Rural Regeneration and Development Fund

Questions (1377)

Tony McLoughlin

Question:

1377. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the scoring marks of the unsuccessful applicants to the 2018 rural regeneration scheme for County Sligo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19199/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

The first call for applications for the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund closed at the end of September 2019.  €1 billion is committed to the Fund over a 10 year period to support rural economic development and help build strong communities. €315 m is allocated to the Fund for 2019-2022.

Under the first call, 38 Category 1 projects and 46 Category 2 projects were identified as successful, providing €86 m in support for projects worth a total of €117 m.

At the conclusion of the first call, the Department held a Feedback Workshop in Athlone for all applicants with a view to providing helpful information on the outcome of the first call and to provide targeted feedback which would assist in building capacity for future successful applications to the Fund under subsequent calls. I understand that the detailed feedback given to applicants on proposals submitted was well received.

In addition, as communicated to applicants at the workshop, my Department can provide details of completed assessments at the request of individual applicants.  Access to the information you refer to can be obtained by you contacting my Department directly.

LEADER Programmes

Questions (1378)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

1378. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development if funding is available for regattas (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19302/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

Funding for the activity referenced by the Deputy may be available through my Department, under the LEADER Programme, to support community and voluntary groups in rural Ireland. Applications for funding can be made directly to the relevant Local Action Groups.

The group referenced can contact the Implementing Partner for the area of Kerry referred to by the Deputy which is South Kerry Development Partnership Ltd., West Main St., Cahersiveen, Co. Kerry.

Contact details for South Kerry Development Partnership are as follows:

Telephone: 066 94 72724, E-mail: info@skdp.net

In order for a project to be eligible for LEADER funding, it must be compatible with the actions outlined in the approved Local Development Strategy for the relevant LEADER area, and it must comply with the Operating Rules and EU Regulations in place for the programme.

The decision to approve a project, or otherwise, is a matter for the Local Action Group (LAG) which administers the programme in each LEADER area.  Interested applicants should, in the first instance, contact the relevant LAG through its Implementing Partners to discuss funding that may be available.

Rural Regeneration and Development Fund

Questions (1379)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

1379. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development if funding can be provided under rural regeneration for small schools schemes for a bus service (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19394/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

The Rural Regeneration and Development Fund was established as part of Project Ireland 2040 to support ambitious and strategic projects which have the potential to transform rural economies and communities. The Government has committed €1 billion over 10 years to the Fund.

The Fund is there to support capital projects which seek to deliver key outcomes, amongst which are sustainable community and economic development in rural Ireland; the revitalisation and regeneration of towns and villages; the encouragement of entrepreneurship and innovation; the development of key economic growth sectors such as tourism; improved community development and quality of life; the protection of the environment and our heritage assets; and the development of cultural life in rural areas.

The first call to the fund closed in September 2018.  €86 million in funding was approved under the first call to the Fund. The second call for applications to the Fund is open until August 2019 and will support capital regeneration projects which are ready to commence with funding available of at least €500,000.

Have regard to the objectives outlined above and the details you supplied it appears the project will not qualify for funding under the Rural Regeneration Development Fund.

CLÁR Programme

Questions (1380)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

1380. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development if he will address a matter regarding a CLÁR funding application by a service (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19395/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

I launched the 2019 CLÁR programme on the 28th February last. The programme provides funding for small scale infrastructural projects in disadvantaged rural areas that have experienced significant levels of de-population.

Calls for proposals under the 2019 CLÁR programme were invited under the following measures:

Measure 1: Support for Schools/Community Safety Measures Measure 2: Play Areas (including MUGAs) Measure 3: Community Well-being Supports, comprising of:

3(a) First Response Support Measure

3(b) Support for Mobility and Cancer Care Transport, and

3(c) Sensory Gardens

The closing date for receipt of applications under the 2019 CLÁR Programme was 25th April 2019 and more than 400 applications were received by my Department.

I can confirm that an application has been received in respect of the group referred to by the Deputy.

My officials are currently assessing all applications received and I hope to be in a position to announce the successful 2019 CLÁR projects in the coming weeks.

