Data Collection

Question No. 592 answered with Question No. 556.

Questions (591)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

591. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of data access requests her Department has made to telecoms companies and social media companies here in the past three years to date under the Communications (Retention of Data) Act 2011; the number of access requests that were approved and declined by the companies from which the data was requested; and the reason the data was sought. [38854/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

My Department is not a designated body with powers under Section 6 of the Communications (Retention of Data) Act 2011.

Provision was made in December 2014 for the secondment of a number of Gardaí to my Department. There are 20 Gardaí currently working as part of the Department’s Special Investigation Unit (SIU) with a Sergeant also now part of the SIU Team. Gardaí on secondment retain their Garda powers, which can significantly assist in investigating suspected fraud cases. I am currently establishing whether any Gardaí on secondment to my Department have in fact used the provisions of Section 6 while on secondment. Due to pressure of work in my Department it has not been possible to establish the full position to date. Officials from my Department have been in touch with the Deputy’s office directly to explain the position and will revert to her once the full position has been established.

Question No. 592 answered with Question No. 556.

Social Welfare Appeals

Questions (593)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

593. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if an oral hearing can be held in the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38872/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that a one-person family payment appeal by the person concerned was referred on 14 October 2020 to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral hearing.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office cannot hold in-person oral hearings at the moment due to Covid-19 restrictions but the matter is being kept under review. In the meantime it is open for the person concerned to provide any additional information she may feel is relevant for the consideration of the Appeals Officer.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has confirmed that it previously dealt with a disability allowance appeal for the person concerned. That appeal was disallowed on 23 July 2020. The Deputy will be aware that he sought a review of the Appeals Officer's decision. That review was carried out under section 317 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005. The outcome of that review was that the decision was not to be revised. The person concerned was notified of this outcome on 13 November 2020. Should any further new evidence or new facts become available it is possible for another review to be carried out under section 317. It is also open to the person concerned to seek a review by the Chief Appeals Officer of the Appeals Officer's decision under section 318 of the Act on the grounds that the decision was erroneous by reason of some mistake having been made in relation to the law or the facts. If the person concerned decides to take this course of action, it will be necessary for her to set down specifically the reasons why she believes the Appeals Officer’s decision to be incorrect having regard to his or her interpretation or application of the law or the facts.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for 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.

Data Collection

Questions (594)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

594. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the steps a person (details supplied) is required to take to compel a family member living in the USA to provide personal information which has been deemed relevant to their case by her Department but which would impact the family member’s own family and breach data protection rules; if her Department has the power to disregard data protection legislation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38873/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

In the case of the person concerned, the information sought was to help establish the current means of the claimant. Information in relation to the relative’s own family was not sought and the family member was advised that they only needed to provide the information as it pertained to the claimant and all other information on the documentation could be deleted or blanked out.

While the onus is on the person concerned to provide the information requested, they cannot be compelled to provide it. However, their entitlement to the payment may be affected if they do not provide the information that is necessary to support their claim.

The powers given to a Social Welfare Inspector allows them to request any information that they reasonably require to complete their investigations regarding an application or the review of a claim in payment. This is set out in Section 250 (2) of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised that an appeal by the person concerned was referred on 14/10/2020 to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral hearing.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of my Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions in relation to social welfare entitlements.

The person concerned is currently in receipt of a Basic Supplementary Welfare Allowance payment at the weekly rate of €207 pending the outcome of her appeal. She is also in receipt of a Rent Supplement at the weekly rate of €52.46.

I trust this clarifies the matter.

Data Collection

Questions (595)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

595. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of one-parent family payment claims refused in each social welfare region throughout the country in each of the past five years to date; the degree to which data protection rules were disregarded when compiling information that would ultimately result in the decision to refuse each case; the number of such cases refused or granted, respectively, on appeal by region; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38874/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

As the Deputy is aware, my Department carries out its functions within the bounds of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 (as amended) and of Data Protection legislation at all times. The Department does not, as the Deputy suggests, disregard data protection rules when assessing entitlement for a scheme.

The number of refused One Parent Family Payment applications for the last five years is set out in the table below. It is not possible to disaggregate this data by region or location.

Year

Refusals

2020 (Jan-Oct)

425

2019

874

2018

774

2017

725

2016

699

Information in relation to appeals is provided by the Social Welfare Appeals Office and is set out in the table below. The Social Welfare Appeals Office has informed me that this data is not available on a regional basis.

