Library Services Provision

Ceisteanna (307)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

307. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the role his Department will have in the interim review of the contract to supply library books for a service (details supplied); if concerns regarding non-adherence to the contract will be considered; if there has been an amendment to the contract; if the knowledge or otherwise of the book market here, support for Irish publishers and the possible cultural loss will be reviewed; the date and process for the interim review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13016/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

The provision and management of public library services is primarily a matter for each local authority in its capacity as a library authority under the Local Government Act 2001. This includes the purchase of public library book-stock which, in 2016, was subject to a national tender run by the Local Government Management Agency (LGMA) on behalf of the 31 local authorities.

The LGMA had sole responsibility for managing the tender competition and the post-tender contracting process.  Four suppliers have been awarded contracts on foot of the tender process and these are managed by the LGMA on behalf of local authorities.

The contracts require the suppliers to liaise with the LGMA on a regular basis to address any issues arising that may impact on the performance of the agreement, and to agree milestones, compliance schedules and operational protocols that may be required by the LGMA from time to time. However, the contracts do not provide for an interim review and it is a matter solely for the LGMA to determine if a formal review or an amendment of contracts is required.

Ministerial Staff Data

Ceisteanna (308)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

308. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the details of each non-Civil Service appointment he has made to a role in his Department; the persons appointed; the role, qualifications and salary of each; and the guidelines that apply in respect of party political fundraising. [13165/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

My Department was established on 19 July 2017.  I can confirm that the only appointments I have made were two Advisers, details as follows:

1. Press Adviser:

Mr Daniel Rowan was appointed as Press Adviser on 14 August 2017.  His main responsibilities include the following:

- Provision and oversight of press information and liaison on my behalf (working with the Department’s Press Officer and Press Office staff),

- Liaison, on my behalf, with the Government Press Office (working with the Department’s Press Officer and Press Office staff), and with Department Officials on media aspects of policy;

- Adviser on external communications and publicity on my behalf;

- Focal point, along with Mr Ó Ceallacháin (my Policy Adviser), for political clearance and transmission of speaking and briefing material for all “Order of Business” purposes and circulation of such material to me and to the Minister of State;

- Liaison with team of Media Advisers across Government;

- Clearance of all Ministerial speeches and news releases

Mr Rowan has previously worked in communications roles in the charity sector, politics, and public sector.

Mr Rowan’s salary is at the level of the Principal Officer Standard pay scale, sanctioned at €81,767.

2. Special Advisor

Mr Seamus O’ Ceallachain was appointed as Special Adviser to me on 11 September 2017. Mr Ó Ceallachain's main responsibilities include the following:

- Assisting in the management  of my programme of work;

- Liaison, on my behalf, with relevant Units in relation to the Department/Government priorities and  timelines for dealing with the stated policies and priorities;

- Attendance at weekly pre-Government meeting of Ministerial Special Advisers;

- Liaison with team of advisers across Government;

- Attendance at relevant Senior Official and Cabinet Committee meetings;

- Focal point, along with Mr Rowan (my Press Adviser), for political clearance and transmission of speaking and briefing material for all “Order of Business” purposes and circulation of such material to me and to the Minister of State;

- Liaison with Secretary General’s Office in regard to the provision of observations on Government  Memoranda.

Mr O'Ceallacháin is seconded from his role as school Principal in Pobalscoil na Tríonóide, Youghal, Co. Cork.

Mr Ó Ceallacháin’s salary is at the level of the Principal Officer Standard pay scale, sanctioned at €94,521

I have no plans to appoint any further Special Advisers.

I can confirm that the Fine Gael Party does not have its own specific guidelines on fundraising. It  adheres to the SIPO guidelines.

Youth Unemployment Data

Ceisteanna (309)

James Browne

Ceist:

309. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the percentage of youth unemployment in the south east; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13188/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The first publication of the Labour Force Survey which replaces the Quarterly National Household Survey (QHNS) was released on 16, January 2018 and is the official measure of unemployment. The most recent data shows that youth unemployment has fallen from a peak of 31% in 2012 to 12.2% in Q4 2017. Overall youth unemployment has fallen from well above the EU average in 2012 to well below the EU average of 16.4% in Q4 2017.

Within the South-East region, youth unemployment has fallen from a peak of 41% in 2012 to 13.9% in Q.4, 2017. The number of young people in employment in the South East increased by over 6,000 over the same period – from 18,600 on average in the year 2012 to 24,700 on average in 2017.

