Community Services Programme

Questions (1222)

Timmy Dooley

Question:

1222. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development if a person (details supplied) can extend their participation on a community services programme after their 66th birthday; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14090/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

The CSP supports around 400 community organisations to provide local services through a social enterprise model with funding provided as a fixed annual contribution to the cost of a manager and an agreed number of full-time equivalent positions. This contribution must be co-funded by the organisations concerned from other sources, for example, from income received from the public use of their facilities and services.

CSP eligibility criteria currently preclude supported organisations, including the organisation in question, from using CSP funding to co-fund salaries of employees once they reach 66 years of age. That said, the internal operations of CSP supported organisations, including general employment issues relating to CSP supported posts, are solely matters for the boards of those organisations to manage as the respective employers. Accordingly, supported organisations may continue to employ persons once they reach their 66th birthday, but the funds to do so must come from a non-CSP source.

My Department has recently commenced a review of the CSP. There are no immediate plans to change programme criteria pending completion of this review. However, the review will inform decisions on the future shape of the programme, including inter alia programme funding arrangements and age related eligibility criteria. The review will take six months and should be completed in early Autumn 2019.

Voluntary Sector Funding

Questions (1223, 1225, 1230, 1231, 1232, 1233)

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

1223. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the options under consideration for volunteer centres that are underfunded; the timeframe in which a decision may be reached regarding these centres, if he expects the necessary funding will be granted for these volunteer centres to continue to operate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13064/19]

View answer

Niamh Smyth

Question:

1225. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the options under consideration regarding an underfunded volunteer centre (details supplied); the timeframe in which a decision will be reached regarding same; if the necessary funding will be granted; if his attention has been drawn to the concern the uncertainty is causing locally; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13308/19]

View answer

Tony McLoughlin

Question:

1230. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development if an issue involving underfunded volunteer centres will be addressed (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14051/19]

View answer

Jack Chambers

Question:

1231. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the status of plans to fund the 12 volunteer centres that were identified in a report (details supplied) as being underfunded; the timeline for a decision on funding for these centres; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14061/19]

View answer

Eamon Scanlon

Question:

1232. Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the options being examined regarding underfunded volunteer centres; the timeframe in which a decision may be reached in order that certainty can be provided; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14105/19]

View answer

Martin Kenny

Question:

1233. Deputy Martin Kenny asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the status of his examination of funding criteria for volunteer centres that are in receipt of funding less than €121,016, which his Department identified as the minimum necessary for centres to operate; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that twelve centres received less than this amount in the 2019 allocation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14139/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1223, 1225 and 1230 to 1233, inclusive, together.

My Department's Community and Voluntary Supports and programmes unit provide a cohesive framework of support for the community and voluntary sector. €3.5 million is being provided in 2019 under this programme to support 21 Volunteer Centres, eight Volunteering Information Services and a number of volunteer-supporting organisations, such as Volunteer Ireland.

Following the publication in 2017 of a report by Dermot McLaughlin entitled "Developing Funding Criteria for Volunteer Centres in Ireland", my Department secured additional funding of €300,000 which was allocated to all Volunteer Centres in 2017 on a proportionate basis. This increased funding level has been maintained in 2018 and 2019.

The Dormant Accounts Action Plan 2018 included the provision of €1.2 million to upgrade the eight Volunteering Information Services to full Volunteer Centres in order to provide a consistent level of volunteering service nationwide. My Department is currently engaging with stakeholders in the roll-out of this initiative. As part of this exercise, my Department is also examining options with regard to a number of existing Volunteer Centres which are currently receiving less funding than the minimum amount recommended in the McLaughlin report.

My Department is also currently collating information received from a recent call for input exercise that was designed as a first step towards developing a draft national volunteering strategy. Among the topics under consideration in this context is the issue of volunteering support infrastructure and how best this can be structured to support volunteering.

Community Services Programme

Question No. 1225 answered with Question No. 1223.

