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Thursday, 29 Sep 2016

Written Answers Nos. 139-150

Pyrite Panel Report Implementation

Questions (139)

Alan Farrell

Question:

139. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government the number of dwellings at each stage of the pyrite remediation process under the pyrite remediation scheme, by local authority area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27859/16]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Pyrite Resolution Act 2013 provides the statutory framework for the establishment of the Pyrite Resolution Board and for the making of a pyrite remediation scheme to be implemented by the Board with support from the Housing Agency. The pyrite remediation scheme is a scheme of “last resort” and is limited in its application and scope to dwellings which have significant damage attributable to pyritic heave.

The latest figures available from the Pyrite Resolution Board indicate that 1,315 applications have been received under the pyrite remediation scheme, as set out in the Table:

-

Dublin City

Dun Laoghaire

Fingal

Kildare

Meath

Offaly

South Dublin

Application: Stage 1

1

3

118

1

42

7

1

Verification: Stage 2

2

1

59

0

35

0

0

Remedial Works Plan: Stage 3

2

2

222

0

59

1

0

Tendering: Stage 4

6

3

168

4

28

0

0

Decision to Contract: Stage 5

0

0

2

0

0

0

0

Remediation: Stage 6

0

0

41

3

36

0

7

Retention: Stage 7

13

0

218

12

137

17

4

Closed: Stage 8

4

0

37

0

19

0

0

Ultimately, the Board, together with the Housing Agency, will arrange for all eligible dwellings to be remediated to a high standard and at no additional cost to the affected homeowners. Remediation works will continue to be carried out at the earliest possible opportunity having regard to the existing demands of the scheme and the optimum use of available resources.

Pyrite Resolution Board

Questions (140)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

140. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government the procedure to be followed by a person (details supplied) to avail of the relevant grant aid for the extraction of pyrite in their home; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27863/16]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Pyrite Resolution Act 2013 provides for the making of a pyrite remediation scheme by the Pyrite Resolution Board for certain dwellings affected by significant pyrite damage. The full conditions for eligibility under the scheme are set out in the scheme, which is available on the Board’s website (www.pyriteboard.ie). Applications must be submitted to the Board online at https://applications.pyriteboard.ie/opa/.

The pyrite remediation scheme is a scheme of “last resort” and is limited in its application and scope. The scheme is applicable to dwellings which are subject to significant damage attributable to pyritic heave established in accordance with I.S. 398-1:2013 - Reactive pyrite in sub-floor hardcore material – Part 1: Testing and categorisation protocol. It is a condition of eligibility under the scheme that an application to the Board must be accompanied by a Building Condition Assessment with a Damage Condition Rating of 2. In addition, applicants under the scheme must be able to demonstrate to the Board that they have no practicable options, other than under the scheme, to secure the remediation of their homes.

Local Authority Housing Funding

Questions (141)

Michael McGrath

Question:

141. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government if there is a monetary cap on the purchase price that local authorities can pay for a private dwelling on the open market; if so, the cap amounts for each local authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27869/16]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

My Department provides capital funding to local authorities for the acquisition of houses and apartments for social housing use. The parameters applying to local authorities in respect of exchequer funded social housing acquisitions was set out in Circular Housing 24/2015, which is available on my Department’s website at the following link: http://www.environ.ie/housing/social-housing/social-housing-strategy/circular-housing-242015-social-housing-capital.

The cost thresholds for such acquisitions were notified to each individual local authority under separate cover for reasons of commercial confidentiality. These thresholds are currently being updated to reflect changes in the market and will be notified shortly to each local authority. While local authorities generally work within these thresholds, they also acquire housing units at costs beyond these amounts, where particular circumstances apply.

Local Authority Boundaries Review

Questions (142)

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

142. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government his Department's position in relation to the Drogheda boundary review carried in 2015; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27872/16]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

In June 2015, an independent statutory Committee was appointed to carry out a review of local government boundaries in Athlone, Carlow, Drogheda and Waterford. In each case, the committee was asked to carry out a review of the boundary between the respective local authorities and to make recommendations with respect to those boundaries and any consequential matters that they consider necessary in the interests of effective local government.

The main rationale for undertaking the boundary reviews is that, in each case, there is a significant overspill of population into another county based on the population figures taken from the 2011 census. In the case of Drogheda, the town has expanded into County Meath, with a population of 5,983 reported as located in the latter at the 2011 census (nearly 16% of the total town and environs population of 38,578).

The boundary reviews are continuing. The committees were due to submit their reports by end March 2016, but these have been delayed, in part due to the volume of submissions received as part of the public consultation processes and the chairpersons have indicated that further work is required in order to complete the reviews. The committee chairs indicated that the reports would be submitted in the Autumn.

As the committees are by law independent in the performance of their functions, it is not appropriate to comment further on the matter in advance of the committee reports.

