Carer's Allowance Review

Ceisteanna (284)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

284. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if a comprehensive review of a carer's allowance which was recently withdrawn from a child's (details supplied) parents even though this child has very complex needs will be undertaken; if it will be reinstated; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20597/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Carer's allowance (CA) is a means-tested social assistance payment made to a person who is habitually resident in the State and who is providing full-time care and attention to a person who has such a disability that they require that level of care.

It is a condition for receipt of CA that the applicant’s means are less than the statutory limit which in this case is €265.10 weekly.

CA was in payment to the person concerned from 2 May 2013 to 9 May 2018. Once claims are in payment, the Department periodically reviews them to ensure that there is continued entitlement. Depending on the circumstances in each case and to make best use of resources, a review may only concentrate on a specific condition of entitlement.

Means are any income belonging to the carer and their spouse, civil partner, or cohabitant, property, (except their own home) or an asset that could bring in money or provide them with an income, for example occupational pensions, or pensions or benefits from another country.

The means test for carer’s allowance has been significantly eased over the years and is now one of the most generous means tests in the Social Welfare system, most notably with regard to a spouse’s earnings. The income disregard is €332.50 per week for a single person and €665 per week for a couple.

Following a review CA was disallowed and her payment stopped as her means were determined to exceed the statutory limit.

The person concerned was notified on 14 April 2018 of this decision the reason for it and her right of review and appeal.

The person concerned has not requested a review of this decision.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

State Pensions Payments

Ceisteanna (285)

John Brady

Ceist:

285. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of persons living outside the Republic of Ireland that receive a State pension payment from her Department; and the associated costs involved. [20641/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The information requested by the Deputy is detailed in the following tabular statement.

Eligibility for the State Pension (Non-Contributory) requires that the claimant be habitually resident in the State.

Tabular statement

Pension

Number of recipients residing outside the State

Average weekly payment (all claimants)

Approximate weekly expenditure

(non-resident claimants)

€m

State Pension Contributory

46,575

€221

10.3

Widow/er's or Surviving Civil Partner's Contributory Pension

7,395

€233

1.7

Invalidity Pension

1,061

€224

0.2

State Pensions

Ceisteanna (286)

John Brady

Ceist:

286. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of recipients of a State pension payment that are under 66 years of age; the associated cost involved; and the average payments awarded. [20642/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The information requested (where available) by the Deputy is detailed in the following tabular statement. I note that all Invalidity Pension recipients are transferred to State Pension (Contributory) on reaching the age of 66.

Tabular statement

Pension

Number of Recipients under the age of 66

Average weekly payment (all claimants)

Approximate weekly expenditure (claimants under 66)

State Pension Non-Contributory

0

State Pension Contributory

0

Widow/er's or Surviving Civil Partner's Contributory Pension

30,492

€233

7.1

Invalidity Pension

57,700

€224

12.9

Local Employment Service

Ceisteanna (287)

Eoin Ó Broin

Ceist:

287. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if a report (details supplied) on the local employment services will be released; if not, the reason therefor; and when it will be released. [20645/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

My Department commissioned Indecon to conduct a review of the Local Employment and Jobclub services. This review is the first significant independent review that has been commissioned since the Local Employment Services (LES) was established in 1995 and it will help inform future decisions regarding how the Department contracts, monitors and procures for LES.

My officials are currently working through the final report and it will be submitted to my office shortly. The findings will be discussed with the contractors and their observations sought. In regard to publication, the report contains commercial information relating to 22 contractors and my Department must consider any obligations under the terms of the contracts.

Employment Support Services

Ceisteanna (288)

John Brady

Ceist:

288. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of persons that have been through the employability service since its introduction; the number that have successfully gained employment as a result of the programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20678/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The EmployAbility service is a nationwide service funded by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP). The service provides employment support for people with a health condition, injury, illness or disability and a recruitment advice service for the business community to support such jobseekers. The overall objective of the service is to increase the numbers of people with disabilities participating in employment in the open labour market by helping the client of the service obtain and maintain employment (by supporting them in the workplace for up to 18 months).