Questions (1224)

John Brady

Question:

1224. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development his plans to make changes to or end a community employment scheme (details supplied) in view of plans for development at the scheme location; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13269/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

The Community Services Programme (CSP) supports around 400 community organisations to provide local services through a social enterprise model, with funding provided as a fixed annual contribution to the cost of a manager and an agreed number of full-time equivalent (FTE) positions. Some €46 million is available under the programme in 2019.

I have no plans to make changes to, or end, current support under the CSP for the organisation in question. The organisation has a CSP contract that runs to 31 December 2020 and which provides funding towards the cost of a manager and five FTEs. That said, the organisation will be expected to engage with Pobal in 2020 as part of the normal CSP re-contracting process to determine the appropriate structure and level of support post-2020. Any requests for additional support can be considered as part of the re-contracting process in 2020.

My Department has recently commenced a review of the CSP programme. The review will consider how the programme fits with overall Government priorities as well as with my Department’s other community programmes and policy objectives. It will help inform decisions on the future shape and structure of the programme and will take six months to complete. I do not expect the review to impact on the organisation’s existing contract.

Question No. 1225 answered with Question No. 1223.

Interdepartmental Working Groups

Questions (1226)

Mattie McGrath

Question:

1226. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the working groups currently established in his Department; the focus of their work; the membership composition of each; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13572/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

Working Group(s) currently established

Focus of work

Membership/Composition

Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce Working Group on State and Publicly owned Assets

The Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce Working Group on State and publicly-owned Assets, a sub-group of the Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce, was established in 2018 as a direct response to Action 19 of the Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce Implementation Review 2017 Report. The role of the Working Group is to explore the feasibility of developing a standardised policy for accessing and utilising State assets for the deployment of telecommunications infrastructure.

Membership of this group includes

- Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Co-chair)

- Department of Rural and Community Development: DRCD (Co-chair)

- Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport

- Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government

- Office of Public Works (OPW)

- New Economy and Recovery Authority (NewERA)

- Local Government Management Agency (LGMA)

Telecommunications Action Group

The Telecommunications Action Group was formed in 2017 to prepare local authorities for the rollout of high-speed broadband and to improve access to improved mobile phone coverage.

Membership of this group includes

- DRCD (Chair)

- All local authorities

- Department of Communications, Natural Resources

- LGMA

Framework Policy Cross-Sectoral Working Group

The role of the Working Group is to develop an implementation plan for the Framework Policy on Local and Community Development.

Membership of this group includes

- DRCD and other Government Department members: 12

- Local Government: 2

- Interested Stakeholders: 8

LCDC (Local Community Development Committee) Review Steering Group

LCDCs have been operational for three years and have been involved in programme management, the creation, adoption and early implementation of Local Economic and Community Plans (LECPs) and are going through the first round of rotation of membership. In this context, a review of the structures is now underway and nearing completion.

Membership of this group includes:

- DRCD and Government Department members: 2

- Local Government: 4

- Interested Stakeholders: 1

LECP Advisory Group

The purpose of the Group is to advise the Department in the drafting of guidelines for the monitoring, implementation and review of Local Economic Community Plans (LECPs)

Membership of this group includes:

- DRCD and Government Department members: 3

- Local Government: 4

- Interested Stakeholders: 1

- Agency 1

My Open Library Working Group

The purpose of the Group is to develop KPIs for the My Open Library pilot

Membership of this group includes:

- DRCD and Government Department members: 3

- Local Government: 5

- Interested Stakeholders: 2

Dormant Accounts Fund Interdepartmental Group

Co-ordination of work with regard to use of funds in the Dormant Accounts Fund and the implementation of the recommendations of a review published in July 2018.

Membership of this group includes:

- DRCD

- Dept. Health

- Dept Justice & Equality

- Dept. Children and Youth Affairs

- Dept. Defence

- Dept. Transport, Tourism and Sport

- Dept. of Employment Affairs and Social Protection

- Dept. Communications, Climate Action & Environment

- Probation Service

- Dept. Education

- POBAL

- Irish Prison Service

National Public Participation Network (PPN) Advisory Group

To advise and support the development and operation of the PPN structure.

