Exploration Licences

Ceisteanna (180)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

180. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he will address matters (details supplied) relating to applications for licences. [24690/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I wrote to the Joint Committee for Communications, Climate Action and Environment on 26 November 2018 and set out my concerns with regards to the financial impacts of the Bill referred to in the Question, which would lead to very significant financial risks to the State. In addition to the potential revenue lost by the State from a gas or oil discovery, and the legal costs and compensation costs that would fall on the Exchequer due to the implementation of the Bill, the enactment of the Bill would also have immediate financial consequences for the Exchequer, including repayment of application fees and the return of acreage rental fees.

In relation to the Deputy's query, there does not appear to be any reference to the number of applications in the letter of 22 May 2019 that I received from the Ceann Comhairle. However, I can advise you that there are applications for 12 petroleum authorisations, involving the award of acreage, currently under consideration by my Department. No decision has yet been made in respect of these applications, i.e. no authorisation has been granted in respect of these applications. Three of these applications were received prior to end 2017, five were received in 2018, and four were received in 2019. The form of authorisation sought is as follows:

Authorisation sought

No.

Licensing Option

2

Frontier Exploration Licence

8

Lease Undertaking

2

Total

12

Renewable Heat Incentive

Ceisteanna (181)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

181. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the status of the opening of the second phase of the support scheme for renewable heat which will provide operational support for biomass boilers and anaerobic digestion heating systems; the specific supports in terms of grant aid which will be available to farmers interested in applying and investing in anaerobic digestion heating systems; the criteria which will apply for applicants; the closing date for applications; the current and capital allocations to the scheme in 2019; and the allocations fixed for the following years. [24809/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I opened the second phase of the Support Scheme for Renewable Heat (SSRH) on 4 June 2019.

The scheme will be administered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) and full details, including the supports available, eligibility criteria and how to apply, are available on SEAI’s website at the following link: https://www.seai.ie/sustainable-solutions/support-scheme-renewable-/

Applications are being accepted on an on-going basis with no closing date. However, under the State aid approval, the latest date on which aid may be granted is 1 December 2025.

Under Project Ireland 2040, the National Development Plan sets out an indicative resource allocation of €300 million for the rollout of the scheme for the period up to 2027. An allocation of €5 million capital and €0.8m current was provided for the scheme for 2019. Allocations for future years will be made as part of the annual estimates process.

Ship Disposal

Ceisteanna (182)

Michael Collins

Ceist:

182. Deputy Michael Collins asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if a matter relating to an abandoned trawler at a location (details supplied) will be investigated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24662/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The relevant legislation in cases such as that referred to by the Deputy is the Merchant Shipping (Salvage and Wreck) Act, 1993, as amended.

Section 51 of the Act places the initial responsibility to remove the wreck on the owner.

Section 52 of the Act also gives the local authority the power to remove the wreck and either:

- to dispose of the wreck and to retain out of the proceeds the expenses incurred by them or

- to recover their expenses from the owner  of the wreck. 

I do not have any function in relation to the funding of local authorities for such purposes under the Act.

Bus Services

Ceisteanna (183)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

183. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the road passenger service routes funded under the LocalLink programme by the National Transport Authority for which the operators are receiving direct payment under the free travel scheme. [24705/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport.

The National Transport Authority (NTA) has statutory responsibility for securing the provision of public passenger transport services nationally. It also has national responsibility for integrated local and rural transport, including management of the Rural Transport Programme which operates under the Local Link brand.

In light of the NTA's responsibilities in this matter, I have referred your question to the NTA for direct reply to you. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.

Taxi Regulations

Ceisteanna (184)

Jackie Cahill

Ceist:

184. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if the National Transport Authority will be instructed to accept applications for new vehicle licences for hackney licence holders in view of the practice by which it will only accept applications for wheelchair accessible taxis, hackneys, local area hackneys and limousines in further view of the fact this discriminates against persons who wish to enter the trade with a standard vehicle and is anti-competition in its nature; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24595/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport. However, the regulation of the small public service vehicle (SPSV) industry is a matter for the National Transport Authority (NTA) under the provisions of the Taxi Regulation Act 2013. 

My Department continues to support the development of an integrated, accessible public transport network and a target has been set for the full taxi and hackney fleet to be wheelchair accessible by 2035.

