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Tuesday, 26 Apr 2022

Written Answers Nos. 1844-1863

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Ceisteanna (1844)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

1844. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Health if the €1,000 Covid-19 bonus will be paid to front-line workers in an organisation (details supplied) in view of the heroic work they carried out during the Covid pandemic; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21220/22]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

Firstly I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to all healthcare workers for their efforts during this most challenging period.

To recognise their unique role during the pandemic, the Government announced a COVID-19 recognition payment for frontline public sector healthcare workers. Eligibility guidelines for this payment, as applies in HSE and Section 38 organisations, were published by the HSE on 19th April and are available at www.hse.ie/eng/staff/resources/hr-circulars/hr-circular-012-2022-pandemic-special-recognition-payment.html 

Separately, the Department of Health shall shortly publish information for those other certain healthcare employees that are covered by the Government Decision and the process available to their employers to implement this measure for their eligible staff. This shall cover eligible staff in:

- Private Sector Nursing Homes and Hospices (e.g. Private, Voluntary, Section 39 etc.);

- Eligible staff working on-site in Section 39 long-term residential care facilities for people with disabilities;

- Agency roles working in the HSE;

- Health Care Support Assistants (also known as home help / home care / home support) contracted to the HSE;

- Redeployed members of Department of Defence to work in the HSE;

- Paramedics employed by the Department of Local Government, Housing and Heritage.

Data Protection

Ceisteanna (1845)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

1845. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Health if a piece of surveillance technology (details supplied) is being used by his Department or any agencies under his remit in view of the fact that there are security and privacy concerns associated with the use of same; the data protection policies on the use of artificial intelligence with respect to instances in which this technology is being used; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21237/22]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

My Department does not use the detailed surveillance technology.

In relation to technology used by the HSE, I have forwarded your query to them and asked that they respond directly to you on this.

Details for other bodies under the aegis of my Department are operational matters for the bodies concerned and the Deputy should contact the relevant Director/CEO/Registrar directly.

Medical Aids and Appliances

Ceisteanna (1846)

Neale Richmond

Ceist:

1846. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Health if he will remove the age restriction for the Freestyle Libre device for those with diabetes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21248/22]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

As the Health Service Executive (HSE) has statutory responsibility for decisions on pricing and reimbursement of medicines and medical devices under the community drug schemes, in accordance with the Health (Pricing and Supply of Medical Goods) Act 2013, I have asked the HSE to respond to the deputy directly, as soon as possible.

Medical Aids and Appliances

Ceisteanna (1847)

Neale Richmond

Ceist:

1847. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Health if he will conduct a health technology assessment for the Freestyle Libre device for diabetes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21249/22]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

As the Health Service Executive (HSE) has statutory responsibility for decisions on pricing and reimbursement of medicines and medical devices under the community drug schemes, in accordance with the Health (Pricing and Supply of Medical Goods) Act 2013, I have asked the HSE to respond to the deputy directly, as soon as possible.

Mental Health Services

Ceisteanna (1848)

Mark Ward

Ceist:

1848. Deputy Mark Ward asked the Minister for Health the breakdown of staff, the positions they hold and vacancies in CAHMS South Kerry in each of the years 2018 to 2021 and to date in 2022, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21252/22]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

As this is a service matter, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond to the deputy directly, as soon as possible.

Insurance Coverage

Ceisteanna (1849)

Jennifer Whitmore

Ceist:

1849. Deputy Jennifer Whitmore asked the Minister for Health his plans to change the policy enforced by health insurance companies which mean that persons with a pre-existing condition moving to Ireland must wait five years before cover can commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21264/22]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

I thank the Deputy for her question in relation to waiting periods on pre-existing conditions for persons moving to Ireland.  

In Ireland we have a community-rated health insurance market which is underpinned by carefully constructed and robust legislation. A Risk Equalisation Scheme operates in the health insurance market as a support to our system of community-rated health insurance. Our risk equalisation scheme is a carefully crafted scheme with permission required from the European Commission for its operation.

