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Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Written Answers Nos. 184-203

Jobseeker's Allowance Data

Questions (185)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

185. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of young persons under 26 years of age who are in receipt of the €102.70, €147.80 and €193 rate, respectively, of jobseeker's allowance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26259/17]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The information requested by the Deputy is detailed in the following table:

Young persons under the age of 26 in receipt of Jobseeker’s Allowance at the end of April 2017 by rate.

Rate

Recipients

€102.70

19,240

€147.80

2,863

€193

4,705

Total

26,808

Visa Agreements

Questions (186)

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

186. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has had discussions with his Australian counterpart or Australian officials regarding the changes to the 457 visa; the implications that this may have on Irish citizens living in or intending to move to Australia; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26111/17]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

While I have not had discussions with my Australian counterpart or Australian officials regarding the changes to Australia’s 457 visa changes, officials from my Department, both at headquarters and at Ireland’s Embassy in Canberra, are monitoring this closely and are in regular contact with their Australian counterparts on this matter.

Officials at the Embassy met recently with officials at the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection to discuss the changes.

Our Embassy in Canberra and Consulate General in Sydney are also consulting with the Irish advice agencies to whom a lot of our citizens turn for advice in the first instance.

While the 457 visa is due to be discontinued, a replacement temporary skilled visa is being introduced for which Irish citizens will be able to apply. I note that the numbers of Irish availing of the 457 visa has fallen off considerably since the peak in 2012. For Irish citizens who are currently availing of the temporary skilled visa, or are planning on applying, the vast majority of eligible occupations are still likely to be included under the new system.

I am continuing to monitor the situation.

Public Sector Staff Remuneration

Questions (187)

Micheál Martin

Question:

187. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the role his officials and, in particular, the economic unit have in the upcoming talks with the public sector unions. [20406/17]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

Senior officials from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform are leading the public service pay negotiations from the employer side. These officials are supported by dedicated resources from the Irish Government Economic Evaluation Service (IGEES) which have been assigned to the Remuneration, Industrial Relations and Pensions Division within the Department to provide analytical support to senior management.

Labour Employer Economic Forum

Questions (188, 189)

Micheál Martin

Question:

188. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of times the Labour Employer Economic Forum has met; and the issues discussed. [24675/17]

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Micheál Martin

Question:

189. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he has attended a Labour Employer Economic Forum meeting recently. [25630/17]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 188 and 189 together.

There have been three meetings of the Labour Employer Economic Forum since it was established in 2016, and I have attended them all, the most recent being on 11 May 2017. The Forum has proved to be a significant addition to the process of direct communication and consultation between Government, employer and employee representatives on matters of mutual interest. Discussions that have taken place in the Forum have been open and constructive and have been conducted in a positive spirit of engagement.

In the first meeting of the Forum we discussed general economic and employment issues in the context of the preparation of Budget 2017 - including the latest growth projections and risks such as Brexit.  

Our second meeting focused on Brexit in more detail and the potential impacts on employer and labour interests in the Irish economy.  

This month we had the third meeting of the Forum where there was a dedicated discussion, led by my colleague the Minister for Social Protection, Leo Varadkar, T.D.,  on proposed measures to increase protections for members of defined benefit occupational pension schemes in the private sector and related issues.  

Garda Station Refurbishment

Questions (190)

Tom Neville

Question:

190. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 182 of 17 May 2017, the timeframe for works to be carried out; and when a design team will be appointed. [26158/17]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

The refurbishment and upgrade of Newcastlewest Garda Station is included in the Capital Investment Plan 2016-2021, launched in October 2015 for An Garda Síochána. The Office of Public Works is currently progressing the delivery of all the projects listed in that plan.

OPW has received a Brief of requirements for a District Headquarter Station in Newcastlewest from An Garda Síochána and has carried out a feasibility study. OPW is currently progressing the appointment of a design team in order to further advance this project. Construction works are expected to take approximately 18 months.

Office of Public Works

Questions (191)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

191. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will address a matter (details supplied) regarding the OPW; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26233/17]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

The letter referred to by the Deputy was sent to my constituency office in January of this year. I am advised that an email issued from the Office of Public Works Property Division to Mr. Halpin on 8 February in relation to this matter.

I am advised that no legal agreements have been entered into by the Office of Public Works with either the bank or the receiver in this case. This matter is currently being given attention by the Chief State Solicitor’s Office and, until clarification is received on certain legal matters, payment of rent on this property is currently on hold.

Heritage Projects

Questions (192)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Question:

192. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if her Department has given assistance to communities or groups in the past to restore derelict mill sites to running order; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26081/17]

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Written answers (Question to Arts)

Financial support is provided by my Department through a number of structured schemes for the conservation and protection of heritage buildings, including mills.

