School Services Staff

Ceisteanna (91)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

91. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of negotiations regarding the pay and conditions of school secretaries; the way in which he plans to address the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47438/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I recognise the very important work done by these staff, and the other support staff in the running of our schools.  I have spoken to a number of staff about their employment conditions and understand the issues they have raised. 

In Budget 2020 I increased the number of secretaries and caretakers in certain schools, allowing schools with enrolments of 500-625 to fill secretary vacancies provided they have fewer than 1.5 secretaries; schools with enrolments of 626-699 to fill vacancies provided they have fewer than two secretary posts filled, and schools of 700 or more to fill caretaker vacancies provided they have fewer than two caretakers.  These measures will take effect from September 2020. 

Earlier this year I relaxed the moratorium for those C&C and ETB schools with enrolments of 700 and more which allow them to employ additional school secretaries up to a maximum of two per school. There are 91 schools in the C&C and ETB Sector who meet this criteria, based on the information currently available to this Department. This is an initial step and has taken immediate effect

Schemes were initiated in 1978 and 1979 for the employment of clerical officers and caretakers in schools.  The schemes were withdrawn completely in 2008.  These schemes have been superseded by the more extensive capitation grant schemes.  The current grant scheme was agreed in the context of the Programme for Economic and Social Progress, published in 1991. 

The majority of primary and voluntary secondary schools now receive assistance to provide for secretarial, caretaking and cleaning services under these grant schemes.  It is a matter for each individual school to decide how best to apply the grant funding to suit its particular needs. Where a school uses the grant funding for caretaking or secretarial purposes, any staff taken on to support those functions are employees of individual schools.  Specific responsibility for terms of employment rests with the school.

On foot of a Chairman’s Note to the Lansdowne Road Agreement, my Department engaged with the Unions representing school secretaries and caretakers, including through an independent arbitration process in 2015. The Arbitrator recommended a cumulative pay increase of 10% between 2016 and 2019 for staff and that a minimum hourly pay rate of €13 be phased in over that period.  This arbitration agreement covers the period up to 31 December 2019. 

The arbitration agreement was designed to be of greatest benefit to lower-paid secretaries and caretakers. For example, a secretary or caretaker who was paid the then minimum wage of €8.65 per hour in 2015 prior to the arbitration has from 1 January 2019, been paid €13 per hour which is a 50% increase in that individual’s hourly pay. 

The increases recommended by the Arbitrator are binding and must be applied by all schools who employ staff to whom the Arbitrator’s recommendation applies.   My Department receives informal correspondence by telephone in respect of grant-funded secretary and caretaker circulars, as regularly occurs with the publication of pay circulars.  Advice is provided on the implementation of the circular and the appropriate steps to take.  Secretaries and Caretakers who have queries regarding the application of the circular should raise queries directly with their individual employer / Board of Management. 

In addition, the recent survey of Secretaries and Caretakers has identified some schools that are non-compliant with the provisions of the 2015 Arbitration Agreement, and my Department will be making contact with these schools to remind them of their obligations under the agreement, as implemented through various circulars. The links below will bring you to the most recent circulars in respect of the pay increases under the 2015 Arbitration Agreement.

https://www.education.ie/en/Circulars-and-Forms/Active-Circulars/cl0076_2018.pdf

https://www.education.ie/en/Circulars-and-Forms/Active-Circulars/cl0077_2018.pdf

Officials from my Department attended a meeting of the Joint Committee on Education and Skills on the 9th of April to discuss the status of non-teaching staff.

In May this year officials from my Department had discussions with FÓRSA trade union representatives as part of a planned meeting. FÓRSA took the opportunity to formally table a pay claim. 

This was tabled as a follow-on claim from the current pay agreement for this cohort of staff which lasts until December 2019. The Department issued surveys on the 10th of July to establish the full current cost of the trade union’s claim. This is standard practice.

Officials from the Department met with FÓRSA representatives in September. Management Bodies representing the employers of schools impacted by the action were also in attendance at the meeting. The purpose of the meeting was to further explore the details of the pay claim as presented by FÓRSA and the nature of the industrial action. 

