School Accommodation Provision

Ceisteanna (208)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

208. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of an application by a school (details supplied). [25362/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I can confirm that my Department is in receipt of applications from both of the schools referred to, by the Deputy. Officials from my Department have been liaising with the school authority and on this basis additional information, required to complete a full assessment of the applications, was recently received. Once the assessment process has been completed a decision will issue to the school authority directly.

Departmental Properties

Ceisteanna (209)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

209. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the amount of land purchased and leased by size and amount expended in the past five years to date; the location of same; the term of the lease and amount expended per year in cases in which land is leased; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25383/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The detailed information requested by the Deputy needs to be compiled by my Department. Arrangements are being made in this regard and to issue a reply directly to the Deputy.

Departmental Properties

Ceisteanna (210)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

210. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of buildings and property purchased and leased and the amount expended in the past five years to date; the location of same; the term of the lease and the amount expended per year in cases in which properties are leased; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25400/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The detailed information requested by the Deputy needs to be compiled by my Department. Arrangements are being made in this regard and to issue a reply directly to the Deputy.

School Accommodation

Ceisteanna (211)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

211. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Education and Skills the details of a project (details supplied); the deadline for the scheme; the criteria for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25427/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I can confirm that my Department is in receipt of an application for additional school accommodation from the school referred to by the Deputy. This application is currently under assessment, once the process has been completed, a decision will issue to the school authority directly.

School Enrolments

Ceisteanna (212)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

212. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on the practice of secondary schools requiring a deposit to secure a place at the school; the position in relation to the entitlement of parents to a refund of the deposit in the event the child is unable to subsequently take up the place at the school and the school has been notified in advance of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25439/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Schools are not permitted to charge an enrolment fee. Apart from the fee-charging second level schools, recognised primary or post-primary schools are not allowed to charge school fees.

Section 64 of the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018, which was commenced on 3rd October 2018, explicitly prohibits the charging of fees or seeking payment or contributions for admission to or for continued enrolment in a school.

Section 64 applies to all recognised primary and post primary schools with exceptions only for fee charging secondary schools, boarding schools and schools that provide post leaving courses or courses in further education in respect of these courses.

School Funding

Ceisteanna (213)

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

213. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the qualifying criteria for post-primary Irish medium schools to be eligible to receive the Irish and bilingual grant of €103 per child; the schools in receipt of the grant; the reason the grant has not been approved for multi-denominational schools in the ETB, community and comprehensive sectors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25460/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The purpose of the Irish and Bilingual Grant is to provide funding to schools for instruction through the Irish Language.

The funding arrangements made by the Department for voluntary secondary, comprehensive & community and ETB schools and colleges reflect the different management and ownership arrangements that apply to schools at second level.

Voluntary secondary schools, in the Free Education scheme, which are privately owned and managed, are funded by way of per capita grants. These schools receive a grant in lieu of fees that had been levied prior to 1967. An additional per capita grant is paid to secondary schools in the voluntary sector in which instruction is through the medium of Irish in full or in part. The grant is not paid in either the Community & Comprehensive or the ETB sectors.

Financial allocations to the ETB sector are made on a budget basis in respect of head office and other costs, including those relating to schools. ETBs are given a high level of autonomy in the management and appropriation of their budgets and each ETB is allowed to distribute its allocations in line with its priorities and perceptions of need. Any funding issues for an individual school have to be managed from within the relevant ETB’s budget. The Department does not earmark funding allocations for individual schools in the ETB sector.

The Department’s Policy on Gaeltacht Education 2017-2022 aims to ensure the availability of a high quality and relevant Irish-medium educational experience for all young people living in Gaeltacht areas and in this way to support the use of Irish as the main language of families and of Gaeltacht communities. Under the terms of the Policy, additional teaching and/or other resources, including dedicated continuing professional development (CPD), will be made available to schools whose applications to participate in the Gaeltacht Schools’ recognition process are approved. It is envisaged that the allocation of resources will be on a staged incremental basis over a five-year period and will take account of the resources already allocated to each newly recognised Gaeltacht school in accordance with the language criteria set out in the Policy on Gaeltacht Education 2017-2022.

