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Tuesday, 1 Jun 2021

Written Answers Nos. 488-512

Third Level Admissions

Ceisteanna (488)

Rose Conway-Walsh

Ceist:

488. Deputy Rose Conway-Walsh asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the number of annual enrolments for master and PhD courses for the most recent year available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29184/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Further and Higher Education)

The data requested by the Deputy is outlined in the attached spreadsheet. The most recent year available is data for the 2019/2020 academic year.

Programme Type

2019/2020 Enrolments

PhD

8,890

Research Masters

1,639

Taught Masters

24,155

Total

34,684

International Bodies

Ceisteanna (489)

Rose Conway-Walsh

Ceist:

489. Deputy Rose Conway-Walsh asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science when Ireland will become a participating member of CERN; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29185/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Further and Higher Education)

Innovation 2020, the national strategy for research and innovation, recognises that for Ireland to become a Global Innovation Leader, our research and innovation system must be open with strong international collaboration links. Membership of leading international research organisations is an important mechanism for facilitating this engagement.

For this reason, the Government gave a specific commitment in Innovation 2020 to initiate discussions with several international research organisations. Four organisations were identified – CERN, the European Southern Observatory, ELIXIR and LOFAR - and membership of three of these organisations has been completed. Ireland continues its consideration of CERN membership.

Under the National Development Plan 2018-2027, as part of Project Ireland 2040, the Government outlined its intention to review Ireland's membership of CERN. This would generate opportunities not only for Irish enterprise but also for its research community. While the benefits of CERN membership are recognised as significant, the cost is also significant and must be assessed in the context of other Departmental and national investment priorities.

Following the recent establishment of my new Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, CERN membership will be considered in the context of the programme for government and national investment priorities for research and innovation.  Ireland continues its consideration of full and associate CERN membership and my Department remains in contact with CERN officials.

Education Policy

Question No. 491 answered with Question No. 490.

Ceisteanna (490, 491)

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

490. Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science if he plans to extend the funding for innovative approaches to reskilling for the opportunities that are evolving in many manufacturing sectors due to technology evolution; and his views on whether the post-Covid-19 reopening would be an ideal opportunity for such schemes as displaced workers seek new outlets. [29186/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

491. Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science if there is scope for more public private partnership in the design of upskilling courses to meet rapidly changing skill needs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29187/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Further and Higher Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 490 and 491 together.

Close collaboration between employers and education and training institutions is critical in the design of upskilling courses to ensure they appropriately address the needs of industry. Employer input should ensure that courses are structured in a manner that meets the operational realities of businesses, including through the use of flexible and online learning. Engagement with industry also provides vital market intelligence with respect to evolving skills needs. Fast moving sectors are reliant on responsive skills development and training solutions to reflect technology, product and service innovation.

As the Deputy is aware, the Skills to Advance initiative was developed in response to evolving skill needs and assists those facing changes in their work due to technology advances, changing work practices and market diversification. Further education and training (FET) opportunities offered through Skills to Advance incorporate digital, socio-emotional and technical skills development to enhance employee skills and support increased productivity in Irish SMEs.

As part of the Skills to Advance initiative, SOLAS created the Innovation through Collaboration Fund specifically to support collaborative partnerships by ETBs with the private sector, researchers and academics to meet the skills needs for innovation across economic sectors. Two of ten Innovation through Collaboration projects focus on specific challenges in manufacturing; delivering up-to-the-minute skills using flexible delivery methods, and recognising the existing skills and competencies of technicians while providing upskilling pathways for an increasingly digitised workplace. A new call for this fund is due to be issued in July 2021.

The Advanced Manufacturing Training Centre of Excellence (AMTCE) in Dundalk provides one of the examples of reskilling and upskilling training courses/programmes and services supported by Innovation through Collaboration Fund. Through the AMTCE, Louth Meath ETB (LMETB) is using advanced technologies to provide innovative and creative solutions to address the upskilling needs of those employed in the manufacturing technology areas and to provide employers with the knowledge skills and competencies to make informed decisions regarding planning for the skills requirements of both existing and new employees; including displaced employees, alongside opportunities for reskilling persons who are unemployed. The AMTCE utilises Innovative methodologies to facilitate and deliver training /upskilling, including use of remote, blended online and onsite learning modalities. The AMTCE harnesses innovative technologies such as VR and AI technologies.

