Free Travel Scheme

Questions (264)

Peter Burke

Question:

264. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the estimated full-year cost of extending free travel to include children in receipt of domiciliary care allowance. [27034/19]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

The free travel scheme provides free travel on the main public and private transport services for those eligible under the scheme. These include road, rail and ferry services provided by companies such as Bus Átha Cliath, Bus Éireann and Iarnród Éireann, as well as Luas and services provided by over 80 private transport operators. There are currently approx. 944,000 customers with direct eligibility. In Budget 2019 the funding for the free travel scheme was increased by €5 million to a total of €95 million.

Providing an accurate projection of the cost of extending the free travel scheme to all children in receipt of domiciliary care allowance, taking into account increases announced in Budget 2019 is very difficult as the cost is determined by the usage of the extra passes provided and not by the number of newly qualified people. The fact that many operators have reduced fares for children and that in some cases children under five years of age can travel for free would also have to be taken into account. Taking all of this into consideration the yearly cost of the measure suggested by the Deputy could be as high as €5.25 million.

Any decision to extend the free travel scheme to all children that are in receipt of a domiciliary care allowance would require additional funding for the free travel scheme and would have to be considered in the context of overall budgetary negotiations, and funding priorities for the Free Travel Scheme generally.

Domiciliary care allowance is a monthly payment of €309.50 to the carer of a child with a disability. The allowance may be used for the additional costs involved in caring for the child and this may include additional transport costs.

Under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme (SWA) the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection may award a travel supplement in any case where the circumstances of the case so warrant. The supplement is intended to assist with ongoing or recurring travel costs that cannot be met from the person's own resources and are deemed to be necessary. Every decision is based on consideration of the circumstances of the case, taking account of the nature and extent of the need and of the resources of the person concerned.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Departmental Investigations

Questions (265)

Marcella Corcoran Kennedy

Question:

265. Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when an investigation of a query regarding a contribution record in the case of a person (details supplied) will be made available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27037/19]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

An application was received in Scope Section on 15 April 2019 seeking a decision with regard to the employed/self-employed status of the individual named by the Deputy.

A Scope investigation was opened on 17 April 2019 and was referred to a Social Welfare Inspector on 29 April 2019 to interview the parties concerned. These investigations are currently underway. Once the investigation is complete the matter will be decided by a Deciding Officer and the person concerned will be notified of the outcome, in writing, without delay.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Disability Allowance Applications

Questions (266)

Eamon Scanlon

Question:

266. Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of a disability allowance application by a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27118/19]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

I confirm that an application from this lady for disability allowance (DA) was received by the Department on 26 March 2019.

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

The application has been referred to a Social Welfare Inspector (SWI) for a report on the person’s means and circumstances. Once the SWI has submitted his/her report to DA section, a decision will be made on the application and this lady will be notified directly of the outcome.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Illness Benefit Applications

Questions (267)

Brendan Howlin

Question:

267. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the position regarding an application for illness benefit in respect of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27125/19]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

The person concerned is currently a qualified adult on her partner's Invalidity Pension claim. This means that her partner is in receipt of a payment in respect of her.

A claim for Illness Benefit by the person concerned has been received and the monetary difference between the Invalidity Pension qualified adult allowance and her Illness Benefit entitlement is currently being calculated and processed. If her entitlement on Illness Benefit is higher she will be paid that amount and any arrears due will be paid to her within 10 working days.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Working Family Payment Eligibility

Questions (268)

John Brady

Question:

268. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the rationale for excluding self-employed workers from applying for the working family payment; if she has examined the possibility of extending the payment to these cohort of workers; if so, the estimated costs involved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27134/19]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

The Working Family Payment (WFP) is an in-work support which provides an income top-up for employees on low earnings. The WFP is designed to prevent in-work poverty for low paid workers with child dependants, and to offer a financial incentive to take-up employment. There are currently almost 53,000 families with 119,000 children in receipt of the WFP. The estimated spend on the WFP in 2018 was approximately €431 million.

To qualify for payment of WFP a person must be engaged in full time paid employment as an employee which is expected to last for at least 3 months and be working for a minimum of 38 hours per fortnight or 19 hours per week. A couple may combine their hours of employment to meet the qualification criteria. The applicant must also have at least one qualified child who normally resides with them or is part of a family supported by them.

It is possible for the household of a self-employed person to receive a WFP payment where the spouse, civil partner or cohabitant of the self-employed persons meets the qualifying criteria.

