Child and Family Agency

Questions (625)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

625. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth his views on a matter raised in correspondence (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38519/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

My office has recently received representations in relation to the matter raised by the Deputy.

As this is an operational issue for Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, I have requested that Tusla respond to the Deputy directly on this matter.

Domestic Violence Services

Questions (626, 627)

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

626. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth his plans to put in place a support service for male victims of domestic abuse in the greater Dublin area in which 1.5 million persons reside but which has no service. [38537/20]

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Peadar Tóibín

Question:

627. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth his plans to remedy the disparity in funding for services for male victims which amounted to less than 2% of total funding in 2017 although males comprise at least one third of all victims; and if an organisation (details supplied) will be designated the national support service. [38538/20]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 626 and 627 together.

Tusla, the Child and Family Agency has statutory responsibility under the Child and Family Agency Act 2013 for the care and protection of victims of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence (DSGBV).

In 2020 my Department provided €25.3m to Tusla for DSGBV support services. Additional funds of some €2m are being allocated during 2020 for once-off costs, particularly those arising from the COVID-19 public health emergency.

In 2021, a total of €30 million will be made available by DCEDIY to Tusla to fund DSGBV services. This includes a €2.7 million increase in core services, bringing core service provision to €28 million, with an additional €2 million of one-off contingency funding being made available to help services cope with the ongoing effects of COVID-19.

The commissioning of DSGBV services is an operational matter for Tusla. I have asked Tusla to respond to you directly with regard to commissioned services for male victims of domestic violence.

The response to DSGBV is a cross Departmental and multi-agency issue. Policy is coordinated by the Department of Justice which also provides funding for support services for victims of crime that can include supports for victims of DSGBV.

The Deputy will be aware that the Programme for Government sets out a number of commitments regarding DSGBV, including an audit on segmentation of DSGBV responsibilities across government departments and agencies, which will inform future investments in this area.

Home Schooling

Questions (628)

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

628. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the number of home school applications received annually in each of the years 2015 to 2019, in tabular form. [38813/20]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

The Alternative Education Assessment and Registration Service has informed my Department that the number of applications for inclusion on the Section 14 for children educated outside of a recognised school annually from 2015 to 2019 is as follows:

Total 2015

Total 2016

Total 2017

Total 2018

Total

2019

Number of Home Education applications received

318

489

569

605

617

Home Schooling

Questions (629)

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

629. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the number of home school applications received in each month from January to October 2020, in tabular form. [38814/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

The Alternative Education Assessment and Registration Service has informed my Department that the number of applications for inclusion on the Section 14 for children educated outside of a recognised school in each month from January to October 2020:

Month

Applications

January

61

February

49

March

28

April

24

May

30

June

40

July

62

August

440

September

620

October

253

Data Retention

Questions (630)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

630. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the number of data access requests his Department has made to telecom companies and social media companies here in the past three years to date in 2020 under the Communications (Retention of Data) Act 2011; the number of access requests that were approved and declined by the companies that the data was requested from; and the reason the data was sought. [38855/20]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

The Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth does not make requests under the Act.

The bodies who may make disclosure requests are set out in Section 6 of the Act (Garda Siochana, Defence Forces, Revenue Commissioners).

Student Grant Scheme

Questions (631)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

631. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the status of a SUSI grant application by a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37770/20]

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Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

I wish to inform the Deputy that the appeal to which he refers was heard by the independent Student Grant Appeals Board on March 10th 2020. The Board communicated their decision directly via email to the student on March 11th 2020.

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. Information on the fund is available through the Access Officer in the third level institution attended. This fund is administered on a confidential, discretionary basis.