CLÁR Programme

Questions (1381)

Robert Troy

Question:

1381. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development if an application for CLÁR funding will be granted for a society (details supplied). [19435/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

I launched the 2019 CLÁR programme on the 28th February last. The programme provides funding for small scale infrastructural projects in disadvantaged rural areas that have experienced significant levels of de-population.

Calls for proposals under the 2019 CLÁR programme were invited under the following measures:

Measure 1: Support for Schools/Community Safety Measures

Measure 2: Play Areas (including MUGAs)

Measure 3: Community Well-being Supports, comprising of:

3(a) First Response Support Measure

3(b) Support for Mobility and Cancer Care Transport, and

3(c) Sensory Gardens

The closing date for receipt of applications under the 2019 CLÁR Programme was 25th April 2019 and more than 400 applications were received by my Department.

I can confirm that an application has been received in respect of the group referred to by the Deputy.

My officials are currently assessing all applications received and I hope to be in a position to announce the successful 2019 CLÁR projects in the coming weeks.

Walks Scheme

Questions (1382)

Tony McLoughlin

Question:

1382. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development if a walking trail (details supplied) in County Leitrim can be given special consideration to be allocated funding for expansion under the walks scheme in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19565/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

The Walks Scheme currently covers 39 trails, with payments made to approximately 1,900 private land-holders to maintain those trails.

The Programme for a Partnership Government includes a commitment to increase the number of walks covered by the scheme.  In line with this commitment, funding for the scheme was doubled in Budget 2019 - from €2 million to €4 million - to allow this expansion to proceed.

In February of this year, I invited Expressions of Interest from trail management committees, community groups and other entities for the inclusion in the scheme of additional trails that meet specific qualifying criteria.

Qualifying trails will:

- be available to the public,

- be of a suitable standard to be included in Sport Ireland’s trail register, and

- have all private landowners along the entire route willing to join the scheme and to allow access to the public.

Formal Expressions of Interest will only be accepted from Local Authorities and/or Local Development Companies. Interested groups should therefore make contact with these bodies to commence the process.

I understand that an Expression of Interest in respect of the trail referred to by the Deputy to join the scheme has not as yet been submitted to my Department for consideration.

Community Development Initiatives

Questions (1383)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

1383. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the status of the development of a national strategy on volunteering; when he will publish the strategy; when he plans to appoint the expert group to assist in the development of the strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19760/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

My Department's Community and Voluntary Supports and Programmes unit provides 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.

My Department is currently collating information received from a call for input (CFI) 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.

The suggestion of forming a National Advisory Group to assist the development of this volunteering strategy was very broadly endorsed in the responses to the CFI. I am currently considering the composition of this group, and will shortly issue invitations to the various stakeholders to participate in it.

It is anticipated that the draft strategy will be completed later this year, following which there will be a further opportunity for the public to input on the matter before the strategy is presented to Government for approval.

Rural Regeneration and Development Fund

Questions (1384)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

1384. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the allocation of funding to date by county under the rural regeneration and development fund in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19761/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

The first call for applications for the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund closed at the end of September 2019.  €1 billion is committed to the Fund over a 10 year period to support rural economic development and help build strong communities. €315 m is allocated to the Fund for 2019-2022.

Under the first call, 38 Category 1 projects and 46 Category 2 projects were identified as successful, providing €86 m in support for projects worth a total of €117 m.  Table 1 details the amount of funding approved by County.

The second call for applications for funding under the Fund is now open and will support Category 1 capital regeneration projects which are ready to commence with funding available of at least €500,000.

Table 1. Funding approved under the first call to the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund.

Counties

County Total €

Carlow

1,104,820

Cavan

1,013,174

Clare

8,318,521

Cork

4,484,733

Donegal

4,151,412

Dublin

1,192,738

Galway

8,273,771

Kerry

2,966,251

Kildare

2,865,500

Kilkenny

2,702,236

Laois

2,861,510

Leitrim

37,500

Limerick

7,757,392

Longford

4,141,453

Louth

2,673,744

Mayo

5,280,689

Meath

2,061,000

Monaghan

3,883,210

Offaly

1,716,260

Roscommon

5,088,889

Sligo

5,198,301

Tipperary

600,000

Waterford

128,842

Westmeath

600,000

Wexford

2,598,812

Wicklow

2,475,195

National *

2,062,500

Total 

86,238,453

*We are unable to provide a breakdown of this figure. Funding for a Project at national level.

