Home Care Packages Provision

Ceisteanna (512)

Mary Butler

Ceist:

512. Deputy Mary Butler asked the Minister for Health his views on whether home care support packages provided by the Health Service Executive offer the best value to support persons who need care at home; and his plans to fill the vacancies in the sector. [26817/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

The Home Support Service is a core service for older people and is highly valued by service users, their families and by the Health Service Executive. It provides supports which assist older people to live independently in their own homes for longer and enables large numbers of people to return home following acute hospital admission who otherwise would remain in hospital or would be admitted to long stay residential care.

Many more of our older people with complex care needs are now being maintained at home, leading to increased demand for additional levels of service, and for services outside of core hours of Monday to Friday. It is crucial that we develop homecare services and we are working to provide a more viable alternative to nursing home care for a greater number of people. The Department is currently developing plans for a new statutory scheme and system of regulation for home support services. The Scheme will improve access to the service on an affordable and sustainable basis while also introducing a system of regulation that will ensure public confidence. This approach is fully aligned with Sláintecare, Ireland’s vision for healthcare reform over the next 10 years which, at its core, recognises the importance of shifting care to the community to provide care closer to home and allow people to remain living in their communities for as long as possible. The Scheme is a key deliverable under the Department’s Sláintecare Implementation Strategy and has a target date of 2021.

Work is also currently being progressed in relation to a review of the management, operation and funding of current homecare services in Ireland. This review is a commitment under the Programme for Partnership Government and will provide a baseline for the design of an effective, sustainable service as part of the development of a statutory homecare scheme. The review will look at various matters relating to the management and operation of the service, including the proportion of the funding allocated to direct service-provision by the HSE and the methodology for the allocation of funding to service-providers through the HSE’s tendering processes, and how this relates to the funding of direct service-provision by the HSE.

Given the nature of the role of the Home Care Support Assistant, (formerly known as a "Home Help"), these have always been very locally recruited, with a Home Help Manager matching and coordinating staff with clients, dependent on the number of hours and level of support both available from the worker and required by the client. The HSE keeps under review the position regarding the number of HCSA staff employed having regard to the hours available and the hours worked by existing staff in the local area.

Home Care Packages Administration

Ceisteanna (513)

Mary Butler

Ceist:

513. Deputy Mary Butler asked the Minister for Health the procedures being put in place to provide the relevant information technology programme to facilitate the new rota requirements for home care support staff that are now rostered five over seven days as per the recent agreement or contract. [26819/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

As this is a service matter I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond directly to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Home Care Packages Data

Ceisteanna (514)

Mary Butler

Ceist:

514. Deputy Mary Butler asked the Minister for Health the number of intensive dementia home care packages in place from January 2019 to date. [26820/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

As this is a service matter I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond directly to the Deputy as soon as possible.

National Dementia Strategy

Ceisteanna (515)

Mary Butler

Ceist:

515. Deputy Mary Butler asked the Minister for Health his plans to develop a new dementia strategy in view of the fact the current one has expired; his plans to provide more dementia advisers for the 55,000 persons currently suffering with dementia; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26821/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

As a response to the challenges facing people with dementia and their families and carers, the National Dementia Strategy was launched in December 2014. The Strategy contains 35 priority and additional actions and its implementation is being led by the National Dementia Office in the HSE. Progress made to date and future plans, are recorded in the mid-term review of the Strategy's implementation, which was published in May 2018.

The strategy’s implementation was boosted at the time of its launch through a joint programme of investment by the HSE and the Atlantic Philanthropies. This €27.5 million investment allowed for a number of key actions within the strategy to be resourced and implemented. It funded the PREPARED programme, which offers education and clinical resources for GPs and primary care teams; intensive homecare packages for people with dementia; the Understand Together awareness campaign; and the establishment of the National Dementia Office, which has an important role in implementing the strategy. The office has made substantial progress towards developing evidence-based care pathways for people with dementia. Additional projects have been funded by the Dormant Accounts Fund.

A large scale external evaluation of the strategy is nearing completion, and will be published in the coming months.

The Department is committed to the full implementation of the National Dementia Strategy, and will continue to work with the National Dementia Office and stakeholders to progress the actions contained in the strategy. Until satisfactory work has been completed on actions contained in the current strategy, and because the external evaluation of the strategy has not concluded, it would not be appropriate to begin work on a new strategy.

