Education Welfare Service Staff

Questions (226)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

226. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of whole-time equivalent education welfare officers employed by the education welfare officer; the location of each; the child population served in each case; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41358/18]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

The Educational Welfare Service of Tusla has advised my Department that it currently employs 88 Educational Welfare Officers (EWOs) throughout the country. The 88 EWOs are divided into 11 teams spread across 4 separate regions across the country, each of which is managed by a Senior Educational Welfare Officer (SEWO). These regions are the South, the West and Midlands, South Dublin and North Dublin. Referrals from schools, parents and other agencies are received by Educational Welfare Services.

The most recent school enrolment figures from September 2017 show 912,683 students enrolled in schools throughout the country. This equates to an average of 10,371 students per Educational Welfare Officer. Referrals are allocated to Educational Welfare Officers by the Senior Educational Welfare Officer on a team basis and areas where most referrals are received are given priority. Educational Welfare Officers can be assigned cases from regions outside their own on occasions where an increase in referrals means that the existing resource within the region is not sufficient to meet that demand.

Early Childhood Care and Education

Questions (227)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

227. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if her attention has been drawn to the fact that some children are being denied a second ECCE year in the scheme that was expanded to two years from September 2018, and due to implemented changes in that extension of the scheme a full calendar year is assessed in the child's birth year as opposed to a quarterly assessment approach (details supplied); if there is discretion in the scheme to allow parents to avail of both years; the number of children in this cohort that are similarly affected; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41382/18]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

Since September 2018, all children meeting the minimum age requirement of 2 years and 8 months are eligible for a full two programme years on the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme. This measure refines the development introduced in 2016 and increases the duration of each registered child on ECCE from a previous average of 61 weeks, to a potential duration of 76 weeks (two programme years). This delivers fully on a commitment in the Programme for a Partnership Government that is good for children, families and Early Years providers.

This new measure will address the previous situation with regard to multiple entry points whereby there was a broad fluctuation in the number of free preschool weeks a child could avail of (between 61 and 88 weeks depending on the date of birth of the child) and will ensure a programme that is equitable for all children. The situation where there was more than one entry point created a perception of inequality to some parents when they considered the variance in the number of weeks of ECCE provision, dependant on their entry point.

It must be noted that age limits have been used to determine eligibility since the inception of the ECCE programme in 2010. These rules are a necessary component of any Government scheme and ensure that Exchequer funding is used for its intended purpose.

The upper age limit for the ECCE programme was set in consultation with the Department of Education and Skills. It ensures that children transition into primary school with their peers and limits the age range of children beginning primary school. Limiting the diversity in age ranges in children beginning primary school education is considered generally to be in the best interest of children, in relation to peer interaction in junior infants, as well as other educational considerations.

My Department does its best to ensure, in so far as possible, the equitable treatment of all children and families who apply for childcare funding under the ECCE Programme. In order to ensure objectivity and fairness, it is essential that clear rules exist for the scheme and that they are applied evenly. An essential component of the ECCE programme rules is an eligibility start date to ensure that the programme can be administered and budgeted for in an appropriate manner.

Child Abuse

Questions (228)

Clare Daly

Question:

228. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs further to Parliamentary Question No. 571 of 2 October 2018, the reason Tusla does not collect data on the number of child sexual abuse assessments that make findings of founded or unfounded, respectively; her views on whether a failure to collect such data precludes pattern analysis that might detect risks or anomalies in rates of findings across different service areas; and if she will convey to Tusla the importance of this data being collected and analysed. [41383/18]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

I am informed by Tusla that currently data is not collected nationally on the number of child sexual abuse assessments that are ‘founded’ and ‘unfounded’. Historically Tusla has not collated founded/unfounded cases nationally within Key Performance Indicators as these terms refer to outcomes and are not useful as measurements of performance. This is something I will ask Tusla to consider in the context of the data collated and reported to my Department, which is reviewed regularly.

