Departmental Expenditure

Ceisteanna (148)

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

148. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the incidental expenses incurred by his Department from 1 January 2018 to 1 January 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41254/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

The Revised Estimate for my Department details the allocation made for "Training and Development and Incidental Expenses". The incidental expenses element of this incurred by my Department in 2018 amounted to €12,148.

Departmental Expenditure

Ceisteanna (149)

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

149. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the incidental expenses incurred by her Department from 1 January 2018 to 1 January 2019; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41247/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

My Department incurred expenditure of €9.5m under the Training and Development and Incidental Expenses subhead in 2018. This subhead provides for staff training, customer communications and advertising and other incidental costs.

State Pension (Contributory)

Ceisteanna (150)

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

150. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if contributions paid by claimants for the State pension (contributory) after their 65th birthday are reckonable in determining the rate of payment; the reason for same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41268/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The State pension age is currently 66 years of age. This will increase to 67 in 2021 and to 68 in 2028. The State pension (contributory) is a PRSI based payment. Under Social Welfare Legislation, qualification for the scheme is based on the social insurance record of the person concerned up to their 66th birthday.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Invalidity Pension Applications

Ceisteanna (151)

Michael Fitzmaurice

Ceist:

151. Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when a decision will be made on an application by a person (details supplied) for an invalidity pension; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41291/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Invalidity pension (IP) is a payment for people who are permanently incapable of work because of illness or incapacity and who satisfy the pay related social insurance (PRSI) contribution conditions.

A claim for IP was received from the gentleman in question on 16 July 2019. My department is currently processing his application and the deciding officer (DO) is satisfied that the contribution and medical conditions for the scheme are satisfied. His claim will be finalized as quickly as possible and he will be notified directly of the outcome by the DO.

In the meantime, the gentleman concerned is in receipt of a weekly disability allowance payment ata reduced rate based on his weekly means.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Carer's Benefit Applications

Ceisteanna (152)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

152. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when an application by a person (details supplied) for a carer's benefit will be processed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41297/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Carer's benefit (CARB) is a PRSI based payment, made to persons who are providing full-time care and attention to a person who has such a disability that they require that level of care.

An application for Carer's Benefit was received from the person concerned on 18 September 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.

Invalidity Pension

Ceisteanna (153)

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

153. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if she will consider allowing persons in receipt of a permanent invalidity pension to attend college. [41298/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Invalidity pension (IP) is a payment for people who are permanently incapable of work because of illness or incapacity and who satisfy the pay related social insurance (PRSI) contribution conditions.

Persons in receipt of IP who wish to attend college may apply for either an exemption to undertake a course of study and retain their Social Welfare payment or the Back to Education Allowance (BTEA) scheme.

BTEA is an educational opportunities scheme for persons in receipt of certain social welfare payments wishing to pursue second or third level courses of education, subject to meeting the qualifying conditions. The objective of the scheme is to raise educational and skills levels to enable them to better access to emerging labour market needs.

In order to qualify for BTEA the applicant must satisfy all of the following:

- be a specific age

- be in receipt of a qualifying social welfare payment for a specified period of time

- be commencing the first year of a course of study

- full time college attendance for the complete academic year

- be leading to a recognized qualification in a recognised college

- be progressing in the levels of education held

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Invalidity Pension Reviews

Ceisteanna (154)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

154. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if a decision has been made on the review of further medical evidence submitted in support of a invalidity pension application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41310/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Invalidity pension (IP) is a payment for people who are permanently incapable of work because of illness or incapacity and who satisfy the pay related social insurance (PRSI) contribution conditions.

The department received a claim for IP for this gentleman on 08 November 2018. His claim was disallowed on the grounds that the medical conditions for the scheme were not satisfied. He was notified on 05 February 2019 of this decision, the reasons for it and of his right of review and/or appeal.

He requested a review of this decision and submitted further medical evidence in support of his request. Following a review of all the information available it was decided that there was no change to the original decision. He was notified on 14 June 2019 of the outcome of the review.

