Foster Care Agencies

Ceisteanna (513)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

513. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the foster care agencies engaged by Tusla in 2016, 2017 and to date in 2018. [20812/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I have requested this information from Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, and will revert when I have been provided with the information.

It should be noted that children being cared for by a private foster care company remain in the care of Tusla at all times and have a Tusla allocated social worker. The Tusla Foster Care Committee approves all applications by the private company for families to be eligible to foster.

Departmental Budgets

Ceisteanna (514)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

514. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the amount set aside on an annual basis for contingent liability for the past 25 years to date; the way in which it is determined the amount that is forecast to be needed for contingent liability; if an actuary analysis is carried out for budgeting current and future contingent liability; if a risk assessment is conducted in the context of contingent liability; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20834/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

A contingent liability arises in any situation where past or current actions or events create a risk of a call on Exchequer funds in the future.

My Department was established in June 2011 and since then there has been limited instances giving rise to contingent liabilities. In this regard the Deputy might note that liabilities will arise as a result of the legal challenge to the outcome of the Children Referendum. In this case the petitioner was awarded one third of her legal costs by the High Court in November 2013 but the actual amount and the timing of the payment remains to be determined. My Department currently awaits hearing from the Chief State Solicitors Office on the matter. In the meantime, resources continue to be made available within the Vote of my Department to meet any settlement costs due.

My Department does not carry out any actuarial or specific risk analysis in order to identify the potential for future contingent liabilities. The risk of such occurrences is normally considered on an annual basis in the context of the budget and estimates cycles and taking account of any legal advice or specific knowledge of situations occurring that might give rise to a contingent liability.

Departmental Contracts Data

Ceisteanna (515)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

515. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the value of contracts for goods or services from companies (details supplied) since 2010. [20847/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

My Department was established on 2 June 2011 and there is no record of payments for goods or services from these companies to date.

Child and Family Agency Policy

Ceisteanna (516)

John McGuinness

Ceist:

516. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the reason foster carers are no longer covered by public liability insurance through Tusla; if the cover provided by the HSE before Tusla was established can be extended to all concerned; if Tusla has written to all foster carers advising them of the fact that there is no cover; if Tusla will clarify the position and set out a timeframe within which the matter will be dealt with; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20865/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

As the Deputy is aware, foster carers are no longer covered by a commercial public liability insurance policy. Attempts by Tusla to secure continuing commercial cover have proved unsuccessful. However, I am pleased to confirm that pending a permanent solution, all foster carers have an indemnity on an individual basis where required. This is on an ex-gratia basis as a temporary measure to address immediate individual cases while the overall indemnification issues are being resolved.

As I have stated previously, I am fully supportive of extending the State Indemnity Scheme under the State Claims Agency to foster parents. Unfortunately, this has taken longer than expected due to technical issues associated with the approvals and statutory process involved, but I can assure the Deputy that work is continuing to address these matters and legal advices are expected shortly. My Department has been in discussion with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform on the matter, and my intention is to include foster carers under the General Indemnity Scheme operated by the State Claims Agency as soon as possible.

My Department has written to the Irish Foster Carers Association (IFCA) outlining the position and, through the Association, foster carers have been informed as to the current position. A further meeting with the Irish Foster Care Association and officials from my Department was held yesterday at which the most up to date position was presented to the IFCA. In addition, I understand that Tusla will also make publicly available the information provided to IFCA so as to communicate the position to those foster carers who are not members of that association.

Youth Services Funding

Ceisteanna (517)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

517. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if the voluntary sector in youth work provision is protected in the context of a review of the youth service grants; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21000/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

My Department administers a range of funding schemes and programmes to support the provision of youth services to young people throughout the country including those from disadvantaged communities. The funding schemes support national and local youth work involving approximately 1,400 youth work staff working in youth services and communities throughout the country.

These schemes include the Youth Service Grant Scheme under which funding is made available on an annual basis to thirty national and major regional youth organisations. In 2017, some €10.65m was allocated under this scheme, a 5% increase over 2016.

This funding is intended to ensure the emergence, promotion, growth and development of youth organisations with distinctive philosophies and programmes aimed at the social education of young people.

