Direct Provision Data

Ceisteanna (236, 237, 238)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

236. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills if children who are in direct provision and emergency accommodation have access to the home tuition grant; if this could be used to provide education to children who cannot access school or education in the normal manner; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50224/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

237. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the mechanism by which children in direct provision that are also in emergency accommodation who cannot access school in the normal manner are identified; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50225/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

238. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of children between 6 and 16 years of age in direct provision that are not in school or being provided an education; the number between 5 and 18 years of age; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50226/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 236 to 238, inclusive, together.

My Department’s policy, in relation to provision of education for children of international protection applicants, is that attendance at mainstream school is a key element in integration.

In keeping with the terms of the EU Recast Reception (conditions) Directive, children of international protection applicants are required to receive an education within a three month period following their arrival in this State, allowing for school holiday periods.

Every effort is made to ensure that all children of school going age receive an education at the earliest possible date. My Department has seconded an official to the Department of Justice and Equality to deal with any queries that schools who are enrolling children from accommodation centres may have. This official is also available to advise schools on specific queries on the range of supports available to schools and on how to access supports.

Following the receipt of an application for a school place, a school must advise of the outcome of each application in writing. Any decision to refuse to enrol a child can be appealed under Section 29 of the Education Act, 1998. Tusla Education Support Service (TESS) is available to provide support and guidance to parents in relation making applications to local schools and the Section 29 appeals process.

The purpose of my Department’s Home Tuition Grant Scheme is to provide funding towards the provision of a compensatory educational service for children who, for a number of specific reasons, are unable to attend school. It is not an alternative to a school placement and is provided in very limited and specific circumstances and intended to be a short term intervention.

Where difficulties arise in securing school places, home tuition can be put in place similar to arrangements that apply to all other children who reside in this State, but only if school places are not available. Should a school placement not be available an application for home tuition can be submitted to my Department as an interim measure while awaiting a school place being secured by the parent.

The local Education Welfare Officer of TESS may be available to provide parents with a list of local tutors who may be in a position to provide the tuition to the child while awaiting a school place.

Departmental Funding

Ceisteanna (239)

Peter Burke

Ceist:

239. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Education and Skills the amount allocated to a town (details supplied) in each of the years 2011 to 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50240/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

My Department does not allocate or record overall financial budgets on a county or town basis. I am therefore not in a position to readily provide details on the amounts allocated to school projects and other department allocations to Moate or surrounding areas.

However, my Department’s website shows the current position on all school projects on the Capital Programme, as well as listing the schools that have had large-scale projects completed from 2010 to date. The information is available at www.education.ie and is updated regularly.

Inquiry into Child Abuse

Ceisteanna (240)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

240. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if officials in his Department discussed the recent findings regarding statistics in the Ryan report. [50125/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Officials in my Department are aware of the recent findings regarding statistics in the Ryan report. The Ryan report is very much a living document and is referenced continually by officials working in the area of redress.

Special Educational Needs Staff Remuneration

Ceisteanna (241)

Stephen Donnelly

Ceist:

241. Deputy Stephen Donnelly asked the Minister for Education and Skills if special needs assistants are only required to work bell to bell in view of the fact they are paid on a 32-hour contract. [50259/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The position on working hours for SNAs is that there are no nationally set working hours for full-time SNAs. In this regard, the contractual position in respect of the working hours of SNAs is as outlined in their contracts of employment which were agreed with the school management authorities and the relevant Trade Unions representing SNAs (FÓRSA and SIPTU) prior to their introduction in 2005 (links are detailed below). The working week for SNAs is defined in paragraph 2.5 of their contract as follows: "You will be required to work normal classroom hours including class break periods and in addition to attend before and after school in order to help with the preparation and tidying up of classrooms, reception and dispersal of children etc. The hours of work will normally be from [xxxx] to [xxxx] daily during term time."This standard contract has been designed to be flexible to cater for the different spectrum of working hours across all the various schools including primary, post-primary and special schools. No set hours were agreed but instead, full-time SNAs are expected to work for the normal school hours in the school that they are working in, and in addition to be available for a period of time before and after school in order to help with reception and dispersal of children and preparation and tidying up of classrooms etc. These times are set locally by the school management and will vary from school to school depending on the requirements of the school. In addition, all SNAs were required to be available for a number of days at the start and finish of each school term not exceeding 12 in total. Under the Croke Park Agreement it was agreed to introduce greater flexibility to the use of these 12 days. These 12 days now equate to 72 hours (pro-rata for part-time SNAs) to be used by schools as an additional bank of hours to be utilised and delivered outside of normal school opening hours and/or the normal school year.

