Question Nos. 457 to 460, inclusive, answered with Question No. 454.

Departmental Legal Costs

Questions (461)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Question:

461. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Education the amount her Department has spent on legal costs arising from litigation involving children with special educational needs in each year since 2004. [8821/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

It should be noted by the Deputy that my Department does not initiate such proceedings and cases are generally only litigated where no potential settlement is acceptable to both sides and the Government's authority to decide issues of education policy is in question. My Department does not take lightly any decision to defend cases concerning children with special educational needs. Therefore, my Department is not complacent in dealing with these cases and attempts, wherever possible, to reduce the potential for litigation and the levels of legal costs that arise.

Legal costs incurred by the State in defending proceedings instigated against the Department, are not met directly by the Department. In accordance with financial procedures in cases involving damages or compensation against the State, costs are generally charged to the Chief State Solicitor's Office Vote as sanctioned by the Attorney General. The Department may be required to meet the legal costs of Applicants/Plaintiffs where there is a settlement or an order for costs against the State in cases where my Department is a named party.

Please see Table below which details any such Legal Cost contributions to Applicants/Plaintiffs for the years 2010 to 2020, which are readily available to my Department.

It should be noted by the Deputy that in some years my Department also received reimbursements of legal costs from various parties, including contributions towards such costs from State co-defendants, involved in the litigation process. These reimbursements have been taken account of in the figures provided, as applicable.

YEAR

Total expenditure for SEN Litigation Legal Costs

2010

€649,239.75

2011

€622,159.30

2012

€172,665.85

2013

€69,888.86

2014

€115,929.90

2015

€117,465.00

2016

Nil

2017

Nil

2018

€69,147.50

2019

€19,875.00

2020

€172,084.51

School Breaks Standardisation

Questions (462)

Neale Richmond

Question:

462. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Education if her attention has been drawn to schools minimising their midterm break but opting for extended breaks later in the spring; if this decision is supported by her Department; her views on whether schools should ensure that when children return to the classroom that any additional interruptions should be kept to a minimum; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8860/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The scheduling of the school holiday periods during the academic years is agreed between the managerial authorities of schools, the teacher unions and my Department for the purposes of standardising breaks at Christmas, Easter and mid-term. This is important to ensure certainty for the school community about the dates of school holidays.

The Department’s circular 0005/2020 outlines the arrangements for the 2020/21 school year and subsequent years.

In respect of the February mid-term break all primary schools will be closed on Thursday 18th February 2021 and Friday 19th February 2021. Primary schools may use 3 discretionary days to extend this break to an alternative option of a 5 day break for the period from Monday 15th February 2021 to Friday 19th February 2021. Post-primary schools will close from Monday 15th February 2021 to Friday 19th February 2021.

Departmental Contracts

Questions (463)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

463. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Education the contracts for public relations advice and consultancy entered into by her Department over the cost of €10,000 since January 2021; the nature of the contract; and the length of the contract in tabular form. [8888/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The Department has not entered into any contracts for public relations advice or consultancy for the time period in question.

Ministerial Communications

Questions (464)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

464. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Education if there has been any contact with her counterpart in the United States'. [8908/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that I have not been in contact with my counterpart in the new administration of the United States Government.

School Accommodation

Questions (465)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

465. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Education the status of the design for works at a school (details supplied) in County Donegal; when the design phase of the works is expected to be complete; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8953/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The major building project to which the Deputy refers is included in my Department’s Construction Programme which is being delivered under the National Development Plan.

The project is currently at an advanced stage of architectural planning, Stage 2(b) - Detailed Design, which includes the application for statutory approvals and the preparation of tender documents.

My Department recently approved the Stage 2(a) Addendum report and has authorised the Design Team to proceed to lodge applications for the statutory approvals required for the project. When these have been secured, the Design Team will proceed to prepare the tender documents and finalise the Stage 2(b) report. Upon completion of the Stage 2(b) report, it will then be submitted to my Department for review.

Upon receipt and review of the completed Stage 2(b) report, my Department will revert to the Board of Management with regard to the further progression of the project at that time.

