93. Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage when decisions on a grant fund (details supplied) may be announced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23061/20]Amharc ar fhreagra
Written Answers Nos. 93-112
93. Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage when decisions on a grant fund (details supplied) may be announced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23061/20]Amharc ar fhreagra
The final date for the submission of applications under Call 2 was the 29th May. A large number of proposals were received, with every local authority submitting at least one application for URDF support.
Because of the nature of the URDF programme the proposals are very complex, and each will require detailed assessment. The assessment process will take place over the coming months with the intention that a new tranche of approved proposals, which will augment the existing pipeline of projects from Call 1 and contribute to the achievement of Programme for Government commitments and the objectives
of the National Planning Framework and Project Ireland 2040, will be announced later in the year.
94. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage his plans to reconstitute the ministerial Moore Street advisory committee; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23125/20]Amharc ar fhreagra
The recommendation of the outgoing Moore Street Advisory Group that it should be reconfigured to continue its work as a smaller, more focused body, was accepted by the Minister at the time. The outgoing chair was reappointed to lead the next phase and membership nominations were requested from constituent organisations, including relatives’ groups, the Oireachtas and Dublin City Council. That process was interrupted in the latter two cases by the General Election and until Government formation had been completed. However, the Advisory Group is now in a position to resume its deliberations once the outstanding membership nominations, which my Department has again asked for, are received.
95. Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the reason his Department is discriminating against elderly persons that wish to purchase their home under the tenant (incremental) purchase scheme when the applicants have the resources for the purchase yet are excluded from applying as they do not meet the minimum reckonable income for eligibility (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23194/20]Amharc ar fhreagra
The Tenant (Incremental) Purchase Scheme came into operation on 1 January 2016. The Scheme is open to eligible tenants, including joint tenants, of local authority houses that are available for sale under the Scheme. To be eligible, tenants must meet certain criteria, including having a minimum reckonable income of €15,000 per annum and having been in receipt of social housing support for at least one year.
The minimum reckonable income for eligibility under the scheme is determined by the relevant local authority in accordance with the detailed provisions of the Ministerial Direction issued under Sections 24(3) and (4) of the 2014 Act. In the determination of the minimum reckonable income, local authorities can include income from a number of different sources and classes, such as from employment, private pensions, maintenance payments and certain social welfare payments, including pensions, where the social welfare payment is secondary to employment income.
In determining reckonable income, the income of all tenants of the house, including adult children that are joint tenants, is included, as is the income of the spouse, civil partner or other partner/co-habitant of a tenant who lives in the house with them, thus ensuring the appropriate level of discount is applied to the purchase price.
The minimum income criterion was introduced in order to ensuring the sustainability of the scheme. Applicants must demonstrate that they have an income that is long-term and sustainable in nature. This ensures that the tenant purchasing the house is in a financial position, as the owner, to maintain and insure the property for the duration of the charged period, in compliance with the conditions of the order transferring the ownership of, and responsibility for, the house from the local authority to the tenant.
The financing of any house sold under the Tenant (Incremental) Purchase Scheme is a separate matter from the eligibility criteria for the scheme. If the tenant is deemed eligible under the scheme, he or she may fund the purchase of a house from one, or a combination, of his / her own resources or a mortgage provided by a financial institution or a local authority house purchase loan.
A review of the first 12 months of the Scheme’s operation has been undertaken. In addition, the Programme for Government commits to maintaining the right of social housing tenants to purchase their own home with some changes to eligibility. The review and the commitments in the Programme for Government are being examined as part of the work on the broader social housing reform agenda. I expect to be in a position to publish the review and finalise changes to the Scheme once the work on these reform measures is complete.
96. Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if the €1 million emergency injection which was announced on 11 October 2019 was allocated to Galway County Council; if it has not been allocated to address the immediate funding shortfall, the purpose of same; the reason for the delay in allocating this funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23256/20]Amharc ar fhreagra
I have recently approved a once off, exceptional allocation of €1m for Galway County Council. This is not emergency funding but rather, is linked to the operation of municipal districts and is subject to a small number of requirements, including that the funding be divided equally among the municipal districts. My Department will set out the details of these requirements in the coming days.
At the current time, all local authorities are experiencing financial challenges. In order to support the local government sector generally, my Department continues to keep local authority income, expenditure and cash flow generally under review and will continue to work with all local authorities on both collective and individual issues that arise.
97. Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the way in which changes to local property tax will benefit County Galway further to a statement by the Minister of State with special responsibility for local government and planning on 11 October 2019 to that effect; the details of the changes to the tax in view of the fact that County Galway is the second biggest county in Ireland and has the second lowest funding per capita; when these changes will take place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23257/20]Amharc ar fhreagra
As with all taxation matters, responsibility for Local Property Tax (LPT), including the structure and basic rate of the tax, rests with the Minister for Finance. Notwithstanding that, as LPT replaced general purpose funding to local authorities in 2015, I am responsible for LPT allocations to local authorities.
I can confirm that the LPT allocation process for 2021 is unchanged from recent years and that my Department has recently informed local authorities of their pre-variation LPT allocations for 2021, based on collection data provided by the Revenue Commissioners. This will ensure that local authority members, in line with their statutory responsibilities, can make informed decisions on LPT variation by the end of September deadline.
98. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the steps his Department can take to facilitate a person (details supplied) in distress; and if legal or diplomatic assistance will be provided through an embassy. [23094/20]Amharc ar fhreagra
I can confirm to the Deputy that consular assistance is being provided to this citizen, through our Consular Assistance Unit in Dublin and our Embassy on the ground.
While fully appreciating the toll the present situation is taking on the citizen, the issues constitute a private legal matter which is before the local courts as the appropriate judicial authority. As the Deputy will appreciate, my Department is precluded from providing legal advice or intervening in any way with the judicial decisions of another jurisdiction. While not in a position to engage on the legal matters raised, consular officials have been in regular contact with the citizen, and are providing all possible and appropriate consular assistance.
I can assure the Deputy that my Department will continue to provide consular assistance to the citizen as possible and appropriate.
99. Deputy Sorca Clarke asked the Minister for Defence if a list will be provided of medical conditions or diagnosis that preclude entry to the Defence Forces. [23213/20]Amharc ar fhreagra
The military authorities have advised that an applicant's medical standard and fitness to serve is determined by a Medical Officer at the medical examination stage of the recruitment process, in accordance with Defence Force Regulations and instructions issued by the Director Medical Branch.
100. Deputy Ged Nash asked the Minister for Defence the time frame for the proposed consultation process that will be undertaken prior to the finalisation of the commission on the future of defence terms of reference; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23028/20]Amharc ar fhreagra
The Programme for Government provides for the establishment of an independent Commission on the Defence Forces.
The Commission is to be established before the end of this year, with a mandate to report within twelve months. Planning for the Commission is in the early stages and no final decisions have yet been taken to date on the consultation process.
I am working to ensure that the Commission is established as early as possible before the end of this year.
101. Deputy Ged Nash asked the Minister for Defence if an arrangement is in place with the Royal Air Force to police Irish airspace in order to intercept aircraft in the flight information region shared by both states; if such an agreement is in place, the person or body that conducted the negotiations with the RAF; if there was input from the Defence Forces in negotiations; if he is satisfied that the arrangement in place is not in conflict with Bunreacht na hÉireann; if such an agreement is in place, if it will be reviewed with a view to establishing a formal RAF-Air Corps all-Ireland joint air policing mission in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23029/20]Amharc ar fhreagra
The Air Navigation (Foreign Military Aircraft) Order 1952, made under the Air Navigation and Transport Act 1946, gives the Minister for Foreign Affairs primary responsibility for the regulation of activity by foreign military aircraft in Ireland. Successive Ministers for Foreign Affairs have put in place strict conditions which must be satisfied before permission to overfly the territory of the State may be granted.
Thorough and robust procedures are in place, led by the Department of Foreign Affairs, with a view to ensuring that the conditions for securing permission for foreign military aircraft to overfly the State are clearly understood and properly applied. These procedures are kept under ongoing review.
In discharging the fundamental responsibilities of the Executive as set out in the Constitution, the Government’s engagement in international security cooperation is aimed at ensuring public safety and is conducted with full respect for Irish sovereign decision-making authority and for Ireland’s traditional policy of military neutrality.
102. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Defence the reason military personnel that commenced their military service pre-2012 and that take up employment in the public service have their pension reduced if promoted in their new State employment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23092/20]Amharc ar fhreagra
The issue raised by the Deputy relates to the operation of Section 52 of the Public Service Pensions (Single Scheme and other Provisions) Act 2012.
This provides that where a person who is in receipt of a public service retirement pension resumes employment anywhere in the public service on or after 1 November 2012, their pension is liable to abatement, that is, cessation or reduction as appropriate. The measure applies across the public service, including the Defence Forces. However, it does not apply in relation to employment with the commercial state bodies or where public service pensioners are employed outside the public service.
