Jobseeker's Allowance Payments

Ceisteanna (643)

John Brady

Ceist:

643. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason the report into the reduced jobseeker's rates for 18 to 25-year olds committed to in Pathways to Work 2016-2020 is now three years overdue; if a draft document has been provided to her; the date for publication of the report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37265/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Reduced rates for Jobseekers Allowance recipients aged 18-25 were introduced on a phased basis to tackle high youth unemployment which had reached its highest level in 2009 with almost 28% of people under 25 years of age unemployed and to prevent long-term welfare dependency.  This policy is in line with other EU and OECD jurisdictions.  Receiving the maximum weekly rate of jobseeker’s allowance 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 the personal rate that applies is the maximum rate of €203 per week. 

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.  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 from this research have been used to inform my Department’s own review report.  The report, which involves a considerable amount of data gathering and complex analysis, is at an advanced stage and I expect to receive a copy soon.

 I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Community Employment Schemes Eligibility

Ceisteanna (644)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

644. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if the possibility of allowing a person (details supplied) to take up a position on a community employment scheme will be investigated. [37288/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Community Employment (CE) is a positive initiative that enables the long-term unemployed to make a contribution to their communities whilst up-skilling themselves for prospective future employment.  It helps to break the cycle of unemployment and improve a person’s chances of returning to the labour market. 

Under the Service Support Stream (SSS) on CE, participants aged 62 years and over who meet the eligibility criteria may remain on CE up to the State Pension age. The places available under this stream are subject to eligibility criteria. I amended the criteria last year to ensure that these places can be availed of once a person reaches age 62.

In the case referred to by the Deputy, the person is not currently on CE, however it is open to them to apply for a placement under the SSS on reaching 62 in February 2020.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Pensions Reform

Ceisteanna (645)

John McGuinness

Ceist:

645. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if she will consult widely with the stakeholders involved in relation to the IORPS II directive before introducing same; if her attention has been drawn to or if she has considered the opinion of the industry that the directive is not the appropriate way to regulate single member pension schemes; and the details of her approach to these schemes. [37345/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The IORP II Directive is a substantial Directive, the transposition of which will result in significant improvements to the regulation and governance of funded occupational pension schemes in Ireland.  Officials in my Department, supported by the Pensions Authority, are managing this transposition process. 

In 2014, the Department undertook an open public consultation on the IORP II Directive.  Further to that, the Pensions Authority undertook a consultation process on the reform and simplification of supplementary funded private pensions in 2016.  In addition, officials of my Department have engaged on the provisions of the Directive with numerous representatives and stakeholders over a number of years. 

As the Deputy may be aware, an application has been granted for a judicial review for a set of reliefs and a stay in relation to the transposition into Irish law of the IORP II Directive.  As such, it would not be appropriate for me to comment further on matters that are currently before the Courts.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Social Welfare Appeals Status

Ceisteanna (646)

John McGuinness

Ceist:

646. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of an appeal in the case of a person (details supplied) in respect of their entitlement to a pension benefit; and if their pension will be restored. [37347/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 31 July 2019.  It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 16 August 2019 and the case will be referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral hearing.  The Department has suspended the recovery of this overpayment while the appeal is being dealt with.

Your representations, including your request for an oral hearing, will be brought to the attention of the Appeals Officer assigned to this case.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions in relation to social welfare entitlements.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Community Employment Schemes Cessation

Ceisteanna (647)

Willie O'Dea

Ceist:

647. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason a person (details supplied) did not receive pay in lieu of notice when funding was withdrawn from the community employment scheme effectively rendering it closed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37363/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Community Employment (CE) schemes are typically sponsored by voluntary and community organisations wishing to benefit the local community.  As the employers, these sponsoring organisations contract with my Department, on an annual basis, to provide job seekers with good quality work experience and training qualifications to support their progression into employment. 

CE supervisors are employees of these organisations, which are private companies. They are not employees of my Department or public servants.  The issue of pay in lieu of notice is a matter between the person concerned and their employer.

The purpose of the Insolvency Payments Scheme, which operates under the Protection of Employees (Employers’ Insolvency) Act 1984, as amended, is to protect certain outstanding pay-related entitlements due to employees in the event of the insolvency of their employer. 

These entitlements include wages, holiday pay, sick pay, payment in lieu of minimum notice due under the Minimum Notice & Terms of Employment Acts and certain pension contributions.  Various other statutory awards made by the Workplace Relations Commission, are also covered by the scheme. 