Special Educational Needs

Questions (466)

Robert Troy

Question:

466. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education the estimated cost of fully implementing sections (details supplied) of the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004, in tabular form. [8958/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that a number of sections of the Education for Persons with Special Needs (EPSEN) Act 2004 have been commenced. The commenced provisions include those establishing the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) and those providing for an inclusive approach to the education of children with special educational needs.

The following sections of the EPSEN Act were commenced in 2005.

Section 1 – InterpretationSection 2 - providing for the inclusive education of children with Special Educational NeedsSection 14 – placing certain duties on schoolsSections 19 to 37 - placing the Council on a statutory footing. Section 39 - placing certain duties on Health BoardsSections 40 to 53 - amending the Education ActSchedule 1 – providing for meetings and membership of the CouncilSchedule 2 providing for the Chief Executive Officer of the Council.

The remaining sections of the Act have yet to be commenced. The Sections of the EPSEN Act which have not been implemented are those which would have conferred a statutory entitlement to –

- an educational assessment for all children with special educational needs.

- consequent development of a statutory individual educational plan (IEP).

- the delivery of detailed educational services on foot of this plan.

- independent appeals process.

The NCSE estimated, in its Plan for the Implementation of the EPSEN Act Report, which was published in 2006, that additional investment over a period of years of up to €235m per annum, across the education and health sectors, would be required to fully implement the EPSEN Act.

The view of my Department, at the time, was that the level of investment required could be significantly greater than that envisaged in the NCSE report. Legal advice also indicated that the EPSEN Act, as it is currently constituted, may not be implemented on a phased, or age cohort, basis.

Revised estimates of the amount of additional expenditure required to fully implement the remaining sections of the EPSEN Act, including the individual sections of the Act referred to by the Deputy, have not recently been conducted. The estimated level of additional expenditure required, to implement the outstanding sections of the Act, would have to take into account annual demographic growth and service developments in the area of special educational needs, pricing adjustments and salary cost differentials on an ongoing basis. Estimates would also have to be made as to the number of pupils who may now currently qualify for the statutory service provisions envisaged by the EPSEN Act.

The Government is committed to helping every child, particularly those with special educational needs, to fulfil their potential.

In 2021 the Department of Education and Skills will invest approximately €2 Billion in the area of special educational needs support - 1/5 of the Department's budget and up over 42% since 2011.

The Government has committed to consulting with stakeholders on how best to progress aspects of the EPSEN Act on a non-statutory basis.

A range of consultations with Education Partners and Stakeholders took place in relation to the development of a new model for allocating special education teachers over the course of 2017. The new model was introduced for all schools from September 2017.

Further consultations took place with education partners and stakeholders in the context of the undertaking of a comprehensive review of the SNA scheme and will continue in relation to the implementation of recommendations contained in this report.

Additional powers have also been provided to the National Council for Special Educational to designate a school place for a person with special educational needs, which is now provided for in the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018.

While awaiting the full implementation of the EPSEN Act, the NCSE has also published a number of policy advice papers which make recommendations aimed at developing a better or more effective alternative to the current resource allocation model, and which aims to move the system towards ultimate implementation of the EPSEN Act.

It should also be noted, however, that since EPSEN was enacted, the Department’s policy on supporting children with special educational needs has changed and evolved on foot of evidence based policy advice from the NCSE which takes account of international perspectives.

Significantly, the focus of special needs education provision has changed from a model that is diagnosis led to one which is driven by the needs of the child. This is a substantially different view to the one underlying the EPSEN Act. The levels of investment by Government in special education has increased to facilitate the underlying reforms required to implement and embed the needs based approach.

This Government will continue to prioritise investment in the area of special education support. Ongoing investment and reform will continue to see improvements made in this area.

I have also indicated that one of my priorities as Minister for Special Education and Inclusion is:

Updating our Laws: Reviewing and updating the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs (EPSEN) Act.

Any review of the Act will take into account the extent of additional investment which has been made in special educational services since 2004, with some €2 Billion per year now being spent of special educational supports.

It will also take into account the range of reforms which have taken place in recent years including the development of new allocation models which are not based primarily on a response to assessment as policy advice has indicated that requirement of diagnosis can create a risk of children being diagnosed as having a special educational need for resource allocation purposes, rather than for health reasons. Also, that as there is a spectrum of ability and disability within every special education disability category, account must be taken of need, as well as diagnosis.