On 30 September FÓRSA requested the Department to agree to use the services of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) to resolve the dispute.  As is normal practice the Department has agreed to use the industrial relations machinery of the state in an effort to resolve this matter.  

In order to address the various issues within the claim and to arrive at a mutually acceptable solution, the Department is in discussions with FÓRSA under the auspices of the WRC.

Special Educational Needs

Ceisteanna (92, 99)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

92. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he is examining strengthening legislation in the provision of appropriate education in special schools, particularly those providing vocational skills placements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47099/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

99. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of schools providing special education being examined by his Department and other relevant stakeholders regarding the provision of appropriate education; the measures being undertaken to assess the level of appropriateness of the education; the follow-up expected of boards of management; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47098/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 92 and 99 together.

My Department currently spends approximately €1.9 Billion or almost 20% of its total current educational and training budget annually on making additional provision for children with special educational needs.

This represents an increase of over 50% in total expenditure since 2011, at which point €1.247 Billion per annum was provided.

The number of special classes, special education teachers and Special Needs Assistants are at unprecedented levels and so too is the number of children receiving support across the continuum that includes mainstream classes, special classes and special schools. The Department’s commitment is to provide each child with an education in accordance with his/her needs.

Increased investment in teachers, SNAs, therapeutic and other supports reflects the priority which is put on helping children with special educational needs to fulfil their potential

The investment also reflects the growing participation of children with Special Educational Needs in the education system and the capacity of the education system to better support their full participation and progression.

My Department's Inspectorate conducts evaluation work in all mainstream and special schools.

The Inspectorate works to improve the quality of learning for children and young people in Irish schools, and uses a range of inspection models in its work. These range from one-day, unannounced incidental inspections, to more intensive whole-school evaluations and inspections that follow-through on how schools have implemented recommendations made in previous inspection reports. All inspection models focus on the quality of teaching, learning and pupil achievement.

Depending on the focus of the evaluation, they may also focus on the quality of support for pupils, the quality of action planning for school improvement and the quality of leadership and management.

The NCSE is an independent agency under the remit of my Department, with a statutory function to plan and co-ordinate the provision of education and support services to children with special educational needs, in consultation with the relevant education partners and the Health Service Executive (HSE).

The NCSE is currently undertaking Policy Advice on Education Provision in Special Classes and Special Schools to examine whether placement in specialist settings brings about improved educational outcomes and experiences, relative to their ability, for students with special educational needs. This Policy Advice is to be completed and a report submitted to me no later than June 2020. A progress report has been submitted to me, and this is currently under consideration.

Pending receipt of this Policy Advice, no changes to legislation in relation to educational provision in special schools is planned.

Oideachas trí Ghaeilge

Ceisteanna (93)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

93. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Oideachais agus Scileanna cén beartas atá aige lena chinntiú go bhfuil oideachas trí Ghaeilge ar fáil i ngach ábhar sna haonaid lán-Ghaeilge atá ceangailte le scoileanna dara leibhéal Béarla; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [47075/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Tá an Grúpa Stiúrtha um Sholáthar Múinteoirí, atá faoi chathaoirleacht ag Ard-Rúnaí na Roinne Oideachais agus Scileanna, ag déanamh breithniú ar na saincheisteanna a théann i bhfeidhm ar an soláthar múinteoirí agus tá sé ag déanamh maoirseacht ar chomhlíonadh an Phlean Gníomhaíochta um Sholáthar Múinteoirí, rud a d’fhoilsigh mé i mí na Samhna 2018. Is é atá sa Phlean Gníomhaíochta ná dhá ghníomh is fiche a bhaineann le ceithre réimse beartais, is iad sin: an beartas um oideachas tosaigh múinteoirí agus an soláthar, an cistiú agus an tacaíocht don oideachas tosaigh múinteoirí; riachtanais sonraí/taighde; beartais agus socruithe le haghaidh scoileanna agus múinteoirí a théann i bhfeidhm ar an soláthar múinteoirí; agus cur chun cinn ghairm na múinteoireachta.