The gentleman in question lodged an appeal of the decision to the independent Social Welfare Appeals Office (SWAO) and submitted additional medical evidence in support of his appeal. Following a review of all the information available it has been decided by the department deciding officer that there is no change to the original decision and a submission has been prepared by the department and forwarded to the SWAO for determination. The SWAO will be in touch with him directly in relation to the progress of his appeal.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

JobPath Programme

Ceisteanna (155)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

155. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the circumstances that allow a person an exemption of referral to JobPath if mental health grounds are included; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41345/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

JobPath is an employment activation service that supports people who are long-term unemployed, including those working part time and those at risk of becoming long-term unemployed, to secure and sustain full-time paid employment. All jobseekers over one year on the Live Register are eligible for selection for the JobPath service and customers are chosen by means of a random selection process.

All Jobseekers on the live register must be capable of; available for and actively seeking full time employment. They are also required to engage with the Department’s activation services. The Social Welfare (Consolidated) Act 2005, as amended, specifies that participation in activation meetings is mandatory.

If a customer's circumstances change in regard to being capable of and actively seeking full time employment prior to or while they are engaged with the service, they should discuss those circumstances with their Personal Advisor on the JobPath service or contact my Department's staff at their local Intreo Centre regarding their personal situation. If another DEASP scheme is more suitable for the individual's circumstances, they will be supported in making an application for same

Should a customer wish to make an application for another scheme, the customer's JobPath referral will be paused pending a decision being made on their application. Pausing a JobPath referral removes the obligation to engage with the JobPath provider for a specified period of time and ensures that no penalties are incurred by persons awaiting a decision on an alternative payment.

If the Deputy would like to provide details of a specific case I will arrange to have it examined by my Department.

Carer's Allowance Appeals

Ceisteanna (156)

John McGuinness

Ceist:

156. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection further to Parliamentary Question No. 785 of 9 July 2019, the status of an application for a carer's allowance by a person (details supplied). [41346/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an oral hearing of the appeal of the person concerned was scheduled for 4 September 2019. However, the person concerned did not attend nor have they subsequently been in touch with the Appeals Office. The Appeals Officer is now considering the appeal in the light of all of the evidence submitted and will be making a summary decision. The decision will be issued to the person concerned in the very near future.

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.

Departmental Expenditure

Ceisteanna (157)

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

157. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the incidental expenses incurred by his Department from 1 January 2018 to 1 January 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41251/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Incidental expenses incurred by my Department in 2018 amounted to some €1.55 million. This includes costs associated with staff training and development and payments for cleaning and security services in respect of the Department's offices.

Planning Data

Ceisteanna (158)

Patrick O'Donovan

Ceist:

158. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of planning applications granted by local authorities and appealed by objectors which resulted in the application being overturned by the board that is the number of successful grants there were refused by An Bord Pleannála in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019, by county in tabular form. [41269/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Since the establishment of An Bord Pleanála (the Board) in 1977, planning legislation has clearly assigned final responsibility for decisions on planning appeals to the Board. The Board can decide to confirm, vary or reverse the planning authority’s decision.

The specific information is not available. However, the Board provides information in its Annual Reports on the number of planning authority decisions (both granted and refused) which, when appealed, were either confirmed, varied or reversed. There is no break down available in relation to appeals of planning authority decisions which were granted only.

The information in this regard for 2019 is not yet available; this will be included in the Board's 2019 Annual Report. The information and other related statistics in respect of previous years are publically available in the Board's Annual Reports which can be accessed at the following link: http://www.pleanala.ie/publications/index.htm.

Arrangements have been put in place by all bodies under the aegis of my Department to facilitate the provision of information directly to members of the Oireachtas. This provides a speedy, efficient and cost effective system to address queries directly to the relevant bodies. The contact email address for An Bord Pleanála is Oireachtasqueries@pleanala.ie.

Commercial Rates Valuation Process

Ceisteanna (159)

Carol Nolan

Ceist:

159. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he plans to carry out a review of the commercial rates system to ensure that there is a fair and propositional valuation for all business types; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41278/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Valuation Acts 2001-2015 provide for the valuation of all commercial and industrial property for rating purposes. The Commissioner of Valuation is independent in the performance of his functions under the Acts and the making of valuations for rating is his sole responsibility. As Minister, I have no function in decisions in this regard.