There are other mechanisms in place which can detect anomalies in the services provided by Tusla. The Quality Assurance Directorate of Tusla is charged with monitoring the quality of decision making across services, including analysing patterns of activity. This year has also seen the introduction of the National Child Care Information system to all Tusla areas. The development of the NCCIS will facilitate the process of collecting information on outcomes (such as founded and unfounded decisions) and assist in national decision making capacity, in keeping with Tusla’s Child Protection and Welfare Strategy.

Services for People with Disabilities

Questions (229)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

229. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development his plans to introduce legislation for dog trainers that train to assist persons with disabilities. [41269/18]

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Written answers (Question to Rural)

My Department has policy and legislative responsibility for matters relating to the control of dogs as set out in the Control of Dogs Acts and relevant Ministerial Regulations. As this responsibility does not extend to dog trainers, or to the provision or training of assistance/service dogs for persons with disabilities, I have no plans to introduce legislation in this regard.

The Deputy may wish to consider contacting the organisation Irish Dogs for the Disabled at www.dogsfordisabled.ie which may be able to provide additional information on the matter. If the deputy wishes to correspond with my office in regard to what specifically she wishes to see legislated for, I can advise her on same.

Local Improvement Scheme Funding

Questions (230)

Carol Nolan

Question:

230. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development his plans in budget 2019 to continue the local improvement scheme; and his further plans to increase the level of funding available in the next round. [41416/18]

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Written answers (Question to Rural)

The Local Improvement Scheme, or LIS, is a programme for improvement works on small private or non-public roads in predominantly rural areas. The scheme is funded by my Department and administered through the Local Authorities.

Following on from the successful re-launch of the scheme in 2017, I announced details of the 2018 Local Improvement Scheme on 27th February last. I allocated an initial sum of €10.8 million to Local Authorities across the country this year under the scheme.

The list of projects which each of the Councils has selected for improvement works under the scheme is available on my Department’s website.

As part of the LIS scheme this year, I also requested each County Council to compile a secondary list of suitable LIS road projects which they could complete if additional funding becomes available through my Department later in the year.

I am assessing the level of expenditure on all of my Department's programmes on an on-going basis, and I will make decisions shortly on whether there is scope for any additional funding to be allocated to the Local Improvement Scheme this year.

I anticipate that a new round of LIS will be announced in 2019.

Working Family Payment Data

Questions (231)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

231. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of members of the Defence Forces that are receiving working family payments; the overall annual cost of these payments to members of the Defence Forces; the largest sum paid to a member of the Defence Forces in the past year for which figures are available; and the average sum paid. [41384/18]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

Working Family Payment (WFP) is a weekly tax-free payment which provides additional income support to employees on low earnings with children. WFP is designed to prevent in-work poverty for low paid workers with child dependents and to offer a financial incentive to take up employment.

The figures for Defence Force members in receipt of WFP are as follows:

Working Family Payments

-

Number of Defence Force members currently in receipt of WFP:

90

Overall annual expenditure on WFP paid to Defence Force Members:

€334,360.00

Largest sum paid to a Defence Force member during past year:

€217.00 (p/w)

Average WFP sum paid to Defence Force members:

€71.44 (p/w)

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy

Autism Support Services

Questions (232)

Timmy Dooley

Question:

232. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the steps she is taking to reduce costs for parents of children with autism spectrum disorders in view of the recent publication of a report which indicates a significant financial burden for parents; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41431/18]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

The Department offers a range of supports for children with disabilities, including those with autism. The principle payment provided for such children is domiciliary care allowance (DCA), which can be paid in respect of children who require substantial extra care and attention as a result of a severe disability. Over 40,000 children are currently in receipt of this allowance, which is paid at a rate of €309.50 per month. In this regard, over a third of all applications for DCA are in respect of children with a diagnosis on the autism spectrum. Eligibility for DCA is not based on the child's disability but on the resultant additional care and attention required.

In addition, an annual carer support grant (CSG) of €1,700 is also automatically paid in respect of each child in receipt of DCA.

Children for whom DCA is payable now also qualify for a medical card in their own right.