The manufacturing sector is undergoing a significant transformation through the adoption of industry 4.0 technologies such as robotics, AI and additive manufacturing. Adoption of these technologies is key to enabling Irish companies to remain competitive in the face of global competition and to drive value-add product and service innovation. There is a need to upskill the existing workforce to enable companies to adopt and utilise advanced technologies to support and enhance business competitiveness. The growing need for advanced skills within the manufacturing sector also represents a significant opportunity for people to establish new careers in the sector through appropriate reskilling. The AMTCE is addressing these needs through the provision of high-quality training based on industry needs through flexible delivery mechanisms. The AMTCE centre will provide access to state-of-art equipment to ensure learners receive high quality hands-on training which is highly valued by employers.

In addition to the Innovation through Collaboration Fund, funding has also been secured by Cavan Monaghan ETB (CMETB) to progress the development of a new FET Centre of Excellence in Supply Chain Logistics and Procurement supporting business transformation and workforce skills being developed in Cavan to support the North East region and nationally. This project is part of a €3 million investment for local projects under the Border Enterprise Development Fund, an economic stimulus package established for the border region, and additional funding from SOLAS and my Department. The new training centre, which will be located at CMETB’s FET Campus in Cavan, will focus on areas such as robotics, 3D Printing, Internet of Things, Blockchain Technology, Big Data Analytics and Drone Technology. The project is a direct response to current industry requirements and emerging skills needs in the region, with a vision to positively impact the region’s competitiveness, job security and employment growth.

A capital investment programme in the FET sector is also being rolled out. Among the priorities being addressed are funding for infrastructure and equipment to support reskilling and upskilling needs.

Question No. 491 answered with Question No. 490.

Third Level Education

Ceisteanna (492)

Jackie Cahill

Ceist:

492. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the estimated cost of widening access to student assistance fund supports for students that have exceeded four years of their PhD; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29298/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Further and Higher Education)

The Student Assistance Fund (SAF) provides financial assistance to students experiencing financial difficulties while attending third level.  Students can be assisted towards costs such as rent, childcare costs, transport costs and books/class materials. Students on full or part-time courses leading to a higher education award (NQF level 6-10) in the universities, institutes of technology and other approved colleges can apply for the SAF. The core allocation for the SAF is €9.1 million per annum which supports circa 14,000 students.  This includes €1 million which was added to the fund in 2017 for part-time students who are lone parents or members of the other access target groups. As part of the package of COVID supports provided by Government last year, €10 million was allocated to an Access Funding package of which €8.1 million was allocated to the Student Assistance Fund. This brought the 2020 SAF allocation to €18.2 million

In all cases, HEIs are responsible for targeting the available resources at those students most in need.

PhD students are eligible to apply for the SAF during the first four years of their studies.  PhD students who have completed four years of their studies may also be considered eligible for support on a case-by-case basis.

Data Protection

Ceisteanna (493)

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

493. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the nature of the data breaches experienced by his Department since 2018. [29310/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Further and Higher Education)

As the Deputy is aware, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into effect on 25th May 2018 and any personal data breaches since its introduction are dealt with under the regulation and the Data Protection Act 2018.

 Article 4 of the GDPR defines a data breach as “‘a breach of security leading to the accidental or unlawful destruction, loss, alteration, unauthorised disclosure of, or access to, personal data transmitted, stored or otherwise processed”.

My Department was established on 2nd August 2020. There has been one data breach in total between the date of establishment in 2020 and today’s date, classified as unauthorised disclosure of personal data. This breach was reported to the Data Protection Commission, who closed the case without further action following informal investigation.