Furthermore, the contract for Special Needs Assistants in the post primary sector specifically requires that SNAs are required to work the month of June on examinations and work appropriate to the grade, including training. This was agreed with the Unions representing SNAs (FÓRSA and SIPTU) when the contract was devised in 2005. This condition of service places a clear onus and obligation on the SNA to attend at their place of work and be available for work during the month of June.It is a matter for school management as their employer to determine the precise work that is to be completed by SNAs during the month of June. The utilisation of this period is not specifically for examinations or training purposes only, although these are two of the purposes for which the period of work can be utilised.

Link to the SNA Contract for Employment for the Primary sector:

Department of Education and Skills Circular SNA 15/05 (Primary)

www.education.ie/en/Circulars-and-Forms/Active-Circulars/sna15_05.pdf.

Link to the SNA Contract of Employment for the Post Primary sector:Department of Education and Skills Circular SNA 12/05 (Post-Primary) www.education.ie/en/Circulars-and-Forms/Active-Circulars/sna12_05.pdf.

These contracts of employment are augmented by all of the relevant Departmental Circulars governing Special Needs Assistants which detail the standardised terms and conditions of employment for SNAs. These Circulars are amended and new Circulars are issued by the Minister for Education and Skills from time to time.

School Services Staff

Ceisteanna (242)

Aindrias Moynihan

Ceist:

242. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a resolution to the school secretaries situation has been reached following the WRC discussions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50261/19]

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.

School Transport Provision

Ceisteanna (243)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

243. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if school transport to a school (details supplied) can be extended to Clogherinkoe, Broadford, County Kildare, to accommodate children living in the area who are hoping to attend the school in 2020/2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50264/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

School Transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the 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. Under the terms of the School Transport Schemes children are eligible for transport at primary level where they reside not less than 3.2 kms from and are attending their nearest national school, and at post primary level where they reside not less than 4.8 kms from and are attending their nearest post primary school/education centre as determined by the Department/Bus Éireann, having regard to ethos and language.

Distance eligibility is determined by Bus Éireann by measuring the shortest traversable route from the child’s home to the relevant school. The terms of the School Transport Schemes are applied equitably on a national basis.

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

Bus Éireann is responsible for the planning and timetabling of school transport routes. Bus Éireann endeavours, within available resources, to ensure that each eligible child has a reasonable level of school transport service in the context of the Scheme nationally.

Families wishing to avail of school transport should complete the online application process on the Bus Éireann website before the deadline in April 2020. School transport scheme services operating for the 2020/21 school year will be determined by the number of children who apply and are deemed eligible for school transport.

The terms of the School Transport Schemes are applied equitably on a national basis.

Summer Works Scheme Administration

Ceisteanna (244)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

244. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if schools whose applications were unsuccessful under the recent summer works scheme can appeal the decision in respect of necessary improvement works to be carried out under measure 10; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50275/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The Deputy will be aware that I recently announced details of the schools that will receive funding in summer 2020 in respect of applications submitted for 'Life Safety Systems projects'.

Commensurate with the level of funding set aside for the Scheme, applications are being assessed on a top down basis in accordance with the prioritisation criteria outlined in the Circular accompanying the Scheme. In that regard, applications submitted for other works will be considered under future rounds of the Summer Works Scheme.

