LEADER Programmes Funding

Ceisteanna (593)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

593. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the status of the drawdown of the LEADER funding in County Meath; and if he is satisfied with the level of drawdown. [47643/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

The LEADER programme is administered in County Meath by the Meath Local Action Group (LAG). The total amount of funding allocated to the county for the duration of the 2014-2020 LEADER Programme is in excess of €6.9 million.

To date, 69 projects with a combined grant value of over €3.1 million have been approved by the LAG. A further project, seeking funding of €300,000, is at an earlier stage of the approvals process.

To date, claims totalling €508,852 have been paid in respect of projects in County Meath. Project payments will increase as further works are completed on approved projects and claims for payment are submitted by the project promoters.

My Department has reviewed the delivery of the programme with the Meath LAG and explored implementation issues with all of the delivery partners in Meath. Following on from this review, the LAG has indicated that at least 80% of the project budget available to Meath will be allocated by the end of 2019. This would be consistent with the objectives of the programme nationally and I will continue to monitor the achievement of this target for the reminder of the year.

Town and Village Renewal Scheme

Ceisteanna (594)

Shane Cassells

Ceist:

594. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development when applications will be accepted for the 2020 town and village renewal scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47724/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

The 2019 Town and Village Renewal Scheme was launched in April of this year. There was a strong level of interest in the scheme and I recently announced details of 156 projects that have been approved for funding of approximately €15 million this year.

I intend to launch a further call for proposals under the Town and Village Renewal Scheme in 2020. Details of the application process and the closing dates for receipt of applications will be announced when the scheme is launched.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Ceisteanna (595)

Paul Murphy

Ceist:

595. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the estimated impact on emissions in a transition across the economy to a four-day work week. [47204/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

This question is not proper to the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection as it is asking for an estimate of the impact of a policy on carbon emissions which is not in her remit.

More broadly, flexibility in relation to working arrangements falls under the remit of the Minister for Justice and Equality, while the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Employment has a role in policy development in relation to the 'Future of Work' initiative.

Departmental Data

Ceisteanna (596, 597, 639)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

596. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 221 to 223, inclusive, of 13 November 2019, the number of times in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019 data relating to free travel passes was shared with Irish Rail. [48053/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

597. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection further to Parliamentary Question Nos. 221,222 and 223 of 13 November 2019, the number of times in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019 data relating to expired free travel passes was shared with Irish Rail. [48054/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

639. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of times Irish Rail has contacted her Department seeking information whether personally identifying or not in relation to individual travel passes; and the number of times her Department has given such information whether personally identifying or not in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019. [47755/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 596, 597 and 639 together.

Periodically, the Revenue Protection and Prosecutions Manager in Irish Rail submits a written request to my Department to ascertain whether a customer’s (details provided by Irish Rail) entitlement to Free Travel is valid or revoked and if revoked, from what date.   These written requests are made under section 132 of the Railway Safety Act 2005, as amended and section 41(b) of the Data Protection Act 2018, as amended.  In such cases, my Department confirms  whether the Free travel entitlement is valid, or if the entitlement was revoked confirms the date of revocation and the date the  person concerned was notified of the cessation of their entitlement. 

To date in 2019, 33 such requests were received by my Department; in 2018, 35 such requests were received; and, in 2017, 32 requests were received.  I am advised that there is no record of the number of such requests (if any) received for 2016.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Community Employment Schemes Supervisors

Ceisteanna (598)

Kathleen Funchion

Ceist:

598. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the basis on which she seeks to ignore the Labour Relations Commission recommendation on pensions for community employment supervisors; her views on whether the introduction of auto enrolment has no bearing on the community employment workers recommendation; her further views on whether the State needs to take the direction of the Labour Court and provide the agreed pension; when an update will be provided to such workers on the outcome of the confidential talks taking place; when the talks will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47113/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

 The Community Employment Scheme (CE) is an active labour market programme designed to provide eligible long-term unemployed people and other disadvantaged persons with an opportunity to engage in useful work within their communities on a temporary, fixed term basis.

The programme is delivered through independent Community Employment Sponsoring Bodies.  The contract agreement between the Department and the Community Employment Sponsoring Body establishes their role as an independent contractor, responsible for or all purposes and all persons recruited by them.

CE Supervisors have always been employees of Community Employment Sponsoring Bodies which operate in the community and voluntary sector.  The Community Employment Sponsoring Body receives public funding.