Membership of this group includes: DRCD and

- one representative each of the community and voluntary, social inclusion and environmental sectors,

- 3 PPN Volunteers, (one each from the community and voluntary, social inclusion and environmental sectors),

- 3 PPN resource workers

- 2 local authority staff (at least one at Director of Service level and one directly supporting a PPN).

The Group is chaired by PO, DRCD and secretariat is provided by DRCD.

National Community Weekend Working Group

To develop and implement National CommunityWeekend.

Membership of this group includes

representatives from the community and voluntary sector, PPN’s and LCDC’s. The group is chaired at Assistant Secretary level, DRCD. Secretariat is provided by DRCD.

Project Advisory Board

Provide high level advice to the Minister on applications to the Rural Regeneration & Development Fund

Membership of this group includes

- DRCD(x2);

- Department of Communications, Climate Action & Environment;

- Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine;

- Department of Housing, Planning & Local Government;

- Department of Business, Enterprise & Innovation;

- Independent Experts (x2);

- Process Auditor.

Energy Performance Network

Responsible for providing leadership on structured energy management within the organisation.

The Energy Performance Officer reports to Government on strategic challenges faced, and progress made.

- DRCD

- Charities Regulatory Authority

- Western Development Commission

- Pobal

- Water Safety Ireland

Monitoring Committee for The Action Plan for Rural Development

To oversee progress of the measures contained in the Action Plan for Rural Development, discuss issues of relevance arising from the measures in the Action Plan and to contribute to discussion on future rural policy

Membership consists of key rural stakeholders, Government Departments,

State agencies and Public Bodies responsible for delivering measures in the Action Plan for Rural Development and representatives of the Business Community.

My Department was established on 19 July 2017. I can confirm that the Working Groups currently established in my Department, including the focus of their work and the membership composition of each is as listed below.

Departmental Data

Questions (1227)

Mattie McGrath

Question:

1227. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the number of complaints submitted to his Department in 2017, 2018 and to date in 2019; the number of appeals made with respect to the outcome of such complaints; the number referred to the Office of the Ombudsman; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13787/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

My Department was established on 19 July 2017. It has received one complaint under formal complaints procedures since then. The complaint arose on the 27 August 2018 when a member of the public who corresponded with the Department in Irish was responded to in English, in error.

The member of the public also contacted An Coimisinéir Teanga in relation to the matter. Following an investigation into the matter by my officials, both the person concerned and An Coimisinéir fully accepted my Department's apology in August 2018, and the matter was closed.

Departmental Contracts

Questions (1228)

Mattie McGrath

Question:

1228. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the contract his Department has in place with Pobal; the services Pobal provides on behalf of his Department; if the contract was awarded following a tendering process; the fees paid to Pobal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13945/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

Pobal is a not-for-profit company that manages programmes on behalf of the Irish Government and the EU. The Company operates under the aegis of my Department, which has an oversight and governance role. The governance arrangements are set out in an Oversight Agreement with programme specific Performance Delivery Agreements in place for each individual programme that Pobal operates.

Advice obtained from the Office of the Attorney General states that, due to the nature of its work, which is exclusively on behalf of the State, Pobal is exempt from the requirements of the EU Procurement Directive. Accordingly, the services provided by Pobal on behalf of Government Departments in the management and operation of state funded programmes are not subject to a tendering process. Pobal are, however, subject to audit on an annual basis by the Comptroller and Auditor General.

Pobal manages or supports the delivery of programmes on behalf of a range of different Government Departments. In relation to my own Department, Pobal supports the delivery of the Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme (SICAP), Scheme to Support National Organisations, Seniors Alert Scheme, Dormant Accounts Fund, Community Service Programme and LEADER. The Service fees paid by my Department to Pobal for programme management amounted to €7 million in 2018. The fee for each programme is agreed based on the level of service from Pobal involved in the specific programme to be delivered.

Departmental Funding

Questions Nos. 1230 to 1233, inclusive, answered with Question No. 1223.

Questions (1229)

Eugene Murphy

Question:

1229. Deputy Eugene Murphy asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the avenues of funding and grant support open to a group (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14026/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

My Department operates the following funding programmes and support schemes that are open to applications from relevant parties, including those in Scouting Ireland, who satisfy the relevant eligibility criteria during the application timeframes set for each scheme/programme.

