Youth Services

Questions (1011)

Louise O'Reilly

Question:

1011. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if her attention has been drawn to issues existing with the management and running of a project (details supplied); if a report update on the project can be issued; and the measures being taken to resolve existing issues. [45254/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

City of Dublin Youth Service Board (CDYSB), a committee of the City of Dublin Education and Training Board, administers targeted youth funding on behalf of my Department to youth services in the Dublin area which includes this youth project. CDYSB notified officials in the Youth Affairs Unit of my Department on 11th October that it has concerns with regard to the financial management and oversight by the Board of this organisation.

CDYSB as part of its oversight function has held a number of meetings, with the board of the organisation concerned, to assess the exact financial position of the project and the circumstances which led to the existing issues.

CDETB will submit a report of its findings and recommendations to my Department. On receipt of this report, further consideration will be given to available options for the service delivery and financial management of the youth project for the months ahead.

Departmental Schemes

Questions (1012)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

1012. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the budget allocated to the parent and toddler grant scheme in each of the years 2016 to 2019; and the budget allocation for same in 2020. [45256/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

Parent & Toddler Groups which are organised on a not-for-profit basis, and which involve the participation of parents in the local community, are eligible for grant aid from my Department.

These grants are available for the funding of:

- toys, equipment and books;

- training for parents, such as in paediatric first aid, committee skills and parenting courses; and

- children’s activities, including arts and crafts and music.

Limited funding is also available to contribute towards insurance, rent or minor refurbishment of the premises used by the Groups, up to a maximum of 30% of the total grant aid. These grants range from €100 to €1,000. Existing groups may apply for a maximum grant of €800. New start up groups may apply for a maximum grant of up €1000. The budget allocated to the parent and toddler grant programme in each of the years 2016 to 2020 is set out in the table below.

Programme Year

Budget Allocated Amount

Payments Granted

2016

€250,000.00

€224,419.00

2017

€250,000.00

€235,128.55

2018

€250,000.00

€244,538.00

2019

€250,000.00

€237,218.89

2020

€250,000.00

CLÁR Programme

Questions (1013)

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

1013. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development if further allocations of CLÁR funding will be awarded in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44202/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

The CLÁR programme provides funding for small infrastructural projects in rural areas which have suffered high levels of population decline. I launched the 2019 CLÁR Programme on 28th February last, with a closing date for applications of 25th April.

Applications were invited under the following measures:

Measure 1: Support for Schools/Community Safety

Measure 2: Play Areas (including Multi Use Games Areas)

Measure 3: Community Wellbeing Support comprising of:

- Measure 3(a) First Response Support

- Measure 3(b) Mobility and Cancer Care Transport

- Measure 3(c) Sensory Gardens

There was a huge level of interest in the CLÁR Programme this year and unfortunately it was not possible to fund all of the applications submitted within the budget available. Almost 500 applications to a value of over €16 million were received and I have announced funding of €6 million for 179 projects countrywide.

Given the demands on my Department's overall budget for programmes to support rural and community development, I currently have no plans to allocate further funding to CLÁR this year. However, I intend to launch a further round of CLÁR funding in 2020.

Local Improvement Scheme Applications

Questions (1014)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

1014. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the LIS scheme is now closed to new applications in a location (details supplied) due to a 15-year application backlog; his plans to invest further in such areas to clear the backlogs on the waiting list; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44325/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

I reintroduced the Local Improvement Scheme (LIS) in September 2017, after a number of years when no dedicated funding was available for the scheme. Since then, I have allocated over €48 million to Local Authorities under the scheme for improvement works on non-public roads.

The number and location of roads to benefit from improvement works under the LIS is a matter for the Local Authorities, as are the arrangements for inviting applications under the scheme.

Since 2017, I have allocated over €1.1 million to the County Council referred to by the Deputy for the completion of works on almost 60 LIS roads. This includes an allocation of €250,000 in 2019, which has not yet been drawn down by the Local Authority concerned. Funding can only be drawn down on the basis of works completed.

I am aware of the importance of the LIS to many people who live in rural Ireland, and I have secured funding for the scheme again in 2020. The amount to be allocated to each Local Authority will be announced when the scheme is launched next year.