Since 2010, in order to support an increase in the number of wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAVs), the NTA has only granted new licences for taxis or hackneys in respect of WAVs. To supplement this measure, the NTA administers a WAV Grant Scheme, which offers grants on a sliding scale from €2,500 to €7,500. The scheme aims to assist with the cost difference in purchasing a WAV or converting a vehicle to fulfill the WAV requirements. This scheme is open to all SPSV drivers, with grants offered on a first-come-first-served basis.

The NTA, as the Regulator, set the standards for entry to the SPSV sector with a view to protecting the public interest and ensuring public safety and consumer protection. All prospective drivers and dispatch operators applying to enter the industry are subject to the same rules and conditions thus ensuring a level playing field. 

I remain committed to increasing the number of WAVs within our SPSV fleet and supporting the NTA in the administration of the WAV Grant Scheme.

Ports Policy

Ceisteanna (185)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

185. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the status of Galway Port; his plans to maintain the port as a national tier 2 port or to downgrade it to a port of regional importance in view of the major development plans being developed for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24609/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

National Ports Policy (2013), which was approved by the Government, categorises Galway Harbour Company as a Port of Regional Significance. There is no change to the status of Galway Port as this categorisation remains unchanged.

National Ports Policy provides for the transfer of five designated Ports of Regional Significance (Drogheda, Dún Laoghaire, Galway, New Ross and Wicklow) to more appropriate local authority led governance structures.

Galway Harbour Company as a Port of Regional Significance is designated to transfer to Galway City Council and due diligence is currently underway in preparation for the transfer.

Concussion in Sport

Ceisteanna (186)

Marcella Corcoran Kennedy

Ceist:

186. Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the position regarding policy on concussion in sport; his plans to introduce a standardised policy for all sports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24666/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

I fully recognise the importance of ensuring athlete safety. Athlete welfare is paramount. Various organisations have concussion and head injury guidelines for their sports, which stress the importance of ensuring the health and well-being of the athletes.

However, as neither I nor Sport Ireland have a statutory role or remit with regard to monitoring, reviewing, or ensuring consistency between, the safety standards in use by, or applicable to, National Governing Bodies of Sport (NGBs), the question of introducing a standardised concussion policy for all sports does not arise. Responsibility for athlete safety and participants rests with the individual National Governing Bodies of Sport. The approaches taken in each sport in relation to concussion are accordingly a matter for the NGBs themselves with cognisance being taken of the risk profile of the particular sport concerned, that sport’s collective experience and the medical expertise within the relevant sport.

NGBs must, of course, abide by Health and Safety legislation and should have regard to any guidance issued by relevant statutory agencies. The safety of all those involved in sport is of paramount importance, whether as participants, competitors, spectators, volunteers or workers.

Rail Services

Ceisteanna (187, 188)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

187. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if the proposed new passenger rolling stock for Irish Rail will have space for the carriage of a minimum of eight bicycles as recommended by the European Parliament (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24768/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

188. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the status of the electrification of the rail line from Dublin to Maynooth; if the rolling stock that will run on the line will make full provision for persons with assisted mobility requirements; if the rolling stock will be enabled with bicycle, pram and buggy storage room; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24769/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 187 and 188 together.

As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport.  The National Transport Authority (NTA) has statutory responsibility for the planning and development of public transport infrastructure in the Greater Dublin Area, including the implementation of the overall DART Expansion programme which includes Maynooth line enhancements and the procurement of additional rail fleet.

Noting the NTA's responsibility in the matter raised, I have referred the Deputies questions to the NTA for a direct reply.  Please contact my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 days.

Capital Expenditure Programme

Ceisteanna (189)

Gino Kenny

Ceist:

189. Deputy Gino Kenny asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the capital expenditure of his Department from 1 January to 30 April 2019 under the heading of B8.5 cycling and walking; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24770/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that I have secured a significant improvement in funding allocations over the period 2018-2021 which will benefit both cyclists and walkers. These improved allocations over this period include:

- €110 million specifically dedicated to cycling and walking infrastructure in our major urban areas;

- €135 million for sustainable urban transport measures;

- €750 million approximately towards the BusConnects programme in Dublin which will include the delivery of around 200 kilometres of segregated cycling lanes, where possible; and

- €53 million to support the development of new Greenways.

In addition to the above, Government has also made additional money available for cycling projects through both the Urban and Rural Regeneration and Development Funds under the National Development Plan.

The Deputy's question is specifically about the monies for Cycling and Walking available under Subhead B8.5;  as implied by the details above, this funding line is only one small component of the overall Exchequer support for active travel.  The provisional figure for capital monies drawn down from that particular subhead line between 1 January and 30 April 2019 is €314,634.

