Tourism Industry

Ceisteanna (185)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

185. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent to which he expects the tourism sector to grow in 2019 nationally in addition to the greater Dublin area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22258/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

Tourism has enjoyed a number of years of growth in Ireland, with revenue from overseas visitors to Ireland reaching record levels in 2018, at over €5 billion.

As the Deputy is aware, official statistics on tourism are published by the Central Statistics Office. Overseas visitor data released by the CSO for the early part of 2019 shows that there is continued growth in visitor numbers which indicates that further growth in overseas revenue will be delivered this year broadly in line with Tourism Ireland’s 6% target for the island of Ireland.

In accordance with the Tourism Action Plan 2019-2021, which I published in late 2018, Tourism Ireland is this year rolling out a new tourism brand campaign for the island of Ireland. This campaign, called Fill Your Heart with Ireland, is placing a greater emphasis on regional growth and season extension through the promotion of outdoor activities, Ireland’s developing food experiences, and will help build the attractiveness of some of our less well-known attractions and regions internationally. This initiative will help to deliver further growth in the regions outside of Dublin.

Tourism Promotion

Ceisteanna (186, 187)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

186. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent to which the development of tourist packages is being encouraged with particular reference to attracting and accommodating visitors from Europe and globally; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22259/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

187. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent to which specific holiday packages are being created here to attract visitors from Japan, China and other locations globally that frequent other tourist locations throughout Europe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22260/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 186 and 187 together.

  My Department's role in relation to tourism lies primarily in the area of developing national tourism policy and the tourism agencies (Tourism Ireland and Fáilte Ireland) deal with the implementation of this policy. Tourism Ireland is responsible for marketing the island of Ireland overseas as a holiday and business tourism destination.

While neither my Department nor Tourism Ireland has any role in the development of specific holiday packages for overseas visitors to Ireland – this is a matter for individual tour operators – Tourism Ireland actively engages with international tour operators and travel agents to encourage them to include Ireland in their programmes. It also facilitates Irish tourism enterprises to meet and do business with international tour operators and travel agents through in-market sales missions and events.

In relation to the specific markets cited by the Deputy, I provided increased funding to Tourism Ireland in Budget 2019 to allow it to, inter alia, commence implementing market strategies for growth this year both in new and emerging markets, such as China and Japan, and in Germany. 

National Roads Authority Projects

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A

Ceisteanna (188)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

188. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the timetable for the provision and upgrading of various traffic routes nationally and throughout the greater Dublin area in the context of Project Ireland 2040; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22261/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

With regard to the issue of national roads, as Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme.  Under the Roads Acts 1993-2015, the planning, design and construction/upgrading timetables for individual national roads is a matter for Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), in conjunction with the local authorities concerned.

Noting the above position, I have referred your question concerning national roads to TII for a more detailed reply.  Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 working days.

As the Deputy is aware, the NTA's Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area provides the overarching framework for the planning and delivery of transport infrastructure and services for Dublin over the next two decades including those investment priorities identified in the NDP. Addressing urban congestion on both the strategic road network and locally in certain locations is an important theme in the Strategy. The measures proposed are linked to an analysis of current and projected levels of travel demand across the region. In light of the NTA’s responsibility in this matter, I have forwarded the Deputy’s question to the NTA for further update.

Implementation of the Regional and Local road improvement projects is the responsibility of the relevant road authority with grant support from my Department.  

As it will be some years before funding under the Capital Plan builds up to the level required to maintain the Regional and Local road network in a steady state condition, expenditure continues to be primarily directed towards maintenance and renewal work.  The Capital Plan upgrade projects are being implemented on a phased basis as budgets allow and as projects are advanced through the project development stages by the relevant road authorities. 

The major Regional and Local road projects anticipated for completion in 2019 are:

- R407 Sallins Bypass (Q4 2019/Q1 2020)

- Portlaoise Southern Distributor Road

- Dingle Relief Road

- Grange Castle Business Park, Adamstown (R120) and Nangor Road (R134)

 The other Regional and Local road projects will be progressed as the necessary phases are completed including planning consents, land acquisition and procurement and as funding can be made available by my Department.

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A

Traffic Management

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A

Ceisteanna (189)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

189. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the degree to which his Department monitors the various traffic routes nationally with a view to ensuring advancement of upgrading proposals before reaching gridlock; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22262/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

With regard to the issue of national roads, as Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation the National Roads Programme.  Under the Roads Acts 1993-2015, the planning, design, construction and upgrading of individual national roads is a matter for Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), in conjunction with the local authorities concerned. 

