Topical Issue Debate

Disability Support Services Provision

I thank the Office of the Ceann Comhairle for selecting this issue for discussion. I also welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Lynch, to the House. I was here this time last year raising a similar issue and thankfully the difficulties were addressed for the parents and children in question. Unfortunately, we are back again this year with new parents and new children facing the same concerns. I acknowledge that under the HSE national service plan 2013, €4 million was made available to meet the needs of those leaving school and of rehabilitative training, which is welcome. However, according to information I have received, that sum will not be enough.

HSE west has been allocated €932,000 of the €4 million. In Galway, the allocation is €210,000 but an additional €600,000 will be needed to deal with the number of children coming on stream this year. There are about 80 children in Galway, 46 of whom will need additional resources and of these, the Brothers of Charity have 19. The Brothers have endured five years of cuts and rationalisation. They have eaten into their own reserves and have been very prudent in recent years. Those reserves are now gone. At this stage they have stated that they will not be able to take in any new service users and if they do, it will be at the expense of services to existing users. This is not acceptable. There are safety concerns involved too as the Brothers feel it would not be safe to take in additional children. It is also worth noting that this is the first year that children in the Ábalta special school in Galway will be coming on stream. Many of these children have high-level needs and some have a requirement for 24/7 care. Will new resources be made available, in addition to the €4 million that has already been allocated, to ensure that these children and their parents have peace of mind and to ensure there will be services available to them in September?

I wish to draw the attention of the Minister of State to a very severe, extreme and unusual case of a family in crisis. The case centres on a young man with severe autism. His mother has cancer and two of his siblings have special needs. The difficulty is that there is a mandatory court order relating to this case which expires on 28 June. This is an emergency situation. The family is clearly in crisis and is seeking support. I am hoping the Minister of State has something in her file to indicate that they will get the support they need. I want reassurances that a plan will be put in place for this young man. He weighs 18 stone and is 6 ft. 3 in tall. He has enormous difficulties. In other circumstances, he would probably be in a residential setting but his family does not want that. They want to keep him at home but considerable resources are needed to do this. The circumstances are unusual and we must give as much support to the family as possible. The young lad was allowed to stay in school for an extra year and the family have asked if the setting could be the same.

Aside from this specific case, we need to think in terms of a transitional period for children like this, particularly those with severe autism. We need to develop transitional services so that the move from school is not so abrupt for these children. I hope that this case might trigger changes within the Department in this context.

The Minister of State knows as well as I do that there is a problem regarding the transition of students with special needs from school. We have both attended meetings where there has been criticism of the transfer of students from primary to post-primary, where the process of integration must be started all over again. We are also both aware of the fact that the HSE is completely reconfiguring the provision of some of its services and this is affecting children from special schools. I know I am speaking to someone who knows more about this than most and the Minister for State has spoken many times about the importance of the mapping of services. I am critical of the Department of Education and Skills because it is not working cohesively with the Department of Health when it comes to children with special needs and the provision of services for them. There seems to be a breakdown in communication. I would be interested to know how much communication is taking place between both Departments. It is critical in dealing with children with special needs, particularly those with autism, that a continuation of services is maintained. Such children really need a sense of continuity in terms of the provision of services. I ask that both Departments would put more emphasis on ensuring that dialogue and communication in this regard is ongoing.

I thank the Deputies for the manner in which they have raised this issue. They have made rational, reasonable arguments, which I appreciate. I take on board what Deputy Crowe has said about a family that is clearly in distress. They are anxious not only about their own future, but also that of their son. Too often it is the case that people's anxieties are not taken into account.

I am pleased to take this opportunity to outline, on behalf of the Minister for Health, the position regarding the matter raised by the Deputies. I should say at the outset that the Government does not comment on individual cases - I am sure Deputy Crowe was expecting that - but our policy is to enable young people with disabilities to live independent lives to the greatest extent possible. I recognise the importance of life-skills training and day services to people with disabilities who are leaving the education system and every effort is being made, within available resources, to provide services to all 2013 school leavers.

Day services for adults with disabilities provide a network of support for over 25,000 people who have a wide spectrum of need, ranging from those with severe and profound disabilities who may need long-term specialist service provision, to people with lower support needs and greater potential for community participation and inclusion. The HSE, through its occupational guidance service, works with schools, service providers, service users and families to identify the needs of young people with disabilities who are due to complete their second level education. The aim is to address the needs of individuals in the following ways: through health-funded rehabilitative or life skills training, health-funded day services, FÁS-funded vocational training or an extension to education placement for a specified time.