However, it is open to schools to appeal the decision in relation to their application if they wish to do so. Appeals can be emailed directly to sws_review@education.gov.ie where they will be considered by my Department.

Legislative Measures

Ceisteanna (245)

Barry Cowen

Ceist:

245. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of Bills sponsored by his Department that have been enacted since November 2013, in tabular form. [50317/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

My Department has enacted five pieces of legislation since November 2013, the details of which are set out in the following table.

Bills enacted since November 2013

Date the Act was signed into law

Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) (Amendment) Act 2019

23 July 2019

Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018

18 July 2018

Technological Universities Act 2018

19 March 2018

Teaching Council (Amendment) Act 2015

27 July 2015

Education (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2015

05 May 2015

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Ceisteanna (246)

Martin Heydon

Ceist:

246. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to address the shortage of ASD places in second-level schools (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50335/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The provision of education for children with special needs, including those with Autism, is an ongoing priority for Government.

Currently, almost 20% of the total Education Vote or €1.9bn is invested in supporting children with special needs.

Since 2011 investment in Special Education supports has increased by 50%, which is significantly above the 7% increase in total student numbers over the same period.

As a result the numbers of special education teachers, special needs assistants and special class and school places are at unprecedented levels.

The majority of children with Autism attend mainstream class, where they may access additional supports if required.

But some students may find it difficult to manage full-time placement in mainstream and so placement in a Special Class or Special School setting may be deemed appropriate where placement in mainstream class is not in the best interests of the child.

The NCSE has responsibility for coordinating and advising on the education provision for children nationwide and has well established structures in place for engaging with schools and parents.

The Council ensures that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all children who have been identified as needing special class placements.

Nationally, 167 new special classes opened this school year, which means there are 1,618 special classes in place, compared to 548 in 2011.

Of these 1,353 special classes cater for students diagnosed with ASD.

Provision in our 124 special schools has also increased from 6,848 placements in 2011 to 7,872 this year.

In Kildare alone, there are 75 special classes and 4 Special Schools providing specialist support to children with more complex special educational needs.

The NCSE is planning a further expansion of special class and school places in Kildare to meet identified need for next year. This process is ongoing.

The NCSE has informed the Department that, in general, they are satisfied that they have planned sufficient ASD post primary special class placements to meet identified need in Kildare for next year.

The NCSE team of locally based Special Education Needs Organisers (SENOs) in Kildare are available to assist parents to identify appropriate educational placements for children with special educational needs and to discuss their child's special educational needs. The local SENO contact details are available on www.ncse.ie.

Normally, special class and school places are established with the full cooperation of the schools in areas where they are required. However there are some parts of the country where the Council has faced challenges in getting schools and their Patrons to voluntarily agree to provide special class or school places.

I know that this can cause much anguish for parents and families involved.

As Minister I have a power under Section 37A of the Education Act 1998 to direct a school to provide additional provision where all reasonable efforts have failed.

I would prefer to see schools volunteer to provide more places rather than places being secured on the back of an order or a direction from me. It is the right thing for the children in a community.

Emergency Works Scheme Applications

Ceisteanna (247)

John Brassil

Ceist:

247. Deputy John Brassil asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will address a matter regarding a school (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50384/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I wish to clarify for the Deputy that the Emergency Works Grant application received from the school is still under consideration. My Department has written to the school authority advising it to consider an alternative approach to resolving the issues as the suggested remediation was not considered an appropriate and/or value for money solution by officials in my Department. My Department will consider the matter further once a response is received.

School Enrolments

Ceisteanna (248)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

248. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a large number of schools in County Galway appear to have long waiting lists of pupils who are due to go to second-level schools in 2020; if contingency plans are being drawn up to ensure each pupil will receive places in second-level schools September 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50394/19]

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. Approximately 40% of extra school places are delivered by extending existing schools.