Noting the above position, I have referred your question concerning national roads to TII for a more detailed and direct reply.  Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 working days.

I can also advise that, implementation of the Regional and Local road improvement projects (including traffic monitoring) is the responsibility of the  relevant road authority. 

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A

Sports Events

Ceisteanna (190)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

190. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the degree to which provision continues to be made to capitalise on international sporting events as a means of expanding tourism here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22263/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The hosting of major sports competitions, both participative and spectator sports, can provide great opportunities to showcase Ireland and drive international visitor numbers.  In addition, the media coverage of sports events helps to put Ireland onto travel itineraries as a holiday destination. 

Accordingly, I am very supportive of the work of the tourism agencies and the national governing bodies of sport to attract international events, subject, of course, to an assessment of the costs and benefits involved in any State financial support, in particular the number of overseas visitors. 

Fáilte Ireland provides financial assistance, subject to eligibility criteria, to applicants who are proposing to bid to host international events (including sporting events) in Ireland that would attract significant numbers of international visitors.  When an event with international tourism appeal is confirmed for Ireland, Tourism Ireland would then promote it in relevant markets overseas. 

In terms of forthcoming sporting events, Ireland will host four games as part of the UEFA EURO 2020 football tournament in June 2020 - three group games and one round of 16 game.  The bid to host was a collaborative effort between the Football Association of Ireland, Dublin City Council and my Department.  Depending on qualification, up to 160,000 overseas visitors may attend Euro 2020 matches in Dublin.  Ireland is also currently hosting the UEFA European Under 17 Championships.

Minister Ross and I also support efforts to explore possibilities to host other major sporting events.  With regard to soccer, we welcomed the announcement by the FAI and IFA of their intention to submit a joint bid to host the UEFA European Under 21 Championships in 2023.  In addition, the national football associations of the United Kingdom and Ireland are in discussions about the feasibility of bidding to host the 2030 FIFA World Cup.  This consideration is at an early stage.  

In the sport of golf, Minister Ross and Department officials met with representatives of the PGA European Tour at the Ryder Cup in Paris last year to discuss the possible hosting of a future Ryder Cup in Ireland.  The PGA European Tour subsequently visited Dublin and met the Taoiseach and Minister Ross.  The purpose of these meetings was to explore the opportunities that may exist for hosting the Ryder Cup in the future and considerations are ongoing in this regard. 

Sport Ireland and Failte Ireland have both supported the bid to host the European Cross-Country Championship which was successfull and now will be hosted in Dublin in December 2020.  

Tourism Policy

Ceisteanna (191)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

191. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent to which business and winter tourism can be explored with a view to maximising growth under various headings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22264/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

My Department remains very committed to growing both the business and winter tourism sectors.  

Business Tourism is a very lucrative tourism sector. Fáilte Ireland is responsible for positioning Ireland as a world class Meeting, Incentive, and Conference and Events (MICE) destination to grow overseas business tourism. Accordingly Fáilte Ireland is committed to growing business tourism sector significantly in volume and revenue over the coming years

Also, lengthening the season is an essential part of developing a sustainable tourism industry into the future. Both Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland are very focussed on increasing the seasonal spread of tourism across shoulder seasons.

I have asked both agencies to reply directly to the Deputy with further information on this matter. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.

Sports Capital Programme Applications Data

Ceisteanna (192)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

192. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent to which he has assisted various community sporting facilities by way of major or minor capital grant schemes in the past three years to date nationally and in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22265/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The Sports Capital Programme (SCP) is the primary vehicle for Government support for the development of sports and physical recreation facilities and the purchase of non-personal sports equipment throughout the country.  Grants are available to sports clubs, voluntary and community groups involved in sports, national governing bodies of sport, and local authorities.  Third level colleges,Education and Training Boards (ETBs) and schools may only apply for funding jointly with sports clubs or organisations.Details of all grants allocated and payments made under the SCP are published on a county basis on my Department's website at http://www.dttas.ie/sport/english/sports-capital-programme.

