Direct Provision System

Questions (532)

Holly Cairns

Question:

532. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth if his attention has been drawn to reports from a direct provision centre (details supplied) that it is allegedly serving expired food to children in the centre; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8338/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

I can confirm that my officials in the International Protection Accommodation Services (IPAS) have not received such complaints from the residents in the accommodation centre referred to by the Deputy or through other verifiable sources.

IPAS has a complaints procedure which is set out in the House Rules & Procedures Booklet for International Protection applicants. Complaints are made initially to the centre manager with a view to informal resolution. If the person concerned is not satisfied with the outcome of their complaint, he or she may make a complaint to IPAS who will investigate the matter and take action as appropriate. In the event that a resident is not satisfied with how his or her complaint is dealt with, he or she has full access to the services of the Office of the Ombudsman and Ombudsman for Children’s Office.

A confidential Freephone telephone support service, funded by but independent of my Department, was also established in May 2020 to provide further support to residents in both permanent and temporary accommodation centres. This Freephone confidential support helpline is operated by the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS).

All the Department’s accommodation centres are subject to regular unannounced inspections by both staff from IPAS and an independent inspectorate company. Part of the inspection process deals directly with the provision of food services. Meals are assessed during inspection for quality, cultural appropriateness and variety of menu options. Menus must include a vegetarian option and all food products provided must have a traceability system that complies with food safety requirements. Any issues identified are notified to the contractor to be addressed immediately. It should also be noted that our accommodation centres are subject to inspections by Environmental Health Officers.

Three inspections by IPAS took place in the accommodation centre referred to by the Deputy in 2020. The reports will be published on IPAS's website www.ria.gov.ie in due course as are all such inspection reports. Some apartments have been refurbished at this centre in 2020. New kitchens, a new play area and a shop have also been recently installed. Residents may speak directly with inspectors during these visits and it has been reported that during the last inspection, in December 2020, many residents stated that they were very happy staying at this accommodation location.

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

I am committed to improving standards in International Protection accommodation as the Government works to end Direct Provision. As such my Department has also engaged with HIQA with regard to monitoring the implementation of national standards for IPAS Accommodation Centres that were published in 2019. It is expected that this process will begin in the coming months.

Direct Provision System

Questions (533)

Patrick Costello

Question:

533. Deputy Patrick Costello asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth if the confidential freephone support service for residents in direct provision has been shared with all residents; if so, the way in which it has been shared; and if not, if he will correspond with each resident with details of the freephone number. [8416/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) is funded by my Department to operate a confidential support helpline for all residents being accommodated by the International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS).

IPAS understands that not everybody feels comfortable contacting the Department directly so the helpline can be used to discuss issues or problems they are having with their accommodation or other issues of concern in confidence. The contact number for this service is 1800 929 008.

This number is published in newsletters for residents and is advised to residents in the National Reception Centre as part of their orientation prior to being allocated accommodation in one of our accommodation centres.

Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries

Questions (534)

James Lawless

Question:

534. Deputy James Lawless asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth if a statutory redress or other compensation scheme will be made available to the mother and baby home former residents; if so, the timeline for such a scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8442/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes has made clear recommendations in relation to redress on the basis of its extensive statutory investigations. Notably, the Commission recognises that redress can be financial or in the form of enhanced services. In the context of comparable previous redress arrangements, the Commission identifies a number of specific groups for whom it recommends redress might be considered.

The Government has made a very significant and early commitment to accept these recommendations and design a bespoke Restorative Recognition Scheme. I have now established an Interdepartmental Group on Restorative Recognition (IDG). The IDG held its first meeting on the 4 February and has been tasked with reporting back to me by the end of April to enable specific proposals to be brought to Government.

It has been asked to develop detailed proposals for a restorative recognition scheme. Its work must take account of the specific groups identified by the Commission but is not limited to those groups. Its work will be underpinned by a human rights focus and informed by strong stakeholder consultation and an understanding of lessons learned from the operation of previous schemes

It is intended that the scheme will be designed as quickly as possible in 2021.

This is a hugely important process for all connected to these institutions and I will be working with colleagues and survivors to advance these matters as a priority.

Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries

Questions (535)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

535. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the status of the investigation into the leak of the report of the mother and baby homes commission of investigation to a newspaper (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8444/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

I was appalled at the leaking of the report. It was wholly unacceptable and disrespectful to survivors. I secured Government agreement to a full investigation of this incident. The Secretary General of the Department of An Taoiseach is currently investigating the matter. As part of this process, he will examine the broader issue of unauthorised dissemination of documentation and other information related to the work of the Cabinet and its sub-committees.

It is not possible to say when the investigation will be completed . As there are a number of aspects to this it is not clear how long it will take to deal satisfactorily with each of them. I can assure the Deputy that this matter is being pursued to the full and without delay.

Early Childhood Care and Education

Questions (536)

Denise Mitchell

Question:

536. Deputy Denise Mitchell asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the number of early years providers that have closed permanently in January 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8617/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

As the subject matter of the Deputy's question relates to an operational matter for Tusla, I have referred the matter to them for a direct reply.

Family Resource Centres

Questions (537)

Rose Conway-Walsh

Question:

537. Deputy Rose Conway-Walsh asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth if there will be an application process for additional agencies to become members of the family resource centre programme in 2021 to allow for applications to address the need for a family resource centre in Erris, County Mayo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8635/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, is responsible for the administration of the Family Resource Centre (FRC) Programme. I have requested that Tusla respond directly to the Deputy with regard to the proposed application process raised by the Deputy.

I am pleased to have secured significant additional funding for Tusla this year which, I believe, will help the Agency more fully achieve its vision and meet the significant demands for its services. The details of where funding is allocated will be set out in Tusla’s Business Plan 2021, which is currently being finalised. Tusla will decide on the appropriate funding within available resources for family support services throughout the country, including Mayo.

Adoption Services

Questions (538)

Jennifer Carroll MacNeill

Question:

538. Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the number of persons waiting to partake in the preparation course in respect of adoption services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8685/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

As the subject matter of the Deputy's question relates to an operational matter for Tusla, I have referred the matter to them for a direct reply.

Adoption Services

Questions (539)

Jennifer Carroll MacNeill

Question:

539. Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth if the number of preparation courses currently being delivered remotely in respect of adoption services will be increased; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8686/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

As the subject matter of the Deputy's question relates to an operational matter for Tusla, I have referred the matter to them for a direct reply.

Adoption Services

Questions (540)

Jennifer Carroll MacNeill

Question:

540. Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth if his attention has been drawn to the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8687/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

As the subject matter of the Deputy's question relates to an operational matter for Tusla, I have referred the matter to them for a direct reply.

Children in Care

Questions (541)

Patrick Costello

Question:

541. Deputy Patrick Costello asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth if he will consider enshrining independent advocacy services in legislation to help protect children and young persons in care from abuse and poor practice, further to more than 20 investigations or reports over the past three decades into the State’s ability to adequately protect children in care; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8692/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

I recognise the important work carried out by advocacy services, such as EPIC, who work with children and young adults who are currently in care or who have experience of being in care. EPIC receives Government funding so that it can fulfil this important role.

The Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth is currently reviewing the Child Care Act 1991. The Child Care Act is the principal piece of legislation regulating child care and child protection policy in Ireland. The 1991 Act is a wide-ranging piece of legislation which, at its core, seeks to promote the welfare of children who may not be receiving adequate care and protection. My officials have consulted extensively with stakeholders to collect their views on the legislation, including through a call for written submissions and a number of consultation events. They have welcomed suggestions regarding improvements to existing sections or potential additions to the Act from any interested parties, and are considering all submissions.

Changes proposed to legislation on foot of this review will, in addition to other improvements, advance the State’s ability to adequately protect children in care.

I am also planning to seek Government Approval for the General Scheme of a new Child Care (Amendment) [Guardian ad litem] Bill, the purpose of which is to regulate the existing ad hoc system of Guardian ad litem (GAL) appointments in child care proceedings and to reform the system so that it benefits the greatest number of children and young people. The core functions of the GAL under the amended legislation will be to inform the court of any views which the child wishes to express and to advise the court on what, in his or her professional opinion, is in the child’s best interests.

Care Services

Questions (542)

Patrick Costello

Question:

542. Deputy Patrick Costello asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth if he will consider extending the age of aftercare to 26 years of age on a needs assessed basis (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8693/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

I have no plans at present to raise the age for which aftercare supports are made available to 26.

