Departmental Contracts Data

Ceisteanna (56)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

56. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Finance the State contracts awarded to a company (details supplied) over the past seven years; and the contracts delivered according to the original contract. [17114/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

My Department has no record of awarding a State contract to the company named during the past seven years.

Real Estate Investment Trusts

Ceisteanna (57, 58)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

57. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Finance the loss to the Exchequer on an annual basis of the favourable tax treatment currently offered to REITs; and the breakdown of the value by each type of tax benefit. [17130/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

58. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the number of REITs in existence here each year since 2013; the number of residential property units held by these funds in each year since 2013; his plans for changes to the tax structure for these funds to remove the incentive of buying up large numbers of residential properties to rent thus penalising first-time buyers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17184/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 57 and 58 together.

Finance Act 2013 introduced the regime for the operation of Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) in Ireland. The function of the REIT framework is not to provide an overall tax exemption but rather to facilitate collective investment in rental property by removing a double layer of taxation which would otherwise apply on property investment via a corporate vehicle.

Property rental income and gains arising are exempt from tax within the REIT and are taxed at the investor level when distributed. The legislation requires that 85% of all property income profits be distributed annually to shareholders. The REIT is subject to corporation tax on income and gains not arising from the property rental business of the REIT.

I am advised by Revenue that due to the obligation to maintain taxpayer confidentiality it does not disclose information in circumstances where the number of cases is so small that it might facilitate identification of the taxpayers involved. As this is the case with Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), it is not possible for Revenue to provide the data requested.  However I would note that REITs are required to be publicly listed companies and as a result they publish a wide range of detailed information including financial reports and details of their property portfolios.

I am aware of concerns expressed in relation to purchases of residential properties by large-scale investors and the potential consequences for first-time buyers.  However it is also acknowledged that insufficient supply is a primary driver of price pressures in the housing market and it is my understanding that REITs are engaged in the development of projects for long-term rental, thereby contributing to the overall supply of property.  I therefore do not currently have plans to change the REIT tax structure.  However the Deputy will be aware that I committed that my officials would undertake a review of the impact of REITs and Irish Real Estate Funds (IREFs) on the residential property market, with a report to be presented to the Tax Strategy Group this summer, and work is ongoing in this regard.

Cycle to Work Scheme

Ceisteanna (59)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

59. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Finance his plans to extend the cycle to work scheme in order that more of the costs associated with cargo bikes are met under the scheme. [17186/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I am informed by Revenue that the cycle to work scheme provides an exemption from tax on the first €1,000 of expenditure incurred by an employer in connection with the provision of a bicycle or safety equipment to an employee or director. The bicycle must be for the employee/director’s personal use in undertaking the whole or part of the journey to or from work.  Safety equipment includes helmets, lights, bells, mirrors and locks but does not include child seats or trailers.

The scheme applies to a pedal cycle, tricycle and a pedelec. A pedelec means a bicycle or tricycle which is equipped with an electric motor (with a maximum continuous rated power of 0.25 kilowatts) which cuts out when a speed of 25 kilometres per hour is reached, or sooner if the cyclist stops pedalling the bicycle or tricycle.  

It is assumed that the reference to “cargo bikes” by the Deputy means a bicycle specifically designed to carry a load. Such a bicycle would qualify under the cycle to work scheme, assuming all of the required conditions are satisfied.

Further information on the cycle to work scheme can be found on Revenue’s website, available here .

Office of Public Works Projects

Ceisteanna (60)

Joan Burton

Ceist:

60. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the cost of the ongoing strategic review for the Phoenix Park to date; and the anticipated cost upon completion. [17051/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

The strategic review of the visitor experience at the Phoenix Park was commissioned by OPW with grant funding of €300,000 from Fáilte Ireland (accounting for 75% of the cost of the project) and OPW is match funding this with €100,000.  €286,176 has been expended to date on the project.

Tax Rebates

Ceisteanna (61)

Tom Neville

Ceist:

61. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 150 of 11 December 2018, if funding will be provided to the club (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17096/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

I am advised by my Office that it is a matter for Local Authorities, in the first instance, to assess and address problems of coastal erosion in their areas.  Where necessary, Local Authorities may put forward proposals to relevant central Government Departments, including the OPW, for funding of appropriate measures depending on the infrastructure or assets under threat.

I would point out that the Minor Flood Mitigation Works & Coastal Protection Scheme is not a grant scheme for individual property or home owners and all proposals for works and funding must come from the local authority.  The applications must also demonstrate that specific economic, social and environmental criteria, including a cost benefit ratio, are met.

My Office, the Office of Public Works, received an application from Limerick City and County Council for funding for the area mentioned in the Deputy’s question under the Minor Flood Mitigation Works and Coastal Protection Scheme.  OPW requested further information from the Council in August 2018 which has since been received.  In order to complete assessment, however, some areas of clarification have been requested and are still awaited.

