Legislative Measures

Question No. 147 answered with Question No. 80.

Ceisteanna (146)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

146. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a plain language Bill will be introduced in order to ensure communication with the general public is in layman’s terms (details supplied). [41235/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

There are currently no plans to introduce plain language legislation.

However, plain English guidelines have been produced by the National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA), who receive substantial funding from my Department, via SOLAS. NALA work with a range of bodies both in the public and private sectors to ensure that there is a focus on the use of plain English in their publications, web and broadcast material. The plain English guidelines aim to ensure that information is presented in a way that helps someone understand it the first time they read or hear it.

Question No. 147 answered with Question No. 80.

Skills Development

Ceisteanna (148)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

148. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason the net target for the national skills strategy has not increased for 2025 based on population in view of the fact that the population has increased since 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41237/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The Expert Group on Future Skills Needs published a report in 2007, "Tomorrow's Skills, Towards a National Skills Strategy" which contained a target that the percentage of the labour force at levels 1 -3 on the National Framework of Qualifications should decrease to 7% by 2020.

This indicator was carried over into Ireland's National Skills Strategy 2025 which was published in January 2016. On inclusion in the strategy, the baseline figure was 15%, and the 7% target for 2020 was retained. The Strategy commits to reviewing this target in 2020, with a view to setting an appropriate revised target for 2025.

Literacy Levels

Ceisteanna (149)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

149. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the statistics are accurate on adult illiteracy; if so, the way in which childhood illiteracy will be addressed; the way in which childhood illiteracy is measured; the number of young children who were supported in this regard by county in each of the years 2011 to 2017; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41240/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The delivery and enhancement of adult literacy and numeracy provision is being driven through the implementation of the Further Education and Training (FET) Literacy and Numeracy Strategy which is contained in the FET Strategy 2014-19. My Department, along with SOLAS, the Education and Training Boards (ETBs) and partner agencies are collaborating on the ongoing development and enhancement of the structures required to progress its implementation. The strategy sets out 12 inter- related elements which aim to promote, develop and encourage literacy and numeracy skills in the adult population. Progress to date includes the development and launch of the national awareness campaign, ‘Take the First Step’, development of national guidelines for the initial and on-going screening and assessment of participants and the publication of a number of research projects including the examination of integrating literacy and numeracy in FET programmes and an examination of barriers to participation in FET programmes. This year SOLAS has commissioned NALA to progress the evidence base to inform best practice in relation to family learning. It is envisaged that Family Learning Best Practice Guidelines will be available in early 2019.

The SOLAS allocation to Education and Training Boards (ETBs) for 2018 for adult literacy and basic skills provision is over €35m. Funding for further education and training (FET) is allocated to SOLAS, who then allocate to the ETBs through a strategic planning process. There is some discretion for SOLAS and the ETBs in relation to how funding is allocated across all of the FET programmes, including adult literacy.

The ETB Adult Literacy Service provides programmes with accreditation at levels NQF levels 1-4. Provision for adult literacy is delivered through a number of programmes;

- Adult Literacy groups (small groups)

- Intensive Tuition in Adult Basic Education (ITABE)- English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL)

- Skills for Work - workplace literacy courses- Voluntary Literacy provision (one-to-one tuition)

- Family Learning Programmes- Distance learning service.

The adult literacy programme is informed by a set of operational guidelines that include guidance on initial assessment and engagement and the importance of more intensive provision to support literacy acquisition. Less intensive provision can be useful in welcoming and engaging new learners back into education but the guidelines recognise that more intensive approaches are required to enable progression.

I also recently launched a new policy framework for employee development, 'Supporting Working Lives and Enterprise Growth in Ireland', which was developed by SOLAS in consultation with key partners. This new approach will enable targeted support for vulnerable groups in the Irish workforce as it has a particular focus on employees those who have lower skills levels and who need more opportunities to advance in their working lives and careers, to sustain their employment and to avoid displacement or to avail of emerging job opportunities. The policy sets a target of having over 40,000 workers, whose skills level is below Level 5 on the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ), engaged in state supported skills development by 2021. It should be noted that while the NFQ is not a literacy scale but a qualifications framework, I am committed to addressing literacy issues amongst those whose highest level of qualification is below Level 5, including through achieving certification for their learning. This will supplement the numbers already being supported through our adult literacy programmes. Participation by employees in relevant courses will be provided free of charge.

