Unfair Dismissals

Ceisteanna (485)

Kathleen Funchion

Ceist:

485. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if a person cannot be dismissed from a job on the grounds that he or she is claiming the carer's allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [48907/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The Unfair Dismissals Acts 1977 to 2015 provide protection for employees from being unfairly dismissed from their jobs by laying down criteria on which the fairness or otherwise of dismissals can be judged. The Acts provide that every dismissal of an employee will be presumed to have been unfair unless the employer can show substantial grounds justifying the dismissal. There are currently no provisions contained in the Unfair Dismissals Acts 1977 to 2015 to provide that a person cannot be dismissed from their job on the grounds that they are claiming the carer's allowance.

The Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 provides that a carer can work or study outside the home to a limited extent while still receiving the allowance. From 6th January 2020, the number of hours allowed will increase from 15 hours to 18.5 hours.

Where an individual believes they are being deprived of employment rights, they may refer a complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) where the matter can be dealt with by way of mediation or adjudication, leading to a decision that is enforceable through the District Court.

Complaints can be made on an online complaint form available at the WRC’s website www.workplacerelations.ie. The WRC’s Customer Service Section, which provides information to both employers and employees in relation to employment, equality and industrial relations rights and obligations, can be contacted at Lo-call: 1890 80 80 90 or 059-9178990.

I trust this clarifies matters for the Deputy.

Guardian's Payment

Ceisteanna (486)

Kevin O'Keeffe

Ceist:

486. Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if arrears of payment will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [48920/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The person concerned was awarded guardians non contributory payment with effect from 23rd August 2019. Payment commenced at their nominated Post Office from the 15th November 2019.

My Department is in the process of calculating the arrears due from 23rd August 2019. Any arrears due will issue shortly.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Living Alone Allowance

Ceisteanna (487)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

487. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of a living alone application by a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [48921/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The living alone allowance is an additional payment of €9.00 per week made to people aged 66 years of age or over who are in receipt of certain social welfare payments and who live entirely alone. It is only available to people to people who are under 66 years of age, if they are in receipt of disability allowance, invalidity pension, incapacity supplement or blind pension.

As the person concerned is under age 66 years and is not in receipt of a qualifying payment it was decided on the 22nd November 2019 they are not eligible for the living alone allowance increase. The person concerned has been notified of outcome.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Pension Provisions

Question No. 489 answered with Question No. 479.

Ceisteanna (488)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

488. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if she will address a matter raised in correspondence (details supplied) regarding the right of pensioners to representation regarding the future of their pensions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [48939/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The Deputy will appreciate that I am unable to comment on issues relating to a particular pension scheme.

My Department has no role in setting the level of pension increases received by members of occupational pension schemes. Pension increases are entirely a matter for the scheme trustees and the sponsoring employer. Matters directly related to the sponsoring employer referred to in the details supplied come under the remit of the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment.

Scheme trustees have a range of duties and responsibilities under trust law, under the Pensions Act 1990, as amended, and under other relevant legislation. The duties of pension scheme trustees include administering the scheme in accordance with the law and the terms of the trust deed and scheme rules as well as ensuring compliance with the requirements that apply to these schemes. Trustees must act in the best financial interest of all scheme members, whether active, deferred or retired, and must serve all beneficiaries of the scheme impartially. If there is a conflict of interest then a person’s duty as a trustee must take precedence over other interests.

Measures were introduced in 2015 to facilitate engagement between the trustees of a pension scheme and groups representing the interests of pensioner and deferred scheme members. Changes to guidance issued by the Pensions Authority require the trustees of a pension scheme to notify groups representing the interest of scheme members of proposals to issue a direction under section 50 of the Pensions Act to restructure scheme benefits. This affords the representative group an opportunity to make a submission to the trustees of a pension scheme in relation to proposals to restructure scheme benefits. These changes facilitate engagement between groups representing the interests of pensioner and deferred scheme members and the trustees of a pension scheme.

Groups representing the interests of pensioners and deferred scheme members have a right to appeal a section 50 direction by the Pensions Authority to the High Court on a point of law.

The Pensions Authority is the regulatory body charged with the supervision of pension schemes and has the necessary powers under statute to investigate the conduct of a pension scheme should it become aware that a scheme is not in compliance with the provisions of the Pensions Act. Where a pension scheme member is of the view that the scheme is not in compliance with legislative requirements he or she may make a formal complaint to the Pensions Authority.