The National Dementia Strategy calls for the HSE to consider the provision of dementia advisers, based on the experience of demonstrator sites. An evaluation of the Dementia Adviser Service was published last September. It recommends the continuation and expansion of the service to ensure equity of access countrywide. Earlier this year, the HSE confirmed that it would continue to fund the Dementia Adviser service at existing levels in future years.

The level of funding available for the Department of Health in 2020 and the quantum of services to be provided by the HSE will be considered as part of the national Estimates and budgetary process and National Service Planning.

Medical Aids and Appliances Provision

Ceisteanna (516)

Mary Butler

Ceist:

516. Deputy Mary Butler asked the Minister for Health if extending the FreeStyle Libre device to adults with type 1 diabetes will be considered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26822/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

Under the Health (Pricing and Supply of Medical Goods) Act 2013, the HSE has statutory responsibility for the administration of the community drug schemes; therefore, the matter has been referred to the HSE for attention and direct reply to the Deputy.

Primary Care Centres

Ceisteanna (517)

Mary Butler

Ceist:

517. Deputy Mary Butler asked the Minister for Health the services available in the primary care unit in Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary; the number of staff employed; his plans to enhance services in the area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26823/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

As the HSE has responsibility for the provision, along with the maintenance and operation of Primary Care Centres and other Primary Care facilities, the Executive has been asked to reply directly to the Deputy.

Suicide Incidence

Ceisteanna (518)

Mary Butler

Ceist:

518. Deputy Mary Butler asked the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to the recent number of young persons who have committed suicide in the south County Tipperary area; his plans to enhance mental health services in this area; his plans to provide counselling services for families affected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26824/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

As this is a service matter I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond directly to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Treatment Abroad Scheme

Ceisteanna (519)

Mary Butler

Ceist:

519. Deputy Mary Butler asked the Minister for Health the number of persons employed in the treatment abroad scheme office; the length of time it takes to process an application once all the paperwork is in order; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26825/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

As this is a service matter, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond to the Deputy directly.

Treatment Abroad Scheme

Ceisteanna (520)

Mary Butler

Ceist:

520. Deputy Mary Butler asked the Minister for Health the number of persons that availed of the treatment abroad scheme in 2018, by county in tabular form; the cost involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26826/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

As this is a service matter, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond to the Deputy directly.

HSE Planning

Ceisteanna (521)

Mary Butler

Ceist:

521. Deputy Mary Butler asked the Minister for Health when the Health Service Executive capital plan for 2019 will be published; the reason for the delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26827/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

My Department is continuing to work with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Health Service Executive in a process to finalise as soon as possible a multi-annual Capital Plan for the HSE, which will include capital projects to be funded in 2019 and beyond, having regard to the available capital funding and the number of large national capital projects currently underway.

The HSE Capital Plan will determine the projects that can progress in 2019 and beyond having regard to the available capital funding, the number of large national capital projects currently underway, the cashflow requirements attaching to each project and the relevant priority.

Projects that are currently in construction and are contractually committed will not be affected.

Once the HSE has finalised its Capital Plan for 2019, it will then be submitted to me for consideration.

Services for People with Disabilities

Ceisteanna (522)

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

522. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Health if transport will be provided for a young person (details supplied) who will be attending a centre in Mullingar, County Westmeath, from September 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26836/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

The Government is committed to providing services and supports for people with disabilities which will empower them to live independent lives, provide greater independence in accessing the services they choose, and enhance their ability to tailor the supports required to meet their needs and plan their lives. This commitment is outlined in the Programme for Partnership Government, which is guided by two principles: equality of opportunity and improving the quality of life for people with disabilities.

As the Deputy's question relates to service matters, I have arranged for the question to be referred to the Health Service Executive (HSE) for direct reply to the Deputy.

State Claims Agency Data

Ceisteanna (523)

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

523. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Health the private firms indemnified by the State Claims Agency in the State; and the cost of this indemnification in the past five years. [26849/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

The State Claims Agency (SCA) has a statutory remit to manage personal injury claims, including claims in respect of clinical negligence, on behalf of Delegated State Authorities (DSA’s) including the Health Service Executive.

The specific details relating to the Deputy's question have been provided to me by the State Claims Agency and are set out in the attached report. I have been informed by the State Claims Agency (SCA) that they do not currently provide indemnification to any private firms or enterprises. In the past, indemnification had been provided for obstetric-related claims against Mount Carmel (Dublin) and Bon Secours (Cork) hospitals for an agreed period under the Special Obstetrics Indemnity Scheme (SOIS). This scheme is in the process of wind-down as the two hospitals ceased the provision of obstetrical care and the SCA is currently managing legacy cases only as a result of this indemnification period.