Legislative Measures

Ceisteanna (494)

Paul Donnelly

Ceist:

494. Deputy Paul Donnelly asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the status of the licensing of construction workers Bill. [29331/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Further and Higher Education)

In March, Government approved the development of a licensing model for individuals working on certain construction and quarrying related activities, replacing the existing construction and quarrying skills certification schemes.  Government also approved moving to preparation of the general scheme of a bill to establish the model.  Work is now underway and a draft general scheme will be available by year end.  I also plan in the coming weeks to initiate a stakeholder consultation process on the main features of the Bill.

Further and Higher Education

Ceisteanna (495)

Matt Shanahan

Ceist:

495. Deputy Matt Shanahan asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science if a detailed schedule will be provided with regard to the €966 million provided in capital funding across the higher education sector in each of the years 2008 to 2019; the institution, location, description or purpose and quantum of funding provided in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29500/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Further and Higher Education)

The attached table sets out the total capital funding for infrastructure and equipment by institution over the period requested by the Deputy. The Department has undertaken a reverification process and the following parameters have been applied to the table:

- The table covers capital funding for infrastructure and equipment provided via the Department of Education and Skills over the period 2008-2019.

- The table does not cover funding for research programmes provided via either the Department of Education and Skills or the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation over the period. 

- The table does not cover funding for infrastructure and equipment that may have been provided via other Government Departments. 

The total, using these parameters amounts to €848 million.  We are in the process of compiling the total research programme expenditure over this period and I will forward this to the Deputy when available. 

funding

Protected Disclosures

Ceisteanna (496)

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

496. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the number of protected disclosures made to his Department in each of the past five years and to date in 2021. [29636/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Further and Higher Education)

In accordance with Section 22 of the Protected Disclosure Act 2014, information on protected disclosures received during 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 has been published on the Department of Education website: www.education.ie/en/Publications/Corporate-Reports/Annual-Report/ 

In summary, there have been a total of 15 Protected Disclosures made between 2016 and to date in 2021. This figure relates to Protected Disclosures that were disclosed under Section 8 of the Protected Disclosures Act 2014 from workers in the Higher Education sector.

The attached table gives a breakdown by year of the disclosures.

disclosures

Further and Higher Education

Ceisteanna (497)

Rose Conway-Walsh

Ceist:

497. Deputy Rose Conway-Walsh asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the average cost per springboard+ place created; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29830/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Further and Higher Education)

The Springboard+ initiative is managed by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) on behalf of the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science.

The average cost of a Springboard+ in 2020 was €926 per 10 European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS). This was across all skills areas and NFQ levels. Springboard+ courses typically range from between 10 and 120 ECTS.

The 2021 figures are not yet available.

Further and Higher Education

Ceisteanna (498)

Rose Conway-Walsh

Ceist:

498. Deputy Rose Conway-Walsh asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the full list of courses approved for springboard+ for each year since 2011; the number of participants on each course in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29831/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Further and Higher Education)

All of the details sought by the Deputy are not readily available in my Department. Officials have requested the information from the Higher Education Authority which will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Further and Higher Education

Ceisteanna (499)

Rose Conway-Walsh

Ceist:

499. Deputy Rose Conway-Walsh asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the number of springboard+ enrolments in 2020 and 2021, by course; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29832/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Further and Higher Education)

All of the details sought by the Deputy are not readily available in my Department. Officials have requested the information from the Higher Education Authority which will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Further and Higher Education

Ceisteanna (500)

Rose Conway-Walsh

Ceist:

500. Deputy Rose Conway-Walsh asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science if springboard+ will proceed as part of the ESF programme post-2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29833/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Further and Higher Education)

Springboard+ was funded through the National Training Fund and formed part of the ESF Programme for Employability, Inclusion and Learning (PEIL) 2014-2020. The ESF are currently determining their programme for 2021 and beyond and although not  confirmed it is likely that Springboard+ will once again form part of that programme.

An Garda Síochána

Ceisteanna (501)

Chris Andrews

Ceist:

501. Deputy Chris Andrews asked the Minister for Justice the plans that have been put in place in conjunction with An Garda Síochána to manage the increase in public disorder in communities along the Grand Canal, Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29120/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, responding to and preventing crime, including anti-social behaviour, are operational matters for the Garda Commissioner. Neither I nor Minister Humphreys have any direct role in these matters. 