Departmental Contracts Data

Ceisteanna (62)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

62. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the State contracts awarded to a company (details supplied) over the past seven years; and the contracts delivered according to the original contract. [17119/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department has never awarded a contract to the company named in the question.

School Transport Eligibility

Ceisteanna (63)

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

63. Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason a child (details supplied) who lives within the school catchment area and attends a school is not being accommodated on a school bus; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17067/19]

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 purpose of the Primary School Transport Scheme is, having regard to available resources, to support the transport to and from school of children who reside remote from their nearest school.

Under the terms of the Scheme, children are eligible for transport where they reside not less than 3.2 kilometres from and are attending their nearest national school as determined by the Department/Bus Éireann, having regard to ethos and language.

Children who are not eligible for school transport, but who complete the application process on time, are considered for spare seats that may exist after eligible children have been facilitated; such seats are referred to as concessionary seats.

Bus Éireann has advised that to date no application for school transport has been received for the child referred to by the Deputy.

Families wishing to avail of school transport services for the 2019/20 school year should ensure that their applications are submitted online at www.buseireann.ie. The closing date for receipt of applications for the 2019/20 school year is Friday 26th April 2019.

The terms of the School Transport Schemes are applied equitably on a national basis.

School Funding

Ceisteanna (64)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

64. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of two applications for funding by a school (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16991/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I can confirm to the Deputy that the school in question has submitted an application to my Department for capital funding under the 'Additional School Accommodation Scheme'.

The application is currently under assessment. As soon as this process has been completed, my Department will be in direct contact with the school authority concerned.

The school has also applied for funding under the Emergency Works scheme. The applications in this respect have been refused as being outside the terms of the Scheme. However, I can inform the Deputy that projects of this type may be appropriate for delivery via the Summer Works Scheme. It is open to the school authority to apply for Summer Works funding which is currently open for applications.

Special Educational Needs Staff

Ceisteanna (65)

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

65. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if an SNA who has taken a career break to undertake further study is eligible to work during his or her career break in the same way as a teacher who is on a career break can carry out substitution duties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17008/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Special Needs Assistants are recruited specifically to assist in the care of pupils with disabilities, who have additional and significant care needs, in an educational context. They may be appointed to a special school or a mainstream school to assist school authorities in making suitable provision for a pupil or pupils with special care needs.

In June 2012, my Department, following consultation with the School Management Bodies and the relevant Trade Unions, issued a Career Break Scheme for Special Needs Assistants in Recognised Primary and Post-Primary Schools, the provisions for which are contained in Circular Letter 22/2012 which is available on my Departments website. 

Paragraph 1.2 of the Circular states:

 “The main objectives of this scheme below which are not exhaustive, is for employers, wherever possible to facilitate applicants in the areas of:

- Personal Development

- Education (including teacher training)

- Public Representation

- Childcare/Dependent care

- Self-employment”

The Career Break Scheme therefore is applicable to Special Needs Assistants who wish to pursue further education.

Paragraph 7.1 of the Circular states:

 “The taking up of regular paid employment of any kind elsewhere in the State while on career break would be contrary to the objectives of the scheme and shall lead to refusal of an application or withdrawal of approval already given”.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (66)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

66. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress made to replace and renovate a school (details supplied) in County Cork following the fire that engulfed the school over three years ago; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17010/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The project referred to by the Deputy is currently in architectural planning. The school will be delivered under the Department's Design & Build Programme. This delivery programme uses a professional external Project Manager to progress the project through the relevant stages of architectural planning, tendering and construction in the shortest possible timeframe. 

The design is being progressed in preparation for the planning application which will be the next key step in the progression of the project. It is intended that Planning Permission will be lodged with in the second quarter of 2019. 

The  project when complete will provide a new 500 pupil post primary school including a 2 classroom Special Education Needs (SEN) Base.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Ceisteanna (67)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

67. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if home schooling for a child (details supplied) will be expedited; if his attention has been drawn to the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17019/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible for planning, coordinating and advising on education provision for children with special educational needs.

The Council ensures that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all children who have been identified as needing special class placements.

The NCSE’s team of locally based Special Education Needs Organisers (SENOs) are available to assist and advise parents whose children have special needs and identify available placements. They also support and advise schools in this area.

Parents who are experiencing difficulties in locating a school placement, should contact their local SENO.

In circumstances, where the NCSE local SENO confirms that there is no school placement available for a child with Special Educational Needs, my Department's Home Tuition Grant Scheme will provide funding towards the provision of 20 hours tuition per week as an interim measure until a placement is available.

