Departmental Reports

Ceisteanna (101)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

101. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the process for the preparation of the report mandated under section 3A(6) of the Public Service Superannuation (Age of Retirement) Act 2018; and if a public consultation will be undertaken. [4504/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

Section 3(6) of the Public Service Superannuation (Age of Retirement) Act 2018 provides that I as Minister shall, within three months of the passing of the Act, prepare and lay before the Oireachtas a report on the public servants who were forced to retire between 6 December 2017 and the commencement of the Act, due to reaching the age of 65 years, and on potential remedies to assist this cohort of worker.

Work on the report has already commenced and the intention is that it will be laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas in accordance with the timelines provided for in the Act. The Act makes no provision for a public consultation process in relation to the report and there are no plans to undertake such a process.

Public Sector Pay

Ceisteanna (102)

Eamon Scanlon

Ceist:

102. Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the position regarding the 1% increase for public sector employees and in public service pensions which has not come in effect; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4519/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

I wish to advise the Deputy that in January 2018 my Department issued DPER Circular 02/2018 authorizing pension increases to qualifying public service pensions of certain public service pay increases, and giving guidance on the implementation of those pension increases. The pay increases involved are those covering the 2018 to 2020 period under the Public Service Stability Agreement (PSSA), as legislated for in the Public Service Pay and Pensions Act 2017. To date, those pay increases consist of: 1% of salary on 1 January 2018; 1% of salary on 1 October 2018; and, finally, 1% of salary on 1 January 2019, in respect of individuals in receipt of annual salaries of up to €30,000.

The principle of pay parity underlies the pension increases sanctioned in the Circular. This means that pay increases agreed as part of the PSSA are passed on to pension recipients to bring the salary on which their pension is based up to the current salary of those still serving after the pay increases are applied. It is important to note that not all pension recipients will be due these increases. This is because of protections in place (known as ‘grace periods’) for public servants retiring after the application of pay cuts under the FEMPI legislation, whereby their pensions were calculated using the higher pay rates that were in effect prior to the application of the pay cuts.

As current salary rates for serving staff are being progressively restored to the pre-FEMPI cut levels, it will mean that for increasing numbers of pension recipients, the salary on which their pension is based will be overtaken by the current salary rates for serving staff, with the result that these pensioners will qualify for pension increases.

It is a matter for the public service pension payroll managers in the various sectors of the public service to implement Circular 02/2018. I understand that work is underway to apply the pay increases I have mentioned to those qualifying pensions in payment that have not yet benefitted from such increases, and that this will include the calculation and payment of arrears as appropriate.

Departmental Staff Data

Ceisteanna (103)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

103. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of staff working in the procurement area for major State infrastructure projects in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4583/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform does not procure any public works projects. However, as Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform I have responsibility for public procurement policy.

With regards to construction procurement policy, all public works projects that are delivered under the Exchequer-funded element of the Government's capital plan must be procured in accordance with the provisions laid down in the Capital Works Management Framework (CWMF). The CWMF is mandated by circular and was developed to assist contracting authorities in meeting their ongoing procurement requirements. It provides an integrated set of contractual provisions, guidance material, technical templates and procedures which cover all aspects of the delivery process of a public works project from inception to final project delivery and review.

It is the relevant sanctioning and contracting authority that has responsibility for the management of the tendering process for a public works contract and the administration of the contract once it is awarded.

The CWMF is maintained by the Office of Government Procurement (OGP) in conjunction with the Government Contracts Committee for Construction (GCCC) which has representatives from all the major sanctioning authorities. The OGP provides the Chair and the secretariat to the GCCC.

There are currently 4.8 Full Time Equivalent staff directly engaged on this work in my Department.

Departmental Contracts Data

Ceisteanna (104)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

104. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the final agreed tender price and the date of the tender for the contract in respect of each capital expenditure project which cost €10 million or more since 2010, in tabular form; the final overall amount paid; the date of the final payment in respect of the completion of the project; the reason the final amount paid exceeded the final tender price; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4646/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

I wish to advise the Deputy that no capital expenditure projects costing €10 million or more have been entered into by my Department since its establishment in 2011.

