Childcare Services

Questions (427)

Martin Heydon

Question:

427. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will report on her engagement with private childcare providers; if she will consider a framework to meet them to listen to their concerns and hopes for the future of the industry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [53873/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

I have had regular and valuable interactions with providers of early learning and care services in my tenure as Minister, while visiting services, attending conferences, in my role as a constituency TD and through formal structures I have established for this purpose. 

I established the Early Years Forum in 2016, to enable stakeholders to meet and exchange views with me, my officials and representatives of the State agencies involved in the early years sector, including Pobal and Tusla.

A number of provider representatives are members of the Forum, including Early Childhood Ireland, the National Childhood Network, the Association of Childhood Professionals, Seas Suas and the Community Forum. The Forum meets at least twice a year and provides a framework for engagement will all parts of the early years education and care sector. I also established a professionalisation sub group within the Forum to advance certain matters. The Forum affords members the opportunity to ask questions, to propose ideas and solutions, and to inform policy. I would encourage its members to actively prepare for these meetings, to add items to the agenda and to be part of the problem solving our sector currently requires.

My Department provides funding to a number of organisations to assist my Department in delivering on its objectives of improving access to high quality and affordable early learning and care and school age childcare. These include 30 City and County Childcare Committees, Early Childhood Ireland, the National Childhood Network and Childminding Ireland. Each of these organisations represents the voice of private providers and engages directly with my Department to shape our policy. 

I also engage with ICTU and IBEC through the Childcare sub-group of the Labour Employer Economic Forum, on which SIPTU participates.  

In addition to formal engagements, officials of my Department have frequent interactions with providers and their representative bodies, and keep me informed of the current issues of concern for providers, both private and community based.

Please see link below for information on the Early Years Forum, including published agendas, minutes and current membership list:

https://www.gov.ie/en/collection/51d20e-early-years-forum-agendas-minutes-and-terms-of-reference/.  

Social Enterprise Sector

Questions (428)

Robert Troy

Question:

428. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the reason a club (details supplied) was deemed ineligible to apply under the small capital grant scheme for social enterprises 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53672/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

Social enterprises are businesses whose core objective is to achieve a social, societal or environmental impact.  Like other businesses, they trade in goods or services on an ongoing basis. However, any surpluses generated by social enterprises are re-invested into achieving a social impact, rather than maximising profit for their owners.  

In October, I launched a call for proposals under a pilot Small Capital Grants Scheme for Social Enterprises.  The scheme, which is administered by the Local Development Companies on behalf of my Department, provides grants of between €2,000 and €15,000 for equipment, repairs or refurbishments to enable social enterprises to improve their service delivery.  

My Department received an overwhelming response to this call for funding, which was heavily over-subscribed.  Approximately 1,100 organisations, seeking a total amount of funding in excess of €11 million, applied for funding.  

Many applicants did not appear to meet the definition of a social enterprise set out in the National Social Enterprise Policy, which was in the guidelines and application form for the scheme.  In particular, the requirement for the enterprise to be trading on an on-going basis did not apply to a significant number of applicants.  

I understand that the organisation referred to by the Deputy was not considered by the relevant Local Development Company to meet the definition of a social enterprises and was advised accordingly by the LDC.   

On 9th December, I announced the allocation of €1 million in funding from the Dormant Accounts Fund to 124 social enterprise projects across the country under the scheme.   

Recreational Facilities Provision

Questions (429)

Brendan Smith

Question:

429. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development when new applications will be accepted under the CLÁR programme to assist in the provision of playground facilities and safety measures at schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53866/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

As the Deputy will be aware, I reopened the CLÁR programme in 2016, following a number of years when the scheme was closed for new applications.  Since then, almost €33 million has been approved for funding over 1,400 projects under the programme.

The type of projects which have been supported include:

- safety measures around schools and community facilities;

- the provision of play areas;

- supports for emergency First Responders; and

- a measure to provide vehicles to transport people to Cancer Care and respite centres.

I intend to launch a further call for proposals under CLÁR in the New Year and, in that context, I will be considering the nature of the measures to be supported.  Full details will be made available when the programme is announced.  

