Legislative Measures

Questions (232)

Alan Kelly

Question:

232. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Justice when she will amend the Civil Liability (Amendment) Bill to take account of the recommendations of the Chief Justice that arose out of a judgment (details supplied). [7679/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I want to record at the outset my sympathy for all those affected by issues arising from CervicalCheck. I met with the 221+ Patient Support Group before Christmas and they explained their concerns in relation to a number of matters including the issue raised by the Deputy concerning the operation of the Civil Liability Act 1961.

I have received a copy of a draft Bill that the Deputy shared with my colleague, the Minister for Health. That draft Bill is, as I understand it, intended to address issues raised in the Supreme Court judgment in the Morrissey v. HSE case.

In the Morrissey case, the Supreme Court held that the dependants of a plaintiff who has brought an action for personal injury cannot, while the plaintiff is still alive, claim for the future loss of services which the plaintiff might have been expected to provide for his or her family. The Court stated that if the law in this area is to be changed, it would have to be done by way of legislation, rather than by an evolution in the case-law.

A personal injury action may be brought by an injured person, or a wrongful death action may be brought under section 48 of the Civil Liability Act 1961 by his or her dependants after his or her death, but it is not possible for both of these actions to be brought arising from the same wrongful act.

My Department is still considering the issues which have been raised by the Morrissey case and will be engaging with other government departments as part of that consideration.

Asylum Seekers

Questions (233)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

233. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Justice the steps she has taken to ensure that persons arriving at Irish ports and airports and who are seeking asylum are not arrested or fined in circumstances in which they do not have a valid PCR test result; the guidance issued to border agents in this regard; the procedures in place to ensure the safety of such persons; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7519/21]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I have requested information from the Garda Commissioner in relation to this matter. Unfortunately, it was not possible to compile it in the time available.

I will write to the Deputy directly with the information requested, when it is available.

Departmental Staff

Questions (234)

Michael Creed

Question:

234. Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Justice further to Parliamentary Question No. 177 of 4 February 2021, if the situation regarding persons who are placed on transfer panels will be clarified; the priority attached to such panels when filling internal vacancies; the way the HR function of agencies within the remit of her Department, including An Garda Síochána, the Courts Service, the Legal Aid Board and so on, interact with the panels when vacancies at the grade for which the panel is in existence arise within their agencies; if there are internal mobility panels within these agencies which may supersede her Department's own panels; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7523/21]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I wish to advise the Deputy that staff can express an interest in moving internally to other areas of the Department, and this is taken into consideration when filling vacancies. HR fill vacancies in line with sequencing obligations as set out by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER).

Transfers for Department of Justice staff to bodies under the remit of the Department (such as An Garda Síochána, the Courts Service, the Legal Aid Board, etc.) that have independent HR functions, and vice versa, are not considered to be internal moves, and fall within the scope of the Civil Service Mobility Scheme.

This scheme provides for cross-organisational moves to locations throughout the country, is applied for centrally through PeoplePoint (the Human Resources Shared Service centre for the Civil Service), and is managed by the individual HR functions of Civil Service organisations. Mobility processes governed by DPER cover cross-organisational transfers for Assistant Principal Officers & Principal Officers. Further details of the Civil Service Mobility Scheme can be found here: https://hr.per.gov.ie/career/civil-service-mobility/

Where internal mobility panels (outside the scope of the Civil Service Mobility Scheme), are operated by the Department’s Offices and Agencies they are managed by the relevant HR areas in those organisations based on their business requirements.

Visa Applications

Questions (235)

Paul Murphy

Question:

235. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Justice if, in a context in which many English language students have made a significant contribution to Irish society by working during the Covid crisis, including deliveries, cleaning, caregiving and childcare, and in which restrictions on international travel are likely to remain in place for a significant period, she will act to retain this needed workforce and grant a 12-month visa extension for all stamp 2 workers from 30 April 2021 until 30 April 2022. [7544/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I wish to assure the Deputy that I understand and recognise the difficulties that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on all immigrants including our international student population. Through their participation in part-time and casual employment in many essential services they have made a valuable contribution during extremely difficult times.