Public Sector Staff Retirements

Ceisteanna (105)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

105. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if the increase in the compulsory retirement age from 65 to 70 years of age for all pre-2004 public servants and those working in public service bodies is binding across all of the public service with respect to the Public Service Superannuation (Age of Retirement) Bill 2018; the directions he has given to public service bodies in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4678/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

The Public Service Superannuation (Age of Retirement) Act 2018 came into effect on 26 December 2018. The Act provides for an increase in the compulsory retirement age to 70, for public servants recruited prior to 1 April 2004. Any public servant covered by the Act now has the choice to work to age 70 on existing terms and conditions, subject to the normal standards of health and performance.

Public servants covered by the legislation are termed "relevant public servants" and this term is defined in Section 2 of the Act. The definition includes most pre-2004 public servants, other than a member of the uniformed pension fast accrual group, which comprises Gardai, Prison Officers, Firefighters and members of the Permanent Defence Force who, for operational reasons are required to retire early.

All public service employers have been informed that any relevant public servant who had not already reached his/her compulsory retirement age before the 26 December 2018 now has a new compulsory retirement age of 70.

Now that the legislation has come into effect, no public servant, other than a member of the uniformed pension fast accrual group mentioned above has a compulsory retirement age of less than 70.

Schools Site Acquisitions

Ceisteanna (106)

Alan Farrell

Ceist:

106. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the delivery of a permanent school site for a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4469/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

As the Deputy is aware, with the assistance of officials in Fingal County Council, agreement in principle has been reached with the landowner in respect of the acquisition of a site at Broomfield, Malahide to accommodate the school to which he refers.

The schedule of accommodation and brief in respect of the building project has been finalised and the project will now be progressed into Architectural Planning. The urgency attached to this project is recognised by my Department and in that context it is intended that it will be delivered as part of my Department’s Design and Build Programme.

In the interim, work will continue to complete the transfer of the site into my Department's ownership.

Schools Site Acquisitions

Ceisteanna (107)

Alan Farrell

Ceist:

107. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the delivery of a permanent school site for a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4470/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

As the Deputy is aware, a project to provide permanent accommodation for the school in question is included on my Department's capital programme.

With the assistance of officials from Fingal County Council a suitable site at Drinan has been identified and planning permission has been granted for the construction of the new post primary school thereon. It is intended to deliver this school building project as part of my Department's "Rapid" Design and Build programme.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (108)

Alan Farrell

Ceist:

108. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the delivery of a new school building for a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4471/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

A building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is included in my Department’s 6 year Construction Programme for 2016-2021.

A project brief has been finalised and the project will be delivered via the ADAPT programme. The ADAPT programme uses a professional external Project Manager to coordinate and drive the respective design teams on each project.

In this regard, a tender competition is in train to establish a Project Manager framework which is expected to be in place by early March. The formulation of tender documentation is underway and once the framework has been established a tender exercise will be carried out to appoint a Project Manager for all projects under the ADAPT programme, including this particular project.

All schools with projects on the ADAPT programme will be contacted shortly by my Department to provide an update on the status of their respective project.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (109)

Alan Farrell

Ceist:

109. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the delivery of new permanent classrooms at a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4472/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

A building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is included in my Department’s 6 year Construction Programme for 2016-2021.

A project brief has been finalised and the project will be delivered via the ADAPT programme. The ADAPT programme uses a professional external Project Manager to coordinate and drive the respective design teams on each project.

In this regard, a tender competition is in train to establish a Project Manager framework which is expected to be in place by early March. The formulation of tender documentation is underway and once the framework has been established a tender exercise will be carried out to appoint a Project Manager for all projects under the ADAPT programme, including this particular project.

All schools with projects on the ADAPT programme will be contacted shortly by my Department to provide an update on the status of their respective project.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (110)

Alan Farrell

Ceist:

110. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the delivery of new permanent classrooms at a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4473/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

A number of issues have arisen with respect to the project referred to by the Deputy which, unfortunately, have delayed it significantly. However, Dublin & Dun Laoghaire ETB (DDLETB) is assisting the school authority with the appointment of a new design team for the project. This process is nearing completion.

The next stage of this project will be for the new Design Team to review the proposed plans and progress the project to tender and construction stage. It is not possible to say exactly when the project will proceed to construction at this time.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Ceisteanna (111)

Pat Buckley

Ceist:

111. Deputy Pat Buckley asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a SENO has the power to reduce the hours of an existing SNA; if so, the rationale for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4484/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible for allocating a quantum of Special Needs Assistant (SNA) support for each school annually taking into account the assessed care needs of children qualifying for SNA support enrolled in the school.