Child and Family Agency Funding

Ceisteanna (190)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

190. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the budgetary allocation Tusla received from her Department in the past four years; the name of all organisations, bodies, institutions and so on that are assisting Tusla with funding or have assisted Tusla with funding; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24648/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Tusla, the Child and Family Agency receives annual funding from the Exchequer under my Department's Vote (Vote 40). The budgetary allocation to Tusla under sub-head A3 for each of the years in question is set out in Table 1.

Table 1: Tusla Budget Allocation for the years 2015 - 2018 

Year

Budget Allocation (€’000)

2015

658,401

2016

676,042

2017

712,895

2018

753,526 

Tusla also receives budgetary allocations from other areas of my Departments Vote that include Early Years Pre-School Inspectorate, Children and Young Person's Services Committees (CYPSC), Outcomes for Children Quality and Capacity Building Initiative (QCBI) and the Area-Based Childhood (ABC) programme. 

In addition to receiving funding from my Department's Vote, Tusla received income from the following sources as highlighted in Table 2 (Reference Tusla's Annual Financial Statements 2015 - 2018).

Table 2: Tusla: Other Income Sources

Other Income

2015

(€’000)

2016

(€’000)

2017

(€’000)

2018

(€’000)

Atlantic Philanthropies

1,085

1,859

2,498

2,095

Secondment Income

530

599

650

1,038

Other Specific Project Income

318

78

66

58

Early Years Income

46

421

242

258

Miscellaneous Income

969

791

697

910

I have asked Tusla to respond directly to the Deputy in regard to the names of all organisations, bodies and institutions as requested.

Domestic Violence Refuges Provision

Ceisteanna (191)

Kathleen Funchion

Ceist:

191. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs further to Parliamentary Question No. 609 of 21 May 2019, the reason no specific budget for counselling services is being provided for a refuge (details supplied); the alternative sources of funding she recommends the refuge to apply for in order that it can continue to provide critical and essential services to vulnerable women and children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24695/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The refuge referred to by the Deputy which also services a neighbouring county receives funding from Tusla, the Child and Family Agency to provide emergency refuge accommodation, support and outreach services to vulnerable women and children.

The allocation of resources to services is an operational matter for Tusla. In line with its commissioning process, Tusla allocates funding to services based on prioritised needs.  I understand Tusla wrote to the Deputy on the 22 May, 2019, outlining the means by which counselling needs for victims of domestic violence are met.

In 2018, the service received funding of €506,468 from Tusla. Service and funding arrangements for 2019 are currently being completed. Available resources for domestic violence services focus as a priority on dealing with the crisis, safety and support needs of victims.

Since becoming Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, I have secured additional resources for domestic sexual and gender based violence services. This year, investment for the further investment and development of these services has increased by €1.5 million. A proportion of this funding will allow:

- 12 new outreach workers for women and children affected by domestic violence to improve access to support and services. An outreach worker will be assigned to one of the areas referred to by the Deputy.

- The roll out of a 12 week healing programme for children who have been impacted by domestic abuse which also helps parents/guardians to understand their child’s experiences and support their recovery.. 

It is important that the needs of victims of domestic violence are met in the best way possible, with due attention to the quality, accessibility, and outcome of services. I am committed to supporting the Agency in meeting the needs of individuals who experience domestic violence. 

Domestic Violence Refuges Provision

Ceisteanna (192)

Kate O'Connell

Ceist:

192. Deputy Kate O'Connell asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs when a refuge (details supplied) will be fully operational again; the capacity it will have in terms of space and bed numbers for persons who wish to use it; if there is scope for children to accompany and stay with their guardians who may attend same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24696/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Tusla, the Child and Family Agency has advised me that the refuge referred to by the Deputy will be operational as a refuge in Quarter 3, 2019. The refuge was temporarily closed for essential refurbishment works due to concerns about electrical installations at the facility. An upgrade of the building has been completed. 

The newly upgraded facility provides nine family units of accommodation for victims of domestic violence. Each family unit of accommodation can accommodate one adult and up to 3 children.

The opening of the refuge has been delayed as there are important staffing matters to be addressed. Tusla is currently exploring the option of commissioning a specialist domestic violence organisation to manage the facility. It is expected that outreach services will be in place for service users in advance of accommodation services being made available in Quarter 3, this year. 

In the interim, Tusla agreed with the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive (DRHE) to provide short-term accommodation to a cohort of homeless women. Tusla has reported that a number of these women are victims of domestic violence who are receiving support from specialist domestic violence organisations. This arrangement will continue until the service reopens as a domestic violence refuge.