Aftercare services are support services build on and support the work already undertaken by many including foster carers, social workers and residential workers in preparing young people for adulthood. Everyone has a role to play in preparing young people to reach their developmental milestones.

Legislative provision for aftercare has been strengthened by the Child Care (Amendment) Act 2015, which imposed a statutory duty on Tusla to prepare an aftercare plan for an eligible child or eligible young person, following an assessment of need. In response to the new legislative provision, Tusla has developed a suite of policies and guidance documents for aftercare support, which includes guidance on direct financial support.

The most prominent form of such support is the aftercare allowance, which is provided to cover a young person’s day to day costs as they progress in education or accredited training. The core age range for eligibility for aftercare is 18 to 21 years of age. Specific legislative provision is in place for aftercare to continue until a young person is 23 years of age where they are finishing a course of education. For those young adults who are not in education / training at 18 years, aftercare services support them in accessing any relevant financial allowances and support to which they may be entitled from the Department of Social Protection or other agencies. The amount of financial support an adult will receive at 18 years and the relevant agency or Department will be specific to each adult’s circumstances.

It is considered prudent to ensure the aftercare service is fully delivered, in so far as is possible, and providing measurable and improved outcomes for those transitioning from State care before considering any extension to the relevant age cohort. It will also be necessary to develop a firm evidence base indicating that raising the age criteria is of benefit. Furthermore, the resource implications of extending the cohort eligible for aftercare planning and support would need to explicitly determined, agreed with relevant actors and budgeted for in advance of any consideration to change the qualifying age groups.

Departmental Reviews

Questions (543)

Patrick Costello

Question:

543. Deputy Patrick Costello asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth when the recommendation made more than 12 years ago by the report of the commission to inquire into child abuse that a longitudinal study be carried out over ten years, which would follow young persons who leave care in order to map their transition into adulthood, will be implemented given that a working group has been set up in his Department to advise on this objective but with no clear timeline for completion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8694/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

Deputy, thank you for your question.

As you highlighted, action 65 of the Ryan Report Implementation Plan states that ‘the HSE will, with their consent, conduct a longitudinal study to follow young people who leave care for 10 years, to map their transition to adulthood’.

Following on from a scoping study done by Dr Carmel Devaney in 2013, a feasibility study on conducting longitudinal research on children in care / leaving care was carried out by the same author and Dr Cliona Rooney. The report of that study, The Feasibility of Conducting a Longitudinal Study on Children in Care or Children Leaving Care within the Irish Context (Devaney and Rooney, June 2018), provided a detailed overview regarding longitudinal research for children in care and those leaving care.

There is agreement between my Department and Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, that greater knowledge of the lives of children in care and leaving care is necessary and in accordance with evidence informed policy and practice. To that end agreement was reached to establish a working group, comprising relevant officials from both my Department and Tusla. To date the first two meetings of the working group have taken place.

The purpose of the working group is to inform me on how the recommendation for longitudinal research into the lives and experiences of children in care and leaving care can best be met.

It is planned that the working group will meet on 5 occasions at 4-6 week intervals approximately after which time a high-level summary report, outlining the findings and conclusions of the working group will be delivered. It is planned that this report will be delivered in Q3 2021 after which time I will make a decision regarding the next course of action.

Immigration Support Services

Questions (544)

Kathleen Funchion

Question:

544. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth if level 5 Covid-19 restrictions will impede or stop the family reunification process and court-ordered access (details supplied). [8738/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

The Deputy is referring to an operational matter for Tusla, the Child and Family Agency. I have therefore referred the matter to Tusla, and asked that a direct response be provided to the Deputy.

Early Childhood Care and Education

Questions (545)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

545. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth if he will address a matter raised in correspondence (details supplied) regarding the ECCE scheme; and if flexibility will be permitted in such circumstances. [8766/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

Exemptions for the age requirements for the ECCE programme provided by my Department are considered with regard to three guiding principles:

- the child will not reach 6 years of age before beginning primary education as per the Educational Welfare Act, 2000,

- a specialist has recommended the additional time in ECCE; and

- the child has not already availed of the full two years of ECCE.

In deciding on applications for exemptions to the ECCE age requirements, my Department is guided by a review of the overage exemption process which was carried out by the National Disability Authority for my Department and the Department of Education in 2018. In their published report they concluded that it is in the best interest of children with additional needs to transition to primary school with their age cohort.