Any questions relating to access to the State's industrial relations machinery are a matter for the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Question No. 489 answered with Question No. 479.

Carer's Allowance Appeals

Ceisteanna (490)

Tony McLoughlin

Ceist:

490. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when a carer’s allowance review will be finalised for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [48966/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Firstly I would like to offer my condolences to Ms Miskells family at this difficult time.

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.

My department received an application for carer’s allowance (CA) from the person concerned on 26 July 2018. The application was awarded to the person concerned on 16 January 2019. She was notified of this decision, the reason for it and of her right of review and appeal.

A review was initiated on 29 August 2019. A deciding officer has requested further information in relation to the legal representative of the person concerned. Once the legal representative has been established, the deciding officer can progress the review. As soon as this information is received the matter will be dealt with promptly.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Jobseeker's Allowance Applications

Ceisteanna (491)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

491. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when a person (details supplied) will have a decision on a social welfare claim; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [48976/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

I can advise that Jobseeker’s Allowance has been approved for the person concerned with effect from the 31-May-2019 at the weekly rate of €274.50.

The first payment will be in the Post Office on Wednesday 27th November, and arrears will be calculated and included in the following weeks payment.

I trust that this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Fuel Allowance Eligibility

Ceisteanna (492)

Tom Neville

Ceist:

492. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of a fuel allowance application by a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [48982/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

A Fuel Allowance is a payment under the National Fuel Scheme which may be payable to certain households in receipt of long term Social Welfare payments who are unable to provide for their heating needs. Fuel allowance is a means tested payment and all income, including private/occupational pensions and capital such as savings and investments are taken into account.

A single person, under age 80, can have €348.30 per week income (the equivalent of the maximum State Pension Contributory plus €100) and still qualify for fuel allowance.

It was decided on the 19th November 2019 that the person concerned was not entitled to a fuel allowance as their income from employment was in excess of the fuel weekly income threshold. The person concerned was notified of outcome.

If the financial circumstances of the person concerned changes in the future, it is open to them to re-apply for the allowance.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Illness Benefit Applications

Ceisteanna (493)

Willie O'Dea

Ceist:

493. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if a decision has been reached regarding the date on which the entitlement of a person commenced (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [48993/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The Illness Benefit claim for the person concerned has been examined and payment has now been awarded from 25 February 2019, which is the first date she was medically certified as unfit for work.

Payment due from 25 February 2019 to 13 June 2019 has issued and accordingly the person has now been paid the full amount due from 25 February 2019 to date.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Paternity Benefit Applications

Ceisteanna (494)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

494. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if he will address a matter regarding a delay in the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [49000/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Paternity benefit claims are processed promptly and are ready for payment in advance of the person taking the leave, where the required advance notice is provided. Claimants are advised, via the Department’s website www.welfare.ie, that they should apply for the payment 4 weeks before they intend to go on paternity leave and that this should be increased to 12 weeks if they are self-employed. This is to allow adequate time to process the claim.

A claim for paternity benefit was received from the person concerned on 1st November 2019, in relation to a leave period which he had already taken. As he is self-employed the enquiries are underway to confirm eligibility, as advised on the Department's website.

This claim will be processed as soon as possible and a decision will issue direct to the person concerned.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Household Benefits Scheme

Ceisteanna (495)

Tom Neville

Ceist:

495. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of an application by a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [49012/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

An application for the Household Benefits Package was received from the person concerned on 4 November 2019. The application was disallowed, as the person concerned is under age 66 and is not in receipt of a qualifying payment. I am further advised that the person concerned does not qualify for a widow(er)’s concession arrangement as their late spouse/partner was not in receipt of the Household Benefits Package prior to their date of death.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Community Employment Schemes Supervisors

Ceisteanna (496)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

496. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if she will review correspondence regarding community employment, CE, scheme supervisors (details supplied); if the laws will be expedited and put into action; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [49027/19]

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 my 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 and are not public servants. CE Supervisors have always been employees of Community Employment Sponsoring Bodies which operate in the community and voluntary sector.