Service providers and the HSE are working closely together to identify how the needs of those individuals who require day services or training places in 2013 can be responded to within available resources.

I have asked to be kept informed of progress on a weekly basis.

The demand for services for school leavers continues to grow. The HSE expects that more than 700 school leavers require new day services or life-skills training in 2013. Although the 2013 allocation for disability services has been reduced by 1.2%, the HSE's national service plan includes an additional €4 million to provide appropriate services for school leavers and rehabilitative training graduates in 2013. This funding is being allocated to each HSE region based on its percentage of population. Even with the additional funding, the provision of the required level of new services will be challenging in the context of the overall budgetary position and the moratorium on staff recruitment. In addition, the physical capacity to provide further services may not be present in all agencies and we are very conscious of this. While the HSE makes every effort to provide day services or training places to school leavers with special needs, this has always been dependant on the availability and location of appropriate places coupled with the needs of the individual school leaver. However, the voluntary sector and the HSE are committed to the best use of available resources in a creative and flexible manner, so as to be as responsive as possible to the needs of this cohort.

In respect of the particular young person referred to by the Deputies, I am informed the HSE is working with the local service provider to assess how the needs of this young man may be best accommodated. I understand he will require an extensive support package and a proposal has been made by the service provider to the HSE for consideration. This proposal, which is costed at €117,000 per year, will be considered in the overall context of the individual's needs and the needs of other school leavers in the area. No decision has yet been made in this regard but the HSE has assured me a day service will be provided for the young man in question in September with the location and type of service yet to be agreed.

We will always have this issue year in year out but we are determined it will not come about as a result of crisis every year. We should know how many people will leave every year and what are their needs and we should be planning on a year by year basis. It will not always be the same type of service. Some day when we have a little more time perhaps I will speak to the Deputies about what Genio did last year to find places which are different, more community-based and more inclusive. These did not suit everyone but they suited 79 people. This is the type of thinking we need to bring about including, as Deputy O'Brien rightly stated, the whole of Government approach we also need to bring to all of this.

I thank the Minister of State for her response and I appreciate the ongoing work taking place on this issue and the work Genio has done for many years. The additional €4 million provided under the HSE service plan is welcome but it is not adequate. I appreciate the Minister of State and the HSE are liaising and negotiating with service providers but they need to ensure at this stage they will have services for the children. Yesterday the parent of a child with autism stated it is crucial for the child to have a transition period for any new placement well in advance of September. As of now there is nowhere to transition to because of a lack of planning and insufficient funding for school leavers with special needs. I appreciate the Minister of State said this will be an issue every year, but the parents acknowledge the HSE knows the numbers involved every year and as we are now in the middle of June they are concerned they still have this level of uncertainty. Will the Minister of State through the HSE and the service providers continue to do everything to ensure these children have a placement in September?

In the case we are discussing the child received an extra year and it was known this would happen a year ago. I understand a care plan was being worked out at Christmas. The difficulty with this is the cost involved. Many children with extreme autism or extreme needs are in a residential setting. In some cases four nurses and four carers may be involved. The family believes it is blessed and not cursed. Many people listening to this at home will wonder how the family copes. There is a responsibility on us as public representatives to support such families. His mother wants to keep him in the home. His medical prognosis for the future is not good because of the medication. I have never seen such medication as I did in a press in this house. The woman in question has three children with severe needs. Her husband is not well and clearly she is not well either. She will have an operation shortly for her cancer. We are speaking about a very unusual case. I hope this care package will become operative and the family will be supported.

Leaving aside funding and budgets there are other issues on which we can be pro-active and the Minister of State touched on one. We need to plan further in advance. We know how many school leavers we will have and in what area of the State they live. We know what type of services are available. We need to put more emphasis on long-term planning. I urge the Department, the HSE and the Department of Education and Skills to ensure this happens. If it does not happen we will continually deal with crisis after crisis and nobody wants to see this. I do not believe any Deputy wants to see this year after year. Will the Minister of State take this on board and see whether there are ways we can improve how we plan for school leavers?

