Disability Services Provision

Ceisteanna (510)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

510. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Education if all AIM assistants have been allocated for the academic year. [27271/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

As the Deputy is aware, the Access and Inclusion Model (AIM) programme of supports is designed to ensure that children with disabilities can access the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Programme, and is administered by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.

The Deputy may also be referring to allocations of Special Needs Assistants to schools. The NCSE has responsibility for planning and coordinating school supports for children with special educational needs including the allocation of SNAs and reviews. My Department does not have a role in making individual school determinations. The position as regards SNA allocations for the 2020/21 school year in respect of students in mainstream classes are as follows:

- 2019/20 mainstream class SNA allocations were frozen, from the date of issue of Circular 0030/2020, and have automatically rolled over into the current school year. This means that no school will receive an allocation less than that which they have on the date of issue of this Circular and existing SNAs currently in standard SNA posts were allowed to continue in these posts for the current school year in the normal way.

- A diagnosis of a disability, or a psychological or other professional report, is not be necessary for this process.

- The role of the SNA to support the care needs of students in mainstream classes, as set out in Circular 0030/2014, remains unchanged.

It is expected that schools will review and reprioritise the deployment of SNAs within mainstream settings and allocate resources to ensure those with the greatest level of need receive the greatest level of support. Providing access to SNA support continues to be based on primary care needs as outlined in DES Circular 0030/2014.

Schools may apply to the NCSE for additionality where they can demonstrate that the current allocation does not meet additional care needs within the mainstream classes in the school. Applications for additionality arising from significant new or emerging additional care needs, which cannot be catered within existing allocations, are dealt with by way of the exceptional review process.

The exceptional review process for mainstream allocations is available to schools throughout the current school year.

Detailed information on the NCSE exceptional review process is published on the NCSE website www.ncse.ie.

School Transport

Ceisteanna (511)

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

511. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Education if a student can swap a school transport bus route (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27272/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

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 Post Primary School Transport Scheme, children are eligible for school transport where they reside not less than 4.8kms from and are attending their nearest Post Primary School/Education Centre as determined by the Department/Bus Éireann, having regard to ethos and language.

All children who are eligible for school transport and who completed the application and payment process on time have been accommodated on school transport services for the 2020/21 school year where such services are in operation.

Children who apply for transport and who are not eligible under the terms of the scheme are considered for spare seats that may exist after eligible children have been facilitated; such seats are referred to as concessionary seats. 

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 confirmed that the pupil the deputy refers to is not eligible for transport as they are not attending their closest school. The pupil has been assigned to their current service since they started on post primary school transport in 2019/20.

The alternative service to which the Deputy refers is currently running at capacity and there is no option for the pupil in question to be facilited on this service at this time.

School Transport

Ceisteanna (512)

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

512. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Education if a student can swap a school transport bus route (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27273/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

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 Post Primary School Transport Scheme, children are eligible for school transport where they reside not less than 4.8kms from and are attending their nearest Post Primary School/Education Centre as determined by the Department/Bus Éireann, having regard to ethos and language.

All children who are eligible for school transport and who completed the application and payment process on time have been accommodated on school transport services for the 2020/21 school year where such services are in operation.

Children who apply for transport and who are not eligible under the terms of the scheme are considered for spare seats that may exist after eligible children have been facilitated; such seats are referred to as concessionary seats. 

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 confirmed that the pupil the Deputy refers to is not eligible for transport as they are not attending their closest school. The pupil has been assigned to their current service since they started on post primary school transport in 2019/20.

The alternative service to which the Deputy refers is currently running at capacity and there is no option for the pupil in question to be facilited on this service at this time.

Schools Building Projects

Ceisteanna (513)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Ceist:

513. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Education the status of when a new school (details supplied) can be expected to be delivered or construction commence. [27275/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

My Department is committed to the provision of a new school building for the school referred to by the Deputy. A new site is required to faciliate this and my Department is considering a potential option in this regard.

It is not possible to indicate a timeline for the construction of a new school building at this stage. My Department will update the school authorities on any developments as they arise. In the meantime, I understand that arrangements have been made for the school to access additional interim accommodation in the building adjoining the school.

