Carer's Allowance

Questions (183)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

183. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection the status of a carer’s allowance application by a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26096/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

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 can confirm that my department received an application for CA from the person concerned on 27 July 2020.

To qualify for CA, the Carer must show that they are habitually resident in the State, that they are providing full-time care and attention to a person who requires this level of care and that their means are less than the statutory limit.

Additional information in relation to the person’s application was requested by a Deciding Officer on 13 August 2020. On receipt of correspondence regarding the information request, a letter from the hospital confirming admittance and discharge dates was requested from the person concerned on 26 August 2020.

Once the information is received the application will be processed without delay and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

I hope this clarifies the position for the Deputy.

Social Welfare Benefits

Questions (184)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

184. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection if a diet supplement payment will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26103/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The person concerned applied for a diet supplement on 29/11/2019.

It was refused on 02/12/2019 on the grounds that the Diet Supplement is closed to new entrants since 2014.

I trust this clarifies the position for the Deputy.

Rent Data

Questions (185)

Eoin Ó Broin

Question:

185. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of active rent supplement payments. [26113/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

Rent supplement continues to play a key role in supporting families and individuals in private rented accommodation, with the scheme currently supporting some 19,600 active recipients.

The scheme provides short-term income support to eligible people living in private rented accommodation whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source. The scheme ensures that those who were renting, but whose circumstances have changed due to temporary loss of employment or income, can continue to meet their rental commitments.

Since the introduction of HAP, Rent Supplement continues to revert to original role of providing short-term support to those who have become temporarily unemployed and require income support to meet their tenancy cost whilst they seek alternative employment.

I trust this clarifies the position for the Deputy.

Carer's Allowance

Questions (186)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

186. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection if a decision has been made on a carer’s support grant appeal in respect of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26117/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The Carer's Support Grant is an annual payment made to carers by my Department.

I can confirm that my department received an application for the Carer’s Support Grant (CSG) for 2018 from the person concerned on 13 March 2020.

It is a condition of the Carers Support Grant that a person may apply for the grant in any given year from 8 weeks before the date on which the grant is payable up to the 31 of December the following year.

The person concerned was notified on 31 March 2020 that her application for 2018 was disallowed on the grounds that is was a late claim.

My department was notified on 8 June 2020 that the person concerned had appealed this decision to the Social Welfare Appeals Office (SWAO). A submission in support of the decision was forwarded to the SWAO on 8 June 2020.

On 14 September the SWAO notified the person concerned that her appeal was disallowed.

Under Social Welfare legislation, the decision of an Appeals Officer is final and conclusive and may only be reviewed in the light of relevant additional evidence or new facts.

I hope this clarifies the position for the Deputy.

Social Welfare Benefits

Questions (187)

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

187. Deputy Kieran O'Donnell asked the Minister for Social Protection the status of arrears owed to a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26119/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

Since the introduction of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment scheme in March, approx. 750,000 people have applied for payment and in some cases, they have done so on a number of occasions as they moved in and out of employment. Consequently, there are over 1 million applications to be examined to determine if arrears are due.

In order to address an issue of this scale, the Department is currently developing an automated process, which will examine each case and look at their overall entitlement to payment and match this against their payment history. The work involved is complex as the Pandemic Unemployment Payment system itself evolved from a manual applications system to one where applications were submitted online and paid over two different payment platforms (one from March to July and the second from July to date).

Given the complexity attached to the project, it will take some time yet to complete the necessary development work to review all cases and to determine to what extent, if any, arrears are due to individuals. It is hoped to make the arrears payments before the end of this year.