Philanthropy Initiatives

Questions (1385)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

1385. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the measures he is taking to support and promote philanthropy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19762/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

One of my Department’s key strategic objectives is to support the growth and development of philanthropy.

Following on from the implementation and subsequent review of the 2012 Report from the Forum on Philanthropy and Fundraising, my Department continues to provide grant funding and supports to Philanthropy Ireland, Charities Institute Ireland and the Social Innovation Fund Ireland to support their work in the areas of philanthropy and social innovation.

These organisations were the initial drivers of Government’s vision to enhance the role and legitimacy of the contribution of philanthropy to Irish society and to underpin the sector with appropriate infrastructure, including regulation of the charities sector, ethical fundraising guidelines and efficient tax and legal frameworks to encourage philanthropic giving.

Social Innovation Fund Ireland (SIFI), in particular, was set up to support the establishment and growth of social innovations. To date, SIFI have raised almost €8.5 m in philanthropic donations which has been matched with funding from the Dormant Accounts Fund. In May 2018, my Department entered into a new three year funding agreement with SIFI to continue this partnership funding model.

This financial support has enabled the creation of more than thirty funds which address social issues including Tech For Good, Community Resilience, Social Enterprise Development, Education, Health, and Mental Health.

My Department, since its establishment in July, 2017 has sought to strengthen this partnership of mutual supports and funding between Government and the philanthropic and private sector and is currently in discussions with relevant stakeholders with a view to developing a targeted and effective strategy for the further development of philanthropy in Ireland.

Appointments to State Boards

Questions (1386)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

1386. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development if he has made State board appointments in the past three years in circumstances in which he has reappointed a person that has already served two full terms contrary to the advice in section 13.2 of the Guidelines on Appointments to State boards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19763/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

I can confirm that I have not made any State board appointments to the agencies under the aegis of my Department since the Department was established in July 2017, which was contrary to the advice in section 13.2 of the Guidelines on Appointments to State boards.

Community Enhancement Programme

Questions (1387)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

1387. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development if funding will be provided to a club (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19800/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

I recently launched the 2019 Community Enhancement Programme, which included funding for Kerry of €142,409. The programme provides capital grants to community groups to enhance facilities in order to address disadvantage. The group referenced can apply to their Local Community Development Committee, who administer the programme for my Department.  The closing date for the 2019 programme is 30 May.

Funding may also be available under the LEADER Programme to support community and voluntary groups in rural Ireland.  In order for a project to be eligible for LEADER funding, it must be compatible with the actions outlined in the approved Local Development Strategy for the relevant LEADER area, and it must comply with the Operating Rules and EU Regulations in place for the programme.

The decision to approve a project, or otherwise, is a matter for the Local Action Group (LAG) which administers the programme in each LEADER area.  Interested applicants should, in the first instance, contact the relevant LAG through its Implementing Partners to discuss funding that may be available.

The Implementing Partner for the area of Kerry referred to by the Deputy is South Kerry Development Partnership Ltd., West Main St., Cahersiveen, Co. Kerry.

- Telephone: 066 94 72724.

- E-mail: info@skdp.net.

Civil Registration Legislation

Questions (1388)

Tony McLoughlin

Question:

1388. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason no clearance has been allocated to a person (details supplied) by the HSE certificate section to allow them to remarry here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18489/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

The Civil Registration Act 2004 provides that a registrar must establish whether a person is free to marry in the State. An impediment to marriage exists where either party to a proposed marriage is already married. Where one or both of the parties to an intended marriage was married previously, the registrar must establish whether an impediment continues to exist or whether the marriage has been dissolved, annulled or the former spouse is deceased.

In cases where either party was previously divorced outside the State, the registrar forwards all documentation to the Office of the Registrar General (GRO) to determine whether the divorce is recognisable under Irish Law.

I understand that the divorce for the person referred to by Deputy was granted in Estonia and is being examined by officials within the GRO at present. The GRO will make a determination based on the information provided as soon as possible and will inform the registrar as to whether the proposed marriage may proceed.