Departmental Meetings

Ceisteanna (514)

Gary Gannon

Ceist:

514. Deputy Gary Gannon asked the Minister for Education the engagement her Department has had with a union (details supplied) following a ballot of its members on 18 September 2020 in relation to a number of key issues which have emerged since schools reopened; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27302/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The ASTI recently announced an intention to ballot members for industrial action in relation to certain issues relating to school re-opening. 

The reopening of schools has been a very important milestone for Irish children and society. The safety and wellbeing of staff, students and the whole school community has been of paramount importance in the Government’s planning for school reopening. 

I would like to acknowledge the enormous hard work that has been undertaken by teachers and staff at a local school level, and stakeholders including management bodies and unions to ensure that we could reopen our schools safely.  

My Department has engaged extensively with stakeholders including ASTI in developing the plans for reopening, including regular formal meetings as well as informal contacts. This consultation is continuing following the re-opening. 

A Public Health Specialist from the HSE attended stakeholder meetings at the beginning of the year to describe the public health approach for stakeholders and to answer questions and address any concerns raised. Webinars have been developed by the HSE specifically to address issues raised by schools around the approach taken when cases are confirmed in the school community and will be circulated as widely as possible. 

The views of stakeholders including ASTI have been taken into consideration at every stage of the process, including their emphasis on a Public Health led approach to planning for school reopening.

Very significant funding of over €375 million has been allocated to schools to facilitate re-opening. This enables schools to put in place enhanced cleaning and hygiene arrangements, modify buildings and rooms to facilitate physical distancing, hire extra and replacement teachers and purchase PPE through a procurement framework.  

My Department also has continuing engagement with the Public Health Authorities on a weekly basis so that schools can remain open safely and is working with stakeholders including ASTI in this respect also.   

Appropriate information and guidance for school leaders has been provided by both Public Health in the HSE and my Department. Detailed information on the public health approach when there has been confirmed cases or a potential outbreak in the school has been published and issued to all schools.  To date, where confirmed cases have arisen, schools have co-operated with Public Health to minimise any further risk to the school community.  

In terms of testing, a priority pathway for testing of close contacts from a school setting has been implemented by the HSE, in consultation with my Department. The Public Health Risk Assessment includes identifying any close contacts of the positive case. Immediately following the Public Health Risk Assessment, the Principal is advised of any actions, including requesting parents to collect children (or advising staff to go home), restrict their movements and await a test appointment.  Covid 19 test appointments are issued as a priority for school based close contacts through a specific schools referral process within the HSE. At the point of testing, swabs for the school group are processed as a priority.  

My Department will continue to engage with all education partners, including ASTI, in the coming months so that we can address any remaining concerns and ensure that schools stay open.

National Educational Psychological Service

Ceisteanna (515)

Gary Gannon

Ceist:

515. Deputy Gary Gannon asked the Minister for Education when the national educational psychologists will be permitted to make schools visits to make necessary assessments for students that have been waiting since February 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27303/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Covid-19 has had a major impact on our daily lives and we have all had to adjust and adapt in the face of significant challenges in the course of 2020.  From the outset of this pandemic the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) has continued to deliver a psychological service to schools within the context of public health advice. In addition, NEPS has remained proactive in the development of advice for schools, parents and pupils to support the wellbeing of students and the transition back into school.

Guidelines have now been issued to psychologists and to schools to clarify procedures for in-school work to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all members of the school communities and NEPS staff.

Now that our schools have reopened and are settling back into their routines NEPS psychologists have an increased focus on both consultation and casework in schools with particular attention to the needs of individual students.  Psychologists will take a blended approach to the provision of casework to schools, working both remotely, and where appropriate in-school, depending on school protocols/plans and of the nature of need. This recognises that some aspects of casework will require the psychologist to work in the school, while other aspects of the work may be done remotely in order to minimise risk and maximise safety.

State Examinations

Ceisteanna (516, 517)

Gary Gannon

Ceist:

516. Deputy Gary Gannon asked the Minister for Education the legal advice her Department received which has resulted in the class ranking of leaving certificate students being released; and when she received this advice. [27304/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Gary Gannon

Ceist:

517. Deputy Gary Gannon asked the Minister for Education when and the way in which post-primary schools received communication regarding the class ranking being released. [27305/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 516 and 517 together.