The NCSE allocates SNA support to schools in accordance with the criteria set out in Department Circular 0030/2014, which is available on my Department's website at www.education.ie, in order that students who have care needs can access SNA support as and when it is needed.

In considering applications for SNA support for individual pupils, the NCSE take account of the pupils' needs and consider the resources available to the school to identify whether additionality is needed or whether the school might reasonably be expected to meet the needs of the pupils from its current level of resources.

SNAs are not allocated to individual children but to schools as a school based resource.

In general, the NCSE do not provide a specific breakdown of how the allocation of SNA support should be utilised within a school, however, such a determination can be made when it is in the interests of students concerned and where there is a particular rationale.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Ceisteanna (112)

Pat Buckley

Ceist:

112. Deputy Pat Buckley asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the hours of an existing SNA can be reduced in cases in which new SNA allocations are awarded to a school which then operate at full hours; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4485/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible for allocating a quantum of Special Needs Assistant (SNA) support for each school annually taking into account the assessed care needs of children qualifying for SNA support enrolled in the school.

The NCSE allocates SNA support to schools in accordance with the criteria set out in Department Circular 0030/2014, which is available on my Department's website at www.education.ie, in order that students who have care needs can access SNA support as and when it is needed.

In considering applications for SNA support for individual pupils, the NCSE take account of the pupils' needs and consider the resources available to the school to identify whether additionality is needed or whether the school might reasonably be expected to meet the needs of the pupils from its current level of resources.

SNAs are not allocated to individual children but to schools as a school based resource.

In general, the NCSE do not provide a specific breakdown of how the allocation of SNA support should be utilised within a school, however, such a determination can be made when it is in the interests of students concerned and where there is a particular rationale.

School Accommodation

Ceisteanna (113, 116)

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

113. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a school (details supplied) will not have enough classrooms in September 2019; if preparations have been made for the provision of new prefabricated classrooms to be operational for September 2019 to cater for the new incoming junior infant class; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4489/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

116. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the need for forward planning for the accommodation needs of a school (details supplied) for September 2019 will be addressed. [4510/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 113 and 116 together.

Officials at my Department are aware of the accommodation requirements of the school to which the Deputy refers and work is ongoing to ensure that there will be sufficient suitable additional accommodation available to the school for September 2019.

School Patronage

Ceisteanna (114)

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

114. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the reconfiguration process for primary school patronage; the number of primary schools that have had their patronage changed to date; the number that will change in the next two years; and if the target of 400 by 2030 will be met. [4490/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The Schools Reconfiguration for Diversity process, was announced by the Government to provide more multi-denominational and non-denominational schools across the country, in line with the choices of families and school communities and the Programme for Government commitment for 400 multi-/non-denominational schools by 2030. This process, which involves the transfer of live schools as opposed to the amalgamation and closure model of the patronage divesting process, is aimed at significantly increasing patron diversity.

There are two Phases to the new process - the Identification Phase and the Implementation Phase.

The Identification Phase is currently underway in 16 initial areas nationwide, one per Education and Training Board (ETB) area. The Identification Phase involves ETBs identifying an area where there is likely to be unmet oncoming demand for a multi or non-denominational school, and surveying pre-school parents (in partnership with the local childcare committee) to assess the level of this oncoming demand. ETBs then meet with the local majority patron (the relevant Catholic Bishop/Archbishop) to outline the results of the survey and discuss options for a reconfiguration of existing schools to meet this oncoming demand. The response by the patron is included in a report prepared by the ETB, for submission to my Department, who will subsequently publish the reports. It is envisaged that the reports from the initial areas will be published in the first half of this year.

Following the publication of the first round of reports, the Schools Reconfiguration process will move into the Implementation Phase. It is envisaged that the Implementation Phase will be led by the existing majority patron (the relevant Catholic Bishop/Archbishop). Central to this phase is consultation with parents as part of the school community where voluntary reassignment of patronage of a school is envisaged. Draft protocols for the Implementation Phase are at an advanced stage of development and consultation with Catholic Church representatives is ongoing.