It is important that the needs of victims of domestic violence are met in the best way possible, with due attention to the quality, accessibility, and outcome of services. I am committed to supporting the Agency in meeting the needs of individuals who experience domestic violence.

Child and Family Agency Expenditure

Ceisteanna (193)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

193. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the amount Tusla has paid to a service (details supplied) for the placement of Irish children in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24700/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

As the Deputy's question relates to operational matters for Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, I have requested that Tusla respond directly to the Deputy on this matter.

Preschool Services

Ceisteanna (194)

Peter Burke

Ceist:

194. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if there is funding for providing a new concept of a full outdoor preschool. [24792/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

My Department and I are always open to new and innovative solutions and concepts in the provision of childcare services. Outdoor service provision and play is an area we are particularly interested in and indeed, past capital funding schemes have specifically targeted this area. While no decisions have yet been made about future capital schemes we will certainly be considering outdoor provision once the process begins.

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.

Capital strands are made available to achieve the strategic priorities for the year as determined by the 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.

I have allocated significant funding in recent years for this purpose and for improving the quality of infrastructure nationwide.

Planning for 2020's Capital offering is currently underway and the details of this will be communicated to providers in due course. The service may be able to apply for this funding next year when details are announced.

Comhairle na Tuaithe

Ceisteanna (195)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

195. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the number of meetings of Comhairle na Tuaithe held to date in 2019; the work programme of the body for the remainder of 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24607/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

Outdoor recreation has become increasingly popular as a means of social engagement, of enhancing physical and mental well-being, and of supporting tourism and rural economic development.  The continued growth and potential of the sector is reflected in the level of investment in outdoor recreation infrastructure by Government Departments, State Agencies and Local Authorities in recent years.

However, the continued growth of the sector must be balanced with the sustainable use of our natural resources, the protection of our environment, and the rights of landowners who permit their lands to be used for recreational purposes.

As a group which is representative of all of the key stakeholders in outdoor recreation, Comhairle na Tuaithe has done much to support the sustainable development of the sector since 2004.

Given the continuing expansion of, and interest in, outdoor recreation in Ireland, I believe that it is important and timely to refresh the mandate of Comhairle na Tuaithe so that it can continue to play an important role in advising on the further development of outdoor recreation in a sustainable way as the sector grows and evolves.   

On 6th June last, at its first meeting of 2019, I presented a new mandate to Comhairle na Tuaithe which will reinforce and strengthen its advisory role in relation to the sustainable development of the outdoor recreation sector in Ireland.  At this meeting, I also announced the appointment of Dr. Liam Twomey as the new Chair of Comhairle. 

The new mandate strengthens the role of Comhairle in advising me on the sustainable development of outdoor recreation, particularly in the open countryside.  I have also asked Comhairle to identify opportunities to develop rural enterprises based on outdoor recreation activity, and to consider the scope for the development of a new National Strategy for Outdoor Recreation, taking account of recent developments and investments across the sector.

Comhairle will meet again under the chair of Dr. Twomey on 11th July, and I anticipate that the group will agree a work programme for the remainder of 2019 based on the new mandate which they have been given.

Public Liability Insurance

Ceisteanna (196)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

196. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the progress made to date regarding legislation to provide an insurance indemnity to farmers who provide access to their hill land for recreational purposes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24608/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

As the Deputy will be aware, my officials have been working to develop a national scheme to protect private landowners in upland areas from possible claims from recreational users while on their lands. My Department has been advised that the introduction of any such indemnity scheme will require legislation.

My officials met with the Attorney General's Office recently to explore the various options open to the Department and to identify the precise legislation which would be required to implement an indemnity scheme.

This is a complex issue, as it is not possible to define trails on hills and mountains in the same manner as the Way-Marked Trails, and many of the lands are commonages. The legal rights of landowners must also be respected by any scheme, while at the same time trying to maintain access to the lands for recreational users on a permissive access basis. 

In light of the complex issues at stake, I am also considering interim options that might be available to address the matter.  My officials will continue to work to find a resolution that meets the concerns of landowners who provide access to their lands for recreational purposes.

Charities Regulation

Ceisteanna (197)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

197. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the date documentation (details supplied) was received by the Charities Regulator. [24765/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

The Charities Regulator is an independent authority and was established in October 2014 under the Charities Act 2009. The key functions of the Regulator are to establish and maintain a public register of charitable organisations operating in Ireland and ensure their compliance with the Charities Acts. I have no function in this matter.