The National Sports Policy which was published in July last year provided for a Large Scale Sport Infrastructure Fund (LSSIF) with at least €100 million available over the coming years. The LSSIF opened for applications on 19th November 2018 and the closing date for receipt of applications was 17th April 2019. 72 applications were received and my officials are currently undertaking an initial assessment of them. Details of all applications have been published on the Department's website.

In view of the detailed information contained in each application, I am advised that it will take a number of months to have all of them assessed.  Accordingly, I expect that it will be towards the end of this year before allocations are announced.

Sports Capital Programme

Ceisteanna (193)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

193. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport when he expects to be in a position to proceed with the next sports capital programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22266/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The 2018 round of the Sports Capital Programme closed for applications on Friday 19th October last.  By that deadline, a record 2,337 applications were submitted seeking a total of €162m in funding. 

186 of these applications were for projects that were deemed invalid under the 2017 round of the programme that subsequently submitted corrected documents.  These applications were assessed first and approximately €7m in allocations to 170 projects were announced on the 17th January. 

619 equipment only applications were assessed next and 466 allocations with a value of €9.8m were announced to these organisations earlier this week.

Work is now underway in assessing the remaining applications for capital works. 

Fort the first time applicants who submitted incorrect documentation under this round are being given the opportunity to correct their application during the assessment period. While there will be no undue delay in completing the assessment process, in view of the opportunity to correct documentation, the record number of applications received and the detailed information contained in each application, it is likely to take a number of months to have all applications assessed. Accordingly, I expect that it may be the third quarter of this year before the full set of allocations under this current round of the programme are announced. 

As soon as allocations have been made, my Department will carry out a review of all aspects of the 2018 round of the programme to include any possible improvements for the future. This review will include consideration of the timing and scale of the next round but I fully expect that the SCP will again be open for new applications before the end of this year.

Brexit Preparations

Ceisteanna (194)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

194. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent to which he is making provision for the eventuality of Brexit with particular reference to its implications for air and sea travel in view of the necessity to ensure easy travel access to continental Europe for Irish customers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22267/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

Brexit has been identified as my Department’s highest strategic risk and the Department, along with other Government Departments and key Agencies, has been preparing for Brexit for three years. This preparation is continuing through extensive contingency planning and stakeholder engagement. While planning continues for both a no-deal Brexit and the ‘central case’ scenario, the Government’s preparations for a no-deal Brexit increased significantly in recent months in the lead up to the end of March as we faced a possible no-deal Brexit.

While the full implications of Brexit for our air and maritime transport are not yet clear, I do not anticipate that direct maritime or direct air services by community air carriers between Ireland and continental Europe will be affected, even in a no-deal Brexit scenario.

That said, a significant proportion of our goods destined for EU markets are transported via the UK landbridge to access these markets. Brexit could impact on the efficiency of the landbridge route particularly where there are increased border and custom procedures and associated delays, or were the UK to subsequently apply differing standards, road charging or regulatory regimes. The landbridge is the fastest route to continental Europe and as such is relied upon for the transport of time-sensitive products, such as those in the agri-food/perishable goods sector, just-in-time and high value goods. Any delays or barriers to this key route to European markets will be detrimental for certain sectors. Significant work has been and continues to be undertaken through the Landbridge Project Group, chaired by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, in seeking to ensure continued access through the landbridge to markets in continental Europe.

In relation to shipping, in the past shipping operators have responded to economic developments and increased or reduced capacity in response to market demands. Following a series of meetings between my officials and the major ferry companies operating at Irish ports, I am confident that shipping services can be expected to adapt to changing market demands that may arise and we have seen the evidence of this over recent months with the increase in shipping capacity on direct routes to continental ports. These services include the MV Celine which was last year launched from Dublin Port and will serve routes to Rotterdam and Zeebrugge and the MV WB Yeats, which is operating between Dublin and Cherbourg since March 2019. Additionally, a new ferry route to Santander in Spain commenced from the Port of Cork in 2018.

Officials from my Department have also been heavily engaged with the work at EU-level to minimise the impact of a no-deal Brexit on the aviation sector. The recently adopted Regulation (EU) 2019/502 on common rules ensuring basic air connectivity aims to ensure the continuation of a basic level of air connectivity for citizens and business between the UK and Europe in the event of the UK exiting the EU without an agreement. While certain provisions within this Regulation have entered into force, the majority will only apply if and when the UK exits the EU without a deal.

