JobPath Programme

Ceisteanna (520)

John Brady

Ceist:

520. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the plans in place for the JobPath scheme post 2019 in view of the fact that the report into the ongoing review of contracted public employment services to be carried out by external consultants will not be completed until early 2020; the position in this regard for referrals to JobPath post 2019; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38478/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

JobPath is a service which supports people who are long-term unemployed to secure and sustain full time paid employment. Two companies, Seetec and Turas Nua, have been contracted by my Department to deliver the service.

The JobPath employment service commenced in 2015 and, under the terms of the contracts signed with the providers was to run for at least six years comprising two consecutive phases: phase one entailed four years’ of client referrals, while phase two entailed a ‘run off’ period during which time no additional clients were to be referred. Therefore client referrals were due to cease on 31st December 2019. The contract included an option to extend the term of referrals for a period no greater than two years.

This extension is important as it will ensure that the Government retains the necessary labour activation capacity to deal with any labour market uncertainty that arises as a result of Brexit.

In addition, it provides my Department with the opportunity review all contracted public employment services and to design and develop a comprehensive model that will incorporate various models of response and be fit for purpose for the Irish labour market from 2021 onwards.

As per the econometric review, JobPath has been and continues to be a successful service in providing a comprehensive and value for money activation service for the long-term unemployed. On this basis, my Department triggered the extension provisions of the existing contracts with the JobPath providers and secured agreement on the extension of these contracts on existing terms and conditions for a further twelve months.

This is not a renewal of the JobPath contracts but the execution of the extension clauses of the existing contracts.

In order to assist my Department in designing and developing an appropriate contracted public employment service model, external consultants are to be engaged and this procurement process is currently underway.

Public Services Card

Ceisteanna (521)

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

521. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if the third party legal advice received regarding the legality of the public services card will be published. [38487/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Legal advice, whether from the Attorney General's Office or from external counsel, is privileged and it is not intended to publish the legal advice received by my Department on this matter.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Social Welfare Schemes

Ceisteanna (522)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

522. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the measures she is taking to ensure workers on a worker's permit who are being temporarily laid off due to the beef protests will get some support. [38528/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The primary social welfare schemes available to individuals who have been laid off as a result of current layoffs in the meat processing industry are Jobseekers Benefit and Jobseekers Allowance. Both schemes are administered through my Department's network of Intreo Centres and Social Welfare Branch Offices throughout the country.

Payment of Jobseekers Benefit and Assistance is contingent on a person satisfying the qualifying conditions. A principal requirement for entitlement to Jobseekers Benefit or Assistance is that an individual must be able to demonstrate his or her availability for full-time employment. In consideration of this condition, any factor which would place an unreasonable restriction on the acceptance of an offer of suitable employment would lead to the claim being disallowed.

Deciding Officers have been advised that non-EU nationals who are employed under work permits issued by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation and who are in a situation of involuntary unemployment due to the on-going effects of meat factory protests are considered to be available for employment.

My Department is advising all affected meat factory employees to make a claim for a jobseekers payment regardless of their work/employment permit status. Each claim will be decided in light of the facts of the situation and the particular circumstances of each individual. If they have not done so already, affected employees should contact their local Intreo Centre or Social Welfare Branch Office. Dedicated arrangements have been made to ensure that claims are processed in a timely manner once all supporting documentation is available.

Customers on non-EU work permits who satisfy the other conditions for receipt of Jobseekers Benefits, including having a satisfactory contribution record, can be paid Jobseekers Benefit.

Customers who do not have enough PRSI contributions can apply for Jobseekers Allowance where other conditions apply, including Habitual Residence and satisfying a means test. Any claim for Jobseeker’s Allowance in the case of involuntary short-term lay-offs represents a transient need for support and will be treated as such.

In the absence of entitlement to Jobseekers Allowance, supports may also be available under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme.