School Accommodation

Questions (467)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

467. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Education the progress made in the past six months to provide new accommodation for a school (details supplied) in view of the poor accommodation in the school at present; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8959/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

As the Deputy is aware, a building project to provide improved accommodation for the schools in question is included on the Department's school building programme to be delivered as part of the National Development Plan (NDP).

I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department is liaising with the schools regarding the accommodation brief for the project.

Social Insurance

Questions (468)

Mark Ward

Question:

468. Deputy Mark Ward asked the Minister for Social Protection if she has considered extending the benefits under the PRSI system to include counselling and psychotherapy. [8764/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

Payment of Treatment Benefit is provided for under the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005. Under the Treatment Benefit scheme, dental, optical and aural services are provided to insured employees, the self-employed, and retired people who have the required number of qualifying Pay Related Social Insurance (PRSI) contributions. An estimated 2.25 million insured contributors qualify for Treatment Benefit. To qualify, people must have paid class A, E, P, H or S social insurance (PRSI) contributions.

Qualified persons can avail of a range of treatments, either free of charge or part-funded. Under the Scheme, a person may qualify for:

- Dental benefit - annual oral examination and a payment a scale and polish or periodontal treatment

- Optical benefit - free eyesight test every 2 years and a grant towards glasses or contact lenses.

- Medical appliances (primarily hearing aids with a limited number of medically required contact lenses) – grants are available towards the cost of appliances every four years and towards the cost of repairs

Overall, the Department spent €92.8 million on Treatment Benefit in 2019, in respect of over 1.3 million completed treatment claims. In addition, it re-imbursed the HSE €8.65 million in respect of people who were dual qualified for dental and optical treatment, bringing the total cost of the Scheme to €101.45 million. Expenditure was slightly lower in 2020 due to the closure of most services in the first lockdown due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Any proposal to extend the treatment benefit scheme would have to be considered in a budgetary context, taking account of the current economic circumstances and with a view to the sustainability of the Social Insurance Fund.

I trust that this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Jobseeker's Allowance

Questions (469)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

469. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the progress to date in the determination of entitlement of a jobseeker's allowance in the case of a person (details supplied) that was made redundant in May 2019 and has received no assistance from her Department in the interim; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7882/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

According to the records of my Department, the person concerned submitted a claim for Jobseeker’s Benefit (JB) in June 2019. The claim could not be processed as the person concerned did not provide a valid Irish Residence Permit (IRP) formerly known as a GNIB card or a letter from the Department of Justice confirming his right to remain in the State.

The person concerned applied for a Jobseeker’s Allowance in December 2020 and was awarded a payment of €286 for the period 31/12/2020 to 06/01/2021. Subsequent to this award, my Department was advised that the person concerned had taken on the role of full-time carer for his child from 14/12/2020. As the person concerned was not available for full-time work it was established he was not entitled to this payment and his JA claim was closed. The person concerned was subsequently advised to apply for Carer’s Allowance, but records reflect that, as yet, no application for Carer’s Allowance has been received by my Department.

Following your representation a review was undertaken of the JB claim made by the person concerned. Taking into account his current IRP dated 29/10/2020 the person concerned has been awarded a JB payment from 29/10/2020 to 13/12/2020. Any monies due for this period less the overpayment of €286 for the period 31/12/2020 to 06/01/2021 will be paid into his nominated bank account this week.

On 09/04/2020 the person concerned applied for a Supplementary Welfare Allowance (SWA) payment. This claim was disallowed on 28/05/2020 as the person concerned failed to provide adequate details regarding multiple lodgements identified on a bank statement document he had provided. The person concerned was unable to show that his means were less than the weekly SWA rate appropriate to his circumstances. The disallowance was subsequently appealed to the independent Social Welfare Appeals Office and on 16/11/2020 the appeal was disallowed.

I trust this clarifies the matter.

Child Maintenance Payments

Questions (470)

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

470. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Social Protection the progress to date of the child maintenance review group; when the public consultation process will begin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7955/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The Government established a Child Maintenance Review Group to examine certain issues in relation to child maintenance in Ireland. The Group is chaired by former Circuit Court Judge Catherine Murphy and includes legal, policy and academic professionals as well as officials from my Department and the Department of Justice.

