Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance Scheme

Ceisteanna (2642, 2645, 2775, 2779)

Kathleen Funchion

Ceist:

2642. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the estimated cost of increasing the back to school and footwear allowance by €50. [31664/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Kathleen Funchion

Ceist:

2645. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the estimated cost of restoring the back to school allowance for clothing and footwear to pre-2011 levels. [31696/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

2775. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the estimated full year cost of increasing the back to school allowance by €10. [33573/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

2779. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the estimated cost of increasing the back to school clothing and footwear allowance by €100. [33577/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 2642, 2645, 2775 and 2779 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 2019 scheme opened on 1 June. Almost 115,000 customers, with some 210,000 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 were notified during June and received their payments in the week commencing 8 July.

The rate of payment for the 2019 scheme was increased by €25 to €150 in respect of children aged 4 to 11 and to €275 for children aged 12 years and over in second level education. End of year records show that under the 2018 scheme payments were made to 154,000 families in respect of over 266,000 children at a cost of €47.3 million.

Using the total number of children covered by the scheme in 2018 as a basis, the additional cost to increase the BSCFA rates by €10, €50 and €100 is set out in the following Tabular Statement.

Using the same basis, the additional cost of restoring the rates to the 2011 levels, i.e. to €200 for children aged 4 to 11 and to €305 for children aged 12 years and older, would be an additional €11.1 million

Any increases to the rates of payment for the BSCFA scheme would have to be considered in a budgetary context.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Tabular Statement

Amount of increase (per child)

Estimated Additional Cost

€10

€2.7 million

€50

€13.3 million

€100

€26.6 million

School Meals Programme

Question No. 2645 answered with Question No. 2642.

Ceisteanna (2643, 2644, 2647, 2793)

Kathleen Funchion

Ceist:

2643. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the estimated cost of increasing funding to the school meals programme by 40%. [31679/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Kathleen Funchion

Ceist:

2644. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the estimated cost of ensuring that all DEIS schools have access to school meals programme. [31685/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Ceist:

2647. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the estimated full year cost of providing a breakfast and lunch to all children at primary school level. [32843/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

John Brady

Ceist:

2793. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of the hot school meals pilot project; the number of schools that have applied to sign up to the project; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33675/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 2643, 2644, 2647 and 2793 together.

The school meals programme provides funding towards the provision of food to some 1,580 schools and organisations benefitting 250,000 children at a total cost of €57.6 million in 2019 representing an increase of €3.6 million over the previous year. The objective of the scheme is to provide regular, nutritious food to children who are unable, due to lack of good quality food, to take full advantage of the education provided to them. The programme is an important component of policies to encourage school attendance and extra educational achievement.

The School Meals Scheme is currently available to all DEIS schools, subject to submission of an application each year. The scheme provides funding for a breakfast or snack for all children and lunch for up to 90% of children in DEIS schools for the entire school year from September to June. Currently 857, out of 896, DEIS schools participate in the scheme. The remainder have chosen not to participate. A total of €43.8 million was allocated to DEIS schools in the 2018/2019 academic year.

Not all DEIS schools apply for the scheme and, out of the schools that do apply, not all schools apply for two clubs for the full enrolment figures. If funding was to be provided to all DEIS schools for a breakfast or snack for all children and lunch for up to 90% of children in DEIS schools the full year cost would be €59.9 million. The full year cost of providing a breakfast and lunch to all children in DEIS schools would be €64.4 million.

Based on the 2019 budgetary allocation of €57.6 million, the additional annual cost of expanding the school meals programme by 40% is €23.04 million.

The full year cost of providing a breakfast and a lunch to all children at primary school level would be €204.4 million. The current full year spend on breakfast and lunch clubs in primary schools is €32.7 million.

As part of Budget 2019, it was announced that DEASP would commence a pilot scheme from September 2019, providing Hot School Meals in 36 primary schools for an estimated 7,200 children at a cost of €1m for 2019 and €2.5m in 2020.

All 3,239 primary schools were issued with an invitation to submit an expression of interest to participate in the pilot. Over 500 expressions of interest were received from Primary Schools across the country.

The 36 schools chosen to participate in the pilot are selected randomly, having regard to geographical spread, numbers enrolled, range of suppliers and the overall budget available for the pilot in 2019 and 2020 (€1m and €2.5 respectively).

The pilot will also be run in Our Lady of Lourdes NS in Goldenbridge for the 2019/20 school year following the Proof of Concept which has been operating there successfully since early this year.

Any increase in the funding of the scheme, can only be considered in a budgetary context.

I trust that this clarifies the position.

Question No. 2645 answered with Question No. 2642.

Disability Activation Projects

Question No. 2647 answered with Question No. 2643.

Ceisteanna (2646, 2722)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Ceist:

2646. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the supports available to members of the deaf community when trying to progress while employed. [32767/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Ceist:

2722. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the supports available to members of the deaf community when trying to access the labour market. [32778/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 2646 and 2722 together.

In addition to providing income supports the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP) provides a wide range of employment-related supports for both jobseekers with disabilities and employers seeking to employ a jobseeker with a disability (or retain an existing employee who has or acquires a disability). DEASP supports for jobseekers with disabilities have been designed to enable persons with a disability, including Deaf people, to achieve their employment ambitions by focusing on the individual person’s ability and capacity, rather than on the disability. The pre-employment and in-employment supports available include:

Employment Supports for Jobseekers with a Disability:

DEASP Intreo Service

Jobseekers (including jobseekers with disabilities) who seek support from their local Intreo Centre, will have a meeting arranged with a case officer with a view to agreeing a suitable personal progression plan in order to access the full range of employment supports available with a view to them achieving their employment ambitions.

Local Employment Service

The Department contracts for the provision of the Local Employment Service (LES) with 22 organisations. The LES provide a local gateway, or access point, to the full range of services and facilities that are available to help jobseekers, including jobseekers with disabilities, to enter or return to employment.

EmployAbility Service.

The Department has contracts for the provision of the EmployAbility Service with 24 companies. This is a specialist employment service designed to improve employment outcomes for jobseekers with a disability. The service includes the provision of dedicated job coach support as well as both pre-employment and in employment support and assistance.

AHEAD (Support For Graduates With Disabilities)

The Department contracts AHEAD (Association for Higher Education Access and Disability) to deliver the Willing Able Mentoring (WAM) and ‘Get Ahead’ programmes. These programmes provide supports for graduates with disabilities seeking to enter the workforce.

Ability

The ‘Ability’ programme is co-funded by the Irish Exchequer and the EU's ESF Programme for Employability, Inclusion and Learning Operational Programme (PEIL, 2014 – 20). Under this programme funding has been provided, through Pobal, for 27 organisations to support young people (aged 15-29) with disabilities in their transition into further education or employment.