Departmental Staff Recruitment

Questions (430)

Mattie McGrath

Question:

430. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the number of new staff recruited to his Department from January 2019 to date; the title of each employment position; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53649/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

The number of staff recruited to the Department of Rural and Community Development from January 2019 to date is outlined in tabular form below:

Position Title

Number of Staff Hired

Principal Officer

2

Assistant Principal Officer

4

Higher Executive Officer

1

Administrative Officer

2

Executive Officer

4

Clerical Officer

10

Temporary Clerical Officer

2

Town and Village Renewal Scheme

Questions (431)

Brendan Smith

Question:

431. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development if the provision of office or workspace is eligible for assistance under the town and village renewal scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53706/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

The Town and Village Renewal Scheme is a key initiative under the Action Plan for Rural Development and is part of a range of measures to support the revitalisation of rural Ireland under the Government's Project Ireland 2040 Rural Regeneration and Development Programme.

A wide range of activities are supported through the Town and Village Renewal Scheme, including the repurposing of existing buildings in town or village centres to support job creation and/or other community use.  Applications to the scheme are made to my Department through the Local Authorities, following their consultation with local communities.  Supports are not available to private investors under the scheme.

Over 830 projects have received funding of €68 million under the Town and Village Renewal Scheme since it commenced in 2016.  I intend to launch a further call for proposals under the scheme again next year.  Details of the application process and the closing date for receipt of applications will be announced when the scheme is launched.  

Rural Regeneration and Development Fund Expenditure

Questions (432)

Martin Heydon

Question:

432. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the annual profile of expenditure of the rural regeneration fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53732/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

Under Project Ireland 2040, the Government has committed €1 billion to the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund over a 10 year period to support rural economic development and help build strong communities.  

The Fund has been allocated €315m over the period 2019 to 2022 and the various allocations over that period will be confirmed as part of the annual budgetary process. €52 million was allocated to the Fund for 2019.

Following the conclusion of the first call under the Fund in February 2019, a total of 84 successful projects had been announced, with funding of €86m provided from the Fund to support projects worth a total of €117m.  Under the recently concluded second call, another 26 projects were allocated funding of €62 million from the Fund.  These 26 projects will deliver total investment of €95 million.

Many of the projects supported to date are large scale and strategic in nature and will be delivered on a multi-annual basis.  Notwithstanding this, significant progress is being made on the implementation of the successful projects. To date, €31.3 million has been drawn down from the Fund by 65 separate projects. 

Last week I announced the second call for Category 2 applications to the Fund.  Applications can be submitted up to 12pm on Friday, 28th February 2019.  Category 2 relates to development support to enable projects to become ready to apply for Category 1, which supports the delivery and completion of capital projects which have full planning permission and other necessary consents in place.  

Departmental Advertising Data

Questions (433)

Robert Troy

Question:

433. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the amount spent on advertising in 2018 and to date in 2019 on Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53750/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

My Department has not incurred any expenditure on advertising in relation to Brexit within the period specified.

Personal Injury Claims

Questions (434)

Robert Troy

Question:

434. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development if the personal injuries pay outs will be published for properties under the ownership of his Department in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019, in tabular form. [53798/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

My Department was established on 19 July 2017 and has two office locations, in Trinity Point in Dublin and at Government Buildings in Ballina.

Both properties are leased on the Department's behalf by the Office of Public Works. There is currently no property under the ownership of my Department and therefore there are no such personal injury payouts to report on during the period in question.

Walks Scheme

Questions (435)

Tony McLoughlin

Question:

435. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development when payments will be made to the landowners on the O'Sullivan Beare Walkway by his Department in view of the fact the payment is anticipated by landowners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53831/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

My Department administers the Walks Scheme which was originally launched in March 2008. The Scheme includes 1,962 landholders as key participants in the provision of 39 high quality walking trails, by contracting them to undertake maintenance work on sections of National Waymarked Ways and other priority walks that traverse their lands. The landholders receive modest payments for maintenance work undertaken in line with agreed work plans.  A number of trails currently included in the scheme form part of the Beara Breifne Way, which runs from Cork to Cavan.

Payment to landholders on the scheme are made by my Department twice yearly and all payments due in respect of the 39 walks currently on the scheme have been paid for this year.

Earlier this month I announced the addition of 10 new trails to the Walks Scheme. These trails constitute the first phase of an expansion that will see the Walks Scheme doubling in size to 80 trails when all phases of the expansion are complete. A number of the new trails coming onto the Scheme in this first phase comprise parts of the Beara Breifne Way. 

