Tax Reliefs Data

Ceisteanna (88)

Alan Kelly

Ceist:

88. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Finance the amount of tax relief for medical expenses provided to persons in respect of costs associated with accessing IVF treatment in each of the years 2011 to 2017 and to date in 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18235/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I am advised by Revenue that the cost of tax relief for health expenses, and the numbers claiming, for the years 2004 to 2015 (the latest year for which data are available) are available on Revenue’s website at https://www.revenue.ie/en/corporate/information-about-revenue/statistics/tax-expenditures/costs-expenditures.aspx. 

I am further advised that, other than for claims in relation to nursing home fees, claims for different health expenses (such as IVF treatment) are not separately identified in returns filed with Revenue. For 2015, the most recent year for which figures are available, the cost of tax relief for 'Heath Expenses (Other)', which would include the costs associated with accessing IVF treatment, is as follows:

Tax Expenditure 

2015 €m 

2015 Numbers

Health Expenses (Other)

117

438,300

Disabled Drivers and Passengers Scheme

Ceisteanna (89)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

89. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Finance his plans to amend the criteria for the disabled drivers and passengers scheme; his further plans to make amendments following recommendations from the Ombudsman (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18242/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

As you may be aware, the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Scheme provides relief from VAT and VRT (up to a certain limit) on the purchase of an adapted car for transport of a person with specific severe and permanent physical disabilities, payment of a Fuel Grant, and an exemption from Motor Tax.

To qualify for the Scheme an applicant must be in possession of a Primary Medical Certificate. To qualify for a Primary Medical Certificate, an applicant must satisfy one of the following conditions:

- be wholly or almost wholly without the use of both legs;

- be wholly without the use of one leg and almost wholly without the use of the other leg such that the applicant is severely restricted as to movement of the lower limbs;

- be without both hands or without both arms;

- be without one or both legs;

- be wholly or almost wholly without the use of both hands or arms and wholly or almost wholly without the use of one leg;

- have the medical condition of dwarfism and have serious difficulties of movement of the lower limbs.

The Scheme represents a significant tax expenditure. Between the Vehicle Registration Tax and VAT foregone, and the fuel grant, the scheme cost €65m in each of 2016 and 2017. This figure does not include the revenue foregone in respect of the relief from Motor Tax provided to members of the Scheme. 

Given scale and scope of the scheme, I have no plans to amend the qualifying medical criteria at this time.

Ministerial Responsibilities

Ceisteanna (90)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

90. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will report on the statutory duties of the Minister of State with responsibility for flood relief. [17976/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

Under the Minister and Secretaries Act 1924, as amended, the Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland (Board of Commissioners) and its powers, duties and functions are assigned to, and administered by, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform as the responsible head of the Board of the Commissioners to Dáil Éireann. The Ministers and Secretaries Act, 1924 designates the Minister as the corporation sole that is a perpetual entity separate from the individual Office holders.

The Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) (No.2) Act 1977, provides for the delegation of a Minister's powers and Duties to Minister(s) of State by Order made by the Government at the request of the Minister concerned. Delegation from a Minister to a Minister of State of non-statutory responsibilities is generally made by way of an understanding between a Minister and Minister of State.

The Minister has delegated by way of an understanding special responsibility for the OPW and Flood Relief to the Minister of State. The Minister remains responsible to Dáil Éireann for the exercise or performance of any powers or duties delegated to the Minister of State. 

Coastal Protection

Ceisteanna (91)

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

91. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the position regarding coastal protection in areas surrounding the Boyne River inlet in County Louth and the eastern area of County Meath following recent extreme weather; if reports have been undertaken to examine the change in the coastal protection requirements; if reports have been undertaken to examine the silt deposits in the Boyne River inlet and other related reports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18118/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

The information sought by the Deputy is currently being compiled. A detailed response will issue to the Deputy directly.

Departmental Expenditure

Ceisteanna (92)

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

92. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the amount his Department has spent on social media training and consultancy in each of the years 2011 to 2016. [18170/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

My Department's expenditure on social media training and consultancy in the years in question is as follows:

Year

Amount spent

2015

€1,790.00

2016

€2,000.00

Departmental Staff Training

Ceisteanna (93)

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

93. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if training has been delivered in his Department on the use of social media; the frequency and cost of this training; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18206/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the following table.