Employment Supports for Employers:

Wage Subsidy Scheme

The Wage Subsidy Scheme is targeted at private sector employers and is aimed at encouraging the employment of people with disabilities through the provision of financial incentives (a wage subsidy). The subsidy is delivered in three strands:

- Strand I subsidy is a general subsidy for any productivity shortfall in excess of 20% for a person with a disability, in comparison to a colleague without a disability. An employee must work for a minimum of 21 hours per week up to a maximum of 39 subsidised hours per week. The rate of subsidy is €5.30 per hour and the amount of the subsidy is based on the number of hours worked.

- Strand II subsidy is payable when an employer employs three or more people with a disability who are supported by a WSS Strand I payment. Strand II is intended to cover the additional supervisory, management and other work based costs relating to these employees. This top-up payment is a percentage of the Strand I subsidy and is based on the overall number of employees with a disability employed under Strand I. It ranges from an additional 10% of wage subsidy for 3 to 6 employees with a disability to a maximum of 50% of wage subsidy for 23+ employees with a disability.

- Strand III subsidy enables employers who employ 30 or more workers with a disability on the Wage Subsidy Scheme to be eligible for a grant of up to €30,000 per year towards the expense of employing an Employment Assistance Officer to support these employees.

Reasonable Accommodation Fund

The Reasonable Accommodation Fund (RAF) assists both jobseekers with disabilities and employers to enable a person with a disability / impairment to enter / re-enter employment by providing a range of grants. The fund is comprised of:

Employee Retention Grant

The purpose of the Employee Retention Grant Scheme is to assist employers to retain employees who acquire a disability by providing funding to:

- Identify accommodation and/or training to enable the employee to remain in his/her current position; or

- Re-train the employee so that s/he can take up another position within the company.

Workplace Equipment / Adaptation Grant

Where a person with a disability has been offered employment or is in employment, and requires a more accessible workplace or adapted equipment to do the job, s/he or the employer may be able to get a grant towards the costs of adapting premises or equipment. A maximum grant of €6,350 is available towards the cost of adaptations to premises or equipment.

Disability Awareness Training Support Scheme

The Disability Awareness Training Support Scheme provides funding so that employers can buy in Disability Awareness Training for their staff. The purpose of the training is to deliver clear and accurate information about disability and to address questions or concerns that employers and employees may have about working with and supporting a colleague with disabilities.

The Department of Justice & Equality (DJE) is the lead department with regards to Ireland’s Comprehensive Employment Strategy for people with disabilities. Currently DJE are preparing a revised action plan (in consultation with government departments, agencies and stakeholders) to deliver on the objectives of the CES: which will see further developments not only within DEASP provision but across all departments and agencies operating in this space.

Question No. 2647 answered with Question No. 2643.

Disability Activation Projects

Ceisteanna (2648, 2650)

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

2648. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of the roll-out of the Ability programme; the projects that have received funding through the programme; if she will provide a description of each; the amount of funding provided to the programme to date in 2019; the provision of funding to each project; if there is a waiting list of projects seeking funding; the estimated cost of increasing funding by 20%; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32875/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Kathleen Funchion

Ceist:

2650. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the estimated cost of increasing funding to the ability programme by 20%. [33885/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 2648 and 2650 together.

Ability is a pre-activation programme for young people with disabilities. The funding for this programme will amount to around €16 million over a three year period and is being provided jointly under the EU's ESF Programme for Employability, Inclusion and Learning (PEIL) Operational Programme, 2014-2020 and the Irish Exchequer. The programme will support over 2,600 young people with disabilities aged between 15–29 years of age. Pobal have been contracted by the Department to manage the programme.

The aim of the Ability Programme is to help bring young people with disabilities who are not work-ready closer to the labour market through engagement in training and personal development activities, which would be followed by an incremental exposure to work. The programme is being delivered by 27 community and voluntary groups from around the country, selected on foot of a competitive process. As the total funding available has been allocated to these 27 groups, there is no waiting list of projects for further funding on the current programme.

The projects being funded have been designed to assist young people in their transition from school to further education and employment. This will be undertaken using person-centred, case management approaches that support participants to achieve their desired employment goals.

The projects have commenced delivering their services for the young people they have identified. A programme evaluation, aimed at evaluating the extent to which the programme has met its stated policy objectives, is being undertaken. A contractor (Quality Matters) has been appointed by Pobal to undertake this work. This will include an interim review. Pobal have delivered a number of training workshops to support the organisations in terms of the monitoring and reporting requirements of their projects, with further events to be held as needed. In addition, Pobal have rolled out a bespoke IT based CRM system to give a more up to date position of what is happening on the ground.

A full list of the 27 projects being funded, their funding amounts and associated activities are presented in tabular form.

To date, €8.8 million has been provided to fund the Ability programme. This includes the drawdown of funding to date by the 27 successful organisations for Year 1 of the programme (1 July 2018 to 30 June 2019) and 70% of Year 2 (1 July 2019 to 30 June 2020). A service fee to Pobal for the development of the programme including IT development from the initial call for applications in late 2017 and for the on-going management of the Programme is also included in this figure.

The estimated extra cost of increasing funding for the Ability programme by 20% would be €3.2 million, however, it should be noted that this programme is jointly funded by the EU and the Irish Exchequer.

I hope this clarifies the issue for the Deputy.

Table 1: Organisations, location, target participant numbers, funding awarded and description of the service

Organisation Legal Name

County

No.

Funding

Description of the service/model of support to be provided

Ak Inspired Ability Company Limited By Guarantee

Kerry

60

€531,176

To fund the Inspired community project for all young adults with Intellectual Disabilities (ID) in Tralee, Co. Kerry. They will support the continued education of young adults with ID who have left school. Driven by participants’ own self-articulated interests, they develop a curriculum of classes that target both practical and socio-emotional skills. To fund 3 full time posts; Project Leader, Project Course Coordinator, Facilitator.

Blossom Ireland Community Inclusion

Dublin

70

€725,520

To fund the Blossom Teen Development Programme (BTDP) programme designed to prepare teenagers with an intellectual disability (ID) for life after school. The programme will focus on identifying the skills they need to support them in their future. A Local Area Co-ordinator (LAC) will work with each teen and their family to help plan for their transition from child to adult services. It will fund two full-time posts from the start of the programme, a Local Area Coordinator & Education Programme Co-ordinator. A second Local Area Co-ordinator will be employed full time in year 3 due anticipated additional caseload. In addition, nine part time facilitators and three part time teen mentors will be funded.

Central Remedial Clinic, CRC

Dublin

110

€694,876

To fund the development of pathways through education, which will support adults with varying disabilities from the ages of 16 to 29 years of age. Total direct costs to be funded include a full time Project Co-ordinator, 2 Human Rights Officer (30 hrs per week), 2 part time liaison officers (20 hrs per week).

Cill Dara Ar Aghaidh Cuideachta Faoi Theorainn Rathaiochta

Kildare

40

€264,421

To fund the provision of person centred supports for 40 young people with a disability between 16 and 19 years who are no longer in education or employment, by offering career guidance supports to help them develop and pursue progression routes based on their needs and potential, and by engaging with employers in County Kildare. The project will fund a Project Worker and Employer Engagement Worker position.

