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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 21 - 40
 Header Item Special Educational Needs Staffing
 Header Item Student Grant Scheme Applications
 Header Item Schools Building Projects Status
 Header Item Special Educational Needs Services Provision
 Header Item Site Acquisitions
 Header Item Student Grant Scheme Reform
 Header Item School Accommodation
 Header Item Student Grant Scheme Application Numbers
 Header Item Departmental Agencies Issues
 Header Item Departmental Agencies Issues
 Header Item Student Grant Scheme Eligibility
 Header Item Student Grant Scheme Eligibility
 Header Item Legislative Programme
 Header Item Public Procurement Contracts Tenders

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 785 No. 3

First Page Previous Page Page of 80 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 21 - 40

Special Educational Needs Staffing

 21. Deputy Michael Lowry Information on Michael Lowry Zoom on Michael Lowry asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the reason a resource teacher has not been allocated to a school (details supplied) in County Tipperary; if his attention has been drawn to the hardship, distress and upset being caused to the affected children and their families; if he will provide a timeframe for when this post will be filled; if he will prioritise this case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54871/12]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The NCSE has notified all schools of their allocation of resource hours for low incidence special needs for the 2012/13 school year. The arrangements for how schools access these resource hours in teaching posts are set out in the Department Staffing Circular 0007/2012 which is available on the website. Under these arrangements a network of over 2,500 full-time resource posts has been put in place in close to 1,700 base schools throughout the country. The list of these schools and the criteria used to select them is set out in the published circular.

These resource posts are allocated on a permanent basis and the teachers in them will undertake NCSE approved (low incidence) resource hours in the base schools or in neighbouring schools. Schools that are unable to access these hours will be allocated mainly temporary part-time posts. It is also open to schools to make an application for a full-time temporary resource post. The school referred to has been allocated 11.90 resource (low incidence) hours by the NCSE. The school has made arrangements through the network of base posts in place for these hours to be covered by two permanent resource teachers in neighbouring schools that have spare capacity in their posts.

Student Grant Scheme Applications

 22. Deputy Timmy Dooley Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn when an application for an education grant will be processed and the person (details supplied) in County Clare notified of the outcome; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54880/12]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Officials in my Department have confirmed with SUSI, the new centralised grant awarding authority, that on the 2nd December, 2012 a request for further documentation was issued to the student referred to by the Deputy. When the requested documentation is returned the student will be notified directly of the outcome.

Schools Building Projects Status

 23. Deputy Dan Neville Information on Dan Neville Zoom on Dan Neville asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the position regarding funding in respect of a school (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54884/12]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is currently at an advanced stage of architectural planning. Due to competing demands on my Department's capital budget, imposed by the need to prioritise the limited funding available for the provision of additional school accommodation to meet increasing demographic requirements, it was not possible to include this project in the five year construction programme announced earlier this year. Schools which have not been included in the five year construction programme, including the one referred to by the Deputy, but which were announced for initial inclusion in the building programme will continue to be progressed to final planning stages in anticipation of the possibility of further funds being available to my Department in future years. The project referred to by the Deputy remains available to be considered for progression in that context.

Special Educational Needs Services Provision

 24. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan Information on Patrick O'Donovan Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the level of engagement that the National Council for Special Education has with members of the deaf community here as part of the recent review of issues relating to deaf education; if the membership of the high level review includes deaf people; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54890/12]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I understand that the Deputy is referring to the Policy Advice on the Education of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children in Ireland, which was published by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) earlier this year. This paper was developed by the NCSE following consideration of all of the issues involved and including consultations with members of the deaf community. The policy advice provides a comprehensive blueprint for the future development of deaf and hearing impaired educational services. I have referred the Deputy's specific query about the level of engagement with members of the deaf community by the NCSE during the conduct of this review to the NCSE for their attention and direct reply.

Site Acquisitions

 25. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if he will outline the criteria used for the donation of a school site from Ballymun Regeneration Limited, Dublin, to his Department; and the rationale for the development. [54891/12]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I can confirm to the Deputy that Ballymun Regeneration Ltd., operating under the aegis of Dublin City Council, has agreed, in principle, to lease for 500 years, the site in question to my Department for educational purposes to facilitate the development of permanent accommodation for the existing Gaelscoil. This new accommodation will replace the school's existing pre-fabricated accommodation and will also provide additional accommodation to meet demographic need in the area.