However, I am very conscious of how anti-social behaviour affects the quality of life for local communities, and I am assured by the Commissioner that the safety and security of all citizens remains a priority for An Garda Síochána.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that there is ongoing liaison with community leaders and schools in the Grand Canal area to discourage anti-social behaviour, along with engagement with residents associations and communities to drive a partnership response to these issues.  

I understand that Gardaí met with local community representatives last December following a request at the Joint Policing Committee (JPC) and discussed the issues affecting these areas. Following the meeting, Gardaí engaged with project management companies who are now erecting signage that consumption of alcohol along the Grand Canal is unacceptable. Local Garda management also met with the Docklands Business Forum in February to discuss the issues affecting the area and I understand that a follow up online meeting will be organised prior to the next JPC meeting.

I am informed that local Garda management utilise all legislation in place to address street crime and anti­-social behaviour, including drug related crime, along the Grand Canal.  This includes a high-visibility uniformed presence in addition to the use of plain clothes Gardaí as appropriate, through overt and covert operations. As of 1 January 2021, a Public Order Unit is deployed every weekend to areas subject to anti-social behaviour and other types of criminal activity.

I am further advised that during the summer months there will be increased uniformed foot and mountain bike patrols along the Grand Canal under Operation GCD, an operation established to counteract incidents of anti-social behaviour and disruption caused by young people swimming in the Canal during the summer holiday period. I understand that this operation has been positively received by the local community and it is envisioned that this operation will be run again in the coming summer months.

The Deputy may also be interested to note that the Department's Justice Plan 2021 contains a number of commitments with regard to tackling anti-social behaviour.  

In line with a commitment in the Programme for Government, I have established a special expert forum on antisocial behaviour. A subgroup of this forum has already helped inform a new scheme to tackle the misuse of scramblers and quadbikes and similar sub groups can also be established for other issues where appropriate.

On 15 April last, Minister McEntee and I launched the new Youth Justice Strategy 2021-2027. This new strategy will pursue a collaborative response to the situation of vulnerable children and young people, with a strong focus on diverting them away from offending, and building supports to provide prevention and early intervention.

Anti-social behaviour will also be considered by the Local Community Safety Partnerships which are to be set up in every Local Authority under my Department’s new community safety policy. Three pilot partnerships are currently being established in Dublin’s north inner city, Longford and Waterford and will run for the next two years ahead of the nationwide rollout.

An Garda Síochána

Ceisteanna (502)

David Stanton

Ceist:

502. Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Justice the number of gardaí by rank and district in each of the Cork county and city divisions that have retired in 2021; the number that are expected to retire; the number that have given notice of their intention to resign later in 2021, in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29158/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy will appreciate, under the Garda Síochána Act 2005 as amended, the Garda Commissioner has responsibility for management of An Garda Síochána and for the allocation and efficient use of Garda resources. This includes responsibility for personnel matters and the distribution of personnel across the various Garda Divisions.  As Minister, I have no direct role in these matters. 

I am advised by the Commissioner that projected departures are kept under continuous review and that the level of recruitment is adjusted as necessary in order to maintain the desired strength.

As the Deputy may be aware, the retirement of members of An Garda Síochána is governed by law, which sets the mandatory retirement age for all members at 60 years of age.  Members of An Garda Síochána who joined prior to 1 April 2004 may retire on full pension at 50 years of age once they have served at least 30 years and those who joined on or after 1 April 2004 may retire on full pension at 55 years of age with 30 years service.

The table below, which has been provided to me by the Garda authorities, sets out the total number of Garda members by rank in the Cork Division who have retired or submitted their application to retire or are compulsory retirements in 2021, as of the 26 May 2021. 

 

Com

D/Com

AC

C/Supt

Supt

Insp.

Sgt

Garda

Total 

Cork City

0

0

0

1

0

0

2

10

13

Cork North

0

0

0

0

0

1

3

7

11

Cork West

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

3

4

Total

0

0

0

1

0

2

5

20

28

These figures include voluntary retirements, compulsory retirements, cost neutral early retirements, resignations, medical discharges, dismissals and deaths in service. These figures are  operational and subject to change.

