Broadband Service Provision

Ceisteanna (262)

Bobby Aylward

Ceist:

262. Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the position regarding broadband services for a crèche (details supplied) which is located within the blue area on the national broadband plan map but cannot access sufficient broadband services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20524/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The Government's National Broadband Plan (NBP) aims to ensure high speed broadband access (minimum 30 megabits per second) to all premises in Ireland, regardless of location.  The NBP has been a catalyst in encouraging investment by the telecoms sector. Today, almost 7 out of 10 of the 2.3 million premises in Ireland have access to high speed broadband. This will increase to nearly 8 out of 10 premises by the end of this year and by 2020, 9 out of 10 premises will have access to a high speed broadband connection. This is being achieved via a combination of commercial investment and a State led intervention.

BLUE areas on my Department’s High Speed Broadband Map, available at www.broadband.gov.ie, represent the parts of the country where commercial operators are currently delivering, or have indicated plans to deliver, high speed broadband services. Where the owner of a premises in a Blue area is unable to obtain a high speed broadband service, I would encourage them to email my Department at broadband@dccae.gov.ie with their eircode and details of the service providers they have contacted seeking service and my officials will be happy to discuss their issue with them.

Broadcasting Authority of Ireland

Ceisteanna (263)

Louise O'Reilly

Ceist:

263. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if consideration has been given to expanding the remit of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, BAI, to cover the regulation of broadcasting of other services, for example, online, in view of the changing landscape of broadcasting and media; the barriers to same; if the BAI’s remit can be expanded to develop codes and rules for other services additional to radio and television services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20558/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The Audiovisual Media Services Directive establishes the framework for the regulation of audiovisual media services in the European Union. The current Directive applies to linear broadcasting services, i.e. traditional television, and, in a limited way, to non-linear services, i.e. on-demand services such as the RTÉ Player. The Broadcasting Act 2009 established the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland as the independent regulator for linear broadcasting services, both television and radio in Ireland.  

In May 2016, the European Commission published its proposal to revise the AVMS Directive. The revision will require an increase in the level of oversight by Member States of on-demand audiovisual media services, which are currently not regulated by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland but are subject to a co-regulatory code overseen by the On Demand Audiovisual Services Group (ODAS), the secretariat of which is provided by IBEC.

The revision to the Directive will also require Ireland to introduce a co-regulatory system to ensure that Video Sharing Platform Services (e.g. YouTube) have measures in place to protect users and minors from harmful audiovisual content hosted on these services. These measures will only apply to audiovisual content hosted on these specific services, and will not apply for example to user comments, text content or to the internet generally.

It is expected that a final text of the revised Directive will be available in the Autumn, and Ireland will have two years to implement these changes. My Department intends to conduct a public consultation on the final text of the revised Directive, including how we should approach the co-regulation of Audiovisual Content on Video-Sharing Platform Services.

Broadband Service Charges

Ceisteanna (264)

Tom Neville

Ceist:

264. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the list of charges approved by the regulator for broadband; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20648/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The provision of electronic telecommunications services by private operators, including charges for broadband, occurs within a fully liberalised market. Decisions by those operators with regard to all matters pertaining to the delivery of the service, including charges for broadband, are a matter for the service provider concerned.

The regulation of the telecommunications market and the companies operating within it, to the extent permitted by law, is a statutory function of Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) in accordance with the Communications Regulation Act 2002. Also in accordance with the 2002 Act, ComReg is statutorily independent in the exercise of its functions and is furthermore directly accountable for the performance of its functions to Committees of the Oireachtas.

Accordingly, I have no statutory function in this matter.

