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Thursday, 25 Nov 2021

Written Answers Nos. 285-304

Social Welfare Appeals

Ceisteanna (285)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

285. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if a facility can be found and arranged for expeditious oral hearings online or otherwise; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [58180/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

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. When an appeal is assigned to an Appeals Officer for consideration the Appeals Officer makes a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if necessary, holds an oral hearing. The use of an oral hearing is at the discretion of the Appeals Officer.

Due to the public health restrictions arising from the Covid-19 pandemic, in-person hearings were suspended in March 2020 and have remained suspended since then, with the exception of a small number of weeks in August and September 2020.

Oral hearings have been successfully conducted online or by telephone since October 2020 and these types of hearings will continue. This remote hearing approach has proven to be an effective way, during the pandemic, of facilitating an oral hearing previously achieved via the holding of an in-person hearing.

During this period, Appeals Officers have also made greater use of telephone contact and correspondence to gather additional information or seek clarification which might otherwise have been ascertained in the course of an oral hearing. This has reduced the need to conduct oral hearings.

There has been a decrease in overall appeals processing times to date in 2021 with appeals requiring an oral hearing taking an average of 25.6 weeks (27.1 weeks in 2020) and summary decisions taking 13.8 weeks (15.5 weeks in 2020) to finalise. The figures for October 2021 are 20.9 weeks for appeals requiring an oral hearing and 14.0 weeks for summary decisions. Processing times will continue to be a key focus of the Chief Appeals Officer.

Oral hearing arrangements will continue to be kept under regular review.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

State Pensions

Ceisteanna (286)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

286. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of applications for the State pension (contributory) currently in hand and awaiting a decision; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [58181/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

My Department is committed to ensuring that State pension (contributory) claims are processed as expeditiously as possible. The operational target for State pension (contributory) claims is to have 90% of applications awarded (where qualified) by entitlement date, currently the applicant's 66th birthday.

The State Pension Contributory Section in my Department processes pension applications in order of pension age, rather than date of receipt. This ensures that, in the majority of cases, applicants will receive a decision in respect of their State pension (contributory) by date of entitlement.

According to the most recent records of my Department, some 93% of customers were informed of the outcome of their pension application by date of entitlement. According to the latest figures available at end-October 2021, the average processing time achieved is less than 6 weeks.

Based on end-October 2021 reports, there are currently some 3,700 State pension (contributory) claims on hand. Processing of pension claims depends on the individual nature of applicants’ circumstances. It is also dependent on the completeness of applications received and the availability of the required information. Further investigation may be required before notification of decision where the applicant has been self-employed, where they have been in public sector employment or where they may have social insurance recorded in another country.

I hope this clarifies the position for the Deputy.

Social Welfare Appeals

Ceisteanna (287)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

287. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of social welfare appeals being determined on a weekly basis; the number of appeals arising each week; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [58182/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

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 am advised by the Chief Appeals Officer that in 2020 a total of 23,664 appeals were registered and 26,790 were finalised. In the period January to October 2021 20,574 appeals have been registered and 19,678 finalised.

The attached table sets out the number of appeals registered and finalised in 2020 and from January to October 2021 and the average weekly statistics for both periods.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Annual and Weekly Appeals Statistics

Year

2020

2021 (to end of October)

Total

Weekly Average

Total

Weekly Average

Registered

23,664

455

20,574

478

Finalised

26,790

515

19,678

458

Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment

Ceisteanna (288)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

288. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the extent to which the level of Covid-19 related payments has tapered off in recent weeks; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [58183/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

Since the gradual lifting of restrictions the number of customers receiving the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) has reduced dramatically to just over 57,100 compared to a peak of over 600,000 in May 2020 and 481,000 in February 2021. As the Live Register figures demonstrate, in the vast majority of cases, the decrease in PUP numbers is due to a return to work and not to a transfer to jobseeker payments. This week's figure represents a further reduction of over 3,300 on last week. Detailed statistical information on PUP is provided on the Government's website.

I trust that this clarifies the position for the Deputy.