In the National Skills Strategy 2025, targets are set to reduce the percentage of adults scoring at or below level 1 in the PIAAC survey from a baseline of 17.5% to 12% by 2025, and to increase the percentage of adults scoring at levels 2, 3 and 4 in the PIAAC survey from a baseline of 44% to 50% by 2025. The substantial investment already being made in adult literacy, supplemented by this new initiative to support those in employment, will also ensure that Ireland is well positioned to achieve these targets.

As regards childhood literacy, the Literacy and Numeracy Strategy, launched in 2011, set out a vision for raising standards in our early years, primary and post-primary school settings. The 2017 Interim Review of the Strategy shows the significant progress which has been made under the Strategy since 2011, notably in promoting a high level of literacy for all. For example, the National Assessments of English Reading and Maths (NAERM) shows that the percentage of students at second class performing at the highest levels (Level 3 or above) in reading increased from 35% in 2009 to 46% in 2014; and the percentage of students at second class performing at the lowest levels (Level 1 or below) in reading decreased from 35% in 2009 to 22% in 2014. Substantial progress has also been made at post primary-level with the percentage of 15 year olds performing at the higher levels in reading as measured by the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) increasing from 29% in 2009 to 37% in 2015; and the percentage of 15 year olds performing at the lowest levels (at or below Level 1) decreased from 17% in 2009 to 10% in 2015. The average score achieved by Ireland's fifteen year olds in the PISA literacy assessment was second only to Finland in the European Union.

The Interim Review Report also shows areas for improvement such as a gap in achievement between learners in DEIS schools (in particular DEIS Band 1 schools in primary) and those in other schools which must be addressed. Publication of the DEIS Plan 2017 is a significant step and its implementation will be the vehicle for driving progress in terms of improving educational outcomes including literacy for pupils at greatest risk of not achieving their full potential. The Literacy and Numeracy review sets out additional actions with new and updated targets to 2020. Achievement of targets will be measured through the National Assessments of English Reading and Mathematics (NAERM) and Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).

Measurement on a county by county basis is not available, but the targets set out in the following document show the focus on reducing the gap between achievement in reading in DEIS Band 1 schools and pupils in all primary schools, and between students in DEIS post primary schools and students in all post primary schools.

Standardised testing is carried out at 2nd 4th and 6th classes at primary level and are used to measure the level of child's achievement in English and Irish reading and maths. They compare children's score with other children in the same class or age level. The purpose of these tests are to gather information on the level of the child’s reading and maths to help the teachers plan each child's specific learning, and to inform the parent on how well their child is doing in school.

National Assessments of English reading (NAERM) – DEIS Band 1 Primary Schools

Target for 2020 set in the 2011 Strategy 

Current Position (NAERM 2014)

New Target to 2020

Second class

No corresponding target in 2011 Strategy

18%

25%

Reading: At or above Level 3

Sixth class

21%

27%

Second class

44%

40%

Reading: At or below Level 1

Sixth class

47%

40%

Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) – DEIS Post-Primary

Target for 2020 set in the 2011 Strategy 

Current Position (PISA 2015)

New Target to 2020

Reading Literacy: At or above Level 4

15 year olds

No corresponding target in 2011 Strategy

28%

33%

Reading Literacy:  At or above Level 5

(highest achievers)

15 year olds

7%

10%

Reading Literacy: At or below Level 1

15 year olds

16%

12%

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (150)

Martin Heydon

Ceist:

150. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans for the proposed extension of a school (details supplied); the status of the project; the timeline for completion of the works; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41253/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The project to which the Deputy refers has been devolved for delivery to the local Education and Training Board (ETB).

Under this arrangement, it will be a matter for the ETB to appoint a Design Team for the design and construction phases of the project. As the project has not yet commenced architectural planning, it is too early in the process for a timeline for completion of the works.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (151)

Martin Heydon

Ceist:

151. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the proposed extension to a school (details supplied); the status of proposed works; the timeline for the completion of the building project for the school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41255/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that a building project for the school in question is included in my Department's 6 Year Construction Programme. In the context of progressing the building project, officials from my Department have undertaken a site visit to the school.