The Walks Scheme is administered at a local level by Local Development Companies on behalf of my Department. The Local Development Companies will engage with the relevant landholders to develop work plans for the sections of trails that traverse their land. 

It is expected that these work plans will be developed early in the New Year so that the relevant landholders can be formally brought into the scheme and be eligible for payment.  

Departmental Expenditure

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A

Questions (436)

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

436. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the capital expenditure by his Department in County Louth and east County Meath by location and facility provided or commenced in each of the past four years; the location and purpose of each such expenditure; the new and improved services provided as a result; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53849/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

My Department has provided total capital expenditure of €4,084,592 to Co. Louth and €5,772,140 to Co. Meath during the period in question. Due to the volume of information requested by the Deputy in respect of the breakdown of individual projects, I am providing this material directly to his office.

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A.

Community Services Programme Funding

Questions (437)

Ruth Coppinger

Question:

437. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development if low pay in the community centre sector will be examined; if these workers will be in receipt of a pay increase; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53871/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

Community Centres throughout the country have staff funded through various schemes, for example the Community Services Programme, the Rural Social Scheme, the Community Employment Programme and Tús. Each scheme has different qualifying criteria and funding rates. My Department has responsibility for the Community Services Programme (CSP) while the other schemes are under the remit of the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection.

The CSP supports qualifying organisations by providing a fixed annual contribution towards the cost of an agreed number of full-time equivalent (FTE) positions including a manager where warranted. €32,000 per annum is provided towards the costs for the manager position and €19,033 per annum towards each FTE position.  

The CSP contribution does not meet the full salary cost of supported posts.  It is a fixed annual contribution that must be co-funded by the organisations concerned from other sources, for example, from income generated from the use of facilities and services provided. Moreover, all internal operational matters, including general employment issues and salary levels relating to CSP supported posts are solely matters for the Boards of those organisations to manage as the respective employers.  Organisations supported by the CSP are obliged, under the terms of the programme, to pay their employees at least the minimum wage level.  

Indecon Consultants are carrying out an independent review of the CSP programme, on behalf of my Department, which is nearing completion.  The review will examine, among other things, the programme's qualifying criteria and income generation requirements.  It will help inform decisions on the future shape and structure of the programme.

In the meantime, I have provided over €1 million in additional supports this year under the CSP Support Fund, to help to address the financial challenges faced by many of the smaller organisations supported by the CSP.  

Fire Safety

Questions (438)

Ruth Coppinger

Question:

438. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development if he will report on the interaction with community centres (details supplied) on the issue of necessary fire safety works. [53872/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

I am aware of the issues in both Hartstown and Huntstown Community Centres.  In cooperation with Fingal County Council, my officials are looking at ways in which my Department might assist in finding a resolution to these particular situations. 

Previously, I was asked about the possibility of opening a national fund for the purpose of supporting community centres that have emergency funding requirements for fire safety works.  I am pleased to inform the Deputy that, under the Dormant Accounts Action Plan for 2020, I have now put in place a very modest fund of €250,000 to assist in a limited number of particularly critical cases.

Given the large number of community centres across the country, it is not possible for this fund to support a national programme of remediation works.  However, it will allow me to make a contribution towards the costs of works in a small number of exceptionally urgent and critical cases.  In that regard, I am prepared to examine what level of funding contribution can be provided to the two centres referenced by the Deputy.

Separately, community facilities are funded from different sources across different Government Departments and agencies.  In many cases, they also receive funding supports from the local authority, as is the case in both Hartstown and Huntstown. 

My Department provides a range of supports to communities nationwide, helping people to participate in the development of their communities and providing funding to improve community facilities.  

An example of this is the Community Enhancement Programme (CEP) which can be used to contribute towards the renovation of community infrastructure such as community centres.   Fingal County Council was allocated €163,310 in respect of the CEP in 2019.  

Cycling Facilities Funding

Questions (439)

Martin Heydon

Question:

439. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the funding streams available for cycle lanes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53878/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

Responsibility for the provision of cycle lanes on public roads is a matter for the Local Authorities. 

However, the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport provides funding for national and regional greenways and oversees the Government's strategy for the development of such greenways.  Greenways are not exclusively confined to cyclists, but are open to other users such as walkers and wheelchair users.

My Department has provided funding for shorter local greenways, as well as cycle tracks and other trails, under the Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme and the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund.  Cycleways have also been included as components of regeneration projects funded under the Town and Village Renewal Scheme. 