From Monday 28 September, students who received Leaving Certificate Calculated Grades have been able to obtain access to their subject rank order in their class. This is facilitated via the Calculated Grades Student Portal, by students clicking the button on screen labelled “Submit a request to access your personal data”. Students are being asked to be mindful of other students in the class in sharing this data.

The decision to make the class rank order data available through the student portal was on foot of legal advice recently received by my Department. Students, under data protection and freedom of information legislation, have a right of access to the class rank order data as personal data belonging to them. While a decision to make access to these data available through, for example, subject access requests, would be in conformity with the letter of the law, this would be contrary to good data protection practice when the ranking could be made available more readily.

It is important that there is transparency and fairness in the process, in particular providing personal information to candidates in an efficient manner so that they are well informed of the outcomes. The Department has engaged with the Data Protection Commissioner regarding the decision to release the class rank order online via the student portal.

The issue of the manner in which class rank order was to be made available was discussed with stakeholders as part of the work on the calculated grades model.

State Examinations

Ceisteanna (518)

Gary Gannon

Ceist:

518. Deputy Gary Gannon asked the Minister for Education when students can expect results from the appeals process; and if there are different deadlines for the different stages associated with the process. [27307/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The Calculated Grades Student Portal reopened on 14 September to allow students to view their estimated percentage mark and calculated mark to allow students to consider this data if they were considering an appeal of their Calculated Grade.

The appeals process is a process review focussed on looking for errors in the transmission and processing of student data through the process.  It is not possible to appeal the information (estimated percentage mark or rank order) provided by the school.  Due to the nature of the Calculated Grades system the professional judgement of the school is outside of the appeals process.  It should further be noted that the design of the statistical model and the application of the national standardisation process is also outside of the scope of the appeals process. 

At the time of closing the appeal application process on Wednesday 16 September, some 12,300 students had appealed almost 33,700 grades.  Every effort will be made to process appeals as quickly as possible but it is not possible at this time to commit to a date for the issue of the appeal results.  Students will be notified of this date as soon as possible.  It is not possible to provide an expedited appeal for any student or group of students.  All appeals will be processed, and results released, simultaneously to ensure fairness and equity to all.

School Transport

Ceisteanna (519)

Michael McNamara

Ceist:

519. Deputy Michael McNamara asked the Minister for Education when a person (details supplied) will be facilitated; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27350/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

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 Post Primary School Transport Scheme, children are eligible for school transport where they reside not less than 4.8kms from and are attending their nearest Post Primary School/Education Centre as determined by the Department/Bus Éireann, having regard to ethos and language.

All children who are eligible for school transport and who completed the application and payment process on time have been accommodated on school transport services for the 2020/21 school year where such services are in operation. The closing date for payment for the 2020/2021 school year was Tuesday 4th August 2020.

Bus Éireann have advised that the pupil the Deputy refers to first applied and paid for school transport for the 2020/21 school year on the 8th September 2020 and as such their payment is late. 

Late applicants and/or families who pay late are not guaranteed a seat and will only be allocated a seat if capacity is available once seats are allocated to those families who applied and paid on time for transport services for the 2020/2021 school year.

In addition, payments or submission of medical card details for Post-Primary seats completed or made after 4th August 2020 will be only considered when 50% capacity, required by new Covid19 public health guidelines, is achieved on each route. In the event of not securing a ticket where no capacity exists, or on cancellation, a full refund will be issued.

School Transport

Ceisteanna (520)

Michael McNamara

Ceist:

520. Deputy Michael McNamara asked the Minister for Education if school transport will be provided to persons (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27353/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

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 Post Primary School Transport Scheme children are eligible for school transport where they reside not less than 4.8 kilometres from and are attending their nearest school as determined by my Department/Bus Éireann, having regard to ethos and language. 

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.   

Where practicable, and subject to considerations of cost and logistics, routes are planned to avoid an eligible child having to travel more than 3.2 kms to or from a pick up/set down point or to have travel and waiting times in excess of 2.5 hours per day. Routes are planned on the basis of the locations of children who are eligible for school transport only.

