Public Services Card Data

Ceisteanna (605)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

605. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the way in which and the location the data contained on the public services card is stored; the companies used to store the data; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39819/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

My Department is committed to ensuring that customers’ personal data is securely held and used only for the purposes set out in legislation.  The Public Services Identity dataset - which is provided for in social welfare legislation - is stored in databases maintained in my Department’s secure datacentres.  Access to the dataset is restricted to those members of staff who have a business need to reference the data and all accesses to the data are logged.  All members of staff must, on an annual basis, sign undertakings that they have read, and will act in accordance with, data protection policies and guidelines.  My Department ensures oversight in relation to data protection by keeping records of data accesses which are then subject to audit.  

The PSC is produced in Ireland by an Irish-registered company called Security Card Concepts.  It was a condition of the award of contract that all data and related services provision and operations be provided on-site in Ireland and subject to the jurisdiction of the Irish courts.  Once PSCs are personalised,  the data used to personalise them is not retained by Security Card Concepts - rather it is destroyed in accordance with advice provided by the Data Protection Commission.  In addition, the systems used in the card production have been subject to audit by external experts. 

The PSC itself has multiple protection mechanisms, all of the highest current international standards, to prevent and detect tampering with the physical card and its contents.  As well as some hidden security features, there are visual measures such as the overall graphical design, branding, microprinting, the use of optical variable ink and a kinegram. 

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Social Welfare Appeals

Ceisteanna (606)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

606. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of an appeal by a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39840/19]

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.

It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought.  These papers have been received back from the Department and on 26 September 2019 the appeal by the person concerned was 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.

One-Parent Family Payment

Ceisteanna (607, 608)

John Brady

Ceist:

607. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of applications made to the District Court by her Department for orders directing that contributions be paid by liable relatives in circumstances in which the liable relative fails to make a contribution towards the cost of the one parent family payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39845/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

John Brady

Ceist:

608. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of applications made to the District Court by her Department for an attachment of earnings order made against a liable relative in circumstances in which the liable relative fails to make a contribution towards the cost of the one parent family payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39846/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 607 and 608 together.

Where a one parent family payment (OFP) is awarded, the Department seeks to trace the other parent, referred to as the liable relative, in order to ascertain whether he or she is in a financial position to contribute towards the cost of the OFP.  

The legislative basis for the implementation of the Liability to Maintain Family Provisions is set out in Part 12 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005, as amended.  The methods of assessment of the liable relative’s ability to pay are specified in detail in Regulations (S.I. 571 of 2006 and S.I. 142 of 2007 as amended).

In making a determination order, the Liable Relatives Unit will assess the financial position of each liable relative, based on the net weekly income after applicable allowances have been taken into account, as set out in the Regulations. 

A liable relative is given the option to commence making payments to the OFP recipient or to the Department. 

Where a liable relative fails to commence payments, the Department is empowered to apply to the District Court for an order directing that contributions be paid.   I am advised that since 2016, the Department has submitted 19 cases to the Chief State Solicitor's Office to obtain an order directing that the liable relative comply with the determination.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

State Pension (Contributory)

Ceisteanna (609)

John Brady

Ceist:

609. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of letters issued to State pension (contributory) recipients as part of the ongoing review of the increase for qualified adult payment payable with the pension. [39847/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

An increase for qualified adult (IQA) is a means-tested payment, payable to State pension (contributory) (SPC) claimants whose spouse, civil partner or cohabitant is being wholly or mainly maintained by them, and where that qualified adult’s personal means from any source do not exceed a means test income limit.

As part of my Department’s commitment to ensuring that claimants are receiving their full and correct entitlements, reviews of means-tested payments are carried out on an ongoing basis.

Where a review of IQA on SPC occurs, the primary claimant is contacted by my Department to notify them that their continuing entitlement to this means-tested payment is being examined and details of the means of their qualified adult are requested. Reviews occur for a number of reasons, some are instigated by my Department as part of planned control activity; some occur where changes arise, such as employment status of IQA; and others are carried out at the request of claimants themselves.