Special Educational Needs

Ceisteanna (214)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

214. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills the financial assistance available to fund assessments for children who have been identified as potentially requiring additional learning supports in view of the substantial cost of same for parents and the negative impact of delays in diagnosis and supports on the development of the child. [25498/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

As the Deputy may be aware my Department in September 2017 introduced a new model to support pupils with special educational needs in our schools. The new model differs significantly from the old Resource Allocation Model, in that Special Education Teacher allocation is now frontloaded into schools to support children with special educational needs. Rather than having to make individual application to the NCSE for additional supports schools can now respond to individual needs in a flexible way and pupils do not have to have a psychological assessment, or a diagnosis of a disability, in order to access Special Education Teaching. This means that those with highest level of need can access the highest level of support within the school in a timely manner.

Educational Psychologists from my Department’s National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) work with schools using a problem solving model to help schools identify need and interventions to support those needs. Under the new model, NEPS encourages schools to use a continuum based assessment and intervention process whereby each school takes responsibility for initial assessment, educational planning and remedial intervention for pupils with learning, emotional or behavioural difficulties. Teachers may consult their NEPS psychologist should they wish to for advice. Only in the event of a failure to make reasonable progress, in spite of the school's best efforts in consultation with NEPS, will the psychologist become involved with an individual child for intensive intervention or assessment.

This system is in line with international best practice and allows psychologists to give early attention to urgent cases and also to help many more children indirectly than could be seen individually. It also ensures that children are not referred unnecessarily for psychological assessment and have equality of access to support prioritised on their individual needs.

Therefore I can advise that parents should discuss concerns in relation to their child or young adult, in the first instance, with the Principal involved and request a review of his/her current Student Support Plan with a view to discussing his/her response to interventions in place and the appropriateness of involvement of the NEPs psychologist.

I hope this clarifies the issue for the Deputy.

Special Educational Needs Staff

Ceisteanna (215)

Kevin O'Keeffe

Ceist:

215. Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Skills if SNAs whose employment is terminated as a result of loss of SNA hours in a school will be re-employed should the SNA hours be reinstated on appeal. [25516/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The recruitment and appointment of Special Needs Assistants is a matter for the individual school authority in accordance with the relevant Department publications. These publications can be accessed on my Department’s website at www.education.ie

All standard SNA vacancies and cover SNA vacancies of 24 weeks or more must be advertised on one of the following websites as soon as practicable. SNA vacancies may also be advertised locally as required / deemed necessary. This will enable SNAs who are being made redundant to know what SNA vacancies are available.

List of Websites:

www.educationposts.ie

www.staffroom.ie

www.educationcareers.ie

www.educatetogether.ie

www.jobsireland.ie

Any Education and Training Board websites

The supplementary assignment arrangements for Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) were established on foot of proposals brought forward by the Labour Relations Commission when the Haddington Road Agreement was being agreed. These supplementary assignment arrangements for SNAs continue to operate under the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018 - 2020, and both unions representing SNAs, namely SIPTU and FÓRSA, have signed up to that agreement. As set out in the LRC proposals, the supplementary assignment arrangements for SNAs only apply to current SNAs who are notified that they are to be made redundant. Accordingly, the purpose of these arrangements is to facilitate eligible SNAs who are being made redundant by one employer in filling SNA vacancies that may become available in another school / ETB.

Once an SNA with a minimum of one year's service (service in a substitute capacity i.e. covering for maternity leave, sick leave, career breaks, job-sharing etc. does not count) is notified by his/her employer that s/he is to be made redundant then s/he shall be deemed to be a member of a supplementary assignment panel for SNAs. The detailed supplementary assignment arrangements for SNAs for the 2019/2020 school year are set out in Departmental Circular 0030/2019 which issued on 22 May 2019 and which is available on the Department's website at the following address:

http://www.education.ie/en/Circulars-and-Forms/Active-Circulars/cl0030_2019.pdfThe operation of this panel is described and outlined in Circular 0030/2019 and it is designed to be as flexible as possible which enables all eligible SNAs, who have the requisite Panel Form 1 completed by their former employer, to apply for any SNA position that is advertised by a school or an ETB with no sectorial, diocesan or geographical limitations imposed. Every eligible SNA will remain on the panel for two years with a view to getting further employment. If they are not successful over that period of time in obtaining a further SNA position then they will be eligible for a redundancy payment. Furthermore, an SNA may opt out of this supplementary assignment panel at any point in time triggering the processing of his/her redundancy payment in line with the terms set out in the SNA redundancy scheme (DES Circular 58/06) or any revision of same that is applicable at that time. It should be noted that this does not prevent any person, including newly qualified SNAs, from applying for SNA vacancies but employers are obliged to give precedence to applicants who are members of the SNA Supplementary Assignment Panel.