There are also a number of other schemes available to self-employed individuals details of which are as follows:

- The Back to Work Family Dividend - which helps families to move from social welfare into employment, including self-employment, by retaining their qualified child increase for up to two years. There are currently 6,330 families in receipt of the dividend;

- The Back to Work Enterprise Allowance scheme encourages people getting certain social welfare payments to become self-employed. If you take part in the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance scheme you can keep a percentage of your social welfare payment for up to 2 years;

- The Short-Term Enterprise Allowance gives support to people who have lost their job and want to start their own business.

As there are already a number of supports available to self-employed individuals there are no plans to extend the WFP to self-employed at this time.

Any extension of the WFP to other categories of persons, such as the self-employed, would also obviously expenditure implications and would have to be considered in a budgetary context.

One-Parent Family Payment Data

Questions (269)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

269. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of recipients of the one-parent family payment each year since 2016 to date; the number of recipients that moved to the jobseeker's transition payment in each of the years since 2016 to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27138/19]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

The table below outlines the number of recipients of the one parent family payment (OFP) each year since 2016 to date, the numbers of OFPs who transferred onto JST, and the overall number of JSTs at each date:

Date

Dec-16

Dec-17

Dec-18

May-19

OFP

40,317

39,310

39,580

39,417

OFP Transferred to JST

1,811

1,550

1,528

899

Overall JST

14,580

14,618

14,796

14,947

The Jobseeker’s Transitional Payment is a crucial support for lone parents which allows these customers to balance their work and caring responsibilities and, significantly, reduces their requirement for child care. The payment also offers a tapered support to these customers as their children get older.

Working Family Payment Data

Questions (270)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

270. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of recipients of the working family payment in 2018 and to date in 2019; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27139/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

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

The number of recipients of WFP in 2018 and to date in 2019 is as follows:

Year

WFP Recipients

2018

54,116

2019

* 52,877

* In payment on the 16th June 2019

It should be noted that the above figure for 2018 refers to the number of families in receipt of WFP at week 52 of that year. The figures may fluctuate from week to week.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Invalidity Pension Payments

Questions (271)

Peter Burke

Question:

271. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of an increase in back pay for a person (details supplied) due to incorrect advice provided; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27159/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

Backdating of the Invalidity Pension claim of the gentleman concerned has been considered and the claim has now been awarded from 11 October 2018, i.e. from the first Thursday following cessation of his self employment. Arrears for the period 11 October 2018 to 26 June 2019 will issue as soon as possible to his nominated bank account. He was notified of this decision on 21 June 2019.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

State Pension (Contributory) Eligibility

Questions (272)

Jack Chambers

Question:

272. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason a person (details supplied) who worked in the public sector prior to April 1995 does not have entitlement to a State pension (contributory); her plans to change this rule; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27200/19]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

Pre-1995 public sector employees pay PRSI contributions at modified rates of contribution, Classes B, C or D. Class B covers permanent and pensionable civil servants recruited prior to 6 April 1995, registered doctors and dentists employed in the civil service and Gardaí recruited prior to 1995. Class C is paid by commissioned army officers and members of the army nursing service, recruited prior to 6 April 1995. Class D is paid by permanent and pensionable employees in the public service other than those insured at Classes B and C, for example, employees of semi-State commercial bodies.

Historically, public servants in Ireland were excluded from the scope of full social insurance cover. The reason for this is that their terms of employment were deemed adequate to protect them against the main contingencies, of sickness and old age, and the risk of unemployment was not considered a factor in their case.

Consequently, modified rate contributors pay less PRSI in return for fewer benefits. Currently Class B contributors, for example, pay the employee PRSI rate of 0.9% (4% on weekly earnings over €1,443) and their employer pays a contribution rate of 2.01%. Class B contributors are currently entitled to widow's, widower's or surviving civil partner's (contributory) pension, guardians payment (contributory), limited occupational injuries benefits and carer's benefit.

This contrasts with Class A contributors who pay a 4% employee contribution rate, their employer pays a contribution of either 8.7% or 10.95%, for a combined contribution rate of 12.7% or 14.95%. Class A contributors therefore gain entitlement to all social welfare benefits.