Any individual who takes out health insurance as a new entrant, whether resident here or returning from abroad, may have to serve waiting periods before they are fully covered, but accident and injury will be covered immediately. The maximum waiting period for illnesses that start after you join is 26 weeks; and for pre-existing illnesses which existed in the 6 months before you join is 5 years. Once these waiting periods are served, an individual will not have to serve them again if they choose to switch to another insurer, as long as there hasn’t been a break in cover of more than 13 weeks.

The application of waiting periods help support community rating and is an important tool for insurers to combat practices where someone could potentially take out a health insurance policy to avail of a particular treatment and then cancel the policy once treatment had been received, without either penalty or sustained contribution to the community-rated system.

Private health insurance companies are restricted by legislation from imposing more than 5 years as a waiting period for pre-existing conditions. The law imposes a maximum waiting period but not a minimum period. Insurers can therefore shorten this waiting period, or waive it entirely, as a matter of competitive practice. However, this is a commercial decision, and I cannot compel any private health insurer to provide any product or service, beyond what is included in the minimum benefit regulations.

Given that the European Commission only recently approved the new Risk Equalisation Scheme for the Irish market for the forthcoming 5 years, there are no immediate plans to alter the basis of our health insurance market.

Disability Services

Question No. 1851 answered with Question No. 1630.

Ceisteanna (1850)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

1850. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Health the proposals there are to provide additional services to reduce waiting times for children with disabilities (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21267/22]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

As the Deputy's question relates to a service issue, it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Question No. 1851 answered with Question No. 1630.

Medical Aids and Appliances

Ceisteanna (1852)

Joe Carey

Ceist:

1852. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Health if he will remove the current age restriction for the Freestyle Libre device with immediate effect following a survey (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21285/22]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

As the Health Service Executive (HSE) has statutory responsibility for decisions on pricing and reimbursement of medicines and medical devices under the community drug schemes, in accordance with the Health (Pricing and Supply of Medical Goods) Act 2013, I have asked the HSE to respond to the deputy directly, as soon as possible.

Medical Aids and Appliances

Ceisteanna (1853)

Joe Carey

Ceist:

1853. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Health if he will investigate the current impasse that seems to be preventing the undertaking of a health technology assessment for the FreeStyle Libre device or offer a different process to enable this to take place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21286/22]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

As the Health Service Executive (HSE) has statutory responsibility for decisions on pricing and reimbursement of medicines and medical devices under the community drug schemes, in accordance with the Health (Pricing and Supply of Medical Goods) Act 2013, I have asked the HSE to respond to the deputy directly, as soon as possible.

Waste Management

Ceisteanna (1854)

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

1854. Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the current procedure and regulation surrounding the burning of old scrub and bushes off agricultural land; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19284/22]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The Waste Management (Prohibition of Waste Disposal by Burning) Regulation 2009 made it an offence to dispose of waste by uncontrolled burning. These regulations are under the remit of the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications.  Provision by way of derogation has been available for the burning of permitted green waste generated by agricultural practices from 1st September to 28th February. 

This provision for the burning of waste relates solely to material consisting of uncontaminated (free of dangerous substances, preservatives or other artificial impregnation or coating) wood, trees, tree trimmings, leaves, brush, or other similar waste generated by agricultural practices, but excluding garden and park wastes and cemetery wastes and wastes arising from infrastructural development works, provided that such burning is done as a final measure following the application of the following waste hierarchy;

(i) waste arisings are reduced in accordance with best agricultural practice, 

(ii) waste is reused where practicable, 

(iii) is recycled through shredding and use as compost or wood chippings, where practicable, and 

(iv) is salvaged for use as fuel where practicable, 

Where none of the options are practicable or economically viable such waste may be disposed of by burning subject to the following conditions; 

(i) the person carrying out the disposal shall take all reasonable measures to limit the overall nuisance or possibilities for endangering human health or causing environmental pollution or damage to adjoining hedgerows or habitats, 

(ii) no accelerants may be used when undertaking the disposal activity, 

(iii) the person carrying out the disposal must notify the local authority concerned in advance of the intention to carry out the disposal and provide the necessary information. 