The Built Heritage Investment Scheme is a scheme for the repair and conservation of structures on the local authority Record of Protected Structures. I recently announced over five hundred projects across the country that will be supported by the scheme in 2017, which will create employment in the conservation and construction industries, while helping to regenerate urban and rural areas.

The Structures at Risk Fund enables conservation works to heritage structures which are deemed to be at significant risk of deterioration. Structures must be on the local authority Record of Protected Structures. The fund, administered through the local authorities, seeks to encourage the regeneration and reuse of heritage properties and to help to secure the preservation of protected structures which might otherwise be lost. I recently announced 67 projects countrywide that will be supported under the Structures at Risk Fund for 2017.

Support under these schemes has been provided for a number of mill projects each year for the past number of years. Details of successful projects under the schemes are available on my Department’s website at www.dahrrga.gov.ie.

While the closing dates for both of the above schemes have now passed for 2017, my Department will work closely with the local authorities throughout the year in order to ensure that the best possible use is made of all funds within the schemes, including by reallocating funds where necessary when projects do not proceed within agreed timeframes. The circulars setting out the terms and conditions of the schemes are available on all local authority websites, and on my Department’s website. Any enquiries should be directed to the relevant local authority.

The Heritage Council, which my Department funds, also provides grants for the protection and preservation of the built heritage. It is primarily a matter for the Heritage Council to decide how its funding should be allocated across the range of research, education and conservation programmes it supports annually, having regard to competing priorities for limited resources. Grant schemes for 2017 are advertised by the Heritage Council on its website www.heritagecouncil.ie.

Heritage Projects

Questions (193)

Pat the Cope Gallagher

Question:

193. Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs her plans for carrying out improvement works at a site (details supplied); if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the cemetery is closed to the public due to concerns of debris and subsiding wall stead; if her attention has been further drawn to the fact an application was made for heritage grant funding but was unsuccessful and that therefore no funding opportunity currently exists for repairs other than from her Department directly; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26114/17]

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Written answers (Question to Arts)

As the site in question is owned and managed by the local authority the carrying out of any works to the structure would primarily be a matter for Donegal County Council itself.

In excess of 1000 national monuments at over 700 locations are in direct State care, including notable sites in County Donegal such as Donegal Castle, Doe Castle and Grianan of Aileach. Significant resources are required to properly manage and maintain these monuments and, as a consequence, I regret that my Department is not in a position to take responsibility for the maintenance of the Abbey.

Financial support is provided by my Department through a number of structured schemes for the conservation and protection of heritage buildings, including the Built Heritage Investment Scheme, the Structures at Risk Fund and other initiatives operated by the Heritage Council.

The Built Heritage Investment Scheme is a scheme for the repair and conservation of protected structures (i.e. structures on the local authority Record of Protected Structures). I recently announced over five hundred projects across the country that will be supported by the scheme in 2017 which will create employment in the conservation and construction industries, while helping to regenerate urban and rural areas.

The Structures at Risk Fund enables conservation works to heritage structures in both private and public ownership, which are protected under the Planning and Development Acts and are deemed to be at significant risk of deterioration. Structures must be on the local authority Record of Protected Structures. The fund, administered through the local authorities, seeks to encourage the regeneration and reuse of heritage properties and to help to secure the preservation of protected structures which might otherwise be lost. I recently announced 67 projects countrywide that will be supported under the Structures at Risk Fund for 2017.

While the closing dates for both of the above schemes have now passed, my Department works closely with the local authorities throughout the year in order to ensure that the best possible use is made of all funds within the schemes, including by reallocating funds where necessary when projects do not proceed within agreed timeframes. I am advised that an application was received for funding for this project under the BHIS 2017 but did not form part of the original list of projects forwarded by the local authority to the Department for approval. The project is on a reserve list and should further additional funding become available during the course of this year as a result of other projects in that local authority or elsewhere not proceeding, it will be open to the local authority to reallocate funding to this project, subject to the usual terms and conditions attaching to the scheme.

Circulars setting out the terms and conditions of these schemes are available on all local authority websites, and on my Department’s website. Any enquiries about the operation of the schemes should be directed to the relevant local authority.

The Heritage Council, which my Department funds, also provides grants for the protection and preservation of the built heritage.  It is primarily a matter for the Heritage Council to decide how its funding should be allocated across the range of research, education and conservation programmes it supports annually, having regard to competing priorities for limited resources. Grant schemes for 2017 are advertised by the Heritage Council on its website www.heritagecouncil.ie.