Rural Regeneration and Development Fund Applications

Questions (1015)

Eamon Scanlon

Question:

1015. Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development when successful category 1 projects from the second call of the rural regeneration development fund will be announced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44512/19]

View answer

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 Rural Regeneration and Development Fund closed on 6th August 2019. Category 1 projects are 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.

The applications underwent assessment by my Department under the oversight of the Project Advisory Board, which includes representatives from key Government Departments as well as independent experts. On foot of this process, a report on recommended projects was submitted to me to inform my decision in relation to the allocation of funding to successful projects. Having now made my decision, I am delighted to say that the successful projects will be announced tomorrow, Wednesday 6th November 2019.

Information and Communications Technology

Questions (1016, 1017, 1018)

Alan Kelly

Question:

1016. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the number of computers in his Department that still use an operating system (details supplied) in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44716/19]

View answer

Alan Kelly

Question:

1017. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development if his Department will not be forced to pay additional premium payments to a company (details supplied) once support for an operating system expires in January 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44732/19]

View answer

Alan Kelly

Question:

1018. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development his plans to protect his Department in the event of a malware attack or security risks as a result of the failure to upgrade computers from an operating system (details supplied) in his Department and the agencies under his remit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44748/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1016 to 1018, inclusive, together.

My Department's ICT managed service is provided by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform through the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer (OGCIO).

There are currently 154 personal computing devices running the Microsoft Windows 7 operating system in my Department. I understand that all of these devices will be upgraded to Microsoft Windows 10 by the end of 2020.

In the meantime, extended support arrangements will be put in place for all devices running Windows 7 to ensure they continue to receive security updates and patches to protect against malware attack. It is expected that the cost of extended support for the period concerned will be in the region of €7,500.

Departmental Staff Data

Questions (1019)

Mattie McGrath

Question:

1019. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the number of full and part-time staff employed in his Department; the number of such staff being paid at the minimum wage rate of pay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44852/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

There are a total of 189 staff employed in the Department of Rural and Community Development. This comprises 171 staff working full-time and 18 staff working part-time. I can confirm that all officers are paid at a rate which is above the minimum wage rate of pay.

Public Procurement Contracts Data

Questions (1020)

Mattie McGrath

Question:

1020. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the details of contracts of €25,000 or more that have been awarded by his Department or bodies under his aegis that were found to be non-compliant with procurement guidelines in 2017, 2018 and to date in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45070/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

All procurement within my Department takes place in the context of national guidance, and national and EU requirements and regulations. From establishment in July 2017 to date, my Department has not awarded any contracts which were found to be non-compliant with these requirements.

With regard to the four bodies under the aegis of my Department, (Pobal, Water Safety Ireland, The Charities Regulator and the Western Development Commission), compliance with these requirements is a matter for each body. The procedures for procurement by State Bodies are set out in the code of practice for Governance of State Bodies and, in accordance with this code of practice, it is the responsibility of each Board to satisfy itself that public procurement requirements are adhered to.

In line with these responsibilities I have asked my officials to contact the agencies to provide you with the information requested by separate cover within the next 8 working days.

CLÁR Programme

Questions (1021)

Robert Troy

Question:

1021. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there is a requirement for recipients of CLÁR funding to make the funded facility open to the general public unconditionally; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that this stipulation is preventing school boards of management from applying for such funding; and if he will review this condition in respect of applications from schools, which would ensure the facility is used in the first instance by the school and thereafter by the wider community with prior agreement from the school. [45073/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

My Department was established to promote rural and community development throughout Ireland. In order to do achieve this objective, funding provided to projects should have the widest possible benefit for communities. The CLÁR programme provides funding for small scale infrastructure projects in rural areas that have experienced significant levels of de-population.

Since I reintroduced the programme in 2016, funding has been provided for a range of measures to help achieve this objective, including up to €50,000 for the enhancement or development of Play Areas and Multi-Use Games Areas (MUGAs). Eligible applicants under this measure include both schools and communities.

In order to ensure that value for money is derived from funding of projects of this nature, I believe it is appropriate that such facilities should be available to the general community and I have no plans at present to review this condition. Many schools in CLÁR areas are willing to make their playground facilities available for wider community use and have consequently received support under the programme.