The building project for this school will be devolved to Kildare Wicklow Education and Training Board (KWETB) for delivery and my Department is currently engaging with KWETB in this regard.

Ministerial Communications

Ceisteanna (152)

Alan Kelly

Ceist:

152. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Education and Skills if there is a policy regarding ministerial use of private email for Government business in his Department; and if so, if it will be published. [41521/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

My Department does not have a specific policy regarding Ministerial use of private email addresses to conduct Government business. However, as stated in parliamentary responses reference number 38550/18 and 39582/16, from late 2016 I have only used dedicated Department email addresses to communicate official Department business.

The Information Technology Unit of my Department regularly issue emails to Departmental staff reminding them that personally owned mobile devices and removable media devices are not permitted to connect to Departmental workstations and must not be used to store Departmental information.

Immigration Status

Ceisteanna (153)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

153. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of applications by persons (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40832/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I am advised by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department that the applicants referred to can expect a decision from the New Delhi Visa Office on their visa applications within the next two weeks. The applicants will be advised directly in that regard.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to the INIS of my Department by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from the INIS is, in the Deputy’s view, inadequate or too long awaited.

In addition, applicants may themselves e-mail queries directly to visamail@justice.ie.

Naturalisation Eligibility

Ceisteanna (154)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

154. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on a matter (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41088/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Deputy will be aware that the granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is governed by the provisions of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended. All applications for a certificate of naturalisation are processed and assessed individually in accordance with the provisions of the Act. A determination on whether an applicant satisfies the statutory criteria attendant to naturalisation can only be made after an application is received.

There is specific provision made in the Act in relation to persons resident in the Island of Ireland. Section 15A provides that, where the application is based on being the spouse or civil partner of an Irish citizen the requirements are, inter alia, that the couple are married or civil partners to each other for a period of at least 3 years and are living together and, immediately before the date of application, have a period of one year's continuous residence in the island of Ireland and, during the preceding four years, have a further period amounting to 2 years (i.e. 3 years in total).

It is also open to an applicant generally to apply under Section16(a) of the 1956 Act where the applicant is of Irish descent or associations. In such cases the Minister may in his absolute discretion waive (any) of the conditions for naturalisation set out under Section 15 of the Act, including residency. The onus is on the applicant to provide evidence of Irish descent or Irish association to the Minister for consideration.

Detailed information on Irish citizenship and naturalisation, along with the relevant application forms and guidance notes, is available on the INIS website at ww.inis.gov.ie.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to the INIS of my Department by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from the INIS is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Court Orders

Ceisteanna (155)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

155. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of drivers disqualified in court in each of the years 2016, 2017 and to date in 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40935/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy is aware, under the provisions of the Courts Service Act 1998, management of the courts is the responsibility of the Courts Service, which is independent in exercising its functions, and this includes the provision of information on the courts system.

However, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made and the Courts Service has provided the Report in the following table which sets out the number of drivers disqualified in court in each of the years 2016, 2017 and to date in 2018.

Year

No of Defendants Disqualified from Driving

Jan - Dec 2016

7,539

Jan - Dec 2017

9,131

Jan – 20 Sep 2018

6,499

Ministerial Meetings

Ceisteanna (156)

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

156. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will meet with a person (details supplied) in relation ongoing difficulties they have in achieving justice. [40609/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I can inform the Deputy that my Department wrote to the person in question on 6 June 2018 to provide them with an update in relation to their request for a meeting.

The Deputy will appreciate that I, as Minister, have no role in relation to the management of Garda investigations or, indeed, the prosecution or trial of alleged offences. This is a long-standing principle of our system of justice. The role of An Garda Síochána is to investigate alleged offences, to gather whatever evidence may be available and to submit a report to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). Any information in relation to possible criminal acts should be provided directly to An Garda Síochána for investigation. The question of whether or not a particular person should be prosecuted and for what criminal offence is the responsibility of the DPP, who is completely independent in carrying out her functions.