The €4 million is in the context of the economic situation in which we find ourselves and the enormous budget we spend on disability. As Deputy O'Brien rightly stated, it is about pulling it all together and genuinely taking a serious look at how we bring all of it together under one roof. We would definitely have better outcomes as a result. It is not about saving money, it is about getting a better outcome.

With regard to the budget, I managed to secure a cut of only 1.2% when everything else was being cut by 4% or 5%. We discussed this at length with those who operate in the disability sector and they have been doing a tremendous job in recent years under difficult circumstances. They told me if we could manage to keep the overall cut low they could manage much of what needs to be done, but this can only continue for a certain length of time. As I stated in my reply, even if we had €10 million to spend this year on school leavers, which we do not, I am not certain there is capacity in the organisations themselves to take on all of these people. We need to take a serious look at this. In response to Deputy O'Brien, we have managed to map all of what is available and this is a significant first step in how we reconfigure the service, but the service does need to be reconfigured.

Medical Card Applications

I thank the Ceann Comhairle and his office for the opportunity to raise this most important issue. It is based on a case in the Louth constituency where both spouses are undergoing treatment for cancer in the same hospital. It is hardly necessary for me to outline in detail the trauma and stress this brings on a family. A medical card application is in the system and under consideration, but no final or definitive decision has been made because of a concern that the income is marginally above what will allow them to qualify.

The regular process of applying for a medical card and the completion and submission of supporting documentation can be stressful and traumatic for families that are in difficult health situations. While I do not want to be negative, the cancer may be terminal for one or both of the spouses. One can only imagine the stress imposed on the family when, while undergoing chemotherapy, these people must hunt down the financial documents and other information that are necessary to bring a successful conclusion to their applications.

We need to consider the special circumstances that obtain, not only for the family I have in mind, but for other families across the country. We need to streamline contact arrangements so that a designated person in the medical card section in Finglas can deal specifically with inquiries and submissions of information. It is important that families and public representatives have an opportunity to communicate directly via telephone with the official dealing with their cases. E-mail is fine in its own way, but contact via telephone is necessary to ensure that all of the information is available as required.

Some time ago, our spokesman on health, Deputy Kelleher, advocated in the House the possibility of issuing time-bound medical cards to cancer patients upon diagnosis, irrespective of income. It would not be an open-ended medical card, but it could be reviewed after a specific period and renewed, if that is what the circumstances dictate.

Serious financial hardships are imposed on families whose members are in and out of hospital for treatment or must stay in hospital for long periods. They have mortgages, some of their members may be in third or second level education and others may be ill. In many instances, the families' circumstances are dire.

We must examine the system. I appreciate that processing medical cards is demanding work, as people are under severe financial stress and are anxious to have medical card cover. In the circumstances that I have just outlined, however, a special processing arrangement is required. It is fine to claim that a committee or panel will examine the details, but criticising the officials involved is unsatisfactory. The arrangements are also unsatisfactory and need to be addressed urgently.

I thank the Deputy for raising this matter. Under the provisions of the Health Act 1970, the assessment for a medical card is determined primarily by reference to the means, including the income and expenditure, of the applicant and his or her partner and dependants. There is no automatic entitlement to a medical card for persons with a specific illness, including cancer. The income thresholds apply to all applications and there are no variations on these where an applicant or family member has a specific illness. The net weekly income limits for a married couple for a standard medical card are €266.50 and €298.00 for persons aged up to 65 years and aged 66 years or over, respectively. The net income limits apply after tax, PRSI, rent or mortgage payments, child care costs and travel to work costs are taken into account. A different system operates for persons aged 70 years and older. Assessment for a medical card is based on gross weekly income, which is €1,200 in the case of a married couple, well above the limit for people aged 66 years or under.

Under the legislation, there is provision for discretion by the HSE to grant a medical card where a person's income exceeds the income guidelines. The HSE takes a person's social and medical issues into account in determining whether "undue hardship" exists for a person in providing a health service for himself or herself or his or her dependants. The HSE set up a clinical panel to assist in the processing of applications for such discretionary medical cards where there are difficult personal circumstances. This approach recognises the need to have in place a standard process for considering applications in respect of people who, while over the income guidelines, require discretionary assessments on the basis of illness, such as cancer, or undue financial hardship.