Fuel Allowance

Questions (188)

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

188. Deputy Kieran O'Donnell asked the Minister for Social Protection if a person (details supplied) has an entitlement to the fuel allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26132/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The person concerned is currently in receipt of a basic Supplementary Welfare Allowance payment of €70.00 per week. This amount is a “top up” to Graduated Illness Benefit of €131.00 per week. The Community Welfare Officer will contact him regarding a Fuel Allowance.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Questions (189)

Claire Kerrane

Question:

189. Deputy Claire Kerrane asked the Minister for Social Protection the process undertaken to issue arrears due to recipients and former recipients of the pandemic unemployment payment; the length of time the process will take; if additional staff will be employed to assist with the task; when the first payments of arrears will issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26136/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

Since the introduction of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment scheme in March, approximately 750,000 people have applied for payment and in some cases, they have done so on a number of occasions as they moved in and out of employment. Consequently, there are over 1 million applications to be examined to determine if arrears are due.

During the month of March, my Department received and processed jobseeker claims equivalent in number to a three year claim-load. These applications were processed as quickly as possible, with almost 59,000 people paid in the first week of the scheme, 283,000 people paid in the following week, and over 507,000 people in the third week of the scheme.

My Department is keenly aware that many people are due some arrears and that every case will be different. In order to address an issue of this scale, the Department is currently developing an automated process, which will examine each case and look at their overall entitlement to payment and match this against their payment history. The work involved is complex as the Pandemic Unemployment Payment system itself evolved from a manual applications system to one where applications were submitted online and paid over two different payment platforms (one from March to July and the second from July to date).

Given the complexity attached to the project, it will take some time yet to complete the necessary development work to review all cases and to determine to what extent, if any, arrears are due to individuals. I can assure the Deputy that this is a priority for the Department and it is hoped to make payments before end of the year .

I hope that this clarifies matters for the Deputy.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Questions (190)

Louise O'Reilly

Question:

190. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Social Protection if workers at an airline (details supplied) that were in receipt of the temporary wage support scheme and on significantly reduced working days will have their claims for short term work support backdated for the period for which they were in receipt of the temporary wage support scheme. [26185/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

Where an employee has had a reduction in their days of employment, subject to satisfying the relevant eligibility criteria, they may claim casual jobseeker payments or Short-Time Work Support payments for days of unemployment, where their employer is claiming the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme for days of employment.

Officials from my Department have engaged directly with the company referred to by the Deputy and decisions on these claims are being prioritised so that claims are put into payment as quickly as possible.

Decisions around entitlement to social welfare claims for periods prior to the introduction of the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme on 1 September will depend on meeting the eligibility conditions, including satisfying the Department with regard to days of unemployment. Applications are assessed on an individual basis and the Department will notify each individual of the outcome of its decision.I trust this sets out the position.

Child Support Payments

Questions (191)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

191. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection her views on a matter (details supplied) in relation to children allowance payments; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26191/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

Child benefit is a monthly payment made to families with children in respect of all qualified children up to the age of 16 years. The payment continues to be paid in respect of children who are in full-time education, or who have a disability, until their 18th birthday. Child benefit is currently paid, as of end-August 2020, to over 638,244 families in respect of over 1.2 million children. The estimated expenditure on Child Benefit in 2020 is in excess of €2 billion.

Distinct rates of payment in respect of multiple births have been a feature of the child benefit scheme for many years. It is linked to the additional costs that arise in cases of multiple births compared to other households with the same number of children but of different ages.

The higher level of support extended to parents of children of multiple births is therefore important, especially when considered over an entire childhood.

The current rates of child benefit are as follows:

- One Child €140

- Twins €210 for each child (1½ times the single rate for one child)

- Other multiple births €280 for each child (double the rate for one child)

Families on low incomes may be able to avail of a number of social welfare schemes that support children in full-time education until the age of 22, including:

- Increase for a Qualified Child (IQCs) with primary social welfare payments;

- the Working Family Payment for low-paid employees with children;

- the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance.

These schemes provide targeted assistance that is directly linked to household income and thereby support low-income families with older children participating in full-time education. Further information about these schemes and other supports available to families can be found in the guide to schemes and services for families and children published by my Department and which is available at the following link:

https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/40a7f-families-and-children/

Changes to any of the rates of child benefit payable would incur significant costs and would have to be considered in an overall budgetary context.

