Broadband Service Provision

Questions (667)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

667. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development if funding will be made available to local communities to fund a feasibility study for a broadband solution (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9491/18]

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Written answers (Question to Rural)

The National Broadband Plan will deliver high-speed broadband to every premises in Ireland through a mix of commercial providers and a State intervention in those areas where commercial providers acting alone will not provide the service. The Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment is currently engaged in a procurement process to identify a suitable provider of high-speed broadband services in the area identified for State intervention.

In advance of the procurement process being completed, the project referred to by the Deputy may be eligible under the LEADER programme which is managed by my Department and delivered through Local Action Groups in each of the 28 LEADER sub-regional areas around the country.  The LEADER programme funds projects under various policy themes, including rural broadband.

In order for a project to be eligible for LEADER funding, it must be compatible with the actions outlined in the approved Local Development Strategy in the sub-regional area concerned, and it must comply with the Operating Rules and EU Regulations in place for the programme. Further details are available from the LEADER Local Action Group in each area. Contact details for the Local Action Groups are available on my Department’s website at http://drcd.gov.ie/wp-content/uploads/list-of-LAGs.pdf.

Departmental Funding

Questions (668)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

668. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development his Department's capital allocation in each of the years 2018 to 2022; and the areas to which funds will be allocated in each of those years. [9525/18]

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Written answers (Question to Rural)

My Department delivers a variety of capital schemes including the Town and Village Renewal Scheme, the Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme, the CLÁR Programme, the Walks Scheme, the Local Improvement Scheme (LIS), the LEADER Programme, the Community Facilities Fund, RAPID, and Library Development.

The Expenditure Report 2018 published alongside Budget 2018 set out a capital allocation of €88m in respect of my Department in 2018, supplemented by €7.7m in capital carryover

As recently announced, a new Rural Regeneration and Development Fund will be established under my Department as part of Project Ireland 2040. The fund will invest an additional €1 billion in supporting rural renewal.

The additional investment under the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund will commence in 2019 and will ramp up incrementally over the first 4 years before reaching a steady level of investment. My Department’s Capital allocation, to 2022, will be as follows: (this shows a doubling of investment between now and 2022):

Rural Registration and Development Fund:

 -

2018

2019

2020

2021

2022

Total Capital Allocation  

88*

141

150

152

175

 

 

 

 

 

 

* + 7.7 Capital Carryover  

 

 

 

 

 

My Department is currently developing proposals for the detailed operation of the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund, and I will announce the details following consultation with relevant Government colleagues.

LEADER Programmes Funding

Questions (669)

Gerry Adams

Question:

669. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the funding allocated to Leader programmes in County Louth in 2017; the level of funding to be provided for these programmes in 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9892/18]

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Written answers (Question to Rural)

LEADER is a multi-annual programme for the period 2014-2020 which has a total budget of €250 million over the programming period. LEADER is administered by Local Action Groups (LAGs) which deliver funding in accordance with Local Development Strategies that have been agreed for each LAG area.

€220 million of the available funding has already been allocated to the 28 LEADER sub-regional areas throughout the country. This allocation covers the full duration of the Programme rather than being allocated on an annual basis. This provides greater flexibility to Local Acton Groups in managing their allocation within and between years. The allocation for County Louth for the period of the programme is €6,101,862.

The overall expenditure incurred for Co. Louth under the 2014-2020 LEADER Programme as of 22 February 2018 was €408,782. The figure includes expenditure on Preparatory Support (for the development of a Local Development Strategy for Louth), Administration costs (which includes Animation) and Project Payments.

As of 22 February, 20 projects with a value of over €258,390 had been approved for LEADER funding in Louth. A further 3 projects requesting over €148,230 in funding are at various stages of the approval process. This funding will be drawn down as projects start to incur expenditure and submit payment claims.

I anticipate that there will be a significant increase in project approvals and expenditure over the course of 2018 based on the progress which has been made nationally in approving projects in recent months. My Department has also introduced a number of administrative improvements to the LEADER programme which will also assist LAGs and project promoters in their delivery of the programme.

Animal Breeding Regulations

Questions (670)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

670. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development his plans to add a breed to the list of restricted breeds under dog control legislation (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10034/18]

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Written answers (Question to Rural)

The Control of Dogs Acts 1986 to 2010 set out a range of requirements for all dog owners or any other person in charge of a dog. The Control of Dogs Regulations 1998 set out further requirements that owners of specific breeds of dogs have to follow, namely that such dogs must be muzzled and led, on a sufficiently strong leash or chain not exceeding 2 metres in length, by a competent person over 16 years of age when in a public place. 

I am aware that representations have been made expressing concerns regarding the overall approach to the regulation of restricted breeds. There is also the view that some additional breeds, including the breed referenced by the Deputy, may warrant inclusion on the list of restricted breeds. I have asked my officials to review this matter further in order to ensure an appropriate balanced approach is in place for the protection of society.

