Question No. 556 withdrawn.

Criminal Assets Bureau

Ceisteanna (557)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

557. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if she will consider establishing a Criminal Assets Bureau unit in each of the divisions of An Garda Síochána; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21308/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Criminal Assets Bureau has been at the forefront of the fight against organised crime in this jurisdiction since its inception in 1996. The manner in which the Bureau operates has come to be viewed, both domestically and internationally, as a very successful model for targeting persons who seek to derive personal gain from criminal activities. The Deputy will appreciate that the operation of the Bureau itself requires a high degree of specialist staff for its functioning, while the Bureau's operational success across the jurisdiction is linked to the information made available to it from local level. To support work at local level the Bureau in 2004 established the Divisional Criminal Assets Profiler Programme and has since then utilised the services of trained Criminal Asset Profilers throughout the country.

There are currently a total of 172 Garda Divisional Criminal Asset Profilers located across the jurisdiction, together with 19 trained officers of the Revenue Commissioners and 3 trained Department of Social Protection officers. The role of the Criminal Asset Profilers is to liaise with, and assist the Bureau, in targeting criminal assets located in their local area. Given the successes of the Bureau and its well developed links with each Garda Division through the operation of the Divisional Criminal Asset Profilers Programme, I can inform the Deputy that there are no proposals to replicate the Bureau structures throughout the jurisdiction.

Proposed Legislation

Ceisteanna (558)

Mary Mitchell O'Connor

Ceist:

558. Deputy Mary Mitchell O'Connor asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if legislation similar to the High Hedges Act 2011 in Northern Ireland will be introduced to deal with the issue of high hedges and trees; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21316/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The difficulties experienced by property owners arising from trees and high hedges on neighbouring land were raised in both the Dáil and Seanad during passage of the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2009. My Department consulted on the matter with the Law Reform Commission, which had been involved in drafting the 2009 Act, and the Commission took the view that unreasonable interference caused by high trees or hedges was a matter in any particular case for tort law or more generally for planning or environmental law.

In England and Wales, for example, the relevant legislation makes provision for local authorities to determine complaints by the owners or occupiers of domestic property who are adversely affected by evergreen hedges over 2 metres high. Broadly similar legislation involving the local authorities, i.e. the High Hedges Act (Northern Ireland) 2011, came into operation in Northern Ireland on 31 March 2012. The introduction of such legislation in this jurisdiction would be a matter for the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government and his Department.

The manner in which problems associated with high hedges and trees are resolved in both England and Wales and Northern Ireland demonstrates a clear preference for the resolution of such disputes at local level, with recourse to the courts only as a last resort. The intention is to reduce the risk of prolonged and costly litigation, and the risk that court proceedings could leave a legacy of bitterness between neighbours and ill-feeling in the local community.

It is my intention to bring forward a Mediation Bill to promote mediation as a viable, effective and efficient alternative to court proceedings, thereby reducing legal costs and speeding up the resolution of disputes. The legislation, which is currently being drafted, will introduce an obligation on solicitors and barristers to advise any person wishing to commence court proceedings to consider mediation as a means of resolving a dispute before embarking on such proceedings. It will also provide that a court may, following the commencement of proceedings, on its own initiative invite parties to consider mediation and suspend the proceedings to facilitate the mediation process.

Prisoner Data

Ceisteanna (559)

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

559. Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of persons in prison and the number in each institution; the total number of prisoners not held in single cells or rooms; and the number of these in each institution; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21369/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Deputy will be aware that the average number of prisoners in custody in Ireland has risen in recent years, from 3,321 during 2007 to 4,318 during 2012, an increase of over 30%. Likewise the total number of committals to prison has also risen sharply during the same period, from 11,934 in 2007 to 17,026 in 2012 – an increase of over 43%. 2013 saw the first significant decrease in prison numbers since 2007. There were 15,735 committals to prison in 2013 which was a decrease of 7.6% on the 2012 figure. However given the current number of prisoners in custody - 4,013 on 12 May 2014 - the Irish Prison Service is not in a position to provide single cell accommodation to all prisoners. Single cell occupancy across the system would result in a bed capacity of approximately 3,200 and would not be possible to achieve without releasing sizeable numbers of prisoners considered to represent a threat to public safety. However, I can advise the Deputy that on 1st April 2014 almost 50% of all prisoners in custody on that day (4,103) were accommodated in single cell accommodation. In addition, 1,528 or 37% were accommodated in double occupancy cells with the remainder, (531) accommodated in cells with 3 or more persons. Of this 56 were accommodated in dormitory style accommodation in Shelton Abbey. The majority of those housed in double cells are housed in our newer prisons where the cells are larger and conform to the standards for double occupancy as set out by the Inspector of Prisons.