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

Further Education and Training Programmes

Questions (632)

Carol Nolan

Question:

632. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the outcome of the efforts by his Department to roll out a range of bespoke and sectoral targeted courses from Athlone Institute of Technology, the Regional Skills Forum and ETBs for those accepting voluntary redundancy as part of the midlands just transition process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37885/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

The information requested is available at the following link:

BordNaMona

Further Education and Training Programmes

Questions (633)

Carol Nolan

Question:

633. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the details of the outcomes of on-site skills audits in Blackwater and Mount Dillon bogs which were conducted to assist his Department in informing the development of bespoke training courses for destination employment sectors in the midlands; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37886/20]

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Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

Officials in my department have contacted both Laois Offaly Education and Training Board (LOETB) and Longford Westmeath Education and Training Board (LWETB) in relation this matter.

In response to the first round of the Bord Na Mona Voluntary Redundancy Programme in early 2019, LOETB and LWETB, in collaboration with Galway Roscommon Education and Training Board and relevant stakeholders, organised a series of full day information events aimed at individuals who had been accepted for or were planning to avail of the redundancy programme. These events took place in the Bord Na Mona works in Blackwater and Mount Dillon in November 2019 and included an on-site skills audit. Confidentiality was assured throughout this process and follow up guidance appointments were offered to all individuals who took part.

The participation figures for both sites were as follows:

- Mount Dillon: Nov 11th, 12th & 13th 2019 - 66 people

- Blackwater: Nov 18th, 19th & 20th 2019 – 74 people

Details of participation on courses and other interventions in LWETB and LOETB, the planning of which was informed by the skills audits, are available at the following link.

A further series of on-site skills audits are planned to take place in early 2021.

Doc

Adult Education Provision

Questions (634)

Danny Healy-Rae

Question:

634. Deputy Danny Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the courses available for adult literacy (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38121/20]

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Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

Officials from my Department have been in contact with Kerry ETB (KETB) in relation to this matter. KETB Adult Literacy and Basic Education Service provides free and confidential group classes and one-to-one tuition for adults who wish to improve their reading, writing, spelling, maths or basic computer skills.

This service is delivered in centres in Tralee, Killarney, Listowel, Castleisland, Dingle, Kenmare, Caherciveen and Killorglin. When a person makes an enquiry they are informed about the programmes available and are offered a meeting to discuss their options. Their goals are discussed, an initial assessment is carried out and an appropriate learning programme is offered to them. As the service operates a continuous intake policy, the person can generally start straight away. Occasionally if a person opts for one to one tuition they may have to wait a short while until a tutor is available.

All courses on offer can lead to certification at level 1, 2 and 3 on the National Framework of Qualifications. Classes are free, confidential, part time and generally available during the daytime or evening. The individual is encouraged to learn at their own pace either in a small group or with one-to-one tuition if needed.

There are also financial supports available for learners who are in receipt of certain Social Welfare payments. KETB can advise the individual of what broad supports may be available.

Officials in my Department will contact the Deputy directly with the relevant contact information.

Student Accommodation

Questions (635, 686)

Holly Cairns

Question:

635. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science his views on whether an overreliance on the private market for student accommodation has contributed to the issues students and their families are facing regarding getting refunds on accommodation costs and deposits. [38884/20]

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Holly Cairns

Question:

686. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science his views on whether an overreliance on the private market for student accommodation has contributed to the issues students and their families are facing regarding getting refunds on accommodation costs and deposits. [38879/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 635 and 686 together.

The National Student Accommodation Strategy (NSAS), published in 2017, was designed to support the delivery of an increased level of supply of purpose-built student accommodation, by reducing barriers for public and private sector developers of student accommodation, and by seeking to address financing barriers for higher education institutions wishing to build student accommodation. The ongoing shortage of accommodation in the general rental sector, as well the increase in third level students over the last number of years, has placed additional emphasis on the availability and provision of student accommodation. An increase in supply in both public and private sector student accommodation has been necessary to keep pace with demand.

Refund or cancellation policies in student accommodation should be set out in the license agreement signed at the beginning of the academic year. In the first instance students should engage with their accommodation provider to see if an arrangement can be reached in regard to a refund.

If this is not possible, under the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2019 students have access to the Dispute Resolution Services of the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB).