Internet Safety

Ceisteanna (265)

Alan Farrell

Ceist:

265. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his views on the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Children and Youth Affair's Report on Cyber Security for Children and Young Adults; the action his Department is taking to implement the recommendations of this report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20665/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I welcome the publication of the report to which the Deputy refers and I commend the work which the Committee on Children and Youth Affairs carried out in preparing it and considering the subject of online safety. As the Deputy is aware, I hosted an Open Policy Debate on Online Safety on 8 March 2018, which was officially opened by An Taoiseach. This event was coordinated with and supported by five other Ministers and Government Departments including the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation; the Department of Justice and Equality; the Department of Children and Youth Affairs; the Department of Education and Skills, and the Department of Health.  

In opening the event, the Taoiseach announced that it was the Government's intention to prepare an Action Plan on Online Safety, which will contain an integrated set of measures to support Online Safety at all levels. The Department of An Taoiseach is coordinating the preparation of this plan, and my Department is actively contributing to its preparation. A report of the Open Policy Debate, and the Report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee is being considered by all relevant Departments in the preparation of the Action plan.

Bus Services

Ceisteanna (266)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

266. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will liaise with the management of Bus Éireann to provide a double deck vehicle on the airport route which services Mullingar, County Westmeath (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20535/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The issue raised is a matter for Bus Éireann and I have forwarded the Deputy’s question to the company for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a response within 10 working days.

Road Safety Authority Expenditure

Ceisteanna (267)

Louise O'Reilly

Ceist:

267. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the amount spent by the Road Safety Authority and his Department in each of the past five years on road safety campaigns in tabular form; the amount spent on promoted social media advertisements and content by the amount spent per campaign and social media platform; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20581/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

As my Department does not incur such expenditure, this is more appropriate to 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.

Light Rail Projects Status

Ceisteanna (268)

Alan Farrell

Ceist:

268. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the status of the MetroLink project; the steps he is taking with regard to concerns in relation to the proposed route; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20656/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The National Development Plan (NDP), launched earlier this year by the Government as part of Project Ireland 2040, includes a clear commitment to develop Metrolink.  This brings together into one new project both the Metro North and the Metro South projects which were envisaged under the National Transport Authority's (NTA) Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area (GDA) 2016-35.

MetroLink will provide Dublin with a high capacity, high frequency cross-city rail corridor, serving critical destinations such as Swords, Dublin Airport, Dublin City University, Ballymun, the Mater Hospital, City Centre and existing destinations along the Luas Green Line to Sandyford.  It will provide faster reliable journey times to and from these key destinations while offering interchange with other rail, DART Expansion, light rail and bus services.  MetroLink will comprise of a total of 25 stations (including 15 new stations), 3,000 additional Park and Ride spaces, and a journey time of approximately 50 minutes from Swords to Sandyford.

As the Deputy will be aware, the NTA, in conjunction with Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) recently launched a public consultation process on the Emerging Preferred Route (EPR) for the Metrolink.  It is important to understand that the Emerging Preferred Route is the proposal identified as the likely optimal scheme from a technical design perspective, but without the benefit of public consultation and input.  Therefore, the EPR is not a finalised and selected scheme;  the final layout will only be determined after consideration and evaluation of the issues raised during the consultation process and, of course, the final route and layout will be subject to approval under the planning system.

The purpose of the present consultation process, that also includes public consultation meetings, is to obtain the views of the general public particularly those along the identified emerging route, and to take that input into account in finalising a selected route.  Following receipt of all of the submissions, the issues and concerns identified will be carefully considered by TII and the NTA in determining the final scheme proposal and a report will be prepared on the consultation process.  It is envisaged that the public consultation report will be published by the end of 2018.

The NTA and TII expect that an application for a Railway Order, comprising the final scheme design, will be submitted to An Bord Pleanála during Quarter 3 of 2019.  A further public consultation will be undertaken in 2019 as part of the statutory planning consent process.  This will include a report assessing the environmental impacts of the project as well as final details of any property land acquisitions needed for the scheme.

Subject to receipt of planning approval, construction of the project is expected to commence in 2021 with MetroLink open for passenger use in 2027.

