Library Projects

Ceisteanna (149)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

149. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the status of the roll-out of the 2019 libraries programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23025/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

My Department funds a libraries capital programme that will invest some €29 million in 19 projects, and in the My Open Library service, between 2016 and 2022.

Two major developments have already been completed under the programme with Kevin Street library in Dublin and Athy library in County Kildare opening in 2018. Moreover, two mobile libraries have been commissioned in Kerry and Wexford; a new schools library van has been funded in Tipperary. Equipment, furniture and fittings have been funded for approximately 20 libraries to support the continued roll-out of My Open Library service which is now available in 13 public libraries and due to launch in seven more in the coming months.

I expect local authorities to continue to make good progress in 2019. To this end, I have secured an increased capital allocation of €6 million for the programme this year. The allocation reflects increasing activity under the programme with, for example, construction on four major developments advancing significantly or completing this year, namely the libraries in Edgeworthstown (Longford), Portlaoise (Laois), Ennis (Clare) and North Clondalkin (South Dublin).

To date in 2019 just over €628,000 has been paid. I expect this to increase considerably as the year progresses and further projects commence.

Local and Community Development Programme

Ceisteanna (150)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

150. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the status of the review of the operation of the local community development committees and the national public participation networks advisory group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23026/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

A report on the LCDC review is being drafted by my Department with guidance and input from the LCDC Review Steering Group and is at an advanced stage. The aim of the report is to provide a set of practical recommendations that address the challenges identified in the consultation and strengthen the operation of the LCDCs going forward.

The Local Government Reform Act 2014 significantly increased the community function in Local authorities providing for the establishment of LCDCs and Our Public Service 2020 recognises the LCDCs as the primary vehicle for collaboration at a local level. In this context my Department is currently involved in comprehensive consultation with the City and County Management Association and other stakeholders to ensure that the LCDC review is as robust as possible. While this engagement has been very worthwhile, it has taken longer than anticipated. I expect to have a draft for my consideration very shortly and would hope to publish the final report in July 2019.

The National Public Participation Network (PPN) Advisory Group, representative of all stakeholders, was established to advise and support my Department in the operation and development of PPNs. The first group was established in 2016 and ran until September 2017. The second group was established in late 2017 and has met on eight occasions to date. This group is working well with my Department in relation to the ongoing support and development of PPNs and there are no proposals, at this stage, to review the operation of the group.

As part of its work programme, the Advisory Group is reviewing the PPN User Guide, in consultation with PPNs around the country. A public consultation process on the matter has recently been concluded and the responses received are currently being considered by a subgroup of the PPN Advisory Group.

LEADER Programmes Funding

Ceisteanna (151)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

151. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the extent to which LEADER funding is available to communities and bodies in County Kildare; the amount available for distribution in 2019; the amount made available in 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23027/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

LEADER is a multi-annual programme for the period 2014-2020 and has a total budget of €250 million over that period. The amount allocated to Co. Kildare under the LEADER Programme is €5.2 million. This allocation is provided for the duration of the programme, rather than on an annualised basis, to provide greater flexibility to the Local Action Group (LAG) which administers the programme. All project approvals are made by the LAG.

The Local Action Group in Co. Kildare is the Kildare Local Community Development Committee (LCDC) in partnership with Kildare County Council and Kildare County LEADER Partnership.

To-date, 21 projects with a combined grant value of over €900,000 have been approved for funding by the LAG. A further 14 projects, with a grant value of over €1 million, are at earlier stages of the approvals process.

Project payments are drawn down as approved works are completed and claims for payment are submitted by the project promoters. My Department has approved and paid claims totaling €221,422 in respect of projects in County Kildare. In addition, funding has also been provided to cover the costs of the LAG in delivering the LEADER strategy in Kildare.

I will be closely monitoring progress across all LEADER areas in the coming months to ensure that the budget available to Ireland under the programme is fully utilised.

Departmental Schemes

Ceisteanna (152, 154)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

152. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the extent to which he expects various supports administered by his Department to benefit persons, groups or bodies throughout County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23028/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

154. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the extent to which he expects to be in a position to support applications from County Kildare for assistance under the various schemes operated by his Department in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23031/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 152 and 154 together.