Agus é ag tabhairt faoin gcúram atá air, tugann an Grúpa Stiúrtha aird ar an gceanglas nach mór do gach duine ar mian leo teagasc i scoileanna aitheanta comhlíonadh a dhéanamh ar na caighdeáin agus na critéir chlárúcháin ghairmiúil atá leagtha síos ag an gComhairle Mhúinteoireachta, arb í an comhlacht rialála gairmiúil do ghairm na múinteoireachta í. Tá súil agam go mbeidh mé in ann bearta eile a bhfuil mar aidhm leo tacú leis an soláthar múinteoirí a fhógairt thar na míonna atá romhainn.

Mar chuid de chur chun feidhme an Pholasaí don Oideachas Gaeltachta 2017-2022, tugadh roinnt beart isteach a thacaíonn leis an soláthar múinteoirí do Ghaelscoileanna agus d’aonaid lán-Ghaeilge i scoileanna lán-Bhéarla. Ina measc sin, tosaíodh cúrsa nua Máistreachta san Oideachas Lán-Ghaeilge do mhúinteoirí bunscoile agus iar-bhunscoile, príomhoidí san áireamh, i gColáiste Mhuire gan Smál sa bhliain 2018. Tá 32 mhac léinn rollaithe i mbliain 1 agus tá 22 mhac léinn rollaithe i mbliain 2 den chúrsa.  Tosaíodh an clár nua 4 bliana Baitsiléara san Oideachas trí mheán na Gaeilge do mhúinteoirí bunscoile in Institiúid Oideachais Marino i mí Mheán Fómhair 2019. Tá 37 mac léinn rollaithe ar an gclár Baitsiléara san Oideachas trí mheán na Gaeilge faoi láthair. Déanann na cláir nua soláthar do suas le 60 áit nua don oideachas múinteoirí trí Ghaeilge gach bliain. Cuireadh soláthar foirne breise ar fáil don Mháistir Gairmiúil san Oideachas in Ollscoil na hÉireann, Gaillimh, freisin chun méadú a dhéanamh ar an líon múinteoirí iar-bhunscoile ar féidir leo Gaeloideachas ar ardchaighdeán a sholáthar i raon ábhar difriúil. Mhéadaigh an líon mac léinn atá rollaithe ar an gclár Máistir Ghairmiúil san Oideachas ó 25 dhuine sa bhliain 2017 go 35 dhuine sa bhliain 2019.

Tá Treoirthionscadal Ríomh-Mhoil nuálach nua á chur chun feidhme san Fhisic Ardleibhéil Ardteistiméireachta faoi láthair.  Is é cuspóir an treoirthionscadail sin leas a bhaint as an ríomhfhoghlaim chun cur leis an raon ábhar atá ar fáil trí Ghaeilge do dhaltaí atá rollaithe in iar-bhunscoileanna i limistéir Ghaeltachta.

School Transport Administration

Ceisteanna (94)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

94. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the actions he will take to reform the school transport system in view of comments by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform that the entire scheme needed to be reviewed to create a sustainable, evidence-based policy which delivers on its core objective; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47464/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

School Transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of my Department.  In the 2018/2019 school year over 117,500 children, including over 13,000 children with special educational needs, were transported in over 5,000 vehicles on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country covering over 100 million kilometres at a cost of over €200m in 2018. 

The purpose of the School Transport Scheme is, having regard to available resources, to support the transport to and from school of children who reside remote from their nearest school.  Children are generally eligible for school transport if they satisfy the distance criteria and are attending their nearest school as determined by the Department/Bus Éireann, having regard to ethos and language.

All children who are eligible for school transport and who completed the application process on time have been accommodated on school transport services for the 2019/20 school year.

Children who are not eligible for school transport may apply for transport on a concessionary basis and are facilitated where spare seats exits after eligible children have been accommodated.  Where the number of ineligible children exceeds the number of spare seats available Bus Éireann allocates tickets using an agreed selection process.

I recently sanctioned an additional €1m on the school transport budget to allow for temporary alleviation measures to temporarily increase the capacity for concessionary seats on the post primary scheme for the 2019/2020 school year.

