Schools Extra Curricular Activities

Ceisteanna (200)

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

200. Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Education the supports provided by her Department to support homework clubs for children at a particular disadvantage. [29428/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

My Department provides a number of policies and programmes which are supportive of homework clubs for children at a particular disadvantage.

My Department administers the Delivering Equality of Opportunity (DEIS) scheme which provides additional support to schools catering for high numbers of pupils from a disadvantaged background.

The School Completion Programme (SCP) is a key support under DEIS and is one of three strands of Tusla Education Support Service (TESS) which also includes the Home School Community Liaison Scheme and the statutory Educational Welfare Service.

SCP work focuses on targeting and providing supports to young people identified to be most at risk of early school leaving and includes:

- Identifying and supporting children at risk of not reaching their potential in the educational system because of poor attendance, participation and retention via initiatives such as breakfast clubs, homework clubs, afterschool supports, mentoring programmes and therapeutic interventions

- Ensuring that schools have in place the appropriate procedures to monitor, identify and respond to attendance, participation and retention issues.

There are 122 SCP projects covering 467 primary and 222 post-primary schools. Annual programme funding is €24.7m.

My Department also encourages schools to facilitate the opening of after-school facilities, wherever possible, for activities such as homework clubs. Decisions on the use of school facilities lies with the relevant school authority in consultation with the property owner.

Guidelines on the use of school property outside of school hours is available on my Department's website at:

https://www.education.ie/en/Publications/Policy-Reports/guidelines-on-the-use-of-school-buildings-outside-of-school-hours.pdf

State Examinations

Ceisteanna (201)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

201. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education the way in which the integrity, validity and reliability of the process of national standardisation of leaving certificate calculated results was overseen by the National Standardisation Group whose role was to oversee the application of the statistical model to the school data; the reason it did not adequately test the process in order to identify flaws; and if an appeals process of the results will be established for students. [29453/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The decision to adopt a model of Calculated Grades by my Department was a direct result of COVID-19, which prevented the state from running the conventional Leaving Certificate Examinations.

The National Standardisation Group is the decision-making group responsible for the implementation of the iterative design and development cycles required to produce and refine the standardisation process and the application, review, and adjustment of the data in line with the commitments, principles, parameters and constraints associated with the calculated grades process to arrive at fair and just representations of student performance.

The aim of the National Standardisation Group was to deliver a set of calculated grades that met the objectives of being fair and accurate at the point in the iterative process at which a safe, satisfactory and defensible set of outcomes has been achieved.

Details regarding this group, including its terms of reference, membership, decision making framework, governance and oversight arrangements, are available in the Report from the National Standardisation Group to the Independent Steering Committee and the Programme Board which is available at https://www.gov.ie/en/collection/90d4a-calculated-grades-document-library/.

Minutes of the meetings of the group are available at https://www.education.ie/en/The-Department/Regulation-of-Lobbying-Act-2015/Groups-

Committees-exempted-under-the-Transparency-Code/national-standardisation-group.html.

The system of Calculated Grades is a complex and sophisticated system which had to be developed from scratch within an extremely tight timeframe in order for students to get their Calculated Grades results in time. The statistical model itself was developed specifically for the Irish Leaving Certificate. The Department had checks at a number of stages of the process to ensure that data was collected correctly from schools and transferred correctly between the various stages of the standardisation process, the validation process and the grading processes. Unfortunately, the checks in place did not identify the errors that later came to light.

The Department has responded thoroughly and speedily to resolve the errors and issue corrected grades to students. These grades were advised to students on 3 October.

The appeals process for Calculated Grades closed on 16 September.

School Transport

Ceisteanna (202)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

202. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education if a July provision school transport grant payment will issue to a person (details suppled); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29454/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

School Transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of my Department.

In the 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 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.

I am pleased to advise that the payment in respect of the transport costs incurred by the family referred to by the Deputy in privately transporting their child for Summer Provision 2020 was processed on 5th October 2020.

School Transport

Ceisteanna (203)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

203. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education if she will address the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29460/20]

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 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 my Department’s School Transport Scheme, children are eligible for transport where they reside not less than 3.2kms at primary and 4.8kms at post-primary and are attending their nearest School/Education Centre as determined by the Department/Bus Éireann, having regard to ethos and language.