Pension Provisions

Ceisteanna (289)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

289. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the extent to which satisfactory provision has been made for those retiring at 65 years of age; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [58184/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

My Department introduced Benefit Payment for 65 Year Olds on 25 January 2021, to deliver on a Programme for Government commitment to address the position of people who are required to or chose to retire at age 65.

This payment is for people aged 65 who have ceased employment or self-employment and who satisfy the pay-related social insurance (PRSI) contribution conditions.

To qualify, a customer must have paid at least 104 PRSI insurable employment contributions at Class A , H or P

OR

have paid at least 156 PRSI self-employment contributions at Class S

AND

have paid at least 39 PRSI contributions at Class A, H or P or have credited contributions in the governing contribution year.

The Governing Contribution Year is the second last complete tax year; for example, for a claim in 2021 the second last complete tax year is 2019.

A self-employed customer must have paid at least 156 PRSI self-employment contributions at Class S

OR

have paid at least 104 PRSI insurable employment contributions at Class A or H

AND

have paid 52 PRSI self-employment contributions at Class S in the governing contribution year.

Benefit Payment for 65 Year Olds may be paid from the date of a person's 65th birthday until the date of their 66th birthday as long as they continue to satisfy the conditions for this payment.

The quickest way to apply for the Benefit Payment for 65 Year Olds is by making an application through www.MyWelfare.ie. Alternatively, a person may request a paper application form by sending an email to forms@welfare.ie. and a form will be posted to them.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Youth Unemployment

Ceisteanna (290)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

290. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the extent to which she and her Department have continued to monitor youth unemployment levels; the extent to which such levels have increased or otherwise in recent weeks; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [58185/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

As the Deputy will be aware, this country faced an unprecedented shock to the labour market as a result of the pandemic. Prior to Covid-19, the seasonally adjusted youth unemployment rate for 2019 averaged approximately 12.5 percent. Following the onset of the pandemic, the CSO’s "COVID-19 adjusted" monthly youth unemployment rate, which includes all those in receipt of the PUP, increased dramatically, peaking at almost 70 percent in May 2020.

In recent months, on foot of the loosening of public health restrictions, youth unemployment rates have declined significantly. According to the latest data from the CSO, the "COVID-19 adjusted" youth unemployment rate for October 2021 was 11.1 percent while the standard youth unemployment rate for October 2021 was 9.1 percent. Therefore, a reasonable estimate of the current underlying youth unemployment is between 9 and 11 percent, meaning youth unemployment rates have fallen below 2019 levels.

In recent weeks the rapid decline in the number of young persons in receipt of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment has continued. As of November 23rd, there are just over 4,300 under 25's in receipt of the PUP, down from 9,870 at the start of October. At present, under 25’s account for approximately 7.5 percent of all current PUP recipients. This compares to over 25 percent in early June.

Additionally, there are there are just under 17,200 under 25's on the Live Register as of the week ending November 21st. Therefore, the total number of under 25's in receipt of Live Register and PUP income supports is around 21,500.

While much progress has been made, I will continue to monitor youth unemployment levels carefully over the coming weeks and months. Under Pathways to Work, the Government's new employment services strategy, launched last July, my Department has put in place a wide range of measures to assist unemployed young people back into employment, education or training. Some of the key measures that will help young people include:

- 4,000 places ring-fenced for young people on the Work Placement Experience Programme.

- 1,000 additional Community Employment and Tús places set aside for young people.

- Providing 50,000 further education and training places.

- 8,000 additional places on the JobsPlus recruitment subsidy- with the subsidy being available, on an earlier basis than normal, to employers when they recruit young people.

- Targeting 10,000 apprentice registrations per year by 2025.

- Extending the Apprenticeship Incentivisation Scheme, which provides financial supports for employers who register apprentices to a national apprenticeship, to end 2021.

Social Welfare Payments

Ceisteanna (291)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

291. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the extent to which the number of applications for various social welfare payments has fluctuated over the past 12 months; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [58186/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

The information requested by the Deputy, where available, is set out in the tables below.

