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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 21 - 40
 Header Item Student Grant Scheme Payments
 Header Item Schools Building Projects Status
 Header Item Student Grant Scheme Applications
 Header Item School Textbooks
 Header Item Capitation Grants
 Header Item School Management
 Header Item Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Bill
 Header Item Public Procurement Tenders
 Header Item Departmental Staff Redeployment
 Header Item Flood Relief Schemes Expenditure
 Header Item Industrial Development
 Header Item Pension Provisions
 Header Item Invalidity Pension Appeals
 Header Item Carer's Allowance Applications
 Header Item Community Employment Schemes Funding
 Header Item Carer's Allowance Delays

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 785 No. 2

First Page Previous Page Page of 72 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 21 - 40

Student Grant Scheme Payments

 21. Deputy Charlie McConalogue Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if existing student grant payments have been paid by all local authorities and vocational education committees; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [54666/12]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn As the Deputy may be aware, continuing students who are renewing their student grant for attendance on an existing course with their existing awarding authority, which will be either a local authority or a VEC, will continue to have their applications processed and paid by the relevant grant awarding authority. Continuing students on a level 6 or level 7 course in the Institutes of Technology will continue to be paid their grant directly by their institution. The 66 grant awarding authorities as at the 16th November, 2012 awarded grants to some 34,764 students and paid student grants to some 22,695 students. In addition some 4,967 students have been paid directly by their Institute. This data has been compiled from information provided to my Department by the 66 grant awarding authorities and the Institutes of Technology.

A student grant comprises of two elements, maintenance and fees, with a number of students only qualifying for one of those elements. Those students qualifying for the fees element only would be included in the number of renewals awarded by the grant awarding authorities. However, the number of students paid by the grant awarding authorities and the institutes is only reflective of those paid the maintenance element of a student grant. The migration of the new applications to SUSI has enabled the 66 grant awarding authorities to process renewal applications on a more efficient basis - these are generally more straightforward and require significantly less documentary evidence.

Schools Building Projects Status

 22. Deputy John Deasy Information on John Deasy Zoom on John Deasy asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if funding has been allocated for the provision of a new school (details supplied) in County Cork; if a site has been acquired; when building will commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54677/12]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I can confirm to the Deputy that the East Cork area has been identified as one of those projected to experience a significant increase in demand for school accommodation in the coming years and my Department is working to identify suitable land or buildings to meet this demand. The requirements of the school referred to by the Deputy are being considered in this context. The acquisition of a site for a new building for the school concerned is being progressed by my Department through the Chief State Solicitor's Office and is currently at pre-contract stage. Once the acquisition is finalised, it is intended to proceed to appoint a Design Team and apply for Planning Permission, with the project listed to go to construction in 2014/15. Projects that are in a state of readiness on this list will proceed to be delivered within this timeframe.

Student Grant Scheme Applications

 23. Deputy Joe O'Reilly Information on Joe O'Reilly Zoom on Joe O'Reilly asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if a person (details supplied) will be considered for a continuation of the maintenance grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54718/12]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Officials in my Department have confirmed with Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) that in the case of the student referred by the Deputy, he appealed the decision in relation to the rate of grant awarded to the appeals officer in SUSI on the 1st December 2012. SUSI aims to issue determinations on appeals as promptly as possible and within the specified timeframes defined in the Student Support Act, 2011. Where an individual applicant has had an appeal turned down, in writing, by SUSI, and remains of the view that SUSI has not interpreted the scheme correctly in his/her case, an appeal form outlining the position may be submitted by the applicant to the independent Student Grants Appeals Board.

School Textbooks

 24. Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if he will address the situation in which students using tablet computers in the course of their studies pay VAT on their school textbooks while those purchasing the traditional textbooks do not; if he has had any discussions in relation to this matter with the Department of Finance; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [54719/12]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The use of tablet computers and e-books is a welcome innovation and demonstrates the commitment of schools to the full integration of ICT in teaching and learning. In relation to the VAT rate charged on the purchase of e-books, this matter has been raised with the Department of Finance and I am advised that the VAT rating of goods and services is subject to the requirements of EU VAT law with which Irish VAT law must comply. The general position is that school books are zero-rated. The zero rate applies to printed books. All digitised publications are treated as the supply of a service liable at the standard rate of VAT. The EU position is that digital information services are not the direct equivalent of traditional printed products, including books. Even where the content is similar, the additional functionality (e.g. search facilities, hyperlinks, archives, etc) associated with electronic content produces a fundamentally different product.