It is expected that 10% of claimants with IQA in payment will be reviewed this year (approximately 6,000) under the scheme's control measures and around 5,400 review letters have issued this year to date.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

JobPath Data

Ceisteanna (610, 611, 612, 613)

John Brady

Ceist:

610. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of persons referred to JobPath in each of the years 2015 to 2018 and to date in 2019. [39848/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

John Brady

Ceist:

611. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the amount paid to JobPath providers since 2015. [39849/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

John Brady

Ceist:

612. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of persons that commenced employment through JobPath since its introduction; and the number of those sustained in that employment for 13, 26, 39 and 52 weeks, respectively. [39850/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

John Brady

Ceist:

613. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of part-time jobs commenced through JobPath since its introduction. [39851/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 610 to 613, inclusive, together.

The primary purpose of JobPath is to provide a case management based, employment advice and counselling service to long term unemployed jobseekers. Between July 2015 and September 2019, some 241,346 jobseekers had commenced their engagement period with the JobPath service, see table 1.  Of this number, 52% were unemployed for over three years.  This group, in particular, faces significant barriers when seeking to enter or return to employment in the labour market.

To date, some 55,490 jobseekers have commenced employment during their engagement period with JobPath.  Of this number, 49,660 had commenced full-time employment and 5,830 had commenced part-time employment.  It should be noted that many clients who are currently engaged with JobPath are still in the first phase of the service. They have not had sufficient time with the service to have gained employment nor sustain that employment for up to 52 weeks.  The measure of performance will improve as more clients complete their engagement with the service and have a chance to reach 52 weeks in employment.

JobPath is a payment by results model and all set-up and day-to-day operational costs are borne by the contractors.  The contractors are paid on the basis of performance and, with the exception of the initial registration fee, payments are made only when a client has achieved sustained employment.  

The total of fees claimed by the JobPath providers from 2015 to date is €202.2m.

The recent econometric review of JobPath undertaken by my Department in partnership with the OECD noted that the weekly employment earnings of people who secured employment with the JobPath service are 17% higher than the weekly employment earnings of people who secured employment without the support of JobPath in 2018. Taken with the 26% improvement in employment outcomes in the same period, it means the overall positive employment/earnings impact is 37% in 2018 for those supported by the JobPath service.  These findings indicate that jobseekers who engage with JobPath are significantly more likely to get a positive employment outcome than those not supported by the service.

I trust that this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.  

Table 1: Jobseekers referred to JobPath by year

Year 

 Jobseekers

 2015

 6,591

 2016

 65,453

 2017

 74,867

 2018

 60,768

 2019 to date

 33,667

 Total

 241,346

Personal Public Service Numbers

Ceisteanna (614)

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

614. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason the provision in the Water Services Act 2014 to cease the collection of PPSN numbers was not commenced until four years after the Act became law; the reason Irish Water is legally entitled to collected PPSN numbers from persons for four years after the Act's enactment; and the further reason it took Irish Water four years to delete the data in view of the fact it took Irish Water eight weeks to collect the numbers. [39862/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

In July 2013, Irish Water was incorporated as a semi-state company under the Water Services Act 2013.  The Social Welfare and Pensions Act, 2014 included a provision which added Irish Water to the list of specified bodies to allow it to use PPS Numbers for the purposes of carrying out transactions with members of the public. 

The intention was that the PPS Number would serve as a unique identifier in the case of individual customers and this would assist the company in determining whether that person was eligible for an allowance in respect of their water charge.

However, the subsequent introduction of the water conservation grant, announced in November 2014 and administered by my Department, meant that Irish Water no longer required the PPS Numbers of customers.

Instead, as part of the application for the water conservation grant, applicants provided certain information, including their PPS Number and payment method details, to my Department.  This information was collected by my Department from August 2015 to November 2015. It is important to point out that, at no stage, was any data that was collected by my Department transferred to Irish Water.

The provisions contained in section 11 of the Water Services Act 2014 to remove the company from the list of specified bodies required a Commencement Order to be made by the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection.

In order to comply with the provisions of the Data Protection Acts, Irish Water was required to delete PPS Number data collected during their customer registration process.  A protocol was developed in consultation with the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner to address this data deletion exercise.

The section 11 Commencement Order could not be signed until that process was complete and Irish Water had formally confirmed that all PPS Numbers had been erased from their systems.

On 21st December 2017, the order to commence section 11 of the Water Services Act 2014 with effect from 01 January 2018, was signed.

I hope this clarifies the position for the Deputy.

State Pension (Contributory)

Ceisteanna (615)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

615. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if a decision has been made on a review of a State pension (contributory) application by a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39887/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The social insurance record of the person concerned has been reviewed on the basis of additional information provided regarding previous employment. The person now has 520 full-rate paid contributions, which is one of the qualifying conditions for entitlement to state pension (contributory).