Table 1: Pensions Applications

-

State Pension (Contributory)

Widow(er)'s Contributory Pension

State Pension (Non-Contributory)

Oct-20

2,637

700

649

Nov-20

3,646

639

851

Dec-20

2,118

464

443

Jan-21

3,067

683

658

Feb-21

3,796

771

720

Mar-21

4,465

873

1,196

Apr-21

3,283

645

823

May-21

3,360

626

699

Jun-21

3,246

702

768

Jul-21

3,118

623

759

Aug-21

2,909

536

562

Sep-21

2,463

620

630

Oct-21

3,430

634

738

Table 2: Working Age Income Supports Applications

-

Jobseekers Allowance

Jobseekers Benefit

One-Parent Family Payment

Supplementary Welfare Allowance

Maternity Benefit

Paternity Benefit

Parent's Benefit

Oct-20

13,574

15,384

1026

3,833

4,034

2,548

2,438

Nov-20

10,725

11,154

852

3,052

4,353

2,481

2,453

Dec-20

7,732

7,661

537

2,341

2,618

1,604

1,895

Jan-21

8,675

10,587

668

2,227

3,752

2,216

2,422

Feb-21

7,087

7,789

712

2,120

3,697

2,135

2,355

Mar-21

7,344

7,995

761

2,380

3,974

2,780

3,198

Apr-21

6,682

8,156

770

2,185

3,515

2,162

6,769

May-21

6,938

6,982

798

2,393

3,610

3,610

4,709

Jun-21

9,347

11,944

797

2,863

4,606

2,557

4,713

Jul-21

9,691

13,228

819

3,421

3,478

2,157

4,979

Aug-21

8,204

9,382

826

3,480

3,665

2,324

4,243

Sep-21

9,556

10,775

994

3,814

4,987

3,160

5,157

Oct-21

8,371

9,587

929

3,553

3,680

2,327

4,614

Table 3: Illness, Disability, and Caring Applications

-

Carer's Allowance

Carer's Benefit

Disability Allowance

Invalidity Pension

Illness Benefit

Occupational Injury Benefit

Oct-20

1,788

358

2,083

857

32,713

848

Nov-20

1,776

290

1,897

831

22,770

746

Dec-20

1,234

199

1,370

684

20,821

661

Jan-21

1,151

234

1,275

774

52,199

674

Feb-21

1,521

240

1,527

782

25,639

647

Mar-21

1,293

297

1,729

792

23,590

662

Apr-21

1,744

311

1,650

655

21,349

586

May-21

1,984

426

1,794

790

22,233

747

Jun-21

1,735

429

1,909

727

24,522

886

Jul-21

1,558

363

1,822

649

32,953

904

Aug-21

1,456

311

1,646

638

38,116

932

Sep-21

1,762

393

1,928

723

33,918

1,100

Oct-21

1,741

368

1,900

858

30,633

1,009

Table 4: Child Related Payments Applications

-

Child Benefit

Working Family Payment

Domiciliary Care Allowance

Oct-20

3,000

2,176

668

Nov-20

3,324

1,505

721

Dec-20

1,959

1,002

578

Jan-21

2,754

1,148

540

Feb-21

2,713

1,106

661

Mar-21

2,458

1,196

857

Apr-21

2,435

1,402

809

May-21

2,106

1,264

1,072

Jun-21

1,499

1,393

849

Jul-21

2,694

2,450

700

Aug-21

2,506

2,497

668

Sep-21

2,528

N/Avail*

837

Oct-21

2,736

N/Avail*

766

* Figures for Working Family Payment are unavailable for September and October due to system migration.

State Pensions

Ceisteanna (292)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

292. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the extent to which she expects to be in a position to address the pensions issue for persons who have gaps in their contribution record for whatever reason, with a view to ensuring the availability of a payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [58187/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

Subject to the standard qualifying conditions for State Pension (Contributory) also being satisfied, the State pension system already provides significant recognition to those whose work history includes an extended period of time outside the paid workplace, often to raise families or in a full-time caring role.

This is provided through the award of credits and/or the application of the Homemaker’s Scheme (under the Yearly Average method for payment calculation) and/or the application of HomeCaring Periods (under the Aggregated Contribution Method, also known as the interim Total Contributions Approach).

