Schools Data

Ceisteanna (124, 125)

Louise O'Reilly

Ceist:

124. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of schools that are planned based on demographic data for Swords and the surrounding area in view of the fact that schools are at capacity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7759/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Louise O'Reilly

Ceist:

125. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of schools that are planned based on demographic data for Balbriggan and the surrounding area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7760/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 124 and 125 together.

In order to plan for school provision and analyse the relevant demographic data, my Department divides the country into 314 school planning areas. My Department uses a Geographical Information System (GIS) to identify where the pressure for school places across the country will arise. The GIS uses data from a range of sources, including the Central Statistics Office, Ordnance Survey Ireland, the Department of Social Protection and my Department's own databases. With this information, my Department carries out nationwide demographic exercises at primary and post primary level to determine where additional school accommodation is needed.

Where demographic data indicates that additional provision is required, the delivery of the additional provision is dependent on the particular circumstances of each case and may, depending on the circumstances, be provided through either one, or a combination of, the following:

- Utilising existing unused capacity with a school or schools,

- Extending the capacity of a school or schools,

- Provision of a new school(s).

The nationwide demographic exercises involving all school planning areas, including the areas referred to by the Deputy, at primary and post-primary level is ongoing at the moment and work in this regard is almost complete.

Teaching Qualifications

Ceisteanna (126)

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

126. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the details of a new scheme which would involve the State paying the cost of a teaching qualification as reported in the media (details supplied); if a similar scheme is envisaged for primary level teaching qualifications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7771/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Additional investment has allowed the successful recruitment of over 5,000 additional teachers in the last two years.  Since 2012/2013, there are 8,900 more teachers in our schools. No other part of the public service has seen this sort of growth, which is testament to the Government’s commitment to, and the importance of education in, fulfilling our national ambitions.

The numbers of graduates from initial teacher education (ITE) programmes have also remained broadly constant. Over 8,000 primary and 7,800 second level teachers have graduated in the last five years and in 2018 it is estimated that approximately 1,870 primary and 1,523 post primary teachers will graduate.

However, I fully acknowledge the concerns that have been expressed about teacher supply.

Last month, I announced the suspension of restrictions on substitution limits for career breaks. Schools have also been reminded that, in considering career break applications, the needs of pupils should take precedence and they must take account of the availability of appropriate qualified replacement teachers.

At post primary level, I have announced my intention to double the number of places on undergraduate courses for second level teachers, as well as a range of other policy interventions. 

I intend shortly to establish a Teacher Supply Steering Group to develop a strategy for teacher supply.  As part of its remit, the Group will consult with key stakeholders and will consider all options to achieve the increases in teacher supply needed to address shortages of substitute teachers at primary level and shortages of teachers of certain subjects at post primary level.

I will also ask the Teaching Council to review subject criteria and processes for assessing out of state qualifications and to engage more with graduate fairs, and final year students.

Naturalisation Applications

Ceisteanna (127)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

127. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when a person (details supplied) will receive a decision on an application for citizenship. [7551/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I am advised by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department that an application for a certificate of naturalisation was received from the person referred to by the Deputy on 15 March 2017. Processing of this application is on-going, with a view to establishing whether the conditions for naturalisation, such as good character and lawful residence, are satisfied.  On completion of the necessary processing the application will be submitted to me for decision as expeditiously as possible.

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

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

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

Gender Recognition

Ceisteanna (128)

Joan Burton

Ceist:

128. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if his Department has prepared written guidelines for staff and the public for dealing with transgender matters; if they are published; if staff have received training in respect of this; if his Department is participating in or making a submission regarding the review being undertaken in respect of the operation of the Gender Recognition Act 2015; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7573/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy is aware, the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection holds primary responsibility for transgender policy.  This Department has not prepared specific written guidelines for staff or the public in dealing with transgender matters. Staff are trained to deliver an appropriate level of customer service and this training includes detailed training on all grounds of discrimination. 

The Deputy may wish to know that officials are engaged in the review of the operation of the Gender Recognition Act 2015 being undertaken by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection which will inform us of any particular training needs in this regard.

Prison Staff

Ceisteanna (129)

Jim O'Callaghan

Ceist:

129. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the supports afforded to prison staff if a member of the Irish Prison Service is injured in the execution of their duties; and the method used to communicate these supports to staff. [7587/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I am advised by the Director General of the Irish Prison Service that the Irish Prison Service Strategic Plan 2016 – 2018 sets out the four key actions for the Irish Prison Service, the first of which is Staff Support.

