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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 261-77
 Header Item Rent Supplement Scheme Payments
 Header Item Rent Supplement Scheme Administration
 Header Item Back to Education Allowance Eligibility
 Header Item Carer's Allowance Applications
 Header Item Invalidity Pension Appeals
 Header Item Work Placement Programme
 Header Item Rent Supplement Scheme Payments
 Header Item Rent Supplement Scheme Payments
 Header Item Social Welfare Appeals Status
 Header Item Redundancy Rebates
 Header Item Jobseeker's Allowance Applications
 Header Item Arts Funding
 Header Item Turf Cutting Compensation Scheme Payments
 Header Item Turf Cutting Compensation Scheme Payments
 Header Item Public Services Provision

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 786 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 109 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 261-77

  Questions Nos. 261 and 262 withdrawn.

Rent Supplement Scheme Payments

 263. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the correct level of rent allowance payable in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; if any arrears are due in this instance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [55573/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The person concerned had been asked to provide information in relation to a change of circumstances that had not previously been communicated to the Department. The Department has since carried out a reassessment in relation to the rent supplement entitlement of the person concerned. The correct rent level of rent supplement is now in payment. An Exceptional Needs Payment has been issued for all arrears owed.

Rent Supplement Scheme Administration

 264. Deputy Olivia Mitchell Information on Olivia Mitchell Zoom on Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the number of staff working at the Dublin central rent supplement applications processing unit; the number of applications received by the unit since it opened and the processing time of applications; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [55581/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Currently 10 staff are assigned to the rent supplement processing hub in Dublin Central division. This staffing figure is based on incremental assignments to the area being realisable on foot of broader re-structuring in the division. The unit has received approximately 1,427 new cases from opening in March until the end of November 2012. There has been a significant improvement in waiting times for applications to be processed since the unit was established, and as additional staff have been assigned. Applications for rent supplement or mortgage interest supplement now commence processing within a week.

Back to Education Allowance Eligibility

 265. Deputy Róisín Shortall Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the specific criteria with regard to the progression rule in respect of assessing an application for back to education allowance; her views on the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9; if there should be some leniency in respect of this application in view of the fact that this person does not hold a certificate or qualification in a previous field of study and who is currently unable to find employment in that field. [55583/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton A person wishing to pursue BTEA will have to satisfy a number of conditions such as being a certain age, in receipt of a prescribed social welfare payment for a specified time period, pursuing a full time course of study leading to a recognised qualification in a recognised college and progressing in the level of education held by the client with reference to the national framework of qualifications among others.

Progression has always been a fundamental condition of BTEA. State support for education purposes is grounded on a student progressing from one qualification level to a higher one. This is necessary to ensure displacement does not occur, in that courses could be offered to students who are not progressing at the cost of students progressing from a lower education level. As the person concerned applied to participate in a full-time level 5 course in commercial photography having already completed two courses at the same level in computers and veterinary studies, her present application could not be approved.

However, if the person wishes to pursue a part-time education course they may be able to do so while still obtaining their jobseeker's payment. They must apply at their local social welfare office and verify that participation on the part-time course does not reduce their availability for work. In the case of jobseeker's benefit, participation on a course does not grant any extension to the normal period for which jobseeker's benefit is paid.

Carer's Allowance Applications

 266. Deputy Ray Butler Information on Ray Butler Zoom on Ray Butler asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton when a carer's allowance application made in October 2011 in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Meath will be processed; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [55588/12]

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 30th November 2011. The medical assessment has been completed. The application is with a social welfare investigative officer, since 7th December 2012, for assessment of the level of care being provided/means assessment and confirmation that all the conditions for receipt of carer’s allowance are satisfied. Once the investigative officer has completed and submitted the report a deciding officer will make a full decision. The application will be processed as quickly as possible and when a decision is made the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

Invalidity Pension Appeals

 267. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the position regarding an invalidity pension appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [55601/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton An application for invalidity pension, by the person concerned, was disallowed by a Deciding Officer of the Department on 9th June 2012. I am informed by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that there is no trace of appeal against this decision by the person concerned. In the normal course, an appeal against the decision of a Deciding Officer must be made within 21 days of a decision being notified. Appeals received outside of this time limit may be accepted at the discretion of the Chief Appeals Officer. I am informed that the person is being written to by the Social Welfare Appeals Office inviting her to make application for a late appeal and to set out the reasons therefor. 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.