I trust that this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Social Welfare Appeals Data

Ceisteanna (523)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

523. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the measures she has taken to reduce the long waiting times for processing certain welfare payments and the number of applications that are subsequently approved under appeal. [38529/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

My Department is committed to providing a quality service to all of its customers. This includes ensuring that scheme applications are processed and decisions on entitlement made as quickly as possible.

Operational processes, procedures and the organisation of work are continually reviewed to ensure that processing capability is maximised with specific monthly targets set for responses within particular scheme area. 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

As part of my Department’s ongoing programme of service modernisation, a range of initiatives aimed at streamlining the processing of claims, supported by modern technology, have and are been implemented in recent years.

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.

All claim decisions taken by the Department’s Deciding Officers and Designated Persons are appealable to the Chief Appeals Officer. In any year about 85% of all claims are awarded by the Department and just 1% are appealed. Nevertheless, the Department is concerned that these cases are dealt with as quickly as possible.

Accordingly, significant efforts and resources have been devoted to reforming the appeal process in recent years. Appeal processing times for the year 2018 were 30 weeks for an oral hearing and 24.8 weeks for a summary decision. There has been some improvement in 2019. At the end of August, an oral hearing decision took 27.9 weeks and a summary decision took 23.2 weeks.

A number of new Appeals Officers have joined the Appeals Office over the past 12-18 months, to replace staff leaving on retirement. Given the complexity of the appeals process it takes some time for new staff to be trained up and develop expertise and this has led to somewhat longer processing times during this period. The Chief Appeals Officer has advised me that appeal processing times continue to be a priority for her Office.

There are a number of reasons why a decision which was refused at first instance might be successful on appeal and it is not necessarily the case that the first decision was incorrect. It is often the case that new evidence is provided with an appeal and that, as a result, the original decision may be revised by the Deciding Officer or Designated Person of the Department. This was the case in 58.8% of such successful outcomes in 2018 and 58% of such outcomes to the end of August 2019.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Redundancy Payments

Ceisteanna (524)

Michael Fitzmaurice

Ceist:

524. Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection his plans to update the Redundancy Payments Act 1967; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38570/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The purpose of the redundancy payments scheme is to compensate employees, under the Redundancy Payments Act 1967, as amended, for the loss of their jobs by reason of redundancy. Under the scheme, an eligible employee is entitled to two weeks’ pay for every year of service, plus a bonus week, subject to a gross weekly salary ceiling of €600.

In order to be eligible for a statutory redundancy payment, an employee must: have at least two years continuous service; be in employment which is insurable under the Social Welfare Acts; be over the age of 16; and have been made redundant as a result of a genuine redundancy situation meaning that the job no longer exists and he/she is not replaced.

It is the employer’s responsibility to pay statutory redundancy payments in the first instance. Where an employer can prove to the satisfaction of the Department that it is unable to pay statutory redundancy to its eligible employees the Department will make statutory redundancy payments directly to those employees. Payments are made from the Social Insurance Fund. Such payments raise a debt against the employer which the Department will seek to recover.

Any proposed changes in this area would have to be considered in the overall policy and budgetary context.

Invalidity Pension Applications

Ceisteanna (525)

Tom Neville

Ceist:

525. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of an invalidity pension application by a person (details supplied); when they will receive payment of same; and the details of the award. [38576/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The gentleman referred to has been awarded invalidity pension with effect from 20 September 2018. Payment will issue to his nominated bank account on 3 October 2019. Any arrears due from 20 September 2018 to 2 October 2019 (less any overlapping social welfare payment) will issue as soon as possible. The gentleman in question was notified of this decision on 19 September 2019

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Public Services Card Data

Ceisteanna (526, 527, 528, 529)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

526. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the amount spent on the roll-out and development of the public services card before and since October 2017 to date when the report by the Data Protection Commission into the card was initiated. [38607/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

527. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of public services cards issued before and since October 2017 to date when the report by the Data Protection Commission into the card was initiated [38608/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

528. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the amount spent on the roll-out and development of the public services card in the period before and since July 2018 to date. [38609/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

529. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of public services cards issued before and since July 2018 to date. [38610/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 526 to 529, inclusive, together.