These trends indicate that together with improvements in the labour market and economic recovery, our approach to youth employment, which focuses in the first instance on enhancing processes and policies for assisting young unemployed people to find and secure sustainable jobs, has been relatively successful.

The Government’s primary strategy to tackle unemployment since 2012 is twofold:

- Firstly, through policies set out in the Action Plan for Jobs, to create an environment in which business can succeed and create jobs. This policy now includes a specific regional Action Plan for the South East Region. The Plan has been embraced within the region and the efforts by stakeholders and businesses in the region are paying off: Average employment in the South East was 224,000 in 2017 – 14,000 more than in 2015 (baseline year), and representing significant progress towards the 25,000 target for 2020 as set out in the Plan.

- Secondly, through Pathways to Work, my Department ensures that as many new jobs and vacancies as possible are filled by people taken from the Live Register. Under this policy, employment services and activation supports are heavily concentrated on the areas of highest unemployment.

Under the Youth Guarantee process case officers engage with unemployed young people, on a monthly basis, to prepare and implement personal progression plans for employment. Where young people do not find work quickly, additional supports are offered through places on employment and training schemes, which are closely aligned to the needs of the labour market.

For those who do not find employment, through the process just described, additional offers are provided for. Most such offers (over 70%) are in existing further education or training programmes. Others are in existing community-based employment programmes/workplace based interventions such as CE, Gateway and Tús and First Steps; or in subsidies to employers, through JobsPlus Youth. Long-term unemployed jobseekers under-25 are also referred to JobPath, a contracted, payment-by-results employment services that provides additional resources and supports to those long-term unemployed.

As part of this range of opportunities, later this year I will be introducing a new work experience programme targeted specifically at young jobseekers who are long-term unemployed or who face significant barriers to gaining employment. The new Youth Employment Support Scheme (YESS) will provide young jobseekers with the opportunity to learn basic work and social skills in a supportive environment while on a work placement. Operational details are currently being finalised and I hope to launch the scheme in Quarter 2, 2018.

As indicated by the Labour force survey results, the policies being pursued under the Action Plan for Jobs and under Pathways to Work have been effective in reducing youth and overall unemployment, both nationally and in the south-eastern region and I am confident that they will continue to do so.

Social Welfare Appeals Status

Ceisteanna (310)

James Lawless

Ceist:

310. Deputy James Lawless asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of a social welfare appeal by a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13011/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer has completed a review of his original decision which allowed the appeal of the person concerned regarding a decision of the Department of 16 September 2016 in relation to their Jobseeker’s Allowance. The effect of that original decision was that the revised means would not be assessed retrospectively for the period 30 March 2016 to 13 September 2016. In light of additional evidence, the Appeals Officer has now reconfirmed that element of his decision and also decided that the Department’s decision shall not apply on a prospective basis.

An additional decision of the Department dated 30 January 2017 in relation to the means of the person concerned has not yet been appealed. The person concerned has now been notified of the Appeals Officer’s latest decision, including their option of appealing the decision of 30 January 2017.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Tús Programme

Ceisteanna (311)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

311. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when the national review of the operation and delivery of the Tús initiative will conclude; if Tús services in County Donegal will be preserved (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13015/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Tús is a community work placement initiative aimed at providing short-term, quality work opportunities for those who are unemployed for more than 12 months. The scheme is delivered through Implementing Bodies (IBs), comprising 47 Local Development Companies and Údarás na Gaeltachta. Tús commenced operation in 2011 as a response to the high level of unemployment and the large numbers on the Live Register. As the economic recovery takes hold and the overall level of unemployment continues to fall, the Department recognises the need to adapt the Tús scheme to the changing circumstances, opportunities and needs of jobseekers.

There has been a 48% fall in the numbers on the Live Register who are more than 1 year unemployed in the five years since the end December 2012. Given the welcome improvements in the labour market in recent years with reducing numbers of long term unemployed on the Live Register, which is the target cohort for Tús, it is now considered necessary to reduce the number of Tús placements provided to reflect the reduced numbers of long-term unemployed and the reduced numbers on the scheme.

My Department has engaged with the Irish Local Development Network (ILDN) – the representative body for IBs to ensure that any impact will be managed in a positive manner. At present, Officials of my Department are engaging on an individual basis with each IB, including Donegal Local Development Company and Inishowen Development Partnership Company, to agree new Tús allocations and a revised funding structure. The Department is very conscious of the valuable contribution the Tús scheme is making in the provision of services to individuals and communities across Ireland. It is hoped that any adjustment in numbers is achieved in an orderly manner to minimise any disruption to all stakeholders.

I trust that this clarifies the matter for the deputy.