My Department is committed to the successful delivery of the following programmes which have provided financial and other supports to organisations in County Kildare. Funding is being made available under each of these schemes in 2019.

I would encourage community groups and local bodies to submit applications where eligible and I look forward to providing further supports to rural and urban communities in the county moving forward:

- The Rural Regeneration and Development Fund, which I launched in 2018 as part of Project Ireland 2040, supports ambitious and strategic projects which have the potential to transform rural economies and communities. Three projects located in County Kildare were awarded funding of €2,865,500 from the first call to the Fund. The second call for applications to the Fund was launched in April 2019, and will close on 6 August 2019.

- The Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme is our country’s primary social inclusion intervention. This is a five-year, €190m national programme that is delivered locally, to help those in the greatest need. The funding allocation to Kildare for 2019 is €1,061,036.00.

- The Community Enhancement Programme, which I launched in 2018, has provided funding of €468,671 to projects in Kildare, including more than €26,000 to Men's Sheds groups, which provide a safe space where men can gather and participate in their communities, develop social networks and potentially gain new skills and access information. The funding allocation to Kildare for 2019 is €148,013.00.

- The LEADER Local Action Group (LAG) in Kildare has been allocated €5,261,600 to invest in the economic and social development of County Kildare over the period of the programme to 2020. In 2019, €238,716 has so far been approved for three LEADER projects in Kildare.

- 224 projects were approved for €21.3 million of funding under the 2018 Town and Village Renewal Scheme. This included eight projects totaling €520,000 for Kildare. The closing date for receipt of applications for 2019 is 28 June, and the main focus this year will be on public-realm type activities and the enhancement of town centre amenities. Building on the pilot scheme launched by Minister Ring in October 2018, measures to encourage town centre living will also be welcome.

- The Seniors Alert Scheme facilitates valuable community-based support for vulnerable older people. A total of 1,432 installations have been approved for elderly persons in Kildare since September 2015.

- The Local Improvement Scheme delivers improvement works on small private or non-public roads in rural areas. The scheme is funded by my Department and is administered through the Local Authorities. The funding allocated to Kildare is €250,000 for 2019.

- €85,684 was announced in January 2019 for the Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure scheme in Kildare and further funding will be available under the scheme later this year.

- Kildare also received funding of €8,000 which assisted two agricultural shows for 2019.

- A total of 35 Tidy Towns committees in Kildare received €63,000 in funding in 2018. I will consider, later this year, whether I will be in a position to allocate funding to TidyTowns Committees through this particular funding stream in 2019.

- The Community Services Programme (CSP) supports community organisations to provide local services through a social enterprise model. The funding is provided as a contribution to the cost of a manager and an agreed number of full-time equivalent positions. In 2019, the CSP is providing funding of some €440,628 towards the cost of employing approximately 17.5 full-time equivalent positions and three managers in five community based organisations and social enterprises based in County Kildare.

- Two of the five CSP supported organisations were approved for additional support through the CSP Support Fund, which was announced in January to assist organisations that are struggling to meet the current minimum wage requirements in 2019.

Departmental Funding

Question No. 154 answered with Question No. 152.

Ceisteanna (153)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

153. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development when the next tranche of grant aid will be awarded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23030/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

My Department delivers a variety of programmes that provide financial supports to rural and urban communities. The application periods for these programmes vary and full details of all relevant dates and deadlines can be found on the Government of Ireland website, gov.ie. Funding announcements are made following the processing and evaluation of applications in accordance with the criteria set out in respect of each programme.

The LEADER Programme is a multi-annual funding programme from 2014-2020. Decisions to approve a project, or otherwise, are a matter for the Local Action Groups (LAGs) which administer the programme in each LEADER area. Interested applicants should, in the first instance, contact the relevant LAG through its Implementing Partners to discuss the funding that may be available. Funding can be provided under a broad range of defined themes, which include enterprise development and social inclusion. Contact details for all LAGs are available on the gov.ie website at https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/c45498-local-action-groups/

The Community Enhancement Programme (CEP) deadline for receipt of applications for 2019 in most Local Authority areas is 30 May. The CEP is managed by Local Community Development Committees in each Local Authority area. Applications should check with their LCDC for details regarding the CEP, including the closing date, in their area.