In relation to infrastructural requirements, the Government’s Project Ireland 2040 recognises the role and infrastructural plans of ports and airports in supporting continued enhancement of Ireland’s high-quality international connectivity. Key actions planned include a new runway for Dublin Airport, continued development of Cork and Shannon Airports, investment in Ireland West Airport Knock, and for smaller airports under the Regional Airports Programme. There will also be major development of Dublin, Cork, Shannon-Foynes and other ports, as well as investment in transport connectivity to ports.

Railway Stations

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A

Ceisteanna (195)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

195. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the action taken to date to address the issue of the shortage of car parking spaces at Sallins train station, County Kildare; the progress on this issue to date; when it is expected that substantive action will be taken on this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22268/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The National Transport Authority (NTA) has statutory responsibility for the planning and development of public transport infrastructure and services in the Greater Dublin Area.  Iarnród Éireann receive Exchequer funding via the NTA in relation to the provision of car parking at train stations on the heavy rail network in the GDA, including Sallins railway station.

I have therefore forwarded the Deputy's question to the NTA for direct reply.  Please advise my private office if you do not receive a response within ten working days.

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A

Aftercare Services

Ceisteanna (196)

Gino Kenny

Ceist:

196. Deputy Gino Kenny asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the way in which afterschool services which focus on providing services to children from disadvantaged communities whose parents are unemployed will be provided in the future if the cuts planned under the new national childcare scheme proceed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22153/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The National Childcare Scheme is a new, national scheme of financial support for parents towards the cost of childcare.  The development of this Scheme is a significant move forward in delivering quality, accessible, affordable childcare to families throughout Ireland. 

The Scheme represents a fundamental shift away from subsidies grounded in medical card and social protection entitlements, and towards a comprehensive and progressive system of universal and income-based subsidies.  By making this shift and by tangibly reducing the cost of quality childcare for thousands of families across Ireland, the Scheme aims to improve children's outcomes, support lifelong learning, make work pay and reduce child poverty. It is also designed to have a positive impact on gender equality in relation to labour market participation and employment opportunities.

The Scheme will replace the existing targeted childcare schemes with a single, streamlined and user-friendly scheme, providing both universal and targeted childcare subsidies.  To make the transition to the new Scheme as smooth as possible, families can choose to make the switch to the new Scheme once it launches (targeted for October/ November 2019) or can remain on their current childcare subsidy programme for one final year.

With regard to income-based subsidies awarded under the Scheme, parents who are working, studying or who meet certain other conditions will qualify for an enhanced-hours subsidy (up to a maximum of 40 hours per week).  The definitions of ‘work’ and ‘study’ will be set out in regulations made under the Childcare Support Act 2018 and will be comprehensive, covering differing types of work and study arrangements, such as part-time, week on/ week off and zero hour contract arrangements.  

The National Childcare Scheme will greatly increase the number of families who can access financial support. By removing many of the restrictive eligibility requirements of the existing programmes, a far greater number of families will be eligible for targeted, income-related subsidies. Many families will, for the first time, be entitled to subsidies which will reduce their childcare costs significantly. 

There may, however, be a small number of cases where a family who is currently receiving the maximum rate for full-time childcare under an existing programme, may receive less under the National Childcare Scheme, particularly if their child is –  in reality – receiving afterschool care rather than full-time childcare.  In such cases, the family can remain on their current payment in the transition period following the Scheme’s launch.  I have also directed my officials to undertake research and analysis to examine any adjustments to the National Childcare Scheme which might be required to address unusual or anomalous cases, where this is the right thing to do to protect and benefit lower income parents. 

In this regard, I would highlight that the new National Childcare Scheme has been designed to be flexible, with income thresholds, maximum hours and subsidy rates which can be adjusted in line with Government decisions and as more investment becomes available.  As such, any adjustments deemed necessary by Government can be carried out in a quick and responsive manner.

Finally, the Deputy may be aware that my Department also funds Educational Welfare services which are operated by Tusla, the Child and Family Agency. The Schools Completion Programme regularly provides after-school services or homework clubs. These are most often provided in areas of disadvantage. The funding for Educational Welfare activities is unaffected by the National Childcare Scheme.

Childcare Services

Ceisteanna (197)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

197. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if supports will be provided to develop a centre (details supplied) in County Galway to assist childcare providers to extend or provide new childcare facilities in cases in which there is an identified need for additional places; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22247/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Assisting childcare providers in extending their existing childcare services, or establishing new childcare services, have always been key areas of focus of my Department's capital programmes. Capital funding is aimed at increasing the capacity of services, creating new services and maintaining and improving existing services.