The Supplementary Assignment Panel arrangements are reviewed by my Department on an annual basis in conjunction with an independent Supplementary Assignment Manager, the school management bodies and the two unions representing SNA staff (FÓRSA and SIPTU).

My Department has set up a dedicated e-mail address to deal with all queries in relation to the SNA Supplementary Assignment Panel and any queries in respect of the operation of the Panel can be directed to this dedicated e-mail address: snasupplementpanel@education.gov.ie.

Special Education Review

Ceisteanna (216)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

216. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to make changes to guidelines which dictate students attending special schools must leave school at 18 years of age whereas students attending mainstream schools can attend until they are 20 years of age (details supplied). [25530/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Special Schools funded by my Department are intended to cater for children and young persons with complex special educational needs from the age of 4 years until the end of the school year in which they reach their 18th year.

Some people with a disability, over the age of 18, and who have complex needs, may require specialised support throughout their lives. Ongoing care and support services within the community, in a post school setting, are provided by voluntary or statutory organisations; responsibility for such care and support rests with the HSE.

Special school staff typically have extensive engagement with parents, HSE multi-disciplinary teams and the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) which involves planning for the child’s future, including options for further education, training, employment or other placement options subject to the child’s abilities, including the young person’s transition to adult services when they reach the age of 18 years.

It is important to note that students with complex special educational needs who transfer to adult service settings can continue to participate in educational programmes through further adult educational programmes or in adult settings which are allocated resources towards educational provision.

A special school may, subject to application, retain students over the age of 18 years who are pursuing courses leading to accreditation at level 3 or above of the National Qualifications Framework (Junior Certificate/Leaving Certificate Applied/FETAC 3); for an additional year in order to complete these courses.

Subject to the fulfilment of the criteria outlined above, special schools are invited to make applications, in January each year. My Department may then exempt the school from the provisions of Rule 64(1) of the Rules for National Schools for a student.

Additional associated services for students over the age of 18, such as school transport, capitation and teaching resources, will only be considered in respect of those students for whom an exemption from Rule 64(1) of the Rules for National Schools has been granted by the Department of Education and Skills, allowing the school to retain such students for an additional school year.

Special schools are established as primary national schools and are therefore required to operate in accordance with the Rules for National Schools.

Rule 64(1) of the Rules for National Schools, states that a pupil may not be retained on the rolls, after the eighteenth anniversary of his (her) birth.

The approval of the Department is therefore required for special schools to seek an exemption from the provisions of Rule 64(1) of the Rules for National Schools, in order to retain the pupil for an additional year beyond age 18.

This rule also applies to any mainstream primary national school who would seek to retain a pupil over the age of 18.

In relation to classes in National Schools Receiving Instruction in the Post Primary Programme, Rule 52 (c) of the Rules and Programmes for Post Primary Schools also applies, which states that the attendance of any pupil after the date of attaining the age of 18 years cannot be included in the returns in respect of which payment is made from the grants administered by the Primary Branch of the Department.

Similarly, pupils attending post primary schools may be allowed to complete an accredited course which they have commenced prior to reaching age 18, the Rules and Programmes for Post Primary Schools does not provide for indefinite or ongoing attendance of such pupils who are aged over 18.

At my request, the NCSE is currently developing policy advice on the educational provision that should be in place for students educated in special schools and classes and make recommendations on the provision required to enable students in special schools and classes achieve better outcomes.

The NCSE have been asked to complete and submit it’s report to the Minister not later than June 2020. There will be no change to the enrolment of students over 18 years in special schools, pending the receipt of this policy advice.

Schools Building Projects Data

Ceisteanna (217)

John Curran

Ceist:

217. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of school building projects at an advanced stage of architectural planning stage 2b detailed design in mid-western areas of Dublin; the number of school building projects in mid-western areas of Dublin that have been at stage 2b for more than one, two, three and over five years, respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25535/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Stage 2(b) Detailed Design is arguably the most complex and detailed of all the stages in Architectural Planning.