I understand the concerns raised by affected stakeholders including both residents and local amenities.  I believe there are many benefits the Metro project can bring.  The NTA and TII, through the consultative process they have underway, are working collaboratively to address concerns identified and to develop mitigating proposals.  Their aim is to find a way of delivering the MetroLink project, while maintaining good routes that interchange with other public transport and doing it in such a way that respects the social and community life of our city.

Rail Services Provision

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

Ceisteanna (269)

Alan Farrell

Ceist:

269. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the status of the DART extension project to serve Donabate, Rush and Lusk, Skerries and Balbriggan; the projected timeframe for each stage of the project up to completion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20657/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

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 (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.  

As well as the provision of fast, high-frequency electrified services - to Drogheda on the Northern Line; to Maynooth and M3 Parkway on the Maynooth/Sligo Line; and to Celbridge/Hazelhatch on the Kildare Line; while continuing to provide DART services on the South-Eastern Line as far south as Greystones - the NDP' investment in the DART Expansion Programme will also provide for the delivery of other priority elements including a move to a 10 minute peak-time service and the introduction of additional train fleet including the expansion of the fleet with new diesel electric trains.  The electrification of the Northern Line as far as Balbriggan, incorporating the stations the Deputy has mentioned, is expected to be delivered in 2022.

Noting the NTA's responsibility for implementation of public transport in the Greater Dublin Area, I have referred the Deputy's question to the NTA for a more detailed reply.  Please contact my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 working days.

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

Sport Ireland Expenditure

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

Ceisteanna (270)

Alan Farrell

Ceist:

270. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the expenditure on the sports campus in Abbotstown since its establishment by type of sport, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20658/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

Sport Ireland, which is funded by my Department, is the statutory body with responsibility for the development of the National Sports Campus at Abbotstown, Blanchardstown.

The total capital funding allocated by my Department between 2000 and 2017 for the development of the National Sports Campus is €180m. This includes capital funding to the former National Sports Campus Development Authority, the  body which had responsibility for the development of the National Sports Campus prior to the establishment of Sport Ireland in 2015, and Campus and Stadium Ireland Development Ltd (CSID), the body which preceded the Authority.

A further €6.7m has been allocated for 2018.

I have referred the Deputy's question to Sport Ireland for direct reply in relation to expenditure by type of sport. I would ask the Deputy to contact my office if a reply has not been received within ten days.

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

Sports Capital Programme Expenditure

Ceisteanna (271)

Alan Farrell

Ceist:

271. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the expenditure on the provision of sports capital programme since 2010 on a national basis by type of sport in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20659/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The Sports Capital Programme is the primary vehicle for Government support for the development of sports and physical recreation facilities and the purchase of non-personal sports equipment throughout the country. Details of all allocations under the SCP since 1998 are published on the Department's website http://www.dttas.ie/sport/english/sports-capital-programme.

The Department moved to a new IT system in 2014 which provides a single system for managing all aspect of the Sports Capital Programme. The breakdown of allocations by sport since this new IT system was introduced is contained in the following table.

The production of accurate consolidated information by sport for the 2010 to 2014 period is not readily available.

Sport Type

€ Allocated since 2014

% of Total

American Football

91,036

0.05%

Angling/Fishing

158,852

0.08%

Archery

173,139

0.09%

Athletics

2,545,478

1.34%

Badminton

391,996

0.21%

Baseball

12,800

0.01%

Basketball

436,552

0.23%

Billiards & Snooker

59,000

0.03%

Bowls

351,867

0.19%

Boxing

3,248,386

1.71%

Camogie

531,369

0.28%

Canoeing / Kayaking

682,113

0.36%

Clay Pigeon Shooting

78,500

0.04%

Community Games

251,300

0.13%

Cricket

754,203

0.40%

Cycling

292,686

0.15%

Diving/Snorkelling

980,296

0.52%

Equestrian Sports

368,200

0.19%

Fencing

24,199

0.01%

Gaelic Games (includes €30,000,000 towards redevelopment of Páirc Uí Chaoimh)