My Department has commenced a review of the Youth Service Grant Scheme. This review is intended to enhance its accountability, transparency and scheme measurement. It is also seeking to ensure the scheme responds to the ever evolving needs of young people. My Department has commenced a process of engagement with key stakeholders in relation to the review of the scheme.

Education Policy

Ceisteanna (518)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

518. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the progress and or engagements she has had with the Minister for Education and Skills in the context of overhauling the provision of sexual health education in schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21004/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The Educational Welfare Service of Tusla has advised my Department that it has no role in the provision of sexual health education in schools. Such provision is a matter for the Department of Education and Skills and the Boards of Management of individual schools.

Departmental Staff Data

Ceisteanna (519)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

519. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of staff in her Department assigned solely or primarily to work on North-South issues; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21258/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I have no staff in my Department assigned solely or primarily to work on North-South issues.

Departmental Contracts Data

Ceisteanna (520)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

520. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the value of contracts for goods or services from companies (details supplied) since 2010. [20859/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

My Department was established in July 2017 and has had no involvement, contractual or otherwise, with the companies in question.

National Planning Framework

Ceisteanna (521)

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

521. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development if his attention has been drawn to a campaign established by a group (details supplied) in response to the national planning framework under Project Ireland 2040; if his attention has been further drawn to the negative impact which the group claims the policies will have on the social and economic development of the region as a whole; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20988/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

The Government published Project Ireland 2040 which incorporates the National Planning Framework (NPF) and the 10-year National Development Plan (NDP) in February 2018. Project Ireland prioritises the wellbeing of all of our people, wherever they live and whatever their background. The NPF seeks to ensure that the population and economic growth which will take place in Ireland to 2040 is shared more evenly across the regions, and it is explicitly stated that securing regional balance is the fundamental purpose of the NPF.

The NDP outlines a programme of capital investment to 2027 which supports the objectives of the NPF. The NDP sets out investment across sectors such as transport, energy, communications and tourism that will support both regional development and rural development.

For example, one of the ten strategic outcomes in the NPF is Enhanced Regional Accessibility. To support this outcome, the NDP sets out funding of €7.3 billion for investment in regional roads and accessibility to the North-West.

Similarly, the NDP sets out funding of €8.8 billion to support the NPF strategic outcome of Empowered Rural Economies and Communities. This includes investment in broadband, agriculture and tourism, as well as the establishment of a new Rural Regeneration and Development Fund which will provide an additional €1 billion over the next ten years to support the development of our smaller towns, villages and rural areas.

I am aware of the campaign referred to by the Deputy. It is very encouraging to see young people engaged in the debate around rural and regional development and seeking to ensure that they have the opportunities that they deserve within their own regions. Realising these opportunities is very much the objective of the NPF and NDP. Delivering the strategic outcomes of the NPF will ensure that we achieve regional balance and prosperity for all areas of the country for the future.

CLÁR Programme

Ceisteanna (522)

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

522. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the funding available for the CLÁR Programme in 2018; the number of CLÁR projects that have been applied for by the local authorities in counties Westmeath and Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21129/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

CLÁR is a targeted capital investment programme for rural areas which have experienced significant levels of depopulation.

I launched the 2018 CLÁR programme on 15 March last, with an indicative allocation of €5 million for qualifying projects under the following measures:

- Measure 1: Support for Schools/Community Safety Measures

- Measure 2: Play Areas/Multi-Use Games Areas

- Measure 3: First Response Support Measure

Applications for funding under Measures 1 and 2 were submitted via the Local Authorities who were asked to submit up to 15 applications in total between the two measures to my Department for consideration under the scheme. Applications under measure 3 were submitted to the Department directly by groups involved as first responders in emergency situations.

The closing date for submission of applications was 30th April. In total, more than 400 applications were received including the following from counties Westmeath and Clare:

Measure

Westmeath

Clare

1

12

3

2

3

12

3

5

2

My officials are currently assessing all applications received under the 2018 CLÁR programme and I hope to be in a position to announce the successful 2018 CLÁR projects in the coming weeks.

Departmental Staff Data

Ceisteanna (523)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

523. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the number of staff in his Department assigned solely or primarily to work on North-South issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21270/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

My Department was established in July 2017 to deliver on the Government’s commitment to bring a greater degree of coordination and cohesion to all of the work of Government insofar as it impacts on rural Ireland and communities. My colleague, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Mr. Simon Coveney, T.D., has the primary responsibility for leading on North South issues. Accordingly, my Department does not have any staff assigned solely or primarily to work on North-South issues.

