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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 152-61
 Header Item One-Parent Family Payments
 Header Item Jobseeker's Benefit Eligibility
 Header Item Supplementary Welfare Allowance Eligibility
 Header Item One-Parent Family Payment Appeals
 Header Item Turf Cutting Compensation Scheme Applications
 Header Item National Monuments
 Header Item Special Areas of Conservation Designation
 Header Item Turf Cutting Compensation Scheme Applications
 Header Item Broadcasting Service Provision
 Header Item Broadcasting Sector Regulation

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 830 No. 3

First Page Previous Page Page of 77 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 152-61

One-Parent Family Payments

 152. 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 current weekly amount payable in respect of one-parent family allowance and the total receipts in respect of same year for the year ending 2013 in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [7393/14]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The current amount of one parent family payment in the case of the person concerned is €247.60 per week. The total amount of monies received by the person concerned in respect of one parent family payment during 2013 was €13376.70.

Jobseeker's Benefit Eligibility

 153. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if the full amount of €188 for jobseeker's benefit is only based upon stamps accrued (details supplied).  [7396/14]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Since the extension of full social insurance cover to part-time workers from April 1991, a range of measures were introduced to the short-term illness and jobseeker’s benefit schemes in order to ensure that disincentives to employment were not created. In the absence of these measures, a situation would exist whereby many workers on low incomes would have access to weekly social welfare payments greatly in excess of their income from employment. For instance, while someone earning €31.17 a week or more would have been liable for PRSI Class A contributions, the maximum personal rate of illness and jobseeker’s benefit from January 1993 was €70.60 a week, i.e. the social welfare benefits available could have been more than twice the level of income from employment for some people.

To overcome the potential disincentives involved, new arrangements were introduced with effect from January 1993 to relate the rate of benefit payable to the level of the claimant's earnings. These measures must be regularly updated to keep pace with changes in benefit levels. Most recently, adjustments in Budget 2009 sought to bring the income threshold and banding structure back into line with the level of benefits payable. Under the current arrangements jobseeker's benefit recipients with earnings of less than €300 per week in the relevant tax year – for claims in 2014, the relevant tax year is 2012 – get a personal rate ranging from €84.50 to €147.30, and reduced rates for qualified adults may also apply. Jobseeker’s benefit recipients with average earnings over €300 per week in the relevant tax year will receive a personal rate of €188 per week.

Any person who is in receipt of a reduced rate illness or jobseeker's benefit payment and where their income is insufficient to meet their needs may be eligible for a top-up under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme. Recipients of jobseeker's benefit may also opt to transfer to jobseeker's allowance.

Supplementary Welfare Allowance Eligibility

 154. 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 the financial help available to householders whose homes are flooded; the numbers and the cost of providing help to households flooded over the past five years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7427/14]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government is the lead Department for severe weather emergencies and the Office of Public Works has responsibility for capital flood relief activities. However, the Department of Social Protection has an important role to play in assisting households in the immediate aftermath of emergency events such as the recent severe weather conditions under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme (SWA).

Under the SWA scheme, the Department can make a single exceptional needs payment (ENP) to help meet essential, once-off, exceptional expenditure, which a person could not reasonably be expected to meet out of their weekly income. ENPs are payable at the discretion of the officers administering the scheme, taking into account the requirements of the legislation and all the relevant circumstances of the case to ensure that the payments target those most in need of assistance.

In addition to the payment of ENPs, SWA legislation also provides for assistance in the form of an urgent needs payment (UNP) which can be made to persons who would not normally be entitled to SWA. The person may be required to pay the money back in respect of a UNP at a later date, for example, if the person had significant capital or income or was later compensated by an insurance company.

A humanitarian assistance scheme was approved by Government in November 2009. The scheme, which is means tested, is available to assist people whose homes are damaged by flooding and who are not in a position to meet costs for essential needs, household items and in some instances structural repair. The Government has not set a limit on the amount that can be paid to an individual household under this scheme. Levels of payment depend on the relative severity of damage experienced and the household’s ability to meet these costs ensuring that the funding is appropriately targeted. Humanitarian assistance does not cover risks that are covered by insurance policies or cover business or commercial losses.

Total expenditure on the humanitarian assistance scheme to the end of 2013 was approximately €2.2 million in respect of approximately 3,500 payments. The statistics available show that payments issued ranged from approximately €50 to €28,000.

In dealing with events of this nature the DSP generally adopts a three stage approach as follows:

- Stage 1 is to provide emergency income support payments for food, clothing, personal items and temporary accommodation in the immediate aftermath of the event. A relatively small amount of financial assistance is generally provided initially but this will increase as the extent of the problems become clearer.

- Stage 2 generally involves the replacement of white goods, basic furniture items and other essential household items. It is not until the flood water abates and houses dry out that the full extent of the damage to homes will become known.

- Stage 3 is to identify what longer term financial support or works are required. It could take several months before this stage of response commences and this involves a cross Departmental/Agency response. Work carried out can include plastering, dry-lining, relaying of floors, electrical re-wiring, painting etc.

Any person who is experiencing hardship as a result of the recent weather events should contact the Department’s local representative administering SWA who may be able to offer assistance.

One-Parent Family Payment Appeals

 155. Deputy Willie Penrose Information on Willie Penrose Zoom on Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the position regarding an application for one-parent family payment in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [7459/14]

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 was registered in that office on 14 January 2014. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought from the Department of Social Protection. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 5 February 2014 and the case will be referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral hearing.