Work Placement Programme

 268. Deputy Michael Creed Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if there are any conditions under which a person availing of a Tús scheme may extend their term on the scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [55617/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Tús, the community work placement initiative introduced during 2011, was initially set up to provide up to 5,000 short-term, quality work opportunities for those who are unemployed for more than a year. This initiative is being delivered through the network of local development companies and Údarás na Gaeltachta. The purpose of Tús is the provision of quality work for those who are unemployed in order to break the cycle of unemployment and to improve a person’s opportunities in returning to the labour market. I consider the existing 12-month period on Tús to be adequate to meet the objectives of the initiative whilst also ensuring that as many unemployed people as possible are able to benefit from the initiative. There are no circumstances under which a person’s term on Tús can be extended.

Rent Supplement Scheme Payments

 269. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the correct level of rent support payable in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [55624/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Payment of rent allowance to the person concerned is under review. In order to establish the correct level of rent allowance payable, she was issued with an explanatory letter and the relevant forms for completion in September 2012. She has not replied, nor has she contacted the local community welfare service office. To enable the rent allowance review to be completed, the person concerned should return the form or contact her local community welfare service office.

Rent Supplement Scheme Payments

 270. Deputy Patrick Nulty Information on Patrick Nulty Zoom on Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if a decision to refuse a rent supplement payment to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15 will be reviewed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [55635/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that due to an error in the calculation of an income disregard, the rent supplement of the person concerned was reduced for the period 1st August 2012 to 30th November 2102. This error has now been corrected as a result of which an increased supplement has been approved. Arrears for the period 1st August 2012 to 30th November 2012 were issued on 4th December 2012. 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.

Social Welfare Appeals Status

 271. Deputy Terence Flanagan Information on Terence Flanagan Zoom on Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton when an appeal for mortgage interest relief will be decided in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [55639/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer, having fully considered all the evidence has allowed the appeal of the person concerned. The person concerned has been notified of the decision. 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.

Redundancy Rebates

 272. Deputy Martin Heydon Information on Martin Heydon Zoom on Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if, in view of the recent budget announcement to abolish the redundancy rebate for employers, she will now consider an exemption for this rebate for small businesses who are already struggling with many costs and who if they need to make persons redundant may now have to cut other costs which may lead to further job losses; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [55670/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The purpose of the redundancy payments scheme is to compensate workers, under the Redundancy Payments Acts, for the loss of their jobs by reason of redundancy. Compensation is based on the worker’s length of reckonable service and reckonable weekly remuneration, subject to a ceiling of €600 per week. The recent Budget announcement has no impact on the level of statutory redundancy payable to employees who are being made redundant.

It is the responsibility of the employer to pay statutory redundancy to all their eligible employees. An employer who pays statutory redundancy payments to their employees is currently entitled to a rebate of a portion of that payment from the State. Where an employer can prove to the satisfaction of the Department that it is unable to pay the statutory redundancy to its eligible employees the Department will make lump sum payments directly to those employees and will seek to recover the debt from the employer. Rebates to employers and lump sums paid directly to employees are paid from the Social Insurance Fund (SIF).

Significant and increasing amounts have been paid out in redundancy rebates to employers from the SIF in recent years. While the SIF is constituted primarily from employer contributions, the taxpayers’ contribution is also significant. One of the factors which influenced the Government’s decisions to revise the rebate rate last year and now to remove the rebate was the increasing cost of rebates in recent years. I am very concerned about the deficit in the SIF. In terms of redundancy rebate payments to employers, €152.2 million was paid out in 2006; €167.4 million in 2007; €161.8 million in 2008; €247.9 million in 2009; €373.2 million in 2010 and €185.3 million in 2011. The amounts paid out in lump sums to employees have also increased.

As a result of the changes announced in Budget 2013 no rebate will be payable to employers in cases where the date of dismissal by reason of redundancy occurs on or after 1 January 2013. The 15% rebate will continue to apply to those cases on hand and those which will be received in the coming months where the date of dismissal is on or between 1 January 2012 and 31 December 2012. It is not proposed to make exceptions to the abolition of the redundancy rebate for small businesses.

Jobseeker's Allowance Applications

 273. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton when the file on jobseeker's allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will be moved from the Inspector to the Deciding Officer; if a decision will be expedited taking into account the particular hardship in this case; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [55696/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The jobseeker’s allowance claim of the person concerned has been awarded and is in payment.