In October 2019, I announced a review of the school transport scheme with a view to ensuring funds are being spent in the most effective way  to meet the objectives of the scheme.  Terms of reference and the scope of the review are being considered by my officials and it is expected that a cross-departmental steering group led by my Department will be established shortly to oversee the review.

Schools Building Projects

Ceisteanna (95)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

95. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to provide extra secondary school places in Dunshaughlin, County Meath. [47468/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

In order to plan for school provision and analyse the relevant demographic data, my Department divides the country into 314 school planning areas and uses a Geographical Information System, using data from a range of sources, to identify where the pressure for school places across the country will arise. With this information, my Department carries out nationwide demographic exercises to determine where additional school accommodation is needed at primary and post-primary level. 

Where demographic data indicates that additional provision is required, the delivery of such additional provision is dependent on the particular circumstances of each case and may, depending on the circumstances, be provided through either one, or a combination of, the following:

- Utilising existing unused capacity within a school or schools;

- Extending the capacity of a school or schools;

- Provision of a new school or schools.

In addition to the new schools announced, there will be a need for further school accommodation in other areas in the future.  Approximately 40% of extra school places are delivered by extending existing schools.

As the Deputy will be aware, in April 2018, the Government announced plans for the establishment of 42 new schools over the next four years (2019 to 2022). The announcement followed nationwide, demographic exercises carried out by my Department into the future need for primary and post-primary schools across the country.

Dunshaughlin post-primary school planning area is catered for by Dunshaughlin Community College. The school operates under the patronage of Louth and Meath Education and Training Board (LMETB) and has a current enrolment in the region of 1,000 pupils. The school is experiencing demand for additional school places and the LMETB is open to assisting in meeting this demand.  The ETB has submitted an application for additional accommodation which my Department is currently considering. The outcome will assist my Department in determining the future need in the area. In the meantime, my Department has approved the provision of additional temporary accommodation - 8 general classrooms and 1 science lab - to LMETB to meet the school’s immediate needs.

While the announcement did not include a new post-primary school for the Dunshaughlin school planning area, the requirement for new schools will be kept under on-going review and will have regard for the increased rollout of housing provision as outlined in Project Ireland 2040.

Third Level Funding

Ceisteanna (96)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

96. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason a commitment has not been given to address the future funding of third level education; the further reason no response has been given on the Cassells report since it was first published three years ago; the representations he has made to the European Commission regarding its decision on funding options; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47440/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

As Minister for Education & Skills, I am committed to continuing the process of investing in our higher education system and to the development and implementation of a sustainable funding model for the sector for the future.  The Government's commitment to investment in higher education is clearly demonstrated by the scale of investment in higher education over recent years.   

Following the further planned increases in higher education spending for 2020 announced in the recent Estimates, planned current spending on higher education for 2020 will have increased by 25% compared to that planned for  2016 – an increase in the order of €370 million.  This is estimated to bring current funding for the higher education sector to €1.88 billion in 2020.  This exceeds the previous peak level of planned investment of €1.78 billion made in the sector in 2008.

A key part of this investment is the Human Capital Initiative which will be a transformative development for the third level sector. The HCI will invest €300 million in Higher Education over the period 2020 to 2024. Funded from the surplus in the National Training Fund, the HCI will help to realise the objectives of Project Ireland 2040, Future Jobs Ireland and the National Skills Strategy. At €60 million per year over the next 5 years, it will form a key part of our strategic response to addressing the skills needs of the economy,  mitigating Brexit risks, responding to digitalisation and the future world of work, and preparing ourselves for other challenges that the economy may face. 

The development of a sustainable funding model for higher education is essential in light of the centrality of higher education - both in terms of human capital development, research and innovation - to underpinning the future development of Ireland as a knowledge economy against the backdrop of rapid technological change.      

In that context, a comprehensive economic evaluation of the funding options presented in the Report of the Expert Group on Future Funding for Higher Education is now commencing supported under the European Commission Structural Reform Support Programme to be undertaken by an expert independent international consortium.   We expect to have substantial work on this project completed by Quarter 3 in 2020. 

