Invalidity Pension Applications

Ceisteanna (275)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

275. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the progress to date in the determination of an application for an invalidity pension in the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14373/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Invalidity pension (IP) is a payment for people who are permanently incapable of work because of illness or incapacity and who satisfy the pay related social insurance (PRSI) contribution conditions.

The department received a claim for IP for the gentleman concerned on 28 February 2019. On 21 March, he was sent forms which he must complete so that it can be determined whether or not he satisfies the medical qualifying condition. On receipt of the completed forms the claim will be processed as quickly as possible and he will be notified directly of the outcome.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Domiciliary Care Allowance Applications

Ceisteanna (276)

John McGuinness

Ceist:

276. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if a domiciliary care allowance will be approved in the case of a person (details supplied). [14381/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

An application for domiciliary care allowance ( DCA) was received from this lady on the 20th February 2019. Applications received mid January 2019 are currently being finalised. The application will be considered by a deciding officer and the decision notified to her as soon as possible.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

State Pensions Payments

Ceisteanna (277)

Mary Butler

Ceist:

277. Deputy Mary Butler asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of a claim for updated or increased State pension for a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14419/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Since late September 2018, my Department has been examining the social insurance records of approximately 90,000 pensioners, born on or after 1 September 1946, who have a reduced rate State pension contributory entitlement based on post Budget 2012 rate-bands. These payments are being reviewed under a new Total Contributions Approach (TCA) to pension calculation which includes provision for homecaring periods.

My Department has written to pensioners in Quarter 4 2018 to explain the review process to them. That letter also informed pensioners that wherever possible the Department would use information already held to complete their review and where additional information was required, it would be requested in writing.

The person concerned has been reviewed using information already held by the Department. A review outcome has issued to the person concerned, outlining details of their increase in payment. Arrears of payment backdated 30 March 2018 will issue shortly.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Community Employment Schemes Funding

Ceisteanna (278)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

278. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if an organisation (details supplied) in County Kerry will receive assistance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14421/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Work Schemes such as Community Employment (CE) are labour market programmes that enable long-term unemployed to progress into employment and/or further education and training. Participation limits on these schemes are necessary to allow for the maximum utilisation of places amongst qualifying persons. It is important to note that participation is intended to be for a temporary fixed term and the positions offered are not full-time sustainable jobs. Instead, the placements are designed to break the cycle of unemployment and maintain work readiness, thereby improving a person’s opportunities of returning to the open labour market.

The Department strongly supports the work being done through these schemes and the vital roles they are playing in local communities. In this regard if any scheme is experiencing particular recruitment difficulties, they should contact their local Department Intreo Centre for assistance.

State Pensions

Ceisteanna (279)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

279. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the level of weekly income a person of pension age can receive from part-time employment without affecting his or her rate of contributory or non-contributory pension. [14456/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The rate of state pension (contributory) awarded to an individual is based solely on their social insurance record. There is no means / income test for that pension, and therefore pensioners have no limit on earnings that will effect their SPC rate of payment.

The State Pension (non-contributory) (SPNC) is a means tested payment. Wages from employment of up to €200 per week are disregarded from the means test for this pension. Those with means of less than €30 per week may qualify for the maximum rate. Effectively this means that pensioners qualifying for the non-contributory pension may, depending upon their circumstances, earn up to €230 per week from employment without it affecting the rate of their pension.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Supplementary Welfare Allowance Payments

Ceisteanna (280)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

280. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of an application for a SWA by a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14459/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The issue has arisen as a result of the manner in which earnings from employment were assessed in this case. In the SWA assessment, earnings are calculated on an yearly average and so the means were as stated. In view of the working arrangement that the person concerned has entered into with her employer and the reduction in the hours worked, as outlined by the Deputy, I would advise that she should re-engage with her CWO and have her means reassessed.

I trust that this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Disability Allowance Applications

Ceisteanna (281)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

281. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of an application for a disability allowance by a person (details supplied); if same will be expedited; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14462/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

I can confirm that my department received an application for disability allowance (DA) from this gentleman on 21 January 2019.

On 25 March 2019 the person concerned was requested to supply supporting documentation required by the deciding officer in order to make a decision on his eligibility. On receipt of this information a decision will be made on his DA application and the person concerned will be notified of the outcome.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

EU Directives

Ceisteanna (282)

Eamon Scanlon

Ceist:

282. Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection further to Parliamentary Question No. 630 of 12 March 2019, if an EU directive has been issued regarding the European Court of Justice ruling in favour of persons (details supplied) in Spain that found travel time in respect of mobile workers to be actual working time; if a directive has been issued to member states, when it will be transposed into legislation here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14473/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

I am aware of the judgement of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in Case 266/14 generally referred to as the 'Tyco case'. The decision made in the Tyco case was based on a set of facts relating to the particular circumstances of mobile workers in the context of a pre-existing arrangement in respect of those journeys.