Since March 2020, I have extended immigration permissions on 6 occasions until 20 April 2021. These extensions also apply to those in the State on student permissions. English language students with a current, valid permission who were still in the State and had completed the maximum 2 years permitted as a language student, but due to COVID-19 were unable to return home, were also allowed to remain as students until the end of the year provided they re-enrolled in an online course of study for the remainder of the year.

The conditions attaching to student permissions are kept under ongoing review. Any further extension of permission will be considered in light of NPHET and Government advice in relation to restrictions due to the pandemic.

My Department has responsibility for immigration-related matters, including the entry and residence conditions of non-EEA students. My Department continually consults and engages with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, among other key sectoral stakeholders, in developing policy in this area.

Since April 2001, non-EEA nationals with permission to remain in the State as students, on immigration Stamp 2 permission, and enrolled on courses with education providers listed on the Interim List of Eligible Programmes (ILEP) including English language courses, have been afforded the opportunity to work. This allows non-EEA Students to take up casual employment to supplement their income while studying in Ireland. During term time non-EEA Students can work up to 20 hours per week and during normal college holiday periods non-EEA Students can work on a full time basis up to 40 hours per week. However, all applicants for permission to study in Ireland must show that they have sufficient funds to support their stay in Ireland without recourse to public funds, or the reliance on casual employment.

English language programmes are designed around a principle of progression, with a 2 year maximum permission for English language, consisting of three permissions of 8 months each, attending a 6 month programme during that 8 months and sitting a final exam. If a student has studied English here for 2 years (or more if extensions were provided in 2020) and has achieved the top grade during their English language study, then the next step is to pursue a study permission for higher education or seek some other form of permission to remain in the State.

When English language schools are required to close in response to the pandemic, the requirement that students must be physically present is suspended and language schools are expected to continue courses online for 15 hours per week to ensure students can progress in their studies.

Courts Service

Questions (236)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

236. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice the number of persons who were sentenced in the courts in 2020 for sexual offences; the particulars of the offence in each case; the sentence in each case; the age and gender of each person convicted in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7565/21]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy is aware, under the provisions of the Courts Service Act 1998, management of the courts is the responsibility of the Courts Service, which is independent in exercising its functions. This includes the provision of information on the courts system.

In order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have made enquiries with the Courts Service, who have informed me that statistics in relation to sexual offences are not maintained in such a way as to provide the response sought by the Deputy.

Statistics on the category of sexual offences are set out in the Courts Service Annual Reports, which are available on the Courts Service website. I am also informed that Statistics for 2020 are being compiled in preparation for the publication of their 2020 Annual Report.

To be of assistance, I have included a link to their most recent Annual report below:

2019 Annual Report - https://www.courts.ie/acc/alfresco/9bd89c8a-3187-44c3-a2e9-ff0855e69cb5/CourtsServiceAnnualReport2019.pdf/pdf#view=fitH

Garda Investigations

Questions (237)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

237. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Justice when the 2014 review of all investigations and complaints made against a person (details supplied) will be published; the dates of initiation and completion of the review; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7592/21]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Deputy will appreciate that it is the role of An Garda Síochána to investigate alleged offences, to gather whatever evidence may be available and to submit a report to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). The DPP, who is independent in the performance of her functions, then decides whether or not someone should be prosecuted, and for what offence, on the basis of the Garda findings.

I am advised that, in April 2013, the then Garda Commissioner ordered a review into the handling of the Domhnall Ó Lubhlaí case with a view to identifying what lessons might be learned. In October 2014, my Department was advised by the Garda authorities that the complaints received in this matter had been properly investigated. I am further advised that a copy of the review was not provided to my Department as this was an internal Garda document. I understand that the review contains sensitive and personal information on the alleged victims which is not appropriate for publication.

I am further advised that the Garda review into this case led to a number of lessons learned for An Garda Síochána such as, for example, the need for a systemic approach so that evidence is properly stored to ensure that it is not lost or damaged. A Property and Exhibit Management System has been introduced to ensure the safe storage and management of exhibits. Also, it reiterated the requirement that all cases of child sexual abuse are reported to Tusla, the Child and Family Agency. The introduction of the Children First Guidelines also set out robust reporting procedures for cases of child sexual abuse which need to be followed.