I have asked our higher education institutions, where they have accommodation, to try to show flexibility in terms of its use for the coming academic year, as well as flexibility with regard to cancellations and refunds. I would hope that that private providers will show the same flexibility, however it is not within my remit to issue instruction in relation to the private rental market.

Education and Training Boards

Questions (636)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

636. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science his views on a matter (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37771/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

I understand from Kerry Education and Training Board (Kerry ETB) that due the Covid-19 pandemic, staff were assigned to one school or centre where possible to minimise their number of contacts. I am advised by Kerry ETB that in this process there was no deviation from, or amendment to, agreed staffing terms and conditions.

Public Procurement Contracts

Questions (637)

Carol Nolan

Question:

637. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the details of contracts of €25,000 or more than have been awarded by his Department or bodies under the aegis of his Department that were found to be non-compliant with procurement guidelines from 1 January 2019 to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37799/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

My Department maintains a record of all contracts, over the threshold value of €25,000, awarded without a competitive process during each year of account. Such awards and contract extensions, without engagement with the market are treated as non-compliant with procurement guidelines with the information compiled in line with the requirements set out in the Department of Finance Circular 40/02 and exclusive of VAT. A complete record is not available in respect of 2020 as the full report of the award of these exceptional contracts is compiled after the end of the accounting period.

The information requested by the Deputy in regard to the agencies under the remit of my Department is not routinely compiled. My officials are in contact with the aegis bodies and I will arrange to have the material forwarded to the Deputy when it becomes available.

Apprenticeship Programmes

Questions (638)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

638. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the additional financial supports that are available to first and second year trade apprentices in view of the fact that wages at this stage of their education are very low. [37814/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

The rates of pay for the 25 craft apprenticeship programmes are agreed by the partners within the relevant sector, or are set out in Sectoral Employment Orders (Construction Sector and Mechanical Engineering Building Services Contracting Sector). Rates vary between occupations and sectors but in all cases craft apprenticeship rates are expressed as a proportion of the qualified rate, increasing annually from 33% of the qualified rate in year one to 90% in year four. The most up to date rates are available on www.apprenticeship.ie.

In addition to their training allowance, craft apprentices attending phases of off-the-job training in an Education and Training Board (ETB) training centre, an Institute of Technology or TU Dublin are entitled to make an application for either travel or accommodation allowances for the duration of the period of off-the-job training.

Apprentices are primarily employees and eligible apprentices are entitled to access general employment supports such as the Working Family Payment and other relevant schemes.

School Accommodation

Questions (639)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

639. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the status of a school building (details supplied) in Dublin 9; the nature of the remedial works required; the body which will meet the cost of these works; when the building will be ready for occupation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37815/20]

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Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

The matter referred to by the Deputy is the subject of listed High Court proceedings taken by the Office of Public Works. For legal reasons I am not, therefore, in a position to comment on the issues raised.

Higher Education Institutions

Questions (640)

Jennifer Carroll MacNeill

Question:

640. Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the steps he has taken following allegations of sexual harassment in UCD; the further actions he plans to take; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37860/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

I am greatly concerned by the issues of sexual harrassment and bullying that have emerged in respect of both staff and students within our higher education institutions. Our higher education institutions have a duty of care to their students and staff, and a responsibility to foster a campus culture that is clear in the condemnation of unwanted and unacceptable behaviours, which act as barriers to their safety and their active participation in college life.

In October 2020, I wrote to the Chair of the UCD Governing Authority on the communications that I received from some staff members and former students of the university, so that these might inform the oversight by the Governing Authority of the important work underway in UCD to eliminate sexual harassment and bullying, and improve the environment for students and staff. I believe that these perspectives should be given appropriate consideration by the university, with a view to ensuring an effective and inclusive process in the revision of its bullying, harassment and sexual harassment policies and procedures.