As the Deputy is aware the Irish Prison Service is in the process of redeveloping all wings in Mountjoy Prison with refurbishment work on the A, B and C Wings now complete. Following the refurbishment of each wing, all cells are being returned to single occupancy status. In this regard, the Deputy will note from the figures set out in the table below that on 1 April 2014, 543 prisoners, or 92% of those in custody in Mountjoy prison, were in single cells. It should be borne in mind that in certain cases prisoners are housed together for reasons other than lack of capacity. Family members and friends often elect or are assigned a shared cell. Shared cell accommodation can be very beneficial from a management point of view particularly for those who are vulnerable and at risk of self-harm. There will always be a need for certain prisoners to be accommodated together.

As outlined in the Irish Prison Service Three Year Strategic Plan, it is intended to align the capacity of our prisons with the guidelines laid down by the Inspector of Prisons by 2014, in so far as this is compatible with public safety and the integrity of the criminal justice system. Details of cell occupancy for all prisons, as requested by the Deputy, is set out in the following table and is reflective of the information available on 1 April 2014.

Prison

Number in Custody 01 Apr 2014

No of prisoners in single cell

No of prisoners in double cell

No of prisoners in triple cell

No of prisoners in 4+ cells

Arbour Hill

144

92

40

12

0

Cloverhill

443

52

58

309

24

Cork

234

58

176

0

0

Castlerea

357

127

182

48

0

Limerick

264

89

172

3

0

Loughan

129

81

48

0

0

Midlands

850

343

472

3

32

Mountjoy (M)

587

543

26

18

0

Mountjoy (F)

134

59

64

6

5

Portlaoise

251

180

62

9

0

St Patrick's

6

6

0

0

0

Shelton Abbey

110

36

12

6

56

Training Unit

93

93

0

0

0

Wheatfield

501

285

216

0

0

Total

4103

2044

1528

414

117

Prisoner Data

Ceisteanna (560)

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

560. Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the numbers of prisoners in total and in each institution that are in custody; the number required to slop out; the number required to use normal toilet facilities in the presence of others; the number that are sole occupants of a cell that has a normal flush toilet installed or have access at all times to normal toilet facilities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21370/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Deputy will be aware that the Government committed, in the Programme for Government, to the ending of slopping out in the prison system. I can advise the Deputy that the number of prisoners slopping out in the prison system has reduced from 1,003 at the end of 2010 to the current level of 334 (on 1 April 2014), a reduction of 67%. Of the 334 currently slopping out, 226 prisoners are accommodated in Cork Prison with 46 and 59 prisoners accommodated in Limerick and Portlaoise Prisons respectively.

In April 2012, the Irish Prison Service published a 3-Year Strategic Plan which included a 40 month capital plan to provide in-cell sanitation in all cells and radically improve prison conditions in the older parts of the prison estate. The construction of a new prison in Cork, to replace the existing outdated facility, commenced in late January 2014, and is expected to be completed by July of 2015. Allowing for fit-out, systems commissioning and training of staff, it is expected that the new prison will be ready for operational use by December 2015. This project marks the largest single investment ever in the prison estate and in these times of continuing financial difficulty it represents a very important commitment on the part of Government to the modernisation of the prison estate and in particular to the elimination of slopping out.

In addition to the substantial commitment to Cork prison, the modernisation of Mountjoy prison continues with the refurbishment of the A, B and C wings now complete. The D wing has been closed to facilitate the final stage of refurbishment and as a result the practice of slopping out is consigned to history in Mountjoy prison. Every prisoner in Mountjoy now has access to in-cell sanitation. A contract for the refurbishment work on the D wing will be signed shortly and the works will be completed by March 2015. Similarly, a Development Plan for Limerick Prison is at an advanced stage and is due for completion by the end of July with a view to the commencement of the development works there on a phased basis starting in late 2015. The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the following table.