In the majority of school building projects, this stage includes the planning application, the application for Fire Cert and Disability Access Cert and the pre-qualification of contractors. It also includes the preparation of complex and detailed tender documents.

Over the past year, some school building projects have undergone a longer than normal Stage 2b process. This can be due to a complicated or detailed planning application, appeals to An Bord Pleanála, complications around decant arrangements or issues relating to the site. Furthermore, in completing Stage 2(b), Design Teams are now required to upgrade design details to ensure that new school buildings are Near Zero Energy Buildings (NZEB) in compliance with the 2017 amendment to Part L of the current Building Regulations. In many cases this has involved a second planning application to allow for the installation of photovoltaic panels on the roof following receipt of the initial planning permission.

In addition, since November 2018, a number of competitions to pre-qualify suitable and competent building contractors have been challenged in the High Court leading to the need to completely redraft the procedures and processes involved in pre-qualification. This has impacted over the past few months on projects which were not themselves subject to a direct challenge.

In terms of current projects at Stage 2b in the area referred to by the Deputy, 2 projects have been progressing for 2 years, 2 projects have been progressing for 3 years and 2 further projects have been progressing through the stage for 4 years. This is in the context of currently over 70 major school building projects in advanced architectural planning and a continuous throughput of projects moving into Stage 2b and onwards towards Tender Stage and Construction.

Energy Efficiency

Ceisteanna (218)

John Curran

Ceist:

218. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of schools that will undergo a deep energy retrofit as part of the major programme of retrofits scheduled to commence in 2022 as outlined in Project Ireland 2040; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25539/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

In the National Development Plan (2018-2027) €2.5bn is identified for the refurbishment and construction of schools. Part of this is intended for a deep energy retrofit of schools built prior to 2008.

My Department and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland are currently involved in an energy efficiency retrofit pilot scheme for schools. Now in its third year, the aim of the pilot is to create a scalable model for energy efficiency retrofitting of schools.

This is taking place in advance of the major programme of retrofits scheduled to commence in 2022, as outlined in Project Ireland 2040. Subject to resources, it is intended to expand the intake of schools in the pilot programme in the lead up to 2022. However, it is too early at this stage to say how many schools will be involved with this programme.

This pilot commenced in 2017 when ten schools received energy retrofits. In 2018 six schools received retrofits and seventeen schools are set to benefit from this scheme in 2019.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio

Ceisteanna (219)

John Curran

Ceist:

219. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to reduce class sizes (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25540/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Budget 2019 marks the third year of a major reinvestment in the education. In 2019, the budget for the Department of Education and Skills will increase by €674 million, a 6.7% increase on last year. In total, the Education budget will have increased by €1.7 billion compared to 2016.

Budget 2019 will see numbers employed in our schools reach the highest ever level. Over 1,300 additional posts in schools will be funded, including more than 370 teaching posts to cater for growth in student population and additional special classes. This builds on the Budget 2018 measure which provided a one point improvement in the staffing schedule in primary schools which brings the position to the most favourable ever seen at primary level.

The 2018/19 school year saw an increase of over 6000 teaching posts in our schools compared to the 2015/16 school year.

The Statistics Section of my Department's website contains extensive data in relation to our schools including pupil teacher ratios and teacher numbers. The latest figures in relation to pupil teacher ratios show an improved ratio of teachers to students from 16:1 to 15.3:1 at primary level when comparing the 2015/16 school year to the 2017/18 school year.

Capitation Grants

Ceisteanna (220)

John Curran

Ceist:

220. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to increase capitation grants at primary school level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25541/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I fully recognise the need to improve capitation funding for schools.

I am pleased to have been able to provide for a 5% increase in capitation funding for primary and post primary schools that will apply from the start of the 2019/20 school year. Over the course of the school year 2019/20, an additional €10 million will be allocated to primary and post primary schools, of which €4 million will be allocated in 2019.

I must be prudent in the context of ongoing budgetary pressures. Where it is not possible to do everything that I would like to do in the education sector in any one year I have to prioritise, especially in the context of increasing enrolments.

It is my intention to seek funding for further capitation increases in future budgets.

Schools Building Projects

Ceisteanna (221)

John Curran

Ceist:

221. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of a school building project (details supplied); the timeline for the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25560/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The major building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is at an advanced stage of Architectural Planning – Stage 2b (Detailed Design) which includes the application for statutory approvals and the preparation of tender documents.