Pension abatement operates to ensure that pensions payable to public servants do not have the effect of making a pensioner's earnings from their current public service job, plus their existing public service retirement pension, exceed the current equivalent of pensionable salary from their old public service job. The pension payable is reduced as appropriate, that is, abated, to stay within the overall limit. However, the actual impact (if any) from the measure on a person’s public service pension will vary from person to person and in some cases there may be no abatement.
I should point out that prior to 1 November 2012, this abatement measure already operated as a standard feature of public service pension schemes generally. However, this was only within individual sectors and bodies where a public service pensioner resumed working in his or her former occupation, e.g. a soldier rejoining the Defence Forces, a civil servant rejoining the Civil Service etc. The 2012 Act extends the measure across and between all public service sectors generally, thereby restoring the arrangements that were in place until 1965.
I should also state that a public service pensioner already in public service employment immediately before 1 November 2012 is not affected by the change while he or she remains in that post or position. However, if their employment status changes after that date, for example, where they secure a new post through promotion with their current public service employer or where they move to a different post or public service body on transfer or promotion, their pension is subject to abatement in accordance with the legislation.
The Public Service Pensions (Single Scheme and other Provisions) Act 2012 comes under the remit of my colleague the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, and the question of any changes to that Act would therefore be a matter for him in the first instance.
103. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Education if additional funding has been provided to the private bus operators that are taking children to school and are burdened with additional costs related to reduced capacity in running extra buses and hiring extra staff; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23053/20]Amharc ar fhreagra
School Transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department of Education. In the 2019/20 school year over 120,000 children, including over 14,200 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 €219m in 2019.
Based on the public health advice published in early July, my Department has been planning for School Transport Scheme services for the 2020/2021 school year to fully operate, but with additional measures and hygiene requirements in place. The Department has been engaging intensively with Bus Éireann in regard to the logistics for the safe operation of School Transport Scheme services for the 2020/2021 school year. Funding has been provided to private transport providers who are contracted by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department to operate the School Transport Scheme services in order to meet these requirements.
Updated health advice was received from NPHET on 18 August, which impacts on the operation of post-primary school transport services. This advice stated that for secondary school students on school transport, strict distancing should be ensured in line with that on public transport along with the wearing of face coverings.
The Department is engaging with Bus Éireann in respect of these plans, in order to implement measures so that any services that can operate from the start of the school year at 50% capacity will do so and over the coming period all other post-primary transport services will be re-organised and additional services will be provided as required to allow for physical distancing.
Commercial contractors who provide transport for schools on a private hire or commercial basis but who are not contracted by Bus Éireann to operate on the Department’s School Transport Scheme do not fall under the remit of the Department of Education. However, the Department has reminded schools and other stakeholders that public health advice is best practice on these services also.
104. Deputy Rose Conway-Walsh asked the Minister for Education the guidelines for student teachers for completing their placements in primary schools; if placements will go ahead in October and November 2020; if not, if the placements will be delayed until after January 2021; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23100/20]Amharc ar fhreagra
It is planned that school placements will proceed in primary and post-primary schools in this school year 2020/2021.
School Placement is a critical part of initial teacher education (ITE). It is first and foremost a space and time where student teachers learn to become teachers. It enables the student teacher to experience teaching and learning in a variety of contexts, and to participate in school life in a way that is structured and supported.
I acknowledge that adaptability and flexibility will be essential to ensure the continuity and implementation of school placement in a Covid-19 context. However, professional accreditation works on the principle that ITE programmes prepares qualifying teachers for the professional requirements and expectations of the classroom environment as it is.
Given the exceptional circumstances that are faced by the education system, officials from my Department and the Teaching Council engaged with the Higher Education Institutes (HEI) and relevant stakeholders in relation to how school placement could be implemented for the 2020/21 school year in the context of Covid-19.
The Teaching Council has published a Guidance Note for School Placement which sets out a clear and flexible framework which is consistent with Council policy on school placement and ITE, for both HEIs and schools in relation to the planning and facilitation of school placement for the academic year 2020-2021. It will also serve as a guide if Covid-19 impacts on school placements in the coming year.
I acknowledge that ongoing engagement with, and between HEIs and schools is vital in light of the evolving context we find ourselves in. In this regard, the Teaching Council will convene stakeholders to the process from time to time to facilitate the sharing of best practices in the practical implementation of this guidance.
105. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education if she will address the case of a person (details supplied) regarding travel costs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23180/20]Amharc ar fhreagra
School Transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department.