I understand that an incomplete application for home tuition was recently submitted to the Special Education Section of my Department.  My officials have advised the applicant in question to make contact with their local SENO in order to progress the application further.

As the Deputy's question relates to a particular child with special needs, I have referred the question to the NCSE for their direct reply.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (68)

Kevin O'Keeffe

Ceist:

68. Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the commencement of building works as a school (details supplied). [17021/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The project referred to by the Deputy is currently in architectural planning. The school will be delivered under the Department's Design and Build Programme. This delivery programme uses a professional external Project Manager to progress the project through the relevant stages of architectural planning, tendering and construction in the shortest possible timeframe. 

The design is being progressed in preparation for the planning application which will be the next key step in the progression of the project. It is intended that Planning Permission  will be lodged with in the second quarter of 2019. 

The  project when complete will provide a new 500 pupil post primary school including a 2 classroom Special Education Needs (SEN) Base.

Schools Administration

Ceisteanna (69)

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

69. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated cost of providing release time for administrative and management purposes of one day per week for each teaching principal of a primary school; his plans to bring this about in view of the increased workload and demands on principal teachers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17022/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Since my appointment as Minister for Education and Skills I have met with a number of Teaching Principals, including at the recent IPPN conference, and I appreciate the pressures they face. In Budget 2019, school leadership is again supported with an additional release day for teaching principals in primary schools and a further four additional release days for teaching principals in schools with special classes. These additional release days - 18, 24, and 30 depending on the size of the school - will be effective from 1st September 2019. 

This builds on measures in previous budgets, including €0.4 million made available in Budget 2018 to fund almost 4600 additional release days for teaching principals in primary schools. This funding provided an increase in the number of release days available to teaching principals in the 2018/19 school year to 17, 23 or 29 days depending on the size of the school.

Enabling teaching principals to have one release day per week would cost an estimated €7.5m per annum. Any additional increase in the number of release days will be considered as part of the next annual budgetary process.  

The Primary Education Forum was established in September 2018 and aims to support the planning and sequencing of change in the primary school sector and to exchange information on the intent and impacts of the actions in the Action Plan for Education in order to look for synergies and opportunities to streamline implementation and address workload issues.

Membership represents key personnel from the Department, school management, and representatives of school leadership and representatives of teachers, with the Forum akin to a working group in scale.

Through adopting this approach, my Department and partners have already agreed to make several changes to the pace and sequence of planned reforms. These include the decision to re-schedule the implementation of the Primary Mathematics Curriculum to give teachers the time to expand on their understanding and engage more fully with the new curriculum and to allow for further supports to be developed for teachers. Also, I took the decision to pace the commencement of the Education (Admission to schools) Act 2018 by initially focusing on regulations relating to the essential key features of the Act and there was agreement to consult with the sector on the regulations to be put in place alongside the commencement of the remaining sections of the Act.

Teacher Data

Ceisteanna (70)

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

70. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the main categories of teacher absences in primary schools for which substitute cover is not provided; the cost of substitute cover in each category; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17023/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The information requested by the Deputy is not readily available. We will forward this to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Tax Data

Ceisteanna (71, 72)

Joan Burton

Ceist:

71. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on the response to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 233 to 235, inclusive, of 15 January 2019 and the level of non-compliance with RCT within the education sector specifically the number of educational bodies funded by the State which are not registered to operate the relevant contracts tax system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17040/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Joan Burton

Ceist:

72. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Skills if capital payments are made to educational bodies that are not registered to operate the relevant contracts tax system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17041/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 71 and 72 together.

My Department makes capital payments to school authorities, including Educational and Training Boards (ETBs), in relation to projects delivered under the School Building Programme and various grants such as the Minor Works Grant Scheme. Under tax law, a school authority is regarded by the Revenue Commissioners as the "Principal Contractor" for tax purposes when it is delivering a building project. My Department advises a school authority of this at the time the grant for the works is being approved. Schools are also advised that the Revenue Commissioners has published a guidance document for school management authorities in this matter which is available on both my Department’s website and the Revenue Commissioners’ website.

The Department-funded Financial Services Support Unit (FSSU), which operates in the Primary, Community, Comprehensive and Voluntary Secondary Sectors, is an important source of advice and support for schools on financial governance matters including tax compliance including RCT requirements.

The main requirement for a school authority to meet its obligations when delivering a school building project is to register with the Revenue Commissioners’ online system and to follow the Revenue Commissioners’ guidance in relation to deducting and paying over tax, where this arises, for the contractor carrying out the works.

It is a central principle that all bodies in receipt of Exchequer funding should be fully compliant with tax regulations and it is a core responsibility of the boards of these bodies to ensure such compliance.