The design team is currently working on the Stage 2(b) report which on completion will be submitted to my Department for review. In completing the Stage 2(b) report the Design Team is required to upgrade the current design to ensure that the new school building is a Near Zero Energy Building (NZEB) in compliance with the 2017 amendment to Part L of the current Building Regulations.

Upon receipt and review of the Stage 2(b) report my Department will revert to the school with regard to the further progression of this project at that time.

School Funding

Ceisteanna (222)

Seán Fleming

Ceist:

222. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills the funding approved and or made available for the purchase of properties for school purposes in County Laois in each of the years 2017, 2018 and to date in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25564/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The funding approved and or made available for the purpose to which the Deputy refers, is outlined in the table for each of the years 2017 and 2018.

Year

Amount Paid

2017

€130,000

2018

Nil

As the Deputy will appreciate, I cannot comment on funding approved or being approved for the current year due to commercial sensitivities surrounding site acquisitions in general.

Cycle to Work Scheme Administration

Ceisteanna (223)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

223. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the cycle to work scheme; if the administration of the scheme can be improved in order to ensure that more teachers can take up the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25605/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

My Department operates a cycle to work scheme for teaching and non teaching staff employed in Primary, Voluntary Secondary and Community/Comprehensive schools and the details are outlined in Circular 0066/2017. The Circular sets out the parameters of the scheme facilitated by my Department.

The Education and Training Boards also operate a cycle to work scheme for staff employed in their schools and the details are outlined in Circular 25/2014. (Link attached)

https://www.education.ie/en/Circulars-and-Forms/Active-Circulars/cl0025_2014.pdf

The Department acts as paymaster to over 4,000 schools whose Boards of Management are the direct employers of the teachers and non-teaching staff employed in those schools. My Department facilitates the scheme by paying the cost of a bicycle and associated safety equipment up front from approved providers. The scheme as operated by the Department specifically allows teachers to obtain a new bicycle and associated safety gear to a maximum value of €1,000 every five years, avail of tax relief on the costs and repay the net amount by salary deduction through the Department’s payroll. The scheme as operated by the Department must be in accordance with Revenue Guidelines in relation to cycle to work schemes.

Circular 0066/2017 (link attached) provides a number of options for the teaching and non teaching staff covered by the terms of the scheme who wish to avail of it to repay the net cost through salary deduction over a period of time within the calendar year. Given the nature of their employment contracts, there are some categories of teachers the Department is unfortunately unable to facilitate under the cycle to work scheme, for example casual substitute teachers, teachers replacing teachers absent from teaching duties on approved leave such as maternity leave, sick leave.

I would encourage teachers and non teaching staff to avail of the cycle to work scheme and if possible to submit their applications for it as early as possible in the calendar year, so if desired the salary deductions can be spread over the longest repayment period. Alternatively, this can be achieved by completing the salary deductions over a shorter period or by a single salary deduction.

Further details of the scheme including application forms and frequently asked questions are available to all education staff on my Department’s website.

Link to Circular 0066/2017:

https://www.education.ie/en/Circulars-and-Forms/Active-Circulars/cl0066_2017.pdf

Peace and Reconciliation Programme

Ceisteanna (224)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

224. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he or his officials have discussed integrated schools with their Northern Ireland counterparts recently; if so, the status of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25616/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

While no specific discussions on integrated schools have taken place, my officials regularly meet with their counterparts in the Department of Education and its agencies in Northern Ireland, to review the progress of delivery of objectives under the Shared Education strand under the PEACE IV programme.

Since the Executive in Northern Ireland Executive ceased to operate in January 2017, it has not been possible to have Ministerial meetings with counterparts from Northern Ireland.

Naturalisation Applications

Ceisteanna (225)

Shane Cassells

Ceist:

225. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if efforts are being made to ease the high costs faced by UK citizens who have lived and worked here for decades when they are applying for Irish citizenship which they need in order to apply for an Irish passport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25011/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, the granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is governed by the provisions of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended. All applications for a certificate of naturalisation are processed and assessed individually in accordance with the provisions of the Act.

The fees to be paid by an applicant for a certificate of naturalisation are governed by the provisions of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Regulations 2011 (S.I. No. 569 of 2011).