The service is delivered by 23 companies who currently employ circa 155 (full-time equivalent) staff, of whom some 112 are job coaches. The service has been designed to provide intensive support for clients over an engagement period of 18 months. To this end, the service seeks to maintain a caseload client to job coach ratio of 1:25 and the service has an active caseload nationally at any one time of about 3,000 clients (or an equivalent turnover of circa 2,000 clients per year).

Responsibility for the overall management of the service transferred to the Department in 2012. The statistics requested are only available to the Department from 2010 from a number of sources, including a review of the EmployAbility service commissioned by DEASP from Indecon Economic Consultants and published in August 2016. The report recommended improvements to data collection and has provided the basis of improved collection of data by the EmployAbility companies and the Department since that time.

Table 1 provides details of the number of clients on the caseload of the Employability companies at the end of each year from 2010 to 2017. Data for 2015 represents an estimate by the Department, based on data available at the time. Data since 2016 has been collated from data provided by EmployAbility companies.

Number of clients on the caseload of the Employability Service Providers.

(Figures relate to position as at end of December in each year)

Year

Total Active Clients

2010

2,704

2011

2,903

2012

2,762

2013

2,862

2014

2,936

2015

3,000

2016

3,095

2017

2,994

Notes: 2010 to 2014 data taken from Indecon review of the EmployAbility Service. The 2015 figure is a DEASP estimate. Information from 2016 onward collated by DEASP from data provided by EmployAbility companies .

Table 2 provides total number of exits from engagement with EmployAbility into employment using the Indecon report data from 2010 to 2014 and data for 2016 and 2017 collated by the Department provided by the EmployAbility companies. No estimate is available for 2015.

Number of exits into employment.

(Employment is defined as a minimum of eight {8} hours per week)

Year

Total placements in employment

2010

326

2011

379

2012

631

2013

686

2014

891

2015

N/A

2016

920

2017

1,027

Notes: 2010 to 2014 data taken from Indecon review of the EmployAbility Service. The 2015 figure is not available. Information from 2016 onward collated by DEASP from data provided by EmployAbility companies.

It is important to interpret these indicators taking account of all relevant factors. For instance, the Indecon review found that when allowance was made for clients who dropped out or did not otherwise complete the programme (due to factors including ill health), 46.9% of clients exited the programme while in employment and that 83.3% of total exits to employment were in employment 6 months after ending of support from service.

The data highlight the importance that good quality indicators and analysis can play in the overall management and development of the EmployAbility service. The Department is working with the service on an ongoing basis to improve the quality and usefulness of the data and indicators underlying the service and has introduced changes to the annual reporting of data in consultation with the service.

I trust that this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Invalidity Pension

Ceisteanna (289)

Pat Breen

Ceist:

289. Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when an application will be processed for a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20717/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The gentleman referred to has been awarded invalidity pension with effect from the 01 February 2018. Payment will issue to his nominated bank account on the 24 May 2018. Any arrears due from 01 February 2018 to 23 May 2018 (less any overlapping social welfare payment) will issue in due course. The gentleman in question was notified of this decision on the 10 May 2018.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Carer's Allowance Applications

Ceisteanna (290)

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

290. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when an application for a carer's allowance by a person (details supplied) will be determined; if same can be expedited; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20747/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

My department received an application for carer's allowance (CA) from the person concerned on the 20 February 2018.

CA is a means-tested social assistance payment made to a person who is habitually resident in the State and who is providing full-time care and attention to a person who has such a disability that they require that level of care.

A person can be considered to be providing full-time care and attention where they are engaged in employment, self-employment or on training courses outside the home for a maximum of 15 hours per week, provided that they can show to the satisfaction of a deciding officer that adequate care has been provided for the care recipient in their absence.

As the applicant is a self-employed farmer, the matter was referred to a local social welfare inspector (SWI) on 9 April 2018 to assess the level of care being provided, assess means and confirm that all the conditions for receipt of carer’s allowance are satisfied.