As the Deputy will be aware, the Department is currently engaging with representatives of CE supervisors to discuss issues arising following that 2008 Labour Court Recommendation. All parties agreed that the detail of all discussions undertaken by the group should remain confidential until the process had completed. That process is still ongoing and therefore I would ask Deputies to continue to respect the confidentiality of the discussions and to allow them to continue free from speculation.

In relation to the Workplace Relations Commission judgement, my Department received the Adjudication Officer’s decision on Monday 4th November, 2019. The Department has reviewed that decision and has sought legal advice on it.

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.

Disability Allowance Eligibility

Ceisteanna (497)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

497. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if she will consider introducing a rent or mortgage disregard for the disability allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [49038/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The system of social assistance supports provides payments based on an income need. The means test plays a critical role in determining whether or not an income need arises as a consequence of a particular contingency – such as disability, unemployment or caring. This ensures that the recipient has a verifiable income need and that resources are targeted to those who need them most.

By its nature, the means test takes account of the income a person or couple has in terms of cash, property - other than the family home - and capital. It does not take account of a person’s expenditure. In line with most social assistance payments, deductions permitted for disability allowance include PRSI, union dues and superannuation (pension contributions).

Introducing a rent or mortgage disregard for disability allowance would have significant budgetary implications, and would give rise to inconsistencies in how means tests are applied across schemes. It would also significantly increase the complexity of the means assessment.

In relation to means testing, disability allowance has the highest capital disregard of any scheme operated by the Department. A recipient can have up to €50,000 in savings and still receive the full rate of payment. This is compared to €20,000 for most social welfare payments. In addition to this, disability allowance recipients may work and earn up to €120 per week without their payment being affected.

It should also be noted that people receiving disability allowance may also be eligible for secondary benefits such as free travel, fuel allowance, the household benefits package, living alone allowance and the telephone support allowance. Depending on their circumstance, recipients may also be entitled to rent supplement or housing assistance payment, to help meet housing expenses.

Any changes to the means assessment for disability allowance would have to be considered in the overall policy and budgetary context.

Rural Social Scheme Administration

Ceisteanna (498)

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

498. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to move the responsibility for the rural social scheme, RSS, to another Department; if she or her officials have had or are having discussions on the issue; if so, the status of the discussions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [49042/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

In early 2019, the Government agreed to establish an Interdepartmental Group (IDG) to explore the most appropriate organisation arrangements to include social inclusion schemes including the Rural Social Scheme (RSS).

A series of meetings of the IDG have taken place and a number of bilateral meetings were undertaken with the relevant Departments with included discussions on the rural social scheme. In addition to this, written submissions were received from key stakeholders and community groups. All submissions received were considered as part of the deliberation process. The final report of the IDG is expected to be available shortly.

The priority for my Department is to ensure that all employment programmes and incentives including RSS will be focused, targeted and suitable for the needs of low income farmers and fishermen into the future.

Guardian's Payment Applications

Ceisteanna (499)

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

499. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the steps she will take to expedite an application for a guardianship payment by a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [49077/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Guardians’ payments are made to a person caring for a child, where that child is defined as an “orphan” under social welfare legislation.

In deciding whether a child can be considered an “orphan” for the purpose of this payment, the Deciding Officer must, in cases where the child has one or both parents still living, be satisfied that the child has been abandoned and that their parent or parents have “failed to provide” for them.

The claim to a guardians payment of the person concerned is currently under consideration. When all enquiries are made and all the necessary information is available to the Deciding Officer, a decision will be made. The person concerned will be notified of outcome without delay.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Invalidity Pension Applications

Ceisteanna (500)

Marc MacSharry

Ceist:

500. Deputy Marc MacSharry asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when a person (details supplied) in County Sligo will receive a decision on an invalidity pension application; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [49083/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The gentleman referred to has been awarded invalidity pension with effect from 11 July 2019. Payment will issue to his nominated bank account on 28 November 2019. Any arrears due from 11 July 2019 to 27 November 2019 (less any overlapping social welfare payment) will issue as soon as possible. The gentleman in question was notified of this decision on 21 November 2019.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Invalidity Pension Appeals

Ceisteanna (501)

Marc MacSharry

Ceist:

501. Deputy Marc MacSharry asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when a person (details supplied) in County Sligo will receive a decision on an invalidity pension application; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [49090/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

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

The department received a claim for IP for this lady on the 02 April 2019. Her claim was disallowed on the grounds that the medical conditions for the scheme were not satisfied. She was notified on 08 August 2019 of this decision, the reasons for it and of her right of review and appeal.