In the 2019/2020 school year over 120,000 children, including over 14,200 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 €219m in 2019.
The purpose of the “School Transport Scheme for children with Special Educational Needs” is, having regard to available resources, to support the transport to and from school of children with special educational needs arising from a diagnosed disability.
Children are eligible for transport where they have special educational needs arising from a diagnosed disability in accordance with the Department's critera and are attending the nearest recognised mainstream school, special class/special school or a unit, that is or can be resourced, to meet their special educational needs.
It would appear from the details supplied by the Deputy that this school is outstide of the terms of the Scheme as it is a privately operated facility, for which my Department has no remit.
106. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education if a teaching number will be provided to a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23027/20]Amharc ar fhreagra
Under the Teaching Council Acts 2001-2015 the Teaching Council is the body with statutory authority and responsibility for the regulation of the teaching profession in Ireland including the registration of teachers in the State.
The Teaching Council have currently registered over 3,000 Newly Qualified Teachers this year, it has also registered over 940 teachers across all 4 registration routes since May.
The Teaching Council inform me that the person referred to by the Deputy is registered with effect from 7 of September 2020. Should the individual have any queries regarding their registration I would advise they liaise directly with the Teaching Council.
107. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education if school transport will be provided for a pupil (details supplied) to a primary school due to the circumstances as outlined in detail by their parents to her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23031/20]Amharc ar fhreagra
School Transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department of Education.
In the 2019/20 school year over 120,000 children, including over 14,200 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 €219m in 2019.
The purpose of my Department's 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 Department's Primary School Transport Scheme children are eligible for school transport where they reside not less than 3.2 kilometres from and are attending their nearest school as determined by my Department/Bus Éireann, having regard to ethos and language.
All children who are eligible for school transport and who have completed the application and payment process on time have been accommodated on school transport services for the 2020/2021 school year where such services are in operation.
Children who are not eligible for school transport, but who completed the application process on time, are considered for spare seats that may exist after eligible children have been facilitated; such seats are referred to as concessionary seats.
Bus Éireann, who operate school transport on behalf of my Department, has advised that the child referred to by the Deputy is not eligible for school transport under the terms of my Department's Primary School Transport Scheme as they do not meet the requisite distance criteria.
Concessionary transport may vary from year to year and cannot be guaranteed for the duration of a child’s primary school education cycle. Where the number of applications for transport on a concessionary basis exceeds the number of seats available, Bus Éireann determines the allocation of the tickets and refunds payments made on behalf of those concessionary applicants for whom no seats remain.
Bus Éireann has advised that the pupil referred to by the Deputy was not successful in obtaining a concessionary seat, and all tickets have been allocated on the service in question and that the service is operating to capacity at present.
108. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Education if her attention has been drawn to the fact that some schools have had to return PPE due to poor standard of the product; if the procurement section of her Department will conduct an audit of same; and if an investigation will be conducted. [23039/20]Amharc ar fhreagra
As set out in the Roadmap for the Full Return to School, to ensure access for schools, on a value for money basis, to a secure supply chain for any Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), Consumables and Equipment associated with COVID-19 Response Plans, the Department has established, following a procurement process, a multi-supplier arrangement from which schools can choose suppliers and products which best suit their needs. That procurement process, which commenced in mid-June 2020 and concluded at the end of July, was led by the Education Procurement Service (EPS). The Education Procurement Service is the Department of Education sector sourcing hub under the Office of Government Procurement (OGP) model. EPS provides a sustainable, value for money, professional and compliant procurement sourcing service through the employment of whole life cycle cost and a commitment to the customer in the delivery of its services.
All PPE, consumables and equipment requirements of schools under the Roadmap and with schools COVID-19 Response Plans, and in line with the public health advice, will be available through the Supply Arrangement including:
- Hand sanitiser dispensers;
- Hand sanitiser liquid;
- Hand soap;
- Disposable Paper Towels;
- Face masks
- Face coverings
- Face visors;
- Aprons; and
- Detergents etc.
The Supply arrangement provides a list of eleven suppliers who can meet the needs of the schools across the above suite of PPE items. The suppliers are ranked in order of best price on a basket of items. The sourcing agreement also includes 4 suppliers who can meet the needs of the schools for alcohol free solutions where the need arises.
The arrangement allows each school to select the products that meet their specific requirements from suppliers who have been ranked through a stringent evaluation process to ensure they meet the best in quality and delivery timelines. This allows schools to make a local decision within the framework to get the highest standard of PPE available from the market place at the best price from the preferred supplier for a particular school within the value for money and safety standards of the framework.”