Enquiries by the SWI are continuing. Once the SWI has reported, a decision will be made and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Social Welfare Payments Administration

Ceisteanna (291)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

291. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the processing time for applications for each social welfare payment in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20755/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The information requested (where available) by the Deputy is detailed in the following tabular statement.

Tabular statement

Average time to Award for principal DEASP schemes, March 2018

Schemes

Average time to award (weeks)

Jobseeker's Benefit

1

Jobseeker's Allowance

2

One-Parent Family Payment

5

State Pension Contributory

4

Widow, Widower’s and Surviving Civil Partners Contributory Pension

4

Widowed Parent Grant

1

State Pension Non-Contributory

11

Household Benefits

1

Free Travel

1

Domiciliary Care Allowance

9

Supplementary Welfare Allowance

1

Child Benefit

3

Working Family Payment

2

Carer's Allowance

19

Carer's Benefit

10

Disability Allowance

14

Invalidity Pension

6

Illness Benefit

1

Occupational Injury Benefit

1

Social Welfare Appeals

Ceisteanna (292)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

292. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the processing time for appeals for each social welfare payment in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20756/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

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 in relation to social welfare entitlements.

All claim decisions taken by the Department’s deciding officers are appealable to the Chief Appeals Officer. In any year about 85% of all claims are awarded and just 1% are appealed. Nevertheless, the Department is concerned that these cases are dealt with as quickly as possible.

Accordingly, significant efforts and resources have been devoted to reforming the appeal process in recent years. As a result, appeal processing times improved between 2011 and 2017 from 52.5 weeks for an oral hearing in 2011 to 26.4 weeks in 2017 and from 25.1 weeks for a summary decision in 2011 to 19.8 weeks in 2017. The most recent figures for the period January to April 2018 are 29.9 weeks for an oral hearing and 25.3 weeks for a summary decision.

The appeal processing times for each social welfare payment for the period 1 January to 30 April 2018 are set out in the following table.

The time taken to process an appeal reflects a number of factors including that the appeals process is a quasi-judicial process with appeals officers being required to decide all appeals on a ‘de-novo’ basis. In addition, appeals decisions are themselves subject to review by the higher courts and decisions have to be formally written up to quasi-judicial standards.

Other factors that influence appeals processing times include the quality of the initial decision – in this respect the Department has changed the decisions process in respect of medical schemes, in order to provide more information to the claimant. I expect that this will help to reduce the number of appeals over time.

In addition, a number of new appeals officers have joined the Appeals Office over the past year, to replace staff leaving on retirement. Given the complexity of the appeals process it takes some time for new staff to be trained up and develop expertise. This changeover in staff led to longer times to conclude appeals in 2017 and this has continued in the first four months of 2018. However, the Chief Appeals Officer has advised that she is hopeful that processing times will improve over the course of 2018.

Finally, it should be noted that an appellant can claim supplementary welfare allowance pending the outcome of their appeal and that any favourable decisions are backdated to the original date of the claim.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Appeal Processing Times by Social Welfare Payment 01 January 2018 - 30 April 2018

-

Average processing times (weeks)

Summary Decisions

Average processing times (weeks)

Oral Hearings

Blind Pension

15.7

-

Carer’s Allowance

24.1

27.9

Carer’s Benefit

21.1

30.7

Child Benefit

35.3

41.1

Disability Allowance

19.8

25.9

Illness Benefit

30.0

37.3

Partial Capacity Benefit

32.2

22.2

Domiciliary Care Allowance

31.3

38.1

Deserted Wife’s Benefit

-

30.5

Farm Assist

46.2

42.6

Working Family Payment *

29.4

30.3

Invalidity Pension

25.0

22.7

Maternity Benefit

25.5

38.8

Paternity Benefit

22.9

20.6

One Parent Family Payment

23.4

35.6

State Pension (Contributory)

37.3

49.0

State Pension (Non-Contributory)