The lady concerned subsequently requested a review of the decision and submitted further medical evidence in support of her request.

Following a review of all the information available the lady referred to has been awarded IP with effect from 04 April 2019. Payment will issue to her nominated bank account on 05 December 2019. Any arrears due from 04 April 2019 to 04 December 2019 (less any overlapping social welfare payment) will issue as soon as possible. The lady in question was notified of this decision on the 22 November 2019.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Living Alone Allowance

Ceisteanna (502)

Tom Neville

Ceist:

502. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of a living alone allowance application by a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [49114/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The living alone allowance is an additional payment of €9 per week made to people aged 66 years or over who live alone and are in receipt of certain social welfare payments. It is only available to people who are under 66 years of age, if they are in receipt of disability allowance, invalidity pension, incapacity supplement or blind pension.

As the person concerned is under age 66 years of age and is not in receipt of a qualifying payment it was decided on the 19th November 2019 that they are not eligible for a living alone allowance increase. The person concerned was notified of the decision on the same date.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Invalidity Pension Applications

Ceisteanna (503)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

503. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when an invalidity pension will be made available to a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [49157/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

An application for invalidity pension (IP) was received from the lady concerned on 17 September 2019. This lady has been awarded IP with effect from 31 January 2019 to 06 February 2019. Payment of arrears due from 31 January 2019 to 06 February 2019 (less any overlapping social welfare payment) will issue to her nominated bank account as soon as possible. The lady in question was notified of this decision on 21 November 2019. This lady may have an entitlement to state pension contributory from 07 February 2019.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Building Regulations

Ceisteanna (504)

John Curran

Ceist:

504. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if there are targets in place to increase the use of timber in the construction of houses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49092/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The aim of the Building Regulations is to provide for the safety and welfare of people in and about buildings. The Building Regulations apply to the design and construction of a building or to an extension or material alteration of a building. These regulations set out the minimum performance requirements that a building must achieve. Building Regulations and procurement processes are performance based. As such there cannot be a target set for specific construction materials. The requirements of the Building Regulations are set out in 12 parts classified as Parts A to M. In support of these the department has issued Technical Guidance Documents (TGD A - M) which provide technical guidance on how to comply with the building regulations in practical terms.

TGD D (Materials and Workmanship) requires “proper materials”. This means materials that are fit for the use for which they are intended and for the conditions in which they are to be used, and includes materials which comply with an appropriate Irish Standard.

The National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) have issued the Timber Frame Dwellings Standard, IS 440, which sets the requirements for construction of timber frame dwellings. TGD A (Structure) recognises and takes account of the IS 440 timber frame standard for dwellings. NSAI facilitates industry standards committees in the area of timber construction materials.

The Office of Public Works is leading an action of the Climate Action Plan to develop a roadmap to promote greater use of lower-carbon building material alternatives in construction. The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is leading a range of additional actions to work with industry stakeholders to increase the use of low carbon materials, taking into account international best practice.

Property Tax Review

Ceisteanna (505)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

505. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the progress the baseline review group has made regarding the local property tax to date in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48566/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

In May 2018, a Local Government Funding (Baseline) Review Group was established to consider the methodology to determine local authority funding baselines, to inform the distribution of any additional funding that could become available for general, operational purposes.

Recommendations were received from the Review Group in August 2018 and these fall to be considered in the context of the review of Local Property Tax (LPT) undertaken by the Department of Finance.  When the ongoing process in relation to the consideration of that Review of LPT is concluded by the Department of Finance, the work of the Baseline Review Group will be considered further.

Planning Data

Ceisteanna (506)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

506. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of Part 8 housing planning applications that have been refused planning permission in each local authority in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48551/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Local authority "own" developments prescribed in Part 8 of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001, as amended, are exempted development under section 4 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, and therefore no planning application is required for local authority development of this nature.

Section 179 of the 2000 Act provides that, with certain exceptions, Part 8 type development proposals require a public consultation process and the consent by resolution of the elected members of the local authority in order to proceed. Further to the public consultation on such proposed development and the Chief Executive's report on the public consultation, the proposed development may be carried out as recommended in the Chief Executive's report unless the elected members of the local authority, by resolution, decide to vary or modify the development otherwise than as recommended in the Chief Executive's report, or decide not to proceed with the development.