Capitation Grants

 25. Deputy Jack Wall Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn his views on correspondence (details supplied) regarding the financial difficulties facing schools; his plans to address the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54724/12]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn My Department provides capitation funding to all recognised primary schools within the free education scheme. As the Deputy is aware Budget 2012 provided for a 2% reduction in the funding for capitation and related grants to primary and second level schools in both 2012 and 2013 and a further 1% in 2014 and 2015. Due to my decision of 21st February last, to retain posts from previous disadvantage schemes in DEIS Band 1 and Band 2 primary schools, it was necessary to generate alternative savings within the primary education budget. This has been achieved by bringing forward to this year 1.5% of the 2% reduction in overall capitation funding originally scheduled for 2013. The Deputy may wish to note that Circular 40/2009 clarifies issues relating to the allocation of funding for primary schools. The circular states that capitation funding provided for general running costs and funding provided for caretaking and secretarial services may be regarded as a common grant from which the Board of Management can allocate according to its own priorities. Given the scale of our economic crisis, I have no scope to introduce new or additional funding measures to assist primary schools.

School Management

 26. Deputy James Bannon Information on James Bannon Zoom on James Bannon asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn his plans to issue guidelines to boards of management in respect of the contentious issue of pupils purchasing presents for teachers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54744/12]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn It is my view that, in the current economic circumstances, the practice of parents or pupils purchasing gifts for teachers or other staff members places an unnecessary financial burden on parents and is not appropriate. I would therefore encourage all schools to take any steps necessary, in consultation with their Parents Association as appropriate, to ensure that such practices are discontinued in their own individual school.

Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Bill

 27. Deputy Finian McGrath Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if he will support an organisation (details supplied).  [54798/12]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I am aware of the position adopted by the Munster Survivors Support Services Ltd that the contributions from the congregations should be given directly to the survivors and that the congregations should only deal directly with survivors on the issue of reparation whether offered in cash or via property. While I am aware that some survivors advocated a simple distribution of the available money rather than the establishment of the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund, the Government believes that the Fund should target resources at services to support former residents' needs. The Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Act 2012 was enacted in July of this year and work is now underway to establish the Board which will operate the Fund. The legislation followed a comprehensive consultation process which included a Freefone Service operated by Barnardos on behalf of my Department.

I would also point out that it was envisaged from the outset that the contributions sought from the congregations would be used towards the costs of the response to residential institutional abuse which have been mainly borne by the taxpayer. I am satisfied that the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund will help meet the range of needs of former residents and I am pursuing its establishment at the earliest opportunity.

  Question No. 28 answered with Question No. 11.

Public Procurement Tenders

 29. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan Information on Patrick O'Donovan Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin in view of recent developments at a school (details supplied) in County Limerick, if he will consider proposals that were made by this Deputy during the course of a topical issue debate on 27 November 2012 including a greater level of due diligence in advance of awarding school building contracts, a more enhanced role for local quantity surveyors who would be part of assessing the submitted tenders and their likelihood to be successfully delivered at what could be regarded as excessively low tenders, a system of certified retention where sub-contractors would have to certify that they have been paid up to date before the final amount of retention is paid by his Department, school or publicly funded body to the main contractor, the introduction of project specific bank accounts where only invoices related to the project can be paid from; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54619/12]

 32. Deputy Jack Wall Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin his views on correspondence (details supplied) regarding construction contract payments; his plans to address this issue; if the matter will be finalised in this Dáil term; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54725/12]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brendan Howlin): Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin I propose to take Questions Nos. 29 and 32 together.

The specific details in relation to the school in County Limerick referenced by the Deputies are a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Education and Skills. Appropriate professional advice is employed to administer public works contracts and the prices returned in a tender must be considered in the context of each tender competition. Under the EU Procurement Directive a contracting authority may not automatically reject a tender because it considers it abnormally low and must first seek clarifications from the tenderer on the constituent elements of its tender before it reaches its decision to reject or accept the tender. Contractors must qualify according to pre-determined criteria designed to ensure that only those competent contractors with the capacity to deliver the project are admitted to the tender process.

