Road Safety Authority Data

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A.

Ceisteanna (195)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

195. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will report on the Road Safety Authority Strategy 2013 to 2020, page 24 (details supplied); the way in which data collection has been improved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10313/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

This is a matter for the Road Safety Authority. I have referred the question to the Authority for direct reply. I would ask the Deputy to contact my office if a response is not received within 10 days.

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A.

Bus Services

Ceisteanna (196)

Joan Burton

Ceist:

196. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the funding allocated to the BusConnects programme for Dublin; the funds that have been set aside for land acquisition; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10322/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

Budget 2018 provides for an increase in the multi-annual capital investment for public transport with a four-year capital envelope of €2.7 billion over the period 2018-2021. This substantial multi-annual envelope includes funding of over €770 million for the BusConnects programme to fundamentally transform our bus system, so that journeys for bus passengers will be fast, reliable, punctual, convenient and affordable.

The recently launched National Development Plan also identifies the BusConnects programme as a key public transport investment priority for completion in the GDA over the period of the plan.

Work is ongoing on the redesign of the bus services network in the Greater Dublin Area (GDA) and also on infrastructure proposals for Core Bus Corridors which will be an integral part of the programme.  When this work is complete, the National Transport Authority will launch public consultations that are expected to commence in April and May of this year. The results of the public consultation will inform the final decisions to be made on the network redesign, Core Bus Corridors routes and park and ride facilities. The costs of the various elements of the overall BusConnects programme will be confirmed as part of the appropriate appraisal and procurement processes required under the Public Spending Code.

Bus Éireann Services

Ceisteanna (197)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Ceist:

197. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if the No. 206 bus route and No. 221 route in County Cork are to merge; when this merger will take place; the reason this merger has been suggested; the route it will take through Cork city; and the route it will take to the airport. [10335/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The issue raised is a matter for the National Transport Authority (NTA) in conjunction with Bus Éireann and I have forwarded the Deputy's question to the NTA for direct reply.  Please advise my private office if you do not receive a response within ten working days.

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A.

Taxi Regulations

Ceisteanna (198)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

198. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the reason a company (details supplied) is prevented from advertising its services here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10347/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

Section 27 of the Taxi Regulation Act,2013 prohibits advertising of a small public service vehicle (SPSV) for hire in this jurisdiction where there is no licence in force in this jurisdiction in respect of an SPSV service to which the advertisement relates.  The provisions of the Section do not apply where the advertisement relates to services provided outside the jurisdiction.

As regards the future, the Deputy may wish to be aware that both jurisdictions intend, in due course, to develop and introduce legislation that would regulate cross border taxi services.

Dublin Bus Services

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A.

Ceisteanna (199)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

199. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the reason Dublin Bus has removed its city centre discount fare; if this decision was made by Dublin Bus or by the National Transport Authority; if he was notified of this move; the way in which such a step is in keeping with stated policy of encouraging persons to use public transport especially in city centre areas suffering from heavy congestion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10372/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The issue raised is a matter for the National Transport Authority (NTA) in conjunction with Dublin Bus and I have forwarded the Deputy's question to the NTA for direct reply.  Please advise my private office if you do not receive a response within ten working days.

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A.

Road Projects Status

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A.

Ceisteanna (200)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

200. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the status of plans to upgrade the N4 road prior to the shelving of this plan in 2011; if this route will become a dual carriageway or a motorway; if the preparatory work which was previously undertaken on this route can be used on this occasion; the timeframe for this project; and the stages this project will have to go through. [10395/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

As Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme.  The planning, design and implementation of individual road projects  is a matter for Transport Infrastructure Ireland under the Roads Acts 1993-2015 in conjunction with the local authorities concerned.  Within its capital budget, the assessment and prioritisation of individual projects is a matter in the first instance for TII in accordance with Section 19 of the Roads Act.

Noting the above position, I have referred the Deputy's question to TII for direct reply.  Please advise my private office if you don't receive a reply within 10 working days.

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A.

Rail Network Expansion

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A.