Bus Éireann have advised that the pupils in question reside 1.448 km from their existing pickup and as such are within the distance guidelines outlined above.

Departmental Staff

Ceisteanna (521)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

521. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Education the number of requests on hand from her Department and from State agencies under the aegis of her Department for approval to increase staff levels; the number of public and civil servants in total involved in these requests; the method by which decisions are made on the requests; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26474/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

In accordance with its Delegated Sanction Agreement with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform my Department is required to effectively manage its staffing numbers and associated pay bill. My Department has authority to fill positions other than those above Principal Officer Standard Scale through recruitment or promotion, subject to certain conditions including adherence to agreed pay ceilings and ongoing compliance with Workforce Planning requirements. The agencies under the aegis of my Department are also required to operate under a similar framework.

For the most part additional staffing requirements of my Department and of its aegis bodies and agencies are dealt with in the annual Estimates process. My Department is continuing to engage with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform as part of the 2021 Estimates process with a view to agreeing updated expenditure allocations and staffing level ceilings. It is in this context that I will formulate specific budgetary priorities, having regard to the views of the education partners and all concerned stakeholders, including the approval of additional staffing levels for my Department and State agencies under the aegis of my Department. It would not be appropriate for me to disclose details of any Estimates 2021 submissions until engagement with Department of Public Expenditure and Reform is concluded in the coming weeks. Apart from the 2021 Estimates submissions, there are no outstanding requests for additional staffing levels.

Zero-hour Contracts

Ceisteanna (522)

Duncan Smith

Ceist:

522. Deputy Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Social Protection the rate per hour a permanent shift worker on a zero-hour contract is entitled to be paid when assessing outstanding holiday pay due in lieu of holidays in cases in which the company ceases trading. [26504/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

The provisions relating to holiday entitlements are contained in the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997.  Section 19 of the Act provides for annual leave to be a proportion of hours worked, while Section 20(2) of the Act provides that the pay in respect of an employee's annual leave shall be at the normal weekly rate or, as the case may be, at a rate which is proportionate to the normal weekly rate.

The Insolvency Payments Scheme, which operates under the Protection of Employees (Employers’ Insolvency) Act 1984, protects the entitlements of former employees of companies that have become legally insolvent.

Employees may claim, through an employer representative, such as the official liquidator or receiver, various outstanding debts including outstanding holiday pay.

Some limitations and conditions apply.  There is a limit of 8 weeks for arrears of wages, holiday pay and minimum notice.  Gross weekly wage is capped at €600 per week.  The debt outstanding must have become due in the 18 months prior to the date of insolvency or employment termination.  The maximum payment from the Insolvency Payment Scheme for arrears of wages or holiday pay or minimum notice is €4,800.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Community Employment Schemes

Ceisteanna (523, 524, 525, 547, 553)

Emer Higgins

Ceist:

523. Deputy Emer Higgins asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will facilitate the provision of pensions for community employment supervisors as per the recommendations of the 2008 Labour Court ruling; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26539/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

524. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans to implement the Labour Court 2008 recommendations to put a pension scheme in place for community employment scheme supervisors; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26550/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Niall Collins

Ceist:

525. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a matter (details supplied) in relation to community employment supervisors; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26858/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

547. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection her views on the provision of a pension for community employment supervisors (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26493/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

553. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Social Protection if a reply will issue to correspondence (detail supplied) in respect of the community employment supervisor role; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26594/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 523 to 525, inclusive, 547 and 553 together.

Community Employment (CE) supervisors and assistant supervisors have been seeking for several years, through their union representatives, the allocation of Exchequer funding to implement a 2008 Labour Court recommendation relating to the provision of a pension scheme.

In July 2008, the Labour Court recommended that an agreed pension scheme should be introduced for CE supervisors and assistant supervisors (LCR19293), and that such a scheme should be adequately funded by FÁS, who were then responsible for CE. FÁS was not a party to the LRC case.

In April 2017, the issue of CE Supervisor pension provision was considered by a Community Sector High Level Group chaired by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER). A number of Departments, including my own Department, were represented on this group, as were the unions and Pobal.

