Public Services Card

Questions (321)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

321. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she has consulted with her Ministerial colleagues at the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection and-or Public Expenditure and Reform regarding the public services card and services offered by her Department; if so, the nature of the consultations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40259/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

In October 2016, Government approved and published the policy proposals for the National Childcare Scheme.  Shortly thereafter, my Department established a Project Board to oversee the development of the Scheme.  The Board has representatives from both the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, alongside other Government officials.  Since its inception, the Project Board has met every 4- 5 weeks and has considered all issues relating to the project, including the importance of MyGovID as the online identity verification system.  My officials have also engaged closely with cross-Government colleagues on the issue of the Public Services Card and MyGovID outside of the Project Board structure.

As part of the development of the Scheme, I have also kept my Cabinet colleagues fully updated through Memoranda to Government and other communications.

Since receiving the final report from the DPC into the Public Services Card, the Government and the Attorney General have carefully considered the findings of the report, including the legal basis for its use by specified bodies or persons (such as the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs). The Government has agreed to challenge the findings of the report, as based on the legal advice received, it does not believe the DPC’s findings are correct in law. The advice of the Attorney General’s Office is that there is a strong legal basis for the continued public service wide use of the public services card.

The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection is continuing to engage with the DPC on this issue. Officials in the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA) will, in turn, continue to liaise with that Department.

DCYA remains committed to delivering the National Childcare Scheme as planned and, in so doing, assisting thousands of families to access high quality and affordable early learning and care and school age childcare.

Preschool Services

Questions (322)

Anne Rabbitte

Question:

322. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the amount allocated under the capital plan for the purposes of expanding the number of preschool childcare places; and the number of places this is anticipated to create. [40293/19]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

I am committed to ensuring that early learning and care and school age childcare is affordable, accessible and of a high quality. As you are aware, good progress has been made in this regard, with an increase in investment in this area of 117% over the past four budgets (increasing from €260m in 2015 to nearly €574m in Budget 2019).

Within these four budgets, a significant amount of exchequer funding was made available for childcare providers, whether private or community / not for profit organisations, to apply for Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare capital grants. Capital funding is aimed at increasing the capacity of existing services, creating new services, and maintaining and improving existing services.

Each year my Department reviews the capital programmes as a whole and determines the priorities for Early Learning and Care and School Age Capital grants. This consideration necessarily has regard to many factors, including the financial resources available.

In 2019, my Department focused the Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare Capital programme on the expansion of early learning and care places for 0-3 year olds, and school age childcare places where this is most needed.

The capital strands have been made available to achieve the strategic priorities for 2019 as determined by my Department, having regard to the funding available. These were developed using analysis of the current state of the childcare sector, learnings from previous capital programmes and feedback and input from stakeholders, including childcare providers and Pobal.

In 2019, €3.7m was approved for the Early Learning and Care Capital funding which is expected to create an additional 1,321 places in the sector.

Childcare Costs

Questions (323)

Anne Rabbitte

Question:

323. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the estimated cost of increasing the universal subsidy amount of the national childcare scheme by 50c, €1, €1.50, €2.00, €2.50, €3.00, €3.50, €4.00, €4.50, €5.00, €5.50, €6.00 and €6.50, respectively in tabular form. [40294/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

The following table summarises the estimated ascending costs within the scenario described where the universal minimum subsidy is increased in 50 cent intervals up to €6.50 across the National Childcare Scheme, assuming the minimum targeted subsidy is increased so as never to be below the universal subsidy. The full year cost forming the basis for the calculation is provided.

The costs are arrived at by:

- establishing the number of families with children under 15 years by income bracket (data supplied by CSO) and

- profiling these families by reference to the age of their children and

- estimating the proportion of children in each income bracket and age range using centre-based care and

- calculating estimated subsidy rates based on income levels and age profile and

- applying estimates of the average hours used by age group for term time and non-term time.