The Irish Prison Service has its own Employee Assistance Programme with 3 full-time national Employee Assistance Officers.  At local prison level, staff have access to a network of almost fifty voluntary Staff Support Officers.  This support network provides a confidential service offering information, advice and onward referrals on a wide range of personal and work-related issues. The Employee Assistance Programme plays a key role in supporting staff, particularly those who have been injured on duty.

In October 2016, the Irish Prison Service launched an Independent Counselling Service for staff, which is provided by Inspire Workplaces.  This service is available to all staff and is free of charge.  This is an important enhancement of the Irish Prison Service Employee Assistance Programme.  This Counselling Service is completely confidential and is designed to assist employees in resolving personal or work-related concerns.   It is a 24/7 Freephone helpline, with access to up to 6 counselling sessions for support covering a wide range of issues. 

For the purpose of sick pay, absences that are deemed to be Occupational Injury or Disease related, are dealt with under Civil Service Circulars which allow for six months on full pay followed by six months on half pay.  In 2015, the Director General sought and obtained sanction to introduce a Serious Physical Assault Scheme which allows that, in certain cases, full pay may be sanctioned up to a maximum of twelve months.  This is a considerable benefit for the small number of staff affected.  The Scheme which was introduced in July 2015 is an interim arrangement pending the completion by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform of a full review of Occupational Injury or Disease in the Public Service.

The Irish Prison Service is committed to strengthening the support that the Irish Prison Service provides for staff.  The Irish Prison Service is introducing the CISM (Critical Incident Stress Management) model of interventions, which has been endorsed by the State Claims Agency.  CISM provides guidance to staff on how to manage and control stress and reduce or eliminate uncontrolled stress.  CISM comprises of a continuum of care and targets the response of individuals and groups of individuals to traumatic events rather than the incident itself.  It aims to minimise the emotional impact of critical incidents on staff, increase the resistance and resilience of staff to harmful stress and prevent the harmful effects on staff of these incidents by working with and supporting employees at the time of critical incidents.

Information on these supports is available through the Employee Assistance Programme and a booklet for staff is available in all prisons and on the Irish Prison Service intranet.  The responsibility for the Human Resource function in each prison and unit of the Irish Prison Service lies with the HR Governor and the HR office.  It is the responsibility of the HR Governor to maintain supportive contact with staff members who have been injured in the course of their duties.

Prison Staff

Ceisteanna (130)

Jim O'Callaghan

Ceist:

130. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if guidance on entitlement to access the Criminal Injures Compensation Tribunal is notified to prison staff injured in the execution of their duties. [7588/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I am advised by the Director General of the Irish Prison Service that information on the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal and the other supports available to staff who have been injured on duty is available through the Irish Prison Service Employee Assistance Programme.  A booklet for staff is available in all prisons and on the Irish Prison Service intranet.

Prison Service Staff

Ceisteanna (131)

Jim O'Callaghan

Ceist:

131. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of persons on long-term or permanent sick leave from the Irish Prison Service. [7589/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I am advised by the Director General of the Irish Prison Service that there are currently 58 employees absent on long term sick leave.  Long term sick leave in the Irish Prison Service is defined as instances where an employee is absent on sick leave for a continuous period of 92 days or more. 

The Irish Prison Service Strategic Plan 2016 – 2018 sets out the four key actions for the Irish Prison Service, the first of which is Staff Support.  The Irish Prison Service has its own Employee Assistance Programme with 3 full-time national Employee Assistance Officers.  At local prison level staff have access to a network of almost fifty voluntary Staff Support Officers.  This support network provides a confidential service offering information, advice and onward referrals on a wide range of personal and work-related issues. The Employee Assistance Programme plays a key role in supporting staff, particularly those who have been injured on duty.

In October 2016, the Irish Prison Service launched an Independent Counselling Service for staff, which is provided by Inspire Workplaces.  This service is available to all staff and is free of charge.  This is an important enhancement of the Irish Prison Service Employee Assistance Programme.  This Counselling Service is completely confidential and is designed to assist employees in resolving personal or work-related concerns.  It is a 24/7 Freephone helpline, with access to up to 6 counselling sessions for support covering a wide range of issues. 

In February 2015, the Irish Prison Service launched its Accommodations (Rehabilitative/Restricted Duties) Policy which provides workplace rehabilitation that supports and enables injured or sick employees to remain at or return to the workplace to continue the discharge of work duties.  The objective of this policy is to facilitate an early return to work following a period of sickness absence where an employee may not be fit for a “full range of operational duties”.  This rehabilitation period will be for a maximum of  3 months following receipt of medical advice form the Officer of the Chief Medical Officer.