Year

Total Appeals Finalised

Upheld, Part Upheld, or Revised Decision

Disallowed or Withdrawn

2020 (Jan-Oct)

288

125

163

2019

321

128

193

2018

230

106

124

2017

257

140

117

2016

347

175

172

Departmental Staff

Questions (596)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

596. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of social welfare inspectors currently employed in each social welfare region throughout the country; the extent to which these numbers have fluctuated over the past ten years to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38875/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

My Department, like all Government departments and agencies, is required to operate within a staff ceiling figure and a commensurate administrative staffing budget.

The staffing needs for all areas within the Department are continuously reviewed, taking account of workloads, management priorities and the ongoing need to respond to new demands across a wide range of services. This is to ensure that the best use is made of available resources with a view to providing an efficient service to those who rely on the schemes operated by the Department.

There are a total of 278 Social Welfare Inspectors currently employed in my Department. The table below provides a breakdown by region.

In addition there are a further 91 officers assigned to the Special Investigation Unit (SIU). The SIU carries out a wide range of control activities and works closely with the Office of the Revenue Commissioners through the Joint Investigation Unit, with the Workplace Relations Commission and other compliance and enforcement agencies.

Historical staffing figures for Social Welfare Inspectors are not available.

Division

Total

Dublin

72

North East

19

South East

29

Midlands

20

Cork

32

Mid West

53

West

36

North West

17

Total

278

Social Welfare Appeals

Questions (597)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

597. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if due process and fair procedures can be considered to have been followed in an application and appeals process in which the factual information provided by a social welfare inspector, later found to be incorrect, is relied upon to make the decision in respect of an appeal; the steps taken by her Department to ensure due process is followed in such circumstances to ensure fairness, impartiality and transparency in the decision-making process; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38891/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that it made enquiries with the Deputy's office as to whether this question related to a particular appeal. It was advised that a general reply was being sought.

The published aims of the Social Welfare Appeals Office are to provide an independent, accessible and fair appeals service with regard to entitlement to social welfare payments and to deliver that service in a prompt and courteous manner. The Office's training and awareness raising measures for its staff are based on those principles.

Under social welfare legislation the decision of an Appeals Officer is final and conclusive and may only be reviewed under Section 317 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 by an Appeals Officer in the light of new evidence or new facts. In addition, the Chief Appeals Officer has power under Section 318 of the Act to revise any decision where it appears to her that the Appeals Officer’s decision was erroneous by reason of some mistake having been made in relation to the law or the facts.

If the Deputy wishes to raise any concerns in relation to any specific appeal decision the Chief Appeals Officer will ensure that the matter will be examined and the outcome communicated to him.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for 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.

Direct Provision System

Questions (598, 606)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

598. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth his views on a matter raised in correspondence by a person (details supplied) in relation to direct provision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37755/20]

View answer

Brendan Griffin

Question:

606. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth his views on a matter (details supplied) in relation to direct provision centres; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38444/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 598 and 606 together.

I am aware of the petition campaign to end the system of direct provision for accommodation and other services to international protection applicants who requires such supports.

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to ending the direct provision system and replacing it with a new International Protection accommodation policy, centred on a not-for-profit approach. The Government has also committed to the development of a White Paper which will set out how this new system will be structured and the steps to achieving it.

My Department is currently developing the White Paper which I expect to publish by the end of the year. The recommendations of the Advisory Group will inform the White Paper. Consultations are currently underway and include discussions with the relevant Government Departments and agencies, the Offices of the Ombudsman and the Ombudsman for Children, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, relevant NGOs and housing bodies and representatives of residents of direct provision centres.

The replacement of the direct provision system is complex. It is recognised by all involved that it will take some time. In order to meet our legal obligations to provide accommodation and other support services for protection applicants, existing accommodation centres will continue to operate in the short to medium term. ? However, in doing so we will be focusing on the provision of own-door accommodation and facilities to allow for independent living (access to cooking and laundry facilities and communal family areas outside bedrooms) and greatly reducing any need for the use of hotels and guest-houses as an emergency measure.

I can assure the Deputy that the Government is committed to the replacement of the Direct Provision system of accommodation provision and other aspects of our international protection system that may be required so that we will have a system in Ireland that exceeds the standards required by the Reception Conditions Directive and will compare favourably with the best systems of our EU partners.

