Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries

Questions (260)

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

260. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she has received the interim report of the Commission of Investigation into the Mother and Baby Homes on burials; and when the report will be published. [14305/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

Yes I have received the report. The Commission of Investigation (Mother and Baby Homes and certain related Matters) submitted a Fifth Interim Report to me on 15 March 2019.

It is a substantial report which focuses on the burial arrangements of persons who died while resident in these institutions. The report includes extensive technical reports prepared in the course of the Commission’s investigations into the burial site associated with the institution formerly known as the Tuam Mother and Baby Home and the Commission’s assessment of burial arrangements in respect of a number of other institutions within its remit. It also reports on burial arrangements in circumstances where the remains were initially transferred to educational institutions for anatomical examination.

I intend to seek formal Government approval to publish the report after I have the opportunity to discuss the report with the Commission and consult the Attorney General as appropriate. I will seek to conclude these considerations as soon as possible.

The dignity and memory of those who died in these institutions is central to my approach to these matters. I am mindful of the expectations of their families for an early publication date of the report.

My Department will advise representative groups, and those who have been in contact with the department on these matters, of developments prior to the publication of the report.

Given the importance and sensitivity of these matters, I do not propose to comment further on the contents of the report in advance of it being made public.

Child Protection Guidelines

Questions (261)

Clare Daly

Question:

261. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if Tusla is reviewing its policies in regard to circumstances in which children, the parents of whom pose a risk to them, are taken into the care of grandparents and a child protection plan is created by Tusla but which Tusla refuses to formalise. [14475/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

The Deputy will be aware that I am not in a position to comment on individual cases, or matters which have been before the courts.

I have written to Tusla, the Child and Family Agency to request information on the operational aspects of the question. A further response will issue when I have their reply.

Child Protection

Questions (262)

Clare Daly

Question:

262. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of children being cared for under a private care arrangement between grandparents and the parents of the children that are known to Tusla and in which no formal structures have been established, including no formal structure in which the grandparents are financially supported to care for the children. [14476/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

I am informed that this information is not collated centrally by Tusla, the Child and Family Agency.

Tusla works in partnership with families and their networks to develop plans for children based on the strengths of the family and the individual circumstances of the child. Tusla endeavour, where possible, to support children at home or for their return home where this is in their best interests. Where this is not possible Tusla may apply to the courts to receive the child into care or enter into a voluntary agreement with the parent/guardian.

An application can be made for a Guardianship Payment to the Department of Employment and Social Protection if a child, who is an orphan or abandoned, is being cared for on a full time basis by adults who are not their parent/guardian.

Family Resource Centres

Questions (263)

Lisa Chambers

Question:

263. Deputy Lisa Chambers asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs when a decision will be made regarding the additional funding for a centre (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14506/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

Tusla, the Child and Family Agency administers the Family Resource Centre (FRC) Programme. Tusla provides funding to seven FRCs in County Mayo.

Tusla has advised me that the FRC to which the Deputy refers will receive the same amount of core funding in 2019 as it did in 2018, which is €101,110.

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that funding of some €18 million is being made available to the Family Resource Centre Programme in 2019, an increase of €1.5 million over 2018 funding.

The additional funding of €1.5 million has been secured for Family Resource Centres to support and develop existing Family Resource Centres this year.

Earlier this year, I met with officials from Tusla to discuss how the additional funding will be used to provide supports and improve outcomes for vulnerable children and families within the Family Resource Centre Programme. I have requested some additional information and recommendations from Tusla. and I hope to make an announcement with regard to the additional funding of €1.5m for FRCs before the Easter break.

I am committed to the further development of Family Resource Centres and I will continue to seek necessary funding for them in future budget discussions. It is important that the needs of children and families are met in the best way possible, particularly in areas of disadvantage. I will continue to support the work of Family Resource Centres and family support services throughout the country.

Community Services Programme Funding

Questions (264)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

264. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development if an application submitted by a local development group (details supplied) requesting additional centre staff as part of the Pobal-administered community services programme has been received; his views on the benefit that the additional resources being requested by the applicant could yield for the community in question; when a decision will issue in respect of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14402/19]

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 €46m is available under the programme in 2019.

The organisation in question receives funding under the CSP as a contribution towards the cost of two FTEs. It sought additional support for a manager post and additional FTEs as part of the normal CSP Re-contracting Process in 2018. However, the application did not demonstrate sufficient need for the additional support sought. The organisation was given a one-year contract at existing levels but was afforded an opportunity to submit a revised business plan in 2019 to support its application for additional support.

To this end, Pobal has been working closely with the organisation in recent months and a revised business plan is expected to be submitted to Pobal for assessment by 30 April 2019. This assessment will include inter alia consideration of the impact of the additional support sought for the community.

I expect Pobal to complete its assessment and submit a recommendation to my Department for decision before end-June 2019. That said, should the organisation submit its revised business plan to Pobal earlier than the deadline, this would allow Pobal complete its assessment and submit its recommendation for decision earlier than planned.