A detailed scoping exercise was carried out with input from the Irish Government Economic and Evaluation Service (IGEES) on the potential costs of providing Exchequer support for the establishment of such a pension scheme for employees across the Community and Voluntary sector in Ireland. This exercise estimated a potential cost to the State of between €188 million and €347 million per annum depending on the numbers involved. This excluded any provision for an immediate ex-gratia lump sum payment of pension as sought, which could entail a further Exchequer cost of up to €318 million.

In its findings, the High-level Group stated that while CE supervisors and assistant supervisors represented only a very small part of the wider community and voluntary sector, any explicit provision of State funding for such a scheme in respect of CE Supervisors would inevitably give rise to claims for similar schemes and funding provision on the part of the many thousands of workers in the broader sector. DPER stated that it had to have regard to the full potential Exchequer exposure associated with setting such a precedent.

At this point, I wish to acknowledge the valuable and dedicated service that CE supervisors provide in running CE schemes all over the country. We simply could not sustain a lot of our local community services without their work. CE provides a valuable training and development opportunity to the long-term unemployed and to those often furthest removed from the labour market.

The current position is that officials from my Department, DPER and the Unions are in ongoing discussions on the matter and I would therefore ask the Deputies to respect the confidentiality of the process and to allow those talks to continue free from speculation that may not assist the process at the present time.

As the Deputies are aware, the funding of any potential pension provision for CE supervisors will be a matter for the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and will need to be considered in the wider economic context in which any such scheme will need to operate.

Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment

Ceisteanna (526)

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Ceist:

526. Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Social Protection if inquiries will be made in the case of a taxi driver (details supplied) who was placed on a lower pandemic unemployment payment despite having an average income of over €450 per week due to treatment of capital allowances by the Revenue Commissioners; if her attention has been drawn to the number of taxi drivers similarly affected; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26929/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

As part of the July Jobs Stimulus package the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) was extended by 7 months to the end of March 2021.  This extension continues the support for people who have lost employment due to the pandemic. The rates were changed to reflect that the payment had been extended and to take into account the earnings of the applicants before they had lost employment.

From 17/09/2020 until 31/01/2020 where a person’s prior earnings were between €200 and €300 per week, the rate of the PUP is €250 per week. 

The Revenue Commissioners has advised my Department that income for the person concerned after application of capital allowances in 2019 was €12,076 giving him an average income of €232.23 per week. 

The PUP rate of €250 is correct based on the information available to my Department.

If the person concerns believes this is inaccurate, he should supply documents to support this.  It is important to note that my Department will only accept earnings which have been notified to Revenue and have been subject to PRSI.

Any information which is supplied to declare earnings will be matched against Revenue records and any discrepancies will be followed up.

I trust this clarifies the matter.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Ceisteanna (527, 552, 585)

Imelda Munster

Ceist:

527. Deputy Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Social Protection the supports available to the chauffeur sector in view of the extreme hardship experienced by the sector due to the Covid-19 emergency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27025/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pádraig O'Sullivan

Ceist:

552. Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans to examine income supports for those that are self-employed in Covid-19 impacted sectors, specifically taxi drivers and arts workers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26577/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Cathal Crowe

Ceist:

585. Deputy Cathal Crowe asked the Minister for Social Protection if consideration will be given to persons in industries almost fully wiped out by Covid-19 crisis such as gigging musicians; and if they will be given additional supports in view of the cut to the rate of the pandemic unemployment payment in September 2020. [27169/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 527, 552 and 585 together.

The Government has extended the pandemic unemployment payment until 31 March 2021 to support people whose employment and businesses remain closed. I have secured Government approval to extend the closing date for new applications for the pandemic unemployment scheme to the end of this year. This provides security to anyone who loses their employment over the coming months, particularly in sectors of continued uncertainty.

Government has decided that from 17 September the Pandemic Unemployment Payment will be paid at three rates linked to a person's pre-covid employment earnings. Individuals whose prior earnings were €300 or over per week receive a payment of €300 per week. A rate of €250 applies to those who previously earned between €200 and €300 per week; and the rate of €203 remains unchanged for those who had prior earnings of less than €200 per week.

For self-employed people there is some flexibility to take up occasional or intermittent work without it affecting their pandemic unemployment payment. The once off or occasional work should be infrequent and must show a clear divergence from previous work patterns. Where the work become regular or highly paid then the individual should close their payment as they would not satisfy the eligibility conditions for the scheme.

