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Thursday, 25 Nov 2021

Written Answers Nos. 92-111

Employment Support Services

Ceisteanna (92)

Cathal Crowe

Ceist:

92. Deputy Cathal Crowe asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will consider extending Tús and CES employment placements in view of interruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. [57696/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

As the Deputy may be aware, CE and Tús participants whose contracts were originally due to finish during periods of Government restrictions, going back to October 2020, have had their contracts extended on a number of occasions. This ensures participants and schemes were supported during periods of COVID related public health restrictions and while getting back to normal level of activity so that participants can complete their education, training and work experience and schemes can maintain vital community services.

Last month, Minister Humphreys and I announced further extensions of CE and Tús participant contracts, to the start of February 2022. This means that over 23,000 CE and Tús participants are benefitting from a number of contract extensions dating back to October 2020.

From February 2022 the conclusion of participant contracts will be undertaken on a coordinated and phased basis and will continue until January 2023. This will ensure continuity of service delivery and will also support recruitment of new participants.

My Department has moved to restore activation services to pre-pandemic levels and is prioritising the referral and recruitment of eligible jobseekers to CE and Tús. My Department is also considering initiatives to strengthen and further support the referral process from the Intreo Offices to individual CE and Tús schemes.

My priority and the priority of the Department is to support CE and Tús schemes to get back to providing normal services, providing valuable opportunities to long term unemployed persons, supporting participants and delivering valuable services to local communities.

Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment

Ceisteanna (93)

Pa Daly

Ceist:

93. Deputy Pa Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection the assessments her Department has carried out in relation to available jobs within the hospitality sector; and the way they have informed the stance of her Department on the pandemic unemployment payment scheme. [57965/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

My Department is primarily responsible for the provision of income supports to individuals. The PUP payment was the main income support introduced for those impacted by Covid-19 which was payable to eligible workers irrespective of the sector from which they lost their employment. PUP, similar to other social welfare supports, is not paid on a sectoral basis. In terms of analysis, internal labour market reports are produced on a regular basis. They will typically include detailed summaries of the level and trends in employment, unemployment and the income support schemes offered by Government, including the PUP, Jobseeker Payments and the EWSS. Recipient and payment profiles are examined and analysed with respect to a variety of different characteristics, including the geographic, demographic, socio-economic and sectoral characteristics.

Examples of published reports which provide an overview of the level of analysis conducted include the recently published ‘PUP Labour Market Transitions Analysis’ and a policy paper published last June detailing the impact of COVID-19 on the Irish labour market. Both reports include a sectoral focus, with impacts on the Hospitality sector detailed.In addition, my Department conducts regular meetings with the Labour Market Advisory Council and its associated Employer Relations Subgroup. An important function of the Council is to advise on important trends occurring within the labour market and the key factors which should be considered for any and all policy responses. Furthermore, my Department has conducted extensive outreach campaigns to recipients of PUP regarding their connections to previous employers and their intentions and plans to return to employment. Since the gradual lifting of restrictions the number of customers receiving PUP has fallen dramatically to approximately 60,400 last week compared to an earlier peak this year of 481,000. During the same period the number of people from the accommodation and food sector has also decreased from a high in February 2021 of 111,870 to just under 12,900 last week, a reduction of almost 99,000. I trust that this clarifies the position for the Deputy at this time.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Ceisteanna (94)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

94. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Social Protection if her Department will devise a payment structure to recognise the existence of the effects of long-Covid; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57925/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

My Department provides a suite of income supports for those who are unable to work due to an illness or disability. It is important to note that entitlement to these supports is generally not contingent on the nature of the illness or disability but on the extent to which a particular illness or disability impairs or restricts a person’s capacity to work. This Department spent a total of €4.7 billion on illness, disability and caring payments in 2020.

In March of last year, under the Health (Preservation and Protection and other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Act 2020 (No. 1) and subsequent regulations, the Government provided for entitlement to Illness Benefit for persons who have been diagnosed with Covid-19 or are a probable source of infection with Covid-19.

