CLÁR Programme

Ceisteanna (190)

Eamon Scanlon

Ceist:

190. Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development if funding will be granted to a school (details supplied) that has submitted an application through the CLÁR scheme; when successful 2019 CLÁR projects will be announced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16883/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

As the Deputy will be aware, CLÁR is an important part of the Government’s Action Plan for Rural Development and focuses on areas which have suffered the greatest levels of population decline. 

I launched the 2019 CLÁR programme on the 28th February last. The programme provides funding for small scale infrastructural projects in disadvantaged rural areas that have experienced significant levels of de-population. 

Calls for proposals under the 2019 CLÁR programme were invited under the following measures:

Measure 1: Support for Schools/Community Safety Measures

Measure 2: Play Areas (including MUGAs)

Measure 3: 3(a) First Response Support Measure

3(b) Support for Mobility and Cancer Care Transport.

3(c) Sensory Gardens

Applications under Measures 1, 2 and 3(c) are to be submitted by the relevant Local Authority.  Applications under Measures 3(a) and 3(b) were invited from voluntary organisations. 

The closing date for receipt of applications under the 2019 CLÁR Programme is 25th April 2019.  To date, no application in respect of the school referred to by the Deputy has been received by my Department. 

After the closing date, my officials will assess all applications received, and I hope to be in a position to announce the successful projects following that process.

Action Plan for Rural Development

Ceisteanna (191)

Eugene Murphy

Ceist:

191. Deputy Eugene Murphy asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development his plans to repopulate rural towns and villages; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16978/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

The Action Plan for Rural Development includes a commitment to developing a pilot scheme to encourage increased residential occupancy in rural towns and villages.  I launched this initiative last October and announced that six rural towns had been invited to participate in the initial pilot scheme. The scheme is being led locally by the relevant Local Authorities, in close collaboration with all relevant stakeholders and with my Department.

The 6 towns which were identified for inclusion in the pilot are:

1. Boyle, Co Roscommon

2. Callan, Co Kilkenny

3. Ballinrobe, Co Mayo

4. Banagher, Co Offaly

5. Castleblayney, Co Monaghan

6. Cappoquin, Co Waterford

Funding of up to €100,000 each is being made available to the relevant towns to develop proposals to encourage town centre living.  This funding will be used by the Local Authorities to engage with communities and local businesses, and identify practical solutions to increase the number of people living in their towns. 

The towns are of different sizes and in different parts of the country, each with their own strengths and challenges.  Therefore, they may well come up with different solutions to meet the needs of their own area.

I expect to receive a report from each of the Local Authorities by the middle of the year on the progress which they have made.  It is envisaged that the solutions identified could lead to the development of more substantive proposals for funding from the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund in due course.

Disability Allowance Appeals

Ceisteanna (192)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

192. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of a disability allowance appeal by a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16767/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 22 February 2019.  It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection.  These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 14 March 2019 and the case will be referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral hearing.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions in relation to social welfare entitlements.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Carer's Allowance Eligibility

Ceisteanna (193)

Willie O'Dea

Ceist:

193. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the estimated full year cost of increasing the capital disregard savings, shares and property for carer's allowance from €20,000 and €50,000; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16770/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The information requested by the Deputy is currently being compiled by my officials and will be provided to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Fuel Allowance Eligibility

Ceisteanna (194)

Willie O'Dea

Ceist:

194. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the estimated full year cost of disregarding the half-rate carer's allowance in the means test for entitlement to the fuel allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16772/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Fuel allowance is a payment of €22.50 per week to recipients of a qualifying social welfare payment to assist with the energy costs of low-income households. Carer's allowance is not a qualifying payment for fuel allowance.  However, it is possible for a person in receipt of half-rate carer’s allowance and a qualifying social welfare payment to qualify for the scheme.

Where a person is in receipt of a qualifying non-contributory social welfare payment and half-rate carer's allowance, then they are deemed to have satisfied the means test and fuel allowance is payable provided all other conditions have been met.  If a person is on a qualifying contributory payment and half-rate carer's allowance, then the value of half-rate carer's allowance is assessed in the fuel allowance means test.