With regard to the child referred to by the Deputy, if the child remained in ECCE for an additional year she would be over 6 years of age starting primary school, and would turn 7 while in junior infants. The application to permit her to remain in ECCE for the 2021-22 programme year has been rejected.

I would encourage the parents to seek the assistance of the Department of Education and the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) with regard to sourcing a school place and the supports that are available for their child.

Consultancy Contracts

Questions (546)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

546. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the contracts for public relations advice and consultancy entered into by his Department costing more than €10,000 since January 2021; the nature of the contract; and the length of the contract, in tabular form. [8886/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

My Department has not awarded any contracts for public relations advice and consultancy over €10,000 since January 2021. The Adoption Authority of Ireland, the National Disability Authority and Oberstown Children Detention Campus have confirmed likewise.

I have referred the question to Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, the Ombudsman for Children's Office and the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and asked them to provide the information sought directly to the Deputy.

Ministerial Communications

Questions (547)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

547. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth if there has been any contact with his counterpart in the United States. [8906/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

The Minister has not made contact, nor has had contact, from the United States administration.

Adoption Services

Questions (548)

Brian Stanley

Question:

548. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth further to Parliamentary Question No. 432 of 8 December 2020, the progress being made on providing adoptive leave and removing the lacuna in the legislation that discriminates against same-sex couples in view of the commitment given by the previous Government. [8967/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

Section 6 of the Adoptive Leave Act 1995 provides for an entitlement to 24 weeks of paid adoptive leave for an employed adopting mother or a sole male adopter, and an additional 16 weeks of unpaid leave. Under the current legislation, adoptive leave is not available to male same-sex couples who are adopting jointly.

Addressing the access to adoptive leave and benefit by male same-sex couples is an important commitment in the Programme for Government and is of great significance for couples seeking to adopt. Under proposals approved by Government in December 2020, provisions to amend the Adoptive Leave Act 1995 will be included alongside proposed amendments to the Parent’s Leave and Benefit Act 2019. This legislation is currently being drafted and will be introduced in the coming weeks.

While the provisions are intended to enable male same-sex adopting couples to avail of adoptive leave, the provisions will also allow all adopting couples to choose who should take the leave and will entitle the parent who is not in receipt of adoptive leave to paternity leave. The introduction of this legislation will provide greater choice and flexibility for parents in determining the arrangements which best suit their family, as well as removing the assumption underpinning the current legislation that women are the primary caregivers in all instances.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Questions (549)

Holly Cairns

Question:

549. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth his views on encouraging the use of more inclusive face masks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8982/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

The public health response to the current pandemic is set by the Department of Health, therefore the question is more appropriate for my colleague the Minister for Health. However I appreciate the widespread use of non-transparent face masks have presented additional difficulties for the deaf and hard of hearing community, and other communities, in being able to interact with others in their daily lives. I would welcome the greater availability of more inclusive face masks as step to helping address this issue.

Youth Guarantee

Questions (550)

Denise Mitchell

Question:

550. Deputy Denise Mitchell asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the amount drawn down from the EU youth guarantee scheme in each of the years 2015 to 2020, respectively, in tabular form. [8619/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

The Youth Employment Initiative (YEI) supports the implementation of the EU youth guarantee. It is programmed as a dedicated priority axis with the European Social Fund (ESF) Programme for Employability, Inclusion and Learning 2014-2020 (PEIL). Ireland’s specific YEI allocation of €68m (for 2014 and 2015) is matched by equal amounts from our ESF allocation and from the Exchequer, giving an overall total allocation of €204m. Ireland was not eligible for an additional allocation under the second YEI allocation arising from the mid-term revision of the Multi-annual Financial Framework in 2017.

All ESF activities, including YEI activities, are fully funded up-front by the Exchequer with the EU (ESF/YEI) funding being claimed in arrears. In addition to prefinancing of €6.39m received for the YEI, payment applications submitted to the European Commission in respect of the YEI are set out below:

Year

Gross YEI Expenditure In Payment Applications to Commission

EU Receipts from Payment Applications

YEI Receipts

2018

€ 112,254,854.82

€ 67,352,912.88

€ 33,676,456.44

2019

€ 31,736,552.30

€ 19,041,931.38

€ 9,520,965.69

2020

€ 10,217,891.94

€ 6,130,735.17

€ 3,065,367.59

Total

€ 154,209,299.06

€ 92,525,579.43

€ 46,262,789.72

The Commission retains 10% of the payment due until the accounts for the year are closed.