Co Wexford Community Workshop (New Ross) Company Limited By Guarantee

Wexford

42

€602,242

To fund the facilitation of school leavers with intellectual disabilities across counties Waterford, Wexford and Kilkenny to access community based opportunities which will minimize the necessity for the target group to require full time access to adult day service. Direct costs including 3 full time school leaver facilitators.

Cope Foundation

Cork

60

€614,044

To fund a service to offer young people who attend Cope Foundation's adult day services, who have expressed a wish to have a job. The service will be delivered in an individualised, person centred way and offer: vocational profiling and guidance, job clubs, courses, personal development, work placements, internships and real paid jobs. Ability@Work will adapt the five stage model of supported employment to enable people reach their employment goals.

Down Syndrome Ireland

Dublin

220

€742,000

To fund the development of a bespoke education and training programme in twelve locations for adults with Down syndrome to prepare them for the workplace. This will include a progressive work placement programme developed with corporate partners with the goal of supporting programme participants to enter into long-term meaningful employment. This will also include the development and delivery of an essential skills for employment programme comprising an adult literacy, numeracy and IT programme, a decision-making / active social responsibility programme and a personal development programme and pre-employment training.

Dublin City University

Dublin

100

€534,878

To fund and promote the employability of young people with disabilities between the ages of 18 and 29 years through the provision of 1-2-1 intensive engagement support for students with intellectual disability to move into a position to avail of University provision. Direct staff costs include a Project Manager, Occupational Therapist and part-time tutor and career advisor.

Dublin South City Partnership Company Limited By Guarantee

Dublin

360

€650,583

To fund the increased level of integrated multi-agency service provision to the target group. The project will engage with and deliver a programme over three years in three main location hubs in the South City. The proposed Hub locations will be Inner City, Ballyfermot Cherry Orchard and Crumlin. Direct costs funded include the employment of two guidance officers who will have a full time caseload and one project co-ordinator who will also hold a part time caseload of clients as well as having an overall management/co-ordination role.

Fingal Leader Partnership Company Limited By Guarantee

Dublin

30

€230,500

To provide 30 young people with intellectual disabilities or mental health conditions in North Dublin with individually tailored paths to employment or employability. Direct costs include the employment of 2 employment support workers, one of whom will be allotted additional co-ordination responsibilities.

Forum Connemara Company Limited By Guarantee

Galway

75

€724,583

To fund the establishment of an Ability Programme entitled Cumas Chonamara to support the progression of young people with a disability living in the Conamara Municipal district. The Programme will develop & implement innovative models of activation using a case management approach, designed to meet gaps in employment, pre-employment or progression for people with a disability aged between 15 and 29 years of age. Four posts are being directly funded, namely a co-ordinator and 3 employment facilitators.

I.W.A. Company Limited By Guarantee

Dublin

100

€659,434

To fund the support of young adults with physical disabilities aged 18-29 who have left school and are committed to seeking employment and improving job-seeking skills via three regional hubs. IWA Employment Coaches will provide individual coaching, support and information tailored to each person. For each participant a detailed person-centered plan will be developed. Direct staffing includes a Project Manager and 3 Employment Co-ordinators.

Ird Duhallow Company Limited By Guarantee

Cork

90

€749,905

To fund the delivery of a programme of one to one supports and tailored training to 90 young people to improve their pathways to work through building the participant’s confidence, independence, inherent skills and talents. To fund 3 f/t Youth Disability Engagement Officers, one each for Duhallow, SECAD and Ballyhoura.

Knockanrawley Resource Centre

Tipperary

40

€423,625

The proposal targets 40 young people between the ages of 16-29 in the South Tipperary area with intellectual, physical and sensory disabilities. The project also intends to target supports to young people with disabilities experiencing mental health conditions. Participants will be enabled to develop the skills to progress to further education, training and/or employment. Two posts are being funded, namely a project co-ordinator and a jobs coach.

Limerick Youth Service

Limerick

60

€514,776

To fund the Limerick Ability Project to target young people 15-24 years in the Limerick Metropolitan district, in need of employability support, who have; a diagnosis of ASD, a mental health condition, a learning disability or a hidden disability. The project will fund a Project Coordinator and 2 Youth Work Mentors.

Northside Partnership Company Limited By Guarantee

Dublin

150

€730,000

To fund the 'Employment Hub', staffed by 3 specialists, to support people with ASD on their journey to employment as well as building the capacity of relevant stakeholders to better serve the needs of clients and employees with disabilities. This project is located in Dublin 17 and will service clients from all over Dublin, with priority given to clients from Northside Partnership catchment area; disadvantaged areas.

Offaly Integrated Local Development Company Limited By Guarantee

Offaly

60

€570,853

To fund the Stepping Stones project to address the need for targeted supports for a range of young people who are unable to progress personally, vocationally and often socially in County Offaly. The project will support social / community integration and increase capacity for personal / vocational progression, both at one-to-one and group level. The project will fund a full-time project manager and a full time mental health vocational worker.

Peter Bradley Foundation Company Limited By Guarantee

Dublin

250

€720,000

To fund 250 individuals with Acquired Brain Injuries (ABI), aged 18 to 29 years, wishing to access employment, training or education opportunities. These individuals have support needs as a result of their ABI which prevent them from accessing these opportunities independently. Six posts are being directly funded, namely 4 community facilitators and 2 senior occupational therapists.

Roscommon Integrated Development Company Limited By Guarantee

Roscommon

40

€633,919

To fund the Mentors/ Life Coaches to support young people with a range of disabilities to develop person-centred transition support plans. The cohort of participants that will be supported under this project will fall into a number of categories: those who will need support at QQI levels 2,3 and 4 and those who may be interested in progressing onto QQI levels 5,6 and 7.

Specialisterne Ireland Company Limited By Guarantee

Dublin

100

€688,900

To fund the support of young adults with autism (18 -29) who while having third level qualifications or other suitable qualifications fail to achieve employment. The project will be delivered in Dublin and Cork or in participating colleges and universities and work with suitable partner employers.

St. Cronans Association Company Limited By Guarantee

Tipperary

24

€323,185

The ROOTS (Reaching Out Open To Success) project will support 24 young people aged 20-29 years with mild-moderate intellectual disability and/or autism living in Laois, Offaly and North Tipperary. The project will support people who have finished Rehabilitative Training to progress to entering the workplace and/or to assume a meaningful and sustainable social role in their own community. The project will be delivered by St Cronan’s Association in partnership with the HSE. It will fund a Project Coordinator post and a Jobs Coach post.

The Blanchardstown Area Partnership Company Limited By Guarantee

Dublin

16

€560,277

To fund young people between the ages of 15-29 in the Fingal area (countywide) with a mild or moderate intellectual disability into meaningful volunteering or work placements within the Community & Voluntary Sector. The project will recruit young people as they are about to transition from post primary, third level or special schools. Four posts are being directly funded, namely an 'employment liaison and placement officer', 'recruitment and assessment specialist' and 2 'job coaches'.