Visa Applications

Questions (238)

James Lawless

Question:

238. Deputy James Lawless asked the Minister for Justice the status of a visa application by a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7598/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The person referred to by the Deputy applied for a right of residency, accompanied by a right to work, based on their parentage of an Irish citizen child on 19 March 2020. The application is one of a large number of applications on hand and in the interest of fairness to all applicants, applications are dealt with in chronological order. If any further information or documentation is required, my Department will be in direct contact with the applicant.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to my Department by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility (INISOireachtasMail@justice.ie) which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from my Department is, in the Deputy’s view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Closed-Circuit Television Systems

Questions (239)

Pauline Tully

Question:

239. Deputy Pauline Tully asked the Minister for Justice if there are impediments to installing cameras in a local authority housing estate under the community-based CCTV scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7633/21]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, community-based CCTV is governed by Section 38(3)(c) of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 and the Garda Síochána (CCTV) Order 2006 (SI 289 of 2006). This legal framework requires that any proposed community CCTV scheme must:

- be approved by the local Joint Policing Committee,

- have the prior support of the relevant Local Authority, which must also act as data controller, and

- have the authorisation of the Garda Commissioner.

This is the legal basis for all community CCTV schemes, regardless of how they are funded. These key legal requirements have not changed since 2006. The option to establish a Community CCTV scheme is available to groups that meet these legal requirements, anywhere in the country.

Since 2017, my Department has administered a grant aid scheme supporting groups wishing to establish a community-based CCTV system in their area. To date, 29 applications have been approved under the scheme, involving approved grants awarded totalling more than €752,000. Eligible groups, including community groups and local authorities nationwide, can apply for grant aid of up to 60% of the total capital cost of a proposed CCTV system, up to a maximum total of €40,000. I can confirm that funding continues to be available for 2021.

As the Deputy may be aware, last year the grant aid scheme was extended to cover not only new CCTV systems but also to allow funding applications for extension or upgrade of existing Community CCTV systems which are incomplete or obsolete. Applicants can now also seek a once-off grant of up to €5,000 for minor maintenance costs.

However in all cases, grant funding can be considered only for CCTV systems which meet the legal requirements, in other words CCTV systems which have been approved by the relevant Joint Policing Committee, the relevant Local Authority (also acting as Data Controller) and which have received the authorisation of the Garda Commissioner.

There is no impediment to placing cameras in housing estates however the applicants must be guided by the fact that the locations of the cameras and their area of coverage must cover public areas and they may not be located to provide coverage of a particular private address. The locations of the cameras will be specified and assessed by the CCTV Advisory Committee of An Garda Síochána in their role in the stage 1 process of evaluation of the application and making a recommendation to the Garda Commissioner.

Notes for applicants which provide the relevant guidance and additional criteria about provision of information about the camera locations are available on my Department's website at:

http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/Community_based_CCTV_grant_aid_scheme_Information_and_Documentation

Provision of a scaled map, showing coverage area and proposed camera positions, matching the authorisation provided by the Garda Commissioner is required, as is confirmation that the necessary planning permissions and wayleaves have been secured and demonstration of the Applicant’s capacity or potential to develop, implement, operate and maintain such a System into the future.

If the Deputy is aware of groups wishing to avail of the grant aid scheme, further details are available to download from my Department's website - www.justice.ie - and support and guidance is available to help interested groups through a dedicated email address:

fundsadmin-comm-based-cctv@justice.ie

International Protection

Questions (240)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

240. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Justice the number of persons who sought international protection in 2020; the number of applications for international protection on hand on 1 January 2020; the number on hand on 1 January 2021; the number of applications brought to a finality in 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7694/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

My objective, and that of my Department, is to have decisions made on international protection applications and permission to remain considerations as soon as possible. This ensures that those who are found to be in need of our protection can receive it quickly and begin rebuilding their lives here with a sense of safety and security.

I welcome the key recommendation of reducing processing times for both first instance decisions and appeals to 6 months each respectively, as far as possible, in line with the recommendations of the Catherine Day Expert Advisory Group. Work is underway in my Department towards achieving this objective, which includes an end-to-end process review of the international protection and related immigration processes.