I trust that this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Employment Rights

Questions (1389)

Maurice Quinlivan

Question:

1389. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to introduce legislation to regulate remote working in order to protect both the rights of workers and interests of businesses; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19139/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

Ireland already has a comprehensive body of employment legislation, in respect of which the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) is mandated to secure compliance.  Ireland’s employment rights legislation protects all employees who are legally employed on a contract of service basis.

Where an individual believes they are being deprived of employment rights applicable to employees, they may refer a complaint to the WRC where the matter can be dealt with by way of mediation or adjudication, leading to a decision that is enforceable through the District Court.  WRC inspectors can also be asked to investigate certain breaches.  Complaints can be made on a single online complaint form available at the WRC’s website: www.workplacerelations.ie and the Workplace Relations Customer Service Section can be contacted at Lo-call: 1890 80 80 90 or via its website www.workplacerelations.ie.

In view of the legislation already in place, it's not clear at this juncture what specific additional legislative provisions would be required to regulate remote working.  However, my Department continuously monitors existing employment rights legislation to ensure that it continues to be relevant and fit for purpose and is updated to reflect international developments at European Union, Court of Justice and International Labour Organisation level.  It also works extensively with the Departments of Business, Enterprise and Innovation and Justice & Equality (which has lead responsibility for policy in the area of 'work-life balance') in this regard.

Where any new legislation is proposed, my Department engages in extensive consultation with all relevant stakeholders, to ensure that an appropriate balance is struck between the rights of workers and the interests of business.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Living Wage

Questions (1390)

Maurice Quinlivan

Question:

1390. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her views on the concept of a living wage for workers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19141/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

Legislation in relation to the setting of the National Minimum Wage has existed since 2000.  The Low Pay Commission was established in 2015 and its primary function is, on an annual basis, to examine and make recommendations on the national minimum wage, with a view to providing for adjustments which do not impact negatively on jobs or competitiveness.  The Commission thus takes an evidence-based approach to its recommendations, having regard to changes in earnings, productivity, overall competitiveness and the likely impact any adjustment will have on employment and unemployment levels.

Since its establishment the Commission has submitted recommendations on the appropriate rate of the National Minimum Wage for 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. The Commission’s recommendations, for increases of 50 cent in 2016, 10 cent in 2017, 30 cent in 2018 and 25 cent in 2019 have all been accepted by Government and represent an increase in the National Minimum Wage of 13.3% since 2015. With effect from 1 January 2019 the current rate of the National Minimum Wage is €9.80 per hour.

The most recent figures published by Eurostat (January 2019) show that Ireland has the second highest national minimum wage of any country in the EU at €1,656.2 per month, behind only Luxembourg whose minimum wage is €2,071 per month (for comparison purposes Eurostat converts countries’ hourly or weekly rates into monthly rates).  Allowing for purchasing power standards, Ireland drops to sixth place, but still remains in the group with the highest minimum wage rates in the EU.

It is important that Ireland’s statutory National Minimum Wage and the Living Wage concept are not conflated.  The Living Wage is a voluntary societal initiative centred on the social, business and economic case to ensure that, wherever it can be afforded, employers will pay a rate of pay that provides an income that is sufficient to meet an individual’s basic needs, such as housing, food, clothing, transport and healthcare.  As a voluntary initiative, the Living Wage has no legislative basis and confers no statutory entitlement.  The National Minimum Wage, on the other hand, has a legislative basis and confers a statutory entitlement on employees, and a statutory obligation on employers.

The setting of wages is a matter between employers and employees, which takes place in the context of the market, and Government does not interfere unduly in the process.  More broadly, this area also comes within the remit of my colleague the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, through her Department’s responsibilities for industrial relations issues generally and wage-setting mechanisms such as Registered Employment Agreements (REAs), Joint Labour Committees (JLCs) and Sectoral Employment Orders (SEOs).

Partial Capacity Benefit Scheme

Questions (1391, 1505)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

1391. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to address perceived discriminatory measures (details supplied) under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20085/19]

View answer

Catherine Connolly

Question:

1505. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to remove the barriers associated with the partial capacity benefit scheme and allow persons on invalidity pensions to participate in employment for rehabilitative or therapeutic purposes for up to 20 hours per week as permitted under pre-2013 exemption arrangements without the need to transfer to partial capacity benefit in view of ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the recent changes to the rules on disability allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20084/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1391 and 1505 together.