The Tyco case was referred to the CJEU in relation to the interpretation of the EU Directive 2003/88/EC concerning certain aspects of the organisation of working time. In the Tyco case, the CJEU found that, where workers do not have a fixed or habitual place of work, the time spent by those workers travelling each day between their homes and the premises of the first and last customers designated by their employer constitutes ‘working time’, within the meaning of the Directive.

It is a significant feature of the case that the employer, Tyco, had regarded as working time the journeys of the workers, at the beginning and end of each day to and from customers, before the abolition of its regional offices. The CJEU found that the fact that this time was regarded as working time under Directive 2003/88/EC was important. The CJEU noted that the nature of those journeys had not changed since the abolition of the regional offices and it was only the departure point of the journeys that had changed. It is these distinct facts pertaining to the circumstances of these workers that informed the decision of the CJEU in this case.

It should be noted that the Directive 2003/88/EC does not apply to the remuneration of workers. Employers are free to determine the remuneration for time spent travelling between home and customers, a point made by the CJEU in the Tyco case. There has been no new Directive issued from the European Commission arising from the Tyco decision.

The primary purpose of Directive 2003/88/EC is to set down minimum safety and health requirements for the organisation of working time. It is given effect in Irish law by the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 (as amended).

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Nitrates Action Programme Review

Ceisteanna (283)

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

283. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans to amend the regulations regarding slurry spreading to introduce greater flexibility as to when this practice is permitted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14300/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The European Union (Good Agricultural Practice for Protection of Waters) Regulations 2017, as amended, give legal effect in Ireland to the Nitrates Directive and to our Nitrates Action Programme (NAP). The Nitrates Directive requires all member states to define set periods when the land application of fertiliser, including slurry, is not allowed and in Ireland the closed season commences on 15 October and closes on January 12 / 15th / 31st (depending on which part of the country a farm is located).

The closed periods in Ireland were decided following extensive consultation and were discussed with farming bodies and the European Commission when Ireland’s Nitrates Action Programme was introduced. The provisions of the Regulations are underpinned by scientific research and good agricultural practice. The most recent scientific studies carried out on a diverse range of farm and soil types as part of Teagasc’s ongoing Agricultural Catchments Programme have provided further evidence in support of the efficacy of the prohibited spreading periods in reducing nutrient losses to waters.

While acknowledging the extreme weather conditions experienced throughout the country over the past year, including the sustained period of drought conditions last summer, I do not have any plans to make changes to the slurry spreading deadline. However, I will continue to keep this matter under review in consultation with the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Register of Electors Administration

Ceisteanna (284)

John McGuinness

Ceist:

284. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the review process he is undertaking relative to the way in which the Register of Electors is compiled and updated. [14316/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

In March 2017 the Government determined that work should commence on modernisation of the voter registration process. In addition to meeting the objective to modernise the registration process generally, the Government was also cognisant of the possible need to register voters resident outside the State in the event that a referendum on extending the franchise in Presidential elections is passed.

The modernisation project will include consideration of wider policy and legislative changes. There will be an initial focus on a series of proposals including those made by the Joint Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht in its report on the consultation it carried out on the proposed Electoral Commission in 2016. The proposals currently under consideration include an optional online registration process in parallel with the existing paper based system; the creation of a unique identifier for individuals; proportionate and measures to improve the accuracy, completeness and timeliness of changes to the register information, e.g. in respect of those that are deceased.

Conscious of the importance of the register and its role in our democracy and the need to ensure security and integrity are key priorities for any changes being considered, significant consultation has been underway to engage all stakeholders, including registration authorities, the political system at all levels and the public.

An initial technical consultation with franchise teams in local authorities was completed in September 2018 and the constructive inputs received informed the further development of proposals and consultation documents which informed the launch of a public consultation process on 17 December 2018 which offered an opportunity to all relevant stakeholders and the public to contribute. Following the closing date of 15 March 2019 for the public consultation process, some 180 submissions were received in my Department from a range of individuals, public representatives, local authorities, political parties and community and voluntary and business organisations.

Details of the consultation are available on my Department's website at the following link: www.housing.gov.ie/public-consultation-proposals-modernise-electoral-registration-process.

Following this consultation phase a report will be drafted, regarding the modernisation proposals and the feedback and responses from the consultation, with a view to progressing the next steps for implementing changes.