Arts Funding

 274. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan while protecting funding to the arts in general, if he will ensure that no taxpayers' money is made available to circuses which use animals.  [55289/12]

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Jimmy Deenihan): Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan Government policy is to promote and strengthen the arts in all its forms, increase access to and participation in the arts, to make the arts an integral and valued part of our national life, and maximise the potential for cultural tourism. Primary responsibility for the promotion of the arts at all levels throughout the country is devolved to the Arts Council, which, under the Arts Acts, is independent in its funding decisions. The Arts Council strategic overview document Developing the Arts in Ireland: Arts Council Strategic Overview 2011-2013 sets out the key strategic principles that will inform its funding and other decisions in the next few years.

Turf Cutting Compensation Scheme Payments

 275. Deputy Nicky McFadden Information on Nicky McFadden Zoom on Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan when the turf compensation will be delivered to a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55309/12]

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Jimmy Deenihan): Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan An application for compensation under the cessation of turf cutting compensation scheme has been received by my Department from the individual referred to in the Deputy’s Question. Arrangements are being made for cut turf to be delivered to this individual as soon as possible.

Turf Cutting Compensation Scheme Payments

 276. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan his plans to pay compensation to turf cutters who were forced to cease the cutting of turf on a special area of conservation due to their participation in the REP scheme programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55412/12]

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Jimmy Deenihan): Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan The qualifying criteria for the cessation of turf cutting compensation scheme, administered by my Department, are that: The claimant must have a legal interest in one of the 53 raised bog special areas of conservation – ownership or turbary right; the claimant must have been the owner or entitled to exercise turbary rights on the land in question on 25 May 2010; the turbary on the site must not be exhausted; the claimant must have been cutting turf on the lands in question during the relevant five year period; and no turf cutting or associated activity is ongoing on the property.

My Department is considering the position of those who have applied for compensation but do not appear to fulfil the qualifying criteria of the scheme for a variety of reasons, and will be writing to all such applicants in relation to their position in due course.

Public Services Provision

 277. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan further to Parliamentary Question No. 237 of 4 December 2012, if he will provide a list of all new services across his Department that have been tested for external service delivery since March 2011. [55425/12]

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Jimmy Deenihan): Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan As the Deputy may be aware, a key objective in my Department’s Reform Plan and Croke Park Action Plan is to deliver on the commitment in the Programme for Government to identify and eliminate non-priority programmes and outsource, where appropriate, non-critical functions.

In the context of the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure, my Department examined external service delivery options and during that review process, my Department was ever conscious that there are examples across the public service where external service delivery has already provided greater value for money enabling organisations to move their focus from direct provision to core-value added activities. Indeed, in the context of reduced resources and the current economic climate, the key challenge is to prioritise and reduce the cost of service delivery, without compromising on the delivery of services to the public and to employees.

To date, my Department has moved its entire payroll and payment processing function to the Killarney Shared Service. My Department is also currently availing of ICT shared services from the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government and shares other infrastructural and accommodation services and costs with a number of public bodies. It might be noted that my Department also currently provides a HR service to a number of the bodies funded from the Department’s Vote Group and is examining options around expanding this service.

As the Deputy may be aware, my Department also has been engaging with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform recently in relation to the conducting of VFM reviews. In this regard, I understand that the process of carrying out such reviews, including through shared services and on an external service basis, is currently being examined centrally.

The Deputy should note that certain services such as cleaning services are provided by external service providers, while in other areas, such as property and facility management, we largely avail of services from the Office of Public Works. It should be noted that my Department has responsibility for the National Parks and Wildlife portfolio and in this regard, my Department manages and operates a number of tourism and visitor sites across the country. We are currently reviewing the business processes and services provided at those sites and examining options around external service delivery. The overall objective will of course be to continue delivering a quality service to our customers at these sites.

It might also be noted that across the heritage services for which this Department is responsible, the Department already outsources and uses external service providers for technical advice, engineering services and some architectural services and this has proved very cost effective. In the context of the staffing gaps and expertise gaps arising in the Department in recent times, including the need to refocus and prioritise work, we are examining further options and possible alternative delivery mechanisms in order to achieve cost savings and to have prompt access as required to specific technical skills. This will also enable us to focus on core valued-added activities.

One of the key sectoral reforms for my Department as outlined in its High-Level Reform Plan, is the delivery of an electronic Property Management System, which will record all properties and land in the ownership and care of the Department. A new unit within the National Parks and Wildlife Division of the Department has been established to progress this project, including the examination of options around outsourcing and delivering elements of the project through an external service provider, with the required technical expertise.


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