LEADER Programmes Data

Questions (1022)

Anne Rabbitte

Question:

1022. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the number of LEADER-funded projects approved in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019, by county in tabular form; the level of funding for each project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45082/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

LEADER is a multi-annual programme with a budget of €250 million over the period 2014-2020. €225 million of this budget is allocated to Local Action Groups, or LAGs, who deliver the programme and approve projects at local level. This allocation includes €5 million in additional funding which I have recently allocated to the top 10 performing LAGs.

The balance of €25 million is provided for thematic projects which are approved at national level.

As of 4th November 2019, 2,494 core projects with a value of over €93 million have been approved for LEADER funding by the LAGs. A further 301 projects requesting over €26.9 million in funding are at various stages in the approval process. This funding will be drawn down as projects start to incur expenditure and submit payment claims.

In addition, over 100 Food and Co-operation projects have been approved at national level, outside of the core budget available to the LAGs

Details of all projects approved under LEADER on a county-by-county basis and the funding allocated to them are available on my Department’s website at:

https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/b849be-local-action-groups-approved-projects-2014-2020/

The information is currently being updated to show the year of approval of each project and this additional information will be available on the website on Monday, 11th November 2019.

Philanthropy Initiatives

Questions (1023)

Alan Kelly

Question:

1023. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the status of the development of a strategy on philanthropy; the stakeholders he has been engaging with in respect of same; if the development of such a strategy will include a public consultation process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45266/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

My Department has commenced work on the development of a national policy and strategy to grow and develop philanthropy in Ireland. As a first step in this process, a request for tender is in preparation to conduct research into the current landscape of philanthropic giving in Ireland and to complete an independent report providing an overview of the philanthropy sector.

The Department has engaged with key stakeholders - Philanthropy Ireland, Charities Institute Ireland and Social Innovation Fund Ireland - to seek their views on the scope of the research.

Once the body of research has been completed and the results assessed, it is intended to consult with the public on the issues arising, before preparing a National Philanthropy Policy for Government approval.

LEADER Programmes

Questions (1024)

Dara Calleary

Question:

1024. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development if he has examined enabling private applicants for LEADER funding to qualify for the grant aid rate of 75% for projects that fall under capital investment, investment and other supports including capital+ as is permitted for community applicants; the reason private applicants receive only 50% grant aid; if the 50% grant rate is a domestic or European rule; when the rule was first introduced; the corresponding regulation or circular for same; the estimated annual cost of adapting the current rate to 75%; and the definitions for private and community applicants. [45332/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

LEADER is a multi-annual programme covering the period 2014-2020 and is delivered through Local Action Groups (LAGs) in each of the 28 LEADER sub-regional areas around the country. 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 sub regional area, and it must comply with the Operating Rules and EU Regulations in place for the programme.

The LAG may award funding under all themes and sub themes of the LEADER 2014-2020 programme to a maximum rate of aid of 50% of the total project cost to both Private and Community applicants. This percentage may be increased to 75% for analysis and development type projects and to 100% for training type projects. These are maximum rates of aid and the LAG may award lower rates of aid as it considers appropriate. The LAG considers the rate of aid offered on a project-by-project basis.

Higher maximum rates of aid may be awarded to community-based projects where there is no commercial basis for the project and where the project applicant satisfies certain additional criteria.

Maximum rates of aid for the LEADER programme are set at EU level. Each Member State, can if it deems it appropriate, set lower maximum rates of aid. The setting of lower rates enables a greater number of projects to be supported from the overall funding available.

The current 50% maximum rate of aid in Ireland for project applicants (whether Private or Community applicants) where the project generates an economic activity is a national rule and was in place under all previous LEADER programmes.

Based on an analysis of private sector projects funded to date where the maximum rate of aid was 50%, my Department estimates that the application of a 75% aid rate would have cost an extra €16.5 million. This increase would have negatively impacted on the funding available to many other applicants for LEADER funding.

The decision to approve any project, including the level of funding to be awarded and the applicable rate of aid (subject to the maximum threshold limits), is a matter for the LAGs. The delineation of what constitutes a private or community project essentially hinges around the type of activity involved in each case.