The HSE has an effective system in place for the provision of emergency medical cards for patients who are terminally ill or are seriously ill and in urgent need of medical care that they cannot afford. These are issued within 24 hours of receipt of the required patient details and the letters of confirmation of the condition from their doctors or medical consultants. With the exception of terminally ill patients, the HSE issues all emergency cards on the basis that the patient is eligible for a medical card on grounds of means or undue hardship and will follow up with a full application within a number of weeks of receiving the emergency card. As a result, emergency medical cards are issued to a named individual with a limited eligibility period of six months, which is what the Deputy is seeking.

For persons with a terminal illness, no means test applies. Once the terminal illness is verified, patients are given an emergency medical card for six months. Given the nature and urgency of the issue, the HSE has appropriate escalation routes to ensure that the person gets the card as quickly as possible.

The Minister of State's response was predictable, although I do not say that in a disparaging sense. My experience in pursuing cases differs somewhat from the situation set out in her response.

We must examine this problem. We need a special arrangement and a clear understanding for families in traumatic and stressful situations. The patients' priority is chemotherapy and they hope that they will recover over time. They should not need to worry about supplying supporting documentation to the HSE. We need to remove this stressful element from the equation.

I do not suggest that open-ended cards should be granted. Cards should be granted for specific periods to allow for reviews of the circumstances involved. Will the Minister of State ask the section of the HSE that deals with medical cards to examine its arrangements for processing applications?

I will be brief. The Minister of State with responsibility for this matter, Deputy White, the Minister for Health and I asked that that be done at a meeting we attended in the past month or two. I take Deputy Kirk's comments on board, but stress is inevitable in the circumstances that he outlined. It is a by-product of being extremely unwell. However, we could never move to a situation in which someone would be issued a medical card just on the basis of a telephone call. Confirmation of the condition by a medical consultant or doctor is required. The application could be made at a later stage. This is as much as one could possibly hope for in such circumstances. It would not be possible to grant a card on the basis of a telephone call alone.

I did not suggest that.

I understand that. Regarding the Deputy's last request, we have already stated that, when people who are extremely ill and have been given particular diagnoses, their cases must be dealt with as swiftly as possible. However, we will relay that direction again.

Living City Initiative

I wish to raise with the Minister of State the possibility of using the Finance Act, in particular the Living City initiative contained within the Act, as a blueprint for the regeneration of towns and villages throughout the country. I acknowledge that this initiative was limited to the cities of Limerick and Waterford. It was most welcome but I also welcome the announcement which succeeded it at the end of last week concerning the new economic and spatial plan for Limerick 2030, which will involve a €250 million plan. This is very good news for both Limerick and the entire mid-west region of Clare, Kerry and north Tipperary which badly needs a new, reinvigorated, regional capital.

I return to the Living City initiative which recognises that historical city centres have suffered from the relocation of family homes and businesses to the suburbs, something that is obvious to any visitor to Limerick. However, this neglect of city centres was exacerbated by the reckless planning that marked the Celtic tiger era and the decade which preceded its lift-off. That sort of neglect and the exodus of family homes and businesses from city centres is not limited to cities but is evident also in both larger and smaller towns throughout the country that were once historical market towns.

I will focus on County Clare because it is the constituency I know best but this problem is not in any way unique to that county and is something we can see all through the country. One need barely leave Limerick to see it but can take the road either to O'Briens Bridge or Broadford, both of which are old historic villages. The first was linked to the canal and transport but since the Shannon schemes it has effectively lapsed. If one drives up the main street one sees a number of fronts that, although they are not of great, important, international, architectural significance, very much reflect the Irish vernacular. The same is true of Broadford. We see small shop fronts and former family homes, where the tradition was for people to have a store or a pub and live above it. Now, neither the store nor the pub is occupied and nobody is living above. The same is true right across the country.

That is not to say these towns and villages have been sitting around doing nothing, watching the decay continue without seeking to arrest it. In Clare, as throughout the country I presume, there are a number of important innovations taking place whereby communities are seeking to address their problems and fight back to give life again to their town centres. In Kilkee there was a recently published draft of a town improvement and economic development plan for 2013-24. Killaloe has just published a tidy towns and environmental improvement strategy, and Scariff likewise. This is happening right across County Clare and is mirrored everywhere. However, the fundamental reality is that no matter what plans communities come up with it is very difficult, especially in the current environment, to finance those plans. What was particularly innovative about the Living City initiative was that it provided tax incentives to people to reinvigorate those historic centres. It is important to bear in mind this was a different measure to the one brought in by the previous Government during the Celtic tiger years in that it was not developer-led. Then, a great number of properties were developed without any end use in mind. The Living City initiative was occupier-led. People who owned these buildings sought to return them to their historical use, thereby reinvigorating towns and villages throughout the country.