Bus Éireann has confirmed that the pupil to which the Deputy refers resides 16.7 km from home to the school of attendance, which is their closest school, and that the pupil is therefore eligible for transport under the terms of the scheme.

The pupil was issued with a ticket at the start of the school year for a service which linked to a feeder service to the school they are attending. Due to this service running at capacity, the pupil was subsequently accommodated on an alternative service. The pupil resides 2.7km from home to the nearest pick up point for this alternative service and can travel on this service for the duration of the 2020/2021 school year.

Schools Building Projects

Ceisteanna (204)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

204. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education the status of an application by a school (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29473/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I can confirm that the school in question submitted an application for capital funding under my Department's multi-annual Summer Works Scheme (SWS) 2020 onwards for Windows (Category 7).

In late 2019, the details of the schools that will receive funding in Summer 2020 in respect of applications submitted for "Life Safety Systems projects" (Category 1) were announced.

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

Schools Building Projects

Ceisteanna (205)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

205. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education further to Parliamentary Question No.126 of 2 October 2019, the progress made to date in developing a purpose-built school for the pupils of the school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29480/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

A potential site option has been identified and discussions with the landowner are at an advanced stage with a view to acquiring this site.

Due to the commercially sensitive nature of site acquisitions generally, it is not possible to comment further at this stage.

Redundancy Payments

Ceisteanna (206)

Cormac Devlin

Ceist:

206. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Social Protection the progress her officials are making on the implementation of the Duffy Cahill report; if a list of all meetings that have taken place or are scheduled in 2020 will be provided; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29436/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

The Duffy Cahill report, which was commissioned by the Government in the aftermath of the Clery’s closure, highlighted how the issues raised by that event and the subsequent legal cases are highly complex.

The Duffy Cahill report was sent to the Company Law Review Group (CLRG) in 2016 for its consideration as part of the work of that group in advising the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation on any changes that it considered necessary with respect to the protection of employees and unsecured creditors. (The CLRG is a statutory body comprising members drawn from regulatory, legal, business and employee interests).

The CLRG as part of its deliberations also considered related amendments proposed by Deputy Nash (then Senator Nash) to the Companies (Accounting) Bill in April/May 2017.

The CLRG's report on the 'Protection of Employees and Unsecured Creditors' was presented to the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation in June 2017 and published on the website of the CLRG. It did not include the implementation of the Duffy Cahill report or the Senator Nash proposals in its recommendations.

It is clear that the implementation of the recommendations in the Duffy Cahill report would give rise to a host of complex issues and that any proposal to progress them would require further careful consideration involving consultation with many stakeholders.

There is a Programme for Government commitment to:

- Review the Companies Acts with a view to addressing the practice of trading entities splitting their operations between trading and property with the result being the trading business (including the jobs) going into solvency and the assets being taken out of the original business;

- Examine the legal provision that pertains to any sale to a connected party following the insolvency of a company including who can object and the allowable grounds of an objection; and

- Review whether the legal provisions surrounding collective redundancies and the liquidation of companies effectively protect the rights of workers.

An Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar T.D. has asked the Company Law Review Group to undertake an expedited review of this commitment as it relates to company law, to be completed before the end of the year.

Although separate and distinct from the situation that pertained to Clery's Department Store, the Duffy Cahill report has been raised recently in the context of the liquidation of Debenhams Retail Ireland. My colleagues, Ministers of State Damien English and Robert Troy have met with some of those former employees and trade union representatives. They, along with the Tánaiste and officials from the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation will give detailed and serious consideration to the various proposals now arising in this context, including those in the Duffy Cahill report, and within the framework of the Programme for Government.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Carer's Allowance

Ceisteanna (207)

John McGuinness

Ceist:

207. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection if an oral hearing can be expedited for a person (details supplied) in relation to an appeal for carers allowance. [29294/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer, having fully considered all of the available evidence, decided to disallow the appeal of the person concerned by way of a summary decision on 14 August 2020.