Modified rate contributors who do not have sufficient means may qualify for the means tested State pension (non-contributory)

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Wastewater Treatment

Questions (273)

Tom Neville

Question:

273. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if a programme will be established to expand town and village wastewater treatment plants to facilitate housing expansion. [26985/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

Since 1 January 2014, Irish Water has statutory responsibility for all aspects of water services planning, delivery and operation at national, regional and local levels.

In May 2018, the Government approved the Water Services Policy Statement 2018-2025 and, shortly afterwards, Irish Water submitted its Strategic Funding Plan 2019-2024 to my Department. The Strategic Funding Plan, which I have approved, details Irish Water’s multi-annual strategic funding requirement of €11bn to 2024, comprising of a €6.1bn investment in infrastructure and assets and €4.9bn in operating costs.

Irish Water will also play a key role in implementing Project Ireland 2040 which was published in February 2018 and incorporates the National Planning Framework (NPF) and the National Development Plan. Irish Water will take account of and support on-going work in developing subsidiary strategies to assist in implementing the NPF including the Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies as well as ongoing reviews of County Development Plans and Local Area Plans.

I understand that Irish Water will be bringing forward proposals for a Small Towns & Villages Growth Programme which will support a number of the National Policy Objectives and National Strategic Outcomes under the NPF. The Small Towns & Villages Growth Programme is intended to provide water and wastewater growth capacity in smaller settlements which would not otherwise be provided for in its Investment Plan to 2024. Irish Water will work with local authorities across the country in ensuring the investment is made where it is needed most, aligned to core strategies.

Irish Water is subject to regulation by the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU). The proposals from Irish Water in this regard form part of the submissions from Irish Water to the CRU on its detailed investment plans under the Irish Water Investment Plan 2020 to 2024. These submissions are currently being considered and a decision is expected from the CRU in the second half of 2019. Subject to the outcome of this process it will then be a matter for Irish Water to progress its proposals in relation to the Small Towns & Villages Growth Programme.

Irish Water has established a dedicated team to deal with representations and queries from public representatives. The team can be contacted via email to oireachtasmembers@water.ie or by telephone on a dedicated number, 1890 578 578.

Housing Adaptation Grant Funding

Questions (274)

Frank O'Rourke

Question:

274. Deputy Frank O'Rourke asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when the allocation of funding will be made to Kildare County Council to progress approved applications under for the housing adaptation grant tenant applications both in terms of the general scheme and in the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27007/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

I will shortly announce the 2019 funding allocations to local authorities for the Disabled Persons Grants (DPG) Scheme for adaptations and extensions to existing social homes to meet the needs of local authority tenants. In early 2019, local authorities were advised to proceed with works of up to 65% of their overall 2018 allocation in respect of the DPG scheme, to ensure that there was no delay in works commencing. Some €15 million is being made available under the scheme in 2019, an increase of over €1 million on 2018.

In implementing the scheme, it is a matter for local authorities to prioritise the works to be funded under the scheme in their area, in the context of available funding and in line with the terms of the DPG scheme. My Department is not involved in decisions on individual cases.

Funding drawdowns by local authorities will be kept under review as the year progresses, with a view to considering the allocation of additional funding should it become available, or the re-distribution of unspent funding. It will be open to local authorities to seek additional funding, once their allocation is fully expended.

Social and Affordable Housing Provision

Questions (275)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

275. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when affordable housing will be made available in either Galway city or county; the applications on hand from the two local authorities to provide same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27016/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

Affordable housing for purchase is being provided under Part 5 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009.

The new affordable housing for purchase scheme replaces the time-limited claw-back which applied under the various previous affordable housing schemes. Under the scheme, a discount of up to 40% may be provided by the local authority to the prospective purchaser of an affordable home. The local authority will retain a charge equivalent to the discount, and the household must repay the charge at re-sale or during the charged period. The scheme applies to new homes on local authority land, and is targeted at low to middle-income households. The monies of the equity charge will be repaid by the purchaser into a new Affordable Dwellings Fund, which will be administered by the Housing Finance Agency and used to fund further affordable housing.

One of the mechanisms available to local authorities to help them deliver affordable housing options is the Serviced Site Fund (SSF). Under the SSF, €310 million is being made available over a three year period, from 2019 to 2021, to support the delivery of infrastructure on local authority sites, which will deliver over 6,000 affordable homes.