Student Grant Scheme Reform

 26. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn in view of the selection panel criteria the reason Student Universal Support Ireland was specifically chosen; the cost saving the State has incurred to date by centralising the student grant award and payments function through SUSI; and the persons who were on the independent selection panel and the way they were chosen.  [54892/12]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn On the basis of the review carried out by the independent selection panel at the initial stage of the Expressions of Interest process, four of the ten proposals received were short-listed for oral presentation. Following oral presentation these proposals were assigned a ranking depending on their relative strengths under each of the evaluation criteria leading to the preferred proposal. Based on the marks awarded by the panel City of Dublin VEC's proposal was the preferred proposal and the selection panel made a recommendation to the Minister for Education and Skills to establish Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) as a unit of City of Dublin VEC.

Initially, during the transition period, which migrates the administration from the local authorities and VECs to SUSI, costs are estimated to exceed savings for years one and two, as the 66 grant awarding authorities are processing renewal grant applications, as well as SUSI processing all new grant applications, However, it is estimated that for future years there will be a saving on the overall cost of grants administration.

The composition of the independent selection panel was as follows: 1. Mr. Pat McLoughlin (Chair) - Chief Executive of the Irish Payment Services Organisation (former Chief Executive of the Eastern Health Board, chair of the Local Government Efficiency Review Group and a member of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes); 2. Mr. Jim Duffy - Former Assistant Secretary at the Department of Finance with responsibility for the Centre for Management and Organisation Development (CMOD); 3. Mr. Gerry Kearney - Former Secretary General of the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs with significant experience with programme management and also former Assistant Secretary of the Revenue Commissioners. The members of the selection panel were chosen with reference to their relevant knowledge, their significant experience and expertise in the various elements that would be involved in the administration of student grants.

School Accommodation

 27. 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); if there is any mechanism that the person can follow or investigate in seeking to resolve their problem; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54978/12]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn As the Deputy is aware the prefab replacement initiative that I announced earlier this year is in the main to replace rented prefabs. Once these prefabs are no longer required by schools they are returned to the rental companies as the rented prefabs are their property. The following schools in Co. Kildare are currently in the process of replacing their rented prefabs: Scoil Na Mainistreach De La Salle, Kildare Town; St Peters BNS, Monasterevin; Two Mile House NS Straffan NS; St Laurences NS, Sallins; St Brigids Primary School, Kildare Town; St Mochua's NS, Rathcoffey.

The first four schools listed earlier are also replacing old purchased prefabs as part of the initiative and I suggest that the person referred to by the Deputy may wish to contact these schools directly in relation to their plans for the old purchased prefabs. The person in question may also wish to contact rental prefab suppliers to see if they would be willing to donate one of the rented prefabs once removed.

Student Grant Scheme Application Numbers

 28. 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 the number of student grants broken down on a county basis approved to date by the higher education grant Student Universal Support Ireland system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55004/12]

 29. 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 the number of students broken down on a county basis that have been approved for a student grant by Student Universal Support Ireland and who have begun to receive their payments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55005/12]

 30. 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 the number of students grants broken down on a county basis that have yet to be approved by the higher education grant Student Universal Support Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55006/12]

 31. 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 the number of grants broken down on a county basis that have been refused by Student Universal Support Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55007/12]

 33. 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 the number of appeals broken down on a county basis received to date by Student Universal Support Ireland for student grants; the length of time it is taking to assess and make a decision on an appeal in each county; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55009/12]

 35. 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 the current waiting time for an application to the higher education grant Student Universal Support Ireland system to be processed; the current waiting time for the processing of appeals to same broken down on a county basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55011/12]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I propose to take Questions Nos. 28 to 31, inclusive, 33 and 35 together.

  The first table below provides a breakdown on a county basis of the status of the student grant applications received by Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI). The data provided is at a point in time on 5th December 2012. It gives the position for student grant applications for attendance at both further and higher education. This data has been provided to my Department by SUSI. The second table below provides a breakdown on a county basis of the number of appeals received to date by SUSI.