Based on the recipient numbers of half-rate carer’s allowance, the cost of paying fuel allowance to all those in receipt of half-rate carer's allowance would be approximately €24 million over the 28 weeks of the fuel season. However, the estimated marginal cost of the policy raised by the Deputy would be impacted by the fact that some of these recipients may already be in receipt of a fuel allowance, and others would not qualify for the scheme for a variety of reasons, including their means and/or household composition.

State Pensions

Ceisteanna (195)

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

195. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection further to Parliamentary Question No. 929 of 15 January 2019, the number of reviews completed, by county, by 28 February 2018 on the review of the 2012 pension changes; the number of reviews that remained to be completed at that date; the number of persons in each county who will receive an increase in their pensions as a consequence of the review, in tabular form; the avenues open to persons who do not receive an increase; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16773/19]

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.

Wherever possible, reviews will be processed based on information already held by the Department and where additional information is required about gap periods in a person's social insurance record, a written request will issue.   To date, over 36,900 requests for information have issued. 

Reviews commenced from 13 February 2019, the day after I signed the necessary Regulations which, together with provisions in the Social Welfare, Pensions and Civil Registrations Act 2018, allows the increased payments to be made.  

As at 1 March 2019, 2,564 reviews had been completed and review outcomes issued.  Of these, 2,027 resulted in an increase in payment.  As at 2 April 2019, 13,915 reviews have been completed and of these, 10,398 received an increase in payment.  The remaining 76,000 review outcomes will issue as individual reviews are completed.   It is too early to provide the detailed statistics the Deputy requested at this time.

It will take a number of months to complete all the reviews due to the numbers involved and the individual nature of social insurance records. Regardless of when a review is conducted, where an increase in payment is due, the person's rate of payment will be adjusted without delay and arrears paid backdated to 30 March 2018, or the pensioner’s 66th birthday if later.  Where a person's rate does not increase following a review, the person will continue to receive their existing rate of payment.  

Separately, the option remains for any pensioner who qualifies for a reduced rate contributory pension to apply for state pension (non-contributory).  This is a means-tested payment, based on the person's share of household means, where the maximum rate payable equates to 95% of the maximum rate of state pension (contributory).  Another option also remains, where a person's spouse or partner is in receipt of state pension (contributory), that person may wish to claim an increase in respect of their qualified adult.  This is also means-tested payment, based on the means of the person being claimed for, where the maximum rate is equal to 90% of the maximum rate of state pension (contributory).  

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Traveller Community

Ceisteanna (196, 202)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

196. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to establish a Traveller specific employment strategy to support the training and employment objectives in the National Traveller and Roma Inclusion Strategy 2017-2021 in view of the 80% unemployment in the community. [16795/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

202. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to establish a Traveller specific employment strategy to support the training and employment objectives of the National Traveller and Roma Inclusion Strategy in view of the 80% unemployment rate in the community; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16904/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 196 and 202 together.

In June 2017, my colleague, Mr. David Stanton TD., Minister of State for Justice with special responsibility for Equality, Immigration and Integration, launched the National Traveller and Roma Inclusion Strategy for the years 2017-2021 inclusive. This Inclusion Strategy is a cross-Departmental initiative to improve the lives of the Traveller and Roma communities in Ireland. The development of the Strategy involved a comprehensive public consultation process, including two rounds of public meetings and engagement with Traveller organisations at national level. Integral to the finalisation of the Inclusion Strategy was the work of the National Traveller and Roma Inclusion Strategy Steering Group which has members from relevant Government Departments as well as Traveller and Roma representatives and advocates.

Arising from the consultation process, ten key themes were identified as central to the success of the Inclusion strategy, and two of these relate most directly to employment.

First, the Strategy recognises that “there is a very large disparity between Travellers and non-Travellers in the level of education completed” and that “the labour market disadvantage of Travellers is largely linked to that educational disadvantage.” Accordingly, the Strategy identifies 14 different actions aimed at improving access, participation and outcomes for Travellers and Roma in education in order to achieve outcomes that are equal to those for the majority population.