As the Deputy will be aware, my Department is engaging with representatives of CE supervisors to discuss issues arising following the 2008 Labour Court Recommendation.  The details of the discussions have remained confidential while the engagement is ongoing and I would ask Deputies to respect these wishes and allow the talks to continue free from speculation.

Disability Allowance Applications

Ceisteanna (599)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

599. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of a disability allowance claim in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [47116/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The person concerned has been awarded disability allowance with effect from 14 August 2019. The first payment will be made by his chosen payment method on 27 November 2019.

Arrears of payment due will issue as soon as possible once any necessary adjustment is calculated and applied in respect of any overlapping payments (if applicable).

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Labour Activation Programmes

Ceisteanna (600)

Willie O'Dea

Ceist:

600. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason for cuts to entitlements, such as holidays and bereavement leave, for community employment and jobs initiative workers; the notice given to these workers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47132/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

If the Deputy would like to forward the details of a particular case(s) he is referring to I will have them examined.  I am not aware of any change to the entitlements the Deputy is referring to.

Community Employment Schemes Supervisors

Ceisteanna (601, 602, 606, 609, 622, 626, 627)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

601. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her views on a matter (details supplied) regarding the community employment supervisors pension claim; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47159/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Alan Kelly

Ceist:

602. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when the Labour Court recommendation 11 years ago for an agreed pension for community employment supervisors will be put in place (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47164/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Declan Breathnach

Ceist:

606. Deputy Declan Breathnach asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason her Department has reneged on a promise to meet with union officials (details supplied) in respect of the 2008 Labour Court recommendation in relation to community employment supervisors pension entitlements; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47236/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

609. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the progress made to introduce an agreed pension scheme for community employment scheme supervisors; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47271/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

622. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason bring proposals were not brought forward as promised to address the issues which had led to community employment supervisors planning to take industrial action; and her views on the suspended dispute. [47430/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

626. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of discussions on pension entitlements for community employment supervisors; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47461/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

627. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the progress she has made on ensuring that community employment supervisors are entitled to an occupational pension in line with the recommendation of the Labour Court in 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47509/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 601, 602, 606, 609, 622, 626 and 627 together.

The Community Employment Scheme (CE) is an active labour market programme designed to provide eligible long-term unemployed people and other disadvantaged persons with an opportunity to engage in useful work within their communities on a temporary, fixed term basis.

The programme is delivered through independent Community Employment Sponsoring Bodies.  The contract agreement between the Department and the Community Employment Sponsoring Body establishes their role as an independent contractor, responsible for all purposes and all persons recruited by them

CE Supervisors are not employed by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection.  CE Supervisors have always been employees of Community Employment Sponsoring Bodies which operate in the community and voluntary sector. 

I am very aware of the valuable and dedicated service that Community Employment (CE) sponsor organisations provide in running CE Schemes across the country. CE supervisors, as employees of these organisations, are an integral part of that good work.

In relation to the Workplace Relations Commission judgement, the Department received the Adjudication Officer’s decision on Monday 4th November.  My Department is reviewing the decision at present and has sought legal advice on it.

In relation to the 2008 Labour Court Recommendation, my Department officials have undertaken a series of meetings with representatives of CE supervisors to consider the issues arising from that decision.  My Department has not reneged on its commitments and my Department officials continue to engage with the relevant union representatives.  However, the specific details of these ongoing discussions will remain confidential while the process is on-going and I would ask Deputies to respect these wishes and allow the talks to continue free from speculation.

Carer's Allowance Payments

Ceisteanna (603)

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

603. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if a carer's allowance will issue to a person (details supplied); if arrears due will issue in view of the fact their appeal has been successful; if the payment will be made as soon as possible; if there is a backlog in putting into payment new claims; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47169/19]

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 22 March 2019.

A person can be considered to be providing full-time care and attention where they are engaged in employment, self-employment or on training courses outside the home for a maximum of 15 hours per week, provided that they can show to the satisfaction of a deciding officer that adequate care has been provided for the care recipient in their absence.

The evidence submitted in support of this application was examined and the deciding officer decided that although a certain level of care was being provided the level involved did not amount to full-time care. 

The person concerned was notified on 12 July 2019 of this decision, the reason for it and of her right of review and appeal.

The person concerned requested an appeal of this decision and provided further supporting documentation.  