The “Early Movers” provision of the process allows for any school community to directly engage their current patron, outside of the main process, and to seek a transfer of patronage to a multi-denominational patron, fast-tracking the patronage reassignment. Already the first reconfiguration has successfully taken place, with Two-Mile Community National School in Kerry opening in September 2017 under the "Early Movers" provision of this new process. I encourage any school which is seeking a transfer of patronage under the “Early Movers” provision to contact their school patron directly.

Separately, following agreement with the Archdiocese of Dublin and Archdiocese of Armagh last year and on foot of requests from the local communities, two former Catholic schools in Faughart, Co. Louth and Brannoxtown, Co. Kildare continued to serve their local communities under new multi-denominational patronage as Community National Schools from September 2018.

During this initial rollout of the reconfiguration process, the precise number of schools that will transfer in a two-year timeframe is difficult to predict, given that any such number will be dependent on many factors, including the results of the parental consultation in each area.

While the Schools Reconfiguration process structures are being progressed, my Department is continuing to work with the main stakeholders to progress delivery of diversity in areas already identified as part of the 2012 and 2013 surveys under the patronage divesting process. In this regard, from 2013 to 2018, 11 multi-denominational schools have opened under the patronage divesting process and a twelfth school has been announced to be established under this process for September 2019. As the Deputy may be aware, the divestment model does not involve building new schools but requires the availability of school premises vacated, for example, due to amalgamation or closure.

There is no one model which will provide a universal answer to this complex issue and in the context of an expanding population and increasing demand for multi-denominational education. There is room for a number of different multi- and non-denominational patrons to respond to different parental wishes through the different process now in place, including the schools reconfiguration process and the process for establishing new schools in areas of demographic growth.

Schools Building Projects Status

Question No. 116 answered with Question No. 113.

Ceisteanna (115)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

115. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of a new permanent school building for a school (details supplied) in Dublin 9; the reason for the delay in the new building being completed; the target date for completion; if the school can remain in its temporary premises until the new building is completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4502/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The school building project to which the Deputy refers is at Tender stage. While the application for planning permission was complicated by a Request for Further Information by the Local Authority, the Depauty can be assured that, since planning permission was granted, the project has been progressed without delay.

Following a tender process, the Letter of Intent issued on the 21st January 2019. When the tender analysis is complete the Letter of Acceptance appointing the contractor will then issue. The Letter of Acceptance is expected to issue and construction to commence in Quarter 1, 2019.

It is intended that construction will take place in a manner to allow for a phased handover of sufficient accomodation to meet the schools needs on its permanent site for the start of the 2019/20 school year. My Department has kept the schools Patron Body fully informed of progress to date and will continue to do so.

Question No. 116 answered with Question No. 113.

School Transport Fees

Ceisteanna (117)

Eamon Scanlon

Ceist:

117. Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a partial grant payment will issue to a person (details supplied) for costs incurred due to a SEN service which did not operate for a time in 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4548/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

School transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department.

There are currently over 117,500 children, including over 13,000 children with special educational needs, transported in over 5,000 vehicles on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country covering over 100 million kilometres annually.

The child in question is eligible for school transport. School Transport Section will be in contact the family within the coming days in regard to arrangements for payment of the Special Transport Grant for the period when the transport service was not available.

Departmental Staff Data

Ceisteanna (118)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

118. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of staff working in the procurement area for major State infrastructure projects in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4576/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Procurement is an important element in the planning and delivery of infrastructure projects and therefore impacts on the work of most of the circa. 150+ staff working in my Department’s Planning and Building Unit.

A procurement team within the Unit has responsibility for providing guidance and advice in relation to procurement matters including the development and regular updating of procurement guidance documentation. The procurement team is lead by a Technical Manager and includes input from 4 other staff.

It is important to note that a significant element of my Department’s capital programme is delivered on a devolved basis through external agencies and bodies such as the National Development Finance Agency, Grangegorman Development Agency, Education and Training Boards, Higher Education Institutions and Schools. Procurement is one of the functions dealt with as part of these devolved arrangements.

Schools Building Projects Administration

Ceisteanna (119)

Jackie Cahill

Ceist:

119. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his officials will be directed to act on the case of a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4621/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The project referred to by the Deputy has been devolved for delivery to the National Development Finance Agency (NDFA).