Employment and the Traveller Economy is also identified as a specific key theme in the strategy and it includes a range of relevant actions. Within this range of actions, my Department and the Department of and Skills is committed to delivering and supporting a range of assistive and targeted measures to increase employment, training and apprenticeship opportunities for Travellers and Roma over the long term by:

- Promoting the availability of existing employment and training services to the Roma and Traveller communities and continuing to ensure promotional and information materials on its schemes are available and accessible via the Department’s website. Work is underway to support transition of DEASP web content to the new Gov.ie website, with transition to begin in 2019. All DEASP content on gov.ie will be in an easy-to-read, plain English format.

- Providing accessible literature on DEASP services. Three plain English booklets – Families and Children, Retired and Older People, Illness and Disability – are now finalised or nearing completion. Hard copies will be distributed to Traveller representatives for distribution to service users.

- Providing tailored supports for the long-term unemployed and for young people to build their confidence and prepare them for the workplace;

- Developing targeted initiatives to increase Traveller and Roma engagement with employment and training services;

- Providing Anti-racism and cultural awareness training for staff under the new shared Civil Service learning and development curriculum.

- Ensuring that Travellers and Roma, under the age of 25, who register as unemployed claimants of Jobseekers’ payments engage with activation case officers on a monthly basis and receive a good quality offer of employment, continued education, apprenticeship or traineeship within a period of four months of registering, in line with commitments under the Youth Guarantee.

The National Traveller and Roma Inclusion Strategy is a living document, with monitoring of its implementation a key and integral feature of its success. This whole of Government approach is necessary to the achievement of meaningful change and enhanced employment prospects for Traveller and Roma communities in Ireland.

Traveller Data

Ceisteanna (197)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

197. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the level of Traveller participation in activation programmes; and the specific targeted measures used to increase Traveller involvement. [16796/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

My Department has committed to delivering and supporting a range of assistive and targeted measures to increase employment, training and apprenticeship opportunities for Travellers in line with the National Traveller and Roma Inclusion Strategy for the years 2017-2021 inclusive. 

The promotion of the availability of employment and training initiatives continues, along with the availability of relevant information material.  This will be further enhanced throughout 2019.

 As part of my Department’s activation programme, all jobseekers including those from the Traveller and Roma communities, in receipt of a jobseeker’s payment are obliged to engage with a Case Officer to support and progress their job searching ambitions.  Supports can include education, training options, community employment and/or job placement. 

It is not possible to state the actual number of those availing of activation initiatives who are members of the Traveller community as there is no obligation on a person in the Traveller community to identify themselves as such for these purposes.

There is however a provision on the Community Employment Scheme (CE) to record members of the traveller community where the person chooses to be recorded as such. There are currently 200 CE participants categorised as members of the traveller community.

The CE eligibility criteria for members of the traveller community is more flexible. The minimum entry age is set at 18 (instead of 21) for all qualifying payment categories.  Jobseeker clients from the traveller community only need to be in receipt of payment for one week compared to 12 months to qualify for CE.

Carer's Allowance Review

Ceisteanna (198)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

198. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when a decision will be made on a carer's allowance review in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16813/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

An application for carer's allowance (CA) was received from the person concerned on 30 August 2018.  It is a condition for receipt of a CA that the person being cared for must have such a disability that they require full-time care and attention.

This is defined as requiring from another person, continual supervision and frequent assistance throughout the day in connection with normal bodily functions or continual supervision in order to avoid danger to him or herself.

The evidence submitted in support of this application was examined and it was decided that it did not indicate that the requirement for full-time care was satisfied.  The person concerned was notified on 21 November 2018 of this decision, the reason for it and of her right of review and appeal.

The person concerned requested a review of this decision and submitted additional evidence in support of her application. Following this review the decision remained unchanged. The person concerned was notified on 14 January 2019 of this decision, the reason for it and of her right of appeal.

The person concerned requested a further review and submitted more detailed medical information.  Following a review of this information, CA was awarded to the person concerned on 5 April 2019, with effect from 30 August 2018. The first payment will issue to her nominated post office on 11 April 2019. 

Arrears of allowance due from 30 August 2018 to 10 April 2019 will also issue on 11 April 2019.