The Community Enhancement Programme provides capital grants to community groups to help improve facilities in disadvantaged areas. Projects, or elements of projects, of a capital nature may be funded. Scouting Ireland units can apply for funding, along with any other community group under the programme once they meet the criteria.

The programme is administered by Local Community Development Committees (LCDCs) in each Local Authority area. It is planned to launch the 2019 Community Enhancement Programme by the end of March 2019.

The LEADER Programme also supports community and voluntary groups in rural Ireland. Applications for funding can be made directly to the relevant Local Action Groups.

Details relating to eligibility criteria and application processes for supports under these and other programmes funded by my Department are available on our website.

Questions Nos. 1230 to 1233, inclusive, answered with Question No. 1223.

Seniors Alert Scheme

Questions (1234)

Seán Fleming

Question:

1234. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the budget allocation in 2018 and 2019 for the senior alert scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14148/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

My Department is responsible for the Seniors Alert Scheme which encourages community support for vulnerable older people in our communities through the provision of personal monitored alarms to enable them to live securely in their homes with confidence, independence and peace of mind. Funding is available under the scheme for the purchase by a registered community based-organisation of a personal alarm or pendant.

Following a review, I launched a new scheme which took effect on 1 November 2017 and provides one years free monitoring to participants. A media and information campaign was organised to support the launch.

I am pleased to say that since the launch of the new Seniors Alert Scheme, the demand has been unprecedented. During 2018, over 19,200 applications were approved, with 20,288 installations completed.

My Department’s allocation for 2018 was €2.3 million. However, given the huge increase in demand for the scheme, savings were identified from other areas within my Department's allocation to ensure that all new applicants could be provided for. The total expenditure on the Seniors Alert Scheme in 2018 was €6.984 million.

The scheme’s allocation for 2019 is €2.3 million. As this is a demand led scheme, it will be kept under continuous review by myself and officials in my Department to ensure adequate funding can be made available to meet the requirements of all qualifying applicants. There is also provision under the Dormant Accounts Fund Action Plan 2018, which also covers 2019, for funding to meet the additional and exceptional demands of the Scheme.

Disability Allowance Eligibility

Questions (1235, 1253)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

1235. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to include fibromyalgia as an illness to be considered for the disability allowance payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12944/19]

View answer

Mick Barry

Question:

1253. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if her attention has been drawn to the fact that although fibromyalgia is a life-long debilitating condition that effects the ability to work it is not listed as a disability and thus creates difficulties for sufferers in accessing social welfare in the cases in which they cannot work or cannot afford medical expenses of treatments that are recommended by the HSE; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13068/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1235 and 1253 together.

The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection provides a range of income supports for those who are unable to work due to an illness or disability. Entitlement to these supports is not contingent on the nature of the illness or disability itself but on the extent to which a person’s capacity to work is restricted by illness or disability.

In all cases a deciding officer of my Department makes a decision in line with the provisions specified in the relevant social welfare legislation including supporting medical evidence supplied by the applicant and taking into account the opinion of the Department’s Medical Assessor.

Guardian's Payment

Questions (1236)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

1236. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the situation regarding grandparents that are caring for their grandchildren in terms of options in terms of legal guardianship financial supports; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13468/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

A Guardians payment is made to a person caring for a child who satisfies the definition of an "orphan" under social welfare legislation. A child is considered an orphan if they are under 18 (or 22 if in full time education) and both parents are deceased; or one parent is either dead or unknown or has abandoned and failed to provide for the child and the other parent is unknown or has abandoned and failed to provide for the child.

There is no requirement for the person looking after the child to be made the child's legal guardian in order to qualify for the guardian's payment. A guardian's payment is not payable in respect of a child for whom a Foster Care Allowance is being paid.

Application forms for Guardians Payment can be downloaded directly from my Department's website www.welfare.ie (at the following link: www.welfare.ie/en/pdf/gp1.pdf).