Similarly, the Courts, subject only to the Constitution and the law, are independent in the exercise of their judicial functions and the conduct of any court case is a matter entirely for the presiding judge. It is not open to me to comment or intervene in any way in relation to how particular proceedings are conducted or, indeed, on the outcome of such proceedings.

If someone is not satisfied with the manner in which their complaints have been handled by An Garda Síochána, then it is open to them to contact the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Office (GSOC). GSOC, as you are no doubt aware, is the independent body charged with receiving complaints from the public concerning members of An Garda Síochána.

Unfortunately, it is not open to me to intervene in this case in the manner the person in question is seeking. It is An Garda Síochána, specifically the Garda Commissioner and his management team, who are responsible for investigating all forms of alleged criminality in the State in the first instance and not the Minister for Justice and Equality. Accordingly, I cannot accede to this particular meeting request.

Notwithstanding the above, it is, of course, open to the person in question to seek independent legal advice in relation to their concerns, if they so wish.

Immigration Policy

Ceisteanna (157)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

157. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when a response will issue to the Luximon judgment; and when the system will be modified in order to take account of that judgment. [40626/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

Officials of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department are currently finalising a response to the Judgment referred to by the Deputy.

I expect to be announcing details of the response in the near future.

Visa Data

Ceisteanna (158)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

158. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality further to Parliamentary Question No. 451 of 26 July 2017, when a response from the INIS is likely to be forthcoming. [40627/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I am advised by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service of my Department that the information requested is held by An Garda Síochána and the reply is being compiled by them. I will write to the Deputy again as soon as the information is available.

Drugs Crime

Ceisteanna (159)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

159. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the measures being taken to address dealing and distribution of crack cocaine, particularly in areas of Dublin and County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40709/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I wish to inform the Deputy that I have requested a report from the Garda authorities in relation to the matter and I will revert to him when the report is to hand.

Drugs in Prisons

Ceisteanna (160)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

160. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will report on the use of crack cocaine among the prison population; the number of persons who have access to detox beds in the medical units of each prison in each of the years 2016, 2017 and to date in 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40710/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Irish Prison Service is committed to preventing, or reducing the flow of contraband into the prison estate, and has confirmed that the methods it uses to do so are under constant review.

I am advised by my officials in the Irish Prison Service that to date in 2018 there have been two documented instances of crack cocaine being found by Irish Prison Service staff.

It is the policy of the Irish Prison Service that where a person committed to prison gives a history of opiate use and tests positive for opioids, they are offered a medically assisted symptomatic detoxification, if clinically indicated. Prisoners can, as part of the assessment process, discuss with healthcare staff other treatment options, which may include stabilisation on methadone maintenance for persons who wish to continue on maintenance, while in prison and when they return to the community on release.

There are 27 beds in the Medical Unit, Mountjoy Prison, which are available to prisoners for slow detoxification and stabilisation. There are also 9 beds in this Medical Unit, which are available for a 9 week drug treatment programme. While there are strict criteria governing a patients admission to the drug treatment programme, the programme is open to prisoners for all locations in the prison estate.

The Irish Prison Service has advised that 80 prisoners participated in the drug treatment programme during 2016, 45 persons participated in 2017, and 45 persons have also participated in the programme to date in 2018.

Garda Investigations

Ceisteanna (161)

Jackie Cahill

Ceist:

161. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if the investigation into the deaths of persons (details supplied) will be reopened in order to investigate matters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40717/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Deputy will appreciate that the manner in which Garda investigations are carried out, including any decision made to reopen a particular case, is solely a matter for the Garda Commissioner and his management team and I, as Minister, have no role in such matters.

However, to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have made arrangements for his concerns to be brought to the attention of the Garda authorities for their attention and whatever action is deemed necessary.

Garda Deployment

Ceisteanna (162)

Alan Kelly

Ceist:

162. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the allocation of gardaí to Nenagh divisional district and the rank of each in 2016, 2017 and to date in 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40724/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

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

The information requested by the Deputy as provided by the Garda Commissioner from 2016 is available on my Department’s website through the following link.

Garda Nos. 2009-2018

For more general information on Garda Facts and Figures please see http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/An_Garda_Siochana_facts_and_figures.