Prison

Number in Custody 01 Apr 2014

No in-cell slopping out

Toilet in other presence

24 Access to toilet facilities in private

Arbour Hill

144

0

52

92

Cloverhill

443

0

391

52

Cork

234

226

0

8

Castlerea

357

0

230

127

Limerick

264

49

126

89

Loughan

129

0

0

129

Midlands

850

0

507

343

Mountjoy (M)

587

0

44

543

Mountjoy (F)

134

0

0

134

Portlaoise

251

59

71

121

St Patrick's

6

0

0

6

Shelton Abbey

110

0

0

110

Training Unit

93

0

0

93

Wheatfield

501

0

216

285

Total

4103

334

1637

2132

Prisoner Data

Ceisteanna (561)

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

561. Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the numbers of prisoners in total and in each institution that are locked up for 23 hours or more in a normal day; for 22 to 23 hours in a normal day; for 20 to 22 hours in a normal day; for 18 to 20 hours in a normal day; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21373/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Information requested by the Deputy is set out in the following table. The restriction of a prisoner's regime can occur due to a number of factors including, the protection of vulnerable prisoners. This is provided for under Rule 63 of the Prison Rules 2007 which states that a prisoner may, either at his/her own request or when the Governor considers it necessary, in so far as is practicable and subject to the maintenance and good order and safe and secure custody, be kept separate from other prisoners who are reasonably likely to cause significant harm to him/her.

The fact that prisoners seeking protection are immediately separated from the general population or from specific prisoners identified as presenting a threat, clearly demonstrates the commitment of the Irish Prison Service to ensure their safety and security. The status of each prisoner on restricted regime within the prison system is regularly reviewed. If possible, prisoners can be transferred to other institutions where a restricted regime would not be necessary.

In addition, the Governor may decide, for the maintenance of good order in the prison, to remove a prisoner from general association or structured activity to reduce the negative effect that a prisoner or prisoners may have on the general population. This is provided for under Rule 62 of the Prison Rules 2007. There may also be a smaller number of prisoners who would be restricted for medical (Rule 64) or discipline reasons (Rule 67). In July last year, the Director General of the Irish Prison Service established a high level group to look at measures which can be introduced to reduce the number of prisoners currently held on restricted regimes with a view to ensuring that all receive, as a minimum standard, out of cell time of 3 hours per day, to engage in exercise or activity.

Since July 2013, the number of prisoners on a restricted regime has reduced from 339 to 261, a reduction of 23%. Of the 261 currently on a restricted regime, 228 were for protection reasons (of which 226 were there at their own request). 26 prisoners had there regime restricted on grounds of order (Rule 62). In addition the number of prisoners restricted to 22 or 23 hour lock up has reduced from 211 in July 2013 to 43 in April 2014, a reduction of 168 or almost 80%. A full breakdown of the number of prisoners on a restricted regime, on 1 April 2014, is set out in the following table:

Prison

No. On

23 Hour

No. On

22 hour

No. On

21 hour

No. On

20 hour

No. On

19 hour

Total on Restricted regime

Arbour Hill

0

0

0

0

0

0

Castlerea

0

0

0

0

0

0

Cloverhill

2

0

0

0

0

2

Cork

2

0

13

0

15

30

Dochas

1

0

0

0

0

1

Limerick

0

0

62

0

7

69

Loughan House

0

0

0

0

0

0

Midlands

18

0

0

0

0

18

Mountjoy (M)

0

0

5

44

5

54

Portlaoise

0

0

0

0

11

11

Shelton Abbey

0

0

0

0

0

0

St Pats

0

0

0

0

0

0

Training Unit

0

0

0

0

0

0

Wheatfield

20

0

54

0

2

76

Totals

43

0

134

44

40

261

Prisoner Data

Ceisteanna (562)

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

562. Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of prisoners under 21 years of age; the number in each of the institutions in which they are held; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21375/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the following table as of the 12 May 2014.

