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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 83-97
 Header Item Back to Education Allowance Payments
 Header Item Vocational Education Committees Staff
 Header Item Student Grant Scheme Application Numbers
 Header Item Further Education and Training Programmes Provision
 Header Item Further Education and Training Programmes Places
 Header Item School Staffing
 Header Item Student Grant Scheme Eligibility
 Header Item Student Grant Scheme Applications
 Header Item Institutes of Technology Issues
 Header Item Early Retirement Scheme
 Header Item Pupil-Teacher Ratio
 Header Item Student Grant Scheme Expenditure
 Header Item Departmental Staff Remuneration
 Header Item Departmental Contracts

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 786 No. 2

First Page Previous Page Page of 90 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 83-97

Back to Education Allowance Payments

 83. 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 he has had any discussions with the Department of Social Protection in relation to cuts to the back to education allowance and to the cost of education allowance and the impact these would have on young persons accessing further education and training; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [55870/12]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The Back to Education Allowance and decisions in relation to funding for that scheme are a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Social Protection. Officials in my Department are in ongoing contact with officials in the Department of Social Protection in relation to issues affecting learners who are also clients of that Department.

Vocational Education Committees Staff

 84. 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 impact that the budget cuts to the vocational education committee sector will have on the delivery of services and how VECs will be able to maintain services at the same level in view of such significant cuts; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [55871/12]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I want to clarify for the Deputy that while the budget measure I announced in relation to VEC funding involves a reduction in the allocation for 2013 it is not a cut in real terms. This is because it takes account of the capacity of VECs to utilise cash balances on a once off basis.

As I announced on budget day, VECs will in 2013 be required to manage their services from within the resources they will carryover and the new funding they will receive throughout 2013 which will be sufficient to maintain services.

On average the reduction across the sector is €400,000 but this will vary depending on the carryover situation in each VEC. My Department will finalise the reduction for each VEC as part of the normal communication that takes place each year to settle individual budgets.

Student Grant Scheme Application Numbers

 85. 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 that will be affected by the 3% reduction in the income threshold for student maintenance grants in 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55872/12]

 86. 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 the 3% reduction in the qualifying income threshold for grants will affect students currently in the system or only those entering the system next year; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [55873/12]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I propose to take Questions Nos. 85 and 86 together.

  As announced in the Budget, the income thresholds for student grants will be reduced by 3% for the 2013/14 academic year. Between 1997 and 2009, the income limits were increased by 82%. The income limits have remained unchanged over the past three years due to the absence of data from the CSO, but data now indicates that average wages have fallen by 7.9% during that time.

The changes to the income thresholds will apply to all students, not just new entrants and existing students will have to be re-assessed. Some 6,400 (8%) of the total estimated 80,000 grant recipients are expected to be affected by this change, and 220 of these, on the lowest level of grant support - 50% Student Contribution only, will lose their current entitlement altogether.

This change will not affect Special Rate students, who are the most vulnerable category of students in receipt of grant support.

Further Education and Training Programmes Provision

 87. 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 how he can justify a cut to training allowances for young persons in the vocational training opportunities scheme, Youthreach and FÁS at a time when he is meant to be encouraging persons to upskill and help them with the costs of accessing further education; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [55874/12]

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy Ciarán Cannon): Information on Ciarán Cannon Zoom on Ciarán Cannon Persons on Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme (VTOS), Youthreach and FAS programmes are paid a training allowance in lieu of their Department of Social Protection payment. Currently learners on these programmes who are in receipt of a Jobseekers allowance which is less than the maximum personal rate of €188 per week can have their training allowances increased to the maximum rate.

This practise favoured those who were assessed as having means which lead to a reduction in their Jobseekers Allowance payment. The maxing up of the training allowance allowed them to receive the maximum of this payment while on a training course. Learners who did not have means and were already on the maximum of the Jobseekers Allowance could not benefit from this. This lead to an inequitable situation which has been addressed in Budget 2013.

The new arrangement will come into force for all new entrants with effect from 1 January 2013. An exception to this will apply to those learners under 25 who will have their payment increased to a maximum of €160 per week.This is being introduced to continue providing an incentive to young people to take up further education and training places.

Those learners on the VTOS, Youthreach and FÁS training schemes will continue to be eligible for Meal, Travel and Accommodation Allowances. They may also be eligible for the long term bonus if they are more than a year unemployed.

Further Education and Training Programmes Places

 88. 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 persons currently in receipt of training allowances under further education and training programmes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55875/12]

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy Ciarán Cannon): Information on Ciarán Cannon Zoom on Ciarán Cannon Training allowances are paid to participants on FÁS, Youthreach and VTOS programmes. A small number of pro-rata training allowances are also paid to learners on the part-time Back to Education Initiative (BTEI) programme.

As at the end of November 2012 there are approximately 15,000 persons on FÁS courses currently in receipt of a training allowance. Over the year as a whole 47,000 people received training allowances while on FAS courses.

The latest available figures for Youthreach and VTOS come from the Learners Surveys of 31 December 2011. These show 4,211 VTOS learners and 3,159 Youthreach learners were in receipt of a training allowance. These figures are expected to be replicated this year.