Further payment applications are being prepared for submission to the Commission to fully draw down the EU allocations.

In addition, the Department of Social Protection obtained EU funding of €250,000 under the European Commission’s call for proposals for preparatory actions under the Youth Guarantee Pilot, to pilot a Youth Guarantee Scheme in Ballymun which operated in 2014.

Student Accommodation

Questions (551)

Rose Conway-Walsh

Question:

551. Deputy Rose Conway-Walsh asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the value of direct financial supports provided to purpose-built student accommodation providers since 2011, by year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8709/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

Section 50 of Finance Act 1999 provided for a student accommodation scheme whereby expenditure incurred on student rental accommodation can be set against the rental income from the property and against other Irish rental income, thus reducing the taxable income of the person incurring the expenditure. The relevant provisions in the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 are set out in Part 10,Chapter 11, sections 372AK to 372AV.

The scheme has now terminated, in so far as the termination date for incurring qualifying expenditure has now passed. The qualifying period applied up to 31 December 2006, although under certain circumstances the qualifying period could be further extended to 31 July 2008. Claims in relation to qualifying expenditure incurred before the termination date may continue to arise.

Based on the latest data available from Revenue, the number of properties availing of tax relief for student accomodation, and the estimated cost to the exchequer, are as follows:

Year

Uptake

Estimated Exchequer Cost (€m)*

2018

194

7.5

2017

247

8.8

2016

292

9

2015

361

11.8

2014

414

11.1

2013

537

11.9

2012

606

12.4

2011

640

14.5

* Maximum tax cost assumed at 40% for income tax and 12.5% for corporation tax.

2018 is the most recent year for which data are available.

https://www.revenue.ie/en/corporate/documents/statistics/tax-expenditures/property-reliefs.pdf

Third Level Fees

Questions (552)

Dara Calleary

Question:

552. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science if leaving certificate 2020 students who have been awarded an upgraded college course having received a higher leaving certificate after sitting the examination will be liable for the student contribution fee of €3,000 when they transfer to year one of their upgraded course in 2021; if such students are liable, his views on whether it is unfair to charge twice for year one; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7873/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

Under the Department’s free fees schemes, the Exchequer provides funding toward the tuition fee costs of eligible undergraduate higher education students with students paying the student contribution.

The student contribution applies to all students on an annual basis, who are eligible under the 'free fees' scheme. The current rate is €3,000 per annum. Currently in excess of 60,000 students have all or part of the student contribution paid on their behalf by the State via the Student Grant Scheme.

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

Typically students are not supported for a repeat period of study under the free fees initiative, however in exceptional circumstances, or where a student receives a Leaving Certificate uplifted offer from their original CAO application following an appeal, an exception may be allowed.

As an extension to the current scheme, and cognisant of the leaving certificate 2020 process, students receiving an uplifted deferred place in 2021/22 academic year, based on the 2020 CAO application having sat examinations will remain eligible for free fees for the 2nd period of study.

As already mentioned, the student contribution applies to all students who are eligible under the 'free fees' scheme as the students annual contribution towards tuition fees. This includes students that choose to transfer courses that will require a repeat period of study while retaining access to 'free fees' on an exceptional basis such as a deferred uplifted place.

Third Level Admissions

Questions (553)

Seán Haughey

Question:

553. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science if the CAO and HPAT closing dates can be extended for students who sat the leaving certificate in November 2020 in order that any improved grades obtained by them can be taken into account, which could allow them to commence undergraduate courses requiring higher points in September and October 2021; if their change of mind with regard to inclusion of courses can be facilitated given that they performed better than they expected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7921/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

The CAO process applications for undergraduate, and some postgraduate, courses on behalf of the Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). Decisions on admissions, including deadlines for submissions of applications, are made by the HEIs who then instruct the CAO in this matter.

The HPAT is independently administered by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) on behalf of the universities’ medical schools and RCSI. The selection criteria and process for admission to medical schools is a matter for those institutions in line with their statutory autonomy in relation to academic affairs. Neither I nor my Department have a role in the administration or running of the CAO or HPAT, and I do not determine the application deadlines in relation to either of them.