The scheme’s cost model is based on key assumptions around the preferences and behaviours of parents relating to working hours and childcare choice, rates of growth in demand, and certain metrics are extrapolated from available data. As such, all estimates remain heavily caveated insofar as the scheme represents a considerable departure from existing schemes and this renders estimates inherently challenging. It is particularly difficult to estimate the behavioural changes that will result from  significant increases in the level of subsidy available, as detailed below:

 

Universal Rate

.50c

€1

€1.50

€2

€2.50

€3

€3.50

€4.00

€4.50

€5.00

€5.50

€6.00

€6.50

Additional Cost per annum

 

€25m

€52m

€ 81m

€112m

€145m

€180m

€223.5m

€285m

€365m

€450m

€535m

€628m

Childcare Costs

Questions (324)

Anne Rabbitte

Question:

324. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the estimated cost of increasing each subsidy and level or grade of the national childcare scheme by 50c, €1, €1.50, €2.00, €2.50, €3.00, €3.50, €4.00, €4.50, €5.00, €5.50, €6.00 and €6.50, respectively in tabular form. [40295/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

The following table summarises the estimated ascending costs within the scenario described where all the subsidies are increased in 50 cent intervals across the National Childcare Scheme. The full year cost is provided.

The costs are arrived at by:

- establishing the number of families with children under 15 years by income bracket (data supplied by CSO) and

- profiling these families by reference to the age of their children and

- estimating the proportion of children in each income bracket and age range using centre-based care and

- calculating estimated subsidy rates based on income levels and age profile and

- applying estimates of the average hours used by age group for term time and non-term time.

The existing maximum subsidy rates are:

0-1 year old = €5.10, 1-3 year old = €4.35, 3-5 year old = €3.95, School age = €3.75, Universal = €0.50

The scheme’s cost model is based on key assumptions around the preferences and behaviours of parents relating to working hours and childcare type, rates of growth in demand, and certain metrics are extrapolated from available data. As such, all estimates remain heavily caveated insofar as the scheme represents a considerable departure from existing schemes and this renders estimates inherently challenging. It is particularly difficult to estimate the behavioural changes that will result from significant increases in the level of subsidy available.

It should be noted that substantial increases in childcare capacity would be required to meet the demand created by increasing the total subsidy cost, particularly at the higher end, as described below. The work of the Expert group on a new Funding Model is also critical to ensure that increased subsidisation results in better quality for children and lower fees charged to parents.

Increase all subsidy rates by

€0.50

€1.00

€1.50

€2.00

€2.50

€3.00

€3.50

€4.00

€4.50

€5.00

€5.50

€6.00

€6.50

Additional Cost per annum

€58m

€121m

€189m

€261m

€337m

€418m

€502m

€591m

€684m

€781m

€884m

€991m

€1103m

 

National Development Plan Funding

Questions (325)

Anne Rabbitte

Question:

325. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the way in which the €250 million referenced on page 93 of the National Development Plan 2018-2027 for the purposes of expanding childcare provision is expected to be allocated with reference to the years in which this funding will be made available. [40296/19]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

Childcare was identified as a strategic priority in the National Development Plan (2018-2027) and €250m in capital funding was secured for childcare under the plan. This represents the kind of large scale investment in the sector by the State that has not been undertaken since the earlier National Childcare Investment Programme that concluded in 2010.

This investment will be essential to respond to the increased capacity we expect as the new National Childcare Scheme is introduced. The NCS will radically change how this country supports the cost of early learning and care and school age childcare.

Research is on-going to determine areas of specific need that the NDP funding will address when it comes on stream in the coming years. The exact shape and priorities of this funding is currently being developed: more information will be made public on childcare plans under the NDP as it becomes available.

Tax Reliefs Costs

Questions Nos. 327 to 329, inclusive, answered with Question No. 316.

Questions (326)

Anne Rabbitte

Question:

326. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the estimated cost of extending tax relief or subsidies to parents that use childminders to care for their preschool children. [40297/19]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

In August of this year I launched a Draft Childminding Action Plan for the purposes of public consultation. Currently only childminders who care for 4 or more children of preschool age, or, 7 or more children including those of school age, can register with Tusla and therefore take part in State subsidy schemes. To address this limitation while protecting children and providing assurance of the quality of childminding provision, First 5 - the Whole-of-Government Strategy for Babies, Young Children and their Families 2018-2028 - committed to extend regulation to all other paid, non-relative childminders on a phased basis over the lifetime of First 5.