Domestic Violence Refuges Provision

Questions (599, 600, 614)

Patrick Costello

Question:

599. Deputy Patrick Costello asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the number of requests for domestic refuge that went unmet in 2020 due to the fact that refuges were full; the locations of these requests; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37846/20]

View answer

Patrick Costello

Question:

600. Deputy Patrick Costello asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the number of domestic violence refuges available for victims of domestic violence, by county; the capacity per refuge; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37847/20]

View answer

Patrick Costello

Question:

614. Deputy Patrick Costello asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the number of requests for domestic refuge in Tusla-funded services that went unmet in 2019 and to date in 2020 due to the fact that refuges were full; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37848/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 599, 600 and 614 together.

Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, provides funding and coordination supports to some 60 organisations that deliver a range of services for victims of domestic, sexual and gender based violence throughout the country.

In 2020, the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth is providing Tusla with core funding of €25.3m for almost 60 organisations that deliver services for victims of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence (DSGBV). Tusla has advised that it is also issuing €2m to DSGBV services for once-off costs in 2020, primarily in response to the challenges arising from COVID-19 this year.

With regard to statistics on the use and capacity of Tusla-funded emergency domestic violence accommodation and engagement with potential service users, I have requested that Tusla respond to you directly on this matter.

Direct Provision System

Questions (601, 602)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

601. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the number of persons in direct provision centres in counties Cavan and Monaghan and north County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38155/20]

View answer

Niamh Smyth

Question:

602. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the number of direct provision centres and premises in counties Cavan and Monaghan and north County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38156/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 601 and 602 together.

There is one dedicated accommodation centre for international protection applicants located in Co. Monaghan and another in Co. Meath. There is no such centre in Co. Cavan.

As of 15 November, 228 people are accommodated at the St Patrick's Accommodation centre in Co. Monaghan and 604 people at the Mosney Accommodation Centre in Co Meath.

In addition there are 8 premises, hotels and guest houses being utilised to provide accommodation to protection applicants on short-term contracts. Of these, there is 1 in Co. Cavan, 3 in Co. Meath and 4 in Co. Monaghan.

As of 15 November, 28 people are accommodated in temporary accomodation premises in Co. Cavan, 61 people in Co. Meath and 183 people in Co. Monaghan.

The Deputy will be aware that the Programme for Government contains a commitment to ending the Direct Provision system and replacing it with a new International Protection accommodation policy centred on a not-for-profit approach. We have also committed to the development of a White Paper which will set out how this new system will be structured and the steps to achieving it.

My Department is currently developing the White Paper which I expect to publish by the end of the year. Consultations are currently underway and include discussions with the relevant Government Departments and agencies, the Offices of the Ombudsman and the Ombudsman for Children, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, relevant NGOs and housing bodies and representatives of residents of Direct Provision centres.

In order to meet our legal obligations to provide accommodation and other support services for protection applicants, existing accommodation centres will continue to operate in the short to medium term. ? However, in doing so we will be focusing on the provision of own-door accommodation and facilities to allow for independent living (access to cooking and laundry facilities and communal family areas outside bedrooms) and greatly reducing any need for the use of hotels and guest-houses as an emergency measure.

Direct Provision System

Questions (603, 624)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

603. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth if correspondence from a person (details supplied) will be reviewed; if his attention has been drawn to the introduction of such a facility in the town; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38160/20]

View answer

Pauline Tully

Question:

624. Deputy Pauline Tully asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth his plans to use a building (details supplied) as a direct provision centre; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38262/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 603 and 624 together.

My Department has no plans to open an International Protection Accommodation Centre at Riverdale Hotel Ballybay, or to utilise any other property not already in use in County Monaghan at this time.

Premises are sourced either through a full tender process which is administered through the Government’s Procurement Portal www.etenders.gov.ie or through responses to calls for expressions of interest, which are advertised in the national media. My Department is assisted with these tender projects by the Office of Government Procurement.

The tender process which commenced in late 2018, saw regional tender competitions being advertised, assessed and awarded. The competitions were held for the South East, Midlands, Mid-West, South-West, Mid-East, West, Dublin and the Border Regions.

Direct Provision System

Questions (604)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

604. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the protocols, procedures and application process involved in the provision of a centre (details supplied); the process for landlords wishing to rent property for same; the protocols they are subjected to; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38162/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

Premises are sourced either through a full tender process which is administered through the Government’s Procurement Portal www.etenders.gov.ie or through responses to calls for expressions of interest, which are advertised in the national media. My Department is assisted with these tender projects by the Office of Government Procurement.