Some €46m is available under the Community Services Programme (CSP) in 2019. The CSP supports around 400 community organisations, with funding provided as a fixed annual contribution to the cost of a manager and an agreed number of full-time equivalent (FTE) positions. Expressions of Interest are accepted on an ongoing basis throughout the year, with funding for new organisations considered, in light of available budgets, during the year and subject to their suitability with the programme criteria.

The Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme provides funding for the development of new outdoor recreational infrastructure or the necessary maintenance, enhancement or promotion of existing outdoor recreational infrastructure in Ireland. I launched the 2019 Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme on Friday 29 March. The closing date is 31 May.

The Walks Scheme covers 39 trails, with payments to approximately 1,900 private land-holders to maintain those trails. In line with the Programme for a Partnership Government commitment to increase the number of walks covered by the scheme, funding for the scheme was doubled in Budget 2019 - from €2 million to €4 million. Expression of Interest Forms are available on the gov.ie website.

I have allocated €86 million in support for 84 projects worth €117m under the first call applications for the €1 billion Rural Regeneration and Development Fund. The Second Call for applications under the Fund opened on 12 April 2019 and closes on 6 August 2019. As with the 1st call funding announcements will be made in each case when applications have been processed and evaluated.

Almost €53 million has been approved under the Town and Village Renewal Scheme for more than 670 projects since 2016. For 2019, the main focus of the Town and Village Renewal Scheme will be on public-realm type activities and the enhancement of town centre amenities. Building on the pilot scheme I launched in October 2018, measures to encourage town centre living will also be welcome. Details of the 2019 Town and Village Renewal Scheme which was launched on 16 April 2019 are on gov.ie and closing date for receipt of applications is 28 June 2019.

The CLÁR programme provides funding for small infrastructural projects in specific designated rural areas that have experienced significant levels of depopulation. I launched the 2019 programme on 28 February and the application period closed on 25 April 2019.

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: Community Wellbeing Supports, comprising of: 3(a) First Response Support; 3(b) Mobility and Cancer Care Transport; and 3(c) Sensory Gardens

My officials are currently assessing all applications received and I hope to be in a position to announce the successful 2019 CLÁR projects in the coming weeks.

Question No. 154 answered with Question No. 152.

Departmental Projects

Ceisteanna (155)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

155. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the status of an application by a school (details supplied); when a decision will be made on the application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23052/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

I can confirm that an application has been received under the scheme in question in respect of the group referred to by the Deputy.

Almost 500 applications were received by my Department under this scheme. My officials are currently assessing all of the applications received and I hope to be in a position to announce the successful projects in the coming weeks.

Social Welfare Appeals Status

Ceisteanna (156)

Peter Burke

Ceist:

156. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of an appeal by a person (details supplied). [22945/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal from the person concerned was referred to an Appeals Officer who has decided to hold an oral hearing in this case on 6th June 2019. The person concerned has been notified of the arrangements for the 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.

Departmental Schemes

Ceisteanna (157)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

157. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to expand the carer’s leave scheme or to introduce more flexibility into the scheme or introduce a new scheme to enable persons to take more time off work to care for elderly parents who are living at home; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22977/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The Government acknowledges the crucial role that family carers play and is fully committed to supporting carers in that role. This commitment is recognised in both the Programme for a Partnership Government and the National Carers’ Strategy.

My colleague, the Minister for Justice and Equality, has policy responsibility for maternity leave, parental leave, force majeure leave and carer's leave.

My Department provides a range of supports to those who are caring for family members, friends or neighbours. These measures aim to recognise the needs of carers through the provision of appropriate income supports, to enable carers to remain in touch with the labour market to the greatest extent possible and to empower carers to participate fully in economic and social life.

These income supports include the following:

- Carer’s Allowance

- Carer’s Benefit

- Carer’s Support Grant

- Domiciliary Care Allowance

Carer's leave from employment is unpaid but the Carer's Leave Act ensures that people who need to avail of carer's leave will have their jobs kept open for them while they are on carer's leave. They may be eligible for Carer's Benefit if they have the required number of PRSI contributions or they may qualify for Carer's Allowance, which is means-tested, while they are on carer's leave.