Where a person’s former employer was a limited company, the company must be in liquidation or receivership in order for the person to be eligible to claim entitlements under the Insolvency Payments Scheme.

I am advised that in this instance, the employer does not satisfy the current requirements to enable payment to be made under the Insolvency Payments Scheme.  

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Workplace Relations Commission

Ceisteanna (648)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

648. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if she will address a matter regarding a Workplace Relations Commission adjudication in the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37402/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

An award was made by the Workplace Relations Commission which requires the employer to make  payment to their former employee. If the company in question has gone into liquidation, it is the responsibility of the liquidator to manage any outstanding debts.  

The purpose of the Insolvency Payments Scheme, which operates under the Protection of Employees (Employers’ Insolvency) Act, is to protect certain outstanding pay-related entitlements due to employees in the event of the insolvency of their employer. 

These entitlements include wages, holiday pay, sick pay, payment in lieu of minimum notice due under the Minimum Notice & Terms of Employment Acts, 1973-2001, and certain pension contributions.  Various other statutory awards made by the Workplace Relations Commission are also covered by the scheme.   

To date, my Department has not received a claim under the Insolvency Payments Scheme for this individual. Officials in my Department have advised the individual to contact the liquidator directly and request that the appropriate claim forms be submitted to the Department along with a copy of the relevant Workplace Relations Commission decision.

I trust this clarifies the matter.

Maternity Benefit Applications

Ceisteanna (649)

Michael Fitzmaurice

Ceist:

649. Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when a decision will be made in respect a person (details supplied) who appealed the decision made in respect of their application for maternity benefit in March 2019; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37440/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was referred on 16 July 2019 to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral hearing. 

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions in relation to social welfare entitlements.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Carer's Allowance Applications

Ceisteanna (650)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

650. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if a decision has been made on an application for a carer's allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37516/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Carer's allowance (CA) is a means-tested social assistance payment made to a person who is habitually resident in the State and who is providing full-time care and attention to a child or an adult who has such a disability that as a result they require that level of care.

An application for CA was received from the person concerned on 29 July 2019. The application is currently being processed and once completed, the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

State Pension (Contributory)

Ceisteanna (651)

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

651. Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if a person (details supplied) will be included in the upcoming pensions review; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37538/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

In late September 2018, my Department began examining the social insurance records of over 90,000 pensioners, born on or after 1 September 1946, who have a reduced rate State pension contributory entitlement based on post Budget 2012 rate-bands.  These payments are being reviewed under a new Total Contributions Approach (TCA) to pension calculation which includes provision for homecaring periods.

The person concerned applied for and was awarded a reduced rate State pension (contributory) in 2015.  As their spouse was already in receipt of an increase for qualified adult for them at a higher rate, their state pension (contributory) claim was withdrawn.

The person has been reviewed using information already held by the Department in relation to their HomeCaring Periods.  The person has a total of 904 reckonable paid contributions which combined with the maximum permissible number of combined HomeCaring periods and reckonable credits of 1,040, (as set out in legislation) results in a rate of 93.46% of the maximum rate of pension.  

The person has been transferred to their own state pension (contributory) pension, as their own entitlement now exceeds their previous qualified adult increase rate.  

A review outcome letter has issued to the person, outlining details of their increase and includes a breakdown of their social insurance contribution record.  Arrears of payment, backdated to 30 March 2018, will issue shortly. 

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Departmental Investigations

Ceisteanna (652)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

652. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the outcome of an investigation by the scope section into employment arrangements at a company (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37616/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The Scope section of this Department made decisions in relation to the insurability status of two individuals employed by Globetech in November 2016.  The decisions ruled both individuals to be employed under a contract of service (employee status) and insurable at PRSI Class A.

These decisions were not appealed by the company.  Employee status was then applied to all other individuals employed by the company under the same terms and conditions.

As the company complied with the determinations with the employees being reclassified and their situation regularised with the Revenue Commissioners, the matter was resolved.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Departmental Investigations

Ceisteanna (653)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

653. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of investigations undertaken by the scope section that involved contractors and multinational companies regarding employment status and-or bogus self-employment in the past five years to date; the number of these investigations that were closed and determinations made and or sanctions imposed; the number that remain open and or under appeal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37617/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Scope Section of my Department undertakes investigations on foot of requests from a variety of sources, for example, employees, employers or Social Welfare Inspectors.  These investigations cover a variety of situations, for example, modified classes of PRSI for civil and public servants, family employments or the insurability of Directors.