I thank the Deputy for raising this very important issue. I agree with him concerning the very significant announcement made in Limerick city at the tail end of last week about boosting that great city which, if one looks at the statistics as I did in preparation for this debate, has the highest overall rate of unemployment, including male unemployment, of each of the five gateway cities. There is a particular problem here that must be addressed. As the Deputy noted, the objective of the announcement made by the Minister for Finance in the Finance Act was to produce an incentive which is not developer-led, which encourages people not only to live in these great homes but also to produce 10% of the costs up-front, both for refurbishment purposes and to prove their bona fides. We are not going back to some kind of grandiose, entirely developer-led, tax incentive scheme where developers take no risk whatsoever. As the Deputy is well aware, a tax break or incentive is a form of subsidy which the general taxpayer has to make available. We have to use the scheme in a very focused way that encourages the regeneration and redevelopment of our great cities, in particular where there is either a difficulty in retail areas or, as in this case, where there are the great Georgian houses that are such a central feature of Waterford and Limerick cities.

We see this very much as a pilot scheme, as the Minister stated in the course of his remarks on Second and Committee Stages of the Finance Bill. He has made it clear he will look on this designation for other parts of the country and I can confirm to the Deputy there have already been submissions for a form of redesignation in other parts. That will obviously be a matter for the Minister in consultation with Cabinet colleagues in advance of any further Finance Bill. We need to learn the lessons of the past decade and a half where much of this work was developer-led, as the Deputy noted, and did not lead to any great advancement or additionality for our cities. On the contrary, it led to poor quality build, over use of apartments and a bad use of resources. To reiterate, this form of incentive was effectively a form of subsidy.

I very much hope we can proceed on an incremental basis in this regard. Whether this will be extended to other areas, such as the Deputy referred to, is a matter for the Minister. We will have an open mind and the policy will be reviewed on a constant basis in terms of the actual Finance Bill. My understanding is that Pobal, the State agency with responsibility for building up capacity in local communities and sending out statistics about levels of deprivation, has a very clear scoring methodology in its work. It has a myriad of measurements for deprivation. It would seem to me that in any further advancements or extensions of this scheme to areas throughout the country by way of tax incentives we should be mindful of the statistics and the evidence. We should be mindful of where the greatest rates of unemployment and deprivation lie and apply these tax breaks and incentives in a sparing but exact way towards that problem.

Obviously, I did not read the supplied speech.

I am glad the Minister of State did not do so, given its content. I do not in any way advocate a return to section 23 - the Department might well have concerns about that. Many people would, because to return to that section would merely be to go back to what was wrong without having learned anything. What was introduced in the Living City initiative was very targeted, as the Minister of State noted. It was not a blanket scheme. The Minister of State mentioned the great Georgian homes of Ireland. In addition, there are the merchant houses that used to mark every town and village in the country, which have now fallen into decay. They are a very important part of the streetscape of practically every town and village in Ireland. They usually have very fine slate roofs, slates that are in many instances falling off those roofs and posing a danger to passersby.

I very much welcome the Minister of State's proposal that objective criteria for deprivation and other factors be put in place but there is another criterion, namely, heritage value, whether architectural or historical. Every local authority in Ireland has a heritage officer, and in many instances a heritage section employing architects. It would not and should not be beyond county councils to draw up a list of the key buildings that exist in practically every town and village.

In many instances these merchant homes which contained a family living over a shop or bar dating from the Victorian period, or sometimes earlier, have fallen into decay as the families moved into fine bungalows in the suburbs and left the main street to decay. While I do not advocate a return of section 23, a case can be made for tax incentives to reinvigorate smaller towns and villages.