  The waiting time for processing a student grant application by Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) varies, depending on a number of factors including the volume of applications received at any given time, the complexity of the grant applicants circumstances, and time taken by the applicant to submit all the required documentary evidence to enable a final decision to be made on an application. Every effort is made to ensure that students get decisions on their grant applications as soon as possible. Currently, SUSI has some 272 applications on hand which are awaiting provisional assessment - these are applications received after the closing date. The number of applications being processed has been increasing incrementally in recent weeks. SUSI has indicated that it is on target to progress all applications received to date with the necessary supporting documentation between now and the end of the year.

  Appeals received by SUSI are dealt with in date order, and the waiting time for decisions on appeals can vary depending on the complexity of the grant applicants circumstances which are under appeal. SUSI aims to issue determinations on appeals as promptly as possible and within the specified timeframes defined in the Student Support Act, 2011. The county from which an appeal originates is not a factor which impacts on the waiting time for appeals.

SUSI Applications - Processing Position by County

County
Total Applications 
Awarded
Cancelled/ Refused
Appealed To SuSi Awaiting Provisional Assessment(New applications after closing date) With SUSI Awaiting Review (Documents received) Reviewed and Supporting Documents requested
Maintenance Payments
Carlow
964
300
156
15
8
36
449
110
Cavan
1322
384
216
31
6
84
601
190
Clare
1775
539
266
40
5
97
828
235
Cork
6859
1815
1274
115
24
332
3299
730
Donegal
2877
981
423
69
16
150
1238
407
Dublin
13999
3348
2898
209
59
487
6998
1273
Galway
4403
1230
705
103
14
202
2149
472
Kerry
2477
725
403
48
12
131
1158
306
Kildare
2699
752
568
59
10
111
1199
295
Kilkenny
1390
422
237
24
8
66
633
140
Laois
1050
321
167
22
2
60
478
143
Leitrim
637
180
98
13
1
56
289
73
Limerick
2844
819
459
55
14
131
1366
316
Longford
754
222
119
12
5
43
353
87
Louth
2149
645
353
55
12
78
1006
256
Mayo
2471
734
386
47
13
146
1145
283
Meath
2413
731
452
46
5
95
1084
307
Monaghan
1103
336
177
28
2
77
483
145
Offaly
1232
420
217
26
3
50
516
173
Roscommon
1170
346
192
30
5
69
528
147
Sligo
1212
320
212
20
5
51
604
101
Tipperary
2639
800
457
62
4
103
1213
330
Waterford
1911
596
377
36
10
69
823
193
Westmeath
1669
534
294
42
6
82
711
241
Wexford
2340
780
404
46
11
119
980
338
Wicklow
1935
553
390
42
11
82
857
254
Outside of Ireland
533
94
138
13
1
11
276
25
Total
66827
18927 *
12038 **
1308 ***
272
3018
31264 #
7570 ##


*This figure includes some 2,650 provisionally awarded awaiting final course acceptance forms. The figure does not include grants awarded but currently under appeal status.

**This figure does not include grants cancelled or refused that are currrently under appeal status.

***This figure includes grant applications currently under appeal status and also a number where recent decisions have been made.

#This figure includes some 25,807 applications for which SUSI is awaiting documentation and some 5,457 on hand with SUSI which are being checked to ensure all documentation submitted is complete.

##This figure includes a number of students who will be paid their student grants on the 7th December, 2012. This figure does not include some 3,193 students awarded a "fees only" grant (either the student contribution or fees) - these payments are being made directly to the relevant institution.

Appeals received to date by SUSI
County
Appealed to SUSI
Carlow
21
Cavan
43
Clare
53
Cork
165
Donegal
92
Dublin
299
Galway
149
Kerry
70
Kildare
86
Kilkenny
34
Laois
32
Leitrim
17
Limerick
74
Longford
16
Louth
73
Mayo
62
Meath
66
Monaghan
37
Offaly
40
Roscommon
38
Sligo
34
Tipperary
91
Waterford
49
Westmeath
60
Wexford
71
Wicklow
67
Outside of Ireland
16
Total
1855

Departmental Agencies Issues

 32. 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 the number of students' grants applications that have been processed by Student Universal Support Ireland for the past three months broken down on a daily basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55008/12]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The table provides a breakdown of the number of student grant applications processed by Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI), on a weekly basis since September. It is broken down into new application assessment, which is the first step in assessing an application received, and pack assessment which includes the supporting documentation subsequently received. This information has been provided to my Department by SUSI.