The rate of payment of this enhanced Illness Benefit payment in respect of Covid-19 is higher than the normal maximum personal rate for a limited period. This enhanced benefit is payable for 2 weeks where a person is isolating as a probable source of infection of Covid-19 and up to 10 weeks where a person has been diagnosed with Covid-19.

The measures were designed to ensure that where a registered medical practitioner or a HSE medical officer diagnoses a person with Covid-19 or identifies them as a probable source of infection of Covid-19, the person can comply with medical advice to isolate, while having their income protected. This is essential to limit the spread of the virus, to keep the number of people affected to a minimum, and hence to avoid extreme pressure on the health system.

In a case where a person continues to be ill beyond 10 weeks, standard Illness Benefit may be paid for an extended period, based on the person’s continued eligibility. Illness Benefit is the primary income support payment for people who are unable to attend work due to illness of any type and who are covered by Pay Related Social Insurance (PRSI) contributions. Illness Benefit is payable for up to two years, depending on satisfying the eligibility conditions. Additional payments may be made in respect of a qualified adult and qualifying children.

Apart from these income supports, my Department also provides means tested supports under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme for people who are ill but who do not qualify for Illness Benefit. The Department may also make an exceptional needs payment (ENP) to help meet essential, once-off expenditure which a person could not reasonably be expected to meet from their weekly income.

My Department keeps the range of income supports under review in order to make sure they meet their objectives. Any changes to the current system would need to be considered in an overall policy and budgetary context.

I trust this clarifies the matter.

Social Welfare Benefits

Ceisteanna (95)

Alan Farrell

Ceist:

95. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of persons who have benefited, by county, from parent’s benefit since its introduction and since its expansion in April 2021; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57133/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

The information requested by the Deputy is included in the following table. Note that the numbers refer to people who were in receipt of payment for Parent's Benefit.

County

Pre-April 2021

Post-April 2021

Carlow

272

363

Cavan

440

563

Clare

584

816

Cork

2,979

4,144

Donegal

656

883

Dublin

5,945

8,143

Galway

1,432

1,959

Kerry

666

959

Kildare

1,266

1,750

Kilkenny

531

743

Laois

350

500

Leitrim

199

258

Limerick

913

1,188

Longford

187

257

Louth

527

696

Mayo

599

874

Meath

1,041

1,525

Monaghan

362

517

Offaly

307

453

Roscommon

356

455

Sligo

339

463

Tipperary

761

1,042

Waterford

583

757

Westmeath

469

634

Wexford

631

911

Wicklow

613

847

Total

23,008

31,700

State Pensions

Ceisteanna (96)

Marc Ó Cathasaigh

Ceist:

96. Deputy Marc Ó Cathasaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection the work her Department has undertaken towards a proposed benchmarking system for pension rates to be benchmarked to salaries and inflation, as outlined as an income smoothing proposal in the Roadmap for Social Inclusion 2020-2025 in order to provide income security for older persons; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57600/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

The Roadmap for Social Inclusion 2020 - 2025 aims to reduce the number of people in consistent poverty in Ireland to 2% or less, and to position Ireland within the top five countries in the EU under a number of leading social inclusion measures. The Roadmap includes a specific goal to protect the incomes of older people through the delivery of the commitment to benchmark State pension payments, which was outlined in the Roadmap for Pensions Reform 2018 – 2023.

The Roadmap for Social Inclusion outlines the potential approach currently under consideration. This approach uses what can be described as a smoothed earnings system which would ensure that, over the long-term, the relative value of state pensions compared to market earnings would be maintained and that, over any short-term period, the real value, or purchasing power, of these payments would be protected.

While good progress has been made, I have asked my officials to continue to engage with their counterparts in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform on the issue of indexation of State pensions with a view to progressing this work in the coming months.

The Pensions Commission report, which is currently being considered by Government, also examined the issue of benchmarking pension rates and has endorsed the smoothed earnings approach.