Homelessness Strategy

Questions (143)

Robert Troy

Question:

143. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government the reason the midlands region, despite a significant increase in homelessness, only receives circa 1.5% of overall budget; and if his officials will meet with an organisation (details supplied) to discuss same. [27914/16]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

My Department’s role in relation to homelessness involves the provision of a national framework of policy, legislation and funding to underpin the role of housing authorities in addressing homelessness at local level. In accordance with section 37(2) of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009, statutory responsibility in relation to the provision of homeless services, including accommodation, rests with individual housing authorities. My Department does not fund any service directly, but provides funding to housing authorities towards the operational costs of homeless services.

Under the funding arrangements between my Department and housing authorities, the Midlands Region housing authorities have been notified of a baseline allocation of €800,000 in Exchequer funding for 2016. This allocation is provided on a delegated basis and is in respect of the housing authorities’ scheduled programme for planned and contracted expenditure for homeless services and accommodation, and the amount allocated is fully sufficient in this regard.

Furthermore, my Department has provided reassurance to all housing authorities that it will consider recouping additional costs arising as a result of unforeseen expenditure incurred due to increased rates of homeless presentation; such expenditure will be considered separately to the delegated funding arrangements on the basis of actual expenditure incurred. In this regard, an additional payment of approximately €80,000 is currently being processed in respect of the Midlands Region.

In the light of the statutory functions and the funding position as set out above, the Midlands Simon Community, or any service provider, should engage directly with the relevant housing authorities in the Midlands Region in relation to the regional programme of services.

Anti-Social Behaviour

Questions (144)

Martin Heydon

Question:

144. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government the options open to home owners and residents who are frustrated by anti-social behaviour caused by their neighbours, whether these are local authority tenants or otherwise; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28011/16]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

Where anti-social behaviour is of a criminal nature this is a matter for An Garda Síochána. The Criminal Justice Act 2006 contains provisions for civil proceedings to be taken against adults or children for anti-social behaviour. The range of powers includes juvenile and adult cautions, fixed charge penalty notices and the bringing of prosecutions.

In relation to local authority tenants, local authorities are responsible under the Housing Acts for the management and maintenance of their housing stock and the management of their estates, including taking appropriate measures to counter anti-social behaviour.

Where a person is a victim of Anti-Social Behaviour from a Local Authority tenant, or from a member of their household, they should contact their local Area Housing Office to make a complaint. In instances where there is a fear of reprisal, and the complainant wishes to have the complaint treated in confidence, his/her identity will not be disclosed to the person against whom the complaint is made.

The powers of local authorities in this area were significantly enhanced with the commencement of Part 2 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2014 on 13 April 2015. Part 2 provides for a revised procedure to replace section 62 of the Housing Act 1966 and strengthens the power of housing authorities to recover possession of their dwellings from households in serious breach of their tenancy agreements, including engaging in anti-social behaviour. It also gives the local authority power to secure court orders excluding individuals engaged in anti-social behaviour from local authority housing and estates.

In the case of private rented dwellings, landlords are responsible for enforcing the obligations that apply to their tenants under the Residential Tenancies Act 2004. The Act prohibits a tenant in a private residential tenancy from engaging in anti-social behaviour in, or in the vicinity of, a dwelling to which the Act applies and allows a landlord to terminate any tenancy where the tenant is engaging in or allowing others to engage in such behaviour, subject to a notice period of only 7 days in the case of serious anti-social behaviour or 28 days in the case of less serious but persistent behaviour.

The Residential Tenancies Act also provides that a third party affected by anti-social behaviour may take a case to the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB) against a landlord who has failed to enforce a tenant’s obligation not to engage in anti-social behaviour.

Housing Adaptation Grant Funding

Questions (145)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

145. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government the amount allocated to local authorities in 2016 for home adaptation grants with a breakdown by grant type; and the number of households projected to be covered by these grants in 2016 in each case. [28018/16]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

Details of the funding allocated to each local authority for 2016 in respect of the Housing Adaptation Grants for Older People and People with a Disability, encompassing the Housing Aid for Older People, the Housing Adaptation Grant for People with a Disability and the Mobility Aids Grant, are available on my Department’s website at the following link: http://www.environ.ie/housing/grantsfinancial-assistance/ministers-kelly-coffey-announce-eu5625-million-improve-homes.

The detailed administration of these grant schemes is the responsibility of the relevant local authority, including the assessment and approval of grants to applicants and allocations under the various grant measures, which are not pre-determined and are demand-led.

It is expected that over 8,000 households will benefit from the schemes in 2016.