The SCA also provides indemnification for a set of private clinics (e.g. Merrion Fetal Health, Merrion Fertility Clinic, Rotunda IVF-The National Fertility Centre) associated with public hospitals under the Clinical Indemnity Scheme.

The figures supplied in the report are extracted from the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and relate to expenditure on the SOIS over the requested five year period. The total cost over this period includes damages, legal fees and other expert costs.

Private Firms

Medical Products Supply

Ceisteanna (524)

Mick Barry

Ceist:

524. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister for Health if the family of a person (details supplied) can have a more efficient method of obtaining incontinence pads from their primary healthcare centre in Portmarnock, County Dublin. [26850/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the HSE for reply to the Deputy.

Nursing Homes Support Scheme Review

Ceisteanna (525)

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

525. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health when he plans to publish the report on the pricing review of the nursing home fair deal scheme that was to conclude on 1 June 2017. [26884/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

The Nursing Homes Support Scheme (NHSS), commonly referred to as Fair Deal, is a system of financial support for people who require long-term residential care. Participants contribute to the cost of their care according to their means while the State pays the balance of the cost. The Scheme aims to ensure that long-term nursing home care is accessible and affordable for everyone and that people are cared for in the most appropriate settings.

The Report of the NHSS Review published in 2015 identified a number of issues for more detailed consideration, including a review of the pricing mechanism used by the NTPF, with a view to:

- Ensuring value for money and economy, with the lowest possible administrative costs for clients and the State and administrative burden for providers;

- Increasing the transparency of the pricing mechanism so that existing and potential investors can make as informed decisions as possible; and

- Ensuring that there is adequate residential capacity for those residents with more complex needs.

A Steering Group was established to oversee and manage the pricing review. The Steering Group is chaired by the NTPF and includes representatives from the Department of Health and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER). As part of its work on the review the NTPF sought various inputs including external expertise and stakeholder engagement to inform the review. These inputs are being considered in detail. It is recognised that any change to any part of the Scheme must be considered in terms of the short- and long-term impact on the viability of the Scheme and accessibility of long-term residential care in general. It is therefore important that the relevant issues are considered thoroughly.

The NTPF has now completed its report and the Steering Group has completed its consideration of it. The Report was submitted to the Department in June 2019. It is now being reviewed by my officials and any recommendations included in the report will be considered before publication of the report - I then expect to publish the report shortly.

Home Care Packages Administration

Ceisteanna (526)

Darragh O'Brien

Ceist:

526. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Health the status of an application by a person (details supplied) for a full-time home care package and the proposal for a centre to buy the person's home as a residential home; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26921/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

The Government is committed to providing services and supports for people with disabilities which will empower them to live independent lives, provide greater independence in accessing the services they choose, and enhance their ability to tailor the supports required to meet their needs and plan their lives. This commitment is outlined in the Programme for Partnership Government, which is guided by two principles: equality of opportunity and improving the quality of life for people with disabilities.

As the Deputy's question relates to service matters, I have arranged for the question to be referred to the Health Service Executive (HSE) for direct reply to the Deputy.

Harbours and Piers Maintenance

Ceisteanna (527)

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

527. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if an application for funding has been received from Mayo County Council for a sea wall replacement project (details supplied); if funding will allocated to this project; the timeframe for the delivery of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26333/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

My Department owns, operates and maintains six designated State-owned Fishery Harbour Centres, located at Castletownbere, Dingle, Dunmore East, Howth, Killybegs and Ros An Mhíl under statute. In addition, my Department also has responsibility for the upkeep and maintenance of North Harbour at Cape Clear, as well as the maintenance of a small number of specific piers, lights and beacons throughout Ireland, in accordance with the 1902 ex-congested Districts Board piers, lights and Beacons Act.

The responsibility for the development, and maintenance of Local Authority owned piers, harbours and slipways rests with each Local Authority in the first instance and their parent Department, the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government thereafter.

However, as part of its annual Fishery Harbour and Coastal Infrastructure Development Programme, my Department has provided limited funding to assist coastal Local Authorities in carrying out small scale projects for the development and repair of piers, harbours and slipways in their ownership.