As Part 8 type developments are exempt from planning permission, my Department does not compile statistics in this regard and individual local authorities should be contacted for the information sought.

Fire Safety Regulations

Ceisteanna (507)

Eoin Ó Broin

Ceist:

507. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he is satisfied that fire safety regulations are up to date, especially in terms of multi-occupancy buildings such as student accommodation; and if guidelines have been issued as regards cladding. [48585/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The design and construction of buildings is regulated under the Building Control Acts 1990 to 2014. The building regulations set the minimum performance requirements that a building must achieve, to provide for the health, safety and welfare of people in and about buildings. The building regulations apply to the design and construction of a building, material alterations or extensions of a building, provision of certain services, fittings and equipment and the material change of use of a building. The requirements of the building regulations are set out in 12 parts classified as Parts A to M. Technical Guidance Documents (TGDs) provide guidance on how to comply with the building regulations in practical terms. Where works are carried out in accordance with the guidance, this will, prima facie, indicate compliance with the requirements of the building regulations.

Part B/TGD B of the building regulations deals with Fire Safety. Part B approaches fire safety in buildings from 5 perspectives;

- the provision of a satisfactory means of escape for people in the event of a fire, and

- the limiting of fire spread over internal linings, and

- the stability of buildings in the event of a fire, and

- the limiting of fire spread over external surfaces and to another building, and

- the provision of access and facilities for firefighters.

A full and comprehensive review of Part B & TGD B, 2006 has been ongoing for a number of years now.

Following a consultation process on the Part B/TGD B 2006, and in the interests of clarity a decision was made, in 2014, to develop TGD B into two volumes: Volume 1 : Buildings other than dwelling houses and Volume 2: Dwelling Houses.

In 2017, a new Part B/ TGD B Volume 2 was published and came into force on 1 July 2017. This applies to dwelling houses.

Work is progressing on Volume 1 - Buildings other than dwelling houses at present, this volume will include student accommodation, apartments, offices, etc. The issues and ongoing reports on the Grenfell fire are important sources of information for this work. The review also considers common and emerging building trends, international developments and events, matters relating to external fire spread, external fire resistance, internal fire resistance, cladding systems, sprinklers, etc. It is intended to publish a draft for public consultation in 2020.

In parallel with the full review, my Department is preparing additional guidance to TGD B 2006 on open plan apartments, which will be published shortly. Currently there is no guidance in the TGD on this increasingly popular form of apartment design. This will provide both local authorities and industry with greater clarity on how to demonstrate compliance with Part B for open plan apartments, promote greater consistency across the country and streamline the process for demonstrating compliance.

Separately, following the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy, in June 2017, I established a Fire Safety Task Force to examine fire safety in Ireland. As part of the work of the Task Force, my Department requested fire services to identify medium-to-high rise (greater than eighteen metres, or greater than six storeys in height) buildings fitted with cladding systems. Fire services were also asked to consider whether use of their power under section 18(6) of the Fire Services Acts 1981 and 2003 – to require the person having control over the building to carry out a fire safety assessment of the building, including the cladding system – was warranted.

Countrywide, fire safety assessments were required in respect of 210 buildings – including 103 residential buildings. To support these assessments, as part of the work of the Task Force, guidance was developed and issued in December 2017. The guidance provides information on methods and standards to be used in assessment of cladding systems, as well as interim fire safety measures for application, pending completion of remedial works to cladding systems, where necessary. The guidance will be of assistance to those carrying out assessments, as well as to fire services who appraise assessments provided to them in respect of identified buildings.

The most recent information provided to my Department by fire services indicates that, so far, eight buildings have been identified where some remedial works to cladding systems will be necessary.

Water and Sewerage Schemes Status

Ceisteanna (508)

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

508. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of the sewage treatment works at the unfinished housing estates (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48612/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

On 23 July this year my Department launched the multi-annual Developer Provided Water Services Infrastructure Resolution Programme. In parallel to this, local authorities were invited to submit their bids under the programme for the funding of projects in their functional area. The development of such a multi-annual funding programme was a key recommendation of the report on the National Taking-in-Charge Initiative that was published by my Department in December 2018.