Tipperary Regional Youth Service Company Limited By Guarantee

Tipperary

90

€493,845

To fund a programme targeting young men and women aged between 15 and 29 living in Tipperary who are furthest from the labour market, and who have a disability which is affecting their participation in society and employment. It will fund 3 full time staff: a Lead Project Worker, a Project Worker and a Project Support Worker.

Walkinstown Association for People with an Intellectual Disability Company Limited by Guarantee

Dublin

200

€640,848

To fund the support of young people with special educational needs aged 15-24 within three special schools' settings to develop their employment aspirations, identify their career goals and experience work in the open labour market. 4 posts are being funded including a Project Co-ordinator and 3 career and employment facilitators.

Walkinstown Green Social Enterprises Limited

Dublin

75

€430,175

To fund the REAL Project (Reaching Employment Ambitions in Life) to support young adults (18+) who have Intellectual Disabilities, Autism and Complex Needs and are not in employment, education, or training, to progress towards employment in the open labour market. Through the "Supported Employment model", delivered by professional Job Coaches, participants will develop their own vocational profile and personal progression plans before taking up a series of appropriate work experience placements of their choosing within the Social Enterprises. The project will fund 2 full-time job coaches and 2 part-time trainers.

West Cork Development Partnership Company Limited By Guarantee

Cork

100

€565,093

To fund a person centred planning approach for individuals aged 19-29 years who present with diagnosed mental health difficulties, the aim of the programme is to develop job readiness skills in the form of training, personal development, volunteering whilst assisting the individual using the Discovery process to access their own skills & develop their own unique abilities. 2 full time personal development officers are being funded.

Wexford Local Development

Wexford

100

€596,123

To fund the Wexford Local Development Ability project to target 100 young people (aged 16 – 29) with an intellectual disability who are not job ready to move closer to the labour market, by providing them with access to work placement opportunities and tailor made education and training programmes including employment supports. It will fund two full time Employment Officer positions.

Disabilities Data

Question No. 2650 answered with Question No. 2648.

Ceisteanna (2649)

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

2649. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when the cost of disability research conducted by her Department will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33262/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

As part of Budget 2019, I announced my intention to commission research into the Cost of Disability – a first step to comprehensively understanding this complex issue.

In March of this year, a request for tenders for research into the cost of disability was published under an Office of Government Procurement Multi-Supplier Framework Agreement to the relevant Framework Members. Following this competitive tender process, Indecon International Consultants were commissioned to carry out the research which is now underway.

According to the expected timeline, the research is to be completed at the end of 2019 with publication to follow thereafter.

I trust that this clarifies the issue for the deputy.

Question No. 2650 answered with Question No. 2648.

Tax and Social Welfare Codes

Ceisteanna (2651, 2652)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

2651. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the estimated amount that would be raised by increasing the employer rate of PRSI by 2%. [34036/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

2652. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the estimated additional revenue that could be generated by establishing a new band of employer PRSI of 19.75% on incomes over €90,000 per year and to increase the existing 10.955% by 2% to 12.95%. [34565/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 2651 and 2652 together.

The yields from increasing the lower and higher Employer PRSI rates by 2% and increasing the higher employer PRSI rate by 2% and introducing a new 19.75% band of Employer PRSI Rate on incomes over €90,000 per year are shown in the table.

Rate

Full Year Yield

Employments Affected

Increase Employer Lower Rate by 2%

€86.2m

0.8m

Increase Employer Higher Rate by 2%

€1,497.1m

2.2m

New Band of 19.75% for earnings over €90,000 per year

€713.1m

0.4m

Increase the higher employer PRSI rate by 2% and introducing a new 19.75% band of Employer PRSI Rate on incomes over €90,000 per year

€2,048.3m

2.2m

These estimates are based on PRSI Class A contributions. They use the latest available data and reflect macro-economic indicators for 2020.

It should be noted that these estimates do not take into account any possible changes in employer behaviour arising from changing rates of contribution.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Departmental Staff Training

Ceisteanna (2653)

Martin Kenny

Ceist:

2653. Deputy Martin Kenny asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the training that social welfare office front-line staff and citizen information centres receive on processing social welfare rights for asylum seekers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34580/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection provides a range of training to its staff involved in frontline roles in the Department which includes delivery of services to asylum seekers.

The Department has provided a range of instructor led classroom training and e-learning supports to staff engaged in frontline roles to enhance the delivery of services to customers.

This training seeks to ensure that frontline staff are aware of the various legislation, guidelines, processes and procedures applicable to the delivery of such services.

Along with providing role based training the Department has invested significant resources in delivering frontline customer services training to its staff including all new entrants.

The Staff Development Unit also promotes, through the intranet, the Irish Human Rights Equality Commission’s e-learning module ‘Delivering Equality in Public Services: An Introduction For Front Line Staff’

This Department has recently introduced an accredited learning programme for frontline staff in partnership with the National College of Ireland which is currently being delivered incrementally. These courses will be available for staff in the frontline roles of Case Officer, Deciding Officer, Designated Person, Intreo Centre Manager, Social Welfare Inspector and Appeals Officer. A further general Certificate in Social Protection Studies will also be available.

This Department seeks to support its staff in frontline roles by providing various learning and development opportunities to develop competency and confidence in delivering services to meet the requirements of their role along with the key skills required to effectively deliver its services.

The Citizens Information Board, which has statutory responsibility for supporting the provision of information, advice and advocacy services to citizens, makes a range of training available to the staff of the Citizens Information Services and the Citizens Information Phone Service which includes information on the rights and entitlements of asylum seekers.

This training includes a compulsory e-learning course for all Information providers, the Essential Training for Information Providers, and an accredited Higher Certificate in Arts in Information Provision and Advocacy Practice (QQI Level 6), delivered over two academic years. Both courses provide Information Officers with information on the rights and entitlements of asylum seekers and training on how to provide an appropriate, high quality information and advice service to the public.

In addition to these core trainings, individual Citizens Information Services also engage the services of external specialist services to provide further trainings. Examples include the provision of training by NASC to Information Providers in the Citizens Information Phone service on 24 and 25 July 2019 including an overview of the asylum process and the Reception Conditions Directive. In September 2018, Crosscare provided training on 'Migrant Access to Social Protection’ for Citizens Information staff and a similar internal CIS training was subsequently developed and delivered nationally through the CIS Advocacy Support Worker programme

Legislative Measures

Ceisteanna (2654)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

2654. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the primary legislation enacted since May 2016; and, in each case, if the legislation placed additional regulatory burdens on small and medium enterprises. [31481/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

My Department is responsible for the legislation underpinning the social welfare code, occupational and private pensions, civil registration and gender recognition, redundancy and employer’s insolvency, employment rights and the Citizens Information Board/Comhairle.

