Public Services Card Data

Ceisteanna (633, 634)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

633. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the overall cost, including implementation costs, for each aspect of the public services card; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47655/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

634. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the total amount, including implementation costs, to her Department and bodies under her aegis in respect of the public services card to date in 2019; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47664/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 633 and 634 together.

All costs in relation to the development and roll-out of the Public Services Card (PSC) project are incurred by my Department.

The capital costs of the PSC project from 2010 to date (mid-November) is €32.64 million, excluding VAT  Staff costs for the same period are estimated at €37 million. 

I trust this clarifies the position for the Deputy. 

Social Welfare Appeals Status

Ceisteanna (635)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

635. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae 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. [47689/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was referred on 22 October 2019 to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral hearing. 

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions in relation to social welfare entitlements.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Civil Registration Legislation

Ceisteanna (636)

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

636. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if she will consider an amendment to section 37 of the Civil Registration Act 2004 to allow for the inclusion of a co-habitant as a qualified informant; if her attention has been drawn to an option (details supplied) which is causing distress; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47713/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Section 37(1) of the Civil Registration Act 2004 places an obligation on a relative of the deceased to register the death within 3 months from the date of the death. If a relative cannot be found, or is incapable through ill health of complying with this obligation, the registration may be done within 3 months by any other qualified informant.

If the death has not been registered within 3 months, it may be registered by any qualified informant. The list of qualified informants is set out in section 37(5) – this includes “any other person who has knowledge of the required particulars” as well as “the person who took charge of that body” and does not assign particular priority to either of these.

The General Register Office (GRO) has indicated that it would be willing to examine this particular case and have provided the following contact details if the Deputy, or the person concerned, wish to pursue this further:

Con Connolly, Legislation/Registration Section, General Register Office, Government Offices, Convent Road, Roscommon, Co. Roscommon, F42 VX53; Tel: 090 6632954. 

On the question of updating the legislation, section 37 of the Civil Registration Act 2004 was amended by section 11 of the Civil Registration (Amendment) Act 2014 to allow for the inclusion of a cohabitant as a person who has a duty to register a death within 3 months of the death, and also to allow for their inclusion as a qualified informant. This section, and other sections in the 2014 Act, remain to be commenced pending completion of training by Civil Registration Service staff in the HSE. The GRO is ready to deliver this training when the HSE indicate availability of staff to attend, including identification of preferred dates and venues.

Disability Allowance Payments

Ceisteanna (637)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

637. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if the revised means assessment request by a person (details supplied) on a disability allowance will be expedited; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47728/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Following a review of the entitlement of this gentleman, it was found that he had a decrease in his means from 2 October 2019 to 5 November 2019. Based on the information provided to my department, a maximum rate of disability allowance (DA) was awarded for the period.

A letter issued to this gentleman informing him of this on 15 November 2019. Arrears of payment due have issued to the person concerned.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Carer's Allowance Applications

Question No. 639 answered with Question No. 596.

Ceisteanna (638)

Joan Collins

Ceist:

638. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if an application for a carer's allowance by a person (details supplied) has been received; when the application will be processed; when a decision will be made in relation to same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47731/19]

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 19 July 2019.

Additional information in relation to the person’s application was requested by a deciding officer on 6 November 2019.

Once the information is received the application will be processed without delay and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy .

Question No. 639 answered with Question No. 596.

Workplace Relations Commission

Ceisteanna (640)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

640. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if her attention or that of her officials has been drawn to the Workplace Relations Commission adjudication decision of 30 October 2019 (details supplied); if consideration has been given to same; if there are ramifications or links to the claim by community employment supervisors following the 2008 Labour Court recommendation on same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47863/19]

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 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 Department received the Adjudication Officer’s Decision on Monday 4th November.  It is reviewing that Decision at present and has sought legal advice on it.

My Department officials have been 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.

Solar Energy Guidelines

Ceisteanna (641)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

641. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when the national guidelines for solar farms will be published; and if the guidelines will outline the setback distance from residences and so on. [47253/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

As is the case with the large majority of development types, there are currently no specific planning guidelines in place in respect of solar farms.  Proposals for individual solar farm developments are subject to the statutory requirements of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, in the same manner as other proposed developments, with planning applications made to the relevant local planning authority and with a right of appeal to An Bord Pleanála.  Within the wider national and local planning context, planning authorities must make their decisions, based on the specific merits or otherwise of individual planning applications.

While I am satisfied that the planning code is sufficiently robust to facilitate the assessment of individual planning applications for solar farm developments, the matter is being kept under review, in consultation with the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment, who leads on renewable energy policy. Our two Departments are presently exploring the potential for enhancing national planning guidance on solar energy, taking account of solar energy projects being assessed by planning authorities and the scope for future development of the sector in the context of the ongoing development of renewable energy policy. 