For those with insufficient contributions to meet the requirements for a State pension (contributory), they may qualify for a means tested State pension (non-contributory), the maximum personal rate for which is €237 (over 95% of the maximum rate of the contributory pension). This rate of payment does not include rent allowance, household benefits or fuel allowance which they may also be entitled to. Alternatively, if their spouse is a State pensioner and they have significant household means, their most beneficial payment may be an Increase for a Qualified Adult, based on their personal means, and amounting up to 90% of a full contributory pension.

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. These recommendations include enhanced provisions for long-term carers (in excess of 20 years), full transition to a Total Contributions Approach and allowing a person to continue to pay social insurance contributions past State Pension Age to improve their record for State Pension Contributory purposes.

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 its views. I understand that, in this regard, 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. Officials from my Department also attended this meeting.

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. 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.

Registration of Births

Ceisteanna (293)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

293. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will provide a list of the current average waiting times for the registration of the birth of a child in each county, in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [58208/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

The Deputy will be aware that the HSE is responsible for the day-to-day delivery of civil registration services.

My Department, through the General Register Office, has made enquiries with the HSE who have advised that there are no backlogs in registering births with the exception of the Eastern Registration Areas. The HSE have advised that the time taken to register a birth in the Eastern area is approximately 6 weeks.

I am advised that the HSE will be providing the Deputy with information on processing times, by county, for issuing first time birth certificates.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Early Childhood Care and Education

Ceisteanna (294)

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

294. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the funding streams that are available for a programme (details supplied) to be able to buy a bus; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [58043/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Capital investment in early learning and childcare will be delivered through the National Development Plan (NDP) during 2021-2030. This will enable significant capital investment in early learning and childcare during the lifetime of the NDP. Investment under the NDP will consist of three pillars:

(1) Modernisation grants will be available for upgrading and modernisation necessary to comply with new regulations and more recent guidelines;

(2) New Capacity grants will be larger-scale grants to increase the stock of early learning and childcare infrastructure; and

(3) grants will also be available to support capital requirements for First 5 trial initiatives such as Family and Early Childcare Centres and outdoor childcare provision.

Currently there is no available capital funding for transport purchases such as buses. However, information on the Department’s NDP capital allocation and the application process will be communicated to the sector in the near future. The Department advises the service to contact their local CCCs, who will provide information on future capital supports when it becomes available, should the service wish to avail of capital funding under the 3 pillars outlined.

Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries

Ceisteanna (295)

Pa Daly

Ceist:

295. Deputy Pa Daly asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth if the six-month limit for eligibility for a payment from the mother and baby home redress scheme applies with respect to the date of an adoption order or the date of the child physically leaving the institution. [58077/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The Mother and Baby Institutions Payment Scheme includes financial payments and a form of enhanced medical card. Payments will be provided to eligible applicants based on proof of residency for a defined period of time.

Any person who was resident as a child in a Mother and Baby or County Home Institution for a period of six months or more (and who did not receive redress in respect of that institution under the Residential Institutions Redress Scheme) will be eligible for a financial payment under the Scheme.

While the residency details in respect of application to the Scheme will have to be looked at individually, it is anticipated that relevant dates to establish eligibility for the Scheme will be the date the child was born in or admitted to the Mother and Baby or County Home Institution and the date they physically left this institution.

Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries

Ceisteanna (296)

Colm Burke

Ceist:

296. Deputy Colm Burke asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth if Irish citizens whose parents were also Irish citizens, that spent time in a mother and baby or county home institution in Northern Ireland (details supplied) for a significant period of time will be eligible for support under the mother and baby home payment scheme and action plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [58113/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The Mother and Baby Institutions Payment Scheme will provide financial payments and an enhanced medical card to defined groups in acknowledgement of suffering experienced while resident in Mother and Baby and County Home Institutions in the Republic of Ireland. The institutions covered by the Scheme are the 14 Mother and Baby Homes investigated by the Commission of Investigation and all County Homes. Mother and baby homes or other institutions in Northern Ireland do not come under the scope of the Payment Scheme.

Departmental Funding

Question No. 298 answered with Question No. 297.

Question No. 299 answered with Question No. 297.