Since May 2016, five Acts relating to areas within my Department's remit have been enacted. These are:

(1) Social Welfare Act 2016 (No. 15 of 2016)

(2) Social Welfare Act 2017 (No. 38 of 2017)

(3) Social Welfare, Pensions and Civil Registration Act 2018 (No. 37 of 2018)

(4) Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2018 (No. 38 of 2018)

(5) Civil Registration Act 2019 (No. 13 of 2019)

The only one of the these Acts which has an impact on small and medium enterprises is the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2018. The Deputy will be aware that this is an important piece of legislation which is designed, in particular, to improve the security and predictability of working hours for employees on insecure contracts and for those working variable hours.

While the Act necessarily introduced changes which required changes of practice for employers, every effort was made to strike the appropriate balance between the need to strengthen employment rights to the benefit of employees on one hand and the need to avoid imposing unnecessarily onerous burdens on employers on the other.

To this end, an extensive consultation process was undertaken, including detailed dialogue with IBEC amongst others, before the measures contained in the Act were finalised. Consequently, the measures involved will have a limited impact for employers in terms of the administrative costs of compliance with additional regulatory requirements. Moreover, that impact is also minimised by the counter-balancing measures provided for by way of exceptions in certain circumstances and reasonable defences for employers.

Legislative Measures

Ceisteanna (2655)

Tom Neville

Ceist:

2655. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the secondary legislation enacted since January 1 2018; and if, in each case, the legislation placed additional regulatory burdens on small and medium enterprises. [31505/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

My Department has made a total of fifty-five Statutory Instruments since 1 January 2018.

These Statutory Instruments were made under regulatory powers contained in the European Communities Act 1972, the Pensions Act 1990, the National Minimum Wage Act 2000, the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 and the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2018.

Other than the National Minimum Wage Order 2018 (S.I. No. 402/2018) and the National Minimum Wage (Prescription of Percentages of Hourly Rates of Pay) Order 2019 (S.I. No. 72 of 2019), none of the secondary legislation introduced over the period in question has had any impact on the regulatory burden on small and medium enterprises.

The various Statutory Instruments introduced from 1 January 2018 to date are listed in the following tables.

Secondary Legislation in 2018

S.I. No. 15 of 2018 - Transposition of Directive (EU) 2015/1794 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 6 October 2015

S.I. No. 35 of 2018 - Occupational Pension Schemes (Revaluation) Regulations, 2018

S.I. No. 60 of 2018 - Social Welfare (Consolidated Supplementary Welfare Allowance) (Amendment) (No. 1) (Assessment of Means) Regulations 2018

S.I. No. 61 of 2018 - Social Welfare (Consolidated Claims, Payments and Control) (Amendment) (No. 1) (Assessment of Means) Regulations 2018

S.I. No. 102 of 2018 - Social Welfare (Consolidated Claims, Payments and Control) (Amendment) (No. 2) (Change in Rates) Regulations 2018

S.I. No. 103 of 2018 - Social Welfare (Consolidated Claims, Payments and Control) (Amendment) (No. 3) (Jobseeker’s Transitional Payment) Regulations 2018

S.I. No. 104 of 2018 - Social Welfare (Consolidated Supplementary Welfare Allowance) (Amendment) (No. 2) (Diet Supplement) Regulations 2018

S.I. No. 105 of 2018 - Social Welfare (Consolidated Contributions and Insurability) (Amendment) (No. 1) (Return of Contributions) Regulations 2018

S.I. No. 106 of 2018 - Social Welfare (Rent Allowance) (Amendment) (No. 1) Regulations 2018

S.I. No. 107 of 2018 - Social Welfare (Consolidated Occupational Injuries) (Amendment) (No. 1) Regulations 2018

S.I. No. 306 of 2018 - Social Welfare (Consolidated Claims, Payments and Control) (Amendment) (No. 4) (Assessment of Means) Regulations 2018

S.I. No. 307 of 2018 - Social Welfare (Consolidated Supplementary Welfare Allowance) (Amendment) (No. 3) (Assessment of Means) Regulations 2018

S.I. No. 333 of 2018 - Social Welfare (Consolidated Claims, Payments and Control) (Amendment) (No. 5) (Assessment of Means) Regulations 2018

S.I. No. 334 of 2018 - Social Welfare (Consolidated Supplementary Welfare Allowance) (Amendment) (No. 4) (Assessment of Means) Regulations 2018

S.I. No. 375 of 2018 - Social Welfare (Consolidated Claims, Payments and Control) (Amendment) (No. 6) (Prescribed Time) Regulations 2018

S.I. No. 376 of 2018 - Social Welfare (Consolidated Occupational Injuries) (Amendment) (No. 2) (Prescribed Time) Regulations 2018

S.I. No. 389 of 2018 - Social Welfare (Consolidated Claims, Payments and Control) (Amendment) (No. 7) (Assessment of Means) Regulations 2018

S.I. No. 390 of 2018 - Social Welfare (Consolidated Supplementary Welfare Allowance) (Amendment) (No. 5) (Assessment of Means) Regulations 2018

S.I. No. 402 of 2018 - National Minimum Wage Order 2018

S.I. No. 476 of 2018 - Social Welfare (Temporary Provisions) Regulations 2018

S.I. No. 551 of 2018 - Social Welfare (Section 290A) (Agreement) Order 2018

S.I, No. 576 of 2018 - The European Communities (Organisation Of Working Time) (General Exemptions) (Amendment) Regulations 2018

S.I. No. 649 of 2018 - Social Welfare (Consolidated Claims, Payments and Control) (Amendment) (No. 10) (Assessment of Means) Regulations 2018

S.I. No. 650 of 2018 - Social Welfare (Consolidated Supplementary Welfare Allowance) (Amendment) (No. 7) (Assessment of Means) Regulations 2018

S.I. No. 651 of 2018 - Social Welfare (Consolidated Claims, Payments and Control) (Amendment) (No. 9) (Subsidiary Employment) Regulations 2018

S.I. No. 652 of 2018 - Social Welfare (Consolidated Supplementary Welfare Allowance) (Amendment) (No. 6) (Assessment of Means) Regulations 2018

S.I. No. 653 of 2018 - Social Welfare (Consolidated Contributions and Insurability) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2018

S.I. No. 654 of 2018 - Social Welfare (Consolidated Claims, Payments and Control) (Amendment) (No. 8) (Assessment of Means) Regulations 2018

S.I. No. 655 of 2018 - Social Welfare, Pensions and Civil Registration Act 2018 (Commencement) Order 2018

Secondary Legislation in 2019

S.I. No. 11 of 2019 - Social Welfare (Consolidated Claims, Payments and Control) (Amendment) (No. 1) (Domiciliary Care Allowance – Residence of Qualified Child) Regulations, 2019

S.I. No. 31 of 2019 - Occupational Pension Schemes (Revaluation) Regulations, 2019

S.I. No. 39 of 2019 - Occupational Pension Schemes (Funding Standard) (Amendment) Regulations, 2019