Prison

17 years

18 years

19 years

20 years

Arbour Hill

1

Castlerea

6

10

12

Cloverhill

5

8

12

Cork

6

6

7

Dochas

Limerick

7

8

7

Loughan

1

Midlands

4

7

22

Mountjoy

2

5

10

Portlaoise

2

2

5

St. Patricks

2

Shelton Abbey

1

Training Unit

Wheatfield

7

18

23

19

Total

9

50

69

97

In line with the recommendation of the Inspector of Prisons and in order to effect the changes necessary in regime and culture and to ensure the safe and secure custody, a decision was taken to close St. Patrick’s Institution and disperse all 17 - 20 year old prisoners and to other locations. Pending the development of new facilities in Oberstown in mid 2014, for which the Minister for Children & Youth Affairs has responsibility, this involved the transfer of all 17 year olds serving a sentence in St. Patrick’s Institution to a dedicated Unit in Wheatfield Place of Detention and the transfer of the 18 to 20 year old population to Wheatfield Place of Detention also. Prisoners continue to be committed for a period of detention to St. Patrick’s Institution. They are accommodated in a dedicated committal and assessment unit for up to 24 hours (B Wing). From here, prisoners will be dispersed to Wheatfield Place of Detention. There are currently 2 remand prisoners currently 17 years of age who, for legal reasons, must remain in St. Patrick's Institution pending the completion of building works at Oberstown, County Dublin.

Prison Education Service

Ceisteanna (563)

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

563. Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of workshop and work-training posts that are vacant in each prison; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21376/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I can inform the Deputy that the following table shows the existing vacancies for workshop and work training posts in each Prison:

Prison

Vacancies

Arbour Hill

0

Castlerea

1

Cloverhill

0

Cork

0

Dochas

0

Limerick

2

Loughan House

0

Midlands

6

Mountjoy

2

Portlaoise

1

Shelton Abbey

0

St. Patrick's Institution

0

Training Unit

0

Wheatfield

1

Vacancies are in the process of being filled by a combination of redeployment of Prison Service clerical staff under the Haddington Road/Croke Park Agreement and from a current Work Training Officer panel. While it is not possible to give a definitive timescale for the filling of all posts, the matter is being treated as a priority by IPS and it is hoped to have the vacancies filled by mid-summer this year.

The Irish Prison Service places a strong emphasis on improving prisoners’ employability prospects through work training activities and accredited vocational training courses. A wide range of training workshops operate within the institutions e.g. printing, computers, braille, woodwork, metalwork, construction, industrial cleaning, crafts and horticulture. There are over 100 workshops and service activities across the prison estate. In March, the latest month for which statistics are available, an average of over 1,057 prisoners engaged in these vocational training activities and courses each day - 26% of the average prison population in that month.

The Irish Prison Service has also been expanding the number of accredited courses and opportunities available to prisoners in Work Training in recent years. Enhanced partnership arrangements with accrediting bodies such as City and Guilds, the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), and the Guild of Launders and Cleaners and the centralising of coordination and quality assurance arrangements have enabled us to extend the number of available courses and activities with certification.

Prison Library Facilities

Ceisteanna (564)

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

564. Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of hours the library in each prison is scheduled to open each week; the percentage of scheduled opening times that these libraries were actually open during 2013; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21377/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The number of hours the library in each prison is scheduled to be open is set out in the following table. The libraries for Arbour Hill, Dóchas, Mountjoy and the Training Unit are open as the demand requires.

-

Scheduled Opening Hours

(per week)

% hours open

January - December 2013

Arbour Hill

On demand

As required

Castlerea

32

100

Cloverhill

35.5

44

Cork

37.5

83

Dochas

On demand

As required

Limerick

20

50

Loughan House

7

100

Midlands

25

95

Mountjoy

On demand

As required

Portlaoise C Block

77

99

Portlaoise E Block

77

99

Shelton Abbey

11

100

St Patrick’s Institution

Provision of a library service in the old St. Patrick's building is currently under review due to the transfer of 17 to 21 year olds to Wheatfield

N/A

Training Unit

On demand

As required

Wheatfield East Wing

35

100

Wheatfield

16

73

Libraries in prisons are regarded by prison management as key elements in the process of normalisation and rehabilitation for prisoners. Library services in prisons are mainly provided by Local Authority library personnel deployed to prisons. In some cases, libraries are managed by prison officers or prisoners, with professional librarian oversight. While it is the case that a shortfall in staffing numbers on a particular day can impact negatively on service provision, the Irish Prison Service is actively pursuing the option of having all libraries in prisons managed by long-term, suitably trained prisoners, with professional oversight in order to maximise the service. A contract librarian is currently training up prisoners in the Midlands Prison, Training Unit and Castlerea Prison to meet the most pressing needs.