The first call for proposals under the SSF in June 2018 was targeted at 11 local authorities, including Galway City, where it was identified that the greatest affordability pressures exist. I issued approval in principle in December 2018 for funding for 10 infrastructure projects in Dublin and Cork with €43 million funding, which will support the delivery of 1,400 affordable homes. A further 5 projects, including one from Galway City Council at Bóthar an Choiste, with the potential to delivery 45 affordable homes were not granted initial approval. However, my Department is currently liaising with these local authorities in order to further develop these projects.

Following the first call under the SSF, and in order to target affordable interventions, local authorities were asked to complete financial/economic assessments of each of their sites to assess whether the provision of affordable homes is economically viable. Local authorities were also asked to assess the broader housing affordability within their area.

A second call for proposals under the SSF issued to 19 local authorities, including Galway City Council and Galway County Council, on 9 April 2019, based on the aforementioned economic assessments. The closing date for returns was 17 May 2019 and 31 submissions were received from 15 local authorities, including one from Galway City Council in respect of a site in Merlin Park, with the potential to deliver 95 affordable homes, and two from Galway County Council, in Oughterard and Athenry, with the potential to deliver 72 affordable homes.

These are currently being assessed by my Department and I intend to issue approvals under this second call in the coming weeks.

The overall cost and timing of delivery for these projects is contingent upon the completion of planning and procurement in the first instance, and local authorities are working to achieve delivery as quickly as possible, with the first tranche of affordable homes expected to be delivered next year.

Health and Safety Inspections Data

Questions (276, 277)

Anne Rabbitte

Question:

276. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of investigations carried out by health and safety officers or fire officers at licensed premises such as nightclubs and late bars during late night hours of 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. by county in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019, to ensure the premises are adhering to their assigned cap in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27119/19]

View answer

Anne Rabbitte

Question:

277. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of investigations carried out by health and safety officers or fire officers in each county to monitor capacity at venues hosting underage discos when such events are being hosted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27120/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 276 and 277 together.

Statutory responsibility for safety is assigned to the 'person having control' of a building who is required to take reasonable measures to guard against the outbreak of fire and to ensure the safety of persons in the event of fire, this would include safeguarding against overcrowding and ensuring that all necessary fire prevention measures are in place.

The provision of a fire service in its functional area and the assessment of fire cover needs having regard to the nature of the fire hazards and the probable incidence and extent of fires in its area is a statutory function of individual fire authorities under Section 10 of the Fire Services Act 1981.

In terms of fire services inspections, under the 1981 Act local authority fire services can inspect a premises as part of the granting or renewal of a license and may enter a premises in the investigation of a complaint or as part of a routine announced inspection. Inspections and investigations are part of the functions of each fire service and my Department does not collect or collate the detailed information requested. All such data should be available from the relevant fire services.

Questions regarding the Health and Safety Authority are more appropriately addressed to my colleague the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation.

Property Tax

Questions (278, 279, 280)

John Curran

Question:

278. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the amount of funding raised through the local property tax from each of the four local Dublin authorities given to the equalisation fund by his Department in each of the years 2015 to 2018 and to date 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27168/19]

View answer

John Curran

Question:

279. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the local authorities that give 20% of their funds raised through the local property tax to the equalisation fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27169/19]

View answer

John Curran

Question:

280. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the amount of funding each local authority received from the equalisation fund raised through local property taxes in each of the years 2015 to 2018 and to date in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27170/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 278 to 280, inclusive, together.

Local Property Tax (LPT) was introduced to provide a stable and sustainable funding base for local authorities. Local retention of LPT began in 2015 and since then the overall principles and allocation mechanisms have broadly remained the same.

Every local authority receives a minimum amount of LPT funding, known as the baseline. Each local authority retains 80% of the LPT collected in its area, with 20% being used to support equalisation funding required for two-thirds of authorities with lower LPT bases to bring their funding levels up to the baseline.

Local authorities with surplus LPT income, i.e. income above the baseline, can retain a portion of that surplus, up to 20% of the projected LPT yield for that area, for their own use. Any remaining LPT is deemed ‘surplus’ and is used to self-fund certain Housing and Roads services. Local authorities that require equalisation funding are not required to self-fund.

Detailed information on LPT, broken down on a local authority by local authority basis, including the allocations to each local authority for the years 2015-2019, as well as the amounts contributed to and received from equalisation, can be found at the following link on my Department's website.

https://www.housing.gov.ie/search/archived/current/category/housing/sub-topic/local-property-tax/sub-type/funding-allocation/topic/chargestaxes/type/publications?query