Social Welfare Benefits Eligibility

Ceisteanna (180)

Willie O'Dea

Ceist:

180. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason a person (details supplied) cannot claim treatment benefit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47007/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The person concerned is qualified for treatment benefits and is entitled to a range of dental, optical and medical appliance services; some of which are free and others where a contributions is available towards the overall cost.

His eligibility was recently confirmed following the updating of his 2019 PRSI contribution record.  He will receive a letter within the next few days advising him of the position and confirming his eligibility for dental benefit.

The dentist can claim the payment directly on-line once the necessary treatments have been provided.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Carer's Allowance Applications

Ceisteanna (181)

Willie O'Dea

Ceist:

181. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when a decision will be made on a carer's allowance application by a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47030/19]

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 24 April 2019.

It is a condition for receipt of a CA that the person being cared for must have such disability that they require full-time care and attention.

This is defined as requiring from another person, continual supervision and frequent assistance throughout the day in connection with normal bodily functions or continual supervision in order to avoid danger to him or herself and likely to require that level of care for at least twelve months.

The evidence submitted in support of the application was examined and the deciding officer decided that this evidence did not indicate that the requirement for full-time care was satisfied.

The person concerned was notified on 20 August 2019 of this decision, the reason for it and of her right of review and appeal.

The person concerned requested a review of this decision and submitted additional evidence in support of her application.

Following this review the decision has remained unchanged.

The person concerned was notified on 13 November 2019 of this decision, the reason for it and of her right of review and appeal.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Carer's Allowance Eligibility

Ceisteanna (182)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

182. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if a matter regarding a carer's allowance for a person (details supplied) will be addressed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47069/19]

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.

The person in question had raised an appeal with the SWAO (18/08807) following a decision that she was not entitled to Jobseeker's Allowance for the period from 19 June 2004 to 31 December 2013 on the grounds that her means exceeded the limit. An overpayment of €107.967.70 was raised for this period. This appeal was partially upheld by the Appeals Officer, who stated in their report that the overpayment amount 'should be reduced by the amount that the person would have been entitled to on Carer's Allowance' for the period from 2004 to 2009. Subsequently my Department wrote to the person in question on 25 September 2019 advising that as per the Appeals Officers determination, CA was awarded for that period (17 June 2004 - 6 January 2010) but the funds would be held against the debt. The letter also stated that our Debt Recovery Unit (DRU) would make contact. DRU have since made contact with the person in question to discuss repayment of the debt. A letter was issued on 3 October 2019 detailing the debt of €47,286.37.

In the meantime, the person concerned had a separate appeal (18/06890) following a decision dated 23 January 2019, stating that she had no entitlement to Carers Allowance for the period 2 January 2014 - 1 November 2017 on the grounds that her means exceeded the limit. This appeal was disallowed and a further debt is now owed to my department for an overpayment of CA for the period concerned, for €47,357.80. In light of this new development, DRU wrote to the person in question on 7 November 2019 advising that the new amount owing was a combination of the two debts, totalling €94,516.42 on that date.

Quite separate from the above, the person in question had made a new application for CA which was received on 23 July 2019, and my Department wrote to her on 23 October 2019 to advise that this was approved. The first payment  on this claim issued to her nominated bank account on 7 November 2019.

In relation to the debt still outstanding, my Departments DRU will continue to discuss repayment options with the person in question. 

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Superannuation Schemes

Ceisteanna (183)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

183. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if a person who retires from a local authority prior to 65 years of age is immediately entitled to a percentage payment of the public service superannuation scheme (details supplied). [46919/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The administration of the Local Government Superannuation Scheme (LGSS) is a matter for each employing local authority as an individual Trustee of the LGSS. 

In the particular case in question, the Scheme member should request the specific information from his/her employer with regard to his/her superannuation entitlements under the provisions of the LGSS. 

In the event that any Scheme member is not satisfied with any decision made by a Trustee in relation to his/her pension entitlements, the Trustee is obliged to advise such a person of the internal disputes procedures that are in place in order to have the dispute further examined.