I can inform the Deputy that the NDFA has started preparations for the appointment of a design team for the project. This appointment will be a key first step in the design and construction stages. While at this early stage it is not possible to provide a timeline for completion of the project, the NDFA will be engaging directly with the school authority to keep it informed of progress.

National Educational Psychological Service Data

Ceisteanna (120)

Michael Lowry

Ceist:

120. Deputy Michael Lowry asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of National Educational Psychological Service assessments allocated to schools annually in the north and south County Tipperary catchment areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4630/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I can inform the Deputy that my Department’s National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) provides educational psychological support to all primary and post-primary schools. This involves direct support in the event of a critical incident, access to national and regional support and development work to build school capacity to support students, access to a NEPS psychologist for responses to queries arising, and access to individual pupil casework via a NEPS psychologist or through the Scheme for the Commissioning of Psychological Assessments. (SCPA). By way of information Co. Tipperary is split between the NEPS South-West and Mid-Munster Regions and services to schools in North and South Tipperary are provided by staff operating from its offices in Clonmel and Limerick respectively.

In common with many other psychological services and best international practice, NEPS has adopted a consultative model of service. The focus is on empowering teachers to intervene effectively with pupils whose needs range from mild to severe and transient to enduring. Psychologists use a problem solving and solution focused consultative approach to maximize positive outcomes for these pupils. NEPS encourages schools to use a continuum based assessment and intervention process whereby each school takes responsibility for initial assessment, educational planning and remedial intervention for pupils with learning, emotional or behavioural difficulties. Teachers may consult their NEPS psychologist should they need to at this stage in the process. Only in the event of a failure to make reasonable progress, in spite of the school's best efforts in consultation with NEPS, will the psychologist become involved with an individual child for intensive intervention or assessment.

This system allows psychologists to give early attention to urgent cases and also to help many more children indirectly than could be seen individually. It also ensures that children are not referred unnecessarily for psychological intervention. In this regard therefore NEPS psychologists engage with their allocated schools, and directly with students therein, based on the needs as presented rather than on a particular annual quantum of assessments.

I would advise that if there are concerns in relation to the educational or social and emotional development of any student these should be raised by the parents, in the first instance, with the Principal of the school he/she is attending, with a view to Principal discussing the situation with the assigned NEPS psychologist or local NEPS service.

Schools Property

Ceisteanna (121)

Kathleen Funchion

Ceist:

121. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills the detail of the ownership of a school (details supplied). [4641/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The property referred to by the Deputy is not in my ownership.

When State monies are provided to facilitate building works to school property owned by a third party, a legal mechanism is put in place in order to protect the State's interest. This is known as a Charging Lease or Declaration of Trust. These leases protect the Minister's capital investment in the school property and require that the property be used as a school for a set period.

I can confirm that neither a charging lease or Declaration of Trust is in place, on the property referred to by the Deputy which means that I do not have a vested interest in the property.

School Accommodation

Ceisteanna (122)

Kathleen Funchion

Ceist:

122. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a proposal under consideration from a school (details supplied) includes an ASD unit. [4642/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The school to which the Deputy refers was allocated devolved funding under my Department's Additional Accommodation Scheme 2015 to build a 1 classroom SEN Base and 2 mainstream classrooms and a WC for assisted users.

Departmental Contracts Data

Ceisteanna (123)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

123. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the final agreed tender price and the date of the tender for the contract in respect of each capital expenditure project which cost €10 million or more since 2010, in tabular form; the final overall amount paid; the date of the final payment in respect of the completion of the project; the reason the final amount paid exceeded the final tender price; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4647/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The information requested by the Deputy is not readily available in my Department. It is currently being compiled and will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

Prison Visiting Regulations

Ceisteanna (124)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

124. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the protocols, guidelines and facilities available to enable male prisoners in Mountjoy Prison have access to their children in view of the importance for children to see parents who are in custody. [52428/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I am informed by my officials in the Irish Prison Service that the Service is committed to prisoners maintaining the relationships they have with their children.

The Irish Prison Service established a Families and Imprisonment Group in 2014, which is chaired by a prison Governor and includes representatives from Tusla, The Childhood Development Initiative, the Probation Service, the Prison Officers Association and representatives from various prisons. The group is tasked in particular with addressing the needs of children and families as highlighted in the report published by the Irish Penal Reform Trust entitled ‘Picking up the Pieces: The rights and needs of children and families affected by imprisonment.