Under a public works contract the contractual relationship is between the public body and the main contractor. A public body has no contractual ties with a subcontractor engaged by a main contractor. Any contractual relationship is exclusively a matter between the main contractor and its sub-contractor. Because of the interfaces that exist between the trades that are traditionally employed on a construction contract there is considerable scope for claims for delay and disruption should a body directly engage all the entities who are actually involved in constructing a project. Public works contracts are awarded to a single party (the Contractor) who is responsible for the delivery of the project. It is generally accepted that the successful completion of a works project is dependent on a single point of responsibility to ensure delivery on time and within budget.

It is clear that the present arrangements in relation to construction contracts and conditions of engagement in the industry generally can be too imprecise and informal and as a result do not offer a cost effective, timely solution to payment disputes for consultants, contractors, subcontractors in the supply chain. The Programme for Government contains a commitment to introduce new legislation to protect small building subcontractors that have been denied payments from bigger companies. In this regard, my colleague Minister of State Mr Brian Hayes has been working with Senator Feargal Quinn to develop the Senator’s private member’s Construction Contracts Bill to which Deputy O’Donovan referred to in the topical issue debate.

During the Second Stage reading of the Bill, Minister Hayes signalled to the House his intention to bring proposals to Government on Committee Stage amendments dealing with the following issues:

Thresholds: In order to ensure that the legislation applies to majority of Construction Contracts the scope of the legislation will be broadened by reducing or removing the current monetary thresholds contained in the Bill.

Adjudication: This issue of making adjudication awards binding for both the public and private sectors is a complex issue. It is important to strike the right balance between giving this legislation the necessary enforcement provisions, whilst ensuring that the application of the legislation is equitable and the taxpayer is safeguarded.

Supplies: Proposals are being developed to broaden the scope of the legislation to include bespoke construction supply contracts. However, as I understand it this is likely to be difficult to define in a manner that is easy to interpret.

When these and a number of other technical issues have been examined, Minister Hayes will bring proposals to Government in advance of Committee Stage early in the New Year. This is a complex piece of legislation which affects both private and public sector works contracts and it is essential that the solution to this issue needs to be balanced so as to avoid imposing regulatory or cost burdens on parties in dispute, the State or others.

Departmental Staff Redeployment

 30. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin if a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath will be given a position in the social welfare office either in Mullingar or Longford, further to their approval for re-deployment recently. [54657/12]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brendan Howlin): Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin The person referred to is currently employed by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) and consideration is currently being given to an application to have her re-graded to the position of Clerical Officer. If this application is successful, the CSO propose to arrange to have her post included on the Public Appointments Service (PAS) Resource Panel of Civil Service staff, which has been put in place to support the redeployment arrangements agreed under the Croke Park Agreement.

It should be noted that while staff may be moved between different locations as a consequence of the redeployment arrangements, they were not designed as a staff mobility scheme. The purpose of the Resource Panel arrangements is to facilitate the targeted reduction in public service numbers in the period 2010 to 2014 while sustaining the ongoing delivery of services. Under the arrangements, redeployment opportunities are offered locally in the first instance, within the various sectors (e.g. health, education, local authority, etc.). Where staff are not available for redeployment in a particular location, the post, if approved for filling by my Department, may be offered to staff who had already indicated an interest in transferring there.

Flood Relief Schemes Expenditure

 31. Deputy Brian Stanley Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin the amount the Office of Public Works spent on flood relief works in 2011 and the total budget allocated to the OPW for flood relief in 2011. [54685/12]

Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brian Hayes): Information on Brian Hayes Zoom on Brian Hayes Flood relief services are provided by the Office of Public Works, either directly through its own resources or in conjunction with local authorities, under the following main headings:

1. Major Capital Works Schemes,

2. Minor Coastal and Non-Coastal Schemes,

3. Arterial Drainage Maintenance,

4. Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management (CFRAM) Programme,

5. Hydrometric data collection and dissemination.

  The total allocation included in the OPW's Vote in 2011 for the above services was €58.64m. Total expenditure in the year was €51.58m, of which €48.48m was in respect of works, including related professional fees and other costs (headings 1-3 above). There were seven major schemes at construction stage during 2011 with a total contract commitment of over €60m. In addition, 72 minor works schemes with a total value of €5.6m were funded through the local authorities in that year.

  Question No. 32 answered with Question No. 29.