Between 2011 and 2018, €4.4 million in funding has been granted under the programme to Mayo County Council. I am pleased to inform the Deputy that I have approved funding of €2.2m for the Local Authority element of my Department's 2019 Fishery Harbour and Coastal Infrastructure Development Programme. Mayo County Council has secured €330,000 of funding for three projects under this year’s programme.

A key element in the determination of the projects to be funded is the priority placed on them by the Council, and while an application was received for remedial works to the tidal pool at Belmullet, the three approved projects for this years programme received a higher prioritisation by the Council. No application was received by my Department in relation to a sea wall at Carne, Belmullet.

Should any application be submitted by Mayo County Council in relation to Belmullet under any future programme, it will be given due consideration, taking into account the terms and conditions of the scheme, the priority attached by the Council and available funds.

TAMS Appeals

Ceisteanna (528)

Kevin O'Keeffe

Ceist:

528. Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if consideration will be given to an appeal submitted by a person (details supplied) in view of the health and safety grounds on which the work was carried out with a view to withdrawing the penalty imposed. [26072/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The person named applied for, received approval and subsequently submitted a payment claim under the Young Farmer's Capital Investment Scheme of TAMS II. The claim for payment incurred a penalty due to ineligible receipts.

A request for a review of this decision has been lodged by the person named. This review is being undertaken and the outcome will be notified to the person named, in writing, once the review has been completed.

Agriculture Scheme Eligibility

Ceisteanna (529)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

529. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if grants are available for the construction of poultry houses for chicken farmers and growers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26099/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The TAMS II scheme provides grant aid for a number of investments to upgrade the energy efficiency of poultry houses under the Pigs and Poultry Investment Scheme, one of the seven measures available under TAMS II. However, the construction of new poultry housing is not grant aided under this measure.

Harbours and Piers Development

Ceisteanna (530)

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

530. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if an application for funding from Mayo County Council has been received (details supplied); the status of the application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26163/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

My Department owns, operates and maintains six designated State-owned Fishery Harbour Centres, located at Castletownbere, Dingle, Dunmore East, Howth, Killybegs and Ros An Mhíl under statute. In addition, my Department also has responsibility for the upkeep and maintenance of North Harbour at Cape Clear, as well as the maintenance of a small number of specific piers, lights and beacons throughout Ireland, in accordance with the 1902 ex-congested Districts Board piers, lights and Beacons Act.

The responsibility for the development, and maintenance of Local Authority owned piers, harbours and slipways rests with each Local Authority in the first instance and their parent Department, the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government thereafter.

However, as part of its annual Fishery Harbour and Coastal Infrastructure Development Programme, my Department has provided limited funding to assist coastal Local Authorities in carrying out small scale projects for the development and repair of piers, harbours and slipways in their ownership.

Between 2011 and 2018, €4.4 million in funding has been granted under the programme to Mayo County Council, including €90,000 in funding for repairs to Belderrig Pier in 2014.

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that I have approved funding of €2.2m for the Local Authority element of my Departments 2019 Fishery Harbour and Coastal Infrastructure Development Programme. Mayo County Council has secured €330,000 of funding for three projects under this year’s programme.

A key element in the determination of the projects to be funded is the priority placed on them by the Council, and while an application was received for replacing the winch system at Belderrig Pier, the three approved projects received a higher prioritisation by the Council.

Should any application be submitted by Mayo County Council in relation to Belderrig Pier under any future programme, it will be given due consideration, taking into account the terms and conditions of the scheme, the priority attached by the Council and available funds.

GLAS Appeals

Ceisteanna (531)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

531. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if an oral hearing will be facilitated in the case of persons (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26164/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The above-named partnership was approved into GLAS 1 on 1 October 2015 and received payments for scheme years 2015, 2016 and 2017.

The GLAS application was subsequently rejected as the above-named partnership failed to submit a BPS application for 2018 as required under the scheme. A request was subsequently received to transfer the GLAS contract to a Herd Number from 2018 as the partnership had been dissolved in December 2017.

Having regard to the governing regulations and the terms and conditions of the scheme, the Department decided that the GLAS contract could not be transferred in this case. The above named partnership was informed of this decision by letter dated 10 April 2019 and were advised of the option of appealing the decision to the Agriculture Appeals Office (AAO).

TAMS Applications

Ceisteanna (532)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

532. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the status of a targeted agricultural modernisation scheme, TAMS, grant for a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26205/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The person named has submitted an application under the Animal Welfare Safety and Nutrient Storage Scheme of TAMS II.