S.I. No. 40 of 2019 - Social Welfare (Consolidated Claims, Payments and Control) (Amendment)

(No. 2) (State Pension (Contributory)) Regulations 2019

S.I. No. 41 of 2019 - Social Welfare (Consolidated Supplementary Welfare Allowance) (Amendment) (No. 1) (Earnings Disregard) Regulations 2019

S.I. No. 42 of 2019 - Social Welfare (Consolidated Claims, Payments and Control) (Amendment) (No. 3) (Earnings Disregard) Regulations 2019

S.I. No. 69/2019 - Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2018 (Commencement) Order 2019

S.I. No. 72 of 2019 - National Minimum Wage (Prescription of Percentages of Hourly Rates of Pay) Order 2019

S.I. No. 73 of 2019 - Public Service Pay and Pensions Act 2017 (Payments in respect of Certain Medical Certification and Reports under the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005) Regulations 2019

S.I. No. 101 of 2019 - Social Welfare (Rent Allowance) (Amendment) (No. 1) Regulations 2019

S.I. No. 102 of 2019 - Social Welfare (Consolidated Claims, Payments and Control) (Amendment) (No. 4) (Change in Rates) Regulations 2019

S.I. No. 103 of 2019 - Social Welfare (Consolidated Claims, Payments and Control) (Amendment) (No. 5) (Jobseeker’s Transitional Payment) Regulations 2019

S.I. No. 107 of 2019 - Social Welfare (Consolidated Occupational Injuries) (Amendment) (No. 1) Regulations 2019

S.I. No. 108 of 2019 - Social Welfare (Consolidated Supplementary Welfare Allowance) (Amendment) (No. 2) (Diet Supplement) Regulations 2019

S.I. No. 109 of 2019 - Social Welfare (Consolidated Claims, Payments and Control) (Amendment) (No. 6) (Working Family Payment) Regulations 2019

S.I. No. 116 of 2019 - Social Welfare, Pensions and Civil Registration Act 2018 (Commencement) Order 2019

S.I. No. 130 of 2019 - Social Welfare (Consolidated Claims, Payments and Control) (Amendment) (No. 7) (Assessment of Means) Regulations 2019

S.I. No. 131 of 2019 - Social Welfare (Consolidated Supplementary Welfare Allowance) (Amendment) (No. 3) (Assessment of Means) Regulations 2019

S.I. No. 202 of 2019 - Social Welfare (Consolidated Claims, Payments and Control) (Amendment) (No. 8) (Assessment of Means) Regulations 2019

S.I. No. 203 of 2019 - Social Welfare (Consolidated Supplementary Welfare Allowance) (Amendment) (No. 4) (Assessment of Means) Regulations 2019

S.I. No. 239 of 2019 - Occupational Pension Schemes (Disclosure of Information) (Amendment) Regulations 2019

S.I. No. 241 of 2019 - Social Welfare (Consolidated Claims, Payments and Control) (Amendment) (No. 9) (Days to be treated as days of Incapacity for Work) Regulations 2019

S.I. No. 242 of 2019 - Social Welfare (Consolidated Occupational Injuries) (Amendment) (No. 2) (Provisions as to Incapacity for Work) Regulations 2019

S.I. No. 303 of 2019 - Social Welfare (Consolidated Claims, Payments and Control) (Amendment) (No. 10) (Assessment of Means) Regulations 2019

S.I. No. 304 of 2019 - Social Welfare (Consolidated Supplementary Welfare Allowance) (Amendment) (No. 5) (Assessment of Means) Regulations 2019

S.I. No. 344 of 2019 – Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 (Specified Bodies) Regulations 2019

Jobseeker's Benefit Eligibility

Ceisteanna (2656, 2657)

Peter Burke

Ceist:

2656. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the estimated cost of removing the disqualification on unemployed workers in receipt of levels of a redundancy payment from claiming jobseeker's benefit for a set period of time. [31507/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Peter Burke

Ceist:

2657. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the estimated cost of changing the threshold for disqualification from claiming jobseeker's benefit to €90,000, with no other bands above that and keeping the nine week disqualification period for such recipients. [31508/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 2656 and 2657 together.

Jobseeker’s benefit (JB) provides a social insurance contribution based support for people who have lost work and are unable to find alternative full-time employment. The 2019 Estimates for my Department provide for expenditure this year on the JB scheme of €346 million.

A person who has been made redundant and is aged under 55 may be disqualified from receiving JB for a period of up to 9 weeks from the last date of employment if they have received or are entitled to a payment in excess of €50,000 under the Redundancy Payments Acts or under an agreement with his/her employer. This amount includes the gross amount of all payments in respect of the redundancy, such as statutory redundancy, top-up or ex-gratia payments related to weeks of service, early encashment of pension entitlements (if from employer's funds) and any other money received under an agreement with the employer. The length of the disqualification period depends on the amount of the redundancy payment. The following schedule shows the disqualification period which may apply to JB recipients in receipt of a redundancy payment.

Amount of redundancy payment

Disqualification period

€50,000.00 - €55,000.00

1 week

€55,000.01 - €60,000.00

2 weeks

€60,000.01 - €65,000.00

3 weeks

€65,000.01 - €70,000.00

4 weeks

€70,000.01 - €75,000.00

5 weeks

€75,000.01 - €80,000.00

6 weeks

€80,000.01 - €85,000.00

7 weeks

€85,000.01 - €90,000.00

8 weeks

€90,000.01 and over

9 weeks

The annual cost arising from the removal of the disqualification for a period of up to 9 weeks for unemployed workers in receipt of certain levels of a redundancy payment from claiming JB is estimated to be in the region of €860,000.

The annual cost arising from changing the redundancy payment threshold from the current €50,000 to €90,000 is estimated to be in the region of €820,000. Departmental data shows that there are very small numbers receiving redundancy payments in excess of €90,000.

Any changes to the jobseekers schemes would have to be considered in a budgetary context and within the scope of the overall resources available for welfare improvements.

I trust this clarifies the matter.

Jobseeker's Benefit Payments

Ceisteanna (2658)

Peter Burke

Ceist:

2658. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the estimated cost per year of giving persons in receipt of jobseeker’s benefit an extra 20% payment in the first three months of their unemployment payment and an extra 10% payment in months three to six, before reverting to the standard rate thereafter. [31509/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Jobseeker's Benefit (JB) is a social insurance scheme paid weekly to insured persons who are out of work. This entitlement is normally paid for 9 months (234 days) for people with 260 or more PRSI contributions paid and for 6 months (156 days) for people with fewer than 260 PRSI contributions paid. The current weekly maximum personal rate of JB is €203.

The 2019 Estimates for the Department provide for expenditure this year on JB is €346 million.

Based on the current numbers of Jobseeker's Benefit recipients the estimated cost of increasing the rate of JB by 20% for the first 3 months of a persons entitlement and 10% in the next 3 months before reverting to the standard rate thereafter would be approximately €26 million in a full year. The cost would increase where the numbers of people claiming Jobseeker's Benefit increase in the future.