The comprehensive and detailed analysis of funding options for higher education and the assessment of the appropriate balance between provision across the tertiary education system is expected to play a very important role in informing and advising Government decision-making.  It will provide the basis for a national consensus on the appropriate policy approach which is fundamental to Ireland's economic and social sustainability and progress and the delivery of key policy objectives under Project Ireland 2040 and Future Jobs Ireland.

Youth Services

Ceisteanna (97)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

97. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if progress has been made on the report, Organisation Review of the City of Dublin Youth Services Board; if he has had contact with CDETB on the findings of same. [47477/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

My Department understands that the report referenced in the Deputy’s question is an internal organisational review conducted on foot of an agreement between City of Dublin Education and Training Board (CDETB) and a staffing union relating to resources, grant management and communications in CDETB and was carried out by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy.

As the Deputy is aware CDETB is a statutory body recognised under the Education and Training Board Act 2013 and reports relating to internal matters in the ETB are entirely a matter for the management of that ETB.

In light of the Deputy’s question officials from my Department have been in contact with CDETB regarding progress on the report.

CDETB has advised that several of the recommendations in the report have already been completed and others have been commenced.  They further advised that the Senior Management Team in CDETB has recently conducted an exercise of reviewing all the relevant/applicable recommendations. An oversight group, reporting to the Chief Executive, is being established to progress the remaining relevant recommendations.

Schools Administration

Question No. 99 answered with Question No. 92.

Ceisteanna (98)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

98. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to introduce legislation to address the inappropriate use of reduced timetables; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47465/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

As the Deputy is aware my Department, in conjunction with the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and Tusla, has compiled draft guidelines for schools on the use of reduced timetables. 

The following proposals have been included in the draft guidelines:

- Schools will be required to notify TUSLA Education Support Service when a reduced timetable is being put in place.

- A rationale for the use of a reduced timetable should be included in the report to TUSLA.

- The consent of parents or guardians will be required for the use of a reduced timetable.

- A school must set out a plan of action for the child’s full re-integration to the full-time school day.

The submissions received following stakeholder consultation are currently under consideration and the final version of the guidelines will issue when this process has been completed. 

The Department of Education and Skills will continue to work closely with TUSLA Education Support Service and where appropriate with the National Council for Special Education to ensure that, in the very limited number of cases a reduced timetable is deemed necessary, such measures will be used for only time-limited periods.

This will enable data on the use of Reduced Timetables in schools to be collated and will inform policy going forward.  At this point in time, I would consider it to be premature to consider bringing about any legislative amendments until this data is available and a clearer picture is obtained in relation to the use of reduced timetables across the system. The situation will be kept under review.

If parents have concerns about the use by a school of a reduced timetable for an individual child they can contact their local Educational Welfare Officer, who will advise them on the most appropriate approach.

Question No. 99 answered with Question No. 92.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Ceisteanna (100)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

100. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Education and Skills the changes being considered to the July provision scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47436/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

My Departments July Provision Scheme provides funding for an extended school year for students with a severe/profound general learning disability and/or  students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).

The scheme was developed to reduce potential regression in learning associated with these specific categories of special education needs over the summer holidays.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) which advises me on these matters published its Policy Advice on Educational Provision for Children with Autism in July 2016 which included a review of the July Scheme.

The review found that in general parents value July provision because it provides day-time respite for families and a structured day for students. However, the NCSE review found a number of problems with the scheme. These include concerns that the scheme may be inequitable because it is not provided to all students with complex special educational needs.

The Council recommended that the relevant Government Departments consider how an equitable national day activity scheme could be developed for all students with complex special educational needs.

The proposed scheme would provide a structured, safe, social environment for all students with complex special educational needs.

My Department has convened an Implementation Group to ensure that the Report’s recommendations are fully and appropriately considered.

There has been consultation with a number of other Departments and State agencies regarding the future direction of the July Education Programme. 

It is expected that proposals for a revised scheme will be submitted shortly following which there will be consultations with stakeholders before final decisions are made.