Early Childhood Care and Education

Questions (192)

Seán Crowe

Question:

192. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration if flexibility will be shown to a person (details supplied) who has missed out on an EECE scheme place by three days. [26102/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

The ECCE programme provides universal free pre-school for all children. The ECCE programme rules specify the age which a child must reach before starting ECCE, which is 2 years and 8 months on or prior to 31 August of the relevant programme year to be eligible for the September start date. Age limits have been used to determine eligibility since the inception of the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme in 2010.

My Department does its best to ensure the equitable treatment of all children and families who apply for childcare funding under the ECCE Programme. In order to ensure objectivity and fairness, it is essential that clear rules exist for the scheme and that they are applied consistently.

Childcare Services

Questions (193)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

193. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration if information will be provided to a person (details supplied) in relation to a Montessori school. [26130/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

Pobal is responsible for the administration of the various early learning and care and school aged childcare schemes provided by my Department. Pobal has informed my Department that the registration process has been completed for the child referred to by the Deputy.

An official from my Department has contacted the service provider to inform them that this matter has been resolved.

Health Professions Admission Test

Questions (194)

Neasa Hourigan

Question:

194. Deputy Neasa Hourigan asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science if consideration will be given to those who sat the 2020 health professions admissions test, HPAT, exam to use their 2020 HPAT results to gain entry into medicine and health professions degree programs in 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26069/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

The HPAT is independently administered by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) on behalf of the universities’ medical schools and the RCSI. The selection criteria and process for admission to medical schools is a matter for those institutions in line with their statutory autonomy in relation to academic affairs.

I understand that students choose to sit the 2020 Leaving Certificate exams in November and who receive an improved CAO offer on foot of these results will receive a deferred offer to start their course in the 2021/22 academic year. Such offers are part of the 2020 application cycle, and will use the results of the 2020 HPAT sitting. However neither I nor my Department have a function in the administration of the HPAT, or in deciding the length of time for which HPAT results are valid.

Student Universal Support Ireland

Questions (195)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Question:

195. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science if SUSI applications for the 2021-2022 academic year will consider the fact that many students were on the Covid-19 payment due to the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic (details supplied). [26093/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

The main support available to students is the statutory based Student Grant Scheme where students are studying for the first time or are progressing to study at a higher level e.g. progressing to postgraduate study. To qualify for grant support, a student has to meet various criteria such as means, residency, nationality and progression. The decision on eligibility for a student grant is a matter, in the first instance, for the centralised student grant awarding authority SUSI (Student Universal Support Ireland) to determine.

Applications for 2020/2021 academic year are currently being assessed. The eligibility criteria for student grants are reviewed annually by the Department and approved by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. All proposals made in relation to education expenditure, including student grants, will be considered in the context of Budget 2021.

For the 2020/21 academic year, student grant applications will be assessed based on gross income from all sources for the period 1 January 2019 to 31 December 2019. However, if a student or party to their application experiences a change in circumstances that is not a temporary change and is likely to continue for the foreseeable future, they can apply to have their application assessed under the change in circumstances provision, Article 32 of the Student Grant Scheme 2020 of the relevant Student Grant Scheme. Further information in relation to student grant assistance is available from SUSI’s website, www.susi.ie. The telephone number for SUSI’s Helpdesk is 0761 087 874.

A postgraduate student may qualify to have a €2,000 contribution made towards the cost of fees. The income threshold for this payment is €31,500 for the 2020/21 academic year, increasing relative to the number of family dependents. A postgraduate student who may qualify for the special rate of grant under the Student Grant Scheme may be eligible to have their post graduate tuition fees paid up to the maximum fee limit of €6,270.

If an individual applicant considers that she/he has been unjustly refused a student grant, or that the rate of grant awarded is not the correct one, she/he may appeal, in the first instance, to SUSI.