Notwithstanding the progress being made on implementing the recommendations, there are certain current constraints and challenges for my Department in delivering some of the recommendations of the Advisory Group for reduced processing timelines given the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on current operations.

In 2020, 1,566 people sought international protection by making an application with the International Protection Office (IPO). Regarding cases that were brought to a finality during 2020, a total of 2,141 persons had a Ministerial decision made in respect of their application last year. This figure reflects the year in which the decision was made and not the year in which the application was made.

On 1 January 2020, there were a total of 5,957 cases on hand at the IPO and a total of 1,558 appeals cases on hand with the International Protection Appeals Tribunal (IPAT). A total of 491 cases were pending with the Ministerial Decisions Unit (MDU) of my Department on 31 January 2020 (the figure for 1 January 2020 is not available). The MDU of my Department processes the recommendations received from the IPO and the decisions of the IPAT.

On 1 January 2021, there were a total of 4,996 applications on hand at the IPO (this figure does not include approximately 290 cases which were returned for processing following legal proceedings). There were 1,655 appeals cases on hand with the IPAT on that date and 538 cases pending with the MDU.

In addition, the Permission to Remain Review Unit in the IPO had a total of 505 cases on hand on 1 January 2021. These are cases where a protection applicant can make submissions for consideration as part of a formal permission to remain review. This review is in place to provide for situations where an applicant’s circumstances may have changed in a material way since the initial decision was made by the IPO to refuse permission to remain. Statistics for 1 January 2020 are not available for PTR cases on hand.

Closed-Circuit Television Systems

Questions (241)

Brian Stanley

Question:

241. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Justice when legislation will be brought forward by her Department to deal with the difficulties being encountered by local authorities that need to erect CCTV cameras in locations in which illegal dumping is taking place. [7708/21]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Deputy will be aware that problem of illegal dumping is addressed in the provisions of the Litter Pollution Act 1997 and the Waster Management Act 1996. Both of these Acts are the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment. I understand that the Data Protection Commissioner has written to that Minister about the use of surveillance to enforce these legislative provisions. Queries regarding the use of CCTV and illegal dumping are therefore more appropriate to the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment.

Citizenship Applications

Questions (242)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

242. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice the progress to date in the determination of a citizenship application in the case of a person (details supplied); when the application will be concluded; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7761/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

An application for a certificate of naturalisation was received from the person referred to by the Deputy on 21 March 2019. The application is currently being processed with a view to establishing whether they meet the statutory conditions for the granting of naturalisation and will be submitted to me for decision when processing is complete.

The granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is a privilege and an honour which confers certain rights and entitlements not only within the State but also at European Union level and it is important that appropriate procedures are in place to preserve the integrity of the process.

It is recognised that all applicants for citizenship would wish to have a decision on their application without delay. However, the nature of the naturalisation process is such that, for a broad range of reasons, some cases will take longer than others to process. In some instances, completing the necessary checks can take a considerable period of time.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to my Department by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility at INISOireachtasMail@justice.ie, which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Question process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in the cases where the response is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Deportation Orders

Questions (243)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

243. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice if an appeal will be reinstated in the case of a person (details supplied) notwithstanding the most recent decision in their case; if their appeal will be reinstated and the deportation order reviewed in view of the fact that they have been in this jurisdiction for many years and were employed under stamp 4 until the Covid-19 lockdown; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7804/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The immigration case of the person concerned was considered under section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), which resulted in a Deportation Order being made in respect of them on 24 February 2020. Notification of that Order was issued by registered post dated 19 August 2020. That communication also advised the person concerned of the requirement that they attend at the Offices of the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) on 19 September 2020, to make arrangements for their removal from the State. I am advised that they failed to do so.

A detailed consideration of their case to remain in the State is carried out before a decision is ultimately made to grant permission to remain in the State or to make a Deportation Order. That consideration includes a full consideration of their private and family rights, as enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights, as well as any humanitarian issues advanced in support of the case to remain in the State.