In accordance with social welfare legislation, where the Appeals Officer is of the opinion that the case is of such a nature that it can properly be determined without a hearing, he or she may determine the appeal summarily. This is what occurred in the case of the appeal for the person concerned.

Under social welfare legislation, the decision of an Appeals Officer is final and conclusive and may only be reviewed by an Appeals Officer in the light of new evidence or new facts.

On foot of correspondence from the Deputy the Appeals Officer wrote to the person concerned on 6 October 2020 advising her that, if she has such additional evidence, she should provide it for consideration. The Appeals Officer will then determine whether a revision of the decision made on 14 August 2020 may be warranted.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions in relation to social welfare entitlements.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Supplementary Welfare Allowance

Ceisteanna (208)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

208. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection if a person (details supplied) in County Kerry is entitled to supplementary welfare allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29321/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

It is confirmed that the Department have not, to date, received an application for a Basic Supplementary Welfare Allowance from the person concerned. It is open to the person concerned to make an application and a decision will be made on same in due course.

Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment

Ceisteanna (209)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

209. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if eligibility for the pandemic unemployment payment can be reconsidered in the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29330/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

One of the conditions for receipt of the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) is that individuals must have last worked on or after 6th March 2020.

Departmental records (which have been confirmed by the Department's PUP review section) show that a Covid PUP application from Ms. Ali, dated 25th March 2020, was received and processed in the Department on 7th April 2020.

Ms. Ali stated on the PUP application that her last date of employment was 28 February 2020. On this basis, as Ms. Ali's employment ceased before 6th March 2020, she would not have an entitlement to the PUP.

The position remains that if Ms. Ali can provide proof of employment which meets the conditions of the scheme, and that evidence can be verified by the Revenue Commissioners, then her case will be re-examined.

Departmental Contracts

Ceisteanna (210)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

210. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Social Protection the contracts with public relations agencies and consultants entered into by her Department; and the remit of these contracts including the costs in tabular form. [29361/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

My Department does not have any contracts with public relations agencies or PR consultants.

I hope this clarifies the position for the Deputy.

Departmental Staff

Ceisteanna (211)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

211. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will provide information on a matter (details supplied). [29414/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

I wish to advise the Deputy that details on my Department’s organisational structure, its Divisions and its senior management team (including their names and a description of all individual roles from Secretary General to Principal Officer level) are available on the ‘whodoeswhat’ website at the following link – https://whodoeswhat.gov.ie/root/deasp/. The email structure to contact officials at my Department is firstname.lastname@welfare.ie.

Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment

Ceisteanna (212)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

212. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection if a pandemic unemployment payment will be reinstated to a higher rate in the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29455/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

Since the 17th of September, the rate of all Pandemic Unemployment Payments (PUP) are related to the prior earnings of the customer.

The entitlement to PUP of the person concerned has been re-rated to a rate of €250 per week – this is based on a combination of her 2019 self employment income and earnings. I understand that the arrears of PUP arising from this re-rating will be authorized for issue next week.

Disability Allowance

Ceisteanna (213)

Holly Cairns

Ceist:

213. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Social Protection her views on increasing disability allowance payments by €25 in budget 2021; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29508/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

Disability Allowance (DA) is a means-tested payment for people with a specified disability who are aged between 16 and 66. The disability must be expected to last for at least one year and the allowance is subject to a medical assessment, a means test and a habitual residency test.

The estimated annual expenditure on DA for 2020 is some €1.8 billion. The estimated cost of increasing the weekly personal rate of DA by €25 would be an additional €215.3 million. This estimate includes a proportionate increase for qualified adults.

My Department regularly reviews its supports and payment schemes to ensure that they continue to meet their objectives. Given the cost implications, any changes to the current payment rates would have to be considered in the overall budgetary context.

I trust that this clarifies the matter.

Community Employment Schemes

Ceisteanna (214)

Alan Dillon

Ceist:

214. Deputy Alan Dillon asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans to address the status of community employment supervisors; her plans to provide for their payments in view of the Labour Court recommendation of 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29520/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

As the Deputy will be aware, 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 for CE supervisors who are employed by CE schemes.

CE sponsoring authorities are the legal employers of their CE supervisors, CE assistant supervisors and CE participants. There are no plans to change this status of CE supervisors. The Department’s role continues to be that of CE funder.