Naturalisation Applications

Question No. 504 answered with Question No. 503.

Ceisteanna (503, 504)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

503. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice the progress to date in the determination of an application for naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied); when it is planned to bring the application to a conclusion; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29253/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

James Lawless

Ceist:

504. Deputy James Lawless asked the Minister for Justice the status of an application for naturalisation by a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29260/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 503 and 504 together.

An application for a certificate of naturalisation was received from the person referred to by the Deputy on 6 February 2020. This application is currently being processed with a view to establishing whether the applicant meets the statutory conditions for the granting of naturalisation and will be submitted to me for decision as expeditiously as possible.

The granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is a privilege and an honour which confers certain rights and entitlements not only within the State but also at European Union level and it is important that appropriate procedures are in place to preserve the integrity of the process.

It is recognised that all applicants for citizenship would wish to have a decision on their application without delay. However, the nature of the naturalisation process is such that, for a broad range of reasons, some cases will take longer than others to process. In some instances, completing the necessary checks can take a considerable period of time. It is not possible to say what the remaining processing time is for an application that is at an advanced stage. The status of an

application changes as it moves through the process.

Unfortunately, processing rates have been impacted by the necessary health and safety related restrictions imposed and we have been unable to hold in-person citizenship ceremonies since March 2020.

In addition to the Covid-19 disruption, a High Court case, which was subsequently successfully appealed to the Court of Appeal, also resulted in significant delays and the loss of over six months’ processing time.

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

Question No. 504 answered with Question No. 503.

Data Protection

Ceisteanna (505)

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

505. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Justice the nature of the data breaches experienced by her Department since 2018. [29312/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I wish to advise the Deputy that the majority (approx. 75%) of data breaches recorded by my Department since 2018 related to incidents where, due to human error, data was provided to incorrect recipients.

Other data breaches include the misfiling of documentation internally, and the loss of encrypted devices such as mobile phones. 

The Deputy is advised that my Department is committed to protecting the rights and privacy of all individuals and complies fully with data breach reporting requirements.

An Garda Síochána

Ceisteanna (506)

Paul Donnelly

Ceist:

506. Deputy Paul Donnelly asked the Minister for Justice if all interview rooms in each Garda station within DMR are all video and audio recorded; and if not, the estimated cost of installing video and audio recording facilities in each interview room in each Garda station within DMR. [29327/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I have requested a report on the information sought by the Deputy from the Garda authorities, however this was not available in time. I will write to the Deputy once the information is to hand.

An Garda Síochána

Ceisteanna (507)

Paul Donnelly

Ceist:

507. Deputy Paul Donnelly asked the Minister for Justice if a new contract to supply new unmarked Garda vehicles has been put out to tender. [29328/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, all vehicle tenders and contracts for Garda vehicles are handled through the Office of Government Procurement (OGP)  in consultation with An Garda Síochána. As Minister, I have no direct role in this matter.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the OGP has entered into a contract, with effect from 20 November 2020, for the supply of unmarked cars to An Garda Síochána. This contract is effective for a period of two years with the option of a 12 month extension.

I am further informed that An Garda Síochána have ordered 42 unmarked cars for delivery in Quarter 3 of 2021.

An Garda Síochána

Ceisteanna (508)

Paul Donnelly

Ceist:

508. Deputy Paul Donnelly asked the Minister for Justice if funding has been secured for the purchase of additional dogs for the Garda dog unit in 2021; and if funding has been secured for the purchase of additional horses for the Garda mounted unit in 2021. [29329/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I have requested a report on the information sought by the Deputy from the Garda authorities, however this was not available in time. I will write to the Deputy once the information is to hand.

Prison Service

Ceisteanna (509)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

509. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Justice if prisoners in Mountjoy Prison are disallowed from writing and receiving letters due to Covid-19 restrictions; if they are on 23-hour lock up as a result of same; if family members are allowed to bring personal items for prisoners; if counselling and rehabilitation services are suspended; when normal services will resume; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29335/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I can advise the Deputy that an outbreak of Covid-19 was confirmed in Mountjoy Prison on 7 May, 2021. This was the most serious outbreak to occur within the prison system to date and resulted in 38 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the general prisoner population.