State Pension (Contributory)

Ceisteanna (158)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

158. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the basis on which earned homecare credits appear to have been reduced within the calculation for a State pension resulting in a lower rate of payment in the case of a person (details supplied); if a review will be carried out in this instance with a view to awarding full rate of pension; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22989/19]

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.

Under the new measures, a maximum of 1,040 (equal to 20 years) HomeCaring periods can be included in the pension calculation for time spent out of the workforce for parenting and caring reasons.

The person concerned was awarded 1,145 HomeCaring periods based on information already held by my Department. The person has 887 reckonable paid contributions which when combined with the maximum permissible number of HomeCaring periods and reckonable credits of 1,040, as set out in legislation, results in a usable total of 1,927. When this number is divided by 2,080 (equivalent to 40 years), this results in an increase in rate from 90% to 92.64% of maximum state pension (contributory).

A review outcome letter has issued to the person, outlining details of their increase in rate and includes a breakdown of their social insurance contribution record and the maximum HomeCaring periods which can be used in the pension re-calculation.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Civil Registration Legislation

Ceisteanna (159)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

159. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the position in relation to the commencement of section 13 of the Civil Registration (Amendment) Act 2014; the position that pertains to the recognition and recording here of death certificates issued in other jurisdictions in respect of Irish citizens that died abroad; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22993/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The commencement of section 13 of the Civil Registration (Amendment) Act 2014 is subject to engagement by Civil Registration Service staff in the HSE with training that has been developed by the General Register Office of my Department. Officials from my Department are meeting shortly with counterparts from the Department of Health and the HSE to progress the matter with a view to early commencement of section 13 and subsequent implementation of the record of deaths abroad.

Social Welfare Benefits

Ceisteanna (160)

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

160. Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if the reintroduction of the fuel allowance and household benefits package will be considered for carers who do not live with the person they care for in view of the fact that during the winter period claimants on jobseeker's allowance receive a higher payment than carers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23001/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The household benefits package (HHB) comprises the electricity or gas allowance, and the free television licence. My Department will spend approximately €248 million this year on HHB for over 446,000 customers. The fuel allowance is a payment of €22.50 per week for 28 weeks (a total of €630 each year) from October to April, to over 375,000 low income households, at an estimated cost of €240 million in 2019.

Since 1 April 2012, new applicants in receipt of Carers Allowance who are not living with the person for whom they provide care do not have an automatic entitlement to the household benefits package. Carers who live with the person they are caring for still have an entitlement of their own to the household benefits package and do not have to satisfy the household composition criteria. Carers Allowance is not a qualifying payment for fuel allowance and there were no recent Budget changes that would have caused people in receipt of carers allowance to lose entitlement to fuel allowance.

The Government values the role of carers very much and it is for this reason that they receive significant income supports from the Department. In addition to carer’s allowance carers receive additional support in the form of free travel and household benefits (for those who live with the person for whom they care) and the annual carers support grant (€1,700) in respect of each person for whom they care. Where a person is in receipt of certain qualifying social welfare payments, and also providing full time care and attention to another person, they can keep their primary social welfare payment and also get the half-rate carer's allowance.

It should also be noted that since October 2013 the payment of half-rate carer’s allowance does not preclude a person from qualifying for fuel allowance. If a person is in receipt of a non-contributory social welfare payment and a half-rate carer’s allowance, then they are deemed to have satisfied the means test and fuel allowance is payable subject to all remaining criteria being satisfied. If a person is in receipt of a contributory social welfare payment and a half-rate carer’s allowance then they will have to undergo a means test for fuel allowance.

The maximum rates of Carer's Allowance, at €219 for where one person is being cared for, and €328.50 where there are two or more carees, is significantly higher than that for Jobseekers Allowance, which is €203 for those aged 26, and lower for younger claimants. In addition to this higher rate, the means test for Carer's Allowance is very significantly more generous than that which applies to Jobseekers Allowance, which widens further the gap in payments between Carers and Jobseekers.

Any decision to change the qualifying criteria for HHB or fuel allowance would have budgetary consequences and would have to be considered in the context of budget negotiations.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Housing for People with Disabilities Provision

Ceisteanna (161)

John Curran

Ceist:

161. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the steps he is taking to ensure a percentage of all social housing projects supported by capital funding deliver a percentage of integrated wheelchair accessible social housing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22907/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Local authorities are responsible for the provision of social housing in their areas, and, as such, decide on the number and specific types of dwellings to provide in their developments, based on identified need.