This issue was examined by a Community Sector High Level Forum, chaired by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. A number of Departments, including my own Department, were represented on this group, as were the unions and Pobal.

As part of this process 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 could potentially give rise to claims for funding for employees of similar schemes in the broader sector. The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform 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 delivering local based community services while providing 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, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Unions are in ongoing discussions on the matter. The funding of any potential pension provision for CE supervisors will ultimately be a matter for the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and will need to be considered in the wider economic and budgetary context in which any such scheme will need to operate.

Social Welfare Payments Administration

Ceisteanna (215)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

215. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the correct level of payment including the jobseeker’s allowance, Covid-19 related support payable in the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29546/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

The person concerned is currently in receipt of Jobseeker’s Allowance at the weekly rate of €246.70 which is the correct payment for a person of her circumstances.

The spouse of the person concerned is in receipt of Illness Benefit at the full personal weekly rate of €203. The person concerned therefore receives the difference between the appropriate family rate of €449.70 and €203 personal rate to which her partner is entitled, giving her a weekly Jobseeker’s Allowance entitlement of the balance of €246.70

It is open to the person concerned to contact her Intreo Centre by phone at 045 491500 or email at Newbridge@welfare.ie if she has any queries regarding her entitlement.

I trust this clarifies the matter.

Data Retention

Ceisteanna (216)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

216. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration the way in which county childcare committees can access childcare information (details supplied); if his attention has been drawn to this issue; if so, his plans to address same; the reason Pobal is now the guardian of this dataset; and the process that was initiated to implement this. [29278/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The new Early Years platform is designed to support multi-layered rights of access and security to information submitted by parents and providers. This includes sensitive and personal information.

Access to the system is based on specified business need and functional requirement; and must align with sound data protection principles. Access to sensitive and personal data is restricted to the Scheme Administrator (i.e Pobal) appointed under Section 3 of the Childcare Support Act and for the purposes specified under that Act.

My Department is currently scoping the requirements for a City/County Childcare Committee (CCC) “portal” which will give secure access to such information as may be required to fulfil functions assigned by the Department.

My Department has sought and received a submission from the CCC's regarding their access requirements and this is being considered by DCYA prior to development of the portal.

Recognising the key role the CCC's play in supporting providers, the CCCs have been given access to the platform training environment which enables them support ELC/SAC service providers with use of the new system.

Departmental Contracts

Ceisteanna (217)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

217. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration the contracts with public relations agencies and consultants entered into by his Department; and the remit of these contracts including the costs in tabular form. [29347/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

My Department has no current contracts regarding public relations with agencies or consultants. This excludes information campaigns run through media buying companies as this is paid advertising rather than public relations.

Departmental Staff

Ceisteanna (218)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

218. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration if he will provide information on a matter (details supplied). [29400/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The power to transfer functions from one Minister/Department to another and to rename Departments is vested in the Government under section 6 of the Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Act 1939, Subsections 6(1)(c) and 6(1)(d) of the Act enable the Government to transfer functions from one Minister or Department to another by a Transfer of Functions Order while subsections 6(1)(a) and 6(1)(b) authorise the Government to change the name and title of Ministers and Departments, also by Order.

The Deputy may wish to be aware that the Order transferring functions to this Department has not been formally ratified at Government level. As a consequence, the organisational chart for Department of Children and Youth affairs will be updated to reflect the new structure as and when the functions legally transfer to the Department.

In the interim, the Deputy may wish to access https://whodoeswhat.gov.ie/ for relevant information. Once the formalities have been completed, the whodoeswhat website will be updated to reflect revised organisational structures.

Budget Statement

Ceisteanna (219)

Holly Cairns

Ceist:

219. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration his views on investing €1.5 million in an assistive technology passport in budget 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29507/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I wish to advise the Deputy that I am not in a position to comment as these responsibilities have not yet transferred to my Department. These matters are more appropriate for the attention of my Cabinet colleague, the Minister for Justice and Equality.

The transfer of functions process is ongoing in this regard, which I expect will conclude very shortly. I look forward to engaging with the Deputy on this and related matters at that time.