85,810,198

45.16%

Golf

2,973,591

1.57%

Gymnastics

1,294,665

0.68%

Handball

1,422,820

0.75%

Hillwalking

145,000

0.08%

Hockey

1,520,706

0.80%

Judo

8,778

0.00%

Ladies Gaelic Football

17,600

0.01%

Martial Arts

323,569

0.17%

Modern Pentathlon

13,391

0.01%

Motor Sport

20,000

0.01%

Motorcycling

49,198

0.03%

Mountaineering

224,580

0.12%

Multi-sport

39,361,967

20.72%

Olympic Handball

20,000

0.01%

Orienteering

45,000

0.02%

Pitch and Putt

520,059

0.27%

Raquetball

12,000

0.01%

Rock Climbing

4,850

0.00%

Rowing

2,987,751

1.57%

Rugby

9,325,286

4.91%

Sailing

2,783,297

1.46%

Shooting Sports

97,729

0.05%

Skateboarding

4,000

0.00%

Skydiving

50,000

0.03%

Soccer

20,330,986

10.70%

Special Olympics

203,205

0.11%

Squash

182,500

0.10%

Surfing

12,500

0.01%

Swimming

1,412,508

0.74%

Table Tennis

81,800

0.04%

Taekwondo

50,215

0.03%

Tennis

6,233,225

3.28%

Tenpin bowling

8,000

0.00%

Triathlon

360,510

0.19%

Tug of War

22,752

0.01%

Volleyball

62,000

0.03%

Waterskiing & Wakeboarding

88,000

0.05%

Weightlifting

103,806

0.05%

Wheelchair Sport

351,998

0.19%

Wrestling

28,500

0.01%

Grand Total

190,000,512

100.00%

Roads Maintenance Funding

Ceisteanna (272)

Martin Heydon

Ceist:

272. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the analysis that has been carried out on the need for supplementary funding of local authorities for road repairs and maintenance budgets following damage caused by recent storms; when clarity will be provided to local authorities on such funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20679/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

I announced the 2018 regional and local road allocations in January and all grant funding available to my Department has now been allocated.  The grants this year include provision for:

- An 18% increase in Restoration Improvement monies for road strengthening works;

- A 17% increase in Restoration Maintenance monies for surface dressing works;

- The introduction of a new grant for Drainage works (overall €10m);

- Ring fenced monies for Community Involvement Schemes (overall €10m). 

It is a matter for each Council to determine its priorities and decide its work programme taking available grant funding and its own resources into account.  In this context I continue to emphasise to local authorities the importance of prioritising roads when allocating their own resources.

I have to work within the resources available to me and there is no additional funding available to my Department at present.  My colleague Minister Murphy has been liaising with local authorities in relation to clean-up costs from the recent severe weather.  I have liaised with Minister Donohoe and will continue to do so to see if additional resources can be allocated to my Department to assist local authorities further. 

As regards the analysis of the impact of the recent severe weather, in certain cases after a severe weather event it is possible to clearly identify the damage caused to the road network. This can occur where roads have suffered scour damage at the edges or if sections of road have been washed away or bridges damaged. However, after other events such as low temperatures or snowfall or severe frost the link to the precise event may be less clear cut  especially when there are a significant number of roads across the network which are already in poor repair and are in need of maintenance or rehabilitation. Where local authorities do undertake analysis of damage related to specific events, that is noted by the Department but what is important is to examine the overall resources available for repairs and rehabilitation and to prioritise the schemes which will be undertaken in the current and in future years.

For now local authorities should progress their work programmes for the year as quickly as possible. To the end of April €30.3 million in regional and local road grant funding has been drawn down from the total budget of €417 million.