In total, my Department has issued just over 4 million Public Services Cards (PSC), of which there are currently 3.2 million active PSC users. The information the Deputy has requested relating to the number of PSCs that issued during various periods are set out in the tables below:

PSCs issued up to end-Oct 2017

PSCs issued Nov 2017 to date

PSCs issued to date

2,920,910

1,081,136

4,002,046

PSCs issued up to end-Jul 2018

PSCs issued Aug 2018 to date

PSCs issued to date

3,423,984

578,062

4,002,046

To date, the costs for the development, testing, personalisation, production and distribution cost of the PSC from 2010 to date is €31.7m, excluding VAT. The identity authentication and registration functions involved in the PSC process have been incorporated into the day-to-day work of the Department and I am advised that the staffing costs associated with the PSC are not readily available.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Public Services Card

Ceisteanna (530)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

530. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if a report is forthcoming from the Data Protection Commission regarding biometric data; and if so, when it will be published. [38611/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The Data Protection Commission (DPC) has advised that its recent report and findings are the first of two reports on the Public Services Card (PSC) project that will issue to my Department.

The DPC has stated that she will shortly be submitting to my Department a further report containing provisional findings relating to data security, arithmetic template generation (and associated processing of personal data) for the SAFE registration process and the PSC, and in relation to the Department's processing of personal data generated in connection with the use of the free travel variant of the PSC.

The DPC also stated that once it has considered any final submissions from my Department in relation to that report's provisional findings, she will finalise the report on those particular issues.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Jobseeker's Benefit Appeals

Question No. 532 answered with Question No. 513.

Ceisteanna (531)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

531. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if a decision will be made on an appeal for a jobseeker's benefit in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38633/19]

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 13 September 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

Question No. 532 answered with Question No. 513.

JobPath Programme

Ceisteanna (533)

Willie O'Dea

Ceist:

533. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of JobPath; her plans to renew the contracts of the two private companies tasked with delivering same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38828/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

JobPath is a service which supports people who are long-term unemployed to secure and sustain full time paid employment. Two companies, Seetec and Turas Nua, have been contracted by my Department to deliver the service.

The JobPath employment service commenced in 2015 and, under the terms of the contracts signed with the providers was to run for at least six years comprising two consecutive phases: phase one entailed four years’ of client referrals, while phase two entailed a ‘run off’ period during which time no additional clients were to be referred. Therefore client referrals were due to cease on 31st December 2019. The contract included an option to extend the term of referrals for a period no greater than two years.

This extension is important as it will ensure that the Government retains the necessary labour activation capacity to deal with any labour market uncertainty that arises as a result of Brexit.

In addition, it provides my Department with the opportunity review all contracted public employment services and to design and develop a comprehensive model that will incorporate various models of response and be fit for purpose for the Irish labour market from 2021 onwards.

As per the econometric review, JobPath has been and continues to be a successful service in providing a comprehensive and value for money activation service for the long-term unemployed. On this basis, my Department triggered the extension provisions of the existing contracts with the JobPath providers and secured agreement on the extension of these contracts on existing terms and conditions for a further twelve months.

This is not a renewal of the JobPath contracts but the execution of the extension clauses of the existing contracts.

In order to assist my Department in designing and developing an appropriate contracted public employment service model, external consultants are to be engaged and this procurement process is currently underway.

State Pension (Contributory) Eligibility

Ceisteanna (534)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Ceist:

534. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if the case of a person (details supplied) will be examined; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38850/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

In February 2018, the Government announced a new interim Total Contribution Approach (TCA) option for state pension (contributory) for those affected by the Budget 2012 rate band changes. This interim pension calculation is based on a requirement of forty years of social insurance contributions for qualification for maximum rate pension. The measures also provide for inclusion of up to twenty years of HomeCaring periods for time spend out of the workforce for parenting or caring reasons.