Each year my Department reviews the capital programmes as a whole and determines the priorities for Early Learning and Care and School Age Capital grants. The capital strands have been made available to achieve the strategic priorities for 2019 as determined by my Department, having regard to the funding available, developed using analysis of the current state of the childcare sector, learnings from previous capital programmes and feedback and input from stakeholders, including childcare providers and Pobal.

In 2019, I secured €6.106m in funding for the Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare Capital programmes.

I am committed to ensuring childcare is affordable, accessible and of a high quality. This year the focus of the funding for the 2019 Early Learning and Care and School Age Capital programme on the expansion of early learning and care places for 0-3 year olds and school age childcare places where this is most needed.

 This funding will be delivered in three strands, as follows:

- €4.231m has been allocated to Strand A , which will offer grants of up to €50,000 in value to early learning and care providers for the creation of new 0-3 places where demand for these is clearly evidenced.

- €0.875m has been allocated to Strand B , which will offer individual grants of up to €15,000 in value to aid community/not-for-profit early learning and care services in addressing fire safety issues that have been highlighted in inspection reports by Tusla, the HSE or Local Authorities.

- €1m has been allocated to Strand C , which will offer individual grants of up to €20,000 in value to school age childcare providers for the creation of new school age places where demand for these is clearly evidenced.

Applications for funding was available to providers nationwide in a competitive process with the application window open from Monday 25 February. The application window for the Capital programmes closed on 27 March 2019. Pobal are currently in the process of appraising all applications received.

I would like to assure you that all applications for funding will be appraised in a fair, thorough and impartial manner. Decisions are due to be delivered to applicants in June 2019 in the hope that capital works can begin over the summer months.

As the process is ongoing I am not in a position to provide an update as to the status of any individual application for funding at this point. The results of the appraisal process, including the final decisions, will be communicated to providers directly in June 2019.

Illness Benefit Applications

Ceisteanna (198)

Joe Carey

Ceist:

198. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of an application for illness benefit by a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22130/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The Department received an application for Illness Benefit from the person concerned on the 02 May 2019.

However, the person concerned is currently a qualified adult on her partner's Jobseeker's Allowance claim.  This means that her partner is in receipt of a qualified adult allowance in respect of her.

The monetary difference between this allowance and her Illness Benefit entitlement is currently being calculated. Once completed, her illness benefit claim will be awarded and payment will issue to her.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Working Family Payment Applications

Ceisteanna (199)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

199. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of a working family payment for a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22131/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Working Family Payment (WFP) is a weekly in-work payment which provides additional income support to employees on low earnings with children.

An application for WFP was received from the person concerned on 28 February 2019. Their application was referred to a local Social Welfare Inspector (SWI) for further clarification on 08 May 2019. The relevant SWI office was contacted on 17 May 2019 in relation to this application and it has been confirmed that this case will be prioritised.

On receipt of the completed SWI report, the WFP application from the person concerned will be processed without delay and they will be notified of the decision.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Illness Benefit Payments

Ceisteanna (200)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

200. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if the illness benefit section will contact the human resources department of the Houses of the Oireachtas (details supplied); if this error will be rectified in view of the subsequent effect on the tax record of the person for 2019; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22134/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The person concerned applied for Illness Benefit from the 4th March 2019. She submitted a medical certificate from the 4th March 2019 to the 8th March 2019. This certificate was not marked as a final certificate and the Department was not informed that she had returned to work. Due to a processing error the person concerned was paid up to the 22nd March 2019 resulting in an overpayment. 

In all cases where an overpayment has occurred the claimant is written to by the Department and advised that where payment of Illness Benefit has been nominated by the person to be paid to their employer, the person should send a copy of the Department's letter to their Accounts/Payroll section so that the overpayment may be refunded by their employer to the Department.

I understand that official from the Department spoke with the person concerned on Friday 17th May to advise her of the position and a copy of the overpayment letter has issued to her in order that she can provide it to her employer.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Civil Registration Service

Ceisteanna (201)

James Browne

Ceist:

201. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when persons will be able to retrospectively register as parents as per the Civil Registration Bill 2019; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22148/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The sections in the Civil Registration Bill 2019 concerning registration, and re-registration, of births of donor-conceived children will come into operation as soon as the relevant sections in Part 9 of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 (CFRA 2015) are commenced. Commencement of these sections is the responsibility of the Minister for Justice and Equality and, as stated in the Dáil during  Committee Stage of the Bill, I will be requesting that the commencement is made as soon as possible.