The stipulations of the Code of Practice for Governance of State Bodies in respect of taxation apply in the Department's aegis bodies. More generally, the provisions regarding tax clearance for bodies in receipt of grant funding are set out in the appropriate circulars issued by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, namely circular 13/2014 (management and accountability of grants) and circular 44/2006 (tax clearance procedures - grants, subsidies and similar type payments).

With respect to schools, the Department has issued a circular to all management authorities (circular 51/2013) on tax compliance. This circular set out the Department's expectation that all schools should be exemplary in respect of compliance with taxation obligations and drew their attention to relevant Revenue documentation. In the ETB sector, the bodies are subject to audit by the ETB Internal Audit Unit and are externally audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General.

Capital payments for projects undertaken by higher education institutions are made through the Higher Education Authority (HEA). An institution must confirm that it is tax compliant before a payment is made by the HEA.

To enhance awareness of tax issues across the education sector, the Department has arranged periodic seminars in conjunction with Revenue. The last such seminar was held in December 2017.

With respect to suppliers of goods and services, the Department validates suppliers via the Revenue eTax Clearance system on a regular basis.

State Bodies Code of Conduct

Ceisteanna (73)

Joan Burton

Ceist:

73. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to ensure bodies funded by his Department are compliant with the tax system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17042/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

It is a central principle that all bodies in receipt of Exchequer funding should be fully compliant with tax regulations and it is a core responsibility of the boards of these bodies to ensure such compliance. 

The stipulations of the Code of Practice for Governance of State Bodies in respect of taxation apply in the Department's aegis bodies.  More generally, the provisions regarding tax clearance for bodies in receipt of grant funding are set out in the appropriate circulars issued by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, namely circular 13/2014 (management and accountability of grants) and circular 44/2006 (tax clearance procedures - grants, subsidies and similar type payments).  

With respect to schools, the Department has issued a circular to all management authorities (circular 51/2013) on tax compliance. This circular set out the Department's expectation that all schools should be exemplary in respect of compliance with taxation obligations and drew their attention to relevant Revenue documentation.  Furthermore, the Financial Services Support Unit (FSSU), which operates in the Primary, Community, Comprehensive and Voluntary Secondary Sectors, is an important source of advice and support for schools on financial governance matters including tax compliance.  In the ETB sector, the bodies are subject to audit by the ETB Internal Audit Unit and are externally audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General.

To enhance awareness of tax issues across the education sector, the Department has arranged periodic seminars in conjunction with Revenue.  The last such seminar was held in December 2017. 

With respect to suppliers of goods and services, the Department validates suppliers via the Revenue eTax Clearance system on a regular basis.

School Placement

Ceisteanna (74)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

74. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the arrangements that will be made to provide a school place for a child (details supplied); the options being considered in relation to the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17066/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE), an independent agency of my Department, is responsible for planning, coordinating and advising on education provision for children with special educational needs. This includes taking account of the flow of students from primary into post primary. The Council ensures that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all children who have been identified as needing special class placements.

Individual school boards of management are responsible for the establishment of special classes.  It is open to any school to make application to the NCSE to establish a special class.

From time to time, the NCSE identifies local areas where additional special class provision is required. In those circumstances, Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) work with the schools and families concerned to resolve the issues involved. This process is ongoing and the NCSE are actively engaging with schools in relation to establishing ASD classes where there is an identified need for the 2019/2020 school year.

When the NCSE sanction a special class in a school, the school can apply to my Department for capital funding to reconfigure existing spaces within the school building to accommodate the class and/or to construct additional accommodation. 

Special Education Needs Organisers (SENOs) who are locally based are available to assist and advice parents whose children have special needs.  They also assist and advise schools in making decisions in this area.

As the Deputy's question relates to placement for a particular child, I have referred the question to the NCSE for their direct reply.

Oireachtas Joint Committee Reports

Ceisteanna (75)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

75. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the actions he has taken on foot of a recommendation of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Climate Action that his Department should by the end of 2019, in consultation with the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment and other relevant experts, review the curriculums for primary and secondary education for coverage and accuracy to ensure that students are fully literate on climate change and its potential impact. [17070/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I have recently met with my colleague The Minister for Communications Climate Action and the Environment, Richard Bruton TD to discuss the Oireachtas Committee Report and the Governments Climate Action Plan.

In 2018, the NCCA undertook an audit of the curriculum at primary and post-primary levels to look at the potential for learning and teaching related to education for sustainable development. Many of the opportunities identified related to the areas of climate change and climate action. The findings of the audit will inform major reviews of curricula currently underway at primary and senior cycle levels and more specific reviews of particular subjects and curriculum areas on an ongoing basis. The NCCA audit is at the link below

NCCA Audit of ESD in the Curriculum published in June 2018:

https://www.ncca.ie/media/3573/esdreport_final_june2018.pdf.