Of all the cases referred to Scope, those involving the mis-classification of an employee as being self-employed – what we call ‘false self-employment’ (FSE) – constitute a small proportion.  In this regard, a breakdown of cases is not available pre-2018 as the historic database in use in Scope did not allow this categorisation.  However, the following statistics are available:

  Number of all cases referred for Scope decision

Year

All cases referred

All cases decisions made

Employed/self-employed

Decisions made

2015

1,220

1,064

Not available

2016

1,446

1,027

Not available

2017

1,473

1,065

Not available

2018

2,067

1,339

73

2019 (to end May)

879

575

59

The following statistics show the number of decisions made involving FSE situations:

Number of cases in sub-category of Employed/Self-Employed (Decision Made)

Decisions made   

2018  

2019 (to end May)  

Total decisions made

73

59 

I am advised that records are not categorised on the basis of "contractors and multinational companies" as the Deputy asks, and so the number of such specific cases is not available.

It is important to note that these cases do not always involve a deliberately fraudulent mis-classification of a worker as self-employed.  Sometimes it happens that both employer and employee are genuinely mistaken in their approach and are happy to correct the position once the Department’s officials make a determination.

I am advised that cases are not recorded at present in a format that allows statistics to be provided on the number of such cases appealed, as a separate category.  However, I can confirm that there are currently 11 cases of ‘employed/self-employed’ Scope cases currently on appeal with the Social Welfare Appeals Office.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Carer's Allowance Applications

Ceisteanna (654)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

654. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of a carer's allowance appeal by a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37648/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 14 June 2019.  It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection.  These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 26 August 2019 and the case will be referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral hearing.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions in relation to social welfare entitlements.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Legislative Programme

Ceisteanna (655)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

655. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when he will publish the marine planning and development management Bill. [36422/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The target date for the publication of the Marine Planning and Development Management Bill set out in the Climate Action Plan to tackle Climate Breakdown is Q4 2019. Once the legislation is published, it will then be a matter for the Oireachtas to consider. If the Bill is enacted, it will require further enabling measures post enactment to bring the new regime into operation including the necessary regulations, statutory guidelines and transitional arrangements.

Commercial Rates Exemptions

Ceisteanna (656)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

656. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the position regarding offices occupied by Intreo or social welfare branches being exempt from commercial rates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37218/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Generally, property occupied by Government Departments are exempt from commercial rates.  In the case of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, under the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005, there is a requirement that expenses incurred in relation to the operation of the Social Insurance Fund must be recouped to other Government Departments. This includes a contribution in lieu of commercial rates, apportioned on the basis of buildings or portions of buildings where the Social Insurance Fund is administered. 

Housing Adaptation Grant

Ceisteanna (657)

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

657. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if consideration will be given to setting up a specialised building unit for persons that have sudden onset catastrophic life changing injuries or illnesses that require housing adaptations as a matter of urgency (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37546/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

My Department provides funding to local authorities under the suite of Housing Adaptation Grants for Older People and People with a Disability, to assist people in private houses to make their accommodation more suitable for their needs and also facilitate the early return from hospital stays. The detailed administration of the grants including their assessment, approval and prioritisation, is the responsibility of the local authorities.

Under the grants, the applicant engages the tradespeople directly and consideration has not been given to the establishment of a dedicated specialised building unit.  However, the majority of local authorities can provide applicants with an informal list of local building contractors who have completed grant-related work.  This list is not endorsed by local authorities but is intended to assist applicants if requested. 

My Department has previously requested that all local authorities establish contact with the hospitals/convalescent homes in their areas and to prioritise applications from eligible applicants, whose discharge from hospital is dependent on the timely adaptation of their homes. My Department has also met recently with all local authorities where this practice was discussed and it is planned to develop this service further as a priority.

I believe that the availability from local authorities of lists of local building contractors who have completed grant-related work, the continued and enhanced level of contact between local authorities and hospitals/convalescent homes and the prioritisation of applications where discharge from hospital is dependent on the timely adaptation of homes, is a meaningful response to the challenge faced in the situations described.

Grant Payments

Ceisteanna (658, 683)

Jackie Cahill

Ceist:

658. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if there are grants available through the OPW to support the rethatching of a roof on a listed building; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37693/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Jackie Cahill

Ceist:

683. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if grants are available through local authorities to help in the upgrading and rethatching of a thatched roof which is part of a listed building; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37683/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 658 and 683 together.