Where an individual applicant has had an appeal turned down in writing by an appeals officer in SUSI and remains of the view that the scheme has not been interpreted correctly in his/her case, an appeal may be submitted to the independent Student Grants Appeals Board within the required timeframe (i.e. not later than 30 days after the notification of the determination of the appeals officer to the applicant). Such appeals can be made by the appellant on line via

www.studentgrantappeals.ie.

Apart from the Student Grant Scheme, the Deputy will be aware of the recently announced €168m funding package for the return to education. This package includes a €10m access support package for higher education students. I have approved the allocation of €8.1m of this funding to top up the Student Assistance Fund (SAF). The SAF assists students in a sensitive and compassionate manner, who might otherwise be unable to continue their third level studies due to their financial circumstances. Institutions have the autonomy to maximise the flexibility in the Student Assistance Fund to enable HEIs to support students during the COVID-19 situation. Details of this fund are available from the Access Office in the third level institution attended.

Tax relief at the standard rate of tax may be claimed in respect of tuition fees paid for approved courses at approved colleges of higher education including approved undergraduate and postgraduate courses in EU Member States and in non-EU countries. Further information on this tax relief is available from a student's local Tax office or from the Revenue Commissioners website www.revenue.ie

Student Universal Support Ireland

Questions (196)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

196. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science if and when a review can be undertaken of the refusal of a SUSI grant to a person (details supplied); if the circumstances could be urgently reviewed and taken into account with a view to awarding the SUSI grant in this case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26028/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

As part of a comprehensive customer service and communications strategy provided by Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI), to ensure that all necessary avenues are open to applicants to receive the information they need, a dedicated email and phone line service is provided by SUSI for Oireachtas members. This was established to meet an identified need for applicants who choose to engage the assistance of their public representatives in making enquiries about their grant applications. This service, which was set up at the behest of Oireachtas members, complements the established channels provided by SUSI which include online application tracking, a dedicated website, a telephone helpdesk, email and social media, including Facebook and Twitter. Enquiries may be emailed direct to SUSI at oireachtas@susi.ie. Staff in SUSI are responding to email queries within a matter of days.

With regard to the specific application, I have been advised by my officials that the student in question submitted an application to SUSI. The application was subsequently refused on the 16/09/2020 as the appeals officer determined that there is no basis to apply a change of circumstances with regard to the current grant applicantion.

Under Section 21 of the Student Support Act 2011 the applicant has a further right to appeal to the Student Grants Appeals Board. The applicant is required to submit his appeal within 30 days of the date of the letter from SUSI. Appeals to the Student Grants Appeals Board may be submitted through an online process available at www.studentgrantappeals.ie . To date no appeal has been received by the Board from the applicant.

Technological Universities

Questions (197)

Darren O'Rourke

Question:

197. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science if his attention has been drawn to a proposal to help alleviate the shortage of medical scientists by way of a graduate-entry course at Technological University Dublin; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that TU Dublin is preparing for an initial intake of students in January 2020; the measures he will take to ensure sufficient staff are in position to deliver the course; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26081/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

TU Dublin is an autonomous higher education institution (HEI) within the meaning of the Technological Universities Act 2018. As such the management of the technological university's academic affairs, including the curriculum and instruction and education provided by the technological university are matters for TU Dublin.

My Department allocates funding to the Higher Education Authority (HEA) for direct disbursement to designated HEIs. The HEA allocates this funding as a block grant to the institutions, and as autonomous bodies, the internal disbursement of this funding, including the funding of course delivery, is a matter for the individual institution. Neither I as Minister nor my Department has any role in relation to this matter.

My Department understands that TU Dublin, in consultation with the Academy of Clinical Science and Laboratory Medicine (ACSLM) and the Medical Scientist Profession is developing a postgraduate entry route to medical science, with a potential first intake of up to 20 students in January 2021. The new postgraduate programme must meet the requirements of the Statutory Regulator CORU, and the programme must be resourced to ensure that it meets the ‘Criteria and Standards of Proficiency’ as set by the Medical Scientists Registration Board of CORU. It is understood that TU Dublin has approved an additional staffing resource for delivery of the programme and is collaborating with the ACSLM in negotiating training stipends with the Health Service Executive (HSE) for the postgraduate entry students and awaits formal HSE agreement in this regard.