Public Liability Insurance

Ceisteanna (273)

John Brady

Ceist:

273. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the status of implementing public liability insurance cover for foster carers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20634/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

As I stated to Deputy Mitchell recently, my Department is fully supportive of extending the State Indemnity Scheme under the State Claims Agency to foster parents.

Unfortunately this is taking longer than expected due to technical issues associated with the approvals and statutory process involved. Work is ongoing to address these matters. While we remain confident that these issues will be addressed, I can also confirm that the Department has approached the Department of Public Expenditure in order to put in place an interim solution.

This interim solution consists of advising Tusla that, while discussions continue between the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in relation to including foster carers under the General Indemnity Scheme operated by the State Claims Agency, no approval for overall indemnification can be provided at this stage. However, both Departments are aware of the critical importance of this matter and are committed to ensuring that every foster parent is offered an indemnity on an individual basis where required.  

In this regard, any such individual indemnification would be on an ex-gratia basis and, as such, indemnification would be made available voluntarily and outside any strict legal obligation. This is a temporary measure to address immediate individual cases while the overall indemnification issues are being resolved.

It might also be noted that the Irish Foster Care Association have been appraised of matters as they stand and my officials have undertaken to keep the Association informed as to progress in the matter. With that in mind a meeting has been scheduled for mid-May to provide an update to IFCA on how matters stand.

Early Years Sector

Ceisteanna (274)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

274. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will publish an interim report on her Department's sustainability and cost review of the early years sector. [20646/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The Independent Review of the Cost of Providing Quality Childcare is a critical input to the on-going reform of childcare in Ireland and is commitment in the Programme for Government.

This Review seeks to:

- Analyse the current costs of providing childcare in Ireland and factors that impact on those costs;

- Develop a model of the unit cost/costs of providing childcare that allows analysis of policy changes and variation in cost-drivers, including the potential impact of increased professionalisation; and

- Provide an objective, high level market analysis of the childcare sector in Ireland, including analysis of fee levels charged to parents.

The contract to undertake this Review was awarded to Crowe Horwath in September 2017. Since then, a literature review, stakeholder engagement and an online survey has been completed. The closing date for receipt of completed surveys was 13th April. Over 800 completed surveys were received and analysis of these data has commenced.

Once data analysis is completed, the results will feed into the development of a cost model and cost calculator for childcare provision.

A report from this Review is expected in late June 2018.  It is intended to publish this report thereafter.

Internet Safety

Ceisteanna (275)

Alan Farrell

Ceist:

275. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her views on the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Children and Youth Affair's Report on Cyber Security for Children and Young Adults; the action her Department is taking to implement the recommendations of this report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20654/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I welcome the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Children and Youth Affair’s Report on Cyber Security for Children and Young Adults. Keeping children and young people safe online is a challenging issue that requires a whole of government approach and this is reflected in the Committee’s report.

The Department of the Taoiseach is currently developing an Action Plan on online safety involving all relevant Departments, including my Department, and the Joint Committee’s report and recommendations are feeding into this process. While my Department does not have a lead responsibility in this area, it does play an important role in a wider range of actions across a number of Departments.

My department has the lead responsibility on child protection. The Children First Act 2015 places a number of statutory obligations on organisations providing relevant services to children. These obligations include a requirement to keep children safe from harm while they are availing of the service; a requirement to carry out a risk assessment, and, a requirement to prepare a child safeguarding statement which sets out the policies and procedures which are in place to mitigate these risks.

In this regard, my Department plans to amend the Children First Guidance to include a specific reference to the need to consider online safety in the completion of a Child Safeguarding Statement.

I am also concerned that the voices of children and young people will be heard and acted upon when we make decisions on internet safety. My Department undertakes and supports consultation and participation processes. This includes developing structures to enable participation in decision making by children and young people. Such structures include both Dáil na nÓg and Comhairle na nÓg. I welcome the Joint Committee's engagement with Comhairle na nÓgs in developing it's report. It is only through this type of engagement with young people that we can find the solutions that will work.