North-South issues do impact on regional and rural businesses, as well as on communities. In this context, North-South matters are shared across different policy areas, rather than being assigned to a single Unit or to dedicated staff.

Social Insurance Data

Ceisteanna (524)

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

524. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the estimated revenue that would be raised by introducing a new employers’ rate of pay related social insurance of 15.75% on the portion of salary paid in excess of €100,000 per annum. [21192/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

It is estimated that increasing the rate of pay related social insurance to 15.75% on the portion of salary paid in excess of €100,000 per annum would yield €323.2 million in a full year.

This estimate is based on PRSI Class A contributors. It uses the latest available data and reflects macro-economic indicators for 2018. It should be noted that the estimate does not take into account any possible changes in employer behaviour arising from changing rates of contribution.

Public Services Card

Ceisteanna (525)

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

525. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if she will address concerns that section 5 of the Social Welfare, Pensions and Civil Registration Bill 2017 undermines privacy by allowing private bodies to use the public services card as a form of identification; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20796/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Under current legislation, a Public Services Card (PSC) cannot be requested by any public or private body or person that is not designated as a specified body in Schedule 5 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 (as amended). The PSC can only be used by public bodies specified in this legislation when conducting a public transaction with the person concerned.

One of the provisions set out in Section 5 of the Social Welfare, Pensions, and Civil Registration Bill 2017 would, if enacted, enable citizens to volunteer their PSC where they wish to use it as a form of proof of identity and/or age. However, it is important to note that a non-specified body could not request or demand the production of a PSC. It simply gives individuals the option to use their PSC if they wished, as proof of identity and/or age, in transactions with non-specified bodies.

It is clear from customer feedback that they should be allowed to volunteer the card to non-specified bodies if it suits them to do so, for the purposes of ID verification. Customers often report that private companies insist on a State-issued photographic ID such as a passport or driver’s license which they might not have and which attracts a cost. In contrast, the PSC is free of charge.

For the sake of clarity, therefore, the Deputy should note that this proposal in no way allows nor can a private sector body access the customer data on the card or on any Government database. It simply provides for the card be accepted as a form of identity verification by a private sector organisation or non-specified body - but only at the sole discretion of the card holder. Far from undermining privacy, I believe that this approach gives power to the individual to control access to and use of their PSC.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

JobPath Programme

Ceisteanna (526)

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

526. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if Turas Nua is a private limited company; the payments made to Turas Nua to operate its contract with her Department; the period of time over which these payments have been made; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20805/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Turas Nua is a joint venture between FRS Recruitment and Working Links.

Turas Nua is registered with the Companies Registration Office as Turas Nua Ltd., Registration No: 3344143VH and for which Tax Clearance Certificates have been issued.

It is not intended to publish the individual payments to the JobPath companies as these are commercially sensitive and to do so would place the State at a disadvantage both in terms of the contracts now in place and any future procurement that may be undertaken.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Carer's Allowance Applications

Ceisteanna (527)

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

527. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when an application for a carer's allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20809/18]

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.

I confirm that my Department received an application for CA from the person concerned on 7 March 2018.

The application is currently being examined by a deciding officer and once processed, the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Carer's Allowance Data

Ceisteanna (528)

Tom Neville

Ceist:

528. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of new applications for carer's allowance lodged with her Department; the number approved; and the number finalised with a refusal letter issued to the applicant; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20817/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The information requested by the Deputy is detailed in the following table:

Carer’s Allowance applications registered, awarded and rejected in April 2018

Registered

Awarded

Rejected

1,797

1,538

731

Social Welfare Appeals Data

Ceisteanna (529)

Tom Neville

Ceist:

529. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of open applications in the social welfare appeals office; the length it usually takes from the time a case is referred to the office before it is concluded; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20818/18]

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.

The number of appeals on hands in the Social Welfare Appeals Office at 30 April 2018 was 8,853.

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.

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.

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 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.

Departmental Contracts Data

Ceisteanna (530)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

530. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the value of contracts for goods or services from companies (details supplied) since 2010. [20852/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The information requested is currently being compiled within the Department and will be made available to the Deputy as soon as possible.