Town and Village Renewal Scheme

Questions (194)

Brendan Smith

Question:

194. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when a scheme of financial assistance and tax incentives will be introduced to assist in the upgrading of single rural houses; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26223/17]

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Written answers (Question to Arts)

As part of the Government’s Action Plan for Rural Development, I launched an enhanced Town and Village Renewal Scheme on 13 April last. This Scheme will focus on improving the economic development of our rural towns and villages.

Funding of €20 million has been made available under the scheme, which will support up to 300 towns and villages over the next 15 months.

I plan to launch a separate pilot scheme later this year to encourage residential occupancy in rural towns and villages. The scheme will be aimed at owner-occupiers and will examine ways in which properties that are currently not in use in town and village centres can be restored or renovated to allow them to be used for residential purposes. The pilot will not apply to houses in rural areas outside of towns and villages.

Details of the scheme are being finalised in consultation with relevant Departments and full particulars will be announced when the pilot scheme is launched later in the year.

Public Sector Staff Remuneration

Questions (195)

Thomas Byrne

Question:

195. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Health when staff in section 38 organisations will receive pay restoration under the Lansdowne Road agreement and specifically the €1,000 annual increase which has not begun to be paid in an organisation (details supplied). [26215/17]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

Adjustments to the salaries of public health sector employees as provided for by the Lansdowne Road Agreement are effective from 1 April 2017. As this question refers to organisations funded by the HSE under section 38 of the Health Act 2004, I have asked the HSE to respond directly to you on this matter.

HSE Expenditure

Questions (196)

Louise O'Reilly

Question:

196. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Health the estimated cost of a 2% increase in the HSE IT budget to bring it to the EU average; and the overall new total cost including the 2% increase [26062/17]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

HSE spending on ICT is composed of both Capital and Revenue expenditure. The projected spend on ICT by HSE in 2017 is €55.0m capital and a revenue figure €121.0m approximately giving a total estimated figure for ICT spend of €176.0m. Based on a current gross total vote figure for HSE in 2017 of €14.6bn approximately, an increase in the HSE ICT budget, sufficient to achieve 2% of the total vote, would require an ICT investment figure of €292.0 m per annum. On this basis, HSE ICT expenditure would need to increase by €116.0m to reach 2% of total health expenditure. A mid-term capital review is currently underway by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform for completion in the autumn and the ICT capital component will be examined in that context.

Electronic Health Records

Questions (197)

Louise O'Reilly

Question:

197. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Health the cost of rolling out the eHealth electronic health record over the periods of two months, 18 months, 24 months, 30 months and 36 months, respectively [26063/17]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The HSE have developed a business case for the implementation of an electronic health care record (EHR) in Ireland. The business case sets out a number of investment scenarios including timescales for implementation and roll out. In the business case, a 5 year and a 9 year technology investment programme is developed but there is flexibility within its scope to stretch out timescales further. The total of all estimated costs including business change elements for a 5 year implementation are in the range of €647m to €875m respectively and the 9 year figure is between €609m-€824m. The five year scenario could be considered a ‘fast track’ approach. These costs would only arise if full implementation in all sites were to take place. The costs have been estimated based on market engagements in 2015/16.

A technology and business change project of this scale and scope has a number of inherent risks. Realistic timescales are important to ensure that the adoption of both the technology and the business change required by front line staff can be absorbed and managed in a coherent way. In addition to resourcing the EHR project with substantial manpower and financial resources, experience from other countries demonstrates that the vendor markets supplying many of these services needs to be carefully managed in terms of capacity and capability to deliver working tailored solutions in a satisfactory manner. My Department is currently evaluating how this might be progressed particularly in delivering an EHR in the context of the work being planned for the New Children’s Hospital which aspires to be the first digital hospital facility in the country. In developing a national electronic health record programme we must build on the progress to date in ICT deployment but also on the lessons learnt from other jurisdictions in developing an optimum solution for Ireland. The business case highlights a number of optional timescales and investment approaches which will need to be considered. The scale of the task in implementing an electronic health record programme is very large and requires a complex procurement and approval process. It is a five to ten year programme of work depending on the scale of resources deployed.

National Maternity Strategy Expenditure

Questions (198)

Louise O'Reilly

Question:

198. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Health the estimated cost of funding and implementing the national maternity strategy; and if he will provide a breakdown of the spending costs. [26064/17]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

Ireland's first National Maternity Strategy - Creating A Better Future Together 2016 - 2026 - will be implemented on a phased basis. Implementation will be led by the newly established National Women & Infants Health Programme. The Programme is drawing up a detailed action plan to inform this process; this work is expected to be completed by end June and includes the identification of both capital and revenue funding requirements, which will in turn inform the annual Estimates process over the lifetime of the Strategy.