Carers allowance may also be payable in respect of children in receipt of DCA, subject to the carer fulfilling certain conditions. Currently some 55% of DCA recipients satisfy the means test for payment of carers allowance.

In addition to the supports offered by DEASP, supports are also provided by other departments, including the July Education Programme from the Department of Education and Science, which provides additional summertime schooling hours for qualified children. The Revenue Commissioners allow an incapacitated child tax credit of €3,300 in respect of all qualified children, which can include those with autism.

I hope this clarifies matters for the Deputy.

JobPath Programme

Questions (233)

John Brady

Question:

233. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the date on which referrals to JobPath will cease in 2019. [41267/18]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

As the Deputy will be aware, JobPath is a service that supports people who are long-term unemployed to secure and sustain full time paid employment in the open labour market. Two companies, Seetec and Turas Nua, have been contracted by my Department to deliver the service.

The contracts are for six years, comprising two consecutive phases: phase one entails four years’ of client referrals, while phase two entails a ‘run off’ period during which time no additional clients will be referred. Therefore client referrals will cease on 31st December 2019 and the contracts will terminate in 2021. It is important to note that services will be delivered to completion for those clients referred during phase one.

The contracts include options to extend phase one for further periods (up to a maximum of 24 months) at my Department’s discretion. While proposals to extend the contracts are not currently under consideration, my Department will keep the situation under review.

I hope this clarifies matter fro the Deputy.

Illness Benefit Applications Data

Questions (234)

John Brady

Question:

234. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the percentage of new forms being received by the illness benefit section since their introduction; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41270/18]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

In August 2018, my Department introduced a new claim form and medical certificate to replace the previous forms used for certification of the Department’s Illness and Injury Benefit schemes. This change is part of a programme of modernisation in the Department. Some GPs have continued to use the old forms after the change over date.

My Department has a contract with GP panellists and has written to each panellist regarding the recent changes. In addition, we are consulting with the IMO under our Framework Agreement on a range of issues including e-certification, closed certification and changes to forms. While these discussions are on-going, it would not be appropriate, at this time, to provide details regarding the usage of new forms. However, I understand that the majority of claims and medical certificates received in my Department are in the new format.

In order to facilitate the continued payment of Illness and Injury Benefits to our customers, the Department has, to date, continued to accept old forms where provided by GPs. It has also made additional resources available to help manually process claims and medical certificates received on these forms.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Illness Benefit Applications Data

Questions (235)

John Brady

Question:

235. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of persons awaiting a decision on their illness benefit application; the average waiting time; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41271/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

The Department experienced some delays following the introduction of a new system for Illness benefit. The change is part of a programme of modernisation in the Department which took effect from Monday 6th August.

Some GPs have continued to use the old forms after this changeover date which the Department has, to date, continued to accept in the interest of paying our customers. While the continued use of the old forms has caused delays to our processing times, my Department is doing everything possible to make sure that customers are paid as quickly as possible.

The new process is working well and we are currently processing all applications and certs received on the new forms the day they are received. There is no backlog of new forms.

For new claims received on old forms, we are working off a 2 day backlog and practically all old certs are now being entered on the day they are received.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Jobseeker's Allowance Applications

Questions (236)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

236. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if an application by a person (details supplied) to be placed on the back to work scheme will be reviewed; and if an exception will be made to allow them access to the scheme. [41291/18]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

The person concerned applied for Jobseekers Allowance in September this year, and a comprehensive review of their circumstances, including their income from self employment and rental income was completed as part of the decision making process.

As a result of this review a decision on this claim has been made by the deciding officer and communicated to the person concerned. They have been advised that their claim has been disallowed due to the fact that Jobseekers Allowance is not paid if a person's weekly means are more than the amount of Jobseekers Allowance that would be payable to them, based on their family circumstances.

I trust that this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance Scheme Payments

Questions (237)

Willie O'Dea

Question:

237. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason there were long delays with issuing the payment of the back to school clothing and footwear allowance in 2018; if provisions were put in place for families awaiting the payment; if she will consider putting mechanisms in place to ensure delays with issuing the payment do not occur in 2019; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41331/18]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

The back to school clothing and footwear allowance (BSCFA) scheme provides a once-off payment to eligible families to assist with the costs of clothing and footwear when children start or return to school each autumn. The Government has provided €49.5 million for the scheme in 2018.