One of the key initiatives under the National Housing Strategy for People with a Disability (NHSPWD), which has been extended to 2020, was the establishment of Housing and Disability Steering Groups (HDSGs) in all housing authority areas to achieve a coordinated and integrated approach to meeting the housing needs of people with a disability at local level. These are chaired by Directors of Housing in each authority and include HSE and disability representative organisations.

Each HDSG has prepared a local Strategic Plan for its own City/County area to develop specific local strategies to meet identified and emerging need, over all of the categories of disability, over the next five years. These Plans, the majority of which are now available on the relevant local authority websites, along with the annual Summary of Social Housing Assessments (SSHA), will allow local authorities to plan more strategically for the housing needs of people with a disability and will support the delivery of accommodation using all appropriate housing supply mechanisms. This is a more targeted and responsive way to meet actual need identified rather than designating a specific percentage or number of new social housing builds that are fully wheelchair accessible.

Home Loan Scheme

Ceisteanna (162)

Eamon Scanlon

Ceist:

162. Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the situation faced by many persons who are ineligible for social housing or HAP and renting privately and saving to apply to the Rebuilding Ireland home loan scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22921/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan is designed to enable credit worthy first-time buyers, who are unable to access a mortgage from a commercial lender to obtain sustainable mortgage lending to purchase a new or second-hand property. The low rate of fixed interest associated with the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan provides first-time buyers with access to mortgage finance that they may not otherwise have been able to afford at a higher interest rate.

To support prudential lending and consistency of treatment for borrowers, a Loan to Value ratio of 90% applies to the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan as per the Central Bank's prudential lending guidelines. Therefore, in order to avail of the loan, applicants must have a deposit equivalent to 10% of the market value of the property.

Applicants must provide bank or similar statements (such as post office, credit union, etc.) for a 12-month period immediately prior to making an application, clearly showing a credible and consistent track record of savings. The cash savings should be no less than 3% of the market value of the property. Gifts are permissible up to 7% of the market value of the property, where their source is verified.

Exceptions to the above can be made where an applicant/applicants can clearly demonstrate a consistent and credible record of savings or rent payment through their bank account which at a minimum is equal to:

- In the case of a fixed rate loan, the proposed monthly loan repayment or

- In the case of a variable rate loan, the proposed stress tested monthly loan repayment.

Given the need to administer the loan in a financially prudent manner, in order to protect the financial position of both the borrower and local authorities, I have no plans to reduce these deposit requirements.

For prospective purchasers of newly-built properties, the availability, through the Revenue Commissioners, of the Help to Buy Initiative for first-time buyers may provide additional assistance to help prospective applicants for the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan secure the required level of deposit.

Further information in relation to Help to Buy is available on the website of the Revenue Commissioners at the following web link: https://www.revenue.ie/en/property/help-to-buy-incentive/index.aspx.

Home Loan Scheme

Ceisteanna (163)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

163. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when further funds will be released to Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council to facilitate the Rebuilding Ireland home loan scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22925/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

When the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan was initially being developed, it was estimated that the drawdown of loans under the scheme would be approximately €200 million over three years. From the data collated on the scheme to date, the RIHL has proven to be more successful than initially anticipated, as a result of which, the scheme would require a further tranche of funds to be borrowed by the HFA in order to enable its continuation.

My Department is currently in discussions with the Departments of Public Expenditure and Reform and Finance with regard to the amount of a second tranche, which I anticipate, will be finalised soon. When these discussions are concluded I will be in a position to make an announcement on the matter. However, the scheme remains open and all local authorities have been advised to continue to receive and process applications up to and including the issuing of loans. An announcement on the amount of additional funding to be provided is not inhibiting the running of the scheme in any way.

Social and Affordable Housing Eligibility

Ceisteanna (164)

Eamon Scanlon

Ceist:

164. Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of the review of income eligibility for social housing supports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22926/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

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.

The 2011 Regulations prescribe maximum net income limits for each local authority, in different bands according to the area concerned, with income being defined and assessed according to a standard Household Means Policy.