Industrial Development

 33. Deputy Peadar Tóibín Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the total grants awarded by the Industrial Development Agency or other agency, to Intel for each year of the past ten years; and the number employed by Intel for each of the past ten years.  [54620/12]

 34. Deputy Peadar Tóibín Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton if he will provide an update in progress made to promote additional manufacturing and safeguard employment at the Leixlip site of Intel, County Kildare. [54621/12]

 35. Deputy Peadar Tóibín Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton if the purchase of sites adjacent to the Intel site is proceeding; and the date by which they will be completed. [54622/12]

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton I propose to take Questions Nos. 33 to 35, inclusive, together.

  Data on grants approved for companies is confidential information between IDA Ireland and its clients. However, details of grants actually paid to the company are given in the Appendix. Precise employment data in IDA Ireland client companies is also confidential; however, I can confirm that the approximate average numbers employed in Intel in each of the last 10 years is 4,000 employees.

  In January 2011 Intel announced a $500m investment in design and construction works at Fab 14 in preparation for a new leading edge technology wafer fabrication operation. This investment is very significant. The construction phase of the project is nearing completion and has created a large number of jobs over the last two years. In May 2012, the CEO of Intel, Mr Paul Ortellini announced that Ireland is on Intel’s roadmap for future technologies. However no specific additional investment has been announced to date. IDA Ireland continues to work closely with the company to seek to secure such additional investment.

  IDA is not acquiring land specifically for Intel. However, earlier this year, the Agency initiated a process to consider the possible acquisition - through CPO - of some lands in Blakestown, County Kildare as part of its mandate to secure future Foreign Direct Investment and employment for Ireland. IDA purchases sites and lands on a national basis to meet expected future demand from clients. As part of this process, the IDA appointed an independent adjudicator to consider representations from all parties affected by the possible acquisition of these lands. The process was designed to help inform the board of whether it is appropriate to use its powers under the Industrial Development Authority Act 1986.

  After considering representations from parties affected by this acquisition, the board of IDA Ireland has decided that it is appropriate to use the powers contained in that legislation to acquire the lands at Blakestown. These lands are considered by the IDA to be of national strategic importance to ensure future investment and employment. IDA Ireland has now informed all affected parties of the decision. It is the intention of the Agency to work proactively with the current landholder to ensure an agreed transitional period.

  Appendix

  Grant Payments made to Intel over the past 10 years.

Year
Grants Paid
2000
€4,444,083.28
2001
Nil
2002
€54,004,627.00
2003
€23,466,420.00
2004
€1,468,688.00
2005
€29,158,562.00
2006
€4,638,301.00
2007
€5,493,795.00
2008
€2,884,332.00
2009
€5,571,717.00
2010
€3,773,502.00
2011
€4,173,407.00

Pension Provisions

 36. Deputy Mary Mitchell O'Connor Information on Mary Mitchell O'Connor Zoom on Mary Mitchell O'Connor asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if permission to early draw down pensions would positively influence younger persons to start their pension; her plans to tackle low pension investments especially by young persons; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [54697/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Pensions are a long-term investment aimed at ensuring that people have an adequate income in retirement. Government policy supports this aspiration through generous tax reliefs. At present, people are generally only permitted to access their pension savings at the retirement age defined in their pension schemes. Schemes may also have early retirement provisions from age 50 and when retirement is caused by ill-health, benefits may be paid regardless of age. In the case of Personal Retirement Savings Accounts (PRSAs) and Retirement Annuity Contracts (RACs), benefits may be taken at any time after age 60 and from any age in the case of ill-health.

There are a number of reasons why early withdrawals of pension savings are generally not permitted, the principal one being that funds, and the associated tax relief on contributions, are designed to support people in later life to ensure they have an adequate income. This requires that pensions must be long term vehicles based on the principle that savings will be “locked away” until retirement. The issue of early access has been considered in detail by an inter-departmental ad-hoc group, chaired by the Department of Social Protection. The group concluded that the principle of pension savings being “locked away” until pension age should be maintained. The Interdepartmental Group on Mortgage Arrears also examined the issue of early access to pensions and did not recommend such an approach.

Younger people in pension schemes are unlikely to have significant pension savings and where their pension scheme has incurred losses, as many have over the past number of years, early withdrawal of funds would mean very poor value for money. There is no guarantee the funds could be repaid or that people could make up these losses. Where people are close to retirement, an early withdrawal of funds could significantly diminish the pension they receive as they may not have time before retirement age to fill the gap left by such a withdrawal.