Prison Education Service

Ceisteanna (565)

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

565. Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of prisoners actively following a course with the Open University at the present time, in total and in each institution; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21381/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Education Unit in each of the prisons offers a broad and flexible programme of education to prisoners, ranging from basic literacy classes to Open University courses. With regard to Open University, there is a uniform application procedure with associated guidelines and prisoners must demonstrate the proven academic ability required to complete a third level course of study, prior to funding being approved.

Education Units in prisons are involved in the development and implementation of a wide variety of courses catering for the needs and interests of prisoners. While Open University courses represent the higher end of academic achievement in prisons, the majority of courses on offer lead to certification, mainly State examinations or FETAC accreditation.

The number of prisoners actively following a course with the Open University at the present time, in total and in each institution is set out in the table under.

Open University

2014

Arbour Hill

5

Castlerea

2

Cloverhill

NIL

Cork

NIL

Dóchas

3

Limerick

1

Loughan House

1

Midlands

4

Mountjoy

1

Portlaoise

6

Shelton Abbey

3

St.Patrick's

NIL

Training Unit

2

Wheatfield

8

TOTAL

36

Prison Education Service

Ceisteanna (566)

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

566. Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if her attention has been drawn to the fact that a highly successful fine art programme run by the National College of Art and Design in Portlaoise Prison from 1987 to 2010 was terminated by her Department in 2011; if she has read the positive review of this programme conducted by a person (details supplied); if she has seen the RTE documentary regarding some of those who took part in this NCAD programme, transmitted on 30 April 2014; if she will ask her officials to engage in discussion with the NCAD with a view to having this programme restored in Portlaoise Prison; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21387/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I can advise the Deputy that funding to the National College of Art and Design was terminated in 2011 for a number of reasons including the need to prioritise the use of scarce resources where they can be most effectively utilised. The Irish Prison Service is continuing to review its priorities for spending in the education budget and is targeting areas of greatest need and best potential outcomes. We have commenced a process of closer engagement with the Department of Education and the Education and Training Boards in order to bring a more coordinated approach to prison education including reviewing the curriculum being provided to prisoners.

Educational services are available at all institutions and are provided in partnership with a range of educational agencies including notably the Education and Training Boards and Public Library Services. Each Education Centre now has the services of an Art teacher in addition to the 'Artists in Prison Scheme'. Preparations are currently underway for a prisoner art exhibition which will be held in the Hunt Museum Limerick in late 2014. This event is held every 2 years and prisoners from throughout the prison estate submit their work in ceramic and paint for display to the general public. The Irish Prison Service is currently compiling an anthology of prisoner's writing - including prose and poetry - which it is hoped will be published in late 2014.

The importance of arts and crafts classes for prisoners is fully acknowledged by the Irish Prison Service as these classes are often the initial passage for prisoners to get involved in the education process. Many prisoners have very negative experiences of education in the community and it is only by attracting them into education units in prisons through these classes that other needs can be identified and addressed. Last year, the Irish Prison Service received funding from the Arts Council and matched this amount, for the promotion of art in prisons. The average cost of the programme from 2005 to 2010 was €60,000 annually and regrettably it is not possible in the current economic climate to recommence.

Road Traffic Offences

Ceisteanna (567)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

567. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality further to Parliamentary Question No. 452 of 11 February 2014, if the report to which she made reference to is now available. [21471/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I am informed by the Courts Service that there have been no prosecutions to date under Section 22 of the Road Traffic Act 2002 as amended. I am, however, further informed that the Courts Service is currently examining arrangements for notifying An Garda Síochána of instances of non-compliance with the provision, to facilitate the initiation of prosecutions where appropriate.

Penalty Points System Offences

Ceisteanna (568)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

568. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality further to Parliamentary Question No. 324 of 6 May 2014, in respect of the first method whereby driving licence numbers are recorded, if she will request a report from An Garda Síochána with details of the number of summons served in respect of road traffic cases in 2013 and to date in 2014 which included the driving licence numbers of the offenders upon which the summonses were served. [21472/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I have requested a report from the Garda authorities in relation to the matter referred to by the Deputy. I will contact the Deputy directly as soon as the report is to hand.

