s use of the Internet. The Group then used these responses and the outcome of meetings with a number of the major international companies based in Ireland who operate in this space to inform their policy recommendations. The Group’s report was approved by Cabinet and published in June 2014. It made a comprehensive and well thought out series of structural, legislative and administrative recommendations. The Government established a Cross-Departmental Implementation Group in July 2014, which is chaired by the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources and attended by representatives from the Departments of Justice and Equality, Children and Youth Affairs, Education and Skills and Health. This group will report back to Government on a set of measures to implement the report. Among the changes currently under consideration by the Implementation Group are allocating the central national role for coordinating internet content governance policy to Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources and moving the advisory and coordination functions of the Office of Internet Safety relating to child safety online to the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. The introduction of stronger supports for tackling cyberbullying through primary and post-primary curricula and additional training and awareness measures are also under discussion. This Group will report back to Government shortly, and the final report will be published in due course. The Law Reform Commission are also presently reviewing a number of related issues in their current Work Programme, and have recently published a consultation on cyber-crime affecting personal safety, privacy and reputation including cyber-bullying which all Deputies are encouraged to engage with, as many of us have obtained valuable insights into the real impacts of these issues on the lives of our constituents through our work.

Energy Prices

Question No. 41 withdrawn.

Questions (40)

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

40. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the action he is taking to tackle increasing energy costs which are undermining the viability of small and medium-sized businesses in the retail sector. [47119/14]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

Responsibility for the regulation of the retail electricity market is a matter for the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), which is an independent statutory body. Prices in the electricity and gas retail markets are fully deregulated. Customers can avail of competitive offerings from electricity and gas suppliers. Prices are set by suppliers and are commercial and operational matters for them. The Minister, has no statutory function in the setting of electricity or gas prices.

Electricity and gas costs in Ireland are influenced by various drivers, including global gas prices, the costs of capital, exchange rate fluctuations, the small size of the Irish market, geographical location, and low population density.

The latest Eurostat figures, published by the SEAI on 9 December 2014, show reductions in the average price of electricity in the first half of 2014 in all consumption bands, with the reductions in the bands for small to medium business ranging from 0.7% to 4%, depending on size of consumption.

Similarly, Eurostat figures show reductions in the average price of gas in all consumption bands in the same period, with the reductions in the bands for small to medium business ranging from 6.7% to 12.9%, again depending on size of consumption.

At a national level, the competitive energy market applies downward pressure on prices. In addition, a strong focus is required on all other actions to mitigate costs for business and domestic customers, including rigorous regulatory scrutiny of the network costs component of retail prices.

The Department is committed to working with enterprise and with the energy sector to ensure that the costs of energy are as competitive as possible. In this context, promotion of, and support for, energy efficiency measures to reduce energy costs will continue to be a priority.

Question No. 41 withdrawn.

Invalidity Pension Appeals

Questions (42)

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

42. Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection when a determination will be made in an appeal for invalidity benefit in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47533/14]

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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.

Rent Supplement Scheme Payments

Questions (43, 47)

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

43. Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection her plans to review the rent limits under the rent supplement scheme in County Meath; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47543/14]

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Pat Deering

Question:

47. Deputy Pat Deering asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection the amount allocated for rent allowance in each of the years 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013; the distribution on a county basis; and the number of persons facilitated in each county during each year. [47568/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 43 and 47 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. There are approximately 71,800 rent supplement recipients for which the Government has provided over €344 million for 2014. Rent supplement expenditure and recipients by county from 2008 to date are provided in the following tabular statements, expenditure by county is not available. There are currently over 1,700 rent supplement recipients in Meath, of which 520 were awarded this year, which represents over 30% of the total in payment.

I am keeping the matter regarding rent limits under consideration and the review being undertaken by the Department will be finalised shortly.

I am acutely aware of the difficulties people are experiencing in maintaining affordable rented accommodation in areas of high demand in the current market, including those in receipt of rent supplement. However, raising rent limits may not be the solution to the problem as it is likely to add to further rental inflation and could impact, not alone on rent supplement recipients, but also on many lower income workers, their families and students.

The Department has put measures in place to ensure that the housing needs of rent supplement customers throughout the country who are in danger of becoming homeless are being addressed by providing for increased flexibility within the administration of the rent supplement scheme. Earlier this year, a notice was circulated to all Community Welfare Service staff reminding them of their discretionary power to award, on a case by case basis, a supplement for rental purposes, for example, when dealing with applicants who are at risk of losing their tenancy. Further instructions are issuing this week to ensure that the necessary supports continue to be provided and that there is consistency throughout the country.