Homecaring periods are not time bound, they can occur at any time during a claimant's working life. This differs from the existing Homemakers scheme, which applies a disregard for periods out of the workforce for caring duties, after April 1994, under the yearly averaging system. This additional scope for homecaring periods provides an opportunity for those awarded under Budget 2012 rate bands, particularly women, who took time out of the work place to care for children and others, to achieve a higher rate of pension. The maximum number of combined HomeCaring periods and reckonable credits that can be used as part of the new pension calculation is 1,040 (or 20 years) as provided for under the Social Welfare Pensions & Civil Registration Act 2018.

The person concerned applied for and was awarded a reduced rate State pension (contributory) in 2016. As their spouse was already in receipt of an increase for qualified adult for them at a higher weekly rate of entitlement, their state pension (contributory) claim was subsequently withdrawn.

In July 2019, the person submitted an application for HomeCaring Periods and was awarded 1,279, the maximum possible number of HomeCaring periods in respect of time spent parenting their children. The person concerned has 755 paid social insurance contributions, which, when combined with the maximum permissible number of HomeCaring periods and reckonable credits of 1,040, results in a overall usable total of 1,795. When this number (1,795) is divided by 2,080 (equivalent to 40 years), this results in a payment entitlement rate of 86.30% of the maximum rate of pension. As the person concerned is already in receipt of a rate equivalent to 89.6% of the maximum rate of pension, (or €222.50 per week), they are financially better off to remain as a qualified adult on their spouse's pension.

A review outcome letter has issued to the person concerned, which includes a copy of their social insurance contribution record.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Fire Service Staff

Ceisteanna (535)

James Lawless

Ceist:

535. Deputy James Lawless asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans to introduce rent allowance payments for members of the retained fire services similar to those in full-time fire services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38358/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

There are no plans at present to introduce rent allowance payments for retained firefighters.

Local Authority Funding

Ceisteanna (536, 553)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

536. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the allocation to each local authority in each of the years from 2008 to 2018 and to date in 2019 by the LGF, different grants and LPT; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38766/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

553. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the amount of funding allocated to each local authority in each of the years 2011 to 2019, in tabular form. [38594/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 536 and 553 together.

Local authorities derive their income from a variety of sources including commercial rates, charges for goods and services and funding from Central Government. Central Government funding of local authorities includes transfers, both current and capital, from a range of Departments and Offices for a variety of purposes. Some streams of funding are delivered directly from funding departments to local authorities, while others are routed through departmental agencies.

The Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) publishes a report on the central government funding of local government. The most recent report refers to 2017 and is available at the following link:

https://www.audit.gov.ie/en/Find-Report/Publications/2018/2017-Annual-Report-Chapter-04-Central-government-funding-of-local-authorities1.pdf

The table attached details funding to local authorities from my Department as it was configured in each year from 2011 to 31 August 2019. The figures include funding from the Departmental Vote (as it was configured in that year), the Local Government Fund and the Environment Fund (until October 2016), when responsibility for the Environment Fund transferred to the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment.

Details of local property tax payments to local authorities which are included in the Local Government Fund are available on my Department's website at the following link;

https://www.housing.gov.ie/housing/chargestaxes/local-property-tax/local-property-tax

Funding to each Local Authority

Living Wage

Ceisteanna (537)

Maurice Quinlivan

Ceist:

537. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of workers employed by his Department and in each office or agency under the aegis of his Department who earn less than the living wage of €12.30 per hour; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38252/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Payment of salaries to staff of my Department is made in line with pay scales approved by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. Based on the civil service 37 hour standard net working week, there is just one employee of my Department earning less than €12.30 per hour.