29.6

38.5

Occupational Injury Benefit

38.1

44.0

Disablement Pension

33.9

28.7

Guardian's Payment (Contributory)

30.7

31.1

Guardian's Payment (Non- Contributory)

10.4

37.3

Jobseeker's Allowance (Means)

31.2

36.2

Jobseeker's Allowance (Payments)

24.8

30.7

Back to Work Family Dividend

25.5

-

Jobseeker's Transitional

17.6

27.6

Pre-Retirement Allowance

-

29.9

Jobseeker's Benefit

23.4

24.3

Carer’s Support Grant **

23.8

29.7

Incapacity Supplement

-

29.0

Supplementary Welfare Allowance

22.2

25.9

Widow's, Widower's or Surviving Civil Partner's Contributory Pension

39.2

15.7

Widow's, Widower's or Surviving Civil Partner’s (Non-Contributory) Pension

30.0

23.4

Widowed Parent Grant

35.8

-

* Previously called Family Income Supplement

** Previously called Respite Care Grant

Social Welfare Appeals

Ceisteanna (293)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

293. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the percentage of decisions overturned on appeals for each social welfare payment by written and oral appeals in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20757/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

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 in relation to social welfare entitlements.

I understand the Deputy’s question relates to outcomes of appeals dealt with by Appeals Officers by reference to whether the appeal was dealt with summarily or by way of an oral hearing.

The following table provides the details requested by the Deputy in respect of appeals finalised in the full year 2017.

Overall, 60.1% of the 18,980 appeals which were finalised in 2017 had a favourable outcome for the appellant, i.e. were either allowed in full or in part, or resolved by way of a revised decision by a Deciding Officer/Designated Person.

There are a number of reasons why a decision which was refused at first instance might be successful on appeal and it is not necessarily the case that the first decision was wrong.

Where new evidence is provided with an appeal the original decision may be revised by the Deciding Officer or Designated Person as was the case in some 37 per cent of favourable appeal outcomes in both 2017 and 2016. In the period January to April 2018 this was the case in 38 per cent of favourable outcomes. Where the decision was not revised in the Department in light of the appeal contentions, further evidence is often provided by the appellant as the appeal process proceeds and in addition, the Appeals Officer may gain insights when they meet the appellant in person at oral hearing which may influence the outcome of the appeal.

Decisions concerning entitlement to a social welfare payment often require a high level of judgment and may involve complex legal questions. The Courts have found that decision makers are required to be free and unrestricted in discharging their functions.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Table: Outcome by Percentage of Appeals Decided by Appeals Officers 2017

Scheme

Oral Hearing

Summary Decision

% Allowed

% Part Allowed

% Disallowed

%Allowed

% Part Allowed

% Disallowed

State Pension (Non-Contributory)

40.8%

23.5%

35.7%

25.2%

7.9%

66.9%

State Pension (Contributory)

20.6%

13.2%

66.2%

10.7%

1.5%

87.8%

State Pension (Transition)

0.0%

0.0%

100.0%

50.0%

0.0%

50.0%

Widow's, Widower's or Surviving Civil Partner's (Contributory) Pension

37.5%

0.0%

62.5%

33.3%

0.0%

66.7%

*Bereavement Grant

0.0%

0.0%

0.0%

100.0%

0.0%

0.0%

Jobseeker’ Allowance

46.3%

8.9%

44.7%

25.0%

4.6%

70.3%

Jobseeker’s allowance (Means)