Invalidity Pension (IP) is a pension paid to people who are permanently incapable of work because of illness. It is based on a claimant's social insurance contributions and is not means tested.

To qualify for an award of IP a claimant must satisfy both PRSI contribution and medical conditions.  IP is for people who are permanently incapable of work and is generally paid to pension age.

To qualify for IP a person must have an incapacity for work of such a nature that the likelihood is that the claimant will be incapable of work for life, or an incapacity which has existed for 12 months prior to the date of claim, and where the Deciding Officer or an Appeals Officer is satisfied that the claimant is likely to be unable to work for 1 year from the date of claim.

As the OECD, for example, have previously noted ‘too many people leave the labour market permanently due to health problems or disability and too few people with reduced work capacity manage to remain in employment’.  In this context, persons with partially reduced capacity need in work income supports to obtain/sustain employment. The Partial Capacity Benefit (PCB) scheme seeks to address this objective, an objective which is underpinned by evidence that remaining in the workforce, at some level, also encourages social integration and raises living standards.  Given this, where a person in receipt of IP wishes to return to work they may apply for Partial Capacity Benefit (PCB).

Since 13 February 2012, Partial Capacity Benefit replaced the previous exemption arrangements where people on Illness Benefit or Invalidity Pension could get permission to work part-time (known as an exemption) for rehabilitative or therapeutic purposes and keep their full social welfare payment.

It is important to note however, in relation to PCB that:

- participation  is voluntary

- there is no requirement that a person must undertake work that is of a ‘rehabilitative or therapeutic’ nature (no exemption needs to be sought from DEASP)

- there is no restriction on the number of hours worked

- there is no restriction on earnings

- a person who participates on the PCB scheme may return to an Illness Benefit or Invalidity Pension payment if, for example, the employment ceases or if the person cannot continue to work

- a person on PCB, with an underlying entitlement to IP, will retain their Free Travel Pass for a period of five years.

- PCB allows people to continue to receive a percentage of their Illness Benefit or Invalidity Pension payment while working. The personal rate of payment of PCB is based on a medical assessment of a person’s restriction, regarding their capacity for work, whether the person was in receipt of Illness Benefit or Invalidity Pension and their current rate of payment.  After the medical assessment, if a person's disability is rated as moderate, severe or profound their previous payment continues at 50%, 75% or 100% per cent, respectively.

Given the above, it is not intended to change the Invalidity Pension payment to remove the income support available through the Partial Capacity Benefit where persons wish to enter or return to employment.

State Pension (Contributory)

Questions (1392)

Ruth Coppinger

Question:

1392. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if she will introduce a change to the calculation for the State pension (contributory) for those that are unable to avail of the homecaring periods scheme or the homemaker's scheme (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18400/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

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

In January 2018, I announced the Government Decision to introduce a new interim Total Contributions Approach (TCA) to the calculation of State Pension that will allow pensioners who reached pension age from September 2012 (i.e., those born on or after 1 September 1946), to have their pension entitlement calculated by an interim “Total Contributions Approach” (TCA) which will include up to 20 years of new HomeCaring Periods.  This approach is expected to significantly benefit many people, particularly women, whose work history includes an extended period of time outside the paid workplace, while raising families or in a caring role.  The TCA will ensure that the totality of a person’s social insurance contributions - as opposed to the timing of them - determines their final pension outcome.  The HomeCaring Periods can be claimed for any year in which they occurred - they are not limited to years since 1994.

People whose pensions were decided under the 2000-2012 ratebands were subject to a significantly more generous regime than those who qualified before or afterwards, as a Yearly Average of only 20 contributions per year (out of a maximum of 52) could attract a 98% pension.  The effect of those changes, as it impacted upon those new pensioners since 2012, will be familiar to anyone who followed the debate on this matter over the last 6 years.  If pre-2012 pensioners were also allowed avail of HomeCaring Credits, their arrangements, as a group, would continue to be significantly more generous than those of post-2012 pensioners.  There would also be a very significant cost which would be expected to be of the order of several hundred millions of euros each year.  This in turn could significantly impact funds for future pension increases with consequential implications for pensioner poverty.

I understand that the pensioner referred to by the Deputy is paid a pension at the 98% rate under the Yearly Average system, based upon the pre-2012 ratebands, and so she was not negatively impacted upon by the changes in 2012.