On foot of this on-going engagement between the two Departments, where the need for specific planning guidance for solar farms is identified, my Department will develop such guidance as appropriate.

My Department is currently undertaking a review of the solar panel exemptions set out in Schedule 2 of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001, and is actively engaging with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment and other key stakeholders, with a view to finalising a proposal for draft amending Regulations - to reflect technical developments in the sector - before the end of 2019.  As required under planning legislation, any such proposed exempted development regulations must be laid in draft form before the Houses of the Oireachtas and receive a positive resolution from both Houses before they can be made.

Local Authority Funding

Ceisteanna (642)

Carol Nolan

Ceist:

642. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if additional funding will be allocated to Offaly County Council in view of future loses in respect of rates as a result of the impact of power plant closures in the midlands; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47845/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Local Government Act 2001 requires local authorities to prepare their annual budgets in a statutory format, which requires that budgeted expenditure must equal budgeted income. It is a matter for local authorities to manage their finances prudently and 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 are democratically accountable for all expenditure by the local authority. I understand that Offaly County Council has recently adopted its annual budget for 2020.

While local authorities should operate within a reasonably balanced revenue position, it is clear that from time to time there will be factors that will lead to surpluses or deficits arising in annual operations.

My Department works closely with all local authorities to ensure the local government sector as a whole and individual local authorities can meet existing and emerging challenges. However, all funding issues have to be considered within the parameters of the national fiscal and budgetary situation and competing priorities. In this context, Offaly County Council will benefit from the broader suite of measures envisaged under the Just Transition Process for the Midlands Region. My Department will keep the situation under review and will be available to engage with the Council, as required.

Approved Housing Bodies

Ceisteanna (643)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

643. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of homes delivered by approved housing bodies since 2015 under the CAS scheme; the number that were delivered for social housing; and the number delivered for non-social housing under the funding scheme. [47100/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Details of the number of homes delivered under CAS in each local authority area, are available on my Department's website at the following link:

https://www.housing.gov.ie/housing/statistics/housing-statistics.

The most recent report sets out the position to the end of Quarter 2 of 2019. Details relating to delivery in Quarter 3 of 2019 will be published as soon as they are validated.

Under CAS, loans of up to 100% of the project capital costs may be advanced by local authorities to AHBs, or 95% where the Approved Housing Body (AHB) chooses to retain the right to nominate 25% of tenancies. Information relating to the tenanting of homes by persons nominated by AHBs would be available from local authorities who have nomination and consultation rights relating to the letting policies of AHBs. My Department does not have information on this tenanting, however we are aware that the big majority of newly constructed CAS homes were allocated to persons or families nominated directly by the local authority and those nominated by the AHBs would be in housing need and within the priority groups that CAS targets, namely elderly, people with disability and homeless people or families.

Repair and Leasing Scheme

Ceisteanna (644)

Kevin O'Keeffe

Ceist:

644. Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if rural structure, that is structures located outside of towns and villages, are included in the repair and lease, buy and renew and long-term leasing schemes. [47122/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Repair and Leasing Scheme (RLS) and the Buy and Renew Scheme were developed to assist private property owners and local authorities or approved housing bodies (AHBs) to harness the accommodation potential that exists in certain vacant dwellings across Ireland. In addition, both new and second-hand dwellings can be used to deliver social housing support under my Department's long term leasing programmes.

The RLS is targeted at owners of vacant properties who cannot afford or access the funding needed to bring their properties up to the required standard for rental purposes. Subject to the suitability of the property for social housing, and the agreement of the property owner, the cost of the necessary repairs will be met upfront by the relevant local authority or an AHB. As part of the agreement, the property owner then leases the dwelling to the local authority for use as social housing for a length that is linked to the value of the repairs but subject to a minimum of 5 years. The value of the repairs is offset incrementally against the agreed rental payment over a defined period within the lease.

Further funding is provided to local authorities to acquire a range of properties for social housing use. The properties involved can range from those in good condition to those that need remediation and may have been vacant. To ensure a local-led response to such work, responsibility for property acquisitions is delegated to local authorities. To further assist local authorities pursuing vacant properties, funding is available through the Buy & Renew Scheme to facilitate local authorities in acquiring and remediating vacant properties that may be suitable for social housing. As with standard acquisitions, local authorities have delegated responsibility to utilise the Buy and Renew Scheme, as part of the blend of property acquisitions, as appropriate to their area, given housing need and the availability of properties of different types.

Under the long term leasing programme, a local authority or AHB leases a dwelling from a private owner under a long-term lease for between 10 and 25 years. The dwelling is then sub-let to a social housing tenant. The local authority, or AHB, is the landlord to the social housing tenant and carries out all landlord obligations.