The person concerned was notified on 5 April 2019 of this revised decision, the reason for it and of her right of review and appeal.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Disability Allowance Applications

Ceisteanna (199)

Peter Burke

Ceist:

199. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of an application by a person (details supplied). [16871/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Disability Allowance (DA) is a statutory means-tested payment and is subject to periodic reviews. This gentleman's entitlement to DA was recently reviewed. The review regarding periods of absence from the State is now complete. 

This gentleman has made an application to have an increase for a qualified adult (IQA) paid on his DA and his file has been sent to a Social Welfare Inspector (SWI) for a report on his means and circumstances.

The person concerned is in receipt of Supplementary Welfare Allowance (SWA) with an increase for a qualified adult (IQA) payable from 4 April 2019. On receipt of a report from the SWI a decision will be made on his DA and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

 I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Farm Assist Scheme Eligibility

Ceisteanna (200)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

200. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the entitlements available in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16884/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The person concerned made an application for Farm Assist payment on 28/01/2019.  This claim is currently being finalised by a Social Welfare Inspector and a decision will issue in writing to the person concerned in the next few days. 

With regard to the person concerned being off sick he may make an application for Illness Benefit or Disability Allowance and his entitlement will be examined at time of application.

At present there are no plans to reform Social Protection for self-employed people in situations like this. However, as the Minister announced in Budget 2019 it is intended to extend access to Jobseeker’s Benefit to self-employed people. With this  change, the self-employed will become eligible for Jobseeker’s Benefit. It is  expected that some 6,500 people  will  become eligible in the first full year of operation. The Department will  introduce this scheme in late 2019.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Traveller Data

Question No. 202 answered with Question No. 196.

Ceisteanna (201)

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

201. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the levels of Traveller participation in activation programmes; the targeted measures used to increase Traveller involvement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16894/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

My Department has committed to delivering and supporting a range of assistive and targeted measures to increase employment, training and apprenticeship opportunities for Travellers in line with the National Traveller and Roma Inclusion Strategy for the years 2017-2021 inclusive. 

The promotion of the availability of employment and training initiatives continues, along with the availability of relevant information material.  This will be further enhanced throughout 2019.

As part of my Department’s activation programme, all jobseekers including those from the Traveller and Roma communities, in receipt of a jobseeker’s payment are obliged to engage with a Case Officer to support and progress their job searching ambitions.  Supports can include education, training options, community employment and/or job placement. 

 It is not possible to state the actual number of those availing of activation initiatives who are members of the Traveller community as there is no obligation on a person in the Traveller community to identify themselves as such for these purposes.

There is however a provision on the Community Employment Scheme (CE) to record members of the traveller community where the person chooses to be recorded as such.  There are currently 200 CE participants categorised as members of the traveller community.

The CE eligibility criteria for members of the traveller community is more flexible.  The minimum entry age is set at 18 (instead of 21) for all qualifying payment categories.  Jobseeker clients from the traveller community only need to be in receipt of payment for one week compared to 12 months to qualify for CE.

Question No. 202 answered with Question No. 196.

Departmental Functions

Ceisteanna (203)

Willie O'Dea

Ceist:

203. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason for the suspension by the data access unit of her Department of the pension tracing service which had assisted with pension beneficiaries in tracing their pension entitlements; the number of queries which the system handled in each of the years 2016 to 2018; the number of such queries which were successfully completed in each year; her plans to assist persons with tracing their entitlements; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16906/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The service provided by my Department to pension companies who wished to contact customers in relation to their pension entitlements was temporarily suspended, pending legal advice being obtained regarding compliance with the provisions of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).  

Following further legal advice and the carrying out of a Data Privacy Impact Assessment, as provided for under the GDPR, the service has now resumed.  

It is important to note that letters are sent to the address on record in the Department for the individual concerned, which ask the person to contact the pension company.  As the individuals do not make contact the Department, it is not possible to state whether the persons subsequently contact the pension company.

In terms of the number of requests handled by the Department, the figures requested by the Deputy are as follows:

2016  -   3,635

2017  -   3,528

2018  -   3,384

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Local Authority Housing

Ceisteanna (204)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

204. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the position regarding new social houses at a location (details supplied) in County Meath. [16885/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

My Department has given funding approval for Meath County Council's proposed development of 13 new build social homes at the location in question and I understand from the Council that construction is due to commence in the coming weeks.