Social and Affordable Housing Funding

Ceisteanna (285)

Kevin O'Keeffe

Ceist:

285. Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if a request for funding to develop affordable housing has been received from Cork County Council. [14326/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

In order to support the affordable housing programmes of local authorities, the Government has committed €310 million, over the three years 2019 to 2021, under the Serviced Sites Fund (SSF) announced as part of Budget 2019. The funding is available for key facilitating infrastructure, on public lands, to support the provision of affordable homes to purchase or rent. It is envisaged a maximum amount of SSF funding of €50,000 per affordable home and on this basis, at least 6,200 affordable homes could be facilitated.

The issue of affordable housing is not a requirement throughout the whole country. As such, in order to target funding interventions, in November 2018 local authorities were invited to undertake a financial/economic assessment of each of its sites (not allocated to social housing only) to assess whether provision of affordable homes is economically viable. Local authorities were also asked to assess the broader housing affordability within their area. Following a workshop in December 2018, 19 local authorities returned economic assessments. This included Cork County Council, who carried out such assessments in areas where affordability issues exist on five sites.

In December 2018, approval in principle issued for ten infrastructure projects across five local authority areas, in Dublin and Cork City and County. This first tranche of funding of €43 million will enable delivery of 1,400 affordable homes on local authority lands, including one project in Glanmire in Cork County which will enable delivery of 20 affordable homes. We expect infrastructure works on these projects to begin as soon as possible in 2019 and delivery of affordable homes from 2020 onwards. There are five further projects under active consideration, with the potential to facilitate the delivery of an additional 230 affordable homes.

The economic assessments returned in December 2018 will also form the basis of the 2nd call under the Serviced Sites Fund which it is anticipated will be issued to local authorities next month.

Public Private Partnerships Cost

Ceisteanna (286)

Eoin Ó Broin

Ceist:

286. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the full cost of the first tranche of PPP social housing units the contract for which was signed with Comhairle in March 2019; the full cost of the contract over the lifetime of the PPP; the cost of the monthly availability agreement paid to Comhairle; the cost per unit of accommodation provided; and the way in which these costs compare to the public sector benchmarking exercise carried out by DCC, the NDF and his Department in advance of the tendering process. [14335/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Social Housing PPP Programme involves an investment with a capital value of €300 million. It is to deliver 1,500 social housing units in total, via three bundles. The first bundle, which comprises six PPP sites, will provide 534 units in the Greater Dublin Area. Two of the sites are located in the Dublin City Council area with one each in the County Council areas of South Dublin, Kildare, Wicklow and Louth.

The Social Housing PPP Programme is being delivered through the ‘availability’-based PPP model. Under this type of contract, the PPP project company, as the private partner, designs, builds, finances and maintains public buildings on sites provided by the State, in this case through the local authority. Payment is made by the State only once construction of the buildings is complete and the units are ready to house tenants. The payment comprises a monthly ‘availability’ and performance-based payment (or unitary charge) made over the term of the 25-year contract.

Land provided by the local authority is made available by way of a licence. Ownership of State land is not transferred to the private partner PPP company. Tenants allocated to PPP units will be nominated by the local authority, in the normal manner, from the local authority social housing waiting list, in accordance with that local authority’s allocation scheme. Each respective local authority therefore retains tenant nomination rights, and is to be the contractual landlord, with the same differential rent arrangements applying.

The contract for the first bundle of the Social Housing PPP programme was awarded to Comhar Housing Consortium on 19 March 2019.

The total capital construction cost for Bundle 1 is approximately €120 million in nominal terms. This includes the construction of the 534 homes, the associated site works such as roads and play areas, and community facilities at the Ayrfield site. This equates to approximately €225,000 per unit, inclusive of ancillary works. The total cost is in line with the programme estimates, which aims to deliver 1,500 units under a €300m investment programme.

The full value of the contract, the duration of which includes the construction period plus a 25-year operating period, is estimated in nominal terms at €301 million (exclusive of VAT and including a forecast of inflation). Over the lifetime of the contract, this equates to an average of approximately €1m per month, (exclusive of VAT and inclusive of an allowance for inflation), or approximately €1,900 per unit per month. This cost includes all maintenance, operating, lifecycle, tenancy management and financing costs. Service provision that is included in the contract includes building and asset management, waste management, security, void management, tenant helpdesk services, and the provision of community development services. At the end of this period the units are handed over to the relevant local authority.

The estimated full value of the contract, as outlined above, is due to be published as part of the Contract Award Notice in the Official Journal of the European Union, as is standard practice under European procurement procedures. In addition to the full value of the contract, the State will be liable for payment of VAT on the capital construction costs, as well as utility connection charges for each unit.