A local authority may issue a notice to a person regarding steps that shall be taken regarding burning of the waste.

The Waste Management (Prohibition of Waste Disposal by Burning) (Amendment) Regulations 2022 extends the provision for the burning, as a final measure, of permitted green waste generated by agricultural practices to 31st of December 2022.

As outlined, these regulations are the responsibility of the Minister for Environment, Minster Eamon Ryan.

Forestry Sector

Ceisteanna (1855)

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

1855. Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will allow farmers some flexibility on clear felling a forest (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19312/22]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Tree felling licences carry an obligation to replant the area felled. A replanting plan is set out in the application for a felling licence and is considered as part of the application assessment. 

Where the site is unsuitable for replanting, this will be considered, and an alternative location of the same size will be sought.  The alternative lands must have prior approval for affectation before the tree felling licence issued. 

The Felling and Reforestation Policy document, which may be found here gov.ie - Tree Felling Licences (www.gov.ie), sets out scenarios whereby replanting may not take place.  Applicants for tree felling licences may decide that they fall into one of these scenarios, and this must be included in their application for a tree felling licence.

The requirement to obtain a tree felling licence with an obligation to replant after felling has facilitated, in part, sustainable forest management, in all but the most exceptional cases.  

Felling and Reforestation Policy

Agriculture Schemes

Ceisteanna (1856)

Jackie Cahill

Ceist:

1856. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine further to Parliamentary Question of 08 March 2022 in relation to a payment for a person (details supplied), when this payment will issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19314/22]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The Hen Harrier Programme is operationally independent of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and is run by the Hen Harrier Project Ltd.

I can confirm that the habitat payment for 2021, for the person named has recently been issued to them by the Hen Harrier Project Ltd.  The supporting action balancing works payment has also been processed and paid by the Hen Harrier Project team.  It should reach the bank account of the person named early this week.

Trade Data

Question No. 1858 answered with Question No. 1857.

Ceisteanna (1857, 1858)

Jackie Cahill

Ceist:

1857. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the tonnage of grain that is exported outside of the European Union; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19315/22]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Jackie Cahill

Ceist:

1858. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the tonnage and the varieties of grain that were exported in the past three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19316/22]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1857 and 1858 together.

In 2021 Ireland exported 191,170 tonnes of grains, composed of 109,650 tonnes of Maize (corn), 49,900 tonnes of wheat and meslin, 27,550 tonnes of barley, with small quantities of rye, oats, rice and buckwheat, millet and canary seed also exported.

The 2021 exports were up slightly on 2020, when 170,800 tonnes of grains were exported, and on 2019, when 175,550 tonnes of grains were exported from Ireland.

Almost all of the exports of grain, 184,563 tonnes, or 96.5%, went to the United Kingdom, while 3.4% of grain exports went to Netherlands. The remaining 0.07% of the grain exports, or 140 tonnes, went to 25 other countries, 10 of which are in the EU and 15 are outside the EU.

Of all the grain exported in 2021 from Ireland, 51 tonnes went to countries outside the UK or EU.

Full details of Ireland's exports of grains over the past three years is detailed in the attached excel sheet.

Ireland's Grain Exports

Question No. 1858 answered with Question No. 1857.

Trade Data

Ceisteanna (1859)

Jackie Cahill

Ceist:

1859. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the countries to which wheat is exported to from the European Union; the tonnage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19317/22]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

According to Eurostat, in 2021 the EU 27 countries exported 29 million tonnes of wheat to 95 countries, down from 35.9 million tonnes in 2020 to 103 countries and 28.5 million tonnes to 100 countries in 2019. (Countries include those to which EU exports exceeded one tonne or more of wheat).