A reduced rate of State pension (contributory) has been awarded with effect from the date the person reached pension age. They have been awarded 739 HomeCaring periods in respect of time spent parenting their children. Under the aggregated contributions method pension calculation, the person concerned has 547 paid social insurance contributions, which, when combined with their 739 Home Caring periods and 123 reckonable credits results in an overall usable total of 1,409. When this number (1,409) is divided by 2,080 (equivalent to 40 years), this results in a payment entitlement rate of 67.74% of the maximum rate of pension which is currently €248.30 per week.

Notification of this revised decision has issued to the person concerned on 30 September 2019, together with notification of their due arrears.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Brexit Issues

Ceisteanna (616)

John Brady

Ceist:

616. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection further to Parliamentary Question No. 519 of 24 September 2019, if the winter fuel payment from the UK will continue to be paid to persons living here that currently receive it post-Brexit in scenarios in which a deal is reached and not reached, respectively [39891/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

My key area of concern is the impact of Brexit on those current reciprocal arrangements for social insurance (which includes pensions) and social assistance (means tested schemes linked to residency rights) and child benefit between Ireland and the UK, including Northern Ireland.

Post-Brexit, including in the event of a no-deal Brexit, Irish and British citizens will continue to enjoy the right to travel, live and work between the UK and Ireland in the same manner as before.  This is because of a long-standing arrangement known as the Common Travel Area (CTA).  The CTA pre-dates Irish and UK membership of the EU and is not dependent on it.  Both the Government of Ireland and the Government of the United Kingdom are committed to maintaining the CTA in all circumstances and we signed a Memorandum of Understanding to that effect on the 8 May 2019.

As part of that commitment, the Government entered into a Convention on Social Security with the Government of the United Kingdom signed on the 1st February 2019, which replicates the current arrangements that apply to the coordination of social security benefits between the two jurisdictions.

In the event that the Withdrawal Agreement is ratified by the EU and the United Kingdom, the EU regulations with respect to the coordination of social security benefits will continue to apply to the UK until the end of the associated transitional period.  

At the end of the associated transitional period or in the event that the UK withdraws from the EU without ratifying the Withdrawal Agreement, the Convention on Social Security the Government signed on the 1st February 2019, will be given effect as required. 

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

School Meals Programme

Ceisteanna (617, 618, 619)

Willie O'Dea

Ceist:

617. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the dietary requirements provided for in each school meals programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39911/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Willie O'Dea

Ceist:

618. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the religious dietary restrictions provided for in each school meals programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39912/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Willie O'Dea

Ceist:

619. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if coeliac disease is provided for within the school meals programmes; the number of schools which do not meet dietary requirements for pupils with the condition; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39913/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 617 to 619, inclusive, together.

The School Meals Programme provides funding towards food services for disadvantaged school children through two schemes: The urban school meals scheme and the school meals (local projects) scheme. 

The Urban School Meals Scheme for primary schools is operated and administered by local authorities and is part-financed by my department.  The type of food provided under the Urban School Meals Scheme is decided by individual schools and agreed with the local authorities. 

The school meals (local projects) scheme provides funding towards the provision of food to some 1,580 schools and organisations benefitting 250,000 children.

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 food provided  must have regard to the Healthy Ireland - Nutrition Standards for School Meals (2017), which were developed with the assistance of Safefood and the Health Service Executive with my department and the department of Education and skills.  The programme is an important component of policies to encourage school attendance and extra educational achievement.

The operation and administration of the scheme is the responsibility of the school; this includes the delivery model, choice of supplier to be used and food items to be provided.  The scheme can be delivered in a variety of ways and depends on the needs, capabilities and resources, including infrastructure, of the schools or groups.  Delivery models can range from the provision of full canteen services to the purchase of pre-prepared meals from specialist school meals suppliers or local suppliers.

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.  Schools participating in the Hot Meals Pilot are expected to provide a menu choice of at least two different meals per day plus a Vegetarian / Vegan option and an option that caters for students’ religious and cultural dietary requirements.

I trust this clarifies the matter.