Any changes to the rates of payments for any social welfare support would have to be considered in a budgetary context and within the scope of the overall resources available for welfare improvements.

I trust this clarifies the matter.

Jobseeker's Payments

Ceisteanna (2659, 2728, 2788)

John Curran

Ceist:

2659. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to extend the full rate of jobseeker's allowance to persons under 26 years of age who are unable to live with family and are experiencing homelessness; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31534/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Fiona O'Loughlin

Ceist:

2728. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when the report into the impact of reduced jobseeker’s payments for those under 26 years of age will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32831/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

John Brady

Ceist:

2788. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the date the report committed to in Pathways to Work 2016-2020 into the impact of reduced jobseeker's rates of payment to those aged 18 to 25 years of age will be published; the reason for the delay to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33672/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 2659, 2728 and 2788 together.

Reduced rates for young recipients of JA aged 18-25 were introduced on a phased basis to tackle high youth unemployment and to prevent long term welfare dependency, and is in line with other EU and OECD jurisdictions. Receiving the maximum rate of JA without a strong financial incentive to engage in education or training can lead to long-term welfare dependency from a young age. If a young jobseeker participates in education or training they will receive the maximum weekly rate of payment of €203.

There are a number of measures in place to assist young people into employment or training. In 2013 the EU adopted a Council Recommendation to member states on a Youth Guarantee. Under the Youth Guarantee process case officers engage with unemployed young people, on a monthly basis, to prepare and implement personal progression plans for employment.

Where young people do not find work quickly, supports are offered through places on employment and training schemes, which are closely aligned to the needs of the labour market. For example, the Youth Employment Support Scheme (YESS) which I launched last year is a work experience scheme targeted exclusively at young jobseekers facing barriers to employment and participants on the scheme receive a payment of €229.20 per week.

These policies have been effective in reducing both youth and long-term unemployment. For example, the most recent data shows that Irish youth unemployment has fallen from a peak of 31.2% in 2012 to 10.1% in June 2019. Irish youth unemployment has fallen from well above the EU average in 2012 of 23% to below the current EU figure of 14.3%.

My Department actively engages with Tusla and non-Government organisations to provide supports to vulnerable young people leaving care who are experiencing homelessness or are in insecure situations. In addition, the Department's Community Welfare service engages with a range of stakeholders and advocacy groups working with vulnerable young people and can may make a single exceptional needs payment (ENP) to help meet essential expenditure which a person could not reasonably be expected to meet out of their weekly income. ENPs can be paid to assist with rent deposits and the costs of setting up home.

Under Pathways to Work 2016-2020, my Department committed to review and report on the impact of the reduced rates for JA recipients aged 18 to 25. The review, which is ongoing and on which a considerable amount of progress has been made, is examining the effectiveness of the reduced rates in encouraging young jobseekers to avail of education, training, employment programmes and opportunities. This is a comprehensive and detailed piece of work which I expect will be completed in the coming months.

As an input to my Department's review, the National University of Ireland, Maynooth (NUIM) undertook research which examined the effectiveness of the reduced rates in encouraging young jobseekers to avail of education, training and employment. My Department facilitated the NUIM access to the data from the Jobseeker’s Longitudinal Database in order to undertake this research. The detailed findings in the report have been analysed and is being used to inform my Department’s own review report.

Any changes to the rate of payments for young jobseekers would have to be considered in a budgetary context and within the scope of the overall resources available for welfare improvements.

I trust that this information is of assistance to the Deputies.

Medical Aids and Appliances Provision

Ceisteanna (2660)

John Curran

Ceist:

2660. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to review the hearing aid grant in view of the fact that twice as many persons who have a medical card have a hearing aid compared to persons who do not have a medical card; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that Ireland prescribes hearing aids at roughly 50% of the rate per head of population compared to the UK; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31535/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The Department’s Medical Appliance scheme, which provides grants to assist in the purchase of hearing aids, is available to those who have the required number of PRSI contributions and their dependant spouse/partners. The numbers claiming under the scheme over recent years and the payments made by my Department bear testimony to the important contribution the scheme is making for PRSI contributors who are experiencing hearing loss.

In 2018, some 14,689 grants, at a cost of €12.74m were provided; this represents a 53% increase in the number of grants provided since 2016 and a 95% increase since 2009. The increase in 2018 over 2016 is due in part to the extension of the scheme to the self-employed for the first time in March 2017.

The Department regularly reviews the grant amount to ensure it reflects the cost of the variety of devices and price ranges on the market.

The parallel HSE scheme provides digital hearing aids, at no cost to the customer, and is available to those of all ages with medical card eligibility, which would include the vast majority of the over 70’s age group. This availability may well be a factor in the increased uptake under the HSE scheme, and may also be reflected in the higher uptake in the UK, were hearing aids are also available free of charge under the NHS scheme.

Any increase in the grant or variation in the percentage contribution towards hearing aids can only be considered at Budget time and in the context of available funds.

Social Welfare Inspections

Ceisteanna (2661)

John Brady

Ceist:

2661. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if the affected small businesses in County Donegal will be financially compensated for the significant cost of complying with the requirement that they conduct a mini-audit of their business to demonstrate they are not employing staff illegally; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31543/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

My understanding is that the Deputy is referring to Pay Related Social Insurance (PRSI) inspections that are currently taking place nationwide, including County Donegal.

Social welfare legislation provides the basis for entitlement to a range of income supports for unemployed people, people with disabilities, carers and older people, as well as supports for families and for people in employment; liability for PRSI contributions and for a range of related matters

Most employers and employees (over 16 years of age and under 66) pay PRSI contributions into the national Social Insurance Fund. In general, the payment of social insurance is compulsory. The Social Insurance Fund is then used to fund social insurance payments.

Every year, inspectors from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection visit many employers. The purpose of these inspections is to ensure, amongst other things, that employers are:

- Paying employer PRSI contributions

- Paying PRSI contributions for their employees

- Keeping proper records for contributions paid

- Keeping records of payments made to contractors, payments to Revenue

- Sales and Purchases Invoices etc

The Department's inspectors have the power to inspect records and there are penalties for people who obstruct or refuse to supply information, or fail to keep or produce records and documents, and that are not compliant with legislation.

Employers are obliged to be PRSI compliant and therefore there are no financial compensations available to employers to ensure that they are compliant.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Departmental Staff Data

Ceisteanna (2662)

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

2662. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the staffing levels at each Intreo public office operated by her Department in County Donegal in each of the years from 2014 to 2018 and to date in 2019, by location, in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31577/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Like all Government departments and agencies, my Department is required to operate within a staff ceiling figure and a commensurate administrative staffing budget, which for this Department has involved reductions in staff.

The Intreo service is the integrated income support, employment and support service provided by the Department. Intreo Centres provide information and access to income supports, including jobseekers' payments, back to work and back to education payments, one-parent family payments and community welfare services. There are four offices designated as Intreo Centres in Donegal. These are located in Letterkenny, Buncrana, Dungloe and Dunfanaghy.