Under my Department’s grant scheme for the renewal or repair of a thatched roof, funding of up to €3,810, or two thirds of the approved cost, whichever is the lesser, may be payable in respect of necessary works to renew or repair the thatched roofs of private houses. There is no differentiation in these grants between properties that are or aren't 'listed buildings'. A higher level of assistance of up to €5,714 is available for houses on specified offshore islands. In the case of medical card holders, a grant of up to €6,350, or up to 80% of the approved cost, may be payable in respect of private houses situated on the mainland, rising to €8,252 where the house is situated on a specified off-shore island. Eligibility under the grant scheme is contingent on the house being occupied as a normal place of residence on completion of the approved works.

The Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht also oversees a number of schemes to assist in the conservation of protected structures such as thatched cottages. These schemes are the Built Heritage Investment Scheme and the Historic Structures Fund. They are administered through the local authorities and details are available on the website of the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht at the following link:

https://www.chg.gov.ie/heritage/built-heritage/financial-assistance-for-architectural-heritage/ , including lists of projects being funded in 2019. Details of the schemes are also available on the websites of individual local authorities.

Approved Housing Bodies

Ceisteanna (659, 660)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

659. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the amount of subsidies paid to approved housing bodies over the past three years to date; the way in which he monitors the use of subsidies issued; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36982/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

660. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the amount of management and maintenance fees paid to approved housing bodies over the past three years to date; the way in which he monitors the use of the fees issued; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36983/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 659 and 660 together.

Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) are making an important contribution to social housing delivery, as envisaged in Rebuilding Ireland. My Department operates a number of funding programmes that assist local authorities to work in partnership with AHBs to construct, purchase or lease new homes and make them available for social housing.

This funding is underpinned by either mortgage agreements, capital advance agreements, leases or Payment and Availability agreements (P&A) which set out the terms and conditions of the funding and the specific responsibilities the AHB has for the properties and their tenants.

Where an AHB has purchased or constructed a property that is in their ownership, the responsibility for management and maintenance of that property is a matter for them to meet, in most cases, from their own income. This income is derived, in the main, from a combination of rent payments from the tenant and monthly payments made by the local authority to the AHB in accordance with a P&A agreement which is in place for each of these properties. The Agreements entered into under this model can be for a long period of time, up to 30 years, which may place additional cyclical maintenance/life cycle costs responsibilities on the AHB.

The main area in which specific management and maintenance fees or ongoing supports are provided relate to the now closed Capital Loan & Subsidy Scheme (CLSS). The vast majority of CLSS funding is for the repayment of loan charges (principle and interest) to the Housing Finance Agency, in respect of loans advanced to the AHBs for their delivery of new social housing under the CLSS. The balance of the CLSS funding provided is in respect of a management and maintenance allowance for the upkeep, by the AHBs, of the CLSS funded properties, in line with the terms of scheme. The amounts paid under the CLSS since 2017 are as follows: 

Year

Loan Charges

Management and Maintenance Allowance

2017

€41,620,966

€4,300,377

2018

€48,994,521

€4,213,362

2019*

€39,787,388

€2,143,179

In relation to subsidies, my Department does not provide AHBs, or local authorities for onward payment to AHBs, with financial subsidies towards AHBs’ general operational running costs and administration. Funding is available to cover elements of the cost of administering various agreements and related outlay in the initial period of a new property becoming available for social housing under various arrangements. Specifically, there are two separate forms of start-up funding available to AHBs which are funded by local authorities and recouped to them by my Department:

- Capital start-up funding up to 1.5% of the capital cost of either the acquisition, construction or refurbishment of the homes being made available under a P&A agreement that has received a Capital Advance Leasing Facility (CALF) loan from the local authority;

- Leasing/P&A start-up funding up to 5% of the value of the first year’s P&A payment on a property.