For those with insufficient contributions to meet the requirements for a State pension (contributory), they may qualify for a means tested State pension (non-contributory), the maximum personal rate for which is €237 (over 95% of the maximum rate of the contributory pension).  This rate of payment does not include rent allowance, household benefits or fuel allowance.  Alternatively, if their spouse is a State pensioner and they have significant household means, their most beneficial payment may be an Increase for a Qualified Adult, based on their personal means, and amounting up to 90% of a full contributory pension.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

JobPath Programme

Questions (1393)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

1393. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if a person (details supplied) can be excluded from JobPath having already completed a previous JobPath course and reaching 62 years of age in May 2019; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18418/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

All Jobseekers on the live register must be capable of; available for and actively seeking full time employment, they are also required to engage with the Department’s activation services. The Social Welfare (Consolidated) Act 2005, as amended, specifies that participation in activation meetings is mandatory. However, in line with my Department’s policies on activation, jobseekers aged 62 and over are not subject to the commencement of mandatory activation measures, but those who have been selected for any activation programme and reach 62 years of age whilst with the service are expected to complete it.

Clients for JobPath are chosen by means of a random selection process which excludes those over 62 years of age as well as those who have already engaged with the programme more than 2 months ago.

Those jobseekers who are returning to the JobPath service will review their development during their previous experience with JobPath as well as identifying the barriers which are preventing them finding work for the purpose of developing and agreeing a new personal progression plan to assist them in their search for a full time sustainable job.

The person concerned has completed a number of years with Community Employment Schemes prior to his selection for referral to JobPath in 2016. On completion of his year of engagement with the JobPath service he was successful in securing another placement on a local Community Employment Scheme which finished recently. He has now returned to the live register and has been randomly selected again for activation support with JobPath. He will be assigned a personal advisor who will work with him in his efforts to find a full time job focusing on the skills and competence gained over the past couple of years.

I trust this clarifies matters for the Deputy.

Employment Support Services

Questions (1394)

Martin Kenny

Question:

1394. Deputy Martin Kenny asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to hold a full review of community employment, rural social and Tús schemes including employment conditions, remuneration and benefits; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18426/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

My Department provides a range of activation supports and programmes catering for long-term unemployed jobseekers and those most distant from the labour market. These supports include Community Employment (CE), Tús and the Rural Social Scheme (RSS).

The aim of CE is to enhance the employability of disadvantaged and unemployed people by providing work experience and training opportunities for them within their communities. The programme helps break the cycle of unemployment and improve a person’s chances of returning to the labour market.

CE schemes are typically sponsored by voluntary and community organisations wishing to benefit the local community. As the employers, these sponsoring organisations contract with the Department, on an annual basis, to provide jobseekers and other vulnerable groups with good quality work experience and training qualifications to support their progression into employment.

Tús commenced operation in 2011 as a response to the high level of unemployment and the large numbers on the Live Register. It is a community work placement initiative which aims to provide short-term work opportunities for those who are unemployed for more than a year. The duration of the Tús contract is a maximum of 12 months and this ensures that as many people as possible who are unemployed for over 12 months are able to benefit from the initiative.

RSS provides opportunities for farmers and fishermen/women who are currently in receipt of specified social welfare payments to work to provide certain services of benefit to rural communities. Communities benefit from the skills and talents of local farmers and fishermen and participants have the opportunity to improve existing skills, or develop new skills, while performing this valuable work in their local communities. RSS is voluntary and the person applies to participate.

When RSS and Tús were introduced it was decided that the existing network of local development companies and Údarás na Gaeltachta - referred to as Implementing Bodies (IBs) - were best placed to manage the programmes. Tús is managed by 48 IBs, while RSS is managed by 36 IBs.

The payment rates for participants on CE, Tús and RSS are related to the underlying value of their social protection payment plus €22.50 per week, with a minimum payment to each participant of €225.50. In Budget 2019, I increased this minimum rate payment by €5 increase in line with other payments in my Department. In addition, a participant may be eligible, where appropriate, for payments in respect of any qualified dependant adult and children.