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

National Minimum Wage

Questions (1237)

Billy Kelleher

Question:

1237. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her views on concerns expressed by an organisation (details supplied) regarding the sub-minimum rates introduced on 4 March 2019; and her powers under legislation regarding the adjustment of rates depending on labour market conditions. [12758/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

Legislation governing the national minimum wage is set down in the National Minimum Wage Acts 2000 and 2015. These Acts provide for the setting of a national minimum wage (NMW) and also provide that in specified circumstances, such as younger workers and trainees, a reduced, sub-minimum rate may be applied.

In September 2015, the Low Pay Commission was requested to examine the appropriateness of the subminimum rates as provided for in the National Minimum Wage Act 2000 with regard, in particular, to their impact on youth unemployment rates and participation in education.

The Commission undertook a consultation process on this subject in line with its evidence-based approach to making recommendations to Government. The consultation process was advertised nationally seeking submissions from interested parties; and the Commission sent a targeted email to a variety of interested parties seeking submissions, including the Irish Hairdressing Federation.

I understand that a number of further contacts were made with the Federation, both telephone and email, inviting the Federation to make a submission on this matter and to participate in the oral hearings to discuss the subject held by the Commission in February 2016.

The Commission received 15 submissions in total, none of which came from the hairdressing sector. The Irish Hairdressing Federation did not make a submission and did not participate in the oral hearings held by the Commission.

The Commission's final report was published in February 2018. (The Commission’s interim report in 2016 did not make recommendations, pending the availability of evidence as to the numbers in receipt of the sub-minima rates, which only became available in late 2017.)

Having examined all available evidence and the submissions received, and considered a range of options, the Commission recommended the abolition of training rates and the simplification of the age-based rates. The rationale for the Commission’s recommendations is set out in its reports, which are available at www.lowpaycommission.ie.

The Low Pay Commission is an independent, authoritative body on matters relating to the national minimum wage and I am confident that the Commission gave consideration to the impact of any recommendations it made in regard to training rates.

The Commission’s recommendations were accepted by Government and the amendments to make the necessary legislative changes to the National Minimum Wage Act 2000 were implemented via the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2018. In the passage of the Bill through the Houses of the Oireachtas I set out the rationale for the changes, and the proposed measures received cross-party approval and were accepted without amendment. The changes came into effect on 4 March 2019.

My powers under the legislation regarding the adjustment of rates depending on labour market conditions are related solely to the setting of the appropriate percentage to be applied in the case of the age-based rates.

Disability Allowance Applications

Questions (1238)

Robert Troy

Question:

1238. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if an application for a disability allowance will be expedited for a person (details supplied). [12798/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

I confirm that my department received an application for disability allowance from this gentleman on 4 February 2019. On completion of the necessary investigations on all aspects of the claim a decision will be made and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

The processing time for individual DA claims may vary in accordance with their relative complexity in terms of the three main qualifying criteria, the person’s circumstances and the information they provide in support of their claim.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

State Pensions Payments

Questions (1239)

Shane Cassells

Question:

1239. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if persons in receipt of a State pension have the option to receive the payment on a monthly basis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12799/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

At present all State pension's are paid weekly except where the payment is to an account in a financial institution outside the State. There is no consideration at this time to change the timing of these payments.

Rent Supplement Scheme

Questions (1240)

Shane Cassells

Question:

1240. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if it is a policy for community welfare officers to inform those on rent supplement that the payment may be impacted if they do not get approved for HAP by the local authority in the coming weeks; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12800/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

Rent supplement continues its important role in housing families and individuals, with the scheme supporting approximately 22,600 recipients for which the Government has provided €132.4 million for 2019.

Generally to qualify for Rent Supplement a claimant must be in a bona fide tenancy, not in full-time employment and:

- have been residing in private rented accommodation (where at the commencement of the tenancy the person could have reasonably afforded the rent and has experienced a substantial change in his or her circumstances) and where they are now unable to pay the rent); or,

- was previously in receipt of a rent supplement payment within 12 months of the date of application; or,

- residing in accommodation for homeless persons or in an institution (or any combination of these) for a period of 183 days within the preceding 12 months of the date of claim for Rent Supplement - however, a person in these circumstances who has been deemed qualified for social housing support (prior to leaving homeless a persons’ accommodation setting / institutional care) is referred to the local housing authority with their housing needs addressed under HAP.