These are competitive funds which have operated on the basis of regular calls for proposals over the last number of years.  

Free Travel Scheme

Questions (440)

James Browne

Question:

440. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if a person (details supplied) can arrange to have a bus pass reinstated; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [53467/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

The previous entitlement of the person concerned to a Free Travel Pass was linked to their Disability Allowance payment. Under the Make Work Pay initiative, the person is entitled to retain their Free Travel Pass for a period of 5 years after taking up employment. The persons Free Travel has accordingly been reinstated.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.  

Household Benefits Scheme

Questions (441)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

441. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if a household benefits package will be transferred to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [53472/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

An application form for the Household Benefits Package has issued to the person concerned. 

On receipt of the completed application, their entitlement will be examined.  The person will be notified, in writing, of the outcome. 

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

State Pension (Non-Contributory) Appeals

Questions (442)

Robert Troy

Question:

442. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if an appeal for State pension (non-contributory) by a person (details supplied) will be expedited. [53475/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

My Department has no record of receiving an appeal from the person concerned. 

Following a review, the person's claim for state pension (non-contributory) was awarded, with effect from 7 September 2018, on 31 October 2019.   The person concerned was notified of this decision in writing and their due arrears of pension were issued to the person concerned on 14 November 2019. 

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy. 

Departmental Communications

Questions (443)

Michael McGrath

Question:

443. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if her Department is responsible for and responsive to enquiries from the general public as to tracing their unclaimed pension entitlements; if the host mailing service and associated efforts are limited solely to inquiries from pension scheme administrators; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [53541/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

My Department has arrangements in place to assist with identifying pension schemes members.

Where the administrator of a pension scheme or a life company is unable to trace a member using their own resources, they can use my Department’s host mailing service. This is a contact only service whereby my Department forwards letters which contain minimal information to the last known address of a pension scheme member.

The pension provider must have made an unsuccessful attempt to contact the scheme member and my Department will only forward letters to the last known address of the member, based on its records.

It is important to note that, in all such cases, the Department does not share personal data with any third party, and relies on Article 6(f) of the GDPR to perform the communication with the customer.

The Department does not hold information on individuals' private pension entitlements and, therefore, the host mailing service cannot help individuals trace unclaimed pensions.  If a person believes that they may have an unclaimed pension entitlement, they should contact their former employers and/or pension scheme providers.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Carer's Allowance Applications

Questions (444)

Robert Troy

Question:

444. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if an application for carer's allowance by a person (details supplied) will be expedited. [53553/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

Carer's allowance (CA) is a means-tested social assistance payment made to a person who is habitually resident in the State and who is providing full-time care and attention to a child or an adult who has such a disability that as a result they require that level of care.

I confirm that my department received an application for CA from the person concerned on 18 June 2019.  Additional information in relation to the person’s application was requested by a deciding officer on 20 November 2019.

It is a condition for receipt of CA that every claimant shall furnish such certificates, documents, information and evidence as may be required for the purposes of deciding the claim.  The person concerned failed to provide the information requested.

It is also a condition for receipt of CA that the person being cared for must have such disability that they require full-time care and attention. This is defined as requiring from another person, continual supervision and frequent assistance throughout the day in connection with normal bodily functions or continual supervision in order to avoid danger to him or herself and likely to require that level of care for at least twelve months.

The evidence submitted in support of this application was examined and the deciding officer decided that this evidence did not indicate that the requirement for full-time care was satisfied.

The person concerned was notified on 13 December 2019 that they do not qualify for CA, the reasons for it and of her right of review and appeal. 

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.  

Carer's Allowance Appeals

Questions (445)

Bobby Aylward

Question:

445. Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of a carer's allowance appeal lodged in respect of person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [53577/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 25 July 2019. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection.  These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 11 September 2019. The case was referred to an Appeals Officer on 4 October 2019 and I am advised that the decision of the Appeals Officer in this case will issue in the very near future. 

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.  

Carer's Allowance Appeals

Questions (446)

Bobby Aylward

Question:

446. Deputy Bobby Aylward 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. [53597/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 2 July 2019.   It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 30 August 2019. The case was referred to an Appeals Officer on 4 October 2019 and I am advised that the decision of the Appeals Officer in this case will issue in the very near future. 

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.