The outbreak was managed in line with the Prison Service Contingency Plan for the Management of Covid-19, which sets out the actions and measures to be implemented in such situations. The outbreak was managed by an Outbreak Control Team, led by the Director General, and was successfully contained, once identified, resulting in the return of a more normal regime on 21 May, 2021.

I am advised by the Prison Service that prisoners continue to send and receive post throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. During the mass testing process which occurs during an outbreak, however, all outgoing post is suspended.

During the outbreak in Mountjoy Prison, incoming post continued to be accepted, was reviewed by the Censor’s Office and delivered as normal. I am also pleased to advise the Deputy that as the prison has exited from the outbreak regime, the outgoing postal services within the prison are again operating as normal.

With regard to prisoner property, I am also advised that, due to infection control restrictions, and the fact that physical visits remained suspended, it is currently the case that family members cannot drop prisoner property off at the prison. Property is only accepted by post and all property is quarantined for seven days before distribution to prisoners.

In accordance with the Contingency Plan, in situations where there is a positive case in the general prison population, all prisoner movement in a prison is restricted while testing, contact tracing and assessment of the risk of the spread of the infection continues. Prisoners involved in the provision of services within the prison (kitchen, laundry etc.) continue to work with an enhanced level of PPE providing they are not a close contact of any confirmed case. Prisoners are fed and medicated at their door and are permitted to leave their cell in a controlled manner to make telephone calls.

Once the results of first round testing of all prisoners and all staff are received, any prisoners with negative test results have a degree of regime restored which strives to meet the minimum out of cell time provision of two hours. Positive prisoners and their close contacts are isolated or quarantined in accordance with HSE guidance.

The measures implemented by the Prison Service have impacted the traditional manner of service delivery by the Psychology and Addiction Counselling Services. Notwithstanding the challenges imposed by managing traditionally close-contact services during a pandemic, it is important to note that these services have not been suspended at anytime to date. The Prison Service continues to provide a range of therapeutic, support and counselling services to prisoners. The primary forms of counselling are provided by the Prison Service Psychology Service and the Merchant’s Quay Ireland Addiction Counselling Service. These services have remained in place throughout the pandemic.

The restrictions imposed by Covid-19 have required the development of new ways of working to support prisoners. These prisoner support services have adapted working arrangements to respond innovatively to maximise opportunities for prisoner engagement by employing a combination of mediums including telephony, video-link and one-to-one contact, where deemed clinically necessary.

Prison Service

Ceisteanna (510)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

510. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Justice the way a prisoner can apply for enhanced remission; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29346/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I wish to advise the Deputy that the principles governing the awarding of remission are contained within Rule 59 of Statutory Instrument no 252 of 2007 (the Prison Rules), as amended by Statutory Instrument No 385 of 2014.

In summary, prisoners sentenced to a term of imprisonment, with the exception of prisoners without a determined sentence, for example life sentence prisoners, qualify for one quarter remission on the basis of good behaviour.

In addition, prisoners who have engaged in authorised structured activity may apply to receive enhanced remission of greater than one quarter but not exceeding one third of their sentence, as may be determined by the Minister. In order to grant a prisoner enhanced remission, the Minister must be satisfied that the prisoner is less likely to re-offend and is better able to re-integrate into the community.

A prisoner can apply to the Minister for Justice for Enhanced Remission under Rule 59 of Statutory Instrument no 252 of 2007 (the Prison Rules), as amended by Statutory Instrument No 385 of 2014 by completing an Enhanced Remission Application Form, which is available in all prisons.  An acknowledgement letter is then sent to the prisoner informing them of receipt of their application and an approximate date on which a decision will be made on the Enhanced Remission Application.

I can further advise the Deputy that if the application is approved the prisoner will receive a letter informing them of their new release date from the Minister. If the application is declined, a letter will also issue to the prisoner informing them of this decision.