Home Loan Scheme

Ceisteanna (184, 185)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

184. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of applications for Rebuilding Ireland home loans made to each local authority to date in 2019; the number approved; the number drawn down; the value of loans drawn down; the number pending and which cannot be approved due to funding constraints; the value of pending applications by local authority; the funding which will be made available in 2020; the mechanisms which will determine the way in which it will be distributed to local authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46920/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

185. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the resource implications of borrowing for the Rebuilding Ireland home loan; if borrowings are on the Government balance sheet; his plans to augment the amount available; the amount available since its introduction; the demand by local authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46921/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 184 and 185 together.

When the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan scheme was initially being developed, it was estimated that the drawdown of loans would be approximately €200 million over three years.  However, this loan product has proved to be more successful than initially anticipated. In the context of the scheme’s success my Department engaged with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Department of Finance with regard to the allocation for 2019.

I engaged early as I said I would. While discussions commenced in October 2018 on additional funding, the first tranche of €200m was only fully drawn down in August of this year. My Department wrote to all 31 local authorities on 15 August 2019 sanctioning an additional €363 million in funding for the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan. This brings total funding for the Loan to over €563 million for 2018 and 2019 combined.

The RIHL is funded by financing provided to the local authorities by the Housing Finance Agency (HFA). As an on-balance sheet entity, the HFA's borrowing from  the non-Government sector forms part of General Government Debt. RIHL loans, however, do not impact on the General Government Balance as the RIHL scheme is treated as a loan under the European System of Accounts 2010 framework.  

Furthermore, the ESRI have been commissioned to conduct a review of the operation of the RIHL. The output of the review will be used to inform the development of the RIHL product and identify any reforms to be introduced if necessary to local authority mortgage lending via the RIHL in 2020 and beyond.

The Housing Agency provides a central support service which assesses applications for the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan on behalf of local authorities and makes recommendations to the authorities to approve or refuse applications. Housing Agency recommendations are then considered by the Credit Committee in each local authority, which issues loan approvals. 

 Each local authority must have in place a Credit Committee and it is a matter for the Committee to make the final decision on applications for loans, in accordance with the regulations, and having regard to the recommendations made by the Housing Agency. The value of pending applications is not tracked by my Department.

I have asked the Agency to compile figures on the numbers of applications that it has assessed and recommended to approve since the scheme began.  In 2018, the Housing Agency assessed 3,036 valid applications.  Of these, it recommended 1,550 for approval. In 2019, the Housing Agency have assessed 2,271 valid applications of which 1,133 have been recommended for approval.

Local Authority

Total Applications Assessed

Total Applications Recommended for Approval

Carlow County Council

73

28

Cavan County Council

24

9

Clare County Council

87

36

Cork City Council

217

96

Cork County Council

414

209

Donegal County Council

51

22

Dublin City Council

610

368

Dún Laoghaire - Rathdown County Council

142

78

Fingal County Council

756

424

Galway City Council

109

58

Galway County Council

194

63

Kerry County Council

144

59

Kildare County Council

200

107

Kilkenny County Council

61

31

Laois County Council

125

61

Leitrim County Council

19

5

Limerick City & County Council

143

85

Longford County Council

55

26

Louth County Council

152

59

Mayo County Council

82

32

Meath County Council

324

212

Monaghan County Council

64

21

Offaly County Council

58

23

Roscommon County Council

59

23

Sligo County Council

72

34

South Dublin County Council

373

194

Tipperary County Council

152

67

Waterford City & County Council

115

39

Westmeath County Council

56

34

Wexford County Council

161

80

Wicklow County Council

215

100

Total

5307

2683

 My Department publishes information on the overall number and value of (i) local authority loan approvals and (ii) local authority loan drawdowns. Local authority approval means that an official letter of offer has been sent to a borrower (and therefore relates to a specific property and loan amount). Information on the RIHL for Quarter 2 2019, including in relation to the number and value of mortgage approvals and drawdowns, is available on the Department's website at the following link: www.housing.gov.ie/housing/statistics/house-prices-loans-and-profile-borrowers/local-authority-loan-activity.