Capital Expenditure Programme

Ceisteanna (620)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

620. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the final agreed tender price, the date of the tender for the contract and the final overall amount actually paid and the date of the final payment in respect of each capital expenditure project completed since 1 January 2014 by her Department or an agency under the remit of her Department and which ended up costing €10 million or more in tabular form; the reason the final amount paid exceeded the final tender price; the details available in respect of projects in which construction is not complete to date or in which the final settlement account has not been agreed to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39923/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The capital allocation for my Department is primarily used to deliver IT modernisation and carry out refurbishments on the Department’s buildings.  Neither my Department or the Agencies within the remit of my Department have had capital projects with spend in excess of €10million since 2014.

Carer's Allowance Applications

Ceisteanna (621)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

621. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of an application for a carer's allowance by a person (details supplied); and when they can expect a decision on their case. [39936/19]

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 26 August 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.

Carer's Allowance Eligibility

Ceisteanna (622)

Martin Heydon

Ceist:

622. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if consideration will be given to increasing the hours a carer can work per week from 15 to 18.5 hours; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39971/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The main income supports for carers provided by my Department include Carer's Allowance, Carer's Benefit, Domicillary Care Allowance and the Carer's Support Grant.  Spending on these payments in 2019 is expected to exceed €1.2 billion.

Carer's Allowance is a means-tested payment for carers who look after certain people in need of full-time care and attention on a full time basis.  As of end of August 2019, there were 82,223 people in receipt of Carer's Allowance.  The projected expenditure on Carer's Allowance in 2019 is almost €840 million.  

A primary qualifying condition for the Carer’s Allowance payment is that the applicant provides full-time care and attention to a person in need of such care.  However, in order to support a carers continued attachment to the workforce and broader social inclusion, carers may engage in some limited employment, education or training, while still being regarded as being in a position to provide full-time care.  During this time of employment, education or training, adequate provision must be made for the care of the relevant person.  Both the full-time care and attention requirement and the 15-hour limitation are contained in the respective legislative provisions of the Carer’s Allowance, Carer’s Benefit and Carer’s Support Grant schemes.

As part of Budget 2006,the number of hours per week that carers could engage in employment, education or training outside the home was increased from 10 to 15 hours per week.  

Any further changes to this condition would need to be considered in a budgetary context and would also need to maintain a reasonable balance between the requirement to provide full-time care for the care recipient and the needs of the carer.

I trust that this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Brexit Issues

Ceisteanna (623)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

623. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if the impact on the construction and housing market from a no-deal Brexit was included in the Preparing for the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union Contingency Action Plan Update; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39274/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

On 9 July 2019 the Government published the Brexit Contingency Action Plan Update which reflects the extensive work that has taken place at EU level and on a whole-of-Government basis, including the Brexit Omnibus Act, to prepare for a no deal Brexit, including in relation to housing and construction matters.

My Department has been engaging extensively with the construction sector on Brexit preparedness for both orderly and disorderly Brexit scenarios, as indicated in the reply to Question No 203 of 26 September 2019. The Contingency Action Plan Update outlines the regulatory impact of Brexit, the consequences for manufacturers, importers, distributors and authorised representatives and the mitigating actions to be taken. As part of its outreach to the construction sector, the Department has facilitated a construction stakeholder forum for information sharing and preparedness purposes. This forum includes members of construction sector interest groups together with representatives from Revenue, Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, the National Standards Authority of Ireland and the Building Control Office. It met in July and September and will meet again on 24 October. Sector preparedness actions have accelerated since the establishment of this group, with increased uptake of Revenue EORI registrations and customs preparation. In addition, sector representatives report increased activity in terms of supply chain review and transfer of certificates to EU-27 Notified Bodies, where necessary, in advance of Brexit.

As indicated in the Brexit Contingency Action Plan update, the Irish and British Governments entered into a Memorandum of Understanding on 8 May 2019, reaffirming our joint commitment to the Common Travel Area. This underpins the longstanding arrangements for Irish and UK nationals to move freely to live, work and study and access healthcare, social security and public services in each other’s countries as well as to vote in certain elections. The Memorandum affords Irish citizens residing in the UK and UK nationals residing in Ireland, the right to access social housing, including supported housing and homeless assistance, in each other’s State, on the same basis as citizens of that State.

My Department, in common with all others, continues to afford the highest priority to addressing Brexit related issues in its area, including in relation to housing/construction matters.

Water and Sewerage Schemes Funding

Ceisteanna (624)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

624. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when funding will be announced for a new group water scheme (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39276/19]

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.

My Department is currently considering local authorities' bids for funding allocations. An Expert Panel has been 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.