This application has passed all the administrative checks and will be subject to the usual ranking and selection process in the coming days, following which the applicant will be informed if the application has been approved.

Fish Quotas

Ceisteanna (533)

Pat the Cope Gallagher

Ceist:

533. Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the steps he will take to increase the mackerel total allowable catch in line with the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas, ICES, advice in view of the new ICES revised advice for mackerel of 770,358 tonnes and the fact that there has been no agreement at the coastal state meeting in London recently; the further steps he will take to amend the incorrect recommendations of ICES for 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26299/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

As the Deputy is aware, Ireland cannot unilaterally increase any TAC.

The situation in relation to mackerel is that the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) advised in September 2018 that the 2019 TAC should be 318,403 tonnes - a reduction of 68% compared to 2018. ICES did, however, warn about sensitivity of the assessment to some of the data inputs.

Following five meetings in October/November 2018, the Coastal States party to the 2014 Mackerel Sharing Agreement (European Union, Norway and the Faeroe Islands) decided on a precautionary reduction of 20% and requested ICES to conduct an inter-benchmark review to look at the sensitivities in the data inputs especially tagging data. ICES completed the review in March 2019 and re-evaluated the state of the stock.

New advice was published on the 15th May and this revised the advised catch figure from 318,403 tonnes to 770,358 tonnes – an increase on the current TAC of 18%. For Ireland, if applied, this would equate to an increase in our quota of just under 10,000 tonnes.

Following the publication of the new advice, two further Coastal States meetings were held in London on the 20/21 May and 12/13 June. Ireland, as did other Member States, sought to revise the 2019 mackerel TAC in line with the new advice. Unfortunately, it did not prove possible to achieve agreement between the Coastal States on a revision to the TAC.

New advice for 2020 is expected in late September and the Coastal Sate consultations will resume in October.

European Council Meetings

Ceisteanna (534)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

534. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the issues discussed at the recent EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council; if he put forward specific proposals on the need to provide adequate assistance to the agrifood sector due to the adverse impacts of Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26307/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Minister Doyle attended the most recent EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council which took place in Luxembourg on 18 June 2019. Ministers exchanged views on three key items:-

- A partial general approach was reached by the Council on the Commission proposal for the next European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF). The fund is worth €6.14 billion and its aim is to invest in the maritime economy and support fishing communities. This item was held in public session. The new EMFF is part of the multi-annual financial framework 2021-2027, the new EU long-term budget that enters into force on 1 January 2021.

- The Commission communication on the state of play of the Common Fisheries Policy and consultation on the fishing opportunities for 2020. The discussion is part of the process for reaching agreement on TACs and quotas at the December Council.

- Post-2020 Common Agricultural Policy reform package: progress report. The Council discussed in public session, the Romanian Presidency progress report on the work carried out in the Council and its preparatory bodies on all the Commission proposals of the CAP reform package, which includes regulations on CAP strategic plans, financing, management and monitoring of the CAP, and the common organisation of agricultural products. Under this item, the Spanish Minister informed Council of the outcome of the CAP Green Architecture post-2020 Congress "Digging deeper into Eco-Schemes", which was held in Spain at the end of May.

In addition, under Any Other Business, the Lithuanian delegation provided an update on the scientific advice recently published by ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Sea) on the state of the cod stock in the Eastern Baltic Sea.

While Brexit was not discussed at Council, I have discussed the impact it will have on our agri-food sector on many occasions with my Ministerial colleagues. Minister Doyle did however, reference, the potential impact a Mercosur trade deal will have on our beef sector, and called on the EU to remain vigilant as the negotiations progress, with a view to protecting the EU agriculture sector as much as possible.

Brexit Supports

Ceisteanna (535)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

535. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he has had recent discussions with the European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development on the need to minimise the conditions that will be attached to the beef fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26308/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

I have had ongoing discussions with Commissioner Hogan regarding the potential impact of a disorderly Brexit. I have stressed the need for the Commission to be ready to deploy a range of measures to mitigate the potential impacts on the agri-food and fisheries sector. Avoiding a no-deal Brexit continues to be the Government’s overriding policy priority.

I am also keenly aware that the past few months have been very difficult for beef farmers in particular, following a difficult year for farm incomes in 2018 due to weather conditions. There has been a prolonged and exceptional period of depressed prices since last autumn, with the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the outcome of Brexit, among other factors, contributing to this market disturbance.