€3 million development funding provided for maternity services in 2016 was allocated in line with the Strategy, and included funding for additional staff, including 100 midwives, the development of specialist bereavement teams and for the implementation of the Maternal and Newborn Clinical Management System. Increased funding of €6.8m has been provided for maternity services in 2017 which will allow for the continued implementation of the Strategy.

Dental Services

Questions (199, 200)

Louise O'Reilly

Question:

199. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Health the estimated cost of increasing funding to the public dental service to bring it to a position to which it can deliver its remit in full. [26065/17]

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Louise O'Reilly

Question:

200. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Health the estimated cost of introducing free dental care for the general population. [26066/17]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 199 and 200 together.

Dental services for children up to 16 years of age and persons of all ages with special needs are provided by the Public Dental Service of the HSE through its dental clinics. This includes emergency services and referral as appropriate to children under 6. A targeted fissure sealant programme is provided for children aged 6 to 8 and 11 to 13 (usually 2nd and 6th class in primary school). In addition, a screening programme is provided for these age groups with necessary interventions for permanent teeth including fillings and extractions. Children aged 9-11 may receive a screening and necessary interventions where resources allow. The provision of these dental services is in line with the Dental Health Action Plan, published in 1994. Annual expenditure on the Public Dental Service has been approximately €60 million in recent years. A breakdown by year was provided to the Deputy in response to a Parliamentary Question (Ref. 15138/16) on 7 June 2016.

The Dental Treatment Service Scheme provides access to dental treatment for medical card holders over the age of 16. All medical card holders are entitled to specific dental treatments, including an annual dental examination. Last year almost 1.2 million treatments were provided to over 460,000 patients at a cost of €63.2 million.

The Dental Treatment Benefit Scheme, for which the Minister for Social Protection is responsible, provides an annual dental examination to insured workers and retired people who have the required number of PRSI contributions. It has recently been further extended to some 450,000 self-employed people and their dependent spouses for the first time. Later this year some of the most popular treatment benefits available through PRSI, including scale and polish, will also be restored.

The cost of increasing the level of service provided by the HSE or introducing of free dental care for the general population would depend on a number of factors, including the underlying oral health of the population, the way in which such a service would be provided, the level of service that would be provided, and the likely level of take-up of such services. Therefore it is not possible to provide the estimated cost as requested. The National Oral Health Policy which is being led by the Chief Dental Officer in the Department will inform future provision of dental services. It will take account of commitments in the Programme for Government and have regard to the funding available to facilitate such measures.

General Practitioner Data

Questions (201, 202, 203)

Louise O'Reilly

Question:

201. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Health the estimated cost of the roll-out of free general practitioner care for all children under 12 years of age. [26067/17]

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Louise O'Reilly

Question:

202. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Health the estimated cost of the roll-out of free general practitioner care for all children under 18 years of age. [26068/17]

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Louise O'Reilly

Question:

203. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Health the estimated cost of the roll-out of free general practitioner care to the general population. [26069/17]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 201 to 203, inclusive, together.

The cost of GP visit and medical cards varies significantly with the age of the cardholder. The following table outlines the current indicative annual cost for medical card eligibility and GP visit card eligibility, by age groups:

Age Groups

Indicative Annual Cost per Card

GP Visit Card

Medical Card

0 – 4 Yrs

€235

€366

5 – 15 Yrs

€161

€218

16 - 44 Yrs

€147

€596

45 – 64 Yrs

€215

€1,242

65 – 69 Yrs

€237

€1,627

Aged 70 and over

€485

€2,128

Note: Data is compiled by the HSE Primary Care Reimbursement Service, based on available information to August 2016 and by extrapolation to full year costs.

The extension of free GP care to all citizens not currently covered by medical or GP visit card would encompass a further 2.6 million people approximately.

The Deputy will be aware of the ongoing review of the GMS and other publicly funded contracts involving GPs, and that the next phase of discussions to progress this work is underway. Initial engagement with GP representative bodies began in January. As with any negotiation-type process, and given the range and complexity of the issues to be discussed, the engagement may take some time.

The estimated cost of extending free GP care to all citizens, or specific cohorts of the population, will vary depending on the outcome of these negotiations and any implications they may have for the future scope and content of the general practitioner service, and the relevant fees and payments to GPs.

The Deputy will be aware that the Report of the Committee on the Future of Healthcare which was published on 30 May 2017 recommended the phased introduction of universal GP care over the next five years. The Report which will be debated in the Dáil in mid-June is currently being considered by my Department.

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