Employment Support Services

Question No. 98 answered with Question No. 11.

Ceisteanna (97)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

97. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will report on the roll-out of the Work Placement Experience Programme. [57931/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

The Work Placement Experience Programme (WPEP) was launched last July 2021 as a key policy initiative under the Government's new national employment services strategy, Pathways to Work 2021-2025. WPEP is a funded work placement scheme to provide training and a quality work experience to unemployed person who have been unemployed for more that six months, which includes time spent on the pandemic unemployment payment (PUP). Participation on WPEP is entirely voluntary.

Payments to participants are €306 per week plus increases for qualified adults and children and underlying entitlement to secondary benefits (such as fuel allowance, Christmas bonus) are also maintained by the participant. The payment is not means assessed and is paid to all participants, regardless of age. The personal rate of payment will increase to €311 in January in consequence of increases approved under Budget 2022.

There are currently 161 participants approved for WPEP of whom 52% are under 30 years of age. The gender split is 43% male and 57% female participants. While most participants have transitioned to WPEP from jobseeker payments 13 have come from a disability payment and 11 from Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP).

As expected, urban areas such as Dublin and Galway have the highest number of participants with 17% and 12% respectively. The sector with the largest number of WPEP positions have been provided in the Human Health and Social Work Activities sector at 19%. The Information and Communication sector is the next highest with 16%.

All placements will undertake 60 hours of training, to include 20 hours of accredited or sector-recognised training. Options have been created with the Education and Training Board to access a new QQI accredited work placement award which is delivered by the Education and Training Board. To date there have been 21 referrals to QQI level courses. In addition, two WPEP Lunch Bunch webinars have been held to support jobseekers in their job-seeking learning and development to include an outline of training resources on JobsIreland.ie, showcasing the QQI accredited work experience module, other training assets and supports and mindfulness for jobseekers. Host organisations are also supported in their mentoring role for participants with an online mentoring workshop in collaborations with the ETBs.

There are 83 placements currently advertised on jobsireland. Work is ongoing with my Department's employer engagement teams and Intreo Offices in promoting this scheme with employers and jobseekers and I expect the numbers on this scheme to continue to increase over the coming months.

I trust this clarifies matters for the Deputy.

Question No. 98 answered with Question No. 11.

Employment Support Services

Ceisteanna (99)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

99. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Social Protection the steps she plans to take to ensure that all available places are taken up on the community employment, Tús and rural social schemes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [56745/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

As the Deputy is aware, the Department of Social Protection delivers a range of employment and income support schemes including Community Employment (CE), Tús and the Rural Social Scheme (RSS). The aims of CE and Tús schemes are to enhance the employability of disadvantaged and long-term unemployed people by providing valuable work experience opportunities, while CE also provides training supports for participants.

RSS is an income support programme that provides part-time employment opportunities within community and voluntary organisations in local areas for farmers, fishermen and fisherwomen in receipt of Farm/Fish Assist, or certain other social welfare payments, and who are underemployed in their primary occupation.

I am very aware of the challenges resulting from the COVID-19 emergency and the related public health restrictions, including the impact CE and Tús schemes in recruiting new participants. My Department has continued to support CE and Tús schemes throughout the period and introduced a number of contingency measures including the extension of CE and Tús participants’ contracts on a number of occasions.

At present, CE and Tús schemes are benefitting from the extension of over 18, 000 CE and just over 5,000 Tús participants' contracts up until 4th February 2022. After this date, these participants will leave schemes on a phased basis up to January 2023. This will ensure that participants are able to fully avail of the work experience and training opportunities available, enable schemes to maintain local community services, while the newer cohort long term unemployed persons are referred to fill places and avail of these opportunities.

My Department's activation services have returned in full and my officials are prioritising the referral and recruitment of eligible jobseekers to CE and Tús. Time spent on PUP will count towards eligibility for unemployed persons participation on CE and Tús and will provide valuable opportunities for those persons whose jobs may not return post COVID.