An information pack has been emailed directly to all schools, including a User Guide, which sets out the steps schools should follow when purchasing goods from suppliers under the Supply Arrangement. Further guidance documents for Primary School/Special Schools and Post Primary School on on PPE, Consumables and Equipment was also published on the www.gov.ie/backtoschools on August 7th 2020. This included guidance to schools in identifying the potential volumes of PPE and consumables which they may require in line with their COVID-19 Response Plan.
More than €30 million of capitation supports has been made available to primary and post primary schools to fund its PPE/Hand Sanitiser requirements up to the end of the year.
This capitation grant rate up to the end of 2020, reflects the fact that there are a number of once off type costs which schools face in implementing COVID-19 Response Plans (i.e. installation of sanitiser units, signage/posters etc.) which will be incurred upfront. The COVID-19 Capitation Grant for 2021 up to the remainder of the school year, will be confirmed in December following review/monitor of usage in schools in the period up to the end of the year. It is important to note that the COVID-19 Capitation Grant is specifically provided to support schools in minimising the risk of spread of infection of COVID-19. This COVID-19 Capitation Grant for PPE, Consumables and Equipment is ring-fenced funding provided to schools for the purchase of appropriate PPE, consumables and equipment required by schools in minimising the risk of spread of infection of COVID-19 in line with the Roadmap, public health advice, Return to Work Safely Protocol and their COVID-19 Response Plan and should only be used for that purpose. This includes PPE and consumables which may have been purchased by schools from sources outside of the Supply Arrangement established by the Department
By way of context in advance of school’s reopening, over 4,500 deliveries of PPE orders were made to schools over a 2 week period by suppliers under the Multi-Supplier arrangements. A small number of schools have highlighted difficulties directly to the Department through the reopening school helpline of delayed deliveries or products not meeting their expectations in a very small number of cases. Such matters are raised directly with the suppliers in question to ensure such concerns are addressed in the continued provision of PPE/hand sanitiser directly to schools on an ongoing basis.
109. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education if support and assistance will be provided to the teaching and ancillary staff of a school (details supplied) in County Kerry following its closure; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23044/20]Amharc ar fhreagra
I am aware of the closure of the college referred to by the Deputy and of the difficulty that this may present for the pupils and teachers involved. My Department is available to support any students who were due to enrol in the college and who are unable to source an alternative school place for this school year.
In relation to teacher and ancillary staff, private second level schools do not fall within the remit of my Department, and as such, provision for employees of such schools will be a matter for the management authority of the school concerned.
110. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Education the status of an application by a school (details supplied); if same will be reviewed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23054/20]Amharc ar fhreagra
I can confirm that the school referred to by the Deputy has submitted an application to my Department, for capital funding, under the Additional School Accommodation scheme.
The application is currently under consideration and a decision will be conveyed directly to the school authority as soon as the assessment process is completed.
111. Deputy Steven Matthews asked the Minister for Education if it is expected that the school extension for a school (details supplied) is expected to be completed on time; and the contingency plans in place to accommodate the school’s accommodation needs. [23066/20]Amharc ar fhreagra
I wish to inform the Deputy that the project to which she refers has been devolved to the National Development Finance Agency (NDFA) for delivery as part of a programme of school building projects.
The NDFA is currently undertaking the second phase of the process of appointment of multi-disciplinary technical advisors (design teams) for these projects. Thereafter, it will ensure that the project progresses to design stage, obtains the necessary statutory planning permission, and moves the project onward to tender and construction in due course. As the project is at an early stage in the delivery process, it is not possible at this time to give a date for its completion.
The Department approved additional interim accommodation for this school consisting of two general classrooms and science lab in 2019. My Department understands that this accommodation has been installed.
It is open to the patron to apply for further interim accommodation should this be required.
112. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education further to Parliamentary Question No. 594 of 14 July 2020, if the verification of service submitted by a person (details supplied) in County Kerry will be accepted as pensionable service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23080/20]Amharc ar fhreagra
I wish to advise the Deputy that officials from the Pension Unit of my Department received verification for this period of service, from the person to whom the Deputy refers, on 25th August last.
I am happy to confirm to the Deputy that it has been determined that the period of service to which this person refers and for which verification has been submitted, can be made pensionable and will be taken into account when determining this person's pension entitlements and that the cost of purchasing this service can be determined at retirement date. I am happy to advise the Deputy that a letter to confirm same has issued from the Pension Unit to the person concerned.