Fuel Allowance Eligibility

Questions (265)

Mary Butler

Question:

265. Deputy Mary Butler asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to review the process of awarding fuel allowance in certain circumstances (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14290/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

The fuel allowance is a payment of €22.50 per week for 28 weeks (a total of €630 each year) from October to April, to over 377,000 low income households, at an estimated cost of €240 million in 2019. The purpose of this payment is to assist these households with their energy costs. The allowance represents a contribution towards the energy costs of a household. It is not intended to meet those costs in full. Only one allowance is paid per household.

An applicant and members of his/her household may have a combined assessable income of up to €100.00 a week above the appropriate maximum State Pension (Contributory) rate and qualify for a payment. The allowable means a person may have is increased by €9.00 to take the living alone allowance in to account, and to ensure that a person does not lose fuel entitlement because they are in receipt of the allowance. Any changes to the qualifying criteria for the fuel allowance payment would have to be considered in the overall budgetary context.

The €100 a week means limit is significantly higher that the weekly fuel allowance rate of €22.50 and also the combined weekly total of household benefits and fuel allowance added together (€33.65). It might be remembered that more than half of those over 66 are solely dependent upon the State pension, and so a person who has additional pension income above €100, is not among the more disadvantaged people that Fuel Allowance is targeted at.

Under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme, exceptional needs payments may be made to help meet an essential, once-off cost which customers are unable to meet out of their own resources, and this may include exceptional heating costs. Decisions on such payments are made on a case-by-case basis.

The best way to tackle fuel poverty in the long term is to improve the energy efficiency of the dwelling. My Department works with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment on these issues and in moving forward the actions agreed in the Energy Affordability Strategy. In that regard, the Better Energy Homes scheme provides support towards the installation of attic and wall insulation, and heating system upgrades.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Carer's Benefit Appeals

Questions (266)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

266. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of an application for a carer's benefit by a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14293/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that it is envisaged that a decision will be made by an Appeals Officer in this case within the next week. The person concerned will then be notified of the Appeals Officer’s decision.

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 trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Gender Recognition

Questions (267)

Mattie McGrath

Question:

267. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of the introduction of a legal pathway for children under 16 years of age to obtain a gender recognition certificate; the number of applications for the certificate since the introduction of the provision; the number of applications refused; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14298/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

The current legislation does not provide for a person under 16 years to apply for a gender recognition certificate (GRC). The overall number of applications for a GRC from the introduction of the provision up to 28 February 2019 is 463, of which 1 application was refused.

A review of the Gender Recognition Act 2015 was conducted last year, with a report published in July 2018. The report made 10 core recommendations, one of which was to provide for gender recognition for children on the following basis:

A system of gender recognition should be introduced for children of any age, subject to the following key principles:

- Parental consent required (with an appropriate legal process to address cases where there is not consent from both parents or it is not possible or safe to obtain same),

- Process would be administrative,

- Straightforward revocation process,

- Third party support for the child and family involved.

The current position is that officials from my Department are considering the recommendations of the report of the Review Group, and how they can best be progressed, in conjunction with other relevant Departments and the office of the Attorney General.

When these deliberations are complete I will lay my own report on the review before the Houses of the Oireachtas, as provided for in section 7 of the Act.

Ministerial Meetings

Questions (268)

Mattie McGrath

Question:

268. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the details of meetings she has had with representatives of an organisation (details supplied) following the collapse of its subsidiary company; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14299/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

It should be noted that my Department has no contract for services with Working Links, rather its contract is with Turas Nua for the provision of JobPath services to jobseekers.

I have not met with Turas Nua in regard to recent developments concerning Working Links. However, Turas Nua has kept officials from my Department briefed on developments in this area and my officials have sought and received assurances that there will be no impact from these developments on the delivery of services to our customers.

Disability Allowance Payments

Questions (269)

James Browne

Question:

269. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her views on a case in which the estate of a deceased person cannot claim uncollected disability allowance payments in view of the fact that the deceased was predeceased by their partner; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14325/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

No details of the case have been provided to my Department regarding this issue, and accordingly, only a general response can be provided. There are normally two sets of circumstances in which payments may be made to the next of kin after the death of a person. These are:

1. Where there are uncollected post office payments.

and

2. Where there is an entitlement to six weeks' payment after death (continued payment) to be paid to a ‘related person’ of the deceased.

In relation to the first of these, the following are the general procedures applied when payment of any amount due is made.

Where a will is in place, any uncollected payments due may be paid to or among such persons appearing to be beneficially entitled under the will of the deceased as the Department thinks proper. In such circumstances any payment due would be paid to the Executor of the deceased's estate. Where a will is not in place, any arrears due may be paid to whoever appears to be beneficially entitled. In general, this means that the arrears are paid to whoever has discharged the funeral expenses.

Further advice with regards to arrangements around a specific can be provided by contacting the Disability Allowance section within the department (contact details are available on the departments web site at http://www.welfare.ie/en/Pages/da.aspx#lef21f or by making contact with staff in the departments local Intreo or branch office.