36.4%

16.4%

47.2%

11.3%

4.8%

83.9%

One Parent Family Payment

50.0%

18.1%

31.9%

38.3%

7.4%

54.3%

Widow's, Widower's or Surviving Civil Partner’s (Non-Contributory) Pension

25.0%

25.0%

50.0%

50.0%

12.5%

37.5%

Supplementary Welfare Allowance

52.4%

6.4%

41.2%

25.7%

2.7%

71.6%

Farm Assist

30.9%

21.8%

47.3%

11.1%

13.3%

75.6%

Jobseeker’s Benefit

36.2%

13.0%

50.7%

24.1%

5.0%

71.0%

Deserted Wife’s Benefit

33.3%

33.3%

33.3%

50.0%

0.0%

50.0%

Maternity Benefit

42.9%

0.0%

57.1%

12.7%

5.5%

81.8%

Paternity Benefit

0.0%

0.0%

0.0%

25.0%

0.0%

75.0%

Adoptive Benefit

0.0%

0.0%

0.0%

0.0%

0.0%

100.0%

*Treatment Benefits

0.0%

0.0%

0.0%

0.0%

0.0%

100.0%

Partial Capacity Benefit

45.5%

9.1%

45.5%

52.6%

0.0%

47.4%

Disability Allowance

69.7%

2.3%

28.0%

70.0%

1.3%

28.7%

Blind Pension

50.0%

50.0%

0.0%

0.0%

0.0%

100.0%

Carer’s Allowance

55.9%

6.7%

37.3%

34.6%

5.7%

59.7%

Domiciliary Care allowance

69.9%

3.8%

26.4%

64.0%

0.5%

35.5%

Carer’s Support Grant

48.6%

2.7%

48.6%

23.6%

1.4%

75.0%

Illness Benefit

47.3%

3.6%

49.1%

26.7%

1.3%

72.0%

Injury Benefit

0.0%

0.0%

100.0%

13.0%

0.0%

87.0%

Invalidity Pension

69.5%

1.5%

29.0%

48.8%

0.8%

50.4%

Disablement Benefit

50.0%

12.1%

37.9%

28.6%

5.1%

66.3%

Incapacity Supplement

60.0%

20.0%

20.0%

0.0%

0.0%

100.0%

*Medical Care

0.0%

0.0%

100.0%

0.0%

0.0%

0.0%

Carer’s Benefit

47.8%

8.7%

43.5%

30.8%

0.0%

69.2%

Child Benefit

48.6%

9.7%

41.7%

16.8%

8.1%

75.1%

Working Family Payment

36.8%

8.8%

54.4%

33.3%

5.9%

60.8%

Guardian’s Payment (Non-Contributory)

60.0%

0.0%

40.0%

25.0%

12.5%

62.5%

Guardian’s Payment (Contributory)

69.2%

0.0%

30.8%

25.0%

12.5%

62.5%

Widowed Parent Grant

0.0%

0.0%

0.0%

0.0%

0.0%

100.0%

Back to Work Family Dividend

50.0%

0.0%

50.0%

20.0%

0.0%

80.0%

Jobseeker’s Transitional Payment

57.1%

42.9%

0.0%

46.2%

7.7%

46.2%

* 1 case

Social Welfare Appeals Waiting Times

Ceisteanna (294)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

294. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the wait time for case files to be forwarded to the appeals office for each social welfare payment section, in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20758/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

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 in relation to social welfare entitlements.

Article 10 of the Social Welfare (Appeals) Regulations 1998, provides that the Minister shall furnish to the Chief Appeals Officer a statement from the Deciding Officer, or on his/her behalf, showing to what extent the facts and contentions advanced by the appellant are accepted or rejected. This is provided along with all other relevant papers so that the appeal may be processed.

In the period January to April 2018 the overall average time for receipt by the Social Welfare Appeals Office of a submission from the Department was 10.2 weeks. The equivalent figure for the full year 2017 was 13.6 weeks.