Local Authority Housing Waiting Lists

Ceisteanna (205)

Louise O'Reilly

Ceist:

205. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the circumstances under which previous time on the housing list can be aggregated with the current waiting time in the context of the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16774/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

In order to qualify for social housing support and be placed on a housing list, an applicant must be assessed by the authority concerned as meeting all of the eligibility and need criteria set down in the legislation. Applications for social housing support are assessed by the relevant local authority, in accordance with the eligibility and need criteria set down in section 20 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 and the associated Social Housing Assessment Regulations 2011, as amended.  

Oversight and management of housing waiting lists is a matter for the relevant local authority in accordance with the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009, and associated regulations. Specifically, section 63(3) of the Local Government Act 2001 provides that, subject to law, a local authority is independent in the performance of its functions.

Section 6 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 specifically provides that the Minister’s power to issue policy directions and guidelines to housing authorities in relation to housing functions is not to be construed as enabling him or her to exercise any power or control in relation to any individual case with which a housing authority is, or may be, concerned.

An Bord Pleanála Review

Ceisteanna (206)

Alan Kelly

Ceist:

206. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the reviews conducted into An Bord Pleanála since its inception; if copies of same will be provided; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16836/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

An Organisational Review of An Bord Pleanála was undertaken by an independent expert panel and its report was published in March 2016. A copy of the review is available on my Department's website at the following link:

https://www.housing.gov.ie/sites/default/files/publications/files/20160315-operational-review-an_bord-pleanala.pdf.

A number of other formal reports concerning the management, structure and processes of, or relevant to, An Bord Pleanála have previously been undertaken by external bodies since its establishment and these are listed below along with the relevant links to access them online:

IPC Consulting Organisational Review of An Bord Pleanála (2003)

www.housing.gov.ie/sites/default/files/public-consultation/files/responses/background-document-ipc-org-review-of-abp-2003.pdf.

Value for Money Examination of Planning Appeals (2002)

www.audit.gov.ie/en/Find-Report/Publications/2002/Special-Report-41-Planning-Appeals.pdf.

Review of An Bord Pleanála (1990)

www.housing.gov.ie/sites/default/files/public-consultation/files/responses/background-document-review-of-an-bord-pleanala-1990.pdf.

Survey of An Bord Pleanála (1980):

www.housing.gov.ie/sites/default/files/public-consultation/files/responses/background-document-survey-of-an-bord-pleanala-1980.pdf.

Natura 2000

Ceisteanna (207)

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

207. Deputy Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans to introduce marine protected areas; and the role the NPWS would have in the process. [16865/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

As I have stated in previous replies on this matter, I am committed to developing primary legislation to provide for the creation of a network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in accordance with the requirements of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. Work on this will commence when legislation to prohibit certain products containing plastic microbeads is sufficiently advanced. Government approved the General Scheme of the Microbeads Bill in October 2018 and the work on drafting that Bill is being progressed.

It is also my intention to establish an expert advisory group in the first half of 2019 to help develop a process for the identification, designation and recommendation of candidate marine areas which require protection. The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) of the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, along with other relevant Government Departments, State Agencies and subject matter experts, will all play a key role in this group.  The NPWS is responsible for designating and managing Special Protection Areas (SPAs) and Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) established under Birds and Habitats (Natura2000) Directives, a number of which are designated as MPAs under the OSPAR Commission.

Approved Housing Bodies

Ceisteanna (208)

Eoin Ó Broin

Ceist:

208. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of AHB PandA agreements commenced in 2018; the average length of the agreements; the average cost of these agreements; and the details of all costs covered in the monthly availability agreement payment. [16887/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Payment and Availability (P&A) funding to Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) was introduced by my Department for leased properties, secured by AHBs, in 2009. It was subsequently extended to the acquisition and construction of properties by AHBs and facilitates delivery under the Capital Advance Loan Facility (CALF), the Mortgage to Rent Scheme (MTR), the Housing Agency Acquisitions Fund (HAA) and the Repair and Leasing Scheme (RLS). All P&A funding is underpinned by a P&A agreement, which is a template contractual arrangement between an AHB and a local authority setting out the terms under which AHBs make properties available to local authorities for the purpose of providing social housing support.