The tender process which commenced in late 2018, saw regional tender competitions being advertised, assessed and awarded. The competitions were held for the South East, Midlands, Mid-West, South-West, Mid-East, West, Dublin and the Border Regions.

All properties selected under the tender process must be able to meet the requirements of the National Standards for accommodation centres. Any tender for the provision of accommodation centre services must demonstrate that it will meet the requirements of the Standards. This requirement applies to the provision of new centres and to any renewal of a contract with a current provider.

The Standards were published in August 2019 and developed through an Advisory Group including representatives from UNHCR Ireland and the NGO sector. The Standards will come into force in January 2021 and address a range of themes including accommodation; food and catering; individual, community and family life; health and well-being; governance; and meeting the special reception needs of applicants. The Standards will ensure that all new accommodation coming on stream must be able to meet the requirements for independent living by the provision of self-catering facilities for residents including a food hall and the availability of separate family spaces outside of bedrooms.

The forthcoming White Paper of the future direction of the Direct Provision System will inform the type of accommodation that the Department will contract in the future

Garda Vetting

Question No. 606 answered with Question No. 598.

Questions (605)

Matt Carthy

Question:

605. Deputy Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth if all management and staff within direct provision centres require Garda vetting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38411/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

The International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) of my Department has a Child Protection and Welfare Policy and a Garda Vetting Policy, both of which mandate that all staff in accommodation centres are vetted by the Garda Central Vetting Unit (GCVU) in advance of commencing work in an accommodation centre.

This policy is applied to all IPAS accommodation centres as well as all emergency accommodation centres where IPAS has the use of the entirety or the majority of the accommodation available. Staff are re-vetted every three years. IPAS acts as the central conduit for all communications between the Garda Central Vetting Unit (GCVU) and the staff and contractors of all our accommodation centres.

The principal aim of the policy is the minimisation of risk to children and vulnerable adults residing in IPAS provided accommodation. As well as the policy itself, all staff are expected to complete the Introduction to Children First eLearning module provided by Tusla. Staff in all centres are obliged to take part in person on a two-day Children First Training course delivered by a Tusla certified trainer on the IPAS staff team.

All centres are obliged as per the Child Protection and Welfare Policy to draw up a Child Safeguarding Statement for their accommodation centre. These statements are collated by the Child and Family Services Unit within IPAS.

All Managers of IPAS accommodation centres are Mandated Persons under Schedule 2 of the Children First Act 2015.

Mandated persons have two main legal obligations under the Children First Act 2015

- To report harm of children, above a defined threshold, to Tusla

- To assist Tusla, if requested, in assessing a concern which has been the subject of a mandated report.

As a mandated person, under the legislation managers are required to report any knowledge, belief or reasonable suspicion that a child has been harmed, is being harmed, or is at risk of being harmed. The Act defines harm as assault, ill-treatment, neglect or sexual abuse, and covers single and multiple instances.

Managers are provided with the extensive guidance available on the Tusla website as to what constitutes abuse and neglect at the following link https://www.tusla.ie/children-first/mandated-persons/what-are-the-types-of-abuse-and-how-do-i-recognise-them/

Question No. 606 answered with Question No. 598.

Direct Provision System

Questions (607)

Holly Cairns

Question:

607. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth further to Parliamentary Question No. 171 of 10 September 2020, how he reacted effectively to issues raised in relation to services provided across the justice sector under a hashtag (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38521/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

I understand that the Parliamentary Question referred to by the Deputy was asked of the Minister for Justice and Equality and related to the monitoring of social media for criticism of Direct Provision and Government policy.

I can inform the Deputy that my Department does not engage in such monitoring activities.

The Deputy will be aware that the Programme for Government contains a commitment to ending the Direct Provision system and replacing it with a new International Protection accommodation policy, centred on a not-for-profit approach. I am also committed to the development of the White Paper promised by the Government, which will set out how the new system will be structured and the steps to achieving it. Such a complete overhaul of the system will however take time.

In the meantime I am taking action to introduce immediate reforms to the system including engaging with HIQA to undertake a role of monitoring the services provided to those accommodated in our centres against National Standards that were published in 2019. This monitoring will begin from January 2021. My Department is also working to introduce formal vulnerability assessments on a phased basis from December 2020?.