School Curriculum

Ceisteanna (101)

Joan Burton

Ceist:

101. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has received the review of relationships and sexuality education by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, NCCA; his plans to publish the review; his further plans to enhance sex education in schools in order to promote education regarding consent, LGBTQI+ issues and navigating relationships in a positive and healthy way; his further plans to ensure that school communities, including parents are advised of proposed changes to sex education in schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47488/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The most recent phase of consultation invited the public to provide feedback on the NCCA's draft report on the Review of Relationship and Sexuality education (RSE). The consultation was open from July 9th - October 25th with significant public engagement. 

All suggestions and feedback arising from this consultation will now be carefully considered and will inform a revised Report on the Review of RSE which will be presented to the NCCA’s Council in December 2019. I expect to receive a final report on the Review of RSE shortly thereafter. 

The process of redeveloping the SPHE/RSE curriculum has not started and when a new draft curriculum for SPHE/RSE is developed it will evolve through the normal NCCA curriculum development structures which include representatives from all the key education stakeholders.

When a draft curriculum is produced there will be a further opportunity for public consultation and the NCCA will publicise this via its website and through other media.

DEIS Eligibility

Ceisteanna (102)

Catherine Connolly

Ceist:

102. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 70 of 22 January 2019, if a school (details supplied) will be included in the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools, DEIS, scheme; the reason the school was not included in DEIS plan 2017; the reason the school remains excluded from the programme; the status of the further analysis on other variables known to be strong predictors of educational disadvantage in the context of resource allocation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47504/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

As the Deputy is aware following the review of DEIS, my Department introduced an objective, statistics based model for assessing which schools merit inclusion in the DEIS Programme. As a first step, 79 new schools were brought into the DEIS programme in 2017 with a further 30 being upgraded from Band 2 to Band 1 status.  These schools were assessed as having the highest levels of concentrated disadvantage. All schools at both Primary and Post Primary are currently being assessed using the new identification model.   

My Department is currently undertaking data analysis in the context of resource allocation to match identified need, including the examination of variables known to be strong predictors of educational disadvantage.  This analysis is being carried out by members of the DEIS Technical Group which contains representatives of the Department’s Statistics and Social Inclusion Units, the Inspectorate and the Educational Research Centre. The work of this group is at an advanced stage and a consultation process with the relevant stakeholders will follow.

I am confident that the culmination of this analysis will facilitate the ultimate aim of matching resources to identified need and will allow us to target extra resources at those schools most in need.

Retail Sector

Ceisteanna (103)

John Curran

Ceist:

103. Deputy John Curran asked the Taoiseach the percentage of retail shopping that is carried out instore compared to online. [47706/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

The data the Deputy requested is not available at present.

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) is committed to improving data collection documenting the evolution of online versus in-store shopping in Ireland and has been developing its approach in this area.

Earlier this year the CSO commenced the collection of on-line retail sales information relating to businesses based in Ireland through the Retail Sales Index surveys. Due to the lead time necessary to generate a statistically robust data set, it is expected that a breakdown between in-store and online sales will be included in the Retail Sales Index for December 2019 which will be published by the end of January 2020. The Annual Services Inquiry results to be published in 2020 will have a breakdown of online sales versus in-store sales.

Retail Sector

Ceisteanna (104)

John Curran

Ceist:

104. Deputy John Curran asked the Taoiseach the proportion of online retail shopping that is carried out from Irish-owned retailers compared to international retailers. [47707/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

The data the Deputy requested is not available at present.

The breakdown of online retail shopping by Irish consumers between Irish-owned retailers compared to international retailers, is a complicated area where householders may not be aware of the domicile of the seller.

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) will collect information, for a specified range of goods, on where they are shipped from rather than the nationality of ownership of the retailer in the 2020 Household Budget Survey, the results of which will available in 2021.

As data collection in this important segment develops over time, the Office will continuously review its related outputs and publications.

Cabinet Committees

Ceisteanna (105)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

105. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach the Cabinet committee which discusses the digital economy. [47455/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

Issues relevant to the digital economy would primarily fall under the terms of reference of the Cabinet Committee on the Economy. However, these matters are also regularly discussed at full Cabinet meetings, where all formal decisions are made, and in bilateral meetings with relevant Ministers.