Under the relevant legislation,, there is a distinct separation of function between the valuation of rateable property and the setting and collection of commercial rates. The amount of rates payable in any calendar year is a product of the valuation set by the Commissioner of Valuation multiplied by the Annual Rate on Valuation (ARV) decided annually by the elected members of each local authority.

Having a modern valuation base is very important for the levying of commercial rates on a fair and equitable basis across all economic sectors. The Valuation Acts provide for the revaluation of all rateable property within a rating authority area so as to reflect changes in value due to economic factors such as business turnover, differential movements in property values or other external factors and changes in the local business environment. A national revaluation programme is well underway and revisions of valuations can take place when the relevant circumstances of a rateable property occur.

A valuation for commercial rates purposes is arrived at by estimating the Net Annual Value (NAV) of the property in question, at a specified valuation date. The term “net annual value” is defined in section 48 of the Valuation Act 2001 and the NAV is applied to all rateable properties and classes of business on a nationwide basis.

Estimating the NAV of a rateable property is an evidence-based exercise. I am informed that, during a revaluation, the Valuation Office analyses relevant market rental transactions for all rateable properties, in accordance with the legislation, best practice internationally as set out in published Practice Guidance Notes, well-established valuation principles and case law arising from the independent Valuation Tribunal and the Courts. The conclusions drawn from that analysis are applied to similarly circumstanced property using the “comparative” method of valuation which, as the name implies, employs direct comparison with other similar properties.

All valuations determined for rating purposes under Part 5 of the Valuation Acts 2001-2015 must reflect open market rental values at the valuation date specified in the relevant Valuation Order made by the Commissioner of Valuation, and must also endeavour to be correct, equitable and uniform. These are fundamental principles of any modern system of rateable valuation and are specifically enshrined since 2015 in the Valuation Acts.

There are a number of avenues of redress for an occupier of rateable property that is dissatisfied with a determination of valuation made under the provisions of the Valuation Acts, 2001-2015. Firstly, before a determination is made, there is a right to make representations to the Valuation Office in relation to a proposed valuation. Later in the process, if the occupier is still dissatisfied with the determination, there is a right of appeal to the Valuation Tribunal which is an independent body set up for the purpose of hearing appeals against determinations of the Valuation Office. There is also a right of appeal to the Courts on a point of law. Appeals are made on an individual case basis. However, the decision in one case can have relevance in other similar cases.

Local Authority Rates

Ceisteanna (160)

Carol Nolan

Ceist:

160. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he will request a national review of all local authority charges to attain greater consistency and accountability for rate payers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41279/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Local authorities have powers to charge for the services they provide, including housing rents, waste charges, parking charges and planning application fees. Income from fees and charges are an important revenue source for local authorities. In most cases charges are set locally, although certain charges are fixed at national level.

The setting and management of many charges are determined by individual local authorities as part of the annual budget process, a key reserved function of local authority members. The legislative basis for the budgetary process is set out in the Local Government Act 2001, as amended by the Local Government Reform Act 2014.

The levying and collection of commercial rates are also matters for each individual local authority. The Annual Rate on Valuation (ARV) is applied to the valuation of each property, determined independently by the Commissioner of Valuation, to obtain the amount of rates payable. Determination of the ARV is also a reserved function of a local authority's democratically elected members.

It is a matter for each democratically elected Council to determine its own revenue raising and spending priorities in the context of the annual budgetary process, having regard to both local needs and available resources. The power to set many local charges and spending priorities is a critical function of local councillors and I have no plans to initiate a review of local authority charges.

Social and Affordable Housing Eligibility

Ceisteanna (161)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

161. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if provision will be made for families in terms of the forthcoming affordable housing scheme that are not first-time buyers, but has previously purchased an affordable home under the old scheme but now require assistance to purchase a different affordable home on medical grounds and grounds of increased family size; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41293/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Part 5 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 was commenced in June 2018 to provide a new statutory basis for affordable dwelling purchase arrangements. Initial regulations in relation to schemes of priorities were made subsequently and further regulations will be put in place over the coming months regarding eligibility and other matters. When the operational procedures for the programme are finalised, and before dwellings are made available for purchase under the scheme, a programme of communication will be undertaken by my Department and local authorities.

