Student Grant Scheme

Ceisteanna (104)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

104. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Education and Skills the supports and schemes available to financially assist working persons that wish to change career and move into teaching (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3539/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The main support available to students is the statutory based Student Grant Scheme where students are studying for the first time or are progressing to study at a higher level e.g. progressing to postgraduate study. To qualify for grant support, a student has to meet various criteria such as means, residency, nationality and progression. In 2017 SUSI provided some €370m in student supports that benefitted more than 78,000 students.  Additional funding of €4 million was secured in Budget 2017 and a further €3m in Budget 2018 to facilitate the reinstatement of full maintenance grants, from September 2017, for the most disadvantaged postgraduate students.

The National Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education published in 2015 has as its overall vision the goal of ensuring that the student body entering, participating in and completing higher education at all levels reflects the diversity and social mix of Ireland’s population. One of its specific objectives is to increase access by students from target groups to initial teacher education (ITE).

Arising from this, in September 2016, my predecessor, Mr. Richard Bruton, T.D. announced that an allocation of €2.7m was being made available, over a three year timeframe, for ITE access initiatives under strand 1 of the PATH Fund. The objective of PATH 1 is to increase access to initial teacher education for students from the target groups identified in the National Access Plan, namely Students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds, Mature students,  Students with disabilities, Travellers, Part time/flexible learners and Further Education award holders.

The Deputy will be aware that in November 2018, I published the Action Plan for Teacher Supply. One of the actions is for the Higher Education Authority to engage with higher education institutions to develop proposals for flexible options which will facilitate access to, and participation in, Professional Master of Education (PME) programmes in targeted subject areas, including for persons who wish to change careers. It is intended that this action will be progressed over the coming months.

Also under the Action Plan, the Department is exploring the provision of additional supports for postgraduate ITE students. Following from this, an additional €1 million was added to the Student Assistance Fund (SAF) for the current academic year 2018/19 for students attending PME programmes. The SAF provides financial assistance to students experiencing financial difficulties while attending third level. Students can be assisted towards rent, childcare costs, transport costs and books/class materials. The total SAF allocation for 2018/2019 is now €10.1 million.  In accordance with the Action Plan, the Department will continue to consider the provision of additional supports for postgraduate ITE students.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (105)

Joe Carey

Ceist:

105. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position in relation to a school building project (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3556/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

This project is being devolved for delivery to Limerick and Clare ETB (LCETB). A Service Level Agreement (SLA) is currently being prepared by the Department to be issued to LCETB. 

Once the SLA is finalised, the ETB can proceed with the appointment of a Design Team who will then commence the architectural design and planning process.

Social Welfare Payments Administration

Ceisteanna (106)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

106. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 248 of 18 December 2018, when a person (details supplied) will be contacted as promised in relation to their pension entitlements; the reason for the delay in contacting them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3558/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I can confirm that the issue to which the Deputy refers is being addressed by the Pension Unit of my Department and an official from that Unit has contacted the person in question.

Higher Education Schemes

Ceisteanna (107)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

107. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of higher education access route places offered in universities and colleges here each year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3565/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Each Higher Education Institution (HEI) is responsible for determining its own admissions policy and entry criteria to its academic programmes. This also extends to the number of access route places.

The Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) and the Disability Access Route to Education (DARE) offers places at reduced points to school leavers from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds and students with disabilities. Admissions under the HEAR and DARE scheme are regulated by the institutions themselves. Each institution determines its own admissions policy in relation to the schemes, the number of places they reserve and the allocation of those places. The HEAR/DARE scheme is administrated by the CAO on behalf of the higher education institutions that participate in the scheme. The number of places vary year to year and are offered on a course-by-course and HEI-by-HEI basis.

In 2017 the total eligible HEAR applicants were 4287 of which 3043 accepted an offer and the total eligible DARE applicants were 3542 of which 2423 accepted an offer. 

Currently, there are 23 HEIs participating on the HEAR scheme and 24 HEIs participating on the DARE scheme. In addition to the HEAR and DARE schemes, many higher education institutions also operate their own access routes including places available for access students.  

Arising from the implementation of the National Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education 2015-19, my Department has made available increased funding for equity of access both through core institutional budgets and also through targeted funding, including in particular the newly established Programme for Access to Higher Education (PATH) Fund.