Legislative Measures

Ceisteanna (569)

Marcella Corcoran Kennedy

Ceist:

569. Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when the Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions) Bill 2012 will be enacted; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21514/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions) Bill 2012 provides for the non-disclosure of certain convictions in certain circumstances and is intended to assist with the rehabilitation of former offenders. The Bill has passed Committee Stage in the Dáil, having passed all stages in the Seanad. However, before the Bill could be taken at Report Stage, a 2013 UK Court of Appeal judgment necessitated a review of the disclosure provisions in both the National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012 and in the Spent Convictions Bill. That review has been completed and amendments to the Vetting Act and consequential amendments to the Spent Convictions Bill are currently being drafted. It is my intention that the Bill will be enacted as soon as possible.

Anti-Social Behaviour

Ceisteanna (570)

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

570. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality her views on correspondence (details supplied) regarding anti-social activity; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21604/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I have requested a report from the Garda authorities in relation to the matter referred to by the Deputy. I will contact the Deputy directly as soon as the report is to hand.

Departmental Legal Cases

Ceisteanna (571)

Seán Fleming

Ceist:

571. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of legal cases that have been served against her Department arising from disputes regarding pay and conditions of public servants; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21839/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I can inform the Deputy that a plenary Summons has been served against my Department in respect of one such case.

Services for People with Disabilities

Ceisteanna (572)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

572. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Health the position regarding a carer for preschool in respect of a child (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21360/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

The free pre-school year is provided through the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Programme, which is the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. The objective of this scheme is to make early learning in a formal setting available to eligible children in the year before they commence primary school. I understand that certain flexibilities are built into the scheme in an effort to accommodate children with special needs, such as an overage exemption, or waiver, for children with special needs who do not meet the age criteria and the option to avail of the free pre-school year over two years.

The Health Service Executive has no statutory obligation to provide assistant supports for children with special needs wishing to avail of the free pre-school year. However, it works at local level and in partnership with the relevant disability service providers to address individual needs as they arise. This is done, for example, by funding special pre-schools that cater specifically for children with disabilities. In some cases, at local level, disability services have also facilitated children with disabilities to attend mainstream pre-schools by providing assistant supports where possible.

The HSE’s role in supporting children with disabilities involves it working in close co-operation with the disability service providers that it funds, with the education sector, with the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and with the parents and families of the children in question. However, there is a need to strengthen these arrangements. A dedicated Cross-Sectoral Team, comprising representatives of my Department, the HSE, the Department of Education and Skills and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs plays a key role in fostering greater collaboration on children’s disability issues and to build on the cross-sectoral working arrangements that are already in place. A sub group of this Cross-Sectoral Team has been set up to examine the issues around the integration of children with disabilities into mainstream pre-school settings, building on previous analysis in this area. Representatives of the Departments of Health, Children and Youth Affairs, Education and Skills, the Health Service Executive and of the City and County Childcare Committees are members of this group and it is chaired by the Department of Health. The issue of supports for children with disabilities in mainstream pre-school settings is being looked by this sub-group. As the particular issues raised the Deputy relate to an individual case, I have arranged for the question to be referred to the Health Service Executive for directly reply to the Deputy.

Medical Card Applications

Ceisteanna (573)

Tom Fleming

Ceist:

573. Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Health if he will expedite a discretionary medical card application in respect of persons (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21443/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

The Health Service Executive has been asked to examine this matter and to reply to the Deputy as soon as possible. The Health Service Executive operates the General Medical Services scheme, which includes medical cards and GP visit cards, under the Health Act 1970, as amended. It has established a dedicated contact service for members of the Oireachtas specifically for queries relating to medical cards and GP visit cards, which the Deputy may wish to use for an earlier response. Contact information has issued to Oireachtas members.

Water Fluoridation

Ceisteanna (574, 659)

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

574. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health his views on using fluoride in water; if Irish Water will continue that practice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21605/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

659. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health if he will provide an updated health view on fluoride in water; if it is safe for our citizens; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21600/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 574 and 659 together.

The Forum on Fluoridation, established in 2000, reviewed the policy of water fluoridation and recommended in 2002 that it should continue as a public health measure. In 2011 a review by the European Union Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risk (SCHER) concluded that there are no known negative health implications from fluoridating water at levels used in the EU. The balance of scientific evidence worldwide confirms that water fluoridation, i.e. the adjustment of the natural concentration of fluoride in drinking water to the optimal recommended level for the prevention of dental caries, does not cause any ill effects and protects the oral health of the population.