Year

Cost of training

2015

€1,790

2017

€1,890

All staff in my Department are furnished with electronic and hard-copies of its Internet Content Access Policy and the ICT Acceptable Usage Policy. The use of social networking for the purpose of  career or professional development is allowed. My Department works to ensure that all staff, or those working on its behalf, have access to the on-line resources needed to support them in their role. The Department's policies sit within an overarching framework of the Civil Service Code of Standards and Behaviour, the Civil Service Disciplinary Code, Ethics in Public Office, the Official Secrets Act and other such relevant codes of conduct and behaviour.    

Health and Safety Regulations

Ceisteanna (94)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

94. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if his attention has been drawn to the fact that windows in facilities (details supplied) have been fitted with basic glass block walling glass blocks; and the steps he will take to remedy this matter. [18239/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

The cell windows used by the Office of Public Works are a composite construction made up of three components, namely concrete, glass block and a protective covering layer. The performance of the cell windows depends on all three components working together and not just one single component of its makeup. The composite construction of the cell windows mentioned in the deputy’s PQ does not breach Safety & Health Regulations.

Community Employment Schemes Supervisors

Ceisteanna (95)

John Brady

Ceist:

95. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform when he plans to meet with trade union representatives regarding the provision of a pension scheme for community employment supervisors and assistant supervisors. [18292/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

I would refer the Deputy to my response to PQ 13684/18 of 27 March 2018.

School Accommodation

Ceisteanna (96)

David Cullinane

Ceist:

96. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to split a school (details supplied) over two sites instead of relocating the whole school temporarily until permanent accommodation has been secured; the reason for the decision; the plans that were drawn up to keep the school as a single unit during its temporary relocation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18114/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The school referred to by the Deputy was established in September 2014.  In order to facilitate the opening of the school, its initial establishment, as with most new schools, has been in interim start-up accommodation, pending a permanent school building being made available. 

In order to cater for the school’s growing enrolment numbers, additional interim accommodation is required for the coming school year.  The delivery of the school's accommodation for September 2018 has been devolved by my Department to the school's patron, Educate Together.  In this regard, I understand that Educate Together are making arrangements to procure consultant architects to prepare a planning application and oversee the provision of the accommodation required. 

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (97)

Darragh O'Brien

Ceist:

97. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a new secondary school for the Malahide and Portmarnock areas of County Dublin will be enrolling in September 2018; if so, the location; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18134/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The project for Malahide/Portmarnock Educate Together Secondary School has been devolved to the patron body, Educate Together for delivery. 

The school will open in interim accommodation in September 2018 and my Department is advised by the Patron body that enrolments have been confirmed.

My Department understands that the patron body have identified a suitable interim location for the school and the patron body are currently in negotiations with the owners for a lease of this interim location; it is hoped this lease will be finalised shortly.

Departmental Expenditure

Ceisteanna (98, 99)

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

98. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Education and Skills the amount his Department has spent on social media training and consultancy in each of the years 2011 to 2016. [18163/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

99. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Education and Skills if training has been delivered in his Department on the use of social media; the frequency and cost of this training; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18199/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 98 and 99 together.

My Department has not arranged specific training in relation to social media.

In relation to the period contained in the Deputy's question, my Department did not incur expenditure on social media training and consultancy in 2011 or 2012. However, a limited number of courses were arranged in media skills training for a small number of officials in 2013 and 2016. The attached tabular statement gives details of the companies and the expenditure concerned.

The following tabular statement gives details of expenditure on media skills courses from 2013 to 2017.

Company

Course

Year

Cost €

BMF Business Services

Social Media Strategy Workshop

2013

590

Carr Communications Ltd

Media Skills Course

2016

430

Public Relations Institute of Ireland

Certificate for Civil Service Press Officers

2016

1,890

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Ceisteanna (100)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

100. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of plans to extend the July provision scheme to allow more children to qualify, including children with a particular diagnosis (details supplied), in view of the commitment in the programme for partnership Government to examine the adequacy of special education access and funding provision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18264/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

In 2018, almost €1.8 billion will be invested in Special Education, nearly one fifth of the overall Education budget, and up 43% since 2011.