Through the PATH fund an investment of €16.2 million will be made over a three-year period to support greater levels of access and participation across higher education. Different measures through PATH will increase access to initial teacher education for 120 students from the target groups identified in the National Access Plan; award up to 200 Bursaries each year in a three year period to enable students to participate fully through their studies, and regional and community partnership initiatives for increasing access to higher education for 2,000 additional students from the target groups through means of pre-college entry activities.

Ministerial Meetings

Ceisteanna (108)

Lisa Chambers

Ceist:

108. Deputy Lisa Chambers asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of meetings he has attended since the beginning of September 2018 with his officials to discuss and prepare for Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3595/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Since my appointment in October as Minister for Education and Skills, I have weekly meetings with the Secretary General, at which Brexit has been discussed.  It also featured on a regular basis at fortnightly Ministerial-Management Board meetings.

In addition, I have had four specific meetings with those officials dealing with my Department's Brexit preparations on a daily basis.

Local Area Plans

Ceisteanna (109)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

109. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his Department continues to hold a reservation (details supplied) in the Trim Development Plan 2014-2020; and his plans to continue with this request in the next Trim development plan when it comes up for revision in 2019. [3615/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

My Department will be considering education requirements in the area in consultation with Meath County Council as part of the statutory planning process when the next Trim Development Plan is being prepared. It would be premature for my Department to comment further at this stage.

Third Level Fees

Ceisteanna (110)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

110. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to review fifth year pharmacy college fees (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3634/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

In Ireland, the Pharmacy Act 2007 conferred responsibility on the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland (PSI), the pharmacy regulator, with respect to pharmacy education and training. The PSI is an independent statutory body and is responsible for defining and ensuring the standards of education and training for pharmacists qualifying in Ireland. This includes developing standards, policies and carrying out accreditation of pharmacy degree programmes.

In August 2014, the Minister for Health approved changes to the education and training of pharmacists. This change in Pharmacy education has come about because the regulatory body, the PSI, now requires graduates to have completed a Masters degree before entering the PSI Register and practising as a Pharmacist. The new programme was intended to keep pace with changing healthcare needs in Ireland and offer an improved student experience through its evidence-based and experiental-based learning approach.

For those students that commenced their pharmacy course from September 2015, the structure of the pharmacist qualification changed from a four-year Bachelor degree programme followed by a one-year Internship Programme (which resulted in the award of a Level 9 degree) to a five-year fully integrated pharmacy degree programme.

This programme structure supports the dispersal of placements throughout the five years (rather than focussed on the final year) and culminates in the award of a Masters in Pharmacy (M. Pharm) following successful completion of the fifth year.

State funding under the Free Fees initiative is available for undergraduate awards only.  In practice, this means that the first four years of the pharmacy programme are funded for those students who satisfy the Free Fees criteria.  A full tuition fee is then payable by all students for the final year of the programme, as this is a postgraduate Level 9 award.

SUSI grant support is available for those students who meet the qualifying criteria such as means, residency, nationality and progression. Different supports are available to undergraduate and postgraduate students. Qualifying students attending integrated/intercalated courses will be initially assessed in respect of the undergraduate portion of the course. A separate application will be required in respect of the portion of the course deemed to be the postgraduate element.

Any students in third-level institutions experiencing exceptional financial need can apply for support under the Student Assistance Fund. This Fund assists students, in a sensitive and compassionate manner, who might otherwise be unable to continue their third level studies due to their financial circumstances. Details of this fund are available from the Access Office in the third level institution attended.

In addition, tax relief is available on postgraduate tuition fees paid. Details in relation to this relief are available from the Revenue Commissioners.

Ministerial Meetings

Ceisteanna (111)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

111. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he has met the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs regarding a recent report from An Garda Síochána (details supplied); and if not, his plans to meet the Minister in the coming days. [3491/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I might clarify at the outset that the issues highlighted in the recent Garda report on the management of youth crime are best addressed to the Department of Justice and Equality, where I have responsibility for Youth Justice, as Minister of State.  The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs has responsibility in relation to the Oberstown Children Detention Campus and Detention Policy, which do not feature in the report referred to.  In this regard, I have not met with or plan to meet with the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs.

As the Deputy is aware, the examination by the Policing Authority of Garda handling of Youth Crime has highlighted some issues of concern. It is completely unacceptable that crimes were not properly pursued in many cases.  This situation must be thoroughly addressed; not only for the victims and the proper administration of justice, but also for the future welfare of children who may go on to commit further crimes.