Ceisteanna (201, 202)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

201. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent of upgrading of commuter rail facilities along the Leixlip, Maynooth, Kilcock and Enfield commuter line in accordance with Project Ireland 2040; the extent to which increased passenger capacity, extension of station facilities, extra track or other facilities is anticipated; the full extent of the expenditure involved; the timeframe for provision of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10415/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

202. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent of upgrading of commuter rail facilities along the Hazelhatch, Sallins, Newbridge and Kildare commuter line in accordance with Project Ireland 2040; the extent to which increased passenger capacity, extension of station facilities, extra track or other facilities is anticipated; the full extent of the expenditure involved; the timeframe for provision of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10416/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 201 and 202 together.

As the Deputy is aware, the National Transport Authority's (NTA) 'Transport Strategy for the GDA 2016-2035' proposes implementation of the overall DART Expansion Programme. As outlined in the recently published 'National Development Plan 2018-2027, Project Ireland 2040' (NDP), the DART Expansion Programme is a series of projects that will create a full metropolitan area DART Network? for Dublin with all of the lines linked and connected over the period of the plan.

The initial sequencing of investment under the NDP will focus on delivery of non-underground tunnel elements of the Programme using the recently opened rail link and existing connector tunnel under the Phoenix Park (which has provided the option for Kildare commuters to access the city centre stations of Connolly, Tara Street and Pearse). This sequencing and focus includes buying additional fleet for the DART network and measures such as re-signalling, junction and station changes to provide expanded services. The next step will be to provide fast, high-frequency electrified services to Drogheda on the Northern Line, Celbridge/Hazelhatch on the Kildare Line, Maynooth and M3 Parkway on the Maynooth/Sligo Line, while continuing to provide DART services on the South-Eastern Line as far south as Greystones. It will also include new stations to provide interchange with bus, LUAS and Metro networks.

The significant benefit to using the recently opened rail link and existing connector tunnel under the Phoenix Park and the proposed sequence of investment, is that it will enable additional passenger services to be put in place much earlier using existing infrastructure with some enhancements. This integrated rail network will provide a core, high-capacity transit system for the region and will deliver a very substantial increase in peak-hour capacity on all lines from Maynooth and Celbridge/Hazelhatch as well as Drogheda and Greystones. The route for the remaining element of the overall DART Expansion Programme, the DART Underground Tunnel, will be established and protected to allow for its future delivery.

In light of the NTA's responsibility in this area, I have forwarded the Deputies' questions to the Authority for further information on the issues raised. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a response within ten working days.

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A.

Child and Family Agency Data

Ceisteanna (203)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

203. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of cases awaiting allocation to a social worker in each Tusla local office area in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10223/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Addressing the number of children who are awaiting the allocation of a social worker is one of my key priorities. I secured funds in Budget 2018 which will allow Tusla to carry out the third year of a 3 year plan to provide for the allocation of a dedicated social worker to all children who need one. Tusla are also funded to recruit family support workers, social care staff and administrative staff to work alongside social workers in supporting vulnerable children and families.

An unallocated case relates to a case about a child who is deemed to need a social work assessment, but has not yet been allocated to a social worker. All urgent and emergency cases receive immediate attention by the local duty social work team. The majority of unallocated cases are new referrals, however they may also include children living with their families who had an allocated social worker, or to a child in care, where there is now a social work vacancy.

I am informed by Tusla that a case awaiting allocation may be listed as 'active on duty'. Tusla indicate that this may includes checking with professionals who see the child regularly, or visiting the child and family at home, getting additional information about the child's situation and, in some instances where a child is in care, organising a Care Plan Review and visiting the child.

Information about unallocated cases is published monthly on the Tusla website. The most up to date data available is for November 2017. I can inform the Deputy that there were 24,445 open cases nationally at the end of November. Of these, 4,760 were awaiting allocation of a social worker. This information is provided in the table below, in the format requested by the Deputy. Tusla have experienced an increase of referrals to child protection and welfare services. There were 4,651 referrals received in November 2017, an increase of 749 (19%) on the same period in 2016.