The Group's Terms of Reference are to consider and make recommendations on: (i) the current treatment of child maintenance payments in my Department; (ii) the current provisions regarding liable relatives managed by my Department; and (iii) the establishment of a Child Maintenance Agency in Ireland.

The work of the Group is well underway. To date the Group has held four meetings and there are a number of other meetings scheduled on a regular basis over the coming months.

I am very pleased that the Group launched its public consultation on 11th February. The consultation process which runs until 26th March provides an important opportunity for stakeholders, whether they are individuals or groups, to provide information, experiences and different perspectives on the areas under consideration. These submissions will help to inform the review and the recommendations which the Group will present to me later this year.

Maternity Benefit

Questions (471)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

471. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the extent to which a person (details supplied) qualifies for maternity benefit or other payment; if other entitlements may exist in this case; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7967/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

Maternity benefit is a payment made for 26 weeks to employed and self-employed women who satisfy certain PRSI contribution conditions based on their own social insurance record.

The person concerned does not qualify for maternity benefit at this time as she is not currently in employment and does not satisfy the required PRSI contribution conditions. She is advised to contact her local Intreo office to ascertain whether she qualifies for any other payment or allowance.

I hope this clarifies the position for the Deputy.

Treatment Benefit Scheme

Questions (472)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

472. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if optical benefit is available for a person (details supplied) and their spouse through the Department of Health or her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7974/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

In order to qualify for treatment benefit ( when aged over 66 years) a PRSI contributor must satisfy the conditions of having a total of 260 paid contributions at class A/E/H/P/S since starting work and 39 contributions paid or credited in the relevant tax years.

The person concerned does not meet this criteria. Although he has the 260 required paid contributions, he does not have the 39 paid at the required contribution rate or credited contributions in any of the years 1999 to 2006, which are the relevant tax years on which the claim is based. As a result, he does not satisfy the conditions for treatment benefit under the Department's PRSI scheme.

However, if the person concerned is the holder of a medical card he may have an entitlement to treatment under the HSE scheme. If this is the case, he should contact his local HSE health office for advice on making a claim.

The spouse of the person concerned qualifies for treatment benefit under the Department’s PRSI scheme and has been approved for optical benefit.

I hope this clarifies matters for the Deputy.

Fuel Allowance

Questions (473)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

473. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection when the fuel allowance will be made payable to a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7975/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

Fuel allowance is a means-tested payment to provide assistance to householders on long-term social welfare payments towards the cost of their heating needs.

The main eligibility conditions that apply to the fuel allowance scheme are that a person must be in receipt of a qualifying payment, must satisfy a means test and must either be living alone or with other qualifying persons. The fuel allowance means test is linked to the maximum rate of the state pension (contributory). The applicant and their spouse can have a combined weekly household income of €100 above the maximum rates for State pension (contributory) and Increase for qualified adult and still be eligible for a fuel allowance.

The person concerned applied for this allowance on 27 October 2020. Since it is a means-tested payment, information regarding their household means was requested on 6 November 2020, on 23 November 2020 and 10 Dec 2020. Following receipt of the requested information, fuel allowance was awarded with effect from 30 October 2020, the Friday following date of receipt of the application. Written notification of this decision issued to the person concerned on 9 February 2021 together with details of arrears due.

I hope this clarifies the position for the Deputy.

Jobseeker's Benefit

Questions (474)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

474. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social Protection the steps she is taking to address the issue of jobseeker’s benefit expiring for workers in the aviation industry who have been put on short time for the duration of the pandemic; if an allowance will be made to extend jobseeker’s benefit for these workers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7988/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

Jobseekers Benefit is a statutory scheme which is available to people who have lost their employment and who satisfy the scheme's statutory conditions including the requirement to have paid sufficient social insurance contributions.

The benefit is paid for 234 days (or 9 months) to people who have paid 260 or more PRSI contributions and for 156 days (6 months) to people who have paid less than 260 contributions.