The Garda authorities have taken a number of technical and organisational steps to prevent recurrence of the failures identified. While there have been significant improvements, there is more to be done to achieve a comprehensive solution. The Commissioner has also established a National Bureau for Child Diversion to improve future management of this whole area.

The Policing Authority, which was established to provide independent oversight of policing, has indicated that it will follow through with further detailed examination of this matter and the actions being taken by the Commissioner.  I will also continue to monitor the situation closely.

The issues in question relate to youth crime cases deemed unsuitable for the Garda Diversion Programme. Therefore, it is important to recognise that there are no negative implications for the effectiveness of the Diversion Programme itself, which has been in operated successfully for many years, helping young offenders turn away from crime.

Youth Justice Strategy

Ceisteanna (112)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

112. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when the policy on juvenile offenders and youth justice was last reviewed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3492/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I can assure the Deputy that policy in this area is kept under ongoing review.

The Children Act 2001 (as amended) provides the legislative framework for the Youth Justice system, and is underpinned by key principles which include using detention as a last resort and diverting children away from involvement in criminal activity.

A National Youth Justice Strategy, 2008-2010, was followed by the current Youth Justice Action Plan, 2014-2018. The YJAP set out on a range of key actions to help reduce the number of young offenders in detention and steer young people away from criminal or anti-social activity, in line with the principles contained in the Children Act. The YJAP was coordinated by the Irish Youth Justice Service, supported by my Department, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, Oberstown Children Detention Campus, An Garda Síochána, the Probation Service, the Irish Prison Service, Tusla and community stakeholders.

I can inform the Deputy that I will be convening an expert Steering Group next month to help guide the development of the new Youth Justice Strategy, including a review of the provisions of the Children Act. My intention is that the new strategy will be developed following consultation with relevant stakeholders over the course of this year, taking into account the outcomes from the current Action Plan and any relevant learning from the review of Youth Referrals, and published in 2020.

Garda Deployment

Ceisteanna (113)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

113. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of gardaí that were in the Cabra-Glasnevin district in 2018; if his attention has been drawn to plans to increase this number in 2019; his views on whether there has been an increased amount of crime in the area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3453/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

Since the reopening of the Garda College in September 2014, just under 2,400 Garda recruits have been assigned to mainstream duties nationwide, including 800 trainees who passed out from the college during 2018. 

As the Deputy is aware, the manner in which the resources of the Garda Síochána are deployed is solely a matter for the Garda Commissioner and his management team and I, as Minister, have no direct role in this regard.

Garda management keeps this distribution of resources under continual review in the context of crime trends and policing priorities so as to ensure that the optimum use is made of these resources. I can assure the Deputy that local Garda management in the areas referred to remains resolute in its determination to act against all forms of criminal activity and will work with these communities to prevent and detect crime.

The Government has increased the budget for An Garda Síochána to €1.76 billion for 2019, which includes provision for the recruitment of up to 800 Gardaí this year.  The Commissioner has now informed me that he plans to recruit a total of 600 trainee Gardaí in 2019 and, in addition, it is his intention to recruit a net 600 Garda Civilian Staff.  This Garda Staff recruitment will allow the Commissioner to redeploy a further 500 fully trained Gardaí from administrative duties to frontline policing in 2019.  I believe that the injection of this large number of experienced officers into the field, along with the new recruits, will be really beneficial in terms of protecting communities. This and on-going recruitment will clearly provide the Commissioner with the resources needed to deploy increasing numbers of Gardaí to deliver a visible effective and responsive policing service to communities across all Garda Divisions including the D.M.R. West Division.

The Garda Commissioner has confirmed that the Government’s commitment to increase the overall strength of An Garda Síochána to 15,000 Garda members will be achieved by the target date of 2021. The Government fully supports the Commissioner’s management decision which will ensure that increasing numbers of Gardaí are available for frontline duties in the prevention and detection of criminal activity in all our communities including the areas referred to by the Deputy.

The Garda strength of the D.M.R. West Division as of 31 December 2018 as provided by the Garda Commissioner is available on my Department’s website through the following link: 

 http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/002_Garda_Numbers_by_Division_District_and%20Station_2009_to_30_December_2018.xlsx/Files/002_Garda_Numbers_by_Division_District_and%20Station_2009_to_30_December_2018.xlsx.