School Completion Programme

Ceisteanna (276)

Alan Farrell

Ceist:

276. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the status of the school completion programme; the action her Department is taking to continue to support this programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20655/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I am very conscious that the School Completion Programme delivers a valuable service for some of our most vulnerable young people.

With this in mind, the Board of Tusla convened an expert panel to identify and examine a potential revised model of good practice and governance of the School Completion Programme.

The panel comprised an external legal expert, representation of Tusla Educational Welfare Service, Finance, HR and Legal units, representatives from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, Department of Education and Skills and Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. It was chaired by the Tusla CEO.

The expert panel has concluded its work. When I examined its findings, I decided to carry out some further discussions with a number of other stakeholders. To this end I hosted a very informative School Completion Consultation event in Farmleigh House on January 29th last.

Matters discussed included best practice and governance within the School Completion Programme. There was a range of views expressed as to how both these elements could be improved to ensure that the best service possible is delivered to those who need it. 

Following the Farmleigh event I have asked the facilitator for the day to do some additional work on a possible way forward, I have received this input very recently.

I have deliberated carefully over this process for some time because the issues are complex and I want to achieve the best possible results for the young people who use the service and for the professionals who deliver it. I wish to see plans for the development of the SCP advanced in this quarter.

I am very much aware of the positive outcomes that have been achieved within the School Completion Programme.

For example, the proportion of students in DEIS schools who completed the senior cycle has increased from 68% in 2006/2007 to 82% by 2016. This illustrates the benefit of the programme.

I can assure the Deputy that my Department and Tusla Educational Welfare Service are fully committed to the future of the School Completion Programme and will continue to work to ensure that it will deliver the best possible outcomes for young people at risk of early school-leaving.

Community Services Programme

Ceisteanna (277)

Tom Neville

Ceist:

277. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development if he will request Pobal to accept a business plan requesting an increase to three FTEs in respect of a club (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20609/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

The Community Services Programme (CSP) supports around 400 community organisations to provide local services through a social enterprise model with funding provided as a contribution to the cost of a manager and an agreed number of full-time equivalent positions.  Some €46m will be provided under the programme in 2018.

The organisation in question is approved for funding under the CSP until end-December 2018.  In late April it submitted an application to Pobal for funding for the period 2019-2021. My Department has now requested Pobal to invite the organisation to formally submit a business plan, the next stage in the process, and a decision will be made in due course.

Tidy Towns Committees Funding

Ceisteanna (278)

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

278. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the funding opportunities or grants that are available to tidy towns committees in order to improve their local area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20765/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

2018 is a very special year for the SuperValu TidyTowns Competition as it marks the 60th Anniversary of what has been a very successful Government initiative. The work done by the TidyTowns committees down through the years has played an important part in the improvement of the appearance of our villages, towns and cities around the country.

To mark the 60th anniversary of the competition, I allocated funding in excess of €1.3 million to over 900 TidyTowns Committees at the end of 2017 to assist them in their preparations for the 2018 competition.

While this grant was provided on a once-off basis, my Department administers a number of funding schemes including the LEADER programme and the Town and Village Renewal Scheme which may also support elements of the work of TidyTowns Committees. Details of all available schemes can be found on my Department's website at www.drcd.gov.ie

Jobs Initiative

Ceisteanna (279)

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

279. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason participants on the jobs initiative programme that are now required to work 39 hours per week up from 34 hours per week as worked previously by some will not be receiving salary increases to reflect these additional hours being applied to their working week; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20518/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The Job Initiative (JI) scheme was launched by FÁS in 1996 and transferred to my Department with effect from 1 January 2012. A Memorandum of Agreement for the contract period is completed annually between my Department and the Managing Agents for this scheme. My Department provides financial funding to schemes towards administration costs, participant and supervisor wages.