An important element of addressing these needs is the provision of family friendly visits, and refurbishment of visit spaces. Significant work has been undertaken across the prison estate in this regard including the upgrading of visiting facilities in Mountjoy Prison.

The visits facilities in Mountjoy were upgraded in 2017, these upgrades included a suite of enhanced visiting rooms in Mountjoy Progression Unit catering for 150 prisoners, this facility promotes a family friendly atmosphere in a low security setting. In the main prison we provide three visiting rooms and two small screen visiting boxes, one of the visiting rooms provides round table visits for enhanced prisoners. There is also one screened visiting area in the New Medical Unit ( the Drug Treatment Unit)

I with to further advise the Deputy that a Prison Visitor Centre, run by the St Vincent de Paul (Prison Visitors Centre Committee) has been in operation in Mountjoy for over 15 years. This Centre provides a hospitable, safe, caring and supportive environment for children and families of prisoners, many of whom are in a vulnerable state prior to and after a prison visit. The facility provides childcare services, play areas and support for families dealing with imprisonment. It is open Monday to Saturday, excluding Tuesdays, 9:30am – 12:45pm and 1:45pm-4:30pm.

The Visitor Centre in Mountjoy offers a child-centred and supportive environment for guardians and children visiting an imprisoned parent. Mountjoy also has designated areas to facilitate family visits which include a family-friendly space, round tables/family seating and access to play materials. In addition temporary release for access/visits to children for family occasions is regularly approved in most prisons.

The Irish Prison Service also provides family-friendly training to ‘front of house’ staff, which aims to improve staff awareness of the effects of imprisonment on families and allows staff to appropriately support families and children visiting prisons.

Garda Stations

Ceisteanna (125)

Tony McLoughlin

Ceist:

125. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the reason for the delay in commencing construction of the Sligo regional Garda station for County Sligo; when construction will commence on site; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4465/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Deputy will appreciate that the programme of replacement and refurbishment of Garda accommodation is progressed by the Garda authorities working in close cooperation with the Office of Public Works (OPW), which has responsibility for the provision and maintenance of Garda accommodation.

The Garda Building and Refurbishment Programme 2016-2021 is an ambitious 5-year Programme based on agreed Garda priorities, which continues to benefit over 30 locations around the country, underpinned by over €60 million Exchequer funding as well as a major Public Private Partnership (PPP). There has been some good progress on the programme in 2018, as well as in other major projects in relation to the Garda estate, including in particular completion and entry into operational use of 3 new Divisional and Regional Headquarters at Wexford, Galway and Kevin Street (Dublin), which collectively required funding of over €100 million. The clear goal of this investment is to address deficiencies in the Garda estate and provide fit-for-purpose facilities for Garda members and staff as well as the public interacting with them.

The Public Private Partnership arrangement included in the Programme is intended to deliver new stations at Sligo, Clonmel and Macroom as well as a new custody suite at the Garda Station at Anglesea Street Cork.

Site acquisition for this PPP bundle has been complex and time-consuming.

I am informed by the OPW and the Garda authorities that the OPW acquired sites for the development of the new station in Macroom in 2015 and that the site for the new station in Sligo was acquired in 2018. The site in Clonmel is a portion of the former Kickham Barracks and has at all material times been in state ownership. Having previously been transferred from the Department of Defence to Tipperary County Council, I am informed by the OPW that all difficulties in relation to completion of transfer of the site from Tipperary County Council to the OPW have been resolved and that the final transfer is being finalised this week. On completion, ownership of all three sites will be vested in the OPW.

The development of PPP projects is progressed under the auspices of the National Development Finance Agency (NDFA).

Work is ongoing within my Department and An Garda Síochána on the next stage of this important project and my Department and An Garda Síochána are actively engaging with the NDFA with a view to progressing the matter further. My Department is also engaging with the NDFA in relation to delivery via PPP of a Courts Service project at a site in Hammond Lane, Dublin 7.

It is not possible to provide a timeframe for the completion of these projects at this point, however I can assure the Deputy that delivery of the new stations at Sligo, Clonmel and Macroom through this PPP arrangement is being pursued as a priority.