The Deputy will be aware that the Government has recently engaged the OECD to conduct an independent review of long term pension policy in Ireland. I have asked the OECD to consider the issue of early access to pension savings as part of its review and the report and this will help to inform future government policy in this area.

The OECD review will also consider the coverage levels and adequacy and sustainability of pensions, with a particular focus on lower and middle income groups. In terms of overall coverage, it has been estimated that 51% of people in employment aged 20 to 69 have a pension and this figure may well have reduced given the difficult economic environment. This relatively low rate of pension coverage is a concern. In terms of increasing coverage amongst younger people and others, the Programme for Government includes a commitment to reforming the pension system to progressively achieve universal coverage, with particular focus on lower-paid workers, and a National Employment Pensions Scheme based on an automatic enrolment approach is under consideration, although it is recognised that introduction of such an initiative would be better supported by a more favourable economic environment than is currently the case.

Invalidity Pension Appeals

 37. Deputy Noel Coonan Information on Noel Coonan Zoom on Noel Coonan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton when an application for invalidity pension appeal will be finalised in respect of a person in (details supplied) County Offaly; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [54590/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned has not been received by that office. 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 on social welfare entitlements.

Carer's Allowance Applications

 38. Deputy Barry Cowen Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton when a person (details supplied) in County Offaly may expect a decision on an application for a carer's allowance. [54594/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I confirm that the department received an application for carer’s allowance from the person in question on the 10th February 2012. The application is with a deciding officer for a decision. Once processed, the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

Community Employment Schemes Funding

 39. Deputy Eric Byrne Information on Eric J. Byrne Zoom on Eric J. Byrne asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if the issue of secondary payments to community employment scheme workers will be revisited; specifically if a projects long term viability comes under threat the steps she will take to ensure that such an occurrence will not happen; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [54595/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The Department is committed to enhancing the viability of CE, including the support for the delivery of services, value for money and the progression of participants. The broad policy direction for CE in 2013 and future years will be based on the main action points detailed in the CE Financial Review recently published by the Department. In general the objective is to assist schemes develop more focused actions that will enhance their capacity to meet the objectives of CE sponsors and participants. Future funding of employment programmes, particularly CE, will reinforce the key objectives required by the Department. This will require a more focused engagement with people on programmes such as CE and a greater targeting of activation places and opportunities to further the progression of unemployed people into work.

Carer's Allowance Delays

 40. Deputy Paul J. Connaughton Information on Paul Connaughton Zoom on Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the reason officials in her Department are no longer providing applicants with information on what month is currently being worked on in terms of the backlog of applications for carer's allowance; her plans to introduce greater transparency into the application system so that applicants can see how long the oldest applications in the system are; the average length of time being taken to determine appeals; in what month they might reasonably expect to have an outcome in relation to their application; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [54601/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The Department is committed to ensuring that claims are processed as expeditiously as possible. The average time taken to award a carer’s allowance application is 25 weeks, however individual cases may vary. Some will be processed quicker, others will take longer depending on complexity and whether all information is supplied by the customer at the outset. In addition, where a customer requests a review of an initial decision to refuse an application, this will take additional time. I acknowledge that the time taken to process carer’s allowance claims at present is not satisfactory but I am satisfied that the Department is taking appropriate action to resolve the situation.

Following the completion of a major modernisation project, an in-depth business process improvement (BPI) project was completed for the carer’s allowance scheme. This project focused on optimising output and customer service and the reduction of backlogs. The outcome of the review is the division of work into two streams. One concentrates on dealing with new claim intake and processes these without delay and the other on the backlog which is ring-fenced with a clear and targeted plan for its elimination. Implementation of the plan commenced on Monday 3 September and is being closely monitored and managed to ensure it achieves its objectives. A noted increase in the number of new claims processed has been achieved in recent months where claims processed have substantially exceeded claim intake. However, it will take a number of months before the backlog is reduced to an acceptable level. Significant additional temporary resources have been allocated to the backlog elimination effort and the situation continues to be monitored in order that the backlog is eliminated in the shortest possible timeframe.

The current average time taken to process carer’s allowance appeals decided by summary decision is approximately 32 weeks, while the current average time for those requiring an oral hearing is approximately 43 weeks. Generally the vast majority of cases fall within these average times but extenuating factors, often outside of the control of the Social Welfare Appeals Office, will cause greater delays in some cases.


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