I, and my officials, will continue to engage directly with the Tusla Board and Senior Management Team to monitor and review progress.

Cases open to Tusla social work awaiting allocation to a social worker, by Tusla Area

Tusla Area

Number of cases awaiting allocation to a social worker

Dublin South East/Wicklow

105

Dublin South West/Kildare/West Wicklow

805

Dublin South Central

233

Midlands

241

Dublin North City

369

Dublin North

462

Louth/Meath

240

Cavan/Monaghan

234

Kerry

107

Cork

605

Carlow/Kilkenny/South Tipperary

255

Waterford/Wexford

232

Donegal

467

Sligo/Leitrim/West Cavan

64

Mayo

0

Galway/Roscommon

185

Midwest

156

Total Cases

4,760

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Ceisteanna (204)

Tom Neville

Ceist:

204. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if the qualifications of a special needs assistant can be accepted for the early years childcare programme action and inclusion model; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10252/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

In June 2016, I introduced the Access and Inclusion Model (AIM), a new programme of supports to enable children with a disability to access and fully participate in the free pre-school programme.

AIM is not an SNA model.  Rather, it is a holistic model designed to support pre-school providers to deliver an inclusive pre-school experience.

One of the supports offered under AIM – Level 7 – is additional capitation.  Where approval for additional capitation has been agreed, and in circumstances where the maximum capitation has been approved, it can be used in one of two ways.  It can be used to reduce the adult to child ratio in the pre-school room, for example from 1 adult and 11 children down to 1 adult and 8 children, without any financial loss to the pre-school provider.  Alternatively, it can be used to buy in additional assistance to the pre-school room.

Applicants who intend to use additional capitation provided under AIM Level 7 to employ an additional person for the pre-school room or increase hours for existing staff must ensure that such staff have a Level 5 major award in early childhood care and education.

In order to meet the minimum regulatory standard, a qualification must show that the holder of the qualification has completed studies in the area of:

Child Development 0-6 years

Early Childhood Education – Theory and Practice

Child Health and Welfare 0-6 years

My Department maintains a list of Early Years Recognised Qualifications, a copy of which can be found on the Department’s website www.dcya.gov.ie.  This list shows all qualifications which have been approved by DCYA for work in the Early Years sector in Ireland to date.  Where a qualification is not published on the list of DCYA Early Years Recognised Qualifications but the holder considers it to be an appropriate Major Award at or above Level 5 on the NFQ (National Framework of Qualifications) or equivalent, they can apply to the Department to have their qualifications assessed for approval.

The Child Care Act 1991 (Early Years Services) (Amendment) Regulations 2016 allow for an exemption to the qualification requirements for an employee of a registered childcare provider receiving funding under Level 7 of AIM.  This exemption is for children with medically complex needs who require specialised health support which is critical to the child’s meaningful participation in the ECCE programme.

There are no immediate plans to review these qualification requirements relating to AIM.

Departmental Meetings

Ceisteanna (205)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

205. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the newspapers her Department officials have engaged with in promoting or explaining Government business in her Department; when these meetings took place; if they are held on a regular basis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10288/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

My Department would engage on a daily basis with journalists working for newspapers and other media outlets, for example, in relation to answering queries from them and issuing press releases. Officials of my Department would not otherwise engage with newspapers. On occasion, I would engage in press briefings attended by a range of media outlets and I have also given interviews to same.