Rent Supplement continues its withdrawal from the provision of long term housing within the private rented sector. The aim of the “Rebuilding Ireland - Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness (July 2016), reiterated in the “Housing First National Implementation Plan 2018-2021” (September 2018), is to provide 87,000 flexible housing supports through the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) and Rental Accommodation Scheme between 2016 and 2021.

A HAP assessment is not a factor in determining a customer’s rent supplement on-going eligibility. The frequency and the amount of rent supplement support being provided is primarily based on: the means assessment of the individual; their employment status; and the amount rent being paid. There is no sanction or penalty whereby a customer is in receipt of rent supplement and subsequently is not approved for HAP.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

State Pensions Reform

Questions (1241)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

1241. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when she plans to introduce changes to pensions (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12846/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

In January 2018, I announced the Government Decision to introduce a new interim Total Contributions Approach (TCA) to the calculation of State Pension (Contributory) for pensioners born on or after 1 September 1946, who were awarded state pension (contributory) under the post 2012 rate bands. This approach, which includes generous provision for homecaring periods, will benefit many such pensioners, especially those who took time out of the workplace for caring purposes. The required primary legislative provisions are contained in the Social Welfare, Pensions and Civil Registration Act 2018, enacted on 24 December 2018. All the necessary regulatory and system changes have now been made to allow the increased payments to begin.

My Department is now reviewing the pension payments of approximately 91,000 pensioners who were awarded less than the maximum rate of pension since September 2012. Given the number of pensioners involved, this work will take a number of months to complete. The increased payments will also include arrears to the 30th March 2018, or the pensioner’s 66th birthday if later. The Department is using information it already has to complete these reviews. However, in quite a number of cases, additional information is required from the pensioners concerned about gap periods in their social insurance records and my Department will be in touch with each of those pensioners individually to get that information.

As regards the TCA model that will apply for all new pensioners post-2020, I launched a public consultation on the design of the full scheme on 28 May to which a wide variety of stakeholder groups were invited. A number of workshops were also held on the day to elicit views and feedback. All Oireachtas members were invited to a detailed briefing in Leinster House by my officials shortly afterwards. The consultation was open for over three months and the Department received almost 300 responses from individuals and organisations. Those submissions outlined the views of respondents on a number of issues, including the number of years required for a full pension, as intended as part of the consultation process.

I intend bringing a proposal to Government shortly, setting out the proposed details of the scheme. When the Government has agreed the approach to be taken, I will initiate the work required to introduce this reform. I can confirm that the model will include provision for homecaring periods.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Back to Work Allowance Eligibility

Questions (1242)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

1242. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason a person (details supplied) does not qualify for the back to work allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12849/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

The Back to Work Enterprise Allowance (BTWEA) scheme was established to encourage persons who are long term unemployed and wish to develop or take up self-employment opportunities. The scheme allows a qualified person to retain a reducing proportion of their social protection payment plus secondary benefits over two years. To qualify for this scheme a person must set up a self-employment business that has been approved by the Local Development Company or one of this Department’s case officers covering the area in which they live. The business venture must be deemed to be viable and sustainable and must not involve displacement of existing business in the same industry or service sector.

The person concerned has enquired on a number of occasions as to whether he qualifies for the Back To Work Enterprise Allowance scheme. To process his application he was requested to provide a lease covering the premises which he stated he is renting with his name on the lease, and to date has failed to do so. I understand from my Department that the person has also failed to establish that he is the owner of the business.

On 25 February 2019 the person contacted the Department again and asked about the possibility of getting on the Back To Work Enterprise Allowance. An official of the department informed him that the requested lease was still outstanding and that would have to be provided to facilitate a decision on his application. In the course of the conversation he informed the officer that he has, in the intervening period, established the business and that it is ‘’up and running’’. This fact further rules him out of participation on the Back To Work Enterprise Allowance Scheme as participants must engage in new business only.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.