The Deputy will be aware that there area number of major capital projects included on my Department’s school building programme to be delivered as part of the National Development Plan. The Capital Programme details the school projects that are being progressed under project Ireland 2040. I wish to advise the Deputy that the current status of large-scale projects being delivered under project Ireland 2040 may be viewed on my Department's website, www.education.ie and this information is updated regularly. In addition, a list of large-scale projects completed from 2010 to date may also be viewed on the website.

The Capital Programme also provides for devolved funding under the 'Additional School Accommodation Scheme' (ASA) for additional classrooms, if required, for schools where an immediate enrolment need has been identified or where an additional teacher has been appointed. The application form for this scheme is available on my Department's website www.education.ie, details of schools listed under this scheme can also be found on my Department's website, this information is updated regularly.

Refugee Resettlement Programme

Ceisteanna (249)

Darragh O'Brien

Ceist:

249. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of the operational sub-group under the auspices of the Irish refugee protection programme ask force composed of representatives from relevant Departments, local authorities and other bodies to support and coordinate the process of housing refugees. [50058/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, in September 2015, as part of the Government’s response to the migration crisis in central and southern Europe, the Government established the Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP) to provide a safe haven for persons seeking international protection. A multifaceted approach was taken to the implementation of the IRPP.

A new cross-departmental Task force was established, which I chair, to deal with the operational and logistical aspects of the support programme. A Housing Sub-Group was also established to co-ordinate the provision of medium to long-term housing accommodation for the refugees arriving under this programme. The Housing Sub-Group, which was co-chaired by the Department of Justice and Equality, and the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, was comprised of the following members:

Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government

City and County Management Association

Department of Justice and Equality

Irish Red Cross

The Housing Sub-Group approved an approach for resettling people arriving under the IRPP according to a series of objective criteria including the population size of the county into which they were to be resettled.

Its work has now been subsumed into the work of the IRPP Taskforce and the Resettlement Interagency Working Groups, which operate in each local authority area.

Immigration Status

Ceisteanna (250)

Paul Murphy

Ceist:

250. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the reason for the two-year delay for a review by the INIS of the EU treaty rights of a person (details supplied) who has applied for citizenship. [49690/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

Officials in my Department have confirmed that an EU Treaty Rights review application was received from the person referred to by the Deputy on 5 December 2017. This review is in respect of a negative decision made on an application for retention of a residence card as a family member of an EU citizen. The length of time it takes to process applications may vary depending on a number of factors, including the volume of applications on hand.

The EU Treaty Rights Review section of my Department is experiencing significant backlogs at the present time due to an unprecedented increase in the number of applications made. Although I cannot provide a definitive date upon which this application will be concluded, the Deputy and the person concerned may be assured that there will be no avoidable delay in the processing of the application.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to my Department by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response is, in the Deputy’s view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Garda Promotions

Ceisteanna (251)

John McGuinness

Ceist:

251. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Justice and Equality further to Parliamentary Question No. 297 of 16 October 2018, the number of candidate complaints that were upheld and partially upheld, respectively, in relation to Garda to sergeant competitions in view of the fact that no reviews overturned the promotion and progression decision in the past two competitions (details supplied); if the candidates were afforded another interview; and if not, if this is in breach of the Public Service Appointments Code of Practice and other legislation. [49746/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Garda Commissioner is statutorily responsible for the management of An Garda Síochána, including personnel matters and deployment of resources. Appointment to the rank of Sergeant is a matter for the Garda Commissioner under section 14 of the Act.

I have asked the Garda Commissioner for the information requested and as soon as it is received I will write directly to the Deputy.

Criminal Law Review

Ceisteanna (252)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

252. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when a review of the impact of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017 will be held and completed; if it will examine specifically the impact of the changes in law on sex workers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49764/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

Part 4 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017 specifies that, not later than 3 years after its commencement, the Minister for Justice and Equality shall cause a report to be prepared on the operation of Section 7A of the Act and cause this report to be laid before each House of the Oireachtas.