The Draft Action Plan proposes that in Phase 2 of the Action Plan an amendment to the Child Care Act 1991 would enable registration with Tusla - and therefore participation in the National Childcare Scheme - by all paid, non-relative childminders who meet initial qualification and regulatory requirements that would be determined during Phase 1 of the Action Plan. While I am keen for this step to be taken at the earliest possible opportunity, it will be important that this step is only taken when preparations are complete, including: when new Regulations are in place that are proportionate and appropriate to the home setting in which childminders work; when the Tusla Inspectorate is ready to register and inspect all non-relative childminders; and when more detailed costings have been completed on the budgetary implications for the National Childcare Scheme.

The Draft Action Plan estimates that Phase 2 costs, including all of the reforms outlined in the plan, could be in the region of between €27m and €58m based on two scenarios of either 5,000 or 10,000 childminders registering with Tusla and becoming eligible for participation in the National Childcare Scheme. The costs are related to both early learning and care and school-age childcare. 

However, there would be offsetting savings, principally through increased labour market participation as a result of wider access for parents to National Childcare Scheme subsidies.  

However, it should be noted that the costing the Action Plan is challenging given considerable uncertainty about the number of childminders currently working in the country, and the number of childminders who would remain in the sector following the introduction of regulations. This uncertainty impacts on estimates of the number of additional children and families who would be able to access the new National Childcare Scheme subsidies. The cost estimates outlined in the Draft Action Plan are therefore indicative and will be refined during the first phase of the action plan.

The Inter Departmental Group on Future Investment in Childcare which reported in 2015 recommended that supply side measures (such as the NCS), rather than tax credits to parents, represented the most effective use of Exchequer investment. This was based on international experience and the ability to leverage quality and control costs to parents with supply side measures, i.e. subsidies paid directly to providers to reduce the childcare fee to parents.

Questions Nos. 327 to 329, inclusive, answered with Question No. 316.

Youth Services Funding

Questions (330)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

330. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she has received the submission from an organisation (details supplied) with respect to the youth service grant scheme which sets out that the allocation to the scheme is at 2005 levels not taking inflation into account; her plans to increase investment in the youth service grant scheme in budget 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40312/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

As the Deputy is aware the annual Estimates process for 2020 is ongoing. It would therefore not be appropriate for me to comment on the specific matter mentioned at this time as funding for the provision of youth services in 2020, amongst other areas, remains under discussion and is ultimately subject to the final outcome of this process.

I have enhanced investment in youth service provision each year since I took office, increasing current funding for youth services by an additional €8.5 million in the last three years.  This represents an increase of 16% compared to 2016 . Included in this funding under the Youth Service Grant Scheme has increased by almost 10% since 2016, rising to €11.126m in 2019.  

In addition, I have taken on board the findings of the Value for Money and Policy Review of Youth Programmes.  I am prioritising the implementation of an integrated funding scheme as recommended by this Review. Consultations with a wide range of stakeholders are continuing with a view to introducing this targeted youth funding scheme as soon as possible.  

In 2019, my Department has funding of €60.4 million that is being deployed across a broad range of programmes supporting the provision of youth services throughout the country, with a specific focus on services in communities in areas considered to be disadvantaged based on the deprivation index. With the invaluable assistance of each Education and Training Boards and national organisations, the funding from my Department supports national and local youth programmes involving approximately 1,400 youth work staff  working in communities across the country, as well as some 1,500 youth clubs nationally.

Childcare Costs

Questions (331)

Peter Burke

Question:

331. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the steps she is taking to reduce the costs on parents that send their children to childminders that are not registered with Tulsa; and when this issue will be advanced. [40345/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

The National Childcare Scheme, which will open for applications shortly, will be open to all Tusla-registered childminders. Currently only childminders who care for 7 or more children, or 4 or more preschool children, are able to register with Tusla. To address this limitation while protecting children and providing assurance of the quality of childminding provision, First 5 - the Whole-of-Government Strategy for Babies, Young Children and their Families 2018-2028- committed to extend regulation to all other paid, non-relative childminders on a phased basis over the lifetime of First 5. 

As a first step, in August of this year I launched a Draft Childminding Action Plan, for the purposes of public consultation.  The overall objective of the Draft Action Plan is to improve access to high quality and affordable early learning and care and school-age childcare through childminding. To do this, the Draft Action Plan sets out an incremental and supportive pathway to regulatory reforms.