Local Improvement Scheme Funding

Questions (1025)

Alan Kelly

Question:

1025. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the amount of funding allocated for LIS by county; and the amount claimed by county in 2019, in tabular form. [45367/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

The Local Improvement Scheme, or LIS, is a programme for improvement works on small private or non-public roads in rural areas. The scheme is funded by my Department and is administered through the Local Authorities.

On 7th February last I launched the 2019 LIS and allocated a sum of €10 million to Local Authorities under the scheme. The number and location of roads to benefit from improvement works in 2019 is a matter for the relevant Local Authority.

The table below outlines the funding allocated to each Local Authority for works in 2019 and the amount of funding drawn down to date in respect of each allocation. Under the terms of the scheme, Local Authorities can only draw down funding for projects that have been completed.

Local Authority

2019 Allocation

2019 Funding Drawn Down to Date

Carlow

€250,000

€0

Cavan

€269,254

€267,071

Clare

€480,811

€480,720

Cork

€900,000

€0

Donegal

€677,456

€0

Galway

€856,959

€856,959

Kerry

€669,930

€0

Kildare

€250,000

€0

Kilkenny

€288,905

€0

Laois

€250,000

€241,871

Leitrim

€250,000

€250,000

Limerick

€384,092

€0

Longford

€250,000

€0

Louth

€250,000

€125,000

Mayo

€778,496

€0

Meath

€326,394

€0

Monaghan

€250,000

€0

Offaly

€278,871

€0

Roscommon

€355,104

€354,774

Sligo

€256,154

€256,154

Tipperary

€599,969

€0

Waterford

€258,802

€258,802

Westmeath

€256,433

€256,433

Wexford

€329,878

€0

Wicklow

€282,494

€0

TOTAL

€10,000,002

€3,347,785

Public Services Card Data

Questions (1026)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

1026. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the cost of the development and implementation of the MyGovID online system; the annual maintenance cost of same; the number of MyGov accounts created to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44494/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

MyGovID is a secure online identity verification service that my Department carries out on behalf of bodies providing public services online. It allows individuals to access a range of government services more easily via a single online account and reduces the need to have multiple accounts and passwords with different public sector bodies.

The Government’s eGovernment Strategy, published in 2017, states that the widespread adoption of the Public Services Card infrastructure, including its online counterpart MyGovID, to underpin access to public services by citizens is critical to the successful delivery of the eGovernment strategy. MyGovID is also essential for Ireland to be aligned with the EU eIDAS regulation, which is a key aspect of the EU’s eGovernment Action Plan and Digital Single Market Strategy.

I am advised that here are currently 1,231,409 MyGovID users.

The cost to date of IT infrastructure and support to develop, implement and maintain the MyGovID system since its introduction in 2014 is approx. €8.1m, excluding VAT. It is expected that the maintenance costs for 2020 will be in the region of €1.3m, excluding VAT, which includes provision for service improvements and production support.

MyGovID is a valuable service which forms the central plank of the Government's eGovernment Strategy and provides access to online services from my own Department, Revenue MyAccount services, Driver Licence and Learner Permit renewals and Student Grant applications. I am pleased to note that MyGovID won both the Overall and General Award categories at the recent Ireland eGovernment awards in September 2019.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Employment Rights

Questions (1027)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Question:

1027. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if her attention has been drawn to companies that employ persons on 24-month contracts and terminate the contracts prior to the contact date, with pension investments being paid back to employers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44773/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

I have not been made aware of instances such as those referred to by the Deputy.

The Unfair Dismissals Acts 1977 to 2015 provide protection for employees from being unfairly dismissed from their jobs by laying down criteria on which the fairness or otherwise of dismissals can be judged, and by providing an adjudication system and redress for an employee whose dismissal has been found to be unjustified. The Acts apply to employees who (with certain exceptions) have had at least one year’s continuous service with the same employer.

If an employee considers that he or she has been unfairly dismissed, he or she may apply to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) for a hearing by a WRC Adjudication Officer of a case under the Unfair Dismissals Acts. If the Adjudication Officer finds that the dismissal was unfair, redress can take the form of financial compensation or re-instatement or re-engagement. A WRC Adjudication Officer's decision may be appealed by either party to the Labour Court.