Where a Deportation Order is made, section 3 (11) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) provides a mechanism under which the person named on the Order can make a request to have that Order revoked. It is open to the person concerned to make such a request if they can point to new facts or circumstances relating to their case which were not considered, nor were capable of being considered, when the decision to make a Deportation Order was taken.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to my Department by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility, inisoireachtasmail@justice.ie which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response is, in the Deputy’s view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Probate Applications

Questions (244)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

244. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Justice the steps being taken to address the current slow processing times for probate applications in Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7825/21]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Probate Office is an office of the High Court and management of the courts is the responsibility of the Courts Service. Under the provisions of the Courts Service Act 1998, management of the courts is the responsibility of the Courts Service which is independent in its functions. However, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made regarding the steps being taken to address the current processing times for probate applications in Dublin. The Courts Service has provided the following update on this matter.

Restrictions under Level 5 of the Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021 Plan for Living with COVID-19 necessitated the temporary closure of the personal applications process in the Dublin Probate Office in October 2020. I understand it had been hoped to recommence appointments with personal applicants in early January but due to the re-introduction of restrictions this was not possible. Until such time as the restrictions on movement are lifted or significantly reduced, I am advised that there will be no resumption of personal application interviews. Staff who would usually deal with personal applications have been reassigned to work on solicitor applications which continue to be processed. The waiting times for these applications, which were at one point subject to twelve weeks delays, are now at seven weeks. The Courts Service advises that there are no plans to increase staff capacity as the arrears continue to be manageable within the existing staffing complement. Resources will be diverted to address the arrears of personal applications once interviews can recommence.

Health Services Staff

Questions (245)

Joan Collins

Question:

245. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Health further to correspondence from the Minister of State with responsibility for public health, well-being and the national drugs strategy (details supplied), when community prison link workers will receive pay restoration due to workers of section 38 and 39 agencies, which included workers in the drugs and alcohol task forces and JIs. [7495/21]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

An agreement was reached by parties at the Workplace Relations Commission in October 2018, in relation to a process of pay restoration for staff employed in section 39 organisations.

Pay restoration commenced in 50 pilot agencies in April 2019 with an annual pay increase of up to €1,000. Any outstanding balance would be paid in two equal amounts in 2020 and 2021, if due.

The agreement reached at the WRC noted that some of the section 39 organisations (approximately 250) which did not form part of the pilot phase are also likely to have pay restoration issues. It stated that a process of engagement to address this would commence in 2019. It is the section 39 organisations who were identified in that initial agreement reached at the WRC in 2018 that are included in this final phase of pay restoration.

Since late 2019, there was a number of meetings between the parties at the WRC, in relation to this final phase. The HSE have been costing this final phase of pay restoration and have asked those eligible 250 organisations, who were included as part of the WRC agreement, to submit an application which will be subject to assessment and verification by the HSE.

I can confirm that following engagement at the Workplace Relations Commission in early December, the parties reached an agreement in relation to the 250 organisations. A payment arrangement consisting of three phases was agreed with the first two payments to be made in 2021.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (246)

Neale Richmond

Question:

246. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Health his views on whether childcare workers should receive the vaccine alongside key workers according to the vaccine roll-out plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7625/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

The COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation Strategy sets out a provisional list of groups for vaccination. The Strategy was developed by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) and the Department of Health, endorsed by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), and approved by Government on 8 December 2020.

Vaccine allocation is a matter for the Department of Health and further information is available here: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/39038-provisional-vaccine-allocation-groups/.

The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination programme is the responsibility of the HSE.

The aim of the COVID-19 vaccination programme is to ensure, over time, that vaccine will become available to vaccinate all of those for whom the vaccine is indicated. Given that there will be initially limited vaccines available, it will take some time for all to receive those vaccines and that has necessitated an allocation strategy to ensure that those most at risk of death and serious illness receive the vaccine first.

The priority is to first vaccinate and protect directly the most vulnerable amongst us, that is, those most likely to have a poor outcome if they contract the virus. The priority is to directly use vaccines to save lives and reduce serious illness, hence the focus on the over 65 year old cohort in long term residential care facilities, and healthcare workers in frontline services often caring for the most vulnerable.