National Planning Framework

Ceisteanna (186)

Darragh O'Brien

Ceist:

186. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the progress in implementing action 25 of the Climate Action Plan 2019 and specifically the completion of the national marine planning framework; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46935/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Action 25 of the Climate Action Plan 2019 aims to facilitate the development of offshore wind, including the connection of at least 3.5 GW of offshore wind to the grid by 2030. Action 25 contains two measures for which my Department has lead responsibility and which require input from a range of other Departments and agencies:

1. Completion of the National Marine Planning Framework in a manner to give priority to key national policies such as the overall decarbonisation of the economy and Ireland’s renewable energy ambitions, and

2. Finalise the revised General Scheme of the Marine Planning and Development Management Bill.

The Draft National Marine Planning Framework (NMPF) and associated environmental reports were published on 12 November for a period of public consultation closing on 28 February 2020. Section 11 of the Draft NMPF is devoted to offshore renewable energy (ORE) and contains a range of objectives and planning policies that support the decarbonisation and renewable energy ambitions of the Climate Action Plan. In all there are eleven separate planning policies devoted to ORE, the first of which states that "Proposals that assist the State in meeting the Government’s target of generating at least 3.5GW of offshore renewable electricity by 2030 and proposals that maximise the long-term shift from use of fossil fuels to renewable electricity, in line with decarbonisation targets should be supported".

The NMPF is on target for completion and adoption by end 2020.

Government approved a General Scheme of the Marine Planning and Development Management (MPDM) Bill in July 2019 and finalisation of the Bill is expected in the coming weeks.

My Department is continuing to work with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel on the drafting process. The finalisation of the Bill will be subject to engagement with the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government in relation to pre-legislative scrutiny.

The Bill will require further enabling measures following enactment to bring the new regime into operation, including regulations, statutory guidelines and transitional arrangements.

Planning Issues

Ceisteanna (187)

Darragh O'Brien

Ceist:

187. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he has considered the implications of judgments (details supplied) for the development of linear utility services connections; his views on whether the effect of the judgments will be to delay the delivery of electricity supply connections, fibre optic data connections, gas supply pipelines and other vital infrastructure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46936/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

My Department is aware of the two High Court Judgements referred to and has sought legal advice in relation to their implications. Further to the legal advice, my Department is currently engaging with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment - which oversees the sectors most impacted by the Judgements i.e. the telecommunications and energy sectors - with a view to coming forward with legislative amendments to the planning code and providing necessary clarity therein to facilitate the orderly progression of projects in the sectors concerned.

Wind Energy Guidelines

Ceisteanna (188)

Aindrias Moynihan

Ceist:

188. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when the updated guidelines for windfarms will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47005/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

My Department is currently undertaking a focused review of the 2006 Wind Energy Development Guidelines in line with the “preferred draft approach” which was announced in June 2017 by the then Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, in conjunction with the then Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment. The review is addressing a number of key aspects including sound or noise, visual amenity setback distances, shadow flicker, community obligation, community dividend and grid connections.

As part of the overall review process, a strategic environmental assessment (SEA) is being undertaken on the revised Guidelines before they come into effect, in accordance with the requirements of EU Directive 2001/24/EC on the assessment of the effects of certain plans and programmes on the environment, otherwise known as the SEA Directive. SEA is a process by which environmental considerations are required to be fully integrated into the preparation of plans and programmes which act as frameworks for development consent, prior to their final adoption, with public consultation as part of that process.

While the revised draft guidelines had been expected to be published in Quarter 1 2019, some delays to the planned schedule arose, due to the publication of updated World Health Organisation (WHO) noise standards and the need to focus on certain Brexit-related planning issues.

As part of the SEA process, there will shortly be an eight-week public consultation on the revised draft Guidelines, together with the comprehensive environmental report. Finalised Guidelines will be prepared following detailed analysis and consideration of the submissions received during the consultation phase, and the conclusion of the SEA process. My Department is aiming to commence the public consultation in December.

When finalised, the revised Guidelines will be issued under section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended. Planning authorities and, where applicable, An Bord Pleanála, must have regard to guidelines issued under section 28 in the performance of their functions generally under the Planning Acts. In the meantime, the current 2006 Wind Energy Development Guidelines remain in force.