Early Childhood Care and Education Data

Ceisteanna (206)

Joan Burton

Ceist:

206. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of creches in the early childhood care and education, ECCE, scheme, by county; if her attention has been drawn to the number of creches by county that refused to join the scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10331/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Below are the services with contracts issued under Early Childhood Care and Education scheme (ECCE) in 2017/18 listed by county:

County

Services in Contact

Carlow

50

Cavan

60

Clare

130

Cork

442

Donegal

141

Dublin

1111

Galway

252

Kerry

126

Kildare

194

Kilkenny

95

Laois

77

Leitrim

29

Limerick

173

Longford

33

Louth

112

Mayo

120

Meath

198

Monaghan

57

Offaly

72

Roscommon

54

Sligo

65

Tipperary

157

Waterford

90

Westmeath

77

Wexford

134

Wicklow

162

Grand Total

4211

The total number of service providers that have signed up to deliver the ECCE scheme is 4211. There is no obligation on service providers to join the scheme and my Department does not record statistics on the services that decide not to join. It should also be noted that some services may not be eligible to provide ECCE, (eg. an afterschool only service) while other services may opt to provide one of the other childcare subvention schemes only.  

I would advise any service provider with queries about the ECCE scheme to contact their local City and County Childcare Committee for further information.

Haddington Road Agreement Implementation

Ceisteanna (207)

Dessie Ellis

Ceist:

207. Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if her attention has been drawn to the fact that funding allocated to community youth projects, such as projects (details supplied), does not enable them to implement the pay restoration as outlined under the Haddington Road agreement without having a serious effect on the provision of youth services by such groups; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10337/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

City of Dublin Youth Service Board is a statutory body which administers grants to approximately ninety youth projects throughout Dublin city. I am aware that a number of youth workers based in Dublin City and employed in projects administered by the City of Dublin Youth Service Board, are on scales linked to public pay scales and may be eligible for increases under the Haddington Road agreement. In this regard, I was advised by City of Dublin Youth Service Board of a circular issued by the Department of Education and Skills in 2017 and that this circular applies to these youth workers.

It is important to note that the youth workers employed by these services are not public servants and that this local arrangement is unique to services operating in Dublin City. I am also advised that all other youth services operating in Dublin and in the rest of the country are not impacted by the Haddington Road agreement.

Based on the information provided to my Department, the cost of implementing the Haddington Road agreement in these Dublin City services is more than offset by the increases provided to all youth services over the past two years. In 2016, all staff-led youth services were provided with a 2.5% increase in allocation. In 2017, services were provided with a 5% increase in their allocation.

My Department has commenced a process with national organisations and local services, including Ballymun Regional Youth Service, to identify service development needs for 2018 and to finalise the 2018 allocations. The primary purpose of this process to ensure that youth services are sufficiently resourced to meet the needs of young people and particularly those who are at risk of drugs or alcohol misuse, early school leaving, homelessness or who are living in disadvantaged communities. Every effort will be made to complete this process as soon as possible and notify all youth services of their allocation for the year.

In this regard, officials within my Department have recently met with and are continuing to work with officials from the City of Dublin Youth Service Board to identify service needs and emerging trends in Dublin City.

Departmental Meetings

Ceisteanna (208)

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

208. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the contact or meetings she or her Department have had with members of a group (details supplied) in the past three years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10364/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Since I became the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs in May 2016, I have met with a representative from the group in question on two occasions. My Department has had no such meetings.

Local and Community Development Programme Expenditure

Ceisteanna (209)

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

209. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the amount spent on the local and community development programme in each of the years 2007 to 2017; and the allocated spend for 2018. [10302/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

The Local Community Development Programme (LCDP) was launched on 1 January 2010; it superseded the Local Development Social Inclusion Programme (LDSIP) and the Community Development Programme (CDP). The Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme (SICAP) replaced the LCDP from 1 April 2015 in most parts of the country.

Funding under the various Programmes for the years in question are outlined in the following table:

Year

Spend

2007*

€81.344m

2008*

€81.120m

2009*

€68.588m

2010

€65.211m

2011

€58.853m

2012

€50.446m

2013

€44.827m

2014

€45.244m

2015

€41.609m

2016

€36.497m

2017

€37.299m

2018

€38.028m (Allocation)

* Combined funding under the Local Development Social Inclusion Programme (LDSIP) and Community Development Programmes (CDP)

Domiciliary Care Allowance Applications

Ceisteanna (210)

Tom Neville

Ceist:

210. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when an application for domiciliary care will be finalised for persons (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10222/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