This report is required to include information as to the number of arrests and convictions in respect of offences under Section 7A of the Act during the period from commencement of that section and an assessment of the impact of the operation of that section on the safety and well-being of person who engage in sexual activity for payment.

My Department is at present undertaking the groundwork for the preparation of this report. The approach to be adopted, including the means for consultation with stakeholders, will be announced and the report, when complete, will also be published in due course.

Criminal Prosecutions Data

Ceisteanna (253, 274)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

253. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of criminal prosecutions of women and sex workers under the provisions of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017; the number that relate to migrant and non-resident women and sex workers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49765/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

274. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of prosecutions under the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017 for the offence of purchasing sex. [49885/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 253 and 274 together.

As the Deputy is aware, Part 4 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017 provides for two new offences of paying for sexual activity with a prostitute and paying for sexual activity with a trafficked person. The Act also removes those who offer their services as a prostitute from the existing offences of soliciting for the purpose of prostitution. One purpose of these measures is to provide additional protection to persons involved in prostitution and to allow them to make reports to the Gardaí, for instance where they have been subjected to violence by clients, without fear or concern of being prosecuted for selling sexual services.

This part of the Act is due to be reviewed in 2020. This will include an assessment of the impact on the welfare of those who engage in sexual activity for payment, as well as information on prosecutions and convictions. The review will commence early next year.

In relation to relevant prosecutions, I am informed by the Garda authorities that from 1 March 2017 to 27 November 2019 criminal charges were brought against 18 persons in relation to brothel keeping contrary to Section 11 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1993, as amended by the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017. I understand that these prosecutions are at various stages. In response to the Deputy's request for a breakdown in relation to the number of these which relate to migrant and non-resident women, I am informed that the nationality of the persons charged with brothel-keeping is as follows: Romanian (10), Hungarian (5), Chinese (3).

I am further informed by the Garda authorities that from 1 March 2017 to 27 November 2019 charges were brought against 6 persons in relation to the organisation of prostitution contrary to Section 9 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act, 1993 as amended by the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017. I am informed that all 6 cases are still before the courts. I understand that of the six people charged, four are female and two are male. I further understand that the nationality of the persons concerned is Irish (1), Hungarian (1), Chinese (1) and Nigerian (3).

With regard to prosecutions for the offence of purchasing sex, I am advised that An Garda Síochána is committed to targeting the demand for prostitution and protecting vulnerable persons. As the Deputy may be aware, as part of Operation Quest, two days of action were carried out recently on 21 and 22 November 2019 to target the demand for sexual services and to enforce law criminalising the purchase of such services. I am informed that in the course of this intelligence-led operation, a total of 23 individuals were stopped and spoken to by members of An Garda Síochána, arising from suspicion of having purchased sexual services from persons involved in prostitution. I understand that a number of investigation files will now be prepared for forwarding to the Director of Public Prosecutions, with a view to establishing if any criminal prosecution is to be initiated in these cases. I have requested further information in relation to any previous prosecutions and I will write directly to the Deputy when I receive it.

Crime Data

Ceisteanna (254)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

254. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if An Garda Síochána keep a specific record of attacks and violence against sex workers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49766/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy will appreciate, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for managing and controlling An Garda Síochána. The matter referred to by the Deputy is operational, and one in which, as Minister, I have no role.

The Garda authorities have advised that all reported crimes are recorded on the Garda PULSE system.

I am further informed that while there is no specific database regarding individual attacks against prostitutes, the Garda National Protective Services Bureau (GNPSB), Special Crime Operations, under the mantle of 'Operation Quest', monitor the Garda PULSE System to identify cases of assaults, robberies and burglaries committed against persons involved in prostitution.

The identification of these crimes allows the Garda National Protective Services Bureau to co-ordinate and assist in investigations across the country. This includes, for example, a recent investigation conducted by An Garda Síochána under Operation Quest, which resulted in the arrest of members of a criminal gang who had been involved in attacks on persons advertising sexual services online.