Student Grant Scheme

Questions (198)

Robert Troy

Question:

198. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science if supports will be made available for a mature student (details supplied). [26107/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

Under the terms of the Student Grant Scheme, grant assistance is awarded to students attending an approved course in an approved institution who meet the prescribed conditions of funding, including those relating to nationality, residency, progression, previous academic attainment and means.

To satisfy the terms and conditions of the student grant scheme in relation to progression, a student must be moving from year to year within a course, having successfully completed the previous year or be transferring from one course to another where the award for the subsequent course is of a higher level than the previous course.

Under the progression/previous academic attainment criteria of the scheme, a grant will not be paid to a student for a repeat period of study on the same course, or for a different course at the same level, irrespective of whether or not a grant was paid previously. The objective of this policy is to help as many students as possible to obtain one qualification at each level of study.

Further information in relation to student grant assistance is available from SUSI’s website, www.susi.ie. The telephone number for SUSI’s Helpdesk is 0761 087 874.

If the person to whom the Deputy refers is ineligible for a SUSI grant, there are some other options which could be pursued. Students in third-level institutions experiencing exceptional financial need can apply for support under the Student Assistance Fund. This Fund assists students, in a sensitive and compassionate manner, who might otherwise be unable to continue their third level studies due to their financial circumstances. Details of this fund are available from the Access Office in the college attended. This fund is administered on a confidential, discretionary basis.

Also, tax relief at the standard rate of tax may be claimed in respect of tuition fees paid for approved courses at approved colleges of higher education, including approved postgraduate courses in EU Member States and in non-EU countries. Further information on this tax relief is available from the Revenue Commissioners on www.revenue.ie.

Third Level Education

Questions (199)

Mattie McGrath

Question:

199. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the industries, that is, education, health, information technologies, financial services, legal services and so on which provide payment to students for their work as part of their college degree; the person or body responsible for issuing payment to students; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26125/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) are governed by the Universities Act 1997, the Institutes of Technologies Acts 1992 to 2006 and the Technological Universities Act 2018. Within the meaning of these Acts, HEIs are autonomous with regard to the management of their academic affairs and as such retain the right to determine their own procedures, criteria and processes.

Arrangements relating to the provision of work placements and the issuing of payments are a matter for the relevant HEI and the relevant employers. As such, my Department does not have a role in the such matters.

Third Level Admissions

Questions (200)

Denis Naughten

Question:

200. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science if he will make additional third-level places available in high demand courses to ensure that students that were downgraded in their leaving certificate exam through standardisation do not lose out on a college place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26154/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

In order to help mitigate the impact of the changes to the grading system, I announced the creation of an additional 2,225 places on high-demand courses in Higher Education Institutions. These places have resulted in the highest ever number of applicants receiving a CAO offers, with 53,815 CAO applicants receiving round one offers on Friday 11th September.

It is not envisaged that any places further to these 2,225 will be provided.

A summary of the additional places provided, by subject area, is available in the table below:

Subject Area

Additional Places

Architecture

23

Arts & Humanities

476

Business

430

Creative Arts

41

Dentistry

18

Education

170

Engineering

313

Law

142

Music

9

Science

220

Information Technology

31

Nursing

134

Medicine, Health & Physical

218

Total

2225

Third Level Admissions

Questions (201)

Holly Cairns

Question:

201. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science if his attention has been drawn to universities limiting the number of students that can defer their places; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26230/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

Higher Education Institutions are autonomous with regard to their academic and administrative affairs, including in relation to admissions. Therefore any limits on the number of deferrals are a matter for the HEIs themselves and neither I nor my Department have a role in this matter.