The RLS, Buy and Renew and long term leasing schemes are available in all local authorities, in both rural and urban areas. However, it is a condition of entry into all 3 schemes that the property is in an area with a social housing need and fulfils social housing demand.

Since the launch of Rebuilding Ireland , in the region of 553 vacant homes have been re-introduced to the liveable housing stock, primarily through the Repair and Leasing, and Buy and Renew initiatives. Local authorities are also working hard to bring homes back into use by acquiring dwellings in unfinished estates, liaising with financial institutions on their vacant property portfolios and utilising CPO powers to acquire empty properties. These recovered properties aid in the ongoing effort to meeting our commitments under Pillar 5 of Rebuilding Ireland, which sets out a range of measures to assist in meeting Ireland’s housing needs by ensuring that Ireland’s existing housing stock is used to the greatest extent possible.

Commercial Rates Data

Ceisteanna (645)

Barry Cowen

Ceist:

645. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the amount received by Offaly County Council from commercial rates in each of the past three years and to date in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47130/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The levying and collection of rates are matters for each individual local authority.  The annual rate on valuation (ARV), which is applied to the valuation for each property determined by the Valuation Office, to obtain the amount payable in rates, is decided by the elected members of each local authority during the annual budget process.

Rates income data are published by local authorities in their Annual Financial Statements, which are published as a matter of course on local authority websites.  2018 is the latest year for which audited local authority Annual Financial Statement data are available.

The rates collected by Offaly County Council from 2016 to 2018 are set out in the following table.

Offaly County Council

2016

2017

2018

Rates collected

€12,227,675

€12,862,574

€14,718,781

Local Authority Housing

Ceisteanna (646)

Paul Murphy

Ceist:

646. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if any local authorities have commissioned the construction of zero carbon homes. [47230/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

In line with the introduction of Part L of the Building Regulations, all social homes commencing construction from 1st November 2019 are being constructed to Nearly Zero-Energy Building Regulations, subject to transition arrangements.

Nearly Zero-Energy Building (NZEB) means a dwelling that has a very high energy performance, as determined in accordance with Annex I of the EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive Recast (EPBD Recast) 2010/31/EU of 19th May 2010. The nearly zero or very low amount of energy required should be covered to a very significant extent by energy from renewable sources, including energy from renewable sources produced on-site or nearby.  The carbon dioxide emissions and energy performance of a nearly zero energy dwelling are 70% better than that for the same dwelling constructed to 2005 performance requirements.

Construction Costs

Ceisteanna (647, 648)

Paul Murphy

Ceist:

647. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the projected cost to build a zero-carbon home. [47231/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Paul Murphy

Ceist:

648. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the projected cost to build 100,000 zero carbon homes. [47232/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 647 and 648 together.

The Nearly Zero Energy Building (NZEB) requirement will apply to new dwellings commencing construction from November 2019 subject to transition arrangements.

An NZEB dwelling is one that has a very high energy performance, as determined in accordance with Annex I of the EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive Recast (EPBD Recast) 2010/31/EU of 19th May 2010. The nearly zero or very low amount of energy required should be covered to a very significant extent by energy from renewable sources, including energy from renewable sources produced on-site or nearby.

My Department has progressively updated Part L of the Building Regulations, relating to the Conservation of Fuel and Energy in Dwellings, over the last decade in order to improve the energy and carbon dioxide emissions performance of all new dwellings to achieve these “NZEB” performance levels. Many of the techniques required to achieve NZEB, such as improved fabric and renewables, have been introduced on a gradual basis into Part L of the Building Regulations since 2007.

These incremental improvements have effectively eased the transition and minimised the additional effort required to achieve the NZEB performance for dwellings.

A modelling and cost study was carried out by an external cost economic consultant for the Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) for NZEB. The range of increase in costs was 0.7% to 4.2% over current construction costs depending on the dwelling types and design specification applied. The average uplift in cost across all dwelling types modelled was 1.9%. Based on this study, typical uplift in cost for a typical semi-detached dwelling will be in the range of 1,483 euro to 3,822 euro depending on the specification of the heating and ventilation system installed.

Housing Adaptation Grant Funding

Ceisteanna (649)

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

649. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when Laois County Council will receive its full allocation for mobility aids and housing adaptation grants for its housing stock for 2019. [47263/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Disabled Persons Grants (DPG) Scheme applies to works that are necessary to address the needs of older people or people with a disability in local authority housing. This may involve minor adaptations such as stair-lifts, grabs-rails, showers, wet-rooms, ramps etc. It also provides funding for more major adaptations such as extensions, for example in the case of overcrowding, or the installation of a downstairs bedroom or bathroom.