The application fee, stipulated at €175, is payable on application for a certificate of naturalisation and a certification fee is payable on the issue of a certificate of naturalisation. The standard certification fee is set at €950, while a reduced fee of €200 applies in the case of an application made on behalf of a minor or in certain cases where the application is made by a widow, widower or surviving civil partner of an Irish citizen. In the case of recognised refugees and stateless persons the certification fee is nil.

As such, the Regulations make specific provision for particular categories of applicants who may be on a reduced level of income. There is no provision in the Regulations for the discretionary waiver or reduction of fees, or for differing fees to apply to different nationalities, or based on length of residency.

The standard fees payable by an applicant are designed to reflect the effort and cost involved in processing applications for a certificate of naturalisation. The Deputy will be aware that formal citizenship ceremonies have been introduced at no extra cost to applicants. These have been universally well received by participants as the ceremonies provide a sense of dignity and occasion that serves to underscore the importance to both the State and the applicant of the granting of Irish citizenship.

The fees charged should be viewed in the context of the significant benefits attendant to securing an Irish passport, particularly in the context of visa free travel to other jurisdictions.

Detailed information on Irish citizenship and naturalisation, along with the relevant application forms and guidance notes, is available on the INIS website at ww.inis.gov.ie.

Parental Leave Framework Agreement

Ceisteanna (226)

John Brassil

Ceist:

226. Deputy John Brassil asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to allow parents to share unpaid parental leave between them. [25065/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, the Parental Leave Act 1998, generally, does not provide for the transfer of unpaid parental leave between parents.

Section 6(6) of the Act provides that where two or more parents are entitled to parental leave, neither of the parents shall be entitled to (a) the parental leave of any other parent, or (b) to transfer any part of the period of their parental leave to any other parent in respect of their child.

However, there is one very specific exception to this provision. Section 6(7) of the Act provides that where both parents are employed by the same employer, one parent may transfer up to 14 weeks of parental leave to the other, only if their employer consents.

These provisions will remain unchanged by the Parental Leave (Amendment) Bill 2017, once enacted and commenced.

In all other cases, parental leave remains non-transferable, and I can confirm that the Government has no plans to change this position.

Proposed Legislation

Ceisteanna (227, 265)

Seán Fleming

Ceist:

227. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on setting up a judicial council to review the level of awards for personal injury insurance claims; the timeline for such a proposal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25874/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Declan Breathnach

Ceist:

265. Deputy Declan Breathnach asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if consideration will be given to setting up a judicial council to review levels of awards for personal injuries; if his attention has been drawn to the urgency of bringing down the level of awards for soft tissue injuries in line with international norms; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25359/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 227 and 265 together.

As the Deputy will be aware, the Judicial Council Bill was published in June 2017 and completed Committee Stage in the Seanad relatively recently. I will be bringing forward amendments to the Bill for consideration at Report Stage in the Seanad on 20 June next. Those amendments will provide for the establishment of a Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee. That Committee will be tasked with the preparation of personal injuries guidelines and will have all the powers necessary for it to carry out its functions in an efficient and effective manner. The Personal Injuries Commission expressed the view that an approach of this kind would achieve a greater level of consistency in Ireland in the assessment of general damages in personal injuries cases and I concur with this view.

I am committed to securing the enactment of the Judicial Council Bill before the summer recess and, with the cooperation of Senators and of Deputies, I believe that this will be possible.

Prisoner Privacy

Ceisteanna (228)

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

228. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of complaints made by prisoners and or their families regarding breaches of privacy to the Irish Prison Service over the past 12 months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24891/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I am advised that the Irish Prison Service sought clarification from the Deputy's Office regarding the type of breach being referred to in this PQ. The Deputy's Office rephrased the question as follows:

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality, the number of breaches of confidence related to the personal or private information of a prisoner during the period of May 2018-May 2019, as set out under Rule 51 of the Prison Rules 2007.

I am advised by my officials in the Irish Prison Service that they have received 8 complaints in the past twelve months from prisoners or their families in relation to alleged breaches of privacy.

The Irish Prison Service takes all complaints of breaches of privacy very serious and all complaints are investigated to ascertain the nature of the breach. Following an investigation a complaint may be upheld, complaint may be refused or there may be insufficient evidence to determine the source of the alleged breach.