This funding includes provision for over 13,400 Special Education Teaching posts in mainstream primary and post primary schools for the 2017/2018 school year, providing additional teaching support to pupils with special educational needs, and approximately 1,300 special classes, with 169 new Special Classes opened to date for the 2017/18 school year.

In relation to the provision of education and of additional teaching support for pupils with Down syndrome, from September 2017 a new model for allocating special education teachers has been introduced for all mainstream primary and post primary schools.

Under the new model, children can receive additional teaching support based on their learning needs, rather than on a diagnosis of disability. Research indicates that this is a better way to allocate support because a category of disability on its own tells us little about the level or type of support that a child needs in school.

Children who have Down syndrome can receive as much additional teaching support as required in school, taking account of school based assessments of their learning needs.

Full details of the new allocation model are set out in DES Circulars 0013 and 0014 2017.

The National Council for Special Education’s Policy Advice on Educational Provision for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders was published in July 2016.

In developing this policy advice, the NCSE reviewed my Department's July Provision Grant Scheme. The NCSE consulted widely with parents, professionals and other stakeholders and interested parties while also conducting research.

The Policy advice, which is available on the NCSE’s website, recommends that relevant stakeholders should discuss the development of a national day activity scheme that provides a structured, safe, social environment for all students with complex special educational needs for one month of the summer holidays.

My Department has convened an Implementation Group with representatives of the National Council for Special Education, the National Educational Psychological Service, the Inspectorate and external representatives to ensure that the Report’s recommendations are fully and appropriately considered. The work of the Implementation Group is ongoing.

My Department officials are engaging with officials in the Department of Social Protection, the Department of Health and other relevant stakeholders in regard to implementing the recommendations, including those in relation to July Provision.

While that work is underway, there are no plans to extend the existing July Provision Grant Scheme to all children with Special Education Needs and indeed this was not a recommendation of the NCSE in their policy advice.

School Closures

Ceisteanna (101)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

101. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason a school (details supplied) is being closed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18285/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Education provision on an inclusive basis is a fundamental principle of our education and training system. Ensuring every child is supported and given the opportunity to reach their full potential is a key priority for this Government and my Department is committed to improving educational outcomes for members of the Traveller and Roma communities. 

As the Deputy is aware the school referred to is a school with Special School designation dating from a period when separate education provision for members of the Traveller community was the norm.  The phasing out of segregated education provision for Traveller children began in 2006 in accordance with Government policy which was developed in consultation with Traveller representative groups and education partners.  St Thomas’s is the only remaining education centre in the country catering for post-primary age Traveller students on a segregated basis.  

My Department has been engaging with the Patron of St Thomas’s for many years to progress the transfer of its student cohort to the mainstream school system in line with this agreed national policy. (As with all schools under private patronage, the decision in relation to school closure, amalgamation etc. ultimately rests with the Patron).  

In order to ensure a smooth and effective transition of provision for students, my officials are engaging with the school Patron and the Educational Welfare Service of Tusla in relation to future education provision for the current student cohort in St Thomas’s. Tusla’s Educational Welfare Service is working with parents and the school to assist with the sourcing of alternative school places for the current enrolment, including 2 students at Leaving Certificate level who would be due to sit exams in 2019.  Now that students at the school are progressing to Leaving Certificate it is particularly important that these students would have access to the full curriculum and associated supports in order to maximize their opportunities to progress to further and higher education and employment.

Current overall policy on Traveller education is being progressed within the framework of National Traveller and Roma Inclusion Strategy 2017-2021.  The Strategy has a particular emphasis on improving Traveller engagement with education and my Department is working with relevant Government Departments and agencies and Traveller representative Groups to progress Strategy actions aimed at improving education outcomes for all Travellers, including the current student cohort of St Thomas’s School.

School Accommodation

Ceisteanna (102)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

102. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of prefabs in primary schools in each county or local authority area; the number of classrooms accommodated in each prefab; the number of pupils accommodated in prefabs in each county or local authority area; and the number of prefabs in each county or local authority area that have been in place for five years or less, five to ten years, ten to 15 and for 15 to 20 years, respectively, in tabular form. [18318/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department does not hold information on the number of pupils in individual schools who currently occupy temporary accommodation. This depends on the organisation of class groups by schools within available accommodation and may vary from year.