The payment rates for this year are €125 for eligible children aged 4 to 11 years and €250 for children aged over 12 years and attending secondary school.

Since 2010, in excess of 100,000 customers can be identified every year from the Department's computer system as having an automatic entitlement to the allowance. These customers are notified of their entitlement and there is no requirement for them to make an application. In addition, approximately 45,000 customers may have an entitlement but need to apply to have this entitlement assessed.

Similar to arrangements in previous years, the majority of this year’s BSCFA payments for 104,461 families in respect of approximately 190,308 children were fully automated and parents were not required to make an application to the Department. The total amount paid to families with an automatic entitlement was €33.45m and these payments were made during the week commencing 9th July 2018.

In order to qualify for an automated payment the parent of the child must have been in receipt of a qualifying payment that included an increase in respect of a qualified child at the commencement of the scheme and the Department were satisfied that the household satisfied the means test for the scheme. The scheme commenced from the 1st June 2018 with the entitlement created based on the preceding week's entitlement.

The back to school clothing and footwear allowance is a mean-tested allowance. Qualifying for the allowance in a previous year does not in any way guarantee the customer will receive it in a current year and many customers, especially those who had a change in their means or circumstance, needed to make an application for the payment for this year in order to have their entitlement validated. Customers with children aged 18 years or over also needed to apply and provide confirmation that the children were in full-time second-level education.

Customers who may have received BSCFA in previous years and did not receive written confirmation of entitlement for this year by end June needed to make an application. The Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance scheme was open for new applications until 30 September 2018. The scheme is now closed.

To date (6 October 2018) 142,419 families have been awarded the allowance in respect of 263,239 children, 10,598 applications have been refused and 1,752 are awaiting a decision. Expenditure to date on the scheme is €46.7m.

All applications received up to 26 September 2018 have been processed. The delays in processing applications over the summer arose as a result of a combination of initial technical issues which arose due to the transfer of the scheme to a new IT platform and a very high volume of new applications received since the beginning of July. The technical issues were identified and resolved. The number of applications received usually peaks in July and August and tends to taper off after that. Some 1,200 - 1,400 applications per day were received during this period this year.

However, I can assure you that all outstanding claims are being dealt with expeditiously. As the new system for processing applications is now well established I am confident that improvements will be achieved in processing BSCFA applications for 2019.

Illness Benefit Applications

Questions (238)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

238. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when an illness benefit payment will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41338/18]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

The claim from the person concerned has been processed and he has received his full entitlements under the Illness Benefit Scheme and any/all arrears owing to him have been paid. A final certificate of illness was received on 30th of September and the claim is now closed.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Carer's Allowance Applications

Questions (239)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

239. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of an application for a carer's allowance by a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41413/18]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

No application for carer's allowance was received from the person concerned. An application for carer’s benefit was received on 3 May 2018.

Carer's benefit is a PRSI based payment, made to persons who are providing full-time care and attention to a person who has such a disability that they require that level of care.

The application was awarded to the person concerned from 7 September 2017 to 4 September 2019. The first payment issued to her nominated bank account on 4 October 2018.

Arrears of benefit due from 7 September 2017 to 3 October 2018 will issue to the person concerned shortly.

The person concerned was notified on 28 September 2018 of this decision, the reason for it and of her right of review and appeal.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Foster Care Supports

Questions (240)

Bríd Smith

Question:

240. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the payments or supports available for a foster parent who fosters young children and that as a consequence is not available to seek full-time work and thus will not qualify for jobseeker's allowance. [41445/18]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

The primary payment for foster parents is the foster care allowance which is administered by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.

The foster care allowance is currently €325 per week per child under 12 and €352 per week per child aged twelve and over. When a young person between the ages of 18 and 21 is still in training or education, an Aftercare Allowance may be paid. More information is available on the Tusla website regarding the Standardised Aftercare Allowance.