My Department officials are continuing to work with local CE sponsoring authorities and Tús implementing bodies to refer suitable CE and Tús candidates to fill places on schemes. CE sponsoring authorities can advertise vacancies on www.jobsireland.ie, the Department’s online job advertising and recruitment service for jobseekers and employers. Jobseekers are advised to register their interest through this website or by contacting a case officer in their local Intreo Centre who will refer eligible candidates to local CE schemes.

Participation on RSS is by self-selection with applications made directly to one of the implementing bodies that deliver the scheme locally. Implementing bodies are required to promote and publicise RSS and aim to fill those places assigned to them by the Department. RSS continues to be promoted through the Department and eligible candidates are referred to RSS implementing bodies where they express an interest.

I am fully committed to the future of these programmes and will continue to support and improve the programmes for the benefit of the CE, Tús and RSS participants and the valuable contribution being made to local communities throughout the country. I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Social Welfare Eligibility

Question No 101 answered with Question No. 11.

Question No. 102 answered with Question No. 28.

Question No. 103 answered with Question No. 29.

Ceisteanna (100)

Mick Barry

Ceist:

100. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will take measures to ensure that those who are homeless, living independently of their parents and under 25 years of age will be eligible for full unemployment payments in line with those in a similar situation but availing of the housing assistance payment or local authority housing; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57937/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

Age-related reduced rates for people on Jobseekers Allowance were introduced in 2009 in line with other jurisdictions, to address the issue of high youth unemployment. Young jobseekers who take part in employment, education and training programmes receive a higher rate of payment.

There are a number of circumstances where reduced rates do not apply including if a young person is in receipt of State housing supports in their own right, such as rent supplement or the housing assistance payment (HAP). This measure helps young jobseekers in receipt of the specified State housing supports to continue living independently and to maintain their tenancy arrangements.

The needs of young people who are homeless are managed on a case by case basis. The Community Welfare Service supports young people in these circumstances, through its engagement with Tusla, the HSE and non-Government organisations, and provides support under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance Scheme. Supports can include exceptional needs payments or weekly supplements, depending on the individual circumstances involved.

There are no plans at this point to change the existing payment arrangements for young people.

I trust that this clarifies my position for the Deputy.

Question No 101 answered with Question No. 11.
Question No. 102 answered with Question No. 28.
Question No. 103 answered with Question No. 29.

State Pensions

Ceisteanna (104)

Marc Ó Cathasaigh

Ceist:

104. Deputy Marc Ó Cathasaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection the latest views of her Department in relation to the potential legality of aligning the retirement age in employment contracts with the age at which persons become eligible for the State pension; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57599/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

The Pensions Commission was established in November 2020 to examine the sustainability of the State Pension system and the Social Insurance Fund, in fulfilment of a Programme for Government commitment. The Commission was an independent body comprised of knowledgeable and experienced academics, pension experts, members of civil society and representatives of workers and employers. The Commission has completed its work and its report was published on 7th October 2021. The Commission's Report, its Technical Sub-Committee's working papers, and submissions made to the Commission are available on the Commission’s website, pensionscommission.gov.ie.

The Commission’s Report is a comprehensive report that takes account of an assessment of various analyses of population, labour force and expenditure projections; an examination of international approaches; and responses to an extensive consultation process. It has unambiguously established that the current State Pension system is not sustainable into the future and that changes are needed, and it has set out a wide range of recommendations in this regard.

The report has been referred to the Joint Committee on Social Protection, Community and Rural Development and the Islands and to the Commission for Taxation and Welfare for their views. I understand that, along with officials from my Department, both the Chair of the Commission, Ms. Josephine Feehily and the Chair of its Technical Sub-Committee, Ms. Roma Burke met with the Joint Committee on 17th November 2021.