Census of Population Data

Ceisteanna (106)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

106. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Taoiseach the population figures for County Meath. [47162/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

According to the Census 2016, the county of Meath had 195,044 persons which consisted of 96,776 males and 98,268 females. This was an increase of 6% from 184,135 in 2011.

Defence Forces Equipment

Ceisteanna (107)

Catherine Connolly

Ceist:

107. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the amount spent by the Defence Forces on USA manufactured equipment and services in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47309/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The primary focus for the procurement of defensive equipment by the Department of Defence is to maintain the capability of the Irish Defence Forces to fulfil the roles as assigned by Government. This includes undertaking overseas Peace Support Operations, and in this regard to afford the greatest possible force protection to Irish troops whilst on such missions. The principle of competitive tendering for Government contracts is used by the Department of Defence for the acquisition of defensive equipment for the Defence Forces. Central to those procedures is the requirement to allow fair competition between suppliers through the submission of tenders following advertising of the tender competition on the e-tenders site and on the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU), where appropriate, in line with the EU procurement Directives, including the Defence and Security Directive. Such tender competitions are open to any company or country in accordance with the terms of all UN, OSCE and EU arms embargos or restrictions.

The amount spent by the Department on USA manufactured defensive equipment and services in each of the years from 2016 to 2018 and in 2019 to date is laid out in the following table.

Year

Amount Spent (€ Incl. VAT)

2016

€780,395.71

2017

€4,058,139.91

2018

€1,195,978.02

2019 (to date)

€725,563.13

Defensive equipment items purchased during this period from USA manufacturers include night vision equipment, firing range training equipment and artillery observation posts.

The manner in which the Department of Defence procures both goods and services remains consistent with international best practice.

Commemorative Events

Ceisteanna (108)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

108. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the reason the commemoration for fallen service men and women which was due to take place on 8 November 2019 was cancelled; when it will be rescheduled; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47332/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

I have been informed by the military authorities that the purpose of the Defence Forces Remembrance Ceremony is to provide an internal event for serving members and invited guests to commemorate members of Óglaigh na hÉireann who died in service in the past year. This event complements the existing barrack level ceremonies that take place in installations across the country in the first week of November each year.

The Defence Forces military leadership decided to reschedule the event to 4 December 2019, given that the funeral of Mr Gay Byrne, who was a national figure of major significance, was taking place on 8 November. The rescheduled event will take place at the National Memorial to the Defence Forces which is located in Merrion Square, Dublin.

Defence Forces Pensions

Ceisteanna (109)

James Browne

Ceist:

109. Deputy James Browne asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the position regarding a pension increase for former Defence Forces personnel suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47769/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The position is that the Public Service Stability Agreement (PSSA) 2018-2020 sets out the policy on public service pension increases as adopted by Government for the duration of that agreement to end-2020.

The policy provides that qualifying public service pensions will, in general (depending on retirement date and pre retirement pensionable salary payable), be increased on foot of the basic pay increases due under the terms of the PSSA.

I can confirm that, in general, the benefit of the PSSA basic pay increases up to and including 1 September 2019 (1.75%) is now reflected in the military service pensions of relevant qualifying retirees and their dependants. This scenario also applies to former members of the Permanent Defence Force who are in receipt of disability pensions under the Army Pensions Acts, including those amongst them whose disability pensions are in respect of post-traumatic stress disorder.

There is an ongoing administrative exercise over the course of the PSSA to review and adjust public service pension rates in line with current policy. The next scheduled pay increase for public servants, including the Defence Forces, is 0.50% from 1 January 2020 (for those on basic pay of less than €32,000 a year) and 2% from 1 October 2020. In that context, military pension rates will continue to be monitored and reviewed by my Department as each pay increase is being implemented, in line with the pension increase policy.