The foster care allowance is exempt from taxation under the Finance Act 2005 and is not taken into account in the means test for most social welfare payments.

Child Benefit at the rate of €140 per month per child will be paid to the foster parent after the child has been in foster care for 6 months and in some cases may be paid from an earlier date depending on the individual circumstances.

The Department provides a range of other payments to parents and families with different qualifying criteria. The foster parent may be entitled to a number of these payments depending on their circumstances. The foster parent should consult the Department website or contact their local Social Welfare Office in the first instance to establish entitlement.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Foster Care Expenditure

Questions (241)

Bríd Smith

Question:

241. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if the payment made by Tusla for fostering is not taken into account when means testing a foster parent's entitlement to social welfare payments; and the support available when the only payment entering such a household is the Tusla foster care allowance and child benefit allowance. [41446/18]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

The primary payment for foster parents is the foster care allowance which is administered by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.

The foster care allowance is currently €325 per week per child under 12 and €352 per week per child of twelve and over. When a young person between the ages of 18 and 21 is still in training or education, an Aftercare Allowance may be paid. More information is available on the Tusla website regarding the Standardised Aftercare Allowance.

The foster care allowance is exempt from taxation under the Finance Act 2005 and is not taken into account in the means test for most social welfare payments.

Child Benefit will be paid to the foster parent after the child has been in foster care for 6 months and in some cases may be paid from an earlier date depending on the individual circumstances.

Child Benefit is paid at a rate of €140 per month per child.

The Department provides a range of other payments to parents and families with different qualifying criteria. The foster parent may be entitled to a number of these payments depending on their circumstances. The foster parent should look at the Department website or contact their local Social Welfare Office in the first instance to establish entitlement.

Social Welfare Appeals

Questions (242)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

242. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of an appeal by a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41453/18]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was referred on 20th August 2018 to an Appeals Officer 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 Employment Affairs and Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions in relation to social welfare entitlements.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Planning Issues

Questions (243)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

243. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of solar energy farms for which planning permission has been granted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41506/18]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

Planning statistics are compiled by each planning authority on an annual basis for collation and publication on my Department’s website, at the following link: http://www.housing.gov.ie/planning/statistics/planning-statistics-1.

The statistics collected relate to the total numbers of:

- Invalid planning applications received,

- Applications received for outline permission and full permission,

- Decisions to grant/refuse permission,

- Decisions issued within the statutory eight-week period,

- Decisions deferred, and

- Percentages for grants/refusals, decisions made within eight weeks and decisions deferred.

The statistics collected relate to the total number of applications and decisions for all developments that require planning permission, broken down by year and planning authority but are not broken down by development type.

The specific information requested in relation to the number of planning permissions granted for a particular development type is not collated or available within my Department's statistics. Individual local authorities may, however, compile information in this regard.

Home Loan Scheme

Questions (244, 245)

Clare Daly

Question:

244. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if some county councils require that applicants for Rebuilding Ireland home loans pay council legal fees as part of the process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41313/18]

View answer

Róisín Shortall

Question:

245. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to an anomaly in the Rebuilding Ireland home loan scheme whereby some applicants are being forced to foot legal fees in local authority areas in which there is no dedicated council law department; his views on whether this geographic lottery and the associated costs is an unfair burden on applicants; the steps he will take to address this anomaly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41318/18]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 244 and 245 together.

The Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan was launched in February 2018. It replaced both the House Purchase Loan and the Home Choice Loan schemes in order to enable credit-worthy lower-income individuals and families, who cannot secure sufficient finance to purchase a suitable home from a commercial lender, to secure a mortgage. My Department, in conjunction with the Housing Agency and the Housing Finance Agency, is continuing to monitor the operation of the scheme, with a view to addressing any issues that arise, as required.

With regard to the Deputy's question concerning legal fees, under the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan, potential borrowers will incur legal fees as part of the normal house purchase process. However, possible issues concerning the application of certain legal fees have been brought to my Department's attention recently and these matters are currently under examination.