In the interests both of older people and of future generations of older people, the Government intends to consider the comprehensive and far reaching recommendations in the Commission’s Report very carefully and holistically. My officials will work over the coming months to examine each of the recommendations, their implications, and what would be required to implement them. This will include the recommendation to align retirement ages in employment contracts with the State Pension Age. They will consult across Government through the Cabinet Committee system. I think it is really important that we complete that work before reaching conclusions. I intend to bring a recommended response and implementation plan to Government by the end of March 2022.

The State Pension is the bedrock of the pension system in Ireland. It is extremely effective at ensuring that our pensioners do not experience poverty. This Government is committed to ensuring that this remains the case for current pensioners, those nearing State Pension age and today’s young workers including those who are only starting their careers.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Departmental Reports

Question No. 106 answered with Question No. 29.

Ceisteanna (105)

Catherine Connolly

Ceist:

105. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Social Protection the status of the cost of disability report commissioned by her Department; when she expects the report to be published; the details of the engagement her Department has had with other relevant Departments in relation to the finalisation of the report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57986/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

My Department commissioned Indecon International Consultants to carry out research into the cost of disability in Ireland. The Programme for Government commits the Government to use this research into the cost of disability to individuals and families to properly inform the direction of future policy.

This matter is significantly wider than the income support system which is why a whole-of-Government perspective is being taken. There is not a single typical ‘cost of disability’, rather there is a spectrum from low additional costs to extremely high extra costs of disability, depending on the individual circumstances of the person with a disability. Additional costs of disability go across a number of areas of expenditure including housing; equipment, aids and appliances; mobility, transport and communications; medicines; care and assistance services and additional living expenses.

The report has been received and my Department has been considering it in detail. As part of this consideration, the Department briefed and sought the views of relevant Government departments which have a role to play in the delivery of disability services and supports. These included the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, the Department of Health, the Department of Housing, Local Government, and Heritage, the Department of Transport and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

This process is now complete and I intend to submit the report to Government for consideration shortly. A decision regarding the appropriate date of publication will be made once Government has had an opportunity to consider the report fully.

I trust that this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Question No. 106 answered with Question No. 29.

Community Welfare Services

Question No. 108 answered with Question No. 29.

Ceisteanna (107)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

107. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Social Protection if community welfare services are now centralised; if local decision-making on community welfare matters no longer exists; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57924/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

The Community Welfare Service in my department delivers the supplementary welfare allowance scheme which is the safety net within the overall social welfare system. This scheme provides assistance to eligible people in the State whose means are insufficient to meet their needs and those of their dependents. The discretionary element of Supplementary Welfare Allowance (SWA) is a major strength of the scheme as it has the capacity to provide an immediate flexible response to identified needs.

In line with public health advice over the last 20 months, the Department has sought to reduce face-to-face contact with customers where feasible and a full time Community Welfare Service is provided for through phone, email and postal arrangements. Intreo Centres are also open five days per week and any person who needs to access the Community Welfare Service can attend any morning or make an appointment for an afternoon meeting. Home visits can also be arranged by a Community Welfare Officer subject to need.

I trust this clarifies the position.

Question No. 108 answered with Question No. 29.

Domestic Violence

Ceisteanna (109)

Jennifer Carroll MacNeill

Ceist:

109. Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill asked the Minister for Social Protection the steps taken to make rent supplements accessible for victims of domestic abuse; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57203/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

Responsibility for the development and provision of services to support victims of domestic violence is a cross government body of work involving Department of Justice, Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (DCEDIY) and associated agencies. The co-ordination of the services addressing the needs of these customers is managed by The Child and Family Agency, Tusla. The accommodation needs of victims of domestic violence are met through this joined-up service delivery model provided by Tusla with the close involvement of the various housing authorities nationwide.

In August 2020, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, I agreed to make rent supplement more accessible to victims of domestic violence. This has ensured that victims of domestic violence are not prevented from leaving their home because of financial or accommodation difficulties.