The programme will enable the progressive resolution, on a priority basis, of substandard Developer-Provided Water Services Infrastructure, commonly called DPI, much of which was installed in housing estates during the building boom of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. These privately owned and temporary facilities provide mostly wastewater treatment with a small number providing drinking water.

The closing date for bids under the programme was 18 September 2019. A total of 19 local authorities with Developer Provided Infrastructure in estates in their areas made applications under the programme for support. Donegal County Council included the estates listed in the details supplied in its application.

My Department is currently completing a preliminary evaluation and clarification process on the bids received with the local authorities. The intention is to shortly set up an Expert Panel to independently evaluate the bids and recommend suitable projects for funding. This evaluation will take place over the coming months. Membership of the Panel will include departmental, stakeholder and independent representation in the Chair.

The Expert Panel will make recommendations to me on the suitability of projects for funding under the programme based on the criteria set out in the Framework document issued to local authorities when requesting proposals. The Panel will report to my Department when its examination of the bids is concluded. I expect to be in a position to make announcements in early 2020 on approvals and allocations once that process is concluded and has been considered by my Department.

Local Authority Housing Data

Ceisteanna (509)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

509. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government further to circular 15/2019 of 17 April 2019, the updated cost guidelines for South Dublin County Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48660/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Through the supports made available under Rebuilding Ireland, funding is available to all local authorities to deliver additional social housing stock through new construction projects and through the acquisition of new and previously owned houses/apartments for social housing use.

Given the emphasis on achieving best value for exchequer investment, a set of cost guidelines for the acquisition of social housing homes was introduced by my Department. In response to the continuing fluctuation in house prices the guidelines are reviewed and updated regularly to reflect movement in the market.

The current cost guidelines were issued in April 2019, including to South Dublin County Council, on foot of Circular 15/2019 and apply to acquisitions where contracts are signed and closed on or after 1 April 2019. Lower and upper ranges are stated, along with an average/benchmark cost which is representative of the average range of current stock value across the local authority area. All cost guidelines are representative of stock having a minimum C1 BER rating, being in good condition and ready for occupancy.

Arrangements are being made for relevant details in relation to South Dublin County Council to be forwarded directly to the Deputy.

Housing Provision

Ceisteanna (510)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

510. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No. 586 of 12 November 2019, if correspondence (details supplied) will be provided in respect of two local authorities regarding all matters relating to each social, affordable and mixed use housing development being considered or proposed including funding requests by the two local authorities since September 2018 to date. [48681/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I refer to the reply to Question No. 586 of 12 November 2019 on this matter, in which I indicated that to search for and provide the full breadth of correspondence sought would involve a disproportionate level of work.

As the Deputy will be aware, there is a vast number of housing projects in Cork City and County, including build, acquisition and leasing projects. This is In addition to a huge level of activity under the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) and Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS), as well as the Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund (LIHAF) and the Serviced Sites Fund (SSF). In relation to social housing alone, the Social Housing Construction Status Report for Quarter 2 2019, for example, which was referred to in my previous reply, lists some 200 build projects and phases of projects for the 2 local authority areas, with over 3,000 associated homes. Each of these schemes has frequent contact points between my Department and the relevant local authority.

Many different Business Units in my Department would engage multiple times per week with officials in both local authorities. This correspondence could be broadly categorised as follows:

- Emails and letters in relation to applications for funding approval, including multiple exchanges of correspondence on files, documents, maps and drawings;

- Correspondence related to various stages after initial approval;

- Emails and letters in relation to affordable housing, including both general and specific proposals, guidance, circulars and funding;

- Queries, responses and updates on status of overall social and affordable housing programmes, and specific schemes including projects at proposal stage;

- Funding drawdown at various stages, including submission of, validation of and queries on invoices and payments;

- Arrangements for quarterly technical meetings to discuss existing and planned housing delivery programmes, including follow up correspondence and clarifications;

- Routine exchanges on queries on implementation of programmes between officials and local authority housing teams and the development of pipeline future activity; and

- Arrangements for meetings, including National and Regional Housing Summits, the Cork Social Housing Task Force meetings, including preparation of briefing, statistics, reports which include information on proposed and ongoing activity.

I trust that this information is helpful and that the Deputy can appreciate that the related correspondence could extend to thousands of records. Should the Deputy, however, have a particular interest in any of the categories outlined above, or a specific scheme or project, I will be happy to arrange for my Department to meet the Deputy on the matter.