The details requested in relation to bodies under the aegis of my Department are a matter for the individual bodies concerned. Arrangements have been put in place by each Agency to facilitate the provision of information by State Bodies directly to members of the Oireachtas. The contact email address for each agency is as below:

Agency

Email address

An Bord Pleanála

Oireachtasqueries@pleanala.ie

Ervia, Gas Networks Ireland

oireachtas@ervia.ie

Housing Sustainable Communities Agency

publicreps@housingagency.ie

Housing Finance Agency

oireachtas.enquiries@hfa.ie

Irish Water

oireachtasmembers@water.ie

Local Government Management Agency

corporate@lgma.ie

Ordnance Survey Ireland

Oireachtas@osi.ie

Property Registration Authority

reps@prai.ie

Pyrite Resolution Board

oireachtasinfo@pyriteboard.ie

Residential Tenancies Board

OireachtasMembersQueries@rtb.ie

Valuation Office

oireachtas.enquiries@VALOFF.ie

Land Development Agency

oireachtas@lda.ie

Office of the Planning Regulator

oireachtas@opr.ie

Derelict Sites Data

Ceisteanna (538)

Imelda Munster

Ceist:

538. Deputy Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of voids for each local authority area by county; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38262/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Statistics in relation to social housing stock are published by the National Oversight and Audit Commission (NOAC) in their annual reports on Performance Indicators in Local Authorities. These reports provide a range of information in relation to social housing stock, including the number of dwellings in the ownership of each local authority and percentages vacant. The most recent report, relating to 2017, is available on the NOAC website at the following link: http://noac.ie/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/NOAC-Performance-Indicators-Report-2017.pdf.

While the NOAC statistics capture the number of voids at a particular point in time, the reality is that the number of void properties, both nationally and in each individual local authority area, changes on an ongoing daily basis. This is as would be expected in the management of over 130,000 homes, where tenants move in and out regularly. My Department is continuing to engage with local authorities, to support them in returning both short and longer-term vacant properties to use as swiftly as possible. Elected Councils also have a role to play in supporting this work by making adequate budgetary provision for housing repairs and maintenance, utilising the housing rental income available to them.

Local Authority Funding

Ceisteanna (539)

Eoin Ó Broin

Ceist:

539. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the amount allocated to each local authority for rental property inspections to date in 2019; and the projected increase in funding for this purpose for 2020 and 2021. [38336/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Between 2005 and 2018, over €39 million has been paid to local authorities to assist them in the performance of their functions under the Housing Acts, including the inspection of rented accommodation. Over 258,000 inspections were carried out during this period.

The Rental Strategy recognises the need for additional resources to be provided to local authorities to aid increased inspections of properties and ensure greater compliance with the Regulations. Provision has been made for €4.5 million of Exchequer funding to be made available to local authorities in 2019 for this purpose, with the intention of providing further increases each year in the period to 2021 to facilitate a targeted inspection coverage of 25% of rental properties annually at that stage. Funding is provided on the basis of inspections carried out rather than through advance allocations.

Detailed information in relation to inspections carried out by each Local Authority since 2005, can be found on my Department's website at the following link:

http://www.housing.gov.ie/housing/statistics/house-building-and-private-rented/private-housing-market-statistics.

Details of the amounts paid to each local authority to date in 2019 are set out in the table below:

Local Authority

Total payment for H 1 2019

Carlow

€14,150

Cavan

€7,200

Clare

€39,400

Cork County

€94,900

Donegal

€65,350

Dun Laoghaire Rathdown

€41,250

Fingal

€187,600

Galway

€28,350

Kerry

€67,700

Kildare

€35,700

Kilkenny

€25,750

Laois

€12,150

Leitrim

€19,200

Limerick

€92,000

Longford

€24,150

Louth

€56,000

Mayo

€33,250

Meath

€30,550

Monaghan

€19,500

Offaly

€3,100

Roscommon

€27,650

Sligo

€36,650

South Dublin

€123,550

Tipperary

€66,100

Waterford

€67,350

Westmeath

€24,500

Wexford

€50,350

Cork City Council

€48,050

Galway City Council

€3,650

Dublin City Council

€459,150

TOTALS

€1,804,250