Under the Department’s leasing programme and the RLS, AHBs lease dwellings from private owners, with local authorities providing funding under a P&A agreement to pay the lease payment due to the private owner. The payment to the owner may be up to 80% of market rent, or 85% in respect of apartments with management company service charges. The discount of up to 20% on market rent paid reflects the fact that the owner has no tenancy management or day to day maintenance responsibilities and is paid for vacant periods. Under the P&A agreement, the AHB is responsible for tenancy management and day to day maintenance of the property. Responsibility for structural maintenance and insurance remains with the owner. The AHB collects differential rent from the tenant, in its position as landlord under the Residential Tenancies Acts. This rent is determined by the relevant local authority's own rent scheme. 

P&As are available to AHBs at a lower level of discount on market rent under the acquisitions and construction models supported by CALF, which includes the MTR scheme and the Housing Agency Fund. This lower discount acknowledges the increased level of risk and responsibility placed on the AHB as owner of the property, which includes mortgage or debt repayment, structural maintenance and ongoing and prudent asset management, including provision to a sinking fund. The payment under the P&A agreement in this case may be set at up to 92% of market rent, or 95% in the case of apartments with management company service charges.

The number of AHB P&A agreements commenced in 2018, as reported by local authorities, the average length of the agreements and the average monthly cost of the P&A recouped to local authorities by my Department under the Social Housing Current Expenditure Programme (SHCEP) are set out in the table below. As has been clarified separately for the Deputy, P&A costs are not comparable to the payments arising under Social Housing PPP contracts.

Delivery Stream

Total Delivered

Average Length 

Average monthly P&A payment  

 CALF/HAA

2,085 

28 years 

€1,028 

 MTR

148 

29 years 

€780 

 Leasing

264 

18 years 

€765 

 RLS

20 years 

€600 

 Total

2,499

27 years 

€972 

Public Private Partnerships Data

Ceisteanna (209, 210)

Eoin Ó Broin

Ceist:

209. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the details of all costs covered by the monthly availability payment to a consortium (details supplied) for the first tranche of 534 PPP social houses. [16888/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Eoin Ó Broin

Ceist:

210. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if the public sector benchmark exercised conducted to ensure value for money in the awarding of contracts to public private contracts to consortia for the delivery of the first tranche of social housing awarded in March 2019 to a company (details supplied) will be published. [16898/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 209 and 210 together.

This PPP contract is paid through a monthly unitary payment. This payment incorporates all costs under the contract, including the initial construction costs of the units, or what might be referred to as the pure "bricks and mortar" costs.  It also includes management and maintenance costs, such as the day-to-day upkeep of the properties, general facilities management, and tenancy management.

Other costs covered by this payment under the contract include the costs of finance for the project, projected inflation over the 25 years of the contract's operational life, and the costs of complying with other terms of the contract, including that defined quality requirements are delivered upon when the homes involved are passed over to the local authorities concerned at the end of the 25 year contract period.

As the Deputy will be aware, the Public Sector Benchmark (PSB) is an essential part of any PPP project. It contains commercially sensitive information in relation to the methodology used for costing public sector projects and for the pricing of risks by public sector bodies.

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform have indicated that following the completion of the construction phase of a PPP, once an appropriate period of time has elapsed and the commercial sensitivity of the information on the project is no longer an issue (having regard also to any other similar PPP projects which may be in pre-procurement), the PSB should be made public.

However, current policy is that the final PSB, or any elements thereof, is not made public during the tendering process, on the basis that revealing the amount that the State may pay for a service may give tenderers an opportunity to increase their asking price above what they might otherwise seek. This guidance also applies where it is intended to procure further similar projects in the near future.

As part of the ongoing Social Housing PPP programme, tenders for Bundle 2 are currently being evaluated, and the process for Bundle 3 is due to commence shortly. While the PSB will be released in due course in accordance with the approach outlined above, it is not possible to release it at this time given the potential impact on value for money for the State for these future contracts.