My Department will compile the additional information requested and this will be furnished to the Deputy shortly.

Crime Data

Ceisteanna (103)

Jim O'Callaghan

Ceist:

103. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of offences committed by persons on bail in each of the years 2015 to 2017; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18103/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Central Statistics Office (CSO), as the national statistical agency, is responsible for the compilation and publication of the official recorded crime statistics, and the CSO has established a dedicated unit for this purpose.  I have asked the CSO to forward any available statistics in this regard directly to the Deputy.

Garda Deployment

Ceisteanna (104)

Jim O'Callaghan

Ceist:

104. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of gardaí assigned to the detection and prosecution of drugs offences in each of the years 2010 to 2017 and to date in 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18104/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy will appreciate, it is the Garda Commissioner who is responsible for the distribution of resources, including personnel, among the various Garda Divisions and I, as Minister, have no direct role in the matter. Garda management keeps this distribution of resources under continual review in the context of crime trends and policing priorities so as to ensure that the optimum use is made of these resources.

I am informed by the Commissioner that Garda Drug Unit personnel are assigned on a Divisional basis and that the total number of Divisional Drug Unit personnel as of 28 February 2018, the latest date for which information is readily available, was 231.

As the Deputy will be aware all Gardaí have a responsibility in the prevention and detection of criminal activity whether it be in the area of drug offences, crime or otherwise.  I can assure the Deputy that An Garda Síochána continues to pro-actively and resolutely tackle all forms of drug crime in this jurisdiction.

In 2015 the Commissioner, established a new national Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau (GDOCB), which brought together the Organised Crime Unit and the Garda National Drug Unit so as to create a robust entity to effectively tackle drugs and organised crime, as it currently exists in this country.

The GDOCB leads out the policing strategy for tackling drugs by demand reduction and supply reduction strategies. In this regard the Bureau continues its policy of working with Garda Divisional Drug Units nationwide in tackling supply reduction at local level. This work is further supported by other national units, including the Criminal Assets Bureau, in targeting persons involved in the illicit sale and supply of drugs. I am informed that this approach allows for the co-ordinated use of Garda resources in tackling all forms of organised crime, including illicit drug activity nationwide.

We have also seen unprecedented international cooperation between An Garda Síochána and policing services in other jurisdictions leading to important arrests and drug seizures.

Underpinning all these measures is this Government’s commitment to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country in order to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and deter crime. I am further informed by the Commissioner that since the reopening of the Garda College in September 2014, just under 1,800 recruits have attested as members of An Garda Síochána and have been assigned to mainstream duties nationwide. I am pleased to say that Garda numbers, taking account of retirements, increased to 13,551 at the end of 2017 – a net increase of over 600 since the end of 2016.

This focus on investment in personnel is critical. The moratorium on recruitment introduced in 2010 resulted in a significant reduction in the strength of An Garda Síochána.  We are now rebuilding the organisation and providing the Commissioner with the resources he needs to allow him to deploy increasing numbers of Gardaí across the organisation including the Divisional Drugs Units.

For the Deputy's information, I have attached the number of Gardaí allocated to the Drugs Unit for the years 2010 – 2017 and 28 February 2018, the latest date for which figures are available, and for the GDOCB since its establishment in 2015.

Drugs Unit Personnel 2010-2018*

Year

Nos.

2010

378

2011

361

2012

310

2013

270

2014

253

2015

258

2016

256

2017

236

2018

231

* As of 28 February 2018  

Garda assigned to the Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau 2010-2018*

Year

Nos.