Staff are increasing rent supplement payments as necessary and are actively engaging with the relevant local authorities and local organisations involved in homelessness. The Department is reviewing the local arrangements in place to strengthen the existing framework.

I strongly advise that where a person in receipt of rent supplement is at risk of losing their tenancy they should make contact with the Tenancy Protection Service provided by Threshold on 1800 454 454 in Dublin or their local Community Welfare Service throughout the country.

Table 1: Rent Supplement End of Year Recipient Numbers & Expenditure: 2008 to Date

Year

Recipients

Cost €000

2008

74,038

440,548

2009

93,030

510,751

2010

97,260

516,538

2011

96,803

502,747

2012

87,684

422,536

2013

79,788

372,909

2014 End of November

71,831

344,100

Table 2: Rent Supplement End of Year Recipient Numbers per county

County

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

End Nov. 2014

%

Dublin

24,119

31,261

33,818

34,423

32,584

29,541

26,640

37%

Cork

8,538

10,603

10,988

10,732

9,878

9,020

8,319

12%

Kildare

3,275

4,161

4,409

4,447

4,338

4,135

3,703

5%

Galway

3,733

4,989

4,829

4,615

4,134

3,983

3,591

5%

Wexford

2,870

3,763

4,055

4,102

3,700

3,179

2,665

4%

Limerick

2,942

3,669

3,896

3,833

3,323

2,984

2,507

3%

Louth

1,887

2,426

2,563

2,734

2,549

2,422

2,242

3%

Wicklow

2,066

2,699

2,613

2,719

2,495

2,381

2,115

3%

Tipperary

2,082

2,572

2,680

2,609

2,199

2,094

1,937

3%

Donegal

3,282

3,470

3,194

2,977

2,411

2,047

1,790

2%

Meath

1,453

2,213

2,552

2,723

2,143

1,941

1,742

2%

Kerry

2,252

2,398

2,339

2,278

2,037

1,888

1,726

2%

Mayo

2,585

3,077

3,012

2,928

2,435

1,900

1,622

2%

Westmeath

1,275

1521

1,623

1,671

1,592

1,588

1,529

2%

Waterford

2,126

2,267

2,332

2,098

1,773

1,556

1,437

2%

Clare

1,441

1780

1,937

1,961

1,722

1,547

1,359

2%

Kilkenny

1,092

1,472

1,577

1,619

1,365

1,210

1,076

1%

Carlow

1,161

1,498

1,484

1,440

1,239

1,108

1,074

1%

Offaly

833

1,053

1,273

1,349

1,240

1,124

1,042

1%

Laois

706

979

1,151

1,178

1,097

1,085

1,020

1%

Roscommon

1,042

1,286

1,276

1,275

997

802

685

1%

Longford

706

789

715

623

511

507

466

1%

Sligo

733

822

787

698

591

542

457

1%

Cavan

874

1,115

1,029

843

519

455

400

1%

Monaghan

509

640

598

488

438

395

358

0%

Leitrim

456

507

530

440

374

354

329

0%

Total

74,038

93,030

97,260

96,803

87,684

79,788

71,831

100%

Carer's Allowance Applications

Questions (44)

Noel Coonan

Question:

44. Deputy Noel Coonan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection when a carer's allowance application will be finalised in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47544/14]

View answer

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 5 November 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.

Community Employment Schemes Funding

Questions (45)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

45. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection the amount available for community employment, CE, projects annually per participant for training and courses; and the options available to the project in the event of course costing more than the individual training grant. [47551/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The training budget for Community Employment (CE) in 2014 is €5.8m. Each DSP Division is allocated an overall training budget for schemes. There is flexibility that can be applied in the approval of training rates, particularly when the training is leading to a Major Award e.g. in childcare. However, each Division has to keep expenditure in line with the annual budget allocation for training.

Delivery of training is in accordance with a tailored Individual Learning Plan compiled by the CE supervisor with the participant, given the participant’s training requirements and employment goals. Any proposed training that exceeds the budget allocated is assessed based on the value of the training provided in terms of furthering the employment prospects of the individual.

All expenditure must be accounted and vouched for by way of receipts. It is the responsibility of the scheme to ensure that they have obtained training at the best price and that they have achieved value for money. It is desirable that the majority of training will be provided by the Education and Training Boards.

Further detail on the training grant and conditions is available in the CE Operation Procedures.