In line with section 40 of the Charities Act 2009, all organisations which had been granted charitable status by the Revenue Commissioners when the Charities Regulator was established in October 2014 were automatically entered on the Register of Charities.  I am advised that, in the case of registered charities under section 40 of the 2009 Act, the approval of the Revenue Commissioners should be sought in the first instance for proposed constitutional amendments.

Illness Benefit Applications

Ceisteanna (198)

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

198. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will receive confirmation of their stamp contribution history for 2019 in order to have their illness benefit application processed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24599/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Due to the modernisation of PRSI processes from the 1st January 2019, The Department of Employment Affairs and Social protection was able to access the PRSI record of the person concerned and confirm her contributions in order to process her Illness Benefit claim.

The person concerned exhausted her entitlement to Illness Benefit on 16 February 2019. However, she has requalified for Illness Benefit from the 20th May 2019 as she has paid 13 additional contributions after the date her benefit expired.

The person concerned has submitted medical certificates up to 16 May 2019 only.  If the person concerned remains ill and unfit for work, further medical certificates from 17 May 2019 should be submitted to the Department as soon as possible in order for payments to issue to her.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Social Welfare Benefits Waiting Times

Ceisteanna (199)

Kathleen Funchion

Ceist:

199. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason for the delay in the medical review in social welfare cases such as carer’s allowance, domiciliary care allowance, invalidity pension and disability in which it is taking up to 26 weeks for the review to take place; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24697/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

My Department is committed to ensuring that claims are processed as expeditiously as possible and to providing a quality service to all claimants. 

 My Department continues to engage with general practitioners and others to clarify the medical requirements of our schemes so that adequate information may be provided with the initial claim.  This increases the likelihood of an eligible initial decision and therefore reduces the need for further evidence to be submitted for review at a later stage.

Processing times can vary across schemes depending on the differing qualification criteria. The disability and illness related schemes require a high level of medical evidence which has to be initially gathered and sourced by the claimant and then when received must be assessed by the Medical Assessors.  This, together with other qualifying criteria such as means testing, can affect the processing times of claims.  Where there is significant medical evidence to be considered this can lengthen the processing times.

My Department has 32 Medical Assessors (MAs) including the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) and the Deputy Chief Medical Advisor (DCMA).  Current Medical Assessor resources are focused on ensuring that claims for the various disability and illness schemes are prioritised above other work.

Working Family Payment Data

Ceisteanna (200)

Peter Fitzpatrick

Ceist:

200. Deputy Peter Fitzpatrick asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of persons employed by the Defence Forces in receipt of the working family payment. [24606/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Working Family Payment (WFP) is an in-work weekly payment which provides additional income support to employees on low earnings with children. WFP is designed to prevent in-work poverty for low paid workers with child dependants and to offer a financial incentive to take up employment.

The numbers of Defence Force employees in receipt of WFP are as follows: 

Occupation

Number

NCOs and Other Ranks, Armed   Forces

66

Public Servant

54

Other Occupation

4

Grand Total

124

It should be noted that the above figures include 54 Public servants who are employed by the Defence Forces. The balance (70) consist of Army, Navy or Aer Corp personnel.

State Pension (Contributory) Eligibility

Ceisteanna (201)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

201. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when the total contribution system is to be introduced as the sole method by which State pension entitlements are assessed and the averaging system abolished for new applications; when it is planned to amend the law to this effect; the date this change will be effective from; her plans to increase the age at which applicants become eligible for the State pension from the present 66 years of age upwards; when these changes will apply; the details of the new age limits; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24611/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The introduction of a Total Contributions Approach (TCA) to establishing the level of entitlement for all new state pension contributory claims was signalled by the then Government in the National Pensions Framework in 2010.  At that time it set a target date of 2020 for the implementation of TCA.  More recently, the Roadmap for Pensions Reform 2018-2023 targeted implementation of the TCA in 2020.  This is subject to the necessary legislation being enacted and supporting structures being in place.   

Consultation is a very important part of the development and design of the new pension.  With this in mind, I launched a public consultation on the design of the TCA on the 28th of May 2018.  The consultation was open for over 3 months and the Department received almost 300 responses from individuals and organisations.  Those submissions outlined the views of respondents on the issues of most interest to them.

Having carefully examined the outputs of the consultation process, my Department is now finalising the design of the scheme and I intend to shortly bring a proposal to Government setting out that design.  When the Government has agreed the approach to be taken, I will initiate the work required to introduce this reform.  This will include a public announcement of the model proposed, and the date it is expected to be effective from.

The Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2011 provided that State pension age will be increased gradually to 68 years.  This began in January 2014 with the abolition of the State pension (transition) which was available to people aged 65 who had retired and who satisfied the PRSI qualifying conditions.  This standardised the State pension age for all at 66 years (it was already 66 for non-contributory pensioners, and for contributory pensioners who worked to 66 or older).  Under the legislation enacted, this will increase to 67 in 2021 and to 68 in 2028.  These changes will assist in maintaining the sustainability of the overall state pension system, helping to make it more feasible for the rate of payment to grow in line with prices and / or average earnings in the future.  

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance Scheme Data

Ceisteanna (202, 203, 204)

David Cullinane

Ceist:

202. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of children aged four to 11 years of age who were and are eligible for the back to school clothing and footwear payment in each of the years 2015 to 2018 and to date 2019; the overall cost of the back to school clothing and footwear payment for children aged four to 11 years in each of the years 2015 to 2018 and to date in 2019; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24629/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

David Cullinane

Ceist:

203. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of children over 12 years of age attending secondary school who were and are eligible for the back to school clothing and footwear payment for each of the years 2015 to 2018 and to date in 2019; the overall cost of the back to school clothing and footwear payment for children aged over 12 years of age attending secondary school in each of the years 2015 to 2018 and to date in 2019; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24630/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

David Cullinane

Ceist:

204. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of children attending a third level institution who were and are eligible for the back to school clothing and footwear payment for each of the years 2015 to 2018 and to date in 2019; the overall cost of the back to school clothing and footwear payment for children attending a third level institution in each of the years 2015 to 2018 and to date in 2019; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24631/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 202 to 204, inclusive, together.

The back to school clothing and footwear allowance (BSCFA) scheme provides a once-off payment to eligible families to assist with the costs of clothing and footwear when children start or return to school each autumn.  The Government has provided €56.3m  for the scheme in 2019 which operates from June to September.

The payment rates for the 2019 scheme are €150 for eligible children aged 4 to 11 years and €275 for children aged over 12 years and attending secondary school. The 2019 scheme opened on 1 June. 110,000 customers (200,000 children) were awarded the allowance automatically from a matching exercise on the Department's computer systems and did not have to make an application.  These customers will receive a letter during the month of June and will be paid €40.5m during the week commencing 8 July.

Customers wishing to apply for the allowance who do not receive an award letter by the end of June will need to submit an application.  Applications can be made online or applications can be downloaded from www.welfare.ie from 24 June.  Application forms will also be available from 24 June in all department Intreo Centres and Citizens Information centres, or by texting Form BTSCFA followed by name and address to 51909 or by e-mailing BSCFA@welfare.ie.

In general, the allowance is payable in respect of eligible children between the ages of 4 and 17 in respect of whom a qualified child allowance is being paid and eligible children between the ages of 18 and 22 who are in full-time second level education and in respect of whom a qualified child allowance is being paid.  The allowance is not paid in respect of children in third level education.

To qualify for BSCFA a person must meet a number of conditions namely:

- The child must meet the age criteria.

- The applicant must be in receipt of a qualifying payment and getting an increase in that payment for the qualified child (except in certain circumstances). 

- The assessable income for the household must be within prescribed limits.

- The applicant and the child (or children) in respect of whom the allowance is claimed must be resident in the State. 

The breakdown in numbers and expenditure requested by the Deputy are in the tabular statement. 

BSCFA Expenditure 

Year

No. of children aged 4-11

Rate per child 4-11

Expenditure

No. of children aged 12+

Rate per child 12+ 

Expenditure

Total children

Total Expenditure

2015

161,000

€100

€16.1m

120,000

€200

€25.3m

281,000

€41.4m

2016

167,000

€100

€16.7m

117,000

€200

€23.1m

284,000

€39.8m

2017

160,000

€125

€20.0m

115,000

€250

€28.9m

275,000

€48.9m

2018 *

154,000

€125

€19.3m

112,000

€250

€28.0m

266,000

€47.3m

2019 ^

116,000

€150

€17.4m

84,000

€275

€23.0m

200,000

€40.4m

 * Provisional Outturn

 ^ Figures for 2019 represent automatic awards only. Scheme is open until 30 September. Up to 50,000 additional applications may be processed before scheme closes.  Total estimated expenditure  for 2019 is €56.3m.