Additionally, in 2012, 227 learners on the BTEI programme received a training allowance.

School Staffing

 89. 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 the loss of 75 teachers in small schools in 2013 will result in the closure of any of these schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55876/12]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The staffing arrangements in small primary schools are considerably more favourable than other medium to larger schools. The measure that was announced in Budget 2012 is focused on dealing with this cost premium, on a phased basis, through progressively increasing the pupil thresholds for the allocation of classroom teachers in small primary schools. This budget measure relates to the number of teachers allocated to small primary schools. I want to make clear that the budget measure does not require any of these schools to close. In these current difficult budgetary times all public servants are being asked to do more with less and teachers in small schools cannot be exempt from this requirement.

Student Grant Scheme Eligibility

 90. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the reason a person (details supplied) was refused a student maintenance grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55877/12]

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 that, in the case of the student referred to by the Deputy, a fee grant has been awarded and an award letter issued on 4th December 2012. Under the Student Grant Scheme this student is not eligible for a maintenance grant as he is in receipt of the Back to Education Allowance (BTEA).

Student Grant Scheme Applications

 91. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if he will expedite a student grant application in respect of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55878/12]

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 that, in the case of the student referred to by the Deputy, a grant has been awarded and an award letter issued on 11th December 2012.

Institutes of Technology Issues

 92. Deputy Gerry Adams Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if Dundalk Institute of Technology will suffer any cuts to funding or resources as a result of spending cuts in budget 2013.  [55892/12]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn As the Deputy will be aware the recurrent provision for the higher education sector has reduced as announced in Budget 2013.    The recurrent provision made available for 2012 to the University and Institutes of Technology sectors was some €1.119 billion while the provision for 2013 is €1.036 billion which includes a 2% reduction in both core pay and non-pay as announced in Budget 2012.   Taking into account increased income in respect of the Student Contribution, the 2013 provision represents a net reduction of 4.5%.

In terms of funding resources, the reality of the economic situation presents challenges right across the public sector, including higher education.

My Department allocates recurrent funding to the Higher Education Authority (HEA) for direct disbursement to the HEA institutions. The HEA allocates this grant to institutions for free fees and core grant funding and other specific earmarked initiatives.    The HEA uses a Recurrent Grant Allocation Model (RGAM) to determine the amount of core funding (grant) provided to each institution.    Therefore the funding provision for the institution referred to by the Deputy will be decided by the HEA taking account of the overall provision for 2013 and the funding allocation model for the sector.

Early Retirement Scheme

 93. 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 when a decision on early retirement will be made in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55894/12]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Officials in my Department have made enquiries with the employer of the person to whom the Deputy refers and established the facts of the case. An application for ill health retirement pension benefit was made by the person to whom the Deputy refers and the application was processed by the employer in accordance with my Department's guidelines. The application for retirement pension benefit on grounds of permanent ill-health was not successful and the person to whom the Deputy refers was informed of this outcome and provided with details of the appeals process. The person to whom the Deputy refers subsequently appealed and in line with the procedures the person to whom the Deputy refers chose from the approved list provided the medical physician to carry out the medical assessment for the appeal. The appeal was unsuccessful and the person to whom the Deputy refers was notified of this by the employer on 26 June 2012 and informed that is it open to pension scheme members to make application for a determination in relation to a complaint or dispute through the Internal Disputes Resolution procedure operated by the Department of Education and Skills. The person referred to by the Deputy was also informed that scheme members should establish whether or not the complaint or dispute is one in respect of which the Pensions Ombudsman has jurisdiction to investigate under section 131 of the Pensions Act 1990 (No. 25 of 1990). My Department has not received an application for a determination through the Internal Disputes Resolution procedure from the person to whom the Deputy refers.   

Appendix A

Information on Internal Disputes Resolution and Pension Ombudsman Office

  It is open to you to make application for a determination in relation to a complaint or dispute through the Internal Disputes Resolution procedure operated by the Department of Education and Skills.

The procedure is as follows:

Application

  An application shall be in writing, signed by or on behalf of the actual or potential beneficiary and shall contain the following details;

  - the full name, address and date of birth of the actual or potential beneficiary

  - the address to be used for service or documents in connection with the application

  - a statement concerning the nature of the complaint or dispute with sufficient details to show why the actual or potential beneficiary is aggrieved

  - such other information as the Minister may reasonably require

 Determination

  The Minister shall make a determination in relation to the application and notify in writing the complainant of the determination within 3 months from the date on which all the details specified above are received.