As with all schemes under the remit of my Department and in keeping with the welcome reductions in the Live Register and the increasing number of job opportunities, the Deputy will appreciate that we constantly seek to improve on all aspects of delivery, for both the individuals concerned and the community as a whole.

In this regard, the Government has recently established an Interdepartmental Group (IDG) to explore the most appropriate organisation arrangements, including which Department should host the CE Social Inclusion schemes and the Rural Social Scheme (RSS). It is hoped that the IDG will report the outcome of the deliberations of the group to Cabinet by in the coming months. A consultative process will take place shortly and I welcome any proposals put forward.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

State Pension (Non-Contributory) Data

Questions (1395)

Aindrias Moynihan

Question:

1395. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of persons in receipt of non-contributory pensions and persons on qualified adult payments awaiting a review under the pension review of persons born since 1 September 1946. [18459/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

Since late September 2018, my Department has been examining the social insurance records of approximately 90,000 pensioners, born on or after 1 September 1946, who have a reduced rate State pension contributory entitlement based on post Budget 2012 rate-bands. These payments are being reviewed under a new Total Contributions Approach (TCA) to pension calculation which includes provision for homecaring periods.

Of those to be reviewed, almost 4,400 are currently in receipt of rates of state pension non-contributory which exceed their personal state pension (contributory) entitlement.  Also included, are approximately 2,900 who are currently beneficiaries of higher rate increase for qualified adult payments than their personal entitlement.

Regardless of when a review is conducted, where the rate of State pension contributory now exceeds their  current payment, the person will be transferred to the highest payment without delay and arrears issued backdated to 30 March 2018, or the person's 66th birthday if later.  Where a person's rate does not increase following review, the person will continue to receive their existing rate of payment.

It will take a number of months to complete the reviews due to the numbers involved and the individual nature of social insurance records. This work will continue until all identified pensioners receive their review outcome.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Social Welfare Schemes

Questions (1396)

Jackie Cahill

Question:

1396. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the first year and full year cost of a proposal as set out in a report (details supplied). [18485/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

Social welfare legislation provides that, for means-tested social assistance schemes, all income and assets belonging to the claimant, and his or her spouse/partner where applicable, is assessable for means testing purposes. The purpose of the means test is to ensure that resources are directed to those with the greatest need for income supports by the State.

Without knowledge of potential take-up, it is not possible to accurately calculate the cost of introducing the proposed disregard on Forest Premium Payments for recipients of Farm Assist or State Pension (non-Contributory).

As an indication, however, the full year cost per 1,000 Farm Assist recipients availing of a disregard similar to that applied to REPS, and based on an average annual premium payment of €4,770, would be €3.7 million. The full year cost per 1,000 State Pension (non-Contributory) recipients availing of a disregard on the premium payments would be €3.2 million.

Any change to the means testing of schemes would need to be considered in an overall policy and budgetary context.

Fuel Allowance Applications

Questions (1397)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

1397. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason for the delay in processing a fuel allowance application by a person (details supplied); the outstanding documentation in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18530/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

Fuel allowance is a means-tested payment to help householders on long-term social welfare payments with their winter heating costs.  It is not intended to meet these costs in full.  Only one allowance is paid per household.

The applicant must satisfy a number of eligibility conditions which include being in receipt of a qualifying payment, satisfying a means test and living alone or only with other qualifying person(s).

An application for fuel allowance was received from the person concerned.  A request for additional  information regarding their means was issued on 9 April 2019.  The  person's eligibility for fuel allowance was assessed based on the information provided. Fuel allowance has been awarded from 8 February 2019.  It was payable in respect of their late spouse to 7 February 2019.  Written notification of this decision has issued to the person concerned.

Receipt of both fuel allowance and living alone allowance automatically entitles the person concerned to the telephone support allowance of €2.50 per week from 8 February 2019.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Fuel Allowance Eligibility

Questions (1398)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

1398. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if she has considered automatic transfer of entitlement to fuel allowance for those widowed in circumstances in which it was already determined their household income derives solely from their State pension; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18531/19]

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 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.

There is no automatic entitlement to fuel allowance and to receive the payment a person must complete an application form. The fuel allowance is added to a recipient’s primary payment that they receive from my Department and if the recipient’s primary payment is stopped the fuel payment automatically stops as well.