The average time, in respect of each social welfare payment, for receipt by the Social Welfare Appeals Office of a submission from the Department in the period 1 January 2018 to April 2018 is set in the following table.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Table: Average time, in respect of each social welfare payment, for receipt by the Social Welfare Appeals Office of a submission from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection in the period 1 January 2018 to April 2018

Scheme

1Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection - number of weeks

Blind Person’s Pension

8.3

Carer’s Allowance

6.3

Carer’s Benefit

9.7

Child Benefit

13.7

Disability Allowance

6.0

Illness Benefit

10.3

Partial Capacity Benefit

9.2

Domiciliary Care Allowance

17.4

Deserted Wife’s Benefit

9.8

Farm Assist

16.0

Working Family Payment *

12.7

Invalidity Pension

8.6

Maternity Benefit

3.3

Paternity Benefit

5.4

One Parent Family Payment

15.9

State Pension (Contributory)

20.6

State Pension (Non-Contributory)

10.5

Occupational Injury Benefit

11.2

Disablement Pension

9.4

Guardian's Payment (Contributory)

4.2

Guardian's Payment (Non- Contributory)

6.2

Jobseeker's Allowance (Means)

14.2

Jobseeker's Allowance (Payments)

9.0

BTW Family Dividend

15.0

Jobseeker's Transitional

2.8

Pre-retirement Allowance

6.8

Jobseeker's Benefit

5.0

Carer’s Support Grant **

11.4

Treatment Benefit

11.3

Incapacity Supplement

12.5

Supplementary Welfare Allowance

16.4

Widow's, Widower's or Surviving Civil Partner's (Contributory) Pension

15.7

Widow's, Widower's or Surviving Civil Partner’s (Non-Contributory) Pension

6.2

Widowed Parent Grant

13.3

1 It is noted that the average weeks in the Department will include cases that the Department has referred back to the customer for more information/clarification (rather than awaiting action in the Department). A breakdown of that element of the waiting time is not available for report purposes.

* Previously called Family Income Supplement

** Previously called Respite Care Grant

Social Welfare Appeals

Ceisteanna (295)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

295. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason for the delay in issuing the files of a person (details supplied) on foot of a request from the appeals office; when she expects these files will issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20759/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The person concerned appealed the decision to refuse her claim for Carer’s Support Grant. Unfortunately, the notice of appeal was sent to the wrong office of my Department. It has now been received by the Deciding Officer who refused the claim. Talking account of all details of the claim, including the issues raised by the person concerned in her letter of appeal, the Deciding Officer has now requested a report from a local inspector. A fresh decision will issue once this report is received.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Jobseeker's Benefit

Ceisteanna (296)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

296. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if her Department has the right to reduce jobseeker's benefit for non-attendance at Intreo meetings (details supplied). [20764/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Penalty Rates are a legal provision within the Jobseeker schemes to ensure that the Department can achieve compliance with Government Activation Policy as stated in Pathways to Work.

Activation measures include the requirement to attend group or individual meetings, and/or avail of suitable education, training or development opportunities, or specified employment programmes, which are considered appropriate to a person’s circumstances.

Social Welfare legislation provides that penalties in the form of reduced payments may be imposed by a Deciding Officer of my Department, where recipients of jobseeker payments fail, without good cause, to comply with activation measures. Reduced rates are only applied where a jobseeker fails to engage as requested, and following at least two warnings, with the Department’s employment services.

The Jobseeker can appeal the Deciding Officer’s decision for reduced rate penalties and for a 9 week disqualification, through the Social Welfare Appeals Office (SWAO).

Property Registration

Ceisteanna (297)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

297. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the position regarding a folio issue (details supplied) within his Department; the timeframe for a resolution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20606/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I can inform the Deputy that under the Registration of Deeds and Title Act 2006, the Property Registration Authority (PRA) was established as and from 4 November 2006.  The PRA replaces the Register of Deeds and Titles as the registering authority in relation to property registration in Ireland and, subject to the above Act, is independent in the performance of its functions.

Arrangements have been put in place by all bodies under the aegis of my Department to facilitate the provision of information directly to members of the Oireachtas.  The contact email address for the Property Registration Authority is reps@prai.ie.