Where a self- employed person is engaged in regular employment they may be able to apply for a jobseekers payment, depending on their circumstances, which also provides increased allowances for adult and child dependents. Under the jobseekers schemes a person may take up employment but they must be fully unemployed for 4 in 7 consecutive days.

A self-employed individual may also be able to avail of my Department’s enterprise support grant that provides support of up to €1,000 with business re-start costs where they transition from the pandemic unemployment payment. To date approximately 2,750 people have benefited from this grant. Full details of the funding and the application process are available on www.gov.ie

Any person who is experiencing financial hardship may access assistance under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme including Exceptional and Urgent Needs Payments. Information on the supports available under this scheme is available at www.gov.ie

I trust that this clarifies the matter at this time.

Citizens Information Services

Ceisteanna (528)

Catherine Connolly

Ceist:

528. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Social Protection the basis on which the decision to restructure the corporate governance arrangements of the Citizens’ Information Service and MABS was taken; and the person or body that made the decision. [27091/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

The Citizens Information Board (CIB) is the statutory body responsible for supporting the provision of information, advice (including money and budgeting advice) and advocacy services on a wide range of public and social services. CIB delivers on this remit through its provision of some services directly to the public and through a network of service delivery companies.

In February 2017, following lengthy and extensive analysis of options and a detailed consultation period with all stakeholders,  CIB made the decision to restructure the governance arrangements of the existing network of 42 Citizens Information Services (CIS’s) and 51 Money Advice and Budgeting Services (MABS) into 16 regional companies comprising 8 Regional CIS companies and 8 Regional MABS companies.

As part of the restructuring process, new boards of directors were appointed. All staff, assets and liabilities of the 93 local companies transferred to the 16 new regional companies. The restructuring process was completed in October 2018 and the 16 new companies have been operating effectively since then. There have been no job losses, no closure of service delivery points and no diminution in services provided to clients.

The aim of the restructuring was to enhance the service for users by improving the governance arrangements for CIB’s funded services and to unlock the benefits of a more modern and streamlined citizen-focused service delivery model.

New service - level agreements are in place for all the new companies, in line with good governance requirements. It has also been possible to gain efficiencies in the provision of support services for both CIS and MABS companies with a number of shared services now in place, including payroll services, legal and financial advice on pensions, and a single insurance scheme.

At the service delivery level, the regional companies now have more flexibility in allocating staff resources to areas of need, and specialist skills are more easily shared. Administrative resources freed up from previous work associated with supporting 93 local companies are now focused directly on clients’ requirements. In MABS, more regular case reviews are being undertaken and there is an increased focus on quality assurance and on achieving improved outcomes for clients.

CIB continues to support the regional companies and works with them as they respond  in an efficient, effective and flexible manner to the needs of clients. This is evident in the response by the regional services during the Covid-9 pandemic when both the CIS and MABS regional networks were able to respond quickly and efficiently to share resources, and develop new and innovative ways to serve clients including a new call back service, instant messaging service and increased use of social media to meet their clients' information needs.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy 

Birth Certificates

Ceisteanna (529)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

529. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection when a past birth certificate will issue in the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27107/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

This matter involves an application for a birth certificate which was submitted on www.certificates.ie on 4th September 2020. I wish to advise the Deputy that the HSE is responsible for this website and that the Eastern Registration Office issues certificates once the application has been processed.  Due to restrictions due to Covid-19, the demand for certificates from this source has increased significantly and, consequently, delays in processing applications have occurred.

The increase in demand for certificates from certificates.ie is due to the temporary closure of Civil Registration Offices in order to adhere to public health guidance.  In ordinary circumstances, certificates are issued on the day that a birth or death is registered.  Because certificates cannot be issued as usual, the level of demand on the online certificate service has grown at unprecedented levels which has caused delays in the issue of certificates.

The HSE has informed the General Register Office, which operates under the aegis of my Department, that it regrets the delays and that steps are being taken to augment its staffing levels to meet the increased demand for certificates.  I have also been informed that the birth certificate sought will be issued in the coming days.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.