While entitlement may have had previously been established in the case the Deputy is referring to, circumstances have now changed and if the surviving spouse is to receive the fuel allowance payment, they must, in accordance with the scheme rules, make an individual application for the payment so that their new circumstances can be examined to ensure that they still meet the criteria for the scheme.

While the household income may previously have been derived solely from the State pension, the change of circumstances may now entitle the surviving spouse to alternative or additional payments from my Department such as the Widows pension, the Telephone Support Allowance or the living alone increase. Therefore I would always encourage people to interact with my Department at such times to ensure they are receiving their correct entitlements.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Parental Leave

Questions (1399)

Catherine Martin

Question:

1399. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the date from which the two extra weeks paid leave for parents of a child in their first year announced in Budget 2019 will be implemented; her views on whether the manner in which the scheme was announced at Budget 2019 suggested that it would be backdated; if the payment will be backdated; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18545/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

In Budget 2019, I announced the introduction of a new social insurance based parental benefit scheme to take effect in November 2019.

The new scheme will provide two weeks paid leave to both parents, including those who adopt a child, who are employees or self-employed and who take parental leave from their employment to care for their child. The scheme will support parents during the first year of the child's life, in line with the Programme for Government commitment and allows parents more flexibility in achieving and managing a work life balance.

This new parental leave and benefit will be available to parents in respect of children born on or after the date of its implementation this November. To provide for an entitlement to this scheme prior to its date of implementation would have significant budgetary implications.

There is a lead-in time required following the announcement of any new scheme to facilitate its implementation. Officials are currently working through the legislative process currently being undertaken by my Department and the Department of Justice and Equality, which has the overall responsibility for parental leave policy. Work is also underway in my Department to advance the necessary administrative and technical requirements to be in a position to accept applications from November.

I trust this clarifies the matter.

Pensions Reform

Questions (1400)

Robert Troy

Question:

1400. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when the pension review will be completed; and the percentage of same that resulted in an increase. [18559/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

Since late September 2018, my Department has been examining the social insurance records of approximately 90,000 pensioners, born on or after 1 September 1946, who have a reduced rate State pension contributory entitlement based on post Budget 2012 rate-bands.  These payments are being reviewed under a new Total Contributions Approach (TCA) to pension calculation which includes provision for homecaring periods.

Wherever possible, reviews will be processed based on information already held by the Department.  Where additional information is required about gap periods in a person's social insurance record, a written request will issue.  Almost 43,000 requests for information have been issued.

Reviews commenced from 13 February 2019, the day after I signed the necessary Regulations which, together with provisions in the Social Welfare, Pensions and Civil Registrations Act 2018, allows the increased payments to be made.  As at the 02 May 2019, 34,248 reviews have been completed.  Of these, 19,085 received an increase in their rate of pension, with 15,163 continuing to receive their existing rate of payment.  The remaining review outcomes will issue as individual reviews are completed.

Regardless of when a review is conducted, where an increase in payment is due, the person's rate of payment will be adjusted without delay and arrears issued backdated to 30 March 2018, or the person's 66th birthday if later.  Where a person's rate does not increase following review, the person will continue to receive their existing rate of payment.

It will take a number of months to complete the reviews due to the numbers involved and the individual nature of social insurance records. This work will continue until all identified pensioners receive their review outcome.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

National Minimum Wage

Questions (1401)

Robert Troy

Question:

1401. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if she will review the provisions of the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2018 to ensure that the training rate of pay for adults over 20 years of age is protected in certain instances (details supplied). [18560/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

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

In September 2015, the then Minister requested the Low Pay Commission to examine the appropriateness of the sub-minimum 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.

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 on 20 February 2018.

Having examined all available evidence and submissions, and considered a range of options, the Commission recommended the abolition of training rates. The Commission heard evidence in submissions of the training rates being paid in order to reduce wage costs rather than as part of a structured training programme. The Commission found that the lack of clear definitions around training rates left them open to abuse. In light of these considerations and the low usage of the training rates the Commission was of the view that training rates should be abolished. The Commission encouraged sectors to register for state approved apprenticeship programmes, which are under the remit of the Department of Education and Skills, if they felt that a period of structured training was required.

These 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. The changes came into effect on 4 March 2019.

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. I do not plan to reviews the changes introduced in March 2019.