Water and Sewerage Schemes

Ceisteanna (298)

John Brady

Ceist:

298. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the amount of money paid in financial penalties to the EU as a result of non-compliance with sewage running into water courses across the State and in relation to the Avoca River, Arklow, County Wicklow. [20671/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive mandates member states to collect and treat urban waste water in towns and cities to protect public health and avoid pollution of rivers, lakes and coastal waters. Member states had until the end of December 2000 to ensure appropriate treatment for large agglomerations (with a population equivalent of more than 15,000), and until the end of December 2005 for agglomerations with a population equivalent of more than 2,000 which discharge to freshwaters and estuaries. 

To date, no fines have been levied against Ireland by the EU for breach of the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive.

Irish Water is undertaking significant investment in urban waste water collection and treatment over the period to 2021 and plans to deliver 255 waste water treatment projects in urban areas, achieving water-quality improvements and compliance with the requirements of the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive.

Homelessness Strategy

Ceisteanna (299)

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

299. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the funding provided toward homelessness in 2017; the amount allocated to County Laois and the midlands; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20526/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

My Department provides funding, under Section 10 of the Housing Act 1988, to housing authorities towards the costs of providing accommodation and related services for homeless persons. Section 10 funding of €109.2m million was provided to housing authorities towards the costs of homeless services in 2017. This funding is made available on a regional basis. 

Westmeath County Council is the lead authority for the Midlands Region, which also encompasses Laois County Council, Longford County Council and Offaly County Council.  Section 10 exchequer funding of €1,467,615 was provided to the Midlands Region towards homeless services in 2017.

National Planning Framework

Ceisteanna (300, 301)

Louise O'Reilly

Ceist:

300. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he will undertake an audit in addition to tracking and collation of specific data in relation to the existence and nature of the policies adopted in local area plans, LAPs, by individual local authorities in line with the guidelines in respect of a specific part of a section (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20577/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Louise O'Reilly

Ceist:

301. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the work being carried out within his Department in respect of the national obesity plan specifically regarding developing guidelines and support materials for those working in developing the built environment of urban development and planning in relation to reducing the obesogenic environment; the status of this matter; when the proposed event on same will take place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20578/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 300 and 301 together.

The recently published National Planning Framework recognises the strong link between our health and environment and includes a National Policy Objective to support the objectives of public health policy, including Healthy Ireland and the National Physical Activity Plan, through integrating such policies, where appropriate and at the applicable scale, with planning policy.

In addition, my Department published statutory guidelines for planning authorities in June 2013 on Local Area Plans (LAPs) under Section 28 of the Planning Act 2000 (as amended). Section 5 of these Guidelines offers advice as regards the structure and content of local area plans and sets out a range of policies that can be put in place to promote and facilitate active and healthy living patterns for local communities.

These include:

- promoting walking and cycling as modes of transport,

- accessibility to public open spaces, recreational and sports facilities,

- proximity of new development to sustainable travel modes,

- provision of play areas, and

- careful consideration of the appropriateness of the location of fast-food outlets in the vicinity of schools and parks.

A practical effect of these Guidelines with regard to fast-food outlets is that consideration can be given to the appropriateness of their location in the vicinity of schools and parks, for example in newly developing areas, while at the same time taking into account wider land use considerations.

However, with regard to the many schools located in or near town centres, restriction of fast-food outlets in these kinds of situations needs to be carefully considered on a case by case basis, in view of the mix of existing uses typically found in such central urban areas. 

In addition, planning policy with regard to the location of fast-food outlets needs to be considered also within the wider policy context of practical steps that planning authorities and other public bodies can take to more widely promote and facilitate active and healthy living patterns, for example, by enhancing the scope for activities such as walking, cycling and sports and active leisure pursuits and their associated facilities.

In relation to the number of local authorities that have a policy as referenced in the question, the relevant section of the Guidelines sets out a methodology to be considered and applied at local level rather than a pre-determined policy position.  Therefore, tracking and collation of specific data in relation to the existence and nature of the policies adopted in LAPs by individual local authorities in line with the Guidelines, and auditing of such, is not undertaken by my Department.

It should also be noted that my Department participates in the cross-Departmental working group, established by the Minister for Health, to oversee implementation of the National Obesity Policy and Action Plan.