Serving staff figures as at the end of each year for 2014 to 2018 and serving staff at the end of June for 2019 are set out in the following tables; there are two figures provided; one for the full-time equivalent staffing number (FTE) and the other for the number of staff on site (comprises full-time staff and staff availing of shorter working weeks).

1) Buncrana

-

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

FTE

Staff Count

FTE

Staff Count

FTE

Staff Count

FTE

Staff Count

FTE

Staff Count

FTE

Staff Count

Higher Executive Officer

8.00

8

8.00

8

7.60

8

10.60

11

10.60

11

11.60

12

Executive Officer

7.00

7

7.00

7

6.00

6

9.80

10

10.80

11

8.80

9

Staff Officer *

6.80

7

6.80

7

6.80

7

-

-

-

-

-

-

Clerical Officer

15.89

17

16.89

18

15.46

17

17.46

19

15.41

17

16.41

18

Services Officer

-

-

-

-

0.50

1

1.00

1

1.00

1

1.00

1

Total

37.69

39

38.68

40

36.36

39

38.86

41

37.81

40

37.81

40

* In 2017 the Staff Officer grade was amalgamated with the Executive Officer grade

2) Dunfanaghy

-

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

FTE

Staff Count

FTE

Staff Count

FTE

Staff Count

FTE

Staff Count

FTE

Staff Count

FTE

Staff Count

Higher Executive Officer

1.00

1

1.00

1

1.00

1

1.00

1

1.00

1

1.00

1

Executive Officer

2.73

3

2.73

3

2.73

3

3.73

4

3.73

4

3.73

4

Staff Officer *

1.00

1

1.00

1

1.00

1

-

-

-

-

-

-

Clerical Officer

5.50

6

5.50

6

4.50

5

4.50

5

5.50

6

3.50

4

Services Officer

.30

1

.30

1

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Total

10.53

12

10.53

12

9.23

10

9.23

10

10.23

11

8.23

9

3) Dungloe

-

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

FTE

Staff Count

FTE

Staff Count

FTE

Staff Count

FTE

Staff Count

FTE

Staff Count

FTE

Staff Count

Higher Executive Officer

4.00

4

4.00

4

5.53

6

5.80

6

5.00

5

6.00

6

Executive Officer

1.80

2

3.80

4

2.80

3

4.00

4

4.00

4

4.00

4

Staff Officer *

2.00

2

2.00

2

2.00

2

-

-

-

-

-

-

Clerical Officer

8.80

9

8.80

9

9.53

10

9.53

10

10.53

11

11.53

12

Services Officer

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Total

16.60

17

18.60

19

19.86

21

19.33

20

19.53

20

21.53

22

* In 2017 the Staff Officer grade was amalgamated with the Executive Officer grade

4) Letterkenny

-

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

FTE

Staff

Count

FTE

Staff Count

FTE

Staff Count

FTE

Staff Count

FTE

Staff Count

FTE

Staff Count

Assistant Principal

1.00

1

1.00

1

2.00

2

2.00

2

2.00

2

2.00

2

Higher Executive Officer

17.00

17

16.00

16

18.00

19

15.50

16

15.58

17

15.58

17

Executive

Officer

8.40

9

6.60

7

7.60

8

14.10

15

14.10

15

13.10

14

Staff Officer *

6.50

7

6.50

7

6.50

7

-

-

-

-

-

-

Clerical

Officer

27.83

29

27.10

28

26.50

28

25.83

28

24.68

27

22.94

25

Services Officer

-

-

1.00

1

1.00

1

1.00

1

1.00

1

1.00

1

Total

60.73

63

58.20

60

61.60

65

58.43

62

57.35

62

54.62

59

* In 2017 the Staff Officer grade was amalgamated with the Executive Officer grade

The staffing needs for all areas within the Department are continuously reviewed, taking account of workloads, management priorities and the on-going need to respond to new increasing demands in a wide range of services. This is to ensure that the best use is made of all available resources with a view to providing an efficient service to those who rely on the schemes operated by the Department.

Disability Allowance Applications

Ceisteanna (2663)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

2663. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if an application for disability allowance by a person (details supplied) will be expedited. [31587/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

I confirm that my department received an application for disability allowance (DA) from this gentleman on 25 April 2019. On completion of the necessary investigations on all aspects of the claim a decision will be made and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

The processing time for individual DA claims may vary in accordance with their relative complexity in terms of the three main qualifying criteria, the person’s circumstances and the information they provide in support of their claim.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Child Benefit Rates

Ceisteanna (2664)

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

2664. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the estimated cost of giving an additional annual €50, €100 and €200 grant payment to all recipients of child benefit. [31608/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The costing sought by the Deputy is presented in the table:

Annual Grant

Cost (€m)

€50

60.0

€100

120.0

€200

240.1

The cost is based on the estimated number of beneficiaries in 2019. It should be noted that this costing is subject to change in the context of emerging trends and associated revision of the estimated numbers of beneficiaries for 2020.

The introduction of such a grant for child benefit recipients would need to be considered in a budgetary context.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Legislative Reviews

Ceisteanna (2665)

Catherine Connolly

Ceist:

2665. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of reviews carried out by her Department pursuant to Standing Order No. 164A of Dáil Éireann; the pieces of legislation to which each review refers; the number and title of each piece of legislation in respect of which a review pursuant to Standing Order 164A has not been undertaken; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31629/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

My Department has responsibility for the legislation underpinning the social welfare code, occupational and private pensions, civil registration and gender recognition, redundancy and employer’s insolvency, employment rights and the Citizens Information Board.

Some 5 separate Acts relating to these matters have been enacted in the lifetime of the current Government, as set out beneath. No reviews pursuant to Standing Order No. 164A of Dáil Éireann have been published to date.

(1) Civil Registration Act 2019 (No. 13 of 2019)

(2) Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2018 (No. 38 of 2018)

(3) Social Welfare, Pensions and Civil Registration Act 2018 (No. 37 of 2018)

(4) Social Welfare Act 2017 (No. 38 of 2017)

(5) Social Welfare Act 2016 (No. 15 of 2016)

It should be noted that, separately, a review of the Gender Recognition Act 2015, which was required to be undertaken under Section 7 of that Act, has recently been published.

Child Benefit Eligibility

Ceisteanna (2666)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

2666. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if child benefit payments will be extended to include children attending secondary school aged 18 years or older; if a financial analysis has been conducted as to the estimated amount it would cost on an annual basis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31642/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Child Benefit is a monthly payment made to families with children in respect of all qualified children up to the age of 16 years. The payment continues to be paid in respect of children up to the age of 18 years where they are in full-time education or have a disability. Child Benefit is currently paid, as of end-May 2019 to almost 634,000 families in respect of just over 1.2 million children, with an estimated expenditure of more than €2 billion in 2018.

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

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

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

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

- the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance.

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

I trust that this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.