Some €15 million has been made available under the scheme in 2019, an increase of over €1 million on 2018 levels. On top of this exchequer funding, the local authority makes a further 10% contribution in respect of these grants. It is a matter for local authorities to prioritise the works to be funded under the scheme in their area, in the context of available funding and in line with the terms of the DPG scheme.

The available funding in 2019 was apportioned across all local authorities having regard to individual funding requests. Laois County Council was granted an allocation of €220,000 and has sought further funding of €82,000 this year. My Department is currently reviewing expenditure under the programme across all local authorities and the Council's request, along with all requests for supplementary funding, are being considered in the context of available funding.

Water and Sewerage Schemes

Ceisteanna (650)

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

650. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the group water schemes whose application for funding to be connected to the mains water supply was unsuccessful with respect to applications submitted in each of the years 2008 to 2018 and to date in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47272/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Responsibility for the administration of my Department’s Rural Water Programme, under which funding is provided for group water schemes, has been devolved to local authorities since 1997.

Prior to the commencement of Multi-Annual Rural Water Programme in January 2016; the selection, prioritisation and approval of individual group water scheme proposals for advancement was a matter for the local authorities under the then block grant system. Details of the applications for funding by group water schemes for this period, including those to be connected to the public water supply, is therefore available from the local authorities concerned.

In 2016 my Department moved from an annual block grant approach to a multi-annual, scheme specific approach to funding for the Rural Water Programme. Local authorities were requested in January 2016 to submit their bids for the funding of schemes or projects in their functional areas for consideration by an Expert Panel under the new programme - the Multi-Annual Rural Water Programme 2016-2018.

I accepted in full the recommendations of the Expert Panel on the bids when approving and making allocations under the new programme. A copy of the Panel’s report and consideration of all proposals under the programme and allocations to each local authority is available from my Department’s website at the following link:

https://www.housing.gov.ie/water/water-services/rural-water-programme/group-water-schemes-and-rural-water-issues

In February this year I announced the new Multi-annual Rural Water Programme 2019-2021. In parallel local authorities were invited to make bids for schemes and projects for funding. On the 14 October, I announced approvals for the funding cycle based on the recommendations of the Expert Panel who examined the bids including group water schemes proposing to be connected to the public water supply. Local authorities were informed of their approvals and allocations at the same time. Over the coming weeks a copy of the Panel’s report and consideration of all proposals under the Multi-annual Rural Water Programme 2019-2021 will be available from my Department’s website.

Housing Adaptation Grant Eligibility

Ceisteanna (651)

Jackie Cahill

Ceist:

651. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if there are grants available for urgent roof repairs for a property owner that is on a very low income; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47286/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Funding is available from local authorities, with 80% exchequer support provided by my Department, for eligible applicants under the Housing Adaptation Grants for Older People and People with a Disability scheme, which assists people in private houses to make their accommodation more suitable for their needs.  Under this scheme, the Housing Aid for Older People Grant provides up to €8,000 to assist older people, aged 66 and above, living in poor housing conditions to have necessary repairs or improvements carried out. Grant eligible works includes urgent roof repairs.

The detailed administration of the scheme, including the application, assessment, approval and payment of grants to applicants under the various measures, is the responsibility of the relevant local authority.

Architects Register

Ceisteanna (652)

James Browne

Ceist:

652. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the position regarding the recognition of a professional occupation (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47348/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Architectural Technologists are not currently classed as a regulated profession in Ireland. This means that there is no designated competent authority, which has the power to approve or restrict access to the profession in Ireland under national or EU law.

In early 2016, Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) published Awards Standards for Architectural Technology award. The Awards Standards are designed to be used by:

(i) providers when designing new programmes and establishing minimum intended programme learning outcomes;

(ii) awarding bodies when validating new programmes; and

(iii) in the accreditation of programmes by the relevant professional bodies. They are also used by providers when reviewing their programmes.

In general, the regulation of professions is in the first instance a matter for industry representatives working in consultation with relevant industry stakeholders. My Department has been engaging with the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists (CIAT) in relation to the establishment of a statutory register. In this regard, CIAT has identified that its preferred route is to set up a stand alone register for Architectural Technologists. As such, it is now a matter for CIAT to set up a register on an administrative basis in keeping with registers already in place for other professional groupings under the Building Control Act 2007 and in consultation with the relevant industry stakeholders.

When this process is complete, my Department will be in a position to review it and potentially bring forward legislative proposals to amend the Building Control Act 2007, to provide for a statutory register of Architectural Technologists.

It is also worth noting that, depending on their personal background and experience, it may be open to persons who are Architectural Technologists, and who possess the requisite experience and competence in the design of buildings, to seek inclusion on either of the statutory registers in respect of Architects or Building Surveyors. A number of Architectural Technologists have already succeeded in gaining inclusion on the statutory registers to date and are thus in a position to act as Design Certifiers and Assigned Certifiers.