I understand, based on the information available to me, that some HEIs are placing limits on the proportion of students in any given course that can defer a place until next year. This is to avoid a situation in which the number of places available to students applying in 2021 is significantly lessened due to deferrals. Students who are unable to defer their entry can re-apply to the CAO during the 2021 application cycle.

Third Level Education

Questions (202)

Holly Cairns

Question:

202. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science if his attention has been drawn to communications from NUI Galway to postgraduate research students for them to undertake unpaid teaching contributions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26231/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

Universities are autonomous institutions within the meaning of the Universities Act 1997 and the management of their academic affairs, including the delivery of course,s are matters for the individual institutions.

In this context the Department understands that NUI Galway offers an accredited blended-learning training course on demonstrating/tutoring to assist in improving teaching skills. NUI Galway PhD students are required to make contributions of a maximum of 120 hours per year (approximately 5 hours per week over 24 weeks) over three academic years, without extra payment. A range of activities can be included such as taking tutorial groups, demonstrating at practical classes, co-supervising undergraduate projects and student mentoring. Hours may be included that are spent in class preparation, advising, monitoring student projects, and correcting projects, notebooks or essays and will vary according to School/Discipline norms. The allocation of teaching contribution is managed at academic unit level (Discipline/School/College). Students in receipt of research grants comply with the terms of their funding award. Contributing to teaching is an integral part of the training of a research Master’s or PhD student. Teaching contribution assists in the acquisition of generic and transferable skills, as described in the National Framework for Doctoral Education and in the PhD Graduate Skills Statement from the Irish Universities Association. NUI Galway states that while contributing to teaching is part of the training of a research Master’s or PhD student, the core component of their research programmes is the advancement of knowledge through original research.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (203, 204)

Holly Cairns

Question:

203. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science if all higher education institutions are implementing a physical distance of 2 m under all circumstances possible as required in the Implementation Guidelines for Public Health Measures in Higher Education Institutions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26232/20]

View answer

Holly Cairns

Question:

204. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science his views on whether the exemption for the physical distance of 2 m for students in higher education institutions in the Implementation Guidelines for Public Health Measures in Higher Education Institutions applies to classroom or lecture theatre settings (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26233/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 203 and 204 together.

To support the return to college in 2020, on July 22nd my Department published its three-pillar series of guides for returning to on-site learning in 2021, which consisted of a high-level roadmap, a COVID-19 adaptation framework, and practical guidance for returning to on-site activity. This unique three-pillar approach was developed in close consultation with agencies, stakeholders, provider representative bodies and social partners.

These guides have since been supplemented by Implementation Guidelines developed by experts within the higher education sector, and endorsed by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, published on August 5th. These guidelines can be further updated and modified as the public health situation evolves.

Both our own guidance for returning to on-site activity and the Implementation Guidelines state that social distancing of 2 metres should be maintained where possible.. However it is recognised that there will be circumstances under which tuition cannot realistically be delivered while maintaining 2m distance between students, and the Implementation Guidelines include provisions for reduced social distancing in certain situations with clearly specified mitigation measures such as the wearing of face coverings to minimise the risk of viral transmission. The full range of recommended mitigation measures are clearly outlined in the Implementation Guidelines and all of the measures are directed at ensuring the safety of staff and students. The overarching priority of all involved is to safeguard public health in the return to on-campus learning.

It is not intended for my Department to review or approve specific measures put in place by individual institutions. The diversity and flexibility of the Higher Education sector has been key in driving responsive and adaptable approaches to the challenges created by the pandemic. The guidance that has been provided is designed to allow HEIs to leverage that flexibility to adapt to a evolving situation, and change their approach in accordance with the latest health advice.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (205)

Holly Cairns

Question:

205. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science if research will be funded into the psychological and emotional impacts of Covid-19 and the restrictions on society, including persons that contracted the disease. [26234/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