In the case of CALF start-up costs, the capital cost is verified with vouched expenditure by the local authority at the signing of the Capital Advance Agreement, i.e. the loan agreement, and the start-up claims are subsequently drawn down post-completion of the properties. As of 1 July 2019, AHBs drawdown start-up funds from the local authorities, who certify that the funding is being used for the purpose intended and in line with the terms of the scheme. As the statutory housing authorities, local authorities are responsible for the administration of the funding and I am satisfied that they are managing the funding in a responsible manner. The amounts paid since 2017 are as follows: 

Year

1.5% Capital Cost Start-funding paid

5% Leasing/ P&A Start-up funding paid

2017

€0.9m

€398,700

2018

€2.5m

€513,760

2019*

€1.09m

€266,673

*Year to date

Water and Sewerage Schemes Status

Ceisteanna (661)

Joe Carey

Ceist:

661. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the progress made to date in relation to the introduction of a new scheme to provide funding supports to local authorities for the development of small sewage schemes in rural towns and villages; if consideration has been given to introducing a pilot scheme as part of the process to introduce a new scheme; when a new scheme will be operational; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37020/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I refer to the reply to Question No. 1939 of 6 September 2019.

Since 1 January 2014, Irish Water has statutory responsibility for all aspects of water services planning, delivery and operation at national, regional and local levels. Irish Water, as a single publically owned national water services authority, is taking a strategic, nationwide national utility approach to asset planning and investment, and meeting customer requirements.

Irish Water will take account of developing subsidiary programmes within its investment plan to assist in implementing the National Planning Framework and the National Development Plan, including the Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies, as well as ongoing reviews of local authority statutory land use plans.

I understand that Irish Water has brought forward proposals, within its investment plan submitted to the Commission for Regulation of Utilities as part of the next regulatory control period 2020-2024, for a Small Towns and Villages Growth Programme which will support a number of the National Policy Objectives and National Strategic Outcomes under the National Planning Framework. The Small Towns and Villages Growth Programme is intended to provide water and wastewater growth capacity in smaller settlements which would not otherwise be provided for in Irish Water’s Investment Plan. Irish Water will work with local authorities across the country in ensuring that investment is made where it is needed most, aligned to local authority core strategies. It is in that context that investment decisions in relation to individual projects will be made.

Irish Water has established a dedicated team to deal with representations and queries from public representatives. The team can be contacted via email to oireachtasmembers@water.ie or by telephone on a dedicated number, 1890 578 578.

Pyrite Remediation Programme

Ceisteanna (662, 668)

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

662. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the details of the proposed pyrite and MICA scheme; the way in which it applies to affected residents in County Mayo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37026/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

668. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the supports that will be made available to the owners of properties in which defective blockwork has been identified and in which the property in question is a non-principal private residence; if consideration has been given to providing relief from VAT and or other supports to owners of such properties with respect to the cost of carrying out remedial works; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37181/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 662 and 668 together.

In October 2018, the Government approved in principle the development of a grant scheme of financial assistance to support affected homeowners in the counties of Donegal and Mayo to carry out the necessary remediation works to dwellings that have been damaged due to defective concrete blocks.

In May 2019, agreement was reached with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform to allocate €20 million to a scheme for this purpose from within the €2.4 billion housing budget for 2019. Funding for future years will be agreed on an annual basis as part of the normal Estimates process.

The full terms and conditions of the scheme are being finalised, again in consultation with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. This process will take account of the engagement that my Department is currently having with both Donegal and Mayo County Councils. In this regard, officials from my Department continue to meet with both local authority teams to discuss implementation arrangements for the scheme and further engagement will take place over the coming weeks.

On completion of this work, it is intended to revert to Government on the matter. The aim will be to complete the outstanding work without delay in order to ensure that the scheme can get underway as early as possible.

Homeless Persons Supports

Ceisteanna (663)

John Lahart

Ceist:

663. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if it is normal practice for his Department to fund homeless hubs in Dublin or nationally; if not, if his Department been requested to fund homeless hubs; if so, the person or body by which and the reason therefor; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37061/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

My Department’s role in relation to homelessness involves the provision of a national framework of policy, legislation and funding to underpin the role of housing authorities in addressing homelessness at local level.  Statutory responsibility in relation to the provision of emergency accommodation and related services for homeless persons rests with individual housing authorities. 

Rebuilding Ireland, the Government's Action Plan on Housing and Homelessness, includes the objective that hotels will only be used in limited circumstances as emergency accommodation for families.  To meet this objective, housing authorities are pursuing the delivery of a range of additional and enhanced family-focused facilities, or family hubs, which offer a greater level of stability than is possible in hotel, until such time as a home can be secured. 