As the Deputy may appreciate, Part 4 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017 provides for two new offences namely paying for sexual activity with a prostitute and paying for sexual activity with a trafficked person. The Act removes those who offer their services as a prostitute from the existing offences of soliciting for the purpose of prostitution. One purpose of these measures is to provide additional protection to persons involved in prostitution, especially vulnerable persons and victims of human trafficking. This measure allows persons working in prostitution to provide information to the Gardaí, for instance where they have been subjected to violence by clients, without fear of prosecution for selling sexual services.

Garda Operations

Ceisteanna (255, 256)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

255. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if specific training for gardaí has been provided in the way in which to deal with migrant, non-resident and vulnerable sex workers and women who may face prosecution since the passing of the Criminal Law (Sexual offences ) Act 2017; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49767/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

256. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if consideration has been given by his Department or An Garda Síochána to provide supports and or a dedicated liaison officer for sex workers to report on violence against them without fear of subsequently being prosecuted under the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49768/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 255 and 256 together.

The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017 amended legislation relating to prostitution. Part 4 of the 2017 Act provides for a new offence of paying for sexual activity with a prostitute. The Act also removes those who offer their services as a prostitute from the existing offences of soliciting for the purpose of prostitution. One purpose of this measure is to provide additional protection to persons involved in prostitution and to allow them to make reports to the Gardaí, for instance where they have been subjected to violence by clients, without fear or concern of being prosecuted for selling sexual services.

This part of the Act is due to be reviewed in 2020. This will include an assessment of the impact on the welfare of those who engage in sexual activity for payment, as well as information on prosecutions and convictions. The review will commence early next year.

The Garda Commissioner is statutorily responsible for the management and control of An Garda Síochána, including by arranging for the recruitment, training and deployment of personnel.

I am informed that An Garda Síochána is continuously improving its specialist services. Responding to the needs of victims and vulnerable persons has seen the rolling out by the Garda Commissioner of Divisional Protective Services Units (DPSUs). These Units will support the delivery of a consistent and professional approach to the investigation of sexual and domestic crime.

DPSUs are tasked with improving services to victims of domestic and sexual violence, improving the investigation of domestic and sexual violence incidents and identifying and managing risk. I have been informed by the Commissioner that to date, DPSUs have been established in 13 locations nationwide, namely Carlow, Cork City, DMR South Central, DMR West, Galway, Kerry, Kilkenny, Limerick, Louth and Waterford Garda Divisions as well as the newly established units in DMR East, DMR South and Tipperary.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that it is expected that DPSUs should be rolled-out to all Garda Divisions on a phased basis by the end Q1, 2020. Rollout of these units will meet a key commitment in A Policing Service for the Future , the four-year implementation plan giving effect to the recommendations of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland.

I am further informed by the Garda authorities that the Garda National Protective Services Bureau, Special Crime Operations, under the framework of Operation Quest, have conducted fifteen seminars since 2011, in conjunction with Ruhama, a non-governmental organisation that works on a national level with women affected by prostitution and other forms of commercial sexual exploitation. I understand that two seminars are generally conducted annually with the main objective of providing Gardaí with a greater understanding of prostitution in Ireland, how to deal appropriately with women affected by prostitution, changes in relevant legislation and how to identify the signs of human trafficking. This training was modified to reflect the commencement of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017.

I am informed that to date, 311 Gardaí from across Ireland have attended this seminar. Participant evaluation of the training has been extremely positive.

In addition to these seminars for Garda members and the specialist training of members of the DPSUs, the Deputy may wish to be aware during their training in the Garda College Templemore, all Probationer Gardaí are provided with awareness raising training in the areas of prostitution and human trafficking, the importance of recognising the vulnerability of such persons and how to deal with them appropriately. Probationer Gardaí are also provided with training in relation to human trafficking, including the services for potential victims of human trafficking provided for under the Second National Action Plan to prevent and combat human trafficking in Ireland.