Under the Household Means Policy, which applies in all local authorities, net income for social housing assessment is defined as gross household income less income tax, and the universal social charge. The Policy provides for a range of income disregards, and local authorities also have discretion to decide to disregard income that is temporary, short-term or once off in nature.

The income bands and the authority area assigned to each band were based on an assessment of the income needed to provide for a household's basic needs, plus a comparative analysis of the local rental cost of housing accommodation across the country. It is important to note that the limits introduced at that time also reflected a blanket increase of €5,000 introduced prior to the new system coming into operation, in order to broaden the base from which social housing tenants are drawn, both promoting sustainable communities and also providing a degree of future-proofing.

Given the cost to the State of providing social housing, it is considered prudent and fair to direct resources to those most in need of social housing support. The current income eligibility requirements generally achieve this, providing for a fair and equitable system of identifying those households facing the greatest challenge in meeting their accommodation needs from their own resources.

However, as part of the broader social housing reform agenda, a review of income eligibility for social housing supports in each local authority area is underway. The review will also have regard to current initiatives being brought forward in terms of affordability and cost rental and will be completed when the impacts of these parallel initiatives have been considered.

Fire Service

Ceisteanna (165)

Denise Mitchell

Ceist:

165. Deputy Denise Mitchell asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of requests received from Dublin City Council seeking funding for the purchase of additional fire appliances to date in 2019; the proportion of those which were approved, pending or refused in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22961/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The provision of a fire service in its functional area, including the establishment and maintenance of a fire brigade, the assessment of fire cover needs and the provision of fire station premises and fire appliances is a statutory function of individual fire authorities under the Fire Services Act 1981. My Department supports the fire authorities through the setting of over-arching policy, providing a central training programme, issuing guidance on operational and other related matters and providing capital funding for priority projects.

Management of the number and type of fire appliances is a matter for each of the local authorities, which have responsibility for the assessment of their individual fire cover needs, including the provision and management of a fleet adequate to their requirements, taking account of national policy.

My Department funds new fire appliances under national procurement programmes, the most recent of which operated in 2015 and 2017. Dublin City Council were approved and grant-aided to procure three Class B fire appliances under both of these programmes. Continued investment in the fire appliance fleet is one of the key national priorities for the Fire Services Capital Programme.

Dublin City Council provides fire services on behalf of the four Dublin local authorities. In September 2018, the Council sought approval to purchase a new turntable ladder/aerial appliance at a cost of €800,000 plus VAT. Further information in relation to deployment and staffing of specialist vehicles was requested from the City Council in January 2019. A further submission was received this month and the request is now being considered further.

All requests for funding from my Department’s Fire Services Capital Programme are considered within the constraints of available resources and have regard to local authorities’ own priorities, consistency with national policy, the value for money offered by proposals and the totality of requests from fire authorities.

Housing Provision

Ceisteanna (166)

Peter Burke

Ceist:

166. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his views on low or medium support hostel accommodation for persons with mental health issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22974/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Rebuilding Ireland, the Government's Action Plan on Housing and Homelessness, includes a range of the measures to support individuals experiencing homelessness. Under the Plan, my Department is providing capital funding to local authorities to ensure that there is sufficient emergency accommodation in place to provide shelter for all who require it. In 2019, the operational budget available to local authorities to support households experiencing homelessness, including the provision of emergency accommodation, has been increased by over 25% to €146m.

Under Rebuilding Ireland, over 200 permanent emergency beds have been introduced in the Dublin region in each of the years from 2016 to 2018. All of these beds are classified as 'supported temporary accommodation', where individuals receive the housing and health supports that they require to exit homelessness into an independent tenancy. Many of the individuals accessing emergency accommodation require significant health supports, particularly in the area of addiction and mental health. I am working closely with the Minister for Health, who is responsible for funding the provision of health supports, to ensure that the necessary arrangements and funding are in place. At the local level, statutory management groups are in place, including representatives of the local authorities and the HSE, to coordinate the delivery of housing and health supports as appropriate.