No unitary charge payments are required to be made until the homes are constructed and available to house tenants, at which point the 25-year operating period commences. As with all availability-based PPPs, the monthly unitary charge is subject to both the availability of the homes and the performance of Comhar in the provision of services.

In accordance with the Department of Finance Guidance “Value for Money and the Public Private Partnership Process”, value for money testing was carried out at different stages of the procurement process for the project. This included a comparison of the winning tenderer’s bid with the Public Sector Benchmark and I can confirm that in this case that the winning tenderer’s bid was lower than the Public Sector Benchmark. However, as the Deputy will be aware, given the commercially sensitive nature of the detailed information and financial calculations included in the PSB, it is not possible to reveal the specifics of this at this time.

Housing Adaptation Grant Funding

Ceisteanna (287)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

287. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the reason the 2019 housing adaptation grant funding for older persons and persons with a disability for Sligo County Council has been reduced from the 2018 allocation of €1.6 million; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14352/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The initial funding 2018 allocation to Sligo County Council in respect of the Housing Adaptation Grants for Older People and People with a Disability, was €1,367,534. Later in the year, a request from the Council for additional funding was facilitated by my Department, with a further €232,466 provided, bringing the Council's total allocation for 2018 to €1.6 million.

Sligo County Council's initial 2019 allocation of €1,405,298, is an increase of €37,764 on their initial 2018 allocation. Based on population, which increasingly is the basis on which allocations are made, this is a fair allocation to Sligo relative to the thirty other local authorities.

Over the course of each year, my Department works closely with all local authorities to monitor spend and to achieve a full drawdown of the available funding. As the year progresses, any underspend is redistributed to those local authorities with high levels of grant activity who seek additional funding. Sligo County Council can be considered for additional funding in this context, if it emerges that other local authorities will not spend in full.

Local Elections Expenditure

Ceisteanna (288)

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

288. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the guidelines and spending limits that will apply for the local elections in May 2019; his plans to issue further guidelines in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14363/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Local Elections (Disclosure of Donations and Expenditure) Act 1999, as amended by Part 2 of Schedule 2 of the Local Government Reform Act 2014, provides for an expenditure and donations disclosure regime at local elections. Section 12A of the Act makes provision for three population bands with local electoral area spending limits of €13,000, €11,500 and €9,750 respectively.

A summary of the population bands and candidate spending limits that will apply at the local elections in May 2019 is set out in the table below.

Local Electoral Area

Candidate Spending Limit

Population in excess of 35,000

€13,000

Population between 18,001 and 35,000

€11,500

Population of 18,000 or less

€9,750

Under section 12A of the Act, candidates nominated by a political party are deemed to automatically allocate 10% of their spending limit to the national agent of the political party. The 10% figure can be varied upwards or downwards by written agreement between the candidate and the national agent of the political party.

Section 12B of the Act provides that the period for the reckoning of election expenses, during which the spending limits apply, is to commence between 50 and 60 days prior to polling day. The date of commencement of the spending period is set out in an order made before the local elections. In this context, Minister Murphy made the polling day order on 25 March 2019 announcing a polling day of 24 May 2019 and an order setting the spending period will be published shortly.

In addition, under section 18(6) of the Act, local authorities must draw up and publish to persons to whom the Act applies, guidelines concerning the steps to be taken by them to ensure compliance with the Act generally. To support local authorities in this regard, my Department is preparing draft guidelines which local authorities may then make available. These draft guidelines are expected to issue to local authorities shortly.

Local Authority Housing Waiting Lists

Ceisteanna (289)

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

289. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of persons on the housing and transfer waiting lists by each local authority by the most recent figures available in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14365/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Details on the number of households qualified for social housing support in each local authority area are provided in the statutory Summary of Social Housing Assessments (SSHA). The most recent summary, which was carried out in June 2018, details the number of households on all local authority waiting lists as at 11 June 2018. The detailed report for the 2018 summary can be found on my Department's website at the link below: www.housing.gov.ie/sites/default/files/publications/files/summary_of_social_housing_assessments_2018_-_key_findings.pdf.

My Department does not currently hold information on the number of households on local authorities' housing transfer lists. The management of these lists is a matter for individual local authorities and the numbers fluctuate continually as, for example, households are granted transfers, in accordance with an authority’s allocation scheme, to take up other accommodation options.

My Department is currently working with the Housing Agency on the proposed 2019 summary. I expect the results of that summary to be available early in the final quarter of this year. My Department is also examining whether data on the transfer lists can be provided in the future and would hope to be able to publish initial figures around the same time as the SSHA is published.