The Deputy's argument is well made and we have received submissions along the lines he described. I understand the Act defines a Georgian house as a building constructed between 1714 and 1830. He could argue that his market house, which was a centre of commerce during that period, might be covered by that definition. We have received submissions from interested parties on extending the Georgian house incentives to markets and other buildings. The Minister is considering these submissions and has an open mind on the matter although, needless to say, he does not want to extend the scheme so wide that it would allow a repeat of the kind of nonsense we saw in the past. Equally, however, if a broader definition could help regeneration in the areas to which the Deputy referred, including in particular historic market towns, this is something he will consider.

Job Creation Issues

I thank the Minister for Social Protection for coming to the House to take this Topical Issue matter. The greatest scourge that the country and the economy face are the 190,000 people who have been unemployed for 12 months or more. For some time I have been concerned about the number of measures the Government is taking to address this problem. I first submitted my proposal, called A Ticket to Work, more than 18 months ago. The proposal is modelled on similar schemes implemented in the United States of America and would give a voucher worth approximately €200 to unemployed individuals, which is the equivalent of what they would receive in unemployment benefit. This voucher could be passed on to an employer in return for employment. I am involved in the west Cork jobs initiative and am fortunate to work with 12 employers. We have done considerable research on this scheme, including a survey of the attitude of employers towards it. Eight out of ten employers considered it favourably and expressed an interest in taking people off the live register in return for voucher style contributions towards the cost of employing them. The amount paid would be in the region of 50% of the cost.

When I first submitted this proposal to one of the Minister's colleagues 18 months ago and I met departmental officials to discuss it, I was told that a similar scheme was already in place, namely, the Revenue assist scheme. However, only 350 people avail of the that scheme per annum. I am not a genius at mathematics but at that rate it would take up to 542 years to deal with the 190,000 long-term unemployed. It is clear that the Government needs to take more action. Our record in helping the long-term unemployed is less than stellar and desperate situations require radical action.

I submitted the A Ticket to Work proposal to the Minister and the Secretary General of her Department, as well as to the Minister for Finance, the Taoiseach, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and the Economic Management Council. I am aware from discussions at various levels of a proposal to introduce a JobsPlus scheme, which essentially mirrors the spirit of the scheme I have proposed. However, I am concerned that we are half way through the lifetime of this Government. We cannot afford to get it wrong. There are approximately 85,000 SMEs employing 700,000 people in this country. My research indicates that eight out of ten SMEs favour the scheme but even if only one in every two took it up, it would go a long way to giving jobs to the 36,000 persons aged between 20 and 40 who have been unemployed for 12 months or more.

For such a scheme to be successful, it must be focused on the unemployed person rather than the SME. The Government's proposals to date are admirable but we must refocus our efforts towards the unemployed person by giving him or her the licence and, with it, the opportunity to approach an employer with a voucher worth 50% of his or her salary. If we target the unemployed we will have a better chance of persuading people to be more active in seeking suitable employers and the scheme will sell itself.

Communication is also very important. The name "JobsPlus" is along the lines of JobBridge and would simply cause difficulties with employers. I would prefer to name the scheme A Ticket to Work or a Passport to Work. I hope the Minister takes my suggestions on board.

I thank Deputy Jim Daly for raising this important matter. Support for job creation is central to Government policy at all times, and particularly in times of high unemployment. The employer job PRSI scheme and the Revenue job assist scheme are aimed at incentivising employers. As the Deputy has pointed out, neither of these schemes achieved a high level of utilisation. Both schemes were designed primarily to incentivise job creation with the secondary objective of targeting recruitment of those on the live register. As the Deputy has rightly pointed out, take up has been disappointingly low. In 2012 for example, the employer job PRSI scheme was awarded in respect of only 1,072 employees with fewer than 900 businesses applying. The numbers were even lower in 2011, with 923 employees benefiting.

Since coming into office, the Government has been engaged in a persistent and focused series of reviews of all programme and schemes aimed at supporting employment and the unemployed. We have worked to identify improved practices that allow for greater quality outputs. The job assist and PRSI exemption scheme were commonly criticised for being complicated, suffered the perception of having burdensome administrative practices and were viewed as difficult to access. A recent IBEC survey of employers' sentiment indicated this perception predominantly obtained among employers who had not applied for the schemes, while feedback from employers who benefited from them was positive. Irrespective about whether such accusations are true, the existing schemes did not attract sufficient support and called for a fresh view to be taken. I compliment the Deputy on his own work in bringing forward new proposals.