This domiciliary care allowance claim has been finalised. This lady was notified on the 24 February 2018 that her domiciliary care allowance has been awarded from the 1st July 2017. Arrears due for this period will issue with her March 2018 payment on the 20th March 2018.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Carer's Allowance Eligibility

Ceisteanna (211)

John Brassil

Ceist:

211. Deputy John Brassil asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to allow for full carer's allowance and a half rate to be provided to families of children with severe disabilities or illnesses that require the full time care of both parents (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10229/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Carer's Allowance is a means tested social assistance payment, made to persons who are providing full time care and attention to a person requiring such care. The carer may work or engage in training for a maximum of 15 hours per week and still be regarded as providing full-time care and attention.

Only one carer's allowance is payable in respect of any one caring situation, however two carers who are sharing care in an established pattern can be accommodated on the carer's allowance scheme. All the usual qualifying conditions for carer's allowance apply to carers availing of these arrangements. Each carer may share the carer's allowance income support payment and the annual carer’s support grant. A carer providing full time care on a part time basis is required under legislation to provide care for a complete week i.e. Monday to Sunday.

Other financial assistance may be available to the family. Domiciliary Care Allowance (DCA) is a monthly payment for a child aged under 16 with a severe disability, who requires ongoing care and attention, substantially over and above the care and attention usually required by a child of the same age. It is not means tested. The family may also claim a Carer's Support Grant, which is paid each year during the month of June.

I have no plans to change the current care sharing arrangements which would have to be considered in a budgetary context.

I hope that this clarifies the position for the Deputy.

Fuel Allowance Eligibility

Ceisteanna (212)

John Brassil

Ceist:

212. Deputy John Brassil asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to allow for a carer's allowance to be a qualifying payment for receipt of fuel allowance (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10235/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The fuel allowance is a payment of €22.50 per week for 27 weeks from October to April, to over 338,000 low income households, at an estimated cost of €227 million in 2018. The purpose of this payment is to assist these households with their energy costs. The allowance represents a contribution towards the energy costs of a household. It is not intended to meet those costs in full. Only one allowance is paid per household.

The Government values the role of carers very much and it is for this reason that they receive significant income supports from the Department. In addition to carer’s allowance carers receive additional support in the form of free travel and household benefits (for those who live with the person for whom they care) and the annual respite care grant in respect of each person for whom they care.

If a person is getting certain qualifying social welfare payments and also providing full time care and attention to another person, they can keep their main social welfare payment and get the half-rate carer's allowance as well. They can also receive an extra half-rate carer’s allowance if they care for more than one person. From October 2013 onwards, the payment of half-rate carer’s allowance does not preclude a person from qualifying for fuel allowance. If a person is in receipt of a non-contributory social welfare payment and a half-rate carer’s allowance, then they are deemed to have satisfied the means test and fuel allowance is payable subject to all remaining criteria being satisfied. If a person is in receipt of a contributory social welfare payment and a half-rate carer’s allowance then they will have to undergo a means test for fuel allowance.

Any decision to amend the criteria for receiving fuel allowance to include carer’s allowance would have to be considered in the overall policy and budgetary context.

Under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme, exceptional needs payments may be made to help meet an essential, once-off cost which customers are unable to meet out of their own resources and this may include exceptional heating costs.

The best way to tackle fuel poverty in the long term is to improve the energy efficiency of the dwelling. My Department works closely with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment to help identify people in energy poverty who are living with chronic respiratory conditions so they can avail of the Warmth and Well-being Scheme which aims to make homes warmer and healthier to live in.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Carer's Allowance Applications

Ceisteanna (213)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

213. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if a matter regarding repayments in the case of a person (details supplied) will be reviewed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10236/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

I confirm that my Department received an application for carer’s allowance (CA) from the person concerned on 23 August 2017.

The application was awarded to the person concerned on 15 January 2018 with effect from 24 August 2017 and the first payment issued to her nominated bank account on 1 February 2018.