Election Management System

Ceisteanna (167)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

167. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if legislation will be brought forward outlawing election posters and replacing them with equal access to a public space in which posters from all candidates could be displayed together with reform of the election expenses system to allow all candidates to set out their key priorities. [22996/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Election and referendum posters are regulated by law under the Litter Pollution Act 1997 (as amended) and by electoral law. Electoral law provides that every notice, bill, poster or similar document having reference to a Dáil, Presidential or European election or to a referendum shall bear upon its face the name and address of the printer and publisher thereof. Failure to comply with this provision is an offence.

The Electoral Acts do not regulate the content of electoral material, including election posters, either during or outside of electoral campaigns. However, the Public Order Act 1994 provides that is an offence for any person in a public place to distribute or display any writing, sign or visible representation, which is threatening, abusive, insulting or obscene with intent to provoke a breach of peace.

The Litter Pollution Act (section 19(7)) provides that election or referendum posters may be erected/exhibited for a specified time period prior to and after a polling date. Failure to comply with this provision is also an offence. By way of background, section 19(7) of the Litter Pollution Act 1997 was amended by the Electoral (Amendment) (No.2) Act 2009 to introduce a 30-day time limit prior to an election taking place, during which election posters can be displayed. Prior to this amendment, the relevant legislation had required that election posters be taken down within 7 days of an election but provided no time limit for the period prior to an election within which posters could be displayed. This legislation now ensures that posters are only displayed for a finite and reasonable period.

There is no requirement in law that posters at an election or referendum must be erected. It is open to political parties, candidates or other groups to decide whether or not to do so.

I am satisfied that, overall, the existing arrangements are operating quite well and while electoral law is subject to ongoing review, I have no plans in the short term to revise the legislation related to the erection of election posters or to revise legislation on election expenses in that regard.

Postal Voting

Ceisteanna (168)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

168. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if electoral legislation will be revised in order that persons working abroad at election time in public service roles can be allowed to vote in the same way as members of the Defence Forces. [22997/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Postal voting is provided for in electoral law in respect of a number of categories of electors, including: -

- Irish diplomats serving abroad and their spouses/civil partners,

- whole-time members of the Defence Forces,

- members of An Garda Síochána,

- electors living at home who are unable to vote because of a physical illness or a physical disability,

- certain election staff employed at the poll outside the constituency where they reside,

- full-time students registered at their home who are living elsewhere while attending an educational institution in the State,

- prisoners, and

- electors whose occupation, service or employment makes it likely that they will be unable to vote in person at their local polling station on polling day.

Any person who has to travel, either within or outside of the State, for work on polling day and, as a result, is unable to attend at the local polling station is eligible to apply to his or her registration authority for inclusion in the supplement to the postal voters list to avail of a postal vote for the election or referendum concerned.

Subject to a limited number of exceptions, Irish citizens resident outside the State do not have the right to vote at elections or at referendums held in the State. To provide for such an extended franchise at Dáil and at presidential elections as well as at referendums would require Constitutional amendment.

In this context and in response to the evolving needs of Irish society and its relationship with the wider Irish diaspora, the Government agreed in March 2017 to accept in principle the main recommendation in the Fifth Report of the Convention on the Constitution that Irish citizens resident outside the State, including citizens resident in Northern Ireland, should have the right to vote at presidential elections and that a referendum would be held to seek to amend the Constitution to give effect to this. The extension of voting rights at other elections to Irish citizens resident outside the State is not under consideration at this point in time.

In order to inform public discourse on this significant policy change, an Options Paper was published on 22 March 2017 by my Department and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The Options Paper sets out a broad range of options for the extension of voting rights, international comparisons, the estimated costs involved and related resource issues as well as many of the legal, policy, administrative and logistical challenges associated with extending voting rights to Irish citizens resident outside the State. These options provided a basis for the discussion on voting rights which took place at the Global Irish Civic Forum in Dublin on 5 May 2017.

More recently, the Government agreed on 5 February 2019 that, subject to the timely passage of a Constitution Amendment Bill by each House of the Oireachtas, the proposed referendum on extending the franchise at presidential elections would be held in October 2019. The Government also agreed that the preferred option to be put to the people in a referendum is for an extension of the franchise to all citizens resident outside the State, including citizens resident in Northern Ireland. This will inform the development of a Constitution Amendment Bill in good time for the holding of a referendum in October 2019.