Legislative Measures

Ceisteanna (312)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

312. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to amend the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017 to reduce the look back reference period to 13 months or less; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13046/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

During the Second Stage debate on the Bill, many Deputies expressed the view in relation to the banded hours provision, that the 18 month look back reference period is too long. I indicated that I would consider these matters in the context of possible Committee Stage amendments.

There are a few issues that need to be considered. There will be an administrative burden on employers in implementing the banded hours provision so therefore it is desirable that an ‘easy’ divisor is used. The 18 month period was chosen as it would take account of seasonal fluctuations as well as the normal peaks and troughs of business. It also reflects that the academic year does not match the calendar year.

It is important that the look-back period and the length of time an employee is statutorily entitled to stay in a band of hours remain the same . Any reduction in the look back period would reduce the period of security provided to employees. It is also important that we use an easy divisor; therefore, 13 months as a reference period might not be desirable from that point of view. I am however, open to discussing a reference period closer to a year and in this respect I note that the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation in their report on the Banded Hour Contracts Bill 2016 recommended a reference period of 12 months.

Legislative Measures

Ceisteanna (313)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

313. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to amend the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017 to narrow the bands of hours into which persons can be placed (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13047/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

During the Second Stage debate on the Bill, some Deputies expressed the view that the bands are too wide in the Banded Hours provision. I indicated that I would consider this matter in the context of possible Committee Stage amendments once the bands allow a reasonable degree of flexibility.

In relation to the width of the bands, it was clear from the public consultation and from the ICTU/Ibec dialogue process that the bands selected should be sufficiently broad so as to allow a reasonable degree of flexibility in managing the banded hours arrangements. This can benefit both employers and employees. A greater number of bands but with more narrow ranges of hours could be more difficult to operate.

The purpose of the banded hours provision is to ensure that an employee’s contract reflects the actual hours worked consistently by the employee over an extended period. This will help to address problems of uncertainty of hours/predictability of income, which can cause difficulties for people seeking mortgages/credit etc.

I recognise that some companies that have bargained collectively on banded hours arrangements may already have a higher number of bands with a narrower range of hours in each band, which works for those particular companies in those particular sectors of employment. I certainly do not want to interfere with these arrangements because they work very well for those employers. However, we have to recognise that the proposed legislation will apply to all employments in all sectors and not just sectors where to date banded hours are a normal part of their working environment. It is very important, therefore, that the bands achieve the outcome desired and still provide employers with a reasonable level of flexibility.

Legislative Measures

Ceisteanna (314)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

314. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to amend the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017 to ensure that casual workers are included in the prohibition on zero-hour contracts; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13048/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The Organisation of Working Time Act was enacted in 1997. Section 18 refers to ‘work of a casual nature’ but does not define it. This has not led to a regulatory problem of employers incorrectly categorising employees as ‘casual’ in the 20 years since enactment.

I do not believe that all casual or flexible working arrangements are wrong and should be stopped in their entirety. It is worth recalling that the UL study acknowledged that the flexibility offered by genuine casual work can be mutually beneficial for employees and employers in some cases. In certain sectors, such arrangements can help employers to satisfy peak demands and fill staffing gaps on a short-term basis. Furthermore, it is not good practice to include definitions in legislation when the plain, ordinary meaning of a word is capable of being understood by all of the bodies responsible for adjudicating on it. I am satisfied that the Workplace Relations Commission and the Labour Court are capable of examining all of the circumstances of a particular case and then making an appropriate judgement as to whether or not a particular arrangement is genuinely casual.

Jobseeker's Allowance Applications

Ceisteanna (315)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

315. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the progress to date in the determination of an application for jobseeker's allowance in the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13077/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The person concerned made an application for jobseekers allowance with effect from 21/2/18. The person concerned subsequently submitted a doctor’s note covering the period 22/2/18 to 22/3/18. During this period the person concerned will not qualify for a jobseekers allowance payment as he does not satisfy the qualifying criteria. The person concerned should contact the local Intreo Centre to clarify his circumstances and progress an application for jobseekers allowance with effect from 23/3/18.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Social Welfare Benefits Eligibility

Ceisteanna (316)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

316. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if she will defer action to discontinue the adult dependant allowance payable to a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13085/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The person concerned is currently in receipt of a personal rate jobseeker's allowance, an adult dependent allowance and a child dependent allowance. Entitlement to the adult dependent allowance is currently under review by an officer of the Department following notification of a change in circumstances. If there is a revised decision the person concerned will be notified in writing.

I trust that this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.