Students whose November Leaving Certificate results entitled them to a higher preference offer based on their 2020 CAO application will have received a deferred offer to start their course in the 2021/22 academic year. Such offers are part of the 2020 application cycle, and therefore will be based on the 2020 CAO points.

Students who wish to make a fresh application for the 2021 CAO cycle may do so if they have not already applied. Although the initial deadline for CAO applications has passed, the late application facility will be open from 5th March to 1st May, allowing students to apply for all non-restricted courses. It is my understanding that late applications for restricted courses will not be accepted, as these deadlines are in place to allow the necessary assessments such as interviews, portfolio assessments or the HPAT to take place.

Third Level Admissions

Questions (554, 566, 567)

Kathleen Funchion

Question:

554. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science his plans to deal with the high number of CAO applications. [7939/21]

View answer

Jennifer Murnane O'Connor

Question:

566. Deputy Jennifer Murnane O'Connor asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science his plans to ensure fair competition for college places due to a record number of CAO applications from the 2021 cohort, deferred students from 2020 and those students who were awarded higher points on review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8284/21]

View answer

Jennifer Murnane O'Connor

Question:

567. Deputy Jennifer Murnane O'Connor asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science his plans to ensure place availability for the leaving certificate class of 2021 at higher education; if his attention has been drawn to the record number of CAO applications; the engagement his Department has had with higher level institutions to ensure sufficient places for such record demand; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8287/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 554, 566 and 567 together.

I am conscious of the impact that Covid-19 has had on the leaving certificate class of 2021, and will take action as necessary to ensure that a full range of further and higher education options are available to them.

I am aware of the high number of CAO applications this year, and my officials are engaging regularly with representatives from the higher education sector in relation to the 2021/22 academic year and demand for places. Information will become available next month on the types of applicants in the current year, and the courses they are choosing which will assist us in planning for the current year.

Funding was provided in Budget 2021 to both sustain additional undergraduate places and address demographic growth pressures. These places are in addition to the 1,330 additional places commencing in 2021, funded through the Human Capital Initiative Pillar 2, which will be on undergraduate courses in areas of identified skills needs.

I know how difficult a time it has been for students and parents, and my Department will continue to closely assess demand for higher education places and take action as necessary to ensure that this year's Leaving Certificate students have a range of pathways into further and higher education.

Student Accommodation

Questions (555)

Rose Conway-Walsh

Question:

555. Deputy Rose Conway-Walsh asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science if the most recent data his Department has on the breakdown between purpose-built student accommodation in the private market and on campus are from 2014; his plans to update this information; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7981/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

The latest available figures on supply and demand in the student accommodation sector, including the breakdown between private and university-owned accommodation, was published in 2017 and used data from 2014. My Department also tracks new developments in student accommodation, with the breakdown in the number of bed spaces completed in the private and HEI-owned sectors since 2016 available in the table below.

Year

Private

HEI-owned

Total

2016

478

650

1128

2017

1478

0

1478

2018

2100

429

2529

2019

2961

250

3211

2020

2396

0

2396

Total

9413

1329

10742

My Department will publish a further report on supply and demand in the student accommodation sector in due course, however at present the demand for student accommodation is in flux due to the coronavirus and the level of demand for student accommodation, at least in the short term, remains uncertain.

Third Level Admissions

Questions (556)

Rose Conway-Walsh

Question:

556. Deputy Rose Conway-Walsh asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the number of persons who accepted an offer of a place through the CAO in 2019 and 2020, respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7982/21]

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Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

Universities and Institutes of Technology are autonomous and determine their own procedures for admission. The CAO process applications for undergraduate, and some postgraduate, courses on their behalf.

Decisions on admissions are made by the higher education institutions who then instruct the CAO to make offers to successful candidates. Therefore neither I nor my Department have a function in relation to such matters and information on application figures is held by the CAO, not by my Department.

According to figures published by the CAO, the net number of acceptances at the end of Offer Round 5 was 49,657 in 2020 compared to 47,412 in 2019, an increase of 5%. Please note that these figures do not include acceptances arising from the results of the 2020 Leaving Certificate which were released earlier this month.

Net CAO acceptances, 2019 vs 2020

2019

2020

Change

% Change

Level 8

39,685

42,429

2,744

7%

Level 7/6

7,727

7,228

-499

-6%

Total

47,412

49,657

2,245

5%