The Pensions Act 1990, as amended provides for the preservation of retirement benefits for members of occupational pension schemes who leave employment before their normal pensionable age for any reason, other than death, provided they satisfy certain qualifying conditions.

Section 28 of the Pensions Act provides for an entitlement to the preservation of pension benefits where a person has completed at least two years’ qualifying service. If a person is a member of a pension scheme and has less than 2 years' qualifying service they may be obliged, when they leave service, to take a refund of the value of their own contributions less tax at the basic rate. In such circumstances, the employer contributions would be refunded back to the employer.

Some schemes may permit a person with less than 2 years’ scheme membership to leave their contributions in the scheme, even though they are not required to do so by law. Additional voluntary contributions (AVCs) are treated in the same way as main scheme benefits. Even if a person is not obliged to take a refund of contributions and have less than two years' qualifying service, they may still choose to do so.

The Pensions Authority is the regulatory body charged with the supervision of pension schemes and has the necessary powers under statute to investigate the conduct of a pension scheme should it become aware that a scheme is not in compliance with the provisions of the Pensions Act. Where a pension scheme member is of the view that the scheme is not in compliance with legislative requirements he or she may make a formal complaint to the Pensions Authority.

I hope the above clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Disability Allowance Applications

Questions (1028)

Michael Fitzmaurice

Question:

1028. Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when a decision will issue on a disability allowance application by a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44207/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

Based on the evidence supplied in support of this person’s application, her application for disability allowance (DA) was disallowed on the grounds that the medical qualifying condition was not satisfied. The person in question was notified in writing of this decision on 4 July 2019 and was also notified of their right to request a review of this decision or to appeal it to the independent Social Welfare Appeals Office (SWAO).

Further medical evidence was received and a review of this decision was carried out. The original decision was upheld and the person concerned was notified in writing on 25 October 2019. She was also advised again of her right to appeal this decision to the independent SWAO.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Citizens Information Board

Questions (1029)

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

1029. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the funding made available to the Citizens Information Board in 2019; the projected funding for the board and the National Advocacy Service for People with Disabilities in 2020; the number on waiting lists to receive support from the service; the average length of time persons are on the waiting list; the longest period a person has been waiting; and the target time to respond to requests for support by service region. [44257/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

The Citizens Information Board (CIB) is the statutory body responsible for supporting the provision of information, advice (including money and budgeting advice) and advocacy services to citizens on a wide range of public and social services. In 2019, the Citizens Information Board (CIB) has been allocated State funding of €59.26 million to fund its activities and that of its service delivery partners.

The National Advocacy Service for People with Disabilities (NAS) is funded and supported by the Citizens Information Board (CIB), which has a mandate under the Citizens Information Act 2007 to provide advocacy for people with disabilities. NAS has been allocated funding of €3,250,952 in 2019 . The projected grant for 2020 remains at the same level.

The information requested by the Deputy regarding waiting times is not readily available, therefore I have asked the CIB to provide the information directly to the Deputy when available.

NAS has a target time of 3 working days to respond to an enquiry for support and aims to meet the individual requesting advocacy support within 28 working days.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Illness Benefit Eligibility

Questions (1030)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

1030. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if a decision will be reviewed on an illness benefit application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44259/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

An application for Illness Benefit was received from the person concerned on 14 September 2019.

One of the qualifying conditions for Illness Benefit is that a person must have 39 weeks of PRSI contributions paid or credited in the relevant tax year, of which 13 must be paid contributions at class A, E or H. Alternatively, a person may have 26 weeks of PRSI contributions paid in the relevant tax year, and 26 weeks of PRSI contributions paid in the tax year immediately before the relevant tax year with all such contributions at class A, E or H.

I am advised that the person concerned does not satisfy the contribution conditions for Illness Benefit and a letter issued on 11th October 2019 explaining the position.

Upon receipt of a further query a letter issued to the person concerned on 14th October requesting the submission of information in relation to student credits and these will be assessed by the Department when it receives them.

Should the person concerned be in need of financial assistance, it is open to him to contact the Community Welfare Service at his local Intreo Centre.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.