White Paper on Defence

Ceisteanna (110)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

110. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the status of the progress made in the implementation of each of the 88 projects under the White Paper on Defence in tabular form; the number of projects commenced and the date on which they commenced; the number completed; the proposed starting date for those that have not been initiated; and the timeframe for completion. [47840/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

During scoping of the White Paper implementation programme, a total of 88 actions or projects were specifically identified on a joint civil-military basis along with seven sub-projects in the capability development area. As the projects are implemented, projects may be sub-divided augmenting the numbers so currently the number to be implemented stands at 95 and this number will be subject to further change as the process evolves. Implementation of these specific actions is being carried out by civil-military teams on a phased basis over a ten-year period out to 2025. Implementation on a phased basis is necessary in order to reflect Programme for a Partnership Government and Strategy Statement commitments, the related nature of some projects and resourcing implications. White Paper projects are being implemented with continuous civil/military oversight of progress. This is being evaluated further as part of the White Paper Update.

The 95 specific projects arising from the White Paper represent a subset of the totality of the work being carried out as part of the implementation process and the following table is a breakdown of the progress made to date:

No. of Projects Commenced

Date on which they commenced

No. of Projects Completed

Proposed Starting date for those not yet initiated

Timeframe for Completion

42

2015 to 2019

15

2020 - 2025

2025*

*While it is currently intended to have all projects initiated or completed by the end of the ten year implementation programme, work in certain areas will continue beyond 2025 in order to ensure that changes, improvements and actions envisaged in the White Paper are fully implemented and to assure that positive outcomes endure and are embedded in the day to day business of the Defence Organisation.

The attached table in the following link shows a more detailed breakdown of the 42 Projects which have commenced. I would note that some projects with recorded project start dates of 1 January 2016 may have commenced the project planning process during 2015.

Table - 42 Projects

Public Service Pay Commission Reports

Ceisteanna (111)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

111. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the progress made in those actions in the high-level plan to implement the report of the Public Service Pay Commission on recruitment and retention issues in the Permanent Defence Force that are due for immediate implementation and those due for implementation in the short-term in tabular form. [47841/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The following table outlines the status of projects due for immediate and short-term implementation as outlined in the "Strengthening our Defence Forces - Phase One" plan. (It should be noted project V1 - Review of Pay Structures in the PDF is not included in the following table as it is a medium to long term project.)

Project No.

Project Title

Status of Project

V2

Increase MSA

- Recommendation accepted by Representative Associations

- Officers received payment in October

- Enlisted personnel are due to receive payment this week

V3

Restore Allowances cut under Haddington Road Agreement

- Recommendation accepted by Representative Associations

- Officers received payment in October

- Enlisted personnel are due to receive payment this week

V4

Restore weekend premium rates

- Recommendation accepted by Representative Associations

- Officers received payment in October

- Enlisted personnel are due to receive payment this week

R1

Restore Pilot Service Commitment Scheme

- New Pilot Service Commitment Scheme promulgated - under consideration by pilots

R2

Tech 2 - 6 arrangements

- Report on 'Priority Actions' drafted and under consideration

- Further work underway

R3

Incentivised long service arrangements - NCO and Officer ranks

- Report completed

- Options to be considered in the context of future public sector pay negotiations

R4

Barriers to extended participation in the PDF

- Research has commenced on Phase 1 of the project.

R5

Bespoke Management training for leaders and managers

- Report on schedule to be completed before end 2019

R6

Professional Military Education [PME] Strategy

- Audit of existing learning and development measures in place in PDF completed.

- Development of draft strategy underway

R7

Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy

- First phase of project completed

- Research has commenced for the next phase of the project

R8

Non-Pay Retention Measures in the PDF

- Audit of existing retention measures completed

- Research into measures which may enhance retention in other militaries completed

- Further work ongoing

R9

Additional specialist posts for high turnover/long lead in appts.

- Report nearing completion

- Short extension to the deadline granted, to facilitate collection of detailed data required for analysis

A1

Review of Recruitment methods for PDF

- External Recruitment Advisor engaged as Chair

- Review commenced and Chair has advised an interim report will be completed by end 2019

A2

Workforce Planning

- External HR Adviser working with project team to finalise structured approach.