Where a person has exhausted their entitlement to Jobseeker's Benefit for their days of unemployment they may apply for support under the means-tested Jobseeker's Allowance scheme. As with jobseeker’s benefit, a recipient of jobseeker’s allowance may engage in reduced employment.

Any person who is experiencing financial hardship may also apply for support under the means tested Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme.

I trust that this clarifies the position.

Social Welfare Benefits

Questions (475)

Cian O'Callaghan

Question:

475. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will address a matter raised in correspondence in relation to a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7995/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

In 2008 when my Department became aware the late mother of the person concerned was admitted to a Nursing Home, a social welfare inspector of my Department consulted with both the nursing home and a family member of the deceased regarding payment of the arrears of pension. Unfortunately the arrears were not paid at the time and remained unpaid until the matter was raised by the person concerned in 2020. If the person concerned wishes to obtain a copy of the records he should make a request to my Department in writing and should indicate that the records are being sought under the Freedom of Information Act.

When this error occurred, my Department was operating on a legacy IT system which could not identify whether arrears may be outstanding and paper processes were relied upon to administer schemes. Since then, my Department has moved to the current IT platform and can identify cases where there may be arrears due. The Department routinely run reports to identify such cases and ensure arrears are paid to customers in a timely manner.

Margetson & Greene were incorrectly advised by my Department in August 2015 that there were no arrears due to the estate. My Department corrected that record when the error came to light. GDPR only applies to living (natural) persons and therefore no data breach has occurred.

The Office of the Comptroller & Auditor General works in accordance with its statutory remit and is objective and independent in its work. They are responsible for auditing the public accounts, undertaking examinations on the management and use of public resources and reporting the results of the work to Dáil Éireann.

The primary legislation in respect of Social Welfare is contained in the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 as amended. Section 243 of that Act provides for payment in respect of loss of purchasing power where there has been a delay by the Department of more than 12 months in paying a new claim or an increase in a claim. There is no legislative provision for the payment of loss of purchasing on the maintenance of a claim, as in this case. Nonetheless, my Department made an ex-gratia payment of €4,184 to the estate, in recognition of the delay in payment of monies due to the deceased.

If the person concerned is not satisfied with my Department's response to the review of their complaint, they have the right to contact the Office of the Ombudsman, at 6 Earlsfort Terrace, Dublin 2, D02 W773 or online at www.ombudsman.ie

I trust this clarifies the position for the Deputy.

Dietary Allowance

Questions (476)

Seán Canney

Question:

476. Deputy Seán Canney asked the Minister for Social Protection the availability of a diabetic diet allowance; if it is available to persons with diabetes that require a specialised diet; the criteria for receiving it; if it is closed to new applications; if the allowance can be granted in special circumstances at the discretion of a community welfare officer; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8025/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

Diet supplement, administered under the supplementary welfare allowance (SWA) scheme, is payable to qualifying persons, in receipt of the supplement prior to February 2014, who have been prescribed a special diet as a result of a specified medical condition. There are currently 1,700 people in receipt of diet supplement at a cost of €0.9 million in 2020.

A review of the costs of healthy eating and specialised diets by the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute was commissioned by my Department during 2013. The research showed that the average costs across all of the retail outlets of the diets supplemented under the scheme could be met from within one-third of the minimum personal rate of social welfare payment, i.e. the SWA rate, which was then paid at €186 per week (and is currently paid at €201 per week). I am advised that the diet supplement scheme was discontinued for new applicants from 1 February 2014 on the basis of this evidence.

Recipients continue to receive the diet supplement at their existing rate of payment for as long as they continue to have an entitlement to the scheme or until their circumstances change. This measure ensured that nobody was immediately worse off by the closure of the scheme.

In cases of particular hardship, officials continue to have the legislative power to award a SWA payment in cases of exceptional need.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Departmental Data

Questions (477)

Claire Kerrane

Question:

477. Deputy Claire Kerrane asked the Minister for Social Protection the approximate prior earnings of recipients of schemes (details supplied) by NACE sector and using administrative data on the distribution of earnings across NACE sectors where available in tabular form. [8057/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The data requested by the Deputy, where available, is set out in the tables below. The data refers to recipients of the selected schemes in January 2021, while the earnings data relates to 2019. Due to the extended deadline for returns, earnings data in respect of the self-employed for 2019 may not be fully complete.