Ceisteanna (297, 298, 299)

Rose Conway-Walsh

Ceist:

297. Deputy Rose Conway-Walsh asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the number and detail of all completed, ongoing and planned projects under the higher education strategic infrastructure fund; the level of co-financing being provided through the fund; the total cost of the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [58087/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Rose Conway-Walsh

Ceist:

298. Deputy Rose Conway-Walsh asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science if the higher education strategic infrastructure fund is exclusively for traditional universities with independent borrowing power therefore excluding technological universities and institutes of technology; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [58088/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Rose Conway-Walsh

Ceist:

299. Deputy Rose Conway-Walsh asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the total available funding under the higher education strategic infrastructure fund; the criteria used for allocating funding under the fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [58089/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Further and Higher Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 297 to 299, inclusive, together.

The funding allocations under the co-funded Higher Education Strategic Infrastructure Fund (HESIF) programme were done by way of competitive call against set criteria outlined in the call document. The criteria included, quality and impact, value for money, capacity to deliver and alignment with Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) strategy.

Applications were invited from Universities, TUs/IoTs and other colleges. The HESIF applications were appraised by a HEA-led team under the terms and conditions that issued to the Institutions in January and March 2019.

Applications from 15 HEIs were received (see attached table) and assessed with the five successful projects listed below.

HEI

Location/Name

DFHERIS Funding

Stage

Maynooth University

Technology Society & Innovation Building

€25m

On site

IT Sligo

Extension to Central Campus (EO1) Project

€6.6m

On site

UCC

Cork University Business School (CUBS) Project

€25m

Design

NUIG

Learning Commons Project

€15m

Design

UCD

Future Campus Project

€25m

Pre-tender

The proposed exchequer investment of up to €96.6m across the 5 projects will leverage c€411m in non-exchequer funding. It will deliver c70,000m² of additional capacity across the HEIs, while also relieving pressures on existing facilities.

As the Deputy will be aware, delivery of projects in the higher education sector is devolved to the higher education institutions. Responsibility for the planning and procurement processes, as well as project delivery timelines, all fall within the remit of the HEIs. The projects identified above are now at various stages, from planning and design to construction.

Project reporting to the HEA is in line with agreed Devolved Control Procedures.

HESIF Projects

Question No. 298 answered with Question No. 297.
Question No. 299 answered with Question No. 297.

Third Level Education

Ceisteanna (300)

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

300. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the plans in place to ensure third level institutions are prepared for, and capable of providing, alternative assessments for students who are deemed medically vulnerable and cannot attend on-site examinations, students who are living with a medically vulnerable family member and cannot attend on-site exams and students who are required to restrict their movements as close contacts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [58093/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Further and Higher Education)

The Government statement that there will be no change in current arrangements for student attendance and on-site activities in school, further and higher education institutions in line with COVID response plans for those sectors highlights that there is no change planned to the current arrangements for student attendance and on-site activities for the further and higher education sector. It is in this context that the sector continues to operate in accordance with the provisions of the Safe Return Plan, which has facilitated the return of over 400,000 learners since September, and which has been supplemented by recent guidance in relation to the sectoral approach for this current phase of the response.

For activities that are context dependent, in such a way that a one size fits all approach will not work across the sector, institutions have discretion to adopt public health measures appropriate to their own context, actively using significant precautionary measures to mitigate risk based on risk assessment and management systems, engagement with their stakeholders and building on the practices that were accrued through onsite provision in the more restrictive context of 2020/21. This encompasses ongoing monitoring and reviewing of plans, practices and measures including the approaches that institutions will take to terminal examinations.

Additionally, the Safe Return Plan and the most recent guidance on the current approach both advocate and support for ongoing contingency planning to ensure that institutions remain flexible and adaptable in response to any changes in the public health environment.