The determination shall include:

  - a statement of the determination

  - a reference to any legislation (other than the pension scheme), legal precedent, ruling of the Pensions Board, ruling or practice of the Revenue Commissioners or other material relied upon in making the Determination

  - a reference to the provisions of the pension scheme relied upon in making the determination and, where a discretion has been exercised, a reference to those of its provisions by which such discretion is conferred

  - a statement that the determination is not binding upon any person unless, upon or after he making of the determination, the person assents, in writing, to be bound by it, and

- a statement that the applicant should establish whether or not the complaint or dispute is one in respect of which the Pensions Ombudsman has jurisdiction to investigate under section 131 of the Pensions Act 1990 (No. 25 of 1990) and that further information can be found in an information booklet available from the Officer of the Pensions Ombudsman, The Pensions Ombudsman Office, 36, Upper Mount St., Dublin 2. Telephone (01)6471650 or www.pensionsombudsman.ie.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio

 94. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if he will respond to concerns that up to 40 plus teaching posts have been placed at risk as a result of the decision announced in budget 2013 to increase the pupil-teacher ratio to 19:2, 19:1 in post leaving certificate courses; if he will provide details of any findings by his Department carried out in advance of this decision.  [55901/12]

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy Ciarán Cannon): Information on Ciarán Cannon Zoom on Ciarán Cannon The pupil-teacher ratio for Post Leaving Cert (PLC) courses - which are mainly geared at school leavers and adults returning to education - is more favourable than the ratio in second level schools. The Government has decided to raise the pupil teacher ratio for PLC courses to the same level as that which applies in all free second-level schools – 19:1, from next September.This decision is being made at a time when the Government has succeeded in protecting the class sizes in primary and free second-level schools for the coming year, ensuring that our limited resources are rightly focussed on the children in our education system. While it would be preferable not to have to make any changes, it is hard to justify providing more generous pupil-teacher ratios to PLCs which educates adults, than second-level schools which cater for teenagers. This change will reduce the number of teaching posts by 200 in PLC courses and may lead to some reduction in subject choices for students. The further education sector has expanded rapidly over the past few decades, developing many innovative programmes for its students. It is now up to the CEOs of each VEC to look at the resources available to them and to work with their Principals and staff to ensure they can continue to deliver programmes which closely meet the needs of both students and employers.PLC providers have been enrolling significantly above their allocation of places in recent years, and I do not expect that this measure will impact on the number of PLC places available. This necessary change will result in an estimated saving of €12mn in a full year. As the change will be introduced at the start of the academic year in September 2013 the savings from Sept to Dec 2013 will be €4mn. It is not possible to amend this measure without introducing additional Budget measures in education which would impact on other frontline services.

Student Grant Scheme Expenditure

 95. Deputy Tom Fleming Information on Tom Fleming Zoom on Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the cost of setting up the Student Universal Support Ireland third level grant administration body; the envisaged running costs up to the end of 2012; the envisaged cost for 2013; and the cost of administration of each of the existing third level education grant renewal bodies, vocational education committees and local authorities nationally for 2012.  [55913/12]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The total set-up cost for Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) to end of

December 2012 is €1.6m. The estimated operational cost to the end of December 2012 is €5.1m and the estimated operational cost for 2013 will be in the region of €5.3m. This will be kept under review. The Deputy will appreciate that staffing resources and staffing costs associated with the processing of student grant applications are met by local authorities and vocational education committees within their overall resources and a breakdown of this data is not readily available. It was however estimated in 2011 that the cost of administration of student grants by the other 66 grant

awarding authorities was in the region of €10.5m.

Departmental Staff Remuneration

 96. 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 temporary promotions or acting-up allowances have not been a feature of the staffing arrangements for this EU Presidency, if he will confirm that his Department has been given sanction to make such arrangements detailing the number by grade involved, the date sanction was sought and the date it was given.  [56297/12]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The Government agreed on 20 December, 2011, that some additional resources would be required to carry out the responsibilities of the EU Presidency which included the provision of temporary acting-up allowances where staff are assigned to positions in the Presidency normally carried out by staff of a higher grade.

Appropriate staffing required by this Department relates primarily to the need for Ireland to take forward a full agenda including negotiation of the next generation of the EU education and training programme, chairing of Council working groups addressing the negotiation of the technical regulations related to operationalising the next round of European Social Fund and European Globalisation Fund funding and the negotiations on the legislative proposal published by the Commission in late 2011 for the revision of Directive 2005/36 on the recognition of professional qualifications.

One of the staffing measures taken by my Department was to assign acting-up allowances to three staff currently serving in the EU Policy Unit, International Section of my Department, to enhance the section's capacity to meet the challenges of the EU Presidency. The grades are set out as follows.

Administrative Officer assigned to acting Assistant Principal Officer

Executive Officer assigned to acting Higher Executive Officer; and

Staff Officer assigned to acting Executive Officer.

Sanction was sought from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform for these assignments on 28th June, 2012, and granted on 12th July, 2012.

Departmental Contracts

 97. Deputy Damien English Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin if he will provide details of each service in his Department that is currently outsourced; the company that provides such services and the total cost for these services; the other services which may be outsourced in the future that are currently being run in his Department; the names of the companies, fees paid and nature of service for all contracts awarded from his Department excluding legal, accounting, PR or building refurbishment related services since March 2011.  [55834/12]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brendan Howlin): Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin In response to the Deputy’s question the only service that is currently outsourced by my Department is the audit of the operations of the seven Civil Service crèches, to ensure that each crèche is being operated to a high standard and complies with all the necessary Childcare, HSE, and Environmental Health Regulations. In 2011 and 2012 these audits were carried out by a company called Canavan & Byrne and the fees paid in 2011 and 2012 were 8,046.50 and 8,179.50 respectively.


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