Recruitment to JI ceased with effect from 10 November 2004 and the then Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment allowed for JI participants at the time to have their contracts renewed on an annual basis until they either resigned voluntarily or reached retirement age and my Department have continued to honour this. Participants on JI were always required to work 39 hours per week (excluding breaks) for the Managing Agent, this has not changed.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Domiciliary Care Allowance Applications

Ceisteanna (280)

Tom Neville

Ceist:

280. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of a domiciliary care allowance application by a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20532/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

An application for domiciliary care allowance (DCA) was received from this lady on the 15th March 2018. Applications received in late February 2018 are currently being finalised. The application will be considered by a deciding officer and the decision notified to her as soon as possible.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

School Meals Programme

Ceisteanna (281, 282, 283)

Louise O'Reilly

Ceist:

281. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the cost of the free school meals programme in each of the past five years; the rates of payment per meal, child and day, respectively; the number of students availing of each meal option in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20561/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Louise O'Reilly

Ceist:

282. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the way in which the free school meals programme is assessed or audited in terms of the provision of suitable quality and nutritional value; the way in which the programme is assessed or audited in terms of the way in which meals are prepared and consumed; if her attention has been drawn to instances in which the lack of access to appropriate infrastructure has hindered the ability of a school to avail of the scheme or a particular meal option; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20562/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Louise O'Reilly

Ceist:

283. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if the new school food standards developed for the school meals programme will become a mandatory standard applied to all schools; the costs involved in working towards this in terms of education, training and other costs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20574/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 281 to 283, inclusive, together.

The school meals programme provides funding towards the provision of food to some 1,580 schools and organisations benefitting 250,000 children at a total cost of €54 million in 2018. Expenditure for the school meals programme for the last five years is provided in the attached tabular statement. Funding is based on a rate of payment per meal, per child, per day. The maximum rates of payment and the number of students currently availing of each meal option is also provided in the tabular statement.

The objective of the scheme is to provide regular, nutritious food to children who are unable, due to lack of good quality food, to take full advantage of the education provided to them. The Deputy will be aware that ‘Nutrition Standards for School Meals ’ published in September 2017 under the auspices of Healthy Ireland, is a valuable resource to enable and promote healthy eating and healthy lifestyles in schools. These standards complement and strengthen the healthy eating guidelines that were already in place. The standards were introduced commencing from January 2018 and all schools participating in the school meals scheme are expected to fully comply with these standards from September 2018.

The requirement to implement these nutrition standards is met by the schools and organisations who are responsible for the the delivery model and choice of supplier to be used. The scheme can be delivered in a variety of ways and depends on the needs, capabilities and resources, including infrastructure, of the schools or groups. Delivery models can range from the provision of full canteen services to the purchase of pre-prepared meals from specialist school meals suppliers or local suppliers. The physical infrastructure in schools is a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Education and Skills.

A number of different agencies have a role in food safety and environmental health services in Ireland. The Food Safety Authority of Ireland is the central competent authority with the overall co-ordinating role for food safety.

In terms of assessing or auditing the types of meals provided under the school meals scheme, schools and organisations must reapply for funding in advance of each school year and are required to submit detailed records at the end of each school year. Expenditure on unhealthy food items is deducted from the funding allocation. In addition, the Department initiated an on-site inspection programme in 2012 to ensure that the scheme rules are being adhered to including an assessment of the type of food provided. My Department recently introduced service level agreements with all participating schools and organisations which sets out the responsibilities of participants.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Table 1: School Meals Scheme Expenditure 2014 – 2018

Allocation

Year

€m

2014

16.6*

2015

38.8

2016

36.9

2017

46.6

2018

54 allocated

*Accounting adjustment which did not impact on the service provided in schools

Table 2: Rates of Payment for school meals scheme and number of pupils availing in the 2017/18 Academic Year

Meal

Max Rate of Payment (per child per day)

No. of Pupils

Breakfast/Snack

€0.60

163,660

Lunch/Afterschool

€1.40

152,500

Dinner

€1.90

22,930