Social Welfare Benefits

Questions (146)

Michael McGrath

Question:

146. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection the position in relation to the payment of a Christmas bonus to social protection recipients in 2016; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27811/16]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The Christmas Bonus was abolished in 2009. It was partially reintroduced in 2014 with a 25% Bonus payment. A 75% Bonus was paid in December 2015 to some 1.2 million long-term social welfare recipients such as pensioners, people with disabilities, carers and the long-term unemployed at a cost of €197 million.

There is no provision in 2016 Revised Estimates for the payment of a Christmas Bonus. I will be seeking approval from my Government colleagues for the payment of a Bonus this year. Any decision taken regarding the payment of a Bonus will have to be consistent with the legal requirements set out in the Fiscal Responsibility Acts 2012 and 2013, and within the context of achieving the targets set for Ireland by the EU rules.

I hope this clarifies the matter.

Disability Allowance Eligibility

Questions (147)

John Brady

Question:

147. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason a person (details supplied) is refused disability allowance on financial grounds where a payment made to them from the North is calculated as means when the equivalent payment in the South would not be calculated as means; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27898/16]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

Disability allowance is a means tested scheme and the way means are assessed is laid down in social welfare legislation. In summary, any income, in cash and non-cash benefits which the claimant may expect to receive, with some exceptions, is assessable as means for disability allowance purposes. Some types of income are exempt from assessment and they are detailed in Rule 1(2) in part 2 of Schedule 3 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005. There is no discretion allowed as deciding officers are obliged to follow the legislation when assessing means.

Social Welfare Benefits Expenditure

Questions (148)

Michael McGrath

Question:

148. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection the cost of the Christmas bonus paid in 2015; his plans to pay a Christmas bonus in 2016; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27810/16]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The Christmas Bonus was abolished in 2009. It was partially reintroduced in 2014 with a 25% Bonus payment. A 75% Bonus was paid in December 2015 to some 1.2 million long-term social welfare recipients such as pensioners, people with disabilities, carers and the long-term unemployed at a cost of €197 million.

There is no provision in 2016 Revised Estimates for the payment of a Christmas Bonus. I will be seeking approval from my Government colleagues for the payment of a Bonus this year. Any decision taken regarding the payment of a Bonus will have to be consistent with the legal requirements set out in the Fiscal Responsibility Acts 2012 and 2013, and within the context of achieving the targets set for Ireland by the EU rules.

I hope that this clarifies the matter.

State Pension (Contributory) Eligibility

Questions (149)

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

149. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Social Protection his views on whether it is fair that a person (details supplied) who has paid all the necessary stamp contributions to receive a pension will be refused it. [27826/16]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

According to the Department’s records, the person concerned will reach state pension age, 67, in 2026. It is not possible to predict at this time what the person’s future state pension (contributory) entitlement will be. Pension entitlement can only be assessed on the basis of the eligibility conditions applicable on the date an individual reaches pension age.

The first date of entry into Irish social insurance for the person concerned is recorded as January 1975, the person’s sixteenth birthday. Under current social welfare legislation, that is the earliest commencement point of a person’s Irish social insurance record for state pension (contributory) eligibility purposes. The starting age of sixteen for compulsory social insurance was introduced in the National Insurance Act, 1911 and has since remained an integral part of the Irish social insurance system. There are no current plans to change the age of entry into insurable employment in Ireland.

It is likely that a number of significant changes will be implemented in the state pension (contributory) eligibility conditions over the coming years. State pension age is already set to increase from 66 to 67 in 2021, and to 68 from 2028. The method by which pension entitlement is assessed will likely change to a ‘total contributions based model’, replacing the current ‘yearly-average’ system.

It is important that all contributors maintain their social insurance record as fully as possible over their working life. In the event that a person ceases insurable employment before reaching state pension age, they may wish to consider the payment of voluntary contributions in order to maintain their paid contributions insurance record. The Voluntary Contributions Section, contact details below, can assist in this regard.

Voluntary Contributions Section

Department of Social Protection

Cork Road

Waterford

LoCall 1890 690 690.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Carer's Allowance Eligibility

Questions (150)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

150. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the progress in determination of eligibility for carer's allowance following a request for review in the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27828/16]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

I confirm that my department received an application for Carer’s Allowance (CA) from the person concerned on 31 May 2016. It is a condition for receipt of a CA that the person being cared for must have a disability whose effect is that they require full-time care and attention.

This is defined as requiring from another person, continual supervision and frequent assistance throughout the day in connection with normal bodily functions or continuous supervision in order to avoid danger to him or herself and likely to require that level of care for at least twelve months.

The evidence submitted in support of this application was examined and the deciding officer decided that this evidence did not indicate that the requirement for full-time care was satisfied.

The person concerned was notified on 26 August 2016 of this decision, the reason for it and of his right of review and appeal. The person concerned has requested a review of this decision. Additional information in relation to the review has been requested by a deciding officer on 19 September 2016. Once the information is received the application will be reviewed and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

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