The Draft Action Plan proposes that the Child Care Act 1991 would be amended to enable registration with Tusla - and participation in the National Childcare Scheme - by a wider cohort of childminders in Phase 2 of the Action Plan. While I am keen for this step to be taken at the earliest possible opportunity, it will be important that this step is only taken when preparations are complete, including: when new Regulations are in place that are proportionate and appropriate to the home setting in which childminders work; when the Tusla Inspectorate is ready to register and inspect all non-relative childminders; and when more detailed costings have been completed on the budgetary implications for the National Childcare Scheme.

The public consultation process on the Draft Action Plan is currently underway and includes a call for submissions, an online survey, an open policy debate and focus groups of childminders. The findings from the consultations will be carefully considered during the revision of the Draft Action Plan.

Childcare Costs

Questions (332)

Michael McGrath

Question:

332. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the steps she is taking to address childcare costs; the rank of Ireland in the EU in terms of childcare costs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40480/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

Over the past four budgets, State investment in early learning and care and school age childcare has increased by some 117% - rising from €260m in 2015 to €574m in 2019. This investment has been targeted at improving access to high-quality, affordable early learning and care and school-age childcare. All three objectives - access, affordability and quality - are critical to parents and children and one impacts on the other, hence a comprehensive response is required.

In terms of affordability, the numbers of children benefitting from State supported early learning and care and school age childcare in Ireland has doubled since 2015. Free preschool provided under the ECCE Programme has increased from one year to two, saving working parents €5,000 over the two years. This Programme benefits over 100,000 children annually. There have been significant increases in subsidies for families on lower incomes, rising from €95 per child per week in  2016 to as much as €145 per child per week from 2017. A new universal subsidy for under threes was also introduced in 2017 totalling €1040 per annum. The latter two measures benefitted approximately 80,000 children last year.

Affordability does remain an issue. Indeed,  new data from Pobal’s Annual Sector Profile 2018/2019 shows the average fee for full-time provision now stands at €184 per week - an increase of 3.6% since last year. The lowest full-time fees were recorded in Co. Leitrim at €148 per week, with the highest full-time fees recorded in Dublin (Dun Laoghaire Rathdown), at €246 per week for children

The National Childcare Scheme (NCS), when introduced shortly, will see further progress on this. On its introduction, the NCS will ensure that families on NET household incomes of less than €60,000 will receive some type of subsidy, with those on less than €26,000 (NET) receiving the maximum subsidy which is as much as €200 per child per week.

The OECD has compared the supports for early learning and care and school-age childcare previously available in Ireland with the expected impact of the NCS. For a lone parent working, net costs in Ireland in 2015 were the highest among all OECD countries ( and second highest for couples). The OECD estimated that NCS will bring net costs down to make Ireland only the 11th highest in the OECD for lone parents, or closer to the OECD average.

Rural Regeneration and Development Fund

Questions (333)

Eamon Scanlon

Question:

333. Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the status of the rural regeneration development fund; the status of an application (details supplied); when successful projects will be announced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40199/19]

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Written answers (Question to Rural)

The Rural Regeneration and Development Fund seeks 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 and €315 million is allocated to the Fund for the period 2019-2022.

The second call for Category 1 applications for the Fund closed at on 6th  August 2019. Category 1 relates to projects which have all necessary planning and other consents in place and are ready to proceed. 

There was an excellent response from across the country and my Department received 69 applications for funding.  I understand that an application relating to Ballinamore, Co. Leitrim was submitted under the second call.

My Department is currently carrying out initial assessments of the applications using the appraisal criteria set out in the Fund guidance and application form.  The projects proposed and the initial assessments will shortly be considered by the Project Advisory Board, made up of representatives from key Government Departments and external experts, which was established to oversee the assessment process.

My Department will prepare a report detailing projects which are recommended for funding based on the outcome of the assessment process and the deliberations of the Project Advisory Board.  My role as Minister is to consider the recommendations that emerge from that process and make decisions in relation to the allocation of funding. In that regard, I expect to be in a position to announce the successful Category 1 projects from the second call before the end of 2019.

Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme

Questions (334)

Peter Burke

Question:

334. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the status of a project (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40274/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

Pobal is a not for profit company that works on behalf of the Irish Government in managing and supporting programmes in the areas of Social Inclusion and Equality, Inclusive Employment and Enterprise, and Early Years and Young People.

Pobal are currently in the planning phase on the fit out of a new office space in Mullingar. The new space is expected to accommodate up to 50 seats, consisting mainly of National Childcare Scheme staff and a hot-desk area.  While plans for the fit out of a new office space are ongoing, a temporary office has opened. 

Six new roles have been created in Mullingar to date, all of which have been advertised on www.pobal.ie, @Pobal and other sources.  Further roles will be advertised over the coming months.

Voluntary Sector

Questions (335)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

335. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the status of the development of a national volunteering policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40329/19]

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Written answers (Question to Rural)

Supporting the role of volunteers in our society is an important element of my Department's work in developing vibrant, sustainable and inclusive communities.  Consequently, the development of a National Volunteering Strategy is a key priority for my Department.

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that my Department has commenced work on the new National Volunteering Strategy.  A Call for Input paper was launched last December as a first step in the development of this strategy. The responses received were presented to the National Advisory Group on Volunteering, which is representative of all stakeholders and chaired by myself. This group, which has met on two occasions to date, is currently working closely with my officials in producing the draft of the National Volunteering Strategy.

When the draft is completed, there will be a further opportunity for public consultation, following which it will be submitted to Government for approval. An implementation plan for the strategy will also be developed.

Carer's Allowance Appeals

Questions (336)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

336. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of a carer's allowance appeal by a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40198/19]

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 18 October 2019.  The person concerned has been 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.

Fuel Allowance Applications

Questions (337)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

337. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will receive the fuel allowance. [40212/19]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

Free fuel (FF) allowance is a means tested payment, payable to people who either live alone or only with certain other qualified people. This gentleman was awarded FF with effect from 3 April 2019 and he continues to qualify for this allowance. On 6 April 2019 a letter issued informing him of this.  

This gentleman's first payment was made by his chosen payment method on 16 April 2019. FF allowance is paid during the winter months only. The first payment for this FF season issued to the person concerned on 2 October 2019.

 I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Domiciliary Care Allowance Applications

Questions (338)

Joe Carey

Question:

338. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when an application by a person (details supplied) for a domiciliary care allowance will be finalised; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40214/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

An application for Domiciliary Care Allowance ( DCA) was received from this lady on the 26th July 2019.  Applications received in mid July 2019 are currently being finalised.  The application will be considered by a deciding officer in due course and the decision notified to her as soon as possible.

I hope this clarifies the position for the Deputy.

Back to Education Allowance Eligibility

Questions (339)

Marc MacSharry

Question:

339. Deputy Marc MacSharry asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if the case of a person (details supplied) in County Sligo who was refused the third level back to education allowance in 2017 will be reviewed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40237/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

I am aware that the Deputy made representations to my Department concerning this case early last month.

The person concerned originally applied for the Back to Education Allowance (BTEA) in July 2017 in respect of a third level course which he was due to start in September 2017.  However, I am advised that based upon his Leaving Certificate results and his educational record since then, a Case Officer of the Department did not recommend his application for approval.  On this basis his application was disallowed and he was notified accordingly.

In July 2019, the person concerned re-applied for BTEA in respect of Year 3 of his third level course.   In certain limited circumstances, a person may qualify for this allowance after completing their first or subsequent year of an approved course of study.  My Department has advised that none of these circumstances appear to apply in this particular case, and for that reason, his BTEA application was disallowed.  However, the Department will now contact the person concerned to discuss his case and check that this continues to be the case.

I trust that this clarifies the matter for the Deputy. 

Carer's Allowance Appeals

Questions (340, 355)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

340. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when a decision will be made in the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40239/19]

View answer

Bernard Durkan

Question:

355. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when a decision will be made in the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40386/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 340 and 355 together.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an application for carer's allowance by the person concerned was disallowed by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection on 21 November 2018 and this was upheld by a review of the Department on 25 April 2019.  An appeal by the person concerned was registered in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 27 May 2019.  It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought.  These papers were returned to the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 8 August 2019.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has also advised me that this appeal has been referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral hearing.  The Appeals Officer is being advised of the Deputy's question and this response.

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.