Housing Data

Ceisteanna (189)

Darragh O'Brien

Ceist:

189. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the expected number of new build units to be delivered in 2019; the targeted number of new builds in 2019 under the Rebuilding Ireland home loan scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47025/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The number of residential completions for 2019 will not be known until early 2020. However, trends indicate the continued expansion of supply. For example, in the year to end September 2019, the number of new homes becoming available for use increased further to 23,554, a 15% increase on the same period last year. In the year to the end of September 2019, the number of new homes in respect of which commencement notices were served reached just over 26,000, a 27.5% year on year increase. Furthermore, the rolling annual total of planning permissions for residential dwellings has exceeded 30,000 units for the first time since early 2010, up more than 21% year on year. There has been particularly strong growth in apartment planning permissions, which is very welcome given the policy thrust toward more compact urban growth.

The Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan has been in operation since 1 February 2018. The scheme allows low-income first time buyers aged between 18 and 70, who cannot secure a mortgage from a commercial lender, to access sustainable mortgage finance that is designed to enable them to purchase a new or second-hand property, or undertake a self-build, within a suitable price range. The Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan scheme is not limited to new builds, and the €563m allocated to the scheme for 2018 and 2019 can be used for both new and second hand homes, as well as self build, as determined by the applicants' preferences.

Fire Safety

Ceisteanna (190)

Darragh O'Brien

Ceist:

190. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the additional resources he has given to Dublin Fire Brigade to reduce fire safety certificate waiting times; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47026/19]

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. My Department supports fire authorities mainly through providing a national legislative framework, setting national policy and developing guidance on operational and other fire service related matters and through capital funding towards appliances and buildings.

A Fire Safety Certificate (FSC) indicates that a building is designed in a way that prevents and limits the spread of fire and that adequate escape facilities are in place. Part III of the Building Control Regulations 1997-2018 provides for the requirements for FSCs in respect of new buildings and for certain works to existing buildings.

Applications for FSCs are examined by Fire Officers, from the Fire Service in each local authority, for compliance with Part B of the Building Regulations. In Dublin, the FSC applications are processed by Dublin Fire Brigade for all four local authorities in the Dublin region.

The relevant authority typically aims to process a FSC application within the statutory timeframe of eight weeks. However, as the processing/issuing of FSCs is a demand led function, linked to economic activity in the construction sector, I understand that meeting this target can be challenging at times.

It is critically important that we have a robust FSC regime in place and that certificates are issued within statutory timelines to the greatest extent possible. It is a matter for each local authority to ensure that adequate resources are in place to meet its statutory obligations in the context of the annual budgetary process.

In this regard, the elected members of a local authority have direct responsibility in law for all reserved functions of the authority, which includes adopting the annual budget, and agreeing spending priorities. Under Section 159 of the Local Government Act 2001 staffing and organisational arrangements within a local authority are a matter for the Chief Executive.

Water Services

Ceisteanna (191)

Darragh O'Brien

Ceist:

191. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the additional resources he has given to Irish Water to reduce connection waiting times; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47027/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

In accordance with the Water Services (No. 2) Act 2013 Irish Water collects charges from customers for providing service connections to premises. The charging regime for the provision of connections is determined by the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) acting in accordance with that Act. The CRU is required to perform its functions in a manner that best serves the interests of customers of Irish Water.

On this basis, the CRU, informed by a multi-stage public consultation process, published its Decision Paper on Irish Water’s Proposed Connection Charging Policy on 18 December 2018 and the policy came into effect on 1 April 2019. The relevant public consultation documentation continues to be publicly available on the CRU’s website and the Decision Paper in particular can be accessed at the following weblink -

www.cru.ie/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/CRU18262-CRU-Decision-on-Irish-Waters-Connection-Policy.pdf.

The CRU decision details the reasoning for the charging regime and sets out further actions that the CRU has directed must be taken by Irish Water in response to stakeholder concerns, which include addressing the waiting times faced by customers seeking to obtain a connection quotation.

The statutory functions in relation to this matter have been assigned to Irish Water and the CRU, as outlined above, and I, as Minister do not have any role in determining connection charging policy.

On the broader issue of resources, the Irish Water Strategic Funding Plan 2019-2024, which I approved in November 2018 following its consideration by Government, sets out Irish Water’s multi-annual strategic business plan funding requirement of €11bn to 2024, comprised of a €6.1bn investment in infrastructure and assets and €4.9bn in operating costs. This significant multi-billion euro investment Plan will support the continued operation, repair and upgrading of the country’s water and wastewater infrastructure to support social and economic development across the State and protection of the water environment.

It may also be helpful to note that 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.