In August 2020 I wrote to the Presidents of all publicly funded higher education institutions requesting that they develop and publish, by February 2021, specific institutional action plans on tackling sexual violence and harassment. These action plans will involve the implementation of systems that record the number of incidents of bullying, intimidation or harassment including sexual harassment. The Higher Education Authority (HEA) has oversight of the Framework for Consent in HEIs, and these statistics will be reported annually to the HEA once the action plans in each institution are in place.

I have also requested that a survey be undertaken on harassment, sexual harassment and bullying of both staff and students in the higher education institutions. The planning of this survey has commenced, and the HEA is consulting with the Irish Universities Association and the Technological Higher Education Association in this regard.

I am committed to ensuring a safe and respectful environment for all staff and students in our Higher Education Institutions, and the steps I am undertaking, I believe, will contribute significantly to the realisation of this objective.

Access to Higher Education

Questions (641)

Jennifer Carroll MacNeill

Question:

641. Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science his plans to improve access to education for persons with disabilities and members of the Traveller community; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37861/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

The National Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education (NAP) 2015-2021 identifies the target groups that are currently under-represented in higher education. These include entrants from socio-economic groups that have low participation in higher education including students with disabilities and Irish Travellers.

The Programme for Access to Higher Education (PATH) Fund is the funding mechanism supporting the NAP to enable innovative responses to support target groups’ participation and retention in higher education. The PATH fund was confirmed as a permanent fund in 2020 and has a current investment envelope of €33.9 million over the period 2016 to 2022, across the three strands, PATH 1 - Initial Teacher Education, PATH 2 - The 1916 Bursary Fund and PATH 3 - The Higher Education Access Fund.

Consultations on the next National Access Plan will commence early 2021.

A Progress Review of the National Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education and the Priorities to 2021 was published in December 2018. The review has shown that there has been significant increases in participation rates since work began on implementing the NAP. The most considerable progress toward realising the targets of the NAP has been achieved amongst the disabilities target group. The target of 8% that was set for the lifetime of the Plan has been exceeded by the Progress Review stage. A new target of 12% has been set for 2021.The overall participation rate has increased to 10.5%, and targets have equally been surpassed in respect of two of the three categories of disability. There has been a 88% increase in participation by students with physical or mobility disabilities, while participation rates by deaf students or those hard of hearing has increased by 48%. Participation by students that are blind or that have a vision impairment has increased by 53%.

The Fund for Students with Disabilities (FSD) supports participation by students with a disability in full-time programmes of further and higher education. The FSD is one of the main funding sources supporting participation by students with disabilities in approved further and higher education courses in Ireland. It also supports students from Ireland to study on approved courses in Northern Ireland, the UK and other EU countries. The actual level of support to be provided to individual students is decided by each HEI who carry out a needs assessment to determine the types of supports and accommodations needed. The 2020 allocation to the fund is €9.6m which is expected to support circa 14,000 students.

While increases have been recorded throughout the target groups, the Traveller group has not progressed as was anticipated by the NAP. In response to the lower than anticipated progress for Travellers, an Action Plan to Promote Traveller Participation in Higher Education was developed and published in late 2019. The plan was developed in consultation with Traveller representative groups, and aims to support and advance Traveller participation in higher education. It will work within the context of approaches to retention and transitions of Travellers across the education spectrum. The gathering of precise data in respect of Traveller students is complicated by the reliance on self-identification. However, it is anticipated that the new Action Plan, which contains nine key objectives and sixteen priority actions, will encourage Travellers to progress to higher education and have the confidence to self-identify and promote their Traveller heritage. Reporting on progress on the actions commenced in September 2020 and demonstrated that PATH Funding of €1.5m has been targeted at Travellers over first three years from 2017 to 2020, high success rates of 70% among Travellers applications to the 1916 Bursary Fund and dedicated PATH 1 and PATH 3 projects.

More recently on the 12th of this month I announced ring-fenced funding of €300,000 for targeted supports to address the implications of COVID-19 for Traveller transfer to and progression within higher education. The funding, which has been secured through the Dormant Accounts Fund, will help ensure expected increases in Traveller participation in higher education remain on track.