Freedom of Information Data

Questions (671)

Stephen Donnelly

Question:

671. Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of freedom of information requests her Department has received in the past eight years; the number accepted without further escalation and not accepted, respectively; the number requested which were not accepted that were escalated to the Office of the Information Commissioner; the number in which the Office of the Information Commissioner ruled in favour of the person making the freedom of information request; the number in which the Office of the Information Commissioner ruled against her Department; the number her Department appealed to the High Court; the number the High Court ruled against her Department in favour of the applicant; the number which were then brought to the Court of Appeal by her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9290/18]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

The number of freedom of information (FOI) requests received in the Department in the past 8 years which were granted, part-granted or refused is set out in table 1.

The number of FOI requests where a review by the OIC was requested in the past 8 years which were accepted and the decision to affirm or rule against is set out in table 2.

There were none appealed to the High Court or to the Court of Appeal from this Department.

Table 1:

Number and outcome of (FOI) Requests received in the Dept 2010 – 2017

Year

Total Received*

Requests Granted

Requests Part Granted

Refused

 2010

859

639

169

36

 2011

1106

713

276

56

 2012

1686

1168

331

64

 2013

2148

1550

378

96

 2014

2193

1375

524

111

 2015

2156

1276

696

106

 2016

2089

1005

821

104

 2017

2443

1136

932

166

* It should be noted that there are also a number of FOI requests that are carried over from one year to the next and a number are withdrawn/transferred out etc.

Table 2:

Number and outcome of (FOI) Requests where a review by the OIC was requested from 2010 – 2017

Year

Total No. of cases where customer requested an OIC review*

Cases where the OIC accepted the request for a review

Cases where OIC affirmed the DEASP decision

Cases where OIC ruled  against the DEASP decision

 2010

7

6

1

0

 2011

7

6

4

0

 2012

17

8

6

1

 2013

16

12

6

0

 2014

32

20

7

1

 2015

17

11

5

2

 2016

18

13

9

0

 2017

39

26

13

1

* It should be noted that there are also a number of cases that are withdrawn/closed etc.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Social Welfare Benefits Data

Questions (672)

Joan Burton

Question:

672. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of full rate and half rate qualified child increases paid at the end of 2017 to persons in receipt of payments (details supplied), by scheme and children aged 12 to 22 years of age, respectively; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9332/18]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

The age breakdowns requested are not routinely collated in my Department. However, my officials will collate the requested information on a once off basis and will forward it to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Rural Social Scheme Applications

Questions (673)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

673. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her views on a matter (details supplied) regarding applications for rural social schemes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9439/18]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

The Rural Social Scheme (RSS) is an income support initiative which provides part-time employment opportunities in community and voluntary organisations for farmers or fishermen who are in receipt of certain social welfare payments and underemployed in their primary occupation. It is a supplementary income support scheme designed specifically for those participants whose income falls below a certain limit. To remain eligible to participate on the scheme the participant must be actively farming or fishing and satisfy the means test pertaining to the farm/fish assist or jobseekers allowance.

The means assessment for RSS includes income that the participant and their spouse/civil partner or cohabitant has and means derived from any capital or property (except their own home). In general, the means assessment that applies to the RSS is the farm assist scheme criteria. Accordingly, 70% of all self-employment (engaged in by a participant and their spouse/ civil partner) whether farm or off-farm is assessed as the gross yearly income which they may be reasonably expected to receive less all costs necessarily incurred in carrying out the self-employment.

Payment of RSS is not taken into account when assessing the weekly means. An additional annual disregard of €254 for each of the first two children and €381 for the third and subsequent children is also applied under the farm assist criteria, where applicable.

This Department endeavours at all times to ensure that only eligible customers benefit from the scheme. This also applies to people who are already participating on a scheme. Any change in a participant's/household's circumstances should be notified to the Department as this may impact on their continued entitlement and their rate of payment.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

State Pensions

Questions (674)

Jack Chambers

Question:

674. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of efforts to rectify pension entitlements for persons, mostly women, who left the workforce for a time during their careers and are now subsequently penalised in view of the fact their pension entitlements are assessed as an average over their working lifetime; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9453/18]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

A policy to introduce the Total Contributions Approach (TCA) to pensions calculation was adopted by Government in the National Pensions Framework in 2010, as was the decision to base the entitlements of all new pensioners on this approach from around 2020.

In advance of this, on 23 January, the Government agreed to a proposal that will allow pensioners affected by the 2012 changes in rate bands to have their pension entitlement calculated by a new “Total Contributions Approach” (TCA) which will include up to 20 years of a new HomeCaring credit. This approach is expected to significantly benefit many people, particularly women, whose work history includes an extended period of time outside the paid workplace, while raising families or in a caring role. It will make it easier for pensioners assessed under the current yearly average model, to qualify for a higher rate of the State Pension (contributory). The TCA will ensure that the totality of a person’s social insurance contributions - as opposed to the timing of them - determines their final pension outcome. Under this new arrangement, a person who reached pension age after 1 September 2012 and has a 40 year record of paid and credited social insurance contributions, subject to a maximum of 20 years of the new HomeCaring credits, will qualify for a maximum contributory pension where they satisfy the other qualifying conditions for the scheme. Up to 10 years of other credits, for example when unemployed or ill, may also be used, subject to the total number of credits not exceeding 20 years. So, for example, a person might receive a maximum pension based on 20 years paid PRSI contributions, 5 years jobseeker credits, and 15 years HomeCaring Credits, over a 50 year period.