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 in relation to social welfare entitlements.

Turf Cutting Compensation Scheme Applications

 156. Deputy Colm Keaveney Information on Colm Keaveney Zoom on Colm Keaveney asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan the plans, either now or in the future, to compensate a person (details supplied) in County Galway under the cessation of the turf cutting compensation scheme as this person was awarded compensation at the beginning of the scheme and has now been told that they no longer qualify; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [7371/14]

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 land in question during the relevant five year period; and

 - No turf cutting or associated activity is ongoing on the property.

  An application for compensation under the scheme has been received by my Department from the individual referred to in the Deputy’s Question. I am advised that a payment of €1,500 in respect of year 1 of 15 (2011) and a payment of €1,500 in respect of year 2 of 15 (2012) have been made to the applicant.

  Following an inspection by an official of my Department of the plot of bog in respect of which the applicant has applied for compensation, it appears that turf, to meet the needs of a domestic household, had not been cut on this site during the relevant five year period.

  An official from my Department wrote to the applicant in December 2013 informing him that he did not fulfil the qualifying criteria of the scheme and outlining the appeal process in the event that the applicant wished to appeal this decision of the Department.

National Monuments

 157. Deputy Terence Flanagan Information on Terence Flanagan Zoom on Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan the position regarding the State purchasing and refurbishing the 1916 Moore Street site; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7401/14]

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Jimmy Deenihan): Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan I refer to the reply to Questions Nos. 23 and 93 on 29 January 2014.   In the meantime, the National Asset Management Agency has confirmed that it has approved funding for works to repair and restore the national monument buildings.

Special Areas of Conservation Designation

 158. Deputy Terence Flanagan Information on Terence Flanagan Zoom on Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan if Cloonchambers bog in Castlerea, County Roscommon is a redesignated bog; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7432/14]

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Jimmy Deenihan): Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan Cloonchambers bog in County Roscommon is within one of 53 sites that have been nominated for designation as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) for the protection of raised bog habitat. These sites are protected under EU law and there are clear legal parameters within the Habitats Directive that prescribe how such sites must be protected. There are no proposals to change the designation of these SAC sites. Further detail in relation to the legal provisions which apply to raised bog SACs is available in the draft National Raised Bog SAC Management Plan, which is currently open for public consultation and is available to view on my Department's website.

Cloonchambers bog is for the most part in public ownership and it will remain an SAC. There is alternative State-owned non-designated bog nearby which is under consideration for the relocation of qualifying turf cutters from Cloonchambers Bog.

Turf Cutting Compensation Scheme Applications

 159. Deputy Terence Flanagan Information on Terence Flanagan Zoom on Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan the reason compensation was not provided to a person (details supplied) in County Roscommon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7433/14]

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 land in question during the relevant five year period; and

 - No turf cutting or associated activity is ongoing on the property.

  I am advised that the majority of the land in the raised bog special area of conservation referred to in the Deputy’s Question is registered in the ownership of State authorities. An application for compensation under the scheme has been received by my Department from the individual referred to. However, the applicant has not, to date, been in a position to show evidence of a legal interest in the bog plot.

  My Department is considering the legal issues raised in this and similar cases and the applicant has been advised that his application is still under consideration. My Department will be writing further to the applicant regarding same as soon as possible.

Broadcasting Service Provision

 160. Deputy Dan Neville Information on Dan Neville Zoom on Dan Neville asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte if it is possible for a new transmitter to be erected over the Abbeyfeale area to ensure that residents in the area will have coverage again through Saorview; if an official from his Department will contact a person (details supplied) in County Limerick to discuss this matter and provide alternative assistance; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [7217/14]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte I refer to the reply to Question No. 220 of 3 December 2013. The position is unchanged. 2RN recommends that the individual concerned contact a competent local aerial installer who will be able to connect his home to either SAORVIEW or SAORSAT.

Broadcasting Sector Regulation

 161. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte if he will provide a copy of the staff and members' code of business conduct of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland that was available up to 22 January; if he will further provide a copy of the code which replaced it; the reason the changes were made; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [7260/14]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte In common with all public service bodies and in accordance with section 31.1(iv) of the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies, the BAI affirms on an annual basis that its Code of Business Conduct is in place and has been adhered to. A copy of the BAI's Code of Business Conduct is available on the BAI web-site: http://www.bai.ie/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/20131119_RevisedCodeOfBusinessConduct_PK.pdf.  The revised Code was approved by the Authority in November 2013 on the recommendation of the Finance Audit and Risk Committee. It replaced the previous Code, dating from October 2010, a copy of which will be forwarded to the Deputy. The purpose of the revision was to reflect new and proposed legislation pertaining to bribery and corruption. In addition, the BAI’s Policy on Whistleblowing was appended to the revised Code.

The Code of Conduct contains a number of specific provisions governing matters of conflict of interest. In addition, certain staff members holding 'designated positions' and members of the statutory Authority and Committees are subject to the obligations placed on them by the Ethics in Public Office Act, 1995 and the Standards in Public Office Acts, 1995 and 2001. 'Designated positions' refer to staff at the grade of Higher Executive Officer and higher.

Authority and Committee members, as well as staff, are also subject to Sections 21 and 22 of the Broadcasting Act 2009, which provides for the disclosure of any conflicts of interest. In addition, Section 20 of the Broadcasting Act places duties of accountability to Oireachtas Committees on the Chief Executive, Chairperson of the Authority and the Chairpersons of the Statutory Compliance and Contract Awards Committees.


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