The appeal was allowed and was returned to this Department from the Appeals Office on 6 November 2019. As a result, the application was awarded to the person concerned on 12 November 2019, with effect from 28 March 2019. The first payment will issue to her nominated bank account on 21 November 2019. 

Arrears due from 28 March 2019 to 20 November 2019 will issue to the person concerned nominated bank account on 21 November 2019.   

The person concerned was notified on 12 November 2019 of this decision.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

State Pension (Contributory) Applications

Ceisteanna (604)

Eugene Murphy

Ceist:

604. Deputy Eugene Murphy asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if a contributory pension for a person (details supplied) will be reviewed. [47175/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The social insurance record of the person concerned is currently being examined by my Department on the basis of the information provided. 

Once this examination is completed, the person's entitlement to state pension (contributory) will be fully reviewed by a Deciding Officer and they will be notified in writing of the outcome without delay.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Pension Provisions

Question No. 606 answered with Question No. 601.

Ceisteanna (605)

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

605. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection his plans for pensioners who have to retire from their employment at 65 years of age but cannot apply for pension until they are 67 years of age. [47183/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Increasing pension age, to moderate the increase in pension duration, is a means by which pensions can be made sustainable in the context of increasing longevity.  In order to provide for sustainable pensions and to facilitate a longer working life, legislation passed in 2011 provides for an increase in the State pension age in three separate stages.  In 2014, the State pension age was standardised at 66.  This will be increased to 67 in 2021 and 68 in 2028.  The Roadmap for Pensions Reform 2018-2023 has stated that future changes in State pension age after 2035 will be based on research into life expectancy.

This sustainability is vital, if the current workers, who fund State pension payments through their PRSI, are to receive a pension themselves when they reach retirement age.  It is the only feasible solution which does not involve reducing pension rates to pensioners (which would result in poverty among older people), or reducing other significant areas of Government expenditure (such as other payments made by my Department). 

In most cases, it is hoped that workers will continue to work up to State pension age, and so the question of claiming a social protection payment would not arise.  Where this is not possible and a person ceases their employment before reaching State pension age, they may apply for either the jobseeker’s benefit or jobseeker’s allowance schemes.  Jobseeker’s payments are currently paid to eligible jobseekers aged 18 to 66 years subject to the person satisfying the general scheme conditions. Social Welfare legislation states that jobseeker payments may be made until the person reaches pensionable age provided they satisfy the necessary contribution conditions.  

It is important to note that there is no legally mandated retirement age in the State, and the age at which employees retire is a matter for the contract of employment between them and their employers.  While such a contract may have been entered into with a retirement age of 65, in the context of the previous State pension arrangements, there is no legal impediment to the employer and employee agreeing to increase the duration of employment for one or more years, if both parties wish to do so.  In this regard, the Workplace Relations Commission has produced a Code of Practice on Longer Working and the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) has published guidance material for employers on the use of fixed-term contracts beyond normal retirement age.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Question No. 606 answered with Question No. 601.

Pension Provisions

Ceisteanna (607)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

607. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if a person who has to retire from work in January 2020 on reaching 65 years of age as a result of their contract of employment will be able to receive jobseeker’s benefit until their 67th birthday in view of the fact they will not be entitled to the State pension (contributory) until they are 67 years of age; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47242/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2011 provided that State pension age would increase to age 67 years in 2021 and to 68 years in 2028. The reason for these changes was to make the State pension system more sustainable as life expectancy increases.  This is essential, as people who are working now and whose PRSI contributions fund State pension payments will need a State pension when the time comes for them to retire.  This demographic change has significant implications for the future costs of the State's pension provision, which are increasing by approximately €1 billion every four to five years.

Social welfare legislation states that jobseeker's payments may be made until a person reaches pensionable age. The legislation also provides that the definition of "pensionable age" will increase as State pension age increases therefore the duration of jobseeker's payments will naturally adjust in line with increases in State pension age.

The age at which a person becomes eligible for a State pension is 66 and this will remain pension age until 1 January 2021 when it increases to age 67.  A person who retires before reaching pension age may qualify for social insurance contribution-based jobseekers benefit or the means-tested jobseekers allowance if they satisfy the rules of the schemes.  Jobseekers benefit is normally paid for 9 months (234 days) for people with 260 or more PRSI contributions paid and for 6 months (156 days) for people with fewer than 260 PRSI contributions paid.  In the case of a person aged over 65, if they have at least 156 PRSI contribution weeks paid continued payment of jobseeker's benefit will be made even where benefit exhausts, until they reach pension age.  