Number of Student Grant Applications Processed by SUSI - September to December

Week
*New Application Assessment
**Pack Assessment
Total
02/09 - 09/09
5,470
458
5,928
10/0 9- 16/09
3,300
1,287
4,587
17/09 - 23/09
3,098
1,667
4,765
24/09 - 30/09
817
1,892
2,709
01/10 - 07/10
409
2,195
2,604
08/10 - 14/10
180
2,571
2,751
15/10 - 21/10
342
3,552
3,894
22/10 - 28/10
178
4,050
4,228
29/10 - 04/11
85
3,182
3,267
05/11 - 11/11
392
3,764
4,156
12/11 - 18/11
1,625
3,900
5,525
19/11 - 25/11
1,695
3,850
5,545
26/11 - 02/12
1,675
5,991
7,666
Total
19,266
38,359
57,625


*New application Assessment = Assessment of new applications received.

** Pack Assessment = Assessment of applications where documentation has been received.

  Question No. 33 answered with Question No. 28.

Departmental Agencies Issues

 34. 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 the number of staff currently working on clearing the backlog of student grant applicaitons in Student Universal Support Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55010/12]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn In total, there is now 96 staff working in Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI), 33 of which are permanent and 63 of which are temporary. To date 149 temporary staff have been approved in the outsourced company, engaged by SUSI, to support the processing of student grants. There are currently 143 of these staff in place. 6 persons who recently left are being replaced. In addition, officials in my Department have been providing assistance to SUSI on an on-going basis.

  Question No. 35 answered with Question No. 28.

Student Grant Scheme Eligibility

 36. Deputy Joanna Tuffy Information on Joanna Tuffy Zoom on Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if back-to-education allowance recipients are entitled to third level grants in respect of the student contribution and the criteria they need to fulfil to be eligible.  [55022/12]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Eligibility for the Back to Education Allowance (BTEA) and associated payments is determined and administered by the Department of Social Protection. Students who qualifiy for the BTEA, may be considered for support for the student contribution under the student grant scheme provided they satisfy the conditions of the relevant Student Grant Scheme and Student Support Regulations including those relating to approved course, residence, means, nationality and previous academic attainment. Students should apply to Student Universal Support Ireland to have their eligibility for a grant towards the student contribution assessed.

Student Grant Scheme Eligibility

 37. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if an education grant is available in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55052/12]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Under the terms of the student grant scheme, grant assistance is awarded to students who meet the prescribed conditions of funding including those relating to nationality, residency, previous academic attainment and means. The decision on eligibility for new student grant applications from the 2012/13 academic year is a matter for the new centralised grant awarding authority, SUSI (Student Universal Support Ireland). The Deputy will appreciate that in the absence of all of the relevant details that would be contained in an individual's application form and supporting documentation, it would not be possible for me to say whether or not a student should qualify for a grant. The student should apply to SUSI to have their eligibility assessed.

Legislative Programme

 38. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin the position regarding the Construction Contracts Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54431/12]

 39. Deputy Brendan Smith Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin the position regarding the Construction Contracts Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54851/12]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brendan Howlin): Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin I propose to take Questions Nos. 38 and 39 together.

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 Brian Hayes is working with Senator Feargal Quinn to develop the Senator’s private member’s Construction Contracts Bill into a robust piece of legislation. The Bill has passed Second Stage in the Dáil. 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 issues that would include:

Thresholds: In order to ensure that the legislation applies to the 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.

When these and a number of other issues have been examined, Minister Hayes will bring proposals to Government in advance of Committee Stage early in the New Year. This is an important piece of legislation aimed at creating a more level playing field between contractor and subcontractor in the construction sector. Therefore it is essential that these complex issues are properly assessed so as to avoid imposing unnecessary regulatory or cost burdens on parties in dispute, the State or others.

Public Procurement Contracts Tenders

 40. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin the position regarding local authorities and work contracts; when a local authority is in a position where they could actually carry out the works themselves, if his Department will allow that local authority to tender for the work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54988/12]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brendan Howlin): Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin The Local Authorities are subject to national procurement rules in the same manner as any other public body. The question of governance in the local authority sector to ensure, inter alia  , that proper value-for-money safeguards and other procedural rules are being duly observed in the area of procurement is proper to my colleague, the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government.


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