For those who do not qualify for the State Pension (contributory) (SPC), there are other state pension payments available. Notably, they may qualify for the State Pension (non-contributory) which is a means-tested payment (based on their share of household means) with a maximum payment of 95% of the SPC. If their spouse has a contributory pension, they may qualify for an increase for a qualified adult (based on their own means), amounting up to 90% of a full rate SPC pension. Consequently, if a person doesn’t receive a State pension after pension age, they have both significant means and have made little or no contribution to the Social Insurance Fund. Introducing a new pension entitlement for such people would reduce the resources available for other pensioners, most of whom have less means than they do, and have contributed significantly more to the Social Insurance Fund.

The model of TCA which will be in place for all new pensioners from 2020 will be decided upon following a consultation later this year, and I do not wish to pre-empt this process, nor the Government decision and legislation which will follow it. However, I can state that adequate provision for home-carers will be an important factor in the final design.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Disability Allowance Eligibility

Questions (675)

Aindrias Moynihan

Question:

675. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if a person (details supplied) who was self-employed and has been unable to work for a number of years due to ill-health is entitled to the disability allowance or an invalidity pension; if the person's previous PRSI contributions whilst self-employed are sufficient for either payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9458/18]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

This gentleman was in receipt of Disability Allowance (DA) from 13 December 2006 to 26 March 2013. Following a review it was decided that the person concerned was not entitled to DA from 11 September 2011 due to means in excess of the statutory limit and an overpayment was raised.

Disability Allowance (DA) is a weekly allowance paid to people with a specified disability who are aged 16 or over and under the age of 66. This disability must be expected to last for at least one year and the allowance is subject to a medical examination, a means test and habitual residency conditions.

The weekly rate of DA payment depends on the amount of weekly means assessed. The legislative provisions regarding DA state that means will be assessed from all income which the claimant or claimant’s spouse may reasonably expect to receive during the year following the date of their claim. It is open to the person concerned to re-apply for DA.

Invalidity pension (IP) is a payment for people who are permanently incapable of work because of illness or incapacity and who satisfy the pay related social insurance (PRSI) contribution conditions. To qualify for IP a claimant must, inter-alia, have at least 260 (5 years) paid PRSI contributions since entering social insurance and 48 contributions paid or credited in the last or second last complete contribution year before the date of their claim. Only PRSI classes A, E, H or S contributions are reckonable for IP purposes. Class S contributions are those paid by self-employed people.

A person who applied for Invalidity Pension in 2017 must have the required 260 paid PRSI contributions and also have 48 paid or credited class A, E, H, or S contributions in either 2015 or 2016 to meet the contribution conditions of the scheme. This is a legislative requirement and contributions outside of the reference period cannot be assessed for the purposes of establishing the required 48 paid or credited contributions.

This Department received a claim for IP for the gentleman concerned on the 12 December 2017. He was refused IP on the grounds that the contribution conditions for the scheme are not satisfied. Specifically, he does not have any qualifying contributions paid or credited in the reckonable years 2015 & 2016. He was notified on 2 January 2018 of this decision, the reason for it and of his right of review and appeal.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the deputy.

Invalidity Pension Reviews

Questions (676)

Robert Troy

Question:

676. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if an invalidity pension review for a person (details supplied) will be expedited. [9460/18]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

Invalidity pension (IP) is a payment for people who are permanently incapable of work because of illness or incapacity and who satisfy the pay related social insurance (PRSI) contribution conditions.

The department received a claim for IP for the gentleman concerned on the 01 December 2017. He was refused IP on the grounds that the medical conditions for the scheme were not satisfied. He was notified on the 18 January 2018 of this decision, the reasons for it and of his right of review and appeal. The gentleman concerned requested a review of this decision and submitted further medical evidence in support of his request. Following a review of all the information available the DO is now satisfied that the medical conditions for the scheme are satisfied.

A Deciding Officer of the department wrote to him on the 26 February 2018 requesting further information relevant to his claim. The claim will be finalised as quickly as possible on receipt of the requested information.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Social Welfare Schemes Data

Questions (677)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

677. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of applications for social welfare payments being processed in which cancer is the reason for the application. [9475/18]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

The Department administers a number of schemes which provide income support to people who are unable to work, or who are substantially restricted in taking up work, because of illness or disability.

The information sought by the Deputy in relation to the nature of the illness/disability is not readily available.