It is important to note that there is no statutory retirement age in Ireland and the age at which employees retire is a matter for the contract of employment contract between them and their employer. While such a contract may have been entered into with a retirement age of 65 year in the context of previous State pension arrangements there is no legal impediment to the employer and employee agreeing to increase the duration of employment by one or more years if both parties agree.  The Workplace Relations Commission has produced a code of practice on longer working hours and The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission has also published guidance material for employees and employers who use fixed-term contracts beyond what was the normal retirement age of 65 years.   People are living longer and healthier lives and many of them want to continue working after 65 and these resources can facilitate them in their choice.

If the Deputy has a specific case in mind the person concerned should be advised to contact their Intreo Centre who will be able to clarify exactly what jobseeker's payments will apply in their circumstances. 

I trust that this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Free Travel Scheme Eligibility

Question No. 609 answered with Question No. 601.

Ceisteanna (608)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

608. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if a person who has to retire from work in January 2020 on reaching 65 years of age as a result of their contract of employment will be able to receive the free travel pass on reaching 66 years of age even though they will not be entitled to the State pension (contributory) until they are 67 years of age; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47243/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The free travel scheme provides free travel on the main public and private transport services for those eligible under the scheme.  These include road, rail and ferry services provided by companies such as Bus Átha Cliath, Bus Éireann and Iarnród Éireann, as well as Luas and services provided by over 80 private transport operators.  There are currently approx. 953,000 customers with direct eligibility.  In Budget 2019 the funding for the free travel scheme was increased by €5 million to a total of €95 million which has been maintained for 2020.

Currently, the scheme is available to all people aged over 66 living permanently in the State.  In general, to qualify for the scheme, applicants who are under age 66 must be in receipt of a qualifying payment.  Qualifying schemes are invalidity pension, blind pension, disability allowance, carer’s allowance or an equivalent social security payment from a country covered by EC Regulations or one with which Ireland has a Bilateral Social Security Agreement. 

Any changes to the eligibility criteria for this scheme must be considered in the overall policy and budgetary context.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Question No. 609 answered with Question No. 601.

Invalidity Pension Appeals

Ceisteanna (610)

Tony McLoughlin

Ceist:

610. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when the file of a person (details supplied) will be sent to the Social Welfare Appeals Office from the invalidity pension section; the reason for the delay in sending the file to the appeals section in view of the fact that the delay is causing undue financial hardship to the person; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47320/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Following a review of the decision of 25 June 2019 to terminate entitlement to Invalidity Pension for the gentleman in question. an appeal submission was prepared and submitted to the Social Welfare Appeals Office (SWAO) for determination on 23 October 2019.  The SWAO will inform the gentleman directly of the outcome of the appeal.  

My Department is committed to providing a quality service to all its customers. This includes ensuring that applications are processed and that decisions on entitlement are made as quickly as possible. The desire to process appeals quickly has to be balanced with the competing demand to ensure that decisions are consistent and of high quality and made in accordance with the legislative provisions and the general principles of fair procedures and natural justice.  At all times every effort is made to ensure that appeals proceed as quickly as possible.

Anyone experiencing financial difficulties while awaiting a decision on a review or an appeal of any social welfare payment should contact their local Intreo Centre and enquire as to their entitlement to a payment under the Department's Supplementary Welfare Allowance (SWA) scheme.  

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy. 

Disability Allowance Appeals

Ceisteanna (611)

Willie O'Dea

Ceist:

611. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when a decision will be made on a disability allowance review for a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47337/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Following the submission of further medical evidence by the person concerned, their case has been reviewed and they have been awarded disability allowance (DA) with effect from 6 February 2019.  The first payment will be made on 20 November 2019.

Arrears of payment due will issue as soon as possible once any necessary adjustment is calculated and applied in respect of any overlapping payments (if applicable).

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Carer's Allowance Applications

Ceisteanna (612)

Willie O'Dea

Ceist:

612. 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. [47338/19]

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.

I confirm that my department received an application for CA from the person concerned on 25 July 2019.

The application was awarded to the person concerned on 13 November 2019 with effect from 25 July 2019. The first payment will issue to his nominated post office on 21 November 2019. 

Arrears of the allowance due from 24 July 2019 to 13 November 2019 were issued by cheque on 13 November 2019.

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

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.