There are currently 28 hubs operational nationally, offering approximately 660 units of family accommodation.  Of these hubs 22 are in Dublin, with one each in Clare, Cork, Galway, Kildare, Limerick and Louth.  Further facilities will become operational during the remainder of 2019, details of which will become available as projects are finalised by the housing authorities.

Funding is provided by my Department towards capital costs associated with the development of family hub accommodation.  In 2017 and 2018 capital payments amounting to €8.74 million and €21.96m, respectively,  were made in respect of operational hub facilities.  The total capital spend for the provision of emergency accommodation, including family hub facilities, was €14.2 million and €48.5 million in 2017 and 2018, respectively.  The funding to be provided in 2019 will be dependent on the progress made by local authorities on the development of further family hubs over the rest of the year. 

In relation to the operational funding for the family hubs, my Department provides funding to housing authorities on a regional basis towards the operational costs of homeless accommodation and related services.  Under the funding arrangements, housing authorities must provide at least 10% of the cost of services from their own resources. Housing authorities may also incur additional expenditure on homeless related services outside of the funding arrangements with my Department.  Therefore, the exact amounts spent by housing authorities on homeless services, as well as the types of accommodation and the service providers engaged, are a matter for those authorities.  Financial reports from each of the regions, setting out expenditure on homeless services, including family hubs, in each region in 2018, are published on my Department's website at the following link: https://www.housing.gov.ie/search/sub-type/financial-report.

Home Loan Scheme

Ceisteanna (664)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

664. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if local authorities are taking applications under the Rebuilding Ireland home loan scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37122/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Local Authorities continue to accept applications under the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan scheme.  

When the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan (RIHL) scheme was initially being developed, it was estimated that the drawdown of loans would be approximately €200 million over three years.  However, the RIHL proved to be more successful than initially anticipated. My officials began engaging with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in October 2018 when higher lending and drawdown volumes were beginning to materialise. I informed the Dáil on 29 January 2019 of the scheme’s success and of the need for additional funding and indicated that my Department was in discussions with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Department of Finance with regard to the allocation for 2019.

Following positive engagement with my colleague, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, my Department wrote to all 31 local authorities on 15 August 2019, sanctioning an additional €363 million in funding for the RIHL, bringing total funding to €563 million for 2018 and 2019 combined.

Housing Assistance Payment Data

Ceisteanna (665, 666)

Maurice Quinlivan

Ceist:

665. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of persons receiving the housing assistance payment in each municipal district (details supplied) in County Clare in each year since 2017, in tabular form. [37136/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Maurice Quinlivan

Ceist:

666. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the amount paid to landlords receiving the housing assistance payment in each municipal district (details supplied) in County Clare in each year since 2017, in tabular form. [37138/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 665 and 666 together.

The Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) is a flexible and immediate housing support that is available to all eligible households throughout the State. At the end of Q2 2019, over 48,260 active tenancies were being supported by the HAP scheme. This includes 1,344 tenancies in County Clare.

Limerick City and County Council provide a highly effective transactional shared service on behalf of all HAP local authorities. This HAP Shared Services Centre (SSC) manages all HAP related rental transactions for the tenant, local authority and landlord.

A breakdown of active HAP tenancies by year, for the municipal areas requested, is set out in the following table:

Municipal Area

2017

2018

2019 (End Q2)

Ennis

580

627

629

Killaloe

155

178

177

Shannon

120

138

143

West Clare

331

367

367

The average rent paid to landlords in County Clare for the relevant years is set out in the following table.

Year

Average landlord payment

2017

€430

2018

€459

Q2 2019

€467

A breakdown of average rent by municipal area is not available.

Water and Sewerage Schemes Funding

Ceisteanna (667)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

667. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if funding will be allocated for a group water scheme (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37153/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

On 8 February this year, I announced details of the measures being funded through my Department under the Multi-annual Rural Water Programme 2019-2021. Local authorities were invited to submit their bids for the funding of schemes or projects in their functional areas and Kerry County Council included the scheme referred to in its application to my Department under the new Programme.

An Expert Panel was put in place to support the evaluation process. In addition to providing an expert perspective, the Panel brings independence, openness and transparency to the bids evaluation process which is done on a national prioritised basis. The Expert Panel’s membership includes Departmental, stakeholder and independent representation.

The Expert Panel has made recommendations to my Department on the suitability of schemes and projects for funding based on objective criteria which are set out in the framework document issued to local authorities when requesting proposals. I expect to conclude consideration of the Panel's recommendations and to make an announcement of the allocations shortly.