The next group to be vaccinated are those aged 70 and older in the following order: 85 and older, 80-84, 75-79, and 70-74. Vaccination of this group will begin this month.

All of the groups will be covered as further vaccine supplies become available and the immunisation programme is rolled out nationally.

The evidence will be kept under review and the allocation groups may be updated, where necessary, in light of new evidence.

Covid-19 Tests

Questions (247)

Neale Richmond

Question:

247. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Health his plans for mass testing in childcare settings; the frequency at which these tests are carried out; the way in which the facilities are chosen for testing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7627/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

In Ireland, the National Testing Strategy for COVID-19 involves testing people who meet the case definition (people with symptoms), their identified close contacts, and established serial testing programmes including residential care facilities, schools and food production facilities, and following the completion of a Public Health Risk Assessment. The National Testing Strategy is directed by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) and coordinated by the Health Service Executive (HSE).

There is ongoing consideration given by the Government to policy in relation to the management of Covid-19 in childcare settings. The Health Protection Surveillance Centre has published guidance for Childcare Settings relating to the management of Covid-19 available at https://www.hpsc.ie/a-z/respiratory/coronavirus/novelcoronavirus/guidance/childcareguidance/.

Over the last number of months, the HSE has worked intensively to put in place a comprehensive, reliable and responsive testing and tracing operation. Where a childcare setting is informed of a child or staff member who has tested positive for Covid-19, if the case was in the facility during the infectious period, the HSE endeavour to contact the service management the same day, although this may be the following day in some cases. When public health doctors make contact with the setting, they will proceed to undertake a Public Health Risk Assessment (PHRA). Core to the PHRA will be assessing the likelihood of onward transmission from the case identified, and this will inform their further actions. The risk assessment applied in various settings may be dynamic and change as new information becomes available, and the testing strategy may evolve as information unfolds. Decisions relating to testing are made based on the risk assessment undertaken.

The Deputy may wish to note that in the period from 23rd August 2020 to 8th February 2021, 10,976 tests have been carried out in 514 childcare facilities. In the week of 31st January to 6th February 2021, 427 tests were carried out in 35 childcare facilities based on a Public Health Risk Assessment. The Schools and Childcare Facility Testing Report is published on a weekly basis by the HSE and is accessible on their website.

Ireland is pursuing a robust testing strategy under the guidance of the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET). On an ongoing basis, NPHET considers and reviews, based on public health risk assessments, how best to target testing to hunt the virus in populations where it’s most likely and where it will do most harm. The risk assessment applied in childcare settings may be dynamic and change as new information becomes available, and the testing strategy may evolve as information unfolds.

Disability Support Services

Questions (248)

Pauline Tully

Question:

248. Deputy Pauline Tully asked the Minister for Health the number of day services for persons with disabilities which have reopened; the capacity at which these services are operating; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7635/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

All day service locations with the exception of those being utilised as COVID-19 isolation or testing centres have reopened since August. Service users that usually received their supports from these locations are now either receiving supports at another location or receiving outreach or home-based supports.

Day services re-opened at 39% capacity at service locations throughout August and early September, and by end of November this had increased to 51%. The combination of supports in the location, outreach supports, and remote supports provides an overall quantum of support to service users of over 60% at the end of November. For the duration of the COVID-19 emergency day service capacity is reduced, this is due to the physical limitations of the buildings available, the lack of mainstream community activities, and the continued restrictions imposed by social distancing guidance. Many people with disabilities have underlying health conditions, and as the threat of COVID-19 remains, unfortunately so too does the need for these restrictions.

Guidance published by the HSE on 6 January 2021 confirms that day services continue to be prioritised and delivered subject to a revised Risk Assessment, Public Health Guidance and direction. People with complex medical/ clinical related needs are to remain at home and where possible, to receive the same number of hours support in the home as they had been in receipt of pre-Christmas in day service locations. Providers have been asked to reduce contacts via hubs/bubbles, with dedicated staff for dedicated service users, where possible. Where families are uncomfortable with allowing their family member to return to a day service location, a package of support within available resources will be agreed with the service user and family.

As this is a service matter I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond to the deputy directly, as soon as possible.