The outcomes of the first Rapid Response Call to COVID-19 that ran under the national coordinated research and innovation response to the pandemic were announced in April 2020. The Irish Research Council and the Health Research Board jointly funded a strand of this call, which focused on the development of medical countermeasures, health service readiness, and social and political countermeasures to COVID-19. A total of 21 projects were selected under the joint HRB/IRC strand with an investment of €3.4 million. The projects funded include -

- How to support mental health among frontline healthcare workers in a pandemic is being led by NUIG's Professor Brian McGuire, and looks at the importance of protecting the mental health of frontline healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

- Why don’t we keep our distance? Evidence for more effective communication in the pandemic is being led by Dr Gerard Molloy at NUI Galway, and uses expertise in behaviour change interventions to gather information about how different groups in society feel about physical distancing, and how future communications could be tailored to encourage greater adherence in order to manage the COVID-19 pandemic.

- Impact of Covid 19 on Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and Caregivers is being led by Dr Christine Linehan at UCD and outlines research to explore the impact of COVID-19 on individuals who have intellectual and developmental disabilities and their caregivers.

The full list of the funded projects are attached.

Projects funded under IRC HRB Covid call

Crime Data

Questions (206)

Holly Cairns

Question:

206. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the number of sexual harassment or assault cases of students and staff in each third level educational institution between 1 January 2013 and 1 July 2020, in tabular form. [26235/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

Statistics of this nature have not historically been collected on a systematic basis from the higher education sector. However, in 2019 information was collected which highlighted the following data in respect of 19 institutions, where information was available. The specific actions adjudged necessary and taken as a result of any such incident are matters for each higher education institution (HEI).

Sexual assault or harassment disclosed / reported by students

Year

2013/14

2014/15

2015/16

2016/17

2017/18

2018/19

Number

13

15

15

10

36

31

Sexual assault / harassment cases involving students investigated by HEIs

Year

2013/14

2014/15

2015/16

2016/17

2017/18

2018/19

Number

3

7

10

2

12

15

In August 2020, I wrote to the Presidents of all publicly funded HEIs in relation to strengthening the implementation of the Framework for Consent in HEIs; Safe, Respectful, Supportive and Positive: Ending Sexual Harassment in Irish Higher Education Institutions, which was launched in April 2019.

I have requested that all HEIs develop and publish, by February 2021, specific institutional action plans on tackling sexual violence and harassment. These actions plans will involve the implementation of systems that record the number of incidents of bullying, intimidation or harassment including sexual harassment reported in each institution.

The Higher Education Authority has oversight of the Framework for Consent, and institutions will be required to report annually to the Authority once the institutional action plans are in place.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (207, 208)

Holly Cairns

Question:

207. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the definition of enhanced protective measures to be implemented by higher and further education institutions in view of heightened Covid-19 restrictions in Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26236/20]

View answer

Holly Cairns

Question:

208. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the enhanced protective measures that have been implemented by higher and further education institutions in view of heightened Covid-19 restrictions in Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26237/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 207 and 208 together.

Last week in the light of the deterioration in the COVID-19 situation in Dublin, following NPHET’s request, Government asked that higher and further education institutions consider enhanced protective measures.

In the light of this request, additional protections are being introduced which will see a more gradual reopening of higher and further education facilities in Dublin. Individual institutions have revised their plans and are communicating with students. The following overall approach will be adopted for the initial period ahead:

- Institutions will use discretion when deciding between onsite and remote for the scheduling of particular activities where remote delivery is feasible during this period.

- On site provision will be minimised with priority given to teaching and learning that can only take place on-site.

- This will include teaching and research in laboratories, practical tuition and workshops and for skills-based learning (including in relation to apprenticeship)

- It will also include limited planned on-site attendance for other priority student cohorts at intervals for specific purposes and with avoidance of congregation. This may include small tutorials and elements of first-year orientation / induction which cannot be undertaken on line, so long as these are conducted on a staggered basis to avoid congregation or large on site attendances.

- It will also include necessary library attendance where there is advance booking/registration.

- On site social and club activities will not proceed in order to avoid congregation on and off campus.