The Government has decided that a new simplified incentive scheme should be developed. JobsPlus is therefore being introduced on a pilot basis with effect from early July and will replace the existing schemes. JobsPlus has been included as one of the disruptive measures in the action plan for jobs 2013. The plan outlines seven high impact reforms with highly ambitious deadlines. In line with what the Deputy has set out in his proposals for A Ticket to Work, JobsPlus is to provide a simple, easily accessible and understood cash based incentive to get employers to recruit full-time permanent employees from the live register. As it is cash based, it will aid a business's cash flow by providing a steady flow of payments each month for two years. If a business recruits a person who has been unemployed for 24 months from the live register, the employer will receive a cash grant of €10,000 over two years. If a business recruits a person who has been unemployed for between 12 and 24 months, the employer will receive a cash grant of €7,500 over two years. The initial budget allocation for this scheme is €21.25 million over three years.

If given a chance, and if we can convince business owners and employers to engage, JobsPlus will be successful but we need real engagement and a better connection than we have had heretofore with employers both nationally and locally. Key among our tasks is to target and convince the decision makers within businesses to take notice of the incentives on offer and to look to those they previously may not have considered for employment. I welcome the Deputy's work in this area and I will be interested in his engagement in monitoring the roll-out and implementation of the JobsPlus during this pilot phase.

I thank the Minister for her response. The JobsPlus scheme is a welcome and positive step forward by the Government. In February 2012, responding to a query I raised with him about this issue, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Richard Bruton, stated he was considering including in the Action Plan for Jobs a coupon style scheme along the lines I have suggested.

The JobsPlus scheme is being targeted at small and medium sized enterprises. From my extensive research into this issue with the west Cork jobs initiative, in which 12 local employers are involved, I believe the decision to tailor the scheme towards employers rather than employees will mean it will not attract the level of engagement required from employers. The Department and the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation should reorientate JobsPlus towards unemployed persons by empowering them by means of coupons. I have been informed by officials that it would be difficult to provide unemployed people with coupons because the live register frequently changes. The circumstances of people who have been unemployed for 12 months or more are by and large static and, therefore, unlikely to chop and change. This provides scope to offer the long-term unemployed a coupon which would empower them to seek a match among employers. Such an approach would achieve results much more quickly than giving employers responsibility to find a match among the unemployed because employers are too busy doing what they do best, namely, protecting existing jobs, to seek out people on the live register.

A second difficulty with the JobsPlus scheme is its title. While this may appear to be a minor issue, the term "JobsPlus" is difficult. We must empower people who are sitting at home watching the evening news on television. It would be much more productive to describe the scheme in terms of a "ticket", "passport" or "coupon" to work. I implore the Minister to use her good offices to review the two aspects of the proposed scheme that I have highlighted.

I thank Deputy Jim Daly for the work he has done and the thought he has given to how the Government can improve incentives and target people who are long-term unemployed. We expect to launch JobsPlus in early July and we will see how the scheme goes.

I had an opportunity, as part of the roll-out of the Pathways to Work scheme, to visit eight or nine major locations with a departmental roadshow. Up to 2,500 employers and human resources specialists visited these public events.

Many employers who are seeking to recruit staff do not consider people who are unemployed for positions because they want to recruit people who are in work or coming new to the labour market. A gap on a curriculum vitae indicating that someone has been out of work, through no fault of the person in question, raises queries and questions. If potential recruits are available who have not been out of work, they tend to be preferred. We must overcome this problem, which is one of the reasons I developed JobBridge. It is interesting that more than 18,000 people, including 6,000 people currently on the scheme, have availed of a JobBridge internship. Indecon International Economic Consultants did a study of the scheme and found that within five months of completing JobBridge, 60% of participants had moved into employment.

We have a job to do in convincing employers and human resource specialists that people who are on the live register are a major resource and need to be given a fair opportunity. The JobsPlus initiative will offer employers direct cash incentives. Employers who take on a person who has been unemployed for between one and two years will receive €7,500 over two years, while those who employ a person who has been unemployed for more than two years will receive €10,000 over two years. These are significant cash incentives, particularly if the employer is taking on somebody on a relatively low wage. As I stated, the scheme will be launched in early July and I will bear in mind the proposals the Deputy made for further incentivising persons who are unemployed and employers.