Caution should be exercised around the NACE sector details in particular. The NACE details refer to the NACE sector of the last known employer of the recipients, and the 2019 earnings reported here are not necessarily related to the sector of the last known employer. In the case of self-employed recipients, the sector of the last known employer may not reflect the sector of their self employment.

Table

Earnings across the entire economy by NACE sectors are published quarterly by the Central Statistics Office at https://www.cso.ie/en/statistics/earnings/earningsandlabourcosts/ and at https://data.cso.ie/table/EHQ03

Social Welfare Appeals

Questions (478)

Pádraig O'Sullivan

Question:

478. Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Social Protection the status of an appeal by persons (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8127/21]

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 confirm that my Department received an application for CA in respect of two care recipients from the person concerned on 14 February 2020.

It was decided by a Deciding Officer (DO) that although the person concerned was providing a certain amount of care, the level provided was not considered to be full-time.

The person concerned was notified on 13 July 2020 of these decisions, the reasons for them and of her right of review and appeal.

The person concerned requested a review of this decision. Following this review the decision remained unchanged.

The person concerned appealed these decisions to the Social Welfare Appeals Office (SWAO).

The appeal was disallowed by the SWAO on 10 November 2020.

Following this, my Department received new applications for CA in respect of the two care recipients from the person concerned on 13 November 2020.

The applications were referred to a local social welfare inspector (SWI) on 19 November 2020 to assess the level of care being provided, assess means and confirm that all the conditions for receipt of CA were satisfied.

The SWI is currently assessing the applications. Once the SWI has completed his investigation, a decision will be made without delay and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

I hope this clarifies the position for the Deputy.

Citizens Information Services

Questions (479)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

479. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Social Protection if there are plans for a company (details supplied) to reduce the level of in-person services it provides. [8173/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The Citizens Information Board (CIB) is the statutory body responsible for supporting the provision of information, advice (including money and budgeting advice) and advocacy services on a wide range of public and social services. A national network of Citizens Information Centres, overseen by eight regional companies, provides information, advice and advocacy services to the public.

I have made enquiries with the Citizens Information Board (CIB) which funds and supports this network, including the Dublin South Citizens Information Service (DSCIS), which has responsibility for the provision of information, advice and advocacy services in its geographic area.

I am advised that the DSCIS service is currently being delivered in adherence to Government advice at the various restriction levels. Since March 2020, DSCIS have primarily delivered a service to the public through a “call-back service”, whereby members of the public phone their local office and leave their details, and then receive a call back from one of DSCIS's information officers within 24 – 48 hours.

With the support of safety consultants, DSCIS carried out risk assessments on all of their offices and invested significantly in personal protective equipment (PPE). From June 2020 onwards, DSCIS has provided in-person appointment based services to members of the public, where a query cannot be dealt with by phone or by email. I understand that there are no plans for DSCIS to reduce the current level of in-person services, which are provided on this appointment basis.

DSCIS recognises the value of in-person services, where a member of the public can walk in to their local office and receive information, advice and advocacy services in relation to their query. DSCIS envisage a return to in-person services as the primary manner in how they interact with their clients, in line with the lifting of restrictions over time.

I hope this clarifies the position for the Deputy.

Childcare Services

Questions (480)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

480. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of early years professionals availing of the enhanced illness benefit. [8174/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

Since the introduction of the Enhanced Illness Benefit scheme, there have been a total of 2,177 claimants working in pre-primary education or in childcare. As of February 15th 2021, 137 of these are currently receiving a payment. Note that the industry breakdown of persons in receipt of this scheme is based on the last known employer.

I trust this clarifies the position for the Deputy.

Domiciliary Care Allowance

Questions (481)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

481. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the progress to date in relation to an application for a domiciliary care allowance in the case of a person (details supplied); when the application will be brought to a conclusion; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8183/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

This domiciliary care allowance application has been finalised. The person concerned was notified in a letter dated 13th January 2021 that domiciliary care allowance has been awarded from 1st June 2020. This includes a back-dating payment for the maximum six months allowable in respect of the months June to November 2020. Arrears due for this period issued with the January 2021 payment on the 19th January 2021.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.