It is proposed to withhold arrears of allowance due to the value of €1,776.34 for the period 24 August 2017 to 31 January 2018 as the person concerned has an outstanding one-parent family payment debt owing to my Department of €12,751.80.

My Department is obliged to seek recovery of debts owed to it as quickly as possible, having due regard to the circumstances of the debtor.

My Department’s debt recovery unit wrote to the person concerned on 12 February 2018 advising of the withholding of her arrears and the proposal to recover the balance of the debt owing by deductions of €30.00 per week to commence on or after 8 March 2018.

Before the withholding of arrears and commencement of deductions, the person concerned is being afforded the opportunity within 21 days of the date of the letter dated 12 February 2018 to make any comment on the proposed method of recovery of the debt.

If the person concerned is experiencing difficulties with regards to this proposal, she should state clearly as part of her comments her current weekly income and expenditure. A debt recovery officer will take into consideration her ability to pay and accordingly set an amount to be deducted weekly from her CA payment.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Free Travel Scheme Administration

Ceisteanna (214, 216)

John Brassil

Ceist:

214. Deputy John Brassil asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if the free travel pass entitlements for persons in receipt of carer's allowance will be reviewed to allow for a companion or partner pass (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10239/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

John Brady

Ceist:

216. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the rationale for the reason carers under 66 years of age cannot nominate their partner to travel with them under the travel pass scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10246/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 214 and 216 together. D.):

The current free travel scheme provides free travel on the main public and private transport services for those eligible under the scheme. These include road, rail and ferry services provided by companies such as Bus Átha Cliath, Bus Éireann and Iarnród Éireann, as well as Luas and services provided by over 80 private transport operators. There are currently approx. 904,000 customers with direct eligibility with an annual allocation of €90 million.

The scheme is available to all people aged over 66 living permanently in the State. To qualify for the scheme, applicants who are under age 66 must be in receipt of a qualifying payment. These are invalidity pension, blind pension, disability allowance, carer’s allowance or an equivalent social security payment from a country covered by EC Regulations or one with which Ireland has a Bilateral Social Security Agreement.

A companion free travel pass entitles the pass holder to have any one person, aged 16 years or over, to accompany him/her free of charge when travelling. In addition to this, people in receipt of carers allowance or benefit from my Department are also entitled to a free travel pass in their own right. Therefore if the person being cared for has a companion travel pass they can nominate a person other than the carer to travel with them and the carer may travel on the single free travel pass they have received.

Under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme (SWA) the Department of Social Protection may award a travel supplement in any case where the circumstances of the case so warrant. The supplement is intended to assist with ongoing or recurring travel costs that cannot be met from the client’s own resources and are deemed to be necessary. Every decision is based on consideration of the circumstances of the case, taking account of the nature and extent of the need and of the resources of the person concerned.

There are no plans at this time to increase the number of free travel companions that may travel without charge under the scheme. Any such expansion would have significant budgetary implications, particularly if it was a general, rather than a targeted provision, such as that already provided for under the SWA travel supplement.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputies.

Fuel Allowance Expenditure

Ceisteanna (215)

John Brady

Ceist:

215. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the estimated cost of extending fuel allowance to all those in receipt of carer's allowance. [10245/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Fuel allowance is a payment of €22.50 per week to recipients of a qualifying social welfare payment to assist with the energy costs of low-income households. While carer's allowance is not a qualifying payment for fuel allowance, it is possible for a person in receipt of a half-rate carer’s allowance and a qualifying social welfare payment to qualify for the scheme.

It is not known how many carer’s allowance recipients would satisfy the household composition requirements to qualify for fuel allowance.

Based on the 2018 estimated recipient numbers of carer’s allowance, the cost of paying fuel allowance to all those in receipt of carer's allowance would be €47.9 million over the 27 weeks of the fuel season. However, this estimated cost would be impacted by the fact that some of these recipients, i.e. those who are paid half-rate carer’s allowance alongside their primary payment, may already be in receipt of a fuel allowance with their primary payment, and others would not qualify for the scheme.