Prison Service

Ceisteanna (511)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

511. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Justice when counselling services will be reinstated for prisoners; the way rehabilitation services are accessed prior to release; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29347/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I wish to inform the Deputy that the Irish Prison Service has advised that it provides a range of therapeutic, support and counselling services to prisoners. These services remain in place throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

In order to contain the risk of infection during the COVID-19 pandemic, a range of measures, including restrictions on the type of access to prisons and prisoners has been required to protect the prison population in line with public health advice. These measures have impacted the traditional manner of service delivery by the Psychology and Addiction Counselling Services. However, notwithstanding the challenges imposed by managing traditionally close-contact services during a pandemic, it is important to note that these services have not been suspended at any time to date.

The restrictions imposed by COVID-19 have required the development of new ways of working to support prisoners. Prisoner support services have adapted working arrangements to respond innovatively to maximise opportunities for prisoner engagement by employing a combination of mediums including telephony, video-link and one-to-one contact, where deemed clinically necessary.

Throughout the public health crisis, every attempt has been made, and continues to be made, to maintain psychological, addiction and other counselling services for those with an identified need. All prisons and prison-based services have displayed flexibility and adaptability and have used all mediums available to engage with the prison population.

In order to maintain a safe environment and limit the spread of infection for prisoners and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic, it has not been possible to permit access to prisons for some additional external community-based offender support, and peer support services and programmes.

However, where possible, video-link appointments with some of these community-based services have been facilitated in line with the recommendations of the community integration plan and identified needs of the particular prisoner.

Access to prisons for external services remains under continuous review and will be guided by public health advice to minimise the risk of infection to people who live and work in prisons.

In terms of accessing rehabilitative services prior to release, the Prison Service has dedicated prison officers called Integrated Sentence Management (ISM) Coordinators which are operational in all prisons and open centres. Additional ISM Coordinators work in partnership with the Probation Service to manage prisoners selected for participation in the Joint Agency Response to Crime, Community Support and Community Return Schemes.

These Integrated Sentence Management Coordinators are supported by prison management and the prison-based multi-disciplinary team, which includes the Psychology Service, the Education Service, the Work Training Service, the Chaplaincy Service, the Probation Service, the Training & Employment Service, the Resettlement Service, the Addiction Service and the Healthcare team, who work together with operational staff to deliver sentence management and services to prisoners.

Prison Service

Ceisteanna (512)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

512. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Justice if her attention has been drawn to groups providing advocacy services to prisoners currently serving sentences; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29348/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Irish Prison Service currently has a range of rehabilitative, therapeutic and counselling services available for prisoners at all times. I can inform the Deputy that I am also aware that prisoners have access to some additional external community based in-reach services who provide community-based offender support, and peer support services and programmes.

The Deputy will understand that in line with public health guidelines and to limit the spread of Covid-19 within our prisons, in-person visits have had to be suspended periodically over the past year. As such, since the start of the pandemic, it has not always been possible to permit consistent access to prisons for the external community-based organisations. 

The Irish Prison Service is currently carrying out a risk assessment to determine when and how the restrictions put in place in recent months can be eased, while controlling the risk of the spread of infection and ensuring good order and security in the prisons.

The risk assessment currently being undertaken includes reviewing the physical access for community-based organisations that provide in-reach services to prisons, including Traveller peer support services, prison links workers and visitor centre supports. Where possible, video-link appointments with some of the external community-based services have been facilitated in line with the recommendations of the prisoner’s sentence plan and identified needs. 

It should be noted that prison-based services, including prisoner healthcare, training and education services, psychology, addiction counselling services and resettlement services continue to be available within the prisons. To mitigate against the impact of these services not being consistently available in a traditional manner, I understand the Prison Service has put in place a dedicated phone service for prisoners to reach out to chaplains, psychologists and addiction counsellors and that it has increased the use of technology to ensure these essential services continue.

The Prison Service has continued to facilitate access to prisons and prisoners for those organisations with a statutory role such as the Office of the Inspector of Prisons and Prison Visiting Committees to ensure continued oversight during the pandemic.

If there is a particular advocacy group the Deputy would like to bring to my attention and that of the Prison Service I would be happy to receive that information.

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