For victims of domestic violence the measure provides that the standard rent supplement means test does not apply for an initial three month period. After the initial three-month period, a further three-month extension may be provided, subject to the usual rent supplement means assessment. After six months, if the tenant has a long-term housing need, they can apply to their local housing authority for social housing supports and, if eligible, will be able to access the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP), a social housing support provided by Local Authorities.

Access to rent supplement is additional and complementary to, and not a substitution for, the range of other supports already in place for victims of domestic violence.

Following a review of the measure after twelve months of operation involving all key stakeholders, I recently announced that victims of domestic violence will be granted easier access to rent supplement on a permanent basis. This ensures that victims of domestic violence can continue to get immediate access to rent supplement for a three month period to ensure that they are not prevented from leaving their home because of financial concerns.

There are 40 victims of domestic violence currently being supported under the Protocol, with 153 cases supported since the Protocol came into operation in August 2020. I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Community Employment Schemes

Ceisteanna (110)

Holly Cairns

Ceist:

110. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Social Protection the steps she is taking to support community employment schemes during the continuing uncertainty in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. [57979/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

The Community Employment (CE) Scheme is an active labour market programme designed to provide eligible long-term unemployed people and other disadvantaged persons with an opportunity to engage in useful work within their communities on a temporary, fixed term basis to improve their prospect of returning to employment.

As the Deputy may be aware, earlier this year, Minister Humphreys and I established the Operational Forum comprising of Departmental officials and employment support scheme sponsors and their representatives. The Operational Forum meets on a periodic basis to consider and discuss operational matters and provide information on future developments relating to the employment support schemes. It met on two occasions so far in 2021 and has provided a very useful forum to discuss and resolve some of the challenges faced by CE schemes during COVID and resultant public health restrictions.

I am therefore very aware of impact of the COVID-19 emergency on CE schemes. My Department has continued to support CE schemes throughout the period and introduced a number of contingency support measures, including the extension of CE participants’ contracts on a number of occasions. Over 18,000 CE participants are benefiting from the latest decision to extend CE contracts for a further period until February 2022.

After that date, participants will leave schemes on a coordinated, phased basis over a prolonged period continuing up until January 2023. This will ensure that the CE schemes can continue to provide important local community services as they get back to normal operations during this period.

My Department officials are continuing to work with local CE sponsoring authorities to identify suitable CE candidates. Time spent on PUP will count towards eligibility for CE. CE sponsoring authorities are encouraged by the Department to continue to promote the benefits of CE to long term unemployed persons in their local communities.

My priority and the priority of the Department is to have all CE schemes back providing normal services and supports to their long-term unemployed participants while delivering valuable services to local communities over the coming months.

Food Poverty

Ceisteanna (111)

Francis Noel Duffy

Ceist:

111. Deputy Francis Noel Duffy asked the Minister for Social Protection if an update will be provided on the work of the Working Group on Food Poverty; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57822/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

The Roadmap for Social Inclusion 2020 – 2025, which was published in January 2020, includes a commitment to ‘Develop a comprehensive programme of work to further explore the drivers of food poverty and to identify mitigating actions’ (Commitment 61).

The Food Poverty Working Group, which I chair, was established in May 2021 and aims to tackle the issue of food poverty in accordance with this commitment. Its membership consists of the Departments of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth; Education; Health; Rural and Community Development; and Social Protection. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Crosscare and the Children’s Rights Alliance are also members of this group.

The group has met on four occasions in June, July, September and November so far this year. The group has focused on two pieces of work to date. The first is a mapping exercise of programmes, services and supports across Government that address food poverty. Data gathering is being finalised this month, and my Department will then look at how the data can be used and disseminated. The second piece of work is the development of a research proposal to analyse the prevalence of food poverty in selected case study areas; identify the drivers of food poverty in each area; and examine the range of service providers and actors relating to food poverty in each area, identifying any gaps in service provision. The research outcomes should inform the delivery of Commitment 61 of the Roadmap for Social Inclusion.

I thank the Deputy for his question and hope this clarifies the matter.

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