Education and Training Provision

Ceisteanna (301)

Paul Murphy

Ceist:

301. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 164 and 165 of 17 November 2021, if the final proposal referred to in his answer will be published; and when this criterion was adopted by Solas. [58131/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Further and Higher Education)

In terms of the details of the specific approach adopted to implementing the proposal, SOLAS are publishing the range of financial supports available on their dedicated webpage for the Debenhams Fund at www.solas.ie/programmes/debenhams-training-fund/. These include the following:-

- A career transition grant of up to €1,000 for additional occupational guidance and career planning supports from private guidance specialists as required;

- Training grants towards privately provided programmes accredited by industry bodies or by Quality and Qualifications Ireland where similar programmes are not readily or speedily available through the public system, up to a general limit of €5,000 for higher education programmes and €3,000 for further education training programmes;

- Course Expense Contributions towards the costs of travel, materials and equipment, up to a €3,000 limit;

- A weekly contribution of €100 towards childcare costs to facilitate attendance at upskilling programmes; and

- Recoupment of costs already incurred to support individual upskilling since being made redundant up to €1,500.

These supports were approved by SOLAS and advised to my Department in August 2021 in the context of finalising the design of the Fund in light of its objectives set out in the outcome of the engagement by the Chairman of the Labour Court in this matter.

As set out in my earlier response, the level of demand for support from, and the operation of, the Fund will be monitored by the Advisory Committee established to support the implementation of the Fund which includes representatives of the former workers.

Departmental Funding

Ceisteanna (302)

Neale Richmond

Ceist:

302. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Justice the next steps towards a national roll-out of the Community Safety Innovation Fund; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [55552/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, Budget 2022 provides for the establishment of the new Community Safety Innovation Fund. It is intended that this fund will support investment in projects which will improve community safety. The fund, which is expected to grow in the coming years, will have an initial outlay in 2022 of €2m.

A call for funding proposals will issue seeking applications for community safety projects and similar initiatives from bodies involved in community safety, such as the new Local Community Safety Partnerships – pilots of which are in place in North Inner City Dublin, Waterford and Longford – and the Drogheda Implementation Board, as well as similar entities nationwide.

Applications will be assessed against stated criteria outlined in the call for proposals to ensure funding is allocated to encourage the development of innovative ways in which to improve community safety from those people who understand local community safety needs best. It will also allow best practice on community safety to be shared with other bodies involved in community safety around the country as new proposals get developed.

These criteria for allocating funding are currently under consideration and will be announced in due course.

Commissions of Investigation

Ceisteanna (303)

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

303. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Justice the number of commissions of investigation currently ongoing; the duration of each commission of investigation; the deadline for each commission of investigation; and the actual and projected cost of each commission of investigation. [54098/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy may be aware, commissions of investigation are carried out pursuant to the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004. That Act provides for a Commission to be established by Government Order. Before making the Order, a draft must be laid before each House and a resolution approving the draft passed by both Houses.

A tribunal of inquiry is an inquiry established by Statutory Instrument made by a Minister under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act 1921, following resolutions passed by both Houses.

The following table sets out the information requested by the Deputy in relation to ongoing tribunals of inquiry and commissions of investigation established under the legislation listed above.

Tribunal of Inquiry and Commission of Investigation

Disclosures Tribunal

Hickson Commission of Investigation*

The duration of each commission of investigation

Established in 2017

Established in 2018

Deadline

As Tribunals are independent in the performance of their function, it would be not appropriate for the Government to set a timeline/deadline for the work being undertaken.

Terms of reference were issued to Cabinet in May 2018. It was estimated that the Commission would run for up to a year. This is ongoing.

Costs (€,000)

14,211

1,703

Projected costs

The original estimated cost of €2.917 million (administrative and legal costs only) was later revised to €4.4m (including administrative, legal costs and third party costs). These revised costs were brought to Cabinet on 18 July 2017, noting that this was an estimate only and would depend on the actual work undertaken by the Tribunal, which is fully independent in the performance of its functions.

Estimated cost of Commission expenditure was €1.3 million.

*Judge Hickson retired this year and has been replaced by Judge Michael White.

Departmental Correspondence

Ceisteanna (304)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

304. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Justice if she will reply to correspondence from this Deputy dated 13 October and 4 November 2021. [58076/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I thank the Deputy for his correspondence on matters relating to the relocation, by the Legal Aid Board, of its Law Centre in Waterford.

A response to this correspondence has now issued to the Deputy from my office.

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