Bringing these provisions into operation also depends on commencement of Parts 2 and 3 of CFRA 2015, which includes provisions for determination of parentage of door-conceived children. This is the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for Health, who is working to commence these Parts before the summer recess.

When all of this necessary legislation is commenced it will then be possible for couples to re-register the births of their children, on foot of a Court Order obtained under section 21 or section 22 in Part 2 of CFRA 2015.

The Civil Registration Service is operationally ready to carry out the re-registrations.

Invalidity Pension Applications

Ceisteanna (202)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

202. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if payment will issue to a person (details supplied) as soon as possible; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22174/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The gentleman referred to has been awarded invalidity pension with effect from 28 March 2019.  Payment will issue to his nominated post office on 06 June 2019.  Any arrears due from 28 March 2019 to 05 June 2019 (less any overlapping social welfare payment) will issue as soon as possible.  The gentleman in question was notified of this decision on 20 May 2019.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Child Benefit Eligibility

Ceisteanna (203)

Kevin O'Keeffe

Ceist:

203. Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if consideration will be given to extending the payment term of child benefit to all children over 18 years of age that remain in second-level education up to leaving certificate examination stage; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that many children will in fact be 18 years of age for part of their fifth year term in view of the fact that transition year is compulsory in some schools; and if her attention has further been drawn to the expenditure incurred in transition year in which child benefit would be of enormous help particularly for those having to meet transport costs to and from work experience in which they have to pay adult bus fares in view of their age. [22199/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Child Benefit is a monthly payment made to families with children in respect of all qualified children up to the age of 16 years.  The payment continues to be paid in respect of children up to their 18th birthday who are in full-time education, or who have a disability.  Child Benefit is currently paid, as of end-March 2019 to almost 632,000 families in respect of nearly 1.2 million children, with an estimated expenditure of more than €2 billion in 2018.

Given the universality of Child Benefit, extending entitlement to parents of full time students in second level education who are over 18 years of age would not be a targeted approach.  The adoption of such a proposal would have significant cost implications and would have to be considered in an overall budgetary context.

Families on low incomes may be able to avail of a number of social welfare schemes that support children in full-time education until the age of 22, including:  

- Increase for a Qualified Child (IQCs) with primary social welfare payments;  

- the Working Family Payment for low-paid employees with children;  

- the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance  

These schemes provide targeted assistance that is directly linked to household income and thereby support low-income families with older children participating in full-time education.

Regarding the question of transport costs for those students in transition year, it is my understanding that the majority of children in transition would still be under 18 and therefore Child Benefit is in payment.  Overall responsibility for school transport is a matter for my colleague the Minister for Education and Skills.

Free Travel Scheme

Ceisteanna (204)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

204. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the steps she is taking to ensure that the free travel pass can be used on all private bus operators; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22206/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The free travel scheme provides free travel on the main public and private transport services for those eligible under the scheme.  These include road, rail and ferry services provided by companies such as Bus Átha Cliath, Bus Éireann and Iarnród Éireann, as well as Luas and services provided by over 80 private transport operators.  

The free travel scheme was introduced in 1967. It is not operated as a public service obligation (PSO) and it does not confer any financial advantage on participating transport undertakings. The scheme operates in an objective and transparent manner and on the basic premise that participants should be left no better or worse off as a result of the existence of the scheme.  To this end, compensation under the scheme is calculated on the basis of fares foregone at a reduced rate to take account of travel generated by the free travel scheme. 

Participation in the scheme is not compulsory for those licensed to provide public transport, and the criteria for such licensing is not under my Department's remit.

There are currently over 940,000 customers with direct eligibility.  Following Budget 2019 the funding for the free travel scheme was increased by €5 million to a total of €95 million. In Budget 2018 a further provision of €10 million was made available for the existing scheme to facilitate more private commercial operators joining the free travel scheme for the first time, existing participants adding more routes, and operators returning to the scheme where they had previously withdrawn.  My Department also provides €1.5 million in funding towards the rural transport programme which enables the development of better links between local/rural transport, and scheduled bus/rail services.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.