The recent announcement by Commissioner Hogan of EU exceptional aid for the Irish beef sector is very welcome in this context. I have been making the case for some time for an exceptional aid package from the EU Commission for Irish beef farmers, at EU Council of Agriculture Minister meetings, and in direct consultation with the Commission. The announcement by the Commissioner is another example of the importance of EU solidarity when it comes to facing significant economic challenges.

This exceptional aid provision will be given effect through a Commission Implementing Regulation. While Member States were invited to give an opinion on the draft Regulation through the Commission’s Common Market Organisation (CMO) Management Committee, the Regulation is within the Commission’s own legal competence, and was not for negotiation with Ireland or indeed other Member States, in terms of its content. The regulation was passed by the CMO committee last week and will now be enacted. Ireland must now notify the Commission, no later than 31 July 2019, of the measures to be taken in accordance with the Regulation.

Further details on the aid package will be announced in due course following the appropriate stakeholder consultation.

Central Bank of Ireland Data

Ceisteanna (536)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

536. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if the Central Bank gathers data on farm-related debt; the number and value of farm-related debts in the economy; the number and value in distress; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26312/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

On a quarterly basis, the Central Bank reports on SME credit statistics, which focuses on credit broken down by NACE code (the European industrial activity classification), including those related to primary agriculture. Detailed statistics are available including amounts of outstanding loans, growth rates, new lending and interest rates on outstanding amounts. The total amount outstanding at the end of 2018 was €3,144 million, down from a recent high of €3,945 million in 2013. This quarterly analysis does not include data on distressed loans. However, a “Financial Stability Note” published last week by the Central Bank entitled “A vulnerability analysis of Irish SME credit exposures” noted that while Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing was the largest lending sector in the SME category (at 21.5%), it had a relatively low vulnerability to default.

The Teagasc National Farm Survey examines issues such as the level of debt on Irish farms, providing valuable information on trends in the sector. Preliminary Results show that overall debt on Irish farms increased by 2% in 2018. It should be noted that almost two-thirds of farms have no farm business related debt at all. Of those with debt, the figure varies considerably by farm type.

Average Farm Debt by system 2018

% Farms with borrowings

Average debt (farms with debt)

Dairy

60%

€118,446

Cattle rearing

30%

€25,735

Cattle other

33%

€37,119

Sheep

21%

€35,924

Tillage

35%

€58,521

All

35%

€61,346

I meet regularly with the CEOs of the main banks on matters related to the agri-food sector. Access to finance for the sector is also an issue identified by the Food Wise 2025 strategy and it is monitored at the High Level Implementation Committee, which I chair.

Areas of Natural Constraint Scheme Appeals

Ceisteanna (537)

James Browne

Ceist:

537. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of areas of natural constraint appeals received; the number of appeals from County Wexford; the number of distinct County Wexford townlands; the number of distinct County Wexford townlands that have seen appeals lodged in relation to their level of constraint; if the independently chaired appeals committee will include members from County Wexford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26336/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Under the current Rural Development Regulation (and subsequent amendments under the Omnibus Regulation), EU Member States were required to change their approach to the designation of land under the Areas of Natural Constraints (ANC) Scheme. Previously, my Department had been identifying eligible areas using a range of socio economic indicators such as family farm income, population density, percentage of working population engaged in agriculture, and stocking density. From 2019, eligible areas must instead be designated using a defined list of bio-physical criteria such as slope, soil texture, soil rooting depth, soil moisture and drainage.

An appeals process is in place for any farmer who wishes to appeal a decision regarding the status of a particular townland in the 2019 ANC scheme. I have appointed an independent Appeals Committee comprising three people chaired by Mr. Padraig Gibbons. The committee has been given the task of handling ANC appeals from all over the country and I am satisfied that it has the relevant technical expertise to carry out this task.

Further to the completion of the redesignation process, my Department wrote to all farmers holding ANC lands advising them of the status of these lands under the 2019 ANC scheme and advising farmers of their right to appeal this position. Where a farmer has notified my Department of their wish to make such an appeal, they have been provided with the relevant information in relation to the data underpinning the status of the townland in order that a full appeal to the Appeals Committee can be based on full information.

My Department has received and replied to Notifications of Appeal in respect of 759 individual townlands, of which 271 were in County Wexford. To date, full appeals in respect of some 281 townlands have been made to the Appeals Committee, of which 69 are in County Wexford.

The Independent Appeal Committee is currently processing the appeals received.