The top ten countries for EU27 exports of wheat and meslin are outlined in the table below, with Algeria the number one export destination with 5.8 million tonnes in 2021, followed by Nigeria and Egypt.

 Wheat and Meslin Exports by EU-27 to Countries Outside the EU-27 in Tonnes

Country

2019

2020

2021

Algeria

                              4,714,125

                       6,267,537

                      5,774,456

Nigeria

                                  494,177

                       2,257,878

                      2,468,322

Egypt

                              2,339,014

                       1,526,560

                      2,271,000

Morocco

                              1,850,811

                       2,901,391

                      1,971,475

China

                                  903,025

                       2,876,484

                      1,818,925

Saudi Arabia

                              3,064,740

                       2,664,475

                      1,108,620

United Kingdom

                                  669,447

                       1,617,819

                      1,014,774

Republic of South Korea

                                  560,018

                           182,876

                          915,302

South Africa 

                              1,209,825

                       1,333,456

                          867,019

Tunisia

                                  554,522

                           539,365

                          755,070

EU Data

Ceisteanna (1860)

Jackie Cahill

Ceist:

1860. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of countries within the European Union that are operating set aside; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19318/22]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The detailed information requested by the Deputy is currently being assembled in my Department, and we are awaiting additional input from the European Commission.

The information will issue directly to the Deputy as soon as possible.

EU Data

Ceisteanna (1861)

Jackie Cahill

Ceist:

1861. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the area that is devoted to set aside in European countries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19319/22]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The detailed information requested by the Deputy is currently being assembled in my Department, and we are awaiting additional input from the European Commission.

The information will issue directly to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Departmental Schemes

Ceisteanna (1862)

Louise O'Reilly

Ceist:

1862. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the estimated cost of abolishing the parental levy on the school milk scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19368/22]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

At the outset, I want to reaffirm my support of this very important programme. The Deputy will be aware that pupils participating in the school milk scheme who attend DEIS classified schools are exempt from a parental contribution for the school milk scheme and receive school milk free of charge. A parental contribution is in place for those pupils attending non Deis classified schools. 

Ireland receives a fixed annual funding allocation  for the School Milk Scheme from the EU Commission of €900,000. My Department contributes supporting Exchequer funding, in the region of €200,000 for the necessary accompanying measures.

The parental contribution is offset against and bridges the cost of the milk charged by the national suppliers and the financial allocation made available to Ireland from the EU. It is deemed necessary in order to support the wider availability of the EU school milk scheme to those pupils from non Deis schools who choose to enroll, so enabling greater participation in the scheme.

The parental contribution for the school year 2020 / 2021 amounted to €87,000.  The parental contribution, per child per week, does not exceed €1.20.  The aim is to keep this rate as low as possible.

The parental contribution is not income received by the State, but is paid by the schools concerned directly to their supplier. A previous evaluation of the School Milk Scheme has shown that the parental contribution is not a significant detriment to the voluntary enrollment by a parent, of their child, in the daily distribution scheme in order to inform healthy eating habits of children at an early age.

Pigmeat Sector

Ceisteanna (1863)

Carol Nolan

Ceist:

1863. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of applications made to date for the pig exceptional payment scheme; the value of financial supports drawn down to date of the €7 million allocated to the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19525/22]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Last month I announced the Pig Exceptional Payment Scheme (PEPS), with a fund of up to €7 million, for commercial pig farmers. This is an urgent, short-term response to assist producers that would be viable but for the extreme current circumstances and allow space for a more medium-term adjustment to market signals. 

This exchequer funded scheme was notified to the European Commission under the agriculture de minimis rules, which provide for a maximum payment per undertaking of €20,000.

Applications for the PEPS closed on 20th March 2022. 252 applications were received under the scheme. Over 75% of applications have since been processed for payment. The remaining applications are being processed and payments will issue to these as they are processed and any outstanding issues rectified. The total funding drawn down under the scheme will not be apparent until all applications are fully processed.

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