There are no plans to cease fluoridation. Nevertheless, the Department of Health keeps this policy under constant review. As part of this ongoing work, a review of evidence on the impact of water fluoridation at its current level on the health of the population and on the environment is being conducted by the Health Research Board on behalf of the Department. The Department is also collaborating in a University College Cork-led research project, "Fluoride and Caring for Children's Teeth" (FACCT). The study will consider the impact of changes on the oral health of children, following policy decisions relating to toothpaste use by infants and young children made in 2002 and the reduction in the level of fluoridation in drinking water introduced in 2007. In addition, the pilot phase of a study on general and oral health findings in adults linked to the duration of exposure to fluoridated water as part of the Irish Longitudinal Study on Aging (TILDA) is underway.

Graduate Nursing Scheme

Ceisteanna (575)

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

575. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health the number of nurses that are leaving after graduation; and if there is any incentive for them to stay in this country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20832/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

There is no precise data on the numbers of nurses who leave after graduation. Many nurses go abroad for a period of time and return to Ireland at a later stage. Notwithstanding the need to reduce public service numbers the HSE has the capacity to recruit where it is necessary to do so in order to ensure patient safety and quality care and to support service delivery. Nursing posts continue to be filled on this basis. In addition, the Haddington Road Agreement provided for the recruitment of up to 1,000 Nurse Graduates on a 2 year programme. Nearly 500 nurses and midwives have commenced employment in recent months on the graduate scheme, with over 200 others currently going through the recruitment process.

Fourth year undergraduate student nurses undertake a 36 week rostered placement as a key part of their degree programme. When doing so, they are not qualified nurses and require supervision. Student undergraduate nurses participating in the 4th year rostered clinical placement are paid in accordance with the rates specified in the minimum wage legislation, €6.49 for the first 12 weeks, €6.92 for the second 12 weeks and €7.79 for the third 12 weeks, with mental health student nurses 2.3% higher. Nurses participating in the Nurse Graduate Initiative earn 85% of the starting pay of a Staff Nurse in the first year and 90% in the second year. In addition these nurses would also be in receipt of allowances and other premium payments. Under the Agreement any subsequent appointment following completion of the Initiative will be to the third point of the staff nurse scale. For the first time nationally in Ireland this programme offers graduates a unique opportunity to consolidate undergraduate learning experience in a structured and supportive environment while building on their competencies and providing the foundation for lifelong learning for the next stage of their career. This initiative will open doors for future education and their career development giving graduate staff nurses and midwives a significant advantage over graduates worldwide.

Medical Card Eligibility

Ceisteanna (576)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

576. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health on what precise medical grounds it was decided that a person (details supplied) in County Kildare did not qualify for a medical card; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20880/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

The Health Service Executive has been asked to examine this matter and to reply to the Deputy as soon as possible. The Health Service Executive operates the General Medical Services scheme, which includes medical cards and GP visit cards, under the Health Act 1970, as amended. It has established a dedicated contact service for members of the Oireachtas specifically for queries relating to medical cards and GP visit cards, which the Deputy may wish to use for an earlier response. Contact information has issued to Oireachtas members.

Health Services

Ceisteanna (577)

Jack Wall

Ceist:

577. Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health if the cost of an MRI scan is covered in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare who is the holder of a current medical card; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20883/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

Under the Health Services Outpatient Charges Regulations 1993, the HSE may levy a charge on private patients for the use of an MRI machine in a public hospital. A medical card holder attending as a public patient will not be liable to a charge for a MRI scan, whereas should that person attend as a private patient a charge will apply.

Semi-State Bodies

Ceisteanna (578)

Seán Fleming

Ceist:

578. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Health the number of commercial semi-State companies under the aegis of his Department; the current value of the pension fund assets held by each commercial semi-State company; the latest funding position of each; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20907/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

The VHI is the only commercial semi State Company under the aegis of my Department. Information in respect of their pension scheme is provided in the company annual accounts, and VHI's 2013 Annual Report and Accounts will be published in the coming months. I am informed by VHI that the following is the position.

The net assets of the VHI Defined Benefit scheme at 31 December 2013 were €170m. On an FRS 17 basis the scheme had a deficit of €34m at 31 December 2013, which is an improvement from €36.6m at 31 December 2012. On a Minimum Funding Standard basis the scheme meets the standard and has improved its position from 107% at 31 December 2012 to 115% at 31 December 2013.