Pensions Data

Questions (270)

Michael McGrath

Question:

270. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of small self-administered pension schemes in existence here; the net asset value of these schemes; the reason the exemption from IORPs is being lifted for these schemes; if an economic assessment has been undertaken on the potential impact of removing this exemption; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14333/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

The transposition of the IORP II Directive will result in significant improvements to the regulation and governance of funded occupational pension schemes in Ireland. Officials in my Department, supported by the Pensions Authority, have conducted detailed analysis on the implementation of the Directive.

While the Directive provides for the possibility of derogation from specific Articles for smaller schemes, I believe that members of smaller schemes should get the same protections and oversight as members of large schemes.

The value of investments held in many schemes fell substantially during the financial crisis. This highlighted the need for stricter regulation and greater protections, especially for small schemes investing in riskier unregulated markets. Concerns in relation to this sector are particularly around the protection of the consumer and the money they have invested, the riskiness of investments, the charges that apply, and the standard of governance. Accordingly, the Government has decided that the provisions of the Directive should apply to all funded occupational pension schemes. Money saved for pension purposes should be properly protected to ensure that people have adequate income for their retirement years.

Under the Directive the underlying principle for capital investment is for schemes to invest in accordance with the 'prudent person' rule and other specific rules set out. It is recognised that there should be an appropriate level of investment freedom for schemes within prudent limits and this is reflected in the rules. Assets must be predominantly invested on regulated markets, i.e., at least 50%. This allows adequate scope for investment in instruments with a long-term economic profile and non-listed undertakings such as property and infrastructure. In this regard the application of the Directive is prospective, not retrospective. This means that existing investments and borrowings can remain in place. After transposition all single member schemes, including small self-administered schemes, who are the only schemes currently allowed to borrow, will not be allowed to enter into new borrowing arrangements, except for short term and liquidity purposes. All of their future investments will have to be made in accordance with the investment rules in the Directive. The Pension Authority advises that there are approx. 100,000 single member schemes and that c.98% of these schemes are already compliant with the investment rules of the IORP II Directive.

While small self-administered pension schemes may continue to invest in the Irish economy, including property and SMEs, the assets of the scheme must be properly diversified to avoid excessive reliance on any particular asset and thereby minimise risk in the portfolio as a whole. Such diversification has been proven to reduce investment risk.

According to the 2017 Report of the Association of Pension Trustees of Ireland (APTI) there are 7,756 small self-administered pension schemes with €3.38 billion in assets. The majority of these are already compliant with the provisions of the new Directive.

This approach will enhance consumer protection so that pension savers have adequate income for their retirement years.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Social Welfare Benefits Payments

Questions (271)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

271. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when illness benefit and disability allowance arrears will issue in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14345/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

The person concerned is currently in receipt of Illness Benefit at the maximum rate. All arrears due to her have issued.

She is currently paid up to date and medically certified as unfit for work until the 31st March 2019.

The Department has no record of receipt of an application for Disability Allowance from the person concerned.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Carer's Benefit Applications

Questions (272)

Willie O'Dea

Question:

272. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if a decision on carer's benefit for a person (details supplied) will be expedited in view of the fact that further medical evidence has been submitted; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14348/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

Carer's benefit (CARB) 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. It is payable for a maximum of 104 weeks for each person being cared for.

An application for carer's benefit (CARB) was received from the person concerned on 24 December 2018.

CARB was awarded for a period 13 September 2018 to 13 March 2019 following discharge of the care recipient from hospital.

Upon expiry of the claim the person concerned requested an extension of his claim and submitted additional information in support of same.

The request is currently being considered by a Deciding Officer of my Department and once complete, the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Telephone Call Charges

Questions (273)

Mattie McGrath

Question:

273. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the revenue generated to her Department through the operation of the 1890 lo-call phone line; the amount of such revenue to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14371/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

The use of 1890 LoCall numbers by my Department is not a revenue generating operation.

My Department is committed to providing a choice of channels to our customers through which they can engage with us and the 1890 service is one of those channels available for customers who wish to contact us by telephone.

1890 numbers are one class of Non-Geographic Numbers (NGN) provided for and regulated by the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg). In my Department’s case the 1890 numbers provide for a shared cost model where the customer pays a per minute charge, set by their telephone service provider, and my Department pays an associated charge to subsidise the call.

I am aware that some customers who use the service, particularly those who contact us by mobile phone, are not able to avail of LoCall rates as the service is not available from their telephone service providers.

Customers who wish to contact us by telephone, but cannot avail of the LoCall rates, should contact us using the local and national telephone numbers which are published on all our letters, leaflets and forms, and are also available on our website, www.welfare.ie.

My Department is aware that in January 2019 ComReg issued an Information Notice outlining its plans for Implementing the New NGN Platform (ComReg 19/01) and welcomes its introduction.

Carer's Allowance Appeals

Questions (274)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

274. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if a decision has been made on a carer's allowance appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14372/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the appeal from the person concerned was referred to an Appeals Officer who has decided to hold an oral hearing in this case on 26th March 2019. The person concerned was notified of the arrangements for the 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 trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.