Under the provisions of section 84(2)(c), a household will normally be ineligible for an affordable dwelling purchase arrangement where the household or any household member has previously purchased or built a dwelling for his or her occupation, or for any other purpose, in the State.

However, section 84(5) provides that where a household requires to relocate to a different dwelling or different administrative area or both, section 84(2)(c) will not render a household ineligible where the household had previously purchased an affordable dwelling under Part 5 or under the previous legislative provisions in relation to affordable purchase arrangements (now repealed).

The question of whether a household "requires" to relocate would be a matter for the housing authority to determine under section 84(5), but I will consider whether further detail/guidance in this regard should be given in Regulations to be made in the coming months, or in guidelines to be issued by my Department and before homes are made available under the scheme.

Planning Issues

Ceisteanna (162)

Eugene Murphy

Ceist:

162. Deputy Eugene Murphy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the reason the erection of 5G technology antennae is allowed to by-pass the planning process at level; the guidelines or regulations in place in relation to the erection of antennae related to 5G technology; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41302/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Under the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, all development, unless specifically exempted under the Act or associated Regulations, requires planning permission.

In this regard, Class 31 of Schedule 2 of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001, as amended, provides that certain classes of development carried out by a statutory undertaker authorised to provide a telecommunications service are, subject to specified conditions, exempted development from the requirement to obtain planning permission. Where the conditions and size thresholds specified in the exemption class are not complied with or are exceeded, planning permission is required. This Class 31 exemption makes no distinction between the various generations of wireless mobile telecommunications technology.

These arrangements are considered appropriate for the purpose of supporting the roll-out of a high quality communications service while also taking account of the ongoing technological advances in this area. The legislative provisions are supplemented by planning guidelines entitled the Telecommunications Antennae and Support Structure Guidelines, which originally issued to planning authorities in 1996 and were revised in 2012, and which are available on my Department's website at the following link: https://www.housing.gov.ie/sites/default/files/migrated-files/en/Publications/DevelopmentandHousing/Planning/FileDownLoad%2C31650%2Cen.pdf.

Emergency Services

Ceisteanna (163)

Dessie Ellis

Ceist:

163. Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the procedures for when an emergency call is received; the services called to respond to the emergency; if both the fire brigade and the ambulance services are called; if so, the services which are contacted first; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41303/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The provision of fire services is a statutory function of fire authorities under the provisions of the Fire Services Acts 1981 and 2003. The receipt of calls from the public for assistance by the fire service is provided on a 'shared service' basis by three Regional Communications Centres (RCCs) at Limerick, Castlebar and Dublin.

I have no role in relation to legislation, policy, mobilisation arrangements and operational practices of ambulance services.

My Department supports fire authorities mainly through setting national policy and co-ordinating its implementation; providing capital funding for fire appliances, emergency equipment and the construction and upgrading of fire stations; centralised training programmes and co-ordination of the development of guidance on operational and other fire service related matters.

I understand that all calls for fire service assistance are initially answered by the 999/112 Emergency Call Answering Service (ECAS). Calls for the fire service are then transferred to one of the three RCCs. The operators in the RCC take relevant information from the caller. A Computer-Aided Mobilising System holds data on the Pre-Determined Attendances (PDAs) for each category of incident and every address in the country.

Once alerted by the RCC, the appropriate response is then decided by each fire service, having regard to national policy, including the PDAs. Where appropriate, the nearest available fire brigade resources and appliances will attend. Fire service mobilisation can also occur on foot of requests from the other emergency services attending an incident.

Departmental Expenditure

Ceisteanna (164)

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

164. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the incidental expenses incurred by her Department from 1 January 2018 to 1 January 2019; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41244/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Culture)

Details of expenditure by my Department are published in the Annual Appropriation Account and subject to audit by the Comptroller & Auditor General. The 2018 Appropriation Account for the Department is available at www.chg.gov.ie/app/uploads/2019/10/dchg-appropriation-account-2018.pdf.

The incidental expenses incurred by my Department from 1 January 2018 to 1 January 2019 were €228,893.