2015

107

2016

105

2017

114

2018

111

* As of 28 February 2018

Legal Services Regulation

Ceisteanna (105)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

105. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality further to Parliamentary Question No. 557 of 17 April 2018, his views on whether the minutes of the LSRA meeting of 16 November 2017 recorded serious concerns (details supplied); his plans to activate the practitioners levy to facilitate the independence of the authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18115/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Deputy’s question refers to issues raised, of which I am fully aware, in the minutes of the Authority’s meeting on 16 November last concerning the timeline for activation of legal partnerships (i.e. partnerships between barristers, or between barristers and solicitors) under the Legal Services Regulation Act.  In the elements of the minutes referred to by the Deputy, it is recorded that the Authority expressed a view as to the external determination of timeframes on it as an independent authority and as to a manageable commencement schedule for its functions under the Act and the capacity and resource dependencies that arise. These minutes are, of course, a matter of public record.

The introduction of Legal Partnerships is one of several areas of structural reform where both I as Minister, and the Authority as independent regulator, have respective implementing roles under the 2015 Act. As reflected in the minutes under reference, this can give rise to competing priorities against set statutory timelines which have to be managed in mutual consultation by my Department and by the Authority in achieving the overall key objective of implementation of the 2015 Act.  This introduction of Legal Partnerships is part of the ongoing working collaboration between my Department and the Legal Services Regulatory Authority. It is, therefore, among those matters being addressed in the Authority's first Strategic Plan for the period 2018-2020 that I will, as I have also conveyed in my Written Reply to Question No. 557, be laying before the Houses in the coming days.

As I have pointed out in my Written Reply to Question No. 557 of 17 April 2018, the challenge remains that of ensuring that the roll-out of the Authority's regulatory functions in a legally robust manner can be aligned, to the satisfaction of the Authority, with its anticipated available capacity and resources as an independent regulator. In relation to resources, as the Deputy will also know from previous replies, the sum of €1m was advanced by me to the Authority, under the legislation, in 2016, a further sum of the same amount was advanced in December 2017 and a further such sum, budgeted for 2018, falls to be advanced in early course. These advances pave the way to the activation in due course of the levy mechanisms in the 2015 Act.

The Regulatory Authority is, I understand, also engaged in detailed preparations and consultations with stakeholders for the introduction and operation of the levy on regulated legal practitioners under Part 7 of the 2015 Act. It may also make regulations in relation to the operation of the levy under section 98 of the Act. The Authority is also engaged in detailed preparatory work to set up and maintain the Roll of Practising Barristers under Part 9 of the 2015 Act which is a pre-requisite for the operation of the levy. Again, these matters are, I understand, being addressed by the Authority in its Strategic Plan for the period 2018-2020.

As I have pointed out to the Authority, my overriding concern, as Minister with policy and legislative responsibility and accountability in this area, is to make early progress in commencing the key provisions of the 2015 Act that remain to be commenced. My primary overall purpose is the full implementation of the law as it was enacted by the Oireachtas in the 2015 Act, including in relation to any timelines that may apply, while fully recognising the independence conferred on the Authority in the performance of its functions under the Act and the fact that this implementation, which is a major undertaking, must be done in a careful, robust and risk-managed way.  My Department continues to work, on an ongoing basis, with the Authority’s Chief Executive and staff, and in a manner appropriate to the independence of the Authority.  

Departmental Expenditure

Ceisteanna (106, 107)

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

106. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the amount his Department has spent on social media training and consultancy in each of the years 2011 to 2016. [18169/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

107. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if training has been delivered in his Department on the use of social media; the frequency and cost of this training; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18205/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 106 and 107 together.

There has been no training delivered on the use of social media in my Department and and no costs have been incurred on social media training or consultancy between 2011 and 2016. However, during this period, staff in my Department attended the following seminars:

- Social Media in Government and The Public Sector - two staff attended on 5 November 2011, total cost €255.

- Social Media Law - two staff attended on 18 February 2014, total cost €130.

In addition one member of staff pursued a Diploma in Public Relations and Social Media by distance learning during 2015, at a cost of €995.

All new members of staff in my Department attend a half-day induction programme. As part of this programme, staff members are informed of their responsibilities under the Civil Service Code of Standards and Behaviours, including a discussion on the appropriate use of social media in the context of their work and their obligations as civil servants.

Garda Investigations

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

Ceisteanna (108)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

108. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the reason for the delay in the examination of child abuse material in the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18217/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I have requested a report from the Garda authorities on the matter raised by the Deputy and I will contact her directly when the information is to hand.

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